Times Like These

Chapter 6

They only walked through the lobby of Queen Consolidated twenty minutes late and since Oliver didn’t have a meeting until just before lunch it gave her time to get settled and find her feet again. She could feel his eyes on her through the glass but it was comforting more than intrusive, and if anyone thought it odd that Digg was standing sentry near the elevators they didn’t say a word.

She was able to focus the majority of the day. Loud noises made her jump but she covered it quickly even though she knew Digg and Oliver noticed, but they were kind enough not to say anything. She didn’t know if it was that she felt safe there, or that she knew she wouldn’t be going home alone that night. But really she thought more than anything it was that this time no one doubted her. Seven years before she’d been on her own for too long before anyone else took her seriously, and by then it was almost too late. This time there was no question, and that went a long way to healing old wounds she didn’t even know still existed.

Digg had arranged for lunch to be brought in by another member of the Queen’s security staff so they wouldn’t have to go out. They ate in Oliver’s office as she detailed every single search engine, database, facial recognition program, and the other various ways she planned on finding Nate that night when they got to the lair.

Their afternoon was trouble free and soon enough they were making their way back down the executive elevator towards the parking garage. She knew normally Digg picked Oliver up out front for a quicker exit but with the way both of them were casting about vigilant eyes she figured they wanted as controlled an environment as possible.

As soon as she stepped foot in the lair she let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding and felt an immediate sense of relief. Her shoulders lowered, muscles loosened, and the knot in her gut disappeared.

“Better?” Digg asked with a knowing look

“Yeah, nothing like an underground fortress to make you feel secure.” she said as she crossed to her computers with a sure stride and flipped the monitors on.

She lost herself for the next several hours, barely looking up and noticing Oliver and Digg sparring as she searched for Nate. Hitting dead end after dead end she kept going until a heavy hand fell on her shoulder and she looked up in surprise to see Oliver standing next to her, dressed to leave, the smell of the soap he kept in the shower there surrounding him.

“Found anything?” he asked

“No.” she said sharply, taking off her glasses and rubbing at her suddenly tired eyes. “He’s been at the facility for seven years so…no driver’s license, no credit card, no passport, no bank history, no rental cars. Just one plane ticket from Boston to Starling arriving first thing yesterday morning.”

“Facial recognition?” he asked

She made a growling noise low in her throat and spun her chair back to the monitors, pointing to the one at the end, “Still running. I’m sure I’ll pick him up at the airport, but other than that…unless he happens to walk past a CCTV…”

“Any idea where he’s staying?”

“Could be anywhere. If he paid cash he’d be invisible. I even ran my aunt and uncle’s credit cards but there doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. Their bank records are proving more difficult to access, but I should be in there tomorrow.” she scrubbed her hands wearily over her face and slid her glasses back on as she turned her attention to the screens. “He’s basically a ghost.”

Oliver’s hand returned to her shoulder and slid across her back, leaving a trail of heat in it’s path. “Well he’s not going to be able to hide forever. And so far today he doesn’t seem to know where you are. How about we head home?” her head whipped his direction at his use of the word 'home’, but he didn’t seem to have found anything wrong with it and was already standing and pulling her coat off the back of the chair.

“Oliver…” she protested weakly but he leveled her with a look and she knew he wasn’t going to let her stay there alone. “Okay, but let me set it up so I get the alerts on my phone.”

What should have been a five minute job stretched to almost another hour as she thought of a different data mining program she hadn’t used yet that would cross reference anything from Nate or his parent’s past before the seven years he was away to any potential connections he could have now. On a whim she added in the names of his lawyer, the judge who had heard his case, and the psychologist who had claimed he was better.

When large hands suddenly dropped over hers atop the keyboard she gasped and sat back, looking up to see Digg staring at her from the other side of the monitor and Oliver leaning across her from behind.

“I told you I just needed a few minutes.” she said harder than she intended as she jerked her hands away and put them in her lap.

“Felicity, that was an hour ago.” Digg said gently and her eyes flew to the clock to see he was telling the truth.

“Oh, god. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, we know how you are when you get into a zone. But it’s late.” he said and she nodded her agreement.

Oliver was now standing where she could see him and she gave him a sheepish smile and a shrug of her shoulders as she stood. He held her coat out for her and she slid her arms in, trying not to shiver when he pulled her hair out from under the collar. “Don’t worry about it,” he said in a whisper as he leaned close for a second. By the time she felt like she could breathe again he was five steps away and heading for the stairs.

With a sigh she turned her monitors off but left the searches running.

“I’ll be at the mansion tonight.” Digg said and a wave of guilt washed over her,

It must have been splashed all over her face because he caught her arm and waited for her to look at him. “Did you or did you not go to Russia and help me and Lyla break out of a gulag?”

She knew what he was doing and let out a long breath, “I did.”

“And do you or do you not have my back every night I go out there?”

“I do,” her voice was wispy now, and she had to swallow past a lump in her throat.

“Then stop feeling guilty about us helping you.”

“Okay,” she agreed and couldn’t resist bouncing up on her toes so she could press a kiss to his cheek.

He gave a pretend huff of annoyance as they made their way to where Oliver waited at the foot of the stairs. Once again, his hand fell to her lower back as they headed out of the lair.

Neither man talked while Digg drove them back to the mansion and it didn’t take long for her eyes to grow heavy as the stress of the past thirty-six hours and her restless sleep the night before caught up with her.

She woke up to hushed whispers and the soft shutting of a door. There was something solid beneath her cheek and she was somehow moving. When she peeked open her lashes she caught the now familiar sight of the Queen mansion’s foyer, although this time the lighting was low and there was no one watching.

It took her longer than it should have to realize she was moving because Oliver was carrying her again. She pushed one hand into his chest and brought her head up as he stilled. “It’s alright, I’ve got you.” he said quietly and she contemplated doing as he said. His arms were strong and warm under her and being held by him made her heart do flip after flip. But her brain told her she was entering dangerous waters and she should keep things like they had been.

He’d started walking again when she looked ahead and caught sight of Moira Queen, poised at the top of the staircase, looking imperious in a cream silk dressing gown. Her expression gave away nothing, but suddenly the last place Felicity knew she should be was Oliver’s arms.

“Put me down!” she hissed, struggling so fiercely he had no choice but to pause and readjust his grip. “Oliver! Put me down! Your mother is watching and I am perfectly capable of walking. Please, put me down!” her hushed ranting carried in the large space and she had a feeling Moira had heard every word.

Reluctantly he lowered her legs until they touched the next step up from him. His arm remained wrapped around her waist until he knew she was steady and then she turned, face flaming to look at the Queen matriarch.

Oliver joined her on the same step and planted a hand in her back to urge her to keep walking. She stumbled as she moved her leaden feet and he leaned in to whisper, “I thought you said you could walk.”

She shot him a glare and made it the rest of the way up the stairs without incident. When they reached the top she remained silent, not knowing what she could possibly say or what Oliver had already told his mother about why she was there.

But Moira merely spared them a single glance before she looked over Oliver’s shoulder at Digg who was currently bringing her bags in.

“I’ve had the Green Room in the East Wing opened up, Mr. Diggle. You can take Ms. Smoak’s belongings there.” she said evenly although she gave Oliver a look that spoke volumes and Felicity suddenly felt very very ill at ease.

“Mrs. Queen, I’m very sorry for intruding. I can…I can go to a hotel.” she stammered, and whipped her head to look at Oliver, “Really, I can. I can go to a hotel. This is too much. I understand. I shouldn’t have…” before she could stop the words coming out of her mouth or even register that Oliver had taken her by the arm she was looking back at Moira, “I know what you’re probably thinking but Oliver, he’s just being a friend. I don’t know what he told you but there’s someone sort of after me. Well, it’s hard to explain. But my apartment isn’t safe. He broke in there. It wasn’t good. And I appreciate the offer to stay here because…you live in a castle and castles were made to withstand wars, there’s just not a moat. But you’re a Queen, so….” she finally stopped herself and dropped her eyes as tears gathered behind them. She hadn’t been on a ramble that horrible in a long time and of course it would have to be in front of Moira Queen of all people.

“Ms. Smoak, you are more than welcome here. Oliver told me about his concerns for your safety last night. If you need anything please let any member of the household staff know. I hope to see you at breakfast.” she gave Felicity a warm smile and laid a hand on her son’s arm as she passed.

They were both quiet until she disappeared from sight and then Felicity whirled on Oliver. “Oh my god! Why didn’t you stop me? Why didn’t you say anything?” she cried as she swatted at his arm. She felt embarrassed and like she was about to burst into tears as her frazzled nerves were rubbed raw from the encounter.

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t exactly sure how.” he admitted, looking genuinely lost and she had to stop and smile as she sagged against him slightly.

Digg was waiting at the end of the hall and they passed by Oliver’s room which she tried to ignore. It would be so easy to just turn left, and crawl between the familiar sheets she’d been so comfortable in just that morning.

Feeling Oliver’s eyes on her she quickly cleared her throat and looked ahead, but not before glancing at him and seeing something she didn’t expect. He looked like he may have been having the same thought.

It felt like ages before Digg turned down two more hallways and finally stopped in front of a door. Oliver gave a rueful shake of his head as he turned the handle, “Literally on the other side of the house. I think my mother is trying to prove a point.”

He pushed in and flipped a light switch illuminating a room that was almost the size of her entire apartment. It had green brocade wallpaper, and a four poster bed with a comforter so thick it looked like if she lay on it she’d become lost. There was a small sitting space in front of a large bay window and a giant chandelier hung from the ceiling.

“Wow,” she said, mouth falling open in shock. “This is nicer than the nicest hotel room I’ve ever been in.” she admitted, trailing her fingers over the bedding and turning to see that there was even a fireplace on the other side of the room.

“This is Mom’s favorite guest room.” Oliver informed her as Digg carried the bags in and entered another door that must have been a closet. “She reserves it for very special guests.” he emphasized the word 'guests’ and she cocked her head quizzically.

He scraped a rough hand over the back of his head before he answered, “My mother is concerned about the image we could portray to the public. EA…CEO.” his hand waved back and forth between them and her stomach sank as she understood what he was getting at.

“But we already have that image,” she said, confused. She’d been subjected to the gossip right after her promotion. Luckily it had seemed the die down lately.

“Well apparently she’s unaware, or maybe she’s very aware. Her putting you in here is to make it clear you are a guest, and expected to stay in the guest wing of the house.”

“And not your bed,” she added before she could stop herself, breath catching as Oliver’s eyes flew to hers.

“Something like that,” he said, and she could have sworn his voice was just a touch deeper than normal.

Digg joined them and she was grateful for the interruption. “Bags are put away. There will be an agent in the hallway all night. If you press number nine on the house line you’ll get the guard house at the entrance. I’ll be just out back in the guest house tonight. You have my number. Use it if you need to. I mean it.”

“I will. I promise.” she told him and tried to ignore the cold that seemed to be creeping into her veins the closer she got to being alone for the first time since she’d opened her medicine cabinet.

“I need to go talk to the detail. Get a good nights sleep, okay? Or at least try.” he pulled her in for a quick hug as he passed and then it was just her and Oliver.

Her eyes darted nervously around the room and she licked her lips twice before she risked looking at Oliver.

“If this is too much or you want to move to a different room we can do that.” she knew what he was offering her and it sent a warmth through her.

“I’ll be fine.” she assured him, “Really. I’m just so grateful you’re letting me stay here and the extra security and…thank you.”

He was right in front of her then, his hands clasping hers where they wrapped around herself. “Of course, I just…I need you safe.”

Their eyes locked and she swore she could feel the electrical charge in the air between them.

“I’m safe here, with you.” she told him and watched, amazed, as his eyes fell shut.

His fingers squeezed hers and then he was stepping back, “You know where I am if you need me.” he said as he made his way to the door.

She followed him and stood in the threshold as he exited. At the end of the hall she could see a man in a dark suit, hands clasped in front of him and knew he had to be the agent Digg had mentioned.

“Maybe I should have left a trail of breadcrumbs back to your room.” she joked

“Two lefts and a right,” he said with a soft smile

“I’ll try and remember that.”

“Goodnight, Felicity.”

“Goodnight, Oliver.”

She watched as he made his way down the hall, hands stuffed into the pockets of his cargo pants. He nodded to the agent and then turned and lifted a hand her direction before he continued on, out of sight.

With a sigh she went back into the room, not knowing how to process everything that had happened in the past day, especially things with Oliver and decided quickly that she couldn’t do that right then. It was just too much.

Feeling more and more drained she got changed on autopilot. The opulence of the bathroom woke her momentarily and she eyed the deep, jetted tub appreciatively. Face washed, glasses off, and hair in a braid she left the light on again as she headed straight for the bed.

The sheets and mattress were just as soft and plush as the ones in Oliver’s room, and as she snuggled into the pillow and pulled the comforter up around her neck she realized there was only one problem. They didn’t smell right.

She thought there was a chance she’d lie awake, her mind unable to stop working as she tried to find another way to track Nate, but she fell asleep almost immediately.

However, when the nightmare hit her she’d later wished she’d sat up all night instead.

She was trapped in an apartment that was a mix of her old one from college and her current. In the dream she was running, constantly running, one room moving into another but never ending. And right behind her, arms stretched out trying to catch her was Nate, yelling the name 'Jenny’, as she tried to scream for someone to help her.

But her calls were stuck in her throat, and as she moved from room to room the terror she felt was overwhelming. He was going to catch her, and he was going to hurt her.

A loud noise jerked her to a place where she was still half asleep and fearing for her life. The strange room, low light, and her lack of glasses left her disoriented and unable to make out anything other than a large, unfamiliar figure silhouetted in the open door.


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