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fic: never too late

Title: Never Too Late
Fandom: Smallville
Pairing/Character/General Series: Clark/Oliver, Oliver/Tess (past), Oliver/Lois (past), Clark/Lois, mentions of Oliver/Dinah
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: set in s8; spoilers through 8.05 “Committed”; AU
Word Count: 9985
Warnings: slash
Disclaimer: don’t own anything; all characters belong to CW/DC Comics and the plot is (obviously) inspired by “The Christmas Carol”
Summary: Ollie is on a downward spiral and is planning to continue on through Christmas the same way, but then he gets a visit from three ghosts.
Author's Notes: for my 100_tales table, prompt "Christmas". Thanks to my beta boltgirl426!

“So, do … do you have any plans for tonight?”

It was the hesitation in Chloe’s voice that caused Oliver to look up. Her hands were wringed together, and she wasn’t meeting his eyes, two telling signs that something was off. He had a hunch where this conversation was going, but he didn’t plan to help her out. Not on this.

“No,” he said cautiously, “It’s just another night for me.”

“It’s Christmas Eve,” Chloe told him.

“Yes, I know what day it is,” Oliver replied, his tone stiff. How could he forget, when the telltale signs of the holidays were everywhere he looked? He drank until he passed out every night just to forget. Lately there was always something he was trying to forget and alcohol was his cure.

“I’m going to the Kents’ for dinner,” Chloe volunteered, clearly oblivious to his thoughts.

“That’s nice,” Oliver remarked, trying to ignore the sharp pain in his heart when an image of Clark immediately popped up in his mind. No, Ollie, don’t think of him. He betrayed you, remember?

“You should come with me,” Chloe said slowly, lifting her eyes to meet his at last. “Mrs. Kent is home for the holidays and I’m sure everybody would love to see you, Ollie.”

“Thanks for the invite, but I’m afraid I have to decline,” Oliver said smoothly. “But give everyone my best.”

“Are you sure?” Chloe persisted. “I hate the idea of you all alone here … I’m worried about you.”

“100% positive,” Oliver assured her, even though his heart was screaming at him to accept. Come on, you miss Clark … go see him, make amends. He’s your friend. No, he wasn’t … he had kept vital information about his parents’ death from him … no friend of his would do that. Snapping out of his thoughts, he saw Chloe watching him, her expression growing more and more concerned.

“Don’t worry about me,” he added, “I’ve spent Christmas Eve alone for years … that’s the way I like it. I get a little peace and quiet and that’s rare in my life.” He cracked a grin, hoping she couldn’t tell that it was as fake as his words.

It seemed that he wasn’t as good an actor as he liked to think himself, because Chloe looked completely unconvinced.

Taking an exaggerated look at his watch, Ollie stated, “You may want to head out, if you want to make it to dinner on time. Traffic is going to be hell.”

Chloe pursed her lips, clearly seeing through his tactics to get rid of her and sometimes, he just wished she wasn’t as smart as she was. It helped when she was in Watchtower mode, but right now, it was getting in the way of his plans.

But she was also smart enough to see how stubborn Oliver was when he set his mind to something and knew that he wouldn’t give in.

“Okay,” she said reluctantly, “But if you change your mind …”

“Yeah, sure, I’ll give you a call,” Oliver assured her. They both knew he wouldn’t be calling.

“There’s Christmas morning brunch, tomorrow at eleven,” Chloe continued, refusing to quit completely. Before he could open his mouth to refuse, she continued quickly. “Just think about it.”

He just nodded. Before he could say anything else, Chloe closed the distance between them and hugged him. Not knowing what else to do, he hugged her back.

Pulling away after a moment, she smiled warmly. “Merry Christmas, Oliver.”

“Merry Christmas to you too, Chloe,” Oliver replied. But he knew the words were meaningless … his Christmas wouldn’t be very merry at all.

They said their goodbyes and Chloe left. Ollie breathed a sigh of relief but at the same time, felt a little sad. He was alone again and while that’s what he wanted, it was harder around this time of year than he let on to Chloe.

Lately, she was only person that he had seen regularly, other than his employees. He just didn’t feel like being around anyone or doing anything. When he wasn’t working, he was drinking. Even being Green Arrow and fighting crime had lost its appeal. Everything had changed since he found out the truth about his parents’ death.

It was one thing to think that they were killed in an accident but to find out that they were murdered? That someone deliberately took their lives? It was too much for Oliver to handle. Especially since their murderer, Lionel Luthor, was already dead so he couldn’t do anything to avenge his parents. It made him feel … helpless. That was a feeling he hated.

What rubbed salt into the wound was finding out that Clark, one of the few people he trusted, knew and didn’t tell him. Ollie had felt they were getting closer and then all of a sudden, there was this huge distance between them. Clark didn’t even bother to explain himself properly. Of course, that night Ollie had been well on his way to becoming rather drunk and might not have heard him out anyway but it still bothered him.

Not that it mattered. Clark hadn’t tried to make amends since and he wasn’t going to make the first move either. As far as Ollie was concerned he was the injured party and Clark obviously didn't care enough to save their friendship. That didn’t bother him at all. At least that’s what he told himself … right before he drank himself into a stupor.

Tonight would be no different. Ollie’s plan was to (hopefully) sleep through the 25th and wake up on the 26th, finally free of the stupid holiday that served as nothing but a reminder to how lonely he was in the world.

Even though it was still early, Oliver found himself opening a bottle of vodka. If there was any day to start drinking early, it was today. Besides, why prolong the inevitable?

Hours later, he stumbled into bed, completely wasted. It was still early but he was exhausted. As he fell into bed though, he found it difficult to sleep, tossing and turning before finally settling down.

Ollie had barely drifted off when he was suddenly woken up again. Only half awake, he looked around. He was confused when he felt a breeze, causing him to shiver. Frowning, he turned his head to the windows, which, as he thought, were all closed.

Olllieeee …

Okay, that was weird. If he didn’t know better, he thought he heard someone saying his name. But there was nobody in the room but him.

Ollllieeeee …

There it was again! A woman’s voice … soft and gentle. Quickly, he turned on the lamp by his bed. Still no one there. Standing up quickly, he made his way to the living room. It was empty.

“I’m going crazy,” he muttered, heading back. He was probably still drunk and hearing things. Turning off the lights, he relaxed into his bed.

Just as he was about to close his eyes, an eerie feeling washed over his body, and there was that voice again, calling his name. Someone was definitely in the room or he was really going crazy. Resigning himself to a sleepless night, Oliver sat up in bed and turned on the lights once more.

What he saw had him leaping off the bed.

A woman was standing by his bed … but she was transparent. It was like she was a ghost, if he believed in such things. Which he didn’t, of course, because he was a sane person. Obviously, somewhere, there was someone with a projector who thought this was just hilarious.

The most insane part (if it wasn’t insane enough that a ghost was possibly standing in his bedroom) was that she wasn’t unfamiliar to him. The only place he had seen her was in the few memories of his childhood he still had and photographs, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t recognize her instantly.

Because the ghost looked exactly like Oliver’s mother.

“Who are you?” Oliver demanded, “And how did you get into my room?”

“Oh, Oliver,” the woman sighed, “I think that should be obvious now. You have a picture of me sitting on your desk.” And there it was. That voice … the one that haunted him in his dreams. But it couldn’t be. This whole thing didn’t make sense.

“If this is some kind of practical joke,” Oliver hissed, “I’m not amused. You have a minute to get out of here before I call the cops.”

His mother’s look-a-like (which is how he would continue to refer to her, because he refused to believe that there was an actual ghost in his home and she was not his mom) just shook her head.

“You were always such a skeptical child,” came the response. “I remember how much effort it took for your father and I to convince you to believe in Santa. You had all these questions … such an inquisitive mind, my little boy.”

At the reference to his childhood, Oliver almost choked on air. Because he did remember that … but how she could know this? This seemed less and less like a joke and with that realization, Ollie began to panic.

“Are you still doubtful, my son?” the woman, who might actually be the ghost of his mother, was asking.

“This can’t be happening,” Oliver whispered. What he wanted to do was go back to sleep and write this whole night off as a bad dream, but it didn’t seem possible.

“It is, sweetie,” his mother (and how weird was that?) said gently, “Your father wanted to come too, but I figured this might be enough of a shock for you. He did want me to tell you on his behalf how proud he was of you. We both are … you’ve grown up to be a fine young man.”

Oliver’s heart was pounding in his chest and breathing suddenly became difficult. He could barely stand, his knees suddenly weak, so he sat back down on the bed.

Finding his voice, he asked, “Why now?”

He didn’t have to say anymore; she seemed to understand the question.

“Those in the afterlife are not allowed to contact the living,” she explained, “But this time, an exception was made. Ollie, we’re worried about you.”

Similar words were spoken barely a few hours prior, by Chloe. He closed his eyes, knowing that if his parents had been watching him, they had seen his recent behavior.

“Ollie.” Laura’s voice was gentle, with no judgment in it at all, causing him to meet her gaze once more. “I know what you’ve gone through recently. It’s okay to react badly … we just don’t want you to make you sure you don’t ruin the life you’ve built for yourself.”

“I’m … I’m fine,” he lied.

She shook her head sadly. “No, you’re not. You’re on a downward spiral and if you keep going down this path, you’ll regret it.” He opened his mouth to protest, but Laura wasn’t done yet.

“I came here as a warning, Oliver,” Laura said, her tone now serious. “You must change your ways before it is too late.”

“I don’t understand,” Oliver responded, frowning.

“You will be visited by three ghosts tonight,” she began.

“Okay, hold on,” Oliver interrupted, “I’ve read this book and even seen the movie …”

“Then you should know what is about to happen,” Laura said, without missing a beat. “Take what you learn tonight seriously, Oliver. It’s not too late for you yet.”

A ghostly hand covered his face. “Close your eyes now … you have a long night ahead of you.” He wasn’t able to refuse the request and found himself growing sleepy.

The last words he heard were, “Your father and I love you very much. Don’t ever forget that, Oliver.”

It was hours later when he awoke again, his eyes taking a few minutes to adjust to the darkness. “That was a weird dream,” Oliver decided aloud.

To his shock, a response came from a corner of the room. “Oh, really? What kind of dream was it?”

Oliver stilled for a moment and after taking a few deep breathes to calm himself down, switched on the lights.

At that moment, he was certain his heart stopped beating and had to refrain from pinching himself to make sure he was actually awake. Because it felt more like a nightmare than anything.

What other explanation could he come up with for Lex Luthor standing in his room, smirking?

“It’s about time you woke up,” Lex commented. “For a second, I thought I’d stumbled upon Sleeping Beauty by accident, but I had no plans of kissing you to find out.”

Ollie cringed at the idea. “Yeah, like I’d ever let you. And would you like to tell me what you’re doing in my room? Last time I checked, you had disappeared and I was hoping it was for good.”

At this, Lex frowned. “You were supposed to be expecting me. Weren’t you told that I was coming?”

“Yeah, I think I’d remember someone telling me that Lex Luthor had come back and was going to surprise me in the middle of the night,” Oliver snapped, now wide-awake.

Lex frowned. “Who’s Lex Luthor? I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past and you were supposed to be warned I was coming.”

“Ghost of what?” Oliver questioned. This was getting to be too much. Then part of his dream hit him.

“You will be visited by three ghosts tonight.”

“I thought that was a dream,” Oliver realized aloud. “But it wasn’t … you’re really here and you’re a ghost.”

“Congratulations,” the ghost that looked like Lex said sarcastically, “It seems that you’re not as stupid as you look.”

“You’re a ghost … not to mention one that looks like my worst enemy; forgive me if that’s a difficult concept to grasp,” Oliver retorted.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Ollie chose to call him Ghost-Lex, even if he said he wasn’t) sighed, rolling his eyes. “You parade around at night dressed in green leather, shooting arrows at criminals, your best friend is an alien from another planet and this is what you choose to get all weird about?”

Ollie opened his mouth to respond, but closed it when he realized he didn’t know what to say to that.

“Exactly.” Ghost-Lex looked a little smug when he said that.

“What are you doing here anyway?” Oliver questioned, “Other than to insult me.”

“I’m here to show you your past,” Ghost-Lex answered.

“I know my past,” Oliver argued. “I lived it.”

“You may have lived it, but do you really know it?” Ghost-Lex countered. “You’re heading to a nasty future, Oliver, but before you can change anything, you have to reconcile with the past.”

“What’s the point?” Oliver couldn’t help but say. “It’s already done.”

“Those who don’t know the past are doomed to repeat it,” Ghost-Lex quoted. “There are memories you have blocked and ones you just don’t understand. We’re going to take a little trip to help you out with that. This time, you will be able to see your life in another perspective.”

“Wait … what?” Oliver protested, “A trip where?” It was unusual for him to be anything less than eloquent but considering the circumstances, Ollie assumed that he’d be forgiven.

“You’ll see,” Ghost-Lex said mysteriously, before grabbing his arm. Ollie’s bedroom disappeared in a flash of white light and before he could blink, his surroundings had changed.

Definitely not in Kansas anymore, Oliver decided. They were outside and though it was snowing, Oliver found that he wasn’t cold. A large mansion was directly in front of them and Oliver blinked in surprise when he realized that it was his family home. That meant they were in Star City.

“Come along,” Ghost-Lex told him and he followed him to one of the windows.

“What if someone sees us?” Oliver asked, worried. “I’d rather not get arrested tonight, thanks.”

“Nobody can hear or see you,” Lex informed him. Well, that was a relief … kind of. Instead of over thinking it, he looked through the window.

There were three people in what looked like a living room decorated for the holiday season. There was a large tree in the corner of the room, completely decked with ornaments and a traditional angel at the top.

The scene caused his heart to ache, because it wasn’t just any regular family … it was his. A younger version of himself was sitting between his parents on the couch, riveted as his father read him a story. Ollie didn’t even have to listen to find out which one it was. His father always read ‘A Christmas Carol’ every year on Christmas Eve. It was one memory that he still held on to and cherished.

“If I only knew,” Oliver murmured.

“Knew what?” The voice brought him back to reality and he glanced over next to him.

“If I knew how little time I had left with them,” Oliver clarified. “I would’ve …”

“Would’ve done what?” Ghost-Lex interrupted. “You were just a child, and a very loved one at that.”

“I used to be such a brat,” Oliver admitted, guilt seeping into his words, “They were always leaving for business trips and I got so angry at them. I said things I didn’t mean …”

“They knew that,” Ghost-Lex said firmly, “Your parents knew that you were hurt and didn’t take your words seriously. They loved you … you were a loved child.”

“I was loved,” Oliver said sadly, emphasizing the past tense in the answer.

“You were loved and you are loved,” Ghost-Lex corrected, “Lately, you’re going into a self-pity mode, where you’ve decided that you’re all alone and nobody loves you. But they do and you’re just blind to it.”

“Aren’t you ghosts supposed to be kind and sympathetic?” Oliver couldn’t resist asking.

“I think you pity yourself enough for both of us,” Ghost-Lex shot back. “What you need know is a reality check.”

“A ghost is giving me a reality check, right after we time traveled about 20 years,” Oliver pointed out. “Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense.”

Ghost-Lex’s eyes narrowed. “Look, if you keep going the way you are, you’re going to lose everyone you care about. So you better start taking this seriously.” He glanced pointedly at the scene in front of them. “You’re luckier than you know. Yes, you lost your parents too soon, but at least you had them and knew that they loved you. Cherish those memories, even if they are few, because some people are not as lucky as you.”

That was true; there were so many people who had it worse than he did. Hell, it could even be argued that the man this ghost looked like was one of them. Lionel needed some serious lessons in parenting (and no, Ollie didn’t care that he was dead; Lionel Luthor wasn’t worthy of respect, dead or alive) and he was sure that he would rather have lost his parents early than had someone like Lionel for a longer period of time.

His silence was taken as acceptance and Ghost-Lex turned back toward the scene. Ollie did the same. After watching for a few minutes, Ghost-Lex broke the silence.

“We must leave now.”

“Already?” Oliver asked. It had been so long since he had seen his parents; he just wanted to watch them for a little bit.

“There is still much more to see,” Ghost-Lex responded.

Sighing reluctantly, Ollie stepped back from the window, affording himself one last glance at the happy family, memorizing every little detail of the scene in front of him.

Within seconds, the scene disappeared and the world went blurry once more. When it finally cleared up, the scenery was completely different.

They were in a ballroom now, filled with people in formal outfits. Everyone was looking in one direction so he turned that way too and almost gasped.

What everyone was looking at was a small stage and on that stage was … him. They were definitely a few years in the past, but at least this version of him was a lot closer to his own age.

He was giving a speech too, or at least, finishing up with one. “Thank you all for coming. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”

There was applause and Oliver watched as his younger self stepped off the stage.

“So we’re at a Queen Industries banquet,” Oliver surmised. “I don’t understand.”

“You will,” Ghost-Lex assured him.

“Does this have to do with my company?” Oliver persisted. “Because I’ll have you know that I’m taking care of that.”

“Yes, that’s the only thing you’re taking care of lately,” Lex noted dryly. “But that’s not why we’re here.”

Ghost-Lex moved through the crowd and Oliver had no choice but to follow him. He stopped and Oliver’s stomach sank when he realized what he was looking at.

It was him … and Tess, who looked beautiful in a long green gown.

“So,” his younger self was teasing, “Somehow surviving the night?”

“Yes, barely,” Tess replied, purposely dramatic, “I am managing. I suppose it’s one of the downsides of dating Oliver Queen.”

His younger self chucked. “Yes, but I promise you, the perks outweigh any downsides by a ton.” That’s all he said before he bent down and kissed her.

Ollie felt a bit like a voyeur watching them, but fortunately, they kept it brief, knowing that they were in public. If they only knew who else was watching them, he thought wryly.

“I’m assuming that I get to experience more of these perks later on,” Tess said suggestively.

“Oh, that is a guarantee,” was the reply she got.

“Now, Ms Mercer, will you do me the honor of a dance?” his younger self asked, grinning.

“Why not?” Tess replied and with a laugh, they walked toward the dance floor. Oliver was amazed at how happy his younger self seemed and even Tess … her eyes were full of delight. He was so used to seeing her guarded and cold that it was a pleasant surprise to be reminded of how she once was.

“She looks so innocent,” Oliver marveled.

“She was, but at the same time, she wasn’t,” Ghost-Lex commented. Oliver glanced at him in surprise; he had almost forgotten that he was there.

“What do you mean?”

“Her past is not a pretty one,” Ghost-Lex explained, “She already was fighting her demons by the time you came along.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t help,” Oliver said, watching the couple dance to the slow music.

Tess had been his first real relationship. Before her, all he had ever known was one-night stands and he hadn’t really been interested in anything more. Then, he had met Tess on that godforsaken island and somehow, they had made it off together.

After they had returned to civilization, they had begun dating, neither being able to deny the attraction and chemistry. She had been different than all the other women he had been with and Oliver loved it.

Slowly, he realized he was falling in love with her and that scared the hell out of him. Shortly after that, he screwed it all up.

He was brought back to reality sharply when the scene started disappearing in front of his eyes and Ollie realized they had once again moved.

Glaring, he said, “You could’ve given me a little warning.”

“You weren’t paying attention,” Ghost-Lex said calmly. “That’s not my fault.”

Oliver was about to say something when a moan caught his attention. A very familiar sounding moan. Turning toward the noise, he cringed. Oh, great. It was him again, having sex with some blonde woman. He couldn’t recall her name for the life of him, but he knew her significance.

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Ghost-Lex, but to his credit, the other man’s expression didn’t change.

A gasp caught his attention and Ollie looked at the doorway. Tess was staring at his younger self, horrified.

“Tess,” his younger self said, having pulled away from the blonde and now putting on his pants, eyes wide. “It’s not …”

“What it looks like?” Tess snapped, a sneer marring her pretty features. “Really, you want to try that line?” She laughed, a bitter, harsh, laugh. “I heard rumors of how you couldn’t keep it in your pants, Queen, but I didn’t realize that you’d fuck any slut that looked your way.”

“Hey,” the blonde protested, insulted, but neither Ollie’s younger version or Tess were even bothering with her.

Ollie watched helplessly as the pair began to argue. He knew how this played out, but it was still painful to watch.

“She was hurt.” Ghost-Lex’s words drew his attention.

“Excuse me?”

“If you look into her eyes, you can see that she was masking her pain with anger, so you couldn’t get to her more than you already had,” Ghost-Lex said calmly.

Oliver did just that and he saw the agony that Tess was going through, even as she threw out insult after insult. He had missed that the first time around.

“You were the first person that she had really let in,” Ghost-Lex said.

“And she was the first person I really let in,” Oliver said, not wanting to watch any more yet he was unable to tear his eyes away.

“Which scared you,” Ghost-Lex concluded.

“More than you know,” Oliver said, the words flowing out of his mouth before he could think twice.

“So you did something stupid … because if you let her in, she might leave … like your parents.”

Ollie went pale as the words registered. It was true; that’s what he had done.

“You claim to go for what you want,” Ghost-Lex continued, “But when it comes to relationships, you never give it your all.” When he realized Oliver wasn’t going to speak, he added, “Just because your parents left doesn’t mean everyone will. Unless you continue to keep pushing them away and when they do leave, you’ll be the only one to blame.”

Was that what he was doing? Pushing everyone who cared about him away? Was he alone, not by circumstance, by choice?

He had done it with Tess and hell, even with Lois. Sure, he had tried to make them work but a mere offer wasn’t really trying. If he had really thought that Lois and he were meant to be, he might’ve pushed harder, compromised more. Anything to get her to give him a second chance.

She had been in a lot of pain that night too, that night she had rejected him. It wasn’t easy for her to say ‘no’. Considering that Clark had found out about it later (because he certainly hadn’t told him), Lois must’ve been really heartbroken. If there was one thing he knew about his ex, it was that she didn’t like to go expressing her emotions easily.

Ghost-Lex did say he was going to see everything from another perspective and that had certainly happened tonight.

“We have one more stop to make,” Ghost-Lex said, bringing him out of his thoughts.

“If we have to,” Oliver said. He was already feeling vulnerable and emotionally compromised. Honestly, he didn’t know how much more he could take but he wasn’t about to admit.

This time, when the world stopped spinning, he knew exactly where he was. It was a place he had visited several times recently … the Ace of Clubs.

Ollie’s eyes darted to the bar where, well, he sat. Ollie watched himself take shots. All of a sudden, he wasn’t alone anymore … Clark was there, watching him with concern in his eyes. And he must’ve been drunk after all, if he had missed that.

He took a minute to observe Clark, while his counterpart was mostly concentrating on the alcohol. God, Clark looked good. Though he had never told the brunet this, Ollie loved his new wardrobe. Wait a second, aren’t you supposed to be mad at him? Oh yeah, that’s right … he was.

Ollie watched himself throw out accusations and harsh words and Clark barely defended himself.

“Why are you showing me this?” Oliver asked. “I understand my parents and Tess … I loved them and I was in love with her. But Clark? How does he fit in?”

“Clark Kent has had an impact on your life for years, Oliver,” Ghost-Lex said.

“Yeah, but not in the same way,” Oliver responded.

“No, he’s the one you haven’t let slip out of your life … until now,” Ghost-Lex said, raising an eyebrow.

“That doesn’t mean,” Oliver began.

“Doesn’t mean what?” Ghost-Lex cut him off. “That you love him? You spent months tracking him down and even when everyone else was going to give up, you didn’t. That doesn’t sound like any simple relationship to me.”

Oliver wasn’t listening anymore; he watched as his counterpart walked out, leaving Clark standing there. Now this he hadn’t seen.

Clark ducked his head and sighed. Ollie closed the distance between them and though it was disconcerting to know that Clark couldn’t see him, at least he was able to have a chance to observe him.

Though Clark’s expression hadn’t changed, his eyes revealed everything he was feeling; the mixture of heartbreak and regret that rested in those blue-green depths made Ollie want to say “screw it” and hug him. Because Clark should never look like that.

“So tell me, Oliver,” Ghost-Lex asked, “Were you more upset that your parents were murdered or that Clark hid it from you? That the one person you considered letting in fully betrayed you?”

Ollie swallowed hard. These were things he never allowed himself to dwell on and now he couldn’t escape them. So instead he just watched Clark, who was trying to get the bartender’s attention.

“Excuse me?” Clark was saying.

“Yeah, what can I do for you?” the bartender replied.

“You know that man that just walked out of here?” Clark asked, keeping his voice low, clearly not wanting to attract the attention of the other customers.

The bartender smirked. “You mean Mr. Queen? Yeah, what about him?”

“Look, I … I think he may come back,” Clark said.

What is Clark doing? Oliver wondered silently.

“I run a business here, buddy,” the bartender was telling Clark. “I can’t play babysitter too, no offense.”

“I’m not asking you to,” Clark said evenly. He pulled out a card. “Here’s my card … if you’re around and he ever gets too inebriated to go home, give me a call. Please … I just don’t want anything to happen to him.”

“Oh, Clark,” Oliver said softly, moved.

Apparently, even the bartender couldn’t resist Clark’s innocence and the sincerity behind his words.

“All right, I can do that,” he agreed. Taking the card, he said, “He’s a lucky guy, you know … having a friend like you.”

“I don’t know about that, but thank you,” Clark said warmly. Then Clark left too, leaving Ollie standing there, stunned.

“And you thought he didn’t care.” Ghost-Lex came to stand by his side.

“I was wrong,” Oliver realized.

“You say you regret the way you said goodbye to so many people,” Ghost-Lex commented, “Do you want to say goodbye to Clark too?”

No, I can’t. Not having Clark in his life scared the hell out of him and no matter what he had been convincing himself of earlier, he knew he couldn’t live his life like that. Well, he could live … but he didn’t want to.

“It’s not too late, Oliver,” Ghost-Lex said seriously. “But if you wait much longer, it will be. Think about what I said.”

Once again, the room began to spin and really, he should’ve been used to it by now. When he opened his eyes, he was in his bed. It was almost as if he had never left. But he did, right? He couldn’t have been hallucinating.

“What’s happening to me?” Oliver whispered. Looking around, he was alone. Maybe that was it; sure, his mother had said three ghosts, but she could’ve been wrong! Resting his head on a pillow, Oliver closed his eyes. Yeah, he’d wake up in the morning and think about all of this then. Right now, he was going to sleep.

Little did he know though that his night had hardly begun.

The next time he woke up, it wasn’t out of his own free will. One minute he was in his bed, warm and fast asleep, and another he was on the cold, hard ground. He groaned as he woke up, and when he looked up, he got a shock. There was a person standing there.

Quickly, he scrambled to his feet and turned on the light. He barely refrained from gasping. Right in front of him was none other than Lois Lane.

“Lois?” he said slowly.

“Nope, I’m the Ghost of Christmas Present,” she said.

“Of course you are,” Oliver said, sighing. All he wanted to do was sleep through the night … was that too much to ask?

“Sorry about the harsh wake-up,” Ghost-Lois went on. “You didn’t seem like you were going to wake up anytime soon and honestly, I was getting bored waiting.”

It seemed that this ghost didn’t just look like Lois, but had her personality too.

“I suppose you have lessons that you want to teach me too?” Oliver quizzed.

“Looks like you’re getting the hang of this,” Ghost-Lois remarked.

Oliver shrugged. “I don’t know what else there is to learn though …”

“Oh, Oliver,” Ghost-Lois told him, smirking. “You have barely touched the surface on what needs to be learned. You’ve dealt with the past but now we have to see what’s happening now.”

Without waiting for his response, Lois touched his arm and then they were off.

Their first stop was apparently the middle of Metropolis. He looked around as people walked around, laughing and just having a good time.

“By holing yourself up in your apartment, this is what you’re missing,” Ghost-Lois said.

“Everyone seems so happy,” Oliver said softly. Of course, there were those who were seemed to be running around doing some last minute shopping, but even they didn’t seem too annoyed.

“Most people are,” Lois replied.

Meeting her eyes, he titled his head in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“You’ll see,” was her only response. By the time he blinked, their surroundings had changed once more. Now they were in a dark alley.

“What’s going on?” Oliver asked. Lois was only looking forward and he followed her gaze. He felt slightly sick when he saw what she was watching. A young woman was getting mugged at gunpoint by a man, whose face he couldn’t see.

“Give me all your money,” the man was saying.

Oliver moved forward to interfere but Lois put her arm in front of him.

“I have to do something,” Oliver said.

“You can’t,” Lois stated. “They aren’t able to hear or see you, remember?”

“We can’t stand here and do nothing,” Oliver exclaimed. He watched helplessly as the man in the mask got away with the woman’s belongings.

“You gave up that right when you stopped being Green Arrow,” she said forcefully. “Whether you knew it or not, crime was down when you were around. Now that Green Arrow has seemed to disappear, criminals are getting bold again.”

“I just thought that it didn’t make a difference,” Oliver said, dazed.

“Because you didn’t have powers?” Ghost-Lois questioned. “You were wrong.” She pointed to the woman, who was carefully making her way out of the alley, obviously traumatized. “People like her need you. You can sit on your ass and try to give up on everything, pretending it doesn’t have an impact, but it does.”

“I see that now,” Oliver said.

“Good,” Ghost-Lois said, visibly satisfied. “Then I don’t have to literally smack some sense into you.”

He eyed her warily. “Are you sure you’re not Lois Lane?”

“Positive,” Ghost-Lois said, “From what I’ve seen, she’s pretty cool though.”

“You would say that,” he muttered.

“Now let’s get moving,” she declared, “We have places to go and people to see. You ready?”

“Do I have a choice?” Oliver asked wryly.

“Nope,” came her cheerful response.

Oliver recognized their next destination immediately. He had been there enough times, even though he hadn’t made a visit recently.

The Kents’ dining room was decorated and the large table was set for guests. The home, though not large in size, always gave Ollie a warm, cozy feeling that his penthouse lacked.

He was about to ask why they were here, but just as he opened his mouth, he heard voices and approaching footsteps.

“Thanks for helping out, Chlo.” That was Clark and Ollie looked toward the sound to see Clark and Chloe walking in, chatting happily. He eyed them silently, listening to their conversation.

“Not a problem, Clark,” Chloe replied.

“You managed to beat traffic?” Clark asked.

“Yeah, I guess I got out of Metropolis just in time,” Chloe explained, “Besides, more people were going into the city than out anyway.”

“How’s … how’s Oliver?” Clark asked, seeming nervous.

“He’s … okay, I guess,” Chloe said, shaking her head. “I invited him here, but he said no.”

Clark’s expression revealed disappointment at her answer. “Oh … okay. I figured he might not come.”

“Did you?” Chloe asked. She looked at the table. “You’ve set a place for one too many people then, Clark.”

Clark blushed and quickly removed the extra place setting.

“He was expecting me,” Oliver realized aloud. “I thought that it was just a spur of the minute offer.”

Ghost-Lois didn’t reply, so Ollie waited to see what Clark was going to say.

“It’s okay, you know,” Chloe said, her tone gentle.

“I was just … hoping,” Clark confessed, his eyes lowered. “It was stupid.”

“It’s not,” Chloe said, resting a hand on Clark’s arm. “I hate to see the two of you fighting. Have you tried talking to him?”

“No, I thought he wouldn’t want to hear from me,” Clark told her. “I don’t even know what to say.”

“How about the truth?” Chloe suggested. “Tell me and then we can figure out what to tell him.”

“I don’t … it’s Christmas Eve, Chlo,” Clark argued. “I don’t want to bring you down too.”

“You’re my best friend,” Chloe insisted, “I’m always here for you.” She pursed her lips when he didn’t answer. “It’s just us here now. Talk to me.”

“That’s what she thinks,” Ghost-Lois murmured.

“Should we even be here?” Oliver asked. “It sounds like they’re going to have a private conversation.”

“About you,” Ghost-Lois countered, “So far you’ve refused to listen to the other side of this story … now you will. Because there are always two sides to every story, Oliver.”

“How I found out,” Clark was saying, “They weren’t the best circumstances … I know I told you that I was okay, but I wasn’t and I really didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Oh, Clark,” Chloe said, her tone sympathetic. “I knew that the kidnapping wasn’t easy on you.”

“Kidnapping?” Oliver repeated. ”What is she talking about?”

“Did you ever consider how Clark found out the truth?” Ghost-Lois asked him. “Why would a man like Lionel Luthor let something like this out?”

“No, no, I didn’t,” Oliver said, worried. He went back to listening to Clark, more curious than ever.

“I wanted to tell him,” Clark said, “But … and I know this sounds crazy, I thought Ollie would blame me if he knows the full truth. You know, because of Veritas and all.” Clark sighed. “Not that it matters anymore. Oliver hates me.” Clark tugged at his sweater self-consciously, a sweater that, Oliver was pleased to note, was green. The brunet didn’t wear much of that color and Ollie wondered why: it looked great on him, bringing out the green color of his eyes. Something about Clark in Ollie’s favorite color set off something in him that he couldn’t explain.

“And you love him.”

Chloe’s response shocked both Oliver and Clark.

Clark regained his composure quickly. “Yeah, I do … I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself.”

“You can’t choose who you fall in love with, Clark,” Chloe chided. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I’m not ashamed,” Clark insisted, “It’s just so hopeless.”

“You never know,” Chloe offered. “I have a good feeling that Oliver is bisexual and the fact that he reacted so badly when he found out you liked proves that you mean a lot to him …”

Clark shook his head. “Can we not talk about this anymore? At least not tonight.”

“All right, Clark,” Chloe agreed. “Just not tonight. But if you ever feel like talking about it later …”

“You’ll be there,” Clark finished, grinning now. “Yeah, I know. Thanks, Chlo.”

“It’s what I’m here for,” Chloe quipped. They exchanged smiles.

“This is insane,” Oliver commented. He almost wished they hadn’t stopped talking. All their conversation did was confuse him further. Though his heart did skip a beat when he found out that Clark loved him.

He was about to turn to Ghost-Lois to say something, but the room began to spin.

“No wait,” Oliver protested, “Not yet …” But the farm disappeared, Ghost-Lois was gone, and when everything cleared, it was almost like he had never left his room.

Standing up, he made his way to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Part of Ollie wanted to pretend that this whole night was just one crazy dream after another, just for his sanity, but he knew that it wasn’t.

When he got back to his bedroom, he was surprised at what he saw, though really, he shouldn’t have been.

A woman who looked like Chloe was seated on his bed, but he was almost positive she wasn’t Chloe.

“Don’t any of you ghosts believe in the value of privacy?” Oliver asked dryly.

Ghost-Chloe shrugged. “It’s not like we can knock. We tend to fall through the doors.”

“And you are?” Oliver wanted to know.

“I’m the Ghost of Christmas Future,” Ghost-Chloe announced.

“Okay then,” Oliver said, much calmer than he ever thought he could be. But after everything that had already happened that night, he supposed he was used to it. “What’s the plan?”

With an amused look on her face, Ghost-Chloe said, “We’re headed to the future, as you probably guessed.” Then she grew serious. “As you’ve learned tonight, all your actions have consequences, but you have to see what will happen if you keep going on your current path.”

“Let’s go then,” Oliver said. If he was correct, she was his last ghost and then, he could finally get some rest.

Within seconds, they were gone. Their first stop ended up being the same as the last one he made with Ghost-Lois. It was the Kent farm again, but this time, they were outside the house, and they weren’t alone.

Two little kids, one a girl and a boy, were making a snowman. The boy couldn’t be more than 5 and the little girl, about 2.

The front door opened and a slightly older Clark came out.

“All right, you two,” Clark said, smiling warmly at the children. “Time to come in.”

“Daddy,” the little boy protested, “We’re making a snowman!”

“Daddy?” Oliver said aloud. “Clark has kids?” Then again, he should’ve seen that coming- now that he was really looking at the two children, their resemblance to Clark was more than obvious. But who was the mother?

“You didn’t expect him to wait on you for the rest of his life, did you?” Ghost-Chloe asked. Oliver’s stomach sank. Ghost-Lex warned him about pushing people away, but had he really gone so far as to send Clark into the arms of another woman?

“I see that, and it’s very lovely,” Clark was telling the duo, who was pouting at him. “But you two have to get dressed for dinner. I promise, we can make a snowman tomorrow.”

“You help too?” the little girl wanted to know.

“I’ll help too,” Clark promised. “Now get inside.”

He watched, his heart breaking, as Clark ushered the two children in; he ended up carrying the little girl, who demanded her father pick her up.

Ghost-Chloe followed them in, and Ollie was right behind her.

“I got these two in,” Clark was saying. “What now?”

“I’ll get them ready,” came Martha’s familiar voice.

“Thanks, mom,” Clark replied.

Both Ghost-Chloe and Ollie tracked the noise to the kitchen and got there to see Martha lead the children upstairs.

“Well, that takes care of that,” Clark said, grabbing Ollie’s attention once more. When he saw who Clark was talking to though, Ollie’s jaw dropped.

Because Clark was standing next to none other than Lois Lane, who, judging by the diamond ring on her finger, was the one who had captured Clark’s heart.

“Clark and Lois?” Oliver said, unable to believe this startling turn of events.

“Why not?” Ghost-Chloe questioned. “Didn’t you yourself think Clark had feelings for Lois once upon a time?”

“Yeah, but ... that was a long time ago,” Oliver sputtered.

“You certainly believed them when they told you they were engaged just recently,” Ghost-Chloe reminded him.

“They were faking that,” Oliver said. “The only reason I believed it was because Lois had a ring on her finger.” And he definitely recalled how happy he had been when he learned their engagement was faked and for a story. But he hadn’t thought too much of it then.

“Things change,” she said simply. “Look at them …don’t they seem to be truly in love now?”

Indeed they did.

Lois was leaning toward Clark and Ollie cringed as they shared a kiss.

“You know your mother is probably bribing them into cooperating,” Lois was murmuring.

“It’s okay … it’s her right as grandma,” Clark told her, grinning.

Lois sighed happily and leaned against her husband. “I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve actually missed being in Smallville.”

“I knew it’d grow on you eventually,” Clark joked. “After all, I did, didn’t I?”

“You certainly did,” Lois laughed, eyes twinkling.

“Thank goodness for that,” Clark said, before he leaned in for another kiss.

“I can’t believe this,” Oliver said. “How did this happen?”

“You two kept drifting apart,” Ghost-Chloe said. “He ended up growing closer to Lois, and eventually fell in love with her.”

“And she loved him too.” It was a statement, not a question. Ghost-Chloe must’ve recognized that too, because he didn’t get an answer.

Oliver silently wondered if he had masochistic tendencies, since he couldn’t stop watching the scene in front of him. Clark and Lois were talking/flirting and looked just all around like the perfect couple. This Christmas Eve, Clark was wearing red and Oliver had to question whether that had any significance.

This is what I lost, he thought. It should be him with Clark right now, not Lois. Everything was wrong, and it was because of him. He refused to see what was right in front of him. But it’s not too late, is it? That’s why you’re being warned; I should be able to change it. Yes, he still had time; he better have, or he didn’t know what he’d do. A question popped into his head.

“If this is Clark’s life,” Oliver asked, “Then what happened to me?” A part of him didn’t want to know, but his curiosity got the best of him.

“Funny you should ask,” Ghost-Chloe said, with a small smile. “We’re heading there next.”

“Where’s there?” Oliver questioned, but she didn’t reply. They were moving again. On one hand, he liked traveling from one place to another so quickly, but he could really do without the dizziness that came with it.

The atmosphere in their new location was exactly the opposite of where they had just been. While the Kent home was warm and welcoming, this building was cold and lacked the Christmas cheer that was found everywhere else during this season.

One office in particular was the coldest of them all, and also the only one with the light still on, and he knew that was their destination. He dreaded having asked his question now and dread filled every inch of his being with every step he took.

They made their way into the office and it was just as Oliver thought: it was him sitting behind the desk, on the phone. He looked a lot older; Ollie took in the emptiness in his brown eyes, the lines on his face and the sheer lack of happiness in his expression and thought, how could this be me?

“Yeah,” his future self was saying, “Merry Christmas to you too. Good night.” Then he hung up the phone and sighing, picked up the photo frame on his desk.

“Who’s he looking at?” Oliver asked.

“Why don’t you go take a look?” Ghost-Chloe suggested. Oliver eyed her warily, but did just that anyway. In a few steps, he was behind his future counterpart’s chair.

Much to his surprise, there was a picture of a little blond boy with bright blue eyes.

“Who is that?” Oliver questioned.

“That … is your son,” Ghost-Chloe replied.

“My son?” Oliver repeated incredulously. “I have a son? Am I married?”

“You were,” Ghost-Chloe informed him. “You and Dinah had a one-night stand, which ended in her getting pregnant.”

“Dinah? As in Lance?” Oliver said, bewildered. Of all the people …

“Let’s just say you were both drunk,” Ghost-Chloe said. “You two did become closer than you are now though; she was one of the few people who put up with your shit. After you distanced yourself from everyone, she continued to check up on you.”

“Wow,” Oliver said softly. “So what happened?”

“You insisted on getting married,” Ghost-Chloe said. “You tried to make it work for your son, but neither of you were in love. Finally, she insisted on a divorce and you gave her full custody, though you do visit him often. Then, you returned to your old ways- drinking and working all the time.”

“This is my life,” Oliver stated.

“It only gets worse, Oliver,” Ghost-Chloe said, her tone full of sadness.

“How could it get worse?” Oliver said. He really shouldn’t have asked, because he was being whisked away once more.

If he didn’t think that there was any place colder than his office, he was just proven wrong. They were in a graveyard, surrounded by people wearing black.

“Who died?” Oliver asked, keeping his voice low. He didn’t know why; after all, nobody could hear him. But it felt wrong to be loud.

There weren’t a lot of people there and those who were there, he recognized. Clark and Lois were standing to a side. Dinah was there with a blond boy that looked to be in his early teens. It was apparent that everything was over though; casket had already been lowered and Oliver noticed there was an engraved gravestone already in place.

Oliver walked toward it, but when he saw the name on the gravestone, he stumbled backwards.

Oliver Jonas Queen, it read, December 7 1980-December 25 2028. He hadn’t even turned 50.

“You were drinking again,” Ghost-Chloe said, having made her way to his side without his noticing. “You were also taking sleep medications for insomnia ... you mixed things that shouldn’t have been taken together. Dinah came over when she called and didn’t get through to you, but it was too late …”

“No,” Oliver whispered harshly. “This can’t be my life! I can’t be divorced, estranged from my friends, and dead before I’m 50.”

“Ollie,” Ghost-Chloe tried, but Oliver wasn’t paying attention, too caught up in his headspace.

“NO,” Oliver said, raising his voice, “You know what, I can have accepted everything so far. This crazy ghost nonsense, the fact that the man I love married someone else … but THIS? HOW do you expect me to see my own funeral and just accept it?”

Looking around wildly, he said, “I have to change this; this can’t be set in stone.”

“Oliver,” Ghost-Chloe attempted to gain his attention again.

“No,” he said desperately, “You have to tell me … tell me how I can change it.” But Ghost-Chloe was disappearing.

“No, wait!” he said, “Not yet. I need to know how to stop it. No, don’t go … NOOO!”

Oliver sat up suddenly, his heart racing. He took in his surrounding; he was in his bedroom. He wasn’t dead. And it wasn’t too late.

He quickly switched on the light, and glanced at the time. It was only 6 am. Even though he had barely slept, Ollie was wide-awake. Everything that had happened was in front of his mind and even though he could easily dismiss them as a drunken hallucination, Oliver knew he couldn’t. Not unless he wanted that future that he saw to come true.

Slowly, he got dressed and made a pot of coffee. It was snowing outside but Oliver was determined to go out anyway. This was what he had to do; he knew that he had a short amount of time to make things right. Bad weather wasn’t scaring him; this was his life. He had luckily gotten a second chance and he was going to make the most of it.

Before he left though, he picked out a bottle of wine and headed to his closet. Pulling out a wrapped gift, he smiled. This was something he had picked out months prior, way before things went bad. Now he was grateful for his impulse buy.

Grabbing his gloves and an extra jacket, Oliver left the building, ready to face the weather. The drive was not as bad as he thought he was, the traffic light because most people were already where they were supposed to be.

He made good time to Smallville, and knew he was early for the brunch. That was the plan all along. Oliver parked in front of the house and when he got to the door, he found he was actually nervous. Please, please let me not be too late.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked. He wasn’t waiting long before the door opened and revealed just the person he hoped would answer: Clark.

Clark’s eyes were wide, staring at Ollie as if he didn’t believe that the blond was actually there.

“Oliver.” His name, but it meant so much more coming from the person in front of him.

“Merry Christmas, Clark,” Oliver said warmly. “Umm … I know I’m early, but Chloe invited me to brunch. I should’ve called …”

“No, no,” Clark said hurriedly. “I’m glad you’re here. Please, come on in. Merry Christmas to you too, by the way.”

He followed Clark inside, taking in the decorations as they walked. Everything looked just as it had the night before, giving him more proof that it hadn’t been a dream … if he still had doubts that is.

They stopped in the kitchen and Clark turned back toward Oliver, shooting him a huge smile, causing Ollie to swallow hard. Damn if that smile didn’t always have an effect on him. He didn’t see it enough and that was really a shame.

“It’s kind of quiet in here,” Oliver noted, not knowing how else to start the conversation.

“Most people are still sleeping,” Clark explained. “We were all up late last night. Brunch probably is going to be late.”

“That’s fine,” Oliver replied. “I came early hoping to talk to you anyway.”

“Me?” Clark said, surprised.

Not answering his question, Oliver handed him the wine and the present. “These are for you. Well, the wine is for both you and your mom, but the present is for you alone.”

Clark took them both. “Oh, wow, thanks, Oliver. You didn’t have to bring anything and … you certainly didn’t have to get me anything.”

“I know, but I wanted to,” Oliver said. There was a silence after that, but this time Clark was the one to break it.

“I have to ask, Oliver … I hate to ruin the mood, but I thought you were still mad at me.”

“I was,” Oliver said, “But let’s just say I got a reality check. I don’t want to lose you, Clark, and with the way I was going, I realized I was about to do just that.”

“Lose me?” Clark repeated, “You’ll never lose me. And what kind of reality check are you talking about?”

“You’ll think I’m crazy,” Oliver warned. “Honestly, I can hardly believe it and I went through it.”

“Oliver, you’re talking to an alien from another planet,” Clark said, with a teasing smile. “I’m the last person who’ll think anything is too weird to be real.”

Ollie had to laugh at that. “Have you ever read Christmas Carol?” he asked.

Clark frowned at what he thought was the sudden shift in topic. “Sure, who hasn’t?”

“I lived it,” Oliver confessed.

Confusion entered Clark’s expression. “You lived …”

“Yeah, three ghosts and everything,” Oliver said.

Clark clearly didn’t know how to respond to that, his face taking on multiple expressions. “Uh, wow …”

“See, I told you,” Oliver said, chuckling. “If you think that sounds weird, imagine how I felt when I woke up to Lex Luthor in my room.” That got a look of horror from Clark. “Yeah, don’t worry, it was just the Ghost of Christmas Past, but he took on an unfortunate shape.”

“That’s one way to put it,” Clark replied, shaking his head. “So you learned your lessons much like Scrooge?”

“Definitely,” Oliver said, remembering his funeral vividly. “I realized I had to change my life.”

“And you decided to start … with me?” Clark said, tilting his head, clearly perplexed.

“Yeah,” Oliver responded. “I mean, what I learned from my experience was that I’ve pushed away a lot of people that I love. I didn’t want you to be next.”

“Love?” Clark gasped.

“Love,” Oliver confirmed, taking covering the brunet’s hand with his. “I stupidly waited a long time, but I hope I’m not too late …”

“You had every right to be angry,” Clark told him. “If the situation was reversed, I would’ve been upset too.” He ducked his head. “I’m sorry I didn’t make the first effort … I just didn’t know how.”

“From what I got last night, there’s a lot more to the story than I could’ve imagined,” Oliver offered. “If you want to tell it to me, I’m ready to listen, but I won’t force it out of you.”

“I’d … I’d like that,” Clark said, relief in his expression. “I am sorry, Oliver … for not telling you.”

“I’ll forgive you if you forgive me,” Oliver said. They still had a lot to talk about, but it could be saved for later.

“Done,” Clark agreed immediately. Much to Oliver’s surprise, Clark squeezed his hand. “And just so you know, you’ll never be too late.”

This is your chance; take it. Ollie briefly flashed to how happy Clark was with his kids and Lois and wondered if he was being selfish, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. After all, Clark only fell for Lois because he couldn’t have him, right? So why deny them both?

With that in mind, he leaned forward and pressed his lips on Clark’s, who responded instantly to the kiss. It was everything Oliver imagined and more.

Pulling away only when he needed air, Oliver grinned. “Merry Christmas, Clark.”

“Merry Christmas, Oliver,” Clark replied happily, before pulling Oliver in for another kiss. Oliver let himself melt in Clark’s embrace, feeling, for the first time in a while, that he did the right thing.

He was going to be all right after all.
Tags: category: slash, challenge: 100_tales, fandom: smallville, fanfic, ship: clark/oliver

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