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It’s in the Air

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December 23, 2016

 

That third glass of champagne was a bad idea.  The fourth…

It should have been obvious at that point that no amount of alcohol was going to calm her nerves and the more Felicity drank, the worse her verbal diarrhea got.  Yet, even though her filter had gone into full-on shut-down mode, she kept chugging champagne like water.

So, so stupid.

Felicity thought her social intelligence had improved, but clearly no.  If it had, she would have feigned the stomach flu.  Before she stepped foot in City Hall tonight.

Introducing her new boyfriend to her friends at her ex-fiancé’s holiday party hadn’t been her brightest idea to begin with.  But when Felicity had gotten that goddamn “See your photos from this day last year” alert and realized it was a year to the day since their engagement…

Felicity knew she had avoidance and denial down to a fine art, but not realizing what today was until a few hours before she had to get ready for her date with another man was a whole new level in this emotional head-in-the-sand game she’d been playing. 

Or maybe it was a game of Emotional Chicken. 

God, how Felicity wished she’d called ‘uncle’ then.  Twelve hours ago.  Before the champagne and Susan Williams and Felicity’s pathetic attempt at girlfriending. 

There was no shame in the ‘flu.’   It wasn’t like Felicity hadn’t felt like vomiting.

She still did.

Which was another reason Felicity should put down the champagne.  

Any moment now.

Felicity almost found herself thinking fondly of last year’s holiday party.  A bit of dark magic. A kidnapping.  A tiny incident with a gas chamber.  All in a day’s work. 

Tonight’s humiliation was a horse of a different color.  And not a good color.    

Maybe if she could stay focused on last year’s less than pleasant memories it would be okay.  Strengthen her walls even.

Wow.  Who woulda thunk that Felicity would be standing here wishing she could focus on getting shot.  On lying in the hospital, terrified and in pain.  That, at least, would be a good excuse for acting like a friggen basket case.  

Instead, it was a very different sort of memory haunting her, twisting her bubble-filled innards into progressively tighter knots. 

December 23, 2015.

A night Felicity wanted with every fiber of her being to forget.  And the pain of that bullet entering her side was the least of it.

Because before it was the worst night of Felicity’s life, it had been the best.  And that was the most dangerous thought of all.

Now every time Felicity saw a Christmas tree, she saw Oliver’s blue eyes shining up at her as he proposed.   The sincerity and the joy and the near worshipful look in his eyes.  A look every woman—every human-being wanted to see directed at them.  A look Felicity had never dreamed she’d see.

And now…now it was Susan fraking William’s hand curved around Oliver’s overly perfect biceps.

But Felicity had Billy.  Sweet, kind, morally straight-and-narrow, good-guy Billy.  Who treated her the way a woman should be treated.  Who didn’t lie to her.  Who Felicity was terrified was falling in love with her.

Billy deserved so much better than a woman who kept thinking his arm felt wrong around her waist.  That it wasn’t strong enough.  Graceful enough.  Who kept imagining another hand drifting over her back, callouses catching on Felicity’s dress. 

And what had she been thinking wearing forest green tonight of all nights? 

Actually, Felicity knew exactly what she’d been thinking.  That she wanted something as opposite to that damn red dress as she could get. 

The red one with the zippers.

The one about which Oliver had whispered in her ear, in great detail, his plan to remove.  With his teeth.

Just one more promise Oliver hadn’t followed through on.

No.  That wasn’t fair.  It was life that hadn’t followed through on the promise of that night.

Of the damn red dress. 

Felicity hadn’t been able to bring herself to wear it for Billy. 

She hadn’t been able to make herself throw it away either.

It was a metaphor for her life.  Felicity couldn’t commit to anything anymore.  Not a startup.  Not her new boyfriend.  Not her old fiancé. 

Not letting her old fiancé go.

Felicity didn’t think she would ever truly let him go.  Oliver would always be in her life.  Well, as long as he allowed it. 

Or lived.

Annnd that was where her thoughts took a maudlin turn. 

A more maudlin turn.  One way too painful for Felicity to deal with right then so…best take another deep swallow of champagne and not think about it.

Though the champagne didn’t seem to be helping block out anything.  Wasn’t it supposed to numb or something?  Slow these rambling thoughts?  Help avoid the deep, dark ruminations?  The increasing clarity that Felicity’s plan to move on while Oliver was still very much in her life was deeply flawed?

So very, very flawed.

And no amount of clinging to and petting Billy was going to compensate for the fact that her attention kept drifting across the room.  To the mayor.  Mayor Handsome and his gorgeous reporter.  So like gorgeous Laurel.  And every other woman he attracted like a moth to the flame.

What had Felicity expected?  For Oliver Queen to stay single?  To pine for her indefinitely?  He was as allergic to celibacy as he was to the truth.  And his broody good looks were catnip to aggressive and powerful brunettes.

Felicity found that jealousy was not a good look on her.  She didn’t like it one bit.  But that didn’t seen to help either.  Maybe she could blame that on the champagne.  If it wasn’t going to help her feel better than it could at least take the blame for her less desirable thoughts and actions.

Which was very immature and Felicity should stop. 

But it would be such a shame to not finish the glass.  It was really good champagne.

Plus, it was Felicity’s only defense against reliving the horrible moment when she’d stepped forward to congratulate Oliver.  At the same moment Ms I’ve-Never-Had-A-Selfconcious-Moment-In-My-Whole-Fraking-Life did the same. 

Thank God Felicity hadn’t gone with red.  The two of them stepping forward at the same moment, wearing the same color, looking like suitors vying for the prince’s hand…yeah, no.  Just the idea made bile rise in her throat.

It was already in the top three most humiliating moments of Felicity’s life and that was a category with some serious competition.

A double date?  Seriously?  Could the ground open up and swallow her now?

Maybe Felicity could still claim the flu, call all of it a fever delirium.

Was there ever a worse idea than having dinner with both Billy and Oliver?  The two of them should never be in the same room.  Never.  It made Felicity vibrate with…with something really, really bad, turned her into a babbling baboon. 

Add Isabel 2.0 to the mix…even without the crippling jealousy (which why?  Felicity broke up with Oliver.  She had a great boyfriend.  When was she going to get over this?), there was something seriously untrustworthy about  Susan Whatshername the Gorgeous Reporter. 

And Felicity swore the comparison had nothing to do with the fact that if Susan did turn out to be Isabel 2.0, Felicity could hit her with a van.

Okay, it was time to go.  With or without the flu story.  Felicity was hiding in the corner.  Avoiding her boyfriend.  Imagining killing her ex’s current girlfriend.  There was no salvaging this night. 

It was time to cut her losses.  Put on her fluffy socks and old pjs, maybe watch a Dr. Who holiday special or two and cry alone on her couch.  Yup, that was the mood Felicity was in. 

Crying alone on the couch sounded good compared to this.

Now what to tell Billy—?

That thought was derailed by a hand on her elbow.  One that sent shivers up Felicity’s spine and did not belong to her boyfriend.  In her whole damn life there was only one hand that made her feel like this. 

Which lead to the conclusion that Felicity was cursed.  That was the only explanation.

Then, to add insult to injury, Oliver leaned in and whispered directly in Felicity’s ear, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

Then, in typical Oliver fashion, he didn’t bother waiting for an answer.  He just guided Felicity (aka pulled) into an even quieter corner, behind a tastefully decorated tree that blocked the caterer’s entrance.

“What’s wrong?” Felicity whispered back, a sudden hope rearing its contradictory head.  “Is it a green emergency?”  She could really use a Team Arrow emergency right now.  “Is it Prometheus?” 

Please, let it be Prometheus.

Okay, Felicity had officially lost her mind.

What the hell was wrong with her?  Hoping it was Prometheus?  On Christmas Eve Eve

First, Felicity wished that annoying reporter was evil and now this?  Maybe the champagne wasn’t just champagne?  Because it seemed to be making her irrationally…mean.

A waiter passed on the way to the kitchen and Felicity all but threw her (almost) empty glass onto his tray.

Then, because she hadn’t been humiliated enough, Oliver had to reach out and save the glass from tumbling off said tray and crashing to the floor.  Then Mr. Suave gave the frazzled waiter an encouraging nod, making Felicity look like even more of a spaz.

Life wasn’t fair.  If it was, then Oliver would be the one fumbling and fuming with jealousy, he’d be acting like the ass.  Felicity would be the put-together ex, gracious and kind as she moved on with her life.  Just once she wanted to be the cool-as-a-cucumber one.  Elegant and graceful.

Just once.

But no, Mr. Dignified Mayor smiled benignly until the waiter disappeared through the swinging door and turned back to messy bumbling little old her and whispered, “No, nothing like that.”

Dammit.

“Oh.”

Messy, bumbling, and just a little bit selfish.  Because Felicity was disappointed that something horrible hadn’t happened, something that would necessitate calling this (awful) night quits and heading to the Bunker. 

The Bunker was even better than warm fuzzy socks. 

Or maybe it was just Felicity’s emotional equivalent.

Felicity knew her place in the Bunker.  She was useful.  Successful.  There she was the one Oliver turned to after he made an inspirational speech.

A crinkle formed between Oliver’s eyes and he leaned even closer, his low voice heavy with concern.  “Are you okay?   You seem…off tonight?”

Seriously?  Now Oliver had to go be insightful?  Couldn’t he be a dick?  Just a little bit?  Felicity knew he had it in him.

The problem was Felicity couldn’t recall a single dickish moment. 

It was nights like tonight that Felicity had a really hard time remembering the 101 reasons why they weren’t together.  Why Oliver would make a terrible life partner.

Felicity needed to write them down.  Put it in her phone in one of those special folders so she could sneak off and remind herself why she had chosen to not be with him.  Add a few pictures and videos.  Something to counteract the engagement pictures that had flashed on her screen earlier today and were now stuck in a repeating slideshow in her mind. 

She needed a weapon.  Some sort of defense.  For when all Felicity could remember was how incredible they’d been together.

But all Felicity could hope for now was that Oliver’s insightfulness didn’t extend so far as to be able to read that on her face.

Shaking off the unwanted thoughts (or trying to), Felicity did her best to look nonchalant as she said, “Why would you say that?”

And if Oliver bought that…

Felicity, I know you well enough to recognize when you’re off.”  Of course, he did.  “You haven’t babbled like this since…I honestly can’t remember the last time.”

Well, at least someone recognized Felicity wasn’t like this all the time. 

But did it have to be her gorgeous ex? 

“Oh, you know…” Felicity waved her hand, wearing the bright smile that was her mask tonight.  Her armor.  “New boyfriend meeting friends for the first time and all that.”

Oliver gave her a small smile.  That smile.  How a smile could look so sad Felicity had no idea, but it deepened the pit in her already hollow stomach. 

Why did his pain still feel like her pain?  Felicity had enough of her own without adding Oliver’s.

“Felicity, I just hope you know…”

Oh, please, don’t let him go on and on about how okay he was with her dating.  Felicity couldn’t stand it.  Not tonight.

It wasn’t like she wanted Oliver to start throwing things or punch Billy or anything.  But did he have to take every opportunity to tell her how happy he was for her? 

Her phone buzzed in her pocket and Felicity muttered, “Oh thank God,” before she could stop herself. 

Like she’d said.  Filter gone.  Damn it.

Frowning, Oliver turned away, to give Felicity privacy or…he looked hurt.  Of course, he did.  What did she expect?  This night just kept getting better. 

Frak it all.  Despite everything, Felicity didn’t want Oliver to be in pain.  Not because of her.  Not at all.  In fact, she could barely cope with it.  She just didn’t want to hurt any more either.

Yet, try as she did, Felicity couldn’t seem to accomplish either goal.  Why was life so damn hard?

Felicity’s fingers were far from dexterous as she pulled out her phone, but at least it gave her some place to look that wasn’t the kicked puppy in front of her.  The beautiful kicked puppy, who used to be hers.

Then she read Curtis’ text and…

This was what Felicity got for hoping for a ‘green’ emergency.  When would she learn not to tempt fate?

“Oliver…” Felicity’s voice took on an urgent edge as she grabbed his arm.  On instinct.  He didn’t jerk away.  He never had. 

In fact, Oliver stepped into Felicity’s bubble and read over her shoulder.

Curtis: All the doors are locked. We can’t leave the party. What the frak is going on?

“Felicity—”

“Alert the rest of the team?  On it.”  Felicity’s fingers were already moving with their normal (thank God) speed, reaching out to John and the others. 

Any buzz from the champagne cleared in that instant.  What did it say about her that it took something awful happening to make her feel calm and in control?  And Felicity would bet her last Palmer tech dollar that something truly awful was happening.

As if on cue, a white cloud rolled into the room.

What was it with Christmas and poison gas?

“We need to…”

Felicity had no idea how Oliver ended that sentence.  It was drowned out by screaming.  And coughing.

Then all she could see was white and her lungs were filling.  For a moment Felicity was back in that HIVE gas chamber.  All she heard was white noise and her heartbeat roaring in her ears.  Was this how she was going to die?  Of all the times they had cheated death, was this finally it?

Felicity reached out for Oliver, her hand finding his arm and curling over it, with the insane thought that at least he was with her this time.  At least they’d die together. 

Because being the one left behind was so much worse.

Panic made Felicity’s breathing fast, which only served to fill her lungs faster.  She wanted to cough or hold her breath but…

It didn’t feel like poison. 

This gas didn’t burn.  Not like it had in HIVE’s Chamber.  The gas filling Felicity’s lungs was sweet and soothing, like steam from the sauna.  It had the most lovely aroma…

Oliver’s hand closed over Felicity’s and time stood still. 

There were worse ways to die.

Then her arm jerked as Oliver literally yanked Felicity out of the fog she was in. For a brief moment she had a flash of him lifting her out of the gas chamber and her fear bled away.  

Oliver was there.  He wouldn’t let her die.  Not while he still had a breath left in him.

The swinging doors hit Felicity in the ass as Oliver pulled her into the kitchen, where they could at least see through the cloud.  “Cover your mouth!”

“With what?”

Had Oliver seen what she was wearing?  Also, it took every ounce of coordination Felicity had to keep up as he weaved through the kitchen and freaked out caterers.  Who were just standing there.  Staring.

 “Get out of here!” Oliver screamed. 

Because what the hell?  Didn’t anyone in this city know how to behave in a crisis?  They’d had enough of them.  Felicity would have thought they’d all be experts by now.

“Call 911.  Go!  Go!” 

Oliver didn’t slow down enough to see if they complied.  He reached the door and Felicity assumed it was locked, but he kicked it down so quickly and so efficiently Felicity didn’t have a chance to catch her breath. 

Oliver never let go of her hand.  

It was a miracle Felicity’s heels (and her ankles) survived the sprint down the empty hallway.  Before she even had a chance to process, Oliver pulled her into a stairwell, the door slamming closed behind them.

Turning, Oliver grabbed Felicity’s shoulders and all she could do was...

Look at him. 

God, he was gorgeous.

Oliver was panting, more so than he probably should be.  Felicity might be gasping for air from their mad dash but normally it wouldn’t be enough to make him break a sweat. 

But Oliver was sweating.  A fine film of perspiration dotted his forehead, glistening just above those intense blue, blue eyes, thick lashes—

“You okay?” Oliver asked in a low rumble that sent shivers down her spine. 

Felicity started nodding before she really considered the question.  She was a little distracted by his lips.  The new, longer scruff Oliver was sporting hid them more than she would normally prefer…which was a blessing, of course.  It wasn’t like she wanted to be focused on his lips.

Except now, Felicity couldn’t seem to tare her eyes away.  Couldn’t remember why she would want to.  They were wet and full.  Oliver had the poutiest, most perfect lips and she wanted—

“Do you feel sick?” Oliver demanded, his hands with those damn calluses Felicity’d been day-dreaming about skated over the bare skin of her shoulders and down her arms.  He leaned closer, his eyes dilated and his voice frantic.  “How much did you breathe in?”

How much what?

Oh. 

The gas.

Right.

Felicity shook herself.  Literally closed her eyes and shook her head.  She swallowed and tried to get her brain to focus on the question at hand. 

Oddly enough, Felicity hadn’t had a single thought as to how the gas made her feel.  Not since that first breath.   The one that hadn’t burned.

It had soothed instead.   Wasn’t that odd?

“I…I don’t know?” 

And, yeah, that was more of a question than an answer but…it was hard to focus on anything other than the feel of Oliver’s hands rubbing her arms, the intensity of his gaze, the sweet smell of his breath and the musk…

Felicity was breathing hard.  That could be an affect of the gas.  Her heart was pounding.  And now that she thought about it she was sweating too and she was sure it wasn’t nearly as sexy as when Oliver did.

All of that could be symptoms of the gas. 

Or of being alone with Oliver.  Of having him touch her, as innocent as the touch was.

“Do you need to go to the hospital?” Oliver’s voice was more insistent, his hands clenching and unclenching on her arms.

And Felicity, wakado that she was, laughed.  “How would we get to a hospital?  Curtis said we’re trapped.  I mean, if you thought we could get out of the building wouldn’t you have—”

“If you need a hospital, I will get you to a hospital,” Oliver growled and damn if Felicity didn’t believe him.

It made her feel all melty inside.  Warm and cared for in a way Felicity hadn’t felt in a long, long time. 

It also made her throb, deep in her core and…

That was so inappropriate Felicity didn’t even know what to say.  She took a deep breath and tried to make her brain work. 

“Don’t need a hospital,” Felicity was finally able to force out.  At least she didn’t think she did.  Though her tongue felt …uncoordinated or something.   Maybe the gas was to intoxicate them, disorient them.  And there were a lot of people still breathing it in.  “Need a tablet.  Need to figure out what’s going on.  All those people in there—”

“Thank God!”  Oliver yanked Felicity into his arms with a relieved grunt and, dammit, her brain went blank again.

He was hugging her. 

Oliver was hugging her.

It had been a long time since Oliver had hugged her like this.  With his whole body.  His arms surrounding her.  Completely.  His chin nestled into her hair.  His hands splayed across her back. And…

Oliver wasn’t stopping.  The hugging.  Or wasn’t ending the hug.  Felicity couldn’t quite capture the proper phraseology but, either way, the hug continued for a very long time all things considered. 

Not that Oliver was totally to blame.  Felicity’s hands were fisted in his shirt.  The back of his shirt.  Because her arms had somehow found their way under Oliver’s jacket, under his damn suspenders (why were they so hot?) and were clutching his slightly damp dress shirt.

It was a very nice shirt.  Soft.  Felicity could tell because it was rubbing against her cheek.  Or maybe her cheek was rubbing against the shirt.  Nuzzling even.  It probably shouldn’t be doing that. 

But why shouldn’t she be nuzzling? 

Felicity couldn’t remember.  Oliver’s chest was so warm under the fabric.  It was thin enough that she could feel the familiar outlines of muscles and scars and…

It was really unfair how good his sweat smelled.  Life would be easier if Oliver smelled gross like a normal person.

“Do you feel weak?  Sick?  Dizzy?” Olivers voice was rough in Felicity’s ear and it felt like a caress.  Though that could have been his nose running along the shell of her ear.

Maybe she did feel dizzy.  Felicity was pretty sure that wasn’t from the gas though.

So Felicity shook her head.  Her chin grazed a suspender and she had the insane urge to bite it. 

Instead Felicity murmured, “You got us out pretty fast.”  She was proud of how coherent she sounded.  “My hero,” she sighed, inhaling more of his delicious smell and snuggling in.

Fe-li-ci-ty…” Oliver groaned.  

It was a groan Felicity knew well.  Her entire body knew it very, very well. 

Arousal washed over her, her nipples tightening and the throbbing between her legs doubling.  Wow, it felt good.

“Nope, certainly don’t feel sick,” Felicity heard herself say, her tongue running away with itself. Though, there were worse things her tongue could be doing right now.  Or better.   “Maybe a little drugged.” 

Because something in the back of Felicity’s brain (the far, far back of her brain) told her there was something off here.

Oliver jerked back so fast, the world spun and she had to throw out her arm, bracing herself against his chest to keep from falling in a heap. 

Felicity blinked, breathing in through her nose, and when her vision cleared, Oliver’s face was right there, his eyes wide and concerned, raking over her face.

“You feel drugged?” Oliver demanded and…

That was what she said, wasn’t it?  Oliver must be feeling drugged too, whether he admitted it or not.  He was usually quicker on the up-take.

“Drugged.  Drunk.  I drank a lot of champagne.”  Oh yeah, it could be that.  Was it that?

Also, Oliver’s touch had the tendency to make Felicity feel this way.  Had she said that already?

Except the only places they were touching now were Oliver’s hands gripping her shoulders and Felicity’s resting on his chest. 

Even with his nearness and the champagne factored in…her brain was abnormally cloudy. 

Then Felicity met Oliver’s eyes and the wash of sheer need left her feeling weak in the knees and she swallowed a moan.

Okay, something was definitely off here.

“Do you feel drugged?” Felicity asked, surprised at the soft, warm sound of her voice.  Was he feeling this too?

Oliver’s response was to kinda sway toward her.  Though it really didn’t seen voluntary.  Also, it could have been the world swaying, but for a moment Felicity really thought he was going to kiss her.

Which she wanted. 

Felicity wanted it so damn badly she thought she might cry…even though she really didn’t think she should.  Kiss him.  Or even want to. 

It would really help if Felicity could remember why though.

Oliver was the one who jerked back, biting out an angry, “Fuck!” 

Maybe he remembered.

He must, because he tore himself away from Felicity almost violently.  Then Oliver scrubbed his hands over his face, muttering, “It’s not poison.  It’s…”

He looked around with wild eyes.  Felicity fought the urge to go to him.  It felt almost painful to not be touching but…that was wrong.  Why?  She turned her eyes away from him.  Maybe Oliver would be less distracting if—

There was a white cloud creeping in around the door jam.

“Oliver!”

Felicity didn’t see his reaction, just heard the, “Jesus Christ!”

Then Oliver grabbed Felicity’s hand again, yanking her up the stairs. 

“Where are we going?” Felicity panted, trying not to trip.

Shouldn’t they be trying to get out?  As in outside?  Curtis said they were locked in but Oliver was a lot better at getting through doors than Curtis.

Though, glancing down at the fog filling the stairwell, it looked like the bottom floor was completely compromised. 

And gas rose so…

Was it even possible to out run it?  

Oliver sure as hell seemed to think so.  Felicity was having a hard time keeping up with him, even taking the stairs two at a time.  Didn’t he realize that pulling her up the stairs at this pace was not going to end well? 

He never answered her question.  He didn’t slow down and his grip on her hand only got tighter.

Felicity lowered her eyes to make sure her heels didn’t catch on the stairs and saw the white cloud licking her feet.  She doubled her own efforts.   If he tripped, Oliver would stop to carry her and the gas would definitely win their little race.

Oliver dragged Felicity up six flights of stairs. 

By some miracle they finally out paced the cloud, which was good because Felicity was gasping for air and this time she was pretty sure it was from exertion.  Oliver’s pace didn’t slow until they reached his office…oh.  Duh.  Of course, that was where he was headed.

Brain definitely slowed.

Whipping the door open, Oliver swung Felicity into the room.  It wasn’t graceful.  Whatever they had (were?) inhaling was affecting his coordination too. 

Felicity found herself spinning, unable to stop the momentum.  If Oliver’s motor control was off, hers was down right dreadful.  

Then the actual spinning turned into vertigo and Felicity stumbled back until she hit Oliver’s desk.  Closing her eyes, she grasped the mahogany tightly and took deep breaths, willing the world to stop moving.

“Towels.  In the bathroom.  Grab them,” Oliver yelled, clearly oblivious to the fact that Felicity was barely able to keep upright.

She heard drawers slam and forced her eyes open.  Oliver had thankfully stopped revolving.  He’d turned on the light.  Not the bright florescent over head lights.  Just two floor lamps, which was good, less jarring.

It gave Felicity enough dim light to see that Oliver had found duct tape and was frantically working to seal his door shut.  Smart.  And towels would help block under the door.

Okay, Felicity needed to move. 

She stumbled away from the desk, still feeling dizzy and off-kilter.  Then she realized she had no idea where the bathroom was.  Wasn’t it in the hallway?  As in on the other side of the door Oliver was duct taping shut?  

Felicity scanned the room…Oliver’s office was spacious but, nope, no bathroom. 

She did find a blanket draped over the arm of the couch and snatched it up.  Actually there was more than a few blankets tucked next to the sofa.  Oliver must sleep here when he wasn’t sleeping at the Bunker.  No wonder he didn’t feel the need to get his own place.

Felicity stumbled back to the door and fell to her knees, shoving the blanket under the door best she could.  She didn’t see any of the cloud sneaking through, so maybe they had gotten here in time.  

Oliver appeared beside her, finishing the door and starting to tape the blanket in place.  “No towels?”

Shooting him a look, Felicity grabbed the tape from his hands and finished the job herself, with an irritated, “No bathroom.” 

When Felicity was done, she looked up to see Oliver staring at her like she was crazy.  Yup, his brain was not functioning at top capacity. 

“The bathrooms are…” Felicity pointed to the door.

Oliver’s shoulders relaxed and his face dissolved into a smile.  “I have a private one back there,” he jerked his thumb to wherever this mysterious hidden bathroom seemed to be.

“Well, how was I supposed to know that?” Felicity fired back.  She had the distinct impression Oliver was laughing at her.

But then his smile wavered and she wanted it back.  Then Felicity met his eyes and she knew Oliver was realizing the same thing she was.   

Felicity didn’t know Oliver had a private bathroom because she was almost never here.

Because they no longer had the sort of relationship where they knew every little thing about the other’s life.

Felicity wasn’t his assistant.  Or his girlfriend.  Or his fiancé.  Hell, they were barely friends any more.  They were just crime fighting partners who just happened to own a piece of each other’s soul.

Not only were they not together, they were with other people.

Which made everything that had happened and almost happened in the stairwell…just really wrong.

And yet…Felicity’s body didn’t seem to care.  Not one single solitary cell.

While Felicity’s brain was accomplishing the very painful task of rebooting, Oliver’s smile had faded into what could only be described as a brood.  Frak.  She hated the brood.

Even if Felicity felt the very real desire to brood herself.

Oliver cleared his throat and stood, brushing his hands on his trousers before offering her his hand.  Felicity took it.  Mostly because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to make it to her feet on her own. 

At least that’s what she told herself. 

It was a very nice hand.  And holding it always made Felicity feel safe.

But as soon as she was upright, Oliver dropped her hand and turned from her.  The purposeful way he stalked over to his desk looked a lot more in-control than he had a minute ago.  He scooped up his laptop and handed it to Felicity without even a glance her way. 

Maybe they were in the clear now that they were out of the gas.  It was logical to assume they had to be actively breathing it to feel the affects.

So now that Oliver was thinking rationally, apparently he didn’t want to be any where near her.

Which was actually a pretty irrational thought.  Since when had Oliver ever not wanted to be around her?   As friends and partners at the very least? 

And…Felicity took stock of her body.  She really didn’t feel all that different than she had in the stairwell.  Yes, her thoughts were a little clearer.  She could remember what day it was and who her date was…mostly.  

Felicity could remember that she had a date.  A date that wasn’t Oliver.  He had a beard?  Maybe? 

That wasn’t normal.  She should remember what her date looked like and what his name was.  So…apparently, Felicity’s head was still a little fuzzy.  Also, her skin was warm and tingly and her body was really hyperaware of Oliver.  His smell and the way he—

“We need eyes on the Ballroom.  Thea—”

Fuck.

“Right.” 

There were other people to think about.  A lot of other people. 

When Oliver’s words managed to permeate the haze, guilt set in, spurring Felicity into action.  She perched the laptop on the edge of the desk and her fingers took over.  Thank God they still knew how to function.

How could Felicity have forgotten all those people still in the Ballroom.  The Ballroom that was filled with some sort of psychoactive, potentially poisonous, gas.   

Hundreds of people.  Thea.  Curtis.  Quintin…no, he’d left early thank goodness.  Billy. 

Oh dear God.  Billy.  That was his name.  Felicity was the worst—

Oliver’s password was still the address of the bungalow they’d shared in Bali.

Frak, that just…

Felicity didn’t even know what to think about that.  Or the fact that she’d typed it in without thinking and was now maneuvering through the City Hall system, looking for the right security cameras.  Best to focus on the later.  Someone had taken them off-line but that didn’t mean she couldn’t reverse it.

“Do you think this is Prometheus?” Felicity asked.

It wasn’t that she thought it was.  It was a shot in the dark.  Thrown out there in  an attempt to distract herself from the fact that she could feel Oliver’s body behind her.  They weren’t even touching and yet Felicity was so damn aware of him she was having trouble functioning.

“Thea’s not answering,” Oliver grunted and Felicity glanced up to see him pacing, one hand holding the phone to his ear, the other alternating between loosening his tie and running his fingers through his hair. “This doesn’t seem like Prometheus’ MO,” he muttered distractedly as he redialed.

“That depends, did the Hood gas a room full of people?” Felicity asked and Oliver flashed her a hard look.  She was trying to keep her eyes on the code that flash by, with only moderate success.  Luckily, it was amateurish work.  At least the tech side of it.  The biochemical, on the other hand… “What?  It’s a valid question.  Prometheus is recreating the Hood’s greatest hits so—”

“No, I never gassed anyone,” Oliver snapped.  But then he shot her an apologetic look and moderated his tone,  “Curtis isn’t picking up either.”  He stabbed at his poor phone almost violently before raising it to his ear again and pacing away from her. “Come on.  Come on.  Pick up.  Some body fucking pick up!”

Oliver was so hot when he was worried.

Damn it! 

What the hell was wrong with her?

Felicity shook her head to clear it (bad idea, cause vertigo) and dragged her eyes back to the monitor.  Getting them to leave Oliver was not an easy task—

Oh.

Oh no.

Holy hell.  This wasn’t happening.  This was a bizarre dream because…nope, couldn’t be happening.

But it did explain what was wrong with her.

Felicity,” Oliver snapped and she jerked, her eyes lurching to his.  She was pretty sure they were wide as saucers.  “What’s going on?  Are they okay?”

Fear laced his voice and Felicity wanted to make it go away.  She wanted to reassure him.  She really really did. 

What Felicity said was, “Define ‘okay’.”

Oliver was there in an instant, leaning over her shoulder.  She could feel the warmth of his body and though he wasn’t actually touching her he was still so damn close.  And his smell…he smelled so fraking good.  He was wearing Felicity’s favorite cologne and the way it mixed with his very particular musk—

“Jesus fucking Christ!”

And that was when Oliver realized ‘okay’ was probably a stretch.

Felicity’s eyes opened.  She hadn’t realized she’d closed them.  Though, as soon as they refocused on the screen, she kinda wished they’d stayed closed.

“I think Jesus might be the only one not fucking,” Felicity whimpered and Oliver made a shocked, choking sound and she rushed to add, “Sorry.  Was that disrespectful or sacrilegious or—?”

Felicity,” Oliver groaned, rubbing his eyes and letting his head fall back with an incredulous little laugh.  “Just tell me I’m not seeing what I think I’m seeing.  Tell me I’m hallucinating.  Please.”

“Umm…” Felicity really, really wished she could.  “If what you’re seeing is your entire staff, the police department, and anyone else important enough to be invited to City Hall’s annual holiday party engaging in a ginormous orgy that would make Julius Caesar cry with envy then,” she gave a humorless chuckle, “the only hope I can give you is that I’m having the same hallucination.”

Oliver growled.  Honest to God he did.  The rumbling sound reverberated across her over-heated body. 

Felicity turned her head to look at him. 

It was a mistake.

His neck was arched and his jaw clenched.  Felicity could see his pulse pounding in his neck.  She wanted to lick it.

“Fuck,” Oliver muttered and…

Yes, please.

Felicity tore her gaze away.  They were in so much trouble.  

Swallowing, Felicity tried to find someplace to look that wasn’t Oliver or the computer.  “At least we know what we were dosed with.”

“We do?” Oliver scoffed, his hands landing on his desk.   Which coincidentally brought him that much closer to Felicity and she had to bite her lip to keep from moaning out loud.  “Please, enlighten me.”

Felicity didn’t take offense.  Oliver’s tone wasn’t dismissive.  It was…desperate.

Oh God.

Swallowing again…damn, her throat was dry.  Felicity squeaked, “Isn’t it obvious?  It’s Sex Pollen.”