Chapter 9

After the events of the previous night, Chloe was more than ready for Lois' re-appearance at her door in the morning. This time, she sat at her kitchen table and waited for the loud pounding to stop. Eventually, Chloe knew that Lois would use her key and she didn't disappoint.

Within a few steps, Chloe could see her, so she called out, "If you're looking for Jimmy, he's not here." Lois had abruptly turned upon hearing her voice and Chloe couldn't help but smile once her mission goggles lifted slightly. "He left hours ago."

Lois was slightly relieved, for while she wanted to believe her cousin when she said her and Jimmy were just friends, one never knew the lengths Chloe would go to avoid the real problem. "What did Jimbo want anyway?"

"Permission to move on. Not that it was necessary." Pouring Lois a cup of coffee, she passed it to her before returning to the coffee machine to fill up her cup. "So if it's not Jimmy that's bothering you, how about you tell me what is? No, wait, I think I know, and I told you already –"

"I've seen you look at your phone, waiting for Oliver to call," Lois interjected, knowing what Chloe said, but she didn't buy it then and she didn't buy it now. This whole thing bothered her more than she claimed, and the way Lois saw it, it was time to come clean about something she never thought she'd have to admit to her cousin.

But Chloe just scoffed, but she knew her phone lay inches from where her coffee cup had been when she was waiting for Lois to arrive. However, that was just a coincidence.

And sure, she wondered why Oliver hadn't called in a while. They didn't have a clean break, or at least, that wasn't Chloe's intention, not to mention the fact that he did call right after she left. The only reason she didn't answer was because she needed space. He took that message a little too well and it didn't help that he never left a message.

Chloe could have called, but what would have been the point? Say hi, ask how he is and then awkwardly talk as if it never happened. It took a while for them to get over their first encounter and that was when they were nothing to each other.

Lois remained standing, watching as her cousin stood in silence over her comment. This was good. "Just admit that you like him."

Chloe's mouth gaped open as she considered a proper response. The problem with a statement like that is that it forces a black-and-white answer. Oliver and her were more complicated than that. Finally finding her voice, Chloe turned around. "Lois, I barely know him." Which was the truth, even if they got to know each other on a very personal level.

The things she knew about him, the things she told him, it was almost like they were each other's shrinks. But the likelihood of a strictly professional relationship was never possible, leaving them somewhere in no-man's land. "Honestly, I don't know how I feel about him."

Respect, frustration, all those things existed, but genuine feelings? Chloe wasn't so sure. It was almost hard to believe that they had come this far in so little time, only to feel like they lost it all just as fast. A lot of things were hard to determine, but one thing was true.

She missed Oliver.

Lois sat down, watching the inner reflection her cousin was going through. Shaking her head as she turned her chair towards the table, Lois said softly, "If you're worried about me, you shouldn't."

"Because it wasn't that serious," Chloe replied sarcastically. "Come on Lois."

But Lois' expression didn't waver in the slightest. "You want to know the real reason he came to see me? It was because he wanted an explanation as to why I chickened out on saying goodbye properly." It almost felt like yesterday, the day she wrote the note in his penthouse and walked away from Oliver without facing him. "It took him three months to figure out that he wanted closure."

Then Lois realized it was nearing that time period for Chloe and those words weren't going to help much. "Oliver... he had gone through a really rough patch. He wouldn't tell me why and I know he never will." He would always claim it was another wild night as a playboy, but Lois knew better. "One night, he was rushed to the hospital and being the reporter I was... I went to figure out the truth. I actually overheard the doctor saying there was a chance he wouldn't have made it."

Sitting down across from Lois, Chloe sensed some familiarity with this story. "Alcohol poisoning."

Lois nodded, wanting to know how she knew that, as the whole thing had been covered up as food poisoning in the press. But she held back, knowing it wasn't important now. "I managed to sneak in his room to ask him personally what happened. Instead of kicking me out once he recognized me, Oliver told me that he had made too many mistakes... and that was going to change."

With a smirk, Lois would explain how things escalated between the two of them, even if she didn't get the story that night. But Oliver quickly made it up to her by offering her an article on his comeback and then they started to spend more time together. "In the public eye, I was just the girl who wrote the article. Sure, there was just speculation, but nothing we did added fuel to the fire."

It didn't help that Oliver was never in town. "Then he spent two months in Beijing, one week in Berlin, two weeks in some Russian city I can't remember, all in the name of turning his company around. When he was in Star City, it was phone call interruptus for a media scrum, or a board meeting, or some conference call."

She remembered the day when the shit hit the fan. The exact reason Lois clouded from her mind, but her and Oliver argued for hours, leading to Lois admitting that she couldn't do this anymore. He swore to her that one day it would all blow over. "What I didn't anticipate was the fact that I left at the time he was expecting me to stay. I was something good in his life and he wanted to hold onto it."

Chloe could sympathize with that and could understand his reasoning for coming to Metropolis for that. "So what happened when he was here?"

"We went out for lunch." Even convincing Oliver to do that wasn't easy, as they almost had a throw down in the middle of the Daily Planet. He was mad because she left, she was mad because he was never going to be there. In fact, it took Lois leaving to realize what their relationship was. As they finished their diner pizza, Oliver realized it too. "Acknowledging the truth crushed him a little, because I was someone who didn't care about the money or the status. And he probably went out and did something stupid –"

"Like having a one night stand with your cousin?"

"But that doesn't mean—" Lois stopped as Chloe's words sunk in. "Sorry, can you repeat that?"

Rolling her eyes, part of Chloe couldn't believe that she just said that. But it was too late to take it back now. "You know the night when I got fired and I... blew off some steam."

Lois coughed. "Him?" But after a second of thinking about it, it made so much sense. "I didn't think you had that in you." It was a stretch enough that Chloe would have a one-night stand, but with Oliver… Lois would never have guessed that.

"Neither did I," Chloe replied as she pulled out her chair. "But I thought if I was going to try to have mind-blowing sex with someone... he fit better than anyone else."

"So he was better than a nine?" Lois teased, expecting the pink hues to appear on her cousin's cheeks.

Knowing she had already given herself away, Chloe saw no point in lying. "You would know better than anyone."

Biting her tongue to hold back her sarcastic laughter, Lois replied softly, "Except we never slept together."

Turning back around, Chloe shook her head. "Lois, there's no need to lie." Considering how long they were together, there was no way it didn't happen at least once.

"In the traditional sense, we were far from a couple." Lois attended a few events with him, all were disasters, and their dates were normally interrupted. Their friendship was solid, but romantically, Lois and him were a mess. "You accomplished in one night what I couldn't in six months." Seeing the way Chloe's mouth gaped open, Lois was ready to move this conversation in a different direction. After all, talking about her and Oliver's relationship was only going to fix so much. "So what's the story with your job?"

"Covering our asses after the photo because I really did fall asleep in that cab." She smiled as she remembered the way he took care of her that morning, as it turned out to be quite the eye-opening experience. In fact, the whole thing was the furthest thing she expected, but oddly enough, not unwelcome. "I'm not going lie and say there's not something's there."

Lois quickly rose from her chair. "Then it's about time you took something for yourself."

"But he's Oliver Queen."

"And you're Chloe Sullivan," Lois replied, followed by a shrug of her shoulder. "What does that have to do with getting what you want?"

~0~

He had heard the elevator chain rattle, wondering if Julia had forgotten something, or changed her mind about going out to get her morning coffee. But as he came into the common area, he was shocked as to who actually stood by his liquor cabinet.

Waiting silently as she poured into something into a smaller bottle, Oliver knew there was no way he could approach her without catching her off-guard, so he decided to break the silence. "What are you doing here?"

The bottle almost slipped out of her hands, but she caught it, placing it carefully on the table. Of course, she thought. Chloe just had to let Lois convince her to concoct this crazy plan. Out of every single possible scenario in her head, this wasn't one of them. "I... have a flight to Star City," she admitted honestly, as there is no way he would believe any lie she could fathom. "I couldn't take the whole bottle, so... travel-sized."

It sounded so stupid, the fact she was standing here, but it didn't explain how he was here. No calls, no emails, nothing for so long. She couldn't even turn around to face him because she felt so embarrassed. All she wanted was a chance to think it over before she went for it, and the world couldn't even give her that.

Taking a couple steps forward, Oliver had to admit he was quite intrigued by what she had revealed. "What business do you have in Star City?"

Hearing his footsteps coming closer, Chloe quickly closed her bottle. "Julia offered a better tour of the city." Gripping it, she begun to walk towards the elevator, giving him the smallest of smiles. "Figured you wouldn't mind if we sampled the good stuff."

"Funny," Oliver replied, not taking his eyes off her as she took off, "because she just came into town to see you." There was a small hesitance in her movements when he said that, but soon enough, she moved the elevator gate back, ready to leave. "How did you get up here?"

"Your doorman has taken a bit of a liking to me. He gave me access and told me that he'd wait for me downstairs." It almost felt like yesterday when Chloe introduced herself on her first day after the hospital incident. However, it wasn't like they had spoken much since then, so Chloe was surprised that he allowed her to come up. Then again, that might have something to do with the fact that the penthouse was currently occupied.

"You can stay if you want."

There it was, except this time, cold feet didn't even begin to describe her state. "Considering I likely just woke you up, I'm pretty sure that I should be going. Besides..." Her voice stopped as she finally looked back at him. "I...I should probably cancel my plane ticket." It started as a glance over her shoulder, but soon enough, she found herself turning around fully.

Seeing his small window of opportunity, Oliver said, "I thought a lot about what you said in Star City." Approaching his desk, he screwed the top of the bottle she left behind, smirking as his suspicions were confirmed. "I have to admit, seeing you walk away; I figured… that was it."

His whole life, Oliver wasn't great at letting people into his life, but with Chloe, it felt natural, as if he always knew her. "I actually tried to forget you, but I couldn't. It took me until yesterday to realize that I was being a hypocrite and I'm hoping in time… you can forgive me for that."

"You don't owe me anything Oliver." In fact, if anyone, she owed him more than she could ever repay, a position she didn't want to be in. "You're making a bigger deal out of this than it is."

"No big deal, huh," he said softly. "So when I kissed you… you felt nothing? Even though I'm pretty sure you kissed me back? Not to mention that you're here right now and out of my liquor cabinet, you managed to find the exact scotch I served to you that night."

Biting the inside of her lip, Chloe didn't know what to tell him. She walked towards the desk, standing across him as she put her travel-size portion down. There was no point to having it now. "That...was a lucky guess. And I hate to burst your bubble, but if you're looking for the woman you met that night... I'm afraid that was more the exception of my personality than the rule."

"I don't know about that," Oliver replied almost instantly, as he could always see her confidence and drive behind her nerves and insecurities. "In fact, I think you are that woman Chloe. After all, everyone has vulnerabilities, but that doesn't reduce the strength of your character."

Chloe shook her head, because she hated the way he seemed to her all figured out, while she was still trying to figure out who he was. "I don't get it. One minute, you're exactly who they write about and then the moment the cameras are off..."

When that happened, he was a completely different person. Even when he seemed to play up the Casanova image, there was a hint of sweetness behind it all. Or at least, there always had been when he was with her. "You could have fed me to the wolves when that photo surged. But instead, it was your idea to give me a job, to trust my credentials." Taking a few steps towards him, Chloe raised her head, locking eye contact with him. "So who are you Oliver Queen?"

Oliver approached her slowly, initially responding through shrugging his shoulder. "I can't think of how to answer that question without being incredibly clichéd." He could tell her that he was a man trying to change, that he had made mistakes and she made him want to be better, but that wouldn't help or hinder his case. The fact was that she was here, that she stayed when he asked, and that she hadn't backed away now that he was standing close to her. Reaching out, Oliver risked further contact, placing his fingers gently on her neck. "But does it matter?"

Her eyes still firmly looking in his, Chloe shook her head, feeling a difference between Star City and now. "No... I suppose it doesn't." Because despite the stunts he may pull, the headlines that follow him around, maybe deep down, Chloe really did know who Oliver Queen was.

After all, it wasn't heartbreak that she felt when she read those headlines; it was disappointment. The guy in those headlines never made her laugh after a long day, or send a late-night text because they were both still working. He also had this way of making her feel confident, strong, not only intimately, but also as a person. Oliver believed in her, trusted her and when he had the world at his fingertips... he reached out to her, asking her to stay.

Leaning down to touch his forehead to hers, Oliver noticed the way her breath hitched. "Say this is one-sided and I'll walk away for good, give you a full recommendation to work anywhere not under the Luthor name." He meant every word, as Oliver didn't want her to feel trapped by her situation. It helped that Chloe had more than proved herself according to her supervisor. "But that wouldn't be my preference."

Chloe sighed, as she couldn't believe how she let this slip away from so long. "How is it possible you understand me so well?" Time may have elapsed, but the actual amount of time they had spent together was minimal at best. Yet somehow, he read her like a book.

"The same way that you can see me," Oliver replied, "despite everything I've done." The crap that he pulled after she walked away, the last couple months that Oliver wanted nothing more than to take away, it seemed like Chloe was somehow willing to overlook that.

Taking a breath, he risked it, everything, one more time. There wasn't much distance, so he kissed her, a second tops, letting her know officially that what he wanted... was her.

Chloe felt her eyes shut as it happened, his breath on her cheek once he backed away and then nothing. As she opened them again, she noticed how he stepped back, causing Chloe to narrow her eyes.

"Seriously? That's your closer?"

Watching Oliver's reaction, Chloe felt herself laugh. "Gotta say Oliver, I had you pinned as a man of action, but if you want me to do the heavy lifting, then so be it."

Dropping her purse on the floor, she took two confident strides towards him, Oliver more than willing to meet her halfway. Her hand moved around the back of his head so that Chloe could pull him down her level and allow their lips to meet. In a way, it started as a strange sense of relief, but as the kiss deepened, everything felt right. This time, there was no animosity held in their breath and nerves were nowhere in sight.

Oliver quickly wrapped his arms around her back, pushing her close, lifting her slightly in the air. He walked her backwards, all still while holding tightly onto her and when he knew they were close, Oliver lifted her onto his desk, smiling as their lips finally disentangled. "No," he said sarcastically as he met her eyes, "you're not that girl at all." The passion took a second to kick in, but other than that, it was all there for him to experience.

Leaning towards his touch as he tucked a loose hair behind her ear, Chloe wanted to roll her eyes. "Trust me, I don't even know what I'm doing... or how this would work."

"Neither do I, but I'm in if you are."

Her cousin's ex, her boss, a public figure, not to mention the massive amount of country between them. Yet Chloe looked up at him and said, "Yeah...I'm in."

~End~