"Why do the coffee gods hate me so?"
At the sound of a forlorn, female voice, Oliver paused as he walked past the break room, his brow furrowed. He'd been on his way to see his dad, having accidentally missed lunch with him the day before and wanting to make up for it. Or, more aptly, being told by his mother that he had better make up for it.
Finding his current situation more interesting, he decided to put off his dad for a moment and poked his head in through the door. The break room was pretty bare bones, with a table against one side, ringed by empty chairs, and a kitchen set up on the other side. He spotted her by the coffee machine, bent low, her long, curly blonde hair tied in a low ponytail that hung down her back. She was rattling the machine side to side and frowning down at it.
"Do you have any idea how much work I have to do?" she asked it. "Completely ignoring the fact that you're an inanimate object, I feel like you should really take pity on me and stop telling me you're low on water when I just filled you up… This is no time for games, all right? You and me have to find some kind of middle-ground, because I can't be running across the street to Starbucks every time I need a fix." Hands on her hips, she tapped her foot. "So? What's it going to be?" She reached forward and jabbed a button, but just when it seemed like it might go ahead and start working, it started beeping at her instead.
Shoulders slumping, she threw her head back and groaned. "Life should not be this unfair." Raising her head again, she readjusted her glasses and said, "You should know that I can take you apart, piece by piece, and put you back together again, all right? I don't think you want that. Not to mention I don't think the rest of the staff, or my boss, would be too happy with me stealing you for the next hour so I can tinker with your parts."
"Have you tried turning it off and then on again?" Oliver asked.
Jumping, she whirled around, her eyes wide and her mouth ajar. "Oh my God! Sneaking up on people is rude, especially when they're having private conversations with defective appliances."
He blinked at her response. "I'll remember that for next time…" He walked closer slowly, his eyes washing over her face. She was pretty, her cheeks flushed and her lips painted a bright, vivid pink. Her eyes were an attractive shade of blue, staring up at him widely. "Big fan of coffee?"
"One of its biggest. If I could create a shrine without being creepy, it would be at the top of my to-do list…" She bit her lip. "Not that I actually have a to-do list, or that I spend a lot of time thinking of making shrines. That'd be weird. Mostly I just work with computers, which is where the coffee addiction comes in. I lose track of time and before I know it, I'm pulling a Tony Stark and it's been three days since I slept."
"Hence, the harsh words with the coffee pot…?"
She nodded. "Exactly… We've been having issues since I started here. For whatever reason, it works for everybody but me."
"Maybe it doesn't like blondes."
She raised a brow. "Well, that would be a first."
His lips twitched. "How about this?" He tipped his head. "You need coffee, I have a jet… I can take you to Columbia, Brazil, Indonesia, wherever you want. You'll have the best coffee you've ever had, in spades."
She blinked at him, and then laughed. "Wow. That… That is some line." She shook her head. "Thank you… whoever you are, but I think I'll risk my boss's wrath and skip over to the Starbucks." She moved to walk past him, before turning back and pointing at the offending coffee machine. "You and I will finish this tomorrow."
And with that, she was gone, her ponytail swinging as she left.
Oliver stood, his brows hiked, and a curious smile on his lips. He didn't think he'd ever been shot down before, or laughed at. Sure, there was the occasional woman who liked to play hard to get, but he didn't think that was what she was doing. She sincerely thought he was joking about the jet, which meant she either really had no idea who he was or wasn't the least bit interested.
Suddenly, talking to his dad could wait. Finding out more about this coffee addict was far more interesting.
It took Oliver nearly a week to find her. He'd had to ask more than a few security guards, linger near the break room around the same time he'd first found her, and flirt with a secretary before he finally got a name and a general area she'd be in.
"So you weren't kidding when you said you could take it apart and put it back together then?" he said in way of a greeting.
He smiled when she jumped in her seat, tucked away in a cubicle with the rest of the IT workers.
She turned away from her computer, frowning as she set eyes on him. "Nameless jet guy," she said, pointing a finger at him. "Do you belong on this floor?"
He grinned. "I don't look like IT?"
She blinked. "You don't even look like you're dressed to work…"
He looked down at himself in his casual jeans and sweater. "I prefer to leave the suit-wearing up to my father."
Tipping her head, she raised an amused eyebrow. "Obviously you don't leave the flirting up to him."
He laughed under his breath. "I think my mother appreciates that."
She hummed, glancing away. Finally, she held a hand out to him. "Felicity Smoak," she introduced. "Resident coffee maker nemesis."
His lips twitched up and he took her hand in his. "Oliver Queen, no real job title as of yet."
Her face fell, eyes widening a little. "Oh crap," she muttered.
He chuckled. "Not usually the response I get."
Felicity tugged her hand free. "Do you usually attempt to pick women up in the coffee room?" She waved a hand quickly. "Wait, no, don't answer that. It doesn't matter."
"I can't say the break room is usually where I meet people, no… But then I've never met anyone who argues with a coffee machine before, so…"
"And apparently that's a pro for you?" Her brow furrowed.
He shrugged. "So far it's not a con."
Sighing, she reached up to rub the furrow between her brow. "I'm sorry, can we start over?" She held a hand out for him, which he laughingly took. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Queen, I'm Felicity Smoak and I work in the IT Department. Can I help you with anything today?"
"Are you free for lunch?"
Her shoulders slumped. "That's not starting over." She pulled her hand from his again. "But seriously, why are you here?"
"Looking for you," he admitted plainly. "I can still have the jet ready to go to Brazil. Just say the word."
She stared up at him a long moment before finally shaking her head. "It was nice meeting you. Please tell your dad that I value working for his company." With that, she turned her chair back around and faced her computer.
"Wait, so she works at the company?" Tommy asked, taking his glass from the bartender with a nod before he followed Oliver back to their table.
He nodded. "In IT."
"And she shot you down?"
With a grin, he shrugged one shoulder. "Even before she knew I was a Queen… When she found that out, she shot me down worse."
Tommy's brows hiked. "Okay, I'm seeing the appeal… Hard to get; those are always the fun ones."
He hummed negatively and shook his head before he took a long drag of his drink. "I don't think that's it."
Tommy frowned, confused.
"I don't think she's playing hard to get," he explained, having to raise his voice over the music. "I honestly think she doesn't like me."
Blinking at him, Tommy shook his head. "Okay, then I'm lost… Why are you pursuing this woman? She works in IT, she fights with coffee makers, she's not interested in billionaires… It sounds to me like she's the antithesis of your dating pool."
He shrugged. "I like her."
"She's cute… and she rambles."
Sighing, Tommy merely took up his glass and clinked it with Oliver's. "Good luck, brother."
With a laugh, Oliver tossed his drink back. "I'll probably need it.
"So what are you doing this Friday?"
Felicity jumped at the sound of his voice and Oliver smiled; she was always so engrossed in her computers that she never seemed to notice him hovering just behind her. Of course, her having a cubicle made it difficult to have any kind of privacy, so every other technician nearby had already spotted him and were either glaring at him for his intrusion or trying to look like they were busy so he wouldn't think they were being lazy at work.
Turning in her chair, she stared up at him. "You again," she said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Is 'no' just not a part of your vocabulary, or…?"
"It's a rarely used part," he returned, smiling.
She raised an eyebrow. "Well you're going to get really familiar with it around me."
He licked his lips at her tone and tipped his head curiously. "So? This Friday? Any plans?"
"Yes, many of them, all of which do not include spending any time with the boss's son…" Turning her attention away from him, she reached for the Starbucks cup on her desk, took a sip, and frowned when she apparently found it cold. "Bleck," she muttered, before spinning around and dropping the cup in the small waste basket under her desk.
"Thirsty?" He raised his eyebrows. "I know a good break room with a temperamental coffee machine."
She bit her lip, but he could see the beginnings of a smile, and felt a cheer of triumph. "Thanks, but I think I can cope for now." She turned her back on him. "Nice seeing you, Mr. Queen."
"It's Oliver," he reminded, not even slightly deterred when she merely waved a hand over her shoulder.
The almost-smile was proof enough that he was making progress, and Oliver Queen was nothing if not stubborn.
Four months later, that stubborn streak was being seriously tested. If Felicity was playing hard to get, she was a master at it, and there was so end in sight so far as he could tell. Especially one that resulted in him getting laid. At least, not by her.
When he went by her usual cubicle to find someone else there though, he started to worry that his frequent stop-by's in effort to flirt with her had either resulted in her quitting or being fired. It wouldn't be the first time somebody had lost their job for sleeping with him, but that had more to do with the fact that it was on company property and that their supervisor had walked in on them in a compromising position. He couldn't remember the name of the receptionist he'd been hooking up with, but he did remember her hands were good for a lot more than typing.
He was just about to ask where Felicity was when the guy in the cubicle to the left informed him, bitterly at that, that she had been moved to an office. Somewhat relieved, he made his way over to where the offices were on the right side of the floor and checked the name plates until he found 'Smoak, F.'
He didn't bother knocking; the door was cracked open and didn't make a sound as he walked inside. Felicity was standing on her chair, trying to water a plant hanging from the ceiling, crowded into a corner.
"I hope you have insurance."
Startling, she nearly fell of her chair; he was only mildly disappointed that he didn't get the chance to heroically catch her. Glaring over her shoulder, she carefully hopped down from her chair and wheeled it back over to her desk.
"New office I see…" Oliver took a look around, thinking the walls were a little bland and the space a little closed in. It was like her cubicle only a little bigger and with a door. He supposed she did have a little more space and privacy though, both of which would come in handy if she'd ever give him a chance.
"You're observant," she replied, but there was no malice, just amused sarcasm. While she was still occasionally annoyed by his visits, they'd settled into a nice middle-ground where she was mostly just entertained by his tenacity.
He found a chair and moved it in front of her desk, taking a seat on it. "Does this mean when I bring you lunch I can actually share it with you now?"
"Or you could stop surprising me with lunch," she suggested, moving a few files around and readjusting a few knick-knacks on her desktop.
"That's highly unlikely… Especially since I found an amazing little Italian place. Really authentic food. I can pick you up after work, we can get dinner, maybe go dancing after…"
Sitting back in her chair, she mused, "I bet they have really good wine."
"The best," he agreed, nodding.
"Homemade pasta noodles too."
He sat forward in his chair. "Made fresh every day."
Her brow furrowed. "Where is it?"
"A few blocks from here. It's called Russo's."
"Great," she said, nodding. "I'll order take-out tonight, break open a bottle of red, see what the hype's about." She winked at him. "Thanks for the recommendation."
He pursed his lips and sighed. "You're a cruel woman, Smoak."
Grinning at him, she shook her head. "And you're more gullible than I expected."
Shaking his head, he rose from the chair. "How's Chinese sound for lunch tomorrow?"
"Like it's not happening," she told him, waving him out the door.
"One of these days…" he drawled as he left, but received no answer. She was already buried in her work, chewing on her lip, her brow furrowed. It probably shouldn't have been as cute as he thought it was.
"So you grew up on a farm?"
Felicity nodded. "Only as a kid, though. My parents split up when I was twelve and my mom moved out here to Starling. I came with her and spent summers back at the farm with my dad." She shrugged. "He sold the land when I was eighteen though; he's in Florida now, early retirement."
"Must've been some pretty good land."
"It is when you live in a small town that's expanding and big business people want to put in a mall."
"So what was it like? Cowboy hats and pigtails?"
Rolling her eyes at the cliché, she dashed it, "More like waking up at dawn and mucking out stalls."
He nodded, sitting back in his chair as he watched her thumb through some paperwork. He'd shown up after her lunch break but she hadn't kicked him out so he decided to hang around and find out more about her. She was being oddly talkative for once; she'd even called him Oliver for a change.
"How'd you get into computers?" he wondered.
"You don't think we have Wi-Fi in the country?" she asked, amused.
He shrugged. "Just doesn't seem to fit with the image in my head."
She hummed, tipping her head back in thought. "It started in school… I was pushed up a grade and we had these new computers donated. I was fascinated, spent almost all my time in the computer lab, trying to figure out what made them work and how…" She smiled to herself, caught up in her memory. "When I was sixteen, I told my parents I didn't want a car. I worked my butt of for a whole year, doing extra chores, taking on extra credit projects at school, I even joined a club because my mom kept saying I needed to make friends. And finally, I convinced them to get me a computer instead… After that, I was hooked."
"So your first love was a computer?" He grinned at her. "That's hard to compete with."
She smiled back. "You're right… It could be in your best interest to give up now."
He shook his head. "I'm not beat yet."
"I need your opinion on something."
Felicity looked up from her computer. "Is it on the art of knocking?"
He raised an eyebrow. "I think we're past that at this point."
"I don't think we ever touched on it," she disagreed.
Oliver waved a dismissive hand and took a seat across from her. "My sister's birthday is coming up."
Her brows rose. "Thea, right? She's…" Her eyes narrowed. "Twelve this year?"
He nodded, pleased that she remembered. "Yes, and she's been talking it up since she turned eleven."
"You say that like you were never an annoying twelve year old," she snorted
"I've never been annoying, just exceedingly confident."
"Which is annoying," she muttered.
He grinned at her. "Anyway, I need your opinion on what I should get her."
"Well, what does she like? Besides boys."
He frowned. "No, she doesn't like boys."
Felicity raised an eyebrow at him. "She's twelve. Trust me, she likes boys…" She paused. "Or girls, which is totally okay, too."
"No, she doesn't like anybody. She's still little. There's no hormones there, and won't be for a while," he denied.
Skeptically, Felicity merely stared at him.
"Let me lie to myself, okay?"
With a roll of her eyes, she nodded. "Okay. So what are her interests?"
He shrugged, leaning back in his seat. "She likes music, movies, she's really active, she's always running around…"
Taking that in, she gave it some thought. "She's a lot younger than you, are you guys close?"
He nodded. "Yeah, she's always chasing me around. Practically attached to my hip when I'm at home."
Felicity smiled. "Well, I think it's obvious then… Take her out for the day, just the two of you, do whatever she wants."
"Just us, no plans?"
She nodded. "She'll tell you what she wants to do. It'll probably be something simple; movie, shopping, some lunch… It doesn't matter where you take her or what you buy her, if I had to guess, she'd just want to spend time with you."
He stared at her thoughtfully, before finally nodding. "Okay…" He smiled lightly, sincerely. "Thanks."
When he stood to leave, Felicity called out to him. As he looked back, she smirked. "Eddie Raymond."
His brow furrowed.
"The boy I had a crush on when I was twelve…" She shrugged. "He kissed me on my birthday."
Oliver frowned. "She doesn't like boys yet," he said, continuing with his dream of being oblivious to Thea growing up.
Felicity laughed at him and, despite himself, he found himself grinning as he left.
"Felicity," he called, waving at her, drawing the attention of most of the bar, not that he cared.
She turned, searching out the sound of her name, but paused when she saw him. He watched as her eyes darted away and she seemed to consider pretending she hadn't seen him. But then she sighed and started moving across the room to him, weaving in and out of bodies.
She had her hair down and she'd replaced her glasses with contacts. Her lipstick matched the dark pink of her dress and immediately drew his gaze to her mouth, where it lingered for a few seconds.
"Hey, I'm Tommy Merlyn, this lug's best friend," piped a voice next to him.
Felicity turned, smiling politely as she reached out to shake his hand. "Felicity Smoak, I work for Queen Consolidated."
"Ohh… you're that Felicity," he realized, his eyes wide as he looked over at Oliver and then back to her.
"Ignore him," Oliver said, bumping his friend's shoulder. "He doesn't know what he's talking about."
"Really? Because I think he's suggesting you talk about me a lot. And, considering he's your best friend, it's not a surprise that he knows about the woman you've been asking out on a date for nearly six months straight now," she replied, her smile full of amusement.
"It's not so much the asking out as the getting rejected," Tommy told her.
"That's what I thought," she said, nodding.
Seeming to realize his mistake, Tommy backpedaled. "Oh, not that you're not special. Just that it's… unique…" He frowned. "I'm explaining this wrong."
Felicity merely raised an eyebrow. "Not that I'm not enjoying this awesome display of male failure, but I'm meeting someone…" She pointed a thumb over to the bar. "So, it was nice to meet you, Mr. Merlyn, Mr. Queen."
"Please, call me Tommy."
"Have a nice night," she said, about to leave.
"You're not… on a date, are you?" Oliver wondered, drawing her attention again.
She stared at him a long moment. "And if I was?"
"I'd be deeply disappointed," he said with a completely straight face.
Her lips twitched. "But not at all deterred?"
"Not even slightly."
She laughed, shaking her head. "You'll make a good businessman one day, you know that?" Turning on her heel, she walked away.
"You didn't answer," he shouted after her.
Tommy raised his drink and pointed at the pretty red-headed woman who left the bar and met Felicity for a hug. "I don't think it's a date… Although, if it was, it would definitely explain why she keeps shutting you down."
Oliver peered over and then shook his head. "No, that's her best friend. She has a picture of her in her office. Penny Something."
Tommy looked over at him, his head cocked. "Do you even know how deep you're getting with this one?"
He scoffed. "Because I know her best friend's name?" He waved at the bartender to bring over another for each of them. Slapping Tommy's shoulder, he grinned. "I know what I'm doing."
Tommy watched him a moment before directing his gaze over to Felicity, who was laughing, her head thrown back, the light hitting her in a way that made her look even prettier. "If you say so…"
Oliver watched her for a long moment, smiling in answer to the way she grinned.
If he was in over his head, there was no going back now.
"You're stranded on a deserted island…" he started.
Felicity rolled her eyes. Drawing her chopsticks out from her chow-mein, she waved them at him to 'go on.'
"You can only bring three things, what do you take?"
He watched as she took a moment to think it over, chewing on the end of one of her chopsticks. "Okay… Matches, because, duh, fire."
"Um… a weapon of some kind, like a knife, so I can also use it to protect myself and cut things open… Annnd… sunblock."
He blinked at her. "Sunblock?"
"I have really fair skin," she reminded, holding an arm out.
He rolled his eyes. "You didn't want to bring a cell phone or your computer?"
She shrugged. "If I was stranded, I doubt I'd get a signal, and my computer would only become a hindrance. I'd have to carry it around, make sure I didn't drop it." She shook her head. "I could make a fire with the matches, both to keep me warm and to alert someone if help is nearby. The knife is a huge survival tool. You'd have to have something like that on you. You don't know what kind of animals are out there and you could use it to cut down branches from trees to make shelter, or to open coconuts to drink from… And then the sunblock, so I didn't burn. It wouldn't last forever, but if I used it liberally, it could help."
He sat back in his chair across from her desk and shook his head, letting out a little laugh. "You're remarkable."
She smiled at him and mimicked him, leaning back in her seat. "Thank you for remarking on it." Looking away, she reached up to readjust her glasses. "Anyway, what are your three things?" She raised a finger to stop him, "And if you say something tacky like 'I'd only want you' or 'you and condoms'…"
He laughed, shaking his head. "We wouldn't need condoms. We'd just create our own village."
He held his hands up in surrender before grabbing up his fortune cookie from atop her desk. Unlike Felicity, he'd already finished his lunch. He tossed it from hand to hand as he said, "The knife thing makes sense, so one of those… Maybe a book; I'd want a distraction sometimes…" He licked his lips and cracked open the fortune cookie as he added, "And a gun, with one bullet."
Felicity paused, staring at him a moment. "And the dreaded serious twist occurred."
His mouth picked up on one corner as he looked over at her. "I just think it makes sense, you know? You have to be prepared… If you were really stuck there forever, no chance of seeing civilization again, it's hot, lonely, maybe you're starving… I'd want that way out, something quick and painless, just in case."
She nodded slowly. "I get it… And it makes sense, logically…" She licked her lips. "But there's always hope, right? I mean, what if you pulled the trigger and the very next day you had Search and Rescue swarming the island."
"That could be a lot of waiting for tomorrows, hoping that's the day you finally get rescued."
"You know, given our history, I never considered you for a quitter."
"It's been eight months and you still haven't agreed to date me. I'm beginning to think I'm masochistic, not stubborn."
She grinned and motioned her chopsticks down to the fortune cookie. "What's it say?"
He pulled the little slip of paper out and read it through. "That you should put me out of my misery and let me take you out this weekend." He popped one half of the cookie in his mouth and munched it.
Rolling her eyes, she turned back to her food. "Optimistic; too bad for you I don't make my decisions based on what cookies tell me to do."
He half-smiled, dropping his eyes back to the paper in his hands.
The love of your life is within reach.
He tucked it into the pocket of his jeans and never brought it up. She'd never believe him if he did. He wasn't even sure what he thought of it. When he got home, he put it in the end table beside his bed and decided to forget about it. It was just a dumb fortune that was probably printed a thousand times. Meaningless.
Still, he never threw it away.
"When are you going to give in to me?" His voice seemed as loud as a shout in the otherwise quiet room.
Felicity jumped in her seat, startled by it, and turned to see Oliver Queen standing in her doorway. Actually, 'standing' was too tame for what he was doing. It was more like smugly leaning, with his arms casually crossed over his chest, a smirk playing at his lips.
In the year since she'd started working at Queen Consolidated, she'd apparently captured the interest of her boss's son. How this happened, she couldn't be sure. One minute she was arguing with a coffee pot about its inability to do its job, and the next she had a handsome man sidling up to her, offering to take her to Brazil on his jet, where they could find the best coffee in the world. She'd laughed at the time, thinking it was a joke or a really bad pick-up attempt. Later, she realized he was a Queen, and actually had a jet. Not that it really changed much, except that she constantly worried his outrageous flirting was going to end with her getting fired.
"Why? Did you want to mark it on your calendar?" she returned, leaning back in her chair.
He chuckled under his breath and stepped further into the room. "I really don't think you're giving me a fair chance here, Smoak. I mean, you can't blame a guy for falling in love at first sight and trying to woo that girl at every turn." His brows hiked. "Getting shut down so often is starting to affect my self-esteem."
She snorted. "Somehow I think you'll survive."
Licking his lips to hide his grin, he walked to her desk, reaching for the stress ball she kept nearby for when a particular string of code was trying her last nerve. He squeezed it a few times before tossing it from one hand to the other. "You can't spare one busy night to go out to dinner with me?" He shook his head beseechingly. "You can pick, anywhere you want."
"Oliver… I work for your dad," she reminded.
He sighed, rolling his eyes. "So does Tracey in the mail room, and she never turned me down."
Her eyes narrowed slightly. "First of all, her name is Lacey… And second of all, I know that charming smile of yours usually gets the girls to sigh and giggle and mentally plan out their future as a billionaire's wife, equipped with yachts and random trips to Paris just because you feel like it, but those girls are not this girl. And this girl has work to do." She waved her fingers toward the door. "Have a nice morning."
Lips pursed in a frown, he turned and walked to the door, but called over his shoulder, "Paris is really nice this time of year, I think you'd like it."
Shaking her head, she rolled her eyes. "Just FYI, by the way… When you're trying to get a girl to go on a date with you, you might want to avoid pointing out the fact that you've slept with someone she works with… Even if your reputation definitely precedes you."
He smirked back at her. "I believe in full disclosure, Felicity, you know that." He rapped his knuckles against the doorway. "See you this time tomorrow."
"Are you sure you don't need to visit the mail room instead?" she quipped, her eyes already on her computer screen.
His echoing chuckle made her lips purse, but she couldn't be sure if it was with sincere irritation with him or at herself for being amused by him. In all the time they'd spent together, and it had been a lot because he was beyond the definition of persistent, she'd gotten to know him pretty well. She might even consider him a friend, except that she tried very hard to remind him that there was a professional boundary she could not cross. Hence why she still called him Mr. Queen and not Oliver, even if she often referred to him as that in her head.
Regardless, she knew he'd soon be back in her office, darkening her doorway, as he tried to convince her that going on a date with him was a good idea. And she would give the same response every time, regardless of how charming or handsome he was. It had practically become routine. Except that the butterflies in her stomach whenever she saw him refused to stop fluttering.
"I bring coffee and news from the outside world," a cheerful voice called from the doorway.
Felicity looked up, a faint smile quirking her lips. "What are you doing over here at QC, Mr. Merlyn? And please, don't tell me it's an attempt at corporate espionage because spy I am not."
"Tommy, please," he corrected, before wandering into her office with the same certainty of being welcomed that Oliver always had. "And I'm pretty sure you could pull off being a spy if you really wanted to." He took a seat on the chair across from her desk and held out a tall cup of steaming coffee, wiggling it side to side in an effort to get her to take it.
She narrowed her eyes at the cup, but accepted it all the same. "Not that I don't appreciate the gesture, because I think I've complained enough about the sludgy coffee they have downstairs, that may or may not be slowly killing me, but what brings you all the way over here to visit me?" she wondered, her brows hiked. Just as he opened his mouth, she raised a finger, "And be forewarned, that if this is some weird wingman thing where you extol the virtues of your best friend, this coffee is hot and I'm clumsy…"
He laughed under his breath before leaning back in his chair, unbuttoning his jacket for comfort before he shrugged. "You got me. I've been sent in to talk Oliver up so you'll give him a chance." He waved a hand. "A little late, in my opinion, as this has dragged on a lot longer than expected, but we both know he's not nearly as smart as you are. Hopefully your future children together take after you in the brains department."
She sipped her coffee, humming appreciatively at the shot of chocolate she could taste swimming in it. Placing the cup on her desk, leaving her hand around it to soak in the heat, she raised an eyebrow at him. "Tommy, how long has Oliver been trying to get a date with me?"
He turned his eyes up in thought and lifted a hand as if he was counting on his fingers, but she knew it was all for show. As much as he played the unaffected billionaire's son to perfection, he was a smart man, and he used other's preconceptions to get away with it. In the time since Oliver had begun his "wooing" of her, she'd met Tommy Merlyn a number of times, but he was usually in the company of Oliver, who had 'no idea she would be there' every time they ran into each other. Since the last two times were Queen Consolidated events, she thought he was going a little overboard on using serendipity as an excuse for them running into each other so often. She already saw him every lunch break, Monday through Friday. Frankly, she was surprised he wasn't sick of her already.
"Nine months…" He waggled his eyebrows at her. "Who knows, if you'd given in all that time ago, there could be a little Smoak-Queen hybrid screaming its tiny little lungs out right now."
She choked on a laugh. "That's… quite an image."
"Listen…" He sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and stared at her earnestly. "I know what it looks like, I know the tabloids paint him in a pretty unflattering light, but I know Oliver… He's a good guy and I think you know that too." He stared at her searchingly before pressing a hand to his chest. "I solemnly swear that it would be worth it to give him a chance."
Her lips twitched before she tipped her head. "And I'm supposed to take your word because you brought me this delicious coffee…?"
"And also because I have a knack for matchmaking." His face was full of humor. "I may open my own company."
"Merlyn's Matches," she offered. "'Finding one's true love is its own magic.'"
He snapped his fingers and pointed at her agreeably. "See? It's practically already off the ground. You and Oliver will be my crowned glory. We'll have a portrait of you in the front waiting room and people will pour in, looking for my expertise to help them find their own Felicity Smoak or Oliver Queen."
Scoffing, she shook her head. "I can see it now, every gold digger in the country showing up with a laptop and a ponytail, saying they don't care about money while their eyes are screaming dollar signs."
"Well, obviously I'll have to have a pretty intense screening process, to make sure we only get legitimate people looking for real, one of a kind love," he mused.
"Oliver is not in love with me," she told him, amused. "He's confused because I didn't immediately jump at the chance to jump him…"
"You sell yourself short," he disagreed. "You're smart, beautiful, you obviously have great taste in friends, if I'm anything to go by."
She laughed warmly. "Much as I enjoy your company, I think the fact that you're trying to convince me to give Oliver a chance, a guy who was last in the paper for urinating on a cop, speaks for itself. And don't get me started on how he could probably populate a small town with all of the women he's slept with…" Her nose wrinkled. "Now that I think about it, I'm really not sure how much this friendship favors me in the long run."
"Well, see, that's just the point." He waved a hand at her. "You've reformed him! It's a miracle. We should call the press and paint a mural of your face on the side of the building."
Felicity raised an eyebrow. "Really? So Oliver hasn't been sleeping with whoever turns his head whenever you two hit the clubs? He hasn't been assaulting police officers or paparazzi lately?"
His eyes narrowed and then turned away from her. "That depends… How often do you read Star Magazine or tune in to TMZ?"
Shaking her head, she let out a long suffering sigh. "Tommy, I appreciate that he's your friend and you're trying to help him out, but let's face it… Oliver and I are on two totally different playing fields… His is filled with drunken orgies that I really don't want to be a part of."
"Orgies might be a little over the top," he argued. He turned his eyes away for a second, his brow furrowed thoughtfully. "Although he never really told me what happened in Las Vegas two years ago…"
Face screwed up with distaste, she shook her head. "And that's about enough of that conversation…"
Sighing, he looked back at her. "Well, I can't go back to him with this… I think I did more damage than anything."
Half-smiling, she could at least admit that, regardless of the fact that she didn't honestly take Oliver's attempts at trying to date her seriously, she still found both him and Tommy to be outrageous but interesting guys. She liked Tommy. He was funny and smart and very loyal. Oliver was the same, even if he was occasionally a spoiled brat who thought being a bad boy was an attractive trait. And maybe it was, to some people, just not to her.
"Sorry it didn't go as planned…" She lifted her coffee. "I do appreciate this, though. I was just contemplating making a coffee run."
"At least I know I accomplished something today." He stood from his chair and smiled down at her. "You know… And this is coming from a purely outsider-looking-in standpoint… I think he really does like you." He shrugged. "And I've known him since pre-school, so… if anybody can tell when his feelings are genuine, it's me."
Her smile softened as she looked up at him. "Look, I like Oliver. I think he sells himself short a lot of the time. But he's happy, doing what he does, and…" She shook her head. "Even if he was genuine, he's not ready for what I would want out of a relationship."
He nodded understandingly. "Thanks for the chat, Felicity."
She raised her coffee at him in cheers. "See you, Tommy."
"Probably sooner than you think… I think we're scheduled to accidentally bump into you some time after work."
She snorted. "I'll try to be shocked."
He laughed, nodding, and waved a hand back before he left her office.
Half-smiling to herself, Felicity shook her head. She'd never expected this when she came to work for Queen Consolidated. But, oddly, she didn't dislike it. Oliver Queen was the type of boy that most of the girls in her high school would have drooled over and, regardless of being a computer geek, she too could appreciate the visual package. But Oliver's outlook on life was not on par with her own. He liked to party and sleep around, never tying himself to anything or anyone for too long. Yes, he was sweet while he was trying to convince her she should date him, but how long until the novelty wore off and she was just boring IT girl Felicity again…?
No, it made more sense to cut it off at the knees. She would keep her heart from being broken and he would continue on his merry way, eventually losing interest in the woman who never said yes. She could live with that. Sure, it would be kind of sad when he and Tommy stopped coming around, if only because they were a bright spot in an otherwise busy day, making her laugh and pull her head out of her computers. But she would survive. She always did.
Despite the fact that he'd recently picked up a habit of looking entirely too much like a stalker, Oliver wasn't actually following her. And this time, it really was completely by chance that they ran into each other. Or, more aptly, that she ran into him, and he now wore what used to be her cup of coffee on his previously clean shirt.
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry, I didn't even see you coming. I—That's probably really hot. Are you okay? Does it burn?" Turning the napkins over in her hand, she started dabbing at his chest.
"It's fine, really," he assured.
Her brow furrowed then and she raised her head to finally look at him. Her worried expression fled immediately. "Oliver! I thought I'd really hurt someone."
His lips turned up at the corners. "So it's okay for you to scald me with coffee, but not somebody else?"
"No, of course not!" She shook her head. "I just…" She rolled her eyes. "I was expecting a stranger, not… you."
"Well, then you're lucky. Who knows who else you could've severely burned? You're welcome."
She pursed her lips up at him to hide her smile. "What are you doing here?"
"It's a coffee shop," he reminded, casting his eyes around. "I was going to get coffee."
"At the same time I was? In the same shop? Completely by chance?"
"Shockingly, that does occasionally happen."
She raised an eyebrow. "If this is you attempting another surprise coffee date…"
He laughed under his breath. "I think I learned my lesson last time."
"I don't know, I think my mom found you charming. She certainly wasn't expecting one of Starling City's most wealthy to spend a half an hour with us, talking about how much better pumpkin muffins were to carrot."
"In my defense, they make a really good pumpkin muffin here," he replied with a grin.
"And now she agrees with you."
Oliver was surprised by the warm feeling in his chest over that fact. "So what you're saying is… I've charmed your mother."
"No… you've convinced her of the virtues of pumpkin muffins."
"Right, but that's just one step closer to having your mother on my side." He nodded, his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "This could be good… You two are close, so having her on my side could really help in the long run."
Felicity chuckled, shaking her head at him. "You don't give up, do you?"
He copied her shaking head. "I'm exceedingly stubborn."
She peered up at him, her lips pursed, before finally humming and turning her eyes away.
"Well, hey, listen, since I'm currently wearing your coffee, why don't you let me buy you one?" He stared at her searchingly. "You don't have to sit with me after, I don't expect a date out of it… I just want to buy you a coffee, to make up for the one my shirt is currently drinking."
Her lips twitched and she licked them, biting down. His eyes were drawn to them, to the pop her cherry red lipstick made. She had pretty lips. Distracting too. The kind of lips he could spend a lot of time kissing and never get tired.
"Fine," she finally said.
His brows raised a little. "Really? You're not gonna fight with me about it?"
She rolled her eyes. "It's a coffee, Oliver. Not a proposal."
He smiled slowly. "Okay then." He waved a hand toward the counter and they walked over together. Felicity tossed her nearly empty cup in the garbage nearby and grabbed a few more napkins, passing them to him to try and clean himself up a little more. While she rattled off her drink preference, he nodded to the barista, asking for the same.
They moved down the counter to wait for their order while the people behind them gave theirs. While Felicity was admiring the shelves of baked goods, Oliver lifted his shirt up so he could quickly wipe away some of the liquid clinging to his skin through his drenched shirt. He was wiping down his abdomen when he caught her staring, her brows raised and her lips parted. Appreciation made her cheeks flush. When she realized she was ogling him, she quickly tore her gaze away. He grinned to himself, feeling a stab of pride. Maybe she wasn't as oblivious to him as he'd thought.
When their drinks came up, she took hers and handed his over, wrapping her hands tight around the cup and casting her eyes toward the door. "Well, um, thank you, for…" She lifted her coffee up a little.
He nodded. "Sure. Thanks for not spilling it on me."
She glared at him playfully. "Cute."
"My mother said I was, but I never believed it until right now."
Rolling her eyes, she laughed under her breath.
"So…? Do you have anywhere you need to be?" he wondered, trying to sound casual.
She glanced at him. "Not really. It's Friday and I don't have to be in to work until Monday. Mostly I was going to catch up on a few shows, I left this book I was reading on a cliffhanger, and my mom's been bugging me to come visit, so…"
"Busy weekend," he said, humor lacing his words.
She frowned at him, taking it to heart. "Not all of us lead the life you do."
He frowned. "And what life would that be?"
"Clubbing every night, getting into trouble with the cops, models, jetting off around the world because you're bored..." She shrugged.
"And that's a bad thing?" he wondered.
Felicity took in a deep breath and looked up at him. "No, Oliver…" She paused. "Well, actually, the cop thing is probably a bad thing. I wouldn't recommend that… But what I meant was if that's the life you want to lead, then that's fine. You have the means to and you're young, so you should enjoy it, you should have fun. But…" She half-smiled up at him. "That's not the life I want. So this, you, being charming and flirty and… whatever, it—it's not going anywhere."
He licked his lips and looked away. "I'm not always that guy. I… I don't have to be that guy."
"I'm not saying that you're a bad person, because you're not. We just… We have different goals in life." She reached for him, her hand braced on his forearm. "I like you. You're nice and funny and a lot smarter than I think even you know… But my life is behind a computer screen and yours is being broadcast on TMZ…"
"So I'm not good enough...? Because I party too much and I spend a lot of money and I go out clubbing every once in a while…" He ground his teeth, nodding. "Right, I didn't know I needed to have a pre-set list of characteristics for me to be worth a date or two."
"That's one of the problems…" She motioned a finger to him. "For you, this is fun, this is convincing a pretty girl to out with you, sleep with you, and then it's over and you move on… But I'm not like that. I like commitment. I like cuddling and sleeping in together and holding hands and labels…" She licked her lips as she sighed. "The point is… You are completely good enough… You're just not good with me."
He stared at her a long moment, not sure how to respond. He'd never had anyone lay his life out like that. He'd never been rejected before. And he'd never considered the possibility that he could give more than what he already did.
Smiling up at him apologetically, Felicity waved the coffee cup at him. "Thanks, again…" She started backing up. "I'll see you around." Turning on her heel, she walked away.
Oliver watched her go, far more serious than when he'd first met her. Back then, he'd felt a challenge in her rejection, now he only felt defeat.
It wasn't until later that night, his phone dialing Tommy, already thinking of getting drunk and going clubbing to get him out of his funk that he realized he was doing exactly what she said. She was probably at home, curled up on her couch, reading that book she left off in a good place. While here he was, going through his closet for something to wear, promising himself he wouldn't try to hook up with any blondes to try and drown out how he was feeling.
She was right. They were different; ridiculously so. And even if she didn't say it, she was too good for him.
"Right, so tonight? There's a new club on Fifth that I've heard is pretty good," Tommy suggested.
Oliver shook his head, brooding as he sat on the couch in his living room. "You ever get tired of it?"
"Of clubbing?" Tommy's brow furrowed. "What's there to get tired of?"
"It's repetitive. We go out, we get drunk, we take someone home. And repeat."
He grinned. "I'm not seeing a downside here, buddy."
"What if there was more…?" He frowned. "What if we could be happier?"
Tommy shrugged. "Doing what?" He leaned forward and peered at Oliver curiously. "No responsibility, no nagging girlfriends… It's all fun, all the time. What's to be disappointed about?"
He turned his eyes away. "I've just been thinking…"
Tommy raised an eyebrow. "Is this about Felicity? And what happened yesterday, at the coffee shop?"
His jaw tightened.
"Dude, she rejects you all the time." He reached over and squeezed his shoulder. "Listen, Felicity is a sweetheart. She's gorgeous and smart and… you'd be an idiot not to want to date her…" He stared at him searchingly. "But maybe it's time to let it go, y'know? Maybe you guys just… you're too different."
Oliver looked over at him and, after a moment, nodded.
But truthfully, all he could wonder was what if he didn't want to be different?
The club was loud and full and for the first time since he'd snuck inside one and gotten drunk off a bottle of tequila, Oliver regretted being there. He had plenty to drink and more than enough entertainment between the crowd of women who had swarmed his table and were laughing at every one of Tommy's jokes. But it felt hollow and he didn't completely understand why. This had been his life for as long as he could remember. He had perfected this lifestyle as a teenager and it'd only gotten better as an adult.
But as he sat in the booth, Tommy on one side of him and a pretty blonde pressed up against his him, staring up through her lashes, seductively biting her lip whenever she caught his eye, he realized that he didn't want to be there. The woman beside him was beautiful and he was sure he'd have a good time if he went home with her. He wouldn't remember her name in the morning and she wouldn't mind.
Except he kept thinking of Felicity and the things she wanted, the kind of relationship she expected, and he thought it could be really easy to sleep in with her and hold her hand and cuddle with her in bed. He thought about how his mom's face would light up if he introduced her to Felicity, who was everything she'd ever wanted for him and nothing he ever looked for. They would have date nights and favorite restaurants and he would get to kiss her and hold her and strip those bright blouses down her shoulders and push her pencil skirts up her thighs. He wondered if her lipstick, which never seemed to smudge, would cling to his lips or his skin while they were fooling around. He wondered if she was ticklish. If she was playful. If she'd breathe out his name or scream it.
Suddenly, the air in the club was too heavy, too thick. He motioned to the women next to him and climbed out from the booth. He shook his head when she offered to join him and ignored Tommy calling after him. After paying his tab up, he left, making his way home, his mind still a jumble of thoughts.
When he got back to the mansion, his parents were still up, and instead of avoiding them, he joined his dad in the study. There was something he needed to talk to him about.
When Monday morning dawned, Felicity wasn't expecting to see either Oliver or Tommy. And while there was a small sting of regret at what she'd said, she knew it had to be done. She and Oliver might live in the same city, but they lived in two completely different worlds. And that was okay. He enjoyed his life and she enjoyed hers; they just weren't meant to cross.
She busied herself with work, burying her head in ones and zeroes and complaints from around the company as various technologically inept coworkers came running to her for help. It was well past lunch, a meal she'd forgotten all about, and her grumbling stomach was quite vocal about it, when she heard a knock.
"Give me ten minutes and I will help you out with whatever email glitch you're having, all right?" she replied, without looking.
"I'm not sure the glitch is with my email so much as my personality, but any help would be appreciated."
Felicity's head swiveled quickly toward the voice and she found Oliver standing in front of her, looking more sheepish than she'd ever seen him. "Oliver…" she murmured, her brow furrowed. "Uh, I… I didn't think I'd see you again."
"Yeah, well… I didn't think so either, but then…" He shrugged, reaching up to rub at his neck. "Can I…?" He motioned toward the chair in front of her desk.
"Yes, sure…" She nodded, turning her chair to face him better, her hands gripping the edge of her desk. "I'm… not really sure why you're here," she admitted.
He took a moment to answer, his eyes on her desk. "You were right."
Her brow furrowed.
"I'm not…" He paused, searching for the right words. "I'm not that guy that you spend your morning cuddling with… Usually because I left before you woke up…" He shook his head. "I don't hold hands or… use pet names or meet your parents or have joint vacations and…" He sighed. "I'm not that guy. The one you want and deserve and… who sweeps you off your feet for more than just a night or a really fun weekend…" He swallowed tightly. "I'm not that guy but… for the first time ever I find myself wanting to be him, and… I know that you'd be taking a really big risk dating me, but… I'm hoping that you might give me a chance to show you I can be better."
Felicity stared at him a moment, rubbing her lips together as she let his words sink in. "Oliver…"
"You don't have to say anything yet." He held a hand up. "Look, my… My dad is making this business trip to China and I told him I want to go with him…" He raised his eyes to meet hers. "I haven't tried very hard to be a part of the business or to make any kind of job plans… I've never been synonymous with responsibility." He nodded, looking dejected to have to admit that. "But this is a step, I think. I want to take on more and try to do something with my life… And I was hoping that when I get back you might want to go out with me, for dinner or coffee or… anything, really. I just… I feel like maybe this is a turning point in my life and I… don't want to waste it."
She liked to think that she was a pretty good lie detector. She was by no means perfect at it, but she thought reading someone when they're telling her a bald-faced lie would come naturally. Like a gut instinct. What she got from what Oliver was saying was that he meant it. He might not have his whole life planned out, but he was trying. That hadn't been her intention when she told him that they didn't make sense as a couple, but she was glad that it had lit a fire under him all the same.
"Why don't we make a deal?" she offered, sitting forward. "You go to China with your dad, manage to stay out of the tabloids the entire time, avoid getting arrested or… peeing on anybody," she laughed, "bring me back a keychain, and I'll have lunch with you."
Quickly regaining his confidence, he raised an eyebrow. "A keychain, that's it? You know, I heard they're working on life-like robots over there. But if a keychain is really all you want…"
She chuckled, shaking her head. "Simple, Oliver. I just want simple."
He blew out a breath, but nodded. "Okay… It's a future date."
Biting down on her lip, she smiled. "I look forward to it."
He grinned. "Me too."
He stood from his chair then and reached a hand toward her. "Shake on it?"
"Are you implying I'll go back on my word?" she joked, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm the son of a businessman, it's never sealed until the handshake."
Amused, she reached out and took his hand, only mildly surprised when he turned it over and kissed her knuckles. "What do I have to promise to get you to see me off before I go?"
"You want me to wave you off from the dock?" she asked, stifling a smile.
"Preferably with tears and a promise that you'll miss me."
She laughed. "What day are you leaving?"
"Wednesday… We're leaving in the morning, just after eight."
"Okay, I'll see what I can do."
He stared at her a long moment. "I'm gonna surprise you," he promised her.
"I think you already have," she admitted.
Oliver was an idiot.
Two days ago, he'd felt like he was making progress in his life. After leaving the club earlier, he'd gone home and dedicated Saturday night and all of Sunday to his family, the majority of which was spent bugging his little sister. But he'd also spent some time with his parents, admitting to his dad that he dropped out of college, again, but that he had a plan. He wanted to join him in China, to get some hands-on experience; he thought it might help him focus. His dad had been happy to have him come along, proud that he was finally making a decision about where he wanted his life to go. And on Monday, it had seemed like a great idea. Telling Felicity that he was going to try harder, that he was changing his life around, he'd been proud of himself. Especially when she finally agreed to go on that date with him. Yes, it probably wouldn't be for at least three more weeks, but after spending nine months trying to get her to join him for a real meal instead of the take-out he surprised her with on her lunch hour, it was a victory well worth celebrating.
Which was why he let Tommy take him out clubbing Tuesday night. Unfortunately, drunk Oliver was not as insightful or goal oriented as sober Oliver, which was how he ended up taking a very frisky brunette home with him. One who reminded him just how much he liked his life just the way it was, far away from responsibility. So in the early hours of Wednesday morning, still a little drunk from the night before, he picked up where his playboy ways left him, and asked his bed-mate if she wanted to take a trip to China with him on his yacht. She'd been very eager to agree and he had stupidly snuck her onto the boat. The sneaking, however, had more to do with avoiding his dad's disapproval since he thought Oliver was finally making better choices and this was proof that no, he really wasn't.
He left the yacht to say goodbye to his mother, who was still trying to convince his dad that he should fly instead, when he saw Felicity making her way down the dock. Remembering suddenly that he'd asked her to see him off made his stomach twist up. He forced a smile onto his lips as he walked down to meet her.
"You made it," he said, his voice sounding strained.
She shrugged. "I wasn't going to; in fact I argued with myself on the way over, enough that it freaked out the people in the car next to mine. I think I fooled them into believing I was on a Bluetooth, but I can't be sure. Anyway, I thought I should be supportive…" She reached out and socked his shoulder lightly. "Especially since I have that keychain to look forward to."
Despite himself, a real grin broke through and he ducked his eyes. "Only the best for you, Smoak."
She rolled her eyes. "I bet you say that to all the girls you promise keychains to, Oliver Queen," she joked.
He licked his lips, barely concealing a wince as he thought of the woman waiting for him on the yacht. "Listen, uh… I—I really appreciate you coming out here and… I hope that in three weeks, when I get back, you'll still want to have that lunch."
Her brow furrowed a little. "You hold up your end of the bargain, I hold up mine, remember?" She smiled up at him. "We shook on it and everything."
He swallowed tightly and seriously regretted both last night and who he had stowed away. A part of him wanted to tell Felicity that he'd screwed up and he wasn't ready for her or responsibility. That she was right before, he couldn't be that guy, maybe he didn't even want to be that guy. And she deserved better. But she was smiling up at him and she was so pretty and maybe this was just his last hurrah. Maybe these three weeks would be his send off. He would get it out of his system with… He couldn't remember the name of the woman he'd brought with him, and that actually kind of made it worse, but it wasn't much of a change either, so he pushed it aside.
He promised himself then, staring down at Felicity, that when he got back, he would be the right guy, he would be good enough for her, and he would put everything else behind him. It helped to stop the twisting in his gut, but it didn't make the guilt on his mind ebb a whole lot.
"You promise you'll wait for me?" he said, trying to distract himself. "You won't fall in love with some other billionaire?"
"That's a lot to ask, I've had a considerable number of them coming by my office lately."
He laughed under his breath. "I'm not sure Tommy counts."
She scoffed. "Of course Tommy counts… Considering he always gets my coffee order right and hasn't recently been arrested, he probably could have wooed me long before you did."
He chuckled, hiking his eyebrows up. "Is that right?"
Nodding, she shrugged at him. "He's a very affable man, your best friend."
Shaking his head, he sighed. "I'm gonna have to keep an eye on him…"
"You probably should. He's not hard to look at either."
Oliver ducked his head in amusement. "I think you're trying to make me jealous."
"What? Now? When you're leaving for three weeks and Tommy's already promised to keep me company so I don't get lonely…"
He grinned and reached for her, his hand falling to her waist to tug her closer. "You've wounded my pride a little… I think you should kiss it better."
Some of the humor faded, her smile softening as she tipped her head back, peering up at him.
As he bent closer though, she reached up and pressed her finger to his lips. "I agreed to a date, Queen… A kiss will cost you."
"Two keychains then?" he asked, kissing the pad of her finger before nipping at it lightly.
Making a noise from the back of her throat, she yanked her finger back. "A keychain and a post card," she bargained, before lifting up on her tip toes. She leaned forward, but darted left and kissed his cheek, just shy of the corner of his mouth. "Full payment when I get my souvenirs."
For a second, he was distracted by the sweet scent of her, lingering around him before the salty ocean breeze swept it out of reach. "You don't think I'm good for it?" he murmured, staring down at her lips.
"I'll believe it when I see it." With that, she stepped back, a grin pulling at her mouth. "Have a good trip."
He stared at her a moment longer until he heard his dad calling his name down the dock. "Three weeks," he told her. "Then it's you and me."
"I guess now you can mark it down on that calendar."
He shook his head as he smiled, before finally turning on his heel to make his way back to the yacht. He looked back over his shoulder to see Felicity still there. She waved at him, a sweet smile on her lips, and he wished he'd kissed her. He wished a lot of things, really. He waved back and promised himself that three weeks would be all he needed. Then he'd do what was expected of him. He'd work with his dad and cut down on partying and he'd date the amazing Felicity Smoak.
With that, he climbed onto the yacht and made his way down to his room.
The brunette he'd taken along with him was sprawled on his bed, wearing nothing but a suggestive smile.
He was a terrible person.
He closed the door and accepted that truth.
The news had been on a loop all day.
The Queen's Gambit has been lost at sea. Robert Queen, CEO of Queen Consolidated, and his son, Oliver Queen, along with the crew, are currently listed as missing. Search and rescue has been deployed, but no sign yet that there are any survivors…
Felicity had stopped crying sometime around noon. Part of her felt like she didn't even deserve to feel this terrible. Oliver had been a friend, really. An acquaintance even. He'd been a potential… something. Or so he wanted to be. And maybe she did too. That speech he'd given her about wanting to be a better person, to set down roots, it had resonated. Even though she thought it was okay for him to live his life the way he wanted, the idea that he might want to change his life and have her in it had been exciting.
Saying goodbye to him on Wednesday, she'd felt a well of hope filling her. Maybe they could be something. Maybe this flirtation could go somewhere. Maybe he really wanted her and it wasn't just the chase that kept him coming back. But all of that was gone now; it mattered little in comparison to the possibility that his whole life had been cut short. She hoped that wasn't true. She hoped that he and his dad, everyone really, had made it to the lifeboats. Even if nothing ever came of her and Oliver, she just really hoped that he was okay.
A knock at her door drew her attention then and Felicity wiped at her nose, standing from her couch and walking over. She'd called in sick and spent the morning in her pajamas, feeling frumpy and sad and consumed with her fatalistic brain coming up with scenario after scenario of all the bad things that could have happened when the storm hit. Was it fast, was it slow, was he lingering in pain somewhere? Was he hurt? Did he drown? Worse, did he have to watch his dad die while he didn't? What kind of turmoil must he be going through? Not knowing if he'd die out there or ever get home? These were the things that she couldn't stop thinking.
She pulled the door open expecting it to be one of her neighbors asking for sugar or something else inane, but was shocked to find Tommy Merlyn standing in front of her.
He shrugged, his eyes ringed red and his clothes rumpled. "I don't know. I… It's all over the news and I was at his house, with his sister and his mom, but it was too much, so…" He shook his head. "I went to your work and they said you called in sick and somebody took pity and gave me your address, which, now that I think about it, probably wasn't very safe. Security must be terrible there…" His eyes, glazed both from tears and, what she suspected was, alcohol darted around. "And now I'm rambling, like you do."
She half-smiled sadly and reached for him, pulling him into her apartment. "Come on. I'll make you some coffee."
He nodded, but he wasn't looking at her, his mind elsewhere. She closed the door behind him and led him into her kitchen, leaving him at her table while she put on a new pot of coffee. Hugging her arms around herself, she walked back to him, taking the seat across from his.
"I'm sorry…" He cleared his throat, glancing at her. "It's probably weird for you, me showing up like this…"
"Well, you do have a habit of doing that at work. Neither you nor Oliver seem to be a big fan of calling ahead…"
He smiled, letting out a faint laugh. "Born out of always getting our way, I guess… You never think of the consequences or who it might affect…" His eyes were wide as he stared at the tabletop.
"Tommy…?" She reached for him, covering one of his hands. "Are you okay? Do you want me to call someone?"
He laughed again, this time bitter and empty. "Who?" He blinked back tears and looked at her. "You never realize how many friends you have until the only real one's lost at sea…" His brow furrowed. "I've been getting calls, texts, all morning… Empty condolences, you know? People who either want to know how his mom and sister are reacting so they can gossip about it or who already assume he's dead…" He swallowed tightly. "They don't really care… They don't even really know him…" He raised a hand to rub it down over his face tiredly. "I didn't even go to say goodbye… I slept in, figured I'd see him when he got back."
She squeezed his hand, staring at him sympathetically. "He would understand."
"Would he?" He looked up at her. "You went, didn't you? He asked you to go, so you did… You said goodbye. You saw him go…"
Her throat tightened at the raw emotion in his voice and she shook her head. "You're his best friend. You know him better than anyone, right?" She searched his eyes. "I don't think he'd blame you for sleeping in… It wasn't like either of you knew this would happen."
He swallowed thickly. "Right, yeah…" He nodded, his brow knotted. "But it did. It did happen… My best friend is probably dead and I…" He shook his head before lifting his hands and covering his face, burying his eyes in them as his shoulders trembled.
Felicity didn't move at first. The only side of Tommy she'd ever known was the playful joker one; even his semi-serious side had been laced with his sense of humor. But he was hurting and she considered him a friend, so she stood from her chair and circled the table to wrap her arms around him, resting her head against his. He let her, even if he didn't return the hug right away. It was a few minutes of him silently crying in her arms before he finally slipped his own around her. And they just held each other, rocking back and forth, mourning the possible loss of someone who had been a bright spot in both their lives. Tommy's more than hers, but Oliver mattered to her all the same.
It was a while before they were all cried out and Tommy finally said, "I'll take that coffee now, if you don't mind."
Felicity smiled to herself and let go of him, moving to the kitchen to pull out two mugs and fill them up. Her coffee was nothing like the sludge at Queen Consolidated, but she imagined it wasn't nearly as good as the beans she could have gotten in Brazil, had she let Oliver take her. She frowned down at her coffee and wondered if it would always remind her of him now. Shaking it off, deciding it was better to stay positive, she moved back into her dining room and slid his coffee over, before going back for cream and sugar.
They didn't speak for a long time, which was new for Felicity, who had always felt it was her job to fill in the silence, often with awkward rambling. But she could see that Tommy just needed silent support, he just needed to sit with somebody that knew Oliver and cared. There were probably more qualified people, but maybe they were grieving too much to offer him a shoulder to cry on, their own heads seeking out shoulders of their own. She could understand that. So she sipped at her coffee and she stared at a man she'd only ever seen smile and she told herself that, whatever happened, she would be there for Tommy. He had been a good friend to her, even if it was partly his fault she'd even given Oliver a second glance. He needed a friend, and she could be that for him. Besides, maybe she needed a little friendship herself.
It might have made her laugh, really. How ironic it was. She finally gave Oliver Queen a chance, thinking that this trip would be an opportunity for him to change for the better, only for that very trip to take him away completely.
She smiled sadly as she stared down into her coffee.
She always knew he'd break her heart.