"Good morning, Mr. Queen." Principal Steele doesn't sound particularly happy to see him, but then again, Principal Steele never sounds particularly happy to see him, not unless Oliver's got his parents and their checkbook in tow. "Please have a seat."
Oliver sits in one of the leather chairs in front of his desk, slouching down and gazing around him with idle disinterest. This is nowhere near the first time he's been in this office, and he doubts it will be the last.
"Do you know why you're here, Mr. Queen?" Steele raises his eyebrows at Oliver expectantly, folding his hands in front of him on his desk.
Oliver shrugs. "Not really."
"As you may or may not know, we are approaching the end of the first quarter of the school year," Principal Steele tells him. "Which means that midterm exams are fast approaching."
"Okay," Oliver agrees, even though he had no idea the quarter was almost over. Even though midterms always suck, he's actually glad that they'll be here soon; the sooner the quarter ends, the closer he is to graduating and being done with high school forever.
"Unfortunately, Mr. Queen, you are currently failing all of your courses," Mr. Steele says, giving him a serious, disappointed look. "Which means that, unless you pull your grades up in the next two weeks, you will no longer be permitted to remain on the football team."
"What?" Oliver demands, sitting up in his chair.
"The school's policy on student athletes is quite clear. All students must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA in order to remain on the team, and as your GPA is under 2.0 and as you are currently failing all of your classes, it is unlikely that you will be able to achieve that standard," Steele says. "As of today, you are on academic suspension."
"Meaning that, for the next two weeks, you will step down from your position on the football team. Instead of going to football practice after school, you will attend mandatory tutoring, in the hopes that your grades will improve," Steele says in a hard voice. And then before Oliver can respond, Steele tells him, "I've spoken with Coach Wilson, and he agrees that this is the best course of action."
"So that's it?" Oliver honestly can't believe this. If he doesn't play, that means Roy's going to take over as QB, which is going to be a complete disaster. He's got a decent arm, but he's nowhere near Oliver's level. Hell, he's only a sophomore. "I'm off the team? Just like that?"
"From now until midterms are complete. However, if you pass all of your exams with at least a C, we will discuss your reinstatement to the team."
"But that's not fair!"
Mr. Steele raises his eyebrows. "That is more than fair, Mr. Queen, as it still may not be enough to improve your GPA to meet the minimum requirements. However, a strong performance on your exams - as well as your regular, attentive presence in every period of every one of your classes - would serve as a sign of commitment and dedication to your studies."
"And if I don't get at least a C on all of my exams?"
"Then you will no longer be a member of the Starling Academy football team."
Oliver makes an outraged sound, opening his mouth to protest, but Mr. Steele holds up his hand, palm out, cutting him off.
"This is non-negotiable, Mr. Queen. Either you pass your exams, or you have played your last football game at this school."
"This is totally unfair," Oliver complains. He's with Tommy and Laurel during their lunch period, the three of them hanging out at one of the picnic tables in the courtyard. They were supposed to skip out early today, head down to Coast City to this great sushi place Tommy heard about, but after the meeting with Principal Steele this morning, Oliver's stuck on campus all day.
"It's not unfair," Laurel tells him, which isn't much of a surprise. She's always been kind of superior about grades and school and stuff, always nagging him and Tommy to take things more seriously. "You're failing all of your classes, Ollie. What did you think was going to happen?"
"I thought they'd remember that my family's name is on the new academic building, and they'd let a couple of bad grades slide."
Laurel sighs and gives him a disapproving look, which Oliver purposefully ignores.
"So talk to your father," Tommy suggests with a shrug. "He'll talk to Steele and set him straight."
"You think?" Oliver asks hopefully. There's just no way he's going to be able to pass all of his exams next week. He's not even sure what classes he's enrolled in this semester.
"Definitely," Tommy says. "Just call him and let him know what's going on. I bet you'll be out on the practice field this afternoon."
Oliver grins and takes out his phone, dialing his dad's office and pacing away from the table, ignoring the disappointed way Laurel looks after him. It's not that Oliver doesn't care about his schoolwork, but Steele's terms are way too harsh. There's no way Oliver's going to suddenly be able to pass exams for classes he's barely attended.
Unfortunately, Oliver's dad turns out to be no help at all.
"It sounds like Mr. Steele is being completely reasonable," his dad says after Oliver has explained the situation to him.
"But he's not even letting me go to practice!" Oliver drags a hand through his hair. He seriously can't believe this. First Laurel and now his dad? Why doesn't anyone besides Tommy see how unfair this whole thing is?
"Oliver, he's giving you an opportunity to pull your grades up and stay on the team. It's perfectly reasonable for him to ask you to take the next two weeks to focus on your studies rather than football."
"But, dad…" Oliver's whining, he knows he is, but this whole situation is just completely and totally unfair.
"Listen, Oliver, I've got to go," his father interrupts him, and from the tone in his voice, Oliver knows that this conversation is over. "I've got a meeting with the Board in five minutes. Go to the tutoring session today, and we'll discuss this tonight when I get home."
Oliver sighs, frustrated. "Fine," he says. "I'll talk to you tonight." He ends the call and shoves the phone back into his pocket, making his way back over to where Tommy and Laurel are waiting for him.
"How'd it go?" Tommy asks, even though he's already making a sympathetic face.
"Not great. He said that I need to focus on my studies and that missing a couple of weeks of practice won't kill me."
"He's right, Ollie," Laurel says, wrapping her hand around his and giving him a gentle smile. Oliver sighs, feeling a surge of irritation. He doesn't get why she can't just take his side occasionally. "It might even be good for you."
"Right," Oliver scoffs. "Because nothing is better for you than spending the afternoon cooped up in a dank, dark library."
"Ollie," Laurel sighs, but Oliver shakes his head, pulling away from her.
"Forget it," he says, hiking his backpack over his shoulder. "I'll see you guys later."
After the final bell rings for the day, Oliver sighs, gathering up his things and pulling out the slip of paper that Principal Steele gave him that morning before Oliver left his office.
2nd Floor, Library East, Room 214. Student: Oliver Queen. Tutor: Felicity Smoak. Subjects to be Studied: All.
Oliver reads over the paper as he trudges over to the library, dragging his feet. When he gets to Room 214, it's empty except for one girl, sitting with her back to the door, a long blonde ponytail falling halfway down the back of her navy blue Starling Academy blazer.
"Felicity Smoak?" he asks, and the girl turns around to face him, she's got black-rimmed glasses and blue eyes and a red pen caught between her teeth. "Hi. I'm Oliver Queen."
"I know who you are," she says immediately, reaching up to take the pen out of her mouth. "You're Oliver Queen. You're captain of the football team, and you're dating Laurel Lance, and you've got Ms. Lewis's Chemistry class first period." Oliver quirks an eyebrow, and Felicity rushes to continue. "Not that I'm a stalker or anything, because I'm not. I just know about the football thing because, well, everyone knows that, and everyone also knows you're with Laurel, and I'm actually in your Chem class, so. Not a stalker. Just a girl who can't seem to stop babbling. Which I will do, in 3...2...1…"
"You're in my Chemistry class?" Oliver asks, not sure how else to respond to her ramble. He feels like he'd remember if they'd had a class together, but then again, he hasn't actually gone to Chemistry since the beginning of the semester. Most mornings, he doesn't manage to make it to school until right after the second period bell, so first period is always a wash.
"Yep," she says. "Are you here for tutoring?"
"I am," Oliver confirms, handing over the tutoring request form. Her nails are painted a cheerful sky blue, and her fingertips brush his as she takes the paper.
"So," she says, scanning the paper and then looking back up at him. "It looks like we'll be doing everything." She blinks, her cheeks going red, and she shakes her head once before he can respond. "Academically, I mean. Not...other kinds of everything."
Oliver smiles before he can stop himself. Despite the fact that this whole tutoring thing is completely ridiculous and utterly unfair, he thinks that Felicity herself might not be too bad. Sure, she's sort of awkward and rambly, but, underneath the geek glasses and the school uniform, she's actually kind of hot, which is a bonus he totally did not expect.
He drops his backpack on the ground and slides into the chair next to her, noticing with no small amount of satisfaction the way she can't seem to stop stealing glances at him, how her cheeks are still a little flush. This is going to be even easier than he'd hoped.
"You know," he tells her, leaning over to talk to her in a low voice, bracing his elbows on the table in front of her and getting right in her personal space. "I kind of like the idea that we'll be doing everything together."
"Um," Felicity says, blinking owlishly at him behind her glasses.
"And," Oliver says, reaching over and sliding his arm across the back of her chair, leaning in close enough that he can smell the bright, citrusy scent of her shampoo. "I know that you'll be a really big help getting my grades back up."
"That's the plan," Felicity agrees, but her voice comes out low and breathless and her gaze keeps flicking down to his mouth.
"Maybe we can start with Chemistry, since we're in it together," he says and she nods, looking a little dazed. "We're doing those, like, equation things right? With chemical symbols or something?"
"Balancing chemical equations," Felicity supplies, one corner of her mouth quirking up in amusement.
"Right," Oliver agrees easily. "Chemical equations. We've got worksheets due on that, right?"
"We did," Felicity agrees, pulling away from him just the slightest bit, her eyebrows knit together in confusion. "But those were due weeks ago. Ms. Lewis already handed them back."
"How'd you do?"
"Perfect score," Felicity tells him, smiling.
"Hmm," Oliver hums, tapping his fingers against his lips in mock-contemplation. "I must have forgotten to turn mine in. Can I borrow yours? Just until tomorrow."
"You're joking," Felicity scoffs. She's not blushing anymore, and the look on her face is suddenly less charmed and more annoyed. "You want me to let you cheat off of me?"
"No," Oliver lies, sitting back and crossing his arms over his chest. "I just want to double check my answers."
"Yeah, no," Felicity tells him. "That is not happening. Ever."
"Come on, Felicity," Oliver says, smiling at her again, trying to get the charm working. "It's no big deal. You've already gotten the worksheets back, you said so yourself. And we won't get caught, I promise."
Felicity's face falls, like he's disappointed her somehow, and Oliver feels a strange, unexpected surge of regret.
"I'm sorry," he says, and even as the words are leaving his mouth, he can't believe he's saying them. "I didn't think-"
"I'm here on scholarship," she interrupts him, sounding serious. "Which means that if I get in trouble, my parents can't just buy my way out of it. And there is no way am I getting kicked out of school just because some unbelievably handsome billionaire would rather flirt than do even the tiniest bit of work," she says, looking at him over the top of her glasses.
Oliver smiles, ignoring the dig about his parents buying his way out of trouble. "Unbelievably handsome?" he repeats, and Felicity blushes so hard her ears turn pink.
"I mean...I didn't mean that," Felicity says quickly. Oliver raises his eyebrows and she goes an even deeper shade of red. "Or, well, I did mean it actually. You're obviously handsome, you know that. Everyone knows that. There are probably blind women living in caves halfway across the world who know how attractive Oliver Queen is, and oh my god, I am going to stop talking now." She presses a hand against her forehead, scrunching up her face in embarrassment, and Oliver can't help but smile.
He clears his throat, taking pity on her. "Well, if you aren't going to share your Chem worksheets with me, maybe we should start with Calculus, since it's the class I'm failing the worst."
Felicity smiles at him then, looking almost absurdly grateful. She's got a nice smile, he notices, dimples creasing her cheeks. "Calculus. Yes. Great. Perfect. I am a Calculus genius," she says.
"A genius, huh?"
"Yep," Felicity agrees easily, like it's just a fact. "Where's your book?"
Oliver reaches down and grabs the book out of his backpack, dropping it down on the desk with a dull thud.
"What is this?" Felicity demands, her eyes going wide behind her glasses.
Oliver raises his eyebrows, looking between her and the book and then back again. "It's my Calc textbook."
"It's still shrink-wrapped," she says, her voice sounding strangely high.
Oliver shrugs, reaching over to tear the plastic off. "I just haven't had a chance to look at it yet."
"It's midterms," Felicity tells him, like this fact is somehow lost on him. "That means we are two months into the school year. Two months, and you haven't even taken the book out of its wrapping." She sighs, shaking her head. Then, more to herself than to him: "How am I supposed to work with this?"
Oliver breathes out heavily through his nose, feeling a surge of irritation. Okay, yeah, he hasn't actually opened his textbook or done any of the homework, but that doesn't mean she has to act like he's a completely lost cause.
So: "I go to class," he tells her, defensively. She looks over at him in disbelief, and he adds, "Sometimes."
Felicity blows out a heavy sigh, and for a moment Oliver's afraid she's going to quit, just give up and walk out the door. For some reason, the thought makes his stomach drop unpleasantly. Probably it's just because if she ditches him, he's got no chance of passing his exams, and then he'll be off the team.
But instead of walking away, she scoots her chair closer to the table and opens the book in front of her, the brand-new spine making a creaking noise as she does.
"Well, it looks like we've got our work cut out for us," Felicity tells him, looking up at him kind of playfully over the top of the glasses, before turning back to the book, flicking the end of her ponytail over her shoulder in this way that makes Oliver's stomach flip pleasantly.
He pulls his chair up beside her, mirroring her, glancing down briefly when his leg bumps against hers under the table. Her blue plaid skirt has ridden up slightly, enough smooth tan skin visible above her knee that it's definitely violating the dress code.
"What's the last thing you remember?" she says, and Oliver jerks his gaze away from her legs, swallowing hard and shifting a little in his seat.
"Oh, uh," he stammers, glancing at her. "Um...what?"
Felicity's watching him in amusement, the corner of her mouth turned up in a knowing half-smile. "In Calculus. What's the last thing you remember doing?"
Oliver clears his throat, trying to think about it. Technically, he went to class yesterday, but he spent the whole period texting Tommy, so he can't actually remember anything Mr. Youklis wrote on the board. Before that, he was in class...last Thursday, maybe? Yeah, Thursday seems right. He thinks he remembers something about…"Sines and cosines?"
"Sines and cosines," Felicity repeats, and for a second Oliver's worried that those aren't actually a thing and that he remembered wrong, but then she nods, flipping through the textbook. "So, trig functions, then."
"Yeah, trig functions," Oliver confirms, more confidently than he feels.
Felicity sighs again, like she knows he's bullshitting her, but doesn't call him out on it. Instead, she just slides the book in front him, tapping the end of her pencil on a clusters of triangles in the middle of the page.
"Okay," she says, and then she's scooting her chair up a little closer to his, close enough that her shoulder bumps against him when she reaches for his notebook. "Let's get started."
Oliver sighs, cursing his luck that he got assigned one of the few honest students at Starling to be his tutor. But then Felicity turns to him with a smile, and he feels himself smiling back. She's got a really great smile, and he can still see the bare skin of her leg out of the corner of his eye, and Oliver thinks maybe this whole tutoring thing might not be so bad after all.