Times Like These


Debbie thanked the boys for coming in and told Frank to remind his wife to not be a stranger before she cleared the table, tucking the small tip in her apron pocket. It was her third double shift that week after the new girl had quit and while she was grateful for the extra bit of cash it didn’t mean her aching back wasn’t going to be glad she had the next day off.

It was the end of the lunch rush for the diner and only a few tables lingered, regulars who were retired and had nothing better to do than drink endless cups of coffee and tell the same story over and over.

The ruckus at the motel a few weeks back with the FBI and the dead body had only just died down a couple days ago. Which is why when those usually calm and quiet men began to peer enthusiastically through the window and talk louder she couldn’t help but throw down her towel and come around the edge of the counter.

“What’s all the commotion?” she asked as she approached, now able to hear a low din from outside.

“Who in blazes is landing a helicopter in Ashford?”

“Is it landing or is it crashing?”

“I flew birds in Korea, it ain’t crashing.”

Debbie made her way to the empty table next to the group and pressed her face against the pane as well, not believing her eyes as a small black helicopter kicked up dust and gravel as it landed smoothly in the spaces usually reserved for anyone hauling a trailer.

A man in a grey suit climbed out and after taking a second to button his jacket began to take long strides for the front door.

Debbie had only just turned when the bell chimed and he walked in, eyes narrowing slightly as they adjusted from the bright sunlight he’d just come from.

Even though she was old enough to be his mother she couldn’t help but rake an appreciative eye over him. He was tall and broad and one look told her the suit he wore probably cost more than she’d spent on her car. There was something vaguely familiar about him but she didn’t know why and before she could think too hard on it he was flashing her a charming smile and turning blue eyes her direction.

“Debbie?” he asked with a nod towards her name badge, “Are you the only Debbie who works here?”

Knowing every eye in the place was on her she made her way past the tables and came to stand in front of him, “I am,” she said hesitantly, “Can I help you?”

His eyes blinked shut for a second like a memory had come over him, “You already have,” the words held weight she didn’t understand,

“Do you have a minute? I can wait if you’re busy,” he said with a nod towards the counter,

Partially dumbstruck, partially curious she gave him a small dip of her chin, “I’ve got a minute,”

He headed towards the end of the counter leaving her to follow and when she did he slid a slim book out of his interior jacket pocket, “Debbie, I know this might seem strange, and I can’t offer you much of an explanation but I needed to say thank you.”

“I can’t imagine what for, I’ve never seen you before in my life.”

He looked down suddenly, a tenseness drawing his shoulders up that hadn’t been there before. She noticed he still stood, not bothering to sit on a stool. “A few weeks ago you let a woman use your cell phone.”

She’d almost forgotten it. But she did remember a pale face and sad scared blue eyes and knew she couldn’t say no when the poor thing had asked if she had a phone.

“You know her? Is she okay? I knew that guy she was with was trouble, he reminded me of my ex.”

His hand tightened into a fist as his lips pulled into a thin line, “She’s going to be okay,” he said quietly, before he opened the small book and pulled out a check.

“I needed to say thank you,” the paper was slid across to her and she took it automatically, eyes bulging when she saw the amount.

The man had continued talking but she wasn’t sure she was hearing him, “That should be enough to pay off your mortgage, and let you retire if you’d like.”

He was already tucking the book back into his jacket and moving as if he was about to leave.

“But…why?” she finally got out, still stunned by her name and the row of zeros she saw,

He stilled for a second and then leaned down to brush a kiss over her cheek, “You saved the woman that saved me,”

By the time she blinked again he was pushing through the door, leaving nothing but a trace of his aftershave and a silent diner behind.

With shaking hands she looked between the check and the door, his words echoing in her head as she noticed the name on the check.

Oliver Queen, the billionaire had just walked into her diner and changed her life.

He was just about to climb into the chopper when she caught up with him, “What’s her name?” she blurted out unexpectedly, not what she had intended to say,

He turned in surprise and swallowed once before he answered, “Felicity,” The way he said the word it was like a benediction and a secret spun together to create something only he could define.

“Fitting,” she replied, “Take care of her, Mr. Queen, and tell her to do the same for you,”

A true, broad smile crossed his face at that, “I will,”

Debbie stepped back as he boarded, one hand coming up to shield her eyes from the sun and the wind generated by the helicopter. Her other hand held tight to the check, not daring to loosen her grip.

He gave her a wave before he shut the door and she watched as the helicopter rose easily into the air. She watched until it was nothing more than a distant speck in the sky and then she looked back down at the check she held.

Never would she ever have imagined letting one poor girl use her phone would end like this.

Her mind was already whirling. She’d pay off her house. But then maybe she’d see if she couldn’t do something to help the women in Ashford. She’d never been the type to sit around and do nothing. Retiring at fifty two seemed absurd.

Bracing herself for the thousands of questions sure to be thrown her way once she walked back inside she turned once more to look for the chopper, but it was long gone.

Felicity. It made her think happy thoughts, and made her smile, and she had a sneaking suspicion that the girl she’d met in that bathroom had used her phone to call the man who got on that helicopter.

He said she’d saved him. Maybe by saving her Debbie could save others as well.

But she’d have to hold onto those plans for later. Right then she had to go tell her nosy neighbors about Oliver Queen flying all the way from Starling City to see her.

5 Years later…

Six months after Oliver Queen had literally dropped into her life she was free and clear on her mortgage and had opened a small non-profit women’s center near the county line. Donations were slow to trickle in at first and she hadn’t been certain the doors would stay open a year, but just when she’d been about to lose all hope a certified letter had arrived from the desk of Oliver Queen along with another check.

Every six months after that like clockwork she’d get another letter and another check, enough to keep her afloat and a little extra.

Three years in there was a change though, one that made her smile. That check had been sent from the desk of Felicity Smoak Queen.

Debbie had never tried to contact the Queens, she had never had a need. She’d send the same thank you card she’d send any donor, and quietly put their name on a plaque in front hall, but the girls from the diner kept a tip jar on the counter for donations and gave it to her whenever it was full and she’d put their names on the plaque as well.

Almost five years to the day another helicopter landed next to the center. The part time receptionist, Molly came running into Debbie’s office with a look of complete shock on her face to tell her.

Peeking through the blinds she saw a sleek black chopper with a white QC logo on the tail parked in the empty gravel lot next door. A large man she instantly knew wasn’t Oliver Queen opened the door and got out before he extended his hand back inside.

The first thing Debbie saw was a shining head of blonde hair as a woman emerged, carefully stepping down and using the man for balance. She gave him a smile and a nod before patting him on the arm and made her way towards the front door.

Debbie was out of her office and down the hallway in an instant, able to make it to the door before her visitor.

She heard animated talking as the two approached the glass door, the man automatically reaching out to open it as the woman continued to talk with her hands, hair flipping over her shoulders as she turned her head.

“I swear Digg, it’s like he can’t function without me there. Two hours and he’s acting like it’s two weeks instead. What’s he going to be like when I’m–” she cut herself off when she saw Debbie standing there waiting and shot the man a look like she had expected him to stop her. He just smirked and took up a position at the door, hands crossed in front of him.

“Wow, I’m sorry, I talk. A lot. And…you’re Debbie, I’d recognize you anywhere.” she said, coming forward with her hand already reaching out, “I’m sorry, I’m Felicity. Felicity Smoak Queen, but I wasn’t a Queen when we met before, just a Smoak.”

“I know who you are, Mrs. Queen,” Debbie replied immediately, thinking how different this woman was than the scared girl she’d helped in the bathroom all those years ago.

“Felicity, please. Mrs. Queen is most definitely my mother in law, not me.”

She walked further into the room and looked around taking in the waiting area, and artwork on the walls. Debbie had started framing and hanging the pictures the children drew while they waited with their mothers.

Felicity had paused in front of one and seemed to be studying it, head cocked to the side, “I’m not supposed to see anything in this one, am I?”

Debbie laughed and joined her, “I’m never sure with that one, although Mikey claimed it was a cow.”

She nodded and kept her eyes fixed on the wall, hands resting over her middle that Debbie had just noticed was only slightly rounded.

“I’d love a tour, if you wouldn’t mind, but could you point me in the direction of the bathroom?” she swiped a hand down, “This ones seems to be parked permanently on my bladder,”

Debbie showed her the way, never expecting the wife of a billionaire to be so open and accessible and normal.

Half an hour later they found themselves back in the lobby. The woman who only minutes earlier had been laughing and smiling was now twisting her hands nervously.

“Debbie…I…you can’t begin to know how much I’ve wanted to come and see you in person before now.” there was a small upturn of her lips as she paused, “You know, it took me a few months before I found out what Oliver had done, flying out here and giving you that check. I was impressed because normally he can’t hide things from me. I asked him why he did it and…” she broke off, tears filling her eyes,

When she didn’t seem like she could finish the sentence Debbie spoke up, “He told me it was because he needed to thank me. Because I had saved the woman who had saved him,” she’d never been able to forget,

Felicity nodded, smile growing wider, “Yeah, every now and then he’s good with words like that,”

“You did save me. I know you probably didn’t think anything of it afterwards but…that phone call…it gave me hope and it gave me strength and because of it I was able to make it out. That’s why I’m here today. As long as this center is here, you’ll have the funding to keep it open.”

Debbie felt tears prick her own eyes and couldn’t help reaching out and taking Felicity’s hands, “I’m glad I could help you. Even if none of this had come about I would still be glad I helped you. But your donations have already done so much…you truly don’t know the impact you’ve had on this community.”

“It’s the least we could do.” Felicity said emphatically and Debbie knew she meant it, “And we don’t expect any sort of recognition. I just felt I had been putting this off too long.” she flashed her eyes to the man she’d come in with as they had a silent exchange Debbie didn’t understand, “But the plaque is a nice touch, Oliver will be pleased to know we’re in between the Rotary club and the bowling league.”

Debbie laughed along with her, “No special treatment here, dear” she promised,

Felicity looked over again and Debbie caught the man waving a cell phone at her. With a sigh she squeezed Debbie’s hands and gave her a long suffering look, “Speaking of leagues…I’m so sorry, but I really do have to be going.”

Debbie walked her to the door to exchange goodbyes and Felicity hadn’t even finished turning around from waving before she was reaching for the phone, “Three calls, Digg? How many texts? Did he call you too? I came here with our pilot, and you, what did he think was going to happen? Did Bruce text? He tends to get grumpy when Oliver gets like this and expects me to fix it. ”

“Felicity, he was like this before, you know that. But now…” he gave a knowing look to her stomach and she sighed as she slipped an arm into the crook of his elbow, “Besides I was coming along whether Oliver said so or not, he’s not the only one who wants to make sure you’re safe, and Bruce just likes to complain.”

Whatever her response was became lost to the wind. Debbie had to settle for watching the two walk back towards the chopper. But she did see the blonde swipe her hair from her face before she leaned her head into the arm of her companion.

In a moment that felt familiar, Debbie watched as the Queen helicopter rose into the air and headed towards Starling City.

With a sigh and a wave she knew they’d never see she made her way back inside, Molly practically running her over as she excitedly gushed about Mrs. Queen’s visit, wondering if it was okay that she’d taken a picture without asking.

She let her fingers trail over the small bronze rectangle that simply said Oliver and Felicity Queen, also liking that they were given the same space as the bowling league. It seemed fitting somehow. She’d resigned long ago that she’d never know the full story. She had her theories about that encounter in the bathroom and the timing of the dead man in the motel room all those years ago. But none of that really mattered now.

As she made her way back to her office she distractedly thought about maybe changing the plaque to saying the ‘Queen Family’ instead.

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