By Denise (kdsch123)
Rating: R with possible, eventual NC-17
Pairings: Chloliver, Cliana, Bruois, eventual Clois
Spoilers: Possible for all of Season Six. I can't see ahead into the show future. I just write what I'd like to see myself.
Acknowledgements: WB, DC, CW and Millar/Gough own it all.
Summary: An alliance is formed that will change history. Heroes come together to liberate the Lex Luthor's mutant testing ground/lab, 33.1, secrets are revealed, bonds made and relationships tested.Chapter One - Convocation Area 33.1 – Holding Cell 121 – Location Unknown…
Lionel Luthor looked through the thick, soundproof glass at the occupant of cell 121. Long blonde hair spilled over slender shoulders, obscuring the face that had nearly caused the other prisoners to riot when she was first brought in. Not that there weren't other women here. There were, and all of them uniquely gifted. But, this one was exceptional. In more ways than one, it would seem. Lionel pressed the red button on the console and spoke into the microphone, his voice echoing through her bare cell.
"Are you comfortable, Miss Lance?" Lionel asked her the question as urbanely as if they were at a society garden party and not a testing center. She lifted her face, and stared at him blankly, her blue eyes vibrant with mute rage. "You can answer me, Miss Lance. The restraining collar will only keep you from emitting your rather, unique frequency and departing my company. I'm so enjoying our visits. You are such a pleasant companion. When you aren't trying to break free, that is."
"What do you want?" Dinah swallowed, hating the pressure of the wide electronic collar that pushed her vocal cords back, making it impossible to scream. "Why is today different than the last four or five days?"
"The request is a small one, my dear. You're here because you possess a very special gift. One we'd like to study, perhaps even replicate." Lionel said, watching Dinah's face as it processed what he was saying. "Your singing voice would be quite an asset to the military. Subduing the enemy without spilling a single drop of blood."
"Bite me." Dinah snapped, resting her head on her forearms. "I'm not cooperating."
"You don't need to comply for us to get the information we want, Miss Lance." Lionel walked around to get closer to the window. "Besides, there is enough, ehm, incentive outside of this facility to encourage you to do what we ask."
"Like what?" She looked up again, an angel in white scrubs. Her voice, controlled by the electronic collar, was soft and without any more sonic impact than any other 24 year old woman's. "I'm nobody."
"Your father, for instance. What would it be like for him if his florist business went under?" Lionel rubbed his chin. "What other skills does he have to survive in this world?"
"You can't touch him." Dinah stood and walked to the glass. "Leave him alone." Lionel nodded. Her father would not be difficult to sweep off the board, and in the end, not much of an incentive to use the time it would take to do it. Besides, there were other tacks to take in this case, and Lionel reached for the next one.
"Or, how would the famous Oliver Queen like finding out that his ex-girlfriend has been spending time with me here at this lovely resort location?" Lionel chuckled. "That is indeed what he'd find out, Miss Lance. Make no mistake about that."
"Ollie and I are over. His-to-ry." Dinah smiled smugly. "His interest in what I do, when and with whom I do it is long past. Send him whatever phony pictures you want." She ran her hands through her blonde hair and laughed. "I haven't even seen him in over a year."
"That's true." Lionel shook his head. "And, he's moved on…it's pretty serious, too, according to the papers." Lionel smiled and took out a newspaper clipping, a photo of Oliver and Chloe at the Bruce Wayne New Year's Eve gala. "See for yourself." He taped the picture to the glass so Dinah could see it. "Quite a love story, I'm told."
"If he's happy, I'm glad for him.." Dinah nodded coldly, barely sparing the small square of newsprint a glance. "It's not my business anymore, either." She looked up, away from Lionel, at the camera that was pointed at the cot she had been sleeping in. "Is that the best you've got? Ruining my father's business and telling my very ex-boyfriend that I'm with you? I've had hangnails scarier than that." Dinah shook her head, as if disappointed. "I'd have thought you'd be looking to buy my soul or something…"
"Actually, the best I have is letting you go." Lionel smiled at her through the glass, watching the effect his words had on her. "If you cooperate, you can go, and I'll see to it that the new girlfriend is out of the picture. I'm sure a tender reunion is something you might look forward to if you were to cross paths with Oliver Queen again." Dinah's eyes drifted to the newspaper photo, but her expression did not change, except to grow darker and more dangerous. Dinah folded her arms over her chest and glared at Lionel through the glass.
"You're putting too much hope in the idea that I'd want Ollie back in the first place." Dinah's voice faltered, and she cursed the metal plate again, her hand reaching up to pull at it. "I don't."
"You wouldn't?" Lionel laughed, the laugh of Satan watching a squirming sinner try to turn and run from Hell. "Oh, come now, Miss Lance…"
"No, you'd better hear this, nice and clear." Dinah walked up to the glass and tapped it with a long finger. "If Oliver Queen was the last man on Earth, and I my only choices were to continue the species with him, or kill him and use him for food, I'd kill him." She died a little saying that but it was, in principle, true. Time had made her understand that Oliver hadn't been 100 to blame for their relationship ending, but neither was Dinah one for going back. It was over. Dinah turned away from Lionel. "I'm not helping you."
Lionel Luthor was an expert at reading people and he saw the flicker of pain that crossed Dinah's face when she made her assertion. Oliver Queen was a sore spot for the girl still and might eventually be a powerful tool in getting Dinah to cooperate with the Luthorcorp agenda. "Ah, that is a shame." Lionel said sadly, and Dinah turned, frowning. "You have so much to offer humanity, Miss Lance. Don't be so fast to throw it away." He turned to leave the observation room. "Cooperate with the good Doctor, Miss Lance, and you'll see how different your stay here can be. I'll give you some time to think it over." Once the door closed behind him, Dinah let herself study the picture Lionel had left taped to the glass. Oliver looked happy, and the girl with him radiant, in a white lace dress. They were dancing and the photographer had snapped the picture while Oliver and his girl were laughing with each other, completely unaware of the camera. Dinah nodded slowly, imagining what the girl might be like.
"Probably some Ivy League debutante." Dinah reached out and touched the glass over Oliver's picture with a sigh. "Rich, smart and pretty. Triple threat. Good for you, Ollie, going uptown this time. Showing your true snob colors after all." Her fingers traced Chloe's face and she smiled sadly. "I wish you luck with him, Miss Young Metropolis. You're going to need it."Metropolis – Tuesday, January 2 – Metropolis University
Chloe Sullivan walked into her philosophy lecture ten minutes early, fresh from meeting with the financial aid officer, making sure her scholarship and grants were taken care of for the new semester. Oliver had made the offer of taking care of school for her, but Chloe had immediately dismissed it. Living with him was enough – a whole world of worries had been lifted from her shoulders just with that alone. Chloe smiled, glad to see Diana Prince's long frame folded into a seat near the front, her dark head bent over a book, and much to Chloe's surprise, Lois, fiddling with her cell phone and sitting on the opposite side of the room, way in the back. The seating arrangements were too obvious to be accidental, and Chloe waved at Lois, pointing to the front of the lecture hall. Lois rolled her eyes and stood, dropping the large text on the floor as she did so, the impact of the book hitting the floor echoing through the room. Diana looked up then, curious, and smiled as Chloe approached.
"Hello." She said, patting the seat beside her. "I was hoping we might cross paths this semester." Diana looked up and saw Lois and her smile widened. "Our quarterback, too! This is a treat. What an exciting semester this will be, having friends to study with!"
Lois softened in spite of herself and waved. "Diana. This is a surprise. I didn't realize it was you up there." Diana nodded, an amused sparkle in her eye. It was no secret that Diana found Lois' bluster and temper very entertaining, and Chloe smothered her own giggle at Lois' stricken expression.
"Hi, Diana." Chloe set her bag down and sat in the seat beside her new friend as Lois settled herself in the seat on Chloe's right. "I thought you'd have a bigger commitment today." Chloe said, neutrally, casting her eyes quickly toward her cousin, but Lois was playing with her cell phone again, sending a text message to someone. Chloe wanted to peek and see whom Lois was communicating with, but stopped herself, turning back to Diana, who was resting her chin on her hand.
"Yes." Diana nodded. "I do. Not until after my last class, thank Zeus. Plus, my internship meeting at the museum is today as well. Everything gets piled into the first three days of the new semester, doesn't it?" Diana leaned forward as the class started to fill up. "Did you hear about your internship, Lois?"
"I have to go to the Metropolis Journal this morning after this class. I put my name in at the housing office, but it looks like I'm going to have to find an apartment if I get it. I'm still in Smallville. I had to be up at the crack of dawn to make here on time." Lois replied, sliding her phone back into her bag. "They don't make you many guarantees with that though, do they?"
"No, Lois. You need to prove you want the spot." Chloe said, and Lois nodded thoughtfully. "An internship at the Metropolis Journal is a big deal. You do want that, don't you?"
"I think I want it." Lois shook her head and looked at Chloe. "How do I know?"
"When it is the only thing you see yourself doing." Diana offered, and Lois nodded. "When it is all you can think about." Her expression was soft. "You should feel a passion for what you want to do."
"It's about picking a direction and sticking with it, Lois." Chloe said encouragingly. "You dealt with the press when you were working with Mrs. Kent in Topeka. And, you resided in tabloid hell for awhile, too. Figure out what you liked about both of those jobs and see how it will apply to the work you'll do at the Journal." Diana nodded eagerly and Lois frowned at them both, and then turned away, thinking.
"You both make it sound easy." Lois looked down at her philosophy book. "I guess if I can get through school without killing myself or getting kicked out, I can nail an internship interview."
"That's the spirit, Lois." Chloe whispered, as their philosophy professor took the podium and began the lecture.Queen Industries Tower – Penthouse – Metropolis…
Hal Jordan looked at the framed picture of Oliver and Chloe and turned around, shaking his head. "Well, it's official. Metropolis has sucked you in. Goodbye, old friends, Goodbye, Howard Hill, Goodbye, Star City." Hal's dark eyes were amused as he took in the apartment and came back to rest on another framed picture of Chloe. "This place, that girl. Destiny is tapping you on the shoulder and saying, 'Oliver Queen, this is your life.'" He sighed deeply, managing a somber expression. "Much to the despair of the female population of Star City."
"Stop, Hal, the melodrama is killing me." Oliver grinned, looking at Chloe's picture. "I have no doubt that Star City and it's women will survive without me." Oliver laughed. "I'm glad you could make it, Hal."
"Well, I had to meet your girl somehow, warn her away before it's too late. The business with Bruce Wayne was just an excuse." Hal laughed, clapping Oliver on the shoulder. "When do we sit down with him, anyway?"
"Later this afternoon." The elevator bell rang, and Oliver nodded. "There's Clark and some of the others." After a minute, the elevator doors opened and Clark, A.C. and Bart stepped out, carrying pizza and arguing amicably about video game scores. "Gentlemen, welcome."
"Hey, Ollie." Bart waved, setting the pizzas on the table. "We brought lunch."
"Didn't want to be rude." A.C. said laconically, walking over to shake Oliver's hand. "Had to thank you for your hospitality some way."
Oliver nodded. "Don't give it another thought. This is my friend, Hal Jordan. Hal, this is Arthur Curry," Arthur shook Hal's hand. "Bart Allen." Bart nodded, pausing long enough in eating to wave. "And, this is Clark Kent."
"Nice to meet you, Hal." Clark said, his face open and welcoming. "Did you just get in?" They shook hands and Hal took a minute to try and get a read on Clark and found that the younger man was studying him as well. "See anything of Metropolis yet?"
"Got in about an hour ago, I guess. Haven't seen much of the city yet." Hal replied. "I've got a couple of days here in Metropolis before I head back."
"Maybe Lois could show you around..." Bart quipped, braving dark looks from Clark, Oliver and A.C. Bart shrugged and took a bite of his pizza. "The city…you know, Metropolis?" The three other young men's faces did not change, and Bart grinned. "I'm just saying. She's shown A.C. the hot spots here in town, right, A.C.?"
A.C. did not reply, and Clark frowned, slapping Bart across the back of the head. Bart winced, and rubbed at the stinging mark. "What?"
"Lois?" Hal asked, watching as Bart inhaled a second slice of pizza, completely and immediately recovered. "Who's Lois?"
"Never mind, Hal." Oliver replied, shooting a warning glare at Bart. "You'll meet her later."
"Yup," Bart agreed, folding a third slice of pizza for himself. "Everyone does eventually."
Clark shook his head and looked at Oliver. "Victor isn't going to be here for the meeting, but he said he'd be in later tonight. We can talk to him then."
"Fine. There's one more person I called on the way, too." Oliver said, looking at his watch. "Jones is never late, so we'll see him downstairs."
"Good." Clark nodded, turning back to the Oliver's friend politely. "Hal, I hope you didn't have a bad flight. I hate flying."
"It's never a bad flight when you're the one controlling the plane." Hal grinned, his teeth white in his tanned face. "Turbulence is just like an amusement park ride…" Oliver coughed, covering a mumbled "Bullshit" and Hal turned to look at his old friend, laughing. "You are the worst co-pilot in the history of aviation, Ollie, you can't expect Clark to learn to like flying listening to you."
"I don't think I'll ever like flying in an airplane no matter what anyone says." Clark interceded smootly, smiling. "Something about using all that metal and fuel to be pulled up into the atmosphere. Too many things could go wrong."
Oliver watched Hal's face go pale as he tried to gather the words together to counter Clark's statement. "Brilliant" Oliver grinned widely. "Thanks, Clark. I couldn't have said it better myself." Oliver laughed, and Hal grinned too. "I'll leave you guys to work this out."
The Metropolis Journal – Midtown Metropolis…
Lois Lane stood in the lobby of the Metropolis Journal building, wiping her sweaty palms on her jacket. She'd been to visit Chloe at the Daily Planet many times, and had expected the Journal to look, to even feel the same. But the Journal's atmosphere was modern, stark and bold. Lois took a deep breath, getting on the glass elevator to meet with the Internship Coordinator and then get her assignment, pressing the button quickly. Her articles for the Inquisitor were in a pristine manila folder ready to be read. Shaking her hair back and mustering up her courage, Lois took a deep breath as the elevator doors opened. She walked down the wide, bright corridor and found the Internship Coordinator's office. Pushing through the glass door, Lois took a step back, ready to run, but forced herself to go all the way in to the office, letting the door close behind her. A sleek young woman, about her age, in a tailored black skirt and gold blouse, was sitting in a chair, tapping her long fingernails on the chrome armrest, a leopard print briefcase on her lap. Her red hair was pulled away from her face with a demure black velvet band, but Lois could tell immediately that there was nothing sweet or charming about this girl. This particular female was a predator.
"You an intern, too?" The other woman's voice was a half purr, half sneer. Lois turned and saw that the girl in the chair was studying her intently. "You look terrified. Don't let that show, honey. They'll eat you alive."
"Me, no." Lois lied, turning on the bravado and the other girl's cat like eyes narrowed. "I just have a class back at Met U after this and I don't want to be late."
"Met U? Huh." The green eyes widened. "I go to the University of Kansas, Metropolis. Usually Met U's interns go to the Daily Planet. I tried to get a spot there but no luck. But, state schools…" She smiled, her lips curving but her eyes remained expressionless. "We don't get the better picks, intership wise. Second best."
"They didn't have any openings this semester." Lois defended the Daily Planet as she sat down. "I'm Lois Lane."
"Catherine Grant. You can call me Cat, though." Cat offered a long, dangerously manicured hand to Lois. "Maybe we'll be working together."
"Maybe." Lois said, not wanting to work with this person at all.
The door to the coordinator's office opened. "Lane? Oh, there you are. Come on, Ms. Lane. We've got a schedule to keep." The coordinator put on her glasses. "You are Lois Lane, right?"
"Right." Lois stood and shouldered her bag. "See you, Cat."
"Yes." Cat nodded. The coordinator's eye fell on Cat and the woman sighed, clearly frustrated.
"Ms. Grant, I told you, your assignment will not change for all your sitting in this office. You are with the Society Editor and that, my girl, is that." The older woman took off her glasses. "Do I make myself clear?"
"Crystal." Cat stood languidly, smoothing her skirt. "Society Editor. Mr.?" She licked her lips, and the coordinator sighed.
"MRS. Florence Fielding. Second floor. Her secretary is Beatrice, and you are already late. Shoo." The coordinator looked over at Lois helplessly as Cat waved at them and strutted from the office, a wave of fragrance following in her wake.
"Well, Ms. Lane. I'm Nadine Shaw." The coordinator eyed her and nodded. "You look like a sensible girl. Lord knows I can stand one today." She gestured down a hall. "Talk while we walk, might as well get into the habit."
"Um, yeah." Lois nodded. "Ms. Shaw, I have my articles from..."The older woman fixed Lois with a strong and appraising eye that made Lois swallow. "My last job…"
"Oh right. You're the one that worked at the Inquisitor." Ms. Shaw nodded. "So you have experience."
"Yeah…" Lois said tentatively. "Some."
The older woman looked at Lois' resume. "And, you worked for the Kent campaign and as being Martha Kent's Chief of Staff." She tapped the arm of her glasses against her teeth and studied Lois for a minute. "What sort of journalism are you interested in? I have a spot with the City desk…you'll get to pull your contacts from the Kent campaign for sources. Nothing like starting out loaded for bear."
"City desk? Shouldn't I be answering phones and putting in classified ads?" Lois asked, thinking of Chloe's dungeon desk at the Daily Planet. "Helping people find their lost puppies or something?"
"I suppose, but someone who gets paid $9.00 an hour wouldn't thank you for taking their job." Ms. Shaw nodded. "This isn't the Daily Planet. They can hold your hand through the ranks, they've been around nearly a century. Here, we'll throw you to the wolves and expect you to run with them by lunch. Up for it? Otherwise, I have a nice quiet spot at the Home and Leisure desk. But, you don't look like the macaroni and cheese recipe type."
"City desk." Lois nodded, feeling completely at a loss. She raised her chin and nodded, defiantly. "I want the City desk."
"Smart girl." Ms. Shaw handed her a blue card. "Fifteenth floor. Ask for Perry White. He'll want to see your articles. He's had some experience with tabloids and can break you of all the bad habits they taught you."
"Great. Perry White." Lois took the card, wondering why the name sounded so familiar. "Got it. Fifteenth floor."
"Expect you to do well, Ms. Lane. We girls from Met U have to stick together." Ms. Shaw waved Lois from the office. "Now, shoo. Welcome to the Journal, Ms. Lane."
Lois made her way to the fifteenth floor, back on the glass elevator, tapping her foot as it rose. The doors opened, and Lois walked out onto the busy newsroom floor. There were no Tiffany lamps here, Lois thought, remembering Chloe's description of the Daily Planet's elegant offices. She looked around and spotted a cluttered office, the door open, and it's occupant talking rapidly on the phone. Lois recognized him immediately from Bruce's party, and she nodded, taking a deep breath. Perry White saw her, and hung up his phone. He got up and went to the door and waved her in.
"Lane? I hope you aren't waiting for an engraved invitation, because this isn't the Metropolis Plaza, and I'm not Bruce Wayne." Perry said and then smiled. "Come on in. I'll take it easy on you today, because it's supposed to be an interview, but I've been looking over your work and I'm impressed. It's not as raw as it could be, and you have a nice, kicky way with words."
"Thanks." Lois gestured with the folder she'd brought. "I guess you don't need these."
"What are those?" Perry said, sitting down, and putting his glasses on.
My articles from the Inquisitor." Lois told him and Perry looked at her over his glasses, unimpressed. Lois dropped the folder on the chair beside her with a sigh.
"First things first. Anything you wrote for the Inquisitor stays there, or lines my cat's litter box. I found the articles you wrote for that little high school paper in Smallville. Good stuff." Perry sat back and rocked in his chair. "That little school paper was chock full of talent. Shame they've drifted back to new lines painted in the parking lot and the lunch menu."
"For the Torch?" Lois was aghast. "I wrote those because Chloe made me. I needed an extra curricular…"
"Well, they're getting you an internship, too. Look, I have no doubt that your articles about the Green Arrow and flying barn doors got the Inquisitor a lot of sales, but the truth is, they stink. I read those too. Badly written, missing the bigger story if there even was one, hinting at more than you actually told anyone. That's fine for the Inquisitor. The Journal is real news. The real news will break your heart, but you'll doing more good getting the truth out there than telling people about freak tornadoes."
"I have a lot to learn." Lois said, and Perry nodded.
"That's why you're here, Lane. Close the door and let's talk turkey…"The Daily Planet – Midtown Metropolis…
Chloe made her way to her desk, dropping her bag on the chair and setting her cup down beside her computer. It had only been a few days, but it felt like an eternity since she'd been here at the Planet. She ripped away the December page of her calendar, smiling at the arrow hole through the date she and Oliver had gotten together. She hadn't noticed at the time, but she folded the wide page to take home to show Oliver and let him brag that it had been intentional. Which, knowing Oliver, it probably was. Oliver had showed her his target practice on the Daily Planet globe with binoculars when she'd laughed at him, not believing his claim. As her penalty, Chloe had to promise to go with him to every place Oliver had struck with an arrow. There were at least forty arrows in the huge bronze globe, and Chloe found herself smiling, thinking of being in Tahiti with Oliver as the kind of penalty she could completely look forward to.
"Hey, Bright Eyes." Chloe looked up and saw Jimmy Olsen standing before her, a small bunch of daisies in his hand. "I wanted to apologize…wow, you look amazing." He swallowed, and nodded. "Really good."
"Thanks, Jimmy." Chloe smiled and looked at the daisies. "Are those for me?"
"Yeah." He held them out to her. "I was wrong…about Melissa and everything." Jimmy sighed.
"It's okay." Chloe smiled, taking the daisies. "Jimmy, thanks for the apology, but I'm seeing someone."
"Seeing? Already?" Jimmy squeaked, and Chloe set the flowers on her desk and eyed him levelly as he stammered helplessly. "Who?"
"Um, well..." Chloe grinned, thinking of Oliver's kiss goodbye this morning when he dropped her off at school. "Oliver Queen."
"Oliver Queen?" Jimmy bleated, shocked. He recovered quickly and shook his head. "Wow. I mean, that's great. I'd have thought CK, but…yeah," He nodded and Chloe smiled. "I can see that. Wasn't he seeing your cousin, though?"
"They broke up the same night we did." Chloe said, and Jimmy nodded, again. "He and I ran into each other at that coffee shop near school and we've been together ever since."
"That's great, Chloe. He'll treat you right, I just know it." Jimmy's face was serious. "Will he object to my taking you to a vending machine gourmet lunch or dinner once in awhile?" A genuine smile lit his face. "Between friends?"
"I don't think Oliver will ever object to my having friends, Jimmy." Chloe told him, nodding. "And, a vending machine lunch sounds great."
"Great." Jimmy clapped his hands. "A Coke and…"
"Peanut butter crackers." Chloe smiled and Jimmy turned and went to the vending machines. Her phone rang and Chloe answered. "Chloe Sullivan."
"This is Oliver Queen." Oliver's voice made Chloe giggle. "How is my favorite back to schooler? Did you play nice with the other kids?"
"I'm fine. And, how are you?" Chloe smiled into the phone. "How's your day going?"
"Oh, you know...Bart and Clark are tearing up the video game console. Hal is looking through your scrapbook of articles, and A.C. is online checking his email. We'll be headed down to the office to meet Bruce in an hour. In short, I wish you were here, and I'd be willing to bribe whomever it takes at the Planet to get you home early."
"Good. I'll be home by the time you're done, then." Chloe said, and Oliver whined like a child not getting his way, making Chloe laugh. She looked up and saw Lois standing in the doorway of the basement newsroom. "Oliver, Lois just walked in. She looks stunned. I'd better go and see what's up with her..."
"Okay. Hey, Chloe?" Oliver dropped his voice. "Can't wait 'til later…I got spoiled having you home, too…"
"I got spoiled being home, believe me." Chloe sighed. "See you later. Love you."
"Right back at you." Oliver's voice was barely a whisper, but Chloe heard Bart jeering in the background anyway, "Did she say she loved you…AWWW". "I'm going to have to hurt him." Oliver grumbled, and Chloe giggled again. "Gotta go…"
"If you could catch him. Bye…" She hung up as Lois stopped in front of her desk. "You look awful. Bad interview?"
"No, great interview, I'm in." Lois said, sitting down, with a harsh sigh. "But Perry White is a dynamo. He'd heard I was coming up to see him and found the stuff I wrote for the Torch. Liked it better than the articles I wrote for the Inquisitor." She dropped the manila folder in the trash can. "I start with him on Monday."
"You're interning with Perry White?" Chloe gasped, setting her cell phone down. "I can't believe it. Do you have any idea what an opportunity that is?"
"I thought I'd be here, you know, in a room like this, doing what you used to do." Lois, without acknowledging Jimmy, who had just returned from the vending machines, took a soda from him and opened it, taking a deep drink. "I don't think I can handle it." Jimmy began to protest and then sighed, putting the rest of their lunch on the desk before turning around to go back to the vending machine for more soda. "You should have this internship assignment, Chloe, not me."
Chloe bit her lip and tried not to smile. "Believe me, Lois, they'd have never taken you on if they didn't think you could handle it. And, those pieces you did for me at The Torch were good, very good. It's just the way things are. You really got lucky that all the spots here were full."
Lois picked up a bag of Skittles and opened it, popping three of the brightly colored candies in her mouth. "I feel like I've reached a point of no return, you know? I'm really scared." Chloe reached across the desk and grabbed her cousin's hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.
"You're going to be fine, Lois. Just wait and see." Chloe said, smiling.
Jimmy returned and saw Lois eating his Skittles and cried out indignantly. "Hey, those are…" She looked up at him darkly and he swallowed. "Yours." He put down the new soda and trudged back to the vending machine. Chloe started to stop him, but sighed. Instead, she raised her soda to her cousin, clearing her throat to make a toast.
"To the Sullivan-Lane cousins. Making our mark on the world of the Press." Chloe grinned and Lois nodded, a slow, thoughtful smile dawning on her face. She looked over at Chloe across the desk, lifting her own soda, while Chloe finished her toast. "May our stories make a difference, may our sources never waver and may our bylines always be spelled correctly." They clanked the cans together and giggled. Lois sipped the soda and shook her head, a skeptical lift to her eyebrow.
"You really think so?" Lois asked, and Chloe nodded.
"Lois Lane, Reporter." Chloe smiled at her cousin proudly. "It's got a nice ring to it."
"Yeah." Lois nodded. "It kind of does."Queen Industries Building – Midtown Metropolis…
"Everything is ready, Mr. Queen." Celeste nodded as Oliver walked toward her desk with Clark, A.C. Bart and Hal. "Mr. Wayne hasn't arrived, but a young woman is already here. Miss Prince. She's in the conference room."
"Good. Have you heard from Mr. Jones?" Oliver took his messages from Celeste and she shook her head. Oliver nodded and sifted through the rest of the slips of paper. "I've got some calls I have to return. Would you show our guests to the conference room and then bring me the satellite contracts, please? I want to look those over again."
"Certainly." She smiled at A.C., Bart and Clark. "Will you gentlemen follow me? There are refreshments in the conference room…." She led them down the hall, and opened the doors to the conference room. Diana stood in the windows, looking down out at the Daily Planet building. She turned as the others walked into the room and smiled brightly at Clark.
"I was afraid I had the time wrong." Diana said, and Clark smiled. "I practically ran after my internship meeting at the Museum."
"It's the rest of us that are a little late." Clark replied, taking her hand in his. "School go okay?"
"Wonderfully. Chloe, Lois and I all have a class together." Diana told him, her eyes widening as Bart filled a plate from the trays of food Celeste had brought in for them. "Does he always eat like that?"
"He's a growing boy." Hal Jordan interrupted them, also watching Bart as he sat down to eat. I'm Hal Jordan. Figured I'd better introduce myself before things got interesting."
Diana inclined her head toward him. "I'm Diana Prince."
"Nice to meet you. You should have come up to Oliver's. We watched Bart eat three pizzas." Hal smiled. "I wish I'd filmed it." Diana giggled in reply, leaning against Clark's shoulder. "Ripley's Believe It or Not would have paid good money for it."
"I'm sure we'll get a repeat performance soon enough." Clark laughed too, and then he frowned, as the conference room doors opened again. Oliver, Bruce and a tall, somber looking man walked in. The stranger looked at Clark and nodded. Clark studied him, trying to remember when he'd seen this man before and then remembered that night in Seattle, on the docks.
…Have you recovered from your visit to Seattle, Kal-El?.. Clark heard the question in his mind, not as a voice, but more as a series of thoughts. …It was my honor to assist you…some of the inmates in the Kryptonian Phantom Zone are far beyond your abilities at this point in time…
…I don't know quite how to thank you….
…No thanks are needed. Simply be there when someone else requires your assistance…The tall man bowed slightly. Diana frowned up at Clark and then over at the tall dark-skinned man. …We are both the last of our kind, Kal-El, if we do not look out for each other, we will be lost…
"Do you know him, Clark?" She asked, and Clark looked down at her and nodded, pulling a chair out for her.
"He saved my life recently." Clark told her. "We didn't actually meet formally."
Diana looked back up at the new comer with less suspicion as Bruce cleared his throat to bring the meeting to order. The soundproofed conference room doors swung shut, and the meeting began.
Queen Industries Building - Penthouse – Metropolis….
Chloe got off the elevator, and found the penthouse apartment dark and quiet. Not good, Chloe thought, as she set her bag and keys down. Turning on lights, she made her way up to the roof access steps and found Oliver taking careful aim with his long bow at the slowly spinning globe atop the Daily Planet. The night was cold and clear, and there was no wind to interfere with his practice.
"Pick someplace, Goldilocks." He said quietly, and Chloe smiled. "Anywhere in the world. I'll take you where ever this arrow lands as soon as you can get away from school again."
"Star City." Chloe said, and Oliver released the arrow. He turned and raised his eyebrows, his face serious. "I've always wanted to see it." She smiled and Oliver grinned a little.
"Not much imagination, Chloe. I gather you spoke to Clark." When Chloe nodded, Oliver looked back at the Daily Planet Globe and loaded another arrow and took aim. "Now, really pick. Anywhere in the world."
"Fine. Ireland, Galway." Chloe offered, and Oliver nodded with a somber wink. A few breathless seconds went by and he released the arrow, tracking it for a moment before he turned around to take her in his arms. They stood there quietly, Chloe listening to the solid thump of Oliver's heart and counting to one hundred before she spoke again. She hooked her fingers through the belt loops of Oliver's jeans and looked up into his face.
"When do you go back to Star City?" Chloe asked, dreading the answer, and Oliver shook his head.
"I don't have any plans to do that at all for the time being. Hal has things under control there. Clark isn't ready to handle Metropolis alone, either. When he's ready, I guess. And I don't think that's going to be for awhile, from what Clark said today." He kissed the top of Chloe's head. "Bruce has his hands full back East. None of us are ready for a global League…so, not the greatest day."
"Clark said he wasn't happy with the proposal either. He and Diana have been arguing about it since the meeting ended." Chloe reached up and kissed Oliver softly, hating herself for feeling relieved. "Anyone else?"
"A.C." Oliver told her. "It's kind of funny. I didn't think Hal would have been so keen on it, but he's all for it. As it is, Bruce is on his way back to Gotham City tomorrow. We signed the satellite deal after the meeting, so…I guess we'll be going to Gotham City to have the closing dinner and stuff. My satellites will be the basis of Bruce's baby… a closed communication system for all of us to stay in touch with each other." Oliver sighed. "Jones wants more but that's as far as Bruce and I are willing to go right now."
"Jones?" Chloe asked, and Oliver nodded. "I don't know that name."
"John Jones. Long story, but he's of the super powered variety. Anyway, wanting to get a group together to take out area 33.1 was pushed aside, once the debate about this league got started." He sighed. "So, Clark is coming back here to work out a plan to do that. I've talked to Hal, and he's willing. Clark said A.C. and Bart both had agendas with Lex over 33.1. And Clark told me his friend Victor might have an axe to grind with Lex too. "
"What about Bruce and Diana?" Chloe asked. "I can't believe Bruce is going to let that slide."
"Bruce said he'd do what he could from Gotham City. I think mostly tech support and stuff, working with whomever is here running the com. And, Diana? Well, I think a lot depends on how she and Clark leave off tonight." Oliver looked down at Chloe. "Enough about all of this. How are you?"
"Fine." Chloe smiled. "Jimmy was back today from Minnesota."
"That so?" Oliver grinned. "How is his high school sweetheart?"
"Not so sweet." They started walking toward the door to the apartment. "He came back and wanted to start over, but I think I made it clear that he and I are just friends." Chloe stopped in the doorway. "Get this, though. Lois got her internship assignment."
"Oh?" Oliver asked. "Where? Back at the Inquisitor?" He grinned. "Now that would be funny as hell."
"No, and be nice." Chloe tugged on his sweatshirt to get Oliver's full attention. "With Perry White at the Journal."
"No kidding." Oliver nodded, surprised. "White doesn't look like the kind of guy to take Lois' attitude for long. Good for her..."
"Big time good for her." Chloe said, as they went inside and Oliver locked the roof door behind them. "That's a really great assignment. She's really scared."
"I'm happy for Lois." Oliver shook his head, walking down the stairs to the apartment. "I've heard about Jimmy, and I've heard about Lois. How is Chloe? You know, the girl I live with? The one who likes to wear my t-shirts and hogs the covers at night?" Chloe grinned at him, and Oliver nodded. They had stopped in the door to the living room. "Oh, you know her. Good. Tell me how she is." He brushed the hair from her face and grinned. "Because that's really who I want to know about."
"Chloe is fine." She hugged Oliver and kissed his cheek. "Glad to be home and weight training done. I picked up the rest of my books for this semester this afternoon. I have a literature book that weighs more than I do."
"Uh-huh." Oliver smiled. "No calling the car for Chloe Sullivan, I guess. Taking that much help isn't a bad thing, Chloe. It really isn't the same as my paying your tuition."
"Of course not." Chloe laughed, and kissed Oliver again. "I missed you today."
"Missed you too." Oliver bent his head closer to Chloe and pulled her close. "Good gracious, woman, I'm all kinds of spoiled. Used to having you around all day. What days don't you have school?"
Chloe tipped her head to think. "This semester? I have classes on Monday through Thursday. But then, there's the Daily Planet." Oliver groaned, and Chloe laughed. "I think I can arrange to have a day here or there that isn't clogged up by pursuing my life's goals to spend with you, though."
"Really?" Oliver asked, grinning hopefully. "I'm hoping being with me is part of your life's goals, but I don't want to be pushy, either."
"I live here." Chloe giggled, exasperated. "I couldn't be any more involved here if I tried." She went to walk to the kitchen, but Oliver held her hand. "I was going to make some dinner…"
"It can wait." Oliver said, pulling her close again. "Your Ninth Day of Christmas came, but I think Bart ate it."
"What?" Chloe exclaimed. "Ate it?"
"It was nine sugar cookie cut outs of ladies in costumes. Decorated and fancy." Oliver told her, and Chloe put out her bottom lip. "Do you really think I'd have let him eat your present? The box is over there. I had to hide them. He was already mocking me because you told me you loved me."
"Hope it didn't cost you many big brave hero points." Chloe laughed, and Oliver shook his head. "Hope the Green Arrow could be strong enough to deal with some guy teasing."
"Mock as you will, Chloe. Bart shows up tomorrow? I let him devour the ten whatever they ares, and we'll see who gets upset" Oliver teased, and Chloe blew him a kiss. "Well, maybe just one of them, but only because you're cute."
She looked in the box and then up at Oliver, smiling. "They're all in ballet costumes. Look." She held up one. "This is Swan Lake."
Oliver walked over and looked in the box. "So it is. Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker Cool." He kissed her. "I'm glad that it was a hit."
Chloe put the sugar cookie down and looked up at Oliver, licking her fingers. "So, when is Clark going to be here?"
Oliver looked at his watch. "Couple of hours. Unless he and Diana make up, and then it might not be at all..." His eyes glinted. "You have an idea for alternate plans?"
"I might." Chloe leaned against the counter. "Interested?"
"Hmm." Oliver said, nodding. "I don't know…Clark comes in…I might lose some serious big brave hero points." His face was grave. "They better be good."
Chloe smiled sweetly and whispered in Oliver's ear. She stopped and looked into his face. "How's that?"
Oliver nodded, and took out his cell phone. "Just a minute." He nodded at Chloe and pressed Clark's speed dial key. "Clark? Hey. Listen, I…What? No…where are you?" Oliver looked out to the deck and then laughed. "Good view? Tell me something, did I hit Galway? Check for me while you're up there, okay? Chloe and I have a bet."
"Where is he?" Chloe asked, and Oliver pointed up through the window. Chloe grinned and went out to the deck, Oliver behind her. In the fading daylight, Chloe could see Clark and Diana, flying over Metropolis, or more precisely, flying over the Daily Planet Globe, checking Oliver's marksmanship. Oliver walked out to the deck, still on the phone. Chloe turned and smiled at him, and he put an arm around her shoulders.
"So, did I?" Oliver was grinning. "Cool." He waved. "So, I guess you are busy this evening." He nodded and Chloe saw Clark and Diana fly toward the west, into the sunset. "Fine. Talk to you tomorrow." He hung up and slid his phone in his pocket.
"Expect to go to Ireland for your spring break, Miss Sullivan. You could have said Hawaii or Greece, but you said Ireland. Now, where were we? You made a very interesting proposition a minute ago…"
"You order the Chinese and I'll get the Scrabble board." Chloe laughed, and Oliver kissed her temple as they watched Clark and Diana fly out of sight. "Scrabble is fun…."
"That's not what you said, but I'm willing to go with that as a preliminary activity." Oliver laughed, leading Chloe inside. "And, I mean to hold you to what you whispered to me…"