FF#51: Bake for a Date with Oliver Queen
An Olicity Flash Fic Story
FF#51: Undercover Couple
Oliver Queen had never been considered an honorable man – before or after. Though he was decidedly changed since returning to Starling City, one of those changes was a fierce determination to retain some semblance of his privacy. Oliver wouldn't go so far as to call himself a good man, but he was at least better. He was relatively honest – as much as he could be... both with himself and with others. His life was no longer one of debauchery and hedonism. In fact, Oliver rarely drank, and, when he did, it was more for appearances sake than out of a desire to get drunk or even so much as unwind. He went to work, he spent time with his family and a few, select friends, and he attempted to be the man his father had begged him to become seconds before ending his own life so that Oliver could have even the chance to survive.
However, it was because of these very same changes that his mother wanted the world to recognize Oliver as the upstanding catch she deemed him to be. Now a vice president of some made up department, Oliver was the heir to Queen Consolidated that the future success of his family's company depended upon. It wasn't enough that he worked hard and cared about his employees. While Oliver, his mother and stepfather, and even the board of QC knew that his current position in the company was only a necessary stepping stone in order to gain the public's trust, he would soon be the CEO of Queen Consolidated whether he had the business skills and savvy or not. And he didn't. But, if Oliver had learned anything since starting to take an active role in his parents' legacy, it was that degrees and an actual knowledge of business didn't really matter when it came to QC's bottom line. Instead, investors were really putting their money into Oliver the man and not Oliver the CEO. He might have personally been there to make sure that no one ever lost another job in Starling City because of a factory again closing due to his family's greed, but the rest of the world – his mother included... and actually foremost – saw Oliver as nothing more than a symbol.
And, a hard-working and ethical man now or not, that symbol was lacking.
How could anyone recognize all of his changes if he refused to broadcast them to the public? How could anyone believe that, eventually, he'd settle down with the perfect girl and start his own perfect family in order to continue the perfect Queen bloodline, Starling City's own version of a royal family (the distinction deserved or not) if Oliver maintained his current relationship status of hermit? And how could Queen Consolidated drum up excitement and good press for its fledgling executive if there were no actual, real, business accomplishments to promote? It wasn't like, while lost at sea for five years, Oliver had really been attending graduate school or running anything besides for his life.
So, that's how he found himself here. In this mess. And desperate for a way to both make his mother and the QC PR team happy while somehow managing to not lose his tentative grasp upon his sanity and embarrass everyone, himself most of all, in the process.
Where the idea had come from, Oliver didn't even want to know, but his mom had gotten it in her head that the Queen family should host a local, reality competition – a date with Oliver being the grand (and only) prize. Eligible women would enter for a chance to bake for a date with him. From an initial pool of applicants, nine women were selected. Once a week, they would submit an entry to meet a holiday baking challenge, and, each week, Oliver would select the least successful baker, and she would be out of the competition. All he would judge on was the taste of the baked treats, and all he would know about the applicants were their names.
It was a blind taste and a blind date challenge all rolled into one, and it was the most ridiculous (and sexist) thing Oliver had perhaps ever participated in. (Given his past, that said a lot, too.) However, based on the buzz the story and competition had already received, no one else in Starling City – in the state even – saw it that way. While Oliver knew that his mom had carefully screened the applicants as only Moira Queen could – after all, neither Oliver nor the company could go through an eight week publicity stunt only to end up with a winner that would be bad for either his or QC's image, and while absolutely no one involved in the charade actually wanted Oliver to meet his future wife in such a gauche way, it was cute, and fit some antiquated fairytale fantasy, and the public was under its PR spell.
For some reason, it didn't matter that, in basing his selections off a women's ability to bake, Oliver was essentially claiming a woman's place was in the home and behind a stove. It didn't matter that, in not knowing anything about the eventual winner, Oliver was basically dismissing a woman's intelligence, and accomplishments, and ambition to be more than just a wife and mother, a homemaker. And, despite his own objections on principle, Oliver had gone right along with the idea – not because he liked it, and not because he actually wanted to go on the date, but because, if it would make his mom, and Thea, and even Walter happy, then it was a very small price to pay.
Even if the idea of putting himself out there... even if only for just one dinner... and opening himself up to such public scrutiny was enough to give Oliver nightmares.
Which was why Oliver was currently attempting for casual and actually coming across as anything but as he made his way through the IT floor of Queen Consolidated and back towards the far corner where the office of one Felicity Smoak was located, a woman with the reputation of being both discrete and remarkable with a computer.
"Excuse me, what?" Just as Oliver was about to knock on Miss Smoak's cubicle door, the sharp, obviously livid words made him pause. In fact, he took a hasty step back in an attempt to escape her wrath. At first, Oliver believed the irate words to be directed at him. Why even approaching her office would incite such displeasure, he had no idea, but his paranoia was not new and, quite frankly, not even the worst of his issues post rescue. However, after a few uneasy seconds, Miss Smoak spoke again, using that whispered tone that's supposed to be quiet but, in its heat, is actually louder than a normal speaking voice, and his concerns were allayed. "Care to run that by me again, mother." The request was actually a demand.
Oliver knew that he should step back, that he should turn around, and retreat, and give Felicity Smoak her privacy, and then return after a reasonable amount of time had passed in order for her to settle her personal business and calm back down. However, he wasn't sure, if he left, if he'd find the nerve to approach her again. What he wanted to ask of her was... unorthodox (to the say the least), not to mention illegal. Plus, there was just something tickling the back of his mind – some instinct he had been able to hone during his five years away, surviving relatively alone and lost to the world. That instinct told him that not only did he want to hear what Felicity Smoak said next but that he needed to know what had the IT tech so angry.
"First of all, why you thought you had the right to interfere with my social life..." There was a short pause during which Oliver assumed Felicity's mother had interrupted her. Before he had the chance to guess what the elder Ms. Smoak said, Felicity was sputtering, "I date!" It was both defensive and insulted. "Besides, even if I joined a nunnery..." There was another pause during which Oliver tried to picture the spunky, colorful, pretty blonde wearing a wimple. (He might not want to go on a date with a stranger and risk being asked nosey questions about his time away, but he also wasn't dead, and, in trying to figure out how he could avoid an awkward and potentially dangerous situation on the prize date, Oliver might have seen a picture of Felicity Smoak on the company directory... and liked what he had seen.) The incongruous image of her as an abbess made him snicker... which nearly gave his lurking presence away. "I know jews can't be nuns, mom! That wasn't my point. My point is that there is absolutely no level of shut-in status that could possibly justify you entering me into this insipid reality, dating, baking contest."
In his shock over realizing Felicity was one of the contestants he had been planning to approach her about researching, Oliver's footing stumbled. He had trained with an ex-special forces agent for more than a year on the island, been taught martial arts and archery by not one but two experts, and had maintained his grueling physical regiment even after being rescued, yet one slip of a woman was able to make him forget all of his teachings and, with one sentence, nearly fall for her. He meant over. With one sentence, Felicity nearly made him fall over. Shaking his head at the melodramatic direction his thoughts had taken, Oliver focused back in on what Miss Smoak was saying over the phone.
"Even if I managed to not get arrested for attempted murder by cookie – and, by the way, poison is such a cliché weapon of choice for a woman, mom, he's my frakking boss!" In that moment, Oliver really wished Felicity Smoak wasn't as skilled of a computer technician as she was, because then she might actually need both hands for the task she was working on, so she'd be forced to put her phone on speaker. Then the thought struck him that maybe he should promote her so that her work might actually succeed in being a challenge for her... or, at least, challenging.
Miss Smoak speaking again pulled Oliver away from his musings. "I don't care if he sits up there in his executive suite all day, every day picking his nose, watching porn, and playing tic-tac-toe by himself and still managing to lose to that damn cat every round. If his name is on the side of the building, then he's my boss, mom!" Oliver really hoped that's not how Felicity actually saw him, that she didn't think he was an imbecilic pervert who did nothing and was only a vice-president because he was the heir to the company. While his position might have been created for him, that didn't mean that he didn't work hard, take his job seriously, and actually do his best for both the company and the people who worked for it. For him.
"I don't even understand how I got through the screenings. My name alone should have raised a red flag, so unless you... You used my middle name and dad's last name, didn't you?" Whatever Felicity's mom said in response must have confirmed the blonde's suspicions, because she groaned in frustration. A few seconds later, Oliver could hear her bustling around her office, obviously fidgeting and moving things to and fro, back and forth on her desk in an attempt to distract herself from her agitation. How he somehow just knew this about her without ever laying eyes on her in person, Oliver wasn't sure. But that absolute certainty did help cement the plan starting to take shape in his mind.
"Look, mom, I need to go. While I still can't believe you did this, and while I'm still furious with you, at least we both know it won't go any further than the first round. I can't cook. I can't even fake cook." Oliver had no idea what fake cook meant, but that didn't dampen the grin that seemed to be permanently lifting the corners of his usually somber mouth. "So, I'll burn something, submit it, hope that I don't kill Oliver Queen in the process, and then be the first woman eliminated. No one besides you and me will ever need to be the wiser."
Silently backing away, once Oliver was clear of the short hallway which led to Felicity Smoak's office, he turned around and proceeded to retrace his steps out of the IT department. He moved efficiently, trying to exude a sense of purpose but also a confidence that he was the boss – the boss who had come down to the twelfth floor with a goal, a goal which had been accomplished. No one looked twice at him – their faces all buried behind their monitors, so his projected attitude seemed to do the trick.
By the time he boarded the executive elevator which would take him back to the 39th floor, he knew exactly what he was going to do. He was going to choke down whatever baked goods Megan submitted for eight rounds, and he was going to pretend to like them. While he might not know what her father's last name was... since her conversation with her mother implied that she did not use her dad's surname, he knew that Felicity's middle name was Megan thanks to her employee profile on the company website. Even if there coincidentally happened to be more than one Megan in the pool of nine contestants, Oliver would know Felicity's desserts by their burnt and inedible natures.
Only after he made sure that she won – someone who he already trusted thanks to the phone call he had overheard – would he reveal the truth to her and hope that she could forgive him for both eavesdropping on her private conversation and for the deception that one-way encounter had inspired. Because, now, despite his mother and the PR team's intentions, and despite his own reluctance to participate in the charade of a competition, Oliver didn't just want to go on the date; he wanted to go on that date and many more with Miss Smoak. While he wasn't sure what it was exactly which drew him to Felicity, there was just something about her – something he had eight weeks to figure out and hope it was enough to convince her to give him a chance in return.