Times Like These

Chapter 21

Felicity woke up gradually to a soft hand combing through her hair. Letting out a deep sigh she turned into the touch as a small smile lifted the corners of her lips, “Oliver…” she said sleepily, eyes fluttering open as the hand stilled and then tightened painfully, tugging at her scalp.

Hard reality washed over her and everything rushed back. Nate. Motel. Monroe dead.

Her eyes flew open to see him sitting next to her on the bed, much too close.

A startled scream got stuck in her throat as she tried to scramble to a sitting position but the hand in her hair kept her in place. His closeness was oppressive and uncomfortable and a cool sweat broke across her skin as she struggled against him.

“Stop it, ‘Lissy.” he said darkly and then she froze when the muzzle of the gun dragged across her cheek.

He waited as she focused on him before he continued, and she had the feeling he could have waited for forever if he had to. “Today…today is going to be different and I’m going to need you to behave. And if you don’t…things aren’t going to end well for you. Do you understand?”

As she stared up at him, barely breathing and trembling she had to blink repeatedly to clear her vision because all she could see was the image from her drug induced dreams. The one where he appeared as some sort of faceless, disturbed monster. Except her nightmares had become real, and the monster was before her.

Swallowing hard she dropped her chin once in answer, wincing because he didn’t loosen the hold he had on her, if anything his fingers tightened even more.

“Good.” he replied with a sick smile that made her stomach roll, “We’re going out today. We’re fixing it. There’s not going to be an accident. We’re going to make it to that diner and then everything is going to be made right. And when we’ve done that…I can let it all end. Finally.” he leaned in on the last few words and whispered them into her ear making her shiver as a cold wave of terror filled her.

When he sat up he let his grip loosen and she wasted no time in pushing herself backwards against the headboard in an attempt to be as far away from him as possible, her legs curled underneath her, wishing she could wrap her arms around her middle.

He smirked and shook his head like her reaction amused him and she tried to not let the panic show.

“You have thirty minutes in the bathroom. Shower, change your clothes, pull your hair back, and make sure the bruises don’t show.” he said abruptly, rising to his feet and moving to undo her restraints. “If you take too long or try anything I’ll put a bullet between your eyes just like I did with that bodyguard.” he paused, hand wrapped around her wrist, his touch making her shiver, and gave a short chuckle, “Huh, I just realized it didn’t make near the mess you would have thought it would. Just one neat little hole. His eyes were still open though. It looked…awkward.”

Her chest tightened in pain and anguish to hear him talk about killing Monroe so easily and all she could do was stare at him, eyes once again filled with tears as he released her wrist and stepped back.

Nate wandered away from the bed, using the gun to peel back the corner of the curtain and peer out. She didn’t move, cradling her arm to her chest as the image of Monroe’s broken body stuck in her mind and wouldn’t leave.

“Better hurry, clock’s already ticking.” he said without looking at her,

The next thing she knew she was leaning against the closed bathroom door trying to get her shaky fingers to work the lock. It was absurd really to be so concerned about the flimsy lock on the equally flimsy door knowing it would take nothing to kick it down or even shoot out the handle but right then it was the only barrier she had between herself and Nate and it represented security.

She drew a long, stuttered breath and noticed for the first time there were actual items in the bathroom. Small bottles of shampoo and soap sat behind the sink as well as a plastic brush and a bag of dollar store cosmetics. There was another stack of clothes sitting on the back of the toilet but it wasn’t the usual sweats and t-shirt he’d been bringing her.

Knowing her time was limited she twisted the handles on the faucet, watching as the water ran a dull brown at first before it turned clear. Hot water tap spun as far as it would go she quickly stripped off her clothes and stepped in, not surprised to find it barely lukewarm.

The shower was welcomed, even if it did leave her feeling more jumpy and vulnerable than ever, knowing he was right outside and not trusting that he wouldn’t try and come in at any second.

On auto pilot she washed her hair and body while her mind wandered to places she wished it wouldn’t.

Monroe, and the gun, and the blood on Nate’s face. She couldn’t help but think of Digg and what he would have felt when he’d found the body. How out of his mind Oliver had to be with worry. The entire time she’d been held she’d never given up hope, but the guilt she felt was attempting to eat away at any tiny scrap of belief she still clung to that she would get out of this.

The despair filled her chest until she couldn’t breathe, gasping and choking with spots dancing in front of her eyes she sank into the far corner of the tub and broke. She cried for Monroe, and Jenny, and even for the kid Nate used to be before his mind had been fractured beyond repair.

Images of Oliver and Digg working around the clock, trying desperately to find her began to slowly push aside those other thoughts, especially the ones that were telling her to give up and give in. Being able to 'see' them doing what they did best was the reminder she needed that she had to do her part as well.

On wobbly knees she pushed herself to her feet and shut off the now cold water with a decided flick of her wrist. They were on a mission right then and as their partner and part of the team she had to join them. Just because they didn’t know where she was didn’t mean she couldn’t still do her job.

Feeling stronger than she had since she’d discovered Nate had kidnapped her she could feel the change settle inside. Her head was higher, shoulders back, spine straighter as her brain began to process everything it knew. The fog of the constant sedatives had lifted and as she dried off and dragged the cheap brush through her hair she analyzed what she knew.

Digg’s calm, even voice echoed, telling her to pay attention to everything. Once they left that motel room she’d be on more even footing and he couldn’t keep her in the dark on everything or risk being discovered. She heard Oliver telling her to stay strong and stay smart and not make any unnecessary risks.

She could do that. She was good at gathering information and making sense of it, and like one of her intro to technology teachers liked to say, 'the brain is the best computer’. She didn’t exactly agree with that statement, but right then she appreciated it.

Knowing she didn’t have much time left she hurriedly pulled on the clothes Nate had left for her, hating how the jeans hung off her hips. She’d lost weight. Not much, but enough to be noticeable. Two meals a day that she could barely bring herself to eat half of was beginning to show, and as she stood staring down at hip bones that were more prominent than they used to be she wondered if she had it all wrong and if he’d had her longer than she thought.

There was a blue t-shirt and a long sleeve button up to go over with a small pinstripe that looked vaguely familiar. It wasn’t until she had the clothes on and was slipping her feet into a pair of cheap ballet flats that she stood up so fast she got dizzy.

She felt like she’d been punched in the gut as she found her reflection in the mirror. There was a reason she thought she’d seen the shirt before. It was almost identical to what Jenny had been wearing when she’d died.

She’d known Nate was trying to recreate that day but she didn’t think he’d go this far. With her dyed hair and the matching outfit she knew she’d do a good job passing for his dead girlfriend and the lump in her throat grew larger at everything that distortion of reality could bring.

The loud bang on the door made her jump and let out a startled scream.

“Five minutes!” Nate yelled and she quickly moved to finish.

Hands shaking so badly she had a hard time getting the band around her hair she pulled the still damp weight into a low ponytail that she remembered Jenny had worn that day from the pictures he’d left in the backpack.

Her face showed the impact of her ordeal more than anything. She was paler than usual, dark circles under her eyes only making the pallor of her skin that more noticeable and accentuated the thinness she could see in the hollows of her cheeks and around her jawline. There was a fading bruise along her hairline and fine scratches over her cheek and temple.

The concealer he’d bought wasn’t the correct shade but she did her best to blend it in, shuddering when she tilted her chin up and dabbed at the spot where he’d shoved the gun into her.

She put a little color on her cheeks and used the pale pink lip gloss in the bag even though it was a shade she never would have bought herself. When she was finished she looked presentable although anyone looking close would be able to see things weren’t right.

As she stared at herself she was glad to see someone looking back that reminded her of the real Felicity. She wished she had her glasses, but she’d have to do without.

Blowing out a long breath she let her eyes shut and tried to center herself. She could do this. She could play along with Nate’s sick game and do everything she could to get away from him at the same time. She’d have to be smart though, and not antagonize him. But something would happen, she had to believe that, and she had to be ready when it did.

She unlatched the lock just as she heard him rattle the handle and turned it quickly, not wanting to make him angry. His eyes were bright, pupils wider than they should have been and the gun was still in his hand, tapping impatiently against his thigh.

He cut a look from her shoes all the way up to her hair, and she saw the way his breath caught. For a second his eyes softened and he started towards her, but when she took an instinctive step backwards he stopped short and shook his head sharply and when he looked at her again, that hard, dead look was back.

“You…you look like her.” he said, his voice not as unaffected as she thought he wanted it to be.

He motioned for her to leave the bathroom and she skirted past him, nervously twisting her hands together as she stood in the center of the room and waited.

The longer she stood the more and more worried she became. Nate’s hand flexed where he held the gun, and he used the other one to run through his hair over and over again as he paced a track from the bed to the chairs.

“I know you, 'Lissy, you don’t like being wrong, you’re too damn smart. So I need you to understand this. I need you to understand that everything will go right today. It has to!” he said through gritted teeth without even looking at her, “You’re going to drive. That’s the different variable I need here. You’re going to drive. If I don’t drive everything will go right. But if you do anything to draw attention to yourself, or try and get help, or anything that makes anyone look at us twice I will not hesitate to shoot you.”

He came to a halt directly in front of her and gripped her upper arm tight, squeezing it and shaking her so hard her teeth clacked together, “You’re smart so I think you get me, don’t you?”

Tears pricking her eyes she pressed her lips tight together and nodded haltingly.

“Smart girl,” his mouth dragged across her hairline and she couldn’t stop the small whimper or the way she tried to shrink away from him. He just held her tighter, “Don’t do anything stupid,”

In a flash he’d stepped away and grabbed a jacket off the back of one of the chairs and slid it on, keys were dug out of the pocket and he held them out to her. There was only a fine tremor in her fingers as she took it from him, immediately noticing the sticker on the fob for a rental company, unfortunately it was one of the major chains and didn’t tell her much.

Still, that small act helped to calm her racing pulse and she knew that even as scared as she was, she hadn’t shut down completely and anything she could learn could only serve to help her.

He gave her a disturbed smile and tucked the gun under one side of his jacket, and she knew it was pointed at her through the fabric. “Let’s go.”

Not knowing what she would find on the other side of the door she fumbled with the handle twice before she managed to get it open and stepped out into bright sunlight that made her blink.

She didn’t know what she expected. But when her heart fell she knew there was some small part of her that wanted to walk out to find Oliver and Digg and Lance and half the F.B.I waiting for her. All she saw was a non descript parking lot, full of more dirt than gravel, and a row rooms.

Her head whipped behind to see they were in the end unit, the number '20’ spray painted on the door, faded and slightly off center.

“Not a word 'Lissy, I’ve paid them a lot of money to not ask questions, and they didn’t strike me as the sort of people who would care what happens here anyways as long as they got their money.”

Her eyes shot to where a fritzing neon sign said 'Office’ at the end of the row, but she knew he’d be able to fire the gun at her fleeing back and there was no place to get cover.

He nudged her with the muzzle and directed her towards a light grey four door sedan that was parked a few feet away.

Walking slowly she took in every scrap of information she could. It was a rental, which she already knew, the plates let her know they had at least started in the same state although she couldn’t be sure where she was now. The car was a few years old and a popular model which meant it would be hard to track as she knew from experience. She made a mental note of the plate number as she made her way around to the driver’s side.

The gun was out of his jacket now, trained on her every move and he waited for her to open the door and slide in, mirroring her movements on the passenger’s side.

The interior was completely clean, nothing had been left out to give her a hint as to where she was, or anything she could use against him.

“Start the car. Carefully.” he ordered and she did as he said,

She took as much time as she dared putting on her seatbelt and adjusting the mirror, trying to use it to look around but the sign for the motel was blocked from her view and there was nothing else to see other than trees. Wherever they were it was remote, with a seemingly low population. They were definitely outside of Starling, although she didn’t think he had taken her that far; the climate and landscape didn’t look that different.

“Pull around to the front of the motel and take a right on the road.” he moved closer to her and pushed the gun into the side of her ribs making her gasp and try and pull away, “Abdominal wounds are a bitch, remember that.”

Slowly she backed out and drove through the empty parking lot. When she came to the road she stopped and looked to the left to check for oncoming traffic but really she was searching for some sort of identifying feature for the motel. The icy fist around her gut only tightened when all she could see was a generic 'Motel’ sign and nothing else.

There was nothing she could see that let her know what town she was in or what road she was on. Heart racing she had no choice but to pull out and turn right.

The road was empty, and as she locked her hands on the wheel she wondered for a brief second if she could crash the car before he got a shot off. There was a sharp curve ahead with deep ditches on either side and she tried to calculate how fast she’d need to be going to ensure he’d be injured, but she dismissed it almost as quickly when she knew he’d shoot her before she purposely wrecked, and there was no guarantee she wouldn’t kill herself in the crash as well.

“The diner is a few miles down the road, you can’t miss it, so I suggest you don’t.”

Her mouth was dry and when she finally swallowed enough to be able to speak she didn’t dare take her eyes off the road ahead of her. “How…how did you get the car?” she knew how risky it was asking him questions, but she hoped his need to prove himself would outweigh him figuring out she was digging for information.

He gave a low chuckle and she felt the way the gun moved as he laughed. “I had a friend rent it for me before he had to leave town suddenly.”

A shiver went down her spine as she realized it was Dr. Howard, the psychologist who must have done it for him. One final act of blackmail before he was allowed to disappear. That also must have been where Nate had gotten the sedative and supplies from as well, Howard would have had access to drugs at the facility where he worked.

He was silent for a long moment and she tried to keep her attention on not missing the diner, which was hard with him so close and the gun pushed into her so hard it hurt.

“I hope you don’t think anyone is looking for you.”

Her chest tightened and her lungs felt like they had seized. It was the complete ease in how he’d said it. He was so sure he was safe. So sure no one was coming after them. She wondered if that’s why he’d decided that it was okay for him to take her out.

“I’ve kept up with the news…there’s no mention, especially outside of Starling. It’s like…you just disappeared and no one cares. So if you think people in the diner are going to recognize you because your pretty picture has been splattered all over the twenty four hour cable channels, think again.”

She knew he was wrong. She didn’t know why it hadn’t made the news. Her abduction she could almost understand being overlooked by the media, but Nate had tried to kill one of the richest men in the world. Twice. She knew it wasn’t possible for the F.B.I to give up their search.

But she couldn’t deny that a part of her wondered why, and wondered if maybe she hadn’t been forgotten.

She angrily swiped away a tear, hating how he saw and smirked and then mentally chided herself. Oliver hadn’t forgotten her. She knew that in her soul. He and Digg were doing everything in their power to find her, she just had to stay alive long enough for that to happen and do whatever she could to help them however she could.

The road curved again and when it straightened out she could see the diner ahead on the right. Pulse once again rising she pulled into the parking lot and found an empty spot a few spaces down from the door. There were a half dozen other cars parked out front and a half dozen more towards the back. Everything in her screamed to get out and run, to yell for help, and plead with someone to call the police, but she knew it would be suicide so she sat and waited.

Her eyes flicked to the front and the large awning over the door to the building. When she read the sign she couldn’t help the words that spilled past her lips, “Oh my god, Nate. Oh my god…it’s the…it’s the same name. How?! How could you have…”

For a second she thought he’d taken her back home. Because some how she was staring at the Ashford Diner, the same exact diner he and Jenny had been on their way to on that horrible day seven years earlier. But then logic kicked in and she remembered that the diner had closed and this looked nothing like their hometown three thousand miles away.

Somehow though he’d found a town with the same name, that had a diner and would work as a good enough substitute to play its part in this dark charade of his. She’d never known there was a town with the same name near Starling. Ashford wasn’t even technically where she grew up, it was the next town over, but it was where the movie theatre was and where most of the kids from her school would end up most nights.

She had no idea how far away from Starling she was just then. She’d never noticed Ashford before on any map or mentioned anywhere which meant it was either hours away or so small it didn’t register. It was more than likely a combination of the two she surmised.

If what Nate said about the news was true, and he’d brought her to this place, coupled with how long she’d been held…a sinking feeling in her stomach made her want to curl up in a ball and sob. No one had made the connection, no one had figured out where she was and it had been days. Not Oliver, not the F.B.I, not the SCPD.

She physically shook her head to rid herself of her negative thoughts, wincing as a throb of pain shot through her skull. Whatever he’d been dosing her with had left her with a residual headache that didn’t want to go away. She couldn’t afford to think like that. The only way she had a chance of surviving was to keep her head and not give up.

Cautiously she turned the car off and looked over at him. He gave her a knowing look, one that said 'You’ve lost,“ as he pulled his hand back and tucked the gun back inside his jacket. Then she watched, half fascinated, half frightened as he shut his eyes tight and then opened them again looking like an entirely different person.

"Ready to go, Jen?” he said, light and normal like nothing was wrong but she knew. She knew that if she tried to make a run for it he wouldn’t hesitate to kill her.

Not trusting her voice she nodded and reached for the door handle. “Hey!” he said loudly and she froze, “Sit right there and I’ll come open it for you. I am a gentleman after all.”

She didn’t know if that was really how Nate had acted with Jen or if he was just trying to keep control over her movements, but either way she let her hand fall back to her lap as she waited.

He held his free hand out to her and she had no choice but to take it, barely letting her fingers touch his as she climbed from the car. A twinge of pain came from her ribs but she ignored it and focused on the man in front of her who was smiling broadly.

“You love this place, babe! Remember, the last time we were here you didn’t think I could drink that entire milkshake in under two minutes, but I did.” he leaned over and brushed a kiss over her cheek before she could react, the place where his lips had touched her feeling like a brand. She wanted nothing more than to reach up and scrub her face raw to rid herself of the contact but she couldn’t.

When his hand landed on her elbow she did react. She skittered to the side two steps like a spooked horse, hating that he’d touched her there. That was the spot where she was used to feeling Oliver’s warm, supportive hand as they walked the halls of QC or even sometimes in the lair. It was always gentle, and comforting, and a way for him to connect to her. Nate touching her in the same place made her want to be ill.

For a second his mask fell and she saw the Nate from the motel room and the car, the one that wouldn’t hesitate to kill her, and she knew that man was always right there just below the surface.

“Sorry, I guess I tripped,” she said in a small voice, and tried not to shudder as he wrapped an arm behind her, making sure she was a little bit ahead of him as they walked.

“Let’s go, I’m starving and I’m sure you are too.” he replied, propelling her forward.

Walking into that diner and seeing other people for the first time in almost a week made her knees weak and all the air to get stuck in her lungs. The beginnings of a panic attack were setting in, and just as a server approached them he leaned in to whisper in her ear, “Get it together or that poor woman is going to have to watch you die.”

She dropped her head and shut her eyes tight, fingers twined together so tightly her nail beds were going white and she couldn’t hear whatever he was saying to the woman. Then they were moving. She was still struggling to get control of her emotions and find a way to make it through the meal without pushing him too far. His hand landed heavy on her shoulder and she slid into a booth, knowing without looking that as he sat across from her the gun was trained on her the entire time.

A menu entered her field of vision, covering the scratched and cracked formica she had been staring at. She picked it up automatically to give her hands something to do but he smacked it back down and gave the server a charming smile. “We know what we want.”

Before she could open her mouth he was ordering for her. Then the woman was looking at her with kind eyes, “Anything else, dear?” The nametag crookedly pinned to her pink blouse said 'Debbie’, and her too frizzy hair had mostly escaped the clip she’d used to pull it away from her face.

“Um…a cup of coffee?” she said, the need for something warm filling her making her ask, but Nate shot her a look that spoke of nothing but venom and darkness and she scrambled to fix her mistake. “I’m sorry, no. No coffee. I’m fine.”

Debbie shot her a strange look but just nodded and tapped her pen to her pad before she turned and left.

“Babe, you hate coffee, you know that.” he said in that too normal, too light voice that made her stomach flip. “The caffeine keeps you up and makes you all jumpy.”

“Sorry…silly mistake.”

“I got you what you need, don’t worry.”

Then he proceeded to just talk, about anything and everything. They were topics she suspected he would have talked to Jenny about. He mentioned friends she wasn’t familiar with, and dinner with Jenny’s parents the following week. Felicity did her best to follow along and nod or make an agreeable noise every now and then, but Nate didn’t seem to expect her to participate in the conversation. Whatever was in his head, however this all worked out, her sitting there dressed like a dead woman seemed to be enough for him.

He ate his food enthusiastically when it came while she could only push hers around the plate, knowing if she took more than few bites it would probably come back up. She did drink almost the entire soda he’d ordered for her, wondering if dehydration wasn’t part of the problem with her head, or if the dryness in my mouth and throat were just from fear.

He was almost done with his meal and there had been no opportunity, no chance for her to actively do anything that would get her away from him. The threat of getting in that car and driving back to the motel with nothing having changed scared her to her core.

The sign for the restrooms was straight ahead of her and she knew she had to try.

Clearing her throat she laid her napkin on the table and looked up, “Nate, would it be okay if I went to the ladies’ room?” her voice was tight, but amazingly calm,

He choked slightly on his food and wiped his mouth hastily before he leveled her with a harsh look, “Hold it.”

“I…I can’t, I’m sorry.” she gave what she hoped was an uncomfortable, pained expression and shifted in her seat.

The veil of cold rage that crossed his face sent a bolt of terror through her. He leaned in close and clamped a hard hand over her wrist making her wince.

“You go straight there and come straight back. Five minutes. Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t try anything or that little girl sitting over there is going to suddenly lose her mother.”

Heart in her throat she looked to her right to see a happy young family enjoying their meal, a woman about her own age smiling down at a young girl around three. He’d only ever threatened her before, but this was the same man that had killed Monroe in cold blood, and she knew he’d do it again.

“I understand. I won’t try anything.” she promised,

Nate nodded once and tilted his head back quickly telling her to go.

She didn’t waste any time. She was out of the booth and halfway down the aisle before she came to herself with a jolt and slowed her pace enough so she could pay attention to everything around her.

The ladie’s room was to the right down a short hallway and at the end was a door to the kitchen. As much as she wanted to run in there and out the back she knew she couldn’t. Nate would kill that poor woman, she knew it, and she couldn’t have someone else’s death on her conscience.

She pushed into the bathroom and saw their server, Debbie, standing at the sink, washing her hands. She gave Felicity a distracted smile and was about to move past her when an idea struck.

“Please, do you have a phone I could borrow for just a few minutes?” she tried to not sound desperate but she knew her tone was far from normal.

The woman gave her a once over and stepped closer, “You okay, dear? I hope you don’t mind me saying but that guy you’re with…something’s not right there is it?”

Felicity blanched and Debbie quickly began talking again, “I understand. I’ve been where you are. Took a broken nose and a black eye for me to finally decide to get out.” her hand came out and rubbed up and down Felicity’s arm, “You deserve better than him, trust me.”

All she could do was nod, as panic filled her, she could not be responsible for him hurting anyone else.

“Here,” a small pink flip phone that had seen better days was pressed into her hands, “Make your call. And don’t worry, I’m not going to say anything to him. I know how short a fuse those types can have and you look like you’d get blown over in a stiff breeze. Just leave it on the counter when you’re done, no one here will touch it. I’ve got enough time for a smoke before I have to be back so take your time.”

She was gone before Felicity could mumble out a thank you and with hands shaking so badly she could barely punch the numbers she called Oliver and waited.

It took three rings before she heard his voice and then she was so overcome she almost couldn’t speak.

“What?” he answered sharply, he sounded rough and worn but it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever heard.

She let out a ragged half sob and heard his sharp intake of breath, “Oliver!”

“Felicity?! Is that you? Are you okay? Where are you? Are you hurt?” the panic and stress was almost palpable and her breath hitched as she tried to draw enough air into her lungs.

“Oh god, Oliver! I…don’t have enough time.” her eyes blinked rapidly as she wiped continuously at her face, knowing she couldn’t go back to the table looking like she’d cried.

“Has he hurt you? Where are you?” he demanded again and she could hear the desperation, it sounded like it was choking him and she had to tramp down everything in her that wanted to curl up in a corner and wait for him to find her.

“I only have a minute. I’m in Ashford. It’s a small town, I don’t know where. There’s a motel off the main road. Room 20.” she didn’t know how she got it all out without breaking down,

“We’re on the way, Digg figured it out and we’ll…dammit we’re almost two hours away. I’ll call the local police-”

“NO! You can’t! Oliver…he’s unstable, you don’t…you don’t understand and…he’s got…oh god, he’s got Monroe’s gun. I think he killed him.” she was begging, pleading, because the local sheriff tearing into the place was the worst thing that could happen.

Oliver sucked in breath and made a horrible, noise that sounded like it had come from deep in his chest, “Felicity…” the syllables of her name emerged from him like separate entities and in each one was an entire conversation. It was enough to break her heart.

A fist pressed against her sternum hard because it felt like she was about to break as she stood hunched over in the small diner bathroom knowing she only had seconds before she had to hang up.

“Oliver I…I have to go now. I’m out of time. I’m sorry. He can’t know I called…”

“FELICITY! NO!” he roared,

“I’m sorry. I lo…I’m so sorry. Just hurry.” she whispered and before she couldn’t she hit end.

Great gasping sobs left her lungs to the point she had to cover her mouth with both hands in an attempt to muffle the noise as she crouched in front of the sink, before she had to grasp desperately at the slick counter in an effort to keep herself somewhat upright. She counted to ten and then forced herself to stand.

The woman who stared back in the mirror was almost unrecognizable. With short stilted movements she splashed cold water on her face, and tried to erase the worst of the evidence of her breakdown.

Feeling light headed and almost like she was no longer in her own body she looked once more at the phone she was forced to leave on the counter and opened the door.

Nate had moved so that he could see her as she walked back, and he waved one hand in greeting when he saw her. Under the table she saw his left hand tucked into his jacket, the gun pointed across the aisle at the woman he’d threatened to kill.

There were three booths between them when a group of six people suddenly got up to leave, making her draw up short, and blocked her from Nate’s view.

One turned to mutter an apology and she dropped her head away to avoid making eye contact. The steak knife that rested against the edge of the table she was standing next caught her attention and before she could think it through she grabbed it by the handle and slid it up the sleeve of her shirt, the cool metal against her skin helping to settle her nerves as the people moved out and Nate could once again see her.

He was already standing when she reached their table. “Good girl,” he said, “Ready to go?”

He didn’t wait for a response, just guided her to walk before him again, making sure she knew where the gun was as they left the diner. She kept her forearm curled in towards her middle, trying to hold it naturally. Every step they took out of the public eye left her colder and more scared.

But as she got in the car, she felt the sharp prick of the blade she had hidden and for the first time in days she suddenly had hope.

Oliver was coming, and she had a weapon. All she had to do was make it through the next two hours.

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