Chapter 1. A Bad Feeling
Felicity had been kneeling for so long that her legs were numb. The floor was cold under her knees. Her hands were stained with blood, with his blood. But she didn’t care about her hands, because only one thing mattered to her right now: the man who was lying on the floor next to her, fighting for his life.
"Hold on Oliver. You can't give up,” she told him matter-of-factly. “Do you hear me? Because you can't die. You can't do this to me! Fight Oliver, fight like you always do. Please," she begged desperately.
~ Several hours earlier ~
Oliver looked at his watch for the umpteenth time. It was almost noon. He always got bored in Queen Consolidated meetings, but this one in particular was extremely boring and he couldn't understand why. There was nothing to make it worse. The only difference was Felicity's absence. But that couldn't be the reason for his impatience, could it? He was aware that she wasn't only his Executive Assistant; she was his friend and partner. But that was something they didn't show in public, even less during the meetings, so why was he so anxious to get out of there? He didn't even know if she would be in her office at the end of the meeting.
A few minutes past ten o'clock Felicity had received a phone call, and a moment later she'd entered his office to tell him that she had to go to the bank, that it was urgent and that she hoped to be back before the investor’s arrival. But it didn't happen like that, and Oliver had to sit through the whole meeting without her. When he looked back at his watch, Isabel glanced at him disapprovingly. Fortunately for him, it seemed that the meeting was finally about to end. He was right. Not much later, he was leaving the room to go talk to Felicity, but she still hadn't returned. He let out a small, disappointed sigh and went to his office.
He was sure that she hadn’t called him, but still he felt the need to check his phone. Nothing. He put the phone back in his pocket and glanced at her desk through the glass. The office looked very empty without Felicity. He got up and looked out the window while Diggle observed him silently from his position by the door. He wondered when Oliver would realize how much he needed her in his day-to-day and how long it would take him to accept that he had feelings for her.
“Why don’t you call her?”
There was no need to say her name. Both of them knew exactly where Oliver’s mind was.
“I don’t know if I should,” he answered.
He wanted to call her, of course he wanted to, but he was concerned that if she was busy he might bother her. It was one of the many things that had changed about him as a result of being on the island. He wasn't that selfish guy who took his girlfriend's sister on his family’s Gambit. Not anymore.
It wasn't an order, but it had the same effect. He phoned her. She didn't take long to answer.
“Did something happen?” she asked worriedly.
Oliver frowned when he heard her. Why was it so unusual for him to call her without something bad having happened?
“No, don’t worry. It's just that it’s almost lunch time and as you still haven't come back we were wondering what is taking you so long.”
“What time...? Oh wow!” she exclaimed when she looked at her watch. “I didn't notice it was so late. I know I've been here for a while, but I didn't think it had been this long! You'd think I would've noticed, as they don't even have any magazines and I've just been sitting here, really bored, waiting the whole time. I should have changed to another bank a long time ago."
“Because they don’t have magazines?” he asked, amused.
“What? Of course not! I should have changed because they have completely incompetent workers! Oh, no... Now everybody’s staring at me... Why did I say it so loud?”
“Calm down, Felicity. How much longer do you think you'll take?”
“I wish I knew... There are still three people ahead of me, but I don't know. Besides, it seems it's their lunchtime too, because one of the two workers just left.”
“Ok, don’t worry, Felicity. I'm done here, and the next meeting isn’t until five, so we'll leave now to pick you up and then we'll go to Big Belly.”
“That's not necessary, Oliver. I’m sure you have better things to do. And as I said, I don't know how long it will take, but I probably won't be done by the time you arrive.”
“Well, then I'll keep you company while you wait.”
“Oliver, really, there’s no need for that!
She pouted, because she knew that tone too well. Oliver used it when there was nothing and no one who could change his mind.
“Ok, I'll be here,” she said before hanging up.
Dig didn't hear what Felicity said, but he still understood the whole conversation. Neither he nor Oliver said anything during the ride to the bank, each lost in their own thoughts. When they arrived, Diggle asked:
“Should I go in with you?”
“No. If you go in with me, we'll attract their attention,” and I don't think Felicity would be happy if that happened was the part of the sentence that Oliver didn't say aloud.
His friend nodded silently. Once in the bank, Oliver soon found Felicity even though she had her back to him. Her ponytail was unmistakable.
“Hey,” he said as he put a hand on her forearm.
Felicity jumped by the contact because she hadn't noticed he was already there.
“Oliver! Don't scare me like that! You know that I don't like when you get close so quietly... One of these days, I'm going to have a heart attack, and I'm too young for that. Although taking into account that I spend almost every hour of the day sitting, and that I eat more junk food than I should, I guess my chances of having a heart attack will have increased considerably, and maybe I should go to the doctor to get a checkup but I don't like needles... Have I already told you that I don't like needles?”
Felicity fell silent when she saw Oliver's raised eyebrow. She used to ramble when she was nervous, but also when she was scared or even angry. Without a doubt, this visit to the bank and the long wait were getting on her nerves.
“By the way, where’s John? I thought he would come with you.”
“He's waiting in the car.”
Felicity nodded, understanding the words he didn't say.
They both knew what was being said about them at Queen Consolidated, and they didn’t want those rumors to spread throughout the city. Oliver was used to dealing with the tabloids, he’d done it since he’d been born, but Felicity had never experienced this kind of fame, and she didn’t even deserve it because there was nothing between them, at least not in a romantic way.
That's why Oliver asked Diggle to stay in the car. If he had entered with Oliver, they would have attracted too much attention, and this other way it was easier for Felicity and Oliver to go unnoticed. The truth was that no one seemed to have noticed that Oliver Queen was there.
Felicity huffed in frustration. She was tired of waiting. She’d thought that with Oliver at her side the situation would improve, but she’d been wrong. They'd been silent for a while. But it wasn't a comfortable silence between two friends who didn't need to say anything. No. It was a silence that neither of them knew how to break. They were used to spending time together, a lot of time actually, but they never talked about anything that wasn't related to either of their two jobs.
It was an awkward silence. Felicity had never liked silence; it made her feel uncomfortable and brought her back bad memories of her childhood. When her father had left them, her mother had fallen into a depression from which she never managed to get out, not entirely at least, and Felicity had to go on without her support. But one of the things that had hurt her more was that from the day after her father left until some years later, when Felicity was already in college, her mother didn't talk to her.
Even when her father was still in her life she used to talk more than the other children in her class, but once her parents had left her with only silence, she grew to hate the lack of noise and so as a coping mechanism she’d learned to always fill the void with her own voice. Although over the years she had managed to, somehow, overcome that her father had abandoned them and all of the consequences that had had for her, she knew that she would never stop rambling. Never. It was already a part of who she was. And yet, at this particular time, with Oliver at her side, she didn’t know what to say to fill the silence that surrounded them.
She looked at him, wondering if the silence was awkward for him too. When she saw his left hand she didn't have any doubt. He was rubbing his thumb and forefinger, as he did whenever he felt uncomfortable. But when she observed him more closely, she could see that the reason for his discomfort had nothing to do with what was bothering her. No, Oliver's unease was due to something else.
His gaze was full of determination, and yet it wasn't focused on any particular spot, but wandered from side to side as if he was looking for something that was wrong. Apparently Oliver thought something bad was going to happen.
“What's wrong, Oliver?” she asked, softly.
He glanced at her, surprised that she’d noticed his discomfort.
Felicity pursed her lips and tilted her head, letting him know she didn't buy his lie.
“I don't know, Felicity. I feel like there is something wrong, but I don't know what.”
Oliver didn't know how to explain it. On the island he’d learned to trust his instincts, and that was what he was doing now. Something was wrong, he felt it, but he was unable to figure out what, and that was getting on his nerves.
He wondered if maybe, for once, his instinct was failing. Later, when all the people who were in the bank were in danger, and he was fighting for his life, he wished that had been the case.