Let's be honest; there is a 99% chance that Felicity was a total dork in high school, and a 100% chance that Oliver was a spoiled little shit.

Starling City, 2003

Robert Queen was a man of wealth and taste. He demanded the best of everything, and that included employees. The head of the I.T. Department had proven himself to be inadequate, inefficient, and far too inclined to obey his conscience, so Mr. Queen had him removed. Now he needed a replacement, someone worthy. The best man in that particular field was Asher Smoak. Not only was he a genius with computers, but he appeared to be rather mousy. That was good. Mr. Queen preferred employees he could intimidate.

His demeanor just before the interview proved even more promising; he fidgeted, wiped his brow, and needlessly adjusted his glasses while he waited outside Mr. Queen's office door. By the time Mr. Smoak was brought in, it seemed he would cry tears of gratitude when given the job.

"Very impressive résumé," Mr. Queen said with a genial smile. "Just the kind of man we need to run the I.T. Department."

"Um… Thank you, sir." he replied quietly, looking confused.

"You start Monday."

Mr. Smoak's eyebrows quirked up. "What?"

"You're the best man for the job. Who else do I need to interview?"

Perplexed, Mr. Smoak stared at him. "I wasn't told this was about a job; they just said you wanted to see me. Wait, how many others did you interview?"

Mr. Queen shrugged. "Just you. I told my people to find the most qualified man, and they did."

"But I already have a job, sir."

"Well, now you have a better one."

"I really enjoy teaching—"

"Smoak, your salary here will be triple what you already make."

Asher pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "It's not about the money. I like teaching."

Mr. Queen looked as if he couldn't comprehend what he said. "Don't you have a wife? A daughter? Wouldn't you like to make their lives more comfortable?"

"They don't complain." Mr. Smoak stood up, signaling that the interview was over. "I'm honored by the job offer, but I'm happy with my work. Thank you for your time."

Like most billionaires who always get what they want, Mr. Queen's hubris could not handle the polite decline. Also, the runners-up weren't nearly as competent.

"Name your price." he said as Mr. Smoak turned to leave.

"Sorry?" He was perplexed for a moment, but then he saw the wounded pride in Mr. Queen's eyes.

"Whatever reasonable thing it takes to get you to work here, ask. I won't have an incompetent idiot head my I.T. Department."

Asher Smoak was now very aware of how valuable he was. He suddenly had leverage; he could ask for a corner office, a cool company car, a long vacation in the tropics… but he was not that kind of man.

"Don't you have a seventeen-year-old son? Oliver, is it?"

Unsure where he was heading, he answered reluctantly. "Yes, what about him?"

"My daughter is only a year younger."

"That's nice."

"Her teenage years have been very hard on her. She has trouble making friends."

"Okay."

"Boys don't think much of her, either. Her school's Valentine's Day dance is tomorrow tonight, and no one asked her to go. She acts like she doesn't care, but I know she does."

Mr. Queen finally realized what he was getting at. "Are you saying you want my son to take your daughter to the dance?"

The mousy man smiled. "I think it would do wonders for her self-esteem to go to the dance with a handsome young man."

"I… doubt my son would agree to that."

"Well, it was nice talking to you, then." Mr. Smoak opened the office door.

"I'll speak to him," the billionaire blurted. "I'm sure they'll have fun together."

"That's great!" the computer genius said cheerfully. "In that case, I'll be here Monday."

Asher Smoak left with a skip in his step, making Mr. Queen feel all the more obligated to convince his shallow, spoiled son to go along with this.

The day went by quickly, blurred by Asher Smoak's happiness. He had done something wonderful for his awkward, unfortunate-looking little girl. It was possible that, after tomorrow night, she would no longer come home looking timid and miserable. If people saw her on the arm of Oliver Queen, they might start treating her differently. She might make friends and have people to sit with at lunch. And maybe she'd feel beautiful for once, if only for a night. Mr. Smoak thought that was worth giving up a job he loved.

He was brimming with barely-contained excitement at the dinner table. His wife, Judy, tossed him curious looks as she ate her mashed potatoes, knowing she'd have to be patient if she was going to find out what the deal was. Felicity, their daughter, didn't notice her father's behavior; she was still trying to forget the emotional torment she endured earlier that day.

"I have great news!" he exclaimed, no longer able to keep it to himself. "Flick, sweetie, you're going to the Valentine's Day dance tomorrow night!"

Brows furrowed, Felicity adjusted her large, thick glasses. "But, Dad, I was going to watch the new documentary on the History Channel. And, anyway, I don't have someone to go with."

"Oh, but you do!"

"Dad, I don't think you should go with me."

"I don't mean me."

"Is my cousin Kyle in town again? Because we don't get along—"

"Sweetie, I got you a date with Oliver Queen!"

The room got cricket-quiet. Then Judy finally spoke up.

"The son of the billionaire? What did you do, make a deal with the devil?" She glanced nervously at Felicity. "Not that our daughter couldn't get a date with him without making a pact with Satan—"

"Robert Queen really wants me to work at Queen Consolidated, and I really want my daughter to go the dance with his popular, handsome son. Simple as that."

"Oh, so the devil was involved…" mumbled his wife.

"Uh…" Felicity was having trouble forming words, especially now that it seemed her father wasn't joking. "Oliver Queen?" She had seen him in pictures and on TV, and once at the mall. He was gorgeous. She was really going to the dance with him? As his date? He'd dance with her and get her punch and get her a corsage and tell people he was her date. And maybe, if she was lucky, he wouldn't look at her like she was a slug. He might even enjoy spending time with her.

The anxiety proved too much for poor Felicity. "I'm gonna throw up," She ran clumsily out of the room, hoping to make it to the toilet in time.

"It'll be fun, honey!" he father called after her. "The dance, I mean. Not the throwing up."

After her dinner was flushed and her teeth were brushed, she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her frizzy, untamable blonde hair only allowed her to keep it in a ponytail. Her skin was covered in blemishes. Her glasses were large, round, and so thick they distorted her eyes. And then there were the braces… yikes. They just pulled her whole look together. Under her uncool clothes was a gangly body, all knobby joints and few curves. And that was just how she looked. She was socially awkward, shy, and weird.

This was going out with Oliver Queen? It was like she had woken up in some Bizarro world. It was going to be a disaster, wasn't it? He would hate every minute and feign illness so he could go home.

She wanted to tell her dad there was no way she'd do it, but she knew that he'd given up his teaching job for this. And he really loved his job. So how could she say no?

"Is she hot?" Oliver lounged on the couch, slightly annoyed that he was interrupted when watching The Bourne Identity. But his father making him go on a date with a mystery girl seemed important.

"Never seen her. Doesn't matter, anyway. You will be taking this girl to the dance as a favor to me."

"Where does she go to school?"

"Starling High School."

"Good. That means I probably won't run into her afterward."

Robert Queen rolled his eyes. "Yes, that's very fortunate."

"So, why am I doing this?"

"I want her father to work for me. This is what he asked for in return."

"Hmm,"

"You will pick her up at her house. I'll be going there with you to make sure you don't back out."

Oliver paused his movie. "Is that likely? Just how ugly is this girl?"

Mr. Queen shook his head, reluctant to answer. "Her father says that she has trouble making friends."

"That ugly? Forget it, then."

"All you have to do is take her to the dance. Surely you can stow your standards and ego for a few hours?"

Oliver raised an eyebrow. "What do I get out of it?"

His father sighed. "The knowledge that you did something nice for someone."

"No, seriously,"

"A new car." Mr. Queen said, crossing his arms. "A BMW."

"A Ferrari."

"An Aston Martin. Take it or leave it."

"Ugh! Fine! I'll be a hero." he groaned as he turned the movie back on.

Felicity tried to remain very still while her mom did her makeup. Even though every fiber of her being was screaming that this would only end in disaster, she kept her mouth shut. Her parents were so excited for her. Never mind the circumstances; their daughter had a date with a boy.

Even though her dad was getting a new, well-paying job, they still had to be frugal. Like, really frugal. Her mother had taken her to a consignment shop that sunny Saturday morning, and they spent half the day looking for a dress, shoes, and jewelry. What she ended up with was a "retro" dress, very 80's. And not the good part of the 80's, either, like Madonna or legwarmers. It was a knee-length floral print monstrosity with ruffles, but it was the prettiest dress that fit her properly. The shoes were plain white pumps, boring but not horrible. The purse was a little white clutch that she thought was cute, if not a little dated. She did like her simple rhinestone earrings, though, and her silver-star necklace and silver bangles were fun.

Felicity kept telling herself not to judge Oliver by his press coverage. He was apparently pretty wild, but that didn't mean he'd be mean to her, did it?

It was 5:45, and he'd arrive any minute. She spent that time looking at herself in the mirror; checking her braces, her makeup and hair. Her mom was able to hide some of the pimples and even out her skin tone. Her hair was only slightly better behaved, since her mom used half a can of hairspray on it. It was still frizzy and in a ponytail, but it looked better than usual. And her mom used a hair tie with a flower attached.

She actually felt kind of pretty for once.

Oliver walked to the front door, dreading what hideous beast was waiting for him. His father strode beside him, ready to scold him if he tried to run away.

"Tommy told me this morning that he was going to the same dance with some girl named Veronica."

"I'm sure it will be good to have someone you know there."

"Really? I just thought it would further my humiliation to have my best friend see me with a hyena in a dress. But I guess there's that."

"You better be nice to this girl, Oliver."

"Yeah, whatever. I'll grin and bear it." He pasted on a fake smile. "For the Aston Martin, obviously."

A nervous, sweet-faced blonde in her late thirties answered the door. "Hi, I'm Judy! Mr. Queen, it's so lovely to meet you!"

"Likewise," he replied. "This is my son, Oliver."

"Oh, yes! I've seen him in the tabloids! Um, not that I assume he's a reckless, spoiled brat—"

Asher came to her rescue. "Mr. Queen, Oliver, thank you for coming." The Queens stepped through the front door.

"Happy to be here, Mr. Smoak," said Oliver, barely containing his annoyance. "I can't wait to meet Felicity."

Asher beamed. "She has been so excited since she found out!"

"She even threw up when he told her!" his wife added.

The Smoaks exchanged a glance, then Judy announced that she was going to get the camera before hurrying down the hall.

"Felicity!" her father called. "There's a young man here for you!"

Oliver held his breath, fearing the worst. He envisioned a pimply hippopotamus in a tacky dress. He was only two-thirds right.

Felicity slowly descended the stairs, trying not to trip in her heels. When she made it all the way down, Oliver tried not to scream. He had to take this gawky dork to the dance? Granted, she wasn't quite as bad as he anticipated, but he was still so hilariously out of her league. Just giving her a ride to the dance would be the most philanthropic thing he'd ever done.

"Hi," she squeaked, avoiding eye-contact with him.

Robert nudged his son, and Oliver reluctantly stepped forward. "Hi, Felicity. You look beautiful."

She smiled bashfully, and he thought it was almost cute. He wasn't thrilled to see she had braces, though.

Just then, Mrs. Smoak came back with the camera. "I need pictures before you go! Oh, you two look lovely together!"

She motioned for Oliver to stand next to Felicity; he did, keeping a foot and a half between them. Judy kept motioning, and eventually he had his arm around her, trying not to look revolted. She did smell good, and that's what kept him from looking completely miserable as the camera flashed. As soon as it was over, he dropped his arm and subtly backed away.

He got the door for her, like a gentleman, and gave his dad a dirty look before following her out to his Porsche.

The ride there was very quiet, and Oliver was grateful for that. He was able to listen to "Get This Party Started" and pretend she wasn't there. Maybe he could ditch her at the dance and she wouldn't make a fuss. After all, he'd walk in there with her, and that was pretty generous of him.

The dance was held in the gym, which was lame. They did a good job decorating, though, so it wasn't completely awful. And he noticed a lot of hot girls, too.

"Dude!" It was Tommy Merlyn, looking a little tipsy already. "I didn't know you were gonna be here!" He pointed to the knockout in a red dress standing next him. "This is Veronica." Then he spotted Felicity at Oliver's side, casually looking around the room. "Um, are you lost?"

Felicity looked at him nervously. Oliver swooped in and rescued her. "This is Felicity, my… date."

She glowed at the introduction, her cheeks growing red.

"Hey, why don't you go get us some punch?" asked Oliver.

"Okay," And she happily scurried off.

"What in the hell is that thing?" said Tommy, watching her leave. "Are you trying to win a bet?"

"My dad made me take her. He promised me an Aston Martin."

"You deserve one after being seen with that!" He and Veronica laughed, and Oliver joined in.

"At least she's quiet," joked Oliver. "It's bad enough that she looks like that without adding a motor mouth."

"Or an extra hundred pounds!"

"Although that might be an improvement; if you touch her, you'd probably get a paper cut."

"Or a disease!" Tommy added with a chuckle.

Their laughter died down when they noticed Felicity coming back. She handed Oliver a glass, which he downed quickly.

"Hey, why don't you go wait on the bleachers?" he suggested.

"Um," She bit her lip. "Or I could just stand here—"

"No, really," he coaxed. "I'll be there in a few minutes. Then we'll go dance."

Dancing with Oliver Queen…

"Sure, that's cool." she said, trying to casual. Felicity obediently walked over to the bleachers and took a seat near the bottom. It was kind of fun to watch all the couples dance, but it got old after twenty minutes. She looked over at Oliver and his friends, and it didn't seem like he was trying to get away. Felicity fidgeted with her clutch purse. He wasn't going to dance with her, was he? But maybe that wasn't so bad. She was clumsy, anyway. And he was nice enough to take her and admit she was his date. So she kept quiet and continued to sit on the bleachers.

Then she noticed Karla Connors sashaying towards Oliver. She was the super-popular head cheerleader that thoroughly enjoyed making Felicity's life a living hell. At first she was afraid Karla would go after Oliver, but she remembered her having a boyfriend… who was looking awfully dejected by the punch bowl.

No.

No!

Not her! Please, not her! Felicity couldn't bear the thought of her date being stolen by her archenemy. But there it was, happening right in front of her. Karla was smiling and batting her eyelashes and Oliver really seemed to enjoy it.

Felicity could handle being ditched on the bleachers for the rest of the night, or even watching Oliver dance with other girls; but no way could she stomach watching him flirt with Karla Connors.

Driven by impulse, she sprung from the bleachers and hurried over to her date.

"Hey, Oliver," she said, tapping him on the shoulder. He turned around and looked at her as if he'd almost forgotten about her. "I know you said you'd be a few minutes, but it's been half an hour. I was hoping we could dance now?" She stared up at him expectantly, investing hope in the power of guilt.

Karla snorted. "Seriously? How deluded are you?"

Felicity's stomach turned as she faced Karla. "He's my date."

"That's the most pathetic lie I've ever heard!" she replied, laughing. "Oliver just told me he tagged along with his friends."

The poor girl blanched and glanced at her supposed date, who refused to make eye contact.

"Oliver?" she pleaded gently. He backed away like there was something wrong with her.

Too afraid to even see Karla's reaction, Felicity fled the room.

Karla Connors felt dizzy with dominance. She had once again crushed the ugly nerd girl, and now she was dancing with Oliver Queen.

"She's always been a weirdo, but I've never heard her tell a lie that big before. So sad."

"Yeah," replied Oliver, looking uncomfortable with the conversation.

"I mean the arrogance of her claiming you were her date…"

"Mm-hmm."

By the time the song ended, Karla looked like she had an idea.

"Hey, I'll catch you later, okay? Fifteen minutes, tops."

Oliver nodded and went back over to Tommy and Veronica, who had finished dancing.

This was bullshit. Felicity could be at home right now watching the History Channel, but instead she was stuck in this nightmare. It figured; she went to a ball with a handsome prince, only to find that he was a selfish beast. Going to the dance with Oliver Queen had only made things worse for her. She would be mocked for this for the rest of high school, and Karla would be right there leading the choir.

She sat in a dim, far-off hallway, lighted only by the outside lights. It was isolated and an unlikely place to be found. And she really didn't want to be found; Felicity had been crying her eyes out for the past five minutes. What would she tell her parents? Did she really want to see the looks on their faces? And how was she going to get home now? Oliver sure wasn't going to take her.

As she wondered about the city bus schedule, she heard the click-click of heels and the rustling of dresses coming down the hall. Felicity immediately stood up and started walking away, but a voice called out to her.

"Hey, Felicity!" Behind her were the Insufferable Six: Karla and her Heathers. She panicked for a second, then wondered why they were smiling so kindly. She stopped and waited as they walked towards her.

"We're so sorry you got embarrassed in front of the whole school!" said Heather One, otherwise known as Miranda Samuels. "That was way harsh."

Was that… an apology?

"And who can blame you?" said Regina Jeffries. "I mean, he is Oliver Queen. It was worth a shot, right?"

"Umm… Right." Might as well go along with it. They'd never believe the truth.

Jenna Michaels gave her a sympathetic smile. "It wouldn't have killed him to humor you." She squinted at Felicity in the dim light. "Oh, no! Your makeup!"

"It's fine," Felicity said. "I'm just going to go home now, anyway."

"You should let us help fix your makeup," suggested Katya Collins. "It's the least we can do."

Stupefied, Felicity stared at them for a long second. They seemed genuinely sorry, however hard it was to believe. Smiling weakly, she handed her purse to Katya. She pulled out the tube of lipstick, an oddly bright pink that worked for Felicity very well.

"Hold very still," warned Katya. She applied it expertly, careful to cover only her lips. Then she was done, and Felicity grinned at her warmly.

But the heartfelt moment didn't last. As Katya stood in front of her holding the lipstick, a wicked gleam glinted in her eye. The other girls were smirking, and suddenly Felicity's skin was crawling.

The lipstick smeared across her cheek, making Felicity gasp.

"Oops," Katya said with a mocking pout. The girls giggled maliciously.

Felicity moved to run, but Katya yanked her back. Then all the girls were holding on to her, keeping her in place as Katya continued to slash at her. Their laughter grew with every streak of pink lipstick. Felicity yelped and begged for them to stop, but they refused. They yelled at her, something about reminding her of her place. She only caught the gist, since they were talking at the same time. Miranda tore her sleeves and the ruffles of her skirt. Regina ripped off her necklace. Jenna yanked out her ponytail-holder. Cynthia Adams pulled off her bangles and tossed them down the hall, the sound of them scattering like the ringing of tiny bells. Then Karla pushed her to the floor and her friends helped pin Felicity down as she wrote "LOSER" on her forehead.

Oliver sat at a table with Tommy and Veronica, trying to focus on their conversation. But his mind continued to drift to that dorky girl who ran off. Tommy had told him it was for the best; people would've found a way to mock her even if Oliver had danced with her. True as that was, it didn't make him feel better. Guilt was not a familiar feeling, and it was hitting him hard. He tried every way he could to place the blame on someone else, but the fact remained that he had lied. The look on Felicity's face… She had looked so alone, so hurt. He winced at the memory and tried to dull the pain by telling himself the whole thing was a stupid idea. Unfortunately, the tactic backfired. Suddenly he was being pummeled with the truth; this all went wrong because Oliver was superficial, selfish, and spineless. He could've stood up for her. He could've done something…

The sound of girlish laughter caught his attention. Karla and her friends had come back, and they looked very pleased with themselves. They seemed to be sharing some hilarious inside joke.

Karla sauntered up to Oliver and offered him her hand. "How about another dance?"

Hoping it would serve as a better distraction, he stood up and took it. As she pulled him to the floor, he spotted a strange smear on the back of her forearm. Was it… paint? It was hard to tell in the dimly-lit gymnasium. He stopped and she looked back at him.

"What's on your arm?"

She let go of his hand and examined the smear. He found her smirk unsettling. "I had a mishap with some lipstick. Guess I missed a spot when I was washing up."

"Doesn't match the color you're wearing." he replied, gesturing to her dark red lips.

She looked like the cat that ate the canary. "It wasn't my lipstick. It was a friend's. It's really not important."

Oliver swallowed hard when he realized the shade matched the one Felicity was wearing. "Where'd you go?"

Karla shrugged. "The girls and I went to freshen up."

"Where's Felicity?"

She raised her eyebrows. "Excuse me? Why would you care?"

Oliver felt his face heat up. "What did you do?"

Momentarily perplexed by his concern, she stared at him. Then she rolled her eyes. "Okay, so we messed with her a bit. She needed to learn her place. That loser deserved it. Lying about being your date—"

"What did you do?" he asked again, his voice deeper.

She scoffed, baffled by his anger. "We gave her a makeover then tied her to the field goal. So what?"

He gawked at her in horror. "You what?"

"That ponytail holder looks way prettier biting into her wrists than it did in her awful frizzy hair."

Oliver was moving towards the door before he even decided to leave. Karla stepped in front of him.

"Where are you going?" she asked, incredulous.

Impatient and appalled, he glared at her. "Get out of my way."

Her expression became an insulted scowl. "Are you honestly picking that geek over me?"

"Honestly, I'm pretty sure you're a sociopath." he replied with calm anger. "Felicity may be a geek, but at least she's not a crazy bitch like you."

He stormed past her and ran through the school, finding his way to the football field.

The temperature had dropped at least ten degrees, and the wind had picked up. Even in his suit jacket, he felt uncomfortably cold moments after stepping outside. He trotted across the grass and past the bleachers, the icy air slowing him down with every painful inhale. When the whole field was in sight, he looked from one end to the other.

It was the goal post to his right.

"Felicity!" he shouted as he hurried towards her. She did not lift her head. She didn't move at all.

When he finally reached her, he understood why. Her arms were stretched out behind her, nearly parallel to the ground. The flowered ponytail holder bound her wrists, forcing her arms around the freezing, too-wide pole. It must've hurt like hell, and the restraint was definitely cutting off circulation; her hands were disturbingly purple. Oliver looked at Felicity's bowed head, her face hidden by a mass of big frizzy hair. She was sobbing silently and shivering.

As Oliver tugged at the relentless hair accessory, he noticed the multiple streaks of lipstick on her arms and dress, the torn fabric, and the missing bangles. He bit his lip, trying to concentrate. She was already in enough pain, but it was hard to be gentle with this damn hair scrunchy. At last he removed it and tossed it on the ground, overstretched and ruined.

She moved stiffly as she lowered her arms and attempted to bend her fingers. How long had she been out here?
"Felicity?" he said gently as he took off his jacket and wrapped it around her. Her skin felt like ice. She didn't answer, or even look at him. Her legs gave out and she fell to the ground and sobbed harder. He sat down next to her and pulled her close, hugging her and rubbing her arms. After a few moments he stopped to examine her wrists. Frowning, he took her frozen fists in his and blew on them. He really wanted her to stop shaking.

"Felicity?" he asked again quietly. Her head was still bowed, her hair obscuring her face. She was still sobbing, too, but not as loud as before. Slowly, he reached for her chin and tilted it up.

Black rivers of mascara ran down her cheeks. The tears and the cold had caused something else to run, which he politely ignored. Swipes of bright pink lipstick streaked her face. There was even some on the lenses of her glasses. The lipstick on her lips was badly smudged. Worst of all was the word "LOSER" written across her forehead.

Shaking his head in dismay, he pulled the pocket square from his jacket and handed it to her. Still refusing to make eye contact, she accepted it reluctantly. As she wiped at her nose, Oliver slipped off his tie and used it to erase the letters on her forehead.

"It's freezing out here. We should go." he said after scrubbing the lipstick and mascara off her face with his tie. Oliver helped her up and tossed his tie and pocket square in the grass. He saw her look back at them as they left the field.

"Don't worry about it," he assured. "I can buy more."

The car ride was significantly less comfortable than the previous one. Felicity sat quietly in the passenger seat, the too-long sleeves of his jacket hiding her hands. Oliver stared ahead, grateful for her silence.

Reality was setting in as the heat of the moment passed. Did Oliver really just do… uh, what he just did? He felt awkward knowing he had shown such tenderness to this nerd he barely knew. He couldn't remember ever being that tender to someone; someone other than his sister, anyway. Guilt makes you do crazy things.

Slowly, the old Ollie was coming back, egotistical and selfish as ever. Even though no one had seen them, Oliver felt embarrassed. Him holding a girl like Felicity… he cringed at the thought. What if someone had seen them and gotten the wrong idea?

"You should've stayed on the bleachers." Oliver said admonishingly, keeping his eyes on the road.

Felicity glanced at him in gentle accusation but said nothing. He felt her eyes on him, and it made him angrier.

"And where the hell is your purse? Didn't you have a purse?"

"Cynthia threw it in the trash." Her voice was hollow.

"That bitch." Oliver spat. "You shouldn't have gone off by yourself, you know." He smacked the steering wheel in frustration. "Damn it, Felicity, why couldn't you just stay quiet? You're so good at it. If you had just stayed on the bleachers—"

"I didn't want to see you dance with her." she blurted, staring at her lap. "You were supposed to be my date. Why were you making me wait so long? You said you were going to dance with me."

Oliver didn't have an answer. Not a good one, anyway. His hands wrung the wheel as he searched for something to say.

"Thanks for saving me," she said.

"I didn't save you," Oliver snapped.

"Yes, you did."

"Whatever."

Felicity was making him feel worse. She should be yelling at him and calling him a narcissistic jerk. Her kindness was only reminding him that he was responsible for the pain of such a good person. She was so nice and gentle and forgiving that it made him want to throw up. Worse still was that her personality was making her look pretty. Well, prettier, actually. When he was wiping the makeup off her face, he had noticed her gray-green eyes, cute nose, and full lips. The memory made him blush.

"I only did this because my dad promised me an Aston Martin." Oliver stated, willing her to hate him.

"An Aston Martin?" she asked, glancing at him meekly.

"Yep," he confirmed with a nod.

She offered him a small smile. "Maybe if it were a Ferrari, you would've behaved better."

Surprised by her wit, he laughed. "Yeah, maybe,"

Oliver's heart dropped into his stomach as he parked the car in her driveway. Felicity was still a mess, and her parents were sure to wonder what had happened.

At least he had the balls to walk her to the door. Well, to the porch. Close enough, right? When she noticed him stop just before the top step, she began to shrug off his jacket.

"Keep it," he said, trying not to make a big deal out of it. "You got lipstick all over it and I can buy another one."

She gave him a warm smile that made him feel weird. It was a good weird, though. Then she suddenly hugged him. Being a step above Oliver made it easy to wrap her arms around his neck, and she did so with affection. Oliver stood there, stunned. He was being embraced by this scrawny, frizzy-haired dork, and he found that he didn't mind at all. Momentarily discarding his vanity, he hugged her back.

They parted when they heard the door open. It was Mr. Smoak. For a split second he looked horrified by Felicity's state, but then he hid it with a smile that matched his daughter's.

"Did you have a good time, sweetie?"

She nodded, almost giddy.

"Mom's making hot cocoa. Go inside and get warm, okay?" he said in that same sugary voice. She obeyed, smiling once more at Oliver as she crossed the threshold.

After Mr. Smoak closed the door behind her, he glared at Oliver. "No cocoa for you, young man." he said in a low, livid voice. Gone was the mousy man his father had told him about; in his place stood a lion.

Oliver gaped at him, unnerved by the sudden change. "Umm…"

Asher Smoak walked a few steps closer, emphasizing their difference in height. Mr. Smoak was even shorter than Felicity. But it didn't matter now; his quiet rage made him seem ten feet tall.

"What did you do?"

Oliver gulped. "I… she went off by herself—"

"Don't lie to me, you spoiled brat," he snarled. "What did you do to my baby girl?"

Ashamed, he hung his head. "I lied and told people she wasn't my date. So she ran off and… these girls, they—"

"Tell your father that I'll work for him," he said, his voice even. Oliver met his eyes and saw only restrained fury. "So long as he keeps you the hell away from my daughter."

The ultimatum hurt more than it should have. Before he could ponder why that was, Mr. Smoak was shooing him away.

"Go!" he barked, and Oliver hurried down the steps to his car.

Felicity's mother had fussed over her worriedly when she entered the kitchen, but she had managed to calm her. A few minutes later, her dad had come in acting like everything was fine, and Mrs. Smoak had stopped her fretting.

Now Felicity sat huddled in her pink hang-a-round chair, savoring her cocoa. Her room hummed with the sound of her computers, and she found it calming. Hugging Oliver Queen had made her heart pitter-pat something fierce, and the feeling was taking a while to wear off.

Oliver Queen was worse and better than she'd expected, and she couldn't wait to tell Kermit all about it after she finished her cocoa. Kermit was her pac-man frog, and he was a great listener.

Setting her empty mug on her desk, she kneeled down in front of his tank.

"Kermit, guess what! I hugged Oliver Queen! Don't look at me like that; it was just a hug. Oh, wait, I should probably explain why I look like this. Okay, so, Oliver's a jerk, and he lied to Karla and said I wasn't his date. It was mortifying. And the Insufferable Six ganged up on me and tied me to the goal post. It's really cold outside, too! But then…" She smiled brightly. "Oliver saved me. And he gave me his coat to keep me warm." She flopped the oversized sleeves at him. "See? He even let me keep it!" Beaming, she folded her hands over her chest. "Do you think it means anything?"

Kermit sat there, looking strangely wise despite his complete ignorance.

"It's not like I think he wants to date me or anything," she admitted with a blush. "But it's a nice thought, isn't it?"