The very first thought Felicity had upon waking was that the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man had inhaled her. She blinked a few times before remembering where she was and dragged the white comforter off her head. Reaching across the nightstand to fetch her glasses, Felicity untangled her limbs from the sheets, which judging by how incredibly soft they felt, had a thread count of one million and were spun with actual unicorn fur.
She put her glasses on, catching sight of herself in the mirror over the dressing table. "Oh God, why?" she groaned, attempting to smooth down her hair. "How do people in the movies always look so perfect when they wake up?" She swung her legs over the side of the bed to stand and made her way into the en suite bathroom to take a shower, lest Oliver think he was rooming with an extra from The Walking Dead.
They hadn't had much of a chance to dwell on their new living situation yesterday thanks to Officer Lance calling her with a tip-off about a criminal that had been on the Arrow's radar. The majority of the evening had been spent in the foundry with the rest of the team, and by the time they got back to the penthouse after a successful takedown they were too drained to do anything except go to sleep.
Turning off the water, Felicity wrapped herself in a towel and padded back into the bedroom to rifle through her suitcase, dragging out a pair of jeans and a purple sweater. She got dressed and brushed her hair into its usual ponytail, quickly putting on some make-up just as the aroma of freshly brewed coffee hit her nose. Inhaling deeply, Felicity smiled and opened the door to make her way to the kitchen but couldn't recall which direction she had to go.
"Um, Oliver?" she called out loudly, hoping he could hear. "Don't laugh but… Marco?" She paused before hearing a faint snort of amusement.
"Polo," his voice rang out.
Smirking, Felicity headed right, admiring some of the artwork adorning the walls on her way. "Marco?" she repeated, the smell of coffee becoming stronger.
"Polo," he replied. "Do you want me to send up a flare too?"
"Save it for when I attempt to find the home theater," she retorted, walking down a small staircase which led into the living area and then finally the grandiose kitchen. Felicity smiled at Oliver who was leaning against the marble bench in his gym clothes, holding a cup out for her. "You should really give all of your guests a complimentary map," she said, gratefully accepting the hot beverage.
"Felicity, it's a double-level penthouse not the whole building."
She raised an eyebrow in bemusement. "Wow, this place must legitimately seem tiny to you, huh? Only three bathrooms, whatever will you do?" she teased.
"I'll live. Did you sleep OK?" he asked, watching as she imitated his position against the island bench in front of him.
"Mmm-hmm," she said, blowing into her mug before taking a sip. "I mean I nearly suffocated myself in all the bed covers but kind of just thought, 'Well, this is it. This blanket tomb is my home now. I hope it gets Wi-Fi'." She took another drink. "How about you?"
Oliver half-shrugged his shoulder. "I slept fine."
"I don't know how you couldn't, those beds are amazing," she enthused. "It's like sleeping on a cloud… not that you could actually do that without falling right through to your death of course. Whoever made that comparison didn't really 'science' it out, huh? Anyway," she said, halting her rambling, "too long, didn't read: the beds are comfy."
"Fit for a queen even?" he asked, a smile playing on his lips.
She laughed. "He makes coffee and jokes, what can't he do?"
"Sudoku," he said gravely. "My greatest adversary."
"I'll add it to the criminal database."
They smiled at one another for a beat, taking long sips of their coffees before Felicity cleared her throat. "So I was thinking I might check out some apartments open for inspection today," she said brightly, walking across the room to sit at the table. "I set up my email to get alerts on places that hopefully don't resemble a murder scene."
Oliver folded his arms, contemplating her. "Don't feel as though you have to rush anything," he stated. "Like I said before, you're welcome here for as long as you want."
"I know, but I should at least have a look today while I've got some free time," she said, smoothing a hand over a dent in the tabletop. "Is this one of the few items you salvaged from the old days?" She smiled as he nodded. "What happened?"
"Eight-year-old Speedy happened," he replied fondly. "She was racing around like she always did, chasing me with one of my parent's antique figurines, when she tripped and the statue went flying." He chuckled. "It broke of course and dad grounded her for a week, but I was happy to see it go. That thing was ugly."
"Poor Thea, but poor table as well." She jokingly slammed her fist down. "That is mahogany!" Felicity raised an eyebrow at Oliver's blank look. "Hunger Games? No, not ringing any bells?" She whistled. "Wow, we really need to put that home theater to good use. Katniss Everdeen is like your spirit animal."
He shook his head in amusement before placing his empty cup in the sink. "Give me ten minutes to shower and change and we can get going."
Felicity furrowed her brow. "Get going where?"
"To look at apartments."
"Oh! Oh no I don't expect you to come with me," she stammered, accidentally sloshing around coffee as she waved her arms. "It'll probably be really tedious and I'm sure you've got better ways to relax on a Sunday. Not that I'm even sure you know how to relax – you probably find scaling tall buildings soothing – but you know what I mean."
"Felicity it's fine," he assured her. "I just thought it might be helpful for you to have a sounding board."
"Of course it would but…" Hesitancy permeated across her features. "Aren't you worried about people seeing you scoping out places to live with your assistant? The gossip blogs will have a field day."
Oliver shrugged. "I'll wear a baseball cap and something casual." He tipped his chin up obstinately. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm pretty good at keeping my identity a secret."
"Mr Queen, what a wonderful surprise to see you here," the realtor greeted with a bright smile, enthusiastically shaking Oliver's hand as he and Felicity stepped through the door of the fifth-storey apartment. "I'm Sandra and it will be my privilege to help you any way I can."
Felicity bit back a laugh as Oliver grimaced. "Thank you, but I'm not actually looking today," he politely replied, unlatching his hand from her grip. "I'm just here for moral support."
"Hi, I'm Felicity Smoak," said the blonde, thrusting out her hand for the realtor to shake instead. "I'm sure it will be less of a privilege to assist me, but I almost always pay my rent on time and I don't own any pets because trust me, there was a whole catastrophe with sea monkeys in elementary school that suggests I shouldn't go down that path."
Sandra quickly shook Felicity's hand, her earlier eagerness waning visibly. "Well, that is… good to know. Ah, that's my phone I apologize," she said, as a ring tone began to play. "Excuse me, won't you?"
Holding on to the strap of her purse, Felicity turned to Oliver with a smirk. "How's that camouflage working out for ya?"
"Maybe I should have worn the mask instead," he said dryly, tugging his cap down further on his head.
"Oh yeah, I can see the headline now," she said under her breath, inspecting a corner of the room where the paint was peeling. "Vigilante ups the ante of the rental game – vows to paint every room green."
"This place seems a bit run-down," said Oliver, as they strolled down the narrow hall and into the modest bedroom. He crossed over to the window where the fire escape resided. "And the alleged security features are a joke," he said with a frown as he played around with the latch.
"Yeah, it's not really screaming liveable to me either," agreed Felicity, taking her tablet out of her purse. "It's OK, this is only the first stop. We've still got a few more to inspect." She didn't look up as she found the next address amongst her emails. "I think it might be best if you follow my lead next time, Master of Disguise."
"… I don't even want to know."
"Great to meet you, Mike," Felicity beamed at their next realtor, holding out her hand. "My name's Felicity." She watched as Mike gave Oliver a puzzled glance. "And I see you've noticed my cousin Jean-Luc," she added briskly. "He's on vacation from France and I kind of tricked him into coming along with me." She spoke behind her hand to Mike. "He thought the Empire State Building was in Starling City. Poor thing's a bit clueless," she added in a stage whisper. Felicity gave Oliver's arm a quick nudge, holding back her grin. "Say hi, Jean-Luc!"
Fixing the blonde with a withering stare, Oliver exhaled slowly through his nose before giving Mike a tight smile. "Bonjour," he gritted out through his teeth.
"Hi," Mike replied, speculation still rampant on his face. He looked back at Felicity. "Has anyone ever told you your cousin is the spitting image of…"
"That guy off that vampire TV show, I know it's crazy right?" Felicity interrupted, stepping forward. "If you don't mind we might go and see what the other rooms are like." She gripped Oliver's sleeve, dragging him along with her. "We'll yell out if we need anything!"
Once they were safely in the bathroom, Oliver folded his arms as Felicity gave him a sheepish grin. "That was your ingenious plan?" he deadpanned. "Something tells me he didn't quite buy it."
"Oh come on, who's going to believe that Oliver Queen is spending his weekend trolling the city as a character actor?" She turned up her nose at the mold residue on the ceiling. "It's just some harmless fun. And besides, at the next place you could be my personal bodyguard, ooh, or maybe my interior designer!" Felicity heard another deep sigh resonate from her friend.
Sara doubled over, holding up her hand for Oliver to pause their training session because she was laughing too hard. "Wait a second," she choked, taking in Felicity's delighted grin. "You actually had him do a British accent at the last place? That's Ollie's worst accent."
"A fact I found out too late when he greeted the realtor with a panicked 'allo guvnor," Felicity responded, swivelling in her computer chair to scrutinize Oliver. "Did you attend the Michael Caine school of accents for only one semester or…"
Giving up hope of getting any more work done, Oliver put his bamboo stick back in its cabinet. "I think I might hit the showers," he muttered, ignoring the chuckling in his wake.
"Wow, that was a better ab workout than doing crunches," said Sara, putting her own stick away before sitting down on Felicity's desk with her water bottle.
"I probably shouldn't tease him so much," Felicity admitted, tapping a few search items on her keyboard. "He played along really well for someone whose default setting is usually 'intense stoicism'. Though I may have broken his brain with all my antics."
Sara shrugged, taking a swig of her water. "I don't know, I think it's nice he gets to act like a goofball every now and then. You bring out his fun side. God knows there wasn't much of that happening on the island." Her voice trailed off and her smile faded, just as Oliver's tended to on the rare occasions he spoke about the past. "Anyway," she said, shaking out her thoughts, "were any of the apartments OK?"
"One of them smelt like it was doused in cat pee, and that was probably one of the better places, so no," said Felicity with a wry smile. "The hunt is still on."
"What are we hunting now? Feral cats?" Roy's voice called out, as he made his way down the stairs of the foundry with Diggle. "I didn't sign up for animal control."
"Didn't Oliver tell you?" said Diggle, handing Felicity and Sara their takeaway burgers and fries he and Roy had collected on the way over. "Cat wrangling was the next step in your training after slapping water."
Roy frowned. "I know you think you're joking but the dude's teaching methods are so warped that it could be true."
"Patience, grasshopper," said Felicity, giving the boy's arm a gentle squeeze, "you need to trust that Oliver knows what he's doing."
"Yeah easy for you to say when you have the big guy showing you proper moves," he retorted, nodding towards Diggle. "Maybe we should swap Mr Miyagis for a while, see how much you enjoy playing pat-a-cake with a bowl of water?"
Felicity folded her arms and smiled. "Challenge accepted."
The four of them eagerly tucked into their meals as Felicity filled in the boys on the highlights of her busy day. Oliver joined them five minutes later, rolling his eyes at Digg when he apologized to 'Jean-Luc' for not having any croissants.
"Any new potential cases on the system?" asked Oliver, stealing some fries from Felicity's pile before pulling up a chair to sit with the group.
"The food thief, for one," Felicity retorted, eyeing him over her glasses. "There's also a few snippets about a woman the press have dubbed 'Poison Ivy' because of the way she deals with her victims, but she seems to be sticking to Gotham City for now."
Oliver nodded, digging through a brown paper bag for his burger. "We'll keep an eye on her anyway."
The central screen pinged, notifying Felicity of one of her Google alerts she'd set up. She clicked on the email, eyes widening at what she saw. "Oh no, no, no," she mumbled, setting down her cheeseburger. "This isn't good."
"What isn't good?" said Oliver, rolling his seat in beside her as the rest of the team also gathered to take a look. He raised an eyebrow as Felicity clicked on a link that led them to a gossip website filled with paparazzi photos of their day out.
"Royal rendezvous," Roy read aloud, "Oliver Queen sets up his castle with mystery blonde."
"Hold up, mystery blonde?" huffed Felicity, suddenly indignant. "I attend every corporate meeting and event that Oliver does and I don't warrant a name in their terrible headline? May as well just label me The Invisible Girl and be done with it." She took a breath, reining in her outcry. "Not that I particularly want to be splashed all over the internet of course but it's the principle of the matter."
Sara shrugged. "As far as tabloid photos go they're not really that scandalous," she offered. "All you're doing is walking side-by-side out of a few apartments."
"It could be worse," agreed Diggle. "At least you're both clothed."
"Why wouldn't we be…?" Oliver started, before shaking his head and turning to Felicity. "I'm sorry you had to be dragged into this," he said ruefully. "I thought that interest in me might have finally died down but one of the realtors must have tipped them off. I don't think Oliver Queen will ever lead a normal life."
"Does he realize he refers to himself in the third person a lot?" Roy said under his breath to Diggle.
"Preaching to the choir, man," Diggle muttered.
Felicity clasped her hand onto Oliver's arm. "Hey, you don't have to be sorry. I mean yeah, it's not the greatest of things to ever happen to me, but I'm more annoyed on your behalf than anything else." She gave him a reassuring smile. "I can work my magic and get rid of most of paparazzi photo trail for now, but unfortunately there's bound to be more out there. Those people are like vultures." Felicity's fingers flew across the keyboard. "We'll just have to make sure we're extra vigilant when we go to and from the penthouse."
"It should be OK tonight," said Oliver, standing up. "I'm going to stay out late and do some patrolling of The Glades so I'll be home late."
"I'll come with you," said Sara, scrunching up her rubbish and aiming it for the trash.
Oliver approached the glass case that held his costume and took out his bow. "Are you tagging along as well, Roy? It's probably best we work on some more training techniques."
"Yeah, about that," said Roy, leaping up to join them. "Mystery blonde and I had an idea we wanted to run by you…"
Felicity's second morning in the penthouse was much like her first. She woke up slightly disorientated by her surroundings, caught an eyeful of the haystack her hair had become overnight, and got showered and dressed before deeming herself fit to greet other humans. She did miss the luxury of slopping around in the morning in her pajamas, occasionally blasting terrible pop music to get her motivated, but Oliver didn't really need to witness that. Especially her lame pajamas, which she'd only brought one pair of in her haste to pack.
She strolled down the hall; her tablet tucked under one arm, resisting the urge for a celebratory fist pump at remembering the correct way. Entering the kitchen, Felicity noticed a body leaning into the open fridge door. "Oliver, please tell me you've got a box of Lucky Charms stashed away here somewhere? Long story, but the bedding keeps giving me marshmallow vibes and I'm having a serious craving for…" Her voice cut out when a stranger's head popped up to look at her. Gaping at the tall sandy-haired man, Felicity reared her tablet back into a throwing stance. "OLIVER!" she yelled, quickly backing away towards to the door. Closing the fridge, the man went to approach her but Felicity held out a finger in warning. "You stay right there! Don't move!"
"I'm not here to hurt you, miss," said the man, holding his hands up in a placating manner.
"Yeah, I'll bet that's what every intruder says before they get all stabby," she accused, hearing feet thundering down the staircase in the other room.
Oliver rushed into the kitchen, still wet from his shower, gripping a towel around his waist. "Felicity? What's going on?" he said, eyes flashing wildly. Observing the scene before him, Oliver soon allowed his stress to alleviate. "I see you've met one of my family's personal chefs then?"
"Personal chef?" Felicity mumbled, eyeing the man before her who pointed to the white chef's hat logo on his black shirt she'd somehow glossed over.
"I don't exactly have time to make meals during the week so Benny stocks up the refrigerator for me every Monday," Oliver explained with a wry smile. "In hindsight I probably should have mentioned that."
Felicity slowly lowered her computer. "Oh…" She acknowledged Benny. "Sorry for the whole 'accusing you of being a serial killer' thing," she winced. "In my defence I haven't had my bucket of coffee yet so…"
"It's alright, miss," Benny replied with a smile. "No harm done." He wheeled out an empty food trolley that had been hidden behind the island bench top. "I'm finished here anyway, Mr Queen, so I'll see myself out."
Oliver nodded at him as he exited the room. "Thank you, Benny." He threw a worried glance his roommate's way. "Felicity are you sure that everything's OK? You're not usually that… jumpy."
"I'm fine," she stammered, snapping her eyes up when she realized her gaze was directed at his bare chest. "Sorry, I'm not staring. I mean I was staring, but I wasn't staring staring," she clarified, stepping in closer to inspect his skin. "How on earth did you get that giant bruise?" Felicity lightly grazed her fingers across the left side of his ribs.
His body tensed at her touch. "It's nothing," he said, holding the towel a bit more firmly. "I just forgot how gung-ho Roy could be."
"You're getting way too many injuries lately," she scolded him, dropping her hand back to her side. "You need to be more careful."
"I'm always careful."
"It's kind of hard to take you seriously when you're standing here like you're about to enter a steam room." Felicity licked her lips. "Before you scurry away and get dressed, though, I need to ask one important question." Oliver raised an eyebrow as she broke into a smile. "Do you have any leprechaun-themed cereal at your disposal?"
Oliver smirked at her. "Let me have a look."
Keeping one eye on the kitchen, Benny took a miniature black audio device out of his pocket and attached it underneath a portrait in the entryway. It was one of six he'd managed to plant around the place before he'd been interrupted. Wheeling his trolley into the elevator, Benny waited for the doors to shut before he pulled out his cell and composed a quick text message.
Bugs are in. Let me know my next move.