A World Away
The heavy punching bag swings from the ceiling as Connor lays into it. Punch after punch, hit after hit, one blow after another. The white tape on his knuckles doesn't blunt the pain, making sure he feels every punch. He's not normally physically violent. The most he's ever done is punch a guy in bar fight or two.
But this is the first time he's ever been so angry he wanted to punch something.
News updates from Starling were still playing from his laptop at the other end of the room. Tales of horror, death, mayhem. It was worse than the Undertaking. There were men swarming the streets, men in orange and black masks, men whose primary goal appeared to be to hurt as many people as possible.
He left his friends in the middle of that shitshow.
The next blow lands hard, harder than it should, hard enough to bruise his hand through the tape.
"Shit." He walks away from the bag, shaking his hand as if it could dissipate the pain. He can't afford to damage his hand, not if he wants a surgical career.
Connor walks to the freezer and yanks out an icepack. He presses it to his knuckles and kicks the base of it in frustration. He wanted to be there. He wanted to make a difference. But he was too late, too far away.
He was in the middle of surgery when Thea was kidnapped. It's a good thing he didn't hear about it until afterwards. But that was when it hit home just how much he was giving up by walking away from Starling.
In walking away from Starling, he walked away from his family, his little sister. He wanted to walk away from the lies and twisted half-truths that surrounded his life, the hurt involved with Laurel and Oliver's betrayal. And it had worked for a while.
Now he was questioning his decision to move half a world away.
He snags a water bottle with his uninjured hand, downing a healthy bit of water as he crosses the room to the laptop and drops into the chair. Shifting through the news stories, for some hint that his friends are safe, that everything's alright.
There's not much he can do except wait for Felicity or John to reach out.
It's killing him.
Six hours later he gets the "we're okay" text.
That's after the news has confirmed that the men attacking the city have been subdued, after there have been sightings of every member of Team Arrow. He's already resigned himself to the beer in his hand and the crushing mass of all the bodies in the club he's escaped to.
He thought the atmosphere would be soothing, a reminder of Verdant and home. Instead the masses of people just highlighted the people he was missing in his own life.
The next text is a jumble of words from Felicity, in which all he can completely understand is that they're going back to Lian Yu, to the Island. It has something to do with the Bad Guy of the Year, but Tommy can't quite follow Felicity's logic when he's pleasantly buzzed and heading towards drunk.
"A hot date stood you up too, huh?"
Connor takes a swig of his beer as he turns to his right, to a pair of warm brown eyes staring at him over a pink drink. He shakes his head and turns back to the bar. "Nope. Just homesick."
"So you came to a club?"
He laughs loudly over the music. "I used to run a club like this."
"Really?" She leans in close, her voice dropping into flirtatious territory. Her hand lands on his arm. "That's fascinating. You must know all the best kept secrets."
Yeah, that the neighborhood superhero lives in the basement. Although, that's probably not the case here. This is probably just a normal club. He hasn't heard about any leather-dressed vigilantes in the street.
Tommy grins. "You don't want to know what goes on in a club. It ruins the illusion."
She snorts. "What? You know all the best make-out spots?"
"You don't want to know half the things I've seen. We had a lost and found box full of women's underwear." He chuckles as he remembers going through the box.
His phone lights up again.
"Well, aren't you Mr. Popular!"
He chuckles, flipping the phone over. "They finally remembered they had to let me know they were still alive. You'd think even with international texting they would have remembered it sooner."
Okay, so he's a little bitter.
"But everyone's alive, right? That's what matters."
Connor nods. "You've got a point, but I think I'll let them wallow for a while." He slips the phone into his pocket and turns his full charm on as he faces her head on. "Connor Rhodes." He holds out his hand.
She takes his hand with a sultry smile. "Sidney."
"No last name?" he asks with a teasing laugh.
"You've got to earn it."
"In that case, we're going to need another round." Connor leans forward to flag down the barista, enjoying the light, bubbly feeling of flirting with a cute girl. This is going to be fun.
"THOMAS MERLYN, OPEN THE DAMN DOOR!"
He flinches at the loud noise and the pounding that is apparently not just in his head. He glances over at the girl sprawled out on the bed next to him.
"TOMMY! If you don't answer now, so help me, I will call Oliver and get him to break down this door!"
Sidney squints at him through her own headache. "Tommy?"
He sighs. "It was a past life." He heaves himself out of bed with a groan. "And if I don't open the door, she will make good on that threat."
"This isn't an ex I need to worry about, is it?"
"Not an ex. Maybe my best friend." Can he call her that when she lives a world away? It doesn't really matter.
He swings the door open and comes face to face with a red-in-the-face Felicity who appears to be gearing up for another rant when he opens the door and takes all the wind out of her sails. Instead, she brushes past him into the apartment talking a mile a minute. In his current hungover state, Connor doesn't absorb a word.
He nods to Diggle and gestures him into the apartment and moves to the coffee pot, switching it on in the hopes that he actually set it up to brew a fresh pot and not just reuse old grounds. Then he tunes back into Felicity's diatribe.
"And since you couldn't deign to respond to any of our texts or calls, we had to come here and basically break into your apartment. We ditched Oliver to come check up on you. He thinks this is a cover up for his sudden absence from Starling, but John and I couldn't not check up on you. Seriously? Seventeen missed calls and you couldn't bother responding? What were you do-"
Felicity's face is comical as she turns to stare at Sidney, who is unabashedly wearing his shirt and nothing else.
"Oh, hi. We…um…sorry. For interrupting. We just wanted to make sure you were okay." Felicity's face is bright red while John Diggle just looks amused.
"I'm not the one who was in a city under attack." Freshly brewed coffee fills the air, waking him up little by little already.
"Or kidnapped," John adds with a significant look in Felicity's direction.
Connor turns back to her, with his arms crossed. "Kidnapped?"
She huffs indignantly. "Which you would know if you answered the phone. I'm fine, by the way."
"And where was Oliver while you were getting kidnapped?"
If Sidney finds their conversation odd, she doesn't comment as she picks up her purse and a dress from the floor. She slips back into the bedroom without a sound, closing the door behind her.
"Well, that's the best part." Digg's voice is more biting than usual as he glares at Felicity. "It was his idea."
Felicity can't meet his eyes as her fingers run over his countertop like it's the most interesting computer in the world.
"What did Oliver do?" He didn't think Oliver was capable of this, of putting Felicity – of all people – in danger. No. The friend he knew was an ass, but he was a noble one.
Felicity sighs. "He needed a way to outthink Slade."
"So he let you be kidnapped by a madman? What kind of excuse is that?"
John nods in agreement, turning to Felicity who just huffs in annoyance.
"I agreed it was the best way. Doesn't that count for something?"
Connor scowls. No. He still doesn't like it. "Did you agree to it?"
Defiant blue eyes stare challengingly back at him. "There was no other way. He had Laurel, Connor. He'd kidnapped her because he wanted to kill the woman Oliver loved, so we convinced him he had the wrong woman. It allowed me to get close enough to bring him down to Oliver's level."
A glance over at Digg confirms that he's not the only one who suspected that it was the truth, that Felicity really was the one Slade needed to kill to break Oliver. Neither him nor Digg were happy with this turn of events.
"I get that you two aren't happy with this decision, but I am a part of the team, and I did what needed to be done to stop Slade from destroying the city, so you can stop it with the double standards and exchanged looks. It was the only way to get under Slade's guard and we all got out of there alive. Oliver was able to defeat Slade because of what I did."
"But you could have died," Digg says quietly, more menace in those few words than Tommy thought possible. "If anything had happened to you, I might have killed Oliver myself."
Connor nods solemnly. "And I would have come back to make sure you didn't get caught."
Digg nods in his direction.
"Although I don't think Oliver would give you much trouble," Connor points out as he pours himself a mug of coffee. "He'd probably let you kill him."
Felicity rolls her eyes. "You guys are blowing this way out of proportion. And now that we've checked in on you, we'll get out of your hair."
She walks up to Connor and pulls him into a hug. "I'm glad you're okay."
This woman is unbelievable. It's like she wasn't the one held hostage. He would definitely not be okay this soon after an attack. Nope. The pain would still be fresh. He'd probably punch his best friend.
But he's not the one who was kidnapped. And he trusts Felicity to stand up for herself when Oliver really does cross the line. He trusts her as much as it terrifies the crap out of him. She might not be the one running around the streets at night, but she puts herself out there and puts herself in danger just as much as Oliver does.
Connor pulls away enough to look into her eyes. "I'm glad you're okay, too, but do me a favor?"
Reluctantly, she nods her assent.
"Let Digg or Ollie teach you how to defend yourself. For all of our piece of minds."
"The minute we're back in Starling," Digg agrees, clapping Connor on the back. "Sorry we can't stay longer. Oliver's probably already wondering where we disappeared to."
"Speaking of," Felicity turns from the door, "did you know Oliver can fly a plane? I'm assuming that's not a pre-Island thing, because no one with a smidge of common sense would let that kid in the cockpit of an airplane. But seriously, I mean, the guy disappears for five years and comes back with new talents, and not-so-nice friends."
"Yeah, he flew a plane. I'm still in shock. He's even pretty good at it, right, Digg? Way better than that sketchy Chinese guy who flew us there the first time."
Connor shakes his head. "Yeah, I don't want to know. Have a good trip back. Let me know when you get there."
Felicity rounds on him with a stern face, halfway out the door. "You better not forget to answer your phone again, mister, or I will come right back here. Got it?"
He holds his hands up in surrender. "Got it."
Satisfied, she flounces from the room with Digg on her heels and the door clicking shut behind them. The only indication they were ever there is the fact that he's awake with a killer hangover. He doesn't have to be at work for hours.
"Your friends are…interesting."
He turns to look at Sidney with a shrug and a casual smile.
"Kidnappings, death threats, ambiguous sounding things…"
"They work in a special crimes unit in the States." He smiles at the vague statement that almost makes what they do sound legal. "It can be a bit hairy so they tend to overreact to thinks like not answering phones."
"These are the friends you mentioned last night?"
He agrees and holds out the coffee pot to ask if she wants some. She shakes her head.
He laughs. "They saved my life. They like to check in."
"Sounds like quite the story."
Connor starts to pull out the makings for breakfast. He's not going to force Sidney to leave, but he's not entirely content with this current line of questioning. "It is, but it's not really a happy one either. Eggs?"
"Actually, I've got to go see a guy about a spaceship from Mars."
He grins at the less than subtle excuse but nevertheless waves off his first one night stand since he left Starling. He'd actually had fun. Now it actually feels like everything he left behind is firmly in the past.
Maybe now he can finally move on.