“Detroit?” Victor Stone raised an eyebrow. “You want me to go to Detroit?”
Oliver Queen sighed. Being the leader of a rag-tag group of superheroes was a nuisance at times. He readjusted the screen in front of him, where all three of his heroes looked back at him with expressions ranging from disdain to amusement. “They saw a LuthorCorp private jet flying in there last week.”
“Uh huh. And you’re sending me there to check it out while Bass Boy over there gets to see if he can find any fishy stuff in the Cayman Islands?”
“Hey, if we can’t see what Lex is doing in Metropolis without him ripping us a new one, we can at least see how he’s wiring his money,” Oliver countered.
“And if I just so happen to develop a totally enviable golden glow, don’t get too jealous, bro,” AC joked.
Bart groaned. “Listen, bro, at least you don’t have to keep tabs on Oliver’s ex-girlfriends.”
Oliver raised his hands up. “Okay, everyone. Let’s calm down. You all got your assignments based on your own individual strengths. And can we stop referring to her as my ex-girlfriend? Her name is Tess Mercer and we barely dated.”
“Yeah, because you screwed that one up just like you always do,” Bart pointed out. "You gotta learn how to love and let go, man."
Suddenly a feminine voice boomed over their communication: “Not to mention that you really need to learn how to create a secure line.”
AC looked back and forth as if the voice had come from his own location on the beach. “Dude, who was that?”
The voice returned. “How rude of me. One second.” The screen flickered and then the driven visage of Chloe Sullivan appeared. “Did you miss me, boys?”
Before Oliver could ask what the hell Chloe was doing hacking into their conference, Bart almost exploded with smarmy glee. “Chloe-licious! You’re looking as gorgeous as ever. You don’t have that lame boyfriend anymore do you?”
Chloe’s lips formed a hard line. “Oh Bart, you’re sweet. But I actually need to talk to Oliver one-on-one. Do you boys mind?”
AC shrugged. “No way. Dude, take him. I gotta get myself some rays.”
“We’ll talk again soon, Beautiful?” Bart said, winking.
Chloe smiled. “I hope so.”
Oliver shut off the other three lines of the video and focused his attention onto Chloe. “What can I do for you, Chloe?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Really? I don’t even get some pleasantries? We haven’t talked in months.”
With a roll of the eyes, Oliver smiled. “Where are my manners? How are things at the Planet?” he asked. With a pause, he added, “How is Lois?”
“Good, to both,” Chloe answered, before she gave a sharp laugh. “Okay, not so good to the first. But Lois is doing well. She works here now.”
“I know.” The words were out before he realized he had just confessed to keeping tabs on his ex. Maybe Bart was right; maybe he did have a problem.
“Of course you do.” Chloe managed a half-smile. “She misses you. You could call her, you know. She’d like that.”
“I can’t and you know I can’t,” Oliver said. “I can’t put her through that. Cutting all ties is the best for her.”
Chloe gave him her no-bullshit look. God, how did Clark ever defend against that? “She’s stronger than you think. If you give her a chance, she might surprise you.”
Oliver rubbed the back of his neck. “Now that I’ve gotten the pleasantries out of the way, I’m assuming this wasn’t meant to be a social call disparaging my character?”
Chloe shook her head. “No.” She inhaled deeply. “I—I want to help. You. Your team.”
Oliver looked at her dumbfounded. She was Clark’s girl, not his. If Clark didn’t want to be on his team, why would she? “Chloe, not that I’m not flattered, but don’t you have enough on your plate right now? Going to college, writing for the Daily Planet, watching old movies with that nerdy photographer boyfriend of yours, not to mention all the work you’re already doing saving the world with Clark?”
Her face slipped briefly, but she put it back in place before she spoke. “My grades plummeted because of my ‘extracurriculars’ and I lost my scholarship. The new editor has it in for me and I’ve been fact-checking obits for the past two weeks. Jimmy and I broke up. Again. And Clark cannot seem to be able to get far enough away from the farm to remember what responsibilities he has to the rest of the world and not just Lana.” Her voice was thin, but highly controlled. “I thought you taught him what a hero was when you were here, but give him Lana Lang in a tank top and he’s like a whimpering puppy.”
Her eyes, dark and clear, cut him off. “Let me cut to the chase. I want to make a difference, Oliver. That’s why I became a reporter. I want to help people. And if I can help you help people, then I’m willing to do whatever it takes. For a nominal fee, of course,” she added with a smile. “I do have student loans to pay off.”
Oliver hesitated. He respected Chloe and, to be quite honest, attributed most of Clark’s success to her unstoppable sleuthing and fiercely-guarded heart. But he had learned that Clark was insanely protective of his best friend and he was wary of tangling himself into the Smallville duo’s complicated relationship. “What does Clark think about this?”
Her eyes flickered down. “He doesn’t need to know.” She smiled sadly. “I don’t like keeping secrets from Clark, but if he’s not going to save the world, then I will. I’m not just his sidekick.”
Oliver looked straight at her, eyes unblinking. “Chloe Sullivan, you are never anyone’s sidekick. You’re a force to be reckoned with.”
She held his gaze. “I agree. So do you agree to my terms?”
He thought for an instant he saw Lois behind her eyes—all steely bravado and boisterousness—but that wasn’t it. It was something uniquely Chloe Sullivan: that inner strength that made you believe that she could fix anything, whether it be a hard drive, a headline, or a heart. “If I don’t, I expect you’ll tear down Queen Industries computer by computer with that infallible wit?”
The corner of her lips curled up just so. “Hacking into a video chat doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I can do.”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “As it so happens, I could use your help. Ever since Lex bought the Planet, I’ve been needing an inside man to intercept communiqués. Interested?”
She grinned widely, tongue on teeth. “Watchtower is officially back online.” She leaned toward the screen, her eyes bright. “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship, Oliver.”
Everything about her glowed and in the light of her eyes, he couldn’t help but smile back. “Likewise.”