Banner by: Juliete
Chapter Two: Learn You Inside Out
‘Somewhere In Between’
"To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking." -Agnes De Mille
The elevator doors slid open and Chloe hesitated slightly before stepping out into the top level of the Luthor Corp building. She couldn’t remember the last time she was there, but it certainly hadn’t been when Oliver was running things. She took a deep breath straightened up and made her way down the hallway towards where she knew Oliver’s office was.
It had been two weeks since the night they posed as guests at Raymond Sacks’s birthday party and stole documents proving he was a dirty DA. She’d been taking her time going over the information making sure everything was as it should be that way when they handed it over to the police there were no discrepancies.
She didn’t want to take a chance that this guy could get away or slip from their grasp on a technicality. He needed to be stopped now, before he let anymore criminals run free. But now that it was finished and ready to be handed over she thought she’d stop by Oliver’s office and give the papers to him…maybe see if he wanted to grab some lunch.
Her stomach fluttered slightly at the thought. Over the past two weeks, Oliver had stopped by Watchtower quite a few times bringing with him coffee occasionally a muffin or some cookies, just little things he thought she’d like. He had even hung out for a bit after patrolling twice.
Then three days ago when her car had died not only had he told her he’d have his personal mechanic look at it, but he’d offered her a ride back to Smallville. Which lead Chloe to believe that if she showed up at his office asking him if he wanted to grab lunch, he’d be open to it.
Sure maybe the paperwork on Sacks was a bit of an excuse, but it gave her a reason to be there other than the fact that she wanted to see him. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of someone talking and she stopped and turned towards the voice eyebrow raised.
The young brunette in front of her couldn’t have been older than 19 or 20 and yet she held an air of sophistication around her that was uncharacteristic for someone her age. “Can I help you ma’am?” Chloe cleared her throat and gave her a small smile as she pointed to the double doors in front of her.
“Uh, yeah I’m just here to see Oliver.” She arched an eyebrow at the blonde dressed in a black pencil skirt and green silk top, folder in her hands. Her tone was stern, but not rude. “Is Mr. Queen expecting you?” Chloe opened her mouth and faltered slightly. She hadn’t realized that Oliver needed to be expecting her.
“Um, no…but I assure he wouldn’t mind seeing me.” The secretary gave her a sympathetic look. “Yes, I’m sure you would think that…most of the time they do…but I’m afraid I can’t let you in unless you have an appointment. Mr. Queen has a very tight schedule today and has asked not to be disturbed.”
Chloe pursed her lips at the woman’s insinuation, a frown marring her face as she took a step closer and placed her hand on the counter as she glanced down at the woman sitting behind the desk. “I’m sorry…but I’m not one of Oliver’s…girlfriends. I mean I’m a girl…and I’m his friend, but it’s not like that…I just…I have something for him.” She held up the folder feeling slightly ridiculous for having to explain herself to some teenager as the girl eyed the folder. “Look Miss…”
“Sullivan.” She nodded and continued speaking as she motioned towards her. “Miss Sullivan…I can check his preapproved list of guest to see if your name is on it, but I cannot let you in without an appointment if it’s not.” Chloe opened her mouth and the girl leaned in slightly voice softening as she cut off whatever Chloe was about o say and spoke.
“Look…honestly you seem nice and normal enough…way more stable then some of the women I see coming in here asking to see Oliver, but I’m just filling in for the day for my mother, who has been working for this company since his Father ran it. When Oliver gives me instructions I follow them implicitly. So like I said…I’ll check the list and if not you’ll just have to come back another time.”
Chloe huffed slightly and nodded for her to go ahead and check. She felt stupid for putting up such a fight. She knew the teenager was only doing her job and it was actually nice to know that Oliver had such loyal employees, but she couldn’t help feeling slightly petty for being turned away.
The brunette’s eyes glossed over the list and she shook her head. “Sorry Miss Sullivan…there’s a Lois Lane, Clark Kent…the Jordan’s, but no Sullivan.” Chloe opened her mouth and then let out a frustrated sigh as she waved the teenager off. “Fine, whatever I’ll just call him later and tell him to stop by…thanks…”
She spun around on her heal and started to walk back towards the elevator. She was just reaching out and pushing the button when she heard her name being called. “Chloe?” She glanced over her shoulder and spotted Oliver standing near his receptionist’s desk, papers in his hand. She bit her bottom lip and gave him a sheepish smile.
“Oliver, hey…” He caught sight of the uncertainty in her eyes and he took a few steps forward closing the distance between them as he placed a quick kiss against her cheek before pulling back, grin on his face as he spoke, voice friendly. “What are you doing here?”
The gesture had startled her slightly and she returned his smile and shrugged. “I’ve got some paperwork for you…on that thing we’ve been working on.” He nodded and dropped a hand to the small of her back guiding her away from the elevator and towards his office. He glanced over at and sent a small smile towards the brunette. “Amanda, can you hold my calls until further notice please?”
She nodded and smiled. “Of course Mr. Queen.” He rolled his eyes and chuckled lightly as he spoke over his shoulder. “It’s Oliver, Amanda…I’ve know you since you were born…I think we can skip the formalities…how’s your Mom feeling?”
Amanda grinned and shrugged. “She’s doing okay. You should have her back by the middle of the week hopefully.” He nodded and sent her another smile before they moved into his office. The minute the doors shut behind them he moved his hand and made his way around his desk sitting down and placing the paper in his hand aside.
He motioned to the seat in front of him. “Sit, make yourself comfortable…is that the evidence on Sacks?” Chloe sat down in the black leather chair, her body sinking into the seat as she nodded and leaned forward placing the folder on his desk before leaning back. “Yeah, I thought I’d drop it by…and um, well I was gonna see if you wanted to grab some lunch, but I can see that you’re really busy, so maybe next time.” Oliver frowned and shook his head as he tried to catch her eyes.
“No, lunch actually sounds great…I haven’t eaten yet and this saves me a trip. I was going to stop by with some Italian food after my meeting…which just let out.” He lifted the papers he’d been holding in the hallway off his desk and spoke. “Just give me a second and let me have Amanda make a copy of these before we head out. You haven’t been here waiting too long I hope?”
Chloe chuckled lightly. “No, I wasn’t exactly waiting. I was being detained. You have some pretty loyal employees Mr. Queen…she wouldn’t let me within a foot of your office without an appointment.” Oliver winced slightly. “Sorry about that…you’d never believe the kinds of people that come here looking for me. When I go out there I’ll have her add you to the list.”
Chloe shook her head quickly not wanting Oliver to get the wrong idea and think that she was upset or anything. “Oh no, its okay, you don’t have to do that. I didn’t mean anything by it…I was just commenting that it’s nice your employees are so loyal…because that’s hard to…find…”
Her voice trailed off and he smirked at her flustered words as he headed towards the door. He was glad she had stopped by and he wasn’t going to let her get out of coming to see him again if she wanted to. “It’s fine…I want to. That way next time you can just come right in and wait for me here…I’ll be right back.” He quickly moved out of his office and Chloe swallowed hard. Did he say next time?
Oliver glanced over the menu not sure what he was in the mood for. It hadn’t taken them long to get from his office to the restaurant in his car and when they’d made their way inside the brand new Italian place Chloe’s eyes had widened.
You had to practically be on a waiting list to have a meal at Carmelo’s but one flash of the Queen smile and they’d been seated in a private area of the restaurant in less than five minutes. He could see her fidgeting across from him out of the corner of his eye and he let out an exasperated sigh as he lowered his menu.
“Stop fidgeting, what’s going on in that head of yours that has you so distracted?” Chloe pursed her lips and leaned forward slightly, her voice low. “When I suggested lunch you realize I would have been happy going to a pizzeria and grabbing a few slices right?”
Oliver grinned once again lifting the menu slightly. “Yes Chloe, I’m aware, but I happen to like Carmelo’s and I thought you might too. There food is amazing plus they have the best Tiramisu in the city. And me being the wonderful person I am, knowing how much you enjoy your desserts, thought this would be the perfect place to take you.”
A small smile broke out on her face and he returned it as she sighed, her body unclenching as she glanced over the menu and pointed at him with one finger. “Fine, I’ll let you get away with it this time Queen, but no more fancy expensive restaurants okay? Next time we go to a dinner or something is that clear?”
She gave him a stern look and he couldn’t help the strange feeling of happiness that filled him when she said ‘next time’. These past two weeks, getting to know Chloe, had been nice, no more than nice. He never thought in a million years that they’d have so much in common. It made him wonder how he had glossed over her for so long.
Then again he wasn’t the same man he was three years ago. His priorities had changed, and he’d been through hell and back to get to where he was, and he owed a lot of that to the woman in front of him. His expression softened as he watched her studying the menu, eyes scanning back and forth. She must have felt his gaze on her because she looked up with a questioning look on her face.
“What?” He shook his head and looked back at his menu. “Nothing, do you know what you want?” Her eyes drifted back towards the menu as she spoke. “I was thinking of maybe getting the chicken parmesan with ziti, but the tortellini Alfredo looks amazing too…”
He nodded. “I’ll get the tortellini, you get the chicken and we can share.” Chloe looked away from the menu and beamed at him. “Yeah?” He closed the menu and smiled as he held up a hand calling their waiter over. “Sure.” The young man came over and smiled.
“What can I get the two of you?” Oliver motioned to Chloe. “The lady will have the Chicken parmesan with ziti, and I’ll have the tortellini in Alfredo sauce. Can you also bring us a bottle of Palmina Pinot Grigio?” The waiter frowned as he addressed Oliver. “I’m not sure we have that brand Mr. Queen, but I’ll check.”
Oliver smiled, “Thank you and if not, whichever wine the chef feels will go better with our meals is fine.” He nodded and went to turn away when Chloe spoke. “Excuse me…” He turned raising his eyebrow in her direction a curious look on his face. Chloe’s face brightened as she pointed to her menu.
“Any chance you’d be willing to bring us dessert before our meals?” The waiter glanced at Oliver and he shrugged. “Whatever she wants is fine.” The young man opened his pad again and smiled at Chloe. “What will it be?” She grinned and held up two fingers while speaking. “One slice of your Tiramisu and one slice of your coconut crème explosion.” He jotted them down and inclined his head before mumbling something about being back with their drinks soon.
Oliver watched Chloe with amused eyes as she leaned back in her seat. “Are you going to eat both of those?” She made a face and letting out a small ‘pfft’ sound before speaking. “Of course not. The Coconut one is for you…I figured we could share.”
Oliver grinned as he leaned forward, voice quiet. “What you mean is you wanted to try both…” She bit her lip and scrunched her nose. “Okay…so maybe I wanted to try both…” she hesitated for a second giving him an unsure look. “Is that okay?” He chuckled and leaned back.
“Of course.” She sent him half a smile and studied his movements as his hand went up to the back of his neck rubbing lightly. “Are you alright?” She asked and he nodded, brows furrowing. “Yeah, just work. Some days it’s hard to balance everything.” She nodded a look of concern crossing her face as she reached out a hand, placing it over his.
“I can imagine. You do a lot…sometimes I wonder myself how you keep everything straight. It’s not easy being Oliver Queen…is it?” He caught her gaze and he could see the honesty in her question. No hints of teasing or mocking, just an honest question to get to know him better and he found himself wanting to open up and let her in. “Not always. I mean obviously it has its advantages, but some days between Queen Industries, Green Arrow and knowing there are a team of people counting on me…well it can put a lot of pressure on a person.”
He turned his hand slightly so her palm fell against his as he continued speaking. “I’m not complaining, because honesty I love the guys…and we’d be lost without you…and what we do…it means so much to me, it’s just also time consuming and can get pretty lonely and I guess sometimes I miss when things weren’t so hectic and they were more normal.” He shrugged tilting his head as he finally caught her eyes and gave her a small smile.
“Though I guess you can understand that as well…” Chloe pursed her lips and made a noncommittal noise before looking away from him and picking at the napkin in front of her. When she went to move her hand away from his, he wouldn’t let her.
Instead he closed both his hands over her small one thumb lightly brushing against the skin there as he spoke. “You know its okay…to miss it…life being normal…having a normal job. It wasn’t too long ago that you were missing your previous occupation…is that still the case? Do you miss being a Reporter for the Planet?”
Chloe tilted her head slightly pondering his question. There were so many different ways to answer that and she wasn’t sure where to start. She shifted forward slightly moving her other hand forward her fingers unconsciously caressing the hand holding hers as she spoke softly.
“Honestly? You know…at one point I did, but not anymore. When I was younger the whole reason I wanted to be a journalist was to uncover the truth, fight injustice with the tip of a pen…help people and I’m doing that here and now, just in a different way and on a different scale.”
She gave him a bright smile and as she continued speaking he could see a spark in the back of her eyes that he hadn’t seen in a long time and it made his chest fill with warmth. “I’ve changed so much over the years and I don’t think my life has ever really been normal…but I do get what you mean. I’d never change it though…it might be difficult and time consuming and you boys are certainly a handful,” she smirked, “but I wouldn’t change my life for anything. We’ve done a lot of good in the world…and I have no doubt that each and every one of you will continue to do great things…”
Oliver was taken about by her words and the emotion in them. Knowing she had that much faith in him and the team…it was truly humbling. So many people thought highly of him because of his name or his company. Other’s just wanted to be around him or listened to him because like it or not he was a powerful person.
But Chloe, she saw him not for his titles or for the hero…but for the man he was and it made his throat tighten. No one had ever really just seen him…there was always an agenda, but with her…she wasn’t afraid to call him out or banter with him and she certainly wasn’t afraid to let her opinion be known. Chloe was one of a kind and it meant the world to him that she saw him in such a positive light.
He swallowed hard and tightened his grip on her hand. “Chloe I--” The waiter took that moment to make his way over with a large round tray and a grin on his face as he broke the moment between the two causing both Chloe and Oliver to pull away from each other as he held out the coconut cake and arched an eyebrow. “Who gets the coconut?” Chloe pointed towards Oliver silently and the waiter nodded as he put the plate down and then gave Chloe hers before turning back to Oliver.
“You’re in luck Mr. Queen…We happen to have a bottle of that wine you asked for though the chef did suggest this wine to go with your desserts…on the house.” He placed a small glass in front of each of them before letting them know their food would be out soon.
He walked away and Chloe let out a slightly breathless laugh as she shook her head. “Boy do you get spoiled…” He laughed lightly and nodded as he lifted his fork. “They like to keep me coming back…besides the chef is an old friend he used to own this really amazing restaurant…quaint…had a great family feel to it, but in this economy…well it went under. I offered to help, but he wouldn’t have it…”
Chloe could hear a hint of nostalgia in Oliver’s voice as he spoke and she wondered if there was more to the story. She was about to ask when he continued speaking. “He did however let me get him an interview with the owner of Carmelo’s when they were building the place and they hit it off right away…now he’s making twice what he was before.”
Oliver smiled as he pulled a piece of the coconut cake into his mouth and he closed his eyes enjoying the taste as it slid down his throat. Chloe studied him and was completely floored by the man in front of her. There were dozens of articles about Oliver…and at least eighty-five percent of them were negative.
She mostly ignored all the stories that were printed about him, but every once in a while she caught the sight of a random headline and she wondered where these reporters came up with their information and who exactly they were looking at when they wrote their articles.
Because they couldn’t be looking at the man that was sitting across from her. If they were, they’d never be able to print a negative thing about him. Oliver had not had an easy life. Having your parents killed at a young age, being thrust into a world of money and power…getting stranding on an island for years.
No wonder he’d gone through a destructive phase, but he wasn’t that person anymore. Anyone with eyes could see how much he’d changed since those days and yet still people printed lies and half truths to make a buck when in reality; Oliver was one of the most amazing people she’d ever met.
His voice broke her out of her thoughts and she blinked and let out a small ‘hmm’ making him repeat himself. “I said I’m glad you feel that way, because we wouldn’t be able to do this without you…I don’t think you realize how much we need you. You’re utterly irreplaceable Chloe…and I just want you to know that even though we don’t say it as much as we should, we appreciate you and not just because your Watchtower…but because you make us believe in the people we are…you make each and every one of us want to be the hero that you can see so clearly.”
Chloe met his gaze a hint of moisture pooling in her green eyes as he gave her a light smile. “You inspire the team to be the hero’s the world needs…and you inspire me every day just by being exactly who you are…I’ve met a lot of women in my life…but I’ve never come across someone like you. I just…you know thought you should know that.”
Her face softened and she resolved not to cry in the middle of a fancy restaurant just because her friend said something cheesy and absolutely beautiful about her. She swallowed heavily to moisten her throat before speaking, hand once again finding his. “Ollie…I think you underestimate the person you are though…you don’t need me to be great…I’m just along for the ride…you were amazing before you met me…I don’t know anyone else who cares about people more than you.”
He chuckled and glanced down at the table shaking his hand before looking back at her. “Look at this…pouring our hearts out over dessert…” She grinned and laughed lightly pulling her hand back. “I know right? I’m completely ignoring my Tiramisu in favor of talking to you…what’s wrong with me?
His brows furrowed. “I have no idea…but you better start eating it before I do.” He reached forward and she slapped his hand away gently. “Touch it and prepare for the consequence…” Oliver smirked in her direction. “That’s what she said…” Chloe couldn’t keep her face straight and more and laughter bubbled from her throat as she slapped him lightly.
“You’re horrible…is everything about sex with you?” Oliver pursed his lips and leered at her playfully. “Well if you’d stop with the sexual innuendos…jeez Sidekick if you wanted a tour of my bedroom all you had to do was ask…” He teased her and she poked him lightly with her fork. “Nice try…but unlike most women it would take a lot more than your charm to get me into your bedroom.”
He arched an amused eyebrow at her. “Is that so…you know…that sort of sounds like a challenge to me...are you my prize if I win?” Chloe grinned at him as he flirted shamelessly. She lifted her wine to her lips taking a sip as she met his eyes over the glass. Her tongue flicked out off the edge of the glass catching the last of the wine, the flavor rich and dancing on her tastebudes.
His eyes flickered down to her tongue as she moved the glass away and leaned forward slightly. “I dunno…is that what you want as your prize?” Oliver’s mouth dropped open in surprise that she was actually going along with his flirting. He shook his head as he pulled his wine glass to his lips and took a sip before pointing at her. “Now who’s teasing?”
Chloe rolled her eyes, pushed her fork into the cake and pulled a bite into her mouth moaning lightly at the taste. Oliver was right…it was delicious. She glanced back at him and gave him a cheeky smile. “It’s not my fault you can dish it out, but you can’t take it…toughen up Queen…and give me some of that coconut cake.”
He chuckled, a smile gracing his features as he pulled a piece off with his fork and held it out to her. “Yes ma’am…it’s actually really good.” She scoffed. “Of course it is its coconut.” She leaned over the table and gripped his wrists lightly as she pulled the cake off his fork. She sat back and nodded. “Wow, that is good…this place is really great. Thanks for bringing me Ollie.”
He smiled, not a cocky one or smug, but warm…natural. “You’re more than welcome Sidekick…now come on how does that saying go? Share, share all is fair? Or something to that effect? Do I get some of your cake?” She pursed her lips and then sighed. “Oh fine you big baby, but just a small piece…eh…don’t touch.”
She lifted some off her plate and held it out to him. He rolled his eyes but leaned in and pulled the creamy dessert of the fork. He sat back down and licked his lips. “Very good.”
Neither one of them caught the expressions nor the soft whispers of the people around them as they continued to talk, sharing their slices of cake while laughing as they waited for their food to make an appearance. Anyone watching the couple from the outside would see a man and woman, living completely in the moment. No worries of impending doom or life changing alien apocalypses.
No CEO billionaires, leather clad wearing heroes or hacker extraordinaire sidekicks…Just two random people enjoying a midday meal, not realizing the implications of their actions and the fact that neither of them seemed to be able to wipe the smile from their faces.
Chapter Four: The Sky Is Falling