Setting: Arrowverse: Post 2x14 AU in the Arrowverse. Flashverse: First season 1x8. Marvelverse: About a year post Avengers and the end of CA: The First Avenger. This chapter is pre-CA: TWS.
I do not own these characters or properties nor do I profit from this work. All rights, all characters and any and all quotes are owned by or attributed to DC and Marvel, respectively.
If anyone has ideas or thoughts on any part of this (including suggestions or complaints), feel free to contact me. Thanks! Reviews are love!
See the of the chapter for more notes.
Song Title: The Lady in Red - Xavier Cugat (1938)
Chapter One: The Lady in Red
By the time Felicity Smoak was three tables into the speed dating event, she almost wished Oliver would show up with a full quiver of arrows and a grudge.
One arrow for Jake, who lost no time telling her he had nine inches of best ever if she was interested. One arrow for Todd, who leered down the front of her cherry red cocktail dress and asked her if she felt as good as she looked. Two arrows for Trey, who laughed when she told him she was an IT specialist and said the only place women had around computers was onscreen in porn.
Just then, Trey leaned over the tiny table until he was almost nose to nose with her, his humid breath blasting her with the reek of cheap Scotch.
"You know, I love watching hot blondes wearing red lipstick give blow jobs."
Make that three arrows for Trey, Felicity decided. She knew where she wanted Oliver to stick them, too.
Under cover of the tablecloth, clammy fingers crawled up her bare knee. The last of Felicity's patience evaporated. Smile frozen in place, she placed the tip of her stiletto heel into the top of Trey's shoe and slowly ground the point down into his foot. Her mother had taught Felicity that trick years ago, one cocktail waitresses used to discourage overly grabby drunks. She'd never used it before now, but it worked as well as her mother claimed. Trey's bloodshot eyes bugged as the pain penetrated through the booze. Swearing, he yanked his hand away and pulled back from her. The sight filled Felicity with an unexpected sense of satisfaction. Hanging around vigilantes with a taste for pointy objects was rubbing off on her more than she'd thought.
Grabbing her handbag and her glass of wine, she shoved her chair back and stood. The bell to change tables hadn't rung, but if Darth Mauler could manage to be that offensive inside of three minutes, she wasn't going to give him another two.
"I hope you've got a video saved. Watching it on your computer is about as close as you're going to get. Ever," she snapped, glaring at him. "I need some air."
The nearest refuge was an alcove by the emergency exit. Felicity threaded her way to it through the maze of tables, the back of her neck prickling from the not-so-covert stares from the nearby tables. Out of sight, she collapsed against the nearest wall, closed her eyes and concentrated on taking deep, cleansing breaths. The thick stucco muted but couldn't block the racket of a roomful of competing, half-shouted conversations. A knot of stress between her eyes throbbed in counterpoint to the rise and fall of noise.
I want out, she thought. Now.
Desperate as she was, she felt a twinge of guilt. The event coordinator had specifically told people not to leave early because it would make the numbers uneven and mess up things for everyone else. Just because she was having a lousy time didn't mean anyone else was. Besides, she did have a deal with Iris and Barry, after all. She'd stick it out and make a good faith effort to make a connection at this thing, and Team Flash would stop trying to hook her up with every cheeseball in a costume who came by the Cortex. Since Dr. Wells and Barry had begun consulting for S.H.I.E.L.D., there'd been more than a few of those dropping by S.T.A.R. Labs to help round up rogue metahumans and add them to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Index.
I made a good faith effort, though, she argued with her conscience. She'd dressed to kill, let her hair down, lost the glasses and brought her best attitude. Felicity Smoak, manhunter, that was her. After that string of strikeouts, nobody could fault her for giving up and trying another time. And maybe it was bad etiquette to leave someone else short of a partner, but she was pretty sure Emily Post wouldn't be down with maiming people, either.
She peeked around the corner. Only one exit out of the lounge that she could see, and the event coordinator stood guard over it in her black Chanel suit and killer heels like a fashionista turned prison warden who'd gotten a tip about an inmate uprising. No way was she getting past that without help. Maybe she could grab a teaspoon and Shawshank her way out of the place. Or -
Wait. The exit door. Felicity eyed the fire alarm on the handle. She had her tablet. She could hack the bar's security system in her sleep. If she turned off the alarms for a few minutes, she could escape without anyone noticing until it was too late.
But where would she go if she did leave?
She let her head thump back against the cool plaster and sighed. Home was out. She'd spent every free minute over the weekend watching SyFy's zombie movie marathon. Any more time there, and she'd take root and become a actual couch potato. The Arrowcave wasn't an option, either. Roy was on patrol and Dig was taking a night off with Lyla, so she'd be alone with Oliver and Sara until they left for Moira Queen's campaign fundraiser. The thought of a second go-round with Trey was almost appealing in comparison. She liked them a lot more than Trey, of course, but -
She knew what Dig would do and say if he could read her mind now. He'd get that sympathetic, oh-so-wise big brother look of his, squeeze her shoulder and say, I know. It's difficult for you to see them together, isn't it?
No, it's not. I'm not jealous, she told both herself and Dig. I'm not jealous. It's just - awkward.
Since Oliver had taken on the mantle of Someone Else's Boyfriend, everything about the team dynamic had changed, and not for the better as far as she was concerned. Without Dig or even Roy around, Oliver and Sara became too absorbed in each other and whatever they were doing to notice she was there. They were friendly, especially Sara, but sufficient unto themselves. Since they discussed things to which she couldn't relate, her own attempts to join in fell flat, though none as bad as the time she'd tried when the rest of the team had been comparing scars.
On top of that, although the two never exchanged more than brief kisses in front of her, there were times she had the uncomfortable feeling that her presence was the only thing keeping them from doing more. She felt like a third wheel, not the irreplaceable part of the team Dig claimed she was, and the situation was shooting more holes in her confidence than one of Oliver's targets after a practice session.
She cut off the train of thought, an all too familiar ache tightening in her chest, like a muscle strain that wouldn't ease. She'd let Oliver Queen and her work for the team take over her life, that was the problem. She'd depended upon Oliver to reassure her that she had a place she was needed, people who cared. That had to change. Everyone else on the team had a life of their own outside the Arrowcave. She'd had one before Oliver had come along with his bullet-ridden laptop, even if it had been a lonelier one than she would have preferred. She needed to get her life back. Look forward and move on. That had always been her motto, right?
And that was why she'd let them talk her into this, wasn't it? Not only to end the well-meant matchmaking, but because this was a good kickstart. The house odds were still in her favor. Statistically speaking, given the size of the candidate pool, there had to be one decent guy in the bunch who'd interest her. A good guy whose job description didn't include 'masked vigilante', 'taking crazy risks' or 'occasionally being mostly dead'. Most of all, a nice, normal guy who wanted to be with her and wouldn't feed her a well-meant line like because of the life I lead before walking off with someone considerably more kickass than she was.
It was a good plan. All she had to do was go out there and find him, and not let three jerks stop her.
The bell clanged. Turning her back to the exit door to ward off temptation, Felicity pulled her phone from her purse and used her mirror app to touch up her usual bright lipstick. Victory Red tonight, the bravest, boldest, no-holds-barred retro shade she owned. She'd take all the confidence boosters she could get.
Tightening her grip on her handbag, she made her way to the next table. A few steps shy of her goal, her new match's previous date barrelled into her hard enough to rock her back onto her stilettos. As she grabbed for the back of a chair to steady herself, Felicity found herself facing a rail-thin woman with striped green hair and a small galaxy of piercings glittering on her ears, nose, eyebrows and lips, the last pressed together in disdain. Jerking her head towards the table she'd left, she stuck out her tongue, which was tattooed like green lizard hide, slit back an inch and decorated with a stud on each point. Felicity tried not to wince. The hair wasn't bad and she was all for self-expression, but that looked painful.
"Good luck with Dull and Boring," the woman told Felicity, not bothering to lower her voice.
The woman's rudeness knocked the breath out of Felicity and popped her mouth open in shock and outrage. By the time she'd hauled her mouth closed and recovered, Green Hair had pushed her way into the milling crowd and out of earshot. Felicity glared after her. Of course. One of the few times she didn't have to care if her brain to mouth filter worked, and there was nothing to be filtered.
The man Green Hair had left stood politely beside his table, though he was staring at the side door as if he wanted to escape as much as she did. If Green Hair was a sample of what he'd been drawing in the Loser Lottery tonight, she didn't blame him a bit.
But he'd been courteous enough to stand when his previous date left the table, no matter how rude she'd been to him. That impressed Felicity. He was also the only man in a suit, another plus. Par for the course for laid-back Starling City, the rest of the men had chosen to re-interpret the 'semi-formal' direction on the invitation to mean 'don't wear flannel and hiking boots' and the women had stuck with jeans. As a result, she'd felt overdressed and conspicuous all night.
When she thought of the contrast he made to Trey, though, she had to press her lips together to seal in a giggle, lest he think she was laughing at him. Talk about culture shock. From Blowjob McKenzie to Sir Galahad in three minutes. Only in speed dating.
He turned his head towards her and his eyes widened for a second as the rest of his face went still. Then he shook his head slightly, took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, his jaw settling into the stubborn line of a man who'd decided to face a firing squad without a blindfold and was determined not to blink when he did it.
"May I get your chair, ma'am? I wouldn't normally stop to ask, but I offended the first lady I met tonight by doing that."
Poor guy. And she'd thought she'd been dealt some bad hands tonight. Felicity infused her smile with all the warmth she could muster.
"You're not offending me at all. That would be great, thanks." She juggled her half-full glass of merlot and her handbag until she could offer her hand to him. "I'm Felicity. Felicity Smoak."
He exhaled slowly, as if someone had come running in with a last minute pardon as the rifles were being cocked, his bleak expression relaxing into a slight, almost shy smile. Her hand disappeared in his, which was callused, warm and solid with muscle. Not unlike Oliver's, actually. She wondered what he did for a living.
"Steve Rogers." He shook her hand gingerly, as if afraid of squeezing it too hard.
"Nice to meet you," she said automatically, biting her tongue to keep from adding, At least until you come out with my next dating horror story of the night. But maybe he wouldn't. He already had more potential than the Terrible Trio combined.
As he seated her, she took the opportunity for a quick once-over. Square, open face, the type that got labeled honest. Direct blue eyes. Short, dark blond hair with a stray lock partly falling over his forehead, the kind she'd bet would eventually rebel no matter what he did to try to tame it. And hello, shoulders. Maybe not quite the spread Dig had - it was hard to tell in a suit, well-tailored though it was - but easily bigger than Oliver. Overall, clean-cut boy next door, the polar opposite of Oliver's brooding, bad boy style. Fine by her, especially now.
Quickly, she took a sip of wine to cover her inspection and put her handbag on the table, careful to avoid the puddle of condensation around his all but untouched bottle of beer. He did a double take of his own, glancing at her mouth, then looking away, two small creases etched between his brows.
"So," she said brightly, "Who dragged you into this?"
His attention snapped back to her and a half-smile erased the slight frown. "That obvious, huh?"
"Don't take this the wrong way, but I got the feeling you were casing the exits, too."
"Guilty as charged." His rueful laugh sounded rusty, as if it wasn't something he did often. "My friend Nat set me up. Said it was this or I was going to get fixed up on a blind date. Given most of the people she knows, I figured I'd take my chances here. How about you?"
Felicity blinked. The laughter transformed him, banishing the shadow and strain underscoring his face. She'd guessed he was older than Oliver, maybe a few years on the dark side of thirty, but he couldn't be much older than she was.
A half-beat later, she realized he was waiting for her answer and that she'd been staring. She took another sip of wine to cover her lapse, then grew even more flustered when she noticed him glance again at her lips.
"Some friends of mine, Iris and Barry, suggested it. Well, nagged me into it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised Barry thought this was a good idea, since he's all into speed anymore. I don't mean like the drug, speed, he's just. Well. Fast. With everything. Not," she added hastily, "that I meant everything, everything. I mean, yes, I dated him a couple of times, but never really dated, dated, you know, that didn't work out, so I don't know about everything, everything." She grimaced. Great. If he wasn't running for the exits before, he would if she kept this up. "Three...two...one. I'm sorry. I don't mean for things to come out that way. And are you...blushing?"
Steve averted his eyes for a moment, eyebrows raised slightly and his lips pressed into in a slight curve that wasn't quite a smile. Felicity didn't know if he was suppressing laughter, embarrassment or both.
"No, I'm fine." The small curve grew to a real smile as he looked back at her with humor and a touch of sympathy. "Don't worry. At least you're not trying to embarrass me on purpose the way To- the way some people do."
He wasn't making a mad, panicked rush for the door. That was something. She sighed in relief, then remembered why she'd been flustered in the first place. "Speaking of embarrassed...do I have something on my face?"
"Oh. No offense, but you keep kind of looking at my mouth. I thought maybe I had some spinach stuck between my teeth or something. I mean, I checked and did the breath mint thing before this started, but that would be my luck."
"Oh, no. You look great. Really pretty." But his smile vanished like a blown-out candle. "I was noticing your lipstick. Not a lot of women wear it like that now. A beautiful da—uh, woman in red and that lipstick... it reminded me of someone I used to know."
The lines of his face were stark and shadowed again. This time, though, she thought she could put a name to the shadow: sorrow.
"I'm so sorry," she said, wishing she had something more to offer.
"Not your fault." He smiled once more, but this one was a practiced, pleasant reflex, a utility expression worn thin from overuse.
Felicity searched for something to say, something positive; time had to be getting short and she didn't want to end on that note. Before she could come up with anything, the bell rang.
She sighed, trying not to be annoyed. "I guess that's my cue."
He stood when she did, and shook her hand once more when she offered it. The contact lasted a little longer this time. She was sorry when it ended.
"Glad I got to talk to you, Felicity Smoak," he said.
Something about how he said it reminded her of Oliver telling her she was remarkable. Oddly, the memory didn't bother her now.
"I'm glad you're glad, Steve Rogers," she said, pleased when she won a chuckle from him.
She turned to walk away, but slowed to a halt as a cold grip of certainty tightened inside of her. She didn't know how he'd manage it, but she was sure he was going to leave, and if he did, she'd never see him again. And that, she thought, would be a shame.
Growing up, she'd spent countless hours in the back of bars and casinos in Las Vegas, waiting for her mother to get off work. She'd learned early the best way to stay safe was to watch people and to trust her intuition about them. What she sensed from Steve was very much like the impressions she'd gotten from Barry and Dig when she'd first met them. Good. Honorable. A strength of character she could see almost as clearly as his features. Someone who could be trusted.
Still, logic told her to keep on walking and let him go. She didn't know him. She didn't know anything about him, only that her instincts told her he was a good man, and something had hurt him. As with Oliver, he made her want to reach out, fix the problem and find some way to make him smile. Something was unique about him, too, although she wasn't sure what it was. A little shy. A little old-fashioned, maybe, but there was more to it than that. The thought of finding out what the difference could be intrigued her.
But mystery or not, the very last thing she needed in her life was another beautiful, broken man. Hadn't she learned her lesson with Oliver? Sure, she'd run into some jerks, but there were plenty of other men at the event. Fifteen more, according to her card. No doubt one of them would be decent company, maybe for dinner, maybe for longer than that. She'd laugh and have a good time. Maybe even have a fling. Not her usual style at all, but wasn't that what everyone seemed to think she needed? It wouldn't matter, though, because it wouldn't mean anything.
The last thought made her pause. Oliver's stock phrase. It didn't mean anything.
The phrase bothered her because of the unspoken double meaning beneath: that he didn't value himself enough to think he deserved something meaningful. But if she valued herself, why should she waste her time on something meaningless, either?
She'd spent months convincing Oliver he was a person of worth who should value himself, a hero. Maybe it was time to remember she, too, was a person of worth who valued herself. Numbers might be Oliver's solution, and speed Barry's, but if she was going to move on, she needed to believe in herself enough to do it her way. She wanted quality, not quantity. Why waste the evening fending off mouthbreathers looking to score when she could spend it talking to one good man?
She turned to see Steve picking up his overcoat. Taking a deep breath to shore up her courage, she walked back to his table.
"You know, there's an ice cream parlor around the corner that has homemade ice cream. I don't know about you, but I could really go for some mint chocolate chip about now. Why don't we play hooky and tell our friends we stayed?"
Blue eyes met hers, clear and candid. Slowly, he smiled. A real one this time.
"I'd like that."
Edit: I'm leaving the following a/n, although others have now written about this pairing. I'm glad it took off so well! To be honest, when I wrote this first chapter back in March 2014, I half expected to get stoned (and not the good kind) from fans in both universes. I'd seen Arrow/Avengers crossovers on AO3, but never one between Felicity and Steve, and understandably, crossovers can be touchy, touchy things for dedicated fans to accept.
First, thank you to Miko for fabulous concrit and beta! Thanks also to Calliope1975, my first round beta reader, and to AgeofAquarius, who assured me people wouldn't throw TOO many stones for publishing this.
I'll be honest and say I know this pairing has not yet been done in this fandom or as a crossover. I'm nervous about posting this and hoping nobody hates it TOO much, because I know just how beloved these characters are to people and I want to do them justice.
The first spark for this story was the deleted scene from the Avengers where Cap's getting used to life in this time. If you haven't seen it, it's here: /avengers-deleted-scene-captain-america/
The second was a preview clip from the Winter Soldier in which Natasha and Steve discuss getting a date for him. The way in which they did it led me to believe this had probably been a long-standing campaign of Natasha's, and she'd probably started right after she met him through the Avengers. I'll refrain from publishing that clip for spoiler reasons, but it's easily available through a Google search, if you haven't already seen TWS.
At the same time, a group of us on Tumblr were discussing how Felicity would handle the changed Arrowcave dynamic. There was another post I wrote analyzing the progression of body language/personal space between Oliver and Felicity throughout the show thus far and the drastic change after 2x13, and yet more discussions in which many of us expressed our wish that Felicity could meet someone outside of the small circle allowed her on Arrow and get her groove back after Oliver and Sara hooked up.
That's when it occurred to me that, different universes aside, I couldn't think of two characters I liked more who deserved to meet each other more than Steve and Felicity. DC girl though I usually am, Cap's always been my favorite superhero, and I'm not sure I've ever liked a superhero (or superhero related) female character more than Felicity. Not only did I think they had a great deal in common, they both needed a break, romantically speaking.
This story is not about Oliverhate. A great deal of it is about Oliver-change (though he's not the only one with challenges.) He's got a long way to go, IMO, but I really do feel for him. He's struggling with a lot of things for which he's not in the least equipped to handle. But he's trying, even if it's going to be a slow process.
For those who haven't seen CA: The First Avenger in a while, the lipstick refers to Peggy's 40's style bright lipstick. I'd just noticed the similarity from CA:TFA, but a month after I wrote this first chapter, there was a great article sent around Tumblr on how makeup styles during WWII were used exactly how Felicity used them: to put on a brave face and boost morale. The heavy lipstick and the bright red color, in particular, gained popularity during the war years and would be a style with which Steve would be very familiar.
I wish I could say I made up the rude comments from the speed daters, but those are all from me and friends. Nothing I could make up would be THAT good, I tell you. Also, I've been asked a couple of times now about the cocktail waitress step-upon. Another piece of actual advice there from a former neighbor of mine who worked tables in a gentleman's club. Admittedly, though, they're a lot more subtle about it. I imagine Donna's six inch stilettoes come in very handy on occasion, though!
Regardless, I hope everyone enjoys and that I've managed to write this with all with the respect and love these characters deserve.