Felicity danced between tables to the song Shut Up and Dance as she set out the condiments for the day. She never minded opening the bar since it meant she could crank up the jukebox and just go about her business without the outside world infiltrating. Laurel worked in the kitchen prepping food and would join her in a couple hours when the lunch crowd started to shuffle in, but until then Felicity enjoyed the alone time it allowed her.
Busy rocking out to the music, Felicity didn’t hear the knock on the door, so she jumped when she looked up, shocked to see Oliver Queen standing behind her and eyeing her with a smirk on his face.
“Holy heck! Don’t sneak up on a girl holding a bottle of ketchup,” she waved the bottle in the general direction of his tailored suit illustrating her point. “Maybe the cap is loose. It might not end well for you, Mr. Queen.”
“Call me Oliver, please. Mr. Queen was my father.” Sadness flickered through his eyes.
As usual, Felicity’s mouth spoke before her brain processed. “Oh yes, he drowned, but you didn’t, which means you can stand there and listen to me babble. Which I’m going to stop doing in 3…2…1,” Felicity took a deep breath and started over, “What brings you to this neck of the neighborhood, Oliver? Are you lost?”
Oliver Queen unnerved her; they weren’t friends, but there he stood, in her bar. Did he not remember insulting her a few weeks ago? More than likely not. He’d probably forgotten all about it two seconds after the words left his mouth. She was beneath him and she’d do well to remember that. Not that she actually thought she was beneath him, but social status being what it was ensured that he definitely did.
“I think you might remember me mentioning I was having trouble with my laptop?” He waited; she said nothing. “Um, so I wondered if you might take a look at it.”
She tilted her head left and then right. “Looks like a laptop alright. Score one for Oliver Queen.” Sarcasm: her best defense against overly handsome men with ridiculously blue eyes.
He gave her a look of amusement and a small smile that softened his entire face spread across. “Fair enough. Felicity Smoak, would you mind checking my laptop to figure out what’s wrong with it?”
“Don’t you have an IT department that could do that?” She asked, suspicious.
Oliver shuffled his feet from side to side, his hand clutching the laptop like a lifeline. “Well…um…yes, but…well I thought…” Felicity absolutely adored uncomfortable Oliver. It put them on equal footing. “Truthfully, I think you’re probably a million times better at this stuff than anyone we have at QC. So will you?”
He extended the laptop while Felicity finished with the last of the condiments. She waved her hand towards to the bar. “Cop a squat. You want something to drink? It shouldn’t take me long to suss out the issue.”
Oliver’s gaze took in the bar warily.
Just who did he think he was anyway? Oh yes, the most incredible Oliver Queen. “Oh goodness gracious. The place is old, Oliver, not a festering pool of plague. But whatever, stand there if you prefer. Though if you’re worried about the bar itself, you probably don’t want a drink; the glass might be rimmed with Ebola.”
Oliver huffed out an exasperated sigh. He finally sat down and placed the laptop in front of the bar stool on his right. “You know very little about me Ms. Smoak, so I’d appreciate it if you dropped the sarcasm.”
“I’m sure you’d appreciate a great many things, Mr. Queen, but as I am not your employee and I am doing you a favor, I’ll keep the sarcasm and take a thank you as the cherry on top.” She stood there, hands on her hips, waiting to see what he’d decide. It made no never mind to her if he didn’t want her to fix his laptop; she had other things to do.
Oliver appeared flustered, as if no one ever questioned his bad manners. “Thank you, Ms. Smoak, for your help. And if you wouldn’t mind, I’ll take a root beer—without the Ebola, though, if possible,” he said, his intoxicating smile inching back onto his face.
Felicity poured him the soda and placed it in front of him, coming back from around the bar and sitting next to Oliver. She opened the computer and booted it up. Silence enveloped the two of them. Felicity had no idea what to say to the man sitting next to her now that she wasn’t simply responding snarkily to his ego.
So, she relied on her sarcasm once again. “Not much for small talk I see.” She glanced at him out of her peripheral vision.
Little crinkles appeared between his eyebrows. “I’m not very good at it, I must admit,” he paused as if searching for something more to say.
Felicity took pity on the man. “How’s Tommy’s new club coming along?”
“Oh, so he’s Tommy, but I’m Mr. Queen, eh?” Oliver joked, but his tone held something Felicity couldn’t place.
“Well he didn’t insult me the first time we met,” Felicity replied as she tinkered about in the brains of his computer.
Oliver opened his mouth, undoubtedly to give her some harsh retort, but evidently thought better of it. “It’s coming along. We’re set for our grand opening on Friday. We’re actually partners in it, so I’ve been helping him, but we’re having a bit of trouble finding good bartenders. Seems all the people we’ve had apply are more interested in hanging out with me and Tommy than in actually doing any work.”
Of course, that was the moment Felicity’s mom decided to enter the room. She’d probably noticed the moment Oliver entered the bar and been eavesdropping through the crack in the swinging doors. “Oh! You need a bartender? I’m sure Laurel would be happy to fill in until you can find someone more reliable.”
“Mom,” Felicity tried to stop Donna from thrusting Laurel into the lives of Tommy and Oliver. “Don’t you think that we should ask—”
“Don’t interrupt me when I’m speaking to Mr. Queen, Felicity. Your sister will be happy to help out, I’m sure of it.” Her mother yelled back into the kitchen, “LAUREL!”
Felicity wanted to die of embarrassment, but since that wasn’t an option, she decided to focus on the laptop in front of her.
Oliver remembered his manners this time. “Oh Mrs. Smoak, that isn’t necessary. I’m sure Tommy and I’ll figure something out. I’d hate to take Laurel away from your business.”
“Nonsense. Laurel!” her mother called back again. “We can definitely spare her, can’t we, Felicity?”
Her mother gave her the look she used when she wanted the girls to comply with whatever she said. In her head, she informed her mother that if Tommy Merlyn wanted to see her sister, he knew where to find her. But she didn’t.
“It’s really not a big deal. I can cover for her, no problem.” Felicity really didn’t think the bar could do without Laurel’s assistance, but her sister would probably enjoy a change of scenery and Felicity didn’t mind the extra work if it made Laurel happy. Plus, her mother wouldn’t let it go if Felicity told Oliver the truth: the bar only survived because everyone in the family pitched in to help, some more than others of course, but maybe Sara and Lydia could pick up some of the slack caused by Laurel’s absence.
Laurel pushed through the doors into the bar proper. “Yes, mom, what’s up?”
“You’re going to go to Verdant and help Mr. Merlyn. He needs a bartender.”
Laurel blushed furiously, whether from embarrassment or from thinking about spending time with Tommy on the regular, Felicity was unsure.
Laurel’s silent response went disregarded as her mother continued, “That is, of course, if it would be of help to the two of you, Mr. Queen.”
Felicity could’ve sworn her mother batted her eyelashes at Oliver. He didn’t seem to notice, thank goodness. “That would be lovely Mrs. Smoak. Both Tommy and I appreciate the help.”
He never took his eyes off Felicity despite the fact that he spoke to Donna. It seemed as if he knew that Felicity would be the one put out by this, not her mother. But that couldn’t be possible, could it? Oliver Queen was far too self-involved to even consider that Laurel leaving the bar even for a day or two would be far more work for Felicity. He was probably simply wondering how much longer it would be until Felicity had his laptop fixed.
Felicity hurried to reassure him, though she wasn’t sure why. “It seems you’ve got some spyware on your hard drive, Oliver. There’s a few things that seem concerning, so I’ll need to take this home to really be able to dig into it. I can just give it to Laurel to bring back to you when I’m finished. Would that be okay?”
“Of course, that wouldn’t be a problem at all.” Was that a look of disappointment that crossed his face? Felicity refused to believe that as Oliver continued, “I appreciate you taking the time to fix it for me.”
“It’s really no problem at all. I actually enjoy putting my knowledge to good use. But I’d suggest in the future that you not visit sketchy websites. One of them probably attached spyware when you clicked on the wrong link.” Felicity knew people inadvertently visited websites that inserted malware into their computer’s programming without ever knowing all the time.
Oliver stood, fidgeting with the line of his suit. “Well, I guess I’ll be going now. Laurel, if you want to come by tomorrow night, we’ll get you all set up and into the system. Until then, Mrs. Smoak, thank you very much. Felicity, you as well. Laurel, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Laurel looked as if she was about to respond to him, but her mother beat her to the punch. “Of course, Mr. Queen. No need to thank us. We’re just doing what any good neighbor would. And we are neighbors now that you’re working with Mr. Merlyn on Verdant.”
He beamed one those amazing smiles at her mother and then faced her. Shivers raced down her spine. Felicity reminded herself that he was an egotistical millionaire and that it would never do to fall for him, despite how handsome he was. Handsome didn’t account for his personality. Though he had been on an island for five years, maybe he was having trouble adapting. Stop, Felicity! She wasn’t Laurel. She knew how cruel people could be and she refused to be blindsided by a pretty face. She loved her sister dearly, but Laurel believed the best of everyone.
“Good day, Mr. Queen.” Felicity managed to squeak out a response despite her body’s betrayal of her common sense.
“Please, call me Oliver,” he replied, turned, and walked out the door before Felicity could even formulate a response.
She inhaled deeply, closing up Oliver’s laptop, and then turned to her mother. “Just what do you think you’re doing?”
“Whatever do you mean, Felicity?” Her mother asked, feigning ignorance.
“Drop the act, Mom. You know very well I mean throwing Laurel to the wolves.” Even if Laurel did want to see Tommy again, her mother needed to realize that shoving Laurel at him wasn’t the way to go about it.
Donna’s face hardened. “I may have given up on your chances ever finding a husband, but Laurel is much more malleable. Of course, if she had her way, she’d simply wait until he called her, no matter how long it took.”
“Mother,” Laurel began, “Tommy has been very busy with his club opening. I knew that when we exchanged numbers at the Ball.”
“And just how long were you going to wait, young lady? Until he forgot about you? No. You need to keep yourself at the forefront of his thoughts.”
Felicity went to respond, but Laurel held up her hand to stop the frustration Felicity felt that was about to boil over. Her sister sighed, “Mom. I’m happy for this opportunity, there’s no doubt about that, but if Tommy wanted to see me again, he would get in touch with me. You didn’t need to throw me at him as if I’m a piece of meat just waiting to be devoured.”
Her mother simply crossed her arms and plopped down into one of the bar stools. Acting hurt, she responded, “Well, I’m just trying to do what’s best for you, Laurel. You know I want so much more for you than this life.”
Felicity’s temper surfaced again. “If that were true, you’d be figuring out a way for her to attend law school, not looking for the first available millionaire.”
Donna drooped in her chair and lamented, “Oh if only your brother were here. But that good for nothing ran off and left us all when the family needed him most.” Felicity half expected to see the back of her mother’s hand against her forehead.
Laurel jumped to their little brother’s defense. “Mom, you don’t know that. None of us are sure where Roy is, for all we know he could have straightened his life out and is simply embarrassed to come home.”
“We’ll never know, will we? He could be dead in a potter’s grave somewhere. Oh my poor Roy, if only he’d been the good boy he was when he was little.”
“Mom,” Felicity started to correct her mother’s defeatist attitude, but realized it was better to just drop it. Instead, she said, “Listen, we need to finish getting ready to open. We’ll have to table this for another day.”
Donna’s face brightened and she bounced out of her seat. “Oh, of course, I’d better go get ready.”
Her idea of getting ready no doubt meant another pair of four-inch heels and a short dress that showed off every curve and the length of her perfectly toned legs. Felicity never understood how her mom worked in those shoes, she much preferred a comfortable pair of sneakers, but for all her faults her mother really did work hard to keep the bar running. And if she could do that in stilettos, more power to her.
The next week went smoother than Felicity imagined it would, Lydia didn’t help much, but Sara really rose to the occasion. Maybe they’d been underestimating Sara all this time. She was still flirtatious and shallow, but once the family needed her, she didn’t shirk her responsibilities. It was an interesting turn of events.
Tommy offered Laurel use of an apartment in the building right next door to Verdant that he also owned. Eventually they’d be rented out to employees, but for now, Laurel stayed there instead of coming home at four or five in the morning. Felicity missed her, but she understood. She barely felt comfortable taking a cab home that late at night when even five minutes alone on the street could turn deadly. Especially after what happened after the Ball, the feeling of being stalked stuck with her. Luckily, Bennet’s closed at eleven during the week; they only stayed open until two on the weekends and then they were closed all day on Sundays. Being a family run business, there was no way they could operate seven days a week and not all suffer nervous breakdowns.
She approached Sara about her keeping an eye on things during the hours between lunch and dinner. The bar would be slow during those times and Sara would only be expected to wait on the few customers who wandered in for an early happy hour, or stayed for a long lunch.
The tables had been cleared and only Old Man Don sat at the bar sipping his ginger brandy on the rocks. Donna situated herself at a table with an old tattered romance novel, her mother’s ‘guilty pleasure’ though Felicity wasn’t sure how much guilt she felt reading them. Sara returned from taking the last load of dishes to the kitchen to wash and walked around the bar to pour herself a soda.
“Hey, Sara, I’ve got a favor to ask you.”
Sara stopped filling her glass and looked at Felicity. “Yeah? What’s up?”
“Well I was thinking of stopping by and seeing how Laurel’s adjusting to Verdant.” Laurel had called Saturday afternoon to say that the opening had been a success, but she hadn’t had much time to talk since she was do in for her shift and she needed to get ready.
“Didn’t you just talk to her on Saturday? Like two days ago?”
“Yes, but I want to see her and I also need to drop off Mr. Queen’s laptop.” What she’d found on his hard drive had been concerning and required an actual conversation with the man. It wasn’t something she could trust Laurel to explain properly given that her sister knew only the basics about computers. She’d rather not meet Oliver in person again, but she had little choice.
“Sure, no problem. In fact, mom and I can handle it here if you wanted to hang out for a while. It’s Monday, so we probably won’t even get that busy.” Sara leaned onto the bar between them. “You need a break anyway.”
“She’s right Felicity,” Donna chimed in, “it’ll do you good to go out and socialize. And wear your black dress that I bought you with the cutout sides.”
“Mom, I’m just going to visit Laurel and drop off the laptop, not trying to seduce the man.” Her mother seriously had a one-track mind.
“You’ll wear the black dress or you won’t go at all. I’ll send Sara in your place,” she threatened. “Who knows, Sara might drop the laptop on the way and then you’ll have to go work at Verdant to buy Mr. Queen a new laptop.”
Sara looked put out at the insinuation that she couldn’t be trusted with the task, but Felicity worried more about what would happen if they allowed Sara to go to Verdant by herself.
Stuck with no good decision left to her, Felicity agreed. “Alright, but you have to promise to call me if you guys get busy, Sara.”
Sara held up her fingers in some weird mash-up between Boy Scouts and Vulcan honor. “Deal! Besides, it’s about time you guys started trusting me to do more to help the family.”
Felicity was kinda shocked that her sister actually wanted more responsibility at all. Sara seemed happy to simply skate by on the least amount of work possible. Maybe Laurel helping Tommy was the best thing to happen to them.
“Stop looking at me like I’ve grown a second head, Felicity. And get out of here before I change my mind.” She winked at Felicity and began straightening up behind the bar.
She didn’t argue any further, kissing her mother on the cheek and heading out to ride home on Charlie, her red moped. She had absolutely no intention of wearing the dress her mother suggested, especially since she intended to drive Charlie down to Verdant and riding a scooter in a dress that barely covered her butt wasn’t the best idea.
Instead, she chose a pair of skinny jeans and a red sparkly tank top. She touched up her make-up and fixed her ponytail, though she wasn’t sure why she was going to such lengths. She told herself that at least this way when her mother saw she hadn’t worn the dress, she couldn’t be too mad since she still looked pretty good. She double-checked her appearance and stuffed Oliver’s laptop into her messenger bag, grabbing a jacket and flying out the door.
It didn’t take long to get to Verdant, and after removing her helmet and parking Charlie, she stopped to see if her sister was at the apartment. Receiving no answer, she walked next door to the club and rang the bell to the right of the door. Maybe she should have called first, but if no one answered, she could always call Laurel then. She wanted to surprise her sister with the visit.
A minute or so passed before the door opened and a large man with a buzz cut, an imposing manner, and a mess of tattoos greeted her.
“We open at six, sweetheart. Come back then.”
He started to close the door in her face. “No, I’m sorry, I’m Laurel’s sister, Felicity. I just wanted to come and see her, if that’s okay. Oh! And I’ve got Mr. Queen’s laptop that I need to return to him.” She started to reach into her bag, but Mr. Crew Cut stiffened his posture, so she removed her hands and let them rest at her side.
The bouncer’s deep brown eyes bore into hers. “You don’t look like his normal type.” He reached to the side and pulled down a clipboard. “What did you say your name was?”
Felicity fumed, “Felicity Smoak, and I’m not interested in Mr. Queen other than helping him out with his laptop. And like I said, I’m mostly here to see my sister, Laurel. She bartends here.”
“I know who Laurel is, but you aren’t on the list and you’ll have to wait while I get clearance for you to be here.”
He slammed the door in her face and Felicity was left standing on the landing outside Verdant. She tried to calm herself, realizing the bouncer was only doing his job, but she didn’t appreciate the insinuation that there was something going on between her and his boss. Felicity adjusted the strap of her messenger bag and switched her helmet to the other hand. Leaning her back against the railing, she tried to wait patiently and failed.
Behind her, she heard the rumble of a motorcycle and she turned to face the rider as they dismounted. Surprisingly, it was Oliver, looking sexy as all get out in a tight grey t-shirt and jeans.
“Felicity,” Oliver called to her as he walked closer. “What are you doing here?”
She lifted her messenger bag. “I came to visit Laurel and return your laptop.”
“Oh. I thought you were just going to give it to Laurel.” His gaze scoured her from head to toe and the shivers he seemed to invoke in her were back with a vengeance.
She cleared her thoughts and responded, “That was the intention, but I found something on your laptop that I thought you’d like to know about. Laurel wouldn’t have the first idea how to explain it to you. She has a brilliant mind, but she’s not exactly a tech genius.” Felicity left off the words like me since she felt that her skills spoke for themselves.
“Of course, of course. But why are you waiting outside?” Oliver looked like his eyes searched the area for danger despite the fact that it was two in the afternoon.
Felicity smiled. “Tattooed buzz-cut boy wouldn’t let me in. Said he had to get clearance for me to go inside the sacred shrine.”
“I didn’t even think to add your name to the list. I apologize; I’ll make sure you’re added so you can come whenever you feel like it.” He moved past her to unlock the door and held it open for her.
She walked in while trying to avoid any kind of physical contact, knowing that it wouldn’t end well for her. Or maybe it would, but she wasn’t that kind of girl. She didn’t have a problem with women who enjoyed sex, hating the double standard that made men studs and women sluts, but one-night stands weren’t something she enjoyed.
The interior of the club sported all chrome with white space age looking tables and chairs. They didn’t look very comfortable, but then again most people wouldn’t come here to sit and have a nice conversation, they came to dance. The overhead fluorescents lit the space during the day, but Felicity would bet the lighting was much darker for the evening hours. It never helped to see those you were hitting on in full light. The darkness left more to the imagination—or not.
“I’ll go grab Laurel, why don’t you take a seat. Do you want a drink?” Oliver slipped behind the bar, fitting easily with the shelves of liquor. “I make a mean martini.”
Felicity laughed her ass off; she couldn’t help it. Oliver Queen serving her a drink. Her mother would consider this a win even if Felicity were the one doing the winning. Donna’d probably also have their wedding invitations engraved before she got back home.
“I really shouldn’t. I’ve got Charlie—I mean my scooter—damn, did I really just admit that I named my scooter Charlie? Out loud?”
Oliver joined in her laughter. It warmed her from the inside until her embarrassed blush subsided. And the man who put it there was looking at her as if he wanted much more than to make her a drink. Felicity figured she must be wrong. Absolutely and completely wrong.
To break the tension, and the fierce gaze between them, Felicity removed his laptop from her bag. “So, I’ve got good news and bad news. What do you want first?
She raised her eyes from the computer she booted up when she heard the telltale sound of a shaker filled with ice and liquor.
Felicity wavered between annoyance that he’d taken it upon himself to make a drink she hadn’t asked for, and happiness that she had an excuse to hang out with him. She wasn’t sure she wanted to even admit the answer to herself, so she stuck to annoyance.
“Do you have a problem understanding the word no?”
Oliver stopped mid-shake. “I—uh—well…truthfully?” He placed the shaker on the bar top in front of him. “My mother ingrained in me the necessity of offering drinks to people. All the friends of my parents drink martinis so it’s my go to drink. Would you prefer a soda? Coffee? Although our coffee isn’t very good since it’s bar coffee. We only ever serve it to drunks when we’re trying to get them out of here.”
“You know that doesn’t actually work, right?”
Oliver appeared puzzled. “Really?”
“Really. Gives the drunk a boost, but doesn’t really help. You’re better off giving them water, food, and calling them a cab. Nothing sobers people up better than good old-fashioned time.”
“Huh. I had no idea.”
“True story. But apparently no one’s ever tried to sober you up.”
Oliver scrubbed a hand through his sandy blond hair. “No, not really.” He seemed embarrassed this time.
“That’s okay, most bartenders don’t even realize it.”
“So, good news or bad news, right,” Oliver said, trying to get them back on track. “I’ll take the good news first. It never outlives the bad news, which usually ends up demanding far more of my attention than I intended.”
Felicity tried not to smile. “I got the spyware off your hard drive.”
“Well that doesn’t sound so bad. What’s the worst you could tell me? I need to cancel all the credit cards? I hardly use them anyway.”
That little tidbit of information surprised Felicity, but she focused. “Someone’s been watching your every move.”
Oliver froze in place for several seconds before finishing the martini, stabbing three olives violently, and placing it in front of her on top of a cocktail napkin. His eyes glazed over and he said nothing.
Felicity reached for the drink and sipped it. It felt wrong not to. “Mr. Queen?” She paused, waiting for a reaction, any reaction. “Oliver?”
“Felicity. Yes, you were saying. Someone is watching me? Why would anyone want to do that?” He asked the question, but Felicity could tell it was a cover for something or someone. She’d bet dimes to dollars that Oliver knew exactly who’d been spying on him.
“Yeah, someone was. I’d imagine it was your money or your notoriety. Who knows which? I removed it though and installed new anti-virus software. You really should have that since you are you, you know…” Felicity wasn’t sure what to say anymore. Something was going on with Oliver, but she had no idea what. “Are you okay, Oliver? Do we need to contact the police? I can call my father if you’d like.”
“No, no. It’s not necessary. You said you removed it?”
“Yes, of course, but Oliver—”
“Thank you, Felicity. I appreciate your help.” Oliver gave her the brush off.
Felicity was the one confused now. “But Oliver, if someone was spying on you through your computer, and let me tell you, that was a complicated bit of code. It appeared they had live video feeds—”
Oliver cut her off again. “Thank you for your help, Felicity. But you need to drop it. I’m sure it was just an old friend playing a prank.”
Oliver’s anger surfaced, but Felicity didn’t back down. “Oliver, seriously, friends don’t play pranks like this.”
“Drop it, Felicity. I’ll send a check to Bennet’s.”
“Oliver, you’re scaring me. I’m not worried about the money, but now I am most certainly worried about you.”
“No need. Everything’s fine. Thank you for your help.” He nodded to her and turned on his heel, exiting the bar. “I’ll find Laurel and send her your way. Drink’s on the house. And I’ll put your name on the list. You can come and go as you please this way. No cover charge. Stay as long as you like. Whatever you want is on my tab, I’ll make sure Frank—buzz-cut tattooed boy—makes sure you get home. I’ll drop your scooter tomorrow; just leave your keys at the bar. Have a good evening.”
With that, Oliver disappeared into the bowels of the club and Felicity was left alone, waiting for Laurel and sipping her, admittedly, very delicious martini.