"We can't hide out here forever," she murmured, leaning back into his chest.
"I don't know," he argued, "This grass is pretty long, it'd probably keep us covered if they send out a search party."
Chloe snorted, turning her eyes up to stare at him. "Oliver… We've been out here for hours…" She shook her head, confusion heavy on her face. "You should be happy right now." She poked a finger at his chest, where his black and white sweater seemed almost too thick for the warm California weather. "You start college in t-minus three days…" A grin split her face, but he could tell it wasn't as bright as usual. "You've been talking about it non-stop all summer." She rested her head back on his shoulder, relaxing into his body. "Which reminds me, I made up a recipe list for everything you can make on a hot plate… It's short and slightly disturbing, but I made it so you should appreciate it."
He chuckled faintly, hugging his arms around her, his hands sliding down her forearms and drawing them back against her body so she was enveloped in him. For a moment, he just soaked it in; or, more appropriately, he'd been doing that for the last few hours. The truth was, yeah, he'd been ecstatic when he'd graduated high school and college was on the horizon. But suddenly, yesterday, he realized something. Chloe wasn't going to college. She still had a year left of high school and he'd be leaving town and setting course for his Ivy League future. The problem was he and Chloe had been practically inseparable for just about two years now. And he didn't know why it hadn't infiltrated his brain before now, maybe it was just the excitement of getting out from under his overprotective, if well-meaning, parents' thumbs, but now that he was thinking about it, it kind of scared him.
Not the college part; he was smart and school came rather easy to him. Not even the meeting new people part, because, well, let's face it, after a lifetime in the spotlight, he was a master at charming people. It was the part where Chloe would still be in Star City and he would be somewhere else, somewhere he couldn't reach out and hug her whenever he wanted to, or kiss her, or spend hours mapping out every curvy inch of her body in the back of his car. Two years ago, Oliver had been riding the easy train of popularity and wealth. His parents, billionaire philanthropists, had raised him to be confident and friendly, but at school it seemed so much easier to let himself be praised for simply being born of their fortune rather than earn his peers respect. And then one day he met a beautiful, snarky, take no bullshit blonde that couldn't care less if he was the spawn of two billionaires or the progeny of a blue collar family.
All Chloe cared about back then was the scoop and she really didn't like that he had a tendency of tagging along when she was scoobying around Star City trying to get a fix on a good story. He'd been taken by surprise; she was spunky and she didn't want a boy, handsome or not, paying attention to her, especially not when she was trying to figure out if a local small businessman was the head of a drug ring. An enamored Oliver Queen was hard to put off though and instead of leaving her alone to her snooping, he helped her. Whether she wanted it or not, he eventually proved useful. He was quick on his feet and smart, anticipating her target's moves before they could be found out. His favorite part was helping her put the pieces of each mystery together, although she usually beat him to the punch, surprising him further with just how insanely smart she was. So it wasn't long before she was actually inviting him to tag along rather than being irritated when he appeared next to her while she was hiding in dark corners with her tape recorder.
The first time they kissed was a cover; they'd almost been found out and he decided to swoop in and press his lips against hers, wrapping his arms around her waist, in hopes that whoever stumbled upon them would think they were just a couple of horny teenagers who didn't know any better. And for a moment, he let himself get lost in it, forgetting that it was to throw the scent off them and letting himself drown in the soft feel of lips slanting and meeting his own. Luckily, their show was good enough to fool the goons who stumbled upon them. Unluckily, when the spell was broken, Chloe came to her senses and didn't speak to him for a week after the incident. It was only after a carefully orchestrated plan in which he sat on the front stoop of her house all night, telling her he wasn't going to leave until she talked to him, and waking up at 4am to her shaking him that she finally forgave him for being an idiot. They got their friendship back on track but since it was far from what he really wanted them to be, he kept pushing boundaries and buttons until she finally agreed to a date.
That date was later ruined when she caught whiff of a teenage fight club, but instead of throwing in the towel, Oliver went undercover for her and got his ass only semi-kicked while Chloe got her scoop. Cleaning him up after and bandaging up what he boasted were 'battle scars' thankfully led to their second kiss; although Chloe always called it their first, saying the one in the alley was a cover and didn't count. Oliver counted it. He also counted every brush of their fingers as holding hands and every time she called him Queen with an irritable scoff to be her unusually affectionate way of saying he'd grown on her. She still sometimes did that when he annoyed her, like when he went out of his way to buy her expensive things, many of which she often told him she didn't need, or when he got possessive and told other boys to back off, even if that kid was thirteen and only trying to ask directions to the mall's bathroom. The point being that Chloe was his world; sure, they were seventeen and eighteen years old and they still had their whole lives ahead of them, but… He couldn't imagine ever loving anybody as much as he did her. He couldn't imagine not having her in his life. Hell, he couldn't even imagine not picking up her favorite coffee order in the morning and delivering it to her so she could get her daily caffeine fix before the shakes set in.
"I could defer for a year," he said suddenly, drawing her eyes to up to his face.
"What?" She went rigid in his arms. "Oliver, no!"
He scowled irritably. "You sound like my mother."
Scoffing, she shook her head. "I don't care what I sound like…" Turning in his arms, she hiked her brows in question. "You got into an Ivy League school, and yeah, okay, half of that was probably because having the name Queen on their roster looks good, but you're also disturbingly smart."
"And here I thought I got in on my good looks and flashy charm," he quipped.
"Ollie…" She pulled away from him, her back leaning against his knee. "What's this really about?" she wondered.
His clenched his teeth, frowning as he stared at the long yellow grass that covered the hill they sat on, surrounded by tall trees. The autumn sun was warm, but the cool breeze that ruffled the grass and whistled through the branches reminded him that summer had ended and a new school year was demanding attention. Yanking out a string of grass, he started knotting it for something to put his attention on. "What happens when I'm studying my ass of in college and you're back here?" He raised a brow. "When you're not chasing down your next headline and hopefully not getting yourself killed…" His jaw ticked. "What happens to us?"
Brows furrowed, she reached out and covered his hands, stilling them where he'd tied the grass in four little knots. "I thought we agreed we'd talk every night… Email… See each other on holidays?"
"Yeah…" He swallowed thickly. "And then one of us misses the call… I'm up late studying and I forget or you're spying on the neighbor to see what weirdness he might have to offer the school newspaper and you've got your phone on vibrate… And then a week goes by and two and we don't talk… And suddenly I'm home for Christmas break and we both just kind of assumed we were done…" His mouth twisted in a scowl. "You've got some other guy trailing at your heels, begging for a date or at least a chance to see you work your journalist magic and I'm…" He shook his head. "I'm wondering when I forgot you liked extra whip on your almond mocha…"
Threading her fingers with his, she tipped her head to smile up at him gently. "You make it sound like you already know we're going to break up, not with a bang but a fizzle…" She shook her head. "I don't know about you, but I don't think that's ever been our style…" She snorted. "In fact, most of our relationship has been entirely too high energy, from chasing down stories to being chased by thugs…" Her brows furrowed. "And that unfortunate time I nearly drowned by the docks…" Her lips pursed. "Or that one time you were kidnapped and me, being the incredibly resourceful girlfriend I am, found out where you were before the cops had even broken out the jelly donuts…"
His lips twitched. "All right, so we're not the average couple…" he conceded.
"I'm not sure we're average in any sense of the word," she added wryly.
He stared at her, her long blonde hair falling loose down her front, making her purple striped turtleneck stand out a little sharper. Her bright green eyes framed with dark lashes and her cheeks flushed from the wind. She was smiling at him, just an affectionate quirk of her lips. "I don't want to lose you," he admitted, feeling his voice shake slightly. He cleared his throat and ducked his head, frowning at the ground again, feeling insecurities well up inside him.
Most of his life, he'd been handed anything he wanted. The only thing he'd really had to work for, besides his father's respect, was Chloe. She was the only person he'd ever loved and tried hard to be loved by. The thing was, sometimes he didn't get why she loved him. He knew why he loved her; the list was as long as his arm. But there were days when all he saw in the mirror was some handsome rich kid who caught all the breaks. Chloe made him feel like he was a real person; like there was more substance to him than his bank account. She made him feel like he could be himself with no strings attached; like he didn't have to put on a show or be something she expected. She just wanted Ollie. And a little bit of him was scared that she would realize she'd wasted two years on somebody who didn't deserve her.
"It's only a year…" She shook his hand to draw his eyes up to hers. "Not even, really. I mean there's Christmas and Spring Break and Easter…" She shrugged. "And really, it's not like your family jet can't whisk you back here whenever you want!" She wiggled her eyebrows. "You could visit me on Halloween… Remembrance Day… Thanksgiving…" She nodded encouragingly. "We'll practically be seeing each other once a month!"
"Remembrance Day," he said, with some amusement.
"What? We'll still show our appreciation for the troops." She rolled her eyes. "I'll wear red, white and blue when I pick you up from the airport!"
He laughed abruptly, unable to help himself from smiling. With a sigh, he drew her back in close to him and pressed his cheek against her hair. "You promise you won't trade me in for some younger, Star City resident that doesn't buy you expensive jewelry and ply you with gourmet coffee?"
"The jewelry I can do without, but the coffee?" She pursed her lips and let out a dramatic sigh. "I think I might need some young stud to bring me my usual every morning or who knows if I'll even function!"
"Yeah?" He bent his head and bit her shoulder lightly, chuckling when she reached back and slapped his arm. "You know, I could just hire somebody to bring you coffee every morning… Somebody hideous," he added. "And old…" He nodded. "And maybe they'll smell a little, just to be sure."
"I'm sure my love for coffee will overcome any disfigurements and age discrepancies, but oh, you're definitely right… I mean, if he smells even a little ripe, then the deal's off…"
He grinned. "So that's your line, huh? Hygiene."
"Mm-hmm." She nodded firmly. "As long as Quasimodo smells like…" She turned her head and buried her nose at his neck. "What is that? Sandalwood?"
He chuckled deeply, the sound reverberating in his chest. "You're cute."
"I am," she agreed cheekily.
He turned his chin down and kissed her forehead. "So a smelly man will be delivering your coffee each morning, what else?"
"Ollie…" She looked up at him, raising a brow. "Nobody is going to replace you," she assured.
"You say that now…" He wagged a finger at her. "Wait until I'm at college a few months and you don't have anybody to save you from the big bad drug dealers you keep tailing… badly, I might add."
"Oh, so they caught us twice…" She rolled her eyes. "You know, I won't learn how to tail someone if I never try!"
"You could try doing it better!" he argued, although there was humor in his voice.
"You're never going to let me live that down…" she complained, scoffing.
"No. I'm really not." He shook his head. "Even when you've got a Pulitzer under your belt, I'm still going to remind you about it… The time you left your headlights on and had them trained directly at who we were staking out. I mean, it's gotta be sleuthing 101, right?"
"Okay!" She lifted a hand to stop him. "But I'd like to point out that I was having car troubles that week… The wiring was faulty," she said.
Snorting, he told her, "No, it wasn't. You left your lights on, Professor. Just admit it!"
"I might have thought I'd turned them off and accidentally didn't…" she allowed.
His brows furrowed. "Then what'd you turn off?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. There was a switch, I thought it was the lights, it wasn't…"
"Why do I even let you drive?" he wondered, frowning. "This is why we take your car…"
"No!" she exclaimed. "We take my car because yours is way too attention getting. What do you even need with that thing? It just sits around looking shiny half the time."
"It's a collector's item," he muttered.
"Why not collect something that should just sit around looking nice, and not a vehicle that you should be driving?" She nodded. "Like maybe you could take up stamp collecting in college and put your car to good use."
"Stamp collecting?" His brow arched. "Seriously? Because that's going to make me a real hit on campus…"
"You'll be too busy studying and pining for me anyway, remember? Who cares what the rest of the campus thinks?" she teased.
"There's gotta be a balance though… Maybe I'll pine for you three days of the week, study the other three, and one night of the week I'll charm the masses?" He squeezed his arms around her. "How's that sound?"
"Or you could pine and study simultaneously, seven days a week, and only grace the masses with the odd sad face, looking like the poor, lonely college boy in desperate need of his wonderful girlfriend back home…"
"Seven days a week?" He widened his eyes and stared down at her. "Is there no reprieve? You want me to sit around weeping in my Wheaties in the morning until my Kraft Dinner at night?"
She laughed lightly. "Yes! Is that too much to ask?"
He reached for her side and tickled her under her ribs until she squirmed and shouted at him to stop, giggling all the while.
"Don't get me wrong, I'll miss you," he assured.
"From not wanting to go to 'I'll miss you, I promise'," she joked, half-smiling. "Oh, how fickle you college boys are…"
He rolled his eyes, reaching up and brushing her hair back from her neck and burying his face there. He drew her turtleneck out of the way with his crooked finger so he could get at her bare skin and pressed a few lingering kisses there. "I'd take you with me if I could… What's your last year of high school really teach you anyway?" He shrugged. "Might as well start college early; get a head start on that journalism career."
"I admire your quick thinking, but somehow I don't think any Ivy League school is going to accept me, especially when I don't have my high school diploma."
"I'm a good string puller," he assured, nibbling up her neck and behind her ear. "We can share a dorm." His teeth teased her earlobe. "Even a bed, to save space. I'll be a good roomie, I promise. And hey…" He wiggled his eyebrows. "I'm open to Naked Sundays if you are."
She laughed, turning her head to face him better. "Somehow I think we'd both fail college epically if we shared a dorm."
"Hmm…" He pressed his lips against hers. "Worth it."
Leaning into his kiss, Chloe raised her hand to cup his cheek. "You might convince me yet…" Her hand slid around to the nape of his neck, threading in his hair.
It was a few minutes before they parted and he let his chin rest on her shoulder.
"We can do this, right?" he asked her, resting his elbow on his upturned knee.
"We will do this," she promised.
He nodded, leaning back and taking a deep breath, he let his eyes fall closed. His thumb rubbed over Chloe's forearm, back and forth, soothing. He could feel her soft bangs brush against his nose, the wind ruffling her hair. She smelled like coconut shampoo.
"I love you," he said, his brows knotting. "I know we're young and everybody says your first love doesn't last… I know this year is going to be hard and it'd probably be stupid of me to defer. But I love you and I think one day we're going to look back on this and you're going to tease me about being so sentimental and worried and I'm going to bring up how you left you headlights on, because it was the one time you made a rookie mistake, and we're gonna be happy and in love and we'll defeat the odds. 'Cause you're right, we're not normal or average; we're special…" He hugged his arms around her and pressed his forehead to her temple. "So I'm going to visit on Halloween and Remembrance Day and even Kwanzaa if I can arrange it…"
He could feel her grinning, her hands running up and down and squeezing his arms.
"And we'll be good." He nodded. "So, until then, we've got three days…" He opened his eyes and stared at her. With a smirk, he asked, "How do you think we should spend them?"
Chloe grinned widely. "Well…" She turned in his arms and pushed him back against the hill, until the grass flattened beneath him. Straddling his waist, she spread her hands out over his chest and lowered her head until her lips were just a breath apart from his. "So a little birdy left me an interesting conspiracy tip that I think we should check out…" She wiggled her eyebrows back at him teasingly. "Unless you had something a little less justice-related you wanted to do?"
Laughing, he rolled them over so she was beneath him, grinning as she let out a squeal of surprise. Taking her hands, he threaded their fingers and pinned them above her head.
She smiled up at him, her eyes half-lidded. With a tilt of her chin, she asked for a kiss, and he bent to give it to her.
There was no guarantee that what they wanted would happen, that their happily ever after would be delivered despite the distance, but Oliver wanted to try; he wanted to believe that they were the exception.
A wedding in the same grassy field some years later would prove they were.