Title: Never a Bride
Pairings/Characters: primarily Chloe/Oliver
Summary: When a newspaper prints a false engagement announcement for Oliver Queen and Chloe Sullivan, and all their friends are thrilled, Chloe and Oliver decide to stage a fake engagement and breakup to prove to their friends how wrong they are for one another. Because, they will break up, won't they?
Warnings: completely Alternate Universe; also, sexual content and occasional language
banner by dandiandi22
To My Oh-So-Patient Readers:
This is a very personal note so if you're just here for the story, feel free to move along and ignore me.
Hello, everyone. I'm sorry that it took so long to get this chapter out. As many of my followers on LJ and Twitter are aware, life has been a bit mad lately and I've been struggling to stay afloat. The good news is, I found an apartment so I will not be homeless at the end of the month. Also, moving will get me away from all the roommate drama that has been overshadowing my life lately.
Anyway, I just want to thank you guys for the show of support you gave me. It was an incredible thing to realize what a community I have become part of through this fandom, and I just want you to know that the kind words helped me rally myself on some of my worse days. In a world where internet and anonymity often bring out the worst in people, I hope you realize how remarkable you all are.
All that said, I can't honestly tell you when I will next post. I don't know, but just like you, I hope it will be soon.
"I just have to say, I think you two make the cutest couple."
"Oh Katherine," Lois rolled her eyes. "You've said that to everyone here." They were all sitting around a table in a casual bar and grill restaurant, and Katherine was talking to Chloe and Oliver.
"She says that to everyone now," Victor explained. "Romantic bliss has blinded her to all flaws in the world,' he teased.
Katherine laughed at Lois's comment and then sighed. "Okay fair enough. But, Vic, you've got to admit those two look photo-shopped. With the blond hair and everything."
"Oh God, careful," Chloe retorted, grabbing her iced tea. "His head's big enough as it is."
Oliver laughed, and he was about to make a comment Chloe was sure would make her uncomfortable, but Barbara interrupted. She was sitting on his other side and squinting at his face. "Oliver, what's that on your forehead?" she asked, leaning a little closer.
Oliver's hand went to his forehead and a look of recognition flashed through his face. He turned to Chloe. "I don't know. What are they talking about, honey?" he asked her, his tone on the term of endearment telling her exactly what it was. Sure enough, as she looked closely, there was a very faint, very small bruise. Right where the heel of her shoe had hit him. Her eyes widened, but she recovered quickly.
"Oh you know, dear. It's from when you hit your head earlier. On the door. You've got to start looking where you're going."
"Smooth, Ollie," AC laughed as Oliver sent a subtle dirty look Chloe's way.
"So what's the plan with work, Vic?" Dick asked casually, taking a bite out of a burger.
Victor shrugged. "Well there's an assistant coach who'll look after things while I'm gone," he explained. "And then I'll be back right before they have Thanksgiving Break."
"What do you do again, Victor?" Oliver asked, turning his attention from poking Chloe with his fork.
"I coach Met U's football team."
"Team looks like it's doing good this year," Clark commented. "New quarterback needs breaking in," he added.
Victor shrugged. "Yeah, well, it's not like he's you, is it?"
"Clark played for Met U," Lois explained for Oliver's benefit. "Best they ever had," she added a little proudly, slipping her hand in the crook of Clark's elbow. Clark smiled at her.
It was one of the beauties of their relationship, Chloe thought, watching them. Clark, in spite of his celebrity status as an athlete, was shy to a point of near bashfulness in talking about himself. It came down to good parenting. John and Martha Kent had raised their son to be modest and polite. And then there was Lois, who was more than happy to go marching up and down the street waving a giant Clark Kent banner. They balanced each other.
She glanced at Oliver out of the corner of her eye. How was it that everyone at this table had managed to find their perfect match and she was stuck here with this…photo-shopped ego.
Katherine's phone went off and she momentarily excused herself from the table, leaving everyone to discuss football. When she returned, she wore an exasperated expression.
"What's wrong?" Oliver, seeing her face first.
She shook her head. "The car never showed up at the airport to pick up my mother. She's stranded there." She glanced at her watch. "And we need to be at the church to meet with the reverend, Vic."
"Chloe and I will go get her," Lois volunteered immediately. "We were going to go to the hotel to catch up, but we can do it just as easily in the car."
Chloe nodded readily. "Absolutely. No problem at all."
Katherine looked relieved. "Thank you," she said sincerely. "Are you totally sure?"
"Of course," Lois said happily, Chloe already fishing in her purse for her keys.
"Do you want Oliver or I to go with you?" Clark offered before Oliver had a chance.
"I wouldn't mind," Oliver said easily, though secretly, he dreaded the idea of being trapped in a car with Chloe again, even with Lois as a buffer.
"Nah," Lois waved them off. "We need cousin time."
In the car, Lois was checking things off on her phone and barely speaking, which, given who she was, was a bit of a surprise.
"What are you doing?" Chloe asked curiously, eyes still on the road.
"Lois!" Chloe scolded.
Lois shrugged. "Look, Between planning the wedding and supporting Clark, it's been pretty tough to keep my edge. I am not about to let little-miss-are-you-pregnant get the drop on me just because I go out of town for the weekend," she said, punching buttons on her blackberry a little too viciously.
"Little Miss Who?" Chloe asked curiously, humor on her face.
"Cat-freaking-princess-Grant. The little sweater-set personified saw my engagement ring and the first question she asked was if Clark had gotten me knocked up," Lois growled.
Chloe laughed. "Wow. Classy."
"Isn't she just?" Lois deadpanned.
"Giving you a little competition at work, is she?"
"Please." Lois scoffed. "Competition? Her? She wouldn't know news if it walked up to her and offered her a plate of cookies."
Chloe raised an eyebrow. "Mmhmm. And is that way you're trying to crush your blackberry in a death grip right now?" she teased.
Lois rolled her eyes. "Fine. She keeps trying to outshine me. Not that it's working, but I can't afford to let her get the drop on me. Anyway, sometimes it gets tough with how busy Clark and I are, especially with his career. But I'm sure you can relate," she added.
"What? Oh. Yeah, of course." Chloe shook herself. For just a moment she had forgotten she was fake-engaged.
Lois seemed to be building herself up to something for a moment—which was never a good sign—and finally decided to preface herself. "Can I ask you something I know you don't want to talk about?"
Chloe glanced at Lois suspiciously out of the corner of her eye. "Sure," she said cautiously.
"What did Oliver say when you told him about…well, y'know?"
Chloe frowned, bemused. "Told him about what?"
Lois shifted, a bit uncomfortable. "Well, your…past."
This time Chloe raised her eyebrow and actually looked at Lois as she took an exit ramp to the airport. "Past as what?" she asked. "My former life as a hooker?"
Lois rolled her eyes. "Of course not. I mean what happened with…your exes."
Chloe grew very quiet as she realized what Lois was talking about. "I haven't told him," she said curtly, not interested in discussing the subject.
Lois narrowed her eyes. "He should know, Chloe."
"There's absolutely no reason why he should know."
"He's your fiance, and you ought to—"
"Lois, it's my life. Oliver knows that I've had a couple of boyfriends and I know that he's had a couple of girlfriends. I'm not going to pry into his past relationships, and I don't see any valid reason why I have to throw my baggage at him."
"Chloe," Lois scolded, shocked for once in her life. "He's your fiance. You're supposed to be honest with him. He's supposed to help take your baggage and your supposed to help take his. That's what love is about. I…are you sure you two are ready to get married?" she said suddenly.
Chloe's heart throbbed. She opened her mouth to say something and closed it. This was exactly what they wanted. She was supposed to be encouraging the notion that she and Oliver weren't right for each other. And she couldn't have created a better opportunity to prove it to Lois if she tried.
But she couldn't do it. It wasn't because she suddenly felt some attachment to Oliver. It was her. It was…all the pain that was suddenly welling up inside of her.
Even though she couldn't consciously acknowledge it, let alone explain it to Lois, the trouble was admitting the real reason she didn't make time for dating. She was still hurting on some level, still recovering from the way she had been treated in the past, and she didn't trust men. And she just couldn't bring herself to accept that she couldn't have a healthy relationship like anyone else.
So rather than arguing with Lois to prove that she and Oliver didn't belong together like everyone seemed to think, and rather than agreeing to work on her fake relationship, Chloe said nothing, and they finished the drive to the airport in silence.
"Hey Queen. I need to talk to you."
Oliver gulped as he spotted Lois walking down the hotel hallway toward him. "Problem, Lois?"
She looked grim and determined, which made him admittedly nervous. Any man with a sense of self-preservation would be nervous with Lois Lane giving him that look. She walked right up to him and folded her arms. "You need to talk to Chloe about her ex-boyfriends," she said in one breath.
"I…what?" he asked, honestly confused, backing away from her a step for precaution's sake.
Lois lifted her eyes to the ceiling. "I can't tell you about it. It's none of my business—"
Oliver had a strong suspicion that it was extremely painful for Lois to say those words.
"—but it's important." She lowered her eyes to meet his. "She's my baby cousin and I trust you with her, which is really saying something."
He shifted guiltily, but Lois was too much on a mission to notice, and he couldn't help but see that she was visibly distressed about this.
"She just…Chloe's got a past, okay, and I think she's been trying to hide it from you because she's ashamed of it or she's afraid of what you'll think or…I don't know. The point is, you need to make it clear to her that…that—" She stopped herself and shook her head. "Not my business," she muttered. "Just…try to get her to open up to you about it, okay? Because unless she does, you two aren't ready to get married, okay?"
Oliver raised his eyebrows. Whatever this was, it was serious, and he couldn't imagine what would have Lois so distraught, or what could possibly be in Chloe Sullivan's past that was cause for so much angst. Before he could respond to Lois, though, Clark appeared at the end of the hall.
"There you are, Lois," he said, spotting his fiance talking to Oliver. "I was just wondering what happened to you. Oliver," he added, by way of greeting. "You guys ready to go?" he asked.
"Just about, Smallville," Lois smiled, pushing her concerns away when she saw Clark. Or were they melting away? Oliver wondered briefly, seeing the way Lois's body genuinely relaxed as she unbuttoned the top button of Clark's shirt and fixed his collar for him. For a moment he felt a small flicker of envy for what Lois and Clark clearly had with each other.
"Where's Chloe?" Clark asked.
"She was just—"
"Present!" Chloe offered, exiting the hotel room and appearing beside Oliver. Oliver's eyebrows went up. She was wearing tight jeans and knock-out silver heels with a black silk halter top that had no back to it.
Is she not wearing a bra? he thought, his throat constricting slightly. "You look great," he said. "Really great." It probably wasn't necessary to add the second part.
Chloe flushed at his statement and crossed her arms. "Thanks," she smiled awkwardly before apologizing for being late to the group. "So where's everyone else?"
Lois checked her phone. "I think everyone who's going is downstairs."
Oliver couldn't help but notice that Chloe wasn't meeting his eyes as they headed downstairs. Was it something to do with what Lois had said? He found that it vaguely bothered him that she was hiding something important from him. It shouldn't. After all, they didn't owe each other anything. It wasn't as thought they were really engaged or anything. She was entitled to her secrets. But she had become much incredibly interesting to him now. He found it difficult to imagine that any man could do much damage to the emotional fortress that was Chloe Sullivan. So whatever had happened must have been a big deal.
The group that left for the Club that night excluded Bart and Courtney as well as Dick and Barbara, who weren't old enough to get in. Bart had insisted that they could easily use fake IDs, but Chloe and Katherine had both shot down that plan immediately. Particularly as Barbara was the daughter of a police commissioner. Katherine and Chloe weren't about to explain to Jim Gordon why their daughter had been caught sneaking into a 21 and up club.
Dinah and Bruce wouldn't arrive until first thing in the morning, so instead the group was composed of Chloe and Oliver, Lois and Clark, Dinah and AC, and of course, Katherine and Victor, though the last pair insisted that they would be going home early, as they still had a lot to do the next day.
Chloe allowed herself a moment to acclimate herself to the club when they arrived. No matter who she had become compared to her high school counterpart, clubs would never really be her scene. The throbbing music, the flashing lights, the hot bodies packed together…it was an epileptic fit waiting to happen.
But as Lois handed her a shot before dragging her onto the dance floor, she couldn't help loosening up and allowing herself to get into the music, as she and Dinah and Lois danced together for a while. The men joined them and she felt Oliver's hand on her arm. She looked at him in surprise as he handed her another drink. The music was too loud to talk over, but his intention was clear in his eyes.
We have to sell it, Chloe thought, glancing at the others. Dinah was holding onto AC's shoulders as she tried to shout something in his ear. Lois was giving Clark a coy look as she tried to get him to loosen up his dancing—an ongoing battle. Katherine and Victor were dancing and completely oblivious to their surroundings.
Oliver gave her a reassuring grin as he clinked shot glasses with her and they both downed something peppermint flavored. The motion was reminiscent of the night she had spent at his apartment with the bottle of vodka, and for a brief moment she was glad that if she was doing something so completely screwed up, she was doing it with someone like Oliver. He took her shot glass from her and dropped the pair on the bar before draping a hand across her hip and pulling her back flush with his chest as if they'd done it a hundred times.
Because we have to look like we have, Chloe reminded herself as she felt her adrenaline pick up from the intimacy. Somehow it was different from the occasional stranger she met on a night out, or dancing a slow waltz with with Harvey Dent. She was beginning to think of Oliver as a friend on some level, however much she didn't like to admit it, and having a friend hold her the way Oliver currently was…it was making her pulse quicken. It was too intimate.
But not bad, the thought flickered unbidden through her mind. She'd blame it on the alcohol, but she wasn't even on a buzz yet. Maybe it was true that men were visual and women were tactile. Because his the back of his fingertips skimming up her arm was causing her to shudder and the way her body curved to his felt unbearably good. For all the trouble men brought, this sort of thing was nice, being held and touched and made to feel like an object of desire. Her stomach flipped as his his fingers tightened on her stomach a little bit in response to the music. She leaned her head back against his shoulder, turning her cheek so he couldn't see her face. But she got a whiff of his cologne as she did so, and closed her eyes. God, he smelled so good.
She wondered what he was thinking about as the bass of the music pulsed through them. Imagining she was someone else? Thinking what a good laugh it was that they could be so convincing? Suddenly she realized she didn't want to know his thoughts at the moment. It was better to let the music drown them out. Instead she pretended that they weren't putting on a show, that he was someone she actually knew and trusted and even wanted. She bit her lip as she felt a dull ache forming somewhere inside her, irrationally wishing he would soothe a sudden desire to feel his lips pressed to her shoulder and collar bone. Never mind how he would react if he knew what she was thinking.
She had no way of knowing that Oliver's mind was actually more pleasantly engaged than she realized. He had never been in the habit of over-thinking something as basic as a man and a woman touching. It was pleasurable and he was good at it. And he was enjoying the possibility that Chloe Sullivan might actually be human. It was more than just getting to know her or finding out that there was a lot going on beneath the cool, calculated surface. It was the simple notion that maybe she responded to men just like any other woman, once you could get through all the protective barriers, anyway. Without realizing he'd decided to do it, he found he was on a mission to discover where her buttons were and how to press them. What sort of touch made her sigh? Close her eyes? Press against him? Change the rhythm of her dancing? He forced himself to resist a temptation to skim his lips across her bare shoulder—an action she would surely make him pay for later.
He succumbed to the desire later in the night when they'd both had a lot more to drink, and the shudder that coursed through her body was the perfect reward. He pressed his face into her hair and inhaled a spicy, citrus scent that made his grip on her tighten considerably. What, his tequila-addled brain wondered, would Chloe Sullivan be like in bed? Before this evening he might have thought she would be controlling and straight-laced, but experiencing the way she allowed him to manipulate her while dancing, he suspected there would be so much more to it than that. She was a complex woman and while she might have a controlling streak, he suspected that she wanted to relinquish that, to let someone else be in charge once in a while. There just wasn't anyone she trusted enough to do that. He briefly thought of what Lois had said earlier that evening, that she was hiding something. It might even be healthy for her to learn to trust someone.
It was really too bad she'd made the rule for no sex, he considered absently, moving a hand dangerously over her thigh, feeling the muscles beneath his palm tighten in response. After all, sex didn't have to mean anything. It could be primal, instinctual, about exploring mutual desires. It would certainly add a new level of fun to their little charade. He wondered how difficult it would be to persuade her to forget her rule. After all, they were two consenting adults. As long as they were pretending to be engaged, why shouldn't they enjoy one another's company?
But instinctually he knew that wouldn't be the approach that persuade her. In an argument of logic, she would beat him down every time, if only through stubbornness.
No, it would have to be like this, like dancing. She would have to succumb to what she felt over what she thought.
And suddenly it was a new challenge, and he didn't know when he'd made the cross from thinking about it in the abstract to intending to actually try it, but he wanted to know if he could seduce Chloe Sullivan.
Next (Chapter 12)