Part 6

"Arrow!" she exclaimed.

The cloaked figure moved forward and handed her a wrapped burger. "Sorry I couldn't pick up something better. I wasn't sure what state we'd find you in."

She shook her head while unwrapping the burger. Chloe bit into it once, then again and again. "So good," she said with her mouth full. She continued eating until she had finished off the food, then blinked up at her savior. "How did you find me, Ollie?"

The figure pulled off the cowl since there was no longer any point for the disguise. "I've always known where you were."

Chloe crumbled the wrapper in her hands. "If you did, then how come this is the first time you've shown up?"

"This was the only time you needed me," he said with conviction. "You were doing well enough on your own."

"Well," she managed, "thank you." Chloe stood up on shaky legs. "I assume you want something in return for the favor."

"For the burger?" he clarified.

"For saving my life," she told him.

Oliver hesitated, wondering whether or not to correct her assumption. Instead, he said, "You have always been a welcome addition to the League, Chloe."

"And I've been helpful whenever I could," she added.

"Until you decided to abandon your calling," Oliver continued.

Chloe sighed, then leaned back against the wall. From her sitting position on the bed, she regarded Oliver in full costume, with his arrow slung back over his shoulder. There was a time when she thought he was one of a kind—for his heroism and his desire to do good. He was unattainable and she admired him so much she knew that she had to serve him in whatever capacity the League required.

But she was young then, and the group of costumed people was the only exposure she had to heroism. Her viewpoint was narrow then, and she had not yet appreciated the heroism of the ordinary young men and women that she had eventually featured in her documentary. Whitney, she thought.

"Ollie," she said urgently, "did you bring me here?"

"I found you here," the Archer clarified. "You led me down a merry chase. Your life signals stopped in an alley by the police station, but we couldn't find you there. Impulse was frantic because there was a pool of blood."

"It wasn't mine," she offered, wondering what happened to the Batman. Surely Whitney would have taken care of him. He was the only possible way that Chloe ended up waking in her apartment instead of the city morgue. Guardian angels don't choose who to save, did they? He must have saved the Batman too.

"Come with me, Chloe. It's not safe for you here in Gotham. You have no one to protect you."

And she remembered the stubborn overprotective fit that Whitney had thrown when he found out that she was investigating Bruce Wayne undercover, and even the bloody and injured Batman stumbling around telling her he couldn't protect her so she had better run. "On the contrary, Oliver. There are two men who have tried to do just that."

"Who?" Oliver asked curiously, the hero recruiter in him rising at the prospect of new blood.

She smirked, because she knew exactly what Oliver was considering. "I highly doubt you can convince them to join you. One's dead and a member of a whole other group way up there," she said, pointing to the sky, "and the other one is a criminal who had an odd obsession to Gotham City."

At that, Oliver grinned back. "What an odd band of protectors you have then. It certainly doesn't compare to one made up of a philanthropist, an environmentalist, a thrillseeker and a journalist."

"Or better yet, a drunken playboy, a radical activist, a petty thief and a farmboy."

Oliver shook his head. "That's how we started out. I want to think that we've grown from that." He turned a serious look towards Chloe. "Are you sure, Chloe? We're keeping close tabs on you and we'll run to you when you need us. But when you're not close, we don't know if we're going to arrive too late."

She set her jaw. "I came here with a mission," she told him. "And it's not done. I need to find out who's funding the criminal activities here in Gotham. I think I'm circling the right target, and then he does something that makes me doubt it. Now I feel like I should get someone else's help to prove it—someone of your heroic persuasion."

The only one close to a hero of their type in Gotham was the Batman, and Oliver was starting to suspect that his genius Watchtower was for the first time thrown for a loop. "And who are you investigating?"

"The only one in Gotham who would have enough resources to fund something like this," she told him. Ominously, she pronounced, "Bruce Wayne."

Oliver chuckled. She glared at him. "Can you be helpful without being insulting?"

"It's just—" Oliver cut himself off and raised his hand for silence. He turned towards the door and raised his bow. "Behind me!" he roared towards Chloe. Chloe stumbled to crouch behind Oliver. He raised his cowl and within a split second, gone was the friendly banter and he was back to being Green Arrow. Two men burst into her apartment and he fired four successive arrows, pinning them to the wall and releasing a vapor to render them unconscious.

He walked towards the men and took his arrows back. He wasn't going to leave any signs that he was just here. He turned back to Chloe, who was now coughing from the smoke. "You're not safe here, Watchtower. Come with me."

She looked back at the unconscious men now on her apartment floor. This time, she placed her hand in his.

Whitney orbed back into the apartment, defeated upon hearing the answer the Elders gave him about his lack of ability to bring people back from the dead. He wondered if his charges could do it, because he knew they had magic that could perform tricks that even he could not do. He had disobeyed the Elders enough to know that if he did this, his wings would get clipped forever.

But it would be worth it, just to see those blue lips grow pink again, for those cold cheeks to warm.

He materialized at the center of the apartment, dreading to see the still form on the bed. When he focused his vision, he saw the bed empty. His senses heightened and his gaze was captured by the wall just a few feet from the door. Whitney walked towards the wall and saw the holes on the cement.

"Chloe!" he called out, even though the dead couldn't hear.

Someone had taken her, and he felt sick to his stomach that he had failed to protect her again.

There was only one person that could do this, one person she had been investigating since they arrived in Gotham. Whitney ignored the ringing in his ears that told him that the Elders were calling him back. Instead, he orbed towards Wayne Manor.

Whitney watched the bastard from afar. Bruce Wayne sifted through the newspaper carefully, probably to make sure that he had eliminated Chloe once and for all. Whitney stalked towards him and ripped the newspaper from his hands.

"Where's my sister?" he demanded.

Bruce looked up in surprise. He cleared his throat. "Mr Fordman."

"You're the last person to have seen her alive. Where is she, Wayne?"

Bruce's throat closed. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Softly, Whitney said, "She's dead, isn't she? What more do you need from her? Why take her?"

Bruce stood up. "She's missing," he said, repeating what he had learned. He had known she was dead. He was right there and he saw her body in that alley. In the back of his head, he vaguely remembered seeing Whitney carry her away, and he had supposed that he had taken her to the hospital in a valiant effort to save her. There were even blue lights, and as he drifted into unconsciousness he had thought, hoped, that it was an ambulance.

"Don't pretend you don't know. You were the last person who was in her apartment. Where is she, Wayne?"

And he remembered the last time he was in that apartment, offering earrings as a bribe because he couldn't be a better date, stumbling out the door and into the elevator like college students ready to rip each other's clothes off. They seemed so normal then, like she wasn't really the editor of the Gazette undercover as a children's book author and he wasn't really the Batman.

Maybe if he didn't run at the call of the signal, they would already be in that other part of the world, and she would be alive in his arms.

"I don't know," he repeated.

Whitney looked into his eyes and snarled, then walked out of the door. Bruce watched him leave, disturbed by what he had learned. Chloe was out there, and he was sick to his stomach by the thought that his enemies could have taken her just because she had been seen with him several times already. Who the hell stole a billionaire's dead girlfriend? Then again, knowing the profiles of the deranged villains of Gotham City, he shouldn't be surprised.

"You have everything you need?" She nodded. Oliver assured her, "This place is surrounded by every enhancement necessary to ensure that no one can detect us—by machine or by whatever meteor power there is. We deflect their signals. No one will be able to track you down here."

Which probably meant even Whitney couldn't listen in to her, she thought. She would have to find a way to let him know she was fine, and she needed to get past Oliver to do it. She couldn't risk anyone else finding out about Whitney.

Oliver seemed satisfied with the protection the room provided, and he stepped outside to close the door behind him. Just then, his phone rang. He raised it and looked at the caller ID. "That didn't take long."

"I'm not calling to join you," came the deep voice on the other end. "But I do need help."

"Who are we taking down?" was Oliver's first question.

"I need to find the sick fuck who kidnapped my girlfriend."

Oliver's eyes narrowed. "I think this is a job that the police can handle."

"No," Bruce's voice rumbled. "I want you and your team on this."

"No offense, Wayne, but our areas of expertise are not—" He sighed, because he could not think of a better way to phrase his refusal of the small task without offending him. "We're about blowing up entire compounds of illegal detention and testing; or taking down masterminds of different—" He cut himself off again. His voice dropped. "I didn't even know you have a girlfriend."

"I had one," Bruce answered. "Batman killed her."

Oliver closed his eyes, because it meant that his friend's alternate life had threaded into his personal one, and the obvious consequence followed. It was why he was firm in keeping the two lives apart. "I'm sorry."

"They took her body, Ollie. For God knows what." Oliver heard Bruce's audible breath. "Never mind. I'll do it myself. This is the only call you'll get from me, Oliver. I'm not joining your team."

Bruce hung up the phone, and Oliver did the same. As much as he understood Bruce's pain, there was no way he could sacrifice the League's precious time trying to retrieve a dead body when there was so much to do. First on his plate was to find out who was trying to kill Chloe.

tbc