A/N: Gotta ratchet up the angst in this chapter because...it's just necessary. Thanks for all the awesome, quality reviews you've been leaving. I love them all.
Hope you enjoy, and don't forget to let me know what you think.
The car ride to Queen Consolidated was mostly silent. Digg had tried to strike up conversation, but after Felicity berated him for letting Oliver go out the night before, and then allowed him to leave when he was injured Digg wisely kept quiet.
She busied herself with checking on Alice or looking nervously out the window. Oliver's hand engulfed hers and gently loosened the grip she had on her skirt, forcing her palm flat, and helping to smooth out the wrinkles she'd made.
When they pulled up in front of the building instead of going through the garage she gave him a quizzical look.
"Trust me." he said, and she nodded.
Digg opened the door and Felicity hurriedly unlatched the car seat to hand it to Oliver who had already climbed out. She slid across the seat and saw him standing there, his empty hand outstretched to help her.
"You ready for this?" he asked one last time,
"I'm ready." she replied, and slipped her hand into his.
When they got near the entrance his hand let go of hers and found the small of her back, only leaving it when he paused to open the door.
There were several curious looks as they passed through the lobby and headed for the executive elevator, but no one stopped them or said anything.
An assistant was waiting when they arrived on the top floor.
"Mr. Queen, they're ready for you." she didn't wait for a response before she turned on her heel and led them to the far conference room.
There were four people already inside. Felicity found herself giving them tight, nervous smiles as she entered.
Oliver greeted them easily, making his way to the end of the table, sitting Alice's seat on the floor before he helped Felicity with her chair.
Introductions were made, but Felicity barely heard the names. Her stomach was flipping, and she just hoped she was able to make it through without rambling.
The older lawyer, whose name she had missed was already talking. She took a deep breath and forced herself to listen to him.
"...few matters we wished to discuss." he said very matter of fact and pulled a file folder from his briefcase.
"As CEO of Queen Consolidated, as well as majority shareholder, and heir to the Queen fortune, it is important to ensure there is no outside influence that could endanger your future. I've taken the liberty of drafting several contracts that should protect your assets." Felicity's breath caught in her throat as she realized what he was suggesting.
"I'm sorry Ms. Smoak, but I'm sure you understand that with a client in a position such as Mr. Queen's we have to do our duty to make sure there isn't any attempt at subterfuge. If we were to request a paternity test, I trust the results would be as expected." he gave her a cold smile that didn't reach his eyes.
Felicity jumped so hard she banged her knee on the underside of the table. Oliver made a low noise under his breath as his hand came over to rest on her leg. There couldn't be a paternity test, or any test for that matter, neither of them would pass it.
"I'm not taking a paternity test. And if you feel the need to push that idea then I will thank you for your service to this company and please ask you to see yourselves out." His voice was cool, and calm, and full of steel.
The elder lawyer blinked his eyes rapidly in confusion, "Mr. Queen, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but we're just looking out for your best interests."
Oliver's hand found hers, "I know where my best interests lie, I hope this matter isn't brought up again."
The lawyer cleared his throat and exchanged a look with his partner, "I presume having Ms. Smoak sign a paper absolving her from any monetary settlements in the future would also be rejected."
Now it was Felicity's turn to calm Oliver down. His hand gripped hers almost painfully, and she didn't need to look at him to know his jaw was locked in anger. She wiggled out of his grip and turned her hand over so they were palm to palm, fingers intwined.
"Mr. Samuels, I feel we need to get a few things straight before we proceed. Alice is my daughter. She is a Queen and as such should be treated like one. Felicity is her mother, and we are together in the fullest sense of the word so you may as well just consider her a Queen as well." Felicity's eyes went wide at his words, and she wondered if he knew what he was saying. "I will not tolerate any insinuations that she is out to steal my money. Am I clear? And if I choose to sign over every last penny of the Queen fortune to Felicity and Alice in the event of my passing I expect that directive to be fulfilled." Oliver's tone was even more biting than before, almost bordering on the voice he used as Green Arrow.
A cold fist surrounded her heart at his words. He risked his life every day, there was always a very real chance he wouldn't come back one night. A rush of noise filled her ears as she considered what that would mean for her and Alice.
His thumb rubbing across her wrist brought her back and she felt all eyes on her. She ducked her head, grateful she'd left her hair down as it provided her some cover until she could look up again.
"Yes sir, Mr. Queen." Samuels said tightly, clearly convinced his client wasn't thinking straight.
His partner cleared his throat anxiously, "Why don't we move on. We've been talking with John and Linda from PR and they feel this will do wonders for your image, which can only help the company. Promoting you as a family man who's settled down, with a young child gives investors a feeling of security. Of course that also come with bigger risks. If for any reason your status should...change, it could, of course, damage the public image of Queen Consolidated."
Felicity had known what they were doing was huge. But it had never gone beyond their personal lives. She had never considered, a week prior, when she'd agreed to do this that the future of a multi-billion dollar international corporation also hung in the balance. And she was certain Oliver hadn't thought that far either.
She turned to look at him, but his face was a mask and she did her best to follow his lead.
John, from PR took that as his cue. "We've scheduled a brief press conference to start in one hour downstairs. Nothing too formal, just a chance to introduce Ms. Smoak and Alice to the world. Other than reading a brief statement you won't need to answer any question unless you want to."
Felicity nodded, not trusting her voice.
Linda, spoke up finally, "Ms. Smoak, you have to know you will be under the highest of scrutiny. The press and the public will have questions for you that will be personal, and invasive. The work Mr. Queen has been doing since the fall of the Glades has endeared him to the people of Starling City and anything less than absolute honesty will not go over well. We want the people to like you. We want them to like you two together, but you're going to have to pull your weight."
Under other circumstances Felicity would have appreciated her blunt nature, but when it was directed at herself it made her want to crawl into a hole and hide.
"Felicity's done nothing wrong." Oliver said immediately in her defense.
"Maybe not, but they are going to ask why you didn't know she was pregnant. They're going to want to know why she didn't tell you about the baby as soon as you returned. On the surface her actions are suspicious, especially since she is still an employee of Queen Consolidated."
"I have nothing to hide." Felicity finally spoke, hoping her voice didn't sound as shaky as it felt. "Ask me anything."
Linda gave her a nod of appreciation, "We'd like to go over some aspects of this that are most likely to come up during the press conference and immediately after. So, how about we start at the beginning."
Felicity didn't dare look at Oliver, and he stayed silent, trusting her to come up with a story that she felt worked best. She adjusted her glasses and took a deep breath before answering. "I had been helping Oliver with some of the tech work at his club. It was a late night...one thing led to another." she felt her cheeks flame as she spoke, "That was it. Just one night. No hard feelings."
"And when was this?" Linda asked
Felicity did the math quickly in her head, "Approximately three months before the Glades."
"And you never suspected you were pregnant until after Mr. Queen had left the country?" her tone held the slightest bit of disbelief.
"No. It never crossed my mind. By the time I knew about Alice he was gone and there was no way of getting hold of him. I had no idea if he was returning or not, but I always had hope that he would." that was completely true, and she couldn't help looking over at Oliver. His eyes shone with gratitude because he knew exactly what she had meant.
"Alice's birth? You were alone for that?" Linda interjected
"Yes. She was a month early, quite the surprise." Felicity gave a nervous laugh and hoped her lie helped explain Alice's small size, and why Felicity herself hadn't looked pregnant to anyone who remembered seeing her those last few months.
Linda looked surprised at that, "I didn't realize. She's healthy...doctor's are happy with her progress?"
Felicity froze, cursing herself for not fully thinking it through. Also scared to death now that they hadn't had Alice seen by a doctor since they'd had her. Babies needed shots, like puppies, she knew that much and they had no idea of knowing what Alice had or hadn't had before she'd been left.
Oliver must have sensed she was babbling internally, his hand dropped across her back and rubbed soothing circles before he stepped in to save her. "Alice is doing very well. No concerns."
"How did you react when you found out you were a father?" Linda addressed Oliver.
"It was a shock, I won't lie. But getting to reconnect with Felicity and getting to know Alice...made me realize I had been missing something in my life. That's what we've spent the past several weeks doing, learning how to be together, how to be a family." Oliver's tone had adopted the fake, easy quality he usually reserved for parties and other events.
"And how would you describe your current status?"
"We're together. Felicity and Alice have moved in, and we're taking it from there." he answered easily, while Felicity felt like the bottom had dropped out. Did he really think she'd moved in, permanently? Would she have to? Should she?
"Will you be returning to work, Ms. Smoak. You've taken off the past week, but when I looked at your records, you hardly took any time off before then, even when Alice was born."
Felicity blanched. "I...um...I do plan on continuing to work."
"Who will provide Alice's care while you're both working? Do you have a nanny, or will you use the onsite daycare Queen Consolidated provides?"
"The onsite daycare, of course." she answered immediately, to her it made the most sense. The way Oliver shifted next to her made her think he didn't agree.
Linda must not have picked up on it because she had moved on, "Plans to marry or at least become engaged, it would be more permanent, which will only look better."
It was Oliver's turn to balk now. He gave an uncharacteristic sputter, and Felicity didn't dare look at him. "No plans at the present." he finally managed to get out, and she didn't know how to take that.
"I think that's about it then. We'll write this up into a longer release to be handed out. The prepared statement will be much shorter." John stated, and Felicity sat back in relief that this part was almost over.
There were a few more particulars, like who made the dress Felicity wore and the background on Alice's blanket. Felicity didn't know why any of that was important, but Linda assured her it was considered vital information.
The lawyers, who had sat in stony silence finally excused themselves. She was sure they saw her as the downfall of the great Queen dynasty and she couldn't help give a little wave as they passed. Oliver looked at her out the side of his eyes and she just shrugged.
When they were alone she jumped to her feet and placed Alice's seat on top of the conference table. "We should probably feed her. Wouldn't want her freaking out during the press conference. That would look bad. Thea was right, it's all just a presentation; a show." she shook her head in disbelief as she pulled what she needed from the diaper bag. "How do you do this? I mean, you're doing this twice over. You're hiding from the world, but you're also hiding from everyone you know...how do you not trip up? I can barely think ahead far enough to keep my foot out of my mouth and you're juggling more balls than I can count."
She hadn't realized how affected she'd been by the meeting until Oliver slid the bottle from her shaking hand and took Alice from her seat.
He pushed gently on Felicity's shoulder until she was sitting again, and then offered the bottle to Alice who took it greedily.
"I don't hide from everyone." he reminded her. She couldn't help how her eyes flew to his in shock at what she heard in his voice.
They were quiet, both lost in their own thoughts. Felicity kept running through all the ways he'd opened up to her lately and wondered what that could mean.
"I'm sorry about Samuels. He was out of line." he said suddenly.
Felicity shook her head, "He was only doing his job. To everyone else, this..." she gestured back and forth between them, "this just...doesn't add up."
She looked up at him to see a look of genuine confusion on his face, but one he schooled almost immediately. A bolt of something went through her as she added this reaction of his to the list of ways in which he continued to surprise her.
When Alice was done Felicity burped her quickly and checked to make sure she didn't need to be changed. She was in the process of putting her back in the car seat when the PR team came back into the room.
"Oh, don't put her in there. You'll need to be holding her during the press conference." Linda said immediately. She handed Oliver several pieces of paper to review before looking at both of them. "Have you decided if you'll be taking questions?"
Oliver answered immediately, "No, we won't. This release covers the basics, and we may agree to an interview in the future, but for now I'll just read the statement and we'll do a few pictures, nothing more."
"Very well." Linda replied, "They're ready for you downstairs."
"Where has it been set up?" Oliver asked
"Main lobby." Linda stated as she pushed through the door, holding it open for them to follow.
He twisted to grab Alice's car seat. If it had been anyone else, they wouldn't have noticed, but Felicity saw the slight hitch as he turned back, and the flash of pain that went across his eyes.
"Alright?" she asked under her breath.
"Of course." he replied, hand hovering over the small of her back again as they made their way out.
"Don't lie to me." she admonished.
"I'm fine." he insisted and she let it go.
The ride down to the main floor seemed like it was over in a second. She barely had a chance to take a deep breath before Linda said "Showtime." and the doors opened.
"Smile. You'll do fine. And I'm right here the entire time." he whispered into her ear just before they stepped out.
She gave him a small nod, grateful for the support.
When they rounded the corner she could see a small platform had been set up with a bank of microphones and a small stand. A sea of reporters and photographers filled the rest of the lobby.
"Oh, wow." she exhaled, nerves overtaking her.
Oliver's hand found hers and gave her a reassuring squeeze.
Linda stepped forward to introduce Oliver. He helped Felicity onto the platform and gave her a warm smile, a real one, she noted, before he let go of her hand to reach into his breast pocket for the statement.
Oliver read what had been prepared for him, occasionally changing a word here or there he didn't like, but for the most part sticking to the script. Her role was to hold the baby and smile, for which she was grateful. The reporters, and cameras made her nervous. She felt like at any second, someone was going to discover their charade and bring it all down around them.
As soon as he was finished there was a barrage of sound as questions were thrown their way from every direction. Felicity actually flinched and held Alice a bit closer, grateful when Oliver stepped to her side and wrapped an arm around her waist. She was glad they had agreed to not take questions. Numerous pictures she could endure, an interrogation she could not.
If she hadn't been standing so close to him she never would have noticed, but the red stood out against his crisp white shirt. She swallowed a gasp as she realized his wound must have started bleeding again. His suit jacket covered the area, but if he moved or gestured it was going to show, and that's the last thing they needed the press looking in to.
Hoping she looked normal, Felicity eased Alice into the crook of her left arm and turned slightly in to Oliver before reaching her right arm across to lay against his lower left side, effectively trapping the suit jacket under her hand, and not allowing it to open to prying lenses.
He must have thought the action slightly strange because the hand around her waist pulled her in even closer and he dipped his head down to whisper in her ear. "What is it?"
She gave a small smile to the press before she whispered back, "You're bleeding."
He raised his head and settled his hand across hers, making the gesture look completely natural.
"Give us a kiss!" one of the photographers yelled out, his request cheered by several others.
Felicity's back went straight, and the hand Oliver had on her waist tightened. There was a flutter of movement off to the side. Felicity looked over to see Linda gesturing with her hands for them to do it.
Smile still plastered on her face she tipped her head up to look at Oliver. There was something in his eyes she'd never seen before, and just as his head lowered she let fake smile slide off her face, giving him a real one in return.
His lips pressed into hers, sending flares of fire straight to her core, regardless of the number of people that surrounded them. She lifted up slightly, as she felt his hand grasp her waist tighter.
Her thoughts swirled as her stomach flipped deliciously. She was kissing Oliver. And it was more than she ever imagined it could be.
When he pulled back she was shocked to see he looked just as affected as she felt. She turned her face into his chest, giving herself a moment of privacy.
Luckily, Alice decided at that moment that she'd finally had enough. Her loud cries drowned out the press, and a quick look from Oliver had Linda coming forward to call an end to the press conference.
Digg was suddenly on her other side, as they stepped off the platform and began to make their way through the crowd.
A small group of people had already started to gather outside the main doors to Queen Consolidated, and even though Felicity knew exactly how the internet worked it still astounded her how quickly information flowed.
Digg had the car at the curb, as security from the building helped them make their way.
"It's not always going to be like this, is it?" she asked Oliver, slightly breathless.
"It'll die down, and they'll lose interest." he assured her, but she wasn't confident he was right.
Digg had already retrieved Alice's seat and had it installed for which she sent him a grateful look.
Once the door was shut behind them she could hear both her and Oliver's phones alerting constantly.
Alice was strapped in, content for now, and Felicity turned her attention to Oliver.
"Let me see." she ordered, her hands already on his lapel, perfectly able to ignore the fact that they had just kissed. As long as she kept herself distracted she could absolutely forget that had happened.
He looked at her in confusion for a moment before he caught on. "It's fine."
"Let me see." she repeated, voice harder. She pushed the jacket out of the way and loosened his tie, pulling it free of his collar.
She'd undone three buttons of his dress shirt before his hands fell over hers. "Felicity, I've got it." his voice was rough and low and she froze.
She let her hands fall from underneath his, swallowing heavily as he finished undoing his shirt.
He pulled the tail away and she could see where he'd pulled out a few stitches. "You didn't even cover it up." she admonished, pulling the decorative handkerchief from his pocket and using it to press over the wound, taking care not to push too hard.
"That's silk." he protested and she shot him a look over her glasses.
The hand that wasn't holding the cloth had come to rest on his abdomen. It was several moments before she realized. The skin beneath her palm was warm, and when his muscles rippled she couldn't help the way her fingers curled inwards. She didn't dare look up, but she would swear he'd made a noise.
Oliver's phone rang for the fifth time in as many minutes and jolted them both out of wherever they had gone. He took the former pocket square from her, "I think the bleeding has stopped."
She drew back, missing his warmth.
He made quick work of buttoning his shirt and she sat back to pull out her own phone. She had more text messages and email alerts than she cared to count as well as several missed calls.
"Thea keeps asking if she can go ahead and post the picture she took this morning. Claims it's not fair she's being scooped since she had the shot first." his voice was strained.
"Uh, sure, it's all out now...shouldn't matter, right?" Something was happening. Something she didn't understand. She needed normality right then. She needed some semblance of her life back.
"Can we go to the lair. I'd really like to do that. I haven't been in so long there's no telling what you've done to my computers." She tried to sound normal, but by the way Oliver's brows drew together she knew she'd failed.
Digg looked into the rearview mirror for direction and at Oliver's slight nod he made a sharp left to head in towards the Glades.
Everything was just as she'd left it, including all the supplies for Alice. She watched as Oliver carefully transferred the sleeping baby from her seat to her crib without waking her.
As he and Digg headed back to the training room she settled down in front of her computers for what felt like the first time in forever.
An hour later they rejoined her. She railed a bit about how being away had kept her from doing updates the way she liked, but they laughed her off and she turned back to the monitors unable to shake the slightly frantic, uneasy feelings that were growing inside her.
The longer she worked, the more she found her mind wandering. Instead of bringing her peace, being in the lair was doing the opposite. She was hyperaware of his every move, his every word and she felt that at any moment there was a chance she was going to explode.
When she sighed louder than she intended he walked up behind her. "You ready to go home?" He said it so easily. Home. And she knew what he meant. She knew he meant the mansion, all three of them. Not her to her apartment, the place she payed rent on every month. The place where, up until a week ago, she went to every night when she was done helping him fight crime.
But he'd announced to the world today that she was living with him. Not that they were still working it out, or keeping separate spaces for now. He'd told them she had moved in, fully.
"Do I have a choice?" she asked, not intending for it to come out as bitter as it did.
She felt her chair being spun and then she was staring up at him, his eyes narrowed. "What's wrong?"
She gaped at him, open mouthed, not believing he could be so dense.
"Oliver, you are just assuming that I'm ok with giving up my apartment." she said
By the way his brow furrowed she knew he still didn't understand.
"I have friends I occasionally get to hang out with. I do my laundry on Sunday nights and grocery shop Tuesday afternoons. But now I have plants that are dying, and mail that's piled up. I have a backlog on my DVR, and ice cream getting freezer burn. I have a life! Or at least I did. And you think it's nothing for me to move in with you?" she hated the way her voice broke, but she was too far gone to have any sort of control.
"If it's a matter of the rest of your lease I'll pay it." he said immediately and that only angered her more.
With a wave of clarity she realized this had nothing to do with Alice and everything to do with him.
"My god, you really don't get it, do you?" she asked incredulously. "Yes, Alice has changed your life, but in a way she hasn't. It's just one or two more balls for you to throw in the air, and you're getting to be a really good juggler, so it's not that bad. But me, you're asking me to change everything, to give up everything! It is not easy, Oliver, and...you just make it harder when you-" she stopped herself short before she said too much.
He still stood where he'd stopped when she'd began her tirade, and before he could move she grabbed her bag and headed for the stairs.
"Felicity!" he called out, and she whirled on him.
"Don't even think about trying to stop me right now!" she yelled, running up the remaining steps.
She'd completely forgotten it was a Friday, which meant the club was full of staff getting ready to open. Halfway across the dance floor she remembered she didn't have a car and started digging through her bag for her phone.
"Hey there! You guys look great by the way. You're already all over the big celebrity blogs and plenty of major news sites." Thea said excitedly, shoving her phone in Felicity's face as she approached.
Thea had the cover story of the Starling City Times pulled up, a photo of them from the press conference took up most of the space.
'A Queen and a Princess'
That was the headline.
They looked...perfect. Happy, and together, and so right it made her ache inside for something she never even knew she had wanted. And now she had it, but not for the right reasons and not in the right way.
Hands shaking she gave the phone back.
"Hey, are you alright?" Thea asked.
"Um, no not really." Felicity answered.
"Was it something my blockhead of a brother said?"
"No. No, not at all." she lied immediately, knowing she had to protect all their covers. "It was just a bit much and I just need some quiet but I can't get it here, and I can't get it there, and I don't even have a car...Sorry, I don't mean to dump all this on you."
Thea waved her off and touched a hand to the headset she wore during prep in order to keep in touch with all the employees. "Roy, be a love and grab my keys out of my bag will you? I'm on the dance floor."
She turned her attention back to Felicity, "Don't worry about it. You're new to all of this. Eventually it'll become normal, but I totally understand the freak out." Roy approached them from the direction of the bar and held the keys out to Thea.
"Thanks babe." she said with a smile, and then handed the keys to Felicity. "Here, take my car. Go. Escape for a while. Do some retail therapy if necessary."
Felicity shook her head slowly, "No, I couldn't."
But Thea wouldn't take no for an answer. "I insist. Besides, we're practically family, right? It's the least I can do."
Keys clenched tight in her fist Felicity just nodded. "Ok, thanks. I'll take good care of it."
Thea waved her away before returning to her duties as manager.
Felicity drove off, the purr of Thea's much too expensive sports car roared beneath her. She pointed herself in the direction of her apartment and didn't look back.