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Coming Home Someday

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Felicity doesn’t bother to knock when she arrives at Oliver Queen’s house. Instead, she simply lets herself inside using the key Oliver gave her ages ago. She didn’t think much of it then and she doesn’t now either - the two of them have been friends for so long, having the keys to each other's place doesn’t seem odd to either of them. He knows she had adult braces and she knows his dating history - both equally embarrassing though in very, very different ways. 

What is odd is the air about the place as Felicity closes the door behind her. There’s been a noticeable shift in the atmosphere of the home. As she moves deeper inside, Felicity doesn’t need to wonder at what has caused the change. Oliver called her earlier in the day with the news; he’s just found out that he has a son. William. And William’s mother has just passed away (Felicity didn't hear too many of the details, but enough to understand there was an accident and Samantha was killed), leaving Oliver as the next of kin. In one day, Oliver has had his entire life upended. He’s suddenly a father who now has to decide if he’s ready to take on the task of raising the eight year old son he’s never met, all on his own. 

If he doesn’t, the boy’s maternal grandparents will take him. And from the sounds of it, they’re not big fans of Oliver’s, even though Oliver never knew about William before today. It’s not exactly an easy situation, any way you look at it. And the despair and confusion are pretty palpable on the air as Felicity walks down the hall of the house and towards the kitchen. 

Oliver’s standing leaning against the kitchen island, a glass tumbler of gold colored liquid in his hand. He looks... haggard. And she can’t exactly say she blames him.

“Hey,” she murmurs as she comes to a stop at the other side of the kitchen, her eyes tracing tenderly across Oliver’s broken expression. His eyes lift to meet hers and Felicity feels her heart break a little; he looks positively gutted.

“What are you doing here?” His voice is hoarse and there’s a note of disbelief in it. 

“You just had one hell of a day… Where else would I be?” She chides softly, dumping her purse on the kitchen counter before she goes to him and wraps her arms around him in a warm hug. She can feel the hesitation in him but after a moment, he relents and his arms encircle her tightly in return. 

“Sara ended things… I can’t say I blame her. She didn’t sign up for a kid.”

Felicity tenses at his words, uncertain how best to comfort him on this, of all issues. Oliver’s love life has always been messy but Felicity had liked Sara best of all his girlfriends. She can’t say she blames Sara for bailing though; her relationship with Oliver always seemed part convenience and part shared history. It never struck Felicity as having legs to go the distance and the sudden arrival of a kid into the mix would have implied a level of commitment and seriousness that the relationship just wasn’t built to handle. 

“Maybe she’ll come around-”

“I don’t think so, Felicity. Sara’s not exactly the ‘mom’ type. Not that I’m one to talk.” He sighs suddenly, clenching her to him tighter. “I...I don’t know what to do, Felicity,” Oliver confesses weakly, “I’m not ‘Dad’ material.” 

She leans back from him to study him closely, one hand coming up to touch gently against the side of his face reassuringly. “This wasn’t something you planned, Oliver. But I know you and I believe in you. You are going to make the best Dad someday - if you want to be one.” 

“You’re just saying that.”

“Are you calling me a liar, Queen?” 

“...No.” 

“I didn’t think so. I mean it, Oliver. You have a good heart. If you want to be a father to your son, I believe you could be a great one. But it has to be your choice. If you aren’t ready for the responsibility, if you don’t want to be a dad, don’t do this and half ass it. This is your son we’re talking about. He has a right to know his father. But he shouldn’t come live with you unless you’re going to really commit to being a Dad fully. Otherwise, it isn’t fair to William.” 

Oliver inhales slowly and nods, stepping back from Felicity as he loses himself in his thoughts again. After a moment, he gives her a weak smile. 

“How is it you always know just what to say?” 

“Because I am a genius,” Felicity responds immediately with a sharp smile. “Now, pour me a glass of whatever you’re drinking, and let’s start working on turning your bachelor pad into a kid friendly venue, hmm?”

“How do you know I’m going to say yes to taking him?” 

“Because I know you, Oliver. There’s no universe where you’re alright having a son and not being there for him when he needs you. And William? He needs you, Oliver.” 

And if there is one thing Felicity Smoak knows with absolute certainty, it is that Oliver never fails to show up for the people he loves in their hour of need. And even if he’s never met his son, Oliver definitely loves William. Felicity knows this to be true. 

-----

They work until the wee hours of the morning; Oliver’s swanky bachelor pad begins to transform and even Felicity is a little surprised at how quickly it comes together. The neon beer signs on the wall over the built in bar come down, and the alcohol themed decor goes away as well. Oliver’s whiskey wall gets shoved to the back of the topmost shelf in the pantry and in its place, he and Felicity dig up some of his forgotten books and framed pictures from the back of his closet to fill the empty shelves with. 

The art deco decor in the guest bedroom also comes down and the two of them pick out a new color palette to decorate the room in. They can easily repaint and redecorate if and when William does come to live here but in the interim, it’ll be good to have a more neutral, inviting space for the kid to come into - and to show his grandparents that Oliver is up to this whole parenting gig. 

Felicity also pointedly tells Oliver that he needs to seriously get rid of or hide extremely well any playboys or similarly adult themed items he possesses. This earns her a blush from him but he doesn’t argue with her too much, despite some initial blustering during which he denies having any. 

Yeah. As if she was gonna believe that. 

A deep clean of the entire place follows and even though she’s exhausted and more than a little sweaty, when the two of them collapse on the floor, leaning against the back of the couch, Felicity feels content. They’ve done good work and Oliver’s place looks much less like a bachelor wonderland and more like a refined but lived in space. In her opinion, they’ve struck the right balance with it. Granted, they’ve still got the actual work of repainting and redecorating, but a little midnight online shopping got them a jump on that, at least. 

They celebrate with another glass of whiskey (her fourth since she arrived and Oliver’s probably at three or four times that, though they both seem equally tipsy). 

“Thank you, Felicity,” Oliver murmurs as they relax against the back of the couch, surveying their handiwork proudly. 

“Don’t mention it,” Felicity responds back in what she hopes isn’t slurred speech. She’s more buzzed than she’s been in ages, truthfully. 

“I will mention it,” Oliver responds and it’s obvious, at least to her, that the alcohol has him speaking more freely than he ordinarily would. “You’re always there for me. You know that? Always. I don’t deserve you,” Oliver gushes and Felicity feels her heart warm beneath his praise. Or is that just the alcohol? No, definitely the praise. 

“Oh shush. You’re pretty awesome too, you know.” 

“Not like you,” Oliver returns, shaking his head. “I know it’s not fair for me to ask you this and you totally don’t have to but Felicity…?” 

“Yes Oliver?” 

“Will you be here for me? When William is brought over here to meet me? I...I’m afraid I’ll mess it up on my own and I would really love it if you could be here with me.” 

Felicity’s head spins in a way that has nothing to do with the drinking and everything to do with the enormity of what Oliver has asked of her. That… That is huge and she knows that it must mean a great deal to him for him to ask this of her. Ordinarily, he’s not the type of guy to admit when something rattles him. 

“Of course I’ll be here. I’d love that.” 

At this, the two share a long look and she can’t help but smile. Frak, he’s handsome when he smiles. Scratch that, he’s handsome all the time but nope, no these are not thoughts she’s allowed to have. 

That’s not their relationship. They’re friends. Always have been. Always will be. Nothing more. There’s no point looking down this road - she’s not his type and even if she was, they’re not well suited for each other romantically. He’s always been something of a serial dater and she’s always been a serial monogamist. 

“Thank you,” Oliver says at long last, his eyes shining appreciatively. Wordlessly, Felicity lifts her glass and pointedly clinks it against his. The pair drink deeply - probably not a wise decision, honestly, but who cares? She’s already far past being able to drive herself. She might as well finish her drink.

When they’re done, she ushers him to bed and she quite literally tucks him in, her fingers running through the hair at his forehead with a faint smile. He’ll be alright. He feels overwhelmed right now, sure. But he’ll make it through this; she’ll be with him every step of the way. Sudden fatherhood must be a lot to take in but he can do it. She knows he can. 

Felicity leaves the bathroom trash can at his bedside and then shows herself out and to the guest bedroom. She’s in no condition to drive and taking a cab home would require taking a cab back in the morning to pick up her car and that would just be a headache. Oliver’s always keen to open his door to friends so she feels reasonably okay about inviting herself to stay tonight. Especially since she doesn’t want to leave him alone - he’s probably going to be wickedly hung over in the morning and this way? She’ll be around to help him if he needs anything. 

Her last thought before she settles down beneath the covers and sleep takes her, is that she’s glad he’s letting her be there for him. Oliver’s not exactly known for his great ability to let people in or for accepting help. But he’s been relatively open to everything she’s suggested tonight and hasn’t really resisted her. It’s… surprisingly out of character. And granted, she usually has an easier time handling him than most. But she’s his friend. It’s to be expected. He has a rather hard time saying no to her, given that they go back a ways and know virtually all there is to know about each other. He trusts her - and she trusts him. Still, it makes her happy to know he’s so comfortable with her. It feels like their friendship has taken on new meaning today, with all that he’s confided in her and they’ve discussed. 

She’s pretty happy about that. 

-----

It’s late morning when she wakes with a groan; she’s not hungover, thank heavens, but she definitely feels like she got run over by a bus - staying up that late is so not a thing she does these days. And not having coffee on board isn’t helping - she’s a ‘coffee as soon as she wakes up’ kind of gal and the lack of caffeine is a serious issue at this moment in time. Rolling over in the queen sized guest bed, Felicity blinks at the nightstand clock and sighs. She should get up. Check on Oliver. Go home. Shower. And for the love of all things good and holy, brush her teeth

She’d rather stay in bed. But even as she stretches languidly, she hears a low moan from across the hall and around the corner and she finds herself pushing back the goose down duvet so she can stumble wearily out of the guest room and down the hall to Oliver’s room. True to form, she doesn’t even knock; under normal circumstances, she absolutely would. But given that the guy consumed his body weight in alcohol (okay, not quite) she’s fairly confident she’s not going to be walking in on anything untoward.

And she doesn’t. What she finds is a rather pathetic looking Oliver, curled up in the fetal position as he moans, clutching the bathroom trash can that she thankfully had the foresight to leave at his bedside for him. 

“That good, huh?” Felicity murmurs as she pads inside, seating herself at the foot of his bed, leaving him plenty of room for the retching she senses is forthcoming. 

“Whiskey and I are fighting,” he grumbles and she snorts, shaking her head at him. 

“Looks to me like whiskey is winning.” 

Oliver groans and buries his face in the trash can. She reaches over to pat his shoulder and then leaves him to it. With the ease of someone who has been to the house many, many times before, she goes into the kitchen and grabs a glass that she fills with cool but not cold water. A pitstop in the bathroom yields the desired aspirin and she drops them off at his nightstand as he’s still head deep in the trash can. She’s tempted to help him to the toilet, but he’s a grown man and it’s his house - and his trash can to clean. If he wants to park it in bed, so be it. 

She goes back to the kitchen and makes him some plain toast and pours a small glass of orange juice. Returning to his room, she finds he’s not actively vomiting, but he still looks green around the gills. 

“Take the aspirin and drink the water as soon as you feel like you won’t immediately throw it up,” she directs and he scowls at her in outrage she knows is feigned.

“You know, I have been hungover before, Felicity.”

“Oh I’m aware. I’ve seen it. I’m just constantly amazed that you never seem to learn how to cope with your hangovers. Take the aspirin. Drink the water. And then drink some juice and eat a few bites of toast.” 

She’s not asking. She’s telling. She sets the juice and the plate of toast on his nightstand in a firm motion that brooks no discussion. He can whine and complain all he wants - she’s right and he damn well knows it. As soon as that’s done, she flits to the bathroom and wets a washcloth with cool water. Wringing it out so it’s damp but not soaking, she returns to him and plops it on his head without preamble, making him lurch in shock. 

“Hey!”

“Stop whining, you big baby. It’ll help and you know it,” Felicity cuts him off. One thing she’s learned over the years? Oliver doesn’t get sick or hungover often (at least not since he took over his family’s company - back in college was another matter entirely). But when he does? He’s the world’s biggest manbaby. And while she’s sympathetic to his emotional distress that prompted last night’s drinking, she’s not about to let him stew in his upset today.

Yesterday was for shock and upset and confusion. Today is for action and planning and sorting out the future. Or at least, she thinks it should be. If it were up to her, it would be. But it is ultimately his choice. 

Grudgingly, Oliver obeys her; he downs the aspirin and the water and after a short while, he takes a cautious bite of toast and chases it with a tiny sip of juice. He begins to perk up ever so slightly, enough that he looks at her and finally actually sees her. She sees the exact moment his shock registers and panic sweeps his expression.

“Felicity, you’re wearing the same clothes you were yesterday.” 

“Gold star for observation skills,” she teases and he shakes his head, his eyes wide and panicked. 

“Y-You and I… we didn’t…?” he queries anxiously and Felicity ignores how the horror on his face and in his voice cuts her. 

“No, Oliver. Unlike you, I was not blackout drunk last night, just solidly tipsy. I put you to bed and then stayed the night in the guest room. No funny business.” 

His heaved sigh of relief bruises her ego badly but she doesn’t linger on it. Of course the idea of her and Oliver is unthinkable. Oliver dates pro and semi pro athletes like Sara, and leggy model types like his ex, Helena. He does not date dumpy techie girls like herself. 

She is always the friend, never the girlfriend

“I cannot remember the last time I was this hungover,” Oliver groans out as he flops back against his pillows and covers his face with one. Felicity shakes her head and walks around to the empty side of the bed and sits down next to him.

“Fourth of July two years ago. You and Tommy got into a drinking competition and you both wound up drunk as skunks and I had to drive you two home. You both puked in my backseat and then you swore off Jaeger forever,” she reminds him succinctly and a muffled groan emanates from under Oliver’s pillow smothered head. He removes the pillow and shoots her a glare, but there’s no heat behind it.

“Why would you remind me of that?” 

“You brought it up,” she chuckles with a shrug. “Does this mean you’re swearing off whiskey after last night? Because if so, I will totally take your whiskey collection off your hands.” 

“How generous of you.” 

“Oliver, by now I should think you would know, I am nothing if not helpful,” Felicity hums teasingly, giving his side a gentle prod. “But in all seriousness, how are you doing, champ?” 

“I feel like shit.” 

“I gathered that. I was referring more to your emotional state,” she elaborates, her gaze softening as she stares down at him. His wild partying days are fewer and farther between nowadays and she knows last night, however inadvisable their overindulgence, was at least justified. He’s had his entire world turned upside down. She can’t say with certainty that she would do any differently in his shoes. 

He’s silent as he considers the question and though she knows he feels terrible, he doesn’t default to whining and complaining as he often does when he’s getting over being unwell. That alone indicates to her that he’s taking this seriously, which she approves of. 

“It’s still a lot. But you were right. I have a son. I want to know him and be in his life and be his father. I’ve already missed out on years. I don’t want to miss anymore.” 

“So you haven’t changed your mind?” That’s good. She’s hoped as much. 

“Nope. I’m going to bring William here to live with me.” 

“And?” Felicity can sense that there’s more just waiting to be spoken. And she’s right - it all comes tumbling out a moment later, in a rush of nerves and perhaps a touch of alcohol inspired honesty. 

“I’m scared shitless that I’m going to fuck it up. But if I do, it won’t be for lack of caring or trying. I’m committed to doing this, Felicity. But I’m scared. And I’m scared to do it alone. I’m scared he’ll hate me. I have absolutely no idea what to do with a kid. How do I explain that I was gone for so long? What do I do if he asks about his mom? There wasn’t a lot of romance there. A drunken college hookup. I didn’t even know her last name to look her up. God, this is all such a mess,” he grunts, passing a hand over his face. She reaches out and pries his hand away, leaning so she’s looming over him.

“Couple things,” she murmurs matter of factly. “One. You will fuck it up. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s a matter of ‘when’. Every parent does. For confirmation, please look at your parents. Heck, look at mine. No matter if they stick around or not, parents all mess up. You will too. It’ll be okay. What matters is that you keep showing up even after you step in it.” 

He blinks at her and tilts his head as he takes this in but otherwise says nothing so she continues. 

“Two, I can’t speak from personal experience but I’m pretty sure there’s not a parent alive that wasn’t scared shitless at one point or another.” Felicity reaches a hand out and brushes some of his sweat plastered hair away from his forehead and she regards him simply. 

“And thirdly, you have never and will never be alone in this, Oliver. I’m not going anywhere. You think a surprise kid of yours can chase me away? Come on. Our friendship has survived you singing karaoke at my twenty first birthday,” she reminds him with a snort, even as he mutters a swear and closes his eyes. “If our friendship can survive that, it can certainly survive this.” She nudges him in the side again and he slowly pushes himself up into a sitting position, blinking at her as he considers this. 

“You mean it?”

“Yes, Oliver! How many times are you going to make me say it? I’ll be here to help you every step of the way. And come on, you know your family. Do you really think Thea is going to be a hands off Aunt? Please! She’s going to shower this kid in affection and so will your mom, in her own Moira way,” Felicity remarks and Oliver nods, a faint smile on his face. 

“So does this mean I can count on you for babysitting duties?” 

“Bold of you to assume you’ll be going anywhere without William anytime soon,” Felicity teases, only to elbow him playfully. “Of course I will. How else am I going to teach this kid the importance of nerd culture? You can’t be trusted to inform him.” 

At this, Oliver groans and starts to flop over on his side, intentionally squishing her. 

“Oh god, you’re gonna try and turn my son into a nerd, aren’t you?” He snakes out an arm and grabs her around her middle before throwing her back on the pillows and she can’t help but laugh. 

“Damn right. This kid needs someone to be a good influence on him!” Felicity chirps back and Oliver smirks as he staggers onto his feet, still looking rather worse for wear. He blinks down at her and then offers her a hand, suddenly reserved and Felicity fears she’s crossed a line, unintentionally. She takes his hand as he pulls her to her feet alongside him and she stares at him, sensing that he’s mulling something over. And she’s right.

“I called him ‘my son’,” Oliver remarks quietly, looking at her in amazement. Felicity feels her heart melt a little and she nods encouragingly. 

“That’s what he is, Oliver. He’s your son.” 

“Wow,” he murmurs, rubbing the back of his head as he begins to move out of the room and down the hall. She trails after him, careful to leave a bit of space between them as he makes his way to the kitchen and begins to rifle around. Felicity seats herself at the kitchen island and watches in silence as Oliver begins to throw things together with an easy, confident grace that she definitely lacks in the kitchen. And… most places, to be honest. She’s only really that confident when she’s working behind a keyboard, quite frankly. In short order, Oliver has a pair of Bloody Marys whipped up and eggs frying on the stovetop. He offers her a glass and she takes it wordlessly. Before either of them can drink, Oliver holds his glass aloft in a clear toast. 

“To William Clayton-Queen: if he turns out half as fucked up as me, I’ll consider my parenting endeavors a success,” Oliver announces brightly and she snorts and rolls her eyes. 

“What about: To father and son finding each other at last. May it be the start of a beautiful partnership,” Felicity offers seriously, clinking her glass against his before she takes a healthy gulp, grimacing after the fact. 

She’s really not a fan of tomato. At least, not in drink form.

-----

Oliver feels as though he might keel over at any given moment. His palms are sweaty, his heart is racing, and his head pounds with pressure that he’s sure is the beginnings of a wicked headache. 

Today, he’s going to meet his son. 

William is being driven over by his grandparents, who Oliver is aware are none too happy with this arrangement. They’ve already made mention of their intentions to talk to a custody lawyer but thanks to his parents keeping a lawyer on retainer, Oliver’s already been assured that he has a solid case, should the grandparents try to fight him for custody of William. The fact that the relationship is already so fractious grates on Oliver; it’s not like he knew about William and just ignored his existence all this time. This has all come as a shock to him. And while he knows that he hasn’t exactly been the world's most upstanding guy ever, he certainly would never have let William or his mother go without if he’d known that the boy even existed. 

Hard to be a father if the mother never tells you there’s a child to be the father of, is what Felicity has reminded him several times, when he’s allowed his guilt to get the better of him. Speaking of - Felicity is already at his place. Just as she said she would be, she’s here to support him today. He’s aware that having his female friend who is not his girlfriend present to this momentous occasion may strike some as odd. But having Felicity here does wonders for Oliver’s nerves and it feels like the most natural thing in the world. Felicity is one of the most important people in Oliver’s universe. She’s arguably the most important person in his life that he’s not related to. If William is going to be part of Oliver’s life, then Felicity will undoubtedly be part of his. 

Felicity is making herself busy while Oliver sits at the kitchen island. She’s puttering around in the kitchen and he hasn’t thought to ask her what she’s doing. In retrospect, he really should have. It’s a widely known fact that Felicity is positively hopeless in the kitchen. But with everything else going on, Oliver’s admittedly distracted, so he doesn’t think to intervene or help until he catches a whiff that smells distinctly of something burning. He swivels to look at the oven and finds Felicity is occupied cleaning up dishes that he hadn’t even realized she’d dirtied. 

“Felicity, what’s in the oven?” 

“Cookies!” Felicity grins as she turns to look at him, covered in soap suds up to her elbows. “I thought it would be nice for William to walk in and smell fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. It’s a trick realtors use when they’re selling houses,” she explains and Oliver’s up and out of his chair and across the kitchen in a heartbeat, donning an oven mitt as he expertly opens the oven. A cloud of smoke floods out and they’re both coughing and spluttering when he withdraws the tray a moment later, revealing a dozen blackened circles. At about the same time, the smoke detector goes off and the kitchen descends into semi-controlled chaos  as Oliver takes a dishcloth and starts flapping fresh air in the direction of the smoke detector. He directs Felicity to turn on the vent fan above the stove and to open a window. 

And in the midst of all of this pandemonium, the doorbell rings. 

Oliver and Felicity both freeze and stare at each other in wide eyed horror. Oliver can see guilt and alarm in Felicity’s eyes and honestly, his own stomach is twisting into a million knots. This… is so not how he wanted to portray himself to his young son and his son’s maternal grandparents. But he can’t very well ask them to come back later. 

Leaving the smoke detector to shriek, Oliver passes the dish towel to Felicity. Her hand holds onto his for a brief moment and she gives him a squeeze.

“Hey. You’ve got this, Oliver.” 

He nods, though he feels like he’s nowhere near ‘got this’  and hastens to the front door, taking a steadying breath so he doesn’t puke his guts up. He glances back down the hall and sees Felicity peeking out at him as she frantically tries to silence the alarm. 

His fingers enclose on the bronze door knob and he fixes an inviting smile on his face as he pulls the door open, trying to act less flustered than he feels. 

There’s a taller, oval faced man with balding white hair and dark glasses standing on his doorstep. His lips are pressed into a thin line and his eyes are dark and clouded with discontent. His arms are crossed in front of him, unimpressed and displeased as he looks Oliver up and down bitterly. Oliver’s eyes sweep the doorstep, finding no sign of his young son and he feels his heart fall. Nevertheless, he maintains his smile and extends a hand toward the man in question. 

“You must be Mister Clayton. I’m Oliver. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” 

The man stares at his offered hand but does not take it and Oliver swallows back the bitter taste of panic that rises on the back of his tongue. Oliver closes his offered hand slowly and brings it back to hang at his waist, trying his level best to remain cool. 

“Would you like to come in?” Oliver offers, standing aside to show the interior of the house. Glancing inside, he can see the hallway is hazy with smoke and the sound of the smoke detector is still shrill in the background. Mister Clayton peers inside, looking doubly dissatisfied and shakes his head.

“I don’t think that will be necessary. William will not be staying with you. I see no reason to suspect that you are capable of parenting him just because you were the one who knocked up my daughter.” 

Oh wow. Wow wow wow. This is so much worse than he expected. Oliver’s floundering and he knows it but he’s not entirely certain what he can say that won’t be taken as an aggressive affront. Fortunately, he’s saved from having to come up with something when a warm hand smoothes across his shoulder as Felicity pops into view, looking a little breathless, her hair slightly mussed and her glasses vaguely askew. 

“Sorry about that! Gosh, talk about bad timing. That would be my doing; I insisted on making cookies for William’s arrival and well, Oliver will be the first to tell you, he’s the one with the cooking and baking skills around here, not me!” Felicity explains breathlessly in her typical disarming, rambling fashion. She gives Mister Clayton a wide smile as she offers him an open palm, the invitation to shake it quite clear. 

“You must be William’s grandfather; what a pleasure to meet you.”

Clayton stares at Felicity’s outstretched hand and to Oliver’s surprise, he slowly gives it a tentative shake. Felicity is totally unperturbed by his lack of warmth and just barrels on. “I’m so sorry I’ve turned the house into a smoke room, I know better than to try this domestic stuff. Oliver’s such a natural, he just makes it all look so easy but I am not gifted in the culinary arts and I’m afraid I showed it today. But gosh, there I go. Rambling. I’m Felicity. Felicity Smoak.” 

This gets Clayton’s attention.

“As in Smoak Tech?” 

“You’ve heard of it?” Felicity queries brightly, glancing at Oliver in surprise. “You hear that? He’s heard of my startup!” 

Oliver smiles despite himself and nods. “I told you, you’re moving up in the world, Smoak.” She beams at this and turns her focus back to Clayton. 

“That’s me, yeah! I take it you’re into tech?” Felicity queries and Clayton shakes his head. 

“No. Not much of a technology man myself. But my grandson is.” 

This gets both Oliver and Felicity’s attention in an instant and Oliver finds himself straining forward. Before he can say or do anything though, he feels Felicity lay a steadying hand on his chest. 

“William,” she murmurs warmly, glancing up at Oliver. “We’re both very excited to meet him. Is he here?” 

Clayton shuffles his feet and casts a glance to the street behind him. “My wife and I are not convinced that this is the best situation for him. We’re not comfortable leaving him here. And we don’t care that you have your family’s fortune to fight us. We’ll take you to court, Queen.” 

Oliver’s heart is hammering so loudly it’s nearly drowning out the conversation now. God, this is so bad. So much worse than he’d feared, even. They won’t even let him meet his son, for crying out loud? How is that fair? He didn’t know the boy existed or he would have showed up a hell of a lot sooner than this! 

Felicity speaks up then, her voice like a balm. 

“I can’t imagine how it must feel, to have to entrust someone you love as much as you and your wife must love your grandson, over to a total stranger. But I can assure you, Mister Clayton, that he will be in good hands. Oliver… He’s the best. I trust him with my life. But don’t take my word for it - why don’t you come on in and you and Oliver can talk and I can… well. I can clean up the mess I’ve made of the kitchen.” She grimaces and Oliver finds himself watching Clayton to see what his reaction will be. He’s clearly torn - his distaste for Oliver is palpable but Felicity’s managed to charm him enough that he’s considering her proposal.

God bless that girl. 

“Ten minutes. That’s all you get,” Mister Clayton allows at last and Oliver feels himself exhale for the first time in what is probably far too long. 

“Deal!” Felicity brightens, glancing at Oliver with an encouraging look. “I’ll leave you two to get acquainted. And umm… Oliver, I’m going to raid the cleaning supplies.” 

Her little wince as she steps away from the front door is adorable and Oliver can’t help but chuckle. “You know where they’re at,” he calls out behind her retreating figure and she spins to face him, beaming. 

“Indeed I do!” 

As she disappears, it’s as if she’s taken all the warmth with her, leaving Oliver with a once more frosty Mister Clayton. 

“If you like, we can talk in the study? Or… I can show you the room we set up for William?”

Clayton doesn’t say anything, just grunts and gives a terse nod. Oliver swallows but steps back from the door, holding it open to admit the man. A minute later, he’s showing him the room in question and watching as he sniffs, clearly not pleased. 

“Would it have killed you to decorate it? It’s sterile. He’s a boy, not a piece of furniture.” 

Oliver bites back the sharp retort that comes to mind first and instead, steels himself with a breath. “I know that; I just wanted to leave it open for William to decorate as he saw fit. I thought it might be nice for him to be able to decide what his surroundings would look like. He’s had a lot of things out of his control… I thought he might like being in control of at least that much...” Oliver trails off, his hands in his pockets as his son’s grandfather scans the room and sighs. 

“Well, I’ll admit it’s more than I thought you’d have set up for him.” Clayton seats himself on the mattress of the full size bed and he gives Oliver a hard stare. “So tell me, why on Earth should I entrust you with my grandson’s care?” 

Wow. So apparently they’re playing hardball right from the get go. Oliver isn’t necessarily surprised at this point but it’s still a big question right off the bat. 

“Because I’ve never met him but I already love him,” Oliver offers honestly.

“Just because he shares your DNA?” He’s skeptical and Oliver can’t say he blames him. It probably sounds like a weak argument. Oliver’s got to strengthen it. He recalls his conversation with Felicity, that first night after he first found out about William. 

“I never knew he existed, or else you have my word sir, I would have been there for everything. It kills me that I’ve missed eight years of his life but I’m determined not to miss the rest of it. I understand why you and your wife are reluctant to let me assume custody but I promise you, for as careless as you may feel that I have been, I am determined to be that much more devoted and attentive to William.” 

“Do you even know anything about children? Been around them?” Clayton snorts and his next words bite. “How many others do you have out there?” 

Oliver closes his eyes and looks at the floor. None of this is pleasant. None of it. “Sir, a month ago I didn’t think I had any children out there. Your daughter chose to keep that truth from me. I can’t change the past but I can change the future. If I have a child out there, I want to be there for them. And no, I don’t have any experience, unless you count a little sister who’s significantly younger than me. A wise person I know told me once that every parent is scared shitless at some point or another. But parenthood is about showing up. And that’s what I’m trying to do for my son - and with all due respect, I’m going to show up and keep showing up whether you want me to or not. But I’d much rather have your support.”

His heart is racing and as Clayton narrows his eyes at him, Oliver’s fairly certain he’s pissed the man off and shot himself in the foot. But when he rises with a sigh, he offers Oliver his hand and, surprised, Oliver quickly takes it for a tight, fierce handshake. 

“You hurt him and I don’t care what any fancy lawyer or custody agreement says. I’ll break down your door and take him and you will never see him again. Are we clear?” 

“Crystal.” 

Clayton breaks off the handshake then and walks to the doorway of the room, glancing back at Oliver. “Well. Give me the tour then. When we’re finished, I’ll go get William and my wife.” 

It’s as if the earth has shifted beneath his feet and Oliver feels himself perking up. “They’re here?” 

“They’re circling the block in my car. I’ll tell them to come back.” 

-----

Felicity is overjoyed as she listens from afar as Oliver tours the Claytons and William around the house. He’s clearly nervous and fumbles a few times but he’s genuine in his enthusiasm for William. And William… Wow. Felicity can’t honestly say she’s got much experience with kids - being an only child and of an age where most of her friends are only just settling down and getting around to starting their families, she hasn’t been exposed to them.

If she’s being perfectly frank, up to now she hasn’t been sure she’s wanted them for herself. But a few minutes with William has her reconsidering. 

He doesn’t say much. He seems understandably overwhelmed. But he’s sharp as a whip and seems quiet and unassuming. She can sense there’s depth lurking beneath his overwhelmed surface and he looks so much like Oliver in such subtle ways she delights in finding the little similarities between them. He does the same nervous hand move that Oliver does, a fact she realizes and has to clap a hand over her mouth to stifle a gasp of surprise over. 

Felicity can’t tear her eyes away from the eight year old boy, who looks stoic as he’s shown around his new house. By the time Oliver and the trio make their way into the kitchen, where she is still working on disposing of the cookies, Felicity can tell: she’s smitten with this kid. 

As they come into view, Felicity quickly moves to set aside the cookie tray (and the charred fragments of cookie still clinging to it) and comes around the island, swallowing nervously. Frak. If she feels this nervous, how must Oliver be feeling? He’s doing brilliantly though - a quick glance to him confirms that he’s settling into the situation, a little less edgy as he looks smilingly at his son. “William, I’d like you to meet my very good friend, Felicity. Felicity… this is William.” 

Felicity smiles warmly at William and offers him her hand, hoping this isn’t too formal or too weird for him to shake hands with a grown up. To her surprise, he accepts her offered palm and his hand grips hers firmly as his eyes move across her face thoughtfully. 

“It’s very nice to meet you, William,” Felicity murmurs softly, looking deep into a set of intelligent eyes. His eyes are darker than Oliver’s - hazel against Oliver’s blue - but they have the same depth to them and staring at them is reminiscent of locking eyes with her best friend. “I’ve heard a lot about you. Including that you’re something of a fan of technology,” Felicity remarks, smiling as their hands slowly part and the boy wrings his in front of himself, a touch nervously. 

“Mhmm,” he confirms with a bob of his head and she smiles over at Oliver with a wink before refocusing on the boy. She puts a finger to her lips as if pondering and then crosses her arms, deep in thought. Finally she heaves an exaggerated sigh. “I’m guessing you’re an Xbox guy.” 

At this, William’s brows crease into a frown and dear God. That’s Oliver’s frown alright. “No way!” William returns with vigor and she grins. 

“Oh no? What do you like then?” 

“Nintendo Switch,” William answers confidently and Felicity arches her brows. 

“Impressive choice. And might I say, you have excellent taste. You’re going to have to teach Oliver here. Between you and me? He’s hopeless at video games. Ask him about the last time I made him play Mario Kart. I crushed him.” Felicity watches as William’s face breaks out into a wide smile, his nose crinkling delightedly. 

“I like Mario Kart!” 

“Really? Well, that settles it. We’ll all have to play sometime. You and I can compete for first place, and Oliver here can keep third place warm for us.” She reaches over to pat Oliver’s shoulder before she steps back, feeling insanely proud of the fact that William is still grinning from ear to ear. 

Is it possible for ovaries to ache? If it is, hers might be aching right now. This kid is so precious, despite everything he’s been through he’s still got a softness and a sweetness to him that she wants fiercely to protect. His smile positively melts her and god. How is it fair that Oliver can look as good as he does and be a nice guy and make kids this cute? 

It should be illegal, really. But this is not a road she can travel down. Thinking about Oliver while she’s also thinking about aching ovaries is dangerous in the extreme. As she turns to survey the adults, Felicity is pleased to find Oliver’s eyes on her, warm appreciation glowing in his gaze. He mouths a silent ‘thank you’ and she gives a subtle wave of her hand. Is he kidding? This is nothing. He’s her best friend - she’d do a hell of a lot more than this for him. Besides, William is positively a delight

Glancing to the Claytons, Felicity finds her footing again. “I’m sorry, I got a little carried away and interrupted Oliver’s introduction. I’m Felicity,” she offers her hand to a short, square faced older woman with shoulder length white hair. “You must be Mrs. Clayton. It’s a pleasure.” 

The group convenes in the living room after that and Felicity busies herself tidying the kitchen  while the Claytons, William, and Oliver all talk. After a while, she sees the Claytons rise and her heart is in her throat as she watches William give them teary hugs goodbye. He doesn’t wail or make a scene though; he simply blinks back tears and hugs them with quietly whispered ‘I love yous’ and ‘Goodbyes’.

It’s obvious this isn’t his first - or even his hardest - goodbye that he’s ever said. With a pang, Felicity realizes that compared to losing his mother, all these fresh hurts must feel small by comparison, just another straw on a potentially already broken camel’s back. 

But as the Claytons slowly shuffle out and the front door closes with finality behind them, Felicity knows that the hard part of this story? It’s just beginning. 

Swallowing thickly, she ducks back into the kitchen and fusses with a few things here or there. She doesn’t want to up and abandon Oliver but she’s also keenly aware that this is not her place. These two need time. Time to get to know each other, time to get comfortable in this new situation, just… time. 

They’re forming a new little family unit and for that, they don’t need her around. Best friend to Oliver though she may be, she is not a part of this family of two. 

Oliver and William head to his room to help the boy unpack and while they are thus occupied, Felicity calls in an order for delivery; a pepperoni and a cheese pizza, some garlic knots, and some soda. She’s not sure what William’s food preferences are just yet but pizza seems like a safe bet. When the kitchen is as good as it was before she began wreaking havoc (minus the lingering smell of burnt cookies), Felicity grabs her purse off the kitchen barstools and heads towards William’s room, poking her head in nonchalantly. 

“Hey guys! I ordered some pizza for you, should be here in twenty minutes. My treat. I’m going to take off but you-” she points at Oliver, her eyes on his as she offers an encouraging smile, “-call me if you need anything. And you -” she points now to William, whose expression turns surprised as he feels her attention land on  him, “-keep an eye on this guy for me, will you? And please, if you play Mario Kart with him, kick his butt for me.” 

William offers a microscopic smile, a bit of coloring flooding his cheeks as he ducks his head and nods. 

“Yeah, okay.” 

Felicity’s heart warms and once more, she feels that ache; god, she loves this kid already. Looking back at Oliver, she flashes him a thumbs up and mouths ‘You’ve got this!’ to him while William still isn’t looking. 

“Okay. You guys have fun. William, it was really wonderful to meet you.” A sudden thought occurs to her and she tilts her head to the side, studying him. “Have you got a cell phone, William.”

“I’m eight,” he responds, his nose crinkling into a grin. “My Mom said that was too young for a cell phone.” 

“Ah, I see, I see. Well that makes total sense. In that case,” Felicity ducks into her purse, rifling through it for one of her business cards and a pen. She hastily scribbles her personal cell number on the card and then she hands it to the kid as Oliver watches in amusement, “-take this!” Felicity offers brightly as William stares at the card, perplexed. “Memorize my number. And obviously his-” she points to Oliver. “But now you’ve got a friend that you can call if you need anything.” Felicity winks and William brightens with the realization.

“I’ve got a friend?” 

“Heck yeah you do! And it just so happens that all of my friends are required to have burgers and milkshakes or some sort of other good food and dessert with me on the regular,” Felicity teases and William’s grin grows larger.

“Yeah… Yeah okay!” 

With a wave farewell, Felicity excuses herself from the room. As she reaches the front door, Oliver comes running out to meet her and she pauses, turning to look at him as he calls her name quietly. 

“Felicity!” 

“Oliver?” 

“Thank you… You’re… God, you were amazing back there. You saved the day,” Oliver gushes and she shakes her head with a roll of her eyes.

“Yeah, after putting it in danger in the first place. Gimme a break.” 

“I mean it. You… You’re breaking down his walls way better than I am.” 

“Oliver. Give yourself a break. You have to be the dad. I get to be the fun friend. Trust me, I have the easier job title. Just relax. You’ve got this.” 

“I totally don’t ‘got’ this.” 

“Eh. You will.” She shrugs with a smile, reaching a hand out to pat his shoulder comfortingly. “Just don’t force it. Let him take things at his pace and you guys will be fine. And remember, I”m just a text or phone call away. But for whatever it’s worth? I think the best medicine for this situation is time. Just the two of you.” 

“You’re a lifesaver.” 

“You’re just saying that because I bought you pizza.” 

“You know the way to my heart, Smoak,” Oliver teases and Felicity smiles back, not saying anything to that. Yeah, sure she does. That’s why she’s just the friend. Nope. Not the time. Oliver and William are the priority - not her and her friend zoned little heart, full of unrequited love. If she knew the way to Oliver’s heart, she’d certainly have let herself into it by now. 

“Relax. You’ve got this. I believe in you. And I’m here if you need me,” she reminds him and Oliver nods before he sweeps her to him in an appreciative hug. She hugs him back and as they break apart, they share a smile before she disappears down the walkway. 

Her work here is done - at least for now.

Chapter Text

She hasn’t seen Oliver in weeks. 

It’s a new record for them. They haven’t gone this long without seeing each other since college, when she was at MIT and he was at Harvard. Even then, the longest they ever went without seeing each other was two months, when Felicity was nearly drowning in projects and Oliver was fighting to keep his head above water with his business classes. Usually even at their busiest, they saw each other for dinner at least once a week or every other week. 

But now it’s been a long month since that morning at Oliver’s. They’ve talked on the phone and over text but Felicity has patently avoided trying to initiate plans and Oliver, bless him, has been overwhelmed with his first month of being a single dad. 

It’s not that she wants him to be overwhelmed. She wants to help - she wants to help badly, actually. She just knows that Oliver and William need to work out for themselves what works - and what doesn’t - before they start adding other people to the mix. So though it’s hard, she keeps her distance. She is not William’s mom and she’s definitely not Oliver’s girlfriend so she does her level best to mind her place. Her interactions with Oliver are mostly occasional check ins here or there, touching base to make sure all is well. Until one weekend, when Felicity makes the unfortunate mistake of attempting to cook something - in her own kitchen this time, though with equally disastrous results.  

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 2h

Anyone know how to remove burnt frittata from a pan (and a stovetop? and a vent fan?) Asking for a friend…

Oliver Queen (@royalpain) - 1h
Replying to @smoakinggun

Good god Felicity, what atrocities did you commit in the kitchen now? 

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 58m
Replying to @royalpain

… Listen I was hungry and Gordon Ramsey was on TV.

Oliver Queen (@royalpain ) - 57m
Replying to @smoakinggun

….Oh geez. What have we said about you cooking, unsupervised? Have you already forgotten the chocolate chip cookie debacle last month? 

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 52m
Replying to @royalpain

…No but I was kinda hoping YOU had.

Oliver Queen (@royalpain ) - 47m
Replying to @smoakinggun

Yeah, not gonna happen. That has been burned into my memory. Pretty unforgettable, Smoak. Even William still brings it up.  

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 46m
Replying to @royalpain

Stop it. He does not!

Oliver Queen (@royalpain ) - 40m
Replying to @smoakinggun

He does indeed! Wants to know when the crazy cookie lady is coming by to play Mario Kart with him. 

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 37m
Replying to @royalpain

No way. He does NOT call me the crazy cookie lady!!!

Oliver Queen (@royalpain ) - 36m
Replying to @smoakinggun

Okay, fair. I ad libbed that. But he DOES ask when you’re coming by to play. He’s deemed me a lost cause and an unworthy opponent. He could use a challenge. 

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 32m
Replying to @royalpain

Is that an invitation to come crush your son at Mario Kart? 

Oliver Queen (@royalpain ) - 30m
Replying to @smoakinggun

It is absolutely an invitation. No, it is an ‘ask’, actually. My lack of skill has gone to his head. He needs to be cut down to size.

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 30m
Replying to @royalpain

...What’s in it for me?

Oliver Queen (@royalpain ) - 26m
Replying to @smoakinggun

Aside from the delight of seeing William & I? Hmm. I’ll make dinner? 

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 25m
Replying to @royalpain

...Anything other than frittata sounds good. I’ll bring dessert! (Store bought only, nothing homemade I PROMISE)

Oliver Queen (@royalpain ) - 21m
Replying to @smoakinggun

Tomorrow at six? 

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 18m
Replying to @royalpain

...Six in the pm? Since when does Oliver Queen eat at a normal hour?

Oliver Queen (@royalpain ) - 15m
Replying to @smoakinggun

Children change you, Smoak.

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 13m
Replying to @royalpain

Can’t wait to see this. Six it is. Tell William I’m laying a firm claim to Yoshi on Mario Kart.

Oliver Queen (@royalpain ) - 13m
Replying to @smoakinggun

Literally no idea what that means but sure. He smiled and said ‘That’s fine. Mario’s better anyway’. 

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 11m
Replying to @royalpain

…I will crush your son and Mario beneath Yoshi’s wheels.

Oliver Queen (@royalpain ) - 5m
Replying to @smoakinggun

There’s the sunny Smoak disposition that I know so well. See you tomorrow.

Felicity Smoak (@smoakinggun) - 2m
Replying to @royalpain

Can’t wait!

-----

To say that Oliver has been overwhelmed would be the supreme understatement of the year. Adjusting to fatherhood has been… a lot. And William’s an easy kid. He can’t imagine how much harder it would be if he weren’t. Still, it’s been a tremendous undertaking, this last month. Getting William enrolled in Starling Academy, going shopping for school supplies and helping him decorate his room? Those have been the easy parts. Navigating learning about a son he hadn’t met before now? That part is hard. 

He learns quickly that William is a very different kid than Oliver was at his age. 

Where Oliver loved sports and cars, William likes reading and playing on his computer and his video game systems. Where Oliver was loud and called attention to himself, William is soft spoken and more of a wallflower. Where Oliver was reactive, William is a thinker and slow to respond. Where Oliver was never keen on school, William seems to enjoy it well enough. Where Oliver lived for PE and whatever easy class let him goof off, William is all about math and science. 

They’re total opposites. Which scares the ever loving shit out of Oliver because he has virtually no clue how to relate to his own son, no matter how desperately he wants to. They’re still tiptoeing around each other like the relative strangers they are a month later. Every night, Oliver puts William to bed, tucks him in, and offers to read him a goodnight story. And every night, without fail, it is an offer William politely rejects. Each ‘no’ from his son is like a dagger through Oliver’s heart and the rejection cuts deeper and deeper with every passing day. He really wants to be a good father to his son. He just… doesn’t know how. 

He’s hoping dinner with Felicity can help illuminate things. For both of them. 

The invitation was spur of the moment but when Oliver mentioned Felicity coming over to play Mario Kart, William had brightened. It’s true that Oliver is hopeless at video games and William has made mincemeat of him in virtually every multiplayer they’ve attempted together. Video games are the only small window into his son that Oliver really has. He may suck at them but he can see the appeal. So he’s trying really damn hard to push this door open a little wider and see where it may lead. 

Enter Felicity.

He’s missed his best friend. Dearly. He can’t honestly believe it’s already been over a month since he last saw her (which means it’s also been over a month since William came to live with him). In those long weeks, he can’t even count how many times he’s wanted to reach out to her for her advice, only to abstain. 

Felicity hasn’t signed up to be a parent. Oliver has. He needs to learn to do things for himself and for William without reaching out a helping hand. He said he was going to do this and he meant it. So he needs to go it alone, at least until he learns what the fuck he’s doing. Still, he misses his best friend’s reassuring presence and her sage counsel more than he can say. So when she shows up at his front door with a box of store bought bakery cookies and cupcakes, she’s quite seriously a breath of fresh air. 

And as easy as that, she’s back in his life. It’s as if no time has passed and neither of them comment on the gap in visits or the reduction in communication. He can tell from just chatting with her for a few minutes in the entryway that Felicity gets it. Which is a lot. 

Tommy has been a little less understanding. But Tommy is still a single bachelor living his best playboy life, waiting to cash in on his inheritance. Oliver knows he’ll settle in time - and he thinks that day is coming soon - but he’s not there yet. So he is perhaps a touch more sensitive to Oliver dropping off of the supposed map. 

Thea is still a little bit overwhelmed by the news that she’s the aunt of an eight year old and, being perhaps equally as hopeless with kids as Oliver, she’s come around but has been the first to say she doesn’t know what she’s doing and she’s afraid of messing things up. His mom has come by but being as he and Thea were essentially raised by the staff, Moira Queen is hardly the expert on parenting. 

Felicity is the only one who seems unfazed by William’s arrival and she’s the best at taking it in stride. He loves her for that. 

“Okay so what’s for dinner?” Felicity questions as they walk down the hall toward the kitchen and living room and Oliver smiles. “Chicken parmigiana  and penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, and an Italian chopped salad.”

“Am I drooling? I think I’m drooling?” Felicity answers, wiping at her face with her hands in jest. Oliver snorts and rolls his eyes as he heads for the kitchen, Felicity trailing along behind him.

“William! Felicity is here!” Oliver announces crisply. Felicity sets the boxes of sweets down on the island and spins to look at the boy, waving shyly. 

“Hi William! Nice to see you again. Thanks for having me over for dinner.” 

She makes it look so easy. William smiles politely at Felicity and lifts one hand in a gentle greeting. 

“Hi Felicity.” 

Glancing from son to father, Felicity puts her hands in her pockets as she approaches him. 

“So… how can I help?” Felicity offers and he can’t help the bark of laughter he lets out at the mere notion of letting her touch this meal. 

“After your frittata fiasco? You can steer clear of my kitchen, Smoak. Besides, I thought you were coming over here to determine who reigns supreme at Mario Kart between you and William?” Oliver reminds her and Felicity regards him with surprise.

“I’m sorry, are you banishing me from the kitchen?”

“I am doing precisely that, yes. I would rather not have to order pizza because you accidentally torch the place,” he teases and her mouth  drops open in mock outrage, a hand over her heart. 

“I am wounded that you think so little of me and my cooking skills! I burn some cookies once and suddenly I’m a pariah.” 

“Felicity you didn’t burn them - burnt cookies are still edible. You murdered those cookies. Not even their mothers would have recognized them. None of those were edible. We had to take out the trash because they just made the whole place smell like burnt charcoal. Isn’t that right William?” Oliver reaches out to his son, who arches a brow and nods. 

“Et tu, Brute?” Felicity gasps William’s way, prompting the boy to frown in confusion, turning his gaze to Oliver for clarification.

“Felicity likes to quote weird stuff. You’ll get used to it, William.” 

“You did not just refer to the works of the master, William Shakespeare, as ‘weird stuff’,” Felicity feigns outrage and Oliver chuckles. 

“I did indeed.” 

“Shakespeare?” William queries hopefully and Felicity’s attention shifts to him instantaneously. 

“Yes. The bard himself. The single greatest playwright in history. Author of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Hamlet’, and ‘Macbeth’, among other things. Do you know him?” 

“I saw a ‘Wishbone’ episode about his stuff…” William trails off with a shrug and Felicity beams. 

“You watch Wishbone? Oh my god, you’re the coolest kid EVER.” 

“I...am?” It’s impossible to miss the look of surprise and wonder on William’s face - these days at his new school, the boy is clearly not being made to feel ‘cool’ by any stretch of the imagination.

“Heck yes you are! I LOVE Wishbone. Not enough kids know him these days,” Felicity gushes, padding into the living room where William is seated on the couch, looking at her in surprise. In short order, the two of them are chatting amiably and Oliver takes that as his cue to begin his kitchen work. He gets the feeling the pair will be just fine. 

And they seem to be, until about twenty minutes later when Oliver hears loud shouting coming from the living room. As he peeks out from around the kitchen island, the cause of the commotion is clear.

Felicity and William are both on their feet, shouting at each other and the television, game controllers in hand. A racing game is on the television and as Oliver watches, a little green lizard fires an explosive of some sort at a blue and red clothed character, blowing up his car. The shouting increases in volume then and he sees the green lizard barrel across the finish line, prompting Felicity to crow victoriously as she throws down her controller. 

“YOSHI SAYS EAT MY DUST, MARIO!” Felicity whoops, turning to wag her finger in William’s face. “You ALMOST had me with that lightning bolt trick you pulled there, that was GENIUS!” Felicity praises him and Oliver watches as William smirks, coming out of his shell by the moment.

“You wanna go again?”

“You mean do I wanna crush you again? Absolutely I do. This time you pick the course though,” Felicity suggests and William grins. 

“Rainbow Road!” The boy is positively elated as he crows the words and Oliver watches Felicity fling her head back and  groan.

“Oh you’re evil, you know that? That’s positively diabolical. Fine. Game on, William. Yoshi and I are going to destroy you”

“You wish!”

Oliver watches this all unfold from his vantage at the island, never breathing a word. As William pulls up the next round of the game though, he watches Felicity glance towards the kitchen and when she sees him watching her she stills and smiles shyly.  Oliver just grins and mouths the words repeating in his mind right now. 

Thank you

Felicity’s smile widens and she bites her lower lip as her cheeks seem to flush. But before anything more is exchanged between them, silent or otherwise, William murmurs something from beside her and Felicity startles, whipping her attention back to the screen. Oliver watches as the two keep competing, playfully elbowing one another and laughing riotously. This is the most exuberant that Oliver has seen William be and he can’t help but attribute it to Felicity. Her disarming, relaxing presence has the same effect on the boy that it does on his father, it seems. 

He feels something in him shift as he watches the two interact. There’s something almost maternal in how Felicity engages with William. There’s such raw devotion and compassion, such earnest emotion. He can sense how deeply his best friend cares about the boy and that fact alone makes him feel so deeply indebted to her. She’s a treasure, his best friend. She can’t possibly know how much this means to him. But it means so very much. 

She’s loving his son the way he deserves to be loved and god, that makes him feel good, to know he’s brought that love into William’s life. Now he just needs to be equally as loving as Felicity and maybe, just maybe he’ll have a shot at this whole ‘dad’ thing. 

Maybe she can give him some pointers. Or maybe she can just stay forever and never leave. Now there’s a thought. 

A short while later, dinner is ready and the pair come padding over to the dining room table, all smiles as they plop down in their respective seats. Oliver surmises that thus far, they’re tied for wins and the competition has been fierce. 

“Then when you used that mushroom and got past me at the last second?! ” Felicity beams as she looks to Oliver, shaking her head. “I’m telling you Oliver, this boy is a Mario Kart master.” 

“Sounds that way,” Oliver smiles back as he carefully passes Felicity the bowl of salad. 

“I think after dinner we’re going to need to do a winner take all deathmatch,” Felicity sniffs seriously as she places a scoop of salad on her plate before passing the bowl across the table to William. “What do you say, William? You up for one final race?” 

The boy’s face splits into a wide smile and he nods as he takes the salad bowl from her, putting a small portion on his own plate. “Yeah!” He falls silent for a moment, mulling something over and then he gets a wicked grin on his face. “The Turnpike.” 

This is entirely Greek to Oliver but a quick glance Felicity’s way shows her giving his son a cool, appraising look.

“The Turnpike, hmm? Well. Looks like we’re going out in style then.” 

He has zero clue what any of it means. But the playful nature of this banter, William’s enthusiasm (and Felicity’s, for that matter) are infectious and Oliver feels his heart soaring. Dinner was a good call. Dinner was a really good call. 

And that’s why, amid the shouting that occurs later that evening as the two champions face off again, Oliver decides that dinner with Felicity needs to become a regular thing for him and William. 

-----

“Oliver, I don’t want to intrude!” Felicity hesitates on the phone with him a few weeks later and she can hear his heavy sigh on the other end of the line. 

“Felicity, you wouldn’t be intruding. Trust me. If anything, you’d be saving my ass,” Oliver confesses, his voice dropping in volume as he says the last word. 

“Oliver Queen, are you trying to hide the fact that you just swore?” Felicity teases and if it is possible to hear an eye roll on the phone, she hears one now. 

“Yes, Felicity. I am. It’s not cool to swear in front of kids. Especially not your own.” 

“...Oh my gosh it’s like I don’t even know you anymore. Are you going to start substituting the word ‘fudge’ for ‘fuck’ now?” Felicity’s jibes are all well meaning and Oliver knows it; she can hear him getting fake huffy on the other end. 

“Says the woman who routinely says ‘frak’ instead of ‘fuck’ for no apparent reason,” Oliver retorts and Felicity chuckles.

“Good to see you haven’t totally lost your edge, Queen.” 

“Not with you around keeping me sharp, Smoak. Now seriously, can you come over tonight to help me with William’s homework?”

“You’re sure it’s alright?” 

“Yes, Felicity! I can tell him what the answer is thanks to the internet but not how to get it. I’m total crap,” again, his voice drops in volume as he swears and Felicity bikes back a smile as she pictures him trying to hide his flubs, “-at this math stuff and he’s getting stressed because he doesn’t understand it.” 

“I still can’t believe your eight year old son is already doing middle school level math.” 

“You and me both. He clearly didn’t get his brains from me,” Oliver sighs and Felicity feels a pang and her fingers twitch instinctively. If she were with him, she’d be putting a hand to his shoulder or his face and staring deep into his eyes to remind him of his worth. He forgets it so easily and so often. Even now. 

“Hey,” she murmurs gently, “none of that now. It so happens, I think you’re very smart all on your own.” The reminder is gentle and genuine but she can tell he doesn’t take it seriously.

“For all the good it does me.” 

“Hey! I mean it, Oliver. Just because math isn’t your thing doesn’t mean you aren’t bright in other ways. You are. Trust me. I’ve seen you in action. You’re a force to be reckoned with. You have plenty to offer and plenty to teach William. If it helps you guys, then yes. I’ll swing by tonight. Whatever you need.” 

He’s silent on the other line but when he speaks, his relief is palpable. 

“Thank you, Felicity. You’re a lifesaver.” 

And that is how Felicity finds herself back at Oliver Queen’s dining room table, this time sitting next to William with a few workbooks and loose leaf pieces of paper spread around them as they tackle his homework. William may only be eight but he’s already doing math that’s very advanced curriculum for a kid his age. And what’s more? He’s good at it. He’s not struggling needlessly - he just needs a little guidance or course correction here or there and he’s sailing along beautifully. Really, Felicity feels a little superfluous but she also understands what it’s like getting stuck on a problem and having a parent who can’t help. That frustration is rough and she doesn’t want that for William. So she makes herself available, talking him through the proper way to address equations he stumbles over, watching delightedly as he masters the concepts she explains to him.

Her initial assessments of him were spot on - he is bright. Very bright. And while these equations are things she could do in her sleep, she’s not bored in the slightest as she works through the homework packet William was sent home with by his teacher for his advanced studies. She’s helping him with some of his binomials when Oliver pokes his head around the corner tentatively - he’s given the pair a wide berth, just checking in to replenish drinks and snacks as needed. 

“Are you guys at a good spot for dinner soon?” Oliver queries and Felicity looks to William, who is just finishing his third to last equation from his homework. The boy frowns and stares at his remaining problems, then looks to Felicity.

“Can we do these before we eat?” 

“Fine by me, as long as it’s okay with your dad.” Both Felicity and William turn to look at Oliver, who raises his hands before himself in surrender. 

“I’m running on your timetable guys, whenever is good for you, is good for me. I’ll keep dinner warm until you’re ready.” 

They don’t have long to wait - William has only a slight hiccup on the last problem, featuring a binomial with a coefficient - but he quickly course corrects and with a flourish, he finishes solving the final problem of his math homework. He sets his pencil down emphatically and Felicity beams.

“And that is how it’s done! Awesome work, William!” Felicity compliments him, holding out a hand for a high five. William shyly high fives her back, blushing faintly beneath her praise. 

“Thank you for your help, Felicity.” Even when she thinks she can’t possibly adore this kid more, he proves himself to be polite and gracious and ugh. Yeah. She loves him. Too soon? She doesn’t care. She loves Oliver’s son. 

“You, my dude, are totally welcome. Thanks for letting me crunch some numbers with you. This,” she gestures to the work they’ve just finished, “-is totally my idea of fun.” 

“It is?” William’s brow crinkles in surprise at this and Felicity reclines against the back of her chair as she grins at him. 

“Oh yeah. Math classes when I was about your age were when I started to figure out that I really liked numbers and technology and stuff. I started building computers and learning to code and I figured out I was pretty good at it too. Math is totally the sport of the cool kids.” 

“Math isn’t a sport!” William challenges and Felicity quirks a brow at him.

“According to who? Clearly, you have never heard of Mathletes.” 

“Huh?”

“I thought so,” Felicity sighs in an intentionally overly dramatic fashion. “Mathletes. Math-athletes. You get to compete against other kids and other teams, doing math problems. It is super intense but super fun. And only the brightest math minds get to do it - which you, William, definitely are.” 

“I am?!”

“I’m sorry is there an echo?” Felicity teases, poking him playfully in the ribs. “Yes you are! Did you see how fast you kicked those binomials butts? You’re a math whiz. We need to look at getting you into the Mathlete competitions around here. You’ll smoke the competition just like I smoked you in that race at Bowser’s Castle,” Felicity teases, referencing their last Mario Kart competition. William’s brows slant into a playful, stern look.

“You didn’t smoke me!”

“I totally did!” Felicity argues as she collects the loose paper and piles the sheets into a tidy stack, which she hands to William. He carefully places everything inside his backpack, even while side eyeing her hard. 

“Rematch!?” William questions and Felicity feels her heart skip a beat at the idea. 

“Oh absolutely. You’re going down, punk.” 

“After dinner, maybe?” Oliver interrupts, grinning as he carries over a tray bearing a rather sizable homemade calzone. “I for one, am hungry. And I think you two probably worked up an appetite with all the math you were doing.” 

Felicity’s mouth is literally watering just from the smell of the calzone alone so she finds herself sitting back down at the table, suddenly disinterested in leaving. 

“I could be persuaded to call a truce on this argument until after dinner,” Felicity remarks, shooting William a look. “What do you say bud?” 

William looks at the calzone and then at Felicity before he nods slowly. “Fine. But after dinner, can Felicity and I play?”

Oliver grins and ruffles his son’s hair. “Absolutely you can.” 

“YES!” William crows as he leaps up from the table, his backpack in hand as he runs to put it away. He calls over his shoulder as he goes. “Thanks Dad!” 

Felicity sees how Oliver goes still as William’s words process and she can see Oliver’s eyes flare open wide in surprise. She can’t be certain, but Felicity is fairly positive she may have just witnessed the first time William has called Oliver ‘Dad’. And the thought makes her heart catch and tears crowd the corner of her eyes. 

“H-Has he...said that before?” Felicity asks in a voice barely above a whisper and Oliver can’t meet her eyes as he clears his throat and shakes his head. Oh wow. She can see Oliver’s hand is trembling as he arranges things on the table and she can’t help the way her hand reaches out to him, her fingers twining through his warmly. “Hey,” she murmurs, waiting patiently for him to take a deep breath before he looks at her.

Oh Oliver. The sight of him tugs at her heartstrings in the most profound of ways.

His eyes are swimming, the sharp, deep blue of them gone all watery with the emotion of what’s just happened. Her fingers tighten, giving his hand a comforting squeeze and in answer, Oliver blows out a breath slowly as he fights to collect himself. 

“That’s a good sign, right? If he’s calling you ‘Dad’, you must be doing something right. Congrats, Oliver.” Felicity feels so proud of him she’s fit to burst. This? This is huge. However small a word ‘Dad’ might be, the weight that it carries, especially in this situation, is immense. She loves this for them. She loves this recognition and this title for Oliver to wear with pride. She loves this level of comfort and trust that William must be feeling to let Oliver in in this new way. She just… She’s so happy for them both.

Felicity feels her muscles collecting; all she wants in this moment is to wrap him into a fierce, warm hug and to comfort him in this emotional moment. But then she hears the sound of William coming back into the dining room and as quickly as that, the spell is broken. Her hand falls away from Oliver and he passes a hand over his face, quickly drying his eyes before he spins to meet his son with a bright smile fixed in place.

“Hey buddy! Ready to eat?!”

Dinner passes by without anything remarkable happening. Except that’s not true. Because, in Felicity’s eyes, everything with these boys is remarkable. She can’t help marveling at how common, everyday things seem so much more special when she’s with Oliver & William. Dinner isn’t just dinner - it’s a family event. 

Not that she’s family. That would be ridiculous. They’re family - Oliver and William - she’s just a bystander. A third party. 

The point is, it’s special. Being around them. There’s still an awkwardness that shows they haven’t quite settled into this new life just yet but it’s early. A month is hardly a lifetime, though it’s felt like one without her best friend around. Felicity is certain that, given time, William and Oliver will become a tight knit little family nucleus. And she, for one, can’t wait to see it. 

As an observer. Of course. 

They chat over dinner. William tells Oliver what Felicity has told him about Mathletes and Oliver is instantly supportive and tells William they can email the school tonight to ask about if Starling Academy has a team, and what steps they have to take for William to join it. This pleases the boy greatly and as he’s busy working on his plate of calzone, Felicity feels a foot  nudge hers under the table. A quick glance Oliver’s way shows this was intentional. He mouths the words ‘ Thank you’ at her and she smiles and shakes her head. 

He doesn’t need to thank her. Doesn’t he get it? She’d do anything for him. He’s her best friend. The man that she l-… believes in. She’d do a hell of a lot more than review middle school math problems if it helped Oliver Queen even one iota. And very rapidly, William is climbing to the top of her list of favorite people as well. Oliver aside? She’d do a hell of a lot if it helped William even a smidge. 

Like father like son.

Chapter Text

Oliver would love to say that he’s tackled countless speed bumps in his first couple months of being a father. That he’s risen to the challenge and proven himself time and again. That his parenting skills are so on point, that he’s to thank for William’s smooth adjustment.

But all of that would be a total crock of shit. 

Everything with William has been about as pain-free as it possibly could be and it has nothing to do with Oliver and everything to do with William. The kid is bright and well adjusted and long before Oliver was ever in his life, he had role models building a firm foundation for him. He’s well mannered and responsible and even when he’s upset, he’s surprisingly self possessed and in control of his emotions. 

Which makes his upset a couple weeks later that much more pronounced. 

Oliver tries to wheedle information out of him  but his son is a veritable vault, with stormclouds in his eyes and tension rolling off of his shoulders. Oliver’s torn between continuing to push for information, and walking away to let the kid sort it out himself. He hasn’t really encountered anything like this with William thus far and he’s really and truly at a loss for what to do. The boy barricades himself in his room, claiming ‘homework’ but it’s a Friday night and Oliver isn’t buying the excuse being fed to him.

There’s more at play here. He just doesn’t know what. 

What would Felicity do? 

It’s silly, really. Felicity isn’t a mom. She isn’t someone with a ton of kid experience. But for all her insistence that she’s ‘hopeless with kids’, his blonde best friend has seemingly hacked William pretty easily. The kid is smitten with her - she can do no wrong in his eyes. 

Then again, she never does any wrong in Oliver’s eyes either. 

The point is, Felicity knows how to handle his son. Better than he does even. So Oliver does what any sane man would do. He calls in reinforcements. The big guns. 

He calls his 5’5” best friend for advice. 

“Honestly Oliver, you’re asking me as if I’m going to have some magical cure all, and I don’t!” Felicity states, a little panicky after he calls her and explains the situation.

“Felicity, you’re the only one who seems to understand how his mind works. It’s probably a genius thing - from one brilliant mind to another,” Oliver remarks and he hears her answering snort.

“Wow, flattery Oliver? Come on.” 

“Who’s flattering? I’m serious.”

She scoffs on the other end. “I’m ignoring that you said that for now. There’s nothing magical about it, Oliver. I just... listen to him. And I meet him on his level. You’re his dad. And you’ve been so worried about him liking you, I just think that you haven’t been able to relax and be yourself and maybe… maybe William picks up on that? I don’t know. He just seems to respond to authenticity. So just… take the kiddie gloves off and be yourself!” 

“Myself is an ass, Felicity. Myself sucks.” 

“That is a subject for another day but as your best friend I can say with confidence that, while you have some rough edges here or there - as do we all - you do not suck, Oliver. And while you are capable of being an ass, you are not an ass. At least not these days.” 

“Gee, that makes me feel so much better,” Oliver remarks sarcastically and he hears her groan.

“Oliver what do you want me to say? Yeah, you were a bit of a dick in college. You’ve cleaned your act up since then. Sure, you can be a jerk. So can I! That doesn’t make us bad people. Just go in there and talk to him and do your best. That’s all anybody can do.” 

“What if I mess it up?”

“Do you remember what I told you before William came to stay with you?” 

“Yes. But which part specifically are we talking about here?” 

“You will make mistakes, Oliver. But showing up? That’s what matters. So yeah, William is having a hard time. The question is: are you still going to show up?” 

The line falls silent between them and Oliver swallows as Felicity’s words find purchase. She’s right. He can’t just let fear of failure paralyze him here. William clearly has something bothering him. And as his dad, Oliver needs to decide what his response will be. He knows what his parents would do - ignore it until the problem goes away. He doesn’t want to follow in those footsteps. 

Felicity, as usual, is right. 

“...Call you after?” 

“You know my number,” she hums back pleasantly and a smile curves his lips. In the age of cell phones, there’s few numbers he has committed to memory. Felicity’s is definitely one of them. 

“I do indeed. Thanks, Felicity.” 

“Anytime, Oliver.” 

-----

The talk with William goes until surprisingly late. Oliver is so emotionally fried by the time it’s done that as soon as his boy is tucked into bed, Oliver heads for his own. He strips down to his boxers and manages to brush his teeth before he tumbles into bed, welcoming the sweet relief of sleep. But his sleep is short lived. 

He’s been asleep maybe an hour before he hears the sound of his phone jangling from the night stand. With a groan, he rolls over to grab it and peering at it bleary eyed, he sees it’s Felicity trying to video chat him.

Fuck. Felicity. He was supposed to call her after and he never did. He flicks on the nightstand lamp and quickly swipes to accept the video chat. His screen flickers to show a rectangle of black screen and another moment later, Felicity comes into view. She looks… well. In a word? Frazzled. Her hair is down in unkempt waves, her eyes look wide and concerned, and she appears to be pacing. 

“Oliver! Is everything okay?! I didn’t hear from you and I got worried. Oh shit. You were asleep, weren’t you? You were totally asleep. Oh god. I’m so sorry, I’ll go,” Felicity rambles in classic Felicity fashion but Oliver shakes his head.

“Woah hey hold on, wait up, Felicity. It’s fine. I totally spaced calling you, I’m sorry. Let me fill you in now.” 

She’s torn, he can see it on her face - on the one hand, he’s never met someone with less tolerance for mysteries than Felicity. He knows she wants to get the 4-1-1 on the William situation. But judging by how she gnaws at her lip, she doesn’t want to keep him up. Because that’s precisely the brand of kind that Felicity comes from.

“Don’t even think of fighting me on this, Felicity. I insist. I told you I would call and I didn’t. I definitely owe you an explanation - and some thanks. You were right to remind me I needed to show up for him.” 

This seems to settle it. Felicity stills in her restless pacing and she nods, looking a bit relieved. As he watches, she seats herself on her own bed, reclining back against her white and gray pillows. 

“Okay. If you’re sure… then yes. Please, spill.” 

Oliver chuckles and smiles at her before he launches into what is hopefully not going to be too long of a story. 

“So I talked with William. And he was upset. I guess Starling Academy has a bylaw that requires all students to participate in at least one extracurricular sport through the school each year. Something about exercising not just the mind but also the body,” Oliver parrots, watching as Felicity pulls a face not unlike the one William made as he recounted this bit of news. 

“Ugh. I don’t love that.” 

“Neither does William,” Oliver explains, crossing one arm behind his head as he props up the phone on the pillows across from him so that he can lay in bed, staring at her on his phone screen like she’s lying there next to him.

“Oh no,” Felicity murmurs, the concern returning to her eyes as understanding begins to dawn.

“Oh yes,” Oliver nods sadly. “He’s distraught. He’s not a sports kid, Felicity. So we talked it through. And since the administration seems pretty unwilling to budge on this, we basically sat down and discussed the pros and cons of each sport. We ruled out anything that gets played here in the fall. I figure if we sign him up for a spring sport, that at least gives us time to practice before his season starts and then maybe he’ll feel a little bit better about things.” 

“Smart call,” Felicity interjects and Oliver smiles, buoyed by her praise. 

“Why thank you,” he grins, watching in amusement as she seems to settle down into her pillows in much the same fashion that he has. 

“Okay. So what are the spring sport options?” 

“Well there’s a few. Lacrosse. Golf. Baseball. Rowing. Tennis. Track and field. Volleyball. And soccer.” 

Felicity nods along as Oliver rattles off the list, and her eyes are bright as he finishes. “Well okay, that’s not bad, right? I mean, most of those sound better than like… football or hockey.” 

“Agreed,” Oliver nods, recalling the conversation he and William had. “We ruled out lacrosse and soccer right away. Seemed a bit too aggressive. We also ruled out volleyball and tennis because William wasn’t feeling great about a flying object getting beamed at his face with no protection.” 

“Wise boy, your son.” 

“Thank you, I’d have to agree. Anyway, rowing didn’t sound like a good time to him. Track and field, with his asthma, seemed like maybe not our best play. So that left golf and baseball.” 

“I’m surprised baseball was still in contention, honestly,” Felicity remarks. “I mean, that’s also a flying object getting thrown at his face.” 

“I know. But they do wear batting helmets part of the time, which seemed to make him feel a little better.”

“Okay. So golf or baseball. What did he decide?” 

“Well, we haven’t decided for sure yet. I told him if he wants to do baseball, I can practice with him. If he wants to do golf, we can see about getting him lessons because well, I’m terrible at golf.” 

“I do recall that being the case when you went on that golf business outing for work,” Felicity teases and Oliver groans.

“Oh god, don’t remind me. I was paying the golf course back for damages for MONTHS.” 

Felicity’s answering grin and giggle please him endlessly as she blinks slowly, looking more and more relaxed as the conversation goes on. Her earlier stress and tension have melted away as Oliver has explained the situation with William. 

“Anyway, so we’re going to go to the batting cages this weekend and to the driving range. Let him get a feel for both sports, see what he wants to play,” Oliver finishes and Felicity’s answering grin dazzles him.

“I’m really proud of you.” 

Huh? That’s not the response he’s expecting. “How’s that?” Oliver actually slips and says the words aloud, prompting Felicity to bury her face in the pillow to smother her laughter before she looks back at him on the phone. 

“You did it, Oliver. You’re really doing the dad thing. And you’re doing it well. It sounds like you really were there for William when he needed you. That’s kind of amazing.” 

His cheeks feel hot beneath her praise but Oliver can’t hide the smile that her words elicit. He hadn’t thought of it like that. He was just trying to do what William needed, trying to give him the chance to be successful and happy in his new life here in Starling. He’s not sure that his actions merit Felicity’s praise or her pride - that’s rather a weighty acknowledgement, at least in Oliver’s mind - but whether he deserves it or not, he’s delighted to have it. Her opinion carries great meaning and to have her support means the world to him.

“I don’t know about ‘amazing’,” he murmurs, only for Felicity to shake her head in protest. 

“Nope. No arguing. You’re amazing.” 

Well. That just...warms his heart right up to hear her say. Wow. “Thank you, Felicity. I couldn’t have done it without your encouragement and advice.” 

“Eh. You could have. It just might have taken you a minute longer, that’s all.” 

“Hey, if I don’t get to downplay my accomplishments, neither do you. I don’t know what William or I would do without you. You’re a lifesaver.” 

“I always wanted to be a candy,” Felicity teases weakly and Oliver snorts, rolling his eyes. 

“You know what I mean.” 

“I do. Thanks, Oliver. And thanks for letting me wake you up like a crazy person so you could fill me in. I really am sorry about that, by the way. Talk about overbearing math tutor,” Felicity chuckles uneasily. 

“Felicity? You’re more than William’s math tutor and you know it. Stop apologizing. I’m glad you called.” 

There’s silence on the other end of the line for a moment and he wonders if she’s fallen asleep. But no, her eyes are open and she’s staring at him. Has the screen frozen? Before he can say anything though, Felicity’s image on the screen moves and her voice breaks across the quiet. 

“T-Thank you, Oliver.” 

They keep chatting as the night draws on and bit by bit, he can see Felicity getting sleepy. Her eyes linger closed for longer and longer on every blink and her voice slows to a sedate murmur. For the life of him though, Oliver can’t bear to end the call. So he keeps talking to her, even as her responses take longer and longer to formulate. Eventually, silence meets him from the other end of the line. He cracks one eye open and sees on his phone screen that Felicity has fallen asleep, her blonde hair splayed across the pillows, her chest rising and falling in even breaths as she sleeps. He watches her for a while; he tells himself he’s waiting for her to snore or do some equally embarrassing little thing that he can tease her about. But in reality the sight of her sleeping so peacefully? It’s comforting in a way he just can’t quite place. He smiles a little as he watches her slumber and with a sigh, he speaks again.

“Goodnight, Felicity. I’m really glad William and I have you in our lives.” 

Her lips pull into a faint smile as he speaks and Oliver can’t help how that makes his smile grow all the wider. She really is the best. He’d be lost without her. Grudgingly, Oliver goes to tap the ‘END CALL’ button but before he does he hesitates a moment and then mentally tries to bottle this moment, to permanently etch into his memory the sight of her like this. With the image of her sleeping peacefully burned into his brain, he taps the button, watching a little sadly as her image disappears from his phone. 

-----

Felicity is not a sports girl. She never has been particularly keen on playing sports, though she can see the appeal. She likes a select few sports - badminton is her jam. Volleyball is the outer limit of her comfort zone. But golf and baseball? Those are uncharted territory. So when William and Oliver invite her to join them at the driving range and batting cages, she’s a little hesitant. But William butters her up with his best puppy dog eyes and then Oliver hits her with that soft smile of his, dimples and all, and she’s a goner. 

The Queen boys? They do NOT play fair. 

And that is how she finds herself whacking away (unsuccessfully) at a ball at the driving range. Her hits are, in a word? Abysmal. Even when she gets her club on the ball, it goes anywhere and everywhere except where she would like it to. Which is… infuriating. 

The instructor that Oliver hired for an hour helps coach William, showing him how to grip the clubs and how to hit. Felicity can tell though, William’s not really digging it. By the time he’s hit a bucket of balls and the time with the instructor is done, he’s shaking his head and Felicity and Oliver share a look.

That just leaves baseball, unless they revisit any of the other options. But the other options? They’re not great. Already, she’s fretting for the boy. Baseball is their last, best hope. 

The batting cages have William freaked out before he ever enters them; to get to the slow pitch stalls, they have to pass by the 80-100 mph fastball lanes and wow. Yeah… that’s fast. Felicity has no desire to be on the receiving end of that and she doesn’t blame William for flinching away when a ball hits the mat at the back of the batting cage when they pass by. 

“There’s helmets, right Dad?” 

“Yeah buddy, there’s helmets,” Oliver confirms. 

After they pick up helmets and bats from the counter, Felicity dons her helmet and without a word to either boy, she ducks into the slow pitch lane, putting her token in the slot to start the machine. She hears William exclaim softly behind her  but she doesn’t look back at him, just keeps her eyes firmly fixed on the machine about to pelt balls at her.

Okay, so perhaps ‘pelt’ is a strong word for slow pitch baseballs being lobbed her way at 25-40 mph. But still. It feels fast to be on the receiving end of a projectile coming towards one’s body that fast. Cars drive slower than that in school zones!

The first pitch comes flying her way and Felicity takes a swing at it, missing by a mile. Shocker. The second pitch is equally quick and she misses it by about the same margin. From behind her, she hears Oliver calling out calmly to her to give her advice. 

“Choke up on your bat,” he instructs and Felicity frowns. 

“What does that mean?” 

“Slide your grip on the handle closer to the barrel of the bat.” 

Felicity complies, giving the bat a practice  swing to test out this new grip. As she does, she realizes something and she feels the lightbulb going off in her mind. This? This is how they make baseball more accessible and fun for William. This right here. Even if she sucks at this, she’s got a leg to stand on and an argument to make for the sport. Emboldened, Felicity faces down the next pitch and she swings at it, her arms reverberating with the contact as the ball connects with her bat and veers sharply to the side, crashing into the batting cage net. 

“Not bad. Probably a foul ball, but you got a piece of that one!” Oliver encourages and she can hear William asking follow up questions about ‘foul balls’. Bingo. He’s already more interested than he was in golf. She’s taking that as a good sign.

The rest of the turn goes by in a blur of pitches. Felicity misses most of them or barely gets a piece of them. But she does manage to actually hit a few halfway decently and as she strolls out of the cage, she twirls the bat in her hands with enthusiasm. 

“Boy have I got some news for you, Bubs,” Felicity announces to William, using the nickname she’s started fondly calling him in the last month as she crouches down to his level. William tilts his head to the side, intrigued but silent. “Baseball is totally a science.”

Instantly, William’s eyes glitter at this and she can see a tiny grin working its way free from the corners of his lips even in spite of his obvious disbelief.

“How?!” 

“You remember when your Dad told me to ‘choke up’ on the bat? Well duh. That’s just science. Changing where I held the bat changed the rotational axis and reduced the inertia which means I could rotate the bat more quickly! See? Basic physics!” Felicity crows delightedly. And while she can tell William hasn’t fully followed her logic, his eyes are aglow with excitement. Science? Math? Physics? These are the languages he speaks. Knowing he can apply them, however indirectly in this? That might tilt the odds in their favor of him being at least passably okay with baseball. 

“Dad, can I try now?!” William spins to face Oliver and he nods, helping William into his gear before ushering the boy into the batting cage. Felicity comes to stand alongside Oliver outside the chain link fence and instinctively, her fingers seek out his, giving his hand a friendly, supportive squeeze as they watch William, their hearts in their throats. 

“Baseball is physics, huh?” Oliver whispers to her as William puts a coin in the slot and Felicity glances at Oliver, a grin on her face. 

“Hey, every word I said was true. And look at him! He’s actually excited. I was just playing to my strengths - and to his,” Felicity grins and Oliver chuckles. 

“Let’s hope it works.” 

The first few pitches aren’t exactly the most encouraging start; William misses entirely but Oliver coaxes him to adjust his grip on the bat and his stance. By the fifth ball, William actually makes contact. And while the hit would be a ‘pop fly’ according to Oliver’s whispered explanation to her, it’s progress of the right sort. 

After twenty pitches, William seems to have a rudimentary grasp of what he’s doing and while he’s by no means some baseball prodigy, the sport seems to be clicking a tiny bit better than golf. But more importantly? William is happier about it than he was golf - and Felicity knows, that’s the bigger battle to win. 

“Bubs that was amazing!” Felicity whoops as William exits the cages, grinning from ear to ear. The batting cage door opening is what finally parts Felicity and Oliver’s joined hands and she feels a little pang at the absence of the touch, however innocent. As she watches, Oliver glances her way, his eyes lingering just a moment before he focuses on William, who he grabs up and throws into the air joyously, catching the boy with ease. 

“Way to go, buddy!” Oliver enthuses, giving William’s helmet a playful, gentle shake. By the time the two adults finish congratulating William, he seems pleasantly dazed, as if he’s surprised himself with his performance today.

“Dad, can we practice some more?” 

“Absolutely. As much as you want, bud.” Oliver is all smiles and Felicity can’t help but take a moment to marvel at how far he’s come. He may have had his doubts, but Oliver is proving to be a very capable, competent dad. And she’s so happy to be here to see it.

Felicity watches William collect another token from Oliver and then hurry back to the batting cages and she feels some of her stress ease away. William is going to be just fine - he’s got the rest of the fall to practice his skills before the spring baseball season officially begins. And he’s got the absolute best support system in Oliver. And if William is okay? Then Oliver will be too. They’re a package deal, these boys, and god does she love them.

As she and Oliver line up to watch William go again, Felicity shoots a look Oliver’s way. “So I guess we’re going to be sitting in the bleachers at the baseball fields this spring, huh?” 

“Looks that way,” Oliver agrees with an easy, soft chuckle. “Felicity… Thank you. That was a stroke of genius, relating baseball to William on a level like that to help him understand and appreciate it more.” 

“What can I say? I know my genius in the making audience well,” Felicity teases and Oliver barks out a laugh before he slings an arm across her shoulders, towing her to him for a side hug and a quick and gentle forehead kiss. Her skin is positively buzzing where his lips touch her skin and Felicity feels almost tipsy as Oliver finally releases her.

Oh wow. Yeah. She likes baseball. She likes baseball a lot

-----

After a few weeks, Oliver has to admit - William is improving. Granted, the improvement so far has been from ‘bad’ to ‘not terrible’ but it’s still an improvement, so he’ll take it. At home, they play catch, breaking in William’s new baseball glove. It’s pleasant father-son bonding time that Oliver cherishes. And while William isn’t going to be making the roster for Little League anytime soon, he seems to be having fun and really, that’s all Oliver could ask for. 

The added bonus to this whole ‘baseball’ situation is that he and his son have something in common now. And this common ground? Oliver likes it. William’s started turning on reruns of baseball games on ESPN Classic in the background when they eat dinner now. He calls it research but he seems to be entertained and that tickles Oliver. He’s already picturing taking William to a major league game when the season starts up again. 

Encouragingly, William is still thriving at school academically - Felicity has maintained her weekly tutoring schedule followed by dinner and it’s really quite pleasant. Oliver likes having his best friend take such an active role in his son’s life. And honestly, he likes having the excuse to hang out with her every week. Being a dad has opened up his world in a lot of ways, but it’s also closed it in a lot of others.

No more Friday nights at the club with Tommy. No more drunken escapades, no more ill-advised, last minute weekend getaways, no more partying. He’s cleaned his act up. Which is good - great even. His family is thrilled. He’s more focused than ever at work. But he does miss his friends, who have carried on with their normal ways, unimpeded by surprise children.

Not that William’s an impediment - he’s not. It’s just… Well, life is different. And not everyone has the same priorities as New Single Dad Oliver. So Felicity still making the time and showing up? It means a lot. Dare he say, everything. 

He watches from the kitchen as Felicity and William hunch over the dining room table one night, working together to puzzle out the latest topic that William’s advanced math class has covered. Oliver doesn’t recall ever learning math with so many letters instead of numbers, not even in college. But then again, he doesn’t recall much of his math classes at all, seeing as he barely scraped by with passing grades and even then, only because of Felicity’s intense tutoring and a few professors who took mercy on him and spent a few extra office hours helping him. 

Through these tutoring sessions of Felicity and William’s though, one thing is becoming abundantly clear to Oliver. He and William may share baseball now, but William and Felicity? They share a hell of a lot. 

Their love of math and science, for one. Their love of tech is another unifying like (and has even prompted William to join the Tech Club at school). Mathletes. Video games (their Mario Kart battles have gotten no less intense as the months have passed and they keep fierce score of who is ahead in ‘lifetime wins’. Nerds). They’re like two peas in a pod. Which is great. But also…

...Oliver sometimes feels like the odd pea out. And he’d really, really like to be in the pod. 

As he steps sheepishly into the dining room to announce that dinner is ready, he realizes he’s interrupting yet another brilliant example of how compatible his son and Felicity are - and how incompatible with the both of them he is. 

“Tech club is great but you should also look at learning code, if you really do like all this computer stuff, William.” 

“But none of the clubs in school deal with code, Felicity! Where am I supposed to learn if you don’t teach me?” 

“William, I’m sure there’s a community college course online that we could enroll you in,” Felicity argues and William crosses his arms in front of himself stubbornly. 

“I want you to teach me! You’re the best teacher there is! Loads better than Ms. Drake.” William makes a face at this and Oliver watches as Felicity tries to stifle a grin and remain stern.

“Oh come on, William, I’m sure she’s not that bad,” Felicity argues and William rolls his eyes. 

“She sucks.” 

“Hey now,” Oliver interrupts and William freezes, his eyes turning to Oliver guiltily as Oliver makes his presence known. Fuck. Discipline is his least favorite part of this whole parenting gig. “You can dislike Miss Drake  all you want but you need to do it with better word choice. No saying anyone ‘sucks’,” Oliver chastises and William groans irritably. 

“Dad, you said Mister Allen sucks last week when you dropped me off at school!” William protests and Oliver winces. Crap. He’s right. 

“Oh did he now?” Felicity inquires curiously, turning her bright eyes on Oliver with a devilish little grin. Oliver knows she’s sort of friends with Barry Allen from school but honestly, Oliver’s never been a fan. 

“He tried to force me to join the decorations committee for the PTA. Not happening,” Oliver growls and Felicity has to duck her head to hide her reaction but he knows full well she’s stifling laughter. 

“The point is, we should all talk nicely about people and if we don’t have anything nice to say we at least can’t say anything with swear words.” 

Felicity stifles a laugh as she hears these words fall from his lips and instantly, Oliver’s narrowing his eyes at her. Yes, she’s his best friend and so she has, of course, heard the litany of profanity which he is capable of spewing. So hearing Oliver ‘never met an ‘f-bomb’ he wouldn’t drop’ Queen say no swearing allowed? It’s hilarious. He gets it. But also? She has to have his back. Which is equally as amusing for him.

Felicity isn’t an avid swearer. But she is absolutely the sort to swear unintentionally. He’s heard more ‘oh shit’s from Felicity than anyone else on the planet. So this is an ongoing challenge for the both of them (him more so than her, admittedly).

“Your dad is absolutely right, William,” Felicity concurs after vigorously clearing her throat and dabbing at her eyes. “There’s that old saying ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. Which is generally a good motto. But if you have to say something, I would say just make sure it’s intellectually devastating. Cursing is low brow,” Felicity teases with a glance over her shoulder and a wink at Oliver, who shakes his head. 

His best friend is the worst. He loves her for this snark. William is just staring at them both like they’re nuts, which admittedly, they probably are. 

“So no swearing. Moral of the story,” Oliver clucks, clapping his hands with finality. “Now how about we clear this up and get dinner on the table?” 

“Yes - we can discuss you learning some new computer stuff later, my dude,” Felicity announces, wagging a finger William’s way as she rises from her chair and busies herself tidying the various papers that have accumulated during her tutoring session with William. Oliver instantly shoos her away; she may be his best friend and practically family, but there’s no way he’s going to let her clean up in his house. She’s a guest and entitled to the perks of that. 

Looking at the papers in question though, Oliver feels that same, hollow sense of inadequacy returning to him. He doesn’t have more than the faintest idea of how to do William’s advanced math coursework. His eight (almost nine!) year old son has already far surpassed him. If not for Felicity, god only knows what Oliver would do to keep William on track with his studies. 

Not for the first (or last) time in his life, Oliver Queen wishes that he were a smarter, more capable man. As he slips the papers into William’s backpack and hands it off to his son, Oliver can only marvel at the brain his boy’s got. “Here bud. Go ahead and take this to your room, then wash up before dinner.” 

Oliver’s instructions are met with swift obedience; as William scampers off to put his backpack and other belongings away before dinner, Oliver feels a warm palm wrap around his arm. He turns to see Felicity, both of her arms wrapping around his left arm, her chin resting on his shoulder. 

“What happened? You were all jokes one minute and the next? ...Stormclouds,” she sighs, looking deep into his eyes as her grip on his arm tightens. “Talk to me.” 

Damn. And here he thought he’d been hiding it passably but Felicity just knows him far too well to fall for his bullshit. Typical. With a wry grin, he glances down at her, not wanting to move and risk dislodging her. 

“You two… you’re just in another zipcode of intelligence than I am. I don’t know how to explain it, I just feel… stupid. You guys can talk about all these things together - math and computers and technology - and I’m lucky if I can string a few sentences together to talk to my son and see how his day was.” 

“That’s a gross exaggeration,” Felicity points out softly and Oliver huffs softly. 

“Maybe. But you get the point. You guys are so much smarter than me, sometimes it’s hard not to feel left out from your genius club.” 

“There is no genius club. I mean, there is - Mensa. But this? This is not that. This is your son and I talking about things we like. And I promise you, Oliver. No amount of math tutoring can take away or replace what you and William have.” 

“What’s that? Living under the same roof? Shared DNA? Those aren’t really great emotional conversation points, Felicity.” 

“No! Oliver, you are his father. Don’t you see? William thinks you hung the moon and the stars. He doesn’t care if you never took Differential Equations in high school or college. He cares that you are always there for him. That you love him. That? That matters more than some dumb math homework,” Felicity assures him, pressing a kiss to his shoulder even as she says her piece. He can’t help how her praise and her confidence and support buoys him up almost instantaneously. But it does. Felicity pep talks are next level good. 

“I’m just afraid that someday, he’ll realize how dumb I am. And he’ll be embarrassed of me,” Oliver confesses in the quietest voice and he feels Felicity go still beside him. Her grip on his arm loosens but her palms skate across his body as she comes to stand in front of him, a hand on the front of either shoulder. 

“You listen to me, Oliver. You are plenty smart. There’s more than one kind of intelligence and you? You are chock full of wit and know how. You may not be a mathematician or a computer coder but you know what? You’re a different kind of smart. You have common sense and street smarts and people smarts and life experience smarts. And that? That’s not nothing. I promise you, William is not going to be embarrassed of you or think you stupid. At least, not anymore so than a normal teenager - every teenager thinks their parents are stupid at some point. But not the way you’re afraid of.”

At this, she moves her palms to frame either side of his face, forcing him to meet her gaze as she stares up at him, her eyes resolute. 

“And for what it’s worth? Verified genius here, telling you that for the record? You have always been smart in my eyes. And you have always been smart enough for me.” 

It’s an unexpected boost to his confidence and Oliver feels his chests swelling with pride at Felicity’s words. Being enough for his family and his friends? That’s all that he’s ever really wanted anyhow. And Felicity has just told him that he’s been successful at doing precisely that. People all have dreams but Oliver’s? Oliver’s dream is for himself, precisely as he is, to be enough for someone. To be measured and not found wanting, at least by those he loves. 

So to be told by one of the ones that he arguably loves most that he is more than enough? That’s… kind of incredible, when you stop and think about it. 

They’re interrupted a moment later by William reentering the room; Felicity’s hands fall quickly away from Oliver’s face and she steps away from him with a soft smile. Without missing a beat, Felicity engages William in conversation and the two chatter pleasantly as Oliver goes to fetch dinner from the kitchen. As he goes, he can’t help but notice how his cheeks still feel warm where Felicity’s hands held him just moments ago. 

Chapter Text

Felicity loves William.

The kid has a great sense of humor, he’s well behaved, and he’s shockingly smart. And as much as Oliver has wholeheartedly jumped into his role as dad, she has also fully thrown herself into being a supportive friend - to both Oliver and William. Which is why it doesn’t really feel weird to her when Oliver has her added to the (very short) list of people authorized to pick William up from school in his place. Essentially, the only other people on the list are Moira and Thea. Felicity takes this responsibility seriously but she doesn’t really question it.

Sure, she’s not family, so it might seem weird to some people that she’s allowed to pick William up from school. But she’s also his tutor. And a very long standing friend of the family. It just makes sense that she be on the approved list - this means she can pick William up and begin his math sessions on days when Oliver is tied up at work. It helps out and Felicity’s only too happy to do that.

At least, on a normal day. But when she swings by on a Wednesday afternoon to grab William, her plans to grab Big Belly Burger milkshakes with him fall by the wayside when a teacher stops her on her way into the parent pick up area. 

“Miss… Smoak, is it?” 

“Yes,” Felicity answers guardedly, afraid she’s about to be blocked from picking William up. Starling Academy is stuffy and full of all sorts of rules but she’s quite certain she and Oliver have jumped through all their hoops. She’s already preparing her argument when the woman waves her aside and her voice drops to a whisper. 

“I’m afraid there’s been… an altercation, of sorts. Involving William.” 

Felicity’s heart is in her throat and it’s all she can do to keep it together as her eyes flare open wide and she spins to search the room for the boy, horror coursing through her. 

“I-Is he okay? Where is he? I need to see him.” The words fall from her lips so fast she’s tripping over them even as her feet sweep into motion as she walks about with a frantic air.

“Miss Smoak, he’s in the Headmaster’s office; I can escort you there,” the woman explains and Felicity turns towards her with a swift bob of her head as she follows the woman. A million questions are buzzing through her head but foremost of her concerns is how William is. She needs to verify that he’s okay and then get the story before she lets Oliver know that this has happened. Oh god, he’s going to be furious. And though she has no logical reason to, Felicity feels tremendously guilty that all of this is happening on her watch, so to speak.

“What happened? Is William alright?” 

“The Headmaster will fill you in; William was checked out by the school nurse and she deemed him to be perfectly fine,” the teacher attempts to calm her but ‘calm’ is the furthest thing from Felicity’s state of mind. 

“What the hell kind of ‘altercation’ was this? To my knowledge, William hasn’t picked a fight in his life.” 

At this, the teacher makes a face that has Felicity suspecting that this is still true.  Which means if William didn’t start the fight, then he was most likely either swooping to someone else’s aid, or he was the victim of the fight.

As it turns out, the latter is true. 

When she arrives at the Headmaster’s office, William is sitting just outside it, an ice pack pressed to his left eye. He looks up at the sound of their approach and when he sees her, some of the tension seems to seep out of his little body.

“Felicity,” he sighs in relief, rising to his feet and rushing to throw his arms around her. Felicity wordlessly drops to her knees to embrace him, holding him close as quiet sobs wrack his little frame. The Headmaster can wait - all she cares about in this moment is William, whose distress is so tangible and present that it brings tears to her eyes. When, some minutes later, he composes himself a bit and draws away from her, still sniffling, she studies him carefully. 

His left eye is swollen shut, the whole area puffy and already darkening with rather unsightly bruises. The last time Felicity saw a black eye this intense was after Oliver beat up her college stalker after he tried to climb in through her dorm window. The guy had gotten more than he bargained for when he’d been on the receiving end of Oliver’s fists and the resulting  bruises she’d spotted on him as he was carted into a police cruiser had been more than enough to convince her that black eyes were probably something best avoided. 

Other than the black eye, William seems unhurt - at least, physically speaking. She knows from his emotional state that whatever happened? It might take longer to heal than a simple black eye. Brushing her thumb across his uninjured cheek, she sighs as she stares at him, wanting so much to wave her hand and make the pain go away. 

“I know this is a dumb question. But are you alright - physically, at least? Or do I need to take you to the doctor? Because I will in a heartbeat, bud.” 

William’s lower lip wobbles but he shakes his head. “No. It’s just my face. It hurts but I’m okay.” 

“Are you sure? I won’t be mad, I won’t ask questions if you don’t want me to. I don’t even have to be in the room.” 

“I’m sure,” William nods before he burrows his face in the crook of her neck and she instinctively scoops him up into her arms. She staggers only slightly as she rises with him still clutched in her embrace and with a deep breath, she marches into the Headmaster’s office, fully ready to cut a bitch.

No one hurts her William. 

-----

When Oliver gets home from work that night, he feels utterly wrung out. Work was, in a word? Exhausting. Even working alongside Walter, Oliver still struggles when it comes to the business negotiations the family company requires. Not for lack of skill - he’s got charm and swagger in spades, probably too much swagger and an unnecessary amount of charm. But because these stuffy old dudes refuse to acknowledge him as an equal. Because of his age. Because of his bygone days of carefree, youthful hijinks. And now? Because of his ‘irresponsibility’ to lead him to become an unwitting single parent.

The board is really getting on his last nerve and today’s implication that him having a surprise son made the company look bad this year? Well, it has him fuming.

So when he throws his keys on the entryway table as he enters the house, he can still feel his earlier rage simmering just below the surface. He doesn’t give a fuck about the board’s opinion on his family. So what if he isn’t married? So what if he had a half grown son dropped in his lap? It’s not their business! Nor does he give a damn if him becoming a dad unexpectedly makes people second guess the company (or his role in it).

What matters is William. And Oliver is not going to let anyone or anything stand in his way where his son’s care is concerned. The board can fuck off. Oliver has loads of ideas for where to tell them to shove their concerns about his private life. 

He sweeps directly into his room without a word to Felicity or William, though he knows they’re there; Felicity’s car was out front and she confirmed (no less than three times - via email, text, and phone call) that she was picking up William. Before Oliver can even think of seeing them, he needs a shower to calm himself down. 

Among Felicity’s communications? She’d texted him that something had happened today and he needed to come straight to the house so they could discuss it. That thought has been nagging at him all day and he’s absolutely at the end of his rope from worrying over it.

He stays beneath the blasts of water from the showerhead for quite a while, long after the hot water has run out. By the time he steps out, the mirror is fogged up but he doesn’t give a damn. It’s like the rage has drained all the energy out of him and he’s so utterly spent he just wants to go to bed or better yet, sit on the couch and watch TV with William and Felicity curled up on either side of him.

Instead, he dresses into a plain gray tee and a pair of black sweats before he cracks his bedroom door and steps outside, only to find Felicity leaning against the hallway wall, waiting for him with her arms crossed in front of her. 

“You don’t look happy,” Oliver sighs, really not in the mood for more bad news today. Felicity looks at him apologetically, clearly sensing the kind of day that he’s had, and she pushes off the wall, wringing her hands nervously in front of her. 

“Oliver… we need to talk.” 

“Wow, that bad, huh?” Oliver sighs and Felicity winces but nods. Oliver is very tempted to ask her to hold off until he has a stiff drink in his hand but instead he starts to walk down the hallway, only for her to block his way.

“I need to tell you this here. Alone. I don’t want William to hear,” Felicity explains and Oliver’s heart falls. Oh fuck. This is worse than he thought if Felicity is trying to shield William from it. For a moment, Oliver feels an irrational bolt of fear at the notion that, perhaps, Felicity is terminating their friendship or the like. God help him, he doesn’t know what he’ll do if that’s the case. 

“I-It’s about William, Oliver… He’s okay. I need you to know that,” Felicity prefaces and Oliver’s expression changes as a whole new host of fears slam into him as William becomes the subject of this conversation from hell. As bad as the idea of losing Felicity is, the idea of losing William is worse. So as Felicity inhales slowly, Oliver braces himself for the worst.

“But Oliver, William he… he got beat up today at school.” 

Her voice sounds small and hollow; he can tell she’s walking on eggshells and she’s afraid of what his reaction will be. And as her words register, the roaring of his rage drowns out everything else; it’s like he’s in a wind tunnel. In zero point three seconds, he’s gone from crestfallen to frenzied.

What?!

“I guess it happened at the very end of the day. I was already there to pick William up to help tutor him like we talked about and since I’m on his approved list for pick up, the school spoke with me about it,” Felicity explains in a rush, keenly sensing Oliver’s rising fury is directed in more than one direction.

He wants to rip the school administration one for not calling him. He wants to tear into the individuals responsible for hurting his boy. And more than anything, he’s mad at himself for not teaching William how to defend himself. 

“Which kids? I want to know.” 

At this, Felicity frowns and shoots him a stern look. “Does it matter who beat him up? I think the important thing is that it happened and that we make sure William is okay.” 

She’s being logical about this. He should be too. But the animosity that’s been right beneath the surface all day is erupting out of him. He’s going full Mount Saint Helens and he doesn’t give a damn.

“Yes it damn well does fucking matter who did it. I’m going to beat the shit out of those kids’ dads,” Oliver hisses as he begins to lurch forward again, only for Felicity to sidestep and block his path, both her palms coming up to splay across his chest. 

“Oh no you frakking are not,” Felicity hisses under her breath, glancing around sharply before she returns her attention to him. And despite the intensity of Oliver’s anger, he stops trying to steamroll his way past her the moment she lays her hands on him. Instead, he stands there a quivering but otherwise motionless statue, his face flushed and the vein in his temple fit to burst. 

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t rip these dudes apart. Was it that Fuller kid? I bet it was. The kid’s dad is an asshole, it stands to reason that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” Oliver growls, feeling positively predatory. He needs to break something now

“Oliver!” Felicity reprimands him in a whisper and he recoils, her acerbic tone shocking him out of the red haze of rage he’s stuck in. “How is you beating someone up at all an answer here? All you’d be doing is spreading the pain William felt today around to more people.” 

“They deserve it more than he does,” Oliver retorts and Felicity presses her lips together.

“I don’t disagree. But this?” Here she gestures with one hand towards him. “All this macho ‘solve it with my fists’ bullshit? That’s to make you feel better. And that shouldn’t be your priority right now.” 

“Felicity, those parents should know how awful their kids are,” Oliver grunts in protest and she shakes her head back at him, refusing to budge. 

“Of course they should, Oliver. But you’re doing that for you. Not for William. Listen to me, okay? I get it. You have every right to be furious. But you getting mad and breaking someone’s face in? That just opens up a whole other can of problems. Like assault and battery charges. And custody disputes,” Felicity points out and Oliver feels as though a wet blanket has been thrown on the inferno of his rage, smothering it down to embers in an instant.

Fuck. She’s right. 

“William needs you not to fall apart on him, alright? So pull yourself together - for his sake, if nothing else.”  

Her hands leave his chest then and Oliver blows out a long, slow breath before he passes a hand over his face, trying to get a grip on himself. Felicity is, without a doubt, right. He can’t go off half cocked just because he’s mad about what happened. 

He still intends to find out who the kids responsible are though. And he’ll definitely be having a word with their parents. But those words will be spoken aloud and not with fists. Felicity is right that beating the shit out of a few dads won’t change anything for William. It would just be a release for Oliver’s own hurt and upset. But Oliver isn’t the important one here and now. William is. 

And perhaps the most alarmingly? 

She’s right that one snafu, one fuck up, is all it will take for William’s grandparents to try and take him away from Oliver. And beating up the parent of a kid at William’s school? Well, that would make a compelling case towards having Oliver deemed an unfit parent. Jesus. How could he be so stupid? 

Fuck. You’re right,” Oliver exhales at last, finally letting his eyes land on hers as he feels his anger dissipate away. “Thank you, Felicity. You’re right. As usual.” 

“Don’t thank me; just please… Go take care of William. I did what I could but,” Felicity shrugs, seeming suddenly very small and uncertain. “I’m not his parent. I’m not who he needs right now… You are.” 

Oliver can’t help how Felicity’s words make him go all warm inside; as amazing as Felicity is with William - and she’s pretty damn amazing - to hear her say that Oliver is the one William needs? That’s pretty amazing too, in its own right. William is the most important person in Oliver’s world. And right now? William needs his dad. 

God, Oliver’s never going to get tired of being called that. 

Wordlessly, Oliver pulls Felicity to him for a hug, doing his level best to silently convey his deep appreciation for her through this simple action alone. Sure, he survived just fine before Felicity came into his life. But he didn’t start thriving until she became a prominent fixture in his world. 

As he draws back from the hug with her, he leans forward and presses a gentle kiss to the side of her cheek, his eyes soft. “Thank you, Felicity. I mean it.” 

Her eyes remain closed for a few long beats; when they open, the familiar blue of her eyes is a little glazed and far off but she snaps out of it after another long second. Clearing her throat, she offers him a shy smile as she clears her throat a second time and takes a step towards the door, suddenly hesitant. 

“I umm… I’m going to go so you guys can um, talk. But don’t forget… I’m just a phone call away if you need me,” she offers softly and that unwavering devotion of hers makes him smile. She is the actual best. 

“Thanks, Felicity. I’ll let you know how it goes,” he offers, rubbing the back of his neck a little nervously. 

“You better.” Her tone is teasing and light as she makes for the front entryway, casting him an appraising look over her shoulder. He falls still beneath her gaze but whatever she sees, she must like, because a moment later she flashes him an impossibly wide grin. “Good luck, Oliver. You’ve got this.” 

They part ways then as Felicity heads out while Oliver moves deeper into the house, intending to confront his son about the day’s events. William’s still sitting where Felicity left him at the dining room table, his textbooks and homework spread out before him. He’s bent over a notebook, scribbling furiously when Oliver comes in but he falls still as soon as the sound of Oliver clearing his throat reaches William’s ears. Slowly, the boy turns to face him and Oliver has to suck in a quiet breath to prevent the embers of his rage from flaring back up into a wildfire. 

William’s eye is swollen closed and already black and dark purple. Not only is his boy sporting a black eye - he’s sporting what looks to be a very painful black eye. Fuck. Oliver does his level best to school his expression as he slides into the chair opposite of William. And then, instead of asking any of the many, many questions currently burning holes through his brain right now, Oliver simply falls silent and still and waits. 

It takes a while. William stares at him uncomprehendingly for a while but eventually he resumes his schoolwork, little noticing that Oliver is even there after while. 

Oliver has his own suspicions about what brought on this bullying ordeal. And he hates his suspicions. But he’s got to go with the odds and right now? The odds are leading him to believe that his dear, sweet, brilliant boy has been beat up because he’s different from most of the kids his age. He’s smart, for one. And his interests are more cerebral than they are mainstream. Mathletes? Tech Club? These are hardly the pursuits of the socially high esteemed, even if they should be. 

If Oliver were to bet, he’d guess William’s being picked on for being a ‘nerd’. Dollars to donuts, as Felicity likes to say. 

When it becomes apparent that William isn’t going to be forthcoming, Oliver decides to take another approach. Keeping his eyes intentionally off his boy, Oliver instead grabs for one of the textbooks on the table, eyeballing it appreciatively before he lets out a long, low whistle. 

“Have I ever told you that Felicity and I first met in a class at school?” In his peripheral vision, Oliver can see William’s head whip up to look at him, his expression one of almost comical surprise.

“No! What class were you in together?!” William’s stunned disbelief is understandable; Felicity is, after all, in another stratosphere of intelligence than Oliver is. With a chuckle, Oliver spins to look at his boy, placing the textbook in his hands in front of William.  

“We had a few classes together, actually. The school administration was a little prickly about letting Felicity be in honors classes since she’d already skipped grades and, her first year, they sort of doubted her abilities,” Oliver explains with a wry chuckle. “They learned later that they should just let Felicity take whatever classes she wanted, honors or not. But that first year? She had to slum it in regular classes with me and my classmates before they finally let her move up to honors and AP.” 

Oliver can tell that he’s got William’s attention and though he’s still desperate to ask about what happened at school, he takes the opportunity to try and soothe his son’s nerves. “The first time I saw her though, was in our Chemistry class. The teacher made her stand in front of the class and introduce herself. And I mean, come on. We both know Felicity. She talks a lot when she’s nervous. And she was really nervous that day,” Oliver recalls, his mind traveling back in time to the day he first met his best friend. 

“She was younger than the rest of us and even then, she didn’t really care for being the center of attention. So Felicity stood up in front of that classroom and rambled about how she was from Las Vegas, Nevada and she and her mom had moved to Starling for a fresh start because her dad had abandoned them and they were struggling financially. Her mom - Donna - had a friend in Starling who helped her to get a job and so they packed up their bags and moved and Felicity got a scholarship to go to the private school I was at. It was… a lot of information. Personal information. And the kids in class were already starting to laugh at her about it, myself included. And… well, we weren’t really trying to hide the fact that we were laughing at her. She was this strange girl who looked way too young to be here, talking way too fast about things that were way too personal. We thought she was a freak.” 

Oliver pauses here and casts his gaze to his son, sheepish and self conscious as he sighs, “I wasn’t exactly the nicest guy back then. I still had a lot to learn.” 

William stares up at him in wide eyed silence and Oliver squares his shoulders but continues. “I had gotten my seat moved to the front row as punishment for talking during class and the only open seats were next to me or at the back of the class. Felicity sat down next to me and… well, she never really left after that and neither did I. That same day, she ended up helping me with our in class assignment...even gave me a pen to do it with. And I realized that she was not only smart but kind too. I didn’t deserve her kindness but she offered it anyway and by the end of that class period I decided I really needed to be friends with this pretty, awkward, brainy girl. Thankfully, she didn’t know better than to blow me off so in short order, Felicity was part of my friend group. She’s about the only reason the rest of us graduated high school with decent grades, let alone survived college,” Oliver explains with a fond smile. Turning his focus back to William, Oliver rouses himself out of his past memories, focusing on the now.

“Kids can be mean, especially when the person in front of them is different than them. It doesn’t matter how - if they look different or sound different or think different. If the person is smarter than them or has different skills. I was lucky that Felicity showed me that being smart was cool and that being kind was even cooler. If it weren’t for her, who knows how I would have turned out.” 

It’s so true. Oliver’s convinced he would be a walking human disaster if not for Felicity - both the Felicity from his childhood and the Felicity of his present day. She’s always been there, his constant and his moral compass. 

“My point is… Even when people are mean to you? It’s important that you not let their meanness change who you are. Felicity could have been mean to me after I laughed at her that first day. She could have chosen not to help me - I definitely didn’t deserve her help. But she did help me. And she was kind to me, and to everyone else who had made fun of her. And she still is kind and helpful; so anyone who wants to make fun of you or hurt you because of who you are? They’re wrong. And they’re the ones who have to change - not you. You just… You have to know that the people who matter? They love you for who you are. And anyone who doesn’t is missing out. So don’t let the jerks of the world make you mean. Keep being the awesome, smart, funny kid you are, William. And you’ll walk away the winner every single time.” 

As Oliver falls silent, he’s not sure he’s made any sense at all but he feels perhaps the tiniest iota better for having tried. William contemplates this in silence for a minute and then, after a long while, he looks to Oliver expectantly. 

“May I be excused?” 

Oliver’s heart plummets into his feet and he can’t help but feel like a gross failure; clearly his talk has done nothing to aid William. With a forlorn nod, Oliver dismisses his son from the table. William rises slowly, collecting his things with care. As he begins to walk to his room though, he turns, hesitating for a moment before he speaks. 

“Dad? … Thank you. For talking. And… for not forcing me to tell you about...this,” William gestures towards his face, hanging his head as he does so.

“Of course bud. But… you know that you can tell me, right? And I won’t get mad.” 

“I know,” William chirps back hurriedly, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “I’m just… I’m not ready to talk about it. But I promise, I didn’t start it and it wasn’t my fault. It was Marcus,” William rushes to explain and Oliver freezes, the hair on his body standing on end. 

“Marcus Fuller?” Of course. Max Fuller’s kid. Apparently the ‘prick’ gene runs in the family. William cringes as he realizes he’s given up a name but he nods slowly, not about to lie to hide his slip up. 

“Yes.” 

Oliver nods, though inwardly he feels that same white hot rage bolt through him as he imagines putting his fist through Max Fuller’s face. But Felicity was right - his anger doesn’t change things and it certainly won’t help. So he puts it aside to focus on his son. 

“Thank you for telling me, William. And I promise, I’m here anytime you want or need to talk. And even if you don’t want to talk, I’m still here,” Oliver offers in a quiet, vulnerable and painfully honest voice. William’s lips tilt into the faintest of smiles and he nods before he walks over to Oliver, throwing his arms around his father warmly. Oliver is momentarily stunned but quickly returns the gesture, clinging as tightly as he dares to William and doing his level best to funnel all the love and support that he can into the embrace. A few seconds later the two part and William heads off to his room, leaving Oliver to mull over everything that’s just transpired.

He’s not going to solve this with his fists. But he is going to email the school and demand that they take a no nonsense approach to bullying. Ideally? He’d like Marcus Fuller expelled. But knowing the little shit’s father, that might be too much to hope for unless Oliver makes a scene. Even then, pitting the Fullers against the Queens is probably something the school is hoping to avoid. He’s not sure they’ll take a hard line either for or against either boy’s actions. Which is a crying shame. But he’s still going to demand action - and suggest a few responses he’d endorse in this instance. 

Briefly, Oliver considers dialing up Max Fuller on his own and asking for the two fathers to meet and discuss the events that led to their sons’ showdown. But Oliver knows his own temper well enough to know that’s probably a recipe for disaster. He does a quick bit of online reading about how to deal with your child being bullied on some of the parent resource blogs he now follows. And when he’s finished with that, he takes out his phone, scrolling through his contacts until he reaches Felicity’s. 

Oliver Queen:
Just wanted to say thank you for taking care of William today and for making sure he got home safely. He didn’t really want to talk to me about what happened either but I’m glad that he had you there for him afterward. I happen to know firsthand just how great you are at being a support during times of crisis. Thank you, Felicity. 

He hits ‘SEND’ without any hesitation, grateful that if he couldn’t be there, at least Felicity was. Oliver can’t think of anyone better to be there to support William in his stead. For someone of no relation to the boy, and owing no responsibilities for his care, Felicity has taken on the role of friend, babysitter, and tutor for William with gusto. Oliver hesitates to say it but in the absence of William’s mother, Felicity is probably the closest thing he has to a mom figure. And really, Oliver loves that for his son. There’s no woman in the world better than Felicity and certainly no one in Oliver’s life better than her. He couldn’t ask for anyone better to be present for William. 

Chapter Text

As the crisp fall leaves give way to the brisk chill of winter air, Oliver and William continue practicing his baseball skills which are, admittedly, still not the best. They spend less time in the outdoor batting cages and more time playing indoor baseball - a sport which, upon hearing of it, Oliver’s mother instantly disapproves of. But the fact that indoor baseball can be played in his house now is just an indicator of how much Oliver’s life has changed since William came into it. 

Gone is the bachelor pad filled with high end, luxury décor. Now William’s video game consoles have overtaken the entertainment system and Oliver has ditched his liquor collection. Now it’s William’s tech gear that crowds the place, and various toys and action figures. Even a stuffed animal or three are in the mix. 

Oliver has thrown himself into fatherhood. And with that title has come a subtle change in scenery but he loves it. The change is good - it means William is comfortable enough here, in their home, to spread out and be himself. And Oliver kinda loves that. Seeing his son happy and at peace? That’s everything.

Which is why Oliver is getting himself so thoroughly worked up over William’s first Christmas with him. He wants it to be perfect - which is why he’s spent the weeks leading up to the holiday tracking down all the right gifts and decorating the house more than he ever has before. There are lights along the trim of the house and inflatable decorations dotting the yard. The interior of the house looks like a Christmas store blew up - there are stockings for himself and William, there’s a giant live tree that he brought William to pick out with him. More Christmas lights hang on the inside of the house and even the familiar smells of the season become a staple as Oliver burns an Evergreen candle in all the common areas of the house. 

They do all the Christmassy things. Popcorn strands and tinsel and lights for the tree. Ornaments get hung on it together and Oliver surprises William with an early Christmas gift of various ornaments all his own. Some of his favorite action heroes are among the ornaments, much to William’s delight. But even amidst William’s joy surrounding the season, there’s an aura of sadness. For while this is his first Christmas with Oliver, this is also his first Christmas without his mother. And that? It creates a very hard dichotomy for Oliver to juggle. The last thing Oliver wants is to come across as being insensitive to the fact that this is bound to be a hard Christmas for William.

They have fires in the fireplace. They sip hot cocoa by the flames and they go shopping for Christmas gifts for their loved ones and laugh as they wrap the gifts up and place them beneath the tree. But they also do less traditional and strictly happy things, such as buying poinsettias to place at Samantha’s grave and talking about what this year may be like for William. 

Oliver is quick to tell William that it’s okay for him to be sad and to miss his mom. And that if he needs to cry or talk about how he feels, Oliver will be there for him, without question. The holidays also bring up the uncomfortable matter of William’s maternal grandparents. It’s no small thing to navigate the very real distaste they have for Oliver but being a father means dealing with tough shit.

Even when the ‘tough shit’ is your kid’s grandparents. So Oliver invites the Claytons over to bake cookies and watch Elf, which is apparently something William did every year with his mother. Oliver is more than a little touched when William requests that Felicity be part of the cookie baking and movie watching as well because, as William phrases it ‘she does a lot for me and she deserves cookies!’.  

Indeed, she does. And in true Felicity fashion, she shows up early on Cookie Baking Day and helps Oliver to prepare, soothing him into a much less stressed state before the Claytons arrive. William is elated to see them though, which makes it worth the occasional dark looks and muttered remarks that Mister Clayton can’t help but make. Even still, Felicity manages to charm them, informing them all that today she will not be allowed near the oven, so as to prevent a repeat performance of her by now legendary cookie burning on the day William first arrived at Oliver’s home. As easily as that, the ice is (mostly) broken and the Claytons and Oliver are able to be, if not warm, at least a little less frosty the rest of the night. 

Once more, Oliver is left thanking his lucky stars for Felicity. She is, without a doubt, his guardian angel and in possession of a superhuman capacity for doing good. 

Which is precisely why, a week to Christmas, Felicity is bent over the dining room table alongside William, reviewing the concept he’s just learned during his last week at school before the holidays and is still in the process of mastering (Oliver thinks he’s heard the terms ‘linear inequalities’ bounced around but honestly, it’s all Greek to him). 

William pauses in his steady scribbling to peer at Felicity, his eyes flashing as a bright smile rips across his face. “Hey Dad!” William calls, summoning Oliver in a moment. 

“Yes?” 

“Can Felicity spend Christmas with us?” 

The question feels as though it has come out of left field; but Oliver happens to know that William has given this plenty of thought. He regards his boy levelly, breaking his stare only to glance over to Felicity, who looks both a little thunderstruck as well as pleased. 

“You know bud, that’s a great question. I think that sounds like a great idea. But we should probably ask her if she even wants to spend Christmas with us, she’s got plans of her own you know,” Oliver points out and William frowns and looks at Felicity with sharp eyes. 

“You don’t want to celebrate Christmas with us?” The hurt tone in his voice is positively impossible to ignore. Oliver knows that much firsthand. To her credit, Felicity only chuckles softly and smiles with a shake of her head. 

“That’s not it at all buddy. See, next week is Hanukkah, so I’m going to be celebrating it with my mom!” Felicity explains and the crease of William’s frown deepens. 

“What’s Hanukkah?!” 

Felicity glances at Oliver, who nods encouragingly and Felicity relaxes, setting aside her pencil so she can half turn to face the brunette young boy. “Hanukkah is only the coolest holiday, cooler than Christmas, even,” Felicity remarks with a cocky grin and William’s eyes bulge in disbelief. 

“Nothing’s cooler than Christmas!” William argues and Felicity leans in to him conspiratorially. 

“But Christmas only lasts one day - Hanukkah lasts for eight,” Felicity remarks and Oliver can see how William’s mouth falls open in surprise.

“Eight days?!”

“That’s right,” Felicity confirms, her cheeks dimpling as she grins at William. “There’s good food, games, gifts - the works.” 

“I wanna celebrate Hanukkah!” William yelps, glancing around and locking eyes with Oliver, looking almost wounded that this subject hasn’t been brought up before now. Oliver’s about to try to gently explain to William why they haven’t celebrated the holiday when Felicity perks up and waves a hand to attract Oliver’s eye. 

“You know… You guys could come over and celebrate with my mom and I one night, if you wanted to…” Felicity offers, a shy smile fixed in place on her face as she regards Oliver. “Just if you wanted, there’s no pressure or anything,” she hurries to add and Oliver can only fix her with an appreciative look. 

“What do you say buddy, do you want to celebrate a night of Hanukkah with Felicity and her mom?” Oliver queries, only for William to leap out of his chair with a victorious whoop. 

“YES!”

“Well I guess that settles it,” Felicity chuckles, her eyes still locked on Oliver. “Looks like I’ll be seeing you for Hanukkah this year, Queen.” 

Oliver chuckles at her and shakes his head as he watches William do an exaggerated little victory dance as he hurries to put his study materials away in his room before dinner. “Looks that way, Smoak.” 

-----

Felicity isn’t entirely certain what came over her and prompted her to invite Oliver and William to spend Hanukkah with her and her mother. It’s not the celebrating Hanukkah part that’s got her worked up - she's actually quite delighted to have the opportunity to share the holiday of her faith with Oliver and with William. For as many years as she and Oliver have known each other, she’s never had the guts to invite him before now. And if it were just her and Oliver, or just her, Oliver, and William? She’d be ecstatic. 

But there’s her mother to consider. 

Donna Smoak is a Hanukkah fanatic. She festoons whatever location they’re celebrating the holiday at in blue and white tinsel and lights, with menorahs and dreidels strewn about like they’re going out of style. Most years, Donna buys food rather than attempt to make it herself, her own cooking and baking skills being about on par with Felicity’s (which is to say, she has none). 

As of late, the holiday has mostly been a time of mother-daughter bonding between the two Smoak women, Felicity now being old enough that Donna no longer feels the need to try and make Hanukkah an over-the-top experience to rival Santa and Christmas. The last few years, they’ve enjoyed good food, good drinks, and watching their favorite Hanukkah movies together on the couch alongside the traditional aspects of celebrating the holiday - the menorah lighting chief among them. 

But the moment Felicity informs her mother that this year, they’re being joined by Oliver and William, Donna goes into overdrive, suddenly hellbent on making this the most magical Hanukkah in history. Which would be sweet if that enthusiasm was not also paired with Donna being very vocal about how ‘devastatingly handsome’ Oliver is and how Felicity should ‘really pursue him’ because a man like Oliver ‘comes along once in a blue moon’.

Felicity loves her mother. She knows her mother means well. But she very well may kill her mother before all is said and done because, like her daughter, Donna lacks a brain to mouth filter and Felicity is now utterly terrified as she contemplates what mortifying commentary her mother might make in Oliver’s presence. 

The last thing she needs is Donna Smoak scaring Oliver away after Felicity has kept her cool and kept her feelings for him bottled up so effectively all these years. 

By the time Oliver and William ring her doorbell on the sixth night of the holiday, Felicity is about ready to strangle Donna, who rushes to the door and physically booty bumps Felicity aside to beat her there. Felicity’s face is in her hands as Donna throws the door open wide because she knows precisely what Oliver and William’s first impression of the holiday will be.

Donna, dressed in an absurdly over the top Hanukkah sweater, complete with a blue and white Santa hat (why? She doesn’t know. She writes this off as her mother being her mother). 

“Hot start,” Felicity sighs as she slips up behind her mother, gently easing Donna out of the doorway so that Oliver and William can actually enter. She hugs them both in turn, offering Oliver a wide eyed look to convey that yes, she is aware her mother is crazy, and yes, she is sorry. 

“Mom, you already know Oliver, obviously,” Felicity mutters as Donna beams and throws her arms around Oliver, making his eyes bulge momentarily in surprise as Donna squeezes him tightly before drawing back from him to look him over, unabashedly giving his arms a squeeze with each hand as she admires his muscles none too subtly. 

“You are looking wonderful as ever, honey,” Donna beams and Oliver thanks her quietly as Felicity rolls her eyes, biting the inside of her cheek. Only her mother. 

“And this handsome young man is my friend William - and he is also Oliver’s son,” Felicity explains, sweeping one arm towards the young boy who Donna is positively glowing over the moment she lays eyes on him. With barely restrained enthusiasm, Donna extends a hand William’s way and the boy takes it and gives a tentative shake. 

“Nice to meet you, Ms. Smoak,” William chirps brightly and Felicity can tell, he and Oliver have rehearsed this. Donna warbles over how darling and polite William is, quickly telling him to call her Donna before she ushers both guys into Felicity’s place.

“Come on in you two! Make yourselves at home!” Donna invites them as she scurries off towards the kitchen, leaving Felicity to groan in her wake. Of course her mother is perfectly comfortable inviting people to make themselves at home in Felicity’s place. Thank God it’s Oliver and William. Anyone else and that kind of offer would probably annoy her. 

“Your mom hasn’t changed,” Oliver comments with a soft huff of laughter and Felicity just shakes her head with a wry smile. 

“Never. She’ll be over the top until the day she dies. What can I say? It’s her signature move,” Felicity remarks, leading Oliver and William towards the kitchen, where she finds her mother is fussing with the latkes, brisket, and kugel. Already, Felicity can see the sufganiyot piled on a platter, waiting to be served. As if her mother didn’t take them out of a box and pile them on that platter to make them appear homemade. 

“This is for you, a thank you for the invitation,” Oliver explains, handing Felicity a bottle of rather expensive looking wine. She grins at him, casting him a wide smile. 

“You know me too well, Oliver.” 

“As your best friend, I would be remiss if I didn’t know what kind of things you like by now.” 

“Well, I guess that I’ll keep you then - for now, anyways,” she teases and Oliver chuckles, his hands in his pockets as he looks around with interest. 

“So when do you explain Hanukkah to me?” William asks inquisitively and Felicity smiles as even her mother pauses in her food prep to look at the young boy, placing a hand over her heart.

“Oh he is darling,” she hums, quickly moving to finish up with the food. Felicity is keenly aware that if she doesn’t capitalize on her mother’s current distraction and educate William now, Donna will attempt to do so later and honestly? This is something Felicity really wants to do with him herself. 

“How’s right now sound?” Felicity asks brightly, only for William to light up instantly. 

“YEAH!” 

And just like that she offers the boy her hand and leads him from the kitchen to the living room. On the sofa, he curls up against her and Oliver takes the chaise lounge opposite of them. With William snugly cuddled into her side, Felicity begins to explain the story of Hanukkah, doing her level best to infuse it with the same magic and mystery her mother always gave it in her explanations. 

Because yes, Hanukkah is important. And for some reason, it is incredibly important to Felicity that William understand just how special this holiday is - not just to her, but in general. She feels the weight of her explanatory responsibilities weighing heavily on her as she launches into the tale, pointing out the menorah when appropriate and the dreidels too. By the time Felicity reaches the end of the tale, Donna is leaning against the counter with rapt attention and Oliver is silent, his eyes locked on her with an almost tangible gaze. But Felicity’s focus is on William, who is still wordlessly mulling over the information he’s just received. 

For a brief moment, Felicity is convinced William must hate the entire holiday and its accompanying festivities. But just as quickly, her fears are banished when his lips split into a smile and he beams at her while his fingers touch over the little dreidel Felicity gave him earlier in her retelling. 

“That’s... really cool, Felicity,” William announces, glancing around at the adults present with more than a little curiosity. “So… when do we get to light the menorah?”

And just as easily as that, William falls into the full swing of the Hanukkah festivities. Felicity tries not to linger overlong on the warmth that spreads through her chest, watching Oliver help William light the first candle of the menorah (at Donna’s insistence). They all take turns lighting candles until the appropriate number are lit, explaining each step and the significance along the way. 

And Felicity definitely doesn’t dwell on how perfect it feels, having Oliver and William here with her and her mother, celebrating this holiday that, up until now, has always been just the two Smoak women. Felicity’s never invited anyone else to celebrate with them, guarding this sacred tradition as something just for her and her mom. And she certainly doesn’t contemplate how she’d really like to celebrate with both the boys here again next year.

After the menorah is lit, Donna teaches William how to play with the numerous dreidels she’s got decorating the place. He’s immediately taken with it and falls to playing in earnest, wearing the same look of concentration on his face that he gets when playing his video games.  Felicity finds herself gravitating towards Oliver as the pair of them watch Donna and William play. And it just feels right to wrap her arms around Oliver’s arm and rest her chin on his bicep. He looks down at her, his eyes twinkling with amusement. 

“Thank you for coming,” she murmurs, just softly enough that only he can hear. His smile takes on a softer quality, and she feels his body shift as he leans down to press a kiss to her forehead. 

“Thank you for inviting us; I hope you know you’ve created a monster - he’s going to want to celebrate with you every year now,” Oliver teases softly and Felicity isn’t sure if it’s the wine making her bold, or just her lack of brain to mouth filter, but she finds herself being shockingly transparent in her response. 

“I’d love that; play your cards right, I’ll invite you back too,” she teases, tossing him a cheeky wink that makes his expression shift subtly to something she can’t quite read. 

“Be careful - if you offer it, I’d be pretty inclined to accept that deal,” Oliver warns, a smile in his voice and on his lips and Felicity feels all oxygen flee her lungs. 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she manages breathlessly after a few overly long seconds later. 

They’re interrupted a short while later by Donna insisting that they do dinner and presents, which instantly has William’s attention. True to form, he’s a growing boy and food is always a solid way of getting his attention - but the gifts are a close second. The meal passes quickly with lots of laughter and when Oliver’s knee brushes hers under the table, she doesn’t politely shift her legs away but instead remains where she’s seated, leaning into the touch. 

What the hell’s gotten into her? And what in god’s name was in that wine he brought? Good lord, she’s acting like a fool. She needs to get herself under control and NOW. She’s saved from making a further clown of herself when her mother brightly announces that, dinner now consumed, it is time for gifts.

“Yes! Gifts!” Felicity chirps, leaping to her feet sharply, seizing on the opportunity to rush to her bedroom. She’s both eager to give Oliver and William their presents and to get some breathing room so she can clear her head. 

She needs to knock it off. Oliver is her friend. He is here with his son to learn about Hanukkah and celebrate it with her and her mother. Nothing more. Inhaling deeply, Felicity goes into her walk in closet, quickly locating the presents she’d bought the boys for precisely this occasion. She’s gotten them other, more substantial presents for Christmas already - they’re wrapped and sitting in the corner of the closet. 

Hanukkah gifts usually tend to differ from Christmas gifts in that they’re usually (though not always) simple, small things -books, jewelry, food and the like. Felicity has mixed traditional with fun for the guys, wanting to mark their first Hanukkah while also keeping it modest. 

For William, she’d gotten gelt, Hanukkah themed socks, a dreidel of his own, and a gift card to the movie theater. For Oliver, she’d found a Hanukkah themed apron, socks to match William’s, and a bottle of high end truffle oil for him to cook with. Looking at the neatly wrapped boxes, Felicity feels a nervous flutter in her stomach, hoping that her gifts measure up. 

She’d hyped Hanukkah up as being better than Christmas, after all. She can only hope she delivers and doesn’t disappoint William. The mere notion has her stomach in knots. 

When she steps back out into the living room, the sight that meets her eyes nearly bowls her over. Oliver is seated on her couch, William tucked in at his side; both boys are engaged in laughing conversation with Donna, who is seated on the chaise lounge across from them. There’s something so right about the visual of it all that Felicity wants to snap a photo and bottle up this moment in time because god help her, she wants this. So badly. She wants to go press a kiss to Oliver’s lips and another to William’s cheek and join them on the couch. She wants to be part of the little family she sees before her and she wants the family in her dreams to be real and oh god she needs to snap out of this. 

Fortunately, she’s saved from herself when William turns to look at her and his face lights up. “Are those all for us?!” 

Flashing him a smile, Felicity feels herself melt anew. This kid. “They sure are! Here’s yours, and these are for your dad and of course, Mom. Here’s yours,” Felicity doles out her gifts. Oliver tries to insist on Donna going first, but she and Felicity vociferously agree that William and Oliver should go first, it being their first time celebrating and all.

To her immense relief, the presents are all well received; William puts on his socks straight away and begins to play with his dreidel while munching on his chocolate coins. Her mother squeals delightedly when she unwraps her  new bracelet, then falls to playing with William. Oliver’s reaction is all quiet warmth and effusive joy as he too, puts on his socks immediately and marvels over the truffle oil. 

“I thought you’d have fun introducing William to truffle oil over one of your classic Oliver Queen professional quality dinners,” Felicity offered shyly and his eyes found hers with a sparkle. 

“Just William? Or are you allowed to come too?” 

She thinks he’s teasing but she’s honestly not sure; what she does know is, she is utterly trapped in his gaze and it takes her several swallows before she can form words of her own again. 

“I might be able to. We both know I’m a hopeless cook, so it would be silly of me to refuse a homemade meal from you.” The usual banter feels a little strained, mostly because she’s trying so desperately to play it cool. And of the many things Felicity has been accused of being in her life, ‘cool’ is not one of them. 

She is a hot mess inside. But she can’t think of that. Not now. 

The rest of the evening passes in quiet but happy companionship as they play and talk until late in the night. When William begins to yawn and his eyes begin to flutter closed for longer and longer with each blink, Oliver finally nudges his son gently. 

“Okay bud, I think it’s time we say goodbye and thank you to Felicity and Donna,” Oliver murmurs, prompting William to groan in objection.

“I don’t wanna go though! Hanukkah’s fun,” William pouts and Felicity feels as if someone has just set off fireworks inside her chest. William has enjoyed himself so much he doesn’t want the night to end. 

Success. 

Gathering up their things, the boys ready themselves to go. After saying their goodbyes to Donna, Felicity walks Oliver and William to her door, embracing William warmly as he wishes her a Happy Hanukkah. Oliver turns to look at her and holds out his arms expectantly and Felicity happily accepts his offer of a hug, doing her level best not to dwell on how much she loves being in his arms, rare though the opportunity to do so may be. 

“Thank you for this,” Oliver murmurs quietly and she can’t help the toothy grin that his words elicit. 

“Are you kidding? Thank you for coming,” she gushes, trying to tamp down the building sense of warmth in her cheeks. “I’m really glad I could share this with you both,” she confesses.

“So am I,” Oliver admits, glancing down at his feet before he looks over to William with a smile. “In the spirit of sharing things… William and I talked about it and we’d like to invite you to spend Christmas Day with us. Just...if you want,” Oliver offers, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. “If that’s too much, you could just come for dinner? Or cookies? But I mean, you don’t have to, there’s no pressure-” he fumbles over the words and Felicity finds herself responding before her better judgment is able to stop her. 

“I could do that.” 

Oliver stops dead, his eyes jumping to hers in surprise. “Really?” 

“Yeah… I’ll just… I’ll stop by. For a little bit,” she offers and Oliver smiles faintly while William whoops from the other side of the front door.

“AWESOME! Christmas with Felicity!” 

And as easily as that, the tension or awkwardness or whatever it is, breaks. Oliver and Felicity both laugh, falling back into their usual, easy rhythm. Oliver pulls Felicity in for one more side hug and then he and William head off into the night, leaving one very dizzy, very happy Felicity in their wake. When she closes the door behind them, she leans against it heavily, her eyes fluttering closed as she heaves a deep breath. 

“So how long have you two been together?” 

Felicity’s eyes fly open as her mother’s voice punctuates the quiet; she’s been so wrapped up in her goodbyes to Oliver and William, she’s forgotten her keen eyed mother is still here. Frak.

“I’m sorry... what?!” Felicity snorts, tossing her head as she strides across the condo, collecting the dreidel and menorah shaped glitter pieces Donna has scattered, as well as some of the many, many rogue dreidels and the strands of blue and white tinsel. 

“Honey, don’t play dumb with me. It doesn’t suit you and it certainly isn’t fooling me. You and Oliver. Spill.” 

“There’s nothing to spill, Mom. We’re friends. That’s all.” 

“Honey, I have seen friends. Friends do not hug like every touch is giving them life. And they darn sure do not look at each other like the other one hung the moon and the stars in the sky,” Donna retorts sharply and Felicity can only roll her eyes as she does her best to shake off her mother. 

The last thing she wants or needs is Donna Smoak haranguing her over Oliver. 

“Well Mom, I hate to break it to you but it’s the 21st century - men and women can be just friends now. And we are. Oliver and I? Not a romantic thing. Very platonic.” 

Donna rolls her eyes and crosses her arms in front of her as she studies her daughter, giving a gentle shake of her head. “Whatever you need to tell yourself, sweetie.  But I’ll tell you one thing - you two need to figure yourselves out and soon or that beautiful, sweet little boy is going to be the one who winds up hurt.” 

Felicity feels her stomach bottom out at the mere idea of William somehow getting hurt by her and her intense crush on Oliver. Nope. That’s simply just not allowed. It cannot and will not happen; she won’t stand for it. As easily as that, it’s as though someone has dumped a bucket of cold water on Felicity and the nerve endings that just a short while ago had felt like they were on fire, go almost painfully numb.

William supersedes everything - including and especially her own selfish, girlish, outlandish wants and dreams. Oliver isn’t hers - never has been, never will be. That ship has not only sailed, it was never even in her port. He’s her best friend - and it’s time that she got back to that. 

-----

Christmas proves to be both a little bit better and a little bit worse than Oliver has been braced for. William is the heavy combination of childish joy over the holiday, combined with profound sorrow over his mother’s absence. The sadness comes and goes throughout the day but overall, the boy is happier than Oliver expected. As for Oliver’s mother and his sister? Well. They’re a little less well behaved than he’d hoped. 

They’re great with William, to be sure. Both of them have spoiled the boy rotten with more presents than Oliver honestly would have preferred. Just because William is part of the Queen family doesn’t mean he needs to be subject to the Queen vices for gluttony that wealth has so well provided for. Oliver can remember his own misspent youth and the poor choices that the family’s affluence allowed him the latitude to make. He wants better than that for William. He doesn’t want his son to grow up spoiled and snobbish. But this is his first Christmas with this half of his family, so Oliver’s willing to bend. A little. 

Really, everyone’s remarkably well behaved, until Oliver’s doorbell rings a short while before dinner and he opens the door to find Felicity standing on his front porch, bundled up against the snow that’s already dusting the ground. 

“You made it!” he smiles, stepping aside to invite her into the house. She scurries in, pulling off the adorable little white knit cap she’d worn over - William’s Hanukkah gift to her.

“I told you I would!” Felicity beams, throwing her arms around him in a hug. It’s then that he spots the rather sizable bag in her hands. 

“What is all that?”

“Christmas gifts, duh!” Felicity beams, setting the bag down as she shucks off her jacket, hanging it in the hall alongside the rest of his family’s winter wear and Oliver frowns. 

“You already gave William and I gifts, so those better be for my mother and Thea.” 

Felicity blanks. “Shoot. I think I forgot to get your mother something.”

“Felicity, I was kidding, you don’t owe any of us anything, why do you have more gifts?!” Oliver questions and she blushes faintly. 

“In my defense, I got them before I invited you to Hanukkah and I wasn’t very well going to turn up empty handed at your house on Christmas!” 

“Your presence is gift enough, Felicity,” he returns simply, meaning every word. In response, she puts a hand on her hip, clearly not pleased with this response. 

“That is a crock of shit. A very sweet crock of shit, but a crock of shit just the same,” Felicity counters, poking his chest with one finger even as she looks around to be sure little ears aren’t overhearing her swear. “You invited me to celebrate Christmas with you. So this is me, celebrating Christmas. With you. That means gifts. Sorry, I don’t make the rules,” she shrugs, stepping by him as she kicks off her shoes and then hurries inside, her bag of presents in tow. Oliver hears William greet her joyously, and he can only shake his head as he follows her into the living room. 

William is embracing Felicity as he animatedly tells her of the new video game he’s gotten and Oliver is just in time to catch the boy already asking Felicity to play him at it. Clapping a hand over his son’s shoulder, Oliver gives him a gentle smile. 

“Let’s give Felicity a minute to say hello to everyone first, okay bud?” 

William goes still and then nods with a sheepish smile but Felicity just tugs at the boy’s bangs, which have started getting long. “Go get it all set up, William. I’ll play you in a minute.” 

William runs off excitedly and Oliver watches as Felicity embraces Thea warmly; the two have always gotten on like a house on fire and now, with their shared love of William? He senses they’ll be even closer. Somehow, he’s a little disconcerted by the idea of his best friend and his sister being in cahoots. 

His mother, however, remains a little cool and distant as she and Felicity politely greet each other and Oliver knows there's no love lost there. His mother has long appreciated Felicity’s more responsible influence on Oliver but she has also always questioned Felicity’s motives. It’s something that he’s argued with her about on more than one occasion - his mother remains convinced that Felicity’s in love with him. Oliver has explained time and again that they’re just friends and that even if Felicity did love him like that (which she doesn’t, Oliver should be so lucky), she’d never hurt him or use him for his ties to the family business.

It’s just not who Felicity is. But Moira Queen remains convinced that Felicity’s not as she appears and that iciness has invaded every interaction the pair have ever had. Christmas proves no exception, much to Oliver’s chagrin. 

“Hello Mrs. Queen,” Felicity greets the other woman cordially and Oliver’s mother doesn’t even rise off of the couch as she turns her eyes to the young blonde. 

“Felicity. What a surprise for you to be joining us. Oliver didn’t mention that you would be stopping by,” Moira purrs and Oliver watches Felicity’s spine stiffen. He can feel his own jaw tensing at his mother’s brusqueness but his best friend takes it all in stride. After so many years of friendship, Felicity is, unfortunately, accustomed to handling Moira Queen.

“Well, Oliver and William were kind enough to extend an invitation after they celebrated Hanukkah with my mother and I,” Felicity responds with careful, calculated words. “And naturally, I couldn’t say no to those two. So I said I’d stop by for a bit. I had to at least drop off presents and wish you all a Merry Christmas,” Felicity flashes a million gigawatt smile at Moira. Before the older woman can respond though, they’re interrupted by William reappearing. 

“You got us more presents?!” William gapes, clearly taken aback by this. He looks to his father for confirmation and Oliver nods with a wry smile. 

“Yeah, she did. What do we tell-” Oliver begins, only to be cut off short as William whips back to look at Felicity.

“THANKS FELICITY!” William gushes enthusiastically, flinging his arms around her. As Oliver watches, Felicity’s cold poker face that she’s put on for handling Moira melts and her arms come up to encircle his son, returning the embrace. 

“You are very welcome, William. Thanks for being my friend,” Felicity beams, breaking off the hug so she can reach into the bag she’s still carrying, full of gifts. “If it’s okay with your dad, maybe we can open my gifts now? I think you guys are eating soon and I don’t want to make your dinner late,” Felicity explains, meeting Oliver’s eyes and he just chuckles and nods. 

“Yeah, go ahead. Dinner’s still a little ways off but if you guys open gifts now, you’ll have time to play video games before it’s ready,” Oliver explains, only for William and Felicity to high five happily. 

How is it that two of the biggest, cutest nerds own his heart and soul so effortlessly? 

He turns to go into the kitchen but he’s stopped by a soft sound from Felicity and when he turns to look at her, her eyes are on his and dancing with excitement. “Don’t go too far; I have presents for you too, you know.” 

Oliver can’t help the playful scowl that darts across his face but just as quickly as it does, she chances a glance around the room and, reasonably sure no one can see her, she sticks her tongue out at him. It catches him so off guard he can only blink in surprise for several long seconds before he laughs and caves in. 

Going to the Christmas tree, he grabs up one of the very few remaining gifts still untouched after this morning’s massive gift opening extravaganza. It’s a small box but he holds it like it has ample weight. And for him, it does - at least emotionally. As he sits down on the floor across from where Felicity and William have seated themselves, he catches her frowning at him, then she inclines her head towards the box quizzically. 

“Two can play at the ‘Christmas gifts’ game, Smoak,” Oliver teases her lightly. The look of shock and the soft blush that creeps up her cheeks? Totally worth every penny. 

“You’re ridiculous, Queen,” Felicity grumbles back as she pushes a rather substantial sized box towards him, and another, equally large box towards William. Once her hands are free, Oliver tosses the small box at her, laughing openly as she grabs it and scowls at him. 

“William first!” Felicity is of course, on his son’s side. 

“I think the rule was that William and I had to go first at your house, so maybe Felicity should go first here-” Oliver attempts to reason, but Felicity crosses her arms and shakes her head, flat out refusing.

“Nice try Queen but everybody knows the kids go first on Christmas. It’s not even my holiday and I know that. William, you’re up to bat, kiddo!” Felicity beams, winking good naturedly at Oliver before she leans over conspiratorially, whispering in his ear. “Did I say that right? It’s ‘up to bat’, yeah?” 

Oliver grins, his expression softening at this. He knows that, as a show of support for William, Felicity has been trying to familiarize herself with the ins and outs of baseball, including baseball terminology. “Yeah, you got it right. You can also tell him to ‘step up to the plate’,” Oliver encourages her, doing his level best not to dwell on how damn good she smells, or how close she is.

Or how he could lean in right now and kiss her so easily. 

Woah. Nope. Where the fuck did that come from? That needs to go away right now. But Oliver knows that it’s not as simple as that; he’s been grappling with these feelings and no amount of willing them away has worked so far. He’d even flirted with her at Hanukkah and damn it, he’d have sworn she flirted back. Which is of course not true - Felicity is just his best friend. Nothing more. A woman of her caliber would never settle for a man of his low moral character. 

He needs to pull himself together.

Looking to William, Oliver is just in time to see his son freak out as he unwraps a kit to build his own computer. The sheer joy on William’s face is worth everything to Oliver and in that moment, his heart is fit to burst with love and affection for the woman sitting beside him. Leaning towards her, he nudges her playfully and mouths two of the words that are on the tip of his tongue - thank you. 

He stops himself before any of the other, much more complicated words he wants to say can fall out. 

He insists on Felicity going next and as she unwraps the small jewelry box, he sees the flicker of a frown across her face as she shoots him a look. Oliver’s never been much of one for giving jewelry, so he realizes his selection must seem rather odd. But as she opens the box itself, he sees her eyes widen and then go soft, her lips pulling into a sweet, genuine smile. Her fingers lift up the contents and Oliver grins as he sees her fingertips run over each of the charms he’d carefully selected (with William’s help) for her charm bracelet. 

There’s a video game controller charm that William selected to represent his and Felicity’s friendship. There’s another of a computer that they selected together for Felicity herself, a reminder of her brains and her startup company. The third charm, William didn’t understand but Oliver knows Felicity will. And he sees the precise moment that her fingers skim over the tiny, red pen; it does not escape his attention that her eyes go a little misty and her smile grows a little wider as she sees the charm that symbolizes her and him. Their friendship.

A red pen. The day they’d first met, she’d helped him with the in-class assignment they’d been given. Oliver had naturally shown up to class unprepared and though he’d emptied his backpack, he’d had no pencil or pen to his name. Felicity had been chewing on the red pen she’d used to write her notes and unthinkingly, she’d offered it to him in a silent but resounding show of kindness. 

From that moment on, Oliver had known she was so much more than just another classmate and she’d proven it time and again. His life had been changed because of her and that red pen. And now, as she looks at the very charm meant to represent that first meeting? He knows she’s reliving that day too. He just wonders what she had thought then. And what she thinks of him now. 

But those are dangerous thoughts. And as she slips the charm bracelet on over her wrist, Oliver knows he cannot do anything to risk the relationship that he has with Felicity. She’s his rock. Sure, he has his family for support but it is Felicity who keeps showing up, day in and day out. It is Felicity whose absence he feels most acutely if they go more than a week without seeing each other. 

“Your turn, Oliver!” Felicity’s dazzling smile and soft tone cut through his thoughts, dragging him back to the present, and he blinks before he turns his focus to the box before him. He pretends to shake it, earning him a glare from Felicity before he tears into the wrapping paper in earnest. But when he opens the box that is beneath the paper, he’s wholly unprepared for what awaits him inside. 

The framed images look professionally done, but how on earth that’s even possible, Oliver doesn’t quite know. He and William never had a professional photoshoot and yet, somehow there are high quality pictures of him and his son and Oliver looks genuinely happy in the photos? But what’s more? 

William looks overjoyed. 

Oliver’s eyes snap up to Felicity’s, the questions burning within him. “How-?”

“You remember that day I asked you guys to go for a picnic in the park?” Felicity prompts and Oliver nods, dazed. “Well I hired a photographer to try and get some candids of you and William. I thought you guys deserved some pictures to put up around this place,” she explains, nibbling at her lower lip self consciously as she finishes. He can see her wringing her hands, clearly nervous as she awaits his reaction. 

“Felicity...these are... incredible,” he breathes, so stunned that he’s struggling to find words. “This is… without a doubt, the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever given me,” Oliver confesses, his heart warming at the way her features relax and she breathes a sigh of satisfied relief. 

“I’m glad you like them.” 

“Like them? I love them!” 

He stops just short of adding the ‘and you’ that’s right there on the tip of his tongue. Too far. 

They hold each other’s gazes until they’re interrupted by a timer going off from the kitchen and Oliver has to go work on the meal. But he’s quick to give her a hug of thanks before he makes his way to the kitchen. And he steals glances back into the living room as he’s able, able to watch as William and Felicity cajole a wary Thea into playing the video game with them, as Oliver’s mother watches on in idle amusement. 

It’s in that moment that Oliver realizes that the people he cherishes most in the world are all under his roof right now. He just wishes he knew how to be the kind of man to deserve for them all to stay.

Chapter Text

Felicity feels deliriously happy in the days following Christmas with the boys; she attributes this simply to the afterglow of giving gifts that were well received. The look on Oliver’s face when he unwrapped the framed photos of him and William? She holds that memory near and dear to her heart. And then there’s the memories she’s wearing now.

Glancing to her right wrist, Felicity smiles as the charm bracelet Oliver gave her jangles merrily, her charms catching the light from the bathroom’s fluorescent lights overhead. The computer makes her chuckle. The video game controller? It makes her smile. But the red pen charm? That one makes her stomach swoop and flip and do a million other acrobatics. 

She’s never forgotten the first day she met Oliver. She remembers the gnawing panic and discomfort of being the new kid in school, compounded by also being noticeably younger than her cohorts. But she also remembers how, when Oliver was with her, none of that seemed to matter. When Oliver started talking to and hanging out with her? He became her safe place, the person who always had her back and defended her against all comers. After she had Oliver in her corner, no one picked on her anymore. 

After she found Oliver? She had a friend. 

Staring at her reflection, Felicity studies her appearance in the mirror, not for the first time that evening second guessing everything from her outfit to her hair to her makeup. About the only thing she feels reasonably confident in is her jewelry selection; no surprise there, she’s chosen to wear the bracelet Oliver and William got her for Christmas. 

Outfit wise? She’s opted for a form fitting, off the shoulder dress. The black fabric has cut outs on each arm, the waist, and the hem and she’s keenly aware that it’s these cutouts that draw the eye. The fit also definitely flaunts her curves and calls attention to them. Or at least one person’s attention - she hopes. 

This is, after all, a ‘get yourself a man’ dress, as per her mother, who was with her when she bought it...a while ago. But such a dress as this can only ‘get a man’ if it’s taken off the hanger every once in a while. And thus far? Felicity hasn’t worn it. 

She’s hoping the novelty of this piece of her wardrobe will aid her in her efforts tonight. Because ever since their shared Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations? Felicity hasn’t been able to get her mind off of Oliver. And the banter that maybe possibly (certainly on her end) could have been flirtatious. Her mother’s warning to hurry up and decide what she and Oliver are has given Felicity something of the push she’s needed to make a move. 

She needs to relax and just breathe. But she can’t. Because tonight is Oliver’s New Year’s Eve party. And tonight? Felicity is possibly hoping and planning on doing something potentially inadvisable.

Like kissing her best friend at midnight. 

-----

Oliver stares at his reflection in the mirror, running his hands through his moussed hair for the umpteenth time as he wonders if he should change again. It’s a laid back party, just his mother, Walter Steele,  Thea, her boyfriend Roy, and some of Oliver’s closer friends: John Diggle and his wife Lyla, whose children are in class with William, and Oliver’s childhood friend Tommy. 

And Felicity. 

Oliver’s heart quite literally skips a beat as he considers that tonight he could actually engineer the right set of circumstances whereby he might get to kiss Felicity. He wants to - desperately, in fact. But he doesn’t want to scare her off. New Year’s Eve presents the perfect opportunity to kiss her with slightly lower stakes. If he strikes out, at least he’s gonna go out swinging. If she balks at the kiss, he can claim it was totally platonic, just a New Year’s thing, nothing more.

But if she doesn’t balk? If she, maybe, possibly kisses him back? 

Well then he’ll maybe have a definitive answer to whether or not she’d been flirting with him at Hanukkah.

So Oliver ends up changing for the fifth time that evening. Changing when he should instead, be preparing to host his friends and family for this little get together. But he can’t even begin to focus on his hosting duties, distracted as he is by the potential that this night holds. 

When he finally emerges from his bedroom, he’s in dark wash jeans that he knows are flattering, and a light blue, long sleeve button up rolled up to his elbows, which he’s aware shows off his arms nicely. He’s taken the liberty of popping the top couple buttons on his shirt and he’s mussed his hair just so. By his own calculations, he’s looking about as good as he can reasonably hope to - he just hopes he’s not the only one who notices it. 

Finished getting ready, Oliver completes preparations for the food and with William’s help, the duo tidy up the house. William’s toys and computer kit are put away neatly in his room. While Oliver cooks, William swiffers the floor and that accomplished, Oliver invites the boy to come help him in the kitchen. They’re thus engaged - Oliver wearing his Hanukkah apron from Felicity, William standing on top of a chair from the dining set to help him - when their first guests start arriving. Oliver’s mother, Walter, and Thea are the first to show, wasting little time in adding their food contributions to the kitchen island for the others to partake in once they arrive, then the trio make themselves comfortable in the living room as they wait for the party to get underway. 

Oliver and William are still at work in the kitchen when they hear the front door open, and Oliver’s heart beats a little faster as a familiar voice rings out. 

“Knock knock!” Felicity announces her presence as she slips inside the house; Oliver can hear the sound of her footsteps in the hallway and god help him it sounds like she’s wearing heels. Heels which will, undoubtedly, make her legs look incredible. 

When Felicity emerges into view around the corner though, her legs are not what draws his attention. Oliver takes in the sleek black dress that she cuts a remarkable figure in and it’s all that he can do not to let his gaze linger on her chest, or on her bare shoulders. And he definitely doesn’t imagine trailing kisses along her collarbones.

Christ. He’s in deep. Is it midnight yet? 

Felicity greets them warmly and Oliver feels the by now familiar tug at his heart when his name falls from her lips as she embraces him. She smells incredible tonight; the usual bright floral and citrus notes of her shampoo mixing with something sweet. Vanilla? No. Something different, something spiced. He’s not sure but he does know that it’s intoxicating. Even as she draws away, he’s loath to break the contact with her.

“Happy New Year’s Eve,” he manages at last, smiling at her as she takes a step back to lean against the kitchen island, surveying him critically. Sensing this, his brows pinch together, suddenly self conscious. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?” 

“I’m not looking at you like anything!” Felicity claims in a bright chirp but Oliver can't help but frown.

“You are too. Stop that, Smoak. I can read you like a book.” 

She holds her hands aloft in mock surrender, prompting him to chuckle as he finishes up with the food while she watches on. “I just… You look… different, is all!” Felicity chuckles, her stormy blue eyes on his, making it almost difficult to breathe. 

“Different? How? You saw me a week ago. I don’t think much anything has changed.” 

“I don’t know you just… you are,” she shrugs, but there’s sweet laughter in her voice and there’s mirth in her eyes as she pushes off the island and plucks at his shirt, her fingers dancing at the undone buttons at his neck. “See, like this? Who are you trying to impress? Hmm?” Felicity teases, her fingertips just skimming his chest and making his heart work double time. 

You. He wants so badly to say it. But he can’t. That would go strictly against his plan to play it cool and kiss her at midnight. If he tells her he’s trying to impress her, trying to woo her? Well, the midnight plan will be well and truly toast. So none of that. He’s gotta keep his cool and stick to the plan.

Midnight. Then they’ll see who’s impressed. 

“Maybe I just want to look nice. Kick off my first, full year of fatherhood right,” Oliver remarks and Felicity goes still, eyeing him appreciatively with the ghost of a smile on her lips. 

“Yeah, of course,” she nods, going quiet for a spell. When she looks up to him some moments later, something in her eyes has changed. But… not for the worse. Clearing her throat, she gives a little toss of her head, sending loose, blonde curls cascading over her shoulder. “So do you umm, need any help with anything?” 

He shoots her a knowing look. “You are a guest, you don’t get to do any work tonight. Let me be a good host and take care of everything. You grab a drink. I’ll catch up with you soon.”

“Is that so?” There’s a lilt of playful challenge in her tone and he meets her eyes to find her biting her lower lip as she awaits his response. 

“Yes. Promise.” 

“You better mean it. I am expecting you to be by my side when that ball drops,” she smirks and Oliver feels his heart stutter. 

“You do?” 

“Umm yes. Because if you aren’t, then Tommy will be and I will not forgive you if you leave me to the likes of Tommy frakking Merlyn at a New Year’s Eve party where I am the only single female for him to kiss. I too, would like to start the new year off on a good note.” 

“And Tommy isn’t a good note?” 

Felicity rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “My first New Year’s Eve with all you guys, after I moved to town? Tommy kissed me. And what happened that next year? My mom lost her job, I got my one and only B-”

“-ah gym class,” Oliver interrupts with a smirk and she shoots him a scowl. 

“-yeah, gym class. Miss Wilson was a menace and marked me down for sitting out soccer even though I had a doctor’s note. Anyway, then Freshman year of college, when we celebrated at your parents’ place? He kissed me at midnight. And what happened that next year? My creepy lacrosse stalker and I got my wisdom tooth surgery. The year we all celebrated on the coast?  Tommy got to me at midnight. That next year is when I met and dated Cooper.”

Oliver winces and Felicity points a finger his direction, seizing on his reaction. “See?! Exactly! I love him to pieces but Tommy Merlyn is some serious new year bad juju for me and I will not allow him to thwart my coming year. I’ve got plans to make this next year a good one! So you’re my buffer. Be there at midnight to protect me or else I will blame you for all the bad things that may or may not but certainly will happen in the coming year.” 

Her eyes are sparkling. Her eyes always sparkle when she teases but this… this feels heavier than their usual banter. More meaningful. Or is he just making mountains out of molehills? But for crying out loud, she’s practically asking him to kiss her at midnight. He wants to pinch himself, this feels like a dream.

“You drive a hard bargain. But I’ll take that deal. Can’t go getting on your bad side now. Who would tutor William?” Oliver volleys back mischievously as she begins to walk away, tossing him a wry smirk over her shoulder. 

“That’s right. What on earth would you do without me?!” She flashes him one of her customary winks which is of course, not a real wink at all but more of an emphatic blink and is therefore, a million times cuter. He watches her go, swallowing the response he wants to say.

I don’t ever want to find out. 

Midnight. He’ll be there. 

-----

“Look at those two,” The remarks from the living room, nodding her head in her brother’s direction. Even from her vantage a room away, she can see her older sibling interacting with Felicity and it’s as clear to her tonight as it was on Christmas Day how the attraction and sentiment between the two of them has grown.

Her mother looks away from Walter and over to her son and while Thea can’t see her facial expression, she does see her mother’s body tense as she catches sight of Oliver and Felicity chatting in the kitchen. 

“She never has known how to dress for an occasion, has she?” Moira comments wryly and Thea rolls her eyes; she’s keenly aware her mom is not Felicity’s biggest fan but Thea doesn’t share her mother’s reservations and she’s quite certain her mother will come around once she gives Felicity a fair chance.

“Oh please Mom, she looks amazing. I’m going to ask her where she got that dress.” 

“She’s overdressed for a small family function,” Moira sniffs and Thea snorts and shakes her head. 

“So is Oliver. They’re both trying to dress to impress each other.” 

“That’s ridiculous,” Moira huffs, shaking her head as she looks back to Thea. “Oliver wouldn’t stoop to that level. Maybe before but not these days,” she insists and Thea has to hold back a howl of laughter.

“Stoop? Mom, trust me if he and Felicity get together, he’s not the one who would be ‘stooping’,” Thea remarks dryly,  tearing her eyes away from the flirty flirts in the kitchen to focus on her mother. “Those two have been in love with each other since high school, they were both just too dense to realize it then. I think it was pretty obvious at Christmas that they’re finally starting to realize their feelings now. I bet you anything they’ll be kissing by midnight.” 

What Thea doesn’t notice is the way her mother scowls at this suggestion as she continues to intently, if unhappily, study Oliver and Felicity. 

-----

The evening gets underway shortly as everyone arrives. Good food and good conversation flow, with laughter in spades. William proudly crushes his Grandmother, then Thea at video games. When Tommy takes his turn, Oliver knows his buddy is thinking he’ll wipe the floor with William but he’s quickly given an education. By the time Tommy passes his controller off to Felicity, he’s wide eyed in shock at having been so thoroughly decimated by a child. 

Felicity however, proves a challenge. The small group gathers to watch as she and William battle it out and though William puts up a great fight to the bitter end, it’s Felicity who walks away the victor, though narrowly. 

Afterward there’s board games and storytelling and Oliver finds himself cringing as Tommy kindly regales William with tales of Oliver’s childhood misadventures. Felicity contributes a few times, earning joking reproving looks from him from across the room. 

As the night goes on, Oliver can see William starting to fade; the boy is past his bedtime before it even hits midnight on the east coast, let alone the west. And though he tries to coax his son to go to bed and promises to wake him at midnight, William refuses and attempts to soldier on. It’s as they’re in the middle of a rather raucous game of Uno that William slumps over, asleep in Oliver’s lap. 

Felicity, who is seated directly across from Oliver in the living room, is the first to notice, her eyes sliding over William’s sleeping figure to meet Oliver’s eyes with warmth. He sees the smile pull onto her lips  and it doesn’t escape his attention how she lingers, watching both William and Oliver. 

It’s not until Lyla says something to her that Felicity looks away and Oliver allows himself to check his watch. 

Twelve minutes. 

The anticipation is running high as the gathered group of his loved ones readies themselves for the ball drop. Oliver is careful to slip out from under William’s sleeping figure and then goes to get out the champagne and glasses for everyone. And though William is currently asleep, Oliver sets aside a special glass of sparkling apple cider he picked up for him, figuring the festivities will likely wake him and he’ll want to participate. 

In full blown host mode, Oliver makes the rounds passing out the glasses, the butterflies in his stomach more like albatrosses battering him with the force of his nerves. Minutes, a small collection of seconds, that’s all that’s separating him from this moment that he’s built up in his head. When he finishes passing out the glasses, he pointedly places himself in  between Felicity and Tommy, giving her a conspiratorial smile.

Tapping the rim of his glass, Oliver gathers their attention onto him and while he detests being in the spotlight these days, in this moment he’s filled with appreciation for his circle, all of whom have helped him through the last year in their own small ways. None more so than the woman next to him. 

“I just wanted to say thank you to all of you. For being here - not just tonight, but this entire past year. It’s been one I never expected; a lot of surprise and heartache but most of all, a lot of love. So thank you all for sticking by me. Here’s to another year of being there for each other,” Oliver offers, raising his glass as the final countdown to midnight begins with looped video footage of the earlier ball drop in NYC. Seconds, that’s all he has left before the maybe kiss. The butterflies are basically the size of 747 jets at this point, careening around inside him. 

And then his mother zeroes in on him, her voice cutting through his anxiety.

“Oliver, wake up William!” Moira Queen demands, waving a lazy hand at her grandson’s sleeping figure. 

Fifteen seconds. 

“What? He’s fine, Mom. He’ll wake up when we shout!” Oliver rebuffs her a little guiltily, only for his mother to narrow her gaze.

“Oliver! This is his first new year’s with us, he should be awake for it!” 

Growling in frustration, Oliver pitches himself across the living room and tries to swiftly but gently rouse William but, unfortunately, the boy seems deep in sleep and reluctant to wake. “Hey bud, William can you hear me? Wake up. It’s almost midnight!” Oliver’s desperate, the gathered group now audibly counting down the seconds - they’re in single digits and the sound is ringing in his ears.

Nine! Eight! Seven! Six!

William’s eyes flicker open and Oliver feels a flood of relief as his hands gently guide his son up into a sitting position. But even as he tries to scramble to his feet, Oliver realizes belatedly that his mother has swept up behind him and is blockading his way. 

Five!

“Mom, move please,” Oliver grinds out, trying not to be an asshole. Four! But his mother’s hand lands on his wrist, holding him firmly in place as she shoots him a look of discontent. 

Three! Two!  “Oliver, where are you going? You should be right here with William for this!” she tuts, still holding fast to him. One!

As everyone erupts into cries of ‘happy new year’ Oliver tries to backpedal away from his mother but he barely makes it a step towards Felicity before his eyes dart towards her and his stomach drops. Her eyes are on his, a warm smile on her face as she looks from Oliver to William and back again. The soft look on her expression remains intact up until the moment Tommy swoops in, grabbing Felicity by her waist and pulling her towards him.

The ensuing kiss is like being kicked in the nuts, if he’s honest. Tommy keeps his hands at Felicity’s lower back as he tries to arch her against him even while he claims her mouth. It’s over quickly, but not before the sight of Felicity’s palms spread flat across Tommy’s chest is burned into Oliver’s brain.

Fuck.  

-----

DAMN IT TOMMY

She is going to kill him. Everything in her has been so focused on Oliver, she’s neglected to notice Tommy sidling closer during the countdown and she’s wholly unprepared for him to tow her flush against him and attempt to kiss her dizzy. But as soon as it registers that this is not the man she’s wanted to kiss at midnight, Felicity flattens her palms across his chest and gives him a mighty shove, watching as he spins away laughing. 

“I am going to murder you, Merlyn,” Felicity warns icily but Tommy just laughs good naturedly and winks at her. 

“Oh come on Smoak, it’s New Year’s Eve! We’ve kissed on New Year’s Eve before how many times!? And we will again! No friend of mine goes kiss-less on New Year’s!” His charm isn’t doing a damn thing for her tonight, even if he is right on at least one count - they have kissed on New Year’s before. And she’s never had a problem with it. But those kisses had all come when she wasn’t steadfastly planning on kissing someone else at midnight. 

And therein lies the problem. 

“I don’t see you concerning yourself with the lack of smooches for Oliver, tonight,” Felicity points out bitterly, her eyes lighting on Oliver’s with a jolt at the sensuous look in his gaze. 

Oh frak. 

She’s barely taken a step towards him when Tommy spins toward Oliver, mischief in his eyes as he rounds on his friend. Oliver turns to the other man and raises a single, warning finger aloft. 

“Not this year, Tommy!” Oliver admonishes, raising one finger to try and ward Tommy off, though it’s obvious this alone isn’t going to stop their friend as he takes another step closer to Oliver, a devious grin in place. And then, before anyone can say or do anything more, William leans forward and presses a soft kiss to his father’s cheek, officially putting the matter to rest. 

“Happy New Year’s, Dad!” 

This elicits a chorus of ‘awws’ from around the group and Felicity can see Oliver’s expression soften as he gives his son a hug and a kiss on the cheek and well... She’s a sucker for those boys so she can’t even be mad. Then William rises and goes straight to Felicity, tugging at her arm to get her to kneel to his level. He then throws his arms around her neck and gives her a very sweet, very fleeting kiss on the cheek. 

“Happy New Year’s, Felicity!” 

And just that easily? She melts. There’s really nothing William can do that would make her love him any less. She’s got a soft spot a mile wide where he’s concerned. And though he goes around the room wishing everyone else a happy new year, she notes that it’s only her and Oliver that earn kisses, though he allows his aunt and grandmother to pepper his face with plenty of kisses of their own. 

Well. She’s gotten kissed by a Queen - just not the one she had in mind. 

Better luck next New Year’s Eve? But already, Felicity senses she’ll lack the courage to try again after this failure. And that’s definitely how this feels - like failure or a sign. No, surprising her best friend with a kiss was probably a bad idea anyhow. She’s not sure what came over her. Because obviously, Oliver is focused on his son right now. He’s even said as much tonight - his reason for dressing up was to start his first full year as a dad off on the right foot. And the last thing his new year needs is someone he loves and trusts pulling the rug out from under him and changing the manner of their relationship.

She’s been selfish. And she’s furious with herself for it. Oliver got precisely the kiss he needed. The one he deserved. The one he’s earned a hundred times over already just by taking on his new role of ‘Dad’ so wholeheartedly. 

When she shakes free of her thoughts to look at Oliver again, his attention is solidly on William, who has finished his rounds and is now blinking back sleep as he sits on the couch delightedly gulping his sparkling apple cider.  It’s several, painfully long seconds before Oliver returns to her side, clearing his throat awkwardly as he does. 

“I’m umm… I’m sorry I left you hanging there. Tommy… he’s a menace,” he attempts, though the words sound... wrong. She can’t place how or why. 

Staring at him, Felicity realizes she has to play this off coolly if she has any hope of salvaging her dignity. She can’t let on how desperately she wanted things to go differently tonight. 

“Expect to do a lot of grovelling,” she snarks at him, delighting in watching his brows raise so high they’re practically in his hairline. 

“Grovelling, huh?” 

“Yeah. You abandoned me to Tommy. My year is officially sunk; I warned you. All the crazy, kooky, and bad stuff in the coming year? It’s all on you, Queen.” The attempt at playful banter feel stiff and wrong but it’s the best she can manage with the sour, bitter tang of her disappointment and Tommy’s lips still fresh on her tongue. 

Damn it all

“I’m guessing your tutoring fee just went up?” Oliver offers weakly and she seizes on this and smiles with a snort. 

“Oh yeah. And next year? I’m asking your son to have my back against Tommy; he did a pretty good job saving your skin from sharing my fate.” There’s a smile on her face as she says it, even if inwardly she’s wilting at the loss of this opportunity. Naturally, the moment she works up the courage to try and plant a smooch on her best friend, the universe responds by throwing her a giant roadblock in the form of Tommy Merlyn.

If that’s not a sign to back off, she doesn’t know what is. Her confidence is well and truly blown to pieces.

 

Chapter Text

The start of the new year finds William and Oliver continuing to settle into their new routine. While William continues to excel in school, he and Oliver have kept up with regular practice sessions at the batting cages and regular games of catch at home to prepare him for his baseball debut. And Felicity, of course, has been there through it all, helping with homework and the occasional chauffeuring of William from point A to point B when Oliver needs an assist. 

Oliver’s still completely baffled as to what he’s done to deserve such unswerving loyalty and friendship as Felicity’s but he’s eternally grateful for it. She has saved his ass on more than one occasion. That said, he doesn’t expect her to be there for everything, though he tries to let her know she’s always welcome.

Her presence is of course, always wanted but she is never under any obligations. Anytime he reminds her that there’s no pressure on her to show up for things though, she always rolls her eyes and waves him off like he’s acting a fool. But the truth is, she shows up more than his own mother or sister do and more than any of Oliver’s other friends. Even Tommy is hit or miss and Oliver can’t exactly blame him - kid friendly events aren’t exactly in his wheelhouse. But then again, before William? They weren’t exactly in Felicity’s repertoire either.

And yet, Felicity always shows up. 

Even in the aftermath of New Year’s Eve, she shows up the day before William’s first day back at school, offering to review the concepts he learned before break so that William can be prepared for resuming his studies. The thoughtfulness of that act alone cements what Oliver is already quickly coming to know. 

The feelings he has for Felicity? They aren’t going away or toning down. If anything, they are only intensifying with every display of her dedication to William. He’s always found her attractive on her own - both on the basis of her character and on the basis of her looks. But now, seeing her diligently tend to his son? Oliver’s feelings for her have amplified because of her heart. 

God he loves her heart. 

So it is that by the time the day of William’s first baseball game dawns (unseasonably muggy and hot), Oliver has been able to gain some clarity about his feelings for her. Some - not a lot. He’s still teetering on the brink of saying or doing something, afraid to mess up what they already have. Because with a bit of clarity has come the firm knowledge that without her? He’d be a disaster as a parent. Or, so he believes. 

So, with New Year’s a not so distant memory, Oliver finds himself under the too hot sun on cramped metal bleachers as he watches his son and his son’s team warm up. He’s occupied thusly when Felicity strolls up to join him. The game’s about to begin as she takes the metal steps up to where Oliver is sitting, probably looking every bit the anxious ball of nerves that he knows he is. 

“You came?!” Oliver remarks, unable to hide his surprise (or his excitement) as she sits down beside him, dressed in what appears to be a newly purchased baseball jersey and cap to match the kids in their ‘Star City Sluggers’ uniforms. And though Oliver has been very focused on watching the team warm up and looking for every opportunity to flash William a reassuring smile or thumbs up, Felicity’s arrival momentarily diverts his attention.

He’s never, not once, seen Felicity wearing any sort of sports memorabilia. And looking at her now, with her fitted women’s jersey on and a ball cap pulled over her head, her hair collected into a high ponytail that she’s drawn out through the back of the cap? 

Well, Oliver is momentarily at a loss. She’s downright hot. None of his parenting or self help books have prepared him for this. Felicity is the steadfast pillar of Oliver’s support system and arguably, his best friend. But it is becoming increasingly difficult for Oliver to be around her without his mind wandering out of platonic territory and into far more intimate imaginings. 

It’s not lost on him that as he’s envisioning making it to first base (and second and third and heaven forgive him, home base too) with Felicity, he’s sitting at an actual baseball game. If it were happening to someone other than him, he might laugh. But it is happening to Oliver. And he’s not laughing. But he is staring appreciatively at Felicity’s chest, a fact which he realizes and quickly remedies by looking away before she notices. Trying to calm himself down, he focuses back onto the baseball diamond just as Felicity responds to him. 

“It’s William’s first game! Of course I came to support him - and you. Don’t think I didn’t notice you doing your nervous hand tic. Try to relax - he’s going to do great, Oliver. You’ve done everything you can to get him ready for this. Now, how’s our boy looking?!” 

The words ‘our boy’ make Oliver’s mouth go dry. Because fuck. The very idea of the three of them getting to be a happy little family together makes Oliver go weak in the best possible way. He knows how much William adores Felicity. He knows how much Felicity has helped William navigate his new life in Starling. And the idea of her taking on the role of stepmother to William in a formal capacity? Wow. That makes Oliver’s heart thump like a drum against his chest. 

‘Our boy’. 

Wow. He really likes the sound of that. He’s got to figure out a way to inch closer to making that a reality. Our boy. He could get used to that.

-----

A second after the words are out of her mouth, she realizes she’s referred to William as ‘our boy’ to Oliver. Uh oh. Almost instantly, Felicity is on edge and afraid that she’s crossed a line; the look on Oliver’s face is one she can’t place; it almost looks like he’s gotten sucker punched in the gut. That can’t be a good thing, right? Frak. Has she upset him? Cue the classic Felicity ramble. She can feel it coming on but there’s little she can do to reel herself in when her nerves are in overdrive as they are now. 

“And by ‘our boy’ I don’t mean ‘ our boy’ as in like ‘our son’ because that’s ridiculous. You and I, having a son I mean. I just mean William. As in, the boy we are both here to cheer for. Your son. Who I adore. And who I know is not mine… That William.” She babbles nervously, seriously flustered and mentally kicking herself for her runaway mouth. “Please tell me to stop,” she adds belatedly, her eyes slamming shut as if to shield herself the embarrassment she’s just incurred upon herself.  

“Felicity... stop.” 

Oliver’s voice is gentle but Felicity can’t decide if he’s mad or not. When she anxiously meets his gaze a moment later though, he seems to have recovered from whatever it was that was making him look gobsmacked just a few moments earlier. 

“He’s looking… nervous.” Oliver answers, kindly ignoring the trainwreck of words she’s just rambled, rapid fire. “I tried to give him a pep talk before the game but I’m not sure how much of it stuck,” he confesses worriedly and Felicity gives his arm a squeeze. 

“I’m sure you did great. And he’ll do great too. He just needs to see that we’re here and we believe in him. He’ll do the rest.” 

Of that, Felicity is very confident. William is a strong and resilient kid - not unlike his father.

After a few minutes of the two of them watching in silence, Felicity digs into her bag, and retrieves a bag of peanuts and a box of cracker jacks. When she offers them to Oliver, he looks down at the items in her hand and starts chuckling.

“Seriously? Peanuts and Cracker Jacks?” 

“What? That’s what’s in the song! Is that not what you eat at a baseball game?!” 

“They’re a little cliche. I’m told sunflower seeds are all the rage now, at least with the boys on William’s team. They’re all eating them when they’re in the dugout. William asked me to show him how to shell them in his mouth specifically for the occasion.” 

“Aww, look at you, playing Mister Cool Dad.” Felicity teases Oliver, bumping him with her shoulder playfully. He ducks his head but she still catches a glimpse of the shy yet proud smile on his face. Not bad for a guy who, a year ago, didn’t even know he had a son and never would have dreamed of coaching his son on how to shell a sunflower seed. Oliver’s been thrown into the deep end with William, but Felicity couldn’t be prouder of how he’s risen to the occasion. 

As she studies him, she sees more signs of the changes that William’s arrival has wrought. Oliver’s got a backpack at his feet, half unzipped. Inside, she can see a large reusable water bottle, a bag of sunflower seeds, and what looks like a spare pair of socks. Dollars to donuts, it’s all stuff for William; the careful consideration and planning that has gone into this is obvious to her. Oliver goes to great pains to predict and prepare for William’s needs. 

“I don’t know how cool of a dad I can be if I still brought them sliced oranges for their after game snack instead of something sugary - donuts or fruit snacks probably would have been the real ‘Cool Dad’ move.” Oliver confesses and Felicity feels her brows lift just a touch in surprise.

“You brought the after game team snack? And you made it healthy?” 

“Is that judgment I detect?” 

“Try pride.” 

What Felicity doesn’t say is that this side of him? This softness combined with his newfound concerned parent routine? It’s... indescribably attractive. Oliver has been cast in the role of dad and he hasn’t just accepted it - he’s rocked it. 

Looking at him - his ball cap pulled low over his face, the cooler of team snacks and the backpack of kid gear all in tow, he looks like the quintessential ‘Dad’. If there were a ‘Dad’ costume at the store, this would be what it looked like. She swallows and tries not to think about the fact that he definitely qualifies as a ‘DILF’. But there’s no denying it though - in Felicity’s eyes, Oliver is definitely a Dad she’d like to-

“FRAK!” Oliver utters her substitute swear word loudly under his breath as William trots out of the dugout and heads for right field. 

“What’s wrong?”

“They put him in right field. None of the kids really hit the ball there. It’s where you put the weak players at this level of competition,” Oliver murmurs in a whisper brimming with rage. “It’s not fair to William though. He’s been putting in the hours and trying really hard. But the coach won’t let him play on the infield, not even when the bottom of the other team’s batting order - their less powerful hitters - are up.”

 “What a jerk move. Want me to hack his email account? I can sign him up for loads of spam emails!” Felicity offers brightly, only for Oliver to chuckle and shake his head. 

“Not just yet, but I appreciate your dedication.” 

But Felicity can’t help but wonder how much Oliver would appreciate her dedication if he knew half the private thoughts rolling around in her head. Ogling him and thinking of him being a hot dad might fan his ego but also weird him out. He’s always seen her as a friend. Her wounded confidence from New Year’s still hasn’t recovered - and will likely take a while to be restored unless something unexpected happens. 

-----

Felicity is taking a step back. She has been since what she now mentally refers to as ‘the New Year’s Eve Debacle’ took a sledgehammer to her already fragile confidence. Her entire plan to kiss Oliver at midnight, in hindsight, was probably entirely juvenile and not the way to go about making her feelings for him known. But having gotten her hopes up, she’s been feeling unsteady in the aftermath. Which is why she’s decided to take a step back, regroup, and reassess. 

Her feelings for Oliver haven’t changed. And as the new year continues to unfold, it becomes abundantly clear to Felicity that, if anything, she’s just falling deeper. 

She’s attending every one of William’s baseball games. She’s over every week, even on weeks where William doesn’t need the help with homework. This week is one of those weeks. It also happens to be the first week of what Oliver has dubbed ‘The Culinary Education of Felicity Smoak’. According to Oliver, he feels strongly that he needs to teach her some skills in the kitchen, just so he can sleep soundly knowing that she has more options aside from take out and frozen dinners on nights when she isn’t with him and William.

She argues with him good naturedly but in truth? She’s...excited? 

She adores William. Utterly. But having time to hang out with the guys when she’s not playing the tutor or doing them a favor? That’s something she can always stand to have more of. Not that she has a problem doing the other things - she doesn’t! Not at all. But it’s nice to be reminded that her presence, her company all on its own? That’s enough. For both of them. They like being with her for who she is, not just for what she can do. 

So that’s how she finds herself at Oliver’s door that fateful evening. As requested, she has brought only herself - no store bought goodies, not even ingredients for the upcoming cooking (although she offered multiple times, Oliver kept refusing). 

But instead of sweeping her inside the house right away as he usually does, Oliver cracks the door open and slips out front, drawing the door closed behind him. 

“I need to tell you something,” he murmurs conspiratorially, glancing back at the closed door as though to be certain no one has opened it behind him. Felicity’s brows knit together and she feels her heart rate pick up a bit.

“Okay,” she returns, drawing out the syllables of the word as she stares thoughtfully at her best friend, more than a little concerned. 

“Something happened today. And before I tell you what, I need you to promise me that you’ll play it cool when I let you inside,” Oliver hedges and now she’s really confused and more than a little intrigued. What the heck is going on here? 

“Oliver, spit it out, you know I hate mysteries. I can already feel my anxiety spiking,” she hurries him along and he nods once slowly, then draws a deep breath before he turns his gaze to her reluctantly. 

“William...Well, he had another run in with the school bully today.” 

Silence. Silence so profound, the sound of a pin dropping would be akin to an explosion in volume. Her brain feels as though it is misfiring because certainly, certainly she must have misheard him. Because it cannot be that the precious young boy she loves so deeply has been beat up. For the second time. 

“I’m sure I didn’t hear you right.” Tight lipped. Irate. There are flames in her eyes even as the voice of her best friend seems to grow a touch muted due to the roaring of blood in her ears. 

“It was the same kid as last time and some of his buddies. They cornered William behind the bleachers and they ganged up on him,” Oliver elaborates and all too easily, the mental picture paints itself for Felicity and her heart cracks at the thought of that dear sweet boy being pummeled by a couple of school bullies. 

“Is he alright?” Fear claws at her throat, making her voice come out too high pitched and wrong. Oliver touches a reassuring hand to her shoulder, steadying her. 

“He’s got a pretty nasty black eye, which I’ve got him icing right now,” Oliver explains, seeming entirely too calm. “He also had a bloody nose but it doesn’t look like it’s broken.” What universe is this? How is Oliver speaking about this so level headedly? Felicity wouldn’t be surprised if there was literally steam pouring out of her ears but Oliver is the picture of calm.

“I want names.” There’s a chill in her voice; the emotional side of her has shoved aside the logical one, pushing it into a corner. She doesn’t think about the fact that William is not her son and that this is not her fight to fight. She can only picture the kid she loves in pain as fists rain down on him and maybe it’s wrong but Felicity is just itching to smack these bullies across the face. Or at the very least, hack their social media profiles and shut them down. 

Sorry kids. No TikTok for you! 

“Felicity,” Oliver warns and she meets his eyes, temper flaring. 

“I’m going to end these little punks,” Felicity hisses, her anger turning white hot and wild. “I’m gonna hack their social media profiles and make them rue the day they ever looked at William wrong.” 

“Felicity, I’ve already handled it. The school is going to suspend the bullies. William and I have already talked the whole thing through in painstaking detail. He’s about as ‘alright’ as a kid in his shoes can be but just in case, William already has an emergency appointment with the therapist I’ve been taking him to so he can talk about the whole incident. There’s no need to stir things up more. Which is why I don’t want you to call attention to William’s eye. Just… let it go.” 

“I will absolutely not let it go!” Felicity whispers back angrily, stomping her foot for emphasis. “Oliver, this isn’t the first time William’s been bullied and it isn’t okay! The school isn’t doing enough to stop it. And if they won’t take it seriously, and this kid’s parents won’t take it seriously, then I will make them take it seriously. No way this kid gives William a black eye and I just stand by letting it happen. No one treats him that way, you hear me? No one! William doesn’t deserve that!” 

She’s aquiver with fury now and Oliver has to put a hand on either side of her to steady her, his face still entirely too calm and composed for her liking. For once, she finds herself wishing for a little of that classic Oliver Queen temper and immaturity.  

“You’re right. He doesn’t deserve that. Which is why I handled it. He’s going to be okay, Felicity. But you coming in here and unleashing your hurt isn’t going to help him - remember? That’s what you told me last time. For his sake please just… don’t call attention to it. He just needs our love and support right now.” 

His words finally reach her, dousing her rage like a bucket of water on flames. Inhaling slowly, she nods. 

“You’re right.” 

Felicity wilts a bit as her anger ebbs but as it goes, she’s left with the sudden realization that this… this overwhelming need to protect William? Oliver lives with that constantly. And yes, Felicity wants to protect him too. But this depth and intensity of her protective instincts with him? It’s new for her. Usually, in the past, she’s been the calm, cool, collected one, counseling rational thought and such. Today’s sudden shift, with Oliver having to rein her in? It’s a weird role reversal and she doesn’t know quite what to make of it. 

Regardless though, Oliver is right. Her feelings are secondary in importance (actually, they’re really tertiary - because if William’s feelings are of primary importance, Oliver’s are of secondary). So Felicity boxes up her anger and her sudden, fierce thirst for justice and she takes a steadying breath before she nods to Oliver to signal that she’s got her emotions in hand. 

“If it’s any consolation? He got a couple defensive hits of his own in,” Oliver offers and Felicity blows out a slow breath. 

“Is it bad that I find that satisfying?” 

“If it is, we’re both bad together,” Oliver shrugs and Felicity feels the tiniest bit better. “After the last time, I made sure he knew how to defend himself. From the sounds of it? He did a damn good job protecting himself this time, especially since he was outnumbered. And I’ve made it clear that there won’t be a third incident - or I will make the school board rue the day they were born,” Oliver states with a brittle protectiveness in his voice that Felicity feels deep in her bones. 

They share a look then and Felicity feels some measure of control return to her as they both nod. 

“Are you sure we should still do this? We can totally reschedule, William is way more important than my cooking lesson-” Felicity begins to offer but Oliver just shakes his head. 

“I asked William and he begged me not to cancel; I think seeing you tonight is one of the few things capable of putting a smile on his face. So no, Smoak. You’re not getting out of your cooking lesson that easily.” With a faint smile, Oliver pushes the door to the house open and ushers her inside. 

She tries to affect a more exuberant, buoyant attitude as she enters the house she knows like a home away from home. William’s seated on the sectional in the living room, flicking through TV channels with a distinctly bored air. Felicity can see even from afar the bag of frozen peas clutched to his face. And if her heart clenches in pain and her fingers twitch with the yearning to collect him in her arms? What of it? 

“Alright, the student has arrived. When do we start cooking? We gotta get a jump on this early, to allow time for me to mess up at least once or twice,” Felicity announces playfully, prompting William to turn and look at her, moving the bag away from his face as he does.

Oh William. 

His eye is swollen shut, the region around it puffy and already darkly bruised in shades of black, blue, and a hint of purple. Felicity has to fight back more of those raging protective instincts that scream at her to take the biblical ‘eye for an eye’ route. But that would solve nothing. And the most important thing right now is making sure William is taken care of. 

“Felicity, we’re having spaghetti for dinner,” William points out, a note of laughter in his voice as he spins fully around so he’s facing her, his elbows resting on the back of the couch. Her eyes snap to his and she pretends to scowl at him.

“I’m sorry, what’s your point?” 

“Even I can make spaghetti! You won’t mess it up, it’s easy!” William snorts and Felicity feigns mock offense. 

“Excuse me? Are you really challenging my ability to mess up in the kitchen? Sir, have you forgotten about the batch of cookies I murdered on your first day here? They were inedible, you and your dad told me so!!” 

In response, William crinkles his nose in amusement and when she throws her arms open wide in silent request of a hug, he scoots off the sectional and hurries over to throw his arms around her. She holds him tight, breathing a little easier for the first time since Oliver told her about the bullying. 

He’s okay. And thanks to Oliver’s careful attention to both his physical and mental and emotional needs? He’ll continue to be okay. Whether he realizes it or not, Oliver is growing into a really, really good dad. And she’s so proud of him. 

Felicity releases William slowly, reluctant to give up this close contact, this physical reassurance. In light of what’s happened to him? God, she just wants to hold him. But she resists the urge, instead flashing him a smile as she turns to the kitchen, where Oliver has disappeared to prepare for their lesson. 

“He’s a really good teacher, don’t worry. He won’t let you burn the house down,” William reassures her with a twinkle in his eyes.

“That’s true. I promise to limit all structural damage to the kitchen only.” 

Oliver has rejoined the pair and stands before them now, grinning proudly as he sweeps his hands over his own figure, drawing Felicity’s eye. And… wow. 

He’s wearing the apron she gave him for Hanukkah and… well. Suffice it to say, Oliver Queen cuts a clean figure in that apron. He’s also donned a chef’s hat, which she knows William got him as a joke gift for Christmas because of his tendency to make darn near gourmet meals any chance he gets. Embroidered on the hat in emerald green are the words ‘Chef Dad’.

“Oh wow. I didn’t realize I was receiving a formal education in the culinary arts,” Felicity remarks, her brows lifting as she appraises Oliver, trying to ignore that her mouth has gone dry. Chef Oliver. That’s a fantasy she didn’t know that she had until precisely this moment. She can almost guarantee she’s going to dream of him in that apron to-

ENOUGH. 

Her mental walls are thrown up suddenly as she catches herself being downright inappropriate in her mental oglings. Blinking as she stares at him, Felicity tries to snap herself back to the present. 

“So, spaghetti? Did I hear right?” Felicity forces herself to ask in a voice that she hopes does not sound as strained (and hot and bothered) as she is actually feeling right now. If she sounds off though, Oliver doesn’t outwardly react to it. He just throws a dish towel over his shoulder and nods pleasantly.

“That is correct. We’re starting small. Boiling water, salting it appropriately, and timing how long the pasta cooks for. And the sauce will be easy, just a handful of ingredients,” Oliver explains and she’s with him right up until the sauce bit.

“Hold up - we’re making spaghetti sauce from scratch? That seems like maybe an intermediate lesson. Not beginner,” Felicity hesitates, already able to (all too readily) envision the carnage that could result from this attempt at cooking. But Oliver just chuckles and offers her his hand. She stares at it uncomprehendingly for a split second before it dawns on her to take it and then just as soon as she realizes, she’s slipping her fingers through his and allowing him to usher her into the kitchen. 

“Trust me. It’s much easier than people think. And you are a literal genius. I believe in you.” 

Warmth like sunshine blooms in her heart at this. Golden yellow and nurturing, it’s like sunflowers and bumblebees buzzing and all the good things of sweet summer days. Oliver believes in her. That’s a powerful thing, indeed. 

“Show her the surprise, Dad!” William chirps and Felicity looks over to where William has seated himself at the kitchen island, grinning delightedly. 

“That’s right! No chef can conquer the culinary arts without their very own-” Oliver pauses, grabbing something off the counter and fanning it out before her with a flourish, “-apron!” 

And he actually seriously went out and got her an apron. But that’s not even the best part. This one… well, this apron actually screams ‘Felicity’. Because this apron actually spells the word ‘Cook’ using the periodic table of elements - Cobalt (Co) is next to Oxygen (O), which is next to Potassium (K).  It’s the cutest, nerdiest thing she’s ever seen and she can’t help the laughter and the smile that sweep through her as Oliver helps her don the apron.

“It seemed appropriate for the chef wearing it,” Oliver explains proudly from behind her as he ties her apron strings for her. And though she attempts not to dwell on it, Felicity can’t help but shiver slightly at the way his warm breath ghosts across the back of her neck.

Maybe cooking lessons are a more dangerous thing than she realized. 

Thankfully, she’s saved from dwelling on this by her lesson itself, which gets quickly underway. They begin by prepping the water - Oliver teaches her how much water to use relative to the amount of pasta they’re using. As they wait for it to come to a boil, they get to work on the sauce, which actually is rather easy - some garlic, some olive oil, a bit of basil, and then the tomatoes themselves. While the sauce cooks down, they focus back on the pasta, the water for which is now boiling; apparently it is at this point, and only this point, that the salt should be added. That done, they next measure out their pasta (which is an art in and of itself) and dump it in the water and Oliver sets a timer. 

The next few minutes allow them to banter and tease each other as they wait; there’s innocent poking of one another with the handles of the wooden spoons they’ve been using and much laughter. And with that natural comfort and ease that she and Oliver share, Felicity feels the broken pieces of her confidence slowly start to stitch themselves back together. It's...unexpected. But in a wonderful way. She'd thought it would take a lot longer than this for her to feel remotely like herself around him. But there's just...something about him that always puts her at ease. Even when she doesn't feel at ease with her own head? Oliver is her solid foundation.

Someday - not today, but hopefully someday soon - she’ll be ready to try and tell him the truth of her feelings again. And when that day comes? Hopefully the outcome will be much different than New Year’s.

Chapter Text

Felicity’s culinary education continues over the next couple weeks and though she and William poke around at his math homework a bit each week, by and large these weekly visits have become simply time for her and the boys to just be together. And that? That’s fine by her. 

Oliver teaches her a simple lemon baked chicken recipe after their first cooking lesson with the spaghetti. A stovetop macaroni and cheese follows that, and an egg white omelet with tomato, peppers, onions, and avocado after that. 

There’s no doubt the food would be inedible without Oliver’s supervision but even with Felicity’s lack of skill, the meals come out halfway decent. Which is frankly, shocking. She’s ruined macaroni and cheese and omelets in the past, even when trying her hardest. Oliver is clearly, just that good of a cook and that good of a teacher. And he doesn’t stop at teaching just Felicity - the first week aside, William is always there in the thick of it in the kitchen, cooking on the burner next to Felicity while Oliver supervises both of them.

It’s a little thing but Felicity can’t help but delight in the fact that Oliver is doing precisely what he feared he wouldn’t - he’s connecting with his son, passing on skills that he has and teaching them to William. Oliver had thought Felicity and her book smarts had connected with William and they did, but William and Oliver in the kitchen? It’s a sight to behold. William is so tentative about learning a specialty so far out of his wheelhouse and Oliver is so gentle and patient, teaching him how to crack eggs one handed without getting shells in the mixture, teaching him how to tell if pasta is ready or not.

It’s an education that Felicity knows, William will cherish for years to come. The impact Oliver was afraid he would never make? He’s doing it right here before her very eyes. 

And for her part? Felicity is happy to bear witness to it all. And she falls into a comfortable rhythm with both her guys, contentedly whiling away hours with them week after week. Their regular dinners have become something of a highlight for her. The upcoming tech conference she’s meant to attend? Pales in comparison to an evening playing video games with William and cooking with Oliver.

Which is how she finds herself in Oliver’s living room, curled up on the sectional one evening a few weeks after William’s run in with the school bullies. They’re all three of them spread out on the roomy sectional in Oliver’s living room, sprawled out for maximum comfort. Oliver’s at one end, sitting with his feet on the ottoman. Felicity is next to him, laying horizontally across one side of the sectional, her feet in Oliver’s lap and her head bumping against William’s as they share a pillow. William is laying on the third side of the sectional and together, the three of them are digesting another one of Oliver’s famous home cooked meals (tri tip with asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes, which Felicity actually helped him to make). Some Netflix show is on the TV, though none of them are paying it much mind. 

Felicity feels full and content. Her brain has been pleasantly lulled into submission; another early evening study session with William, reviewing his math lessons from the week, followed by dinner and now this relaxing has left her satisfied and a little sleepy. When she feels Oliver’s hands wrap around her feet and start massaging them, she doesn’t protest. 

Do tutors get tips? If so, this is totally a tip for her having done so well with William, she tells herself. She definitely does not imagine Oliver’s strong hands on any other parts of her body. God no. That would be totally inappropriate. 

Uh huh.

Felicity settles in against the cushions a little more heavily, her eyelids drifting slowly closed even as she feels William move beside her, his little head bumping hers gently as he pushes himself up into a sitting position. And it just… feels right. All of it. She’s so happy and… at home here, with both of them. Felicity is very nearly asleep when William’s voice breaks the quiet, strong and curious. 

“Dad? … How do you know when you... like someone?” 

Well. This is an unexpected line of questioning. Felicity cracks a single eye open and blearily looks Oliver’s way to find his eyes on hers, looking rather like a deer in the headlights. He gulps and then turns his focus to William, his hands on her feet falling still. 

“You mean when you like like someone… right?” 

Oliver’s use of ‘like like’ makes Felicity snort and she feels his fingers tickle at her feet, sending her surging up into a sitting position with a tiny squeal of mock outrage. Flashing Oliver a wry grin, she quickly turns and fixes her eyes on William. 

“You mean how do you know if you like someone as more than a friend?” 

William nods, his eyes dark and questioning as he surveys Oliver and Felicity. “Yeah. How do you know you love someone?” 

Oh wow. They’ve gone from ‘like’ to ‘love’. William’s really upped the ante. Felicity doesn’t want to overstep, so she shifts her gaze to Oliver to let him take first whack at this. Besides she’s… actually keenly interested in hearing what his answer will be. 

“Well bud, that’s not exactly a question that has a simple answer,” Oliver begins, his tongue moving to wet his lips as he thinks for a moment. Felicity can practically see the wheels turning before he speaks again. “When you like someone as more than a friend? When you love someone? ...You think about them a lot. And you care about them. A lot. And if they’re a person worth liking? Then liking them makes you a better person.” 

This last seems to throw William, who up to that point is nodding along as Oliver explains. He frowns at the end though, cocking his head to the side. 

“Makes you better, how?” 

Oliver sighs and Felicity can tell, this is a hard one for him. But still, she remains silent, interested to see where this goes for more reasons than one. 

“Okay. Take your Aunt Thea. When she was born, I became a big brother. I loved her, so I wanted to protect her. Even if it meant standing up to a bully on the playground and getting hurt, I wanted to keep her safe because I loved her. And because I loved her, I paid better attention to things to keep her safe. I was more responsible. All because I loved her. So when you love someone romantically? It’s kinda like that. You become better because you love them and you want to be better for them. Does that make sense?” 

William wrinkles his nose and shakes his head. 

“No. Aunt Thea is your sister. You have to love her. What about other people that you don’t have to love? How do you know when you love them?” 

Oliver hangs his head, running his fingers through his hair and Felicity almost feels bad for him. Almost. And then William rounds on her and it’s all she can do to stay upright. 

“Felicity, you love my Dad. Right?” 

Oh shit. In zero point two seconds, Felicity feels her heart rate accelerate and her palms begin to get sweaty. This is so not a subject she feels comfortable talking about with Oliver sitting right beside her and his son on her other side. Is she being punked? This doesn’t feel fair. Come on universe. Throw her a freaking bone. 

‘Of course I do!” Felicity responds back, her voice sounding too alarmed and pinched even to her own ears. 

“But you guys aren’t related.” 

“No we are not.” 

“So you guys love each other romantically right? But how come you never kiss? Or do you kiss, but just when I’m not around? Because I heard Grandpa and Grandma talking before Christmas and they think you both kiss and do other ‘funny business’.” 

Felicity is choking on air, spluttering, when Oliver’s hand thumps across her back, forcing her to breathe. Jesus fucking christ. The Claytons think she and Oliver are a couple? Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god. 

“You can love someone and not kiss them. Not all love is romantic love,” Felicity rushes, not daring to look at Oliver. He must be mortified at the mere insinuation that they’re a couple. He dates the likes of Sara and Helena, not dumpy little Felicity. Oh frak. “You can love your friends, for instance. And that doesn’t have to mean you want to be with them.  Your dad and I we umm… we don’t kiss. Or do any umm ‘funny business’. But I still love him. A lot.” She’s not entirely sure where she’s going with this but the very idea that this conversation might freak Oliver out about their friendship has her worried. And just when things were reaching a stable point between them.

She doesn’t want to lose her best friend. Sure, she does love him - and like like him - but she’s not about to throw their friendship away to admit that here and now. Oliver doesn’t feel that way for her. She knows this. She just hopes this conversation doesn’t derail what has become arguably the most important relationship in her life. 

“So then if you can love people you don’t wanna kiss how are you supposed to know when you do love someone that way?!” William laments and Felicity bites her lower lip, her heart pounding. This has gone from amusing to watch Oliver try to handle to stressful, to now heartbreaking. She doesn’t know what’s prompted this on William’s end but she’s terrified it’s her fault. 

Has she blurred the lines? Gotten too close and made things confusing for him? Was he hoping that she and Oliver were ‘together’ in that way? The very notion that she might have hurt William by not being clear in defining her friendship with Oliver makes a knot build in her throat. And how could he not get confused - she and Oliver have absolutely blurred the lines between friendship and relationship, just by nature of being so comfortable with one another. For crying out loud, she was lying here on this couch with her feet in his lap, getting a foot massage from Oliver when all of this started. No wonder William’s confused. 

Her mother’s warning rings suddenly in her ears. You two need to figure yourselves out and soon or that beautiful, sweet little boy is going to be the one who winds up hurt.

What has she done?! She’s done precisely the thing she’s hoped to avoid. She’s confused and hurt William. Frak. 

“William, I know this all sounds confusing and hard and honestly bud, it is. Feelings… Feelings are a really tough thing to figure out. Even us grown ups don’t have it all figured out. Isn’t that right, Felicity?” Oliver offers and Felicity jolts back to the present with a nod, her eyes wide and solemn. 

“That’s true. Hearts… Hearts are hard to figure out what they’re feeling. This,” here she leans forward and pokes William’s head gently, “sometimes tells this-” here she pokes his chest, just over his heart, “-what to feel. And sometimes the heart tells the head what to do. It’s one of the hardest things there is, to know how you feel about someone and to know how real those feelings are. And there’s no clear answers. It’s not like math - there’s no problem you can solve to get the right answer. All you can do is try to understand what your heart is telling you and hope that you’re right. It’s what they call a leap of faith. But it’s worth it, when you find that special someone.”

She herself has grappled with her feelings for Oliver for a long, long time. But she’s known for a while that she’s in love with him. Her heart is definite on that point. But her head… Her head reminds her that he very clearly doesn’t feel the same way. And rather than let her heart be broken, her head has overruled her and kept her feelings carefully in check. Or at least, she’d thought she had. Clearly she hasn’t.

Better to have Oliver in her life some than not at all. And if she scares him off with declarations of love, she’ll lose him. Of that, she feels quite certain. 

“William… When the right person comes along you just… you know. Because you’ll want to kiss them. But you’ll also want to just maybe hug them. Or hold their hand. You’ll want to just be with them, even if you aren’t doing anything - because doing nothing with them is better than doing something with anyone else. When you love someone… they make you happy. You might argue and get mad but at the end of the day, you still love each other. And that love stays with you through all the hard stuff in life. When you love someone, you want to be there during their hard times, to make them better. Love is not running away. Love is… it’s showing up for people when they need you. When you find someone that makes you feel that way? Someone who you’ll do anything for, who will do anything for you? You’ll know it’s love.”  

It’s a long speech for Oliver. And surprisingly good. Not that she expected less from him but for not having had any forewarning? His answer to his son is remarkably insightful and sweet. William mulls their answers over quietly and with a small nod before he pushes himself off of the sectional and excuses himself to go to his room. His departure acts like an open window, allowing awkwardness to seep into the room between herself and Oliver. 

Oliver had said that when the right person came along, William would know. And while Felicity has heard similar answers before, this answer, particularly coming from Oliver, feels like a nail in a coffin that she’s been trying to keep open all this time. If Oliver loved her, he would know by now. They’ve known each other for how many years upon years? This just proves it. 

She loves him. But he doesn’t love her - at least, not the way that she loves  him. And somehow, hearing it from his mouth like this? It feels more final and permanent than she can explain. Suddenly, Felicity feels too hot; it’s as if she’s suffocating and she feels a very urgent need to get out of here - now. She rises to her feet suddenly, prompting Oliver to scramble to his a moment after her. 

“I-I need to go,” she stammers out, avoiding his eyes as she stares at the floor, totally incapable of meeting his gaze right now. His eyes make her go weak in the knees and she’s just not up for that right now. There’s only so much a heart can take and right now, hers is going through it. As she gathers her things, Oliver hovers just behind her, seemingly uncertain what to say.

No small wonder why. God. She’s been an idiot and put them both in this awkward situation. Not to mention, her answer probably made him uncomfortable. He sees her as a friend and here she is spouting off things about hearts and love and other such nonsense. Some ‘friend’ she is.

“F-Felicity,” he stammers and she closes her eyes, sucking in a deep breath as she makes for the front door. 

“I’ll see you in two weeks for William’s tutoring session. I umm… I have that conference to go to so I’ll miss this coming week. Alright?” 

“A-Alright.” His voice is weak and she imagines he must be so thoroughly embarrassed. What a mess. 

“Thanks for dinner, Oliver.” 

“You’re welcome.” His voice has taken on a hollow sound now and she wishes she could curl up and disappear. Oh this is bad. She flees out the front door and into the brisk night air, hating herself with every step. 

-----

William’s question has taken Oliver off guard. For a number of reasons and in a number of ways. His son is young; Oliver wasn’t expecting to have to have talks about ‘the birds and the bees’ so soon. But then again, William is advanced in school, it stands to reason he would ask questions earlier than some kids might about topics such as romance. 

But when William starts asking about whether or not Oliver and Felicity kiss and whether or not they love each other, Oliver gets thrown for the most profound of loops. Suddenly the sex talk seems like a welcome reprieve from THIS. 

Felicity is obviously uneasy and while she answers quickly that she loves Oliver, she’s so quick to point out that love can exist between two people who are just friends that he can’t help how his heart splinters at her words. Bit by bit, he’s been noticing a change in how he looks at her. Not that he hasn’t always loved her - he has. Since the moment he met her, honestly. But that love has always been dwarfed by his own inadequacies. He knows he’s a royal fuck up and he’s entirely unwilling to allow his destructive tendencies to lay waste to her. 

He’s never been good enough for her. Honestly, it’s a miracle she even consents to being his friend. She deserves so much better than the likes of him. A fact which he has proven time and again. But these last few months? They’ve felt different. He’s been different. And the change is not a difficult one to place. 

Becoming a father to William has changed the game for Oliver. He’s become a more responsible man and, he likes to think, a better one. And with all this self reflection and growth that he’s been doing, he’s begun to think that, possibly, he’s a man who might possibly be one step above the garbage that he was before. Does he deserve her now? God no. But he’s perhaps taken a step in that direction recently. And foolishly, he’s allowed himself to hope, even after the New Year’s disaster, that he can make a real go of things with her. That maybe, possibly, she might feel something for him too? Maybe, potentially, she would entertain the idea of him taking her out on a date? 

He hasn’t worked up the nerve for it. There’s so much to consider - namely, William and his feelings - and that’s even assuming she’d be interested, which he’s not convinced she would be. But he’s been thinking on this for a while now. How can he not, when he watches Felicity and William work in quiet cooperation on his math for hours on end? How can he not look at her longingly when she shows up to every baseball game to support William - and him - all smiles and cheers? How can he help himself when she lingers after tutoring sessions and dinner, sprawled out on the couch beside him, letting him knead the arches of her feet? 

In all honesty, that’s why he initiated her cooking lessons. Sure, Felicity really, honest to god did need to be taught to cook for herself. But it has also been a way for Oliver to build up his fractured self confidence post New Year’s, until he can work up the confidence to ask her out the way he’s been dying to for so long now. He loves things as they are, sure. He’s always loved being her friend.

But now he wants more. He wants to be with her. Romantically. 

They do so many of the things that regular couples do together already. His imagination is only too readily able to summon the images of what they would look like as a little family unit. Sleeping in on the weekends, watching cartoons together before making pancake and waffle breakfasts. Weekly family game nights. Family vacations. Oliver and William and Felicity. What a family that would be. 

He’s obviously delusional. 

Which makes it all the harder when he honestly answers William and his question of how to know you are in love. In Oliver’s mind, he couldn’t possibly be more transparent. When he parrots Felicity’s own line about ‘showing up’ when discussing what it means to be in love, he feels as though he’s turned on a neon flashing sign that must surely read ‘I love you Felicity’. But as William walks away, it’s as if his words have detonated everything that was good and peaceful just moments ago, sending Felicity flying onto her feet with flimsy excuses about needing to leave.

Of course she needs to leave. The man she looks at as nothing more than a friend has all but confessed his love for her out of nowhere. She needs to make a hasty getaway and Oliver understands, even as it cuts him to the quick. 

She doesn’t feel the same way. And likely, she’s mortified by the revelation that he feels this way for her. How embarrassing to learn that the man you consider a friend is secretly in love with you. She must be appalled. Oliver passes a hand through his hair, almost wishing he could take back his words. But every one of them was true. 

“F-Felicity.” It’s hard work to get his throat working. She can’t even meet his eyes, which he takes to be a bad sign. But he doesn’t want her to go. Not like this. Not at all, really. 

God he loves her. And he’s wasted so much time loving her and not saying anything. He should have told her from the beginning. But if he had, would she still be here? He doubts it. She probably would have turned tail and fled in the name of self preservation. Oliver breaks whatever he touches, after all. And try though he might, she has no proof that he’s any different now than he has been all his life. Why would she want to be another name on his list of bungled relationships? 

She wouldn’t. Felicity is better than that. He knows it and so does she. So he watches her fly out of his house like a bat out of hell, his heart aching, his fingers twitching with the desire to reach out to her and still her. But he doesn’t. 

She doesn’t love him. And that’s okay. He’d rather have her as a friend - to both himself and William - than nothing at all with her. He just prays he hasn’t made things so uncomfortable between them that she won’t entertain the idea of a friendship between them. 

-----

In hindsight, if everything she’s grown to know and love in her routine with Oliver and William had to detonate, Felicity supposes the timing of it was about as good as she could ask for. As she seats herself at the hotel bar a plane ride away from Starling, she’s for once glad to be alone and in the company of strangers so she can drown her sorrows without anyone trying to interfere.

Besides. Admitting that her mother was right? That definitely warrants a drink. Felicity orders a glass of Chardonnay and sits idly sipping it, wondering if there’s any way to clean up the mess she’s made. How does she begin to apologize to Oliver for confusing William and, in doing so, for having probably hurt him? Oliver can forgive a lot but she doubts he’ll forgive anyone who’s hurt his boy. And she doesn’t blame him. Felicity can’t forgive herself for blurring the lines. She should have worked up the courage to say how she felt or she should have created some boundaries. Allowing herself to get closer and closer? It’s only messed everything up. 

And these are definitely not the thoughts she should be focusing on while out of town for a tech conference that has the ability to help her put her startup on the map. And yet, here she is. Full of regret and thoughts of Oliver and William. 

She’s still nursing her wine when a low throat clearing behind her and to her left draws her attention. “Would it be terribly unwelcome if I asked if I could join you for a drink?” 

She turns to face the voice in question and finds none other than the tech titan Ray Palmer himself looking disgustingly well put together and just perfect as he hovers at her side with uncertainty. The all too real ache in her breast over the Oliver and William debacle makes her heart clench but Felicity takes a breath and ignores it. 

“Of course; it’s nice to see you, Ray,” Felicity offers politely, trying to be kind even as she processes her heartache. Ray smiles lopsidedly as he sits down next to her, still looking a little out of sorts. 

“Is it? I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t get the impression you knew or cared who I was at the last conference,” Ray supplies and Felicity snorts and shakes her head. 

“Ray, I’m in the same field as you and you’re the CEO of one of the largest technology companies in the world. I think it’s safe to say I know who you are,” Felicity returns with raised brows. Ray seems surprised at this news but smiles warmly. 

“Oh. Well, yes, logically that makes sense and now that you put it that way I feel denser than Osmium.” 

“Mmm. That dense, huh?” Felicity interrupts teasingly, tsking with a playful shake of her head. Ray grins and seems to relax further. 

“Okay. Well. Now that we’ve got that settled, can I have a do over?”

Felicity studies him with mock thoughtfulness before nodding slowly. “I’ll allow it,” she remarks with a smile. Ray beams and offers her his hand which she stares at for a few long seconds before accepting. 

“Hi. I’m Ray Palmer. Palmer Tech.” 

“Felicity Smoak. Smoak Technologies.” 

“Can I buy you a drink, Felicity Smoak of Smoak Technologies? Full disclosure? I've...been wanting to ask you to drinks ever since that Symposium in Metropolis but I never found the right moment to ask. I'm hoping tonight might be that moment?” Ray offers hopefully and Felicity stares at her nearly empty glass of wine. The by now familiar heartache burns in her chest but she tamps it down. No more. She needs to get over Oliver. If she turns down every seemingly nice guy she meets, that won't ever happen. Taking a deep breath, Felicity meets Ray's gaze and nods. 

“That...would be nice. Thanks, Ray.”

Chapter Text

The next few weeks are an exercise in excruciating social discomfort for Oliver. He and Felicity barely talk, other than to confirm William’s tutoring sessions. Their usual banter is strained or altogether absent and she seems unsettled whenever he's around her. She begs off on dinner, insisting that she’s got other plans which, yeah, is possible and it happens, Oliver knows she has her own life but still. He misses her. Oliver tries to offer her an out by insisting that she doesn’t have to tutor William if she’s too busy but his offer is met with firm resistance. She is adamant about helping William with his homework. 

In Oliver’s mind? It feels clear that her rejection is not of William - just him.

He wants to discuss what happened. Explain himself. Do something to salvage the friendship that he has come to view as so critical to not just his happiness, but his son’s. But working up the nerve to baldly confront the romantic feelings he has for the woman who has been his best friend for half his life? Well… that takes a while. 

He drafts more text messages than he can count trying to explain himself. 

Felicity... I want to talk about what happened
the other week when William was asking about
how to know if you ‘like’ or ‘love’ someone. I
understand why things might have been
uncomfortable and I just want the chance to
explain myself. Please. 

He trashes this draft. And the next. There’s a million iterations but every draft is quickly canned because how is he supposed to broach this via text? This feels too important for such an impersonal form of communication. 

Felicity - I’d really like to talk about what
happened the other week. Can we set aside
some time for lunch soon?

Delete. Why is this so damn hard? He hates it. He hates being without her. He hates how much he has come to depend on her and he hates that he doesn’t hate it at all because he adores spending time with her. He hates how much he misses her because he knows it isn’t fair to Felicity for him to feel this way when they’re just friends but here he is. 

Felicity - Feels like we haven’t gotten to really
spend any time together properly in a while.
Let’s do dinner this week and catch up.
Please? Just you and I - I’ll ask Thea to
watch William.

It’s this last that he finally hits ‘SEND’ on and he can’t even put into words how profound his relief is when instantly his screen morphs to show the little [...] that indicates she’s typing a response. She’s typing. So they’re at least on speaking terms. That’s something, right? 

That would be great. You’re right, it’s been
too long. Totally my fault. I’m sorry. Life
has been hectic. Let’s do Friday night at that
place downtown that I like but always
forget the name of? My treat. I’ve got stuff
I want to talk to you about too! 

His heart is hammering in his chest as he reads through her reply, unable to help the sense of hope that springs forth in him. She’s open to dinner! And the little shop she wants to eat at? It’s a quaint little bistro that they’ve frequented in the past. It’s also a place he’s dreamt of taking her on a proper date. This… This feels like potential. Like progress. Like hope

Deal. But I will be fighting you for the check.
And it’s Look at the Thyme Cafe, Felicity. You
thought it was hilarious when the waiter
pretended to check his watch when he welcomed
us to the place the first time we went. (: You also
loved their chicken shawarma. 

He doesn’t wait long for a reply. And her response solidifies his sense of hope that he can still fix things between them. 

What would I do without you and your
superb memory of what makes me
tick, Queen? 

He pens a response quickly and fires it off, the anxious knot in his stomach loosening by the moment. 

Let’s not find out, shall we? See you
Friday, Smoak. Six sound good?

Her response is lightning fast and encouraging. 

Six sounds perfect. Can’t wait!  I’ve
got a surprise up my sleeves! 

The rest of Oliver’s week drags on with painful slowness; after weeks without getting to actually spend any quality time with Felicity, he’s keen on getting to dinner Friday night. And he’s resolved himself to laying his cards out on the table and laying it all out on the line. Sure, being without her these few weeks has been excruciating. But Felicity has still shown up for William. So he doesn’t have to worry about his son getting caught in the crosshairs if Felicity doesn’t reciprocate. But god, he hopes she will. He just… he has to be honest with her. 

He’s been in love with her so long. But now it’s different. Everything has changed because of William. Including Oliver’s willingness and ability to sit on his emotions. He’s trying to be a more honest guy for his son. A better guy. And that extends to his behavior where romantic entanglements are concerned. Even if the only entanglement is of his own emotional making.

Oliver tries to speed Friday up but he still grits his teeth through a seemingly endless litany of meetings and calls and document signings before he’s free of the office and heading across town to the cafe. He walks rather than drive; he could use the extra time to clear his head and rehearse (for the five hundredth time) what he’s going to say.

The cafe is pleasantly busy but not so much so that he has to wait; he’s shown to a table right away - a text from Felicity confirms that she’s en route. He orders wine for the table, feeling bold and needing some liquid courage. Besides, he knows wine is her preferred drink, especially on a Friday night. He downs his glass like he’s tossing back a shot and pours himself another as he waits for her arrival. As an added treat, he requests an appetizer of white bean artichoke dip and bread. He knows, having been out to dinner often enough with her, that Felicity loves to have something to munch on while she waits for her meal. 

He’s smoothing his palms over his pants nervously when he sees her walk up. She’s dressed in a dark green, long sleeved dress that’s belted at the waist, with black leggings and black, knee high boots. As she sweeps inside, she removes a white scarf and a matching knit cap from her head, stowing them into her bag as she approaches the table, flashing him a smile and a wave. Instinctively, he rises to his feet as she draws near and he quickly embraces her in a hug which she returns. Another good sign, he tells himself. 

“You got here early!” Felicity gushes as she seats herself across from him, her eyes running over the contents of the table appraisingly. “Ooh and you ordered apps and wine? God, you’re good to me.” 

Oliver can only grin as he watches her, so thoroughly smitten and so perfectly content to just listen to her talk. He’s missed her. He’s missed her a lot. 

“I know my audience,” Oliver admits and Felicity smiles his favorite smile, the one that makes her eyes dance. At the same time, she helps herself to some of the bread and dip, taking one bite before she closes her eyes and hums delightedly. 

“...Oh you do. You really do. This is incredible,” she murmurs and Oliver tries not to watch how her tongue swipes across her lips to lick every drop of the dip off of them. None of that now. He’s not here to get lost lusting after her. He’s here to tell her how he feels. He’s got to focus. As he watches, she takes a quick sip of the wine which she finds equally to her liking and then she fixes her attention solidly on him. “Alright. Confession time?” 

Oh wow. Is this going to be about the talk a couple weeks ago? If so, she’s apparently not about to waste time before she dives in. Alright. Game on. 

“Absolutely,” he returns, sitting up straighter in his chair as he plays through the words he’s practiced just one more time, the speech right on the tip of his tongue. 

“Full disclosure, I’ve… sort of been avoiding you.” 

He’s suspected as much but it still hurts a little to hear it confirmed. He nods, his expression serious but open. Being honest means there will be uncomfortable moments and that’s okay. He’s just got to tell her his own truth too. 

“I did get that impression,” he admits and she ducks her head sheepishly. 

“It was stupid, really. And I’m sorry. I just… I didn’t know how to talk to you about this. We’ve been friends for so long, you know? And relationship stuff… that’s a topic we’ve largely avoided.” 

Oliver’s heart is hammering in his chest as Felicity brings up the very subject he’s asked her here today to discuss. Is it even remotely possible that she feels the same way? He hadn’t dared to let himself hope so before but now? Now there’s a glimmer of radiant hope burning in his chest with every word that falls from her lips. 

“I admit that I got into my head after the whole conversation with William… I was totally overreacting. That’s on me. So I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings with my answers that night, or my behavior then - or since,” Felicity explains, reaching a hand across the table to cover his wrist with her palm. “I’m really, sorry, Oliver. I never meant to hurt you or upset you or make things awkward. What I said… I should have let you handle the question. It wasn’t my place.” 

Hurt him? Is that why she’s been so distant? She thinks she’s hurt his feelings? Oh god. What a stupid misunderstanding this has all been. Oliver feels his chest expanding as he sucks in the first easy breath of air he’s had in weeks. They’re going to clear the air right here and now and things are going to be better than they’ve been in ages. 

“-Not to interrupt but Felicity? For the record? You didn’t hurt my feelings. Honestly, I don’t think you’re capable of hurting me. That’s not the kind of person you are. If anything, I was worried that I had freaked you out with my answer,” Oliver beams and she ducks her head, smiling before she looks back up at him.

“Really? Oh god, Oliver no, your answer didn’t freak me out, I was really proud of you for answering William the way you did. I was just so worried I’d upset you with my answer. And,” she responds and he shakes his head, smiling.

“Really. I promise, we’re good. No hurt feelings here. No upset. I’m glad you answered William, Felicity.” 

“You are?!”

“Yes! He should have multiple viewpoints, not just mine. And if he's going to learn about stuff from someone, I can think of no one better than you.”

Felicity is positively radiant as she reaches for her wine glass and he mimics her, allowing her to clink her glass to his in a merry little toast. 

“Here’s to friends who don’t get easily offended by their boneheaded friend’s behavior,” Felicity chirps and Oliver chuckles. 

“How about ‘to good friends who always are there for each other, regardless of awkward conversations’?” Oliver supplies and Felicity quirks a brow at him and nods. 

“Now that I will drink to.” 

He’s so excited he can hardly stand to let her finish but he does - the floor is still hers, after all. 

“Okay well, now that that’s cleared up and since I’m already rambling, I’m going to keep going and tell you the other thing I’ve been sort of holding back from telling you,” Felicity carries on, her voice taking on a slightly nervous, fluttery air and Oliver feels the full weight of his attention coming to rest on her. He’s so focused he hardly remembers to breathe. What is she about to tell him? Is it the same thing he’s ready to tell her? 

“So… Oof wow, I’m more nervous than I thought I would be. Well...I umm… I’ve started seeing someone.” 

It turns out? Oliver was wrong. Felicity is capable of hurting him.

A grand piano falling on his face would feel less painful than the words that fall from Felicity’s lips. It takes all of Oliver's self control to school his expression when inside? He’s dying. She’s gutted him. Suddenly, the words he’s been rehearsing all night turn to ash on his tongue and all he can do is blink at her in surprise. 

She’s seeing someone? 

“Y-You are?” 

“Umm. Yeah. His name is Ray… We’ve known of each other a while but then we were both at this tech conference - you remember, the one I went out of town for? Anyway, he asked me if he could buy me a drink… And I said yes and well, he was very persistent so drinks the first night led to drinks the second night and the third, which led to dinner and umm, well you get the idea. So we’ve been sort of...seeing each other since then,” Felicity explains hesitantly, glancing at Oliver, her eyes trained on his face as she plainly tries to read his reaction to this news. 

He needs to get his emotions in hand. He can’t let on how he’s feeling or he’ll scare her off again. She certainly can’t know the truth of his feelings now. But this… this hurts. The tech conference? That was mere days after the William conversation. Clearly, he so unnerved her that he sent her running into the arms of the first guy she encountered. Damn it all. Clearing his throat, Oliver forces a smile, though his heart isn’t in it. 

“That’s great, Felicity. I hope he knows that he’s a uh… a lucky guy.” Oliver takes a beat, studying her face and trying to hide the sense of longing burning in his gut. “If you’re happy, then I’m happy.” 

There’s a flutter of something inscrutable on her face and then she plasters on a smile. “Thank you, Oliver. And I am. Happy, that is. I mean, as long as you’re in my life? I’m happy. So uh, no more letting things linger for weeks making us all awkward with each other - deal?” 

He feels numb as he nods and murmurs a soft 'Deal'  back to her.

There’s a long pause as they hold each other's gazes and then Felicity clears her throat and shakes her head. “I think you’re going to like him. I umm… I asked him to keep his schedule clear tonight so that - if it was okay with you - he could join us here and you could meet him.” 

Fucking hell. Is there no limit to the pain to be inflicted on him tonight? He’s going to have to sit here and stare into the face of the man that’s come and swept her off her feet and out from under him? Oliver wants to stab out his eyes with the cutlery but instead he nods, maintaining his false smile. 

“Excellent, I can’t wait to meet him.” 

“Great! I'll just text him - he's in the area, so he should be able to get here soon!” Felicity gushes, checking her phone suddenly with a smile. “Oh! That’s him. He says he’s two minutes away.” Felicity pauses and looks up from the phone to Oliver, her expression serious. “I-Is that okay? Me inviting him, that is? I can tell him plans changed, he won’t be upset and neither will I. I just thought it might be a good opportunity, is all. You know, get the grilling out of the way sooner rather than later. I’m pretty sure that as my best friend, you have the right to grill anybody I’m dating...” she trails off, leaving the ball firmly in his court. And Oliver knows that how he handles this? It matters. 

He could say no. But that would warrant explanation. And the only acceptable explanation would be the truth. Which he positively cannot give her now, in light of this development. She deserves to be happy - he's not going to trample on her new relationship when it's bringing her joy. So he’s got to be okay with this - no matter how much it’s tearing him up inside. 

“Of course that’s alright, Felicity.”

She nods and flags down the waitress to ask for a third chair while Oliver tries to get a grip. If she’s happy… that’s what’s important. Even if his heart is quite honestly breaking in this moment. If she’s happy, he’ll find a way to be okay. He’d rather have her as a friend than not have her in his life at all. He just never expected having her in his life as a friend to be this damn hard to bear. And it only gets harder a couple minutes later when ‘Ray’ himself shows up and Oliver feels his blood pressure skyrocket. 

Oliver admits to himself that he’s been expecting some little slightly built, gangly geeky guy with glasses and a pocket protector to show up. Ray definitely does not conform with Oliver’s expectations; he’s tall and built like a brick house - the dude definitely must be hitting the gym regularly. He’s dark haired and handsome and damn it - he’s totally the ‘tall, dark, and handsome type’, isn’t he? Shit.

Ray sweeps in, all white toothed smiles before he swoops in to press a kiss of greeting on Felicity’s lips as Oliver watches, feeling as though someone has strung him up by his entrails. This is the most painful thing he’s ever experienced. He’s in love with her. And she’s with someone else. Kissing someone else. Two feet across from him. Fuck. 

“Ray! You made it!” Felicity chirps as Ray grins and the two of them turn to look at Oliver. “Ray, this is Oliver - my best friend. Oliver, meet Ray - my boyfriend!” 

The word boyfriend is like a sucker punch to the gut but Oliver absorbs it silently, extending his hand towards Ray with a stiff smile. And son of a bitch - Ray has a grip like an iron vice as he shakes Oliver’s hand readily, making Oliver  want to sock him in the face. Instead, Oliver shakes Ray’s hand with all the force he can muster, then he gestures to the table before them and the trio sit back down. With a pang, Oliver notices that Felicity is holding Ray’s hand as they share smiling looks with each other. And just like that, Oliver’s anger and his hurt cools somewhat.

She’s happy. He can’t be angry with her for finding someone that makes her feel that way - he clearly doesn’t and happiness is what she deserves. So even if it kills him? He needs to try and be happy about this. About her and Ray. Together. 

He’d rather give himself a lobotomy with the dinner fork but he refrains. 

“So Ray, tell me about yourself,” Oliver initiates, doing his best to keep the bite out of his tone as he studies the other man intently. 

“Well, I’m a tech whiz, if I do say so myself; Felicity and I have both been running in the same circles for the last year or so. I own my own company much like Felicity herself,” he explains and Oliver cocks his head, a faint alarm bell going off. 

“So you’re competitors?” 

“Well, not strictly speaking. I mean, respectfully? Smoak Technologies is just starting out and Palmer Tech is one of the biggest tech companies in the city. Maybe someday though?” Ray responds and Oliver nods slowly, trying not to betray how enraged this slight against Felicity and her company has made him. The audacity.

“And how did you two meet?” 

“Well, I’ve known of Felicity for about a year. A mutual friend pointed her out at last year’s tech expo and I wanted to ask her out right then and there but I never got a chance to make my move,” Ray explains and Oliver bristles inwardly. 

“Is that so?” 

“Oh yeah. But! I made up for lost time at this expo. Gosh, I must have asked you out what, half a dozen times?” Ray queries and Felicity raises a brow at him. 

“I think you asked me out half a dozen times the first night we spoke at the hotel bar alone,” Felicity corrects and Oliver has to clench his fist in his lap because yeah no. He doesn’t love the sound of that. Has this dude never learned that no means no? 

“I have been told that I am very persistent,” Ray chuckles and Felicity snorts. 

“And water is wet. No need to state the obvious,” she teases, catching Oliver’s eye as she says it. He tries to crack a smile but his lips feel weirdly made of stone. 

“Well, the point is, I wore her down. She agreed to drinks with me the first night and after that I kept hounding her to let me take her out to dinner and she caved on night three. Since then, it’s been smooth sailing!” He beams again with wide, innocent eyes and Oliver realizes that Ray really doesn’t get it. The dude is clueless. Personally? Oliver doesn’t see the appeal but Felicity must see something she likes in him. 

“And here you are,” Oliver tacks onto the unimpressive story and Ray nods, turning his gaze to Felicity. 

“And here I am,” Ray repeats in confirmation as he and Felicity share a smile. Before anyone can do or say anything else, the waiter comes by to check on them and they all quickly glance at the menu and place their orders. As the waiter is collecting the menus again, Ray gets the young man’s attention. 

“Can we get another bottle of wine for the table? And also, please keep it all on one check - this is my treat,” Ray insists, even as Felicity and Oliver alike both protest. 

“No, Ray that’s not necessary-” Oliver growls, his male ego and sense of pride absolutely objecting to having his meal paid for by Felicity’s new boyfriend. 

“Oh Ray, I can get it, I told Oliver this would be my treat!” Felicity explains and Ray waves them both off with a shake of his head. 

“No, I insist. I’ve been excited about this! Meeting Felicity’s best friend? Are you kidding me? Oliver, tell me: what was she like in high school? And if you have any pictures, I’m going to insist on seeing those,” Ray teases as he leans forward as though to conspire with Oliver.

As if. 

Feeling more than a little uncomfortable with virtually everything about this situation, Oliver shifts in his chair, allowing his eyes to settle on Felicity as he takes a breath. “Felicity in high school was pretty much exactly like Felicity now. Blindingly smart. Incredibly kind. With a quick wit that could put any ill mannered jock in his place real quick,” Oliver chuckles at the memories. “She was the best person I knew then. And the same is true today.” 

Her cheeks have turned rosy beneath his praise and she is holding his gaze with something akin to shock. Before anything more can be said or done though, Ray turns towards her and puts a hand on her shoulder, jolting her attention away.

“That sounds about right. She’s really something.” 

Oliver watches the pair on the other side of the table from him, unable to help the way his stomach clenches. Yeah. She really is. 

-----

The weeks and months that follow are something of a private hell for Oliver. 

Felicity is still over every week to help William with school things. But her culinary lessons have fallen largely by the wayside and now on weeks when William doesn’t need help? Felicity doesn’t come over for very long. Instead, she’s spending more time with Ray. Going to the movies. Going to dinner, out for drinks, attending art shows, out dancing, perusing museums, attending high end fundraisers and the like. 

She’s happy, Oliver tells himself. She deserves this. And she does. He just wishes so desperately that she could be happy with him. But being green with envy, he reminds himself, is not a good look on anyone. Although to be perfectly frank, he thinks he looks rather dashing in green. But that’s neither here nor there.

Besides her regular study sessions with William, Felicity also is diligent about attending every single one of William’s baseball games. Oliver loves her for her dedication to his son but at the same time, he sees this as a very clear sign. She doesn’t have feelings for Oliver. But she won’t let that interfere with her love for his son. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but swallow it he does. 

It would just be a hell of a lot easier if Ray didn’t come to every game with Felicity. 

Where Oliver once got to enjoy sitting side by side with Felicity, sharing snacks, chatting, laughing, and answering her questions, he now gets a front row seat to watching her do all those same things, just with Ray instead of him. And yeah, Ray seems to know the basic rules of the sport, which irks Oliver to learn. But he doesn’t have the same enthusiasm for it that Oliver does. Or, so Oliver believes. 

He doesn’t say a word of complaint about it though; because seeing Felicity, even if Ray is with her, is still better than not seeing her at all. As much of a knife to the heart as it is to watch her hold hands with and kiss Ray, it would be a thousand times harder not to see her at all. Somewhere along the way, Felicity has become such a central figure in Oliver’s life, he can’t imagine not having her around. 

So he grins and bears it. 

With a pang, he recalls one of the bible passages he’s heard oft quoted at weddings: love bears all things. Well. Tragically, he’s living proof of that. He’ll bear most anything, no matter how painful, in the name of loving her. 

God he’s a mess. 

The baseball season is dialing up (and so, it seems, is Felicity’s relationship with Ray) when the duo show up to another of William’s baseball games. The season is reaching its end - the tournament that will decide the state championship is quickly approaching and while William and the other boys on the team have all improved over the course of the season, it’s clear to the parents that they won’t make it far in the race for the championship. So Oliver is trying to soak up these moments and enjoy them.

He’s feeling particularly nostalgic and soft as he watches his son warm up with his teammates before the game when Ray catches him completely off guard with a question totally out of left field. 

“Oliver - you’re single, right?” 

Oliver’s eyes shift from William to Ray in the blink of an eye and he resists the urge to snap back at the man dating the woman he loves. Instead, he reins in his emotions and fixes Ray with a cool stare. 

“Keen observation skills, Ray,” Oliver returns, at the last moment twitching his lips in a fleeting smile. Ray doesn’t notice his irritation, or if he does he skates right past it; Felicity, however, looks panicked and Oliver can see her hand tighten on Ray’s elbow as she tries to catch his eye, her expression one of discontent. But Ray won’t be put off. 

“No, no, no, it’s fine! Felicity didn’t want me to bring this up,” he explains and Oliver feels the by now familiar swoop of pain and heartache. Of course she didn’t want Ray to bring this up. It’s probably wildly uncomfortable for her to discuss Oliver’s love life, all things considered. 

“Was there a point here, Ray?” Oliver questions, unable to help the slightly sour tone of his voice. Turning from Felicity back to Oliver, Ray brightens. 

“Yes! I just wanted to ask if there was a reason why you were single?” Ray queries and Oliver bites the inside of his cheek so hard he tastes blood.

“Ray!” Felicity is practically growling, but Ray, it seems, won’t be stopped. 

“I know, Felicity, I know. But listen Oliver, if there’s not a reason, and you’re looking? I was telling Felicity yesterday that I think I know someone you might like and if you wanted, I could set you two up!” Ray explains and Oliver has to close his eyes.

Is there a REASON why he’s single? The urge to say ‘because you’re dating the woman that I love’ is strong. But instead Oliver takes a slow, quiet inhale and considers how to respond to this ungodly uncomfortable question. 

“Ray, you see that handsome little guy in the number 33 jersey there?” Oliver queries as he points to the field, where William and his teammates are continuing their warm ups. Ray quirks his brows, clearly puzzled, but follows Oliver’s point. 

“You mean William?” 

“Yep. That’s why, Ray. Because it’s not just me dating now; whoever I bring home? They’re coming into William’s life too. And I can’t let him get hurt. He’s already lost too much; I don’t want to bring someone into his life and let him get attached, just for him to lose that person if we were to break up,” Oliver explains, neatly sidestepping the landmine that is his feelings for Felicity.

Why is he single? Everything he’s told Ray is true. But he’s also single because the woman he loves with all his heart doesn’t want him. And he still hasn’t figured out how to get over the love he has for her. And what’s more? He’s not sure that he wants to. 

Some idiot he is. 

Thankfully, the game begins before Ray can further question Oliver about setting him up and Oliver is able to immerse himself in watching William. He focuses with all his might, doing his level best to block out the world. But he can’t; he still sees Felicity and Ray throw pieces of popcorn at each other in play. He sees Ray take Felicity by surprise and kiss her on the lips after the third inning. He sees them sharing a soda Ray bought from the concession stand during the seventh inning stretch and he sees the way Ray absentmindedly puts his hand on Felicity’s knee and rubs his thumbs across it during the ninth. 

He’s on the verge of insanity by the time the game is called (William’s team has lost but William has played well, much to Oliver’s delight). As William comes trudging up the bleachers to join them, Oliver is finally able to completely focus on his son and not on Felicity and Ray.

“Hey bud. Tough game but you played really well. That was a great throw to first and you got the out!” Oliver compliments his son and William gives him a wan smile. 

“Yeah but I struck out when I was at bat,” he points out sorrowfully and Oliver claps his hand on the boy’s shoulder. 

“Hey. Focus on the positives. You had some great throws that prevented runs from getting on the board. You’re only human, William. You can’t be perfect at every aspect of the game every time you take the field. Just do the best you can - that’s all any of us can do. Now, go grab your bag and let’s go get some post-game ice cream, alright?” 

William nods and shuffles off but to Oliver’s chagrin, Ray’s exuberant voice cuts through the ensuing quiet. “Did you say ice cream? I’d love to go for a scoop! Mind if we join you?” 

Oliver turns to see Ray beaming at him and though he’d love to deny Ray outright, he won’t. Instead, he finds himself agreeing through clenched teeth. And that is how Oliver finds himself in the ice cream shop with William, Felicity, and Ray. As they wait their turn, Ray makes idle chatter; the dude can’t seem to handle silence, he always has to fill it. 

“So, what flavors are we looking at, guys? William, any favorites?” 

William glances to Ray and gives a noncommittal shrug, then turns back to stare at the ice cream flavors chilling behind the glass. Oliver has to suppress a grin; though Ray has made overtures at friendship with William, the boy isn’t interested. He’s never rude, goodness knows, but it’s obvious to Oliver that William doesn’t necessarily like Ray. And for that, Oliver is grateful; if his son also adored the man who swept Felicity off her feet, Oliver might have beat his head against a wall. 

Ray turns next to Felicity and asks what Oliver thinks has to be the dumbest damn question. “Felicity? What flavor are you going to get?” 

Automatically and in unison, William and Oliver both answer Ray on Felicity’s behalf. “Mint chip.” 

A little surprised by the response in stereo, Ray glances at the two guys, then back to Felicity, who grins sheepishly. “They’re right. Mint chip is my favorite.” 

“Not just your favorite, it’s the only thing you ever order!” William cuts in, rolling his eyes as he grins up at Felicity playfully. “Except for the one time they were out and you had to order coffee instead,” William reminds her and Oliver snorts. 

“That didn’t go over well,” he shakes his head, remembering all too well the extensive griping and groaning he’d had to listen to as Felicity bemoaned the lesser status of all flavors when compared against her beloved mint chip. The woman was a damn mint chip fiend. 

“Wow, you’re quite a fan of mint chip, I gather,” Ray remarks and Felicity just shrugs innocently. 

“When the best flavor on the planet is just right there, why would I bother with anything else?” With a roll of her shoulders, Felicity giggles, and moves forward to pin William in a bear hug as she ruffles his ball cap and the sweat matted hair beneath it. “The real question is what is William going to get because he’s a wild child when it comes to ice cream. Never picks the same flavor two trips in a row,” Felicity sniffs in mock disdain as she releases him. William puts his hands together and rubs them delightedly as he stares at the ice cream case before them. 

“Definitely two scoops,” he explains with scientific precision before he lifts one finger, “one scoop of pistachio,” he carries on, raising his second finger with a flourish “-and one scoop raspberry cheesecake.” 

Placing a hand over her heart, Felicity feigns outrage and turns to look at Oliver, flabbergasted. 

“You’ve raised an animal. Pistachio and Raspberry Cheesecake?! There’s not even a single chip of chocolate in that order!” Felicity gasps even as she takes a step closer to Oliver, placing a hand on his arm pleadingly. “Do me a favor and please give this boy a proper ice cream education, he clearly inherited your lack of taste. It’s too late for you, but there’s still time for William to change,” she teases, then pokes Oliver in the side precisely where she knows he’s ticklish, making him flinch. 

Ray, still clueless, glances around uncomprehendingly. “I’m sorry, Oliver doesn’t have good taste in ice cream? Why?” 

“Because his favorite flavor is Rocky Road,” Felicity stage whispers, horrified. “Only monsters like that much chocolate. There’s such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’. And that saying was invented because of Rocky freaking Road.” 

“Is that judgment I hear, Smoak?” Oliver taunts her, unable to help the playful lilt of his voice - she brings this side of him out and honestly, he’s missed their banter so much lately. Her eyes twinkle as she looks up at him and pats his cheek mockingly. 

“Yes, Queen. It is. I judge you for your poor taste in ice cream. Love yourself more than Rocky Road. You deserve better than that,” she murmurs, intentionally over dramatic before she dissolves into laughter and steps away. He instantly misses the closeness but says nothing. If stolen moments like these are all that he can have, he’s going to treasure them each time they appear. 

And if he then orders one scoop of Rocky Road and one scoop of Mint Chip just to throw her for a loop? So what? It’s not a terrible flavor and besides, it’s worth eating just to see Felicity’s reaction.

Chapter Text

With the spring semester drawing to a close, Oliver finds his time consumed with the usual end of the school year bustle. William is beyond excited and bouncing off the walls with excitement for summer. The promise of time away from school (and a trip to a summer camp that specializes in STEM themed activities) has the boy positively ecstatic. There are end of the year class parties and bake sales and PTO meetings to attend. Oliver is floored when William announces he wants to attend the end of the year school dance but he doesn’t question it, just helps William shop for an outfit and then drops him off and picks him up accordingly. 

By the time summer vacation officially hits, Oliver is feeling relieved that he’s survived the end of school rush but he’s not quite done. William is going to spend a couple of weeks with the Claytons, after which he’ll go on to summer camp. In theory, it’s seemed like a great plan - William gets to see his grandparents and go spend time at camp having fun and Oliver doesn’t have to worry about finding someone to watch William during the summer. But now that the time has actually come? Oliver’s less excited about it. 

He’s already spent so much time not in William’s life; parting with him, even just for the summer, feels like a painful goodbye he’s not ready for. But he powers through, if only because he knows how excited William is about his summer plans. The minute that William drives off with the Claytons though? Oliver feels acutely alone. 

No William. No Felicity. He’s suddenly bereft of the two people he loves most and it hurts. 

The summer passes with agonizing slowness. And if he starts a countdown until William comes back from camp? What of it? That’s not being ridiculous, is it? That’s just being a Dad. With a pang, Oliver wishes Felicity was around so he could talk to her about how he’s feeling with all of this. He wishes he could discuss with her how the absence of William has made him see plainly how full the boy has made his life.

But such a conversation would also tempt him to tell Felicity that he didn’t realize how full she made his life until she wasn’t in it either. And that’s exactly the sort of dangerous truth he needs to keep to himself if he is to stand any hope of keeping her in his life. So when he gets the heavy cardstock with gold inlay bearing an invitation to Felicity Smoak’s birthday party, Oliver isn’t certain how to RSVP.

This is his best friend. And yes, she is also the woman he loves, even if that love is unrequited. Of course he wants to celebrate her birth. He wants to shout from the mountaintops about how much she brings to his life, about how his world is a brighter place with her in it. But of course, that’s not his place. And he’s not sure how he’ll be able to conduct himself seeing her on the arm of her boyfriend. 

But he can’t very well RSVP No. 

He’s at a loss for what to do.

What a summer this is shaping up to be. 

-----

Ray is something of an over the top kind of guy. 

Felicity learns this about him early on in their relationship but just when she thinks she understands the great lengths that he’ll go to, he does something to one up himself. The night he gifts her a designer dress before a date, she balks, knowing full well what such a piece must have cost. But Ray insists and assures her the cost (for him) is nothing. 

Gifts, she decides, must be one of his love languages. 

He buys pizzas for William’s team to celebrate the end of their season. She rambles at him one day about some design issues she’s having with a piece she’s working on for her still blossoming company that isn’t even off the ground yet and he buys her loads of equipment, which she immediately returns, over his objections.

Felicity Smoak intends to make her own way, thank you very much. 

But that’s just Ray, she tells herself. And so when he asks her to let him throw her a birthday party, she knows how much it means to him. And while she herself has no inkling to celebrate with any sort of extravagance, she knows that denying Ray would wound him deeply. So she consents, so long as he doesn’t get out of control.

Those are her specific demands - that he keep things modest and small. 

So as the summer rolls along, she doesn’t think of it again; without William to tutor, her schedule is considerably more open and Felicity, with a pang, wonders what sort of excuses she could contrive to let herself go see Oliver. Would he even want to see her though? She’s not certain. And that is a wound of a different sort entirely. So Felicity doesn’t ask, too afraid to face a possible rejection. She contents herself with sending him the occasional meme, unable and unwilling to let the friendship wither entirely. They enjoy some surface level conversation, though nothing deep or meaningful, and their usual banter is absent. 

The absence of Oliver in her life is a gaping wound that cannot and will not seem to heal but she refuses to cut her losses entirely. She’s an addict and Oliver is her drug; even if she can’t have all of him, she’ll take what she can get. Even these watered down, stolen moments. 

God she’s pathetic. 

She feels still more pathetic when the day of her birthday party dawns and the one question on the tip of her tongue is ‘Did you invite Oliver?’ and not anything to do with the party itself. She refrains from asking because, while Ray has largely been an understanding and accommodating boyfriend, asking about her male best friend (who she’s still hopelessly in love with) might be a titch too much even for him. 

So Felicity remains silent, instead allowing Ray to chatter at her animatedly as he outlines for her the plan for the evening - he’ll pick her up from her place; they have dinner reservations at some fancy  restaurant (where, he won’t say, he’s adamant about maintaining the surprise). Then they’ll carry on to venue unknown, where Ray apparently has invited some of her friends to gather. 

Felicity is a little worried when he refuses to tell her where her friends are gathered, or how many of them there are. In truth, she’s really not sure who he could have possibly invited. Aside from Oliver, she doesn’t have a plethora of friends - oh, to be sure, there’s Tommy. There’s Thea, who might be Oliver’s sister but has also, over the years, become one of Felicity’s friends as well. There’s a few people she’s friends with from school and from the tech circuit - Alena and Curtis and Cisco. 

Of course, if Ray was feeling truly ambitious, he could invite her mother, but Felicity’s hoping that’s not the case. All in all, she feels pretty certain that this party will be pretty small. For one, because she’s expressed that she doesn’t need or want a big shindig, and for another, because she doesn’t truly know enough people to merit a big party anyway. 

So as her birthday arrives, Felicity allows herself to be swept off by Ray, who treats her to a very fancy dinner (the sort of place that doesn’t even put prices on the menu). After dinner and dessert, Ray insists on putting a blindfold over her eyes and though it seems excessive, she goes along with it. The drive is mercifully short and punctuated by lots of eager chatter on Ray’s part, so in short order Felicity is being guided from the vehicle by Ray, one warm hand on hers, the other on the small of her back. 

He’d told her to dress up, so she’s donned a simple blue dress that’s backless in the rear and has a sleek v-neck on the front. It fits her well, showing off her figure while still remaining appropriate for a high end restaurant like the one they’ve just departed. 

“Voila,” Ray smirks as he parks his car on the street in front of the Starling City Museum of Art. Felicity flashes him a confused look but he’s already jumping out of the vehicle and tossing the keys to a waiting valet. A valet? What on earth has Ray gone and done!?!

She soon finds out. 

It turns out Ray has disregarded her pleas that he not go over the top. Literally everything about this ‘party’ (and she hesitates to call it a party because it looks more like a ball or a high end fundraiser) is lavish in the extreme. The valet? That was just the beginning. 

They walk inside and Ray leads her past the help desk and into the belly of the building. As he guides her past a few lesser known, modern pieces and to the railing of a mezzanine that overlooks the gallery, Felicity sucks in a breath and suppresses the urge to swear. 

The gallery below is positively teeming with people; she can’t fathom who these people must be because Felicity is fairly certain she doesn’t even know this many people in passing, let alone well enough to call them ‘friends’. As they step into view, however, the assembled grouping lets up a cheered roar of ‘ surprise’ and Felicity feels her cheeks flush red hot. 

This is so not flying  under the radar. This is not subtle. Far from it; this is the opposite of what she’d been hoping for. A quiet night with friends and her boyfriend - had that been too much to ask for? Felicity doesn’t even want to think about what kind of small fortune Ray must have dropped on this, it’ll give her ulcers. 

“Happy birthday, Felicity!” Ray grins as he guides her down the stairs and out onto the gallery floor alongside the party guests. Her head is buzzing as they make the rounds, Ray introducing her to countless strangers. She’s momentarily distracted by the sighting of a trio of dueling chocolate fountains in the middle of the room - if she had to hazard a guess? One looks to be white chocolate, and she’s guessing the other two are milk and dark chocolate.

So one chocolate fountain wasn’t enough? He got three? 

Just as quickly as she’s gaping over the fountains though, she finds her focus diverted because Ray is introducing her to the mayor and her husband and why is the mayor at her party?! Good lord this is too much. For the next forty five minutes, Felicity finds herself being guided around the museum and introduced to countless strangers. Ray’s investors, employees, and some of his friends are in abundance. Felicity practically clings to Alena when she catches sight of her in the Post-Impressionism wing of the museum. But less than five minutes after finding her friend, Ray whisks Felicity off to introduce her to one of his investors. 

It’s all just… a lot to handle. And she’s feeling seriously overwhelmed when she finally excuses herself under the pretense of going to the restroom. 

Instead? Felicity manages to wind her way through the gallery to an unoccupied little hallway. The perk of being at a party where most of the attendees don’t know you? No one stops you when you try to make your great escape. Felicity sags against the nearest wall and sinks onto a waiting bench opposite of a large Romanticism style painting that spans nearly from the floor to the ceiling. Unthinkingly she buries her face in her hands, wondering what on earth possessed her to opt for an updo instead of leaving her hair loose. 

At least if her hair was down, it would cover her face and hide the fact that she’s on the verge of tears. This whole party is so lavish and extravagant. It was nice of Ray to throw such a party for her but honestly? She hates it. She wishes she could just be with a few close friends. All the attention and limelight? That’s not her. And honestly, it feels a little weird for all of Ray’s investors and business associates to be here. She feels a bit like a show pony being paraded out for people to see and it’s not exactly a pleasant feeling. But maybe she’s just being oversensitive. Maybe she should just be grateful that she has a boyfriend willing to go to such extremes for her. 

And then a quiet, familiar throat clearing from nearby steals her breath away. 

Oliver is dressed in a simple dark blue button down rolled up to the elbows and a pair of black slacks. He’s sporting that ‘just a pinch past five o’clock shadow’ stubble that she loves so much and his eyes are exceedingly soft as he stares at her from a few feet away. 

“Hi,” he murmurs when their eyes meet and she has to swallow several times before she can find her voice to answer him. 

He’s here? 

“Hi.” 

Felicity isn’t sure what more to say. What’s more? She’s not sure how much more she can say without crying. And that’s definitely not what she wants to do now that she’s seeing her best friend one on one for the first time in entirely too long. So instead of saying anything at all, she simply scoots over on the bench and pats the space to the left of her with her hand, the invitation all too clear. 

Sit with me. 

He approaches slowly and without a word; as he nears, she notices he’s holding a rather large, thin package wrapped neatly in red wrapping paper, with a white and pink ribbon tied around it. So not only is he here, he’s  brought her a gift? 

He sits beside her and automatically, his hand seeks one of hers, gently twining their fingers so that he can stroke her thumb comfortingly with his. And as easily as that, he’s back in her life, the gaping hole of his absence filled with the perfect presence of him now,  beside her. Instinctively, she finds herself leaning into him, her head pillowing on his shoulder. And it feels so right and so good that she doesn’t let herself question it, she just soaks up the warmth radiating off of him and lets it chase away the chill that’s leached into her bones. 

“I’ve missed you,” she confesses in a soft sigh some time later. Her head is still on his shoulder and her eyes are on the ground. Somehow it’s easier this way, to confess her feelings to him while he can’t look her in the eyes but he’s still holding her close. She can’t see his face to try and judge his reactions, can’t get into her own head about what a subtle twitch of his lips or his eyes might mean. She just clings to the hand he’s offered her like it’s a life raft and she’s lost at sea. 

“I’ve missed you too,” comes his response, his voice a deep, soft sound in her ear. She feels his fingertips gently stroke her forehead and she can’t help the quiet hum she makes as she angles her face to meet his gaze. 

“Thank you for coming,” she murmurs  at last and he gives her one of his shy, lopsided little grins as she prys herself off of his shoulder, though she holds fast to his hand. 

“Of course I came. It’s your birthday; nowhere else I’d rather be than here, celebrating you.” 

Laughing softly, Felicity uses her free hand to dab at the corners of her eyes, her left hand still holding tight to Oliver. “Yeah, you and half the city, from the looks of it.” 

“You’re well loved, Smoak.” 

“That would be a more compelling argument if I even knew half the people here,” Felicity points out. At this, Oliver snorts and rolls his eyes; there’s a flash of something - is it anger? And just as quickly as it appears, it’s gone as he looks at her, his face softening again. 

“I didn’t think a swanky, big to-do like this sounded like you; I just assumed Ray had at least run it by you though.” 

“He wanted it to be a surprise,” Felicity responds quietly and Oliver makes a sharp tsk. 

“And I imagine the rented out and filled museum was plenty surprising to you?” Oliver says and she knows that he already knows her answer. 

“Very surprising,” she confirms, sighing softly. “I said I just wanted a few close friends, nothing flashy.” 

“Well in Ray’s defense, I don’t think it constitutes ‘flashy’ unless a disco ball drops from the ceiling,” Oliver teases and Felicity, against all odds, finds herself laughing as he nudges her shoulder with his very gently. “Hey,” Oliver murmurs, the sudden shift in tone drawing her up short. As she meets his eyes, there’s a seriousness in them that once more leaves her without oxygen. “Say the word, and I’ll be your getaway driver. Anywhere you want to go, I’ll take you. Home? Big Belly Burger? I’ll even take you shoe shopping,” he smirks playfully but Felicity feels her mouth go dry. 

The idea of escaping this (extremely) overwhelming party with Oliver is like a dream come true; she so badly wants to be away from here. Grabbing burgers and milkshakes with her best friend? That sounds indescribably wonderful. But leaving her own birthday party? That’s gotta be bad form. 

“Don’t tempt me, Queen.” 

She means it to sound comical and light but it comes out soft and wistful. It seems to catch him off guard and his eyes round ever so slightly and she’d swear he takes a deep breath before he speaks again, controlled and measured but ever so slightly strained at the edges. 

“For what it’s worth? …I think you deserve better than him.” 

Felicity’s heart nearly stops and her eyes go round as coins as she stares at him, flabbergasted. To his credit, Oliver looks deeply uncomfortable and more than a touch worried but he perseveres and keeps talking. 

“You deserve someone who listens to you, Felicity. Who gives you all the things you hope and dream of and more. Not someone who just… asks what you want and then does the opposite. And I know, it’s not my place. But… you’re my friend and I care about you and...I think you deserve better.” 

She’s left frozen, her lips parted in surprise but for once? She doesn’t have the words. She’s been rendered utterly speechless by this declaration and she doesn’t know what to do or say next. Thankfully, Oliver saves her from having to. 

“You don’t need to say anything. I just… I had to say it. That’s all. No matter what though, I’m here. So anyway...If you won’t let me whisk you away, can I at least give you your birthday gift?”

He stirs beside her and holds aloft the neatly wrapped present in question and though she’s still trying to process what he just told her, she can’t help the surprise that flits across her face totally unfiltered. But is that it? Is she just supposed to forget what he just said and act like nothing has happened? 

“Oliver-”

He holds up a hand and shakes his head, seeming to sense from her tone what she’s going to speak about and apparently, not wanting to hear it. 

“Like I said. You don’t need to say anything. I needed to say it. I did. So let’s just...move on.” At this, he waggles the gift in front of her, his resolve on this matter clear. Felicity swallows nervously, and though it feels entirely wrong to move on without having addressed his words, she respects his wishes and does precisely that.

“Y-You got me a present?” 

His derisive snort and the way he rolls his eyes actually makes her heart beat a little faster. She’s so freaking sunk for him it’s ridiculous. “Since when have I ever failed to observe your birthday, Smoak? Of course I got you a present! Although, this is technically from me and William,” he allows and she smiles widely as he passes over the gift, though she has to (grudgingly) let go of his hand to hold the thing - it’s a little unwieldy. What on earth has he gone and gotten her? 

“I miss that little braniac. How is he?” Felicity is honestly dying to know what’s beneath the wrapping paper of the gift but she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t curious for a William update. The young boy has carved out a sizable piece of her heart by now and she loves him dearly. Summer vacation has been like a hot poker to her heart because it means even less of her already diminished time around him and Oliver. 

“He’s having a blast, apparently,” Oliver mutters, sounding entirely displeased about it and Felicity can’t help but laugh. 

“Jealous much?” 

“You have no idea,” Oliver mutters and just as she fixes him with a puzzled expression he snaps out of whatever train of thought he was on and shifts gears. “I miss him!” Oliver throws up his hands and shakes his head, shooting her a look. “You know, they write the parenting books about how to discipline your kids, how to provide structure, how to support them through emotional crises. But they don’t write books about how to deal with how freaking much you’re going to love them. I was prepared for a lot of things when William came into my life but… not that.” 

If possible, Felicity’s feelings for Oliver grow in that moment; unrequited though her love may be, she will never tire of seeing Oliver excel in his role as a dad to William. And hearing how much his love for his son has taken hold of him? It delights her. She’s unreasonably proud of him, not that she has any right to be - this transformation is all due to Oliver’s hard work, not hers - she’s just been fortunate enough to witness it. 

“Aww. His teenage years are going to hit you like a ton of bricks,” Felicity speculates with a joking lilt, mischief in her smile as she gives Oliver’s right cheek a little pinch. 

“No, you see it’s really quite simple: William’s not allowed to grow into a teenager.” 

“Oh is that how that works? Wow, you truly are wise, Oliver Queen.” 

“I’m glad you’re finally recognizing my brilliance.” 

“Is that what we’re calling it?” Felicity snorts and elbows him mischievously. “If I were you, I’d start thinking up a backup plan.” 

“Already on it. If all else fails, I’ll just have to give William some siblings. Then I’ll have little kid cuteness for at least another twelve years.” 

He’s joking. She knows he is. Or so she tells herself. She definitely does not imagine a little blonde haired sibling with Oliver’s dimples and her eyes being held by a beaming William, cast in the role of big brother. Nope. “Good plan,” she chokes out and then, without preamble, she rips into the gift. But instead of serving as a good distraction from that mental image of hers? She finds herself face to face with an image that only strengthens her mental picture. 

The framed picture is from the same set of photos she gifted Oliver at Christmas; from the day she asked Oliver and William to have a picnic in the park with her. It had been a clever ruse to get them there so that the photographer she’d hired could get candid photographs of Oliver and William. And it had worked beautifully, as the framed picture she’d gifted Oliver back in December had proven. 

But apparently the photographer had snapped more than just Oliver and William that day. Because right now? Felicity is staring at a gorgeous, professional quality photo of her and Oliver seated on the picnic blanket, looking at each other with wide smiles. Between them is William, grinning as he grabs something out of the cooler they’d brought with all their food. 

It’s beautiful. And it’s absolutely fueling the fantasies running rampant in her mind. They look happy and cohesive and…

...they look like a family. 

“Oliver,” Felicity begins, her voice catching in her throat. When she’d given him a framed photo like this, there’d been so much thought and meaning behind the gift. An unspoken ‘I love you’. But what’s more? It had been an unspoken ‘I’m in love with you’. And while she doesn’t want to let herself hope that the same is true here, she’s suddenly very keenly aware of the fact that her feelings haven’t changed. And not giving voice to those feelings feels before now suddenly feels like a foolish mistake. Not voicing them in this moment? Feels impossible.

“I know, I sort of cheated and copied your gift idea. But I spoke to the photographer that did the photos you got of William and I, and it turned out there were photos of all three of us from that day and well… Felicity, I just hope you know how much you mean to William… And to me.” 

Her throat has gone completely dry at this point and Felicity is at a loss for words. How much she means to them? As what? As the friend? The tutor? Or is he trying to hint at something else here? 

What the frak. She’s going to say something. How can she not? He’s given her the same gift she gave him out of love. That’s got to mean something, right? Before Felicity can get out the words to properly question him though, a voice punctuates the quiet, stealing both of their attention.

“There you are!” Ray strides across the otherwise empty hallway, flashing Oliver a smile and a wave of greeting. Felicity tries not to dwell on why her boyfriend’s sudden arrival makes her heart sink. “Hey Oliver, thanks for coming! Sorry to interrupt but I’m going to need to steal Felicity from you. They’re ready to sing happy birthday!” Ray explains enthusiastically and Felicity closes her eyes.

“W-Who exactly is singing to me?” Felicity asks uneasily and Ray’s smile grows impossibly wider.

“Everyone, silly! They’re all gathered and ready! Wait until you see the cake!” 

Casting an apologetic look Oliver’s way, Felicity reaches for him, enveloping him into a tight hug. She attempts not to dwell on how right it feels when his hands come up to embrace her in return. “Thank you for my gift,” she murmurs as she draws back from him, catching his eye. “And, for whatever it’s worth? I do too. Care, that is. About you - and William.”

The smile he offers her feels somehow wrong, somehow off, his voice pinched. “I know, Felicity.”

It feels so wrong to leave him here; all she wants is to stay right here, in this hidden away hallway, in front of the soft hues of the towering painting before them. Away from the party, away from the people, the glitz, the glam, and all the extravagances she never asked for or wanted. She just… she wants to be with him. 

“Go. Enjoy your cake,” Oliver murmurs back quietly, offering her a fleeting smile as they both get slowly to their feet. Felicity takes Ray’s offered arm almost apologetically, her eyes still on Oliver even as Ray begins to guide her away and back to the party. 

The truth is, being away from it all with Oliver just now? That’s the happiest she’s been all night. And if she does some soul searching? That’s the happiest she’s been in quite a while. She’s missed Oliver - more than she’d even care to admit. Even as Ray brings her back to the buzzing party atmosphere, Felicity feels acutely alone, surrounded by so many strangers and only a few of the people she knows and cares for. 

In truth, she felt more seen and more loved back in that quiet little hallway. And she’s far too scared to unpack what that means for her and her current relationship.

Chapter Text

The days and weeks following her birthday party leave Felicity at a loss. Part of her thinks she should forget the conversation with Oliver ever happened. But every time she looks at the framed picture of her, Oliver, and William? She melts and she can't help but feel the slightest spark of hope for something.  

And then there’s Ray. Who is as sweet and charming as ever but still perhaps the most clueless genius she’s ever met. Independent of her revelations in the hall with Oliver, the party has shed some light on how little Ray seems to know the real her - and Felicity can’t decide how best to bring it up. It feels rather ungrateful to take the extravagant birthday party he threw her as a reason to break up. She knows he was well meaning but no party could have been less fitting for her. And shouldn’t her boyfriend have a vague idea of what she would like? What’s more, shouldn’t her boyfriend have listened when she said she just wanted something small and simple for her birthday, rather than throwing her the extravagant party that had been more akin to a gala or ball than to the little get together she’d had in mind? 

But in truth, even if she was willing to overlook all of that, there’s one thing she can’t overlook - Oliver doesn’t approve. However gently he had phrased it, his declaration at the party has her looking at everything differently. 

Felicity hates herself for being upset about the party; Ray was well intentioned, she’s sure. But at the same time, Ray used her birthday as a chance to network and build up his connections for work, instead of listening to what she’d wanted. In truth? Her birthday party had been more for Ray than for her. And while she doesn’t begrudge him the chance to keep building his company, she’s also realizing she doesn’t want to build his company at the expense of her own happiness. She’s not sure if that makes her selfish or unsupportive or a bad girlfriend but she knows that the party was just the latest in an admittedly growing list of warning signs that she’s been ignoring. 

She focuses on her mixed feelings for Ray and she patently ignores the very strong feelings that Oliver stirred up by showing up and knowing exactly what she needed, in a way that even her own boyfriend clearly didn’t. And she definitely does not go anywhere near the feelings she has regarding the beautiful, insightful, sweet gift that Oliver gave her, or any of her confusion as to what that gift does or does not mean. She needs to sort things out with Ray before she processes things with Oliver.

She doesn’t want to make a rash decision or a snap judgment though and if she ends things with Ray, she wants to do so on good terms. So when Ray asks her to go to a gala that his company is throwing, Felicity agrees. It’s what any good girlfriend would do and regardless of how things shake out romantically for her and Ray? He’s her friend and a peer in the tech world and she wants to support him. And that is how Felicity finds herself dressed to the nines, touching up her makeup on Ray’s private floor of the Palmer Tech building one evening not long after the birthday debacle. She came straight from work and she’s been busy getting dressed ever since. After getting caught off guard at her birthday, there’s no way she’s letting that happen twice; this time she’s going to be ready for the glitz and glamor and the (sigh) cameras. 

“Are you almost ready? The town car is downstairs,” Ray explains as he steps around a corner and into view and instantly, she sees in the mirror’s reflection as his eyes go round as coins. “Wow. Oh wow. On second thought, we can totally be late. I may need some time to appreciate you from every angle in that dress.” 

Felicity feels her cheeks warm beneath his praise, a touch embarrassed to have him call attention to her looking extra dressed up for the occasion. Turning away from the mirror, she smiles at him. 

“It’s your Gala. We can’t very well be late. You will have to appreciate me and my angles on the way,” Felicity reminds him lightly. She’s about to march off towards the elevator when she spins on her heel, hissing quietly. “Almost walked out without my phone! Good job, Smoak.”

She hurries back to her desk and grabs up the item in question. As she steps into the elevator alongside Ray though, Felicity feels her heart plummet in a manner that has nothing to do with the elevator’s steady downward motion. 

Her phone is a riot of notifications. 

“PHONE
Oliver Queen
Missed Call (8)”

“MESSAGES
Oliver Queen (17)” 

“PHONE
Unknown Number
Missed Call (1)”

“PHONE
William Clayton-Queen
Missed Call (2)”

“MESSAGES
William Clayton-Queen (5)”

Felicity’s heart is in her throat as she races to read through the messages, fear screaming through her veins. There’s no way eleven missed calls and twenty two messages are harbingers of anything other than bad news. The only question is, just how bad is this bad news she’s about to get? 

Turns out? It’s not great. 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
Felicity, William and I were in a car accident.
I called 911. I think William’s hurt.” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
We’re on our way to Starling General in an
ambulance. William’s definitely not okay.
I’ll keep you posted.” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
We’re just pulling up to the hospital. The
paramedics don’t seem as concerned about
me as they do about William.”

“Messages
Oliver Queen
Felicity, I’m scared.”

As soon as Felicity read the first message, she was already planning a route to the hospital. The third message, however, has her contemplating grand theft auto so she can shatter land speed records in the process of getting there. 

Oliver and William could be hurt. Oliver is scared. She can remember very few times in which Oliver has ever admitted as much and all of them have been serious situations, which tells her everything she needs to know about the nature of this accident. She’s mentally willing the elevator to move faster as she reads through the remaining messages, her heart hammering. 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
Felicity they’re separating us. He’s alone.
They won’t let me stay with him and
they’re taking him into another exam
room. FUCK. Felicity, he can’t think I
abandoned him!” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
They just told me they’re going to restrain
me if I won’t stay in my bed. Felicity…
what the hell am I supposed to do? He’s
my son and he’s alone and I don’t know
if he’s going to be okay!” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
Initial diagnosis: Broken nose and a
broken arm for me. William may have
head trauma. Waiting for more info.” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
Felicity, they’re wheeling him up for a CT.
I swear, if something happens to him, I
will never forgive myself.” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
He’s in CT. They won’t let me in the room
with him. God, Felicity what if something
is seriously wrong?” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
Waiting for the doctor to come talk to us
about the results of the CT. William’s
awake, thank GOD.”

“Messages
William Clayton-Queen
Felicity, I know my dad is texting you. My
head hurts but him yelling at the doctors
isn’t going to help either of us. I’m really
ok. Pinky promise.” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
I swear if a doctor doesn’t come discuss
William’s scans and check on him in the
next five minutes, I am going to make a
scene like one of those ‘I want to speak to
a manager’ moms.” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
This doctor doesn’t look old enough to be
out of diapers. Can I demand a new one?”

“Messages
Oliver Queen
So they think he suffered a concussion
but otherwise they seem optimistic about
his status. He threw up after the accident
which was scary as all hell and he lost
consciousness, which had the doctors
concerned he might have a serious
traumatic brain injury but his scans all
look good and he’s more alert and less
confused now and his speech isn’t
slurred now.”

“Messages
William Clayton-Queen
Felicity can you come to the hospital?”

She’s already dead set on going to the hospital. But this one, simple text from William? That seals the deal beyond a shadow of doubt. Her favorite little man needs her and she’s going to do whatever it takes to be there for him.

“Ray… I can’t go to the Gala with you,” Felicity exhales urgently, ripping her eyes from her phone to check the elevator’s progress. Still five more floors to go. She closes her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose, trying to clear her mind and calm herself even as Ray chuckles beside her.

“Haha, very funny.” 

“I mean it. I have to go to the hospital. Oliver and William were in a car accident,” she explains hurriedly, shifting her weight anxiously from foot to foot as the elevator continues on its downward mission for the lobby. 

“Wait, what?! Are they alright?”

“I don’t know? I’m still reading their messages, but I’ve got to go make sure,” Felicity explains, turning her focus back to her texts. Please let them both be okay. She can’t fathom a world without her two best guys. 

“Felicity, you should let the doctors handle it. If Oliver and William are okay enough to text, then I’m sure they’re going to be fine,” Ray shakes his head, clearly disgruntled at her sudden cold feet. But Felicity is already diving back into her missed texts and calls so she doesn’t hear him. 

“Messages
William Clayton-Queen
Felicity, can you tell my dad he needs to let
the doctors examine him? They need to put
his arm in a cast and he’s being fussy about
it because he doesn’t want to leave me.” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
They said William should be okay, just have
to keep him overnight for observation.
Sorry to bombard you with texts. Forgot
tonight was Gala night. Good luck, hope I
didn’t ruin your night.” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
Of course I didn’t ask her to come that
would have been a shitty thing to do. It’s
not her responsibility. Don’t you ask her
either. I mean it.” 

“Messages
Oliver Queen
…I meant to send that to someone
else.”

“Messages
Oliver Queen
I thought I was texting Roy and telling him
not to bother Thea. Sorry.” 

When the doors open, Felicity plunges out of the elevator and rushes for the street. She can hear Ray hurrying after her, his longer stride easily keeping up with her much shorter one. 

“Felicity, what are you doing? The Gala begins in less than an hour! There’s no way you’ll make it all the way to the hospital and back before it starts!” 

She pauses and looks at him pleadingly, begging him to understand. And to his credit, he does; he shrinks away from her, realization dawning on his expression.

“Oh… you’re not trying to make it back in time… Are you?”

“Ray, I have to go. It’s Oliver and William. They need me.” 

I need you,” Ray counters, and she can tell that he means it. The Palmer Foundation Gala is a major event, one that he’s been counting on having her alongside him for. But at the end of the day, the gala is just that - a gala. Oliver and William both mean more than any party. And they’re hurt and scared right now. 

Her boys are hurt. Her boys are scared. There’s no choice to make. 

“Ray, listen to me. You’ll do amazing at the gala, with or without me. But Oliver and William? They’re my family. I need to be with them. They might not be okay. Please Ray...try to understand,” Felicity’s proud of herself for not saying the words ‘I’m sorry’. Because she’s not. 

Oliver and William need her. They need her more than Ray. And what’s more? She’d rather spend her night pacing the hospital waiting room than eating expensive appetizers, rubbing elbows with rich elite, dancing and chatting. For crying out loud, she’d rather walk through lava than do any of that if it helped Oliver or William. And that’s the difference. 

“Felicity!” Ray calls at her as she turns and walks decisively away from, striding away from his towncar so she can hail a cab. Dressed the way she is? She flags one down quickly and she doesn’t even look back at Ray as she wrenches the door open and scrambles inside, directing the driver to the hospital. 

“Starling General please. As fast as you can.” 

She swipes away the lock screen on her phone and quickly pulls up the remaining unread text messages, her heart racing as she realizes her choice to go to the hospital is more right than she even realized. 

“Messages
William Clayton-Queen
Felicity?! Felicity something’s wrong with
my dad!” 

“Messages
William Clayton-Queen
Felicity the doctors came and took him
away and I don’t know what’s happening!
Please Felicity, I can’t lose him too. I don’t
want to be an orphan and if he dies I’ll be
all alone. He looked so bad, Felicity! His
stomach was all bruised and the doctors
seemed really worried when they took
him away!!!”

The two missed calls from William only emphasize his panic but it’s the missed call from the unknown number and the accompanying voicemail that send chills down Felicity’s spine.

“Miss Smoak? This is the Emergency Department at Starling General Hospital. I’m calling on behalf of one Oliver Queen who we have in our care. You’re listed as his emergency contact and I’m going to need you to call me back as soon as possible regarding Mister Queen. Thank you.” 

Felicity’s heart is in her throat watching as the streetlights blur past, whether due to speed or her tears she isn’t sure. All the while she prays that she won’t lose either of the two most important people in her life tonight. 

-----

When Oliver wakes, his mind is a blank slate. 

Well, that’s not entirely true; he remembers going with William to get burgers and milkshakes at Big Belly Burger to celebrate him coming home from summer camp and the approaching school year. He remembers laughing the deep, belly laughs that he only ever laughs with a few select people, William included. And he remembers getting an education on how potatoes can be used to power light bulbs, courtesy of his genius in the making son. 

What he doesn’t remember is anything after he and William left the burger shop. 

Stirring, Oliver becomes aware that there are quiet, persistent beeping sounds around him. He cracks his eyes open a smidge and what he sees bewilders him. He’s… in the hospital? Or so he guesses - it’s a room he doesn’t recognize, but it bears the distinct, antiseptic walls of a hospital and the bed he’s in seems to support that theory. His eyes flash open fully then and he tries to sit up, only to feel a sharp pain lance through his stomach region at the attempt. Gasping in pain, Oliver goes still and tries to take stock of his body. As his senses slowly come online he’s aware of a constant pain in his midsection, a dull throbbing is coming from his nose, and a glance shows that his right hand is in a cast.

But with these realizations comes another - he remembers. The accident. The squeal of tires. The collision as another car spun out of nowhere and crashed into the passenger side of the car with a sickening crunch. William vomiting and his dazed expression, his abnormal behavior and the fear of a concussion. 

William.

Oliver whips his head around and to his surprise and profound relief, there next to him is another hospital bed, this one containing his son. William’s head is bandaged but he appears to be sleeping peacefully, the machines monitoring him beeping in quiet, rhythmic notes. The tight fist of panic on Oliver’s heart eases its grip and he takes a deep breath. His son is alive. And if memory serves, his prognosis had been very good. Oliver supposes the real question is what happened to him? But that’s not a question he can even begin to ask right now. Because as he watches his son, listening for the steady inhale and exhale of his breathing, he becomes aware of something that his initial look didn’t reveal.

William is not alone - his bandaged head is tucked against an entirely familiar figure. And yeah, Oliver may be nursing a splitting headache but last he remembered? Felicity had not been at the hospital with them. Yet there she is, scrunched up in the hospital bed with William, her arms wrapped around his little figure in an embrace that looks equal parts comforting and protective. He tries not to dwell on the thought that she looks every bit like a protective mother bear type. Oliver’s eyes travel across her silhouette in the meager moonlight shining in through the window, drinking in the sight of her. 

She’s dressed in what looks like a very expensive, very formal blue dress that looks entirely out of place atop the thin, cheap hospital sheets. The gala. She must have come here straight after it, from the looks of her. With a pang, he recalls the many, many texts he sent her after the accident. Shit. Oliver hopes he didn’t ruin her evening. But he can’t deny the way his heart very nearly stopped beating when he laid eyes on her.

She’s here. Given everything at her birthday and her subsequent silence, he’d feared he might have overstepped with his gift - and what he’d told her. But here she is, literally holding his son in her arms, no doubt having offered him comfort while Oliver was out. He can’t say what it means that she’s shown up here; all he knows is as grateful as he has been for her all this time? He’s never been as grateful as he is now. In his hour of need, in William’s hour of need, she has shown up. And that? That is everything to Oliver. 

He continues to watch the pair of them for a long while, until his breathing begins to even out and the stress sitting like a lead weight on his chest begins to dissipate. At some point, he begins to doze off, although the mental image of Felicity and William curled up together stays with him even in slumber. After a while, he begins to dream - of Felicity and her blue dress and of her holding William. And even a bit of her holding Oliver himself. 

-----

The next time Oliver wakes, it’s because of the arrival of an unassuming nurse who checks his vitals and administers a new dose of meds. Oliver feels almost drunk from sleep and exhaustion until he realizes that both Felicity and William are awake beside him and just like that, he’s wide awake and blinking at them on the other side of the small room.

“Dad!”

“Oliver!” 

The chorus of joyous greetings that meets his ears is enough to make his heart nearly burst. He offers them a smile, though it comes out half wince - his nose really fucking hurts. 

“Hey guys,” he croaks, his voice sounding foreign, almost rusty. “How are you?” The question is directed at William and Oliver’s eyes rake across his son’s figure. Now, in the light of day, he can see that the boy’s complexion looks good, a far cry better than the pale, bloodless look his face had held right after the accident. The thought of it makes Oliver’s stomach turn. 

“I’m alright. I have a little bit of a headache but Felicity and the nurses have been taking care of me,” William explains and Oliver’s eyes dart to the woman in question, who is seated on the edge of William’s bed. She’s still in the blue dress he saw her in last night and wow. It’s every bit as beautiful in the light of day as it was in the shadows of night. He can’t help but appreciate the way the material hugs every curve, flattering her figure and drawing his attention even more. 

“Is that so?” Oliver queries, his eyes meeting Felicity’s. Her nose crinkles a little nervously before she speaks up, sounding almost hesitant. 

“I didn’t mean to intrude, I just got your messages and I of course had to come and make sure you were alright. And then by the time I got here you were in surgery and William was alone and I… Well, I couldn’t leave him while he was scared and alone. So I sorta just...broke the hospital visitor rules and just...stayed,” she explains, curling her thumb to her forefinger and rubbing them together nervously. 

“Felicity… Thank you,” Oliver breathes, forcing himself up into a sitting position. In an instant, Felicity is off of William’s bed and across the room, a hand on his shoulder as she tries to stop him.

“Hey, go slow. You had surgery last night, remember? Maybe just… Take it easy?”

He’s tempted to ignore her, wanting to project strength for William but a glance at his son shows panic and concern flashing in his watching eyes. Shit. 

“Okay, alright. Stand down, soldier,” Oliver chuckles, allowing her to put a gentle pressure to his shoulder as she eases him back against his pillows, which she proceeds to fluff for him. It’s a little thing but the action is so soft and so thoughtful, it makes his heart ache. God he loves her. 

“I will not ‘settle down’ until you start being a good patient. And before you say anything, you’re a terrible patient, you proved that last night, and neither William nor I are going to sit around and let you get away with that. So buckle up, Queen. Because if you can’t or won’t take care of yourself, I will not give you a moment’s peace from now until the time you are healed.” 

She thinks it’s a threat; he can tell from the smug expression on her face and the confident way she crosses her arms that she thinks she’s got him. But the reality is, that’s no threat at all. Having nonstop Felicity in his life? That sounds like a dream come true. But he can’t let on - not only would his feelings for her likely disquiet her, it would also take the wind out of her sails right now. And he can’t bring himself to do that - she looks so cute when she’s in her protective mode.

“And exactly how long is my healing process going to be?” Oliver queries, dodging Felicity’s line of conversation. 

“A lot longer if you keep being a brat about it,” Felicity shoots back with no small amount of snark and Oliver can’t help but chuckle, though doing so sends a twinge of pain through his middle. Oof. Yeah. He’s definitely nursing some broken ribs. 

"The doctor said you'd have your cast off before Halloween!" William supplies helpfully and Oliver grins at his son.

"Well that's good news, isn't it?!" 

In short order, William has dozed back off and Felicity and Oliver are left in relative silence, Felicity sitting on a little hard plastic chair in between the two beds. It takes a while, but as she sits checking her phone and responding to some work emails, Oliver finally summons the courage to say something to her. 

“I can’t believe you came.” 

She raises a brow as she lifts her eyes from her phone to his face and he can’t help the way his eyes drop to her lips, taking in the little quirk of a smile there. “Usually I’m the one making accidental innuendos,” she points out and Oliver sucks in a breath, immediately flustered. 

“You know what I mean,” he offers finally, unable to think of a better response but unable to ignore the heat in his cheeks. Little does Felicity know just how much he’d like to make the other meaning of that line true. But that’s not a thought for here or now. 

“Of course I came for you,” Felicity responds softly, pausing instantly to lift a palm to her forehead as she groans, realizing what she’s said. “Don’t!” Immediately, she holds a finger of warning aloft at him, and Oliver contents himself with a smile. 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” 

She shoots him a glare with no heat to it, then shakes her head as she scoots her chair closer to his bed, casting a backwards glance at William to be certain he really is asleep. “Oliver, you’re... my best friend. I love you and William more than you could possibly know. Of course I came as soon as I got your messages. I’m just sorry it took me so long to see them.” 

“The gala,” Oliver supplies helpfully and Felicity winces, then nods. 

“Yeah, the gala. Of course you had to go and get in an accident the one night I’m not attached to my cell phone,” she teases, poking his shoulder good naturedly. 

“Yeah, I totally planned it that way,” Oliver grunts and she pauses, her face falling. 

“You scared me,” she confesses, and Oliver feels his heart do a backflip. 

“I’m sorry. I scared myself there.” His eyes drift across the room, to his son’s sleeping figure. “I thought I was going to lose him,” Oliver admits, trying to ignore the grief that the thought alone stirs up in him. To his great surprise, a quiet noise from Felicity draws his attention back to her, and he sees her watching him with tears in her eyes and running down her cheeks. 

“I thought I was going to lose you both.” Felicity ducks her head then and draws a slow, unsteady breath before she meets his gaze again. "You are two of the most important people in my life. I love you - both of you." Her words hit differently and with impact; he doesn’t want to hang too much on them but he would swear this isn’t a quiet confession of platonic concern. But then again, maybe that’s just wishful thinking. 

“Sorry I scared you and ruined your night,” Oliver offers weakly, unable to muster anything more profound. In fairness, he did just have surgery. Emotional heavy lifting isn’t exactly something he thinks he’s up for right now. Her being here? That’s enough. He’s going to hold onto that, whatever it might mean. And he'll dig deeper - when he doesn't feel like passing out from the energy it takes to speak.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner,” she answers him in a murmur. And then her fingers reach out and skim softly against his forehead, gently brushing back his hair, which he imagines must be sweat plastered to his face. The touch makes his skin buzz and he feels his whole body come alive with her proximity and the sweet affection of the action. For a moment, he’s almost drunk on it and perhaps that’s what gives him the courage to say what he says next.

“Felicity… why did you come here? You didn’t have to. I know we’ve been...distant, lately.”

Her blue eyes bore into his and he can’t puzzle out what he reads in them but her answer bowls him over in the most unexpected of ways. 

“Oliver… you were in trouble. William was in trouble. There was no choice to make... I'll always choose you. Both of you.” 

Something seems to crackle in the small distance between them and in that millisecond, Oliver feels himself make a choice of his own. A choice to choose honesty. To choose risk. To choose her. He covers her free hand with one of his and just as he’s about to say the words, a knock at the door to the room draws both of their attention.

Thea and Moira Queen crowd the doorway, balloons, flowers, and what looks like a teddy bear in tow. And just like that, the moment is lost; Felicity glances back at him and pats his hand before she rises to greet the two Queen women. They chat quietly for a few minutes and then Felicity excuses herself, assuring Oliver that she’ll be checking in on him and William both and that she’s only a phone call or text away if they need anything. 

And just like that, with a backwards glance over her exposed shoulder, Felicity and her exquisite blue dress disappear, leaving Oliver to mull over what exactly has just transpired. 

-----

The days following Oliver and William’s accident see Felicity spending an inordinate amount of time at the hospital. But after that first morning, she never seems to catch Oliver when he is alone. Someone is always visiting - be it Moira, Thea, Tommy, the Claytons, or a few of William’s classmate friends. To Felicity’s surprise, even Sara stops by for a visit. By the time the father-son pair are finally cleared to be discharged, Felicity has spent more hours at the hospital than at work in the last week and she’s scarcely talked with Ray. 

It hasn’t really registered on her radar how little she’s been in contact with him. But with Oliver and William safely at home (and insisting that they are fine and not in need of assistance), Felicity has finally texted her boyfriend (the term feels wrong as she thinks it and she can’t help but wince) and made plans to meet him at his office. Prior to the accident the night of the gala, she and Ray had spent most of their time together at his office in the last few weeks so he could tinker on his current project. His latest scheme is something he calls the ATOM-izer - a piece of technology capable of size reduction. It’s… not going well.

From the moment she arrives, she feels acutely aware of how wrong it all feels. Her. Here. With Ray. Because she can’t avoid the truth anymore - her and Ray? They were never going to work. He’s a nice enough guy. But he’s not her guy. She already has one. And as long as she still has feelings for Oliver, she can’t keep stringing Ray along. She had thought dating him would help her move on but if anything? She’s feeling deeper in her feelings for Oliver than ever. 

“Hey Ray,” she murmurs as the elevator doors open and she steps into his private workspace. His tools are strewn about and he’s working doggedly on his ATOM-izer, his hair wild and his clothing unkempt. 

“I know how to fix the line of code that stumped us,” Ray responds a little curtly and Felicity swallows, sensing some animosity in his words, though he seems to be trying to hide it. She deserves that though -  she hasn't exactly been an attentive girlfriend. 

“Ray, I think we need to talk.” 

“I was thinking we could grab Chinese and then maybe work on that feedback loop error we kept getting.” 

"I was hoping we could talk first?" 

"I think it might stem from a particular line of code we worked on before the gala," he barrels on, blatantly ignoring her.

"Can we discuss this later" 

"If you tackle the coding, I can work on the casing for the electrical panel." 

“Ray...I can’t do this anymore!” Frak. She really wasn’t planning to blurt it out like that but she’s done it now and there’s no going back. He freezes and then, very slowly, he looks up at her. 

“Is this about you getting creative credit? Because I thought about it and I’d be willing to list you as a consultant on the finished project,” Ray murmurs and Felicity can’t help but sigh as she pinches the bridge of her nose. Why is he making this so difficult

“I think we both know...that’s not what I meant, Ray.”

With a sigh, he sets down the tool in his hand, though he patently refuses to meet her gaze, instead staring at the wall straight ahead of him. “I don’t want to do this right now, Felicity.” 

“Ray-”

“You left me, Felicity!” He doesn’t yell but Felicity still recoils from the anger in those four little words. 

“...I know.” 

“The night of the Gala… I said that I needed you. And I did. That was a big night for me and I was counting on you to be there beside me. I told people you would be there! I felt like an idiot showing up alone,” Ray huffs, glaring at the ATOM-izer tech spread out on the desk beneath him. 

“I know that Ray, but Oliver and William-” she begins, attempting to keep her tone level as she tries to explain, only for Ray to smile wanly and nod.

“Exactly. Oliver and William… Felicity, I won’t pretend that I understand your friendship with Oliver, or how close you are with William. But I’ve tried to respect it because I know how important they are to you. But the other night, when you chose to go be with them instead of being with me? I realized something,” he explains, stepping closer to her and finally lifting his eyes to meet hers with unflinching surety. And instead of any trace of the anger she’s expecting, she searches his face and finds only sorrow and quiet acceptance.

“No matter what I do? I will always come in second in your heart; Oliver and William have a permanent hold on first place. And nothing that I do will ever change that; they are always going to be your priority.”

“Ray-” she begins to try and explain but he shakes his head and finally looks up to meet her gaze. 

“Please, Felicity. Let me say this… I love you.” 

Felicity feels her heart stutter at this declaration and then it takes off like a jackrabbit, her pulse pounding in her ears. Ray loves her? That is...well, that is a lot of information to process. And she has no idea what to say back to that as he stares at her expectantly. 

“I-...Ray, that’s umm… I really care about you too,” Felicity stammers nervously as Ray steps out from behind his desk and crosses the distance between them. He takes one of her hands in both of his and guides her palm to his chest, so that her hand is over his heart. 

“I love you, Felicity. And I will settle for whatever piece of your heart you are willing to give me. I won’t say I’m not mad about the gala. I am but… I’ll get over it. Please just… don’t say what I think you came here to say. We... we are good together. Think of everything we could do together.” 

Felicity sucks in a quavering breath because this? This was the last thing she expected. The last thing. But if anything? Ray’s declaration has only strengthened her resolve. Because hearing him say that he loves her? There’s no butterflies, no electric shock, no zing. She only feels dread, if she’s honest. What could they do together? She doesn't care about professional achievements. She cares about her heart. And it's high time she started listening to hers. 

“Ray...You are a very nice man. And in so many ways, you and I are so compatible. But...I don’t love you. And I can’t stay with you in the hopes that someday, I might. Because I’m in love with someone else. And… I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see that no amount of throwing myself into a new relationship would change that,” Felicity explains, thinking aloud as she processes her own feelings. Returning to the present, she refocuses on Ray. 

“We can’t wait around hoping I have a change of heart. I honestly don’t even know if I can, I love him so much.” 

“Oliver.” 

It’s not spoken as a question; Ray’s voice is hollow but there’s a note of quiet acceptance and resignation as he says the name. Felicity opens and closes her mouth several times before she manages to find her voice again, however hoarse.

“Yes. And I wish that I didn’t believe me if I could I would change my heart, because he doesn’t feel the same way. But I can’t change it. I can’t change the way I look at him, or the way I feel when he looks at me. I can’t change the way I feel when I hear his voice, or when I think about him. I thought that I could get over him by throwing myself into something new - with you. But I can’t. And it’s not fair to you. I’m sorry, Ray.” 

Silence grows between them as she finishes speaking and Ray heaves a heavy sigh as he shakes his head, regarding her with warm albeit sad eyes. 

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Ray remarks with a vague, wry smile and Felicity cocks her head to the side, perplexed. 

“What do you mean?” 

“Felicity, he knows your favorite flavor of ice cream.” 

“What does that have to do w-”

“Felicity... Life is short; we should be with the people we love the most.” Ray leans forward then, pressing a soft kiss to her cheek by way of parting. "Goodbye, Felicity Smoak."

Turning slowly away from him, she walks back towards the elevator with stiff, short steps, glancing back over her shoulder to look at Ray for one long moment before she disappears inside. Only once the doors close and hide her from view does she let out a shaky breath, her head spinning with the entirety of what’s just happened. She feels an overwhelming sense of guilt that she doesn’t feel worse over the dissolution of her relationship. Because Ray is right - her love for Oliver? It’s greater than whatever fondness she had for Ray. Whatever pain ending their relationship has brought her? It’s nothing compared to the mere idea of losing Oliver from her life.

If she tells him the truth, she could be risking losing him. But Ray was also right when he said life was short and that it should be spent in the company of the ones you loved. By the time the elevator doors open at street level and Felicity steps out, she’s made up her mind. She’s going to tell Oliver. Not right away - she doesn’t want him to think he’s some post-breakup rebound, or the like. But soon. Once she’s given her breakup with Ray some space and time… She’s going to tell Oliver everything. 

Chapter Text

“Let me get this straight: you and Ray literally broke up because you have feelings for Oliver, but you still haven’t told Oliver that it’s over between you and Ray? Felicity! What are you waiting for?” Alena’s voice howls out of the ear piece Felicity has in as she works, causing her to wince. 

“What am I supposed to do, Alena? March up to Oliver and say ‘By the way, Ray and I broke up and it’s all because I love you. So please, maybe date me!’? Come on! If I talk to him now, I look like I’m using him as a rebound.” 

“Okay, maybe you don’t say exactly that. But you need to tell him! Have you seen him since the breakup?”

Felicity gnaws at her lower lip, not wanting to tell the truth but not about to lie to her friend. “Well… yeah. I mean, when the baseball season ended, William took up karate so I went to his karate competition this past weekend-”

She’s interrupted by an unintelligible screech on the other end of the phone before Alena’s voice cuts in again, breathy and frustrated. “WHAT?! You’re telling me you spent a day in the stands next to Oliver and you didn’t freaking TELL HIM?!” 

Felicity runs a hand through her hair, trying not to dwell on just how hard it had been to sit next to him and not say anything. “Oliver and I don’t really discuss relationship stuff with each other.” 

“Because you’re both crazy for each other and neither of you wants to be made to feel jealous.” Alena corrects her and Felicity huffs irritably. 

“That’s not it.” 

“Really? So if Oliver decided to go into lurid detail about his relationships with Laurel and Sara and Isabel, you’d be all ears would you?” 

“I didn’t say that!” 

“Because you’re green with envy!” 

“There’s no talking you out of this, is there?” 

“None.” 

“Great. Really glad I told you about Ray and I,” Felicity sighs reluctantly, her hands going to her temples and massaging the tension out of them. 

“I mean for whatever it’s worth, I am fully on board the Oliver Queen Express,” Alena snarks and Felicity rolls her eyes and shakes her head. 

“You’re only saying that because you were never on board the ‘Ray Palmer Railway’. You hated Ray and I being a thing from the moment I told you about us.” 

“That is… well, accurate. But he’s the competition, Felicity! You were literally sleeping with the enemy.” 

“Well, I’m not anymore. So can we just call that a win and let this go?” 

“Just as soon as you tell Oliver the truth about how you feel, I promise I will permanently drop the issue.” 

“I will tell him, Alena,” Felicity confirms with a fervor she feels down to her bones. “I almost lost him - I’m not letting that happen again. But I need to give it a little time. Me dating Ray… that was my choice. And it wasn’t a great one. So now I have to deal with the repercussions of that. And waiting? That’s a repercussion. I need to have myself totally sorted out before I tell Oliver how I feel. He...He’s too important to me to risk messing it up. If I’m going to do this - and I am - I’m going to do this right. ” 

“And exactly how long do you plan on waiting? Because it would be really great if you two were together and established before we tried to get the new Smoak Tech location up off the ground because the whole long distance thing is rough and besides, having Queen Consolidated’s backing might speed things up…”

Felicity sucks in a breath at the mention of the professional mountain that she is in the midst of climbing. Her precious startup has been doing well enough that she has made the decision to open a second Smoak Tech location - in National City. Perhaps all her time spent with Ray has rubbed off on her but Felicity has been realizing that it is time that she pushed herself - professionally and personally. Opening this new location? It’s a huge step. And in all honesty? It’s also part of the reason for her reluctance to say anything to Oliver just yet. Even in the unlikely scenario that he returns her affections, she will be spending the lion’s share of the next few months in National City  - not exactly ideal for getting a relationship off the ground.

“...Alena, you do know that even if Oliver and I were to become a thing, he wouldn’t be investing in Smoak Tech, right? I won’t ask and even if he offered, I wouldn’t let him. We’re going to make it as a company on our own, or fail on our own. I’m not dragging him into my professional life. You’re not supposed to mix business with pleasu-”

She cuts off before she finishes the word but already, she can hear Alena’s chuckling in the background. 

“Don’t,” Felicity warns as Alena continues.  

“I didn’t say anything. Anyway, as your CFO I have to advise you that that is a tremendously stupid move and you should really be open to any and all investors. Especially wildly attractive heirs to corporate conglomerates. However as your friend who only wants you to finally land the guy you have been in love with for ages? I can’t deny your logic.” 

“Thank you. Now, goodbye, Alena.” 

“Just don’t wait too long to start in on that whole ‘pleasure’ side of things though!”

Felicity ends the call with a soft sigh, attempting to return her attention to her work. She stares blankly at her computer screen as she attempts (for the third time this afternoon alone) to read the document that Alena sent her regarding Smoak Tech’s lease agreement for the new location in National City. Felicity’s been unable to focus and though she’d love to claim fatigue or illness, she knows the precise reason has nothing to do with either excuse. 

It’s been eleven days since she broke it off with Ray. And as she confirmed on the phone with Alena, she still hasn’t told Oliver. Granted, part of the reason has been because she’s been in over her head dealing with a nervous investor, upon whom the entire expansion is dependent. But more so? It’s because she’s been too scared to tell Oliver. 

She’s been just going through the motions ever since the breakup. Anyone who didn’t know better probably would think she’s heartbroken but the truth is, she’s not. Her and Ray? They were never going to work because yeah, okay, she is hung up on Oliver. She loves him. And not in a passing, childish crush kind of way but in a ‘drop everything to be there for him’ all consuming, ‘he hung the moon and the stars’ kind of love. 

Which is fine and all except he doesn’t feel the same way. If he did he would have said or done something by now. They’ve known each other for their entire adult lives. And Oliver isn’t the kind to hesitate - he’s generally a guy that goes after what he wants without question. And she clearly doesn’t fall under the category of ‘what he wants’. Granted they’ve had... moments. Moments where it seemed like something might happen - but nothing ever has. The moment at her birthday party? That had felt so close to something, a moment if ever there was one. When he’d told her she deserved better than Ray? She’d stopped breathing. But then? Nothing. He clearly can’t have meant anything deeper by that. There can’t be any latent feelings there. 

So no, she hasn’t told him about her and Ray. It would be rather difficult to discuss without mentioning the reason for the breakup and she can’t very well tell Oliver the real reason just yet. She still needs more time. She can’t tell him the truth and then run off to National City.

With a sigh, Felicity realizes she’s read the same line five times and still hasn’t absorbed a word of it. She’s ready to exit out of the entire window when her phone jangles on her desk in front of her. His ears must be burning with all the thinking of him she’s doing because it’s Oliver’s name flashing across her screen right now. 

“Please tell me you have something more interesting than legal documents to discuss. I need rescuing from this one,” she exhales raggedly by way of answer, trying to ignore the visceral response she feels when his deep, answering chuckle reaches her ears. 

“I guess that depends on your definition of ‘interesting’...” Oliver trails off with a note of uncertainty and Felicity perks up slightly, intrigued. 

“Do tell.” 

“Well...Felicity, I need a favor,” he begins, sounding so frazzled and weary that Felicity snaps out of her confused little haze and to full attention in a millisecond. 

“I’ll do it,” she answers back sharply and she hears him huff a soft laugh on the other end of the line. 

“You don’t even know what I’m going to ask you for yet!”

Felicity snorts. “Doesn’t matter. If it’s you asking? I’ll do it.” 

“I could be calling to ask you to donate a kidney,” he points out, a tiny bit of playfulness entering his tone. 

“I’ve got two; I’d give you one in a heartbeat if you needed it,” Felicity answers, nonplussed.

“You’re remarkable, you know that?” 

“Thank you for remarking on it. Now what do you need, or was it really the kidney thing?” This time it’s his turn to snort and the sound pulls the corners of her lips up into a smile. 

“I was hoping you could swing by my place and pick up some cupcakes I baked? I was supposed to drop them off for the PTA’s bake sale and I totally forgot this morning. The rest of my day is swamped and I’m fairly certain if I step out to run home, the board might murder me,” he rambles and Felicity lets him go for a bit until she finds the opportunity to jump in. 

“Oliver! It’s fine. Yeah, I can go. I do have a key to your house, after all.” 

“This is true.” 

“And I do happen to know where William’s school is.” 

“Also true.” 

“I’m not having to do any actual baking. I’m just picking up and delivering the goods. I think I can handle that much.” 

“I owe you big time. I think the PTA would have skinned me alive if I didn’t show up with the cupcakes I promised.” 

“It’s nothing. I’m happy to help.”

“Felicity Smoak: Lifesaver,” he chuckles across the line and Felicity’s brain can’t help but envision so many other titles.

Felicity Smoak: Girlfriend. Felicity Smoak: Love Interest. Felicity Smoak: Hopeless and Pathetic. Ugh. 

“What was that?” Oliver questions and Felicity realizes with a lurch that she must have babbled something aloud. Please, in the name of all things good, let him not have heard the ‘girlfriend’ and ‘love interest’ bits. 

“Nothing! Just happy to help. What time do they need the cupcakes there?” 

“Bake sale starts at five but they’d like all baked goods there by no later than four. Is that okay? Can you swing that?” 

Felicity checks her watch and does some quick mental calculations. “Yeah, no problem. I’ll just run over on my lunch.”

“Are you sure?” 

“Positive, but go ahead and ask me fifty million more times,” she teases lightly, knowing that this is just Oliver being Oliver, not wanting to take advantage of her. 

“I am going to get you such a nice bottle of wine,” Oliver offers and she smiles, envisioning sharing said bottle with him. 

“Like a certain Lafite Rothschild 1982…?” Felicity trails teasingly and he laughs on the other end of the line. 

“Might take me a while to rustle up but it’s doable.” 

“I’m kidding, stop it. You don’t owe me anything.”

“Except a nice bottle of wine,” he insists and she decides not to fight him on it, instead shaking her head with a smile. 

“You do know the way to my heart, Queen.” 

“Good thing, since you’re constantly bailing me out and I’m constantly needing to make amends,” Oliver sighs and Felicity pauses a moment.

It’s true - in the past, she’s bailed him out of more than one tight spot. But these days? She’s not having to do Oliver so many favors. He’s pulled his act together dramatically since William came into his life. Really, the only ‘favors’ she does these days involve helping William with homework or something like this - running cupcakes to the school. 

“Oliver… I haven’t had to bail you out in ages and this? This does not qualify as ‘bailing’,” she murmurs softly, wanting to reassure him even if only a bit. “Dad Oliver? He’s pretty on top of things. Keep it up and pretty soon you’re not gonna need me to bail you out at all,” Felicity teases. What she doesn’t expect is his response.

“Not a chance; I’ll always need you, Felicity.” 

Oh wow. She can’t help but be bowled over hearing those words fall from his lips. She’s speechless for so long that Oliver clears his throat on the other end of the line before he speaks.

“Uh...Felicity? You still there?” 

“Yes! Sorry, I spaced out there for a second,” she covers, albeit not well; Oliver might not be a good liar but she’s certainly no better. “Anyway so yes, this is me, saying that yes, I will get the cupcakes and bring them to the school. No favors owed. I have to run, I’ll text you when it’s done, okay bye now!” 

Felicity hits the ‘END CALL’ button as fast as she possibly can and then she lays her head on the top of her desk with a heavy clunk.

“Oh my gosh my brain is the actual worst,” she huffs with a groan as she massages her temples. “He says he’ll always need me and then I just... short circuit like a freak!” With a whimper, she looks up and blinking, glances around her office. “And I’m talking to an empty office. I have really hit bottom here, haven’t I?”

-----

It turns out? Five dozen cupcakes is a lot of cupcakes. Like...a seriously ridiculous amount. As Felicity makes her way through the school, she’s juggling two rather large, stacked carriers of cupcakes (because of course Oliver has stackable cupcake carriers capable of holding five dozen cupcakes. That’s so on brand for him). 

And in true Oliver fashion? These cupcakes look professionally made. The frosting is swirled on in intricate patterns and in varying colors and designs. According to the text she’s received from Oliver with follow up info to pass along to the PTA moms, there’s one dozen lemon cupcakes with a lemon and raspberry cream cheese frosting, a dozen cranberry orange cupcakes with buttercream frosting, a dozen triple salted caramel cupcakes, a dozen vegan fudge beet cupcakes, and a dozen chocolate and vanilla marble cupcakes with a luscious chocolate and vanilla swirl frosting. 

They’re ridiculously gorgeous and they smell sinfully good but she delivers them without trying a single bite, which honestly says a lot about her self control because good god, she’d like to take a bite out of all of them but especially the lemon raspberry and the vegan fudge ones. 

That’d be a fair delivery fee, right? 

Perhaps she needs to tell Oliver his penance for her ‘bailing him out’ is that he will need to bake her some of these cupcakes. Or maybe she can convince the PTA moms to let her buy some early, before the sale starts. With these little thoughts flitting through her mind, Felicity diligently sets out the cupcakes at the table she’s directed to, carefully writing on index cards the flavor and ingredients that accompany each cupcake, consulting her phone and Oliver’s texts to be sure she gets it right.

The man is thorough, she’ll give him that. He’s specified every possible allergen, gluten free, vegan, and so on and so forth. What’s more? His text even says to include that the ingredients were locally, organically sourced. 

The man takes health to another level. 

As she writes out the notes, however, Felicity becomes distantly aware of some of the assembled women talking a short distance from where she is setting up the cupcakes. A discrete glance shows her there’s three of them, all perfectly coiffed and wearing disgruntled expressions as they cast occasional, sour looks her way. Up to now, their voices had largely been obscured by the sound of tables being set up across the auditorium but now? Now Felicity can just make out what they’re saying. And she’s not pleased. 

“-supposed to be homemade, we were very explicit in stating that and we reiterated it at every meeting and in every email.” 

“Well Susan, it is Oliver Queen. The rules don’t apply to him, you know. They Queens are richer than the treasury, you know that.” 

“I don’t care how rich they are, the cupcakes were supposed to be homemade and those clearly are store bought!” 

“I bet he just went to that boutique bakery up on the corner of Fifth. He probably thought none of us would notice or care. What a jerk.” 

“Oh absolutely. You just know that the whole ‘perfect dad’ routine he’s got going on is just a bit. He’s totally faking it. I  mean, he couldn’t even be bothered to bring the cupcakes here himself, he had to send his nanny to do it. The gall.” 

Felicity keeps her head down even as her cheeks flush with rage. They’re talking about Oliver. And not kindly. She couldn’t care less that they’ve wrongly identified her as a nanny; what does upset her is the unkind way in which they’re talking about Oliver. And all because of some freaking cupcakes? Cupcakes that, most assuredly, are homemade! Oliver’s just that good in the kitchen that they look professional. Who are these women to be judge, jury, and executioner of Oliver’s character though? They don’t know anything about him and yet they feel comfortable asserting that he’s not actually the wonderful dad that he seems to be? And all because he has money and some good looking cupcakes?!

Felicity’s already heated just from the mere idea of such a foolish thing. But then, the women lean into their cruel speculation and the result makes Felicity see red. 

“I bet he knew about his son all along; how could he not? I mean, really. I bet he just didn’t want to be involved.”

“I’m sure he just paid the mother off and thought he’d washed his hands of it all. He couldn’t have a kid getting in the way of his serial dating, after all.” 

“How long do you think it’ll be before he starts boinking the nanny? She’s so pretty, you know he didn’t hire her for her skill in caring for children…” 

“What makes you think he isn’t knocking boots with her already? This isn’t the first time she’s come around here, she’s been working for him for a while now. I’ve seen her pick up his son before. Plenty of time for Mister Queen to have already sampled the hired help.” 

“I wonder if ‘riding Oliver Queen’ is listed in her benefits package,” scoffs one of the women as all three snort with laughter.

“My question is: does that count as ‘on the clock’ time, or does she have to do that off the clock? That poor boy, I can’t imagine he’s getting looked after properly if his nanny is constantly off screwi-”

“HOW DARE YOU!” The words are out of her mouth before she can stop herself and Felicity spins to face the trio of women, her chest heaving with ragged, angry breaths. With clenched teeth, she marches over to them, positively irate as she looks them over in turn. 

She wants to rip them apart. How dare they?! These women don’t have the first clue about the kind of man - or the kind of father - that Oliver is. With a pang, Felicity thinks back to the insecurities Oliver has had to deal with since becoming a father. His fears over being inadequate for his son are strong and if he overheard talk like this? Well. Felicity knows Oliver is far too strong to be destroyed by the likes of these women. But he would be deeply wounded by such cruel accusations. 

Oliver is a phenomenal dad. And a great man. And sure, he maybe wasn’t always the most responsible but he has never been a monster. Not in Felicity’s eyes, anyway. And certainly he’s never done anything to warrant such low brow speculation from the likes of these catty women. 

So yeah. They’re gonna get an earful from Felicity on the subject, whether they like it or not.

Looking around uneasily, one of the women (Susan, if Felicity overheard correctly) steps forward, her hands raised in an attempt at calming the blonde. “Hold on, there’s no need for yelling,” she begins but Felicity is in no mood. 

“Oh believe me, I haven’t begun to yell,” Felicity warns, her voice sliding to a low, angry register. “How dare you three stand there saying such horrible, blatantly untrue things about a man you couldn’t possibly begin to know!” 

“Sweetie, we all know your employer,” interrupts one of the three and Felicity shoots her a glare that has her withering away instantly. 

“It is very clear to me that you three don’t know a damn thing about Oliver Queen. That much is obvious. If he had had any idea about William, he would have tracked him down immediately. That man is the most devoted, loving, attentive father I have ever seen and trust me, I know bad dads from personal experience.” 

She sweeps a furious glare across the line of them, making them recoil visibly. “Oliver loves that boy more than life itself. He goes above and beyond for him every single day. These cupcakes you’re so hot about? Yeah. He made them himself. From scratch. Because Oliver is a man of many talents and that includes being a prodigy in the kitchen. So you can take these professional quality cupcakes and shove them. You don’t deserve them - or Oliver’s help. And for the record? I’m not the nanny. Oliver doesn’t have or want or need a nanny. He does everything for his son on his own, which is more than I think any of you can say. Enjoy the cupcakes. Try not to choke on them.” 

With that, Felicity storms off, leaving behind Oliver’s cupcake carriers and the index cards half finished. She can email the rest of the info - no way is she sticking around here.

Should she go back and finish them and retrieve his cupcake containers? Yeah. Yeah she should. Is she going to? Absolutely not. There’s no way she can stay in that room a minute longer with those foul, vile women in close proximity. She’s shaking from head to toe as she marches back to her car and she has to pause and lay her forehead against the steering wheel before she even turns the vehicle on. 

With a groan, she feels her anger give way to something else that leaves her cold and clammy and totally takes the fire out of her. 

She can’t keep going like this. This? This is... madness. She cannot keep bottling up how she feels for Oliver. As her little eruption has just proven, her feelings for him are far too strong and far too real for her to keep trying to hide. The timing is shit. She knows that. But maybe… maybe there’s some happy medium between telling him how she feels and not telling him? What’s the midpoint between ‘just friends’ and ‘I am head over heels in love with you’? 

She’s going to be gone getting the National City branch up and running. Anything could happen in that time. Hell, Sara showed up at the hospital when Oliver and William were in the accident - there’s nothing to stop Oliver from rekindling things with her. And sure, there’s the possibility Felicity could come across as rebounding if she tells him the truth now. But she meant it when she told Alena on the phone that she couldn’t risk losing him again. 

She can’t. 

“Time to spill my guts, I guess,” Felicity sighs to herself as she finally lifts her head off the steering wheel and starts the car, ignoring the complicated crush of emotions weighing on her heart. 

She knows what she has to do. And there’s no guarantee it will work. It might backfire in her face - badly. But she’s got to do something to indicate to Oliver how she feels before she runs to National City to chase her professional dreams. 

-----

The city streets are already dark when Oliver finally leaves work after what has been nothing less than a long, exhausting, and productive day. His mother has been generous enough to look after William for him tonight, so he needs to drive out to pick up his son. But first things first? 

He totally owes Felicity for saving his bacon today. 

And while he would rather gift her a bottle of Lafite Rothschild, that’s not exactly something he can get from the corner market. But he can at least pick her up a halfway decent bottle so that’s what he decides to do when he ducks into the liquor store. He bypasses the white whines and the sparkling roses. He wants a red, something rich and warm. He’s so engrossed in perusing the shelves that he doesn’t notice he’s not alone until a familiar but dreaded voice cuts through his thoughts. 

“Oliver?”

Cringing inwardly as he plasters on a forced smile, Oliver turns slowly to face none other than Ray, feeling unbearably annoyed by this twist of fate. He’s keenly aware that the woman he loves is off limits to him but here comes the universe, dropping her boyfriend right on top of him as he buys her a gift. It’s just cruel and unusual punishment at this point, honestly. 

“Hey Ray,” Oliver greets the other man, doing his level best to grin and bear it as Ray reaches out for a handshake that Oliver grudgingly returns. “I haven’t seen you since Felicity’s birthday party; that was quite the event,” Oliver remarks in a lame attempt at conversation. ‘Quite an event’ is perhaps an understatement - that was a full blown gala and honestly, Oliver knows Felicity didn’t very much enjoy it but hey, what does Oliver know? He’s just the best friend - Ray’s her boyfriend. 

In response to Oliver’s comment, Ray’s eyes widen and he rubs the back of his neck, looking mightily discomfited. Oh. Perhaps the party is a sore subject; Oliver wonders if Felicity clued Ray into how unhappy she was having such a huge fuss made over her. Oliver knows full well that Felicity is not the girl who seeks the limelight; she is perfectly happy just being with a small, close knit circle of loved ones. What Ray did? Well, that was probably the furthest thing from a ‘Felicity’ party that Oliver has ever seen. And now he’s gone and brought up the party and unintentionally created an awkward situation. Shit. 

“Yeah...the party…” Ray trails off and Oliver closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He can and will be nice to Ray. For Felicity’s sake. 

“We uh missed you at William’s karate competition last weekend! Work’s been busy, I gather?” Oliver offers and Ray cocks his head to the side, looking suddenly confused. 

“I’m sorry...Were you expecting me to still come?” Ray queries unsteadily and Oliver frowns momentarily, confused by the question. 

“Well of course, I thought you knew that you were welcome at William’s baseball games and karate competitions, Ray,” Oliver explains and Ray’s eyes widen and the man grows somehow tenser still. 

“Right, yeah I knew that I was welcome when I was dating Felicity but...Well I have to be honest Oliver, I think you’re a great guy but I don’t exactly consider us close enough friends for me to show up at your son’s events since Felicity and I broke up…” Ray elaborates and Oliver feels something inside of him go unearthly still.

Broke up?! Ray and Felicity broke up?!  

Oliver is suddenly both filled with questions for Ray and acutely interested in Ray’s answers. 

“I-I’m sorry what?” Oliver balks and Ray stares at him with interest. 

“Felicity didn’t tell you?” Ray murmurs and Oliver can only shake his head, dumbfounded. Why didn’t Felicity tell him? They’re best friends - or so he thinks - this seems like the kind of thing she should have mentioned to her supposed best friend. 

“N-No. When did this happen?” Oliver questions, trying to be tactful but also so curious he can’t possibly help himself. Maybe it just happened. That would explain why she hasn’t told him yet.

“It’s been a couple weeks,” Ray admits and Oliver feels his stomach drop. A couple weeks?! For crying out loud, they’ve hung out together and she hasn’t said a word. When Oliver had asked about Ray’s absence at William’s karate competition, Felicity had been quiet but had waved it aside, saying Ray wasn’t going to make it. Oliver had assumed the guy had been busy with work. Clearly that isn’t the case. 

“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t know-” Oliver stammers and suddenly as easily as that, he’s the one speaking in sentence fragments. 

“I’m not surprised she didn’t say anything,” Ray says softly, with a sad little smile and an expression that screams he knows something Oliver doesn’t. Oliver’s at a loss for words though. Why is it not surprising to Ray that Felicity didn’t say something? This is all so confusing and mixed up and backwards. Thankfully, Ray rescues him by pointing to the bottle of wine that Oliver has forgotten he’s holding in his left hand. “That’s a great choice, by the way. Domaine de la Vieille Julienne? The espresso and fig are a nice touch. What’s the occasion?” 

Oliver blanches, suddenly not wanting to say the real reason but also unable to come up with anything resembling a good lie on the spot. “It’s my half birthday!” Oliver offers in a sudden, sharp, too high pitched voice. 

“I thought your birthday was in May?” Ray queries in confusion and Oliver swallows, unable to think.

“Enough about me tell me about this wine!” Oliver talks over the other man, thrusting the hand bearing the bottle towards him. “It’s good, huh?” 

Ray blinks in surprise at Oliver and then gently pushes his hand and the bottle back towards him. “Yeah. It is. Felicity will love it, Oliver.” With a wan smile and a gentle pat on the shoulder, Ray begins to take his leave, only to hesitate and turn back abruptly. “And Oliver? ...Take care of her, please. She deserves the world,” Ray comments softly before he turns and disappears, leaving Oliver and the battle of la Vieille Julienne and a hearty helping of confusion.

What. The. FUCK?

He somehow gets from the liquor store to her apartment, though he can’t quite remember how; he’s in a daze, lost and confused. Felicity and Ray broke up and she hasn’t told him. It feels like a betrayal for his best friend to have omitted something so monumental. What does it mean, that she’s withheld this from him? He doesn’t pretend to know. Oliver is starting to think that he doesn’t know anything as far as Felicity is concerned. He thought he did but clearly that is not the case. 

“...Hey umm… I’m here. Buzz me up, will you?” Oliver asks, stumbling over the words haltingly. 

“Oliver? Sure thing, I just got out of the shower so I’m going to get dressed quick. I’ll leave the front door unlocked for you - come on in,” Felicity’s voice pours out of the speaker, sounding bright and a little breathless. Despite his state of confusion, Oliver manages a dissatisfied huff at her words. 

“Felicity-”

“I know, Oliver. You don’t like me leaving the door open. It’s thirty seconds, I think I’ll be safe,” she teases him before her voice cuts out. He only has to wait a moment on her apartment stoop before the telltale bzzt signals that she’s buzzed him up and he begins to take the stairs two at a time to her place, the bottle of wine he bought her neatly hidden inside a glittering maroon wine bag. 

He’s upset with her. He can decipher his feelings enough to know that much, at least. But his feelings are, quite frankly? A mess. He’s hurt and he’s mad, he’s confused, he’s excited, he’s curious. But cutting through it all there is an almost blinding sense of optimism and hope. He can’t even focus on it for longer than a second or two because it’s a little too overwhelming for him to think about the fact that Felicity is single right now and so is he. 

But given the disorienting crush of emotions he’s feeling? He’s not sure that tonight is the right time to act on this news. He hasn’t even fully processed it yet. Better to stick to giving Felicity the bottle of wine he owes her. And perhaps he can let slip that he knows about her and Ray. But anything more would probably be best to save for later, when he’s sorted through and processed his feelings. 

He may be upset with her but he still loves her, damn it. And he doesn’t want to mess this up by letting some petty feelings of anger get between him and the woman that he loves. 

As he comes to a halt outside her apartment, Oliver forces himself to breathe deeply three times. Then he raps on the door to announce himself, opening it slowly as he pokes his head inside. 

“Felicity, I’m here!” 

“Come in, Oliver!” Felicity’s voice is muffled by her closed bedroom door but he does as she bids and slips inside, carefully closing and locking her front door behind him. As he strolls towards the kitchen, he feels himself relax in the familiar setting of her apartment. They don’t spend much time together here nowadays since she usually just comes over to his place. She always insists it just makes more sense for her to come to where he and William are and that’s fine by him but in truth? Oliver’s always loved her place. It’s bright and airy with pops of color all over the place, from her fuschia couch to her navy curtains to her wooden floors. 

He makes his way over to her kitchen, intending to set the wine bag down on her counter somewhere near the fruit bowl so that she’ll see it later and be surprised. Oliver’s certainly not trying to snoop but as he sets the bag down, something catches his eye.

Stacked neatly beside the bowl of oranges, apples, and pears, there’s a smattering of real estate pamphlets. Which in and of itself would not be particularly attention grabbing, were it not for the addresses on these sheets. 

Gotham. Boston. Metropolis. New York City. Freeland. National City.

What the hell? 

He tries to reassure himself; Felicity is a shrewd businesswoman. Perhaps she’s just investing in real estate to build credit and earn some additional cash. She’s always been the hardest working person he knows. And with her company gaining traction as it is, perhaps she took on becoming a property owner to give her additional funds to pour into Smoak Tech. 

Yeah. That seems like a reasonable explanation. But also? Another major life move that she hasn’t told him about. The flames of his hurt and anger from earlier are fanned with this new knowledge. She doesn’t have any obligations to tell him things. They’re friends, not significant others. But still. The hurt cuts deep and Oliver finds himself wanting to flee rather than face her. 

“Well you’re a sight for sore eyes.” 

Oliver turns at the sound of her warm, familiar voice and finds a freshly showered Felicity standing before him. Her wet hair has been pulled back into a messy bun and she’s dressed in pajama shorts and a tank top. It’s hardly the sort of thing that would make the pages of a Victoria Secret catalogue but Oliver finds himself desperately loving the casual, relaxed look of her and the easy smile on her face as she steps forward and wraps him into a hug. God, she smells good. 

He has to clear his throat before he can manage to speak and even when he does, the words come out gravelly and a touch strained. “I ah… I promised you wine in return for your help… I had to make good on it,” he explains with a gentle sweep of his hand towards the wine. Felicity’s eyes follow his and sparkle as they catch sight of the gift bag containing her prize. 

“You are too good to me, Queen,” she murmurs delightedly, sliding around the counter and into her kitchen, where she quickly fetches two wine glasses and a corkscrew. Before he can so much as offer to open the bottle, Felicity has it uncorked and has already poured them both rather substantial glasses. 

“Here,” she murmurs as she passes him one and he hesitates.

“I didn’t buy the wine for me, Felicity. I bought it for you. As a thank you,” he reminds her. She just nods and smiles, though it’s a little off somehow. Too pinched, not quite reaching her eyes. 

“I know but umm… Well, there’s some things I wanted to talk to you about. And the wine will maybe help,” she explains, a little flustered. Oliver raises a brow at her and then, despite his better judgement, he pushes the stack of pamphlets across the counter between them, towards her. 

“Would these be one of the things you wanted to talk about?”

Felicity’s eyes trail down to the pamphlets between them and he watches as she freezes, clearly not having expected this. Without responding, she takes a deep drink of her wine before she sets her glass down a little more roughly than strictly necessary as she locks eyes on him.

“Yes. It is.”

“Are you moving?” Oliver queries with uncertainty, hating the way his whole body goes still as he awaits her response. 

“It’s complicated.” 

“Rocket science is complicated. Knowing the city you live in is pretty easy, Felicity.” 

She heaves a sigh and presses a palm to her forehead, clearly stressed as she paces her kitchen in front of him. “I practiced how to tell you this in front of a mirror, you know,” Felicity remarks in her traditional fast paced, babbling fashion. “I practiced what I would say, how I would bring it up in conversation organically. My mirror has heard my speech more times than I can count and none of my practice speeches started with this.” 

With a sigh, Felicity gestures at the pamphlets and then turns her eyes to him. There’s a wildness there that he’s not used to and he doesn't know what it means.

“I’m not moving. At least, not permanently. But I have an opportunity to expand Smoak Tech to a second location. And I’m going to do it. We’re opening our second branch in National City. It’s all coming together really fast, I’m sorry for not telling you sooner it’s just all been so sudden - if I don’t move on this now then we’ll lose our funding. We've got a flighty investor and I found out today that if we can't make this happen before year end, they're out.” 

Oliver blinks at her, his irritation and upset taking a backseat to his overflowing pride at this achievement of hers. “Felicity… this is incredible. Congratulations, I know how hard you’ve been working.” 

She smiles and nods her thanks but even as she does so, he can see the tears in her eyes. “Yeah, yeah it’s wonderful. But umm… There’s more.” 

Oliver feels his heart fall at the tone of her voice. “Okay.

As he watches, her frantic pacing stops and she takes another deep, steadying breath before she gulps down another mouthful of wine. Already, she’s put a dent in the healthy pour she gave herself. Fixing her bright blue gaze on his, Oliver feels his heart stutter at what she says next.

“Oliver... I broke things off with Ray.” 

Silence follows this announcement as he weighs how best to respond. Despite the prickle of worry he feels, he opts for honesty. 

“I know.” 

Her answering wince tells him more than a thousand words could - she didn’t want him to find out from someone else. Well. That’s something, he supposes. 

“I should have told you myself sooner but I… I have been trying to figure some things out and I needed to do that before I told you. I’m sorry you didn’t find out from me.” 

Some of his anger and hurt fade a little at her words, muted by an overwhelming sense of curiosity. She needed to figure some things out? What things? He’s anxious to know but he doesn’t want to apply too much pressure to her just yet; somehow, he has the sense they’re on the precipice of something and he’s afraid if he pushes too hard too soon, everything will shatter and break or they’ll fall and never catch themselves. 

“I ran into Ray. He told me you two broke things off,” Oliver elaborates quietly, not trying to hide the hurt in his voice. “Not exactly how I expected to find that tidbit out…” he trails off, taking a single, slow sip of his drink before he fixes her with a stony look. “Felicity… did I do something wrong here? Because I have to tell you, I’m feeling pretty out of the loop here. I thought we were closer than this,” he confesses and instantly, panic flares bright in her eyes and she leans forward, grabbing one of his hands in one of hers. 

“We are closer than this! That's the problem! I just… Oliver, I have been wracking my brain and my heart, trying to make sure that I say and do everything right and instead I’ve just messed everything up,” she sighs, hanging her head even as she keeps holding onto his hand. 

“Felicity, whatever it is, you can tell me,” Oliver encourages gently, praying he’s not about to be proven wrong again. 

“Oliver, we have been friends since we were teenagers.” 

“I’m aware.” 

“What if I told you that I didn’t want to be friends anymore?” 

Oliver feels his heart stop beating. He can practically feel the fault lines along which his heart is about to break. This cannot be happening. What has he done? He pushed her too hard. Now she’s ending their friendship. Fuck. It’s like his worst nightmare has come to life. 

“You… you don’t want to be friends anymore?” 

She shakes her head slowly, her breath hitching in her throat. “Oliver… What if I said that I wanted...to be more than friends? What if I said that I have wanted to be more than friends since the day I met you?”

Fireworks. It’s like the entire world has turned into an explosion of color and riotous noise in his mind. He can’t seem to string words together, he can’t seem to move. He’s just looking at her, dumbfounded. 

“You don’t have to answer right now. Actually, please don’t answer right now. Because… I have to go to National City. And I know it’s not fair for me to drop this bomb on you and then leave town but I… I almost lost you, Oliver. And I couldn’t go all the way to National City without telling you the truth. And I know that there’s a million ways this could go wrong. And I know you don’t feel the same way. But I needed to tell you because if something happened to you and I never took the chance to tell you how I feel? I would regret it forever.”

“Felicity-”

“No. Don’t say anything. Please,” she pleads, her hand on his gripping him suddenly tighter. “Because I have to leave soon. And I don’t want to put you on the spot. That wouldn’t be fair to either of us. I just… I had to tell you the truth. I… I love you.” 

Oliver feels all air flee his body at those three words. So small and yet so substantial. He has to force himself to hear the rest of her nervous speech.

“And after I get back, if you want to stay friends, that’s fine. And… if you want more? Well...then when I get back, we can figure things out? But let’s just wait. Until then. Please?”

“Wait? For what, Felicity-” She wants to wait? Waiting is the last thing he wants to do. 

“Wait for me, Oliver. Please.” 

He goes still at her words, the full weight of them hitting him suddenly. She wants to be more than friends. She’s said that she loves him. But looking at her? Oliver can read the tightness of her posture, and the anxiety in her eyes. She’s just opened up her heart to him in a way he never expected but she’s also never been more closed off to him. She was serious that she wants to wait until she gets back. In fact, he feels quite certain that if he were to tell her that he loves her now, she wouldn’t believe him. That rubbish about him not feeling the same? Jesus, she actually believes that

Oliver feels as though electricity is coursing through his veins. It’s all he can do not to kiss her and prove to her just how deeply he feels for her. But she’s asked him to wait. And he can do that much; he owes her that at least. 

“How long are you going to be gone?” Oliver asks quietly. The look of wonder on Felicity’s face as she meets his gaze tells him that she truly didn’t expect him to be willing to consider this - let alone wait. 

“Until at least October,” she answers him a little breathlessly and he nods slowly, rising to his feet then. 

“Then I guess I’ll wait and we’ll talk at Halloween,” he offers in a quiet voice with a shy smile that he finds her returning.

“Y-Yeah. Okay. Halloween. So...we’ll talk then?”

“It’s a date,” he responds pointedly. As he turns to go, the expression on her face is burned into his brain; a mixture between shock and delight. 

Halloween. That’s not so long to wait. And Felicity? She’s worth it.   

Chapter Text

Since moving to expand her company, Felicity has learned that National City is nothing like Starling and somehow, almost absolutely identical to it. 

The city is all skyscrapers and business tycoons, honking cars and busy streets. It’s indistinguishable from downtown Starling in this regard. The tech scene is cutthroat and fast paced but so is every other sector - perhaps none more so than the media corporations. And so far? Felicity has navigated it all with considerable aplomb, or so she feels. National City is no different than Starling. She’s got a late night burger shop that she frequents, there’s a coffee shop near her loft where she likes to go in her (limited) down time. When she needs to take a colleague or investor to dinner, there’s a nice little high end (but not too high end) restaurant she’s found that fits the bill. Really, everything about her working life in National City is the same as her working life in Starling. 

But really? It’s nothing like before. 

The burger shop? It’s not Big Belly Burger and honestly, it isn’t nearly as good. The coffee shop? It’s not Jitters. The restaurant? It isn’t Table Salt. In short? National City isn’t home. It’s a great enough town. It’s a place she could even see herself being happy in the long term if things were different. But the starkest difference between Starling and National City is also the one that makes National City practically unbearable. 

Oliver and William aren’t here. 

There had been a time when Felicity had believed that moving away from Starling was the only chance she’d have at getting over Oliver. Now that she’s not in the same city as him, she knows that theory was definitely not correct. She’s here, in a city with no ties to or reminders of him. But everywhere she looks, Felicity sees Oliver. And William. 

The National City baseball team uniforms she sees displayed in the storefront for a sports store make her miss weekend mornings in the bleachers with Oliver, cheering on William. The premiere bakery where she goes to grab some cookies for her team before a big meeting? Reminds her of Oliver and his cupcakes and other baked goods that he always makes and lets her taste test. When she’s stocking up on office supplies for work and she sees a box of red pens, she definitely starts crying and can’t help but touch the tiny red pen charm on her bracelet from the guys. 

And so it goes. Everywhere she looks, she sees him. And she misses him. Both of the Queen boys, actually. God, she’s got it bad. 

The one thing that keeps her going through it all though is the knowledge that Oliver is waiting for her back in Starling. She still can’t quite believe she worked up the nerve to (sort of) tell him how she feels before she left for National City. But his response has been replaying on an almost constant loop in her head. It’s a date. A date. 

Halloween can’t come soon enough. 

Of course, she isn’t completely without her guys while she’s toiling away here in National City. She and William have a standing weekly video chat so she can review his math homework with him and help him with anything he’s stumped on. It generally is more of a time for the two of them to catch up and chat though because these days, William doesn’t need much help with his math. The kid is - no exaggeration - genius level intellect. Felicity is sure of it. When he tells her proudly that he’s cloning a cabbage for his science fair project, it’s all she can do not to fangirl over him too hard and embarrass him. But that boy? Yeah. He’s going to change the world. No doubt in her mind. 

And then there’s Oliver. 

True to his word, he’s waiting to discuss things until she gets back. So instead they talk about anything and everything else under the sun. They text. They video chat. They talk on the phone. They even email back and forth when she’s stuck in boring meetings and can’t be seen using her phone but can discreetly use her tablet. 

If possible, Felicity feels her love for Oliver grow during her time away. And while there’s the old adage ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’, she’s fairly certain that distance isn’t the cause. For once in her life, she’s not trying to hide her heart from him. And it feels... amazing. They’ve always overall been pretty honest with each other (except her regarding her feelings for him) but this new level of openness? It’s refreshing. She can quite literally tell him anything and he’s there listening. And what’s more? He wants to hear about it. 

They wind up talking long into the night frequently - and on more than one occasion, she definitely falls asleep on the phone with him, too tired to keep chatting but unwilling to say goodbye to go to bed. 

Honestly she feels like some lovestruck, giddy teenager. And maybe that’s what she is but she doesn’t especially care. She told him she loved him. And he hadn’t run away screaming. That’s got to be a good sign, right? 

Right? 

She’s sitting in the office well after dark on a Sunday, tapping away at her keyboard when her phone starts to buzz with an incoming video chat from Oliver. Seeing his face on her screen, she smiles and pauses in her work to accept the call. 

“Your timing is impeccable, Queen,” Felicity sighs as she leans back in her office chair and beams at her phone screen. And there he is, in all his stubbled glory looking back at her. 

“That would be a much better compliment if you had any sense of timing - you do know it’s after eight o’clock, right?” Oliver chimes in teasingly. Felicity’s brow furrows as she checks her watch and then looks at him.

“So?” 

“So? So I can see that you are still at the office! Go home, Smoak! You’re gonna kill yourself working these long hours,” he points out with a protective note and Felicity relaxes as she shakes her head at him. 

“If I had had any idea how much work expanding was going to be, I think I might have chickened out. It’s a madhouse over here.” 

“So much so that you can’t go back to your place at eight o’clock on a Sunday?”

“I’m prepping for tomorrow. I have a meeting with a serious investor. If things go well, we’ll be able to unveil the new bioimplant line by the second quarter of next year and we’ll be on track for me to be home in October.” 

At this Oliver sighs and fixes her with a stern look. “Listen, no one wants you back here more than I do. But I’d like it if you didn’t absolutely kill yourself making it happen, okay?” 

“I’m not overdoing it! Honest.” 

“When was the last time you got yourself a scoop of mint chip ice cream, hmm?” Oliver counters and Felicity gapes at him, searching her brain and coming up blank. Shaking his head, Oliver points at her with teasing accusation. “You see? I rest my case.” 

“Listen, you can’t fault me for being a workaholic. It’s not like I have a life here outside of work.” 

“Felicity come on, that’s not true. You have a very vibrant life outside of work-” he tries to assure her but Felicity just shakes her head. 

“No, see at home I have a life outside of work. I have you and I have William, I have Tommy and Alena, I have my trivia friends. But here? Here I have work. And that’s it.” 

“Hey. You still have William and I. You know that, right? It’s important to me that you know that.” 

“I do. It’s just… it’s not the same,” she admits sheepishly, staring into his blue eyes through the screen longingly. “I miss you guys.” 

“We miss you too,” Oliver returns quietly and god, she would give just about anything for a classic Oliver bear hug right about now. “But the good news is, I’m a genius.” 

Hearing the mirth in his voice, she lets her lips lift into the barest of grins. “Oh? Do tell.” 

“Well you see, I knew you would probably still be at work. So I had a delivery service bring food for you so that we could video chat and eat dinner together - and so you could take a much needed break. Go check the front door of your office. There should be a bike messenger waiting for you,” Oliver explains and Felicity can’t help the way her jaw drops.

“Are you serious right now?” 

“More serious than an x-axis bi-numeric algorithm,” Oliver responds crisply, which brings Felicity to a dead halt as she looks at him, stunned. Before she can even form the words to question him, Oliver breaks into a wide grin. “I’ve been getting an earful from my son. He keeps up with everything you do, Smoak. He’s very excited about Smoak Tech’s upcoming projects.” 

“Remind me to keep on his good side, I’m going to need him working for me when he’s older, otherwise that kid is going to put me out of business with that brain of his,” Felicity teases, grinning ear to ear as she scampers out of her office and down the stairs of the brickfront building she’d managed to secure for a steal. Sure enough, the bike messenger is just where Oliver says he will be and a couple minutes later, she’s back at her desk with a healthy heaping of Chinese food hand picked by Oliver for her. 

“I cannot believe you did this,” Felicity gushes as she looks at the spread of food before her and then back to his face on her phone screen. “What if I was at home?” 

“I sent two orders, one to your apartment and one to your office. I included a message with both messengers that if you weren’t at their location, they could take the food and a nice tip for their trouble,” Oliver supplies smoothly and Felicity just stares at him in awe. 

“You know that that is insanely sweet, right?” 

“Someone needs to feed you something other than the microwave dinners I’m sure you’ve been devouring. And since I’m a little too far away to cook for you, I figured this was a good alternative.”

“Well, the joke’s on you smart guy. I have been cooking for myself...well. Once a week, anyway. And it’s usually mostly edible. I retained some of what you taught me,” Felicity announces proudly. The way he smiles back at her makes her melt. 

“Well what do you know? I guess befriending me wasn’t a total loss,” he teases and Felicity goes still. 

“You still think you’re the lucky one in this friendship, don’t you?” Felicity shakes her head and presses her knuckles to her lips as she searches for the right words to say. “Oliver...You don’t get it. You have saved me more times than I can count. When I was a scared girl that no one liked? You were the one who came to my rescue and made people be nice to me. And you’ve never stopped. My life is a better place because of you - and it has been since the moment you came into it.” 

Silence lapses between them and Felicity wants so badly to be with him that it’s like a physical ache. Waiting had seemed so much safer, so much smarter when they’d been standing in her apartment in Starling. Long distance relationships had such high mortality rates. She had thought she was protecting them both. But right now? Waiting feels excruciating. 

As if he can sense her pain (and honestly, she doesn’t put it past him that he can), Oliver pipes up, his voice exceedingly gentle and empathetic. “Hey. October is going to be here before you know it.” 

At this, she smiles wryly. “Impossible; I have a countdown on my phone, and tablet, and work computer. I will definitely know when October gets here,” she retorts and this elicits a laugh from him. 

“Yeah? Me too. I mean, not on a tablet and a laptop because I’m not tech savvy like you but on my phone? Yeah.”

“Have you picked out your Halloween costume yet?” Felicity changes gears, shaking off the storm cloud that’s been hanging over her head and instead focusing on brighter, happier things that lie ahead. 

“Oh no. William has requested that he get to pick my Halloween costume this year. So I will not be doing any selecting,” Oliver explains and Felicity nearly chokes on the wonton she has just taken a bite of. 

“Seriously? He asked to pick mine out too! Do you think he’s plotting out a group costume?” Felicity speculates and Oliver groans. 

“Oh god, we’re going to be dressed up like Star Wars people, aren’t we?”

Naturally, this sends Felicity into paroxysms of laughter that takes a full minute for her to overcome. When she regains her composure enough to speak, she continues to wipe the tears from her eyes as she answers him. “You know, one of these days you’re really going to have to actually watch all the movies. I’m shocked William hasn’t cornered you and made you sit through them yet.” 

“Don’t worry, I’m fairly certain he’s planning on it. He has a list. We’re working our way through Lord of the Rings right now. I’m sure Star Wars will be next.” 

“If it wasn’t before, it is now. I just sent him an email,” Felicity announces and Oliver groans audibly.

“Et tu, Brute?” 

“Hey, if you’re going to dress up as a Jedi or a Sith Lord, you should know how to act the part,” Felicity defends playfully. And in this fashion, she and Oliver chat over their shared, long distance dinner. And it’s not the same. But it’s kind of amazing in its own way. 

-----

Oliver has learned quickly that National City keeps Felicity on her toes. 

Things begin to snowball a month after her move and they just keep going from there. Things are taking off - which is great! But her schedule is, in a word? Slammed. She confesses to Oliver that she’s had to hire an assistant to help her keep on top of everything because she can feel that she’s starting to flounder. (Oliver and Gerry  are on a first name basis with each other after a week. Oliver likes the guy - he’s always amenable to helping Oliver surprise Felicity when she’s in need of a pick me up and for that, he has Oliver’s unwavering devotion). Gerry is a tremendous help, truly. But Felicity also tells Oliver that she’s still feeling overwhelmed, even with his assistance. And no small wonder why. 

L-Corp is entertaining the possibility of a partnership with Smoak Tech for a project and Felicity has scarcely slept since the announcement was made. She’s been moving at an all out sprint twenty four seven, three sixty five. Her time to video chat with Oliver and William is limited, which the three of them all hate but Oliver knows how important this partnership is to Felicity and to Smoak Tech. It’s quite literally the key that could open up the door to everything Felicity has dreamed of for her company for so long. She has to focus and she cannot (and should not) be distracted.  

That being said, having even less face time with the woman he’s head over heels in love with? It’s excruciatingly difficult. On more than one occasion, Oliver catches himself from telling her that he loves her. It feels stupid to hold back - after all, isn’t it obvious by now how he feels? But he doesn’t want to put any undo burdens or pressures on her. Not now. Not when she’s chasing her dream. He’s got to support her - just as she’s relentlessly supported him through bad relationships, more fuck ups than he can count, and fatherhood’s trials and tribulations - just to name a few. 

But no matter how busy she is, Oliver is amazed that she always makes time for and remembers any date of consequence for himself or William. Knowing her, she’s probably got a calendar with all their schedules on it or something so she can keep track and be there for them even from afar. 

Still, it’s something of a surprise when he walks out on the morning of William’s first day of the new school year and finds his son engrossed in a video chat with Felicity. Oliver tries not to eavesdrop too much but he can’t help himself - he’s drawn to the sound of her voice like a moth to flame and he finds himself getting ready within earshot of William and Felicity’s conversation just so he can hear her talk. 

She sounds sleepy - and judging by the occasional slurps he hears, she must still be in the process of consuming her morning coffee. It’s early for her to be up; Felicity is very much a night owl, no early bird tendencies whatsoever. So the fact that she’s roused herself from bed and made time for William on what she clearly knows is a big day? It means the world - to both Oliver and William. 

“-yes but you’re my favorite Mathlete,” Oliver overhears Felicity tell William, who is sitting at the kitchen table in his school uniform, munching contentedly on his Raisin Bran cereal. 

“Felicity, I”m the only Mathlete you know.” 

“That’s not true, I know plenty of Mathletes from when I competed,” she points out stubbornly and Oliver turns to see William roll his eyes playfully and shake his head. 

“I’m the only currently competing Mathlete you know!” he amends and Felicity’s answering chuckle makes Oliver’s heart swell. God he loves her. 

“Fair enough. But whether they’re competing or not, I know Mathletes and I know that you’re my favorite. So there. Now tell me, have you got your class schedule for this semester?” 

“Mhmm.” 

“And are you happy with it?” 

Oliver takes his cup of coffee and his bagel and carries them to the kitchen island, which he leans against nonchalantly as he listens in. William shrugs in answer to Felicity’s question, looking a little forlorn to Oliver’s eye. “I’m in all honors classes, I guess that’s good.” 

“You guess? Buddy, that’s amazing! I’m telling you, you’re going to be way smarter than me by the time you graduate.” 

A sharp, derisive snort meets this assessment and Oliver can see William isn’t buying what Felicity’s selling. “Yeah right.” 

“William you’re already ahead of where I was at your age,” Felicity points out; Oliver cranes his neck and he’s just able to make out her face on William’s tablet as she takes a deep drink of what he assumes is very strong coffee before she shovels a bite of toast into her mouth. It’s clear to Oliver that, sleepy or no, Felicity is trying to maximize her time with William before she races off to work. And he can guess why - dollars to donuts, she’s meeting with Lena Luthor today. He remembers her mentioning the meeting last week when they chatted.

“R-Really?” There’s complete astonishment in William’s voice; whether she knows it or not, Felicity has paid him the highest possible compliment in the boy’s eyes by saying he’s ahead of her intellectually. Oliver knows that William admires Felicity as he does few others in this world. She is his hero, bar none. Felicity looks to be choking on her toast for a moment but after a hurried swallow chased with coffee, she gasps out a response. 

“Really. You’re brilliant, kid. So go in there and knock ‘em dead today - and know that I believe in you.”

“Now you sound like my dad,” William groans teasingly and Oliver can’t help the warm smile that this comparison yields. If he’s sounding like Felicity, he must be doing something right.

“Well, no matter what he says to the contrary, your dad is a genius in his own right and a fantastic role model for you in many ways, so I’ll take that as a compliment.” Felicity’s words are pretty much turning Oliver into a useless pile of goo because wow. He doesn’t think nearly as highly of himself as she does. Hearing such praise from her is just...wow. It’s a lot. But all good. Really good. Great even. 

“Felicity… You’re still coming back, right?” William asks in a sudden, raw fit of honesty and Oliver goes stock still, looking at first his son and then at Felicity on the screen. William’s face is solemn and serious and Oliver can see the hint of worry in his eyes; though Felicity and Oliver have both done their best to reassure him, Oliver knows how acutely the boy fears losing Felicity. He’s already lost so much - a loss like that would gut him. And then there’s Felicity - Oliver sees her sink onto her kitchen bar stool as she stares levelly back at William, her expression calm and sincere.. 

“Yes. William, I am absolutely coming back.” 

“Soon?” 

She winces and Oliver knows how this must be gutting her. “Soon- ish?”

“When?”

“Still October, bud. I wish it could be sooner, but it can’t. October is the best I can do.” 

“You promise?” 

“Yes. I promise. Cross my heart. Pinky swear,” she rattles off affirmations rapidly but with ferocity. “As soon as I can, I’m coming back to Starling. Then it’s you, me, some Big Belly Burger and a Mario Kart battle for the ages. Deal?” 

Oliver holds his breath as William seems to take this in and consider it.

“I’ll let you be Yoshi, I know you like that. But it still won’t help you,” William says at last. And just like that the tension and stress dissipates.  

“Oh, believe me, William I don’t need to be Yoshi to kick your butt. But I’ll accept your offer nonetheless. Prepare for a best three out of five, winner take all deathmatch when I’m back.” 

“You’re still going to go trick or treating with my dad and me, right?” 

“Wild horses couldn’t keep me away,” she confirms, prompting him to grin.

“And I still get to pick your Halloween costume?” 

“Yes. Although what is the deal with that? Your dad tells me you’re picking his too. Are we doing a group costume? Please tell me you’ve got something great picked out for your dad. Han Solo? I think I could be a very convincing Leia. Or maybe Aragorn?”

“Felicity I can’t tell you what I’m gonna have him dress up as! That would ruin the surprise.” 

“Can you at least give me a hint? Is it a group costume? Ooh! Are you going to make your dad Jar Jar Binks?” 

“Felicity!” 

They’re both sharing a good laugh over the mental image this apparently conjures when Oliver lets his presence be known as he ducks into view. 

“I thought I heard a familiar voice. What are you doing up this early? Have you even had your coffee yet, Smoak?” He teases, delighting in the way she smiles, the smile that makes her eyes glitter and her nose crinkle. “Hey.”

“Hey you,” she murmurs in a voice low and soft that makes him absolutely ache to kiss her. With a playful shake, she holds her coffee mug aloft. “I’m caffeinating myself as we speak. The early wake up call was necessary to catch you guys before you left on the school run. I had to wish William luck before his first day back!” She explains brightly and Oliver goes still once more as he studies her, floored by her kindness and selflessness. Here she is busting her own ass trying to get all her work done and she’s still making time for his son at the expense of her own sleep. 

How is she real? 

“You remembered?” Oliver can’t help the sense of surprise this fact stirs in him. With a million things to juggle, she still is prioritizing them.

“Of course I did.” 

“Yeah Dad, she’s my tutor. Of course she remembered!” William chimes in, breaking the (dare Oliver call it romantic ) tension between the two adults. 

“How silly of me,” Oliver corrects himself, clearing his throat quickly. “How are things in National City? Have you conquered the tech world yet?” 

“Hardly. I am still a very small fish in this very big pond. But today I have a big meeting that could help change that!” 

At this, Oliver brightens. “That’s right. You have your meeting with L-Corp today, right?” he queries and Felicity nods, looking a little thunderstruck.

“Yeah...Yeah I do. You remembered?” 

Parroting her earlier words, Oliver gives her a toothy grin. “Of course I did.” Oliver looks down at his watch and sighs. “We really need to run, buddy or else we’re gonna hit traffic. And you need to go too, don't you? It’s an early morning meeting, isn’t it?” Oliver reminds Felicity, not about to let her be late for her big meeting on his and William's account. 

“Yes. In thirty three minutes. Which sadly, means I really need to go too, sorry guys,” she apologizes. “William - have a great first day of school. You’re going to rock it, I have every confidence in you.” 

“Thanks Felicity!” 

“Okay bud, go grab your backpack and we’ll hit the road for school." Oliver directs his son gently. "And don’t forget your computer kit, you’ve got Tech Club after school today.” 

“Yes Dad.” 

As William passes the tablet off to Oliver and scampers away, Oliver finds himself staring into a pair of familiar, sympathetic blue eyes that are boring into his knowingly. 

“What’s on your mind, Oliver?” Felicity instantly asks and Oliver sighs, wanting to confide in her but keenly aware of their time constraints. 

“Nothing that can’t wait until after your big meeting.” 

“My meeting will keep; you’re more important,” she answers him in a hushed, honest voice. He cocks his head, surprised by this but happily so. Rubbing the back of his neck he takes a moment to consider his words.

“I’m just... worried about William. New school year, same classmates. I just… I want him to do well. I don’t want him to get beat up again. I really want him to just...be a kid. Have fun. I just… I want things to go his way this year. You know?” 

“Yeah. I do,” Felicity murmurs, resting her face on the heel of her hand as she studies Oliver’s face on her phone screen. “And for whatever it’s worth? I think they will. He’s adjusted so well, Oliver. And that comes back to you. You have helped him make a new start here. I know I’m not there right now but from an outsider’s perspective? He seems happy. He’s... home, Oliver.”

Home. Oliver was William’s home. The boy who had seemingly lost everything, who had arrived on Oliver’s doorstep solemn and grieving, had found a home and happiness. It was nothing less than William deserved. 

“Yeah. He is,” Oliver sighs happily before directing his full focus to her. “Now if a certain blonde I know could find her way home too, I think things would be as close to perfect as they could get.” 

Her expression softens and she gnaws at her lower lip for a moment before she answers him. “I know. Soon. I promise.” 

“Halloween?”

“Halloween.” 

“I miss you, Smoak. Now go knock L-Corp’s socks off” 

“I miss you too, Queen. Throat punch the PTA moms for me!”

It’s this last bit that makes Oliver double over laughing until he wheezes. Leave it to Felicity to make saying goodbye a little less painful.

-----

With the start of the school year, Felicity resumes assisting William with his homework over video calls and screen sharing apps. He’s advanced enough at this point that Oliver isn’t alone in being unable to help him - apparently Moira, Thea, and Tommy have all taken a peek at the young boy’s assignments and have had to wave white flags of surrender. 

It’s like she predicted - the kid is on the fast track for being a bona fide genius. 

The regular video chatting and messaging and phone calls keep coming. But in addition to them, Felicity finds herself writing letters and sending postcards to the boys. To her delight, Oliver starts writing her back, even going so far as to send her postcards with pictures of their favorite places in Starling pictured on the front. There’s a quiet intimacy to the letters that somehow makes her love him even more. Small references to past shared experiences, little reminders of things he knows she likes - they all demonstrate how attentive he’s been all this time. And despite her self preservation instincts screaming at her not to, Felicity can feel herself starting to hope that when she’s back, they can make a real go of it together. 

The idea alone makes her heart beat faster. Her and Oliver. Together. It’s something she’s wanted for so long, the idea of it becoming a reality feels almost laughable. 

What will their friends say? What will Moira Queen say? Felicity realizes she truly doesn’t give a damn. If there’s even the slightest chance Oliver wants to give things between them a chance, she’s going to take it. She’s loved him since they were teenagers. He’s not the same guy he was then - if anything, he’s aged like a fine wine. 

“Oh do not go down that road, Felicity,” she hums to herself as she taps away at her work keyboard, determined not to let her attention wander. 

Her attention doesn’t care though and the next thing she knows, she’s pulling up pictures of her and Oliver over the years and making a custom countdown calendar. She opts for lots of photos of them when they were young, assuming this will give William a laugh but she’s also careful to include plenty of pictures of the three of them - William’s baseball games, the pictures of them in the park, New Years Eve, Hanukkah - the photos are plentiful. It’s as she’s designing the countdown calendar that Felicity realizes it: most of her phone gallery is pictures of Oliver and William. Somehow, stealthily and without warning (or so it feels) the two of them have become practically her whole world.

Ordinarily this sort of revelation would have her sweating anxiously. But this just feels...right. 

Without hesitation, she orders the countdown and sets it to deliver to Oliver’s place with expedited shipping. And as she does so? The homesickness is real. The only place she wants to be is on the couch with Oliver on one side and William on the other. She doesn’t care where - she’s realizing that Starling isn’t really home. National City certainly isn’t. Home for her is wherever those two Queen boys are. 

With a groan, she slumps back in her computer chair and buries her face in her hands. What is she doing here? Why did she tell him to wait? Yeah, she told him how she feels. She laid her cards out on the table. But he hasn’t run away screaming after her confession, he hasn’t gone radio silent. He’s sent her dinner for crying out loud and they’re talking all the time. These are not the actions of a man who is not interested - these aren’t even the actions of a dear friend who has been made to feel awkward by unrequited feelings. These are the actions of a man who returns the interest. Their frequent video chats and calls? Those are basically the long distance version of dates for two people who already know each other well enough to have exhausted all the normal topics people discuss on dates. Whether they’ve said it or made anything official, she and Oliver have basically done everything but admit that they’re in a relationship with each other. 

“For frak’s sake, I’m done waffling,” Felicity grumbles, expertly navigating her computer to the budget airline’s website. She is, after all, only a fledgling tech guru. She’s no Steve Jobs and she needs to pinch pennies to keep her budding young company in the black. 

And just like that, Felicity Smoak finds herself packing up her work at a more reasonable hour than normal (‘reasonable’ herein being eight in the evening) before she runs home, packs an overnight bag and then calls herself a cab to take her to the airport for her red eye flight. 

A turnaround trip. One weekend only. That’s a grand romantic gesture, right? Or is that thoughtless of her to spring herself on him? Frak. She’s starting to second guess herself by the time she makes it to the airport. But a glance at the calendar and the reminder she’s still got weeks of not seeing the guys emboldens her. 

She gets on the plane for Starling without regret, without guilt, without hesitation even. And yeah, she’s stuck in a middle seat between an old man who is hard of hearing and shouts every time he talks (which is often) and a gangly twenty something skater kid who smells suspiciously and has no sense of personal space. But it’ll be worth enduring the both of them to see Oliver and William again. She can already picture the look of surprise and joy on their faces when she shows up unannounced at the house to greet them. 

“Attention ladies and gentlemen; we regret to inform you that we are experiencing some technical difficulties with the plane and we will be returning to the terminal. All passengers are asked to remain seated as we address this issue.” 

“NO!” Felicity shouts before she realizes she’s spoken aloud and claps a hand belatedly over her mouth. No. This is actually okay. This is fine. So she’ll get in later than planned. Maybe they can all go to an early breakfast together after she arrives? Yes, that sounds nice. 

But two hours later when the aircraft mechanics throw in the towel, Felicity has to admit, the odds aren’t exactly looking good right now. With a sigh, she eyes her seat neighbors and dials Oliver. Yes, it’s late. But he’s never seemed to care when she’s called late in the last. 

“Hullo?” The greeting is mumbled and the voice behind it is heavy with sleep. Felicity feels instantaneous guilt. 

“You were asleep. I’m so sorry.” 

“F’lcity?” There’s a ripple of awareness and the tone of his voice sharpens as Oliver realizes who’s calling him. “Are you okay? What’s going on?” 

“I’m fine, I’m sorry. This is dumb I just… I’m stuck on a plane.” 

“...What? Where are you flying to?” 

“Oh I am not explaining this well,” Felicity sighs, massaging her temple. “I bought a plane ticket. To fly back to Starling and surprise you. But there’s some problem with the plane and...Oliver, I don’t think I’m making it to Starling this weekend. I’m so sorry. I wanted to do something nice and surprise you. You know, you’re so good at the grand gestures and I wanted to try and channel you and do something big and wonderful and I… I choked.” 

Sounding more awake this time, Oliver answers her with a muted note of laughter. “Felicity, you didn’t choke. It was a great idea. It’s not your fault there was a problem with the plane.” 

“No but see, it is my fault. Because I said we should wait before I came out here. And that was...Oliver that was stupid. I am so, so stupid. I don’t know why you listen to me, I am the biggest idiot in all the land.” 

“Felicity-”

“I don’t want to wait, I'm just… Oliver I’m so scared. I don’t want to mess this up. I love you and I love William and I can’t imagine my life without you two. I was so afraid that if I told you how I felt and we...we went for it and tried to make something happen between us, that the distance would get to us and we’d be over before we started.”

“Felicity-” 

“But this in between? It’s worse. Because all I wanted to do today was get on this stupid plane and leave stupid National City behind for Starling so I could see you and kiss your stupid face!” Felicity rambles, wincing the moment she finishes. Frak. “I didn’t mean your stupid face, your face isn’t stupid, it’s wonderful, and you’re obviously intelligent. I love your face it’s- you’re very handsome I mean and-”

“Felicity!” Oliver interjects and this time, the mirth in his voice is unrestrained as he manages the remarkable task of heading off another one of her classic rambles before it can get in full swing. “I love your stupid face too.” 

It’s a good thing she’s sitting because Felicity’s stomach does a flip, her heart stops beating and she’s fairly certain her soul departs her body in that moment. Because did Oliver really just say he loves her stupid face too? 

“Y-You do?” 

“Yeah. I do. And to be clear? I think you’re gorgeous and intelligent too, I was just being playful with the ‘stupid face’ thing. I was quoting you.”

“Y-Yeah I-I got that,” Felicity wheezes, feeling rather faint. “That’s not real,” Felicity shakes her head, unable to fathom that possibly the biggest revelation of her young life is coming while she is seated between two guys on a budget airplane, trapped on the tarmac while the possible love of her life is miles and miles away.

“Felicity, do you remember my New Years party?” 

She groans at this reminder. “Vividly.” 

“Do you remember midnight?”

“You mean the Tommy sneak attack? ...Yes. That is unfortunately still very burned into my brain.” 

“Yeah well, before Tommy went and mucked it up? I was gearing up to kiss you at midnight.” 

“...Stop it.” 

“It’s true,” Oliver confirms and she can hear the smile in his voice. 

“I was going to kiss you too!” Felicity gushes, her cheeks flushing as she remembers how Oliver had looked that night and how desperately she’d wanted to kiss him. 

“You were?” Now it’s Oliver’s turn to be gobsmacked, from the sounds of it. 

“Have we really been pining after each other all this time like a couple of idiots?” Felicity wonders aloud, only for Oliver to laugh softly before sobering. 

“Felicity, I’ve loved you for a while now. It took me a long time to understand that’s what I felt, but I do. But... you’ve always deserved way better than me. Ever since William came into my life though? ...I’ve felt like...maybe I was a little closer to being the man that you deserve,” Oliver explains, his voice unusually gentle. It’s that special tone of voice, the one he seems to save for her and William alone. 

“Oliver, you’re all I’ve wanted since I was a teenager. You have always been good enough for me. I’ve just been too chicken all this time to admit that you were what I wanted.”

Silence lapses between them and Felicity finds herself twirling a strand of her hair, uncertain what to say next. There is an actual physical ache compelling her to kiss him but Oliver is a little beyond kissing range at the moment. 

As if reading her thoughts, he pipes up. “I really wish I could kiss you right now.” 

With a bitter laugh, she nods. “Same.” 

“Any chance that plane is getting off that runway anytime soon?” 

Felicity looks around but the flight staff are still hard at work tending to the passengers - there’s no indication they intend on strapping into their seats for takeoff in the near future. 

“Tragically, it doesn’t look that way.” 

They groan in unison and Felicity can feel that the pent up tension between them has grown so thick, she could cut it with a knife. Grabbing her bag out from beneath the seat in front of her, Felicity wrestles her tablet out and starts checking her calendar. 

“You’re going to hate me but I don’t think there’s another weekend between now and October when I can make it back to Starling. We’re kicking off our partnership with L-Corp and it’ll be an all out sprint between now and then if I want to go home on schedule,” Felicity groans, pressing the tablet to her forehead.

“Felicity, I could never hate you,” Oliver murmurs reassuringly. “Did you already forget? I love you, stupid face, big brain, tech tycoon in the making and all,” he teases her, his voice so soft it instantly sets the jagged edges of her anxiety at ease. 

“You talking to me like this is making the idea of not seeing you for weeks that much more difficult,” she sighs, imagining what it would be like to actually wrap herself in his arms and kiss him soundly on the lips. For the first time in her life? She maybe actually has that opportunity. 

“I would fly to you in a heartbeat but I know you’re busy and I don’t want to be a distraction,” Oliver exhales on the other end of the phone and oh my god is he wistful? Is that… actually an appropriate description of him right now? The very idea that Oliver shares her longing, or even a fraction of it, boggles her mind. And she has like...a really high IQ. Not a lot boggles her. 

“That’s...probably wise,” she admits, though doing so guts her a little. I really doubt I would be capable of getting any work done if you were within arm’s reach.” 

“Now you’re just tempting me,” he returns and Felicity feels butterflies going haywire in her stomach. This is...they are actually outwardly, unapologetically flirting right now, aren’t they? Holy toledo. 

“Promise me nothing is getting in between you, me, and Halloween?” 

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat, nor gloom of night!” Oliver affirms and Felicity can’t help but giggle. 

“Did you just quote the Postal Service to me?” 

“It felt appropriate,” he chuckles. “But in all seriousness? I promise. Come hell or high water, I’m making up for New Year’s Eve in October.” His voice has gone all low and serious and there’s something about it that makes her weak in the knees in a way that (she thinks) has nothing to do with the cramped quarters of the plane. 

“I’m going to hold you to that,” Felicity tells him, struggling to form coherent thoughts at the mental image of getting to kiss Oliver upon her homecoming. 

“You better.”

The next couple hours pass in similar fashion, with the pair of them talking at length and shamelessly flirting. Felicity tries to get Oliver to go back to bed but he insists on staying up with her until she’s either off the plane or the plane takes off.

Takeoff proves too much to hope for; eventually the aircraft mechanics throw in the towel and Felicity leaves the plane with a crick in her neck, her clothes a rumpled mess from hours confined next to her seatmates, and she doesn’t care a lick. Because Oliver Queen said he loves her stupid face. And as far as declarations go? It’s maybe not the most traditional but she’s pretty over the moon about it. 

Chapter Text

Months. That’s how long it’s been since Felicity told Oliver she wanted to be more than friends. That’s how long it’s been since he’s looked into those familiar, warm blue eyes in person. Months without having dinner with her, months without watching her and William play video games, months without watching them put their heads together to solve a tough math problem.

And it has been weeks since he told her on the phone that he loved her. Weeks. To say that Oliver has been dying for October to roll around would be an understatement. But naturally, October brings with it further complications. Felicity’s return gets pushed back from early October to late October. 

She’s legitimately flying back on Halloween day. Oliver’s been a procrastinator all his life but this time? This time procrastination feels like cruel and unusual punishment. 

She calls him from the airport in National City and they talk before she hops on her flight. And he maybe has a tab open on his phone tracking her flight status because he is still pinching himself that today is finally the day he gets to see her. Today he gets to kiss her. 

Unsurprisingly, her flight experiences a headwind so she’s later arriving than anticipated. And while he would have happily picked her up from the airport, the arrangement is that she will meet him and William at the house so they can go trick or treating together. Understandably, she wants to go home and drop her stuff off and shower and change before trick or treating and Oliver knows as well as she does that the moment they see each other? Well. no one will be able to pry her away from him. Of that much, he is certain. 

Still, her text to say she’s landed and she’s catching a cab home is perhaps the most welcome text he’s ever received. 

“Dad is Felicity on her way yet?” William asks when he sees Oliver looking at his phone and Oliver has to clear his throat and shake his head. 

“Not yet bud. She just landed and she’s heading to her apartment now.” 

“She’s going to be late!” William expresses worriedly, prompting Oliver to check his watch. William’s not entirely correct but Felicity is going to be cutting it close. Still, he has faith in her. 

“She’ll be here bud, she promised you. She just needs to go home first and change into her costume. Remember, she hasn’t even unpacked her stuff yet and she’s coming here to trick or treat with you. That’s very nice of her so-”

“I know, I know. I’ll tell her thanks. I’m just excited to see her,” William interrupts. “Can I put my costume on now?”

“I don’t see why not.” 

“YES!” William whoops as he disappears down the hall to change before he pokes his head around the corner. “Are you gonna get dressed too, Dad?”

Inwardly, Oliver groans but he swallows the sound and forces a smile instead, knowing how much the costume his son picked out for him means to the boy. “You bet I am!” 

Taking a deep breath, Oliver walks towards the master bedroom, closing the door behind him firmly. The costume. Right. In all his eagerness to reach Halloween - and the associated reunion it would bring - he has forgotten about (or repressed) the fact that his costume is...well. In a few words? It’s not great. Here he had been thinking William was going to dress him up as a Jedi or an elf. Hell, even a Doctor from Doctor Who would have been a step up (or so he thinks, he’s still murky on the whole Doctor Who thing, he’s got to ask Felicity to shed some light on it). 

Instead? On this, the day he gets to finally hold Felicity in his arms and kiss her, he is to be dressed like a Mathlete, at his son’s very specific request. Complete with suspenders, pocket protector, and math textbook, Oliver is, for all intents and purposes, a nerd. 

Not exactly the costume he imagined whisking Felicity off her feet in. 

He takes his time getting dressed, looking for any and all excuses to delay. He showers and puts on the tiniest bit of cologne but doesn’t shave  - Felicity made a comment about his stubble  the other week and had indicated she found it attractive, so he’s rocking a permanent five o’clock shadow look these days. 

He avoids getting dressed for as long as possible. Felicity texts him that she’s on her way and he’s still in his room in his boxers, ironing the button down and khakis that are his ‘costume’ for the evening. Anything to avoid actually putting them on. He surfs the internet on his phone. He texts John Diggle to be sure that the kids are still good for their sleepover tonight.

He and Felicity have talked at length about the change in their relationship and how to bring it up with William. For now, out of an overabundance of caution, they’ve decided to just test the waters and see how things go before they upend William’s world. So tonight? As long as William is around, they’re the same as they’ve always been: Oliver and Felicity, best friends and totally platonic. 

Thus the need for some privacy - William gets to spend some time with his friends over at the Diggles residence and Oliver and Felicity get some time alone together to actually be together. In person. Win-win. 

He’s rehearsing what he wants to say to her (for the five thousandth time) when he hears the doorbell ring, followed by the thud of William’s bedroom door.

“Dad, Felicity’s here!” William calls from the front door and Oliver stares at his reflection in the mirror and despite the profound joy he feels at Felicity’s arrival, inwardly Oliver groans. She’s going to give him hell when she sees him, he just knows it. 

“You can let her in, buddy!” Oliver calls as he puts on the fake glasses and stares at his reflection in the mirror once more. Yeah, she’s totally never letting him live this down. But it’s for William and really, that’s what matters most. His son is overjoyed at the idea of his dad dressing up like a Mathlete and showing the world that Mathletes can be cool. (The implication that William considers him cool does not escape Oliver’s attention, and makes this whole ordeal even more worthwhile in Oliver’s mind.) 

He can hear Felicity’s voice as she and William chatter animatedly in the hallway. Oliver can’t quite make out everything that they’re saying but he knows that Felicity is complimenting William’s costume selection. Though the two went costume shopping together virtually, Oliver knows William didn’t pick his costume out then, he only picked Felicity’s costume. William decided on his costume when he was out shopping with Oliver.

“Dad, come on!” William calls excitedly.

Oliver squares his shoulders as he watches his reflection and then he takes a deep breath. “Go get her, Queen,” he mutters. Without a backwards glance, Oliver clips on his pocket protector and snaps his last suspender into place, then steps confidently out of his room. When he rounds the hall corner though, the sight that greets him stops him in his tracks. 

William is dressed as a player from the Central City Chargers, complete with his own baseball bat. Beside him is Felicity, wearing the costume that William has picked out for her. Oliver needs to up William’s allowance. His son has, unknowingly, given him a gift with this costume selection. Is it possible for a ten year old to act as his father’s wingman? Because if so, William certainly has. 

Felicity is in a short blue leather skirt. This is one of the things Oliver notices first, because it means the pale skin of her upper thighs is on full display. His eyes travel upwards; a gold band hugs her waist in the shape of a ‘W’ which leads to a red leather corset which is extremely flattering and accentuates all the right places of Felicity’s very fine figure. She’s also wearing a gold band encircling her upper left arm and a matching golden headpiece. Her hair is down in large, loose curls, flowing around her face and neck. Her forearms are adorned with silver and gold bracers, and her legs are bedecked with red and gold boots that come all the way over her knees. It’s all very nice. So nice that Oliver forgets what air is for a solid thirty seconds. Thankfully, William is busy oohing and aahing over the sword and shield and the rope Felicity has also brought to complete her ensemble and she’s too busy delighting in his reaction to notice Oliver’s arrival.

Oliver has to actually duck back out of sight because holy hell. Felicity is in his hallway, dressed up like Wonder Woman. Suddenly, the idea of keeping things platonic in front of William has just grown infinitely more challenging. Nothing, nothing has prepared him for how drop dead gorgeous she looks, dressed like an actual goddess (is Wonder Woman a goddess? A superhero? Whatever the proper term, she’s hot ). Felicity is actually in his house, clad from head to toe in form fitting leather armor. 

What remains of Oliver’s self restraint? Yeah. It’s fraying fast. He’d happily let her conquer him any time she wanted to, dressed like that. 

That is so not what he needs to be thinking about right now! He takes a deep breath to try and steady himself but it’s difficult when the mental image of Felicity’s thighs peeking out from beneath that blue leather skirt is all that he can think of. And unfortunately, just thinking about how appealing she looks dressed thusly has other, unintended (and ill-timed) effects on Oliver’s body...

“Dad!” William calls a minute or three later, when Oliver still has not emerged. He’s ducked back into his room, in fact, and is hammering out a series of sit ups in the hope of… redirecting his blood flow. 

“Coming!” He shouts back, now breathing a little heavier than before. He can do this. He can be around Felicity and not let on to his son that things between them have changed. He can be around Felicity as a friend. He can keep his hands to himself. And he can definitely resist the urge to kiss her senseless - and his body will do well to remember that.

Oliver leaps to his feet and hurries to the bathroom. He passes a wet washcloth over his sweaty face and arms quickly. And ah, yes. There it is. His reflection. If ever there was a mood killer, his current getup is it. Mission accomplished. He just needs to remember how wildly not attractive he probably looks right now and that should quell any rising sentiments - or other things - quickly. 

Oliver steps back out into the hallway and finds Felicity and William waiting for him. And oh wow. The moment her eyes land on his, it’s all Oliver can do not to walk across the room and plant an earth shattering kiss on her gorgeous, red painted lips. And he definitely does not dwell for a moment on how badly he wants to pin his best friend against the nearest wall (or let her pin him against a wall). Nope.

“Hey Queen,” Felicity smiles shyly and Oliver feels his world shift and settle into place with these two - William and Felicity - at the beating center of his universe. 

“Hey Smoak,” he smiles, even as his heart is racing at the sight of her. “Long time no see.”

He steps forward and wraps her into a hug, letting the recognizable smell of her shampoo wash over him (something floral and light). She’s warm and pliant in his arms as she actually melts into his embrace. Has she always been so small? It’s only now, as he’s holding her and longing to do more with her, that he realizes how much shorter she is than him. On the heels of this realization comes the thought of how easy it would be to scoop her into his arms and carry her to his bedroom. 

Nope. U-turn. He definitely can’t think about that right now. 

“I missed you,” he admits as they break apart, albeit grudgingly, and he can see the way her eyes warm at his words, her smile deepening. 

“I have missed you so, so freaking much,” she sighs and it takes all of Oliver’s self control not to use that lasso of truth of hers to bring her back into his arms. But William is watching and that’s strictly off limits. 

“Ready to go trick or treating?” Oliver asks with a raised brow and Felicity lets out a soft exhale of laughter.

“YES!” William whoops as he runs for the door, leaving the two friends alone in the entryway.

-----

Felicity knows that she looks ridiculous. For one thing, Wonder Woman is dark haired. Felicity contemplated a wig but when she and William went costume shopping over facetime, he vetoed the idea and really, this whole thing has been the kid’s brainchild, so she’s not about to protest. 

But she looks ridiculous. Wonder Woman is a freaking badass warrioress for crying out loud. And Felicity… Felicity is a tech whiz whose idea of a brawl is a wild game of D&D. But William is so overjoyed to see her dressed up as a hero precisely because she’s book smart, so she can’t complain. Besides, if it helps give the kid’s self esteem a boost,  Felicity is all for it. She’d dress up as Big Bird or even as a Kangaroo if it made him happy. 

She loves the little munchkin, after all. She loves him so much - she actually loves him more than she hates kangaroos. And that’s really saying something. 

But as she stands in the front entry of the Queen home, she can’t help but picture how Oliver will react when he catches sight of her dressed like this. He’s never going to let her live this down. He’ll take one look at her and laugh because who would believe she could pass as a hero? No one but sweet, sweet William. Instead, when Oliver finally shows up, Felicity forgets how utterly silly she feels because the sight of him sends her reeling

His hair is mussed just so; he’s let it grow out to the perfect length recently and it makes her want to run her hands through it. He’s got thick black glasses on that frame his face in a way that sunglasses just don’t manage to, for whatever reason. He’s dressed in a white button up and he’s got a goddamn bowtie on. 

A bowtie. Her heart starts hammering as she takes in the rest of his outfit, unaware that she’s licking her lips as she does so. 

He’s got khaki slacks on and held up with a pair of black suspenders. He’s even gone so far as to add a pocket protector complete with pens. And in his hands, he’s holding a plain black backpack and a thick book. When her eyes land on the textbook, Felicity becomes acutely aware of how flushed she’s gotten in the last twenty seconds. 

Oliver Queen is holding a Calculus textbook for crying out loud. And he might only be a few years her senior, but Felicity has absolutely no trouble summoning a mental image of Oliver as her college professor and that thought makes something in her stir with desire. The hug that follows his greeting does nothing to stem the tide of her unabashed lust; he smells incredible and the hug, however innocent, sends her spiraling with thoughts of how wonderful it would feel to be held in his arms in other contexts. 

Nopenopenope. Cut that shit out Smoak. As they draw apart and he admits to missing her though, Felicity knows - she can’t cut this out. She is head over heels in love with this man and nothing she says or does will convince her body or mind to play it cool. So she doesn’t - she tells him flat out that she’s missed him too. A lot. And after that? Well. She’s sort of in a fog, taking in the sight of hot professor Oliver. Dimly, she’s aware of Oliver and William talking in the background. 

“Ready to go trick or treating?”

“YES!”

No! Her inner voice shouts at her. Not yet. Not like this. She’s GOT to get her head on straight. 

“I-I need one second, sorry guys!” Felicity stammers as she rushes past Oliver without making eye contact and hurries towards the bathroom. She closes the door and leans against it, panting heavily. 

Why oh why did he have to be dressed up like a sexy college math professor? Felicity didn’t know this was something she wanted or needed in her life until now. And now that she’s seen him like that, there’s no unseeing it. She’s going to dream about him dressed like that for god knows how long. Dream - pah - more like fantasize

For now though, she needs water. Cold water, to snap herself out of this spiral of lusting after her best friend. Because that’s what they are right now, with William watching. Just two friends. Two very good, very platonic friends...who happen to be wildly attracted to each other. 

Turning on the sink, she wets a washcloth and dabs at her face and neck with it, careful not to smudge her makeup. The last thing she needs is to look like a bad, cartoon version of Wonder Woman while she’s standing next to Oliver looking like a model for a hip new science periodical. 

Felicity takes a shaky breath and sighs. It’s been less than ten minutes and she’s already hot and bothered. This night is going to be a marathon test of her willpower. And she honestly doesn’t know that she’ll pass it. But failure is not an option - tonight, or at least the first half of it, is about William. His comfort is what matters. So no matter how much she wants to pin Oliver against the nearest wall and kiss him, she’s got to wait until they’re alone. While William’s around? She’s got to be on her best behavior. No romantic stuff with him nearby.

Tonight is a test. A test to see if she and Oliver work not just in theory, but in practice. And even if they do work, the tiptoeing around William will likely have to go on for a little while, until Oliver is ready to tell his son about the change in their dynamic. So this is not a test Felicity can afford to fail. 

Such a shame - usually if a student was failing a class, didn’t that mean they had to see the professor after class? What a tempting thought that is…

“Oh my god, pull yourself together Smoak!” She whispers to her reflection in the mirror before she opens the door and heads out to rejoin the boys. She can do this. She will get through this night, if for no other reason than because she loves those boys and wants to do everything in her power to make them happy. 

Oliver and William are waiting for her and when Oliver catches sight of her, he frowns at her and touches her elbow lightly. At least he isn’t laughing in my face at the sight of me in this costume, she thinks to herself comfortingly.

“Hey, are you okay?” he asks her softly, his tone rife with concern. Felicity barely hears his words though, too keenly aware of and focused on his touch. However innocent the contact, it makes her heart race to be this close to him and touching right now when she’s just been picturing all the ways and places she’d really like him to touch her. 

“Yes! More than okay. Great, actually. Let’s get out there and get some candy, hmm?” she babbles nervously as she forces a smile, glancing from Oliver to William and then back again. God he looks good. Despite the stern lecture she’s just given herself about keeping things platonic in front of William, Felicity finds her hand reaching forward, her fingers just brushing against Oliver’s hair at his forehead the way she’s imagined herself doing for ages now. His face is right there and he’s so close and it’s so hard to resist. 

-----

It’s as if all the air has been sucked out of the room when her fingers run through his hair without warning and the smile on her face grows smaller but somehow more genuine, with a shy curve of her lips. He’s taken off guard by it, but the words she says next actually blow him away.

“You make math look good, Queen.” 

Her eyes meet his and there’s a warmth and satisfaction in them that surprises him. She’s… seriously not teasing him about his getup? She actually thinks he looks good? As they continue staring at each other face to face though, she suddenly grows self conscious and pulls her hand away from his forehead and drops her eyes from his. 

“We should probably get going,” she sighs a moment later and he swallows and nods. 

“Right…. We umm… We don’t want all the good candy to be gone.” 

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you both!” William mutters as he wrenches open the front door, holding his pillowcase aloft eagerly. “This pillowcase isn’t going to fill itself!” 

Felicity and Oliver both chuckle and shyly step away from each other before they follow William out of the house but Oliver’s mind is still lingering on the way that Felicity looked at him and the feel of her fingers running through his hair. As he goes to walk behind her, his eyes zero in on the curve of her backside beneath the leather of her skirt and he swallows.

This is going to be a long night. 

-----

Focusing on William helps; Felicity is careful to keep the boy between her and Oliver whenever she can, even going so far as to offer him her hand as a means of keeping him as her own personal buffer. It works for a while but as the night progresses, William starts growing bolder. And Felicity’s happy about that - really, she is, it’s great to see him so confident and comfortable - but it means that he’s not holding her hand anymore and keeps darting ahead of his father and Felicity.

Which means that she and Oliver are walking side by side as Halloween continues to unfold around them with William in close proximity. However, somewhere between the first block and the second, Felicity feels the back of Oliver’s fingers brush against her own and she sucks in a breath, shooting him a wordless, questioning look. He smiles and gives her a faint nod and as smoothly and simply as if she’s done it a million times already in her life, she knits her fingers through his. It’s a small gesture and it is a tiny shred of physical contact. But she can’t escape the way her pulse quickens and joy (and heat) radiate from their twined hands. 

By the time they’re halfway through with the second block, they run into some of the other kids from William’s school and their parents. Felicity tries to be discreet as she relinquishes her hold on Oliver but she’d swear Lyla sees their joined hands before Felicity thinks to separate them. Uh oh. Felicity is distracted from worrying over this development when William quickly joins up with them and tells Oliver and Felicity that they don’t need to walk him up to the front doors of the houses - he’ll go with his friends. 

“I think we just got rejected by a ten  year old,” Felicity murmurs teasingly as William bounds up the walkway of the next house alongside the kids from school that they’ve run into.

“And to think, I thought I had a year or two left before he figured out I wasn’t that cool,” Oliver sighs and shakes his head playfully. The other parents laugh knowingly and there’s an undertone of murmured agreement and nods all around. 

“Aww, don’t worry. I’m pretty sure he’s known that for a while, actually.” 

Oliver meets her gaze and Felicity would swear he’s undressing her with his eyes. Is that possible? It feels impossible that Oliver Jonas Queen could possibly be looking at her like that. But she’d swear on her tablet that he is. Their eyes are locked on one another for a long while, until they’re interrupted by one of the parents in the group they’ve just joined up with and the pair reluctantly expand their focus to include the rest of the group once again.

“Oliver, this is Zoe’s father, Rene. Have you two met?” Lyla speaks up first, gesturing to a man Felicity hasn’t met before. Oliver’s brows lift slightly and he shakes his head. “I don’t think I have no. But I’m familiar with Zoe; William speaks very highly of her. She was one of his first friends, along with Connor, JJ, and Sara. She sounds like a good kid,” Oliver notes and the man Felicity doesn’t recognize - Rene - smiles. 

“Yeah, that’s my Zoe alright.” 

Oliver reaches a hand out and the two men shake in greeting. There’s a moment of silence and then Oliver clears his throat, glancing at Felicity with a smile before he gestures to her with both hands. 

“This is Felicity. She’s a dear friend of mine and William’s tutor.” 

Three pairs of eyes turn swiftly to her and Felicity feels her cheeks grow warm beneath their scrutiny. But whatever they might be thinking, the trio of parents keep it to themselves. 

“It’s nice to see you again, Felicity,” Lyla smiles warmly and Felicity cracks a nervous grin in response.

“It’s been a while, hasn’t it? What was it, New Year’s?” Felicity supplies, thinking back with an inward wince to her failed New Year’s Eve plans for her and Oliver. 

Lyla’s smile widens at this, her eyes twinkling. “Oh well… I was at the PTA bake sale when you went off on Susan Williams and her band of cronies last school year but I don’t think you saw me then.” The woman’s smile deepens but Felicity feels her heart stutter. Oh shit. But Lyla’s not done. “Oliver’s lucky to have such a staunch defender,” Lyla beams and Felicity is keenly aware of Oliver’s eyes turning to her inquisitively.

“You went off on the PTA moms at the bake sale?” Oliver queries with abundant disbelief. 

Felicity feels her cheeks flush scarlet and she swings her eyes to face him, mildly horrified. This is not something she wants him hearing. The things those women said don’t bear repeating but she knows Oliver will hound her about this. Frak. “No! I mean, yes but not the way you think!” She’s still spluttering trying to find an explanation when Lyla swoops to her rescue.

“Oh, trust me Oliver. They deserved it - what they said was horrible and Felicity gave them what they had coming. You should have seen the look on their faces when Felicity chewed them out for being the gossipy... witches that they are,” Lyla smirks, nodding approvingly at Felicity. Oliver is staring at her with newfound...admiration, maybe? 

That’s why you don’t like the PTA moms?!” he asks, astonished. 

“Maybe,” she mutters noncommittally. 

“Who does like the PTA moms is my question?” Lyla snorts with a shake of her head. “Anyway. Felicity, it’s good of you to brave the Halloween sugar rush with Oliver,” Lyla murmurs, smoothly changing the subject, for which Felicity is inordinately relieved. She latches onto the change of topic, sending Lyla an appreciative look. 

“Oh it’s no trouble. William’s a great kid. And from everything I know and everything he’s told me about your children, they are too. It’s my pleasure to be here, honestly.” She’s trying not to babble but she can’t help the nervous butterflies in her stomach. Something about this feels like an interview and she can’t place why that’s the case. She’s been around Lyla and John before but tonight just feels...different. 

Before she can dwell on it, however, William and his friends come bounding back towards them, crowing delightedly and mercifully wiping out all talk of Susan Williams and her band of PTA lackeys.

“DAD LOOK! Full size candy bars!” William whoops and Oliver and Felicity both suddenly stir into motion; he clears his throat, patently avoiding her gaze as he focuses instead on William.

“That is amazing, buddy. Did you say thank you!” 

“Did I ever! I hugged the lady, she was dressed like a skeleton!” William announces cheerily before he goes darting after his friends with renewed enthusiasm for Halloween. Felicity and Oliver say nothing to each other but trail at a respectful distance as William and company bounce from house to house, fueled by more sugar than Felicity cares to consider. 

“Are you thirsty?” Oliver asks her after another house and Felicity glances at him, her brows raised. 

“Are you telling me you have more than pens in that pocket protector?” she teases lightly and Oliver chuckles.

“No, the pocket protector is strictly professional. The backpack, however, mixes business with pleasure,” he jokes in explanation, shrugging off the backpack in question. He unzips it to reveal a couple of bottles of reusable water, as well as a flashlight and a first aid kit nestled amongst all of William’s packed supplies for his sleepover at Lyla and John’s house.

“Well aren’t you a regular Boy Scout?” 

“I figured William  needed his stuff for the sleepover and we might need stuff on our travels tonight so I stashed supplies in his overnight bag. Always be prepared,” he answers back with the Scout motto, still smiling, “at least where William’s concerned, I try to be.”

“You succeed,” she breathes softly in answer, a small smile on her face, “and to answer your question, yes, I am. Thirsty, that is.” In more than one way, she adds to herself silently.

There’s a slight rustling as he digs in the bag and then Oliver hands her a bottle, which she gratefully accepts and drinks from. They continue walking in companionable silence and she hands him the open bottle for him to drink from. They pass it back and forth until they’ve had their fill and Oliver stashes it away again, ever the prepared dad.

She really loves that about him.

What she loves even more is that he insists on William hydrating a few houses later. Watching him interact with his son? Watching him be a dad? It’s the most attractive thing about him - and that’s saying something. She’s seen him shirtless, after all. And his paternal skills? They still take the cake.

By the time they’ve walked the entire second block and two more for good measure, the kiddos are running low on energy so they decide to turn for home. But with one very important pitstop. 

“You’re sure you’ve got everything you need for your sleepover?” Oliver confirms and William nods, practically bouncing in place with excitement - his second wind is kicking in right about now. 

“Yeah, I’m positive Dad!”

“You can have a few more pieces of candy but when Lyla and John say you’re done, you’re done. You hear me?” 

“Yes!” 

“Make sure you brush your teeth well and listen to what Lyla and John tell you. If you misbehave, you’re coming right home. Understood?”

“Understood!” William confirms, nodding animatedly before he throws his arms around Oliver in a warm hug. “Thanks Dad! Happy Halloween!” 

“Happy Halloween, buddy,” Oliver murmurs tenderly. Felicity watches this sweet goodbye from the sidelines until William spins and throws his arms around her next. 

“Bye Felicity! Thanks for trick or treating! I’m really glad you’re back. Can we play Mario Kart tomorrow? And get Big Belly Burger?” 

Felicity glances at Oliver and sees him preparing to try and tone down William’s youthful, sugar powered exuberance but she waves him off gently. “If your dad is okay with it? Absolutely. I promised you a winner take all deathmatch, remember?” 

“YIPPEE!” William shouts as he fist punches the air victoriously. “GREAT! Dad, can we hang out with Felicity tomorrow?” 

Oliver looks at her with a smile and a vague shake of his head, clearly pleased but not wanting to put pressure on her. “If Felicity is up for that, of course. She might be tired after her big move back though.” 

“Definitely not too tired for you guys,” Felicity cuts in, her eyes holding Oliver’s for a long moment before she refocuses on William. “Burger and video games tomorrow. For now? Go have fun, Bubs.” 

William gives her another squeeze and Felicity holds him to her, more delighted than she can say to be here tonight. She’s missed Oliver, sure. But she’s missed William too. Desperately. She’s more than a little reluctant when she finally lets him go. Sure, she’s dying to get Oliver alone. But she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t going to miss William too.

“Goodnight Dad, goodnight Felicity! I love you!” William calls over his shoulder as he scampers off after JJ, Connor, and Sara. Felicity and Oliver say their goodbyes to John and Lyla and then head towards Oliver’s place. For a brief time, Rene and Zoe are still with them but eventually they turn towards Rene’s house.

And just like that, it’s just the two of them. Felicity and Oliver. Without the buffer of William, or his classmates and their parents. Alone at last. 

She reaches out for him with her left hand, her fingers easily lacing through his in a wordless show of affection. It’s such a small but meaningful display of tenderness and trust. Felicity smiles as she feels his fingers give hers a little squeeze. They walk the rest of the way to his house hand in hand like this and she almost hates how giddy it makes her, to be sharing this simple little act of intimacy with him. If she’s this over the moon about hand holding, what is she going to do when they kiss? 

Probably keel over. Come to think of it, they should probably have an ambulance on standby. 

As they reach the front steps, she gives his hand a little tug, drawing him up short before he can fish his keys out of his pocket. Oliver stops and quickly shifts his attention fully onto her, a shadow of concern flitting across his brow.

“Everything okay?” His voice is low with concern and protectiveness and it takes all her concentration to ignore the heat it stirs low in her belly. “We don’t have to go inside, Felicity. We can talk right here if that’s what you want,” he offers and good god, she loves this man. This considerate, respectful, sweet man. But also? She knows what she wants now. And she’s done waiting for it and being silent about it.

“I want to go inside, Oliver,” she answers him and it’s not meant to be sultry but her voice comes out low and heated and something seems to stir in his eyes. Still holding onto her hand, he fishes his keys from his pocket and unlocks the door one handed, gently towing her inside behind him. The door clicks closed and in the dimly lit hallway, Felicity is keenly aware of the fact that they are alone, with no little kid ears to overhear them or little kid eyes to see them. For a long, tension filled moment, she and Oliver are just staring at each other, the sort of looks that say volumes without a single spoken word. 

“I...have been waiting to get you to myself all night,” Oliver admits shyly. “And I know that we still have things to talk about and I don’t want to push you too hard or too fast. I’m willing to take things as slow as you want to, I ju-”

She interrupts him at that point, reaching up onto the tips of her toes so she can press a kiss to his lips. She’s more nervous than she cares to let on and the kiss betrays that, uncertainty and hesitation making her a little clumsy. But even still, there’s something so reassuringly right in the feel of his lips against hers. She’s waited a lifetime to kiss him and this kiss is nothing like what she expected but already, Felicity knows she wants to kiss him again. And again and again and again. As she draws away from him, her eyes are studying his for some sign that she hasn’t just horribly overstepped. But instead of horror or disappointment (both of which she half expects to see), Oliver’s eyes are positively sparkling as she sinks back onto the flats of her feet. 

“I-I’m sorry, I just… I’ve wanted to do that for years and I didn’t think I could stand living another minute without having kissed you,” she confesses anxiously. Oliver just looks at her like she’s hung the moon and the stars, then he surprises her by sweeping her up into his arms as his lips find hers in a warm and enthusiastic kiss that makes her mind go blank. It’s short lived but passionate and when he draws away from her just slightly, Felicity is utterly breathless. 

“Felicity? I have wanted to kiss you for a very long time,” Oliver exhales, his breath ghosting across her face as he smiles down at her, one thumb lifting to brush her lips as he studies her tenderly. Wordlessly, he opens the front door and then offers her his hand, the unspoken question impossible to miss. She looks at his hand, giddy with disbelief, then she slips her fingers into his and together, they step across the threshold and into the familiar entryway of his home. Oliver leads her to the kitchen, where he is quick to pour them both a glass of his good wine. When he hands her the glass, she can see the slightest quiver in his hand and somehow, it’s oddly reassuring to know that he’s nervous too. 

How long have they danced around each other, both of them feeling as they do? How much time have they wasted longing for each other when they could have been together? She doesn’t want to dwell on it overlong; all that matters is that now, at long last, they’ve made their way here. To each other. 

Oliver lifts his glass to hers, the glass making a merry little tink as it brushes against hers. “To us,” Oliver murmurs simply and those two words fill her heart with joy.

“To us,” she echoes him, raising her glass to her lips and drinking joyously, if anxiously. Setting aside her glass, Felicity leans on the kitchen island, studying the man she loves intently. She’s not sure where to start, even though she’s dreamed of this moment for what seems like an age while they’ve been doing the distance thing. Now that it’s here? It’s almost too much. 

“I don’t know where to begin,” she confesses at last, opting for honesty. It’s always been the best policy, after all. 

“That makes two of us then,” Oliver admits with a lopsided smile, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand while the fingers of his other hand drum against the countertop. “Whatever happens, Felicity… I don’t want to ruin our friendship-”

“-neither do I!”

“William… he needs you in his life, Felicity. And so do I. I’m absolutely terrified of messing everything up. My track record with relationships is crap. I know that but… I never had a son to worry about in the past. And now I do.”

“I know. I don’t want to do anything to disrupt or upset William. I care about him too, Oliver.” 

“I know you do,” Oliver assures her hurriedly, covering one of her hands with his as he nods, his eyes dark and serious. “I’ve never doubted it, Felicity. You’re family to him. He loves you and I know you love him too. I just… I want to take things with you and I slow where he’s concerned,” Oliver explains and Felicity nods. They’ve discussed this already but tonight? Tonight is different. She can feel it and so can he. They’re together at long last and anything they do now could radically change everything. They have to be careful and considerate. 

“Oliver, I love you. And I love William. And if us being together isn’t good for him? ...Then we shouldn’t be together,” Felicity whispers, feeling the very real pain in her heart at the very notion of walking back out that door when she’s only just stepped inside it as something more than a friend. But every word of it is true - she loves Oliver but she loves William too. She can’t bear the idea of hurting the boy. She wants deeply to be with Oliver - but not at William’s expense. Never that. 

“Felicity don’t you see? That right there? That’s why I know that this can work. Felicity… whoever I choose to bring into our lives - William’s and mine - there’s always going to be a risk. Love means… it means opening yourself up to the possibility of getting hurt. I didn’t understand that before William came into my life. But now I do.” 

His eyes are positively shining now and the smile on his lips is the softest she’s ever seen. Felicity can feel the truth of his words in the weight of them. He’s chosen what to say with great care and the surety of each syllable is easing her fears and doubts and insecurities.

“What kind of example would I be setting for William if I teach him to close himself off from anyone who loves him, just because it could lead to heartbreak? What kind of future am I offering him if I’m depriving him the chance to - maybe, someday - have an amazing woman for a stepmom?” 

Felicity is quite certain that all the oxygen has fled the atmosphere with Oliver’s words because she can’t seem to draw air and she can’t even begin to form words. 

“Felicity Megan Smoak I am hopelessly in love with you. I’m in love with your laugh. I’m in love with the way your nose crinkles when you grin, and the little frowny face you make when you’re thinking really hard. I am in love with your selflessness and your heart and your courage and your grit. I love your beauty - inside and out. And if all of that wasn’t enough? I am in love with the way you love my son. Watching you tutor him or play video games with him or cheer him on at his baseball games? I have fallen more in love with you than I knew it was possible to be.”

Her heart swells to hear him proudly proclaim his love for her like this. On the plane had been one thing but this? This takes the cake. Felicity can feel her heart racing, can feel her pulse fluttering from the tips of her fingers down to her toes. Oliver loves her. And good grief, does she love him back. They’re so sunk. 

“Oliver... I love you too. Both of you. I-...I have been in love with you for half my life. You said when I was on the plane that you think that I deserve better? Oliver… you have no idea how incredible you are - how incredible you’ve always been. I’ve always seen it. Ever since the day I gave you that red pen, you have been a fixture in my life and you have been there for me - when no one else was. I have run from my feelings for you for years. But I’m done running. I just want you. I love you. I know it’s complicated. I know relationships aren’t easy but...there’s no one else I would rather navigate all of that stuff with than you.” 

Wine glasses forgotten, Oliver steps to stand before her, taking both of her hands in his as looks at her with eyes bright with emotion.

“Felicity...I promise that I will spend every day trying to be the man that you deserve. And I promise I will fight for you, for us, for our relationship, every single day. Because if you’ll have me? I’m all in, Felicity.”

The question hangs in the air between them for a brief moment as Felicity stares at him in shock. “I-If I’ll have you? Of course I will, I told you I love you, you goofball.”

The kiss comes slowly. Their noses just barely brush; his lips cover hers in a gentle, sweet kiss that, bit by bit, begins to grow. It’s a slow build though; for a time the only noise is their breathing and the soft sounds of their kissing as their lips acquaint themselves. For two people who know each other so well, they’re suddenly in uncharted territory with one another and this newfound level of intimacy. And for her, at least, it’s more than a little thrilling.

“I love you,” he breathes the words against her mouth and her eyes half close as she tries to soak up this moment in case she wakes up to find it’s all been a dream. But it isn’t a dream. And as they kiss again, the goosebumps that break out across her skin are as good as any pinch to prove that she’s not asleep.

She discovers that his lips are chapped; every time he draws them across hers, there’s a pleasant roughness to them that leaves her lips tingling. His stubble prickles her skin but she finds that she quite likes the sensation of it against her face and even more against her throat as he kisses his way along her jaw and down her neckline.  She’s not sure if he can feel her pulse beating through her skin but if he can, he’s feeling it skyrocket with that move. 

Oliver is kissing his way along her collarbones. Oliver. When she feels his lips press hard against the base of her neck, she at first doesn’t think anything of it. But after a prolonged few seconds and a sharp little nip, she realizes what he’s doing and she shivers

He just gave her a hickey. Oliver has just given her a hickey. Her Oliver. The one presently kissing his way back up her throat.As his lips find hers again, she opens her mouth and he wastes no time in doing the same; his tongue presses against hers and she melts against him as the kiss deepens. Time seems to stand still as they continue kissing and she is completely lost in his lips, his mouth, his tongue. Her eyes flutter closed as she gives herself over to the kiss and the rest of the world melts away.  

As he continues kissing her to the point of dizziness, his arm curves around her middle and the next thing she knows, he’s hoisted her off of her feet and into his arms. Instinctively, her legs curve around his torso, anchoring her firmly to him. And oh. This vantage? This is new. The way her body is literally wrapped around his? Also new.

She’s a fan of both of these new things. 

He walks them both back toward the hallway, wine glasses abandoned in the kitchen. He continues kissing her up until the moment he pins her against the hallway wall. In his eagerness, he bumps her against one of the framed pictures and it goes crashing to the floor in a shower of glass. They break apart for a moment, panting, and Felicity is instantly apologetic. 

“I’m so sorry, Oliver, I’ll-” she begins, only for him to cut her off breathlessly.

“I never liked that frame anyway,” he gasps before he leans in to kiss her again and Felicity feels her momentary concern dissipate. The world shrinks again until it only includes the two of them, their bodies pressed against each other in passionate embrace. She gets chills when his teeth scrape across her lower lip and tug at it before he presses a gentle kiss over the area.

One of her hands grips him by his bowtie as she answers by taking his lower lip between hers and sucking it roughly, unable to help herself. He’s still dressed like a hot college professor and he’s just confessed that he loves her and is willing to risk the unknown to be with her. Restraint is the last thing she’s capable of exercising at this moment. 

It’s a delightful new vantage, being above him like this. Her hair falls forward and drapes around their faces, blocking out the rest of the world. She keeps one hand on his bowtie, the other holds the nape of his neck as she kisses him fiercely, giving into every desire and urge she’s had and suppressed all this time. 

She feels him shift her weight to one arm, freeing up one of his hands. Distantly, she’s aware of his glasses moving against his face. She pulls away from him without warning, the hand on his bowtie flitting quickly to grab his glasses and stay his hand as he attempts to remove his simple, fake frames.

“What are you doing?” 

“...What do you mean? I’m taking off these goofy glasses so I can kiss you without them getting in my way,” he explains, giving her a half smile, half frown. 

“What if...and just hear me out here… What if you...left them on? ….And the bowtie too?” 

There’s a momentary lull as he stares up at her in disbelief before an amused smirk steals its way across his features

“...Really? The nerdy look is what does it for you?” 

She stares at him, aghast, and shakes her head. How can he be so perceptive sometimes, and so obtuse at others? 

“Oliver, I graduated from MIT. The nerdy look was the only look. If glasses and bowties were what did it for me, I’d have been whisked off my feet by a socially inept tech genius years ago,” she reminds him frankly, twirling his glasses in her hand before she delicately places them back on his face with a satisfied grin. “What ‘does it’ for me is you in glasses.” 

In answer, he arches a brow at her in surprise. 

“You like how I look in glasses?”

“And the bowtie. And the suspenders. Really, it’s all very good.” 

Seriously?”

“Oliver, what did you see when you looked at yourself in the mirror tonight?” 

He fidgets for a moment and presses his lips into a line before he gives in and answers her, his voice tinged with self consciousness. 

“I saw an awkward math nerd,” he confesses shyly and Felicity can only shake her head at him before she leans her forehead so it just touches his.

“You know what I see?”

He shakes his head in answer. 

“I see Oliver Queen, who I have been secretly fantasizing about for ages, looking like a sexy college professor I would definitely have stayed after class to talk to and drool over.”  

Her voice is practically a purr by the end of her explanation. Judging by the way his eyes have locked on hers, she’s achieved her goal of illuminating him on what a walking goddamn fantasy he is right now. She sees the shock go through him as her words register and the hungry glint in his eyes isn’t hard to spot. 

“You think I look sexy?” he repeats, sounding pleasantly stunned. 

“Yes, Professor Queen,” she whispers softly in his ear. His answering, full body shiver is victory enough but when he speaks next, there’s a hoarseness to his voice that was absent before and she takes great pleasure in knowing she’s had such an effect on him. 

“I like the Wonder Woman outfit,” he concedes bashfully and Felicity feels her cheeks flood with warmth.

“Really? You don’t think I look ridiculous?” 

“Felicity, when I came around the corner tonight and saw you for the first time, I had to duck back out of sight because you? Dressed like this?...” he fumbles for the words, looking at her in wide eyed wonderment, “...I couldn’t breathe. You looked so beautiful - I couldn’t function. My physical reaction was so visceral… I needed time to collect myself before I was family friendly again,” he explains, raising his eyebrows at her pointedly.

“Oh... Oh!” Her eyes flash wide open in surprise and instinctively, she glances down and then back up to his face, a shy smile stealing across her features. She bites her lower lip to keep the smile from growing but her cheeks have already betrayed her, flushing a pleasant shade of rose. “Really? You umm… you liked it that much?”

“Felicity, it’s you. I’d like it if you wore a paper bag,” Oliver rumbles in a low voice that makes something in her stir restlessly, “but you, dressed from head to toe in leather? … Yeah. I like that a lot.” 

 They’re still tangled up in each other, him holding her flush against the wall, her with her legs wrapped around his midsection, staring at each other in mutual disbelief. Felicity isn’t sure if their confessions have encouraged or discouraged Oliver. He’s still staring at her as though she’s got two heads. 

Maybe it was too soon to open up about fantasizing of him as a college professor? Before she can apologize for killing the mood though, Oliver’s hand falls to splay across her hip. 

“I’ll keep the glasses and the bowtie on if you let me take your costume off. Piece by piece,” he murmurs with emphasis, his eyes holding hers hungrily. Oh. Wow.

“You’ve got yourself a deal, Professor Queen,” she answers back a little breathlessly, for as they’ve spoken, his hand has traveled and slipped beneath the leather of her skirt. Wow wow wow. There’s no going back now because never, ever, in a million years, will she be able to forget the feel of his hands moving up her thighs.

Her hand traces gently along his jawline before she leans forward and gives him an open mouthed kiss, his breath hot against her face. His hand continues exploring and she feels her body give an involuntary shiver at the touch. 

In answer, she feels his hands collect her weight before he lifts her away from the wall and begins to walk them down the hallway. Her heart, already racing, begins to thud painfully against her chest and she closes her eyes. She has the layout of this house committed to memory. And when he rounds the corner, Felicity knows he’s taking her to the master bedroom.

To his bedroom. 

She’s been in his room before. But never like this; she’s never had his hands tangling in her hair or grabbing her backside, she’s never had his lips kiss their way across her skin, never had his touch set her skin on fire. 

They’re getting clumsy by the time he pushes open his bedroom door. They’re still kissing each other, though the kisses have a more hurried, urgent nature to them. His kisses are growing sloppier, as if he is trying to kiss all of her at once. Her kisses are growing more rushed, as though she’s Cinderella and they only have until midnight. Through it all, she feels his breath dance across her skin, sending chills up and down her spine. She’s suddenly acutely aware of just how much skin her costume shows. 

He carries her across the room and to the bed, where he lays her down with an almost feline grace. She could spend a decade waxing poetic about the easy way he moves if it weren’t for the fact that Oliver is now on all fours above her, kissing his way down her neck and across her chest, until the leather of her costume draws him up short. If he wants to kiss his way any lower, she’ll have to shed some layers. The very idea makes her gulp with the force of her nerves. 

Oh wow. Wow wow wo-w

Her breathing is ragged as she stares up at him, unable to believe that all of this is really happening. But as his hands go to frame her waist and his fingertips slip beneath the leather of her costume to tickle at her midriff, Felicity can’t deny that this is all very much real

His hands fall still a moment later though and Felicity can’t help the groan of frustration that slips from between her lips before she can stop it. Oliver quirks a brow at her and the corners of his lips twitch but he remains otherwise stoic.

“Felicity,” he murmurs, his lips just brushing against her ear as he does so, “I would really like to undress you now.” 

The question is clear. Here is her chance to back out before it’s too late. But Felicity is no quitter. And she’s had plenty of late night dreams about precisely this. Well, perhaps not precisely this. Not even in her wildest dreams had she imagined things between them unfolding like this. 

Her usual response would be to tease him; witty banter has always come so easily to them. But now, lying beneath him, his body curved protectively over her? She can’t find anything funny about the situation. In fact, she can hardly form words through the lump in her throat.

“And I would really like for you to undress me, Oliver,” she confesses in a whisper.

“You’re sure? We don’t have to-” Oliver begins but Felicity gives a quick shake of her head, interrupting him. 

“I’m sure, Oliver. I want you.” 

He doesn’t waste time; his hands slide beneath the leather of her costume and he gently lifts her back up into a sitting position. He scoots behind her, and the purr of the zipper at the back of her costume sets the air on fire moments before she feels his lips against her newly exposed skin. He kisses along her spine and with painstaking care, he pries the leather away from her skin. He pauses midway through though and she is instantly self conscious - is he regretting this now that he’s seen what he’s gotten himself into? 

When he spins her around to face him, she can’t meet his gaze at first; she’s so suddenly self conscious. This is Oliver. He’s had how many modelesque girlfriends in the time she’s known him? She can’t possibly compare. Surely he must already be less than enthused. But when she finally lifts her eyes to meet his, disappointment is the furthest thing from his expression. 

“Felicity,” he hums reverently, “you’re beautiful.” 

Right away there are a million responses rising in her throat; a million ways to downplay or shrug off his compliment. But he stops her before she can say a thing to counter him by kissing her sweetly; it’s a kiss that’s soft and slow and so thorough that by the time they break apart, she can’t recall a word of what she was about to say. And then Oliver kisses his way down her throat and to her breasts and Felicity finds herself completely incapable of articulate thoughts as his mouth busies itself kissing and nipping in turn.

Her hands go to his chest and her fingers make quick work of his buttons and she expertly loosens his bowtie just enough for him to get his shirt off (she was serious about him keeping the bowtie on, after all). In short order, he shrugs out of the white button up and lets it fall to the floor as he eases her back against the pillows once more. 

She can’t help herself; her hands run over his newly exposed abdomen, delighting in the way his body tenses and quivers at her touch. God, how many times has she longed to slowly and with great flare, count his abs, kissing each one as she goes? 

How many times has she imagined what it must feel like to have these muscles flush against her bare skin? How many times has she wondered what it must be like to hold him to her in the throes of passion? And here she is, touching where before she’s only dared to (occasionally) look, never allowing herself to linger near as long as she’d like to. 

She can take her time now. And she does. Her fingers glide over his skin, along every muscled groove, until she hits the waistline of his pants. Those have got to go. And so she does something that she’s only ever dreamed of up to this point: 

She takes off his pants. 

Felicity isn’t fast about it though - even if she desperately wants to be. There’s something to be said for taking her time. And the way he quivered beneath her hands earlier? God that felt good. She wants to do that to him again. And she can’t deny the heady rush she feels, knowing she holds that kind of sway over him.

So instead of stripping him of his pants and throwing him against the headboard the way she’d like to, she takes her time. Her fingers slowly draw down the zipper of his slacks and as she peels them off of him, she kisses her way down his body, delighting in the trail of lipstick she leaves in her wake. Her lips follow the grooves along his hips and damn him. His ‘fuck me’ lines are right there and how many times has she envisioned kissing her way down them? Too many.

Wait a second… is that even what they’re called? She doesn’t even know the anatomical term for them but even just looking at the simple lines angling down his hips, it’s enough to get her riled up. It’s like nature’s built-in arrow, directing her gaze right to the one place on his body that’s still hidden from her view. 

So whatever the hell you want to call those lines - and she decides she’s partial to ‘fuck me lines’ because boy, just looking at them is enough to make her want to - the fact of the matter is, Oliver is a full course meal already and they haven’t even dug in yet. 

Keeping her eyes on Oliver’s, she lets her mouth trail down the grooves of his muscled lower abdomen, her fingers prying the band of his boxers back just a little. Just enough to tease as she nips just below his navel and his whole body goes stiff and his hands bunch in the bedding beneath him as he struggles not to let on just how much she’s moved him. As if she doesn’t know. Her lips touch on sensitive skin and she can feel his entire body tense with barely contained desire. His eyes focus on her with laser-like intensity and one thing is clear - Oliver was not expecting this from her. His expression reads somewhere between shock and lust. 

Drawing out the torment, she moves to straddle his hips, seating herself directly over him, clad in nothing but her skirt and the simple pair of red lace underwear beneath. Leaning down over him, she watches as his hands let go of the fistfuls of down comforter he’d grabbed a moment ago and instead, his palms spread across her thighs and slip beneath the blue leather of her skirt. 

Her skin is abuzz under the attentive ministrations of his touch and in short order, he’s got her breathing heavy because frak. He’s good with his hands. She presses a hot, breathy kiss to his lips, panting too heavily to make the kiss near as deep as she’d like. But she’s not the only one feeling the strain; Oliver is taut as a bowstring beneath her, and the fact that they’ve gotten from shyly kissing in the kitchen to this in the span of a night? Well… that’s an escalation she’s really okay with.  

“Felicity,” her name comes out in a deep brass purr that makes her shiver as her eyes find his. There’s a hunger in his features, and his eyes are dark with wanting. Never, except in her dreams, has she imagined he would ever look at her that way. But he’s looking at her now and she nearly falls apart beneath that intense gaze. 

His mouth and his hands move quickly; he kisses his way up her body and then he rolls them so that she’s beneath him. She grabs him by his bowtie and hauls him back to her as she kisses him fiercely, panting as she leaves his lips and kisses along his jaw and behind his ear before she nips his earlobe, just sharply enough to make him hiss. And it’s that simple action which seems to do him in.

He breaks away from her and sits back from her, one hand snaring her left foot as she tries to hook it around him to tow him back to her. Felicity watches with a shiver of delight as he pointedly holds fast to her ankle as he presses featherlight, heated kisses to it. His lips move from her ankle, up her leg, eliciting soft sounds of approval from her. By the time he reaches her upper thighs, Felicity is open mouthed panting and whimpering with want. He pauses just shy of anything more intimate though and she can feel him smiling against her skin.

His fingers slide up her legs, disappearing beneath her skirt. When they reappear, a scrap of red lace is dragging behind them and he slips her underthings off of her with a flourish. He twirls them on his finger for a moment and then, with a boyish smirk, he casts them over his shoulder. Felicity expects him to remove her skirt next but much to her surprise, he makes no attempts to do so. With a chortle, Felicity realizes why. She’s left his bowtie and his glasses on, he’s left her skirt. Tit for tat. 

Maybe next time they will strip each other bare. And the very thought that there will be a next time would be enough to rile her up if Oliver wasn’t already taking care of that all on his own. 

With her underwear tidily disposed of, his hands are at her thighs and questing beneath her skirt with an eagerness that she mirrors as she instinctively spreads her legs at his gentle, questioning touch. From the moment his fingers slip inside her (one at first, though a second follows a short while after), Felicity finds herself incapable of all coherent thought. She can’t speak, she can’t think. All she can do is arch against him as he explores with a stroke here and a circle of his finger there. She can feel the pressure building as this goes on, with Oliver alternating between fast and slow moves in and out. 

Adding to her enjoyment? His eyes are fixed on her, drinking in the sight of her as she writhes beneath him. In short order, her breathing grows still more rapid and shallow, her heart racing as each sensation begins to intensify. He must sense how close she is to the edge because he presses his lips against her ear with a heated kiss and his voice is a soft growl as he speaks.

“Felicity. I have waited a very long time to make you come for me,” he hums and there’s something incredibly seductive about his voice, his words, all of it. “Let go, Felicity.” 

Felicity tries to stifle a moan, only half succeeding as Oliver crooks a finger within her and her world seems to fragment and white out. She’s heard of death by a thousand cuts but this? This is death by a thousand pleasures; her body shudders with the force of it and she feels it from the tips of her toes to the roots of her hair. All she can do is cling to him as it happens and distantly, she’s aware that she cries out. She’s oblivious to how loud she’s being, not that it matters - his mouth is on hers quickly, swallowing every desperate, satisfied noise. Each moan, each cry, each broken utterance of his name?  These are the fruits of his labors, his deserved praise for a job thoroughly well done. 

She’s still basking in the afterglow when he kisses her with an almost impossible degree of tenderness. Her mind is a blank slate; she’s utterly blissed out as he sits up over her, his eyes dark with pride and satisfaction. And yeah, he should definitely be proud because wow. 

It’s been a while since she’s felt anything nearly that intense. 

Wordlessly, he kisses her on the mouth, his tongue stroking hers. Somewhere in the midst of them making out, his glasses come free and fall forgotten amongst the sheets. His hands rove, caressing and pinching and flicking as he gets a sense for what she likes. And though it’s been only - minutes (or has it been years? Time has lost all meaning) Felicity can feel the faint beginnings of that telltale warmth spreading through her body once more and she hasn’t even finished coming down from the last time.

When Oliver cuts off their kiss in the midst at a particularly heated moment, she groans her displeasure and he smirks down at her. 

“If I don’t go now, I might not have the presence of mind to later,” he points out before he rolls off of the bed and disappears into the master bath. When he emerges, he’s got a box of condoms in hand and he gives them a pointed shake before he tears into the packaging. 

She sits up onto her elbows, keenly aware of the heat coming off her flushed skin. Felicity is quite certain she has never before been the literal definition of ‘hot and bothered’ but if ever it was true, it is now. Her eyes follow his movements shamelessly and when he goes to roll the condom on she stops him, plucking it away with her fingers. 

“Allow me,” she growls in her best attempt at ‘provocative’; she’s not sure if she hits the mark or not but judging by the way Oliver’s brows lift in surprise and his lips part in a little shocked ‘o’, she wagers she's done alright. 

She pushes herself into a sitting position and she takes him in her hand, allowing her fingers to boldly touch and caress. Her eyes dart up to his, uncertain. But Oliver is biting his lower lip as he struggles to breathe evenly, very evidently enjoying this detour she’s elected to take. Felicity keeps at it until he grabs her by the wrist with one hand, his eyes wide and his nostrils flaring. 

“Please,” he grounds out from between clenched teeth, “please, Felicity.” 

“Please what?” she hums with a devious smirk. “Tell me what you want, Oliver.” He stares down at her then, and in that moment, she realizes he would gladly beg if she asked him to. The realization sends a shiver down her spine; there’s something incredibly sexy about being able to turn him on so easily.

“Please… I-I want you. Now,” he chokes out, his breaths coming in great, labored gasps. 

Carefully, and with intentional slowness, Felicity rolls the simple bit of latex over the length of him. All the while, she’s keenly aware of the way he’s trying not to strain against her (and failing miserably). The moment she finishes  putting the condom on, her eyes flit up to his and she can see the barely restrained lust lurking there. 

His mouth is on hers in a flash, devouring her as he pushes her back against the pillows while he lines himself up, one knee gently nudging her legs apart. And despite the frantic, desperate air about him, he stops just then, his eyes holding hers as he waits, his whole body trembling. 

“Oliver,” Felicity murmurs then, one hand touching lightly on his cheek, “I have waited a very long time for this… I’m ready.” 

He stares down at her, still breathing heavily and she lets her thumb brush across his lips, which are smudged with the remnants of her crimson lipstick. There’s no returning from this. This is the last outpost, the point of no return. And she, for one, has no intentions of turning tail now. 

“I want you to say my name,” she instructs, her eyes bright and sparkling now as she draws one leg up and he grasps it just behind her knee and holds her steady there. 

“Felicity,” his voice is hoarse but there’s such a fantastic combination of lust and tender sentimentality in the way he says her name that she feels the heat beneath her skin deepen. She’s already so turned on by everything leading up to this moment, she’s not certain she can possibly spiral higher. But when he slants his mouth over hers as he pushes into her, Felicity’s body proves her wrong.

She can definitely spiral higher into this intense state of arousal. And she does. Oh how she does. 

Oliver doesn’t waste time; she’s driven him to the brink already with her earlier touches and he’s clearly intent on returning the favor. She finds herself gasping against him as he rocks home, only for him to fall completely still just as she feels her control slipping. It’s amazing and torturous all at once and she’s keening for him to resume but he makes her wait, drawing out the moment as he sucks at her throat, distracting her but not enough. Anything less than all of him could never be enough. Not now. 

“Please, Oliver.” It would seem that her turn to beg has arrived. 

“Felicity,” he purrs her name, and only her name as he withdraws almost completely. There’s a brief moment where they’re hanging by the most tenuous of connections. And then just as quickly, he drives back towards her, closing the distance between them with a buck of his hips. 

“God Oliver, ” she cries out, her fingers raking across his back and shoulders as she scrabbles for purchase. 

They move together with an increasing, rhythmic tempo that continues to build as they acclimate to each other. She rakes her fingers across his chest and he bites at her lower lip raggedly and it’s just good. All of it. It’s better than good but she doesn’t have words for the level of ‘good’ that they’ve reached right now. But it can’t last - even though she wishes they could go on like this forever. As she circles her hips up towards his, she can feel the change in his movements. He’s less fluid as he thrusts against her this time; a little more jarring, perhaps. And her latest move? It makes him moan against her lips, his already frayed grasp on his control faltering.

Fuck, Felicity.” 

He buries his face in her hair then and she feels his hand move between them as he strains to slow himself down, to stop himself from flying over the edge without her. Several things happen seemingly all at once, she’s not entirely certain of their order. All she knows is that Oliver’s fingers stroke against sensitive nerve endings just so and she flies apart, with a toe curling shock that rips through her, making her cry out his name. He does likewise, crying out her name practically in the same breath. Later, she tries to recall what - or rather who - came first but the two events occur so simultaneously in her memory that she neither knows nor cares. 

All that matters is that she’s floating, weightless in a sea of sensuous fulfillment that is so completely and totally all encompassing, it is unlike anything she’s felt before. She doesn’t even have the energy or ability to wrap her arms around him as he slips an arm around her waist and draws himself around her in a loose ‘big spoon’ formation. Distantly, she’s aware of him planting a kiss on her sweaty forehead but she’s capable of little more than breathing at the moment. If she is capable of movement, she has forgotten how. 

She is boneless. Replete with love for the man in bed with her, who has just set a remarkably high bar for himself. 

As she slowly returns to her senses, she has the presence of mind to force herself up onto her feet and she pads to the bathroom. Cleaning herself up robs her of what little energy she’s regained but it affords her the opportunity to pinch herself to confirm that this is real and not some very vivid fantasy. The pain of the pinch is a most welcome reality check. Before she leaves, she slips off the blue skirt from her costume, abandoning it to the bathroom floor before she hurries back to him. He’s drawn the downy comforter up around him and he lifts it now as she returns. She scoots beneath the comforter as quick as she can and burrows against his side, perfectly content to resume being the little spoon to his big. His body heat instantly warms her already cooled skin and she shivers in delight at the simple heat exchange his proximity affords. She huffs a happy little exhale as his arm encircles her once again and he nuzzles the back of her head.

As she drifts off to sleep, the last thing she hears is his voice as he whispers to her. 

“Felicity? ...I love you.” 

The warm glow she feels this time is emotional more than physical but it is every bit as powerful. Her lips pull into a tired, happy smile as she sinks deeper towards sleep.

“I love you, Oliver.”

Chapter Text

When the morning comes, she wakes slowly and for the first minute or so of wakefulness, Felicity is entirely perplexed by the pair of arms wrapped around her body and the solid chest at her back. But then, in a wild rush, the memories come flooding in and she remembers… everything. Her cheeks are burning with every recollection; the hand resting on her hip? That’s Oliver’s hand.

And it was Oliver whose hands left scorching trails across her body with every touch last night. It was Oliver’s mouth that kissed its way across her skin, sucking and nipping with joyous abandon. Oliver, whose dexterous fingers had driven her to call his name in the dark several times over the course of the night. 

And it is Oliver who reaches across her in the bed now to silence the alarm clock on the nightstand as it begins to wail. He returns to her side with a soft huff, nuzzling his face in the crook of her neck with a contented hum. 

“Good morning,” he rumbles delightedly and Felicity feels her heart take off like a drunken racehorse out of the starting gate. 

“Good morning,” she returns, a little dazed to find herself waking up like this in his bed. As he shifts beside her, she also processes that she is still very much naked. A fact which she becomes even more aware of a moment later when she feels Oliver’s hand snake across her abdomen, holding her in place as his head lowers to drop additional kisses down her neck and chest. 

Oliver, her oldest friend, is kissing her body. Oliver, the man she’s ogled from afar for years, is currently caressing her breasts. This is… a lot to process. Her mind is buzzing with it all but not for one moment does regret or doubt enter into the equation. Is she in disbelief? Sure. This is… something she never thought would happen in a million years. This is the impossible becoming reality. But as surprised as she is to wake and find that it was not a dream as she had feared it might be, Felicity is still delighted.

Because Oliver? The reality of Oliver? It’s so much better than anything she’s dreamed up. And that’s saying something. 

“I like waking up with you here,” Oliver whispers in her ear before he intentionally drags his stubble across sensitive skin as he peppers her throat and jaw with kisses. As he kisses her, Felicity rolls over in his embrace so that they are face to face. Oliver wastes little time and his kisses quickly move north, his lips finding hers for a vigorous little morning makeout session. 

Yeah. She likes this. She likes this a lot. 

“The feeling is mutual,” Felicity returns in a hushed voice as she reaches out with one hand and her fingers tap dance across his torso. With a brief glance to his face, Felicity strays a little lower, delighting in the way Oliver’s eyes darken and his breathing catches. Right away, she can see the question forming in his gaze and she can’t help but laugh in amusement. She’s not sure what she imagined him being like in bed, but the fact that she can rile him up this easily comes as a (very pleasant) surprise. With a devious smirk, she ventures lower, the intent behind her questing fingers quite obvious.

“What’s that saying? The early bird-” she begins, cutting off with a peal of delighted laughter as Oliver’s fingers tickle at her stomach, interrupting her bold advance.

“-gets the worm,” he finishes for her with a suggestive smirk before he draws her flush against him and oh. Just from this little bit of playful banter and touching, Felicity can feel how very ready he is to greet this new day with her. 

“I’ve never been much of an early bird but I think for you, I’ll make an exception,” Felicity murmurs breathlessly, her eyes wide and bright as she stares at him smilingly. And then Oliver kisses her so thoroughly that the world falls away. In short order she’s blindly grabbing for the box of condoms on his nightstand but even as she does, he’s ducking his head beneath the sheets and making her arch against him in ecstasy. 

Her last coherent thought before she feels the building waves carry her over is yes, she definitely likes waking up in Oliver’s bed. 

After Oliver ensures that she has world’s best wakeup call ( twice over, actually) she shyly asks to use his shower. She makes it as far as getting her hair wet before the curtain draws back and she finds Oliver peeking in at her, a sheepish grin on his face. 

“Any chance I could… join you?” 

He’s so uncertain, it’s adorable. Felicity grins and crooks a finger at him, beckoning him closer. In short order, they’re kissing and touching and it’s all really, really good. Felicity seizes on the opportunity to grab the bar of soap and drag it across his body under the pretext of getting clean but really, she’s looking for any excuse to let her hands rove across his body. There’s something tremendously satisfying about letting her fingers skate across his well defined torso. Her pinky finger fits neatly in the grooves his muscles form and she delightedly counts off each of his abs as she soaps up each in turn before she sprinkles heated kisses across his broad shoulders. 

Oliver gives as good as he gets though; when she’s thoroughly sudsed him, he takes the bar from her and as he kisses her, he draws it slowly across the planes of her body. He lingers at her breasts, dragging his thumb intentionally across her nipples with each pass of the soap. He lavishes attention on her upper thighs and backside as well and Felicity feels her body growing far hotter than the shower water is. When he’s soaped her up twice over, he even removes the detachable shower head from the wall to rinse her off with slow, purposeful strokes. All the while, he’s drinking her up with eyes that she will forevermore call his ‘bedroom eyes’ because frak. It riles her up, seeing him looking at her, his expression so suggestive and sexy.

Somehow, they manage to finish up in the shower and get dressed, which is in and of itself a miracle because putting clothes on is about the furthest thing from what she wants. But the little love bubble they’ve been in? Reality has begun creeping in on it. There’s practical considerations - like breakfast - to consider. And more importantly? 

William’s sleepover is going to come to an end soon. And when it does, he shouldn’t come home to find shattered glass and a broken picture frame in the hallway, and his dad and his dad’s best friend still wearing last night’s Halloween costumes. 

He might be just a kid. But he’s a perceptive kid and he will very easily understand that something has transpired - even if he doesn’t fully know what that ‘something’ is. So as much as Felicity would like to spend the day lounging around naked in bed with Oliver, that’s not in the cards. She’s got to go home and unpack and he’s got to get ready for William’s return. 

Oliver insists on sending her home in one of his tees and a pair of his sweatpants, which is oddly sweet. Felicity can’t help but breathe in the lingering scent of his aftershave and the faint undertone of sweat that clings to the faded shirt. It’s his favorite shirt, she recognizes with a smile - a faded and well worn green ‘Starling City Thunder’ tee. The sweatpants are a pair of entirely too large for her, plain black bottoms. As she pulls them on, Oliver steps forward to cinch them up around her waist, helpfully rolling the top of them for her. For a brief moment, their eyes lock and Felicity forgets to breathe.

It would be so easy to rip off these overlarge articles of clothing and walk him backwards across the bedroom and back to his bed. He wouldn’t fight her - she can see from the gleam in his eyes that he wants that too, would welcome it even. 

But that would be selfish. And if this is going to work? They cannot be selfish. It’s got to be William first. 

Her lungs expand as she finally takes a breath and with it, she can feel the bubble burst. She doesn’t mourn it though; for as wonderful as the bubble has been, she has to trust that there are plenty more romantic interludes ahead. And in addition to romantic interludes? She’s hopeful there will be familial interludes as well; already, she’s envisioning plenty of opportunities for her and her two best guys to spend quality time together and the thought makes her giddy. 

Oliver puts on a pot of coffee and he whips up fresh omelettes and toast with ease, all the while apologizing for not making her something more elaborate. 

“Oliver, you do remember that this is me you’re talking to? I burn toast. This is high brow cuisine by my standards. I’m usually a cold breakfast girl. This? This is heaven.” 

“Next time, I’ll make you a real breakfast. French toast. Pancakes. Crepes. Waffles. Fresh squeezed orange juice. Eggs. Whatever you want,” Oliver remarks as he stands at the stove, expertly flipping the omelette he’s just whipped up for her - complete with cheese, peppers, onion, and spinach. And while the idea of a homemade, Oliver special breakfast spread is enticing, it is the first two words of his sentence that have her on the verge of exploding with joy. 

“So umm… There’s going to be a next time then?” Felicity asks teasingly. In response, Oliver freezes for a moment at the stove before he turns to face her with raised brows. He abandons the omelette so quickly it surprises her - Oliver takes cooking very seriously. Leaving food to burn on the stove? This must be dire. 

He leans across the island towards her, closing the gap between them so his face hovers a mere hair’s breadth from hers. His eyes hold hers intently, his expression both serious and serene all at once.

“Felicity, let me be very clear: if I have my way? Your days of cold breakfasts are over. Permanently.

And really, how can she possibly not kiss him when he’s saying amazing, wonderful, spectacular things like that to her face while looking all handsomely disheveled? She can’t. Suffice it to say, Oliver Queen burns an omelette for the first time in a very, very long time that morning. But Felicity is quite certain that if asked, Oliver would agree that one burnt omelette is worth every minute that they spend kissing across the counter and pawing friskily at one another until they break apart at last when the smell of burnt egg fills the room. 

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A few weeks later…

-----

When Felicity pulls up in front of Oliver’s house the week before Thanksgiving, she’s overwhelmed by the butterflies in her stomach. ‘Butterflies’ seems like an understatement; she feels her stomach twisting into such knots she isn’t sure if she wants to collapse or throw up or perhaps both - throw up first and then collapse. 

For the last few weeks, she has been living in what she can only describe as a little fantasy love bubble. She’s been over at Oliver’s multiple times each week for dinner with him and William. And every Saturday, Oliver has dropped William off at Thea’s and then taken Felicity out on a proper date. The first week they had a fancy dinner and drinks. The next week they did a night cruise around the bay and then got ice cream and last week? Last week they went to a science museum and ended up chasing each other around in the laser section. In short? It’s been breathtaking and she’s been on cloud nine.

Sure, there have been a couple stumbles here or there - after all, they’ve already exhausted everything people would ordinarily talk about on a first date and she’s already seen him shirtless.

Very, very shirtless. 

But all in all? The first few weeks of them officially dating have gone well. Beyond well - it’s been fantastic. For one? This is what she’s wanted for so long. And while some people might say that the reality couldn’t ever be as good as the hype, it’s simply not true. Felicity isn’t sure what expectations she really had going into all of this but whatever her expectations were? Oliver has blown them away. The bar that Ray and her previous boyfriends have set? Oliver has raised it by a wide margin. He’s exceedingly attentive and though they’ve had a couple communication snafus, he’s been honest and open in his communication with her. 

All in all? He’s a damn good boyfriend, despite his claims to the contrary. Which makes it rather difficult not to kiss him or hold hands with him or cuddle him, or do any of the multitude of affectionate things she’d like to do with him when they’re together at his place with William. But the big, looming hurdle that they’ve been avoiding still needs addressing:

They haven’t told William about their relationship yet. And though Felicity has always felt nothing but effusive love from the boy, the idea of cluing him in and facing backlash from him has her sweating. William loves Felicity Smoak, his dad’s friend. He may hate Felicity Smoak, his dad’s girlfriend and it is that thought that has kept her up all the previous night, tossing and turning with worry. 

She isn’t even fretting over telling Oliver’s family (not even Moira has her scared), she isn’t even scared to tell her mother. No, William is the one whose opinion counts the most and it is William who she is so terrified will disapprove. Felicity is desperately hoping the boy will look favorably upon this shift in their dynamic. If he doesn’t? 

Well. Felicity shudders to think of how quickly the love bubble she and Oliver have been living in will burst if William doesn’t support his father and Felicity dating. But worse than that? She’s not sure she could handle being hated by the boy she’s come to love and adore so truly. Her heart has withstood a lot but she’s quite certain it cannot withstand that. 

So as she stands a little breathlessly on Oliver’s doorstep, there’s a subtle tremor in her hand as she rings the doorbell and waits. She can hear William call from within the house and a few moments later she hears the door being unlocked and thrown open from the other side and there he is, her favorite little brunette brainiac, in all his gap toothed glory. 

“Felicity! Guess what? I LOST A TOOTH TODAY!” William exclaims proudly, pointing at a gap where his canine tooth has previously resided. Kneeling down to get a closer look, Felicity puts her hands on William’s face and makes a great show of examining the gap, much to William’s delight. 

“That looks like a Grade A tooth that you have coming in there, William. I bet the Tooth Fairy is going to pay up BIG TIME for the one you lost,” Felicity remarks solemnly and William snorts and rolls his eyes at her. 

“Yeah right, I know the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, Felicity!” William scoffs and Felicity looks at Oliver as he comes around the corner, brandishing a dish towel. 

“It’s true. The jig is up: William has determined it is statistically impossible for the Tooth Fairy and Santa and the Easter Bunny to exist,” Oliver explains and Felicity looks in shock back to the boy. To his credit, William is beaming proudly, showing off his missing tooth fantastically. 

“Please explain,” Felicity pleads, looking from one Queen boy to the other. 

“Show her, bud,” Oliver instructs and in short order, Felicity finds William grabbing her by the hand to lead her through the house and to his room, where she finds paper spread across every surface, covered in a multitude of math equations. For the next fifteen minutes, William explains in painstaking detail (and shockingly accurate, advanced math) how it is mathematically impossible for these figures to exist and to globe trot, tending to all the children of the world as they allegedly do. 

Google, she loves this boy. 

“William that is some impressive math, Bubs,” Felicity comments as she ruffles his hair, eliciting a proud grin even as he shrugs. 

“I learned from the best!” William beams before he skips off down the hall, leaving Felicity to look at the doorway, where Oliver is leaning against the door frame smiling. 

“Who did he learn from?!” Felicity inquires, suddenly a tad hurt at the idea of William getting tutored by someone else without her knowing. Oliver rolls his eyes and steps into the room, his hands going easily to her waist. 

“He meant you, Felicity.” 

“Oh.” Felicity quiets and blushes faintly, nestling against Oliver with a little sigh as she slips her arms around him in return. “I’m the best?” 

“Well, I certainly think so,” Oliver murmurs, leaning his head down to share a slow, easy kiss with her. Right away her skin is buzzing at the touch and Felicity finds herself leaning into the kiss eagerly until William’s voice summons them from the other room. 

“Dad! The timer is going off!” 

Grudgingly, the couple parts, though Oliver lingers to look her over lovingly but with focus and she can tell he’s picking up on the subtle tension she’s radiating. “He will still think you are the best even after we tell him, Felicity. Even if it takes a little time, you know he thinks the world of you. This won’t change that in the long run.” 

“Easy for you to say. You’re not the one whose role in his life is changing,” Felicity sighs as she steps slowly out of Oliver’s embrace and runs a hand through his hair. Oliver offers her a reassuring smile and his hand. 

“Come on. We’re going to get through this. And no matter what his reaction is, we’ll handle it. Together.” 

Felicity sighs and nods, smiling nervously as she accepts Oliver’s offered hand. It’s time to come clean to William. 

They make their way to the kitchen and Oliver is a flurry of motion as he serves up another of his notoriously delicious dinners - this one is a honey garlic chicken with asparagus and carrots. They dive into the meal and make quick work of it, all of them cleaning their plates delightedly. Even Felicity’s butterflies are no match for an Oliver Queen homemade meal. 

It’s only after the dishes are cleared that Oliver shares a knowing look with her and they both seat themselves at the table on either side of William, who is just finishing his glass of water when he looks at them both curiously. 

“Hey William? Felicity and I would like to talk to you about something,” Oliver says quietly and Felicity feels her heart in her throat as the child sets aside his glass and looks from his father to her and back again with uncertainty. 

“What’s wrong?” William asks in a tiny voice and Oliver smiles at him reassuringly. 

“Nothing is wrong. But we do need to talk,” Oliver explains simply, his focus wholly on his son in this moment. Taking a breath, Oliver steadies himself and begins. He and Felicity have discussed this moment a lot and they’ve decided that the news should come from Oliver. 

“William, do you remember a while ago when you asked Felicity and I how to know if you like like someone?” Oliver questions and the boy frowns faintly but nods slowly. 

“Yeah.” 

“Well… You asked Felicity if she loved me then, remember? And Felicity said that she loved me but we told you that we didn’t kiss.” 

“Yeah. You said you didn’t love each other that way. That you didn’t love each other romantically.” 

“Exactly. But see, the thing is William, remember how we told you that emotions were tricky and sometimes we don’t know what our heart wants? Well… Our hearts were afraid to admit how we felt back then. But the truth is, Felicity and I? We do love each other that way now. We love each other very much, actually. So we wanted to talk to you about that tonight. Because we want to be honest with you.” 

Oliver pauses for a moment and glances to Felicity, who nods encouragingly at him and flashes him a teensy smile. He’s doing great. 

“I would really like for Felicity to be my partner, and she would really like for me to be her partner, but we don’t want to do that if it’s going to hurt you. Because both of us love you very  very much, William. But if Felicity and I date each other? Some things will change.” 

“But us loving you? That will not change, Bubs,” Felicity interjects hurriedly and Oliver nods in agreement. 

“That’s right - no matter what? Felicity and I are both going to love you and be here for you,” Oliver confirms and William sits quietly with this for a moment, clearly contemplating. 

“What things will change?” William asks quietly, looking sheepishly around the table. 

“Well, sometimes Felicity and I will go places without you - because sometimes we’ll need time alone,” Oliver explains and William looks a little crestfallen at this, but Oliver soldiers on. “But it would also mean Felicity would spend more time with us. She’d be over here for dinner a few times a week, maybe more, she’d come to your school plays and your baseball games-” 

“Felicity already comes to those things!” William points out and Oliver chuckles. It’s true - Felicity is already a frequent flyer at such events. 

“You’re right. But she’d be there for more of them. It would also mean you two would spend some more time together without me. Felicity will probably even spend the night here from time to time,” Oliver drops this one gently and Felicity knows that Oliver isn’t exactly keen on explaining why Felicity might spend the night - having the talk about their relationship AND the sex talk all in one night would probably do poor Oliver in. 

“Do I have to share my room?” William inquires and Felicity has to swallow a laugh as Oliver bites back a grin of his own. 

“No bud, she’ll share my room when that happens,” Oliver assures his son and William nods thoughtfully. Thankfully, the child doesn’t seem overly concerned about the idea of Oliver and Felicity having sleepovers, so Oliver lives to see another day without the birds and the bees talk. 

“She’d probably be with us for holidays and vacations and those kinds of things. It would mean that sometimes, you’ll see us do things that other couples do - like kiss and hold hands,” Oliver explains and William shoots an intense look Felicity’s way.

“You want to kiss my Dad?!” William looks flabbergasted and Felicity can only giggle as she nods. 

“Yeah, I do.” 

“Gross,” William snickers, looking utterly thrilled. Felicity and Oliver make eye contact and to her delight, she can see Oliver’s cheeks flushing bright red. Aww. He’s cute when he’s embarrassed. 

“The point is...some things would change. And we know that might be hard for you and you might be upset by that. But we want you to know that we respect your feelings and we want you to have a say in what happens here.”

William is silent for what feels like a short eternity before he casts his gaze to Felicity, wearing the same thoughtful expression he dons whenever a particularly challenging equation comes across his desk. 

“So… you guys used to be best friends, right?” 

“Right,” Felicity confirms quickly, waiting with bated breath to see what the boy’s reaction will be. 

“But now you want to be boyfriend and girlfriend?”

“Yes.” 

“So if you’re changing what you are to my Dad… does that mean you and I have to change what we are too? What does that make us?” William asks and the heartbreak that flits across his face is nearly enough to do her in. 

“William, what you and I are to one another? That doesn’t have to change, Bubs. I will still be your friend. I will still be your math tutor anytime you need help. We can still text and watch Doctor Who together and do all the things we did before. In fact, we might get to do more of it because I’ll be around more often,” Felicity explains, reaching a tentative hand out to cover one of his reassuringly. “I am not going to try and be anything you don’t want me to, Bubs. I want to support you and be the best friend and tutor that I can be.” 

“You’re not going to try to be my Mom?” 

“No, Bubs. You have a Mom. I would never try to take her place,” Felicity confirms fervently and William nods, looking relieved. 

“Marcus’ parents got divorced and his dad has a new girlfriend. She makes Marcus call her his Stepmom,” William explains, wrinkling his nose. “He hates her.” 

“That is super not cool,” Felicity comments solemnly before she gives William’s hand a squeeze. “But you don’t have to call me anything. I’m not your Mom, I’m not  your stepmom even. I’m just Felicity. Same as before. Your dad is the only one who has to change what he calls me, not you,” Felicity teases with a conspiratorial wink that sends William to look, grinning, at his father. 

“You do?” 

Oliver nods solemnly. “Oh yeah. She’s still my best friend but now I have to call her my girlfriend. She’s more than a friend - she’s my partner.” 

And he has to buy me chocolate and flowers,” Felicity adds on playfully, making William giggle as Oliver nods in a faux put-upon way. 

“So...If you two date, Felicity would be around more? And sometimes you guys would hold hands,” William repeats solemnly, mulling this over a moment before he shrugs, looking from Oliver to Felicity. “Just like my boyfriend JJ and I!!” William beams happily, grinning around the table. “I like this plan, Felicity makes you happy Dad, and Felicity is fun to hang out with. You two should have started being boyfriend and girlfriend a long time ago, then Felicity and I could have played more video games!” 

Felicity can tell that the effusive affirmation William has shown for her and Oliver’s blossoming relationship has been outclassed for Oliver by the realization that his son has a boyfriend. Oliver looks dazed as William pushes his chair back from the table, looking at both adults expectantly. 

“Is that it, or can I go play videogames now?” William inquires innocently and Felicity jumps in, sensing that Oliver will need a moment. 

“That’s it, Bubs, you can go play videogames now. Thank you for being so awesome,” Felicity smiles, opening her arms to him and beaming as the boy accepts her offered hug warmly. As he draws back from her, William smiles at her fondly. 

“Are you going to be around for Thanksgiving, Felicity? Because Dad says Thanksgiving is when we say what we’re thankful for. And I’m really thankful for you. You make me happy and you make my Dad happy too,” William explains sweetly and Felicity feels herself melting for this perfect little boy who has so thoroughly stolen her heart. 

“Y-Yeah, I’ll be here for Thanksgiving, if that’s alright with you,” Felicity confirms and William nods, then scampers off, leaving the couple behind at the dining room table. Glancing to her boyfriend, Felicity sees he’s still reeling and she gets to her feet and goes to stand behind him, her hands massaging at his shoulders tenderly. 

“So... that happened,” Felicity remarks, unsure how to handle Oliver’s response thus far. She didn’t take him for the type to be thrown by his son’s sexuality. 

“H-He said he had a boyfriend, right? You heard that?” 

“I did. Please tell me you are not freaking out about this. This is not something you should be upset about, Oliver,” Felicity murmurs warningly, steel in her tone. If her first act officially as his girlfriend is to verbally thrash him for being upset about his son’s sexuality, she’ll do it without hesitation. 

“Not something to be upset about?! Felicity, my son has a boyfriend and I had no clue! What if he breaks William’s heart? I’ve got to have a conversation with him. Do you think Lyla and Diggle know? I’m totally unprepared for this, all the speeches I had prepared for when he started dating were intended for teenagers at minimum. He’s not even a tween yet! How do I warn a child not to break my son’s heart or else?!” 

“You have threatening speeches already lined up to tell whoever he’s dating?!” Felicity grins as his arm snakes out around her waist and pulls her down into his lap. 

“I do. I like to be prepared. And nobody is allowed to hurt that boy. No one. Not even his ten year old boyfriend JJ,” Oliver insists and Felicity smiles as she grabs him by the chin. This? This is the Oliver she knows and loves. Fiercely protective of those he loves. Of course he doesn’t care about his son’s sexuality - he’s just looking to make sure that no one breaks William’s heart. It’s so on brand for him that, if possible, she falls a little more in love with him. 

“Well, maybe we can arrange for JJ and Lyla and John to all come over for dinner one night,” Felicity hums before she leans forward and kisses him soundly. The throaty noise he makes in response seems to agree with her. 

“Yeah. Maybe ‘we’ can,” Oliver smiles, emphasizing the ‘we’ pointedly. And as she nuzzles against him, Felicity feels for the first time in a long time like she’s exactly where she was meant to be. 

Chapter Text

Epilogue 

 

Two Years Later...

 

Muted sunlight is streaming in through the windows when she wakes and Felicity sighs happily before she nestles deeper beneath the blankets. Beside her, there’s a soft stirring and then a strong arm wraps around her middle, drawing her against a familiar, broad chest. 

“Good morning, beautiful.” 

“Mmm… Good morning yourself, handsome,” Felicity exhales as she turns over in his embrace so she’s nose to nose with Oliver. She smiles at him and nuzzles his face with her nose. This? This is something she never tires of. Waking up to him. Especially when she’s spent the last week out of town for one of her biannual visits to National City to ensure that Smoak Tech’s office there is running smoothly. Even now, two years after starting it up, she likes to be involved in all her major Smoak Tech offices - which now also include Metropolis, Gotham, and Central City locations. 

The growth of her company has been great. But as much as she enjoys traveling and seeing how successful the company she created has grown, there’s nothing quite like coming home. Spending a week away from Oliver always leaves her hungering for time with him. And she is positively drinking it up now. Pressing a soft kiss to the corner of his lips, she murmurs softly to him. “What time is it?” 

“Five forty two,” Oliver answers her with a drowsy grin and Felicity’s lips pull into a smile just before he closes the gap between them with a soft and slow, still sleepy kiss. 

“Eighteen minutes before the alarm goes off. Hmm… I wonder what we could do in eighteen minutes …?” Felicity trails off playfully as they break apart, giggling as she feels one of Oliver’s hands slip beneath the faded Starling City Thunder tee - his tee, though she’s never given it back to him since the morning after their first time together more than two years ago. She’d attempted to give it back to him, of course, but he’d insisted he liked it better on her. And well… she does like wearing his clothes.

His fingers tickle along her sides before slipping up higher still with one hand, while the other begins to slowly pull the shirt up as if to pull it off of her. It’s right about then that there’s a knock on the bedroom door and Felicity and Oliver freeze. Felicity swallows back a laugh even as Oliver quietly groans and buries his face against her. 

“Dad? I can’t sleep.” 

William’s voice is muffled by the closed door and Felicity knows that Oliver is going to be incorrigible until he can get her to himself, but interruptions, she has learned, are a part of parenthood. 

“Come on in buddy!” Oliver answers just before he lifts his head up and plants a serious smooch on her lips. “We’re going to resume this later,” he growls playfully at her after he pulls away and she grins back up at him as the door to their bedroom opens. 

“I’m going to hold you to that,” Felicity murmurs back suggestively. 

Her attention immediately jumps from Oliver to William though, and Felicity sits up in bed and spreads her arms out wide and invitingly to the boy opens the door and slips inside the master bedroom. These visits have grown less frequent over the last couple years, what with William nearing thirteen now, so they are all the more precious now. “Bubs! What’s up? Did you have a bad dream? Come here, your dad and I will help you sleep.” 

William trots over to the bed and wastes little time in clambering up in between the couple. Oliver tousles the boy’s hair lovingly and gives him a fierce bear hug before William scoots over so he’s flush against Felicity in the most perfect little kid little spoon she’s ever seen. Her arms wrap around him fondly and Felicity presses a kiss to the top of his head as she lays back down on the bed, still cradling William in her arms.

“No, I didn’t have a nightmare. I just couldn’t sleep any longer,” William sighs and Felicity smiles as she rubs his back comfortingly, delighted to be receiving these sorts of cuddles. She has a feeling the boy won’t be much for cuddles with his dad’s girlfriend for much longer. Teenage years, she’s told, can be a real rough go of it. So she’s going to soak up every minute with this kid while he’ll still let her. 

Yes, it would have been nice to kick the day off with a romantic wakeup call with Oliver. But this? Holding William close while lying in bed with Oliver? There’s something pretty incredible about that too. It stirs something deep inside her heart that she never knew was there before. Motherly instincts she never knew she had come roaring to life anytime William is involved and while she knows she’s not his mom, she loves him as if he were her own son. 

She nuzzles the top of his head for a moment longer before she glances at the man lying in the bed opposite of her and what she sees makes her fall still. Oliver is watching her with eyes that positively glow. How that man is capable of just oozing and radiating love, she’ll never know. But he is. And he does so now, as he watches her with William. His lips are quirked in a faint, tender smile and as he realizes she’s caught him staring, it becomes a full blown grin.

I. Love. You. He mouths the words at her, careful and slow and Felicity smiles at him as her heart swells. Never in a million years would she have guessed that she would find ‘home’ laying in bed with Oliver Queen, with his son snuggled against her. But this is home. It’s home more than any place she rented on her own before she moved in with the guys last year. It’s more ‘home’ even than her childhood home back in Nevada. It occurs to her that maybe, she’s been searching for home all this time. And she never found it before now but it was right here all along. With Oliver - and William. 

‘Home’ is unexpected in a million wonderful ways. And she loves it so much it hurts. 

‘Home’ is wherever her boys are. Home is in their embrace and in their eyes and in their smiles. Felicity relaxes with a sigh and reaches one hand across William’s still little figure, her fingers touching lightly on Oliver’s arm. He smiles back at her and his hand reaches up to snare her own and he holds it tight. As she watches, he scoots closer, so that the space between them is only as big as the area that William takes up. Face to face, their eyes lock, matching smiles stealing across their lips. 

Never, in all her life, has Felicity felt such pure, unadulterated love as she does when Oliver looks at her. But even as they stare at each other, she senses something else in his gaze. Mischief.

“Hey bud,” Oliver murmurs in William’s ear and the boy turns his head to face his father, blinking at him with surprisingly alert eyes. “Do you think we should ask Felicity our questions now?” Oliver prods and William flashes a glowing smile and nods. Felicity quirks a brow at Oliver, puzzled, but he refuses to meet her gaze as William sits up in between the pair, Oliver quickly following suit.

Well this is definitely a deviation from their normal morning routine.

Felicity has learned that Oliver is very much a fan of romantic gestures. It’s not unusual for him to make her breakfast in bed, to surprise her with dessert, send flowers to her office, or buy her little gifts ‘just because’. She assumes this right now is more of that same brand of sweet and thoughtful.

It isn’t. This is something else entirely, as it turns out.  

William scrambles off of the bed and goes tearing out of the bedroom so fast he doesn’t even bother to close the door behind him. In a flash, he ducks back into the room, holding his baseball glove reverently between both hands. He looks to Oliver for encouragement and she watches as Oliver nods and gives William a supportive smile before he hops off the bed and goes to the nightstand. After grabbing something out of the drawer, Oliver comes to stand behind his son, beaming proudly. 

“Felicity, we have a question for you,” Oliver explains brightly only to be interrupted by William.

“TWO questions!” he corrects his father enthusiastically and Felicity chuckles as she sits up in bed, regarding both boys smilingly. 

Two whole questions huh? Sounds serious,” she teases, feeling content and relaxed until she meets Oliver’s eyes and sees something there. She can’t say why precisely but there’s something in his eyes that tells her this mischief of his is serious. And suddenly, Felicity is sitting up a little straighter, staring at the pair even more attentively. 

Oliver makes a move first; he places a folder in her lap very carefully before retreating back behind William, one hand on the boy’s shoulder as he watches her. Felicity’s eyes flick from the folder to Oliver and back again, completely puzzled. What is so serious that he’s put it in a folder? 

“Am I being served?” Felicity jokes softly, though Oliver’s silence doesn’t precisely reassure. Her fingers flip the folder open easily and as she withdraws the papers within, Felicity feels her heart darn near stop working. Emblazoned at the top of the page in bold, uppercase letters are the words that are about to change her life - their lives - forever. 

STATE FORM SFA-611
APPLICATION FOR ADOPTION REGISTRATION

For a moment, she can’t breathe. She’s distantly aware of tears crowding the corners of her eyes and blurring her vision as she scans the rest of the page, hardly daring to believe it as she sees William and Oliver’s names both printed in the blanks and Oliver’s signature. There’s a line with her name neatly typed and a blank line awaiting her signature. 

“Remember when you and Dad told me you were dating? And you said that what we call each other didn’t have to change?” William supplies and Felicity looks at the boy in teary wonder and nods. “Felicity, I wanna change what I call you,” William elaborates with a wide smile before he looks up  at his father expectantly.

“Felicity,” Oliver murmurs tenderly from his vantage behind William, “we would like to ask you to officially adopt William.” 

Felicity feels her heart take off like a jackrabbit and she looks at William first and then at Oliver, opening and closing her mouth a few times though no words come out. Adopt William? She never dreamed this day would come. But she loves that boy in front of her so much, there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for him. He already feels like family to her. She would lay down her life for him. Adopt him? It’s an easy question on its own. The hard part is all the other questions that it raises. 

What does that mean for her and Oliver? How does that change their relationship? If she’s adopting William, she wants a say in his life and his upbringing and her opinions may not always match Oliver’s. But when that happens, if she does this, Felicity expects these decisions to be conversations between her and Oliver. They have to co-parent. Together. One team, always fighting for William. Together. 

That’s a bold move for a woman that is only the girlfriend. But if Felicity is going to adopt William, she’s not half assing it. She’s going to do everything in her power to take care of him and to be the best adoptive mother she can be.

Holy frak. This is really happening. Being a mom is officially really seriously truly on the table. 

What will William’s grandparents think of this? They’ve been largely supportive of Felicity and Oliver’s relationship so far, even going so far as to warm up to Oliver in the last two years. But will they still like her when she’s poised to legally become their grandson’s adoptive mother? And what of Oliver’s own family? Thea has been over the moon about Felicity and Oliver dating but Moira has been cold and distant. It’s only been in the last few months that Felicity has really seen any signs of thaw there. She seems reluctantly tolerant at best of the couple. What will she say about Felicity adopting William? Felicity doesn’t want to cause any drama for Oliver or for William. Even if the very idea of legally adopting William has her heart fit to burst with love. 

“You’re serious?” Felicity confirms, still a little blown away that this is happening. William and Oliver both smile and nod. “Oliver...I-If I do this… I’m in all the way. I’m not doing this in half measures. If I adopt him… We are co-parents. Forever. A-Are you ready for that? Because I don’t want him to get hurt. No matter what happens with us, with our relationship? I would be William’s adoptive Mom. You’d be stuck with me - permanently. Parenting? That is a lifelong commitment. For as long as I live, I’d be William’s adoptive mother.”

Felicity pauses and fixes her attention on William, not wanting him to feel overlooked or forgotten or for her concerns to make him feel unwanted.

“You mean the world to me, big man. I love you so much. I only want to do this if this is the best thing for you. Does that make sense?” 

William nods, still clutching his baseball glove between his hands as Oliver tousles the boy’s hair, glancing down at his son with a gentle smile. 

“We’re very serious, Felicity. I - we - have given this a lot of thought. We’ve talked about it. A lot. We’ve even talked with his grandparents about it and they’re supportive. William and I both love you very much and we want you to be part of this family. Forever. Permanently. For life,” he smiles, repeating some of her earlier words to emphasize his point. At this point, Oliver pats William and the boy grins even wider. 

“Felicity, will you play catch with me?” 

Still reeling, Felicity blinks at the boy and then at Oliver but nods faintly, sensing that there is a reason for this question, though what it is, she has no idea.

“S-Sure, Bubs,” she breathes, watching as William bounces in place, clutching his glove in his hands. With a quick motion, he winds up his arm and with a light toss, Felicity instinctively finds herself grabbing for the dark object he throws. To her great surprise, she catches it and instead of the ball she has been expecting, she finds herself looking at a small wooden box.

With shaking fingers, she locates a seam and pops the box open; it splits neatly in two along its hinges, revealing a not insubstantial diamond engagement ring within. 

Felicity draws a quavering breath and looks up to the boys, only to find them both down on one knee in front of her and she nearly laughs and cries all at once. 

“Felicity Megan Smoak,” Oliver sighs quietly, beaming at her with the force of the sun, “-would you do us the great joy of joining our family by marrying me and adopting William?” 

Butterflies. Sunshine. Warmth. 

It is as if the final piece of a puzzle has been fitted into place. Felicity’s chest feels tight with the ever expanding bubble of her profound joy but instead of bursting, it just keeps growing. Oliver has asked her to adopt William. He has asked her to marry him. And William has been a part of the conversation - he wants her. 

It is impossible to say which question and which declaration of forever means more. All she knows is that she deeply, profoundly, utterly loves the Queen boys. And she has every intention of making them hers forever. 

“Yes,” she half cries, half laughs. “Yes!”

“To which question?” Oliver beams playfully and she laughs as she slips the ring over her finger and grabs up the folder with the adoption papers. Thankfully, Oliver has thought to clip a pen on the inside flap and she uses it now, signing her name with a flourish on the blank line. 

“To both. To all of it. To both of you. To us. To our family. To forever,” she breathes, drawing William into her arms so she can pepper kisses all over his face and head. “Yes, I will adopt you!” She then grabs Oliver by his white tee and hauls him to her lips so she can plant a deep, joyous kiss on him. When they break apart her lips hover over his, her eyes twinkling as she looks at him. 

“And yes, I will marry you, Oliver Queen.”

She’s come home.