From her position at the top of the staircase, Tess surveyed the bullpen of the Daily Planet. Her eyes narrowed at the sight of the familiar figure of Oliver. She was unsurprised to see him. It had only been a matter of time before he came back. He always had been persistent when it came to wooing someone. She was quite looking forward to the game that would soon commence.
But, to her surprise, he didn’t make his way up to her office. He didn’t even glance towrd the elevators. He went straight to the bullpen and wound through the desks to the back corner where Chloe Sullivan was busily working away.
The girl had been a thorn in Tess’s side from the beginning. Lex had made sure to warn Tess of the many ways in which Chloe would attempt to meddle in the LuthorCorp affairs. He’d never really explained when Chloe was so interested in what he did. When Tess had asked, he just said she bore a misguided grudge against him and that had been enough for Tess.
More than once, Tess had caught her doing just as Lex had said and just as often, one of Tess’s plans to find Lex had failed thanks to the metas that Lex had also warned her about. She wasn’t a fool. She knew that Chloe was most likely behind it and that she was connected to the vigilantes. She just couldn’t quite figure out why.
So seeing Oliver with Chloe was not something that sat well with her, especially if Chloe was as interested in corporate espionage as she seemed to be -- Tess suspected it might be more, but didn’t have any proof. Her hands clenched on the rail at the sight of the dopey smile that spread across both their faces. Oliver bent down and kissed Chloe softly, with a tenderness that implied that, though their relationship could’t be very old, it was definitely very serious. Tess knew the difference between his “I’m dating this girl because she matches my image” look and his “I’m dating this girl because I’m actually in love with her” look. She could seen now that he was not only head over heals, but ridiculously happy.
This could not stand. Tess didn’t want Oliver to be happy after what he had done to her and he certainly didn’t want him involved with the woman who seemed hell bent on destroying LuthorCorp.
Oliver leaned in again to kiss Chloe lightly on the lips. Tess’s blood boiled. It was a personal affront that he would show any kind of affection to someone in her building. He was doing it to get back at her, to rub it in her face that he was happy and she wasn’t. She slipped back into her office and retrieved a flash drive from the safe hidden in the bookcase. With it clutched in her hand, she descended the stairs in a cloak of cold fury and met Oliver at the foot, just as he was leaving.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded.
He stopped short and quirked an eyebrow, but otherwise didn’t react. “Hello to you, too, Tess. I’m here to see a friend, if that’s all right with you.”
“Do you kiss all of your friends?”
Oliver’s face hardened just slightly. “I didn’t know you were into voyeurism,” he retorted. “It’s not any of your business what I do with my friends or how I define my friends. Was there something you wanted?”
“I thought you might like to know what you’re getting into,” she said emotionlessly, offering the flash drive to Oliver. He took it warily. “There’s a lot about your little girlfriend that you don’t know.”
Tess allowed herself a small smile as she walked away.
Oliver shoved the flash drive into his pocket, glaring up at Tess as she walked away. He didn’t know what her problem was, but he wasn’t happy that she was interfering. He’d taken the hint and backed off when she made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with him. He’d have thought that she would have paid him the same courtesy just because she wouldn’t want to be around him.
Once Tess was out of sight, he turned and headed back into the bullpen. He didn’t know what Tess had against Chloe, but he was at least going to warn her.
Chloe was already back at work. She might have claimed that journalism didn’t hold the same charm for her that it once had, but that didn’t change the fact that she till got into her work. He’d been gone less than ten minutes and she was completely absorbed. Unable to hide the grin that stretched across his face at the sight of her, bent of her her computer, eyebrows furrowed slightly in concentration, Oliver leant down and kissed her cheek.
She started slightly, but looked up at him with a grin. “I thought you were leaving,” she said.
“I was, but Tess caught me on the stairs. She warned me about you.”
Chloe’s eyes widened. “What? Why would she do that?”
Oliver felt his heart drop. Her voice had risen slightly and she’d gone pale. Whatever Tess was referring to, Chloe knew exactly what it was and she didn’t want him to know.
“I thought maybe you could tell me,” he said casually.
“Lex never liked me,” Chloe said evasively. “There was some bad blood between us from Smallville. And I’ll admit that I’ve hacked into LuthorCorp more than once. Lex probably told her something about me.”
“If that’s true, then Mercy had more reason than ever to want to get to you. I’ve got a feeling she said something because she’s looking to get back at me,” he said.
“I’ll be careful,” Chloe assured him. “I’m used to watching my back.”
Oliver smiled weakly. “All right. I’ll see you later.”
Chloe squeezed his hand softly before turning back to her work. With a sinking heart, Oliver left the Daily Planet. There was something she wasn’t telling him and it was obviously something big if Tess knew about it.
He’d been staring at the flash drive for hours. He knew that Tess was not the woman he’d known all those years before, but, no matter what he’d said to Chloe, he could not bring himself to believe that she would blatantly attempt to undermine his relationship with Chloe unless she had a good reason. Yet he also could not believe that Chloe would have done anything to warrant Tess’ interference.
Eventually, morbid curiosity won out. Oliver slid the flash drive into the USB drive of his computer. Immediately a folder popped up on the screen. It was filled with file after file. He clicked on the first. A video clip opened in another window. Oliver watched what was clearly surveillance footage in horror. It showed Victor breaking into a LuthorCorp facility. There was only a few moments, as though the footage was just a segment that had somehow survived a when the rest of the footage had been erased. But it was enough to see that he was jacking himself into the computer and copying the files. The next file he clicked on was a report on breaches in database security, all of which has been traced back to the Daily Planet server.
For the next six hours, he sorted through the files. Very little of it could be corroborated and it was all incredibly circumstantial. But it was clear that Chloe and the others had been gathering information on Luthorcorp for years. If the files were to be believe, they were stealing business secrets.
It made no sense. Oliver knew that Lex was a bastard, but he’d never been able to find evidence of underhanded dealings. The files the team had stolen and the facilities that they had broken into weren’t even the ones they would have to target if they wanted to find information that linked LuthorCorp to dirty dealing. They were all research and development files or financial reports. It made absolutely no sense.
Chloe had set up a program that allowed him to access the Watchtower databases from his penthouse. He logged on and immediately began searching for anything that refute the information that Tess had found. His stomach dropped when most of it was locked behind encryptions that required a password he did not have. Chloe had explained that these were related to the project the team wasn’t ready to talk about just yet. She’d hidden the information until they had a chance to explain everything and then they’d tell him everything. He’d believed her. Now, he wasn’t so sure.
He found only one relevant file. It was a report about his links to Tess Mercer.
Oliver was still staring at what was essentially an account of his life when he left the island when Chloe arrived. He’d forgotten that they had a date that night. They’d been going to get dinner and hang out at his apartment for a while before she had to go lead the boys through a mission on their own.
“Oliver?” she called.
He didn’t answer.
She called his name again. A few minutes later, she walked into his office.
“What are you doing back here?” she asked, a soft smile on her face. She walked over to him and wrapped her arms around him from behind. When he didn’t react at all, she pulled away.
“What’s wrong?” she asked worriedly.
He picked up the flash drive from the desk. “Tess gave me this,” he said flatly. “Do you know what’s on it?”
Chloe had gone tense. She shook her head slightly. “What is it?”
“It’s files on all the times you and the others broke into the LuthorCorp. None of it can be linked back to you, but the evidence is there to link it to Watchtower. From the looks of things you were stealing trade secrets. When I tried to find out what was really going on, I found that every single file dealing with LuthorCorp was locked. This was the only thing I found.” He gestured at the document still visible on the screen.
Chloe didn’t even look at her. She had gone completely rigid. Her jaw was tight and her eyes were flashing.
“Do you really think that we would steal trade secrets?” she demanded. “What exactly are we going to do with them? We fight crime, Oliver, you know that. I would never do this. It’s not what you think!”
“Then explain it!” he shouted, losing what little control he’d had when she’d walked in the door. “Explain to me why it seems that you’ve been breaking into LuthorCorp and why you’ve been snooping around my life behind me back!”
Her mouth opened and closed several times. Then, her shoulders drooped. “It’s complicated.”
“Of course it is,” he sneered. “How could I possibly understand? I’m just human, after all.”
Hurt flashed across Chloe’s face. “This had nothing to do with whether you have powers,” she snapped. “You haven’t been here, Oliver. It’s only been a few days and while they’ve been amazing, I can’t tell you everything yet. I need a little time.”
“Don’t you think I deserve to know what exactly is going on that makes my life so important?” he demanded.
There was a beat of silence before she whispered, “I just need a little more time. You have no idea how much is involved in this.”
“You don’t trust me,” he stated coldly. It almost broke him to say it, but he did, because it was true.
“I do,” she assured him. “It’s just too soon.”
Oliver shook his head. “No. Save that for someone else. You should have trusted me Chloe.”
For a long moment, neither of them moved. Then Chloe met his eyes with a strange look of pain and determination on her face. “If you want to know the truth about what we’ve been doing in regards to LuthorCorp, then stop by Watchtower around two. The boys should be done by then.
“For what it’s worth,” she added softly. “I do trust you.”
And then she was gone.
Oliver didn’t move once Chloe was gone. It felt as though someone had torn his heart out. He should have known that it was too good to be true. Nothing in his life had ever lasted the way those same things did for others.
He wasn’t even aware of the passage of time until he looked up and realized that it was dark. To his surprise, it was already almost two o’clock in the morning. He was tempted not to go, but he was desperate for answers. Without even bothering to don his gear, he left his penthouse and headed for Watchtower.