Archive: Ask first, please.

Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics, no infringement intended or money made by use.

Continuity: Current DCU. S&S universe. More Connor backstory. Sequel to "Accepting."

Timing notes: From after Technis through roughly Titans 9.

This is for: Carmen, who invested me with the Connor-love; and Keven, who asked nicely.

A Connor Hawke story for S&S

by 'rith

Mostly, he watched.

Connor went places where people congregated to observe. The whole realm of social interaction, still startlingly new to him, laid out like a tapestry for him to examine the whorls and knotted patterns. The way people came together and communicated or miscommunicated, making connections that might last for an evening or a lifetime. He had a lot to catch up on after all those years of virtual seclusion.

Before too long he discovered that he'd apparently inherited his father's gift, the unfathomable chemistry that drew people to him. Women, generally. Sometimes men. He wondered if Ollie had ever dealt with *that* particular aspect, and smiled at the thought.

It was flattering, certainly. But far too many of those who approached him purely on the basis of that physical chemistry obviously weren't interested in anything *but* the physical, and Connor wasn't about to respond on that level alone. Not that... not that he didn't want to, sometimes, but something so seemingly simple just *wasn't* simple with his dual identity and the demands of his own conscience, which didn't seem inclined to settle for anything less than a true partnership.

But it was also becoming clear that the partnership he desired would be with a man. Connor enjoyed talking to the women who approached him, but never felt compelled to take the next step. He watched how other men flirted with women, sometimes successful, sometimes merely desperate, and knew that just wasn't... him. He didn't respond to them the way the other men at the bars did, and most of the women realized that fairly quickly. Some, less easily deterred, pursued him on the basis that he must merely be "shy"... which was true, but not the whole truth.

Men... men were different.

It took him awhile to build up the nerve to search the directories for gay clubs. It took longer for him to actually *go* to one. The initial experiment was far from a success. At least in the other bars, the men were generally respectful to the women they were pursuing. The entire atmosphere was different, here. The moment he entered the bar he felt marked, chosen as a target of too much unwanted attention. He suffered crude remarks, unsubtle gropes, and rude touches until one very large man, certain of his imminent success, grabbed Connor's wrist and tried to drag him into an alley.

He'd fought super-villians and the elite of the martial arts world. One sizeable but untrained human wasn't much of a threat. Connor put him on the floor, firmly but without breaking limbs, and with enough force to warn him and any others that he *could* do permanent damage if he was pushed. His would-be suitor slunk away, defeated; there was a round of brief applause, and many offers of free drinks. He thanked the admirers as politely as he could and left.

Still, he was determined not to let a bad experience ruin the his exploration. After more in-depth research he found a few places that served a quieter clientele. Here he could watch, talk to those who approached him without fear of unpleasantness, and study the correct conduct for this new environment. It became less awkward as time went on. Connor learned to carry on a conversation without sending the wrong signals and to make polite refusals. He made a lot of those.

Occasionally he accepted an invitation for a casual date. Every time the same problem arose: Connor simply wasn't able to discuss his other life, and Green Arrow was too much a part of him to pretend the costume didn't exist. He wasn't like Kyle, who pursued his artistic career when Green Lantern wasn't needed. He couldn't profess to a normal life.

Sometimes he wondered if he shouldn't just go public with his identity, like Wally West. Except that the Flash had two other factors in his favor: he had extremely potent metahuman powers, and he was a member of the JLA. Connor had left the JLA, feeling out of place among that pantheon. Batman was 'merely' human too, but Connor had no illusions about equalling Batman's numerous capabilities. Connor was a good fighter. He was handy with a bow. But he wasn't a great detective, he didn't have that kind of frighteningly large knowledge base, he wasn't as... obsessed. Without those qualities, without powers and the backing of the JLA, Connor wasn't prepared to put anyone else at risk by revealing his identity.

He knew that was a self-defeating justification. All the power of Kyle's ring hadn't saved his girlfriend Alex from being murdered. But inevitably, playing hero came with an inordinate amount of risk to the people around him. Maybe if he met someone with whom he shared more than a casual attraction, he might be willing to share the truth and let the other person decide about 'acceptable risk.' But he hadn't.

Introspection forced him to admit that his lingering feelings for Kyle probably had a lot to do with that. Kyle was... his friend. His best friend. They'd adventured together professionally and found that they balanced each other's strengths and weaknesses to work as an effective team. They'd connected on a personal level as well, at first in trying to live up to Ollie and Hal's legacies and later simply because they were both relative newcomers to the superhero community. When Connor found himself making excuses to stay in New York, he'd realized it'd become more than that, at least on his side. His friendship with Kyle had evolved into a full-blown crush. The conversation with Dinah only forced him to admit it out loud.

Finally he decided to return to the monastery briefly to regain his focus. He couldn't stay; he'd moved too far beyond that life to be content there, and he still felt that he had a lot to accomplish as Green Arrow. But he could try to exorcise the doubts that had been building up during these last few weeks.

After that, Connor knew he'd have to return to New York, to face Kyle and tell him the truth. To a point. There probably wasn't any reason tell him everything, since Connor had been at least moderately successful in accepting that Kyle wasn't available, wasn't ever going to be, and he had to live with the fact. He'd been so strongly attracted to Kyle at least partly because of proximity and their secret lives; it would have been so much *easier* to be with someone who already understood all of that.

Then again, if he'd been interested in the easy path he never would have picked up a bow and attempted to live up to his father's legacy.

So. Course set, it didn't take him long to make his way back to the ashram. Master Jansen met him at the door. "Connor, my boy! So good to see you again."

He smiled, warmed by his sensei's welcoming manner. "Thanks, Master Jansen. I was hoping to stay here for a little while, if that's okay."

"Of course. Always room for my best student." He started to lead Connor inside, then paused. "You're different. You've decided something?"

"Figured something out about myself." He turned to catch the sensei's eye. "I'm gay."

Master Jansen nodded placidly. "I thought that might be it. Well, right this way, your old room's just like you left it...."

Connor laughed and followed him into the back.

{end for now}

Next: (untitled as yet) Connor finds out he's not the only one.

(Personal note: I've only been "prolific" lately due to an extended deadline and a little bit of breathing time IRL. Things are about to get busy again, so I may be on hiatus again for a month or so.)

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