Would You Like Fries With That?
Synopsis: AU where Felicity's a biology TA and Oliver is one of the students. Written for an actual homework assignment in my biology class, so, yes, there's a lot of technical stuff in here. Sorry in advance!
Pairing: Oliver & Felicity
Characters: Oliver & Felicity
Season/Episode: Alternate Universe
Category: No idea
Disclaimer: (the usual, don't own, idea was mine though)
AN: It was a homework assignment that went horribly wrong. Please don't judge me! Had I known it would turn into this insane 14 page long... thing, I probably would have stopped myself a long time ago because the assignment was only supposed to be 1 to 2 pages. Here's to hoping I actually get a good grade...
The assignment itself was describing how a burger passes through the digestive system, so yes, this is about to get technical. Again, SO SORRY!
He hated biology. Actually, he hated science in general. Too much math and too many definitions to remember. The only reason he'd agreed to take this class was because Tommy had said he'd take it with him. Somehow, they'd made it through a good portion of the semester, albeit highly intoxicated and usually with a nasty hangover that would last all day. The only thing that made it bearable for him was the mousy blonde that sat in the front row transcribing the professor's notes as he droned on and on about cell membranes and mitochondria.
His TA… What was her name again? Smoak? Right! Felicity Smoak. She was cute, especially when she showed up looking as if she'd had a fight with her bed, her hair frizzed atop her head, but still pulled back in her usual ponytail. Then there was the whole issue of her not-too-short yet not-too-long pencil skirts she usually paired with a dress shirt. The powder pink one had always been his favorite. Add in her striking fuchsia lips, and she was the only reason he ever really showed up to class anymore. It didn't matter that he was barely doing C-quality work. At least he was turning things in.
Sitting at the back of the science lab with his green hood pulled over his eyes as far as it would go, he leaned into his chair and watched the door, impatiently waiting for her arrival. The clock on the wall read 9:57AM, an ungodly hour in his mind, but apparently a perfectly decent one for everyone else that had filed into their seats and were now waiting for the lecture to begin.
Beside him, Tommy sat with his arms folded over the black countertop and his head resting on top of his hands. Last night they'd gone to one hell of a frat party. Neither one could remember what had happened after midnight and both were glad to have woken up in the basement of the frat house laying on top of warm leather couches and no magic marker on their faces.
"Always remember to take off your shoes," Tommy had reminded him. "That way they know you're sleeping and not passed out. Prevents the inevitable permanent face paint." Although he'd scoffed at first, he'd complied with his best friend's suggestion and taken off his shoes. He might not have known who'd stolen them, but it was much better than having to scrub Sharpie off his face the next morning.
They'd woken up just in time to run back to their shared apartment, grab a fresh set of clothes (and shoes) and head to class. A coffee stop would have been nice, but he'd argued they'd be late and Professor What's-His-Name would have them kicked from the class. In reality, he'd only wanted to see Felicity.
As if the universe was reading his thoughts, she strode into the room. Something was different today, aside from the black, patent leather heels she was wearing. No, her hair was also different. The frizz was completely gone. In it's place was a sleek, shiny bun held together by what looked like two ornately decorated chopsticks. They probably weren't chopsticks. He'd seen his sister wear something similar back when he was in Starling City, but damn… Felicity really made them look good.
Apart from her hair, her wardrobe looked a little classier than the usual pencil skirt and dress shirt. The skirt was still there, only today it was jet black with white pinstripes and matching jacket covering what looked to be a white silk blouse. She'd replaced the dark rimmed glasses that usually sat perched on her nose with contacts, making her look like a completely different person that morning.
He immediately pushed his hood back and took notice, accidentally bumping Tommy in the process, who proceeded to grumble his displeasure at being awoken and cracked an eye open. It took him less than thirty seconds to spot the blonde at the front of the room and shoot up in his seat.
"Whoa! Who's the hottie and can I get her number?" he leered before being jabbed in the side with a particularly sharp elbow. "Ow! Oliver! What the hell?"
"It's Felicity," Oliver answered flatly, eyes narrowing at his friend.
"Felicity…?" Tommy prodded, looking as if the name rang some distant bell in his alcohol addled brain.
"The TA," his friend clarified.
Shooting Oliver a dumbfounded look, Tommy turned his gaze back on the blonde as she situated a stack of papers on the professor's lab table, shuffling through them to straighten out the pile before a satisfied smile upturned her bright pink lips. "I had no idea the TA was that hot under the frizz," he muttered.
'I did,' Oliver thought to himself with a smirk he knew his best friend would misinterpret as his playboy smile. He'd always seen the potential the petite blonde held from the moment she walked into the room that first day of class.
"She'd give Laurel a run for her money," Tommy commented.
That drew an immediate sigh from Oliver. Damn it, he'd forgotten about Laurel. Really, though, they'd been on-again off-again for the past two years. At this particular moment they were off-again, which meant he was single and free to see whoever he pleased. Right now, he was hoping that someone would be Felicity Smoak. But, damn, she was too far out of his league. Hell, they weren't even playing the same sport.
She was the smart, not-overly-sexy academic and he was the billionaire playboy. If Oliver even tried any of his usual moves on her, she'd probably shoot him down in a second flat, those gorgeous blue eyes of hers narrowing in disgust at his pathetic attempt to court her. The only reason he knew of that outcome was because another guy had tried it before he'd even gotten a chance and seeing him get chewed up and spit out had made both him and Tommy cringe.
Felicity Smoak was off limits, but that didn't stop him from admiring her from afar. So Oliver did what he always did in situations like this: he kept his eyes trained on her as she walked across the floor, black heels clicking softly on the scuffed linoleum. She paused for a moment, her head bobbing up as she glanced around the classroom. When her eyes met his, he was quick to look away, a flush creeping up on his cheeks from the embarrassment of being caught staring.
Giving a dismissive shake of her head, she pulled down the projector screen then booted up the computer on the professor's table before pulling up their PowerPoint presentation for the day: The Digestive System and How It Works. There was a big, juicy burger on the introductory slide piled high with mayo, lettuce and a few sliced pickles. Oliver could already feel his stomach growling. Maybe it would have been a good idea to grab something from the coffee shop before he got here.
'Too late now,' he thought wryly.
Felicity glanced at the clock on the wall. This time it read 10:03AM and she sighed, striding back to the professor's table. She cleared her throat to gather the room's attention then said, "Good morning. I'm Felicity Smoak, Professor Wilson's TA, which you probably already knew even if I haven't said a word all semester. It's written in your syllabus, though, right under his name. See?" She picked up one of the papers on the table and pointed it out with her finger.
For some reason, Oliver could sense her nervousness. Although he'd never heard her talk in class until this moment, the babbling seemed to be her way of releasing all that energy.
"Anyway," Felicity continued, putting the paper back down. The color on her face warmed from alabaster to a shade of pink he found rather pleasant on her features. Then his thoughts began to drift, wondering what else would make her blush that particular color, until Tommy poked him in the side.
Oliver shot his friend a glare, but was quickly placated when he saw Felicity walking down each row to hand out their lab materials for the day. When she got to their table, her gait stuttered, then everything happened in what seemed like a split second. One moment she was upright, getting ready to hand them their worksheets, and the next she was falling.
Shooting out from his seat at almost inhuman speeds, Oliver caught her just before she hit the floor, her now small stack of papers flying up into the air and scattering like leaves on a cool autumn morning. She stared up at him, bright blue eyes wide with shock for a moment before it all finally registered. By then, the entire class was clapping and calling out "Nice save!" as he put Felicity back of her feet, his hands holding her waist steady when he saw the slight tremble in her knees.
"You okay?" Oliver asked softly so that only she could hear him.
The flush on her cheeks had gone from pink to scarlet as she stared down at her shaking hands before balling them into fists. "Go figure the one day I get to teach a lecture I nearly fall on my face. It's almost like that time in high school when I had to give a presentation on Hamlet in my English class and ended up tripping on the leg of my own chair. Totally face planted because there was no knight in shining armor to save me. But you did not need to hear that so I'm going to stop in 3… 2… 1…" Felicity paused and took a deep breath, her eyes still focused on her hands before she finally lifted her chin and gazed up at him. "I'm fine. Thank you."
With that, she turned on her heel and began to search out where her papers had gone. It was Tommy who handed them to her in a nice, neat stack, a charming grin plastered on his face. For a moment, Oliver thought he was going to say something to her, but Felicity was quick to grab the papers out of his hand and walk back to the professor's table with only a murmured thank you.
"Knight in shining armor?" Tommy snickered once he took a seat beside his friend. "A little cliche, don't you think?"
"Shut up, Tommy," Oliver snapped just as the lights flickered off.
"We're all just going to forget what happened a minute ago and continue on with the lecture," Felicity said as she grabbed the remote and clicked past the introduction slide of the PowerPoint. "Today we'll be talking about the digestive system and how it works." The next slide showed that same, delicious burger from the first, only now it was all by itself, staring at the class.
Oliver's stomach did growl this time, much to his chagrin. Beside him, her heard Tommy chuckle before jabbing him in the side again. "We're getting burgers for lunch," he promised.
"I think by the end of this presentation, you'll probably be rethinking that, Mr. Merlyn," Felicity interrupted as the rest of the class turned to stare at him.
That shut Tommy up real quick. It was Oliver's turn to snicker before his attention returned to the front of the room.
"As I was saying, before being so rudely interrupted, we'll be talking about the digestive system this morning," she continued. "The burger you see on the screen? Full of proteins from the beef patty, carbs from the bun, and lipids from the mayo, which, for those of you who haven't been paying attention…" Her eyes settled firmly on both Tommy and Oliver before she kept going. "Are fats that our bodies need in order to produce energy."
Felicity clicked to the next slide. The burger remained, but now there were words all over the screen, most likely notes they were supposed to be writing down as she talked. Oliver grabbed a pencil out of his bookbag and began scribbling down everything he saw on the screen as Tommy gawked at him. "You're taking notes?" his friend whispered in disbelief. "Never thought I'd see the day Oliver Queen took notes in class."
"Shut up and pay attention. We've already been called out enough today," Oliver groused. His eyes flicked back to the screen as he started writing on the lab sheet Felicity had given him.
"Fats are made up of a large number of energy-rich carbon-hydrogen bonds and thus have a higher energy yield per gram than carbs and proteins, which are made up of more carbon-oxygen bonds that are already oxidized." Her fingers pushed the button to another slide, showing the molecules she was referring to. "This is why fats are very good at storing energy. When you eat, say, a burger, it's either metabolized by the body's cell or it's converted into fat and stored into fat cells."
"Another important point I should add to this: Humans are unable to synthesize the following amino acids: lysine, tryptophan (which you all know causes you to get sleepy after that big Thanksgiving meal you eat every November), threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These guys are known as essential amino acids and have to be obtained from the proteins we eat as food."
Oliver listened to her intently, her sing-song voice like music to his ears. It had been a while since he'd been so infatuated by a woman. Even Laurel hadn't grabbed his attention the way Felicity had. No, the TA was definitely an attention grabber with her quick wit, sharp tongue, and endearing babbles.
"Now that we've gotten those tidbits of important information out of the way, why don't we take our first bit of that juicy burger?"
Again, Oliver's stomach growled, and he instantly regretted coming to this class on an empty stomach now that Felicity kept bringing up burgers and showing pictures of them on the screen. What he wouldn't do for one right about now…
The next slide that opened up on the screen was a detailed diagram of the digestive system, pointing out all the different structures they would be learning about today. With a laser pointer, Felicity highlighted the head and said, "Your mouth is where digestion really begins. And it starts with your teeth."
The slide changed again, replacing the first diagram of the digestive system to one of the human mouth, complete with teeth. "Most mammals have heterodonton dentition, meaning they've got specialized teeth for the food they eat. Incisory are chisel-shaped and used for nipping or biting. Canines are sharp, pointed teeth used for tearing food. While bicuspids and molars have a flattened, ridged surface that's used for grinding and crushing food. They're arranged in the upper and lower jaws of animals with the incisors at the front, canines on either side of them, then bicuspids and molars at the back," Felicity explained, adlibbing the motions of eating a burger with her delicate, expressive hands.
For some reason, Oliver noticed they were painted a deep shade of green that seemed to match his hood. It was probably a coincidence even if he wore the thing practically everyday during the fall and winter. The little shiver it sent up his spine to see her wearing his color was unexpected, though.
"So, biting into your burger, you use your incisors first, sinking them into the bun, then the pickle, then the lettuce, and finally the delicious ground beef in the middle. Your canines tear off that first bite, then you use your bicuspids and molars to grind it up into smaller chunks."
"Now comes the interesting stuff," she continued, moving on to the next slide in her presentation.
Oliver was having a bit of trouble keeping up with her fast paced talking, but he enjoyed the challenge. It was the first time anyone had ever gotten him to pay attention in class. Maybe if he picked the cute female teachers over the old dudes (Tommy's words, not his), he wouldn't have switched universities four times in the last two years. He sighed internally, knowing that was probably the most sexist thought he'd ever had. It was disrespectful, to say the least, and definitely no way to be thinking about someone who had probably spent a good portion of her life pursuing her goals, something Oliver still hadn't thought about for himself even though he was 23.
His parents expected him to graduate with a business degree and take over his father's company, but that was the one thing he knew he didn't want to do. Instead, he loved to party, enjoying the nightlife wherever he went. The idea of opening a nightclub suddenly popped into his head.
As if sensing the sudden change in his friend, Tommy elbowed him in the side, gently this time, and said, "You've got that look."
"What look?" Oliver murmured.
"The one that means you're thinking too hard," his friend replied.
"Is there a question from the peanut gallery?" Felicity's voice suddenly snapped bother their heads up. She was staring at them, her hands on her hips, a harsh glare pointed their way.
"No, Miss Smoak," Tommy smoothly replied, applying his own billionaire playboy charm. "Oliver was just trying to keep up with what you were talking about. Can you please repeat that?"
A smile crept onto her bright pink lips, one that seemed to melt Oliver's heart in an instant, and suddenly he realized his friend had saved his ass. "Of course," she said, clicking back a slide. "As I was saying, inside the mouth, the tongue mixes your burger with saliva, which is secreted from three salivary glands through ducts in the mouth's mucosal lining. It then moistens and lubricates the food, making it easier to swallow and allowing it to slip down your throat without tearing it. Saliva also contains amylase, a hydrolytic enzyme that initiates the breakdown of that first burger bite you've taken."
By now, the burger had reappeared on the screen, only this time it was being animated to show how chewing and saliva worked together to break down the food. Beside it played a video of an x-ray showing basically the same thing. It looked pretty cool, Oliver had to admit, even if it was making him somewhat glad he skipped the coffee shop that morning.
"The production of saliva is triggered when you've got food in your mouth. It sends messages to your brain via taste sensitive neurons, which then respond by telling your salivary glands to start making it."
Felicity charged forward, switching to the next slide. This one showed another x-ray based video, this time illustrating how food traveled from the mouth and down the throat towards the stomach. Oliver turned to Tommy, feeling slightly creeped out by what he was seeing, and found that his friend had started to look a little pale. It didn't appear to be from all the beer they'd had the night before, and he couldn't help the smirk that ended up on his face.
Tommy simply shot him a glare before pulling the black hood of his sweatshirt over his head and leaning back in his chair trying not to throw up.
"Would anyone like to take a guess as to what happens next in the digestion process?" Felicity asked the class. Her eyes immediately ended up on Oliver and Tommy, her grin going from sweet to impish in mere moments. "Mr. Merlyn? Mr. Queen? Would either of you like to take a guess?"
In a move that would prove to be his undoing, Tommy shook his head wildly then immediately stopped. "Oh, shit, I think I'm gonna be sick," he said before bolting from his seat and running out of the room.
With a roll of her eyes and a deep sigh, her focus turned to Oliver. "How about you, Mr. Queen? Any guess as to what happens next?"
Crap. He was really hoping to avoid questions today. It was the main reason he chose to sit at the back of the class, out of the professor's eyeline. But considering he'd been Felicity's "knight in shining armor" that morning by not letting her fall to the floor, he felt compelled to answer her. "Uh… Um…" Oliver stuttered, flipping through his notes hoping it was somewhere in there. When he realized it wasn't, the reality of looking like an idiot not only in front of Felicity, but also in front of the whole class suddenly dawned on him.
He looked up, a dumbfounded look crossing his features as he silently begged for something, anything to give him the answer. Locking eyes with Felicity, she cocked her head almost imperceptibly towards the screen behind her. It took Oliver a moment to understand what she was doing, but then his glanced in that direction and found the answer had been staring him in the face ever since she'd flipped the slide.
"Oh, um, you swallow?" he said with a lot less confidence than he would have liked.
"Correct!" she nearly cheered, her voice sounding somewhat relieved.
Sighing, Oliver slumped back in his chair. That was far more nerve wracking than he wanted it to be. Trying to impress this girl was really turning into the biggest challenge he'd ever encountered. He just wanted Felicity to see him as more than the rich, spoiled brat everyone else saw. Why? Even he didn't know. There was just something about her, something that drew his attention towards her like no other woman ever had. Whatever it was, he couldn't seem to shake it.
Felicity's voice brought him back to the present as she continued with the presentation. "As Mr. Queen pointed out, the next step in the digestive system starts with swallowing. Now, this is a very complicated process that involves a bunch of muscles sealing off the passages to your lungs before opening the passage to your esophagus, which connects your mouth to the stomach.
"When you swallow, it triggers waves of successive contractions in the muscles that line the esophagus, allowing food to travel down the tube until it reaches the sphincter." A few snickers and chuckles echoed through the room, something Felicity seemed to expect. "Yes, there's more than one sphincter in your body. They're not just located in your butt, even though we'll be talking about that a little later on in the presentation. This particular sphincter controls what goes into your stomach and is triggered by the pressure exerted by the burger bite you just swallowed."
The slide changed once again, this time showing a zoomed in diagram of the stomach. "Once the sphincter opens, the food finally makes its way into your stomach, which is a saclike portion of your digestive tract that has a highly convoluted surface enabling it to fold up when its empty and expand like a balloon as it fills up with food."
On the slide was a link to an external website that showed the process of food entering the stomach and the stomach expanding as a result. This wasn't so bad, Oliver thought to himself. His appetite was actually coming back, something he couldn't say for Tommy because as he walked back into the room and saw the image on the screen, he promptly turned and left, a hand covering his mouth.
Oliver couldn't help the smile that crossed his face. Of all the things that could gross out Tommy Merlyn, this was the last thing he'd expected. 'He is so getting teased when I get back to the apartment,' Oliver thought, unable to wipe the smile on his face.
Felicity had paused her presentation when she saw Tommy enter the room, but continued on after he ran back out as if nothing had happened. That was another thing Oliver knew he'd hang over his friend's head until they were old and grey.
"The burger in your stomach triggers the production of hydrochloric acid, HCl for those of you who are pursuing a degree in chemistry, from the parietal cells. Pepsinogen is also secreted into the stomach through chief cells. It's a weak protease, AKA protein-digesting enzyme, that requires a very low pH in order to activate. That happens when you mix it with HCl."
Her next slide was on the lighter side, showing a cartoon of two chemicals being mixed together and exploding. It got the intended laugh out of the class, something she took delight in judging by the smile Oliver saw lighting up her face. He was drawn to it like a moth to a flame, and suddenly he realized he wanted nothing more than to be the person making her smile like that. 'Shit,' he thought to himself, 'I'm so screwed.'
Moving to the next slide, Felicity kept going through her presentation as Oliver tried to keep his head down, fully intent on taking notes and not looking at her as she paused in front of the screen with her laser pointer. This new diagram was a close up of the stomach's interior lining. "You'd think with all that acid floating around in your stomach, it would start eating away at the lining. But here's the thing: once the activated pepsinogen molecules start to do their thing, another, more active protease called pepsin is released. The process of secreting a relatively inactive enzyme that is then converted into a more active enzyme outside the cell prevents chief cells from digesting themselves.
"The great thing about having all this acid in your stomach is that it kills most of the bacteria that gets ingested with your burger. Not all bacteria, because otherwise we wouldn't have such a problem with E. coli and salmonella. Those are nasty little things that put you through the ringer for a week straight then spit you out feeling like death. I had it one time my sophomore year after eating improperly cooked chicken… I couldn't bring myself to eat another chicken sandwich for like a year."
The class fell silent as they stared at her, but Oliver couldn't help the smile that crossed his lips. He was beginning to find her tangential rambles endearing. "And I've shared too much, yet again. Ugh," Felicity sighed, pressing her palm to her forehead. "Let's just forget I said that and keep going, okay?" The class nodded along as she switched moved to the next slide. This one was full of little factoids about the stomach and what happens in it.
"Just some FYI: the stomach really only partially digests proteins," she said. "Carbs and fats, that happens elsewhere. We'll get to that soon. What's important to note is that this mixture of partially digested food and gastric juice is called chyme."
Another slide switch, another diagram. Oliver was somewhat getting sick of all these diagrams. He preferred the more animated stuff that she'd been showing earlier. For some reason, he found himself getting a little more and more interested in the subject of biology. He might have been a little better versed in anatomy considering how much time he spent admiring the female body, but he mentally slapped himself for even letting that thought cross his mind.
Having been called a sexist pig by several prominent feminist bloggers, Oliver had started to consider cleaning up his act and maybe growing up. Upon watching Felicity continue explaining how the digestive system worked, he couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to be that mature and respected. She had to be no older than 21, yet there was already a degree under her belt. She was driven and mature, not to mention absolutely gorgeous.
'She's out of my league, too,' Oliver thought wryly, trying to keep up with his note taking as she explained the next step in the digestive process.
"Chyme leaves the stomach through another sphincter, the pyloric sphincter at the base of the stomach. It takes your partially digested burger into the small intestine where all the terminal digestion of carbs, fats, and proteins occurs and where amino acids, glucose, and fatty acids are finally absorbed into our bloodstream. The leftover bits, including water and a few substances like aspirin and alcohol, are actually absorbed through the stomach walls. Something Mr. Merlyn probably would have benefitted knowing before he decided to party it up last night. Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Queen?"
Being thrust into the spotlight yet again, Oliver couldn't help the look of helplessness that settled over his features. His mouth opened and closed like a fish for several moments before she took pity on him. "Then again, this would probably apply to most of you sitting here trying to look half alive. Just keep that in mind the next time you go out drinking. That and don't drive drunk."
With that final piece of advice, Felicity changed the slide one more. Oliver wanted to groan. Another diagram. Now they were just getting annoying. How was he supposed to keep up with all the information she was throwing at the class that morning? He was tempted to pull out his phone and just snap a photo of each slide, but that would only draw more attention to himself.
"The stomach has done its job breaking your burger down into large molecules. Now it's the small intestines turn to break those molecules down into even smaller ones. Most of the enzymes required to do this job are produced in the pancreas, which is situated near the junction of the stomach and small intestine." She pointed it out with her laser pointer, then gave the class a moment to take their notes before continuing. "The pancreas sends these enzymes through what's called the duodenum, a duct located in the first segment of the small intestine."
This time, Oliver was able to write everything down and was starting to notice Felicity had slowed down the presentation. Her gaze seemed to settle on him from time to time, something he felt the moment it happened. He would look up just as she looked away, taking interest in another student before continuing the presentation.
"In order to digest fats properly, you need molecules known as bile salts," Felicity said, pulling up a slide with several important points written down on it. "These bile salts are made in the liver and secreted through the duodenum. The bile salts work like detergents. They're partly lipid-soluble and partly water-soluble and combine with fats to form an emulsification. This allows the enzyme lipase to break down the digested fats more rapidly."
The slide changed once more, but this time, to Oliver's relief, it was an animation. "As you can see, the small intestine is the true digestive vat of your body. It's where carbs are broken down into simple sugars, proteins into amino acids, and fats into fatty acids. Now that you've got all these molecules, they're able to pass through the epithelial wall of the small intestine into the bloodstream."
Felicity paused for a moment to take a sip out of the coffee cup beside the stack of leftover papers sitting on the professor's table before continuing. Glancing at the wall, Oliver could see that she'd been up there for almost an hour now. Usually time didn't fly for him in any of his classes. This was a true first for him. He'd been so engrossed in the material and in his thoughts that he hadn't realized half the class was almost over. That still meant he had to suffer through another hour of lab time, but he could easily deal with that.
From the front of the room, Felicity cleared her throat and started to speak again. "This first part of the small intestine is only 5% of its nearly six meter length. The other 95% is made up of the jejunum, where digestion continues, and the ileum, where water is absorbed and all those important molecules we I mentioned earlier that the body needs in order to survive are absorbed into the bloodstream."
Mercifully, another animation followed, in the next slide, and Oliver sat back to watch it run.
"Whatever's left over ends up in the large intestine, which is a misnomer because the large intestine isn't really that large. It's only about a meter in length. It does have a larger diameter than the small intestine though. But that's not important. What's important is the fact that the small intestine empties directly into the large intestine at the junction where the cecum and appendix are located." Felicity paused to point out those features before adding, "These two structures are completely useless to humans. They're evolutionary leftovers from our ancestors, so don't pay attention to them unless you end up with appendicitis. Then I'd say get to the hospital because it could kill you."
She cut herself off from her ramble this time, saying "And I'm getting off track… again. I'm just a little nervous. I've never done this before. I only took the TA position because I needed the money to pay for my apartment because that's the one thing my scholarship doesn't cover. Ugh, sorry. TMI. Going back to biology in 3… 2… 1…"
Oliver took a moment to ponder where that habit of counting down after a ramble came from. Was it something her mother did when she was nervous? Or possibly her father? Whatever the case, it intrigued him nonetheless. Felicity Smoak was a rather puzzling enigma to him. She might have seemed poised and mature on the outside, but on the inside was was just as nervous and insecure as everyone else.
"Only about 6% to 7% of fluid absorption happens in the large intestine. Its primary function is to act as the body's waste disposal unit. All of the undigested food such as plant fiber and cellulose (i.e., the lettuce and pickle on your burger) get compacted into its final excretory product: feces... poop... crap... shit... There are a bunch of lovely names out there for it. Take your pick."
The collective laugh that escaped the class seemed to put her immediately at ease, Oliver noted as he, too, chuckled along. In his experience, no teacher, or even TA for that matter, had ever felt it necessary to make a joke about… poop. Even thinking about it now made him stifle a laugh as Felicity continued with the presentation.
"One more interesting little tidbit about your large intestine: there's a lot of bacteria that lives and thrives in there. It ferments your poop into about 500 milliliters of gas per day. Yes, people, this is where your farts come from." Another collective laugh from the class settled her nerves even more and Felicity kept going, "So think about that the next time you decide to have beans for lunch, because once those hit your large intestine, gas production increases almost exponentially since the passage of plant fiber into the large intestine provides ample amounts of material for fermentation."
She switched to the next slide, which, unfortunately for Oliver, was yet another diagram. This time he actually let out a sigh before putting his pencil to paper and writing down all the features Felicity pointed out as she said, "Considering we just talked about where poop and farts come from, I think this would be a great place to wrap things up. The final segment of your digestive tract is the short extension of your large intestine called the rectum. Just like in the esophagus, the muscles contract, sending the waste products of your burger down your poop chute and through your anus, hopefully landing in a toilet. Which reminds me, will someone please go and check on Mr. Merlyn to make sure he hasn't fallen into it?"
This was Oliver's cue to shoot out of his seat and replied, "I'm on it."
"Thank you, Mr. Queen," Felicity replied, giving him one of those warm, genuine smiles that was seriously starting to screw with his head.
The bathroom was only two doors down the hall, but he didn't even have to go that far. Oliver found Tommy sitting on a bench with his head in his hands, scratching his head.
"Seriously?" Oliver asked, plopping down next to him. "How long have you been out here?"
"Since I heard the word 'poop'," Tommy answered without lifting his head. "Whatever was in those fireballs last night killed me this morning. I am never, ever drinking another alcoholic beverage for as long as I live."
"Somehow, I don't believe that," Oliver said, giving his friend a solid pat on the back. "Come on, let's get back to class before Miss Smoak sends out a search party."
"Please tell me we're done talking about digestion," Tommy moaned as he picked himself up off the bench and began walking down the hall astride Oliver.
"Yeah, we're done. The presentation just ended. I have all the notes if you need them."
"You're a lifesaver, buddy."
The walked into the room to find Felicity sitting at the professor's table, blue plastic gloves covering her hands as she held a scalpel in one and a piece of tissue in the other. "Ready for a live demonstration of what we just talked about?" she sweetly asked the boys.
Tommy turned a shade of green Oliver had never seen before before groaning, "Are you trying to kill me today? I can barely stomach looking at pictures of a stomach and now you want to cut one up right in front of my face? Forget it. I'll take a zero for today. I'm going back to my apartment and sleeping off this hangover."
"That's fine," she replied. "What about you, Mr. Queen? Can you handle watching me cut up a pig's stomach?" The challenge in her tone was one he couldn't resist.
"Unlike my friend here, I think that won't be a problem for me," he smoothly answered. "As a matter of fact, I'll even sit in the front row."
From beside them, Tommy stood looking slightly amused. "Good luck with that," he said before turning on his heels and heading out the door.
"I've got a better idea, actually. Why don't you help me?" Felicity suggested, pulling a pair of blue gloves out of the box beside her and handing them to Oliver. "I'd hate to get pig goo all over my favorite suit, especially since I'll be defending my dissertation this afternoon. The last thing I want is to go into that room smelling like guts, and I definitely don't have time to run back to my apartment and change if that happened." She stopped then, looking rather mortified by what she'd said, but he ignored the flush on her cheeks, no matter how cute it looked on her.
"No problem, Miss Smoak. I'll gladly give you a hand," Oliver said, pulling on the gloves. "How hard can it be?"
"Famous last words," Felicity muttered under her breath before handing him the knife.
Famous last words, indeed.