Rating: PG-13? Maybe? Probably not even that.
Word Count: c.4400
Summary: Oliver Queen is not in love with Clark Kent. Except in the way that he is.
Warnings/Spoilers: Set sometime after the season 6 episode Crimson. I think all you really need to know is it's set sometime after Justice but before the Luthor wedding. Some vague spoilers for season 8 and the season 9 episode Disciple.
Disclaimer: I do not own Smallville, Superman or anything associated with it. Sadly.
Anything else: Written for ladybugkay for the svgiftxchange. Sorry this wasn't quite as timely as I was hoping. It ran away from me! Thank you so much to svgurl for the beta! (And for organising the exchange. :D)
“Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself no quiet find.”
Sonnet 27, William Shakespeare
The woman leaned forward and as she kissed him, he tried to recall her name. She had given it when she sat down next to him at the bar. As she pressed soft lips against his, he thought of Clark. If it was inappropriate to think of one’s friend while kissing a beautiful woman, it didn’t occur to him. He thought that Clark’s lips had looked dry and that he had the habit of wetting his lips when nervous. Perhaps that was aggravation though. They had spent a lot of time together arguing.
As he pulled back from the woman and brushed her dark hair away from her face, he thought briefly of Lois. He didn’t miss her as much as he had thought he would and he felt a pang for not thinking of her more often. She deserved better.
She had been beautiful; the most engaging and charming woman he’d ever known. Yet even when they were together, he hadn’t thought of her as much as he should have. Not after he’d met Clark, anyway.
It wasn’t the male thing that had stopped him from getting involved. He’d had boyfriends before. It was the Lois’ friend thing. It was the Senator’s son thing. That Clark was clearly hung up on his old girlfriend.
The Lex thing.
He’d wondered about them. More, really, about Lex. If Lex seemed to behave like a jilted lover, Clark seemed to behave like a hurt and betrayed friend. He ran a hand through the woman’s long hair and smiled.
Maybe not though. Maybe Lex had never felt anything more than friendship. He’d never been the best at working out that sort of thing.
The boys found his ‘moping’ (their words, not his) funny. “You hooked up last night man,” AC said. “You should in no way look that moppy.”
“I’m not moppy,” Oliver muttered but they had already moved on to discussing the woman who had turned Bart down rather viciously the night before. He’d been too busy making out with the woman at the bar (he never did end up finding out her name) to notice. He felt a little bad about it. He was an only child but he imagined that the way he felt about Bart was similar to how people felt about their younger siblings. Protective, with a side of caustic humour.
“It’s okay buddy,” he said, punching Bart lightly in the arm and giving Victor and AC a warning look. “Happens to the best of us.”
It was only a few months after he left that he arrived back in Metropolis. He wasn’t going to be there long, just long enough to take in a few meetings and check out another local 33.1 facility.
He went in alone, dressed all in black because he hadn’t wanted to drop by as Green Arrow just as Oliver Queen was flying into town, and downloaded as much information as he could without getting caught. It wasn’t as much as he’d have liked but he left some spyware in the computer system that hopefully wouldn’t be detected too quickly. It was designed to send the information it mined through multiple servers, ending in an anonymous, untraceable account based in Russia.
It had been designed by a kid in Norway, who had nothing better to do in the winter months than go to school, sit in front of his computer, and crack encryption. (In the summer months too, really.) Oliver was paying him enough money to pay for MIT, undergrad and postgrad, and he wasn’t someone likely to be well known.
Besides, he and Chloe had messed with the code enough that it was no longer readily recognisable as his work. (He’d known a kid in school who could guess at who’d written the source code for something just by examining it for a few minutes. Hackers were idiosyncratic and, on top of that, liked to sign their work.)
It wasn’t long after midnight when he was done with that. He found a pretty Kansan man with green eyes at a bar to take home with him. His brown hair – shades too light – fell into his green eyes, which weren’t even a close approximation of Clark’s. He spent so long thinking about how this replacement wasn’t anything at all like the original that he failed to have any fun, which wasn’t like Oliver at all. The man left Oliver’s apartment as soon as they were done and if Oliver wasn’t wrong, he seemed disappointed.
Oliver didn’t blame him. He felt disappointed too.
He stared at the ceiling for an hour, trying to sleep, before getting up to do some work. Putting the local news on quietly in the background, he felt a pang for Clark when he saw the coverage for the upcoming Luthor wedding. Oliver changed the channel to CNN and refused to dwell on it.
He lay down onto the couch and left the work untouched, frowning.
It had to be difficult for Clark. He’d seemed so hung up on the girl when Oliver had last seen him. Pining for her, really. It had been sad.
He was almost out the door, keys in hand, when it occurred to him that it was just coming up on four in the morning and, even factoring in the two hour drive to Smallville, he was fairly certain that no matter whether you were in Star City or small town Kansas, it was rude to show up on someone’s doorstep at six in the morning.
After that, he sat in his kitchen with a cup of tea for a long time, trying to come to terms with the fact that somewhere along the line he’d fallen in love with Clark Kent and not noticed.
He put his head in his hands and muttered, “Great. Just wonderful.”
An hour later he figured what the hell, farmers get up early, and headed for the elevator. He took his bike, figuring he was more likely to stay awake with the wind in his face (or, at least, his helmet), and headed out. He could always stop to get breakfast on the way.
He didn’t stop to get breakfast on the way. In fact, he rode the whole way non-stop and by the time he reached the Kent Farm, his back was cramping and one of his legs was going numb. It had been a long time since he’d travelled long-distance on his bike and he’d almost forgotten how.
He stood in the Kent’s driveway, scowling and shaking his leg, trying to get it to wake up. Looking up, he blushed, something he thought he’d stopped doing a long time ago, at the sight of Martha Kent standing on the steps, looking bemused.
“I’m in town for a few days and I thought I’d come see how Clark is,” He rested his foot on the ground and rubbed his thigh vigorously with one hand. “My leg went numb on the way—on the way here.” He could feel his face going even redder and he damned the European winter for making him lose his tan, which would have at least hid some of it. A California boy through and through, he always felt oddly naked without it.
Clark appeared in the doorway. Dressed in a red t-shirt and blue jeans—did he own anything else? Oliver wondered—he found himself staring. He could see the curve of Clark’s bicep under his shirt, the broadness of his shoulders, the sharp line of his jaw. He avoided the lips entirely and focused in on his eyes and smiled. Clark did not smile back. He actually looked alarmed.
Martha went back inside, inviting him in for breakfast. As soon as the door closed behind her, Clark hurried down the steps, not quite running, and said urgently, “Is something wrong? With the others?”
For a moment, Oliver was thrown completely. Wrong? Why would something be wrong? “Oh,” Oliver said. “No, nothing’s wrong. I just thought I’d…drop by and say hi.” Oh God. Saying it out loud made it sound ridiculous. “I have meetings later in the day so…” Oh great one, Oliver, he thought. Dig yourself further into the hole by lying.
“So your trip has nothing to do with 33.1 or the guys or anything?” Clark said, alarm receding and being replaced with confusion.
“Well, I looked into one of the facilities last night but it was just an information gathering type thing. Done it a million times.” Even as Oliver smiled and shrugged, he watched Clark’s expression darken. With what, Oliver wasn’t sure.
“You should have called.” Clark said.
“Oh, I’m sorry, you’re right, I just jumped on my bike and rode on over. My manners are usually better than this, I swear. I’ll just go back into town and...” Judging by Clark’s expression, they weren’t talking about the same thing. “That wasn’t what you meant?”
“Before you went into the 33.1 facility. You should have called; I could have helped.”
“I didn’t need help.”
Clark let out a quiet, irritated sigh. “What if something had happened?”
“I have my little panic button. If something had happened, I would have hit it and someone would have come and gotten me.”
“By which time you would have been unmasked and potentially dead or being tortured. If I’d been there, then at least you’d have had backup.”
“Look, Clark, it was a covert operation. I didn’t want anyone to know I’d dropped in and, to be honest, from what I’ve seen, covert isn’t really your strong suit,” Frustrated, Oliver sighed. “It’s nothing against you but I wouldn’t send in a retrieval team to do a thief’s job and you’re not a thief.”
Clark glowered. That was apparently not the right thing to say. “You say that like being a thief is something to be proud of.” He said darkly.
Thinking of things he’d stolen, art and jewellery as well as information (he thought, for a split second, of Vordigan, of the things he’d done then, before he pushed the thought away—he didn’t like to think about that) and Clark’s words stung. Oliver’s chin went up, defensive. The world was not as black and white as Clark thought it was. “Depends on what you’re stealing, I suppose.”
Clark looked away for a moment and his frown momentarily deepened. Before Oliver, discouraged, could suggest he leave, Martha opened the door and the smell of pancakes wafted out. Her expression was serene and smiling but Oliver wasn’t sure how good an indication that was of anything. She motioned inside. “I have breakfast cooking, boys. Why don’t you come in and eat?”
Already on edge, he bristled slightly at being called a ‘boy’—he didn’t like it when his business partners and board members did it and this bothered him almost as much—and he glanced at Clark, preparing to make his goodbyes and head into town for breakfast. The early hour would hopefully mean he wouldn’t run into Lois. Clark had visibly relaxed though and he even smiled a little as he said, “My mom’s a good cook. You should stay for breakfast.”
Oliver had a moment of indecision. He had known many people who had given invitations and not meant them, invitations to Christmas’ and Thanksgivings and summer holidays while he’d been in school that had been given purely out of obligation. It had left him hypersensitive to the idea of not truly being welcome.
At that moment though, his stomach growled. Loudly. Oliver blushed and Clark laughed quietly. “Ah, that sounds good,” Oliver said, shifting his helmet from one hand to the other. “Where can I stash my bike? I don’t want it to be in the way.”
When he was leaving, stomach full and feeling calm and almost contented, Clark asked how long he was planning on being in Metropolis for. A few more days, he’d said. They discussed business and Oliver found himself suggesting dinner. Clark had nodded and agreed, suggesting a Thai restaurant in uptown Metropolis.
Clark showed up at the Clocktower early when Oliver was still wrapping up a videoconference. He lingered awkwardly in the background, waiting for Oliver to be done talking with Walter DeMonahue, his Chief Financial Officer and the last one on the line. The man was in his late seventies and had been Queen Industries Chief Financial Officer for almost forty years. Oliver had never once in his life hurried the man up and he didn’t now either, just motioned Clark a little closer so that Walter would know they weren’t alone.
After being introduced, Walter was halfway to offering his hand before smiling and shaking his head. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this stuff,” Walter said dryly before signing off.
“I’ll only be a second and then we can go to dinner,” Oliver said. “I just need to change out of my suit.”
Frowning, Clark crossed his arms over his chest. “I wanted to talk about you going into the 33.1 facility by yourself again.”
Oliver collapsed back into his seat and loosened his tie. “Oh, wonderful. Sounds like fun.”
Clark sighed. “I’m not great with…this sort of thing. I didn’t mean to insult you. I just needed you to know that I would be there, if you needed me, but I can’t be there if I don’t know that you need me.”
“All right,” Oliver nodded. “Let’s go through a scenario here. I come to you and I tell you that I’m going to break into a 33.1 facility and ask you to be on alert, on the off chance that I need backup because as far as breaking into these facilities undetected, I’ve done it a lot. More than you, I’d say. Would you have let me go?”
There was a moment of silence. Clark avoided Oliver’s eye and said falteringly, “Of course.”
Oliver shook his head, amused. Clark was an incredibly bad liar. “Really?”
“I—no,” Clark admitted reluctantly. He sighed. “There must be something we could do to work this out.”
Oliver looked away, feeling discouraged. “I’m not sure that’s possible, Clark. You need to be able to let someone else do something. No running off and getting stuck in a room full of glowing green stuff. When you know there’s a good chance you can encounter those meteor rocks and we’re around, there’s no need to run off half-cocked. You don’t have to do everything yourself.”
Clark didn’t say anything. Oliver sighed. It felt like he’d been doing that a lot lately.
“How about we go to dinner?” Oliver suggested. Clark still didn’t say anything. “We’re more than just the sum of our parts, Clark,” He said gently. “Together, we can do more than we ever could apart.”
Clark sat down beside Oliver and, after a moment of sitting rigidly in place, slumped down into the couch cushion. “I’ve spent most of my life saving people’s lives. I’m not used to letting other people do dangerous things.”
Oliver nodded. He could see how someone who was invulnerable and grew up in a town as dangerous as Smallville could end up thinking that. Still. Oliver’s intimate knowledge of his own martyr complex meant he had never really taken them very seriously. “I’m assuming there was a time when you were a child and not doing a lot of life saving. At least not a regular basis.”
Clark was giving him a look that he read as ‘seriously?’ and he shrugged.
“What? You think Lois has the patent on bad jokes? Let me assure you, she doesn’t.”
Clark smiled a little. “You said something about dinner?”
“I think we should try that.”
“Sounds good to me.”
They had Thai food, which they lingered over for several hours. Oliver entertained Clark with what he called his ‘phase of adolescent criminality’, in which he had shoved firecrackers in neighbours’ mailboxes, and he and a friend vandalised her ex-boyfriend’s car every year on the date she had discovered him ‘sleeping’ with one of her friends. (They did this for four years running.)
He didn’t share the incident in which he was caught joyriding in his father’s 1985 Ferrari Testarossa without a license. The cops had admired the mint condition, one-owner Ferrari as they arrested him.
Listening to the stories, Clark had seemed torn between laughter and disapproval and Oliver couldn’t help wondering what, exactly, Clark had spent his teenage years doing besides saving every single person in his small town from attack by meteor freaks.
Maybe saving people had taken up all his time. It was a rather sad thought.
Which was how Oliver started his own version of ‘Have you ever…’ with Clark. “Have you ever cheated on a test?”
“No,” Clark said, giving him a rather scandalised look.
“Vandalised someone’s property because they were rude to your mother?”
“No.” This time his look was baffled.
“Vandalised someone’s property for other reasons?”
“No! Well, maybe. Once.”
Oliver laughed. “Okay. Gotten so drunk you threw up on someone else’s shoes?”
Clark shook his head. “Alcohol doesn’t affect me the way it does other people.”
“Okay,” Oliver narrowed his eyes. “Slept with someone whose name you didn’t know?”
“Can I assume that you’ve done all of these things?” Clark said.
“Ducking the question, interesting,” Oliver smiled to show he was joking. “And I have done all those things, yes. Except the rude to my mother one. A friend did that. It’s a little hard to be rude to my mother.”
At the end of the evening, Oliver was getting into his car when Clark said, “I’m going to ask you what may be a weird question and if the answer is ‘no’, you have to promise to forget all about it and never, ever bring it up again.”
Oliver shrugged. “Sure.”
“Was this a date?” Clark asked.
He didn’t give himself time to think about the answer before he said it. “Yes.” He then turned his car on and drove away.
Five minutes down the road, he was cursing a blue streak. What the hell was that? He was all for dramatic exits but that had just been stupid. Who the hell admitted that he’d invited someone on a date without their knowledge and then got in their car and drove away?
Even he, who was hopeless with relationships, knew you didn’t do that.
Not that it was advisable to do the first thing either.
He didn’t know whether or not he was surprised to find Clark in the parking lot, standing in front of Oliver’s parking space, and literally twiddling his thumbs. Oliver would have rolled his eyes if he didn’t find it so endearing that it made his chest hurt.
Oliver motioned for Clark to move aside and he hesitated for a moment before stepping away. The place was mostly empty. It was pushing eleven and Oliver was the only residential occupant of the building. The rest was Queen Industries offices.
He made a note to ‘lose’ that evening’s security camera footage for the parking lot. He doubted that Clark had walked in at a regular speed.
Oliver got out of the car and smiled, though it felt more like a grimace. “I didn’t really mean to make quite so dramatic an exit.” Sighing, Oliver slammed the car door shut and put his hands in his pockets. It took a great deal of effort not to hang his head and stare at the tops of his shoes.
Clark nodded and smiled a little. “It’s fine. When are you heading out? Of Metropolis, I mean.”
That threw him. Leaving like that was, at the very least, rude. He’d left abruptly enough times for Green Arrow business to know that people didn’t like it. “Day after tomorrow,” He said absently.
“Do you want to have lunch?” Clark asked.
“Lunch. Tomorrow,” Clark’s bravery seemed to wilt all of a sudden and he took a step back. “Or not. I mean, maybe you don’t—”
“Lunch sounds good,” Oliver blurted out. Oh God. He was supposed to be charming, confident, other words he couldn’t think of right now. It had been a long time since anyone had thrown him like this.
Clark smiled and Oliver’s heart speed up. He found he wanted to run away and stay in this moment forever all at the same time. He wondered if it was too late to buy a shack in the desert and live there for the rest of his life. Being a hermit might make him go a little crazy, but at least there wouldn’t be anyone around to witness it.
“How about you pick the restaurant this time? Text me the address.” Clark backed away, smiling.
“Okay,” Oliver said.
“Nothing too fancy!”
“All right.” Oliver said faintly. That really wasn’t how that was supposed to have gone.
Oliver spent the rest of the night riding around Metropolis as Green Arrow. He managed to stop two muggings and two teens breaking and entering but if asked how, he wouldn’t have been able to say. It was a credit to the quality of his auto-pilot that he managed to not get killed that evening and that, the next morning, he managed to talk his way through two conference calls and a meeting with the head of the Midwest division of Queen Industries without being entirely sure what any of them were about.
Damn it, he thought after he’d changed his clothes for the third time as he prepared to go out for lunch, I’m a grown man not a smitten teenager. It’s not supposed to work like this anymore.
He settled on jeans, a t-shirt, and a green button-down but that was only after he went through the eight suits and all the casual clothes he’d brought with him.
By the time Oliver was leaving for lunch, he was so exhausted that he wasn’t entirely certain how he was supposed to enjoy it. Dating someone you’d already fallen in love with was hard. He could understand why most people dated and then fell in love. It was undoubtedly easier.
Somehow, he ended up at the sushi restaurant a half hour early, staring at the wall while he insisted to the sceptical waitress that his date would be there soon.
When Clark arrived, five minutes early, he was so relieved that he must have looked a little ridiculous, something that the amused expression on Clark’s face seemed to confirm.
He smiled ruefully and Clark smiled back. His exhaustion faded away and Clark said, “No raw fish, okay? That’s where I draw the line.”
Clark drove him to the airport. They’d thrown his bags in the back of Clark’s truck, except for his laptop that he had placed at his feet.
It was late—later than he’d intended to leave, though when it was your plane, it wasn’t such a big deal—and he and Clark had spent the afternoon on Oliver’s couch. Talking, mostly.
They’d talked of each other’s lives, Clark falteringly sharing stories of discovering his powers, including one occasion when he was seven and threw a temper tantrum and had accidentally broke his father’s arm. “Dad never really brought it up,” He’d said, staring at his hands. “But I’d always wondered. I mean he never seemed scared of me but there were times when he had to be, right? I’m scared of me sometimes.”
Oliver had reached over and squeezed Clark’s hand and said, “That’s probably why he wasn’t scared of you, Clark. You know you can do a lot of damage with your powers but you choose not to, every day. So long as you keep making that choice, I don’t see how anyone has anything to worry about.”
Embarrassed, Clark quickly changed the subject after that.
Clark said he’d never had a boyfriend but admitted to sex with some men during what he called his ‘lost summer in Metropolis’. Oliver probed for more information but Clark had been reluctant to provide any details and Oliver had dropped it.
When he’d left so Oliver could attend his final meeting of the afternoon, Clark had lunged forward, grabbed hold of his shirt, and kissed him senseless. Oliver had been dazed, shocked by the intensity of the feeling.
They lingered on the runway while Oliver’s luggage was loaded onto the plane. Oliver didn’t want to talk. He wasn’t good at the talking thing—but if he didn’t, he suspected that it was all he would think about until he saw Clark again. He fidgeted with the edge of his sleeve and said, “Is there anything we need to discuss?”
“Discuss?” Clark asked. He sounded cautious.
“It’s just—I’m older and that comes with more baggage, maybe more than you’re ready for. Someone put that on me when I was—well, younger than you but it was hard for me to get over and—frankly, I’ve been alone a long time.”
“You were with Lois for a while,” Clark pointed out. He had relaxed as Oliver talked, as though he’d been expecting something else.
He thought briefly of her, of Tess and the other men and women he’d succeeded in pushing away in the past decade. The friendships he’d ruined, all the things he’d kept to himself, all the drinking he’d done after the island, the costumed antics he hadn’t wanted to tell them about, and smiled a little. “I couldn’t,” He stopped and struggled for the words and then said lamely, “Couldn’t share my life with her. Not the things that were really important to me,” He frowned and reached up to cup Clark’s face gently in his hands. “I know that you’ve had a tough time and I don’t want to be the person asking for more than you’re ready for.”
Clark smiled and placed his hands over Oliver’s. “It’s okay. I come with a full set of baggage too.”
Oliver laughed, a surprising amount of relief flowing through him. He’d meant to offer Clark a way out, the opportunity to forget the last few days and to go back to pining for his old girlfriend, and he’d expect him to accept it. Of all the people in the world, there were few who knew better than Oliver that change, even change for the better, was hard. Terrifying, even. He reached out and hugged Clark tightly and whispered in his ear, “I’ll ring you when I land in Spain, okay?”
Clark’s fingers dug into the back of Oliver’s jacket. “Okay,” He said quietly. “Don’t forget okay?”