For a while, after Oliver comes back (again, because clearly Oliver has a death wish, which is infuriating beyond reason), everything is normal - well, as normal as it can get when your name is Felicity Smoak.
She works with Ray during the day and spends her nights with Oliver.
It's not as strange as it sounds, she swears. She and Oliver are friends. Just friends.
They eat late dinners together; they watch Dig and Roy teach Laurel to fight. They save the city from evil, one bad guy at a time.
They touch each other but it's innocent. Mostly. His hand brushes her shoulder, her hip, occasionally the back of her neck when she's showing him something on her computer.
It's nice. It's not what she wants, not really. But she learns to be happy this way. Happy that Oliver's alive, that he's here. What she told him that night in the foundry wasn't a lie. As long as he's in her life in some way or another she's happy.
Not as happy as she could be, but that's irrelevant.
Felicity should have known that their new normal wouldn't last. It never does.
They're in her apartment watching Game of Thrones, because Oliver hasn't seen it, because Oliver hasn't seen anything decent since before the island. She's horrified by his lack of exposure to decent television, and has taken it upon herself to catch him up.
So Oliver is watching, and Felicity is trying to but Ray keeps texting her, until Oliver threatens to break her phone if she doesn't shut it off.
"Okay, okay!" Felicity says, and makes a show of turning the phone off.
"It's off, I swear!"
Oliver chuckles. "It's okay." He leans back against the couch, runs a finger around a tiny hole in the knee of her leggings. "That was Ray, right?"
"Yeah," she says softly. They don't really talk about Ray, because...well. Things are awkward enough.
"Felicity?" he says again, like he's trying to ask something but doesn't know how.
She looks down at his hand cupping her knee. Once upon a time Oliver Queen's hand on her knee would have made her faint. Now it's familiar, comforting. Something she holds onto when they've had a bad day, on nights when they don't win. The warmth of Oliver's strong hand on hers.
"Oliver?" she prompts, when he doesn't follow up with a question.
"Does he make you happy?" Oliver asks in a low voice.
The question throws her off guard. This isn't something that they talk about. It just floats between them, the missed opportunity; the knowledge that they love each other but can't be together.
The word 'happy' is supposed to be off limits.
"Yes," she answers carefully.
Oliver contemplates this. "Is it serious?"
Felicity shrugs. "I don't know. Maybe."
She feels a wrinkle of irritation. "I don't know. We don't talk about things like that."
"Ray understands, okay? He knows that he's not my first choice." Her hand slaps over her mouth, because she certainly didn't plan on saying that. Stupid, stupid Felicity.
Oliver looks at her with his mouth open, like he's just as shocked as she is by what she said.
"Um." Oliver's mouth opens and shuts. "So it's not...exclusive?"
"You and Ray. Is it exclusive?"
She doesn't even know what she and Ray are. They work together, and occasionally sleep together. They exchange flirty texts and share late boozy dinners, but is he her boyfriend? Are they in an actual relationship?
"No," she hears herself say. "It's kind of...casual." Which makes her wince. She might as well have said that they're screwing.
"Oh." Oliver nods. "Okay." He stands up from the couch so she does too.
"Hey, are you free tomorrow night?" he asks.
Felicity smiles. "My nights are reserved for you, you know that."
"Can I take you to dinner?"
"You just said you're not exclusive."
"Okay?" What does that have to do with it?
"I want to take you on a date," he says plainly.
"Oliver, what the hell are you talking about?" Didn't he make it very clear after their one date from hell that they weren't going to do it again, like, ever?
Oliver brushes her cheek with his thumb. "I'm throwing my hat in the ring."
"I don't understand," she says dumbly.
"Felicity," Oliver says, with just a hint of frustration. "Tomorrow night. You, me, dinner, candlelight, is any of this sounding appealing to you?"
"Uh-huh," she nods, because there's something about Oliver asking her out on a date that makes her normal babbling screech to a halt.
"Good." Oliver says seriously. "Wear something nice. Actually, screw that, I'll send something over for you. Pick you up at seven?"
"Okay," she says faintly.
"Okay." Oliver leans forward and kisses her cheek. "Goodnight Felicity."
She manages to mumble something back and then he's gone, leaving her standing in the foyer with her jaw on the floor.
So much for normal.
Oliver sends a dress to her at the office. The dress is Tiffany blue, with a corseted bodice and soft floaty skirt. Felicity sighs in delight, running the fabric between her fingertips. Oliver has a lot of faults, but his taste in clothing isn't one of them.
There's a note nestled in tissue paper at the bottom of the box that reads, simply:
Looking forward to seeing this on you.
"What's that?" Ray asks curiously from behind her. Felicity flinches. She didn't even hear him come in.
"Nothing," she says lamely.
"Nice dress," he says, tapping the Nieman Marcus label on the box. And then he sees the note. "From Oliver?"
"Mm-hmm," Felicity says, like it's totally normal for Oliver to send over a two thousand dollar couture dress for no reason at all.
"Why did Oliver send you a dress?" Ray asks, crinkling his nose in confusion or perhaps, distaste.
"Oh, you know Oliver," she says flippantly. "Always showing off."
"Felicity," he says. "Is there anything you want to tell me?"
"No," she says calmly. "It's just a dress."
It's not the first time she lies to him, but it's the first time she feels bad about it.
Oliver picks her up at seven on the dot, resplendent in a dove grey suit and skinny black tie.
"That's a nice color on you," Oliver says gently, after her brain goes haywire when she sees him and can't manage to get actual words out, because good god.
Oliver in a suit is just ridiculous.
He takes Felicity to a new French restaurant that she's been dying to go to. They sit at a quiet corner table and Olive orders an absurdly priced bottle of wine with a level of confidence only a Queen could manage.
She's so nervous she's afraid she might actually throw up.
"I'm sorry," she apologizes, after Oliver asks her for the third time if she's okay. "I'm just nervous."
"Because our first date went so well?" he deadpans.
"I can't believe this is happening." Felicity twists her napkin in her lap. "How is this happening?"
Oliver smiles. "I asked you and you said yes. Simple"
"I understand your oh so elegant plan," Felicity retorts. "Make a grand gesture, prove your love, blah blah blah. What I don't understand is, why?"
"Why do I want to date you?" He looks confused.
"Why are you declaring romantic intentions toward me when you told me we couldn't be together?"
"Dig and Lyla make it work," Oliver says quietly. "Roy and Thea...not that I like it, but whatever they have, it works for them. You have Ray. And I'm...alone."
"Oliver," she says softly.
"I can't make you wait forever. I realize that. Felicity, I don't know if I'm the right guy for you, but I can't sit back and watch you fall in love with someone else."
Her heart constricts, because she's already in love with someone, someone who isn't Ray.
"Oliver, are you sure about this?"
"I'm not saying I'm not going to screw up. I don't have a good track record as a boyfriend. Just ask Laurel." Oliver laughs, only slightly bitter.
"Oliver, I'm not asking you to be perfect. My relationship record isn't exactly stellar either."
"I can't promise that this will work out the way I want this to," he warns her.
"How do you want this to work out?" she asks curiously.
Oliver slips his fingers through hers on top of the table and gives her a look that wrecks her. "You know how I feel about you," Oliver says thickly. "You have to know that."
She inhales sharply. She's worked so hard to ignore her crush on him, while at the same time getting close to him, caring for him. Falling for him.
"Maybe we should go slow?" she suggests. "Not advertise?"
Oliver looks around. "Not be seen in public eating at an exclusive restaurant?"
Felicity smiles. "I didn't say that."
Oliver walks her to the door.
There's an awkward second where Felicity stands in the doorway with her keys dangling in the lock. She had three glasses of wine at dinner and she's buzzed, by the wine and by Oliver, looking at her like she's something precious and rare.
"Thank you," she says eventually, remembering her manners. "I had a wonderful night."
"Me too." Oliver leans in and kisses her lightly on the cheek. "Goodnight, Felicity."
She swoons once she's inside her apartment, sliding back against her door with what she's sure is a ridiculous grin on her face.
Oliver has feelings for her.
Oliver admitted to having feelings for her.
Felicity falls asleep smiling.