By the time the team was called back to Watchtower, Oliver was exhausted, but he was also extremely pleased. He’d taken down more criminals than he usually did on the average patrol. Every time he’d gotten done with one scenario, he’d heard Chloe’s voice in his ear, guiding him to the next bad guy who’s but needed kicking. The banter between the other heroes had brought a smile to his lips more than once. He hadn’t so accomplished and so welcome in a long time.
The others had gone straight back to their apartments while he had gone back to Watchtower. Chloe was leaning against the table when he walked in.
“So what did you think?” she asked.
“You guys have a pretty sweet set up,” he grinned. “I got more done tonight than I usually do.”
“This was a pretty average night,” Chloe said. “Usually only two or three of us are on patrol. There’s one more member of the team you haven’t met, but he’s a bit more concerning with keeping his identity secret. He’s got a little more at stake than the rest of us. Anyway, the boys switch of. I usually play Watchtower, but every now and then Vic sits in for me.”
“You definitely get a lot done by working together. It was impressive.”
Chloe’s smile broadened. “Does this mean you want to officially join the team?”
“Maybe,” Oliver said. “I don’t know how long I’ll actually be in Metropolis.”
“That’s not a problem,” she assured him. “You can work with us as long as you’re in town and when you leave you can feel free to call us up if you need help.”
He thought for a moment. Three days ago, he would have said that he wasn’t a team player. He’d never really been able to trust the people who were supposed to be close to him. But something about listening to Bart, AC, and Victor bicker in his ear while Chloe told them all to behave had felt right.
“Well, in that case,” he said with a grin. “I’d definitely like to join your team.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Chloe was grinning so broadly it looked like her face was about to split in two. “It’s late, so why don’t we meet up tomorrow to talk about some of the logistics?”
“Sounds good. Why don’t you come over to my place so you can see what I have as a set up? You may be able to use it.”
“All right. When’s a good time?”
“It’s Saturday and since I just got into town, I don’t have any business obligations, so you can come over time you want. Do you have a piece of paper?”
Chloe handed him a pad of paper and a pen. He jotted down his address and the code to the elevator and handed it back to her. “Just come on up whenever you get there. I’ll see you then.”
She nodded and pocketed the paper. “See you then.”
Oliver had almost reached the door when he heard say, “Welcome to the team, Arrow.”
He couldn’t stop the grin that spread across this face.
That night, he dreamt of Chloe. They stood side by side, looking down on Metropolis. She looked up at him with a grin on her face. Returning her smile, he bent down and kissed her lightly
By the time noon rolled around the next day, Oliver was nervous. He was pacing anxiously up around his living room, waiting for Chloe to show up. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get the dream out of his mind. It was completely ridiculous that he was freaking out. He’d never had any problem being around women before. But there was something completely different about Chloe. She was his equal. He could already see that. She was a hero, just as he was. Though they hadn’t spent much time together, she hadn’t thrown herself at him as any other woman would have done. She probably didn’t even see him that way. She just treated him like she did one of the team. For some reason, that made him like her all the more.
He’d just sat down in an attempt to force his way through some Queen Industries paper work -- there was always paperwork to do it seemed -- when the elevator chimed and Chloe Sullivan stepped into his penthouse.
“Is this a good time?” she asked.
“Definitely,” he assured her.
She grinned and handed him a jump drive. “The code to Watchtower is on there. You’ll have to come in through the alley. The only other entrances are through our apartments. An encryption with activate in three days and you won’t be able to access it anymore.”
Oliver nodded and took the jump drive. She dug around in her purse and produced a comm device. Unlike the grey one he had used the night before, this comm was a deep emerald green that matched his uniform.
“It’s fitted with a tracking device,” Chloe explained. “It’s only active when you’re on patrol. It sends back a specific signal so I can tell all of you apart. If you want, there’s a secondary tracking device that can be activated that never shuts off. We all have one. There was a close call with Bart a while back and we decided that it would be best if we could find each other in case something happened.”
He easily recognized the wisdom of that decision, but he was also glad that Chloe had taken his opinion into account. He’d wait a little while before agreeing to let them know where he was, twenty four seven.
“Beyond that,” Chloe continued, “all we need to do is work you into the patrol schedule. For right now, we figured you could just tag along until you got to know the others better and learned to work with them.”
Oliver eyed her with a slight grin on his face. “You’ve put a lot of thought into this,” he said.
“This is something I take seriously,” Chloe admitted. “I’ve seen a lot of things the past few years that no one else should have to see. Someone has to protect the streets and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right.”
“Is that all you do?” Oliver asked. “Patrol the streets, I mean?”
She shook her head. “No. We get into organized crime, too and rogue metas. One of our biggest fights is with people who want to experiment on any meta then can get their hands on.”
Oliver frowned at that. “I’ve never even heard about that.”
“You probably wouldn’t have. I have a lot of friends who have powers and a lot of the metas around here are from where I grew up. The people who do this are good at staying under the radar.”
There was a beat of silence. Then, Oliver said, his voice low, “Tell me more.”
Chloe chewed her lip. “I’m not sure that I should. It’s not that I don’t trust you,” she said quickly. “It’s just that this is something that we don’t have proof of beyond our own stories. This is a very personal mission. I’m not sure that I should be telling you the boys’ stories.”
Instead of being insulted, Oliver found himself impressed by her loyalty to her friends. “Fair enough,” he said. “Is there any other business we need to deal with?”
“Not unless you have something to tell me,” she said.
He grabbed a little remote off his desk and waved her toward the clock face that concealed his equipment room. The clock split in two at the touch of a button. The halves slid apart silently, revealing a green-backlit room that housed all of is equipment. Chloe nodded slightly in admiration.
Oliver hit another button on the remote and several screens lowered from the ceiling.
“When I first started out I was really attached to the whole Robin Hood thing,” he explained, leading her inside the room. “Most of what I was doing was evening the score. Stealing black market and illicit goods off the rich, giving them back to the people they belonged to, and donating any money I got out of it to charity. I still do some of that, but I’m out on the streets more too. These allow to get an accurate representation of the layouts and security measures. The programs creates a 3-D image from the schematics. It helps me get a real visual of where I’m going. Lately, I’ve just been using it to get an idea of the layout of the city.”
Chloe leaned forward to examine the program that Oliver was describing. A revolving image of a warehouse was visible on the screen. Different colored dots represented the various security protocols installed around the building.
“I can’t believe I didn’t think of this,” she muttered. “It’s got to be so much quicker that overlaying the blueprints and security schematics by hand.”
“It’s also more accurate,” Oliver added. He grabbed a wireless keyboard out of a drawer and hit a few keys. Immediately lines and shapes depicting the reach of each camera, laser, and whatever other security device the building possess appeared on the screen, in realtime.
“Well, that’s useful,” Chloe breathed.
Oliver chuckled. “Yeah. The computer figures it out based on the information I can give it. This one is so complete because I was testing it on a Queen Industries facility. I’ve got access to every detail of the building’s construction. But I’ve had far less on most of the places I’ve infiltrated.”
“So have we,” Chloe agreed before a teasing grin quirked her lips. “Anything else it can do?”
He just smirked and tapped a few more keys. The blueprint reset so that the only indication of the security measures were the multi-colored dots, but with a new group of orange, moving dots as well. Chloe frowned at the screen for the moment before her eyes widened in realization.
“You’ve got satellite imagery?” she said incredulously.
“Not entirely. I just borrow one from Queen Industries now and then. Haven’t you ever hacked a satellite?”
She shook her head. “I don’t have the computer power. But believe me, I’ve thought about it.”
Oliver bit his lip to keep from speaking. It was much to early to be suggesting that he offer any kind of financial support to Chloe and her team. But it seemed that that was the only thing they were lacking, and they definitely weren’t letting that hinder them.
“That’s pretty much the grand tour,” he said with a smile, covering up his moment of reticence. “What did you think?”
“Impressive,” Chloe acknowledged with a grin, allowing him to lead her back into the penthouse. “Especially for someone who’s been working alone. You’ve definitely covered all of your bases. How long have you been at this?” she asked curiously.
Oliver shrugged. “About five years. I couldn’t keep being the billionaire playboy who didn’t do a damn thing to deserve it. I wanted to do something and throwing money at the problem didn’t seem like the solution.”
“So you decided to don green leather and fight crime? Seems like a bit of an extreme,” she teased.
“To the outside observer, maybe. But all of this happened after I got stranded on the island. I spent two years fighting for my own survival. It changed my perspective.”
Chloe became serious at that. Her gaze focused on something only she could see and she sank onto the sofa, drawing her legs up beneath her. “It seems like all of us had to go through something horrible to become the heroes we are. I wonder if anyone just woke up one morning and said ‘I’m going to do something about the state of things’ and put on a mask and tights.”
“Not likely,” Oliver sighed. “You have to have some experience with what’s out there to want to do something about it.”
“It just seems a pity that heroes have to be emotionally scarred in order to be heroes,” she said softly.
Oliver frowned. There was a story behind that. It would be a lie to say that he hadn’t wondered why Chloe was in the middle of the battle against crime the way she was. Now he was more curious than ever as to what had happened to her.
Just like that, the moment ended. Chloe’s eyes refocused and she stood quickly, fixing a grin on her face that was almost genuine. “I should be going,” she said quickly. “I’m supposed to be meeting my cousin for a late lunch and I really don’t want to be getting another Lois Lane lecture on how I don’t have a social life.”
“Your cousin in Lois Lane?” Oliver laughed. “Don’t tell me she’s the other hero you were talking about.”
“Thank god, no. She gets in enough trouble without superpowers. Though she did try it for a couple of nights after beating up a mugger with her stilettos. Fortunately, it wasn’t her thing. Half the time our job consists of rescuing her from whatever sticky mess she’s gotten herself in this time. Are you going to patrol with us tonight?”
“If you could use the extra hand.”
“We could always use the help,” Chloe said dryly. “You can drop by any time until we work out a schedule.”
“Then I’ll be there tonight.”
As they moved toward the elevator, her arm brushed his. Without even thinking about it, he wrapped a hand around her elbow, pulling her closer. Her breath caught in her throat. They stared at each other for a long minute. Unbidden, the memory of his dream leapt to the front of Oliver’s mind. Before he could question what he was doing, he bent down and pressed his lips to hers.
Chloe gasped slightly then melted into the kiss. Her arms came up to wrapped around his neck and she pressed herself against him. Their lips moved in sync, as though they’d kissed a hundred times before. Oliver’s hand came to rest against her waist. He caressed her skin lightly where it was bare just above her jeans. She moaned quietly and opened her mouth, allowing him to caress her tongue with his. Oliver hauled her closer and the kiss became feverish and desperate. Chloe’s hand fisted in his hair. Neither of them relented.
When they succumbed to their need for oxygen and pulled apart, both of them were breathing heavily. Oliver rested his forehead against Chloe’s. His hand rested against her neck, holding her in place with gentle pressure. Her eyes were wide and dark as she looked up at him.
“Where did that come from?” Chloe asked breathlessly.
“I have no idea,” Oliver admitted. “It just felt right. I don’t know what it is about you, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since I fell through the window.”
“Really?” she teased quietly. “I didn’t realize I’d left such an impression.”
“You did,” he whispered. “Who could forget a beautiful woman saving the world from her tower?”
She smiled gently and blushed. “Well, you left an impression, too. The boys have been teasing me about all my sappy daydreaming.”
His heart warmed at her words. He bent down and kissed her gently. Somehow, it didn’t feel like kissing someone he barely knew. It felt like something far more and far better.
“So what next?” she asked.
Oliver pulled back far enough to get a good look at her. It was strange to think that he had come to Metropolis with the intention of fixing things with Mercy and hopefully picking up where they had left off. It had taken meeting Chloe for him to realize that he’d been clinging to the past. He hadn’t even realized his feelings for her, and she’d helped him move on from one thing that had been holding him back.
“I know I barely know you,” he whispered. “But I want to try this. I don’t know what it is about you, but I want to make this work. I don’t know exactly what it is,” he chuckled. “But I want it.”
“That sounds about right,” Chloe murmured.
Grinning broadly, Oliver kissed her soundly. She smiled into the kiss and was still smiling happily when he pulled back. Wrapping an arm about her waist, he pulled her to the sofa and sat down her pressed into his side.
“So tell me more about yourself,” he murmured. “Who is Chloe Sullivan?”
So she told him. She told him about living in Smallville and her friends there. She told him about wanting to be a reporter and how she regretted some of the things her blind belief in truth had led her to do. She told him about learning that sometimes, the truth needed to be hidden and how she’d begun to believe in helping those with powers rather than just exposing them.
“You have to understand,” she said quietly. “A lot of the metas in Smallville when crazy. I wasn’t entirely in the wrong and that’s what made it so hard to realize that I wasn’t entirely right. It seemed like we were under attack from someone or something meteor related every week in high school. They needed to be stopped, but my blasting their problems on the front page of the school paper probably didn’t make it any easier for other metas. It took meeting the boys for me to really understand the fine line between being a meta and being a monster.”
Oliver pulled her tight and pressed a kiss into her hair. “It sounds to me like you were just trying to make a bunch of people too stuck in their ways see the truth. In that kind of environment, a lot of the subtleties of a situation can be lost. You did the best you could.”
“Maybe,” she murmured. “But I still wonder if things might have been different if I’d been more open minded from the beginning. It’s not that I had any problems with the metas. But I was so sure that everyone needed to know who they were, that I know I made things harder on them.”
Realizing that there was nothing else he could say, Oliver had simply pulled her a bit closer and continued to listen.
As talk moved on from her time in Smallville, he realized that she’d left out quite a lot. She’d danced around certain details. He’d only gotten a very simple account of her life. Some part of him wished that she cold tell him but, but the rest of him realized that her life was intertwined with the lives of others and that there stories weren’t hers to tell. He’d probably be learning new things about her for the next ten years.
Slow down, he admonished himself. You’re getting ahead of yourself. You don’t even know if this is going to last more than a few days. There’s no reason to get so excited.
But there is, a quiet voice in the back of his mind whispered. There is every reason to get excited.
Oliver pushed the voice aside and concentrated on Chloe, who was laughing about one of Lois’ schemes.
When she was finished, Oliver began the story of his life. On the whole, it was a much sadder tale and he found himself talking about things that he had never told anyone before. She didn’t interrupt, just listened quietly, leaning into him when she felt that he needed comfort.
He almost didn’t tell her about Tess, but that little voice in the back of his head piped up again and pointed out that if he didn’t tell her, she’d find out eventually and it would come back to bit him in the ass. So he told her, but he couldn’t bring himself to look her in the eye as he did.
Oliver faltered slightly when he reached the reason he’d come to Metropolis in the first place. It felt wrong somehow to admit that he’d been intending to make up with his ex and had instead ended up with Chloe.
To his surprise, she sat up on her knees and caught his face between her hands, forcing him to look at her.
“What happening with Tess is as much her fault as it is yours. Neither of you were ready. It sounds to me like she was desperate for any kind of human contact after being kidnapped and you just happened to be the person who showed her kindness in a horrible situation. She wasn’t anymore ready for a relationship than you were and so she pushed you too far. And like you said, you had done a lot of growing up on the island, but you still had some growing up to do. You can’t change in a day. I can already tell that you’re a completely different person than the man who got lost on that island or even the man that found his way off again. The fact that you came here to make amends is proof enough of that.”
She leaned up and kissed him gently. Oliver returned the kiss for a second before pulling back and saying, “But you realize that I don’t have any feelings for her. That’s over.”
“I know,” Chloe assured him. “I don’t know how I know, but I know.”
They got nothing done that day. They talked about everything and nothing until it was time to head back to Watchtower for the evening’s patrol. Oliver kissed her in front of the entire team before they headed out. The comms were laden with jokes and innuendo from all sides. Bart had moaned about losing is ‘licious, Victor had said it was about time she found someone and AC had warned Oliver that if he ever hurt Chloe, no one would ever find the body. His response had been, “Good.”
He spent the weekend with the team, learning more about them and their powers and what they were doing. There was something they were all holding back. Everyone once in a while, one of them would begin to say something, but would stop short and glance around guiltily. Chloe had taken him aside and explained that there was one project in particular that was very sensitive to all of them. They’d been working on it for years and while they knew everything they needed, they couldn’t get any concrete proof. “This is the mission that haunts us,” she’d said quietly. “It’s the one that we can never quite finish because the person we’re up against is just as good as we are. We all trust you, but we’re too used to playing this one close to the chest. Just give us a little time.” He just nodded and assured her that he completely understood. But once her back had turned, his forehead knitted in worry over what could possibly put all of them so on edge.
Oliver discovered that Chloe had a rapier sharp wit, that she was funny, and passionate, and intelligent. She fussed over each of them when they got back from patrol, tending to every scrape and cut. She was everything the women he dated to maintain his playboy image weren’t. She was real. And where Tess had always been serious and a bit cold, Chloe was warm and shone with something that Oliver couldn’t quite identify.