A/N: My friend Chumpy is a huge fan of the Chlo-Lo, so for her birthday (August 6th), I wrote this little ditty. Wanna hear it? Here it go...
When We Were Cousins
Lois sat on her couch and watched her cousin warily. Lois had a bad feeling about why Chloe was taking such a long time to fix herself something to drink.
"Out with it, Chlo."
Chloe was startled out of her reverie and the glass in her hands shook. She set it back on the counter next to the sink and turned to face Lois. "Out with what?"
Lois smirked. "You've been avoiding me like the plague for the past three weeks and now you show up out of the blue. I'm guessing that this visit is more than just a check-in. Am I right?"
Chloe nibbled on her bottom and continued to avoid Lois's eyes. "Yes, you're right."
"So what is it that you want to tell me?"
Chloe rubbed her hands on her jeans. She had spent the entire drive from Metropolis trying to find a good way to share the information that she needed to give to Lois. Seeing her anxiety, Lois stood and crossed the room to stand opposite Chloe at the kitchen island.
"You know that you can tell me anything, right?"
Chloe nodded. "There's just no easy way to say this."
Lois gave her a soft smile. "You could try to just spill it out. That might work."
Chloe smiled, grateful for Lois's ability to bring levity into any situation. "Well, that had been my idea at first, but now that I'm here, I'm having second thoughts… and third thoughts. Maybe even fourth thoughts."
Lois's left eyebrow skirted upward. Chloe's apprehension was starting to concern her. "Are you okay?"
Chloe's eyes finally rose to meet hers. Lois squinted a little as she held her cousin's gaze. "Should I be worried about your health or something like that?"
"No," Chloe replied, her eyes wide with sincerity. "Nothing like that. I just… it's not about me… at least, not really."
Lois frowned. "Well, then, who could you be…?" She trailed off as she tried to think of reasons for Chloe's behavior. If she were worried about someone else, it wouldn't have caused Chloe to dodge Lois at every turn. She had said that it, whatever it referred to, was not about Chloe. That left…
"Is it something about me?"
Chloe grimaced and looked away. After releasing a soft sigh, she nodded.
Lois's face scrunched in confusion. "O-kay," she drawled. "I'm all ears."
Chloe sighed again and walked over to the coffee table where she had dropped her bag when she first entered Lois's apartment above the Talon. She pulled out a thick manila envelope before putting the strap of the bag over her shoulder.
"I can't do this."
Lois opened her mouth, thought for a second, and then closed it. "Chlo, I really don't know what's going on here."
Chloe nodded. "I know. I thought I would be able to tell you, but I can't."
Lois waved off Chloe's anxiousness and gestured to the envelope. "What is that, the response to my college application?"
Chloe looked down at the packet in her hands as if it were alive. "No."
She took a step toward Lois. "Um. It's probably best if you read this on your own. Promise me that you won't look at it until after I leave."
A smile appeared on Lois's face. "What, are you afraid that I'll shoot the messenger?"
"Something like that," Chloe replied sadly, putting the envelope on the counter but leaving her hand on top of it.
Lois scoffed. "Chlo, whatever is in there is not going to make me go Ecks vs. Sever on my own blood kin, so relax."
Chloe swallowed. She hoped that were true. "Promise," she repeated.
Lois rolled her eyes. "Cross my heart. Needle in my eye."
Chloe released the envelope as Lois pulled it away and looked at her expectantly. Lois could tell that Chloe was really worried about her reaction to the contents of the packet and wanted to reassure her.
"Look, I'll give this thing a once-over and call you in an hour to make fun of you for making a big deal over what is probably nothing, okay?"
Chloe gave the envelope a worried glance before nodding. She turned and walked out the door, giving Lois one final look over her shoulder before stepping outside. She could hear the flap of the envelope being torn open as the door was closing.
Things were going to change after this. She just didn't know how much.
Lois sat in the rental car staring at her hands where they sat immobile on the steering wheel. The sound of her cell phone drew her attention to the passenger seat where it was lying among the few belongings that she had brought with her. She reached for her phone in a daze and blinked at the LCD screen. Seeing Chloe's name, she pressed the power button and shoved the phone into the glove compartment.
She hadn't called Chloe an hour after getting the envelope like she had expected to. After reading through the contents of the packet, she had lapsed into a state of shock similar to the one she was in right now. After two hours, Chloe had called but Lois wasn't ready for the necessary conversation. Now, a day and a half later, she still wasn't ready…
But as they say in children's games: ready or not…
Lois glanced at herself in the rearview mirror and smoothed her hair, trying to bring some sort of calm to her appearance. Her eyes were red from lack of sleep and unshed tears, but even drops of Visine Ultra couldn't erase the dull ache in her heart.
Lois gave up on trying to finger comb her curls and pulled the Scrunchie from her wrist so she could pull her hair into a pony tail.
Her voice was rough when she addressed the receptionist a few minutes later, and she realized that it was because she hadn't spoken a word since Chloe had left her apartment. While she sat in the stark lobby waiting for her visit to be acknowledged, her mind drifted as she wondered at being able to make it all this way without speaking even once.
She had reserved an airline ticket and rental car with her laptop, so no speaking was necessary there. The lot at the airport where she stashed her car had been manned by a ticket spitting machine, so no talking there. She didn't have luggage to check, so the e-ticket machine adjacent to the ticket counter had sufficed as a booking agent. Lois realized that in the modern technology swamped society that the world was becoming, she could do anything without the aid of another human.
"Miss Lane, you can go on up now."
Except for this, Lois thought with a sigh. Except for this.
Lois paused at the entrance to the office. She had come this far for answers that she wasn't sure that she wanted. "Hi, Daddy."
General Samuel Lane stood to greet his oldest daughter but she held up a hand to stop him from hugging her. General Lane shook his head as he took her rebuttal in stride and gestured for Lois to take a seat on the other side of his desk. His girls were always angry over something.
"To what do I and the great District of Columbia owe this surprise?"
Lois calmly placed the manila envelope on the desk.
Sam looked at her quizzically before reaching for it. When he slid the papers out and looked at the top sheet, his face took on an ashen color. Without scanning further, he leaned back into his chair and pulled a cigar from the humidor in his bottom desk drawer. He put it into his mouth and chewed lightly on the end, having no intention to light it.
"I guess from your reaction it's not even worth my time to ask if it's true," Lois commented. Her eyes studied her father's face. She didn't want to ask it… but she needed to. "Is it?"
Sam swallowed and rubbed his chin. "Yes," he admitted after a moment. "It is."
The tears Lois had been keeping at bay for so long sprung to her eyes. She pressed her tongue against her top teeth and looked the wall to her right, willing the moisture to recede.
"Why didn't you… why did…" She looked back at her father, her face a mask of hurt and confusion. "Why?"
Sam swirled his chair away from the desk in an attempt to take the edge off of the pain his daughter's tortured expression was bringing him. He figured that it would somehow be easier to talk to her without looking at her.
"No one is perfect, Lo. We just did what we felt was best for everyone."
"For everyone?" Lois exclaimed. "For who, exactly? Because from where I'm sitting, I can't see how anyone is better off. I can't…" Her voice breaking, she stopped speaking and leaned forward to grab a few tissues from the box of Kleenex on the desk.
Memories of her childhood began to spiral through her head like virtual bumper cars, crashing and spinning in every direction, pausing hardly long enough for her to get a fix on any one of them. When she was little, her father traveled a lot. The things she remembered most from the time that her mother was alive was all the time she spent with Chloe. They had been inseparable. Then, Ellen had started to get sick and Lois had spent most of her time with her father. Then Lucy came along.
Lois's thoughts skirted to a halt. The timing wasn't right. Had Lucy come along before her mother had gotten sick? She hated that she had forgotten so many details of the time when her mother was alive. She remembered Uncle Gabe being at the funeral with Chloe. By that time, Chloe's mother had gone, and they had seen one another less and less. It was almost embarrassing that she remembered her six-year old self being more sad about the fact that her father wouldn't let her play with her cousin that day at the cemetery than the fact that they were burying Mommy.
Chloe and her father had moved away soon after that, but she and Lois had kept in contact as much as they could. There were a few outrageous phone bills that had caused them both some trouble until Lois had discovered ways of charming her father's secretaries. Now, almost fifteen years later, the introduction of some pieces of copy paper inside of a 9x10 manila envelope had unearthed the mystery about Lois's life that she never knew she had.
"She's not really my cousin, is she?" Even knowing the answer, she couldn't stop herself from asking.
Sam swiveled to face her again. This time the tears were in his eyes as he shook his head sadly. "No."
"Oh," Chloe remarked as she looked up. She had been lost in her thoughts and hadn't noticed Lois standing there. "I'm sorry… I'll go."
"No," Lois replied without looking at her. "Stay."
They stood silently side by side for a number of minutes that felt like an eternity for Chloe, but she didn't know if she should be the one to break it.
"I always just assumed that they were sisters… our mothers, you know?"
Chloe sighed in relief that Lois had breached the divide, saving her from her deliberations. "Me too," she said softly.
"Well, I guess we have evidence of what assuming does to people," Lois remarked dryly. "I always figured that the reason there was so much opposition to me coming around was because I was such a bad influence."
Lois turned her head to glance at Chloe briefly. "It never occurred to me that our fathers hated one other."
"What did your dad tell you?"
Lois sighed and faced forward again. "I'm so sorry, Chloe."
Chloe reached up and wiped away the tear that Lois's quiet words had provoked. "We don't know what the circumstances were like… maybe they really did think that they were doing what was best for…"
"Stop it, Chloe," Lois interrupted heatedly. "You don't have to be so forgiving all the time. You have my permission to get angry. They had no right." Then, almost to herself, she repeated it. "They had no right."
Chloe looked down at the ground. She was too tired to be angry. She had already spent plenty of time being angry at everyone around her, including Lois. The only thing anger had done for her was make her feel more alone than she had before.
It still smarted a little that she had to be the one to find these things out on her own; that her father had never planned on telling her any of it. Since the age of five, the one thing that had stuck out in Chloe's mind about her mother was her walking away. The funny thing about that memory was that it wasn't even a real memory… more like a suggested one. Chloe had never seen her mother leave that day, but her subconscious had taken hold of the tale her father had told and created an image to go with it. "Mommy's gone."
Chloe shook her head against her silent thoughts. There was always so much more to the story, but people never questioned childhood memories, too wrapped up in what they didn't remember to start wondering about what they did. The infamous manila envelope had filled in the blanks.
The facts were laid out in black and white. Her mother had left. Check. Her mother had left because she was sick. Check.
It was the grey area that held the real story. Chloe's mother was sick… and she was pregnant.
Somehow, between the two of them and the different sides of the story that had come from their fathers, Chloe and Lois were able to find the strand of truth. Everything came back to Ellen Lane.
With her husband married more to his profession than to her, Ellen had begun looking for a better life for her and her small child. Finally, when she grew tired of being a single parent by lack of appearances by her husband, she chose to separate from him with the intention of filing for divorce. Sam hadn't even realized that she was gone until he returned from a volunteer assignment six weeks later.
By that time, Ellen had moved on and Sam had become aware of what he had been ignoring. The only claim he could maintain on his shattered family was his daughter. While Sam was searching for the places that he had gone wrong, Ellen had another child. Another little girl, so much like his own, but not.
The two men each fought for their respective families. What had started as the love for one woman became a battle over pride and prejudice. While they duked it out, Ellen packed up her two little girls and left them to their war. It was the three years afterwards that stemmed the childhood memories Lois and Chloe remembered so fondly.
Ellen didn't keep them from their fathers. To the contrary, she made sure each man was as involved as possible, and neither child ever felt cheated. Things were fine for a while, and a small reconciliation was breached with Sam, her first love and husband still. When Ellen started getting sick, he took a leave from his profession and made his family the center of his life. For it, he received the gift of another daughter… just before his wife said her last good-bye.
It was at the funeral that the two men fought their final battle. It was then that they decided what those three motherless children would know about the woman that had given them life.
Chloe looked down at the bright yellow flowers in her hand. A few Lilies were already next to the grave's headstone. "Hi, Mom," she said softly.
She stooped to put her flowers next to the Lilies. "I know Lilies are your favorite but these are mine. I um… figured that you wouldn't mind if I… well, I thought you might like to get to know me a little better."
"I've been looking for you everywhere… and I finally found you in the absolute last place I would have ever thought to look." Her voice trailed off as she ran out of things to say. She realized that now that she knew where she was, she could have as many conversations with her mother as she wanted. The problem was, she still wouldn't get the verbal response she had always longed for.
After her knees began to hurt from crouching for such a long time, Chloe rose to her feet. A hand slipped into hers and squeezed.
Looking into Lois's eyes, eyes that she knew Lois shared with her mother, Chloe felt a growing sense of peace. She had lost so much with this discovery, but she had gained even more.
Now was the time when they would be sisters.
A/N: I just thought it was interesting how we've never gotten a clear picture of how Lois and Chloe are related, and in my wild musings, I thought of this. Sure it's a torturous and tangled web I have woven, but hopefully you don't mind too much. (smile) Also, I see there are a few comments regarding the 'Tomb' episode. I did see it, but my thoughts on this fic were that we've never gotten an understanding of how Chloe and Lois are linked together. I guess in this case you would almost have to assume one of the following: (1) Tomb didn't happen, or (2) the woman in Tomb wasn't really Chloe's mother. This is somewhat of a 'what-if' fic, if you will, bending the 'rules' set by the shows writers and twisting what we 'know' about everything. I write with a grain of salt, hopefully you will take it that way, too. (wink)