Oliver circled the grand hall in which the Annual Queen Consolidated Investors’ Gala was taking place, feeling like he would much rather slit his own throat than be there. He felt sick, his chest was aching, his ears were ringing and he felt as if he couldn’t breathe, his chest was so tight. It was how he felt just before a major panic attack happened, but this time, because of all the meditation he’d done beforehand to avoid having his anxiety take over, the symptoms weren’t going to fade away, because he refused to break down and have an attack in such a public settling. He wanted to get out, he wanted to leave, but the moment he turned towards the door to make his escape, hands clawed at his arms and he was dragged back into the fray.
The only reason Oliver was actually at the gala was because his mother said that he ‘attracted’ investors, because they were all ‘interested’ in his life story; in short, his mother paraded him around with her like a damn show pony, gushing about her beautiful boy coming back to her after five years on a deserted island. Ever since those awful pictures the paparazzi had illegally snapped of him shirtless and all the news articles about his scars and tattoos, every single media outlet in the nation had been in a Hunger Games-esque battle for the rights to his life story. Oliver Queen’s personal survival tale became the most popular debated and talked about subject in Starling City.
Oliver was even trending on Twitter. Some of the most popular hash tags included: #OliverQueenBornSurvival, #QueenScars, #OliverQueenLifestory, #OQSurvivalShow. The PR department twisted the fame and tweeted using those hashtags and some of their own; #HeirToQCThrone, #QueenOfStarlingCity, #QueenHeirGala. In his mother’s words, it was a fantastic opportunity for Queen Consolidated to attract new investors.
Which was why his mother had forced him to attend the QC Investors’ Gala. Hundreds of people turned up, wanting and planning on ask Oliver about the island, about his five years away, about his scars; Moira told him, practically ordered him, to answer vaguely and tide them over until she could sweep in and take over the conversation, transforming it into business talk.
After the seventeenth question about the severe burn scars on Oliver’s lower back, he finally made his escape out of the grand hall. Shaking, he managed to make it halfway to the exit of the hotel before he collapsed against the wall, hyperventilating. Control. He needed control. He needed pain. But he’d promised Tommy and Laurel that he wouldn’t hurt himself anymore. But just a little pain wouldn’t matter, right?
Trembling, he backed up on weak legs and sprinted at the wall, slamming himself into it and revelling in the agony provided. Then he did it again, and again, and again, until he actually couldn’t see anymore.
Immediately, he pretty much broke down. He’d betrayed his friends and self harmed. Again. And the worst part of it, was that he wanted to keep going. His hands fumbled for his phone in his pocket, to call Tommy, or Laurel, because he promised them both that he would call one of them if he ever felt the need to self harm, but he couldn’t find his phone. He couldn’t find it. His breathing kicked up and he closed his eyes, leaning against the wall as he remembered; his mother had taken his phone away from him after ten minutes into the gala, because he had taken it out preparing to call Laurel for an escape route.
He couldn’t call Tommy; he couldn’t call Laurel. He didn’t see any other options. He had to gain back control; he could feel himself slipping back into island memories. So he reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out the switchblade he kept on him for emergencies, rolled up his sleeves and began cutting again. He felt terrible as he made the cuts on his wrist, because he had promised his family he wouldn’t do it, but he had to. He needed the pain.
He was about to make another cut when somebody grabbed his wrist and pulled it away, stopping him from making the incision, and before Oliver even knew what was happening, the switchblade was being prised out of his hand and taken away from him.
A broken cry made its way out of his mouth at having his control once again yanked away from him, and his head snapped up. He snarled ferociously at the person, but he didn’t know who it was immediately, because his eyesight was fuzzy due to the concussion he probably had from slamming himself into the wall and the blood loss.
The switchblade was kicked away by the person and it clattered against the floor and came to a rest after spinning around for a few seconds, a few metres away. Oliver lunged violently after it, but then the person grabbed his shoulders and pinned him back up against the wall, halting his movement and taking hold of his cut wrist, wrapping some kind of fabric around it carefully. He was dizzy because of the blood loss so couldn’t shake them off, and his movements were weak as his struggled against them.
“Nope. Nope, can’t let you do that, kid,” the person grunted, putting their weight onto him to keep him still. “Stay down. Stay there, kid. That’s right, it’s okay. Calm down. Can’t let you do that.”
Another snarl made its way up from his throat and finally the person came into focus. Of all the people he would have expected to stop him from self-harming, he never would have expected Quentin Lance. He was so confused for a moment at the sight of the detective that he thought he might be hallucinating, so he shook his head to try and clear it, but nope, he was still there, looking angry and upset and worried and sad at the same time. But especially angry.
“Let me go,” the archer hissed, struggling against the man’s weight.
“I’ll let you go when you calm down and stop trying to get that knife,” Lance growled back, jabbing Oliver hard in the stomach with his fist to get him to crumple back down to the floor and stay there.
Oliver snarled in response like some wild animal, his eyes bright with fury but also desperation as he fought against Lance’s hold, but the older man obviously had a few tricks up his sleeve for dealing with stronger men, because he somehow managed to keep Oliver subdued. The archer probably would have been able to take the detective down in a single move if he wasn’t feeling so weak, his eyesight startling to spin again. Then, to make the situation worse, footsteps sounded around the corner and Detective Hilton appeared, looking between the two of them bemusedly, before blanching when he saw the blood on the floor, the bloody fabric wrapped around Oliver’s wrist and the switchblade.
Hilton picked up the blade and put it in a plastic bag, hiding it away as he pulled out his cell phone. “Alright, Quent, you keep him down, I’ll call for an ambulance.”
“Don’t,” Oliver snarled, finally wrenching himself away from Lance, but the detective lunged after him and grabbed his wrists, managing to half twist him into an arm lock. He quickly pulled out a move to avoid it, but stumbled when his knees suddenly gave out underneath him.
Hilton was already on the phone. “Ambulance, please. It’s Detective Hilton from the SCPD, I need an ambulance stat for an attempted suicide -”
Oliver wrenched himself from Lance’s grip and roughly knocked the cell phone out of Hilton’s hand. He was tugged backwards and slammed back up against the wall, the detective grunting behind him, but he outstretched his leg and slammed his heel down into the phone’s screen with a crunch before Hilton could pick it up. Both detectives looked shocked at his show of violence, and when Hilton reached down to scoop up his ruined phone, an expression of anger mixed with frustration passed over his face. Growling under his breath, Oliver turned away from him, trying to pull from Lance’s grasp once again. He would pay for a replacement. But he couldn’t have them taking him to a hospital.
“What did you do that for?” Hilton questioned, tone gruff but hurt.
“I’m not suicidal,” the archer gritted out. He was tiring, his movements becoming weaker, and he really didn't have the energy to fight for much longer. “And I don’t need to go to the hospital.”
“You were trying to slit your own wrists, kid.”
“Wasn’t trying to kill myself,” he muttered, still tugging against the detective’s hold. “Let me go, please.”
“You’re going to hospital,” Lance decided.
“No,” Oliver sighed, finally giving up the fight and slumping, exhausted. “Please, just - no hospitals. Please, please no hospitals.”
“Queen, the blade was rusted, you could get an infection,” Lance argued calmly. “You’re going to hospital.” He let up slightly when he realised Oliver had obeyed his command to stop struggling, only keeping the archer’s wrists pinned now, and that was mostly to keep pressure on the cuts. Oliver slid down the wall with a trembling exhale, running his shaking fingers through his hair and wincing when he brushed against a particularly sore spot. “You’ve got a head wound,” the detective continued. “And bruising. One of the waiters mentioned seeing a guy running himself into a wall earlier. Bet half my salary that was you too, huh?”
“There are CCTV cameras here,” Hilton said. “We could easily take a look at the footage to see whether or not you’re lying.”
“No need.” Knowing he wasn’t going to be able to get out of this one, Oliver hung his head and inhaled shuddering breaths, trying to keep his sobs silent. “Fine. I’ll admit it. It was me. Just… Give me your phone,” he pleaded. “Please, let me call Laurel, she’ll explain, okay, please at least call Laurel and talk to her before taking me to the hospital.”
Lance looked horrified. “Oh, hell no, you telling me this is a regular thing? So regular that Laurel knows about it? Jeez, did my daughter catch you trying to commit suicide?!”
“Not trying to commit suicide,” Oliver protested. “Just… not coping.”
The detective reared back in realisation. “You’re self harming.”
“No…” he immediately denied, but then he squeezed his eyes and told himself admit it, you have to admit it, no point living in denial and he whispered, correcting himself, “Sometimes.”
“And Laurel caught you.”
“Once,” he tried, but Lance was already turning away, looking devastated. “Only once, Mr Lance, and it wasn’t -” Cutting himself off, he stared down at his hands, where Lance’s fingers were wrapped around his bleeding wrists. “Please just… let me call her. Or call her yourself. Please.”
Lance turned to Hilton and without even asking, the other detective knelt down and took his place, putting pressure on the cuts while Lance wiped his hands clean and pulled out his cell phone. Dry sobs rose from Oliver’s chest and he tipped his head back so it was rested back against the wall as the detective spoke quietly to his daughter a few metres away, every so often casting glances back towards the man crumpled on the floor, bleeding from his wrists.
Finally, Lance hung up and put his phone away, now not looking irritated, angry or horrified, but instead looking incredibly sympathetic and a little hesitant. He vanished for a moment back into the ballroom before returning with some fresh clean material in his hands and his cell phone that his mother had taken from him. The detective attempted to look comforting and friendly as he walked back in, a wobbly smile quirking his lips although his gaint was stunted.
Oliver hated it. He hated it when people felt sorry for him, felt like they couldn’t talk or approach him, just because he was some fragile, damaged little thing. He knew that his relationships with people would change the moment they found out about his coping techniques. Self harm. Lance was proving his point because while the detective had only disgust, disdain and hate for Oliver before, now he was acting kind and pitying.
“Okay, kid, let’s get you out of here,” he said softly. He shot Hilton a look to let up on the pressure and then knelt to swap the fabrics, carefully wrapping some clean cloths, thick white cotton serviettes stolen from the ballroom, around the cuts, before straightening and offering to help him up.
Oliver refused and remained on the floor, his shoulders trembling. “Where are we going?” he rasped.
“Laurel’s apartment,” Lance answered promptly. “She and Merlyn didn’t sound very happy with you.” He seemed to realise that was the wrong thing to say when Oliver tensed, closing his eyes and drawing his legs in closer to his body, curling up defensively, instinctively. “I didn’t mean - sorry, Queen, I didn’t mean it like that. I think they’re mostly upset it came to the point where you felt like you needed to do this.”
“I can’t just leave,” Oliver responded, not meeting Lance’s or Hilton’s eyes. “My mom -”
“I met her when I went back in there, told her you weren’t reacting particularly well to everybody pressing on about your scars,” Lance interrupted. It was almost a reassurance. Panic flashed through the archer though when he imagined his mother’s face when Lance told her that her son was cutting again. “And no, I didn’t mention the cutting. She doesn’t have to know anything about tonight if you don’t want her to.” He paused and asked hesitantly, “Do your family know…?”
“They walked in on me cutting before,” he muttered, understanding what the detective was asking without Lance even having to finish. “I don’t know whether or not Tommy and Laurel have told them about - about the other incidences.”
“Okay, we need to get you out of here. Those cuts need to be cleaned, maybe stitched and you need to get your head looked at in case you have a concussion.”
“I’m fine,” Oliver said, closing his eyes again, and flinching when Lance tried to reach down to touch his shoulder, breath hitching. “I’m fine.”
“Yeah? Well, I think we’ll be the judge of that,” Hilton huffed, speaking up after the few minutes of his silence. “Squad car’s outside. We’re driving you.”
It took the two detectives ten minutes to successfully get Oliver out of the building and to their car without being seen. Partially that was because the blood-loss and throbbing in his skull was making it difficult for the archer to stay upright, and he needed breaks every few minutes or so to gain his breath after hyperventilating, but they did manage to finally get him into the backseat of their squad car. Hilton drove while Lance slid in beside Oliver to keep pressure on the cuts. Every pothole and bump in the road caused fires of pain to erupt all over the archer’s body, but he didn’t make a sound, only tensing and wincing, deciding that staying silent and not speaking to either detective was his best option.
Tommy was waiting for them on the curb outside Laurel’s apartment complex, tapping his foot impatiently and looking nervous, afraid of what Oliver might have done. His face fell and he deflated when Lance helped Oliver out of the car, but he immediately surged forwards to help the older man support his best friend. Hilton offered to find a parking space, but Lance turned him down, suggesting he turn in for the night. It only took a pointed look for his partner to get the message and call back that he’d see him in the morning before Hilton drove off.
“I knew you going to that stupid gala was going to end badly,” Laurel seethed as soon as her boyfriend and father practically carried Oliver inside, dumping him on the couch. “I warned Moira, I warned Walter, tried to tell them it was an awful idea to force you to go, that you’d be interrogated all night about things you weren’t comfortable talking about, and look where - ” She peeled off the cloths carefully, shooting him apologetic glances whenever he winced, and she looked devastated when the cuts were revealed. “Oh my god… Oliver. What - shit. Why didn’t you call Tommy and I? We would have - you didn’t have to do this.”
He shrugged. “Mom took away my cell phone,” Oliver mumbled.
“Taking away the last shred of control you had this evening,” Tommy said darkly. “I’m going to have serious words with your mother, Oliver. How dare she even think -”
“I don’t think that’s a priority at the moment, Merlyn,” Lance cut in, raising an eyebrow at him when Tommy grinned sheepishly. He turned back to his daughter, trying not to sound too worried, but concern leaking through. “Wasn’t able to get a proper look at them earlier - they gonna need stitches?”
“I'm not stupid,” Oliver muttered angrily under his breath. “I don't cut deep enough for that.”
“No,” Laurel replied softly. “No, I think some butterfly strips will be okay. They’re not that bad. Dad, could you grab the first aid kit, please?”
Lance received it silently and Laurel began cleaning and bandaging the cuts gently without another word, making sure they were clean and that her wrappings weren’t too tight. They checked his bruises and head for a concussion, Laurel having been trained in first aid so that she knew how to diagnose minor head trauma, and it turned out he was fine, just rattled, before she started packing away. As Laurel pushed the kit underneath the coffee table, leaving it out so they could easily find it to change the dressings later on, Tommy fell down onto the couch beside Oliver; Laurel settled down on his other side and then seconds later the two of them just sort of… wrapped the archer up in between their arms, sandwiching him between them. It made Lance uncomfortable to watch, because it seemed intimate, even though he knew it wasn’t.
“Here.” He acted without even properly knowing what he was doing, leaning down and grabbing a DVD case off of the floor and popping the disk in. Lance glanced up at his daughter with a thin smile. “I didn’t know you had this many Disney movies.”
“We picked up all the ones Oliver missed while he was on the island,” Tommy answered. “You’re never too old for Disney, Mr Lance.”
“Can’t say I disagree. This one’s one of my favourites.” He held up the case to show the white dog with a black lightning bolt on his side on the cover.
They started the movie and Lance drew a chair up beside the couch from the dining table as the first scene with Bolt and Penny popped up on the screen, pulling out a blanket to drape over the three younger adults. Lance glanced sideways every few minutes to check on the trio, feeling relieved when Oliver seemed to have calmed down enough to be half dropping off against his friends’ shoulders.
After about half an hour into the movie, Oliver leant his head into Laurel’s hand as she ran it through his hair. “Laurel, I’m tired,” he admitted, his voice breaking and emotions finally slipping, so that tears beaded in his eyes and one slipped down his cheek. “I’m - I’m really tired…”
“Shh…” She hugged him against her and Tommy turned so they were both embracing him. “It’s okay, Oliver. You can rest. You don’t have to be on guard here. You can sleep.”
“No, I mean, not that kind of tired… I'm tired.”
Tommy caught on quicker than his daughter was, and he noticeably stiffened. “Tired of living, kind of tired?”
Oliver seemed so confused, fumbling with the blanket with trembling fingers. “I don't even know anymore,” he muttered. “Sometimes I can't help but think that it would just be easier if I never left the island. Easier if I'd just… drowned when the Queen’s Gambit went down. It would have saved a lot of people a lot of pain.”
Lance shook his head, straightening up. Neither Laurel nor Tommy seemed to know what to say. He couldn't think of a response to Oliver's words, so instead the detective said, somewhat accusingly, “And you were insisting you’re not suicidal.”
“I wouldn't go as far as taking my own life,” Oliver snapped back at him, the sudden fire of his gaze startling the older man. Lowering his eyes, he finished quietly, “Leaving would result in exactly the same outcome.”
“And where would you go?” Laurel questioned dryly. “Central City? New York? England, Russia? There is no place on this earth that we wouldn't search for you, Oliver.”
“Well, I’d go somewhere off the maps and remote enough that no amount of searching would let you find me,” Oliver replied, the bitter tone in his voice making all three of them exchange surprised glances.
Tommy narrowed his eyes, shifting so he could stand, effectively blocking the TV screen from view. “You’re talking about the island.”
“Took you five years to track me down on Lian Yu the first time,” Oliver shrugged.
“Except now we know where it is,” Lance quirked an eyebrow. “And we know where you’d head if you did ever decide to run off.”
“You wouldn't be allowed to travel there. It's too dangerous for civilians.”
“And what are you?” the detective shot back at him.
“Touché,” Tommy replied.
But Oliver's expression grew dark and his eyes were hooded. Lance couldn't help but allow his mind to flit back to the idea that Oliver Queen wasn't such a farfetched suspect to be the Hood as most of the SCPD thought. Chills swept down Lance’s spine when Oliver responded quietly, “Oh, I’m far from a civilian by this point, Detective.” Before alarm took over Laurel and Tommys’ faces, the man turned back to them and asked in a lighter voice, “Do you mind if I crash here tonight, Laurel? I… don't really want to have to face my mom and Walter tonight. They’ll be angry at me.”
“I'm angry at them,” Laurel responded. “They put you into this situation in the first place, Oliver. Of course you can stay.”
“I'm pretty sure she was going to insist on it anyway, to make sure you don't off yourself during the night,” Tommy leaned in and whispered into Oliver's ear, making him smile.
“Thanks,” Oliver murmured, pressing a kiss to Laurel’s cheek before reaching out to tug Tommy back down to sit beside him, so they could begin watching the movie again.
Lance stretched out, glancing over at the clock, and decided that it was late enough. He was taking an early shift tomorrow morning, and needed to get some sleep. “Have to head out,” he announced. “Early start tomorrow.” He fixed Oliver with a stern look. “Look after yourself, kid. And if you can’t reach Laurel or Merlyn, feel free to call me.”
Oliver looked surprised. “I thought you hated me,” he said quietly.
The detective rolled his eyes. “I do,” he said. “But self harming isn’t something to be shrugged aside, and bleeding out is the worst way to go. I wouldn’t wish a death like that on any of my enemies, even the Hood.” He cast a glance back towards the group as he reached the door, adding, “You two look after Queen and make sure he doesn’t nearly kill himself again.”
“How many times do I have to say it,” Oliver groaned. “I wasn’t trying -”
He was cut off when Lance slammed the door behind him, pausing a few steps out into the corridor to take a deep breather, and process everything he had just discovered. It was difficult to admit, but Queen genuinely worried him. Lance might despise him slightly, but the fact that the young Queen was self harming was not a joking matter, and the thought of finding him again on the floor, bleeding out from his wrists, made the detective sick to his stomach.
Sure, Oliver had pretty much torn apart his family. His actions and reckless behaviour had resulted in Laurel’s heart being broken many a time, and Sara had ended up dead, not directly because of Oliver, but due to events orchestrated by him, where he’d invited her aboard the Gambit.
But none of that was on his mind. When he’d first found Oliver in that corridor, a small pool of blood forming as crimson dripped from his wrists, Lance had thought the worse. Thought that Oliver had decided that ending his life was the only option. And that had terrified him.
That was the kid that he’d been introduced to after Oliver had comforted Laurel when she’d fallen from the monkey bars in first grade.
That was the kid who’d taken Laurel, Sara and Thea trick or treating at age fourteen, and then given all of his candy to the three of them after some mean teenagers had stolen theirs.
As much as Lance hated to admit it, Oliver did not deserve pain and suffering. He certainly didn’t deserve a life of self harm and depression, which was currently how the young man’s life was going.
“God help you, Oliver Queen,” he muttered, deciding that heading home and drinking a glass of whiskey would do him so good. “God help you.”