LEGENDS: This is How Families Grow
AN: This oneshot is the second of the LEGENDS series. I have written these stories so that they can all stand on its own, but if you are interested in reading the first story, it's LEGENDS: This is How Marriages End
Characters: Chloe, Oliver, Dinah, Connor
Summary: She returned to a whole other world than the one she had left.
LEGENDS: This is How Families Grow
Uncertain touches, fevered skin. The night that followed as they stumbled into the hotel room was comparable to the very first time he buried himself inside of her. Five years she had been gone he had told her. It felt like a lifetime. Three years without him and in her mind it was almost like she was discovering passion for the first time. The kiss had been surrender, and Chloe laid beneath him on the bed, her thighs clutching close, gripping his hips to follow the movement and pushed against his push, yielded when he reined his strength and pressed the gentlest kiss on the corner of her lips.
He lay back in the bed afterwards, and she rested her head upon his chest. The blanket covered the bottom half of his bodies. The skin on her back was exposed to his hands as his fingers idly ran up and down the length of her arm.
She had seen too many things, and so for this one moment in time in Oliver's arms Chloe closed her eyes. There was a time when she needed to see, begged to be shown. That was the beginning of the end. She wanted to close her eyes, just for a few minutes. With Oliver maybe the world could afford that she close her eyes.
She felt him move, the muscles on his chest yield beneath her as he raised himself up mere inches from the pillow and press a kiss into her hair.
"I love you," he told her, honestly, quietly. In the darkness of the hotel room the words hung in the air, free.
It was the first time she heard the admission when they were not pressed for time. But maybe they were. She knew they were. The sight of the Black Canary in the safe house was just a reminder of the little time she had with Oliver. The memory of the woman, who she had once considered a friend and an ally, created a heavy ball at the pit of her stomach. Chloe raised herself upon one elbow so she could look down at Oliver in bed, and she decided despite the mistake she knew she had committed, to sin again another time, replied to him, "I love you too."
His lips thinned a little, and she swore she saw him swallow a knot in his throat. This was not fair to him, what she did. She had come back into his life and forced him into sin.
But this was glorious. Tonight was wonderful. And if the world ever owed her anything, then she would take this as her repayment. Because she needed to be selfish too, needed to think of herself a little. She would worry about the repercussions later, maybe even blame herself for doing this when she knew what she knew.
She took a deep breath. She had changed. Those visions, that time away, the interminable fight—they changed her. They morphed her into this person she barely recognized, hardly understood. But Chloe had always been aware of her actions.
She was dragging Oliver along with her.
When he reached up and cupped her cheek with his large, warm hand, Chloe smiled and turned her head, placed a kiss inside his palm. When he smiled in response, she thought that in some respects this was worth it.
The light in his eyes faded a little, and she knew a piece of memory flickered in his mind. She swallowed and knelt on the bed just as he sat up. The blanket pooled around his waist, and suddenly she was aware of her nakedness. He was about to say the words. She would hear them from his lips. Now it was not to be relegated to a simple vision that she had seen among a thousand other sights.
Chloe reached for the shirt he wore and slipped her arms into them, pulled the edges together to cover herself. It smelled like the fragrance she conjured in her head the many sleepless nights these past years.
He looked down at his hand, and she realized she had clutched it in hers. Chloe released it and felt a pang in her chest as she saw his finger. His ring.
"I married Dinah," he rasped, and it sounded like a confession.
She wondered if now he felt as naked as she, if he felt the overwhelming guilt for what they had done. If he felt the guilt he would be alone, because despite knowing the sin Chloe surprised herself that this new person in her body was not incapacitated by it. She had wanted Oliver, all this time, needed Oliver. The guilt would crash in waves later on when she was away from him, when he returned to where he was supposed to be. But while they were together, breathing the same air, bodies humming from the afterglow of reunion, she did not and would not feel the guilt.
It was her turn for her own confession. "I know," she admitted. The Fate helmet showed her it would be fine. The world would survive. It showed her that he would find his peace and someday he would marry Canary. He pieced together her source of information. She offered, to ease his burden, "I saw you so happy at the birth of your son." Chloe prided herself that her voice did not break.
He was quiet when he said to her, "Images lie."
But she was not going to believe that Oliver was not at the top of the world when he held Connor. He was not the type of man.
And then, with a trace of accusation, he told her, "You can't keep sacrificing yourself. You can't decide to do it without even consulting anyone else. You don't get to decide our life, Chloe."
"I traded myself—no one else."
"Our life," he repeated.
And she nodded, because he was right. At that point in time, based on what she knew he felt and where she was, when she decided the exchange she had decided for both of them. "I'm not innocent, Ollie." She would make this easy, because if she did not act then she would only prolong Oliver's own turmoil. "I knew you were married. And I knew you still loved me. Back in the safehouse, even when she was right there, I saw it and I used that and made you cheat on your wife." Because she missed him. Because if it had not been for their lives they would still have been together. Because no matter what the ring on his finger proclaimed to the world, Oliver Queen was hers. "I'm sorry this will hurt her, but I am not sorry for us."
She hurriedly put on her clothes, not bothering with the underwear. She needed to go, needed to give Oliver time to come home.
When she made her way to the door, he was right there, pulling her by her arm, holding fast to her against his body. "We've been cheating on Dinah since the day I married her," he admitted. Oliver shook his head. He licked his lips. "I'm not proud of it. I figured it out late in the game. I thought you were dead, and she was a chance to move on."
She had thought as much. No matter the insecurities she had built up about herself, in Oliver's regard she had always been sure.
"But I never let you go, and she couldn't live with that."
Chloe could not describe the utter relief that washed over her. It was as if a taut bow around her chest unravelled, and she could breathe easily again.
"You didn't make me cheat," he told her. "Our marriage was a living hell, and it wasn't her fault." He stopped just before he owned the fault, but every other nerve in his body seemed to say it. "Dinah and I divorced."
"I'm sorry," she whispered, looking up at him. Her eyes swam with tears and he was some hazy, golden image swimming above her.
For a split second, his lips curved. "Are you?"
And she allowed herself a hint of a smile, because she was there truly interacting with him. "Not really." There was no triumph though. She wondered if they would ever be at ease now that she knew what had happened because of her.
The world—their world—was forever changed.
"It's not the same, Chloe. The team is different. And I have—you saw him—I have a son."
"It's fine, Ollie," she answered. She was certain later on she could list down a thousand reasons why the word did not apply, but right then she was with the love of her life and even though it came at a price, they were together.
He cupped her face and they kissed, and she was fully aware that even though she had put on her clothes he still stood before her in none. Chloe raised her arms and locked her wrists at his nape and pulled him down. Eagerly, he lifted her back up into his arms and walked towards the bed.
The phone did not ring until she was in bed, her legs spread to accommodate his body lying between them. He glanced towards the phone and then shook his head. "Ignore it."
Chloe tossed back her head as he made a burning path of kisses from her jaw to her throat. The phone continued ringing, and she took it in her hand. "It's Dinah," she told him, thrusting the phone to him. "It might be your son."
Middle of the night phone calls from any member of the team were urgent. The last time he had wanted to ignore it turned out to be Chloe's return. Dinah's calls could be about Connor, and he would never disregard them. After all, he owed her.
Oliver took the phone and put it on speaker. Chloe knew it was for her benefit, and soon she would tell him he did not need to do that. Dinah at least deserved some privacy if she needed it.
"Dinah," Oliver started, "I know it was hard for you, but I want to thank you for today."
"You son is crying for you," came the cool response that ignored his statement.
Chloe would have preferred to wait for him, but Oliver Queen had always been cautious. After only just finding her again, he was not going to leave her in an unsecured hotel room. They stopped outside the house and Chloe balked at the door.
"I'll stay in the car," she said as she tugged her hand out of Oliver's.
And he faced her, tipped her chin up so she would meet his eyes. "You are not a stranger, not some new woman that I met that I happened to bring home. I've known you for close to ten years."
She wondered if that truly mattered to Dinah, whose marriage had fallen apart. "It's her house." Chloe's jaw tightened when she heard her own words, because they were the words of a mistress, and they cheapened so much who they were. But the world had changed and in this world Dinah was, in reality, the scorned one. "I want to show her some courtesy."
Chloe was the one who saw the door open first, because Oliver had turned to her and raised his hand to his lips. "No. You walk in with me. She understands more than you know, Chloe."
"By all means. Please," was Dinah's greeting. His hand closed around Chloe's as they walked back into the house that he had shared with his family. Chloe glanced at the framed pictures of the little boy, wondered where photos of Oliver and Dinah had been kept. Dinah nodded towards the stairs. "He's in his room."
They made their way up the steps, and when they reached Connor's room, Chloe fell back. Oliver entered the room and Chloe stood outside the bedroom door, hearing the gleeful cry of the child at the sight of his father. She smiled at the sight, because the boy looked so much like his father. The two of them looked like something straight out of a print advertisement. Connor reached towards his mother and Dinah walked past Chloe and hummed a lullaby to the boy who was draped on his father's chest.
Chloe could swear for a brief second Dinah met her eyes.
They were a family.
Chloe took a deep breath, then turned around and made her way down the stairs. She stepped outside the house and opened her mouth to suck in some air, but found a silent sob escape. She should say his name. Clark. Call his name. Maybe that was what she needed. She was five years gone and she doubted he still listened for her. Maybe one call and she would not have to see this.
But she had abandoned Oliver once and would live to regret it.
She did not know how long it took, but finally she felt warm arms wrap around her from behind. His chin rested on the top of her head and she leaned back against him.
"Is your son asleep?" she asked. His son. Dinah's.
"It's not fine," he said for her. She knew immediately what he was talking about. "It's not fine, is it?"
"I stood there thinking," she admitted, "what the world would be like if I was the mother and Connor was my son." She forced herself to calm dawn, because it was unseemly. She had gone, and Oliver was free to do what he needed to do to survive. Perhaps it was some small cause for celebration that he actually stayed in love with her. "But I need to stop. It's not my family. I lost that chance when I left."
They made their way to the car. Oliver took up the driver's seat and waited until Chloe put on her seatbelt. Chloe waited for the car to start. She looked out the window and up to where she thought Oliver's son slept.
"Why did you leave?"
It was the one question that she should have expected, the one she should have been prepared for.
She turned her head towards him and saw the intent look he gave her as he waited.
"I hadn't asked because I wanted you to tell me when you decide it's right." But she had not said a word. "Why did you leave?" he asked again. She shook her head. "I understand how you feel. You don't know how many times I thought lightning should strike me because there were moments when I was with Connor that I wondered what it would be like if I was holding your son instead." His grip tightened on the steering wheel. Chloe reached and covered his hand with hers. "It wasn't fair to my family. But hearing you say that, knowing it's exactly what I've fought against all this time—" Oliver took a moment. "Sometimes I think you deserve to hurt just a little for abandoning me."
She unsnapped her seatbelt and knelt on the seat, then wrapped her arms around him. "I'm not ready. If I don't tell you right now, what happens to us?" Chloe pressed fervent, little kisses to his ear. "I love you, Ollie."
He released a breath, then turned his head and met her lips. "Take your seat," he instructed gently. "We need to get some rest."
In all, she was surprised that Oliver did not press the issue again. She supposed that Oliver had adopted a slogan that things come in their own time. Fathers often did that. They changed when they realized they were responsibility for the life and beliefs of another human being.
The Justice League was informed of Chloe's return and set up a quiet affair for the week after. Oliver had leased a penthouse apartment for the two of them. When they moved out of the hotel room and boxes arrived to be unpacked, Chloe was surprised to discover the framed photographs from one box.
He had kept them, and the frames were clean, no trace of dust that showed the efficiency of the movers or they provided her with a glimpse of Dinah life as Mrs Queen. She doubted that Oliver would have kept them in their house, but the existence of the pictures was enough to provide some insight into Oliver's marriage.
Chloe walked to Queen Industries to meet Oliver for lunch when her phone beeped. She looked at the message from Oliver, who had since provided her with a new phone and saved his name under the familiar code she used.
Urgent mission for JL. All hands on deck.
And she wondered if Oliver had finally swallowed his fear of losing her, and invited her on another mission.
No TAT. Trust you with Connor.
Chloe took a breath. She looked up and saw the familiar figures of Oliver's men in black. He trusted her to take care of his son while he and Canary were on assignment. Leave it to Oliver to entrust their protection to a set of security men who likely had no knowledge of the affairs that took their boss away.
She nodded. Chloe entered the town car and waited until she was deposited at the door of Dinah's house. The nanny made her way home after dinner time and Chloe sat on the cushioned floor of Connor's playroom, watching the kid play pretend with plastic dinosaurs. Connor, at almost three, went on all fours and rushed onto Chloe. Then, with a loud growl that was the least menacing using a baby's voice, he yelled, "T-rex!"
Her eyes widened and she looked down at the boy. He had Oliver's face. And then she gasped and exclaimed, "Connor, you scared me!"
The boy puffed with pride, and before eight o'clock came they were best friends.
At nine, when neither Dinah nor Ollie arrived, Chloe changed Connor's clothes and gave the boy his bottle. Connor placed the empty bottle next to him in bed and looked back at Chloe. And then, with an inviting grin, Connor patted the place beside him on his bed. Chloe's lips curved and she let out a quick chuckle. "Anything you say, Mr Queen," she answered.
It was almost three when she woke up to Oliver calling her name. She opened her eyes and frowned at the gash on Oliver's cheek. She reached up a hand and brushed just below the wound and felt the hot skin. She tried to raise her other hand only to realize that it had fallen asleep. Oliver grinned. Chloe saw that Connor had used her arm as a pillow.
"I stay out late and I find you in bed with another man," Oliver teased quietly.
Chloe swatted his arm. "He was infinitely more charming than you." Chloe's laughter vanished when Dinah entered the room. The woman lifted Connor up and Chloe freed her arm. She stood up with Oliver's help and ruffled the blonde bangs falling over the boy's head.
Chloe hooked her arm around Oliver's as they made their way down the stairs.
"Thank you," Chloe heard Dinah say.
Her hand tightened around Oliver's. "Any time," she answered.
Maybe—maybe families grew just like this.