Welcome to My Chlollie World...

Welcome to my blog. I've created it mainly as a place to archive my writings. Currently, my focus is on the pairing of Chloe Sullivan/Oliver Queen of Smallville, also affectionately known in fandom, as Chlollie. I began writing for this couple as Smallville entered it's seventh season, not ever really expecting them to become Smallville canon. So imagine my pleasant surprise (okay, I squealed like a fangirl in the throes of a fangasm) when the showrunners decided to put them together. I don't know what the show will do with them, but I don't care. I'll always adore them, and Chlollie will ALWAYS be my One True Pairing. I write about them for fun, as creative outlet, and because I think they're perfect together, and have the potential to be a supercouple, comic-book "mythos" be damned. The Green Arrow of Smallville belongs with his Watchtower. Most of my stories contain adult content, so please don't read if you are under the age of 18. All story graphic arts and manips are created by me unless otherwise stated. Feedback is always welcome. Thank you for reading!

And now for the boring stuff so no one sues me. Feel free to read it in that fast talking lawyer kind of voice, like at the end of a radio commercial.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Final note: I never believed in the years that I've loved this couple, that the show would do the right thing by them. But as a fangirl I just have to say, OMGOMGOMG! THEY ARE MARRIED!!! Thank you, Smallville for giving my couple the happy ending they deserve!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Signal Fire Chapter 9

Signal Fire
Chapter 9

Sunlight had begun to filter through the spaces between the dark curtains covering the window, when the descent began. Plummeting, down, down, back into her body, her sharp, lung-filling breath startling him awake. He held her close, soothing her until she regained her senses, his eyelids closed over with relief, grateful for her every breath. Suddenly she seemed to remember everything that happened, because all at once he was being affectionately assaulted, her hands moving over his chest and torso as though to be certain she’d healed every part of him, his name whispered fervently from her lips, the kisses she’d wanted to give him days ago when she’d decided to return home, raining down on his face with such joy, that he didn’t want to set her apart, but he had to. He needed to talk to her, push her away, and it was killing him.

Chloe felt him tense beneath her touch. Oliver cupped her shoulders, nudging her away gently. “Chloe...” he whispered. “We’re not alone.” He motioned with his head toward the sleeping figure slouched in a chair across the room. Chloe followed his gaze to find Philip Cook nodding off in a sitting position, arms folded over his chest, her green eyes thinning at the sight of him.

She turned her gaze back to Oliver, eyes earnest now, her voice low. “We can take his gun, get out of here…”


“What? Why not?”

Oliver placed a finger over her lips, then traced them gently, as his eyes drifted over her face with an expression akin to longing. “Listen to me,” he murmured, reversing their positions so that she lay tucked beneath his side, his leg thrown over her hips.

Something wasn’t right, Chloe sensed it in his eyes, in the way he touched her. Before she could ask what was wrong, he spoke.

“I’m going to send him out for some food, you need to eat. We’ll talk more when he’s gone.” Oliver rose up from the bed, walking toward the sink, leaving Chloe both bewildered by his emotional distance and bereft of his warmth. He filled a plastic cup with water and brought it to her.

The movement in the room roused Philip, and he watched them for a moment as Chloe sat up on the bed and drank greedily from the cup Oliver had given her. He stood up, running a hand over his face, anxious, uncertain of what to do or say. She’d been dead, and now was alive again. He was witnessing the impossible.

“Relax, soldier,” Oliver looked at Philip over his shoulder as he stood in front of Chloe. “She needs food. Does this place have anything like a five star restaurant next to the lobby?”

Philip was struck mute, watching her in disbelief. She downed the last of the water, whispered her thanks to Oliver and handed him the cup. He placed it on the nightstand.

“Tell Tess there won’t be anymore entertainment for her unless Chloe eats. She’s hungry.”

He blinked. “Uh… hungry?”

“Bringing people back from the dead takes a lot out of her.”

Philip cast about for something to say. “Right. I’ll get her something.”

After he left, Chloe reached for Oliver’s hand pulling him down next to her on the bed. “Oliver, what is it, what’s happening?”

He scooted, leaning back against the wall. “They’ll come back for us,” he said quietly.

“Not if we get out of her first…”

He shook his head, gazing down at his hands resting on his thighs. “And when they do, you have to promise me that you won’t heal me again, and try to convince Philip to get you out.”

Chloe couldn’t believe what she was hearing, and moved to straddle him, taking his face in her hands, her eyes probing his. “Philip is the one that got me in here, and I’m not going anywhere without you.”

“Promise me.”

His expression was resolute, the import of his words sinking in. He meant what he was saying, the realization striking her like a blow to the gut. He wanted her to let him die, to leave without him. Her lips began to tremble, the heat of tears threatening. “I will not.”

“He cares for you. He’ll help you.”

She threw her arms around him, burying her face against his neck. “No!” The sound of her voice coming from a sob. “I’m not leaving you here.”

He was quiet for a moment, letting her cry, her warm wet tears falling upon his skin. He’d made her cry enough, and couldn’t bear to be the cause of her tears anymore. “Shhh…” he soothed. “It’ll be all right. Just promise me that you won’t heal me again. Philip will get you out.” He tried not to touch her, but he couldn’t keep his hands from her and they moved over her back and over the curve of her waist to clutch her hips, of their own accord, pulling her closer. “Don’t you see? It’s what they want, Chloe. They want you to heal me… so they can kill me again. But we can stop this. It can end. You have to refuse… let me go.”

“No!” She cried harder, pressing her body against him.

“You deserve better than this, Chloe….” He whispered. “Better than what I’ve given you.” And though his heart ached to reveal his truth, he continued. “Better than me.”

She became silent; slowly lifting her head from his shoulder, finding his dark eyes glistening with mute wretchedness, knowing that his attempt to push her away was killing him. “You can’t mean that. Better than you?” she whispered, a hint of disbelief in her tone. “This is me you’re talking to. Chloe Sullivan, remember? The sidekick? The one always under the radar.” Her eyes flitted away. “I’m supposed to be the one who thinks she’s not deserving…of you… and…”

“Hey,” he admonished softly, lifting her chin, bringing her eyes back to his, not allowing her to finish her thought. He’d just realized what the issue had been all along, what her going on about debutantes and supermodels was all about just days before. The odd thing was; it had never occurred to him that she’d feel this way, because to him, there was no woman who came close enough to compare to her. But he should have known, somehow. It was her way not to give herself enough credit, and a small part of him wished he’d seen her, really seen her for all of her beauty long before. But he hadn’t, and both of them had been carrying around these crazy notions of true self-worth for different reasons. He cupped her cheek in his palm. “Do you know, that every day I look at you, and I wonder how the hell I was ever lucky enough to convince you to come to Star City and share your life with me? And then that article… and everything that made me feel unworthy of you was staring at me in black and white on the front pages of the gossip column. And here we are both feeling the same self-doubt, when the truth is, there will never be anyone more right for me than you. You’re everything to me. But the past… it’s never really far behind, it haunts us, and I’m afraid I’ll lose you because of it.”

“And do you know… that I was on my way back home when Philip called and asked me to meet him with some information, and that’s when I was abducted? I was on my way to the airport, and I turned around, because I couldn’t be away from you. It felt so wrong, and I knew it was wrong, because being with you has never felt more right. Ollie… I don’t care about the past anymore. Not yours, not mine. I think it’s time we both left it behind us, and didn’t look back. I want a future, and I can’t have the one I want if you’re gone. I’m not leaving you here, and we’re not letting them hurt us again.”

He touched his forehead to hers. “I’ve put your life in danger… more times than I care to count.”

“It’s what we chose to do, Oliver. Both of us. Together. I knew that when I signed up.”

He lifted his head, gazing into her eyes for a long silent moment, wondering whatever possessed him to think he could ever give her up, or live without her even for a moment. He couldn’t. Oliver released a long breath, as he pulled her head down against his chest. “What does this future you envision with me look like?” He wondered, tucking her head beneath his chin, and closing his eyes, relief flooding him now that he’d come to his senses, made the right decision, the only decision he could ever make where Chloe was concerned. She was his, and he wasn’t letting her go.

“It’s the same as yours.”

He needed to know, needed some sense of hope now, when at any moment Tess or Lex would come bursting into the room to take them. “Tell me, Chloe,” he whispered.

“Why did you ask me to move into the manor house, when we could live anywhere in Star City?” Chloe asked, pressing her cheek against his bare chest. “That huge warm place, with all those rooms. Did you think they’d stay empty forever?”

“You figure out all my secrets, don’t you?”

“Of course. I knew when you told me stories of growing up there, what your vision of the future was. We don’t have to fill all those empty rooms, maybe just a few of them…” her voice trailed off dreamily. “Oh, and we need a dog. Our children should have a dog.”

Children. He tried to imagine what they’d look like; images of a brood of little blondes running through the halls of the manor house, flitting through his mind. “Anything for you, Mistress Watchtower,” he murmured, the huskiness lingering in his tone.

“So we have to get out of here together, because you mentioned something about fifty years…”

“I did, didn’t I?”


They held each other for an interminable time in the silence of the room, each of them lost in their own reveries. Finally, Oliver spoke softly. “Philip.”

“What about him? He was behind this.”

“He cares for you.”

“Anyone who cared for me wouldn’t do this.”

“Trust me, Chloe. He may have been hired to do a job, but he’s fallen for you.”

Chloe lifted her head to look at him. “What do you want me to do?” she asked, determined now.

“Something you won’t like doing.”

“Go on…” she urged warily.

“Seduce him.”


“Tell him we’re through. Seduce him… not too much,” he added, unable to keep the bit of jealousy from rising in him. Oliver had no doubt of Chloe’s devotion and love for him. It was Philip who might take it too far, and he knew what he was asking would not be easy for her to do. “But enough to get him to take you out of here.”

“You mean both of us.”

“You can’t heal me again.”

“What makes you think they won’t just use the serum they’ve created from my blood to bring you back, and kill you over again anyway?”

“Because they want us to watch each other die. Using the serum would take the enjoyment of their game away.”

“Then we escape before that happens.”

“They know you’re awake now. There’s no time.”


“You need to get Philip to believe you, Chloe. Right now, he’s our only way out of here.” She opened her mouth to protest, when he silenced her, taking her mouth with his, kissing her thoroughly.

“Kissing… me… won’t… shut me… up,” she breathed against his lips between kisses.

The corners of his luscious mouth turned up slightly. “It does work sometimes. Can’t blame me for trying.” Oliver smoothed the hair back from her face, his expression growing serious once more. “You have to do it, Chloe.”

“Too many things can go wrong. I don’t like it, Ollie.”

“Once you’re out, contact the team, call Clark.”

Anxiety crossed her features. “I don’t think I can do it. I can’t deny you, they’ll see it in my face.”

“I have faith in you. And if it means life or death, you can do it.”

“I can’t watch them torture you again…” she whispered, her stomach churning at the thought.

“And I can’t have you die for me again, simply for their entertainment. It has to stop, and only you can stop them now.”

Chloe swallowed harshly. “What if the team is too late? There has to be another way.”

“There isn’t. Promise me, Chloe.”

Chloe nodded in reluctant agreement, still unsure of the entire plan. She rose from her position on his lap, and moved to occupy the chair on the opposite wall that Philip had vacated. They stared at one another in silent communication, until Oliver steeled his emotions, his expression becoming unreadable. Chloe looked down at her hands folded in her lap.

Moment’s later; Philip entered the room carrying a white paper bag and two Styrofoam cups of coffee. He stopped, his eyes moving from Chloe to Oliver, wondering why they weren’t sitting together.

“Tess is on her way,” he said, handing one of the cups to Chloe, and moving to place the bag on the night table. She looked up at him sadly, accepting the coffee. Chloe’s stomach growled at the faint scent of warm, freshly baked goods, but she didn’t speak.

“Give it to her,” Oliver spoke coldly, indicating Chloe with a movement of his head. Philip stopped, still uncertain, as the atmosphere in the room seemed almost hostile, yet it wasn’t directed at him. He turned, handing the bag to Chloe. She was hungry, as Oliver had said she would be, and she tore into the bag, finding muffins and bagels inside. Philip watched her devour two large muffins, washing them down with coffee.

He recalled the earlier conversation he’d had with Queen, and wondered if he’d already spoken to her, told her it was over between them. That had to be it, otherwise they’d be sitting together, probably feeding each other in a nauseating display of affection. His eyes never left Chloe who remained quiet, seemingly resigned over what was to come.

The door opened, and Tess swept inside with her entourage of guards, her reaction to finding Chloe and Oliver on opposite sides of the room, similar to Philip’s, as her eyes moved from one to the other. “Welcome back, Ms. Sullivan,” she said with more confidence than she felt. Seeing someone who’d just come back from the dead was a bit disconcerting, after all. Tess pushed her fear of the unknown aside. “I trust you’re ready?”

Chloe rose from the chair numbly, careful not to look back at Oliver as Philip grasped her arm, and escorted her out, knowing that if she looked at him, she’d break down. She didn’t think she could do this.

Tess remained behind. “What happened?” she asked, her voice laced with mock sympathy. “Lover’s quarrel?”

Oliver scooted from the bed, standing to his full height, causing Tess to take a step back. “You’re wasting time,” he answered.

“Not at all,” she responded, “It’s part of the process, Oliver.”

“Where’s Lex? Or do you always do his dirty work, like the obedient female dog you are to him?”

She turned her head, motioning to the three guards behind her. “You know what to do. Bring him to me after you’ve prepped him,” she ordered before leaving the room, closing the door behind her.

It was then that Oliver noticed two of the guards carrying standard issue police batons, and another with a set of nunchucks, and he understood what prepping meant. He should simply let them take him, but every cell in his body urged him to fight back with everything he had as they closed in, attacking him from all sides.

Chloe wondered why they were keeping her in a different holding room. This one was smaller and dimly lit. It reminded her of a large, empty storage closet. They were waiting, alone. For what, she didn’t know. Why not just get it over with? She stood as a statue in the small, darkened room keeping her eyes downcast, remaining silent, afraid she’d give too much of herself away, or break down at any moment. Philip was at her side. This was her chance to get to him, and her insides quaked at the thought of what she’d have to do.

“Chloe…” he began, not really knowing what to say, but uncomfortable with the silence. “Look… it’s nothing personal, you know?”

Chloe lifted her large green eyes to his, her expression so desolate that his heart wrenched, and he lifted his hand to move the hair that had fallen over her face.

Chloe managed not to flinch away at his touch. “It’s just a job to you, isn’t it?” she whispered, her voice filling the empty space.

Philip lowered his hand, dropping it at his side.

“It’s over… Lex gets what he wants after all,” she whispered, staring off into the dimness. “And Tess gets to enjoy it.” She turned to him once more. “You’re quite the actor. I thought… I guess I thought you and I were friends. But you’re pretty good at your job, aren’t you?” Her voice was soft, not accusatory, as though she were simply making a non-committal observation. “And now… now I’m just a resource. I’m not even human to them; I’m just something they can use.”

Chloe turned away from him then, and he moved closer. She felt the warmth of his body behind her, and tried to keep her composure.

“What happened with Oliver?”

“It’s funny. Sometimes wrapped inside a lie, there’s some hidden truth.”

“What do you mean?”

Chloe wrapped her arms around herself before she spoke, in an effort to keep herself from shaking. Lowering her head once more, she kept her face hidden beneath her hair. “Adriana… it wasn’t her, but I’ve suspected that Oliver has been unfaithful for awhile now. It took all of this… happening to bring the truth out. Things haven’t been so good between us… and… it’s just… it’s over…” She didn’t finish; simply left her statement hanging in the stillness, hoping against hope that Philip would believe her lies. She sensed his movement as he came to stand in front of her, felt his tentative fingers slide up her arms and cup her shoulders.

Seduce him. She hoped Oliver was right about this.

Uncertain at first, he pulled her toward him in a gesture meant to comfort, and Chloe allowed it, burying her face against his chest. She wept silently, but not for the reasons Philip thought.

His arms tightened around her, surprised when he felt her grip him about the waist. “I’ve never felt so alone…” she sobbed, sensing his body’s response to her; the quickening of his heart, the heat of him through his black shirt. “I’m sorry,” she said, pulling away from him, taking a step back, and wiping her eyes hastily. He watched her as she regained her composure. “What are they doing? Why are they taking so long?” she sniffled.

“I don’t know,” he answered; the urge to take her in his arms once more overwhelming him.

“I don’t want this to be the rest of my life, Philip. I don’t want to be used by Luthorcorp as a miracle cure.”

Philip stepped closer. “I’m sure that’s not what they plan. They’ll let you go soon.”

Chloe lifted her eyes to his. “And what if they don’t? Do you know what it’s like to be ‘special’? To have people want to use you for their own gain?”

He was silent for a moment. “Actually, I do,” he murmured, cupping her cheek. “We’re not so different, Chloe.”

Chloe watched his head descend, his mouth a whisper away from hers. Oh shit. He brushed his lips against hers, causing her to back away, but Philip was insistent, slipping a hand at her waist, and cupping the back of her head with the other, keeping her immobile. Seduce him. As he kissed her, more fervently now, thoughts ran rampant, panic rising within her. She couldn’t do this, it didn’t feel right.

She wasn’t wearing a bra and when his hand slid upward over her side, thumb passing over the outer curve of her breast through the fabric of her shirt, she pulled away, backing into a wall. Apparently she was a horrible seductress. Oliver’s words came back to her as she stared up at Philip wide-eyed. He cares for you. He’ll help you. He’ll get you out. I have faith in you. And if it means life or death, you can do it. Chloe bit back her disgust at the entire situation. At herself for what she had to do, at Philip for what he’d done, at Tess, Lex, at this place, and then she lunged toward him, pulling his head down, kissing him with everything she had.

“Chloe,” he whispered, his body nudging her against the wall. “He’s a fool. He’s nothing. Forget Queen.”

She gripped his shoulders as his hands roved her body, biting back the sob constricting her throat. She felt nothing, her mind taking her to another place as his lips traveled down the curve of her neck and he ground himself against her. She imagined the manor house filled with the laughter of children; their hair the color of the sun. She saw them running, chasing the dog through the corridors, and then scampering outside among the trees and green rolling hills. They were the perfect combination of herself and Oliver. She wondered how many would have green eyes, and how many would have eyes the color of warm, rich chocolate.

Not the sounds of running children, but rather the sound of steps echoing through the hall outside the room caused Philip to stop; quickly lowering a shirt she hadn’t realized he’d lifted when he exposed her breasts to knead them with eager hands. He was breathing erratically, attempting to calm himself before anyone entered. “Everything will be all right,” he whispered. “I’ll get you out of here.” He walked away from her to regain his composure, waiting for whoever was coming to open the door.

Chloe smoothed her hair down, then began shoving her shirt back inside the loose, black B.D.U. pants she wore, her hands trembling. She hoped that was the end of it, hoped she didn’t have to endure that again. But he was going to get her out, and that meant she could get Oliver out. And that’s all that mattered now. She wouldn’t let Philip touch her ever again.

The door opened, light from the hallway falling into the dim room. It was Tess. “We’re ready for you now, Ms. Sullivan,” she said, a light smirk on her lips, motioning for Chloe to exit the room. Tess didn’t seem to be aware of what had transpired, and Philip, ever the actor that he was, kept his cool, grasping Chloe by the arm once more, leading her through the hallway.

As they walked, she glanced at Philip stealthily out of the corner of her eye to find him staring straight ahead, his face an emotionless mask. Chloe straightened her spine. She’d do what Oliver asked. She’d be strong for him. She’d get him out of here no matter his condition. She told herself that this nightmare would be over soon.

The door opened upon Lex’s “dungeon”, and when she entered, her eyes widened in horror, a scream nearly escaping her throat. Her hand flew to her mouth, stifling the sound. There, suspended by his wrists from a pulley connected to the ceiling, a foot or so from the floor, hung a half-naked Oliver Queen. His body bore the marks of a brutal beating. His head hung forward, and he attempted to lift it at the sound of people entering the room. His head bobbed with the effort, but he was able to see out of one eye, and he searched for her.

Chloe kept her hands clamped over her mouth, simply trying to keep herself steady on her feet. His face was a bloodied mass of hamburger; one eye was swollen completely shut. Disoriented, he sought her out among the group and when he found her, he held her horrified gaze, hoping she could hear his silent plea. Finally, Oliver moved his head ever so slightly, in a gesture to remind her of her promise.

* * * * *

Oliver’s text message was odd; the answer received had nothing to do with the question asked, prompting Victor to do some digging. He checked flight records, and located the whereabouts of one of the Queen Industries jets. It seemed they were about to visit the Black Creek facility and get their friends out of trouble. He hoped they weren’t too late.

End Chapter 9

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Signal Fire Chapter 8

Signal Fire
Chapter 8

Chloe stopped struggling within Philip’s grasp long enough to mutter in his ear. “This is the animal you work for. You’ve sold your soul,” she ground out. “How can you live with yourself?” The accusation in her voice stung him, but he held fast to her as she wept at the sight of Oliver, chained up against the wall. “I’ll do anything you want, Lex…” she called to him. “Just please, don’t hurt him anymore,” she shouted.

Lex was unfazed. “Torture was frequently employed in the Middle Ages to punish criminals and extract confessions.” He moved about the room, as though he were an instructor carrying on a university lecture. Tess was mesmerized. The way he carried himself, so self-assured, so calm and relaxed. She admired him. “Many castles had torture chambers,” he went on. “Torture methods are still used today of course. Granted, we’ve come a long way since the Spanish Inquisition, drawing and quartering, the rack and the Iron Maiden, but,” he paused gazing pointedly first at Oliver, and then at Chloe. “I’d like to welcome you to my dungeon,” he said, sweeping a hand around the room.

Oliver lifted his head, tipping it back to rest against the hard concrete. “Anyone ever tell you, what a sick bastard you are, Lex?” his voice sounded from the wall.

Chloe’s eyes followed the sweep of Lex’s hand, and for the first time she noticed the table in the room laden with weapons; swords, guns, knives, a whip, and some odd pieces she didn’t recognize. Panic rose in her breast, and without thinking, she sprinted toward it, thinking to knock it over, create some type of diversion, anything to delay what was to come. Philip was there once again, scooping her up, restraining her. “No!” she screamed, flailing about and bucking against him.

“Get your hands off of her!” Oliver shouted weakly, as Philip picked her up off her feet and gathered her closely, dragging her back to their original position.

Lex moved to stand in front of Oliver. “Oliver Queen, also known as the Green Arrow; you’ve committed acts of terrorism against me, my company and my employees,” he spoke as though uttering a decree; thoroughly enjoying the position he was in. “And for those crimes, you are to be punished.”

“Ollie!” His name was a strangled sob on her lips, as Chloe continued to struggle against Philip.

The sound of her cry and the tears streaming down her face tore at his heart. Philip wouldn’t let her go. “Get her out of here,” Oliver growled harshly. It hurt to breathe in this position, the pain in his side stabbing him with every breath he took. “Have your sick fun, but get her out.”

Lex ignored him. “Tess? Which would you care to start with? The cat’s paw?” Lex picked up an object from the table. It was a long wooden stick with a steel claw-like object on the end of it. “This device flays the skin from a victim’s body,” he said matter-of-factly, holding it up for all to view.

“Stop it, Lex!” Chloe shouted. “Not even you are that twisted.” She’d only discovered that he was among the living a day ago, and had yet to have any real interaction with him. She wondered what had happened to him in the year he’d been missing. She knew he was capable of horrendous atrocities, but the entire scene was too surreal, even for Lex Luthor.

“Or there’s good old-fashioned flogging.” Lex picked up the whip, testing the weight of it in his hand.

Tess stepped toward the table, eyeing the various pieces laid out, finally picking up a knife. She ran a finger appreciatively down the blade, so sharp that it nicked her. She placed the finger in her mouth to suck away the blood. “I’ll start with this.”

Lex stepped aside. “I’ll leave you to your work, then.”

She stood before Oliver, the glint of the blade reflecting briefly from the light. Her eyes traveled down his sculpted torso, admiring him as she lifted a palm to stroke his skin. He was warm, smooth, hard. He was masculine perfection.

Her touch left him cold. Oliver’s breath stuttered, waiting for the instant she’d plunge the knife into him. His eyes bored into hers, a glint of defiance darkening them. “What are you waiting for? Do it.”

“Seems a shame to mar such perfection,” she whispered, as her hand moved over him. “But I know you’re far from perfect. I may have been gone awhile, but I still remember the island and everything that happened there.” She lifted the knife, the sharp point tracing his pectoral muscle lightly. “Do you know what the islanders did to Hackett after you left?”

Hackett was Oliver’s bodyguard, and Tess’s friend. Oliver was unaware of Hackett’s plan to abandon him on an island and steal his boat for use by drug runners at Tess’s urging. After Oliver incited a rebellion of the natives who had been used as slaves there, Hackett and the drug runners had been killed. Oliver felt the edge of the blade pierce his skin as she raked it slowly across his chest. He bit back a small grunting sound. The warmth of his own blood began dripping down past his sternum and stomach.

“Stop! Please stop!” Chloe’s voice. Even Philip couldn’t believe what he was seeing, and attempted to turn Chloe around in his arms so that she’d not have to witness the sight. Lex grasped her arm, dragging her forward. He wanted her to watch.

“They mutilated his body after he died,” she whispered. Tess ran the knife over him again in the opposite direction, this time slashing deeper into the muscle, splitting his flesh open wider. “He was like a brother to me. Did you know that?”

Oliver breathed erratically, sweat beading his brow as he pressed his lips together, in an effort to keep any sound from escaping. He wouldn’t give her or Lex the satisfaction.

“At least I didn’t have to hear his screams.” She brought the knife down harshly, slashing him again on a diagonal, a red line forming from breastbone to opposite hip. “I’d like to hear yours, Oliver.” She hissed, bringing the knife up to his face, carving thin lines down either cheek. “Can you scream for me?”

“Enough!” Chloe shrieked, as Tess slashed him once more across the stomach.

Oliver gritted his teeth, a groan escaping his throat. “Go to hell,” he panted, his head dropping forward.

Tess turned abruptly, allowing a disheveled, horrified Chloe, full view her handiwork. Oliver’s chest and torso were sliced open in various directions and covered in dripping blood. “He’s not so perfect now, is he Ms. Sullivan.” Tess lowered the knife, slipping the flat of the blade into the rim of his leather pants. “Shall I geld him for you?”

Oliver was dizzy, yet he shivered at the cold steel sliding against his groin. His ankles were chained where he stood, and he felt as though his knees were about to give way.

“I can turn him into a eunuch for you, Ms. Sullivan. He’d never look at another woman. What was her name? Ah yes, Adriana. I don’t think Adriana will be interested in him now, do you? Just say the word, and I’ll take care of him for you.”

Her vision blurred from tears, she could barely speak. “Please, no more… no more,” she cried, the constricting of her throat made her voice cracked and faint. “Let him go… I’ll do whatever you ask… just let him go… stop… please…” she wept, nearly crumbling to the floor. Philip lifted her, grasping her other arm.

“Very well,” Tess said, turning once more to Oliver. She grasped his chin, lifting his face. “Ms. Sullivan wants me to end this. It will be my pleasure.” She wanted him to cry out, to beg, but saw only anger and defiance in his eyes. “This is for Hackett,” she whispered close to his lips, then in an instant Oliver felt the knife removed from his pants and plunged into his stomach. This time he did make a sound, emitting a strangled moan.

Chloe shrieked in protest. It was all he heard. He felt the knife again, this time entering his chest, before his legs would no longer hold him. His body came away from the wall, hanging from his wrists by chains that kept him upright. And then he felt nothing. There was nothing but the sound of Chloe’s cries, her voice calling his name, like a keening wail, that became a whisper in his ear. She was whispering his name in his ear, and there was nothing but Chloe. Nothing but Chloe… Chloe….

Tess gazed coldly at Oliver’s body suspended from the chains. His head slumped forward. “Take him down,” she ordered, tossing the bloodied knife onto the table.

Men moved to do her bidding, releasing Oliver’s wrists and ankles, his body slumping to the floor in a bloody heap as they did so. They rolled him onto his back.

“Leave him there,” Tess instructed, and the men moved away. Chloe continued to wail and carry on, something Tess found quite annoying. She turned to Philip and Lex. “Let her go.”

Tess expected Chloe to run immediately to Oliver’s side, but instead she found herself on the receiving end of an unexpectedly powerful right hook to the face, followed immediately by an upper cut to the chin and a kick to the midsection. “You sick bitch!” Chloe screamed, and proceeded to kick and punch and claw at Tess, until they were like two alley cats, growling and snarling at one another, and had to be separated. Lex and Philip restrained Tess, her nose and lips bloodied from the force of Chloe’s fists. Chloe was panting, red-faced, her entire body trembling with rage, tears streaming down her cheeks as she shoved off the men holding her. Lex allowed it, motioning for her to see to Oliver.

“This is your entrance, Chloe. Act two.”

She glared at Lex momentarily before turning numbly to gaze down at her Oliver lying in a growing pool of his own blood; the light fading from his deep brown eyes, as they grew sightless. She continued to sob, unable to wipe the tears from her cheeks fast enough before new ones replaced them. Breathing heavily, she knelt beside him, then lifted a knee, moving over him, straddling his hips. Now she understood the game. This is what they wanted. This was how Tess and Lex would hurt and terrorize them both. Over, and over again.

The room grew still and silent as she wept over his body, everyone waiting, watching. Well, she’d give them a show, but this would be a one night only performance, because she and Oliver would escape, run, get as far away as they could before anyone would torture and kill Oliver again, and again only to have her heal him each time.

She lowered her head next to his. “No more, I promise… no more,” she whispered, her voice squeaking in his ear on a shaky breath. “I love you.” Chloe pressed her lips to his, as her trembling hands covered his chest. Chloe felt his pain enter her, eyes squeezing shut.

No one knew what to expect, and when bright, colorful light seeped faintly from every part of her body that touched him, a few of the men murmured to one another. But moments later, when the entire room was suddenly engulfed by light so blinding, they’d had to cover their eyes, a collective gasp and resounding confusion filled the room. Just as suddenly, the light was gone, and when their eyes adjusted, they found Chloe lying sprawled, limp over Oliver’s body.

They waited. His bloodstained hand rose slowly, covering her back, palm moving over her gently. His arms enfolded her, clutching her to his chest. Oliver heard some of the guards speaking softly to one another.

“Holy shit, how did she do that?”



“My God,” Philip uttered, as he stared dumbstruck.

Oliver rose to a sitting position, holding her limp body against him just as she was, her thighs on either side of him. He cupped the back of her head with one hand to keep it from lolling backward, nestling her cheek against his throat. He sat this way, his head bowed for long moments holding her through the silence in the room, half expecting someone to speak, or take her from him. No one did. After a time, he adjusted her body in his lap, shifting her legs so that he cradled her. They watched as Oliver gazed down at her, smoothing the hair back from her face tenderly, fingertips stroking her cheek, brushing away her tears. No one spoke. Finally, he lifted his head. There were no marks on his face where Tess had cut him; they simply weren’t there. Only faint smudges of blood remained. His dark eyes shining, blazed with a burning hatred of everyone in the room, so potent that for a few moments, no one dared to venture too closely to him.

Lex was the first to speak. “Clean them up and examine them both.”

No one moved.

“Do it!” Lex ordered, and two men and a woman dressed in medical scrubs Oliver hadn’t seen before stepped forward hesitantly, either Oliver’s glare, or the shock and fear at what they’d just witnessed making them skittish. They knew he wouldn’t give her up that easily.

The woman turned away, speaking quietly to Lex, and he nodded, she then knelt next to Oliver. “I’ve been with her for the past two days,” the woman said gently. “I’ll take care of her, and see to it that she’s returned to you.”

Oliver said nothing.

“You can trust me,” the woman whispered. “No harm will come to her.”

Finally Oliver moved, shifting Chloe’s body in his arms and rising to his feet with her. “I’ll take her.”

Lex allowed him to carry her to an examination room under armed guard. He knew Oliver wouldn’t try anything with Chloe in her current condition. Everyone watched him leave with Chloe in his arms, amazed that he simply stood up and walked at all. After Oliver placed her on the table, he was instructed to shower quickly and change into a pair of black uniform pants the guards wore, along with a pair of boots. No shirt was provided, and Oliver thought it was so that they could examine him as well, or perhaps it was easier for Tess to inflict more injuries that way.

The doctors didn’t tell him anything he didn’t know. Chloe was dead, and he was perfectly healthy; not one mark from the knife existed, even the bruises he’d had prior, and the pain he’d felt at his ribs was completely gone. She’d healed him of everything.

They interrogated him, asking him questions about Chloe’s ability, how she came to have it, asking him to describe his experience as she healed him. He wasn’t really listening to them and every question they asked, his answer was the same. He told them he didn’t know. He’d never tell them anything.

Oliver felt completely numb. He was escorted back to a room in the facility with a bed fitted against the wall, a sink, a chair and a separate bathroom and shower. Better accommodations than the last place we were in, he thought wryly, recalling the last time he and Chloe had been captives of Tess. They wouldn’t be here long, or he’d be dead; either way it wouldn’t matter. He asked for Chloe, and they brought her body to him, laying her on the bed. They’d washed his blood from her and changed her jumpsuit, trading it for a black outfit. He wondered vaguely at the wardrobe choice. They must have an overstock of black fatigues here. Oliver knew they’d be watching, waiting for her to come alive once more, but he didn’t care about that, he wanted to be with her if and when she awoke.

He removed his boots, turning off the main light, leaving only the small lamplight from the bedside table. He sat on the bed, his back against the wall, lifting Chloe in his arms, laying her head and shoulders on his lap. It was then that Tess and Philip entered the room. He didn’t want to see them, didn’t want to deal with Tess right now. He wanted to be left alone with Chloe until she awoke, if she awoke.

Tess stood momentarily watching him, as though she were waiting for him to speak first. But he didn’t speak, only glared at her, as his hand continued to caress the golden head of the woman he cradled. “You once offered your life to me in exchange for hers,” Tess said, stepping closer, but not too close, as though she too had been frightened by what she had seen, not fully understanding Chloe’s power. She stood here; talking to a man she had killed. She watched him die, and something about witnessing his resurrection at Chloe’s hands sent a shiver through her.

Oliver said nothing.

Tess watched the play of muscles beneath his smooth skin, cast golden by the dim lamplight as he moved every time he touched Chloe, watched as his fingers splayed, threading her hair. The hint of jealousy she felt at the sight of him with Chloe, transformed as she watched him, making her angry, not only with them, but with herself as well. She didn’t like the feeling. It made her feel weak. “Now you can die over, and over and over again. Every time she restores you, I’ll take such delight in torturing and killing you again in front of her in as many different ways as my imagination allows. And believe me, where your death is concerned, I have quite an active imagination.”

Oliver finally spoke. “How’d you get that busted lip?”

Philip lowered his head, stifling a grin at the unexpected answer, but kept his composure, his expression stony.

Tess scowled at Oliver.

“I hope she used the moves I taught her,” Oliver said.

Tess wouldn’t be thwarted; his disregard for her threats fueling her anger. “How does it feel? Dying?”

Oliver clutched Chloe’s limp body to his chest, lowering his head in an effort to hide his emotions. He lifted her in the crook of his arm, burying his face against her neck. He inhaled a shaky breath, breathing deeply of her as he had done so many times before, the familiar, faint scent of her filling him. It was odd how that simple act could somehow send a rippling wave of comfort through him, as though now that she’d healed his body, she was still healing his soul with her essence, her nearness. “Let her go.”

His displays of affection for Chloe unnerved Tess. “So many methods of torture, ways to kill a person. The possibilities are endless. Until I grow tired of you, of course. But first, some fun is in order, wouldn’t you say? I’ve been away a long time.”

Oliver kept his face buried in Chloe’s hair. “That’s your game? That’s what you want? Your hatred for me has become this twisted?”

“I wish to watch you die. And kill your spirit. Many times over,” Tess felt emboldened now that she had his attention. She moved closer to the bed. “Every time she dies for you, you die a little inside, don’t you? Every time she heals you, it hurts doesn’t it? You’ll both get to watch each other die. It’s perfect. Thanks to the incredible ability of your lover, my wish is granted, many times over.”

Oliver lifted his head, brown eyes glistening, yet hard as they bore into Tess. “Torture me, kill me. She won’t heal me again, I won’t allow it. Game over.”

“You think she’ll listen to you? I warned her once that you were her weakness, and she your downfall. She won’t allow you to suffer if she can help it, and you know this as well as I do.” Tess, confident that she’d scored the last point, cast a glance over her shoulder at Philip, who stood silently, still slightly dumbfounded over the entire scene he had witnessed earlier. “Guard them until she wakes up. Advise me immediately when she does. I’ll be ready for the next round. Next time it won’t be as quick.” She then swept from the room, the metal door sounded heavily as it closed, an iron cage slamming with finality, imprisoning them.

Oliver didn’t notice, didn’t care that Philip stayed behind, watching. Philip had to know that he wouldn’t try to escape, not without Chloe. He didn’t care what Tess said. He’d not allow Chloe to heal him again; had to make her promise not to do it.

Time seemed to pass slowly, the long, awkward silence in the room was deafening. Oliver remained with his back against the wall, dark eyes thinned, watching from his perch on the bed. Chloe’s head and shoulders still cradled in his lap. Every so often the fingers of his free hand threaded through her hair, or drifted over her pale cheek, trailing down the side of her throat to test for her pulse, as Philip paced not ten feet in front of him. Over the past hour, Philip had alternated between sitting in the chair on the opposite wall, to pacing up and down the length of the small hospital-like room. Another hour passed. Oliver, ever watchful of him.

“So…” Philip stopped pacing momentarily, growing uncomfortable with the silence, and the hard stare of Oliver Queen. “How long does this…” he gestured toward Chloe. “Last. When does she wake up?”

“Where’d you learn to fight like that?” Oliver responded pointedly, his voice rough, ignoring Philip’s question. “Military?”

Philip didn’t answer, merely crossed his arms over his chest and leaned a shoulder against the wall.

“That was you in the house, wasn’t it?”

“Where’d you learn to fight? And shoot an arrow like that?” Philip countered.

Oliver’s expression remained unreadable; his stare frigid. “My nanny taught me,” he quipped, but there was no trace of humor in his tone, only sarcasm. “Right after she fed me with a silver spoon.”

Philip knew he wouldn’t tell the truth and wondered why he bothered asking.

Silence hung heavily in the room for another half hour.

“You were right,” Oliver said quietly, breaking the long silence.

Philip lifted his head at the sound of Oliver’s voice.

“I have to let her go.”

Philip nearly snorted. “I’m not stupid, Queen. You’re not giving her up.”

“I am. Entanglements, relationships,” he shook his head sadly. “I can’t do it. Because of who I’ve been, what I am. It was so much easier to go through women… when it meant nothing. When it didn’t hurt this much.” Oliver was quiet for a moment, and Philip wondered where he was going with this. “You were right,” he admitted sadly. “I’m just a spoiled, rich, womanizing bastard, and that’s all I’ll ever be.”

Philip wasn’t swayed.

“Look where this got me,” Oliver began once more, then gazed down ruefully at Chloe’s ashen, sleeping face. Philip watched Oliver’s fingertip trace her bottom lip as he studied her with great sadness, then outlining her features as though attempting to commit her every feature to memory. “Look what it brought her. Nothing but heartache, pain. For both of us. I can’t live with it.” Oliver lifted his head to stare ahead unseeing at the opposite wall. “I’d rather be alone, or with a different woman every night, anything than suffer though this. We’re better off without each other. And when she wakes up, I’ll tell her it’s over. If I get out of here alive, I can’t be with her. And if I don’t… it won’t matter.”

Philip’s eyes thinned suspiciously. “You can’t mean that.”

Oliver turned his head in Philip’s direction as he slipped his fingers into Chloe’s hair, caressing her scalp, then clasping a handful of the soft golden stuff in his fist. He didn’t think he’d ever get enough of touching her as long as he lived, and he didn’t know how much time he had left. He’d spend every last moment he could near her. “I do. What would you do if she were yours? Would you want this kind of life for yourself? For her? I’ve put her life in danger too many times.”

Philip’s gaze softened as his eyes traveled over Chloe’s petite form lying on the cot across Oliver’s lap, considering his words. “But….”

“I have to let her go,” Oliver interrupted. “She has to forget me. You said it yourself; she’s better off without me. And if Tess gets her wish, I’ll be dead anyway.”

As he spoke, Queen handled her tenderly and gently, yet with an ease of familiarity that only lovers shared; absently stroking her hair, her face, running fingertips down her arm. It struck Philip as something utterly possessive and intimate, and he looked away, feeling as though he were an interloper invading their privacy. Queen said he’d been right about him, he claimed it was easier not to care, easier to have meaningless flings, but Philip didn’t think Queen believed his own words. He loved Chloe, was devoted to her; Philip could see that now, and Tess was using it against him. ‘Find your enemy’s weakness’. Well, they’d certainly found Oliver Queen’s.

After another silence pervaded the room for an interminable time, Oliver finally spoke again quietly. “It depends.”

“What depends?”

“It’s different every time,” he went on. “But she feels the pain. Sometimes it’s hours. A day. Sometimes she’s slightly weakened. It depends on the severity of the injuries she’s healed. Her body needs time to recover. You could be in here all night.” Oliver stopped for a moment, swallowing harshly before he continued. “But we don’t really know everything about her ability. Any time she heals someone from near death, it could be the last.”

“She could die?”

“She could die.”

Philip lowered his head, turning away. He suddenly felt tired, and dropped down onto the chair. Unfolding himself, he stretched his legs out in front of him, crossed at the ankles. Oliver shifted his position, stretching out against the wall to lie beside Chloe on the bed meant for one, leaning on an elbow, his head resting in his hand.

“She’s… healed you before?” Philip asked.

“Even when I don’t want her to.”

“She’s stubborn.”

“That she is,” Oliver murmured, eyes caressing her face, his lips curving in a small smile as he fought the urge to press his lips to her forehead. He wouldn’t do it though, not in front of Philip. It was none of Philip’s business, and he’d shared enough of himself.

“How… how does it feel, when she does it?”

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before.” Oliver looked down at her once more. She gave him a part of herself; part of her essence filled him every time she healed. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever experienced, and he hated it. Hated what it did to her. Tess was right. Every time she healed him, it tore him up inside. His only hope, was that Chloe would awaken soon. He’d planted the seed, and hoped that his plan for Philip would work.

End Chapter 8

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Signal Fire Chapter 7

Signal Fire
Chapter 7

“Halt!” Lex called, his voice echoing in the immense mansion office. He and his partner, both dressed in white lowered their foils, handing them to two male servants standing nearby. Their weapons were replaced with water bottles and hand towels.

“You,” she smiled at him saucily as she removed her mask, auburn ponytail flipping from behind. “Are a genius.” Lex’s plan was brilliant, and she wondered why she hadn’t thought of it herself.

“Of course,” Lex removed his mask as well, and smirked just before taking a sip of water from the blue bottle. They’d been fencing, something he hadn’t done in a long time, and Tess nearly got the best of him. “And you my dear, are amazing.” Lex wiped his brow. “You’ve been studying the Flèche move. I’m amazed.”

The color in Tess’s cheeks had nothing to do with the footwork required of fencing exercises or mock duels. This man had saved her life. He’d never given up on her, and had done everything in his power to assure her complete recovery. She was forever indebted to him. “Oh yes.” Her eyes told him she understood his meaning. He wasn’t speaking of her footwork. “Flèche has become my specialty,” she purred.

“Well then,” Lex bowed gallantly before her, then took her hand brushing his lips against her knuckles. “I can’t wait to see what else you have in store.” He dismissed the servants, and when he was certain they were alone, he pulled her closer. His voice lowered to a smooth whisper. “But I want to be there when he’s revealed. I want to look into the eyes of Oliver Queen as he’s begging for mercy. Especially the first time.”

Tess’s smile grew wicked. “It will be my pleasure.”

“Take as much pleasure as you’d like, as many times as you’d like.”

“Oh, I will.”

* * * * *

Bart swiveled in the chair in front of the console in the command center beneath Queen mansion. He’d been dying to ask Ollie how he’d gotten beat up since they’d all arrived this morning, but he knew better. He wanted to know what the other guy looked like and hoped it was worse. Oliver would refuse to go to the hospital if he mentioned it, but Bart knew he was hurting. He’d come out of the changing rooms as the rest of the team arrived, wearing blue jeans, and stuffing his head and arms into a white t-shirt, wincing at the movement as he did so. They’d all seen the bandages wrapped tightly around his midsection. Oliver also sported a fresh bruise along his cheek and jaw. When they’d asked, he only said he’d tell them later. “I hate to say this Ollie, but… do you think she… you know, just left?” Bart didn’t really want to be the one to say it, but someone had to. “I mean… dude, you’ve got an entire timeline here of Oliver Queen’s bevy of babes.” Bart lifted the copy of the Star City Sentinel he’d been holding.

Oliver had been standing over Victor who worked diligently at the computer. He shot Bart a look.

Bart bowed his head sheepishly. “Sorry. I just mean…”

“I know what you mean Bart,” Oliver sighed, running a hand through his hair, he couldn’t get upset with the younger man, Bart did have a point. “I’d understand why any woman would want to leave me after seeing that, but…” Oliver’s expression turned doubtful for a moment, considering the possibility. “But… Chloe didn’t leave me.” Oliver stepped over toward the fax machine when it came to life with a hum, as an incoming fax was arriving. He lifted the piece of paper, his eyes scanning it. “Shit.”

AC lifted his head and Bart was at Oliver’s side in a split second.

“What is it?”

“Lois did some digging. Philip Cook did write the article, but that’s not all. Take a look at this.” Oliver handed the paper to Vic who read it instantly, then passed it on to AC sitting next to him.

Bart was fidgeting with curiosity. “What is it?” he repeated, zipping over to peer at the paper in AC’s hands. “Holy shit.”

All four men looked at one another.

“You think this guy’s the missing prototype from Project Ares?” Victor asked.

“He was strong, but not that strong. Not like the others,” Oliver said, lost in thought, rubbing his side gingerly. “Most of his strength was in his legs, I think…. And there’s nothing robotic about him that I can tell.”

“That’s the dude you fought? Chloe’s coworker?” AC queried, handing the fax sheet back to Victor.

“I'm not sure, but he might be. I didn't see his face,” Oliver brushed it off, reaching for another sheet as the fax came through. This one had Philip’s photograph and former military rank information included. “I knew it. Highly trained.”

Victor read the paper again. “Says here that according to military records…” he looked up. “How did Lois get a hold of this information anyway?”

It was the first time since they’d all been there, that a hint of a smile reached Oliver’s lips. “She’s got connections, remember?”

“That’s right.” Vic nodded, returning to the paper. “This Cook guy was officially listed as MIA while on a covert mission.”

“Dude is hard core,” Bart piped in. “Why would he want to take Chloe?” he wondered aloud.

“Not Philip.” Oliver answered. “Lex.”

“Cueball’s been missing for over a year,” Bart retorted. “Probably dead.”

“Missing, not dead.”

“I’ve got something…” Victor typed in a few more keys on the computer. “That company car… the license plate… it belongs to a small technologies company called Apollo Alliance. But I couldn’t find much more than that. Then I did a little more digging, and found that it was buried under a pile of corporate acquisitions, and has indirect connection to none other than Project Ares.”

“It’s Lex, there’s no doubt,” Oliver mused.

“What’s with him and Greek mythology?” AC asked.

“He should have been a classics professor,” Bart quipped, then returned his gaze to Oliver. “So now what? We still don’t know where to find Chloelicious.”

Oliver folded an arm over his chest, rubbing his chin in thought. “We keep on digging. Check out this Apollo Alliance, maybe shake those guys up a little bit, see what they can tell us.”

“We’ll do it. You stay here bro,” AC offered.

“No. I need to do this,” Oliver was firm.

It was Victor’s turn. “No offense, but you’re not exactly in the best shape right now.”

It was one of those times Oliver hated being the only member of the team without a special superhuman ability. His side hurt, he was certain he’d had bruised ribs, possibly worse, and did his best to tape himself up and ignore the pain. He looked at each of them; this team he’d assembled, and not for the first time did the irony of the situation go unnoticed by him. Physically he was the weakest of the group, the most vulnerable, and yet they followed him. Chloe told him it was because of the man he was. He had a strength about him that went beyond physical, she’d said, leadership qualities they looked up to. They respected him, were loyal to him and to each other. Oliver still couldn’t fathom it at times. “She’s my girlfriend. I’m not sitting around here doing nothing.”

“She’s our Watchtower, and you won’t be doing nothing,” AC countered. “You’ll be here, manning the fort.”

Bart spoke before Oliver could say anything. “Big Tuna’s right, boss. Let us handle this one.”

AC cast a sidelong glance at Bart. “You’ve been watching The Office reruns again, haven’t you?”

Bart waggled his brows.

Of all of them, Victor seemed to understand best, Oliver’s need to go, and feel as though he were actively doing something, anything to find Chloe. He also knew Oliver’s pride was at stake, but like the others, he knew Oliver was feeling the pain of his fight the night before, and looked as though he hadn’t slept at all. “Oliver, it’s just this once. You can sit out for just one. We’ll come back with any information we have and take it from there. You can lead the charge once we know more and have a plan.” Victor stood, placing a hand on Oliver’s shoulder, his tone then became solemn and quiet, his dark eyes meeting Oliver’s. “Chloe needs you in one piece, man. She needs you strong. If Lex is behind this, you know there’s going to be a fight. Conserve some of that energy for when we really need it, and we’re all there together.”

Oliver looked at each of them, waiting expectantly for his reply; part of him knew they were right. They knew the drill; he knew he could trust them. It was a simple recon mission, but part of him needed to be out there. He rubbed a hand tiredly over his face. “All right,” he sighed. “But you let me know what you find immediately. You move out tonight after dark.”

Even Bart had grown serious at hearing Victor’s plea. “You got it, amigo.”

They’d finished their preliminary research on Apollo Alliance, found employee records, the building blueprints, and made preparations, waiting for dark to gear up, and already gone. Oliver sat bleary-eyed at the console listening in on the comm. His cell phone rang, and he reached for it absently checking the caller ID, his eyes widening, his heart stopping at the sight of her name.

He removed the comlink earpiece, tossing it on the desk in front of him, pressing the phone to his ear in its place. “Chloe!”

“I must say, I didn’t think you two would last this long. Who’d have thought Oliver Queen would turn out to be a one woman man?” the feminine voice responded.

Oliver was suddenly wide-awake and sat upright in the chair. “Who is this?” he demanded, his heartbeat thundering, breath quickening.

“An old friend,” came the response.

There was something familiar about the voice, something that made his insides lurch, something that told him he didn’t want to know the answer to his question. “Who is this? Where’s Chloe?”

“Come now, Arrow. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten.”

Oliver swallowed, rising from the chair, a fist clenching at his side. He didn’t want to utter her name. “Tess.”

“You do remember. I’m flattered.”

“Where’s Chloe?”

“I’m fine, thanks for asking. And thanks to her blood, I’m alive and well, and better than ever.”

“Her blood? What have you done to her?” Oliver shouted into the phone.

Tess’s voice remained calm, taunting him. “Don’t worry, Archer. Nothing’s happened to your precious Ms. Sullivan. I imagine she’s sleeping right about now. Sedated and well guarded.”

Chloe attempted to heal Tess after the alien creature masquerading as Davis Bloom attacked her, resulting in her near death. But Chloe’s strength had been depleted, and the healing was only partial, leaving Tess alive but comatose for the past eight months. Oliver let loose with a string of curses, wishing he’d prevented Chloe from healing Tess at all.

“Now, now, Oliver. All is not lost. No need for such language. You do want to see her again, don’t you?”

“Damn you, Tess. I’m not playing your games. Where is she?” he ground out.

A short laugh escaped her. If he only knew the game Lex had in mind for him. A game she’d enjoy repeatedly; over and over, until she tired of it. Her voice became hard, businesslike as she spoke the words rapidly. “The Green Arrow’s presence is requested in Black Creek. I know you’re familiar with the facility. Tomorrow. Midnight. Come alone. If we suspect your cohorts are aware of your plans or anywhere nearby, we will exterminate her without thought, and leave her body in the Montana wilderness for you to pick up. Come to the main entrance of the facility. We’ll be waiting for you.”

And then the line went dead, and Oliver sank into the chair. “Tess. Hello? Tess!” Oliver closed his phone. “Bitch!” he spat, slamming his fist down onto the desk in front of him. He glanced around the room, rising once more from his seat, suddenly antsy, thoughts whirling, pacing as though not knowing what to do with himself. Tess had Chloe’s cell phone, it was proof enough for him that she was there. Forgetting all about the mission at Apollo Alliance and the rest of the team, Oliver went into the changing area of the command center to gather up his gear, and choose his weaponry.

Though it was too early, he left, knowing he couldn’t tell the team where he’d gone, calling for the private jet. He knew they’d be angry that he hadn’t thought this through, hadn’t consulted with them, but he couldn’t risk Chloe’s life. Tess was ruthless enough to kill Chloe in cold blood, and Oliver couldn’t take that chance. He slept fitfully on the flight to Montana, the pain in his side now a dull ache, waking him. He ignored it. Once landed, he had plenty of time before midnight to retrieve the building plans. He received calls from Victor, but he didn’t answer them, letting them go to voicemail. They wanted to know where he was, what had happened, what he was doing. He sent Victor a text message, then turned off his phone. When the hour grew near, he suited up in his green leathers, retrieved his motorcycle from the jet, and rode the darkened highway to the Black Creek facility. Oliver knew he was walking right into a trap, but he could think of no other way to barter with Tess for Chloe’s release. He’d offered to exchange his life for hers once before, and he’d do it again.

They were waiting for him.

Several well-armed guards were at the gate. They divested him of his bow and searched him for other weapons. Once satisfied that he posed no threat, they led him at gunpoint to the main entrance.

The double doors opened wide on the main corridor of the Black Creek facility. Oliver remembered it well; dim hallways that led to cell-like rooms for its various occupants. It was nearly empty now, but for the guards escorting him, their footsteps echoing in his ears. As they walked further, he saw her, standing with her arms folded over her chest, dressed in black, similar to that of the black fatigues the guards surrounding him wore. They stopped mere feet in front of her.

“Welcome back.”

“You’ve got what you want,” his synthesized voice responded, his face an emotionless mask behind the glasses and hood. “Let me see her, make sure she’s all right. And then you’ll let her go.”

Tess’s lips curved in a smirk. “You’ve only just arrived. This party hasn’t started yet.” She stepped closer, peering up into his face. “We should get reacquainted, don’t you think? Lots to catch up on.” She turned away from him, rounding a corner, continuing to saunter down another hallway. The guards shoved Arrow forward, following her. Tess looked over her shoulder at him, a wicked gleam in her eye. “Don’t worry, Archer. You’ll see her. I promise.”

They entered a large room, and Oliver balked upon seeing the interior; heavy chains on the cement wall opposite, various torture devices, knives and odd looking equipment nearby. Throwing himself at the nearest guard, Oliver landed several punches and well-placed kicks at anyone dressed in black. He’d started a melee in the room, pieces of equipment crashing to the floor, shouts reverberating throughout. Oliver took several severe hits as well, and already hurting from his prior injury, he was no match for them. They’d finally subdued him, the ache in his side from two nights ago became stabbing as they continued to beat and kick him, even as they tied his hands behind his back. Tess said something, taunting him once more, but it didn’t register, and he didn’t respond. One of the guards forced him up onto his knees, the cold, hard metal of a pistol pressed to his temple in warning.

And then he heard a voice he'd been longing to hear echoing from the hall, or he thought he did, he couldn’t be sure, his head mired in a fog. “Get your paws off of me! I can walk. Let me go!”

Catching his breath, Oliver lifted his head with great effort. He needed to see her. And when his eyes came into focus he saw Chloe struggling against the grasp of two men, one on either side of her. Recognition slammed him like a gale force wind at the sight of the men leading her. Philip Cook, and Lex Luthor.

They shoved her into the room. She cried out upon seeing him, and throwing her body forward in an attempt to run to him, she was caught up short as they held her back. Someone removed his hood and dark glasses, leaving him exposed.

Guards hoisted Oliver to his feet as Lex approached. The two men eyed each other. Oliver was unwilling to show any hint of the pain he was feeling, desperately trying to regain his senses, his stare remained cold. In the background, Chloe continued to struggle and shout, until Philip grasped her from behind.

“Hello Oliver. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

“Not long enough,” Oliver’s voice came, sounding like gravel, his breath hitching at the pain in his side and everywhere else, he wondered how he was able to stand by sheer will alone, refusing to show Lex any weakness. His eyes flitted briefly to Chloe, her petite form dressed in a dark brown jumpsuit. Still struggling weakly, she was pulled back against Philip Cook, his hand over her mouth, an arm around her waist. A renewed rage kindled at the sight. He didn’t want Philip touching her.

Lex’s response was a barely visible, but triumphant smile. He couldn’t help it. Before him stood an enemy, weakened both physically and mentally; his life in Lex’s hands. It was too sweet, made only sweeter by the knowledge that the Green Arrow was none other than Excelsior Academy bully and tormentor, Oliver Queen. Lex had the upper hand now, and he would enjoy every moment of the show he and Tess had in store. He thought it was too good to be true, when Tess had told him the identity of the Green Arrow. But now, seeing Oliver Queen with his own eyes, dressed in green leather he felt a sense of victory. “The Green Arrow. Who’d have thought it? I’ll admit the playboy billionaire act is quite the façade for a double life.”

“You should know.”

“Wealth does have its advantages, doesn’t it? But there are some things money just can’t buy, and this moment is one of them.”

“You’ve got what you want,” Oliver breathed. “Let Chloe go.”

“You don’t think that’s it, do you? She’s just as important to this play as you are. Quite necessary in fact. If it weren’t for her abilities, we wouldn’t have the privilege of repeat performances. ” Lex cast a glance over his shoulder at Chloe. Her eyes were wide with fear and anger. His gaze returned to Oliver. “I pull the strings now. You’ve both been terrorizing me for far too long. It’s my turn now. The Green Arrow is no more.” Lex nodded to someone behind Oliver, and he struggled as they pulled him away. Someone unzipped his green leather vest, hands removing it. Another pulled out a knife, slitting the black sleeveless t-shirt he wore beneath it, up the front; ripping the material from his body. Oliver found some strength from somewhere, lashing out as they shoved him against the cement wall attempting to fit his wrists into the cold steel manacles that hung from short, thick chains. His protests were met with a blow to the head with the butt of a guard’s pistol. Another tore the wrap of bandages from his torso, revealing a bruised area along his side. Oliver felt the warm trickle of blood down his temple, his head bobbing as they chained him against the wall, arms spread out just above shoulder height. Chloe shouted from somewhere far away, and he heard them scrambling for her as she broke Philip’s hold.

“Not yet, Chloe,” he heard Lex's smooth voice. “This isn’t where you make an entrance yet. Don’t worry though; your part in this show is coming up soon. I’m sure neither of you will disappoint us with your performances.”

End Chapter 7

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Signal Fire Chapter 6

Signal Fire
Chapter 6

"He arranged everything… set it up. The photographs… he even wrote the article for the Sentinel… it was Philip. Philip Cook. Oliver’s girlfriend works with him.”

After the words left Adriana’s lips, Oliver bolted; vanishing from her darkened bedroom soundlessly, and rappelling down the side of the apartment building. He leapt upon his motorcycle, rear wheel spinning out sideways as he took off. He tore up the darkened, sparsely inhabited road, fingers gripping the handlebars as black rage roiled, churning in his blood. He knew where Philip lived.

He had known, sensed Philip’s attraction to Chloe. But why would the man orchestrate this entire elaborate and sinister scheme simply to try and take Chloe away from him? No. There was something more going on here. As far as Oliver knew, Philip was the last person to see her. The attack last night, Chloe’s disappearance, Adriana’s admission of her role in his scheme; it all had to be connected somehow. Someone had done their homework, and it was probable that aside from Adriana’s involvement, Philip wasn’t working alone. If all of the recent events were different parts of the puzzle, then each piece had been orchestrated to cause discord between himself and Chloe, get her alone, away from him. ‘He wanted them separated,’ Adriana had said. But why? And who, aside from Philip would want to see them torn apart? Who had a vested interest in seeing Oliver Queen and Chloe Sullivan separated? So much so, that entire scathing articles, digging up the past could be printed literally overnight? Who could wield that kind of power? Who would want her taken from him? There were only two people that came to mind, and one person had been missing, presumed dead for over a year, while the other had disappeared from a hospital eight months ago.

Oliver spurned his bike onward, roaring toward his destination. He arrived in the sleepy sub-division where small, nondescript, identical tract houses snaked around winding tree-lined streets and cul-de-sacs. He cut the bike engine and rolled silently to the rear of the box-like single story house. There were no lights on, and he assumed that Philip was either asleep, or not at home. Using his night vision glasses, he peered in through darkened windows, giving one of them a shove to test it. It slid upward, and Oliver hoisted himself through, landing catlike on the carpet beneath him. Odd. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of furnishings. The room he’d landed in appeared to be an office, but the lone empty desk that occupied the room was void of any computer or papers. Having seen Chloe in action while working on a story, papers and notes strewn about, he couldn’t imagine a reporter not having at least a laptop and a file cabinet. Arrow stepped closer to the desk, noting the fine coating of dust around a clean area where a computer monitor might have been.

Oliver moved quietly through the narrow hallway, each room was the same; empty or barely furnished. The living room contained exactly one floor lamp and one couch. Barren walls, no television, no audio system, nothing to indicate that anyone lived here. The larger bedroom contained only a mattress on the floor and a dresser with empty drawers. Even the refrigerator was void of any food. No dishes or glasses in the cabinets, no silverware in any kitchen drawer. Nothing. Empty. That was it.

A bit of Oliver’s rage gave way to puzzlement as he stood in the living room once more, turning, eyes scanning for any clue. This was Philip’s house, he was sure of it.

As he turned to head back toward the office he’d first entered, he was met with a sudden teeth-jarring blow to the jaw, his head snapping back. Arrow stumbled backward, disoriented. He shook his head to regain his bearings, blinking behind dark glasses, clearing the stars in front of his eyes. He found himself face to face with a man in black military fatigues; his face covered with a black ski mask.

Oliver ducked under the next punch and threw himself forward returning the favor, smashing his fist square into the man’s covered face, causing him to falter backward. “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. Who the hell are you?” The Green Arrow’s synthesized voice demanded. Stupid question, Oliver thought. As if he’ll tell you. “You’re too late,” Oliver ducked just under the man’s right hook, dancing back lightly on the balls of his feet. “Looks like someone beat you to it; there’s nothing here to steal. Better luck next time.” The man grunted, as Arrow delivered a fisted bomb to his gut.

The man made no answer, recovered from the blow, and then proceeded to charge. Oliver moved quickly, evading the shoulder meant to drill him into the wall, and delivering a hard chop to the back of the man’s neck, his arm swooping downward, connecting brutally as he passed. The man however, deciding that Oliver was a better opponent than he’d expected, came back for more. Nearly leaping in some acrobatic move right out of a Bruce Lee movie, the man spun in mid-air, offering up an explosive roundhouse kick to the abdomen that had Oliver flying, his back slamming into the opposite wall, crashing into and knocking down the lone floor lamp.

Oliver panted; wincing at the pain as he sat slumped against the wall, thinking that the kick the man had just delivered was inhumanly powerful. He ran his tongue along the inside of his stinging cheek. “I’m looking for Philip Cook.” He held an arm against his side, vaguely wondering if he’d cracked a rib. He imagined what Chloe would do if he came home in this condition. She would ask what happened, her green eyes filled with love and brows knit with worry while she would insist stubbornly, disregarding his protests, on placing her hands over his bruised midsection. Her gentle fingertips would move over his face, soothing him, taking away his injuries and he would in turn admonish her gently for healing him, because what he hated more than anything in the world was to see her in pain; especially his. Thinking of her made him hurt in ways that had nothing to do with a cracked rib and a bruised jaw. “Friend of his, by any chance?”

The man took up a fighting stance once more. The glint of a dagger flashed in front of Arrow’s eyes, and the man made to move toward him, as if to finish him off.

Oliver rose to his feet. “Is that all you’ve got?” The Green Arrow taunted. He realized that the man had originally been feigning an inability to fight well, testing Oliver’s skills like a card shark trying to lure him in before turning the tables. Whoever he was, the man in black was a trained fighter. He also refused to speak. So that’s how it is, Oliver thought. He didn’t start this fight, but he was sure as hell going to finish it, regardless of any pain he might be feeling, because he had just enough rage in him to do it. “Come on,” he urged, offering the man a flash of an arrogant smirk. “Don’t be shy. Show me the good stuff, now.”

His opponent, breathing heavily under the ski mask went in for the kill, attempting to plunge the point of his knife into Oliver’s throat. Arrow countered it, raising his left elbow in a strike that deflected the move, and coming up with a right-handed palm-heel blow to the man’s solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him. The man’s body hunched forward as he fell back several faltering steps. Arrow followed through with a left cross to the man’s jaw, knocking him flat on his back, motionless. The dark figure seemed to be down and out, but as Arrow approached intending to remove the ski mask, a black, heavy booted foot snaked out, sweeping Arrow’s legs from under him with amazing force, giving the man in black fatigues the opportunity to collect himself, scramble up and stumble, staggering out the front door.

Oliver, sprawled on his back, rolled to his side, panting; the pain stabbing with every lung full of air he took. All his of anger, all of his fear and worry for Chloe gave him strength, and he rose to his feet in pursuit of the mysterious attacker. But when Oliver exited the door, the dark, quiet, tree-lined street was empty. He didn’t know why the man was there. Was he also looking for Philip? Did he know him? Was he part of the scheme? It was another piece of the puzzle, and his heart anguished. He was still no closer to finding the woman he loved.

* * * * *

She was lying on her back in their bed, dozing on a wispy cloud. Oliver was stroking her hair, his fingertips brushing over her forehead, trailing down her cheek as he admired her; she could almost feel his dark eyes drifting over her face, lovingly. He did that sometimes when he thought she wasn’t aware, thought she was in deep sleep. He did that sometimes to awaken her in the blue haze of pre-dawn light just before he proceeded to worship the rest of her with his hands, his lips, his body. Chloe awoke gradually. Her head felt heavy, eyelids drooping as her gaze drifted around the dimly lit room. She didn’t know how long she’d been asleep, but lifting her head inches from the pillow to peer down at herself, she noticed small bandages at the bend of her inner arms, as though someone had either injected her with something or drawn her blood, or both. She found that part odd.

“You’re safe here,” a man’s soothing voice drifted to her on cattail down. “No one will hurt you. I promise.”

Her eyelids slid closed feeling heavy, and she tried to open her eyes wider, shifting her head against the pillow. It wasn’t Oliver who had been stroking her hair, touching her face.

He smiled at her sadly; fading bruises adorning his handsome face. A healing cut on his lower lip. Chloe thought he’d looked as though he’d been in a boxing match. “Turns out you’re more amazing than I ever thought possible,” he said softly.

The warm memories of Oliver faded, replaced by the sudden flooding harsh reality of her abduction and the man standing at her bedside. Her mind still groggy, she registered the figure beside her. “Philip?” Her throat was dry and her tongue felt about twice its normal size. Chloe struggled to sit up, leaning on her elbows. It had taken her a moment to recognize him, aside from the fog in her brain; she’d never seen him dressed the way he was now. He was wearing a black long-sleeved, form-fitting t-shirt that accentuated his lean, muscular physique, black B.D.U. military pants and boots. A shoulder holster cradled a 50 calibur Magnum Desert Eagle at his side. He handed her a glass of water, and she took it, not knowing whether or not she should trust it. She eyed it momentarily, then drank it anyway, her thirst overcoming her concern. “What have you done? Where am I? Take me home now!” her voice rose weakly in panic, finally realizing that she was not in her own bed, her clothing replaced by light blue cotton pajamas, the room too clinical, too hospital-like.

He took the glass from her hand, placing it on the nightstand next to the bed. “You’re safe Chloe,” he soothed, cupping her shoulders, attempting to ease her back down onto the bed.

“Don’t touch me!”

“Okay…” he let out a sigh, removing his hands from her. “Okay.” He backed away a few steps. “Don’t be afraid of me, Chloe. It’s not what you think. Listen...”

“Where am I?” she demanded, glancing around the room frantically, regaining a bit of her senses. “And how the hell would you even begin to know what I think!” She attempted to rise up from the hospital bed, but was overcome by a wave of dizziness, too weak to do much more than sit up, her arms trembling with the effort.

“Nothing’s going to happen to you. I won’t let anyone hurt you. I’m to see to your welfare, personally.” In fact, he had requested it of Lex. He figured Lex owed him that much. He wanted to be here when Chloe awoke, he wanted to watch over her, guard her. He didn’t know how long Lex wanted to keep her, but Philip wanted to be the one assigned as her bodyguard for as long as her stay required. After this mission was over, he may not ever see her again. Not only that, but he knew she’d be angry, hate him, and any chance he may have fantasized of having with her would be null once she discovered his involvement. She’d never have him now. He must be some kind of masochist, wanting to be near a woman he could never have. Maybe that torture was justifiable penance for what he’d done to her.

Chloe ran a hand over her eyes, brushing her hair back as she did so. “Tell me what’s going on, Philip. If that’s even your real name,” she accused.

His tone remained calm, quiet. “It’s my real name.”

“Tell me,” she ordered, her voice as commanding as she could manage at the moment.

Philip sat in the chair next to her bed, reaching for her hand, grasping it gently. She pulled it away angrily, hoping her strength would return sooner than later. Wherever she was, she needed to get out of here. “Someone very important needed your talents.” He looked away for a moment, knowing she’d not allow the contact, then back at her, his ice blue eyes fringed by dark lashes were filled with intrigue and awe. “And… I never knew you could do that. Heal people.” Philip stood, taking a few steps toward the foot of the bed. He turned to her. “I mean, I’ve heard of people like you, with abilities, but… man, that’s some secret you’ve been hiding.” Something that sounded like a half-hearted laugh tinged with irony left his lips, as he shook his head. “Could’ve used you in the field…” his voice trailed off as he thought back to that fateful day when he’d lost his team, and nearly his life. “The military would love to have a secret weapon like you,” he said almost to himself. “Does Queen know about you?”

Chloe turned her head away from him. The small window was closed, dark brown curtains covering it, thin streams of light filtering through where the fabric lay slightly parted. She wondered if she could attempt to break out of it later. “Yes. He knows.”

“I figured he would.” Philip wondered why Queen had never thought to capitalize on her ability.

She glared at him; a defiant gleam in her emerald eyes. “Why are you involved?”

“I was hired to deliver you,” he said quietly, as if that explained everything.

“So, you’re not really a reporter?” Her gaze flitted to the gun at his side.

“I am. But I suppose I’m sort of a mercenary as well,” he shrugged.

She let loose a breath that was half frustration, half disbelief. “And if you needed my help, you couldn’t have asked? I had to be kidnapped?”

He shook his head. “You wouldn’t have helped him unless I brought you here.”

Distrust darkened her gaze. “You’d better stop talking in riddles and tell me what I want to know.”

“I’ve only just discovered the reason for this mission two days ago. That’s how long you’ve been here. But now it explains a lot of questions I’ve had. It’s no wonder he wanted you.”

“Two days? I’ve been here two days?”

He nodded.

She thought to ask what had happened to him, why he looked as though he’d been in a fight recently, then decided she didn’t care. “You know Oliver will be looking for me,” she said. “And believe me, you don’t know who you’re dealing with.”

Philip’s calm demeanor ruffled at the mention of the blonde billionaire and her empty threat. “I’m sure he will, unless he’s otherwise occupied. But, I’m sure we can handle him.”

Her eyes flashed. “What do you mean, otherwise occupied?” Chloe was becoming livid.

Philip smirked. “You think he won't replace you? Adriana is waiting in the wings.”

Her blood boiled, giving her strength to sit up and attempt to swing her legs over the bed. “You bastard.” Her bare feet hit the cold tile floor as she slipped from the bed, but her legs felt like jelly. What the hell had they given her?

Philip was there, his arms around her, holding her up as her legs gave way. “Easy. The sedative hasn’t worn off completely.”

“How am I supposed to use the bathroom?” She complained as he settled her back onto the bed.

“I suppose I could…”

“Like hell you are,” she interrupted, indignantly.

“Call the nurse,” he finished, a glint of mischief in his blue eyes.

With Chloe’s attempt at indignation failed by her inability to do much more than sit up in bed, she sighed, fixing the covers over herself. Even doing that much was an effort; her muscles refused to cooperate, prompting Philip to tuck her in as though she were a child. She decided to move the subject away from Oliver. She knew he’d be frantic with worry, and doing anything within his power to find her, no matter what garbage Philip tried to feed her. “You mentioned a mission. What mission?”

Philip stood over her, folding his arms over his chest. “Apparently your blood was needed to create a healing serum. My mission was to bring you to him... among other things.” Philip didn’t think it was wise to mention separating her from Oliver Queen.

Chloe gazed down at the small bandages on her arms. That’s what had happened. They’d taken her blood. She lifted her eyes to his once more. “What are you talking about? Who needed my blood? Why?”

“Thanks to you, my employer was able to restore Tess Mercer back to full health. Surprisingly, it’s as though she was never comatose for eight months. Amazing actually.”

“Your employer? Tess Mercer?” The name sent a surge of unease and dread coursing through her, but that sensation would be nothing compared to the one that overcame her at name he spoke next.

He stared at her silently for a moment, then cleared his throat. “Yes. Lex Luthor.”

End Chapter 6

A/N: Philip is my creation, and I wanted to give everyone an idea of what he looks like in my head. Picture a darker haired, blue-eyed Josh Duhamel, and you’re pretty close to the resemblance of the dude in my imagination. :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Signal Fire Chapter 5

Signal Fire
Chapter 5

Her headache had subsided considerably. But something felt wrong. About all of it. It seemed the closer she got to the airport, the more wrong it felt. The tougher, more practical side of her nature, nudged her consciousness, urging her to turn around, go back to the manor house. Chloe Sullivan had always wanted to know the who, what, when, where, why and how of everything, and now… she was running away from solving a problem, unraveling a mystery. She was leaving the man she loved. Her partner. Her best friend. It’s just for the weekend, she reassured herself as she drove, turning a corner entering the busiest section of downtown Star City. She’d be back, renewed after having been a few days away from the chaos; fresh and ready to start unraveling whatever scheme someone had been plotting.

Was the whole thing a set up as Oliver had suggested? The more she thought about it, the more it seemed likely. But who would want to cause discord between them? What would be gained by separating them? More questions swarmed in her mind. What if it were her? Would Oliver run off for the weekend, leaving her alone to deal with all of this? Guilt at her actions and her treatment of him settled in her breast. No. He wouldn’t. And yet he’d let her go. Because he loves you, and he would do anything for you, even let you go away at a time when he needs you most. He’d remained stoically quiet, and she’d tried to ignore the look of utter despair in his eyes as he leaned a shoulder against the bedroom doorframe and watched her pack her suitcase.

‘Don’t leave me,’ he’d said. His beautiful face, pinched with anxiety at the fear of losing her swam before her eyes, causing a sickening feeling of free fall just under her stomach. The only other time she’d ever seen him so emotionally vulnerable, was when he’d learned about the murders of his parents. She felt off center with the world. This was wrong. She should be seeking the truth, not running from it. Oliver Queen loved her. That was the truth, and maybe it was about time she allowed herself to believe it.

Her decision made, Chloe’s eyes darted to her rearview mirror; she then glanced over her right shoulder, making a lane change. She’d go home. It was where she belonged; Oliver Queen was where she belonged. He was her home. A sense of relief replaced her doubt; her body relaxing, telling her immediately that she’d made the right choice.

Her cell phone rang as she pulled up at a stoplight. She kept her eyes on the road, fishing around blindly in her purse on the passenger seat, retrieving it.


“Philip, what’s up?”

“I’m glad I caught you. Listen, I know this may not be the best time to talk, but I found some information about those guys from the alley last night. And, I think they may be behind all the media attention you’ve been getting. I’m telling you, they’re trying to keep us from our investigations, and I’m betting the corruption goes much deeper than we think. They’re panicking.”

“What makes you think they’re behind the story about Oliver?” Her curiosity was certainly piqued now.

“Call me crazy, but I did a little checking on the woman. Adriana? And turns out, her ex-husband was a former commissioner for the Star City Sanitation Department. One of the very groups we were investigating. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe they’re trying awfully hard to distract an up and coming Star City Gazette reporter by the name of Chloe Sullivan.”

“What are the odds of Oliver having a fling years ago with a former city department commissioner’s wife? It does sound a little shady. Too coincidental if you ask me…”

“Well, I was hoping you could meet me somewhere so that I could show you what I’ve found.”

“I’m on my way home, Phil…” she said, turning a corner back onto the main strip leading back toward the outskirts of town, and the manor house. She didn’t want to go back to the Gazette right now. It was nearing 4:00 pm, and she wanted to beat the Friday rush hour traffic.

“Just thought you’d like to get to the bottom of this. I personally think the pictures looked pretty damaging to your guy. He looks guilty to me, but I’m…. I’m just trying to be a friend, Chlo and help out, on the off-chance that he’s innocent.”

Chloe hesitated. She wanted to get home, make things right with Oliver, run to his arms, hug him, cover his face with kisses, tell him how sorry she was for wanting to run away even for a few days, instead of standing by his side. But she also wanted some lead on finding out who was responsible for this horrible scheme. Phil’s discovery almost made too much sense, if not too much coincidence. It seemed a lot of trouble to go through to take a reporter out of the investigation. Then again, if they were responsible for the attack last night, it could mean the story went much deeper than either she or Phil had originally thought, possibly involving individuals higher up in the political hierarchy. “Okay. I’m about five minutes away from that little place we get lunch from sometimes, Rosie’s Deli, can you meet me outside?”

“You got it, partner.”

“Great. I appreciate this, Phil.”

Moments later, Chloe pulled up in front of the deli. The white brick building was situated on a corner lot, the red canvas awning emblazoned with the owner’s name flapped in the gentle breeze. As she exited her car, she saw Phil in his dark overcoat peer out from along the sidewall. She smiled in greeting. “What have you got? I’d really like to make this quick, okay…?” her smile faded as she approached him.

Philip had an odd look on his face. “Hey Chloe,” he murmured, grasping her arm and pulling her just behind the wall.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s just…” He glanced around nervously, noting the passing of several people, including a Rosie’s delivery boy on a bicycle. He watched as the young man hopped off the bike locking it up in the bike stand in front of the deli. “I’m just a bit jumpy after last night. Let’s talk out of the way,” he said, leading her around the back of the building, into the alley.

The black sedan was there. “What’s going on?” Her eyes widened in panic, and she turned away, attempting a full out run.

Philip chased her, grasped her about the waist, one arm holding her up against him. “I’m sorry Chloe,” he whispered in her ear. She screamed, the sound muffled, struggling briefly as a cloth covered her nose and mouth, the oddly sweet smell invading her nostrils. Chloe felt dizzy, the world turned black, and she became boneless, melting in his arms.

Philip caught her up, handing the chloroform-tainted cloth to one of his approaching accomplices who placed it in a plastic bag. Philip gazed down at the woman in his arms, blue eyes drifting wistfully over her sweet face, peaceful in sleep, pink lips slightly parted. “Tell the boss we’ve got her.”

* * * * *

After talking to the pilot, Oliver called Chloe’s cell and got her voicemail. A sense of urgency caused every breath he breathed, and every throb of his pulse, to rock his entire being with fear. Where the hell was she? Thoughts of the attack the night before swirled in his mind. He shouldn’t have let her go alone. Victor had only found that the sedan was corporate owned, and was looking into it further when he’d spoken to him last.

An icy block of dread settled in Oliver’s chest. Immediately, he ran through the manor halls to the bookcase-covered wall in his study, pulling out a large volume and punching in a code on the keypad behind it. The wall slid away revealing one of the elevators that led to the Green Arrow room. Calling it a room however, was an understatement. At the manor house it was the Arrow sub-basement. He and Chloe had designed it together, converting the empty cavernous space. It was a huge command center spanning the entire lowest level of their home. It took months to complete, along with Bruce Wayne’s suggestions (which he’d interspersed with the occasional good-natured jab at Oliver’s inability to have an original idea of his own).

It was complete with Queen Industries satellite feeds, state-of-the-art computer databases and terminals, bathrooms with showers and changing rooms for the league and their gear, a conference room area populated with comfy couches and chairs, a big screen TV, game console, a cozy kitchen stocked with non-perishable food items, a refrigerator, microwave, a water cooler, and of course a gourmet coffee machine. She’d thought of everyone on the team. Oliver may have used some of Bruce’s ideas, but the Arrow room had something the Bat Cave didn’t: a woman’s touch. She had quipped that perhaps her codename should be changed to WatchCellar. He’d smiled, wrapped her in his arms and said that somehow, Mistress WatchCellar just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Being here without her felt wrong to Oliver, and it struck him that in the six months or so that he and Chloe had lived in the manor house, they had built much more than the Green Arrow room. They’d begun to build a life together. Her absence filled him with a sense of uneasiness that bordered on the edge of emotional chaos. He gritted his teeth, his jaw tightening, and clamped his emotions down, reaching for discipline. He booted up the systems, and after a few moments of low hums and electronic beeps, the entire room flickered to life. He pulled up the GPS, punching in some keys on the console. Seconds later, the electronic grid map of Star City loomed large on an overhead screen in front of him, a green dot blinked, indicating the location of her Yaris. She’d never made it to the airport. Oliver tapped another key, zooming in on the exact location. His brows knit, frowning. Either she’d had a sudden craving for pastrami on rye, or someone had stolen her car. He couldn’t think of why she’d be parked outside of Rosie’s Deli and nowhere near the airport. He typed in a few more codes, calling up the most recent satellite images, overlaying them on the grid. From what he could see, her car didn’t appear to be there, yet the green dot continued to blink. There was only one way to find out.

It wasn’t dark enough yet for the Green Arrow, and so Oliver, forgoing the green leather at the moment, remained dressed casually in Levis and a long-sleeved black t-shirt. He threw on his brown leather jacket, and drove to Rosie’s intending to ask if anyone had seen Chloe. When he arrived, her car was nowhere to be found, but the indicator on the portable GPS tracking device still said it was here. His blood ran cold. Someone had found and removed the device; it had to be nearby. He entered the deli, causing a hush among several patrons who’d recognized him. He ignored the stares and murmured commentary, making his way toward the counter. After waiting his turn he asked to speak to anyone who may have seen Ms. Sullivan recently. They all knew her, as she and Phil were regulars, and Chloe was a fan of the homemade soup they served. She was always friendly, talked to everyone, chatting pleasantly with anyone who happened to be working the counter. No one had seen her since Wednesday, when she’d come in last during the lunch hour. Oliver thanked them, exiting the deli. He stopped momentarily, hands resting loosely on his hips; his eyes scanned the sidewalk and the curb, then lifted searching up and down the street. He made his way to the corner, rounding it, entering the alley.

“Mr. Queen,” a young man’s voice sounded behind him.

Oliver looked over his shoulder, turning to face a shy, sandy-haired teenager. He was dressed in blue jeans and a red t-shirt, emblazoned with the white Rosie’s logo. His shaggy hair, parted to one side nearly covered his eye.

The boy swallowed nervously before speaking. “I saw her. Just for a minute. I was coming back inside after making a delivery. She was here talking to the other guy.”

Oliver’s brows furrowed in question, his eyes thinning. “What guy?”

“I dunno, that guy she comes in here with, I think they work together. Tall, dark haired dude.”

“What time was that? Did you see anything else? Or anyone else? Do you know if she left with him?”

“Um… I think it was around 4:00 o’clock? I didn’t see anyone else. Like I said I was coming back in, and just sorta saw them talking, it was just a glance really,” the boy shrugged. “But I know it was her,” the young man added, a slight blush creeping up his neck and coloring his cheeks. His eyes flitted away briefly. “She’s… kinda hard to miss.”

Oliver’s expression relaxed over the boy’s apparent crush on Chloe. “Thanks.”

The teen nodded. “I gotta get back to work,” he mumbled hastily, gesturing toward the building, and then trotting back around the corner, entering the deli once more.

Oliver walked over to his car, and drove to the Gazette building. It was just after 6:00 o’clock, and he wasn’t certain Philip would still be there on a Friday evening, but he needed to talk to him.

Once again, he’d had to ignore the stares and not so quiet words of the few people remaining in the office. He could only imagine how Chloe must have felt. He was used to most of the public attention, both good and bad, having lived with it for as long as he could remember, especially right after his parents had died. But Chloe wasn’t. She must have felt like a lamb in a den of wolves, just trying to enter the limo earlier today.

The office was relatively quiet; most were gone or readying to leave for the night. Oliver spotted Philip at his desk, packing up.

Philip, sensing someone approach, looked up, his posture stiffening upon seeing Oliver Queen. “Chloe’s not here,” he said too quickly.

“I know. I was hoping you could tell me where she was.”

“Why would I know? Shouldn’t she be with you?”

Oliver noted the defensive tone in Philip’s voice and posture. “When did you see her last?”

“Look, Queen… if you and Chloe are having problems, it’s really none of my business,” Philip said, reaching for his suit jacket on the back of his chair.

Oliver took a step forward. “When did you see her last?”

Philip slipped his arms into the jacket. He hesitated. “Last time I saw Chloe was just before she left work today.”

Oliver nodded, knowing Philip was lying. But why would he lie? “Did she say anything to you, about where she was going?”

“Just said she had a headache and needed to go home. She was pretty upset.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“Maybe she just needed to be alone for awhile, you know how women are.”

“You’d think I would, wouldn’t you? I mean, I’ve apparently had enough experience with them,” Oliver said, gesturing toward the copy of the Sentinel on the edge of Philip’s desk.

“You said it, not me.”

“I think you know where she is.”

“I think you’ve got some balls coming in here and tossing around accusations.”

“You were last person to see her.”

“You’ve got proof of that?”

“You’re hiding something. Trust me, I’ll find out what it is.”

“Is that a threat?”

Oliver’s stare was as cold as his voice. “I don’t make threats. I don’t need to.”

“Don’t think for one second that your money scares me. I know your kind. Spoiled, rich, womanizing bastard. You don’t deserve a woman like Chloe, and if she’s left you, she’s better off.”

The two men stared at one another, sizing each other up. They were about the same height and build, and Oliver reigned in the urge knock Philip on his ass. He was hiding something. Oliver wasn’t sure what exactly, but he would find out. Maybe he knew where Chloe was, maybe he didn’t, but he’d seen her as little as two hours ago at Rosie’s Deli. Though Philip’s words stung him more than he’d like to admit, he kept his outward cool demeanor and spoke with deadly calm. “Chloe didn’t leave me. And it’s not my money that you should be afraid of.” With that, Oliver left. There was one more person he had to see before he’d call the rest of the team, or involved authorities. But he’d wait until it was dark, and let the Green Arrow handle it.

* * * * *

After some digging, he’d found the apartment complex he was looking for. Now, he slid the glass balcony doors open silently, not wanting the sleeping inhabitant to awaken just yet. Moving stealthily, he entered the small bedroom, his eyes, beneath the dark glasses swept the room, noting the meager furnishings. This was certainly a change from her usual accommodations. He stepped closer to the bed. A flow of dark, silky hair contrasted starkly with the white of the pillowcase beneath her head. He took a moment to gaze at her though the night vision glasses. At one time he’d thought her beautiful, desirable. Since then, he’d discovered the truth and power of a woman’s inner beauty, and had he been a wiser man a few years ago, he’d have seen just how unattractive Adriana really was. Looking at her now, peaceful in sleep there was nothing but revulsion coiling in his gut.

He slipped a steel broadhead point arrow from the quiver on his back, aimed it at the sleeping woman, then pivoted his upper body swiftly, firing at the mirror of her dressing table. The sound of shattering glass awoke her, and she sat up in bed startled, gasping and disoriented, dark strands of hair covering her face.

The Green Arrow remained in a darkened corner of the room, watching as she slipped out from beneath the covers, wearing an oversized t-shirt. She padded barefoot toward the light switch on the wall, but before she could reach it, he was there behind her, covering her mouth. She struggled against him, her blue eyes wide in terror, whimpering behind his hand. Arrow dragged her over, and shoved her down into the chair in front of the dressing table where the array of cracked and missing pieces of glass around the embedded arrow cast her darkened reflection at odd angles, making her appear hideous.

“Make a sound, and the next one pierces your heart. Understood?” The menace in the deep, distorted voice in her ear made her shiver in fright. She breathed heavily behind his hand, struggling for air. “Do you understand?”

She nodded.

“I have a few questions for you. Answer me truthfully, and you’ll live.” Arrow slowly removed his gloved hand from her mouth.

She panted, catching her breath. “You… you’re… the Green Arrow… I thought… you were… one of the good guys.”

“I am.” He gripped the back of her hair none to gently, forcing her head back. “A person’s life is at stake, and I think you have some vital information.”

She gasped as he pulled her hair. “I don’t know anything about anyone…”

“Who put you up to the game you played with Oliver Queen?”

“I don’t… know what you’re talking about,” she breathed heavily.

“Ms. Sullivan is missing, she may be dead, and if so, you’d be an accessory to murder….”

“He wanted them separated!” she interrupted. “He didn’t say anything about murder...” A soft sob escaped her, tears began streaming down her face, and though Oliver knew he was being cruel, somehow he felt no remorse over it.

“Who?” He demanded, giving her hair a hard yank.

She began crying uncontrollably now, and Oliver released her. Her head fell forward, dark hair covering her face.


“He said… he said it was a way to get back at Queen for… for what he’d done to me. I don’t even know the woman he’s with now… it wasn’t supposed to be about her. I wanted to hurt Oliver…” her voice broke, trailing off on another sob.

“Your need for revenge has put an innocent person’s life in danger. She may be dead because of what you’ve done. Tell me now who put you up to this.”

Adriana covered her face with her hands, sobbing quietly. It took several moments before she could speak again. “He arranged everything… set it up. The photographs… he even wrote the article for the Sentinel… it was Philip. Philip Cook. Oliver’s girlfriend works with him.”

Silence hung heavily in the room for long moments, and when Adriana finally lifted her head, turning in search of the Green Arrow, he was gone.

End Chapter 5

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