The Daily Planet loomed over him the next morning. Under any other circumstances, Oliver would have avoided the paper like the plague. He hated the way society reporters dug into his private life. Sure, being views as nothing more than a playboy had it’s uses. He’d become quite adept at spinning the stories so that no one would suspect him of being Green Arrow -- unless they were a blonde woman who went by the codename Watchtower, that is -- but that didn’t mean he actually enjoyed having his personal affairs splashed all over the papers. Actually walking into the Daily Planet was like giving the reporters an invitation to hound him.
There were many reasons Oliver had chosen to come to Metropolis. Chief among them had been the state of the Kansas branch of Queen Industries. But perhaps the most important reason had been to atone for a past sin. Oliver has never really forgiven himself for the way he’d treated Tess Mercer when they’d finally made it back to civilization after being stranded on a desert island with pirates.
Getting stranded on that island had probably been the best thing that had ever happened to him. Now that he was home again, Oliver could admit that. He’d been a selfish bastard before, too caught up in living down to everyone’s expectations, the billionaire orphan who’d had everything handed to him and who couldn’t give a crap about anyone but himself. He’d been so used to disappointing himself and to having everything fall apart that he’d stopped caring. Living the way he had, losing himself in alcohol and women, had helped numb the pain.
Having to depend on himself had completely turned him around. It had opened his eyes to not only his own potential, but to what he really wanted from his life. He’d vowed that if he ever made it off the island, he would turn things around and actually do some good.
That had been easier said than done.
Oliver had had a lot of growing up to do when he got off the island Despite his determination to make something of his life, he’d still had a lot of demons to face. His raging insecurities, a product of a life full of loss and relationships bases solely on lust and greed, had come back full force. While he really had been in love with Tess Mercer, things had progressed too quickly once they made it back to Star City. They’d gotten too serious, especially Tess, who’d clung to him like a life raft. Afraid as he always was that things wouldn’t last between them, Oliver had done the only thing he knew to do. He’d screwed things up on his won terms.
It was something he’d never forgiven himself for and something he had regretted ever since it had happened. He’d been tempted to go after Mercy and apologize the moment he’d come to his senses. If he’d explained, there may have been a chance to work things out. But, in a rare moment of clarity, he’d realized that making amends wouldn’t solve anything until he’d really made the transformation he’d committed to. SO he’d let her go, for both their sakes.
Now, years later, a hero and a completely different man, Oliver was finally read to speak the apology that had been burning in his mind since the day Mercy walked out of his life. He knew that he was many years too late, but he still had to do it.
He heaved a sigh. Facing a bunch of reporters should not be so intimidating considering he leapt across the roof tops and fought bad guys with a bow and arrow every night. With that in mind, Oliver straightened his shoulders and marched into the lion’s den.
Stares followed him from the moment he entered the building, but by some miracle, no one approached him for an interview and he made it to the elevators unmolested. Maybe they were used to random, well-known businessmen popping by to meet Tess since she was both editor and head of LuthorCorp.
Not wanting to risk his good fortune, Oliver hurried down the hall to Tess’s office the moment the elevator doors opened.
And straight into a very familiar blonde woman.
She was coming out of the employee’s lounge, several files balanced on one arm, a cup of coffee in her other hand. Only his quick reflexes, a product of hours of strenuous training, kept him from plowing into her. Oliver’s mouth almost fell open in shock when he saw her face and he realized just who he’d nearly run into. She took one look at him and laughed.
“Fancy seeing you here, Mr. Queen. I take it you have an interview.”
“You work here,” Oliver said dumbly.
“You’re a reporter?”
She nodded again.
“Isn’t that a little contradictory to your nighty activities?” he asked in a weak voice.
“You’d be surprised how useful it can be,” she said with a grin. “I’m not the only reporter who fights crime, you know.”
Oliver groaned. “You do realize that I’m going to be looking at every reporter I meet to see if they’re a hero, right?”
“You’ll have your work cut out for you. As far as I know, there’s only two of us,” she teased. “I shouldn’t keep you. Whoever you’re meeting is probably waiting. It was nice to see you.”
Before he could stop himself, or second guess his strange fascination with the woman before him, Oliver reached out and lightly grabbed her elbow, stopping her from walking away. “Do I get to know your name?” he asked. “It seems only fair since you know mine.”
“That is true,” she mused. “All right, then. I’m Chloe Sullivan.”
“Nice to meet you,” he chuckled.
Chloe rolled her eyes “Save the charm, leather boy, It won’t work on me. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have work to do and you have somewhere to be. See you on the rooftops,” She added with a grin before walking away.
Oliver stared after her, once more left in awe of the woman who was now walking away from him. It seemed like nothing he could do could to wrong foot Chloe. There was something about being around her that intrigued him. It was as if she was puzzle to work out, one that he had a feeling he would be more than happy to get lost in. He was so lost in his thoughts, that he almost forgot about his meeting with Tess. Only the sound of someone saying his name reminded him of why he was at the Daily Planet. Forcing himself to push aside his thoughts of Chloe Sullivan, Oliver fixed a charming half-smile on his face.
Her door was propped open, so he walked right in, pausing only slightly to tap on the door frame. He still wasn’t sure what he thought about the fact that it had been so easy to convince her to agree to see him. He’d expected it to be much harder to get back into her good graces enough to get a chance to really talk to her.
Unfamiliar nervousness ran through his veins, though non of is showed on his face, as he stepped into the editor’s office. Tess was bent over a folder on her desk, clearly working intently. For several moments, she ignored Oliver in favor of her work. He sighed. He knew a power play when he saw one. She was letting him know exactly who was in charge of the situation.
Another minute passed before Tess finally looked up. Her face was carefully blank. “Oliver Queen,” she said cooly. “What bring’s Star City’s golden city to Metropolis?”
“Business,” he answered, refusing to rise to the thinly veiled reference to his reputation. “I thought that as long as I was here I’d stop by and say hello. It’s been too long.”
Something flickered across her face, but the emotion was banished before he could identify it. “Not long enough, if you ask me,” she hissed. “Still, I supposed that it was only a matter of time before our paths crossed, given the business we’re in.”
“True,” Oliver agreed. “But this isn’t a business call.”
“What else could it be? We have nothing else in common.”
“Besides a shared past, you mean?”
Her gaze hardened. “It’s the past, Oliver. What happened is behind us. Unless you have something business related to discuss, I suggest you leave. I do have work to do.”
“Mercy,” he sighed, dropping all pretense. “I never meant to hurt you.”
And it was true. As screwed up as he’d been, he’d really believed that he was saving them both heartache down the line. He’d regretted it the moment he’d cheated and it had only taken thirty seconds for him to realize how wrong he’d been. The only reason he hadn’t apologized was because he’d known they’d end up right back there eventually. Of course, Tess didn’t know that. As far as she was concerned, he’d screwed her over and hadn’t cared.
“Save your charm for someone else,” she sneered. “You forget how well I know you, Oliver. This pathetic scheme to get in my pants and relieve the glory days isn’t going to work. Our relationship is professional and nothing else. I suggest you keep it that way.”
Oliver’s face hardened. “This isn’t about sex, Mercy. I screwed up and I’m trying to fix it.”
“You’re several years too late.” She glared at him, her eyes burning with icy heat. “Really, Oliver, Who do you think you’re kidding.”
Myself, apparently, he thought bitterly. Still, he tried to explain. “I could have apologized until I was blue in the face. But it wouldn’t have changed anything. Not then. I would still have been too messed up for the relationship we were headed for. I’d have screwed up again and hurt you even worse. I didn’t want that.”
For a moment, he thought that he might have gotten through to her. Then, her eyes flashed and she smirked at him. “Did you practice that speech in the mirror?”
To his surprise, all of the fight had gone out of him. Oliver found that, having said his piece and finally apologizing for what he had done, a weight had lifted from his heart that he hadn’t even realized was there. He’d always had the intention of trying to win Mercy back, but now he found that he no longer cared. His thoughts automatically turned to Chloe and he pushed them away. He barely knew her. Still...he found that he didn’t care what Tess thought of him anymore.
“Believe me or don’t,” he sighed. “That’s the truth, Mercy. I’m sorry I ever hurt you.”
He turned and left the room before she could reply. He didn’t know what exactly had changed in the two days that had passed since he’d come to Metropolis, but he felt as if something was pulling him forward. Though he’d never admitted it before, Tess was his past. He’d always been looking back to her. He had no idea what was in store for him, but he was finally ready for it.
Oliver paused on the steps to the Daily Planet and looked back. Once more his thoughts turned to Chloe and the team she had formed. There was something oddly appealing about working with a team. He’d never realized it before, but he was tired of always being alone. He never had let people get close to him. Maybe it was time to change that.
His phone buzzed. Pulling it out, he read the text message with a slight grin.
Watchtower. Midnight. Be there if you’re interested in helping us.
Yep. It was definitely time.
Tess watched Oliver walk away, a grimace on her face. She’d known the moment his secretary had called, requesting a meeting as soon he got into town that he was going to come crawling back to her. It only made sense. He thought that she would be an easy lay. Reveling in the idea of sending him away with his tale between his legs, she had set up the meeting.
She had never expected his heartfelt apologies. The fact that they were heartfelt was strange enough on its own. When he’d cheated, he’d never even tried to apologize for it. Looking back, Tess could grudging realize that he had been ashamed.
The prospect of resuming her relationship with Oliver had been mildly interesting, if only for the chance to be the one to play the mind games. The fact that he had given up so easily and had shown absolutely no interest in actually getting back together had been mildly insulting.
Tapping her pen against the desk, Tess thought back on her time with Oliver. She’d thought that she had gotten over her anger towards him, but it was back, stronger than ever. He had rejected her twice now. It would only be a matter of time before he found someone new in the city. Perhaps, she could still play some mind games after all.
Tess smiled to herself and went back to work.
Oliver pulled into the alley behind Watchtower at exactly eleven fifty-seven. The first thing he saw was Chloe waiting for him by the secret door he’d used the night before. He carefully stowed his bike in the shadows before moving to join her.
“I wasn’t sure you’d come,” she admitted when he came to a halt in front of her.
He shrugged. “If the stories I’ve heard about your team are true, you do a lot of good and I’d like to be a part of that.”
Nodding slightly, she led him upstairs.
The room looked much as it had the night before, save for the fact that the glass has been cleaned up. Three men stood around the table. They were all dressed in uniforms similar to his, but their faces weren’t covered.
“They don’t know who you are,” Chloe said in an undertone. “I figured it out doing some research in case we ever ended up in Star City, but I kept it to myself. You don’t have to tell them, but they kinda figured that if we’re all on the same side we should trust each other.”
“Make sense,” Oliver chuckled, pushing his hood back and shoving his glasses into a pouch on his belt.
One of the men, the youngest of the group, dressed in red hoodie with lightning bolts on it, looked up and caught sight of Oliver and Chloe. He grinned. In a movement so fast Oliver almost didn’t see it, he crossed the room in a blur to drape his arm around Chloe’s shoulders.
“There you are ‘liscious. I thought we were going to have to start without you.”
“As if,” she scoffed. “Where’s Boyscout?”
“He said something about one of your cousin’s harebrained schemes,” one of the mens still standing beside the table answered.
Chloe rolled her eyes. “Of course he did. I’ll talk to him about that later. Why don’t you boys introduce yourselves?”
The man with his arms draped across Chloe’s shoulders immediately straightened up and grinned at Oliver. “Bart Allen, aka, Impulse,” he grinned. “I can literally run around the world in less than five minutes.”
“Stop showing off,” Chloe admonished, smacking him lightly upside the head. “There’s a reason we call him Impulse,” she said to Oliver. He didn’t even try to suppress his grin at Bart’s theatric pout. “Anyway, that’s AC, codename Aquaman, which is pretty self-explanatory. And last we have Victor, who goes by Cyborg. Boys, this is Green Arrow, aka, Oliver Queen. He’s thinking about joining us.”
“Cool,” AC said with a grin. “We can always use an extra pair of hands.”
“You got a power?” Bart asked curiously.
Oliver shook his head. “No. I’m just good with a bow.”
They all shared an impressed look. Oliver guessed that it was because they all had powers of some kind.
“So how did all of this get started?” he asked. “I haven’t heard of anyone else working in a team like this.”
All eyes turned to Chloe.
“It probably started back in Smallville,” she answered after a moment. “It was hit by a meteor shower almost twenty years ago. Some of the rocks had radioactive properties that mutated human genes, giving people super powers. I’m the only one out of us to get my powers that way. I spent far too much time stopping the freak of the week back when I was in high school. A friend and I worked together to stop the metas who went power hungry. When we moved to Metropolis, we kept it up. After Dark Thursday happened, we decided that we should be doing more than just stoping metas. He started patrolling the streets and I helped out as best I could.”
“And the others?”
“I was the first to join up,” Bart said proudly. “Stopped by to see stretch and ‘liscious and ended up helping Boyscout with something. First time I’ve felt like my powers were actually a good thing, so I stuck around. Next thing I know, we’re headed off to Japan to help fishboy here after a protest gone wrong.”
“I’d have gotten out of it,” AC protested.
“You were about to be packed in a bunch of tin cans,” Bart retorted.
“I was the last one to join up,” Victor cut in. “Having all this hardware in me messed me up for a while. When Chloe came to me for some help hacking a particularly well encrypted database, I was living on the streets. Helping them gave me a sense of purpose. We do a lot of good out there.”
“What about you?” Bart asked curiously. “You don’t have any powers, so why do you do this?”
“I’ve had everything handed to me,” Oliver admitted with a shrug. “For a long time, I didn’t care. Then I got stranded on an island and my perspective changed. I wanted to actually do something, but just throwing money at some charities didn’t seem like enough. I got a taste of heroics getting off the island, so I started patrolling.”
“Dude, that’s awesome,” AC said in appreciation.
An alarm went off on one of the computers. Chloe immediately hurried over to them and tapped several keys, her eyes darting across the monitors.
“Look’s like it’s time to go to work,” she declared after a moment. “Oliver, care to join us tonight?”
He took in the excited grins of the other three men, and smiled as well. “Sign me up.”
Smirking, Chloe tossed him a comm device.