Characters: Chloe, Oliver, JL, SS, Lois
Summary: No matter the obstacles, Oliver will create the life he wants—wherever it is.
AN: So I have been kickstarted again by the best episode of SV in a while. Hope you enjoy this story too.
Her hair smelled like a meadow. Oliver had expected strawberries. Before he even opened his eyes the fragrance assailed his senses like a powerful reminder of whose bed it was he woke to, which room it was he would wake up to see. At the mere thought his lips curved. Gentle but searching kisses brought him to consciousness and his hands rested on the waist of the body on top of him.
"Wake up, Sunshine," he heard her tease sweetly.
His brows furrowed. He mocked a grumbling noise and opened his eyes. She now leaned over him, with her elbow resting just by his head. The strands of her short hair played over his skin. He cocked an eyebrow, but even then enjoyed the way his smile was a little sore, a little red, like she had been thoroughly kissed the night before.
She always woke up the same way after a night with him.
She bit her lower lip playfully. "It's fitting, don't you think. You're cheerful and sunny and warm."
"And that's because of you," Oliver pointed out. "When you were gone… I think Tess would very honestly brand it as a monsoon, or a tropical storm."
Her eyes crinkled in the corners. She grinned when she asked, "A cold front?"
Oliver chuckled, then pulled her down by the waist until she collapsed over on top of him. At the sensation he pushed his hips up just enough to let her feel him. "Never with you."
Chloe laughed. He loved her laugh so much he had it recorded in a file in his personal computer and he played it over and over and over again in a repeat cycle on his playlist when he worked. Her laughter echoed through speakers, eerie as it bounced off the walls of his closed office. But Oliver shook his head, because that was another life, another world. It was not this picture perfect home. So he focused again on the warm body over him. Her hands rested on his cheeks and he kissed her lips. When her kisses trailed to the line of his jaw, Oliver wrapped his arms tight around her and dropped a kiss into her hair.
She reached his ear, and she whispered there, "I love you."
To which he answered, easily, but with a hitch in his voice that he so disliked when in their bedroom, "I love you."
The change in his tone was whisper soft, almost negligible. But she heard it. She was so near, so used to him, that she recognized the shift. She raised herself up and looked down at him in concern. "Oliver, what are you doing?"
He sighed. "I'm sorry."
And he willed himself to think back to where they were, to the sensation of her body over his, to the smell of her hair. But instead as he looked up into her eyes he recognized the green of her irises pixelate and turn dark. He wrapped his arms around her and told himself to hold on to the form, yet more and more realized his embrace was growing empty. The sunlight that streamed through the windows, warm on his arm earlier, grew cold and sharp. The light around him flickered.
"Ollie, stay," she said sharply. "Stay with me."
He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, recovering his senses, calling back the meadows and the warmth of his skin, piecing together the scattered pixels in his mind to recreate the exact shade of her eyes. But there was no butterfly soft touch on his face. He was surrounded by the cold and so realized exactly where he was.
Oliver opened his eyes again, and this time there was one stark and white fluorescent tube light right above him. He stayed there, blinking up at the ceiling. Finally, he pulled himself up until he was sitting on the lab bed. Victor turned around from the computer to face him.
"What happened?" Oliver demanded.
Just seconds from the illusion and already he was desolate for the lost scent and sound.
"An electric fluctuation. I lost power for a second," Victor offered. "It corrupted part of the drive. I'm defragging now."
His eye twitched, a nervous one. Oliver jumped off the cot and stalked over to Victor. "Did we lose her?" Victor did not answer. Instead he returned to his work. "Victor, did we lose Chloe?"
"It's an avatar, Oliver," Victor informed him tersely. "It's an avatar and a set of preprogrammed scenarios. I'll run a check to see if the files are damaged." There was a moment's pause. "We lost Chloe long before this."
Oliver glared at his teammate. He still had the external drive, the device that she had pressed into his palm the day she turned her back on him and vanished back into the Squad.
"If you want to see me walk through those doors, it's here. If you need to stand in a subway to come across my smile, you just use this. Because I won't ever leave you alone again the way I did the last time. With this, Ollie, I'll always be here waiting for you."
"You don't really know me if you think a small black drive is going to make up for losing you."
"You're not losing me." Rick Flagg stood behind Chloe, and Chloe glanced back to the man and nodded. She turned back to Oliver. "But I need you to trust that I am doing this for you."
"I'm Oliver Queen," he said, his voice firm. "I don't need any more sacrifices from you. This time I need you to trust me to save us—whatever threat it is you know about. I trust you with my life. Do you trust me?"
"Sullivan," Flagg barked from the back.
Chloe said sharply, "Wait in the van!"
Flagg retreated at the command. Chloe looked up at Oliver, then cupped his cheek. Oliver turned his hand and kissed her palm. She blinked.
"Do you, Chloe?" he asked. "Stay here and tell me what else you saw. Trust me to save us."
She looked back at him, and from the sadness in her eyes he recognized her response. His heart splintered. He was frozen when she raised herself up on the tips of her toes and kissed his lips. And then she turned away, walking fast to run across the street and towards the black van that roared to life once it consumed her.
The memories faded, and Oliver stood watching over Victor's shoulder. When the test completed, Victor sighed in relief.
"It's gone," Victor pronounced, and the words were laced with triumph.
It was no surprise, that reaction. Victor had wanted to destroy the scenarios since the day he walked in on Oliver installing them himself, then putting himself under to connect to the mainframe. The man had introduced malware into his system that had fortunately been no match for the security system that Chloe's software had thrown around itself.
Oliver's lips thinned. "What do you mean? The scenarios. They saved into the server directly."
"But the avatar was corrupted. It's gone, Oliver. Look, it's been two years— For a program written by an amateur it's had a decent payload."
He pushed aside the utter ridiculousness of Victor calling Chloe Sullivan an amateur. Oliver almost collapsed in relief that Victor did not deny the scenarios still existed. "I still have all the raw data files. I can bring her back."
"Listen to yourself," Victor tossed back to him. "Let it go, Oliver."
Oliver glanced at the computer. "I should go back there. We were at home and—"
Victor grabbed his arm. "I think you've had enough. You've had enough the third month you used the software. Home isn't in there, Oliver." He shook his head. "Dinah is waiting in your actual home."
"You remember Dinah, Oliver?" And the statement was sarcastic, meant to jar him out of the fleeting memories of the virtual world that he had willingly and secretly visited in the last year.
"I need to go home," Oliver whispered.
Victor sighed in relief. He grasped Oliver's arm, then said, "I know this isn't what you wanted, what you planned for… "
"But this is reality," Oliver finished for him. Victor nodded. Oliver continued, "Drop me off?"
Back in his penthouse Oliver pushed open the bedroom door and glanced inside. Dinah slept alone in the large bed, just as she had the last year. He walked towards his home office and sat behind the large desk. Oliver reached down below and opened the safe at the bottom drawer. When the locks clicked, he pulled the door open and took out the external flash drive.
Oliver plugged the flash drive into the powerful computer set up in the office. As the files extracted themselves and the avatar built itself in his machine, Oliver walked over to the door and locked it. He sat down in front of the screen, then opened the port to the servers. Oliver took the tools he had pushed Queen Technologies to complete the first year she had gone missing, when he had just unraveled the contents of the drive. He linked himself up to the computer with the cables connected to his temples and his nape, then rested back in the seat.
The house was unsteady, flicking still, like the application was yet stabilizing in its new environment. He needed to make sure he upgraded the home office computer. It was nowhere near as powerful as the mainframe in the lab. The walls were not as solid, but slowly the colors grew more solid and he passed through the corridor and the environment sank further in his mind.
His pace quickened. The corruption and eventual defrag had rearranged the layout of his home. Oliver raced through the house. The scenarios should be safe, because the upload of his progress in the last year was direct to the server. It should not have been impacted by the outage.
But the home was empty on a day and a time when it should not be. He called her name, his voice growing louder, stronger.
Yet it almost seemed like it was gone. Completely.
"Here," was the faint cry in return.
Oliver looked to the right where the kitchen door should have been. Instead he found a staircase leading to the bedrooms. He took the steps two at a time. When he reached the landing halfway up, he saw the framed photograph of Chloe and their precious treasure. He closed his eyes and muttered a quick thanks. The year was not gone. He ran up the steps until he passed the master's bedroom. He stopped at the door right next to it. Oliver's heart pumped heavily and quickly. He pushed the door open and sighed in relief at the sight.
Chloe was bent over the crib. She turned and threw an apologetic smile at him. "I'm sorry I couldn't come," she said. "Connor made a mess."
Oliver let out his breath slowly. He stepped inside the room and walked towards the crib. Beside her he stopped and wrapped an arm around her waist. And then he saw him, his little boy, feet kicking even while his mother tried to grab his ankles so she could wipe his bottom.
"There was an earthquake earlier this morning. The power went out and I think there was some infrastructure damage to the road. Where were you?"
"Work," he said easily. "Were you and Connor okay?"
She nodded. "You needed me?" Chloe asked softly. She set aside a soiled wet tissue and then reached for another one.
"It's alright," he answered. His shoulders relaxed at the sight.
"Well I need you. The nanny's not coming in today. Can you stick around and help out with the baby?"
Oliver reached for a diaper and turned to Chloe, holding it up. He grinned. "Always."
Her eyebrows rose. "Sure? You're not going to go running off again and vanishing like you always do?"
"I'll stay. And I won't have to go off patrolling until you're asleep. I promise."
She smiled. "Good."