Chapter 07: Trust but Verify

“Relax,” Oliver smirked after getting to his feet at the same time she did and when she fell into him, he couldn’t help but put her arms around her to keep her on her feet. “This is an old house. I can find the fuse box with my eyes closed and I hope that nothing’s damaged, otherwise you’re going to have to bring out the candles and light that fireplace.” Wow, she smelled so good, it was intoxicating and smelled likebeing home. And that was a little bit disconcerting to him, as he had not seen it coming. “It’s just a storm.”

Bella was still as he held her and nodded. She hadn’t checked the forecast and didn’t anticipated bad weather. Storms and her did not go particularly well after ten years since her break up with Edward, as it was truly the only thing in her life that came close to really claiming her life. “I don’t like storms for obvious reasons mentioned,” she said as she looked up at him, her fingers twisting the hem of his shirt in the darkness of the room as she continued to hold onto him when the windows lit as a flash of lightning crossed the sky.

“Alright, don’t worry,” he gently rubbed her back. “You obviously won’t be okay all by yourself while I go and check the fuse box… so… why won’t you hop onto my back? It’s easier to walk like that.”

She scoffed at his suggestion, no matter how much it appealed to the woman in her to get as physically close to him as she could like that. For his suggestion, she fisted her hand and ran it into his gut hard, impressed with the solid body it met. “I’m fully capable of walking, thank you,” she murmured in the darkness. “Just stay close is all, Caveman.”

He seemed pleased with himself as he moved around her and slowly started to walk towards the basement where the fuse box was. Oliver carefully maneuvered down the stairs; if it had been just him, he’d have walked faster but he didn’t want her to end up getting hurt and found the fuse box. He fumbled around it to get it to open and tried to find the flashlight that he knew he had left there when he moved. “Where are the flashlights?”

Bella pulled out her cell phone and held it up with a shrug. “Shut up. I know what you’re thinking,” she glared at him. “I don’t know. My dad must have moved things around down here. This was supposed to be his work space for some of his hobbies.”

“Hmm,” he said as he looked at the fuses. They were all blown and he couldn’t see any spare. “We’re fucked, unless you have some fuses upstairs somewhere?” He kept clicking the control panel buttons to see if everything worked, but to no avail, and while he did that, he quickly looked around to see if he could find hedgeclippers, just to be on the safe side.

Bella remained quiet as he worked but when he announced his verdict she wasn’t happy. “That’s what I hire people for Oliver. Do I really look like I would know anything about this stuff? I mean my dad was a cop sure, so I can find my way around weapons but this shit?”

“Oh, I understand completely,” he said with a nod. “I mean, I grew up in this house and we had staff waiting on us hand and foot. I’m surprised I could tie my own shoelaces.” He slammed the fuse box shut and gently took her arm. “So, where do you keep the candles?”

“Umm, well, I do have some …” she said, biting her lip. “They are upstairs…”

“Seriously?” Oliver said surprised. “Please don’t tell me that they’re still in a box you need to unpack…”

“No. They’re in my room…”

“Okay, let’s go upstairs to your room to get some candles,” he said as he carefully walked back up the stairs of the basement and really hoped that the thunderstorm had gone away so that at least Bella wouldn’t be paralyzed by fear. And why on earth did she keep candles in her room? That was so… unpractical.

When they reached the hallway that led to the bedrooms, Bella turned, knowing her way from her first sleepless nights of exploring in the dark. “I’m on this end. I gave Charlie the master suite. Didn’t really suit me anyway, if you could believe it,” she joked before looking at him seriously. “And don’t make fun of my room.”

“My mother and Walter had the master suite,” Oliver said with a nod. “Thea had the other bedroom on that end… the guest room was over there and you… you are sleeping in my old room.”

Bella didn’t know what to say to that really. “Awkward… Um well, I sometimes use candles to calm down after a stressful day and I had them out last night. They are the scented tubs from the department store but they last for hours.”

“Well, that’s good then, at least we’ll have some light,” he smiled, waiting at the doorstep so she could go and fetch her candles. “And how can I make fun of your room when I can barely see anything?”

She didn’t want him in there but at the same time, with the way the thunder was booming outside, her nerves were continuously on edge. “No. It’s alright. You can come in. I trust you won’t break anything. I’ll just get Laurel after you.”

He followed her inside, keeping his distance but putting his hand on the small of her back. “It’s just flashes of lights and some noise, nothing more.” Oliver spoke softly and encouragingly. “The big building around you will catch any bolt of lightning coming near you as it’s bigger than you.”

“Easy for you to say when you weren’t almost killed by a storm,” she complained as she led the way to get bed side table where the freshest candle she knew was.

“Says who?” He snorted. “Besides, you’re still here. You’re in this big, old, dark house that you bought with your own success money, while there’s a storm on the loose and with a guy who is considering to buy a tent, wait for the weather to get worse and get you to camping with him while it’s this bad, but that would be mean.” He said jokingly.

“Yeah. No. I’d rather cut my hand off before going outside in that,” Bella snapped as she fumbled for the lighter on the table and lighting the first candle. “There!” She exclaimed as she held it up to him with a grin.

“Congratulations, you discovered the power of fire and the use of a string and wax to create light!” Oliver cheered at her.

“Pompous asshole. I have a couple more jars in the closet,” she glared as she pointed him in the directed of the door to the area.

Snorting as he suppressed the laugh that threatened to escape, he made his way over to the closet, but as he opened it, a garment landed on his head. He pulled it off his face and noticed that it was the mindblowingly sexy dress that she wore the previous day. “Hey, I thought you said you didn’t get hurt yesterday? Then why is your dress hurt?”

“It got ripped in the fight. Nothing major,” she replied easily, completely unconcerned as she was busy searching through the drawers in the room for something.

“Is that a bullet hole?” He said, making a spectacle of trying to inspect the dress in not enough light.

Bella’s head snapped up as she stared at him wide eyed. “No. If it was, then surely I wouldn’t be here. Right?”

He carefully folded the dress and put it back in the closet. “Right,” he said with a nod and noticed the jars. Alright then, he thought to himself, definitely something for him to dig in to. He picked up four jars and looked at her. “I’m ready.”

She was locking the drawer as he walked out and turned to look at him with some hesitation. “Great. How about we grab some pillows and blankets and set up downstairs? You may as well stay the night…”

He hesitated for a moment. If this storm continued for a few more hours or so, she’d be terrified, all alone in one big house, surely he couldn’t put her through that? And did he really want to get soaked? Well, he had a car so he wouldn’t get too soaked but did he really want to leave her alone with her fears? No. Laurel would kill him. “Yeah, alright. Give me a pillow or two or a couple of blankets, whatever you prefer. I have one arm free.”

“Sure.” Bella gathered the extra linen she kept in the room so that they didn’t have to bump around the house. Grabbing the pillows from her bed, she hit Oliver with one in the chest with a smile and handed off a blanket to him. “There you go.”

What was it with her hitting him? First her fist, now a pillow? “Ready to go downstairs?” He asked as he started to walk towards the stairs. When he did, lightning struck the tree next to the window he was standing at. Thankfully, the tree survived, but he wasn’t sure about Bella. “Bella?”

Bella took cover and curled into a ball against the wall as she shook. Her hands covered her head as hot tears fell silently. “I hate this. Why won’t this stop? I’m not weak! I’m not!”

Oliver quickly dropped the stuff he was holding and slid down to her, gently putting his arms around her. She was shaking like a leaf and he felt so sorry for her. He definitely couldn’t leave tonight. Not when she was like this. “I think you’re actually very strong,” he said softly and gently pulled her into his lap. “You actually have the guts to be afraid of something.”

She curled into him on instinct as he held her. She tried to settle down but it was difficult. Her fear was a decade long problem that wouldn’t be fixed overnight. Her head tucked into his shoulder as she let him try to soothe her. “Thank you for this. I’m sorry for troubling you with my problems.”

“It’s no trouble,” he smiled at her and rubbed her back reassuringly. “I think you’re very brave to move around the house with me with that thunderstorm going on and up until now, you’ve done great.” He knew what it was like, to fear something. In the past, he’d like to think that he was fearless, until he arrived on the island and realized that he was the most inadequate shipwreck survivor ever. “And I think it’s great that instead of fleeing into your room, you stayed on the landing.”

Her arms tightened in response but she said nothing else as the events are wearing down in her. While she was calming down, she was also nodding off as she had taken to focusing on his breathing when the storm was particularly heavy around the house. Her hands fell limp on their laps as she slept against him on the stairs.

After a while, after he was sure that she was asleep, he took her into his arms and got to his feet, trying not to disturb her, before finding his way to the bedroom and carefully put her in bed. He then retrieved the blankets from the landing and covered her up before closing the curtains and lit a few candles as he sat on the floor, keeping an eye on her.

When another heavy crack followed, she stirred and started to thrash around in her sleep and he decided to get into the bed to put his arms around her, as it had worked so well before. “It’s okay,” he said softly to her as he ran his hands over her arms. To be honest, he wanted to kill the person who made her so fearsome of the beautiful as a thunderstorm.

And as he thought about it more, this storm appeared to be one of the worst they’ve had in years and it almost seemed unnatural. Whenever they moved through the house, the storm would hit at that side. Once was coincidence, twice could another coincidence but three times was a pattern. No, this wasn’t natural and he sure as hell was going to look into this.

He took his phone out of his pocket and realized that he still had a signal and decided to text Felicity. Any idea when this storm is going to end?

What storm?

That was weird. If Felicity didn’t have a storm going on where she lived, then it was another clue that this wasn’t a natural occurrence. The storm that’s currently outside?

Are you drunk?

Oliver frowned with concern at that and put his phone away. Bella had settled again, and as he had a flashlight in the back of his car – and a bow, if needed – he was going to have a look around the house. Maybe, hopefully, chasing the source away. He tried to move from Bella but with all that had happened, she had a fierce hold on him and refused to let go in her sleep. Sighing, he decided not to move and got his phone back out instead. Call Diggle, ask him to secure the perimeter of Bella Swan’s house, please.

Can’t you do it?

Not at the moment, no.

Are you naked?

I’m indisposed. Not naked.

You need saving?

FELICITY!

Okay, okay, jeez, hold your horses. Diggle is on his way and gawd, I could hear you yell at me through text! THROUGH TEXT, OLIVER.

He put his phone back into his pocket and tried to relax on the bed with Bella in his arms, which was hard. It had been a while since he had to share a bed with someone other than himself and she was attractive and she was scared. He was doing this because she was scared and she felt safe with him, sort of safe? Safer than being alone? Yes, that was it. He was currently a means to the end of her being so scared. Nothing more. But he had to relax so that he could influence her feelings as well. But maybe there was someone outside… Stop it, he told himself. Diggle was on his way. He’d take care of this. Right now, the best thing he could do was being Oliver Queen.

It was agony, waiting for a text from either Felicity or Diggle. It seemed to take longer than usual; it wasn’t that long of a drive from Diggle’s house to Oliver’s old house and if there was no one out there, it wouldn’t take long to clear the grounds surrounding the house either. However, it seemed like the storm had stopped.

There’s no one outside, Oliver. And no storm, either.

Okay. Thanks.

Are you high?

No?

Care to come out and explain?

It’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Goodnight. He put his phone away again and continued to hold Bella. He wouldn’t be able to go to sleep anyway.

When a slither of daylight came through the closed curtains, Oliver managed to untangle himself from the still sleeping Bella and went downstairs to make them some breakfast. He opened the fridge and frowned at how empty it was. There were some eggs, some bacon and… not much else he could work with. Not that he was a good cook anyway, but he could fry an egg and add the bacon, no problem.

He found some stale bread as well and then decided to make French toast instead. French toast with a good cup of coffee. And bacon. And as soon as Bella would kick him out, he was going straight for Verdant and bully Felicity in doing research for him. Well, he didn’t have to bully her into doing anything, really, but it often felt like he was one demanding son of a bitch.

He put Bella’s breakfast on a tray and headed back upstairs to her room and now that it was daylight, he could see that her bedroom was nothing to make fun of; it was just her, to be honest. It fit and it wasn’t ridiculous. Well, maybe the pink chair was a little bit overboard, but hey, who was he to judge?

“Good morning,” he said softly as he put the tray down on a side table.

She sat up, looking around confused. “Morning. When did the storm finish?” she asked before her nose caught the food he brought. “Mmm coffee…”

“Around two a.m, I think. I don’t know, I didn’t really keep the time,” he said as he handed her the mug of coffee. “Did you sleep okay, other than the storm?”

Bella eagerly accepted the coffee and took a sip as she watched him. “You stayed with me?”

“Yeah, I did,” Oliver said with a nod. “I didn’t want you to be alone after you got so scared.”

She looked towards the window in wonder for a moment. “I was pretty bad, wasn’t I?”

“Being afraid is nothing to be ashamed of, Bella,” Oliver said as he sat down on the edge of the bed. “It’s what makes us human, it’s what makes us feel. It’s just unfortunate that something natural scares the crap out of you because of what you’ve been through. The weather is not exactly something you can control.”

“It’s been pretty bad here at night I have to admit. That’s probably one of the worst storms since I’ve moved here,” she smiled at him as she pushed the covers back and set the mug on the end table. “At least I managed to sleep through some of it this time so I’m counting this as a win in my book.”

“It’s usually not so bad,” Oliver smiled and gently pat her leg. “I think you’ve done very well.” There hadn’t been a storm for months, the weather wasn’t anything like that at the moment – no indications of a storm brewing or whatever – and he had decided not to tell her. It could be mean of him, but he didn’t want to alert her until he had looked into it. “You know you can always call me, right? Or Laurel, for that matter, when it’s storming so bad you freeze up.”

She wasn’t so sure about calling anyone as usually she had Charlie with her. Laurel didn’t know about her problem and she really wanted to avoid including another person in on her issue. The thought alone made her a bit agitated, but now that he knew, she also didn’t wanted to impose on him. “Thanks,” she only said, fairly certain she would make that decision.

“I mean it, Bella. I saw how frightened you were yesterday and I hate for you to be alone with your fears while your father is away.” He gently squeezed her leg that he previously had pat and got to his feet. “Will you be alright now? I need to get going, get a fresh change of clothes before I head into work and all.”

Bella smiled and nodded, already missing his company. “Yeah. I’ll be okay. I’m going to call in and take the day I think. Maybe catch up on my sleep. You know Oliver… If you need anything also, you could call too.”

“If you want, I could send Roy around with fuses for the fuse box,” Oliver said with a nod. “And have him leave some spares as well,” he grinned. “At least that way you’ll have lights and television again.”

She nodded her acceptance. “Sure. Just make sure he knows I may be passed out at some point,” she joked.

Oliver nodded as he gently took her hand and planted a kiss on it. “Have a good day, Miss Swan,” he said jokingly with a smile on his face. “If there’s anything you need, just call.” With that, he left the house. He headed straight for Verdant, stopping on the way for breakfast and coffee, and put it on the table. It was still too early, both Felicity and Diggle were not there yet so while the computers were booting up, he freshened himself up.

Felicity was there when he was done, gratefully munching on one of the breakfast muffins. “So, how was your night?” She grinned.

“There was a storm,” Oliver said as he pointed at the computer. “Could you check the weather for me for last night?”

“There wasn’t a storm going on, Oliver.” Felicity sighed as she put down the muffin, cleaned her fingers and pulled up the weather history, showing just that; officially, there was no storm.

“And the nights before that?”

“Nada. Apart from a little bit of rain.” Felicity looked at him with a worried look on her face. “Are you okay, Oliver?”

“Yes, Felicity, I’m fine,” Oliver replied, sounding a bit frustrated as he took a sip of his coffee. “Is there any way you can see if there were electro magnetic energies last night?”

“No, but I can keep an eye on them tonight if you’d like?”

He huffed as he sat down, thinking what his next step would be. Security cameras. Bella had security cameras around the property and should the cut of power have affected the cameras, at least there was hope that they caught something. “Do you think you can hack into the security feed at Bella Swan’s house?”

“Sure,” Felicity said with a nod. “Although I hate to be me when she finds out and gets angry.”

“Don’t worry about that.”

“Did you two…” Felicity asked as her fingers flew over the keyboard. “Hey, Ollie, the power is out, I can’t get into the system. It’s usually not a problem as most security firms host their footage in their own data centre but Miss Swan’s system is self contained, everything is at that house.”

“Right, I forgot about that. Call Roy and have him go to her house with a dozen or so fuses and a flashlight, I promised her I’d send him over.”

“You two did, didn’t you?” Felicity said with a smile on her face, after calling Roy with Oliver’s request.

“No, we did not, Felicity. We talked all night because the storm was so bad I couldn’t leave the house.” She did not need to know that Bella had been so shaken up because of the storm that her body eventually just shut down and she needed to stay out of his business.

“Oliver, when was the last time you’ve slept?”

“Two days ago. For about an hour or so, I dunno.” He said with a shrug.

“Go to sleep. Until the power’s running at that house, I can’t access anything anyway. I promise I’ll be quiet.”

“I’m fine.”

“Yeah, sure you are. But I know you and if you think something’s up, you’ll be at that house again tonight and don’t sleep again. So.” She pointed at the field bed. “Catch some Z’s. You’re no use to her if you’re not on top of your game.”

He knew she was right, of course. He’d done days without sleep, but if he was going to pull another night like the previous one – which was far more exhausting than staying up all night being the Arrow mostly due to inactivity – then he needed some sleep. Yes. He put his coffee down and made his way over to the field bed and lay down.

~o.O.o~

After Oliver left, Bella ate some of the breakfast he had made her, finding that her thoughts drifted to him more often than she thought they would. Sighing, she changed into a pair of sweats and climbed back into bed, still feeling quite tired from the night before and the overall lack of sleep catching up to her. While she had survived on naps through the day before to function, the previous week had been the longest she’d had to go without sufficient rest.

She didn’t know how long she was out when the her cell phone was ringing, waking her. Grabbing it, she quickly answered it. “Swan,” she mumbled into it as she rubbed her eyes, glancing at the wall clock on the wall, noticing it was after lunch.

Miss Swan, it’s Roy Harper, Mr. Queen sent me over with some fuses and he had me do some shopping as well. Could you let me in, please?”

Bella blinked for a moment before nodding. “Oh uh, yeah sure. I’ll be right down,” she replied, slightly confused. She hadn’t expected Oliver to be so quick with his promise to fix her power problem. She had every intention of calling someone when she woke up so she was feeling a bit unsure as she made her way to the front door.

At seeing who was at the door she slowly grinned in amusement. “Chuck!”

“Yes ma’am,” Roy grinned as he stuffed his phone back into his pocket. “Mr. Queen said you didn’t have any food in the house and he asked me to pick something up for you.”

“Pompous asshole,” she muttered as she held the door open for him. “Come on in. He is a nosy fuck. I’ll have to deal with him. I tend to get a lot of take out, thank you.”

Roy chuckled as he made his way to the kitchen. “To be honest, miss, this is the first time I’ve had Mr. Queen send me on an errand run for a woman.” He set the bag on the counter and started to put things in the fridge. There were fresh fruits, a loaf of bread, enough meat to feed an orphanage and some other food necessities.

Bella eyed all the food skeptically, wondering what the man was thinking. “That asshole better be planning on coming and cooking this himself because I’m not doing shit. My father isn’t going to be back for at least a week as when rumors like ones after the club opening starts, it usually takes that long before they start leaving the company out of it and he wants nothing to do with that. I don’t have time to cook for myself when it’s just me dealing with everything. Your boss is a big jerk!”

Roy smiled and nodded. “That he is, ma’am.” After he was done putting stuff away, he held up the box with the fuses. “Even though I know my way around this house, I have no idea where the fuse box is.”

Bella showed him the way to the basement and hung around, but not really absorbing what he was doing. She knew it would be beneficial for her to know but she had other concerns that a fuse box just didn’t rank. Such as the many ways to torture Oliver Queen.

Once he had replaced all the fuses, he switched on the control panel buttons and he could hear the entire house coming back to life, including the TV in the family room. He put the spare fuses on the floor and placed a flashlight at the box as well. “All done. Is there anything else I can do for you, Miss Swan?”

“Tell Oliver he’s dead,” she replied casually as she gestured towards the kitchen. “Other than that no. I might come by the club tonight if I can’t sleep though. We’ll see. Thanks Chuck.”

Roy nodded. “I shall tell him, Miss Swan. Have a good day.” With that, he left Bella Swan’s house and headed back to the club, laughing on his way back and by the time he had reached Verdant, he was just crying. It was hilarious to see his boss in denial, while the attraction was most definitely there. Also; she wasn’t as scary as he thought she’d be.

“Shh!” Felicity hissed at Roy as he entered the basement. “He’s sleeping.”

Roy sat down next to Felicity behind the computer and moved his face closer to hers so he could whisper. “She definitely has the hots for him.”

“Good, she could do with someone like him…” Felicity pointed to her computer screen. “Her previous boyfriends. Douche and douchier.”

“Want me to break out the popcorn?” Roy mused as he watched the screen.

“Douche uno, Aaron, didn’t realize what kind of catch Bella was when he broke off their relationship. After an article came out about her being one of the new up and comers of entrepreneurship, he wanted her back. Her revenge was all over the media and she succeeded in breaking him. She took everything, including his company. Douchier dos, Edward, well… not much is known about her relationship with him because it was before she got into the media and such, but his family paid for her education and she received money from them; I’m guessing something happened that they didn’t want to get out.”

“Interesting,” Roy said with a nod before getting up. “I have to go upstairs to do bar stuff, I believe new cameras are arriving today and they need to be hung and more stock.”

“Shhh!” Felicity said, smacking Roy on the back. “He’s sleeping!” She turned back to her computer as Roy made his exit, running background checks on Bella’s ex-boyfriends and their immediate family at the same time as she was trying to hack into Bella’s security system to see if there was any footage of last night. When she didn’t find any – obviously, the power was out – she looked at the day before, and the day before that and she was surprised to see a storm there.

Checking the meteorological data, the storm shouldn’t be there, especially not a couple of nights in a row. She saw something moving from the corner of her eye on the footage from three days ago; a male in a hoodie. Thankfully, the cameras at the house were good quality cameras so she took a couple of screenshots and started to work on enhancing the image to get a good shot of this person’s face. It took a while, but eventually she had something she could work with and let the facial recognition programme run it.

Felicity took a sip of the now cold coffee as she looked at the list of names that her other programme had come up with; this Edward Cullen guy had a large family and not all of them had clean hands. If they lived in Starling City, the Arrow would have done something about these people. “Oh Bella,” she sighed as she shook her head.

Edward’s brother Jasper had been arrested several times for instigating fights and disorderly conduct, sister Alice was a shoplifter and another brother was arrested for solicitation. Edward himself seemed to be squeaky clean apart from some traffic tickets. There was another sister, Rosalie, but she seemed to be as clean as a whistle, even doing charity work and donating a lot of time and money into rebuilding broken families. But the real danger came from the parents of these kids. All cases had been thrown out in court because the evidence never stuck, but accusations of extortion and even second degree murder were serious allegations. The Cullens must have some serious pull in their world.

And Bella managed to get money from them? She was a powerhouse. Definitely. But now, Felicity was worried that these people would eventually get to Bella, even though she was the boss of a highly recommended security firm.

Facial recognition came back with a Peter Warren, a Central City resident and wanted for electrocution? That didn’t make sense, at all. Digging deeper, she found that he was actually an escapee from S.T.A.R. labs, where Barry had spent nine months in a coma after said lab’s particle accelerator became unstable and exploded. Barry had emailed her about this; apparently the explosion itself had killed a lot of people and it had created a freak thunderstorm that hit a lot of people as well; people like Barry, who was currently as fast as lighting; the Flash. He had said that Doctor Wells referred to him as a metahuman, Barry had been a carrier of the ‘metagene’, a gene that was, is, the next step in evolution and the thunderstorm that hit him had activated it. And Barry hadn’t been the only person with the gene to get hit by the storm.

Felicity wished that Oliver wasn’t asleep right now and if he hadn’t needed the sleep, she would have woken him. She couldn’t wait to tell him all about what she had uncovered.

 

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