AN: This is the first of a series of standalone stories I will create in this particular universe. I figure that if I am not a Chlollie multichapper I will become an avid oneshotter.
Characters: Oliver, Chloe, Dinah
Summary: Oliver's mistake was that he promised to love for a lifetime before he accepted that love can endure long after death. First of a series.
Thank you for reading The Ghost. I was very happy that you enjoyed it.
This is How Marriages End
It was never supposed to end this way.
Yet the moment he thought it, Oliver called himself a liar.
He stood before the glass windows of the cool, sleek room that served as his perch high above the city and raised the glass of amber liquid to his lips. Just a taste, one taste. It always started with a taste. He took a sip and closed his eyes in the sheer pleasure of that small taste. He was never going to drink it all, not again. But hell if he would deny himself the taste.
He heard the door open and saw the translucent reflection as she entered. She walked regally towards him, classy and elegant still despite the horror of their lives.
"Will you at least turn around and look at me?"
And because he was more to blame than she was, despite the scandalous fuse that she had lit, Oliver did as he was asked. He walked forward when he could have waited for her, because despite what everyone else had to say, it was only the two of them who knew what happened in this marriage. Meeting her halfway now was too little to make up for the nightmare.
She nodded, showing him that she appreciated the effort. And then slowly, deliberately, right in front of him, long fingers closed over the eternity ring, hiding the diamonds beneath a steady, purposeful grip. She pulled it off and Oliver heard the tiny yet imposing clatter that it made as it hit the glass tabletop.
"I'm taking Connor," was the quiet declaration.
At that his eyes widened and he looked up to meet her gaze. And then he drank in her expression, knew this quiet dignity would shatter into a giant shuddering mess. So despite his protest he nodded. For now, she would take his son. For now he would let her win, because despite the grand way she had stabbed him in the gut when she made his way into another man's bed, she still had more losses than he could ever count.
They had been friends once. They had been allies. Long ago she respected him enough to listen, valued him enough to love him. Long ago she trusted him when he had thought himself free of the greatest pain he had experienced and allowed herself to believe.
Somewhere deep inside her some of that regard remained. Despite the shit. Despite the hell. Despite everything that he had found himself to be.
"You can take weekends," she continued in that calm, collected manner. "And when I need to be out of town, you will be at the top of my speed dial."
And good God, it was more than any other woman would have done.
Oliver nodded slowly, then took the ring in his fingers. Heavily he slipped into his chair and looked down at the winking diamonds in his hands. Eternity. The diamonds never ended. It was styled for that purpose, because marriages were forever and love lasted a lifetime. He had taken her hand and slipped it into her finger to stay for exactly that length of time.
He was the one who made the mistake first, committed the sin. Whatever man or hero had come between them after those vows would never compare to what he had done. No matter what happened, she fully intended to have kept her promises. Only—
And she was there, by his side, landing her lips on his cheek for that final goodbye. Three years. Three years was a lifetime to someone who never had more than five months with any other woman. Three years of marriage. And now it had ended.
It ended long before it began.
It was never about the women, because there were women—Sandra, Marianne, and so many who remained nameless or became faceless in his memory. It was because of only one, the one who should have been safe, the one who could have been forgotten.
"You never let her die," she whispered into his ear. At those words, when she did not even use the name, Oliver's jaw tightened. "She was dead, and you never let her die."
"It's over," was his plea. The marriage could not be salvaged, and they had tried. She had tried. He thought he had tried. "Let it be over." Please. Because there was no use opening up a wound that was so exposed and raw from the start.
And she nodded. He felt the movement because she did it while she laid her cheek on his temple. "I just need you to understand that this was not my fault. Not one bit."
Oliver looked up as Dinah straightened, then leaned back against the table. His lawyers would take care of the rest, and once the final papers were drawn she would know that he blamed her for nothing. He knew full well how this marriage ended.
"I wish—just once," Dinah said, "that you loved me."
His eyes fluttered to the framed photograph of the child on his desk and felt his heart tighten just a little. The day he was born Oliver knew for the first time how it was to love a complete stranger, fully, deeply, undeniably. Yet every time he looked at the boy there was an emptiness in the pit of stomach, and he knew that special place reserved for him in the fires of hell as he imagined how his son would appear had his eyes been a little bit greener, his hair more golden, his grin more vibrant.
"You gave me a son. I loved you, Dinah."
And she nodded, because even in the bitterness of separation she knew that was the truth. "Loved me more than you loved—"
"I loved you," he answered quickly. Even though both of them knew, he could not—world not—have her say it. "There is no need to bring her in now."
She took a deep breath, then stood. She turned to leave. "I don't see why she cannot be part of the divorce, Ollie. She was always part of our marriage."
The words stung, and he swallowed the hurt. But despite the bitterness she had, there was no way he could retaliate. Even when she found solace in another man's arms, Dinah had still been the more innocent of them.
The first time he had said her name, it was an accident. They had been asleep, and like any other dream Oliver had willed her to life. It was been their honeymoon and after a night looking up at the sky in the balcony of their hotel room, they had fucked and shared a glass of wine. And then, in the sympathetic way she had relayed it to him, he had whispered the name, called it out softly, barely. But she had heard.
But Dinah had loved Chloe and mourned the loss like any other member of the League had done.
"It's alright," she had assured him when he apologized. "We all miss her."
On that occasion she had knelt by his side on the bed and kissed the creases on his face until the memories were swept away.
The second time he had said her name, it was offhand. They had wanted to settle into a home in Seattle and Dinah had placed a bright yellow paint sample and contrasted it with a pitch black wenge wood chip. Oliver had grinned and shook his head, then plucked out the yellow and the black and selected greens and golds and brows, and told her, "I kind of like the color scheme from Chloe's old library."
Two months later Dinah was encased in the forest combination that Watchtower and Green Arrow imagined once upon a time.
The third time he gasped the name and professed his love buried deep inside her, and Dinah would swear over and over that it had not been that night that he knocked her up. That third time he said her name was sick, and she seethed. But the woman was dead and she was alive and married to Oliver Queen. Chloe was dead and Dinah abhorred the thought of hating a dead woman, because alive Chloe would never have been anyone she could hate.
"This is not alright," she had finally told her husband, and hand in hand they took therapy and counselling until the fourth and the fifth time. And after that, Dinah stopped counting.
"The awful thing is," Dinah had told him when finally they admitted the grand mistake and decided it was time for a divorce, "no matter how much we all loved her, if she were alive now I'd wish her dead."
And even then, even as his fist curled in his effort to curb his temper, Oliver Queen could not blame her.
But today it was over. Finally. It took them time to admit defeat, but once it was undeniable every other effort was in vain. She made her way towards the door. "I'll be in the penthouse," Dinah stated. Oliver needed to book himself a hotel room. "Come by at eight on Saturday and you can take Connor. Other than that, I expect your people to drop by to pick up your belongings, Ollie. If you have some respect for me left, I'd rather you didn't come by for them yourself."
Oliver waited for the door to shut behind her, holding on to the ring that Dinah had left behind. He stood and walked towards the far wall and unhooked the landscape that hung there. Oliver revealed the digital safe and punched in the code. Numbers varied, numbers were arbitrary. He punched them in, month, date, year. It was the day it all ended, the day he walked through puddles, pushed forward, bumping against a figure that if he had only known he would have stopped, fought, begged for at least one more second.
He wanted to see her face again.
The vault clicked open and Oliver placed the ring inside, his fingers briefly touching the dark velvet box that held a promise he knew would never be uttered, never be revealed. It was a promise of emeralds and diamonds and white gold, one that held the name that was the beginning of the end of his sham of a marriage.
His first mistake was the day he bought that eternity ring for Dinah and promised her love that lasted for a lifetime. After all, he thought, finally taking out the velvet box and looking down at the engagement ring that would now belong to no one—
Back then, he never knew, love was far, far, more powerful than death.
The emerald always reminded him of her eyes. He set aside the eternity platinum band and placed the velvet box in its rightful place, front and center. Oliver had always imagined, fantasized, reasoned its place of honor right there where he could easily take it should he need it.
Utter stupidity, but it was the irrationality of the deranged hopeful in him who still dreamed of a woman enough that it degraded the thin foundations of his marriage.
With a muted sound he shut the vault and returned to his desk. He worked, because other than his work there was nothing else to do. When he finished early he used to come home to spend a few hours with Connor, but he resolved to give Dinah that respect she asked for. He did not notice it was midnight until his phone rang. He frowned when he saw Dinah's name. Immediately he answered, because at their state and at this hour there was only one reason for Dinah to make that call.
"Is Connor alright?" he asked tersely, already picking up his keys and wallet.
The air released from his chest and he deflated at the assurance. Oliver frowned when he glanced at his computer and noted Dinah's location. It was their old safehouse, one that had not been active for so long. Tess had been working out of the Watchtower in Metropolis, and really, no one else had the patience to run the safehouse and the League used it for nothing but a place to stay when they were in town.
"What are you doing there, Dinah?"
She sucked in her breath. Then, she stated, "There was an alarm that was tripped, and I happened to be on patrol."
Burglar. Low level parasites who never learned that there was no way to steal from the safehouse.
"You might want to make your way over here."
Oliver rubbed his temples. He had done his part, become a berserker, fought for good. But he had laid down his quiver long ago. AC and Bart and Victor, Clark and even Bruce, could take over the security of the world. Now there was only Connor to protect really. Crimefighting was not a purpose anymore. There was no purpose really. Not since—
"I think I'll crash."
"Oliver," Dinah insisted, her voice firm, "you want to come here and see this for yourself."
"Whatever it is, you can take care of it. You work independently, don't you, Dinah?"
"Trust me," she insisted. "You don't want me, of all people, taking care of this. If I scream, I'm not going to stop. I'll bring this entire place down."
The line was cut, and Oliver's eyes narrowed at the blinking signal on his computer that showed him Dinah's coordinates. The woman did not treat her abilities lightly, and if she wanted he knew she could bring the entire place down. He sighed. Gratefully divorced or destructively married, he was always going to be linked to Canary.
He made his way to the safehouse in half the time it usually took, because the night had not begun well and he needed it to be over. The door opened easily, and Oliver stepped in to see Dinah fully suited standing tall in the center of the room.
Oliver's gaze turned involuntarily to the corner of the safehouse. His heart fell from his chest. Right then, he realized why Dinah had wanted, needed him to arrive at once. He took one step forward, and his legs froze. Without saying another world, Canary ran out of the safehouse.
He wondered if he had crashed and wrapped his car around a pole when he made his way here.
He wondered if maybe the sight of the emerald ring that he had always meant for her was the straw that broke the camel's back, and maybe—just maybe—he had pulled the trigger of the gun that was stored in the far end of the safe.
He wondered if perhaps there was a possibility that a nerve exploded in his head and now he was lying on the carpet of his office.
Because, by God, it might be true that the people you loved the most would be the one who would escort you to heaven when you died.
And he said the name, the name that was cursed in the three years of his marriage, the name even he had wanted to avoid because of the darkness that possessed him at the cruel hand that fate had dealt. Now, if he was really dying, then it would not matter. Saying the name would be the perfect end to his story.
"Chloe," he breathed, in a rush of air that was light in disbelief and relief. "Chloe," he repeated, because he had missed it so much. "Chloe—" Simply because he can.
And she sobbed, and he could see the expressions war on her face. "Ollie!" she said in response. And then she flew from the corner of the room and crossed the distance. He crossed it in return because between the two of them, they would always make the effort to meet halfway. She threw her arms around him and tightened them around his neck. His arms wrapped around her body and he lifted her against him so that they were pressed close and tight. "Oliver."
The feel of her, the scent of her, the sight of her, the pliant body beneath his palms. And then the warm, yielding lips underneath his own.
He was alive; and so was she.