Chapter 2

"Oh Astrid," Thea declared at first seeing her at breakfast with Oliver, "I didn't know you were in town! Why didn't you tell me, Ollie?"

"I was quite surprised too." Oliver told his sister, who had always had warm admiration for his friend.

"It was a last minute thing, Thea." Astrid answered.

"The two of you haven't rekindled your romance?" Thea asked, with hope.

Astrid looked over at Oliver, the last thing she needed at that moment was another complicated relationship. "No, not that I'm aware of. That was seven years ago, and we both have our own lives. And last time I heard Ollie was with Laurel? Or was it... Oh never mind!" 

"Maybe we should just change the subject." Oliver broke in, "Astrid's father left her Sutherland Labs, so frankly she's down for business, Aren't you, Star?" 

He was referring to the old nick name he had given her when they were younger. Star being almost an anagram of her name and also a reference to her old obsession with space at the time.

"Yep, nothing exciting, sorry to disappoint. Speaking of business," Astrid looked at Oliver. "You said that you would show me the ropes? We should get going!" She was still a little out of sorts due to what had happened the night before, but she refused to let it derail her any longer.

The two left, though instead of heading to Queen industries to learn the ropes of business, Oliver took Astrid to the busiest place he could find at the time. The park. They sat on a bench together in the midst of the crowds.

"So, we're here so you can work on your gift. You obviously only need to focus, to hear thoughts, but how many thoughts can you hear at the same time?" 

"You're asking me to read multiple minds at once?" Astrid ask, raising her eyebrows in disbelief.

"That's exactly what I'm asking. Start small, try that elderly couple right there." He pointed to a man and a woman feeding the birds. Astrid focused on the man's mind. That was easy. Then the woman's mind. She heard her thoughts but couldn't hear the old man's thoughts any longer. It was as if the connection had ended.

"I can't do it!" she told Oliver.

"You can. Just try again." 

She tried again, though the same thing happened. One mind at a time. Her forehead began to hurt so she cradled her head in her hands. "No luck. Oliver maybe it's just not possible."

"I doubt it. It's like the sense of hearing all you need to do is channel your senses. Try it again."

This time it worked. She could hear two distinct voices at the same time in her mind. The man and the woman's. As she was listening, two other people walked past. She expanded her new found sense of hearing. She could now hear four voices in her mind at once. It was as if she were in a crowded room, though only she could hear those secret voices.

Her head was in sheering pain at that point. She tried to close her mind off from the voices. It wouldn't work. This time she could hear multiple voices all around her. "Arrgghh!" she cried out, clutching at her head. She envisioned a soundproof wall and the voices all disappeared.

"Did you do it?" Oliver asked. His voice sounded louder than the sound of the thoughts had been, making her jump. It was as if the mental wall and his voice had distracted her and had closed off the link. Her head still had a dull ache.

"I did it, Ollie. I actually did it." She said, surprised at herself. He tried to keep his mind blank. Her powers were getting stronger.

"What are you hiding Oliver? What happened to you?" 

He wasn't sure if she had tried to read his mind or not. He didn't feel any different.
"Why do you ask?" he asked her.

"You have changed! You are not the Oliver Queen that you once were. The Oliver that I remembered was a charming womanizer. You were also a jerk. Poor Cisco, you were not the nicest when it came to him, either. If you ask me, it's a good thing. You have changed for the better."

Oliver let his guard down for the briefest of moments. If only she knew...

His mind envisioned all the torture, the grief and the training that he had gone through on that island. He envisioned every little detail that he had replayed in the past year since he had been rescued. That five years on the island had impacted his entire life and had changed him from the very man he used to be.

He realized when it was too late that Astrid had read every one of his thoughts. Fortunately, they were only the thoughts of the island and nothing more.

"Oh Oliver!" she empathized. In all her years as a criminal psychologist she didn't know what to say. This was her friend and she had seen every image of torture that he had experienced.

"That would change anyone." She bit her lip. She felt as if she might have said the wrong thing. There was a brief moment between the two of them that brought her back to the time that they dated. They had been together for three years in total, thanks to their father's associations. It was an epic relationship, as if they were made for each other.

The media loved them, they evened each other out in everything they did. But it was the way he treated her best friend that made her end it all. Of all the time she had known Oliver, she had always put Cisco Ramon above all else. But that Oliver Queen had been a jerk, and here she was sitting with the new Oliver. The old chemistry was still there.

Their moment was broken by a ringing from Astrid's purse. She pulled out her phone and saw who was calling her. Her face fell. It was Cisco. She had expected his call, considering she had left in the night without telling anyone. Oliver had also seen the caller's name. 

Astrid refused to answer it. She put the phone back in her purse and pulled out some money.

"I need to get a drink. I'll be back in a minute." She left her purse with Oliver and left the bench to go to the drink vendor.

'What is she running from?' Oliver wondered to himself, seeing himself in her at that very moment. Her phone rang again. He let the phone ring through and glanced at Astrid waiting in line for a drink. Her phone stopped ringing again. Then it started up again, this time he pulled the phone out of the purse and read Cisco's name. He knew that if he didn't answer it, it would continue to ring. Oliver answered the phone.

"Astrid! Finally, Where are you! We're all going mad trying to reach you." Cisco's voice spoke immediately.

"Cisco? It's me, Oliver. Astrid is fine. Is everything ok?"

Cisco swore in Spanish but Oliver interrupted him. "Relax, I didn't kidnap her. Last night, she just showed up. Is she ok, what's going on?"

He could hear Cisco sighing in relief. "She has been trying to keep it all together since waking up from her coma." Oliver remembered the phone call, that he had received from Cisco four months ago, about her accident.

"I think she has finally hit breaking point, Oliver.  She doesn't know the first thing about running her father's business. She even teamed up with Luthor Corp. Her friend is fighting for his life and I am worried about her."

He hadn't mentioned anything about Astrid's mind reading abilities, so Oliver wouldn't either. Oliver waited until Cisco had finished saying everything that he needed to say, before he spoke again. "We need a temporary stand in for Astrid to take charge of the business for a little while. Just until she can get back on her feet. Maybe a holiday is what she needs right now and then she will back to being the Astrid we both know and love."

"Ok." There was a tone of defeat in Cisco's voice. "I need to go, but before I do, tell her... tell I'm worried about her."

"I will." Oliver told him, honestly. Cisco ended the call and Oliver brought the phone away from his ear and put it back in Astrid's purse. He scanned the park, the vendor that she had just gone to, but found no sight of Astrid.

He stood up to get a better look. He pulled out her phone again, looking for a 'selfie' picture. It was very rare to find one, but alas there was one.

He took the phone to the vendor, "Hey! Have you seen this girl?" he asked the girl selling drinks. She was in awe that Oliver Queen was talking to her. "er... yes! Mr Queen... but she left a couple minutes ago. That's Astrid Sutherland."

"Where did she go?" he asked her in a hurry.

"I'm sorry, I didn't see." She answered softly, "I've had so many customers."

Oliver stepped back and looked around. It was clear that she was missing.


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