Times Like These

Chapter 24

Oliver was there, finally. Everything she had wanted and wished for and needed; the one thought that had kept her fighting was in front of her and she wasn’t sure she believed it.

Slowly she began to recognize he was with her. She could feel the warmth of his hands seep into her skin, his breath coast over her face, and heard the ragged desperate way he said her name as he pressed his forehead into hers. He sounded scared. She had never heard him like that before.

It was hard to focus her eyes on his, and when he drew back slightly she found herself staring at the zipper of his jacket. His body language changed, his hands gripped her tighter when she heard the word 'No’ come from like a curse she turned her head slowly to see him studying the gun that still lay across her middle.

The chill that had overtaken her spread further as a wave of wretched tasting guilt swirled in her gut. He knew what she’d done.

“Oliver…I killed him. I killed him Oliver…” her voice sounded strange to her ears, like it wasn’t hers and the words belonged to someone else. “Oliver…I…I killed him. Oliver,” she didn’t know why she kept saying his name, maybe because she’d gone so long with only saying it in her head and not out loud, or maybe because she somehow knew it was the only thing keeping her sane just then.

The pain in his normally soft blue eyes made her heart clench, but when his hand cupped her cheek she couldn’t help but turn into his touch, “Shhh, don’t try and think about that right now, okay, you’re safe.”

She let her eyes fall shut and heard him yell at Digg to find the key to the cuffs.

“What did that sick son of a bitch do to her?” Digg said harshly, and then all she felt was a white hot flare of fire across her arm as it was lowered and blood began circulating again.

She tried to keep from getting sick as they worked around her. Her body was shifted down in the bed and then Oliver was somehow on her other side, wiping away tears she hadn’t known were there.

“Felicity, look at me, focus on me, okay?” he ordered just before there was a tug on her sleeve and the sound of ripping fabric.

It was hard to keep her eyes open, but Oliver looked so worried and so scared she tried for him.

“Where are you hurt? Did he shoot you?” he asked, and she grounded herself on the feel of his touch and the sound of his voice,

“I don’t know, maybe?” she answered honestly. Her struggle with Nate was a blur and felt like it had been over within seconds. As the adrenaline left her system the sedative seemed to be trying to take hold.

Cool hands were on her wrist and Digg’s muttered curse made her turn her head to see him looking at her forearm. There were numerous cuts, some deeper than other from where the knife had cut her as she’d kept it hidden.

“I did that,” she offered, knowing they thought it was something Nate had done, “I stole a knife. From the diner. I stole a knife and I hid it.”

Digg’s dark eyes shuttered shut for a second before he dropped a hand atop her head, but she saw a flash of pride mixed with sadness cross his face.

Digg understood. Not that Oliver didn’t, but she knew it was going to be harder for him. “I had to kill him. I didn’t want to but…I…” she stuttered out, unable to finish, but one look from Digg and she knew she didn’t need to.

“I know,” it was absolution, and understanding, and approval wrapped in two words, and it was exactly what she needed to hear just then.

She could feel Oliver’s gaze as it bored into her but it took a long moment before they all breathed again, and then Digg was looking at her arm and Oliver was pushing loose hair out of her face.

Her hand found the sleeve of Oliver’s jacket and held on tight, trying not to cry out at every pull or twinge of pain she felt.

“It was a bullet, but I can’t tell if it’s a graze of if it’s still in there.” he said as he stood back and turned towards the door. “Med kit is in the car, I’ll get it and call Lance too…let him know. Local P.D should at least come secure the scene and send an ambulance.”

“NO!” the word was ripped from her throat and she tried to pull herself upright, “No ambulance, no hospital.” the thought of being separated from Oliver for any reason made her panic,

“Felicity…” Oliver began but she whipped her head towards him and pleaded,

“Oliver, please,” her throat was so thick the words were barely audible, “Let Digg fix me. I want to go home. Please let me go home.”

She could see the battle that waged within him, the part of him that wanted to put her in the car and head straight back to Starling, and the part of him that wanted her bundled off to the hospital to have every possible test run to make sure she’d be okay.

When his strong arms suddenly slid underneath her and a low rumbling sound grew from deep in his chest as he picked her up she knew some decision had been made.

She tucked her head into his shoulder as he walked towards the door, very purposely not looking anywhere near where Nate still lay. The feeling of security and safety she’d needed the entire time settled over her and it was almost impossible now to keep her eyes open.

She startled when Oliver called her name and told her to wake up, his arms holding her tighter. They were outside, standing in front of the motel room as she looked up to see him staring at her worriedly.

His lips brushed her forehead and then her temple, “I thought I’d lost you,” he breathed out and she could hear the deep seeded fear in his voice, “I need you to stay awake, okay, you’ll be able to rest soon.”

Her eyes pricked with tears at his tone because she could feel the pull of the sedative and knew her body was no longer in any condition to fight it. “I’m sorry,” she said slowly, hating how thick her tongue felt in her mouth, “The sedative…I didn’t get much but…”

“Sedative? What sedative?” he asked sharply, “Felicity, open your eyes!”

“He kept me drugged.” she had to pause and lick her lips twice before she could continue, “For a few days…I don’t know how long.” her head felt like it was too heavy to hold up and she let it fall limp against him, “We fought…he got me in the shoulder…I’m sorry…”

Oliver shouting for Digg was the last thing she heard.

She woke up to raised voices. Voices she recognized though, even if she couldn’t place both of them at the moment. She was warm, and she could feel the rumble of Oliver speaking and it made her smile as she whispered his name. Then she remembered the last time she’d thought he was there, and how she’d woken up to Nate’s hand in her hair and she came to with a start, eyes flying open as she tried to make sense of her surroundings.

“Felicity, you’re safe, it’s over,”

“Oliver? You’re here?” her brain still felt muddled and slow and she was half trapped in her memory,

Calloused fingers caressed her cheek as he looked down at her, “Yeah, we found you. Digg and I found you. You called me, remember?”

She narrowed her eyes trying to recall, “The diner, I called you from the diner.” she said slowly as it began to come back to her, “The nice waitress, she let me use her phone.” as long as she lived she’d be grateful to the woman for helping her. Then in a flash she remembered everything. A shock went through her body, as she went instantly numb “Oh god, Oliver…I…”

That was all she got out before she felt her stomach revolt. Her head buzzed with static and she was only vaguely aware as he tipped her to the side, strong hands making sure she didn’t fall. Someone else moved her hair out of the way and held her head, but all she could do was make horrid noises as she dry heaved.

She’d killed Nate. She’d taken a life.

Feeling gradually returned to her limbs. Oliver was whispering comforting words into her ear as he held her and she focused on his voice as she tried to calm her ragged breath. When she felt like she could she lifted her head some to see Quentin Lance kneeling before her.

He had a sad smile on his face and looked more haggard than usual.

“Det…Detective?” she stammered out, not fully understanding at the moment how he was there,

He reached out to adjust the blanket that lay over her legs before he spoke, “Hey sweetheart, glad we got you back.”

The words were simple, but she understood what he was saying. There was a look of understanding in his eyes, one that told her he wasn’t sorry she was the one that had made it out of that motel room alive, and she shouldn’t be either.

She couldn’t deal with that just then. The guilt was trying to eat her up.

Her eyes flicked over his shoulder, down to the bandage on her arm, and then up to Oliver, “Where’s Digg?” she asked, not even hiding her attempt to ignore what Lance had said.

“He’s talking to the agents that who’ve been working the case. But he fixed you up first,” Oliver told her

“Speaking of agents…” Lance began slowly and she felt her heart plummet, “I know you might not feel up to it, but you’re going to need to give a statement.”

She felt the blood drain from her face at the thought of having to tell anyone what had happened. Oliver went rigid beneath her, rumbling vibrations from his chest announcing his displeasure. She knew how upset he had to be and she wanted to be able to ease his worry, to assure him everything was fine, but she knew it wasn’t. She wasn’t fine. She didn’t want to have to talk about what happen. To have to relive the worst experience of her life.

Lance was talking again but she couldn’t understand anything, only hear the shifting tones of the words.

Her body shook, much like it had when she was still trapped on that bed. “Do I have to?” she almost didn’t recognize the pitiful voice as her own. A great rush of air left Oliver’s lungs and she felt him slip a hand into her hair, gathering her towards him.

For a brief moment the world was shut out. All she knew was the smell of leather, and safety as she pressed her face into his neck. She could feel the pressure of his fingers as they pressed into her scalp, and could feel his breath as he murmured into her ear, but the blood was rushing too hard for her to hear anything until a high pitched siren broke through.

She winced and turned into him further, the sound muffled when he covered her ear with his hand.

If she hadn’t felt every muscle in Oliver’s body go as rigid as steel she wouldn’t have looked up, but she’d been with him too long not to trust his reactions.

She turned her head to the left and saw people everywhere, and three of them were heading right towards her.

If she had been more aware she would have recognized the three men as paramedics. She would have registered the ambulance in the background, and the men in uniform, and the dark blue bullet proof vests with F.B.I across the back. But all she saw were strangers, and a threat. Some sort of noise broke through her panic and she realized it came from her own throat.

Then Digg was there and he and Oliver were using tones they only used when they hunted down bad guys.

“Give her some space and let me brief you,” Digg said sharply, but there was still a dark shape coming towards her until he slapped out a palm and physically stopped him, “Hey, man, you need to listen!”

It was too much. Too many voices. Too many people. She just wanted Oliver. She wanted it to be quiet, in her head more than anywhere, but she mostly wanted quiet and to know he was with her. She wrapped her good hand in his jacket and used it to pull herself closer into him, tucking her head under his chin and concentrating on the beat of his heart.

“I just want to go home. I want it all to be over,”

She hadn’t realized she’d said it out loud until she heard his strained voice, “It’s almost over. I promise.”

Her body relaxed some and she sank into him even further as she tried to push the panic away and focus on what she’d seen instead. Ambulance. Men with red crosses on their jackets and med kits in their hand. The F.B.I. and the sheriff. Lance, and Digg, and Oliver. All the people she’d wanted and needed for days were finally there. But she couldn’t help but think it was all too late.

Digg’s calm voice broke her from the rapid downward spiral of her thoughts.

“Hey, they have to look you over, okay. They’re not going to touch your arm, and they’re not going to take you to the hospital.” he paused and she knew he wanted to see her.

Slowly and with bursts of pain shooting up and down her arm she turned back towards him, seeing him at eye level with her. For a second he let his mask slip and she saw how tired he was, and how worried he’d been. His gaze flashed to Oliver before he scrubbed a hand over his face and looked back at her. “But you’re going to have to go lay on the stretcher, okay?”

A rough noise of protest came from her chest and Oliver was suddenly on his feet like he wanted to bolt, and he had every intention of taking her with him.

Her eyes shut tight as she tried to quell the terror she’d felt at being separated from Oliver.

“Oliver, we don’t have a choice. Let them check her out and get it over with. She could probably use some fluids which we don’t have with us.” Digg said under his breath, but she heard every word.

Lance was the next to speak, “Sorry, they need at least a basic statement today.” Oliver was fairly trembling with ill suppressed rage. She knew he felt responsible. She knew he’d been killing himself with guilt since the moment he’d known she was missing. He was barely hanging on by a thread, much like herself. But if they both fell apart she didn’t know what would happen.

“Let’s get it over with,” Digg cajoled, and she caught what was unsaid. The sooner this is taken care of the sooner they could leave.

Like a switch had been flipped she swallowed heavily and shut her eyes tight while she shoved away every bad thought, every feeling of panic that made her want to flee. She was analytical, she was logical. She could tell them what they needed to know as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

When Oliver looked down at her she saw his brows draw together in surprised confusion. “I can do it,” she told him,

The wave of sadness that crossed his face made her heart clench, “You shouldn’t have to.”

For some reason those words broke through and she was unable to stop the high, barking laugh of disdain that came out. “Shouldn’t have to do a lot of things. Don’t have a choice,” she said resignedly as she tried to ignore the memories that tried to assault her. Memories of doing too many things she shouldn’t had to do.

It was the forlorn, almost broken expression on Oliver’s face that tore her from her own misery. He was looking right through her, lost in his own hell and it wasn’t until she brushed her fingers across his too long stubble and whispered his name that he came back to her.

For a split second she saw all the pain he’d been trying to hide from her before he curled over her, burying his face in her neck. “I missed you,” he murmured throatily,

Tears pricking her eyes she turned into him until her lips made contact with his skin, “I missed you,” She’d do this. If not for herself then for him, because they both needed this to be over. “I can do this,”

He pulled back with a gasp and before she could blink he’d kissed her. It was quick and too hard, and over too soon, but her lips burned and a rush of warmth filled her. She watched as he rapidly blinked reddened eyes before he lifted his head and and looked at Lance and then to another man who had joined them who she had to assume was the agent in charge.

“She gets upset at all and this is over.” he ordered, voice harder than she’d ever heard it before.

There were nods of agreement and then Digg was leading them to the ambulance.

Oliver stalked in his wake, and easily climbed in the back with her in his arms. He hesitated before he laid her on the empty stretcher, his lips brushing her forehead. “I’m not going anywhere,” and then he was lowering her, his hand slipping out from underneath her legs first before he cupped the back of her neck and gently laid her flat.

Her hand flashed out and caught his, holding on tight as she felt her chest constrict and her breathing grew shallow.

He smoothed a warm palm over her head, “You’re safe, I’m right here.”

She gave him a tight lipped nod, and gripped him tighter.

“Sir, you’ll need to step out while we-”

The paramedic who had climbed in behind them didn’t get to finish as Oliver locked a glare worthy of the Arrow on him. “I’m not leaving.”

“Please, I want him to stay,” she said in the strongest voice she could muster.

The medic sighed, and she took his agreement to the arrangement by the way he started to gather his equipment.

Oliver’s focus was back on her, and at first she barely noticed as her pulse and oxygen levels were checked. It was when the medic moved to her other side and began to feel around her skull that she was struck with a memory of Nate touching her hair and she startled badly.

She jerked towards Oliver, who was already shooting out a hand to stop the medic from continuing. “Please…please don’t touch my hair. He…he touched my hair…I can’t.”

Oliver looked like he’d be more than happy to put an arrow in the man, who was frozen in place. But he gave her a sympathetic smile and backed off.

After that he announced everything he was going to do and made sure she was okay with it first. When he wanted to start an I.V to give her fluids she balked. It took Oliver leaning over and talking to her quietly. Telling her they were almost through, and that he had the plane waiting to take them back to Starling.

That had caught her attention. While the medic readied her hand Oliver began to tell her how they had thought to look for her in Ashford.

“Mostly blind luck,” he said with a shake of his head. “There hadn’t been a real lead for days. The profiler was convinced you’d been taken back east, and that’s where the F.B.I was focusing most of their efforts. Digg and I had been pouring over every bit of evidence we had when a call came in from Lance. He said they had received an anonymous tip that Samuels had been spotted in a town about three hours from here and he was going to ride along.” Oliver’s thumb constantly moved over the back of her hand as the medic inserted the port and began to hook up the bag of fluids.

Her eyes had shut when the needle had gone in and she swallowed down bile as she remembered Nate repeatedly drugging her.

Feeling shaky and lightheaded she forced herself to look at Oliver, “It was obviously a bad lead. And it doesn’t explain how you knew to come here.”

“Digg was looking at a map of the surrounding area, just happened to see the name of the town and remembered he’d seen the same name on the diner menu from the backpack in the plaza. We decided to come on a whim and check it out. Honestly I think Digg was just trying to get me out in an attempt to clear my head a bit.” Oliver bowed his head and she saw a dark cloud of guilt fill his eyes,

“What?” she wriggled her fingers from his grasp and laid her hand on the back of his neck, gently pulling her nails through the short hairs.

“We’re six hours from Starling. We shouldn’t have driven. We could have been here faster and…”

“Hey, you had no reason to think I was here, you said so yourself. Don’t take on blame that’s not yours.” she said softly. They couldn’t do this now. She couldn’t have a breakdown in the back of an ambulance.

He was quiet for a long time, and neither of them noticed when the medic slipped away.

She was about to tell him to go get the agent when the man stepped inside, ducking until he could sit on the low bench.

“Ms. Smoak, I’m Agent Jackson and I’m in charge of the task force based out of Starling City.”

She nodded in reply and could feel her heart rate begin to rise.

“Mr. Queen I’m going to need you to step out while I take Ms. Smoak’s statement.”

The tension in the small space rose quickly as Oliver shook his head and said 'No’.

“Mr. Queen…” Jackson began again but Oliver just leveled him with a glare, which Jackson decided to ignore. “I understand this is difficult, but I am already compromising by conducting the interview here instead of insisting that Ms. Smoak be taken to the nearest field office and debriefed immediately, which is typically how things would go in a situation like this.”

“I would like to see you try,”

Agent Jackson’s eyes flashed, he was clearly not used to be challenged, “Sir, I will get the statement one way or the other.”

Oliver fingers tightened almost painfully over hers and she could feel the anger running off him in waves. “You can threaten to have her transported. But if you do that I’d like to remind you that I have the Defense Secretary’s private number, and Queen Consolidated’s Applied Sciences division holds quite a few defense contracts. It would be unfortunate if those contracts were terminated and the research lost because certain members of the government couldn’t conduct themselves satisfactorily.”

Her head turned to look at Oliver in shock. She’d heard him threaten people as Arrow numerous times, but never had she seen him do the same as Oliver Queen, CEO.

Jackson looked away, his jaw tightening as he considered Oliver’s words, “Mr. Queen, I do not wish to cause Ms. Smoak any further stress. But I also cannot allow you to be present when she gives her statement.”

“Oliver, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.” she said quickly, trying to diffuse the situation as much as she could. She’d seen Oliver on edge before, but nothing like this.

He tore his gaze from the agent and whipped his head to look at her, “Felicity…”

She tried not to let the hurt in his expression phase her. She knew he just wanted to protect her and keep her safe, and she knew he thought he’d already failed at that and was doing everything in his power to fix it now, but it still stung to see the slight betrayal in his eyes.

“Shit,” he muttered under his breath when she was unable to hide her reaction, “No, I…I just need you…” he cut himself off and shut his eyes tight for a moment, “Are you sure?”

“I just want it over with.”

“Okay,” he agreed, “I’ll be right out there if you need me.” he said forcefully before he brushed his lips over her cheek and was gone.

Agent Jackson waited until Oliver had cleared the end of the ambulance and moved closer. She let out a long controlled breath through pursed lips. She could do this.

“I’m sorry to have to do this now Ms. Smoak.”

“It’s okay, I understand. But he…he kept me drugged, I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell you everything you want.”

“Don’t worry about that right now. Why don’t you start at the beginning with what you do remember.”

There was something about him that reminded her a little bit of Lance and she felt herself relaxing slightly.

Slowly and haltingly she began to talk. She told him about being drugged for days, only being allowed to come out of the sedative long enough to eat. She told him about how Nate didn’t talk to her until the day before when he told her about his plan. Tears slipped down her face when she recounted being forced to dress like Jenny, and how she found out he’d killed Monroe. By the time she got to the confrontation after the diner she was barely speaking above a whisper, having to restart her sentence three times before she could tell his plan to kill her and himself in an attempt to end it all.

“He was going to kill me. He had the knife and I had one hand cuffed to the bed…I grabbed the gun and fired.”

“It was self defense, Ms. Smoak. You did everything you could.”

“That may be but the end is still the same, I killed my cousin.”

He nodded gravely, “Is there anything else you can tell me about the week you were missing? Anything that might give us some insight into his thought process?”

Felicity blinked in confusion, “Week? I’m sorry?”

He didn’t seem to understand what she was asking, “Yes, the week you’ve been held captive. Is there anything else you remember?”

“No…you’ve got it wrong. He had me only three or four days. I re…” her hand covered her mouth as her stomach dropped,

Jackson leaned in, concern creasing his brow but she barely saw him. “Ms. Smoak, you’ve been missing for over a week. The kidnapping occurred last Saturday, it’s now the following Sunday.”

Immediately she was overwhelmed by terror. Images of what Nate could have done to her in those days where she was hardly conscious ripped through her head one after another until she felt like she was drowning. He’d touched her, he’d dyed her hair. She knew he’d changed her clothes, but what if it had been more than once. What if it had been more than that?

There was a sharp pain in her hand and then pressure before Oliver’s hoarse, frightened voice finally broke through to her. “Felicity! You’re safe! You’re okay!” he shouted, hands cupping her face,

“A week?” she gasped out between sobs, “A week? Oliver…I didn't….I didn’t know! I didn’t know!” she collapsed against him, clutching at his jacket, “I didn’t know it had been that long. What did he do to me? I can’t remember! What did he do?”

She was lifted from the stretcher and she was only somewhat aware of Oliver’s short, stilted movements to get her out of the ambulance as quick as possible.

“We’re leaving. Now.” he ground out,

Her chest was tight and tiny white sparks shot across the back of her eyelids as she tried to draw a full breath and failed.

She was set on something cool and then Oliver was leaning over her, his hands gripping her shoulder and her neck, “Felicity! Breathe! You’re having a panic attack. Open your eyes and look at me.”

It took more effort than it should have but she got her eyes open, and she could see they were in the car. She was slumped in the backseat with Oliver above her, eyes wild and frightened and Digg turned to face them from the front.

“Listen to my voice, and concentrate on your breaths.”

He was trying to keep his tone even and calm, but she could hear the cracks and the tremors that betrayed him.

Slowly she was able to control her ragged breaths and the high panicky feeling she had began to dissipate.

She began to speak but Oliver stopped her by laying a finger across her lips, “Don’t, don’t talk about it right now.”

With a sigh she let her head fall back as she leaned into his arm.

“Let’s go, Digg.” he said tightly, and gathered her back to him,

Small tremors periodically made her body shake head to toe and each time Oliver would hold her tighter and whisper to her that she was safe, and she could sleep.

By the time they passed the diner, her eyes were half lidded and heavy. By the time they arrived at the airstrip she felt the car stop and the sounds of doors being opened and shut. And by the time the plane took off for Starling she and Oliver were both asleep.


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