Times Like These

Chapter 12

Strong arms wrapped around her and before she knew what was happening she was being bodily moved back towards the building. She tried to stop and turn to see Oliver or Digg but Monroe wouldn’t let her. All she could hear were the frantic cries as people began to panic.

With one wrenching effort that she’d regret later she spun from Monroe in time to see Oliver being hauled from the podium, Digg standing in the space he’d just been pulled from watching as the other three agents took Oliver to safety.

At the last second she heard him roar her name over top of everything else. She tried to call back but a forearm was wrapped around her waist and she was almost jerked off her feet while his name disappeared into the chaos.

Her cries of pain were ignored as Monroe did his job and pushed through a side door half carrying her as he moved further into the building.

The employees who were still inside were being told to head to the back of the building and they got caught up in the flow of bodies in a mass exodus.

Monroe must have spied a break because he suddenly darted to the right and she had no choice but to go with him. Her side was on fire and spots were starting to dance in front of her eyes from lack of oxygen. She hadn’t been able to take a full breath since they’d started moving.

They burst through a door and then had to navigate a set of stairs that she mostly tripped down. He lifted her again and she felt her head spin as pain made her groan. “Sorry, ma'am, we have to keep moving.”

Another heavy door and they were in the lower lobby. The cafeteria was ahead and all she could hear was a din of noise. People were huddled together in small groups and all the t.v’s had been turned to the news which was already showing live footage of the plaza they had just evacuated.

Monroe kept her moving through the crowd until they came out on the other end and he was suddenly knocking hard on a door she hadn’t even noticed.

It was one of the auxiliary security offices and the door opened immediately. Monroe flashed his identification. “Private security for the Queens. I need this location.” he said quickly and the guard vacated his spot.

She was lowered to the only chair in the room and tried to get her breathing to even out but every inhale was like a knife in her side.

Monroe took up the space between her and the door and raised his wrist to his mouth, “The Queen is secure.” he said and she shook her head wondering if she’d heard him wrong. She wasn’t a Queen.

“Where are Oliver and Digg?” she managed to gasp out, hand clamped hard over her ribs, head thrown back as she attempted to suck air through her teeth.

“I don’t know ma'am.”

“Well isn’t that your job? You’re supposed to be protecting Oliver, and he isn’t here. So where is he?” the whine of panic that had started inside of her the second she’d seen Nate had begun to grow.

“No ma'am. I’m supposed to protect you. You are my only detail. I was hired specifically to provide personal security for you.”

She was stunned silent by this and vowed to have a word with Oliver the next time she saw him.

“I’ll take that up with Mr. Queen, for right now I just need to know where he is. Please.” tears slipped down her cheeks as she waited for him to do something.

With a sigh he raised his hand again, “What is the status of King?” there was a beat and then he nodded his head. “Copy,”

“Mr. Queen is secure and on his way here.”

She let out a sobbing gasp of relief and sank into the chair, side protesting the sudden movement but she didn’t care just then.

While her breath calmed she looked at the back of Monroe’s head as he stared impassively at the door, “King and Queen?” she asked, afraid of what the answer would be.

“Codenames, ma'am. Standard procedure.” he said without turning around.

“Of course,” she nodded, “Who chose them?”

“Mr. Diggle, ma'am.”

“Of course,” if her head hadn’t been throbbing she would have rolled her eyes, “John Diggle you’re a dead man,” she muttered under her breath.

The closed circuit cameras she was sitting in front of caught her attention and she swiveled in the seat and began tapping on the keyboard.

Monroe turned at the noise, “Ma'am?” he asked,

“Hush Monroe, we all have our specialties. Yours is protecting rich people. This is mine.” the pain was momentarily forgotten and she was already distracted as she pulled up the cameras she wanted, the first being all the exterior ones, hoping she could find one of the plaza, the others were the ones in the cafeteria, hoping she’d get a glimpse of Oliver.

At the same time she pulled up all the video from the past two hours on the outside cameras and had it sent to her servers at the lair. Hopefully she could punch it into the facial recognition program and find out where Nate came from and where he headed when he left.

The plaza looked to be clear now except for police and a few camera crews trying to get too close. She could still see the dark shape of the backpack where it lay propped against a light post. Her only consolation was that it hadn’t detonated yet.

Most of the employees had been moved from the cafeteria since one large wall was made of nothing but glass. So when Oliver and his three agents entered the first frame she saw them clearly.

“Oh god!” she gasped out, relief leaving her weak as she grasped the edge of the desk,

She climbed to unsteady feet and tried to move past Monroe but he blocked her way. “I’m sorry ma'am I can’t let you go out there.”

Unfortunately for Monroe he didn’t know she went toe to toe with the Arrow on a regular basis.

“Monroe, I know you don’t know me well at all. But it would really be in your best interest to get out of my way.” she growled,

“Ma'am…”

“If you 'ma'am’ me one more time I will not be held responsible for my actions.”

She glanced back at the monitors and saw that they were now more than half way through the cafeteria.

“WHERE IS SHE?!”

Oliver’s yell was heard even through the door to the office and she gave Monroe a smug smirk.

His lips pressed together to say 'ma'am’ once again but rethought, “I cannot let you out of my sight until I know the threat is clear.”

“Then I guess you’re coming with me,” she said with a shrug and feinted right like Digg had taught her before darting under him on the left and pulling the door open before he could move. In the small space she had the advantage.

She ran out as fast as she could, ribs still begging her to stop moving but she looked to the left and saw him only fifty yards away.

“Felicity!”

She always loved the way he said her name, but that time may have been her favorite.

Cursing her injuries she started walking towards him. His cane was gone she noticed but his stride was sure and she knew he’d forgotten all about how bad his leg was.

Her eyes blurred with tears the closer he got. When he jogged the last few feet she knew she’d yell at him for it later. But right then all she needed was to know he was okay and to calm the fear that had filled her when they’d been separated.

His arms wrapped around her and she clutched tight to his shirt. She could feel his fingers digging into her hip and arm as he held her, murmuring soft words into her hair.

She breathed him in and let the security she felt when he was near wash over her. Then his hands were on her face, tilting her chin up and wiping the dampness from her cheeks. She gave him a watery smile as she saw the depth of his worry. His lips pressed to hers in a quick hard kiss and then he was pulling away.

“It was Nate, I saw him.” she said in a quavering voice,

“You saw him? He was here?” Oliver replied, pulling her just a bit closer.

She bobbed her head as she worried her bottom lip, “He was in the crowd and…I felt like someone was watching me and then…he was there. He had a black backpack and he held it up like…he wanted me to see it. He wanted me to know. And then when I looked again he was gone.” her hands covered her face as the guilt once again overtook her.

Oliver’s hand slid into her hair and drew her towards him once again. “This is not your fault.” he murmured into her head as she struggled to regain control.

“I told Digg what I saw and…” she broke off abruptly and looked around wildly before she stared at Oliver with wide frightened eyes. “Where’s Digg?”

His brows narrowed, the crease between them deeper than she’d ever seen, “What do you mean? I thought he went with you.”

The cold fist around her gut tightened as she whipped her head to see Monroe and the other agents surrounding them. “Where’s Digg?” she shouted, “Where’s John?”

“He was still outside when we brought Mr. Queen in, ma'am.” one of the agents she didn’t know said.

There were looks exchanged among the men and then Monroe raised his wrist to his mouth.

The explosion came from outside but it shook the foundation of the building and they could hear the sound of glass shattering.

Oliver reacted immediately, tucking himself around her and turning them so his back was to the threat. The other agents closed in and for a moment all she could see was the black of Oliver’s suit.

The 'No!’ that was torn from her throat echoed around them long after the shaking stopped.

“No! Digg!” she gasped and clamped down on Oliver’s arms to keep herself upright. His eyes met hers and she saw the stark terror that she knew matched what he was seeing. Her head shook back and forth, as she refused to consider the worst.

She was so shocked she didn’t realize at first when Oliver was setting her back, pushing her towards Monroe and motioning to one of the other agents to follow him.

“Oliver!” but he was already three steps away and her hands grasped at nothing but air as she reached for him.

“I’m going to find him!” he promised her and then cut his eyes to the other agents, “Keep her here!”

With the back of her hand pressed to her mouth she could only watch as he headed away from her at a run. All she could do was wait.

Minutes felt like hours as she paced in front of the giant glass windows. Monroe had tried one time to get her to go back into the office but she’d cut him down with a glare that needed no other explanation. Her side and her leg didn’t hurt. Everything was numb and she kept moving just to prove to herself that she was still there. She couldn’t consider any possibility other than they would both be walking towards her very soon.

She had one hand wrapped around her middle, the thumb nail of her other hand tapping impatiently on her lower lip as she walked the same five foot stretch of floor. The three agents were far enough away to give her some space but she still felt their presence. High pitched sirens sounded outside and she wondered if she’d hear them in her sleep as she scrubbed her palms over her face.

Digg would be fine. He had to be, there was no other option. The mere thought of there being any other option made a pain flare in her chest so quick and sharp she had to press a fist into her breastbone to try and make it stop. He would be fine she said to herself again. He had to be.

She almost asked how long it had been more than once, but knew she didn’t actually want to know. All she wanted was for Oliver and Digg to come back to her whole.

“Ma'am,” Monroe said suddenly, causing her head to turn so quickly her neck cracked. He caught her gaze and then nodded behind him.

Her eyes flew up to see Digg and Oliver coming towards them. Digg looked dusty and dirty, but he didn’t look injured. Oliver was a half step behind, limping again.

“Oh!” she cried out, the relief she felt at seeing them leaving her temporarily stunned. But not for long.

“Digg!” she crashed into him full force and heard him grunt slightly. “You’re okay. You didn’t get blown up. I’m so sorry I said you’d be a dead man for those codenames, I didn’t mean it. I’d never actually mean it.” she shook her head and hugged him tight. His chest vibrated beneath her in a low chuckle.

“I’m okay, Felicity. And I’m not going to apologize for the codenames.”

She leaned back and looked at him through wet lashes, “You don’t have to. It’s okay. I’m just so glad you’re alright.”

Oliver’s hand dropped to her shoulder and for one brief moment nothing in her world was wrong.

“So what happened?” she asked, stepping away and wiping her face quickly,

Digg took a deep breath and exchanged a look with Oliver, “Come on, we can walk and talk. They want to know what you saw anyways.”

The three of them fell into step, Felicity flanked by Oliver and Digg while the agents followed close behind.

“You saw Nate leave one backpack right in front of where we were standing.” Digg said and she nodded. He took a deep breath before he continued. “That’s not the one that blew up.”

“Oh my god, there were two?” she asked in shock,

“There was another backpack found identical to that one on the other side of the plaza. That’s the one that had the bomb in it.”

Felicity rubbed her fingers across her temple as she tried to push away the throbbing pain that had been building all day. “I don’t understand.”

“He left two bags. One had an explosive device in it. The other the bomb squad is planning on doing a controlled detonation on just in case. Looks like the timing was designed for it to explode right after the speech was over when Oliver would have been doing interviews with the press.”

She shivered at the thought and fought to keep herself from reaching back and grabbing Oliver’s hand to hold like a lifeline.

Lance approached just then along with another man dressed in heavy black body armor. “Ms. Smoak.” Lance called, “This is Lieutenant Davis, head of the bomb squad he wants to know what you saw.”

With halting words she told them what she knew, Oliver’s comforting presence only a few inches behind her.

Davis nodded, “We haven’t been able to detect an explosive in the bag the suspect showed you, but we’re not going to take any chances.” he turned away from them and pulled a radio off his shoulder, “Get ready to do that controlled detonation.”

“Should be safe enough to watch from inside. We’ll let you know what we find.” he said to Lance and then he was gone.

They followed Lance back up one floor to the large expanse of windows that looked out over the plaza.

“Better not go any further.” he said with an arm outstretched and they all stopped about thirty feet back.

No one spoke as a large, metal box was dropped over the backpack. Several minutes later the area was cleared and there was a muffled boom that still made her jump as small wisps of smoke escaped the box.

Davis and another man removed the box and after waiting for some of the smoke to clear he knelt on the ground near the remains of the backpack. She watched him sift through the debris and pick up several pieces of what looked like paper.

He spoke into his radio again and a few minutes later another officer was calling to Lance. “Davis wants you. Says to bring the woman.”

Felicity’s back stiffened and she felt Oliver react next to her, his hand dropping to her back.

There was no doubt Oliver and Digg would go with her and as they followed Lance outside all she could smell was smoke and melted plastic.

“No device.” Davis said when they were as close as he would allow, “Looks like it was just filled with stuff. Pictures, letters, things like that.” he held a bit of a burned photograph in his gloved hand,

Lance took it carefully and then showed it to her. At first glance it looked like a younger Felicity, except when she studied the picture closer she realized it wasn’t her.

“Oh, that’s her.” she said, her voice sounding strange to her own ears.

“That’s who?” Lance asked

“That’s Jenny. That’s his girlfriend. The one that died and that he thought I looked like. He…uh…he wanted me to…”

Lance cut her off, “It’s okay, I know what he wanted.” he said gently and she swallowed over a lump in her throat. She’d forgotten he knew the whole story.

She swayed as everything caught up with her. Her leg, side, and head suddenly all screaming in protest at what she’d been put through that day. Oliver and Digg both grabbed her and she leaned heavily into Oliver’s arm as she tried to drag enough air through her hurting lungs.

“Get her out of here. We’ve got enough.” Lance said and turned back to Davis, “Bag it all. Maybe the sicko left a note in there we can piece back together.”

She was barely aware as she was guided away from the plaza. There were shouted calls from reporters, but the agents formed a human wall to keep them from view. They waited out of sight near the large police vans but she hardly noticed what was going on around them.

“Where’s the damn car?” Oliver growled, his impatience growing with each minute that passed.

“Mr. Diggle is having it searched, sir.” Monroe answered, and she felt Oliver stiffen under her.

“Searched for what?” she asked, her brain too foggy just then to understand.

“For explosives, ma'am.”

A wave of nausea rolled through her and all she could do was turn her face into Oliver’s chest and wait for it to pass.

When the cars pulled up she eyed them warily but knew Digg would never let them get in if it wasn’t safe.

“Dogs are going to clear the building, but it needs to be shut down for the rest of the day.” he informed Oliver, who just nodded in agreement.

“Make sure it’s safe before anyone else goes in there.” he ordered gravely,

Oliver had her tucked under his arm, flush against his side as they left Queen Consolidated.

“Why is he doing this?” she asked in a dull voice, “He’s never hurt other people before. I don’t…I just don’t understand. He was an engineering major but I didn’t think he knew about making bombs and…” her throat was thick again and Oliver stroked a hand over her head,

“Shhh, you can’t make sense of it so don’t try.”

“I need to figure this out.” she said suddenly, pushing up off his chest and wincing at how much it hurt, “Digg, we’re going the wrong way. We need to-” she was cut off by Oliver’s mouth on hers and she whimpered into him, not understanding why he’d decided to kiss her just then.

“We’re not alone.” he whispered into her mouth and her eyes went wide in shock and shame as her eyes cut to the back of Monroe’s head.

“We’re going back to the mansion, Felicity.” Digg said and she knew by his tone even if Monroe wasn’t there they still wouldn’t be going to the lair.

“You’re still hurt. You need to rest.” Oliver reminded her,

“No, there’s too much to do.” she couldn’t rest if she knew she should be doing something to find Nate.

“And you can do it from the mansion.” he said pointedly and then nodded to her bag where her laptop still resided.

He was right. Most of what she needed to do could be done from her laptop.

Resignedly she sighed and slumped back down into the seat.

His palm was warm over her knee and she tried to settle her nerves the last few miles to the mansion but all she could see and hear were the people in the plaza panicking as they ran and the few minutes she didn’t know if Digg had been hurt or not.

When they pulled up out front Digg went to talk to the rest of the detail as Oliver helped her from the car. Her leg was almost useless but she gritted her teeth and swore to not show how much it hurt. She needed Oliver to stop looking at her like she could fall apart at any second.

As soon as the main doors opened Moira and Thea were rushing forward both wanting to hug Oliver as they threw question after question at them.

Felicity found herself being hugged by Thea and Moira surprisingly gave her a warm smile and took her hands in hers asking if she was fine.

All Felicity could do was nod as both Queen women turned back to Oliver to fuss. “I couldn’t believe there was another attack at the office. We were watching the press conference and then…it was horrible. For a moment I thought I was going to lose you again.” Moira said, her hand cupping Oliver’s cheek.

Felicity was struck hard by what Moira must have been going through. Regardless of her part in the Undertaking she cared deeply for her children and Felicity had no doubt that her actions were motivated by trying to keep them safe. To have lost Oliver once and then after the bombing just the day before…she couldn’t imagine what she had to have been feeling as she’d watched the broadcast.

The responsibility she felt at having brought all this on them hit her like a blow to the gut and she took one step back and then another until she was well separated from the Queens. Moira was telling Oliver that members of the Board kept calling and she’d been in contact with PR to come up with an appropriate message to send out to the investors.

She saw him sigh heavily and wipe a weary hand across his face. Those were the things his Executive Assistant should be handling, but just then she couldn’t. She needed some time. She needed some quiet and some space.

With slow, careful steps she made her way as quietly as she could to the bottom of the staircase. She knew she’d never slip away completely undetected by Oliver, but she had to try.

She hadn’t made it to the first step when he called her name and she paused, letting out a long exhale.

“Hey, where are you going? Are you okay?” he asked, his hand already on her elbow as he used that soft voice that seemed to be reserved for her alone.

“I’m fine,” she said without turning and winced internally when she knew that had been the wrong choice.

“You’re not fine.”

She counted to three and turned her hips so she was half facing him. “No. I’m not. I need to…get to work. And I…just need a little bit of time, okay? So, go make your calls and I’ll see you later.”

Hurt and confusion flashed across his face and it was the last bit of guilt she could carry just then. Before he could say anything she began to climb the stairs. With each step she hoped he didn’t call out or come after her, the last thing she could handle right then was some sort of scene in front of his family.

But he didn’t, and she was three quarters of the way to her goal when her leg gave out and she had to grip the handrail quickly to avoid banging her knee on the riser.

The room was beyond silent and she froze, half bent over where she’d caught her balance. She knew without a doubt that he’d already moved and that he was only a few steps behind her.

“Oliver,”

It was one word but it held an entire conversation. She could feel the crackle of electricity between them and when she was certain he wasn’t going to follow she straightened up and resumed her climb.

When she reached the top she didn’t dare turn back, and the silence followed her all the way to his door.


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