Author's Note: this whole idea started with socks. I love brightly colored/patterned socks, and it just kinda occurred to me that Felicity seems like she would also love them. Thus, this story was born; the idea just wouldn't leave me alone. Also, I've been watching Much Ado About Nothing and I feel like, though I don't see Felicity as a big fan of Shakespeare, I do think she'd like Much Ado, so that kinda makes an appearance. But that's just my opinion. Oh, and I'm a serious Olicity shipper, so ... yeah. Anyway, this is my first time writing these characters and I'm not sure if I'm satisfied with it, but I hope it's not complete rubbish. Let me know what you think!

Spoilers: None.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

It's the socks.

Felicity is reclining comfortably in the computer chair at the other end of the room, half turned to face her beloved computers. One screen is running some kind of program that he can't identify, but the other is playing what seems to be a movie. He can't see what movie it is, but the words he can hear sound like Shakespeare.

She hasn't heard his approach, all her attention focused on her movie and intermittently dipping a spoon into a small tub of ice cream. She seems perfectly at ease, secreted away in this room under the (admittedly raucous) club above; part of him wonders why she is here, alone, on a Friday night.

He will never admit it aloud, but he really does find Felicity adorable. He tried not to, in the beginning, but she has worn him down: her rambling wouldn't be half as funny if it didn't embarrass her as much as it did, and her awkwardness is refreshing when he's spent the majority of his life surrounded by Starling City's most arrogant and assured.

As adorable as she is on a daily basis, there is something about her now that is not only adorable, but … he doesn't know what to call it. What he does know is that he's been standing in the shadows for at least the last minute, cataloging the way her face lights up with real pleasure at whatever she is watching; he wants to smile at the way her feet, which are propped up on the desk and crossed at the ankles, are bobbing up and down.

The socks are, admittedly, what caught his attention and alerted him that she was not here to work. Where she normally wears her panda flats –and no socks – she is now barefoot except for a pair of colorful socks, which are neon green and patterned with little red stars.

Felicity starts singing, bouncing her head in time with her feet, and this is what finally draws him forward. She is happy, and there is a dark part of him that wants nothing more than to share in that happiness, if even for just a moment.

He crosses the room silently, until he is standing just behind her and has a clear view of the computer screen.

"Is that Shakespeare?"

Felicity squeals, her ice cream and spoon catapulting through the air; in her haste she tries to simultaneously pull in her legs and push herself out of the chair, all of which ends in disaster. He springs forward to catch her, but her weight is unevenly distributed and the chair tips forward and then skitters back, depositing her on her back on the hard floor with an audible thud before he can.

She lays immobile for the length of a few breaths, and when he leans over her he can tell that the wind has been knocked out of her.

"Felicity?" he asks in concern.

She blinks rapidly and answers, still breathless, "Oliver?"

He reaches for her, her smaller hands grasping his forearms, and pulls her carefully to her feet. She is still holding on to him when she tries to hide a wince by ducking her head, but he is observant and they are standing too close for subterfuge.

"Did you hit your head?" he queries quietly.

She hums in assent and he reaches up automatically to run a hand across the back of her head, and it's only then that he realizes that her hair is free of its regular ponytail: she has left it down and it falls now against his hand in flaxen curls as he searches for a bump.

"No bump. I didn't mean to startle you," he says by way of apology.

"You didn't startle me, Oliver, you gave me a heart attack; you took my breath away."

Her head is still bowed, so she doesn't see the way her words strike him, or the look he directs to the crown of her head. She groans then, apparently realizing what she's said, and raises her head to look at him with flushed cheeks and a noticeable consternation.

"That didn't come out the way I wanted it to," she starts. "I meant that literally, not figuratively. Not that you don't, ya know, have that affect, because I'm sure you do … not to me, I mean, but to other … women …"

He can feel the smile tugging at his lips as she sputters to a halt, closing her eyes against her embarrassment. They are still standing too close for his comfort, because Felicity is beautiful under normal circumstances, and these circumstances are anything but.

Oliver releases her and steps away, busying himself with retrieving the ice cream; he can't seem to find the spoon, however, and resolves to look for it later. He turns back to find Felicity reseated in her chair, gingerly rubbing the back of her head.

"What are you doing down here, Felicity?"

He sets the tub of ice cream down on the corner of the desk and then leans against it; Felicity, her blush gone and recovered from her embarrassment, gives him a sheepish grin.

"It's silly."

"Really? And sitting down here, alone on a Friday night, watching Shakespeare and eating ice cream isn't?"

She makes a sound that's half laugh, half sigh. "Fair point. But I'll have you know that I don't really like Shakespeare."

He glances at the computer screen, which is still playing the movie that is clearly one of the Bard's, and then at her.

"Okay, this is the only play of his I like: Much Ado About Nothing."

"Of course," Oliver replied. "It's a comedy, and no one dies."

"You've seen it? Do you like it? Or Shakespeare in general?" The excitement lights up her face, the pain from her fall apparently forgotten. And then, "If you say you like Romeo and Juliet, I swear to God, Oliver, I will stab you with one of your arrows."

Oliver can't contain his laugh then, both at her excitement and the vehemence in her voice as she promises to stab him. Both reactions are purely Felicity, and he enjoys watching how animated she becomes when discussing something she's obviously passionate about.

"I don't like Romeo and Juliet," he assures her, "so no need to stab me. But it's been so long, if I had a favorite, I've forgotten what it was. But you didn't answer me: why are you here?"

Felicity glances away from him, runs a distracted hand through her hair, and forestalls answering. Her eyes have fallen back on her movie, and he's content to let her watch it for a bit before pressing her. She is odd, this little blonde friend of his, and he finds it strangely endearing; she is wildly different from Laurel, different from pretty much all of his friends, and he's lately taken to wondering about all the things that he doesn't know about her.


She draws her eyes back to him. "I was scared."

That is not the answer he expected, and it sets off warning bells in his head. He pushes off the desk, automatically falling back on his Hood persona and feeling suddenly protective.

"Why?" he demands. "Did something happen?"

"Not to me. But … there've been a few break -ins in my apartment building in the last few weeks and … I was just a little jumpy."

"So you came here?"

"I feel safe here," she admits, shrugging. "Even when you sneak up on me and I end up on my back."

A beat, another sudden flush, and then Felicity is laughing at her newest embarrassment.

This, Oliver realizes, this is Felicity: color and excitement and laughter, intelligence and surprise and honesty. There is no one in his life quite like her, and he's not sure how that makes him feel.

"But why aren't you upstairs?" Felicity asks then. "Shouldn't you be pandering to the socialites of the city?"

"Needed a break," he explains, and something in her face tells him that she understands what he hasn't said.

Felicity reaches out to grab the arm of one of the vacant chairs and pulls it up next to hers, motioning for him to take a seat with a quick nod of her head.

"So take a break," she tells him. "I won't bother you."

Oliver lowers himself into the offered chair, a small part of him surprised to see that she has already turned her full attention back to her movie. She isn't joking about not bothering him; her silence is not a loaded one, or even a hesitant one. For all of her usual chattiness and penchant for rambling, she seems perfectly content to sit in silence – with or without his presence.

He eyes the screen, where a redheaded woman is delivering a soliloquy, but his mind is not on the words: he's thinking about how nice it is to sit in silence, without feeling like he has to fill it; how relaxing it is to be around someone who truly expects nothing from him. Felicity is one of the few people in his life who does not press or pressure him.

Well, that's not entirely true; she does press him, although he's not sure she's always aware of it. She presses him to be a better person, a better friend; she presses him to keep his word, to seek out better ways of doing what he does, to be accountable. Digg does this as well, and together they are perhaps two of his truest – and most severe – friends. They did not know him before the island, like Tommy and Laurel, and so there is no taint of the past on their relationship with him. There is no hurt between them, except what has been lately inflicted, and that's probably another reason that being around them is so much easier than being around old friends; that, and the fact that John Diggle and Felicity Smoak are exceptionally good-hearted people.

This leads his thoughts back to the problem of what has brought Felicity here tonight: he doesn't like the idea of her being frightened out of her own home – or that she feels foolish for being afraid. There is a sweetness and gentility in Felicity that he values greatly, because it reminds him daily of what he's fighting to preserve, and it provokes him greatly to think of her in danger of any sort.

He purposely avoids wondering why that is so, instead telling himself that he feels that way about everyone. Which is true, at least to some extent.

Distracted, Oliver's eyes slide away from the movie and over to the wall, where a previously unnoticed bundle is sitting undisturbed; he recognizes it as a backpack, but he stares at it longer than necessary because he can think of only one reason for it to be there.

"You are not sleeping here."

The words come out much harsher than he's intended, and Felicity's head whips around to look at him before her eyes dart over to the nondescript backpack.

"It's not like I'll be in anyone's way, Oliver," she retorts. "It's the weekend, you …"

"When you said there had been break- ins, what exactly did you mean?" he demands, cutting her off. "Thefts?"

She hesitates before nodding, then adds, "And a few assaults."

He can feel his mouth tightening in displeasure. "Why didn't you say something?"

"Weren't you the one who said you weren't a city watchman, or something to that effect?"

"This isn't a mugging on a city street, Felicity. We're talking about your home, and the fact that whatever is going on has you so scared that you'd rather sleep here, under a nightclub, in the Glades."

They are glaring at each other now; the flickering lights of the computer screen are painting ghostly hollows across the exposed half of Felicity's face, and there is an odd stirring in Oliver's breast. He is upset that she didn't feel comfortable enough with him to say something about the situation, but there is something else working on him: attraction. He is in love with Laurel, and yet he can no longer deny – or ignore – the almost magnetic pull he has to the woman sitting in front of him. She is beautiful, yes, but there's something more to it: it's the pointed glare she gives him when she's angry, just as she's doing now; it's the way she can stand in unflinching opposition to him without being hurtful.

They are glaring at each other, yet there is a very heavy moment in which Oliver feels like it is not anger passing between them.

"You can't stay here," he finally manages, trying to shake the moment. "Where were you planning to sleep?"

"I brought a sleeping bag."

"And where were you gonna put it, exactly? On the floor?"

"Maybe," she says obstinately.

Felicity has an uncanny knack for being completely impossible.

She sighs then, brushes a hand over her hair, and deflates.

"If I go home I won't get any sleep," she admits, and she suddenly looks very tired.

"What were you planning to do after tonight?" he inquires.

"I was gonna ask Digg to help me install a few more locks, maybe some sort of alarm or something."

The information doesn't sit well with him, and it takes him a second to figure out why: it exposes, quietly but clearly, that Felicity feels more comfortable in her friendship with Diggle than with him. She'd planned to not even mention the situation to him, but to ask Digg for help.

Should that bother him? Because it does.

"And if he was busy?"

"I don't know; I would've done it myself, I guess. Why does it matter?"

"It doesn't."

His answer is biting; he's upset because he doesn't understand why she wouldn't trust him enough to come to him for help, and maybe he's even a little disappointed.

Oliver rises to his feet and makes an excuse about having to get back to the club, and he's halfway across the room when Felicity's voice catches him.

"I figured you'd be busy."

He stops, turns partway to look at her and sees that she's also gotten to her feet and taken a few steps away from her chair.

"It is a weekend, so, I just … figured you'd be busy, ya know, with your family, or … well, Laurel."

Felicity is more observant than he gives her credit for sometimes, because she has rightly guessed at the question he didn't ask and supplied the answer, although he doesn't like what that answer implies. She has not only assumed that he'd be with Laurel, but that he would put spending time with Laurel over helping her - even with a matter of safety. He wants to be angry with her for making such an assumption, and part of him is, but he reminds himself that it is not unfounded; he did, after all, choose helping Laurel over helping Digg catch Deadshot not that long ago.

Always her, Digg had accused, everyone else be damned.

Felicity, it seems, agrees with the sentiment.

Oliver leaves without making a reply and tells himself that he's just imagining the sudden tightness in his chest.