A/N First let me thank all of you that have sent me messages and nicely asked about updates, I apologize my life is too busy to update regularly. Writing is something I do for a relaxing break and I just don't seem to get many lately. This chapter was quickly read over once for an edit (I actually wrote the majority of it months ago) so sorry for typos and grammar issues! I just figured rather than keep dragging the update out even longer, I should put it up without fully editing.
Flinging her exhausted body backward, Felicity landed with an ungraceful thump on her hotel bed. She'd managed to avoid Oliver on the way to the airport, on the plane, and on the bus to the hotel. She hadn't realized her body was drawn as tight as a bow until now… when it finally relaxed.
With her gaze transfixed on the irregularly surfaced ceiling she replayed that snippet of their conversation yet again: "Listen, Felicity. We're both grown adults and it is perfectly normal for us to feel an attraction. You're a beautiful woman, I'd like to think I am an attractive man, it's only normal there will be a pull of some kind…But we work together, so it will never be more than that. I do think it's important to acknowledge the attraction though, otherwise it's an elephant in the room and it makes us uncomfortable. So let's call a spade a spade and move on so we can get back to a relaxed working relationship. Okay?"
Yep. Sure. No problem.
Felicity spent the length of the trip avoiding Oliver and trying not to think of his blush inspiring words — which of course meant they played on a permanent loop in her mind. As she appeared to read a magazine, they played over and over. As she pretended to doze, they played again. As she "worked" on her computer, they reared their ugly head yet again. As if that wasn't enough to knot her body with tension — especially since her mind chose to imagine him saying those words shirtless — she was now in the same city as her father.
Of course the chances of running into either her father or Sebastian were slim to none. Thanksgiving recess was fast approaching which meant politicians were in DC, swarming like little bees around their hive to pontificate about some issue or another. They would be much too busy to take in a hockey game. Right? Felicity nodded, as if doing so made that thought 100% true and valid.
Unfortunately there was also that stupid reporter…no doubt lurking somewhere she really didn't need.
What she did need was Tums.
Did Tums dissolve in Vodka?
If it was orange flavored Tums, would that be a screwdriver?
Would room service bring you that?
Jarred from her typically atypical inner musings by the sound of her phone ringing, Felicity rolled toward her discarded purse. Glancing at the caller ID, she decided the universe must be mad at her.
It was her brother.
Felicity's whole body sighed. She missed her partner in crime terribly, but feared if she talked to him he'd know something was wrong — he knew her too well. This was precisely why she'd avoided him the past few months. If he got wind of everything that happened, he'd go after Sebastian Blood himself. She couldn't allow that.
She also couldn't continue to ignore his calls — or only return his when she knew he wasn't available — then he'd really get suspicious. Plastering a fake smile on and hoping it reached her voice, she answered, "Hey there, big brother!"
Sarcasm ran in the family. "Oh, wow! You do remember me, I thought you forgot you had a brother."
A genuine smile tugged at her lips, even as a tinge of sadness crept in. She knew he was teasing; and that made her miss him even more. "Ha, ha. You're so funny. How can I forget such a pain in the —"
"Oh no, young lady, watch your language or I won't tell you the good news."
Felicity bolted upright. "What? Tell me!"
She could hear what seemed like resigned melancholy in his tone. "Nothing that exciting, simmer down."
Michael paused before continuing, giving his sister a second to slump in disappointment like he knew she would. No doubt her mind instantly thought he was engaged or some other newsworthy moment but a proclamation like that would be a very long time in coming…if ever. South Carolina constituents weren't likely to elect an openly gay Senator, so he and William - his long term partner and campaign manager, stayed safely tucked in the closet.
Pushing the overwhelmingly depressing thought aside, Michael resumed. "I'm in the same city as you, come meet me for dinner?"
Instantly Felicity's body warred between excitement and nausea. "Wait, are you sure? I'm not in New York, I'm in DC."
"Yep. Our father told me about your new job - I'll temporarily forgive you for not telling me yourself - and imagine my luck when I called the Highlander's main office to speak to you today and they told me you were in DC. My crew and I are here doing some photo shoots for the campaign."
Felicity wasn't forming words, her mind was too busy connecting dots.
Her brother was in DC…and so was Sebastian. This wasn't good. She knew her brother's political aspirations would eventually put them in the same circles, but she still didn't like it. God forbid that reporter was lurking, following her like a blood hound. Who knows what Sebastian would do if he was still pissed about the night of the Gala.
Her stomach knotted.
"Ah, sure. I'd love to see you but um…" No way she could risk running into Sebastian at one of the usual politician hangouts. "I don't feel like showering and getting cleaned up. Mind coming to my hotel and we'll just order room service?"
Her brother laughed, "Sure, you never change."
After a brief pause he continued, his voice serious and his words slow for emphasis. "I really want to catch up. I have the distinct impression you've been avoiding me and I want to know why."
Felicity silently groaned, she really was having a less than stellar day. She missed her brother a great deal and couldn't wait to see him, but she could not have this conversation with him.
She needed a distraction.
Lots and lots of orange flavored Tums dissolved in Vodka - despite how disgusting that sounded.
It felt like the world was closing in on her.
Leaving the hotel room he shared with John - an often little known road trip requirement in professional sports - Oliver pulled the door closed just as he noticed movement a few doors down; it was Felicity.
Hugging a man?
A very large, very well-dressed man.
Unable to avoid the two, especially since he was headed to knock on her door anyway, he cleared his throat as he approached.
Startled at the sudden noise, Felicity and her friend pulled apart, both with large smiles on their face. "Oh, hey Oliver! This is my brother Michael. Michael, this is Oliver Queen."
Ah. Her brother.
Refusing to pay any attention to the tightness he felt ease from his body, Oliver happily shook the other man's hand. "Hey, nice to meet you."
Michael returned the greeting, "You too. Don't get a chance to follow much hockey but from what I have seen, you're pretty incredible."
Oliver smiled graciously, "Thanks, appreciate it." Realizing it was pointless now, Oliver addressed Felicity. "I was actually coming to see if you wanted to join John and I, we were heading out to dinner but since your brother's here, we'll leave you be."
Beginning to retreat, Oliver looked to Michael. "Nice meeting you."
This is exactly what Felicity needed. "No!"
Perhaps she was a bit over zealous in her answer, judging by Oliver and her brother's matching startled expressions. Nervously laughing, Felicity continued. "Sorry, I just meant it would be great for you and John to join my brother and I." She turned to her brother as if expecting him to agree, "Michael doesn't get much down time and I'm sure he'd love to talk sports."
Oliver wasn't sure what to say, Felicity's brother was looking at her with the same confusion he felt.
Michael recovered his manners, even if he thought his sister was acting strange. "Ah, yeah, sure. Why don't you and your friend join us, Oliver. We are just going to order some room service and hang out here."
It was on the tip of his tongue to say no and give the duo some time together, but this was yet another chance to learn more about Felicity, maybe get some insight into her situation. "Sure, let me just run it by John."
Relief was starkly evident in Felicity's features.
With a broad smile, she ushered her brother into her room by his shoulder but rather than join him, she whipped around, pushed Oliver down the hall a good foot or more and frantically whispered, "He knows nothing about Sebastian, do not say anything about it. I mean it, Oliver, nothing."
Before he could even form a response she was gone.
The door shut in his face.
Conversation had been surprisingly easy despite the obvious weird start. The men talked hockey, football, and of course - politics; her brother's favorite subject. Oliver and John learned Michael was running for Senate in South Carolina, he started his military career like many Marine's on Paris Island and fell in love with the state. He hadn't gone into "the family business" for his father, rather because he had a genuine passion for it.
Felicity had explained that running as a Democrat in the bible belt was a bit tough, but Michael had served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, winning over some voters with his patriotism. Michael had been humbled and slightly embarrassed by his sister's praise of his tours, she made him sound like a hero when he was merely doing what every other enlisted did.
Signaling the end of that conversation, the military man and aspiring politician tossed his napkin on his empty plate. Not one to be deterred and knowing Felicity deliberately invited her friends to throw him off the scent; he decided to teasingly toss it out there. "So do either of you know why my sister has been avoiding me the last few months?"
The silence that hung and the uncomfortable glances were all Michael needed to witness — they absolutely did know. He'd asked the question light-heartedly but now a seriousness permeated the room.
"Well, I guess that's a yes." He made it a point to give all three slow, direct eye contact; his sister on the end of the couch next to him, the two guilty looking men feet away at the room's small table.
Felicity was the first to regain her voice, "You're imagining things, Michael. I lost one job, found another and moved, I've just been busy."
Moved? Oliver didn't realize that had been part of the mix too. Where had she lived before?
Sympathy smoothed over Michael's features, "I saw on the news you quit working for Sebastian; since you'd been living together I knew it was a lot more complicated then that. Why not take my calls? I wanted to be there for you."
Felicity had lived with Blood?
Felicity shot to standing, not only did she not want to talk about this, but unlike what her brother assumed, she really didn't know John and Oliver all that well, this was hardly a conversation she wanted to have with them here. "It doesn't matter, it's in the past now, let's just leave it there." Felicity pasted a smile on her face and gestured to her new friends, "Besides, I got a great new job and am quite happy now."
Before Michael could ask anything else, a knock came at the door.
"Open up, Saucy! I have dessert!"
It was Michael's turn to look uncomfortable, he stood abruptly as he and Felicity exchanged a wide-eyed message filled glance — one Oliver and Diggle both noticed.
And had the man just called Felicity 'Saucy?'
Heading to the door, Felicity responded much louder than necessary, practically yelling. "Hope you brought a lot, Bill! We have a few friends with us!"
As the door opened, the new guest appeared caught off guard. Recovering quickly, he assumed a more formal posture before entering to greet the room's occupants. "Evening everyone," he gestured to the box he carried, "l thought it was just the bossman and his sister or I would have brought more."
Michael chimed in, "Oliver, John, this is my campaign manager and best friend, William McNamara."
Exchanging handshakes, William insisted they all call him Bill.
Felicity gratefully took the pastry box from Bill, placing it on the room's desk. "Bill and Michael met in the marines; life or death situations make for great…bonds."
There was an awkward silence, each person in the room knowing something uncomfortable was going on but only three of them knew why - Oliver and John were in the dark.
Oliver instinctively knew that the trio did not want any attention drawn to the elephant so he did his best to reset the stage. "So," gesturing to Bill and Michael, "Would you two want to come to the game tomorrow?"
"-Yeah, that would be great."
Felicity and her brother answered in unison, both turning to stare quizzically at each other.
Felicity attempted to cover her ferocity, "I thought you were here for work, I just assumed you wouldn't have time."
Sensing his sister's unease, and knowing he'd probably struck on something important, he was all the more intrigued. "I have time," looking to his friend to silently confirm first before turning to Oliver, Michael clarified, "We have time. We'd love to catch a game."
Oliver nodded uncomfortably, glancing between the siblings and clearly seeing Felicity's unease. "Ah, great then, you can take my friends and family seats tomorrow."
Felicity gnawed at her lip, she knew Michael would grill her about the past few months the moment he had her semi-alone. She'd have to think of something before then, but for now, she needed to banish the awkwardness in the room for the second time in only a few minutes. Just as she opened her mouth, Oliver took care of the problem first.
"Did you call Felicity, 'Saucy?'"
Bill laughed and then answered teasingly, "Have you known her long? The woman likes every sauce under the sun, chocolate, caramel, hot, Buffalo, Béarnaise…doesn't matter, she loves them all. She loves her food and has a metabolism like I've never seen."
Felicity nodded, eternally grateful for any change in subject, even this one. "It's true. I'm disgusting. I really like sauces and put them on everything." She focused on Oliver, "The other night at your apartment I would have dumped hot sauce — or Buffalo sauce if you had it — all over the my pizza; but I didn't want to scare you all."
Oliver's features lightened with amusement, "Really?"
Michael jumped in, "Did you not notice how much Béarnaise she slathered her steak in tonight?"
John laughed, "I did, but I figured it wasn't polite to say anything about it."
Felicity waved him off with a smile, "I am not shy about food, you could have said something and I wouldn't have cared anyway. Sadly the downside is having to workout all the time, but it's worth it."
As the jovial conversation continued and everyone resumed some sort of seat, Oliver realized his earlier mistake; offering the tickets to Michael meant the former marine could hammer Felicity with questions about her life and she didn't want that. And if she didn't want to be alone with him tomorrow night, she certainly didn't want to tonight either — which meant Oliver had to stay in Felicity's room longer than Michael.
And exactly how was he going to pull that off?