Times Like These

Chapter 3

Fear filled her, and it was the echoing of her scream and the rough scrape of it escaping her throat that brought her back to the present. On rubbery legs and lungs that couldn’t seem to take a normal breath she tripped out into the hallway, using the walls for support until she reached the kitchen.

In seconds she had slid on the beat up pair of Chucks she kept by the front door and had grabbed her phone and the gun Digg had left for her. The door may or may not have shut behind her as she raced towards the elevator, heart pounding so hard in her ears the fact that she could hear her erratic breathing let her know how loud she was being.

At the last second she rethought the elevator, her head whipped to the emergency stairs and she was two floors down, gripping the handrail in desperation as her eyes blurred with tears before she remembered a fall night at M.I.T when Nate had attacked her in a stairwell.

When she burst into the lobby it was empty and dread settled low in her chest as she approached the desk, knowing she was going to find the doorman dead on the floor.

But there was no one there. Her head swiveled back and forth as she took in the space around her, fear making her want to run even more.

The main doors opened and the doorman was looking at her with concern. “Ms. Smoak? Is everything okay?” he asked as he approached and then stopped, face paling when he spotted the gun in her hand. “The police were just here, about that boy who’s looking for you.”

“The police?” she asked desperately, “Are they still here?”

She didn’t wait for a response. Her wrists protested the force with which she pushed out of the building but she didn’t notice. All she could see was a cruiser pulled to the curb and a familiar form about to get into the driver’s seat.

Her voice was gone, covered with tears and it took her two attempts before Detective Lance heard her. His head shot up and turned her direction, eyes going wide when he took in her appearance.

She knew he was talking as he hurried to her side but she couldn’t hear him. It wasn’t until she felt him slipping the gun from her hand that she jolted back to herself with a great gasp.

“Ms. Smoak, what happened?” he demanded,

“He was…he was here.” she stuttered out,

“You saw him? He’s here now? Are you hurt?” he asked quickly and all she could do was shake her head, as her chin wobbled at the effort she was exerting to not completely break down.

“Not now. He left something in my bathroom. I just found it.” she managed to say, wrapping her arms around her middle.

Lance never left her side as he radioed for backup. “I’m going to send some officers up to check things out, okay?” he asked and she nodded her consent.

When the second cruiser pulled up he told them quickly what was happening but waited with her while they went up. The shaking that had began as a fine tremor was now making her teeth rattle and she felt like she was walking through a fog as Lance guided her to the front seat of his car and had her sit.

A hand on her knee made her startle and caused fresh tears to splash down her cheeks. Lance was crouched in front of the open door looking at her with concern. “You can’t stay here tonight. The boys will check things out and lock up. Where do you want to go?”

“Oliver’s” she blurted out immediately, and not even the wide eyes of the detective could make her feel self conscious about that. She needed Oliver. She needed to feel safe.

“Okay,” he replied, although she could tell he didn’t approve.

The car door shut next to her and she heard him talking to the other officers before he climbed in and began to drive.

“Does our…friend know about this?” he asked gruffly, “I’m surprised he wasn’t camped out on your fire escape.”

“He knows.” she said softly, and didn’t elaborate. Lance let out an exasperated huff and focused on the road.

A sharp pain in her hand finally made her look down and for the first time she realized she’d had a death grip on her phone. It took her two tries to make her muscles unclench as she stared down at it.

The shaking was growing worse and she couldn’t get her fingers to do what they were supposed to do. Frustration, and anger, and fear all combined within her until she felt like she might explode.

Lance reached over and took it from her, “Trying to call Queen?” he asked and all she could do was nod.

He sighed again and made the call for her. Her hands laced together in her lap as she tried to keep herself from flying apart.

“Queen,” Lance barked out when Oliver picked up and even though she couldn’t hear his actual words she could hear the explosion of sound as Oliver realized it wasn’t her on the line.

“She’s okay. Scared and shaken up but physically fine.” There was a pause where she could hear the low sounds of Oliver’s voice.

“He got in at some point and left something for her to find. That’s all I know right now.” Lance continued, “No. Just settle down. We’ll be there in ten minutes. For some reason she told me to bring her to your place.”

Before Oliver could reply Lance had hung up and the phone was entering her field of vision. She took it back and clung to it again like a lifeline. “I don’t know what you see in that kid.” he said with a shake of his head and she turned to look out the window, knowing she couldn’t have said anything he’d believe anyways.

The closer they got to the mansion the more anxious she became. The shivering grew worse, until the sound of her teeth clanking together made Lance turn the heat on. “It’s the adrenaline wearing off.” he told her, “And maybe a bit of shock. You’re going to be exhausted and feel like hell later.”

She didn’t respond. She just wanted Oliver. Knowing she’d see him in only a few minutes was the only thing keeping her from completely losing hold of the tenuous grip she had on her emotions. As it was tears slipped steadily down her face and she no longer tried to wipe them away.

The main gate was already open and Lance barely slowed as he drove through, making his way down the long winding drive. A desperate noise left her throat when she finally spotted the house and saw Oliver pacing the wide front step. He spun on his heel and hurried down the stairs as the cruiser came to a stop.

She was pushing the door open at the same time Oliver was pulling it and then she was being hauled into his arms.

All the panic she’d been bottling up since Nate had walked out of the elevator earlier that day spilled over and she found herself clutching his shirt as she sobbed into his chest. One of his hands buried itself in her hair as the other wrapped around her back, rubbing soothing circles as she broke down.

She didn’t care that she did all of this in front of Lance. Didn’t care that this was not how the public saw their relationship and this was not how an executive assistant and her boss should behave. Didn’t care that she was also crossing some sort of boundary that she and Oliver had erected ages ago. All that she cared about was with Oliver’s fingers lightly stroking through her hair, and the steady thrum of his heart beneath her ear she finally felt secure.

He was talking to Lance. There was a rumble in his chest as he spoke, and a slight rise and fall but she didn’t actually hear what they were saying. When there was a screech of tires and the slam of a car door she turned her head slightly and looked through wet lashes to see Digg running up to join them.

There was more talking she didn’t really pay attention to until the voices got louder. With effort she lifted her cheek from where it was pressed under Oliver’s chin to see Lance glaring at Oliver.

“I’m handling her protection now.” Oliver practically growled, and she didn’t have to look up to know how serious his expression was.

“Well see that you do.” Lance bit back and then turned and shoved the gun he’d taken from her at Digg.

“Here, she had this on her when she ran out, I’m guessing it’s yours.”

Felicity took a deep breath before she pushed back slightly and wiped her face. Her head was swimming, and she felt weak and shaky but she was determined to face Lance and Digg.

Lance gave her a sympathetic smile, “He’s violated the terms of the restraining order more than once. When he’s caught, he’ll be arrested. I’m still waiting to hear back from the guy who has his case right now and when I do you’ll be the first to know.”

There was a long stretch of silence where Lance and Oliver locked eyes. “Take care of her, Queen.” Lance said roughly before he headed back to his car and pulled away.

Digg and Oliver were doing their silent thing again and she suddenly felt aware of how close she was to Oliver. She shifted her feet slightly to the right until one of his arms was forced to fall away. Unable to feel her legs she didn’t know how she was remaining upright and as soon as she wasn’t pressed against him the tremors started again.

She swallowed heavily and tried to look Digg in the eye, “I’m sorry…I just ran and…” she knew she’d done everything wrong and hadn’t followed any of his directions.

“Hey, you’re safe, that’s all that matters. We’ll go over what happened later, but not right now.”

She nodded warily and didn’t even realized she’d swayed until Oliver’s arm locked around her waist.

“Okay, come on, you can tell me what happened inside. Digg’s going to go talk to the guards about beefing up security tonight.” he explained before she had a chance to ask.

With no protest she let him tug her back to his side, her heavy eyes falling shut much longer than a blink as she rested against him. He pried the phone from her grip and pocketed it before covering her hand with his own. “You’re freezing,” he declared, turning them back towards the door as Digg hurried to his car.

Oliver had managed to get the door open before her knees buckled and white spots danced in front of her eyes. She heard him call her name as he pulled her upright, one hand coming to rest against her cheek. She opened her eyes at his command and saw how worried he was.

“Are you hurt?” he asked and she summoned reserves she didn’t know she had to push strength into her limbs.

“No…just tired, and…” she didn’t know why she felt so slow and sluggish.

“It’s normal.” he assured her, as he ushered her inside into the warmth of the foyer. “Let’s get you upstairs so we can talk.” his voice sounded strained and she looked over his shoulder to see they had an audience. Moira, Thea, and even Roy were watching in rapt attention.

“Oh god,” she moaned and turned her head into his arm wondering how things could possibly continue to get worse.

“Ollie…what’s going on?” Thea asked,

“Nothing you need to worry about.” he told his sister, already moving them to the closest staircase.

“Ollie!” she cried out, clearly not satisfied with that answer, but Roy caught her arm as she went to follow them.

Oliver ignored her as they began to climb the massive set of stairs. Halfway up she stumbled again and he let out a muffled curse before he slipped an arm under her legs and swept her up.

Thea’s gasp echoed in the large space and all Felicity could do was rest her head against his shoulder and shut her eyes. She’d be mortified later. Right then the exhaustion and fear had left her wrung out and unable to care about things like what Oliver’s family might think about the sight of him carrying her up the stairs.

The next thing she knew he was lowering her to a couch and she sat upright with a start, hands going down to grasp his forearms as she looked around the strange room.

“Hey, it’s okay, you’re safe.” he assured her and she felt her heartbeat settle some as she focused on his worried face kneeling before her.

She sank into the plush cushions and let out a shaky breath. Oliver squeezed her hands and then moved to sit next to her.

Her eyes kept trying to shut and it took effort to get them to even open up halfway. “Felicity, I need you to tell me what happened and then you can rest.”

Tears clouded her vision as the memory of seeing that box assaulted her and she screwed her eyes tight and jerked her head to the side like she could throw the thought away.

“What did he leave?” Oliver asked gently and she knew he wouldn’t give up.

“A box…a box of hair dye.” she said brokenly and watched a look of horror mixed with rage cross over his face. “There was a note…”

Oliver’s fingers tightened over hers and before he could speak she pushed ahead. “The color…it was my natural color and…the note said 'Fix it’”

She didn’t realize she was crying again until she was pressed into his chest as he murmured soft words of comfort in her ear.

“He was in my home.” she said thickly, “He got inside….how? How did he do that?”

Oliver held her tighter, “I don’t know. But it’s not going to happen again.”

As she lay against him she knew she should pull back. She knew she should get herself together and thank him and tell him she was fine because the last thing he needed was to worry about her. But she was finally warm, and her fingers couldn’t seem to stop drawing little circles on his shirt no matter how many times she tried to quit, and when he whispered into her hair it wasn’t hard to believe in the things she never let herself dare believe in.

She was half asleep when he sat her back. “Hey, wake up for a few more minutes, okay?” he said quietly, a hand brushing loose hair out of her face. She couldn’t help turning into his touch and she thought he may have stilled but she wasn’t sure.

He waited until she forced open her eyes and gave her a smile when she did. “The bathroom is right there.” he said, pointing to the door on the far side of the room. “I need to go talk to Digg and I’m sure my mother has a few questions as well.”

Not even the thought of him talking about her to his mother drew a reaction from her and he let out a long breath, thumb stroking over her cheek before he rose from the couch. “I’ll be back soon.”

She waited until he left the room and eyed the distance between the bed and the bathroom. The bed was closer and won out.

With stilted, slow steps she made her way to the mammoth California King and didn’t think twice as she pulled down some of the finest bedding and linens she’d ever seen. The lights were still on and she wanted it to stay that way. Her bones felt laden down and all she could think about was sleep. As she slid between the sheets she sighed gratefully and laid her head on the pillow, only vaguely aware that everything smelled like Oliver.

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