LEGENDS: This is How Lois Becomes
Summary: Some people were better off having been left in the dark.
AN: I hope you continue to enjoy the effort. Thank you for reading.
This is How Marriages End
This is How Families Grow
This is How Friendships Last
This is How Oliver Survives
This is How Lois Becomes
Oliver closed the door behind him, careful not to make a noise that could wake his son. Connor's room in his new place being furnished had been timely, and despite the contactors' two week turnover delay he did not protest. And from the small excuses that Chloe lightly gave for not being able to come with him during the weekends when he visited, it seemed the contractors' incompetence served their purposes well.
He looked up to see Dinah standing at the doorway that led to their old bedroom. Oliver gave a slight nod to her.
"Chloe couldn't come," she said, not asked.
"Sorry about that," Oliver responded. "She's not feeling very well."
Dinah's brows rose. "Well, let's hope she's not pregnant," came the gentle tease. If the words did not hurt so much he would recall the earlier days in their marriage when they bantered and teased and had fun, just because Oliver had not had fun in a while. "Not since she called off the wedding."
Having the secret she had guarded so closely torn open before Oliver, Chloe had sat on their bed the next morning and turned to him. He knew before she said a word what it was she wanted.
"I still want to marry you," he had said to her, almost like a plea.
She nodded, but slid the ring from her finger and placed it in his palm, then closed his fingers over it. "I want to marry you too."
But his tight grip on the ring allowed the stones to cut deep into his skin, telling him her actions proved her a liar. "Then why am I holding this?" he asked.
And she bit her lip, turned her head away so that the sun that streamed through the windows bathed over her face. "Because, Ollie—"
"What?" he whispered when she did not continue.
"I'm not ready."
He wanted to tell her that time healed all wounds, but they avoided the word like it was cursed. Time was not their friend, not a healer. Time took; time warped; time destroyed.
So he asked her instead, "Will you ever be ready?"
And her gaze moved to him, and he could almost feel the honey warmth of her regard as her eyes fell to his lips, the hollow of his throat, his shoulders and finally, met his look. "If it does, you're the first one who will know."
And he nodded. Oliver got up from the bed and walked to the mantel right above the fireplace. He felt her watching him. Deliberately he placed the ring right there, glinting, begging for attention.
"You should put it back in the safe, Ollie." Hide it away like it had been the years she had been gone. That was what she wanted.
He turned to her and told her, "It's been hidden long enough. This ring will stay here, Chloe. Right here where you can see it every day waiting for you."
"It might get lost," she protested.
"Who else comes into our bedroom?" he pointed out. "If I come in here one of these days and it's gone—and believe me, it will happen—soon—then I'm going to look at your hand and assume you're wearing it because you know you're ready."
Between the two of them, he thought he was always the one who took a chance. He was the one who called her close, the one who placed a hand on her cheek when they were nothing more than colleagues, the one who said the words first, the one who first confessed. He had always been the first, until she rendered all his gestures nil when she traded her life. He would take the chance now.
Oliver brought her to the mantel and looked at her as she stood, staring at the ring she had just surrendered.
"When you're ready, it's right there. All you have to do is take it," he had told her.
But that part of the cancelled engagement, Dinah could not know. He wondered if his ex-wife knew him enough to suspect. After all, beyond the shame of cancelling invitations that had already been emailed and texted in lieu of being mailed (the turnaround time had been too short to use regular post), those closest to them knew that the two of them made no move to separate.
"No," Oliver replied to Dinah. "She's not," he denied, avoiding the word that he swore would burn off his tongue. "She has some things to do with Lois."
"She's been to see Connor twice in two months, Oliver," Dinah reminded him wryly. One of those times, really, it was more to see Dinah and tell her in person that she was marrying Oliver. Chloe had barely spoken with Connor. "I'm doing my part in this arrangement."
And she was. Oliver could not begin to show her his gratitude, so he signed it for her even though she did not need it.
"I would hate to think someone who's going to be your new wife, Connor's stepmother, can't stand him."
"That's not fair," he said quietly. They had both watched. Dinah's relationship to Connor had given her that privilege. They had both seen how Chloe treated Connor in those two occasions. Chloe had read Bernstein Bears with such flourish that Connor still refused to have Dinah read the story without the inflections and voices that Chloe had made. Chloe had been the one who first got Connor's block stack eight levels high. At the end of the second visit, Oliver had opened the door to the playroom and found his son slumped in Chloe's arms fast asleep.
He had smiled at the sight, his son's lips plastered against the crook of Chloe's neck tugging at him. When he bent to pick up Connor, her arms tightened around the boy and she buried her nose in his hair. When Oliver lifted the boy up from her arms he swore Connor mumbled an endearment for his mother.
That had been the last time she came, and every weekend since she was unavailable.
"Give her some time," Oliver told Dinah.
"Time for what?" Dinah asked. "To adjust? Because I have a two year old who should be the one being given some room to adjust."
But he would not be the one to tell Dinah. When Chloe was ready, she would be the one to approach Dinah. That was how she handled the engagement and Oliver respected Chloe's desire to take control of her life as much as she could.
So far, only three souls knew the entire truth—and one of them was from the future and posed no threat to today.
Instead of going home, Oliver rode his bike to his office and avoided the usual groups of his employees who stayed behind late at work. Instead of entering through the lobby, Oliver passed through the entrance less known, where his publicists gathered to device story after story to append to his image. They had worked hard the past months—the divorce, the engagement, the wedding that never was. They had not worked as hard for five years now.
Oliver passed through the framed blown up magazine covers that chronicled his public persona, framed and trophies to their success, immortalized and reminders to their failures. The Fortune cover of his duality was hung in a special wall all on its own. His wedding to Dinah had been on a Star City Special. The birth of his son.
Oliver's pace quickened. He had demanded the next ones taken down, but time after time they raised them back up. They had been the mark of their spin success when during the bout of masochistic, suicidal hell that he had been immersed in, the covers that emerged were the same—
A shot of Oliver standing before a gravestone marker, a white yellow-speckled stargazer in his hand.
It was a time he did not want to relive, not when she was home. Even when she sat before him at dinner, and she was far away, mute, with a smile that was half-empty, still he reminded himself—she was home.
Oliver quickly took off his shirt and tossed it over a chair as he entered the private workout area he had placed in the office building. The new home he built with Chloe had been furnished with the same set of instruments, the same equipment. But at home with Chloe he worked for exercise, and he did not let her see this.
Oliver pummelled at the boxing bag. The hear he had combed back grew heavy with sweat, falling over his eyes. This morning, Chloe had handed him freshly squeezed juice and placed a hand on his shoulder. By instinct he reached for it and closed his hand tightly over hers. She had pulled away, and when he looked at her he saw her need to talk. But she did not say a word. Neither did he. The bag swung back heavily at his him on his side, making him stumble and catch his balance. In return Ollie delivered a series of blows that made his sides scream. The grunts that followed every hit were more sounds he had heard in the silence of his head.
Over lunch she had told him, because it was a routine they both developed now, "You're on your way to Connor's." Connor's. Not Dinah's. A part of him cheered, because he knew Chloe thought of Connor much more than she let on. He nodded, waited for the excuse. Chloe fished inside her large bag and brought out a green stuffed animal. "Give this to him. He will love it."
"A little monster?" he asked sceptically.
Chloe's eyes widened in disbelief. "I was walking around the toy store and that is a best seller!" she insisted. Oliver did not venture to ask what on earth she was doing window shopping there. "It's Hester, the green Pentaceratops. It's in Nickelodeon."
Oliver chuckled, an eyebrow rose. "Pentaceratops," he repeated. "That's a mouthful. Is that even real?"
"Of course it is," she protested. "And I am offended you would doubt me."
"It just seems like it's too much for a kiddie show. How can kids even pronounce that?"
Chloe's eyes gleamed with laughter. He had missed this. He reached for her bare hand and their fingers tangled together. "You'd be surprised at the mental capacity of some children when they enjoy what they're learning."
Oliver realized that Chloe had been spending time with Lois now, and with Lois came the three year old ball of fire that even now he suspected was more Lois than Clark. A part of him grew jealous at the thought, jealous for Connor who had taken a quick liking to Chloe, jealous of Clark that he probable saw Chloe every weekend playing with his son.
The bag slammed hard onto his, head on. Oliver's breath was knocked out of his body and he fell flat on his back. Oliver blinked away the blackness that was his vision and when his eyesight was restored he saw Lois Lane standing above him with a fat smile.
"Rise and shine, Queen!" Oliver broke into a grin. "What did you do to the boxing bag anyway?"
"I called it fat and it retorted that it would try to sit on me," he replied. In truth, as distracted as he was, he probably did not need to be working out his aggression on training.
He took Lois' useless offer of a hand up. Still he managed to pull himself up with barely any force from Lois. Oliver stood and took a towel from the seat to dry himself. Lois crossed her arms across her chest. "I was wondering if we could speak," she said.
Oliver sighed. "Chloe put you up to this?"
"As a matter of fact, she did ask me to talk to you."
Not that he doubted it for a moment, but it did feel good to know she still cared. He looked at Lois and then turned around and picked up a magazine. This seemed like a conversation best done dressed. He handed it to her and said, "Give me ten."
Lois shrugged and Oliver proceeded to the bathroom. When he emerged, Lois stood up quickly and he suggested the name of a restaurant. Lois always did love Japanese.
"Let's stick to your office," Lois said when she declined.
The two of them made their way to the privacy of Oliver office. Lois pushed the door closed. Oliver nodded towards the seat in front of his desk. Lois took a seat. Instead of moving behind the desk, Oliver took the seat in front of Lois'.
"So what, did you little cousin give you the dirty job of breaking up with me?" Despite the chuckle, Oliver heard the hint of fear in his own voice.
Lois smiled. "If Chloe wanted to break up with you, she'd do it herself. I can assure you of that."
"That's not much by way of assurance," Oliver pointed out.
The brunette shook her head. Oliver had almost forgotten how easy it used to be to speak to her. "Chloe always said you were comfortable talking to me," Lois told him. "And she's noticed that you've been distant lately. So if you can't talk to her about it, she thought maybe you could try me."
Him. Distant. Talk about the pot and the kettle and all that. If Chloe were here right now he would probably have given her that look she hated.
And then there was somber hesitation in Lois' voice when she continued, "You have to know, Ollie, that my cousin as much as possible tells me everything. So whatever you're feeling—"
"I doubt," he pre-empted, "that you would really ever understand."
Lois nodded. She was not going to pretend complete understanding. She was too smart for that. "I know. So you can tell me, Ollie. Maybe telling me would help a little, help you get some release."
"Chloe is the one who needs to talk," he told her. He had missed talking to her. Since they first got together, even before then when they worked together, he looked forward to speaking to her for hours on end. No one in the world could converse with him in the same level as Chloe could. And now they talked and laughed and skirted around the topic they needed to discuss. "I'm not the one getting destroyed by this."
"No?" Lois asked. She placed her briefcase on top of Oliver's desk and handed him a few printed pages. "Here are the IPs that have been logged with interactions to your fancy computer right there, Oliver." And then Lois enumerated them coldly. "Division 9 is a covert ops unit. Suntech has piloted a program for special circumstances travel. There are trails to something called Nightshade. And this is a pretty large amount to be funnelled to a PO Box company, Oliver." Finally, she ended with, "What are you doing, Oliver?"
His lips thinned. He had hid it well. He congratulated himself when after three days Chloe had not called him out. Oliver had prided his skills. Only, he realized, the only reason Chloe did not see anything was because she did not look. But he had hidden this, because to her he needed to be okay. "Are you going to demand that I stop?"
"You're looking for the people who took, Chloe."
Oliver's eyes narrowed. "I found them years ago," he told her. "Right after the funeral I buried Ben Turner and Rick Flag side by side."
He did not turn his gaze away from her, watched her expression, saw his regard. If he had turned away it would show guilt or regret. But he did not regret a single moment when he knew they were responsible for his loss.
"Then what?" she whispered.
"I won't tell you just so you can try to convince me to let this go."
Lois shook her head. Her lips curved, this time it was not the fat smile she greeted him with. Her gaze was hard as flint, her voice cold. "Five years ago we buried my baby cousin. She missed my wedding day; the birth of my son." Her voice hitched, and Oliver realized that now four souls knew the whole truth. "She lost the love of her life and her baby died. She wandered lost in time and it's a miracle she didn't go insane out there." Lois wet her lips. "I'm not here to ask you to let it go, Oliver. I'm here to help you bring whoever or whatever did that to her."
Oliver faced her determination with a nod. "Revenge is not the only thing I'm after."
"I don't care what else you want. But I will make someone pay," Lois assured him.
"Then you and I are after the Time Trapper," he told her, throwing himself into the effort head on. This is where the lines blurred, Oliver thought. The last that he saw, Rokk Krinn was the same hero he had been before whatever force had taken away his soul.
Lois could search for the Trapper.
Meanwhile, success would be measured by one single jump through time and back. One jump and maybe he could bring her their daughter back.
What did you think?