AN: I started writing this weeks ago. It was supposed to be a short little one-shot (the idea was to do a 5 + 1 fic) and then it spiraled wildly, wildly out of control. It sat for a while 'cause I didn't have time to edit it between finals, but now I think that's probably a good thing in light of the mid-season finale. This story is AU, and all fluff. It's also finished - yay! (I'm still working on The Reluctant Queen, don't worry. Just thought I'd share some fluff). Also, the layout of the Louvre and the Paris streets are written from memory and some help from Google. Please forgive me if I've gotten anything wrong.
Spoilers: None. AU.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
They are in the Louvre when he sees her.
Tommy and Laurel are still in the hallway behind him, and Oliver has followed Thea out onto a marble landing. There's a wide staircase to his left and a short set of stairs in front of him; on the landing where the different sets of stairs meet is a large statue of a woman who has no head and no arms, but a massive set of wings.
The museum is full of beautiful artwork, but Oliver thinks this is his favorite piece so far.
Thea is reading the museum guide she insisted on buying from the bookstore before they started the walk through.
"My feet are killing me," she grouses.
"This was your idea," Oliver retorts.
"It was Tommy's idea," Thea corrects. "I just went a long with it because it was something to do. I don't know if you've noticed, but this summer sucks."
Oliver thinks that might be unnecessarily dramatic. He's about to tell his sister so when a massive knot of people on the landing disperses and his eyes fall on a petite blonde woman. She's standing quietly in front of the statue, a camera in one hand that she's not even trying to use, and smiling softly. The sight is so strange that Oliver finds himself cocking his head to one side as he observes her more closely. Her blonde hair falls in soft waves down her back and she wears dark glasses; her dress is a light pink, soft and feminine. People move around her but she is in a bubble of her own, as if the crowds are loathe to interrupt whatever moment she seems to be experiencing.
"I'll be right back," Oliver says impulsively.
He's already down the steps and doesn't answer. Oliver feels drawn to this woman but he approaches her slowly. He doesn't want to startle her or come off like a creep; he's not sure what he wants to do, really, except be pulled into this stranger's orbit.
Oliver is trying to decide whether or not he should say something – and what to say, if he decides to – as he moves into the empty space beside her. The choice is made for him when a group of boys weave suddenly between the legs of crowd: one of them bumps gracelessly into the blonde woman and she stumbles right into him.
"Oh!" she exclaims in surprise.
Oliver catches her by the elbow and her other hand latches instinctively around his forearm as she works to right herself.
"I am so sorry," she apologizes quickly. "I wasn't paying attention and someone …"
She finally looks up and into Oliver's face, and her words die on her lips. Oliver smiles reassuringly even as he watches blue eyes widen behind their glasses.
"No apology needed," Oliver says. "Glad I could help."
"Me too," she murmurs. Then, quickly, "I mean, thank you."
She realizes then that he's still holding her elbow and she's clutching his forearm; she removes her hand quickly, obviously embarrassed, and Oliver releases her elbow so that she can take a step back.
"I'm Oliver." He holds out a hand and smiles again.
"Felicity," she replies, and shakes his hand. "Sorry about falling for you, Oliver. On you! Sorry about falling on you, I mean, not falling for you, obviously, because who does that. Not that I wouldn't fall for you. No! That came out wrong. I meant to say that I'm sure lots of people would fall for you, because you're definitely handsome, and …"
Oliver is smiling so widely that his cheeks are burning. He's doing his best not to laugh, because the woman in front of him is already flustered enough by her own doing, but he can feel the chuckle bubbling in his throat.
"Ugh! My brain thinks of the worst way to say things," Felicity mutters dryly. "I'm sorry that you had to hear all of that."
"Don't be," Oliver answers. "I can already tell it's gonna be the highlight of my day."
"But you're in the Louvre," Felicity states in disbelief.
"Oh, is that what they call this place? Huh. I thought it'd be bigger."
She stares at him, open mouthed, for a heartbeat; then her nose scrunches ever so slightly, and she starts to laugh. Even above the din of the tourist masses, the sound is sweet and clear, and makes Oliver smile.
"What about you, Felicity? Is the Louvre everything you hoped it would be?" Oliver enquires.
"Best part of the city," she answers easily. She's not laughing anymore, but her lingering smile is beautiful. "And this is the best spot in the museum."
"The best? Why is that?"
Felicity motions with a small hand toward the statue in front of them. "Because Nike is my favorite."
"Favorite statue?" he prods.
Oliver reassesses the piece of artwork in front of them. The feminine form is huge and looms over the people that pass; it is still an impressive piece despite its age and wear. Then again, maybe it is impressive – and beautiful – because of its age and wear.
He makes up his mind right then that, yes, this is his favorite thing in the museum as well.
"Wait, did you say Nike?" He turns his gaze back to Felicity. "This statue is named Nike? As in, the shoe?"
Felicity chuckles and nods in response. "The shoe was named after the statue, but yes. Technically, her name is actually The Victory of Samothrace, but most people know her as Nike. And now I sound like a huge nerd, don't I?"
"I don't -."
The rest of Oliver's reply is cut off by the sound of his sister calling his name. When he glances back to the spot where he left her, he sees that Tommy and Laurel have joined her; Tommy is grinning like the cat that caught the mouse.
"Guess I better go, before my sister comes to drag me away." Oliver genuinely regrets that he can't stay and talk for a while longer.
Two women pop into existence at Felicity's side then. They are both beautiful women and they're grinning happily, their attention so focused on Felicity that they don't immediately notice him.
"Thank God you're still here! Caitlin just spent half an hour trying to explain in extreme detail why the …"
"Iris!" the other girl hisses.
Felicity has turned to look at the women Oliver assumes are her friends; at the insistent hiss, three pairs of eyes turn on him.
"Uh, hi," the brunette says.
"Wow," the other one adds. "Does Felicity know you?"
"She does now," Oliver teases with a grin.
A light dusting of pink that nearly matches her dress spreads over Felicity's cheeks.
"Ollie! We will leave you here, you know."
Oliver rolls his eyes for dramatic effect. "Sisters," he says. Then he fixes his eyes on Felicity; this time his smile is wide and sincere. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Felicity."
"You too, Oliver."
He leans forward carefully, careful not to cross from intimate into intimidating, and says: "You can fall for me anytime. On me, I mean." And then he winks at her.
Oliver doesn't look back, but as he rejoins his group and they turn into another hall he's afforded a last glimpse of Felicity: she appears to be fending off questions from her friends.
Tommy drops back to fall in beside him as Laurel and Thea navigate the crowds ahead of them.
"Who was the hot blonde?" Tommy asks. "And how did you manage to pick up a chick in the freaking Louvre, man?"
"She's not a chick, Tommy, and I didn't pick her up."
"Whoa, whoa." Tommy holds up both of his hands in mock surrender. "Easy buddy. Just curious, that's all. You two seemed to be enjoying yourselves, is all I'm saying."
"Her name is Felicity," Oliver replies. "And I caught her when some kids knocked into her. That's all."
Except that isn't all, because he can't stop thinking about how much he'd wanted to laugh at her embarrassing ramble or how brightly she'd smiled. Oliver had spent all of maybe ten minutes in her company and already wants to see her again. An impossible feat, of course, since she's nothing more than a stranger that he'd met by pure chance in one of the most touristy, populated places in the world.
Thea's right, Oliver thinks, this summer sucks.
"Thea, I'm not carrying that for the rest of the day."
"Not happening. Buy whatever you want, but you're carrying it yourself."
Oliver hears his sister move to a different part of the gift shop and resumes browsing the shelves. They're in a gift shop on the underground level of the museum, near the entrance to the Paris Metro that feeds directly into the building. Every few minutes he can hear the trains speed by.
His eyes are drawn to the top shelf. Nike figurines are lined up in order of height; the largest look to be heavy and made of bronze or marble. There are bookends and paperweights, and a few smaller figurines that are probably plaster and fit easily in his hand when he picks one up.
"I'm partial to that big marble one, myself."
Oliver looks up immediately. Felicity is standing at the end of the shelves; she's smirking at him.
A few feet behind her he thinks he recognizes her friends from earlier browsing another shelf.
"Closest you can get to the original?" he asks, like he's not stunned to see her again.
"Oh, no, just something to keep in my purse in case I ever need to hit someone with it."
Oliver grins. "I think mace might work better for self defense purposes."
"Maybe, but it lacks a certain sense of …"
"Bodily harm?" Oliver supplies.
"Style," Felicity finishes.
"Well, we certainly can't have that." Oliver notices that Felicity has a purse slung over her shoulder, but no shopping bags. "No souvenirs?"
"The trip is the souvenir," she answers. Then she holds up her camera. "And the downright terrifying number of pictures I've taken."
He studies her for a minute. She looks to be about his age, or maybe a few years younger, and everything about her puts him in mind of happiness. Felicity doesn't look at all bothered by her lack of souvenirs, even though Oliver is certain that he can see a number of shopping bags being carried by her friends.
"I know you said you wouldn't carry it, Ollie, but what if it's small?" Thea asks as she turns the corner. Then, when she spots Felicity, "Oh. Hello."
"That's what your purse is for. Thea, this is Felicity. Felicity, this is my sister, Thea."
"Nice to meet you, Thea," Felicity says with a smile.
"You too. You're …"
"Hi," a new voice says suddenly.
"Way to interrupt, Tommy," Thea grouses.
"That's rich coming from you, Thea," Tommy retorts. He turns a charming smile on Felicity. "I'm sorry, my sister is a brat sometimes. And you are?"
Felicity is confused for just a second. Thea's expression does something strange when the word sister falls from Tommy's mouth, but she covers it almost immediately. Felicity ignores the flare of curiosity she feels and the mild discomfort she thinks she sees in Thea's body language. Tommy doesn't seem to notice.
"Felicity," she answers. Tommy has extended his hand so she takes it and gives it a shake.
"No last name, Felicity?" Tommy queries.
Oliver starts to say something and gets cut off.
"Not for you," she quips. "You seem charming enough, Tommy, but you could be anyone. A serial killer, for all I know. Or a stalker, and I don't need a repeat of that lacrosse player from freshman year."
"Even though you're definitely hotter than that guy was."
Felicity half turns to see that Iris and Caitlin have finished their shopping in time to join their impromptu meeting. Iris is grinning at Tommy, who seems pleased by her comment.
Laurel steps into place next to Oliver's other side just then.
"Iris, Caitlin, this is Tommy, Thea, Oliver and … I'm sorry, I don't know your name."
"Laurel," she answers. "You're the girl from the statue, aren't you?"
"Guilty. I'm Felicity."
"I have a fantastic idea," Tommy says suddenly. "Let's have dinner. The museum is about to close, and I know a great restaurant."
"Oh, I don't know if that's a good idea," Caitlin hedges.
"What are you talking about, it's a great idea!" Iris exclaims.
Oliver is too busy watching Felicity to weigh in. She's studying them with interested, shrewd eyes as she listens to Tommy attempt to persuade them into having dinner. The idea occurs to him again that she's an attractive woman. Her lips are painted perfectly in a pink lipstick that somehow manages to be bright and flirty, and still match her dress.
He generally has one of two reactions to Tommy's ideas: that's great, let's do it immediately; or, alternately, what the hell, Tommy, that's dumb and we're absolutely not doing that. Oliver's response to the suggestion of dinner falls firmly into the first category.
He's so busy staring – no, not staring, he's definitely not staring – at Felicity that he almost misses Tommy's next words.
"Dinner's on Ollie."
Oliver starts in surprise and turns to look at his friend just as Thea smacks Tommy's arm. Next to him, Laurel scoffs lightly.
"Way to be a gentleman, Merlyn," Laurel chides.
"Okay, okay, dinner's on both of us," Tommy amends, laughing. "And the only one in danger of being injured is me. What do you say, ladies?"
"Okay," Felicity says slowly. She's smiling again and her attention is zeroed in on Oliver. "We'll go to dinner with you if Oliver can tell me the name of the statue in his hand."
He's completely forgotten that he's holding a small white figurine in his hand. When he looks down at it, he feels himself start to grin.
"Oh, that's easy," he teases.
"It is?" Thea says in surprise.
Oliver ignores her. "The Victory of Samothrace."
Felicity starts to laugh. "Dinner it is."
Now combined, the two groups start to head out of the gift shop. Oliver and Felicity are still standing in front of the shelf of miniature Victory figures. On impulse, he inclines his head toward them.
"Pick one," he says.
"What?" Felicity glances at the statues and then shakes her head. "Oh, no."
"Humor me. Your choices are white, bronze, and something that's supposed to be marble."
She studies his face for a minute and then pulls one of the small bronze statues off the shelf.
Oliver takes it from her. "Come on."
He buys the white one in his hand and the bronze one she picked out.
"Gotta have a souvenir," he tells her when he hands it back to her.
"I told you," Felicity answers around her smile. "The trip is the souvenir."
"Who said it was for the trip?"
They are walking along the Promenade d'Australie after dinner when Oliver ventures to learn more about the captivating stranger next to him.
"So I'm not allowed to ask your last name," Oliver says, "But am I allowed to ask anything else?"
"You can ask, but I won't promise to answer."
He grins. "Fair enough. We'll start small. Is this your first time in Paris?"
"It is," Felicity answers with a nod. "And I have to say, it's a little overrated."
"You don't like Paris?" Oliver tries not to sound surprised. "I thought everyone loved this city."
"It's not bad," she answers quickly. "Just, not my favorite. So far, the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles have been the best part. What about you, Oliver? Do you love Paris?"
"Not really, actually."
Felicity gives him a mock glare. "You can't tease me about it when you have the same opinion! But if you don't like it, why are you here?" She realizes that the question might have a personal answer at the same time Oliver's expression falls. and tries to fix her blunder. "I mean, you don't have to tell me, of course, you're an adult and it's none of my business, and I'm sorry for asking, really."
Oliver considers taking the out she's offering. His reasons for being in Paris are personal and just thinking about them makes him uncomfortable and angry all over again; but Felicity is a stranger, someone who has no emotional stake in the situation, and there's just something about her.
He sighs and motions to the group of people several feet ahead of them.
"Tommy and I have been friends for a long time," he starts. "Most of our lives, actually. He's like family. About a month ago, our mom decided to tell us that he is actually family. Well, Thea's family, anyway. She and Tommy are half-siblings."
"So she's your sister, and Tommy's sister, but you and Tommy aren't related?"
Oliver shakes his head. Next to him, Felicity blows out a quiet breath.
"That's rough," she says. Then, "So I'm assuming it wasn't your idea to come to Paris?"
He chuckles at the way Felicity skips right over the awkwardness and navigates the conversation back to their present surroundings. He appreciates that there's no pity or aversion in her eyes when she looks at him.
"Nope," he answers. "So what about you? Why are you in Paris, Felicity?"
"It was Iris' pick." She finds her friend with her eyes and smiles when she realizes that Iris is talking animatedly with Tommy and Laurel. Next to them, Thea and Caitlin are shaking their heads at something. "This is sort of our last hurrah. Caitlin and Iris are moving at the end of the summer. We've been saving for this trip for years."
"Ah, now the whole 'this trip is the souvenir' thing makes sense."
They walk in silence for a while. The Paris streets are busy despite the darkness and semi-late hour and every so often a laugh or a reprimand filters back to them from their group of friends.
Felicity isn't sure how they ended up back here on their own. They'd started off as one big group, moving down the sidewalks in a line as they tried to follow and further several strings of conversation. She thinks it might have happened when she'd stopped to admire a line of porcelain vases in a store window – it's not a big deal, though, and she's not in a hurry to catch up. She's enjoying Oliver's company (more than she should, probably) and her friends don't seem to mind her temporary absence.
"So how much longer are you in the city?" Oliver asks after a while.
"Only a few days," Felicity answers. "And then it's on to the next leg of the trip."
"Oh, so the traveling isn't done?"
"There's a reason it took us years to save up." She grins playfully at him.
"So who picked the next destination?"
"I did. But it coincides with Caitlin's pick, so really it's the last stop."
"Let me guess." Oliver stops under the guise of trying to decide where the three women might go next, but really he just wants Felicity to turn toward him so that he can study her face by the streetlights. "Three beautiful women, loose in Europe and looking to send the summer out in style … Amsterdam?"
Felicity laughs. Oliver has only known her for a matter of hours and already the sound warms him and makes it impossible not to smile. She is beautiful, but when she smiles she's radiant.
"Rome and Pompeii. To be fair, though, Iris did suggest Amsterdam before Paris. Her dad's a cop, so you can imagine what his reaction would have been."
"Laurel's father is a cop as well, so I know just what you mean."
"Ollie!" Thea yells then.
He and Felicity turn to look at their group. They've stopped and stepped off the sidewalk onto a stretch of grass so that they don't clog the sidewalk; Thea is pointing excitedly across the rooftops.
"Oh, wow," Felicity murmurs.
The Eifel Tower is glowing golden against the black sky, and Oliver had no idea it was there until that moment.
"Will you laugh at me if I admit that I had no idea it lit up at night?"
He looks at the woman next to him. "No."
"Just checking. It's beautiful at night. I like it better this way, it seems … soft, almost. During the day it's just a huge mess of metal, but like this, I can see why everyone likes it so much."
Felicity is turned to stare at the Tower. Oliver smiles at the way she's looking at the landmark, her expression not quite as happy as the one she'd worn when faced with the statue of the Victory, but still reverent; happy. He moves closer and wonders if it's wrong to feel so drawn to someone he's just met.
"Better than the Louvre?" he teases quietly.
Felicity glances at him over her shoulder. Her eyes widen when she realizes that he's closer than before and she tips her head back a little to accommodate for his nearness.
"Not even close."
"Ollie!" Thea calls again.
"We better catch up," Oliver says. What he really wants is to disappear down the quiet side streets with only Felicity for company and wander until they get lost.
Felicity nods. Oliver gives in to the urge to reach for her and places a light hand against the small of her back, ostensibly to ensure that she doesn't trip in the darkness.
Neither of them mentions the fact that his hand doesn't fall away until they've rejoined their friends.
"Is this how you thought the day would go when you woke up this morning?"
Felicity glances up at the man next to her. She has enjoyed every minute of this trip since the moment she crammed herself into the airplane seats with Caitlin and Iris. Paris is overrated, but the time spent with her best friends is not; still, never in a million years would she have imagined bumping into a ridiculously handsome stranger in front of her favorite sculpture in the Louvre. Nor would she have imagined bumping into him again, and then spending the rest of the evening with him.
No, there is no way that Felicity could have imagined her day taking such a turn, and with her wild imagination that's saying something.
"Not quite," she answers.
They are standing outside her hotel. She's already said goodnight to Tommy, Laurel, and Thea, but she's finding it hard to say the words now. As crazy as it seems, she doesn't want Oliver to disappear into the streets of Paris, never to be seen again.
It's stupid and a little silly, but she really likes this guy. Of course I do, she thinks, because I'll never see him again, and that's just my luck.
"Thank you for dinner," she says quietly.
"Thank you for coming."
Oliver wants to ask her for her full name, or her phone number, or anything that will let him talk to her again; he remembers clearly her slip about having a stalker once, though, and he doesn't want to scare her or make her uncomfortable, so he doesn't.
"I think Paris was a little better today," Felicity jokes with a smirk. "Less overrated than yesterday."
"More surprising," Oliver agrees quickly. "Definitely more fun."
Neither of them is ready to say goodbye, but Tommy is grinning at him like the Cheshire cat and Thea looks so tired she could fall asleep where she stands.
"I guess it would be foolish to ask if I'll see you again, wouldn't it?" Oliver asks.
"Yes," she affirms. "But I wish it wasn't." Her eyes light up suddenly. "Just a sec."
Oliver watches her step over to Caitlin. She must ask her friend for something because the other woman reaches into her purse and draws something out. Oliver doesn't see what it is until Felicity is standing in front of him again: a Sharpie.
Felicity pulls the Victory statuette out of her purse and flips the bottom up. He watches her write a capital F on the underside and the date; when she holds the Sharpie out to him, Oliver pulls his out of his pocket and mimics the action.
"Switch," Felicity says and offers him her small bronze one. Oliver hands her the white one he picked up, and she smiles. "Gotta have a souvenir," she quips.
He grins. "The trip is the souvenir," he parrots.
"Who said it was for the trip?"
Oliver laughs and wonders if it's possible to fall in love with a stranger in a foreign city in a matter of hours.