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The young blonde teenager kissed the old pony's nose. The shaggy little grey animal looked at her with big brown eyes. "Animals have it good." Felicity thought, jealous of the pony's lack of understanding hence its bliss. A tear tickled down her left cheek. Felicity swiped it away, feeling a tinge of anger. Gracie didn't know what to make of her actions. She nosed the thin girl with her warm, velvety muzzle.
Felicity stroked her. One more time. She looked out at the view. Black and white cows, grazing lazily, dotted broad green pastures. Behind her family's property lay half a dozen majestic grey mountains. They had been there her whole life. Stalwart and reliable. No matter how much men argued, storms blew, or anything else remotely bad happened. Felicity's soul felt torn. Her throat felt tight. "I never realized how beautiful they were."
Two warm arms wrapped around her from behind. "Oh, Mom." Felicity bawled into her chest for awhile.
Before long her mother set her daughter back from her. "There, there." Mrs. Smoak used her hands to dry Felicity's tears. "We're moving. Life isn't over. You'll see."
A fresh wave of crying hit the skinny blonde. Her mother gave her a gentle shake. "Hey. Look at me, young lady. Remember," The woman's voice softened. "Home isn't a place. Its our family. But this farm...This beautiful place. You'll never lose it. It will always be here." She poked Felicity's heart. Felicity giggled. Then frowned. "My stupid heart. That's what is making us move in the first place."
Mrs. Smoak wrinkled her nose like her daughter's. "Your Father," She corrected, accentuating the title. "Has taken a new job---"
"Because you and Dad have more bills to pay." Felicity turned towards the view, arms folded. "Because of my stupid heart." A new emotion. Bitterness. Took root in her words. "And my stupid 'pains'...which don't even exist....You shouldn't believe me. Believe the doctors. They were right. It is all in my head. Scans, drugs, tests...nothing helps."
The woman stepped in front of her daughter, body tense. She took both Felicity's hands in hers. Her eyebrows lifted into her motherly, honest, truth-demanding look. Felicity was convinced all mothers could smell the difference between a truth and a lie like a bloodhound.
"I know this is hard. Its hard on all of us. This new life will be good. Living in a more civilized area will obviously mean more computers. That's a plus, right?"
Felicity chewed her lower lip in thought. She hesitated. "Well, yeah...But what about ball playing, I mean baseball. I could still try out next year. So I'm not Joe DeMaggio. I did hit that ball. That was before I collapsed, but there were other girls who got on the team. My friend Linda's BFF's sister, Holly...Holly _____? What was it? Holly something. Well." She flapped her hands excitedly as she talked."The point is, she is like really bad. Trips every other step. Literally. If you think I'm uncoordinated, try watching Holly for a minute. You'll see what I---"
"Honey, we've talked about that. Baseball...Sports are off the table."
"Oh, right." Felicity grumbled scarcastically. "Too exciting. Honestly, a--"
"It is for your own good. They'll be plenty of other things to do. Trust me. And new friends to make. My friend Amanda. Remember her?"
"Your BFF, Aunt 'Mandy?"
"Yes. When I was 8 years old my family moved to another state...It took some adjusting to...I was a little lonely at first, but after I met Amanda at school. We hit it off. And I knew that no matter where I went, Amanda and I would always be---"
"Won't you miss this?" The blonde girl extended her arms. "Even a little? 'Cuz I'm going to miss the snow and the wind and the rain and the sun. The nicest part is the sun. Although I do get sunburn sometimes. You know, I get all red and itchy on my arms. My forehead too. If I had a baseball cap---" she began sneakily.
"You heard the last doctor. The one who DID believe you. No excitement. No sports either. Cold weather isn't good for you heart. It beats too fast and moving to a warmer climate---"
Felicity's fists balled in anger. Her feet brushed through the grass as she stormed towards their big white farmhouse.
"Count it down!" Mrs. Smoak called after her.
"3--2--1!" Felicity growled. "This isn't going to be easy."
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"This ought to be easy." Diggle's voice came through their tiny earbuds.
Oliver stepped into The Crystal Crown restaurant ahead of Felicity. "Queen, party of two." He said, motioning to a waiter.
"Shouldn't we get a nice friendly table out in the middle of the room...So we can keep an eye on things better? You know, drug dealing and what not." She rambled nervously.
"Everything's set." Oliver whispered in her ear. He wrapped his right arm under her left and lead her towards the dining area.
Felicity blinked. "That was sudden."
Her elbow shouldn't feel good crossed over his. Oliver was destined for someone else. But it did feel right. The quick maneuver was gallant of him. Their linked limbs felt..... Honorable. Natural. Wonderfully perfect.
They stepped around the dividing wall. Felicity wanted to scream. "I-I better go back to the car and change." She started panicking. Oliver looked out on all the well-dressed couples. He shrugged.
"Oh you're fine. Me? I am so underdressed. Is this place 5 star? Cause if Felicity Smoak ; humble IT assistant goes in there---dressed like this---with gazillionaire Oliver Queen? Even the Wall Street Journal will be screaming 1 star. Talk about drawing attention!"
She sucked in a big breath, staring at Oliver. "Oh. Oh, my brain thinks of the worst things to say. I did NOT mean that you're-you're, uh, think....1 star quality. No. You---my friend," She poked his chest. "Are Oliver Queen. 5 star employer and, like, 10 star vigilante......." Felicity paused, leaving a grinning Oliver wondering if she was finished. "Not that," She lowered her voice to a whisper. "I like the vigilante better than the dashing gazillionaire...By the way, how much money does your family have? What was I saying? Oh yes. I have to go change."
She stepped towards the entrance, still babbling, but Oliver's arm anchored her there. In fact, his muscular forearm didn't budge a centimeter when her full weight hit it.
"Oh." Felicity bounced back. Her eyes were bright blue saucers behind her glasses. She stared up at him, unsure and surprised. Oliver couldn't help but smile. He wouldn't have held it back for a 'gazillion' dollars.
The waiter appeared, dressed in a fancy burgundy outfit, a white towel with gold embroidered C.C. thrown over his bent arm. "This way, sir." He motioned formally with his free arm. They detoured a long line of hungry customers to follow the waiter to a cozy spot in the back of the room. Oliver pulled a ornate white chair out for Felicity to slide into. Then he took the seat across from her.
"This is," She glanced around her. "Intimate."
Oliver looked up as quickly as she did. Their eyes met. Felicity wanted to murder her brain. Her mouth opened wide. "Menus, please, waiter." Oliver said, changing the subject for her. However, he did cast her a sidelong grin as he took the menus offered him.
"Finally." Diggle groaned. Referring, apparently, to the silence of a particular babbler. "Much more of this and I'm turning off my receiver."
Felicity rolled her eyes. "At least you're not under the scrutiny of Starling City's best dressed." She said under her breath, looking over the list of entrées.
"Order anything you like." Oliver said easily. Her eyes went wider yet. His mind marveled at her loveable, unique expressions. She lifted her upper lip to reveal a straight white row of teeth. Her nose wrinkled. "Are you serious? 'Cuz, Oliver, did you look at the prices? I don't spend this much on a month's worth of food." Felicity frowned, pointing at the menu.
"Why is he staring at me like that?"
"You," Oliver touched her hand across the table. "Are worth it." There. It was out.
Felicity shrugged. She resumed babbling at she perused the fancy menu. Seemingly unfazed. Oliver bit the inside of his lower lip. She didn't seem to register the depth of his emotions.
"This is going to be harder than I thought."
"Ahhhh!" Felicity screamed inside. Partially with joy. Her heart flip-flopped. "I knew I should have taken a Bayer before I left. Why did he touch my hand like that? Oh, Ollie, don't play games with me. No, he wouldn't do that. It's just my imagination. But why would he touch my hand?"
Felicity didn't know what to do, so she played it cool.
"If only there was a computer I could disappear behind."
Deep down she'd always wanted his attention...It was true...But now that he was displaying affection....No. It wasn't possible.
Felicity tried to keep her tongue tied down after that. She listened intently to the lovely strains of music that filled the dining area. Things began to flow smoothly.
They ordered their meals. The waiters came and went. They began to eat. Even Diggle, listening in, was content.
Every other bite Oliver looked up from his plate. His stomach did flips. He tried to stop himself from staring at her but to no avail. "What is wrong with me?" He wondered, scanning her beautiful blue dress and matching neon blue nails for the fifth time. "I can't remember staring at Laurel before the island. Really looking."
Of course, Laurel never gave him sleepless nights or an upset stomach, either.
"I wish I knew if Felicity cared. Not just as a friend..." It was idiotic, but his heart desperately wanted her to care. Deeply care. "Was Thea right? Am I in---"
Diggle shattered his thoughts. "Hey guys. I got something." "Not now Digg." Oliver growled deeply. The voice in his ear huffed.
"Tell it to the men outside."
"What men?" Asked Felicity, her face a shade lighter. Her fork frozen mid-air between bites.
"A red Mercedes pulled up at the Crystal Crown's back entrance. Five punks got out."
"No...they might be cartel hoods. They're definitely armed. I see boxes. Looks like they're...delivering goods."
Well, it had been a nice idea.
Oliver rose, tossing his cloth napkin on his plate. "Probably drugs of some kind." He started to move and stopped.
Felicity's hand touched his near arm. She seemed to stare right through him. Straight into his very being. "Be careful." She pleaded. Concern permeated her face as well as her words.
"Stay here. I'll be right back." Oliver whispered.
Felicity rubbed bare her arms. She wasn't cold. She was terrified. "He takes crazy chances." A phrase she'd said before came to mind. She swallowed some fear down with a drink of water.
"Yuck." A hand went to her mouth. "Slum city tap water."
A few well-dressed customers looked at the blonde pointedly.
"I did NOT just say that out loud." Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. "I'll be lucky if these rich snob-bolas don't stone me to death. Ollie please come back."
"Felicity. You okay?" As if he'd heard her thoughts, Oliver's voice came through the earbud. "Yeah. I'm going to have to rate this water 1 star, though. Do you see anything?"
Oliver headed towards the Men's Room at the back of the restaurant. He paused by the wall, pretending to check his cell as a couple of cooks and a waiter passed. Once they were gone, he hurried down the aisle towards the back entrance.
"Clear so far. Dig, what've you got?"
"Two hoods heading your way. Take cover!"
Oliver ducked into a nearby storage room. He hid behind a large stack of wood crates. The back door thudded. There was a grinding sound. The storage door was opening!
"Oof." A man grunted.
"Be careful with that stuff." Another voice barked.
He heard a scuffing noise as the two thugs shuffled backwards. Oliver couldn't see but his senses told him they were carrying something large. And heavy.
The way Oliver saw it, he had two things on his side: Darkness & the Element of Surprise. He moved to attack.
Felicity jumped in her chair. "Oliver?" She whispered, a hand at her ear. "What was that noise?"
"Something more to drink, Miss?" For the second time, Felicity started. She looked at the short, but obviously muscular waiter. "Who is this guy, Flash Gordon?"
It took a second for her brain to kick her tongue into gear. "Ah-No. No, thank you." Adding silently to herself. "Is that the same guy?"
Slade's minion tipped his head to Miss Smoak. He turned sharply on a dress heel and moved away. "Things are going well."
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