Spoilers: Set during Season 3, probably. Mild spoilers for the show in general, mostly little things from Seasons 1 and 2.
Summary: It’s tough protecting the city when you’re sick.
Gritting his teeth, holding his breath, rubbing his nose—Roy tried all the tricks he knew. None of them worked this time.
A quiet flutter of fabric followed by a soft thump of something landing beside him on the rooftop made Roy look up, thumb and forefinger still squeezing his nose. From under his hood to under the Arrow’s, his gaze met Oliver’s. Sheepishly, and with a hint of a sniffle, Roy said, “Bless me?”
Oliver’s single laugh seemed loud in the silence of the night, and it made Roy shiver. “You want me to… okay, sure: bless you. Now go home.”
“What?” Another sniffle. He rubbed hard at his nose, wishing he’d thought to bring a tissue. “Oliver, you need me.”
“What I need is to protect the city. I don’t need you here if you’ve got a cold.”
“I’ll keep it to myself,” he argued. “Promise you won’t catch it.”
“But can you promise they won’t catch us? One sneeze in there—“ Oliver tilted his head in the direction of the warehouse “—and we’ll lose the element of surprise.”
“I wo…” Roy began to protest, but his breath began to hitch. Powering through the tickle, he tried again. “I won-ihh! wo… hih! Ih wo-iih-Nggxtff!” His head snapped down, palm flat against his nose, trying his best to muffle the sound. It couldn’t have been that loud.
Oliver was unimpressed. He patted Roy’s arm. “Go home, Speedy. Take some medicine and put yourself to bed. I’ll look in on you tomorrow.”
Roy shook his head. “You don’t have to do that.”
“I’ll look in on you tomorrow,” Oliver repeated. “Now go.”
Roy switched off his com link, sniffed a few times, and then nodded in agreement. “Kay. Kick some ass in there for me.”
Oliver stood on the edge of the building and watched Roy run and leap across the rooftops. He watched as an arrow was fired and the man in the red hood swung down the street. He watched until Roy was out of sight. Then he cleared his throat. It was amazing that Roy hadn’t called him out on how deep and congested his voice sounded, though he always spoke with a deeper voice when he was the Arrow. It was also amazing he hadn’t sneezed or coughed once during that entire discussion.
“Being a little hypocritical tonight, don’t you think?” Oliver heard Diggle say to him through the com. “Your cold’s about five times worse than his.”
Oliver coughed and rolled his eyes. He crossed the roof at a run and leaped off the edge onto the rooftop below. “Don’t start with me, Digs.” He coughed. “I don’t feel good, I’m cranky and sore, and there’s a kidnapping victim I’ve got to rescue now without Arsenal.”
“Hey, you’ve still got me!”
“And me!” Felicity spoke up over the com. “Just like the old days,” she reminded him.
“eh… heh-Harruhschhhhhh-huhh...” He sneezed into his sleeve. Rubbing his nose into the crook of his arm, Oliver did not feel reassured.
“Except, without the list and without the killing, of course. And I’ve got a better rack.” She paused a second. “Of computers! I mean—“
“I’m going in,” Oliver interrupted. He cleared his throat then slipped in through a side entrance, immediately finding safety in the shadows behind a large row of storage crates. And immediately having to rub his nose. Damn tickling cold. He’d never had to deal with cold bugs back on the island. Murderers, land mines, and genetic weapons? Yes. Colds? No.
Oliver wound his way through the aisles, careful at each corner. He was breathing hard and fast through his mouth, sure someone would hear him. But no one did. With the zip of a well-placed arrow, he found himself on top of a stack of crates, a good twenty feet above his target. A woman was bound to a folding chair with thick ropes. Two men circled him, one with a gun, the other talking on a cell phone. Oliver tried to listen, but he couldn’t make it out and couldn’t use one of his eves dropping arrows or they’d notice.
By now, it was hard to imagine how any criminals would think they could get away with a simple kidnapping in Starling City. Oliver took a deep breath, tried not to cough, and jumped. He shot arrows as he dropped, one to attach him to the ceiling, slowing his fall, another to catch the guy with the gun in the arm, making him drop the weapon. A third to pierce the leg of the guy with the phone. Only that one bounced off him.
It all happened so quickly, Oliver barely registered what was going on. One second, everything was going as planned, the next there was some flash of light and his arrow bounced off as though hitting an invisible shield. It rebounded, narrowly missing his head. It would have hit him for certain if he hadn’t had such quick reflexes. But he snapped away at the last moment, avoiding disaster but instantly getting hit by something hard in the back of the head that made him go weak.
“Excellent,” said the man on the phone. “Plan worked, Sir. We’ve got him.”
Through the com link, he could hear Diggle repeating his
name, more and more urgent with each repetition.
Then he felt something strike him again and everything went back.
He woke to find himself bound to the folding chair, cell phone guy looming over him. But his hood was still down and mask was still on. He was waiting for something—or someone. Oliver looked around.
“Lookin’ for the girl? We let ‘er go. Weren’t after ‘er. We was after you.” The man with the gun came around from behind, grinning. There was a blood-stained bandage wrapped around his bicep.
“I’b flat… flattered. Hah-Hrrchshhhh! HahhChrrkshhhh!” Oliver fought against the bindings, unable to wipe his nose. It was a horrible feeling and embarrassing as well. He’d remembered to bring a few tissues—had them in his pocket at this very moment—but he couldn’t get to them now, no matter how he struggled or twisted. And he was losing energy quickly, making his breathing deepen, making him cough.
“Oh ho-ho. Looks like the Arrow’s human after all. Caught a little somethin’, have you?”
Oliver looked up, sniffling. “Yeah. I have. Two idiots.”
The lights went out. That’d be Felicity.
Gunshots rang out. That’d be Diggle.
Oliver felt the ropes around him grow slack and fall away. Though he knew he should go for his bow, just for insurance, the first thing he did was swipe at his runny nose. This was one advantage of having a mask that only covered his eyes.
When the lights came back on, he saw the two men on the floor, tied back-to back. Diggle stood there, gun in hand, gloating. “D’you want me to call Lance, or do you want the honor?”
Oliver coughed and gestured for Diggle to do it. Then he buried his face against his sleeve again. “hah-HURTChhhfffff!” His head spun a little, but he tried to keep focus. He was here to protect the city. “We’ve got to hide. Their boss is od the way. Gotta fide out who hired these… guys…” His words dissolved into coughs. When they didn’t stop, Diggle came over, concerned. Oliver reached out and leaned into him, eyes closed. “Dig…”
Diggle gripped his arm and supported him away. They hid in the rafters, Oliver shivering and trying his best not to sneeze and give them away. And much as he wanted to figure out what the hell was going on here—who hired them to track down the Arrow and why they had arrow-blocking technology—Oliver wanted even more to go home. He was grateful for his team helping him through this, but when he was at his most vulnerable, his lone wolf instincts kicked in hard.
Things had been so much easier back on the island.
A tickle flared up in his nose, and he rubbed at it with the side of his hand, then the back, then the side again.
“Who do you think it is?” Felicity asked. “One of Ra’s al Ghul’s men?”
“Dot his style,” Oliver answered. He scrubbed harder at his nose. Talking only made the urge to sneeze intensify.
“Well it can’t be Slade. I’m looking at a live feed from his cell right now. At least… I think it’s live…” She clicked and typed furiously on her keyboards.
Slade wouldn’t have hesitated to use an innocent woman as bait. But Felicity was right; it couldn’t be him this time.
“Maybe one of Central City’s metahumans? That shield looked more like tech, though, not a natural defense mechanism.”
“It is tech,” Diggle replied in a whisper. He pulled a small device on a wristband out, examining it as best he could in the darkness of their hiding place.
“I’d like to get a good look at it,” she told them.
Oliver would like to get a good look at their boss. He wasn’t sure what he was madder about, the fact that someone had set him up or that he’d been so out of it that he’d fallen for the setup. His head felt stuffed, and his whole body was sore and overheated; wearing the hood usually filled him with purpose, but now it just made him feel slow and hot.
“huhhh!” Oliver clapped a hand over his nose and mouth. Not now… not now…
The sneeze backed off just as he heard a screech of tires outside. Heavy footsteps. The door swung open, giving Oliver a glimpse. A dark figure. It couldn’t be Merlyn. There was something strapped to his back—a sword? A gun? Wait… her back? Was that Amanda? No, it couldn’t be. And then sirens sounded. The figure took one look at the tied-up hired men and made a run for it. Diggle started, meaning to pursue. But Oliver shuddered and sniffed and held onto Diggle’s arm. They couldn’t risk being caught. Besides, what would Diggle have done if he’d caught the figure? Oliver was in no shape to conduct an interrogation. “Doe, dot this tibe. This isd’t over,” Oliver said, his voice harsh and tired now. “Let’s go before the cobs get here.” The sirens were getting louder.
“Running facial recognition software now,” Felicity told them. “But the image is pretty dark…”
“Do what you cad,” Oliver said, keeping his suspicions to himself for the moment. “I’b… I… hah… I’b go-hahhh-hah-HARKTChhhhhhhh!”
Felicity helped him out. “Are you finally taking your own advice and going home to get some rest?”
“That’s it,” he agreed, snuffling against his hand as he rubbed at his nose from all directions.
Oliver considered crashing at the lair under the club. He even thought about his backup place, the apartment he’d hid out in the last time he needed time to think and to grieve. But he headed, instead, to the home he shared with Thea. She wasn’t there, but even if she had been, he’d have tried to sneak in to avoid her. The last thing he wanted right now was to be fussed over.
Something on the kitchen counter caught his eye as he headed to his bedroom. He found it to be a box of tissues and a bottle of cold medicine. There was a short note scrawled on a post-it: Sounded like you could use this. ~TQ And then, right beside it, there was a second note: Spending the night at Roy’s. He actually lets me look after him. Feel better, Ollie. ~TQ
Oliver smiled, grabbed the items, and headed for his bedroom. He didn’t make it there without sneezing again and dipping into the box of tissues.