The Birds and the Bats:

Telling

A Connor Hawke story for S&S

by 'rith

Archive: Ask first, please.
Notations: nonexplicit m/m relationships.
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics, no infringement intended or money made by use.
Continuity: Current DCU circa Titans 9 and GL 119. Regarding recent GA continuity: *eyeroll* I began the Connor stories based on information that's now been rendered inaccurate; oh well, says I. S&S [Nightwing/Tempest] universe timing: Sequel to "Seeking" and following the Titans tell-all. One day after " A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Tower".
Thanks to Carmen for additional bits and Smitty for ongoing commentary!



They say that gossip moves faster than the speed of light. In this particular case it moved even faster than the Flash, to whom the speed of light was a slow crawl.

***

Kyle was late, Connor Hawke registered without surprise. He should have expected that, really. Kyle had intended to pick him up at the train station after the JLA meeting and Kyle's shift on monitor duty. From his brief time with the JLA, Connor knew how easy it was to become distracted by the constant flow of activity in the Watchtower. Well, that gave him time to catch up on his reading. He found a relatively clean spot on a bench and settled back.

Forty-five minutes later, he was deeply entrenched in Greg Rucka's latest Atticus Kodiak novel and didn't notice Kyle's appearance until his friend called out. "Conn! Over here."

"Hi, Kyle." Connor got up, smiling, and slung the duffel bag that held the sum of his worldly possessions casually over his shoulder.

"Been waiting long? Have a good trip?"

"Not too long, I figured you were busy--" a pointed glance at Kyle's hand and the currently invisible ring-- "and it was fine."

"Well, good. So, you hungry or anything? Wanna stop somewhere? Or you just want to crash?"

"Um, it was kind of a long trip, I'd like to get some sleep, if that's okay."

"Sure, sure, mi casa is su casa, ya know." Kyle grinned. "I even got some veggie burgers in the freezer. How you can eat that stuff I *don't* know."

Connor laughed. "I appreciate it. They're not that bad, really."

Kyle shuddered. "I'll take your word for it, but they're all yours. ...c'mon, let's get out of here. Ring-express home."

They found a corner to slip out of sight, then rose, safely costumed, on a carpet of green. The last time Connor had traveled this way, the ring-energy had been in a different form. "Flying carpet? I liked the horses...."

"Been reading a lot of 'Arabian nights' -type stories lately. Research for a project. So, well, how was the monastery?"

Connor shrugged, smiling. "Oh, fine. But Master Jansen and I both agreed it was time for me to leave. I've learned all I can, there."

"Connor Hawke: The Real World." Kyle made a frame with his hands, then grinned at Connor's uncomprehending look. "Never mind. TV reference. If you don't do anything else this visit I've GOT to introduce you to the wonders of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'...."

"That's...a show?" Connor asked dubiously.

"Oh, yeah, best thing on TV. Joss Whedon is genius--he's the writer."

"I'll take your word for it," Connor echoed him. "How's Jen?"

"Uh." Kyle's face fell. "Not...so great. I mean, she's doing fine, but we...well, we broke up. Or I should say, she broke up with me."

Connor stared at him, startled. "What? *Why?* The last time I saw you two, things seemed to be going fine!"

"Yeah, well, we ran into Donna." Kyle sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "And all those feelings I had for her came right back. It's sincerely *over,* me and her, we talked it out, but I guess...Jen sort of picked up on the whole vibe."

"'Vibe'?"

Kyle gazed down beyond the carpet's edge without seeming to see the city below. "That I really...loved her. Like, 'she could have been the one', loved her. Maybe I always will. And Jen...she's really terrific, I care about her a lot, but it wasn't that immediate-- that intense--" he paused. "I dunno. I think I *could* fall in love with her, but it wasn't...like it was with Donna. Maybe it could have been, if we had more time, but...."

Connor nodded, understanding better than he wanted to. "I'm so sorry, Kyle."

"Thanks." Kyle glanced up and gave him a brief smile. "I'm not quite ready to give up. Figure we both need some time to think things over, get some perspective. I think we could be really good together, you know?"

Connor made a noncommittal sound of sympathy while very firmly repeating in his head that because Kyle had broken up with Jen, it didn't mean he might suddenly be interested in...other options. That kind of thought would only make it harder for him to acknowledge the truth and would simultaneously strain his relationship with his best friend. He was over it--or at least, he admitted honestly, he was *getting* there--and dwelling on might-have-beens wouldn't help.

"--Oh!" Kyle snapped his fingers suddenly, face lighting. "My love life may be in the toilet, but not everyone's is. I heard the best gossip at the Watchtower. Wally was all freaked out. He came up babbling about Nightwing and Tempest dating. Really serious, too. He had *no* idea either of 'em was gay. Or at least bi, 'cause I hear that Nightwing used to date Starfire...."

"They are? That's interesting." It was, but mainly from the perspective of giving him an opening to say what he needed to. Connor paused, watching Kyle's face. "By the way, so am I."

"Huh? What?"

"Gay. I figured it out."

"Oh!" Kyle blinked once, then grinned. "Cool. Seeing anyone?"

Connor blushed, though he felt vastly relieved at Kyle's nonchalant reaction. "Um, no. And please," he said quickly to Kyle's speculative look, "don't try to 'set me up' with anyone! I'm not in any hurry."

"Killjoy. C'mon, this is *New York.* Half the guys in my neighborhood would kill to go out with you."

The wrong half, Connor reflected briefly, but dismissed the thought.

***

At Kyle's apartment they found a slip of paper under the door. After reading it Kyle looked up, slightly shamefaced, and passed Connor the note. "Ooops."

He glanced at it. ~ Kyle, don't tell *anyone* about the 'dating' news you heard tonight. Important. --Wally ~ "Oh. Well, I certainly won't pass it on."

"Yeah, I know. I guess they don't want it spread around or something." Kyle looked curious. "Have you met either of them?"

They were inside Kyle's apartment now, but Connor still kept his voice low. "I met Nightwing once. And he and Tempest were there when we fought Cyborg but all the Titans were a little busy, then."

"Did you-- I mean, when you met Nightwing, could you tell--"

Connor started to laugh. "Um, no, he wasn't wearing a sign...and we didn't exactly have time to talk. We were too busy fighting ninjas."

Kyle laughed too, embarrassed. "Dumb question. Uh, you know where the kitchen is if you want anything, lemme go grab some sheets for the couch--"

Connor watched him go, still chuckling. Sometimes Kyle could be--clueless. About a lot of things.

***

The next morning, well rested--the couch was infinitely softer than any ashram cot, after all--Connor thought about his nebulous plans. He really hadn't made any, preferring to let events shape themselves around him. Given his chosen profession, he had little fear of boredom. And if he couldn't find something to occupy his time in *New York,* there wasn't much hope for him anywhere else.

Kyle stumbled out of the bedroom, bleary-eyed. He muttered something incomprehensible about "morning" and "coffee" and waved vaguely toward the back. "Shower. G'head."

Connor translated that into a suggestion that he shower first and gathered up his things. In the shower he formulated a strategy for the day: he'd go over to Titans' Tower and take Roy up on his invitation to visit with his "niece" Lian. And if he was being honest with himself, he sort of wanted to meet Nightwing and Tempest. The questions he had were probably too personal, and too clichéd, to spring on people he didn't know...but he wanted to talk to them anyway, to find out how they balanced a relationship and secrecy and all the rest of it. He wasn't supposed to know about them dating, he reminded himself, but maybe an opportunity would come up....

When he came back into the kitchen, Kyle had his face practically buried in a bowl. His friend looked up from his breakfast of sugary cereal, blushing at the studiously blank look on Connor's face. "Oh, don't you start. Jen gives-- gave me enough grief about my eating habits."

Connor tried to look innocent. "I didn't say a word."

Kyle rolled his eyes. "No, you only thought it so loud I'm surprised the guy next door didn't hear you. *Any*way, that's enough picking on my sugar addiction. Sit down, have something healthy--I think we still have some wheat bran from the last time you were here." He grinned. "Or you can have some of this, if you want to expand your horizons. Isn't that supposed to be good for you?"

Connor ignored him with the ease of long practice, starting to assemble some fruit on the counter to slice up. "By the way," he asked, "I wanted to go out today and I was wondering--"

"If you want a ride, it's no problem."

"No, no--I need to get accustomed to getting around on my own. I wondered if you could give me directions."

"Sure, where to?"

"Titans Tower. Roy invited me to drop by last time we met." He couldn't keep a bemused look off his face. "He said Lian wants to meet her 'Uncle Connor'."

He didn't even have to turn around to be aware of the grin spreading over Kyle's face. "'Uncle Connor,' huh? That's really cute. Does that mean you'll be tapped for babysitting duty?"

"I haven't even met her yet," Connor said dryly, "but you're welcome to come with me if that's a possibility."

"No, no," Kyle said, still laughing, "I'll leave you to deal with it on your own. Okay, you can pretty much see the Tower once you get near it, but here's how you go--" He ran through a list of streets and turns that Connor filed carefully away in his memory, hoping that following them wouldn't prove to be more complicated in actuality. "Once you're there, they've got a little comm system so you can ask to be let in. You're probably on the standing-invite list, so no problems there." He paused expectantly. "Anything else?"

Connor shook his head. "No, that's fine. Thank you, Kyle."

His friend smiled at him. Connor felt a faint internal wrench at the sweetness of it. Not now, Connor, he told himself sternly. Or ever.

***

Connor found the site with little trouble. He spent some time looking across the water to Titans' Tower, wondering if this was really a good idea. He reached for the intercom before he could talk himself out of it. "Hello? This is Connor Hawke. ...Green Arrow," he added after a moment's hesitation.

A young-sounding female voice came back to him. "Hey there! Look into the camera for a sec... yeah... retinal scan verified. Transport's on its way, unless you can fly?"

He wondered briefly when they'd gotten his pattern, and realized the JLA probably shared that kind of information with the Titans. Made sense. "Um, no. You're...Argent, right?"

"Yep! Hey, you're much cuter in person than your file picture. So, you here on business, or just dropping by to say hi?"

Her rapid-fire commentary let him answer the question without having to dwell on her first remark. "Arsenal left me an invitation to come by the next time I was in the city, so--"

"Oh, right!" Argent said excitedly. "You're, like, his brother. Sort of. That's really cool. He's not here right now, but I can call him. He and Troia took Lian out to the park, but I'm sure he'd want to see you."

So much, Connor thought, for his much-vaunted practicality. If he'd thought to *call* first.... "I can come back some other time. I wouldn't want to be any trouble."

"No trouble!" Argent chirped. "We like visitors. And look, the transport's there already."

A flat barge drifted across the water to the small dock without any apparent means of propulsion. Some kind of hovercraft? Connor stepped onto it hesitantly, half expecting the thing to flip over. Instead it began to smoothly glide back over the water, carrying him to Titans' island.

On the surface, the complex consisted of a multistory T-shaped building, three domes, and what was evidently a landing pad for aircraft. The tower itself, he remembered Roy telling him, wasn't really there. Most of the complex had been constructed underground. The building was actually a holographic projection meant to provide a landmark--since the Titans were determined to be more accessible than the JLA--and as protection against inevitable attacks. Even this close, the illusion was excellent.

Once on the island, a path led "inside" to a hidden alcove where an elevator waited. He stepped inside, looked at the array of buttons, and was surprised when the elevator began to drop before he'd pressed any of them. Argent's voice rang out again. "Automated. Takes visitors right to the main lobby, unless they have a code to go somewhere else."

The doors hissed open on a pleasant entrance hall, with couches and small tables dotted around it. Corridors ran off to the right, left, and center at the rear of the room. A curly black-haired head appeared beyond the curve of the left wall and Argent's voice floated through the hall. "Hey, this way, I'm in the monitor room." She disappeared again around the turn. Connor followed, turning the corner to find Argent in a room with a complex-looking computer network and multiple screens on the walls flashing scenes from around the world.

Connor had seen her briefly before, but hadn't actually met her. She looked to be in her late teens, with startling silver skin and an even more startling costume with strategic pieces removed to expose more skin. If nothing else, her outfit could provide a significant distraction factor against foes inclined to gawk.

She smiled at him as he came in. "Hiya! I'm Argent, but you can call me Toni." She looked at him with a curious expression. "So you said 'Connor'--you're not doing the secret ID thing?"

"I-- I don't mind people knowing, I guess," he said slowly, surprised by the sudden questioning. "I usually don't think about it. I'm not making any kind of public announcement, though, like the Flash."

Toni grinned. "Yeah, it's pretty cool--most of the Titans are like that, 'cept Nightwing. Even Jesse doesn't seem to mind too much if people find out. And me, there's no point even *trying* to pretend, you know?" She extended a silver arm in explanation. "But I figure, if Changeling can do it, so can I!"

"'Do'...?"

"Get along without having to hide," she clarified. "I figure if people can't accept me, that's *their* problem."

Connor smiled almost involuntarily. It was such a *young* attitude...but also a valid one. He gestured to the screens behind her. "I didn't want to distract you. I remember what monitor duty was like with the JLA."

"Oh, right, you were with them for awhile. What was that *like?*" Toni leaned toward him, nearly in his personal space. If it had been a more calculated action, he would have stepped away, but she probably wasn't even aware of his discomfort. "And why'd you quit?"

"Well--"

"I mean. If you want to tell me." She bit her lip, looking embarrassed. "I shouldn't have asked, right? I didn't mean to--"

"Argent," he interrupted, "don't worry. It's not a big secret. I felt that I wasn't doing enough good up *there*"--he pointed at a screen showing the Watchtower and its lunar landscape--"and I could do more down here."

"That's so cool." She gazed at him with admiring eyes. "So, um. D'you want to look around? This is a pretty neat place, I could give you the tour!"

Roy, Connor thought with mingled amusement and helplessness, you could come back any time now. When Roy failed to immediately appear, he knew he was caught. "Uh, aren't you supposed to stay here to watch?"

Toni waved a casual hand. "It's mostly self-monitoring anyway. We could--"

At precisely that moment, Nightwing walked through the door of the monitor room. He was indisputable proof, to Connor's eye, of the existence of divine providence.

Connor saw that Toni had almost instinctively taken a step away from him, establishing a more appropriate distance. "Hi, Nightwing! I was going to show Green Arrow around the Tower."

Nightwing looked at her, smiling. "Anything to get out of monitor duty, Argent?"

"Oh!" She stood almost at attention, silver skin flushing dark as she blushed. "I wasn't going to-- I was going to take a pager with me if the computer scanned anything weird, I wasn't going to ignore it, honest!"

"I believe you," Nightwing said gently. "Still, since I'm here and not actively on duty...." He glanced pointedly at the chair in front of the monitor station. Toni heaved a sigh, but sat without protest. Nightwing turned to Connor and held out a hand. "Nice to see you again, Green Arrow."

"Please, call me Connor. And you too, especially with no monkey cult in sight." Connor shook the outstretched hand, smiling.

Nightwing laughed. "Definitely a plus. You haven't had any more trouble with them, have you?"

Connor shook his head. "Not since Lady Shiva...staked her claim." Shiva had promised to come back one day, simply for the purpose of fighting him to the death--his or hers. The idea that she might appear at any given moment with the sole intention of killing him...he shuddered involuntarily.

The other man noticed the motion. "Listen, I know she's scary as hell, but don't forget you can always call for help."

"I appreciate that," Connor replied with absolute sincerity. Last time, he'd only been saved by the fact that Shiva owed Robin some kind of debt, and she'd spared Connor's life to repay it. Next time....

He'd worry about that when it happened.

"So, is there something the Titans can do for you?"

"I, ah, like I was telling Argent, I really came by to see Roy. Arsenal. I didn't want to interrupt everyone."

"You didn't." Nightwing shrugged. "It's pretty quiet around here today, considering. You haven't been here before, I'd be happy to show you around."

"That'd be... that'd be great." He'd wanted an opportunity to speak to Nightwing anyway, and here was a great opening. "If you're sure you're not busy."

"Nah. C'mon, this way."

Argent waved to him forlornly as they left. "See you later, maybe?"

"I'll stop by on my way out," Connor promised. She really was sweet, if a little...enthusiastic.

"The gym's right below us," Nightwing explained as they walked back into the main entrance, "and shielded labs below that. We can hit those on the way back." He led Connor toward the straight corridor at the rear of the entrance hall. "We're heading toward the domes you saw up top." He stopped at a circular open space where the corridor again divided into three corridors. "Right now we're under the building hologram." He glanced over and Connor nodded.

"Arsenal told me about that. It's very effective."

"We got tired of having the tower blown up around us," Nightwing said wryly. "Figure it'll be a little more difficult this way." He headed toward the right. "Here's the main assembly."

It wasn't much different from the JLA version, Connor noted, with a sizeable round table and chairs and computer screens built into the tabletop.

Nightwing led him around the table through an archway at the back. "This is the Memorial Hall. It's one of my favorite places here," he said quietly. "I know that sounds morbid, but it helps me remember not only them, but what they fought for."

Under the domed ceiling, full-length pictures hung on the walls, depicting men and women Connor had never met and never would. One in particular caught his eye. "That's... that Robin's costume."

"The second Robin. His name was Jason." Nightwing looked like he was going to say something more, but then didn't. Connor got the feeling there was too much history in this room to speak of lightly.

"I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to know them," he offered lamely.

Nightwing shook his head abruptly and motioned toward the archway. "C'mon."

They went through to the second and third domes (a library and dining hall, respectively) and ended up in a hangar bay filled with various types of aircraft. Nightwing waved a hand toward another corridor. "Personal apartments are that way. Pretty standard. If we head back toward the main area, I can show you the gym. Not as fancy as the JLA's holographic system, but it works."

"I didn't much care for that, actually." Connor shrugged as they walked. "Even the best programmed ones seemed artificial. I didn't have much of a chance to spar against real people. Huntress, once. She's very...aggressive."

"Tell me about it," Nightwing murmured, smiling faintly.

"I wanted to practice with Batman, but he rarely stayed after the meetings. And Wonder Woman was always willing to spar, but, well...."

"She fights like it's war, even in practice."

Connor nodded. "Exactly! That's fine for working out winning tactics, but not for... exercise, you know?"

"Mm-hmm." Nightwing seemed to consider. "You know, as long as you're here in New York, you should feel free to come by. If I'm here, I'd be happy to spar with you. Roy's a good partner for that, too. He's not as technically adept as you or I--" he said it without a trace of conceit-- "but he's *sneaky.* Troia's excellent if you want a super-powered opponent who doesn't feel it's necessary to pound her opponent into paste."

"She's Wonder Woman's sister, right?"

Nightwing smiled. "Close enough. It's a long story. But I promise you, Donna's *much* easier to train with than Diana. Your other option, by the way, is to go over to the JSA brownstone. You want a lesson in sheer stubborn fortitude, spar with Wildcat." He rubbed his chin as if remembering. "The guy's a straight-up boxer, but powerful. Hell of a right hook. Black Canary's over there too, when she's not in Gotham. Like Roy, she's got a lot of tricky moves. Street-fighting stuff, very unpredictable."

"I've fought alongside Dinah a couple of times, but we never had a chance to practice together. The last time I saw her was after we fought--" Connor caught himself, remembering Victor Stone was Nightwing's teammate and friend. "--uh, at that big party at Warrior's."

"Right, I remember." Nightwing sounded as if he'd heard exactly what Connor hadn't said.

"Anyway, I, uh, appreciate the offer." He wondered how Kyle would feel if he ended up sparring with Donna. It was strange, realizing all the connections between heroes he hadn't seen before, including his own ties to Roy and Dinah that could bring him in regular contact with the Titans and the JSA. After his experience in the JLA he was happy to remain solo, but it still might be interesting to meet more people who'd chosen the same kind of life.

Throughout the tour he'd been looking for an opening, but there hadn't been an ideal time. Nightwing wasn't going to offer personal information to someone he barely knew. Connor finally decided to go ahead and broach the subject. "Nightwing, I-- I'm not supposed to know this, but Green Lantern told me about you and Tempest."

"...I see." Nightwing sighed. "Why am I not surprised. No offense to your friend, but Kyle can't keep a secret to save his life. I'm surprised he still *has* a secret identity."

"He only told me, before he got Wally's note not to say anything." He added hastily, "And I certainly won't repeat it."

"Be sure that you don't. There are identity issues involved." For a moment Connor heard a hint of the Batman's uncompromising manner in Nightwing's voice, and then his tone returned to normal. "But I'm sure you'd realize that already."

"I do," Connor said, "but I'm glad he told me anyway."

"Oh? Why's that?" Nightwing's expression was completely neutral; Connor couldn't tell what he was thinking.

Connor took a deep breath. "I. Um, I'm not sure exactly how to say this."

"Spit it out, Connor." The faintest thread of amusement entered Nightwing's voice. "I don't bite."

"I'm gay." --and he would have added to that, except Nightwing had started to laugh. It was disconcerting. "Um...?"

"I'm sorry, Connor, I'm not laughing at you. It's ironic-- we've both been 'outed' by well-meaning friends." Still snickering, he added, "Dinah told us yesterday. Like we should all form a club or something."

"...oh. Oh, no!" Connor covered his eyes with his hand. "I can't believe she did that."

"Makes us even, I guess." Nightwing chuckled again. "Well, okay, is there a particular reason you wanted to tell me?"

"Sort of. I thought..." Abruptly he realized how silly this was. He didn't *know* Nightwing, he didn't have any right to make demands on the man's time. "Nothing, really. I should let you get back to work." He turned, meaning to leave.

"Connor, wait." Nightwing's hand on his shoulder stopped him. "Listen, I'm sorry about laughing. Really. Yesterday was...a little stressful." Connor glanced at him, and Nightwing smiled wryly. "Garth and I didn't necessarily handle things the best way. We wanted to tell everyone at once so we didn't have to answer the same questions multiple times. The only reason Roy isn't still yammering loud enough to wake the dead is because Donna bodily hauled him out of here to give us some peace."

"He didn't...take it well?" He'd been thinking his "half-brother" wouldn't care, but if he did....

"Oh, he took it fine. It just instantly became something else for Roy to tease about." Nightwing sighed. "As if he *needed* more ammunition for his mouth. But that's Roy's way of communicating with me. You don't have anything to worry about with him, if that's what you wanted to know."

"Not specifically. But thanks."

"Specifically, then, what?"

And here Connor had been hoping he could escape without embarrassing himself further. "I...don't even know what to ask, actually."

Nightwing studied him. "Maybe you wanted to talk to someone in a similar situation?"

"Y-yes. I don't know... I don't know anything." He paused, trying to put words to his experiences. "I tried...dating. It was strange. I couldn't tell anyone about my life, not really...."

Nightwing nodded. "That's always an issue. For all of us, actually, any hero with an identity he or she wants to keep hidden. You can't be entirely honest, and if you are, there's so much risk."

"That's exactly it! I don't know how to do this," Connor finished miserably.

"No one does." Connor wondered briefly if Nightwing was making fun of him. The other man shrugged. "It's true. We all pretend to be cool about it, but seriously, no one knows anything. We're all making it up as we go along. It's not a gay thing, it's a *people* thing."

Obscurely, that made him feel both worse and better about it. "So I'm just socially inept, and it's not fatal."

Nightwing looked startled, then grinned. "If you can joke about it, you're going to be *fine.*"

It was, actually, the same thing that Dinah had told him. But he hadn't been ready to accept it. "Did you... um. This is a personal question."

"Ask. Worst that'll happen is that I won't answer." Nightwing smiled at him, encouraging.

"Did you ever date 'outside'? I mean, someone who wasn't a hero?"

Nightwing hesitated for a moment before answering. "I did, yeah. Those relationships were...pretty casual. I know what you're asking, and I have to admit, all of my *serious* relationships have been with people also in the business. But maybe I'm not...exactly representative. I had, I still have, an extra legacy of silence to protect. My secret isn't only mine."

"I understand." Connor thought about his own situation. His mother was more at risk from her husband's business than her son's, his father was dead, and Roy was more than capable of taking care of himself. "But if it were?"

"I don't know." Nightwing shrugged. "I've been in this life for a long, long time. It's what I know best, and the people closest to me are the same. But like I said, I'm probably not representative. Talk to Wally and his wife Linda, if you want another perspective. Or..." he tilted his head, considering. "I'm not at liberty to reveal others' secrets. But they're not the only ones who've made it work."

Connor nodded. "That's good to know."

Overhead an intercom came to life with the sound of Toni's voice. "Argent to Nightwing and Green Arrow," she said, sounding very professional. "Arsenal and Troia are--" there was a brief squawk and then Roy's voice replaced hers.

"Yo, Connor! Come upstairs and meet your niece."

"Oh, boy," Connor breathed, suddenly more nervous than he'd been all day.

Nightwing grinned. "She's a great kid. Nothing to worry about." They headed back up the stairs. "But listen, one more thing--"

"Uh, what?"

"Unsolicited advice. Our community tends to be incredibly insular. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to do something *outside* the spandex, just to meet other people." Nightwing paused before he went on. "There's a fine line between dedication and obsession, with us. Do what you do...but don't let that be the only thing."

Connor didn't have much chance to think about that the rest of the day, given Lian's intense fascination with her new uncle and her insistence on telling him *everything* there was to know about her favorite movie ("Mulan"), her favorite book ("Where the Wild Things Are"), and her favorite food (which she insisted he make for her; fortunately, he could manage a peanut butter and jelly sandwich). Roy watched the whole time, smirking and refusing to rescue him. Connor didn't actually want rescuing, but the way Roy had utterly abandoned Connor to his four-year-old daughter's mercy demanded payback. Sparring with him, Connor decided, was going to be *fun.* Though Roy might think otherwise.

Later, back on Kyle's couch for the night, he considered his options with Nightwing's advice in mind. Without a college degree, he couldn't apply for a lot of jobs, but that was okay; he wasn't looking for a full-time occupation. His work as Green Arrow would prevent that, anyway. And with the trust fund his mother had set up, he really didn't worry for money. He wasn't *rich* by any means, but he had plenty to keep himself in food, clothing, shelter, and bowstrings. Mostly he wanted something that would do what Nightwing had suggested: a job that could bring him in contact with people, make him a part of the community, and actually give him something to *talk* about in casual conversation. Once he got past 'I grew up in a monastery', there wasn't much else he could volunteer about himself without bringing Green Arrow into it. Finding another vocation would make that easier.

That left the questions of 'where' and 'what'. Where...might as well be *here.* Maybe someday he'd take up his father's legacy in Star City or elsewhere. But New York, for all its high superhero population, still suffered an enormous amount of street crime. There would certainly be no shortage of costumed work for him here. And on a personal level, he wasn't quite ready to start a career in a new city where he didn't know anyone. Kyle was here, and Roy and Lian, and Dinah when she wasn't in Gotham. Add to that Nightwing's offer of exceptional occasional sparring partners and the decision to stay wasn't a difficult one at all.

His first priority in the morning would be to start scouting for an apartment. Staying in the same *city* as Kyle wouldn't be a problem, but living on his couch quickly could become one. He could borrow Kyle's paper and see about the want ads, too. In traditional fashion, he'd let what he saw there guide him, without preconceived notions. Things would fall into place as they were meant to.

He could almost hear Kyle laughing at him. 'How very Zen of you, Connor.' Smiling, Connor closed his eyes, slowed his breathing, and let himself drift into sleep.



{end}

Notes: Kyle would definitely be a Buffy fan. All hail Joss. Also, Judd Winick, current writer of Green Lantern, was on the "Real World" a couple of years ago. His book "Pedro and Me" -- about his Real World roommate who died of AIDS -- is astonishing work.

Lian's favorite movie? "Mulan" features a kick-ass Asian female hero and a villain who looks vaguely like Vandal Savage. Oh, yeah, she identifies. :D

And Greg Rucka? Not only an excellent comic-book writer. ;) His novels are fine reads, too. His Atticus Kodiak novels to date are Keeper, Finder, Smoker, and Shooting at Midnight (plus the forthcoming Critical Space), and his No Man's Land novel is the best comic adaptation I've ever read.






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