A/N: I blame President's Day for this.
The (tentative) plan is to update this every Tuesday.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman in possession of a great intellect must be in want of job that requires its use.
Unless, however, your mother is Donna Smoak, in which case she is determined to find you a husband who will provide you with a life that never requires you to lift a finger much less have an interesting thought in your life.
To call Donna Smoak a gossip would have been an insult to gossips, and really an insult to Donna herself. She was much more than a gossip: she was more like the town newspaper because she knew all the goings on and was determined to tell everyone in close proximity.
So it was no surprise to anyone that the minute a new person moved into town, Donna Smoak was the first to know.
Felicity Smoak stumbled down the stairs that fateful morning, bleary-eyed and exhausted, searching desperately for a cup of coffee to jolt her awake. She grunted a greeting to her mom and stepfather once she entered the kitchen, then made a beeline for the coffeemaker.
"Quentin, did you know that Tommy Merlyn is renting out the Netherfield beach house?" Donna asked her husband as Felicity poured her coffee.
The police captain didn't even glance up from his newspaper. "Who's Tommy Merlyn?"
Donna's mouth dropped open at her husband's ignorance. "Quentin! You don't know who Tommy Merlyn is?"
He let out a deep sigh, knowing that an incredulous speech was sure to follow.
"He's the son of Malcolm Merlyn and heir to the Merlyn Global fortune! He was listed by Forbes as one of the most eligible bachelors in the country! They say he's worth five hundred million dollars!"
"Whoop de doo," Quentin said sarcastically. "Another worthless rich kid tourist who's going to raise hell in town, then leave the minute his friends get arrested."
Felicity took her coffee cup to the table. "Come on, Dad," she grinned. "If it weren't for the rich tourists, your job would be pretty boring otherwise."
"Not true," Laurel countered as she strode into the kitchen, fully dressed and looking as beautiful as ever. "I heard that last night you busted two moving meth labs."
Felicity laughed as she grabbed a slice of bacon off her mother's plate. "Yes, the meth scourge isn't all bad, since it saves the police department from complete boredom."
"Meth isn't a joke," Quentin growled, finally setting his newspaper down. "It's a serious thing."
Felicity caught Laurel's eye, but they had to look away immediately before they burst into raucous laughter.
"Well anyway," Donna plowed on, like she hadn't been interrupted, "Tommy Merlyn is staying in town, probably for the summer. And I heard he's going to the Beach Bash to celebrate the start of the season."
Felicity rolled her eyes. The Beach Bash was an annual event sponsored by all the beachfront businesses. There was music, food and games, but only tourists and families with young children ever went. Most adult townies skipped the event altogether.
"Fascinating," Laurel drawled, pouring her coffee into her travel mug. "Well, I have to get to work. Dad, I'll probably stop by your office later to talk about those meth cases."
Quentin put his paper down to stand up. "I'm headed into work as well. I'll drive you."
"Thanks," Laurel beamed. Then she stepped toward the table to peck Donna on the cheek and hug Felicity goodbye. "Lissy, are we still on for lunch later?"
"Sure," she answered as she returned her step sister's hug. "Noon?"
"Perfect. See you later!"
Quentin took his turn to kiss his wife and say goodbye to his step daughter, and then the two of them were gone, leaving Donna and Felicity in the kitchen alone.
"Do you know if Laurel's seeing anyone?" Donna asked her daughter.
Felicity took her father's abandoned paper and started skimming through the headlines. "Um, I believe her exact words about her love life were, 'I would rather be forced to eat Mom's banana bread than date any of the losers here in town."
Donna grimaced. "Well that's a little harsh."
Felicity chuckled. Her mother may have had a mind for tiny details, but she couldn't cook a thing to save her life, much like her daughter. The only difference between the two was that Felicity was well aware of her lack of cooking skill and was willing to admit it.
"I just wonder that if she's dating anyone, maybe she would be interested in Tommy Merlyn."
Felicity rolled her eyes. "Mom, Laurel's the most beautiful woman for three counties. She doesn't need your help trying to find a man. Hell, she doesn't need to find a man."
"I know, I know!" Donna sighed. "But Quentin and I aren't getting any younger, and I want grandchildren!"
Felicity shook her head at her mother, and chugged down the last drops of her coffee. "I have to get ready for work," she said, standing up from her chair and pecking her mom on the temple. "Laurel and I will be at The Place at noon. Could you save us a table?"
"Of course. I'll see you later, sweetheart!"
With her freshly caffeinated brain, Felicity went back up the stairs to get dressed. Then she threw her messenger back over her shoulder and bounded out of the house, choosing to make the eight-block walk today.
As Felicity walked down Ninth Street, people started waving at her. She waved back, greeting each person by name. When she passed the West home, Iris bounded out of the house to greet her.
"Felicity!" she shouted from the front yard. Iris ran to the street where Felicity stood.
"Hey, Iris," Felicity smiled, giving her friend a hug.
"Did you hear? About the guy who rented out Netherfield?"
"Yeah, my mom was talking about it at breakfast," she answered. "Tommy Merlyn, right?"
"Yeah," Iris grinned. "He's going to be at the Beach Bash. We should go."
Felicity laughed. "Iris, aren't we a little old to be going to the Beach Bash?"
"Oh come on!" she protested. "A hot millionaire is going to be there! Maybe he'll bring his hot, rich friends!"
Felicity rolled her eyes, but she couldn't help her indulging smile. "Fine, I'll see if Laurel wants to come."
"Yes, please make sure Gorgeous Laurel comes," Iris nodded. "We'll definitely be the center of attention if she does."
That made Felicity shake her head. There were few things in this world Laurel hated more than being treated as a novelty strictly for her beauty. If she were here at the moment, she would have told Iris no without a second thought.
Eventually Felicity made it to work. She walked through the front door, the ringing bell alerting Walter to her presence.
"Felicity," he greeted warmly. "I was starting to worry where you were. Two more minutes and I was going to send out a search party."
"Sorry, Walter," she said sheepishly as she pulled her messenger bag off her. "I got waylaid by a few people on the way here."
"It's no trouble, Felicity. I'm just glad you're still alive."
She smiled at her kind boss and immediately settled into work.
If Laurel was the beauty of the county, Felicity was the brain. She was the smartest person within a 500-mile radius, and everyone knew it. In fact, the entire town was littered with evidence of her genius: she maintained the public library's databases, she contracted her services as an amateur information technology expert to the Hertfordshire Daily Record, and no one in town dared to buy a new laptop or tablet or phone without consulting her first.
Yes, Felicity was brilliant, and everyone knew her brilliance was wasted by staying in Hertfordshire.
But the past was the past, and Felicity never once complained about the shitty set of circumstances fate served her. She just put her head down, got a job at Walter's book shop and spent her days doing whatever needed doing, all while daydreaming about a life far away from her small town.
The morning started off the same as any other. Felicity started by updating the store's inventory. Then she dusted off the display shelves, made a few recommendations to inquiring customers and helped them check out. When business was slow, she hid behind the cash register and made progress in the astrophysics textbook she found for cheap online.
Lunchtime rolled around, and Felicity announced to Walter that she was taking her break. She walked the three blocks down to the boardwalk to The Place, where Laurel was waiting for her.
"Hey," she greeted her step sister with a hug. "How have you been in the four hours since I've seen you?"
"Ugh," Laurel sighed. She shook out the paper napkin underneath her utensils and draped it over her pantsuit. "Turns out the guy running the two roving meth labs was Werner Lytle."
Felicity's eyes widened as she took her seat. "Wait, wasn't he Sara's dealer in high school?"
"Why yes he was," Laurel grimaced. "Pretty sure he and Sara dated for a while, too. Anyway, looks like in addition to graduating high school, he also graduated to meth. And something a little more sinister, it looks like. When we confiscated all the stuff in his van, the labs say he was working on a new synthetic. He called it Vertigo in all his notes. He even started referring himself to Count Vertigo."
"Wow, delusions of grandeur," Felicity hummed. "That's definitely something you want in a drug dealer."
"Anyway, let's talk about something else," she insisted. "Let's talk about you. How was your day?"
Felicity shrugged. "Boring. Nothing happens at Walter's book shop on a Friday morning. Oh, but I'm meant to ask — Iris wants us to go to the Beach Bash tonight, and I think we should go."
"Oh God," Laurel rolled her eyes. "It's about Tommy Merlyn, isn't it?"
Felicity laughed. "She wants to go for Tommy Merlyn. I want to go for the funnel cakes."
Donna Smoak interrupted their conversation by bringing glasses of water. "Hi darlings," she greeted, bending down to peck both of them on their cheeks. "Do you two want the special or your regulars?"
"What's the special today?" Felicity asked.
"Oooh," Felicity sighed. "I'll take that."
"And I'll have my regular," Laurel added.
"Coming right up," Donna chirped. Then she turned on her heel and went off to put in their orders.
Once she was gone, Felicity turned back to her step sister. "So? Where are you on the Beach Bash?"
Laurel sighed. "I'll go, but I'm bailing the minute it gets boring or the minute a bunch of gross tourists start feeling me up, OK?"
Felicity nodded. "That is more than fair."
Laurel and Felicity both agreed to meet Iris in front of The Place at six. By the time the two sisters made it down, Iris was already there, bouncing up and down on her heels with excitement.
"Yay!" she shouted, running at both them to give them a hug. "You agreed to come!"
Felicity giggled. "Yeah, yeah," she said as she pulled away from the hug. "Any sign of rich boy yet?"
"Yeah," Iris nodded, pointing out toward the sand volleyball pit down the beach. "He got into a pickup game."
"Which one is he?" Felicity asked, shading her eyes and squinting, trying to make out the figures in sun.
"He's got his back to us, but he's the one with the dark hair and the really impressive muscles in the blue swim shorts."
Felicity spotted him immediately. The man in the blue swim shorts was of about average height, but he didn't let that stop him when the ball was flying high above his head. He jumped high to send the ball back over the net with a powerful spike.
Then he turned around to high five his fellow teammates, which gave them all a clear view of his face. And that was the first time Felicity finally understood all the fuss surrounding his arrival.
Tommy Merlyn was what her mother would have called a showstopper. He had a dimpled chin, and eyes blue enough to be mistaken for the ocean. And it certainly didn't hurt that he was grinning from ear to ear, making him look like the most approachable guy in the world.
"Huh," Felicity allowed with an approving nod. "I see now why everyone's made such a fuss over him."
She glanced over to her sister to see what she thought, but for once, Laurel was silent. Felicity could see it in her face, though — she didn't need words to see the approval and intrigue in her hazel eyes.
"You think he's hot," Iris whispered conspiratorially. "You should see the guy he brought with him. Over there, sitting off to the side with the bored look on his face."
Felicity directed her gaze to where Iris was pointing, and holy hell was she right. He wore a white T-shirt and dark green swim shorts, but the clothes didn't hide the fact that he was sporting some serious muscle underneath. Not just that, he had a jawline that could cut glass, shadowed by a bit of blonde-brown scruff. And his brooding, ice blue eyes looked like they were piercing the horizon he stared out at.
"Wow," Felicity breathed. "What's his story?"
"His name is Oliver Queen," Iris answered.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Felicity's eyes widened. "Oliver Queen? The Oliver Queen? As in Queen Consolidated? One of the biggest tech companies on the West Coast?"
"Yeah, and if you think Tommy Merlyn is crazy stupid rich, you should know that Oliver is worth billions. Billions, Felicity."
She let out a low whistle. Wow.
"OK, well they're in the middle of a game right now, so it would be kind of a bother to go up introduce ourselves," Laurel reasoned. "What should we do in the meantime?"
"We could go lay out," Iris suggested. She started tugging at her shirt, revealing her gold bikini top.
"You two go do that, I'm going to go for the funnel cake," Felicity answered, pointing to the stand down on the other end of the boardwalk. "I'll meet you out there."
By the time Felicity got to the stand, there was already a line several people deep. She pulled her phone out of the back pocket of her shorts as she waited, checking all of her RSS feeds.
"Wow, I thought the line would have been shorter by now," a voice said behind her.
Felicity snorted, her eyes still on her phone screen. "Yeah, no such luck, dude. Carly's famous for her funnel cakes. There's going to be a line all night, so you might as well get in now."
"Noted," the voice said, a hint of amusement in its tone. " I sure hope these funnel cakes are worth the wait, at least."
That finally forced Felicity to rip her eyes from her screen. "Are you kidding? These are the best funnel cakes in the county! Hell, they're probably the best funnel cakes in the state!"
When she finally turned to see who was behind her, her tongue froze. It was none other than Tommy Merlyn, the same man Iris and Laurel had been ogling at just seconds before.
"I didn't mean to insult," he said genially, his hands up in a non-threatening gesture. "I'm sure these funnel cakes are amazing."
"They are," she said, her tone a little quieter and less accusatory than before. "Hi, I'm Felicity Smoak."
"Tommy Merlyn," he said, shaking her hand. "I'm actually new to town. We just got in today."
"Oh, I know," Felicity assured him. "In a town this small, we townies can spot the newcomers and tourists on sight."
"Right," Tommy laughed. "I didn't realize that a beachside town like this would be so small. But I like it! It's charming and sweet. I ventured into town earlier this afternoon and I got coffee at the cutest little shop I've ever seen."
"Oh, the Mud House?"
"Yeah! All the pastries were ocean themed! I ended up getting a cruller shaped like a starfish. It was delicious."
Felicity giggled. "Yep, well Hertfordshire is a very charming beachside town, that's for sure."
They chattered as the line in front of them got shorter and shorter. Finally it was Felicity's turn.
"Hey, Lissy," Carly greeted. "How are you doing?"
"I'm a whole lot better now that I'm closer to stuffing one of your funnel cakes in my face," Felicity smiled.
Carly laughed. "You got it, darling. What about Laurel and Iris? You taking one to them?"
"Sure, why not?"
A few minutes later, Carly produced two paper plates of lacy funnel cakes, drowned in powdered sugar. Felicity gleefully took them, one on each hand.
"Hey, would you wait up for me?" Tommy asked, just as Felicity started back to her friends. "I want to introduce you to my friend."
"Oh, sure!" Felicity nodded. "I want you to meet my friends, too."
Once they both got their cakes, she led the millionaire to Iris and Laurel, who were both sitting on their beach towels, chattering on about something.
"Guys, look who I ran into," she announced, pointing her head to her companion. "This is Tommy Merlyn. Tommy, this is my best friend, Iris, and my sister, Laurel."
Tommy smiled and shook their hands, but there was something about the flash in his eyes when they landed on Laurel. His smile widened when he greeted her and Felicity noticed the pink blush spread across her sister's cheeks.
"Yeah, and let me introduce you to my friend." He turned caught the attention of Oliver Queen, who was sitting about twenty yards down.
Tommy waved him over, and once he got there, he clapped his hand on his shoulder. "This is my best friend, Oliver Queen. Ollie, this is Felicity, Iris and Laurel."
If Tommy was the gregarious and outgoing one, Oliver was the exact opposite. His eyes were piercing in their ice blue cold, but his distant expression didn't change a bit. Without so much as cracking a smile, he just gave each of them a small wave and said, "Hey."
Felicity took her seat beside Iris, and Tommy plopped down across from them. Oliver — reluctantly, it seemed — took his seat next to his friend.
"I got one for you two," Felicity said as she handed the paper plate to them. "You're welcome."
Laurel laughed, "Thanks, Lissy."
The five of them were preoccupied for a few minutes as they savored the piping hot funnel cake (or funnel crack, as Iris sometimes called it), so conversation halted.
"So what do you think?" Laurel asked as Tommy shoveled bit after bit into his mouth. He was eating it so fast, powdered sugar was smeared all over his face.
"You weren't exaggerating, Felicity," he answered around a bulging mouthful of funnel cake. "This is amazing. Here, Ollie, have a bit!"
Oliver made a face at his friend like he'd rather have his prostate examined. "No thanks, Tommy."
"Oh, come on!" he goaded. "It's really good, I promise!"
"You look like that cocaine scene out of Scarface," was Oliver's only response.
Tommy just shrugged, then continued to eat it on his own.
Once all the funnel cake was demolished, Tommy jumped to his feet. "Wow, I am on an insane sugar high right now, and I've got to work it off. Who wants to play two-on-two volleyball with me?"
"I will," Laurel volunteered.
Tommy's eyes lit up with happiness and Laurel smiled right back at him. Felicity and Iris exchanged knowing glances, then looked away quickly to hide their creeping smiles.
"Do any of you want to play us?" Laurel asked, glancing back at the group.
"Uh, no, we'll let you two play," Felicity winked.
"I'll go with you," Oliver offered.
When Tommy wasn't looking, Laurel stuck her tongue out at her sister, which Felicity returned with interest.
Once they were gone, Felicity turned to Iris and the two of them started giggling.
"Oh my God, they look so cute together," Iris said as she looked down the beach where they had started playing another couple. Oliver Queen, however, sat off to the side, just watching.
"Yeah, they do," Felicity agreed. "Could you imagine the babies they would make?"
"God, they could take over the world with their sheer attractiveness," Iris shook her head.
"Oh, but what about his friend?" Felicity said, gesturing to the stone still Oliver Queen. "What a stiff."
"No kidding," Iris nodded solemnly. "I mean, who turns down funnel cake? What kind of monster says no to funnel cake?"
"You'd think with all the money he has, he'd be able to find a good doctor to remove the stick up his ass," Felicity added.
That made the two of them burst into a fresh round of giggles.
Eventually Iris and Felicity got bored of laying out and decided to join the pick up beach volleyball games. They each took a turn playing with Tommy and against him, which proved to be less fun, since Tommy turned out to be an exceptional beach volleyball player.
As the sun started to set, the Beach Bash winded down, and the young adults abandoned the volleyball games to set up a fire out by the quiet end of the boardwalk.
Iris and Felicity both conspired to have Tommy and Laurel sit together, something that didn't escape Laurel's notice. But before she could growl menacingly at her sister and friend, Tommy said something to reclaim her attention, which only made the two co-conspirators dissolve into another round of giggles.
A few hours later, Felicity had to go to the bathroom. When she emerged, she heard a pair of hushed voices whispering to each other behind the outhouse.
"Jesus, Ollie, would it kill you to socialize with someone?"
Felicity quietly stole around the corner, making sure to keep out of sight, but focusing hard on the conversation. She was her mother's daughter, after all — nosiness ran in the family.
"Why do you care?"
"You just look like you're having a miserable time, and I feel responsible because I was the one who wanted to spend the summer out here."
"Don't worry about me. Focus on spending time with that Laurel girl."
"God, she is the most gorgeous woman I've ever met in my life. Don't you think? And she's smart, too! She's the assistant district attorney here, did you know?"
"No, but that's definitely a step up from the women you usually date, so she's already got my approval."
"What about you, man? Won't you at least try to talk to someone?"
"There's no one here who's worth the attention. You're chatting up the prettiest girl here."
"What about her sister? Felicity?"
The woman in question perked up at the mention of her name.
"She's nice, and she's really funny. I think the two of you could get along."
An impatient grunt. "Nice doesn't mean she could hold two thoughts together in her head. She's probably about as dense as every other hick in this backward town."
Felicity had never actually understood the term "sock to the gut" before. Not until that moment, that was. It honestly felt like Oliver's words had hit her right in the solar plexus, pushing all the air out of her lungs. It was a blow that came with a wave of shock, and it wasn't something she could easily wave off as she stood there, stone still, eavesdropping on a conversation about her and her sister.
"Look, stop trying to get me to socialize with people, OK?" Oliver continued. "Just have fun tonight. Don't worry about me."
A sigh. "Fine. But we're still going to talk about this later."
The conversation stopped and Felicity peeked around the corner to check that they both had gone. Once she was sure of it, she gave them a few minutes head start to return to the bonfire before she followed them.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Iris asked as Felicity plopped down next to her. "You look really pale all of a sudden."
Felicity shook her head and forced a smile on her face. "Nothing, don't worry about it. Hey, pass me a marshmallow, will you?"
Iris turned away to grab one, but while her attention was diverted, Felicity turned to glare at Oliver. He was sitting a few seats down, staring into the fire and poking at the embers with his stick.
What a colossal asshole, she fumed to herself. He'd hardly said two words to her and automatically he was going to assume that she was dumb? How dare he! She had an IQ that couldn't be measured by normal tests! She was the valedictorian of her high school class! She could hack into classified FBI servers in fewer than three minutes without breaking a sweat!
It seemed that money could buy a lot of things, Felicity thought with hatred flowing through her veins, but it couldn't buy class or tact.