Times Like These

Chapter 9

The smell of smoke, a blinding pain, and the inability to draw a full breath is what finally pulled her from the black. At first she couldn’t see anything, her body felt like it was trapped and a moment of claustrophobia made her try and push back and find any sort of space. But she couldn’t move and her attempt had made a band of fire flare across her side.

With a groan she moved her head slightly and realized the darkness she could see was the shoulder of Oliver’s suit jacket. In a rush everything came back to her and she remembered the note and the package and Oliver’s arms wrapping around her before it all exploded.

Her ears were ringing and there was a haze in the space around them. She couldn’t see far, Oliver blocked almost her entire field of vision but what she could see looked to be what remained of the conference room on top of them.

As her head cleared some she realized Oliver hadn’t moved and it was his body that was pinning her down. His arms were wrapped around her, one banded about her back, the other had laid over her head but was now heavy across her middle, and it was limp.

With effort she brought up the one arm that wasn’t caught under her and felt his tie under her fingers. His face was pressed into her neck and there wasn’t enough room for her to see him properly. A whine of panic began to fill her at the idea that he could be seriously injured. She moved her hand north as far as she could, fingers just scrabbling along his jaw as she touched his stubble. Biting her lip she reached higher, trying to ignore how much it hurt to stretch her arm until she could feel along his face and up to his temple. The hot slick wetness she encountered made her stomach drop.

Tears pricked her eyes and her hand fell to his throat searching frantically for a pulse. It was strong if a little fast and she let out a gasping sob that caused her to cough violently as her lungs took in too much smoke.

White spots filled her vision at the pain the coughing drew from her ribs. She didn’t know if they were bruised or broken or if she had any other injuries. Her right arm was trapped under Oliver and her legs were numb as he lay completely on top of her.

“Oliver!” she called, but her voice was weak and shaky and she could barely make it out herself. She tried pressing on his shoulder and pushing to see if she could move him but he didn’t shift. Desperation filled her and she tried again gritting her teeth and blocking the pain as she pushed as hard as she could but only managed to rock him back an inch before her hand slipped and he settled back where he had been.

She was left panting and exhausted, her head throbbing and the feeling that she couldn’t draw a full breath of air. She let her head rest against his as her eyes grew heavy. Her hand fisted in the material of his shirt as she concentrated on just taking one breath after another.

Then there was a noise and a small patch of light just beyond Oliver’s shoulder.

“Oliver! Felicity!” called Digg’s familiar voice and if she hadn’t almost been unconscious she would have sobbed in relief. As her vision continued to fade and she lost the battle to stay awake her last thought was she hoped they lived and she hadn’t gotten Oliver killed.

A wracking coughing fit that left her breathless and in agony is what brought her back. Warm hands settled on her shoulders and pushed her down on something soft as she waited out the pain.

“Take a breath, Felicity.” it was Digg and he was close. She did as he said, groaning because it hurt but his quiet hum of approval let her know it was good. “Now take another.” he directed and she obeyed again.

The second time it was down to a dull ache and after a third she tried opening her eyes. She was on the ground, Digg kneeling next to her with his shirtsleeves rolled up, soot and dust clinging to him and a few scrapes and cuts across his face. He gave her a smile and grabbed her hand waiting as she blinked slowly and tried to make sense of what had happened.

He had an oxygen mask poised above her and placed it over her face, giving her an encouraging nod to keep breathing while he talked. As the cool air flowed into her nose she took as deep a breath as she dared and locked her eyes on his.

“There was an explosion.” he said evenly and she nodded minutely, the throbbing in her head not letting her do much more. She raised a weak hand and wrapped it around his wrist to pull the mask away slightly.

“Nate,” she rasped out, a tear leaking from the corner of her eye that he caught before it could reach her hair.

His eyes darkened at the name, but he gave a swift jerk of his chin, “Yeah, it was him.”

“How bad?” she asked and then memories slammed into her and she remembered, “Oliver! Where’s Oliver!” she cried and tried to sit up but Digg pushed her down again and put the mask aside.

Tears slid down her cheeks as she recalled his prone form laying protectively above her and the wound she’d been able to feel on his head.

“Hey, settle down. The paramedics are looking at him now, but I think he’s going to be fine.” he assured her, but her heart was pounding relentlessly in her chest and she knew she wouldn’t feel better until she’d seen him.

“The damage was mostly limited to your offices and the conference room. The table had collapsed on top of you along with half a wall which is why it took a little bit of time to get you out.”

“Digg, please. I need to see him.” she pleaded, everything in her screaming to know whether he was alright or not. Her own injuries were forgotten, the damage to her ribs had faded to a dullness she barely noticed. But he shook his head and gave her a sympathetic look.

“You’ll see him soon enough.”

She had just opened her mouth to argue with him again when there was a roar from behind her and she heard Oliver yelling her name.

Before Digg could stop her she sat up with a gasp and tried to twist to see Oliver but she cried out in pain and would have tipped over if Digg hadn’t caught her. He gave a long suffering sigh and reached behind her, dragging something heavy and warm up around her shoulders that she had been laying on and when she dropped her head to clear away the spots that had appeared she realized it was his suit jacket.

“If you insist on doing this at least let me help you.”

She tried to pull herself to her feet with his help, but her legs felt like rubber and there was a new pain she hadn’t felt before that streaked down her left thigh. Leaning heavily on Digg she could turn her head and finally see Oliver.

He was half laying, half sitting on a stretcher with two medics trying to get him to lay down. She watched as he shrugged one off and swayed as the other pushed ineffectively on his chest. He growled her name again and before she could think she tore away from Digg and stumbled across the room towards him.

He caught sight of her just as she called his name and only had enough time to open his arms as she crashed into him.

The desperate knot of need she didn’t know she had loosened some. To touch him and be near him and know that he was alive was all she’d been looking for and now with his arms holding her so tight it stung and her head pressed perfectly under his chin she felt whole again.

He had one hand buried in her hair and the other wrapped so far around her waist his fingers gripped her hip bone, the material of the suit jacket bunching under his hand. She felt him let out a long shuddering sigh as she tried not to cry into his throat in an attempt to avoid antagonizing her already irritated lungs.

With her arms encircling his neck her fingers began a steady draw through his hair in a rhythm they both seemed to need. She was pressed as tight to him as she could be with the hard side of a gurney in her way, but she didn’t notice.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled into him, “I’m so sorry,”

He shushed her, his warm breath right in her ear as his lips brushed the shell as he talked. “It’s not your fault.”

She nodded erratically, swallowing past the lump in her throat, “It is. It’s because of me. You wouldn’t have gotten hurt if it wasn’t for me.”

He pulled back and took her face in his hands, his gaze catching hers and holding it even though she was looking at him through tears. “This is not your fault,” he said fiercely, “You did not do this.”

Her eyes roamed his face as she took in the bandage on his right temple and the cuts and bruises she could already see forming. Trembling fingers traced the white patch of gauze and over the shallow cut on his eyebrow before she let them trail over his cheek to his mouth where she ran her thumb over his bottom lip ever so lightly. “You were hurt.” she repeated at a whisper,

His hand slid to the back of her neck and tugged her forward until their foreheads were pressing together. “I’ve had worse.” he reminded her and her eyes fell shut as she tried to block out past memories of him being hurt.

“But this was because of me,” she repeated, the guilt that her past had brought this on them was something she couldn’t shake. His thumbs wiped tears off her cheeks and his eyes fell shut, but not before she saw a cloud of anger and regret filter through them.

“I’m going to stop him, and he’s never going to hurt you again.” his voice was so low only she could hear and the way he said it was like a vow. He pressed a hard kiss to her temple that made her breath catch, sending a stab of pain through her side. She couldn’t hide the way her body stiffened or the small cry that came from her throat.

Her hands fell from his face to rest against his shirt. She stared at the buttons as she tried to will the pain to stop and absently realized his tie and jacket were gone.

“What is it? Are you hurt?” he asked quickly and she had to suppress a dark laugh because how could they have gotten through that and not have been hurt.

She shook her head once, “Just my ribs, I think.” one broad hand slid beneath the jacket and splayed lightly across her side. Air hissed through her teeth at the contact but it wasn’t due to pain.

“You think?” he asked, indignant. “Haven’t you been treated?” his head shot up and for the first time since she’d rushed to his side he looked around.

Digg must have not been far away because he was at their side in an instant. “Mild smoke inhalation, mild concussion, two broken or bruised ribs, and a gash on her thigh that probably needs a few stitches, not to mention a lot of cuts and bruises.” he ran through the list of her injuries and suddenly the ache in her leg made sense.

She was moved back a few inches as Oliver slid forward and dropped to the floor, never breaking his contact with her. Her fingers gripped his shirt and she saw Digg’s hand shoot out in case he lost his balance but he didn’t even wobble.

“You probably shouldn’t be doing that. The table was laying across your legs, they were worried one might be broken.” Digg warned him and Oliver brushed it off,

“My legs aren’t broken.” he said dismissively, his eyes on her again as he seemed to be cataloging every tiny scrape she had. When his hand fell from her side and trailed down her thigh she made a startled noise as he leaned over and tugged up the hem of her dress.

“She needs stitches.” Oliver said darkly, and turned to one of the medics who didn’t seem willing to approach them right then. “Why hasn’t she been treated?” he demanded

“Hey man, we were getting there. You were both unconscious and she had barely been awake when you started doing your best grizzly bear impression and growling her name. After that she hasn’t left your side.”

Felicity ducked her head at the implications she could hear in Digg’s voice and tried not to shiver as Oliver straightened up, completely unaware of how his hand trailed up her thigh and came to rest again at her hip, the heat from his touch making her flush even in her injured state.

“What the hell happened? How did it get into the building?” Oliver asked sharply,

Her head went light as a cold sweat broke across her skin. It was all her fault.

She must have made a noise or swayed because the next thing she knew she was sitting on the stretcher that had been behind Oliver with his hands holding her face telling her to focus on him.

“I’m sorry,” she blurted out through tears. “I told security to send up the courier. I didn’t…I didn’t know. It was the regular guy.” she choked on her words and shut her eyes tight. “Oh god, what if I hadn’t opened the letter. The bomb would have gone off and you wouldn’t have…” she felt sick at the thought of what would have happened to him if it had exploded on his desk with him sitting right there.

She felt her body being turned and hands pressing her to lay back on to the half raised stretcher. Oliver’s voice was in her ear again, “This is not your fault. You can’t think like that.”

“Felicity, that courier service has been vetted, that’s why we use them. But I think there will be new procedures in place from now on.” Digg said, but she barely heard him.

She concentrated on his presence and the hand that was wrapped around hers as she tried to calm her churning stomach.

His lips brushed her forehead and over one of her eyelids before she blinked open wide eyes, “Oliver…” she said breathlessly, unable to read the expression in his darker than usual eyes.

“Later,” he whispered and all she could do was nod.

A medic hovered on the other side of the stretcher next to Digg, holding what she recognized as a suture kit in his hands.

“Oliver, let her get fixed up.” Digg said evenly, as if he wasn’t sure how Oliver would respond to being told to back off.

By the way his head shot up and turned to glare at his partner it appeared as if Digg had been right. But he didn’t blink, he just matched Oliver’s look with one of his own and then played his trump card. “Your mother has been waiting to see you for the past ten minutes.” he nodded his head back behind them and Oliver pivoted on the spot. Just over his shoulder she could see the worried face of Moira Queen as she stood only feet away.

Felicity let her head fall back with a groan of embarrassment. She was just then realizing how close she and Oliver had been and Moira had seen everything.

But he didn’t seem phased at all. He held up one finger to his mother and turned back, his attention fully on her once again.

“Oliver, I’ll be fine. Let them finish up so we can get out of here.”

He sighed heavily, the internal battle he was struggling with was apparent in his expression. Once more his lips were warm against her skin and then he was squeezing her hand and stepping back. “I’ll be close.”

Her eyes followed him as he limped heavily to where his mother stood. She bit her lip in concern at how injured he really was, for him to show any sign of weakness meant it was worse than he was letting on.

She wanted to keep him in sight but just then Detective Lance hurried into the room and after casting a quick look around came directly to her side.

The distraction ended up being welcome as it kept her from paying attention as her leg was cleaned and injected with a numbing medication that stung so fiercely she grasped Lance’s hand without thought as she hissed through her teeth and waited for it to dissipate. She could tell the medic was nervous and kept shooting worried glances towards Oliver who she had a feeling was leveling him with one of his glares.

Between her and Digg they filled Lance in on what happened. She hadn’t realized it had taken almost twenty minutes to pull them from the debris and the knowledge made her heart drop.

“There was a note.” she said, dead voiced, the strain and stress beginning to catch up with her.

“On the bomb?” Lance asked, confused

“No. He sent me a separate note. I suppose it’s been burned by now…"she trailed off as a shudder ran through her, making her wince and wrap a hand around her side.

"What did the note say, Ms. Smoak?” Lance’s voice was gentle, as if he could tell how close to the edge she was.

“All it said was 'Duck’. The bomb was meant for Oliver, not for me.”

“He sees him as an obstacle to getting to you. He’s the reason you’re no longer in your apartment. He’s the reason he can’t get in this building. He’s the reason he can’t get near you.” Lance explained and again the ball of acid in her gut grew until all she could do was lay there and take breaths through her nose as she prayed she wouldn’t get sick.

Lance hadn’t meant to add to the guilt that was about to take her under but his words cut deep and she felt like what little air in her lungs had vanished.

Then there was a warm hand on her face, and one over her busted ribs, providing some counter pressure as her chest heaved. “Felicity, listen to me. You have to calm down, you’re only going to hurt yourself.” Oliver was there and she grabbed his wrist desperately to give her something to hold on to before she flew apart. “Slow your breaths. You have enough air.”

She tried to do as he said, but then she remembered sitting the package on his desk and the panic filled her again. The oxygen mask was placed over her face again but she tried to shake it off, the feel of it on her too constricting.

Her arm was pulled down and she tried to fight it but hands were on her shoulders. “They’re going to give you something for the pain, and it should settle you down some too.” Digg said from her other side. Her eyes flew open and she tried to protest and tell them she didn’t want anything but white lights burst in her vision as she twisted the wrong way, and then there was a small prick in her arm.

Oliver was all she could see, his hand brushed loose hair from her face and cupped her cheek. “It’s okay, it’ll help. It won’t knock you out all the way.” he promised her and that more than anything made her relax back into the stretcher and focus on slowing her breaths.

The three men surrounding her began to relax as well. A warmth filled her veins and the pain faded away as her racing heart settled.

Digg and Lance stepped back to talk and the medic came forward to finish putting the bandage on her leg, but Oliver never left.

“Is your mom still here?” she asked, trying to look around him, but finding it difficult to focus her eyes.

“No, she went back to the house.”

The thought of the mansion and Oliver’s bed made her smile. She needed that. She wanted to forget about Nate and the bomb and everything he’d done.

Oliver’s fingers trailed over her cheek and she turned into his touch with a happy hum. “What’s the smile for?” he asked, voice low and throaty, and she didn’t think it had anything to do with the smoke he’d inhaled.

“Just thinking about your bed, and sleeping, and…it’s nice, I like it.” she knew the words were coming out wrong but the intent was there and if the slightly strangled noise she heard him make was any indication he understood what she meant.

“It is nice.” he agreed, shifting to put his weight on his good leg but not able to hide a wince.

“Oliver, your leg.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“I don’t believe you.” it was getting harder to keep her eyes open and she let them shut for a minute as Digg and Lance returned. She heard them talking about getting statements the next day and how the bomb squad would be investigating the device, but she just listened.

“I think it’s okay for you to get out of here, unless you need transport to the hospital.” Lance said

“No, I think we’re fine.” Oliver replied and she did made an agreeing noise at that. She didn’t want to go to the hospital.

“I’ll be by tomorrow then. Get some rest, kid.” Lance gripped her arm tight for a minute and then he disappeared.

Her head was becoming more and more light until she felt like she was floating, except when she cracked open her eyes she realized she wasn’t floating at all. Instead, Digg was carrying her as Oliver limped beside them.

She didn’t recognize the floor they were on, and she didn’t know how they’d been moved from their offices to wherever the triage had been set up.

After that her memories were hazy. She remembered the swooping in her stomach as they rode down in the elevator. She remembered leaning against Oliver in the back of the car, his hand stroking over her head the entire drive. She remembered being carried up the steps of the Queen mansion again and Oliver and Digg stepping out while one of the maids helped her change. She remembered the shirt being slipped over her head not belonging to her and not caring as she slid beneath the covers.

In her half awake half drugged state she was only somewhat aware as Oliver entered the room. There was the sound of the shower running and him walking to the closet and her eyes fluttered open as she felt him ease onto the mattress. Her wore nothing but a pair of boxer briefs and as her eyes dropped to take in the sight she saw the long line of bruising beginning to form along his upper thigh.

“Oliver!” she gasped and tried to push herself up on her elbow but immediately regretted it.

He ignored where she was looking and pulled the covers up, “Hey, it’ll be fine.” But she knew that him willingly getting into bed and attempting to rest meant he was hurt bad enough to put a normal person in the hospital.

Her eyes swam with tears and he didn’t hesitate to pull her to him gently, waiting for her to relax into his side before he draped his palm over her injured ribs. “It’ll be fine.” he repeated, “Get some rest.”

With a stuttered sigh she laid her head on his chest and let his warmth and presence lull her to sleep.

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