Times Like These

Chapter 17

It had been three days. At least that’s what she thought, what she had been able to piece together from her foggy memories and half conscious state.

She’d passed out in the car. The shock of seeing Nate there, knowing he’d caused the accident, and that he’d come for her had overwhelmed her system. The last thing she saw was Oliver’s prone form slumped in the seat with blood running down his face.

When she’d woken up she thought for half a second she was at the mansion, but then pain washed over her and she remembered Digg’s shouts, a bright loud explosion and the car being thrown straight up before they tipped over the side of the road.

Groggily she cracked open one eye to see the interior of a dingy motel room. She didn’t dare move as she looked around best she could. Fear made her keep still as her breathing and heart rate rose.

There were two double beds, a rickety table, peeling wallpaper, and a chair that had seen better days. The curtains were thin but dark, and drawn shut over the one window, the only light seeping in from the cracks at the sides. She couldn’t tell if it was late in the day or just cloudy and when she finally drew enough courage to turn her head stars exploded behind her eyes making her moan in pain.

As the world spun dizzily she shut her eyes and tried to catalogue her injuries. Her head throbbed brutally, the left side the worst and she had two brief flashes of her head smashing into the window as they’d rolled down the embankment. She was laying mostly on her right, and for that she was grateful, her previously injured ribs were aching again, as was her left hip and ankle, she must have been crushed into the side of the car at some point.

Blinking back open both eyes she narrowed them to slits and tried to look around the room as best she could. A closet was half open, and she could see into the dark bathroom but other than that there was no movement or sound and nothing that seemed odd or out of place.

She seemed to be alone, and she didn’t know if that was scarier than having him there or not. A wave of nausea rolled through her and it took her several minutes of laying absolutely still and breathing through her nose to keep herself from getting sick.

There was a strangely familiar, sharp odor that stung as she breathed but she didn’t focus on it until she knew her stomach had settled some. Even then it took far too long for her sluggish brain to place the smell. But when it did the bile rose in her throat.

Slowly, she reached up with her trembling right hand and grabbed a lank of her hair, pulling it around so she could see it without moving her head.

Terror choked her and her body went numb when she didn’t see blonde, but instead saw the light brown of her childhood.

He’d dyed her hair.

Her vision went white, tiny black spots were all she could see as the blood drained from her face and she just struggled with trying to remember how to breathe.

Nate had caused the accident. The man whose life had broken over a car accident had purposely staged one just to get her. He’d hurt them so he could take her. Her mind reeled, not understanding how he’d known where they would be. And now…she had no idea where she was, no idea if Oliver was hurt or even alive, no idea if anyone was even looking for her, or knew where to start. She remembered the sound of the gun shot though and the blood on Nate’s face and panic overtook her.

Her body’s flight response kicked in and she found herself trying to scramble backwards, adrenaline overriding any pain or injury she had. She pushed across the scratchy polyester bed cover and tried to fling her legs over the side but she was stopped with a sharp jerk on her left arm.

Felicity whipped her head around to discover that he’d handcuffed her to the headboard.

Hysteria filled her as she cried out in protest, pulling and tugging on her restraint to no avail as tears poured down her face. An inhuman scream of rage and fear tore from her throat, the bed thunking hard into the wall as she pulled with as much force as she could, ignoring the damage she was doing to herself in the process.

She was so consumed by her frantic need to escape she didn’t hear the door open behind her. When a hard hand clamped on her shoulder there was no time to react before she felt a sharp prick in her neck and Nate’s profile out the corner of her eye as she was rendered unconscious once again.

She spent what she assumed were the next two days in an almost continually drugged state.

She had vague, hazy memories. Images of him standing over her, or watching her sleep. He’d float into her field of vision, blurred at the edges and faceless, looking too tall and stretched thin like a shadow about to disappear into the ceiling as he loomed above her. Sometimes his face would morph and she’d see Barton Mathis, or the Count instead and she’d scream for Oliver until her throat burned and he was forced to leave her alone to keep her quiet.

He let her come out of the drug a couple times a day, enough to eat or use the bathroom. The first time he’d unlocked her cuffed wrist and grabbed her by the elbow she’d almost wrenched her arm out of it’s socket trying to get away from him but her body was hurt and impaired, and slow to respond.

She was terrified when he’d guided her limping form to the bathroom hating that she had no choice but to use his support in order to stay standing. When she walked in she thought he might stand there but he let her shut the door for privacy. Barely able to stay upright without leaning on the sink she did have enough presence of mind to search the small space for a weapon, but it was completely empty. He gave her three minutes exactly and then opened the door.

Once a day a change of clothes would lay on the side of the bathtub. Always the same, grey sweatpants and a white t-shirt. It was what she’d been wearing when she’d woken up and the first time she considered how she’d come to be that way she’d ended up on her knees in front of the toilet, gagging.

She’d changed two times, which was one of her clues to how long she’d been there. There was a chance he wasn’t giving her food at regular intervals, or adjusting the time in between when he let her change, but she didn’t think that was the case.

Her first set of new clothes is when she got a good look at her injuries. Her ribs were still sore, but they didn’t seem worse than they had been after the bombing. It was the massive bruise on her hip and her tender ankle that gave her the most trouble. But she knew if she ever had the chance to escape she’d be able to run if she had to. Her wrist had been bandaged from where she’d torn it trying to get out of the handcuffs. She had to swallow past the heavy lump in her throat as she thought about him touching her. Her skin crawled, and she bit her lip until it bled to keep the scream that bubbled up in her chest from escaping.

She’d caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror only once and then avoided looking after that. The brown haired woman that stared back at her looked much too young, too pale, and too frightened to be the person she knew. Wide blue eyes stood out starkly on her wan face. Tiny cuts and scratches, and a bruise near her hairline left over from the accident. Her glasses were missing, and she couldn’t remember if they’d been thrown off in the crash. No doubt they had been left in the back of the car along with her phone and bag. She couldn’t imagine he’d have taken along anything she could have been tracked through.

When he brought her food she was allowed to sit on one of the chairs as he sat across from her, watching her intently. She never had an appetite and she didn’t know if it was fear or whatever was in her system but she forced herself to eat anyways even though she didn’t taste a thing. And much like her acknowledgement of her injuries, if there was a chance she could get away she couldn’t let weakness from hunger slow her down.

Methodically she’d chew small bites, eyes looking anywhere but at him. She was still fuzzy, her brain too muddled and slow to process anything of importance. It took almost all of her limited concentration to stay somewhat upright and get the food to her mouth. Several times she’d found herself listing to the side, when suddenly he’d have raised a bite of whatever he’d brought for her to her mouth for her to eat.

By the third meal she knew the drug would wear off enough that her foggy mind would clear some at the end of the meal. The use of her arms was more controlled and she thought if she could ever get out the door she’d have a chance.

She’d eaten slowly that time, slower than usual and he’d been more and more insistent with her the longer she took. She let her eyes go slack, staring unseeing at a spot across the floor as he leaned in. Her fingers wrapped around the handle of the fork she held and she struck.

The metal tines glanced off his wrist, her aim slower and weaker than she’d anticipated, and it took nothing for him to swipe a hand and knock it from her loose grip.

She cried as he pulled her back to the bed and the needle slid home once again.

After that she wasn’t allowed to use utensils.

When she was awake and somewhat aware she tried not to think about Oliver. She had to believe he was alive. That he and Digg had survived the crash and were looking for her. She’d tried to figure out where she was but she never saw outside the room and there were no sounds of traffic or from neighboring rooms. There wasn’t even a phone, although she saw the jack for it so she assumed he’d removed it.

She never saw him leave or return. The food was in nondescript bags and containers, and it was always ready and waiting when she’d wake up. His clothes were changed, although she never saw any indication that he had belongings in the small space, and the other bed never looked slept in.

There was the tiniest bit of hope there. He was leaving, he was interacting with other people in order to buy the food. At some point she had to believe he’d be noticed. But as long as he kept her drugged and weak she’d never get away from him on her own without any help.

The most disturbing part of being held by Nate was that he never talked to her. After he’d spoken at the crash site she hadn’t heard him speak again. Even when she tried to talk to him he remained silent.

Her speech had been slurred and slow, the fine motor control she needed to move her mouth and tongue and lips in the correct sequence to form words wasn’t always possible. Every time she tried he’d just stare impassively as she struggled.

Late on what she thought was the third day there was a change in him. He was anxious and jittery where before he had always been so strangely calm it unnerved her. There was enough food for two, and after she slowly made her way from the bathroom, feet stumbling as he guided her to the chair she realized he was planning on eating with her.

Even still coming out of her haze she could sense something had shifted. Instead of a carton or a bag there were burgers and fries on plates, bottles of ketchup and mustard, and two cups with straws and lids. He’d arranged the chairs so they faced each other across the table, and even moved over a small lamp from between the beds to give the space more light.

Her heart was pounding so loudly she almost didn’t hear him when he finally spoke.

“It’s your favorite.” he said as he placed her in her seat, the shock of hearing his voice making her jump.

He sat down and gave her a hesitant smile, “I know you prefer the skinny fries, but they only had this kind. I told the guy they should offer a selection but…you know how they are there.”

She stared at him through half lidded eyes, trying to understand what was happening. He was talking to her like he hadn’t been holding her captive. Like he hadn’t blown up her work, and her boss, and wired her apartment building to do the same. Like he hadn’t caused their car accident or been drugging her repeatedly.

Her head hung low, the effort to keep it up too much for her just then. Lank hair the wrong color hung in her her eyes and she used it to hide behind, not bothering to try and move it out of the way. She’d been functioning under a steady level of fear since she’d first woken up days before, but Nate’s sudden change sent the small hairs at the back of her neck rising because the unknown of what he could do next scared the hell out of her.

Once again she choked down food that tasted like sawdust. She barely had the strength to hold the burger between bites, having to set it down and let her hands lay limp in her lap.

The entire time he ate and talked like everything that was happening was perfectly normal. He rambled on about the band 'they’ were going to see, how he was looking forward to a party that weekend and how classes would be out soon for winter break.

When she fully realized what he was doing she gagged, both hands clamped over her mouth as she fought not to get sick.

He was reliving the last few days of his life before the accident.

Voice quiet and shaky, but suddenly feeling more clear headed than she had in days she lifted her chin, “What are you doing, Nate?”

“Eating lunch with my beautiful girlfriend.” he said simply, giving her a smile that made her shiver.

“I’m not your girlfriend.” she said abruptly,

He just shook his head and gave a wry smile, “You’re hilarious, Jen, really, that’s what I’ve always loved about you.”

Nate continued eating, dipping fries in ketchup two at a time, and wiping salty fingers on his stained paper napkin looking like reality hadn’t invaded whatever world he was currently inhabiting.

Anger washed over her. It was the first strong emotion she’d felt in days besides fear and she welcomed it. She let it fill her veins and build her up, because with every rise of her heartbeat and flush of her skin she felt better and stronger than she had and something inside her clicked. Something told her whatever was happening just then was a turning point and it may be her only chance.

“I am not your girlfriend! I’m not Jenny! I’m Felicity Smoak, your cousin!” her voice was sharp and high, and her pulse pounded furiously in her throat, blood rushing through her ears as she waited to see what his reaction would be.

Trepidation began to creep in as she saw his hand tighten into a fist before his head chin jerked sharply to the left, his eyes shutting tight. “Don’t say that,”

His tone had changed. The easy, light one he’d been using was gone and replaced with something hard and disturbed.

She swallowed twice and repeated herself. “I’m not Jenny! I’m Felicity! We grew up together. Summers at Grams house, vacations to that cabin our parents used to share. I’m not Jenny!”

His face began to go red as he clenched his hands so hard he shook. “Don’t say that!”

When his head shot up she gasped. His eyes were black and dead. There was no depth, no warmth, just coldness that made her stomach drop.

“Why are you doing this, Nate? What happened to Jenny was an accident, but it was seven years ago. You can’t kidnap me. You can’t keep drugging me. You have to let me go so you can get the help you need.”

He was on his feet, and she threw herself backwards, scared mute.

“Don’t say that! I will never go back there!” he screamed, jerking away from the table so hard everything rattled and the chair he’d been sitting in toppled sideways. “I did nothing wrong! It can be fixed! It can be fixed! I just need you to do it right, that’s all. Why can’t you do it right?” he was pacing now, hands running roughly through his hair as his demeanor became more and more manic.

Shaking, she leaned forward, not knowing how or if she could reach him and reason with him but knowing she had to try, “Nate…I know it’s hard…but this doesn’t fix anything. I’m not Jenny. I never was. She’s gone. You have…”

She never got any farther because she couldn’t take her eyes off the gun he had pointed at her face.

It was like a mask had dropped over him. His jaw was set, eyes narrowed, and the twitching, nervous man who had just been talking was gone.

“Dammit, 'Lissy, why couldn’t you just for once in your life shut up and do what someone else wanted.”

In horror and shock she sat, stock still, unprepared for the sudden shift. “Nate…”

“I can fix it. I can fix it all. I was always good at fixing things. Don’t you remember? I’d spend hours in the garage, sometimes you’d even help me, until mom would yell at me for getting dirty. She never understood. Never understood how much it would bother me if I had to go to bed before I got to finish. I’d lay awake and go over every step, every detail. I could always see it so clearly in my mind, every precise movement. It was always the biggest rush the next day when I could finish.” a gleam lit his eyes, the first time she’d seen any sort of true emotion in him since all this had started.

“It’s just like a puzzle. Each piece has it’s place, and no matter how hard you try, if the piece doesn’t fit it won’t work. You can’t force it. I’ve gone over every step for seven years! You’re the puzzle piece I was missing. But now I’m here and so are you and this…this is going to work this time. This time it won’t go wrong. I’ll get to finish it and it’ll all be over.”

He practically whispered the final few words and for some reason it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.

Tears of fear and anger and frustration pricked her eyes as she stared at the man she thought she knew. She remembered him as a carefree kid, who had been spoiled by his parents and always had the latest games and gadgets she couldn’t wait to get her hands on. The person who stood in front of now was a warped version of the cousin she had known, and so far removed now she didn’t think he could ever go back.

“There’s always another way, Nate, always. You don’t have to do this.” she pleaded,

“No, there’s not!” he roared, gun waving as he shook it towards her, “You were always so damn perfect. Straight A’s, polite, favorite grandkid…you have no idea what it was like to be constantly judged! To be lauded in public and torn down when you got home because you ripped the knee out of your pants, or forgot to tell the neighbor thank you quick enough. Do you know what I grew up with?! My parents were on my ass from sun up to sun down trying to make me into some faultless version of you! But they were too damn conceited to show that to anyone else so that’s the only time I got any praise is when we were out. I mean, what kind of mind fuck is that to a kid?! Explain that to me!”

All she could do is stare as twenty plus years of history began to make sense. She’d never seen any hint that Nate had been anything but doted on by his parents. Spoiled, yes, absolutely. She remembered being jealous of how proud and vocal her aunt and uncle had been about him, every little accomplishment praised until she’d catch herself rolling her eyes when they couldn’t see her and feeling bad about it later.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry you had to grow up like that. It wasn’t right. But it doesn’t justify what you’re doing now. Nate, please! I know people, they can help…”

He darted forward in a flash and grabbed her jaw harshly, shoving the muzzle of the gun up under her chin so hard her teeth clanged together. “No one can help me when this is over, especially not you. What you can do is fix this by doing what you’re told, ” he said it so low and so dark her breath froze in her chest as tears slipped down her cheeks. He gripped her tight until she let out a yelp of pain and shoved her back in the chair before he stalked to the other side of the room.

Her hand came up to lay over the spot where the gun had been, rubbing it in an effort to reduce the sting, but she knew it was going to leave a mark. Mind whirling, she watched him pace and with a sinking feeling she knew her only chance would be to go along with his plan and hope an opportunity presented itself.

“Okay, Nate, okay. I’ll help you.” she said as quietly and gently as she could,

He stopped sharply and sent her a disbelieving glance, “Don’t try and trick me. You’ve tried to trick me before. But I’ve proven to you that I’m always a step ahead, haven’t I? Finally, I’ve bested you. You didn’t come in first this time did you, 'Lissy?” his mouth twisted cruelly and the bitterness in his tone made her flinch

“I was just trying to stay safe.” she said, hating how meek she sounded, but knew it was better than challenging him just then. “How did you know where we’d be?”

Nate just shot her an incredulous look, “Please, you do know your boss is treated like royalty in that city, right? The news covers him and his family more than they do the president!” he scoffed, “But I was ready. I knew someone would slip up. And they did. Preening the other night about how happy they were Starling’s prince had recovered and would be attending an event that weekend at a winery outside of the city.”

Felicity’s blood ran cold as she remembered the conversation she’d had with Oliver and Moira in the study, and how worried the board of Trustees had been about Oliver’s public image. She wasn’t surprised that one of them had tipped off the press about the trip; anything to boost the company.

“It didn’t take much to figure out where you’d be going, and there was only one road in.” he shrugged easily, “Wasn’t very hard at all. I saw my chance and I took it. And I beat you, little 'Lissy.”

She stared at him in horror at how calmly he was speaking, “You could have killed all of us, even me!”

“It was a risk I was willing to take. Queen had you protected so well there was no other option. I didn’t have a choice!”

Her mouth dropped open as she looked at him, “You really don’t think you did anything wrong, do you?”

“If you had just come with me that first day, or after I sent the package to the office…but you didn’t! You didn’t listen! I didn’t have a choice!”

Whatever was wrong inside his head had convinced him that anything he was doing was justified and that anyone who tried to stop him or didn’t do what he wanted was working against him, to the point they needed to be eliminated. She didn’t know how or if she would be able to get through to him.

“Nate…can you just listen to me?” she said as kindly as she could, hands raised in front of her, hoping he would take the action as one of submission. The gun followed her, but he didn’t seem any more upset than he already was. “I know you think what you’re doing is right…but it’s not. You tried to kill me, Nate…more than once. You’re scaring me, and you’re making people who care about me scared too.”

He shook his head, faster and faster as she saw the anger rise in him again. “NO! It’s your fault! All of this is your fault! I wouldn’t have had to rig the building if you weren’t hiding! I wouldn’t have had to kill that man if you had just come with me.”

The world stopped. Her heart stuttered hard, tripping in her chest as her lungs constricted, not allowing any more air to be pulled in as every fear and every thought she’d buried and ignore for three days rushed up in front of her. She’d heard the shot and seen the blood on his face, but she hadn’t been able to actually consider what it could have meant. Not Oliver, not Digg, not even Monroe. The idea that he’d shot one of them was not possible so she’d buried it and ignored it and pretended like it had been a dream.

Her mouth formed the words but it took three tries before she was able to gasp out a raspy “No!”

Head shaking violently back and forth she could now only see a monster before her. “NO!” she cried and threw herself from the chair, hardly able to see through her tear filled eyes. Her head buzzed and her body felt so light she was afraid she’d fall straight to the floor. “You didn’t! You couldn’t have!”

“Where do you think I got this?” he said, half a smirk on his face as he waggled the gun, and a scream of rage and pain tore from her throat.

“He tried to put up a fight, but it wasn’t hard. Legs pinned in under the dash like they were I was probably doing him a favor.”

“Oh my god!” hands covered her mouth as she stood before him, shaking so badly her knees actually knocked together. One more time the gun flashed in front of her and she looked at it hard, the realization that it wasn’t Digg’s settling within her with relief while at the same time she knew it meant that Monroe had lost his life.

She whirled from him and took stumbling desperate steps towards the bathroom. If he said anything she didn’t hear. The only sound was the roar of noise in her head and the sound of her own retching as she collapsed in front of the toilet.

He grabbed her by the arm and roughly hauled her to her feet but she couldn’t feel her limbs, all she could think about was poor Monroe and how he had died because of her.

Nate half dragged her back into the room and shoved her onto the bed, wrenching her arm up to clasp the cold metal of the handcuff around her wrist. The loud clatter of the gun being dropped on the side table made her start and push back until he grabbed a fistful of her hair to stop her motion.

She whimpered in fear as he leaned in close, “Tomorrow this is going to end. We’re going to fix it. You and me. And if you don’t do exactly what I say I’ll kill everyone you love, and it’ll be all your fault.”

When the needle slipped into her arm she almost welcomed it.


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