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Magic Words

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Presto was crowded today, Felicity Smoak noted the numerous men and women angling for attention at the bar of the bustling lounge, desperately filling whatever seating was available around the opulently appointed space. She knew this room well, having spent time there nearly every afternoon for the past several months.

It could be a little much sometimes, forcing herself to observe the couples on holiday, how they exchanged glances and touches like no one else was in the room. A part of her was desperate for that. It had been too long since she’d met a man who performed the kind of alchemy that stole her breath, one whose kisses transformed her solid being into something floaty and transparent. She knew for certain that she wouldn’t be meeting that kind of man here in the hotel bar of The Merlyn casino.

The bartenders winked at her and the waitresses gave her knowing glances as she slowly moved around the room with a club soda in her hand. When she spotted a sizeable klatch of businessmen laughing and drinking beers, she adjusted the lines of her long-sleeved black wrap dress and, in her mother’s terminology, “turned on the sparkle” before approaching the group.

Felicity zeroed in on the middle-aged man in the gray suit first. She had a lot of practice now identifying who was the pack leader and this one seemed to be the focus of the group’s attention. Felicity adopted a tone that was both sweet and confident as she chatted up the gentleman. She flirted, a combination of awkward humor and guileless charm.

“My name is Felicity. What’s your name, sir?” Felicity smiled warmly.

“Randall.”

“Randall. Not Randy?” she remarked as she quite nonchalantly produced a deck of shiny playing cards. “I find that hard to believe. You kind of have a Sean Connery thing going.” She winked through her dark frames and he may have blushed a little in the dim light.

“Now, how long have you been in accounting?” The group responded with chuckles and a few gasps.

“Is it that obvious?” Randall adopted a hangdog expression. Felicity shook her head, making her ponytail dance behind her.  There was an accounting conference in town this weekend. It wasn’t a stretch.

No one expected the petite blond to start doing magic tricks there, so close up, but that is exactly what Felicity began to do. They were good too, each one a little more complicated and impressive than the last.

“You are very good, Miss,” Randall exclaimed as she impressed him once again.

“Felicity. Thank you, Randall. Has your group planned any evening entertainment yet? I hope you all will consider taking in my show tonight. It’s called Smoak/Fire and it’s in the Platinum Room here at the casino.” This was her boots-on-the-ground approach to marketing – showing off for the customers around the property for an hour or two in an effort to goose ticket sales for her magic show.

She was running out of ideas – not for illusions – she had the most innovative show on the Strip. But getting people to show up was a real challenge. So she was digging out the old school magic to hook people in, one on one.

“Hey guys, do we know what we’re supposed to be doing tonight?” The men started shrugging and someone put his drink down to dig into his pocket for an itinerary.

“Is she available?” one of the drunker guys said a little too loudly. Felicity winced. Sadly, she was, but not for a random inebriant in Presto.  

“We’ll see, Sweetheart,” Randall, slightly embarrassed by his friend, turned back toward Felicity with an element of warmth in his voice. She smiled feebly.

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

An hour later, everything on Las Vegas Blvd. seemed to be shimmering with July heat. But from Felicity’s side of a panoramic window high above the Strip, the air was frosty and thinner than normal, humming through the ventilation systems in the big hallways. That was Vegas. A little bit surreal.

So was her current situation. She felt like she had been summoned to the Principal’s office. Or at least this is what she imagined that felt like because she had been a straight-A, perfect student and had never actually been summoned to the Principal’s Office, except for the time she won a National Merit Scholar Award.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the Principal’s office; this was her boss’s office. And technically speaking, it was her boss’s boss’s boss’s office. She had only met Malcolm Merlyn, the billionaire businessman and CEO of the Merlyn hospitality chain a handful of times, in passing. And now the man had apparently summoned her to his palatial office in the Merlyn Casino to fire her. She was convinced. Her brain was on a dizzying loop, cataloging all of the things she would need to do once she was out of work, only interrupted by...

“You may go in,” Merlyn’s leggy EA, who looked more like a model than an office worker, growled with a Russian accent.

Felicity nodded, straightened her posture, and then proceeded through an enormous wooden door. Merlyn’s corner office was all Malcolm Merlyn. Sleek, modern and clad in black leather. Malcolm Merlyn rose, standing behind his desk looking very much the hip entrepreneur in a black button down shirt and matching trousers. Behind him, a wall of monitors displayed views of activities taking place around the property. Two walls of the room were floor to ceiling windows much like the ones in the waiting area outside, but they were tinted to diminish the bleach of sunlight coming through.

“Ah, Miss Smoak,” the middle-aged man with the perfect haircut and boyish smile moved around the furniture to greet her with a hand shake and a light kiss to her cheek. The act described him perfectly – part no-nonsense businessman, part cosmopolitan jet-setter. “You are looking very beautiful today.”

“Thank you, Mister Merlyn,” Felicity felt relief as he started moving away. “You’re still doing the tall, dark and handsome thing.” Realizing the words had actually left her mouth, she snapped it closed and hoped the damage was minimal. It was.   

“Why, thank you, Miss Smoak. Please have a seat.” The edges of Malcolm’s lips tilted up as he gestured to the guest chair in front of his desk, while sleekly returning to his seat.

Felicity lowered herself into the modified wingback, carefully crossing her legs and leaning forward. She clasped her hands together to keep from fidgeting, but it might have looked a little like she was praying.

“So, I won’t beat around the bush here.” He demanded eye contact as he spoke in an official tone. “There are a couple of matters we need to discuss today. You know that I am a dedicated supporter of new talent and that magic is a particular passion of mine. I believe in promoting innovative artists who are reinventing the medium. That is why we have had you here for the past three months.”

Felicity nodded. “It is a great opportunity, Mister Merlyn, and I hope you know how seriously I appreciate it.”

“Everyone sees how hard you work and what you are doing every night is exceptional work. The way you blend technology with magic is so exciting and really impressive. But –“

As Malcolm’s pause hung in the air, Felicity finished his sentence with an internal monologue of doom and unemployment.

“But,” she sighed.

“But, I am concerned about the attendance issues. On one hand, I’m a business man and I need to consider the bottom line when it comes to soft ticket sales. But at the same time, I am just as concerned that you are not being seen, Miss Smoak. That’s just wrong. Everyone in Vegas should be talking about your show.”

Felicity listened intently, grateful that she had not been fired. Yet. 

“I have been talking to pros, people who know Vegas entertainment, about the act and they tell me two things are holding you back.”

Felicity tried to sit up straight and guard her emotions. Like anyone, she hated to hear negative feedback, but she knew it was important to listen.

“First, you should consider connecting more with the audience…like you do at Presto.”

Felicity’s eyes grew wide. She hadn’t expected the head of the casino to know how she spent her afternoons. She certainly didn’t anticipate that he would make suggestions on her act.

“Yes, I know about those little performances.” Malcolm smirked, ever so slightly. “Word gets around. And it’s good. Due to the technological nature of your show, Miss Smoak, I am concerned that you have lost the human element. In the end, the show isn’t just about illusions, it’s about you. Your unique personality. Let that come through. People will love you if they get to know the real you, mixed in with all of the high-tech.”

“Yes, Sir. I can see how that might make a difference. I can do that.” The tech genius started gesturing emphatically with her hands, which was the last thing she wanted to do. She felt a babble coming on and shut down deliberately before her mouth got away from her.

“The other suggestion I have for you is this.” He paused a moment, pursing his lips and choosing his words carefully. “We are both adults here. As is the audience at The Merlyn. We try to cater to a sophisticated clientele here. Back when I first saw your act in Atlantic City, you were working with that partner…”

“Cooper,” Felicity gritted out. She knew she was making an angry face right now but she couldn’t help it. Memories of him, his betrayal and subsequent arrest, still troubled her at times.

“Right. And I know how things turned out there. Good riddance to him.” Merlyn made eye contact with her in an assuring manner. “But there was something to your act then, a kind of chemistry and sexy quality that was, frankly, quite engaging.”

Now, while Felicity couldn’t help but agree with his assessment, she was worried about what his next words would be.

“Sex is fun, Felicity.” Merlyn almost never used her first name, so it rung in her ears. He continued, “And people come to our casino to have a good time and indulge in a bit of fantasy. The illusions you are doing with technology are amazing, but not everyone will respond to that alone. Now, I’m not going to suggest you don a bustier and fishnet stockings, Miss Smoak, although I think you could definitely pull that off.”

Felicity quirked an eyebrow at her boss. He caught it and leaned toward her, adopting a soft tone.

“I am simply saying that you might consider ways to interject a bit more heat into your act. You are whip smart and a first class flirt when you are in Presto. Try to convey that delightful side of your personality to a larger audience. I think you might be surprised by the result.”

“I don’t know, Mister Merlyn. I…I will definitely think about what you are saying and see how I might incorporate some changes.”

“Good. Good. That’s the reaction I hoped you would have. Now, here’s that related matter I mentioned earlier.” Merlyn got up and began pacing in the cleared area of the room, showing the first sign of anxiety that Felicity had ever witnessed in him.

“This isn’t public knowledge, but I am looking to open a new casino in Starling City. Things are looking rather good, but approval isn’t guaranteed. There will be investors visiting from Starling next weekend to see if a Merlyn Group hospitality property is a good fit for them.

Merlyn moved toward Felicity, which compelled her to stand. “This is very important to me, Miss Smoak. We will arrange to have them attend your show and it would mean a lot to me if you could…wow them. Can you do that for me?”

Felicity smiled and extended her hand, which he grasped in both of his. “Yes, Sir. I can do that.”

Moments later, Felicity was riding the elevator down from the corporate tower, her forehead leaning against a cool chrome wall. A chrome wall in the damn elevator. She had to admit it. Everything about The Merlyn exuded a sensuous quality, from the color palette to the range of materials used for decoration. The textures screamed touch me and the lighting was moody and romantic.

And then there was Felicity Smoak. While the Nerd Next Door persona was her, it wasn’t all of her. Being the smartest person in the room, it was easy to cleave to that identity to create barriers and separate herself from…entanglements. She hated to admit that Malcolm Merlyn was right. She had been playing things too safe in life and in her act. And that wasn’t what magic was about.

The sudden case of nerves that threatened to derail the part of her brain normally dedicated to problem-solving passed. She was no quitter. She had already reinvented herself a couple of times – first as a Goth at MIT and then a superwoman with a pocket protector in her early days in magic. Now that the business with Cooper was far behind her, it was time become something new...someone new.  

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Charged. That’s how the air in the Platinum Room felt. Felicity drew on the energy of the expectant audience as she adjusted her pencil skirt, pink blouse and glasses one last time, from the wings. She tapped her impossibly high-heeled black pump shoe. Tonight she would be trying out a few new elements in the act. One of the best things about being so digital in her approach was that changes could take place on the fly. Things also might not go to plan. She accepted this. But she needed to try in order to succeed and figured that any mistakes would be ones that went unnoticed by viewers.

It was a big theatre, decked out as a classic Vegas lounge. The tiered booths, upholstered in grey leather were partially filled, reminding Felicity that she needed to fill the space more. Hopefully, after tonight, things would begin to change.

The first change to the act centered around a bit she always wanted to do around cell phones. Using some of her considerable skills, she hacked into the text messaging function of a mobile phone in the room, even though there were instructions at the beginning of the show to turn off cell phones. Her Stage Director, Jimmy, was in charge of the setup, choosing an unsuspecting audience member each night. Earlier in the evening, Felicity had informed him of Merlyn’s directive and her desire to spice things up. He was to choose a promising participant for the new approach.

Felicity met Jimmy years earlier, through her mother, of all people. Donna Smoak lived in Vegas all her life and had many friends who worked in the entertainment business. When her daughter was offered a show, she had immediately recommended the man, who was now Felicity’s best friend and professional support system. He was a treasure – exceedingly knowledgeable about stagecraft, surprisingly adept at advanced technology, and completely devoted to getting Felicity laid.

Jimmy had recently fallen for Felicity’s costumer, Dave, and now he wanted everyone, everywhere, to be in love or at least exceedingly satisfied. In theory, Felicity was not averse to the notion of a hot dinner date that perhaps led to breakfast in bed. No, she was not. But following the demolition of her relationship with Cooper, no one had piqued her interest. Jimmy still kept trying.   

Her assistants, Ronnie and Caitlyn, lurked behind her, stretching and adjusting their costumes. Ronnie was a pyrotechnics expert who also happened to have a hell of a sixpack and a decent sense of rhythm, so Felicity had paired him up with the winsome brunette with the dance background. The two assisted her with various illusions and provided necessary distraction and time filler onstage during set ups.

Felicity noted over the past month that the two had been arriving to the theatre together, holding hands, with Ronnie carrying Caitlyn’s duffle bag. Apparently, Felicity had a way with chemistry as well as computer science. She was happy for them and Jimmy was positively ecstatic about it, but occasionally the romantic tension in the air had been a little stifling for her. Tonight, the pair’s roles would be adjusted subtly, adding a bit more sensuality to their movements together – which she knew they would take to just fine.

The house lights dimmed and Felicity ran through all of the show in her head. As the beginning of Ellie Goulding’s “Burn,” started pulsing on the stage, Felicity conjured up her best smile strode out onto the stage.

The mix of live pyrotechnics with the images projected on the screen behind her made for an exciting opening that engaged the audience. Felicity loved mixing technology with real elements. She hoped that viewers did too. It was one of the things that set her act apart. Being a female magician, Felicity had to forge her own path much of the time. In her brain, she always thought, “witty first, pretty second,” making sure that her work was clever while also being aesthetically beautiful.   

Nearing the middle of the first act, Felicity completed an involved sequence where computer codes were transformed into fireflies on the large background screen and small drone fireflies flitted around the auditorium. As the modest-sized audience applauded, she moved to the wings to confer with Jimmy, as she always did. She wanted reassurance that her next bit was ready. The husky man with the tough jaw and smiling eyes grabbed her shoulders and massaged them for a moment like he was a trainer at a prize fight and she was Rocky.

“Doing great, Einstein.” He leaned into her ear. “Wait ‘til you see what I’ve got for you. Oh, the magical babies you could make!”

Felicity rolled her eyes. No time to argue. She had to get back to center stage. 

The room settled into almost quiet, save for the normal sounds of people sitting and drinking. Then, there was a rather loud ringtone. It wasn’t a ring though. It was Avicii’s “Touch Me.” Felicity winced quietly because the song was usually some silly like “Who Let the Dogs Out?” but apparently Jimmy had either taken the instruction to ramp up the heat a little too far or he was intent on playing matchmaker.  Felicity homed in on the music and scanned the room for the culprit. Then, on the second level of seating, she spotted him – a surprised business man in a white shirt and loosened tie fumbling to get his phone out of his jacket pocket. At this point, audience members were staring and Felicity was chuckling internally. Poor sap. He was part of the show now.

Then the man looked up at her with desperation in his eyes. His cornflower blue eyes. They were just a single aspect of an exquisitely chiseled face. Felicity’s breath hitched. Nice work, Jimmy. She forced herself to focus on the business at hand. Time to flirt with the perfect stranger. Ha. That’s what that term meant because he was a stranger and so far, he was kind of perfect.

By this point, the gentleman’s pretty face was filled with anxiety. Felicity descended the stage and walked toward the second tier, followed by a spotlight. As she drew closer, the man’s expression changed. There was recognition. He realized that something was going on that was beyond his control and moved toward the edge of his booth, where he was seated alone. The rest of the audience seemed to clue into this being a part of the show as well and there was some random clapping.

As Felicity drew closer to the Beautiful Man, which was the name her brain had randomly given him, she saw his expression change to one of intrigue. Perhaps appreciation. Felicity’s breathing slowed down as she took the last few steps toward him. She was acutely aware of her body and moved deliberately to the beat of the music, trying to appear lithe, graceful and yes, a little sexy. 

From the look on Beautiful Man’s face, she was doing a solid job with the sexy walk – right up until her impossibly high-heeled pump got caught in the carpet and she vaulted forward. Things went in slow motion then as she saw him realize that she was hurtling through the air.

In her mind, Felicity recalled her mother’s saying about something falling “ass over tea kettle” and at this moment her ass was definitely overwhelming her tea kettle. But, to her surprise, the stranger moved even faster. Suddenly, she wasn’t flying any longer. She was in his arms. And they were very nice.

It took a moment for Felicity to comprehend what had happened. She then looked up into the man’s eyes, which conveyed both his surprise and relief at having caught her in time. Without thinking, Felicity banded her arms around his neck. She continued to stare. Up close he was even better looking and his eyes were doing things to her. Damn that Jimmy.

“Hi,” she blurted out. Felicity was acutely aware of the man now – his warmth, the stubble on his chin that should have made him less attractive, but instead made him look a little roguish and definitely still amazing.  

“Hi,” he responded in a deep tone, like thunder from a few miles away on a summer evening, but his eyes were less serious now. He actually looked amused. There were titters in the audience.

“Wow, you are really strong. You must have big muscles. Really big.”

“Thank you.” Beautiful Man nodded to her and then waited a beat. Felicity just looked up at him, seeming to forget the audience was even in the room. The spectators were laughing now and Beautiful Man seemed to realize how comical things had turned. “My, um, phone is still ringing. I think you might have something to do with that.”

“Yes. Yes I do. I’m Felicity Smoak.”

“I am aware of that. I should probably put you down now.”

“Oh,” she whined quietly as Beautiful Man lowered her to the ground so she could stand on her own. Even when she was standing upright, she kept her hand on his solid forearm like it was magnetized there. Then she looked around and saw a couple nearby grinning at her. This was enough to rouse her from her current state. Suddenly, she shook herself into the moment and returned to the program. “Sorry about that! I don’t usually fall for a member of the audience.”

The people in the gallery laughed and a smirk crossed the man’s face. Felicity finally let go of him. She pessed her lips together with a flash of worry before breaking out a grin. Yeah, she was kind of flirting now. She wasn’t sure how this was happening because while she could handle an 8 on a good day, this guy was exponentially beyond 10.

“You know, I love that song, but …abracadabra,” she said matter-of-factly while waving her hand. And the ringing stopped. The silence was so welcome, the audience burst into hearty applause while relief spread over the man’s face.

“Hmm. Could I see what was causing that?” she asked, reaching out for the offending mobile.

The man handed it to her. “I have some idea what might have been causing it.”

Felicity stared at the phone for a moment. “Cats? Really?” She lifted the screen up and revealed it was displaying full kittens tumbling around each other, which she promptly showed to the audience members nearby her. Simultaneously, the image was also displayed on the large screen on stage. The room erupted in laughter. “You seem more like a dog person,” she continued, dryly. “See?”

This was one of Felicity’s favorite bits. Hackers with bad intentions could do damage, for sure, but these little games she perfected in college that enabled her to play with phones located inside the Platinum Room were entertaining. Jimmy executed them perfectly from backstage. Later she could remind the audience to sure up their passwords, but for now she could have some fun.

Felicity held the phone up and suddenly there was a long-eared hound howling into the sky. Felicity made a pouty face at the Beautiful Man, who stood back and crossed his sizeable arms against his ample chest. Whoa, that was impressive. He didn’t look angry. He just shook his head, set his gaze on her and waited for the bit to be over. He might have been a little amused.

When the mournful cries of the dog finished, Felicity looked back at the man sheepishly. “Sorry about that. All better now.”

The man reached out for the phone, but Felicity pulled it back again.

“Wait. Do you think we should take a selfie? I mean, if you want. You’re sort of…wow and... You did save me from a very embarrassing face plant. And I will stop talking now.” She smiled her most charming smile as he quirked his beautiful eyebrow at her and nodded.

“I would have hated to see something happen to that face,” the man responded, deploying his voice again to great effect (if you asked Felicity’s tingling tummy). 

The audience “woo-ed.” Felicity bit her lip and moved closer to the Beautiful Man. She turned around and angled the phone to get them both in frame. Suddenly, he was flush up against her back, warm and solid. His action stole her breath momentarily, but she managed to retain her composure.

The audience wasn’t seeing the two of them on the screen now. They were watching a dog and a cat snuggling in front of a camera, selfie-style. There was more laughter in the house. Meanwhile, the man angled his head down towards her neck.

“You're kind of remarkable, aren't you?” he murmured. Murmuring was dangerous. It reverberated through her ears and down to somewhere in the vicinity of her Fleur of England panties (part of an indulgent spending spree on her last birthday, deployed tonight to boost her confidence).  

“Would you mind helping me with an illusion a bit later?” Felicity spoke nervously and at a level so quiet only he could hear.

“That depends,” the Beautiful Man whispered in her ear. “Could I buy you a drink, Miss Smoak?”

“Kind of busy right now,” she let a tiny smile tug at the corners of her lips.

Felicity felt Beautiful Man’s beautiful hand lightly touch down on her hip. And while the hand didn’t stray further, she was definitely moved. Heat radiated from that place and she felt the pilot light inside her shift to medium-high.

“I’m – I’m not sure about that.” Felicity noted that the response from the crowd was beginning to wane. She needed to wrap things up. With a painted on smile, she burbled, “I don’t know you.”

The man’s eyes flashed and he leaned close again. “My name is Oliver.”

Chapter Text

Most of the second half of Felicity’s show could be considered autobiographic. It opened with silhouettes on the screen telling the story of a little girl who liked computers and puzzles. It was the origin story of a nerd.

Eventually, the story evolved to the point where rectangular boxes that looked like giant computer parts were assembled on the stage by Caitlyn and Ronnie.  The boxes featured glowing numbers and the heart of the bit was solving the numbers in order to get the boxes to fit together as a large stack. Her voice over had hit all of the major points in her life up until she came to start a show in Vegas. By this point, the boxes were assembled and then opened to reveal Felicity. She was dressed in black yoga pants and a black blouse. The audience clapped enthusiastically.

The next section of the show was all about how Felicity discovered magic in her youth, how her mother had brought her to the casinos where she worked and, as a young girl, was able to see some of the best magicians in the world. She would wait at the stage door and get autographs and eventually, tips, as she began attempting her own small illusions. She loved the way that performing magic made her feel – creative and powerful. Felicity showed the audience her first trick, interacting with the video screen and suddenly being surrounded by the images of all of the famous magicians who inspired her.

Next, Felicity talked about integrating her own style with magic. She began an illusion that started with comic book panels on the screen. She talked about how, in addition to wanting to be a magician growing up, she wanted to be superhero. Felicity also admitted that while other little girls had crushes on TV actors and musicians, she only had eyes for comic book heroes. As much as she liked the ones with special powers, she was particularly keen on the men who simply tried hard to help people. She digitally projected panels on the stage that she walked through and interacted with holograms of Ironman, Batman and the Green Arrow. There were ooh’s and ah’s in the audience. At the end of this sequence of illusions, she had the opportunity to introduce her first “partner in crime.”  His name was Antonio Bunderas. The audience laughed at the image of the rabbit wearing a Zorro mask.

She feted Antonio as one of the greatest magic rabbits who ever lived and possibly the friskiest. Yes, every real magician should have a rabbit, she believed. It was a way to connect to the tradition of magic and to make sure that no matter what, you always had a friend on stage. Unfortunately, Antonio was gone now, but he made sure Felicity wouldn’t be alone after sharing a wild night with David Blaine’s fuzzy assistant, Jessica. There were funny comic-style panels projected depicting the shock and horror on the older magician’s face when he realized that his perfect white bunny had been knocked up by her rabbit. She produced an image of Antonio sporting a smug expression. In the end, Felicity explained, she was presented with one of the sons of the illicit union. At this point, Felicity introduced Obi Bun Kenobi with a Star Wars theme and great flourish.  

Since house lights were dark and she was fairly occupied on stage, Felicity had little opportunity to search the audience again to see Oliver. So, now that it was time step to the edge of the stage to set up her final sequence of illusions, she hoped he would still be there. Obi was curled in her arm, looking at the audience, fairly expressionless. That afternoon she had decided to change the tone of the trick a little. It was about her final transformation into a magician.

“Now, look at me? Hardly dressed appropriately for a magician with a big Vegas show, right? I think that whole cell phone thing earlier distracted me. Well, it’s a good thing we have a time machine, right, Obi?”  She hoisted her rabbit up and nuzzled his nose against hers. “You know, I think we should bring someone else with us,” she announced. She looked over at Jimmy, who tapped the side of his nose like he was in The Sting. A moment later, a spotlight danced across the room and landed on Oliver, who looked stunned. Felicity’s breath caught, seeing him again.

“Yes, you…Oliver,” she purred from the stage, hoping she didn’t sound drunk. “Would you mind assisting us?”

The Beautiful Man appeared intrigued, but also unsure as he lowered his drink to his table, shifting in his seat. Eyes in the room were on him. Hard. He certainly dared not hold up the show again.

“I promise Obi won’t bite,” she grinned at the audience. “Of course, that just leaves me.” She stroked the bunny’s ears and smiled broadly. Felicity was adorable.

There was hardly a beat before Oliver was slinging his crumpled napkin into the booth and standing. He moved the aisle and descended the stairs. Felicity’s breath hitched again. Her smile persisted as she reached out to Oliver when he reached the stage.

She wasn’t prepared for the way she felt when her skin made contact with his. Oliver’s hand was so warm and it enveloped hers in gentle strength. Felicity was afraid to look at him, concerned that his face might reduce her to babbling in front of the crowd. So, she tugged him center stage where Ronnie and Caitlyn arranged a large narrow box that resembled the Tardis from Doctor Who.

Felicity stopped them in front of the box.

“Everyone, first let’s thank Oliver here for helping me.” The crowd clapped. “Now, Oliver, please meet Obi Bun Kenobi.” She hoisted the bunny up to Oliver’s face. He stared into the rabbit’s eyes, not quite knowing what else he should do. The rabbit stared back and since it didn’t blink, Oliver would lose any contest. The audience laughed.

“Great,” Felicity burbled. “Now that you are best friends…” Felicity put Obi in Oliver’s arms with quick precision. It was liked a reverse-mugging, really. “I would like for you and Obi to head inside.”

Oliver watched as Ronnie and Caitlyn expertly opened the front door of the empty box.

“Don’t worry, Oliver, Obi is an old pro at running the time machine,” she said with a warm smile. It was a very nice smile, he thought. Then he looked down at Obi, who, to his credit, was incredibly calm. Oliver had never held a live rabbit before. He had dated some girls with cats and screwed a socialite in the back of a limo on top of her mink coat once, but this was different. He noted the way the warm bunny fur brushed the skin on his forearm as he cradled it.

A moment later, he was being herded into the box by Felicity’s eager and preternaturally attractive assistants. Suddenly, his field of vision narrowed and the sound of the theater was diminished by the three walls surrounding him. Oliver had no idea what might happen next and panic started to niggle him.

Felicity watched Oliver enter the box and his subsequent reaction made her giggle. “I think Oliver is a little nervous,” she announced. Then she stood in front of the box.  

Oliver glanced out and admired the assets he hadn’t been able to study from his seat in the house. Then he distinctly heard her announce –

“I think he needs more company.” A ticking guitar filled the quiet of the theater, the beginning of The Police’s mysterious “I Burn for You.”

And then Felicity was turning. Her small frame gently slipped into the box with him, bringing with it her warmth and the smell of coconut lime shampoo. Their eyes locked as their bodies nearly grazed each other. Felicity raised her hand to touch Oliver’s jaw with her fingers, in full view of the audience.

Now that I have found you
In the coolth of your evening smile
The shade of your parasol
And your love flows through me

Oliver studied her lovely face lowering them to grip his bicep through his fitted white shirt. She was looking at him like he was the only man in the world, rather than the only one in the box with her. Oliver noticed that the box was beginning to move, spinning in place, but only out of his periphery. His eyes were locked on this woman. He admired her features, her porcelain skin, her sparkling eyes and her painted lips. Drawn to them, his head began to dip forward.

Though I drink at your pool
I burn for you, I burn for…

Then suddenly, Felicity whispered, “Now,” and Oliver felt his body dropping, along with hers. They stopped moving seconds later, just as abruptly. The sound of the music was distant now.

“What the hell?” Oliver was surprised and disoriented. He straightened his legs from where they had flexed to take the jolt.

“Sorry,” Felicity smiled and winced at the same time. “I couldn’t warn you. It’s the trick. I’ve never included another person before.” And then she scooped Obi Bun Kenobi out of Oliver’s arms and rushed out of the box and into a backstage area lit by naked bulbs.

Oliver followed her as she headed to an open dressing room doorway filled with a good-looking, dark-haired guy in his late forties. He was dressed immaculately in a black t-shirt and black jeans. His black cowboy boots and belt finished the surprisingly expensive look.  

“Hey Hot Stuff,” the man drawled.

“Hi Dave,” she chirped, a little breathless. “Meet Dave,” she threw over her shoulder to Oliver, then she added for Dave’s benefit, “Dave…Oliver.” Felicity gently thrust Obi into the man’s hands, and then rushed past him into the room. Oliver approached slowly, trying to process the situation. Dave eyed him and pulled the door to the room partially closed behind him.  

“I see Jimmy was on his game tonight,” he stated dryly, checking Oliver out from head to toe. “My man has excellent taste.”

At that moment, Oliver was feeling objectified and he wished Felicity would come back out into the hall.

“So, what do you think? Dave called to her, crossing his arms and puffing out his buff chest. “Does it fit? We didn’t have a lot of time for measurements.” Dave might have smirked on that word, seeing if he could get a reaction out of Oliver.  

“Oh, Dave, it’s gorgeous.” she called from inside.

Oliver looked very confused by this point. Dave took pity on him. “Costume change,” he growled, pointing into the room, still cuddling Obi.

Oliver understood at least part of what was going on now. He stepped back and took a breath, hoping she would emerge soon to enlighten him.

“Time?” she sounded agitated through the door. Dave glanced at his watch.

“Three minutes, 15. You need me for anything else, Honey?” Dave spoke into the doorway.

“I don’t think so. Just take Obi upstairs?”

“Okay,” Dave responded, still staring at the man his boyfriend had picked out for Felicity. He nodded at Oliver slowly, and then ambled down the hall, leaving him alone.

“Felicity?” Oliver wasn’t sure what to do, so he began pacing the hall. His second lap was interrupted when the door flew open. What he saw captured his full attention. Shapely legs. Pink and black marabou feathers. And Felicity Smoak’s exquisite, naked back. Her ivory shoulder blades moved seductively in front of him as she pinned the strapless dress against herself. Her hair was down now and a top hat was sitting on her head, cocked at an angle.

“Oliver, would you mind?”

With an unsteady breath, he moved forward and reached for the zipper pull that was nestled against her lower back. His fingers felt too big, all of a sudden. She seemed so delicate now. As he slowly raised the pull, he stared at the gentle curve of her shoulder. Want tugged at him – a deep desire to place his lips there and drag them across her soft skin. When the zipper was closed a moment later, Felicity spun around. The dress was a fitted pink and silver brocade corset on top and a skirt made of feathers that seemed to dance in the air. Silver stiletto shoes were icing on an already delectable cake.

“Thanks! Look alright?” Felicity blushed a little and smiled.

Oliver nodded, wordlessly. He thought she might be his own version of a desert mirage. Felicity grabbed his arm and pulled him along as she headed back to the box.

“When we got inside the box, a holographic image was made and then digitized. There’s been all kinds of razzle dazzle going on onstage, but the audience still thinks it’s us. Now we go back up and replace the image. Only now I’m all…fancy. And I trust you to keep my secret.”

Oliver’s expression, followed by a nod, showed that he understood. Arriving back at the box, Oliver re-entered without direction. Felicity followed and once again their bodies were close.  

“In place, Jimmy.” Felicity spoke to her teammate through her ear monitor. The box began to move.  

Felicity stared up at Oliver and wondered if looking at something could actually make you drunk. Because that was how she felt. It was the only explanation for what she said next.

“Oliver, my boss suggested that I make the act a little, you know, spicier. Not like you know, the Spice Channel spicy. Just a bit more fun and flirty, you know? So, I was just thinking, it would be cute if when we went back out, there was a lipstick print on your shirt collar.” She watched his face, trying to read his reaction to each word. “Would that be okay?”

Oliver nodded again, wondering when he had lost the ability to speak. He needed to fix that.

Felicity gulped down any feelings of panic at their proximity, rose up and placed her lips firmly on his shirt color. She lingered a moment, breathing him in. When she settled back down, she observed how the lipstick print practically glowed in the dark against the white fabric. Then she caught his eyes again. There was something mischievous in them.

“You know, it might be even better if you left one here,” he pointed to his cheek. His voice reverberated inside the enclosed space.  

“Ooh, where is here?” Jimmy chirped in her ear like a prurient cricket, causing Felicity to startle and blush a little at the same time. “That boy better still have his pants on.”

Felicity huffed out a nervous laugh, in part because she liked the visual he suggested, but also because the idea of kissing Oliver and not his shirt was exciting. Oliver was playing along now and that was very nice. Felicity nodded and placed her hand on his shoulder to steady herself. She rolled up on her toes as he offered his cheek to her. Her soft lips melted against his skin, just above where a sexy accumulation of stubble veiled his jawline.

Felicity hesitated and then pulled away, leaving another perfect rosy print. Oliver exhaled, his powerful chest receding. She looked back up at him. That might have been a mistake, because his expression was tense with…something. Felicity unconsciously licked her lips, sensing them barer from sharing her lipstick.

They were moving again. The music was audible again. Pulsing. Almost tribal.  

The something that simmered in Oliver’s eyes sparked and suddenly his lips crashed down. Felicity whimpered and welcomed his mouth against hers, hot and just as wanting. She felt him slip one hand up her waist while the other skimmed down her side and ruffled past the marabou.

The feathers teased Oliver’s fingers as he sought her leg. When he finally palmed her smooth skin, the muscles beneath responded. His grasp encouraged her thigh to graze his hip. He held it there and leaned into her. Meanwhile, his other hand pressed against a brocade-covered breast. He teased the fabric with his thumb. Felicity grasped onto his shoulder for support while her free hand slipped between two buttons on his shirt and massaged the warm skin she found there.

 “Honey, I’m the last person to cockblock you, but you’ve got ten seconds.”

Felicity suddenly whined and pulled her lips away. Oliver’s eyes were closed and he gulped a breath. They looked at each other, imagining what might have come next. So much excellent touching.

“A drink. After.” It was more like a statement from him than a question. He wasn’t sure he still needed to ask.  

“Showtime,” she whispered back, avoiding the subject for the time being.

A moment later, a spotlight illuminated the box. The audience caught Felicity’s mouth in feigned surprise, her thigh still bent astride his hip. Oliver smirked on cue. At this point, the audience roared with applause. Felicity mimed a blush and reached down to swat Oliver’s hand away. She made a show of shimmying out of the enclosure, all the while smiling. She took a little bow and then extended her hand to encourage the man to exit.

Oliver moved beside her, keeping his eyes on her constantly. He really didn’t want to face the audience at that moment, even though they were center stage and fairly unavoidable. He just watched Felicity, glowing in the light, a fresh pink in her cheeks that may have been caused by him. He offered his most genuine smile, which was rendered almost boyish by the lipstick print on his cheek.

Felicity startled at the look of admiration she was receiving from the man, as well as how damn beautiful he looked. She smiled back, almost shyly. Then she removed the tophat from her head and turned it upside down.

“Abracadabra.” She grinned and then raised the hat toward him. Curious, Oliver looked down just at the moment when Obi Wan chose to pop his head out of the hat. A surprised laugh overtook him as the applause swelled again. But then his expression morphed into something reflecting disbelief. He was sure he had seen Dave walk away with the rabbit downstairs. Oliver started clapping himself.

Felicity bowed to the audience and then curtseyed to Oliver in an ironically demure fashion before the stage lights dimmed and the curtain closed on the best performance of her life.

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Back down in her dressing room, Felicity blew deep breaths out while staring at herself in the long theatrical makeup mirror. The incandescent bulbs that lined it did an excellent job highlighting the look of shock and residual lust currently decorating her face.

She was supposed to be a professional. Since when did she make out with total strangers? Since when did she get handsy and lippsy…was that even a word…with audience members? During a show?

A knock roused her from her current bout of self-loathing. Pulling the door open, she got her answer.

Since Oliver Queen. 

Chapter Text

Away from the stage lights, Oliver was just as beautiful and the sight of him stole the moisture from Felicity’s mouth and set her heart slamming hard against her chest. His suit jacket was on, his white shirt unbuttoned by several holes, affecting a deconstructed businessman look. Her lipstick prints remained evident on his collar and still looked sexy. Curiously, he was holding a potted fern.

The man’s expression was unreadable. Felicity secured her orchid-colored silk dressing gown with its belt and opened the door further so that he could pass through. After debating with herself about the appropriateness of closing the door, she did it anyway.

"Hi," she smiled, a slight blush decorating her cheeks. Felicity made a habit of slipping out of her stage shoes as soon as possible, so she found herself looking up at him now and appreciating just how tall he was.

"Hi." His voice was quiet, soothing, and she wanted to hear more.

“The show…what you do…it’s really amazing. You’re amazing.”

Yes, she liked hearing him and he was saying very nice things. Felicity’s blush grew stronger.

“Well, you were in it, so yeah. It kind of was.”

“No, I mean, yeah, I enjoyed being a part of it, some parts were…especially nice.” Oliver’s eyes flashed at her, recalling the nicest part, which included all-too-brief touching and kissing. “But you just blew me away. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

“Oh no. You aren’t a magic groupie are you?” Felicity feigned horror, slapping her hand over her mouth.

“Uh,” Oliver looked quite confused now. “No. Is that a thing?” Oliver searched her face for some clarification, a slightly bemused look dancing around his lips. ”I’m just a…person and I, uh, wanted to bring you flowers because that’s what you do when a woman is beaut—." Oliver caught himself, presented the plant and then moved to set it down on the table. "I think it's customary to do that, but this was all they had in the shop."

At this point, Oliver noticed several vases of flowers placed on tables around the room. They were expensive, long-stemmed roses - deep oranges and yellows against the pink and purple color scheme of her space. He grimaced and looked back at her, now understanding how the shop had run out.

“Ah.”

“Yeah, my boss got carried away.” She looks a little embarrassed, her eyes darting away momentarily. “Thanks for the fern. It’s great, really. It’ll last long after those,” she thumbed toward the flowers, ”are long gone.” 

Felicity admired the plant a moment and then diverted her attention back to her guest.

“So, your boss sends you…lots of flowers?” Oliver peered down at her, searching for the answer to the question implied.

Felicity stared up at him, contemplating the inquiry that went with his expression. She was in danger of completely drowning in his velvety blue eyes when the working part of her brain finished processing. She snorted…before she could stop herself. Then she shook her head and stalked over to the bouquet on the table beside an antique wooden dressing screen. Felicity snagged the card sticking out and returned to Oliver.

Felicity smirked and held the card in front of her face, message side up. “Great reports on tonight’s show. Way to go, Smoak. MM” she said, affecting a lowered voice. Then she lowered the card and giggled. “Obviously, he’s totally hot for me.”

It was then she saw the expression changing on Oliver’s face. Concern gave way to relief, which quietly morphed into desire. Then, his hand was moving toward her face, his thumb grazing her jaw, his fingers slipping into her hair. Oliver’s mouth descended onto hers, completing a circuit that sparked a fire that ran down her spine. Her knees felt weak all of a sudden, causing her survival skills to set in. She latched one hand around his elbow and the other snaked around his waist, holding on and feeling the heat of his skin through the expensive broadcloth. Meanwhile, his mouth found the perfect angle to settle against hers.

She moaned, which was an uncharacteristic response for her. But damn, he was hot and when his lips urged hers apart and his tongue slipped inside to tease her with heat and need, she couldn’t help the way her body reacted and expressed her own desperate want.

His sizable hand, the one that wasn’t massaging her neck, pressed against her back, slid slowly down to the curve of her waist, and then to her hip. Orchid-colored silk pooled between his fingers as they gently moved to rest on her ass. It was his turn to moan. Not like she had. His utterance was a deep and rumbly tremor that filled her ears and oscillated against her chest. Felicity pulled away to smile and catch her breath, but Oliver simply diverted his mouth to her neck. His hot breath accompanied ardent kisses against her delicate skin and the sensory overload of Oliver everywhere was intoxicating.

Bang. Bang. 

Jimmy’s booming voice followed, slightly muffled through the door.

“Hey Girlie. You decent?”

Felicity’s eye grew wide as Oliver slowly pulled away from her. And then she was panicking, not exactly sure she wanted to share this particular moment with anyone but the man in front of her who was panting, his lids heavy with lust.

“Hide!” she whispered. At first, Oliver didn’t react. And then he did, surprised by her request. He obviously didn’t understand it, but was willing to play along, searching around for a place to go.

Felicity grabbed Oliver’s hand and dragged him across the room. She was surprisingly strong, whipping his large frame along and depositing him behind her dressing screen. There was a chair there, which she pressed him down into, assuring he wouldn’t be seen above the panels.

Oliver looked at her with surprise and bemusement before suddenly rising up and pulling her down on his lap. Felicity stifled a gasp. Despite her initial shock and intellectual desire to express disapproval, her hands naturally slipped around his neck and she settled into his arms.

Oliver looked around the more private space for a moment and noticed something quite interesting. Two cages. Two seemingly identical rabbits. One cage was labeled “Obi Bun Kenobi” and the other was “Kylo Bun.” The fuzzy bunnies looked at Oliver blankly, chewing their lettuce in rhythm. In a flash, everything made sense. He raised two fingers up to Felicity and pointed to the cages. She put up her hands as if to say, “you caught me.”  Oliver grinned at her and she suddenly wished she could crawl inside his jacket.

What was she doing? She had barely just met this man but she felt compelled to be near him. Their faces were just inches apart and their chests appeared to heave in the same desperate rhythm.

The sound of the door opening heightened the tension. Felicity gave Oliver a pleading look and lightly covered his mouth with her fingers. The move was intended to keep him quiet, but Oliver gently grasped her wrist and used the opportunity to worship her hand with soft, silent kisses.

“Oh,” Jimmy’s voice reflected surprise. “She’s gone, Davy. There’s that fern I told you about. LustMuffin seems to have stolen our girl for the night.”

Oliver raised his eyebrows at Felicity as if to say, LustMuffin, really? She just blushed and smirked in way that managed to be adorable and sexy at the same time.

Dave’s voice filled the room. “He’s safe, right? Not some crazed psycho…”

Felicity pressed her lips together to squelch a smile as Oliver looked slightly indignant and frustrated that he couldn’t interject. God, he was cute when he wasn’t being extraordinarily handsome. Damn.

“Honey, he brought the girl a plant. Besides, you saw his shoes,” Jimmy explained in a soothing tone.

“Right.”

Oliver quirked an eyebrow, curious as to what his footwear had to do with anything and wondering if he had just been complimented or insulted. Felicity smiled warmly back at him and moved her hand from his so she could stroke his jaw. The Beautiful Man’s ire was dampened and adoration returned. He dropped his palm to press gently against her thigh. At the same time, his mouth moved closer and he traced the slope of her neck with his lips.

“Come on, Babe,” Jimmy burbled from the doorway. “Margaritas aren’t going to drink themselves.”

Dave chuckled. A moment later, the sound of the door clicking shut echoed in the room.  

Felicity let out a quiet moan, reacting to the hand softly massaging her through her robe and the heat swirling around her ear that managed to ignite something much deeper. When her fingers raked into the hair at the nape of his neck, Oliver found her lips again.

The kiss was exceptional. Felicity loved the way Oliver’s mouth could be gentle and insistent at the same time. Every tug on her lips, every delicious slip of his tongue against hers felt perfect and Felicity welcomed his greedy exploration.

When the young woman found herself starved of breath, she pulled away and rested her palm against his formidable chest. She felt his heart pulsing. Felicity giggled as Oliver pulled her close and rested his forehead against hers. In the moment, she had no idea what was really happening, just that she felt joy. Then she noticed the look on Oliver’s face. Damn, he just kept getting hotter. How was that possible?

“It’s definitely the company,” he murmured. Felicity groaned. The kiss had burned away her filter and she had no doubt her verbal gaffes, in the form of honesty, would be coming more frequently now. Still, Oliver appeared to be smiling, so it could have been worse.

Felicity fought her embarrassment and smiled back at him. Oliver seemed to be studying her face at that moment. The way he was looking at her made her hold her breath for a moment. Their blue eyes connected and then he was reaching into her hair and pulling her in for another kiss, this one languid and sensual. Lips softly massaging lips, teasing tongues. The crackling sound of moisture and breathing filled her ears. She inhaled his scent, expensive aftershave mixed with a subtle musk.

But nothing beat the feeling of his hand on her thigh, warm, strong fingers massaging her flesh through silk and slowly moving upward, inward, until they reached the folds of her robe. Felicity whimpered when the pad of his thumb tentatively scraped the tender skin of her inner thigh. She guessed that Oliver wasn’t sure how to proceed because he paused for a moment. But then he resumed massaging her skin and moving towards the heat that was radiating from her. When he finally brushed his thumb across her panties, Felicity gasped and shifted herself in his lap, briefly reducing his contact. As soon as she settled, his hand returned, just a few millimeters away from her center this time.

Felicity sought out his eyes, which appeared darker and even more beautiful. This was making out of the first order and she wanted to know that it was affecting him too.  

Oliver smiled, just the corners of his mouth turning up. “You’re really…wow. Would it be okay…would, would you mind if I…I’d like…Please.” He didn’t seem like the kind of guy who stammered or was ever at a loss for words, but there he was. Felicity cocked her head to the side and waited for him to finish. Oliver took a breath and regrouped. Dead serious. “I want to taste you, Felicity.” 

“Well, geez, you practically swallowed me whole on that last kiss.” She grinned back at him.

“Not like that,” he whispered, stroking her shoulder with his free hand. And then he did it again – the teasing thing with his thumb. Oliver watched her react, the flush of her skin, the way her breath caught and her eyes flashed at him.

Felicity’s brain fritzed for a moment. She was good at problem-solving on the fly. You had to be if you worked with technology and it was absolutely necessary if you were a performer having to deal with last minute surprises on stage. But having the hottest man she’d ever met ask if he could do…that…was technically not a problem, right?

Without a word, she clambered down from his lap and stood up. Felicity turned away, walked back out into the room and slowly moved towards the door, pacing.

She was making a list of pros and cons. Con side…she just met this man. Like minutes ago, practically. She wasn’t the kind of girl who jumped into physical relationships with boyfriends, let alone strangers. Also, she did just meet him and didn’t know a thing about him. She didn’t even know his last name! What if he was some married guy who took off his wedding ring when he came to Vegas just so he could go down on random entertainers? Also, what gave him the impression she was the kind of girl who let anybody play fast and loose with her panties? On the pro side…everything he had done and said so far had been really, really nice. Sweet. Patient. She had a good feeling about him and not just because he was an eleven, possibly higher if he took his shirt off. And damn, he could kiss, so it was likely he could do other amazing things with his mouth.  His hands were gentle. Finally, with eyes like that she would probably come if he just looked at her lady bits.

The sound of Oliver laughing brought her out of her internal struggle…that wasn’t so internal, apparently. She turned to look at him, her mouth open and ready for a fisherman’s hook. The man stifled his chuckling and cleared his throat.

“You continue to amaze and delight me, Felicity Smoak. So, let me assure you…there is no wedding ring.” Oliver started moving toward her. The blonde shook her head and cursed herself and her freaking failure of an internal monologue. How mortifying. “And while I am quite single, I work a lot and haven’t had the opportunity to proposition a beautiful lady magician before, so this will probably be my one time.”

He kept moving closer, but Felicity held her ground.

“I’m glad you like the way I kiss,” he smiled, “because I really like the way you kiss too.”

Oliver was now only a step away, so he could reach up and gently curl his fingers into her golden hair.

“And,” His lighthearted tone became more serious and he tilted his head down to study her lovely face, “while I’m delighted to know that you think I could make you come just by looking at you…well, that would deny me a lot of pleasure.”

Felicity Smoak, IT badass, professional magician, Vegas headliner, let out the ragged breath she had been holding during his advance. The honey he had just spoken had coated her throat and made it a little difficult to speak aloud now.

Without taking her eyes off Oliver, who was studying her every move, she reached back with one hand and locked the door. Finally capable of speech, she summoned up her feminine charm, tilted her head in challenge and purred, “We can’t have that.”

Oliver’s mouth found Felicity’s quickly. The kiss was a little sloppy this time, but that was out of fervor more than a lack of finesse. Felicity banded her arms around his neck, and Oliver encircled her waist with his hand. Without much effort, he lifted her up off her feet and moved them both a few steps over to the chair in front of her dressing table.  

As Oliver returned Felicity to the ground, she disengaged from the kiss and giggled, slightly lightheaded.

“Now you’ve literally swept me off my feet. Nice move.”

“Thanks. I’m making this up as I go.” Oliver winked at her. Winked.

“Please, don’t do that again. I swear. It’s kind of lethal,” she deadpanned.

Oliver reacted with a chuckle. His eyes twinkled as he studied her face. His hands moved up to delve into her hair and eventually landed softly on her shoulders. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek, brushing his face close to her ear after.

“Sit, please,” he murmured. Felicity nodded and sat down on her dressing chair. She felt a little nervous at this point, but the edge of that feeling was soothed by the excitement she felt at that moment.

“My last name is Queen, by the way. Should have mentioned that since I’m about to…”

Oliver slipped off his jacket, and tossed it on the edge of the dressing table counter. The sleeves of his white shirt were unbuttoned. Out of habit, he rolled them up as he surveyed her, the area around the chair and then her dressing table. He was obviously planning something.

For a few moments, Felicity allowed herself the luxury of scanning Oliver Queen’s body without feeling self-conscious. His clothes were nicely tailored. His broad back teased beneath the white shirt and his forearms flexed against his rolled sleeves. She found herself hoping she would see more of him.

Suddenly, Oliver grabbed her chair and shifted her a few inches away, so that he could position himself between her and the mirror. Felicity squealed, drawing a smile from him. He dropped to his knees in front of her.

Felicity swallowed. Not wanting to be a completely passive participant in the situation, she leaned forward. Oliver noticed the way she was chewing her bottom lip and he subconsciously did it too.

“Shoes,” she croaked.

“Hmm?”

“Would you pass me my shoes, please?” Felicity motioned to the floor behind Oliver. He quirked an eyebrow and turned to the area underneath the dressing table where he grabbed Felicity’s heels. Turning back, he presented them.

“Thank you,” she smiled and took them.

Oliver watched Felicity pivot in her chair to fit the first silver stiletto on her bare left foot. His eyebrow arched as he viewed the sensual transformation of the leg peeking out of her robe. Felicity studied his gaze as she maneuvered the right heel onto her other foot. His eyes darkened in approval.

“Magic shoes,” he whispered when she was finished, gently grasping her ankle and admiring the curves that were on display. He leaned in to place a soft kiss on her calf.

“Not fun to walk in, but...” She tried to control her breathing by slowing it down. The deliberate actions of this man made her feel a little intoxicated.

“I can’t imagine you are going to be walking any time soon,” he hummed. Oliver pressed forward so that Felicity’s leg was draped over his shoulder. He nuzzled her thigh with his scruffy jaw, eliciting a sharp gasp before moving forward to claim another heated kiss. Felicity raked through Oliver’s soft brown hair with her blunt, painted fingernails. Meanwhile, one of his hands held the chair while the other slowly moved down the thigh that was hitched up.

Oliver stopped and leaned back for a moment. Felicity couldn’t help but notice the darkness in his eyes as they swept down her body, which looked open and inviting. Still, the robe was pooled between her legs and covering her. He stared at the soft belt cinching it closed. Before he could reach for it, Felicity snagged one of the narrow lengths of silk and pulled down slowly to release the bow. The robe fell open enough for Oliver to take in an expanse of bare skin from her waist to her neck. A bellybutton. A shadow of cleavage. Beautiful creamy flesh begging to be kissed.

For Felicity, the feelings of being exposed and powerful at the same time were no more conspicuous than when Oliver’s eyes dropped to her panties. She was wearing the pale pink ones tonight and she could tell by the cool air slipping against her exposed center that her arousal was evident.  A slight smile of appreciation reflected on Oliver’s face as he leaned in to brush a kiss against her lips. He shifted to worship her neck while his fingers moved closer and closer to a more intimate destination.

Then, he stopped nuzzling her and engaged her with a smoldering look. At the same time, his fingers moved to dance along the skin of her belly. Felicity trembled a little under the intensity of his eyes and the promise of his next touches.

“Okay?” was all he asked. Felicity nodded without a word.

Oliver leaned in and captured her lips with assurance. She responded fully and passionately, delighting in experiencing yet another unchaste kiss with this irresistible man. She felt his warm fingers slide down beneath the edge of her panties and further down. They both moaned together as he found the moisture that collected just inside the silky fabric.

His fingers were soaked as they gently glided between hot, soft folds. Oliver looked pleased to hear her mewl as he stroked her a few times, the last against her clit.

Felicity’s hips surged in response, resulting in her sitting closer to the edge of the chair. Then, she felt the absence of his hand crowding her underwear. Oliver stopped kissing her too and the harsh loss of him on both fronts drew a pout across her lips.

She opened her eyes to see Oliver’s face, heavy-lidded and breathless. Felicity watched him raise his hand to his mouth and lick one of his glistening fingers. He hummed quiet approval. She stared at him, open-mouthed as he reached forward and wiped another wet finger across her bottom lip.

If Felicity had been wearing a heart monitor, it probably would have registered a flat line as Oliver quietly leaned in to lick and suckle her lips. When his tongue found its way to hers, salty and sweet, she couldn’t stop herself from moaning and straining her hips. She was desperate to press any and all of Oliver against her.

But she would have to wait. Oliver focused his attention on her breasts. She couldn’t help but respond to the ardor he showered each mound. Felicity moaned in appreciation as his tongue and his lips kneaded her curves and explored the varying textures of sensitive skin, encouraging her nipples to peak and harden under his efforts. When he rubbed the scruff of his jaw against her there, she keened. With a smile, he took note.

Eventually, Oliver curled his fingers into the edges of her panties and held fast. He dropped his forehead against hers, panting.

“Can we…” he suggested.

“Rip them off,” she purred, closing her eyes and leaning back in the chair.

Oliver smirked at her sudden wantonness. “Yes, ma’am.”

The sound of fabric rending accompanied her stuttered breathing. Next, Felicity felt her legs being raised so that her feet rested on her dressing table.

Felicity tried to prepare herself for what would happen next – an incredibly intimate invasion. But instead she just felt puffs of warm breath at her apex, a flutter of air around her legs and then his hot hands rubbing her thighs. 

“Felicity, open your eyes,” he demanded in a low, seductive tone.

When she raised her head and met his request, she couldn’t help but gasp. Oliver was still kneeling there in front of her, his head and shoulders rising between her thighs. But he had taken his shirt off and the view of his defined chest was pretty damn spectacular.

“Solid fourteen,” she grinned. Oliver looked at her quizzically and then realized the reference, grinning back at her. “Oliver, are you sure you’re not the magician? Because you managed to make your shirt disappear.”

 “Maybe I am,” he growled, licking his lips. “Magicians like to do things with mirrors, don’t they?”

As Felicity watched him lower his head, she glimpsed herself reflected in the dressing table mirror, breasts heaving and pink from his beard and generous attention, the bottoms of her silver stilettos swaying left and right to the rhythm of the aching between her legs, as well as the graceful muscles of Oliver Queen’s beautiful broad back.

Then she felt his thumb parting her softest skin and his hot tongue rasp against her, causing her back to arch and prickles of heat to rise up her back. He took his time, massaging her flesh, pressing against her tender nub, then lapping up her juices.

“Holy shit,” she winced, trying to minimize the noises that wanted to rip through her throat.

Occasionally she heard the beautiful man whisper, “So good,” followed by a range of what she would call hot, wet, sex noises. The sights, the sounds and the touches were working in concert to heighten her pleasure. And it was working. Felicity responded to his strokes and kisses enthusiastically, moaning his name and whimpering as each touch tightened the spring within her.

After worshiping her for some time, Oliver took a break to catch his breath. Felicity admired his shining eyes, ruddy cheeks and swollen lips and blushed at how they had been acquired.

“Thank you,” she sighed. “That felt amazing.” Her tone implied that if he wanted to stop there, she would understand and feel completely thrilled with the attention she had already received. After all, an orgasm had not been proffered earlier.

“Just getting started,” he assured her.  

“Oh, okay,” Felicity breathed and chuckled at the same time.

Oliver looked at her seriously as he rubbed his hand across his face. “Is there anything I’m doing that you don’t like? Or maybe something you’d like me to do…”

“God, no. You’re perfect.” Her ears caught up with her mouth at that point. “I mean what you’re doing is perfect,” she rushed, momentarily. “No, I actually meant that…fuck, you are so perfect.”

This elicited an unexpected laugh from the Beautiful Man. “Ooh, Ms. Smoak, I think I like the salty talk. You are just…” Oliver surged forward and seized her lips. She was keen to kiss him back with all the passion she could muster. When she heard him moan against her mouth she knew that she had been successful in conveying just how much she was enjoying things so far. Oliver framed her face with his hands as he pulled out of the lip lock.

“I really do like the way you kiss.” His eyes twinkled as they swept over her naked form. Instead of shifting uncomfortably under his gaze, she arched her back and chewed on her bottom lip to tease him. He shook his head, marveling at her.  

“Time for round two. Close your eyes for me this time.”

Felicity quirked an eyebrow and pouted at him. “But I like watching you. Your back…does things.”

“As glad as I am to hear that, I think this next part will be even better if you don’t watch.”  

“Okay.” She sounded doubtful, but shifted to get more comfortable in the chair and lowered her eyelids as she stretched her head back. From the sounds and the air shifting around his body, she could tell he was preparing something, but she didn’t try to peek. 

A moment later, she welcomed the feeling of Oliver’s mouth against her sex again. His soft kisses felt incredible and if she could have mustered a coherent thought, it would have been that none of the men she had been with before had worked to help her feel like this – beautiful, sexy and desired.

She closed her eyes again and dropped her head back. The sensations were so intense she needed to focus on the pleasure building at her core.  Then she felt his forearm pressing against her belly, holding her in place so she wouldn’t fall out of the seat when he plunged his tongue inside her.

“Oliver…like that…yesssss.” She was babbling incoherently now, but she couldn’t help it. He was delivering exactly what her body was craving, heat and pressure in the very place that was throbbing for attention.

She started whimpering, the feeling was so intense. But then, impossibly, it escalated. Felicity started to feel a soft scratch against her nipple, reminiscent of the way Oliver’s beard felt earlier when he was ravishing her breasts. The feeling was delicious and dangerous and heightened her senses even further. But how could he be doing that when his face was buried between her quivering thighs? What kind of sexual savant was this guy?

“Please don’t stop fucking me like that.” That might have been the dirtiest thing she ever said during a sexual encounter. And she meant it. She mindlessly grasped for his hair, his arm, anything to hold onto.

When Felicity began to think she couldn’t take the sensory overload any longer she looked down and realized that Oliver’s other hand was gently teasing her impossibly aroused nipple with a frond from the plant he’d brought her. Holy shit. Every muscle below her waist was tightening up now. She knew her body and what it was telling her.

“I’m coming, Oliver.” The strain in her voice reflected desperation and lust. Oliver simply swirled his tongue inside her one more time and then tapped it confidently against her clit.  

The rubber band inside her snapped. Her body clenched and every ounce of blood in her head rushed to the area Oliver Queen was soothing with his soft lips. Her back arched and her pelvis strained against his arm. Felicity’s legs shook and she cried out his name while trying to hold onto consciousness. As the crest of her orgasm began to wane, she felt bliss overtake her. She found his hand still banded around her middle and laced her fingers into his.     

Oliver finally removed his mouth and placed a few soft kisses on her inner thighs. Meanwhile, Felicity worked to regain her breath. When she could, she lowered her shaky feet to the floor and leaned in to nuzzle Oliver’s nose. He cupped her jaw and kissed her. Once again, she tasted herself on his lips and she reveled in the decadence of it.

When they separated, Oliver ducked his head into the curve of her neck again.

“I asked you earlier if you would get a drink with me.”

“You did,” she smiled, running her fingers through his hair. “I was thinking maybe dinner.”

Oliver pulled back and looked into her eyes. They flashed back at him. He swallowed and readied his response. At the same time, they both blurted…

“Room service.”

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Oliver mentioned that he was booked at the Gambit two blocks down the Strip, but it was just too far to go in their current state of…mutual arousal. So, Felicity invited him to her rooms at the Merlyn – a perk of performing there – but not before explaining she would have to do some hacking for a couple of minutes. The cameras Malcolm Merlyn had monitoring the property reduced the likelihood of a discreet encounter with a handsome gentleman and she liked her privacy.

So, Felicity slipped into a casual outfit and then worked her magic on Merlyn’s feed. When she had control of the feeds, she led Oliver through the corridors and up the elevator to her digs on the 20th floor. They held hands and stopped a few times to steal kisses behind pillars or banks of slot machines. Arriving at her suite, they ordered room service, which included a couple of pizzas, a bottle of Malbec and a slab of chocolate cake. They even managed to eat some of the food while it was hot. But they were desperate and distracted by their desire to further explore and discover satisfaction in one another, even if for just the night.

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“Whoa, buddy,” Felicity huffed as Oliver collapsed on top of her. He couldn’t help but laugh at her. She was funny and sexy and so different than other women he had been with.

“Whoa, buddy? We’re buddies now?” he chuckled against her stomach.  

“Well, you know…” she replied, as demurely as possible given she was butt naked and they had just mussed her favorite purple sheets.

“Come on, say it,” he teased. “You know how I’m getting fond of your naughty mouth.”

Felicity chewed her bottom lip for a moment. “You’re trying to get me to call you my fuck buddy.”

“Yes!” Oliver fist-pumped the air lamely. He was feeling the effects of this woman wearing him out, but delighted that he could make her blush.

“Oliver Queen, you are a very silly man.”

“Actually, I am not. I’m a very serious man.” Oliver rolled off her and settled into a comfortable spot beside her, propped up on his elbow. With his other hand he played with strands of her blonde hair. Apparently, he couldn’t stop touching her and she didn’t seem to mind.

“Is that right?” Felicity turned toward him and endeavored to play footsie with him between the bedlinens. “Let me guess. Brain surgeon? No um…air traffic controller! Wait, no. You are some kind of sex wizard.” That drew an arched eyebrow from Oliver. “Or you’re a Buddhist monk.” With the last suggestion, she fell into a fit of giggles.

“Nope,” he grinned at her, “much worse than all of those.” Since Oliver arrived at Felicity’s dressing room earlier in the evening, he had been carrying on internal debates with himself. Wouldn’t it be smarter to remain as anonymous as possible on this trip? Shouldn’t he avoid any behavior that smacked of impropriety? The last thing he needed was a scandal.

But then, after he entered her unique space the questions changed. Could he still be satisfied with a one night stand like he had so many times in his youth? What kind of good fortune brought him to her show that night? How hard would it be to go home tomorrow? The answers were niggling at him now because he really liked this woman. And it was time to reveal a little more about himself.

“Hi,” he extended his hand to her.

Felicity cocked her head, then reached out to awkwardly, allowing their palms to meet. She thought Oliver looked nervous all of a sudden, so she smiled at him warmly to encourage him. He kissed her knuckles and then looked up into her eyes.

“My name is Oliver Queen and I’m the mayor of Starling City.”

A moment later he was looking into Felicity’s stunned face and wondering if he had done the right thing.

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Chapter Text

Felicity was quiet. In the absence of her speaking, Oliver's mind raced.

He had decided at the last minute to visit The Merlyn unannounced.

Malcolm Merlyn had been lobbying hard with many of the powerful people in Starling to obtain public support and zoning approval for his new casino. It had become a polarizing issue around the city, with some worried about the “element” that casino gambling would attract, others simply resistant to change and still a sizeable contingent keen to reap the benefits that might come from such a business – new jobs, increased tourism and proffers to restart a dying part of town.

Oliver hadn't decided yet whether or not he supported the idea, so he decided to make a discreet visit to Las Vegas so he could find out a little more about the operation in advance of the investor delegation. He knew they would come back from their tour with shiny stories about Merlyn, the quality of the property and the potential opportunity, so he wanted to form his own opinion, free of any influence from them or the charismatic owner himself. In the end, Oliver would not be the ultimate decision-maker on a Starling casino project, but his influence would be felt across the town counsel and his constituents would demand to know his position.

When Oliver boarded a cheap flight to Las Vegas, a voice deep within him sounded almost congratulatory. It wasn’t his own – it belonged to his late father, Robert Queen, and it was rarely heard within the context of praise. But this truth-finding trip would never have happened if he hadn’t been his father’s son. From the time he could play trucks under his Dad’s desk, Oliver had assimilated business tips from the seasoned CEO. When he became a petulant teenager and a spoiled young man, he stopped listening to anything the man had to say, but he never forgot what he had observed. Doing independent research was a key lesson learned.

After the death of his parents within two years of each other, Oliver had to get serious about his life. Queen Consolidated was a significant company in Starling and thousands of employees and other businesses relied on its health for their own welfare. Oliver joined forces with his father’s trusted advisor, Walter Steele, to take the reins. By doing so, they avoided the perception of a power vacuum and plotted a positive course for the company. It was during this time that Oliver realized that he cared more about Starling than he did about his family’s company. So, when corporate stability was established, Oliver heeded Walter’s encouragement, stepped away from the family business and set his sights on becoming mayor. Much to his surprise, he ran unopposed.

That was two years ago. And so far, the job had been everything and more he had hoped a role in public office could be. He connected with concerned citizens, he created programs that mattered, and he used whatever acumen and contacts he had to cultivate an innovative and thriving business community. Oliver’s life enriched him with a feeling of accomplishment, but that didn’t mean it was easy. In fact, sometimes it got complicated, quickly, and in unexpected ways.

Like now. Earlier in the evening, Oliver had decided to find out what kind of entertainment options were offered at the Merlyn and ended up at a magic show, of all things. To him, it seemed like an odd offering for a high-end casino catering to a sophisticated crowd. And then she came out on stage – this beguiling creature who commanded the stage with her curious mind, flirted unexpectedly and sparkled like polished crystal. The room felt electric and then by some miracle, she zeroed in on him and literally fell into his arms. Felicity Smoak had this way about her that made him forget his stoic demeanor. Maybe it was how she felt, rubbing against him in an elevator the size of a phone booth. Or the way her kisses held back nothing. This young woman had no idea that her greatest magical feat was making Oliver Queen smile.

Meeting a girl and initiating a sexual encounter almost immediately was something Oliver never did. Anymore. In his youth, when he was a shiftless playboy, it was a regular occurrence and typically only involved unzipping his Levis and deplorable manners. But, those selfish days were long gone. If anything, the gravitas of his current role was a weight that kept him grounded most days and crushed beneath it on others. The people of Starling were counting on him. The idea of crossing paths with a lovely woman and asking her to let him do something intimate -- that was unexpected. But he really wanted her at that moment.

When Felicity said yes…when she revealed her body and a side that was fragile and wanton at the same time, he connected to a place within himself that felt new. Later, in the elevator, she whispered her intention to undress him and fell into giggles in her room when she got her way. As she mustered her inner bad girl to pull his briefs down with her teeth, he forgot how to breathe. At every turn this lady was unpredictably perfect. But now he had to let some of the real world in and the thoughts around that were daunting.

It was not a shocking thing that a healthy, unattached man would find himself here in Las Vegas sharing the bed and attention of a beautiful girl for a night. This kind of thing happened all the time.

But he wasn’t just any man. He was the mayor of Starling City. And she wasn’t just any beautiful girl. She was the headliner at the Merlyn casino and the favorite of its powerful CEO. And right now the Merlyn Group was trying to expand into his town. If anyone learned about their encounter tonight, there would be difficult questions and allegations regarding ethics and inappropriate influence at the very least.

But the situation was actually worse than that. The current expression on his bed partner’s face indicated that she fully realized the implications as well and they weren’t good. But the more concerning issue reverberating in Oliver Queen’s brain at the moment, far more serious than appearances, was simple. He wanted to figure out how he could see Felicity Smoak again and again.

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“Felicity, please say something,” Oliver whispered as he reached for her trembling hand. He was relieved that she didn’t pull it away, but her expression didn’t improve. She just let out a deep sigh and dropped her head with a shake.

“Dammit, Oliver,” she groaned. She shifted her blue eyes to meet his with a desperate and disappointed look. “How can the mayor of Starling City be hot? How can you…be you,” she waved down at his impressive collection of muscles and perfectly arranged everything, “and be a public servant?”

Oliver chewed on his bottom lip and resembled a puppy that had knocked over a trashcan.

“Starling City?! Why couldn’t you be the mayor of Gotham or the…the King of Spain?”

Oliver chuckled and rubbed the knuckles of the small hand he held.

“Felicity, I hate Gotham. It’s crawling with criminals. And I don’t speak Spanish, which is probably just one of many reasons why I am ineligible to be king.”

Felicity chuckled and moved her free hand to rub his bicep. It was hard to stop touching him.

“Well, I’m really disappointed because I love tapas. And rioja. But I am mostly freaking out because I know Malcolm Merlyn wants to build a casino in Starling and this,” Felicity motioned between them, “should not have happened.”

“Fe-li-ci-ty,” Oliver dipped his forehead to lean against hers, “I know what you are saying, but there is no universe I could imagine where I would not want to be here in your bed.” Oliver placed his palm lightly on her ribcage. “Eat pizza with you. Argue with you about Star Trek. Hear stories about your rabbits.”

“And orgasms,” she sighed. “Don’t forget the many, many orgasms.”

“Oh, I’m not forgetting them, I promise. You are a remarkable woman, you know that?”

“You aren’t too shabby yourself.” She gave him a sad smile and kissed his cheek before leaning back. “Unfortunately, me being remarkable and you being not shabby doesn’t fix this situation. These casino projects are politically charged territory and I’m sure it could cost you a lot if people knew you were here. With me. Why did you come here, anyway?”

Oliver sat back against the headboard, still not letting go of Felicity’s delicate hand.

“Research.”

Felicity smirked at him and cocked her head to the side. Oliver blew out a deep breath.

“The idea of a possible Merlyn casino is generating a lot of buzz back home. And if it goes through it’s going to change the city…my city. Maybe for the good, maybe not. Since I’m not familiar with the casino business, I came to check it out for myself.”

“Research,” she repeated.

“Exactly,” he countered, turning toward her and leaning his head on his hand. “A fact finding mission.”

“Mmm hmm.” Felicity studied his features carefully. Damn, he was fun to study. “And what sort of facts did you find?”

“Many, many facts, Ms. Smoak. For example, there are three excellent restaurants on this property.” Oliver began his list, knowing it would get a rise out of the sexy woman reclining next to him. “Uh…the casino floor is very exciting.”

“Aaaannd?” Felicity asked.

“High end shopping. Armani. Tom Ford. My sister…Thea,” Oliver nodded as though he was introducing the two of them, “would definitely approve.”

“Aaaaand?”

“The rooms seem nice. Like I said, I’m at the Gambit and the amenities are not as good.”

Lest Oliver consider her one of the amenities, Felicity raised her eyebrows at him in a challenge. He sat up again and fluffed the pillows supporting his back.

“And what about the entertainment options?” Felicity shifted on the bed until she was straddling him. She settled onto his thighs, the sheet pulling away to reveal her state of undress. Oliver reached for her hips.

“Right. Entertainment. Yeah. I caught a show. It was pretty good.” It was so much fun to tease and flirt with Felicity Smoak. She gave as good as she got, and then some. Oliver couldn’t remember a girl who was so much fun in bed in between bouts of lovemaking. Lovemaking. Jesus, was he really calling it that already? Damn.

Pretty good?” Felicity got his attention, squeezing his thighs between hers and pressing against his groin. Oliver’s breath stuttered and his hips rolled against hers involuntarily.  

“Mmm hmm.” Oliver wrapped one arm around her waist to pull her close and tucked his hand behind her ear to stroke her hair back. He admired the graceful curve of her cheek, her perfect pout and the way her eyes flashed and twinkled at him.

Felicity couldn’t restrain herself much longer. Oliver Queen’s pecs twitched sometimes, which messed with her head and his toned abs were calling out for her hands and mouth.

“And I really do like the way you kiss.” Oliver nipped her lips once and then shifted his attention to her neck. Felicity reared her head back to give the man plenty of room. In just a few hours, he had already done a pretty good job exploring her body and finding her most sensitive spots.

Felicity moaned, indicating what he liked doing to her was exactly what she liked having done at that moment. It didn’t hurt that Oliver was now cupping her right breast and his thumb was gently coaxing her nipple to attention.

“I still like the way you kiss too…Mister Mayor.” On her last words, the blonde charged her voice with breathy lust and rocked against him.

Oliver couldn’t help but react to the simultaneous stimulation of his crotch and his brain. “Oh, shit, Felicity.” 

“That turns you on?” Felicity rasped with an evil grin across her face. “Mister Mayor.”

Oliver pulled away and demanded her gaze with his own darkened eyes.

“Only when you say it. Fuck.”

Felicity didn’t have a chance to giggle a response before Oliver grabbed her ass with both hands and shifted her on her back so that he was nestled between her thighs again. 

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At 5:50 am, Oliver’s deep, decadent sleep was interrupted by his cell phone ringing and he was forced to uncoil from the bewitching blonde. His Chief of Staff, Curtis, informed him that there had been a gas explosion in the Glades. Firefighters were trying to contain the blaze, but an elementary school was nearby and there were concerns it might be compromised by water damage. Oliver’s presence was needed to show support for the neighborhood and determine alternative school sites, if needed. Curtis would arrange his passage on the next flight to Starling.

Leaving Felicity would have been impossible if he had more time to think about it. But Oliver had less than ninety minutes to rush back to the Gambit to change, collect his luggage and then make it to McCarron airport for his flight home. A long goodbye was out of the question.

Felicity was still waking up when she heard his anxious voice discussing hurried plans. It didn’t take long to realize the situation was serious and that Oliver was being summoned back to his real life to handle a crisis. He didn’t look too happy about it either. So rather than let him see her sudden disappointment, she helped him find his clothes and mustered a smile.

Felicity and Oliver hadn’t talked of tomorrow in the night. They both assumed they would have time to have an easy conversation about possibilities and probabilities. But now that moment was slipping away. As much as they were drawn to each other, they had barely acknowledged the conflict of interest issue yet, let alone discussed its full implication.

No promises were made. Numbers were not even exchanged. Somehow, to do so would be painful. There was only time for one more blazing kiss and a shared longing look before Oliver sprinted out the door. Felicity hopped on her tablet to briefly interrupt the cameras in the corridors so that Oliver could make a covert exit.

It was hard for either one of them to smile for the rest of the day. Oliver faced the property destruction back in Starling with his typical somber look. It was reassuring to those around him to see concern and empathy occupying his mind. But the charred frames of devastated buildings were not the only thoughts affecting his mood. He also felt a sense of grief of his own for a lost opportunity. Soon enough, he was grateful for the problems of the day that mounted for solving, to take his mind off the one he couldn’t fix.

Felicity Smoak fared no better, particularly when the house lights went up. She conjured a smile to reassure Jimmy and Dave and to make the audience feel at ease during her show, but it slipped away with the curtain call. She spent minimal time in her dressing room after. She might have spilled a few tears into Obi’s soft fur that night. But the next day she vowed to feel better. And she did.

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She was feeling better. Getting over him, even, by the following Saturday when Malcolm requested her attendance at a reception for the Starling City delegation. As much as she wanted to beg off and avoid all thoughts of the place where the Beautiful Man lived, she knew that her boss was counting on her to dazzle his guests. So, she picked out a pretty red dress and topped it with a colorful kimono. Layers were helpful for facilitating magic close up magic tricks. Sleeves, of course. Prepared to impress, she headed to one of The Merlyn’s posher meeting spaces to join the one-percenters.

“Ah, Ms. Smoak,” Malcolm boomed as she came into view inside the richly paneled wine salon that was buzzing with lubricated visitors. “Delighted you could come and meet new friends.” Felicity smiled and approached the man’s outstretched hand and warm grin. “Everyone, let me introduce one of the finest and most innovative young magicians working today. Felicity Smoak.” There was clapping amongst the attendees, signaling to Felicity that some of them had attended her show.  

“That is a gorgeous kimono,” one of the ladies directed to her. Felicity turned toward the compliment with a warm nod. Malcolm took note and maneuvered himself between the two young women.

“Yes, it is,” he chimed in. “Felicity, I would like you to meet a very special guest from Starling.”

Felicity smiled broadly and extended her hand to the stylish young lady.

“Felicity Smoak, meet Thea Queen.”

Felicity clapped eyes on the beautiful brunette and realized that for just a moment her mask had slipped. At first she wasn’t sure it had happened. Then she saw the quizzical expression on Thea’s face that transformed into something sympathetic. Felicity froze, but the younger female was savvy and quickly began talking about a trip to Japan to diffuse the awkwardness of the situation.

The two young women wouldn’t have time alone for another hour. There were card tricks. Flirty jokes with mature gentlemen. The highlight was when Obi was produced from inside Merlyn’s dark dinner jacket. The mogul blanched at first to see the fluffy creature peeking out of his ridiculously expensive Bruno Cucinelli, but the applause and delight on the faces of his guests quickly transformed him. He observed Felicity with a certain awe. She really was exceptional. Malcolm Merlyn insisted on spending the remainder of the party with Obi in his arms, allowing the creature to help him break the ice with reluctant bankers and ignoring the white fur collecting on his expensive sleeves. Felicity couldn’t help but giggle. He looked like a child’s version of a Bond villain. As he commanded everyone’s attention, Thea pulled Felicity aside and looked up at her with large brown eyes.

“I am so glad to have the opportunity to meet you,” Thea said with effortless charm and ample enthusiasm. Felicity wasn’t sure how to manage the situation, so she made the best of it.

“It was very kind of you to come all this way to visit The Merlyn.” Felicity smiled warmly, still masking her discomfort.

“Oh,” Thea’s voice dropped to a strained whisper. “I didn’t come here to visit The Merlyn.” Felicity cocked her head quizzically. “I came here to meet the woman my brother hasn’t stopped talking about for almost a week.”

Thea Queen beamed at her while Felicity’s heart swelled.

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Chapter Text

Felicity looked around the room and immediately felt exposed. 

“I can’t imagine what you’re…” The blonde genius started to reply in a sotto voice. Thea Queen just peered into her soul with her big brown eyes like they were natural lie detectors, causing Felicity to stop. She looked to be surrendering to the truth.

“Thank you,” Thea smirked and then changed her stance, reaching out to touch the material of Felicity’s kimono. “Okay now. If people are watching us, we are talking about fashion. That’s what I do. I’m a stylist. Well, aspiring designer, but mostly a stylist.”

Felicity nodded, although she was still very confused by the situation.

“Ollie…my dear brother, is back in Starling…working, no doubt. And he’d be royally pissed if he knew I was here. He thinks I’m a terrible noseybody.” At the younger woman’s admission, Felicity quirked an eyebrow. “But actually, I’m a world class noseybody. I don’t do things halfway.”

Felicity Smoak had no idea what was happening, but Thea Queen was amusing and smiling at her with an unexpected affection.

“I came here with Walter Steele.” Thea nodded to a well-dressed man currently involved in a discussion with a very animated Malcolm Merlyn. Walter seemed distracted by Obi. Felicity snorted – he was a showbiz rabbit now and had a kind of floppy-eared charisma about him.

“Walter is the CEO of the company our family founded. He’s always been a kind of honorary uncle to Ollie and me. When I found out he was coming here as part of this Starling delegation, I guilted him into letting me tag along. He owes me a birthday dinner so I figured why not Vegas?”

“But Malcolm Merlyn…he introduced you like he knew you,” Felicity countered.

“I styled him for a Vanity Fair profile last year. His taste is super-expensive, so I got to bring in all of these beautiful clothes.” Thea practically hugged herself as she recalled the sumptuous fabrics and exclusive labels. Then she sighed, audibly. “In the end, he wanted to wear black. I thought the photographer was going to sob openly.” Thea shook her head and laughed.

“So you DO know him,” Felicity chuckled as she could see the scenario playing out in her head.

“I was wondering,” Thea leaned toward her new acquaintance with a thoughtful look. “Do you think we could go somewhere? Chat? If you have time…”

“Uh, sure,” Felicity replied, a tentative tone in her voice. “My show isn’t until 8.”

Thea smiled warmly. Then her expression changed to curiosity. She watched Felicity scan the room, the blonde appearing somewhat anxious, if body language meant anything.

“Is everything okay, Felicity?”

“Oh, yeah,” she smiled awkwardly while sporting a knit brow. “I just have to figure out how to ask Malcolm Merlyn to give me back my bunny.”

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Thirty minutes later, the two young women were sitting in a small lounge situated inside The Merlyn’s luxury spa. Felicity chose the spot for a number of reasons, the first being there were no cameras allowed inside and the second that the bar offered fruit smoothies as well as martinis. Felicity wasn’t keen on drinking before her show, but Thea Queen seemed like a girl who enjoyed a nice cocktail.

The space was beautiful too, a calming palette of cream, grey and rose, combined with soft, touchable upholstered furniture. The headliner also knew for a fact that the place was usually nearly empty after 6 pm, providing them with some necessary privacy. She knew she had chosen well when Thea Queen followed her lead and slipped off her shoes to curl into the barrel chair beside her after their drinks arrived. It was that kind of easy place. But then, an awkward silence settled in between them, which would not last.

“So,” Thea twisted to address Felicity straight on, excitement tinging her voice. “What, exactly is happening with you and my brother?”

Felicity took a deep, cleansing breath followed by a slurp of her pineapple smoothie before speaking. “Nothing.”

“I do not believe that for a minute. Do you know why? My brother turned up last week after a mysterious absence and started dropping little comments to me about this brilliant magician he saw. Not a subject Ollie has ever been excited about. But then he mentioned she was beautiful. And honestly, that didn’t even get my attention because Ollie is a man and he isn’t dead.”

Felicity couldn’t help the blush that rose across her cheeks with the sudden revelation that Oliver told another person he thought she was attractive. She tried to concentrate on playing with the fruit garnish on her drink to avoid eye contact with the younger Miss Queen.

“But little by little, he would make these comments about how funny she was. And how she was some kind of genius. And it dawns on me that Sir Broodsalot is smiling more this week than he has in years, but he’s also kind of sad too. And at this point, I’m kind of freaking out. So, I had to, you know…”

Felicity pivoted to face Thea now, curious about her next words.

“Check his Youtube history on his laptop when he went to the bathroom. And there you were.”

Felicity looked surprised by the intrusive step the young woman had taken.

“What?” Thea responded defensively. “World class noseybody, remember?” She paused a moment to savor her Cosmopolitan and regard Felicity with probing eyes. “After that, it only took a little Googling to figure it all out. Felicity Smoak. The Merlyn. My brother coming here,” Thea put on a growly voice to imitate him, “to look after his city.” Then she giggled. “He really is a boy scout. But he could get a merit badge in moping. So what’s going on?”

That was the question Felicity had been anticipating since meeting Oliver’s sister, but she still hadn’t decided the proper way to answer it.

“It was nothing, really.” Felicity adopted the blasé approach in hopes of deflecting, turning her attention once more to her drink and avoiding honest eye contact. “He came to my show and we ended up using him for an illusion. He was a really good sport,” she managed to tag onto the end. Of course, it sounded wrong, but what could she say? We couldn’t keep our hands off each other and then he asked to go down on me, which was really nice and then we went back to my place and ate pizza with no clothes on and I would like to forget his perfect face now please?

The sound of Thea Queen squelching a barking laugh under her hands signaled to Felicity, without even looking, that she had, indeed, said it all out loud.

“Great. Now I don’t know if I can look at you again,” Felicity bit her bottom lip with a heavy sigh.

“Hey,” Thea reached out to touch Felicity’s arm softly, encouraging her to relax. Her voice reflected bemusement. “I won’t lie. That was a level of sharing that I would probably find completely awesome if you weren’t talking about the guy who used to braid my hair when I was six.”

Felicity looked at her, still kind of mortified as her companion continued. “But on the upside, you may have just cured me a little of the snooping.”

It was all so ridiculous. Felicity threw her head back with a groan. “Obviously, Oliver neglected to mention my babbling problem.”

“Yeah.” Thea took another slug of her drink and leaned toward the blonde, offering her a sympathetic look. “But that’s okay. Now tell me what happened. I tried to wheedle it out of him a bunch of times and he shut me down. I don’t understand. You guys obviously like each other but there’s a problem? Is it Merlyn? Eww. You aren’t with him too?”

“Oh God, no.” Felicity’s response was immediate. “But he is my boss. And as long as there’s a chance of a Merlyn casino in Starling…Oliver and I…we can’t. It could look bad for both of us – if he decides to support the project it would look like he accepted influence from Merlyn, or worse, it people might think I slept with your brother to help Malcolm. And I don’t need to tell you what that would do to my career. Anyway, none of it matters because your brother didn’t even ask me for my phone number before he left. That’s why I was surprised when you said he seemed…”

Thea Queen emitted an exasperated sigh. She could see the emotions playing across Felicity’s face and could only imagine how much deeper they might run. She had seen them in Ollie too.

“Look, there’s something you need to know about my brother. When he was young, he was a Grade A douche. But after Mom and Dad…he got his act together and he’s a different person. Only it’s like the pendulum swung too far and now he’s this straight arrow who only thinks about helping other people. His constituents. Me and my business. Never himself. He works late hours. He eats alone most of the time. So, even though what you told me about a few minutes ago is deeply disturbing, it also kind of gives me hope that there’s still a man in there that is capable of…passion.”

“I’m sorry, Thea. I know you want there to be some kind of grand romance here.” The blonde fidgeted with her glasses as she tried to sound as worldly as possible. “But the truth is sometimes people are only meant to have a few moments together. They wake up the next day and the phone rings and their bubble bursts and they have to get back to their real lives.”

“Come on, Felicity. Isn’t that kind of a cynical way to think? I mean, I thought you were all about magic.”

“Thea, magic is sleight of hand used for effect. It’s deception. It’s not fantasy. I am sure that if your brother was here, he’d say the same thing.”

“I think he’d be too busy making heart eyes at you.”

Felicity let out an exasperated breath and shook her head. “Look, speaking of magic, I have to go and prep for my show tonight.” Felicity stood up, straightening her dress and kimono.

“Okay,” Thea smiled weakly. “I’ll see you there. Walter got us tickets.”

Felicity offered a warm smile. “I’m glad. I hope you like it.” She took a couple of steps away and then turned back, placing her hand gently on the younger woman’s arm. “And Thea…I understand you’re disappointed. But I’m still glad I got to meet you.”

“Me too, Felicity.”

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That night, the show went off flawlessly, despite Felicity fighting off the distractions created by her discussion with Thea Queen. So what if Oliver thought she was beautiful? And funny. And smart. He wasn’t ever going to say those things to her face, so what did they matter?

It appeared the show was well-received by the Starling delegation. Everyone was delighted when Malcolm Merlyn’s phone began blasting “I’m Too Sexy” during the audience connection part of her act. To his credit, he rolled with it, smiled broadly and marveled once again at her talent. At least Felicity’s career seemed to be going well at the moment – and that was no small thing given that it hadn’t been that long ago when she was worried about losing her job.

Following the performance, Felicity found her boss and members of the Starling group waiting for her by the stage door. There were flowers and handshakes. Smiles and laughter. Camera flashes illuminate the space. Felicity spotted Thea, but noted that the young woman held back, hovering near the back of the crowd, observing everyone else.

The young magician found herself immediately cornered by a reporter from the Starling Chronicle. His name was Anthony Ivo and apparently he was the editor of the business section. His demeanor was a little intense, probing. Felicity immediately felt anxious in his presence. Given her tendency to babble, she feared she was in definite danger of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

“Ms. Smoak, it appears that Malcolm Merlyn is going all out to court Starling’s support of his casino expansion. What role do you play in wooing them?”

“Wooing? I..I…I don’t know anything about that,” she smiled awkwardly. “Not wooing Starling or any Starling…anybody. There is no wooing. Just doing my thing. My magic thing. For the people. Starling people. Non Starling people. All the people.”

Ivo blinked at her. It was hard to connect this blonde bundle of nerves to the amazing performer who had just impressed the hell out of five hundred people in the casino’s largest lounge. Maybe she was just one of those people who couldn’t handle “spontaneous.” He was almost relieved when another feminine figure slipped into their space and the energy shifted. Thea Queen.

“Felicity,” Merlyn called out. Felicity nodded to Ivo and Thea, making a hasty exit and leaving the brunette spitfire to deal with the bulldog reporter.

“Good evening, Anthony,” Thea Queen dripped charm like candle wax on a hot plate.

“Thea,” he bowed. “I didn’t really expect to see you here in Vegas. You aren’t a part of the delegation, are you?”

At that moment, a photographer moved past them and snapped a shot.

Thea shook her head a moment to adjust to the flash in her eyes. “Just tagging along with Walter. Thought I might drum up some new clients here in Sin City.” She grinned.

“We’ve all noticed your brother’s absence. Shouldn’t he be here? Seems a little odd that the mayor would be so quiet about a big project like a casino. What’s going on with him?”

The brunette tucked a stray lock of brown hair behind her ear and looked up at him innocently. “Well, I, for one, am not surprised Oliver isn’t here. He represents the citizens and I am sure they wouldn’t like to see him being wined and dined. I think he is choosing to remain impartial until all of the information is in and he gets a clearer sense of what the people of Starling want. My brother is an excellent mayor, Anthony.”

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Felicity moved toward Malcolm feeling slightly relieved to be out of the frying pan.

“Another stellar performance, Smoak. I really like what you do with that rabbit. Where is he?”

Merlyn was standing next to an impeccably dressed man with perfect posture who seemed amused by the exchange he was witnessing.

Felicity smirked at him. “That’s an excellent question, Mister Merlyn.”

Merlyn considered her a moment and then began looking searching inside his jacket. When Obi did not appear, Oliver looked up at her, confused for a moment. Seeing her smug expression, he sighed and shook his head.

“You are excellent at misdirection, my dear. I’ll give you that.” Malcolm nodded with a twinkle in his eye. “Now, have you met Walter Steele yet?”

Felicity shook her head and hoped she could get through the next five minutes without misspeaking.

Malcolm continued, “Then let me do the honors. Walter Steele...Felicity Smoak. Felicity, Walter is the CEO of Queen Consolidated and heads the board of Starling’s free medical initiative.”

Walter Steele broke the ice with his cool British accent. “And by that Malcolm is hinting that he’ll make a sizable contribution to our clinic if I support his casino project.” Steel smiled knowingly at Malcolm and then turned to Felicity.

The blonde tried to squelch her nerves long enough to smile and shake Walter’s hand like a normal person. “A pleasure to meet you.” She recalled how Oliver told her of the man’s significant role in his success and wished she could mention that, but held her tongue instead.

Walter Steele’s next words sounded downright giddy. “Ah, Ms. Smoak, such a thrill to meet you after such an amazing performance. I was truly mesmerized. You know, I came in with a preconceived notion of Las Vegas entertainment being all about show girls and lounge singers. Showing my age, undoubtedly. But what you showed us was so new. I was thoroughly entertained. Everyone was, I’m sure.”

“Thank you. Thank you, Mister Steel. I am really glad you enjoyed it.”

“Walter,” Malcolm piped up “you know, one of the best ways to bring exceptional entertainment to Starling on a regular basis would be…”

Little did Felicity suspect that at that very moment, Thea Queen had disengaged from Anthony Ivo’s prying questions. Now she was watching them and an idea had formed in her mind. It was perfect and brilliant.

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Monday morning routines set the week in motion for Oliver Queen. His alarm blared at 5 AM, he checked his phone for any emergency texts, tugged on his sweats and headed for the gym. He looked forward to his workout at FLEX four days a week. Even though the owner, John Diggle, had five gyms now, he opened the downtown location an hour early to train with Oliver personally. It was a friend thing. They got on.

Dig was a trusted advisor, a laconic humorist and he had twenty pounds on Oliver in a sparring match. If Oliver could put him on the city payroll for his service as a sounding board and grounding influence, he would. But Dig was content with occasional beers at a nearby bar and Queen family barbecues from time to time. After all, Oliver was like family – so much so that he was godfather to Dig and Lyla’s baby girl/warrior princess, Sara.

After some sparring, a little parkour training, and weights, Diggle moved to an office cubical and left Oliver to cool down with a bottle of water and his iPad. Oliver allowed his heart rate to return to normal while caught up on the news before showering and heading to the office. Oliver’s routine was efficient like that. Except today.

“Goddamn it!”

Dig’s attention shot across the room to see Oliver standing over his tablet, running his hand across the back of his head and grimacing. The older man moved closer, concerned. Oliver wasn’t prone to outbursts unless they were warranted.

“Oliver, you okay?”

Oliver turned to him and shook his head, exasperated. He motioned down to the tablet screen.

“Thea,” he groaned.

Diggle moved closer, curious to see what set the mayor off. Oliver took a step away to pace, enabling Dig to lean down and read the top story.

STARLING JUNKET MEETS WITH MERLYN IN VEGAS

The gym owner grimaced. He didn’t know what the big deal was. These kinds of trips were expected. Then, he spotted a picture of Thea Queen in deep conversation with Anthony Ivo. The press were never friends of the Queens.

“What is she doing there, Dig? She knows I can’t be a part of that scene and by going herself she’s just muddying the waters.”

Diggle continued to read the article and scan through pages of the story.

“I wouldn’t read too much into it, Oliver. There’s a quote here where she says you are remaining impartial. Completely innocuous. She does know Merlyn from that magazine thing last year, so it looks like she’s there to network.”

Oliver was listening, all the while sprinting on the treadmill. The whirring sound and the repetition of motion soothed him somehow. His brain had immediately jumped to the possible negative implications that might face him at the office that morning. But maybe he should relax now. Maybe there wouldn’t be any.

“I see Walter was there,” Dig paused. “Hmm.”

Suddenly, Diggle got quiet and his eyebrows shot up. Oliver picked up on his silence right away.

“What?”

“Nothing. Just a picture of Walter standing next to a woman.” Dig reported, evenly.  

Oliver shrugged and maintained his pace. Diggle smirked a little and watched for a reaction.

“Beautiful. Smart. I would bet she’s funny too. Blonde hair. Magician.” He drew the last word out for dramatic effect. Apparently, Oliver had been just as moony around Dig as he had been with his sister, and had made similar random remarks.  

At this point, Oliver was stumbling off the running machine and trying not to land on his ass. As soon as he righted himself, he rushed over to snag the tablet out of Dig’s giant man-paws to see the photo for himself.

There she was smiling at him. Oliver’s face contorted into a rare grin and he sighed.

“Felicity.”

Diggle rolled his eyes and chuckled. “What the hell, Oliver? You don’t get like this. It’s kind of freaking me out.”

Oliver responded with a sheepish look and a shrug. No big deal, really.

“Okay, Man.” Diggle smiled softly. “You know, you can save that picture if you want.”

The idea registered on Oliver’s handsome face, followed by concentration as he recalled the process. A few taps later and he swallowed relief.

Meanwhile, John Diggle stood beside him; quietly putting together the range of possibilities created when Thea Queen shared the same air as a girl Oliver was crushing over, and he found himself shuddering inwardly. Oliver Queen had no idea what he was in for.

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Chapter Text

There were two things Thea Queen refused to do. First, she would never admit making any kind of mistake to her brother, of all people. Since she was smaller, and permanently younger than him, he would mercilessly harangue her about nonsense. The second thing she refused to do was eat lousy sandwiches from the sandwich cart near Oliver's office. That was how she ended up strolling into the Mayor's office in a sleek Ralph Lauren skirt and a blouse of her own design, the result making her feel like a designer warrior. A bag filled with Indian food from their favorite takeout spot dangled from her tiny hand. A good samosa from The Taj always seemed to adjust Oliver's mood for the better. 

When Oliver finally joined her in the conference room, silently, she thought perhaps he had already cooled off. But then she caught the glint in his eye as he loosened his tie at his collar and stuffed the tail ends into his buttoned shirt. He sat down and she watched him watch her for a few awkward, silent minutes. 

"I brought the good tamarind sauce for the naan," she deliberately bubbled as she unpacked the bags full of food. Oliver looked lost at how to respond. 

"Thanks." Oliver took a deep breath and swallowed down his desire to lunge across the table and throttle her. "Did you talk to her? How is she?" He managed to ask without sounding pathetic. He wanted to take Thea to task for her meddling, but he was still desperate to know the answer to his questions. 

“Who is this She you speak of? Hmm. You’re going to have to --” 

Oliver gave her a look that would have withered a longshoreman. This, of course, had no effect on the tiny iron-clad princess of Starling. 

“Speedy.” Oliver only broke out his nickname for her when he was serious. 

“Oh, Her.” Seeing the desperation crossing her brother’s face, Thea gave him a shy smile. "She's kind of amazing, Brother Dear." 

Oliver nodded solemnly. He had thought about the "her" in question regularly since leaving Vegas, each time reminding himself that their time together had been a perfect dream and that reality was very different. Until this morning -- since seeing her standing next to Walter and taking his breath away.  Now, most of his brain was preoccupied with Felicity Smoak. 

He watched his sister plate basmati rice, butter chicken and chana masala, waiting impatiently for her to continue. He unconsciously tapped a plastic knife on the conference table like he was in a speed metal band. 

"Ollie, you have a closet full of gorgeous man clothes that I pick out myself, gratis, but you look like you sleep in them. That goofy mug of yours is moderately bearable. And on top of all that, you're a grump. It’s a wonder she likes you." 

The façade Oliver usually wore around the office slipped away and was replaced by a grin and expectation. Seeing it made Thea respond in kind. 

"She told you she liked me? I mean, I figured she would have moved on and..." 

Thea raised her hand dramatically. "Yes, Ollie. She passed me a note in study hall.” She studied her brother’s relieved countenance and groaned. “Oh, my God, you’ve got it bad.” 

Oliver’s eyes narrowed and he pursed his lips, trying to appear tough all of a sudden. It only elicited a guffaw from his sister. The two sat in silence for a while, consuming their lunch. 

“This is awesome,” Thea finally burbled, breaking the peace. 

“No. It is complicated. And terrible. I have responsibilities, Speedy.” Oliver grimaced hard. 

“Yes, it’s all terribly complicated,” the girl groaned, slapping the back of her hand to her forehead like a practiced diva. 

Oliver shook his head and mopped up the sauce on his plate with a piece of bread. Shoving it in his mouth and chewing hard gave him a way to vent his frustration. 

“Here’s the thing I don’t understand,” Thea piped up, taking a last bite from her samosa. The carbs were deadly, but worth an extra workout the next day. “Why didn’t you ask for her phone number? You obviously felt a connection.” 

“It’s hard to explain. I guess I just couldn’t imagine how we could have something…more.” 

“But you wanted something. You want something.” 

“Like you said. She’s amazing. But it’s…” 

“Complicated and terrible,” she finished his sentence with a dramatic flair. 

Her brother was not amused. Smirking at his dour expression, she carefully opened her exquisite handbag and fished around inside. 

“You know, Ollie, life is complicated. It can be. And responsibilities are important. You have become the most responsible human being I’ve ever met. Mom and Dad would be proud of you.” 

Thea made eye contact with her brother and nodded slightly, making sure he understood her sincerity. 

“And they’d also be disappointed.” 

Her words were unexpectedly harsh. Oliver felt a sting. 

“Everything you’ve done, everything you’ve accomplished…it’s great. But they wouldn’t be happy that you’ve sacrificed yourself. That you’ve put off having a life of your own. They had each other and they wanted that for their kids too.” 

His sister's words had weight. Oliver couldn’t deny the truth in them, but it didn’t make them any easier to address. 

Thea finally produced a couple of items from her bag. Oliver quirked a curious eyebrow as she placed them on the table. 

“What is that?” 

“It’s a cellular phone.” Thea got up and collected the empty plates and containers into the paper bag. 

Oliver’s blue eyes narrowed as he reached out to examine the cell. It was smaller than his usual phone. 

“I can see that, Speedy.” 

“Well, that is a magic phone,” she teased as moved to the doorway. “Pay as you go. That’s the card to put time on. It can’t be traced to you or me. And it only has one phone number programmed in it.” 

At that moment, the world shifted for Oliver Queen. Suddenly, his mind began filling with possibilities and he found himself not only wanting things, but imagining he could actually have them. 

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Like so many of his days, this one seemed endless for Oliver. One meeting bled seamlessly into the next, peopled with concerned citizens, harried program managers and the blurred faces of his support staff. 

Oliver tried to give everyone and everything his complete attention, but he found his mind wandering. If only he could get a coffee break. He actually contemplated texting Felicity when he managed to slip out to the Men’s room, but then he worried she might text him back while he was in his next meeting. The thought of hearing back from her and not being able to respond attentively seemed rude after everything that had happened so far. 

Still, even the content of his work conspired against him when he tried to divert his focus away from the phone. Several businessmen came in to discuss the Merlyn casino project, of all things. Oliver listened carefully, trying to sequester his thoughts about a certain blonde while they conveyed concerns about proffers on the space in the Glades, down by the harbor that had been identified as a likely spot for building. 

Wrapping up, Mayor Queen reminded the group that the proposed casino was a ballot measure for November. Three months away. The people of Starling City had the final say. In the meantime, he would certainly encourage the Economic Development Authority to insist on the strongest financial support possible from Merlyn. The project, if approved, would have a huge impact on the city. His city. 

When Alex suggested a working dinner to discuss budget matters that had been deferred most of the day, Oliver couldn’t beg off. There were reports to compile for future meetings and strategic planning to work out. So, more takeout was ordered. Chinese this time. Oliver swore he would have to spend an extra hour in the gym sparring with Diggle the following day to compensate. He was frustrated too. Still no time to reach out to her properly. Felicity was an exceptional woman and he wasn’t going to risk rushing their conversation. 

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The elevator ride up to his loft was abnormally slow. It didn’t help that the apartment was on the top floor and there was no express car to get him there. Oliver felt tired from the constant drain of the day, but he was still feeling jitters that began at lunch. 

Robert Queen's only son had spent his youth piling up girls like cord wood. At least, that’s what his friends used to say. They weren’t necessarily wrong. Growing up privileged and not half-bad looking had afforded him constant female companionship since puberty. As a young man, monogamy was something he could not spell, nor practice, but he made sure the girls who surrounded him understood, following a couple of unwelcome dramas. His college years saw a few steady relationships, but nothing he would consider serious. 

After graduation, Oliver easily assumed the mantle of Starling City’s most eligible bachelor and the gloves came off where women were concerned. It was like a twisted fairytale where princesses from all over the land felt some magnetic pull to come to Starling, wrestle him to the ground and attempt to “happily ever after” with him. There was an embarrassing false paternity suit, an imbroglio with a married woman, and far too many tabloid photos of him with an arm wrapped around a debutante while his free hand deflected a paparazzo. Then, Moira Queen became ill. 

Oliver watched his father care for his mother from the day she was diagnosed at Starling General to the day he handed her favorite dress to the funeral director. Robert Queen had never seemed like an emotional man when Oliver was a child, but as soon as Moira got sick, he watched his father look after his wife as fiercely as he had ever pursued any business deal. Robert held his young daughter when she cried and spent Sundays in front of the television with his son, drinking beer and sharing the life lessons that mattered most to him. And as Oliver observed changes in his father, Oliver changed as well. Two years later, when Robert died in a small aircraft crash outside Gotham, Oliver was devastated by the sudden loss, but came to appreciate that his father had prepared him and had helped him become a man through words and example. 

It was after 10 p.m. when Oliver entered his foyer, shucking off his suit jacket and rolling up his shirt sleeves. He headed to the kitchen to pour a glass of red wine and descended into his favorite lounging chair. His hand dug into his pocket for the cell phone. He examined it for the hundredth time since Thea had presented it to him that morning. The only difference was that this time he powered up the screen and found the contact list. 

His fingers tapped out a few words. "Hi. It’s Oliver. May I call you?” 

The words on the screen glowed and taunted him. Was his tone okay? Since meeting with Thea, the idea that Felicity might have interpreted his actions as a lack of interest had taken root in his brain and threatened to paralyze him. 

With the heart of a hero, Oliver finally summoned his courage, pressed the send button and waited. His picked up his wine glass and drew in a sip, allowing the medicinal properties of the red to wash warmth over him. 

Every second without a reply seemed exponentially longer than it actually was. He wondered if she had received his message. That idea morphed quickly into a scenario where she saw the message and decided to ignore him because she wasn’t as interested as Thea suggested. That was the danger of silence, unspoken words. One could always fill the vacuum with fear and misunderstanding. 

Maybe she had moved on? Maybe she was insulted that he hadn’t asked for her phone number that morning and hadn’t told his sister? Maybe she was concerned about her job and what Merlyn would say if he knew she had slept with the mayor of Starling City right under his nose? He wouldn’t blame her if… 

The phone came to life with a whirring ring. Oliver’s heart stopped for a split second before it began beating violently in his chest. He took a breath and accepted the call, raising the small handset to his ear. 

“Felicity?” 

“Hi. Yes. It’s me.” Her voice was sweet and a little breathless, like she’d just run from another room. 

“Are you okay?” Oliver leaned forward in his chair. 

“Yeah. I just saw your text and I was in the hallway and I wanted to get to my room and I dropped my key card and almost kicked it completely under the door, but then I remembered I had a sticker in my purse, so I had to find it and then I used the sticky part to fish out the corner of the card. But then I realized how long I was taking to respond so…all that sounded totally crazy.” She panted out a final, “I’m sorry.” 

Oliver sat, mystified. He had only been on the phone with her for ninety seconds and he already felt lighter. A rush of positive feelings connected him immediately to their last minutes together and it was like the time in between had been erased. 

“No! It sounded…wow. You are…You are out of breath.” 

“Yeah. Maybe you could talk a minute while I pull myself together.” 

“I have a glass of wine here. Maybe you should get one too.” Oliver smiled. 

“Okay,” she huffed. 

“I saw your picture in the paper. It was nice. You looked really nice.” Oliver felt awkward all of a sudden. He needed to change things up fast. “You met Walter Steele.” 

“Yes. He was so sweet. Warm. I liked his accent. Veddy British. I really liked talking to him. Don’t worry. I didn’t mention you.” 

“I wasn’t worried.” 

“Ah,” Felicity sighed on the other end. Oliver wondered what caused it until she piped back up.  “Just sitting down with my wine. Excellent idea.” 

Oliver smiled as he took another sip from his glass. 

“You know,” she spoke again and he took a moment to enjoy the sound of her voice slipping through the wireless and into his brain. “I’ve never called a burner before. It feels kind of naughty.” 

“What?” 

“A burner phone. You know, like they use for drug deals on Law and Order. I guess that’s where Thea got the idea.” Her voice was feminine and the dynamics of it mesmerized him. He still recalled the sounds she made when he was pleasing her. 

Oliver pursed his lips once he processed what she was saying. “Yeah. I should tell you my sister went through a rough patch after Mom and Dad. A bad crowd. She probably used phones like this to buy…for her own…needs. She ended up in rehab for a little while. She’s doing great now, of course. Really proud of her.” 

“Oh, I didn’t know, Oliver.” 

“It’s okay. And you’re right. It feels kind of dangerous.” He smiled broadly and propped his feet up on the coffee table. “Good dangerous.” 

Felicity giggled on the other end of the line and it soothed him. 

That night passed with them together, yet apart, engaged in conversations about every topic imaginable. As night began to slip into early morning, Oliver found the words he had wanted to share since the call began. 

 “Felicity, I’m very sorry.” Oliver closed his eyes. 

“Okaaaay,” she responded, sounding tentative, like she wondered if he wanted to end the call and never speak again. 

“I should have asked for your number before I left. I should have called you the next day. Every day since then.” 

“Oliver. I understood.” Felicity’s sigh was audible. “I understand. Our time together was kind of intense, right? At least, it was for me. And the casino situation is complicated for both of us. It's good that we had some time to process and think about the situation and everything without distractions like…kissing. Don’t you think?” 

“Yeah. Kissing you is distracting,” he responded immediately. 

“And orgasms,” Felicity volunteered, making Oliver stifle a groan. 

“You have no idea,” he gritted out while sporting a wistful grin. "I've missed you. Does that seem weird and slightly needy?" 

"No. It sounds kind of like me." 

They kept talking, finding an easy rhythm until Oliver cursed. 

“Dammit. I’m running out of minutes on the burner phone.” 

“I’ll bet this never happens to legitimate criminals, Oliver.” 

“Exactly. I need to get skills, I guess.” 

“That’s okay. We could probably both use some sleep. After all, you have to run a whole city and I have to figure out an illusion that’s going to impress a room full of magicians.” She had explained that she had been invited to perform at a special show for her peers and it was wigging her out. Oliver listened and gave encouragement. He couldn’t imagine she had anything to worry about. It was probably just nerves. 

“And you’ll come up with something brilliant. I know it.. It’s just that I’m having a good time.” He sighed loud enough to make Felicity smiled broadly on the other end. 

“Me too.” 

“I’ll text you tomorrow when I get more minutes. If that’s okay?” He held his breath in the silence. Maybe their chat had just been a one-time thing. They hadn’t really talked about connecting again. 

“You better. Good night, Oliver.” 

“Night, Felicity.” Oliver smiled as he lowered the phone. Moments later, he drifted into long-overdue slumber there in his chair. 

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After receiving her fifth text from Oliver in a day, Felicity decided that she liked this form of communication with him. It was a little removed, but that wasn’t really a bad thing. After all, the sound of his low voice and deep breaths in her ear could be overwhelming. They had spoken three, no four times this week, each time managing to keep the banter friendly, but there was an undertone. It didn't help that it was August and Las Vegas was plagued with scorching temperatures at that moment. She seemed to be enjoying cool showers even more lately. 

Keeping things platonic had been an unspoken agreement between them. While the casino project was still in play, they needed to maintain a friendly relationship. So, text messages were welcome. They provided hints regarding the day’s activities that could be mined in later conversation and were completely platonic. Except now. And it was her fault. 

O: Thor or Superman? 

F: It depends. 

O: On what? 

F: Is he saving me from a supervillain or is it a sex thing? 

Felicity grimaced. She had composed her message and hit send without thinking.  There was an unexpected long pause while she cursed herself for not only allowing her brain to go to that place, but also for sharing it with him. When her phone chimed again, she read his reply with trepidation and a twinge of excitement. 

O: The 2nd thing??? 

F:  Neither. 

O: Good. 

F: Captain America. Not as innocent as he looks. Hot and a people pleaser in bed. 

Oh shit. She did it again. Her babbling was now spreading to her fingers. Fingers. God, he had amazing hands. Stop, she screamed internally as she stared at her phone screen. 

O: Bad girl. 

The blonde’s ponytail swished as she threw her head bad to chuckle and consider her response. 

F: You think? 

She waited again, this time longer, to see what he would send in his reply. 

O: Oh, I KNOW. 

O: Meeting now. You’re slowly killing me, Smoak. 

F: LOL 

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 

That night, Oliver was an angry man doing angry pushups in the center of his living room floor. His meeting with Sebastian Blood had turned into a death match over zoning in the Glades. It seemed like every topic having to do with the Glades was charged these days. The most frustrating thing was that everyone really cared. They wanted the depressed area of town to improve, but there were just too many contrary opinions about how to do it. 

Adding to his negative mood, it had been several hours since their text exchange had left Oliver…out of sorts. Horny sounded bad, but was no less true. She did that to him -- since he first watched her walk toward him in the theater at The Merlyn. She had this energy about her that was feisty, unpredictable and so sexy. Now, it didn’t matter that Felicity wasn’t in the same room or the same city, for that matter. Something about her lightness warmed him, when she wasn’t even trying. But when she was making an effort to get a rise out of him, he nearly burst into flame with want for her. 

The day had been long again. When he finally arrived home, he couldn’t wait to change into lounge pants and a t-shirt. 

Felicity was finishing her technical rehearsal right now. He knew this. The schedule of a performer was pretty reliable, Oliver had learned. There were many people involved in making her show go smoothly, so each day was planned out and executed with precision. After her team finished checking the equipment, there would be a dinner break, which Felicity usually spent in her dressing room.  Then, after the show, Felicity would greet the audience for a short while before changing in her dressing room and then heading back to the modest suite where they had...been together. 

Since leaving that hotel suite, Oliver's thoughts of Felicity had taken on a magical quality of their own. His memories were warm and soft when he needed a soothing thought. Other times, when he wanted a complete distraction from the tedium of another conference call or stack of position papers, his recollection drifted into heat and he recalled the way Felicity’s eyelashes looked when she was resting or the sounds she made when he moved inside her. 

Ringing interrupted Oliver’s sweaty reverie. He got to his knees quickly, reaching over to grab the phone from the nearby coffee table. 

“Hey,” he huffed loudly. 

“Hey, are you okay?” She sounded truly concerned and the lilt of her voice touched him. 

“Yeah, uh, not really,” Oliver rolled onto his back and flexed his bare feet. 

Felicity’s voice softened into an apologetic tone. “Bad day? I am so sorry for the silly texting earlier. I forget sometimes that you have a really serious job and I can be kind of ridiculous.” 

“No, actually your texts were the best part of my day. It’s just stuff at the office. Adversarial people. I shouldn’t let them get to me.” 

“It’s understandable that you’re frustrated, Oliver. I’m sure you’d like to yell sometimes, but you can’t.” 

Oliver smiled, grateful to have her kindness to lift him at the end of the day, even if it was only a voice on the end of the line. 

“Yeah.” 

“Maybe you should get a sledgehammer and go smash a tire or something. Work out your stress.” Her voice was earnest and full of life. It drew a chuckle out of him. 

“Yeah, I should ask John Diggle to put one in at the gym. Exercise helps get out my aggression. I was just doing pushups and thinking about punching whoever decided to dump their trash in Starling Bay. We need a huge cleanup project.” 

There was unexpected silence on the other end. Usually this would be where Felicity piped up and mentioned something interesting – a story she read on the Internet about pollution or a movie she saw about turtles mutating in the sewer. Her mind traveled at the speed of light most of the time. 

“Felicity.” 

“Oh, uh, sorry. I got distracted. Thoughts.” 

“You okay? What were you thinking about?” 

“No, nooo. I don't think you want to know.” 

Oliver sat up. “Felicity. What’s wrong?” 

“Noth— “ 

“Don’t say…nothing,” he interrupted, softly. 

Felicity groaned through the phone. 

“Pushups! Okay? You said you were doing pushups and I got distracted thinking about you…doing…pushup-y things.” 

Oliver let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding and collapsed back on the floor with a soft chuckle. 

“You were, huh? What kind of things, Ms. Smoak?” He stretched out fully, closed his eyes and reveled in the sound of her discomfort. A grin slipped across his face. 

“Oh, you know,” Felicity suppressed a groan. 

“I’m not sure I do,” he continued, teasing. There was a long pause as he basked in her embarrassment. 

“Yes, you do, Oliver Queen.” Suddenly Felicity’s voice changed. The pitch lowered and her breath slowed. “Suddenly, I’m thinking it’s really too bad I’m not there to help you.” 

Oliver’s eye flew open and his chest expanded with a sudden intake of air. 

“Help me?” 

“Mmm hmm. Definitely. I could help you release some…frustration.” 

“Oh, yeah?” Oliver choked a little and closed his eyes again. “How would you do that, Felicity?” 

He liked a challenge and this woman had already shown him her playful side, which he was keen to experience again. 

“Well, it would depend. Are you still doing the pushups?” 

Oliver reacted, rolling over and up onto his knees. He was already half hard and grateful to be wearing loose sweats. 

“Sure. One handed,” he smirked. 

“That’s very manly, Oliver, but you better stop.” 

He grimaced slightly and rose to his feet. But then he heard her voice, dark sugar in his ear again. 

“You’re going to need that hand.” 

 Oliver’s head drifted back as he silently mouthed “fuck.” He bit his bottom lip and started walking around the apartment aimlessly, suddenly warm and vibrating with energy. 

Several minutes later, a trail of olive oil was pooled on the kitchen counter. Oliver’s back was pressed low against the refrigerator, legs extended, feet lodged against the island, and pants bunched around his calves. His shirt was discarded haphazardly on the floor. One slick hand was firmly wrapped around his hard cock while the other desperately gripped the phone clapped against his ear. His breathing was heavy and occasionally non-existent. The sound of skin against skin and the crackle of moisture echoed in the empty apartment. 

“I love the way you feel when I touch you,” she purred from too far away. Oliver groaned in response. 

“Remember my robe? How soft it was against your skin? I’d like to wrap it around your cock when I stroke you. Would you like that?” 

“Felicity,” he panted. Most of the blood in his body was currently concentrated below his waist and higher brain function wasn’t really possible. All he could do was focus on the sound of her voice and the repetition of his palm sliding and twisting against his own flesh. 

“Oliver,” she sighed. “I can’t forget the way you feel. The weight of you pressing down on me. The image of your head between my thighs.” 

The tightness beneath Oliver’s belly was growing exponentially. Phone sex wasn’t something he had a lot of experience with. Usually the woman was right there. This was exciting. Unpredictable. Hell, everything with Felicity was like that and he liked the way it kept him off balance. 

“Oh god…want you,” he gritted out, feeling a burn building from the inside. He knew he wasn’t far from flying apart. 

A whimper from her caused his eyes to shut tight. They had only been doing this for a few minutes, but time was shifting between his head and the erection straining in his fingers. He wanted to last, wanted to be sure that she was feeling good too. If he wasn’t convinced he was going to come really soon, he’d be whispering honeyed promises of things he would do to make her shriek and vibrate against him. 

“What…what are you doing?” he stuttered. 

“I’m right there, silly,” she responded. Her voice was clear and determined. “Right there with you. My nails are scraping down your thigh, right?” 

At this point, his hand was speeding up and his bottom lip was a prisoner of his teeth. The sweet agony couldn’t go on much longer. When Oliver didn’t respond, Felicity spoke again. “You feel me, don’t you?” 

“Yeah,” he gasped, nodding to himself. 

“You have your hand tangled up in my hair. You like the way that feels.” 

“Mmm hmm.” 

“My lips, Oliver. They are on you. My tongue is pressed against that vein that runs down…” 

“Oh fuck, I’m…” he groaned, losing his rhythm. 

“Feel it all, Oliver. Let go,” she whispered. 

That was it. His body reacted to her, full force. With a guttural cry, his hips strained, then stilled. His release was intense, causing him to drop the phone with a clatter on the kitchen tile. Oliver followed it down, crumpling into a panting heap on the floor. Spent and unable to open his eyes, he reached blindly for his t-shirt to clean himself up, then scrambled for the phone. 

When he finally raised the cell to his ear, he realized he didn’t know what to say. 

“Uh…thank you,” he managed to huff out. He knew he was supposed to feel vulnerable, embarrassed even, but he didn't. It was Felicity. 

He could hear her giggling quietly on the other end as he worked to catch his breath. 

“It was my pleasure. Well, not totally mine, obviously, because this time was really just for you. But hearing you was...” 

“Mmm. So good,” he managed. He knew sleep would be coming soon and he felt boneless. “I can’t, I can’t believe…how you can make me…when you’re hundreds of miles away.” 

“Mayor Queen,” she snickered. “I am a magician, remember?” 

At that, Oliver leaned his head back against the refrigerator and grinned. 

There was a period of quiet between them -- something Oliver had grown accustomed to.  But he knew it was just a matter of time before she broke. She did not possess the ability to not speak for extended periods. 

"So...are you going to make a salad now?" She deadpanned. 

Oliver roared. 

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 

“What are you wearing?” 

It was mid-afternoon on a Wednesday and Oliver would have happily taken part in a bit of telephone banter, particularly featuring Felicity’s attempt at a sexy voice, but the timing wasn’t right. 

“I’m about to go into a meeting with Ruvé Adams.” He still sounded amused as he secured the phone between his shoulder and his ear. Then he pushed papers into his briefcase. His assistant, Alex, hovered in the doorway staring at his smart watch a little too intently. 

“Ooh, don't you call her the Wicked Witch of the Water Board?" Felicity singsonged in his ear. 

Oliver sighed. "Only with you." 

"Hey...water board. It's like torture. How fitting. And ironic. Because the Wicked Witch was destroyed by water in the end." 

Oliver continued to pack his case, suppressing a smile. Several yards away, Alex cleared his throat and pointed at his watch, a message that they were going to be late. Oliver responded. "I'm right behind you, Alex. Just wrapping up with my...contractor." 

Alex nodded and moved into the next room. 

"So that means you're wearing pants, then.” Felicity declared. “You know, pants-free could completely throw the water woman off. Because you without pants is…formidably distracting.” 

In his quietest voice, Oliver replied, "You are the one who is distracting. Is everything okay?" 

“Yeah, sorry. I've just been thinking too hard about coming up with this illusion for the magic conference. And I wanted to take my mind off it, so I started thinking about you and I got kind of…frisky,” she sighed. “Do people still say that?” 

Oliver shut his eyes and chewed on his bottom lip, hoping to stifle his imagination. “You do, apparently.” 

"But you need to go see the mean lady about water..." 

It was then he heard an unexpected yelp on the other end of the line. 

"Hey," his tone was serious. "Are you okay? What's the matter?" 

"Nothing. Nothing! I think I just got a fantastic idea. For a trick. For the conference. Holy Frack!" 

Her enthusiasm crackled through the line, causing Oliver to grin as he began to walk toward the door. 

"That's terrific! I knew you'd come up with something. Can I ask you to fill me in tonight? I should head out." 

“Of course." She sounded gleeful now, "But before you go, do you want to know what I’m wearing?” Felicity sounded jubilant at this point. He thought it might kill him. He cleared his throat in response.  

“Okay.” He could imagine her nodding, her blonde ponytail bouncing against her neck.  

“Oh, and Oliver…” 

“Yeah?” He breathed heavily, relieved he was going to be able to get his mind back on track again. 

“Ivory silk panties. That is all.” Felicity giggled and hung up, leaving Oliver staring at the wall and internally cursing the next three hours he would spend in a conference room with a woman who definitely was not Felicity Smoak. 

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 

Every year Coast City played host to the largest magicians' convention in the country. MagicWEST was the destination for anyone and everyone in the business. It was a place where novices and experts alike traded secrets and connected with suppliers, builders, and even bookers. 
Felicity had been going to the show every year since she was a freshman at MIT. But this year she and her team would attend as representatives of The Merlyn and, more importantly, as Vegas headliners. The prospect of taking part as a performer of some stature should have been a distraction that enabled her to divert attention from a certain politician with slate blue eyes and, as it turned out, a very sexy voice. And it was. Sort of. 

They had been talking for a number of weeks now,  but over the past few days, the only way they had connected was through text messages. Felicity had been putting in extra time prepping for the conference, in addition to her usual performances, and Oliver had been sidelined with a travel junket to look at water rehabilitation solutions that could be used to address the polluted harbor crisis in his city. Still, texting was flirty fun and Felicity was delighted to see there were messages waiting for her when her flight landed at Coast City airport. 

The plane ride had been pleasant enough, Felicity dressed comfortably in black lounge pants and a soft t-shirt. Her most civilized flats, the ones with the panda faces, enveloped her toes. Her hair hung loosely around her face and reflected the relaxed vibe she liked to cultivate for travel.  

The flight had been a little lonely. The rest of Team Smoak, as they liked to call themselves, was arriving later that night, due to a booking glitch at the airline, or an oversight by Malcolm Merlyn's mercurial assistant. That was unclear. Still, a bit of hacking was attempted to get them all on the same flight, but the carrier was swamped and Felicity took it as a sign that she could now schedule a late afternoon nap and manicure to fill her solo time. She could also indulge in reading those text messages. 

O: Water is boring. Kill me now. 

O: Strike that. Water would be interesting if it was you in the shower. 

O: Just heard SOMEBODY sent a case of olive oil to my office. No card. Thank you. I think. ;-) 

O: A case? Really? Depressed and excited at the same time. 

O: All they have for this breakfast meeting is donuts. What are we? Wild animals? 

O: I saw a rabbit on our walking tour today. I don't think he was in showbiz. 

O: Hope your flight was good. Arranged a limo pickup for you at CCA. Enjoy a little spoiling. 

Felicity regarded the messages with a dumb grin as she road the tram to the main terminal and had to respond right away. 

F: Good flight. Pretzels, no peanuts. 

One night, early in their "phone thing" she had mentioned her nut allergy. Just another random tidbit during one of their many random discussions. She loved every one of them. It was during these verbal digressions that they found out interesting things about each other. Likes. Dislikes. Tics. Her nut allergy. Oliver's obsession with getting to the airport an hour early, after missing a flight and stranding Thea alone at LAX for six hours. Favorite drinks. Most embarrassing moments. Saddest days. 

These were things that people learned about each other they spent time together. People who were couples. Coupling people. While Felicity was doing everything in her power to resist the notion that they were getting more attached -- that could NOT happen -- she found herself drawn to him more and more each day. 

Oliver Queen reminded Felicity of one of the Faberge eggs she had seen in Merlyn's art collection. Decadent and fine on the outside. Perfectly made and a little intimidating, perhaps. But if you were lucky enough to know him, to peek inside, you couldn't help but observe that Oliver was just as beautiful and complex on the inside. That was kind of remarkable. And it freaked her out a little bit...because of the thing that could not happen 

F: Wow. Free ride? You are sweeter than any donut. 

F: A good donut. Boston Cream. Not a plain cake donut. What is the point of those, anyway? 

F: Made it to CC. Obviously. Will look for driver. 

Looking at the anxious faces of the people jammed into the gate shuttle, Felicity was grateful she hadn't checked any luggage today. The way her carry-on, decorated with pink and purple leopard spots, brightened the dreary space. Travel was something she didn't mind, but it always made her feel like things were out of her control, so personalizing where possible was absolutely necessary. 

The bus ride to the terminal felt unbearably slow, but then it connected loudly with the gate doors and the passengers were able to file down a hallway and into the concourse. Dragging her wheeled bag behind her, her computer bag slung over her shoulder, she noted a line of drivers holding signs with names in black block letters. She didn't see one that said SMOAK, but then one caught her eye. 

KENOBI 

She smiled awkwardly at the uniformed man holding the card in front of his chest. 

"I think that's me." 

"Yes, Miss. My name's Donnie," he replied. His look reminded her of a retired prize figher. So when he stepped forward to take her suitcase, she decided it was best not to balk. He eyed her computer bag and she responded with a look that let him know she would not be separated from it. Donnie nodded. Felicity followed him through the terminal, marveling internally about how awesome the large man looked dragging her festive bag. He led them out to a special waiting area for hired cars. It was a lovely fall day and Felicity enjoyed feeling sunshine on her face. 

Their walk ended at a black limousine with a certificate in the front window. Donald proceeded to pop the trunk and place her bag inside. Felicity approached when he opened a passenger door for her and nodded a thank you. 

Felicity pushed her bag in first. Then she climbed inside. The dark interior would require her eyes to readjust from the brightness outside. She was reaching down to steady herself and sit on the bench seat when a hand enveloped her tiny wrist. 

Before Felicity could make a noise, the door closed behind her and she was looking into warm blue eyes. 

"Felicity," Oliver exhaled, his voice deep and desperately charged. 

A gasp left her lips when she realized how close he was...finally. She had hardly taken in his face before she was moving toward him and wrapped in his powerful embrace. One of her hands slipped around his neck while the other clutched at his button-down shirt, feeling the solid body beneath it. She buried her face in his neck and held him for a minute.  

Felicity took no notice of the privacy that was afforded them there in the darkened space. The screen between the cabin and the driver was securely closed and the faint beat of music could be heard filling the other compartment. Discretion was obviously a thing that Donnie knew well. Felicity was oblivious to the engine turning over and the vehicle beneath them moving. Muted colors whizzed through the windows, but she only caught them in her periphery and they never registered.  

Pulling away from Oliver's neck, Felicity let out a ragged breath. She was feeling more emotional that she would have expected. But it was Oliver and he was here.   

Their lips finally collided, reckless at first, desperate to make up for a thousand missed kisses. She moaned as his tongue slipped in and rasped against hers. An invisible string between her mouth and her core tightened with arousal. God, he could kiss. She wanted him to keep kissing her until their lips were raw. She wondered if you could get a repetitive muscular injury from kissing like that. 

Eventually, their hunger was overcome by their biological need to process oxygen. Felicity pulled her face away first, leaning her forehead on his shoulder as she gulped for air. Oliver dropped his head back against the seat, but never took his eyes off her. He wanted to inhale the coconut spice air that emanated from the movement of her hair. Run his fingers through it. He wanted to hear her voice, present and warm against his ear, mixed with warm breath. He wanted to fill every one of his senses with her at once. 

"How are you here?" She panted. 

"We only have," he paused to check his watch and groan, "About ninety minutes before I have to catch my flight back to Starling. Fundraiser." 

"Oh my God. You didn't tell me." She raked her blunt nails against the back of his neck applying enough pressure to feel the taut muscles in his neck flex against her touch. 

"I wasn't sure I could finish up in Metropolis early enough and I didn't want us both to be disappointed if it didn't work out." Oliver pulled Felicity's hand up from his chest and began to worship her knuckles and fingers with his lips and his tongue. 

"Wow...that feels really nice. You're so...nice." Her eyes fluttered shut. 

"It's okay, then, that I did this?" He continued. "That I came here? I should have asked if you wanted to see me, I know, I just assumed..." 

"I love that you did this." She set aside the nervous pang in her chest that noted her last sentence contained "I," "love," and "you," in it, even if there were other words mixed in. Too soon for that kind of thinking. Instead, she marveled at the sight of him -- his navy blazer askew, skin peeking through the top buttons open on his blue Oxford shirt, and his eyes dancing with heat. The image tamped down any rational thoughts or fears she was harboring. 

Moving on instinct, she swung her leg around his hip to straddle him on the bench seat. Felicity melted against him, keen to feel every muscle and plane, as soon as possible. He responded to her warm body, loosening his fingers from her hand and shifting to assure she was exactly where he needed her to be. 

"Felicity." He groaned loudly, honestly. Then the woman grinned, just an inch away from his face, thank God, and moved her free hand over his mouth, cupping it softly. 

"We can talk on the phone all we want. Later. Right now I need to be as close to you as possible." She lowered her hand as he nodded. She dragged her thumb across his bottom lip and cradled his scruffy jaw. Unexpected moisture gathered in her eyes, but she blinked it back. There would be time later to sob with happiness. She ghosted her lips against his forehead. "Kissing. And touching. Lots of touching. Now." 

Felicity was right there, her thighs pressed tightly against his, her breasts served up inches from his mouth. He stroked her legs until he reached the curve of her ass and tested his memory of her flesh with his needy fingers. She bent to kiss him again and they charged slowly, reacquainting themselves. Maybe it was when she gently tugged on his bottom lip, or when she sucked his tongue into her mouth, not gently at all. He found he couldn't contain himself any longer and didn't want to either. 

Oliver gripped her ass with both hands and pulled her against him with a noticeable amount opf force. The friction drew a moan from deep inside her. Making eye contact, she watched the micro-expressions on his face as she reached the hem of her shirt and peeled it over her head. Oliver licked his lips once and leaned forward to slip his tongue against the skin beneath her bra strap. His teeth followed and he tugged the elastic off her shoulder. Felicity helped by reaching back to unhook it, but her brain was still blitzed and she faltered a little tossing it aside. Oliver pressed his lips against her soft breasts, exploring the curves and surfaces with his mouth, but his hands never loosened their grip around her hips. 

The car was a bubble and they were in it, oblivious to the outside world. The traffic, the city, passed by, occasionally the limousine slowed to a halt only to resume again moments later, but Oliver and Felicity only sensed each other. 

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 

As far as erotic adventures went, Felicity Smoak had her fair share of sexytimes with a handful of decent partners. But now she was naked in the backseat of a hired car, knees hooked haphazardly over the powerful shoulders of the Mayor of Starling City, who seemed to be having his last meal between her legs and this was something else entirely.  

"Fuck, that's so good," she whined.  

"Mmm hmm," he responded, his lips pressed against her clit so she could feel it.  

"Damn, it's like you took a class or something." Her voice was taxed, breathless. Her hips moved against him, tight and desperate. "You didn't take a class, did you? If you did, you got a fucking A."  

Her babbling was unstoppable at this point and Oliver couldn't help but feel a little smug about it. She got like that when she was turned on and he wanted to keep her that way for at least the next 38 minutes. So he never stopped touching her. When he wasn't bathing her slit or fucking her with his tongue, he still managed to rub his rough jaw against her sensitive inner thigh, all the while drawing out her nipples with his thumbs.  

Then her body suddenly stilled and then stuttered. A cry wanted to slip past her lips, but she managed to muffle it with the heel of her palm. Given his proximity, he was well aware of her orgasm and allowed her only a moment to recover before he went all in -- sucking on her center and teasing her clit softly with his teeth. When she came again, hard, and soaked his mouth he dug a condom out of his jacket pocket and put it on.  

Felicity watched him, eyes hooded and softly panting. She smiled and reached out for him, encouraging him to align himself and slide inside. They whispered each other's names as he entered her, pulling her towards the edge of the seat. He felt her calves tighten around his back. Felicity rubbed her nose against his before her mouth claimed the lips she had been dreaming about.  

When her hips moved, he stopped holding his breath. Finally, he was back in the place where he'd never wanted to leave that morning in Vegas. He was surrounded once more by her cries, her kisses and her magic.  

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 

The limousine pulled up to the passenger drop off and Mister B. Kenobi emerged from the hired car, slightly unsteady. He had spent a lot of time on his knees in a moving car and it was a bit like being in a boat. A really, really great boat.  

Donnie eyed him, but said nothing as he opened the trunk and removed Oliver's dark overnight bag.  

"Thank you," Oliver huffed, pulling a thick envelope from his jacket pocket. "You'll drop her at the Hyatt? He kept looking at the window of the car, knowing Felicity was on the other side, but unable to come out and kiss him goodbye for the dozenth time. They needed to be discreet.  

Donnie accepted his payment with an understanding nod.  

"No problem, Sir." 

"Thanks, I'm going to cut it close, so I have to run." Oliver moved to press his hand against the window. One last goodbye. Then he willed himself to rush into the terminal, hopeful he would still be able to make his flight. This was the first time in years he hadn't arrived at the airport an hour early.  

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 

It was nearly 4 in the afternoon when the hired car pulled up in front of Felicity's hotel. Her plans for a nap and a manicure had been scuttled for the best of reasons. She was smiling when she emerged from the car, but that belied the tears she had shed soon after Oliver had been dropped at the airport. She chastised herself for her grief. Her head told her it was too soon to care this much. But her heart shouted that down. As she waited by the car for her other bag, she considered that maybe her thinking was faulty.  

Donnie handed Felicity her bag with a nod. She was grateful he didn't wink at her, but assumed that was why he was a professional. She wondered if ever did this kind of thing before == transport a desperate couple who hardly saw each other? And there it was again -- couple. How much longer could she deny that it felt right to use that word?   

As she headed into the hotel, Felicity hoped that she looked normal. She tested her lips with her teeth, hoping they weren't too swollen. She ran her fingers through her hair, fearing there were huge knots in the back. Felicity mostly hoped she didn't look like she had just gone three rounds with a very amorous, gorgeous sex god of a man. Because looking like that would be embarrassing, even around total strangers.  

"Felicity Smoak?!"  

The geek goddess, currently feeling more the latter than the former, cringed inwardly, then turned to face the probing gaze of Starling City's own investigative journalist, Anthony Ivo.  

Chapter Text

Chapter 8 

Felicity did not care for Anthony Ivo at all. He was brash and more than a little arrogant, which she found quite unpleasant when she met him at Malcolm Merlyn’s reception in Las Vegas. He was also the last person she wanted to see right after being sexually serviced, rather spectacularly, by the mayor of Starling in the back of a limousine. Seriously. Couldn’t she just be left alone with her dreamy thoughts and still-quivering thighs? But no.

“Ms. Smoak, isn’t it? Anthony Ivo.” The Redwood tree-of-a-man practically pounced on her as she attempted to pass through the sliding doors of the hotel. 

Felicity smiled and nodded while her brain processed escape routes and all the ways she would like to make him disappear.

“Hi. Yes. You’re the journalist from Starling. We met at the Merlyn.”

“Yes. You’re here for MagicWEST, right?”

“I come every year.” Felicity smiled and edged toward the door.

“Ms. Smoak,” Ivo grinned, “do you have any insight into the strategy Malcolm Merlyn will be using later this month when he comes to Starling to court the voters? Is he going to dazzle them with Vegas glitter?”

That was new. Felicity had no idea what the alleged journalist was talking about, but she thought it best not to look surprised.

“Well, that would be quite a scoop for you, wouldn’t it?” she teased.

Felicity's response caught Ivo off-guard. Sensing this, she took the opportunity to rush into the hotel lobby and away from more probing questions. Once her escape was secured, she couldn't help contemplating the reporter's question - what was Merlyn planning?

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Finally settled into his aisle seat on a commuter flight back to Starling, Oliver fished his burner phone out of his pocket and started tapping on the screen.

O: Made my flight. Will have to turn my phone off in a couple of minutes. I miss you. Does that make me a sap??

F: Yes. Huge. Massive -

O: Yes?? ;-)

F: Gigantic sap. Coincidentally, I find saps incredibly sexy.

O: Whew.

F: Thank you for...today.

O: I'm just grateful for any time I get to spend with you.

F: Me too. Did I tell you how nice you smelled? I meant to. One of the sensory benefits of meeting in person.

O: I can think of many sensory benefits to meeting with you in person.

F: Yeah?

O: You in my arms. Warm. The skin on the back of your neck. So soft.

F: God, I miss you already.

O: Now, who's a sap, Smoak?

F: ME.

O: I’ll call tonight. I want to hear about the dinner.

F: Gaaah.

O: You know you are going to be amazing, right? They will love you. You will astonish them.

F: You think?

O: I know. Trust me.

Oliver hit send and took a breath. Ever since he left the limousine, he had been repressing the urge to call this woman that he had met in Las Vegas in a very unconventional way, a woman he seduced immediately, and with whom he had forged an unexpected bond. She was smart, vivacious and beautiful. He had grown to trust her and shared his deepest thoughts with her, albeit in secret. He wanted to reach out and express his feelings for her. Because he understood them the moment he wasn't with her anymore.

Returning home, the mayor of Starling deplaned and eventually made it back to his apartment to shower, dress and attend the evening's fundraiser to benefit a school rebuild. He smiled at colleagues and shook hands with constituents, but his thoughts rarely strayed from her.

Oliver loved Felicity Smoak. He was sure of it. Not because they had shared a crazy, passion-filled ride in a limousine that afternoon, but because of so many moments that happened before she climbed inside. Her voice in his head, reminding him of the man he was choosing to be. Her warmth, understanding and kindness. How she made him laugh more than any other person he'd ever met. The way she really thought about things and usually shared a perspective he hadn't considered. Not to mention those blue eyes that soothed his dreams.

Now that he realized how he felt about her, he didn't want to tell her he loved her for the first time in a text or even over the phone. The words were too important and he needed to see her face again and hold her hand when he said them. He wanted to tell her when they were in the same room. And more than anything, he hoped that she would feel the same way and he might hear it, inches away from her lips. Because he needed to hear that in person too, just before he kissed her. Right now, he didn't know when that could happen, but Oliver wanted that opportunity more than anything.

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Tonight was big. The Masters Dinner was one of the most prestigious and least known events that took place over the course of MagicWEST. Invitations were tightly controlled to ensure the greatest figures in the field would feel aptly celebrated by exclusivity and the camaraderie of their respected colleagues. To be invited was a rare honor, so when Felicity had received her invitation by courier (NOT an owl, but rather a UPS man), she had been at once flabbergasted and terrified. She had not been terrified by the beautiful black card with the beautiful silver script. No, it was the simple slip of paper included in the envelope that had read:

In accordance with tradition, please prepare a demonstration of table magic. Mystify. Thank you.

That simple line of text that arrived so many weeks ago had been the source of her anxiety ever since. What could she do that would impress a room full of esteemed colleagues, many of whom had devised illusions that were still whispered about decades later? And then Oliver had said something during one of their phone conversations, something simple that had flipped a switch in her brain, like it was a train set and the track suddenly diverted. Then, struck with inspiration, her challenge shifted from "what" to "how." And now she stood in her hotel room, staring out at the nicest water view in Coast City, mentally preparing for the dinner that would begin in thirty minutes in a very private dining room adjacent to the hotel.

Felicity had spent time setting up the top secret tech that would figure in her illusion and then played out every detail in her mind. Now, she waited expectantly in her hotel room, staring at a rather unusual bouquet of Twizzlers, wrapped in a red ribbon. The accompanying card had simply printed note. "You are sweet. You mesmerize me." And it was signed: Obi's friend (O). During one of their lengthy evening chats she might have mentioned that Twizzlers were a favorite late night coding food.

Now she nibbled on a red strip of candy while dressed perfectly in a black gown with strategically placed cutouts on the bodice and waist. Her hair was blown straight and pulled back from her face, held with a sparkling barrette. Rings glittered on her fingers, which were decorated with fuchsia nail polish to match her bright lip stain. Rhinestone chandelier earrings swung from her delicate ears, no doubt moved in part by her trembling. Tonight was important, not only professionally, but personally. Her work was such an accomplishment in her life, after all.

The ringing of her phone interrupted her thoughts. Felicity moved to pick it up and was surprised to see it was a FaceTime call from Malcolm Merlyn. She took a deep breath and hit "Accept."

"Miss Smoak! You look lovely, as always." He smiled with too many teeth. It had bothered her once upon a time, when they first met, but she was used to it now and knew he didn't mean anything by it. He just had lots of nice teeth and his smile meant that he liked to show them all when possible.

"Hello, Mister Merlyn." Felicity managed a soft grin back. "Thank you so much for arranging the upgrade on my room. I have this amazing view." Felicity adjusted the camera to show him the water outside, the boats, and the seagulls drifting in the sky above the setting sun.

"Nice. I have heard that your colleagues..."

"Ronnie and Caitlyn?"

"Yes, Ronnie and Caitlyn, have apparently put together a nice little show while you are away from us. Got some good comments last night."

Felicity brightened. There had been some brief concern about leaving the theater dark for a couple of nights while she attended MagicWEST, but her two assistants, in addition to romance, had also been working up a side act built around pyrotechnics and dance. They had approached her about it weeks earlier and once she'd seen it, she was keen to find a way to help them try it out in front of an audience. The timing had been perfect.

"I'm glad to hear that! I'm so proud of them."

"And I'm proud of you, Ms. Smoak. Proud that you're there. Proud you represent the Merlyn at MagicWEST and now you're going to your first Masters Dinner."

Felicity adjusted the camera to face her again, revealing her quirked eyebrow. "Wait. How do you know about the dinner?"

"I am Malcolm Merlyn." He smirked. "But honestly that's all I know. You may recall me mentioning that I dabbled in magic early on in my career, but I never came close to being one of the greats. I still know people though and as I understand it, the festivities are hush hush."

Felicity nodded. Merlyn really was a mysterious guy and his reach always surprised her. She hoped he wouldn't ask her anything more about the dinner, so she endeavored to change the subject.

"I hear you are going to be doing something in Starling later this month." It was Felicity's turn to smirk.

Merlyn's expression changed from cocksure to one of slight surprise.

"You aren't the only one who knows things," she countered.

"Apparently." Merlyn moved to sit. Felicity could tell that he set the phone down to rest on his desk and angled it up to keep him in the frame.

"That is actually the second reason why I called."

Felicity moved to sit in a nearby desk chair. "Oka-ay," she replied, expectantly. This was one of the problems with carrying on an incredibly secret affair...ugh, she hated that word. What should she call it? Relationship sounded funny. Thing? Alright, she would call it a thing for now.

"I have an idea for an undertaking in an area of Starling City called "The Glades" and I need your assistance."

She had heard about the depressed area before in conversations with Oliver, so she cocked her head to the side, curious to hear more.

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Felicity resisted the urge to pinch herself as she sat in a wood-paneled dining room surrounded by respected colleagues, some her professional heroes. Many of the guests were famous, known for their work on television, others had notoriety amongst their peers for innovating in their craft. Felicity liked to feel aligned with the latter group and hoped this was a step toward joining their ranks.

The appetizer and dinner courses ended and the wait staff cleared the last of the dishes. Soon, it would be time for her and her untested colleagues to impress the room with their demonstrations. Felicity's phone buzzed. She looked down at the text message.

O: How are you?

F: Excited. I'm on in a minute.

O: Knock their socks off.

F: That would be a great trick.

O: Yours is better.

F: I know. Right?

O: Yes! Now go and be you. xoxo

F: XO

"Ms. Smoak, you're first," a voice whispered to her in the darkened room, jolting her to attention. She slipped her burner phone in her handbag and tapped a few buttons on her regular cell.

A spotlight suddenly illuminated one of the dinner guests at her table. The man, Harrison Wells, had been Felicity's mentor when she decided to take up magic seriously. The man with a professorial demeanor stood up, his slim frame producing an even skinnier shadow behind him. He adjusted his glasses in the light and addressed the room.

"It is with great pleasure and no small amount of pride that I introduce an illusionist who is truly exceptional. When I met this young woman, she immediately impressed me with her intelligence, her creativity, and her industry."

Felicity felt herself tearing up. Wells had been so encouraging to her over the years. His words were swelling her heart in her chest.

"She is a graduate of MIT," the man continued, "who has not only mastered technology to the point of seamlessly integrating it into the field of magic, but she also brings a sense of beauty and awe to her illusions that are captivating audiences nightly in Las Vegas. While her performances appear effortless, that is part of the trick, because the truth is she is a tremendously hard worker who respects the traditions of magic and the history that came before her. She is adding something exciting and unique to the art of magic and you would do well to pay attention to her tonight. Gentlemen, ladies, I give you the remarkable Felicity Smoak."  

Felicity hardly heard the applause in the room, but paused a moment, catching Wells' eye and mouthing "thank you" to him. Then, the spotlight moved to her, signaling it was ShowTime. She opened her mouth to speak, but instead she coughed and then winced apologetically. This happened twice before she pointed to a glass of water on the table. Wells handed it to her as she stifled a look of embarrassment. She raised the glass, took a gulp then cleared her throat to speak again. But there were still no words coming.

Fellow dining guests shifted in their seats in discomfort for her. Felicity raised her finger to signal she just needed one more moment. One more sip of water. She raised the glass up and peered into it.

A bright orange goldfish was looking back at her. Felicity's face transformed from worry to a sly grin. Her illusion had begun.

"When I was a child, my Mom and I lived in a very small apartment in Las Vegas. And I really wanted a dog. For the longest time, I begged for one incessantly. Finally, my Mom brought home a goldfish in a round bowl. I named him Scotty, after the first engineer I ever loved." Felicity grinned to the crowd. 

She mimed to another guest to hand her a wine goblet.

"The thing about fish is that you never have just one. So, I got another. His name was David Copperfield." Felicity turned her head. "Stop grinning over there, David. I've told you I named a fish after you before."

"It was a big fish, right?" The famous illusionist called out dryly in the darkness, eliciting laughter.

Felicity fanned her hands around the glass.

"No," she grinned. "But he was kind of a show off."

She pulled her hands away to reveal the water was now clear and there was a fish swimming in this one too. The crowd groaned and guffawed. The man at the butt of her joke laughed and clapped with everyone else.

One by one, Felicity motioned to the rest of the guests at the table to give her their glasses and soon each was home to a fish with graceful fins. They were black or orange and each of the smiling diners raised their glasses up so the rest of the room could see them.

"I was always inspired by their tranquility and beauty, their grace and elegance."

Then Felicity faked a sneeze and they all changed color in unison, delighting the crowd. It happened two more times after that, and each time the audience applauded. Magicians craned their necks trying to determine how she was doing it and looked to each other, perplexed and amused.

The energy of the illusion changed when Felicity waved to a server standing nearby. He brought a tray with a very large transparent pitcher on it.

Felicity beckoned for each of her table mates to hand her their glass, careful to assure that everyone saw the fish swimming inside. She then poured the contents of each one into the pitcher, gently. Each fish turned purple as soon as it left its glass.

"After a while, I had a very large aquarium filled with many friends. I loved watching them."

Eventually, there were eight purple fish swimming to and fro in the glass container. It gleamed in the bright light. Harrison Wells leaned forward to peer inside. The look of wonder on his face made Felicity grin. She knew the trick was going well based on his reaction alone. But now it was time to wrap things up.

"There is a kind of magic in the aquarium. A world existing just on the other side of our own, separated by glass."

Felicity dipped her fingers into the water and flicked them towards her table mates. They reacted to the unexpected wetness with a start, proving to everyone that the water was real.

She turned and flicked more water at the magicians sitting at nearby tables. They also recoiled at the moisture that landed on them and laughed, still fascinated by the trick. Felicity grinned toward one side of the room and then to the other.

"Is anyone thirsty?" She used her loud voice to be heard around the room. Then, she grabbed the tray and jerked it up high above their seated heads. The crowd gasped, expecting the glass pitcher to fly, water and glass smashing down. But it didn't.

Felicity watched the faces around her as hundreds of small white and silver ostrich feathers rained down from above, catching the air and wafting in and out of the spotlight. She glanced over at Wells and his open mouthed smile told her that the payoff for the trick was suitably impressive. Hoots, laughter and applause erupted, lasting long after all of the feathers had softly blanketed the room.

After the performance, the evening became a blur. Felicity sat and watched several other magicians dazzle the crowd with fascinating feats of table magic, allowing herself to finally relax and enjoy herself. She sipped a glass of Spanish Rioja that Criss Angel had sent over with a scribbled note. Brilliant. Especially liked the Copperfield joke. X, CA

"I need to talk to you." Harrison leaned in and whispered to Felicity in between performances. "After," he mouthed. She noted his seriousness and replied with an affirmative nod.

Once the dinner ended and the crowd dispersed, Felicity stayed behind to collect a few small pieces of technology that she had installed before the dinner. Wells stayed, lounging in his chair and sipping the last of his glass of ruby Port. Finally, Felicity finished and crumpled into the chair next to him as the wait staff bussed nearby tables.

"You did good tonight, Kiddo." He shook his head and smiled from ear to ear. Felicity felt tears rush to her eyes. She hadn't any father figure to speak of in her life, but Wells, whom she unofficially adopted in her late teens. His approval and pride meant the world to her, professionally, and personally.

Felicity bit back a snarfle and grabbed for his hand. "Thanks. And thank you for getting me invited to this. I know it was you."

"You know, nobody makes it in this business alone, Smoak. And cream rises to the top. If it wasn't me, it would have been someone else. You are the real deal." Wells saluted her with his glass. Felicity pressed her lips together to squelch a giggle and accepted the toast by sipping her own glass of dessert wine.

"So, what did you want to talk to me about?" She eyed him cautiously. "Cooper?"

Wells' eyebrows raised. She rarely evoked the name of her former partner/boyfriend these days.

"How did you guess?"

"You have that 'Oh dear, I should have brought a handkerchief' look on your face," she responded with a smirk.

Wells quietly tried to figure out what "that look" entailed and then gave up.

"Yes. I saw him this afternoon entering an exhibition room."

Felicity nodded quietly, considering the ramifications of Cooper attending MagicWEST and the possibility of crossing paths with him again.

"Of course," Wells spoke up, "he wasn't here tonight. He'll never be a part of this group. You were the talent in Seldon and Smoak. Too many of us are aware of his unethical behavior and as you know, a magician who steals illusions is the lowest in our business."

"Thank you, Harry."

"I just want you to know that you will always be safe here. You're part of a group now that respects you and admires you and is delighted to welcome you. We need new magicians like you. We were in the palm of your hand tonight."

Felicity snorted and beamed at the same time.

"I didn't want to throw you off your performance by telling you about Cooper beforehand, but it's important that you know now. You might want to watch..."

"Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself. I'm not the same wide-eyed girl who let him use me and steal our act. I got past it. I've thrived." Felicity took another sip from her small glass. "But I appreciate you telling me. I am grateful to have you as my friend. And mentor. And I am really honored to be included in this amazing group."

"Remarkable," was all Wells replied before finishing his glass.

The moment was interrupted when Felicity's phone, which was set on the table, lit up with a ringtone that sounded suspiciously like Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy."

Wells quirked a professorial eyebrow at her. "Could it be the girl of the hour has a fella?" Felicity blushed a little and tilted her head in a coy fashion. Harrison stood up, leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Lucky man. Tell him how great you were tonight. I'm going to see if the boys are up for some poker. Waffles in the morning. I'm buying and asking you about Mister Sexy Pants." He headed out of the dining room.

"If you have any money left. You shouldn't play cards with magicians, Harry! It never goes well!"

Wells chuckled in the distance as Felicity pounced on her phone.

"Hi Mister Sexy Pants," she giggled and started moving toward the exit.

"Ha," Oliver barked. "You are drunk, aren't you?" His voice sounded playful and light.

"On life."

"It went well, then?"

"It went really, really...apparently I am amazing!"

"Well, I already knew that," he responded without having to think. "I want to hear all about it."

Felicity proceeded to navigate the halls and lobby of the hotel to return to her room. She looked forward to privacy and the opportunity to make inappropriate comments at a level above a whisper. It was late now. There were fewer people around and the emptiness made her voice seem louder as it bounced against the walls.

As she waited at the elevators for the next car, Felicity kept the phone to her ear while digging through her purse for her room key. Meanwhile, Oliver briefed her on the gala. Chicken Kiev. Again. Overcooked rice. Grilled asparagus. Flan and ice cream for dessert - she always wanted to know the menu, eating vicariously through his official dinners. There was also an eighty year-old woman who groped his ass. Twice. Felicity chortled with laughter in between commending her good taste and feigning indignation. She was still giggling when the elevator doors slid open. A figure exited, passing her as she stepped inside.

Cooper Seldon stopped moving and spun to face Felicity just as she turned toward the open door. She locked eyes with him and froze for a moment, the phone still held against her ear. She watched his eyes obviously drag downward to take her in, dressed to the nines her gown and glittering jewelry, instinctively licking his lips. Meanwhile, she noted that he still dressed like a college student -- sneakers, jeans and a polo shirt. Felicity's expression reflected disdain.

"Everything okay, Sweetheart?" She heard Oliver ask through the line, pulling her out of the tense moment.

"Everything is perfect," she smiled as the elevator doors closed.

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"So, that happened," Felicity explained, waving a piece of bacon in the air. "We had a staring contest for a moment, which I won, by the way, and then it was over. Finito. I wish every woman in the world could cross paths with her sleazy creepy ex while dressed in formal wear. It's a sweet victory, I tell you."

"Alright, Smoak. You've managed to Hoover through two scrambled eggs, a manhole cover-sized waffle and a quart of coffee. All on my dime, I might add," Harry Wells smirked as he held his mug of tea near his mouth. "And you've told me the Cooper story twice. Now I demand details about 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy' or Rod or whatever his name might be. As the best teacher you've ever..."

Felicity snorted out loud. Gone was the glamour girl of the previous evening. Familiar spectacles perched on her nose and makeup free, she was now folded up inside a diner booth wearing what Wells had initially labeled pajamas when he first saw them. She countered that she refused to give up her usual 7am on Sunday attire, no matter where she happened to be -- so he had to deal with it.

"I hate to burst your bubble, Harry," she mumbled as she swallowed her last bite of syrup-laden breakfast food, "but my "Distributed Computing through Combinatorial Topology" teacher was probably the best --"

"Ah, but could he show you six different ways to hide a live rabbit on your person?" He countered. "I didn't think so. There is a big difference between theoretical information and useful knowledge, Small Blonde Girl," Wells huffed with a wry smile.

Felicity laughed and shook her head. "I stand corrected. You definitely are the best. Wait a second. Are you carrying right now?"

Harry turned sheepish and looked around the room for minute to be sure there were no other eyes on the table. Then, he snagged a piece of lettuce from his nearly empty plate and without looking directed it under his suit jacket, near his inner breast pocket. Felicity stifled a grin.

"Horatio is in training."

"Of course he is," she giggled.

"I see what you are trying to do, Missy. Misdirection. Changing the subject to try to distract from my question. No more of that. Right now. Who's making you all sparkly?"

Felicity giggled in capitulation. Then she leaned forward to assure that their conversation was private. Wells instinctively moved toward the young woman he adored like she was his own sister.

"His name is Oliver." Then she sat back in her chair with pride, allowing the revelation to hang in the air between them. Wells paused and waited. He removed his horn-rimmed glasses and wiped them on his shirt tail, then he placed them back on his nose, still waiting for Felicity to offer up something further. Exasperation overtook him.

"Does he lead a gang of singing pickpockets?"

Felicity shook her head, to which he replied, "Okay, how long has this man been in the witness protection program?"

"I know, I know," she pleaded in an apologetic tone. "I'm being weird."

"Weird-ER," he corrected.

Felicity stuck her tongue out at him and then sighed. "It's just, the situation is delicate right now."

"Not married," he offered, hopefully.

"No," she responded, an air of indignation in her voice. That was off-limits behavior for her.

"Well, he's not a magician. I would have heard about that. And he's not an engineer because you are the alpha engineer in any scenario. So what's left? Podiatrist? Taxidermist?"

"Ewww."

"Dog walker? Mariachi singer? Superhero?"

Felicity's eyebrow shot up at that descriptive. In her mind it was the closest thing to describing Oliver -- a man of privilege who was now dedicated to making his city better.

"Okay. So he's extraordinary and might wear tights." Wells smirked and Felicity cocked her head back at him in defiance. "Throw me a bone here, Smoak."

She scanned the room before speaking. "You know how the Merlyn Group is looking to expand into Starling City?"

Wells looked to be skimming through the filing system in his brain for a moment before responding. "Yes. Saw something on CNBC. In an airport. I don't normally do high finance. What about it?"

"He lives in Starling and..." Felicity struggled to find the right words.

"Oliver..." Wells added, hoping she might continue her thought. But instead, his mind made a completely unexpected leap. "Queen. QUEEN?" He hissed quietly across the table, his expression becoming rather animated. "Mister Rod Stewart Sexy Pants is..."

Felicity lurched across the table and clapped her palm over Wells' mouth before he could say it out loud. He looked mildly irritated as she pulled her hand away, with a silent warning for discretion on her face.

Wells was quiet, holding back a moment to survey her carefully before speaking.

"Are you in love with him, Smoak?"

"I...I..it's just we haven't spent...we talk everyday...it's a long distance thing and I...feelings..." Felicity huffed in frustration while Wells looked on with a paternal smile.

"He's a good person? He's thoughtful? Not just in the ‘Hey I was thinking about you today,’ kind of way, but he actually does considerate things?"

Felicity blinked at him, taking in his words and processing them.

"Does he listen to you? Value your opinion? Treat you with respect? Even when he's having a bad day?"

Still maintaining eye contact with Harry, Felicity felt a grin pull at her lips.

"Does he get how brilliant you are? Laugh at your stupid nerd jokes even though he can't possibly understand them? Does he tolerate that ridiculously inappropriate babbling thing you do?"

"He does," she sighed and sent her hand to cradle her cheek. "Oh God. All those things."

"I've seen him on TV, you know. He has a gigantic forehead. In olden days they might have locked him in a tower for his freakish disfigurement."

"He does not!" Felicity protested.

In his role of unofficial, surrogate uncle, there was nothing that gave Wells more satisfaction than winding her up from time to time. He leaned back in his seat, arms folded against his chest and a smug expression on his face.

She caught the familiar glint in his eye and relaxed.

"So, you are."

"Don't look so pleased with yourself, Harry."

"But I'm not! I should have figured it out when I first saw you last night, Smoak. I might not have guessed without the ringtone. You're a better actress than I gave you credit for."

"Given the situation, the political complications, we've had to keep everything a secret. Maybe I've been keeping a secret from myself too." She broke into a wistful smile.

Wells nodded to her. "So what are you going to do about these complications? Is there anything I can do to help?"

"I'm afraid there is nothing to do except be patient."

Harry Wells smirked. "Since when are you patient?"

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Sometimes, Oliver was grateful that the role of mayor was accompanied by a crushing schedule. Not only did a full plate make him feel fairly productive, it also made the days slip seamlessly into one another.

It was late October now and the streets of Starling were awash in curled and crumpled leaves. Cool mornings made for brisk runs that allowed him to consider various issues as his footfalls landed hard on the pavement in steady rhythm. He was grateful Fridays were off-days for the gym and grateful to be out in the fresh air.

Malcolm Merlyn was in town for a last push to convince voters to support his proposed casino project and was holding a carnival-style event in The Glades the next day -- a rally and a fundraiser to benefit the area. Oliver had managed to maneuver around the issue of the vote rather deftly in recent months, but today he felt conflicted. As mayor, it made sense to attend and support something that was beneficial to the neighborhood, but there could be backlash if his attendance was construed as an endorsement.

Oliver loved helping his city, but he hated the way politics made things so complicated. He might have asked Felicity's thoughts on the matter, but they had agreed to maintain a Chinese wall when it came to anything Merlyn-related. Even though their relationship was still a well-kept secret, they still thought it best to avoid the topic all together. He had discussed it with Walter Steele, who let him know he would be attending and likely make a financial contribution on behalf of Queen Consolidated. In Walter's words he "wanted to see if that show pony, Merlyn, would put his money where his mouth is when it comes to helping Starling City." 

More than anything, Oliver wished it was November 9th. He wanted that vote to happen without incident so he and Felicity could sit down and talk about their relationship like normal people, out of the limelight and without the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.

They continued to talk on the phone almost every night, finding it easy to share deep and banal thoughts equally. One particularly entertaining week found them competing to relate the worst dates of their lives. Felicity won thanks to a boy named Harold who actually vomited on her shoes at a school dance. Another week focused on embarrassing moments. Oliver related the story of peeing on a cop car while intoxicated, which, he explained, was not in and of itself embarrassing. No, the worst part was when his mother confronted him with the photographs. "Oliver Queen," Moira had waved the photos and spoke barely above a whisper, "unless you are planning a career in the adult film industry, you would do well to keep your shortcomings private." Felicity laughed until she cried. Then she told him she wished she could have met his mother. Oliver was sorry that would never happen as well.

"Screw politics," Oliver huffed as he turned the corner to his street. Going to Merlyn's event was the right thing to do. He wanted the people of The Glades to know that he cared about their betterment -- that the Mayor's office was behind them, no matter what. He just hoped that Merlyn wouldn't try to finagle a photo op out of him. He would stick close to Walter as much as possible and avoid disaster.

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Friday was usually the easiest day of the week in the Mayor's office. Disasters poured in on Mondays, but by Friday things were mostly back in order and the staff seemed a little more relaxed. There were fewer meetings scheduled and the day was filled with paperwork and red tape management. Usually.

On this particular Friday, there had been series of small issues that snowballed into much bigger ones and by lunchtime, Oliver felt like they were going to roll over him. He hardly had time to check his phone. He had sent Felicity a funny meme that morning about otters and had received one back featuring a hilarious walrus. They promised to touch base again that night, when things weren't so hectic. Throughout the day, Oliver smiled about that walrus and about the adorable and amazing woman who could make him laugh from afar.

He got a text from Thea in the late afternoon.

T: There's a pothole on 5th and King that almost took my wheel off.

O: I'll go get my asphalt and shovel right now.

T: You're not going to do that, are you?

O: No, Thea. I'm the mayor. I don't do road maintenance.

T: But the people who do work for you.

O: Do me a favor. Go on the city website. The web guy made a special box for submitting the pothole locations. You'll make his day.

T: Okay. Dinner tonight?

O: Probably going to work through dinner. :-(

T: Really? A sad face emoji? Let's be clear. You are going to have dinner. It will just have to be late.

O: Really late.

T: How about midnight snack at BBB? We haven't done that in ages.

O: Sounds good.

T: Don't flake on me. I'll order ahead for you and everything.

O: Since when do I flake?

T: Since all the time.

T: Ollie, when you come to Big Belly be sure to avoid the ginormous fucking crater on 5th and King.

O: lol

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Oliver almost flaked again. It was 11:30 and he was only just finishing a review of the first draft of the Starling City Annual Report. It wasn't due for submission until after Thanksgiving, but it was a large and complicated document and his assistants in the office had spent a lot of time compiling the preliminary content. It would take several weeks to get into shape. He finally looked up at the clock, cursed, then quickly gathered his laptop and several files into his computer bag for weekend reading and rushed out the door.

The Honda Accord, his city-issued car, sped along the dark and mostly empty streets toward the Big Belly Burger restaurant he and Thea had frequented since they were children. Coincidentally, John Diggle was related to the owner, Carly, and she had a soft spot for the Queens. It seemed that Oliver was a target for chatty or disgruntled citizens whenever he sat down for a meal and she took pity on him. Coming in at closing meant he could eat in peace, albeit relative darkness, since the place had to look closed. She would leave a spare key for him to lock up after they finished, which he would return to Diggle at the gym. It was a good system.

Oliver noted the "Closed" sign on the window of the restaurant as he pushed on the door. He was always surprised when it gave way, even though he should have expected it to be unlocked. One of the few perks of being the mayor of Starling. Or John Diggle's friend.

"Thea," he called into room which was darker than usual and illuminated with minimal lighting from above. He locked the door behind him and then moved into the restaurant. They never sat near the window at night, avoiding the notice of anyone driving by. "You might have told me that pothole was a fucking chasm. Instead of patching it we could fill it for ice skating this win-"

He lost his words when he turned down the aisle of booths and saw Felicity perched on the edge of a booth bench seat, illuminated by a candle on the table. He noticed that her hair was loose and softly framing her face and her legs were jutting out into the aisle, partially covered by dusty lilac fabric.  

"I'm supposed to tell you that your date flaked and I'm the substitute." She rose and smoothed down her dress in an attempt to look more presentable. All he could do was smile and shake his head, laughter bubbling up unexpectedly from somewhere deep. Suddenly, he was almost shaking with happiness.

"Lucky me," was all he could muster before rushing toward her and wrapping her up in his arms. She responded with a sigh and rested her cheek against his chest. They swayed silently while Oliver nuzzled her hair, recalling how soft it was.

"Should I ask what you're doing here?" He sighed, pulling away, but not removing his hands from her arms. He needed to keep touching, not just to be sure she was there, but because he simply didn't want to let go.

"Maybe I'm a figment of your imagination." Felicity reached up to touch his face, loving the way his jaw felt bristly against her fingers.

"I think maybe you are. Because if you were real, you'd be kissing me by now." A smirk set on Oliver's lips as he looked down at her.

"Oh, I'm very real, Oliver." The kiss she initiated was warm and slow, completely erasing his cocky expression. He loved the way their mouths moved together, softly touching at first and then becoming more insistent. They lost themselves so easily in each other. Felicity's tongue began a serious conversation with his and it took all of his strength to end the tempting and teasing they enjoyed so much.

"Real is the best thing ever," he kissed her cheeks and her forehead before drawing her close again. It was then that his stomach growled like a ferocious beast. Felicity drew back with a snort.

"I think we better sit down and eat before the food gets cold." Felicity pulled him toward the booth. She slid in first and then encouraged him to sit next to her. Their feast of Bellybuster burgers, fries and shakes, lit by candlelight, might look incongruous to anyone else, but on this particular Friday night, it was perfect for them.

Oliver didn't need any coercing to bite into his sandwich. He was legitimately starving, since lunch had been a meager salad and he hadn't snacked during the afternoon.

They ate in silence for a few minutes. Oliver always enjoyed being in the Big Belly Burger when it was empty. All of the chrome fixtures shone brightly in whatever light was available and the atmosphere made him feel nostalgic for his youth.

"Look at us," she giggled after taking a deep sip of her shake. Oliver liked watching her enjoy it and noted that her pleasure was more than a little tantalizing. "Having Big Belly Burger together like regular folk on an actual date."

"Regular folk," he shook his head and laughed while grabbing a fistful of French fries. "Do normal people even refer to themselves as regular folk? I don't think that's possible. Besides, you are far too extraordinary to be regular anything." Oliver bumped against Felicity on the bench seat they shared. "I do like the date part though."

Oliver enjoyed his own frosty shake with a grin, holding the waxed cup in his hand. He kept stealing glances at her.

"I have a very important question for you, Oliver," she spoke up, her voice taking a serious tone.

Oliver shifted in his seat to face her directly, all at once concerned about what she might say next.

"You know you can ask me anything and I'll answer honestly, Felicity."

"Can I have a taste of your shake?" Her face was dead serious. "Thea ordered chocolate for you. But I got strawberry and now I'm feeling a little remorse." She ended with a pout and a tilt of her head.

He responded, shaking his head and smiling as the tension lifted. "I demand a fry...no, two fries first. I think that's a fair trade."

"Okay," Felicity snagged two golden fries out of the red basket and raised them to his lips. He snagged them with his teeth, seductively. She let go, gingerly, watching him chew and swallow. He was even beautiful when he ate. How could she resist this man? Why would she try?

She watched Oliver smirk and take a deep slurp from his straw. He dropped the cup on the table and then shifted his attention back to her again. This was no small thing. Oliver Queen's attention amounted to azure blue eyes boring into her soul. The intensity of his gaze made her feel like she was the only other person on Earth and that was, indeed, a big thing.

Oliver grabbed the top of the booth with one hand and hoisted himself up, steadying his other hand on the table so he could lean slightly above Felicity and capture her lips again, delivering heat, cold and lingering chocolate flavor all at once. His date moaned and responded eagerly, tasting his mouth and rasping her tongue against his. One hand reached around his neck and the other gripped his bicep, helping her to stay in place. Without an anchor, she might slip right under the table. The kiss, a mix of sweet and salty was that good. 

Eventually, breathing, while inconvenient, was necessary. Oliver carefully lowered himself back to his seat, while Felicity followed not wanting to be more than a few inches away from him. He halted her by gently cupping her shoulders. Felicity whimpered disappointment at the separation and looked at him curiously.

"Two things," he stated matter-of-factly. Felicity nodded with interest.

"First," he continued, making sure he had engaged her beautiful blue eyes. "I love you."

Felicity's expression reflected wonder and her mouth may have dropped open slightly. 

"It was important to me to tell you that face to face. Because you are truly amazing and I am so lucky to have met you and..."

"I love you too, Oliver." She blurted it out, unable to remain quiet.

They both stilled and stared at each other, smiles slowly creeping across their faces.

"Good," he finally responded. Still maintaining eye contact, he pulled her hand up to his lips and kissed it, as he had done many times, only this time he was kissing the hand of the woman he loved. His other hand found a welcome spot on her thigh, pressing against soft fabric and warm skin. She covered that hand with her own and squeezed it.

"What was the second thing?" An unresolved statement was as bad as an Agatha Christie mystery for Felicity.

"I want to take you home. My home. I would like to show you my bountiful supply of olive oil, my collection of exhausted phone cards and if you're nice, my bed."

"Oh, that sounds wonderful. But I have to get back to the hotel tonight. Mister Merlyn has us all meeting at 7 in the morning to strategize for the day. Sorry, is it breaking our Chinese wall rule to say his name out loud?”

"No, but it's making me sad. I can't go to your room either." He pointed to his face and then waved his hand around as if to suggest the reason was obvious.

Felicity sighed. A moment later, Oliver pulled away and rose from the booth.

"Okay then." He stepped away for a moment, but returned with a tray. The Mayor of Starling proceeded to pile the empty food containers on it.

"Oliver? What are you doing?"

"I am bussing our table, which is good manners since Carly let us stay here late tonight. And then when I'm finished cleaning up and throwing away the trash, I'm going to return and make love to the girl I love who also happens to love me back." Oliver blew out the last of the burning candle, then added it to his pile.

"Right here? Oliver, as much as I want you..."

"You're cute when you protest," he murmured, then gave her a sweet peck on the mouth before disappearing with the trash.

Felicity's mathematical brain was left to survey the booth and consider how exactly Oliver planned to carry out his intentions in the space. She pushed down on the table, checking to see if it gave way. She also pushed its pedestal bottom with her legs to see if it could be shifted over. It gave about five inches, which made her re-evaluate the bench seat for space.

When Oliver returned to the booth, he was already pulling his button-down shirt up and out of his pants. He found Felicity kneeling on the bench of the booth with an inscrutable look on her face.

"What?"

"Oliver, here in the middle of the restaurant...isn't there a kitchen counter or a restroom stall that would be..."

He wrapped his arm around her waist and slid across the red vinyl to bring her to the edge where he could kiss her again. This one communicated how adamant he was to proceed with his plan. When he finally released her, Felicity was breathless and her mouth still felt his pressed against it even though he had moved away.

"I am delighted that you are considering contingencies, Felicity, but this is the place. And after tonight, I will come here and remember tonight. How gorgeous you looked when you told me you loved me..."

"I do love you so much, Oliver."

He smiled at her and sighed like he was the most contented man in the world. He mouthed the words "I love you," his shining eyes communicating the words as well. He began to unbutton his shirt, all the while watching Felicity's mouth, loving the way her tongue rested on her bottom lip.

"And maybe one day when I'm not the mayor I'll buy this Big Belly Burger so it will stay exactly the same and I can bring you here whenever I want for...French fries." All at once, French fries was code for something entirely different. 

Felicity grinned, shook her head, and then shifted to sit on the table. She draped one leg down to rest on the bench seat while the other lazed to the side. The pale purple fabric of her skirt was pulled taut across her thighs.

"Oh fuck," he grimaced, rubbing his face. "I didn't expect to see you tonight, so I didn't bring any protection."

"Oliver," she laughed. "Check my purse." Felicity nodded to the silver handbag inside the booth. He immediately grabbed for it and stared inside. A moment later, he pulled a pair of lilac satin panties out. He arched his eyebrow at her as they dangled from his index finger.

"How long have you been sitting there without these, Felicity?"

"Since I took them off in the cab on my way over." She slipped off her shoes one at a time, each thudding hard on the tile floor beneath the table.

"You are so bad." He shoved the panties back in the purse, snatched a condom out, handed it to Felicity, and then tossed the closed bag aside.

"That's why I brought the condom," she reminded him. Without wasting a beat, he reached for her legs and immediately relished the silky feel of them in his hands. Advancing up her thighs, he pushed the lilac lace of her dress up until it pooled loosely around her hips.

Oliver leaned down to place kisses along Felicity's inner thighs. Moving closer to her apex, he smelled her arousal and at that point nothing could stop his mouth from exploring her again. But this time was different. The connection between them was stronger than ever and that made every touch, every shiver and moan a little more intense.

He pushed her dress higher so he could gain access to her center. Then he used his teeth, his tongue, and the stubble on his jaw – everything he had – to worship her tender flesh and coax her clit to the point where she whined his name and thrust her fingers into his hair. Her hips shifted awkwardly as her body sought more.

From her vantage point, Felicity caught glimpses of the darkened industrial-style ceiling of Big Belly Burger, but mostly she saw him. Every movement of his head brought her pleasure and she was drowning in the sensations he was giving her. Oliver. She hadn’t expected him. This. Her life changed radically that night she tripped into his lap.

He heard her plead using only his name. He knew it meant different things depending on whether she said it fast or mumbled it slowly, cried it aloud or whispered it in a breathy voice. He just loved hearing her say it. When he added his fingers to the pleasurable task, a few deliberate pumps were all that was required to make her spasm against him.

Felicity watched Oliver straighten up through glazed eyes. Her heart was beating and her body was still quaking as he unbuttoned and lowered the zipper on his pants. He slipped into the booth and sat down, lazily massaging her dangling ankle with one hand and his erection with the other.

When she could move, Felicity scooted to sit on the table in front of him, one leg perched on either side of his hips. She leaned over and kissed him with all of the heat and passion one would expect of a woman who had just been intimately pleasured. Her tongue showed his mouth some of the moves she'd enjoyed the most a few minutes earlier, eliciting moans from her boyfriend. She slid her hands beneath his shirt and reacquainted herself with the ripples and planes of his muscular frame. When they finally ended the kiss, they stayed close, pressing their cheeks together, then shifting to foreheads, panting in unison.

"It's possible," she huffed, "that sex with you causes short term memory loss because I am always surprised that you feel so good. You should have a warning label." Oliver responded with laugh and appreciated how it distracted him for a moment from the hard on that was threatening all rational thought.

Luckily, unable to wait any longer, and keen to touch him, Felicity tore open the foil packet and took him in hand to roll the condom on. She watched him close his eyes, his head falling back against the booth wall. Once she moved forward to kneel on the bench and straddle him, his eyes were wide open again. Felicity's dress covered his lap and shielded their connection.

"Love you," he whispered as she slowly surrounded him. She sighed and a single tear escaped from the corner of her eye. Oliver caught it with his thumb and understood. He felt overwhelmed in the moment too.

Oliver wrapped his warm arms around her and she leaned her face against his head, breathing against his ear. Felicity gripped his strong shoulders with her small, appreciative hands. The two of them stayed still for a couple of minutes, enjoying the safety and reassurance of their bond as her body accommodated his. Then Oliver loosened his embrace and moved his hands to her hips.

Felicity moved slowly at first, deliberately grazing up and down as thoroughly as she could to achieve maximum stimulation. Then Oliver urged her to move faster, cupping her ass with one of his palms and capturing her lips again. His other hand roamed over her clothed breasts, massaging and teasing her through the lace.

Eventually, they both needed more. Felicity moved her feet up to the bench and leaned back against the table, pulling her skirt back. The new position enabled Oliver to brace himself on the bench and thrust upward. Every time he slammed against her, she whimpered and nodded at him to continue. So he did, for several minutes he charged into her with a punishing rhythm, giving everything he could muster until he felt himself losing control.

"I've got to come," he gritted out.

"Good," she panted. "Yes." She felt him piston into her two more times before he cried out. The rawness of the moment overtook her and she felt herself contract around him, this orgasm shorter but more intense than her previous one. As she came down from the rush, she moved to wrap her arms around him. He was warm and so full of life. She loved that about him. She loved him.

"Love you," she murmured softly into his ear.

Oliver sighed into her neck. He raised his head to look into her eyes. "I love you, Felicity Smoak." She beamed back at him, her hair a bit messy and her makeup kissed away. Oliver pulled her close and squeezed her tight. He still wasn't sure what the future held for them, but at that moment, full of love and happiness, anything seemed possible.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

It was a lovely Saturday afternoon. The sun dusted everything with gold and the cool air off Starling Bay was just enough to remind the attendees at Malcolm Merlyn's outdoor event that autumn was in full swing. It would not get bitter cold at night, like on the East Coast, but temperatures would be brisk when darkness fell in a couple of hours. Consequently, the event was set to end at 6pm, just past sunset. In the meantime, families enjoyed the festivities of the "Faire."

Malcolm had chosen a medieval theme for his event. Beautiful fabric banners hung from lampposts featuring the names of Starling City neighborhoods. The food court offered a smorgasbord of rustic dishes and there was ale on tap for the adults and non-alcoholic "grog" for the children. Wandering minstrels and jesters interacted with the guests. Soundtracks from movies like “Braveheart” drifted from strategically placed speakers around the faire-grounds. There were plenty of games too. In one unobtrusive corner of the event, a tent with information about the Merlyn Group and the proposed casino stood. At the last minute, Malcolm had decided to minimize the hard sell, choosing instead to make information available to those who were interested. 

Oliver, Walter and Digg strolled into the event just as the jousting match was taking place. Children were mesmerized by the sight of colorful horses and shiny Knights in gleaming armor galloping a few yards away. The men stopped to watch, suddenly boys themselves, shouting and cheering with the rest of crowd as the horsemen performed their show.

Malcolm Merlyn stood on the sidelines wearing midnight blue robes with silver piping, waving and directing the proceedings. Yes, it was a bit “on the nose” to bedeck himself in the clothes of Merlin the Magician, but he never shied away from theatricality. Also, the robes ensured he was comfortable all day and that staff members could identify him quickly in the crowd. He urged the children to stand in front of him so they could get a better view of the exciting battles (which had been carefully choreographed in advance to maximize the spectacle and avoid any bloodshed).

There were four matches, each more dramatic than the last. The final one pitted Galahad, who wore a green feather atop his helmet, versus Lancelot, whose helmet sported a red feather.

"My money is on Lancelot," Walter grinned at Oliver. "His horse appears very fast and he's quite adept with the lance."

"Are we betting, Walter?" Oliver chuckled, folding his sizable arms across his baseball shirt and covering the logo for Starling City Scouting. "Because Galahad the Green has been very strategic so far and I would love for you to have to buy me a beer."

"We shall see," Walter replied with a smile in his clipped British accent. "And you will owe me a pint of Guinness of course." He then turned his attention to John, who wore an amused expression. "What about you, Mister Diggle? Care to wager?"

John raised his hands as he shook his head, still grinning. "No, thank you. I don't even bet on football and that's a game I understand."

Oliver grinned easily at familiar Digg's dry humor.

The sound of charging hoof beats, the clash of steel, and the cheers of the crowd were stirring to the blood and provided a welcome distraction to Oliver. All morning he had thought of Felicity and how close she had been all day, without being close at all. Keeping their relationship covert had been easy and rather exciting, at first. But now he was weary of the secret and guilty for the lie. More importantly, he missed her company. He wanted to be like a normal couple and take her out to a ballgame in the light of day, introduce her to his colleagues…hell, he wouldn’t even mind going to galas if she was on his arm, making things bearable. He wanted to hold her hand and kiss her on all three of Starling City's bridges, where everyone could see them.

I understand. That had been the text Felicity had sent in response to his, informing her that attending her performance that afternoon would probably be tempting fate. They had been lucky so far and only needed to hold out until next month's election. Everything would be decided without any hint of impropriety. It had filled him with regret, but it also made him feel like a responsible, mature leader. That was important too, until he received a text from his sister minutes later.

T: She wouldn't tell you, but she's disappointed

This was followed by...

T: I can't decide if you're the biggest boy scout in the world or a major douche. Wait a second. I decided. :-(

Oliver scowled. He knew that Thea wasn't a fan of the current arrangement. But she also wasn't under scrutiny the way he was. Later on, he told himself, Felicity would understand. He was more troubled by the timing of her disappointment -- right before her performance. He hated doing that and he was quietly brooding about it when he met up with his companions.

As the final match ended, Walter Steel let loose a good-natured curse. Oliver patted him on the shoulder as the crowd around them dispersed.

"Sorry, Walter."

"Lancelot needed to lance quite a bit more, I think," the older man winced with a smile as Digg observed stoically. “You’re not going to let me forget this thumping, are you?”

"But that's half the fun," Oliver responded with a cheeky grin. Walter's subsequent eye roll was interrupted by the loud swish of fabric and a subtle clearing of a throat. The men all turned together to see Malcolm Merlyn, big as life, standing a few feet away, looking regal and mysterious in his finery.

"I trust you gentlemen enjoyed the games," Malcolm beamed. A moment later, Walter strode toward him, smiling, his hand outstretched.

"Merlyn, hello." He shook the billionaire's hand with as much enthusiasm as his British manner would allow. "Spectacular demonstration."

"Excellent! I'm so glad you were entertained."

"Entertained? I just lost a pint of Guinness to our mayor." Walter nodded towards Oliver, who was eyeing them warily. An introduction was pending and Oliver wasn't sure he should be shaking hands with Malcolm in the vicinity of a hundred cell phone cameras.

Mayor Queen reacted quickly. He nodded toward Malcolm Merlyn, carefully communicating the complicated nature of the situation with his eyes. Understanding passed between them.

"And I'm going to collect later, Walter." Oliver spoke up as Malcolm returned his focus to the business man standing next to him. He and Digg stepped away to lose themselves in the crowd.

"That was close," John Diggle huffed when they were out of hearing range.

"Maybe I shouldn't have come today, John."

"That's crazy." Digg fell in step beside Oliver as they walked. "This is a big event. It's helping the Glades. Frankly, it would be weird if you weren't here."

"Yeah, I'm just putting in an appearance."

Suddenly, a breathless man who resembled a praying mantis wearing tweeds nearly ran into Oliver at full speed. John reacted immediately, moving towards his friend to assure his safety.

"Pardon me," the man whispered near Oliver’s ear as he grabbed his forearm. "Mayor Queen, I need a moment to discuss something of the utmost importance."

There was something familiar about the gangly character and Oliver tried to recognize him, studying the man's eyes through his rounded spectacles. But it was taking too long. Finally, Harrison Wells leaned towards Oliver's broad shoulder and discreetly whispered.

"Abracadabra."

Oliver's eyebrows' lifted immediately and he stepped back to regard the man again, this time with recognition. Felicity had told him about Wells many times, recounting her time as his apprentice. The long hours. The shared secrets. Supporting each other during their worst times. Harrison Wells was family to her.

"Of course," Oliver adopted his political smile and reached his arm to the man's back in a friendly manner, just in case anyone was watching. He caught Wells looking towards John suspiciously.

"This is my best friend, John."

Wells nodded to Digg, who relaxed his posture and took a step away from Oliver, slowly. John still observed the man with a quizzical look.

"Mister Queen," Harry nearly panted. "I'm..."

Oliver surveyed the area around them and it seemed private enough.

Returning his attention to the reedy source of anxiety vibrating in front of him, Oliver interrupted, "Harrison Wells. I know."

"Yes, of course." Harry pulled a white scarf out of his inside breast pocket to wipe his sweaty brow. It was, of course, attached to at least two colored scarves peeking out from under his coat. "I am sorry to approach you this way, but I have concerns."

"Is she okay?" The Mayor's voice was tense.

"Yes, for now. But I'm worried. Felicity invited me to come today to assist her with an illusion. Are you familiar with it?”

“She hasn’t told me much. I think she wanted it to be a surprise, but then I let her know I didn't think I should come today. There is a lot scrutiny.”

Wells processed the answer and then continued.

“Do you know about Cooper Seldon?"

"Who's that?" Diggle blurted.

"Felicity's old partner," Oliver answered. "Total rat bastard."

"Exactly," Wells offered. "Her show is set to begin in less than an hour and he's here. I caught a glimpse of him in the crowd. I'm worried he's going to try something."

"Felicity told me about him, but never suggested he was more than just a creep and a thief. Is there more to it?" Oliver's face was contorted to one of worry now.

Digg was already Googling Seldon on his phone.

"She told you he turned up in Coast City?" Wells asked in a clipped tone. The blank look on Oliver's face was his answer.

"I'm sure she didn't want to make a "thing" out of it. You know how exasperating she can be. And great. Great and exasperating."

Oliver rubbed his forehead. "I know. She's...Felicity."

"I don't think his presence here is a coincidence and I have a gut feeling he's up to no good."

"Could he sabotage one of her illusions?"

"Not from a technical side," Wells crossed his arms over his chest and bowed his head in thought. “Her assistants are the best and everything is checked thoroughly and secured. Her work is unhackable, particularly by Seldon. He’s second rate. But, I don't know what kind of mischief he could do elsewhere during the performance."

"Tell me what I can do." Oliver appeared ready for anything.

"We," Digg piped up without hesitation, holding up his phone to share an image of Felicity’s undesirable, unwelcome ex-boyfriend, smirking. 

----->>

Malcolm Merlyn stood to the side of the temporary stage in front of Starling Bay, studying the throngs of visitors watching the magic show in progress. He missed nothing -- the children clutching toys they'd won at games. Teenagers draped over each other. Families sharing a day and an experience they might reminisce about in later years. But he just couldn't read them. These were mostly working people and all of the robocalls and polls were inconclusive about whether Starling City would vote yes to his casino in a few short weeks. Today was his "Hail Mary" pass and right now, as the first half of Felicity Smoak's act came to a close, he still wasn't sure if it might fumble.

He had one stroke of good luck already. Earlier, Walter Steel had agreed to act as a Master of Ceremonies, of sorts, for the show. "Yes, of course. Ms. Smoak is a marvel," Walter had gushed. "I would be honored to introduce her." Malcolm quickly rustled up a last minute costume for him, something regal, and while it wasn't a public endorsement, a pillar of the Starling business community was taking part in the day.

The sun shone brightly on the Bay behind their platform. Felicity's cornerstone illusion for the day apparently had something to do with the water and Malcolm had been happy to site the stage in the best possible location for the act and the audience.

On stage, Walter Steel, dressed now in gold and purple robes, a crown on his bald head, cheered along with the crowd as Felicity waved to the children standing in the front row. Thea Queen was standing nearby also, laughing and applauding, dressed to the nines in impeccable weekend wear, undoubtedly of her own design. Steel had texted Oliver earlier to tell him of Merlyn’s request, concerned about appearances. The Mayor then responded.

Have fun, Walter!

It occurred to Oliver in the moment that it couldn’t hurt to have as many friendly faces around Felicity as possible during her performance.

Now the proper English gentleman was grinning. Moments earlier, Felicity had produced Obi from a magician's hat, in typical fashion, but after a small production, a gigantic hat appeared on the stage and Jimmy climbed out wearing a rabbit suit and an angry look. The comedy was priceless and he milked the laughter at his expense, remaining serious as Felicity hugged him. He then stomped his big furry feet on the way off stage. It delighted everyone, especially the children, who giggled ferociously at his large cotton tail.

Oliver moved stealthily through the audience, towards the stage, with his head on a swivel, looking for an unfamiliar and unwelcome face. He knew, with confidence, that John Diggle was doing the same thing, casing the perimeter in hopes of stopping Cooper Seldon before he ever came close to Felicity Smoak’s performance. As Oliver advanced through the crowd, he spotted Harrison Wells exactly where he said he would be, off-stage, watching the action on stage with a steely eye, making sure there were no surprises with the young woman’s performance. He counted on Felicity being too immersed in her act to notice him.

“That was Jimmy,” Felicity chortled. “The biggest and grumpiest bunny rabbit you’ve ever seen!” Felicity clapped. “Thank you, Jimmy. I’ll try to conjure up some dignity for you later.”

Felicity turned to the crowd and was suddenly magnetic, as she had been at various points during her performance. The audience couldn’t help but focus on her steely gaze and the graceful turn of her hand as she practically summoned them to look at her. She motioned for Walter to join her onstage again. The man nodded and approached her, gripping a microphone in his hand a little nervously.

"That's Starling Bay behind us, isn't it, Mr. Steel?" Felicity glittered on the stage, dressed in green leggings and a tunic of peacock blue and gold. Her hair was piled up on her head and her makeup was slightly heavier than usual, so that her features were seen from a distance. 

"Yes, It is."

Oliver stepped through the rows of people, watching carefully for any sign of Cooper. He had made a call to the Security office minutes before, but it would take some time to gather some extra officers. They could only spare so much personnel during a large event.

Back on stage, Felicity moved to the railing and looked down. "I've heard that it used to be a popular place for boating and that the fishing was great." Felicity continued.

"That's true," Steel replied, looking to audience members for agreement. "But you wouldn't want anything from the bay right now. It's very polluted."

In the wings, Merlyn watched the reactions carefully. This was obviously important to the residents and Felicity was somehow tapping into that feeling.

"That's so sad.” Felicity shook her head.

"Yes. Unfortunately, it is. Too many years of neglect, I'm afraid. But we're going to make it better. We haven't given up hope." Steel smiled towards the faces of Starling City that were watching.

"I'm so glad to hear that, Mr. Steel. Because I know this bay could be amazing again." Felicity moved to the side of the stage, where Dave, clad in his usual black ensemble, handed her a fishing rod. She quickly returned to center stage. "I wonder...could you find me a fisherman out there who could help me demonstrate a little hope?"

Walter nodded, delighted to have something to do. "Delighted, my dear."

The man stepped toward the edge of the stage. He scanned the crowd as hands were raised and waving. He looked past them and suddenly grinned.

"Oliver!" Walter barked out enthusiastically. "I see our Mayor is skulking about out there."

Harrison Wells' head popped up like a prairie dog on his side of the stage. This was going to be interesting. On the other side of the platform, Malcolm also stood to attention and bit his bottom lip, suddenly sensing a possible shift in his fortune.

Hearing his name, Oliver stopped moving and adopted the deer-in-headlights look of a man who was truly surprised. Surely, Walter wasn't calling to him in front of all of these people? Had he and Felicity endured months of sneaking around only to be outed by a man who had been like family since his parents died? And only weeks away from the public vote? Oliver wasn't aware that Walter knew about them. Did he?

The Mayor didn't have time to think. Felicity's safety was his number one priority and it suddenly occurred to him as audience members around him began staring, pointing, and clapping, that perhaps on stage, next to her, would be the best place to keep an eye out for trouble. He would also get to see her and only hoped he could school his expression well enough when that happened. 

Oliver took a breath, smiled broadly and moved towards the stage, head down as he took care not to trample any of the little ones who had gathered up front. His eye caught Thea's on the way and she immediately sensed that something was up. It wasn't like Oliver to change his mind so quickly on a decision.

Oliver finally reached a set of stairs and pulled himself up to the stage to find Walter, still grinning and applauding now. Oliver casually waved to the audience and moved to shake Walter's hand. He studied the older man's face for some kind of acknowledgement, but none came.

"Felicity Smoak, I would like you to meet our Mayor, Oliver Queen."

As soon as she heard Walter shout Oliver's name, Felicity had frozen, at least internally. She might not have actually breathed the whole time she watched him approach the stage and ascend the stairs. Her brain had most certainly seized for a moment or two. She might have gawped like one of her goldfish. He said he wouldn't, couldn't be here today. But then, Oliver was on the stage, smiling and there was an introduction. The man was grinning at her and extending his hand towards hers. She looked up at him, unable to blink.

White noise filled Felicity's head for a moment and everything around her slowed down for a moment. Wait. Was he speaking to her? Was her boyfriend that nobody was supposed to know about actually standing right there on stage? God, he looked gorgeous today. Her exquisite secret boyfriend whom she spent last night with in a Big Big Belly Burger was standing right...there. She feared a babble might erupt any moment.

"Hello," Oliver spoke loudly, deliberately, but with warmth in his voice, "it's very nice to meet you, Miss Smoak."

Felicity numbly accepted his hand. "Hello."

"Miss Smoak, are you all right?" Walter's clipped British accent reflected concern.

There was a pause before she finally answered.

"Yes, it's just..." Felicity's face took on a dreamy look. "So handsome."

Oliver's jaw dropped a little before it moved towards a full-on smirk. If eye-sex was a thing, eye-what-are-you-thinking-Felicity was also a thing and that's what he was trying to communicate to her.

Walter Steel's barking laugh and sudden whistles and applause from the audience punctuated the moment and the interruption was a relief. Realizing the words had been said aloud, Felicity's expression turned to embarrassed horror and she began to blush. But Oliver's gaze remained fixed on her.

"I assure you, he's not just a pretty face, Miss Smoak," Walter patted Oliver on the shoulder as he observed the two of them...clicking. "Now, I should point out that Mayor Queen has not endorsed the Merlyn Casino project, nor will he comment on his position before the vote. He has the utmost integrity. I simply brought him up here today for a bit of fun and because I wanted him to meet my favorite magician."

Walter was talking. Oliver knew that on some level there were words being said nearby, but he was distracted by Felicity's eyes, which today were a cornflower color. Last night, as she moaned and writhed against him in the darkened diner booth, they had been darker.

"Oliver," Walter repeated, apparently.

“Yes,” Oliver responded, finally disengaging from Felicity’s smile.

“I believe Miss Smoak requires your assistance for her next illusion.”

Oliver nodded and smiled. “Sure. I’m glad to help.”

“Have I mentioned how much I really like Starling City?” she burbled to the audience, who responded with laughter and applause. Oliver could only shake his head and chuckle, watching his girl charm them so quickly and genuinely. Still, his eyes drifted into the audience, on the lookout for Cooper Seldon and anything that might look unusual. 

"Has anyone ever spotted something unusual here in the Bay?" Felicity asked the audience.

"You mean like a sea serpent, Ms. Smoak?" Walter replied from his spot several feet away.

"Precisely, Mister Steel," Felicity shot back.

"Certainly not," he chuckled in reply.

"Well, there's always a first time," she countered. Felicity turned back towards Oliver now.

“So, Mayor Queen,” she asked pointedly, “Do you have a rod, I mean do you know how to use your rod? I mean...”

To that, Oliver could only bite his lip and nod. This was, after all, a family event. Walter may have blushed, but definitely stepped back towards the side of the stage, no longer being a focal point of the proceedings.

“A fishing rod," she clarified. "Have you ever gone fishing here in Starling Bay?”

It was an odd question, at first. Oliver recalled telling Felicity about a fishing trip he had taken with his father once during their marathon phone conversations. Obviously, she had not forgotten, but needed to carry on the ruse that they were strangers.

“Yes. With my father, growing up. We caught a lot of perch, catfish and once I reeled in a Rubik’s Cube.”

“Wow. That was my favorite toy when I was seven.”

“Never solved it,” Oliver volunteered with a grin and a head shake.

Felicity faked an awkward grimace to the crowd and continued.

“Well, today, you’re going to catch something a little more, shall we say, interesting, than a catfish or a toy.”

Music swelled and the show recommenced as Dave and Jimmy, dressed in their black stage clothes, quickly placed a small platform, upstage by the railing and close to the water. Jimmy threw Oliver a little wink as he passed by him. No doubt he and Dave were enjoying this turn of events. Meanwhile, Oliver continued to monitor their surroundings until Felicity gingerly touched his bicep and jerked her head to indicate he should move with her.

"I can't believe you are here," she forced through gritted teeth.

"I couldn't miss this," Oliver replied quietly, catching her eyes with his. He didn't want to let on that anything might be wrong, so he just gave her a little smile. 

Felicity had him stop center stage, then nodded to him to wait.

Dave then approached Oliver with a smirk and handed him a rod and reel, comically large, but deliberately so, to be seen more clearly from distant audience members. As he took it, Oliver noted how much lighter it felt than he expected.

"Whatever you do," Dave whispered cryptically, "don't let go of the rod."  Then he winked.

After that, things happened very quickly.

Felicity walked up to the top of the platform, turned towards Oliver, blew him a flirty kiss and waved. He found himself smiling back, dopily.

“Happy fishing, Mister Mayor. I hope you catch something big!”

Oliver cocked his head curiously and then watched Felicity leap off the edge of the platform. A giant splash of water where she apparently landed. Great plumes of smoke and light danced and swirled just beyond the platform.

At the same time, a disruption was brewing at the edge of the audience. Digg recognized Cooper Seldon trying to make his way into the crowd and he placed himself strategically, blocking his entry and staring the man down. He was carrying a small duffel bag that alerted the hairs on the back of Digg's neck.

"Who the hell are you?" Cooper could be heard shouting. Oliver's head snapped around and he observed the commotion some distance away, across the sea of onlookers. But it was only for a moment because the line on his reel began to tug and his attention returned to the business at hand.

"Let me through," Cooper huffed to Digg as he attempted to move past, but was held fast with one powerful hand to his puny bicep. Before Digg could respond, Thea Queen, all five-foot-nothing of her, rushed up and kneed Cooper in the crotch.

The violent intrusion knocked the wind out of Seldon and Thea grabbed the bag from him.

"I don't remember teaching that in your self-defense class, Tiny Queen," Digg huffed with a smile.

"Nonsense. You encouraged situational improvisation, Digg," she shot back. "You know, this is the ugliest bag I've ever seen."

A moment later, Cooper and the bag disappeared. Not magically, of course. Several Sergeants at Arms dressed in blue tunics arrived and quietly surrounded the scene. Cooper was escorted away and the mysterious bag was taken as well.

John Diggle had heard the term "reverse mugging" before, but had never experienced anything like it until now. It was all so well-organized and stealthy. Impressive. He and Thea turned back toward the show and met the distant steely gaze of the event's benefactor. The man was still off-stage, observing everything, apparently. Merlyn offered them a subtle nod and in that moment they both realized that Malcolm Merlyn would not let anything or anyone ruin his day. Digg nodded back and let out a long-held breath before turning back toward the crowd to watch the magic show. Thea rushed into the fray to reclaim a good vantage point for the illusion.

Back on stage, Oliver shifted a glance over to Harrison Wells. The man grinned and signaled an awkward thumbs up. The mayor returned is gaze to the business at hand. The translucent fishing line on the pole Oliver gripped suddenly became very taut. He tugged again and the reel began spinning away. It was all he could do to hold on. Oliver watched as the angle of the line changed and indicated that it was attached to something big.

A large rectangular glass box filled with dark, murky water rose up several feet away from the  edge of the stage. Oliver's face reflected the same awe and expectation of everyone in the audience. So far, this was the most elaborate trick he had ever seen.

Briny water sloshed from the top of the box for a few moments and then a very large, shimmering tail slapped up and down, causing a splash. Members of the crowd gasped and clapped. The box was floating by no obvious means - likely the handiwork of Harrison Wells - but truthfully the contents were so diverting, no one was bothered to study the artifice of the illusion.

Slap. The tail waked the water inside the box again, but with each slash the liquid became a bit lighter and clearer. Dave and Jimmy advanced and encourage Oliver to pull his line in, forcing the box over the stage. It hovered there, just two feet above the planking. More agitation took place and a form could finally be seen inside the box.

Felicity bobbed up and leaned her arms against the side of her personal aquarium. Breathless and beautiful, the water beaded on her eyelashes and the sunlight caught on her moist shoulders. Her torso was swathed in sparkling green and gold fabric, which complemented the colors of the iridescent tail that took the place of her legs.

The crowd erupted in violent applause. There were shouts and whistles. Little girls in the front row screamed and pointed in delight. A real live mermaid in their midst was beyond sensational. It was, indeed, magical.

Walter Steel himself was practically apoplectic. He had never seen such a magnificent illusion in person before and his face hurt from grinning.

"Amazing," Steel shouted from stage right as he encouraged more applause from the audience. "Just incredible."

Felicity met Oliver's gaze. It was full of wonder and so much loving pride she worried for a moment that it might give them away. She smiled back and then found her voice to divert attention.

"Some of you look as though you've never seen a mermaid before!" Felicity slapped her tail in the water, splashing Oliver's pants and causing him to step back a pace.

"Mayor Queen, perhaps you could ask someone from the audience to come and verify the authenticity of my...tail," she smiled and waved towards the throng of little girls. Oliver nodded. Quickly, Jimmy took the rod from his hands, allowing Oliver to move to the end of the stage freely.

Spotting a number of likely candidates, Oliver silently gained parental approval before hoisting three little girls up on stage. He escorted them to the box and one by one lifted them, so they could touch Felicity's lively tail.

"Oh, it's slimy and wet," one exclaimed. Felicity gave the audience a deadpan smirk.

"It's so pretty and very fishy," said another, drawing laughs from the onlookers.

"It's real," the last girl said, a mixture of surprise and awe in her voice.

"It's magic, actually," Felicity replied warmly. "It doesn't last very long."

"Don't you want to be a forever mermaid?" One of the girls asked, quite seriously.

"I'll let you in on something," she replied. The girls drew closer.

Oliver watched the interaction with keen interest. He had never seen Felicity interact with kids before and she was obviously a natural.

"It's kind of cold being a mermaid. And I really love wearing pretty shoes!"

The girls laughed along with everyone else.

"Thank you for coming up today. Before you leave, could one of you tell me how to change back?"

The girls looked to each other. One shrugged to another. Finally, the third one spoke up. "I don't know, but maybe it's like Snow White and you need a kiss from a Prince."

"Got it," Felicity gave them a thumbs up, then waved goodbye. She looked to Oliver and gave him a wink.

The little girls filed off the stage, leaving the Mayor of Starling standing beside the glass aquarium, close to her tail, unsure of the next move.

From the side of the stage, Dave pushed a large, empty white, claw-footed bathtub front and center.

"I hate to trouble you, Mayor Queen, you've been so helpful already," Felicity smiled. "But it seems I require some magical assistance here and you'll just have to do."

Oliver bit back a smile, not wanting to appear overeager. "I don't know, Ms. Smoak. We've only just..."

"I'm the only one who's coy around here," she giggled.

Oliver groaned at her pun. When Felicity crooked her finger to summon him over, he moved around the box and leaned forward to leave a lingering, chaste kiss on her lovely cheek. No doubt a hundred cell phone cameras captured the moment, as clicking could be heard mixed in with whoops and whistles. The crowd didn't hear Oliver whisper, "Remarkable," before he pulled away. Felicity reacted with fluttering eyelashes and a wide smile.

From his perch beside the stage, Malcolm Merlyn thanked whatever power brought him such good fortune this day. He had been grateful he had recognized Cooper Seldon skulking around earlier and managed to get him neutralized before he cast a black mark on the festivities. And now, Felicity's illusion was primed to show everyone the kind of world class entertainment the Merlyn Group could bring to Starling City. It was a good day.

Medieval-themed music swelled and Dave moved forward, still holding the fishing rod. He handed it to Oliver and urged him to step aside. Dave and Jimmy moved the box through the air, up and over the bathtub. Felicity slipped down into the water and splashed her tail again.

Oliver had no idea what would happen next, but his heart was beating in his chest. This was probably going to blow everyone away. His girl was amazing.

The box began to shift in the light. Dazzling the audience with silvery specks and smoke, it practically vibrated. This went on for a few minutes, causing Oliver to worry a bit that Felicity might be in distress, but a look to Harrison Wells reassured him that everything was happening to script.

Without warning beyond a trumpet call, the box disintegrated in front of everyone. Tiny silver shards of glitter and dust dropped into the bath beneath. A hefty puff of smoke slowly wafted up from inside the tub. And when it cleared, Felicity Smoak stood up, dressed in a gown of pale blue, glitter rolling off her body and catching the light.

The crowd responded with a surge of applause and shouts. Walter Steel waved his arms over his head in disbelief. Malcolm Merlyn clapped and nodded. And Oliver Queen shook his head and beamed at the woman at center stage, quite confident that, at that particular moment, no one was looking at him.

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Referendum 3a "to allow a multi-use facility including gambling, food, liquor, entertainment and hotel" passed quite handily on November 8th. Malcolm Merlyn was more than pleased, as it indicated a mandate from the people of Starling City that his business was welcome there and his entrepreneurship would thrive beyond Las Vegas.

Just days later, he flew to town to break ground, anxious to get started. The first stop on his trip was not the worksite, but the office of Mayor Oliver Queen.

Oliver was surprised in a budget meeting when he received word that Malcolm Merlyn was on his way from Starling City Airport, anxious to meet with the mayor for a few minutes. Since he had a light calendar that day, he managed to defer an internal strategy session until the afternoon. This would be his first formal meeting with the man who would now be instrumental in revitalizing the Glades and he didn't want to dampen his enthusiasm with red tape just yet.

In Oliver's daily calls with Felicity, she had regularly noted that Malcolm was a powerful ally who could do much good when he was channeled in the right direction. But then their conversation usually changed to more interesting topics, like what was the other having for dinner that night or which character on Game of Thrones deserved the most grisly death. Now, Oliver was anxious to finally have an audience with his secret girlfriend's infamous, larger-than-life boss.

"Oliver Queen!" Malcolm exclaimed, as Oliver strode into the conference room, shirt sleeves rolled up, tie loosened, and weary from his last set-to. "At last we formally meet."

"Mister Merlyn," Oliver replied, extending his hand towards the older man. "It's good to finally connect after ducking you for months. I hope you understood..."

"Of course, Mayor. I respected your integrity throughout the process. If anything, it strengthened the public's confidence in the project on Election Day. I thank you for that."

Oliver nodded to the nattily dressed mogul. "I try to do what is right for my city. And in this case, it was to step aside and let Starling City residents choose their path. I couldn't stand in the way of that."

Merlyn nodded in recognition. "Progress finds a way. I suppose I shouldn't ask which way you voted, personally?" He adopted a sly smile.

Oliver smirked and shook his head.

"Well, I am looking forward to working with you, Mayor Queen, as we move ahead. I'm planning a press conference this evening at the building site. I hope you will attend. I have already invited your sister Thea and Walter Steel."

"Possibly," Oliver responded with a warm smile.

<3 <3 <3 <3

Floodlights illuminated the future home of the Starling Merlyn Casino and Hotel, just paces away from Starling Bay. Several news crews from the networks swarmed around the area, joined by journalists from local papers. Steam from heated equipment rose in the cool November air. At the center of it all, Malcolm Merlyn held court.

Thea Queen stood nearby, dressed in a faux Ermine coat and hat that added bulk to her tiny frame and softened her elvish features. She was flanked by Walter Steel and her devoted brother.

"Ladies and gentlemen, residents of Starling City, members of the press, Mister Mayor," Malcolm, leaning on a shiny silver shovel, nodded to Oliver and then smiled for the cameras. "I wanted to hold this groundbreaking, this press conference, at night as a symbolic gesture. One evening, in hopefully the not too distant future, the Merlyn Group will light up the night sky here. It will entertain and fuel dreams. It will be a place for people to celebrate, for couples to have special evenings, and for visitors from all over the world to come and visit Starling City."

Member of the audience clapped as flashbulbs popped all around.

"Beginning tonight," Merlyn smiled broadly, "we will initiate our campaign to brand our new project. Our slogan will be..."

Suddenly, a fog drifted in from the water. It swirled behind Merlyn and from it, Felicity emerged dressed in a long black leather coat and black boots. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a tight, high pony tail and Obi was nestled in the crook of her arm. Oliver's heart soared just seeing her again. She continued to surprise him in the best ways.

"We are Magic," she spoke loudly so that the microphones could hear against the sounds of the generators. Felicity stopped to stand beside Malcolm.

"Ladies and gentleman, Ms. Felicity Smoak." There was applause.

"I am pleased to announce that today we have secured Ms. Smoak's amazing talents as our headliner here in Starling for the first two years, beginning with our gala opening in 2018."

Oliver's mouth dropped open slightly at the revelation. Felicity had kept this news under wraps. The thought that the woman he loved would be based in Starling City for the long-term set his mind reeling. Thea caught his eye and tried to stifle a grin, unsuccessfully. There was more applause and members of the press shouted questions in her direction.

Felicity handed Obi off to Merlyn and used her free arms to wave at the crowd.

"Isn't this marvelous news?" Walter remarked with glee.

"Marvelous," Thea replied with a sly smile.

"Marvelous," Oliver sighed quietly.

'You know, Oliver, I'm not one for meddling, but perhaps you should consider asking that young lady out for coffee."

Oliver blinked a couple of times. "You know, Walter, I might just do that."

Walter's turned his head and smiled at him with pride. "Good man."

Oliver caught Felicity's eye from his place in the crowd and threw her a knowing wink.

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Oliver entered his darkened apartment feeling happy. Hopeful. He dropped his overcoat on a chair and toed off his shoes.

After months of pretending and worry that his relationship with Felicity would never see the light of day, let alone have some sort of future, there finally seemed to be a path forward. It would still require patience -- after all, construction on the Merlyn Casino would take nearly a year -- but once it was open, then Felicity would be the artist in residence for the long term and they might have a chance at something normal.

"Abracadabra."

He started at first, but recognized the voice right away. The smile on his face appeared as Felicity emerged from the unlit hallway that led to his bedroom. Her hair was down now and she was wearing one of his button-down shirts, although she only utilized two of the buttons. It hung on her loosely and the sleeves continued well below her hands. Her glasses perched at the end of her nose completed the picture.

"You appearing in my apartment is probably the best magic trick I've ever seen," he grinned, moving slowly toward her.

Felicity threw up her right hand, flopping inside the shirt sleeve. "I must confess, Thea gave me her spare key. I didn't even have to pick the lock."

Oliver quirked an eyebrow while stifling a laugh. She was adorable. He continue to advance. 

"You know how to pick locks?"

"Sure," she replied with a saucy smile, moving away. "Houdini 101."

Oliver watched her saunter towards the open kitchen and admired the view from the back. Even in his voluminous shirt, the sway of her hips and the shape of her bottom were mesmerizing. Even lit by the range hood, she was so beautiful.

"You're just full of surprises."

"I know. That's the idea." She slipped a finger out of the sleeve and dragged it across the black granite countertop. "I like your place. It's very you. And I like you, so I like the kitchen."

"Thank you." He leaned against the wall at the entrance to the room, stifling his desire to pounce on her in favor of playing whatever game she had in mind.

"Are you going to give me a tour?"

"Maybe later," he replied, trying to seem nonchalant.

"Got any wine?" Suddenly, she turned, opened on of the bottom cabinets near the sink and bent over to peer in. The pose was obvious meant to tease, as was her pouty look as she looked to him, having found none inside the cabinet. It had the desired affect on her man, but he hoped she wouldn't notice yet. The game was too much fun.

He smirked and took several steps forward. Why should she have all the fun? He moved close to her, so close he could hear her breath catch, and then he reached above her and opened a cabinet to extract a wine glass. He gave her a knowing look, then practically caged her body to reach for a bottle of red on a high shelf. He still hadn't touched her. Smiling at his own self-control, Oliver opened a drawer to retrieve the bottle opener.

Felicity now stood by the refrigerator with her hands on her hips, although they were covered in cotton, giving her the appearance of an annoyed octopus. She cocked her head and folded her lips as she watched him take the bottle in hand and expertly remove the cork within seconds. He poured a generous amount of Pinot Noir into the glass before returning the cork to the bottle and offering her the glass.

"Probably needs to breathe," he stated in a quiet, sexy voice.

Their eyes fixed on each other as she accepted the dark liquid.  Then she blew on it, all the while starring at him. Oliver set his jaw, willing himself not to react to her pursed lips. He watched her taste the wine with gusto. Her eyelashes fluttered as the sweetness hit her tongue and she moaned. Perfect. He enjoyed seeing how much she savored things. It was one of the qualities he admired about her.

"No wine for you?" She finally asked, holding the glass with both hands. Oliver shook his head, his expression filled with love. Quizzically, Felicity shook her head in response.

Unable to hold back any longer, Oliver gently took the glass away. Felicity watched him place it on the nearby counter. Then, he focused on her, moving one hand to stroke her neck and the other to graze the side of her face.

"The wine tastes better on you," he sighed before closing the distance between their lips. Felicity smiled against his kiss for a moment before opening her mouth to his tongue. She pressed on hand against his chest and wrapped her other arm around his back for balance. It had been too long since they had touched each other and just being close to him again -- the smell of his cologne and sweat, the warmth of his body, was instantly intoxicating.

When they finally released, the two entwined naturally, Felicity leaning into Oliver's body comfortably.

"That was some surprise tonight at the press conference," he murmured into her hair while his hands roamed the fabric of his shirt that he wasn't wearing. Felicity smiled softly.

"Good surprise, I hope."

"Definitely."

"I made a deal with Malcolm. I would do the faire last month and stay on with the Merlyn Group if he gave me a long term show here."

Oliver pulled away partially to look at her. "Very smart move, Ms. Smoak."

"I'm kind of a genius," she smiled back.

"Yes, you are." Oliver kissed her nose before nuzzling it.

"No, really, I am," she burbled. Oliver sensed something was up and looked at her again, a question hanging between them.

"Well, this Merlyn is going to be a state-of-art facility, technologically speaking."

"Of course," Oliver added. "You'll be in residence when it opens."

"True. But someone needs to oversee the design and implementation of some very advanced systems quite early on."

As the information processed, Oliver's mouth dropped open and his eyebrows moved northward.

"Oh, you are a genius, baby. When?"

Felicity beamed at him and raised her hand, but her fingers were obfuscated by the sleeve again. She wagged her arm until three fingers were revealed. They were best digits Oliver had ever seen. He grabbed them and kissed them. 

"Three months? You'll be starting here in three months?"

"Yep. I just have to do my final run at the Vegas property and then I'll be here. For quite some time. Does that sound okay?"

"That sounds amazing. You are amazing, Felicity." Oliver drew her in for a hug that lifted her off her feet. In a rather impressive move, Oliver soon had her in his arms, bridal style. Felicity threw her head back and laughed.

"So, this is the kitchen," he announced, whirling her back and forth so she could see one end and then the other. He then moved to the dining area. "You'll see it again in the morning when I fix you breakfast and make love to you on the counter."

"Oh!" She began to laugh. Then Oliver moved her into the dining area.

"This is the dining room. As you can see, the table is very sturdy. We'll need that."

"And onto the living area," he announced, sweeping her into the next section of the room.

"Is this the tour, Oliver?"

"Yes, it is. Just the important parts, of course. Now, back to the living area. Sofa. Excellent for snuggling in front of the television."

"Freakishly large man television," she added.

"I'll let you in on a secret. I didn't even own a TV until you started telling me about binging The West Wing on Netflix. I just got one so we could watch the episodes at the same time."

"Oh," Felicity cupped Oliver's cheek and gave him a sweet kiss. "That's..."

"And when I saw this 70-inch monster on sale I had to have it."

"So like a guy," she finished her thought with a laugh.

"Felicity, I am a guy."

"I noticed. You're carrying me around here like a caveman."

Oliver's blue eyes sparkled as he caught hers. She loved seeing him like this, so much lighter than when they first met. It made something swell in her chest and warmed her within.

"I can't help it. You're wearing my shirt," Oliver looked down to where the buttons failed,  white cotton gaped across her chest and revealed her thighs. "Almost...wearing my shirt. It does things to me."

"Good. Is the tour almost over?"

"Yes. There's a balcony out there," he spun and motioned his head to the side. "There's a guest room over that way and powder room in there." More movement ensued. "I expect to have my way with you in all of those rooms Felicity."

"Okay," she smiled. "It seems like there's a major location missing from the tour. Does this mean you'll take me to your bedroom now?"

"You want to see that, huh?" His voice was teasing and the smile on his lips was infectious.

"Why yes, I do, Mayor Queen."

At the mention of his title, the man growled. She knew how to get a reaction from him.

"You'll have to say the magic words, Felicity."

The blonde quirked an eyebrow. "Abracadabra? Presto? Open sesame?"

The beautiful man then shook his head slowly as she finally caught on.

"I love you, Oliver."

He nodded. "I love you too, Felicity. I love you so much."

<3 <3 <3 <3

Eighteen months later, one could not argue with the alliterative appeal of the headline in the Starling Ledger "Mayor Marries Magician," or one of the accompanying photos that was captioned, "The moment they met at her magic show in the Glades." There was even a charming shot of Oliver kissing Felicity's cheek when she was a mermaid. It would be years before Walter Steel, who officiated at the ceremony, learned that the blissful couple met some time earlier than the day he thought he introduced them.

Harrison Wells, dressed in his best tuxedo, accompanied Felicity down the aisle. Yes, there was a rabbit in hidden in his breast pocket, but as he explained to her in advance, it was just a small one.

Malcolm Merlyn was in attendance, looking quite pleased with himself, as he usually did. But he did give an extravagant wedding gift and kept Felicity's mother, Donna, and Thea Queen, well-accompanied on the dance floor at the reception.

John Diggle stood up next to his best friend, proud to see him happy and delighted that he no longer needed to open the gym early on so many mornings, as Felicity usually distracted Oliver at that time. He tried not to think about that too much.

No one could ask for a better Maid of Honor or future sister-in-law than Thea Queen. Not only had she used her fashion industry contacts to source exquisite gowns for the occasion, but she executed a flawless Bachelorette party for the ages and managed to get her brother to spring for an Armani notched-collar tux that landed him on a best-dressed list late in the year.

As Felicity stood facing Oliver in front of their friends, their loved-ones, she paused a second to reflect. She was more fortunate than she could articulate. She was living her dreams and inspiring others with her art, evolving as a performer, and sharing her life with the person who meant the most to her in the world. He world was indeed, magical.

"I do."

 

The End.