Title: Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone
Genre: Humor, Romance, Drama
Summary: When meeting Felicity, Oliver has a flashback. Afterwards, he flees, leaving behind hiss 'latted' laptop. She further investigates on her own, but lurking underneath everything else is Felicity's concern for Oliver. Just like with anything that matters to her – she doesn't know why he matters but he does, she can't let the episode – what she fears to be PTSD – go.
A/N: So, a new story. This is the promised, lighter ficlet that is meant to break up the heaviness that is And Then a Butterfly Flapped Its Wings. It'll be five parts in length (hence, why I call it a ficlet; I don't know how others describe a short fic.), and I already have two chapters written. Upcoming posts will have visuals. (If you're following my fanfic board on Pinterest, you'll have already gotten a sneak peak, because I work so far ahead.) Speaking of working ahead, I also have the next piece to The Devil Series written, too, but it'll be a couple weeks before that gets posted. I'm trying to keep a stockpile of chapters so that I can still post even if I have an ultra-busy week. Plus, once I'm finished posting old stories (for other fandoms) that I never did share, I'll be focusing on Olicity only and posting more for them then, too. Finally, the title of this piece comes from Lykke Li's song by the same name. If you're familiar with the tune, this story isn't as dark, though the sentiments fit, and I really loved the title. Hopefully, you will, too. (And check out the song if you haven't heard it. Lykke Li is amazing.)
Thanks and enjoy,
Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone
She should have known it was going too well.
Felicity's Law and all.
She hadn't rambled (much). She had proven why she was the IT girl recommended for the job. The task had been a nice divergence from the norm. He had even given her a little of his (reputedly) patented flirty-flirt, and she had intellectually teased him back. Lightly. Because, seriously, who didn't know Hamlet? Even if you'd never studied Shakespeare... or read his play about the Danish prince, there were like a kajillion movie adaptation. And, hello: The Lion King!
But, anyway, yeah... From a scale of 'I have to move to a new zip code far, far, far away so that I never accidentally see you again' and 'we're totally going to get married and have lots and lots of babies together,' meeting Oliver Queen had fallen somewhere around a six – the 'we'll be casual, wave and say hey when I see you friends' level. Like Felicity had said, it had been going well.
It's all fun and games, however, until someone (Felicity) feels up their boss (Oliver Queen).
The first part (the fun and games part... emphasis on the fun), though, was the fact that she started talking before she even realized where her hands were. "Wow. Usually, there's at least dinner before a guy gets me on my back."
"That was a joke."
"Seriously, I'm not that easy. Well, if a good red wine is involved, there's a possibility that I'll be that easy, but, really, I've heard the stories. Your stories. You know... the ones about you. So, you can't hold that against me." Though she certainly wouldn't object if he continued holding himself against her. "And, oh my god, I totally just sexually harassed you." Out loud and in her head.
And that's when Felicity noticed that her arms were wrapped around Oliver Queen, her hands molded to the curves of his butt – his, albeit, toit as a tiger... and not one relaxed in his cozy tiger bed... butt. Dropping her arms like they were hot, she then smacked the left against her desk chair and the right against her cubicle wall. "Ow!"
Still, there was zilch from the pretty, pretty playboy sprawled on top of her.
Okay, so maybe not nothing. If anything, when she cried out, Oliver seemed to tense up even more... and that was saying something, because Felicity was pretty sure she was vibrating with all the tension radiating from the man who had just tackled her. Or maybe that was lust...?
"So... this isn't awkward. At all."
Felicity promised herself that she wouldn't make any more quips (or cop any more feels... and they were really nice feels) until she figured out just how exactly she had ended up on the floor and, here was the more important part of the story, underneath Oliver Queen.
They had been conversing... as in, back and forth. She'd say something; he'd say something. It had been nice – not feeling compelled to dominate the conversation for once. (And, by dominate, she meant take over and bulldoze with her babbling.) Oliver had just finished telling her that he was, apparently, allergic to Bachelors degrees when her cell had rang... which had been embarrassing enough, because, hello (and not hello because she actually answered the phone but hello because, well, duh), talk about unprofessional. Oh, also, she couldn't forget the fact that it had been her mother calling. Again, not that she had answered, but Felicity had chosen the gunshots and cash register bell portion from the chorus of MIA's "Paper Planes" for a reason: she needed a warning when it was Mama Smoak on the other end of the line.
So, evidently, it had been the phone call that had brought out Oliver's inner Tommy Conlon... and, yeah, maybe his outer, too, because there was one ab!, two abs!, three abs!, four abs!, five abs!, six abs!, seven abs!, eight abs!, and two very delicious hip bones pressing down upon her rapidly yet shallowly breathing frame.
"Sorry about... that. My phone. Ringing. My mother. Gah. A girl moves about as far away from her mother as she can without needing a passport and Visa, and she still has to apologize for the woman who raised her. But my mother... well, she's my mother, and she's never quite mastered the whole 'working 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin' concept. So, she calls. At inappropriate times. And it's never enough to warrant turning my phone completely off at work, but it is enough that I use a special ring tone for her. You know," she mimicked holding a gun up to her temple and squeezing a really inaccurate thumb trigger. Oliver flinched; Felicity rushed to cover... whatever she had done or said wrong... with words. Again. "But, hey, bright side! At least you should have known that song, because I'm pretty sure it came out before your whole half a decade of role playing Gilligan's Island."
After that spectacular monologue which Felicity would never be able to take back (well, unless someone managed to actually figure out how to time travel), she laughed nervously. That laughter turned to a quiet moan of mortification, however – a moan that was only stymied by Felicity sinking her teeth into her bottom lip. It was only when she went to shutter her eyes as well that she finally started to see what was staring her in the face. Literally. Because Oliver Queen was unflinchingly, unblinkingly zigzagging his own gaze between her and their surroundings... well, as much of their surroundings as they could see from underneath her desk. He was pale, and he was skittish, and he was tense.
And he was totally in the middle of some kind of panic attack or flashback episode.
"Hey." She softened her voice, tried to make it as soothing as possible. To her own ears, Felicity thought she sounded scared, though – timid and unsure of herself. "You're okay." Her hands lifted in accompaniment, arms wrapping around him once more... only, this time, she didn't grab his butt. Instead, she comfortingly laid her smooth palms against his face, allowing her fingers to stroke his stubbled jaw, to brush against and comb through his short-cropped hair. "I'm okay." His skin was cold to the touch, his breathing harsh and choppy. "You're safe. We're safe here." Slowly but surely, she felt Oliver come back to the present.
And then he was gone.
He moved so quickly – both off of her and away – that Felicity just reacted, springing upwards and forwards to go after him only for her head to connect with the underside of her desk. She was still grumbling and rubbing the sore spot by the time she managed to roll her way to her feet (seriously, pencil skirts were not meant for horizontal gymnastics on the floor with Oliver Queen), but he was long gone. Like Road Runner gone. Like... Felicity found herself checking the floor for tread marks gone.
She didn't find any.
What she did find, however, when she looked about her small cubicle was the laptop – the bullet riddled laptop – that Oliver had spilled a latte on before bringing it to her. The fact that he would leave without taking the computer with him told her just how much he had been affected by... whatever it was that had just passed between them. Feeling unsure of herself or what she wanted to do next, Felicity simply allowed her gaze to ping-pong back and forth between the laptop and her empty doorway... as though she just expected him to show up there again. Or maybe she was willing him to.
She had only come face to face once in her life with Oliver Queen, but the moment would be forever etched upon her memory. And she wanted so much for it to be repeated. If she could just sit down once more, get lost in her work, and, then bam!, there'd he be, she would. But Felicity knew it wouldn't matter how many times she tried to force a time loop, Oliver was gone. In his wake, she was left with not only her worry for him but also the mystery he had so unceremoniously dropped into her lap.
And she hated mysteries.
So, when she felt her gaze being pulled back to her monitor, she allowed it to wander over the blueprints of the Exchange Building. She allowed her foot to reach back and hook around one of the legs of her chair. She allowed her suddenly boneless body to collapse onto the seat, and she allowed her mind to get lost in her work. It was much safer focused there than it was thinking about Oliver Queen. Oh, she had no doubt that she'd go back to pondering the enigmatic man again – and soon, but computers were much easier to understand than people, and she felt more comfortable breaking down the puzzle before her than she was Oliver's psyche.
So, Felicity did what Felicity did best: she hacked. She allowed what she had recovered from the laptop to speak to her, and she followed the clues of code and logic. The fact that the blueprints were for the very same building where the auction for Unidac Industries was being held and that Warren Patel was one of Queen Consolidated's competitors for the seismic research company led Felicity to question why Mr. Patel would want to know the layout of the building where he would simply need to raise a paddle, not win a scavenger hunt, in order to procure Unidac. The blueprints were fishy, but so, too, was the fact that two other competitors had ended up dead that week. One death – one murder – would have been a strange coincidence, but two? Two screamed of something more sinister, something that one might just need blueprints for.
Felicity only felt a temporary qualm about using her work computer to gain access to Patel's bank records, but that qualm was quickly overridden by her need for the truth, by her need for answers. Plus, she rationalized her behavior by promising to go back afterwards and erase her footsteps. Besides, there was no reason for anyone to suspect QC of anything nefarious, because, as far as the rest of the world was concerned, the auction was nothing more but a business formality, and no one would ever suspect her of doing anything nefarious for QC in regards to the auction, because she was IT, not Applied Sciences. Added to that was the fact that she was technically off the clock – her work day having ended sometime while Oliver Queen had been laying on top of her... which made her feel a whole heck of a lot better about that whole sexual harassment concern.
Once she justified hacking Patel's bank records, it was a slippery slope into hacking the SCPD's case files on the two dead competitors and several federal databases as she looked for an assassin who was known for using bullets laced with a poison called curare. As the pieces slowly (okay, it would have been slowly if it had been anyone else assembling the puzzle) came together, Felicity started to see exactly what Oliver Queen had unwittingly – or, judging by the fact that he had brought her a shot-up laptop and clearly had some mad ninja skills... not to mention an emotional mind field inside of his head, perhaps not so unwittingly – brought to her doorstep.
Anyway, it only took her a few indecisive seconds of biting her bottom lip in thought before she detached the laptop from her desktop, shoved it underneath her arm like a clutch, and slipped out into the dark hallway. While she wasn't unaware of how different QC felt at night after everyone else but the cleaning crew and bare-bones security team went home, she felt weird for the first time as she made her way through the dim building. Even though she tried to look as normal as possible – after all, it wasn't strange for her to stay after-hours to finish up a project, Felicity knew the constant checking over her shoulders and the frantic, rapid steps she was taking made her look guilty. But she couldn't help them. It wasn't until she was locked inside an Applied Sciences lab several floors below the IT Department that she took her first full breath since leaving her office.
After taking the sample swabs she needed from the bullet holes and getting the tests started that she knew would only confirm what she already considered fact, Felicity realized that, not only would she have time to kill while she waited for the results, but that she hadn't thought past solving the mystery. Once she had her proof, then what? Answers would cure her curiosity, but they would do nothing to help the situation, to help those in danger. And in danger many people certainly were. The last thing she wanted to do was leave her evidence behind, but she was working under a very finite timetable, and, though Applied Sciences had just about every gadget or toy a girl could usually want or have a use for, she was pretty sure they didn't stock up on burner phones.
While Warren Patel might be stupid enough to not cover up his tracks, Felicity Smoak was a lot of things, but stupid was not one of them.
As she quickly assembled a plan – burner phone, read results, make the call, search out Walter before it was too late and he left for the auction, she cleaned up after herself. She wiped down any surfaces she might have touched – including the laptop – before putting gloves on. While she knew that, in doing so, she might be erasing other fingerprints – fingerprints that would be valuable to an official police investigation, she could not be connected back to an assassin's laptop, and she was pretty sure Oliver Queen didn't need that kind of press either. Urinating on cop cars was one thing; aiding and abetting a poison bullet-wielding murderer was another. She then put a clean pair of gloves in her pocket for later when she came back and used one of the Applied Sciences computers to erase any video surveillance of her late afternoon trip to the department and the fact that she had erased the evidence in the first place. She'd have to repeat her actions again later (and burn both sets of gloves), but Felicity wasn't willing to turn the cameras off just in case someone slipped inside of the lab while she was gone.
With one last glance to make sure the tests were running smoothly, she slipped silently out of the room and back into the dim hallways, this time finding her movements far more surreptitious than before.
Valerie Flame would be so proud.
Felicity knocked hesitantly upon the door. "Mr. Steele?"
Everything indicated that QC's CEO was still at work – the executive elevator was waiting for him at the top floor, security was still stationed outside of his office, but it was late – nearly time for the auction to start... if she hadn't managed to stop it from happening all together, and the entire floor was bathed in shadows, the lights turned off only for the emergency exit signs and any outside illumination which penetrated the tinted glass walls to break through the inky blackness. As Felicity glanced around the room she hoped to enter, however, she didn't spot anyone. Granted, that could have had something to do with her less than sniper-grade vision, but even she wasn't that blind. If Walter was in the building...
"Yes, what is it, Miss Smoak?"
"Oh!" She jumped, startled, as Walter spun around in his desk chair to face her. Automatically, her hands sought each other and started to wring together in anxiety. "You're here?" Clearing her throat, she tried to find the courage and conviction which had been piloting her actions for the past two and half hours, but all she felt was nervous. It should have been comforting in its familiarity, but it wasn't. "I mean, of course you're here. It's your office. And I'm here now, too... which no one knows about, because I purposefully avoided the guards, and so this is all starting to feel a little too clandestine. And, oh my god, it's like I'm Deep Throat."
She flushed scarlet in mortification and rushed to explain. "I meant Mark Felt. You know... like in All The King's Men, which, if you think about it, is a very sexist title. Just like Humpty Dumpty always bothered me as a kid. I mean, the king gave his horses a chance to put the clumsy egg back together again but not any of the women? But, then again, kings often prove themselves to be horrible leaders. After all, everyone knows that women are better at putting things together than men. And horses. If putting together computers were an Olympic event, I'd have so many gold necklaces, Mr. T would be jealous." Shaking away her thoughts, Felicity tried to bring herself back to the topic at hand. "But, yeah, Mark Felt, not the porn character. Not that there's anything wrong with pornographic material. Or right. I mean, when it comes to porn, I'm Switzerland. Actually, I'm not, because I just don't get its appeal, but to each their own, right? And oh my god, why aren't you stopping me?" Taking a deep breath, she mumbled to herself, "why doesn't anyone in your family stop me?," to which she noticed Mr. Steele quirk an intrigued brow at her, because, apparently, Felicity just failed at life. Not only couldn't she comport herself in a professional manner around her superiors, but she also couldn't mumble. "Well, that's just fan-freaking-tastic," she grumbled under her breath.
Finally, Mr. Steele seemed to take pity on her and put her out of her misery. "Is there something I can do for you, Miss Smoak?"
"Actually, I'm here to do you." Her eyes widened, her mouth opened in humiliation and abject shock at how appallingly her brain managed to string together sentences, and she cringed. "I meant that I'm here to do for you – to do a favor for you... and why does that still sound like a proposition?" This time, she closed her eyes and curled her hands into fists, hoping the bite of her manicured nails into her palms would help to center her. And curb her tongue. "You're going to have to give me a few seconds here." After those three seconds of silence, she amended her request. "Actually, make that ten."
So, it was after ten more seconds that Felicity once again found herself looking upon the very confused and yet slightly amused face of Walter Steele. Before she could dig her own hole any deeper, she blurted out, "I don't think you should buy Unidac Industries. In fact, I know you shouldn't."
Amusement vanished (or perhaps that was banished), Walter regarded her closely. "Please explain yourself, Miss Smoak."
"Three words for you: curare laced bullets."
"While I appreciate your brevity, I'm afraid that I'm going to need a little bit more to go on."
"Right," she nodded, and then pushed up her glasses. "As I'm sure you're aware, two of your competitors for the seismic research company have been found dead this week. However, what I highly doubt the SCPD has made you aware of is that the bullets that were used to take them out were laced with a skeletal-muscle-relaxant drug that, when given in fatal doses, causes respiratory failure. So, even if an assassin misses his target and doesn't get off a killshot, a curare laced bullet hitting someone anywhere is still a deadshot. Hence, the assassin's street name, because that's exactly what killed your two competitors, Mr. Steel: an assassin – an assassin that was hired by yet another competitor. And, maybe it's just me, but if there are people that desperate to get their hands on Unidac Industries, then maybe this company does a little more than just seismic research – something along the lines of being illegal... like we're not talking jaywalking illegal but murder, illegal and, frankly, I don't know about you, but that's not something I want the company I work for associated with. So, yeah," Felicity took a deep breath, lifting her chin to prove just how firmly she believed in what she was saying. "I don't think you should purchase Unidac Industries tonight. Or any night. In fact, I think it might be a good idea if you skipped the auction all together."
Realizing that she needed to confess the one piece of information she hadn't been able to figure out, she shuffled her ballet flat encased feet. "I, uh, I'm not sure who the next target is. It might be you; it might not be. But, even if you're not the next name on the assassin's list, I don't think it's very safe to be anywhere with poison laced bullets flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Maybe if I had more time to sift through and follow the clues, then I'd be able to tell you more, but I had very little information to start with and only so much time. Speaking of which," she segued, looking pointedly at the clock hanging on the wall. "The auction is due to start in fifteen minutes."
"Just... let me make a call," Mr. Steele told her, already moving towards his desk phone. "My family was supposed to be meeting me at the event..." His words trailed off as he dialed. Wanting to give him privacy, wanting to escape, and, speaking of his family, wanting to skip that second pesky thing that was bothering her, Felicity hitched a thumb over her shoulder to indicate that she was just going to leave. "Not so fast, Miss Smoak," Walter's voice – his CEO voice – stopped her cold. "We still have much to discuss."
Yeah, she was afraid of that.
So, while Walter talked to his family, to his wife – Mrs. Queen... er, Mrs. Steele... Mrs. Queele/Mrs. Steen?, Felicity wandered the spacious office, trying to appear inconspicuous and like she couldn't hear every single word her boss was uttering to his spouse. However, in her agitation and apprehension, she was the complete opposite of discreet as she kept bumping into furniture – stubbing toes, banging shins, catching her misnamed funny bones – and then muttering exclamations of discomfort and pain afterwards. Both regretfully (because it meant Walter's attention would once more be solely focused on her) and thankfully (because she could stop her one woman crusade to make bruising a fashion statement), Mr. Steele made his call brief.
A pointed clearing of his throat had Felicity spinning around to face him once more. "Now, Miss Smoak, would you care to explain to me how this very little information landed in your lap."
"Actually, it landed on my desk," she corrected him without thinking. "Don't you think my lap would have been a little forward." Realizing her mistake – because, deserved or not, she wasn't going to tell her boss about his step-son's involvement... whatever that may be... in the situation, Felicity tried to back-track. "And you meant that as a simple turn of phrase." She wrinkled her face up into an understanding expression of comprehension. "I gotcha."
"Yes, well, be that as it may," Walter said warily, watching her closely. Felicity gulped. "That still doesn't explain how the information 'landed on your desk' or how you knew how to... investigate it."
She aimed for carefree and dismissive. "Really, do the how's even matter? What's important is that you're still alive. I saved you. I'm a hero." In hindsight, Felicity realized that the hero comment might have taken things a little too far. But in for a penny, in for a pound, right?
"Miss Smoak." And there was that blasted CEO voice again.
Under pressure, she just blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "I can't tell you." At Walter's raised brow, she explained further. "I can't tell you how I came by this information. I... it was shared with me in confidence, and, if I broke that confidence for you, how could you or anyone else ever trust me to keep a confidence in the future. I might not be a lot of things, Mr. Steele – concise being one of them, but I am trustworthy. And I really hope that you can appreciate this and not fire me."
He appraised her for several, agonizingly tense seconds. Finally, with a quirk of his very stoic, very British lips, Walter quipped, "well, as you reminded me just moments ago, you did save my life, so I guess I can overlook your unwillingness to answer my question. But just this once."
She knew he was teasing her, but she still released a relieved sigh. "Thank you."
"However, I'm still curious as to how you knew what to do with information."
"I don't like mysteries, and I'm good with computers." Felicity thought over her explanation, approved of it, and then nodded once to show that she was satisfied with what she had said.
"Care to expand upon that?"
"Like really good," Felicity returned.
"Yes, well, apparently, you're also really good at being discreet and evasive – two qualities that I'm not unfamiliar with, nor unappreciative of." For the first time since she had entered his office, Walter stood. "I'm assuming you also handled this knowledge responsibly, Miss Smoak?"
Brow furrowed, she questioned, "I'm sorry?"
"You shared your findings with the police, and you made sure that you covered your tracks, yes?"
"Oh, yeah. No problems there. Burner phone? Check. Paid for with cash? Check. Paid for while wearing a hat and sunglasses? Check. Anonymous call to the authorities that did not last longer than thirty seconds and was placed in a location not anywhere near QC or my apartment? Check. Virtual footsteps erased? Um, hello? Computer genius here, remember?"
While Felicity's face burned in embarrassment for what must have been... okay, she was pretty sure she had resembled a tomato during her entire conversation with her boss, Walter just chuckled... in that dry, British way. (Why did she appreciate that type of humor when it was on her television – or computer – screen, but now it just made her squirm?) "Well," Walter prompted, recapturing her attention. "If there's nothing else, Miss Smoak..."
Well, so much for not mentioning her still baffling encounter with his step-son. And, really, did she have to scream his name like she was calling it out during...
With wide eyes, Felicity forcefully redirected her thoughts and tried to distract herself. "I met him today."
"Yes, I know. Oliver told me that he was having some technology issues, and I recommended you to help him."
"I assume you were able to?"
She averted her gaze, twisted her fingers, and bit her bottom lip. "Uh... sort of?"
"Well, I highly doubt Oliver could have done anything to his computer that someone of your – what was it? – genius skill set couldn't assist him with."
In her rush to explain, in her complete bafflement in how to explain, Felicity spoke quickly. "There maybe, sort of, kind of, might have been an... incident."
Mr. Steele rounded his desk, coming to stand closer to her. They were still several feet apart, but his proximity was still too much. She felt crowded. So, she took several, stumbling steps backwards. "What kind of incident Miss Smoak?"
And then it all just came pouring out. "I'm not sure. I've never... had something like that happen to me before. He was there, and then he wasn't. It was like... he was suddenly somewhere completely different and like he had no idea that I was still there with him. Only, he still reacted to my presence. It was weird. And kind of scary... not in an 'oh my god, I'm in danger' kind of scary, but I was worried for him, you know? And it didn't just last a few seconds either. I had enough time to completely humiliate myself several times before I was able to bring him out of... whatever it was. A flashback, maybe?"
Concerned, Walter asked her, "were you hurt?"
"Yeah, so not what I was feeling." Her boss coughed in uncomfortable awareness, and Felicity quickly blurted out. "I think he might be suffering from PTSD."
She saw recognition flicker across his gaze before he shuttered his expression once again. Buttoning his suit jacket, Walter, with that one, simple motion, told her that their meeting was over. "Yes, well, thank you for bringing this to my attention, Miss Smoak. I apologize on my step-son's behalf for any... distress this incident might have caused you, and I ask for your discretion."
"Yes, of... of course," Felicity stumbled over her words, feeling thrown by the rapid shift in mood. Maybe Mr. Steele could turn his emotions off with just a flick of a switch (or, in his case, a button), but she couldn't, and, in the meantime, she was left scrambling to catch up.
"Good night, then."
Dismissed. She had been thoroughly and succinctly dismissed.
Rather than trying to understand anything that had just happened, Felicity turned on her heels and quickly left.