Somewhere in the recesses of his mind he heard musical notes.

They got louder.

And louder.

Clearing the cobwebs from his still half-asleep brain, he realized two things; his phone was ringing, and there was someone draped over his body - who was just as naked as he was.

Shit.

It had been a long time since he'd been in a predicament like this.

He'd left his playboy image behind the last few years after having found 'the one.' Laurel Lance wasn't like the various puck bunnies that preceded her; she was in a league of her own. In fact, he'd actually given serious thoughts to proposing...and then he got cold feet.

Showing her true colors, Laurel then went and slept with his best friend Tommy Merlin.

Screw them both.

Flailing his arm, Oliver Queen inwardly applauded his success at making contact with the offending cell phone on the first try.

Slowly he pried one very dry, very irritated eye open to look at the time on its display.

6:00am.

If he remembered correctly, that meant he had about 2 hours of sleep. He wanted to beat someone - but off the ice that was frowned upon.

With the limited strength he had, he lowered his gaze to the name on his screen to see who was calling. It was Slade Wilson; Head Coach of Oliver's employer, the National Hockey League's New York Highlanders.

It didn't take a Mensa membership to know why Slade was calling. Their leader had been out with the rest of the team last night to celebrate their over-time win against the Capitals - but only for the first hour. Slade was afraid Oliver would screw up his already precarious position with the organization. He was expected on the ice in 90 minutes. It was only a practice day, but Oliver couldn't afford to be anything less than perfect after his recent 'indiscretions.'

Two months ago he'd been made a "healthy scratch" after he found out about Laurel and Tommy and had gotten so plowed he missed a team lunch and an interview with CBS sports due to one spectacular hangover. He'd begged forgiveness, taken full responsibility and swore to team owner and father figure - Walter Steele - that nothing like that would ever happen again.

Then a month later he was arrested for public indecency when he was caught relieving himself Tommy's car...only it wasn't Tommy's...it was Tommy's Dad's.

Who owned the New Jersey Devils.

Whoops.

They both had the same damn 'custom' Aston Martin, not that he even remembered doing it.

Whatever.

Delaying wouldn't help. He attempted to clear his throat before answering, though it barely made a dent in his NextDayHangover voice. "Hey Slade, I'm already dressed and on my way- "

"Don't give me your lying shit, Queen. Get out from under the imitation redhead and get your ass to the Garden. Steele wants to meet with you before you even lace-up. He's seriously pissed and plans on 'teaching you a lesson.'"

Pushing up on one elbow while trying not to disturb the slumbering aforementioned redhead, Oliver questioned, "What the hell does that mean, I haven't done anything -"

"Don't want to hear your excuses, be here in 30 minutes, you'll get the details then."

Click


"Thank you for joining us, Ms. Smoak."

Walter Steele smiled at his recently acquired Public Relations expert. She'd be working for his PR director on a pet project no one else wanted to touch - nor had the time for.

Trusting the advice of an acquaintance; Walter hired the man's daughter for this job. Although presently, he'd be remiss not to question his decision. The beautiful young woman before him was anxious and ... awkward. If she stuttered when nervous with him, how the hell would she deal with the cannibalistic media?

"Thank you for trusting me, Mr. Steele." She pushed her black-rimmed glasses further up the bridge of her nose, "And I promise you, I know how to deal with them."

Had she read his mind? "Excuse me?"

Pointing at her new boss sitting across his mahogany desk from her, "It's your body language, Sir. I can tell you're probably wondering how I can possibly be an asset to your team."

Yes, yes I am. "Of course not, I trust your father."

She smiled with obvious disbelief, "No, you don't; you know him too well."

Felicity swiped at an imaginary piece of dust on her lap before re-engaging Steele with direct and pointed eye contact. "But you will trust me. I promise you, I will deliver the results you need."

Steele couldn't help but smile, he tried to keep the patronizing father-look from his gaze. "I believe you will."

Unsure exactly what role she'd played in her previous job's...incidents, Walter hedged, "I've seen your other work; I know you did extensive work for the Congressman last year."

He may have been accused of being a self-absorbed billionaire, but Steele didn't miss Felicity's minuscule but still present flinch at the congressman's mention.

Swallowing the bile that rose in her throat, Felicity responded, "Thank you. I'm pleased you've followed my work."

Felicity took a deep breath before continuing, painting her best I-am-completely-fine-no-worries-here smile on her face. "And I plan on taking the same resolve and dedication to the Highlanders. In as little as 6 months - maybe a few more - they'll be THE most respected team in the NHL - both on and off the ice."

Walter sighed, torn between owner and a man who could easily sense sadness, "You know, Felicity, there is no harm in admitting you may be hurting about something-"

Knock. Knock.

Both turned to see Walter's ever-competent assistant enter, "Mr. Steele," she acknowledged her boss first before nodding to Felicity, "Ms. Smoak."

Stepping to the side to allow someone else to enter, she announced, "Mr. Queen is here."

Felicity had seen his pictures and interviews, even watched him play a few times, but up close and personal?

Da-yum.

Maybe she should have worn a more fashionable suit today, and heels... done her hair. Mentally slapping herself in the head, she regrouped. Shooting upright, she took what she hoped were no-nonsense steps toward him with her hand outstretched -

...and he walked right by her.

Barely registering the woman in the room - which was highly unusual for him - Oliver marched straight for his boss. "Walter, listen, I haven't done anything -"

"Except be horribly rude." As Walter stood and rounded his desk, he gestured to the woman Oliver just had the audacity to ignore, "This is Ms. Smoak."

Irritated that his conversation with Walter was being delayed, but also at himself because he usually wasn't that much of an ass - he did have manners - he finally turned to give the woman his attention.

She was cute...if you liked that wide-eyed innocent thing.

Which he didn't.

Oliver reached out to take her still dangling hand. "Ms. Smoak, please to meet you, I'm -"

"Hot-" shaking her head she, stammered, "O-on the ice, you're on a hot-streak right now Mr. Queen, I know who you are."

He cocked his head to the side, eyes slightly squinted in concentration as the corner of his mouth began to lift, "Thank you, Ms. Smoak." He extricated his hand from hers, "And call me Oliver."

"Thank you, Felicity," she shook her head again in embarrassed frustration, "I mean you can do the same - call me Felicity." She laughed, desperately trying to think of a way to regain the professional persona she'd practiced during the car ride to the Garden.

With a quick inhalation of breath, Oliver turned back to Walter and Felicity got the distinct impression she'd been dismissed.

"Listen, Walter, like I was saying -"

"No Oliver, you listen."

Turning to pick up the copy of the Daily News from his desk, Walter held it up for Oliver's review. There on the cover was a shot of him from the night before - with the woman he'd left less than an hour ago.

His hand was tucked mysteriously up the back of her skirt.

Hers on the fly of his pants.

As if that wasn't enough, Oliver winced at their oh-so-convenient placement.

They'd been playing tonsil hockey outside a subway entrance, oblivious to any onlookers with their cell phones handy. Behind them was a giant public service announcement featuring Elmo. It read, "Tickles make me giggle..." Their bodies blocked the rest of the statement encouraging young children to read.

Shit.

Seeing the gravity of Oliver's 'third strike' settling in, Walter continued, "You came to the organization at just 19 years-old and never left. In all of those years I've never traded you, always took care of you at contract time - hell, you even introduced me to your beautiful mother and now you and I will be spending Thanksgiving together. But I can't deal with this anymore; you need to get yourself together."

Oliver hung his head with a sigh, tucking his hands in the pockets of his suit pants - the same ones he'd obviously been wearing the night before.

After a moment of reflection, he lifted his head about to speak but then abruptly stopped. With a pointed look at Walter, he tilted his head toward the woman he'd just met; silently indicating this should be a private conversation.

With an almost affectionate smile, Walter responded to Oliver's unspoken request, "She stays, Ollie, and you might as well get used to her." His grin broadened. "You two will be spending a great deal of time together."

Confusion knit Oliver's brows, "What?"

Walter's large frame took contrastingly graceful steps to return behind his desk. "Ms. Smoak has been hired as part of our PR team, and she has one specific job - at least to start with."

The often intimidating owner of the New York Highlanders had a grin that positively illuminated the room. "You."


"How did it go?"

Walter barely made it through the front door of Moira's palatial Westchester home before Oliver's mother pounced.

Chuckling he teased, "I'm happy to see you too, Honey."

With a self-deprecating smile, Moira corrected herself, "Sorry, you know I worry about him."

Walter swept her hair over her shoulders before pulling Moira in for a hug, placing a chaste kiss to her forehead. "I know, but I have a feeling this recent bout of...mistakes is very temporary for Oliver, he's way too driven."

Moira relaxed into his embrace, while she had felt this way about Oliver's behaviors, it was comforting to know Walter truly believed this as well.

"I just don't get it; he hasn't acted like this since he was 20. He was never a saint but he'd learned discretion," her features soured, "And for the past few years with Laurel he's been positively boring."

The way she uttered the name of Oliver's ex with such disdain mirrored Walter's thoughts. No one in Oliver's close circle had really liked the woman. Sure she was polite, refined, even beautiful; but she was also stiff, remote, and apparently faithless. Oliver's father - who'd died when he was 15 - had raised him to be a gentleman, so Oliver never said a word otherwise, he'd let the media rip him to shreds.

Laurel Lance had been America's Sweetheart, an actress in numerous B movies - the queen of RomCom - so when she cried on tabloid TV that Oliver cheated on her, most of the country believed her. His subsequent exploits didn't help, especially last night's.

Typically Walter didn't care about the personal lives of his players, as long as they performed on the ice, he was happy. And while some would suspect Moira played a role in his recent chastising of Oliver, which was only partially true. Oliver was the team's captain, he wore the C on his jersey and by definition, that meant he should lead, he should set the example; and normally he did.

Walter couldn't afford to have his team fall apart because his captain was. He needed to get Oliver back to the man he knew he was and it needed to happen quick. He had too many other potential problems on the team if he didn't - like Roy Harper, the kid made Tyler Sequin look like a choirboy, his antics were already giving his PR team grey hairs.

Pulling himself from his thoughts, he refocused on Moira, "Roger's daughter, Felicity, is on the case, she feels she has something to prove as the youngest member of our PR team, so I have a feeling Oliver won't have a choice but to toe the line."

With a sigh Moira pulled from their embrace, ultimately coming to rest by the window that overlooked her perfectly manicured entryway. "I hope so, I just can't help but shake the feeling there is a bit more to this." She paused as if in thought, her eyes distant. "This just isn't like Oliver."

Offering a comforting touch, Walter rested his hands on her shoulders from behind. "He'll be fine, I'm sure of it," giving a gentle squeeze of reassurance before hesitantly moving to a different topic, Walter questioned, "What do you know of Felicity Smoak?"

Brows pulled in confusion, Moira turned to face him, "Just that she's Roger's daughter." Sifting through any relevant memories Moira added, "I vaguely remember her as a child before her mother died and they moved, she was shy like her mother. I never quite got what that sweet woman saw in Roger; the man has never been kind."

Walter grimaced and she rushed to apologize, "Sorry, I know he's a friend of yours."

After a deep breath Walter responded, "Acquaintance is probably a better term. We've done business together through the years and really, I only kept in touch with him over the last few because of his political connections, having a Senator on your side never hurts."

Thinking of the shy girl she'd known at 6, and the woman who was now to be her son's shadow, Moira couldn't help but question, "Are you sure about that?"