Title: For Richer or Poorer
Spoiler(s): Season 6 - Arrow
Word Count: 3,787
Summary: (AU) Oliver Queen, former journalist and current computer specialist, has met his match in Chloe Sullivan, billionaire CEO and secret leather-wearing vigilante...
So when Oliver offered to be Martha's date for Lex Luthor's Dark Thursday benefit, he thought he was just doing Clark a favor. It had taken too long for his best friend to get up the gumption to finally try and date Lois, Oliver's outgoing and somewhat crazy cousin. They'd been dancing around each other for a couple years now and Oliver was just giving them the extra shove they needed to cement their already obvious relationship. Besides, Martha was like a mother to him and he enjoyed her company. Although, the politics were getting old and having to explain that no, he was not an escort, had also lost its original amusement.
"Ollie, you don't have to stay here and play protector… Go out and mingle, find someone your own age," Martha encouraged, righting his tie for him.
"These people are sharks, Mrs. K… I don't know how you put up with them."
"Prolonged exposure," she joked, grinning. "Besides, Lionel's probably around here and you know he was hoping to introduce me to a few other benefactors."
Oliver's mouth pursed, his eyes becoming hooded.
"Don't give me that look…" She sighed. "Between you and Clark, I'm surprised Lionel even bothers coming around to see me." She clucked her tongue. "Your mutual dislike has been noted, all right?"
He half-rolled his eyes. "While I don't see what you see in him, I'm withholding my opinion, okay?"
She smiled. "You know, Oliver, money doesn't make or break a person."
"It influences them," he argued.
She shook her head. "Sometimes for the better and not always for the worst."
He sighed, eyes cutting left and right, taking in the diamonds and sweeping gowns and the tailor-made tuxedos. Without even meaning to, his eyes searched for a familiar bald head and he muttered in reply, "In my experience, I can't say I'd agree."
"I'll admit that neither Lex nor Lionel have been the greatest role models for that, but…" She shook her head earnestly. "You can't assume everybody is the same. Some people do great things with their money."
He scoffed. "And most horde it for themselves."
"I disagree." Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "There are at least a handful of people here who are willing to give me money to get me a seat as a United States Senator… That's giving."
He couldn't be sure if this was a rarely seen gullible side of Martha or if she truly believed these people were that helpful. "Not if they're hoping their money will somehow influence you to help them…" he replied, lips pursing.
Shaking her head, she reached up to pat his cheek in a motherly fashion. "You're too jaded for your age."
He quirked a brow. "I'm just jaded enough."
She laughed and he thought she may be the only woman in the room who didn't Botox away her laugh lines; it made her all the more genuine and beautiful in his books. "And you argue too much."
He grinned. "I won't fight with you on that one."
"A miracle!" she teased.
He nodded. "Okay, point out one rich humanitarian and I bet I'll find something wrong with them."
"Just one?" Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
He smirked. "One."
"Okay…" She scanned the room, eyes flowing over face after face. She'd done her homework, making sure she knew most everyone, and so she also knew just who to avoid. While Oliver's opinion was skewed, he did make a point. There were people out there who thought more of themselves than others and when they had the money to do so, it wasn't always their first concern to share it. But for such a young, bright man to think so little of people just because of their monetary stature in life was unfortunate. He was better than that and though she knew it mostly stemmed from a less than stellar friendship with Lex Luthor and his many mistakes over the years, she wanted to change his mind.
And that was when she saw her. The perfect candidate to prove her point.
"There." She looked up at Oliver. "Charitable, intelligent, sweet…" She smiled knowingly. "I dare you to find one thing wrong."
Martha pointed her out in the crowd, waiting for recognition to dawn on Oliver's face as his eyes searched and then found her.
"Which one are you—" He cut himself off, brow furrowing and then softening as he simply stared a moment.
The picture of poise, somehow looking both gentle and utterly confident, Chloe Ann Sullivan stood in the center of the room, her blonde hair falling in attractive waves around her heart-shaped face. She smiled brightly, laughing with rich humor, her green eyes sparkling. She seemed to have everyone around her enthralled with her every word, but it was her expression that he envied. Carefree, open, friendly and warm; she looked the picture of relaxed in an atmosphere that made his skin crawl. While before he'd wanted to tug at his collar and express his dislike for its claustrophobic feel, setting eyes on her made him feel like he'd misjudged the situation.
"Who is she?" Oliver wondered, his voice taking on a decidedly rough tone.
"Her name is Chloe. She's from Star City, California. Billionaire CEO of Sullivan Inc." She smirked up at him. "She rebuilt the Children's Hospital with charity work and paid nearly half the proceeds out of her own pocket. She's got her hand in just about every charity around and she never complains. Her company manufactures every technology based thing you can think of with only green products. And she just agreed to endorse me last week." Reaching over, she patted his shoulder rather smugly. "Now prove me wrong." Giving him a slight shove, she stood back and watched.
Licking his lips, Oliver glanced back at her once before walking toward the beautiful blonde billionaire, stiffening his shoulders in resolve.
Martha smiled to herself.
This was going to be fun.
Oliver considered the accidental bump to get her attention but then decided he wasn't so lame. True, the majority of his time was spent with ones and zeroes and traveling the information highway rather than charming the masses, but he wasn't without game entirely. Especially when compared to his often clumsy and too wholesome best friend. And then maybe not so much when compared to Lois, an overzealous ready-for-anything type who overshadowed what confidence he had even on his best day. But Lois wasn't there and he imagined if she were she would only make things much more difficult for him; introducing him as her lovesick cousin out to grovel at the billionaire's pedicured feet. He waited until she was alone, her many rich acquaintances separating and moving on to another point of interest. Before another wave of people could get to her before he could, he crossed the room confidently.
The closer he got, the prettier she became. Her eyes weren't just green; they were every shade of green imaginable, swirling together and brighter than he thought possible. Her skin was pale, with a pink flush to her cheeks that he was almost sure wasn't manufactured from make-up. She looked soft, her blonde hair tumbling down her neck and curling faintly, gently, and his fingers twitched like they wanted to reach out and bury themselves there. She was beautiful, natural, in a way he never expected to find at some overindulgent Luthor party. But with every step, despite the sudden desire to forget all about any stupid bet, he became more and more certain that she would prove her true colors in no time at all. Especially when she didn't recognize him and found he was just a regular guy who enjoyed computers more than the Average Joe and lived on an inhuman amount of coffee.
A former journalist, he would no doubt rub her the wrong way from the get-go, making her feel on-guard. If it wasn't for the fact that journalism had long-ago lost its shine when his one-too-many run ins with meteor freaks meant his writing had a decidedly strange tilt to it, he might be scouring the crowd for a good piece right now. Instead, he ran his own computer security company, making sure anybody with his kind of skills wouldn't get at the information his high-end customers needed kept secret. If he created a back door to certain computers so he himself could keep an eye on the less than scrupulous, he was only doing the world a small favor.
When she turned, his stomach dropped out. Her eyes met his and for a second he felt like he was back in junior high and the prettiest girl in his class had just told him he was cute. He almost felt bad for teasing Clark during his whole Lana phase if this was even half of what he went through on a daily basis.
Every single thing he'd thought to say left his mind in a rush. It was just empty air space in his mind for all of three very long seconds and then, "Hi."
Wow. And he thought he was smart. Somewhere out there, Lois Lane was laughing her ass off at him and wishing somebody had caught this on tape.
She smiled slowly, lips curling with faint amusement. "Hi," she returned.
"Uh, Oliver… I-I'm Oliver Queen…" He shook his head, laughing to himself. And that was definitely a blush filling his cheeks in the most unflattering way. "And I'm not usually this lost for words."
She tipped her head. "Should I be flattered?"
He ducked his head slightly, grinning. "It'd be appreciated."
She chuckled. "Then I am." She held her hand out to him. "Chloe Sullivan."
He took it, surprised when her grip was strong rather than the limp-wristed shake he'd been getting from every other woman in the room.
"So…" He crossed his arms behind his back, partly because he wanted to hold onto her hand much longer than appropriate. "I heard you were giving your support to Martha Kent… Any reason she struck you as the right candidate?"
Her lips pursed to hide her smile. "Reporter?" she asked knowingly.
"Former." He waited for her to brush him off with a go-to answer, or even make up an excuse that she'd just seen somebody else she knew.
She nodded and then stared at him a moment as if to reassure herself of something. "To be honest, when I first approached her it was mostly because if a Luthor has his hand in something, it's not likely to turn out right. Having him stand behind a Senator said a lot of things to me and none of them were good." She shrugged slightly. "I wanted to meet Martha personally, gauge her outside of Lionel, and when we got to talking I realized I liked her and what she stood for. So maybe he hasn't contaminated her just yet."
Surprised, he stared at her wide-eyed for a moment. "Did I just hear you right?"
Smiling, she reached up and smoothed the fabric tucked in his breast pocket. He swallowed thickly, finding himself disappointed when her hand left his person. "A little tip, Oliver… It's always a good idea to keep an eye on your enemies…" She arched a brow. "It's knowing who your enemies are that takes some time to figure out."
He pursed his lips; not sure if he was impressed or annoyed. "You knew why I came over."
She looked up at him, gaze wide and open. "I knew you expected something when you came over… Everyone does."
"Is this where I feel sorry for the beautiful rich girl?" he scoffed under his breath, eyes darting away.
"Should I feel sorry for the handsome poor boy?" she returned just as easily.
His jaw ticked.
"We make of ourselves what we want. And everybody else makes of us what they want…" She shook her head. "Tell Martha I said hello and I look forward to working with her on the campaign…" She smiled to herself. "Have a nice night, Oliver." With that, she left, speaking briefly to a few other people as she walked smoothly from the room. Graceful, elegant, she made everybody feel as though they were interesting while she made her getaway like some ethereal being they were lucky to have seen at all.
Eyes narrowed, he followed after her. He wasn't about to let her get away without getting some answers. He told Martha he would figure out what Chloe's real game was, what made her just like any other billionaire out there, and he hadn't gotten what he wanted. He took the velvet lined stairs leading down from the ballroom two at a time. But as he stepped out into the night, the cool air hitting him like ice, she was driving away in a town car, a gloved hand sliding out the window to wave goodbye as if she expected him to be there.
Cursing under his breath, he checked the license plate, memorized it, and vowed to find out every dark little secret Chloe Sullivan ever had.
Like she said, it was a good idea to keep an eye on his enemies and while she wasn't yet up there with the Luthors, he was sure he would uncover something that would get her there.
Chloe Sullivan was intrigued. In her line of work, especially that outside of Sullivan Inc, she had met less than a handful of people who managed to catch her attention.
The first was Bart Allen; a boy who had his fair share of run-ins with the law. She'd stumbled upon him helping himself to a free meal one day and after he showed off a little, she couldn't help but think that those super-speeding powers of his could be put to better use. Setting him up with his own apartment, a whole lot of video games, and the opportunity to give back to the world, Chloe invited the first person into her one-woman army for justice.
Bart was a flirt and he often tried, pointlessly, to convince her that she was his one true soul mate, but he was loyal and he had a big heart. Admittedly, he could easily eat away her billions in a few short weeks, but with a food budget in place and a promise to always take care of him, they were fast friends and even closer allies. They both knew that he would never return to his previous life of five-finger discounts, not when he looked at her and saw family. The kind that would never turn their back on him and always had a hand out to help him along. He was young and impulsive, but he was also the best guy to have on her speed dial at any given moment. He'd saved her more than a few times from a few very deadly pinches.
Her second recruitment was Victor Stone; a man scorned by Lex Luthor and his Frankenstein complex. With his body more computer than human, his family dead, and his future uncertain, Victor's life had taken a turn for the worse. Chloe happened upon him on the dark, empty streets of Star City, reeking of depression and alcohol. With a little persuasion, she convinced him she was nothing like Lex and offered him the chance to stop the Luthors once and for all. It would take time and energy and a whole lot of heroics, but she pitched her dream team of crime fighting and a spark lit up in him, like she'd handed him the ability to save himself and the world all in one shot. He was her resident tech geek; there wasn't anything computer related that Victor couldn't crack and she relied on those skills often. She trusted him with her life.
Her third and last member was Arthur "AC" Curry; a man whose very life depended on water. She'd met him during a trip to Japan where he'd been all too close to ending up in a thousand little tuna cans. While he needed to be watered often, she could safely say he was a great asset to her team. His abilities included breathing underwater, swimming at superspeed, enhanced strength and durability, hydrokinesis, the ability to speak with marine life, and, as long as he touched water, he could heal himself. Though not all of their missions included h2o, he was still stronger than the average human and as loyal to the cause as any one of them.
Being on a team full of testosterone probably should have discouraged her from the get-go, but she loved her boys like they were her family and she'd happily do anything for them. To her, AC, Bart and Victor were her brothers, and not just in arms. But the man she met tonight gave her no sibling-like feelings at all. Oliver Queen didn't strike one familial chord inside of her, no. Instead, he lit up a whole other, often ignored, part of her. She could almost hear Bart teasing her for having a libido when so often she'd turned down his playful advances. While she regarded him with sisterly affection, her short speedster had a very unbrotherly crush on her. And she suddenly felt bad for him if the attraction he felt for her was even half as hot as the one she'd recently acquired for Oliver Queen.
Admittedly, the outward package was very nice. All chiseled jaw and striking features, he was a tall, lithe drink of water. Muscular while not being bulky, she was sure his suit hid a nicely shaped body he'd probably spent a good portion of time sculpting. It paid off. Brown eyes and a dazzling smile certainly added to his list of assets and while she wasn't used to her base desires rearing their ugly head, she'd certainly felt his gaze raking along her like fingers dancing up her spine. But just as quickly as he'd made her stomach warm, he'd kicked her brain into gear. His very approach, almost predatory in gait, told her this was no regular social call. She'd already heard from various business acquaintances that Martha Kent had arrived with a young, handsome suitor, but she knew immediately from the motherly gaze Martha sent after him and the amused tilt of her smile that they were only friends.
She had been surprised when he stuttered, seeming at a loss for words. At first, she thought perhaps it was a ploy; it wouldn't be the first time a guy had tried the sweet, naïve act on her, hoping to get his fingers on her platinum card. But the flush that filled his face was genuine and the dislike he held for it was all too honest. Still, she knew something was different about him; he wasn't approaching her for a meet and greet, and she knew quickly that he was not the average Joe. A former reporter with a dislike for money; new, old, as long as it was abundant. She was tempted at first to simply let his bias lie, but then where was the fun in that?
Chloe prided herself on being different. She may have billions of dollars and opportunities that very few could boast of, but she also didn't take it for granted. Having lost her parents when she was young, she had taken every precaution to make their loss mean something. And maybe they wouldn't have wanted her to put herself in danger's way, but she had to believe they would be proud of what she was doing and why she was doing it. The world was not a safe place, too often it was clouded with the darkness inside people's souls, and she only wanted to give back and save what little humanity still had to offer.
Oliver Queen hadn't been a part of the equation. She imagined it was just her heroic sensibility kicking in, however. If she couldn't save him in a back alley like she did many others, than she could at least enlighten him to the fact that though the world often appeared so, it was not in fact black and white. There were other shades, explanations one might not expect or approve of, and while he might see the poor as good and the rich as evil, she knew firsthand that it wasn't always so. Yes, there was evil in money; the Luthors were a prime example. But she'd run into just as many thugs with little to no money, looking for a quick dime with a knife and little conscience.
When she left that night, she hoped he learned something or at least that the seed of wonder was planted. Sitting in the luxury of her towncar, she raised a hand out the window in a bid farewell, but even she could admit that there was something stirring inside her, some hope that they might meet again. It would be smart to lay it to rest, to forget all about the man who caught her attention like few others ever had. She lived a life full of mystery and danger and she didn't need him involved with that.
Standing in her high-rise apartment, her Chanel dress discarded, she peered out her window at the Metropolis cityscape. Soon, she would have to dress in her leathers and scour the streets for evil in all its forms; lurking in back alleys or making business deals in designer suits. While many might expect her to fall asleep in her Egyptian cotton sheets, little to no worries on her mind, she had a double life that wore her down and demanded her attention. There was no time to daydream about dark brown eyes piercing her or running her fingers through tousled blond hair. She couldn't spend what little downtime she had chasing fanciful notions of a small town man with preconceived expectations of her. She wasn't just any woman and she didn't lead a normal life. She already had three men vying for her attention and she couldn't spare any of it for Oliver Queen.
It didn't stop her from sighing with remorse over the loss of something that never had the chance to start. She left her window and with it the hope of a love life, walking quickly and confidently to her secret room. She would dress in her custom green leather outfit and strap on her many bows, arrows and trinkets, and she'd go out and do what she was meant to; save people.
If saving herself was last on her list, she imagined it was fitting. What real hero thought of herself or her heart before others?
Not a very good one.