Title: Christmas Gift Exchange
Summary: Chloe and Oliver exchange Christmas gifts and assurances that we don't all grow to be our parents.
Disclaimer: These characters and Smallville are not mine.
Characters: Moira Sullivan, Chloe, Gabe, Oliver
Christmas Gift Exchange
She was always going to remember the smell of oatmeal cookies, freshly baked, as the only scent that physically wrapped her in warmth. On a cold morning when snow was falling outside, Chloe adored the aroma of perfectly baked cookies permeating the air. She had been five when she sat on the stool at their Metropolis home, and she saw her reflection in the mirror with the guilty coat of chocolate icing over her mouth. Chloe held up a cookie cutter in the shape of a Christmas tree and cut three cookie trees.
"Make a star! Make three stars!"
Everything always came in trees then.
And while her mother cut the stars Chloe's tongue peeked out as she wielded a little plastic knife and free styled the shape of a little girl.
"And then I'll make a mom and a dad," she announced with pride, holding aloft the little girl cookie dough with fly away short hair and a short dress. "Can I have lemon cream for her hair?"
And the cookie dough became a blonde little girl.
She focused carefully in shaping the mother and the father and presented it with pride, and in congratulations her mother clasped her hands in front of her then with one finger dipped into the chocolate sauce and tapped Chloe's nose. Chloe looked back towards the kitchen mirror and laughed, then proclaimed, "I'm a chocolate nosed reindeer!"
Moira nodded and leaned before her daughter. Chloe giggled when she kissed her forehead. Her mother smelled like oatmeal cookies. If only her mother waited for her before she started baking she would smell even better because Chloe would have started off with coconut tartlets and chocolate crinkles.
"And what does a chocolate nosed reindeer do, Chloe?"
"Light up the way for Santa, just like Rudolf and Comet and all the other reindeers." She finished with a rush. Just so her mother would not have to ask what all the names were. She could hardly be expected to learn all their names with all the things they expected her to memorize in pre-school. Chloe could not wait for the real school where the things they memorized mattered more than a cow jumping over a moon—which was silly and impossible and was just plain strange. "Just like them, only the light is a bit dimmer because it's from a chocolate nose."
"Well we can't have that!" Moira exclaimed. And she reached for a dollop of lemon cream and swathed it on the tip of her daughter's nose. "Now you've got a yellow light."
"Like the bulb on the porch," Chloe observed, chuckling at the discovery. Chloe tried to look down at her nose. She delighted at the sight in the periphery of her vision, but blinked and shook her head when she grew dizzy at how her eyes had to cross. She focused instead on the Christmas trees and stars, the mommy, the daddy and the Chloe on the cookie sheet that was all her own. "Let's bake our cookies so daddy can bring some to work!"
"Alright, Chloe." And then her mother picked her up from the stool and put her down on the floor, then handed the cookie sheet to her. "Careful!" her mother warned, and Chloe waited for her mother to take out the oatmeal cookies before she put her cookies in. "My cookies will taste better than yours, mommy. Mine has chocolate for your hair and lemon for mine and daddy's. And I've got all the green sugar for the trees and vanilla for the stars!"
Even so, Chloe spent the next twenty minutes waiting for her creations eating her mother's cookies and messing up the tabletop. When she was done and stuffed, Chloe looked down at her favorite sweater that her grandmother knitted for her and her brows furrowed at the horrific sight. Her lower lip stuck out and her eyes filled when she discovered how very dirty she was. She wanted to show off her Christmas sweater at school, because it was so cool the way the Snowman looked like he was walking through a field of golden snowflakes.
And then there was her mommy with a pink and sticky roller, running it from left to right of her sweater and magically her sweater was as good as new!
"Voila!" her mother exclaimed.
Chloe's eyes grew round and she broke into a grin. She threw her arms around her mother, because if she did not fix it it would have been an absolute disaster—like the disasters that happened when the Planeteers could not combined their powers together and call on Captain Planet. "I love you, mom!"
And her mother smiled down at her, then pushed Chloe's hair back and hooked them behind her ears. Chloe shook it out. "No, sweetheart," she said to her. Carefully, her mother pulled back her hair and then tied it in a half pony tail and told her, "Just for this morning, so I can see your face."
And then her mother straightened and looked up at the clock. Chloe glanced right there and said, "Are we waiting for six, mommy? We put the cookies when the big hand was pointing to two." She had to count four numbers for twenty minutes. That was what daddy told her.
"Why don't you call mommy when the oven timer rings or right before the big hand points to six? I'll get ready to take you to school."
When her mommy left the kitchen, Chloe snatched another piece of her mommy's cookies that were not as good as her own cookies. If she messed up she knew where her mommy kept the sticky roller that would clean her right up.
She was just supposed to have one more, but she finished off two. Chloe looked at her reflection in guilt and looked up at the clock. There were two little lines before six, so she raced up the steps and stopped at the doorway of her mommy and daddy's bedroom. Daddy said to always knock, and Chloe wondered if she had to knock when the door was open. But she went and knocked, then hopped inside.
"Mommy, my cookies are done!"
Chloe frowned when she heard the running water coming from the bathroom, and the neatly packed suitcases on the bed. They were the red ones. They were mommy's suitcases, with the handle that extended so mommy could drag them on their wheels.
"Are we going on vacation, mommy?" she started to ask.
But Chloe's suitcase was a white shiny Hello Kitty that her daddy got her when his company sent him to China. Chloe remembered seeing it on top of her closet. When it was full it was never on top of her closet. Mommy was not taking her on vacation with her. She blinked away the sudden rush of tears. When her mommy stepped out of the bathroom Chloe hugged her mother's knee.
"Chloe," her mother said, and she thought she heard the dismay in her voice. That was her voice when Chloe broke a glass last week. That was her voice when daddy told them last month he had to go to California for two weeks after coming home from Mexico. She remembered, because daddy brought her a funny hat that jingled right after he said, "Felix Natividad!" and she had told everyone that was the name of the guy he bought it from. "I didn't want you to see this."
"Where are you going, mommy?"
"I'm going away for a little while."
"Are you going to China?" After all when Chloe wanted to go with her daddy to China, daddy said only grownups got sent to China by their bosses. Maybe that was why mommy didn't pack her Hello Kitty suitcase.
Her mommy shook her head. Chloe could smell her cookies, but she was not done with her mommy. "I just need to leave, Chloe. Your daddy and I—"
"Are you going with daddy?"
"You don't love daddy," she accused.
"Sometimes grownups fight, but I love your daddy because he gave me a pretty daughter like you."
Chloe looked towards the red suitcases that were packed. "Do you love me?"
"More than anything."
It did not make sense, but Chloe did not want to ask her mommy if she was lying. "Then why are you leaving? Why aren't you taking me with you?" If mommy loved her she would have gotten up the step ladder they used and taken down her Hello Kitty suitcase and asked Chloe to pick her favorite clothes to pack up too.
"Because I can't stay anymore."
Her cookies burned, and she hated the aroma of her ruined cookies. When mommy took them out, the colors were gone and all that was left was the charred little people clattering on top of the blackened trees and powdered stars.
Chloe felt the arms that wrapped tightly from behind her. She blinked and then glanced back and found Oliver grinning down at her. There was a cut on his forehead, and she suspected he had put on his costume and did a little holiday heroism that made him a half an hour late for their shopping expedition. Her eyes softened at the sight of his smile. She bit her bottom lip, then nodded towards the line of children that formed to wish for gifts from Santa Claus.
"Do you think these parents know that they're being set up to clear the department store inventory?" Chloe asked with a lopsided grin.
Oliver's brows arched. "Do not be a Scrooge," he warned.
Chloe shook her head and leaned back into him. "Never. You're too much of a little boy at Christmas for me to bring you down from your glow." Her hand ran down his arm where he held her. He had no idea how close he was to his Christmas gift.
His lips teased the shell of her ear. "Are you ready to exchange gifts? My gift will blow your mind."
So she turned around in his arms and challenged him, "For the first time in years, I bet mine will far eclipse yours."
"Oh. You're willing to go that far, aren't you?" He chuckled. "Willing to bet on it, professor? I spent more than a year planning this one." His voice sombered a little when he added, "I worked on this since we got you back because I wasn't ever going to lose you like that again."
"Ten bucks. I assume you had the League help you out?"
"Every single one of them," he answered. "Did you?"
Chloe's eyes twinkled with humor. "Definitely not. I can't even imagine." She flushed. "Maybe I could, but I shouldn't."
Oliver laughed as he puzzled over the response. "And you can't touch it yet, but I can show you a picture."
Chloe grinned. "Same here."
"I can't wait," he whispered into her ear.
He linked his hand in hers when they walked through the mall and bought the last remaining Christmas gifts that had been delayed from their list, and they spent a good fifteen minutes outside an entertainment store discussing the impracticality of buying one Wii each for Victor, AC and Bart. The three had been assigned to Oliver while Chloe had been given Jonn, Lois, Tess and Dinah. Of course, Oliver insisted they choose Clark's gift together and Chloe had to believe it had nothing to do with jealousy of any kind.
"Come on, Ollie. They're all going to play together, and you know it."
"Victor and AC will play while Bart loses soundly because he won't be able to keep his eyes on you," Oliver grumbled.
Chloe shook her head, and Oliver landed on a Wii for Victor, an Xbox for AC and a Playstation for Bart. "Very creative," she decided with a hint of sarcasm.
"Let's see how good your choices are," he told her. And Chloe just absolutely adored the challenge, knew she would trump him in this just as well as she would trounce his gift with hers.
With her holding on tightly to Oliver's hand they made their way through the Christmas rush crush. The fourth time she was pushed, Chloe decided to put Oliver in front of her to help her clear a path and keep herself from getting jostled.
She stopped in front of a customization shop and handed the receipt over to the manager, who then handed her a box. Chloe opened it and showed Oliver the digital picture frame that was inscribed with their first names only, then turned it on.
Photographs of the team—strictly all in civilian—played in a slideshow. "He's pretty sentimental, you know. I thought he'd like to have pictures of his family on Earth."
When Oliver looked at her in awe, she took it as one point in her favor.
"And the ladies?" Oliver inquired.
"I have lingerie sets from La Perla sitting in our bedroom, in their favorite colors and in their perfect cup sizes," Chloe declared. "And I worked with one of your contacts in Paris and had a perfumer from Tuileries Gardens create custom fragrance for them based on their favorite flowers."
"You realize these gifts are coming under both our names."
"I wouldn't be able to afford them if they just came from me," she pointed out.
"I have a history with all these women, and I'm sending them perfume and lingerie!"
"Custom," Chloe pointed out with a grin. "Besides, no one is going to think you're sending a message." She winked. "They might think we're both hitting on them. And it's going to drive them insane wondering if you and I are really that type of couple."
"You're having fun," he realized.
"I am," Chloe admitted. "And you have to admit I win this round. Personalization is key."
"So I assume your gift for me is personalized," he hazarded a guess. She nodded. "Does it have my name?"
"Better," she told him. "And then it will."
"Come on," he said, tugging her hand. "Let's exchange gifts now."
"After dinner, remember? That's how we do it."
At home. It would be the perfect place, because she wanted to make sure when they told the story it would be set right there in front of the Christmas tree he insisted on decorating, right in front of the fireplace. He had wanted to recapture his childhood's picture perfect Christmases while Chloe refused to be taken by the excitement he spread like an infection throughout the team. But this time, today, Chloe wanted to believe in his Christmas memories and set aside hers.
"Do you think we all eventually become our parents?" she asked him when they made their way up to the place they shared immediately following her return.
He looked at her as if he wanted to answer, but he remained quiet as he mulled over her question.
Chloe shrugged, then added, "But your parents were generous, successful people. You can't do better than growing up like them."
"I can survive," he pointed out.
Chloe nodded. "You should."
The home they shared had the cheery Christmas tree standing near the fireplace. Oliver took out the various gaming consoles that he had asked the store to giftwrap and placed it under the tree. He noticed the three glossy bags already sitting under the tree. "I don't know why I didn't notice them before."
Chloe then added to the small pile the box that was meant for Jonn. She looked up at Oliver and said, "We forgot Clark." She made a face. "We were supposed to choose something for him together."
"We can tell him his would follow," Oliver offered tentatively.
He walked to the kitchen. Chloe thought back to the day that his father arrived while she sat in front of the charred remains of her cookies. Gabe had picked up the white envelope from the table and read the contents of the letter that she had seen her mother put right there under the vase of sunflowers, where she was sure her dad would not miss it.
"We wouldn't see your mom for a while, Chloe," her father had told her.
"Honey, things just got difficult for us. She wants you to know she loves you."
To a little girl, words meant nothing. Chloe shook her head. Oliver had told her he loved her too right before he went missing. And she had professed she loved Oliver before she left. People left right after I love you, and until now she waited with bated breath for the other shoe to drop, for all of this to end like it was bound to.
It terrified her. Especially now.
She opened her bag and pulled out the white envelope, eerily similar to what her mother had left her father.
Oliver came back with a flute of champagne on either hand and a folder tucked under his arm. "Are you ready?"
Chloe's grip tightened on the envelope she held. Oliver extends the champagne to her and she took it, then placed it just above the fireplace. Oliver frowned. Chloe licked her lips. "Is that my gift?" she asked, nodding at the folder.
He winked at her. "It's bigger than yours."
Chloe wanted to smile, to make this easier, but every second he was closer to opening that envelope it got just a little bit scarier. "I don't want to be my mother," she said abruptly. "My mother ran away when it got harder. She left right after telling me she loved me." At the words, Oliver lowered his own champagne flute to the table, then walked over to her. Chloe watched when he took her hands in his. "I did that. And I'm no better than her."
"She left to protect you," he said quietly.
Chloe shook her head. "She left us way before she found out about her abilities, Ollie. She stopped loving my dad and she left me. I don't want to be her, Oliver."
His hands around hers tightened, and he pulled her to him and kissed the top of her head. "You won't. How can you be when we both know you'd never stop loving me?" was his gentle question. "No one's leaving anyone."
She raised her head to look up at him and gave a small smile. His lips lowered and she met his kiss with a brief one of her own.
"Where is this coming from?" he asked.
"When I lost my powers I thought that was just one more thing that assured me I wouldn't end up like her," she said softly. And then she reached up and brushed a thumb over the cut on his forehead that she had been itching to touch since he arrived at the mall. In the safety of her home, she allowed the small glow of light, and gasped as the electric hum that burned through her skin. And then she lowered her hand and his forehead was smooth and healed.
The flash of fear in his eyes was familiar. Oliver touched his forehead and said, "They're back." Chloe nodded. "You can't—Chloe, we need to talk about healing. I don't want you to heal left and right. I can't—" He struggled for words until he picked the most obvious of it all, "The last time was eighteen hours. And that can't happen again."
She nodded. It would be no great loss. As far from her mother as she could become, all the better.
She closed her eyes and pulled him down for another kiss. Then she held the envelope over his chest. "Merry Christmas, Ollie."
Oliver handed her the folder, then drew her with him towards the balcony. She avoided the balcony that hung thirty stories up, but seeing the telescope sitting there seemed to be integral to his gift.
So Chloe lifted the cover of the folder and saw a photograph of a massive satellite sitting in the desert. Her lips parted when she saw the letters painted onto the side of the machine. "Watchtower," she read.
"I'm informed that the Watchtower satellite is in the sky, Chloe." He took her hand and kissed it. "You were always my guiding light, and I wanted to make sure there's part of you up in the sky that could serve as a refuge of all of us. For any other hero that becomes part of the Justice League, we might eventually be gone, but Watchtower will always be online in the sky for every one of them. And it's all yours, Chloe."
She turned the pages of stapled together, and saw the blueprint and photographs of the satellite that seemed more like a station to her. There was a monitor womb, a training room, a trophy room, even living areas for heroes. It was—a world—an entire sanctuary for people that she had sworn to protect.
"It's the part of you that will always look after heroes even after you and I retire."
Chloe peered through the telescope at the vast space and wondered if she really saw the twinkle of the Watchtower in the night sky. It was not even the incredible value of setting up something as grand as that, but the thought that came with it.
He truly thought she provided all that to the team.
She heard him whisper, "Fork up the cash, Chloe. Ten dollars, right?"
She took a deep breath, then cleared her throat. His gift has been amazing. "Hold your horses, Romeo. What's ten dollars compared to the millions you spent on that contraption?" She nodded at the white envelope in his hands.
She had wanted to do this before the fireplace, but here up high over Metropolis, under the stars and the Watchtower, was even better. Oliver lifted the flap and drew out the small slip of paper that had her name and the date—yesterday. It had come in perfect timing as she had been searching high and low for the gift that Oliver did not already have but wanted more than anything in the world.
And then he saw him quickly skim over the technical details of the test results until he reached the last line. "Seven weeks." His gaze flickered over to her. "We're pregnant." She nodded. Oliver chuckled, then wrapped his arms around her. She felt herself lifted off her feet and Oliver easily whirled around.
"Ollie, I'd prefer you spin me when we're not standing thirty stories above ground."
He laughed into her ear and stumbled back into the bedroom. He set her at her feet, and swallowed. Chloe frowned when his hand slid into his pocket. And then he searched for bills until he grunted and took out a hundred dollar bill and handed it to her.
"I should have known a Queen wouldn't be carrying a ten dollar bill."
Chloe plucked the bill out of his hands and slid it in her pocket as a sign that she had won this wager.
His hand slid over her belly, and he kissed her cheek. She heard him say, "The only similarity between you and your mom is that you are going to love our baby like she loved you. But everything else, Chloe, everything else will be you and me."
"Okay," she answered. "But I can't stop being afraid, Oliver. I need you to work through this with me."
"You have me," he promised.
"Merry Christmas," she greeted.
Oliver wrapped his arms around her. And then, after a few minutes, he paused. Chloe felt his shoulders tense. "The League helped design the satellite. You said you could imagine them helping out when you were coming up with my gift. You didn't really—"
Chloe's eyebrows drew together. She gave him a lopsided smile. "I said I could but I shouldn't." Oliver shook his head. "And I didn't!" She took a deep breath. "Oliver, this is not going to be part of the story when we tell it to everyone."
"You have to bribe me," he countered.
Chloe pursed her lips and took his hundred dollar bill from her pocket and handed it back to him. Oliver winked and kissed her lips. "I love you."
"I love you too," she answered.
And Chloe just knew she was still going to be there tomorrow.