All in a Day's Work

Synopsis: By 9:00 a.m., she had broken a heel, lost her cell phone, and been the victim of a coffee catastrophe. By 9:30 a.m. she had "borrowed" the NSA mainframe. By 10:00 a.m., she was engaged to Oliver Queen. Really, it was all in a day's work.

Rating: T, though later chapters may venture near/into M territory

Warnings: Very brief coarse language in this chapter.

Spoilers: Anything up through episode 2x6 "Keep Your Enemies Closer" is fair game.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Notes: Thank you so much for the lovely reviews! A big shout out goes to Aurora Abbot, Crimson-Kiss17, Terapsina, CamJ, DannyWMalfoy, cflat, Jen, quisinart4, souzap, amsr, Samantha-Chelsea, Hermosa06, lulu42, Fan of Show, ellieloves2read, SeCrEtSoPhIe, ButterflyBlueEyes, amerr, LiseDevi, Lei, Bunney, Ica013, mabscifiromantic, raven1066, KellethMetheus, VeraDeDiamant, carlotta1924, Jadiee, bo, Chris4, LianaRamsay, Madlenita, Aynessa, Laani26, Toomuchloveforthisworld, krazyy989, lovepadfoot, AnAverageGirl15, ChiefPam, and guest.

Regarding Isabel: Yes, it is absolutely wretched that right now she thinks Oliver cheated on Felicity. Hang in there with me, though. We'll see Ms. Rochev again and let's just say I'm a believer in happy endings.

Regarding the story's length: I'm looking at roughly 10 chapters, per my outline. Sometimes, though, the story takes a life of its own and I tend to get a bit too detail-oriented, so that number may change.

I know I was as slow as Christmas with getting this updated, but I really appreciate all of you for hanging in there with me. I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Part Three: "Like Pretty Woman Minus the Unsavory Prostitution"

She was nuts. Absolutely, certifiably insane. No, scratch that. Crazy people generally didn't know they were crazy. In her time as part of Team Arrow, that was one of the (many) things Felicity had picked up on, whether it was from dealing with Helena Bertinelli (hello daddy issues), Malcolm Merlyn (hello delusions of grandeur), or even the Dollmaker (hello fixation complex). That—and Starling City seemed to attract more than its share of strange ones.

So no, Felicity Smoak wasn't technically crazy, but she sure was a glutton for punishment. Simple as that. And not simple at all. Her latest self-imposed punishment? Playing Pretty Woman—minus the whole unsavory prostitution angle—for Oliver. Not that she was in any way, shape, or form comparing herself to Julia Roberts. That woman had legs that went for miles, the gorgeous hair, and that smile.

That's what he needed, a Julia Roberts type. She should call Oliver and tell him to find someone else. Surely there was a publicity-starved starlet out there who hoped to make the jump from the B-list to the A-list and who was far more qualified to pretend to be his fiancée. Yes, she should call him and beg off the whole ludicrous scheme, except she still couldn't find her phone. She had been so sure it was in her car or maybe in her apartment, except it wasn't. Her earlier search had proven pretty much a waste of time. In all the scurrying around after work trying to find her phone, clothes to wear to the hockey game, and even trying to catch a quick glimpse of her sanity, all she had managed to do was stub her toe from not watching where she was going and spill a half-full can of Dr. Pepper, which had been a beast to clean.

It was nerves. Anxiety. Butterflies in the stomach, which, when she stopped to think about it, was a gross thought, but she understood the fluttery sentiment. The increased adrenaline coupled with a lack of blood flow to the stomach triggered by a fight-or-flight response really did feel like butterflies—and she wanted to run, no doubt about it, outrun those butterflies, outrun Oliver. But now, this was more than butterflies in her stomach. This was full-on 'if you even mention the word date, I will throw up on you' worry. It would be so much easier if the inside of her head didn't feel like a Ninja blender. There was just too much stuff piled up and mixed in; she couldn't separate her lucid thoughts from the random ones.

And the whole thing was ridiculous. She hadn't been this nervous on a date ever—not even when she started dating Mr. Wrong (whom she thought was Mr. Right at the time), and this wasn't even a real date. She needed to toughen up. Who was she trying to impress? But this was Oliver, and in some ways, she had never been rational where he was concerned.

No. You're done, remember? Her silent chastisement did little to quell her mini freak-out.

Felicity tried to imagine what JoJo would say if she were there. JoJo's three most common pieces of advice were "Get a grip, Smoaky" (when she was in full-on panic mode); "Wear sexy shoes" (whenever a man was involved); and "Ditch the glasses" (pretty much every time they saw each other). In this instance, though, Felicity was quite certain JoJo's sage advice would be "Tell Oliver Queen to fuck off."

The thought brought the smallest smile to her lips. Not that she would ever say that to him. With her luck, she would mangle the expression and inadvertently turn the insult into an invitation. Pretty Woman, indeed.

This isn't for Oliver, she reminded herself as she found her tall boots. It's for the cause, the greater good. If Queen Consolidated gets taken over, Team Arrow will be seriously underfunded and undersupplied.

But if she were being completely honest, she would admit that there was no other man she would do this for, even if Oliver Queen had the propensity for royally pissing her off.

Great. You're thinking in puns, she scolded herself. Maybe she was crazy, after all.

The sound of a rapping on her apartment door startled her. She glanced at the clock on the wall. 6:55. She told Oliver she would meet him downstairs at 7:00, so that left….crap.

"No, no, no. Now is not a good time for a kitty missile crisis, Mrs. Havisham," Felicity muttered as she struggled to finish pulling on her right boot. Her elderly neighbor was an entirely different kind of crazy. Cat lady crazy. But she was harmless enough, probably lonely, so Felicity checked in on her from time to time and Mrs. Havisham called on Felicity to help gather a feline escapee at least once a week. The critters seemed to shoot out of the old woman's apartment like missiles. It usually went without too much incident (if she could wrangle Oliver, she could surely wrangle a cat), but there was the one rather unfortunate time that Felicity discovered cat scratch fever was a real ailment and not just a Ted Nugent hit from the 1970s. "On my way!" she said more loudly. She looked down at the left boot still in her hand, and groaned, before opening the door.

On the other side stood Oliver, dressed casually in jeans, a gray Henley shirt, and a leather jacket. He held a retail bag, its corded handle dangling loosely from his fingers. And she felt the fluttering in her stomach all over again, a release of adrenaline that felt like butterflies.

Stop it! It's not as though you haven't seen a handsome man before. This handsome man, even, wearing much, much less. But this just felt different, even though it shouldn't be different from any other fieldwork.

He studied her with a deliberate intensity that unnerved her further. "You shouldn't open the door without first checking who it is."

Well, hello to you, too.

"What are you doing here?" Felicity shifted from one foot to the other, made more awkward by the fact that she wore one boot and held the other in her hand.

"We have a date. Sort of."

She stepped aside, a movement he took as an invitation, so he walked into the abode. "Yes, but you're up here. I didn't actually think you would come up to my apartment yourself."

He took a deep breath, which Felicity noticed—mostly because she had become an expert Oliver reader—and she briefly wondered if the situation was as weird for him as it was for her.

"What kind of fiancé would I be if I didn't escort you to the car?" he replied glibly.

"That sounds so much nicer than you making sure I didn't climb out the fire escape."

"Never crossed my mind. As I recall, you don't like heights—or sweat."

Immediately, Felicity's thoughts leapt to Lian Yu. When she and Diggle went to find Oliver, she had the notion that getting him to return to Starling City would be like walking into a minefield—she just hadn't expected a literal one. Oliver saved her that day (she had lost count how many times that made…pretty adventurous for a girl from Chico), and the first words from her mouth when they landed after he swung from the tree weren't "thank you," like most people would say. Nope. She just had to tell him he was sweaty, as if that was news to him. The experience wasn't altogether unpleasant, though. There had been a moment—albeit brief—when he looked down at her, his body atop hers, and uttered, "Hi," in a tone that seemed incredibly intimate and sent a shiver through her, despite the heat. Of course, it could have seemed intimate because of their physical proximity to one another. In the grand scheme of things, being pinned to the ground by Oliver was not so bad. She tried to wipe the memory.

Felicity pulled on the other boot, balancing on one leg and hopping slightly. She thought she might topple into Oliver, but she quickly recovered. "I'm working on that."

"Looks like your closet exploded."

She looked sheepishly at the piles of clothes draped over her sofa, cast on the floor, even over the flat-screen TV tucked in the corner of the room. "It kind of did before you sent over the Rockets shirt. I'd offer you a drink, but I'm not sure I can actually find the kitchen right now." She exhaled loudly. "I hope I don't screw this up for you tonight."

"You're going to be fine. Your job is to just be yourself."

"You have met me, right?" Felicity considered herself a decent person, kind most of the time, and easy-going, but she was not particularly suave. On any given day, she suffered from foot-in-mouth disease. When she was little, her mom used to tell her that was her trade-off for being the smartest person in the room. Unfortunately, she then proceeded to repeat that at school, which didn't win her friends and only served as another prime example of open-mouth, insert foot.

"I don't want you to act like you're anything you aren't."

"Except for being your fiancée," she replied pointedly.

"There is that." He glanced down at the bag he carried. "I brought you something."

She gave him a sideways glance as he handed her the bag. "Should I be scared?"

His eyes shone with amusement. "This might qualify as a weapon."

She opened the bag to find a shoebox inside, familiar. These were her sexy shoes. Not the exact ones, she mentally corrected herself. The heels on these were fully intact. "Oh, these shoes are a weapon, all right." She looked at him, perplexed. "Thank you. And please don't take this the wrong way, but why?"

"I saw you had a mishap earlier."

"One of about half a dozen, but what else is new?" She paused and added, "You don't have to buy me things."

"They're just shoes."

"And I like them. I do, but it's not just the shoes."

"The clothes? You'd rather wear coffee all day?" He wasn't terse with her, exactly, but she could tell he didn't understand her reticence to accept gifts from him.

"Of course not."

"Then what's the problem?"

She opened her mouth to launch into an explanation, thought better of it, and left the matter at, "Never mind."

His eyes were taking in their surroundings, getting a better picture of what made her tick. The apartment was homage to brightness, light. The colorful walls—persimmon and turquoise—were unexpected. The sofa, from what could be seen, was a plush cream color. Photos and mementos, books and magazines covered nearly every surface that wasn't obscured by her clothes.

Felicity wasn't entirely sure she liked the scrutiny. Not that she had anything to hide, but this place seemed so separate from QC or the Arrow lair in the basement of Verdant. Having Oliver in her apartment felt like her worlds were colliding, and she wasn't entirely sure how to reconcile one with the other.

"When I imagined you coming over here, I didn't think it would look quite like this. The mess, I mean. Not that I've thought about you all that much. You being here. I mean, that would be ridiculous…" Oliver looked at her patiently waiting for her to work her way through her rambling. "Yeah. Um, back to the point of why it looks like this, I've never actually been to a hockey game, so I wasn't really sure what to wear."

"Casual." His lips quirked as he noticed the cocktail dress lying across the back of the couch in what he assumed was the reject pile.

Felicity looked down at her skinny jeans and calf-height boots she had paired with the fitted long-sleeved shirt selected for her. The v-neck dipped a little low for her taste. "Yeah, this gave me something to go on. Thanks for that." And it felt strange to thank him when only moments ago, she had been asking him not to buy her things.

"I tried to call."

She groaned. "Still haven't found my phone."

"Did you try to ping it?"

She shot him her best, 'You aren't really asking me that, are you?' look. Of course she had. Call it. Ping it. She had her tablet set up to alert her if anyone tried to use her phone, but with going to the hockey game, she wouldn't be around to monitor the activity. Fortunately, it was her personal phone and not a means to doing any Team Arrow work. Nevertheless, it bothered her as more than an inconvenience. She was always so careful with anything electronic. "It's fallen off the face of the earth."

"Or maybe we should look under your clothes." He paused for a heartbeat and tilted his head in the direction of her covered over sofa. "The piles." Seeing her gape slightly, he winked.

"Wow," she mouthed turning away from him. "What happened to Mr. Tall, Green, and Brooding?" She moved some clothing items aside to retrieve her jacket.

"Just warming up the Oliver Queen public persona for the crowd." His eyes swept over her. "By the way, you look really nice."

"Thanks. That's a step up from presentable. And you…clean up well." Understatement, she thought. For all the many, many hours they spent together, she sometimes still found herself almost stunned by him. Of course, if he were Oliver of yesteryear, she doubted she would find him attractive. He had been spoiled, oversexed, tabloid fodder. Physical appearance only went so far. Jack Sommet had taught her that lesson long ago.

He took the jacket from her and held it so she could more easily slide her arms in the worn leather sleeves. "Before we go, we should talk about boundaries." His hands lingered after he pulled the jacket up to her shoulders, though he caught himself, and quickly stepped back.

"Right."

"What we're doing has the potential to be complicated."

"Oh, I think the potential has been met." She still didn't know what she was going to do if news of their 'engagement' moved from their private social circle to public domain. She couldn't lie to her family, not about this, but she couldn't very well tell them the whole truth either.

"I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

"Too late," she squeaked.

"Having second thoughts?"

"More like third or fourth, but I told you I would help. I'm not bailing out. What were you saying about boundaries and my discomfort?"

"I don't want to cross any lines with you, so I need to know from you what I'm allowed to do when we're a public couple."

"What would you do with your girlfriends in public?"

He pursed his lips before truthfully answering, "I wasn't always a gentleman."

"Good news is that for Mr. McMartin's sake, you need to be. You've got to show him you aren't the same Oliver."

"If we're going to pull this off, we need to be convincing as a couple."

"See. That's what worries me. No one is going to believe that you would be engaged to me."

"Why would you think that?"

"Because you're one of People's 50 Most Eligible Bachelors and I'm nobody. Well, I'm not nobody. I'm Felicity Smoak from Chico, California. I don't ooze sex appeal. My family is respectable enough but not well connected." She watched his expression cloud and tried to explain. "Seriously, my parents' claim to fame is that their dog and Aaron Rodgers's parents' dog came from the same litter. I'm not an actress or model. And don't even get me started on my singing voice."

"Felicity?"

"Hmmm?"

"Assuming that I am completely superficial—which I haven't exactly given the press reason to think otherwise—have you looked in the mirror lately?"

Five minutes ago when she was fighting with her hair. She still wasn't quite sure whether she'd won the battle. It wasn't that she thought she was ugly, but she was neither polished nor va-va-va-voom. "I assume that's a rhetorical question."

"I think everyone you meet tonight is going to take one look at you and wonder what a beautiful, intelligent woman like you is doing with a guy like me."

Felicity shook her head. "You're airing out Public Oliver. Go ahead and get some more practice saying that with a straight face."

"I don't need practice. Public Oliver would have called you hot."

At that, she laughed, and nervously patted his shoulder as she joked. "Oh, I'm totally marrying you for the money. And the compliments."

"And I thought it was for the shoes." Without conscious thought, his hand went to hers, stilling her movement as their fingers tangled. "We never settled on boundaries."

The warmth of his hand and the quiet intensity of his gaze sent a tremor through her. This was the same hand that drew back his bow with deadly precision, the same hand that she'd seen clenched into a fist more times than she could count. And yet he was so tender with her now, she almost ached. Boundaries? Oh, yes. She needed boundaries. Desperately.

"Am I allowed to hold your hand in public?" he asked.

She nodded before articulating, "Yes." His thumb brushed across her palm. They weren't in public, but they were still linked. The feeling was both foreign and natural.

"Hug you?"

She swallowed hard. "Yes."

"Kiss you?" His words hung in the air, and it occurred to her that Oliver Queen had probably never had to ask permission to kiss a woman before.

She took a step back and gently tugged her hand from his grasp. She needed her wits about her, and if he stroked her hand any longer, it was entirely likely she was going to turn into a nonsensical mess, more so than usual. "A kiss…it means something to me. It's just too personal." Oh, God. Was she quoting Pretty Woman at him? Must've been the shoes. Oliver bought her shoes. And clothes. And a ridiculously expensive, several-years'-salary-for-her engagement ring for a marriage that wasn't even going to happen. Did the Edward character ever buy Vivian shoes? He must have because of the different outfits and the jewelry and…She cringed slightly. Would Oliver recognize the reference? "So, no. I'd rather you not kiss me on the lips for the benefit of putting on a show if it's avoidable."

He tilted his head ever so slightly as he considered her response. "Less complicated that way, too."

She let out a breath she hadn't even realized she been holding. They were actually going to do this. For all the panicking she'd been doing, it hadn't seemed real until now.

"Oliver, people are going to ask questions about us. How did we meet? Where did we go on our first date? How did you propose?"

"At work when I had trouble with my laptop. Let's see. Big Belly Burger to avoid detection. And when I proposed, I took you by surprise, but it's private." He rattled off the recitation with ease.

"I'll say you took me by surprise." She paused, "You do know people will think you proposed during sex, right? I mean, when you say it's private…private means, you know, private."

If she wanted a reaction, he didn't give it to her. "You ready for this?"

"Ready or not." She grabbed a small purse and the two headed out the door. While she was locking the apartment, she heard the door from the apartment next to her open.

"Hi, Mrs. Havisham," Felicity greeted.

The gray-haired woman studied Oliver and then looked to the blonde. "Who's this, Felicity?"

"This is my…Oliver." Not a tough question to answer, but already she was faltering. Why couldn't she say the word fiancé? That's what they were going to be telling certain people, after all. Nevertheless, she couldn't quite choke out the lie.

"Have I met you before?" the old woman asked, looking back at him admiringly.

"I don't believe so. I must have one of those faces," Oliver replied cordially.

"Very handsome. Don't trust a man who is too handsome for his own good, dear," she directed at Felicity. "No offense intended," she added looking back at Oliver.

"I trust Oliver with my life," Felicity replied simply.

"Did you see Mr. Whiskers out here?" Mrs. Havisham asked, abruptly changing the subject.

"No, we've been inside the apartment."

"Oh my. Well. I hope he hasn't wandered from home and gotten lost," she replied rather pitifully.

"We're on our way out, but I'll keep an eye out for him," Felicity assured her.

Once the couple made their way to the stairs, Oliver commented, "Havisham. That sounds familiar."

"Great Expectations. Dickens. Ms. Havisham was jilted by her fiancé and never recovered. She wore her wedding gown from the day of her ill-fated wedding until it caught fire many years later. She groomed her young ward, Estella, to be cold-hearted and inflict the same kind of pain on a man as had been inflicted on her. Quite twisted."

"Right. I remember now. Gwyneth Paltrow was hot in that movie."

"I've not seen the movie," Felicity replied as they turned the corner and took another flight.

They reached the front door to the building, and Oliver pulled it open for her. Ever the gentleman, unless she was a pre-island girlfriend, she added mentally.

"I'm parked out front."

Sure enough, Felicity spotted the Mercedes SL-Roadster right away parallel parked along the sidewalk. She had never seen this particular vehicle before; Oliver usually either had his motorcycle or else Digg drove him to keep up their covers.

The soft top was up on the convertible; it was definitely not the right time of the year for driving top-down with careless abandon, but the car was stylish, nonetheless, and probably the most expensive vehicle she had ever seen parked in front of her apartment building. While she didn't live in the Glades, the Penbrelle area of Starling City wasn't exactly affluent either.

Oliver walked to the passenger side to open the door for her when Felicity heard a meow. She looked around but saw no sign of the feline. Oliver must have heard it, too, for he immediately scoured the area.

"Mr. Whiskers," Felicity called out. She had never been to a hockey game—and at this rate, she never was going to get there. But there was something so pitiful about both the plaintive meow and Mrs. Havisham's worry that wouldn't let Felicity ignore the situation.

Meow.

"Up in the tree," Oliver pointed.

Felicity went to the base and looked up. Definitely Mr. Whiskers. "What are you doing up there?" Talking to animals was a habit of hers, though at least she wasn't crazy enough to expect an actual response. Yet.

Oliver was by her side almost immediately, assessing the situation. "He climbed up. He'll climb back down."

"But the building is closed. He could wander around, looking for home, and never find it."

Oliver looked from her to the cat. Without another word, he began to climb the tree after the feline.

"What are you doing?" she practically yelped. "What if somebody sees you up there?"

"I spent five years on an island. Surely I can climb a tree without people being suspicious," he replied as he shimmied along the branch that held the cat. Stretching his long frame, he grabbed the cat by the scruff of its neck to dislodge it from the branch.

"Be careful," Felicity warned.

"I'll be fine," he dismissed.

"I meant with the cat," she elucidated.

When he was low enough to the ground, Felicity took Mr. Whiskers from him and soothed the frightened cat. She was really more of a dog person. But still.

She heard Oliver drop to the concrete sidewalk, along with a rip.

He stood, reached behind himself, and squeezed his eyes shut. "Dammit."

"Did you just do what I think you did?"

"You have any extra pants up there I can wear?"

"If you can fit into my pants, I will kill myself. Okay, not really."

"Glad you clarified that. I was worried," he replied crossly.

"Somebody's in a bad mood. Really, Oliver, you have no sense of humor."

"I do. Feeling a draft on my ass just isn't funny."

"Yes," she replied trying her best to suppress a laugh but failing miserably, "it is. I thought this type of thing only happened to me. I will be right back, and then we'll go somewhere and get you some less…drafty…pants," she promised him and hurried back into the building with the animal.


Oliver was grateful for the hidden back entrance he'd installed at the foundry some time ago. Otherwise, he'd be walking through Verdant to get to the lair—and he was pretty certain his ripped jeans would've been on TMZ. Not that he was particularly inhibited when it came to his body, but perception mattered. The CEO of Queen Industries should not be appearing on TMZ or other gossip sites.

A few years ago, he hadn't given pissing on a cop's tires a second thought, until his ass was hauled to jail. Even then, it was an inconvenience for him and embarrassment for his family, but the incident had barely fazed him. That Oliver probably would've taken off the jeans and just gone around in boxers the whole night, encouraging others to strip down with him.

That Oliver was long gone—and he couldn't help but think 'good riddance.' But he also knew the man who returned had his own demons, his own shortcomings. Same recipe, different flavor.

Of course, he could have used Felicity to cover his backside. Literally. Bodies tended to be close in Verdant; if she had her arms wrapped around his waist from behind, molded to him, following him through the crowd, no one would've been the wiser.

The thought was oddly appealing. The one thing Oliver had always been able to appreciate was the female form, and Felicity was certainly formed…

Snap out it. Keep this simple. Keep this clean.

Felicity was right. He did need to lighten up. He used to be able to laugh at himself. Hell, he used to just be able to laugh. But half the time he didn't know if he was coming or going, everyone wanted something from him, and what he could give was never enough.

"It takes time," Felicity had told him one day after a particularly brutal board meeting. "But you have good ideas, Oliver. You're more than just a pretty face." She had seemed to catch what she said and stammered, "Not that I think you're pretty. Handsome. Manly. That's more like it. But you're more than what they see."

He still wasn't sure why she believed in him when, as far as he could tell, he had given her every reason not to believe in him.

Truth was, he had never wanted to be CEO. As a young man, the very thought was so far beyond the realms of possibility. As far as he was concerned, his dad was going to live forever. But with the Queen name in the mud, or at the very least, at the dry cleaner's, he had no choice but to try to be the man his father thought he could be.

And he didn't feel equipped. Smiling was mechanical. Social niceties seemed so frivolous. But in order to do what mattered—what could make a difference—he had to tolerate the dog and pony show.

503. Tommy. That was on him. His failures. He couldn't lose QC, too, lose the means to make amends for his transgressions.

Punching in the code to the basement, Oliver unlocked the heavy doors. Diggle sat in front of Felicity's beloved trio of monitors; the burly man's eyes followed Oliver as he walked by to retrieve another pair of jeans.

"What happened to you?"

"Came to the rescue of a cat."

"Must've been some cat," Diggle replied dryly. "You really going through with this?" His tone left little doubt as to his feelings. They had already been through this once. While Oliver respected Digg and trusted him with his life, there were things the other man just couldn't understand.

"Yes."

"It's selfish."

"I passed selfish a long time ago. I think I've reached egocentric by now. She says she can handle it."

John shook his head and shifted in the chair. It creaked under his weight. "Her world's about to blow up, and I don't think she even knows it, but you—you know better."

Oliver pulled on the intact jeans. "I'll do everything I can to protect her."

"Felicity's not the only thing that needs your protection. Have you thought about how your little arrangement is going to change things around here?"

"We'll do what we've always done," Oliver replied simply.

"Except all eyes will be on the two of you, every step of the way."

"I'm used to the limelight and dodging unwanted attention. Besides, this is only temporary. Felicity knows that."

"You say Felicity does, but do you?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You tell me. You two have been circling around each other for months."

"We…haven't."

"She gets close, you push her away. Probably for the best. But then you pull her to you again. She deserves better than that."

"She deserves better than me," Oliver replied. "And when this is over, that's what she'll have."

"You're missing the big picture."

"No, I'm seeing the big picture. If I lose my company, we lose this," Oliver replied looking around them. "And if we lose this, we lose the city. And if we lose our city, then what's the point?"


"So I'm a hockey virgin," Felicity blurted when Oliver returned to the car.

Oliver coughed slightly at her word choice and looked across to the passenger side of the vehicle.

"I've never watched hockey. And by never, I mean, never ever. I mean I've heard the jokes about going to a fight and a hockey game breaking out. You didn't exactly give me time to study up on it. I was going to Bing it while you were inside getting…coverage…but then I remembered I don't have my phone."

The line between his brows deepened. If she didn't find her phone by tomorrow, they were going to need to get her another one. He didn't like the thought of her being out of reach.

"Hockey is easy to pick up on," he replied.

"But see, there are like, three things that terrify me. Well, more than that, but we don't have all night for me to get to the point. Peanuts for obvious reasons. Ventriloquist dummies, specifically ventriloquist dummies that give wet willies. And not knowing what the heck is going on."

Despite his sour mood, he couldn't help the smile that crept up on him. He never knew what she was going to say. Felicity was baffling and endearing and refreshing, even if he was fairly certain she was about to have a freak-out.

"You're afraid of ventriloquist dummies that give wet willies?" he asked incredulously. Of all the truly terrible things she had witnessed—things he had introduced into her life—that was what frightened her? "There's no such thing."

"Look, there are some really creepy movies that come on late at night and I have a really vivid imagination." She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head slightly. "But that's not the point. I'm supposed to help you, right?"

"Stop over thinking."

"Come again?"

"I will teach you about hockey. I played when I was a kid."

"Really?"

"Surprised?"

Actually, she was. From everything she had heard of the pre-island Oliver, he seemed too prissy to be a participant in a contact sport. Not that she would ever say that aloud. At least, she hoped she wouldn't. Foot-in-mouth disease. Focus. "I thought hockey players didn't have teeth, like that was a pre-requisite for playing, or something. You know. Play hockey, lose your teeth."

"And amazingly, last time I checked, I have teeth." He pressed the ignition switch, and the engine of the roadster roared to life.

"You have a really nice smile, Oliver. It's a shame you don't show it more often."

Oliver chanced a glance at his companion, but her head was turned toward the passenger side window, and her blonde hair cascaded in waves to partially obscure her profile.

What was she thinking? He imagined she was running through what they were about to do, stressing over minutiae. Remembering names. Avoiding inadvertent insults. As far as he was concerned, Felicity didn't have anything to worry about. She was going to endear herself to everyone she met, just by being herself.

He, on the other hand, could never be himself.

But if there were anyone he would want to be himself with, it would be her.

Diggs was right.

He was selfish.


To be continued...

And yes, in the next chapter we will actually make it to the hockey game and see Felicity and Oliver's first attempt at "coupledom."