Times Like These

Chapter 18

Oliver woke up early Sunday morning almost eighteen hours after their car had run over a roadside bomb and rolled down an embankment. His eyes came open with a snap, adjusting quickly to the dimly lit hospital room as he tried to gather his foggy memories and push away the pain in his head and shoulder.

A sound from the darkened corner had him lifting his head slightly to see an uncomfortable looking Roy Harper half out of the chair he’d been sitting in.

With a sigh Oliver let his head fall back and raised the arm that didn’t hurt to scrub at his still blurry eyes. “What the hell happened?” he asked hoarsely,

Roy shuffled towards the end of the bed and kept cutting anxious looks to the door. Oliver surmised his sister had been there as well and left Roy momentarily, not thinking he’d wake while she was gone.

“Uh…sorry, Thea will be back soon. But…your…Mr. Diggle, he’s around if you want me to…” Roy was already almost to the door and didn’t bother to wait for Oliver to respond.

He let his eyes fall shut and tried to force away the pounding in his head. He gave an experimental roll of his shoulder and bit out a low groan. It was stiff and sore, and felt exactly like it had the last time he’d dislocated it.

The last thing he remembered was Digg yelling and Felicity screaming as they were thrown over the side, he’d tried to reach her but hadn’t been able. The violent tumbling had kept him pinned to the door and then all he’d known was blackness.

Roy slipped back into the room, looking even more nervous than he had before, “Sorry, I didn’t see him. But I sent Thea a text. She’ll be back up in a-”

“Where’s Felicity?” Oliver interrupted,

Roy stilled and paled and a knot of fear grew in the pit of Oliver’s stomach.

“Where’s. Felicity?” he asked again, this time through half gritted teeth as he tried to stop imagining worst case scenarios.

Roy scuffed the floor with his shoes and looked everywhere but at Oliver. “Look, you should wait for Mr. Diggle, or Thea, this isn’t my…”

“Where the hell is she?!” he demanded, pushing away the covers and swinging his legs over the side of the bed, completely ignoring the wave of nausea and dizziness that washed through him.

The kid scrubbed a rough hand over his head and raised his eyes, “She’s gone,”

Oliver was certain his heart had stopped beating. The pain that flared through his chest was swift and merciless, leaving him breathless and unable to stand as he sank back to the mattress.

“Oh shit! No! I mean, she was taken…kidnapped. Not gone gone. That psycho freak caused the accident and took her from the car. I…shit…I’m sorry.”

“She’s not…” he couldn’t bring himself to say the words, but Roy was already shaking his head,

“No! God no! I'm…the F.B.I is here, and they’ve been looking for her.”

Oliver tuned him out, clutching the edge of the bed as he tried to control his ragged breath and calm his racing heart. She was alive.

He heard the door open, and then Digg’s distinctive voice, “Oliver, you’re awake.”

“He uh…he knows.” Roy supplied,

“Yeah, kid, I can see that.”

As Oliver sat he let the pain he’d felt at thinking he’d lost her transform into a low, quiet, anger he knew he’d need as they worked to find her.

He was on his feet by the time Digg reached his side, trying not to grimace as his arm hung, pulling at the sore muscles. A tug on his left hand had him noticing an I.V for the first time and in only a few moments he’d shut off the fluids and removed the port, pressing his thumb hard over the spot to keep it from bleeding.

“Where are my things? We’re leaving.” he bit out, and could see the bruising along the side of the other man’s face as well as the way he didn’t stand as naturally as he normally did.

Digg cut a glance to Roy and then back, “Oliver, maybe you should wait until the doctor clears you,”

He just narrowed his eyes and repeated himself, making sure his tone couldn’t be questioned.

It was Roy that dropped a leather duffle at the foot of the bed, “Thea brought you some things.”

Digg shot the kid a look that would scare most men but Roy merely shrugged and stepped back. “If it was Thea I wouldn’t be laying around either.” he said simply and then exited the room.

“Oliver…” Digg began again but he held up a hand and stopped him,

“Don’t! We have to find her.” he said, already reaching for the bag,

“I was going to say hurry up and get changed. We’ve got work to do.” the two shared a look and Oliver let out a small breath, knowing Digg wanted to find her just as badly and his previous words were just a front for Roy.

As he stripped off the hospital top and dug through the bag, he half turned over his shoulder, “Are there any leads?”

“None. She wasn’t there when I came to. You had to be cut from the car and hauled up the hillside on a board. Chopper brought you back to Starling.” he said tightly, a shuttered look passing over his eyes that made Oliver pause,

“What aren’t you telling me?”

“Monroe’s dead. Bullet to the head. And his gun is missing.”

Oliver’s eyes shut tight and his stomach dropped, “Samuels killed him,”

Digg just nodded once,

“I’m sorry, he was a good man.”

Digg straightened up and adjusted his jacket, “He was and he died doing his job.” at Oliver’s furrowed brow he continued, “ME said he was awake before he was shot, and there were signs of a struggle not compatible with injuries from the crash. He tried to fight Samuels off and Samuels killed him.”

Oliver didn’t want to know why he and Digg hadn’t received the same fate, but it wasn’t something he was going to question right then.

“Are there any leads? Any idea where he’s taken her?” now that he’d known Nate had killed, Oliver knew they had to find her as soon as possible.

“Lance has been keeping me in the loop as much as he can. They’re going to want to talk to you. And they’ve consulted some profiler from D.C. to try and figure out his next move. But there doesn’t seem to be any trace of them.”

Oliver’s head dropped and his hands tightened on the bag he was zipping up so violently he heard the leather strain. She had to be okay. The idea of trying to live without her was not something he could even think about.

A heavy hand dropped to his good shoulder and squeezed once, “We’re going to find her, man.”

“She’s not…” he regretted the words almost as soon as they were out of his mouth, but the memory of thinking she was dead still resonated within him and for some reason he needed Diggle to be the one to tell him.

“No reason to think that, no reason at all.” Digg confirmed, although his voice seemed tight and he clapped Oliver on the back once before he stepped away.

Oliver concentrated on changing as quickly as possible, all his thoughts focused on what they could do to find her. He couldn’t let himself begin to imagine what was happening to her.

“You know they’re not going to just let you walk out of here.”

Oliver just gave a distracted shake of his head, “I’m fine.” he said automatically, and heard Digg give a disbelieving scoff, “My head hurts,” he conceded, “but I’ve had worse and it’s not enough to keep me away.”

“You don’t have to convince me. I knew you’d be out of that bed as soon as you were awake.” he stated as he took the bag from the bed and turned towards the door, “Now, let’s go find our girl.”

They got waylaid ten feet out the door by a disapproving nurse and Thea who ran up looking tired and worried.

“Ollie, what do you think you’re doing?” she said as she laid a hand on his arm and swiveled her head between him and Roy who trailed after her. “Why are you out of bed? Why is he out of bed?”

“Speedy,” he said sharply and pried her hand off of him, giving it a squeeze as he looked down at her, “I can’t stay here. I have…” his eyes shut tight and he blew out a long breath, “I have to find her,”

Thea’s eyes softened, “Ollie, I know. I get that but you were just unconscious for the past day, you can’t be ready to leave yet.” she turned to the nurse who had joined them, “He isn’t cleared to leave is he?”

“Mr. Queen, I really must insist you return to your room. The doctor will be around in a few hours on rounds and you can discuss your discharge then.” she said in a stern tone.

He could feel his frustration rise as every minute he was detained was a minute where he wasn’t looking for Felicity.

“I’m sorry, but that’s not possible. Get me whatever forms I need to sign to leave immediately.” he used his 'CEO’ voice as Felicity had dubbed it and for a second he saw a flash of her smile, and it sent a pang through his chest.

His eyes caught Digg’s over Thea’s head as she ranted and fumed, but his stoic silence eventually led to the nurse leaving with a sigh and Thea finally being pulled away by Roy, who surprisingly seemed to understand exactly where Oliver was coming from.

It took half an hour he didn’t have to listen to the words of caution about how dangerous it was for him to be checking out against medical advice but he dismissed them without thought and signed the papers.

“The F.B.I has asked to speak to you, sir.” Digg said, loud enough that Thea could hear, and he saw her head whip around,

“Now?! They can’t give him half a day to die from a brain bleed because he’s too damn stubborn to stay in the hospital like he belongs.” she argued, hands waving, but he could hear the fear in her voice.

“Speedy, I’m fine. I promise.” he said softly, taking her by the shoulders and making her look at him, “I have to do this. If there’s anything I know that could help find her, I have to do this.”

She gave a long sigh and then nodded. He kissed her forehead and set her back with a tight smile that he knew fell away more quickly than it should have.

“Mom’s at the house. She was going to take the afternoon shift here, but she’s been trying to handle some of the stuff from the office. Thankfully it’s the weekend…”

Oliver felt a wave of weariness pass over him at the idea of having to deal with running the company right then as well. All he could think about, all he wanted to think about was getting Felicity back.

“I’ll see her when I get there.” he promised,

“You’ll get Felicity back, Ollie, I know you will.” Thea said softly, wide brown eyes looking up at him with sympathy,

He couldn’t help the way all the air left his lungs, or how he pulled his sister back towards him for a tight hug.

Then he was moving away, Digg falling into step beside him and for the first time he noticed the three other agents. Monroe’s absence was more startling than he expected it to be.

As they walked the corridors he could see the limp and stiffness Digg was trying to hide, “How are you? I’m sorry…” he said with a wave to his obviously injured left side.

“I’m fine. I’ve had worse, just like you.” Digg replied as evenly as he could but there was a hint of something there he couldn’t quite understand. What he did know was the man at his side would also go to any lengths to get Felicity back as well.

Digg held them back when they got to the lobby as he nodded to two of the other agents, “Let them go get the cars,” he said and Oliver let out a huff of irritation at yet another delay.

As they waited he realized with a start there were no cameras or paparazzi trying to get to him.

“What the hell’s going on? Where’s the media?”

Digg shook his head slightly, “I’ll fill you in once we’re in the car.”

When the cars had been pulled up and they were finally alone Digg caught his eye in the rearview mirror. “You want to head home or to the feds?”

“Feds. I want to know what’s going on and what they’re doing to find her.” he said stiffly, “But for now explain how I wasn’t swarmed by cameras leaving the hospital.”

John gave an almost rueful shake of his head. “Dumb luck at first.” he stated and Oliver leaned forward to hear better, “We were far enough outside the city that no one caught wind of what had happened. Once you were flown back the F.B.I dropped a media blackout on the hospital. Threatened prosecution if anything about your condition or even your presence there was released to the public. I think at first they were concerned Samuels might still be coming after you. There’s been the usual cameras hanging out around the mansion and the office but…it’s been quiet at the hospital.”

Oliver sat back in surprise, “But…this should still be all over the news. Felicity was taken.”

Digg sighed heavily and Oliver knew whatever he was about to be told would not be good, “Her abduction is being kept quiet as well.”

“What?!” Oliver exploded, white hot anger coursing through his veins as he tried to process the information that made no sense to him.

“When the feds realized the…accident had escaped the media’s attention they consulted with the profiler I told you about. He felt Samuels was too unstable, too reactionary. His advice was to keep it quiet and not spook him. They’re afraid he’s going to start bombing anything and everything, especially if he feels like he’s being hunted.”

“So…” he felt numb, and heavy, like he was trying to swim through something thick that was doing its best to drag him down.

“No one outside us and the F.B.I know Felicity is missing,” Digg finished for him,

Oliver sat back heavily in the seat, both hands coming up to scrub roughly over his face as he tried to understand.

“How did this even happen? How did he know where we’d be?” the anger slipped through, making his words harsh and sharp as he spoke through a clenched jaw.

He didn’t notice at first as Digg shifted in his seat, tension entering his broad shoulders. “It’s my fault,” he bit out, a tone of self-loathing and guilt Oliver had never heard him use before.

“Explain,”

“I saw the IED too late. Wasn’t looking for it. And when I saw the signs…”

Oliver looked at his partner’s profile in shock, “Diggle…you’re not in the Middle East any more driving a Humvee. No one blames you for not noticing something you shouldn’t have been looking for.”

“I blame me. It’s my job. It’s my area of expertise and I failed. A man died, and Felicity is gone and that’s on me.”

His words were harsh and filled with more than either man wanted to delve into just then so Oliver nodded and clapped a hand on his shoulder before he sat back.

“How did he know where we’d be?” Oliver could remember all too vividly the conversation he’d had with his mother and Felicity the night before about how safe it would be for them to attend the event.

A muscle in Digg’s jaw ticked, “One of the investors decided to issue a press release without clearing it first. Apparently it made the eleven o'clock news but no one knew about it. All we can figure is that Samuels saw it there and had the bomb ready. It was remote detonated. All he’d have to do is hide somewhere close and push the trigger at the right moment.”

Oliver shook his head at how even when they thought they were doing everything they could Samuels was still managing to stay two steps ahead.

They left each other in silence until they pulled up out front of the building where the F.B.I had set up their office. It was only a few days prior when he’d been there with Felicity but it felt like a lifetime ago.

Oliver didn’t wait for Digg to come open the door for him. He was out of the car and striding to the entrance, hardly registering as the other agents scrambled to keep up with him. Digg was forced to admonish with an expected “Mr. Queen,” but Oliver paid him no mind.

He didn’t see the agent they’d spoken with last time, but soon enough he was being escorted into a small office that held a simple table and chairs and offered something to drink which he declined.

“Mr. Queen, I’m sorry we have to meet like this,” an agent he didn’t recognize said as he entered the room, “I’m Special Agent Jackson, I’ve been given lead over the office in Starling City,”

“What’s the status? Do you have any leads?” Oliver said immediately, no time wasted on pleasantries.

He sighed as he sat across the table, a thick file folder laid before him. “I’m afraid not. There’s been no sign of Ms. Smoak or the suspect.”

“And yet I’m told her abduction has been kept out of the media? There’s a chance someone could see her and recognize her. Young, pretty, blonde women taken against their will are bound to stand out and draw attention, but if no one knows she’s missing it’s pointless!” his voice rose with his growing frustration at not understanding why they didn’t seem to be doing everything they could to find her.

“I understand your points, Mr. Queen but we’re operating under guidance from one of our top criminal profilers. He’s concerned about the suspect’s fragile mental state and the fact that his previous threats had escalated so quickly under a short period of time. We could be putting Ms. Smoak at a much higher risk by broadcasting her abduction. Right now the Bureau and your family are the only ones who know she’s been taken.”

Oliver’s eyes narrowed as he leaned closer, “Her family hasn’t been notified?”

The man shifted in his chair and paused before he spoke, “Considering the connection between the suspect and his parents they are currently under surveillance. If they’re working with him in any way we want to avoid as much cross transfer of information as possible.”

Oliver’s pressed his palms into his eyes and willed his head to stop throbbing. “You’re not telling her parents she’s been kidnapped by a psychopath because you’re worried they’re going to give up information?”

“We’re in a delicate situation right now, Mr. Queen. Time is something we don’t have. I don’t mean to be blunt but most abductions that are not resolved in the first forty-eight hours do not end with the victim being found alive.”

His words were like a physical blow and Oliver felt himself rock back as all the air left his lungs. Forty-eight hours. It had already been half that amount of time and they had no leads. The idea that it could end up being a recovery and not a rescue was not something he could process just then.

“Wha…what are you doing to find her?” he managed to stammer out, still unable to take a full breath,

Jackson nodded, “We’ve got APBs out to all federal and state law enforcement. We’re also monitoring airports, train and bus stations, rental car agencies, and the like. Facial recognition is running through traffic cameras both here and back east for either the suspect or Ms. Smoak.”

“Why back east?”

“Our profiler believes the suspect is trying to recreate the circumstances surrounding his girlfriend’s death; the trigger event that caused his psychotic break. Since he has already found a replacement for his girlfriend by way of Ms. Smoak it follows that he’d attempt to return to the location where the event occurred. The agents who headed up the initial investigation here last week have flown out to be on site and handle the case on that end.”

Oliver swore under his breath and pinched the bridge of his nose as he tried to tramp down the wave of fear and helplessness that was trying to pull him under.

“So she might not even be in Starling then? She could be anywhere? You have no leads and time is running out. That’s what you’re telling me.”

“I’m afraid so, Mr. Queen,”

“And what do you want me to do if her mother tries to contact her?”

“It would be helpful if you could…facilitate the illusion that Ms. Smoak is fine.”

Oliver barked a sharp bitter laugh, “You want me to lie to her parents?”

“If you tell them the truth and the suspect is in fact in touch with his family it could end badly for everyone if the wrong information leaks out.”

His head reeled as he tried to make sense of what was happening. He was used to being able to find his target easily. And if he couldn’t find them he had Felicity to track them down. With Nate off the grid and without her by his side Oliver didn’t know how he was supposed to find her.

For the next twenty minutes he answered repetitive, banal questions about Felicity and the little he knew about Samuels. Each one tore at his ragged nerves until he’d finally had enough.

Head pounding, and blood boiling he reached his limit and pushed to his feet. The agent sat back with a resigned sigh and told him they’d be in touch.

Feeling like he was no longer in his own body Oliver exited the room and headed for the door, ignoring Digg’s look of concern. Oliver knew his mask had slipped, he just didn’t have the will needed to put it back in place just then.

“They don’t have a damn clue where she is.” he said, the acid in his throat making the words stick in his mouth,

“Everything Felicity had been working on is back at the mansion. I managed to salvage her phone and tablet from the car and keep them out of federal custody.” Digg didn’t need to mention that if Felicity’s tech had been examined they would have had more questions that they needed just then.

“Then lets head there. We can go to the foundry if we need to.” donning the hood and protecting the city had never been further from his mind, but his obligation weighed heavy, as did his need to still continue as head of QC.

Oliver was used to the juggling act that was his life. He’d become proficient at keeping numerous balls in the air at once and rarely dropping them. But right then he wanted to drop them all, because all he could think about was finding Felicity and bringing her home.

His feet felt leaden as he climbed the few stairs to the front entrance of the mansion. As his hand hesitated over the door handle he took a deep breath and forced himself to enter. Walking into the foyer without Felicity by his side was wrong. In one short week everything between them had changed and he knew it was for the better.

He’d felt like a ghost since he’d returned from the island, but she’d brought him back to life. Without her with him he didn’t know how he could be expected to continue. She was every good thing he never thought he deserved, and he didn’t want to discover what he’d turn into without her next to him where she belonged.


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