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Educating Oliver

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Felicity sighed as she pulled the bag of popcorn from the microwave and dumped it into a bowl. She then proceeded to pour melted butter over the kernels and shake more salt than was healthy on top of it. Grabbing the bowl and a soda she headed into the living room, settling down on the couch and flipping on the TV. After five minutes of searching, she realized nothing was capturing her attention. Which meant it was time to break out the DVR and try and catch up on the shows she'd missed over the past few months. She paused to consider the fact that she hadn't watched TV, at least for fun, since before the earthquake.

It hadn't been an easy three months. In fact, if asked, she'd probably say they'd been some of the most difficult of her life. But at the same time, more rewarding than she'd ever hoped. And a large part of that was due to two of the most important men in her life.

She smiled as her mind recalled many of the moments over the past months when John had made her laugh, easing tensions that grew from a feeling of hopelessness. He seemed to always have the right word, a strong hug, or the means to calm her down when their boss had managed to stress her out more than normal. He and Carly had finally started dating in the wake of the earthquake and naturally that made John happier than she'd seen him in ages. He was still determined to find and kill Floyd Lawton, but he'd agreed to put that on the back burner until Oliver figured things out with his company and his alter-ego. She was extremely glad for this as she didn't know how she would have made it through the aftermath of the earthquake without him. She was pretty sure Oliver felt the same way, although she was also pretty sure he'd never outright admit it.

Which brought her thoughts back to the person she'd been trying not to think about for the past few hours. If she were honest, she'd been trying not to think of him since the day she'd first looked up to meet his intense gaze as he delivered her a bullet ridden computer along with a very lame explanation.

Oliver hadn't had an easy few months either. The guilt of not stopping Malcolm Merlyn's earthquake machines weighed heavily on him, even though she'd told him countless times that he, that none of them, could have anticipated a second device. As penance, he'd dedicated himself to working even harder to restore the Glades, putting the weight of Queen Consolidated behind it.

The one light in the darkness, was that Oliver had managed to save Tommy. It had been close and for a moment, he'd thought he'd lost his best friend, but quick thinking from a just arrived Digg and the luck of a pair of paramedics being nearby had Tommy out from under the rubble and headed for the hospital within minutes of his heart stopping. He'd crashed several more times on the way but the doctors had managed to save him. She didn't want to think about what might have happened if Oliver had lost someone else close to him.

But even saving Tommy hadn't been enough to bring him out of his funk of guilt and depression. The public needed a scapegoat and the Queen family had been the quickest and easiest one. With Moira in jail, awaiting trial, it had fallen to Oliver and Thea to deal with the brunt of the situation. Walter was doing what he could to deal with the international aspects of the situation from London, but hadn't wanted to return to Starling City where the memories of Moira's betrayal were still too fresh. The siblings had put on a united front, although Oliver had Thea dealing more with Verdant's reconstruction, in hopes of keeping her away from the worst of the backlash. It hadn't been a picnic for Tommy either, who'd been fighting, albeit from a hospital bed, to separate himself from his father's plans, but public opinion seemed to favor him as more of the unintended victim of his father's deadly obsession.

Which meant Oliver, as acting CEO, was now the target of intense scrutiny, revenge plots, lawsuits and a host of other legal issues that the QC lawyers were working through. The sheer amount of work saving his family business entailed also meant he'd had to curb his late night activities. Digg was acting as strictly a body guard as Oliver had told them both that right now, Oliver Queen was needed more than the Hood.

However, she'd really begun to wonder about that, as without the Hood, the Glades had become a hotbed of looting, thievery and murder in the wake of its destruction. The police were barely able to handle it, and to her surprise, she'd even been asked several times by Detective Lance if she could put in a word with the Hood to get him to help out. That moment had made her realize how bad things really were. If the Hood's main adversary wanted his help, Armageddon must be near.

Oliver had acknowledged her point when she'd made it, including mentioning Lance's request, but said it would have to wait as he had to save his family's company first, if for no other reason than it provided the resources needed to make the Hood's nightly activities possible. That time, she admitted he had a point, but told him he'd better figure something out fast or the Glades would be overrun with crime and much harder to restore, even with all the money in the world.

Which brought her back to the present and her current situation. She still had her job in IT, in fact, she was busier than ever trying to restore the communication structure in the Glades. Queen Consolidated had donated a huge amount of money to restore phone, Internet and other lines of communication and Felicity somehow had ended up taking the lead on the project.

Not that she wasn't thrilled Oliver thought enough of her to ask her to do it, but spending so much time in the Glades, seeing firsthand the devastation and aftermath also served to show her that the situation was getting worse. And to be honest, she missed Team Arrow and their dual lives. But, she couldn't change Oliver's mind. Not that she'd ever been able to, but it was nice to think that maybe someday he'd listen.

Because despite everything, the two of them had become even closer in the aftermath of the disaster. In those initial days, when Tommy was clinging to life, Laurel by his side, Digg hospitalized with a dislocated shoulder and broken leg, it had been Oliver and Felicity who leaned on each other. They'd spent countless nights sitting in silence, Felicity waiting until Oliver was ready to speak. To her surprise, he'd only broken down once, and to her knowledge, only in front of her. It had been a defining moment in their friendship as she knew he completely trusted her if he was allowing her to see him so weak. She'd simply held him and said nothing, the brush of her hand through his close-cropped hair saying more than any words she could come up with.

As the days had passed, she'd seen the worst of the depression lift although the guilt remained. Still, she'd treasured those moments when he'd simply seek her out, training hard and long behind her as she worked her magic on the computers. He might not be going out and fighting crime as the Hood, but she knew he treasured those moments of quiet in the basement of Verdant after a day dealing with the cutthroat world of corporate America. But it did nothing to curb the feelings she had for him. Feelings that she was pretty sure by now had turned into full-fledged, undeniable love. Feelings that she knew were not shared.

Because he was still seeing Laurel. Beautiful Laurel, gorgeous Laurel. Laurel who'd stayed with him despite Tommy's injury and declaration of love amid the rubble. Why, she had no clue. And the pain she saw on Tommy's face whenever they were together, reflected exactly how she felt inside, but hopefully had done a better job of hiding.

She felt her heart ache as she realized that Oliver would never see her as more than a trusted friend, a sidekick IT girl who could get him whatever he needed, whenever he needed it. A friend he trusted with his life and his secrets, but not with his heart.

She supposed there were worse situations to be in. After all, she did know a side of him Laurel never would. And having Oliver's trust was nothing to be scoffed at. Plus, having him as a friend (albeit a friend who liked to work out half naked in her presence) was more than most people could say about Starling City's former playboy billionaire.

But it didn't help the fact that she wanted more. She wanted a lot more. She wanted it all.

But, in the end, she was a practical girl and she knew that the geeky IT girl never got the handsome prince…unless it was a fairy tale. And she'd given up believing in fairy tales a long time ago.

But she needed him. His brooding, his warmth, his smile, his loyalty, everything that made him the Oliver she'd had the privilege (and frustration) of getting to know in the past year. So, she'd go on being his best friend, his girl Friday, and on some days his sanity, if it meant keeping him in her life in some way. Because now that she'd become a part of Oliver's life, she wasn't sure she would know how to exist outside of it. If she was feeling charitable, she might say that she wasn't sure Oliver could exist without her in his life either.

But she really wasn't feeling charitable tonight. Especially since he was attending a fundraiser with Laurel on his arm. Despite the problems the Queen family was facing, it was amazing how many parties and events he was still invited to. And Laurel always accompanied him. They really did make a dazzling couple, and made the gossip pages regularly. And Oliver seemed to love her, in his own way. A strange way, she did admit, but she didn't doubt it. Laurel had always been the light at the end of his tunnel, what kept him alive on the island. She supposed she'd just have to accept it, and her place in his life. But she didn't have to like it.

Thankfully, she hadn't had to deal much with the brunette as the lawyer had been on a crusade of her own to represent what seemed like half the population of the 'd met several times, inevitable really with her work restoring the Glades infrastructure and her position at QC. Laurel was aware she worked with Oliver and that they were friends, but while polite, seemed happier to avoid her when possible. The feeling was mutual.

In this way, she supposed she'd been luckier than Tommy. Even as he recovered, and tried to sort out things with Merlyn Global, he had to interact with Oliver. Which meant interacting with Laurel. It was just plain awkward all around, and after witnessing one tense encounter between the three of them, she'd realized it was better if she just avoided them altogether. Since she and Laurel moved in completely different circles, it hadn't been hard.

Still, the question she now faced was how did she adapt to being only a 'best friend' to the man she loved? She'd been doing good so far, but some days, days like today, she felt so worn down and hopeless, that she wondered if she could keep this up. Wondered how long she could contain, much less mask her growing feelings.

If she were smart, she'd walk away. Get as far from Oliver and Starling City as possible. Start over, somewhere fresh, as someone new perhaps. And she was smart, no one denied that. But she didn't think she was smart enough, nor strong enough to walk away from the life she'd made, the work she'd done and was doing. She didn't think she was smart enough to walk away from the one man who'd stirred up more emotions, more feelings, more life in her than anyone else she'd ever known.

She brushed away a tear as the melancholy thoughts brought her back to the present. Taking a deep breath, she gave herself a quick pep talk, reminding herself that she was young, attractive, and should be capable of finding someone to fill the Oliver shaped void in her romantic life. If, that was, she had time to think about dating. Which hadn't happened much since she'd found the Hood bleeding and bruised in her backseat. Still, didn't she owe it to herself to try?

The mind it seemed was willing, the heart not so much, as the thought of being with anyone other than Oliver made her heart ache.

But she couldn't do much about that now. In fact, the only course available to her it seemed on this Saturday night, was to curl up with a man who could never disappoint her. No matter which of his eleven faces he was wearing. With a sigh, she punched up the DVR and settled back to see what the Doctor and his companion were getting into now.

Twenty minutes later she was biting her lip, a pillow clutched to her chest as she watched the Weeping Angels move closer, fighting the urge to yell "DON'T BLINK!" at the screen as loud as she could, when the knock came at her door. She jumped, the sound loud despite the noise from the TV. Her heart racing, she brought her body under control, pausing the DVR before moving towards the door, wondering who it could be at, she checked the clock, almost midnight. The only person that would dare appear this late was otherwise occupied with a beautiful brunette and high society. And chances are he'd use the fire escape.

Which was why she couldn't hide her startled gasp when she opened the door to find herself staring into the eyes she'd been trying to forget all night.