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Times Like These

By Anthfan

Romance / Thriller

Chapter 1

The call came from the main security desk a little before noon. Felicity distractedly answered and approved the visitor as she finished up the last bit of work before their marathon of a lunch meeting was set to begin.

She had picked up a stack of files and was pushing into Oliver’s office when the elevator doors opened, revealing the one person she never thought she’d see again. His floppy brown hair was the same, as well as his easy rambling gait. She would have recognized him anywhere.

He hadn’t seen her yet and there were almost five full seconds where time seemed to slow. Her hands went slack as the folders spilled from her suddenly toneless fingers, leaving papers scattering gently on the floor at her feet.

Some distant part of her brain may have heard Oliver calling her name once, and then again before his chair was shoved back and he was stalking the long empty space of his office to reach her side. All she could hear was the rough rush of blood in her ears as he made his way towards the doors of the outer office.

Fear at seeing him again was quickly replaced by anger and Oliver’s hand on her arm was the physical jolt she needed to move.

As soon as he pulled the door open she was advancing. “Leave. Now.” she said harshly,

He cocked his head to the side, giving her that slightly manic grin that sent shivers down her spine. “Is that any way to treat family, 'Lissy? I haven’t seen you in ages.”

“Felicity. Is everything okay?” Oliver was already next to her, slightly positioned between her and the man he didn’t know. He was playing off her tension, trusting her response as he squared his shoulders and waited for an explanation.

Digg appeared as if summoned and she didn’t know if Oliver had called him or he had somehow just known to show up. Regardless, she was grateful.

She ignored Oliver’s question because if she looked at him just then she didn’t know how she’d keep hold of her wildly fluctuating emotions. Her heart was already threatening to beat out of her chest and she was having a hard time quelling the panic that rose within her.

“You’re not supposed to be here.” she ground out, eyes never leaving his. She’d learned her lesson a long time ago to never drop her guard around this man.

“I"m better.” he said easily, spreading his arms wide and taking a step towards her. She backed up automatically and saw both Digg and Oliver move closer in.

Felicity shook her head as she clenched shaking hands at her side, “I don’t care. The restraining order is still in effect so you need to leave.”

It was like she’d said magic words. Without speaking Digg and Oliver both acted. Before she knew what was happening Oliver had turned her with an arm wrapped behind her back, directing her into his office while Digg was escorting the man she’d never wanted to see again out the door.

Her mind blanked for a second until a warm hand on her knee made her jump back into herself. She blinked startled eyes and looked to her left to find herself sitting on the couch, Oliver perched next to her practically vibrating with the need to know what was going on.

“Felicity…” he began but she held up one finger and asked him to wait. She’d only be able to say this once and she wanted to make sure Digg was back before she started.

He let out a long sigh and scrubbed his hands over his thighs before he stood and crossed to the nearby table where she always kept a pitcher of water. When he pushed a glass into her hand she realized she’d lost time again.

Her hands trembled so badly she only managed a few sips before he was taking it back and sitting it on the table in front of them. She looked at everything but his face, because she knew once she did she’d probably break down.

A thought struck her and she was on her feet, Oliver moving as well. “My phone. I need my phone.” she said thickly and out the corner of her eye she saw him hesitate before he was striding from the room. She could see him through the glass as he searched her desk and was back as quickly as possible, pushing the device into her hands.

Her knees felt wobbly and his hand was on her shoulder easing her back to the seat as she stared at the black screen. She needed to make the call, but she was afraid of what she might learn.

Digg slipped back into the room, a long, intense, and silent conversation happening between him and Oliver before she took a deep breath and made herself turn on the phone and make the call.

It took three rings before the line was picked up and she didn’t even bother with a greeting. “Why didn’t you tell me he was out?” she demanded, control slipping as the adrenaline began to leave her body. She was on her feet and pacing behind the couch now, fingers rubbing over her forehead as she waited for a response.

“Felicity?” her mother asked, “What are you talking about?”

“I had a right to know he was out! Of everyone, I had a right to know! Why wouldn’t you tell me?” she could almost taste the hysteria in her voice and had to swallow hard to tramp it down.

There was a long pause and then her mother’s frightened, shaky reply, “He’s out? I didn’t know, sweetheart. I didn't…Are you okay?”

She cursed her own lack of foresight. She’d stupidly thought three thousand miles and her own family was enough of an early warning system.

Her eyes shut tight and she could almost feel the waves of energy flowing off of Oliver and Digg as they watched her. But she could only handle one thing at a time.

A bubble of nervous laughter made it’s way up her throat and she had to clamp a hand over her mouth to keep it at bay. When her mother started talking again she almost didn’t hear her.

“You know we don’t speak to your aunt and uncle any more…but I would have thought if…I would have thought they…” her’s mother’s tone was going to that place Felicity couldn’t handle. The one she’d had to hear all those years ago during court arraignments and long nights at the police station and that one trip to the emergency room she tried to pretend never happened.

“Okay, Mom, okay.” she said automatically, knowing if her mother fell apart she wouldn’t be far behind.

“What happened, is he there? Did he hurt you again?”

“I’m okay, he didn’t hurt me.” as soon as she said the words she cringed. Oliver already looked like he was about to jump out of his skin as he waited for her to get off the phone, but she actually saw him flinch at what she’d said. “Look, I’ve got to go. I’ll call you later.” she said hastily and thumbed the call off before there could be a reply.

The silence in the office lasted all of a few seconds before Oliver had clearly been pushed as far as he was able and appeared at her side, hand cupping her elbow. “Felicity…what the hell is going on?” she could hear how hard he was trying to keep control for her and that more than anything helped settle her some.

She let him tow her to the couch and take the phone from her hand as he and Digg stood still as soldiers before her, arms crossed, stony expressions as they waited for her to start talking.

“Sit.” she ordered, “I can’t talk with you two looming over me like giant, brooding statues.”

She wasn’t sure she could talk at all. Part of her wanted to keep quiet, deal with it herself, and tell them she could handle it. The other part of her was scared and wanted to accept any help she could get.

They settled around her, stiff limbed and reluctant. Digg on the couch across from her, Oliver at her side, close enough to provide support, but not so close to crowd her. She gave them a grateful smile and fiddled with the hem of her skirt as she struggled to figure out where to even start.

“What’s his name?” Digg asked gently and a rush of grateful air escaped her lungs.

Start with the basics. She could do that.

“Nate. Nathan Samuels.” that name hadn’t passed her lips in years and it left a bad taste in her mouth. She unconsciously grabbed the glass of water and took a long drink before Oliver asked the next question.

“Who is he?”

“My cousin.”

Digg’s eyes rose into his hairline, but Oliver didn’t react at all.

“Tell us about the restraining order.”

Apparently the easy questions were over.

Felicity licked her lips and felt her heart rate begin to rise again. She’d never told anyone this. No one outside her family who had lived through it when it happened had been privy to this part of her life.

Oliver’s hand landing on top of hers made her gasp and she looked up to see intense eyes locked on hers, “Hey, you’re safe here. No one is going to hurt you.”

Instead of pulling away she wrapped her fingers around his and held on tight. “I know.” she said with conviction.

“I don’t really know where to start. Nate’s two years older than me. My mom’s brother’s son. We lived near them so we saw them a lot growing up. He was a smart kid, normal, nothing…nothing out of the ordinary.” she screwed her eyes tight and tilted her head to the side as she silently admonished herself for feeling the need to defend him just because he was family. “Anyways, he was home from break and he got into a bad car accident, his girlfriend…she died. The accident was Nate’s fault but his parent’s had a good lawyer and…he got off.”

“Felicity, that’s not a happy story, but it doesn’t explain why this guy has you scared to death and why there’s a court order saying he can’t go near you.” Digg spoke up when she paused for breath.

“Sorry,” she said with a slightly sheepish smile, as she pushed her glasses up her nose and dropped her hand to cover Oliver’s where it was still clasped in her lap, “I’m getting there, promise. The girlfriend is important.”

Digg gave her an encouraging look and a nod before she continued.

“It was my first year at M.I.T, I had exams…I didn’t go home for the funeral. I didn’t see Nate again until the next summer, maybe six months after the accident. Looking back the signs were there he’d had some sort of…psychotic break or something but no one knew at the time.” she shook her head sadly, “I had never met his girlfriend but apparently we looked similar. When he saw me again he became obsessed.” Oliver’s hand tightened over hers but neither of them spoke.

“It started at a backyard barbeque or maybe a birthday party…I can’t remember. He wouldn’t leave me alone, followed me everywhere, he…he kept touching my hair and talking about how it was the same color as his girlfriend’s which I admit was a bit creepy at the time but again…no one knew!” she said the last bit forcefully, hating how guilty she still felt at not knowing what was going on before it got bad.

“Felicity, you didn’t do anything wrong.” Oliver said softly,

“I know that. It took me a few therapy sessions but I do know that. At least intellectually. I still wish I would have known what it was all about earlier. Maybe we could have gotten him better help.”

She blew out a long breath and shifted her eyes between the two of them, these men who she knew would lay down their lives for her. These men who she trusted more than anyone in the world were there for her in any capacity she could need. She held on to that knowledge like a talisman. It was the only way she knew how to get through this.

“I’ve never had to tell anyone this before. At least not beyond the police, and a therapist. And I’d mostly put it behind me since it’s been almost seven years…” she was starting to lose focus and she reined herself back in with some effort. “I had to deal with him off and on that entire summer. It got to the point where I avoided family functions if I knew he was going to be there. He started showing up at our house randomly with no notice, he called me his dead girlfriend’s name a few times…finally my parents noticed. My mom tried to speak to her brother but…Nate was an only child he’d never done wrong in the eyes of my aunt and uncle and…they just said he was still grieving. I thought everything would be better when I went back to school, but it wasn’t.”

Oliver shifted next to her on the couch and she wondered if she was going to be able to tell him this next part. “He’d dropped out of school after the accident so he wasn’t really missed anywhere. I hadn’t been back on campus three weeks when I got home to my apartment late one night to find him sitting on my couch. At first…he held it together for awhile. He told me he needed a place to crash and he was fine when other people were around. He acted like the guy I used to know. And then…I’ll never know what changed but…he was always around. Walking me to class, waiting outside the computer lab late at night, slipping up and calling me the wrong name again. I…tried to talk to my aunt and uncle but they didn’t want to hear it. They told me…” she gave a bitter laugh and looked away for a moment at the memory, “They told me I must be doing something to make him act that way and I should stop.”

Suddenly she wanted to get up and move, and pace, and not be stationary, but she felt the warmth of Oliver’s hand seep into her skin and she used it as an anchor. “I told him to get out. Had to call the local police to get him to actually leave. He uh…he didn’t like that. Two nights later he caught me in the stairwell leaving the lab…it was two a.m, I was the last one to leave…” she felt hot all of a sudden and like there wasn’t enough air in the room. She tried to pull her hand away and jump up from the couch, but Oliver held her in place.

“What happened, Felicity?” there was an undercurrent of anger in his voice that she recognized from when he went out under the hood and it sent a tremble through her as she swallowed heavily and tried to find the words to tell them the rest of the story.

“He…he was completely gone, mentally. He thought I was Jenny, the girlfriend, back from the dead or something. He was insistent I come with him.” she took a deep breath and fixed her eyes on the table as she struggled to speak, suppressing a shiver at certain memories that she wasn’t sure she’d ever share with them. “I don’t remember much because of the concussion.” both Digg and Oliver started at this like she knew they would and she forced herself to continue. “I know I tried to get away but he grabbed me and I fell down the stairs. I broke my arm, and hit my head even though I didn’t feel it at the time. I woke up in the back seat of his car, two hours from campus.” tears were slipping down her cheeks, but she didn’t notice until Digg held a handkerchief her way and she had to peel her hand off of Oliver’s to take it from him.

“You got away?” it was Digg who asked, but Oliver who finally had had enough and jerked to his feet to pace just behind her.

She nodded tightly, and plowed ahead before she could consider how cold she felt at the loss of contact. “Yeah, he stopped for gas and didn’t know I woke up. I got out and luckily there was an off duty detective two pumps over. I woke up again in the emergency room.”

There was a loud noise from Oliver that made her jump. “This guy stalked you, assaulted you, and kidnapped you and he’s not in prison?” his voice was nothing more than a growl and all she could do was stare at him with wide eyes.

“No…” she stuttered out, “The psych evaluation said he couldn’t stand trial…and at the time it…I mean he was my cousin and…”

“You didn’t want to put your family through that.” Digg finished for her and she nodded gratefully, her throat clogged with unshed tears.

“It didn’t matter though,” she said when she could finally speak, “His parents stopped talking to us. He was admitted to a facility and I got the restraining order. They didn’t think it was necessary. It’s…it’s why I started dying my hair,” she admitted and heard Oliver suck in a breath as he stilled two feet behind her. “As soon as I was done with school I only looked at companies on the west coast. QC recruited me and…moving three thousand miles away never seemed like a bad idea.”

A silence fell around them and the longer it went on the longer she could feel the tension rise and when she looked up she saw that Digg had his eyes on Oliver, over her head. She twisted on the spot and saw the way his jaw was clenched, eyes hard, and realized they were doing that thing again where they communicated in furrowed brows, and pinched expressions.

“I don’t want him stepping foot inside this building.” Oliver ground out, never looking at her once.

“Already taken care of. When I escorted him out I made sure security knew and if he did try and return to have them notify me immediately.” Digg replied,

Oliver scraped a rough hand over his head and finally looked at her, “You’re not going home tonight.” he said, and his tone brook no argument.

“Oliver, that’s not necessary.” she retorted,

“Really? Because half an hour ago you thought he was on the other side of the country locked in an institution. But he’s not. He’s here. In Starling and he knows where you work. What makes you think he doesn’t know where you live?” she knew he wasn’t trying to scare her and that he was just worried about her, but his words were hard and a flutter of panic began to rise in her chest.

“I’ll be fine.” she stated,

“He got into your place before.”

Now she was on her feet, facing him over the couch, “Yes, he managed to get into the tiny off campus apartment I shared with four other people. Three of whom were so scatter brained they could barely remember to shut the door behind them much less lock it. We’re not talking about the criminal mastermind of Starling City here. I live in a secure building and I have an alarm system. I’ll be fine.” her argument probably would have held more weight if her eyes hadn’t brimmed with tears and her chin hadn’t wobbled as she spoke.

He was around the couch and at her side before she could blink, hands grasping her elbows to turn her to face him. “He’s not going to hurt you again. I’m…we’re not going to let that happen.” the anger in his voice had vanished and was replaced with that soft, low quality she liked to think he only used when talking with her.

She gave him a weak smile and tried to ignore how his thumbs were moving in small circles on the inside of her elbow. Even through the fabric of her sleeve it made her skin prickle.

“Local PD need to be alerted that he’s in town and already violated the terms of the restraining order.” Digg interjected, “You should contact Lance directly.”

With a start she realized the last thing they needed was the SCPD keeping tabs on her, it would make her night job difficult. But she also knew she couldn’t ignore Nate showing up in her city either.

“If you need to take a few days…” Oliver began and then pressed his lips tight together as if he wished he could take back the words. “Although I really think you need one of us with you.” he amended.

“I’m okay.” she assured him, “Really. And I’d rather work. I can’t just sit around my place waiting for something to happen.”

He tensed at her suggestion that something could happen and a wave of gratitude washed over her.

A flash out the corner of her eye had her jumping with a gasp as her fingers clamped down tight on his forearms. The new group of investors were arriving for the lunch meeting.

“Oh god!” she exclaimed, grabbing Oliver’s wrist and pushing back his sleeve so she could see his watch. “The meeting is starting in five minutes and I’ve put us behind, and…”

Digg exited the office to direct them to the conference room as Oliver took her hands in his and lowered his head until he could meet her eyes. “Hey, everything is going to be fine. You can skip the meeting.”

“No,” she shook her head, “I told you, I need something to do. Just…can I have a few minutes? I’ll be right there, promise.”

“Of course. Call Lance though. It might be good to have some official help on this.” he suggested and she nodded.

She fought back a shiver as he stepped away, his hand lingering on her arm until he couldn’t any longer. He looked torn and her stomach flipped at how much this seemed to be affecting him.

He gave her one last supportive smile as he left his office.

“Take the tablet on my desk!” she called out at the last minute, watching as he correctly grabbed the slim device and waved it at her through the glass before heading down the hallway.

She pressed her fingers up under her glasses on the bridge of her nose as she took a long centering breath. When she looked up Digg was still standing in the outer office, positioned to see the elevator, hallway, and her at all times.

Felicity took her phone from the table where Oliver had left it and made her way over to his desk, sitting in his chair and turning it to look out the windows as she dialed Lance’s number.

Fifteen minutes later she felt exhausted. After going so long without thinking about Nate and what he had done to her, having to recount the story twice in an hour had left her feeling raw and on edge.

Digg was still in the same spot when she made her way out, “Everything okay?” he asked with a nod to the phone in her hand.

“Yeah, Lance is going to look into the files from back home and find out if he was released or if he got out some other way. He’s not going to make it official yet. He doesn’t want any unwanted attention drawn to me any more than we do. But he said he’d make sure to drive by my place a few times when he’s on patrol.” she said with a shrug,

“Good. And I’ll be doing a sweep of your building tonight.”

“Digg…” she started but he stopped her with a look,

“Don’t argue. I know you’ve got an alarm system but it’s the one that came with the apartment. You know it can be improved. How many units from your door to the nearest stairwell? Can you reach the roof from your fire escape? Is the doorman there around the clock? Are there security cameras in the parking garage?” every question he asked sent a shot of fear through her as she realized she couldn’t answer them.

“I don’t…I…”

“I know. That’s not your job. It’s mine. Which is why I’m following you home tonight.”

She felt her eyes prick with tears at his concern. Not trusting herself to speak she laid a hand on his arm as she passed by, intending to take a few minutes in the restroom before she braved the rest of the meeting.

Digg followed her down the hall and when she turned, open mouthed to tell him he didn’t have to she she just let out a sigh instead as she pushed through the door.

Her pale, washed out features surprised her a bit when she looked in the mirror. Eye liner had smudged some, but not as bad as she would have guessed and was easy enough to fix. What she couldn’t seem to fix was that she just looked scared. She could school her expression, and put on a smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes, and she knew Oliver of all people would be able to tell.

She had to do this though. Going to the meeting would be good for her. She’d be able to focus on something else instead of letting her mind wander to places it shouldn’t.

Another deep breath and a quick tug of her clothes were needed before she walked out with a purpose. Digg fell into step behind her and soon enough she was snatching another tablet off her desk and making her way to the conference room.


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