Connor Hawke is six years old. His hair is dusty blonde, his eyes are ocean blue, and he has freckles on his cheeks from a summer spent outside in the sun. Connor Hawke attends public school, likes riding his bike, and his best friend's name is Daniel. His favourite movie is Jurassic Park, and he loves dinosaurs, hates doctors, and he's always wanted to go up in an airplane.
Connor Hawke has lived with a foster family since he was two years old. After the accident. They're nice, an older couple. They bought him the bike for his birthday last year.
Connor Hawke met his father for the first time today. He should be happy.
Oliver's having a mild panic attack. He usually only gets the kind of episodes on boats, or during storms, or on boats during storms, or after intensely bad nightmares. He hasn't had one for nineteen weeks and six days, but he's having one now. It's ridiculous, really, because looking for Connor was something they've been purposefully doing, and now that they've found him, his heart feels like it's seized up.
His son, legally, is an orphan. His name was never on the birth certificate thanks to his mothers pay-off, and Connor's mother died in a car accident when he was two years old. He's been in a foster home ever since, after no one in the mother's family stepped up to take him. (Felicity had ranted for a one hour and thirty minutes about child abandonment. He let her, because she knew all about being the child left behind). When he came forward as Connor's father to the relevant authorities, he'd had to go through DNA tests and a thousand legal hurdles and now his child is on the other side of a door, waiting for him.
His foster family don't feel they can take care of a growing boy, can't keep up with him, and that breaks Oliver's heart. His son - HIS son - is being shunned just for growing up, something Oliver himself had seemed inadequate at until the island.
He's seen a picture, one that Felicity pulled up on the computer when they found him, but that's all, and he's gripping that picture now as they wait outside the courthouse. It's 6am. Far too early. But he pulled some strings because he doesn't want the media following them and making the announcement.
Felicity's there, of course, at his side where she always is. Diggle's at the door. Roy's in the car still, ready to alert them if they need to make a quick dash for the back entrance.
"Oliver, calm down," Felicity tells him, at it amazes him that she is there, not because he thought she would leave, but he's made a lot of mistakes in his life and not seeing through the lie that hid an illegitimate child should have been one that he rectified much earlier in his life - maybe without the island, he might have - but when he came to her with this heavy confession she had merely nodded and asked what he'd wanted.
He'd wanted his child.
He's started to think about children, and not just in the hope of "one day". Sometimes he saw children in public and got this pull in his stomach. Mainly he felt it when he saw Felicity interacting with Sara, Diggle's daughter. She adored her unofficial niece, and Oliver may have been nervous at the idea of babies but if she found an opportunity to watch the girl for a night he'd find a way to linger in her apartment for a varying amount of reasons. Felicity would be a good parent, he knew, but he knew he had a long way to go before he should seriously think about parenting. Sometimes, in weaker moments (which were happening more and more), he'd watch Felicity rocking a half-asleep Sara, listen to her soft voice soothing her, and he allowed himself to wonder, what if...
But now Connor's right there, and he doesn't have time to think any more.
"He's asleep," Felicity tells him quietly as she steps out of the bedroom in the Queen household that's been allocated to Connor. He has shamefully few personal belongings to fill the space, nowhere near enough outfits because he's just had a small growth spurt, but material items are something Oliver can fix quickly and easily.
He looks up from where he'd been sat with his head resting in his hands on the couch. Dinner had been such a disaster that he isn't sure what he'd have done if Felicity hadn't stayed. "How is he?" he asks her quietly.
"He's confused," she explains as she falls into the space beside him, her hand finding a resting place on his shoulder. "It's just a shock for him, Oliver. He liked where he was living, and leaving there was hard for him."
"I don't know what I expected," he admits, "but I didn't expect so much…"
"Disappointment?" she finishes for him.
"Love," he corrects quietly. "I didn't expect to feel so much straight away."
"I guess you're more used to the slow burn," she muses, so quietly he almost missed it, but she continues quickly before he can give any thought to what she's referring to. "Parental love is different, it's something you haven't felt before. It's stronger than anything you'll ever feel."
His eyes lift to hers, and if he hadn't felt his heart burst in his chest earlier when he set eyes on his son, he'd have sworn that there would never be anything stronger than what he felt for her.
"You have to learn each other, learn to love each other," she continues, her hand gripping his shoulder. "You know that you want him now, and that's the first step."
"I want him to be safe," he says quietly.
"With you as a father, he will be," she said firmly.
"Felicity," he whispered, begging her to understand.
She does. She's heard that speech before. "Let me guess, because of the life you lead?" she asks quietly, her voice suddenly filled with a disappointment that breaks his heart.
"This is my son, Felicity," he stresses. "My child. I can't...he's not safe here. Not with me."
"And how do you plan to tell your son that you can't keep him?" she asks him harshly.
The sound of tiny feet running back up the stairs tells them both that they won't have to.
He can't understand, Oliver realises, because he doesn't know. He spends a long day arguing against a devastated child who only sees that his father is sending him away.
The moment Connor cries himself to sleep he finds himself waking him, pulling his coat on over his Flash pyjamas - really, Barry? Merchandising? - and driving to the foundry. He takes his son to the basement, turns on the light, and watches him realising he's looking at the Arrow suit and when he reaches to touch the arrows, Oliver's voice warns him to be careful in a soft voice usually reserved for Sara only.
"My dad's the Arrow," Connor says quietly.
"Do you understand now?" Oliver whispers to the boy bundled in his arms.
Connor takes the hood from the display case and puts it on his head. It's huge, swamps half his face, hanging off hose, and it makes Oliver's heart burst. "Yes, I understand," he nods.
"It won't be forever, I promise," he assures him. "You'll be safe. I will make it safe for you here. For us."
Connor's quiet about it for a long time. Oliver watches this boy, this smart little boy, put all the information together and come to the first grown up decision of his life when he's six years old. "Where do I have to go?" he asks.
They spend more than ten hours trying to come up with a way to hide Connor. The sun is coming up on the east side of Starling City when the solution comes from Felicity. One phone call from Felicity, some travel arrangements by Diggle, and Felicity's packing along with Connor.
"You can't let anyone know your connection to me," Oliver tells her, watching as she decides which pair of heels is essential for the foreseeable future.
"My mom is the only one who knows about you," she reminds him, not looking up from the case. "I don't exactly keep in touch with high school friends. Not that I had many. Well, I wasn't friendless, I just.." she shakes herself. "Not important right now."
"Felicity," he says quietly, in that shuddering way he's always said her name, as he comes to stand beside her. "Are you sure about this? You could end up in just as much danger as he could be… if anything happened to either of you."
"He's your son, Oliver," she replies, and then bites her lip as she looks away. "I may not be allowed to talk about my feelings for Oliver Queen or the Arrow because do not start talking me out of that again, but this...I can do this for you." She carries on talking so he can't give her a speech about putting her life in danger with those emotions. She knows it by heart by now. "He'll be safe. He'll be happy. My mom will adore him, he'll be fine. He'll be loved."
"If anyone finds out he's my son…"
She hesitates over her next answer. It ends up being their winning card. "What if he wasn't your son?"
Felicity's standing in the foundry when she signs backdated paperwork that could forge her into kidnapping charges and various other forgery sentences. Dental work, doctors notes, school records, birth certificate, passports, and just like that, Felicity Meghan Smoak has a son.
When she's finished, Connor's clinging to her left hand with his backpack secured to him. The rest of the bags are in the back of the car that will take them to the airstrip under the cover of darkness. Donna's waiting a little way apart from them, having flown out this morning. Diggle thought it might be better if it looked like a family vacation when they arrived in Vegas.
"Thank you," Oliver whispers to her, leaning in to kiss her cheek before she speaks. "I wouldn't trust anyone else with this."
With this. With my child. With my world. With my heart.
"We'll be safe," she assures him, her voice stronger than she thought it would sound.
He kneels down to Connor, and his son's arms are wrapped around his neck before he can lean across. He lets him cling, lets him promise to be good and asks when he can come back home, but Oliver doesn't answer this.
"I'm only doing this because I love you," he tells him, making sure that he's looking directly into his son's eyes when he speaks. "Because my son is the most important thing I have, and I need to make sure you're protected."
"Don't you worry, Oliver, we're going to have a great time, aren't we, Connor?" Donna grins as she totters over in her heels and places her hand on Connor's shoulder. Felicity throws her a look that reminds her of the gravity of the situation, but she shrugged. "What? I don't see you giving me any grandchildren," she says indignantly, taking Connor's other hand and leading him to the car, leaving Oliver and Felicity alone.
"Felicity," he starts quietly, his hand coming to her elbow once she's stored the forged paperwork in her handbag. "I need you to know…"
"I know," she cuts him off, her smile saddened. "I can't hear it until we're back, though," she tells him, swallowing down what she desperately wants to hear. "I can't hear those words until you can act on them."
He nods, and says nothing more as he watches the woman who is undoubtedly the love of his life lead his son away.
When his heart breaks, he says nothing.
Connor Smoak is six years old. His hair is dusty blonde, his eyes are ocean blue, and his freckles have faded because it's not summer any more. Connor Hawke attends public school, likes riding up and down in the elevators in the new apartment, and his best friend's name is Felicity. His favourite movie is Toy Story, he still loves dinosaurs, hates doctors, and he can't wait to go on an airplane again.
Connor Smoak has to tell people Felicity adopted him if anyone asks. They say it will keep him safe, that bad people can't find him. He doesn't know any bad people, though. He has a grandma now, and she's really nice. Grandma Donna buys him things, even if she doesn't have a reason to, and she always wants to play with his dinosaurs even if it's first thing in the morning and he has to get ready for school.
Connor Smoak hasn't seen his father in four months now. He hopes he'll see him soon.
They have to move shortly after they arrive, because Donna's one-bed apartment was fun for a week or so of Felicity and Connor sharing the pullout bed, but when Felicity realises how many bruises she's got from sharing with a very mobile child they invest in a short-term rental of a three-bedroom apartment close the casino where Donna works (part of Felicity's work cover comes with a card from Oliver for all these expenses, so he'll have a way to trace them when the time came, he cannot afford to know the address before then).
Now, Connor gets his own bedroom, gets to go to school and make new friends. He comes home with a glowing face, and Felicity works for a technical support company while he's in school. Oliver calls on a burner phone once a month, and the first time Felicity misses it.
She tries not to be as devastated as Connor is.
She comforts him until he falls asleep, begging for the father he only knew for a few short days.
Oliver spends three nights trying to find them after they've left, trying to test the limits of the safeguards they've put in place. He's disappointed when he can't find them. Disappointed may not be strong enough a word. His heart feels pulled in two directions. Part of him wants his child safe, wants Felicity safe, wants them both to be happy, but the other part of him wants them with him, both of them.
Oliver doesn't realise that he's made himself a family unit until he's sent them away.
"You alright, man?" Diggle asks him quietly as they at the next night in his apartment.
Oliver looks at Sara sleeping quietly in the crook of her father's arm, and looks back down at his food. "No."
They start to read the Harry Potter series together. It's a thing they start to do when Donna leaves for work in the evening and things are quiet. Felicity quite likes these moments when the apartment is silent and she sees the side of Connor that loves to learn, has a huge imagination and who thirsts for adventures of his own. She wonders if this was what Oliver was like as a boy.
Halfway through the first book, Felicity realises he sees acceptance in the main character, an unwanted boy who had to be sent away from his family.
"Night, Liss, love you," Connor tells her as she tucks the sleepy boy beneath his duvet that night.
She brushes back his growing hair with a kiss to his forehead, and tries not to fall in love with him any more than she has.
She tries not to fall in love with this precious boy who smiles and laughs and looks so damn much like Oliver that it's making her heart burst when he's near her. He makes her happy in ways that she never imagined, because she never really gave much thought to being a parent. She's still young, and she's not running out of time in that area, but the part of her that was holding on for Oliver also accepted that with his devotion to keeping loved ones safe, he may never want children of his own. But she loves this, and she looks forward to seeing Connor when she finishes work every day.
But she doesn't let herself love him. This is not her child. She knows that as soon as she allows Connor into her heart that they'll be back in Starling City, and she'll go back to her quiet apartment and see him far less regularly because this is Oliver's son, not hers.
Connor loves her. He's very open about it. He never mentions that she doesn't return those words to him. Connor is just happy to be able to feel attachment to people, people who care for him, and Grandma Donna (a name she gave herself) is one of his favourite people in the world. He loves Felicity though. He wants to tell her about his day at school in very intricate detail, wants her to play with him, wants her to read to him, to draw with him, to be near him whenever he can afford it.
She didn't carry him, though. She didn't hold him as a newborn boy and know that this was hers. She is neither his mother, nor his parent in any way. She is his protector. She is responsible for his safety now.
She starts to understand why Oliver separated himself from everyone to secure their safety.
Donna has a different opinion. She snaps at Felicity with her full name when she hears her not returning the nightly 'I love you'.
"I raised you better than that." She insists, her face like stone when it can only be when she's scolding her daughter. "That boy needs you to be his parent."
Felicity shakes her head. "He's Oliver's son, Mom."
"He's practically yours."
"Don't say that!" Felicity snaps at her, and her voice is filled with emotion, and she's glad she shut Connor's bedroom door and that there's a blaring TV in between them and the not-quite-asleep boy. "He's Oliver's son. I'm just...temporary in all this!" she said, gesturing to the boy's folded laundry, the dinosaur figurines on the floor and the stray lego bricks at the dinner table.
She slumps into the couch and slips her glasses up onto her head, pressing her burning eyes into the balls of her hands. She won't cry over this, not when Oliver's counting on her to be strong, but dammit, this is harder than she expected it would be.
"Let me tell you this, baby girl," Donna said, her voice softer as she sits beside her daughter. "These Queen boys have a lot of love for you, and don't you dare think you're temporary to either of them. I think you've proved that you're anything but temporary," she slips her hand around Felicity's shoulder and yes, she leans into her, because there are times that you just really need a mother.
"I'm not his mother," she says quietly. "He acts like I am."
"You've raised him for the last six months of his life. You're the damned closest thing he'll ever have to one," she reminds her. "Oliver didn't send him here to be protected at arms lengths, he sent him here because he knew he'd be loved." She smiles as she smooths back her daughter's hair, and wipes the damp patches beneath her eyes.
Sometime, Connor tests her. Oh, some days she can see that darkness of anger she's seen in Oliver's eyes. She's been good about placating his tantrums at first but today she's exhausted from work, they need groceries, and she doesn't know why she's asking, nay, demanding, to have pears when she knows full well he doesn't like them.
She ignores him, continuing on the shopping while he tantrums around her.
"Felicity!" he tries again, tugging on his arm.
When she says nothing, she hears him draw in a breath ready to scream his next word.
He breaks down the word like Oliver does, and she hears the anger in each syllable and all she can think back to is the day in his office where he promoted her to his assistant and she chewed him out for it. She stares down at Connor's defiant expression, a clone of Oliver staring back at her, and she's buying the pears before she can even stop to think that she really does love the both of them.
Oliver receives a heavily coded email, which turns out to be an update from Felicity. A school report. His son is a model student, who'd have thought. He shows everyone in the know, and brags about his intelligent child,and for the first time since he sent them away, he smiles.
He smiles at the written report of his son's bright attitude to learning.
He smiles at the scans of artwork that is far better than anything Oliver's seen from another child - he gets some of Thea's old drawings out of storage for comparison.
He smiles at Felicity listed as the mother of his child.
"Do you love me, Liss?" Connor asks her the next night, when she's tucking him into bed.
"Very much," she whispers as she kisses his forehead.
Connor slips into her bed in the middle of the night at times, he never tells her about the nightmares that drove him there, but Oliver never did either. Tonight is different. Tonight is Christmas eve. They're Jewish, but Connor's not, and when he decided to be overly-enthusiastic about Christmas, they'd decided to celebrate both. Tonight he's been using the window behind her bedframe to watch for Santa until he fell asleep against her pillow. She decided to let him stay.
She hears a key turn in the lock just after midnight, but she doesn't think anything of it. Donna is working and must have gotten off an hour earlier than usual. The footsteps stop outside her door, and it's only when she sees the obviously larger silhouette in the doorframe that she knows who it is.
His name is on her lips before she can hold it back, and he puts a finger to his lips, hushing her. Without question or permission, he leaves his shoes at the base of the bed, his jeans scratching against the bedsheets he got in on Connor's other side. She sees a tear on his cheek when Connor, still asleep, instinctively curls into him and throws an arm over his side.
Oliver breathes out deeply as he pulled Felicity into the same embrace. She looks at him questioningly after he presses a soft kiss to his son's forehead, and an even softer one at the corner of her lips. Her question isn't voiced, but he whispers to her anyway.
"This is my family now," he said, one arm lingering on her back and the other holding his son to him. "I wanted to be with my family at Christmas."
Connor Queen is seven years old. His hair is dusty blonde, his eyes are ocean blue, and he has more freckles this year than he had last year. Connor Queen attends private school with a fancy uniform, got a brand new bike for Christmas, and his best friend's name is Sara, even though she can't really talk properly yet. His favourite movie is Big Hero Six, he really loves dinosaurs, still hates the doctors, and he gets to go on an airplane every time he goes to see Grandma Donna now.
Connor Queen thinks that Felicity might be adopting him soon. He heard them say the word a lot when they thought he was asleep, they say it a lot since she came to live with them, and they sounded happy about it, so he's happy too. He has a whole family now - a dad and mom, a grandma, aunts and uncles, and lots of friends at his new school.
Connor Queen sees his Dad every day now. No matter what.