Felicity looked up at the sound of her name and had to exert herself to prevent her jaw falling wide open. Standing in the doorway to her office was the most heart stoppingly attractive man she’d ever seen. He had clear, bright blue eyes and two-day-old stubble shadowed his strong jaw.
“Hi,” he said. “I’m Oliver Queen.”
Of course he was. His return to Starling City a few weeks ago had sent the tabloid press into a frenzy despite the fact that he’d kept a very low profile and had hardly been seen out in public.
“I know who you are,” Felicity said. “Your mother talks about you non –stop. Not in an obnoxious way though. It’s actually kind of sweet how much she’s missed you and Thea too and now you’re probably wondering why I know so much about your family. I swear it’s not because…”
“You talk a lot lady,” came a voice from slightly behind Oliver.
Felicity blinked again and shifted her eyes to the two little boys that she hadn’t noticed. She knew that Oliver had twin sons and that they were seven, but the details about their mother and Oliver’s decision to raise them away from Starling City – until now – were pretty scarce on the ground.
Felicity had gotten close to the Queen family thanks to the work she did for Walter or at least, closer than most people. She was invited to stay for dinner when she and Walter worked late from Queen manor, which had happened a handful of times. She and Thea hung out occasionally as well and Felicity had helped her with the security set up at the nightclub she ran.
“Luca, don’t be rude,” Oliver chastised lightly.
“But it’s true,” Luca argued.
“Grandpa Walter said you could fix my game,” his brother interrupted, holding his portable game console out to Felicity.
“You must be Sebastian,” Felicity deduced.
“Please don’t let us inconvenience you,” Oliver said with a crooked grin. “I’m sure you must have a lot to do but Walter did suggest we stop by on our way out…”
“It’ll probably only take a minute,” Felicity said, taking the toy from Sebastian.
She turned it over, examined the casing and then reaching for her tool kit promptly started to take the whole thing apart. She identified the problem – there was a connection loose in the circuitry – and was able to resolve it within minutes.
“Good as new,” she said offering it back to Sebastian. It was then that she realized that he and his brother were both staring at her with eyes wide as saucers.
“That was awesome,” Luca announced.
“Can you marry me?” Sebastian wanted to know.
Felicity choked on the unexpected laugh that bubbled up in her throat.
“How about you wait until you’re old enough to drink before you start proposing to people?” Oliver suggested wryly. “And how about you say thank you to Felicity for fixing your game?”
“Thank you,” Sebastian repeated dutifully. “I think my idea was better though. ‘Cause then she could come live with us and…”
“Teach us how to take stuff apart and fix it,” Luca concluded.
“I can see how that would work for you both,” Oliver said. “But maybe Felicity already has a family.”
“Uh no,” Felicity said. “I mean, yes. I have parents and a sister but no kids or anything. I’m not seeing anyone. Not that I think that’s what…”
“Felicity,” Oliver said, meeting her eyes with his, a smile curving his lips. “Relax. Take a deep breath.”
Felicity closed her eyes and mentally counted down from three.
“Sorry,” she said, cracking one eye open. “I get a little…it’s an old habit I can’t quite break.”
“We all have those,” Oliver said. “We should probably get out of your hair. I promised these two monsters lunch at the aquarium.”
“We’re not monsters,” Luca protested hotly.
“Tell it to someone who hasn’t seen the state of your rec room,” Oliver advised him.
“We’re not,” Luca insisted, turning towards Felicity to see if she believed him.
“I’m sure you’re perfect angels,” she told him.
Luca beamed at her.
“See?” he told his father. “She’s on our side.”
“I do see,” Oliver said. “Come on, say good bye to Felicity.”
“Bye!” the boys chorused.
“Bye,” Felicity said.
“It was nice to meet you, Felicity,” Oliver said.
He flashed her a grin and ushered the boys out of her office. Felicity stared, slightly dazed, at the space where they had been. To say that had been surreal would be understating it by…a lot. It was one thing to know of Oliver Queen. It was something else entirely to see him in the flesh, partly because his reputation as a reckless playboy was so at odds with the devoted dad who’d stood in front of her, but also because Felicity was pretty sure no words could accurately capture his magnetism; the effect of those electric blue eyes when they had been focused solely on her.
She was shaken back to reality by the sound of her cell phone ringing. She picked it up and grimaced when she saw the caller id. Knowing that if she didn’t pick up, her mother would keep calling every five minutes until she did, Felicity took a deep breath and reluctantly answered the call.
“Hi, Mom,” she said.
“Have you spoken to your sister yet?” Mara Smoak asked her youngest daughter. “She wanted to schedule the dress fitting. And then I was hoping you could come over tonight and help me sort out this guest list for the rehearsal dinner and…”
“Sorry, Mom, can’t tonight,” Felicity rushed to interject. “I have to work late.”
“Must you?” Mara asked. “Francesca’s wedding is less than two months away and…”
“I’m working on a special project for Mr. Steele so yes, I must,” Felicity lied.
Mara sighed heavily.
“I suppose I can ask Linda to help,” she said.
“Good idea,” Felicity agreed. “Gotta go now, Mom. I’ll call you later.”
Felicity hung up and closed her eyes. She loved her mother and her sister both very dearly but this wedding had turned them into something straight out of a horror movie. Felicity was struggling to stay sane in the midst of it all.
“A special project for me, hmmm?” Walter Steele queried with a small smile.
Felicity lifted her head up to find her boss standing in the doorway.
“Sorry about that,” she said. “Desperate times and measures and well, you know. Was there something I can help you with?”
“I was on my way out,” Walter said. “But I flagged a couple things in this report that I want you to verify.”
He handed her a folder.
“Why don’t you look into it and bring your findings to Queen Manor?” Walter suggested. “You can join us for dinner.”
“I wouldn’t want to intrude,” Felicity said. “I know your wife must be enjoying having Oliver and his family home and…”
“Nonsense,” Walter said. “Moira loves you and I’ve already heard all about how impressed the twins were with you. They’ll be delighted to see you again. Besides, I may have only met your mother once but she seems the type to turn up on your doorstep just to make sure you aren’t home…”
Felicity groaned because it was exactly the type of thing her mother would do.
“Sold,” she told Walter. “I’ll be there at seven.”
“It’s good to be home, isn’t it?” Moira asked her son as she joined him in the living room.
“Has its moments,” Oliver said. “Drink?”
His mother nodded so he poured a small measure of scotch for them both and joined her on the sofa. Raisa had insisted on overseeing bath time for the boys so that Oliver could have a moment to himself.
“You’ll get used to it,” Moira said.
Oliver quirked an eyebrow.
“Letting other people help you,” Moira expanded. “Letting them back into your life.”’
“I see where you’re going with this,” Oliver said. “And it’s not necessary. I’m….”
“Stubborn,” Moira supplied with a smile. “I’m not pressuring you and I know you don’t think I understand your reasons for staying away, for the distance you created but I understand more than you think.”
It was possible, Oliver mused. His mother was an extremely perceptive woman but even with that said, Oliver found it hard to imagine that she could understand what he’d been thinking at the time. There were days he wasn’t sure that he understood it himself.
He’d left Starling City when the scandal with his father had blown up. Robert Queen and Malcolm Merlyn had concocted a plot to completely obliterate The Glades and the layers of the conspiracy were so deep that it had taken god knew how many government agencies to put an end to it and even then, it had been too late for hundreds of people.
Even if Oliver had been a saint, it would have been hard to walk the streets of Starling City when the truth came out. But he was no saint and even with the lifestyle he’d pursued at the time – the parties, the drugs, the women, the sheer lack of responsibility for anything or anyone – he’d had enough clarity to realize it was untenable. And so he left.
“I’m here now,” Oliver said, squeezing his mother’s hand. “The rest doesn’t matter so much.”
Moira gave him another smile but it was still tinged with sadness. Oliver pretended not to notice and Moira’s attention was diverted when Walter walked in. She rose to greet her husband with a kiss on the cheek.
“Good evening, Oliver,” Walter said. “It was good to have you in the office today. I wish you’d consider coming on board in a more permanent capacity.”
“I appreciate that,” Oliver said. “But the timing just isn’t right.”
“The boys will have to start school soon,” Moira pointed out. “What else are you going to do with your days?”
“What happened to no pressure?” Oliver teased her.
Moira rolled her eyes.
“It was an observation, that’s all,” she said.
“Where are the twins?” Walter asked. “I invited their new favorite person to join us for dinner.”
“Felicity?” Moira surmised.
“They’ve been bending your ear as well, have they?” Walter asked her.
“Oh yes,” Moira agreed. “I should warn you, Oliver. Since you thwarted his plan to make Felicity his bride, Sebastian has come up with a plan B.”
“Do I even want to know?” Oliver asked.
“He thinks you should marry her,” Moira said.
Oliver choked on his drink causing both Moira and Walter to chuckle.
“Frankly,” Moira said cheekily, “I’m inclined to agree with him.”
“That’s great,” Oliver said. “Really.”
He shook his head.
“Please don’t encourage him,” Oliver said. “I know that you’re not being serious but it’s not the first time either of the boys has brought up the idea or something like it and it just…things are complicated enough as it is. We don’t need to drag a lovely young woman like Felicity into it.”
Moira and Walter exchanged a look but before either of them could say anything the twins burst into the room clamoring for their grandparent's attention. Raisa followed them at a more sedate pace and she smiled at Oliver.
“You taught them to speak Russian,” she said, clearly pleased.
He returned the smile.
“It was my way of sharing the better parts of my childhood with them,” Oliver replied in the language they were discussing.
“They’re good boys,” Raisa said. “You should be proud.”
Oliver turned his attention to his sons. Luca was perched on Walter’s knee and his little fingers were skating across an iPad at high speed. Sebastian meanwhile was regaling his grandmother with tales of that afternoon’s trip to the aquarium.
They were bright, inquisitive, and he liked to think that they were well adjusted, given the circumstances.
“I am,” he said.
“There’s nothing of their mother in them,” Raise observed.
“No,” Oliver agreed.
The boys were mini versions of him with very little resemblance to the woman who gave birth to them and for that Oliver was grateful. He could only hope the lack of resemblance continued to extend below the surface as well.
The doorbell rang.
“That’s probably Felicity,” Walter said, earning gleeful shrieks from Sebastian and Luca both.
“Settle down,” Moira said. “You don’t want to scare her away.”
The twins looked horrified by the prospect and Oliver shook his head.
“Why don’t I get the door,” he suggested.
Pushing himself off the couch, he strode into the foyer and opened the front door.
Felicity cocked her head to one side.
“Oliver Queen,” she said slowly.
She stared at him and Oliver had the odd sensation that she was taking his measure. He wasn’t entirely sure he knew what conclusion he wanted her to come to.
“Felicity Smoak,” Oliver said, equally slowly.
A small smile curved her lips.
“You remembered,” Felicity said.
“You sound surprised,” Oliver said.
“I am,” Felicity admitted. “But it’s a good surprise.”
"Then let's hope it's the first of many," Oliver replied.