A/N: This fic started out as another trope and quickly developed a life of it's own. It surprised even me with where it went. I can't wait for you to read all of it. I think it's something special and hope you do too.
Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Felicity pushed through the heavy glass doors that led out of the Queen Consolidated executive board room and took a deep breath. It had been an extremely long day. The consultant Oliver had brought in had suggested that since the company was back on it's feet so to speak they should host a symposium with the top business leaders in the country.
Oliver had been suspicious, worried that Queen Consolidated was still considered a risk on the stock exchange and the other companies would only be coming to see what could be picked over in the future.
Felicity had shared his concerns, but the consultant had been adamant and gave a very compelling argument for why they should. So they sent out invitations to the heads of every major corporation in the country.
They'd all RSVP'd as expected, except none of the CEOs could make it. They all sent vice presidents, or CFOs in their place. Oliver wanted to cancel the entire thing, but she told him that would only seem worse. It would be better to keep everything scheduled as planned, show their guests their best, and hope it would be enough to turn the tide for Queen Consolidated.
So that morning she'd made sure she was there early as the representatives from Wayne Enterprises, Luthor Corp, the almost defunct Merlyn Global, Kord Enterprises, and a host of other big name companies made their way into the board room.
She shook hands, answered questions, made sure all the tech was set up, and sat back and watched as Oliver did what he did best. He may hate the side of himself that had to put on the fake smile, and make the bullshit statements, but he couldn't deny that he was good at it.
There was a catered lunch, a few guest speakers, and one on one time with Oliver. By the time they broke at the end of the day her feet were killing her. The man from Luthor Corp came up and personally thanked her for all her hard work. She'd given him a slightly confused smile, but shook his proffered hand and bid him goodnight. Once he was out of sight she surreptitiously wiped her palm on her skirt. His hands had been weirdly oily.
Oliver was still in his office when she walked in, he gave her a wan smile and sat back in his chair.
"I think it went well." she assured him,
He scrubbed a tired hand over his face, "Yeah, I think it did too. Just wish some of those bastards would have shown up. You'd think ten years of boarding school together would mean something."
She knew it had been an insult that the CEOs hadn't bothered to come and she felt badly for Oliver. Since he'd been back he'd been trying so hard to keep the company afloat and help fix the damage done by Malcolm Merlyn.
Felicity adjusted her glasses and took a deep breath, intending on going into one of her patented 'Oliver Queen pep talks', but she was overcome by a fit of coughing.
Her throat burned like she'd swallowed acid, her eyes watered uncontrollably, and she couldn't catch her breath. All she could do was keep coughing, doubled over, and clutching Oliver's desk for support as her entire body shook. She was embarrassed beyond belief. She'd always had the fear of swallowing weird in the middle of a meeting and not being able to stop making horrible noises in front of other people.
Oliver had been still, until he realized she wasn't stopping. In a flash he was out of his chair and around the desk. She felt his hand at her waist guiding her backwards to sit down and then he was shoving a glass of water in her hands.
Finally she was starting to feel like it was stopping, although the horrible feeling in her throat was still there. When she thought she could swallow the water without choking she took a careful sip.
She wiped her weeping eyes with the back of her left hand and took a few breaths before she looked at him.
"What was that?" he asked, concerned.
"I have no idea. Guess I just swallowed funny. Sorry." she coughed dryly a few more times and tried to clear her throat but that feeling wouldn't go away.
"Maybe you're coming down with something." he suggested, and she arched an eyebrow at him.
"There is a lot you don't know about me Oliver, and one of those things is that I never get sick. Never. I have the immune system of...well, something that has a really good immune system." that may have had more of an impact if she actually felt like she could take a deep breath.
Oliver gave her a scrutinizing look. "Ok, but maybe you should take it easy tonight."
"No way! I told you I needed to start that new program I designed tonight. It's going to do exactly what we need it to do. Do you know how much time it's going to-" she was cut off by another coughing fit.
"Felicity, go home." he used his tough voice and she restrained from rolling her eyes at him. "If you feel better later then come in."
It was a compromise, and one she was willing to deal with.
She rose to her feet, glad to see she seemed just fine and gave him a look. "I'll see you tonight." she said with a note of finality and marched from his office.
By the time she'd run by her own office to grab her bag and coat and made it to her car in the parking garage she'd had two more bouts of coughing. It was starting to piss her off.
Maybe she'd inhaled something. She'd read about that, people who got bits of their food stuck in their lung. But the last time she'd eaten was hours ago and she didn't remember any mishaps with her meal.
She felt sluggish by the time she made it inside her apartment, but she attributed that to the long day and all the hours she'd been putting in at the lair. She eyeballed her shower, and then her couch and opted for the latter.
As she slipped out of her work clothes she noticed a stain on the right thigh of her skirt. With a sigh of exasperation she lifted it up and wiped her fingers over the spot, remembering it was where she'd rubbed her hand after the guy from Luthor Corp had told her goodbye. "Ew, did he have salad dressing on his hand when he touched me?" she wondered aloud, and lifted the skirt to her nose. A faint scent of dried grass met her and she blinked in confusion. Maybe it was gasoline or motor oil he had on him, although she didn't know how he'd made it all day without rubbing it off.
She laid the skirt on her bathroom sink as a reminder to use a stain remover on it before she washed it and grabbed some comfortable clothes she wouldn't mind wearing into the lair later.
As she reached into her closet the burning sensation in her throat came back and she found herself clutching the door frame to keep from falling forward as she coughed.
Eyes watering she grabbed the nearest thing she could find and slipped it over her head before heading straight for her couch.
She'd just lay down for a couple of hours and she'd be fine. She didn't get sick. This was temporary.
Her chest felt heavy as she made herself comfortable. Blindly she set the alarm on her phone and fell asleep.
The repeated trilling of a harp finally broke through her haze of sleep. She woke up coughing, although her throat didn't feel nearly as bad. She ran a tired hand over her head and pulled her hair back into a loose ponytail.
It was already after seven and she needed to get that program installed that night. Maybe she could just go in and get it going, the set up and specifics could wait until tomorrow if they needed to.
Feet dragging, and taking longer than it should of Felicity made her way to the club. She braced herself for Oliver's admonishment.
Luck was on her side though, she could hear the sound of wood on wood which meant he and Digg were training and she could slip in unnoticed for awhile.
She sat down shakily, grateful for the support of the chair underneath her. Another fit of coughing overtook her, this time it felt like bits of her lungs were being torn off every time she expelled air.
"Felicity! I told you to stay home!" Oliver bellowed from behind her but she couldn't turn around to look at him.
When it subsided she felt him over her shoulder. "You didn't actually tell me to stay home." she countered, pulling the program up on her computer and beginning the process.
"And you don't exactly look better to me." she knew without looking he was standing with his feet spread, arms crossed, giving her his most intense stare.
She ignored it all.
"I'm well enough to sit here and run this program, ok. I'll just get it installed tonight and do the rest of the set up tomorrow. Is that alright with you?" she scratched idly at her right palm as she waited for the prompt on the screen.
He sighed heavily, "If you get worse you're leaving."
"Fine, fine, whatever." she waved over her shoulder at him, the prompt appearing.
For the next half an hour she lost herself in code. Her throat didn't hurt, she didn't cough, and she didn't feel like crap. When she was done she sat back with a sigh.
That was her first mistake.
All she could do as the coughing overtook her was wrap a hand around her ribs and try not to fall out of her chair. Specks of something dark flew out of her mouth, but she couldn't tell what it could be from her blurry eyes.
"Felicity? You ok?" Digg asked coming around to her side when she couldn't answer him.
His hand landed on her forearm and pulled back in shock, "You're burning up." he declared. She tried to tell him not to call Oliver, but she couldn't speak.
The next thing she knew her chair was being pulled back and swiveled around so Oliver could kneel in front of her. "You're going home." he said sternly, and for once she wasn't going to argue with him.
She lay back limply, feeling exhausted when the coughing stopped. Her breathing was shallow, and she didn't think she could take a full breath right then if she wanted to.
"Is this what being sick feels like? I don't think I've been missing much." she said tiredly, letting her hand fall into her lap.
She felt Oliver's fingers on hers, opening her palm and if she'd had the energy she'd open her eyes and ask why. Another set of hands fell to her opposite wrist, taking her pulse.
If she'd been capable, she'd have made a crack about both of them behaving like mother hens, but it felt too nice to just sit and be still.
"Felicity, I think you should go to the hospital." it was Digg, she figured he and Oliver had had a silent conversation about which one she was more likely to listen to in this situation.
At the mention of a hospital her eyes flew open. "No." she said adamantly, clasping a hand to her chest as she fell into coughing again, although this time it was short lived. "No hospitals, Digg." she locked her eyes on his and didn't care that Oliver was staring at them hard. There were things that happened after the Glades fell that she still hadn't told him and now was not the time.
"Okay," Digg nodded, not looking away from her, "But you're going to let me hook you up to some stuff though, and if I think you need to go in you're going in."
"Digg...please, no." she whispered,
"What the hell is going on?" Oliver demanded, unable to stay silent any longer.
"Nothing you need to worry about, because Felicity is going to be a good patient, isn't that right?"
"Digg..." she said it so softly she wasn't even sure she made a sound.
He wrapped his hand around her wrist and leaned in. "You're coughing up blood, your pulse is thready and weak, and you can't take a deep breath. You are not ok. But for now you're not in any real danger."
She gave him the smallest of nods, and tried to keep her tears at bay. She couldn't even think about going to a hospital. But Digg knew. He'd keep her out of one if he could.
Figurative steam was coming from Oliver's ears, but a sharp look from Digg and a glance at how poor she looked made him stop asking the questions she knew he desperately wanted to ask.
Digg stood up and turned to Oliver, "Get her over to the med-bay."
With a lurch she threw herself forward until she was at the front of the chair. "No." she said emphatically. "You are not going to put me on that horrible, cold, metal table where you dig bullets out of Oliver and stitch up knife wounds. No."
She must have been swaying because Oliver's hand came out to steady her shoulder.
"Felicity, I just want to check your vitals and put in an I.V. Then I thought you could just crash on the couch." Digg answered.
"Oh, well, ok then." she demurred and stood. Or at least she tried to. As soon as she was upright the lair tilted crazily and she felt like the floor was being pulled out from underneath her.
When she opened her eyes she was staring at Oliver's dark green pullover. She realized with a flush that he must have caught her as she fell and now she was in his arms.
He didn't say a word as he stalked towards the med-bay, but she could see a muscle ticking in his jaw as he tried to keep silent.
He sat her down gently in a chair and kept one hand behind her neck for support in case she took another nose dive.
"Do I get a sucker at the end if I behave myself?" she asked petulantly, but Digg just gave her a look.
He stuck the pulse oximeter on her finger and prepped the inside of her left elbow for the I.V. Oliver's thumb stroked gently over the nape of her neck as Digg slid the needle in. He taped it down quickly and hooked up the tubing.
"The I.V will help with your fever, and keep you hydrated." he said unnecessarily, but she appreciated his effort.
"Your stats aren't very good. Your oxygen levels are low." he cut worried eyes over her head to meet Oliver.
All she wanted to do was sleep. And if she was as bad off as Digg said she knew they weren't going to let her go home, which meant she was stuck there. She scratched at her palm again, annoyed at yet one more thing that seemed to be wrong with her.
Oliver's hand caught hers and showed it to Digg.
"Did you burn yourself today?" he asked, taking her hand and looking at it closer
"No." she shook her head slowly,
"Put it down on anything strange?"
"No. I was at the symposium with Oliver, all day." she told him
He reached over to the cart and grabbed a swab, "Let me take a sample and test it just in case."
When he was done she looked at her hand, surprised to see it was red and splotchy with tiny blisters all over it. It did look like she'd burned it on something.
"Doesn't even hurt, just itches a bit." she assured them. "Can I get the couch now? I was promised a couch." her head felt like it was about to pound off of her neck, the tightness in her chest hadn't left, and she could actually tell she had a fever because her eyes felt hot.
Digg nodded his consent and made his way to the equipment to analyze the sample he'd taken from her hand.
Felicity tilted her head to the side and looked up at Oliver with wide eyes. "Wagon's ho?" she deadpanned and got no reaction from him, "Mush? Giddy up?" he still stared at her like he had no idea what she wanted. She gave a loud sigh and held her arms up weakly, "Pretty please Oliver, could you take me to the couch."
Under normal circumstances the thought of her asking him to carry her anywhere would be so ridiculous it would be laughable. But right then she honestly didn't think she'd be able to walk two feet. And if she was being totally honest, it was rather nice to be in Oliver's arms.
To his credit Oliver didn't blink. He simply slid one arm under her knees, another behind her back and carried her to the couch.
He knelt as he lowered her down. Her eyes closing as soon as her head hit the pillow. He took the bag of I.V flush he'd laid over her stomach and hooked it on an overhead beam, taking the time to move the tubing so she wouldn't get tangled in it.
"Thanks," she hummed softly, "You're really very nice." he didn't say anything in response, but he draped a blanket over her and she could feel him standing next to her.
She reached out a limp hand until she made contact with his denim covered leg and patted it a few times before just letting it rest there. "You're a good man, Oliver Queen. I don't think you get told that enough." and then the fire returned in her throat and she threw herself forward, the coughing making her double over in pain.
She could feel his hands on her back, trying to give her comfort, but nothing could help her. She cringed before each cough in an attempt to minimize the pain, but it didn't work. There was a faint pop on her side after one particularly violent expulsion and a band of flame wrapped it self around her ribs. She couldn't help but cry out.
"Felicity!" Oliver yelled trying to get her to lay back down, but it was too much. She leaned forward more until her head met his chest. This position shouldn't have been more comfortable but it was. He didn't move. His hands moved gently up and down her back, avoiding the area where she still had a hand closed over her side.
When she could breath again she spoke, her voice coming out raspy and worn. "I think I cracked a rib that time."
His hands caught her shoulders and eased her back slowly. She nodded to let him know she was ok. And then he was lifting the hem of her shirt and she jolted.
His eyes flew to hers in apology, "Sorry. I just wanted to check you ribs, I think some of the herbs might help." it was the closest to stammering she'd ever seen him get.
She nodded again and he only lifted the shirt a few inches. Her eyes never left his face, and she watched as he trailed his fingers over her skin. She bit her lip in order to keep herself from making a sound. When he found the sore spot he pushed down gently and she let out a low groan.
"Sorry." he said hastily and put her shirt back in place. "I think it's cracked, and every time you cough it's going to hurt like hell. Let me go make up a poultice, it should keep the swelling down and help with the pain."
As soon as he was on his feet she realized she didn't want him to go, but there was no good reason for him to stay so she kept quiet.
She could hear Digg working in the lab, and their low voices as Oliver joined him. She hated to worry them, but then she thought back over all the times they'd come back from missions bloodied and bruised waiting for her to patch them up, and she thought that maybe it was their turn.
She shut her hot eyes, the lids feeling like sandpaper, but keeping them open wasn't an option. It was strange not being able to take a full breath, it was starting to make her claustrophobic, and she tried not to think about it. The one benefit to the shallow breaths was it didn't seem to irritate her lungs so she went longer without coughing.
It seemed like a long time before Oliver came back with the poultice, but when she blearily looked at the clock she saw it had only been twenty minutes.
"Hey," she rasped out,
He resumed the position he'd been in before and this time she pulled her shirt up for him.
"This might feel a little cold." he warned her before scooping a large amount onto his fingers and spreading it over her injury.
Her breath hitched in her throat and she swallowed several times trying to keep the coughing at bay. The sensation of his hands on her skin was over all too soon, as shortly he was draping a warm cloth over the area and putting her shirt back in place.
"That should help."
"Thanks," she whispered, fighting to keep her eyes open
He reached out and brushed loose hair from her face. His hand felt cool against her feverish cheek and she couldn't help but turn into his touch. "That's nice." she sighed
His hand stilled, and when she looked at him he let his guard down for just a second and she could see how worried he actually was about her.
"Try and get some rest." he said, and then he was gone.
She didn't have any other choice it would seem. Her eyes wouldn't stay open, and the ache in her head steadily grew worse. She slipped in and out of consciousness, waking every now and then to one or both of them hovering over her.
At one point she noticed Digg had rolled a cart over, and looked like he was seriously considering hooking her to the heart monitor.
"That's a bit overkill, don't you think?" she tried to sound flippant, but the sight of it scared her.
"You let me worry about that." he replied, slipping the pulse oximeter back on her finger and leaving it there this time.
Another coughing attack had her in the fetal position, hand pressed over her injured rib. Her lungs rattled now, and she was so tired when she was done she couldn't bring herself to roll back over.
Oliver's hands eased her down, and she caught his fingers with hers. "Don't leave." she said quietly, and then she was gone again.
When she woke, Oliver had pulled a chair up next to the couch and still held her hand. She felt too horrible to blush, or even think about it too much. A squint at the clock let her know it was late, past midnight now, and her sudden and worsening symptoms were starting to scare her.
There was a shout from the lab that had Oliver on his feet and moving. She heard snippets of their conversation. Words like 'chemical agent', 'liquid form', 'unknown outcome', and 'decontamination'.
The next thing she knew Oliver was striding towards her, stony faced.
"Get her in the shower, Oliver. Anything she's wearing or was wearing needs to be bagged. I've got some contacts at the CDC, I'll give them a call and see what we can do." Digg called from behind him.
Felicity froze at Digg's words. What the hell had happened to her?