I briefly considered turning this into a three-parter, but I want to save you guys the trouble of having to wait that long for me to finish everything. Instead, you just get a fairly long chapter that hopefully will satisfy everyone.
This happened purely accidentally, but this could count as a prequel of sorts to 'Cause There's Beauty in the Breakdown. I'm unintentionally talented like that.
There's so much left unspoken
Between the two of us
It's so much more exciting
To look when you can't touch
- "I Get Off," by Halestorm
"So how has your week been?" Diggle asked from across the room. He had been working on his accuracy with the bow for close to an hour and if she had to guess he was well past exhausted.
Felicity inhaled slowly through her nose, her fingers never pausing on the keyboard. "It's been fine," she replied, putting on a smile so he would hear it in her words.
That was a total lie. Her work week was fine, sure, but as far as her social interactions went… not so much. Even acknowledging that in her head made her fingers freeze up for a second, caught in her own momentary humiliation. Pulling herself together, she resumed her work, this time while gnawing on her bottom.
It had been nearly three whole weeks since… whatever happened between her and Oliver, and since then… nothing. She couldn't tell if she wanted something to happen or not. She was just so damned confused.
It was possible that she was more confused because what happened in the past three weeks wasn't technically 'nothing'… it was like half a step up from nothing. Quasi-nothing. Somehow, that was even more infuriating than actual nothing. It was a tease.
After that weird night when he stared at her with that look in his eyes, she assumed they would never talk about it again. And she was kind of right, in that he didn't bring it up. But that didn't mean it went away.
Felicity blamed most of that on her poor-decision making when it came to her wardrobe. Her grandmother had been kind enough to buy her some business clothes at Hanukah—fortunately her grandmother was fairly with it and had a nice sense of style, so there were no tacky paisley prints or giant knitted flowers involved. Most of the pieces she wore regularly, but there were a few others that were pretty, but not exactly her style. She probably wouldn't have bothered with the sweater if she hadn't been running low on clean shirts with no time to do laundry. And, to be honest, the color worked better than she expected against her complexion.
She didn't wear green very often—not intentionally, it just wasn't a color in her everyday wardrobe—but it was such a vibrant emerald that she figured it couldn't hurt. It was clingier than she preferred as far as sweaters went, especially with the deep V-neck. The receptionists in the office wore worse, but she liked to play it safe and matched it with a pair of modest black pants to make it acceptable.
And everything was acceptable—in fact, one of her coworkers, Mindy, called it "classy"—until she walked into Verdant's basement. Oliver and Dig had been in deep discussion when she arrived. She had her own work to start so she said a quick hello as she skipped down the stairs.
It would have ended there had Oliver not looked over at her. They must have finished their conversation because after Dig greeted her he headed off for the gym. Oliver, meanwhile, stayed where he was, five or so feet from her desk. She glanced over at him to send a hesitant smile, except he was already staring at her. She froze in her tracks, not expecting the undeniable heat in his eyes. He was looking at her the exact same way he had four nights before.
Once more, she felt the same sensation of being the prey caught under the predator's gaze. As much as she wanted to back up into the corner and cower again, she had a job to do. Also, Dig was in the room this time, and she wasn't going to make an ass of herself twice in one week, especially not with an audience. Breaking eye contact with Oliver, she set her purse on the desk. Not that it helped any. She could feel the heat of his eyes on her back.
"You look nice, Felicity." She looked over her shoulder at him, her breath catching in her throat. He was staring at her like he thought she looked much more than nice. But she had no better response than earlier in the week, so she whispered a thanks and sunk into her chair, left feeling much hotter than she had moments before.
"Hey, so I'm taking Carly out to dinner tonight," Dig added, knocking her out of her fantasy. "It's our one-year anniversary."
Felicity blinked, her mind whirling to process that information. "Holy hell," she muttered, pausing her typing once more.
"What's wrong?" Oliver asked. He was out as Green Arrow, and after a lot of arguing she had finally wore him down on the subject of always wearing a comm while he was fighting. It was much easier—and safer—but on occasions they had some miscommunications, like in this case.
"Nothing," she replied, bringing up the GPS on his link. She liked to keep an eye on him while he was running around. "Dig was just telling me that Carly and he are celebrating their one-year anniversary."
She heard him chuckle over the comm. "Has it really been that long?"
"That was what I was thinking," she replied with a smile.
"So what time will he be stepping out?"
Hitting the mute button, she craned her head and repeated Oliver's question to Diggle.
"Uhh, well, I'm seeing her in an hour," he answered, his voice as tense as his shoulders as he lined up his target. "But I wanted to ask you some advice about what I should get her."
Eyebrows arching, Felicity frowned. "You haven't gotten her anything yet? For shame, Dig."
The arrow sliced through the air, landing dead center in the target. "She told me not to get her anything!" he defended himself with a grimace. "But I still want to. I just don't know what to get."
Cocking her head, she considered his options. "Well, flowers are out."
"Because, nothing says 'I love you' more than removing something from its home and watching it slowly wither and die in a week. And jewelry is overdone, too."
"I think you're being—"
"Do you know Carly's taste in jewelry?" she asked him pointedly, not bothering to wait for a response. "Because I don't. Because she's a simple, classy lady that doesn't wear a whole lot of jewelry."
"Fine, no jewelry. Then what do I have left?"
She smiled. "A lot, actually. Because she's a simple, classy lady, you don't need much to make her happy. You just need to give her something that shows her how much you care."
While Dig contemplated her words, she returned to her programming with a smile. "Felicity, I think I love you," he announced, making her laugh loudly. Walking over to her, he kissed the top of her head and added, "Like a friend. You're awesome. I'm gonna go home and pick up Carly's present."
She grinned, tilting her head up to wink at him. "Have fun," she sing-songed, bringing up Oliver's GPS location again. "But not too much!"
Unmuting Oliver's comm with a touch of a button, she explained to him what he missed. "Dig needed present advice. He just left to go pick something up for Carly."
He hummed to let her know that he was listening, and she went back to working on a new program. She figured she had a few hours to herself, which would five her enough time to wrap up her project.
That was if Oliver didn't head back to the lair earlier, like he did occasionally when patrol was light. The odds of that happening weren't high, but the thought had her worrying all the same. She had yet to spend any significant length of time alone with him, which was a relief as much as a regret.
There had been one other moment, a week prior, between her and Oliver. He had earned himself another knife wound, and after he sewed it up himself—eww—she insisted that they patch it up, partly for the ick factor and partly because his mom and sister would definitely notice the seeping blood staining all his shirt sleeves.
"You don't want to get it infected," she scolded gently. She had spent entirely too much time learning the ins and outs of wound dressing in her opinion. And it was surprisingly hard to focus on the hot, sweaty guy when he was covered in bruises and bleeding everywhere.
He simply smiled at her concern, like she was a cute toddler asking to read the newspaper. Huffing, she finished wrapping the cut—which was sure to turn into yet another scar for his collection—and began packing up all the bandages and dressings. "You really do care, don't you?" he asked, voice low.
She shot him an 'are you crazy' look in reply. "Of course I do," she said, harsher than she intended. "It's not as if I like watching you get injured."
Oliver shook his head, and out of the corner of her eye she could see he was watching her. "That's not what I meant," he replied. "At least, not entirely."
She looked back at him, but that was a poor decision on her part. Breaking eye contact with him was not an easy task. She wasn't sure if she was ever going to get used to him staring at her like she was the only person that mattered. She wasn't sure how much longer he would keep doing this to her, either.
Oliver's hand, so much bigger and rougher than hers, came up and cupped her jaw, and it was nearly impossible not to lean into his touch. His thumb brushed over her cheek, and she might have sighed in pleasure. But she couldn't very well be held responsible for that behavior.
He leaned forward, and for one wild second she honestly thought that he was going to kiss her. And then Dig was walking down the stairs, calling out to Oliver. She leapt back, forcing him to break contact with her as she scooped up all the first aid stuff and scampered off, ignoring the blush that was already spreading across her face.
Felicity didn't mean to act like such a coward, but Oliver made her edgy, even more so than usual. While she wasn't exactly a stranger to relationships, she didn't have a lot of experience drawing the attention of a billionaire vigilante. That was well beyond her scope of understanding, and, up until a few weeks ago, something she assumed she would never need to know.
So, rather than trying to sort through all her various issues, she resolved to never help him dress a wound again—tough luck—or wear that sweater again—slightly better chance. If she was a different woman, she might have been crafty enough to use that sweater to her advantage, but she could never go through with something like that. She was not a seducer. She would either freak out or wind up humiliating herself, and no matter what it would end in a lot of apologizing.
It was too easy to compare herself to those other women in Oliver's life, but if she kept up the premise that he wasn't interested in her in that way, she didn't have to bother with feeling inadequate. And if he was… well, she would cross that bridge if/when she got to it, and not a moment sooner.
There was no use counting her eggs before they—okay, never mind, that cliché was too awkward to even bother finishing. Besides, clichés weren't really suited for Oliver. They so rarely applied to him. However, with her, clichés worked perfectly. Which was one more reason that they wouldn't work out. Obviously.
After so many years spent in front of a computer screen, Felicity had perfected the art of being 'in the zone.' That was why she was such an efficient programmer, not to sound conceited. She enjoyed being efficient, actually, because it made her life easier while also making it harder for those stupid enough to question her intelligence. The only downside was that she had a penchant of blotting out everything else around her.
She had been so focused on typing up the last of the code that she didn't hear him come in until he set his bow and quiver on the table. Muscles seizing, her eyes went to the corner of her desktop screen. Two hours had gone by in a blink. That was all fine and good, but she had hoped to get out of there before he came back from patrol.
Chewing on her bottom lip, she closed the program and shut down the computer without a word. If she got out of there immediately, maybe she could make it to her car without anything catastrophic happening. Or maybe Oliver could grab her by the waist and declare his undying love for her first.
"Are you still working?" The screen turned blue, signifying its shut down process, and she knew there was no purpose to lying to him, anyway.
"Nope, it just finished," she replied, not turning around to face him. She dropped her phone in her purse, desperate to do something with her hands. Another downside to being a talented hacker: it was impossible for her to keep her hands still, especially when nervous. And as previously established, Oliver made her very nervous.
"Heading home?" he asked. He almost sounded like he was teasing her, but that was too bizarre to even comprehend. No matter, she turned around and regarded him with the best facsimile of a chipper grin.
"Yup!" she answered, picking up her purse and shouldering it. "Thought I should get home before 3 am for a change."
He pushed his hood off. His smile was wistful, but he so rarely used his genuine smile that she chalked it up as nothing out of the ordinary. She smiled back at him like nothing was wrong—which, she supposed was technically true, because she had no reason to think otherwise.
Felicity had been uneasy around him, and she wasn't very good at hiding it. He wanted to talk to her about it, but every time he tried she left early or something unexpected happened. For a girl that could never stop talking, she could be extremely difficult to speak to one-on-one.
"You've been avoiding me," he announced, walking over to her before she could make a breath for it.
Her fuchsia lips parted, ready to come up with some kind of disagreement. But he cut her off at the pass, adding, "We both know that it's true."
Felicity's face was already starting to flush from embarrassment, rather adorably so. "Part of it is my fault," he admitted, "I should've spoken to you earlier, but I wasn't sure what to say. And then you wore that damned shirt…"
He was giving her a decent amount of space, but even from there she could see his eyes darkening at the thought. How was it that his eyes were enough to get her hot? Not fair. "Don't worry, I won't be wearing that sweater ever again," she muttered under her breath, probably the color of a ripe tomato by that point. "That was a terrible life decision."
He smiled a little, but it wasn't a happy smile. It was feral. "I wouldn't go that far," he replied, and she failed to repress a shiver.
She wanted to believe that she was imagining all this in her head, but she knew that her brain wasn't this creative. Biting the inside of her cheek, she asked timidly, "What do you want to talk about, anyway?"
"You," he said simply, taking one step forward. "And, ideally, me."
Okay, screw creativity, there was no way this was reality. "As in… together?" she asked. She wanted him to be absolutely clear so she would be able to explain it to the psychologists when the men in white coats came to take him away.
She clearly thought he was crazy. He could see it written across her face, particularly in that panicked look in her eyes. He felt a little crazy when it first appeared all those weeks ago, if only because he hadn't felt such a visceral reaction to a woman in a long time. But even as he gave himself time to process and categorize his lust, it didn't dissipate. If anything, it grew stronger as he paid more attention to her and her quirks.
"That's what I'm hoping," he admitted. Oliver knew being straightforward with her would be his best bet, but that didn't mean she would definitely go along with it.
Exhaling slowly, Felicity put her hand on her head. She might have secretly hoped a time or two that he would develop feelings for her, but she always wrote that off as pure fantasy. If this was a fantasy, now would be the point where she ran up to him and kissed him silly and had passionate sex on the floor. But this was reality, so all she felt was the overwhelming urge to throw up. Or maybe pass out.
Oliver wanted to drag her over to him, but she already looked so close to running that he didn't want to push it. He had resolved to wait as long as she needed, and he was going to follow that through.
Felicity realized he was doubtlessly waiting for her response, one that she was having a hard time finding in only thirty seconds. "Sorry. I'm… processing," she explained, breaking eye contact with him to stare at the cement. She wasn't expecting to find the answers there, but it was less stressful than looking at Oliver.
In all honesty, staring at the ground and not her hot boss actually was helpful. The ground couldn't judge her and gave her the right opportunity to search for the right—if any—words. Though, on second thought, it was probably a tad too grimy to ever get one's freak on. "So… you've been thinking about this a… lot?"
She wasn't looking at him anymore, instead choosing to study the ground for secrets. "Pretty regularly," he replied. He had resolved to be honest with her, too. "Ever since that night. When we spoke."
Felicity glanced up at him, and then quickly back at the ground. She was behaving like an errant child about to be scolded. He was torn between feeling frustrated and amused. "That night," she repeated with a little nod. "I kind of just chalked up your behavior to a concussion or sleep deprivation or something."
He couldn't help it. He chuckled at her. "No concussion," he said. "Just attraction."
At this rate, she was going to chew off all her lipstick. C'mon, Felicity, you could do this. Your city's vigilante just professed his attraction to you. Say something back. That would work, if she knew what to freaking say. God, she was shit-awful at giving herself pep talks.
She seemed to be having a hard time finding the right words. Distantly, he wondered if those words were a polite, 'thanks but no thanks.' He wasn't cocky enough to think that there was no chance that she wouldn't be attracted back. Theoretically, she could even have a boyfriend that she hadn't mentioned.
He wished that thought hadn't crossed his mind, because the instant it did, he felt the doubt seep into the back of his mind. She could have a boyfriend… one that she never mentioned because she was too busy being humiliated by her sexual harassing boss. Son of a bitch.
Maybe asking questions would be easier. She was always better at analyzing when she had all the information. "You're attracted to me," she said slowly, working it out in her head. "As in like you think I'm pretty as a friend or like to… date or, y'know, … the other one?"
"The other one?" Oliver sounded stupidly clueless. In his defense, he sometimes felt like she was speaking a different language around him.
She blushed to her roots, like she was embarrassed to have to explain it to him. "You know," she clarified ineffectually. "The friends with benefits, no strings attached… thing."
"Friends with benefits?" He needed to stop repeating everything she had to say. "You mean—oh."
Five years on an island had not improved his people skills, of which were already fairly stunted from his varied experience as a womanizer and all-around idiot. But ever since he came back home, he made a point of trying to understand the people he cared about, both their personalities and emotions. Felicity was one of the most empathetic people he had ever met, and it would kill him if he wound up hurting her in the process.
"Felicity," he said, his voice heavy and serious, "I wouldn't do that to you. I want you, yes, but I like you, too."
Oliver was a man of few words, and she learned that long ago. He said less than twenty words, and they were enough to knock her whole world into a tailspin. And he wasn't done. "And, if you're interested, I'd like to date you."
When she didn't respond immediately, he filled in the answer for her. The sting of rejection wasn't one he was too acquainted with, but it felt more potent coming from her. When he moved on from Laurel, he thought that meant he wouldn't have to concern himself with complicated emotions.
It was possible he was still an idiot.
Felicity could remember every guy that asked her out. To her memory, none of them had been that honest, pragmatic, and, oddly enough, romantic. Still, she couldn't help but mess it all up. "I think you might still have that concussion."
Of all the responses he expected from her, that never would have made the list. The grin that appeared on his face did so without his control. "I am not concussed," he told her, even though they both already knew that.
Her lips twisted. "Are you sure of that?" she asked skeptically. "'Cuz you could've forgotten. That you have a concussion, I mean."
"Maybe you should go lie down," she added helpfully. He didn't do as she suggested—not that she really expected him to listen—but instead did the opposite, walking directly towards her with a determined look in his eye. "'Cuz I read that those medical journal thingies no longer require a concussed person to wake up every hour. There's like new rules or something. I think it has to do with their pupils? Or maybe slurred speech? Or maybe—"
If he had let her, she totally would've continued, possibly until she ran out of breath, turned blue, and died. Rather than let her, Oliver crossed the room, not stopping until he was barely inches away. All the words in her head disappeared in a flash as she found herself nose-to-nose with him. "Felicity." When he said her name, she felt warmth slide down her spine like he had actually touched her. "I don't have a concussion. I just want to date you."
This time, he didn't give her the chance to argue. His hand cupped the back of her head, tipping her towards him as he closed the distance. And then, he was finally kissing her, and all she could think was, Oh.
Oliver had been thinking about kissing her for a month, and to finally fulfill that fantasy was more than just satisfying. It felt right. Her skin was soft, she tasted sweet, like those cupcake mints she kept by her desk, and she was so, so much better than his fantasies.
There was a thump and she was pretty sure that was the sound of her purse crashing to the floor, because she was able to wind her arms around his neck unimpeded. That was both a wonderful decision and a torturous one; wonderful to kiss him back, but torturous because every rational thought in her brain fled, getting replaced with some very animalistic ideas as her body pressed intimately against his. Sure, she knew he used those muscles to protect himself, but in her opinion they would be much better suited for being stretched across her on a bed. Or a couch. She wasn't picky.
She was going to need to invest in taller heels, because even in her three-inchers she had to stretch a little bit more to reach him. Not that he seemed to mind, big hands sliding appreciatively up her sides and keeping her that much closer to him. The only way they could get any closer would be without clothing, and as much as she was seriously considering it the thought of that grimy floor was enough to make her hesitate.
His hands slid up her back, two, three more times, slowly inching her sweater up her back until he was finally making skin to skin contact. Her back arched automatically, encouraging his touch with a contented sigh. God, she needed more of that. Everywhere.
This was all going to be over a lot sooner than he wanted if she kept whimpering like that in the back of her throat. He was already having such a difficult time leashing his control, he knew it could only last so much longer. Her mouth moved perfectly under his, keeping up with every stroke.
Felicity felt lightheaded, from not breathing and from him. It wasn't easy to pull away, not with his fingers moving up her spine and the hot curling in her stomach. Somehow, she was able to pull away, just barely, inhaling a deep, desperate breath like a man coming up from air. Oliver paid her no mind, ducking his head under her chin to drop kisses along her neck. Good God, she could feel her whole body melting into him like nothing.
"So what are you going to say?" he growled against her skin, tongue flitting out to taste the dip in her collarbone. He was supporting at least half her weight, and if she leaned against him anymore he was going to pick her up and carry her out of the goddamned building.
Eyes fluttering closed, she tilted her chin towards the ceiling as she racked her brain for an answer. Finding none, she moaned, "Say?"
"About our date," he clarified, and when his teeth nipped her throat she moaned louder. "Yes or no?"
Felicity's blunt nails dug into his scalp, and it took her a few moments to collect her thoughts. "N-not fair," she murmured, brows knitting. "You're taking ad-advantage."
His only response was to trace the clasp of her bra and kiss the spot where her jaw met her ear teasingly. Lips pursing in a frown, she moved her hands to grasp either side of his head him up to face her, and she was chagrined to see he already had on a smirk. "Fine," she said, trying her best to ignore the way his fingers were drawing lazy circles along her back.
"Fine?" he repeated, his mouth turning up a little more on one corner.
"Fine," she said again, with a roll of her eyes. He wasn't going to make anything easy for her. She wished that didn't sound quite so fun. "I'll go on a date with you."
Oliver grinned. "Tomorrow," he said.
Felicity rolled her eyes again. "Friday," she argued. Just because she was agreeing didn't men she was going to ignore all social convention. Nothing about their relationship was normal, but they were going to follow the accepted date protocols if it was the last thing she did. "At 7."
His face twitched, like he wanted to disagree with her. "Deal," he finally consented, leaning until his forehead touched hers. "7 sharp."
Felicity wanted to hide her grin, but there was no way that could happen when she felt so freaking happy. With a swift tug to the small of her back, she was pressed flat against him once more. She really hoped she never got used to that.
She was strangely adorable, her face flushed and her lipstick-smudged smile infectious. He kissed her one last time, short and sweet. "You should go home now," he suggested. If she stuck around any longer he was afraid he wouldn't ever let her go. "It's getting to be pretty late."
He was giving her a way out, and the strangely considerate gesture only caused her to smile wider. "Fine," she whispered, leaning away, the cool air hitting her like a grateful slap to the face. She needed that to clear her head of everything Oliver-related. It wasn't an easy task.
He picked up her purse for her, and she took it graciously, not missing the purposeful way his fingers grazed hers. "See you tomorrow," she told him, voice uncontrollably breathless. She couldn't be expected to sound normal when she just gotten the sense knocked out of her while making out with her superhot boss/quasi-boyfriend.
"Have a good night, Felicity," he replied, and if she wasn't trying really hard to be a good person she would have tackled him to the ground, icky floor be damned.
She nodded, turning around and making her slow way out of the lair and up the stairs. Her knees felt wobbly, but she knew that if she stopped moving she would fall right over. Her whole body was shaking from the emotions and untapped energy. Oddly enough, she wished right then that she had more girlfriends, so she could have someone to call in a high-pitched voice to dish on everything that happened. Unfortunately, she didn't have that luck, so she had to walk to her car in silence until she could shut the door and be guaranteed a moment of alone time.
At which point she covered her mouth with both hands and let out a big scream. It muffled the sound enough, and she didn't stop until she ran of breath, letting her head drop against the steering wheel while she collected herself. The irony that the end of this night had perfectly mirrored the end of the first night a month ago was not lost on her.
Oliver had kissed her. She had kissed Oliver Queen. Green Arrow had made out with her. Nope, still not collected. She released her mouth, gripping the steering while instead. She kissed Oliver.
Felicity never should have suggested Friday. There was no way she was going to be able to wait until then.