There were people everywhere. All of them were his employees at Queen Consolidated and they were all interested in watching him to see what his next move would be.
Oliver tapped his foot on the floor and tried to steady his focus on the women standing in front of him. She insisted that he knew her in college and he sort of remembered her face but he couldn't remember anything about her. Was she an employee, or was she someone's date? He thought she might have said but couldn't remember.
Somewhere along the way he'd lost the ability to not pay attention to the background noises around him. Probably at the same time he realized being inattentive to his surroundings was a surefire way to get dead. The ability to be aware of every minute detail around him was necessary on the island, and it proved an invaluable tool while acting as the Vigilante. In a crowded room, however, it was distracting and only caused a massive headache.
"Remember that time you got caught with Melissa Hunt in the Dean's office?"
He remembered. It felt like a lifetime ago.
She rambled on about their college days, but he'd been to four colleges, and he wasn't sure which one she was referring to. The only thing he was sure about was he'd been with Melissa Hunt when he was 19, and she had been 26 and working towards a masters in psychology. He'd been expelled because of that incident. Back then, he'd never thought about what might happen to her because of it. He made a mental note to check up on her.
"What was it like?"
The question caught him off guard because his mind was still on Melissa. "The Dean's office?"
"The island. Was it like camping? I can't imagine the Oliver Queen I knew in College roughing it. Was there a beach?"
"A beach?" His brain froze. He remembered dragging his father's body up the rocky shore.
Why was it he could stare down psychopathic killers while they pointed a gun to his head and yet he was completely waylaid by a stupid question at a party? He looked away from the woman in front of him and towards something he saw flash in his peripheral vision. There was nothing there, but that didn't stop him from feeling like there wsomething threatening lurking just behind his back.
"How did you stand being alone for so long? I don't think I ever saw you alone anywhere. If you weren't with a girl you were with Tommy. I remember how inseparable you and Tommy Merlyn were. You should have seen him at your funeral. I don't think I've ever seen anyone so devastated. It's a tragedy what happened to him in the Glades disaster."
"Yes." Oliver managed. He couldn't focus properly on pushing everything into the background. There were too many noises, too many people.
"What did you eat? I guess you had to learn how to cook and everything? Did you learn how to hunt, or are you a vegetarian? What kind of animals were there?"
There was hunger. Constant gnawing emptiness.
"Do you miss the outdoors?"
The island was cold. It was wind and rain and hunger and death.
A hand touched his shoulder from behind and he tensed at the sudden unexpected contact, but it felt familiar and he closed his eyes for a moment, focusing on the hand on his arm rather than the unwanted memories bombarding his brain.
"Oliver, you didn't tell me you came with a date." The woman from college said softly.
"Oh, I'm not his date. I'm Felicity Smoak." Felicity reached out the hand that wasn't on Oliver's arm in greeting. Oliver watched the two women size each other up.
"Nancy Siemens. I was just catching up with Oliver from our college days together."
"Do you work here? It's just, I don't recognize you and I've been under everyone's desk at one time or another." There was a brief pause. "Because I work in IT, and that's where the cables are and when something doesn't work that's one of the first things we check. The cables. Under the desks."
"I'm in accounting." Nancy answered.
Felicity turned back to Oliver. "I just received a message from one of the subsidiaries in Coast city that the server went down and I need the pass code verification from you to link them back into the system."
"The what?" He asked. His brain worked furiously to catch up. He'd been listening up to where she talked about being under desks and somehow lost the thread of everything she said after that.
"The server went down and I need your pass code information. Because you're the CEO. And you have the codes."
"Right. Uhm," He turned back to the woman he didn't remember from college. "I have to go." He let Felicity tug him out of the main conference hall and into a side office.
"Are you alright?"
Oliver let the relative silence wash over him. The party noises were still in the background, but at least they were muffled by the closed door. She hadn't bothered to switch the light on and they stood together in the relative darkness, the only light coming from the frosted glass beside the door. This wasn't Felicity's office. He didn't know any pass codes to servers. They had agreed to keep their contact minimal at QC to avoid suspicion. "What are you doing?"
"Because it's quiet and private. Oh god. Did I misread things? Am I completely out of bounds here, because I thought you looked like you needed to take a breather."
"No, you didn't need a breather, or no, I'm not out of bounds?"
This wasn't getting him any closer to figuring out what Felicity wanted. "Is the server really down?" Oliver asked.
"Pfft, of course not. Even if it was I wouldn't need your help fix it." Felicity laughed and waved a hand dismissively. "It was just the best excuse I could think of to get you alone." She bit her lip again and huffed out a quick breath. "Not that I want to get you alone. I mean, I do... did. Not. That's why I dragged you in here... Do you want to talk?" She asked.
Oliver felt exhausted. Of all the things he wanted to be doing, talking was definitely not one of them. He had hoped Felicity knew him better than that by now. He leaned against the door and sighed. "I don't want to talk-"
Felicity interrupted by clearing her throat. "About the next name on the list. I was doing some research earlier today. I spoke to John first because of the party and I figured you'd have enough on your plate as it is, but I found something you need to know."
"Of course. What did you find?"
"Okay, so apparently..." Felicity started talking about the corrupt televangelist who operated a mega-church on the border of the glades and a growing worldwide ministry of which the donations were used towards financing his corporate interests and manufacturing sweatshops in developing countries, and apparently even going so far as financially supporting a dictatorship in the middle east.
Oliver focused on the information. None of it was anything that couldn't have waited until tomorrow, but he was grateful for the distraction it provided, and he was relieved that he'd been wrong. Felicity did know him; better than he'd ever given her credit for.
And it struck him then, that it was definitely time to get to know her just as well as she knew him.
a/n: Thanks for following so far. I've got a bunch of fics I've written for Arrow and this has really been the encouragement I needed to clean them up and turn them into something more. Please leave a review and let me know what you think, or where you would like to see me go with this. :) If there are any beta readers out there interested in helping me out, I'd appreciate that too.