LEGENDS: This is How Oliver Survives
Summary: Just like she said, Oliver was better off not knowing the truth.
This is How Marriages End
This is How Families Grow
This is How Friendships Last
This is How Oliver Survives
First and most important of all, Chloe Sullivan needed to survive.
The Helmet's images haunted her, and she knew how it could possibly drive one insane. She had barely interpreted the visions. One pestered her brain and she refused to believe it, knew there was a reason it could not be true.
One thing she knew. In that vision, she had been in hiding. That much she felt. There was a razor sharp focus to every detail, and she was familiar with the sheer paranoia from the time she was first placed in a safehouse once upon a time. She was in hiding now and she did not know why. Or from whom.
Right then she needed to survive. The trade was complete and her eyes were blindfolded. She felt herself grasped tightly and bruisingly on one arm, then thrown to the floor. It was rough cement, dank. She hit her shoulder on a protruding metal that was blunt enough that it did not cut yet hard enough to hurt.
In that vision, when she heard the shattering noise of the glass, the fear that possessed her morphed into cool intent.
Chloe felt the painful sting when they grabbed the hair on the back of her head and they pulled her head back. "Names. I want names. I already have Queen's. Who are the others?" was the demand.
Chloe saw red and white spots beneath her eyelids from the force. And even then she managed to tune just a little of the interrogation out as she explored the vision. Someone was after her child, and the house was no longer safe. Someone would take the infant. She slid open the drawer and took the cold heavy gun and ran to the nursery.
She watched him fall, saw his beautiful face distort with pain and the disbelief in his eyes as his knees hit the floor. Oliver Queen's body collapsed onto the cream carpet. Chloe's hands went slack. The gun dropped and hit the ground with a thud. She rushed forward amidst the wailing from the crib. She pursed her lips as she stepped over the fallen figure. She would not look at him, not look down, not allow herself to overcome her brain.
A vision of the future which could not be right. If it had any hope of becoming real, then it meant—
She counted the days, and in the haze of her own panic her mouth parted in wonder. But she was there, right there in the middle of the chaos, in the arms of the enemy. Had she known, she would have considered options, used to her advantage the gallery of heroes that—truly—was at her disposal. But there had been the world for all of them to save and Oliver Queen was her personal mission.
Had she known earlier, then this would all be different.
It was ridiculous, because she would die before she raised a weapon against Oliver.
But this was their lives and it suited best to know that this was how she learned about it. She thought quickly, wondered what was best for all of them. Whatever happened, no matter the cost, they would get out of this. First there was a life to protect.
Her head was released and she fell on her side, feeling the puddle at her cheek. The second wind of her panic hit her when she felt the hard kick to her thigh. Chloe curled protectively into a ball, covering her belly swiftly.
"Stop!" she cried.
Her lips curled when she felt the warmth grow near, and the surroundings grow even darker as a figure blocked the small flickering light that streamed past her blindfold. "I wondered when you would break. You're such a tiny girl to have lasted that long."
"I won't give you names," Chloe stated. She flinched when she felt the gloved hand settle on her hip, the fingers digging into her skin. So close to the secret she needed to hide. "But I'll join you. I know the ins and outs of this business, and you can stand to take me."
"Tough. But that will only bring down an army of masked heroes bearing down on us."
Chloe gasped. Her mind whirled. "Then we tell them that I'm dead," she told them. First, stop the beating. Next, it was blank. But she would figure out how to escape after that. "Isn't that your specialty?"
The man paused to ponder this awhile. Chloe knew she had made headway. Then, he offered, "I would be suspicious that you'd want to use your skills to tell them otherwise. Except, by the time we're done with your training, every single one of them will be your enemy. You can take my word on that."
And then Chloe's head flew back to the vision. Standing outside the nursery, she raised the gun. The nursery built itself up on her head, familiar, non-threatening faces, the room pealing with laughter and barely contained excitement-Rick Flag working on the crib with Ben Turner fixing the lampshades, Eve Eden placing stuffed animals along shelves that Deadshot engraved with the alphabet, Plastique hanging the framed pictures of the unicorns. How much was pretend or real she could not know. And then she recognized the words that went through her head—Green Arrow, terrorist, vigilante, liar. He was there, a direct threat to her child.
She had seen the tapes. Oliver Queen was pitiless, inhuman. Her infant would be pawn in his game. She needed to protect her.
"Oliver Queen," she called out.
The figure turned. "Chloe," he breathed, and his voice was not distorted. "I never thought I'd find you."
"Step away from the baby."
Chloe watched the tentative leather-gloved hand reach towards the crib. "Leave her alone," she warned. And then, as if she watched in slow motion, the tips of his fingers brushed over the infant's brow. Chloe emptied the gun into his chest.
Underneath the blindfold, Chloe's tears began, soaking the black cloth. That was how it began. This was how she would kill Oliver Queen.
She steadied her voice, then told her taker. "Your men can stay with me while I set this all up." She needed out, needed to be away. She needed to be far from Oliver Queen and the Suicide Squad. She was not one of the ones who allowed destiny to arrive open arms. That was not how Oliver Queen would end.
The plan had been simple enough. The Suicide Squad allowed her to leave with Nemesis, the squad's master of disguise.
"Only one?" she asked.
Nemesis stepped forward, dressed in a simple black turtleneck and slacks. He extended a hand and said, "Thomas Tresser. You can call me Tom." His blonde hair glinted under the single yellow bulb swinging over them. Chloe looked back up to the blue eyes that studied her from head to toe. "I'm not only one. I can be anyone I want to be; I can appear to you like any one they ask me to be," he told her.
The man accompanied her to her apartment above the Talon as she wrote the goodbye letter, pouring into the keyboard a filtered version of her feelings for Oliver to read—careful of the choice of words but mindful enough that there was a man reading over her shoulder. And then she saw the tissue floating before her. She snatched the tissue from Tresser's hand—because hell if she was going to call a Suicide Squad consultant by his nickname.
She was surprised by the sympathy in his voice when he asked, "How does a girl like you get involved with people like this?"
She did not know if he referred to Flag or to the hero she wrote to in her email. Chloe turned to him and asked, "How does a man like you get involved with people like this?"
And quietly, he answered, "I'm paying them back for saving my life." Chloe was surprised at the candor. "How about you?"
Chloe said, "I want to say I'm trying to save the world." She shook her head. "But now, really, I'm just trying to save one life."
Nemesis nodded. The squad was not all evil, she realized. Maybe it was a fallback, for people who had nowhere else to go—a last chance. "You have no business being with them. If you know a way to survive," he told her, "take it."
Within half an hour, she was standing in Clark's loft with the Legion ring in her hand. She looked at Nemesis in the eye.
"What will happen to you?"
The blond man grinned. "I can take care of myself. I know people."
Chloe shrugged. "You can be people."
"So this is it. This is the only way you go."
"I won't let them warp my brain into thinking a hero—" the love of her life really, "—is some villain I need to kill."
This was it, she thought, as she slid the ring onto her finger. She looked up, then asked, "Do me a favour."
"One of these days, when you cross paths with the Green Arrow, and you have the shot?" she said tentatively. Nemesis nodded. Chloe continued, "Miss it."
Nemesis considered it for a second.
"Tom," she said.
"Once," he promised.
That was enough. Maybe with that one additional step she had done enough for Oliver to survive. Chloe closed her eyes and willed herself out of time, away from here, anywhere but between today and the day she would kill him.
It was Oliver who pulled her out of her reverie when his hand rested on her shoulder. Chloe took a deep breath when he leaned to kiss her cheek and he stood behind her. She stood outside the room in their new home that they had reserved for Connor.
"I was thinking of a racecar bed over there," he said quietly, pointing to the corner of the room.
A race car bed—it wouldn't fit the décor of the rest of the house. But that was the least of the reasons why it would not work. Connor could care less about cars at this stage. He was on a dinosaur phase. She had known Connor for a month and she already knew a dinosaur pattered bedspread would mean more than a bed shaped like the Disney Pixar character.
"Sure," she answered.
If this was the worst of the things she would deal with this time around, this life would be easy.
"How about installing some wooden drawers over there to stack his toys?" he suggested about the other corner of the room.
"That works," she agreed.
Really, putting sturdy plastic shelves and a wooden step ladder was better because then Connor would have the freedom of exploring the different levels of his toys.
"Chloe, are you just agreeing with everything I say?" he asked.
"Connor's your son," she answered. The room was for Oliver and Dinah's child, not hers. If this was her baby she would have Oliver's contractors working round the clock based on diagrams she painstakingly created. But this baby—this baby was not hers.
He turned her around and tipped her chin up. "Chloe, do you have concerns about Connor staying over?"
The frown creased his brow. Chloe reached up and smoothed it. "Absolutely not. Connor is a wonderful boy."
"Then what's wrong?"
"He's your son. You know what's best for him."
"Chloe, I am marrying you this weekend," Oliver told her. "You will be as much a part of Connor's life as I am."
Chloe blinked away the image of a pretty little girl with eyes like hers and a smile like her father's. "It's not the same," she whispered. She shook her head. "I'm sorry. I don't—"
She took a deep breath. "Why don't we just copy his room at your old place? That way he feels right at home."
Oliver nodded. "Then we'll do that. If you think that's the room he'd enjoy the most, we'll make it exactly like his old room."
Connor would walk into the exact same version of his room, and they could pretend he was not shuffled between two places every week. She wondered how long it would take before Connor threw up his little hands in frustration, because the people around him tried to pretend that everything was the same when clearly it was not.
"No, that's not the best plan," Chloe decided.
"Alright." Oliver took her hand and stepped into the room with her. "Look at this place. What would Connor want?"
Chloe took a deep breath. Her chest felt numb with the intense visions of unicorns and angels, of pinks and whites and pastel yellows. Chloe scanned the room and forced the rising images to fade away. She thought of dinosaurs walking the earth in the various eras described in Connor's favourite book. Connor particularly liked having her read to him the word 'herbivore.' "Green."
"Just because I like green doesn't mean we need to force it onto our son," Oliver said offhandedly.
Chloe's gaze flew to Oliver. "I don't replace Dinah in Connor's life, Ollie. You need to understand that," she said firmly. Oliver nodded, and Chloe almost believed that it was a completely honest mistake. And so she told herself the same over and over. It was the same thing she reminded herself. Connor did not replace what she had lost.
They went to bed together, despite the tension. Chloe slept with her head on Oliver's chest. In the middle of the night she rose and looked at the time. Chloe wrapped herself with a robe, then made her way out the door. She sat at the kitchen and dialled Clark's number.
"I want to talk to Rokk," she said.
Chloe made her way to the rooftop of the building and sat at the edge. Soon, Rokk landed before her and looked around warily. Rokk frowned at her. "I assume you're ready to stop pretending now."
"You can't be farther from the truth." At the look of confusion on the man's face, Chloe continued, "I want to go back to the last pocket."
His eyes narrowed. "We don't get to go back to holes in time, Chloe." She hated his calmness, his composure. This alient never let himself be human.
They both remembered the first time they had jumped. She remembered the pain, feeling the pain that tore through her body. She had fallen to her knees and grabbed into a rail to fight against the waves that threatened to take her. The blood. Time ripped away the life she protected, the decision to jump fatal. His cold, efficient ministrations allowed her to heal quickly. At least, her body.
She said coldly, "You're the one who brought me there. You're the one who showed me that infinite worlds existed. I want to see her. You're the only one who has perfect control."
Rokk stood tall. "I came here to make sure the ring is safe, not to become your personal chauffeur over pockets of time that swallowed you whole."
He was business-like, professional, with one single-minded goal. She lashed out, "I liked you better when you were insane and you were in your red robe, taking over time."
"You mean when I trapped you," he clarified. That was not fair, she thought, bringing up the warped version of Rokk and reminding him of his fate to become his own greatest enemy. But maybe if she pushed—hard enough—she would get what she wanted.
"Take me," she pressed.
"I am not pushing you into a hole to get lost."
"I want to see my daughter!" she cried out.
For the first time since her return. She had been far too silent, and the words were so good. Hers. Hers. She would love Connor, maybe she already did for the sheer fact that Oliver's face was captured in every angle. But Connor was not hers.
"Please," she said, huddled in her thin robe, the wind whipping the cloth and sending chills through her skin. Rokk stood before her expressionless. "Just one last time."
And then she saw the shift in his gaze. From her, it rose. Chloe could feel the dread come over her. Slowly, she turned around and saw Oliver standing at the doorway to the stairwell. She locked her jaw and turned back around to plead with Rokk.
He was gone. Chloe turned back around and rushed past Oliver. He caught her arm and pulled her to him. Chloe looked up at him.
"Daughter?" he whispered. "We have a daughter?"
In one of the infinite universes, out there in a pocket of time, there was a child whose mother had killed her father. Chloe had changed that story for herself when she jumped through time. In another universe, Chloe was Green Arrow's killer and remained part of the Suicide Squad raising her daughter.
"She's dead," Chloe said truthfully. "Now let me go."
She rushed down the steps and returned to the home they shared. Oliver called her name, and for the first time she did not turn. He followed her as she walked into the room meant for Connor and stood at the center. "Get a normal bed and we put a coverlet with dinosaur print," she told Oliver. She gestured towards the high wall. "Shelves, Oliver. Kids don't like their toys trapped in drawers or cabinets. Have your contractors make a small path before each of the shelves that will allow Connor to talk through each level to choose a toy." Chloe patted the walls of the room. "Get this stencilled with trees and volcanoes and asteroids." She turned her eyes to Oliver and said, "There. Your son's room."
Oliver nodded, keeping his eyes on her. "What was her name?" was the question he returned to her.
Chloe took a deep breath. "I lost the pregnancy when I jumped. She didn't have a name."
"Then who did you want to leave me for?" he asked, and Chloe heard the hint of betrayal in his voice.
She wondered if she would still be getting married in the weekend. "I wanted to jump to a pocket in time that was created when I changed the events I saw in Fate's helmet," she answered quietly. "I wanted to go to a universe when the baby survived and you didn't." Oliver's face was shuttered. "Because that is what it boils down to, Ollie. In this world, I chose you."
He drew her to him and pressed a kiss on her forehead.
"And seeing Dinah with Connor, keeping his room, hearing him call you dad—it makes it so difficult, Oliver." Chloe knew she had placed Oliver in a position that was in no way fair. But she needed him to understand. "I'm sorry," she confessed. Chloe grasped the front of Oliver's shirt and cried.
He was better off not knowing any of this.
This was the trade that allowed Oliver to survive.