Oliver trailed his fingertips over the tie, knotted at his collar and partially concealed by his sleek black jacket. He fastened the final button and left his office on a thank you mission.
Oliver smiled at the secretary outside his door. "Hold my calls, please."
"Yes, Mr. Queen."
Shiny elevator doors opened as he approached the hall's end. Perfect timing. Since opening the poorly wrapped box on his desk, the idea of waiting on anything had seemed impossible. He crossed the threshold and examined the reflection before him, though Oliver normally averted his eyes where mirrors were concerned. The small white scars on his chin, neck and forehead went unnoticed by most, but to him they glowed above the crisp white collar of his dress shirt, reminding him of the days he spent on the island. He found the soft material at his throat and adjusted his new tie with calloused fingers and admiration. A simple gift. No reason, really, for the impact to be so great, especially since it wasn't his birthday. A knot of emotion lodged in his throat. He wasn't someone in need of gifts.
Oliver stuffed his hands casually into his pants' pockets, seeking the little note. He ran his fingertips over the folded piece of Queen Consolidated memo paper, remembering the words "Happy Birthday" were scratched across the stationary lines and a tiny scripted F stood beneath. Surely, Felicity knew it wasn't his birthday. Felicity knew everything. What she didn't know, she could uncover with a few strategic keystrokes. She was brilliant. Beautiful. And surprisingly unpredictable.
A short intake of breath froze his limbs and stunted his thoughts. The reflection before him smiled. Oliver relaxed his shoulders. He was smiling.
"Have a good day, Mr. Queen." Several passengers behind him slid past as the elevator doors opened on a new floor.
Oliver lifted a palm in acknowledgement, not needing to force the congenial smile he wore to work every day. Instead, he worked to control the silly look on his face. He clasped his hands behind his back and waited. Two more floors. His gaze found the tie's reflection once more in the mirrored doors. Green. Of course. An inside joke. A perfect gift. He worked his lips back to an appropriate expression before people wondered if he suffered brain damage while he was away.
As the doors parted again, Oliver stifled the urge to jump out. Instead, he waited a beat before entering the hallway marked IT Services. The door he sought was open. Felicity's chair was empty. His smile fell.
"You looking for Felicity?" A voice behind him asked.
Oliver whirled around. "Yes. Is she in today?"
The fair skinned kid stopped short, paling further. "Mr. Queen. I'm so sorry. I didn't know that was you." He balanced a tray of coffees on a pizza box. "It's lunchtime, so I thought, you know, she gets asked to lunch a lot, so…."
Oliver stretched his arm before him, revealing the time on his oversized, overpriced watch. "Lunch time." He shook his head, unsure if the confoundment came from the fact it was already lunchtime, or that Felicity had numerous lunch suitors. His jaw twitched. The idea Felicity had a social life surprised him, though it shouldn't. She had to do something when she left Queen Consolidated and wasn't manning the lair under Verdant. He turned back for the elevator. Something tightened the muscles in his shoulders. Did he care that she had lunch dates? No. What about date-dates? He pressed the button for the elevator and glared at his reflection. No. Of course not. Oliver rubbed his forehead as the doors opened, and he stepped onboard.
Alone in the elevator, he scrutinized his reflection. Why did she give him a birthday gift two months after his birthday? Who were all these lunch dates? Why didn't he know she had lunch dates? Where did they eat lunch? In the company cafeteria or at local restaurants?
The doors opened, startling Oliver.
Diggle stepped onboard. "Hey, I was on my way up to see if you want to get some lunch. Where're you headed?"
Oliver glanced overhead at the floor number. He'd stepped on board at the IT floor and failed to press a button, riding the elevator to the ground level instead of to his office as he'd planned. What was wrong with him today? He shook his head as if to dislodge the confusion.
"Well?" Diggle pressed.
"Sure." Oliver smiled. "Lunch sounds nice."
Diggle held the door for Oliver to exit. "Nice tie." He chuckled, clearly amused at the reference to Oliver's nighttime escapades.
"Thanks, it was a birthday gift."
The men crossed the busy lobby of Queen Consolidated. A brilliant autumn day waited for them. Sunlight shone off the rain dampened streets. Fallen leaves speckled the sidewalks in every conceivable shade and hue of fall.
Diggle stopped at the corner. "Should I get the car or do you want to walk somewhere?"
A familiar laugh floated on the breeze to Oliver's ears. "Did you hear that? I think I heard Felicity."
Diggle turned, scanning the open plaza. "There. Looks like she's already eaten. Maybe we can invite her tomorrow."
By the time Diggle had spoken, Oliver had already noted the close proximity of her lunch companion and several ways to remove him physically. The pair sat on a low wall near the building, drinking gourmet coffees and sharing fries from a paper basket. Their bodies angled in on one another as they spoke. Their knees nearly touched.
Oliver turned to Diggle. "Who's that with her?" Whoever he was, Oliver didn't like him. He was too old for her. Too plain. Too… Oliver looked at the couple again. No. Not a couple. Just two people having lunch. The man was probably harmless. In fact, it was nice Felicity had friends at the office. She kept his secrets at night. She should be happy during the day. Even if that meant having lunch, seated too closely, with this…guy. Felicity's laughter drew his eyes back to her. Wide red lips smiled around the rim of her coffee cup. Tendrils of steam rose into the air above her nose. Strands of long blond hair blew across her forehead in the wind. She was happy. He should leave her to her lunch.
Diggle crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't know him. He looks harmless enough to me. Why? Do you think he's up to something?"
Absolutely. Oliver pursed his lips. Not his business. Felicity was a big girl. She had an uncanny ability to see people for who and what they were, and he trusted her judgment. She wasn't some gullible child. He didn't need to worry about her. Except that he did. Strange. His protective instinct must've carried over from Thea and his mother to Felicity. Though he also worried about Laurel, but they'd dated. He and Felicity were definitely not dating. He ran a heavy hand through his hair and kneaded the back of his neck. Motivations, like emotions, were far too complex for explanation, which was why he did his best to avoid these kinds of thoughts. Yet, there he stood sifting through his illogical compulsions on a street corner.
"Oliver?" Diggle stepped into his view. "Do you want the car or are we walking?"
"Just a minute. Do you mind if we….Can I just…" Oliver cleared his throat and organized his thoughts. He swallowed once, rolled his shoulders back and did his best to clear his expression of the nonsense muddling his brain. "How about we get burgers? If you get the car, I'll meet you back here."
Oliver's feet were moving before the final word left his lips.
"Felicity." He stopped before her suitor and extended a hand. "Oliver Queen."
The man dusted his palms together and stood, unshaken by Oliver's name. "Frank Maloney."
Oliver forced a tight smile. "Nice to meet you." Not at all.
Frank smiled back without speaking. His eyes trailed over Oliver, unimpressed. Oliver returned the gesture.
Felicity popped onto her feet. Her hands flitted in the air, finding nowhere to land. "Hi. Uh, yes, hello, Mr. Queen. Is there something you need?" Thin sculpted eyebrows rose beneath her glasses.
A black pencil skirt hugged her slender figure as a fresh gust of wind began. The silk of her blouse clung to the curves of her chest. She adjusted her glasses. A nervous habit Oliver picked up on the first time they'd met.
He turned his shoulder to Frank, focusing his full attention on Felicity's bright blue eyes. It took effort to pull his gaze from the effects of wind on her fair skin. The goose bumps forming over her exposed collarbone gave him ideas he wasn't sure how to deal with. No doubt the same ideas on Frank's mind. Oliver shot a look over his shoulder to check his theory. Frank watched Oliver through narrowed eyes. Interesting.
In the distance behind Felicity, Diggle slid the car against the curb. Oliver waved. His time was up. He touched the knot of his tie. "I wanted to stop by and thank you. I was pleasantly surprised when I returned to my desk today. Job well done, Miss Smoak."
Felicity's gaze darted from Oliver to Frank and back. She nodded quickly. Her eyes wide with what appeared to be a mix of panic and humor. Oliver's heartbeat picked up at the thought he shared a secret with Felicity Smoak. She might have plenty of lunch dates, but he doubted they got very late birthday gifts from her without warning, though filled with meaning. His lips strained against a smile. He couldn't afford the slip. Frank struck him as the kind of guy waiting for dirt on the boss, and while Oliver had plenty of dirt to dig up, he'd never let any of it settle on Felicity.
Oliver took a wide step backward, realizing he'd encroached on her personal space. She was magnetic, or perhaps like a fire, warm and bright when everything else lately was cold and unrelenting. His lips tipped on one side. That analogy made Oliver a moth. He'd thought of himself as many things, but never a moth.
A simple green tie had befuddled him. He'd better leave before his ridiculous thoughts manifested into embarrassing actions. Who knew what he'd do. Laugh? Flick Frank on the nose?
Oliver lowered his voice to the usual well-composed tenor and nodded a goodbye. "I'll leave you to finish your lunch, Miss Smoak. Thank you again. Nice meeting you, Fred."
Oliver strode toward the waiting car, satisfaction burning in his chest. Whatever was wrong with him today, he'd enjoyed the shocked look on Felicity's face. He'd hear about it later at the lair, no doubt. In fact, he'd look forward to that. As for Fred... Oliver smiled.
Frank called from the growing distance behind him. "The name's Frank."
Oliver dropped into the backseat of the town car and smiled wider still. "Whatever."