Oliver wasn’t used to waking up in a hospital bed. Really, the only time he really had was when he’d had his tonsils removed when he was eight, and in China after they’d pulled him off of the island. Ever since then, he had Diggle and Felicity to patch up his bullet holes and gaping chest wounds in the makeshift infirmary in the Foundry. So when he woke on starched sheets, looking up at fluorescent light rather than the salmon ladder, confusion rolled in.
“It’s okay,” a voice to his left said. “You’re in a hospital, but you’re going to be okay. I mean, well, you weren’t going to be okay, but I sneaked some of your herbs in and the doctors think you’ve made a miraculous recovery, but you’re okay, you really are.”
Felicity’s face moved into view. She was pale and her eyes looked huge because her glasses were gone, but he immediately relaxed a little because she was there and she looked unharmed. He tried to say something, but his throat was dry, so he ended up gesturing a little helplessly.
“What? Oh! Here, they left some water. Do you need help sitting up? I…” Felicity’s hand fluttered for a second before he saw the determination take over. When she helped him adjust the bed and sit up, she remained unsurprisingly gentle. Felicity was always full of surprises, but that was never one of them. She handed him a water cup and refilled it after he drained it.
“Where?” he finally managed to say.
“Kazakhstan, still. We’re in—oh, I can’t pronounce it. I tried, but the nurse laughed at me. Anyway, you’re going to be fine, they just want to keep you one night more, and that’s when I laughed at the nurse because—well, that right there.” She nodded at the fact that he had already swung his legs out of bed. “Guess you’re signing out AMA.”
“Damn right I am,” he said. His legs were shaky when he finally pushed himself to his feet, but he closed his eyes for a second and found his center. Then he took another step and tipped forward.
Felicity caught him, bracing him with her hands on his shoulders. It put their faces close together, but he noticed a much more pressing matter: he could feel every bump and ridge in her hands through the thin fabric of the hospital gown, and there was definitely a ring on a finger she usually left bare. To double-check, he looked down at her left hand. He was pretty sure he wasn’t hallucinating the rather simple wedding ring on her ring finger.
Her wince didn’t just speak volumes, it wrote a cliff-notes series as well.
“Felicity?” he said.
“I was looking for a way to break that to you gently when you woke up and then you did wake up and it totally slipped my mind, and um, I can explain, I really can.”
“Is there a Kazakh out there I’m going to have to go put the fear of god into?” Oliver asked, and he was surprised by just how much he disliked that idea.
She grimaced. “I can do that myself, thanks, but no, not exactly. You…yeah, let’s sit you down first.”
“By which you mean you’re falling over.” She gave him a solid push back onto the hospital bed. He could have fought her off, but he had learned not to argue with that expression. “Oliver, they weren’t going to let me in here.”
“I’m not family. You gave me power of attorney, but they didn’t recognize it, and you were dying, and I had to do something.”
“What does this have to do with anything, Felicity? Who did you marry?”
Felicity pushed her hands through her hair and blew out a breath. “Look down.”
He did, but all he really noticed was that the hospital gown was a great deal shorter than he liked. He shifted the hem a little and something gold glinted on his hand. Again, he had to ascertain that he wasn’t hallucinating. He made sure his voice was measured and calm when he said, “Felicity, why am I wearing a wedding ring?”
“Because I told them I was your wife and then I went, and um, faked our marriage certificate?” The words came out in a rush. “Look, please don’t be mad. It’s not permanent, none of it’s real. I just I had to think of something and I don’t look anything like Thea, so pretending to be her wouldn’t have worked. Are you mad? Is that your mad face? I can’t tell.”
“I’m—I’m not mad.” But it was a lot to process, just like waking up in a hospital bed. The band on his finger felt oddly heavy for being a fake thing. “Where did you get the rings?”
“Hardware store down the street. If your finger turns green and falls off, try not to sue me.”
“No promises.” He rubbed the edge of his thumb over the ring. “It’s not exactly great, but you did what you had to do and you saved my life. Thank you.”
She rocked back on her heels like that was the last thing she expected to hear. “Oh. You’re welcome.”
For a moment, awkward silence reigned, and he stared at the ring on her finger while rubbing the one on his own.
Felicity cleared her throat. “Well, this is a great and fortuitous start to our fake marriage and all, but want help getting out of here now?”
He stood on his own long enough to pull on the street clothes she picked up for him, but he needed her assistance down the hallway to the front desk. She caught him up on the rest of the team: Diggle had gotten Roy and Sara out of the country already, she had already arranged for a jet to get them back to Starling City, and she would annul their marriage on the plane by destroying the paper trail she had to create.
“I dunno,” he said, wincing a little because it felt like his system had tried to turn itself inside out. Taking the herbs was never pleasant. “It’s actually a bit of a convenience, isn’t it?”
Felicity’s glare was sudden and awe-inspiring. “Oliver,” she said through her teeth, “I will sew you up. I will play at being your wife to save you in a hospital in a city I can’t pronounce. I will be your EA and commit all manners of felonies in the name of justice for you. But if you think I’m going to marry somebody whose idea of a proposal is to say, ‘oh, hey, it’s convenient for us to be married,’ you really, really don’t know much about me.”
“You’re right. That was a bad joke.” It didn’t seem smart to tell her that he was freaking out a little bit, even though the marriage was fake. But he came back from the island knowing he was never going to have a normal life and all of the trappings, so it was strange to have a ring on his finger and a woman claiming to be his wife. “I’m sorry. I do know you better than that.”
She gave him a nod, but he can tell she was still a little upset. He wondered what happened to her glasses.
“Although, you know, you proposed to me,” he said.
She snorted, and just like that, he knew they were good again.
It took half an hour of arguing with the doctors before they let him sign the paperwork, and he was almost seeing double when Felicity helped him out of the hospital and to the rental car. He kept his arm around her shoulders. Her hand was clammy around his wrist, but she kept her chin up.
He collapsed gratefully onto the passenger seat. “Are you okay to drive without your glasses?”
“I’ll be fine. You should sleep. You’re looking a little green, but not in a ‘your finger is going to fall off’ kind of way.”
“I’ll sleep on the plane.”
“If you’re sure.”
“I am. Say, how far do fake wife duties go, exactly?”
“Oliver, I am not going to consummate our fake marriage with—”
“I was hoping we could stop and you could buy me a coffee, since I can’t seem to find my wallet,” Oliver said, and he had the pleasure to see Felicity go that bright, stutter-y red that he shouldn’t enjoy as much as he did. But he was kind of a sadist, and it was cute. Not that he was ever telling her that.
“R-right,” she said. “Coffee. I can make that happen.”
They didn’t remove the wedding rings until they reached the plane, where he kept his promise and slept. He woke to find Felicity curled up on the chair next to his, her head resting on his shoulder and her fingers still on her keyboard, though the machine was in sleep mode. She slept like the dead, so he didn’t feel bad when his phone rang. He fished it out of his pocket. “What’s up, Dig?”
“Oliver, do you have access to the internet?”
“You might want to check TMZ.”
Oliver’s stomach sank. Ending up on TMZ was only something he wanted to do when he was being Oliver Queen, Billionaire Playboy and he hadn’t been that in a while because the board didn’t like it. So if he was a feature on TMZ, it could potentially have something to do with the other side of his double-life, which was never, never good. He reached over and took Felicity’s laptop (she stirred and muttered something in her sleep) and accessing the account she set up for him. He turned to the TMZ homepage and wasn’t just his stomach sinking.
“How on earth—we were in Kazakhstan,” he said, staring in disbelief at the picture on the front page. “How did they get this?”
“Some enterprising kid with a camera phone. How do you think? Anything you want to fill me in on? Did you two manage to find a drive-in chapel on the way to the hospital or something?”
Oliver pinched the bridge of his nose. The picture in front of him was worth more than a thousand words. Felicity was helping him out of the hospital, her left hand wrapped around his left wrist so that their matching wedding bands were in plain sight. “They wouldn’t let Felicity in to see me. She took matters into her own hands.”
“And married you?”
“It’s not real.”
“Tell that to the press. They’re having a field day. It’s already on the local news. It’s only a matter of time before Thea and your mother find out.”
Honestly, he’d rather deal with Queen Consolidated having a total meltdown than to see Felicity’s name dragged through the mud, as it inevitably would be if she were publicly connected to him. He knew about all of the rumors that circulate through the office, and it never passed his notice the way the corners of her mouth dipped whenever she heard about them. This was really the last thing he wanted. “Thoughts on how to get out of this?”
“Find an heiress, get caught cheating, big break-up? No, that won’t work, as you and Felicity need to be on good terms. Sara and I’ll brainstorm it out, we’ll figure something out. How’s she handling it? I haven’t heard any hyperventilating.”
“She,” Oliver said, “is sleeping. And I’m going to keep letting her sleep.”
“Such a good husband,” Diggle said.
“Remind me to kick your ass for that comment later.”
Diggle’s snort sounded a hell of a lot like Felicity’s as he hung up. It occurred to Oliver, not for the first time, that his partners were a couple of smartasses.
Next to him, Felicity shifted, slowly waking. He could tell she was aware the minute her hands snapped out, seeking the laptop he’d taken from her. She put the one that was now ring-less over her heart. “Oh, god, Oliver, you can’t do that to me, I thought I dropped it again and—wait, why do you have a picture of us on that thing and…”
She trailed off, her face going ashen. “No, no, no,” she said, and she snatched the laptop away, typing furiously. “This is not happening, this is—oh, god. Why? How?”
“Some kid with a camera phone. It’s okay, Felicity.”
“No, it’s not okay, I screwed up. Hopefully they haven’t gotten too many pageviews and we can kill this, I can crash their servers, it will be fine.” She muttered under her breath, fingers flying way too fast for him to follow. Windows appeared and disappeared at blinding speeds.
He risked his life and put his hands over hers on the keyboard. “It’s already on the news back home. Diggle called. It’s out.”
“So Starling City thinks we’re…”
Felicity’s curse was definitely not what most societies would consider ladylike.
“Just curious, but how deep did your hacking go on this one?” Oliver said. “Like, if TMZ were to look into public record…”
“They would find a marriage certificate. I didn’t Photoshop any pictures of us on a honeymoon or anything because that crossed the line into crazy stalker, but I needed to make sure, you know?” Felicity tipped her head back and closed her eyes, looking miserable. “We did not just become the plot of a ridiculous romantic comedy, we did not just become the plot of a ridiculous romantic comedy.”
Uncertainly, Oliver reached out and put his arms around her. He wasn’t the greatest with interaction, but she seemed like she could really use a hug. His own brain whirled. He’d landed himself in imbroglios quite a few times with the media, which was why the Queens kept a really good law firm on retainer. Usually those indiscretions could be bought off pretty easily (sometimes it was what they were going for all along), but he got the feeling that this isn’t going to be one of those times. And Felicity was not and would never be an indiscretion.
Hell, as far as the world’s concerned, he was married to her.
“I don’t know, I put on a mask and shoot bad guys in the knee with arrows,” Oliver said, since everything else sounded stupid.
“That still doesn’t make you Cupid.”
“Sure it does, Mrs. Cupid.”
He felt her start shaking and instant panic set in. But when she pulled back, he could see she was crying because of the laughter quaking through her. “Mrs. Cupid?” she asked, wiping at the tears. “I never saw myself as much of a Psyche, really. But, Mrs. Cupid. Oh, gosh.”
Oliver decided he wasn’t going to ask who Psyche was. “Feeling better?”
“Freaking out less, at any rate. What are we going to do?”
“We’re going to talk to my lawyers and let a publicist come up with a cover story that doesn’t involve hacking or hospitals in Kazakhstan, and then we’ll get an annulment.”
“What’s our excuse for the annulment?”
“Too many drinks in Vegas?”
Felicity sighed and leaned back against the chair. “Maybe something that doesn’t involve Vegas. Vegas seems tacky to me. Maybe it’s the gold lamé or something. Either way, so many people are going to accuse me of being a gold-digger.”
“If either of us is digging for gold here, it’s me.” Oliver eyed Felicity’s hair. “Though I have it from a reliable source that you dye it.”
The joke was terrible but it at least made her smile as she rolled her eyes. “I’m going to go talk to Pilot Joe,” she said, “and see how much time we have until we land. You should probably call your lawyer. I mean, you’re the best fake husband, you really are, but I wasn’t kidding when I said I needed a better proposal than that.”
“Next time I’ll do better,” he said, and both of them froze. “I mean…”
“Yeah, I get what you mean,” she said, and he had the absurd pleasure of seeing her flush pink before she vanished into the cockpit.
As for him, he mentally kicked himself a couple of times because how stupid was that, even? And then he sighed and picked up his phone. He needed to call his lawyer because he ended up fake-married to one of his best friends and now the world thought it was real, and it was only going to get worse, and his system was still recovering from the herbs. This is why, he thought, he never liked waking up in hospital beds.