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Sunshine and Rain (Make A Beautiful Thing)

Chapter Text

 

 

“Felicity Smoak?”

 

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.”

 

Felicity blinked.

 

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.

 

He nodded.

 

“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.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Oliver jerked his head in the direction of the foyer.

 

"Come on in," he said.

 

Felicity had no sooner stepped past the threshold than the twins were racing towards her.  An arched eyebrow from their father was enough to slow them down but not by much.

 

"Hi," Luca said brightly.

 

"Hey," Felicity said.

 

Sebastian gave her a shy smile but walked over and reached for her hand. 

 

"Luca and me played train wars," he told her. "Come see the tracks."

 

"We wrecked 'em," Luca said gleefully. "And all the buildings that were inside came crashing down."

 

"You can help us build them again, if you want," Sebastian offered.

 

Oliver crouched down so that he was eye level with the twins and he murmured something in a low voice, which sent both boys scampering towards the kitchen.

 

"Sorry about that," Oliver said. "They can be...a lot to handle but it's only because they really like you. You won them over with your technical prowess"

 

"There's no need to apologize," Felicity said. "I don't mind."

 

"You said before you don't have kids of your own," Oliver said as they moved towards the living room. "Nieces or nephews?"

 

Felicity shook her head.

 

"Not yet," she said. "My sister is getting married in two months though so it could happen soon, I guess."

 

"Is the wedding really only two months away now?" Moira asked, catching the end of the conversation and moving to give Felicity a quick hug.

 

"What do you mean "only"," Felicity joked. "I'm pretty sure this will be the longest eight weeks of my life."

 

She shot Walter a speculative look.

 

"I don't suppose you could find a reason to send me to...Australia or something until it's all over with?" she asked.

 

Walter laughed.

 

"Again," he said. "I may have only met your mother once but it was enough to know that I don't care to be the object of her wrath."

 

Felicity sighed.

 

"I see how it is," she said. "I'm on my own against Bridezilla and well, whatever you call the mother of Bridezilla."

 

"Not a fan of weddings?" Oliver asked her.

 

"Not a fan of the pod people that have possessed my mother and sister while they're planning the wedding," Felicity corrected. "I mean, I love them both but sometimes...it's a lot."

 

Oliver smiled at her use of his earlier turn of phrase.

 

"I can relate," he said, giving his mother a pointed look.

 

"I don't think I care for that implication," Moira said. "You all behave while I go check on dinner."

 

“I have that information you wanted,” Felicity told Walter.

 

“It can wait until after we eat,” Walter replied.

 

He turned to Oliver.

 

“Have you heard from your sister today?” he asked.

 

“I have not,” Oliver said. “I assumed she was at Verdant.”

 

“Hmmm,” Walter agreed. “Let me give her call, just to be on the safe side.”

 

Oliver bit back a smile.

 

“He’s a good guy,” Felicity ventured. “Mr. Steele, I mean.”

 

“If you’re being invited over for dinner, I’m pretty sure you can call him Walter,” Oliver teased her gently. “And yes, he is. He’s been good to my mother and to Thea, which I appreciate.”

 

Any response Felicity might have offered was staved off by the boys returning to the room, each of them clutching a small bouquet of flowers. The interruption was perfectly timed because Felicity was pretty sure that commenting on the gazillion emotional walls Oliver Queen clearly had up was probably not considered acceptable small talk.

 

“Are these for me?” Felicity asked.

 

The twins nodded practically in unison as they pressed the flowers into her palm and then insisted on showing her their rec room. It was every bit the mess Oliver had implied it was but Felicity loved it. She also considered it proof that whatever his emotional baggage, Oliver doted on his sons. They were clearly happy and well loved.

 

Just another piece of the puzzle, Felicity thought to herself. Not that she was planning to try and solve him or anything because that would just be asking for trouble.

 

“There you are,” Moira said, standing in the doorway. “Dinner time.”

 

The meal itself passed in a blur of good food, laughs and general all around good humor. It was amazing, Felicity thought to herself, what a difference it made having children in the house. Moira and Walter were both more animated that Felicity could remember seeing them and the boys chattered a mile a minute, seemingly about everything that passed through their minds.

 

On more than one occasion though, Felicity found her attention drifting to Oliver. He was smiling and at the same time, it felt like he was observing the situation rather than living it. Secrets, Felicity thought to herself. Oliver Queen clearly had many of them and they were taking a toll. Or at least, she imagined they might be. It was probably better off if she didn’t think about it too much. It wasn’t any of her business, after all.

 

Her resolve held until she was about to leave Queen Manor. Oliver had excused himself to put the boys to bed hours ago, not long before Felicity and Walter had retreated to his office to review the information she had uncovered and determine next steps. She hadn’t expected that she would see him again, at least not that night.

 

“Do you have a minute?” he asked her.


His voice was low, serious and Felicity’s interest was piqued.

 

“Sure,” she said. “Listen if this is about me agreeing to teach the boys about how to hack stuff then you really…”

 

“It’s not about Sebastian and Luca,” Oliver said. “Or at least, not in the way you mean.”

 

He indicated the side door that led out into the gardens and Felicity followed him outside without protest. They’d walked for several moments before Oliver spoke again.

 

“You don’t really know me,” he finally said. “And there’s no reason for you to…”

 

He paused and then turned to face her. Night had fallen but there was enough of a glow from the moon and the strategically placed lights surrounding them for Felicity to see the shadows in his eyes. It inspired the strangest desire in her to try to comfort him, to alleviate the weight and the pain of the burdens he was carrying.

 

“I need a favor,” Oliver said. “I need you to run a background check on someone.”

 

“Lots of people can run background checks,” Felicity pointed out. “Why would you ask me?”

 

Oliver didn’t answer the question directly.

 

“I don’t…trust a lot of people,” he said. “But Walter and my mother both obviously trust you so I’m going to trust you too. I need to trust you because my sons need to be protected.”

 

“From what?” Felicity asked.

 

She cocked her head to one side.

 

“Or from who?” she added.

 

Oliver nodded at the second question, letting Felicity know she’d hit the mark.

 

“From their grandfather,” Oliver said.

 

“Their mother’s father,” Felicity surmised. “Who is he?”

 

“Frank Bertinelli,” Oliver said.

 

 

A week later, Felicity was still trying to wrap her mind around the bombshell that Oliver had dropped. She’d wanted to ask so many questions but she’d restrained herself, instinctively certain that Oliver wouldn’t welcome the curiosity.

 

The fact that he’d told her anything at all, especially when he admitted to keeping the secret from his mother and Walter, was remarkable all on its own. Felicity was still trying to wrap her mind around that too. Oliver had taken a huge risk confiding in her and she couldn’t quite figure out what had possessed him.

 

Walter and Moira’s vote of confidence was part of it but Felicity suspected there was more. Trying to isolate what “more” was only led her thoughts around in circles so she opted to focus on the name that Oliver had given her.

 

Nick Salvati.

 

She’d collected all the obvious stuff; crimes, aliases, prison time, known associates and that sort of stuff. Now she was starting to dig deeper. She was about to hack into a Federal database when there was a knock on her apartment door. Sighing, she picked up her glass of wine and went to answer it.

 

“You’re avoiding me,” Francesca announced, sweeping her way in.

 

“I saw you this morning,” Felicity pointed out, rolling her eyes.

 

“Okay, let me rephrase,” Francesca said. “You’re avoiding all the wedding stuff and at first I thought it was just because you’ve never been into the…frivolity of it all, I guess.”

 

She cocked her head to one side as she settled onto the couch.

 

“Then I thought maybe it was because Mom has been so intense about everything,” Francesca continued. “I even wondered if she’d started to put pressure on you about when you’re getting married.”

 

Felicity barely avoided choking on her wine.

 

“I think ‘never’ is a great time to get married,” Felicity said.

 

“You don’t mean that,” Francesca countered.

 

“What makes you so sure?” Felicity asked.

 

“Because, you might not be into the frills,” Francesca said. “But I think you like the idea of marriage, of having a real partner in life.”

 

Felicity narrowed her eyes, not sure how she felt about her sister’s relatively accurate assessment.

 

“All this to say that I don’t think the distance is about the wedding,” Francesca finished. “I think there’s something else going on with you and I may be a bride to be but I’m still your big sister. So spill.”

 

“I appreciate the concern,” Felicity said slowly. “But I’m fine. There’s a lot going on at work so I’m just busy.”

 

“When was the last time you got laid?” Francesca asked.

 

“None of your business,” Felicity sputtered.

 

Francesca arched an eyebrow.

 

“A while,” Felicity said in exasperation. “What of it?”

 

“Maybe you just need to find a guy who turns you on and cut loose a little,” Francesca replied.

 

Unfortunately for Felicity, her sister’s words immediately conjured up images of Oliver Queen and his startling blues eyes, chiseled jaw and sculpted lips. She snapped herself out of it, but not fast enough.

 

“You met someone!” Francesca exclaimed.

 

“I have not,” Felicity denied, plainly irritated now with her sister’s powers of observation. “Can you please do me a favor and back off? This time in your life should be all about you and your wedding and your future husband and your future life. Can you focus on that and just leave me…”

 

“Alone?” Francesca supplied, looking a little hurt.

 

“No, that’s not what I was going to say,” Felicity said. “I don’t want to be left alone or left out. I just don’t want everyone analyzing my life by comparison. Contrary to belief or appearances, I’m happy.”

 

“Okay,” Francesca said. “I understand that. I worry because I care and because I think there’s so much more out there for you. Promise me you’ll be open to whatever comes along, okay?”

 

Felicity gave her sister a small smile.

 

“Deal,” she said.

 

Francesca stood up and gathered her bags. She gave Felicity a hug and opened the door only to run right into Oliver who had been poised to knock.

 

Oliver glanced between Felicity and the taller brunette eyeing him in shock.

 

“Is this a bad time?” he asked carefully.

 

“I wasn’t expecting you,” Felicity said.

 

“I know,” Oliver said. “Sorry about that. Walter gave me your address and I was around so…”

 

He glanced back at the woman who was still staring at him.

 

“I’m Oliver,” he offered. “And you are?”

 

“Felicity’s sister Francesca,” she replied. “It’s nice to meet you, Oliver Queen.”

 

Oliver gave her a polite smile. Felicity could practically see the real Oliver disappear inside himself. She’d have to work out later exactly when she’d decided that she knew anything about the “real Oliver” but for now, she was determined to put an end to the awkwardness.

 

“Don’t you have a cake tasting to get to?” she asked her sister.

 

“Cute,” Francesca drawled. “You’re not off the hook. Not by a long shot.”

 

“Good night,” Felicity said, firmly.

 

Francesca gave her a casual wave and left. Felicity closed the door behind her and turned to face Oliver.

 

“Sorry about that,” she said.

 

“It’s fine,” Oliver said. “I shouldn’t have dropped by unannounced.”

 

“So why did you?” Felicity asked curiously.

 

“I try to avoid phones as much as possible,” Oliver said. “At least when talking about…”

 

“Got it,” Felicity said. “Well you’re timing wasn’t all bad. I was about to dig into some federal files.”

 

Oliver arched an eyebrow and Felicity arched one back.

 

“You don’t really think the kind of information you’re after can be obtained entirely legally, do you?” she asked. “Cause if that’s the case then…”

 

“What kind of information is it you think I’m after?” Oliver questioned.

 

Felicity shrugged.

 

“Like I said before, any one can run a background check,” she said. “And if he’s connected to Bertinelli, you already know Salvati is bad news. I just assumed you were looking for something more. Something…”

 

“Something…” Oliver prompted.

 

“Something you can use,” Felicity said. “Something that will help you protect the twins.”

 

Oliver sucked in a quiet breath, a little bit stunned by how easily Felicity had cut through all the smoke and mirrors and straight to the heart of the matter. He had the oddest sensation that even though she had no idea what was going on, she somehow understood.

 

“You assumed right,” Oliver said. “I want to know what I’m up against.”

 

Felicity nodded and then gave him a slightly apologetic look.

 

“I want to help you, Oliver,” she told him sincerely. “But…”

 

“It’s dangerous,” Oliver interjected. “You don’t want to get involved. I understand and I….”

 

“No,” Felicity cut in. “I want to help you. It’s just that I need to know what I’m up against, too.”

 

Oliver frowned.

 

“Meaning what?” he asked.

 

“Meaning I need to know why you think Bertinelli is such a threat,” Felicity said. "What's he done to make you think he'd come after the boys?"

 

“He killed his own daughter,” Oliver said. “He killed Helena.”

 

Chapter Text

Oliver tried his best to keep his emotions locked down as he watched Felicity stumble backwards. He couldn’t blame her for being shocked. He’d been that and more when he’d first put the pieces together; understood that Helena’s accident – that time at least – had been anything but.

 

“I shouldn’t have said that,” Oliver said stiffly. “I don’t want to drown you in the details. That’s not why I asked for your help. I…”

 

He broke off, not sure what to say next and realizing – far too late – that it had been naïve of him to think he could involve her without involving her.

 

“It’s been just me,” he finally continued. “For a long time, it’s been just me making the decisions and doing what I think is best for them. I haven’t had to consult or rely on anyone else and that’s mostly how I’ve wanted it.”

 

“But it’s a lot,” Felicity said.

 

“It is,” Oliver agreed.

 

He considered his words as he moved towards her couch and sat down. After a brief hesitation, Felicity moved to sit next to him, careful to keep a respectable distance between them.

 

“You confuse me,” Oliver said. “I hardly know you and the rational part of my brain is telling me that pulling you into this was a mistake, if for no other reason than it exposes you to something that could be dangerous and that could get you hurt or worse. You don’t deserve that.”

 

Felicity reflected on that for a moment before responding.

 

“And the irrational part of you?” she asked quietly.

 

“That part thinks that even though you don’t look it, you might actually be tough enough to take the truth,” Oliver said honestly. “And that telling you the whole twisted story could be one of the smartest decisions I ever make.”

 

“Well, you’re right about me being tougher than I look,” Felicity offered. “But Oliver, you don’t have to tell me anything that you don’t want to. I mean, obviously anything you do tell me is just between us but…asking for my help doesn’t mean you owe me anything. You don’t need to justify yourself. I know why you’re doing this and so long as you tell me enough to help me help you then I don’t need more.”

 

Oliver cocked his head to one side.

 

“Felicity,” he said. “You are remarkable.”

 

She gave him a grin that Oliver could only describe as impish.

 

“Thank you for remarking on it,” she said. “Hey, can I get you a drink? I have wine.”

 

“Beer by any chance?” Oliver asked.

 

“Only a couple of bottles of Coors Light left over from a pizza party last week,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver made a face.

 

“Vodka?” he asked.

 

“Yes, I have vodka,” Felicity said.

 

“Neat, then,” Oliver said. “Thanks.”

 

Felicity disappeared into the kitchen and Oliver took advantage to pay more attention to her apartment. The décor was quirky and colorful and seemed to accurately reflect her personality or at least what little he knew of it.

 

His eyes were taking in the framed comic books on the walls when Felicity returned. She handed him a tumbler of vodka and followed his gaze.

 

Her lips twitched.

 

“I’m kind of a geek,” she admitted. “My dad was obsessed with comics – still is actually – and since he and my mom couldn’t have more kids after me, he started indoctrinating me at an early age.”

 

Oliver gave her a small smile and took a sip of his drink. Felicity settled back into the overstuffed chair where she’d left her computer. Putting her freshly topped up glass of wine on the side table, she got comfortable and turned her attention back to Oliver.

 

“So,” she said. “You up for this? Because we don’t…”

 

“I’m fine,” Oliver interrupted. “What do you need? For now, anyway.”

 

Felicity nodded her understanding.

 

“If would help if I knew how he landed on your radar,” Felicity said. “Did you always know about him or did something happen?”

 

“A bit of both,” Oliver said. “Helena mentioned him once or twice, never in any great detail but enough for me to know he was close to her father.”

 

“Got it,” Felicity said.

 

“Before we came back to Starling City, the boys and I were living on a ranch in Colorado,” Oliver said. “Small town. I thought it would keep us off the grid.”

 

“It didn’t,” Felicity surmised.

 

“He didn’t make direct contact,” Oliver said, clenching his fists. “In some ways that infuriates me more than anything.”

 

“He didn’t make a move,” Felicity said. “He just wanted you to know he could.”

 

“Exactly,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity digested the new information. It helped to explain why Oliver had chosen now to come back to Starling City. If he could draw Bertinelli here, he would at least be giving himself home court advantage.

 

“Do you know who he did make contact with in the town you were living in?” Felicity asked.

 

“It was a place called Dove Creek,” Oliver supplied. “And yes. He left a message for me at the post office. Told people he was a friend of Helena’s trying to reconnect.”

 

More curious than ever about Helena, her death and her relationship with Oliver, Felicity never the less restrained herself from crossing the line that she and Oliver had established less than a half hour ago. Instead, she focused on traffic in and out of Dove Creek. The problem was there weren’t an enormous number of traffic cameras to work with so Felicity hacked into archive footage from a number of satellites. Fingers flying over the keyboard, she was eventually able track down a dozen or so rental cars that had made the trek from Cortez, where the nearest airport was located around the time that Oliver had indicated. She cross referenced surveillance camera footage from the different rental car operators in the airport with the image she’d obtained of Salvati from his prison records until she got a hit.

 

She glanced up at Oliver.

 

“You don’t have to stay you know,” she said. “Not that I’m kicking you out or anything but I could be at this a while.”

 

“I don’t mind,” Oliver said. “The boys are with my mother and Raisa. Having family is a bit of a novelty still. I think they like it.”

 

“It has its advantages,” Felicity quipped.

 

“Your sister looks nothing like you,” Oliver observed.

 

“Oh, you mean on account of how she’s tall and gorgeous and looks like she just stepped off a runway?” Felicity said.

 

“No, that’s not what I meant,” Oliver said. “She just seems so put together.”

 

“As opposed to me who is a total mess?” Felicity said, biting back a laugh at Oliver’s semi frustrated, semi exasperated expression.

 

“I’m clearly more out of practice than I thought,” Oliver said. “What I was trying – and failing miserably to get at – is that you seem more…comfortable in your own skin.”

 

He rubbed a hand over his jaw.

 

“It’s the kind of thing I notice,” he said. “On account of how long it took me to get to that place. Some days, I’m not even sure I’m there.”

 

“That makes sense,” Felicity said.

 

“Does it?” Oliver asked wryly.

 

Felicity shrugged.

 

“You’re a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” she said. “Makes sense to me that it’s not always easy to remember which of those things is actually you.”

 

Their eyes locked and Felicity felt like Oliver was examining her under a microscope. She felt exposed in a way and yet oddly secure. She wasn’t sure how long they would have stared at each other if his phone hadn’t rung.

 

He answered it without looking away but when he realized it was Luca on the other end, his attention shifted exclusively to his son. The tension in his shoulders dissipated after a few moments so Felicity assumed nothing was wrong. She turned back to her computer and her research in order not to intrude.

 

She was so focused that she didn’t notice when Oliver finished his call but eventually the sensation of being watched had her looking over at him.

 

“The boys want you to come out with us next Saturday,” Oliver said abruptly. “Picnic and planetarium.”

 

“You don’t sound thrilled,” Felicity pointed out.

 

“It’s not that,” Oliver said. “It’s…”

 

He stood up and moved restlessly toward the window.

 

“They never knew their mother,” Oliver said quietly, turning back around to face her. “And while I regret that she died, that she was killed, I’m not entirely sure I regret that they don’t have any memories of her. I’m not sure what that says about me but the point is, there’s this void in their lives that I can’t fill. I see how quickly they’ve taken to you and I know how rare that is for them.”

 

“You’re worried they’ll get attached,” Felicity said.

 

“Yeah,” Oliver said. “And there’s nothing wrong with that happening but before it does I need to be sure that…”

 

“I’m ready for it,” Felicity said.

 

“Are you?” Oliver asked.

 

“Well, I don’t know anything about being a parent or even a cool aunt,” Felicity said. “But I’ve been told that I’m a good friend to have and I’m definitely ready to be that.”

 

She offered him a small smile.

 

“To them and to you,” she said. “So why don’t we start there and see how things go?”

 

“Saturday at 1, then,” Oliver said.

 

“Done deal,” Felicity agreed.

 

The alert on her laptop pinged and Felicity studied the screen.

 

“What is it?” Oliver demanded, seeing her expression shift.

 

“I think,” Felicity said slowly. “That I might have found Frank Bertinelli.”

 

 

“Please tell me we’re almost done here,” Felicity muttered under her breath at the seamstress who was adjusting her bridesmaid dress.

 

She was standing on a small stool feeling incredibly awkward.

 

“Ten more minutes,” the seamstress said in her lightly accented English.

 

Felicity groaned.

 

“Stop being such a grouch,” Francesca said as she made notes in the margins of her checklist. “This is my wedding. I plan for it to be the only one I have so the least you can do is put up with a few fittings.”

 

“A few?” Felicity retorted. “I’m pretty sure this is the seventh fitting. I’m also pretty sure this is the third dress.”

 

“Fourth,” the seamstress contributed helpfully.

 

“My wedding,” Francesca repeated. “Say it like a mantra if it helps.”

 

“You want to help?” Felicity asked. “Then promise me that you’re not dragging me on any more errands today.”

 

“Not unless you count coming to lunch with me and Liam, his mother and his brother as an errand,” Francesca said sweetly.

 

“What?” Felicity said. “No. You did not say anything about lunch with your fiancée and future in laws. And why aren’t you making Mom go?”

 

“Oh I am,” Francesca assured her. “But Liam says his brother, Barry, is all into technology and gadgets so I figured the two of you would hit it off.”

 

“You cannot be serious,” Felicity said, twisting to gape at her sister.

 

Francesca rolled her eyes.

 

“Relax Sivvy,” she said. “It’s not a blind date, although god knows setting you up wouldn’t be the worst idea I’ve ever had.”

 

“That only speaks to incredible number of truly bad ideas that you’ve had in the past,” Felicity snarked. “And do not call me Sivvy.”

 

“Whatever,” Francesca said. “I’m just saying if you dated more you might not be so cranky.”

 

She put her pen down and gave her sister a knowing look.

 

“Unless there’s more to Oliver Queen showing up at your apartment than you let on,” she said.

 

“Oliver Queen?” the seamstress asked, dropping a mouthful of pins in her haste for gossip.

 

Felicity shot a glare at her sister.

 

“We are not talking about that,” she said. “And definitely not here.”

 

The seamstress sniffed but returned her attention to Felicity’s hem.

 

“Interesting,” Francesca said.

 

“No,” Felicity insisted. “It's really not.”

 

“Then why do you have two missed calls from a OQ?” Francesca asked arching her eyebrow and holding up Felicity's cell phone. “Seriously sis, if you’re trying to be sneaky you could have at least given him a secret code name more complicated than his initials.”

 

Felicity bit her tongue – literally – to keep from venting the full extension of her frustration. After she’d explained to Oliver about how she’d used cell phone signals and records to pinpoint a plausible location on Bertinelli in a suburb of Miami, he’d made her promise not to do breathe a word to anyone – not that she would have anyway – and then he’d disappeared.

 

She’d been worried ever since about what he was planning to do next.

 

“All done,” the seamstress said.

 

“Thank god,” Felicity said.

 

She hopped off the stool, snatched her cell phone from her sister’s grasp and disappeared into the changing room. As tempted as she was to dial Oliver immediately, she wanted privacy for that conversation and she knew she wasn’t going to get it with her sister in earshot. Instead, she made short work of changing back into her jeans and fuchsia top.

 

She picked up her purse and slung it over her shoulder. Francesca fell into step beside her as they left the shop.

 

“I made reservations at Le Marais,” Francesca said. “We can walk.”

 

“I’ll meet you there,” Felicity said.

 

“Uh, no,” Francesca said. “Lunch is in 20 minutes and it’ll take us exactly that amount of time to walk there and be settled when Liam arrives with his family. It’s important that we be there first.”

 

Felicity closed her eyes briefly and then fixed her sister with a firm stare.

 

“I will meet you there,” she repeated. “Unless you don’t lay off me right now in which case I won’t show up at all. Is that clear?”

 

“As crystal,” Francesca snapped. “Go on then. Go return Oliver Queen’s phone call. I’m sure that throwing yourself at the billionaire playboy who would never in a million years go for a girl like you is a better use of your time than being there for your sister when she needs you.”

 

Felicity felt like she’d been slapped and it must have shown because Francesca’s face fell and she reached out a hand.

 

Felicity took a step back out of her reach.

 

“I’m sorry,” Francesca said. “I didn’t mean that. I’m just…”

 

“Forget it,” Felicity said, turning away. “I’ll see you whenever.”

 

She disappeared into the crowed streets, thoughts of returning Oliver’s phone call temporarily pushed aside. Instead she found herself playing Francesca’s words in a loop inside her mind. Obviously, she knew she wasn’t throwing herself at Oliver. She also knew that there was a lot more to him than the billionaire playboy most people remembered him as.

 

But the part about him never in a million years going for a girl like her was the part that she couldn’t ignore. Because it was the truth and Felicity had always considered herself a realist. So why then, did she feel so disappointed?

 

Chapter Text

Felicity leaned back on her elbows and watched as Oliver and the twins ran up and down chasing a soccer ball. Oliver collapsed onto the grass in an exaggerated heap after allowing Sebastian to tackle him, earning delighted laughter from both boys.

 

Whatever conflicted feelings she’d had after the fight with Francesca earlier in the week, she was over them. She couldn’t exactly deny that she was attracted to Oliver. He was an extraordinary specimen and she’d basically have to be dead not to feel the effects of his good looks. But he was also proving to be an extraordinary man and Felicity was much more invested in earning his trust and building a solid friendship with him than she was in fantasizing about something that was not going to happen.

 

They’d had a chance to talk about what his next move was going to be regarding Bertinelli and Felicity actually felt pretty good about it. He’d told her about the former marine he first met in Los Angeles not long after Helena got pregnant. Oliver had assured her that he would trust John Diggle not just with his own life but if it came to it, with Luca and Sebastian’s lives as well. That was good enough for Felicity and she was looking forward to meeting the man when he got to town next week.

 

What exactly would happen after that, she wasn’t sure but she was willing to wait. Especially if it meant that in the meantime, she got to enjoy seeing this other side to Oliver. He was relaxed; cracking jokes and goofing around with the twins, quick to utter praise or encouragement and always attentive to the shifting moods or needs of one or the other.

 

Felicity was pulled out of her thoughts when Sebastian bounded in her direction then skidded to a stop on his knees next to her.

 

“Hi!” he said.

 

“Hey,” Felicity smiled. “How about some water?”

 

Sebastian nodded so Felicity reached into the cooler for a bottle of water. She uncapped it and handed it over. Sebastian drank several gulps before handing it back to her.

 

“Your hair is pretty,” he announced, reaching for a handful.

 

“Thank you,” Felicity said. “Wanna know a secret?”

 

“Duh,” Sebastian said, as if she should know that seven-year-old boys lived for secrets.

 

“The color comes from a box,” Felicity said. “Like magic.”

 

“We did that one time,” Sebastian told her. “Me and Luca made our hair change color from a box.”

 

“You did?” Felicity asked.

 

“Well, Dad did,” Sebastian amended. “It was for Halloween.”

 

“One of my favorite holidays,” Felicity said. “What did you dress up as?”

 

“I was the Joker,” Sebastian said. “And Luca was Batman.”

 

“What did your Dad dress up as?” Felicity wanted to know.

 

Sebastian shrugged.

 

“Some guy with arrows,” he said, clearly unimpressed. “Can I have a cookie?”

 

“We should probably have lunch food first, don’t you think?” Felicity said.

 

“Dad always lets us eat dessert first,” Sebastian said.

 

“Somehow I doubt that,” Felicity said.

 

“What are you two whispering about over there?” Oliver asked, dropping down next to them, Luca tucked into a secure hold under his arm.

 

“Talking about Halloween escapades,” Felicity said.

 

Luca squirmed free from his father and wriggled his way between Sebastian and Felicity so he was pressed to her side.

 

“I scored two goals,” he informed her proudly.

 

“I saw them,” Felicity agreed. “Great job! You must be hungry after all that.”

 

“Yeah,” Luca said. “Babulya made blinchikis.”

 

“Raisa,” Oliver clarified, seeing Felicity’s puzzled expression. “She made one of the twin’s favorite dishes and incidentally one of the few things I learned how to cook before they were born. She taught me when I was kid because they were my favorite.”

 

“You’re really close to her, aren’t you?” Felicity said, as she helped Oliver unpack all the food.

 

“She’s like a second mother to me,” Oliver confirmed.

 

He handed her one of the fried pancakes.

 

“Try this one,” he said. “Potato and chive.”

 

“Oh that’s good,” Felicity said after her first bite. “Incredible, actually.”

 

Oliver smiled at her and Felicity couldn’t help it that her heart stuttered and skipped a beat, even as she smiled back. The man was magnetic and there wasn’t a whole lot she could do about it. Luckily, Luca distracted her. Unfortunately, it turned out to signal an early end to this particular part of their outing.

 

“Daddy?” Luca said. “Why are those people taking pictures of us?”

 

Oliver immediately whipped around, every inch of him radiating alpha male on alert. He was partly relieved that the culprits didn’t appear to be linked to Bertinelli or any of his crew but then doubly annoyed that random strangers felt they had a right to infringe on his privacy just because he happened to be out in public.

 

“Those people have really boring lives,” Felicity answered Luca for him. “So they try to borrow from other people who do cool, interesting stuff like you guys and your dad.”

 

“And you,” Sebastian added.

 

“I don’t do that much cool stuff,” Felicity said, keeping the boys attention while Oliver silently packed up the picnic.

 

“Grandpa Walter says you have a numbers machine in your brain,” Luca said. “That’s pretty cool.”

 

Felicity laughed.

 

“Well, maybe I should take you into my super secret lair,” Felicity said. “Then I can take my brain out and show it to you.”

 

Both boys stared at her with wide eyes.

 

“Really?” they breathed, practically in unison.

 

“No, not really,” Felicity said, with an apologetic smile. “Sorry guys.”

 

“Time to go,” Oliver said.

 

That earned him identical looks of displeasure from both of his sons so he went straight for the bribery card.

 

“We can go get ice cream,” he offered.

 

Predictably, that did the trick.

 

“Ice cream sundaes?” Luca pressed.

 

“Sure,” Oliver said, herding the boys across the park towards the street where they were parked.

 

“It’s more fun when we make them,” Sebastian pointed out.

 

“Not sure that we have everything we need at home,” Oliver said. “We could go to the grocery store but…”

 

“We can go to my apartment,” Felicity suggested. “I don’t ever, not have the ingredients for ice cream sundaes.”

 

“You don’t have to…” Oliver began.

 

“I don’t mind,” Felicity said. “Honestly.”

 

“Daddy, can we?” Sebastian demanded.

 

“Please?” Luca added.

 

Oliver shook his head.

 

“Fine,” he said. “Promise me you’re going to be on your best behavior. We don’t want Felicity to think that your dear old dad didn’t teach you any manners.”

 

“Promise,” the boys chorused.

 

“My life is going to be a nightmare when they’re old enough to date, isn’t it?” Oliver murmured to Felicity.

 

“No,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver arched an eyebrow.

 

“It’ll happen before they’re old enough to date,” Felicity teased.

 

“So helpful,” Oliver retorted. “Thanks for that.”

 

“Anytime,” Felicity said.

 

She helped him secure the boys into the backseat and then he opened the passenger door for her. Twenty minutes later they were walking through the door of her apartment and the boys were instantly fascinated by everything from the comic books on the wall to her aquarium of tropical fish.

 

Felicity left them to explore and headed towards the kitchen to collect the items required for epic ice cream sundae making. After assessing the room to make sure there wasn’t anything the twins could ruin – accidentally or on purpose – and with an extra word of caution, Oliver followed her.

 

“You didn’t have to do this,” he said quietly.

 

“Maybe I wanted to,” Felicity said. “Not everything has an ulterior motive.”

 

Oliver started to speak but Felicity cut him off.

 

“Granted I get that’s not a huge part of your personal experience,” she added. “But in this case, it’s true. The best part of today has been seeing you relax with them and smile. No reason to let a TMZ obsessed tween ruin the day.”

 

“Okay,” Oliver said.

 

“Okay?” Felicity questioned.

 

“Felicity, I grew up with Thea for a sister,” Oliver said, with a crooked grin. “I learned a long time ago when it’s in my best interest not to argue with a woman.”

 

Felicity smothered a laugh and called out to the twins.

 

“Come on you two,” she said. “I need help carrying all these goodies to the table.”

 

The four of them had just started making a proper mess of ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate in more or less equal proportions in four bowls when the doorbell rang.

 

“I got it,” Felicity said, reaching for a dishtowel to wipe her hands. She crossed to the front door and opened it only to wish she hadn’t.

 

“Don’t give me that look Siobhán Felicity Smoak,” Mara said, striding into the living room. “You may be a grown woman but I am still your mother. Now this fight with your sister…”

 

“Mom, now is not a good time,” Felicity said.

 

“I don’t care what time it is,” Mara said. “We’re going to…”

 

“Everything okay over there?” Oliver asked, breaking into Mara’s tirade.

 

The older woman turned around and her eyes widened.

 

Felicity sighed.

 

“Mom, this is my friend Oliver,” she said. “And his sons Luca and Sebastian.”

 

The twins turned around at the sound of their names and Felicity found her mood lifting just at the sight of their faces covered in chocolate and sprinkles. Luca even had a bit of whipped cream in his hair.

 

“This,” Felicity finished, “is my mother, Mara Smoak.”

 

“Nice to meet you Mrs. Smoak,” Oliver said. “I’d offer to shake hands but…”

 

He gestured to the table.

 

“Ice cream sundaes,” Mara said, walking over to them. “When she was a little girl, Felicity took one of my roasting pans and put two gallons of ice cream, an entire can of whipped cream and god only knows how much caramel sauce into it. Then she tried to eat it all. Poor thing was sick for three days.”

 

“Gee thanks for sharing that, Mom,” Felicity said. “Really.”

 

“I bet you were adorable,” Oliver said.

 

“Highly doubtful,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver glanced back and forth between Felicity and her mother. There was obviously tension and he’d picked up something about a fight between Felicity and her sister earlier.

 

“I think it’s probably time for us to clean this mess up and get going,” he said.

 

“No!” Luca shrieked. “I don’t want to leave yet!”

 

“Me either,” Sebastian said. “I want to stay with Felicity.”

 

“You’ll see her again soon,” Oliver said.

 

“When?” Luca wanted to know.

 

“We’re having a family dinner tomorrow at my house,” Mara said. “Why don’t you and the boys join us?”

 

Oliver narrowed his eyes slightly. He sensed that Mara meant well but he also sensed when he was being manipulated.

 

“I think that should be up to Felicity,” Oliver said easily.

 

Mara turned an expectant look on her daughter but Oliver intervened.

 

“Call me later,” he said to Felicity. “We can talk about it then.”

 

He glanced down at his sons; Luca was pouting and Sebastian looked like he was gearing up for one of his rather rare temper tantrums. He crouched down so that he was eye level with them, something he always did when he needed to be particularly firm with them, and switched to Russian.

 

“You are going put your dishes in the sink and you’re going to thank Felicity for spending time with us today and for bringing you here to make sundaes,” Oliver said. “And you are not going to embarrass her in front of her mother by acting like spoiled brats because that’s not how friends treat each other. And Felicity’s our friend now, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Sebastian sighed.

 

“Okay,” Oliver said, straightening to his full height. The boys followed his instructions to the letter and Oliver had just finished cleaning the last remnants of the mess from the dining table when he spied Felicity bending down so that Sebastian and Luca could throw their arms around her.

 

Entirely unexpectedly, he felt something shift in his chest. It was an impossible knot of feelings. There was something about Felicity and his kids together, not just now but all day today; at the planetarium, the way she so effortlessly shared little facts and bits of information with them, at the park the way she’d fussed at them to hold still while she put sunscreen on them and dozens of other things besides.

 

And then there were his own reactions to consider. She was constantly surprising him and he was constantly surprising himself with how much he felt comfortable revealing to her. With the surprise came the confusion. How much of this was down to an actual connection between them and how much of it was him projecting his sons’ affection for her, he couldn’t be certain.

 

He said goodbye to Felicity’s mother and the twins followed suit. They headed for the door and Oliver heard Felicity whisper something to her mother before she followed them.

 

“Thanks for today,” Oliver said.

 

“I’m just sorry we got interrupted,” Felicity said opening the door.

 

“Family first,” Oliver said. “I get it.”

 

Impulsively, he pressed a kiss to her cheek, amused to see the pink flush that immediately crept up her cheeks.

 

“I didn’t know girls still did that,” he teased her.

 

“Get over yourself, Queen,” Felicity said, but she was smiling. “I’ll call tonight.”

 

“I’ll be waiting,” Oliver said.

 

“Me too,” Sebastian said.

 

“No, me too,” Luca said.

 

“Well if we don’t get home,” Oliver said, “there won’t be any point in her calling so I guess we better get a move on.”

 

Felicity watched until they disappeared into the elevator and then she went back to her apartment to face the music.

 

Sure enough, her mother was settled on the couch with a cup of tea, a sure sign that she intended to stay a while.

 

“How long?” Mara asked.

 

“How long what?” Felicity asked, already over this conversation and it had barely even started yet.

 

“How long have you been playing house with the most notorious womanizer in the history of Starling City?” Mara asked.

 

“Seriously, Mom?” Felicity asked in disbelief. “Is that really what you just saw here? Because what I saw is a father who has managed to successfully raise two incredibly precocious, adorable seven-year-old boys by himself. And for the record, I am not playing house with him. Oliver and I are friends and even that is brand new so just…back off.”

 

“You’re falling in love with him,” Mara stated.

 

“I. What?” Felicity said. “No.”

 

She shook her head.

 

“No more,” she said. “I think between you and Francesca I’ve had about all the family bonding I can take for this week.”

 

Mara softened.

 

“Felicity, I know your sister can be a bit much to take at the moment,” she said. “But she’s getting married in less than two months. She needs you to be supportive.”

 

“Support is a two way street,” Felicity said.

 

She let out a breath.

 

“I’ll fix things with her,” she said. “I just need a few more days to clear my head.”

 

“Fair enough,” Mara said. “I take it we won’t see you tomorrow then?”

 

“Probably not,” Felicity agreed.

 

“I love you, you know that,” Mara said.

 

“Yeah, I know,” Felicity said.

 

Mara gave her a hug and then left and Felicity was just stretching out on her bed, fighting the beginnings of a headache when her phone rang.

 

“Luca informed me that according to his Aunt Thea, the guy always has to call first,” Oliver informed her. “And as loath as I am to confirm anything that Aunt Thea says, ever, as the man responsible for unleashing these two future heartbreakers on the world, I feel it's my responsibility to see that they master dating etiquette at an early age.”

 

“What’s etket?” Sebastian asked in the background.

 

Felicity laughed.

 

“I’m glad to see you’re being diligent in all aspects of their education,” she said.

 

“This is the part where we hang up so you can call back at a time that’s actually convenient for you,” Oliver said.

 

“Thoughtful,” Felicity said.

 

“See boys, that’s how it’s done,” Oliver said.

 

“Hey, Oliver?” Felicity said.

 

“Yeah,” Oliver said.

 

“Thank you,” Felicity said.

 

“For what?” Oliver asked.

 

“For understanding,” Felicity said.

 

There was that knot in his chest again, Oliver thought.

 

“Back at you, Ace,” he said. “Back at you.”

 

Chapter Text

When he was certain the boys were asleep, Oliver slowly got up from the rocking chair in the corner of their room. He switched off the light and quietly closed the door behind him as he stepped into the hallway. Padding to his own bedroom, he was greeted with the sight of his sister lying across his bed, flipping through a magazine.

 

“Make yourself right at home,” Oliver drawled.

 

“I hear you went on a date today,” Thea retorted.

 

“You were misinformed,” Oliver said. “We went to the planetarium and to the park.”

 

“With Felicity Smoak,” Thea said.

 

Oliver frowned at her.

 

“This is the part when you tell me I’m your favorite sister,” Thea said. “And that you’re not sure how you’re going to thank me for the enormous favor that I did you today. Then I give you a hint. Three words: Prada Fall Collection.”

 

“Speedy, what are you even talking about?” he asked.

 

“It’s lucky for you really, that I know people in low places,” Thea said. “One of my contacts at Starling City’s leading gossip blog gave me a heads up that they got some exclusive photos of you and the boys in the park with a woman that someone identified as working for Walter.”

 

Oliver cursed under his breath.

 

“I managed to convince them not to run the pictures,” Thea said.

 

“How?” Oliver demanded.

 

“By telling them that if they ran the story without the pictures and without mention of the boys, that I would give them an exclusive quote about the happy couple in the making,” Thea said.

 

“You didn’t,” Oliver said flatly.

 

“Did you miss the part where the alternative was having the twins’ faces splashed across the Internet?” Thea said. “Cause I was pretty sure you wouldn’t have wanted that. And while this site is all about gossip, they’re generally not malicious with it. I wouldn’t have made the offer if I didn’t think they would respect it.”

 

Oliver pinched the bridge of his nose.

 

“You’re right,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’m just…frustrated. By all of it.”

 

Thea softened.

 

“I get that it’s maddening but Ollie, what did you expect?” she said. “You left Starling city almost ten years ago. Everyone remembers Oliver Queen as a careless, reckless, party boy. They have no idea who you’ve become while you were gone.”

 

She paused.

 

“Hell, I’m not even sure I know who you’ve become while you were gone,” she said. “If I’m honest, I kinda hate that.”

 

Oliver crossed the room and sat down next to her.

 

“For starters, I’m not the careless, reckless party boy I used to be,” Oliver said.

 

“That was never who you were,” Thea said. “Just how you acted.”

 

Oliver acknowledged that with a brief nod.

 

“Having kids, that changes everything under the best of circumstances,” Oliver said. “I did not have the best of circumstances.”

 

“So why did you wait so long?” Thea asked. “Before coming home? Before even telling us about them?”

 

“I made what I thought were the right choices,” Oliver said. “I can’t say now if they actually were or not but they’re the ones I made, the ones I need to live with.”

 

Thea rested her head on his shoulder.

 

“You’re a great dad,” she said.

 

“You think?” Oliver asked.

 

“I do,” Thea said.

 

“Thanks,” Oliver said.

 

“I missed you,” Thea said. “I’m still not clear on why you decided to come back now but I’m glad you’re here.”

 

“I missed you too,” Oliver said. “But do me another favor?”

 

“Are you going to add Cavalli Fall Collection to your vocabulary?” Thea asked.

 

“I thought it was Prada?” Oliver said.

 

“That was a different favor,” Thea said with a grin.

 

Oliver snorted.

 

“Lay off the dating tips to my children, okay?” he said. “They’re enough of a handful as it is.”

 

Thea laughed much too wickedly for Oliver’s liking as she skipped out the door. Rubbing a hand over the back of his head, Oliver got up and changed into his workout gear. Then he grabbed the other end of the monitor he’d set up in the boys’ room and headed down to the gym in the basement.

 

He ran ten miles on the treadmill and then spent another forty minutes doing free weights before he headed back upstairs for a shower. He was in the kitchen, making himself a sandwich, when his phone rang.

 

“Hi, Felicity,” he said.

 

“How’d you know it was me?” she asked.

 

“Psychic,” Oliver deadpanned.

 

There was a beat of silence.

 

“Caller id. Duh, Felicity,” she murmured. “Not sure where my head is at right now. Anyway, I was just calling to tell you I’m not going to dinner at my parent’s house tomorrow so you’re off the hook.”

 

“Was it something I said?” Oliver teased lightly.

 

Felicity huffed out a breath.

 

“No, things are just a bit off at the moment,” she said. “With me and my family. I need a couple days.”

 

“Fight with your sister,” Oliver said.

 

“You heard that, huh?” Felicity said.

 

“Want to talk about it?” Oliver asked.

 

“No,” Felicity said. “Maybe? I mean I get it, you know? That this is her time. Theoretically, getting married is a once in a lifetime deal but it doesn’t mean that I should have to put my entire life on hold to deal with all of her neuroses. And I hate feeling guilty for feeling that way.”

 

“You need to find the right balance between your life and hers,” Oliver said. “But don’t feel guilty. That’s the worst burden you can carry.”

 

“Spoken like someone who would know,” Felicity said softly.

 

“Yeah,” Oliver agreed.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Felicity asked.

 

Oliver was silent for so long, Felicity half expected to hear a dial tone ringing in her ear any second.

 

“Helena and I weren’t together when she got pregnant,” Oliver finally said. “In fact we were never actually in any kind of relationship, not in the healthy, committed sense of the word. It wasn’t even a fling, more like an extended one night stand.”

 

Felicity held her breath. She wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting him to say – if she’d been expecting him to say anything at all – but this wasn’t it.

 

“To this day, I’m not entirely sure if she came to tell me she was pregnant because she knew about my family’s money and connections,” Oliver said. “Or because deep down a part her really did want me to stop her.”

 

“Stop her?” Felicity queried.

 

“From having an abortion,” Oliver said. “She threated it dozens of times, even went to a clinic once. Helena wasn’t the most stable person in the world, mentally speaking. One minute, she would be sweet and thrilled with the idea of being pregnant, excited about feeling the baby move for the first time and then the next she’d be raging at me that she’d never wanted this and tearing the house apart looking for alcohol. I even caught her trying to score drugs around the corner from our house. It got to the point where I was terrified to let her out of my sight for fear of what she would do.”

 

“I can’t imagine what that was like for you,” Felicity said. “And you were what? 19?”

 

“ 20,” Oliver said. “The whole time, I could never figure out the truth of whether she wanted them or she didn’t. But I knew that I did and I knew that she wasn’t going to take good enough care of herself or them if I left her to her own devices. But I still felt guilty at times; felt like I was forcing her into it.”

 

He chuckled dryly.

 

“To be honest, I’m not sure I even understand what drove me. It’s not like I actually thought I was ready to be a dad,” Oliver said. “Because I absolutely wasn’t.”

 

“So what was it?” Felicity asked him.

 

“The only serious thought I’d ever had about fatherhood before then was that when the time came, I’d be a better dad to my kids than my father was to me and Thea,” Oliver said. “And I’ve broken a lot of promises to a lot of people in my time. I was determined not to break that one.”

 

“You’ve been through a lot,” Felicity said quietly. “You’ve survived a lot. Not everyone would have.”

 

“That’s barely the half of it,” Oliver said. “But it’s enough for tonight, I think.”

 

“Earlier,” Felicity said, taking his cue to change the subject. “You called me Ace. How come?”

 

“I’m not sure,” Oliver said. “Seems to fit you but if you don’t like it…”

 

“No,” Felicity said. “I don’t mind. I was just curious.”

 

“Good night, Ace,” Oliver said. “Sweet dreams.”

 

 

Oliver’s internal clock woke him up at 6 am. A few minutes later, almost like clockwork, the door to his bedroom opened and Luca walked in sleepily, trailing a blanket with him. He hopped up onto the bed and tucked himself into his father’s side before falling back asleep. Oliver rested his chin on top of Luca’s head and waited for another few minutes to pass. Right on schedule Sebastian joined them, curling up on Oliver’s other side.

 

The twins had been doing this practically every morning since they’d been old enough to sleep in their own beds. Oliver knew he should probably break them of the habit but it was like he’d told Felicity the other day. It had been just the three of them for a long time and this ritual was as much for him as it was for them. It had been years before he told anyone from his old life that he was a father and even then it had only been Raisa.

 

The twins were just shy of their fifth birthday before he told the rest of his family that they existed. And he hadn’t told them much more than that. They’d accepted it, Oliver suspected, simply because they were glad to hear from him at all.

 

When he’d left Starling City behind, he wanted to put his family, his father’s crimes, himself behind him. He’d gone to L.A. but he hadn’t lived the celebrity lifestyle, although he easily could have. Instead, he’d gone slumming for lack of a better term. He’d spent his nights in bars and clubs in rough neighborhoods and his days sleeping off the inevitable hangovers in cheap motels. His rare moments of sobriety had been spent at the beach.

 

He’d been spiraling and then he met Helena. She was like his own personal Queen of the Damned, leading him straight through the nine levels of hell. For those first few days and nights, he’d been completely out of his mind for her. It was one of the reasons he hadn’t doubted her too much when she told him she was pregnant.

 

He’d still had a paternity test done when the boys were born but by that point, with everything it taken to see them take their first breaths, he wouldn’t have cared if they hadn’t been biologically his. They were his sons in all the ways it mattered. The fact that they turned out to be his own matching set of mini me’s was just kind of ironic.

 

Sometimes, Oliver would let himself fall back asleep too once the boys were settled but other times, like this morning, he took advantage just to watch them and marvel. All of the instability during Helena’s pregnancy had left Oliver completely unprepared for the practicalities of actually taking care of a baby, let alone two.

 

John Diggle’s sister in law Carly had helped him out a couple of hours a day for the first few months until he had the basics down. But she had a young son of her own to look after and Oliver insisted, sooner rather than later, that he was fine on his own.

 

And he had been. He’d survived first fevers and teething and sleepless nights and countless diaper changes. He’d survived the moments of pure panic and others of bone numbing exhaustion. He’d gotten first words and first steps and bath times and story times and first days at school and eventually it had all started to feel a little bit more manageable, a little bit more normal.

 

When the twins were two, Oliver moved them all to San Francisco, figuring it was a saner place to try and raise kids than Los Angeles. They’d lived a comfortable if low-key life thanks to the money he’d transferred from his trust fund to  an account he’d set up using his mother’s maiden name, Dearden.

 

Eighteen months after the move, he’d met Sara; beautiful widowed Sara, who had lost her husband when she was six months pregnant with their baby daughter. They’d had a sweet and uncomplicated affair that was just passionate enough to remind Oliver that underneath all the trappings of fatherhood he was still a man and a young, healthy one at that.

 

He’d ended it when he decided that they would be moving again – to Dove Creek – but he suspected that she would have ended it of her own accord if he hadn’t.

 

“Daddy, can we have bacon for breakfast?” Luca asked with his eyes still closed.

 

“I’m sure we can manage that,” Oliver agreed. “Eggs, too?”

 

“Uh huh,” Luca said.

 

“You have to actually wake up if you want breakfast,” Oliver pointed out.

 

Luca sat up and rubbed his eyes. He gave Oliver a baleful look and then leaned over to poke his brother.

 

“Up,” he ordered.

 

Sebastian rolled over onto his side and Luca went to poke him again but Oliver diverted his finger.

 

“Why don’t we let him keep sleeping, okay?” he murmured.

 

He reached for the house phone and dialed his mother’s room.

 

“Are you up?” he asked her.

 

“I was just going downstairs to get some coffee,” she replied.

 

“Luca wants eggs and bacon for breakfast,” Oliver said. “Bastian is still sleeping.”

 

“Say no more,” Moira said. “I’ll take him down.”

 

Oliver hung up the phone.

 

“Go meet Grandma in the hall,” Oliver said. “We’ll come downstairs in a little while, okay?”

 

“’Kay,” Luca said, scrambling off the bed and into the hallway.

 

Oliver listened until the sounds of his mother and his eldest faded before turning on his side. Sebastian was flat on his back now and his clear blue eyes were wide open.

 

“Were you pretending to be asleep?” Oliver asked, feigning suspicion.

 

Sebastian smirked so Oliver did the sensible thing and started to tickle him. A series of shrieks and giggles resulted until Oliver finally relented.

 

“Can we go see Felicity today?” Sebastian wanted to know.

 

“Not today buddy,” Oliver said. “Felicity needs a day just for Felicity.”

 

He ruffled the boy’s hair.

 

“You really like her, don’t you?” he asked.

 

“Yeah,” Sebastian said. “She’s shiny. Like sunshine.”

 

Oliver had a sudden flash of Felicity in this bed, her hair spread out on one of his pillows and beams of sunlight playing across her face in the early morning.

 

Sebastian demanded his attention seconds later, deciding he was ready for breakfast but it was hours before Oliver was finally able to force the image from his mind.

Chapter Text

Oliver climbed out of his car as the door to the small plane parked on the private airstrip opened and John Diggle descended. They met each other half way on the tarmac.

 

“Oliver,” Diggle said, holding out his hand. “It’s good to see you.”

 

Oliver shook the other man’s hand and then pulled him into a hug.

 

“Thank you,” Oliver said. “For having my back on this.”

 

Diggle acknowledged that with a nod and let Oliver take his bag and stow it in the trunk of his truck.

 

“I had Raisa set up the guest house at Queen Manor for you,” Oliver said. “It has direct access and it’s far enough away from the main house that you won’t be tripping over the rest of us and you can come and go as you please.”

 

“Sounds good,” Diggle said.

 

“Before we head there, there’s somewhere I want to take you,” Oliver said. “Someone I want you to meet.”

 

Diggle narrowed his eyes slightly but he didn’t comment so Oliver moved on to a different topic.

 

“How’s Carly?” Oliver asked as he pulled into traffic and headed for the old Queen Consolidated factory in the Glades. “You two figure things out?”

 

“Depends on how you define figure things out,” Diggle allowed.

 

Oliver glanced over at him.

 

“We tried,” Diggle said. “But unfinished business kept getting in the way.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Oliver said, knowing that Diggle’s search for his brother’s killer had cost him more than just a failed relationship with Carly.

 

“Me too,” Diggle said.

 

They made the rest of the drive in silence but it was comfortable

 

“What is this place?” Diggle asked as Oliver pulled a sliding door open and gestured for him to go inside.

 

“Used to be one of my father’s factories,” Oliver said. “It’s been abandoned for years but it seemed like the last place anyone would look for Oliver Queen which makes it perfect for what we need.”

 

Oliver flipped the light switch and watched Dig take in the set up.

 

“I get the work out equipment,” Diggle said slowly. “But this computer network wouldn’t be out of place at the Agency. You’re good at a lot of things, Oliver but you’re not that good at this.”

 

“I guess that’s my cue,” Felicity said, appearing around the corner.

 

“John Diggle, meet Felicity Smoak,” Oliver said. “She’s…a friend.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Felicity,” Diggle said, shaking her hand.

 

“Likewise,” Felicity said. “I’ve heard a lot of great things about you.”

 

“So you’re the tech wizard?” Diggle said.

 

“Guilty as charged,” Felicity agreed. “We started setting this place up a couple days ago. I think it’s still lacking some charm but all things considered it isn’t too shabby.”

 

Diggle smiled and shot Oliver a knowing look, which Oliver pointedly ignored.

 

“Dig was Helena’s AA sponsor during her pregnancy,” Oliver said. “Or at least, he tried to be. I think he helped me more than he did her in the end.”

 

If Diggle was at all surprised that Oliver had no qualms discussing Helena in front of Felicity, he didn’t let it show.

 

“You wanted my help,” he said. “She didn’t. Kind of makes a difference.”

 

Felicity glanced at her watch.

 

“I have to be back at QC in an hour,” she said apologetically.

 

“No, of course,” Oliver said. “Dig why don’t you fill us in on what you found out?”

 

Once Felicity had located Bertinelli, Oliver had asked Diggle to do some recon first in New York, and then in Miami.

 

“Seems like Bertinelli didn’t leave New York on a whim,” Diggle said. “His entente cordiale with the Russians was fraying; he lost seven of his guys and would have lost more if he pushed back at them any harder.”

 

“Russians have presence in Miami too though,” Oliver said.

 

“I don’t think the move is permanent,” Diggle said. “I think he set up shop in Miami to broker some alliances. The Italian families there are struggling to keep the Russians from taking over.”

 

“But if Bertinelli backs them,” Oliver said. “Then they can fight back.”

 

He cursed under his breath.

 

“The man’s going to start an all out war,” he said.

 

“My contacts at the Bureau certainly seem to think so,” Diggle agreed.

 

“I didn’t see anything in the Bureau’s database to suggest they’re gearing up to intervene in something like that,” Felicity said.

 

Diggle didn’t bat an eyelash at the revelation that Felicity had been poking around in Federal files.

 

“The only sensible way to intervene is to get to Bertinelli before he kicks this shit storm into high gear,” Diggle replied. “After that, you get out of the way and wait to see who’s still standing when the dust settles.”

 

Felicity digested that.

 

“I wonder if this war or whatever is what that text referred to as “the fall”,” she said.

 

“What text?” Diggle asked.

 

“Ever since I figured out where Bertinelli was using Salvati’s phone records, I’ve been trying to see if I could hack into the phone itself,” Felicity said. “Turn out these guys use a lot of burner phones so I had to write an entirely new program that could match the…”

 

She backtracked when she saw Diggle’s eyes start to glass over a little.

 

“Basically I was able to extract part of a text message that I think was sent from Bertinelli to Salvati,” Felicity said. “It said that after the fall they would take Romulus and Remus.”

 

“The twins who founded Rome,” Diggle said. ‘You think it was a reference to Sebastian and Luca.”

 

“Yeah,” Felicity said. “We just couldn’t work out what “the fall” meant but now…”

 

Oliver turned away from them and braced his hands against the wall.

 

“Oliver?” Felicity asked.

 

He could hear the concern in her voice and that knot that seemed to hold all of his thoughts and feelings about her, tightened.

 

“This war happens, then in addition to Bertinelli himself being a problem, the boys become targets for all of his enemies,” Oliver said.

 

He was speaking to both of them but only Dig, who knew the full story, understood what Oliver wasn’t saying.

 

“There could be another way,” Diggle said. “Depends on how dirty you want your hands to be when it’s over.”

 

“When it’s over, I want my family to be safe,” Oliver said. “I don’t really care how dirty my hands have to be to make that happen.”

 

“Okay,” Diggle said.

 

“I feel like I missed something here,” Felicity said. “I’m normally not slow on the uptake so…”

 

Diggle looked back and forth between Oliver and Felicity. She looked worried and Oliver looked uncertain. It was enough to tell Diggle that while Oliver might have introduced Felicity as a friend, there were other emotions in play. Whether Oliver himself was aware of that was a different question altogether.

 

“I’m going to go make a call,” Diggle said. “I’ll give you guys a minute.”

 

He slipped out the side door and Oliver waited until it was closed behind him to turn and face Felicity.

 

She took a step towards him but Oliver raised a hand to stop her. He already knew he was going to tell her the facts because she deserved that much honesty from him. It was the uncertainty about how she would react that worried him and made him realize that he felt like he had something to lose here. He’d known her less than a month still, but she’d somehow fit into all these parts of his life and the thought of her not being there was…troubling.

 

“Helena was in a car accident when she was eight months pregnant,” Oliver said in a low voice. “She was drunk at the time and driving.”

 

Felicity’s hand flew to her mouth.

 

“She was fine and the babies were fine,” Oliver continued. “But she killed two teenagers who were leaving the public library. They would’ve have put her in jail for who knows how long, babies or not, if the Feds hadn’t turned up.”

 

“They offered a deal,” Felicity said.

 

“They were desperate to get anywhere near Bertinelli and it turns out that Helena had flirted with the idea of ratting on her father a few years before,” Oliver said. “For reasons beyond me, she was reluctant to accept the deal. We fought about it like we fought about a lot of stuff and I…”

 

He closed his eyes and sucked in a breath.

 

“I forced the issue,” Oliver said. “And I got her killed.”

 

There was silence and Oliver didn’t have it in him to look up just then, to see the expression on Felicity’s face.

 

“I thought you said her father killed her,” Felicity said.

 

“He did,” Oliver said. “Because he thought she turned on him only she hadn’t. I was the one that fed intel to the FBI, not her.”

 

Forcing himself to man up, Oliver lifted his head and focused on Felicity. She looked a bit stunned but not disappointed or disgusted or any of the other things Oliver might have imagined.

 

“There was a ledger,” Oliver said. “She didn’t think I knew about it but I did.”

 

“You turned it over,” Felicity guessed.

 

“No,” Oliver said. “I still have it actually. I didn’t want to play all my cards at once. I told the FBI I would give them enough information to nail two of Bertinelli’s lieutenants if they kept Helena safe in the hospital until after the babies were born and took her into Wit Sec afterwards.”

 

He rubbed his hands over his jaw.

 

“I didn’t love her and looking back on it, I didn’t always treat her the way I should have,” Oliver said. “But I never meant for her to be exposed, to get hurt.”

 

“I believe you,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver gave her a sharp look but saw nothing but sincerity reflected back at him. This time, when she moved closer, he didn’t stop her.

 

“Turns out there are a few federal agents on Bertinelli’s payroll,” Oliver said mirthlessly. “They came to take her into protective custody two days after the boys were born. No one thought anything of it until news came that there had been an accident with no survivors.”

 

“Were they able to prove it was him?” Felicity said.

 

“There was evidence that the car was sabotaged,” Oliver said. “But none linking him directly to it.”

 

“That must have been difficult to deal with,” Felicity said. “Especially since you were adjusting to taking care of the babies.”

 

Oliver shook his head.

 

“Why don’t you think I’m awful?” he asked her.

 

Felicity blinked at him in surprise and then realized that he was serious. On the heels of that came the realization of how many regrets and recriminations Oliver had been bottling up all these years.

 

“You’re not awful,” Felicity said firmly.


She reached out and took his hand in hers.

 

“You lived through something awful,” she said. “Several somethings, actually.”

 

“That’s not an excuse,” Oliver said.

 

“Nor was it meant to be,” Felicity said. “All I’m saying is that I don’t think you’re a bad person. I think you did what you thought was right and maybe you did get some things wrong but I’m not going to be the one to judge you.”

 

Slowly, Oliver shifted his hand so that he could interlace his fingers with Felicity’s. He heard an extremely quiet intake of breath on her part, as if the gesture surprised her, but she didn’t pull away.

 

“What Dig said before,” Oliver said. “About how there could be another way. You know what he was saying, right? What the alternative is if I don’t go to the authorities.”

 

And since she wasn’t slow on the uptake, Felicity did understand.

 

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” she said quietly.

 

“They’ll take him out first,” Oliver said. “Then dismantle his organization piece by piece. The only problem with that is that it gives them license to expand and Felicity, these aren’t good people. They sell guns and drugs and those things affect the lives of innocent people.”

 

He looked her right in the eye then and Felicity could see how hard he was struggling with this decision.

 

“How far do you have to go before protecting your children no longer justifies the collateral damage?” Oliver asked her. “How far before you can’t look yourself in the mirror anymore?”

 

“What if there was a way to have the Russians take Bertinelli out and then use the authorities to stall their expansion?” Felicity asked.

 

“About the only thing more dangerous than making a deal with a gangster,” Oliver said, “is making it and then double crossing them.”

 

“I’m not talking about a double cross, exactly,” Felicity said. “Just because you turn over the information in the ledger to them doesn’t mean you can’t still use it. I’m sure we can find ways to monitor what they do with it and feed – anonymously obviously – pieces of information to say, Diggle’s contacts at the Bureau.”

 

She smiled at him.

 

“We’ll be like a secret organized crime task force,” she said. “You, me and Dig. It’s not the same thing as dismantling piece by piece but maybe it helps restore the balance.”

 

“What’s to stop the Russians from catching on?” Oliver asked.

 

“Tell them up front that Helena had other copies of the ledger,” Felicity said. “As insurance. Tell them you’re not sure where they are. That way if suspicions are raised down the line, the seed will have been planted.”

 

“It’s not a bad idea,” Diggle said from the doorway.

 

Felicity started at the sight of the older man who seemed to have reappeared without making a sound. She tried to discreetly pull her hand away from Oliver’s but he tightened his grip.

 

“Why don’t we meet here tomorrow,” Felicity suggested. “Bring the ledger, I’ll bring lunch and we can all put our heads together. Sound like a plan?”

 

Oliver nodded.

 

“It does,” he said.

 

“I really do have to get back,” Felicity said.

 

She stood up but Oliver still had a hold of her hand and now his thumb was rubbing circles across her palm.

 

“Thank you,” he said softly.

 

“Don’t mention it,” she said lightly. “It was nice meeting you, Diggle. It’s okay that I call you that, right? Oliver said that’s what most people call you and…”

 

“It’s fine,” Diggle assured her with a smile.

 

Felicity returned it and gave them a small wave before she disappeared out the door. Dig turned to look at Oliver and had to stifle a hearty laugh.

 

“You don’t even know yet, do you?” Diggle asked.

 

“Know what?” Oliver asked.

 

“Nothing man,” Diggle said. “Not a thing.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“And make sure you pick up those specs from Applied Sciences for Mr. Steele,” Felicity told her friend and colleague, Amanda. “He mentioned wanting to include them in the R&D Committee meeting materials.”

 

“Okay,” Amanda said, making a note on her iPad.

 

The two of them walked up to the elevator bank just as Isabel Rochev emerged from one of the conference rooms opposite. She gave Felicity a hate filled stare and stalked past them.

 

“The hell?” Felicty muttered under her breath. “Did I kill her puppy in a past life or something?”

 

Amanda choked on a laugh.

 

“Pretty sure she’s just jealous,” Amanda said.

 

“Isabel Rochev?” Felicity said disbelievingly. “Jealous of me? For what?”

 

Amanda looked around to make sure no one was listening to them and she lowered her voice.

 

“She’s been after Oliver Queen ever since he got back,” Amanda said. “He’s barely looked at her. Now that she’s knows you’re the reason why…well, you do the math.”

 

Felicity shook her head, hoping that would restore order to the universe but Amanda was staring at her expectantly as if everything she’d just said should have made perfect sense.

 

“Amanda, what are you talking about?” Felicity asked.

 

Amanda rolled her eyes.

 

“I know you’re trying to keep things on the down low,” she said. “That’s why I haven’t demanded details although for the record I am hurt, truly hurt, that you didn’t think to tell me you were dating the sexiest man in Starling City.”

 

“That I’m what?” Felicity said, aghast.

 

“The cat’s out of the bag, Felicity,” Amanda said. “Spotted In Starling ran that story about you guys having a romantic picnic in the park the other day. And you and Oliver might be all hush hush but his sister told them all about how he’s totally smitten with you and that she thinks this could be the real deal.”

 

Felicity opened her mouth but for once words completely failed her.

 

“It’s fine,” Amanda said. “Like I said, I get that you don’t want to talk about it. Just promise me that when you are ready, you’ll talk to me first.”

 

Felicity nodded mutely because she had no idea what the appropriate response would have been otherwise. She was still too stunned by the revelation that all of Starling City apparently thought she and Oliver were on their way to white picket fences.

 

“Okay, forget what I just said,” Amanda said moments later. “There’s one thing I need to know. On a scale of one to amazing, how good a kisser is he?”

 

Felicity blinked.

 

“I…he…” she sputtered.

 

“That good, huh?” Amanda said. “That’s what I thought.”

 

She nudged Felicity in the side.

 

“You lucky bitch,” she said.

 

The elevator doors slid open but Felicity made no move to get in.

 

“I need to uh…” Felicity stuttered. “There’s a call I should…”

 

She gestured in the direction of her office.

 

“Sure,” Amanda said knowingly. “See you later.”

 

Felicity stumbled back to her office, more grateful than ever that her promotion to head of the IT department six months ago had come with a proper office that afforded her a level of privacy she hadn’t had in her cubicle.


Closing the door, she sank into her plush leather chair and reached for her cell phone with a shaky hand. Oliver picked up on the second ring.

 

“Hey,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting your call until later.”

 

His words brought Felicity far enough out of the haze that had descended on to her brain to remember that Oliver and Diggle were going to meet with the Russians later. With a man named Anatoli Knyazev to be precise. He was apparently quite high up the Bratva chain in this part of the country. He also happened to be Raisa’s half brother.

 

“Oh,” Felicity said.

 

She licked her lips.

 

“Actually, I wasn’t calling about…that,” Felicity said.

 

“Is something wrong?” Oliver asked.

 

Felicity laughed, painfully aware that the sound was tinged with something approaching hysteria.

 

“Well, I guess that depends on how you feel about being in a relationship with me,” Felicity said. “Because apparently most of Starling City thinks we’re a thing. A serious thing that leads to things like mini vans and puppies and houses in the suburbs although if you think about it Queen Manor and the acres surrounding it are practically a suburb of their own and…”

 

“Felicity,” Oliver said. “Take a breath.”

 

Felicity closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

 

“Okay,” Oliver said. “Now why don’t you…shit. The blog.”

 

“You knew?” Felicity demanded, whatever calm she’d momentarily attained shattered all over again.

 

“Sort of,” Oliver said. “Those teenagers in the park sold the photos to some gossip blog. Thea found out about it and made a deal with them; her quote in exchange for not running the photos or mentioning the boys. I meant to tell you about it then you told me about Bertinelli’s text message and I…forgot.”

 

“Oh,” Felicity said.

 

“I’m sorry,” Oliver said. “Is it making things weird for you?”

 

“The fact that everyone I work with thinks I’m dating the boss’s son?” Felicity said. “No, why would that be weird?”

 

She groaned.

 

“Walter and your mother must think…” she started.

 

“I can set them straight,” Oliver offered. “Though for the record they’ll probably be disappointed that there isn’t more truth to it.”

 

“You can’t say things like that, Oliver,” Felicity said.

 

She was having a hard enough time harnessing all her feelings as it was. It was one thing to spend a few moments here or there thinking about what it would be like to be with Oliver in a romantic way or in a sexual way. But having the world at large believe it was happening? Having him imply that his family would actually be pleased if it was? That was taking things out of the realm of fantasy and into a reality that she was not prepared to deal with, precisely because she knew that it wasn’t real.

 

Oliver wasn’t interested in her like that. There wasn’t any reason for him to be and allowing any ideas to the contrary to float around her brain for long would only lead to trouble.

 

“You’re right,” Oliver said. “It’s better to be honest. Maybe it’s me who’s disappointed that there isn’t more truth to it.”

 

“Come again,” Felicity choked out.

 

Oliver let out a gruff chuckle.

 

“This isn’t exactly how I imagined having this conversation,” he said.

 

“Because you imagined this conversation?” Felicity asked, unable to keep the note of disbelief from her voice.

 

“We’ve only known each other a short time,” Oliver said. “And most of that time has been spent dealing with things that no one could possibly classify as normal. It’s been intense in a heightened reality sort of way. And then there’s the boys and the fact that they’ve been looking for a Felicity since they were old enough to understand what it meant not to have a mother.”

 

“Oliver,” Felicity said, his name feeling heavy on her tongue.

 

“Let me finish,” Oliver said, his voice sounding low and gravelly to her ears.

 

“Okay,” Felicity said.

 

“I feel things for you, Felicity,” Oliver said. “I just wanted to be sure that they were about you and not anyone or anything else before I said anything.”

 

“Wow,” Felicity said.

 

“Wow?” Oliver repeated. “Is that good or bad?”

 

“I’m sorry,” Felicity said. “I was not expecting any of this and it seems slightly insane. Okay, completely insane if we’re being honest. You’re…and I’m just…”

 

“Listen there’s no pressure here,” Oliver told her. “If you don’t reciprocate the sentiment, I’m not going to hold it against you. It’s fine. We can…”

 

“No, it’s not that,” Felicity said. “Or not exactly. It’s…you’re not like any man I know, definitely not like any man who’s ever showed an interest in me before and I just assumed that I wasn’t your type.”

 

“I think you underestimate your appeal,” Oliver said lightly. “Even to us billionaire playboy types.”

 

Felicity winced.

 

“And now I’ve offended you,” she said. “Fantastic.”

 

“Relax,” Oliver said. “I’m not offended. I’m glad all of this is out in the open now.”

 

“You are?” Felicity asked.

 

“I am,” Oliver said. “Because now I won’t feel like an ass for asking you to have a drink with me.”

 

“Oh,” Felicity said. “ I guess that means I don’t have to feel like an ass for saying yes.”

 

Oliver laughed and the sound was warm and rich and set what felt like an entire swarm of butterflies loose in the pit of Felicity’s stomach.

 

“How about tomorrow night?” Oliver said. “I’ll pick you up after work.”

 

“Tomorrow night,” Felicity agreed. “I’ll see you then.”

 

They hung up and Felicity set her cell on her desk and stared at it, wondering if that entire conversation had been a hallucination. Her computer pinged drawing her attention to the emails piling up in her inbox and that was enough to shift her back into work mode.

 

The rest of her day passed with little incident although the knowing looks she got from a number of the other employees made a whole lot more sense now than they had before. As did Francesca’s avoidance, Felicity realized. She’d reached out to her sister a couple of times and hadn’t heard a word. If Francesca had seen the article about her and Oliver – and she was the type to keep up with that sort of stuff – she probably thought Felicity was blowing her off in favor of her supposed new romance.

 

Shaking her head, Felicity packed up her stuff and left the office. She stopped by her favorite Italian bakery for some tiramisu to go and then drove to Francesca’s town house. Her sister opened the door but made no move to let her in.

 

“Managed to tear yourself away from your lover long enough to remember me?” Francesca said.

 

Felicity rolled her eyes.

 

“You know perfectly well that I’ve been trying to fix this for days,” Felicity said. “And I brought tiramisu but you can’t have any if you’re going to be difficult about it.”

 

Francesca pursed her lips but she stepped back and allowed Felicity to come inside.

 

“Liam here?” Felicity asked.

 

“He’s in Houston on business,” Francesca answered as they made straight for the kitchen.

 

Felicity set the tiramisu on the table and Francesca pulled two spoons from the drawer and handed one to Felicity.

 

“What you said to me on the street the other day,” Felicity began.

 

“I said I was sorry,” Francesca pointed out.

 

“I know you are and I know you didn’t mean it,” Felicity said. “Not really the problem. The problem is you said it to hurt me because I didn’t do what you wanted when you wanted it.”

 

She took a bite of tiramisu and waited to see if Francesca would argue.

 

She didn’t.

 

“So here’s the thing,” Felicity continued. “I am genuinely happy and excited for you. Liam is perfect for you and I totally get you wanting this wedding to be flawless. But you need to understand that the world doesn’t stop because you’re planning your wedding and that being the center of attention is fine as the bride to be but it’s not an excuse for being self absorbed.”

 

“This is your version of “fixing it”?” Francesca questioned.

 

“It is,” Felicity said. “Because we can’t fix anything if we’re not honest and I need you trust me that when I say I can’t do something –right away or at all – then I have a good reason for it.”

 

“Fair enough,” Francesca said slowly. “I’ve just never seen you put a guy first like this is all. I guess I was surprised, especially since you didn’t tell me the truth about it.”

 

She put her spoon down.

 

“Why didn’t you?” she asked.

 

“I did tell you the truth,” Felicity said. “I am not dating Oliver Queen. Or at least not yet.”

 

“Thanks for clearing that up,” Francesca said with a straight face.

 

“The thing you saw on Spotted isn’t what you think,” Felicity said. “We took his kids to the planetarium and the park.  The story that ran implying there was something between me and Oliver was basically just damage control; a way to keep his sons out of the public eye.”

 

“So you two are friends and nothing more?” Francesca said skeptically. “Mom told me all about the sundaes at your place. She seems to think you’re falling head over heels for him.”

 

“Mom is exaggerating,” Felicity said. “But I do like him. A lot.”

 

“How does he feel?” Francesca asked.

 

“The same,” Felicity said. “Which is why we’re going out tomorrow. I don’t think either of us intends to rush anything though, not least because of twins.”

 

“You sure you’re ready for something like that?” Francesca asked. “Don’t get me wrong, I totally see the attraction; he’s gorgeous, he’s rich and you’re a good judge of character so if you like him he can’t be the entitled prick everyone seems to think he is. But children is a whole different thing.”

 

“Sebastian and Luca are awesome,” Felicity said. “I like them and they seem to like me but we are a long way from co-parenting. So I’m going to give myself more than 12 hours to decide how I’d feel if it ever did come to that.”

 

She gave her sister an amused look.

 

“If that’s okay with you?” she asked.

 

“Shut up and eat your tiramisu,” Francesca said, shaking her head.

 

“We good now?” Felicity asked.

 

“What are you wearing on this date tomorrow?” Francesca asked.

 

Felicity smiled knowing that they were in fact back on track.

 

“No idea,” Felicity said.

 

Francesca glanced at her watch.

 

“Lucky for you the stores are still open,” she said. “Come on.”

 

“But the tiramisu…” Felicity said.

 

“Is not more important than blowing Oliver Queen’s mind when he gets his first look at you tomorrow,” Francesca finished for her. “Trust me on that.”

 

“Do I have to?” Felicity grumbled, putting the dessert aside and picking up her purse.

 

“I’m your big sister,” Francesca said. “So, yes.”

 

“Pushy,” Felicity teased.

 

“You love me,” Francesca countered. “Which is why I put up with you.”

 

“And here I thought it was because I know all your secrets,” Felicity said. “Does Liam know about that time that you…”

 

“Be quiet,” Francesca said good-naturedly. “Liam knows everything he needs to about me. Speaking of Liam though, his brother is going to be gutted.”

 

“Why?” Felicity asked frowning as they climbed into her sister’s car.

 

“Mom spent the whole lunch talking you up to him,” Francesca said. “I think he’s half in love with you already.”

 

“Then you better not leave me alone with him,” Felicity said.

 

“Why?” Francesca said. “Would Oliver Queen object?”

 

“Can you stop it with the first and last name thing?” Felicity said. “And I don’t know if he would but I do.”

 

“It could be tough,” Francesca said seriously. “He is Liam’s best man…”

 

Felicity shot her sister a look and Francesca groaned.

 

“The only way I’m giving in to what you’re asking me without asking me is if you start bringing him around before the wedding so everyone gets used to him,” Francesca said. “I’m not about to be upstaged at my own wedding because your billionaire is a novelty to our family and friends.”

 

Felicity smiled.

 

“Mine, huh?” she said.

 

“And you say you’re not in love,” Francesca said with a snort. “I can’t wait to see what it’ll look like when you are.”

 

“I think,” Felicity said. “That might make two of us.”

Chapter Text

“We will not speak again,” Knyazev said. “But you will know when it is done.”

 

“Understood,” Oliver said.

 

“My sister speaks highly of you,” Knyazev continued. “Says you are a good man. What you do here, to protect your family, I respect it.”

 

Oliver nodded but he didn’t respond. He wasn’t sure how to feel about the fact that a man who’d probably torn dozens if not hundreds of families apart was complimenting him on his family values.

 

Knyazev barked something to one of his colleagues as he turned away from Oliver and back towards the Mercedes that he'd arrived in.

 

Oliver waited until they’d all driven away before walking to the truck where Diggle was waiting. He climbed into the passenger seat.

 

“You don’t look any worse for the wear so I’m assuming it went as well as can be expected,” Diggle said.

 

“Basically,” Oliver agreed.

 

“Regrets?” Diggle asked.

 

“Not yet,” Oliver said.

 

“Works for me,” Diggle said.

 

He switched the engine on and pointed the car in the direction of Starling City.

 

“Where to now?” he asked.

 

“Wanna grab a coffee?” Oliver asked.

 

“Sure,” Diggle said.

 

Oliver plucked out his cell phone and called home to check in on the twins. He caught them just as they were getting ready for bed so he spent a few minutes on the phone with them both and promised he’d be home when they woke up in the morning.

 

Then he texted Felicity that he and Diggle were both fine and that he’d fill her in on the details later.

 

“You’re going to have to tell me where we’re going exactly,” Diggle said.

 

Oliver gave him directions to a diner that was somewhere between downtown Starling and the Glades. Once they were settled into a corner booth and had ordered coffee and pie, Dig decided to push. He’d known Oliver several years now and while they hadn’t always kept in the closest touch, Dig felt he knew the man Oliver was today better than most.

 

Which is how he knew that the offer to stop for coffee wasn’t about caffeine.

 

“What’s on your mind, Oliver?” Diggle asked.

 

“Felicity,” Oliver said.

 

“Ah,” Diggle said. “I was wondering when you’d come around to that.”

 

“Meaning?” Oliver asked.

 

“Granted I’ve never really seen you with any woman other than Helena,” Diggle said. “But I have seen you with people in general and you’re different with Felicity. I just didn’t think you realized it.”

 

“Your faith in my self awareness is heart-warming,” Oliver said dryly.

 

Diggle snorted.

 

“We’re having a drink tomorrow,” Oliver said.

 

“Nervous?” Diggle asked.

 

“Yes,” Oliver admitted.

 

He tapped his fingers against the table as he sorted through his thoughts.

 

“I don’t know the first thing about building a real, honest, relationship with a woman,” Oliver said.

 

“What about Laurel?” Diggle asked. “You told me you were with her for a couple of years.”

 

“I was a kid,” Oliver said. “A stupid one at that.”

 

“But you loved her,” Diggle said.

 

“I thought I did,” Oliver agreed. “But even if I had, I treated her and that relationship like something…disposable. I cheated on her, I lied to her and I never once put what she needed before what I wanted.”

 

He shot Diggle a wry look.

 

“How’s that for self aware?” he said.

 

Dig laughed.

 

“Pretty good,” he allowed. “Look, Oliver, if you want relationship advice I’m the last guy you should be asking.”

 

He paused as the waitress poured their coffee and placed a slice of apple pie and ice cream in front of each of them.

 

“The only thing I can tell you,” Diggle said, “is that relationships are about trust. Based on the fact that you involved her in this and that she agreed to help, I’m thinking the two of you already have that. And the fact that you told her about Helena, tells me there’s honesty between you as well. That’s a more solid foundation than a lot of people start out with.”

 

“True,” Oliver agreed, taking a sip of coffee.

 

“What else?” Dig asked, setting down his fork.

 

“I know this probably falls into the category of getting ahead of myself,” Oliver said. “But that’s what parents do so…”

 

“You’re worried about how a relationship with Felicity would affect the twins?” Diggle asked.

 

“Not really,” Oliver said. “I mean, I worry about how it would affect them if it doesn’t work out because they adore her. But what I was going to say is that I’m not sure how fair it is to her.”

 

“Felicity doesn’t strike me as the type of woman who would let things get serious between you if she didn’t think she could handle your kids as well as you,” Diggle said. “But considering as your first date isn’t in the books yet, I’m thinking you still have some time before you need to know that for sure.”

 

“Yeah,” Oliver said.

 

“For what it’s worth,” Diggle added. “I think this is a good thing; you giving it a chance.”

 

“Thanks,” Oliver said with a smile.

 

Oliver settled the bill after they’d finished eating then and dropped Diggle off at the guesthouse on his way back up the main house. It was late but both his mother and Raisa were up when he walked in.

 

“Hi,” Oliver said, walking into the salon where his mother was watching TV.

 

“Hello, sweetheart,” Moira said. “Everything okay?”

 

“Fine,” Oliver agreed. “The boys behave tonight?”

 

“Like angels,” Moira said.

 

“They must not be feeling well,” Oliver joked.

 

Moira smiled.

 

“They’re no more trouble than you were at that age,” she said. “Which is saying something because there are two of them and there was only one of you.”

 

Oliver returned the smile and Moira cocked her head to one side.

 

“You seem…lighter,” she said. “Being home agrees with you.”

 

She gave him a knowing look.

 

“Or maybe it’s someone you’ve been seeing a lot of lately?” she said.

 

“Subtle, Mother,” Oliver said. “You should know that what you read about me and Felicity isn’t true.”

 

“Oh,” Moira said.

 

“But I did ask her out,” Oliver said. “So maybe, at some point in the distant future, it will be.”

 

Moira reached out and gave his hand a squeeze.

 

“I’m very glad to hear that,” she said. “For both of your sake’s.”

 

“Good night,” Oliver said.

 

He dropped a kiss on top of her head and went to the kitchen. Raisa was reading at the counter with a pot of tea next to her. She looked up at his approach and Oliver closed the distance to pull her into a hug.

 

“I know it wasn’t easy for you to reach out to him after all this time,” Oliver told her quietly.

 

Raisa had cut her ties with the life decades ago, before she came to work for the Queen family. She hadn’t spoken to her half brother in more than thirty years until last week.

 

“Anything for you and those precious little ones, medvezhonok,” Raisa said. “I’m happy I could help.”    

 

Oliver pressed a kiss to her cheek.

 

“Thank you,” he said simply.

 

 

“Luca, come out from under there,” Oliver said, trying to sound stern.

 

He knew he was failing because the truth of it was that he was actually kind of amused. It was a conundrum that had presented itself often over the last seven years with both boys but Luca in particular.

 

“No,” was the muffled response he got.

 

“Your brother and your grandmother are waiting for us downstairs,” Oliver said.

 

“Don’t care,” Luca replied.

 

Sighing, Oliver got down on the floor and slid his body under the bed – no small feat – so that he could talk to Luca face to face.

 

“You can’t stay under here forever,” Oliver pointed out.

 

“Yes, I can,” Luca said stubbornly.

 

“What about food?” Oliver said.

 

“Babulya will bring me food,” Luca said.

 

“What about going to the bathroom and taking a bath?” Oliver asked.

 

 “I can stay in my room forever,” Luca amended since the bathroom was technically attached.

 

“Well, what about all the people who live outside your room and who would miss you if you didn’t come out?” Oliver asked. “Like your Aunt Thea, and your grandparents and Felicity.”

 

“They could come visit,” Luca said.

 

“You have an answer for everything, don’t you?” Oliver said.

 

Luca grinned.

 

“Buddy, you’re going to have to go to school,” Oliver said. “There’s no way around that. But the purpose of this morning is for you and Sebastian to pick a school that you actually want to go to. So if you stay here and don’t come with us, you won’t get to have an opinion.”

 

Luca pouted.

 

“But why?” he asked.

 

“Because Daddy makes the rules,” Oliver said. “You ready to come out now?”

 

Luca grumbled under his breath but he crawled out from under the bed. Oliver managed to wriggle his way out as well and without bumping his head, which he considered an accomplishment. Luca dragged his heels but he eventually put his shoes on and followed his father downstairs.

 

“We all ready now?” Moira asked, her hand resting on Sebastian’s shoulder.

 

“As close to it as we’re going to get,” Oliver said.

 

The drive to the first of the schools they were going to visit that morning took about ten minutes. It was a highly rated private school close to Queen Manor. Oliver could tell after all of five minutes that his sons would be miserable there. The looks on their faces as the administrator giving them the tour droned on and on about the history and the curriculum and the rules, said it all.

 

Discreetly, Oliver pulled his cell phone from his pocket and texted Felicity.

 

Call me.

 

Less than a minute later, his phone rang. Oliver gave his mother and the tour guide an apologetic look but hung back to pick up.

 

“Hey,” Felicity said. “Everything okay?”

 

“I have to apologize,” Oliver said. “Because I am going to shamelessly use this phone call as an excuse to get me and the twins out of the rest of this private school tour that we’re on.”

 

Felicity laughed.

 

“Moira mentioned you were going to look at schools when she stopped by QC the other day,” Felicity said.

 

“My mother came to see you?” Oliver asked, distracted.

 

“No, she was having lunch with Walter when I dropped off some files,” Felicity explained.

 

“Ah,” Oliver said.

 

He glanced back over his shoulder and saw his mother giving him a suspicious look.

 

“I think she’s on to me,” Oliver said.

 

“Tell her that Victor Tomic from QC’s beta division is the one who called you,” Felicity said. “That he says they want you to come in and test the prototype for 246.”

 

“And she’ll believe this why?” Oliver asked.

 

“It was her idea,” Felicity said. “I’m sure Victor probably will call you at some point this week.”

 

“A genius and a lifesaver,” Oliver said.

 

“Bargain deal,” Felicity quipped.

 

“Definitely,” Oliver said “So I’ll see you later?”

 

“You will,” Felicity said. “Is 6:30 okay?”

 

“It’s perfect,” Oliver said.

 

“Good luck with the rest of the schools,” Felicity said.

 

“I have a feeling I’ll need it,” Oliver said. “Bye.”

 

He hung up and slipped his cell phone back into his pocket.

 

“Sorry about that,” he said catching up with the tour. “I’m going to have to cut this short though.”

 

Moira arched an eyebrow.

 

“Victor someone from QC’s beta division?” he said. “Apparently they want me to test some kind of prototype.”

 

“Now?” Moira asked.

 

“No, early this afternoon,” Oliver said. “Since we have a couple of other schools to visit…”

 

He gave the administrator one of his most charming smiles.

 

“I think we’ve seen everything we need here,” he said. “We’ll be in touch.”

 

With that he ushered the boys towards the exit.

 

“You’re not going to make us go here, are you, Dad?” Sebastian asked worriedly.

 

“It’s horrible,” Luca agreed.

 

“I won’t make you go here,” Oliver promised.

 

“You could have at least pretended that you weren’t running for your lives,” Moira said, when they were all settled back into the car.

 

She was smiling though so Oliver knew she wasn’t actually upset.

 

“Was that really Victor on the phone?” she asked him.

 

“Sure,” Oliver said guilelessly.

 

“And you wonder where these two get it from,” Moira said.

 

They made it through the other four schools on the list in record time and from Oliver’s perspective they were down to a charter school thirty minutes away from the house and a public school nearby to Queen Consolidated’s office building. The twins seemed to like both equally so Oliver planned do a bit more research before making a final decision.

 

After dropping his mother and the twins off at the Manor, Oliver headed downtown to take care of a few errands. He picked up a couple of new shirts since his current wardrobe was sadly lacking in date appropriate apparel. Then he picked up a new jigsaw puzzle for the twins and a sleeveless red and turquoise striped dress from Prada’s fall collection for Thea. The last stop he made was at the florist where he picked up a bouquet of calla lilies for Raisa and blue orchids for Felicity.

 

He was just walking back out onto the street when his cell phone rang. It was the caretaker at the vineyard.

 

“Daniel,” Oliver said warmly. “Everything all set?”

 

“Yes, sir,” Daniel replied. “We’ll expect the helicopter at seven.”

 

“Excellent,” Oliver said.

 

“Is there anything in particular I can bring up from the cellar for you?” Daniel asked.

 

Oliver gave it some thought.

 

“The Rothschild ’53,” he finally said. “I think she’ll like that.”

 

“I’m sure she will, sir,” Daniel said. “We’ll have it ready and waiting.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“So is this your thing?” Felicity asked, as Oliver helped her climb out of the helicopter. “You offer a girl a drink and then fly her 100 miles up the coast to get it?”

 

“It’s my thing with you,” Oliver said, keeping hold of her hand despite the fact that she was now steady on her feet.

 

“Smooth,” Felicity said with a smile.

 

She looked around, taking in the vast green lawn that they’d landed on and the stone steps that were up ahead of them.

 

“What is this place?” Felicity asked.

 

“An old family vineyard,” Oliver said.

 

“Of course it is,” Felicity said, laughing. “When was the last time you were here?”

 

“I think I was 15,” Oliver said. “Maybe 16. My best friend Tommy and I brought pretty much everyone we knew out here for a huge party.”

 

“What was the occasion?” Felicity asked.

 

“There wasn’t one,” Oliver said. “We were just looking for trouble.”

 

“I’d say that that surprises me but it would be a lie,” Felicity replied.

 

“Ouch,” Oliver grinned.

 

By this point they’d climbed the steps and were walking across the patio.

 

“Inside or outside?” Oliver asked her.

 

“It’s such a beautiful night,” Felicity said. “Why don’t we stay out?”

 

Oliver made some sort of signal to a man who was standing in the door way and then he guided her towards the cushioned bench seats built into one side of the patio railings. A procession of staff soon had candles on a table, lit torches strategically placed across the patio and soft classical music floating through the air in the background.

 

“I hope this wasn’t presumptuous of me,” Oliver began. “But I asked Daniel to decant a bottle of red wine for us.”

 

Felicity’s lips curled in another smile and warmth flooded through her veins.

 

“You pay attention,” she remarked.

 

He’d seen her drinking red wine the first night he’d come over to her apartment and undoubtedly seen her wine collection when he and the boys had come over after the picnic.

 

“I’m getting better at it,” Oliver said.

 

A man, presumably Daniel, Felicity thought, approached them with a decanter and two glasses. After having Oliver taste the first drops, he poured for the both of them and promptly disappeared again.

 

“An exceptional wine for an exceptional woman,” Oliver said, gently clinking his glass against hers.

 

Felicity shook her head.

 

“You gotta stop saying stuff like that,” she told him.

 

“Why?” Oliver asked amused.

 

“Because,” Felicity said. “It’s over the top and weird.”

 

“Or,” Oliver countered. “You’re not used to getting compliments.”

 

“Pretty sure my reason is better,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver simply stared at her, one eyebrow lifted.

 

“If you’re going to be all technical about it,” Felicity huffed. “I’m guess I’m used to people complimenting my skills and not me.”

 

She held up a hand.

 

“But that doesn’t mean you aren’t laying it on a little thick because you totally are,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver captured her hand mid air and brought her fingertips to his lips.

 

“Like I said, I’m out of practice,” he murmured. “You’ll have to keep reining me in.”

 

Felicity’s lips parted a little bit and the flush that started to creep up her neck was noticeable, even in the dim light. Both reactions made Oliver want to lean forward and kiss her but he knew better than to push that far, this fast.

 

Instead, he carefully set her hand down on top of her thigh and tried very hard not to notice the amount of leg that was left bare by the flared skirt of her dress.

 

He watched her take her first sip of the wine and the rapturous expression that came over her face amused and turned him on in equal measure.

 

Oh my god,” Felicity said. “What is this wine?”

 

“Something had we lying around in the basement,” Oliver said mildly.

 

“In my family the basement is for camping gear and failed science projects,” Felicity said.

 

“What kinds of experiments did you do as a kid?” Oliver asked.

 

“My dad is a physics professor,” Felicity said. “So there was a lot of that, the balloon powered rocket car being my personal favorite.”

 

“That’s only the second time you’ve mentioned your father,” Oliver observed. “Are you two close?”

 

“We are,” Felicity said. “I wouldn’t say I’m a daddy’s girl exactly but the cool thing is that my dad is also one of my best friends.”

 

She took another sip of wine.

 

“He goes on a month long fishing trip with his buddies every year,” Felicity said. “I thought for sure my mother would make him cancel it this year because of the wedding but I think she’s actually relieved not to have him underfoot at the moment.”

 

“Your mother makes quite the first impression,” Oliver commented.

 

“That’s polite,” Felicity said. “You should have seen Francesca’s fiancée, Liam, the first time he met her. I thought he was going to pass out. Poor man was pretty much terrified.”

 

“You and your sister work things out?” Oliver asked.

 

“I played the tiramisu card,” Felicity informed him. “Works like a charm on every Smoak woman every time.”

 

“Duly noted,” Oliver told her. “What about school?”

 

“What do you mean?” Felicity asked.

 

“You know so much more about me than I know about you,” Oliver said. “Just trying to catch up.”

 

“You don’t want to pick a different topic?” Felicity suggested. “One that carries a couple hundred less traumatic experiences?”

 

“That bad?” Oliver asked.

 

“People think being smart makes school easy,” Felicity said. “And maybe it does if you don’t fall all the way into the off the charts genius category like I do.”

 

“Your classmates were intimidated,” Oliver said.

 

“It didn’t help that I skipped two years and graduated high school at 16,” Felicity said. “Francesca and I were actually in the same senior class. You can imagine how perfect that…wasn’t.”

 

“What about college?” Oliver asked.

 

“MIT was amazing,” Felicity said. “It was someplace where I could just be myself and focus on the stuff that actually interested me.”

 

“I got accepted to MIT,” Oliver said. “But never went. Maybe we’d have met…”

 

“Maybe,” Felicity said. “Is it strange if I say I’m kind of glad we didn’t?”

 

“Not strange,” Oliver said. “Intriguing though.”

 

“I know I’m a science minded person,” Felicity said. “I like things that I can see and feel and understand.”

 

“Makes sense,” Oliver nodded.

 

“But there is a small part of me that believes, if not in fate, than at least in the importance of good timing,” Felicity said. “I don’t think 16 year old me would have been able to handle 18 year old you.”

 

“Now that you mention it,” Oliver said. “18 year old me would probably have been the worst thing that could have happened to you.”

 

“Surely, you weren’t that bad,” Felicity said.

 

“No,” Oliver agreed. “I was worse.”

 

One of the staff approached with a platter of different canapés.

 

“Thanks,” Felicity said.

 

The young woman smiled but didn’t reply before going back the way she came.

 

“Does that ever get less creepy?” Felicity asked. “The people waiting on your every whim but who don’t actually speak to you?”

 

“You’d think it would,” Oliver said. “But I’m not sure it does. I’m not saying it’s a hardship and given enough time you get used to it. It’s…part of the bubble is all.”

 

“Bubble?” Felicity queried.

 

“That’s what Tommy and I called the trappings of the family fortunes,” Oliver said. “It’s this bubble that keeps you disconnected from the real world because everything in it exists to please you if you can pay for it.”

 

“You and Tommy seem like quite the pair,” Felicity said. “Have you seen him at all since you’ve been back?”

 

Oliver looked away for a moment.

 

“No,” he said quietly. “Tommy took off around the same time as I did. Except I think he headed to the other side of the world. No one’s seen or heard from him since. He could be anywhere. He could be dead for all anyone knows.”

 

“He could be sipping Mai Tais on a beach in Tahiti,” Felicity offered.

 

“We’re supposed to be talking about you,” Oliver pointed out. “Why did you choose Queen Consolidated? After everything that happened with my father and Malcolm Merlyn…”

 

“I saw Walter’s TedTalk,” Felicity said. “I don’t even think it was what he said so much as the conviction that he said it with. He truly believed that Queen Consolidated could be rebuilt, that investing in Applied Science was the way to do it and that the company could help to rebuild and restore what it had a hand in breaking apart.”

 

She gave a small shrug.

 

“I wanted to be part of it,” she said. “Plus, I kind of missed home so it worked out pretty perfectly.”

 

She reached for a canapé.

 

“Anything else you feel the need to know about me?” she asked teasingly.

 

Oliver gave her a slow smile that made those butterflies attack her stomach all over again.

 

“Many things,” Oliver said. “But we have time.”

 

“My turn to ask a question?” Felicity asked.

 

“Sure,” Oliver said.

 

“It’s kind of a serious one,” Felicity warned. “And about the boys. You honestly don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. Something you said on the phone on the other day kind of stuck in my head.”

 

“Okay,” Oliver said.

 

“You were talking about the boys being old enough to understand what not having a mother means,” Felicity said. “Made me think that at some point they must have asked about her. So I was wondering what you told them.”

 

“I hate lying to them,” Oliver said. “I avoid it as much as possible but it’s hard. I mean some of what I’ve told them is true. She died when they were very little. She was beautiful. She had a weird obsession with seashells.”

 

“You told them seashells were weird?” Felicity wanted to know.

 

“I used different words,” Oliver allowed.

 

He drained his glass of wine.

 

“Luca’s like you in that he likes things to be tangible,” Oliver said. “So if he can’t see or touch it, it’s not real. I think that’s helped when it comes to this because she was never real to him. Sebastian though…”

 

“He’s the sensitive soul,” Felicity filled in.

 

Oliver nodded.

 

“He asked me what she smelled like once,” he said. “Since scotch and smoke was clearly not an appropriate answer, I went with jasmine.”

 

“Will you ever tell them the truth?” Felicity wanted to know.

 

“I don’t know,” Oliver said. “Part of me wants to say “not if I can help it” but the truth is that it will always be about what’s best for them. It could be that at some point in the future knowing is less painful than not.”

 

Felicity slipped her arm through Oliver’s and rested her cheek against his shoulder. It was intended as a comforting gesture but the scent of his cologne wafted up to her nose and there was something else underneath too; something natural and masculine that was all Oliver. It aroused something in her that felt basic and raw.

 

She felt it when he shifted to look down at her and without thinking, she moved to look up. Their lips were touching before either one of them could register it and by the time they did, it was too late. They were already falling into the vortex of intoxicating sensations.

 

Felicity’s mouth opened under Oliver’s and unable to resist, he took full advantage. His tongue slipped into her mouth and his hands skimmed around the sides of her neck to cradle the back of her head. She seemed to melt into him like liquid heat and any notion that Oliver had of holding back was obliterated when her nails dug into his thigh and she nipped at his lips with her teeth, hard enough to sting.

 

Felicity wasn’t entirely sure what possessed her. She didn’t consider herself particularly docile sexually speaking but she was never overtly aggressive either. Yet Oliver, with the softness of his lips and the bristly scrape of his stubble, with the press of his fingertips into her scalp and velvet warmth of his tongue as it rubbed against hers, sparked a need in her to demand, to take. She was hyper aware of her own body and everything it was feeling.

 

She wound her arms around his neck and threw one leg over his. Oliver groaned against her mouth and one hand immediately traveled down to land on the bare skin of her thigh. Her flesh was warm and pliant to the touch and it sent fire licking through Oliver’s veins. He wanted to devour her, to taste every single delectable inch of her body until the hunger building low in his belly was sated.

 

He pulled away from her lips to trail kisses along her jaw and down her throat. Her hands clasped at the back of his head kept him close as he nibbled and sucked on her delicate skin. He pressed his tongue against the pulse at the base of her throat, which was fluttering wildly and Felicity threw her head back and moaned his name.

 

It was possibly the most erotic sound Oliver had ever heard but it also served to snap him back to reality. He closed his eyes briefly to try to gather himself and then he slowly straightened up. Felicity gave a whimper of protest.

 

“Don’t stop,” she mumbled.

 

“Believe me,” Oliver said. “I wish I wasn’t.”

 

Felicity sat up and swung both of her feet back down to the ground. Oliver saw when the haze of passion started to clear and she realized where they’d been headed. Unconsciously, her fingers floated to her kiss swollen lips, almost as if she needed proof of what had just happened.

 

She made such an innocently sexy picture with that tell tale flush staining her cheeks and her hair in disarray, that Oliver found himself literally trembling with the effort of not touching her.

 

“I should probably get you home,” he rasped. “Before my self control gets beat all to hell.”

 

Felicity nodded her understanding, still too stunned by what had transpired between them to speak properly. There were kisses and then there were kisses. Oliver had drugged her senses with more pleasure in those few minutes of kissing than some of her lovers had with full on intercourse.

 

Oliver must have gestured to someone because moment later Felicity heard the helicopter fire itself up. She rubbed her hands over her arms as she stood up. After the heat of Oliver’s embrace, the air around her suddenly felt chillier.

 

“Here,” Oliver said, once they were settled into the helicopter.

 

He handed her a blanket and she smiled her thanks as she took it from him. The roar of the helicopter as they flew back to Starling City made conversation impractical if not actually impossible so it wasn’t until they were in Oliver’s car headed towards her apartment that either one of them spoke again.

 

The benefit of that was that they both had a chance to process the intensity of their encounter.

 

“Can I ask you a question?” Felicity said, a little nervously.

 

“I think we’re past the point where you need to ask that,” Oliver said. “If there’s something you want to know just ask.”

 

“Is it…was that…I mean…with you, is it always…” Felicity tried, unspeakably annoyed by her inability to say what she meant for once.

 

To her surprise, Oliver seemed to understand.

 

“No,” he said, his fingers tightening on the steering wheel. “It’s never…that.”

 

“For me either,” Felicity admitted.

 

“I guess there must be something about the two of us together, then,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity glanced at him out of the corner of her eye.

 

“Must be,” she agreed, fighting a smile.

 

They pulled up to her building a few minutes later and Oliver switched off the engine.

 

“Let me walk you upstairs,” he said.

 

“I’m glad you put your pyromaniac tendencies right out there,” Felicity said. “It’s really the sort of thing a girl should know by the end of a first date.”

 

Oliver frowned in confusion.

 

“You walking me upstairs,” Felicity clarified “After what happened before, kind of like playing with fire, isn’t it?”

 

Oliver’s frown was replaced with a smirk.

 

“Yeah, that’s something else you should know about me,” Oliver said. “I don’t do well with playing it safe.”

Chapter Text

“I come bearing lattes and macaroons,” Thea Queen announced from the doorway of Felicity’s office.

 

She grinned and kicked Felicity’s door shut behind her.

 

Felicity held her hand out for the coffee.

 

“I know better than to think treats come for free,” she teased. “What do you want? And if it’s about the electric mirror thing at Verdant then I already told you that I’m not about to…”

 

Thea waved her hand dismissively.

 

“Focus, Felicity,” she said. “Why do you think I’m here?”

 

She gave Felicity an expectant look.

 

“Oliver might as well be mummified for all the date details he’s sharing,” she said. “So I’m left with no choice but to go to the other source.”

 

Felicity bit her lip but the smile took her face over anyway and she couldn’t help blushing. She’d woken up this morning with a giddy feeling her in chest and it was more than the memory of the kisses that she and Oliver had shared. It was the excitement and uncertainty of something new. It was the feeling you got when you were on the verge of a discovery and your instincts told you that everything about it could change your life.

 

When Oliver had walked her to her door last night with her hand loosely tucked into his, she hadn’t been entirely certain how it would play out. She’d debated whether or not she should invite him in, for another drink or coffee, but Oliver had taken the decision from her.

 

He’d leaned in close, close enough that she could feel his breath warm against the side of her face. And then he’d whispered in her ear.

 

Good night, Felicity.

 

Felicity had found herself awash in tingly feelings and leaning against her front door for support as Oliver walked away. More than 12 hours later, the tingly feelings were still with her and it was very difficult to fight the smile that seemed to want to take up permanent residence on her face.

 

“Huh,” Thea said, taking in Felicity’s expression. “I guess that means big brother’s still got game.”

 

“Whatever you’re thinking,” Felicity managed to say. “I’m sure you’re wrong.”

 

“Oh Felicity,” Thea said. “Don’t you know by now that I am always right?”

 

She deposited the box of macaroons that she’d been withholding on Felicity’s desk.

 

“For the record though,” she said over her shoulder. “I was thinking that you look happy, almost as happy as my brother at breakfast this morning in fact. I’m not sure about for you, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that look on him.”

 

Before Felicity could reply, Thea was gone. Shaking her head, Felicity took a sip of coffee. She was about to reach for a macaroon when a chime from her tablet alerted her to an email.

 

It was from Oliver but the subject line read Message From The Twins.

 

Felicity opened it to find a picture of Sebastian and Luca outside on what looked to be Queen Manor’s front steps. They were holding up a sign that said: We miss you, Felicity!


“Oh boy,” Felicity whispered under her breath. “I’m in trouble.”

 

It was one thing to be falling for Oliver. It was one thing to think his kids were adorable and to enjoy spending time with them. But what she was feeling right now was an overwhelming combination of the two and she had no idea where to put all the emotions.

 

Under normal circumstances, she would have called her father. She hadn’t been kidding when she told Oliver that her dad was one of her best friends. He truly was; he listened like a friend, comforted like a father and gave the kind of good advice that came from a life well lived.

 

But since he wasn’t due back for another week, Felicity went for the next best thing, her best friend from college, who’d moved to New York after they graduated. Picking up her phone, she texted Lola to set up a Skype date for later that evening.

 

That done she took a few minutes to print off a sign of her own, and take a photo to send back to the twins. She’d just clicked send when Isabel Rochev walked into her office. The woman looked as if she’d sucked a particularly sour lemon, Felicity thought to herself.

 

“Can I help you with something, Ms. Rochev?” Felicity asked.

 

“You’re the head of this department,” Isabel snapped. “I’d expect you to keep a closer eye on what your people are doing.”

 

Felicity didn’t take the bait.

 

“What seems to be the actual problem?” she asked calmly.

 

“These reports,” Isabel said, dropping a stack of folders in front of Felicity. “These are year to date numbers when I specifically asked them to pull this month’s numbers and none of comparisons I requested with figures from our London and Moscow offices are in here. I was specific about that too.”

 

“I see,” Felicity said. “I’ll talk to Finance and look into it. Could be a glitch in the accounting software.”

 

Isabel sniffed.

 

“Fix it,” she said, before stalking out.

 

Felicity rolled her eyes. She wasn’t about to let Isabel Rochev ruin her mood so she pulled up one of her pet projects and lost herself in writing code for an hour until her computer buzzed with a reminder that she had back to back meetings for the rest of the afternoon.

 

Naturally, the meetings ran late and it was nearly 7:30 before Felicity got home. She took a shower and changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt before deciding on grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.

 

At 8 pm sharp, Lola’s Skype call lit up her tablet.

 

“What trouble are you in now, Felicity Smoak?” Lola demanded with a wicked grin.

 

Felicity stuck her tongue out at the screen.

 

“The good kind,” she said, settling cross-legged on the couch. “I think.”

 

“Start at the beginning,” Lola advised.

 

“So there’s this guy,” Felicity said. “We met a couple of weeks ago but we didn’t actually go out until last night.”


“And?” Lola pressed.

 

“Pretty sure it was the best first date I’ve ever been on,” Felicity said. “And it wasn’t about where we were or the incredible wine, it was about how easy it is to talk to him. I think he feels that too which is insane because Oliver has to be one of the most guarded people I’ve ever met but…”

 

“Wait a minute,” Lola broke in. “Oliver? As in Queen? As in that gossip blog post I saw on Facebook wasn’t an internet hoax? It was real?”

 

“Why do I feel like I should be offended?” Felicity asked before quickly explaining the details behind the blog post.

 

Lola blinked.

 

“My best friend is dating a billionaire,” she said. “Got it. By all means, let’s get back on point. Oliver is guarded but not with you?”

 

“Not with me,” Felicity agreed.

 

“So far I’m not seeing what the problem is,” Lola admitted. “You’re glowing so hard you’re practically fluorescent. I’m going out on a limb and saying you’ll be seeing him again.”

 

“We haven’t made any plans,” Felicity said. “But yeah, I think we’ll be seeing each other again.”

 

“So what has you freaking out?” Lola wanted to know.

 

“ I wouldn’t call it freaking out, exactly,” Felicity said. “It’s more…I’m a little overwhelmed. I’ve never felt anything even close to this and then you add his sons into the mix and I just…”

 

“Oliver has children?” Lola asked. “How does the world not know that?”

 

Felicity shrugged.

 

“He stayed away from Starling,” she said. “The world outside this place didn’t seem to care too much about what he was up to.”

 

“Are you worried about how you’re going to fit into that part of Oliver’s life?” Lola wanted to know.

 

“In some ways I am but I think that’s the part overwhelms me,” Felicity said. “We just went on our first date and already my mind is taking all these jumps ahead, thinking about what a future with all of us together would be like. I’m not that girl, Lola.”

 

“Maybe you’re that girl when it comes to Oliver,” Lola said. “And maybe it isn’t the worst thing in the world.”

 

“Really?” Felicity questioned.

 

“Well it’s probably too soon to start picking wedding china,” Lola teased. “But the fact that you’re thinking about this stuff just means that there’s a part of you that’s ready for a relationship like this, for a man that you can commit to. It may or may not work out with Oliver but at least you’ll know that it’s the kind of thing you want with someone.

 

Felicity thought about that.

 

“I want it with Oliver,” she said softly a moment later.

 

“I want it for you,” Lola said.

 

She giggled.

 

“Felicity Smoak falling in love,” she said. “I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever see the day.”

 

“Oh shut up,” Felicity said good-naturedly.

 

The conversation shifted to other things and they chatted for close two more hours. Sliding off the couch, Felicity stretched and ambled into her bedroom. She plugged her tablet into its charger and had just climbed under the covers when her phone chimed with a text message from Oliver wanting to know if she was still awake.

 

She replied that she was and received another text almost immediately.

 

Boys and I are having a BBQ tomorrow. Want to come? I make a mean hamburger.

 

Before Felicity could respond, the phone was ringing.

 

“I realized I hadn’t heard your voice today,” Oliver said in lieu of greeting. “It wasn’t okay.”

 

“You’re incorrigible,” Felicity accused.

 

“Guilty,” Oliver said.

 

“I would love to come to your BBQ,” Felicity said.

 

“Thank god,” Oliver said. “I would have had a full blown rebellion on my hands otherwise.”

 

“Anything to keep the peace,” Felicity quipped.

 

“How was your day?” Oliver asked.

 

“Meetings, mostly,” Felicity said. “We’re gearing up for the three day board of directors meeting.”

 

“I heard about that,” Oliver said. “My mother’s been trying to convince me that if I don’t want to actually run the company, I should at least represent the family on the board.”

 

“You’ve resisted,” Felicity observed.

 

“If I give in, am I going to be allowed to sit next to you?” Oliver wanted to know.

 

“You’re resourceful,” Felicity said. “I’m sure you’d find a way.”

 

Oliver chuckled.

 

“If you don’t want to work at Queen Consolidated,” Felicity said. “What do you want to do? I mean get that as a bazillionaire, you don’t actually have do anything if you’re not so inclined but I’ve spent enough time with you to know you have an agile mind. Don’t you get bored?”

 

“Are you saying I lack ambition, Ms. Smoak?” Oliver drawled.

 

“I’m not judging,” Felicity said. “I’m legitimately curious.”

 

“I dropped out of college,” Oliver reminded her. “I’m not particularly qualified to take on the responsibilities attached to the family name.”

 

“You could go back to school if you wanted,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver snorted.

 

“I think I’ll pass on that,” he said. “It was bad enough the first time.”

 

He paused.

 

“There is something I want to do,” Oliver confessed. “But I’m still putting the pieces in place. Be patient?”

 

“I can do that,” Felicity said. “I’m probably the most patient person you know.”

 

Oliver laughed.

 

“Tell me that again once you’ve survived bath time and story time with my boys,” he said.

 

“I’ll be sure to do that,” Felicity said.

 

There was a moment of silence and Felicity suspected that Oliver was registering what he’d said and what it implied. Part of her was glad that she wasn’t the only one with domesticity on the brain but the other part was still a little worried about getting in over her head.

 

“Hey, Oliver?” Felicity asked.

 

“I’m here,” Oliver said.

 

“I had a really good time last night,” Felicity said.

 

“Does that mean if I ask you for a second date you’ll say yes?” he questioned.

 

“Ask and find out,” Felicity said.

 

She tried to stifle a yawn but Oliver must have sensed it.

 

“Get some sleep, Ace,” Oliver said. “Dream of me.”

 

 

 

“Oliver, can I have a word?” Diggle asked.

 

Oliver looked up from his computer screen. Despite the way he felt about his father, he’d found himself settling into Robert Queen’s old study and making it his own. Neither Moira nor Walter had objected and it was the one place in Queen Manor that the boys weren’t likely to barge into. It was as intimidating to them as it had been to Oliver when he was their age.

 

“What’s up?” Oliver asked.

 

His eyes narrowed.

 

“Have you heard something?” he asked.

 

Diggle shook his head.

 

“All is quiet on the Western front,” he said. “But there’s something I want to talk to you about.”

 

Oliver leaned back in his chair.

 

“Shoot,” he said, gesturing for Diggle to sit in one of the chairs opposite his desk.

 

“I’m thinking about moving to Starling City permanently,” Diggle said straightforwardly. “An old buddy of mine from Kandahar is setting up a private security firm.”

 

Oliver arched an eyebrow.

 

“Babysitting the idle rich?” he teased. “I would have thought that was beneath you.”

 

Diggle gave him a look.

 

“Must not be,” Diggle said. “I’m here looking after you, aren’t I?”

 

“Good thing you got a new job then,” Oliver replied. “Hadn’t you heard? I’m rich but not idle.”

 

Diggle knit his eyebrows together in a frown.

 

“I’m starting to know that look,” he said. “It’s the one that means you’re up to something.”

 

“It’s something I’ve been working on for a while,” Oliver said. “Anonymously, under the radar.”

 

“And now you’re ready to put it out there?” Diggle asked.

 

“Kind of,” Oliver agreed. “I haven’t decided if I’m going to put my face on it but at the very least the project will be up and running.”

 

“Oliver, can you stop talking in riddles and just tell me what you’re doing?” Diggle asked exasperatedly.

 

“I set up a foundation to help families in the Glades who are still struggling to recover,” Oliver said.

 

Diggle’s eyes widened slightly. It wasn’t at all what he had expected Oliver to say.

 

“When?” he asked.

 

“Two years ago,” Oliver said. “The idea had been in my head longer but between everything that went down with Helena and her family and all issues I had to work through regarding my father…”

 

“I get that,” Diggle said. “So what changed?”

 

“I felt like I had a handle on being a parent,” Oliver said. “And I thought about how little respect I have left for my father. I wanted to be better than that for them.”

 

Diggle nodded.

 

“And now you’re…?” he asked.

 

“Adding some bigger community projects,” Oliver said. “Namely the rebuilding and reopening of the playground in Glade Park.”

 

“Is that the place we drove by on our way out to the docks?” Diggle asked.

 

“It is,” Oliver confirmed.

 

“You’ve got your work cut out for you then,” Diggle said.

 

“Yeah,” Oliver said. “This kind of project though, it’s not just about the money. It’s getting the right people to oversee it, manage it and put their support behind it.”

 

“Well, who’s been running the foundation?” Diggle wanted to know. “And what is it called anyway?”

 

“Rebuilding Memories,” Oliver answered the second question first. “And I reached out to a junior partner at our family’s law firm. Had him act as a proxy during the interview process and eventually he found me Shado Fei.”

 

“I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re this good at keeping secrets,” Diggle said. “Should I?”

 

“Probably not, no,” Oliver agreed.

 

“Does all of this mean you’re going to be staying in Starling City?” Diggle asked.

 

“On it’s own, it wouldn’t necessarily,” Oliver said. “Shado is very good at what she does. She doesn’t really need me to be here.”

 

“She knows who you are?” Diggle asked.

 

“Yes,” Oliver said. “I didn’t tell her for the first twelve months. It took some adjustment but we worked it out.”

 

“I see where this is going,” Diggle said.

 

“Do you?” Oliver retorted.

 

“The Russians are going to take care of the reason you came back to Starling,” Diggle reasoned. “And you just said that you can continue your work in the Glades remotely with Shado’s help.”

 

“Your point?” Oliver asked.

 

The question wasn’t defensive but sounded more like Oliver was waiting for his friend to catch up.

 

“My point is that you’re seriously considering staying in Starling City,” Diggle said. “And I don’t think it’s because of your family. I think it’s because of Felicity.”

 

He shook his head.

 

“That must have been one hell of a first date,” he said.

 

“It was,” Oliver said, grinning. “It most definitely was.”

Chapter Text

"Daddy says you know how to build rockets," Luca said, scrambling into the chair at Felicity's side. 

 

Oliver had just finished grilling the hamburgers so the four of them plus Diggle and Raisa were all sitting at a folding table that had been set up on the back lawn of the main house. The twins had - to Oliver's chagrin - staked their claim to the chairs on either side of Felicity, early on.

 

"I think he overstated it a bit," Felicity said, shooting Oliver an amused glance. "I'm hardly an expert in fluid mechanics or electrotechnology or control engineering..."

 

She turned back to Luca and realized she had completely lost him.

 

"I don't know how to build rockets," she simplified. "But I could probably figure it out."

 

"Awesome!" Luca exclaimed. "Will you help us build one?"

 

"Can we make it go into space?" Sebastian wanted to know.

 

"We should probably stick to the kind of rockets that move stuff forward," Felicity said. "And leave space to NASA."

 

“Can we make it today?” Luca wanted to know.

 

“Probably not,” Felicity said. “We should do some research, figure out what kind of materials we’ll need.”

 

“Find some place where you’re not likely to blow anything up,” Oliver chimed in.

 

“It’s no fun if nothing explodes,” Luca frowned.

 

“I think he may be the one with the latent pyromaniac tendencies,” Oliver said.

 

“What’s a pie maniac?” Luca asked.

 

“Some one who eat a lot of pie,” Sebastian supplied.

 

“Something like that,” Oliver agreed with a wink towards Felicity.

 

There was absolutely nothing sexual about it but Felicity still felt the beginnings of a flush creeping up her neck. This was all new territory for her. She wasn’t used to someone who could make her feel like the only person in the world with nothing more than a half smile and a wink.

 

Determined to get a grip, she turned to Raisa and steered the conversation in a different direction.

 

“You have to tell me an embarrassing story about Oliver as a child,” Felicity said.

 

“No,” Oliver said. “No, she doesn’t.”

 

Felicity arched an eyebrow.

 

“I think it’s only fair after what my mother told you,” she said.

 

“He met your mother?” Diggle wanted to know, eyes sliding back and forth between them.

 

“In passing,” Oliver replied. “And that wasn’t embarrassing. It was cute.”

 

Felicity rolled her eyes.

 

“Fine, then Raisa has to tell me a cute story about you,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver groaned.

 

“I think that might be worse,” he said.

 

“You left the door wide open, man,” Diggle pointed out.

 

Oliver muttered something in Russian and Raisa’s smile stretched wider.

 

“You mean you don’t want me to tell her about the time you snuck onto the roof and jumped down the chimney just to prove to Thea that it could be done?” Raisa said.

 

“He didn’t,” Felicity laughed.

 

“She was worried about Santa Claus,” Oliver said with a shrug. “Didn’t think our chimney was big enough for anyone, let alone him, to get down.”

 

“You jumped off a roof?” Sebastian asked, clearly awed.

 

“And I broke my leg in two places,” Oliver told him. “So for my sake, please don’t try it.”

 

“Did you have to wear a cast?” Luca asked.

 

“I did,” Oliver said. “And crutches.”

 

“Babulya, what else did Daddy do when he was little?” Sebastian asked.

 

“If this trip down memory lane is going to be a thing,” Oliver said before Raisa could answer. “Then I need something else to drink. Can I get anything for anyone?”

 

“I’ll have another beer,” Diggle said.

 

Oliver nodded and headed towards the French doors. Felicity watched him go out of the corner of her eye, unable to help herself and hoping no one was paying her too much attention.

 

So much for that, Felicity thought as Raisa held out one of the serving bowls that was on the table.

 

“There’s more potato salad in the fridge,” she said, with a warm, knowing smile. “Be a dear and run up to the kitchen for me?”

 

That time, Felicity did flush but she also made good her escape. She took the bowl and hastily headed up the lawn. She was barefoot so the grass was crisp and cool under her feet and so was the tile in the Queen’s extremely oversized kitchen.

 

Oliver looked up as she walked in.

 

“I was sent on a mission to secure more potato salad,” Felicity said, setting the bowl on the counter.

 

“I think I saw it on the second shelf,” Oliver said, opening the two beers in front of him.

 

Felicity walked over to the refrigerator and pulled it open. She felt Oliver watching her as she moved and suddenly the sundress she’d chosen to wear – it was green and white with spaghetti straps – felt like the flimsiest lingerie in existence. The heat of his gaze was like a physical touch.

 

And then he was touching her.

 

She hadn’t even heard him come up behind her but his finger trailing slowly across the bare slope of her shoulder froze her in place and sent chills dancing up and down her spine. This time it wasn’t butterflies that attacked the pit of her stomach, it was a deep, hollow ache; a craving for something she desperately wanted but wasn’t entirely ready to have just yet.

 

“Been driving me crazy all day,” he mumbled, before pressing his lips to the spot where her neck and shoulder met.

 

He wasn’t touching her anywhere else but it didn’t matter. It was like every single cell she possessed came to life and she found herself swaying towards him.

 

“Oliver…” she said.

 

“I like the way you say my name,” he murmured, his mouth still pressed to her skin.

 

Felicity licked her lips.

 

“We shouldn’t,” she said.

 

Reluctantly, Oliver stepped back.

 

“You’re probably right,” he said.

 

He picked up the two beer bottles and jerked his head in the direction of the yard.

 

“Shall we?”

 

Felicity nodded and after transferring more potato salad in to the serving bowl, she followed Oliver outside. Diggle shot Oliver a curious look but refrained from making any comment. Raisa simply smiled as the two of them sat back down.

 

“Your phone rang a couple of times,” Raisa informed Felicity.

 

“Dollars to donuts my sister is having some sort of wedding crisis,” Felicity said.

 

She picked up her phone and sure enough, there were two missed calls from Francesca.

 

“I should call her back,” Felicity said.

 

She pushed away from the table and moved a few feet away. The twins had finished eating at this point and they took off to play a game that Oliver suspected they had invented from scratch. It seemed to involve running, throwing things and tackling each other to the ground as often as they could manage it.

 

“She’s good for you,” Raisa said softly.

 

“You think so?” Oliver asked, taking a sip of his beer.

 

Raisa stood up and started to clear the table.

 

“She makes your eyes smile,” she said.

 

Oliver huffed out a laugh and his eyes cut over to Diggle.

 

“Anything to add?” he questioned.

 

“I think that about sums it up,” Diggle said.

 

He glanced at his watch.

 

“Thanks for lunch,” he said. “I need to head out. Lawrence has a couple of other people that he wants me to meet.”

 

Oliver nodded.

 

“Let me know if anything happens,” Dig said.

 

They shared a loaded look and Diggle waved to Felicity and the twins as he headed across the lawns. Luca and Sebastian had fashioned make shift swords out of fallen tree branches and were currently engaged in a duel.

 

“Be careful with those things,” Oliver called out.

 

Predictably they ignored him and Oliver was fairly certain he heard Sebastian say something about alien royalty.

 

“They keep each other entertained, huh?” Felicity said, sitting down next to him.

 

“They do,” Oliver agreed. “Partly by default. I think they would have made more friends if we’d stayed in San Francisco but in Dove Creek they pretty much had the horses and each other.”

 

“And you,” Felicity said. “They’re lucky they have you.”

 

Oliver’s eyes locked with her and for a moment Felicity saw something soft and vulnerable before he shielded it.

 

“Thank you for saying that,” he said quietly.

 

Felicity smiled but didn’t press further. Instead she focused on the other part of what Oliver had said.

 

“San Francisco, huh?” she inquired. “Guessing there’s a story there.”

 

“There is,” Oliver agreed

 

He reached out and covered her hand with his.

 

“Remind me to tell it to you sometime,” he said.

 

 

 

"You're a girl," Luca said. "How come you're so good at video games?"

 

Felicity laughed.

 

"I practiced a lot in college," she said.

 

"And girls are allowed to be good at the same things that boys are good at," Oliver told his son. "Some times, they're even better at things."

 

"Like what?" Luca challenged.

 

"Like...picking out presents," Oliver offered. "Or knowing what to say in awkward situations."

 

"Like this one?" Felicity teased him.

 

"Kind of like this one," Oliver agreed.

 

"I beat you!" Sebastian crowed.

 

He'd taken advantage of his brother's distraction to win the round.

 

"Rematch!" Luca immediately demanded.

 

Oliver glanced at his watch.

 

"Not tonight," he said. "It's time for you two monkeys to go to sleep."

 

"We don't want to," Sebastian protested.

 

"Yeah, we don't," Luca seconded. 

 

"And that's okay," Oliver said calmly. "Because sometimes what you want to do and what you have to do aren't the same. Say good night to Felicity."

 

"No!" Luca whined.

 

"Luca," Oliver said in a warning tone. "Don't."

 

Luca pouted.

 

Sebastian took another approach.

 

"Will you read with us?" he asked Felicity.

 

"If it's okay with your dad," Felicity said. “Sure.”

 

"One chapter each," Oliver agreed. "And only if you wipe that pout off your face, Luca."

 

Immediately Luca flashed them a grin that bared all the teeth in his mouth. Oliver shook his head and bit back a laugh. Felicity was struggling to keep a straight face as well if the slight shake of her shoulders was any indication.

 

“Upstairs,” Oliver said mildly.

 

The twins scrambled towards the staircase and Oliver stood up. He held his hand out to Felicity, to help her off the floor but he didn’t let go of it right away once she was on her feet. She was standing scant inches away from him, close enough that her breasts almost brushed against his chest as she breathed. The heat between them was palpable and Felicity was blinking up at him with those bottomless blue eyes of hers.

 

The urge to kiss her was almost overwhelming but Oliver forced himself to take a step back.

 

“Later,” he said softly.

 

Felicity nodded silently, her mind already dancing with visions of everything that one word was promising. The tension had been bubbling under the surface between them all day, from the minute Oliver first kissed her cheek in greeting when she arrived and they’d proven more than once in the hours since that all it took was the lightest touch or briefest look to push them to brink.

 

Swallowing, she followed him up the stairs to the twins’ bedroom. Sebastian and Luca were sitting on their beds, each with a book in hand. Ever since the twins had first started learning to read, Oliver had added this to their bedtime ritual. They’d each pick a book and he’d read a little with them every night until they finished it.

 

“One chapter each,” Oliver reminded them.

 

“Two,” Sebastian countered. “One with you and one with Felicity.”

 

Sensing that Oliver was wavering a little, he pressed harder.

 

“Please?” he asked.

 

He looked so earnest that Oliver could do nothing else but give in. Especially since there was a part of him that still had Felicity’s comment about the boys entertaining each other on the brain. It had been an observation on her part and in no way designed to weigh on him, but it did. He knew there were things – relationships – that the boys might have developed if he’d made different choices, just like he knew that however hard he tried, he wouldn’t be able to fill those gaps on his own.

 

“Okay,” Oliver said.

 

Sebastian grinned and Oliver couldn’t help reaching out to ruffle his hair. Sebastian scrunched up his nose in protest and pushed the book he was holding towards Felicity.

 

“Me first,” he said.

 

“I want her to read mine!” Luca argued.

 

“How about we all read both of them together?” Felicity suggested.

 

“Okay,” Luca said.

 

Oliver pulled a quarter out of his pocked and flipped it.

 

“Call it,” he told the boys.

 

“Heads!” Luca said.

 

“Tails,” Oliver revealed. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory first.”

 

Sebastian climbed into Felicity’s lap and if she was at all taken aback, she didn’t show it. Her arms wrapped lightly around him as he flipped the pages and showed her where they’d left off the previous night. They read about Charlie finding the last golden ticket and the immediate aftermath before switching over to the book that Luca had picked out. It was the first in a series about a twelve-year-old spy named Zac Power.

 

Half way through the second chapter of that, Felicity realized that both boys had fallen asleep. Her eyes met Oliver’s over their sleeping forms and he smiled. Carefully, he slipped off the bed and picked Sebastian up. Carrying him the short distance to his own bed, Oliver tucked him in and doubled back to do the same for Luca. Neither one of the boys so much as stirred but Oliver and Felicity were both careful to tip top as they made their way out of the room. Oliver flipped the light off and closed the door behind him.

 

He and Felicity stared at each other in the dim light of the hallway for a few seconds before he took her hand led her into what Felicity had to assume was his bedroom. It was half the size of her entire apartment but Felicity figured that was part of the bubble Oliver had talked about on their first date.

 

They’d barely crossed the threshold before Oliver pulled her into his arms. He didn’t kiss her right away though. His forehead rested against hers and he breathed her name.

 

Felicity shivered. Somehow, Oliver managed to infuse the syllables of her name with more layers of want and emotion than anyone else she’d ever come across. If Felicity had any doubts at all that what he was feeling was equally as intense as what she felt, the way he said her name did away with them.

 

“Kiss me,” Felicity said, her voice muffled by the fact that she was already closing the distance between his mouth and her own.

 

Oliver didn’t hesitate. His lips molded to hers and instantly the flames of sexual energy they’d been beating back all day flared to life, fueled by the fact that they were finally alone. Oliver’s hands settled low on her hips and Felicity stood on her tiptoes so she could wrap her arms tightly around his neck and plaster herself to his chest. Her tongue traced the outline of his lips until he opened for her and she couldn’t help the small whimper that escaped her as their tongues started dueling.

 

Oliver slid his hands down her upper thighs and then around to palm her ass and pull her harder against him. It still wasn’t close enough and the urge to claim her had him pushing into the cradle of her hips and sliding his lips down her throat.

 

Felicity’s hands framed his face and she forced his head back so that she could turn the tables on him and fasten her mouth to the spot just under his collarbone, licking and sucking his skin until she tore a low groan from deep in his chest.

 

“Felicity,” Oliver hissed through clenched teeth.

 

He wanted nothing more than to toss her down on the bed and see things through to their natural conclusion but he had a feeling neither one of them was actually ready for that, for what it would mean.

 

With extreme reluctance, Oliver pulled away from her and put half the room between them before he could change his mind.

 

For several more minutes the only sound in the room was of the two of them trying to get their breaths back and bring their bodies under control. Felicity managed it first and she took a step forward, earning her silent look from Oliver that pleaded for mercy.

 

She stayed where she was.

 

“I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” she told him honestly. “It’s not like I’m some sex crazed teenager or anything because I’m not but you, this…it makes me feel like I’m nothing but a collection of exposed nerve endings and the hyper awareness is excruciating.”

 

“For you and me both,” Oliver muttered.

 

Oddly enough though, Felicity’s candor grounded him and he managed to focus on more than his baser instincts.

 

“I want to make love to you,” Oliver said. “Badly. But I want this relationship to work, even more, and I think that means we need to take it one step at a time.”

 

“How many steps between where we are now and finishing what we started before?” Felicity wanted to know.

 

Oliver made a noise that was half groan, half chuckle.

 

“Too many,” he said. “You game?”

 

“I’m game,” Felicity said. “But you should probably hurry up and ask me on that second date now because that thing I said about being the most patient person you know? Apparently, it was a lie.”

 

Chapter Text

Oliver paused in the doorway of Felicity’s living room. She was busy fiddling with a remote control so she didn’t notice him standing there. It was rare for him to catch her off guard like this – she seemed to always sense his approach – but he always appreciated the opportunity to simply drink her in.

 

Tonight, her blond curls fell loosely around her shoulders freed from the ponytail prison she’d kept them in all day, there was a furrow of concentration between her eyebrows and he caught a tiny glimpse of her tongue pressed against her teeth.

 

It was all too easy to imagine this being a regular occurrence, to imagine that nights like tonight where she cooked and he cleaned and they settled on the couch to watch television could be the routine.

 

“Are you planning on standing there for the rest of the night?” Felicity asked, not looking up.

 

“I was just taking a moment,” Oliver told her, moving towards the couch.

 

Felicity slid the cover onto the back of the remote and then she looked over at him. She’d swapped her contacts out for her glasses as soon as she got home and despite the fact that this was technically her and Oliver’s fourth date, she hadn’t dressed too differently than she would have if she’d been planning a night at home alone. She’d opted for bright purple yoga pants and a grey t-shirt. The fact that Oliver had still looked at her as if she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen when she opened the door, only proved to Felicity that her instincts about him were right on the money. He was an extraordinary man.

 

“You need to check in on the boys?” Felicity inquired.

 

“I texted Diggle a few minutes ago,” Oliver said. “Everything’s quiet.”

 

When days has started to tick by and there was no word or sign that the Russians had neutralized Bertinelli, Oliver had kicked protection around the boys and around Queen Manor up a gear. He’d hired Diggle and his new security firm to keep teams patrolling the property 24/7 and while Oliver was out, Diggle himself was standing guard over the twins, positioned in the hallway outside their bedroom and monitoring the inside thanks to the surveillance equipment that Felicity had been all to happy to install.

 

Oliver had managed to convince Moira and Walter that it was all a precaution and something to do with a fresh uptick in violence in the Glades.

 

Felicity studied him a moment more.

 

“You look like you have something on your mind,” she said.

 

“I do,” Oliver said. “You.”

 

He tapped the tip of her nose and gave her a crooked grin.

 

Felicity rolled her eyes.

 

“What’d I tell you about saying stuff like that?” she said.

 

“I’m sorry, I don’t recall,” Oliver teased.

 

Felicity gave his arm a playful punch.

 

“I was being serious,” she said.

 

“Me too,” Oliver said. “I was thinking about you, about us.”

 

“Pray, tell,” Felicity said.

 

“As much I love going out with you,” Oliver said. “Staying in is nice too. Feels more real; like a glimpse of the future rather than a stepping stone.”

 

He gave her a sheepish look.

 

“Was that too much?” he asked.

 

“It was perfect,” Felicity assured him.

 

“Now who’s saying things that are way too over the top?” Oliver laughed.

 

“Shut up,” Felicity said mildly.

 

“Happy to,” Oliver murmured, sliding her glasses off and pulling her in for a kiss.

 

They’d kept themselves honest during dates two and three by staying in public. They’d played mini golf and gone to a Starling City Sting Ray basketball game. Both were great nights out but not conducive to overindulging in physical intimacy.

 

That wasn’t going to be a factor tonight. Felicity had suggested he come over and let her cook, mostly because she felt like having a low key night after the ordeal of the three day board meeting ended earlier in the day. She couldn’t deny though that this – being able to kiss and touch Oliver the way she’d been itching to do for days  - was a definite bonus.

 

She wrapped her arms around his neck and didn’t protest at all when he pressed her back into the couch and settled on top of her. To the contrary, she shifted her legs so that he was cradled right where she wanted him and she could feel the extremely tangible proof of how turned on he was.

 

She ran her fingers through his hair as he sucked on her tongue and slid his hands under the hem of her t-shirt onto her bare skin. As always, his touch electrified her, sending fiery bursts of pleasure to every receptive nerve in her body.

 

He hesitated slightly when he reached the lace-covered edge of her bra but Felicity placed her hand over his and urged him to continue. There was no more hesitation after that. Oliver sought and found her nipple, coaxing it to pebble against his fingers tips and then he repeated the sequence on her other nipple.

 

Felicity squirmed until she had enough range of motion to pull the t-shirt off. Oliver helped and then groaned at the expanse of skin bared for him to explore. He ducked his head down and immediately began trailing kisses over her collarbone and the swells of her breasts. His tongue danced over her flesh and moans fell past Felicity’s lips with every hot, wet slide against her skin.

 

And then he was sucking on her hardened nipples. The thin material of her bra may as well not have been there for all that it affected the sensations cascading through her. She felt every tug of his mouth deep in her belly and she couldn’t help the way she rocked against him, desperate for the friction that she knew would take her over the edge.

 

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Oliver knew they had to stop. He couldn’t spend the night and he didn’t want the first time that he and Felicity made love to be a short lived frantic coupling on the couch. On the other hand, the taste of her and the sounds of gratification that she was gracing him with were completely blurring his thought process. He was operating on sensation and not much else.

 

He raked his teeth over the taut peak of her nipple and Felicity arched under him, whimpering his name. The tension in her body and the unfocused look in her eyes when he glanced down at her told him that she was close and Oliver knew while he might deny himself tonight, he wasn’t going to deny her.  

 

With that thought in mind, he kissed his way back up to her mouth and Felicity immediately sucked him into another greedy kiss that was all lips and tongue and teeth and purely carnal intent. Oliver skimmed his hands down her sides and pushed her yoga pants far enough out of his way that he could dip his fingers into her underwear and follow the slick heat between her legs to its source.

 

The second he touched her clit, Felicity screamed and squirmed against his hand, her legs falling open to give him better access. Oliver took advantage, slipping two fingers into her sheath and continuing to circle the sensitive nub with his thumb. He could tell by the way she was clenched tight around him and the trembling in her thighs that she was going to fly apart any second now. In the end all it took was a tiny curl of his index finger inside her to send her hurtling into orgasm.

 

It was magnificent to watch. Her whole body trembled under him and her creamy skin was flushed and glistening with a thin layer of sweat. Her chest heaved with the effort it took to breathe through the overwhelming assault on her senses.

 

She’d no sooner come down from her climax than she was reaching for his belt and Oliver needed quick reflexes to stay her hand. She gave him an adorably confused look as he pulled away and got to his feet. Oliver turned his back to her and ran a hand through his hair. He was painfully hard to the point where there were spots dancing on the edges of his vision. Felicity, thinking he simply meant to relocate them to her bedroom, got to her feet and slipped her arms around his waist.

 

“Good idea,” she mumbled.

 

Oliver groaned and peeled her hands away. He turned to look down at her and he couldn’t help questioning his own sanity, even as the words came out of his mouth.

 

“It is a good idea,” he agreed. “For another night.”

 

Felicity shook her head and let her hands fall to her sides.

 

“What are you afraid of?” she asked him, point blank. “And don’t tell me this is about wanting our relationship to work because I’m pretty certain we both know that more of this, of what happens every time we let ourselves go, is not going to have a negative impact on our relationship. The opposite.”

 

“I know,” Oliver said. “This isn’t about that, believe me. I close my eyes and I can see a life with you and with my boys and it’s amazing.”

 

“So what’s the problem?” Felicity said.

 

“You already know I’ve never had anything remotely resembling a serious, healthy relationship with a woman before,” Oliver said. “What I don’t think you’ve considered is that in a lot of ways, I haven’t had the luxury of time either.”

 

His eyes were steady on hers as he spoke.

 

“Having twin sons in your early twenties,” Oliver said. “That forces you to grow up fast. You skip steps, you fly by the seat of your pants, second guessing yourself a million times a minute because you know that if you screw up, if you fail, its their lives that are irrevocably altered. You make huge decisions but you don’t always have time to…”

 

He shook his head.

 

“You don’t have time,” he repeated. “But us? We do, Felicity.”

 

He reached out to stroke her cheek.

 

“I’ve never fallen in love before but I think that’s what this is so I want to savor every minute of it,” Oliver said. “I want time with you and when we make love for the first time, I want all the time in the world for that too. Okay?”

 

“When you put it that way, its kind of hard to be sexually frustrated about it,” Felicity said lightly.

 

“I think I’m plenty frustrated for the both of us,” Oliver said wryly.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to…return the favor?” Felicity asked delicately. “Because…”

 

“No,” Oliver said. “Just...give me a minute, yeah?”

 

Felicity nodded and Oliver disappeared around the corner into her bathroom. Crossing over to the couch, she picked her shirt up from the floor and slipped back into it. Her body was still tingling from head to foot and there was a part of her that felt completely liquid. Spotting the outline of her glasses, Felicity picked them up and slid them into place before padding to the kitchen and pouring a glass of red wine.

 

She was leaning against the counter with a glass in hand when Oliver reappeared. Her lips twitched.

 

“Did you just take a cold shower in my bathroom?” she asked him.

 

“Seemed like the most expedient option,” Oliver said. “Do you mind?”

 

“That you feel comfortable enough to shower in my bathroom, not at all,” Felicity said. “That you didn’t invite me to join you? Little bit.”

 

“You’re not helping,” Oliver informed her, opening her refrigerator and pulling out a bottle of Corona from the six-pack he’d brought with him earlier. “Can we change the subject?”

 

“Fine,” Felicity said. “Let’s talk about Sunday. Are you really sure you want to have dinner with my family? It’s going to be less than three weeks before the wedding so it’s going to be crazier than usual. A bunch of random family members are probably going to be there and…”

 

“Felicity,” Oliver said. “I said we should change the subject, not that you should have a nervous breakdown. If you think this is too soon or too crazy or whatever, then I just won’t go.”

 

“But I want you to come,” Felicity said. “And the twins. I just want to give you fair warning is all.”

 

“I appreciate that,” Oliver said. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

 

Felicity narrowed her eyes at him.

 

“You’re nervous,” she accused.

 

“I am meeting your family for the first time,” Oliver said. “Meeting your father. It’s a relatively big deal.”

 

“So I’m guessing this is either the best time or the worst time to tell you this,” Felicity said.

 

“Tell me what?” Oliver questioned.

 

“That you’re going to be the first man I’ve ever officially introduced to my parents,” Felicity said.

 

 

 

“Walk with me,” David Smoak said to Oliver, his hand resting on the younger man’s shoulder.

 

Oliver glanced up at Felicity’s father and saw that he was smiling which Oliver took as a good sign. After a quick glance in the twins’ direction to make sure they were fine – and how could they not be when Felicity’s mother and her aunts had been doting on them since they had arrived – he pushed away from the table, and followed David’s lead.

 

They came to the end of a long hallway and into a library that was obviously well used.

 

“You know my wife has been in a tizzy about you since she stumbled into the sundae making escapade,” David said casually. “She’s a natural born worrier, and Felicity has gotten the brunt of that since she was a little girl.”

 

Oliver didn’t comment. He wasn’t naïve enough to think there wasn’t a point to this conversation. David Smoak was working his way up to something and Oliver could only wait and listen.

 

“Now me personally,” David continued. “I’m not one to judge a man by his reputation. I think you have to look a man in the eye if you want to see what he’s made of.”

 

He gave Oliver a pointed look and Oliver held it without flinching. David gave a subtle nod.

 

“You’re a man with secrets, Oliver,” David said.

 

It wasn’t an accusation but it wasn’t a question either so again, Oliver didn’t comment.

 

“But I see the way you look at my daughter and I see the way she looks at you,” David said. “And those boys of yours are a credit to you.”

 

“Thank you,” Oliver said.

 

“I’m just going to ask one thing of you,” David said. “Other than the obvious bit about being good to my daughter or else…”

 

Oliver allowed his lips to curl upwards at that.

 

“If there’s anything that Felicity doesn’t already know about you and that she ought to before things get more serious, then tell her now,” David advised. “Don’t wait. Felicity isn’t the type to do things by half. If she’s in this thing with you, she’s going to be all in. I’d hate for her to be alone in that.”

 

“She won’t be,” Oliver said. “She isn’t.”

 

“Good,” David said, with another, more relaxed smile.

 

He slid open a wooden cabinet and turned on the flat screen TV that had been hidden behind it.

 

“What do you say we stay in here and catch a bit of the game before they drag us into conversations about fabric and candied almonds?”

 

“I’d say that was a fine idea,” Oliver said with a grin.

 

Their reprieve was short lived because not ten minutes later, Mara stuck her head in.

 

“There you two are,” she said exasperatedly. “Liam and his brother are here and so is Becky and her husband. Turn that TV off and get out here.”

 

David and Oliver exchanged commiserating looks but neither of them argued with her. They headed back down the hall way but the sight that greeted them wasn’t exactly what Oliver had been expecting.

 

Felicity had a protective arm wrapped around Luca, who was busy glaring ferociously at a slender brunette that was squawking about a stain on her dress.

 

“I’m sure it was an accident,” Felicity was saying.

 

“It was not!” Luca protested indignantly. “I did it on purpose.”

 

“What’s going on?” Oliver asked.

 

The brunette turned in his direction and her mouth fell open in apparent shock.

 

“The mean lady made Felicity sad and Luca poured juice on her,” Sebastian explained. “I would’ve but he was closer.”

 

Oliver pressed his lips together. His sons’ protectiveness when it came to Felicity touched him and their clear lack of remorse for how they’d chosen to display that protectiveness amused him. However, that didn’t mean he could let them get away with it.

 

“Luca,” he said slowly. “I can appreciate that you were looking out for Felicity’s feelings…”

 

He quirked an eyebrow in Felicity’s direction, seeking confirmation and she gave him a brief nod.

 

“But pouring juice on people isn’t generally the best way to get your point across,” Oliver finished. “So please apologize to….”

 

He glanced at the brunette expectantly.

 

“B—b---Becky,” she stammered.

 

“Becky,” Oliver said to Luca.

 

“I’m not sorry,” Luca insisted.

 

“It’s fine,” Becky said, seeming to regain her wits. “Let’s just put it behind us. I’m Felicity’s cousin.”

 

“Nice to meet you,” Oliver said mildly. “But it’s not fine.”

 

He turned to Luca.

 

“Seychas,” Oliver said quietly, his tone brooking no argument.

 

Luca pouted but he apologized and it sounded mostly sincere.

 

Or it would have had he not turned and hid his face in Felicity’s stomach, mumbling loud enough in Russian for his father to hear about how not only wasn’t he sorry, but wished he had some frogs handy to throw instead of just juice.

 

Mara Smoak must have decided it was past time to change the subject and smooth over the awkwardness because she spoke up.

 

“It’s almost time for dinner,” she said. “Why don’t we start moving into the dining room? And Oliver, have you met Francesca’s fiancée? And his brother Barry?”

 

“Not yet,” Oliver said.

 

He shook hands with both men acutely aware that when Felicity followed her mother into the kitchen. Barry’s gaze followed her a little too closely.

 

“What do you do Barry?” Oliver asked.

 

“What? Me?” Barry said, blinking. “I’m uh, a forensic scientist back in Central City. I work with the police department there.”

 

“Any interesting cases?” Oliver asked.

 

“Garden variety murders mostly,” Barry said. “Although we’ve gotten a couple mob related cases lately. My captain thinks it has something to do with a power shift on the east coast.”

 

Barry seemed oblivious to the way that Oliver tensed and he probably would have carried on if Francesca hadn’t interrupted.

 

“Spare us the gory details,” she said, shooting Barry an exasperated look that was a carbon copy of the one her mother had worn not long ago.

 

She turned her attention to Liam.

 

“I need to borrow you,” she said. “Becky has some great ideas about the readings and I want to know what you think.”

 

“Duty calls,” Liam said wryly.

 

“You know you love it,” Francesca retorted.

 

“No comment,” Liam said.

 

He looked over at Oliver.

 

“I’m having my bachelor party next week,” he said. “You should come.”

 

“What he should do is go find Felicity,” Francesca interjected. “I think I saw her heading towards the garage. It’s that way.”

 

She pointed and Oliver gave her a nod of thanks before heading the way she’d indicated. Sure enough, he found Felicity sitting on the hood of a vintage sports car.

 

“Doesn’t look like camping gear or a failed science experiment,” Oliver said, moving to sit beside her.

 

Felicity smiled and leaned her head against his shoulder.

 

“What’s up?” Oliver asked softly. “Did your cousin really upset you that badly?”

 

“You’d think after a lifetime of exposure, I wouldn’t let her get to me,” Felicity said. “She didn’t even say anything that bad. She was just surprised to find out we were together.”

 

Oliver narrowed her eyes, suspecting that Felicity was giving him an edited version of events.

 

“She and Francesca have always been super close,” Felicity continued. “They’re the same age so they did a lot of things together when we were all growing up.”

 

“And you weren’t always included,” Oliver guessed.

 

“Almost never,” Felicity agreed.

 

She huffed.

 

“It’s kind of ridiculous,” she said. “I’ve been complaining all this time that Francesca was trying to drag me into all the “frilly stuff” but now that Becky is here, I kind of resent how easy it for her to just step into it. It’s never that easy for me.”

 

“Do you wish it was?” Oliver asked her.

 

“I dunno,” Felicity said. “Maybe.”

 

“For what it’s worth,” Oliver said. “I’m glad you’re nothing like your cousin.”

 

Felicity lifted her head from his shoulder and looked up at him.

 

“How come?” she asked.

 

“Because I know her type,” Oliver said. “The type that wants in the bubble and calculates every move to either get there or stay there.”

 

“Her husband is an investment banker,” Felicity said. “They summer in the Hamptons.”

 

“How passé,” Oliver teased. “The Hamptons are out. Ask, Thea. It’s all about Provence, now.”

 

Felicity laughed and then leaned up to drop a light kiss on his mouth.

 

“Thank you,” she said.

 

"Anytime,” Oliver said.

 

Chapter Text

“Oh good,” Walter said as Oliver and Felicity walked through the front door. “Moira and I were beginning to worry you wouldn’t make it back before the storm hit.”

 

“I should probably head right back out,” Felicity said, glancing at Oliver, who was carrying a twin in each arm.

 

“No,” Oliver said. “Just spend the night here.”

 

“Oliver’s right,” Walter agreed. “They’re telling everyone to stay off the roads for the rest of the night.”

 

“But I…” Felicity began.

 

“If you’re worried about being late to work,” Walter said. “I promise to put a good word in for you with the boss.”

 

Felicity half smiled, half sighed, knowing she was outnumbered and unlikely to win this particular battle.

 

“Okay,” she said.

 

She smoothed a hand over Sebastian’s head.

 

“Let’s get these two to bed,” she murmured to Oliver. “I think plotting revenge against Becky all afternoon kind of wore them out.”

 

“Good night you two,” Walter said. “We’ll see you in the morning.”

 

Oliver nodded to his stepfather and then headed up the stairs. Felicity followed him and in a relatively short amount of time, they had the twins settled in their beds. They were walking in the direction of Oliver’s bedroom when they spied Raisa coming out of it.

 

“I put a few things in the en suite for you, Felicity,” Raisa said, giving them both a warm smile. “You should have everything you need.”

 

Felicity could feel herself flush a little bit. She wasn’t sure how much discomfort was appropriate under the circumstances but at the very least she could admit to herself that it was unnerving the way Raisa seemed to find the idea of Felicity and Oliver spending the night together so…normal.

 

“In the morning, I bring breakfast, yes?” Raisa added.

 

Oliver gave her a nod and smile.

 

“Good night,” he said.

 

Raisa disappeared down the hall and Oliver turned his head to one side.

 

“You don’t have to sleep with me if you don’t want to,” he said. “There’s a million and one guestrooms in this place if you’d rather.”

 

“I don’t rather,” Felicity said. “It’s just…a little weird that no one here bats so much as an eyelash at the idea of me spending the night in your bed.”

 

“We’re adults,” Oliver pointed out, opening the door to his bedroom. “What we do or don’t do behind closed doors isn’t anyone’s business but ours.”

 

“Uh huh,” Felicity said. “I’d like to see you try that argument on my mother if and when the roles are reversed.”

 

Oliver opened his mouth to answer and then shut it.

 

“That’s what I thought,” Felicity said, stepping over the threshold.

 

She looked around the room, taking in the details for the first time, considering that she’d been preoccupied with kissing Oliver the last time they’d been alone here. Dark cherry woods complimented by various shades of brown and cream made the room extremely masculine but also somewhat stark.

 

“This room is so you and so not you at the same time,” she said.

 

“It’s too late at night for that kind of enigma,” Oliver said. “The en suite is that way.”

 

Felicity made her way into the bathroom. The luxury still took her aback but she was beginning to understand, if not actually get used to, what the Queen’s considered normal. As promised, Raisa had provided everything Felicity could possibly need.

 

There was face wash and several skin creams, body lotion, a toothbrush and toothpaste, even shaving cream and a razor, and a tiny ivory box with tampons carefully packed inside. There was also a peach silk nightgown carefully folded on the counter and a matching robe hanging on the hook behind the door, right next to Oliver’s navy blue one.

 

The sight sent a pang straight to Felicity’s heart and she had to force herself back into the moment. She made quick work of her nighttime routine and slipped into the nightgown. When she stepped back into the bedroom, Oliver had discarded his shirt and his jeans were half undone but still on and he was barefoot.

 

“Do I even want to know where Raisa found something like this at this time of night?” Felicity asked.

 

Oliver looked over at her and the appreciation she saw in his eyes sent those warm tingly feelings racing through her again.

 

“Probably not,” he said. “But remind me to thank her.”

 

He closed the distance between them and his hands settled easily on her hips. He bent his head and fastened his lips to the spot just below her ear. Felicity tilted her head to one side and allowed him to nibble his way down her neck for a few moments before she pushed him away.

 

“Don’t start something you have no intention of finishing,” she admonished.

 

Oliver groaned but stepped back after planting a quick, hard kiss on her mouth. He slipped into the bathroom and Felicity let out a deep breath. She’d never wanted a man the way she wanted Oliver and the taste she’d gotten the other night of what awaited them when they finally did make love was only making her that much more impatient. And yet, there was also a part of her that was starting to get high off the anticipation, knowing that the wait was going to be more than worth it.

 

Oliver had already turned back the covers so Felicity slid into the bed and made herself comfortable. It wasn’t hard given the exceptional quality of the sheets and the plushness of the pillows.

 

“I could get very used to this,” Oliver said, reappearing.

 

Felicity turned to look at him. He was wearing navy blue pajama bottoms and Felicity had to bite down on her tongue to stop herself moaning at the sight of his bare, sculpted, chest and the flat planes of his stomach, not to mention the thin trail of hair that disappeared below his waistband.

 

“Used to what?” Felicity managed to choke out, dragging her attention up to meet Oliver’s eyes.

 

“Seeing you in my bed at night,” Oliver said.

 

He climbed into the bed from the other side and Felicity instinctively curled into his arms and rested her head on his chest, the top of her head, tucked under his chin. Immediately, Oliver’s hand tangled itself into her hair and started lazily combing through the strands.

 

“I think I could get used to any bed that had you in it,” Felicity replied.

 

Oliver chuckled and Felicity could feel the vibrations rumbling under her ear.

 

“So I had a chat with your father,” Oliver offered.

 

“I thought I saw you two slip away,” Felicity said.

 

The truth was that her father had taken her aside as they’d been getting ready to go and told her that he’d had a chance to speak to Oliver alone and that he felt good about the choice she was making. His exact words had been that he was confident Oliver would be good to her and that she would be good for him and his sons. He’d also promised to run interference with her mother, which was no small thing.

 

“He said if there was anything you didn’t already know about me, then I should tell you now,” Oliver said.

 

“Is there?” Felicity asked, lifting up her head to look down at him.

 

“Not in the way you’re thinking,” Oliver said, his palm at the back of her head encouraging her to relax back into her previous position. “It just occurred to me that there may be things you want to know that we haven’t got around to talking about yet.”

 

“Oh,” Felicity said.

 

“So if there is anything,” Oliver continued. “Go for it.”

 

Felicity thought about it for a moment.

 

“There is one thing,” she said. “I mean, I’ve kind of assumed and I guess it’s implied but it would be nice to actually have it on the record.”

 

She peered up at him.

 

“You are planning to stay, right?” she asked. “In Starling City, I mean? I know you only came back because you were trying to draw Bertinelli out, circle the wagons or whatever but now and…”

 

“Yes,” Oliver cut in. “I’m planning to stay. The boys are happy here and so am I.”

 

“It makes me happy to hear that,” Felicity said.

 

“That’s really all you want to know?” Oliver asked.

 

“It was the only thing I needed to know,” Felicity said. “Now, if you’re asking if there are other things I’m curious about then that’s something different.”

 

“I’ll bite,” Oliver said. “What are you curious about?”

 

“ So many things,” Felicity admitted. “Your life before you left Starling, life after the twins were born, why you left San Francisco…”

 

She paused.

 

“The women in your life,” she added.

 

“In my past,” Oliver corrected. “And really? You want to go there?”

 

“You wanted to know the things I’m curious about,” Felicity shrugged. “And maybe I shouldn’t be curious about that, I might regret being curious about that but I am so…”

 

“It’s fine,” Oliver said. “Do you remember what I said to you about why Tommy and I called the perks of the family fortune a bubble?”

 

“Everything exists to please you if you can pay for it,” Felicity said.

 

“When you’re young and stupid and you can afford whatever pleases you,” Oliver said. “Life is pretty much one giant game of hedonism. Girls were just another part of that, something else to indulge in because I could and because I felt like it. So while my reputation was occasionally overstated, it was mostly well earned.”

 

“Do you regret it?” Felicity asked.

 

“I’m not sure regret is the right word,” Oliver said. “I’m not proud of it by any means and I dread the day I have to explain even a fraction of those antics to Sebastian and Luca but on the other hand, if I hadn’t been that person then, I’m not sure everything that happened after would have made me into who I am now.”

 

“I like who you are now, if it helps,” Felicity said with a small smile.

 

She hadn’t been sure how she’d feel hearing Oliver talk about the promiscuous part of his past but she was actually more at ease with it than she’d expected. He’d obviously learned lessons from it and she liked that he hadn’t tried to sugarcoat it.

 

“It does,” Oliver said. “You ready to call it or you want to hear the rest?”

 

“How much more is there?” Felicity asked.

 

“There was Laurel,” Oliver said. “And Sara. You already know about Helena.”

 

“Okay,” Felicity said. “Tell me about them.”

 

“Laurel and I dated in high school,” Oliver said. “Junior and senior year. She was smart, hard working, pretty much everything my family wanted for me. I’d like to think that I did care about her but based solely on the way I actually treated her, I’m not sure I can claim even that.”

 

“Meaning?” Felicity questioned.

 

“Meaning she deserved better,” Oliver said. “I lied to her, I wasn’t faithful and I could never figure out if she was too naïve to see my flaws or if she saw them and just didn’t care.”

 

“Girls go through their young and stupid phases too,” Felicity pointed out. “Times in our lives when we’re not strong enough or confident enough to demand to be treated a certain way. If she was as smart as you say she was, I’m sure she grew up and hasn’t let another man treat her the way you did.”

 

“I hope you’re right about that,” Oliver said softly. “I really do.”

 

“And Sara?” Felicity asked.

 

“Sara opened my eyes to a lot of things,” Oliver said. “I met her at the twins’ play group. She was a couple years older than me but her daughter was their age.”

 

His fingers moved from her hair to the bare skin of her shoulder.

 

“It was the first time since Helena that I was attracted to a woman,” Oliver said. “And probably the first time in my adult life that I was attracted to someone who didn’t know or care about my family or my history and who wasn’t after me for my money.”

 

“How did that work?” Felicity said. “Did no one seriously ever recognize you?”

 

“Context is a funny thing,” Oliver said. “No one expected to see me as the single father of two boys so they just assumed the name was a coincidence and that I couldn’t possibly be that Oliver Queen.”

 

“Was it serious?” Felicity asked. “You and Sara?”

 

“In the sense that I respected her, that I was faithful to her, yes,” Oliver said. “But neither of us was looking for a long term relationship. She was still putting the pieces back together after her husband’s death and I was putting the pieces of my life together, period.”

 

He paused to consider his next words carefully.

 

“Sara made me realize that even though being a parent is a huge part of who I am, it isn’t all of it,” Oliver said. “She made me realize that I wanted something more stable for them and for me. It’s one of the reasons that I came back to Starling.”

 

“How did Dove Creek factor in?” Felicity asked.

 

“It was a calculated risk,” Oliver admitted. “I always knew that Helena’s father could be a problem but I was never sure. And I wanted to be sure.”

 

Felicity processed that for a moment.

 

“You didn’t come back to Starling just to draw Bertinelli out,” she finally said. “You were looking for something more.”

 

“I was,” Oliver said. “But I honestly wasn’t sure what that meant until you came into our lives.”

 

He tangled his fingers into her hair again and this time his fingertips rubbed circles against her scalp, sending shivers of pleasure dancing down her spine.

 

“My turn to ask a question?” Oliver asked.

 

“Mmm-hmmm,” Felicity said.

 

“We didn’t really talk about what you said the other night,” Oliver said. “About not brining home any other guys to meet your parents. Based on what you said before about high school, I’m going to guess you didn’t date much but what about college? What about after college?”

 

“College was a time of self exploration in more ways than one,” Felicity said. “But I was still focused on my studies and I had the good sense to know you don’t bring your bootie calls to Sunday dinner.”

 

Oliver snorted.

 

“Now you tell me,” he teased.

 

Felicity elbowed him in playful reprimand.

 

“What about after?” Oliver asked. “Surely the men in this city aren’t stupid enough to have missed what was right in front of them. Not that I’m not grateful that they did…”

 

“It may be old fashioned but to me officially introducing a guy to my parents is a big deal,” Felicity said. “I promised myself it wasn’t ever something I would do lightly, in part because it wouldn’t ever just be my parents. I mean you saw how crazy today was and that was just immediate family.”

 

“You were protecting yourself as much as them,” Oliver said.

 

“More,” Felicity agreed.

 

“So you never even came close?” Oliver asked.

 

“I came close once,” Felicity said. “His name was Warren. He was a software engineer. We had a lot in common and I cared about him but it was all very…even. We hardly ever fought and I know that’s supposed to be a good thing but it felt more like neither one of us could be bothered to expend the energy required to disagree.”

 

“We haven’t fought,” Oliver pointed out.

 

“Yet,” Felicity retorted. “And besides, I can’t imagine a scenario in which either one of us would shy away from telling the other if something was wrong.”

 

She pushed up on her elbow and looked down at him.

 

“I trust you,” she said simply. “I trust you to always be honest with me even if it’s to tell me something you don’t think I want to hear.”

 

“I’ll do my best to be worthy of that,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity beamed at him but her smile quickly turned into a stifled yawn.

 

“Sleep,” Oliver encouraged her.

 

Felicity nodded and settled down, curled into his side with one leg thrown over both of his and her arm draped over his stomach. The evenness of her breathing moments later told him that she’d fallen asleep. He tightened his hold on her, marveling that somehow, everything he’d gone through had led him here, to this moment and this woman.

 

And he realized he wouldn’t change a thing, even if he could.

 

 

 

Felicity’s eyes fluttered open and it took her a minute to realize she wasn’t at home in her own bed but instead, wrapped tightly in Oliver’s arms at Queen Manor. Wiggling a little, she maneuvered so that she could squint up at him and determine if he was still sleeping or not.

 

He was.

 

She twisted to the other side, intending to fumble for the glasses she’d placed on the bedside table but she found a Sebastian shaped obstacle in her path. Thinking he must have had a nightmare, Felicity softened and reached to smooth the spikes of hair that were sticking up around his ears. Sebastian shifted closer and whatever minimal guards Felicity still had up as far as her emotional attachment to the Queen men, dissolved entirely.

 

She was, she realized, totally in love with the little boy tucked into her side, totally in love with his brother and even more cataclysmically, totally in love with his father. It was insanely fast in the scheme of things but it also felt right, felt real. She’d told Oliver last night that trusted him but it went beyond that. She trusted the connection that existed between them and the bond they’d built on the back of it.

 

Putting aside all the throw away implications and the half formed allusions, spoken or not, about what their future together might be, the truth was that this felt like a forever kind of thing.

 

Still reeling, in the best way, from that epiphany, Felicity almost jumped out of her skin when Oliver murmured good morning in her ear.

 

“Easy there, Ace,” Oliver said. “Only me. And well, the two monkeys that managed to sneak in here without waking either of us.”

 

A glance over Oliver’s shoulder revealed Luca, curled into a ball, his head resting on the pillow his father had just abandoned.

 

“They do this a lot?” Felicity asked.

 

“Every morning like clockwork,” Oliver said. “A part of me knows they’re getting too old for it but another part of me isn’t quite ready for them to be growing up this fast.”

 

“Spoken like a real papa bear,” Felicity teased.

 

Oliver gave her a slightly sheepish grin, which Felicity found altogether too adorable but the moment was broken by a light knock on the door.

 

“Come in,” Oliver called out.

 

Raisa poked her head around the door moments later and then stepped further into the room carrying the breakfast tray she’d promised the night before. She set it down on the desk next to the armchair across from the bed.

 

“I take the boys downstairs for hot chocolate, yes?” she said.

 

Oliver glanced down at Luca who was still fast asleep and then over at Sebastian who looked like he was stirring but who was also clutching Felicity’s arm, an indication that even if he did wake up, it would take some coaxing to get him away from her.

 

“They’re fine for now,” Oliver told her. “We’ll bring them down in a bit.”

 

“Thank you for breakfast,” Felicity added. She still wasn’t sure what the appropriate etiquette was in these circumstances but she figured good old- fashioned manners wouldn’t go amiss. Raisa’s smile told her she’d been right on that score.

 

“Miss Thea had some clothes sent over for you,” Raisa told Felicity. “So you don’t have to waste time before work. Her words, not mine. I have someone bring them up for you.”

 

She was gone before Felicity could protest.

 

“A word of advice from someone who’s known Thea all her life,” Oliver said. “Don’t fight it.”

 

“It took you a lifetime to come to that conclusion?” she teased. “It took me all of five minutes.”

 

“Yes, well,” Oliver said. “There’s only one genius among us so…”

 

Felicity shook her head but she was smiling. Careful not to disturb Sebastian, she slid down to the foot of the bed and got to her feet. Pausing to scoop her glasses off the side table, she collected the robe from the back of the bathroom door and then wandered over to the breakfast tray.

 

“Coffee, fruit and French toast,” she announced to Oliver. “Pick your poison.”

 

“Just coffee,” he said.

 

“Seriously?” Felicity replied. “Because if you leave all this French toast to me, I will eat it and I won’t be sorry.”

 

“Knock yourself out,” Oliver said, climbing out of the bed and crossing over to her. One hand slid over her stomach, pulling her back into the frame of his body and the other hand accepted the cup of coffee she held out to him.

 

He took a few sips and then set it down, content to simply hold her while she brought a forkful of French toast to her lips and moaned her appreciation. After a few more bites, she set the fork down and craned her neck to look up at him.

 

“Is it weird that this is all so simple?” she asked. “I don’t mean us exactly or the circumstances in general but…”

 

“This series of moments and actions that any other place with any other person would be perfectly banal,” Oliver finished for her. “But somehow here, with us, is anything but?”

 

“So it’s not just me then?” Felicity said with a soft laugh.

 

“I think,” Oliver said, resting his chin on her shoulder, “that we both, maybe for different reasons, but we both have reasons not to take “normal” for granted.”

 

Another light knock sounded at the door and this time it was one of the staff bringing the collection of clothes that Raisa had mentioned earlier. It also served to definitively wake the boys up and although they were both still sleepy, they were predictably delighted by Felicity’s presence.

 

The fact that she’d spent the night and any associated implications either didn’t register, or simply didn’t bother them. They both flocked to her side, clamoring for her attention.

 

“Are you spending the day with us?” Luca wanted to know.

 

“Can we go to the zoo?” Sebastian added.

 

“Sorry, guys,” Felicity said. “I have to go to work.”

 

“Speaking of which,” Oliver said to his sons. “Why don’t we let Felicity get ready and head downstairs for breakfast?”

 

“Promise not to leave yet?” Sebastian asked Felicity.

 

“I promise I will say good bye before I go,” Felicity agreed.

 

Oliver swiped a t-shirt from a drawer and tugged it on over his head. Felicity would be lying if she said that she didn’t straight up ogle the play of muscles in his body as he moved until all that delectable bare flesh was covered. As if he knew what she was thinking, Oliver smirked at her before herding the boys into the hallway and down the backstairs to the kitchen.

 

Felicity made short work of French toast still on the breakfast tray and then she headed for the shower, a misnomer if ever there was one to describe the large glass enclosure with its multiple shower heads and settings and even options for different lighting and backgrounds. Felicity could easily imagine naked sexy times in here with Oliver and she had to lower the temperature on the water to keep her body in check.

 

Half an hour later, she’d slicked her hair back into its usual ponytail, selected a simple grey pencil skirt and pale blue button down shirt from the items Thea had picked out for her and slid her feet back into the ballet flats she’d been wearing the night before.

 

She made her way into the kitchen – without getting lost! – and found what basically amounted to the entire Queen family around the table. Walter was reading the newspaper, Moira was discussing dinner menus for the week with Raisa, Thea was cutting Sebastian’s French toast into smaller pieces, Roy and Luca were arm wrestling and Oliver…

 

Oliver was standing still, frozen almost, in front of the small television screen on the counter. Felicity went to him, his name a quiet murmur on her lips as she scanned the screen to see what was affecting him this way.

 

One look at the crawl was all she needed.

 

Miami Dade police have now confirmed that notorious gangster Frank Bertinelli is among the dead after a bomb was detonated at a local restaurant in the early hours of the morning.

Chapter Text

“Hello, Shado,” Oliver said.

 

“Good to see you, Oliver,” Shado acknowledged. “I have to say I was a little bit surprised to get your call. I knew you were in Starling City but I didn’t think it was going to alter our…status quo, if you will.”

 

Oliver smiled.

 

“And that’s why I’m here,” Oliver said. “I think we should have a conversation about how things are going to play out going forward.”

 

He gestured to Diggle.

 

“This is John Diggle,” he said. “He’s a friend as well as my personal security consultant.”

 

“A pleasure to meet you Mr. Diggle,” Shado said, extending her hand.

 

“Likewise,” Diggle said, shaking her hand.

 

Shado led the way into the conference room and asked for a pot of coffee to be brought in. When they were all settled, she gave Oliver an expectant look.

 

“My presence in Starling City is going to be permanent,” Oliver said without preamble. “I’m moving back. There are a lot of reasons for that, most of them have nothing to do with the foundation.”

 

“And the ones that do?” Shado asked.

 

“I want to be more involved, not necessarily in the day to day,” Oliver said. “But in a way that helps us get the public support we need to complete some of the larger projects that we’ve identified. That said, I don’t want anything I do to have a negative impact on the reputation we’ve already constructed.”

 

“That’s not going to be easy,” Shado told him honestly. “Unless you plan on telling people that you created this foundation two years ago, then you’re going to look like another one per center trying to rehabilitate his reputation by attaching himself to a good cause.”

 

“And if you tell people the truth that opens up all kinds of questions about where you’ve been and why you haven’t been more involved before,” Diggle pointed out.

 

“So maybe it’s not me,” Oliver mused. “Maybe it’s Queen Consolidated.”

 

“What do you mean?” Shado asked.

 

“Queen Consolidated has been committed to rebuilding the city since Walter took over,” Oliver pointed out. “They’ve focused a lot of their efforts on the economic side of that but it’s not a stretch to think that with the Queen Family Foundation behind them they might start collaborating on more community minded projects.”

 

“But how does that get you involved?” Shado asked. “You don’t have any official role inside Queen Consolidated.”

 

“Because I haven’t wanted one,” Oliver said. “But this is the exactly the kind of thing my mother would push me to do if she knew about it.”

 

Shado thought about it.

 

“It might actually work,” she said. “Mother of reluctant billionaire pushes him to reform and give back.”

 

Oliver’s lips twitched in amusement.

 

“Take a little less pleasure in the sordid headlines, why don’t you?” he said.

 

Shado gave him an unapologetic smile and the made a few notes on her iPad.

 

“It sounds like the next step would be to pitch this to your family,” Shado said. “Once we agree on how we want this to work, we can create a communication plan and get our PR people on it.”

 

She gave him a sideways glance.

 

“You do know that once we do this, you can never go back to your scandal a week lifestyle,” she said. “I know you’ve been keeping a low profile but just in case you were having thoughts of heading back in that direction…”

 

“It figures you’d be the one person in this city who didn’t see that blog post,” Oliver said. “Hadn’t you heard? I’m a one woman man these days.”

 

Shado feigned shock.

 

“You actually found someone to put up with you?” she said. “Has she had a full psych evaluation? She could be under the influence.”

 

Dig coughed to cover a laugh and Oliver shot him a baleful look. He was about to reply to Shado but his cell phone rang and Felicity’s face flashed on the screen.

 

“Excuse me,” he said.

 

He stood up and moved to the window on the far side in order to have a bit more privacy.

 

“Felicity, hi,” he said.

 

“I need your help,” Felicity replied.

 

“What’s wrong?” Oliver asked.

 

He could tell something was. She sounded stressed and her could hear agitated chatter in the background.

 

“Where are you?” he asked.

 

“At the seamstress with Francesca, my mother, my aunt Karen, Becky, and Francesca’s best friend Melanie,” Felicity said. “We’re supposed to have final dress fittings. I mean we’re still having those. That isn’t the problem. It’s…”

 

He heard her turn away for a moment and hiss something in a low tone and then he heard a thudding sound, like a door closing.

 

“Paparazzi followed us here,” she said, coming back on the line. “It was a complete ambush. They were shoving cameras in our faces, asking me if you were going to be my date to the wedding, if this was a dry run for our wedding. They were asking Francesca if she was jealous of me, they wanted to know what my mom thought of you…”

 

“I’m so sorry,” Oliver said.

 

“It’s not your fault,” Felicity said, automatically. “It’s not like you knew they were going to start stalking me.”

 

“But I should’ve anticipated it,” Oliver said. “I should have had someone with you.”

 

“It’s not your job to protect me,” Felicity said firmly.

 

“When it comes to stuff like this,” Oliver countered, “when it comes to how my life or family or reputation affect your life, then yeah, it is.”

 

Felicity started to protest but Oliver cut her off.

 

“Text me the address where you are,” Oliver said. “I’ll have Diggle and some of his partners come get you guys. Did you have more plans after the dresses?”

 

“I was coming to meet you at the foundry,” Felicity said. “The rest of them were meeting Liam’s mother for dinner. I don’t know if that’s still the plan though. Francesca’s in such a state about all this I’m not sure she wants to go out.”

 

“Let me speak to her,” Oliver said.

 

“Oliver,” Felicity said. “I’m not sure…”

 

“All I need is a minute,” Oliver said evenly.

 

Felicity sighed but moments later he heard Francesca’s frazzled voice come on the line.

 

“I’m sorry your day was disrupted by those vultures,” Oliver began.

 

“That makes two of us,” Francesca said.

 

“I understand from Felicity that you all had dinner plans,” Oliver said. “If you’ll let me, I’d like to make this up to you and your family.”

 

“That’s not necessary,” Francesca said.

 

“I insist,” Oliver said. “We have an open table at Settimo Cielo and Chef Pazzani is a personal friend of the family. I’m sure she’ll be happy to accommodate you.”

 

Oliver could practically feel Francesca’s hesitation. She was tempted that was for certain but she didn’t want to take advantage either.

 

“Look,” Oliver said. “As much as I wish that my relationship with Felicity existed in a vacuum, the fact is that it doesn’t. It’s going to affect people in both our lives and it’s going to be harder on her friends and family because it’s new. There isn’t a whole lot I can do about that but I can do this. So, let me.”

 

Francesca sighed.

 

“Thank you,” she finally said. “That’s very generous.”

 

“I’ll make the arrangements and have a car pick you all up from your mother’s house,” Oliver said. “Is 7 okay?”

 

“We’ll make it work,” Francesca said. “I better hand the phone back to Felicity before she decapitates me.”

 

A moment later, Felicity’s voice sounded anxiously in his ear.

 

“What did you do?” she demanded.

 

“I made amends,” Oliver said. “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to wrap up my meeting and then we can meet up as planned with Dig.”

 

“We’re so not done talking about this,” Felicity warned him.

 

“I didn’t think we were,” Oliver agreed. “I’ll see you soon.”

 

He disconnected the fall, filled Dig in on the details and forwarded him the address that Felicity had texted over. Once Diggle left, Oliver turned his attention back to Shado. She was eyeing him speculatively.

 

“I can’t wait to meet her,” she said.

 

“I’m sure the opportunity will present itself sooner or later,” Oliver said mildly.

 

He glanced at his watch.

 

“I’ll speak to Walter later and find a time for us to sit down with him and my mother to hash out all the details,” Oliver said.

 

“Will you tell them the truth?” she asked.

 

“I think so,” Oliver said. “It’ll be nice to have one less secret from them.”

 

Shado nodded.

 

“Let me know the place and time,” she said. “I’ll be there.”

 

“Thanks,” Oliver said. “And in case I haven’t mentioned it lately, you really have done great work here. I appreciate it more than you know.”

 

“Always nice to hear,” Shado said.

 

They exchanged good byes and Oliver hailed a cab to take him back to Queen Manor. The boys were still out with his mother since they’d convinced her to take them to the movies so after a quick change of clothes and a couple of phone calls to make the dinner plans he’d promised Francesca, Oliver grabbed a helmet and headed to the foundry on the back of his motorcycle.

 

Diggle and Felicity were already waiting when he walked in.

 

“Do you think it would be too obvious if I crashed all their servers?” Felicity was asking Diggle. “They do know I’m an IT specialist so coincidence is probably stretching it, huh?”

 

“Oliver,” Diggle said, clearly relieved not to have to answer the question.

 

Felicity whipped around to look at him, her ponytail flying over her shoulder.

 

“There’s video,” she told him, gesturing to one of her monitors. “I was contemplating crashing the entire Internet but I’m having second thoughts. Want to weigh in?”

 

Oliver crouched down at her side and took her hand in his. He kissed each of her fingertips, gratified not just by the spark of desire that flashed in her blue eyes but also by the way her entire body relaxed.

 

“We’re going to get a handle on the press and the paps,” he told her. “I promise. But why don’t we talk about what we heard on the news this morning first, so we can put Diggle out of his misery?”

 

Felicity nodded her agreement and Diggle took that as his cue.

 

“I’m already getting a little heat,” Diggle told them. “My friend, Lyla, doesn’t really believe in coincidences. Me asking about Bertinelli so soon before this happening…”

 

“Will it be a problem?” Oliver asked.

 

“Not for now,” Diggle said. “She trusts me and knows I’ll tell her what I can, even if it isn’t much. But the hits are going to keep coming, Oliver. We knew that.”

 

“The Russians won’t stop until they obliterate Bertinelli’s entire organization,” Oliver said.  “The other Italian families will try to retaliate but the Russians will crush them.”

 

“We also have to keep in mind that the Russians aren’t the only ones who will want to step into that gap, in Miami or in New York,” Diggle said.

 

“We knew all that,” Oliver said. “I knew all that before I set this in motion.”

 

“So we stick with Felicity’s plan,” Diggle said. “Use the feds. If you think about it, at least as far as Bertinelli’s organization is concerned, the Feds and the Russians want the same thing – to take it out of play.”

 

“I’ve been thinking about this,” Felicity said. “We can’t feed intel straight to the feds, even anonymously. It’ll raise too many red flags with the Bratva.”

 

“You have something else in mind?” Oliver asked.

 

“So glad you asked,” Felicity said with a grin.

 

Her fingers flew over her keyboards and seconds later there was an image on her monitor.

 

“Detective Quentin Lance,” Diggle read.

 

“Laurel’s father,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity turned to look at him with wide eyes.

 

“I…did not know that,” she said. “But that weird quirk of fate aside, I think he’s the guy we need.”

 

“He hates my guts,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity and Dig both stared at him.

 

“You’re not expecting us to be surprised, are you?” Felicity questioned. “Because…not going to happen.”

 

“Let’s get back to why you think we need to involve him,” Oliver said.

 

“He’s a by the book kind of guy, right?” Felicity said. “The last person any one would suspect of being involved with any mafia dealings.”

 

“Right,” Oliver agreed.

 

“So we feed him the intel,” Felicity said. “He’ll look into it, the Feds will catch on to his investigation and involve themselves.”

 

“Isn’t it hitting too close to home?” Diggle asked. “Tipping off the SCPD?”

 

“That’s the beauty of it,” Felicity said. “I mean, obviously, I’ll reroute the thing through a gazillion different encrypted servers but no one would ever think the source of the information would be right under his nose.”

 

Oliver and Diggle shared a look.

 

“It won’t hurt to try it,” Diggle said.

 

Oliver nodded just as a beep sounded from one of Felicity’s monitors.

 

“What was that?” he asked.

 

“I set up some searches when I got here earlier,” Felicity said. “To scan through the information that Miami PD has compiled on the bombing. The alert went off because of an update to the casualty report.”

 

She skimmed through the pages scrolling across her screen and her eyes widened.

 

“The bomb went off at a Chinese restaurant called Jade Garden,” Felicity said. “And Oliver, Nick Salvati was in there too. They just confirmed his identity – and his death – with a DNA test.”

 

Oliver blinked at her.

 

“Those Russians are crafty bastards,” he finally said.

 

“You thinking what I’m thinking?” Diggle asked Oliver.

 

“That they framed the Triad for taking out Bertinelli and his right hand?” Oliver said. “Yeah.”

 

“It means the Italians will be focusing their ire on the Chinese while the Russians just pick them off like low hanging fruit,” Diggle said.

 

“Felicity, I need you to see what you can find on contracted killers most often used by the Bratva on the East Coast,” Oliver said. “We can feed a few of those names to Lance along with a few potential targets from Bertinelli’s people. With Salvati already out of the picture, they’ll keep going down the ranks.”

 

“I’ll set up the parameters,” Felicity said. “But it could take a while to sort through all the international databases and those will just be the ones that are on record. We probably won’t have a useable list until tomorrow.”

 

“That’s fine,” Oliver said.

 

Diggle looked at his watch.

 

“I have to head out,” he said. “We’re consulting for a client in the Middle East. Keep me posted if anything else comes up.”

 

“Will do,” Oliver said.

 

They exchanged a quick, half hug and Diggle shot a Felicity a smile as he left. Once they were alone, Oliver held his hand out to Felicity and she took it, allowing him to draw her to her feet and into his arms. She wrapped her own arms around his waist and pressed her cheek to his chest. He was so steady and solid that she immediately felt lighter and safe.

 

“So I heard you had a rough afternoon,” Oliver said.

 

“It wasn’t the most pleasant experience,” Felicity agreed. “But if you apologize again, I’m going to have to hurt you and then the twins will be mad at me and there won’t be any rocket building and then they’ll be mad at you and it’s all downhill from there.”

 

Oliver couldn’t help but chuckle, even as he laced his fingers together behind her neck and tilted her face up so that he could ghost his mouth over hers, teasing almost there kisses until she said his name with that intense urgency that he loved and he gave in and kissed her properly.

 

She opened to him instantly and Oliver sank his tongue into her mouth, greedy for the taste of her even through it had been less than twelve hours since their last kiss. Felicity’s hands slipped under his shirt and her nails dug into his back as she pressed herself closer to him. Oliver growled in response and bit softly on her bottom lip before dragging his mouth down to her neck and beginning to bite and suck a path down to the curve of her shoulder.

 

Closing her eyes, Felicity allowed herself to float on the pleasure that flooded through her but only for a few minutes before she reluctantly pulled away.

 

“You can’t kiss your way out of this conversation,” she told him, her words a little bit choppy since she was trying to catch her breath.

 

Oliver blinked at her and she saw the effort it took for him to bring his physical needs back in line. He cleared his throat.

 

“That wasn’t supposed to have…” he started.

 

He huffed out a breath.

 

“I guess what they say is true and a kiss is never just a kiss,” Oliver said.

 

“At least not with us,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver sat down in the chair she’d vacated earlier and pulled her into his lap. She could feel him still semi erect under her and she had to fight the urge to squirm on top of him.

 

“We need to talk about what happened before,” Felicity said.

 

She focused on Oliver’s eyes in an attempt to keep herself on point but they were three shades darker than normal which just made them even more intense.

 

Felicity groaned and Oliver’s laugh wasn’t at all the response she expected.

 

“You think this is funny?” she demanded.

 

“What, you mean the fact that we can barely keep our hands off each other long enough to have serious, relationship altering conversations?” Oliver said. “It’s not funny at all. But if I don’t laugh I’ll cry or start howling at the moon so…take your pick.”

 

Felicity couldn’t help but giggle at the image.

 

“There is a simple solution to this,” she murmured. “It involves four walls and a bed and a couple of hours uninterrupted time alone.”

 

“We’ll have to work on that,” Oliver agreed. “In the meantime…”

 

“In the meantime,” Felicity repeated. “You can’t throw fancy restaurants and fancy things and fancy money around every time some unexpectedly weird Queen universe thing crops up and affects people close to me.”

 

“I know,” Oliver said. “And I won’t.”

 

He reached up to stroke her cheek.

 

“But there is something that I do need you to consider,” Oliver said. “When it comes to the wealth and the influence and…”

 

“The bubble,” Felicity finished.

 

“I’m trying to work out how to say this without sounding like an entitled asshole,” Oliver admitted. “But I’m not sure it’s actually possible.”

 

“Go for it,” Felicity said. “I promise to give you points for effort.”

 

“I have it,” Oliver said with a small shrug. “The money, the connections that go with it…it’s part of who I am, part of the world that I was born into. And people can judge and argue about the ethics or how fair or unfair it is for anyone to have a fortune this size but at the end of the day, it’s there and it’s mine and spending it on people I care about or the people they care about is something I’m lucky enough to be able to do.”

 

He searched her eyes with his.

 

“I try not to take it for granted,” Oliver said. “I definitely try to make sure that the twins don’t take it for granted. But on the other hand when something as simple as a phone call can give your family a good time to make up for something that only happened because you happen to be my girlfriend? I can’t not do that, Felicity.”

 

Felicity took a moment to digest everything that Oliver had said.

 

“I understand where you’re coming from,” she said slowly. “And I don’t want you to feel like you need to hold back or shield me from that part of your life.”

 

“But?” Oliver asked.

 

“But I don’t want you to think it’s necessary or expected,” Felicity said. “I don’t want anyone to take advantage. I don’t want to take advantage. We just need to be careful about the balance, I think.”

 

“We can do that,” Oliver said. “Just remember that the end of the day material things are exactly that – material. What matters to me more than anything is having you in my life.”

 

“Under normal circumstances that would earn you a kiss,” Felicity said. “But if we start again with the kissing, we’ll never finish this conversation and we need to. We need to talk about how to avoid more of what happened today. I get that there’s interest because of you but I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder all the time. I don’t want my family and friends to have to do that either.”

 

“The quickest and fastest way to deal with it is the public way,” Oliver told her. “But doing that does mean it could get worse before it gets better.”

 

“Tell me what you mean,” Felicity said.

 

“If we take our relationship public,” Oliver said. “And basically all it would take is us going to a couple high profile events together, then it’s out there. There’ll be a buzz, the intensity of the attention will go up for a bit but eventually it will die down and they’ll move on to the next thing.”

 

“And by ‘intensity of the attention’ what you really mean is that they’ll dig into everything they can find about me and my family,” Felicity said. “And also about you and the boys and where you’ve been…”

 

A thought popped into her mind and she clutched at Oliver’s forearm.

 

“The twins’ birth records,” she said. “Is Helena named as their mother? Because if anyone…”

 

“The records are sealed,” Oliver said. “It was part of the deal I originally made with the Feds. But she’s not listed on their birth certificates so even if anyone did find them, they wouldn’t make the connection.”

 

Felicity huffed out a breath and scrambled over to her computers. Oliver didn’t ask but he suspected she was checking for herself just how sealed the records were. His thoughts were confirmed a few minutes later.

 

“You’d have to be a hell of hacker to find those records now,” Felicity said. “And I’d be on to you before even got close.”

 

Oliver simply smiled and wrapped his arms around her when she settled back into his lap.

 

“Part of me likes the idea of going public and just…getting it over with, if that makes sense,” Felicity said. “But I’m not sure I like the implications for our families, especially so close to Francesca’s wedding.”

 

“We can talk to them about it,” Oliver said. “My family knows how to play the media game and the boys will continue to be off limits. It’s going to be a bigger adjustment for your friends and family.”

 

Felicity nodded.

 

“My friend Lola already texted me three times to make sure I was okay,” Felicity said. “I guess she saw pictures. And oddly enough I’m getting texts and emails from people I forgot even existed that’s how long it’s been since we were in touch.”

 

“The bottom feeders will come crawling out,” Oliver said. “And since we’re on the topic of media, there’s something else I should tell you.”

 

“Something like what?” Felicity asked.

 

“You remember I told you a while ago that I was putting something in place?” Oliver asked.

 

“Yeah,” Felicity nodded.

 

“It’s coming to a head now and it could start to involve some media exposure,” Oliver said. “Which means that you could get sucked in by default even if we decide to keep our relationship under wraps.”

 

“Can you tell me what “it” is before we continue discussing the ramifications?” Felicity wanted to know.

 

Oliver was quiet for a moment and Felicity could tell he was trying to decide where to start.

 

“I was in an awful headspace when I left Starling City,” Oliver said. “Everything I thought I knew about my father and in a way about myself, had just proven to be a lie and worst of all, that lie had cost hundreds of people their lives, thousands their homes or livelihoods.”

 

“That would mess with anyone’s mind,” Felicity said softly.

 

“My father and I always had a complicated relationship,” Oliver said. “He obviously indulged me in a lot of things but there was disapproval and disappointment too. I spent a lot of time wondering if the reason he didn’t care about all the scandals was because he stopped expecting anything better.”

 

Felicity looped her arms around Oliver’s neck and ran her fingers through his hair, in the same soothing circles he often used on her, to great effect.

 

He leaned into her touch as he continued speaking.

 

“By the time Helena was pregnant and I started screwing my head on straight,” Oliver said. “I knew that I wanted to find ways or at least one way, to undo the damage that he did. I know part of it was purely selfish. I wanted to be the opposite of him in every way that mattered, for my own sake but also for the twins.”

 

“I can understand that,” Felicity said.

 

“Anyway to cut a long story short,” Oliver said. “Two years ago, I set up a foundation called Rebuilding Memories.”

 

“That’s you?” Felicity asked, in surprise.

 

“I set it up and funded it,” Oliver said. “And with a bit of help from the family law firm, I found someone to run it who knows what they’re doing. Her name is Shado Fei; we’ve collaborated on a lot of the nuts and bolts, things like deciding what projects to take on, picking a board of directors, that sort of thing.”

 

“I don’t know if I should be worried or impressed by how good you are at keeping secrets from the people close to you,” Felicity said wryly.

 

“I don’t have secrets from you,” Oliver said. “That’s a first for me.”

 

“I think this relationship has a lot of firsts for both of us,” Felicity said.

 

“Which is kind of awesome,” Oliver said.

 

“It is completely awesome,” Felicity said.

Chapter Text

“Wait till you see her Ollie,” Thea said giddily, hopping down the stairs. “She’s stunning.”

 

Oliver tugged on the sleeves of his tuxedo jacket as he turned at the bottom of the steps to face his sister. She had shooed him off more than an hour ago, forcing him to get ready in one of the spare rooms so that she could have his room all to herself to work her magic and help Felicity get ready for the Starling City Children’s Museum gala they were going to that night.

 

He smiled at his sister.

 

“Thank you,” he said. “I know she’s a little nervous about tonight. It’s sweet of you to help.”

 

Despite the fact that they’d had long conversations with both their families about going public and ultimately decided that it was the right thing to do, Felicity was still a little uncertain about how it would all play out. She’d spent the last couple of days hacking into all kinds of files and databases and social media websites to make sure that the media wouldn’t find anything they weren’t supposed to when they put Felicity and her loved ones under their microscope.

 

Oliver had thought taking those precautions would relax her but if anything she seemed tenser than ever when she’d arrived at Queen Manor tonight.

 

“Daddy, how come we don’t get to go?” Luca asked, tugging on his father’s pant leg.

 

“Because it’s a fancy old people party,” Oliver told him. “You would be extremely bored.”

 

“And besides,” Thea added. “You guys are going to have an awesome time here with me. I’ve got loads of fun stuff planned.”

 

The twins’ eyes widened in delight at this news.

 

“Like what?” Sebastian wanted to know.

 

“Like movies and forts and…brownies,” Thea replied.

 

“Okay, Daddy you can leave,” Luca said.

 

He grabbed Thea by the hand.

 

“Can we make brownies now?” he asked.

 

“Don’t you want to wait and see how pretty Felicity looks?” Thea asked him.

 

“Yeah,” Sebastian piped up. “I wanna see.”

 

“I guess that’s my cue,” Felicity said from the top of the staircase.

 

Oliver turned around at the sound of her voice and felt his entire body – hell, everything around him – freeze. His field of vision narrowed until there was nothing in it but Felicity as she walked slowly towards him.

 

Her hair had been swept to one side and fell in a golden cascade of carefully controlled waves over her right shoulder. She was wearing a ruched gold dress that hugged her curves and flared from her knees down to the floor. Oliver could just barely make out the pale green polish on her toes, peeking out of a strappy sandal under her hem.

 

He dragged his eyes back up and found that hers were waiting anxiously. That spurred him forward and he held his hand out to help her down the last few steps.

 

“You take my breath away,” he murmured in her ear, pressing a kiss to the corner of her mouth.

 

“No kissy faces!” Thea scolded. “You’ll ruin her make up. Save it for after the press line.”

 

“Thanks so much, mommy dearest,” Oliver said dryly.

 

“So what do you think, boys?” Thea asked the twins. “Is Aunt Thea a style genius who made Felicity look pretty as a princess?”

 

Sebastian shook his head.

 

“Felicity is always pretty,” he corrected his aunt.

 

“But she’s extra special pretty tonight,” Luca added, not to be outdone.

 

“You Queen men do wonders for a girl’s self esteem,” Felicity quipped. “I guess I should keep you around.”

 

“Let’s get some pictures,” Thea said.

 

She pulled her cell phone from her back pocket and pushed the twins in the direction of their father and Felicity. She managed to get one proper portrait where the twins were smiling but not making silly faces and then she took one of just Oliver and Felicity. It was actually an in-between moment where they were looking at each other instead of the camera and you could easily see the intensity of the connection they had.

 

Thea waved her hands at them.

 

“Get out of here, you two,” she said. “Any more exposure to this adorable coupleness and I’m going to start coughing rainbows.”

 

“Always so eloquent, Thea,” Oliver teased.

 

“You love me and my outrageous ways,” Thea replied confidently.

 

“Jury is still out on that,” Oliver retorted.

 

He kneeled down to hug and kiss his sons good bye and extract promises of good behavior and then they turned to Felicity for more hugs and more kisses and again Oliver had one of those future flashes, a feeling that it wouldn’t be the last time they said good night to the twins together before heading out to a society event.

 

“Knock ‘em dead,” Thea said kissing Felicity on the cheek and squeezing her hand.

 

“I’ll try,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver slid his hand down to the small of her back and guided her towards the front door. There was a limo was waiting in the driveway and in minutes they were heading uptown towards the museum.

 

“Hey,” Oliver said, picking Felicity’s hand up in his. “You okay?”

 

“Yes?” Felicity said. “I don’t know why this is so strange for me. I guess because this is the first time we’ve ever taken us completely out of my comfort zone and center stage into your world. Or, your world outside of your family, if that makes sense?”

 

“It does,” Oliver said.

 

“It feels like when we get out of this car we won’t be Oliver and Felicity anymore,” she continued. “You’ll be a reformed playboy or a bad boy billionaire and I’ll be the mystery blond that everyone’s picking apart trying to figure out what he sees in her and why she’s not good enough. Which when you think about it is an awful reflection of the world we live in. The good girl who is somehow not worthy of the lothario, not that I think you’re a lothario but you know what I mean.”

 

Oliver pushed aside his amusement at the tangent she’d rambled off into and focused on the heart of her concern.

 

“It doesn’t matter where we are,” he told her. “We are always Oliver and Felicity. You’re right that there are going to be people watching us and yes, they’ll have ideas about who we are and what our relationship is or should be. But those people don’t matter.”

 

“You make it sound so simple,” Felicity said. “What if I say or do the wrong thing?”

 

“I promise you, it won’t be the end of the world,” Oliver said. “And even if it were, it would be fine because I will be right there with you the whole time.”

 

“You promise?” Felicity asked.

 

“Yes,” Oliver said, bringing the back of her hand to his mouth and kissing it.

 

Felicity smiled at him and for the first time all night, she felt her nerves beginning to fade.

 

“We should play a game,” she said.

 

“What kind of game?” Oliver asked.

 

“When Francesca and I were kids, we used to like to make up stories about random strangers we’d see in the street,” Felicity said. “Since you’re going to know a lot of these people and I won’t, I vote I make up the stories and you tell me how close to the truth I am.”

 

“With this crowd, we definitely won’t be bored then,” Oliver chuckled.

 

The limo pulled itself to a stop and a valet opened Oliver’s door. He stepped out and buttoned his tuxedo jacket as he rounded the back of the limo. As soon as the press spotted him they went nuts but Oliver ignored them. He opened Felicity’s door and helped her out.

 

“Just Oliver and Felicity,” he whispered to her as they started to make their way down the red carpet.

 

The blinding smile she gave him in return sent the media into an even greater frenzy and they started calling out questions, wanting to know where they’d met, if they were in love, when the wedding was. For the most part Felicity tuned them out and focused on the feel of Oliver’s palm where it rested low on her back, keeping her close and guiding her steps. They paused a couple of times for photographs – after all the main purpose of this outing was to put themselves out there as an official, public couple – and then went into the lobby of the museum.

 

The gala was well underway, with buzzing conversation layered over the live band and waiters winding their way through the crowds with hors d’oeuvres and champagne. Oliver plucked two glasses off a tray and passed one to Felicity. She accepted it and tucked her other hand into the crook of Oliver’s arm.

 

“You get the feeling everyone is staring at us?” she murmured.

 

“They probably are,” Oliver said. “Let’s stare back.”

 

Felicity’s lips twitched in amusement and she nodded toward a woman in her mid forties.

 

“Do you know her?” she asked.

 

“She looks familiar,” Oliver said. “Are we playing now?”

 

“Yes,” Felicity said.

 

She bit her lip briefly.

 

“She looks like a Samantha,” Felicity said. “But not the Sex and the City type of Samanatha. More the kind who would never dream of being called Sam, who married someone incredibly boring in her twenties, had one child, because it was expected, and then joined all the right charities and social organization and oh my god, I am a lot bitchier than I was the last time I played this game…”

 

Oliver choked slightly on a sip of champagne.

 

“If she is who I think then you’re not completely wrong,” Oliver said. “But you forgot the divorce. I’m pretty sure she and her lawyer husband split up just before I left Starling. The only reason I remember is because she was on some committee or other with my mother.”

 

“I’m surprised you decided to grace us with your presence, Oliver,” Isabel Rochev drawled, appearing in front of them and interrupting their game.

 

She pointedly ignored Felicity, causing Oliver to narrow his eyes.

 

“Only because Felicity graced me with hers,” Oliver said smoothly. “I imagine the two of you have met?”

 

“Our paths have crossed,” Felicity said mildly.

 

“And I’m sure they will again,” Oliver said. “But if you’ll excuse us, Isabel. There are some people here I’d like Felicity to meet.”

 

It was a clear dismissal and Isabel’s mouth tightened unpleasantly as Oliver led Felicity away from her.

 

“She likes you, you know,” Felicity said.

 

“Oh, so you’re insulting me now?” Oliver said, feigning offense.

 

Felicity laughed.

 

“I’m just saying,” she said. “You got to admit that she is pretty in that leggy model sort of way. And I’m sure she’s not the only woman who has tried to get your attention since you’ve been back.”

 

“Maybe not,” Oliver said. “I can’t say I’ve noticed.”

 

“Really?” Felicity said. “That’s the line you’re going to go with?”

 

“It is,” Oliver said unrepentantly. “I’ll even go so far as to point out that even if I had noticed them, it wouldn’t matter because they couldn’t possibly hold a candle to you.”

 

“So you admit they’re there to be noticed,” Felicity countered.

 

Oliver groaned.

 

“I should have quit while I was ahead,” he said.

 

“Yeah, probably,” Felicity agreed cheerfully.

 

She was feeling relaxed and a lot more comfortable or at least she was until people started approaching them, wanting to talk to Oliver and wanting to size her up. Very quickly though, Felicity found her hackles rising and not because of anything that was said to her. Instead, it was the way people seemed to want to curry favor with Oliver because of his family name and at the same time dismiss him based on his past.

 

She could tell by the way his jaw clenched occasionally and the distance behind his smile that it bothered him even though he handled it well and in many instances turned it in his favor, collecting business cards and promises of follow up meetings with the various movers and shakers of Starling City.

 

She’d been so wrapped up in her own nerves tonight that she hadn’t considered what this was like for him, Felicity realized. At the end of the day, she didn’t have anything to prove to these people but it was different for Oliver. He needed them on his side if he was going to make his vision for Rebuilding Memories a reality and that meant proving that he’d grown up.

 

They moved away from their conversation with a former city councilwoman and Felicity leaned over to kiss Oliver on the cheek.

 

“What was that for?” he asked.

 

“Because I realized, belatedly, that this isn’t any easier for you than it is for me,” Felicity said. “And also because I think that we are kicking this gala’s ass.”

 

“We must be,” Oliver said. “Because my mother is giving us her ‘I approve’ smile cranked up to maximum voltage.”

 

Felicity followed his line of vision and saw Moira and Walter standing a few feet away from them. Moira was indeed beaming and she gestured for them to come over. They hadn’t taken more than a few steps when someone called Oliver’s name.

 

“Ollie, is that you?”

 

Both Oliver and Felicity turned around but where as Felicity had no idea who the brown haired woman approaching them was, Oliver immediately tensed.

 

“Hello, Laurel,” he said quietly.

 

“I heard you were back,” she said.

 

She gave him a look that held surprise, anger, disappointment, regret, sadness all mixed into one and Oliver felt the guilt wash over him. He owed her an apology for more things than he could count but especially for the way that he’d left.

 

“I’m sorry,” Oliver said. “I should have stopped by. I just…”

 

“You were never great at dealing with consequences,” Laurel said. “I get it. It doesn’t matter.”

 

She turned to face Felicity.

 

“You must be Felicity Smoak,” she said. “That internet picture didn’t do you justice.”

 

“Thank you,” Felicity said. “I think.”

 

Laurel gave her a small smile.

 

“Enjoy the rest of the party,” she said, before turning and walking over to a man in a brown suit that Felicity recognized as a prominent assistant district attorney.

 

“Well that wasn’t awkward at all,” Felicity said, trying to lighten the atmosphere.

 

Oliver blinked and looked down at her.

 

“Sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting that, to see her. It was…different than I thought it would be.”

 

“Is that good or bad?” Felicity asked.

 

Oliver shrugged.

 

“Just different,” he said.

 

Felicity decided not to press but she got the distinct feeling that their conversation about Laurel Lance was only just beginning.

 

 

“Unzip me,” Felicity requested, turning her back to Oliver.


They’d walked into her apartment less than a minute ago and she’d already kicked off her shoes. Playing dress up had its charm but she was more than ready to get back into her own clothes and her own metaphorical skin.

 

She felt the heat of Oliver’s body as he moved to stand behind her and she couldn’t suppress the shiver that ran through her as his knuckles dragged down the bare skin of her back and he pulled the zipper of the dress all the way down to the curve of her bottom.

 

“Felicity,” he growled, spying the gold thong she had on.

 

Unable to help himself, he slipped his hand inside the dress and took hold of her hips. Felicity swayed back towards him, relishing the feel of his warm, slightly callused hands touching her and acutely aware of the pleasure they were capable of bringing her.

 

“Hmmm?” Felicity replied.

 

“We really need to get away for the weekend,” Oliver said.

 

“Finally,” Felicity said. “He sees the light.”

 

She let herself relax against him and Oliver immediately pulled her closer, resting his hands over her stomach. Felicity had never understood how much eroticism there was to be had simply letting someone hold you until Oliver came into her life. It was like he found a way to wrap her completely inside of himself and it made her feel safe and cared for at the same time as it made her crave that ultimate physical connection with him even more.

 

“Can’t be this weekend though,” she added. “Francesca would kill both of us if we disappeared a week before the wedding.”

 

“There’s a beach house,” Oliver said. “We can sneak out of the reception a little early and be there before nightfall.”

 

“I’ve learned that we tend to define things a little differently,” Felicity said. “So by beach house you mean…?”

 

“Beach house,” Oliver said. “Four walls, a roof, all the basic architectural requirements of a house. And then a beach.”

 

“It’s not nice to mock,” Felicity warned him.

 

She felt him smile against her neck.

 

“If you want to be technical about it,” he began.

 

“Obviously I want to be technical about it. I’m me,” Felicity said. “Technical is what I do.”

 

“It’s a private beach,” Oliver allowed.

 

“And how do we get there?” Felicity wanted to know.

 

“We’d have to fly,” Oliver admitted.

 

“In a helicopter?” Felicity asked.

 

“Or a plane,” Oliver said.

 

“A plane?” Felicity repeated, pulling away so that she could turn around to look at him. “Oliver, where is this beach house?”

 

“On an island in the Pacific,” Oliver said. “But it’s really a very tiny island. Just about big enough for the house, and the pool, and a few tennis courts.”

 

Felicity shook her head at him and he grinned at her.

 

“You’ll love it,” he told her. “There are hot springs.”

 

He took both her hands in his.

 

“It’ll be perfect,” he told her. “And you deserve perfect.”

 

“You make it very difficult to say no to you,” Felicity sighed.

 

“Good,” Oliver said.

 

“Will the twins be okay the whole weekend away from you?” she asked.

 

“Mom and Thea can bring them out on Sunday afternoon,” Oliver said. “I can stay an extra day with them after.”

 

He ducked his head down to kiss her jaw.

 

“You could always be a daredevil and take a day off,” Oliver said. “Spend it with us.”

 

“You’re trouble,” Felicity said.

 

“But you like it,” Oliver said.

 

“Maybe,” Felicity said, smiling as she stepped away from him and headed into her bedroom to change.

 

Oliver took advantage to unbutton his cuffs and roll up his sleeves. He’d abandoned his tuxedo jacket in the car before they even came up. Walking into kitchen, he pulled out two glasses and reached into the fridge for a carton of milk.

 

He’d suggested a nightcap as they’d been leaving the gala and Felicity had agreed so long as nightcap meant chocolate milk and cookies in the comfort of her living room. By the time Felicity re-emerged clad in red shorts and a black tank top, Oliver was sitting on the couch with two glasses of chocolate milk and a plate of chocolate chip cookies on the coffee table in front of him.

 

Felicity sighed happily, picked up a glass and a cookie and settled herself next to him with her legs tucked underneath her. Oliver stretched his arm around her, his wrist resting lightly on her shoulder and his fingers dangling loosely against her arm.

 

“So,” Felicity said, dunking her cookie into her milk.

 

“Luca does that,” Oliver grinned. “He’s a lot messier about it though.”

 

“Childhood habits die hard,” Felicity said. “And it won’t work.”

 

“What won’t?” Oliver asked.

 

“You’re trying to distract me so that I don’t ask you what that weirdness with Laurel was earlier,” Felicity said. “If you don’t want to talk about it now, then say that. But don’t pretend it was nothing.”

 

“There’s a part of me that loves the way you call me out every single time,” Oliver said.

 

“And another part that finds it particularly annoying?” Felicity supplied.

 

“Not annoying,” Oliver said. “A little uncomfortable is all.”

 

He accepted the bite of cookie that she offered him.

 

“I’ve never been as honest with anyone as I have with you,” Oliver said. “And I like that. I like that lying to you isn’t something that would ever come easily to me. But it’s also a little bit overwhelming.”

 

“You don’t have to tell me everything about everything,” Felicity said. “I think that would be an impossible feat for anyone. It’s okay if there are things you don’t want to talk about, especially if they’re things that don’t directly affect us.”

 

Oliver sighed.

 

“Laurel makes me feel guilty,” he said. “I know I told you that I wasn’t good to her but I didn’t go into the details. Partly because if I went into the details about every mistake I’ve ever made or every person I’ve ever hurt, we wouldn’t ever talk about anything else.”

 

“The other part?” Felicity asked, feeding him another piece of cookie.

 

“Shame,” Oliver confessed. “And guilt. And an irrational fear that if you know this, know how careless I’m capable of being with people who care about me, that it will change the way you see me, the way you feel about me.”

 

Felicity set her glass back on the coffee table and climbed into Oliver’s lap, her knees on either side of him. She pressed both palms to his scruffy cheeks.

 

“There is nothing in your past that could change the way I feel about you,” Felicity told him seriously. “I know it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. But I also know that you’ve learned lessons from the mistakes you’ve made and I told you before, I’m not going to be the one to judge you.”

 

Oliver pressed his lips together and reached up to push her hair away from her face. Moments like this, he wasn’t at all sure what he’d done to deserve the woman in front of him, the easy way that she accepted him, flaws and all.

 

But he was incredibly grateful that she was there and she was his.

 

“I didn’t tell her I was leaving,” Oliver said, breaking the silence after several minutes. “She knew I was struggling with the truth about my father but I think she thought we were solid. It would never have occurred to her that I would just leave and not come back.”

 

He paused.

 

“I don’t think she believed it in the beginning,” Oliver said. “She kept calling my cell phone. I never answered and eventually I tossed the phone altogether. Tonight was the first time I’ve spoken to her in more than five years.”

 

“That explains why it felt so…unresolved,” Felicity said. “Are you okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Oliver said. “I’m not sure what to do next, if anything. There’s no way to fix something like that.”

 

“You should reach out to her,” Felicity said. “It probably won’t change anything but at least she’ll know you’re sorry and you’ll know you tried to make amends.”

 

Oliver nodded slowly.

 

“I think that’s enough of this conversation for now,” he said.

 

“What do you want to talk about?” Felicity asked.

 

She twisted around so she could grab another cookie off the plate.

 

“Tell me something about you that I don’t know yet,” Oliver said.

 

“Well,” Felicity said, turning back to face him. “I don’t think we’ve dedicated nearly enough talking time to my obsession with cheese.”

 

“Cheese?” Oliver repeated.

 

“Mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches are my favorite comfort foods,” Felicity went on. “And I could probably live off red wine, cheese, and the baguettes from that French bakery on Liberty street.”

 

“Is there any cheese you don’t like?” Oliver questioned.

 

“Goat cheese is my least favorite,” Felicity said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t like it.”

 

“What else?” Oliver asked.

 

“I got a three week suspension from school when I was 13,” Felicity said. “Failed science experiment.”

 

“You got suspended because of an experiment gone wrong?” Oliver asked.

 

“Mostly for the part where I kind of set the lab on fire,” Felicity said. “But it wasn’t even my fault. The chemicals were mislabeled. If it had been acetylcholine bromide like it was supposed to be, I’m sure my theory would have been proven correct.”

 

Oliver laughed.

 

“How’d your mother take that one?” he asked.

 

“A lot better than she would have if she hadn’t caught Francesca making out with the neighbor’s son in the back seat of his car that same afternoon,” Felicity said.

 

“Sounds like the two of you were a handful,” Oliver said.

 

“I guess we were,” Felicity said. “As different as the two of us are, the one thing we have in common is that we like to think for ourselves, make our own decisions. I think my mom loves that about us but I also think it scares her half to death most days.”

 

“I can relate,” Oliver said. “There’s nothing like watching your kids discover the world around them but there comes a time when they start moving faster than you’re ready for. They don’t have the benefit of experience to tell them when slowing down or even stopping is a good idea so they’re just fearless, all the time. And you don’t know if you should be proud or terrified.”

 

“Equal parts one and the other seems like it should be about right,” Felicity said.

 

“Something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Oliver said, toying with a lock of her hair. “When your mother interrupted us that day after the picnic. Did I hear her call you Siobhán?”

 

Felicity made a face.

 

“My full name is Siobhán Felicity Smoak,” she said. “And I’ve gone by Felicity ever since I was old enough to express an opinion on the subject. Francesca insisted on calling me Sivvy for years. I let her get away with that until I was headed off to college at which point I promised dire retribution if she didn’t cut it out.”

 

“Felicity suits you,” Oliver said.

 

“I like to think so,” she nodded. “On the subject of names though. Why Sebastian and Luca?”

 

“When Tommy and I were little kids we would invent these elaborate alternate universes where we were superheroes or spies or aliens,” Oliver said, smiling at the memory. “For reasons I don’t quite remember, Sebastian and Luca stuck as two of our favorite aliases.”

 

“You really miss him, don’t you?” Felicity said softly. “Tommy.”

 

“He was my best friend,” Oliver said. “At the time, he knew me better than anyone else.”

 

“Have you thought about looking for him?” Felicity asked.

 

“I’ve thought about it,” Oliver said. “But I won’t.”

 

“Why not?” Felicity questioned.

 

“Because I didn’t want anyone looking for me when I left,” Oliver said. “If he’s out there, he’ll come back when he’s ready to be found.”

Chapter Text

“Daddy, look!” Sebastian crowed from the top of the wall he’d just climbed.

 

After a positive meeting with Shado, his mother and Walter, Oliver had set aside the rest of the day to spend with the boys. Indoor rock climbing had been first on the list of activities and the boys were having a field day.

 

“Great job, buddy!” Oliver called back.

 

He watched Sebastian scramble back down and then he turned to Luca.

 

“You want to go up again?” he asked.

 

Luca shook his head no.

 

“Can we get juice?” he asked.

 

“Sure,” Oliver said. “Bastian, you ready for a break?”

 

“Yeah,” Sebastian agreed.  “Daddy, when can we go riding?”

 

“How about tomorrow?” Oliver suggested as the three of them walked in the direction of the juice bar on the opposite side of the gym.

 

Sebastian nodded.

 

“Can Felicity come?” he asked.

 

“We can ask her,” Oliver said. “But I think she might be busy doing wedding stuff with her sister.”

 

“Are you and Felicity going to have more sleepovers?” Luca questioned.

 

Oliver coughed to cover what would have otherwise been an extremely undignified sound. He should have known that just because the twins hadn’t commented on finding Felicity in his bed a few days ago didn’t mean they hadn’t noticed. The silent looks they sent each other as they waited for him to respond told him that they’d probably talked about it when he wasn’t around to listen.

 

Acutely aware of the slightly disapproving look coming his way from a woman walking by who had clearly overheard, Oliver cleared his throat.

 

“We probably will,” he said carefully. “Do you guys mind?”

 

“Can we still come sleep with you in the morning?” Sebastian asked seriously.

 

“If you still want to,” Oliver said. “Of course.”

 

“Is Felicity going to come live with us?” Sebastian continued.

 

“Not right now,” Oliver answered.

 

“But soon?” Luca persisted.

 

“One day,” Oliver countered. “If we’re lucky.”

 

The twins exchanged another look.

 

“Is she your girlfriend now?”  Sebastian asked.

 

“Yes,” Oliver said. “Any other questions?”

 

“Do love her more than you loved Mom?” Sebastian asked.

 

Oliver felt as if he’d been sucker punched and his head immediately started spinning as he tried to process all the different elements of the question. There was his gut reaction to Sebastian’s assertion that he loved Felicity and all that implied and then there was the turmoil that always came up to choke him whenever one of the boys, usually Sebastian, asked about Helena.

 

Oliver sucked in a deep breath and slowly crouched down so he could look Sebastian and Luca both in the eye. Sebastian looked openly anxious and as usual, Luca was a bit more guarded, as if he wanted to hear what Oliver would say but he didn’t want to look as if he wanted to hear.

 

“Felicity and…your mom,” Oliver began.

 

He cleared his throat.

 

“Your mom gave me the greatest gift ever which is you two,” he said. “For that I’m always going to love her.”

 

Which, Oliver figured, was actually true in many ways. He was grateful to Helena for his boys. She may have been crazy and gone back and forth over wanting to carry the pregnancy to term but she had. And during the hours that she’d been in labor she’d been focused and calm in a way that Oliver had never seen before. Watching her hold the boys for the first time, when they were just minutes old, Oliver had even gotten the impression that she was…happy, for a fleeting moment anyway.

 

“Felicity is a different person from your mom, though,” Oliver continued. “So the way I feel about her is different too. It’s not more or better, it’s just different. Does that make sense?”

 

Both boys nodded solemnly.

 

“How about we get that juice to go and head home for lunch?” Oliver suggested.

 

“Can we have lunch at Nando’s instead of at home?” Luca asked hopefully.

 

“You know what? Nando’s is an excellent idea,” Oliver agreed. “But we better call your Aunt Thea. She made a very angry face the last time we went there without her.”

 

They headed over to the juice bar and while the twins decided what kind of juice they wanted, Oliver texted Thea who agreed to meet them. 40 minutes and three apple carrot juices later, they’d all showered and changed in the locker rooms and were headed towards the restaurant.

 

Oliver had just parked the car and switched off the ignition when his cell phone rang, Felicity’s face flashing across the screen.

 

“Hey,” Oliver said warmly.

 

“Hey,” Felicity said. “I’m literally moving from one meeting to the next but I wanted to check in. I got your text about the meeting this morning. That’s great news.”

 

“We still have a couple kinks to work out,” Oliver said. “But yeah, it is.”

 

He glanced in the rearview mirror and saw that the boys were getting antsy.

 

“We’re having lunch with Thea at Nando’s,” Oliver told Felicity. “We just got here and the monkeys are hungry.”

 

“Nando’s…” Felicity said. “That sounds so good right now.”

 

“Want us to bring you something?” Oliver offered. “We can swing by QC after lunch.”

 

“We’re going to see Felicity?” Luca piped up from the backseat.

 

“It depends on whether or not she has time before work ends,” Oliver replied.

 

“She does,” Felicity said. “Besides, I’ve been suckered into shopping with Francesca after work so it’s probably the only time I’d get to see you guys today.”

 

“Can’t go a day without us?” Oliver teased lightly.

 

“Why would I want to?” Felicity teased back. “That said, I’m walking into the conference room in the next ten seconds so I’ll see you guys in about 90 minutes?”

 

“It’s a date,” Oliver said. “Any special requests where lunch is concerned?”

 

“Surprise me,” Felicity said.  “Lo---Later! I’ll see you later.”

 

The line disconnected and Oliver found himself staring at his phone. He could swear that Felicity had been about to say something else and what that something else might have been threw Oliver headfirst back toward the part of Sebastian’s question that he’d pushed aside earlier. The part of the question that assumed he loved Felicity. The part that made him consider whether or not he’d gone from falling in love with her to simply being in love with her.

 

“Dad!” Sebastian reproached. “How come we’re just sitting here?”

 

Shaking his head to clear the haze, Oliver turned and gave his son a sheepish smile.

 

“Sorry,” he apologized. “I got a little distracted.”

 

Luca narrowed his eyes.

 

“You were thinking about Felicity,” he said. “Aunt Thea told us you were going to get mushy but she said it was going to take longer.”

 

Oliver laughed.

 

“Yes, well Aunt Thea doesn’t have all the answers to the universe,” he said. “So maybe you shouldn’t take everything she says too seriously.”

 

While Luca pondered that, Oliver climbed out of the car and opened the back door so that the twins could scramble out.  They walked the short distance to the restaurant entrance and found Thea waiting for them.

 

The twins raced over to her and threw their arms around her in an exuberant hug.

 

“Finally!” Thea exclaimed. “I was about to send out a search party for you guys.”

 

“Daddy was being mushy over Felicity,” Sebastian supplied. “Staring into space and everything.”

 

“You’re killing me,” Oliver said. “I thought you were on my side.”

 

Sebastian shook his head.

 

“I’m on Felicity’s side,” he replied.

 

Thea giggled.

 

“Hard to argue with that,” she said, winking at her brother.

 

“Aren’t we here for food?” Oliver countered.

 

“Classic avoidance,” Thea observed. “Typical.”

 

Oliver rolled his eyes at her.

 

“Let’s grab a table,” he said.

 

After getting the twins and Thea settled, Oliver went to place their order and he returned to find the boys with their heads bent together whispering with their aunt.

 

“What are you three planning?” Oliver asked suspiciously.

 

“Our next aunt-nephews outing, obviously,” Thea said. “ I say water park. What do you boys think?”

 

“Yeah!” Luca said, pumping his fist in the air.

 

“Can we do canon balls?” Sebastian asked.

 

“Cute,” Oliver said, pointing a finger in Thea’s direction. “But not happening without me there to keep an eye on all of you.”

 

“Fatherhood’s made you all responsible and…fatherly,” Thea said. “It’s weird.”

 

She grinned at him.

 

“In a good way though,” she said.

 

“Let’s change the subject,” Oliver said, sitting down opposite his sister and sons.

 

“You should come to Verdant,” Thea said. “See what I’ve done with the place, tell me how amazing I am for making your and Tommy’s brainchild a reality beyond your wildest dreams.”

 

“Who’s Tommy?” Luca asked.

 

Thea’s smile slipped and she shot Oliver a stricken look.

 

“Tommy,” Oliver said slowly. “Was my best friend a long time ago, from before you guys were born.”

 

Luca absorbed that.

 

“Did you guys have a fight?” he asked. “Is that how come you don’t talk to him anymore?”

 

“No,” Oliver said. “We didn’t fight. He just…he moved really far away. That’s how come we don’t talk anymore.”

 

“But Dad that’s why they have phones,” Sebastian said. “And Skype.”

 

Oliver laughed.

 

“You’re right, that is why they invented those things,” he said. “I should have thought of it sooner. What do you guys want to do after we take Felicity her lunch?”

 

As expected that set the twins off into an argument over the various possibilities that ranged from fort building in the backyard to an afternoon at the pool. Keeping his expression light, he turned to glance at Thea.

 

She had a slightly sad, slightly awed look on her face. She mouthed an apology when she caught him staring.

 

“It’s fine,” Oliver said quietly. “Besides, believe it or not, that wasn’t the most awkward question they’ve asked today.”

 

“Do tell,” Thea said, perking up.

 

“Not a chance,” Oliver said mildly. “And don’t you dare ask them either.”

 

Thea pouted.

 

“It’s not nice to tease,” she said. “Besides, you know I’ll find out eventually.”

 

“Eventually isn’t now,” Oliver said. “Any way enough about me. What’s going on with you?”

 

Thea shrugged.

 

“Mostly work to be honest,” she said. “I have a project in the pipeline that I’m really excited about but I don’t want to jinx it.”

 

“I know what that’s like,” Oliver said.

 

“Ha,” Thea said. “Don’t think I don’t know about your foundation. But we’re talking about me now so you get a pass for the time being.”

 

“Does this project involve expanding Verdant?” Oliver asked.

 

“Expanding its reputation as the hottest club in the country at any rate,” Thea said.

 

Oliver shook his head with a slightly bemused smile on his face.

 

“What’s that look for?” Thea asked.

 

“You keep saying how I’ve changed and grown up,” Oliver said. “But you have too. You’re all put together and ambitious.”

 

“Weird, right?” Thea asked.

 

“Not at all,” Oliver said. “It’s good to see though. I’m proud of you.”

 

Thea beamed.

 

“Thanks, Ollie,” she said.

 

“Aunt Thea, how come you call Daddy, Ollie?” Luca wanted to know.

 

“Sounds like a dog’s name,” Sebastian chimed in.

 

“You two are on a roll today,” Oliver said.

 

Thea giggled.

 

“To tell you the truth,” she told Luca. “I’m not even sure. It’s what I’ve called him for as long as I can remember. Someone else must have started it before I was born.”

 

Lunch arrived then and the twins took over the conversation, telling Oliver and Thea about the most recent things to have caught their attention. When they’d almost finished eating, Thea excused herself to go to the ladies room and she came back with a smile on her face but a worried look in her eyes.

 

“So don’t make it into a thing,” she said to Oliver in a low voice, making sure to keep her tone light so the boys wouldn’t get suspicious. “But Laurel’s here and she’s sorta staring.”

 

Naturally the first thing Oliver did was look around until he spotted his ex. Their eyes locked for a second before Laurel looked away. Before he knew he was going to move, Oliver was getting to his feet.

 

“Ollie, do not make a scene in public,” Thea hissed.

 

“Keep an eye on the monkeys,” Oliver said.

 

He crossed the aisle and walked over to Laurel’s table. She was sitting alone, either waiting for someone or grabbing lunch solo.

 

“Do you mind if I sit?” Oliver asked quietly.

 

“It’s a free country,” Laurel shrugged.

 

Oliver sat down across from her and Felicity’s words ran through his mind.

 

“I know there isn’t an apology in the world that could make up for all the ways I hurt you,” he said carefully. “And I don’t just mean by leaving the way I did.”

 

“You’re right,” Laurel agreed. “There isn’t.”

 

“But for the little it’s worth to you,” Oliver pressed on. “I am sorry.”

 

Laurel studied him unblinkingly for several seconds.

 

“You actually mean it, don’t you?” she said, not bothering to hide her astonishment.

 

“I’m not the same person you used to know,” Oliver said.

 

“I don’t think I ever knew you at all,” Laurel countered.

 

“I didn’t know myself very well back then either,” Oliver allowed.

 

“Look, Ollie,” Laurel said. “I appreciate that you came over to apologize but…”

 

“It doesn’t change anything,” Oliver finished. “I can understand that.”

 

“Did you really think it would?” Laurel asked.

 

Oliver allowed himself to smile.

 

“No, not really,” he said. “But it was the very least that I owe you.”

 

He stood up just as Luca bounded over to them, clearly impatient.

 

“Dad, come on,” he urged. “It’s time to go see Felicity.”

 

Oliver placed a hand on Luca’s shoulder to let him know he’d been heard.

 

“Take care of yourself, Laurel,” he said.

 

She nodded but didn’t respond and Oliver walked away feeling, not lighter exactly, but at least as if his history with Laurel had been laid to rest in as much peace as it would ever find.

 

 

 

Oliver guided the twins into Felicity's office but instead of a familiar blond ponytail, he spotted a short Asian woman with a sleek bob arranging folders on a small conference table.

 

"Where's Felicity?" Sebastian demanded.

 

The woman jumped and turned around to face them. Her eyes widened.

 

"Oh," she said. "You're Ol---Mr.Queen."

 

"Oliver is fine," he said with a small smile. 

 

"I'm uh...I'm Amanda," she said. "I work with Felicity. She's just, um, finishing up a meeting. She should be back in a few minutes."

 

"Whoa," Luca said, peering out of the floor to ceiling glass windows behind Felicity's desk. "Look how high up we are."

 

"What would happen if you fell out?" Sebastian asked, crossing the office to stand next to his brother.

 

"You'd go splat!" Luca said.

 

The twins exchanged a look that Oliver was only too familiar with.

 

"Whatever you two are thinking," Oliver began.

 

"Water balloon bombs!" Luca said gleefully. 

 

"The answer is no," Oliver said firmly. 

 

"But Dad!" Sebastian protested. "Remember back in San Francisco when we had Beth's birthday party and..."

 

"I remember," Oliver interrupted. "If you all want to unleash water balloon bombs we can do it at home."

 

"But there are no targets at home," Luca pouted.

 

"We'll make some," Oliver assured him.

 

He glanced over at Amanda, who was still looking a little stunned. She gave him a sheepish smile when she saw him looking.

 

"I'll see if I can find Felicity and let her know you guys are here," she said.

 

"No need," Felicity announced, walking in. "I'm right here."

 

"Guess what we did this morning?" Sebastian said as he and his brother both rushed over to her.

 

"Did you go water skiing?" Felicity asked.

 

"No!" Luca said.

 

"Hang gliding?"  Felicity tried again

 

"No," Sebastian giggled. "Guess again."

 

"Don't tell me," Felicity said, feigning concentration. "You took flying lessons!"

 

"We went rock climbing," Luca said. "I climbed my fastest time."

 

"But I still beat you," Sebastian crowed.

 

"They're both quick climbers," Oliver said. "Hence the monkey reference."

 

"That must've been fun when they were younger," Felicity observed.

 

"I implanted eight eyes in the back of my head," Oliver agreed. 

 

Amanda held a folder out to Felicity.

 

"For your 3 pm," she said. "I'll leave you guys alone. It was nice to meet you, Oliver."

 

"You too," Oliver replied.

 

"We brought lunch for you," Sebastian said.

 

"Thank you," Felicity said, smiling. "I'm starved."

 

She sat down on the small couch that was against the left wall of the office and Oliver handed over the containers from Nando's. Felicity's let out an approving groan as she tucked into her chicken.

 

"Tomorrow we're going horse back riding," Luca said to Felicity. "Do you wanna come?"

 

"Well I have to help out my sister because she's getting married next weekend," Felicity said. "But can I tell you a secret?"

 

Luca and Sebastian both nodded eagerly.

 

"I'm scared of horses," Felicity admitted.

 

The twins stared at her.

 

"But horses are so much fun!" Sebastian said.

 

"And they can go really fast," Luca added. 

 

"One of the many reasons they scare me," Felicity said.

 

"Maybe you haven't met any nice horses yet," Sebastian suggested.

 

"Maybe," Felicity agreed. "How about the next time you go after this time, I'll come along to keep you company and you can try to convince me that they aren't so bad."

 

"We'll find you a really nice horse," Luca promised.

 

Felicity turned her attention to Oliver.

 

"Where'd you learn how to ride horseback?" she asked.

 

"Summer camp in Switzerland," Oliver replied.

 

"Seriously?" Felicity said, pausing with her fork halfway to her mouth.

 

"Seriously," Oliver said.

 

“How very…bubble-y of you,” Felicity said, eyes glinting with amusement.

 

“Daddy’s not bubbly,” Luca argued. “He’s tough.”

 

“Finally, a vote of confidence,” Oliver said. “Thank you, Luca.”

 

“I heard you were in the building,” Moira said from the doorway.

 

She held her hands out to the twins.

 

“Grandma hasn’t gotten nearly enough cuddles today,” she informed them. “And I have cookies.”

 

The boys’ didn’t hesitate and they spared barely a glance for Oliver or Felicity as they followed their grandmother down the hall.

 

“Did you put her up to that?” Felicity wanted to know.

 

“As it happens, I did not,” Oliver said, joining her on the couch. “Doesn’t mean I won’t take advantage though.”

 

He leaned in to kiss her, his lips moving slowly and sweetly over hers. Felicity kissed him back for a brief moment before pulling away. A light flush tinted her cheeks and she looked down for a second, licking her lips before turning her light blue eyes back to his.

 

“I know we’re all public and everything now,” she said. “But this is still where I work so…”

 

“I understand,” Oliver nodded.

 

He sat up, putting a little more distance between them but then he reached for her hand and linked their fingers together. He couldn’t be this close to her and not touch her. Especially not with the new knowledge setting over him that yes, he was in fact, irrevocably in love with her.

 

“What are you smiling about?’ Felicity asked him.

 

“What do you mean?” Oliver asked innocently.

 

“You have a look,” Felicity said. “Kinda sappy but sorta cute.”

 

Oliver pretended to wince.

 

“No man wants to hear those adjectives applied to him,” he said. “Especially not by the woman he…who makes him so happy.”

 

He held his breath for half a second, wondering if Felicity suspected that he’d been about to utter the l-word much as he suspected she’d been about to utter it on the phone earlier. He wasn’t sure why they’d both backed away from it; was it just a question of place and time or was it more about where they actually were in their relationship?

 

“You make me happy too,” Felicity said, almost shyly. “Which is…”

 

She shook her head.

 

“I never really though that I would find…this,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure I wanted it.”

 

“And now?” Oliver asked.

 

“I can barely even picture life without you and the boys in it,” Felicity said honestly.  “I feel like that should freak me out but it doesn’t.”

 

“I’m glad,” Oliver said. “I know it’s a lot to take on. Me and them but…”

 

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver brought her hand up to his mouth and kissed the inside of her palm.

 

“So I know shopping’s on the agenda today but what are you and Francesca up to tomorrow?” Oliver asked.


Felicity groaned.

 

“Trust me when I tell you that you don’t actually want to know,” she said.

 

“If you need me to rescue you, just call,” Oliver teased.

 

“That is entirely too tempting,” Felicity said. “But I expect I’ll be able to muddle through. On a much less terrifying front, I have good news.”

 

“Oh?” Oliver asked.

 

“Yes,” Felicity said happily. “My best friend Lola’s is going to make a pit stop in Starling on her way back to New York from Hong Kong. I’m so excited for you to meet her.”

 

Oliver smiled at her at her, loving the way her whole face lit up in animation.

 

“When does she fly in?” he asked.

 

“Not till Tuesday after next,” Felicity said. “It’s been forever since I actually saw her, you know?”

 

“That’s why they have phones and Skype,” Oliver drolly supplied. “Or so Sebastian informed me earlier.”

 

Felicity laughed.

 

“How’d that come up in conversation?” she wondered.

 

“Thea was talking about Verdant and she inadvertently mentioned Tommy,” Oliver explained. “The boys wanted to know who he was and why I don’t talk to him anymore.”

 

“Ah,” Felicity said. “And you went with the distance line of logic.”

 

“I did,” Oliver said.

 

“I know you said you didn’t want to go looking for him,” Felicity said. “For Tommy. But I could probably find him and at least you’d know that…you’d just know.”

 

“Maybe I’m scared to know,” Oliver said softly.

 

Felicity reached up and pressed her hand to his cheek.

 

“If you ever change your mind just say the word,” she told him.

 

“Thank you,” Oliver said.

 

He held her gaze so that she could see how much it meant to him that she wanted to set his mind at ease and ran the back of his hand over the softness of her cheek. The moment was broken when the boys came racing back into her office.

 

“Hey, lower the volume you two,” Oliver said, turning to look at them. “This is isn’t an amusement park. People are working.”

 

Luca made a face.

 

“Being quiet is boring,” he pointed out.

 

“It builds character,” Oliver retorted.

 

“What’s that mean?” Sebastian wanted to know.

 

“I’ll tell you when you’re older,” Oliver said.

 

He turned to his mother who’d followed her grandsons at a more sedate pace.

 

“You think this is hilarious, don’t you?” he asked her.

 

“The fact that your sons are every bit the smart alecs you were at their age?” Moira said. “Funny no. Just extraordinarily fitting.”

 

She sat down in the armchair that was opposite the couch that Oliver and Felicity were settled on.

 

“There’s something I wanted to talk to you both about,” Moira said. “It’s actually two somethings but they’re related.”

 

Felicity cocked her head to one side, clearly curious. Oliver was a bit more wary. He knew his mother well and he wasn’t entirely sure he was going to like the next words out of her mouth.

 

“We’ll be breaking ground on the Glade Park project soon,” Moira said. “After the meeting we had this morning, we sat down with our PR team and they think a public ribbon cutting ceremony wouldn’t be a bad idea to officially announce the partnership between the Queen Family Foundation and Rebuilding Memories. You would be the keynote speaker.”

 

“Felicity, can I play games on your computer?” Sebastian interjected, plainly uninterested in the conversation going on between the adults.

 

“I have more games on my tablet,” Felicity said, holding the device out to him. “Why don’t you see if you can beat my Angry Birds score?”

 

Sebastian accepted and settled down on the floor in front of his father. A quick glance around the office revealed that Luca had climbed into Felicity’s chair behind her desk and was folding a piece of paper into an airplane. Satisfied that both twins were occupied with harmless pursuits, Oliver returned his attention to his mother.

 

“What aren’t you saying?” Oliver asked her.

 

“I think that Felicity should attend with you,” Moira said. “With all of us. It’s important that the public and the media understand that your relationship has the family’s full support.”

 

“Sounds like damage control,” Felicity observed.

 

“It’s pre-emptive,” Moira assured her. “It helps avoid people questioning your motives for being with Oliver.”

 

“You think that’s going to be a thing?” Felicity asked.

 

Moira shrugged delicately.

 

“Unfortunately it’s a possibility,” she said. “And I’d rather we get out in front of it. Which is why I have something else to suggest.”

 

“Suggest away,” Oliver said wryly.

 

“I think the two of you should sit down with Mariah Harper,” Moira said, naming one of Starling City’s most notoriously hard-nosed reporters.

 

“There’s a difference between going public and inviting the media into our lives,” Oliver said. “Especially when media means a vulture like Mariah Harper.”

 

“She is a vulture,” Felicity agreed. “That’s probably why we should do it.”

 

Oliver looked at her in surprise and Felicity shrugged.

 

“If you get her on your side, the rest will follow,” she said. “I can see why your mother is suggesting it.”

 

“She’ll want to know about the boys,” Oliver said flatly. “And I’m not bringing them into this.”

 

“We’ll set ground rules,” Moira said. “She’ll abide by them for the sake of an exclusive.”

 

“When do we have to make a decision?” Oliver asked.

 

“Why don’t the two of you talk it over and let me know next week,” Moira said.

 

“That seems fair,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver nodded his agreement although he still wasn’t too thrilled.

 

“I need to get to a meeting across town,” Moira said, standing up. “I’ll see you at home later?”

 

“You will,” Oliver agreed.

 

Moira made a fuss over the twins and then left. Oliver glanced at his watch.

 

“We should probably head out and let you get back to work,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity made a face. He was right but she was oddly reluctant to put an end to the interlude. The warm fuzzy feeling spreading through her just because the three of them were close by probably had something to do with that.

 

“Stay a few more minutes?” she asked, leaning her head on his shoulder.

 

“Sure,” Oliver said, kissing the top of her head. “We can do that.”

 

Chapter Text

"It's amazing how quickly the Queen name makes things happen," Shado observed to Oliver as they watched people racing around putting last touches on preparations for the ribbon cutting. In less than a week, contractors, licenses, building permits and a comprehensive media strategy had been pulled together and even all that was just the tip of the iceberg.

 

"Not the Queen name so much as my mother," Oliver responded. "She tends to get her way with everyone from the mayor on down."

 

"Useful," Shado quipped.

 

"Only occasionally," Oliver said wryly.

 

"Hey, there you are," Felicity said, walking up to them and linking her arm through Oliver's. "Sorry I'm running late. First it was Isabel Rochev and another of her mini crises and then the new intern interrupted an update that crashed half the system and of course by the time I did get out of QC, traffic was a raging bitch."

 

"You must be Felicity," Shado surmised.

 

"Oh god," Felicity said. "I'm sorry. How rude of me to just ramble on like that."

 

"Felicity this is Shado Fei," Oliver said. "Shado, my girlfriend Felicity Smoak."

 

"So nice to meet you," Felicity said. "Oliver says great things about you. And the work you've been doing, even before all this..."

 

She gestured to all the activity around them.

 

"It's impressive," Felicity finished.

 

"Thank you," Shado said. "We do the best we can with what we have, right?"

 

"And you're about to have a lot more to work with," Oliver said, nodding towards the crowd that was gathering. "What do you think are the odds that those people are here to get involved and not just to gawk?"

 

"Honestly, most of them are probably here to gawk," Shado told him. "Your job is to convince them to get involved."

 

Felicity grinned at him.

 

"I like her," Felicity said. 

 

"Because she doesn't spare my feelings?" Oliver asked.

 

"Because she challenges you," Felicity corrected.

 

Shado grinned back.

 

"I like her," she parroted to Oliver.

 

He groaned.

 

"At some point, in the not distant future, I'm pretty sure I'll regret having introduced the two of you," he said.

 

Both women laughed and Moira joined them with a small smile on her face.

 

"Good to see you again, Shado," she said.

 

"Likewise, Mrs. Queen," Shado replied.

 

"Please, call me Moira. We're almost ready to get started," Moira said. 

 

She glanced at Oliver.

 

"Nervous?" she asked him.

 

"Of course not," Oliver said. 

 

His mother gave him a knowing look and then pulled Shado away, ostensibly to introduce her to the mayor who had just arrived and who would be saying a few words to introduce Shado and the foundation before Oliver's keynote speech.

 

"Nervous?" Felicity, repeated his mother's question.

 

"Practically sick with it," Oliver admitted. 

 

Felicity reached up and tugged on the lapels of his suit jacket.

 

"You'll be great," she said firmly.

 

"What makes you so sure?" Oliver asked her.

 

"Because you believe in this," Felicity said. "You didn't start this foundation for the attention or to score PR points. You started it because you saw a need and you wanted to help fill it. Tell people that story and they'll listen."

 

Oliver stared down at her and he couldn't help himself.

 

"I love you," he said.

 

Felicity's smile lit up her whole face and he could see it in her eyes.

 

"I love you too," she said.

 

Oliver let his forehead fall against hers and he would have kissed her long and hard if one of his mother's PR people hadn't taken hold of his elbow to propel him towards the podium that had been set up. 

 

"We're ready for you, Oliver," she said. "You too, Felicity."

 

Pulling away from the PR rep, Oliver reached for Felicity's hand and gave it a squeeze. They'd find time later to be alone and bask in what that exchange of words meant to their relationship.

 

Winding their way through the crowd, which seemed to have grown in size, they stepped up to the small stage that had been set up and joined Moira, Walter, Shado and Mayor Vaughn. That seemed to be the cue to get things underway and it wasn't long before Shado was introducing the Queen Family's Foundation's support and asking Oliver to say a few words on their behalf.

 

There was a smattering of applause but mostly Oliver got the sense that people were waiting to see what would happen; to see if Oliver Queen was still the reckless, immature teenager they all remembered or if he'd actually acquired some type of character along the way.

 

He thanked Shado, acknowledged everyone who was there and then took a moment to gather his thoughts before beginning the substantive part of his speech.

 

"Those of you who live and work in the Glades," he said, “whose children go to school here and whose lives are sometimes threatened here, know better than anyone how much has been done to bring back the Glades and how much there still is to do. The help that Rebuilding Memories has provided to families returning to their homes has been invaluable and it’s helped bring the people of this community back together."

 

He paused.

 

“The goal behind the partnership of the Queen Family Foundation with Rebuilding Memories is to take the healing process another step further and involve more people than ever before,” Oliver continued. “Rebuilding the Glades isn’t only the responsibility of its residents. It’s the responsibility of every one in Starling City.”

 

There were murmurs of agreement and Oliver saw a number of people nodding their heads.

 

“We chose the playground at Glade Park to kick off this partnership, partly because of its central location but mostly because of what it represents,” Oliver said. “The shared spaces in this community should reflect the resilience of the people who pass through them every day. They should also reflect a future that’s full of hope and possibility – every child deserves that and this community deserves that.”

 

There was a substantial round of applause at that and Oliver hesitated only a moment before speaking his next words.

 

“Because of my father’s actions, the Queen family played a part in devastating not just the Glades but this entire city,” Oliver said. “That’s something that we won’t ever be able to apologize for or take back. But I am not my father and I can assure you that with the personal involvement of every member of my family and with the dedicated team at Rebuilding Memories, we are going to do absolutely everything we can to make this neighborhood into the place you all want it to be. Thank you.”

 

More applause accompanied Oliver as he turned away from the podium. His mother squeezed his arm as he walked past her, Shado gave him an approving nod, Walter shook his hand and Felicity leaned up to kiss his cheek.

 

“Proud of you,” she whispered.

 

The actual ribbon cutting took place moments later, with Oliver and the Mayor posing for several photographs afterward.

 

“Congratulations, Oliver,” Mayor Vaughn said.

 

“We haven’t actually done much yet,” Oliver said. “But thank you for lending your support. It’s appreciated.”

 

Oliver spent the next forty minutes shaking hands and talking to residents of the Glades who wanted to share their ideas and their frustrations with him. He listened patiently, took mental notes and offered reassurances where necessary.

 

“You’re a lot better at this than I thought you would be,” Shado observed when the crowd started to thin out.

 

“I’ll take it as a compliment,” Oliver said.

 

He glanced around for Felicity and found her in conversation with a few of the Rebuilding Memories volunteers.

 

“She did good too,” Shado said.

 

“She’s amazing,” Oliver agreed. “I’m lucky.”

 

“So long as you know it,” Shado said. “Go on and get out of here. I’ll schedule a debriefing for later this week.”

 

“Good,” Oliver said. “Thanks.”

 

He gave her a quick hug and then walked over to Felicity.

 

“You ready to go?” he asked her, after greeting the volunteers.

 

Felicity nodded and they started walking down the street to where she’d parked her car.

 

“I have some errands to run before the rehearsal dinner tonight,” she said. “ And I have to get to Fleur de Lys early. Do you still want to pick me up or just meet me there?”

 

“I’ll pick you up,” Oliver confirmed. “Just tell me what time.”

 

“5:30?” Felicity said.

 

“I’ll be there,” Oliver said.

 

He ducked his head down to sneak a quick kiss and Felicity slipped her arms around his waist, inside his jacket.

 

She tilted her head up and smiled at him.

 

“You said you love me,” she said.

 

“You said you love me back,” Oliver said, returning her smile.

 

“I’ve never said it before,” Felicity confessed.

 

“I’ve never meant it before,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity laughed.

 

“We’re going to be one of those couples other people hate because of how happy we are,” she said. “Aren’t we?”

 

“It’s a distinct possibility,” Oliver said. “Does that bother you?”

 

“Not even a little,” Felicity grinned.

 

 

"You're early," Felicity said, turning her back to the door once she'd opened it to let him in.

 

"A bit," Oliver agreed, snagging her hand before she was out of reach and spinning her around and into his arms. He captured her lips with his own and Felicity purred her approval. Her arms wound themselves around his neck and she stood on her bare tiptoes to keep their mouths firmly pressed together. Bracing his hands on her waist, Oliver lifted her off the ground and carried her over to the dining table. Setting her down, he stepped between her legs and curved his hands around her neck and face.

 

Felicity let her head fall back and Oliver didn't miss a beat trailing slow, sucking kisses down her neck to the top swells of her breasts.

 

"Oliver," Felicity mumbled.

 

"You," Oliver said, punctuating each of his words with kisses. "Are so damn beautiful."

 

He slipped one strap of her dress down to the crook of her elbow so he could brush his lips across her bare shoulder.

 

"And everything about you,” he continued. "Turns me on."

 

Felicity let out a breathy moan that turned into a groan of protest when her cell phone rang, the ring tone letting her know that it was her mother.

 

“Momzilla,” she said, regretfully pulling away from Oliver and sliding off the table to scoop her phone off the kitchen counter.

 

“Hello Mother,” Felicity said.

 

“Don’t forget to bring the extra ribbon,” Mara said.

 

“I’ve got it,” Felicity said.

 

“Are you leaving soon?” Mara asked. “It’s already ten past five.”

 

“Oliver just got here,” Felicity. “We’re leaving in five minutes.”

 

“Don’t dwaddle,” Mara said. “Karen and Becky are already here.”

 

Felicity rolled her eyes and mentally counted to ten. Oddly, the closer the wedding got, the calmer Francesca was and the more hysterical their mother was becoming.

 

“I’ll see you soon,” Felicity said, hanging up before her mother could answer.

 

“Are things okay with the two of you?” Oliver asked.

 

“Yeah,” Felicity said. “I think she maybe having a harder time than she wants to admit accepting the idea that her first born is getting married and at the same time she wants everything to be perfect so she’s on edge and making everyone else edgy too.”

 

She smiled at him.

 

“Thank you for being concerned,” she said.

 

“You don’t have to thank me,” Oliver said. “I just…”

 

He reached out to brush a stray curl away from her face.

 

“I want everything in your world to be at rights,” he said.

 

“You know it won’t always be,” Felicity said.

 

“I know,” Oliver said, with a small smile. “Doesn’t mean I’ll want it any less.”

 

Her phone beeped with a text from Francesca and she sighed.

 

“Seriously, after this wedding, I’m turning my phone off for like, a week,” Felicity said, heading back into her bedroom so that she could put on her earrings, her shoes and repair the damage done to her lipstick by the frantic kissing she and Oliver had done on the dining room table moments ago.

 

“Does that mean you’re going to take a few vacation days?” Oliver asked, leaning in the doorway to her bedroom. “Spend it with me and the boys on our private island?”

 

“I’m tempted,” Felicity said. “But Lola’s coming to visit, remember?”

 

Oliver shrugged.

 

“We could always fly her out there,” he said. “Or fly in to see her and go back. Whatever you want.”

 

“Don’t do that,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver arched an eyebrow.

 

“Tell me I can have whatever I want,” Felicity said.

 

“So I won’t tell you,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity shook her head. Oliver’s wealth honestly wasn’t an issue for her in the sense that it had no bearing on her feelings for him one way or the other. But she’d be lying if she said that she’d fully come to terms with how…literal it could be when he said things like ‘whatever you want’.

 

“We should get going,” Felicity said, picking up her clutch and also the gift bag that was filled with the different odds and ends her mother had requested.

 

Traffic was relatively light so it only took them 15 minutes to get to Fleur De Lys, which was a private manor with a spectacular garden where the wedding ceremony would take place this weekend. They arrived to a flurry of activity.

 

“Felicity, finally,” Mara said.

 

“Hi,” Felicity said, kissing her mother’s cheek.

 

Mara smiled.

 

“You look lovely, sweetheart,” she said.

 

“Mrs. Smoak,” Oliver said politely.  “Good to see you again.”

 

“Hello, Oliver,” Mara said. “Liam and the boys are actually already out in the garden if you want to join them.”

 

Sensing that was his cue, Oliver kissed Felicity’s temple and squeezed her hand.

 

“See you later,” he said.

 

Felicity watched him and gave a soft sigh as he disappeared from view before turning to face her family.

 

“What do you need me to do?” she asked.

 

Her mother gave her a look that Felicity couldn’t quite read but before Mara could say anything, Francesca was grabbing Felicity’s arm and tugging.

 

“I want a moment alone with my baby sis,” Francesca said.

 

“It’s almost time to start the rehearsal,” Mara pointed out.

 

“Barry still isn’t here yet,” Francesca said. “We have a few minutes.”

 

She pulled Felicity in the direction of the dressing room, which would be wedding day central on Saturday.

 

“What’s up?” Felicity asked, once the door was closed behind them.

 

“That’s for you to tell me,” Francesca said. “You are lit up from the inside and I did not miss the way you couldn’t take your eyes off Oliver.”

 

“Hardly new,” Felicity mumbled.

 

“True but something is,” Francesca said. “New or different. Spill it, Smoak!”

 

“You do realize this is your rehearsal dinner,” Felicity said. “My love life shouldn’t be the central topic of conversation.”

 

“You’re stalling,” Francesca accused.

 

And then her expression turned more serious.

 

“I know this might sound corny,” she said. “ I am so deliriously happy to be marrying Liam. He’s everything that I’ve ever wanted.”

 

“I know,” Felicity said. “It shows.”

 

“But what’s made the last couple weeks even better,” Francesca said, “is you. Seeing you as happy as I am because I really did used to worry about you and how wrapped up you were in your work and watching you let Oliver in…”

 

She blinked.

 

“In a weird way it’s like watching myself falling in love with Liam,” she finished. “And I’m just…I’m really glad that you have what I have.”

 

On impulse, Felicity reached out and gave her sister a hug. For all the ups and downs they’d had over the last several months, it felt like they were closer than ever. Maybe it was because falling in love herself had brought Felicity deeper into Francesca’s world and maybe it was just the fact that they were growing up and growing into their adult selves.

 

Felicity bit her lip.

 

“He told me he loves me today,” she said.

 

Francesca squealed.

 

“I knew something had happened!” she said. “How did he say it? Did you say it back?”

 

“Of course I said it back,” Felicity said. “And it was…spontaneous and perfect and we haven’t talked it to death. It just is.”

 

Before Francesca could say anything else there was a knock on the door and her best friend Melanie stuck her head in.

 

“Barry’s train is delayed,” she said. “He’s not going to be here for a few hours yet so Liam asked Oliver to fill in for the rehearsal.”

 

Melanie shot Felicity a look that was equal parts amused and envious.

 

“Your boyfriend is something else,” she said. “I still can’t believe you’re dating the Oliver Queen.”

 

Felicity simply smiled.

 

Not so long ago a comment like would have had the potential to unnerve her, force her mind to explore the space where her insecurities lived. It was almost a surprise to realize how completely comfortable and secure she felt, not just in their relationship, but in herself too.

 

“Then I guess it’s time to get this show on the road!” Francesca said.

 

They ended up running through the ceremony three times before they got to the dinner element of the rehearsal dinner. Felicity knew she should have been paying more attention to the details but she was singularly distracted by Oliver; whether it was walking down the aisle towards him or sneaking glances at him when they should have been paying attention to the justice of the peace. The fact that he couldn't seem to keep his eyes off her either only compounded the situation. It was as if the whole world around them started fading as soon as their eyes locked.

 

The world intruded though, once the rehearsals were over and transport had to be organized to the private room at the Starling City Renaissance hotel for dinner. They ended up riding in separate cars; Oliver transporting Liam’s parents and Barry who’d finally turned up while Felicity rode with her mother, and two aunts.

 

It wasn’t until dessert had been served and the band started playing that they managed to find a moment for themselves albeit surrounded by all the other people on the dance floor.

 

“I think you’ve successfully charmed every single woman in this room,” Felicity said.

 

“Except maybe your mother,” Oliver commented wryly.

 

Felicity frowned.

 

“Is she giving you a hard time?” she asked.

 

“Nothing like that,” Oliver said. “I just get the feeling she hasn’t made her mind up about me yet.”

 

“Well, I have made up my mind,” Felicity said.

 

“Oh?” Oliver asked, pulling her a little tighter into his embrace. “And what have you decided?”

 

“That weddings make me feel philosophical,” Felicity said, “because I find myself contemplating how life is so full of possibilities and how extraordinary things can happen when you’re just not expecting them and oh, this is completely your fault.”

 

“My fault?” Oliver repeated. “How is it my fault? Also, why is it a bad thing?”

 

“It’s your fault because you exist and you’re turning me into a sap,” Felicity said.

 

She grinned at him.

 

“But I kinda like it so…wash,” she allowed.

 

Oliver kissed the tip of her nose because her adorableness was irresistible.

 

“Mind if we cut in?” Francesca asked.

 

Oliver and Felicity both looked over to see Francesca and her future brother in law. Before either of them could protest, Francesca had maneuvered them away from each other, sent Felicity off to dance with Barry and was now placing one arm on Oliver’s shoulder.

 

He blinked at her.

 

“Relax,” Francesca told him. “First of all, Felicity and Barry dancing is earning me good will with my future mother in law so I owe you.”

 

“I’ll be sure to collect,” Oliver said.

 

Francesca laughed.

 

“Actually, it was my idea because I also wanted to talk to you,” she said. “Two birds, you know the drill.”

 

Oliver shook his head.

 

“You and Felicity are so different and at the same time, there’s a thing,” he said.

 

“Liam says that too,” Francesca told him. “I told him it’s because he loves me so much he sees me everywhere. Pretty sure the same could be said for you about my sister.”

 

Oliver didn’t deny it.

 

“I wanted to thank you,” Francesca said. “I already had a version of this conversation with Felicity but just know that I am so happy for the way you make her happy. She deserves it and I worried for a long time that she’d never let herself have it.”

 

“She’s easy to love,” Oliver said.

 

“Apparently so are you,” Francesca said. “Which is why I’m going to give you some advice about dealing with my mother.”

 

“You think I need it?” Oliver asked lightly.

 

“Maybe not right now but you will,” Francesca said. “Right now she’s in her wait and see phase. She won’t do anything outwardly hostile and in all honesty part of her probably hopes you’re just a phase Felicity’s going through and that this’ll end without any effort on her part.”

 

“Is this supposed to be reassuring?” Oliver asked. “Because so far, epic fail.”

 

“I’m not trying to reassure you,” Francesca said honestly. “Just letting you know what your in for. Mom has always been super protective of Felicity. I think she thinks that because Felicity and her super smarts were so focused on school and work that she never really learned how to relate to people, that she’s not the best judge of character.”

 

She gave a small shrug.

 

“The fact that the first man she brings home is well, you, probably didn’t help matters,” Francesca continued. “And not because of the reputation you had as a teenager. I think even my mother can see you’re not that person anymore. It’s more…your world and your life.”

 

“It can be a bit overwhelming,” Oliver allowed.

 

“Reporters have been calling the house,” Francesca said. “I don’t know if Felicity told you that. Actually, I’m not sure Mom told Felicity. The point is all the attention and the trappings of being Oliver Queen. It scares the hell out of my mother because she’s worried that you’re going to whisk Felicity off into some larger than life fairy tale with private planes, and summer houses on every continent.”

 

Oliver winced slightly, thinking of their post wedding getaway plans.

 

“I would never do anything to come between Felicity and her family,” Oliver said.

 

“I believe you,” Francesca said. “But it’s my mother you’re going to have to convince.”

 

“Ideas on how to accomplish that?” Oliver asked.

 

“Be mindful,” Francesca said. “And show her that being part of our family is as important to you as having Felicity be a part of yours.”

 

Oliver nodded slowly.

 

“Duly noted,” he said.

 

The song ended and Francesca leaned up to kiss his cheek.

 

“Good luck,” she said, before crossing the room straight into her fiancée's arms.

 

“What was all that?” Felicity wanted to know, appearing at his side moments later.

 

“I think,” Oliver said. “That your sister and I just became friends.”

 

 

“It’s not too late to change your mind,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity smiled at him over the rim of her coffee cup.

 

“It’s only fifteen minutes,” Felicity said. “We can do it.”

 

“I have a bad feeling is all,” Oliver said.

 

“Your mother said they were clear on the ground rules,” Felicity said

 

“Have you ever known a journalist not to try a trick or two?” Oliver asked.

 

“It is your experience with the paps that make you so wary of the media?” Felicity asked. “Or something else?”

 

“It’s both,” Oliver said. “I’ve just seen the damage they can do. I want to keep you and the boys safe from that.”

 

“And if this goes well, you’ll have accomplished that,” Felicity reminded him.

 

Oliver sighed and kissed the top of her head. They made their way into the living room where Mariah Harper and her crew had already set up. After a few minutes dedicated to hair and make up they were ready to roll.

 

Mariah didn’t waste time.

 

“Yesterday you gave a seemingly heartfelt speech at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Glade Park project which is a joint effort between your family’s foundation and the Rebuilding Memories charity,” Harper said. “But there are rumors that your mother forced you into it, that this is all a PR exercise to white wash your image. What’s the real truth?”

 

Oliver forced himself to stay civil.

 

“The real truth is that Shado Fei approached the Queen Family Foundation about a partnership,” Oliver said. “As you know, my mother is the family foundation’s CEO. She thought the partnership was a good idea and she asked me to represent our family by taking point.”

 

“But why you?” Harper pressed. “You’re not particularly qualified.”

 

“I don’t think you need a degree in astrophysics to understand that when people need help and you have the means to help them, then you do it because it’s the right thing,” Oliver said.

 

“Still, this is a different side of you than we’ve seen in the past,” Harper observed. “And you’ve kept a pretty low profile since your return to Starling City. Why is that?”

 

“Everyone grows up,” Oliver said with a small shrug. “I have different priorities now than I did when I was younger.”

 

He glanced at Felicity and a smile curved the edge of his lips.

 

“The two of you have made your relationship public,” Harper said. “Can you tell us more about that decision, Felicity?”

 

“It wasn’t an obvious choice,” Felicity said. “At the end of the day, both Oliver and I are relatively private people and not especially interested in putting our lives out there for public consumption. I know that seems like a contradiction but we sort of felt that if we could show the world that we’re just two regular people in a relationship that makes us both happy, then they’d sort of lose interest.”

 

“Has that happened?” Harper asked.

 

“Jury’s still out,” Felicity said with a small smile.

 

Raisa appeared in the doorway to the living room with a frown on her face.

 

“I am sorry to interrupt,” she began.

 

Harper made a motion for the cameras to be cut and Raisa switched to Russian.

 

“There are two men here to see you,” she told Oliver worriedly. “Special agents from the FBI. I put them in your study.”

 

Oliver went stiff as a board.

 

“What’s going on?” Harper asked, eyes narrowing.

 

“I’m sorry but we’re going to have to cut this short,” Oliver said. “Raisa will show you out.”

 

He stood up and strode across the room. Felicity practically ran after him and caught up in the hallway.

 

“Oliver,” she hissed. “What is going on?”

 

“Do you trust me?” Oliver said.

 

“You know I do,” Felicity replied. “But what…”

 

“Then please,” Oliver said. “Go upstairs and stay with the boys. I’ll fill you in when it’s over.”

 

“When what is over?” Felicity asked.

 

But Oliver had already walked away and disappeared into the study.

 

The door shut with a firm click leaving Felicity locked out and worried sick.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Gentlemen,” Oliver said, closing the study door behind you. “What can I do for you?”

 

The taller of the two men stepped forward.

 

“I’m Special Agent Marcus McGuinness,” he said. “This is my partner, Agent Sullivan. We came across your name in the course of an investigation and wanted to ask a few questions.”

 

“Came across my name?” Oliver repeated. “In what sense?”

 

“Do you know who Frank Bertinelli is?” McGuinness asked.

 

Oliver kept his face impassive.

 

“I think I heard him mentioned on the news recently,” Oliver said. “Some kind of mobster, right? And he was killed. Why would my name come up in an investigation related to him?”

 

“That’s what we’re hoping you could tell us,” Sullivan said. “In searching Bertinelli’s Miami property we found an entire file about you.”

 

Oliver narrowed his eyes slightly. These agents didn’t seem to know about what had happened with Helena back in LA. The records were sealed and even if they hadn’t been, Felicity had sunk the entire file when she was making sure that the identity of the twins’ mother couldn’t be uncovered.

 

“I have no idea why a mobster like Bertinelli would be researching me,” Oliver said. “Maybe he saw me as a potential target of some kind.”

 

“You don’t seem too concerned,” Sullivan noted. “Most people find out a ruthless mob boss is reading up on them and they get nervous.”

 

Oliver shrugged.

 

“I’ve lived with kidnapping threats my entire life,” he said. “It starts to lose its fear factor after a while. Besides, the man is dead so it hardly matters.”

 

He cocked his head to one side.

 

“Can I ask a question?” he said.

 

“Go for it,” McGuinness replied.

 

“You’re the FBI,” Oliver said. “I doubt you would have come here without at least trying to figure out if there was a connection between me and Bertinelli. So either, you found nothing and this is a Hail Mary pass or you think there’s something going on but you’re not sure what it is. Which is it?”

 

The two agents exchanged a brief look before Sullivan replied.

 

“We got a tip that a man who matches your description recently met with a well known member of the Russian mafia,” Sullivan said. “Seemed like a bit of a coincidence when that file turned up.”

 

Oliver laughed.

 

“You think that I’m connected to the Russian mafia?” he chuckled. “Me? Oliver Queen. That’s…kind of hysterical. I’ll have remember to put it in my memoires.”

 

He moved to the door of the study.

 

“I appreciate the comic relief, gentlemen,” Oliver said. “But I have a life I’d like to get back to. Let me show you out.”

 

He gestured for them to precede him down the hallway into the front foyer.

 

“We’ll be in touch,” McGuinness said.

 

“I can’t imagine why,” Oliver said blandly. “The closest thing I have to a mafia connection is my country club membership. Enjoy the rest of your day.”

 

The agents departed and Oliver closed the door.  Raisa appeared behind him.

 

“Will they come back?” she questioned in Russian.

 

“I don’t know,” Oliver said.  “I need to get a message to Anatoly but not through you. I want you to stay out of this.”

 

“Vassily Andrev,” Raisa told him. “He’s a mechanic in the East Glades. He will reach Tolya for you.”

 

“Spacibo,” Oliver said. “Did the reporter and her team leave?”

 

“I had Mr. Diggle escort them out,” Raisa said mildly.

 

“Felicity and the boys?” Oliver asked next.

 

“Upstairs in the rec room,” Raisa said.

 

She gave his arm a squeeze.

 

“Go take care of your family,” she told him.

 

Oliver let out a slow breath.

 

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I think I will.”

 

Shedding the suit jacket he’d been wearing for the interview, he unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves as he ascended the stairs and headed for the twins’ playroom. The door was open and Felicity was sitting on the floor with the boys, building an elaborate block tower and talking about elves, hobbits and wizards.

 

“Leave it to you to introduce them to Tolkien,” Oliver said softly.

 

Felicity looked up at him and although she offered him a smile, Oliver could see the worry in her eyes.

 

“We’re building an empire,” Luca informed him.

 

“Oh yeah?” Oliver asked, stepping further into the room and joining them on the floor. “What are you going to call it?”

 

“Why’s it need a name?” Sebastian asked.

 

“So that 100 years in the future people will know what to call it,” Oliver said.

 

The boys considered that and huddled together to discuss it further. Felicity took advantage of their distraction to murmur to Oliver in a low voice.

 

“Is everything okay?” she asked.

 

“We’ll talk about it later,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity took a deep breath. She knew this wasn’t the place, not with the twins so close but at the same time she was frustrated and a little hurt. Oliver wasn’t in the habit of shutting her out and for some reason this felt like he was.

 

“We’re going to call it the LSOF Empire,” Luca announced.

 

“What’s that all stand for?” Felicity asked.

 

“Luca, Sebastian, Oliver and Felicity,” Sebastian said.

 

“That is a very cool name for an empire,” Oliver said. “But I think it’s going to need to be bigger. We might need more blocks.”

 

Luca’s eyes gleamed.

 

“Can we go to the toy store?” he asked.

 

“We could manage that,” Oliver said. “But after lunch. What do you guys want to eat?”

 

“Grilled cheese,” Sebastian piped up.

 

“Felicity’s favorite,” Oliver said. “Got any secret recipes?”

 

“As a matter a fact, I do,” Felicity said. “And I will be happy to share it with you but only if I get hugs and kisses from my favorite twins.”

 

In seconds, the twins had practically tackled her in their rush to give her more hugs and kisses than she could handle. Felicity laughed and Luca eyed her.

 

“Wait,” he said. “Your favorite twins? You don’t have any other twins, do you?”

 

“No,” Felicity admitted. “Just you and your brother.”

 

“Good,” Luca said.

 

“S’that mean that you’re ours now too?” Sebastian questioned.

 

Felicity shared a look with Oliver and felt her heart squeeze in her chest.

 

“Completely yours,” she assured him. “Now, let’s go grill that cheese!”

 

They headed down to the kitchen to make lunch and afterward they headed to the toy store. Because of the interview that had been scheduled that day, Felicity had taken the whole day off from work so she had the time to spend with them.

 

It wasn’t until that evening, while Raisa was supervising the twins while they bathed and got ready for bed, that Felicity got a chance to speak to Oliver alone.

 

“I thought you were spending the night here,” Oliver said, watching as she zipped up her overnight bag.

 

“Kind of depends on you,” Felicity said. “What was that this morning?”

 

“What are you talking about?” Oliver asked.

 

He reached for her but Felicity stepped away from him.

 

“You shut down on me this morning,” Felicity told him quietly. “Whatever Raisa said to you…you just threw up a wall with me on the outside of it.”

 

“Look, I’m sorry I didn’t have time to explain it to you on the spot,” Oliver said. “And even sorrier if you felt like I was deliberately keeping you out of the loop. That wasn’t my intention.”

 

He paused.

 

“Don’t you think you’re overreacting a little bit?” he asked her.

 

Felicity shrugged.

 

“Maybe,” she said. “The thing is, it didn’t feel like you didn’t have the time. It felt like you didn’t want to talk to me. Like whatever was happening flipped a switch in your head and took you back into a ‘me against the world’ headspace.”

 

Oliver thought about what she said before he answered her. He supposed that she wasn’t completely off base. He’d simply reacted to the situation in a way he was used to; taking charge and protecting his family.

 

“There were two FBI agents waiting in the study, Felicity,” Oliver said. “And a blood hound journalist two rooms away so you’re right. I reacted. I went with my gut, which was to neutralize the situation and keep my family safe. That means you and the boys.”

 

“I don’t need you to protect me, Oliver,” Felicity said. “I need to know that when shit hits the fan, I can rely on you and that you’re willing to rely on me too. It can’t be a thing where every time you think I can’t handle something or shouldn’t have to handle it, you start making unilateral decisions.”

 

“You’re reading to much into this,” Oliver said flatly. “I did what was necessary and that’s it. It’s over.”

 

“Is it?” Felicity asked. “Why were they here? What did they want?”

 

“I’ve already been interrogated once today, Felicity,” Oliver said. “I don’t need more of it from you.”

 

Felicity blinked at him, not bothering to hide the fact that her feelings were hurt.

 

“What is your problem right now?” she asked him.

 

“My problem is you said you trusted me,” Oliver said. “And that means trusting my judgment, trusting that when I go out of my way to keep you out of something, it’s for your own good.”

 

“I thought you weren’t trying to keep me out of the loop,” Felicity said. “Which is it?”

 

Oliver stared at her, his expression stony.

 

Felicity pressed her lips together.

 

“I don’t think continuing this conversation is a good idea for either of us,” she finally said.

 

She reached for her overnight bag.

 

“So that’s it?” Oliver asked. “I do something you don’t like, handle a situation in a way you don’t approve of and you’re just going to leave?”

 

“It seems like a better idea than staying here and fighting with you,” Felicity said.

 

“There’s nothing to fight about,” Oliver said. “Those agents have nothing. I’m fairly certain they have no idea about my relationship with Helena.”

 

“Then why were they here?” she asked.

 

“They found a file that Bertinelli was keeping on me,” Oliver said. “In addition to having gotten some sort of tip about my meeting with the Russians. Not enough to confirm it was me but enough for them not to chalk the two things up to coincidence.”

 

 

“I’ll run some searches and…”

 

“That is precisely why I didn’t want to tell you this in the first place,” Oliver said. “I want you to leave this alone, Felicity. I mean it. If anything goes wrong here, I don’t want you even remotely linked to it.”

 

“They’ll never know,” Felicity said.

 

“I know how good you are,” Oliver said. “I never would have asked for your help in the first place otherwise but this is too dangerous, Felicity and honestly…”

 

“What?” Felicity asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

 

“If anything happens to me I want you to be here to look after Sebastian and Luca,” Oliver said quietly. “They love you.”

 

“I love them too,” Felicity said. “But…”

 

“No buts,” Oliver interrupted. “This might be too much pressure too soon or whatever but it’s the truth. You’re the closest thing that they’ve ever had – that they will ever have – to a mother. So I am asking you not to jeopardize that. They’ve already lost too much, been denied too much. Just leave this alone.”

 

“We’re supposed to be in this together,” Felicity said “That means letting me help you.”

 

“There is nothing you could say or do that would be more help than swearing to me that you will be there to take of my boys; of our boys,” Oliver said. “Nothing.”

 

Felicity sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed. She understood where Oliver was coming from and why he was asking what he was asking.

 

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll stay out of this. But I am not backing off our original plan and the intel we’re feeding Detective Lance.”

 

“I’ll consider that our compromise,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity nodded and looked up at him.

 

“You know this wasn’t just about this particular situation, right?” she asked him. “It’s about how we deal with things as a couple.”

 

Oliver moved to sit next to her on the edge of the bed but he didn’t reach for her.

 

“I’m still adjusting,” he admitted. “And when I feel threatened or feel like the people I love are being threatened, it’s hard for me to remember that it doesn’t have to all be on me.”

 

He looked over at her.

 

“Can you…just, be a little patient with me,” Oliver said. “I promise to keep working on it.”

 

“I can do that,” Felicity said.

 

She let her head fall onto his shoulder and Oliver tilted his head to rest against hers.

 

“I think that counts as our first fight,” Felicity said after a minute.

 

“Not sure if that’s the kind of relationship milestone that merits a celebration,” Oliver said wryly.

 

“Well no,” Felicity said. “But the one upside is that we get to kiss and make up now.”

 

She lifted her head and their lips met in a soft kiss.

 

Oliver was the one to break it off.

 

“Will you do me a favor?” Oliver asked.

 

“Yeah,” Felicity said.

 

“Hold on to me,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity nodded and stretched out on the bed. She held her arms out to him and he went willingly, settling his head just over her heart.

 

“Oliver?” Felicity murmured.

 

“Hmm?” he asked.

 

“I love you,” Felicity said.

 

She felt him shudder lightly against her and his lips pressed against the top of her ribcage.

 

“I love you just as much,” Oliver said. “No matter what.”

 

 

 

“It was nice of Felicity’s family to invite us all at the last minute,” Moira observed to Oliver.

 

“Yes,” Oliver agreed.

 

The ceremony had been lovely or Oliver assumed as much. His eyes had been glued to Felicity the entire time, watching her smile and cry and laugh. In the back of his mind, he’d even allowed himself to think about the situation being reversed and the two of them up at the altar exchanging vows. It made his heart hurt in the best way.

 

Their argument the night before had reminded Oliver how little he could afford to take for granted. Felicity was the best thing to have happened to him in a long time and he had to make sure that she never had cause to doubt that.

 

Tonight, once they were settled on the island would be the perfect time to put actions to those words.

 

“My nephew the flirt,” Thea said, stopping next to him.

 

Oliver looked over at her and then followed her line of vision. His lips twitched and he couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled up in his chest.

 

Luca was standing with his head bent towards a little girl in a pink dress. If Oliver’s memory served him correctly, she was the daughter of one of Felicity’s cousins. The two of them were staring at the screen of what looked like Felicity’s tablet and whatever Luca said, the little girl was beaming at him.

 

“God help me,” Oliver muttered.

 

Thea laughed.

 

“Just imagine how you’ll feel when you have a daughter,” she warned him.

 

The vision that immediately popped into his head of a little girl with his eyes and Felicity’s smile made his heart skip several beats and he found himself scanning the room for her. Her found her on the dance floor, dancing with Barry.

 

“Go dance with your future baby mama,” Thea teased him. “I’m sure Barry won’t mind.”

 

Oliver leaned down to whisper in his sister’s ear.

 

“Future wife,” he corrected her.

 

He straightened up and winked at her before heading across the room, her delighted laughter following in his ears. The song ended just as Oliver reached Felicity’s side.

 

“Mind if I steal the next dance?” he asked Barry.

 

“Yes. I mean, yes go ahead,” Barry stumbled. “I don’t mind.”

 

Oliver nodded at him and slipped an arm around Felicity’s waist.

 

“I love how you manage to be polite and yet so intimidating,” Felicity teased him.

 

“It’s a talent I was born with,” Oliver deadpanned, pulling her close.

 

He brushed his lips across hers.

 

“Hi,” he said.

 

“Hi,” Felicity said.

 

“How long until we can get out of here?” Oliver murmured.

 

“A couple of hours,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver groaned into her neck.

 

“Torture,” he whispered.

 

“You’re strong,” Felicity said. “You can take it.”

 

Before Oliver could reply, he felt a tug on his jacket. Glancing down, he saw Sebastian staring up at them.

 

“I want to dance with Felicity,” he declared.

 

Oliver and Felicity exchanged an amused smile.

 

“I should have known you’d get a better offer,” he told her.

 

He kissed her cheek and ruffled Sebastian’s hair.

 

“Are you having fun?” Felicity asked, holding her hands out to Sebastian.

 

“It’s okay for an old people party,” Sebastian allowed.

 

“High praise,” Felicity said, grinning.

 

They twirled around for a few more minutes before Sebastian abandoned her in favor of a scheme that Luca and her cousin Stacey’s daughter, Mona, had cooked up.

 

“Oliver’s sons really seem to like you,” her mother commented from behind her.

 

Felicity turned around to see her mother holding a glass of champagne in her direction.

 

“They’re great kids,” Felicity said, accepting the drink. “I love them too.”

 

Mara couldn’t quite hide the surprise she felt at Felicity’s choice of words.

 

“Darling, don’t you think…” she began.

 

“Mom,” Felicity said lightly. “This is Francesca’s wedding. It’s been an amazing day. She’s over the moon happy and so am I. Now is not the place or the time for us to argue about your opinion of my life choices.”

 

“Who said anything about arguing?” Mara countered. “I want you to be as happy as your sister is and I just…”

 

“I am happy,” Felicity interrupted. “Happier than I have ever been. Because of Oliver and his sons. Let’s leave it at that.”

 

She kissed her mother’s cheek. She was about to go looking for Oliver when Liam touched her shoulder.

 

“Do you have a sec?” he asked.

 

“Sure,” Felicity said.

 

He led her out onto one of the patios.

 

“I told Francesca that I wanted to be the one to give you this,” Liam said with a lop sided smile. “Things have been so crazy the last few weeks, you and I haven’t really had a chance to talk.”

 

“Considering you just promised to spend the rest of your life with my sister,” Felicity said. “I’m pretty sure we’ll have time to catch up.”

 

“True,” Liam agreed. “But still, I just wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done the last couple of months. I know Francesca was demanding at times.”

 

“I try to think of it as part of her charm,” Felicity said.

 

Liam held out a small box.

 

“Francesca and I picked this out for you,” he said. “I hope you like it.”

 

“That’s sweet of you guys,” Felicity said.

 

She flipped open the box and saw a silver charm nestled into the satin lining.

 

“It’s the Celtic symbol for sisterhood,” Liam told her. “Francesca said that you collect charms for the bracelet your grandmother gave you so…”

 

“I love it,” Felicity said.

 

She kissed his cheek.

 

“Thank you,” she said.

 

They rejoined the party and faster than Felicity thought was possible, the next several hours flew by and she found herself with Francesca and Becky in the dressing room, helping Francesca get ready to go on her honeymoon.

 

“You have everything?” Felicity asked, watching her sister zip up her carry on bag.

 

“Liam has the tickets,” Francesca said. “I have both our passports. The hotel reservations are confirmed. I have the sexy wedding night lingerie.”

 

She grinned.

 

“Life doesn’t get better than this moment,” she told them.

 

“I’ll take your word for it,” Felicity said.

 

“For now,” Francesca said. “I have a feeling it won’t be that much longer until you’re in my shoes.”

 

“I think you’re getting ahead of yourself,” Felicity said, glancing at her watch. “And if you don’t get going, you’re going to be late for your honeymoon.”

 

“Like he’s going to leave without me,” Francesca giggled.

 

She gave her headband one tiny adjustment before putting her carryon in the hall with the rest of the luggage that would be stowed in the limo. The three of them headed back into the ballroom and Francesca started making the rounds and saying good-bye to her guests.

 

Half an hour later, Felicity was standing in the circle of Oliver’s arms, her parents to her left as Francesca and Liam pulled away in the limo that was taking them to the airport.

 

“Pretty sure that’s our get out of jail free card,” Oliver murmured in her ear.

 

Felicity shivered but nodded.

 

“15 minutes,” she agreed.

 

“Let’s make it 10,” Oliver said.

 

“In a hurry to get somewhere?” Felicity teased him.

 

“I think we’ve waited long enough,” Oliver said. “Don’t you?”

 

 

 

It took them 25 minutes in the end because the twins were cranky about being left behind even if was just for the night and because Felicity wanted to spend a few minutes with her father since she hadn’t really been able to talk to him with everything else that had been going on that day.

 

Eventually though, they managed to leave the estate and head for the private airport where one of the smaller planes in the Queen family fleet was waiting for them. After introducing her to their pilot, Anthony, Oliver led her onto the plane.

 

“I would have flown us myself,” Oliver told her as they settled into the plush cream leather seats. “But I should probably take a refresher course first.”

 

“You know how to fly a plane?” Felicity blinked.

 

“The lessons were a birthday present from my mother when I turned 16,” Oliver said.

 

“Your life,” Felicity said, shaking her head.

 

“I could teach you if you want,” Oliver said. “I think you’d like it.”

 

“I’m not sure what to say to that,” Felicity told him honestly.

 

“Take your time and think about it,” Oliver advised, leaning over to pepper kisses from behind her ear to the base of her neck. “In the meantime, I have a much more important question for you.”

 

“Oh?” Felicity said.

 

“How do you feel about extended foreplay?” Oliver asked, his voice several octaves lower than it had been a moment ago and the air between them suddenly a lot more charged.

 

Felicity licked her lips.

 

“I approve,” she replied.

 

“Good,” Oliver said.

 

He straightened up as the plan taxied off and lifted into the air.

 

“That’s it?” Felicity asked. “You ask me how I feel about extended foreplay and then…nothing?”

 

Oliver smirked.

 

“It’s all about anticipation,” he told her. “And I’ve got the next 90 minutes to drive you crazy without giving you what you want most.”

 

Felicity narrowed her eyes.

 

“Threat or promise?” she demanded.

 

“Fact,” Oliver replied.

 

Neither of them said anything more until the plane had reached cruising altitude, at which point, Oliver unbuckled his seat belt and hers and literally swept her off her feet into his arms. Felicity smothered her squeal in his shoulder and felt his chest vibrate with laughter as he carried her into the plane’s private quarters.

 

“I should have known there would be a bed close by,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver’s only response was to kiss her. That was all it took to narrow the entire universe down to the two of them and feeling. Felicity kissed him back with all the urgency and hunger that had building up between them for weeks.

 

Oliver went with it for a few moments, letting her dictate the pace but all too soon, he pulled back and lowered her gently to the bed. Felicity pushed herself on her elbows and watched him shed his shirt. By the time the fabric had fallen to the floor, Felicity was up on her knees, ready to reach for him.

 

Oliver grabbed her by the wrists and held her hands away from.

 

“I don’t think so,” Oliver said.

 

“Why not?” Felicity challenged. “Scared I’ll have you begging for mercy?”

 

“Oh I know you would,” Oliver conceded easily.

 

“Oliver,” Felicity said, her voice soft and silky. “I really want to touch you. Let me.”

 

Oliver swallowed hard and Felicity could see the way his muscles tightened in tension even as he let go of her wrists. This time, when she reached for him, he didn’t stop her. Her palms pressed against his chest, Felicity took her time memorizing the feel of his skin, learning every plane and hollow with her fingertips first and then her lips, her tongue, her teeth.

 

At some point, Oliver buried his hands in her hair, sending pins flying in all directions until he could comb his fingers through the cool strands and rub circles into her scalp. It was something he normally did to relax her when they were cuddling or about to fall asleep. It had the completely opposite effect on her now. Waves of pleasure washed over her and she couldn’t help moaning against his stomach as she continued to lick a path down to his belly button.

 

“Felicity,” Oliver hissed, tugging her head backward. “I don’t…”

 

She didn’t give him the chance to finish his protest. Instead she reached out and rubbed him through his pants, relishing the heat and hardness she could feel even through the layers of clothes.

 

“Fuck,” Oliver whispered, twisting his hands in her hair and letting his head fall back. Intent on the mission she’d set herself, Felicity unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants and pushed all the layers between her and his erection out of her way.

 

His cock sprang out and Felicity bit her lip to hold back a moan. She’d intended to turn the tables on him, tease him the way he’d planned on teasing her but now all she could think about, all she wanted, was for every inch of him to be deep inside her. But they’d held out for so long, determined to make their first time something truly spectacular and special. Felicity wasn’t about to fall at the last hurdle so to speak.

 

Sucking in an unsteady breath, she straightened up to her knees, the added height of the bed putting her eye level with him. She reached for his hand, uncurled his fingers from the fist they were clenched into and placed it against her thigh, then pushed it down until they reached the hem of the bridesmaid dress she was still wearing and she could guide his hand back up her bare leg.

 

She bit his bottom lip to get his attention and his eyes narrowed to navy blue slits in his face.

 

“Touch me, Oliver,” she said.

 

“Here?” Oliver asked, drawing random patterns just above the back of her knee.

 

Felicity shook her head no.

 

“Here?” Oliver asked, moving his touch to the inside of her thigh but not quite high enough.

 

“No,” Felicity breathed.

 

“What about here?” Oliver asked, his breath fanning over her face and his hand smoothing low across her stomach.

 

She shook her head no again and braced one hand on his shoulder and wrapped the other around his cock. He throbbed in her palm and Felicity ran her thumb lightly over his tip. Mirroring her action, Oliver ran the tip of his index finger over her slit through her panties. Felicity trembled but she didn’t stop what she was doing and neither did Oliver.

 

Breathing became labored and Felicity’s breasts felt swollen and heavy, her nipples so hard and tight that she leaned into Oliver’s chest, seeking some kind of relief.

 

“We could stop here…” Oliver murmured. “Call it even until we land…”

 

“Do you want to?” Felicity panted, choking on a gasp as he finally slipped past her underwear and sank his finger into her sheath.

 

“No,” Oliver rasped. “Yes. I want you. I want whatever you want. If you want to wait, we’ll do that. If you want to come all over my hand and I come all over yours then we can do that too. You decide.”

 

Felicity literally swayed from the mental images that Oliver’s words provoked. She was close and she knew he was too. It would be so easy to let go and drown in the pleasure that was right here and right now.

 

Letting her hand fall away from him, Felicity threw herself backwards onto the bed. She closed her eyes and tried to bring her breathing and her body under some semblance of control.

 

Oliver flopped down next to her.

 

“We miscalculated,” he said, blowing out a breath.

 

“You think?” Felicity retorted.

 

“I have another question for you,” Oliver said, pushing up on one elbow to look down at her.

 

“Your last question is what got us into this mess,” Felicity said.

 

“Hopefully this one makes up for it,” Oliver said.

 

“I’m listening,” Felicity said.

 

“Bed?” Oliver asked. “Or hot spring?”

 

Chapter Text

“We’re really all alone here?” Felicity asked as Oliver placed their bags on the floor of the master bedroom.

 

He’d given her a “sort of tour” as they’d navigated their way from the airstrip to the main house, through the living/dining room and upstairs to the wide, open room they were now standing in. The walls were white, the ceilings high and tiled and there was a patio that overlooked the cliffs and the ocean.

 

It was beautiful and while Felicity appreciated it, she wasn’t really in stop and stare mode.

 

“We really are,” Oliver said. “We have caretakers when we’re not here but their granddaughter is having a birthday so the timing worked out on our side. The house is fully stocked so we’ve got everything we need.”

 

“I don’t have everything I need,” Felicity countered.

 

“No?” Oliver asked. “What’s missing?”

 

“You know what,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver gave her a look so hot and full of hunger that her knees started to give.

 

“Get changed and meet me downstairs in five minutes,” he told her.

 

He disappeared out the door before she could argue. Hastily, she got out of her dress and slipped into one of the bathing suits she’d brought with her. It was a one piece but with so many cut out pieces that it showed off as much skin as any two- piece. Pulling a lightweight sarong out of her bag, she wrapped it loosely around herself and traced Oliver’s tracks to the kitchen.

 

He was waiting for her in a pair of dark blue board shorts, a straw bag in one hand. Felicity could see the top of a bottle of wine peeking out of it.

 

They’d decided on the hot springs because as Felicity pointed out, if they started in bed, they were unlikely to come up for air for the remainder of the time they had alone here.

 

“We’re not going far,” Oliver told her.

 

He helped her into a little golf cart and several minutes later, they’d arrived at their destination. They’d tiled around the hot spring itself so the surface was smooth and even though there was pool furniture around, Oliver ignored it in favor of the thick blanket he’d pulled out of the golf cart.

 

He spread it out then sat down with his feet planted on the ground, knees apart. He held his hand out to her and Felicity let herself be drawn. Oddly, as frantic as things had been on the plane earlier, she wasn’t feeling the need to rush to exactly where they’d left off.

 

Apparently, Oliver wasn’t either.

 

He rubbed his thumb over her lips.

 

“I love the way you look at me,” Felicity confessed. “It’s like you see me in ways no else has before.”

 

“I could say the same thing,” Oliver told her. “Maybe no one else was supposed to see. Maybe this is what the universe had planned all along.”

 

“Good job, universe,” Felicity said lightly.

 

Oliver laughed softly and then his mouth covered hers, slow and sweet. Felicity leaned into him to deepen the kiss, her hands cradling the back of his head and her tongue pushing past his lips so she could get high on the taste of him.

 

Pulling gently, Oliver dispatched the sarong and then wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight as he lowered himself flat to the ground with her on top of him. His hands skimmed down her sides, traveling down to the bottom of her thighs and then back up over her ass. He stopped to squeeze and stroke and Felicity groaned her approval into his mouth as she started to trail kisses down the under side of his chin, her hands wandering restlessly over his biceps.

 

“How attached are you to this bathing suit?” Oliver muttered.

 

“’S’new,” Felicity mumbled before she flattened her tongue against his Adam’s apple. “No time to be attached.”

 

“Good,” Oliver said.

 

He yanked hard on the material, ripping it apart once, twice and a third time until getting it off of her body was a matter of tossing handfuls of it away like confetti. Felicity wasn’t sure that the destruction of her bathing suit should be such a turn on but it was. So was the way, Oliver rolled them over, all the while hooking her legs over his hips and rocking against her.

 

The air of the early evening was cool but it was no match for the heat they were building between them. Oliver latched onto one of her nipples and Felicity arched up off the ground, pressing her flesh more firmly into his mouth.

 

“Oh god, Oliver,” she moaned.

 

Not strong enough to literally rip the clothes from his body, Felicity never the less managed to use her feet to push the board shorts down his hips and Oliver paused in his torture of her breasts to kick them the rest of the way off. Then he was back and his cock was pulsing against her and they were gasping into each other’s mouths, exchanging hot, opened mouthed kisses and incoherent whispers.

 

“Oliver, please,” Felicity pleaded, her nails digging into his back.

 

Oliver obliged her but not in the way she expected. Instead of thrusting into her, he resumed placing kisses all over her body. Under her breasts, down her ribs, on her hip bones and then his mouth was hovering over her center and he was pulling her legs up over his shoulders. He didn’t waste time after that, he didn’t tease.

 

He licked the length of her outer lips, lapping at the wetness he found there. He flicked his tongue against her clit and Felicity twisted almost onto her side from the ecstasy of it. Oliver had to place his hands on her hips to push her flat and hold her still. Felicity had experienced oral sex before but Oliver made it into an art form. He seemed to know where and how to touch her, how much pressure was just enough, when she needed the extra stimulation of his fingers and when to slow down, the better to build her pleasure up again.

 

By the time he pulled away, Felicity was nearly out of her mind with need. From someplace far away, she heard the sound of foil tearing open but then Oliver was braced over her and his pupils were so dilated, she could barely make out his irises.

 

His body was taut with anticipation and even as he lined himself up at the entrance to her body, Oliver felt a tidal wave of emotions slam into him. It wasn’t just the physical feelings although they were intense. There was a sort of mental clarity that he’d never experienced. Poised on the brink of becoming one with the first woman he’d ever truly loved, he felt humbled and grateful and he could barely breathe for the lump forming in his throat.

 

“Hey,” Felicity said, pressing her hand to his cheek. “Stay here. Stay with me.”

 

Oliver turned his face to kiss her palm.

 

“I am always with you,” he told her, dropping kisses all over her face. “Always, always, always.”

 

And then he was inside her; every, thick, glorious inch of him, completely sunk into her and Felicity didn’t fight a single one of the sounds that escaped her then. She gave them to the moment and let herself go. She locked her legs around him, her heels digging into his ass, urging him on and her hands clutching at his hips.

 

He went slow at first or tried to but the need for more and harder and deeper got the best of both of them. Over and over, their bodies collided, ripping cries of ecstasy from them both as they surrendered to it. Skin slick and salty with sweat, lips swollen from greedy kisses, they chased after release and each other.

 

The sun was starting to set and Oliver rolled them over again. He wanted the sight of Felicity, her arms over her head, wild and wanton as she ground her hips against his, burned into his memory. She clenched around him repeatedly and he knew that her climax wasn’t far off the horizon. He dug his fingers into her hips and thrust up sharply. Felicity cried out and cupped her breasts in her hands, her fingers plucking at her nipples.

 

He could feel his own release gathering steam, building from the base of his spine, scorching his blood and the burning away the last of his restraint. He sat up, banding his arms around her waist even as she moved faster and faster against him. The sensations built on themselves until everything was a blur and it was the only the sharp bite of Felicity’s teeth into his shoulder, the split second before she exploded, the brought him crashing back to reality, just in time to lose himself all over again, spilling into her until he was completely drained and weak as a newborn kitten.

 

Felicity slumped against him, her arms loose around his neck and her uneven breath blowing against the shoulder she’d bitten moments before. He held her close, his face buried in her neck. He didn’t say anything and neither did she; they simply stayed in each other’s arms while night fell around them.

 

It could have been minutes. It could have been hours. Felicity honestly wasn’t sure how much time passed before Oliver broke the contented silence that had fallen between them.

 

“Wanna go for a swim?” he asked, flicking his tongue against the shell of her ear.

 

“I’m not sure I can stand, let alone swim,” Felicity replied.

 

“I won’t let you drown,” Oliver smiled against her neck.

 

“Mmmkay,” Felicity agreed lazily.

 

Scooping her up, Oliver took advantage of the rock formation that had been created to serve as steps into the hot spring.

 

“Ooh,” Felicity gasped, as the heated water started to slide over her still sensitive skin. She tightened her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist.

 

“Feel good?” Oliver questioned.

 

“Yes,” Felicity said. “You do.”

 

Oliver smiled at her and started pouring handfuls of warm water over her shoulders and back.

 

“You have a gorgeous smile,” Felicity said.

 

“Thank you,” Oliver said, bending his head to kiss both corners of her mouth. Felicity held him close when he would have pulled back and the kiss spiraled into something long and slow and delicious.

 

Lights came on around them and Felicity looked around in surprise.

 

“I set the timer before we left the house,” Oliver explained.

 

“It really is beautiful here,” Felicity observed.

 

“I’m glad I get to share it with you,” Oliver said. “You, Felicity Smoak, seem to make everything better. Everything feels new again.”

 

“Is that a good thing?” Felicity asked.

 

“It’s an incredible thing,” Oliver assured her. “I can’t imagine I’ll ever have enough of it.”

 

Felicity rested her head in the crook of his neck.

 

“I’m so glad I waited for you,” she said.

 

And somehow, Oliver knew that she was talking about so much more than their lovemaking earlier.

 

“I’m glad you did, too,” he said.

 

They stayed in the water until the temperature of the air around them dropped and despite the water’s heat, Oliver could feel Felicity shiver in his hold. Helping her out of the spring, he wrapped her in a thick fluffy towel and then in the blanket they’d made love on before bundling her into the golf cart. Pulling his board shorts back on, he climbed behind the wheel.

 

Felicity glanced down at the scraps of her bathing suit that were in the straw bag, Oliver had brought.

 

“It died a good death,” she said.

 

“I’ll get you a new one, if you want,” Oliver said.

 

“That would ruin it,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver chuckled but didn’t argue.

 

“Do you want to take a shower or have dinner first?” he asked as they walked back into the house.

 

“Shower,” Felicity said.

 

“Your wish…” Oliver said.

 

“My command?” Felicity questioned, leading the way upstairs. “Do you have any idea how much trouble that could get you in?”

 

“No,” Oliver said. “But I am more than willing to find out.”

 

“Just remember you said so,” Felicity told him.

 

She dropped the blanket and the towel from around her body and Oliver shucked his shorts as they walked into the master bathroom.

 

“Do all of your houses have made for sex bathrooms?” Felicity asked.

 

Oliver coughed.

 

“Come again?” he asked her.

 

“I plan to,” Felicity said. “But you didn’t answer my question.”

 

Oliver laughed and picked up her, swinging her around before setting her down in the shower.

 

“I’m not sure what the question was,” he said, turning on the taps.

 

“This bathroom,” Felicity said. “Ideal for naked sexy times. So is the one in your bedroom at the Queen mansion back in Starling. So I’m wondering if it’s a thing.”

 

“If it isn’t it will be now,” Oliver said. “Can you be a little more specific about what naked sexy times entail?”

 

“Happy to,” Felicity said.

 

She scraped her nails down his chest, then skimmed his hip bones and upper thighs before she cupped his balls in her hand, testing their weight in her palm.

 

“We’ve got the naked part covered already,” she said.

 

“Uh huh,” Oliver said.

 

“So now for the sexy part,” she said, pushing him back against the wall of the enclosure and sinking to her knees. She wrapped her free hand around his rapidly stiffening length and guided him to her mouth all the while continuing to fondle his balls.

 

“You’re killing me,” Oliver choked out.

 

Felicity’s response was to hollow out her cheeks, slide away from him until only on the head of his cock rested on her tongue and then take the whole length of him in again, until he started to slide down her throat.

 

Felicity.

 

Her name escaped him like a desperate prayer and Felicity felt it all the way to her toes. It made her hungry to keep pleasuring him and antsy for him to return the favor.  His hands fell to her shoulders and froze there like he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to stop her or urge her to keep going.

 

Felicity made the choice for him. She replaced her mouth on his erection with her hand and her hand under it with her mouth. Seconds later, Oliver was jerking violently, orgasmic tremors wracking his body as his seed spurted into her palm. Felicity didn’t hesitate she before started to lick it up, tasting him in a new way as she got to her feet.

 

Their eyes locked and Oliver noted the satisfied gleam in her eyes.

 

“You are in for it now,” Oliver warned her.

 

“Can’t wait,” Felicity said.

 

“Put your hands on the wall,” Oliver instructed, moving to stand behind her.

 

Felicity did as she was told and Oliver grabbed a bottle of shower gel from the shelf. Squeezing some into one hand, he worked up a froth of suds and proceeded to lather Felicity up from head to foot. He took his time, smoothing his hands up and down, all over her body, time and again. His touch stayed light and teasing and by the time he reached for the detachable showerhead, she was already trembling with want.

 

He rinsed off her skin and pushed her hair to one side. He kissed the back of her neck and reached one arm around to tease her pebbled nipples. He was already hard again and reaching down, he rubbed his cock through her folds, without actually slipping into her. Felicity moaned her frustration and then her pleasure when he turned the showerhead onto her clit, the pressure strong enough to feel good without causing any pain. She’d barely absorbed the shock of that when Oliver seated himself inside her with one easy stroke.

 

He started moving immediately, his pace swift and the strength of each thrust almost lifting her clear off her toes. With the water still stimulating her clit, it wasn’t long until Felicity fell apart and then kept falling. She came twice in quick succession, leaving her as liquid as the water. Letting the showerhead fall to the floor, Oliver wrapped his arm around her and pulled tight against him as he moved inside her, alternating the angles a little bit with each thrust of his hips.

 

To her surprise, Felicity felt a third orgasm crash over her, slightly less intense than the first two but not by much. Oliver sucked her earlobe into his mouth as she panted his name and he pressed her hard into the wall as his release tore through him.

 

He dropped a kiss to her shoulder blade while he waited for his heart to resume something approaching a normal rhythm.

 

“Definitely a thing,” he said faintly.

 

“What is?” Felicity asked, her voice as unsteady as his.

 

“Made for sex bathrooms,” Oliver said. “Our thing.”

 

 

“Oliver?” Felicity asked quietly.

 

She didn’t think he was asleep although he’d been still and quiet for a while now. They both had been. After their sex antics in the shower, neither of them had felt like cooking so they’d satisfied their hunger for food with bread, cheese, fruit and wine. Then they’d come back upstairs and fallen into bed again. Knowing they still had the whole night ahead of them, they’d contented themselves with lazy kisses and constant caresses that served to keep them just on the edge of arousal without driving them over.

 

“Felicity,” he replied.

 

“I want to talk about something you said last night,” she began. “I think we need to talk about it.”

 

“That sounds very serious,” Oliver said, placing a kiss between her breasts before rolling onto his side to face her.

 

“It kind of is,” Felicity said.

 

Her brows were furred together and Oliver cocked his head to one side.

 

“Hey,” he said. “Whatever you’re worried about, we’ll work it out.”

 

“I’m not worried exactly,” she said. “Well, I mean I am but it’s…”

 

She blew out a breath.

 

“You said…you said a lot of things the bottom line of which is that you want me to be a mother to Sebastian and Luca,” Felicity said. “And I…don’t really know anything about being a mother but I know enough to know it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. It’s more than letting them play Angry Birds on my tablet or making them grilled cheese sandwiches. There’s more but I don’t really know what more means and…”

 

Oliver swallowed the rest of her words with a gentle kiss.

 

“First of all,” he said, drawing away slowly. “I absolutely meant what I said last night but - and I know what you’ve said in the past about being willing to take it on - if it’s too much pressure or you’re not ready to deal with this particular set of responsibilities, you can say that.”

 

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” Felicity said. “It’s not that at all. I just…I want to do it right but I don’t know how.”

 

“I don’t think anyone has certainties in that regard,” Oliver said. “There’s so much more to being a parent than anyone ever tells you and the tiny people do not come with instruction manuals so nine times out of ten, you make the rules up as you go along.”

 

He tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear.

 

“I think the most important thing is that they feel safe with you, not just literally but emotionally,” Oliver said. “They’re so open in their affection for you and they’ve never embraced anyone like that before.”

 

“Maybe they’re taking their cues from you,” Felicity pointed out.

 

“No, you won them over from the moment they met you,” Oliver reminded her. “I was the one who had to play catch up.”

 

Felicity’s lips twitched.

 

“Takes a strong man to admit his seven year olds are smarter than him,” she teased.

 

“Raising kids leaves no room for ego,” Oliver said.

 

He rubbed his thumb over her cheek.

 

“I understand why it would make you nervous,” Oliver said. “But you’ve got the really important bits down already. You love them and you make them feel it. The rest, the stuff that comes up when they do things they shouldn’t or throw fits because they’re not getting their way or when they ask questions that you have no idea how to answer…you’ll take it as it comes and do what you think is the best thing.”

 

Felicity let his words sink into her brain.

 

“You really trust me that much?” she asked.

 

“I trust you more than that,” Oliver said, bringing her hand to his mouth and kissing her fingertips. “And Felicity, there’s no rush here. There’s no finish line to race towards. We can take this as fast or slow as you want.”

 

“Slow is good,” Felicity said. “I don’t want to overwhelm them or myself. I don’t want to underestimate the adjustment that this is going to be for all of us.”

 

“Fair enough,” Oliver said. “So one day at a time for now and whenever you feel ready to start co-parenting, you just let me know.”

 

Felicity nodded and leaned in close to fit her mouth against his. Oliver cupped the back of her head and stroked his tongue into her mouth with intent. Felicity threw her leg over his and her hand slid over the side of his torso to wrap around his back. Hooking his hands behind her knees, Oliver rolled onto his back, with Felicity plastered on top of him, her breasts crushed to his chest.

 

Their tongues continued to duel as they ravaged each other’s mouths.

 

“Hold onto the headboard,” Oliver said in a rough whisper.

 

Licking her swollen lips, Felicity complied, anticipation coursing through her at whatever he had planned. Oliver pushed her thighs open a little wider and then he slid his body down the bed. Felicity barely had time to register his intention before he pulled her hips down and planted her sex against his mouth and feasted.

 

Felicity gripped the headboard so tightly she wasn’t sure her fingers would ever straighten themselves out. White-hot sparks shot through what felt like every single molecule that made her up. His tongue was wicked and clever and so so thorough. He explored her slick folds, licking and lapping at the juices dripping from her body. Fingers planted on the tops of her thighs, he used his thumbs to spread her open and then his mouth closed around her clitoris.

 

Oliver wasn’t sure what intoxicated him more; the way she tasted or the unbelievably erotic sounds he tore from her with every swipe of tongue over her flesh. Maybe it was a combination of the two things, maybe it was just her. All Oliver knew was that he could have easily kept going but she was so close to orgasm and the only thing more addicting than pleasuring her with his mouth was the feel of her coming on his cock, her silken sheath tight around his length and milking him for everything he had.

 

Her whole body was shaking, Oliver noted, as he lifted her away from his face and settled her over his swollen shaft. Blindly driven by the need to climax, Felicity grasped him and guided him inside. It was Oliver’s turn to gasp as she surrounded him, hot and slippery and so damn good. She didn’t give him even a second to catch his breath before she started riding him, her movements frenzied. 

 

Less than a minute later, the tidal wave of her orgasm hit her so hard that she practically bent over backwards from the force of it. Oliver’s grip at the small of her back prevented her falling back and off of him but not for long because her release triggered his and by the time he could form coherent thoughts again, Felicity was spread backward, her back resting against his knees, and his head rested heavily against her chest.

 

Aftershocks ran through her and around him and it was those ripples of sensation that suddenly pushed a thought to the forefront of Oliver’s mind.

 

“Felicity,” he said, lifting his head.

 

“Felicity’s not here right now,” she told him with a satisfied little groan.

 

“Well when she gets back,” he said. “You should tell her that her boyfriend – no scratch that, her lover – says that even though she’s on birth control, they might want to have a conversation about the fact that they haven’t exactly been careful tonight…”

 

Felicity forced herself up so she could look down at him.

 

“Are you freaking out?” she asked.

 

“No,” Oliver said slowly. “But considering what we were talking about earlier, it seemed like talking about it would be the sensible thing to do.”

 

He paused.

 

“Are you freaking out?” he asked her.

 

Felicity shook her head.

 

“We should probably do better from now on,” she said. “It’s not like taking extra precautions is a bad thing…”

 

She frowned.

 

“Do you mind?” she asked.

 

“I’m not going to lie and say I don’t love the feeling of being inside you without a condom,” Oliver said. “But no, I don’t mind. What kind of an ass would I be if I minded?”

 

“The kind that got punched out by his girlfriend,” Felicity said.

 

“Is that a violent streak I’m detecting there, Ace?” he teased.

 

“I’m not all fluff and cotton candy,” Felicity told him. “I can be bad ass.”

 

“I believe you,” Oliver said.

 

“What time is it?” Felicity asked.

 

Oliver stretched toward the bedside table for his watch.

 

“Almost midnight,” Oliver said.

 

“I’m hungry again,” Felicity said. “Do we have ice cream?”

 

“There should be mint chip in the freezer,” Oliver said.

 

“Okay,” Felicity said. “You have two options. You can go downstairs and get it for me because I’m adorable, you love me and you’re an amazing boyfriend.”

 

“Option two?” Oliver asked.

 

“You can carry me downstairs,” Felicity said. “Because I’m adorable, you love me, and you’re an amazing boyfriend.”

 

“Flattery will get you…”

 

“Everywhere?” Felicity finished hopefully.

 

“Nowhere, actually,” Oliver said. “But I’m hungry too so you’re just lucky I’m headed in that direction.”

 

He winked at her and then tossed her over his shoulder in a fireman’s hold.

 

Felicity squeaked and then smacked his ass.

 

“Seriously,” Oliver said. “With the violence.”

 

“I couldn’t help it,” Felicity said. “You have a tight ass. Made for spanking.”

 

Oliver put her down on the kitchen counter but not before reciprocating with a light slap to the delicious curve of her bottom.

 

“Spanking, huh?” Oliver said. “We’re going to have to explore that.”

 

“After ice cream,” Felicity insisted.

 

Oliver walked to the freezer and extracted the pint of ice cream. He tossed it to her and then pulled two spoons from a drawer and a bottle of chocolate sauce from the cabinet next to the fridge.

 

As soon as she had a spoon in her hand, Felicity dug in, sighing happily.

 

“Today was legitimately one of the best days ever,” she said.

 

“All that means,” Oliver said, stealing a bite of ice cream from her spoon and grinning at her, “is that we have to do even better tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

 

“Don’t you dare, Oliver,” Felicity said, backing away from him. “You’re soaking wet!”

 

She shot him an incredulous look.

 

“Are you pouting?” she asked him.

 

“Yes,” Oliver said. “Yes, I am. Because my unbelievably gorgeous girlfriend who I haven’t touched in more than an hour is refusing my physical displays of affection.”

 

“Because you are soaking wet and I am not,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver gave her a wicked grin.

 

“Give me a few minutes,” he said in a low tone. “I bet we can remedy that.”

 

Felicity flushed but she waved a wooden salad spoon in his direction. She’d been fixing lunch while Oliver and Thea took the twins out jet skiing.

 

“Behave yourself,” she said. “Your sons and your sister are right outside. Your mother is upstairs.”

 

“You realize that means that none of them are in here,” Oliver said, advancing on her. “That we are, in fact, alone.”

 

Felicity had backed herself into the wall at this point and Oliver came to a stop mere inches away from her. His eyes were a shade darker than normal but she could see the light of love and laughter there too. He was having fun teasing her.

 

“Just because we’re alone now doesn’t mean we will be sixty seconds from now,” Felicity said. “You know better than anyone how fast the monkeys can move.”

 

“True,” Oliver agreed. “But I’m willing to risk it. You?”

 

“Depends,” Felicity said, biting her lip. “You going to make it worth my while?”

 

“Is that a challenge, Ms. Smoak?” he asked, taking the wooden spoon from her and throwing it on the counter.

 

“Are you accepting it if it is, Mr. Queen?” Felicity countered.

 

Oliver growled and in the next instant his mouth was on hers all hunger and next to no finesse. Felicity wrapped her arms around his neck, her earlier concern about getting her clothes wet completely forgotten. She was still undeniably and deliciously sore from the number of times they’d indulged their desire for each other last night but that didn’t stop her from wanting him now all over again.

 

The sound of Thea speaking loudly to the twins forced them apart and by the time the boys and their aunt rounded the corner into the kitchen, Felicity was tossing the salad on the counter and Oliver’s face was hidden in the open refrigerator door.

 

“Daddy, can we have milkshakes?” Luca asked.

 

“After lunch,” Oliver said, stepping back and closing the fridge. “And only if you eat all of your vegetables.”

 

“Okay,” Sebastian sighed.

 

“Why?” Luca argued.

 

“So that you can grow up tall and strong like your father,” Felicity supplied.

 

‘Don’t forget handsome,” Oliver said.

 

“Or delusional,” Thea threw in.

 

Felicity rolled her eyes.

 

“I don’t think I fully realized until this moment that I am completely outnumbered,” she said. “Queens everywhere.”

 

“Alone in enemy territory,” Oliver joked.

 

“We’ll protect you,” Luca piped up.

 

“My heroes,” Felicity said, smiling at him and his brother.

 

She took the bowl of salad and pushed it at Oliver.

 

“Make yourself useful,” she said. “Carry this to the patio table outside. Thea, there’s pasta salad in the refrigerator. Can you grab it for me?”

 

Thea laughed.

 

“You may be outnumbered,” she teased. “But it seems like you’re in complete control just the same.”

 

"What's that saying?" Felicity quipped. "Fake it until you make it?"

 

She pulled the baked BBQ chicken out of the oven.

 

“Is your Mom okay?” she asked Thea. “Should we go get her?”

 

“She’s fine. She always gets a little sad when Walter’s out of town on business,” Thea said. “She’ll be over it in a day or two.”

 

That’s sweet,” Felicity said. “Not that she gets sad. The part where they miss each other though.”

 

Thea shook her head.

 

“I never would have suspected you of being such a sappy romantic,” she said.

 

Felicity made a face.

 

“I didn’t used to be,” she sighed. “But then I met your brother…”

 

“And it’s been all downhill from there,” Thea deadpanned. “You have my sympathies.”

 

The boys, long since bored with the conversation, had scampered outside to join their dad. A peek out the window revealed the three of them rolling around in the grass in what appeared to be a mock wrestling match. Felicity’s expression softened.

 

“I’m really glad things have gotten this serious between you and Ollie,” Thea offered quietly. “When he first came back it was…even though the twins are amazing and he lights up whenever they’re around, it still felt like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.”

 

“Not anymore?” Felicity asked.

 

“Not as much anymore,” Thea said.

 

Felicity laughed at that.

 

“Sounds about right,” she agreed. “For the record, he’s as good for me as I am for him.”

 

The two of them carried the rest of the food outside and after Oliver and the boys had cleaned up a little bit, they all sat down to lunch. The whole time, Oliver could barely take his eyes off Felicity and the way Sebastian and Luca seemed to thrive on her attention.

 

Thea called him on it when Felicity took the twins into the kitchen to tackle the BBQ sauce they’d managed to get all over themselves and make the milkshakes that they’d been promised.

 

“So when are you going to ask her?” Thea questioned.

 

Oliver glanced over at her.

 

“Ask her what?” he asked.

 

“To marry you, idiot,” Thea said.

 

Oliver smiled.

 

“I’ll ask when the time is right,” he said.

 

“Looks pretty right from where I’m sitting,” Thea said.

 

“We’re in a good place,” Oliver said. “But we have time and there’s nothing simple about becoming a parent. I don’t want to rush her.”

 

“Don’t wait too long,” Thea advised. “Besides, I already have the wedding half planned in my head.”

 

Oliver laughed.

 

“As if I’d let you plan my wedding, Speedy,” he said. “You’d make it into a production the likes of which I’m sure the world hasn’t even seen before.”

 

“What’s wrong with that?” Thea asked, feigning affront.

 

“It works for some people,” Oliver said. “I don’t think it’d be right for us.”

 

He hadn’t realized until that moment how much thought he’d actually given it but apparently his subconscious had a pretty clear picture built up. He could picture something small and simple and intimate with a few close friends and both their families.

 

The thought of Felicity’s family brought Oliver up short and he muttered a curse before pushing away from the table.

 

“How did you…” Thea began but Oliver was already striding across the deck.

 

He slipped inside and found the twins with their milkshakes in front of the TV watching cartoons and Felicity in the kitchen.

 

“I thought I’d take a tray up to your mother,” Felicity explained.

 

“That’s sweet of you,” Oliver said, slipping an arm around her and pulling her toward him. “Speaking of parents, it occurred to me that you may have wanted to invite yours out here. I’m sorry I didn’t think of it before.”

 

“Now you’re the one being sweet,” Felicity said. “But honestly, no. It didn’t even cross my mind and I’m not sure it would be the best idea even if it had.”

 

“Why not?” Oliver asked.

 

Felicity bit her lip so Oliver pressed on.

 

“We haven’t really had this conversation yet, not in any substantive way,” he said. “About your mother’s issues with us.”

 

Felicity sighed.

 

“I think it makes her nervous,” Felicity said. “I’ve never been in a relationship this serious before and I pretty much dove straight into the deep end.”

 

“Because of the boys,” Oliver surmised.

 

Felicity nodded.

 

“I mean, she thinks they’re adorable because, how could she not?” Felicity continued. “They are adorable. But she’s my mom. She worries. She worries about what it means for me to be so committed in general...”

 

“And to me in particular,” Oliver filled in.

 

“She’s still trying to work out where the line is drawn,” Felicity said. “Between who you are and what you are.”

 

“Meaning?” Oliver asked.

 

“I look at you and I see the man I love,” Felicity said. “I see an amazing dad and a protective older brother and a good son. My mother looks at you and she sees some of that but she also sees the insane media interest that comes along with being part of your life, she sees the enormous multi billion dollar company that your family owns, she sees all the things that make us different instead of all the things that make us the same.”

 

“How do we change that?” Oliver asked.

 

“We give her some time,” Felicity said. “And more chances to get to know you. I just don’t think the first one of those chances should involve private islands and private jets.”

 

“Probably a good call,” Oliver allowed, bending down to kiss her quickly. “Why don’t you take that up to my mom. I’ll finish cleaning up.”

 

“Thanks,” Felicity said.

 

She carried the tray upstairs and knocked softly on the door to the guest room that Moira had chosen.

 

“Come in,” Moira said.

 

Felicity pushed the door open and stuck her head in.

 

“I thought you might like some lunch,” Felicity explained.

 

Moira offered her a gentle smile, and set down the book she was reading.

 

“How thoughtful,” she said, beckoning Felicity forward.

 

After handing over the tray, Felicity started to leave but Moira stopped her.

 

“Please, stay for a few minutes,” Moira said. “A little company will be good for me. I know Thea thinks it’s very dramatic of me but it always takes me a little while to adjust when Walter is away.”

 

“I think I could understand that,” Felicity said with a small smile as she sat down in one of the recliner chairs.

 

“Your sister’s wedding was lovely,” Moira said. “It was very kind of your family to have included us.”

 

“We were happy to,” Felicity answered.

 

“We’ll have to return the favor sometime,” Moira said. “Have them over to dinner at the manor.”

 

“You don’t have to feel obligated,” Felicity began.

 

“Nonsense,” Moira said. “We’ll all be family eventually. May as well start getting to know each other.”

 

Felicity gaped a little bit, slightly floored by Moira’s complete acceptance of her place in Oliver’s life and in the Queen family, both present and future.

 

“Has Oliver ever told you how his father and I met?” Moira asked.

 

Felicity shook her head no.

 

“We met at Dartmouth,” Moira said. “Robert was two years ahead of me. We were worlds apart – he came from old money and I didn’t – but we hit it off right away, began seeing each other. Robert’s mother was not impressed.”

 

“I don’t imagine that was easy to deal with,” Felicity said.

 

“It wasn’t,” Moira said. “But the old witch and I eventually came to an understanding.”

 

Felicity couldn’t help laughing at Moira’s lingering disdain for her former mother in law.

 

“We both loved Robert,” Moira said. “Everything else was just circumstances.”

 

“Is this your way of telling me that my mother will eventually come around to the idea of me and Oliver?’ Felicity asked.

 

“It’s my way of saying that the only thing any mother wants is to see her child happy,” Moira said. “You’ve very clearly accomplished that where my son is concerned and I’m grateful.”

 

“Thank you for saying that,” Felicity said.

 

She paused.

 

“Can I ask you a question?” she asked.

 

Moira nodded.

 

“Oliver rarely talks about his father,” Felicity said. “You mention when the two of you first met so…”

 

“You’re wondering how I could love a man capable of what Robert and Malcolm conspired to do,” Moira said.

 

She sighed.

 

“Everyone changes with time,” Moira said. “Most of us try to change for the better, to grow. But not all of us manage it. To be perfectly honest, I still have no idea what drove Robert. At least with Malcolm, it was obvious. He never recovered from the death of his wife.”

 

She took a sip of the iced tea that Felicity had brought up.

 

“I have a lot of mixed emotions where Robert is concerned now,” Moira said. “But I did love him and I have Oliver and Thea because of him. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.”

 

The twins burst into the room, Oliver’s voice sounding several feet behind them.

 

“I said quietly,” he reprimanded the boys.

 

Neither Sebastian nor Luca paid him any attention.

 

“Grandma, you’re missing all the fun,” Luca said, clambering up onto the bed.

 

“Yeah, come play with us,” Sebastian said. “We’re going to build a new puzzle.”

 

Felicity glanced at Oliver who was standing in the doorway with an indulgent grin on his face and then she looked back to where the twins had crawled to cuddle with their grandmother.

 

She met Moira’s eyes with her own.

 

“I get it,” Felicity said to her. “I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world, either.”

 

 

 

“It’s time, Lola,” Oliver said, fixing Felicity’s friend with a determined stare. “You need to tell me everything about Felicity’s antics in college.”

 

“I’m not you,” Felicity protested. “There were no antics.”

 

Lola pretended to choke on the sip of wine she’d just taken. After spending some time with the boys at Queen manor, the three of them were having dinner at Angelo’s. They’d just finished their first course so Oliver figured, they could dispense with the small talk.

 

“I guess it all depends on how you define the word,” Lola said with a smirk.

 

Felicity narrowed her eyes.

 

“Watch it, you,” she said to Lola.

 

Lola gave her a beatific smile and tucked her auburn hair behind her ear.

 

“Has she told you about the lacrosse stalker freshman year?” Lola asked Oliver.

 

“You had a stalker?” Oliver frowned.

 

“Lola is exaggerating,” Felicity said. “A little.”

 

“This guy used to park outside our dorm and just stare,” Lola said. “We knew it was about her though because they had some of the same classes.”

 

“He used to stare there too,” Felicity allowed.

 

“She finally got fed up,” Lola said. “So she grabbed the baseball bat my brother gave me from our hall closet, went out into the street, whacked the side of his car with it and told him if he didn’t stop following her, she was going to ruin him electronically, one untraceable hack at a time. We never saw him again.”

 

“Not all fluff and cotton candy,” Oliver said with a laugh. “Although you do realize if he’d been dangerous…”

 

“I would have whacked him with the baseball bat,” Felicity said.

 

Her eyes glinted with amusement.

 

“Besides my stalker chasing pales in comparison to Lola’s pole dancing escapades,” she said.

 

“It was one time,” Lola said, pointing her finger at Felicity. “And you dared me. What else was I supposed to do?”

 

“Between the two of you,” Oliver teased. “I’m seriously debating whether or not I even want the twins to go to college. Can you imagine the damage?”

 

“Send them to schools on opposite coasts,” Lola suggested.

 

“Jury’s out on that strategy,” Oliver said. “They’re going to be in different classes for the first time when they start school next week. Let’s see how that goes first.”

 

“Have they ever traded places?” Lola asked. “I’ve always wanted to know if twins actually do that.”

 

“They have a couple of times,” Oliver said. “It’s usually Luca trying to get out of something and Sebastian agreeing because even though he’s the younger one, he’s also the protective one.”

 

Their main courses arrived and the topic of conversation shifted to work, family and all the other things that Felicity and Lola wanted to catch up on. Somewhere between his lobster and crème caramel, Oliver decided he was less interested in food than in what Felicity might be wearing  - or not – underneath her black lace sheath dress.

 

He placed his hand on her thigh underneath the table and slowly slid it down towards the dress’s hem. She glanced at him briefly but then returned her attention to Lola and the nutella mousse cake they were sharing.

 

Curling one finger around the hem, he tugged it backwards, up her thigh, and then danced his fingers over bare skin.  Then he flattened his palm and smoothed it across the inside of her leg.

 

He got a sharper look for his efforts that time and he felt her shift in her seat, not enough to draw attention but enough to let him know he was on the right track. He kept his touch light and teasing until suddenly he didn’t and his fingers were rubbing against her through the thin barrier of her panties. She squeezed her legs together and Oliver wasn’t sure if it was an attempt to dislodge him or make sure that he didn’t stop.

 

He could feel the wetness gathering between her legs and decided it must be the latter. He kept his expression impassive as he listened to Lola talk about the new book she was reading. He could tell Felicity was trying to pay attention too but her eyes were losing a little bit of focus. If he kept the pressure up, she would probably come against his hand any minute.


Felicity must have come to that conclusion as well because she abruptly pushed away from the table, excusing herself to the ladies room and if Lola suspected anything, she didn’t say. Oliver was just about to mention that he was considering taking the boys to New York before Christmas when his phone buzzed with a text from Felicity.

 

Payback is a horny bitch. You better brace yourself.

 

A small smile curved his lips and Lola shook her head.

 

“Antics,” was all she said.

 

Felicity joined them again and they finished their desserts. Once Oliver had settled the bill, despite both Felicity and Lola’s protests, they headed onto the sidewalk. The girls had decided to go dancing and Oliver was headed back home.

 

“You sure you don’t want one of Dig’s team to drive you?” Oliver asked.

 

“We’ll be fine,” Felicity said “Come by in the morning?”

 

“Yeah,” Oliver agreed.

 

He cupped her face in one hand and kissed her. He lingered longer than he needed to but not as long as he would have liked.

 

“It was great to meet you, Lola,” Oliver said, turning to face her. “I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of each other.”

 

“I don’t doubt it,” Lola said with a grin.

 

She gave him a quick hug and after bundling the two of them into a cab, Oliver retrieved his car from the parking garage and turned on the road to the manor.

 

He was ten minutes away from home when his cell rang. A quick glance at the caller id revealed that the number was blocked.

 

Cautiously, Oliver eased the car to the side of the road and answered.

 

“Hello?” he said.

 

“I have a message from Anatoly,” came the response and Oliver recognized the voice as belonging to Vassily, the Bratva solider Raisa had told him would get a message to Knyazev. “The line is secure.”

 

“Go ahead,” Oliver said.

 

“There was a rat in our ranks,” Vassily said. “That is how the Feds knew about the meeting. It’s been dealt with.”

 

Oliver had a pretty good idea of what that meant but he didn’t comment.

 

“Anatoly also says to tell you the FBI agents in California who knew about your connection to Bertinelli are dead,” Vassily continued. “Bertinelli made the call, months ago.”

 

“Part of his plan, I imagine,” Oliver said.

 

“The threat to you and your family is over,” Vassily concluded.

 

“I appreciate the call,” Oliver said.

 

“There won’t be any others,” Vassily said and then he hung up.

 

Oliver put his phone down on the passenger seat and stared at it. Several minutes went by before the relief hit him full force. It was over. Frank Bertinelli would never lay a hand on Luca or Sebastian and Oliver was in no danger of being carted off to jail and away from his boys for his role in making that happen.

 

At this point, only those sealed and sunken files in the FBI system contained any trace of his connection to Helena or Frank.

 

He could officially close this chapter of his life and start fresh. He hadn’t realized how much he wanted that until this moment and with that realization came another. The Bratva were criminals but they’d played a huge role in eliminating the threat to his family. Oliver wasn’t sure that he wanted to actively continue working against them, not to mention, he really did want this whole ordeal to be over with. That meant tying off the loose ends instead of unraveling them by feeding Detective Lance more information.

 

Oliver sighed, knowing he needed to have the conversation with Felicity and honestly not sure how she would react. Deciding to leave it for later, Oliver eased back out onto the road and headed home. The house was quiet and he made his way upstairs and went straight for the twins’ room.

 

The need to simply watch them sleep and know they were safe was strong and Oliver didn’t resist it. He moved quietly across the room, and settled into the rocking chair. Luca rolled toward him but didn’t wake up.

 

At some point after 2 am, Oliver fell into a light sleep and it wasn’t until twins were up and bouncing around him that he opened his eyes again.

 

“How come you didn’t sleep in your room?” Sebastian wanted to know.

 

“And in PJs?” Luca added.

 

Oliver rubbed his face and gave them a lop sided grin.

 

“I came to check on you two and I must have fallen asleep,” Oliver said.

 

“Is Felicity here?” Luca asked.

 

“Unfortunately, no,” Oliver said. “She’s hanging out with a friend of hers whose visiting.”

 

Both boys looked disgruntled so Oliver distracted them with talk of French toast for breakfast. Predictably, they got on board and after a quick stop to wash his face and brush his teeth, he lead the way downstairs to the kitchen.

 

He was just pouring syrup on to Luca’s plate when Thea joined them, iPad in hand.

 

“Ollie, you might have a problem,” she said. “Not that I think for a second that any of this is true. But people might.”

 

Oliver frowned in her direction and took the device she was holding out to him. Thea pretended to steal a piece of Sebastian’s bacon so Oliver was confident that she had both boys’ full attention. He glanced down at the screen and then muttered in disgust under his breath.

 

The headline of a Starling City tabloid was claiming that Felicity had cheated on him. There was a picture of her and Lola and a man who had his back to the camera. He had an hand on Felicity’s arm and she was smiling at him.

 

“Watch them,” Oliver said. “I need to make some calls.”

 

He stepped out of the kitchen and walked to his study before dialing Felicity.

 

“Do you know what time it is?” she mumbled. “And what time I got home? Also antics. That involved alcohol.”

 

“You’re pretty coherent for someone who had such a late night,” Oliver said lightly. “And don’t panic because nothing is wrong. Or not exactly.”

 

“I like specifics, Oliver,” Felicity said and Oliver could hear her shifting in bed. He imagined she was sitting up and reaching for her glasses.

 

“Tabloids are claiming you cheated on me last night,” Oliver said. “But they’re tabloids and this bullshit is their bread and butter.”

 

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Felicity said and Oliver suspected that by now, she had her tablet in hand and was scouring different websites. “That’s James. He works at QC. We’re friends.”

 

“You don’t have to defend yourself to me,” Oliver said.

 

“No, just to every other person in the city,” she said. “And ugh, my mother. I should call her.”

 

“Listen, this is going to blow over,” Oliver said. “I’ll have Dig send someone to your place to keep an eye on you in case the paps are staking it out and they get out of hand. You and I can go to lunch at Ivy, let the world see we’re find and that’ll be the end of it.”

 

Felicity sighed.

 

“Oliver?” she asked.

 

“Yeah?’ he said.

 

“How long is it going to be like this?” she asked. “Going public was supposed to make things easier. This isn’t easier.”

 

“I know,” Oliver said. “I’m sorry about that.”

 

“It’s not your fault,” Felicity said automatically. “It’s just annoying.”

 

“Have lunch with me anyway?” he said.

 

“How about dinner?” Felicity said. “I need to catch up on a couple of different projects at work.”

 

“Dinner it is,” Oliver said. “I’ll make the reservation for 7:00.”

 

“I’ll meet you there,” Felicity said.

 

They spent a few more minutes on the phone and then Felicity asked to speak to the twins before they disconnected the call. 

 

Falling back onto her pillows, Felicity closed her eyes and tried to still her mind. Logically, she knew the situation couldn’t be helped and that it wasn’t Oliver’s fault. Hadn’t she just told him as much?

 

And yet still, it was affecting her more than she thought it would. Maybe it was the fear that it would always be like this that was doing her head in. Knowing she needed to do damage control with her parents, she picked up her phone and dialed.

 

Her mother answered before the first ring had even sounded.

 

“Are you alright?” her mother asked.

 

“I’m fine, Mom,” Felicity said.

 

“There are reporters on the front lawn,” Mara said.

 

“I’m sorry,” Felicity said. “I really am. It’s not…it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

 

“Your boyfriend comes from a prominent family,” Mara said. “One that’s always making headlines for one reason or another. I can’t imagine a time when it won’t be like this.”

 

Hearing her own fears voiced by her mother only made them worse.

 

“We can send someone from Oliver’s security team to keep the reporters in line,” Felicity said. “And obviously none of that crap is true. Oliver and I are fine.”

 

“I know you think I don’t like him or that I don’t approve of the two of you,” Mara said.

 

“Am I wrong?” Felicity countered.

 

“In some ways, yes,” Mara said. “Oliver has shown himself to be a good man and your father likes him. I’ve always trusted your father’s judgment.”

 

“But not mine,” Felicity pointed out.

 

“You’re biased here,” Mara said. “The point is, I don’t dislike him. I’m also not blind. I see that he makes you happy.”

 

“Then what’s the problem?’ Felicity wanted to know. “Cause clearly there is one.”

 

“It takes more than love and more than ‘happy’ to make a relationship last,” Mara said. “And when children are involved you can’t take risks lightly. This is the most important relationship you’ve had and you are looking at making a life long commitment to Oliver and his sons. I just want to make sure that you weigh the enormity of that. I want to you to acknowledge that it won’t always be sunshine and rainbows and I want to know that you’re as prepared to deal with those moments as you are to deal with the giddy ones. If you can honestly say that you’ve thought about all the implications and scenarios and that this is still what you want, then that’s all I need to know. I’ll be as happy for you as you are for yourself.”

 

Felicity let out a deep breath but she didn’t say a word.

Chapter Text

“Are you okay?” Oliver asked, following Felicity into her bedroom.

 

They’d had dinner at Ivy as planned and true to form the paps had been out in full force, making accusations, demanding explanations. Felicity had smiled through it all and on the surface Oliver knew that they looked every bit the couple in love, which they were. He had no doubts about that. But that didn’t mean that there wasn’t something wrong.

 

“You’ve been quiet,” Oliver added.

 

Felicity turned around to face him and her expression was a little drawn.

 

“It’s a little heavier than I expected it to be,” she said. “Everything with the tabloids and the paparazzi. I knew it could happen and I’m sure this isn’t the last time but I don’t want to live a life that’s constantly about damage control. I don’t want us to live that life.”

 

“Neither do I,” Oliver said, taking a step towards her but shoving his hand into his pockets to keep from reaching for her.

 

This wasn’t something that could be hugged or soothed away. They needed to deal with it.

 

“Is there something I can do to make it easier for you?” he asked.

 

“No,” Felicity sighed. “I think I need some time to wrap my head around it.”

 

“That’s fair,” Oliver said. “Do you want me to go?”

 

“I never want you to go,” Felicity said.

 

Her mouth lifted into a genuine smile – probably the first one he’d seen on her face all night – and she held her hand out to him. Oliver took it and pulled her into his arms. She wrapped hers around him and rested her cheek against his chest. Absently, he combed his fingers through her hair.

 

“You know if I could make it go away, the whole media circus, then I would,” Oliver said. “But whatever influence or leverage my family has as far as the press, we’ve used every bit of it protecting the boys, keeping them out of the public eye.”

 

He sighed.

 

“That means we have to take the hits,” Oliver said.

 

“I know,” Felicity said.

 

They stood in silence for a few minutes until Felicity pulled back.

 

“What else is on your mind?” she asked him.

 

“What do you mean?” Oliver questioned.

 

Felicity simply gave him a look.

 

“There’s something I want to talk to you about but it can wait,” Oliver said. “It’s been a long enough day, I think.”

 

“Maybe so,” Felicity said. “But I’d rather have everything out in the open, on the table.”

 

Instead of moving toward the bed, she led the way into the kitchen.

 

“Cocoa and cookies,” she explained. “But in the meantime, you talk.”

 

Oliver suspected her favorite nightcap would be abandoned before they were half through the conversation but he didn’t argue with her.

 

“I got a message from Anatoly Knyazev,” Oliver said. “Indirectly.”

 

Felicity turned away from the stove where she had milk warming so she could look at him.

 

“What did he want?” Felicity asked.

 

“He didn’t want anything,” Oliver said. “Just to pass information along.”

 

Oliver tapped his fingers against the table.

 

“The FBI were tipped off about the meeting I had with Knyazev by someone inside his organization,” he explained. “The message was to tell me that and to tell me it had been dealt with.”

 

“They killed whoever it was,” Felicity stated.

 

“I didn’t ask,” Oliver said. “But I imagine so, yes.”

 

“Anything else?” Felicity wanted to know.

 

Oliver met her gaze steadily.

 

“He said that a few months ago, Bertinelli gave an order, to have all the FBI agents who knew about Helena and me and the boys, killed,” he said. “They’re all dead.”

 

Felicity blinked.

 

“How many people is that?” she asked.

 

“I had direct contact with four,” Oliver said. “I don’t know if there were more internally but Bertinelli would have. He had eyes in the Bureau.”

 

“Unbelievable,” Felicity said. “I suppose that was his way of tying up loose ends, all part of his master plan to kidnap the boys.”

 

“That’s the conclusion I came to,” Oliver agreed.

 

Felicity finished making the hot chocolate and although she placed a mug in front of him, Oliver made no move to pick it up.

 

“Are you okay?” Felicity asked him, echoing his earlier words.

 

“I should feel horrible,” Oliver said. “I do feel horrible. Those agents were people, they had families and friends and lives.”

 

He blew out a breath.

 

“The truth is that I’m relieved,” he admitted. “I’m relieved because it means that outside of those files that you sank, there is no record or trace of Oliver Queen and Helena Bertinelli even meeting, far less having children together. I’m relieved because my sons are safe and the risk of their father getting dragged off to jail for conspiracy to commit murder is astronomically less now than it would have been were those agents still alive.”

 

“Under the circumstances,” Felicity said. “I think conflicted feelings are normal.”

 

“I don’t think I’m as conflicted as I should be,” Oliver said, turning to look at her. “As you are.”

 

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say,” Felicity said after a moment. “The death of those agents was a tragedy caused by a monster. That’s a fact. That the implications of that tragedy work out for us doesn’t make it okay but it also doesn’t make it something you should beat yourself up over. Bertinelli decided to kill those agents. That’s on him.”

 

“And if I said I wanted to stop feeding information to Detective Lance, that would be on me,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity stared at him.

 

“You want to stop?’ she repeated. “Why?”

 

“A couple of different reasons,” Oliver said. “The main one is that I want this to be over. It’s been years of having to, subconsciously if nothing else, look over my shoulder in constant fear of who or what might be coming around the corner to take my kids away from me. And then yesterday, in the blink of an eye, all of that weight was just gone.”

 

He shook his head.

 

“I don’t want to look that gift horse in the mouth,” he said. “I want to close the door on this chapter and leave organized crime in all its incarnations out of it.”

 

Felicity bit back a sigh. She understood where he was coming from and it wasn’t as if she hadn’t thought about what it had been like for him. She’d thought about it a lot, when they were first getting to know each other. And if she was honest, she couldn’t imagine putting herself in his shoes, living with that intense level of uncertainty when it came to the safety of your children.

 

“It makes sense that you’d feel that way,” Felicity finally said. “I get it.”

 

“But you don’t agree,” Oliver guessed.

 

Felicity shrugged.

 

“It’s meant to be all about balance,” she said. “That was what we said, the two of us and Dig. I’m not sure this changes that. What does Diggle think?”

 

“I haven’t talked about it with him yet,” Oliver said. “I thought you and I should talk first.”

 

Felicity nodded her understanding and chose her next words carefully.

 

“I meant what I said,” Felicity said. “I do understand where you’re coming from but I’d be lying if I said I was completely comfortable with it. The Bratva may have helped you, and I’m as grateful as you are that you and Sebastian and Luca aren’t in danger anymore, but that doesn’t change who they are. Giving them a completely free pass seems wrong somehow.”

 

“Not giving it what seems wrong somehow to me,” Oliver said. “I know it’s fucked up but the fact is that Anatoly went out of his way for me. He didn’t need to send that message. He didn’t need to put my mind at ease. He could easily have left me hanging for the rest of all of our lives but he didn’t. I don’t know if it’s because of Raisa or something else but actively working against him doesn’t seem like the way to repay that.”

 

Felicity processed that, taking a sip of her now lukewarm cocoa while she gathered her thoughts.

 

“I don’t think we should make a decision tonight,” she finally said. “We should give ourselves time to think.

 

She looked up at him.

 

“Just promise me that we’re going to make this decision together,” she said. “That’s really important for me.”

 

“It’s important to me too,” Oliver assured her.

 

He kissed her temple.

 

“Still want me to stay?” he asked.

 

“Yeah,” Felicity said.

 

They took a few minutes to clean up the kitchen before getting ready for bed and settling down to sleep. Oliver lay on his back with one arm draped over Felicity’s shoulders, his fingers tangled, as usual, in her hair and rubbing circles against her scalp.

 

For once though, it didn’t have the desired effect.

 

Felicity was wide awake and even though they were both silent, she was fairly certain Oliver was too.  After what felt like hours, Felicity gave up. Her mind was moving in too many different directions and sleep was likely to be impossible.

 

She started to slip out of bed but Oliver’s voice stopped her.

 

“Don’t go,” he said softly.

 

“Can’t sleep,” Felicity said. “Thought I’d watch some TV or something.”

 

She heard him turn onto his side but in the dark she couldn’t really make out his face. Oddly, that seemed to heighten the sensation of being surrounded by him when he shifted closer.

 

“We don’t have to sleep,” he said. “Or talk.”

 

Despite the fact that they’d taken advantage of every opportunity they’d had alone since the wedding to fool around in one way or another, sex in this moment, honestly hadn’t occurred to her. Now that he’d put it out there though, Felicity found that the idea appealed.

 

A lot.

 

Not just because she knew how good it would be but also because she knew it would give her mind the break it needed. She pulled the thin camisole she’d chosen for sleep off over her head and tossed it on the floor.

 

“No talking,” she agreed.

 

She found his mouth with her own in the dark and started to crawl on top of him but Oliver didn’t move with her and instead she found herself flat on her back with both her hands pinned above her head.

 

“You good with this?” Oliver rasped.

 

It wouldn’t be the first time they’d added the edge of restraint into intercourse but they were still learning each other’s likes and preferences and Oliver was always careful to make sure that nothing he did made her uncomfortable.

 

“I’m good,” Felicity said, pushing her face up so she could bite his top lip at the same time as she locked her legs around his waist and arched upwards.

 

Oliver settled more of his weight on top of her to pin her down and after another frantic kiss that was all greedy, grasping tongue, he started raking a trail down her neck, past her collar bone until his mouth covered her nipple and proceeded to torment it, his stubble scraping against her skin and adding another layer of sensation.

 

She squirmed as he alternated between  one breast and the other, his fascination with the creamy curves seemingly endless. As good as it felt, Felicity wasn’t in the mood for extended foreplay and she told him as much.

 

“Hurry up,” she said. “I want…”

 

“What do you want?” Oliver prompted, flaying her nipple with his tongue just the same.

 

“You,” Felicity gritted out. “Hard and deep inside me. And now.”

 

Pushing her hands higher over her head, he held them both in one hand and reached his other one down to drag her panties off. Felicity shimmied to speed the process along and eventually kicked the fabric off altogether. Oliver’s briefs were discarded in much the same way and Felicity opened her legs wider, eager for the feel of him slamming into her.

 

Oliver twisted towards the bedside table to fumble for a condom but Felicity stopped him. They’d been good about keeping their promise to use additional protection but right now Felicity wanted all of him and just him.

 

Oliver obliged her. He was buried to the hilt before she could think, let alone utter, another word and it was exquisite. She was vaguely aware of him muttering curses against her neck but her mind was cloudy and drugged with the ecstasy of having him move inside her.

 

He let go of her arms and immediately, Felicity hooked them under his and dug her nails into his back. She lifted her head to bite his shoulder and he hissed her name in that way that she loved and plunged into her again and again, faster and harder each time.

 

And then he pulled all the way out and Felicity moaned her protest.

 

“I want you on your knees,” he said roughly. “On all fours.”

 

Felicity shivered at the intensity in his voice and scrambled to comply. As soon as she was settled, Oliver pushed his way back into her and Felicity cried out in pure pleasure. She twisted the sheets in her hands and let her head fall forward.

 

Her mind was empty of everything except the thrust and drag of their bodies and the sounds of gratification that came with it. She wasn’t expecting the light smack to her right ass cheek so the shock of it made it that much more painfully delicious.

 

“Again,” she gasped. “Harder.”

 

Grunting behind her, Oliver gave her exactly what she asked for and the next time his hand struck her naked flesh it was with a  bit  more force.

 

“Fuck yes,” Felicity panted.

 

Oliver alternated between delivering carefully spaced slaps to her bottom and gripping her hips so hard she could feel the bruises forming while he stroked in and out of her.

 

She could feel her orgasm building and she chased it, frantically pushing back at Oliver, but it wasn’t until he reached forward and pulled her arms out from under her, pulling them back behind her and forcing her to arch toward him, that she shattered.

 

It was, she registered distantly, one of the most intense orgasms that she’d ever had and if the raw groan that tore its way free from Oliver’s throat was any indication, it was as intense for him. She felt him still as his climax ripped through him and the heat of him coming inside her prolonged her own pleasure.

 

At some point – she was so boneless and sated she wasn’t even sure when – Oliver let go of one of her arms, and wrapped his around her and across her torso, pulling her back against his chest. She let her head fall against his shoulder and they stayed like that, on their knees, leaning against each other the time it took them to catch their breaths.

 

Oliver ghosted his lips over hers and nuzzled her neck.

 

Felicity sighed contentedly.

 

“Beats the hell out of any bedtime story I’ve ever been told,” she mumbled.

 

Oliver smiled against her skin and eventually, they collapsed onto the bed, tangled in each other. Sleep was much easier to come by that time around and Felicity woke several hours later, it was just after six. Her alarm wasn’t set to go off for another 40 minutes.

 

The stickiness between her legs along with the soreness was tangible proof of how thoroughly her world had been rocked last night. Unfortunately, that thought led her straight back to the other  - far less pleasurable ways – her world had been shaken in the last 24 hours.

 

Between the media frenzy and Oliver’s second thoughts on their strategy of dealing with the Russian mob and the authorities, she had a lot that she needed to get right with. What made her nervous was the certainty she felt that in order to do that – to wrap her mind around it all – she was going to need some time.

 

And space.

 

Letting out a long, slow breath, Felicity tried not to let her feelings cloud her judgment too much. Carefully slipping out of the bed, she made her way into the bathroom and took a shower. She brushed her hair into her usual ponytail and then yanked on the peach silk robe that she’d kept after her first night at Queen manor.

 

Checking that Oliver was still asleep, Felicity headed for the kitchen next to make coffee. She was sitting on the couch with her legs tucked under her and a mug of liquid caffeine cradled in her hands when Oliver padded barefoot into the living room in nothing but his underwear.

 

“Morning,” he rumbled.

 

“Good morning,” Felicity said. “There’s coffee in the pot.”

 

Oliver shook his head and sat down next to her.

 

“What’s on your mind, Ace?” he asked quietly.

 

Felicity glanced at him and realized he was far more awake and alert than she’d first given him credit for. She bit her lip and blinked furiously against the tears that seemed to spring up out of nowhere.

 

She saw Oliver swallow hard, doubt swirling in the depths of his blue eyes and she rushed to reassure him.

 

“I’m okay,” she said. “We’re okay.”

 

“This isn’t what okay feels like,” Oliver said.

 

“I think I need the time we talked about last night,” Felicity said. “To process everything. But Oliver, this doesn’t mean I have doubts about us because I don’t. I love you. I want everything. With you.”

 

Oliver nodded slowly.

 

“But you need some time,” he said.

 

“And space,” Felicity added. “For a few days. It honestly…it shouldn’t feel like this big of a deal but we haven’t really spent time apart from each other since…any of it so…”

 

Oliver reached out to wipe a tear from her cheek.

 

“I can understand if this is what you need,” he said.

 

“Really?” Felicity worried.

 

“Listen to me,” Oliver said, tipping her face up toward his. “I told you that I love you no matter what. I meant it.”

 

He took a shaky breath.

 

“There is one thing,” he said. “You need a little space from me, from us, I can deal with that. But the boys, they’re not…you should still see them and talk to them. I’ll make myself scarce but they need the time with you. So can we – can you – do that?”

 

“Yes,” Felicity said. “I need the time with them too.”

 

She twisted the mug around in her hand.

 

“They start school next week,” she said, looking over at him. “Maybe I can pick them up in the afternoons?”

 

“That’d be good,” Oliver said. “Actually, they still need a few things before Monday. I was going to take them shopping this weekend but maybe you should; just the three of you.”

 

“Saturday?” Felicity said.

 

“Sure,” Oliver said. “Give Raisa a call. She’ll make sure they’re ready.”

 

“Okay,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver pushed himself off the couch and went back into the bedroom. He came back out fully dressed minutes later. Their eyes locked as he crossed the space between them and crouched down in front of her. He scanned her face and then lifted both of her hands to his mouth, closing his eyes as he pressed kisses to her knuckles.

 

Felicity felt more tears slipping down her cheeks but she didn’t fight them.

 

Oliver got to his feet.

 

“Whenever you’re ready,” he said, before dropping a kiss onto her forehead and leaving. “I’ll be here.”

 

 

 

“You look like someone kicked your puppy,” Diggle said, leaning in the doorway of Oliver’s study.

 

Oliver looked up from the paper work  he’d been ineffectually looking over for the last half an hour. Shado had couriered over some landscaping plans that she wanted him to review before they had their next site visit with the contractor at the playground.

 

He’d been staring at them but didn’t think he’d actually registered any of it. He was still trying to come to terms with where he and Felicity had left things this morning. He’d tried to be understanding and supportive; the last thing he wanted for her to feel guilty about telling him what she needed but that didn’t mean that it had been easy or that walking away from her hadn’t hurt.

 

It had. It did. The fact that it was temporary and that in a year or two or ten, it would be barely a blip didn’t make a difference to ache in his chest that seemed to have set up for the long haul.

 

He sighed and gestured for Diggle to sit down. He filled his friend in on message from the Russians and his subsequent conversations with Felicity.

 

When he was finished, Diggle let out a low whistle.

 

“That’s rough, man,” Diggle said.

 

“Isn’t this the part where you give me some tidbit of obscure wisdom that makes everything clear?” Oliver asked.

 

Diggle smiled but he shook his head.

 

“I see where both of you are coming from,” he said. “There’s no easy middle ground.”

 

“That helps so much,” Oliver deadpanned.

 

“Look,” Diggle said. “We both know that based on the morality of it, she’s right. Giving Lance the intel, letting the system do its thing, is probably what you should do. But, as hard as she tries, I don’t think Felicity or anyone can ever really know what those years were like for you.”

 

Oliver looked away but he was still listening.

 

“I only saw pieces it and that was enough,” Diggle said. “I’m pretty sure if I had been in your shoes and it was my kids lives’ on the line, I might have made all the same questionable choices you have and plenty others that you haven’t.”

 

“So what now?” Oliver asked.

 

“Nothing,” Diggle said. “You wait.”

 

“Not really my favorite thing to do,” Oliver said.

 

“Can’t say I’m surprised,” Diggle replied.

 

Oliver acknowledged that with a small grin and they shifted the topic of conversation to the security detail that would continue to monitor the boys during school hours. Just because Bertinelli was no longer a threat didn’t mean that the children of Oliver Queen couldn’t be targeted. Oliver wasn’t about to risk it.

 

Once he and Diggle had finished with business, Oliver abandoned all pretense of trying to get any work done and decided to take the twins camping, albeit only in the woods on the back edge of the Queen property.

 

By the time they gathered equipment and food, made the short trek out, and got set up and settled in, Oliver had successfully managed to push thoughts of Felicity to the back of his mind and focus on his children.

 

“Dad, Grandpa Walter isn’t your dad, right?” Sebastian asked.

 

“Right,” Oliver agreed.

 

“So then what was your dad like?” Sebastian asked. “How come you don’t talk about him? Did he go away like your friend Tommy?”

 

“He went away,” Oliver said slowly, brushing dirt off his hands as he sat down on a sturdy log. “But not like Tommy. More like your mom.”

 

“He went away forever,” Luca surmised.

 

“Yeah, he did,” Oliver said.

 

“Was he nice?” Sebastian prodded.

 

“My dad was…he was complicated,” Oliver began.

 

“That’s what adults say when they don’t want to tell the truth but they don’t want to lie,” Luca said.

 

Oliver couldn’t help laughing.

 

“You are exactly right,” he told Luca. “The truth is when I was your age, I thought my dad was the best. He took me camping and he taught me and Tommy how to fly fish.”

 

“What’s fly fishing?” Luca wanted to know. “Can we do it?”

 

“I’ll teach you when you’re a bit older,” Oliver said. “It’s a special way of catching fish.”

 

“What’s the biggest fish you ever caught?” Sebastian asked.

 

Relieved that he seemed to have dodged the bullet of having to explain Robert Queen and his crimes for a while yet, Oliver launched into tales of the fishing trips he’d gone on with his dad and grandfather, and of the one disastrous time they’d been talked into taking Thea along and she’d cried the whole time.

 

“I bet Felicity wouldn’t cry,” Luca said. “She’s tough for a girl.”

 

Oliver snorted.

 

“When you grow up, you’re going to realize that most girls are a lot tougher than guys,” he said.

 

Luca looked skeptical but he didn’t argue.

 

“I’m hungry,” he said instead.

 

“If you want to eat, you have to cook,” Oliver informed him.

 

He got the fire going and then set the boys up with hot dogs and skewers. He kept a careful eye on them but knew they reveled in the extra independence of being allowed to fend for themselves. After hot dogs, they had s’mores and predictably both boys were a mess once they’d finished eating.

 

It look several wet wipes to get them clean again and then, even though they were starting to get tired, they insisted on seeing who could tell the scariest story. Oliver was listening and making the occasional comment when the sound of approaching footsteps caught his ear.

 

Tensing, he started to reach for the 9mm in his duffel bag.

 

“It’s just me,” came a voice from a few feet away.

 

If Oliver hadn’t known better he would have sworn that it was Tommy but that was impossible or should have been because no one had heard from him in years and when people went away that long they didn’t just reappear.

 

Except they did.

 

Hadn’t he?

 

The time it took those thoughts to chase around his head, a man had stepped into the light of the fire and Oliver would have recognized him anywhere.

 

“Tommy,” he breathed.

 

“You’re daddy’s friend who doesn’t have Skype,” Sebastian supplied.

 

Tommy laughed.

 

“I guess that makes you the smart twin,” he said.

 

“It does not,” Luca protested.

 

Tommy turned his attention back to Oliver who had barely blinked, never mind moved.

 

“Aren’t you going to give your oldest, dearest friend a welcome home hug?” he asked.

 

The tone was light and teasing but Oliver could hear the uncertainty under it, the toll of the all the years they’d spent apart and the bloody legacy left to them by their fathers.

 

He got to his feet and pulled Tommy into a tight bear hug.

 

“God, I missed you,” Oliver said.

 

“I missed me too, some days,” Tommy admitted.

 

The shared a look and then Tommy glanced at the twins, who had their eyes glued to him.

 

“No, really, Ollie,” Tommy deadpanned. “They don’t look a thing like you.”

 

“Yes, we do,” Luca said. “Grandma showed us pictures.”

 

“It was a joke,” Oliver explained. “A bad one. Your uncle Tommy tells awful jokes.”

 

“I do not,” Tommy said. “I tell awesome jokes. They aren’t always appropriate is all.”

 

He grinned.

 

“It sounded like you guys were telling scary stories before I got here,” Tommy said. “I got some good ones.”

 

“Better than your jokes?” Sebastian questioned.

 

“A lot better,” Tommy promised.

 

“Okay,” Sebastian agreed. “You can stay.”

 

Oliver watched, still stunned, as Tommy settled in with the twins as if was perfectly natural, as if he’d known them their whole lives. The fact that they let him was proof of how much they’d grown and opened up since the move back to Starling.

 

Being around family had chipped away all the wariness they’d built up when Oliver was the only adult they could trust completely.

 

“Dad, come on,” Luca said. “You’re missing the story.”

 

“I’m listening, buddy,”  Oliver said, moving so that he was sitting on Sebastian’s other side, both twins settled between him and Tommy.

 

“You should start from the beginning,” Luca told Tommy.

 

“Starting over for the sake of Oliver Queen,” Tommy mused. “Not the first time that’s happened.”

 

“Or the last,” Oliver offered.

 

Tommy met his gaze steadily.

 

“No,” he agreed. “Definitely not the last.”

Chapter Text

“Felicity, turn on the news,” Amanda said in a rush, her face slightly flushed.

 

“Did you run?” Felicity asked frowning.

 

“Just do it, would you?” Amanda huffed exasperated.

 

Felicity gave her friend an odd look but with a couple of key strokes, she had Starling City’s main news channel streaming to her desktop.

 

Mariah Harper of all people was on the air. Distractedly, Felicity wondered what was going to come of that interview that had been interrupted. So far, Harper hadn’t aired any of the footage but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to.

 

Turning up the volume, Felicity listened and found herself gaping at the screen in shock.

 

“For those of you just joining us, we’re recapping the hour’s top story,” said Harper’s co anchor, a man named Jeffrey Gomes. “Tommy Merlyn, son of disgraced billionaire Malcolm Merlyn, has reportedly returned to Starling City. Merlyn junior left the city weeks after his father was sentenced to multiple life sentences in prison and hasn’t been seen since. Mariah?”

 

“That’s right, Jeff,” Harper agreed. “Much like his childhood friend, Oliver Queen, who returned to Starling not long ago, Merlyn has been completely off the grid and his return raises a number of questions, namely related to Merlyn Global, a company in which, despite his father’s crimes, he remains the majority stakeholder. No comment yet from the acting CEO of Merlyn Global, Amanda Waller.”

 

“You recently spoke to Oliver Queen,” Gomes said. “Did that conversation give you any insight into where he went when he left town and whether or not he’s been in touch with Merlyn all these years?”

 

“In all honesty, my conversation with Oliver Queen raised many more questions than it answered,” Harper said. “Both of these guys are young, they were raised in the lap of luxury, well known for partying hard, getting crazy with girls and alcohol. And then you have the life changing event in the Glades, which both of their father’s conspired to make happen and the both of them just disappear. There are a lot of gaps to fill there.”

 

“And when they come back, in the case of Queen at least, it seems as if he’s an entirely different person,” Gomes commented. “We’ve seen him get involved in charity work, he’s dating a respectable young woman, and although the Queen family has taken great pains to keep a lid on it, we know that he has two young sons. Based on your interaction with him, do you think it’s for real or is it all an elaborate front?”

 

“I’ve been in the business a long time, Jeff. You have too,” Harper replied. “We know when we’re onto a story and I can assure you that there is one behind the Oliver Queen that we see today. That said, I’m not sure that even the most determined journalist could get to the bottom of it if the Queen family didn’t want them to. To answer your question, and just going off my gut instinct, I actually do think it’s for real with Queen. I think the man who returned to Starling is very different from the boy who left. Time will tell if the same holds true for Tommy Merlyn.”

 

The newscast cut to a commercial and Felicity realized that she’d been holding her breath the entire time.

 

“Holy shit,” she muttered.

 

“Right?” Amanda said.

 

Felicity blinked.

 


She’d forgotten that the other woman was even in the room.

 

“No seriously,” Felicity said. “Holy shit. I should call Oliver. Can you give me a minute?”

 

“Sure,” Amanda said. “I’ll make sure your calls are held.”

 

Felicity nodded her thanks and waited until Amanda had left but then made no move to pick up her phone. Tommy coming back was major. It was a huge deal and despite the other things going on, she and Oliver should be able to reach out to each other over it.

 

“Maybe he doesn’t know yet,” Felicity reasoned with herself. “Or how about this, Smoak. Maybe seeing the best friend he thought he’d lost forever took his mind off you for five minutes.  Get a grip.”

 

Shaking her head to clear the cobwebs and hopefully restore some of her common sense, Felicity picked up her phone and dialed.

 

Oliver answered on the second ring.

 

“Hey,” he said.

 

“Hi,” Felicity said.

 

“Is everything okay?” Oliver asked.

 

“The news,” Felicity said. “They’re saying…they’re saying…”

 

“It’s about Tommy, isn’t it?” Oliver said. “They know he’s back.”

 

“It’s true, then?” Felicity said.

 

“Yeah, he turned up last night,” Oliver said. “The boys and I were camping in the woods at the property line. One minute the twins are telling scary stories and the next Tommy’s standing there as if he’d never been gone. It’s kind of a head trip.”

 

“I bet it is,” Felicity said.

 

“We just got back to the house, and I just got out of the shower,” Oliver said. “I was going to text you later.”

 

He paused.

 

“I didn’t want to intrude,” he said

 

“You wouldn’t be intruding,” Felicity said. “This is a big deal. How are you doing with it?”

 

“I’m good,” Oliver said. “Great actually. I have questions, obviously, but I’m sure he has questions for me too. We’ll get to them. In the meantime, it’s just good to see him, to have him back. And the twins.”

 

Oliver laughed.

 

“He’s going to be a terrible influence,” he said. “But they love him already and it feels like it should, like how I imagined it would. I’m not sure that makes sense.”

 

“It does,” Felicity said. “I’m really glad that he decided to come home and that you have your best friend back.”

 

“Thank you,” Oliver said.

 

There was a beat of awkward silence.

 

“Do you still want me to take the twins shopping tomorrow?” Felicity asked. “Things could be crazy with the press and Tommy being back.”

 

“They’re looking forward to it,” Oliver said. “We’ll have a couple of security guys go with you, keep an eye on things. And speaking of the shopping trip…”

 

He hesitated.

 

“We haven’t had an in depth conversation about money yet,” Oliver said. “Namely you being allowed to spend mine but for the purposes of this trip at least, I’d like to make you an authorized user on one of my credit cards.”

 

“You do know I make six figures at QC, right?” Felicity said wryly. “Some clothes and school supplies aren’t going to bankrupt me.”

 

“That’s you saying no, isn’t it?” Oliver said.

 

“That’s me saying that we should definitely have a conversation about money,” Felicity said. “Namely about how I won’t be spending yours unless its related to the twins or there is some other kind of emergency.”

 

“Stupid Diggle,” Oliver said. “I knew I should have gone with my original plan.”

 

“Let me guess,” Felicity said. “Hand over the credit card, let me know it was a fait accompli and wait for my mad face to appear?”

 

“Don’t forget the puppy eyes to counter act the mad face,” Oliver said. “Which brings me to another point. You should know that the twins inherited my charm and they make insanely adorable faces when they want something they know full well they can’t or shouldn’t have.”

 

“I think I can handle it,” Felicity said.

 

And to make sure they were all the same page, she laid out the ground rules as soon as she picked them up from the manor the next morning.

 

“Okay you two, I want today to be fun,” Felicity said. “But there are rules.”

 

“Why?” Luca asked.

 

“So that no one gets in trouble,” Felicity said.

 

“Who would you get in trouble with?” Sebastian wanted to know.

 

“If something happened to you two while you were with me?” Felicity said. “With lots of people starting with your father. I don’t particularly like his angry face, do you?”

 

The twins shook their heads and Luca added a shudder in for dramatic effect. Felicity’s lips twitched but she forced herself to keep a straight face.

 

“Wanna know a secret?” Felicity asked.

 

“We always want to know secrets,” Sebastian told her.

 

“My angry face is scarier than your dad’s angry face,” Felicity said.

 

The twins’ eyes rounded in horror.

 

“What are the rules?” Luca immediately demanded.

 

“You stay where I can see you at all times,” Felicity said. “Stay close to me in a crowd, if we’re crossing the street or on any type of moving machinery like an elevator or an escalator.”

 

“Okay,” Sebastian said.

 

“And if you see anyone acting weird or something makes you feel weird, then tell me right away,” Felicity said. “I think those are the important ones. Ready to go have a good time?”

 

She held her hands out to both twins and after waving bye to Raisa, they both held on to her as they made their way to the SUV that was waiting along with Holt and Kevin, the two security agents coming with them.

 

Felicity would have preferred to drive in her own car but she understood the security precautions. Besides, it meant more time for her to focus on the twins and that was never a bad thing. Especially since she was trying to manage how much she missed Oliver on top of everything else.

 

True to his word, he’d made himself scarce. If he was home, she’d seen no sign of him and other than yesterday’s phone call, they hadn’t been in touch since the morning he left her apartment. It was what she’d asked for, what she knew she needed, but that didn’t mean it was what she wanted.

 

“How come Daddy’s not coming with us?” Sebastian asked.

 

“I wanted some alone time with you guys,” Felicity said. “We’ve never gotten to spend a whole day just the three of us.”

 

The twins exchanged a look and Felicity had no idea what she should make of it but they both grinned at her so she supposed it wasn’t a bad thing. The drive downtown was made without incident. The boys regaled her with their first impressions of Tommy and the insane number of road trip games they knew how to play.

 

Once they got to the mall, Kevin stayed with the car and Holt followed Felicity and the twins from a discreet distance. He’d assured her that unless there was a potential threat, she wouldn’t even know he was there.

 

Felicity didn’t think that was possible but she was willing to go with it.

 

“Where do you guys want to start?” Felicity asked Sebastian and Luca. “Clothes or supplies?”

 

“Supplies,” Luca said. “I want stuff with dinosaurs on it.”

 

“I want rockets,” Sebastian said.

 

“Let’s see what we can find,” Felicity said.

 

The next thing she knew she was surrounded by more different sized, shaped, and themed backpacks than she would have suspected even existed. It took thirty minutes for the twins to each pick one and they spent another two hours collecting all of the other supplies on the list that Raisa had handed over.

 

“School was not this complicated in my day,” Felicity muttered, checking colored pencils off the list and looking up again to find the twins engaged in a rousing swordfight with extremely oversized rulers as their weapon of choice.

 

Felicity grabbed another ruler off the shelf and used it to interrupt.

 

“Hate to break this up, d’Artagnan 2 and 3.0,” Felicity said. “ But we’ve still got some other things to take care of. So lay down your swords and let’s go.”

 

“What’s a d’Art-tag-nan?” Sebastian wanted to know.

 

“Who, not what,” Felicity said. “He’s a character in the Three Musketeers.”

 

“I thought Three Musketeers was a candy bar,” Luca said.

 

Felicity laughed.

 

“It was a book before it was chocolate,” she explained. “It’s actually a really old book about a young man who leaves his family to join a special group of soldiers whose job is to protect the King of France.”

 

“Does he get into a lot of fights?” Luca asked.

 

“A few,” Felicity said mildly. “Why don’t we go to the book store later and see if we can find a copy. It can be one of your next bedtime books.”

 

“Yeah,” Sebastian said.

 

Felicity glanced at her watch.

 

“You guys hungry?” she asked.

 

Both boys nodded, so after paying for all their purchases and dropping everything off at the car, they walked a few blocks to a café for Panini and Nutella crepes. They were walking back toward the main shopping complex when Luca spotted a huge water gun display in a toy store window.

 

His eyes lit up as he pointed to it.

 

“Can we go buy that?” he asked.

 

“Not today no,” Felicity said.

 

“But why not?” Luca pouted.

 

Knowing that a lot would ride on how she handled this, Felicity crouched as she’d seen Oliver do a number of times, so that she was eye level with Luca.

 

“I’ll make you a deal,” Felicity said. “Whenever you ask me for something, I promise that I will really think about it before I give you an answer and that whatever answer I give, I’ll have good reasons for it. But on the flip side, I need you to promise me that when I do make a decision, you’re going to respect it. That means no arguing and no tantrums. Deal?”

 

Luca narrowed his eyes and in her peripheral vision, Felicity could see Sebastian observing them carefully and she knew he was filing the moment away in his mind.

 

“Okay,” Luca said. “But what’s your reason now?”

 

“We still need to go and pick up some clothes for you and your brother,” Felicity said patiently. “And I need to have you home by three so that you don’t miss Tommy’s welcome home BBQ. That means no time for toy shopping.”

 

Luca grinned.

 

“Does that mean if we’re good and we have time after clothes we can come back and get it?” he asked hopefully.

 

Felicity shook her head.

 

“Not today,” she repeated.

 

She arched an eyebrow.

 

“And so you know,” she told him. “I’m not a big believer in doing the right thing because there is something in it for you. I think that whenever possible, you should do the right thing, because it’s the right thing.”

 

Luca frowned so Felicity simplied.

 

“You should be good even when there are no new toys in it for you,” she said.

 

“It’s much easier when there are toys,” Luca told her seriously. “But okay.”

 

Felicity bit back her laugh and straightened up.

 

“Come on monkeys,” she said, taking each of their hands. “Let’s go finish our mission.”

 

Two hours later, even as she handed her debit card over to the cashier, Felicity was making a mental note to strangle Oliver for not mentioning that the twins hated shopping for clothes. They were especially resistant to the concept of trying things on to make sure they fit.

 

It had been a battle of wills and Felicity was convinced that they’d simply taken pity on her in the end. They made one last stop, in the book store to pick up the Three Musketeers, before they followed Holt to the exit where Kevin was going to meet them.

 

The SUV had just pulled up across the street when all hell seemed to break loose. Felicity wasn’t sure where they’d come from but suddenly several reporters were bearing down on them.

 

“Felicity! Have you met Tommy yet?” one of them shouted.

 

“How is Oliver taking it?” asked another.

 

“Are these his sons?” asked yet another.

 

Holt ushered them forward, making sure to keep himself between Felicity and the boys and all the reporters. Felicity could see Kevin hurrying towards them as well but the reporters closed in like blood hounds.

 

Felicity had a tight grip on both boys but when she saw one of the reporters make a grab for Sebastian’s arm, she lost it.

 

“Don’t you dare touch him,” she snapped, swinging her handbag outward. She clipped the journalist hard enough on the side of the head to send him tumbling back into his cameraman and the two of them plus  the camera collapsed into a heap as a result.

 

It was distraction enough to allow Holt to get both twins in the car and Felicity jumped in after them. She ran her eyes and hands over both twins worriedly.

 

“Are you guys okay?” she asked.

 

“You hit that guy,” Sebastian said.

 

Felicity blinked.

 

“I did,” she agreed. “I thought he was going to hurt you so I hit him.”

 

“It was awesome,” Luca exclaimed.

 

“And your angry face is scarier than Dad’s,” Sebastian said.

 

Felicity fell back against the seat and huffed out a breath. The boys were clearly none the worse for the wear.

 

“Ma’am, we apologize,” Kevin said from behind the wheel. “If I’d spotted the press earlier, I would have had Holt take you all to a different exit.”

 

“We’re all okay,” Felicity said. “That’s what matters.”

 

They were half way back to the manor when Felicity’s phone buzzed several times in very quick succession.

 

“Oh god,” she murmured under her breath, after scanning several different text messages that let her know the confrontation with the journalists outside the mall had gone viral.

 

Lola, Amanda and even Francesca who wasn’t supposed to land in Starling until later that night, had all texted her.

 

Her mother didn’t believe in texting so naturally, she called.

 

“Hi Mom,” Felicity squeaked.

 

“Are you okay?” Mara fretted. “Are the twins?”

 

“We’re all fine,” Felicity said.

 

“That’s a relief,” Mara said. “You did the right thing.”

 

“Really?” Felicity said, surprised to hear her mother says as much. “I thought you didn’t believe in violence.”

 

“Lesson number one about being a mother,” Mara said gently. “You believe in whatever keeps your children safe from harm.”

 

Felicity felt something crack open in her chest. It wasn’t a dramatic declaration but Felicity knew it was her mother’s way of recognizing and accepting her relationship with Oliver and his sons.

 

“Thank you for saying that,” Felicity said. “It means a lot to me.”

 

“Yes, well,” Mara said. “With everything that’s happened, we haven’t seen nearly enough of the four of you since the wedding. Francesca and Liam are back tonight, why don’t you all come over for Sunday dinner tomorrow?”

 

“I’ll talk to Oliver to confirm,” Felicity said. “But yeah, that sounds good.”

 

She and her mother stayed on the phone a few minutes and hung up just as the car pulled into the Manor’s driveway.

 

Oliver was waiting in front of the door and the twins raced towards him as soon as they were free of the car, eager to give him a play by play. Felicity followed at a more sedate pace and Oliver looked up at her.

 

“Nice shot Mama Bear,” he said grinning.

 

“Thanks,” Felicity said, returning the smile.

 

“Do you want to stick around for the BBQ?” Oliver asked. “You don’t have to if you don’t want. Tommy is dying to meet you though.”

 

“I’m looking forward to meeting him too,” Felicity said. “Can we talk first?”

 

Oliver nodded and sent the twins scampering to the kitchen to filch treats from Raisa. He led Felicity into his study and waited for her to speak.

 

“When I saw that reporter reach for Sebastian,” Felicity said. “I didn’t even think twice about hitting him. If I’d had a more substantial weapon than my purse, I probably wouldn’t have hesitated to use it. And if that’s how I feel after only knowing them for a handful of months when you think about it, I can only imagine what it’s like for you. You were fighting to protect them before they were even born.”

 

She gave him a searching look.

 

“I told Luca that I think wherever possible, you should do the right thing because it’s right, not because there’s something in it for you,” Felicity said. “That made me realize something about why I’ve been so reluctant to back off the Lance plan.”

 

Oliver’s expression shifted to something slightly more wary now that he understood where she was going but he didn’t say anything.

 

“I think I wasn’t honest with myself or you about how the whole deal with the Russians sat with me,” Felicity said. “And I was using the arrangement with Lance to make myself feel better about it, to justify it.”

 

She crossed the room so that she was standing right in front of Oliver and she reached for his hand.

 

“Today made me realize that it might not be black and white but that deal with the Russians is the reason that Sebastian and Luca are safe from a cold blooded murderer,” Felicity said. “And I’m okay with it in a way that I wasn’t before.”

 

“I hear you,” Oliver said. “But I’m not completely certain what all of this means.”

 

“It means that if you want to stop giving Detective Lance the information from the ledger,” Felicity said. “Then we stop.”

 

“Are you sure?” Oliver asked.

 

“I’m positive,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver squeezed her hand and nodded.

 

“What about the other stuff?” he asked her. “The media craziness. It’s not going away and I know…”

 

“I think I made my peace with it around the time I assaulted a journalist in broad daylight for all the world to see,” Felicity said. “Literally, all the world.”

 

Oliver tried to fight a smile but failed.

 

“Regrets?” he asked.

 

Felicity shook her head.

 

“Not a single one,” she said simply.

 

 

“Oliver, I have to get back to work,” Felicity said, attempting to make her voice stern.

 

“Not stopping you,” Oliver said, pulling her ponytail to one side and planting kisses down the side of her neck.

 

“Actually, that is exactly what you’re doing,” Felicity said, tilting her head to one side to accommodate the slide of his mouth down her skin.

 

They’d just wrapped up a meeting with Shado, Moira and the rest of the Rebuilding Memories/Queen Family Foundation team that was all about a fundraising gala they were going to put together. Once everyone had cleared the room, Oliver had pulled her into the small bathroom adjacent to the conference room.

 

“I miss you,” Oliver said.

 

“We’ve barely been out of each other’s sight all morning,” Felicity said, her hand covering Oliver’s as he slid it up the outside of her thigh. “And last night. We were very much together last night.”

 

She could feel Oliver’s smirk against her shoulder.

 

“Last night was amazing,” he agreed. “You’re always amazing.”

 

Felicity turned around so she was facing him and Oliver immediately wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her flush against him. Ever since they’d settled things between them a few weeks ago, they were happier and more insatiable than they’d been before.

 

“I’m supposed to be having a conference call with the advanced tech team in Brazil,” Felicity murmured.

 

“Tell them you miscalculated the time difference,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity mumbled something that might have been agreement just before Oliver’s mouth pressed against hers. Letting her eyes slide shut, Felicity melted into him and he’d just lifted her on top of the counter when his phone rang and he froze, pulling away.

 

“What’s wrong?” Felicity asked.

 

“The boys’ school,” Oliver said, taking his phone from the inside of his jacket pocket. “I gave it a special ring tone.”

 

He slid his finger across the screen to answer the call and put it on speaker.

 

“This is Oliver Queen,” he said.

 

“Mr. Queen, my name is Nancy Calder,” came the response. “I’m the Assistant Principle at Lorne Academy. I’m afraid there has been an incident with Luca.”

 

“Is he okay?” Oliver demanded.

 

“He’s not hurt or ill,” Nancy said. “He punched another student.”

 

Oliver and Felicity exchanged a surprised look.

 

“Would it be possible for you to come to the school now?” Nancy continued. “I’d like to discuss this with you and of course, Luca will need to be sent home for the rest of the day.”

 

“I’m on my way,” Oliver said. “See you shortly.”

 

He hung up.

 

“That’s not like Luca,” Felicity said. “Do you want me to come with?”

 

Oliver blinked and gave her a distracted smile.

 

“Thank you for the offer,” he said. “But I think I got it. I’ll give you a call as soon as I know more.”

 

“Okay,” Felicity said, pressing a kiss to her favorite spot on his jaw and then leading the way out. They parted ways at the elevator and it took Oliver fifteen minutes to drive to the boys’ school.

 

Luca was sitting on a bench, his arms folded across his chest and a scowl fixed on his face when Oliver arrived.

 

“Hey buddy,” Oliver said, crouching in front of his son. “What happened?”

 

Luca glanced at him briefly and then stared at the floor, clearly refusing to speak. Oliver frowned. Luca’s moods were usually fleeting. He could be upset or angry one minute and it would have blown over the next. Right now though there was a mulish expression on his face that Oliver had seen on his own face more than once but never on either of his sons.

 

He didn’t think it was a good sign.

 

“I’m going to go talk to the assistant principal,” Oliver said. “And then we’re going home and having a talk. Understood?”

 

Luca shrugged and continued to stare at the floor.

 

Tense, Oliver walked further down the hall, explained to the receptionist who he was and moments later found himself sitting opposite a woman in her early 40s with brown hair and a pleasant smile. It struck Oliver as slightly odd given the circumstances.

 

“I wish the circumstances were better,” Nancy said, as if she’d read his mind. “But it’s a pleasure to meet you just the same Mr. Queen.”

 

“Oliver, please,” Oliver said. “What exactly happened?”

 

Nancy’s expression sobered.

 

“Neither Luca nor the boy he hit, Theo Carrington, seem willing to explain themselves,” Nancy said. “So far as we can tell from what the teacher witnessed and what some of the other children witnessed, it seems that Theo made a comment that made Luca angry enough to hit him.”

 

She glanced down at the folder in front of her and then back up at Oliver.

 

“I’ll be honest,” she said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve had an issue with Theo and he will be reprimanded for his role in this. However, as I’m sure you can understand, we can’t condone violence as a method of conflict resolution.”

 

“I do understand,” Oliver said.

 

“Luca will be suspended the rest of the week,” Nancy said. “But provided we don’t have any other incidents this semester, it won’t be reflected on his official transcript.”

 

She placed a brochure in front of him.

 

“We do have some excellent counselors on staff,” she told him. “If you think it would be helpful for Luca to sit with any of them or if you have any concerns you’d like to discuss, they’re always available.”

 

Oliver blinked, surprised and not particularly pleased by the direction the conversation had taken.

 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said tersely, getting to his feet. “Is Sebastian aware of what happened?”

 

“I believe so but he’s back in class,” Nancy said. “We thought it best not to further disrupt the school schedule.”

 

“If it’s all the same, I’d like to see him before I take Luca home,” Oliver said.

 

Nancy nodded and moments later, Oliver was standing in another hallway with Sebastian jumping into his arms.

 

“Is Luca in trouble?” he asked.

 

“A little bit,” Oliver allowed. “Are you okay?”

 

“I’m fine,” Sebastian said. “Don’t be mad at Luca. Theo was being mean.”

 

“You were there?” Oliver asked carefully. “Did you hear what Theo said?”

 

Sebastian bit his lip and Oliver felt something sink in his stomach. Whatever had happened on the playground had kicked his younger son’s protectiveness towards his brother into high gear.

 

“It’s harder for me to help Luca if you don’t tell me what’s going on,” Oliver said quietly.

 

“Luca wouldn’t tell me,” Sebastian said. “He just said it was mean stuff about our family.”

 

“I see,” Oliver said.

 

He ruffled Sebastian’s hair and set him on his feet again.

 

“I’m taking Luca home,” Oliver told him. “Felicity is going to come get you this afternoon like always, okay?”

 

Sebastian nodded and went back to his class. Oliver head in the other direction and collected a still sullen and silent Luca from his spot on the bench. Deciding not to force the issue until they got home, Oliver texted Felicity an update and the drive to the manor was made in silence.

 

Once there though, Oliver was determined to get Luca to open up and so when his son stomped off to his rom and flung himself on top of his bed, Oliver followed.

 

“Here’s the thing, Luca,” Oliver said quietly, sitting on the bed. “I need to know what the problem is before I can fix it.”

 

“You can’t fix it,” Luca mumbled into his pillow.

 

“Try me,” Oliver said.

 

He put a hand on Luca’s back but he wriggled out from under it and stayed silent.

 

‘What did Theo Carrington say to you?” Oliver asked, trying a different tack.

 

That earned him a glare but no responses.

 

“Luca, come on,” Oliver implored.  “There’s nothing you can’t tell me and you know that. Why is this different?”

 

Luca sat up and fixed his father with a stubborn look.

 

“I want Felicity,” he announced.

 

“Felicity’s at work, buddy,” Oliver said.

 

“I don’t care,” Luca said. “I don’t want to talk you. I want to talk to her.”

 

Oliver absorbed that, surprised that the words hurt and not sure why.

 

“I’ll see what I can do,” he told Luca.

 

Slipping out into the hallway, he called Felicity on her cell phone. She picked up immediately.

 

“Is everything okay?” she asked.

 

“I’m not sure,” Oliver said honestly. “Luca wants to talk to you though and apparently no one else will do. I know you had a hectic day scheduled.”

 

“It’s fine,” Felicity said. “I moved some things around in case. Give me twenty minutes and I’ll be over there.”

 

“You don’t have to come all the way out here,” Oliver said.

 

“He punched a kid,” Felicity pointed out. “Whatever’s wrong, I think it merits face time.”

 

True to her word, twenty minutes later Felicity pulled up to the manor. Oliver was pacing the front hallway and he paused when the door opened.

 

“Hey,” Felicity said.

 

She shot him a worried look and pressed a hand to his cheek.

 

“We’ll figure it out,” she said. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

 

Oliver nodded, finding it surprisingly difficult to speak. He reached for her hand and squeezed it and they walked up the main staircase.

 

“He’s in his room,” Oliver said.

 

“I’ll come find you after,” Felicity said.

 

“Thank you,” Oliver said.

 

“I love you,” Felicity said.

 

Oliver managed a small smile and after watching Felicity disappear into the twins’ room, he went into his own suite and the window seat. He pinched the bridge of his nose. He tried to convince himself that he was overreacting. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t been painfully aware all these years that there were things he’d never be able to provide the boys’ on his own; things they were losing out on being raised by a single father.

 

And at the same time, they’d never made him feel it, Oliver realized. There had never been a moment where they wouldn’t lean on him or rely on him to fix whatever was wrong. They’d never asked for the things that he couldn’t give them and so they’d always found a way to be fine, just the three of them.

 

Until today.

 

And despite the fact that he loved Felicity and this was exactly what he’d wanted when they’d talked about her being a mother to the twins, the sting of rejection still burned.

 

He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t even hear her slip into the room, until her arms were wrapping around him.

 

“You okay?” she asked.

 

Oliver pressed the heels of both hands to his eyes, to push back tears he hadn’t even realized were gathering, and turned around to face her.

 

“How’s Luca?” he asked, ignoring her question about his own state of mind.

 

“Asleep now,” Felicity said. “It was…kind of a rough conversation.”

 

“Tell me,” Oliver said.

 

Felicity hesitated, looking more concerned for him.

 

“I’m fine,” Oliver insisted. “Just tell me why he was so upset and why…”

 

He broke off and shook his head. Felicity must have seen something in his expression because she didn’t push him.

 

“Theo made some comments about the Queen family,” Felicity said. “I’m guessing, probably repeating something adults around him at home have said.”

 

“What specifically?” Oliver asked.

 

“About your father’s role in the Glades tragedy,” Felicity said. “Which by the way both Luca and Sebastian know a lot more about than I thought. I think we forget what can happen when you leave eight year olds alone with Google.”

 

Oliver rubbed his hands over his face.

 

“That wasn’t why he threw the punch though,” Felicity continued. “Theo said something about the men in your family being bad and that being the reason that their mother left them.”

 

Oliver looked murderous and Felicity reached out a hand to soothe him.

 

“I know you said Sebastian’s the one who’s always been more curious about Helena,” Felicity said. “I think it was because Luca was angry with her and felt like wanting to know her or about her was a betrayal of some kind.”

 

Oliver’s fists clenched as he struggled to keep his emotions in check.

 

“What did you say?” he asked.

 

“I told him that it hadn’t been her choice to leave them,” Felicity said. “That if she could see what great kids they are, she’d love them as much as you do and as much as I do.”

 

Oliver lost it then. He sat down on the bed and his shoulders shook as he cried. Felicity had her arms wrapped around him in an instant, his head pressed against her stomach and she realized that it was more than the morning’s events being evacuated. It was years worth of emotional burdens.

 

She had no idea how long they stayed like that or when exactly Oliver pulled her into his lap and held on for dear life.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said roughly.

 

“You never have to apologize for leaning on me when you need to,” Felicity told him. “It’s why I’m here.”

 

Oliver gave a jerky nod, and smoothed his finger tips over her cheek.

 

“I love you,” he said.

 

She let her forehead fall against his.

 

“Oliver?” she said.

 

“Yeah?” he said.

 

“There’s something I want to do,” she said. “Not right away necessarily but at some point in the future. I just think you should know so you can decide if it’s something you’d be okay with.”

 

“What are you talking about?” Oliver asked.

 

“I want to adopt Sebastian and Luca,” Felicity said. “I want to be their mom.”

 

The smile he gave her was brighter for the tears that had come before it, Felicity realized.

 

“I’m more than okay with it,” Oliver told her. “And they’ll be thrilled.”

 

Felicity smiled back.

 

“So when the time is right?” she said.

 

“When the time is right,” Oliver agreed.

 

The right time turned out to be exactly two years and four months later.

 

Felicity woke up with Oliver’s arms wrapped around her, the sunlight dappling the master bedroom of the five bedroom town house off Starling Square that they’d moved into six months ago, and with a cushion cut diamond ring sitting on the third finger of her left hand.

 

“Say yes,” Oliver whispered in her ear.

 

Felicity smiled and deliberately delayed looking at him over her shoulder.

 

“What exactly would I be agreeing to?” she teased.

 

“To letting me love you for the rest of our lives,” Oliver said. “To raising Sebastian and Luca with me, to having more kids, to the occasional fights and insane amounts of make up sex, insane amounts of sex in general…”

 

Felicity giggled.

 

“To growing old together,” Oliver said. “Mostly, to making me the happiest and luckiest man in the world.”

 

“I think I can accept those terms,” Felicity said, rolling onto her side so she was facing him.

 

“Yes?” Oliver questioned.

 

“Yes,” Felicity said, pulling his face to her for a kiss that was all sweet passion and promises.

 

“One other thing,” Oliver said when they broke apart.

 

He reached for a black leather folder from the bedside table and placed it in front of her.

 

“We need an actual engagement contract?” Felicity teased.

 

Oliver shook his head, his grin seeming to stretch wider, which she wouldn’t have thought possible.

 

She flipped the folder open, scanned the contents and promptly burst into tears.

 

“Hey,” Oliver said. “This is a good thing.”

 

Felicity looked from him to the adoption papers that were just waiting for her signature and back to him again.

 

“It’s not a good thing,” she said. “It’s the best thing.”