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16 March 2011 @ 11:55 am
An Origin Story: 22/23  

Author:  BlueSuede
An Origin Story
AU in which Oliver's parents never died
minor spoilers for most early seasons

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Previous (Chapter 21)
Next (Chapter 23)


Chapter 22:

A Night of Charades

"So explain this to me again?" Chloe asked in an amused tone as she applied her makeup in the mirror one morning.

"I need a favor, Chlo. Just one teeny, itty bitty little favor."

"No, I got that. What I didn't understand was why you need me to come out to Gotham."

"Can't you just take my word for it?"

Chloe sighed. "Not really. Bruce, if I couldn't come out to Edge City with Ollie when he left last week, what makes you think I could come out to Gotham for you?"

It was three months since Oliver's trip to Gotham, and Chloe would have loved to have gone. A trip together might be exactly what the two of them needed for the still evasive 'alone time.' Since his previous trip, things at Queen Industries had had Oliver going non-stop. Not to mention George had been sending Chloe on so many out-of-town assignments, she'd barely been able to keep up with running the Justice League (as they'd finally dubbed themselves).

Not that the relationship was suffering or anything...not really. Chloe and Oliver were doing as well as ever, but they still hadn't found time to consummate their relationship. Chloe had her suspicions about this matter. She was beginning to suspect that Oliver was putting it off on purpose. Why in the name of all that was good and decent he would do that, she hadn't the slightest, but after three months and still nothing, she knew that something was off-kilter.

She just wished she knew why.

Bruce's response was arrogant and self-assured as ever. "Because you love me best."

Chloe sighed, glad he couldn't see her amused smile. "Whether or not that's true," she teased, "the fact remains that I'm still tied up in Metropolis."

Chloe could hear Bruce getting frustrated on the other end.

"Why won't you just tell me what's going on, Bruce?"

"I need an alibi," he said finally.

Chloe dropped her eyeliner in surprise. Leaning her arm on the counter she said bluntly, "All right, either this has something to do with your alter ego or you're planning to rob a bank. Please tell me it isn't the latter."

There was a long pause. Then finally, slowly, "Alter ego?"

Chloe waited.

"Did Oliver -"

"Don't worry. He didn't out you. I figured it out before I even met Ollie. I tend to obsess over things like that."

Another pause.

"Right. Okay, well let's put it this way then: I'm not planning to rob a bank."

"Glad to hear it. But it doesn't change the fact that I can't go anywhere."

"Please, Chlo. For one night. You'll be back before you know it and your editor won't care because I can promise you the biggest batman story in years."

Chloe bit her lip, sorely tempted to accept the offer. "What would I need to do?"

"Be my date to the governor's masquerade ball. That's it. I can explain all the whys in person, but it's difficult over the phone."

"No, I get that," Chloe stopped him. "It's the 'date' part that concerns me."

"Oliver won't mind. He knows all about...me. And you can tell him everything. I'll back you. Heck, I'll get Alfred to back you if it helps."

Chloe mulled it over. George wouldn't mind the sudden trip if she brought back a story, but would Oliver be okay with her posing as Bruce's date? It might make him...


Okay, so it wasn't the worst possible scenario, all things considered. And she would be up front about it. She'd call Oliver as soon as she hung up with Bruce.

"Okay," she said at length. "I'll do it."

"You'll do it?" he repeated, relief evident in his voice. "I knew I could count on you, Chloe. Thanks."

"You're welcome, Bruce." She hung up.

Bruce, on the other end, couldn't believe that Oliver's prediction from a long time ago had been right. He still remembered the conversation.

"So she knows? Everything?"

Oliver nodded.

"The everything?"

"The everything."

"Oliver, you do realize she's a reporter, right?"

"Yeah, no I remember that part."

"And she hasn't outed you?"


"Man," Bruce clapped Oliver on the shoulder, "marry her."

Oliver had chuckled.

"Well, either she's the perfect woman or you're a completely naive imbecile."

Oliver shrugged. "Time will tell."

"I just don't get it," Bruce shook his head. "Why would you tell her?"

"It was a desperate situation."

"You would have told her anyway," Bruce accused.


"You're a love-sick idiot."

Oliver had just shot him a maddeningly superior look. "Wait and see. I'll put good money down that one of these days you'll be 'fessing up and asking for a favor yourself."

And so Oliver's ominous prediction had finally come true...although even he was surprised that it was specifically Oliver's girlfriend he was asking, not some other woman he was madly in love with. He needed someone to cover for him and pretend to have been with him while he made a careful point of letting Batman be seen. There was a reporter stalking him, and he'd discovered that he wasn't hoping for the latest playboy antics or business scoop, he was waiting for Bruce to don the mask.

He hadn't told Chloe that he had called up her friend Clark Kent as well. He and Clark had met just under a year ago, when Clark had suddenly appeared on-scene and caught a helicopter that was about to crash straight into the Wayne Enterprises building. Since then, the two of them had formed an unusual friendship, often goading one another, still more often calling each other in for favors.

"Are you sure you don't mind, Ollie?"

"Yeah, look, don't worry about it. Bruce already called me right before you did because he wanted to be sure I'd let you go. For one thing, we both know I can't stop you if you want to go. For another, it doesn't bother me anyway, so you can go with a free conscience."

"You're wonderful."

"I know. Just bear in mind that I now know you're willing to scamper across the country for Bruce but not for me. I intend to spend an allotted amount of time pouting before I'll let you make it up to me."

Chloe laughed. "And how am I going to make it up to you?" she teased suggestively.

Oliver tried not to think about the possibilities. "I'm sure you'll come up with something."

Chloe stifled a sigh. She could think of several ways to make it up to him, but the way things had been going with them, she had a feeling he'd find a sneaky, conniving way to stop her regardless.

"So you know this thing is a masquerade, right?" Oliver changed directions.

"Hmm?" Chloe started. "Oh, yeah. Bruce mentioned that."

"So what you're saying is I should send you a dress and a mask."

She laughed. Oliver loved trying to give her expensive gifts, mostly because she was so stubborn about accepting them. "Sorry, Ollie. My other billionaire has already beat you to the punch."

"You take gifts from him but not me?" he demanded. "I sense a double-standard."

"Please," Chloe scoffed. "Apparently I'm saving his kevlar-clad butt. It's the least he can do."

"Whatever. I'm buying you a new coffee machine when I get back."

"Which will be when, may I ask?" Chloe asked, deciding to ignore the gift-threat.


She sighed. That was what he always said.

"Bruce, this dress is -"


"Heavy," Chloe whined.

He chuckled. "Relax, you look amazing."

Chloe sighed. "Maybe. But I'm almost afraid to move. I feel like any moment the thin little stretch of fabric holding this thing up is going to give way and beads will go scattering across the ballroom floor, hopefully distracting people from my half-naked self when they do."

Bruce tried and failed not to smirk. "You say that like it would be so terrible. Trust me. I had that dress flown in from Paris. If it doesn't last the night, you'll be getting an entire new wardrobe as an apology."

"Paris?" Chloe repeated flatly. "Do I want to know how much you spent on this?"

"I'd say that's a no," he said, stepping out of the limo.

Chloe sighed. "Right. Well, lead me on, Batsy," she winked, extending a gloved hand to Bruce so he could help her out as well. She was instantly met by the false-daylight of cameras wildly flashing, the crowd of paparazzi creating a loud hum in her ears as they shouted questions above each other.

No one in the media swarm recognized the mysterious blonde on Bruce Wayne's arm. They knew it had to be Wayne only because of the plates on the limo. And of course the tall, broad figure cut by the man matched his description.

Few had eyes for Bruce that evening, save for one, who was determinedly waiting for Bruce to give something away, anything to prove that his hunch was right and Wayne was Batman.

All other eyes were locked on the woman gracing his arm. They had already become numb to the barrage of tall, thin, supermodels swept before them in an array of reds, blues, and golds, all carrying themselves aloof and jauntily. Strutting down the carpet and relishing in the cameras and attention.

This woman, on the other hand, had her mask firmly in tact, her dark lashes turned away shyly, and clung bashfully to Wayne's arm as he swept her out of the limelight.

Unlike the towering, skeletal breed that had been marched before them so far, she was petite and glowing with comfortable healthiness...beautiful in a "girl-next-door," Donna Reed type way. The kind of beauty that didn't flash itself proudly before you but slowly and softly charmed you into appreciating its shimmering light. She was draped magnificently in a midnight blue gown, the halter top bodice arrayed in a glory of blue and silver crystal beads, ruched across her waist and gathering at the hip before extending into an a-line cloud of chiffon, still more beading and delicate silken rose petals and buds scattered across its folds. She wore matching elbow-length gloves, and one hand carefully lifted her skirts to keep her from treading on them while the other was carefully wrapped around Bruce's strong arm.

Chloe's breath of relief was audible once they were inside the doors of the building and Bruce chuckled teasingly. "I thought you'd be used to that by now. How long have you and Queen been dating?"

Chloe just shook her head. "I don't know how anyone ever gets used to that."

"Well, you did fine. Let's get a drink, shall we?"

Chloe smiled. Bruce was suave as ever, still teasing, still as much of a flirt as he had been the first day she met him, and still as much of a harmless friend.

Chloe was having a pleasant enough time. She would find out the next morning that while she and Bruce were enjoying their evening, Clark was running around dressed in a Kevlar suit, stopping about nineteen robberies, including the theft of a priceless painting in the Gotham museum of Modern Art, purposefully being seen by as many security guards and policeman as possible. Bruce had already removed his mask to leave no doubt in anyone's mind that he had been at the masquerade the whole night.

Chloe, on the other hand, was keeping her mask very much in place, suddenly appreciating the liberty of wearing one. Unrecognized by anyone, she was able to enjoy socializing (or not) without the pressure of being known. It was unlikely that they would even be able to match her name to the photos taken outside. A couple of Oliver's colleagues recognized her after a while, but they were the select few who had gotten to know Chloe well enough that she didn't mind whether they knew it was her. Leanne was actually there, representing Mr. Queen since Oliver was still in Star City, and when she found Chloe, she recognized her immediately. Leanne had opted for a less extravagant dress than Chloe, but looked very pretty in her periwinkle blue taffeta. Leanne spent at least an hour with Chloe trapping unsuspecting people into giving their opinion on certain things - especially their opinion of a certain blonde billionaire's recent girlfriend - for Chloe to hear.

"I love masquerades, don't you?" Leanne asked as they left an oil tycoon's company. "It's delightfully fun to watch people pretend they know who you are because they're too embarrassed to admit they don't recognize you."

Chloe nodded in agreement, amused. While Leanne was scheming for untainted public opinion on Chloe Sullivan, Chloe was doing a little plotting of her own. There was a handsome man with sandy brown hair shooting Leanne looks from across the room. Chloe had pointed him out to Leanne at one point, and she had responded by blushing bright red and making some quip about how Chloe could tell whether or not he was good looking when he was wearing a black and silver mask to cover a third of his face.

"Trust me, I have a sixth sense for these things," Chloe had teased.

Now, with careful movements, Chloe strategically guided Leanne across the floor, 'accidentally' bumping Leanne into her admirer. The resulting conversation was full of awkward cuteness and eventually led to the man asking Leanne to dance. Forgetting entirely about her company, Leanne abandoned Chloe to be swept off her feet.

"Playing matchmaker?" asked Bruce's amused voice. Chloe turned to see his eyes dancing with humor. Chloe often wondered how much of Bruce's lightheartedness around her was feigned. From what Oliver had told her, Bruce had never really gotten over the loss of his parents, and being Batman had taken its toll on his private life. Yet, when he was around her he seemed at the very least to have a well-developed sense of humor. She hoped, rather than fully believed, that it wasn't all an act.

"I thought Leanne could use a little push. Care to dance, Mr. Wayne?"

"I thought you'd never ask, Miss Sullivan."

Chloe smiled as he led her onto the dance floor and pulled her into his arms. It wasn't long, however, before they were interrupted.

"May I cut in?"

Chloe caught the arrogant smirk on Bruce's face just before she turned to see an attractive man in a green mask.

"I'm almost tempted to say no," Bruce teased. "After all she is my date. What do you think, Chloe?" he asked, turning to her for her opinion. Based on the happy flush of her cheek, he took his answer with a melodramatic sigh. "Fine." As he handed her off, though, he added, "Not for long, though. Remember she's my alibi, too."

Chloe had to shake her head as her new partner's hands took a more brazen hold on her waist. "Don't you think it's a little, well, stupid for you to be wearing a green mask?"

Oliver smirked. "I missed you, too."

"I mean, really, there's an entire rainbow of colors out there for you. You happen to look pretty good in blue, you know."

"You happen to look pretty good in blue yourself," he teased, casting an appreciative eye on her dress.

Chloe sighed, pleased with the compliment. Finally she asked the all-important, "What are you doing here?"

"Well I actually had a business free evening, and while you may not be willing to hop across the continent for me, I have no such inhibitions." He grinned at her. "And I really did miss you." He winked at her through the mask.

"So how are things in Edge City?"

"Persistently dull. How are things at home?"

"Just as bad."

"You know, Hal is coming home next week. He'll probably stop by Star City to see us."

"Will he?"

He nodded. "My parents are coming back, too."

Chloe glowed. "Really? I feel like they've been gone forever."

"I'll be home by then, too," he added. Chloe frowned, noticing something slightly off in his voice. He was thinking about something. Something important.

"What's going on?"

"Hmm?" he looked startled. "Nothing. We're planning a big welcome-home cocktail party for them."

"That's nice. How're the boys? I haven't talked to any of them all night."

"Oh, they're good. I've got Bart looking after Star City, and Victor and AC are splitting Metropolis between them for the moment."

Chloe opened her mouth to ask a question, but Oliver leaned over to kiss her.

"Did I mention I missed you?" he asked against her lips before kissing her again. Chloe felt her thoughts growing slowly fuzzy thanks to the soft pressure of his lips against her own.

"Don't get any big ideas, Robin Hood," Chloe said after a moment, finally pushing him back a little bit. "I'm going home with someone else tonight, remember?"

Oliver scowled - even hidden behind the mask Chloe had learned to recognize the signs of his displeasure. "I dislike this plan. We should invent a new one."

"Oh relax. I plan to let Alfred cook for me and then maybe take in a movie if I haven't already collapsed from exhaustion by then."

"And Bruce?"

"Well, I do have to keep her right next to me the whole night," Bruce's voice interrupted their conversation. "You know, because I wouldn't want her to have to lie should my whereabouts be called into question." He grinned smugly at the two of them. "I cam to steal her back," he informed the highly displeased Oliver. He disentangled Chloe from Oliver's arms and pulled her away just as the song ended and transitioned smoothly into a new one. "Don't worry, Jolly Green. I'll take extra good care of her."

Oliver knew, deep down that Bruce was joking, but really, he wanted to throttle him, scoop up Chloe and keep her for himself for the next year. After being away for an entire week yet again, he was starting to go insane he missed her so much. He also knew that Chloe was growing suspicious about their lack of intimacy, but he'd made up his mind. He wanted them to wait.

He had his reasons.

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Next (Chapter 23)