Connor opened his front door and smiled in surprise. "Kyle! I didn't know you were back from--"
"Hide me!" Kyle demanded in an urgent whisper.
Connor reflexively reached for a bow that wasn't there, because he'd been doing dishes. (He reminded himself that he needed to practice pulling the thing out of thin air--Ollie always made it look so easy....) "What's the--"
Kyle moved closer and grabbed Connor's shirt, a wild look in his eyes. "He could be watching us right now! *Hide* me!"
Connor sighed. *Why do I always have to be the rational one?* "Come in and let's talk about it," he suggested, with a pointed look at Kyle's hands.
Kyle colored a little and released him, but didn't relax. "Do you have an underground bunker?"
"Uh...no. We have a basement. Kyle, if it's that bad, maybe you should call the League--"
"They can't help; they're way too high-profile. I have to disappear. I thought about going to ground with Jack Knight--he's completely out of sight these days--but he's got kids, and I don't know what would happen if somebody found me--" He hesitated. "You don't have any civilians living with you, do you?"
Connor remembered Mia's blood-tipped arrows. He could wish that hadn't happened, but.... "No," he answered quietly. "Not anymore."
"Great. So can I stay?"
Connor didn't hesitate. "Of course you can. Who's after you?"
Kyle sighed. "My old Writer came back."
Connor's eyes widened. "Oh. *Him*."
Kyle nodded unhappily.
"Well," Connor said in the voice of one attempting to bestow the benefit of the doubt, "it could be worse. I mean, you used to like him, didn't you? And he did help us spend time together."
"That was nice," Kyle admitted. "Except for the part where I was a moron."
Connor grinned. "And here I thought you were used to that."
"Look, if I wanted insults I'd've gone to Wally."
"Sorry," Connor apologized, hearing the strain in the other's voice. "So it's that bad?"
Kyle shuddered. "You have no idea. I mean, yeah, we used to have fun together, but I've grown. I've changed. I've stopped having my loved ones shoved into kitchen appliances!"
Connor blanched. "You mean he--"
Connor's response slipped out before he could think of anything more tactful: "*Again?!*"
"Why change a winning strategy?" The sarcasm was a very thin mask over the pain in Kyle's voice.
"...who was it?"
Kyle closed his eyes. "Mom."
Connor reached out and laid a hand gently on Kyle's arm. "I'm sorry."
"At least your dad got a resurrection eventually," Kyle said bitterly. "Mom was just a bit part. No one's going to bother reversing it unless...." His voice slowed. "Unless I do it. I could do it--I have the power--"
Connor started to feel a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. "Um, Kyle--"
Kyle's eyes had started to glow. "I could bring her back, Connor! I could bring them all back--everyone who's suffered a kitchen-related death--"
"--Kyle, we're not budgeted for a Big Crossover--"
"--and my book!" Kyle went on, maniacally. "I could get it back! I could fix--everything!"
His whole body was glowing now, and he raised his hands, a nimbus of power gathering around them--
Connor slapped him, hard.
"Ow!" Kyle yelped. The glow vanished, and he glared at Connor. "What was--"
"You were starting to Darken," Connor told him. "I was afraid you were going to eat a sun or something if I didn't stop you."
Connor nodded. "Sorry about hitting you, but I figured it was better than the alternative."
Kyle shuddered. "Yeah. Thanks."
"No problem. Uh, that *was* your Writer's influence?"
"Probably," Kyle said tiredly. "He isn't much on subtlety. But it isn't just him, Conn. There's been a Directive."
"You really haven't heard anything?"
Connor shrugged apologetically. "We used to get all the news from Black Canary, but since she stopped talking to Ollie...."
Kyle sighed. "Glad to know I'm not the only one with romance problems, at least."
"You and Jen?"
"...I don't want to talk about it."
"Then do you want to tell me about the Directive?"
"No. But I guess I have to. I've been cancelled, Conn. They're bringing Jordan back."
Connor winced. "Oh, Kyle."
"It wasn't even sales," he muttered. "Just nostalgia. Or something. I'm not even sure..."
"I know it's hard," Connor said softly, "but it's survivable--"
"For you, it was. Everybody liked you--and you still got shot, you know."
"Are you *still* upset about that?"
"You got *shot* in the *head*! Things like that stick in my mind!"
"Kyle," Connor said patiently, "it wasn't your fault that nobody wrote you coming to see me."
"...I wanted to...."
"I know. It's okay. And they didn't kill me off, so--"
"Yeah, they didn't kill *you*," Kyle corrected. "I don't think they're gonna be that nice to me. I mean, look what my Writer did to Jordan the last time!"
Connor couldn't quite keep his expression composed. It had been before his time, but he knew about Jordan. *Everyone* knew about Jordan. A little weakly, he protested: "I don't think they'd--"
Kyle cut him off. "There's going to be a *mini-series*, Conn. It's an Event. You know what happens in Events."
"After my Writer's spent five issues trashing my life and setting me up for a psychotic rampage? They want me gone. Really gone." His face hardened. "So that's what they'll get. I left a ring-replica for my Writer and snuck out the back. Not like there's anything left for me there." He hesitated. "And I thought--I guess this place is kind of obvious, but--"
"I already said you're welcome," Connor said firmly. He still wasn't sure that Kyle wasn't exaggerating the dangers--but he couldn't deny that his fears had validity, either. And it wasn't as if he wanted to send Kyle away in any case.
His friend paused, apparently struck by a sudden--unwelcome--thought. "Um...what about your dad? I mean, we've kind of been getting along better now, but..."
Connor couldn't repress a grin. "Kyle, you're running from the authorities. He'll hide you if he has to brick up all the doors to do it."
For the first time since his appearance, genuine humor lit in Kyle's eyes. "Oh yeah? I guess there's an upside to being stuck in the sixties."
"Seventies," Connor corrected.
Kyle waved it away. "Whatever. Um...and..." He shifted uncomfortably. "I was wondering...maybe you could put in a good word for me with your Writer?"
It obviously hurt him to ask, and Connor knew why--he suspected it was why Kyle had been making fewer off-panel visits lately. No Writer stayed forever, but when a good one left you in clumsy hands in order to take over your best friend's book--Connor didn't know how well he would have taken it, either.
"I can ask," he agreed. "But--if this is editorial, there probably won't be much he can do. And you don't want to call attention to yourself."
Kyle slumped a little. "Yeah, I know. I just--maybe a flashback? That couldn't hurt, could it?"
A reminiscent smile tugged at the corners of Connor's mouth. Ollie had refused to stay out of the book, too, and nobody had complained about *that*.... "I'll mention it," he agreed. "But you need to be *careful*, all right? I know that's hard for you--"
Kyle snorted. "Conn, do you even know how to *spell* careful?"
Connor repressed a grin. Not that Kyle didn't have a point, but it wouldn't help to say so.... "Remind me, which one of us picked a fight with everyone in that diner?"
"You're never going to let me forget that, are you?" Kyle complained.
"Not for...oh...about fifty years, no." Connor let the grin show. "Seriously, Kyle, if you're going to stay here you *have* to stay off-panel unless you get authorization. No interfering with the plot--we may not be the Justice League, but I still think somebody would notice."
Kyle looked thoughtful. "I could wear a disguise."
Connor considered what Kyle--who was generally to the art of subterfuge what Batman was to diplomacy--might consider a disguise. "No," he said firmly.
Kyle opened his mouth, but Connor beat him to it. "You're in hiding. Remember? That means you have to hide."
Kyle eyed him with some disgust. "You know, I liked you better before you learned how to snark at me."
"Self-defense. Also spending the last two-and-a-half years living with Ollie. Do you promise to stay out of sight?"
Kyle made a face. "I promise, I promise."
"Think of it as a vacation," Connor suggested. "It sounds like you could use one. Star City's really very nice; I'd be happy to show you around...."
Kyle paused. "Art galleries?"
"Several," Connor assured him.
"It's a date, then." He grinned, and Connor, suddenly off balance, felt himself starting to blush.
*Later,* he told himself firmly. *We can think about that later.* He'd worked to make patience his virtue, and forgetting that wouldn't be good for either of them. And if nothing ever happened--then that was okay.
And if it *did*...well, there were certain advantages to living off-panel.
"Come in," he suggested. "We can pick a room for you."
Kyle looked at him suspiciously. "It's going to have a bed in it, right? This isn't some strange Zen thing where you sleep on boards?"
Connor rolled his eyes. "There are beds."
"Better plumbing than your apartment," Connor assured him.
"Really? I mean, not that that would be too hard, but..."
"*Kyle*. Trust me?"
Kyle's eyes sobered. "You know I do."
"Then stop arguing and come here." Half-laughing, Connor took Kyle's hand firmly and pulled him across the threshold, into his new home.