In which Chinese food is consumed, the future is put on hold, and there is made mention of green stoves and disco balls.
The doors to the Watchtower shut behind Chloe and she turned to make sure that they were locked. Her hand stilled on the knob, uncertain for a minute. She knew she needed to get out of the Watchtower. Clark had told her, John had told her, even Oliver had told her in not so many words. She knew that it wasn't good for her to stay locked up there and cut off from the real world and that they were just going to dinner. But she couldn't help remember the last time she went out, how a man had died, how she herself had almost died. The fear was suddenly all encompassing and she wanted nothing more than to run back inside and lock the door behind her.
"Chloe?" Oliver turned to her, a knowing smile on his face as if he knew exactly what she wanted to do. "What do you say?" They started down the steps of the building to the door.
She looked between John and Oliver sheepishly. "About?" They smiled indulgently.
"Dinner." Oliver said. "Do you have a preference?"
"I'm kina in the mood for Chinese actually." She said, burrowing into her jacket as they hit the street and the cold night air enveloped her.
"Chinese?" Oliver turned to John. "They have cookies."
"That they do." John nodded. "Chinese it is."
"Great." Chloe slipped her hand easily in the crook of John's offered arm but her smile soon faded when the radio on his belt squeaked.
"Unit 58, we've got a 10-54d at Wilbert and Vine, black and whites requesting back up." The voice of the dispatch officer was scratchy but understandable to all of them. Chloe and Oliver were both familiar enough to know that a 10-54d was a possible dead body, he couldn't ignore this.
John looked up and Oliver sighed. "Go." He told the other man.
"I'll order extra Moo Shu and save it for you." Chloe offered him. "Swing by after your shift."
"You're the best." He said, slipping Chloe's arm out of his and into Oliver's with ease before kissing her temple. "Dispatch this is Unit 58, eta one minute." He turned the corner and was gone.
Oliver turned to Chloe and almost at the same time they seemed to notice the position they were in, Chloe with her arm nestled in Oliver's. Chloe was tempted to use John's departure as an excuse to make her own and made a move to pull away but Oliver held her close, keeping her there as if he knew what she was thinking. "So dinner." He smiled and Chloe could only smile and nod in return.
They got to the restaurant quickly, were seated without wait, ordered their food and then it was just the two of them. There had been something she was thinking about, rolling around in her head since she talked to Courtney, so before she could talk herself out of it she brought it up to Oliver. "I need a favor."
"Sure, anything." Oliver answered without hesitation. Chloe opened her mouth to continue and Oliver held up a hand. "Actually not anything. Believe it or not there are some things that Queen Industries has yet to accomplish." He grabbed his wallet and started looking through it. "I have a list here somewhere." He pulled a folded up piece of paper out, unfolded it, and handed it to Chloe.
"You keep a list of things that you can't do in your wallet?" Chloe asked amused as she took the paper.
"It keeps me grounded. Reminds me that I'm not all powerful." Oliver shrugged.
"You mean having retired flying superheroes tossing you through windows doesn't do the trick?" Oliver glared at her and she laughed and turned her attention to the list. "Ok let's see what the all powerful Oliver Queen can't do. Time travel, makes sense." Chloe smiled reading down the list. "Cloning of long dead reptilian DNA." She looked up at Oliver. "Please tell me that Queen Industries did not attempt their very own Jurassic Park."
"That movie was very scientifically provocative and not a little bit awesome." Oliver countered.
"Also one would think a sort of cautionary tale." Chloe pointed out. Oliver just rolled his eyes as she returned to the paper. "Personal Space Travel has a question mark by it."
"We're working on a few things." Oliver smiled. "So I can do anything that's not on that list." Chloe folded up the list and slid it across the table at him. The food arrived and the conversation was put on hold for a minute.
"I want; no I need to make some changes." She told him picking at her plate. "In the Watchtower."
"I've got a company coming tomorrow to fix the window. Anything else that got damaged just send me a list…"
"I'm not talking about repairs." Chloe said. "I'm talking about changing, remodeling."
Oliver set his chopsticks down and gave her his full attention. "What did you have in mind?"
"It's great Oliver, really, everything that you've done to it, and everything that you've given me I really appreciate it. You turned it into something fantastic." She squirmed in her seat. "The thing is, I was talking to Courtney and I think if we want to be a team, if we want to be a family like the JSA was, it needs to be a home first and a home base second."
Oliver allowed a slow smile to spread across his face. "You mean you want to trade in some of your monitors for a living room set?"
"Not trade in, just relocate." Chloe said. "I want people to feel comfortable there, safe there." She faltered slightly and then sighed. "I want everyone to come over for Sunday dinner, to have a standing movie night. I'd like it to be the place everyone brings their kids and husbands and wives to for Thanksgiving dinner. But they can't because…I don't have a dining room table or a working stove, I don't even have a real fridge or a place to watch TV, or, or floor lamps or art on the walls. When Jimmy died he wasn't done fixing it up yet and when I built the Watchtower stuff like food and scented candles weren't really high on my list of things I thought were important. But now, I want a home Oliver."
"Ok." And that's all there was to it. Chloe said she wanted a home and Oliver said ok and she never once, ever thought for even a second that he wouldn't come through for her.
The mood was light after that. Once Chloe realized she wanted a home she suddenly was very particular about what she wanted in her home. "Swear to me that you will actually use a $7,000 stove for more than frozen pizza, I will order it right now."
"But…" Chloe actually pouted. "It's so shiny and it comes in a multitude of colors." She pointed out, showing him the picture on her phone again.
"Yes, it's very pretty." Oliver agreed and Chloe actually employed the puppy dog look. "Oh God, I've never said no to you before, like I'm going to start now over something as stupid as a stove?"
Chloe smiled. "I think I'll order the blue." She frowned. "No, the red is really pretty." She bit her lip and looked up at Oliver for his opinion on the matter.
"Oh please you're getting green, no question."
"I'm afraid it doesn't come in green." Chloe showed him the color swatches on her phone. "No, there's orange and silver and tan and five shades of blue but no green."
"Ok, we're not getting that stove." He took the phone from her. "We're finding a different stove, a better stove, a stove that comes in green."
And that's what started Oliver offering his own opinion on how she should decorate. "I'm not installing a disco ball end of discussion." Chloe laughed stealing the last shrimp from his plate. "I'm trying to build a home not a set for a seventies porno."
He tossed his napkin at her after that and made a mental note to have his publicist check the papers tomorrow because quite a few of the people around them heard that. He could see the headlines now. "I'm not making a porno." He informed one woman who seemed very concerned by Chloe's announcement.
"You do know that just made it worse."
"As soon as the words left my mouth." Oliver nodded and slammed his head on the table. Chloe took pity on him and held out her plate.
"Shrimp?" He just smiled and took the shrimp.
The waitress came back with their check and three fortune cookies on a silver platter. Oliver cracked his open immediately, swallowed it down and snorted at his very vague fortune as he dug out his wallet. "What's it say?" Chloe reached for it and read it with a frown. "The joyfulness of a man prolongeth his days?" Chloe snorted too.
"Prolongeth isn't even a word." Oliver pointed out. "And I don't think that I'll live longer if I'm joyful. Not in my line of work." He handed his card to the waitress. "What's yours say?" When Chloe didn't answer Oliver looked up at her and frowned at the stricken look on her face. "Oh that was… I shouldn't have said that."
"No it's fine." Chloe nodded and forced a smile on her face as she rolled her cookie around on the table.
"Ok." Oliver nodded. "So what's it say?"
Chloe grabbed the cookie and went to open it then stopped. "I'm good."
"You're good?" Oliver asked. "What does that mean?"
"It means I think I've had enough vague predictions about my future for one lifetime." She dropped the cookie back on the platter and looked up to see Oliver staring at her intently. He raised his eye brows and leaned back in his chair. "It's nothing really, it's just something Dr. Fate said to me." She swallowed hard. "He said that Clark's destiny was blinding but that I walked the same path as him."
"Forgive me if I don't speak cryptic alien helmet language." Oliver shook his head. "Did he elaborate on that?"
"No." Chloe said. "But John pointed out to me that Dr. Fate spent a lifetime of watching everyone, of seeing everything and it drove him crazy. That was his fate, to go crazy and die alone."
"That's not your fate." Oliver grabbed her wrist and she nodded. "No, Chloe look at me, that is not your fate. It's just not going to happen you know why?" She blinked at him. "Because I won't let it."
"But my mom-" The words caught in her throat and her fingers trembled. For the first time she really allowed herself to think about what Dr. Fate had said and she was scared.
"I can't..." Oliver sighed and slid his hands from her wrist to cover her fingers, holding them still, stopping the shaking. "I can't promise you that what happened to your mother won't happen to you. But you know me Chloe, you know that right now I have a dozen doctor's working practically around the clock on your mother's case and if that were to happen to you I'd have two dozen, three working nonstop." She wiped away tears that she didn't realize she'd been crying. "And even if I couldn't fix it, I promise you Chloe, you will not die alone." He thought about what Hawkman told him. "I've never been the best at letting people know that they're important to me, but you are. You're my best friend, my sidekick, you know me better than anyone in my life ever has or probably ever will and I'm not going anywhere ok." She nodded and swallowed. They sat like that for a minute while Chloe composed herself. "So are you going to open it?"
"I'd rather not tempt it." Chloe shook her head.
"Fair enough." Oliver reached for the third cookie on the platter and Chloe slapped her hand.
"You got your fortune already, don't be greedy." Chloe smiled as the waitress brought Oliver his card back and handed Chloe a bag with the Moo Shu take-out for John.
"It was lame." Oliver protested.
"Lame or not it was your fortune and this one belongs to John." Chloe plucked the cookie from the platter and dropped it in the bag. Chloe pulled her jacket on and when she wasn't looking he grabbed her cookie from the table and slipped it in his pocket. He caught up with her when she got to the door and held it open for her. "So I'll call the contractor's tomorrow? Set up a meeting?"
"I'd like that." She nodded.
"I can't believe they didn't have a green stove." He huffed annoyed.
"Yeah well, that's life." Chloe reminded him.
"Oh but Chloe you've forgotten something important." Oliver smiled down at her. "I am very very rich, ridiculously rich, I mean it's practically indecent."
"What does that have to do with anything?" She laughed.
"If I want a green stove, I'll get a green stove." He winked and she laughed. It was full and open and completely spontaneous and he wanted to hear it again more than anything.
Sure enough three weeks later a green stove was delivered to the Watchtower with a big obnoxious green bow that was practically mocking Chloe every time she looked at it, but slowly it began to grown on her. "Why is my very expensive stove still sitting in the middle of the living room?"
"You don't like it there?" Chloe looked over her shoulder. "I like it there, I might keep it there. What do you think?"
"It's an interesting design choice." Oliver sat down at the desk next to her.
"We're still trying to finalize the plans for the kitchen and until that happens, it sits in the living room, or what's going to be the living room. We're working on it." She assured him. "So what brings you here?"
"It was a bit chilly this morning so I grabbed my coat and found this in the pocket." He dropped a fortune cookie onto the desk. "It's from that dinner we had a month ago."
"You kept it?" Chloe smiled and gingerly picked the cookie up.
"I did." Oliver shrugged. "I thought maybe one day the idea of the future wouldn't scare you so much and you might want a peek."
"That's really…sweet." Chloe carefully set it by her monitor, right next to the white Queen Oliver had given her and stood up. "You're really sweet." She had the sudden urge to kiss his cheek so she did. She thought it would seem weird but it didn't and then he blushed and she thought that was even sweeter so she did it again before walking into the half demolished kitchen and pouring another cup of coffee.
Oliver cleared his throat and turned around. "So are you going to open it?"
"Not just yet." She shook her head. "I don't think I'm quite ready."
"No rush." Oliver stood up. "The futures not going anywhere after all. But unfortunately your command center is. We've got the guys coming in tomorrow to move the Watchtower into the back room and they need something to move in here so how about you and I hit a few furniture shops and actually try a buy a couch today." He walked to the door.
"Fine." Chloe said. "But not Green, I'm putting my foot down on the green. There are a million other colors out there, embrace them, learn to love them."
"Yeah, probably not going to happen." Oliver held the door open for her.
In the end they actually agreed on a not green couch (though threats were made toward the purchase of green throw pillows). The coffee table and side tables were quickly picked out after that and it was time to move onto the dining room. Five hours and eight stores later they weren't any closer than when they started. "Nope, sorry." Chloe shook her head and the sales girl pinched the bridge of her nose.
"If you could just tell me what you're looking for maybe I could help you find it?" The poor girl was practically begging for anything Chloe could give her at this point.
"I'm looking for a dining room table."
"Yes." The girl nodded tersely. "I've shown you ten dining room tables."
"One that we can eat at." Chloe elaborated circling the table, not even paying attention to the tone of the girls voice. "You know, Sunday dinners, Thanksgiving."
"They've all been more than capable of providing that unique service." The girl sneered.
"Hey." Oliver snapped and her attention immediately switched to him. "The attitude's not helping anything." He was getting a little frustrated too and he'd been at this a lot longer than her but if Chloe needed to look at ten thousand dining room tables to find the right one, he'd let her.
"She-" The girl's angry comeback was cut off by the arrival of the store's manager, which was probably a good thing because it likely would have gotten her fired at the very least.
"Is there a problem Mr. Queen?" He asked Oliver.
"No problem sir." The girl jumped in.
"There is a problem actually." Oliver looked at the girl smugly. "We're looking for something very particular and I'm not sure that Tiffany is the right person to help us find that."
The manager turned to Tiffany and raised his eyebrows. "All she'll tell me is that she's looking for a dining room table that she can eat Sunday dinner and Thanksgiving at. They're all tables; I just don't know what she wants."
"I think I do." The man smiled at Tiffany and turned to Oliver. "I'm afraid we're not going to have what you're looking for."
"But we have hundreds of dining room tables." Tiffany protested.
"Here." The man handed Oliver a business card. "Go to this place, ask for Tom, tell him what you're looking for, he can help you."
"Thanks." Oliver shook his hand.
The place turned out not to be a store as Oliver thought, but a woodshop and Tom a furniture maker. Oliver seemed skeptical but Chloe's face lit up as she trailed her hand along an armoire that Tom had apparently carved by hand. Chloe explained to Tom what she wanted and Tom nodded as if he understood perfectly, grabbing a pad and sketching a few designs out until Chloe was happy.
"It'll be ready in a few weeks and we can have it delivered straight to you." Tom said and Chloe actually hugged him, kissing his cheek as Oliver got out his credit card to pay. Two weeks later Chloe was barely able to hold in her excitement as the delivery guys carried the table up in the freight elevator of the building.
It didn't look that much different than a lot of the dining room tables they saw in the stores. It had a large wooden top, it had four legs it came with chairs, it seemed like a regular dining table to him. She had them move about sixty times before she was happy with it and when Oliver saw it, sitting in the middle of the room, he got it. He hadn't really understood what she was looking for when they'd been shopping but now he got it. The wood wasn't smooth and perfect and shiny like in the stores. It had knots and scratches and imperfections. It looked like it was rough and worn but when Oliver touched it, it was smooth under his fingers. The legs were big and sturdy but not obtrusive. It looked…right. "I wasn't looking for just any dining room table." Chloe explained out loud for him. "I was looking for our dining room table."
"You did good." Oliver said. He could see them all gathered around it, stealing food off of each other's plate, passing heaping bowls of green beans and tossing rolls across the table at each other. He could picture building plans and security specs being spread out across its service, files scattered and open, lying around. He could picture an intimate dinner for two, just Chloe and him sitting at one corner, lit by candles, leaning in close to each other so that they could whisper. He could picture an even more intimate breakfast, Chloe sitting on the top of the table wearing nothing but Oliver's shirt, her feet dangling off the edge, swinging back and forth as he stood between her legs and fed her fresh strawberries. "You did real good." He coughed and turned away.
He wasn't sure when this attraction to Chloe started, he didn't even notice. The whole thing sort of snuck up on him and before he had a chance to get used to the idea he was already in way to deep. Normally when Oliver wanted something he got it. He wanted a green stove, he got a green stove. If he wanted a girl, 99% of the time, with very little effort, he got the girl. But Chloe was different. She knew him too well to fall for any of his tricks or charms. She knew him just well enough to be wary of his history with relationships. He could find a way around all of those things but she wasn't ready, she needed more time and he could wait, he could wait until she was ready.
One of the guys handed him the delivery slip to sign. "We're bringing the other piece up now Mr. Queen."
"Other piece?" Chloe asked confused as the delivery men walked through the door with the armoire she'd been admiring in Tom's shop. "Oliver?" She turned to him astonished.
"You liked it." He shrugged it off.
"I like the Taj Mahal but I don't expect you to buy that for me." Chloe shook her head.
"Well, I could have gone that route but this fits in your living room and I got free delivery." He shrugged.
"You really are very sweet you know that." Chloe reached up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek before running off to figure out where to put it. And if her lips lingered just a little too long, Oliver didn't let himself notice because she wasn't ready.
"What's with the new blueprints?" Oliver asked instead walking over to her desk.
"Oh, we made a few changes." Chloe scratched the back of her neck.
"This makes design number forty five doesn't it?" He picked them up to study them. "They look the same as last weeks."
"Not that many." Chloe rolled her eyes. "But see we added a wet bar." She pointed to a part of the plans.
"Chloe." Oliver dropped the plans to the desk. "Don't take this the wrong way but…do you really think if you add a wet bar they'll just all come back?"
Chloe froze and took a few deep breaths. "No." She whispered then looked up at him and smiled. "But it can't hurt."
He had a sudden thought that this wasn't about a wet bar, this was about Chloe stalling. "You're going to have to actually start this thing soon." Oliver pointed out.
"I know." She nodded. "I just…"
Oliver understood. The sooner they started, the sooner they would finish and if they were finished what then? Chloe would have a house but would anyone actually come back to make it a home? What if it didn't matter, what if none of it mattered and her beloved dining room table lived out the rest of its days as a very large coaster for Chloe's solitary coffee mug. "If you build it, they will come." Oliver nudged her shoulder jokingly, hoping to break the tension. It didn't work.
"Will they?" She turned to him, terrified.
"I'll make sure of it." He promised her. Then spent the next few months trying to figure out how he was going to keep that promise.
Chloe "broke ground" the next day and suddenly Oliver was being forced to climb over piles of sheet rock and spools of wiring and he thought nothing would ever get done. Then just as suddenly it was finished. The protective plastic was taken down, the floor coverings removed, the piles of building materials vanished and in its place a pretty much finished kitchen. "It's done?" Oliver asked when he found Chloe just standing there staring at it.
"Almost." Chloe said. "They've got to hook up the fridge, put on the outlet plates, little things but yeah, it's done." She wrapped her arms around her stomach and Oliver had the sudden urge to pull her into a hug but he stopped himself. "So." She turned around, smile plastered on her face. "What brings you out here?"
"I…" Oliver was going to ask her to dinner, but he had another idea now. "I have to go out of town for a day or two, just wanted to make sure you didn't need anything before I go."
"No, I'm fine." Chloe looked at him questioningly but didn't press him for more information. Oliver nodded and made a move to leave. "Be safe." She called after him.
"You bet." He promised and then he was gone.
"Chloe?" Oliver called out two days later, walking into the Watchtower.
"In the back room." She answered before walking out. "Some of the equipment still isn't hooked up right." She smiled at him. "You're back?"
"I'm back." He nodded. "And I come bearing a housewarming present."
"Is it a plant?" Chloe frowned. "Because I can't guarantee that I'll keep it alive."
"Not a plant." He shook his head with a laugh and dragged her to the kitchen.
"There is nothing to eat in here you know." Bart stuck his head up from behind the refrigerator door.
Chloe's steps faltered slightly as she looked between Bart and Oliver. "I uh…just had it installed yesterday, haven't had time to go shopping yet."
"But you have pickles and butter." He said with obvious disgust on his face holding up the two offending objects as proof.
"It's all the corner store had at two in the morning last night." Chloe defended herself. "What are you doing here?"
Bart smiled and slid the butter and pickles back in the fridge. "I'm your housewarming present." He looked over her shoulder at Oliver. "I told you she wouldn't get it without the bow." He looked back at Chloe. "I told him that I should wear a bow, you know, so you would know that I was the present but he shot me down." Bart shook his head.
"Because you wanted to wear the bow, and only the bow." Oliver pointed out.
Bart was going to come back with a witty retort when Chloe very uncharacteristically launched herself at him, pulling him into a crushing hug. "I should go away more often." Bart said unsure as he wrapped his arms around Chloe and hugged her back.
"No, you really shouldn't." Chloe shook her head as unbidden tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Hey, it's ok." He assured her. "I'm here."
"This was supposed to make you happy." Oliver frowned at Chloe.
"I am happy." Chloe assured him pulling away. "I'm really happy, promise." She wiped her eyes. "How long are you staying?"
"How long will you have me?" He winked at her and she smiled. "I thought it was time I relocated to Metropolis, big city, lot of opportunity, some old friends I needed to look up."
"Looking at apartments today." Bart nodded then looked around. "Although I don't know how much time I'll spend there, this place is freaking sweet." He whistled and walked past her to check out the Watchtower for the first time. "Oh awesome, a wet bar." Chloe smirked at Oliver.
"How did you…" Chloe stared after Bart.
"It was surprisingly easy." Oliver shook his head.
Bart walked into the small apartment and closed the door behind him. "Boy you're getting lax about security in your old age." Oliver said from the shadows and Bart turned around quickly to glare at him.
"Who are you calling old Grandpa?" Bart sneered. "What are you doing here?"
"It's time to come back home." Oliver told him and Bart just stared for a minute.
"We-" He let it hang in the air but that was ok because Oliver understood everything that he was leaving unspoken. We blurred the lines. We crossed the lines. We tried to play God. We're responsible for Jimmy's death. We turned on Clark. We turned on each other. We imploded.
"I know." Oliver nodded once.
"Then why?" Again Oliver understood the meaning. Why should we still do this? Why would you ask me to do this? Why me? Why now?
"Chloe." Oliver said simply.
"Let me pack my bags." Bart said after practically no hesitation. "Oliver-"
Oliver raised a hand to cut him off before he could say or rather not say what Oliver didn't need to hear. "We're going to do it right this time."
"Ok then." Bart nodded and then grabbed a bag out of the closet.
"I just had to mention your name." Oliver smiled and Chloe rolled her eyes.
"Sure." She shook her head and turned her attention back to Bart who was taking full advantage of the couch and television. "Come on, let me show you were the magic happens." Chloe slipped her arm in Bart's.
"Here five minutes and already she's whisking me away to the bedroom." Bart winked at Oliver as Chloe slapped him playfully.
"I was talking about the command center." She said pulling him toward the back room.
From there everything else seemed to slot into place. Bart called Victor to tell him about all the awesome new tech that Chloe had installed. He was standing on her doorstep two days later with a sheepish expression on his face. As Chloe sipped her coffee she watched him inspect every connection, every wire, every firewall she had. "So what's the verdict?" She pushed herself off the doorframe and walked into the room.
"Horrible, a fire hazard really." Victor said. "I mean obviously not in any shape for you to run your team." He smiled at her quickly. "Lucky thing you've got me here to put it to right."
"Do I?" Chloe asked him.
"Do you what?" He avoided her gaze, he'd been doing it all day.
"Do I have you here?" She pressed him.
"I want to be here." He paused and slipped his hands in his pockets. "But only if you want me." He whispered and the tone in his voice confused Chloe.
"Vic, why did you stay away?" She took a step closer to him.
"I thought you blamed me." He finally looked up at her. "Because I wasn't there. I thought you hated…so I decided to give you some space."
"I don't need space." Chloe told him. "I never needed space. And I certainly didn't blame you, or AC, or anyone for what happened to Jimmy. I want you here, I need you here."
"Well then, here is where I want to be." Victor flashed a smile at her. "But at the moment I'm hungry and word around town is the only thing in your fridge are pickles and butter."
"I'm going to the grocery store this week, I swear." Chloe assured him.
"Can I buy you dinner then?" Victor held out his arm.
"Of course." Chloe nodded and slid her arm in his.
AC followed Victor with little no questioning. All Oliver had to do was call AC and tell him everyone was moving back to Metropolis, they were going to give the team another shot. AC was reluctant at first. There had been a little fighting, some bruised ego's to smooth over but in the end Oliver admitted he was wrong, he'd handled things wrong. It wasn't until he'd said that Chloe was in charge this time around that AC finally agreed, buying a plane ticket and arriving the next day.
Then they were only missing one person and Oliver knew that one wasn't going to be easy. "You'll have to go get her." Bart pointed out and Oliver nodded, already dreading what he'd have to do. Then Chloe turned and smiled at him and he realized he'd swim through Alligators for her. So the next day he got on his plane and flew to Paris.
He was nursing his second espresso of the morning when she slid into the chair across from him at the café. "I'm glad you changed your mind."
"Hey." Oliver folded up the paper and leaned back in his chair. She paused, tilted her head and stared at him.
"Oh." She leaned back in her seat and laughed humorlessly. "You're not here for me."
"I'm here to bring you home." Oliver countered.
"But not because…you're not here for us." Dinah clarified for him. He hadn't lied to Chloe technically. The e-mail's he'd been exchanging with Dinah had been purely platonic, on his side. For her part she'd been trying her hardest to get him to join her in Paris and he was sure that her invitation was not of one from a friend to a friend.
"No." Oliver admitted.
"Right." The waiter set a cup of coffee in front of her that Oliver ordered and she sipped it. "Chloe?" Dinah asked.
"Yeah." Oliver let out a deep breath.
Dinah nodded. "I shouldn't be surprised, I really shouldn't, but I am." She squinted at him and set her cup down. "I mean this came out of nowhere."
"Imagine how I felt when it was brought to my attention." Oliver grumbled.
When Dinah looked at him now, really looked at him she saw that he wasn't the same Oliver she'd left all those months ago, that he'd changed a lot. "I can't even be mad at her about it." Dinah sighed. "I mean it's Chloe for God's sake. After everything she…how can you be mad at her?"
"Also there's the part where she's completely and utterly clueless." Oliver mentioned and Dinah laughed.
"Wow you do need me don't you?" She joked with him. "What the matter Queen? I leave the country and you lose your nerve?"
"She's not ready yet." Oliver explained.
"So what are you doing to make her ready?" Dinah asked him seriously.
"Bringing her you." He answered truthfully.
"And what if I'm not ready?" She asked him.
"I can wait for her." Oliver said. "I can wait for her for as long as it takes." He stood up and put a few bills on the table. "But she can't wait for you." He looked down at Dinah. "You blame me for your part in Jimmy's death, so do I. You don't think you're ready to come back yet. I'm not sure any of us are. I can wait for her to be ready for as long as it takes, but the world can't wait for us to be ready, Chloe can't wait for us to be ready."
"How do we know that we won't just make the same mistakes again?" Dinah looked up at him.
"We don't." Oliver shook his head. "But I can guarantee we'll try that much harder this time. My plane leaves in five hours. Charles De Gaulle airport, hanger 12." He sucked in a deep breath, turned and walked away. He didn't let the breath out until Dinah was buckling her seatbelt across from him and they were taxing down the runway.
"You're paying to ship the rest of my things over." She told him looking out the window.
"I figured as much." Oliver smiled.
"And I want a raise." She pressed.
"We'll talk about it." He shrugged. "But I'm not your boss anymore, and I doubt your usual tricks will work on her." He looked pointedly at her low cut top and she glared tossing a pillow at his head.
Chloe cast a glance at the living room and wanted to cringe at the way Bart precariously balanced his soda on the on the arm of her brand new couch but she couldn't bring herself to care. They were together again, all of them, under the same roof, in the same place, laughing and smiling and throwing popcorn all over her very new rug and she didn't care because they were there and they were together. "Ok, so Dinah swears that when she was in France she learned to cook, like miraculously." AC made his way to the kitchen where Chloe was unloading dinner.
"It wasn't miraculous." Dinah smacked AC in the head. "I took some classes, I didn't get a new power or anything."
"Whatever, the woman who gave us all food poisoning making grilled cheese sandwiches last year, says that she can make things that I can't even pronounce."
"It's called Cassoulet." Dinah reached into the fridge and pulled out two beers handing one to AC. "And it's the only thing I learned how to make."
"Right, whatever, so we don't believe her and since you have this fancy new stove that Oliver says you still haven't used, we've decided that Sunday night we're all going to come over here, Dinah's going to cook, and we'll be the judge of her fancy French schooling." AC said. "That cool with you?"
"Uh yeah." Chloe nodded. "That sounds great actually." AC ran off to tell the others.
"Thanks." Dinah smiled at her. "I mean for letting us invade your place like this."
"It's not a big deal, maybe we could even make it like a regular thing, like weekly or something." Chloe offered.
"You know what? I'd really like that." Dinah nodded. "I missed you Chloe. I never had a sister and despite our rocky beginning where I attacked you with throwing knives, you were kind of becoming like a sister to me. It felt like we were heading in that direction but then you just stopped. It was like you were living your life on hold and I missed you."
"I missed you too." Chloe assured her. Dinah started to walk away. "It's not my place. It's yours." Dinah turned around confused. "All of yours, its ours. I built this place for you guys." Chloe admitted to her. "I wanted you guys…I wanted it to be our home, all of us, together."
"I think we're getting there." Dinah said. "We've made a pretty good first step at least." She laughed as Bart tackled AC over the back of the couch. "And they say that ones the hardest." She ran into the living room and smiled. "OK, break it up." She grabbed Bart by the back of his shirt.
Chloe walked over to her desk and reached out slowly, her fingers gliding over the white Queen, dancing around the now dust covered fortune cookie that had been sitting there for months. She looked over at them all fighting over the remote and picked the cookie up. "Are you sure you're ready for that?" Oliver asked walking up behind her. "For the future?"
"I don't know." Chloe said. "I mean no one knows right, until the future becomes the present and then if you're not ready you're pretty much screwed huh?" She turned around to look at him.
"So then…" Oliver pulled the cookie from her hands, his fingers sliding slowly along hers, sending chills up her arm. He looked up at her and smiled, like he knew, like he felt it too. "Why don't you just open it?" He asked her, twirling the cookie around in his hands, his nimble fingers flicking it back and forth like a nervous card shark with a poker chip. "Or are you chicken?"
"Oh is that what we're doing now?" Chloe smiled. "We've taken to something as low as name calling?" Oliver made a soft chicken sound at her. "That's not going to work on me." He stared and she glared, reaching forward to grab the cookie but he pulled it away from her. "Give it back." He reached again and Oliver pulled it away again. "Oliver, give it back. It's my cookie, it's my future."
"Ok." Oliver dropped the cookie in her outstretched hand. "So open it."
Chloe took a deep breath and cracked the cookie in her palm. She took another deep breath and then pulled the little slip of paper out and read it. She paused, read it again and then looked up and smiled. "What?" Oliver actually looked nervous. "What's it say?"
She passed him the paper and turned around as he read it. "Friends are just the family that we get to choose."
"Tell me you didn't have anything to do with that?" Chloe whispered as Bart showed off, tossing a piece of popcorn across the room, then running to catch it in his mouth. It soon evolved into a game where everyone was throwing popcorn all over the place and Bart was trying his hardest to catch it all.
"I swear Chloe, I am not that clever." Oliver passed her the paper back shaking his head. "You know they say your fortune won't come true unless you eat the cookie."
"Uh, I'm not eating that." Chloe looked down at the pieces of cookie in her hands.
"You have to; it's like a rule or something." Oliver said.
"There are no rules." Chloe said. "It's a four month old dusty cookie and it's not even a fortune, it's not predicting something, it's just a saying, a nice saying but…I'm not eating the cookie." She moved to dump the pieces in the trash and Oliver grabbed her wrist to stop her. "Ollie." She laughed. "I'm not eating the cookie."
"Eat the cookie." Oliver smiled at her as she twisted and tried to free herself from his grasp.
"I'm not…" Her chest brushed up against his and Chloe felt his breath hitch. She became intensely aware of how close they were, how she could feel every part of her body where it was touching his, how her breath was now coming in shorter and shorter gasps and when she looked up into his eyes she could see that he felt it too. And she was seeing him as if just realizing that he was there. But he'd been there, the whole time he'd been there and she didn't see or couldn't see but now she could.
While it was true that everyone had been telling her that she needed to get out of the Watchtower, he had been the one to make her get out of the Watchtower. He'd dragged her out at least twice a week whether she wanted to go or not. He'd catered to her every whim during the remodel. He made up what she now saw were obvious excuses just to hang around the Watchtower, to hang around with her. He brought back her family. She'd been so stupid, it was right in front of her face, he was right in front of her face, this whole time.
Chloe walked into the Watchtower and froze as an arrow embedded itself in the target she hadn't noticed. She followed the path of the arrow to its owner and smiled. "Slow night?" She walked further in the room.
Oliver grabbed another arrow. "Figured I'd squeeze in some target practice." He glanced over at the side table. "And a single malt."
"Did you bring enough for the rest of the class?" Chloe walked to the table, sliding off her jacket as she went. Oliver's eyes followed her through the room.
"Help yourself, professor." He slid the arrow back in the bow. "Running a little low on allegory tonight." He aimed and let it go. "Bumpy day?"
Chloe grabbed the bottle and a clean glass and walked over to the couch. "Not the smoothest." She pulled the cork from the scotch and poured herself some. "Someone asked me when the last time I had a good time was and I didn't have an answer."
Oliver turned around and smiled as she took a sip of the drink. "I don't think anyone can fault you for being on edge Chloe." He turned back to the target and snorted. "You know, if anyone can relate, it's me. I get it."
Chloe chuckled softly. "Yeah you can."
"You know, sometimes you gotta take your fun," Oliver pulled back another arrow and let it go. "Where you can get it. And sometimes, it's right in front of your face." He turned back to her. "You just have to want to see it." Chloe smiled at him and he smiled back. "Come on." He nodded his head.
Chloe set her glass on the table. She got up and walked to Oliver and he passed his bow to her. His left hand steady on top of hers on the limb, his right hand lifting her elbow in the correct position. "How will I know when to let go?"
"It's all about your heart." Oliver whispered in her ear, his breath tickling the small hairs of her neck. His right hand trailing slowly up her arm to settle his fingers over hers on the string. "Just listen, right there between the beats." Chloe looked over at their fingers, his hand covering hers, warm and reassuring. "That's when you let go." He dropped his hand and Chloe let the arrow fly.
"I'm not gonna eat the cookie." She said, searching his eyes, making sure before she threw herself in this.
"You don't have to eat the cookie." He whispered.
"I don't want to live my life on hold anymore." She told him.
"I don't know what that means." He shook his head confused.
"It means…" She reached up, closing the distance between them, her lips settling perfectly against his, like that's where they were always meant to go. She smiled against his lips and felt him smile in return. The crumbs of the cookie fell to the floor as she slid her hand up the back of his neck to twist in his hair. She pulled away panting. She felt exhilarated and alive and like her heart was going to beat out of her chest. "It means I'm ready."
"Good." Oliver smiled, brushing hair out of her face and kissing her softly. "Cause I've been waiting for you."
Author's Note: Chloe's flashback was taken word for word, action for action from the episode Warrior, it is not mine but property of whoever wrote it. I just couldn't help it. I started this after Absolute Justice but after Warrior I just had to put the scene with the arrows in, and since it was so perfect I did not change a thing.