LEGENDS: This is How Friendships Last
AN: We will leave Dinah and Connor and turn to Clark in this story. Thank you again for reading and leaving comments on the first two stories of this series.
Characters: Chloe, Oliver, Clark
Summary: Everything that Clark and Oliver shared during the time she was away showed her that the two had formed a lasting bond that rivalled with hers and Clark's.
This is How Marriages End
This is How Families Grow
This is How Friendships Last
"Give me the ring," was the quiet demand.
Her gaze flew to the door. Chloe sighed in relief. At least Clark had waited until Oliver was outside. She then turned to him and frowned. "When did you find out?"
Clark stood tall and firm. Chloe wished he would just sit down. It was always easier to conduct a conversation at eye level, and standing tall Clark would never be at the same eye level as she. But she knew Clark enough, could read the tension in his muscles, to know that the wish was futile. "The year that Connor was born," Clark offered. And again, even away from the Queen family the words stung. It hurt even more when Clark mentioned it so casually in a conversation that involved the most difficult decision she had made in her life. "I was rooting around the barn for my old crib."
Chloe forced a small smile on her face. "Oliver Queen can afford a crib—the newest model. Even the model that hasn't been released yet."
"You didn't see how he was then," Clark answered. "You could say that Oliver appreciated the sentiment."
Chloe grew uncomfortable about the look in his eyes. This was Clark. This was her best friend. But somewhere along those five years between the day she left and today, it was easy to see. His regard had changed. Clark was on guard. Clark was always on guard against the people who might hurt his best friends. She sucked in her breath when she realized that Clark was doing the same thing now. Only she was the one outside looking in, and he was on guard for Oliver. She did not know if she should be happy or sad. She had lost her best friend, but Oliver had gained here.
"Anyway," Clark continued, "that was when I found out it was missing. I realized that was the reason we couldn't find you—Oliver funnelling funds into that search, Bart ripping through the Earth, Hawkman turning his eyes to the skies, Victor blasting open every firewall," Clark's voice trailed. Chloe swallowed. They had worked. And she knew the team well, could imagine the panic that had to be whipped into laser focus. "Every one of us continued searching for you long after the team decided you weren't anywhere."
"When I left that bottle for you all to find, I thought you'd realize that I had it under control," Chloe managed. Even she was disappointed by the weakness in her voice. She sounded guilty. Probably because she was.
"Did you really?" Clark repeated. Chloe was taken aback by the intensity of the question. "I trusted that you had things under control, respected your own decision to be a hero. But after a few weeks and we hadn't heard from you—"
She remembered the exact moment she realized that she had lost control. In response, Chloe fished for the ring from inside her bag and handed it to Clark. Immediately, Clark's hand closed around the large black ring.
When Clark slid the ring into his pockets, he told her, "You need to tell Oliver what happened, where you were."
"If I tell him that all these years I was lost in time," she said, vaguely, because even though Clark knew she was not prepared to share it all, "he would ask questions, wants answers and explanations that I just can't give." Chloe shook her head. "Oliver is better off not knowing."
Don't make decisions about our life, Oliver had asked her.
"When you went missing, your actions affected more people than just yourself, Chloe," Clark said, the rationale familiar. Chloe finally accepted that Clark and Oliver were now more in tune to each other than she had thought possible.
"Believe me when I tell you, Clark, that Oliver is better off not knowing why." They had gone through five years without her, and as expected they had changed. The length of time was not as long for her, the horror, she thought, was multiplied. No, she could not tell Oliver.
"But you need to tell someone," Clark surmised. Chloe looked up at her best friend in wonder, saw the sympathy in his eyes. Five years later and he had become more open to others. Her cousin worked wonders. "I'm right here."
"I can deal with it by myself," she told him.
"That's what I'm afraid of," Clark answered. "It's not a question of capability, Chloe. It's a matter of necessity. I don't want you to try. Let us in. If you can't talk it through with Oliver, then try me."
Chloe shook her head. "You can't begin to imagine what I saw when I put on that helmet, Clark."
She had been warned about that Helmet. Chloe realized how much Clark had grown when he did not bring it up.
"Tell me, Chloe. What could you have seen that would make you leave your friends, your family-" he hesitated for a beat, then continued, revealing to her how much he had been ingrained into Oliver's life—"this guy who claims that you never loved me the way you loved him?"
It was a moment of levity that contrasted with the rest of the story, but it was a fine way to begin.
Pity she had to break the moment, because there was no way to ease in.
"I killed him."
"I was in bed," she whispered. "It hadn't been long. I vaguely remember the alarm clock on the bedside table had a calendar. Maybe about half a year since the kidnapping. I was still having a hard time sleeping. And then I heard glass break. The images were so fast I couldn't get all of it. But then I was running down the corridor and into a nursery. When I looked down there was a gun in my hand." Her hand fisted. Clark reached and covered it with his own hand. He finally sat down, she thought idly. "I raised the gun, and the lightning lit the room and I saw him standing over the crib. I called his name."
"When he looked up I emptied that gun into his chest."
Clark was quiet as he regarded her. "That's impossible."
"That's what I saw."
"I didn't ask," Chloe answered. "But something could have happened to me when I was there with the Suicide Squad, Clark. They could have done something to me."
"I mean, it's impossible, Chloe. The Helmet would not show you your fate."
"It showed me Oliver's," she answered. "Because that was not my destiny, Clark. I didn't work ten years for that to be my destiny." She had managed that part of it, that reason that she could not tell anyone else. She managed it without a tear. Back here, right now, there was no place left for tears. "I left so that doesn't happen. I planned to return just after it was supposed to happen, but that's another story. No matter how much it kills me that Oliver and Dinah married, had a son, that doesn't compare to what I would have felt if I knew I held the gun that killed Oliver Queen."
"It doesn't make sense, Chloe. Oliver would never hurt your—" he stopped. Clark's eyes widened. Chloe filled with dread. "Half a year," he murmured. "Six months. That means—"
"Stop it," she cut him off abruptly.
"Oliver is better off not knowing anything," she repeated. "Promise me."
Clark released Chloe's hand and sat back in the chair, looking at her with wonder. "You never do anything halfway, do you? You decide that Davis was a danger to me and you thought it was better to run and take him far away from me. Then you decide that you were a danger to Oliver and you do the same thing." Clark cleared his throat.
But she had learned from the mistakes that she had made with Davis. Distance was not enough. Not in their lives. Distance could be crossed; the prey could still be captured. Oliver's life was far too precious to her to wager on distance.
"Oliver never finds out," Chloe repeated firmly.
"There's a lot that we haven't discussed," Clark reminded her.
She nodded in acknowledgment, then checked her watch. Right on time, Chloe heard the voices and the steps, the doors opening and closing. She stood up and took a deep breath.
She broke into a big smile when she saw them come in. One by one. Chloe accepted the greetings and answered questions. How was she? When did she get back? Where was she staying?
But no one asked the question she was afraid they would ask. She glanced at Oliver and he nodded at her, and she knew he had prepped the team and scratched that question off the list of what was allowed.
Tell her now that the hell she had only just experienced was not worth every second of it.
She made her way to Oliver and accepted the kiss on her cheek. "Dinah couldn't make it," he told her.
She expected nothing less. Dinah had accepted more than was reasonable after all. "Connor?"
"Dinah's in town with him. She just—"
Chloe nodded. She would not put the burden on Oliver to explain.
When the team had left, and only she, Oliver and Clark were left to clean up, Chloe turned to Oliver and pulled him down for a kiss. "You don't know how much I appreciate you," she told him.
Her words made him grin. "I have some idea."
Chloe glanced towards the other end of the room, where Clark seemed occupied with the glasses. She smiled, because all three of them knew that Clark could hear every whisper.
"Remember the last time we were here together?" he asked her. It had been terrifying, sending Oliver out into the field, out to the Earth station amidst the chaos. But she nodded. Good memory or bad, she remembered that last kiss. Gripping the radio in her hand, surprised by the onslaught of his lips, surrounded by his scent. She remembered that moment every time she closed her eyes, no matter where she was in time, in whatever pocket of the universe she had been trapped. He repeated to her the words that had first sent a thrill down her spine, "If a war breaks out, I want to be in the foxhole with you."
Telling Clark about part of her vision did not bring tears to her eyes, but those words suddenly did.
"That's the exact same thing I still feel today. Whatever we face in the future—with the situation with Dinah, with enemies local or extraterrestrial—we'll survive it if we're together," he told her.
She noticed Clark stand up straight and turn to them.
This sounded like the beginning of—
"I want to be in a foxhole with you, Chloe, just as much today and I did then." And then he took it from his pocket, a velvet box. When he dropped her off earlier he told her he needed to pick something up from his office. He opened the box and Chloe saw the glint of an emerald surrounded by brilliant diamonds.
Her chest tightened. "You're being hasty," she said softly. "I just came back, and you're overwhelmed. You need time to think, Ollie." Words. Empty words. The moment she saw the box she knew and wanted just this. But Chloe needed to be fair to Oliver.
He took the ring from the box and handed it to her. "I had an eternity to think," he confessed. She felt his lips brush against her temple. "Read it."
GA WT 2010.
"I thought you died, and that ring sat in my safe for half a decade, Chloe. I've had time to think." She nodded. "I'll have them re-engrave the year. I thought for sure 2010 was the year we'd get hitched."
So much for no strings, no commitments. Those words were so strange now.
"No," she said quickly. "Leave it. It works," she said to him. She slid the ring onto her own finger and looked down at it. Chloe took a deep breath. And then she realized what she had forgotten. She looked up at Oliver and told him, "Alright."
"My head is telling me this is too fast. I've been back barely a month, Ollie." And then she shook her head. "But I'm sure this time I'm not going to deny it. I want the rest of my life back. I want to spend it with you." His lips curved. "Now you have the answer. The question should be easy."
"No question, Chloe." He shook his head. "I'll make this one decision for us. We're getting married this weekend."
His divorce had only just been finalized. She was sure any news of Oliver getting married—and the news would travel despite its very private nature, it was what it meant to be a Queen—would spread like wildfire. He would be put in the spotlight and so would Dinah. Dinah. She needed to speak with Dinah in person, not allow the news to come to her in cold, bold letters dropped online.
Decisions they made for their lives impacted others too.
"It's Connor's day with us, and I want my son to be there."
"The press would have a field day with this, Ollie," she warned him. Over the month since she returned, she had learned how much the media hounded Oliver when he revealed his double identity.
"I don't care. By now, they know to leave well enough alone. Connor has a security detail that will keep the vultures away." His hand tightened around hers. "I'm not going to waste more time delaying the inevitable, Chloe." They had delayed the profession of love long after they felt it, and that was one of the things they made up for every day. "I want to marry you."
Second marriages, she thought, for both of them. Somehow it should be a little less special. In fact, without minimizing the role that Jimmy had played in her life, Chloe's heart beat so fast she felt like this was the day she would immediately recall some day when any one referred to her wedding day.
"This weekend then," she agreed.
She wrapped her arms around him tightly, and he laughed when he swallowed her in his embrace. Clark walked over towards them and congratulated Oliver. Chloe grew misty-eyed when she saw the look that Clark and Oliver exchanged, almost as if this was a journey they took together, and they had arrived at their destination. Later, maybe in the privacy of the rooftops, where they were sure there was only the two of them, Clark and Oliver would find it easier to share.
She felt the vibration surround them, heard the steady drone that had become familiar. And then, at precisely the time intended, lightning burst outside and a flash blinded her. At once she felt Oliver grip her hand.
Her heart stopped at the sight before them.
"Rokk," she said.
Oliver stepped forward and kept her behind him. He moved quickly, and Chloe barely saw the sharp movement when suddenly, Oliver was poised with his bow and arrow directed at the Legionnaire. Clark's fist closed over the tip of the arrow.
"He tried to get her killed!" Oliver exclaimed in protest at Clark's action.
Rokk Krinn turned somber eyes at Chloe. "This is not the greeting I'd expected."
Chloe's heart sank at those words. So much for her pleas for Clark's silence. The arrival would shatter the case of her best kept secrets. Her gaze flew to Clark.
It became a silent conversation, and Chloe recognized Clark's unwillingness to lie. She had only just gotten engaged, only just started to pick up the pieces of the life she left. She had only just started to become satisfied.
Clark said to Oliver, "Rokk is here for me. I suggest you and Chloe go home and take some time to celebrate. Plan your wedding." He took at Chloe. "I'll take care of this."
She almost sobbed out loud with relief. Rokk threw her a puzzled look. She recognized his expression, saw the trouble, heard the silent plea for help. But she was done. She was out. She needed to live in the real world with Oliver. "We'll do that," she said. She closed her hand over Oliver's taut arm, still poised to release. "Let's go home, Ollie."
Slowly, Oliver lowered the weapon. She slid her arm around his and gently propelled him towards the door. She glanced back and saw Clark with his hand on Rokk's shoulder, effectively holding him back from approach or calling out. She sent Clark a silent thanks.
She had been the best friend, but now Clark's loyalty weighed more heavily for Oliver instead of her. It was a loss, but a loss to Oliver was truly no loss at all. And now, Clark Kent showed what five years of time had changed between them. Unwilling or not, he would do what she asked.
Now she knew, this was how friendships last.