Disclaimer: Don't own them or the world they live in sadly.
Pairing: Chloe/Oliver, it'll get there I swear. When I started this story I never intended it to become this long, currently it's 12 chapters and growing so just be patient with me, it sort of took on a life of it's own.
A/N: This story is going to go a little off the show. Gabe, sadly, is dead because frankly it made my work a little easier. Also I have switched up rearranged some events in the timeline of the show, again to make my work easier.
Chloe grabbed the folder from the runner and set in on the substantial stack already littering her desk as she balanced the phone on her shoulder. "No the pipe burst last week, I'm calling you today because I just got back in town today and saw the six inches of water on the floor of my apartment." She snapped her fingers at a passing intern and handed him a stack of files. "Copy department." She said to him and turned her attention to the phone call. "What do you mean the insurance doesn't cover that? That's what insurance is for." Chloe sighed. "No my renters insurance doesn't cover water damage because I was told that the building insurance did." She dug through her papers for something as an intern walked up and waited to talk to her. "No the pipe didn't burst in the Talon, it burst in the apartment, but it's the same building." She looked at Amanda and raised her eyebrows.
"The copy machine is broken again and you're the only one who knows how to fix it." Amanda whispered. Chloe held up a finger to tell her to wait.
"I don't understand what difference it makes whether it was the apartment or the coffee shop." Chloe whined. "So you're telling me that I'm solely responsible for replacing the floors and everything else?" She closed her eyes and prayed for strength. "Thank you; you've been so completely un helpful." She slammed the phone down. "Ok, copy machine." Chloe got up and started toward the copy room with Amanda behind her when Grant walked out of his office and screamed at her.
"Sullivan. My office now." Chloe turned around and grabbed the file for her new story and apologized with her eyes to Amanda.
"I've only got like two minutes." She walked into to Grants office and wondered what the hell this was all about. "I've got to get out of here, the waste disposal guys are coming in an hour. But I got another source on the pay offs, we can go ahead with the story." She held the folder out to him. He didn't take it; instead he walked back to his desk and sat down then motioned for her to do the same.
Chloe sat. "Sullivan." He sighed. "Where to start. I ask for something exciting and you bring me a story about garbage."
"It's not about garbage." Chloe defended herself. "It's about the head of the development and planning commission taking bribes to…"
"Cut corners or pad corners I know I get it, boring." Grant said. "I told you when I took this job you were going to have to spice it up. What about that story I threw to you earlier this week?"
"About the mutated cattle?" Chloe looked at him as if he was the stupidest man on the planet.
"Exactly but you ignored me and went after the garbage story." Grant leaned forward. "Look, you knew the paper was losing money. I warned you this could happen, layoffs." He let it hang in the air.
Chloe was silent for a minute. "Wait a minute." She shook her head. "Are you…are you firing me?"
"Not firing, laying off." Grant held up his hands. "There's a difference."
"I don't…" Chloe said confused.
"Look, I just think that maybe this isn't the right career for you Sullivan. Your keen that's for sure but, your instincts just aren't there." He frowned at her then kept on about severance packages and things but Chloe just stood up, walked to the door, dropped the file in the trash can and walked out. She passed Amanda, ignoring her, as she walked to her desk and looked at it.
She grabbed two boxes of paper from supply area, dumped them out on the table and started packing her stuff up. People on the newsroom floor stopped what they were doing and watched her. "Chloe?" Amanda asked as she picked up the papers Chloe had dumped out of the boxes. When Chloe finished packing her things she sat in her chair and reached far under her keyboard drawer. She yanked a large piece of duct tape with one hand and caught the file that fell lose with the other. She stared at the file for a good ten minutes before she got up and walked back into Grant's office.
He was on the phone but when he saw Chloe, the look on her face must have given her away because he hung up in a hurry. "Now Chloe, don't make a scene."
"I know about you and Lois." She smiled at him. "I've known for a while now."
"I didn't think you'd stoop this low." He shook his head. Chloe shook hers too.
"You don't understand." Chloe laughed humorlessly. "I've known about you and Lois for a while. I've also known this for a while." She slapped the file on his desk and he opened it slowly. He frowned as he flipped through the pages and swallowed hard.
"Where did you get this?" He asked.
"I have my sources." She said. "Julian." His head snapped up to look at her angrily.
"So I guess you want your job back." He said. "With a raise no doubt."
She laughed again, amused this time. "I'm not blackmailing you." She smiled. "I could have used this a while ago. I could have sold it to any paper or news company in the world for more than your worth, but I didn't." She slapped her hands on his desk and leaned forward so she was a mere inches from his face. "Maybe I'm not cut throat and ruthless but you're going to admit that I'm a damn good investigative reporter." Grant shook his head in acknowledgement. "And now you're going to admit that you're turning one of the finest papers in the world into nothing more than a grocery line tabloid."
"I'm selling papers." Grant countered.
"You're selling out." Chloe straightened back up. "You're right." She laughed. "I don't belong here; I'm better than this place." She turned and walked to the door.
"Who else knows about this?" Grant asked.
"No one." Chloe assured him. "And if you want it to stay that way, don't mention this to Lex. I'm tired of playing cat and mouse with him."
"How do I know you won't tell anyone? Tell Lionel?" Grant asked.
"Look," Chloe softened a little. "Whatever Lex told you about Lionel, whatever kind of person Lex says he is, he's wrong, or he's lying. Lex is the one you have to worry about here; Lex is always the one you have to worry about." She turned to leave and Grant stood up.
"What did he do to you?" He asked suddenly.
Chloe turned around and smiled sadly. "It's a long story." Grant raised an eyebrow. "Let's just say I would trust Lionel with my life."
"And Lex?" Grant asked.
"I would kill him if I knew I could get away with it." Chloe opened the door before Grant could say anything else and walked out.
She picked up her two boxes and tried to keep them steady while she slung her lap top over her shoulder. Amanda walked up beside her. "You've got a phone call Chloe."
"Amanda, you're not going to make it far in this business if you haven't been able to deduce that I don't work here anymore." Chloe smiled at her and walked out of the building.
She got back to her apartment just in time to open the doors for the waste disposal guys. The water had ruined practically everything she owned and she had to get anything water damaged thrown away so the mold inspectors could check the apartment out. "What goes lady?" A large man looked around the place. Chloe surveyed the room and took in the damages, her mind still half on the fact that she'd just been fired from the only place she'd wanted to work since she was four. "Everything." She said.
"Everything?" Another guy looked around.
"Not everything." She sighed. "All the furniture though. Why don't you start with the couches and I'll grab some boxes to pack up the bookshelves." They nodded and she walked downstairs, grateful that the supply truck for the Talon had come the day before and there were plenty of boxes. She grabbed a handful and walked back up to her apartment. As the guys moved her couch, love seat, rug, and coffee table down the stairs, she boxed up all the books that weren't damaged. The phone rang a few times and she pulled the cord out of the wall then grabbed her cell and turned it off. She really didn't feel like talking to anyone. Then she grabbed any DVD's that were still good and moved the television to the kitchen countertop so they could take the entertainment center. Her dining room set was an old metal table from the talon so the water didn't damage it or the chairs but the barstools were wood so they had to go.
Chloe moved into her bedroom and packed all the clothes from her dresser and cleaned off her desk. The mattresses were still ok but the bed could not be saved. By the time the waste removal guys were done Chloe was sitting at her dining room table and staring at a completely empty apartment. Well not completely empty. There were boxes of books stacked in the corner of the living room. The television was on an egg crate she took from the Talon and her mattress and box spring were on the floor of her bedroom, but that was it, the entire rest of her apartment was bare.
She couldn't stop the laugh the slipped out, and then the one that followed and before she knew it she was laughing so hard she was crying. Soon after that she wasn't even sure if she was crying from the laughter or laughing through the tears. That's how Lois and Clark found her, doubled over at her kitchen table laughing and crying hysterically without even a pause for breath. "Chloe are you ok?" Lois asked cautiously.
"I'm fine." She looked up. "How are you?"
Clark looked around the apartment. "Did you get robbed?" He asked as he set the bags on the counter.
"No." Chloe wiped her eyes. "But I got fired."
"I know sweetie." Lois frowned at her. "We figured you'd need some company and some comfort food." She motioned to the bags on the counter. "But what happened here?"
"Pipe burst." Chloe shrugged and got up to grab plates from the cabinet. "Ruined everything."
"You had to get rid of everything?" Lois asked.
"It was all water damaged." Chloe shrugged as if it was no big deal. Lois looked at Clark and made a face, he shrugged and she glared and he coughed.
"You sure you're all right Chloe?" He asked.
"Fine." She smiled handing him a plate. "Let's eat." She opened the take out containers and piled her plate up. Clark's phone rang and he walked into the other room to answer when he saw it was Oliver.
"Hey." He said quietly.
"Where's Chloe?" Oliver asked curtly.
"In the other room." Clark said confused.
"What the hell's wrong with her?" He practically screamed. "I've been trying to call her all day, her house phone, her cell phone, the office."
"She's had a bad day." Clark said.
"Well I really need to talk to her it's important." Oliver said.
"I'll tell her to answer her phone." Clark assured Oliver and hung up. He walked out and whispered in Chloe's ear while Lois loaded up her plate. "Answer your phone, Oliver's got to talk to you."
Chloe reached in her purse and turned the phone back on; completely forgetting that she'd turned it off earlier. "Oops." She said as a message came up on the screen. "Twenty eight messages."
She was about to check her voice mail when the phone rang. She got up from the table and walked to the bedroom to answer it. "Hello." She said.
"Chloe, I've been trying to reach you all day."
"I'm sorry." She said a little put off by the tone of his voice. "It's been sort of a rough day, am I allowed to have those?"
He was quiet for a second and then sighed. "I'm sorry." She could practically hear him running his hands through his hair. "I haven't been having the best week myself, didn't mean to take it out on you. I need a favor."
"Oh." Chloe said. She instantly felt bad. She hadn't talked to Oliver in six months and if he'd been trying to call her, it was most likely something really important. "Sure, whatever I can do."
"Can you take a few days off work? Take a vacation?" He asked.
"I think I can swing that." Chloe smiled ruefully.
"Right, I need you in Star city as soon as possible. Better take a carousel here, it would be best if Lex didn't know where you really were." Oliver mentioned.
You don't know the half of it. Chloe thought, not realizing until that moment what she'd revealed in Grant's office. "No problem, I can leave tomorrow morning, I'll call you when I get to Star City."
"Thank Chloe, you're a life saver." Oliver said before hanging up.
Chloe walked back into the living room and grabbed her plate to continue eating. "Who was that?" Lois asked.
"My travel agent." She said smiling. "You know I think it's about time I took a vacation."
"That's the spirit." Lois smiled.
"Yeah I mean I haven't had one in…god, I can't even remember the last time I had a vacation." Chloe smiled. "And this really is the perfect time. It's not like I have work, or even an apartment." She looked around.
"So where are you going to go?" Lois asked.
"Somewhere sunny." Chloe said. "The beach maybe."
"Sounds like a plan to me." Lois clapped Chloe on the back. "When will you leave?"
"Tomorrow." Chloe told her. "No time like the present."
"Right." Lois nodded. "Get out before you come to your senses."
"That just about covers it." Chloe agreed. They ate and stayed a little while longer, making sure Chloe really was ok about getting fired and then left when she assured them she'd be fine. As soon as they were gone she packed her bag and got to work on her carousel. Chloe coined the phrase because if anyone were to come looking for her they'd just end up going around in circles. She reserved a flight to Miami for eight in the morning from Metropolis and then from Miami she reserved five other flights, one to New York, one to DC, one to Chicago, one to LA, and one to Dallas. From each of those places she reserved more flights to other places and then bought a couple of train tickets as well. After that was all finished she pulled a couple of fake ID's and decided on who she would really travel as before finally going to sleep.
Two days later Chloe rubbed her hands up and down her arms faster as if it would help. All the talk of beaches and flying into Miami sort of put her in a warm summer mind set but all that was dashed when she walked out of the Star City airport. "He didn't tell me it was cold here." Chloe said as Victor tossed the small bag she'd packed into the trunk.
"Here." He passed his coat to her and she quickly pulled it on, sighing in relief. "I don't really feel the cold." He opened the passenger side door for her and she climbed in.
"Heater, heater, heater." She mumbled as she slowly got in the car, adjusted mirrors and turned it on.
"Chill out." Victor laughed at her as her teeth chattered next to him. "Or you know…" She glared and turned the heater on full blast. "So Ollie said you were having a bad day."
"Bad week, bad month…whatever." She looked out the window. This was her first visit to Star City and she was admiring the view. "So is the whole Justice League here or…" Victor started laughing.
"Justice League?" He asked.
"What?" Chloe said confused. "I think it fits."
"Please don't tell Oliver that, he'll start to use it." Victor groaned. "Like our nicknames weren't bad enough."
"You don't like your nickname?" Chloe smiled. "Don't care much for mine either."
"Well none of us got to pick ours really." Victor shrugged. "Guess it goes with the life."
"So what is this proposition that Oliver flew me out here to discuss?" Chloe asked.
"I don't know." Victor shrugged. "Oliver just tossed me the keys an hour ago and said to come pick you up. We didn't even know you were coming." He smiled. "Impulse is going to freak."
Chloe rolled her eyes and sighed. "Do we have to tell him; couldn't you just sneak me in or something?"
"Oh come on, you know you love all the attention he lavishes on you." Victor teased her.
"It is sort of nice for someone to fawn over you every once in a while." She admitted.
"I knew it." Victor said and Chloe laughed. She leaned her head against the window and the next thing she knew she was asleep. She woke up thirty minutes later when Victor stopped the car. She was exhausted. She'd boarded her first plane at 7:30 the day before and had sense flown to Miami, then to Chicago, taken a train to Madison, rented a car and drove back to Chicago, flew to Denver then finally Star City. It was nine o'clock at night a day after she set off, she was tired, hungry, cold, and a little cranky.
She looked around to get her bearings; they were in a parking garage. "Here we go." Victor opened the door and grabbed her bag from the trunk. "Queen Towers."
"Fancy." Chloe said walking to the glass elevators in the corner. "What floor?" She asked when they both squeezed in. Victor took out a key in put it in the key hole, a pad popped out of the wall when he turned it and he punched in a few numbers. "Fancier." Chloe said smiling.
Victor just laughed at her as they made their way all the way to the top. Chloe had to force herself not to look down and was grateful when the elevator doors opened, until she saw a red blur and realized that Bart had been standing there waiting for them. He'd run into the elevator at such a high speed to hug her that only Victor throwing out a arm at the last second stopped her falling back through the glass elevator.
"Damn it Bart." AC said from the hallway. "You could have dropped her a hundred stories."
"Sorry." Bart said sheepishly. "I was just excited."
"Could I please get out of the elevator?" Chloe asked a little nervously. "I've fallen out a window before and I didn't really like the experience.
A laugh made her look past AC's shoulder and she smiled as Oliver walked in the room. "Let her breath guys." He tilted his head in greeting at her.
"Hey Oliver." Chloe smiled and walked up slowly, unsure what she did with him, did they hug? Did they shake hands? Did they just stare at each other? He answered for her when he gave her a small hug and kiss on the cheek.
"Good to finally see you again." He smiled. "I'd almost forgotten what you looked like."
Chloe smiled. She'd helped him and the guys out a couple of times since they were in Smallville but it was all over the phone or computer, they hadn't actually seen each other since. "You're kidding right?" Bart said tossing an arm over her shoulder. "How could anyone forget what Chloe looks like?"
Chloe rolled her eyes but didn't remove Bart's arm and laughed for the first time in a few days a genuine laugh. "So what, might I ask, am I doing here?"
"We don't have to get down to that so soon." Oliver smiled. "Bart, show her to her room." Oliver said and Victor handed Bart her bag. "Get settled in, then we can order dinner, catch up."
"Sure." Chloe said confused. Oliver was usually all business, up front; get it out of the way. Either he was sincerely being a nice guy, letting her relax after a long day, or he was buttering her up because this proposition was way more involved than she thought. She stopped following Bart and turned around to look at Oliver. He was chatting with AC but must have felt her eyes on his neck because he turned around and smiled at her. He was a nice guy, there was no doubt about that, but she was willing to bet the rest of her journalistic career that all the relaxation was just to butter her up. "This thing you want me to do, it's going to get me arrested isn't it?" She asked her eyes narrowing. "Or possibly shot?"
"Just go rest, take a bath or something; we'll talk about it later." Oliver said smiling.
"Am I going to have to scale a building because I really don't like heights?" Chloe said.
"I've got bubble bath." Oliver prompted her. She narrowed her eyes at him and sighed turning around and following Bart to the bedroom.
"I'm so going to get shot." She said under her breath and Oliver smiled as she mumbled to herself.
The prospect of getting shot, scaling a building or an impending criminal record didn't bother Chloe so much when she dropped herself in the bubble bath she'd run. Letting the past few days just rinse off of her actually did make her feel better and she got out of the bathtub energized and ready, if not willing to scale the building. She pulled out some yoga pants and a sweatshirt and walked to the living room.
Victor and AC were playing a video game and Bart was whining because he was supposed to play winner from the last round. Chloe had to laugh, secret covert missions, blowing up building, rescuing innocent people, put all that aside and they were just boys.
"Sometimes I miss the quiet." Oliver said handing her a cup of coffee. She took a sip and smiled. It was just how she liked it. Chloe raised her eyebrow at him and he lowered his head. "I said sometimes. When they're not here, honestly, I have a hard time getting stuff done." He smiled sheepishly.
"I can see where you'd get used to it. At first I couldn't concentrate in the Planet newsroom, but after a few months, if I tried to get any work done in my apartment, it was useless." She said taking another sip of her coffee.
"You ready for dinner?" Oliver asked.
"You don't have to do all this." Chloe said smiling. "You didn't have to put me up here; I could have gotten a hotel room."
"Nonsense." He shook her off. "My favor, my tab." He whistled and the room went silent. "All right guys, what are we ordering?"
"It's my night to pick." Bart said laughing. "You know what that means." He rubbed his hands together.
"Mexican." Victor and AC said sighing.
"No." Oliver pulled a stack of take out menus from a drawer. "It's Chloe's night to pick." Bart looked at her hopefully but she wasn't really a fan of Mexican food. She gave him a sad little smile and the others almost visibly relaxed.
"Actually." Chloe said. "I've had a serious craving for Chinese." She said and AC and Victor both gave her a thumbs up from the couch. After food was ordered and everyone was stuffed, and Bart had come back from what he called, "an emergency burrito run" because Chinese food just did not replenish his energy fast enough, they settled around the living room as Oliver lowered a screen.
"Diner and a movie." Bart said putting his arms around Chloe and smiling. "Do I know how to romance you or what?"
Chloe laughed and removed his arm as Oliver shot Bart an annoyed look. "Ok." Oliver said in his, "meeting started" voice and a satellite image appeared on the screen. "This is Rosado del Mar." Oliver zoomed in on a small coastal town in Mexico. "Rural city, farmers, fishers, no big business until…" He zoomed out and over and there it was a very modern, very steel and barbed wire building in the middle of dirt huts and streets. Armed guards stood all around the perimeter.
"Lex moved in." Chloe said sitting up and looking at the screen.
"We know he moves a lot of things in, but not a lot of things get taken out." Oliver said.
"I've been watching for a while now and most of his stuff comes in refrigerated trucks." Victor said getting up. "From what we can gather based on satellite images, infrared, and public records the main floor is passing, barely, as a medical research facility."
"With a lot of fire power." Bart whistled counting the guards.
"That's what's got most of the people a little…unconvinced." Bart said. "But the towns also pretty scared of whatever is going on in there, too scared to talk to any of us anyway."
"We know little to nothing." Oliver sighed. "We know it's bad, that's pretty much a given with Lex footing the bill."
"So what do you need me here for?" Chloe asked confused. It didn't seem like they were anywhere need ready to go in, or ready for her to do her Watchtower thing.
Oliver nodded at AC and he walked out of the room only to come back with a file box and drop it on the table and leave again. "We were able to get into the administration building." Oliver said and Bart coughed as AC dropped another file box on the floor. "Ok, Bart was able to get into the administration building and download the hard drive. We've been over everything…" AC dropped another box on the ground. "But we were hoping, with your reporters instincts you'd be able to see connections that we couldn't." AC dropped another box. "Maybe work out a whole picture. Hell half a picture would be fine."
"This is…" Chloe looked down at the boxes as AC dropped a fourth one and sat down.
"Everything from the hard drive." Oliver said. Chloe looked at the boxes and then up at Oliver and smiled.
"Put a pot on boys." She rolled up her sleeves and opened the first box. "It's going to be a long night."
Oliver moved to the kitchen and started a new pot of coffee as Chloe dug into the box, pulling out a large stack of papers and started from the top. Victor, AC, Bart, and Oliver stayed out of her way as much as possible, allowing her to lose herself in the work without interruptions.
Video games were played, a movie was watched, one by one everyone drifted off to sleep as Chloe stacked piles of paper up in her own little organizational system. Around five am Oliver came out into the kitchen and saw Chloe with a cup of coffee pulling stuff out of the fourth and final box. "Did you sleep?" He asked pouring himself a cup and walking over to her.
"Don't touch anything." She said without looking up and he finally looked at the room properly and noticed that practically every available surface was covered with small stacks of papers. She took the page she was reading and walked over to the window setting it down in one many identical looking stacks and then moving back to the box.
"What…" He trailed off.
"I've got a system." She said to him. "Just…go to work or something."
Oliver shook his head and took his coffee to his room. She heard the shower turn on and satisfied that he wasn't invading her space anymore she got back to work. Oliver left for the office, one whole floor down an hour later. He called up around noon and Bart answered. "Dude." Bart said. "This is freaky."
"What is she doing?" Oliver asked. "Did she stop for lunch?"
Bart looked up at Chloe who was standing in front of the monitor eating a sandwich and watching the lab. "Sort of." Bart said. "She's been watching the satellite feed for like three hours now."
"Just watching it?" Oliver asked. "Has she said anything?"
"Nope." Bart said. "She just watches and takes notes."
"Well, let her work I guess, don't bother her." Oliver said hanging up the phone. Bart nodded and watched Chloe watch the feed.
Four hours later Oliver undid his tie as he rode the elevator up to the Penthouse. The elevator stopped and he opened the gate ready to change his clothes and order some diner when a shrill voice stopped him in his tracks. "Don't move." Chloe had screamed.
Oliver grabbed the side of the elevator to keep himself from falling and looked around the room. Every available surface in his apartment was covered, counters, couches, and now, his floor. He stepped back into the elevator so he didn't disturb the stacks of paper in front of him. "Just wait a second." She crossed her arms and glared at him. "I was almost onto something there and then you made me lose it."
"Sorry." Oliver smiled. "I'd really like to come in though so if you could…"
"Shh." Chloe scolded him and looked around the room from her perch on one of his barstools.
"AC, bring me the stack by the window seat." Chloe said and Oliver watched as AC wound very carefully around the stacks and picked one up. "Victor, the one by the fridge." Victor made his way through the kitchen are and came back with a stack of papers. She grabbed both stacks and looked at them for a second.
"Chloe." Oliver said impatiently.
"Walk very carefully, you knock something over, I will kill you." She didn't even bother to look up from the papers.
"Bart." She looked up excited. "I need the stack on top of the television and the one on the top right corner of the coffee table." He nodded and made his way over to them.
Oliver changed and made his ways back to the living room area, making sure not to disturb anything. Chloe was directing Bart, AC, and Victor all around the room bringing together random, well random to Oliver anyway, stacks of paper. "I got it." She said jumping up. "Oh this is brilliant." She zoomed around the room herself now, pairing one stack with another until each one had a partner.
"Ok." Oliver was finally able to walk into the room. "You care to share with the rest of the class?"
"I just…I need to be sure before I…" She turned to Bart. "Bart, can you get back into the administration building?"
"Of course." He smiled at her.
"I need the delivery manifests from today." Chloe looked at him and he didn't move. He turned to Oliver and then back to Chloe.
"Now?" He whined, "But I thought we were going to have dinner."
"I'll order Mexican while you're gone." Chloe said. "Hurry." She snapped her fingers and he rolled his eyes before taking off.
"You've had your Eureka moment and you're going to leave us hanging?" Oliver asked.
"Order dinner. I need to work a few things out still." Chloe walked around her newly formed stacks and stared at them.
"Let's leave her to it." Oliver motioned the other guys to follow him to the kitchen area. By the time Bart got back from the factory the food had arrived and he attacked it with vigor, not waiting to even hear a thank you from Chloe.
She intently studied the manifests as she ate her diner, mumbling incomprehensible things to herself the whole time as Victor, AC, and Oliver watched in amusement. "Ok." She pushed her plate away. "I've got it."
They stared at her expectantly and Oliver laughed. "Are you going to let us have it?"
"Oh right sorry." Chloe stood up and started pacing. "There's another lab."
"Another lab?" Oliver looked at her confused. "Explain."
"Ok, everything you brought back is doubled. I started to notice it as I went through the last few boxes; I was coming across the same invoices, the same reports, only they were different."
"The same but different?" Victor asked.
"Exactly." Chloe smiled. "It didn't really hit me until I remembered watching the delivery." She handed Oliver the sheets Bart had just gotten for her. "Look at the list." Oliver flipped through the four pages of inventory that was delivered to the lab earlier that day.
"Ok." He looked back up at Chloe. "What am I looking at exactly?"
"That a lot of stuff right?" She grabbed the remote and pulled and image up on the screen. "But watch the truck." They all watched as the truck drove in the gates and around the side of the building, ten minutes later it was backing up and leaving. "Ten minutes? To unload all that stuff?"
Oliver looked back down at the list in his hand and then back up at the screen. "So he didn't really deliver anything?"
"No." Chloe smiled. She grabbed another stack of papers and handed them to Oliver. "These are the delivery manifests for the past six months. "Each one has an exact duplicate, same inventory, same delivery date, everything is the same, except for the time stamps."
Oliver looked through them and she was right, each slip had an exact duplicate, exact inventory, exact date but with a two hour delivery time difference. "This isn't the real lab." Oliver looked up astonished.
"No, the real lab is two hours away somewhere. This is a decoy, probably set up just for you." She smiled, proud of herself and Oliver just shook his head in amazement.
"Ok." Oliver got up and walked over to the computer. "We need to figure out where the other truck is going, find that lab and do some recon."
"I'll try and track it using the satellite images." Chloe looked at Victor. "Can I get some help?"
"Love to." He walked over to the computer with her and they got straight to work.
"Bart I need you to fuel up because you're going to be our first look on the ground." Oliver turned to him.
"I'm ready to go." Bart assured him.
Oliver took a deep breath, relieved finally to have this thing figured out. "Good work Watchtower." Chloe spared him a smiled over her shoulder as she and Victor worked away on the computer.
Five hours later Chloe stood up from the computer and cricked her neck. "Got it." She yawned and Oliver walked over to the computer. "I'll let Victor fill you in because I've just realized that I haven't slept in thirty six hours." She nodded at the guys and walked down the hallway to the room Oliver had set up for her.
Chloe woke up the next day and momentarily forgot where she was and what she was doing. "Please." Bart was saying from the kitchen area. "What are you going to do? The place is five miles in land in a very dry area."
"I have skills out of the water." AC argued.
"Like what? Complaining about the lack of water?" Victor joked.
"You guys don't appreciate me." AC said. "One day you'll realize just how valuable I am and you'll be sorry you mocked me."
"We're not mocking AC." Oliver laughed. "We're just…ok we're mocking you."
"You know what you don't even have any powers." AC turned on Oliver. "So you really don't belong in this conversation."
"And the gloves come off." Victor joked.
"Do you guys have to fight so early in the morning?" Chloe yawned as she walked in the room.
"One, of course we do, two, it's eleven in the afternoon." Oliver smiled at her. "Coffee?"
"Do you want to live to see noon?" She raised an eyebrow and he wordless walked to the coffee pot and started it up. "Bart, leave AC alone you don't even know how to swim." AC chuckled as Bart closed his mouth quickly. "And AC you got to stop rising to the bait if you're going to be a little wussy girl about it." Chloe sat down at the table and Victor laughed as AC's face fell. "And you…" She turned on Victor. "Stop butting into other people's conversations just to egg them on." Victor stopped laughing and his face fell.
Oliver walked over and handed Chloe her coffee. "You heard her."
"I don't need you to back me up." Chloe told him and they all turned to Oliver and raised their eyebrows. "You're no better than them, you just pretend to be."
"Right." Oliver tried to save face. "While you were sleeping, we formed a plan."
"Good for you." Chloe grumbled, still not really in a socializing mood. "And I'm sure it's a really great one, does it involve me in any way?"
"It does as a matter of fact." Oliver informed her.
"Then you'd be better off not telling me until after I've showered and woken up." She looked up at him. "If you expect me to actually pay attention."
"Ok then." Oliver chapped his hands together. "I'm going to try and get some work done; you guys just…try not to burn the place down. I'll be back in a few hours."
Chloe refilled her cup as Oliver left the penthouse and carried her coffee into her room, taking her time to wake up and become presentable. She took a long bath, relaxed for a while as her hair dried and then got dressed, ready to face the world. Oliver wasn't back yet when she came out of her room so they guys were still goofing off. "Chloe, come on so we can play teams." Bart beckoned her to the couch where they were playing a video game.
AC and Victor looked at her then Bart then each other and smiled. "She's on your team bro." Victor smiled at Bart who just shrugged.
She looked at the screen, having a vague memory of Jimmy playing this game once and shrugged. She didn't have anything better to do really. "Why not." She sat down and Victor tossed her a controller as Bart explained the objective of the game and how to play it.
"Ready?" He asked.
"If I can break into the DOD website, I can do this." She assured him. "Let's go."
Oliver walked into the Penthouse, not really expecting to be greeted at the door but not expecting to be summarily ignored. All four of them were sitting in front of the television, so completely engrossed in the video game that was on the screen that they didn't even see him. "Around the back." Victor screamed at AC. "Don't stand out front like a dumb ass." He was pushing buttons so rapidly on his controller, Oliver was afraid he was going to break it.
"If someone was laying cover fire, I'd be able to get around to the back." AC glared at Victor and jumped out of his chair. "That's not…"
"Plasma grenade." Chloe said smirking at him. "Suck it."
"We outlawed Plasma grenades after the last game." AC stared at the screen in astonishment.
"Yeah well you guys decided that we were the bad guys and bad guys don't play by the rules so suck it." Chloe jumped up daring AC to say something else.
"Just don't worry about that and come around back." Victor said. "They've got me surrounded."
"Yeah we do." Bart smirked.
"Get in the door, in the door." AC said. "I've got you covered."
"No." Chloe stepped up on the coffee table. "You." She stepped off on the other side getting closer to the television. "Don't." She pushed a button and something on the screen exploded, AC and Victor dropped their controllers groaning. "Don't underestimate me because I'm a girl." Chloe smirked and tossed Victor the controller. He caught it smiling and set it down on the table.
"You guys finished saving the world?" Oliver walked in the room.
"Nah, world went to shit." Chloe turned around. "Cause these guys need to realize, no one can beat me."
"I think they've got it now." Oliver slung and arm over Chloe's shoulder. "So we ready to do some actual work?"
"No problem boss." AC turned the console off.
"Wheel's up in one hour." Oliver checked his watch. "Pack light."
"No problem." Victor nodded at AC and Bart and they left the room to pack.
"So I'll get this whole place to myself?" Chloe looked around.
"No, I need you there." Oliver dropped his arm and poured himself a cup of coffee.
"Why? I used to do sit in my apartment in Smallville and guide you guys in like Spain." She looked up confused.
"When Bart was there this afternoon, he said their reception was really bad, I'm worried about the connection going off line so I want you as close as we can get."
"So I'm going to Mexico?" Chloe said. "I don't have my passport."
"You won't need it." Oliver smirked at her. "Perks of a private plane."
"Huh." Chloe looked at him. "Fine." She set her coffee cup down and went to grab her bag.
Riding in a private jet would have been a better experience if she didn't have AC, Victor, and Bart acting like five year olds on a road trip. "Get off my arm rest." Victor knocked Bart in the shoulder for the fifth time.
"That one's mine." Bart moved his arm more onto the rest. "Yours is on the other side."
Oliver pinched the bridge of his nose for the tenth time and Chloe wondered if he bought stock in Tylenol after taking these guys on. He smiled slightly at Chloe and then went back to his work, which just served to remind her that this wasn't a vacation for him. "How about you fight for it." AC suggested. "Rock paper scissors?"
"He cheats." Bart complained.
"How can I cheat at Rock Paper Scissors?" Victor scoffed at Bart.
"Actually now that he said something." AC looked up. "You do seem to have a serious knack for Rock Paper Scissors."
"There is no way to cheat at Rock Paper Scissors." Victor groaned.
"I hear "Rock Paper Scissors" one more time I'm going to I'm going to come over there and you don't want me to come over there." Chloe called out to them.
"I don't cheat." Victor said. "You can't cheat."
"Do so." Bart added as if he was seven years old.
Oliver pinched the bridge of his nose again and Chloe set her book down. "Guys I will turn this plane around." She screamed and saw Oliver smile slightly out of the corner of her eyes.
"Chloe, I can't sit next to him." Victor called over to her.
"You can't sit next to me?" Bart sighed. "I can't sit next to you."
"I can't sit next to either of you." AC chimed in.
"Oh like we want to sit next to you." Victor said.
"Yeah." Bart added. "You can't take a plane ride without sleeping and you snore."
"I don't snore." AC scoffed.
"Oh you snore." Victor nodded. "You snore louder than a chainsaw."
Oliver sighed and closed his laptop and then his eyes, screwing them up tightly and mumbling under his breath.
"That's it." Chloe tossed her blanket off her lap and stood up. "You here." She grabbed Bart by the shirt collar and dragged him to the seat next to her.
"You snore, everyone knows it, everyone can hear it, all the time." She said to AC.
She turned to Victor. "And you do cheat at Rock Paper Scissors. You have faster reflexes than these guys and when you see what they come out with, you change yours really fast."
Victor opened his mouth to protest when Bart turned around and glared. "I knew it."
"Shut up." Chloe smacked him in the back of his head and he turned back around. "Sit here quietly or I'm locking you in the bathroom for the rest of the flight." Chloe sat back down and grabbed her blanket and book, settling back into her seat. Oliver caught her eye and she looked up and smiled at him.
"Thank You." He mouthed to her and she nodded as if it was no big deal.
"Do you have to put your feet up there?" Victor asked.
"You're not sitting there." AC pointed out. "It's an empty seat."
"But it's right next to me." Victor complained.
Chloe set her book down and leaned over her seat to glare at them. AC put his feet down and Victor looked away ashamed.
The rest of the flight was uneventful and the hotel was a lot nicer than Chloe expected for Mexico. Oliver only got the one room because they wouldn't be staying long and the guys went to change as Chloe set her computer up.
"What did Bart find out?" She plugged all of her components in and looked up at Oliver.
"As genius as his whole double facility was, it made him a little cocky." Oliver smiled and pulled up an image on her screen.
Chloe looked over it and smirked. "There are no guards." Chloe said.
"Nope." Oliver turned to her. "There's security inside but the perimeter is totally clear."
"There's not even a fence." Chloe shook her head. "Man this guys is full of himself."
"Layout's pretty simple. Vic's got it all set up for you on the monitor. We're going to go in, grab what we can off the computer system and figure out what the hell he's doing in there." Oliver poured himself a cup of coffee and Chloe nodded.
"No problem." She sat down in front of the screen and got herself familiar with the layout of the compound. "From the looks of this…" She studied the rooms. "Most of these have refrigeration sections. It most likely is just a research facility…not that that's not a bad thing because I don't think I want to know what their samples are."
"We'll make sure there aren't any live subjects but I'm going to let the samples burn." Oliver informed her.
"Sounds good to me, I haven't come across a place like this in any of the stuff I've gotten from Lex. I'm thinking this is his main storage facility. Which means it'll probably set his work back years." Chloe smiled.
"This keeps getting better and better." Oliver took a sip of coffee. "I'm going to gear up."
Chloe nodded and went back to her screen as the guys walked out in their costumes. "I'm so glad I sit behind the computer." She tried hard not to laugh.
"It's not like we're walking around in tights and capes." Victor said.
Chloe looked at their pants and raised an eyebrow. "Pants, tight I'll give you that but pants none the less." AC smiled at her.
"Ok." Chloe shrugged and went back to her computer. Oliver walked back in and they went through everyone's entrance positions and what they were responsible for. Chloe knew her role, the same as it always was, sit at home and walk them through it. The whole thing went off without a hitch and they were back on the plane to go home within four hours of arriving. Chloe stayed one more day at Oliver's penthouse before starting her carousel trip back to Smallville.
When Chloe finally got home two days later, ready to unwind on the couch after, only to remember she had no couch, she set her bags on the dining room table. She flipped the light on and jumped in the air when she saw a person seated on one of her chairs. "Why didn't you tell me?" Oliver Queen stared at her.
"Tell you what?" Chloe asked putting a hand to her heart. "You scared the crap out of me."
"Sorry." Oliver laughed. "Why didn't you tell me about your job? About the apartment?"
"I wanted to just forget about it for a few days." Chloe said moving to the coffee machine to start a fresh pot. "Besides, it's not like we're bosom buddies." She pointed out.
"Still." Oliver said. "I'd like to think that I'm more than just the guy you occasionally help blow buildings up with."
Chloe took down a coffee cup and held it out to him, he nodded and she took another cup down. "Sorry." Chloe shrugged waiting for the coffee to drip.
"What are you going to do?" He asked her.
"I don't know." Chloe said. "There are other newspapers you know."
"Not for you." He pointed out. She sighed and nodded pouring the coffee into the cups.
"No." She said handing him his coffee. "Not for me. I do live above a coffee shop." She smiled. "I'm sure the owner would give me a job." Oliver raised his eyebrows at her.
"Chloe Sullivan – Barista." Oliver thought for a second. "That just doesn't do it for me."
"What do you suggest?" Chloe laughed.
"Let's see, Chloe Sullivan – Defender of the weak and abused, Avenger of the innocent, Protector of the people." He smiled at her.
"You'd be hard pressed to fit all that on a business card." Chloe pointed out.
"Your right." Oliver set down his coffee cup. "We could just shorten it to Watchtower." He shrugged.
Chloe laughed. "Right, Watchtower full time." She looked up and noticed Oliver wasn't laughing. "Watchtower full time?" Chloe stopped laughing and looked at him. "You can't be serious?" His expression didn't change. "You are serious?" She swallowed. "Look, you're talking about paying me to investigate Lex Luther full time…actually when I say that out loud it doesn't sound too bad but…" She looked at him confused.
"Look." Oliver set his coffee cup down. "It may not be the Daily Planet but it's still investigating. And I think it's probably a little more satisfying to blow up Lex's secret labs then simply write about them and hope he can't spin it his way." Chloe shrugged a little. "What you did this week…I could never have made that connection Chloe. As it is, I'm having a hard enough time finding the time to investigate Lex. I should have found that compound far sooner than I did, I can't keep up with him and run my business. I could use you. I know you're the right person for the job, hell Chloe, you're the only person for the job. Think about it, call me." He nodded at her and walked to the door.
"You're completely serious aren't you?" Chloe asked as he walked out of the apartment.
"Chloe, I didn't take the red eye here to play an elaborate prank on you." Oliver said. "Take your time. Give me a call."
Chloe took a deep breath as Oliver closed the door behind him and sighed. It would be the job of a lifetime. She smiled slightly and took her coffee over to the mattress to think about it. She woke up the next morning and called Lois, promising that she would meet her for lunch and tell her all about the fabulous beach vacation she didn't really take and then called Clark. "Hey, can you meet me for coffee?" Chloe asked and then felt the air around her shift and glared at Clark as she hung up the phone. "I hate it when you do that." She said and walked to the door of her apartment.
Clark smiled as he followed her down to the Talon. They were quiet until they got their coffee and found a seat in the back corner. "So what's up?"
"Well, Oliver sort of offered me a job." Chloe ran her fingers along the rim of her glass, not looking at Clark.
"I didn't know he owned any newspapers." Clark said tasting his coffee.
"He doesn't." Chloe looked up. "This isn't a job job, it's more like I'd be joining a team."
Clark looked at her confused for a minute then his eyes widened. "He wants you to join?" Clark said confused.
"Not just join, he wants to pay me to do what I do as…Watchtower." Chloe said.
What did you tell him?" Clark asked.
"That I'd think about it." Chloe said. "And I've thought about it. I like what he's doing; I like what I do for him. It's challenging and rewarding and I just… don't know."
"You're taking this…job." Clark said. "You may not realize it yet but you've made up your mind all ready so what do you need from me?"
"I need you to tell me it's the right thing to do." Chloe said. "I need you to tell me that I'm not abandoning you."
"Chloe." Clark laughed. "It's not like you're going underground, I'll still be able to talk to you. I'll still call you for help, and you'll still be my best friend you know." He smiled at her. "I really think you should do this."
"Right." Chloe smiled.
"How are you going to tell Lois?" Clark asked suddenly and Chloe's eyes went wide as she dropped her head to the table and moaned.