Road to the Stars
AN: I do not exist in the Chlollie world yet. In fact, it's probably been half a decade since I turned off SV when my Chlex (as you will see in my list of fanfics) dreams were completely trampled on. I tried to go back to ficcing SV when Chlavis came on, but it was so shortlived it did not sustain my return. I had no plans of being immersed in SV again until I saw Roulette. And then after Absolute Justice and Warrior I knew this was going somewhere. Here's to hoping—This begins with Salvation.
"He's not going to leave you. With you he has a purpose." – Tess to Chloe, Sacrifice
She shrugged on the green leather and tugged at the zip. Once. Twice. It would not budge halfway up. Her brows furrowed, and she glanced up at him. He could see the frustration in her eyes. The jacket suited her like she was meant to be encased in green leather all her life, but even that enjoyable thought warred with what he felt.
But the crotchety old man with the mace had called him out once before for being an idiot, for never expressing what he felt. And he had been an idiot these past months by going along with what she wanted—mainly because of fear, because he was safer this way when he thought he was not exposed.
But Oliver knew the time had come. Outside, in the darkness that had cloaked them so long, they gathered. In the evening all of them were on an even playing field. But slowly, slowly, the sun would inch its way across the sky. And with its first ray would explode the reddest sky.
"God, I wish you and I can stay in bed," he murmured, even as he reached for the edges of her jacket, always willing to lend a hand.
"That's a lie if I ever heard one," she commented flippantly.
She knew him like the back of her hand, knew him better than any one of the other women whom at their own time he thought were the love of his life. And he did not need to tell her that. Most likely she already knew it.
"Zip me up," she said.
His fingers tightened around the zipped. It would give easily with his pull, but he found himself reluctant. "I'd be digging your grave," he whispered.
Today was the day that they had prepared for, the day he feared since he found out what would happen in the future. He was not that man, whose sole mission was the safety of humanity. That man, that noble man, was a lonely man. The night he knew what her lips felt like under his was the day he became a coward.
"Ollie," she said, her voice gentling, "keeping me from wearing my jacket won't keep me from being out there, fighting with you."
"I know," he responded softly.
"It just means I'm going to be that much colder doing it," she finished, and Oliver recognized the forced levity when he heard it.
Cold. The way a body felt when—
His fingers gripped the zip and he closed the jacket over the muted pattern of her blouse.
"Thank you," she said, knowing how much it took from him. She smiled up, in an effort to coax his own smile.
"You know I'll never let you get cold."
"You like it hot," she pointed out.
And even in the somber situation his mind drifted to the night before, the one that could be the last, when he laid out in the steaming bathwater and sighed when she, biting her lower lip in that way when she wanted to stop – feeling it all – when she tried to contain the smile or the tears, he did not know, sank into the tub and reached for him.
With a flex of his hips he found himself buried inside of her while she gripped the sides of the tub and threw her head back.
If it was going to be their last night, it certainly felt like a night to remember. It burned—the water and the muscles that clamped around him when he came.
"It burns," she gasped into his ear, and he felt her hot lips plaster against his cheek when she stifled her scream when she came.
They had stumbled from the tub to the bed, and he drove into her body with sheer determination. He made love to her like he was branding her, writing his name inside her body so that he would be part of her forever. If he was going to die that day, when the Kandorians created hell on earth, she would remember him.
He collapsed on top of her, and moments later he rolled off and lay on his back. He felt her hand reach for his stomach, pulling gently so he would be closer.
"I didn't want to crush you," he told her. "If I didn't get off you we wouldn't need the Kandorians and their superpowers. I'd have killed you by asphyxiation."
She pulled herself up on her elbow and opened her mouth. He waited. The look in her eyes then—
It seemed like his waiting would not be futile. Seemed almost like pretending all this time that he was on the same page that she was, would all turn out well in the end. And this was the end if there ever was an end.
"Chloe," he prompted.
And part of his heart splintered when she broke into a sad smile, then shook her head. "Nothing," she replied. "I was just…" Her eyes flickered to the healing scar on his chest, still angry, mottled skin. And she did not continue, told him nothing that he wanted to hear in words. But then she lowered her head and Oliver sucked in his breath when he felt her soft, moist lips over the scars. When she looked back up at him, her eyes were teary.
"Hey." He cupped her cheek. His thumb flicked away the threatening tear. "It's okay. All wounds heal, remember? They're just scars."
She nodded. Chloe took a deep breath. When she had calmed, just a little, she laid down her head on his shoulder. "I'm going to say something stupid," she said as preamble.
"There's nothing stupid. Not on this bed."
"I wish," she told him hesitantly, "that we can stand up right now and open that closet. I wish we can take your green leather and toss it into the fire," she admitted.
"I wish we can bury the Green Arrow like I destroyed the Watchtower." Her voice broke, and she gasped for air.
"You wish we could be Oliver Queen and Chloe Sullivan, and forget about this—move away from Kansas and the Kandorians and live like we don't have a costumed past behind us."
"It can happen," she said weakly.
He turned his head and buried his lips in her hair. "At least you prefaced it the way you did."
"I knew it was a stupid thing to say."
"It was a beautiful thought," he corrected her. "And entirely possible—if you weren't you and I wasn't who I am—and if the Kandorians weren't set to take over the whole world, not just take Metropolis for their own."
"If I knew we wouldn't hate ourselves eventually, I would do it—run away from this, Ollie."
And maybe that night she did not say what he was waiting for her to say, but knowing she considered leaving this behind for him as close as he could ever have hoped.
He liked it hot, he thought in agreement. Hot like her kisses. Hot like the tears that fell against his skin when she thought him asleep and she let herself go.
And so hours before morning when he woke to almost ready, he acquiesced and helped her into her jacket. She needed to know, if this was the last night—needed to know it from him too.
"I can have the plane ready in fifteen minutes," he broke in as she tossed the green leather costume on the sheets. She looked up in surprise. "If you say the word, we can hop in and leave Metropolis. It would be years before the Kandorians would need the rest of the world, Chloe. We can move every time."
"Get chased all over the world by alien invaders?" she asked. He nodded, gritting his teeth. "Be cowards."
"Be together," he pressed.
For a heartbeat, for two, he saw it in her eyes. A little hope, a little defeat. "But you're the Green Arrow and I'm—well—I'm me."
He nodded curtly, and he took the costume. Quietly, he dressed up and put on his hood. Finally, she handed him the dark shades and he slipped them on. She bit her lip again as she stared up at him. In her eyes, he saw himself reflected, watery, but so clear. "I want you to know—"
"What?" she whispered.
"When you saved me, you had me—both the hero and the man."
Her breath hitched in her throat.
"And I waited for a way in. Not all of us can bring a torch and ram their way in and through other people's walls like you can, Watchtower."
He saw a ray of sunshine reflected in her eyes, and the dread once again came full force. It was the day.
She closed her eyes. She lowered her head in front of him. His heart ached for her, because he already knew and she could not bring herself to say the words. The wounds were deeper than either of them thought if on this day, when it was so apparent to everyone else, she still could not admit it.
"It's alright," he said gently. He had convinced himself long ago that he could live without ever hearing the worlds. But now he could almost hear the march of alien soldiers, almost feel the shackles around his ankles and his neck, almost feel the same agonizing beam scorching his chest. And he realized no matter how long he could live without the words, he could not die without them.
She lifted her head and she faced him.
"I'm going to open your gift," she told him. He was confused for a moment, so he allowed her to continue. "I am," she repeated. "There are days in the Watchtower when my heart would just ache when I remember that Jimmy gave it to me. There are days when I hate my eyes because they were my mother's. They had my heart and they left me. I didn't want to have something from you to cry over when you eventually left."
And finally, the little beribboned box still sitting in the drawer made all the sense in the world. He turned and opened the drawer where she had left it, then handed it to her. Her hands trembled as she tore the paper.
"Suddenly I wish I got you something better than a spoon," he told her.
But she shook her head and laughed, tracing with her thumb the handle of the spoon, where there was an etched design of the McDougal crest.
He closed his hand over hers, firmly. "I'm not going to leave you," he swore. "Not willingly." He took a deep breath. "That spoon is not a remembrance—if it were it's a damned pathetic one. I think I have enough to get you way better gifts now that we're over the fact that they're banned. We are over it, right?"
"We are. But it still doesn't mean you're required to give me anything."
"I haven't been required to do anything this entire relationship," he tested, checking to see if she would flinch at the heavy word. She did not. "But I've done them, because I thought they might make you happy." The sky outside was pink hued, almost red. He could see it in her eyes. And he knew better than to ask her again to stay away. "Promise me you'll be careful out there."
"Promise you won't leave," she asked, her voice a little quiet, a little insecure.
But she said it, voicing out the fear that before she would not have mentioned. It was a measure of success. He nodded. He heard the loud noise of an abrupt wind, then two. He saw them from her eyes, so he turned around. He opened the balcony doors in his full green costume. Clark stood in his black trenchcoat, his arms folded across his chest. With a large grin, and his hair falling over his eyes, stood Bart.
"Victor, AC and Dinah are on their way," Bart said, "slow as turtles as always."
"Not everyone has superspeed like you, Impulse," Chloe piped in. Oliver turned, and his gaze softened when he saw her handing over his bow.
"Too bad the boss is faster than me," Bart said with a wink, confirming that he already knew of the development between the two.
Clark nodded. He nodded, and Oliver realized he had been listening for the rest of the team. "They're ready," he said. "Today we fight the greatest fight of our lives." He looked Oliver in the eye. "Tell me we'll win this."
The doubt was real in Clark's eyes. Then again, Oliver knew Clark probably saw the same in him. After all, he had voiced that weak part of him last night—the weak part that offered to run away. "We'll win this, Clark," he answered.
"We'll meet at the rendezvous point in ten minutes," Clark said, and was gone in a blur.
With another gust of wind, Bart was gone as well. Chloe turned to pick up the steel briefcase that housed the powerful computer that was going to be the eyes and ears on location. Even playing the Watchtower without a tower, Oliver was not going to leave Chloe far away without support on hand. Not after Checkmate. All of them could be busy fighting, but one suspicious sound from her and he would turn his back on an armed enemy if he would have that much more chance of coming to her aid.
He suspected it made him a weak link.
He walked behind her as they made their way to the armed van where Watchtower operations would happen. The bullet-proof glass and steel contraption was in parts encased in lead, automatically powered to release at the push of a button, and reveal a kryptonite coating to deter the Kandorians.
Suffice it to say that Clark Kent was not going to come close to the van. It was a disadvantage, but one the entire team agreed would be the safest route if they needed to take Chloe into battle. Even if they had not agreed, Oliver would have done it either way. Even before he received the agreement the vehicle had been manufactured and ready to go.
He rode full speed on his bike while Victor drove the van, with Chloe in the back revving up the hardware. Her voice came into the earpiece, calling each of their code names. Oliver smiled when each one responded. Even in the dire circumstance, he was proud at the thought that Chloe had managed to get the team back together.
"All heroes are accounted for," Chloe said into the communicator. "The sky is a sickly shade of pink, and we can't accept the rule of a tyrant—much less an alien one. Good luck, guys. Stay safe."
Oliver licked his lips. Over the horizon he saw the small mob walk towards where Clark stood alone. Canary swooped down and crouched beside Clark. Impulse and AC zipped to the side of the mob, prepared with the arsenal that Chloe had painstakingly collected over the months. Victor, he knew, had already left Chloe in a safe location still close to the battleground. By now, Victor would be arming himself with the kryptonite weapons.
Impulse zipped right in front of the leader, then took the gun from his belt. Zod's eyes grew red. Within the blink of an eye, Impulse was gone, standing now in front of the blue warehouse that Oliver strategically ensured Impulse would go. Zod's eyes shot with a flaming beam, the one that had seared his flesh. Oliver winced.
The large metal lock that had been located behind Bart exploded, throwing open the lead doors. Within moments the Kandorians fell onto their knees at the initial exposure.
"It's show time!" Bart cried out in glee.
Oliver drew an arrow and prepared to strike. "Green Arrow," she said, in the precise moment the zip line embedded in the utility post. He flew through and prepared to drop into the melee that resulted.
"Watchtower," he replied, abhorring the fact that the voice she would hear was from the distorter.
"I love you," came her voice.
He broke into a huge grin. He dropped from the zip line and into the row of alien soldiers far enough away from the warehouse that they were only mildly affected by the meteor rocks. He raised an arm to fend off an attacker. Oliver gripped the man's throat and squeezed. "Finally." He laughed softly as his attacker struggled, and called out, "I love you too." The alien's struggled grew lighter in his confusion until he went unconscious. Oliver dropped him.
He felt the blunt force hit him between the shoulders. Oliver fell onto his hands and knees. He turned and saw Clark writhing on the ground. In the battle plan, the warehouse had been far enough away from Clark. He had discounted the fact that the grief-stricken madman that Zod had become would be strong enough and insane enough to drag Clark towards a place that would incapacitate both of them.
Zod, twisting in agony, seemed to celebrate the pain on Clark's face even at the cost of his own pain.
Oliver struggled with the soldier that fell him, trying to keep his fistfight grunt to a minimum so he would not worry Chloe. The rest of the team were embroiled in their respective fights now, with Victor leading the way towards unloading most of the kryptonite ammunition. He needed to get to Clark and take him some distance away, to the other side of the field.
Oliver threw off his enemy and ran towards Clark. He stumbled to Clark's side. "Your hands won't burn," he told Clark. "Use them." Then he shot a zipline arrow towards the other side. He lifted Clark up on his shoulders and set Clark's hands on the zip.
"I'll need a push," Clark said.
Oliver gave as much force as he could, and nodded in satisfaction as halfway down the line Clark appeared to recover. Oliver turned, and was surprised to see Zod on his feet. He glanced towards the warehouse, and saw without surprise the dozen bodies of Kandorians at the foot of the door, willingly sacrificing their lives to remove the threat to their leader.
"Zod," he said, instantly regretting it when he heard Watchtower gasp in his ear.
The Kandorian leader seemed to grow before his eyes, but Oliver knew it was his own fear and trauma building upon each other as Zod raised his hands. His scars twitched.
At least, he thought, he heard the words. She'd said them. The satisfaction faded when he realized he would have preferred to have seen the look on her face when she did.
So this was love. And he wasn't ever going to be satisfied. There always needed to be more. And for once he was envious of grumpy old Carter Hall who was pretty much assured that there was going to be more every time.
What he had was this lifetime.
And he hadn't gotten nearly enough.
When fire burst from Zod's eyes, Oliver dropped to the side. An agonized scream burst from his mouth when the alien seared the flesh from his arm.
"Ollie!" he heard her voice from the other end. And then, her Watchtower persona kicked in again—ever the consummate professional. "Impulse, Cyborg, you are nearest Green Arrow's location. Green Arrow needs your assistance. Now," she said.
Oliver cradled the arm, and smelled the burnt flesh. His eyes grew black. He looked back at Zod, who drew closer to him. The names she had called were all fighting their way through the thick line of enemies.
"Canary," she said into the comm.. "Please."
"I can't," he heard Dinah grunt. "I have seven around me."
Oliver reached for his bow, which had fallen wayside. The injury on his arm caused a strangled moan from his throat. Oliver squeezed his eyes shut tightly, then fought through the waves of blinding pain as he grasped the bow and raised it.
There was no way he could fire an arrow quickly enough, let alone accurately, with the state of his arm.
"It's alright, Watchtower," he assured her cockily, if only to spare her the agony. "I've got this. Just—take care of the spoon."
"You're not leaving me now, Archer," she said into the comm., and he was strangely proud of the fact that every one could hear it. He had bent over for so long, being no one more than meaningless fun for long enough.
Almost made it okay that he was on the brink of getting fried.
Zod shook his head in amusement. He rubbed his fingers together, toying with him, prolonging the agony. Oliver's weakened arms raised the bow and arrow, his forehead drenched in sweat from fighting off the pain. Zod raised his hand. Oliver's heart stopped when he saw the figure running from afar, with her arms raised, and the kryptonite gun trained on Zod.
She got out of the friggin van. Millions of dollars in coated green protection—which he did not mind because Clark and he agreed that Chloe needed to be out of the line of fire—and she left the van.
He would be furious if he wasn't overwhelmingly thankful that at least, instead of Zod's smirk, that sight was the last thing he saw before he died.
Oliver did not know if Zod saw the change in him, or if his visor reflected her, or if he felt the kryptonite from that direction. To his horror, Zod turned towards Chloe.
He glanced towards Oliver. "What a magnificent feast you have brought us," claimed the Kandorian. "So many puny humans to kill, so little time."
"No. The fight is with me," Oliver cried out, willing the attention back on him.
"Oh your time will come. But what can you do? You're a bug already half squashed into the ground," Zod claimed, then stalked towards Chloe.
Oliver watched as his eyes began to glow.
"No. Zod's fight is with me," he heard Clark claim as his friend dove towards Zod the moment the fire beamedfrom his eyes.
Oliver rose to his feet, cradling the wounded arm. She was a crumpled form in the distance. "Watchtower," he said into the comm.. There was no response. "Watchtower, speak." The figure did not move. He whispered, "Chloe."
He stumbled towards her, and the distance was long, endless. He ran past Clark and Zod, caught in hand to hand combat once they knew power for power they equated the same. Impulse was the first to race towards her. Oliver struggled on his feet, and did not pause even when Bart dropped to his knees in front of Chloe. His heart stopped when Bart took her up in his arms and shook his head.
"It doesn't look good," Bart said in his strangled voice, the glee at the fight, the exhilaration of the chase gone. Glee sounded better over their earpieces.
Oliver wondered when his heart would beat again. So he demanded in a rasp, "Is she breathing?"
A pause. "Barely."
"Then it's a yes. It's a yes or a no over the comm., Bart," he said in a steely voice. Oliver wished he had Bart's speed now. Instead he limped towards her, waves of pain from his arm making coherent thought difficult. Useless.
They should have run away. Fifteen minutes and the jet would have been ready, and they would have been far from the destruction below. By now they could be sipping coffee midair, on their way to sipping wine in Chianti in Tuscany, or sharing a cake in Paris, or making love in an old Scottish castle.
Anywhere but here.
Zod's agonized scream washed over him. Clark, it seemed, had triumphed, and Oliver relished for a moment the impossible pain that Clark applied on the alien he had once considered a brother. Within the space of ten breaths Zod quieted, slipped into his own merciless death, sending the remaining soldiers scurrying away to prepare for another war—only anything else they launched would be far weaker without Faora or Zod. Oliver wished Clark had not killed Zod yet, would have wanted to hear the agonized screams each step he took towards Chloe.
A hand closer over his arm. Oliver paused. "Let me go."
"You're hurt, Oliver," Clark stated what he already knew. "Bad. Really bad." He glanced towards Chloe. Oliver was sure that Clark had heard it all from his earpiece as well. "We'll get you help."
Fifteen minutes, and this could have all been avoided. But he was the Green Arrow and she was always going to be his Watchtower, and he knew it would have been impossible.
"What would I know about love—when all I know is it ends—in every one of my lives, past and present?" – Hawkman to Green Arrow, Absolute Justice