He wasn’t surprised to find her still at the party. Or rather, at what was left of the party, which wasn’t much. The only other people he saw were employees who were cleaning up. She, on the other hand, sat cross-legged on a stool at the bar, sipping on a fancy red drink of some kind, a tiny umbrella in it. Raising his eyebrows a little, he held his breath as he headed toward her with the small box in his hand, silver and green ribbons tied in a neat bow on top.
She felt him approaching her rather than saw him, “hey, you came back?” She asked, surprised and smiled lazily.
He smiled back, nodding. “Took care of the problem at QI, decided to see if you were still here. Even remembered your gift this time.”
“I’m afraid you’re too late,” she said, smirking a little as she sipped on her drink, “gift opening time is already over.”
Oliver cocked his head to the side. “You won’t accept one more?”
“I suppose I can make an exception,” she said, setting her drink down and reaching for the box.
He smiled faintly, handing it out to her as he leaned against the bar, ordering a drink for himself from the wary bartender.
She pulled on the ribbon and opened the box, arching her eyebrows when she saw a small, black earpiece. She glanced over at him and cocked her head a little.
Oliver held his breath for a moment. “I have a proposal for you,” he admitted.
“I guessed as much,” she said, placing the cover back on the box.
He pursed his lips. “I have a solution to your lament about Isis.” He gazed at her intently. “Come work with the team. Full time.”
“I don’t know, Oliver...” she sighed a little, taking another sip of her drink.
His face fell a little, but he took a drink of his own. “Okay. Well, there’s no pressure. The offer won’t expire.” His voice was quiet.
Chloe watched him for a moment then took a deep breath, focusing on her drink, “as I’m sure you could tell from my speech earlier, my life is kind of a mess right now.”
A faint, wry smile touched his mouth and he looked down. “Yeah. I know the feeling,” he admitted.
“I just think I might need something a little less... unusual for a while. Something where people’s lives don’t depend on me.” She murmured, looking down then finishing off her drink.
He was quiet for a moment. “If it helps at all, there’s no one I’d trust more with my life at this point,” he said softly.
She looked over at him and smiled sadly, then shook her head, “then you are in a really bad shape.”
“I don’t think so.” He gazed at her, then finished off his own drink and set it down on the bar. “What do you say I take you home?”
Chloe pursed her lips together and looked at him for a moment, watching him before nodding slightly, “no reason to stick around, right?” She said, pushing herself down from the stool and swaying slightly.
His eyes widened just a little and he shifted closer, winding an arm around her waist. “Easy there, Sidekick. How much did you have to drink?”
“Not much, I thought,” she frowned, looking at her empty glass even as she leaned against him sideways.
“Maybe it had more alcohol and less fruit than it looked like,” he suggested, glancing down at her as he rested his hand on her hip to keep her upright.
“Yeah,” she murmured, looking down at his hand on her hip then up at him.
“Well, it’s all right. I’ll get you home safe,” he assured her with a soft smile as he met her eyes.
“My hero,” she smirked, reaching for the box he had given her then looking up at him again, “can’t forget my gift.”
“Yeah, about that...your real gift is in the car.” He led her toward the door.
“What is that?” She asked, frowning curiously.
“Something you can use whether you take the job proposal or not.” He winked at her.
“So, you bring the gift about joining your secret club out in public, but leave the other gift in the car?” She grinned, turning to look up at him.
Oliver paused, considering that. “Okay, probably not my best choice.”
She shook her head and wrapped her arm around his back, “thanks for coming back.”
“Just glad I could,” he admitted, leading her outside and toward his car.
“Have you heard from Clark and Bart?” She asked, her voice lower.
“Yeah, Bart checked in a little while ago. They’re almost done,” he told her.
“Oh,” she nodded, holding her breath, “good.”
He hit the unlock button on his car remote, then moved over and opened the passenger side door for her. On the seat lay a medium-sized box wrapped in green paper with a silver bow, and a small round chocolate cake that said “Happy Birthday, Chloe” on the icing.
She looked down and her face softened when she saw the cake, “you got me a cake?” She asked, turning to face him, smiling a little.
“Yeah.” He smiled back without hesitation. “I know there was one at the party, but it wasn’t chocolate, so I thought you’d like this one.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly, hesitating before stepping closer and giving him a hug.
He was caught off guard for a second, but he hugged her back. “You’re welcome,” he said softly.
She hugged him a little tighter then let go, looking up at him, “you’re a good friend, Ollie.”
Guilt swept over him at her words. No, he really wasn’t. “So are you,” he told her. At least that was true.
Chloe cocked her head, watching him for a moment before turning to get into the car again.
“Don’t forget the present,” he said softly, moving around toward the driver’s side.
She managed to settle with the cake on her lap, even if her head was spinning by now, but waited for him before she could open the other gift.
He slid into the driver’s side and stuck the key in the ignition, reaching out and taking the cake from her so she could open the gift.
“Thanks.” She told him, before ripping the paper and cocking her head when she saw green leather, confused she pulled the gift all the way from the wrapping paper and smiled, arching her eyebrows, “a green leather jacket?”
“It just looked like something you’d like,” he said innocently, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning.
“Like something you’d like,” she corrected him, smiling and shaking her head, “it’s really soft.”
“You don’t like it?”
“I do,” she said sincerely, turning to look at him, “it’s beautiful.”
He relaxed a little. “It’ll bring out those green eyes of yours.” He smiled and winked at her.
She held her breath a little and nodded, looking down at the jacket, “you really didn’t have to go through all this trouble, Ollie.”
“It wasn’t any trouble, Chloe,” he said honestly. He was quiet for a moment, waiting for the car to warm up as he watched her. “I don’t have a lot of actual friends, but I consider you to be one of the few. I wanted to do something special for your birthday.”
Her face softened at that and she nodded slightly, watching him, “thank you,” she whispered.
“You’re welcome,” he said softly, handing the cake to her so he could drive.
She took it and adjusted it on her lap once more, “you can take me to Isis,” she said quietly, “no need to drive all the way back to Smallville.”
“There are no beds at Isis,” he pointed out, raising his eyebrows. “And I don’t mind the drive.”
“But it’s really long,” she sighed softly, adjusting against the seat and leaning her head back, “you must be tired.”
A smile tugged at his mouth. “Not really. And the company’s good.”
She cocked her head to look at him, forcing her eyes open wider, “I don’t know how much company I will be,” she admitted tiredly.
He glanced at her sideways. “That’s okay.” He shifted the car into gear.
“Why did you come back?” She asked, sliding down against the seat.
Oliver paused. “It’s your birthday,” he said softly.
“Just another year.” She sighed softly.
He swallowed hard at that, guilt tugging at him once more, then he reached over and gave her arm a light squeeze.
She looked down at his hand then back at him, taking a deep breath then finally letting her eyes close.
He drew in a breath and let it out slowly, glancing over at her as she began to doze off, and then putting his hand back on the steering wheel once more. It was going to be a long drive to Smallville.
* * *
A little over two hours later, Oliver opened the passenger side door of his car and gently slid an arm beneath her legs, picking her up and cradling her against his chest. He’d already unlocked the Talon’s apartment door and brought in the cake and the jacket he’d got her. Now all that was left was making sure she got in safely.
Chloe made a quiet noise and wrapped her arms around his neck loosely, sighing deeply as she rested her head against his shoulder.
He smiled faintly, carrying her inside the Talon and up the stairs slowly, trying not to jostle her and wake her up. He made his way into her apartment once more, carrying her toward the bed and then gently laying her down. “Sweet dreams,” he whispered, pulling the covers up to her chin.
“Ollie?” She whispered, holding his hand.
He paused, looking down at their hands and then shifting his gaze to her face. “Yeah?”
“Thank you,” she murmured, squeezing his hand a little as she hugged it to her.
He held his breath. “You’re welcome,” he whispered.
Chloe sighed deeply, her eyes closing once more and then she relaxed against the pillow.
He gazed down at her for a moment, a soft smile touching his mouth, then he turned and headed for the door. He had a long drive ahead before he was going to be able to sleep that night.
She opened her eyes again, watching him for a moment, her eyes glowing red before closing once more.