Title: Fall in Love With Strangers
Author: Karen U/revivingophelia
Pairing/Character: Chloe/Bruce, Oliver, Lex
Disclaimer: No one you recognize belongs to me
Summary: the masquerade ball doesn't turn out the way Chloe expected...
Spoilers: post season 7 for Smallville (veers off from there), post Batman Begins
Warnings: mild language
She was going to kill Oliver for this.
First, he'd convinced her that he couldn't go to this stupid masquerade ball thing without a date, then he'd declared that she had to be the one to go with him because it was more about business than anything else. That, of course, was true: there was a computer he was trying to get some files off of, as well as some black market artifacts that he wanted to get his hands on so he could find a way to get them back where they belonged... But what he'd failed to mention was that while he was off doing the various hero and vigilante things, she would be on her own. Stuck in the middle of probably hundreds of people - all of them wearing masks since this was, after all, a masquerade ball - and feeling all too out of place.
Shifting a bit uncomfortably, Chloe reached up to adjust the red and black half-mask she was wearing - she'd absolutely refused to wear green tonight, not wanting to wear the Arrow's favorite color - the blonde heaving out a sigh as she began to edge her way around the room.
"Ah, Miss Sullivan. How interesting to see you here!" a voice called out to her, and she froze at the sound of it, not having to turn around and see the man's bald head to know precisely who was speaking to her. She'd know that voice anywhere; she used to consider the owner of it a friend, but now she just dreaded hearing it.
Squaring her shoulders, the young woman spun on her heel, arching a brow as she looked at him before realizing that the mask covered enough of her face that he couldn't see it. He probably could, however, see the way she was glaring at him. "Lex Luthor. I'd heard that you'd been avoiding polite company lately," she said, and he shrugged as he approached her.
"Couldn't resist the party. Plus it's for a good cause."
"And you're all about good causes aren't you?" Chloe mused, unable to stop herself. She had the incredible urge to reach out and slap Lex across the face, but she held herself back, knowing it wasn't the time or the place. Oliver hadn't invited her here to cause a scene, no matter how badly she wanted to do so. No matter how badly she wanted to attack the man that had seen to it that she'd been held captive in one of his 33.1 facilities for months on end. Until Clark and Oliver had finally come to save her. The fact that he would come up to her now, knowing full well that she had to realize that he was the one that had held her captive... She wasn't sure if he wanted her to cause a scene, or if he was just enjoying the fact that he knew that she couldn't do so.
"I always have been," Lex replied smoothly. "I must admit that I never expected to see you here. I mean, we both know that you're not here to report about it, seeing as-"
"Seeing as I no longer work for the Planet?" she interrupted, then shrugged. "Well, it really has gone downhill since it was taken over. It used to be an excellent source of investigative journalism. Sadly, it's mostly just become a propaganda machine for an owner of dubious morals." She smiled sweetly. "That would be you, right?"
She could see Lex's features tighten beneath the white half-mask that he wore. A white half-mask to match the white suit that was his trademark. Chloe often wondered if he wore the white to try to make up for the fact that his heart - his soul - was very, very black.
He took a step closer to her. "Miss Sullivan-"
"I do believe you promised this dance to me," another voice said, one Chloe only vaguely recognized but couldn't place, and the young woman looked up in shock as she felt someone reach out and take her hand. Her gaze slid to a man dressed all in black. Black suit, even a black shirt, black mask. His hair was dark, though it appeared brown rather than black. His eyes seemed dark behind the mask he wore. She didn't know who he was, couldn't place him - had certainly never promised him a dance - but from the way Lex reacted, his entire stance stiffening, it seemed that he knew who it was, and Chloe had the pleasure of seeing one of the richest and most powerful men in the country shifting away slightly and looking almost... nervous.
"I wasn't aware that the two of you knew each other," he stated, the tone of his voice as stiff as his shoulders, and the other man, the man that Chloe didn't know, smirked slightly.
"There are a lot of things that you don't know, Luthor," the mystery man said, something pointed in his tone that Chloe didn't quite understand. Shaking his head slightly, he turned back toward Chloe, giving a slight bow. "Our dance?"
She nodded, managed a smile. "Of course," she stated, allowing herself to be led to the dance floor, surprised when he took them close to the center of it. The last thing she wanted to be was the center of attention, and she could feel the eyes on them as they walked. At last, he turned to face her, keeping her hand in his, his other hand coming to rest at her waist. Cautiously, the blonde lifted her hand to his shoulder, the pair beginning to dance. After a moment, she spoke. "I'm not sure if you were just rescuing me from Lex Luthor or if you have me confused with someone else," Chloe stated, watching him carefully as she spoke. He was a good dancer, much better than Clark, which meant she didn't have to worry about him stepping on her toes, and he also didn't seem to feel the need to show off like Jimmy did. Of course, she'd figured out that Jimmy's showing off had been a way of making sure that everyone saw her with him, so that they knew she was 'his'. But that was over and done with now, seeing as she'd turned down his proposal after she'd returned from her ordeal in 33.1... And now he was dating some other girl that was nice and normal and thought he was wonderful, so it was all good. It meant that Chloe didn't have to lie to him anymore or worry about him getting hurt and it also meant that she could be Oliver's pretend date to charity events when necessary... It also meant that she could dance with a complete stranger without worrying about him getting jealous.
"Well, you did look like you wanted to slap Lex Luthor across the face. And it did look like he was enjoying baiting you. So I intervened," the man she was dancing with stated. "I do hope that I didn't overstep my bounds."
"No, you... I was trying to figure out a way to get away from him without causing a scene. I hadn't come up with one yet. And then you came."
"Glad to be of help," the man told her, drawing her just a little closer to him, and she frowned as she looked up at him, studying what she could see of his face.
"I know I should recognize you," she finally said, and his lips curved into that smile again.
"And it cuts me to the bone that you don't know who I am," he replied, taking the moment to spin her out, bringing her back into position smoothly. "I know who you are... Miss Sullivan." She stiffened slightly at the words, and he looked down at her, somehow managing to project an expression of concern despite the mask that covered half of his face. "Are you all right? Did I say something?"
"I just don't like being called Miss Sullivan," she finally said, and that much was very true. Lionel Luthor had been the first to call her that, and for a long time, that man had been one of her worst nightmares. Yes, he'd tried to protect Clark in the end - sometimes using incredibly underhanded methods - but the fact remained that, once upon a time, he had tried to have her killed. So being called Miss Sullivan had always bothered her a bit, something Lex had seemed to pick up on, seeing as he now chose to call her that whenever he could.
"My apologies. May I call you Chloe then?" he asked, spinning her out once more, catching her against him when he brought her back, Chloe realizing that she was even closer to him than before.
"It is my name," she replied, frowning slightly as she looked up at him. "I still don't know your name. That doesn't seem fair."
"Perhaps we can play a game, and you can guess it. Something tells me that you're very good at figuring things out," he said quietly, his voice low, suddenly dropping in pitch, and Chloe very nearly froze in his arms as she recognized the gravelly tone. The same gravelly tone that she'd heard in several encounters over the past few weeks. Several encounters with a man dressed entirely in black, almost every inch of him covered, even his eyes hidden in the shadows because she'd never seem him in the light of day, only in the dark.
She was dancing with Batman. The same Batman that she'd been passing information to for weeks. The same Batman that had brought her information as well. The same Batman that she had impulsively kissed when he'd rescued her from a villain that called himself the Riddler just a matter of days ago. The same Batman that had kissed her back until her head had spun, then taken her someplace safe, kissing her one last time, his hand stroking over her cheek before he turned and disappeared into the night.
"Shh," he whispered, his lips very near her ear as he leaned toward her. "It's okay. Just keep dancing. No one's going to hurt you."
"But it's dangerous for you to be here," she whispered back, and he lifted his head just enough to smile at her.
"But Chloe... I was invited," he told her, his voice smooth again, no longer pitching his voice lower to sound like Batman, but she could see it now, Batman's intense eyes staring out at her through the black half-mask the man wore.
"Ah, there you are," a new voice interrupted, Chloe fighting not to groan at the realization the Oliver was there with them. As Batman - whoever he was behind the mask - let her go, Chloe could feel Oliver's hand come to rest on the shoulder, which was left bare by her strapless red dress.
"Oliver Queen, good to see you," he stated, reaching out a hand to shake, and Ollie did the same, nodding at the man.
"Bruce Wayne. It's been awhile," Oliver replied, not noticing the way both Chloe and Bruce stiffened at the use of the man's name... Chloe fighting the urge to allow her jaw to drop open in shock. Bruce Wayne was... No way. No how. Or maybe... All the gadgets, all the expensive toys... Batman had to have a lot of funding and...
"Not too terribly long, when you think about it," Bruce replied. "I hope you don't mind that I stole your date."
"I'm just glad that you kept her entertained. I've been a terrible date tonight," Oliver replied, then looked down at Chloe. "I hate to do this, but it seems that something as come up at work, and I need to attend to it immediately," he told her, and Chloe knew that meant that he'd gotten what he came there for. She imagined a flash drive with the files was tucked safely in the inside pocket of his tuxedo jacket. She didn't even want to know where the artifacts were... Or maybe he was going to come back for them later.
"I understand," Chloe said quietly, forcing a smile up at Oliver before her gaze slid to Bruce once more... Bruce Wayne... Batman. It was still a little hard to wrap her mind around.
"Chloe," Bruce said quietly, giving a slight bow as he took her hand and brought it to his lips. "I hope to see you again soon." He was looking at her as he said it, something of a question in his eyes, and Chloe gave an almost imperceptible nod, not entirely sure what he was asking at the moment, but knowing that if he was asking if she wanted to see him again, then the answer was definitely yes. She was still a little in shock over the fact that Bruce Wayne and Batman were the same person, but she definitely still wanted to see him again.
Oliver frowned slightly at the exchange. "We should go," he stated, and Chloe nodded, her gaze still locked with Bruce's, not turning away from him until she had to, the blonde following Oliver out of the masquerade ball, smoothly changing the subject from whatever had happened between her and Bruce as they climbed into the car and headed back to the hotel they were staying in. It was surprisingly easy, actually, since Oliver was all too ready to talk about the artifacts that he'd found... Artifacts that he would be heading out as the Green Arrow tonight to acquire. Chloe would be staying behind, of course, going over the files with her laptop, which had about a million security upgrades on it courtesy of Victor Stone, which meant it should be safe to go over the files on it. In fact, that was just what she was doing an hour later when a dark form landed on her balcony.
Rising to her feet, Chloe carefully eased her laptop most of the way closed, then headed over to the door to the balcony and opened it, stepping back to allow the man entrance.
"You know, you could have just come the normal way and knocked on the door. As yourself instead of... Well."
"This way draws less attention," he replied, and Chloe had to admit that was probably right. She imagined no one had noticed Batman swinging onto her balcony. They would have certainly noticed Bruce Wayne coming up to her room.
"True enough," she conceded, and he nodded as he stepped into the room.
"Are we alone?" he asked, using the low voice he did as Batman, and Chloe nodded her head, watching as he closed the door behind him.
"The room's just mine. And Oliver is... busy."
"Obtaining artifacts?" he asked, smirking slightly as he spoke, the low voice dropped. He was speaking to her now in the voice of Bruce Wayne, not that of Batman. She blinked at him.
"You know... Of course you know. I'm guessing that means he knows who you are behind the mask," she stated, and the man nodded, stepping further into the room with her. His hand came up to his cowl, fiddling with it, as if he wanted to take it off, but then thought better of it, letting his hand drop back down to his side.
"He does. We... Ran into each other a few times during our work. We figured it out, and we promised to keep each other's secrets. Although I do know that you're fully aware of his extracurricular activities," Bruce stated, making his way over to her. "So, now that you know who I am... Surprised and disappointed?"
"Surprised, though I suppose I shouldn't be. It seems that the billionaires I've met so far have all been either heroes or villains," she stated, looking up at him, watching as his eyes searched her face.
"Are you angry?" he wanted to know, and she frowned.
"Why would I be-"
"About tonight? That I chose to let you know then and there? That I..." He paused, frowned.
"You trust me," she said quietly, watching as his head jerked up, his eyes on hers again. "You trusted me enough to tell me."
"I did. Though from what Oliver has said about you, I suspect you would have figured it out anyway."
"Does he... Does he know that-"
"That I was going to tell you? No. I didn't tell him that," he said, and Chloe took a deep breath, shaking her head slightly.
"No. Does he... Does he know that I kissed... That I kissed you?"
"No. I didn't tell him that. And I suppose you don't want me to," Bruce stated, meeting her eyes. "The Green Arrow is very protective of his Watchtower," he said, turning as if to go, and Chloe shook her head.
"There is nothing between me and Oliver. I'm just his Sidekick, nothing more. We even have separate rooms on this little trip," she reminded him, making her way over to where he stood. "The reason I asked... The reason I didn't want him to know... It was us. It was ours. I mean... I didn't even know who was behind the mask and I... I kissed you."
"I kissed you back."
"Because I wanted to. Because you're beautiful. You're strong. You're witty. You're... brilliant. And you believe. You believe in the cause. Why did you kiss me?"
"Because you fight for what you believe in. Because you never once tried to tell me that I couldn't do the same. And because I felt like I was falling for you."
"You were falling for Batman. What about Bruce Wayne?" he wanted to know, and Chloe arched a brow.
"Aren't you the same person?"
"Same man, different pieces. Different parts that make up the whole."
"Then I hope you give me the chance to meet that whole," she whispered, and he smiled, stepping closer to her, one gloved hand coming up to gently take hold of her chin.
"That's what I was hoping you would say," he told her.
And then he kissed her.