Oliver tried to block out the voices of Laurel and Felicity as he was working up a sweat on the salmon ladder. Yes, it was great that Laurel knew about him now, about who he was, but he already had one girl that gawked at him at every opportunity that would arise and he had been thinking about kicking them out when he was going to work out.
They made him feel uneasy, like a piece of meat, not to mention he was losing his focus whenever they spoke up. Working out was what kept him alive. They should stop.
He let go of the rod and jumped down before he turned to the girls. “Don’t you two have something better to do? Like, I don’t know… Shopping?”
“No, no, we’re good,” Laurel said with a nod as she relaxed in her chair and opened a packet of chips. “I mean… wow, Ollie. I knew you were in great shape but…”
Oliver grabbed his water bottle and stared the girls down as he drank. He really wasn’t in the mood for whatever game they were up to that day. Why did it ever cross his mind that it was a good idea to have two non-males on the team? No, his ex-girlfriend and the girl who fancied him? Why? Was he that stupid?
“Oh, I see a certain crease forming on his forehead…” Laurel mused, pointing at Oliver, not at the least intimidated by his stare. She’d been on the receiving end of that look even before she knew that he was the vigilante and she really was not impressed. Sure, he had perfected the stare when he was away, but she was never fazed by it. “He’s in a bad mood,” she announced as she popped a chip into her mouth and started munched.
“Yeah, it’s usually best to stay out of his way when he’s like this,” Felicity whispered in Laurel’s ear before smiling at Oliver and making her way past him towards her computer station. She sat down with her back towards him and started to reply to some emails. She had received one of Barry the night before and she hadn’t really known what to write back, but she was going to force herself to write something at least, so that Oliver wouldn’t take out his bad mood on her.
“Grumpy cat,” Laurel said, sticking her tongue out to her friend and continued to eat her snack.
“Don’t you have some work to do?” Oliver put his bottle back on the workspace and reached for the rod on the salmon ladder.
“No. Dad and I are preparing for the arrival of his cousin Charlie and Charlie’s daughter Bella. You remember her, don’t you?”
He looked at Laurel for a moment as he hung from the rod and then shook his head. “I don’t think I do.” He swung his legs for a bit, getting some momentum and climbed up.
“Are you sure?” Laurel said with a smile and crossed her legs over each other as she watched him work the ladder. “We used to play pirates, you, me, Sara, Bella, Tommy…”
Oliver grunted and climbed another level on the ladder. Hearing Tommy’s name, remembering him, still hurt – especially when the name came from Laurel’s mouth. Yeah, he remembered playing pirates as a kid, he just couldn’t recall that Bella had been present. Oliver was always the a random character where Sara was the captain and Tommy was the hero that saved Laurel, the damsel in distress. Oliver was always the first to walk the plank.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said as he jumped down and took the rod with him, he was going to start all over.
“Wait, you played pirates?” Felicity grinned as she swung around in her chair and beamed up to him from his chair. “Oliver Queen, playing children’s games?”
“I was a child once too, Felicity.” He gestured that she had to turn around again and he could see the disappointment in her face. He loved her enthusiasm, he really did but he didn’t understand it most times. Placing the rod on the first bar, he started to pull himself up a few times. “What’s there to arrange then?”
“Oh, you know. Making sure their new house is all clean and stuff and ready for them to move in. Supervisor kind of work, to be honest, mostly on their new building. Bella paid for everything.”
“Wow, she must be rich,” he grunted as he paid half attention to her story.
“Well… she has her own company that’s doing well so yeah…” Laurel said as she put a handful of chips in her mouth, looking like a deer caught in headlights and alarm bells started to ring in Oliver’s head.
“What aren’t you telling me?” He jumped down again and grabbed a towel to dry himself off.
“Wait, is Isabella Swan your cousin?” Felicity said in awe. “She’s this kickass, no-nonsense woman who started her own security firm and has helped rebuild countless of towns and-”
“Laurel!” Oliver shouted as he glared at her.
“Look,” Laurel sighed. “I know that we have an excellent police department, but they can use a little help, you know? Starling City is still not a safe place to be and you can’t do everything by yourself, Ollie. Do you want to be called for a prisoner transport while there’s another superhuman running amok?”
“So now I have to be aware of more people when I’m out there? Thanks, Laurel,” Oliver said grumpily and pulled on his t-shirt before making his way upstairs. Despite the basement at Verdant being back to normal, the club itself was a giant mess. If he didn’t get the chance to work out downstairs, a little bit of dragging shit across the space would do the trick.
He wasn’t angry, really. Grumpy, quite. He hadn’t been sleeping well lately as he had so many things going on around him; Verdant, Queen Consolidated, people idolizing the Hood for saving the city from the Mirakuru’ed criminals, and getting Slade out of the way. On his way down to the club this morning, he saw a school girl walk around with a cartoonified image of the Hood on her backpack. It was a strange feeling to say the least.
Yes, a new security firm in Starling City could do a lot of good. There were a lot of people around who’d pay for personal security after everything that had happened. Unfortunately that meant that more trained professionals would be in town and he had to be even more careful because those people would be extra observant. So no, he wasn’t jumping for joy.
After an hour of dragging things around and trying to fix some of the walls, he realised that he couldn’t fix this on his own. He was just going to have to hire a company to do it for him – once the money would come in again. Oliver was broke, there was enough money left to pay some of the bills and eat, but his company really needed to get back in good graces with everyone and earn money again.
It was weird how you get accustomed to having deep pockets when you don’t even want deep pockets. Deep pockets were quite useful in times of need. Not that Oliver was in need – much. He just didn’t want his friends to be penniless and that was only fixed with him having money and it sucked.
“So,” Laurel’s voice sounded. “Felicity told me to tell you to take a shower and to get properly dressed as they need you at Queen Consolidated.”
“Remember I gave you the money to re-do your basement?”
“I’m not going to like this, am I?” He turned around to face her, she looked nervous.
“It’s not my money.” Laurel didn’t dare to look at him, she was nervous and she was picking lint off her clothes. “But there’s more… I received more money… to rebuild Verdant.”
“Whose money is it?”
“Does it matter? You can get the club back up and running with the right help in what? Just a few days?”
“Whose money is it, Laurel?” He knew he shouldn’t have taken the money in the first place, but the basement was a much better hiding place than the house. It was less visible and safe, because they could control who could come in and go out. So yeah, he had taken the money and had given his friends and himself a safe base back. Maybe he had made a stupid mistake. “Better yet, will I be able to buy this person out when I have the money?”
“Probably,” Laurel said with a nod. “As it is now, the person who loaned me the money said it was an investment into the club and they want 35% ownership.”
“Laurel!” No, he wasn’t happy. She should have come to him first.
“No, you listen to me, Oliver Queen,” Laurel said, walking to him and placing her hands on his arms. His strong, muscled arms. She took a deep breath and looked up to him, his piercing eyes nearly splitting in half. “I know that you put your house on the market to provide money for you to restore Verdant and pay Diggle and Felicity and I don’t want that. That house has been in your family for a long time and…”
“Laurel,” his voice and face softer now, his hands gently gripping her arms and a small smile appeared on his face. “Have you ever considered that maybe… maybe I want to get rid of the house just for it being a house? Thea’s not using it. She’s either with Roy or at Malcolm Merlyn’s place. I certainly don’t use it. Maybe I’ll give it away. To you and your father for example.”
“Oh, no.” Laurel shook her head. “Absolutely not.”
“It’ll probably take some time for the house to be sold, but that’s okay. As long as I don’t have to live in it.” He smiled at her then kissed the top of her head.
“Oliver, you need a house. You’re Oliver Queen, playboy, remember? How can you keep up that image when you’re living in a cheap rental apartment or sleep in the basement of your club? The Arrow might not need a place to live in, but Oliver Queen does. He needs a mansion and no matter how down on his luck he is right now, that mansion stays. People will admire you for continuing to live at the place where so much tragedy has happened, it’ll do your company some good.”
Oliver let out a grunt as he let go of Laurel and started to make his way to the door to go downstairs. “You’re right.”
“As for the investor… it’s Bella.”
“Of course it is,” Oliver sighed and then shrugged. “Yes, I’ll gladly have the rest of the money to get this club back on its feet and yes, she’ll get 35% of the earnings.”
“Uhuh, she also said that further details will be discussed when she gets here,” Laurel smiled at Oliver’s back. She knew he was having a hard time accepting help from others. He always had, and it only got worse since he returned from the island. However, this was Bella. It could have been a lot worse. “Ollie, you can trust her.”
“Still, I’d like you to be there on that meeting with her on my behalf.” Oliver said before he opened the door and disappeared from Laurel’s sight. He walked down the stairs and headed towards the shower, but Felicity stopped him. “What?”
“Phone.” She said with a smile and handed him his phone. “It’s a realtor… are you going to sell your house?”
“I was…” He took the phone and continued to walk to the bathroom, glad to see that his ‘office clothes’ were already there, accompanied by a towel. His friends were the best, really. “Oliver Queen.” He spoke into the phone.
“Mr. Queen! This is your realtor Brad Summers and I have some good news for you.”
“I was planning on withdrawing the-”
“Someone has made an offer on your house. No, not just an offer. This person is willing to pay full price for the mansion and is willing to sign the check today.”
“Really?” He kicked off his shoes and unbuckled his pants with his free hand. After his conversation with Laurel, he could only imagine that this person was none other than Bella Swan. It would certainly save Laurel and Quentin some work, but was he willing to give up the mansion now? As Laurel had said, he needed something flashy because he had an image to uphold. He could always go for something smaller… “Before you answer that question, do you have a penthouse or something for sale?” Rich people lived in penthouses, too, didn’t they?
“As a matter of fact, I do. This one has a great view of the city even though both you and I know that the city is still a bit worse for wear and it comes with a shared underground parking garage, a living room, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, security and a doorman always willing to go the extra mile for the residents in the building.”
Oliver had started to pull off his shirt as soon as the realtor said ‘I do’, and hadn’t really heard the rest of the story. He wasn’t going to be living in it anyway, all it needed to be was a façade and that was it. “Alright. Agree with the buyer and get me that penthouse. Today. And send a courier with the details to my office. I will be there shortly.”
“As you wish, Mr. Queen. Thank you for your business.”
“My pleasure, Brad, my pleasure.” Oliver hung up the phone, slightly queasy of the pleasantries and rid himself of his socks and underwear before stepping underneath the shower to rinse off the sweat and dirt. He had a funny feeling that things were going to get a lot weirder and complicated in the near future.