Timeline: AU, but I dabble (and mess) with canon events.
Warning: Coarse language


Breakeven

"Put away the dress Lois. I'm not wearing it."

Chloe had to give her cousin credit, as for once, the dress she had chosen wasn't terribly inappropriate. The purple strapless number was simple, classic and wouldn't make her look like a fool. However, she still wasn't going to wear it.

Lois frowned as she turned the hanger in her hand. She thought she had hit a home run with this one. "Come on cuz. It's not that bad."

Standing up from her computer, Chloe walked over to her kitchen to fill up her coffee. "I'm not going tonight, you know this." She took a sip, scoffing as she reminded herself of the various reasons why it was a terrible idea to go. "Besides, isn't Jimmy covering the photos?"

Lois shrugged as she set the dress down on the table. "So flirt with some billionaire boy and make them both jealous." She had tried to respect Chloe's privacy, only prodding as many times as necessary, but her patience was running thin.

The entire week, it had been about the job hunt. Lois was half-convinced that Chloe hadn't eaten, but she shrugged it off, saying that everything was okay, but she just didn't see that it really wasn't. Mrs. Kent's campaign gala had been on their calendars for almost three weeks now, and Lois had hoped it would be the chance for Chloe to get some fresh air. But here she was, fighting tooth and nail with her.

Then again, it didn't help that Lois' solution was the last thing Chloe wanted to do; she had enough of flirting with billionaire boys to last a lifetime. "Why do you need me there anyway?"

"Moral support," Lois replied easily, noticing that Chloe's skeptical eyebrow was firmly in place. "You know the ex that came to town last week?"

Chloe pretended to think about it for a second as she set down her mug. "The one you've told me nothing about... rings a bell." Before she got fired, Lois had mentioned something about her ex coming to see her. All Chloe knew was that they dated six months and Lois ended it because he seemed too distant. What that had to with now, Chloe couldn't explain. "So?"

"Well, he's coming tonight." It was the truth, Lois just didn't want to get into the details, because the moment she did, Chloe would likely spin into lecture-mode and then still refuse to come.

However, there were still consequences to keeping thing simple. "If I've learned anything in life, it's that Lois Lane can handle her own battles." After all, Lois said everything had gone just fine, that she had overreacted and that they were on better terms. All that lead to one conclusion. "You need me there as much as I want to go tonight."

Lois crossed her arms, all but giving in, but not backing down. "So what's the plan then? Email your resume into the black hole of the Internet?" Tilting her heard towards the computer, she had already noticed the internet browsers and documents. "Because that's all you've done this past week."

Sighing, Chloe returned to her desk, not expecting Lois to understand. "Getting blacklisted means I've got to work twice as hard." It was hard to see rejection, or more accurately, the sounds of crickets chirping in the background as far as her professional life was concerned, but Chloe knew she would find her way out of this.

Having enough, Lois walked over to turn Chloe's chair around so she'd pay attention. "Just tonight, cuz. I'll... I'll stop asking about your one night stand."

Eyebrows raising at the offer, Chloe had to ask, "You're that desperate?" It had been five days since Lois had caught Chloe coming home and her cousin hadn't let her forget it just yet. If it wasn't about leaving the apartment, it was one bad sexual metaphor after another.

Except Lois was that desperate. With nothing going on in Chloe's life, it was the fall back conversation topic. Sure, Lois enjoyed teasing her cousin, but even she had her limits. More than anything, Lois wanted to see Chloe do anything else. "You deserve a night off."

Staring straight at her cousin, Chloe could see the sincerity in her eyes. She pulled her chair back, knowing that facing Clark and Jimmy was far from her list of things to do. Not only that, but her last night out also didn't end quite the way she expected. Standing up, Chloe walked around Lois and picked up her dress. "Fine, but you are backing off."

Sighing in relief, Lois raced towards her, giving her a tight hug. "I can agree to those terms." Backing away, she grabbed Chloe's hand, dragging her to her bedroom to get ready.

~0~

It didn't take long for Chloe to regret coming. Conversations she could have deflected, bad puns she could have groaned at, but this, actually standing here, it made Chloe believe that she had made the wrong decision. Don't get her wrong, she was glad for the positive press for Mrs. Kent, especially after Mr. Kent suddenly passed away. It was a tough couple of months for everyone and Chloe, in her true nature, made sure that she was there for Clark. Now, she wanted nothing to do with him, but the world didn't work that way.

He spotted them quickly and walked over to Chloe and Lois, looking great in his tux as always and sporting his stupid boyish grin.

But before he had a chance to say anything, as he hadn't expected Chloe tonight, she decided to fill in the blanks. "I figured it was best for me to be here... for your mom."

Clark nodded, not wanting to press the issue any further. "You both look great."

"Don't we?" Lois replied, staring down at her silver and black gown that definitely stood out amongst the crowd. However, it didn't take long for Lois to grab Chloe's arm and start walking away from Clark. "Now excuse us Smallville, we have work to do."

Chloe could hear him chuckle under his breath as they walked away, causing Chloe to roll her eyes. "Subtle cuz." All things considered, Clark had actually been fairly considerate through all this, giving her the space that she asked for, and only texting her to check if she was okay. With time, Chloe knew she'd forgive him, she always did. But this time, he oddly deserved it.

Noticing that Chloe was still looking over her shoulder at Clark, who had moved on in the crowd, Lois tugged harder at her cousin's arm. "I'm sure he'll survive."

That concept was one Chloe had no trouble believing and she was quick to move on, stepping in front of Lois as she scanned the crowd. "Okay, so who's the ex? I'm obviously meeting him tonight, so you might as well spill." She had to admit, it was going to be nice to talk about Lois' love life again, or rather, anyone else's love life.

But that was before Lois pointed her finger towards a group in the crowd. "Him."

Chloe's eyes widened as she noticed where Lois was pointing. "Him?" It couldn't be right, it couldn't be him, but there was only one other guy in the vicinity and he was old enough to be their father. She wanted to find another answer, any other option, but when she noticed Oliver about to turn towards them, Chloe whirled around, wanting to disappear.

Lois figured the reveal would be a little surprising to Chloe, but every since she had spoke her surprise, Chloe started acting really odd. Her breathing had clearly increased and she was doing everything in her power to keep herself from looking back over there. "Are you okay, cuz?"

She nodded shakily, wondering why he was here. Chloe never indulged herself in the Inquisitor, but she made an exception to ensure that she never saw him again. But it wasn't to be, as she heard his voice from behind her. "Lois, looking lovely as always."

Lois' head popped up, still curious about what had come over Chloe, but she wasn't about to be rude either. "Oliver...you look well."

He smiled back before glancing down at the blonde in front of him. This was an interesting coincidence that they both ended up here tonight. "I am doing well, thank you." Stepping closer to the duo, Oliver turned his attention to the other woman. No doubt about it, it was definitely her. "And you are… ?" he asked, knowing she couldn't hide her anonymity anymore.

However, that didn't stop Chloe from trying as silence filled the air for a few seconds. Confused, Lois looked over to her cousin as she waited for Chloe to introduce herself, but it didn't happen. All her cousin did was stand there with a slightly dumbfounded look on her face. "Chloe?"

She blinked a couple times and tried to accept the fact that this was reality. Knowing the cat was out of the bag, she shook it off. "Sorry, I'm... a little blindsided that's all." Holding out her hand firmly, Chloe stared into Oliver's eyes, hoping, praying Oliver wouldn't mention anything.

"Well…Chloe," Oliver said, grin wide on his face as he shook her hand. "It's good to meet you."

Every part of Chloe's being wanted to glare at him, or at least roll her eyes. However, she held her cool and watched him walk away, which in some ways, was fortunate for her.

Of course, that wouldn't be the last she would hear of it, as Lois was right in her face. "Since when do you get starstruck?" She had never seen her cousin so fazed by a billionaire before, especially considering she grew up with Lex. Not to mention the fact that, before her demotion at the Daily Planet, Chloe had made it her mission to destroy dirty billionaire CEOs. Now, she was acting like a gun-shy teenager.

But that was because Lois had no clue what was really going on in Chloe's head. "I was a little thrown off okay?" It was her story and Chloe would stick to it, as there were a few burning questions her cousin needed to answer. "Since when do you date Oliver Queen?" More importantly in Chloe's mind, "And why didn't you tell me?"

Her cousin had a point. To an extent, Lois was kind of embarrassed of the idea of her dating Oliver Queen, but he proved to be more than a public figure. "We kept things pretty quiet. The man can be stealthy if he needs to be." Almost too stealthy, as one minute, they'd be enjoying a dinner, the next... he was gone. Lois never saw herself as needy, but it didn't feel like she was enough for Oliver, so she left him. "As for why I didn't tell you, things... never got that serious."

Chloe scoffed, as six months in his world likely was serious. "But he came back into town to see you."

Shaking her head, Lois replied, "That was secondary, as he had his own business to attend to. We didn't have any closure after I moved out here, that's all the visit was."

Chloe wasn't sure on that front, because if she was right, things were coming clearer about how they met in the first place. "When was this?"

"He came to the Planet right before you were fired." In fact, it was the only reason that Lois had missed Chloe leaving the Daily Planet. Normally, she would have seen her come back to her desk, but not wanting to deal with the nosy staff members, Lois took Oliver outside where they handled everything. "Why do you ask?"

Because Oliver said that he came to Metropolis for something that didn't work out and now that she what that was, Chloe couldn't believe her luck. Even when it seemed like she went completely outside of her comfort zone and completely outside the circle of people in her life, she finds a way to still be a man's second choice. Not that she wanted to be his first choice, but this kind of news was the last thing she needed.

Lois had seen someone from work that she wanted to talk to, but Chloe decided to stay back. Talking about work didn't appeal when the place of work was where she was fired a week ago.

Except when she turned around, she felt herself bump shoulders with someone else. Initially, Chloe wanted to keep walking, but instead, of all people, she heard Jimmy say, "Excuse me, I'm so –" He stopped as he noticed Chloe in front of him. "I... didn't think you were coming."

Chloe managed a grin before saying, "Or else you wouldn't have taken the assignment?"

He grimaced slightly as he tilted his head. "Something like that."

After a sigh, Chloe held out her hand. It had only been a month since their break-up, a relatively mutual one at that, and they were almost acting as if the other had the plague. "Jimmy, this is ridiculous. How about we start over?"

"You know, that sounds great." Jimmy shook her hand almost instantly, feeling relief him even as he let go. "How are you?"

Chloe shrugged as she peered around the room. "I've had better days, but I'm surviving." At this point, that was about all she could say.

Hearing that, Jimmy's smile fell, as he could understand a portion of her disappointment. "I am sorry, by the way. About your job."

The sentiment was appreciated but the word was becoming an unnecessary catchphrase. If it was anyone else other than Jimmy at this point, Chloe would have reacted a little harsher. Instead, she shrugged it off again. "No need, it wasn't your fault."

Jimmy knew that, and he could see that he touched a nerve, but he had a feeling her words weren't completely true. "Lex didn't use our break-up as an excuse did he?"

Chloe didn't want to go there, but she didn't want to lie either. After a slow nod, she admitted it was, "One of six bogus reasons he fired me." Chloe never understood why he had to insist on listing them like they were in middle school. Lex probably thought he was rubbing salt in the wounds, but in truth, it was just pathetic.

"Well, I'm sure you'll find work elsewhere."

"Thanks Jimmy." Of everyone in her life, he had been the first one who jumped from the clichéd apology to actual faith in her ability. She did feel bad for the way things ended between her and Jimmy, but Chloe knew now... it would never work out. But she was grateful for this, a chance to be friends again.

Jimmy felt a hint of pride as he noticed a small smile embrace her features. It was something Chloe didn't do enough and a perfect reason to take his leave now while things were still positive. "Sorry, but I've got to run."

"Duty calls," Chloe said, completely understanding, but it still hurt being on the other side of that punch line. She had honestly lost count how many times she had left him for work and while her and Jimmy had made their peace, a sour taste came into her mouth as she noticed who Jimmy was walking towards.

Based on the camera around her neck, she was likely the new intern with the Daily Planet Jimmy had told her about. There wasn't anything happening between them yet, but sparks were brewing. From a distance, they looked downright adorable and that was a tough pill for Chloe to swallow. It was a little fast, sure, but that wasn't the point. She thought she rounded a corner, but seeing Jimmy in his element, Lois talking shop with a senator without making a fool of herself and Clark working the room brought her back to square one.

So she headed to the bar, hoping the alcohol would help Chloe pull herself together. Instead, she found there was still one person who wanted to talk to her. The problem was it was the last person she wanted to talk to.

"Well, if tonight's accomplished nothing else, I at least know your name," Oliver teased her as she took her drink from the bartender. Chloe attempted to walk away, but he followed her, adding quietly, "And why you went home with me."

Chloe stilled, peering around the room to ensure no one else had heard that. When that relief hit, Chloe scoffed at him, maintaining at least some portion of her confidence. "Don't flatter yourself Mr. Queen." Turning around, she took a couple steps towards him. "Hitting on the first thing that walks after you get dumped by my cousin…" Her voice trailed as she was reminded of how often that pattern applied to her life. "Like I told you… miserable."

Oliver grinned, as Chloe put on a good front, but he saw right through her. "Based on the looks you give Clark Kent, I'd say you and I aren't that much different, Miss Sullivan." He knew the guy from the night they met looked familiar, but Oliver had wondered what would possess him to show up at a nightclub in borderline business casual. Seeing Chloe's surprised reaction once he spoke Clark's name answered that question in half a second.

However, Chloe quickly changed the direction of the conversation. "I never gave you my last name."

He gave her a quick shrug before looking back up in the crowd. "Martha Kent was more than willing to fill in that particular blank after Lois introduced us. Although I must say," he added, leaning closer to her to whisper in her ear, "it has to suck being fired by Lex Luthor."

Ignoring the fact that the tone of his voice gave her shivers, Chloe glared up at him, as it was clear that her last name wasn't the only piece of knowledge Oliver had figured out. Except Lois or Mrs. Kent wouldn't have told him, which meant only one thing. "Do you always eavesdrop in conversations that don't concern you?"

Oliver decided not to address that rhetorical comment and keep firing. "It must also suck being blacklisted by all the local publications." It was an assumption at best, but based on Chloe's attitude and what he knew about Luthors, this would be a case where Lex would hold a grudge of some sort.

After a deep breath, she took a step back, not sure how much more of him she could tolerate, in more ways than one. With the calmest tone she could manage, she said, "Mr. Queen—"

"Oliver, please."

That wasn't happening, but Chloe gave him a small kudos for trying. "Don't worry about me, I can find my own way back into the working world." With a confident grin, she turned away from him, determined to get as far away from him as possible.

However, it seemed like Oliver was determined in saying the last word. "Well... if you change your mind, there is one place where –"

Turning her head over her shoulder, Chloe interjected, "Not going to happen."

"You know where to find me," Oliver said nonetheless, tipping his head towards her before walking away.

What he didn't know was that Chloe felt herself reconsidering her response to his offer. Sure, her relationship with Oliver Queen was complicated, but so was her relationship with Lex. And with Oliver lived a country away, she wouldn't see him that often. Even if it looked petty if she joined Queen Industries, Chloe had bills to pay and time wasn't on her side.

However, it was still a terrible idea. Nothing would change the fact she had slept with the CEO and Oliver was making it clear that he wasn't going to forget her any time soon. Chloe wasn't sure if she could live with that, not to mention the fact it would be like Oliver doing her a favour. After her dealings with Lionel, Chloe swore to herself that she would do everything to avoid owing another billionaire a favour, even if Oliver's intentions were at least a little better.

Staring at her empty glass, it was square one again. It looks like she was right after all. With one last look around the room, Chloe headed towards the door, about to leave, when she felt someone grab her arm.

"Where are you going?"

She sighed, turning her head over her shoulder to meet her cousin's eyes. "Home." Lois' hand dropped and Chloe could see her disappointment, but Chloe couldn't do this anymore. "Say hi to Mrs. Kent for me, would you?" It was actually hard to believe that in all of her conversations, the one person she hadn't talked to was the guest of honour.

However, when Lois nodded, Chloe hugged her cousin before leaving the building. What she didn't know was that a particular billionaire noticed her exit and bid goodnight not long after.


Sera's Scribbles: Dresses will be on my profile page.