Title: Love, the kind that's not undone (Love, I know you are the one)
Sequel to: I Can Feel Your Heartbeat (Running Through Me)
Category: Arrow
Genre: Romance/Humor/Drama
Ship: Felicity/Oliver
Rating: NC-17-Explicit
Word Count: 7,967
Summary: [3-Parts] Oliver and Felicity make their public debut as a couple. It's both as difficult and as easy as he expected.

Love, the kind that's not undone (Love, I know you are the one)

Love, they say it heals all wounds
Love, removes the hurt in you
Love, I know that this is true

"This was a terrible idea."

Those were the words Oliver was greeted with when his girlfriend opened her apartment door, dressed to the nines for their first public date. Technically, it could even be seen as their first date overall, since he'd only convinced Felicity that they were something more than friends with benefits a week ago. Over the seven months they'd spent together, it had all been behind the scenes. In between Hood activity and keeping up appearances as a careless billionaire, they found time together in the foundry or her apartment, carefully hidden from the scandal-seeking eyes of society.

During that time, he'd fallen in love with her. Not just the woman who sat proudly as the eyes and ears of the city, hacking into top secret branches of the government or security surveillance cameras, but the woman who could spend whole weekends in her pajamas, trying to update him on the wonders of great television. Truth be told, it wasn't hard to fall in love with her. With how she pushed her glasses up the slope of her nose or matched her nail polish to whatever outfit she was wearing that day. With her bright lipstick that never smudged, no matter how many times she bit or licked her lips. And her rambling; a very important part of her personality that had made him smile and laugh genuinely, as he hadn't since before being marooned on an island of misery.

As much as it was easy, like every facet of Felicity's personality, falling for her had caught him off guard. He hadn't put a name to what they were doing because it was dangerous. Because adding feelings to an equation meant painting a target on her back, drawing attention to his weakness. But it didn't stop him from going to her, from finding his way in through her window after a long patrol, from spending days curled up on her couch, enjoying her excitement as he gave in and said he'd watch Doctor Who if she really wanted him to. Sleeping with her helped relieve his tension, but spending time with her helped him find peace.

There had been many times in his life when he questioned what his future held. He had tried his hand at relationships, both before and after the island, and they hadn't turned out well, for him or who he was seeing. Pre-island, he was a terrible boyfriend, too selfish to think of others and their needs. Post-island, he was too jaded, had too many secrets, and lived a life too dangerous for many people. He'd held tightly to the memory of Laurel, building her up in his head, using her as an anchor to get through the worst of his time on the island. And when he'd returned, he was reminded that she truly was one of a kind, but time and again it was as if life was telling him that the road that led to Laurel was not one he was meant to tread. Letting go of her had been hard, but it had been right. He would only bring her misery and he could never be his real self, his whole self, when he was with her.

He began to accept that his life would be a lonely one. And truthfully, he didn't imagine it would be long either. His only goal was to get through the book, to do as he had promised his father, anything after that was just bonus time. But as he went about systematically wiping names off the list, it was Dig's and Felicity's voices in his head, reminding him he could do more, do better, and it started to draw out a different future for him. Maybe the Hood was meant for more than just what that list read; maybe he could bring about more peace than he ever expected. If he had more than just that list to devote himself to, if he had more work to do, maybe he could eke out a real life for himself.

But it wouldn't be with Laurel.

It wasn't that it never occurred to him that Felicity was beautiful, or a woman, or that she was attracted to him, he'd just been too wrapped up in Laurel at the time. And later, it just made sense to keep her safely tucked in that neatly titled box of 'off limits.' They were friends, they worked together, and it wasn't something he wanted to ruin, as he had a habit of doing.

The night that all unraveled was still as clear in his mind as if it had just happened.

Patrolling had been rough. Oliver was tired and happy to be on his way back to the foundry. Halfway there, however, his attention was caught by a car thief. He changed direction, thinking only to scare him off; putting the fear of God into some of these crooks was usually enough, especially if they were new to crime. But this one hadn't been as easy to stop and, as soon as Oliver's feet landed on the hood of the car, the attempted thief had attacked, using the crowbar in his hands to swipe at Oliver's legs, tripping him hard enough that he landed on his back, slightly surprised. They wrestled and, much as Oliver didn't like to admit it, the guy managed to get in a couple good hits, one that he knew would leave him with a black eye and another that split his lip open. He was quick, but Oliver was quicker, and stronger; he subdued the man and had Felicity send an alert to the police that wouldn't trace back to them.

When he got back to the foundry, he was angry and the adrenaline was hitting him hard. It was rare that anybody got the drop on him, especially some low-grade thug, and the more he thought about it, the more he wanted to fight. He paced the floor, his hands flexing, itching to hit something. It was late enough that there was hardly anybody else out on the streets, which meant finding somebody to take that frustration out on was slim. He could use the punching bag, sweat it out of himself, but it felt lacking.

"Hey, Rocky, why don't you let me take a look, maybe clean out those cuts?" Felicity suggested, moving toward him, her head cocked. Despite the teasing in her tone, he could see the worry in the furrow of her brows. She wasn't concerned with how angry he was, just that he was hurt. It was something that still surprised, even confused, him about her. Sometimes he found himself worrying that she was naïve, too trusting, but Felicity was smart, she was careful. For whatever reason, she saw something in him. Something that she thought was worth her time, her help, and for that he was grateful.

He shook his head, in part to her question but also to his thoughts. This was no time to be waxing poetic about the virtues of his IT girl, no matter how pretty she was, standing there, chewing her lower lip, eyeing the gash on his side that had cut clear through his vest. That hadn't been the car thief but a burglar armed with a knife. Oliver had left him with a broken wrist that meant he wouldn't be cutting anybody else open for a good, long time.

"Oliver, you need to clean up. If you leave it too long, it could get infected." She raised her chin then, her hands on her hips, and suddenly she wasn't worried so much as insistent. "You're not on the island anymore. If you have the opportunity to get help, you should accept it."

He sighed, his shoulders tightening. "If I needed help, I would. But I'm fine."

She rolled her eyes, muttering under her breath, "I won't argue that…"

When he looked at her abruptly, she flushed, realizing he'd heard her. It wasn't the first time she'd let an innuendo slip, nor would it be the last; in fact, her brain to mouth filter around him was always defective.

Pushing past her embarrassment, she told him, "I'm not going to stop pestering you until you at least let me put some antiseptic on that cut."

He looked down at his side; the sting had long faded and he was fairly sure he didn't need stitches. Having it cleaned up and patched would be the smart thing to do. It was for that reason only that he agreed, stripping off his hooded shirt before moving over to the table. Felicity went to work getting out the medical supplies, setting it up beside him before she tucked a stray curl behind her ear and focused on cleaning him up. He raised an arm behind his head to give her better access, his jaw clenched as he watched her. Her teeth were digging into her fuchsia pink bottom lip as she wiped at the dried blood around the cut before using the antiseptic on it, glancing at him briefly to make sure it hadn't hurt. The minor sting barely registered and he met her eyes as they peered up at him, a bright blue that darted away after a few seconds to grab a bandage and stick it over the cut, pressing down the edges carefully.

"Um, that should be fine." She fidgeted before raising her head to look at his mouth. "Did you want me to take care of that?" she wondered, reaching up to let her fingers touch his lips, feather-light. She paused before stuttering, "C-Clean it, I mean. I didn't… I wasn't trying to come on to you. Not—Not that I don't think you're worth coming on to. Because you are. I just… I didn't…"

Her eyes darted toward his hand as he reached up, finding the loose curl that had slipped out from behind her ear. He wrapped it around his finger as he watched her, a flush blooming on her neck and spreading beneath her blouse. He didn't think that was from embarrassment though, not if the way her eyes dilated and her breath left her in a rush was any indication.

She was standing between the spread of his legs, watching her blonde, wispy hair wind around his finger, still dressed in a glove. He moved it, tucking it behind her ear once more, before he let his hand slid down the slope of her neck, fingertips teasing the nape as his thumb grazed down over her collar bone.

She swallowed tightly, her hands coming down on top of his thighs, and raised her eyes to meet his, her lips parted. "Oliver…" she murmured.

He leaned forward slowly, the tension between them doubling, and paused only when their lips were close enough to brush as he answered, "Felicity."

It was her who closed the distance, slanting her lips over his, hard and wanting. He met her lips with the same ferocity, his fingers sliding up to bury beneath the elastic of her ponytail, drawing her in closer, her body bowing into his. Her hands slid up his legs, fingers hooking in the waist of his pants, nails lightly scratching at his skin. Kissing her was fast and passionate and the adrenaline only made it better. It felt like the build-up of all the time they'd known each other had finally overflowed.

He reached down and yanked her flimsy blouse out from the confines of her pencil skirt so he could skim his hands up her back. He growled as his gloves hindered him. Pushing up off the table, he pressed against her, walking her backwards, never releasing her mouth, continuing to nibble her lips and stroke her tongue with his own. He turned them around so her back was against the table and pulled his gloves off, tossing them away, not caring where they landed. Finally, his bare hands were on her, sliding up the soft skin of her back as she arched for him, their hips pressed tight together as he ground himself against her, enjoying the way her breath hitched for him.

His mouth trailed away from hers, her panting breaths loud in his ears as he licked his way down her neck, leaving sucking bites as he went. He could smell her perfume on her neck, pinpoint the exact places she'd dabbed it, and wondered where else she'd put it. More than one woman he'd been with dabbed it between their cleavage and the image of Felicity doing the same had his fingers on the buttons of her blouse, undoing each swiftly. He wanted to press his face to her chest, nuzzle her breasts, tease her nipples through the fabric with his teeth. His skin warmed, desire making every muscle in his body tense with anticipation.

Impatient, he gave up after four buttons and tore her blouse open the rest of the way, sending the buttons flying, and grinned darkly as she let a moan slip at the action. He dragged the fabric down her shoulders, pausing to kiss the top of one before he trailed his mouth down to where the lace trim of her white bra curved over the tops of her breasts, a small, pale, pink bow sitting between them. He rasped one whiskered cheek against her skin, feeling her shudder beneath him. His fingers slid over the straps of her bra, following them down her shoulder blades until they came together at the clasp, but he didn't open it yet. His fingers flared out over her back, lightly stroking her skin.

He rested his chin between her breasts and looked up, waiting for her to meet his eyes. She tipped her chin down, her cheeks flushed, and watched him from heavy-lidded eyes. Reaching for him, she let her fingers skim through his hair, teasing his temples with light touches, before scrubbing them down behind his ears. He could feel her nails as she dragged them further down his neck, scratching encouragingly.

A muscle in his jaw jumped as he thought of her nails scraping down his back as he made her come. He wanted that. That sting against his skin as he watched her fall apart, taking every bit of pleasure he could give her. He unhooked her bra and nudged the cup of one away with his nose, licking his way over the soft skin of her breast until he found her nipple, tightening as soon as his tongue swirled around it, hardening between his lips. She let go of him only long enough to get her bra completely off and then her hands were on his shoulders, nails digging in. He reached for her neglected breast and kneaded it, the calluses of his palm feeling dramatically different against how soft her skin was. He marveled at it for a moment, letting his rough thumb rake over her nipple and his palm completely envelop her smooth breast. Everything about her seemed soft to his hard; her body, her personality, her outlook on life, even knowing what kind of corruption was out there. Sweet, soft, sensitive Felicity.

He brought his mouth to hers, wanting to drink up her optimism, her hope, her innocence. He pulled the elastic from her hair, letting all her curls fall over his hands and down her back. He could smell her shampoo, something floral, and he thought about what it would be like to lay her on a real bed, to wake up next to her, her hair spread out over his pillow, the smell of him all over her skin. He kissed her hard, feeling dark and brutal, trying to remind himself that those things weren't possible. That she was everything he was not and could never be.

His hands slid down her body, memorizing her curves and the way she jumped as his fingers skimmed her ribs, ticklish. He squeezed her hips, kneaded his fingers into the swell of her ass, and reached down for the end of her skirt. He didn't bother unbuttoning or unzipping it. He dragged it up her body, bunching it at her waist, and slid his knuckles up the inside of her shaking thighs. He gripped the backs and lifted her, placing her on the table, in the exact spot he'd been before this all started. He spread her knees apart and stood between them, his fingertips dancing over her supple thighs, sliding up inch by inch.

Her hands fell flat against his chest but never pushed him away; they were just warm and still, anchoring her to him in a way that was somehow different. And then her finger tapped, once, twice, three times, on and on, and he realized she was doing it in time with his heartbeat, which seemed louder and faster than it had been in a long time. It was intimate in a way that having his fingers teasing the edges of her underwear wasn't. Another reminder that they were different; she was soft and he was hard. He wanted her softness. In that moment, he wanted her everything.

His fingers ghosted over the folds of her sex; she was wet, but he wanted her wetter. He bent to his knees and her hands stopped touching his chest, stopped following his heart, instead sliding up over his shoulders, behind his neck, and into his hair. He tugged her white underwear down her legs and dropped them to the floor before he pulled her to the edge of the table, her knees spread, legs over his shoulders. When he pressed a kiss to her clit, her nails dug into his neck and her head fell back, a strangled cry leaving her throat. He liked that sound, he liked how she tasted, and he wanted more. He wanted all of it.

His hands wrapped around her thighs, keeping them spread wide as he buried his mouth against her, sucking and licking every inch of her slit, nibbling her soft flesh, teasing his tongue around her opening, feeling her shake and shudder. She was mumbling his name, getting louder and louder, until he focused on her clit with his teeth and his tongue, pushing her over the edge. She came hard, enough that had the club upstairs been busy, even they would have heard her over the pumping bass of the music. His tongue kept up a light pace against her as she rode the wave of her orgasm, only stopping when her hand pressed down on his shoulder.

He lightly suckled a kiss on the inside of her thigh before he stood up, dragging his mouth up her stomach, grazing his teeth over each of her nipples, before he found her lips again. She was panting, her forehead pressed to his, but her hands were quickly moving south, finding and undoing his pants before she slid a hand inside to cup him tightly, fingers folding around his length and pumping him with quick, hard strokes. He arched his hips closer, his eyes closed, his mouth parted as he focused solely on the feel of her fingers moving over him, her palm sliding over the crown of his cock. Her fingers were so much smaller than his, delicate, and surprisingly adept considering how often she stumbled over her words. He should have expected that; Felicity, for all her babbling, never did anything half-assed. He gripped her thighs as he enjoyed her explorative touch, feeling how she still trembled. But then her hand was gone and he felt it starkly, his eye opening to watch her.

He noticed suddenly that her glasses weren't on, something she was reminded of when she reached up to adjust them and found nothing sliding down her nose.

"Condom?" she reminded, breathlessly.

His head turned from her, brow furrowed, his mind foggy. His gym bag was nearby though and he walked over to it, digging around inside until he found what he was looking for. He tore it open as he returned to her, grabbing up one of her knees to pull her leg around his waist. She took the condom from his hand and rolled it on for him, stroking him a few more times before she raised her other knee. It hit him abruptly what he was doing. Felicity was naked except for the skirt ringing her waist, her legs spread, her neck and breasts littered with his bites. She was gorgeous. Flushed, her hair tumbling down her shoulders, completely confident as she reached for him, hands settling on his hips, drawing him near.

He didn't feel regret in that moment; he didn't even spare a moment to second guess what he was doing. Some part of his brain told him that it was bound to happen eventually. That he had known all along that they would eventually get here. He buried a hand behind her neck and pulled her in for a kiss; all panting breaths and teeth scraping over lips. He bit down on her lip as she wrapped her hand around him and rubbed the head of his cock down her slit, circling her clit. He broke the kiss so he could watch her and, for the rest of his life, he would remember the look on her face the first time he sunk inside her. The way her mouth fell open and her eyes widened, how her head fell back just a little. It would stay with him, seared into his brain, putting everyone before her to shame.

His hand tightened in her hair, twining her soft curls around his fingers as they moved together, hard and fast. His mouth trailed down to her breasts, teasing her pink nipples, biting down on them to make her clench around him, a grunt exiting her lips, her nails scoring his shoulders. There was that sting he wanted. He didn't want her to hold back. He wanted to remember this; he wanted to feel it in the morning. The way she gripped him inside her, how her teeth dug into his shoulders, her nails into his skin. He wanted to feel the pressure of her legs around his waist, thighs shaking.

God, she felt good. Hot and tight and squeezing all around him. This was better than fighting, better than sending an arrow through anyone. This felt right. There were no lies here. His hood was off, but the paint was still on. The woman currently in his arms knew him, the real him. She was aware of the different masks he wore, the difference faces he had to put on to please some people and keep others in the dark. She knew exactly who it was that was fucking her and she wasn't the least bit concerned about it. She accepted him. The jaded, tortured soul that wasn't always sure about what was right or wrong anymore, who needed a little guidance, who needed her voice to say 'no' from time to time, needed her hand on his arm to stop him from making rash decisions, needed that concern in her voice when he came back after a hard patrol or had trouble navigating the waters of his family and friends, people who weren't always who he thought they were.

Somehow, this made more sense than anything he'd done since he got back from the island. He kissed her sloppily, his control falling apart as she tightened her legs around him, starting to climax. He slid a hand between them, rubbing his fingers over her clit as his hips picked up speed. She cried out, her head tipping away, and he caught her by her neck, holding her close while he bit down on her lip as she orgasmed, breathing out his name. He was right behind her, the tight fluttering of her around him pulling him over the edge. His eyes squeezed shut, his whole body falling forward for a moment, caught against hers, pleasure firing on every nerve.

They just sat there a few minutes, a tangle of sweaty bodies, panting. He pressed lazy kisses down her neck and over her shoulders as her body loosened, muscles relaxing completely. He let go of her only long enough to get rid of the condom and then he was back, touching her, from the slope of her shoulders down to the flare of her waist and lazily stroking the tops of her thighs. Soft; she was so damn soft. She slid her arms around his neck and he kissed down the length of one, lightly biting the inside of her elbow, smiling when she jumped at the sensation.

The adrenaline of earlier had worn off and now he was just feeling good, if a little tired. But he liked this, he liked how quiet she was in the aftermath, letting her hands do her talking as they moved through his hair and over his chest, around the sculpt of his biceps and across the ridges of his abdomen. She traced the tattoo on his chest, but didn't ask him about it. He liked that too. That she didn't push or pressure him; she just accepted that there were parts of him that he wasn't ready to discuss. Yet.

It wasn't until an alert came up on her computer that they separated, getting dressed, reminded that the rest of the world was still there. She didn't ask for a definition, didn't ask him why it had happened or if it would again. But he already knew. He'd tasted her once and he wanted more. He wasn't ready to label what this was, but he knew it wasn't as simple as it seemed. For now, he would see what she would give him, and he would enjoy every moment of it.

Seven months later, they had a label. Not one that Felicity had forced so much as him telling her he wanted more; he didn't want to be in that undefined space anymore. She hadn't been sure, had even told him that it was too dangerous, which he was pretty sure was supposed to be his line, but Oliver had spent too much of his life being afraid of his future, usually screwing himself over rather than facing it. He wasn't going to let that happen now. He'd come to grips with his life. He wouldn't just have the book of names to cross off, he would have a city to save, in any way it needed. And he wouldn't avoid commitment or love, not when it was staring him in the face, offering him something amazing.

Whether Felicity agreed with him remained to be seen. She loved him, she'd told him so, but stepping out in front of high society, meeting his mother, didn't seem to be helping her cope with the recent change in their relationship.

Which was she was standing in front of him, looking nauseas, telling him, "This was a terrible idea."

"Personally, I think it was one of my better ones," he replied.

She pursed her lips at him, which were painted an attractive shade of coral pink. "I can't do this," she told him, shaking her head. "I mean, physically I can… But mentally? No." She gnawed her lip. "I'm going to say something stupid, I know I am, and then I'm going to panic and it's going to become a long, rambly problem that I won't be able to fix, no matter how many times I apologize. And then your mother is going to be so horrified that I work for her company, let alone am dating her son, that she'll have no choice but to fire me and rally a coup to have me kicked out of Starling City." Her brows hiked. "And let me tell you, I'm not wearing the right heels for running away from a lynch mob, okay?"

He barely stifled a smile and shook his head, amused. "If it makes you feel better, nobody there tonight will be wearing the right heels for a lynch mob."

She sighed, her shoulders slumping. "Oliver…"

He reached for her, taking her hands in his, and tugged her forward until she was close enough for him to press his forehead to hers. "Felicity…"

She opened her eyes to look up at him, her fear showing clearly.

"My mother will love you…" Before she could argue, he kissed her, and added, "And even if she didn't, it wouldn't change anything between us."

"You're sure?"

He reached up, kneading her neck gently. "Completely."

Her forehead wrinkled. "Even if I start to ramble?"

He kissed the tip of her nose. "Especially if you start to ramble."

A smile finally broke through and she took in a deep breath, raising her chin. "Okay."

He arched an eyebrow. "We can go?"

"Yes." She reached over and grabbed her clutch off the end table and her keys out of a bowl before stepping out into the hall with him, turning to lock the door.

He took a moment to admire her. Her long hair was swept up, with a few tendrils falling loose down her neck and framing her face, devoid of her usual glasses. The midnight blue dress she wore had only one sleeve, draped over her left shoulder while her right was left bare. It hugged her without looking tight, a knot at her hip creating attractive folds in the fabric, and fell to just above her knees. She was beautiful.

Tucking her keys in her clutch, she looked up at him. "Ready?"

He smiled lightly and held an arm out for her to take.

Sliding hers around it, she walked with him down the hall to the elevator. "So what is this fundraiser for again?"

"It's an annual thing, for the children's hospital. It's one of my mother's projects; she's been doing it for as long as I can remember."

She nodded. "So she rounds up as many of the elite as she can and has them empty their pockets to help the needy…? Sounds like somebody else I know." Reaching over, she readjusted his tie and smiled up at him. "Maybe it runs in the family."

"I have a feeling she's nicer about it," he returned, raising an eyebrow.

"I don't know. I get the feeling your mom could be pretty scary if necessary. You don't last this long in the cutthroat business world without picking up a few things."

"Is that right?"

"Mmhmm." She nodded. "It's why I went into tech and not business. I'm more of a behind-the-scenes girl." She wrinkled her nose. "Sadly, I can't pull of intimidating at all… Now, you need awkward word-vomit, and I'm your girl. You need to scare somebody for information, and I'd have to send in my much scarier—" She reached up and scrubbed her nails over his whiskers, "—and scruffier half."

He grinned down at her. "Another reason we work then. You find the dirt and I use it to intimidate others into doing the right thing."

"What an accomplished pair we make."

"And attractive," he added, letting his eyes wander down her frame once more.

He watched as a warm flush suffused her upper chest. "Well, that goes without saying…"

Sliding his hand down into hers, he raised it up, kissing the back just as the elevator dinged and the doors opened.

Felicity turned her head away, taking her time dragging her eyes from his, before stepping forward, out of the elevator and into the main hall. They walked past the long wall of mailboxes to the front door, where he pushed it open for her and followed her out. A car was waiting for them at the curb; Diggle stepped out of it as they reached the bottom of the stairs leading from the apartment building.

He grinned. "You look great, Felicity."

She smiled up at him. "Normal great or photographed on the arm of a billionaire great?"

"She's nervous," Oliver explained, shaking his head.

"Well, you're used to the attention, so you don't know how weird this is."

"I already offered to go in through the back if the media attention bothers you…"

She frowned. "No, that'd be cowardly… And it's not really the cameras that are scaring me. Although they don't exactly make me feel any better."

"I'm guessing it's meeting your family," Diggle offered, brows raised.

"Technically, you've already met them," Oliver reminded.

Felicity socked him in the arm. "Awkwardly saying 'hi' while they're all crowded around Walter's hospital bed does not count."

"She makes a good point," Diggle agreed. "Plus, back then she was just a friend, and everybody was more distracted with Walter's recovery. Now she has to make sure she impresses people."

"Exactly," Felicity agreed, waving a hand at Diggle as if to say 'See? He understands.'

"Yes, thank you, Dig, for helping to reassure her that this isn't anything to be worried about," Oliver said sarcastically, his eyebrow raised at his friend.

With a calming smile, Dig turned back to Felicity. "Think of it this way… The most intimidating person you've ever met is your date… If you can impress him, how hard could meeting a few socialites really be?"

She turned her eyes up thoughtfully. "That was surprisingly comforting," she admitted.

"Great. Then we can get going before my mother calls me… for the third time, to remind me how important it is that I'm there tonight."

Diggle chuckled under his breath before reaching for the door and opening it for them to climb inside. Felicity smiled up at him thankfully before she slid across the leather seat to the opposite end, leaving plenty of space for Oliver to join her and then some. He raised an amused eyebrow. "Is there a reason you're sitting so far away?"

She shifted in her seat and looked over at him. "Yes. And the blame lays solely on your hands." She wagged a finger at him. "I spent a lot of time and energy trying to look presentable and if you think I'm going to waste it on a little hanky-panky before we get there, then you're dreaming."

Oliver smiled faintly. "Hanky-panky?" he repeated, reaching for her, his hand falling to her knee and squeezing gently.

"I mean it, Oliver." She tapped his wrist. "I'm not showing up to this thing with one hair out of place. I need your mother to take me seriously."

"What if I promise there won't be any hanky-panky? I'll be the perfect gentleman," he assured, nodding. "Then will you try sitting a little closer?"

Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "How close is closer?" She slid an inch over in her seat. "Is this close enough?"

He shook his head.

She moved over two more. "How about now?"

He frowned, tipping his head.

"No…?" She wiggled over a little more, but stopped when he reached across her, his hand on her far hip, and pulled her easily across the seat, until her side was plastered against his.

"Right there." Content, he took her hand in his and settled it in his lap, his thumb stroking back and forth over her palm.

She scoffed under her breath and tipped her head back to see him. "Any closer and I'd be in your lap."

He stared down at her, his eyes falling to her mouth. "I'm under strict orders to avoid hanky-panky, Miss. Smoak, so you'll have to control yourself."

She laughed, rolling her eyes at him. "Dig," she called, drawing the attention of the man driving for them, his head turned in askance. "You'll have to distract me before I fall prey to Oliver's flirting… How's Carly?"

Oliver smiled lightly before casting his eyes out the window. They weren't very far from the hall his mother rented every year for the event. Unlike Felicity, his nerves weren't the least bit frayed. Introducing her to his mother and Thea didn't worry him at all. In fact, Thea had frequently asked about who the 'pretty blonde' was since they briefly met in Walter's hospital room, and it had only increased after they met again in his office at Verdant. Despite her long-time curiosity, however, she got nothing but vague answers until last week, when he'd informed them he'd be bringing his girlfriend along to the fundraiser.

Dinner had recently become a somewhat mandatory event. Oliver wasn't exactly complaining because he knew he didn't spend nearly enough time with his mother or Thea as any of them would like. But Oliver had a lot on his plate between the list and general crime around Starling, not that he could really use that as an excuse for the people in front of him. In their minds, he just spent a lot of time at the club. Tommy still refused to work with him and Oliver couldn't blame him. He knew that Oliver killed his dad; whether he was justified in doing so or not didn't matter. There was no going back from there. So Oliver used it as an excuse to spend more time at Verdant, or, more aptly, in the foundry. And if he wasn't there then he was usually at Felicity's, so spending time with his family had been put on the backburner. Which was why his mother had made it mandatory that he be home for dinner and, despite it becoming a problem he routinely had to structure the rest of his day around, he enjoyed it.

"So I'm going to be a little late to the charity thing next week," Thea announced, smiling up at Raisa as her dinner was placed in front of her.

Moira frowned. "Because…?"

"Roy doesn't finish his shift until 7, so I said I'd pick him up and wait for him while he gets ready." She shrugged. "I figured it'd be dumb to go to the fundraiser and then take off a half later just to go pick him up."

"Couldn't he just meet you there?" her mother wondered, reaching for her glass of wine.

Thea rolled her eyes in a classically impatient way. "No… Because then he'd have to take the subway back to the Glades, and then into town again. He wouldn't make it there until at least 9, and by then it'd be pointless."

Moira pursed her lips while her daughter tensed and Oliver could already tell they were about to break into an argument.

He sighed, sitting back in his chair. "I might be a little late too," he interrupted.

Moira's attention quickly turned to him, her head cocked in a disapproving look that he was well used to by now.

"It doesn't have to do with the club," he said knowingly, shaking his head minutely. "I have to pick my girlfriend up. She's nervous about meeting you, so we'll probably be a little late. She tends to ramble, it could take a little bit."

Moira and Thea stared at him a long moment; the silence in the room was deafening.

"You… Your girlfriend," Moira said haltingly, her eyes opening wide. "I… didn't know you were seeing anyone."

"For a while now," he admitted. "We've been keeping it quiet."

"Why?" Thea wondered, her brow furrowed.

Oliver smiled at her faintly. Thea had so much confidence about her sometimes that he was constantly being reminded that she wasn't a little girl anymore. She didn't beat around the bush; if she wanted answers, she demanded them. Of course, he couldn't tell her the real reason behind why he and Felicity had kept it secret. Much of it being because they had only defined themselves as a couple yesterday. But a large portion of it was also due to the fact that Oliver had an image he needed to uphold in order to keep people from paying any real attention to him. The playboy billionaire shtick didn't equate at all to the late night vigilante, and they preferred to keep it that way. Not to mention that even Oliver had enemies, people who wouldn't hesitate to put Felicity in danger, whether they knew he was the Hood or not.

"She works at the company… We wanted to be sure it was serious before we went public. We didn't want it to look bad on her if things didn't turn out well," he answered.

"Then things are… serious between you?" Moira asked, placing her wine glass back on the table as she looked at him searchingly. "She's important to you?"

The Oliver she thought he was might have made a joke, played it off, said something like, "Aren't they all?" to keep it from becoming heavy. But Oliver already knew what he expected of his relationship with Felicity. It wasn't going to be short-lived, he could already tell that. His future was being mapped out in that very moment, far beyond the list, and it had her in it. Not only as tech support, but at his side. The only other woman he'd introduced to his parents with that in mind had been Laurel. And yes, he'd screwed that up, sabotaging their relationship when he was faced with the very real commitment of living together. But he was a different person then; he hadn't been ready for that step. The person he was now, who he was with Felicity, wasn't scared of his future anymore.

"I love her," he declared simply. "And I hope you'll love her too."

"Holy shit," Thea muttered.

"Thea!" their mother chastised.

"What? Sorry. I just…" She shook her head, peering at Oliver. "I never thought he'd get over Laurel, y'know?"

His lips twitched. "Laurel's happy with Tommy, and I'm happy for them… Genuinely."

Thea's eyes narrowed on him. "Huh," she mused, "You really are…"

"Well, I think it's wonderful that you've found someone. And I look forward to meeting her," Moira told him. "What's her name?"

"Felicity... You met her briefly, when Walter was in the hospital."

Thea sat up abruptly and pointed at him in gleeful triumph. "Ah-ha! I knew it! I knew you were into her!"

"When Walter was in the hospital…" Moira shook her head. "Oliver, that was a year ago!"

He could hear the disapproving tone and knew she wasn't happy that he'd hidden something from her for that long. If she knew just how much he kept from her, he imagined this wouldn't be all that huge in the grand scheme. "We've been together seven months."

"It took you that look to realize you were serious about her?" Thea snorted.

Truth be told, he thought he'd started getting serious about her the moment they started something, maybe even earlier than that, when he hadn't been willing to explore that connection with her. After they'd started sleeping together, it didn't change the fact that his life was complicated and he'd had a hard time convincing himself that he wouldn't be putting her more in harm's way if they revealed their relationship. More, it took him a while to figure out how Felicity really felt about him. She was careful. He knew her feelings were strong, but the idea that he might be in love with her when she didn't feel the same wasn't something he had been ready to face. So he'd waited, testing the waters. But last night, when she'd carefully avoided labeling them, he realized that waiting wasn't helping them to get any traction, and he needed to tell her what she meant to him before she convinced herself that being with him wasn't worth it.

"No, I just didn't feel like sharing her."

Thea wrinkled her nose. "Ew. Caveman." Grabbing a cherry tomato out of her salad, she threw it at him. "Great, while you were holed up in your little love nest for seven months, I was over here trying to convince mom that Roy wasn't just some hooligan. Next time, I'll take a page out of your book."

"Should I warn Roy you plan on replacing him?"

She rolled her eyes.

Moira watched the banter between them with fondness. "Well, regardless of how long it took you, I'm glad you're finally introducing us. I admit I don't quite remember her; things were so chaotic after Walter came back…" Her eyes fell, a tightness around her mouth that spoke of the heartache she still carried.

Walter had filed for divorce shortly after his return, which Oliver couldn't say he didn't understand. He knew his mother had a hand in what happened, even if she was only doing it to keep her family safe. Thankfully, he'd been able to stop Malcolm before he could level the Glades. There was a part of him that knew his mother should have to pay for her sins, but he loved her too much to be the person who collected.

Putting that thought away, as he often had in the last year, he smiled at his mother. "It's fine. You'll like her, I promise."

"I'm sure I will."

"And I will be happy to share all of your embarrassing childhood stories," Thea offered.

"Always so helpful, Thea," he mused.

"You're welcome," she said with a sarcastic grin. Casting her eyes back to her mother, she added, "So this means it's cool that Roy and I are late, right?"

Moira inhaled deeply, and Oliver briefly wondered if they'd managed to avoid an argument at all.

"Yes," his mother finally said. "As long as you two make it, I think we can excuse you being a little late."

"Awesome." Thea grinned at him, and he winked back.

Crisis averted.


Blinking out of his memory, he turned to the woman next to him, brow raised.

"We're here," Felicity said, nodding her chin toward the window.

He turned to see the stairs leading into the hall were filled with paparazzi, newspaper reporters, and their cameramen. "Okay." He looked back at her. "Are you ready?"

She chewed her lip, staring at the people standing outside, waiting for a good shot.

He reached for her knee, squeezing gently. "Felicity, if you honestly aren't ready for this… If you want to do this less publicly, I can set up a dinner with mom and Thea, something simple…" he offered.

Taking in a deep breath, she shook her head, raising her chin. "No, we're doing this. Tonight."

"You're sure?"

She turned her gaze back to him. "Don't get me wrong, it's daunting. It's really daunting. But it's just people… Curious people with cameras, yes, and I don't really want to think about all the ways those pictures are going to be way unflattering. But they're just people. And they don't matter. Your mom, Thea, they do, and I want to meet them. I want to impress them. So maybe it's awkward and maybe I think I'll probably, definitely say the wrong thing, more than once, but I have to try."

He smiled slowly and leaned in to kiss her, lingering at her mouth. "And that's one of the many reasons I love you."

Her eyes were closed as she hummed. "Because I ramble?"

"That too. But I meant because you try, even when you're scared. You don't let anything stop you."

Opening her eyes, she tipped her head back to stare at him, her mouth twisted with regret. "All right. Let's get out of this car before I put my own no hanky-panky rule to shame."

He chuckled under his breath.

The door opened then, as if Diggle had overheard the decision.

Oliver turned, climbing from the car, and held a hand back for her to take.

She didn't hesitate, sliding her fingers over his palm and squeezing.

He drew her out, adjusting the button on his jacket.

As soon as her face was visible, they were blinded by the flash of cameras.

While not yet in print, it would soon become public knowledge that it was this moment that Oliver Queen was officially off the market.

[To be continued: Part II.]