A/N: I had a lot of fun writing this, and I hope you enjoy! Over this hiatus I've thought a lot about Felicity trying to find a new job, and how that job search might have been complicated thanks to her position as Oliver's EA (and the assumptions people made about it). Please let me know what you think! :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Arrow or any of its characters.
Summary: Felicity comes back to the foundry after a job interview gone awry, and Oliver is itching to find out what happened. Lucky for him, the interviewer in question gives him a call.
An Unorthodox Interview
He had just finished his daily workout when she walked in. His hairline still glistened with sweat as he slid a tee shirt over his head and wiped his face with a nearby towel. "Hey," he greeted her with a grin, waiting to hear an update. It had been a couple months since he had lost Queen Consolidated, and Felicity was still searching for a new job. She had been to a few interviews, but so far nothing had come of them. He was sure that was about to change though. He had been with her the day before when she received a call from Carl Combs, the CEO of a well-known cellular technology company based in Starling City. The job opening was for the position of his executive assistant, and Felicity's experience as Oliver's EA made her a prime candidate. She hadn't been thrilled at the prospect of working as an EA again, but she had been optimistic that this job would be a way to get her foot in the door there.
And he had had no doubts that not only would she get this job (because, really, how could she not?), but that the executives there would quickly realize her value and would transfer her to an IT position worthy of her genius.
So watching her walk down the stairs of the foundry with her shoulders slightly slumped and tense set off red flags in his mind. He looked at her closely, and although she smiled at him in return, the smile didn't reach her eyes. She walked over to her desk, sat down, and tapped a few keys to wake her computers up.
She didn't even notice the open water bottle he had left mere inches from the keyboard (something she had warned him about in her loud voice many times).
Something was wrong.
"What happened?" he breathed.
Felicity shrugged and kept her eyes on her computer screen.
"I don't think I'd be a good fit there anyway," she responded easily. Although she tried to hide it, Oliver couldn't miss the slight edge to her voice.
"Oh." He took a breath to quell the disappointment he felt. She didn't get the job. He had really wanted this for her. Not only was it a good opportunity for her, but he couldn't help feeling responsible for her current jobless state.
But how could she not get the job? She was the most intelligent, remarkable, amazing woman he had ever met. She had been so prepared for this interview – he had overheard her babbling facts she had researched while she ran scans on the computer the night before. She had gone in with great references (the one she wrote for herself and he signed his name to was exceptionally well-written in his opinion). She had even told him that she was going to bring a small gift of chocolates (which she had learned were Carl Combs's favorites via his bank records) to help her stand out from the other interviewees.
If Felicity Smoak couldn't get this job, then who the hell could? He felt himself growing indignant on her behalf. I mean, what kind of idiot wouldn't hire her on the spot? Maybe he should give this Carl guy a call right now and find out.
Just as the thought crossed his mind, his phone began to vibrate where he had left it on Felicity's desk. She didn't even blink – already absorbed in whatever report she was reading on her screen. He stalked over and glanced at the phone, not recognizing the number displayed on the screen.
"Hello?" he answered skeptically. He glanced at Felicity – prepared to ask her to trace the call – but she wasn't paying him any attention.
"Oliver Queen?" the raspy voice on the other line questioned. "This is Carl Combs."
Speak of the devil.
"Hi. How can I help you, Mr. Combs?" Felicity's head popped up at the name, and she swiveled around to look at him. He flashed her a grin to let her know that yes, this was the Mr. Combs. And Oliver was damn sure that by the end of this conversation, Carl would either be hiring Felicity or kicking himself for letting her slip through his fingers. Possibly also booking a one way ticket out of town – depending on how the conversation went. In his self-satisfaction over the conversation he was about to have, Oliver didn't notice that Felicity hadn't smiled back at him. She had only looked at him with wide eyes.
"I'd like to talk to you for a minute about a woman I interviewed today," Carl Combs droned on the other end. Oliver could almost imagine him reclining back in his chair and loosening his tie. "Felicity Smoak. She has you listed as a reference."
Oliver smiled again, turned away from Felicity, and began pacing his way across the room. "Ah yes. Felicity's great. What do you need to know about her?"
"Well," Combs began, "I had a very…unorthodox interview with her today."
At his words, Oliver glanced back behind him with a perplexed expression. Felicity was still in her chair, only now she was staring at him with an expression he had never seen her use on him before. She sat still and rigid, and her eyes were wide with dread. What the hell had happened at this interview?
"Despite that, she is a very lovely girl with a real fire in her," Combs chuckled. "I read your letter of recommendation for her, and I must say, you have a way with words."
"Uh huh." Oliver lifted a hand slightly and mouthed the word 'what' to Felicity. Why was she looking at him like that?
"So I thought I should talk to you before I completely write her off."
This was his chance. He wasn't sure what had gone wrong, but he was sure that he could brag about Felicity until the sun exploded. He was going to finally do something that helped her. He was going to fix this for her.
"I'm glad you did," Oliver responded smoothly, turning away from Felicity and her distracting deer-in-headlights look. "Look Carl, I'm not sure what happened in her interview, but I can assure you that Felicity was completely indispensable to me during my time as CEO of Queen Consolidated."
"Absolutely. She is highly efficient at what she does. I don't think I would have lasted a day there without her. We spent a lot of time together, and I got to know her pretty well -"
He was momentarily distracted from what he considered to be one of the most complimentary speeches he had ever made by a light gasp from Felicity's seat a few steps behind him. His brow furrowed a bit. It's not like this was news to her?
"- And I can say with one-hundred percent certainty that she is a genuinely good person who is also probably the smartest person I've ever met. She showed me how to do things that I didn't know where even possible. I'm sure she would fit very well in the position you have open."
"Oliver," Felicity whispered frantically from behind him. He felt a tug on his sleeve and turned to see her staring at him with that same anxious expression and mouthing the word 'stop.' What the hell was going on?
"I'm glad you think so," Carl laughed. "She seemed a little shy at first today, but if you say she's worth it, maybe I'll give her another chance."
"She absolutely deserves another chance," Oliver nodded before mouthing 'what' to Felicity for a second time. He didn't even have time to contemplate the use of 'Felicity' and 'shy' in the same sentence. "What exactly happened in her interview today anyway?"
At that, he had to physically take a step back to avoid Felicity's rapid shaking of her head and waving of her hands in a frantic 'stop' motion. "Oliver, no!" she whispered again. "Hang up the phone!"
Now he was curious.
"Well, she was very professional and looked very pretty when she came in." Of course she did, she always does, Oliver added mentally. "She had a lot of great ideas and interesting responses to my questions. She seems like a very competent young woman."
"She is. So what was keeping you from hiring her on the spot?" Oliver flashed a teasing grin at Felicity who now looked on the verge of hitting him. He couldn't wait to hear what sort of inappropriate babble had passed her brain's filter to totally blow her interview.
"Well…" Carl hesitated. "As a man in your position, I'm sure you understand that a good executive assistant fulfils so many more roles than just a secretary."
"Of course," Oliver affirmed, thinking of all the times Felicity had had to do more for him than just scheduling his meetings and ordering his lunch.
"She seemed hesitant to commit to some of the other responsibilities that come with the position," Carl continued.
"Oliver, hang up! You don't want to know!" Felicity whispered in warning.
"Yeah, I know bringing me coffee was never her favorite part of the job," Oliver said sympathetically while teasing Felicity with smirk. She clenched her lips in frustration and reached out to try to grab the phone. He swatted her hand away.
Carl chuckled on the other end of the line. "Yes, I could tell she was a spirited one. You should have seen the way she looked at me when I asked her to loosen the top button of her blouse."
Oliver stilled and his eyes jerked to meet Felicity's. She gave a resigned sigh and dropped her hand with a shake of her head. "You did what?"
"Well you know," Carl continued jovially, "I needed a little taste of what I was signing up for. You know what I'm saying?"
"No, I don't," Oliver ground out. "What exactly are you saying?"
"I was hardly going to hire the girl without sampling the merchandise. I simply asked her to unbutton one little button and she reacted like I had just admitted to stealing from the homeless! Some of the names she called me… well, obviously that's why I had my security guard see her out. Honestly, I don't know what came over her." Oliver felt his blood heat and his hand began to shake slightly. He watched as Felicity shook her head in warning. "It's not like she not familiar with the way things work between CEOs and their assistants. That's why I called you, to make sure she was worth it – which you've assured me she is. In fact, I'd be lying if I said her little outburst didn't intrigue me. Is the cat and mouse thing something you two used often?"
Oliver's mouth fell open slightly in shock and it took him a moment to collect his thoughts. But only a moment. "You son of a bitch," he growled. "You're telling me you asked her to undress for you during an interview? You better start packing your bags, because when I find you I'm going to -"
He was interrupted when a small hand shot out with a squeak and grabbed the phone away from his ear. He saw her promptly press the red "end call" button with a glare on her face. "Was that really necessary?"
Oliver started at her in astonishment. Instead of answering, he clenched his hands and stalked towards the work table where his bow rested. That asshole needed a swift kick in the balls, and who better to do it than the Arrow?
"Oliver," Felicity called in warning, rushing behind him. He didn't hear her though, all he could hear was the blood rushing behind his ears at the mental image of his Felicity being leered at by the greasy, balding, pot-bellied form of Carl Combs. He imagined Carl with his eyes looking in places other than Felicity's face for the entirety of the interview. He imagined Carl moving to sit next to her, his hand placed a little too high on her thigh to be strictly professional. He imagined Carl staring at her across the desk, imagining what it would feel like to have her to himself at the end of a long day of work.
"Oliver, stop!" Felicity's voice and the soft hand she placed on his chest broke him from his dark trance. She had positioned herself between him and his bow.
"Why should I? He -"
"It doesn't matter!"
"Yes it does!"
"It's over now! Let it go!"
"I can't just let it go, Felicity!"
Oliver paused, taking deep breaths. Her chest was rising and falling with her heavy breaths as well. He stared at her for a minute, then instinctively reached out and pulled her into his chest. She squeaked in surprise. His arms encompassed her as he held her against him, and her arms reluctantly circled around his waist before she relaxed in his embrace.
They stood in silence, letting the steady beats of each other's heart slowly calm them down.
Finally, Oliver spoke. "I'm sorry. Are you okay?"
Felicity pulled back, and he dropped his arms from her waist. "I'm fine," she affirmed with a nod and a small smile.
He looked at her skeptically.
"Oliver. I'm fine. Really. You don't get far in the IT career field as a young blonde woman without enduring a few interviews with sexist creeps." She laughed lightly at her own joke, but Oliver's jaw only tightened. She sighed. "I'm not some withering damsel who was cowering in the corner you know."
Oliver's mouth twitched. "Trust me. I know. Combs said he had to have you escorted out by security."
Felicity grinned and gave him a small shove in the shoulder as she pushed her way past him and back towards her computer. "I'm neither going to confirm nor deny that statement."
"Someone needs to set him straight, Felicity. And as much as I would have loved to see you put him in his place, I don't think it really got through to him." Oliver ran a hand over his face out of thinly veiled frustration. Carl Combs could not be allowed to get away with treating his Girl Wednesday like some prostitute that could be bought and paid for.
"That's why his stock portfolio took a pretty substantial hit today," she responded coyly. She sat in her chair and spun around to face him with a grin. "No further action needed."
"Is that why you didn't want me to know what he did?"
Felicity paused, then sighed. "I didn't want you to know because I knew you'd overreact."
"Overreact?" Oliver ground out. "He practically asked you to –" Felicity gave him a pointed look, and he broke off mid-sentence. "So you think I should let him off the hook now that you've financially ruined him?"
"I didn't ruin him!" Felicity defended herself indignantly. "He just won't be able to retire comfortably any time soon. And yes. I don't need you to fight my battles for me. I can take care of the pigs out there on my own."
Oliver smiled and shook his head. She truly was one of a kind. He was ready to threaten this guy with a long, painful death for the way he had treated her, and she was willing to forgive and forget after some relatively small monetary restitution.
"So you're okay?" She asked carefully. "You're not going to shoot him with an arrow, right?"
Oliver sighed. "I promise I won't lay a hand on him."
"Good," she hummed happily and she turned back around to face her computers. She paused. "Oliver, why the hell is there an open water bottle on my desk? How many times do I have to tell you to keep all liquid away from my babies!"
The next day, Felicity was surprised by a knock at her front door. Oliver and Diggle weren't expecting her at the foundry for another half an hour, so she had been catching up on some chores around the apartment.
When she opened the front door, she was greeted by a large bouquet of flowers. Confused, she signed for it and hastily brought it inside to look for a card from the sender. When she did find it buried beneath the petals and stem of a very large sunflower, she quickly tore it open.
I am sending this bouquet as a sincere apology for my behavior yesterday. The way I treated you was despicable and disrespectful. For that, I send my deepest regret and I hope you can find it in your heart to someday forgive my rude behavior.
Yours, Mr. Carl Combs
P.S. Please tell our mutual friend that I have taken his words to heart. I will be hiring a male executive assistant in the near future.
Felicity folded the note back up in disbelief. Before she could process what she was doing, her phone was out and she had pressed the '1' on her speed dial.
"Oliver Jonas Queen!" she yelled, trying to make her voice sound as angry as it should have been even though she was having a hard time mustering that anger.
"We just had a chat, Felicity," he defended himself quickly. Felicity thought it sounded almost as if he had rehearsed that line. "Besides, you only made me promise not to hurt him."
Felicity groaned. "You're an ass, Oliver."
She could almost hear his grin through the phone line. "See you in 30 minutes, Felicity."
She hung up and rolled her eyes. What a stupid, barbaric, idiotic, infuriating, and … surprisingly considerate and caring boy he was. Of course she couldn't tell him that after this, but somehow she thought he knew when she showed up at the foundry and was unable to keep herself from flashing a small, grateful smile in his direction. She didn't need him to defend her honor, but it was nice to know that he would.