A/N: This is set shortly after the season 2 finale.
Felicity took a deep breath, steeling herself for the upcoming confrontation. She didn't know why she was nervous. Because of Oliver, was her next traitorous thought. Oliver and his stupid handsome face and sincere eyes. So open, so sincere, that she'd actually believed him when he said he loved her, and it hurt more than it should have. Oliver with his excuses and his backtracking. Unthinkable that the two of them could ever be more… and he hadn't argued. Hadn't said a word. That told her everything she needed to know. She packed her feelings for him away in a little dark corner and told herself it was best to never explore them too closely. She deserved better, and she was determined move on and try and have some semblance of a social life. Oliver didn't need her every single night. She could date if she wanted to. He would just have to adapt.
"Oliver, I need to leave early tonight."
He glanced over at her, quirked an eyebrow, "Why? Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, everything is fine. Better than fine. Great, even. I just have a date."
Was it her imagination, or did that syllable sound strained?
"You need some time off," he nodded, "have a good time."
It was her imagination. She bit her lip and swiveled back to face the monitor, stung by his casual acceptance. She'd expected at least a token protest from him. That more than anything told her she was doing the right thing.
Oliver set aside the arrows he'd been working on and stripped off his shirt, heading for the salmon ladder. Felicity's eyes traveled down the length of his body, lingering on his rather impressive abs before averting her eyes. If she had to watch the play of muscles across his half-naked body while he trained in front of her she'd never leave. She frowned as she heard the clank of the bar against the rungs move at a punishing pace. Surely he wasn't going out tonight if he was putting in such an intense workout.
"Staying in tonight?" she asked as she heard him pause.
"No. Hey, where are you going? Just in case I need you?" he asked in-between rungs.
Damn it, he had dates before, and there had been a couple of times when he'd ignored her calls while on them. She wanted to tell him that if he needed her, he'd just have to wait, but she couldn't do it. She imagined him suiting up tonight, and he would, and something happening. The thought of him lying in the street bleeding out because of her principles wasn't something she was willing to live with.
He paused in the up position, waiting for her answer.
She turned to face him, "Lotus for dinner, and drinks after if it goes well."
Her eyes followed the droplets of sweat dripping down lines of taut muscle. She really liked watching him do that. She doubted her date had Oliver's body. When the corners of his mouth lifted in a small smile, she realized she'd said that out loud. Blushing, she swiveled around again. Oliver picked up the pace on the salmon ladder. He was certainly putting in a good workout tonight. Maybe he'd change his mind and stay off of the streets. She finished up her scan and gathered her things.
He gave her a nod, but didn't stop long enough to speak to her. Fine. She'd get out of there if that's how little it mattered to him.
Her date, Jason, was handsome. Dark hair, big green eyes, and a respectably strong jawline. She'd met him when he spilled her latte at Starbucks, and then bought her another one. They ended up chatting for a while and then said he'd like to take her to dinner. She'd gotten a little tongue tied, but she'd managed not to babble for once. Her teeth hurt she'd clenched them together so hard, but she hadn't said anything ridiculous to him, just said yes. Miracles apparently did happen.
She bought a new dress for the occasion, curled her hair and pinned it half up, half down and put in her contacts. She took her time with her make-up, and even did her nails in a coordinating color. She surveyed herself in the mirror and smiled. Oliver didn't know what he was missing. She may not compare to beautiful Laurel or gorgeous Sara in his eyes, but when she put the time and effort in, she thought she looked pretty good. How she looked wasn't usually her problem anyway… it was what came out of her mouth.
The date should have went well. Jason picked her up on time, and took her to a sushi place that she really adored. The problem was that she didn't have anything in common with Jason, and thanks to all the time she spent with Oliver and Diggle, she didn't have anything to talk about. Usually that would be her cue to babble, but she didn't get the chance because Jason didn't stop talking about his two favorite things long enough to catch his breath: his investment portfolio and his "crazy" ex-girlfriend. That wasn't even the biggest problem. The biggest problem was that he wasn't Oliver, never would be Oliver, and Oliver would never ask her out to dinner. They could never be together. Unthinkable. She'd made a mistake going out on a date before she was ready for it. Jason wasn't like Barry, who she genuinely liked spending time with, who she could at least still think of as a friend even though he had a sort-of thing with a woman named Iris. She would have still enjoyed eating dinner with him. She just wanted to get through this meal and go home.
Jason asked her if she wanted to go out for a drink after he paid the ticket. She declined, saying they didn't have much in common, and they should just call it a night. He blamed nerves, saying she was smart and beautiful and he was just so nervous and he begged her just to have one drink with him. She needed a drink. Several, really, and it was flattering to think she'd made him nervous enough to act like an idiot. She could sympathize, so she let him take her to a nearby club. Maybe the date wouldn't be so bad after all.
"Just one," she'd acquiesced, figuring she might as well let him get her started.
He ordered for her, something she thought of as patronizing rather than chivalrous. She wanted a glass of wine (and it was going to be an expensive one because, yeah.) Instead she was handed a giant lime green cocktail.
"It's fruity. A girl drink, you'll like it."
She rolled her eyes but took a sip, "What is it?"
He grinned, "It's called a Liquid Marijuana."
Much like its name promised, by the time she'd made it through the drink she was feeling its effects. On the plus side, Jason was a little less annoying once she had a buzz if she just focused on his face. A little bit. Not enough for her to have another drink. Jason had several in the time it took for her to get down her sweet pineapple concoction. The conversation only got worse, and she regretted not going home earlier, especially because he seemed to think buying her a drink entitled him to put his hands all over her body.
"Jason, thanks for the dinner, and the uh… liquid thing, but I really need to call it a night."
"After one drink?"
"Yeah, I have to work tomorrow. Very early. I shouldn't have even gone out tonight."
"Come on, Felicia, loosen up! Have another drink. We'll dance," he leaned in close, "Go back to my place after," he moved in to place a kiss on her neck.
She shifted backwards, "It's Felicity, and I think you're loose enough for both of us. Don't worry about taking me home. I'll get a cab."
He followed her as she pushed her way through the gyrating horde and out the front door to the cool evening air. As if she'd change her mind. Right. Not happening. Movement on the rooftop caught her eye. No one ever looked up there, but thanks to her other job, she did. She squinted at the rooftop and shook her head. Must have been wishful thinking. She'd seen a guy in the bar that she swore was Oliver, but when she got a clearer look, it wasn't him. She'd blame the drink. What she'd give for Oliver to show up and rescue her from this one.
Jason grabbed her arm as she was in the process of calling a cab. He threw off her balance, which wasn't so good right now after the giant liquor bomb drink, she wobbled and, to add insult to injury… literally… fell. Spectacularly. Her feet went up, and she landed flat on her back and cracked her head on the sidewalk. She blinked and groaned, reaching up to touch the sore spot radiating pure pain from her skull. Her fingers came away wet with blood. Jason just stared at her lying on the sidewalk bleeding, and then he giggled. Giggled! At her fall! Oliver would have picked her up. He would have carried her. He would have knelt down next to her and scooped her up in his arms, checked the bump on her head and fetched her an ice pack. Jason was no Oliver Queen, that was for sure. She burst into tears, embarrassed, mortified, and just plain sad that her date had gone so badly. Ironic that she was the one left lying in the street bleeding when she'd been worried about Oliver ending up in this predicament all night long.
"See what happens when you turn down a guy after he buys you drinks and dinner?" Jason finally offered her a hand up. "Sorry. How about another drink?"
She was bleeding and she'd ruined her new dress, and the last thing she wanted to do was have a drink with a man that had laughed at her clumsiness after he made her fall. She wanted someone to patch her up, concern in his soft blue eyes. Someone to ask her if she was okay. She wanted to go home.
She slapped his hand away, and gingerly rose to her feet, "No."
Jason flipped her off and went back inside. What a Prince Charming. She hailed a cab and had him drop her at the secondary Arrow cave.
Felicity wiped away another tear. Her make-up must be destroyed by now. It was stupid. She shouldn't be this upset. People had bad dates all the time. She'd had loads of bad dates before this one. Mortifying. That was a good word for her date. She'd just wanted one night… just one. She hiccupped, blew her nose and tried to compose herself.
"Oh, shut up!" she chastised herself, pressing an ice pack to her aching head.
She should have just gone home. She wasn't sure why she'd come here. Blame the head injury. As soon as she could pull her dignity around herself again, she'd go back to her apartment.
Oh, no. Oliver. Mortifying was definitely a good word.
"Felicity, what happened? Are you okay?" He knelt down in front of her when she refused to look at him, "Hey, talk to me. Why are you crying?"
She shook her head, wincing as it sent hammers pounding anew. If she spoke now it would all come tumbling out.
"You're hurt," he murmured, pulling the ice pack away from her head so he could get a closer look, "That's a nasty bump, but you won't need stitches. It needs to be cleaned."
His fingers were so gentle as he checked her over, worry plain in his face. He tilted up her chin and stared into her eyes, "Maybe a slight concussion." He scowled, "This happened on your date?"
"I just fell."
He raised an eyebrow, "Did he hurt you, Felicity?"
She laughed, the sound coming out bitter and angry, "No." Not on the outside.
His frown deepened, "And he left you like this?"
"It was a bad date. My luck. I don't seem to attract very nice guys."
He put his hands on her shoulders, hesitated for a moment and then pulled her into a hug. He smelled of leather and Oliver and her tears began to flow again despite how hard she'd been fighting to hold them back. This. This was what she wanted, what she needed, and what Oliver had told her by his words and actions that she could never have. It broke her heart and she needed to grieve for its loss, and if Oliver thought her tears were just about a bad date, then she'd let him. At least he'd handed her the syringe before she had time to tell him she loved him too. That would have made this moment impossible. As much as it had hurt, she understood, she was glad he trusted her and respected her, and she was glad he cared enough to give her that much. Maybe he did love her, just not love, love. But love, love was what she wanted.
"Shh, shh. It's okay. He didn't deserve you, Felicity. You deserve so much more. You're an intelligent, beautiful, amazing woman. Any man would be lucky to have you in his life."
His arms tightened around her as her crying turned to sobs, and she almost thought she felt the brush of his lips on her hair. She closed her eyes and let him hold her until she was able to regain control. She was glad she had him, even if he saw her as only a friend. She pushed away from Oliver's broad chest, "I'm fine, really. This was hardly my worst date. One time a guy showed up with his mother. Now that one was bad. Or the time the guy took me to a convenience store and bought me a beef jerky, or the time I went to the restroom and came back to find the guy had stolen my cell phone and my purse and left me there. After dinner, so I couldn't even pay the check. I now take my purse with me. Or the time-"
"Let me take you home," he interrupted, giving her that little smile that was just for her, "Unless I could talk you into going to the hospital?"
"No, I just want to go home. Thanks."
He patted her shoulder and went to change into street clothes.
"Hey, wake up. Time to go."
She blinked up at him blearily, "Okay." She stumbled as she got to her feet, but Oliver caught her before she could go down.
"Easy. Lean on me. I'll stay with you tonight, check on you every couple of hours."
"You really don't have to-"
"Trust me. I really do."
She tilted her head up to look as him, bemused by his strange choice of words. Her head hurt too much for her to argue.
A/N: So there is a lot of debate to whether Felicity knew, didn't know about the bait and switch plan. Regardless of which side of the fence you're on, and there are good arguments on both sides, I firmly believe that the "I love you" portion of it was unplanned and caught Felicity off-guard. Oliver too, me thinks. Anyway, I think Felicity is easily convinced that Oliver couldn't possibly feel anything like that for her... even if it's right in front of her. Hope you enjoyed it. If so, please let me know. :) Speeds the muse along, you know.