Times Like These

Chapter 19

Growing up in a mansion he’d never known anything else. It had always been his home. And for as large, and imposing, and impressive as the structure itself was it had never felt anything but warm to him. The dark wood and the heavy fabrics and the smell of citrus polish never failed to center him. Even when he’d returned from the island, his first step through the door had immediately brought him back to his childhood.

But just then, early on that Sunday afternoon the foyer felt oppressive and cavernous at the same time. The floor was shaky beneath his feet and there was an almost damp chill in the space he’d never experienced before.

He glanced at the stairs but couldn’t bring himself to go up them yet. The stairs meant his room and the bed he’d kissed Felicity in the day before, her laptop on his desk, and her clothes in his closet, and he knew he couldn’t face that reality.

He found himself paused in the doorway to his father’s study. Even after being CEO of the company he still considered the room to belong to his father. Shutting his eyes tight a memory washed over him. Robert Queen on the phone while a young Oliver ran a toy car over the shelves of the bookcases. His father had never kicked him out when he got too loud, he’d just place his hand over the receiver and ask him to keep it down. If his mother caught him in there she’d shoo him away, admonishing him for interrupting his father while he was on an important call. But his dad would always throw him a wave and a wink as he was ushered out the door.

The drapes were still pulled shut on the two high windows that flanked the desk, only allowing in a faint amount of light. As he paused in the threshold he couldn’t help but wonder how he was supposed to do any of this without her. She was the one who guided him in the boardroom during the day, and was in his ear every night, and now he’d finally dropped all pretences and let her into his heart.

Besides Digg, she was the only one who truly knew not only his facades, but his real identity as well, and without her he felt as adrift and as lost as he had the day he’d had to dig his father’s grave with nothing but his own hands.

With a clench of his fists he willed his feet to move forward, making his way towards the desk because even without her there next to him he had to do something to bring her back. There was an ache in his chest he’d never felt before and as he paused in front of the desk he realized what he felt was a sort of desperate hopelessness.

Hands braced on the smoothly polished wood, with his head bowed he didn’t hear his mother until she was almost next to him.

“Oliver! Thea said you’d checked yourself out of the hospital! What were you thinking?” Moira said as she hurried the final few steps. He turned his head to look at her, and her hand froze in mid air on it’s way to touching him before she pulled it back. “Oh, Oliver…” she whispered, her face falling at what she saw.

He looked back down quickly, one hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose as he attempted to gain control of his emotions.

“I’m fine, Mom,” he said, voice half hoarse and he knew she wouldn’t believe him,

“You’re not fine, Oliver. The doctor’s were worried you could slip into a coma. After everything this family has been through…I wish for once you could have taken care of yourself. Your sister hasn’t slept, and this was the third time in a week I had to worry about whether I was going to lose you again!” she didn’t yell, but he could hear the break in the last few words as her fear got away from her.

The throb of pain that shot through his skull matched the stab of guilt that hit him. He seemed to be incapable of doing right by anyone.

“I’m sorry, I know this has been difficult on everyone.” he began, his voice almost shaking in an effort to keep his mounting anger from erupting. “But I can’t lay in that bed when there’s a chance I can do something to get her back.”

There was a pause before Moira spoke, “Darling, I know you’re worried about Felicity, but there’s nothing you can do that the F.B.I isn’t already doing.”

He shook his head forcefully, ignoring how it made flashes of pain lace across his temple, “I can’t believe that. Felicity was…is good with computers. She was trying to find Samuels on her own, thought she could track him down. If there’s the smallest possibility she was on to something and I could use that…” finally he pushed himself off the desk and turned to face her, “I have to find her, Mom. I can’t believe that…”

“I know…Oliver, I know how you feel about her. I know how important she is to you. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to add to your burden, I’ve just been so worried about you and…” she trailed off and dropped her eyes from his for a moment, “I can’t help but feel responsible,”

His eyes drew together in confusion, “Mom, what…”

“I’m the one that contacted the investors. And Norman Wainfield took it upon himself to issue a press release. He didn’t think the PR department at Queen Consolidated was doing enough to show you were capable of leading the company. If I hadn’t of been so eager for you to go to that event none of this would have happened.”

He let out a long breath and looked to the ceiling before he took her by the shoulders and tugged her a step closer, “Mom, you can’t blame yourself. Samuels was waiting for any opportunity to strike. If it hadn’t of been the road to the winery it would have been someplace else.”

He didn’t blame his mother, he didn’t even blame Norman Wainfield. Samuels was the only one who could be held responsible. And Oliver vowed to do whatever he could to find him and make him pay for what he’d done to Felicity.

“Be that as it may, Oliver I still feel responsible.” she said sadly, raising a hand to cup his cheek, “Take care of yourself, please.”

He gave a stiff nod and stepped back, rubbing both hands over his face as he looked to the desk where reports he’d been reviewing late Friday night still sat. Moira saw his gaze and moved forward to collect them.

“I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but Isabel Rochev is on her way back from Germany right now. I tried to persuade her to not cut her trip short but she insisted on returning.”

Oliver couldn’t help the frustrated half growl that left his throat. Isabel was the last person he wanted to deal with just then.

“She’s a shark and she smelled blood. I’m honestly surprised she wasn’t back sooner.” he bit out acerbically,

“I plan on having a presence at the office until this is resolved. I don’t want you to have to worry about the company right now.”

“I appreciate that, but if Isabel’s back…” that high whine of static was beginning to fill his ears again, the one that reminded him he currently had no control over anything in his life, and it was a feeling he was wholly unused to having.

“I can handle Isabel Rochev, don’t worry.” his mother said quickly, a fire in her voice that hadn’t been there earlier, and he was reminded that Moira Queen had more than held her own while at the helm of QC.

“Thank you,”

Her hand ran over his back gently, “Get some rest if you can, darling.” she said softly before she moved past him and exited the room.

With slow, dragging steps he made his way around the desk and sat heavily in the chair, turning it so his back was to the door, something he normally would never do. However, just then he felt too numb and too disoriented to trust any of his island honed instincts. All he could concentrate on was the empty hole in his chest that seemed acutely aware of her absence.

He didn’t know how long he sat there, but it was longer than he should have. A sharp rap on the door jolted him from his reverie and he turned to see Digg with an unreadable expression on his face.

“What is it?”

The other man approached, hand outstretched holding what Oliver realized was Felicity’s phone. He sucked a sharp breath through his teeth as he took it, looking up and waiting for an explanation.

“Her mom’s texted twice since this morning,” Digg said evenly, but the strain around his eyes was evident.

Oliver scrubbed one rough hand down his face and rested his forehead in his palm as he turned the phone on, quickly entering Felicity’s passcode of ‘ARROW’. He remembered the day he’d caught her typing it in. Her cheeks had flushed pink and she’d started to go off on a ramble about how she knew it wasn’t the safest choice and how she of all people should know better. He’d merely smiled and stayed silent, never telling her how endearing he’d found it.

She had a huge amount of email notifications and missed calls, mostly work related but he ignored them and looked at the text messages from her mother.

The first one was sent early and all it said was ‘How are things?’ but the second was from an hour ago and was longer ‘I’m worried about you. The F.B.I have talked to Dan and Diane but they’re not telling them why and I can’t find anything on the news. Call me soon.’

He let the phone fall to the desk as he sat back and looked at Digg expectantly. “They want me to lie. They want me to not tell her parents that she’s been taken.”

“And what happens if you tell them the truth and Samuels parents are working with him somehow? I don’t like lying to them either but…how often do we lie for the greater good? You’ve got to make peace that this is the same thing.”

He understood what Digg was saying. His life was nothing but a lie for those very reasons. To protect people, to keep them safe. But with something that was not Arrow related it seemed wrong.

The heels of his palms pressed tight to his temple before he grabbed the phone and scrolled up to see how Felicity typically replied to her mother. It stung to see the words she’d written only days before. Some responses were long and rambling, and he couldn’t help but feel the corner of his mouth twitch as her voice filled his head. It was quickly replaced with a pang that made his head drop forward and his hands clench tightly around the phone. He didn’t think he could emulate one of her signature rambles, but there were plenty of replies by her that were short and to the point and he went with that. ‘Sorry, been busy with work. No new info. Talk soon.’

Before he could second guess his decision he hit send and turned the screen off, slipping it into his pocket where he didn’t have to look at it; the small device feeling like a concrete block laying over his heart.

“I hope I’m doing the right thing,” he said under his breath,

Both men were quiet until Oliver suddenly pushed himself to his feet and took long, brisk strides out of the study, “Have you had a chance to go over anything yet? Were her searches still running?”

He needed something to focus on, something where he felt like he was actively working towards finding her.

The stairs were taken two at a time as Digg fell into step beside him.

“Other than checking her tablet I haven’t looked at anything else. I don’t know if she still had any searches going or not.” Digg answered,

“Knowing Felicity, she probably did.” Oliver replied as they made their way down the hallway,

His eyes resolutely ignored the bed as he pushed open the door, all his attention very purposely given to nothing but the desk and the computers she’d left running.

Everything else was in its place, but he knew if he went into the bathroom, or into the closet he’d be assaulted by her and he didn’t think he could face that yet. The bed behind him was bad enough and all his attempts to pretend like it wasn’t there crumbled into nothing as he sat in the chair and had a flash of memory from the day before.

He’d woken up before she had, content to lay there with her slight weight resting against his chest. The image was burned into his memory and he had to shut his eyes tight as he remembered how she’d woken up and straddled his waist. The bright morning light had caught her hair and made it glow almost as bright as her smile as they’d traded promises about ‘tonight’.

Except there hadn’t been a ‘tonight’. And there he sat, ineffective as he tried to fight a man who didn’t want to fight, he just wanted to hide. A man who essentially had no past and seemed capable of vanishing without a trace. But he’d taken Felicity with him and Oliver knew that if she was capable she’d try and find some way of contacting them. All they could do was continue what she started and hope an opportunity presented itself.

For the rest of the afternoon and well into the night he brought himself up to speed on everything Felicity had been working on. He combed through the files Lance had sent her, searched the hits she’d been running through facial recognition, read the therapists and doctors notes from Samuels time at the mental health facility…anything he could find that would give him the full picture of who and what they were dealing with.

Digg helped where he could, but mostly he provided support services. He dropped food by Oliver’s right hand every few hours and reminded him to eat. When a call came from Lance he passed along the message with a tired sigh; there was nothing new to report.

When two pills were laid next to a glass of water Oliver gave a distracted grunt and turned back to the screen. “I’m fine,” he bit out, stopping the hand that was halfway to his temple to rub away the pain that refused to abate.

“No, you’re not.” Digg retorted, “You should probably still be in the hospital, but I’m not going to argue that point. I told you I understood. But you’re no use to her if you kill yourself. Take the pills and get a few hours of sleep.”

Oliver took a long inhale and kept his eyes forward. “If there’s something here…”

“If there’s something there I can keep looking. You had to know this was a long shot though, even Felicity couldn’t find this guy. He’s a ghost-”

With a violent motion Oliver was on his feet, fist pushed into the top of the desk as he felt a tremble of rage work its way down his back. “Don’t you think I know that?” he ground out,

Digg’s voice was even when he replied, “She’d be the first to tell you to take care of yourself. If we do find something she’s going to need you at top form, and you know it.”

Before he could do something stupid like flip the desk, or throw a punch at his partner he scooped up the pills and stalked from the room.

“Where are you going?” Digg called out,

“I can’t sleep there.” he responded without a backwards glance at the bed. A tiny part of him enjoyed the way the door slammed shut loudly behind him and he didn’t see anything as he took long strides down the hallway away from his room.

The pills felt heavy in his fist. He hated drugs, he’d lived without them for five years on the island and gone through worse than a bump on the head. A voice that painfully sounded like Felicity’s crept in, admonishing him for not taking what was available, and if it helped him get better quicker then what was the problem with that.

He threw the painkillers back, swallowing them dry because he could never tell her no, even if she wasn’t actually there.

His steps slowed as he wandered the upper halls, passing all the rooms that mostly sat empty. He could only remember a few instances in his entire life when the house had been full, and for the longest time it had just been him. Him and Tommy, having the run of the place and driving the house staff mad when they’d messed up freshly made beds in ten different rooms. For a second the corner of his mouth twitched up as he recalled how Raisa had caught them before they’d messed up room eleven and then made them go back around with her and fix all the other rooms.

The breath caught in his chest at the memory of his best friend. He’d thought that was the worst pain he’d ever felt, but he knew losing her would be his undoing.

Without realizing it he’d come to a halt directly in front of the door to the room she’d stayed in that first night. With a heavy sigh he pushed in and let it shut carefully behind him.

It had only been a few days and yet she’d merged so seamlessly into the last part of his life he’d kept her separated from it was like she’d always been there.

The room was pristine as always. Any trace of her having occupied the space even for a short while had been erased, but it didn’t hold the same memories as his own room did. And even though he’d raced the corridors that night to find her cowering in fear on the floor it still didn’t have the same weight.

Already feeling the pull of the narcotics he moved almost sullenly towards the bed. Not bothering to change he toed his shoes off and laid down; he knew he wouldn’t be asleep long.

He awoke three hours later to the sound of Felicity screaming his name. He’d made it halfway to the door, chest heaving when he heard the echo in his mind and knew he’d been dreaming. His knees felt loose and weak as he sank into a chair and let his head rest in his hands while he tried to calm his racing heart.

It hadn’t been real. She wasn’t there. She wasn’t calling for him.

The thought struck him that maybe she was calling for him and he couldn’t hear her. Did she think he’d abandoned her? Did she think he’d give up? Did she know that he’d do anything to find her and bring her home?

He shook his head forcefully as if he could physically remove the thoughts, or attempt to make them vanish before they could get any worse and he began to imagine what could be happening to her.

The house was silent as he made his way out the door and down the hall. He thought briefly of going back to his room and resuming his work, but he knew Digg would have something to say about it and he wasn’t sure he could deal with human interaction just then.

In the basement of the mansion there was a fully equipped gym. He’d insisted his father have it installed when he was sixteen. It had been used for a month before he’d lost interest. He’d been down there a handful of times upon his return, preferring the foundry set up but for what he needed but in the moment it would work.

Digg found him there a little past daybreak, bearing two cups of coffee and tired eyes that let Oliver know the other man hadn’t gotten much rest either.

The endless sets of reps had allowed his mind to go blank which is exactly what was necessary. When he was concentrating on his form, or counting which pull up he was on he didn’t have to wonder where she was or if she was scared or hurt.

Oliver finished up another set and dropped to the ground with a grunt, grabbing a towel to wipe over his damp chest before he acknowledged Digg with a tilt of his chin as he took the coffee.

“How long did you sleep?” Digg asked carefully, even though Oliver was certain he already knew the answer,

“Long enough,” he replied, taking a sip of the drink before sitting it down because it reminded him of Felicity.

Digg let out a long exhale but didn’t say anything, just nodded tightly.

“Anything new?” Oliver asked as he tugged a shirt over his head, knowing by Digg’s general demeanor there was nothing to report.

“Scans are still running. His name hasn’t popped up anywhere and neither has her’s, not that I expected it to. I read through the files from the hospital, thought maybe there could be something from the psychologist who skipped town but everything in the records seems to be above board.”

Oliver was silent as he let himself fall back against the wall, head tipping up to study the ceiling before he looked back down at his watch. “It’s almost been forty-eight hours.” Digg shifted but Oliver ignored him and kept talking, “I shouldn’t have slept…shouldn’t have been down here. The agent said-”

“You can’t think like that, man.” Digg said quickly, cutting him off.

“Forty-eight hours. They said the chances of finding her alive after forty-eight hours are low. There are no leads. No trail. Nothing!” his fists clenched and pounded backwards but he didn’t feel a thing, “How is this even possible? With what we do every damn night in this city how is it that we’re sitting here with nothing to go on?!”

The hot sting behind his eyes and the way his throat thickened let him know he was too close to the edge. Without looking back he shoved off the wall and left the room, not sure if Digg was going to follow him or not.

His head was full of horrible images, things he couldn’t unsee, and as he moved through the levels of the mansion he was almost completely unaware, all he knew was he had to keep moving.

His long strides ate up the empty space of the foyer when a buzzing in his pocket made him pause with one foot on the bottom step.

It was Felicity’s phone, with Detective Lance’s face staring back at him.

Oliver knew why he was calling. Lance was trying to get in contact with him. With Arrow.

He let the buzz continue until he knew it would go to voicemail, letting himself sink to sit on the step as he waited.

When the text popped up showing Lance had left a message Oliver let his eyes shut for a long moment, head supported by the heel of his hand as he listened.

There was a low clearing of a throat and then Lance’s distinctive growl, ‘…This message is for him…you know who I’m talking about. I’m sure you’re looking for her. Doing whatever you do. There’s not much…not much to go on. Nothing new in almost twenty-four hours. I’d like to meet. Usual spot. Tonight at nine. If you…if you can, bring her back. She’s special.’

He was sure he’d stopped breathing. At the very least his heart had seized in his chest because everything felt frozen and empty.

Special. One word. Lance had managed to sum her up in one word.

She’d snuck into his life without even trying. She was nothing more than a means to an end at the beginning. A way to get information he had no other way of getting. And she’d seen right through him from the start. The cold, in control, calculated man who had returned from the island should have recognized the danger then and retreated. He should have never gone back to her. She was on to him the minute he’d walked into her office with that laptop.

Instead he went back. Again and again, each lie getting looser and more weak until they were both agreeing to ignore his pathetic attempts without saying a word. And somehow through the lies they built a trust.

Something made him go back to her. Something made him be honest with her when he couldn’t do the same with anyone else. Something made him turn to her and reveal his secret when he needed help.

She was special.

And now she was everything. She propped him up and kept him going. She’d brought him back, quite literally. She’d melded into every area of his life and he couldn’t imagine what his world would look like without her.

Except that possibility was staring him in the face and he had one more person looking to him to fix this and he had no idea where to start. They kept running into dead end after dead end.

The fist that held her phone pressed hard into his forehead as he felt the anger build.

“Oliver–”

Digg’s voice had a quality to it he’d never heard before and Oliver’s head snapped up to see his partner frozen in the center of the foyer, body braced for an attack, except he didn’t seem to expect it to be a physical one.

It took Oliver a second to realize what he must look like, half collapsed on the steps, phone clutched in his hand.

“Lance called…he called her phone. Wants to meet with him.” he spat out as he stood, barely noticing as Digg’s posture visibly relaxed. “I don’t know what he thinks I can do. I can’t do a damn thing except wait, which isn’t doing anyone any good. It’s sure as hell not bringing her back! Nothing is! We’re at forty-two hours and we’ve got nothing! They’ve vanished and no one knows a thing.” his pulse and breathing were reaching levels he knew weren’t good, but none of that seemed to matter. His voice echoed up the stairwell, bouncing loudly off the dark wood panels and carrying down hallways.

The rage, and pain rose within him, past the point where he could control it and in a flash he’d turned and slammed a fist into the wall next to him with a great roar.

His knuckles punched through wallpaper and drywall, tearing a hole twice the size of his hand and when he pulled back dust and bits of paper fluttered to the floor. All that could be heard were his ragged breaths as he let his head rest against the wall, eyes burning with tears he refused to let fall.

Digg didn’t say a word and a door shutting upstairs finally made Oliver move. He wiped the back of his scraped hand along the leg of his pants as he made his way up the steps.

Thea was standing in the middle of the upper hall, hair mussed, with a robe hanging loosely off her shoulders. “Ollie!” she cried when she saw him, biting her lip in worry as she approached.

But he couldn’t accept any comfort just then. His blood still pounded through his veins and his nerves were like live wires. He raised one hand to hold her off. “Not right now, Speedy. Please.”

Her gasp coupled with the way her face fell cut him like a knife as he walked past her and entered his room letting himself fall back against the shut door with a thud.

He wanted to hit something else. Again and again. Let his mind go blank and let all his training take over where nothing but instinct and raw brutality could take over. That he understood. That was simple compared to the overwhelming emotions he was trying to process. Emotions he was trying to process without her there to help him.

The first few steps from the door to the desk were hard. When he reached the computers he sat her phone down and stared at the screens. It was the same information that had been there hours earlier. No alerts to let him know there had been a hit on facial recognition or any of the other data mining programs that had been left running.

His hands tightened on the back of the chair and when he looked down he spotted them. Pushed off to the side, but still in the eye-line of anyone sitting at the desk he saw a slim black case, open, and inside rested her glasses.

All the anger exited him with an exhale that left him light-headed as he sat in the seat. He could only stare at the familiar shape, the one item he associated with her above all else. Since the day he’d met her they’d been the same. Same frames, same color, same way she’d use her fingers to push the sides up whether they needed to be adjusted or not, a nervous tick he’d picked up on immediately.

Seeing them brought him a peace he hadn’t expected. Slowly his heart slowed, his breaths calmed and he felt some of the tension ease from his shoulders and back. He gave himself a long moment to just focus on the glasses, to let that familiar object anchor him to her, wherever she was.

A glance to the clock let him know how quickly the minutes were vanishing. That forty-eight hour mark loomed over him like a massive shadow. He couldn’t give up, because she never would. If their positions were reversed he knew she’d scoff at such a deadline.

Forty-eight hours or forty-eight days, he wouldn’t abandon her. She was the exception. She’d always been exceptional and he knew if anyone could survive it would be her. She’d come through the other side. He had to believe that.

Almost reverently he reached out and touched the cool frames, remembering the last time he’d seen her wearing them in the car just before hell had visited them. Digg must have found them in the wreckage. There wasn’t a scratch on them. He could only hope the same could be said for her when they found her.

Taking a deep breath he lowered the lid of the case and pushed it to the side before he turned his attention back to the screen.

For hours he worked without stopping. His mother and Thea let him be which only made him feel slightly guilty. Digg joined him at some point, dragging up a chair to work on the tablet, occasionally turning a screen his direction or pulling the keyboard over to check something. They didn’t speak. Their focus was complete, their mission simple: get her back.

A knock on the door made him jerk his head to the right as Digg got up and let in one of the house staff carrying a tray. Oliver sat upright and scrubbed burning eyes, the always present ache in his head throbbing to life after being ignored for so long.

“Mrs. Queen insisted I bring up a lunch tray, sir.” the girl said quietly and at the word ‘lunch’ Oliver was on his feet with a muffled curse, grabbing his jacket and phones off the desk.

A chill entered his blood, his gut twisting as he finally locked his gaze on Digg who was looking at him in concern.

“It’s been forty-eight hours and we haven’t heard from the F.B.I.”


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