Chapter 3: Connor

.

The important thing is that you're safe, you're alive, and you're still a member of this family. (Jonathan Kent)
Whether you like it or not. (Clark Kent)
– from Rush

.

Connor Hawke always had a knack for getting into trouble. Fortunately, he had an equal knack for getting out of trouble. Unfortunately, he generally made more use of the first set of skills than he did the second. In fact, standing in his bedroom suite of his parents' ultra-modern and ultra-expensive Metropolis penthouse apartment and putting the final touches on his person, he was up to no good right at this moment. But first, he had to look the part. He started by unbuttoning the two top buttons of his more-expensive-than-designer-shoes shirt and spreading the collar a bit. He continued by adjusting his elegant but not gaudy, gold necklace and cross; for a moment, thinking back to when he had received it at his First Communion when he was only seven years-old. Next, he rolled up both of his sleeves to mid-arm and clasped on the Rolex. Then, he picked up his jacket by the collar with the first two digits of his hand and swung it around his shoulder. Lastly, he ran his hand through his hair and took a long look at himself in the mirror. Very flattering.

The only son of Oliver Queen and Chloe Sullivan was the spitting image of his father—all six-foot-two-inches of him—from his light-blonde curls to his toes. Except for his eyes; he had the same penetrating, brilliant, deep-green eyes of his mother. It was the perfect combination to reflect his reality, for he had the prowess of his father and the soul of his mother. He was athletic, agile, strong, with a natural dexterity that almost rivaled his father's acquired skillfulness. He also had a subtle intellect, inherited from both his parents but more so from his mother, that he often kept hidden. As one might anticipate, he excelled in virtually every activity he participated in, and he had no shortage of friends, girlfriends, hangers-on, admirers, etc.

He was born on January 20, 2012—same date as his father. Oliver always said that Connor Hawke was the best birthday gift he'd ever received. There had never been a time when he had not been close to both his father and mother. Oliver Queen spared no expense in his son's upbringing, and Chloe Sullivan always gave him whatever love and attention he needed. If Oliver erred, it was in giving in too easily to his son. He'd remember all of the trouble he would get into as a boy and even as a man, and so he often overlooked what he perceived to be a chip off the old block in his son. Chloe was more the disciplinarian than he was, and Connor certainly needed discipline. They'd very briefly considered Oliver's alma mater, Excelsior Academy, for Connor soon after he was born, but the idea of boarding school had been quickly dismissed. Both Oliver and Chloe had recalled how lonely both of their childhoods had been, how they shared the lack of a reliable and loving parental presence from both a mother and father in their youth, and they resolved to be as much a part of Connor's life as they could. He still received the finest education money could buy. Even on a couple of occasions, when Connor had nearly gotten tossed out on his ear, his father would always find a way to smooth things over with the administration and faculty, and his mother would always find a creative punishment to fit the transgression. He lived a privileged life, no doubt about it, and he never once doubted that he was loved by his mother and father.

As happy as his childhood turned out to be, his parents were initially concerned that it would be a lonely one. After all, Connor Hawke was an only child, the son of a mother and father who themselves were only children of their respective parents. That meant no sisters, no brothers, no aunts, uncles, or cousins. Even grandparents would scarcely be present in his life. Connor could never know his paternal grandparents at all since Oliver's mother and father had been tragically killed when he was still a young child, long before Connor had been born. Of his surviving pair of grandparents, Chloe's mother Moira had tragically succumbed to severe dementia when she was just a child. As for Gabe Sullivan, Connor would see him on occasion, but for the most part, he would be an absentee grandfather. But, certain circumstances would arise that would change Connor's life forever, making it a lot less lonely and a lot less normal.

Oliver's and Chloe's marriage had raised certain issues with their associates, particularly those who maintained hidden identities. Therefore, after a long and thorough debate, the Justice League as a whole decided that they would not attempt to hide who they really were or what they really did from any children that might arise from a potential pairing within the League. All of a sudden, the one thing that he did have a shortage of—family—was something Connor Hawke would now have in droves. And a further consequence of that decision was that, from a very young age, he knew that their closest family friends were the planet's most extraordinary superheroes. One could probably anticipate what his reaction was to this when he was very young. He thought it was the coolest thing in the world! He even accidentally let slip a couple times to his friends about what it was like to have an extended family like his. Fortunately for the League, this had few repercussions because anyone who heard him just assumed he was an outright liar or had an active imagination. Between his parents' stern insistence that he keep this secret and everyone else's disbelief, it didn't take long for Connor to learn the fine art of discretion as regards his family's involvement in the Justice League of America.

Nevertheless, there was a dark side to all this. Oliver Queen's exploits as the Green Arrow would sometimes take him away from his family for days. Other times, both Chloe and Oliver would be involved in a mission, and Connor would have to cope not just with their absence but with the terrible fear that they might not come back. Even Justice League members did not always return alive. And, when they did, they were not always in the best condition. Even if it wasn't his father or mother that was in danger, seeing his surrogate aunts and uncles taking a beating or disappearing for a time or wondering whether one will live or die took its toll. After a while, it wasn't so cool. Life with the League had not made Connor jaded, but it gave him a healthy dose of reality and caused him to grow up a lot faster than his peers.

There were other things, too, strange things that he had to deal with. For instance, he never did understand why exactly he and his father and his mother all had different last names. He knew it had something to do with the identity of 'Chloe Anne Sullivan' being redacted from every record on Earth, effectively erasing his mother's entire existence. He knew it also had something to do with his parents wanting to conceal as many of their associations as possible, including their family identity, in order to protect all of them and the Justice League at the same time. Since the three of them were still alive and no bad guys had retaliated against any of them, Connor assumed that the scheme worked. It was still a weird thing to have to live with. And, it was even weirder to hear co-workers down at the Star City Register all call his mother by a completely different name than the one his Dad, Aunt Lois, Uncle Clark, Aunt Diana, and the rest of his Justice League relatives used.

Ah, yes! Aunt Lois, Uncle Clark, and Aunt Diana. Connor loved all his family, whether they were blood relations like Grandpa Gabe or surrogate family like the League. But, it is fair to say that after his Mom and Dad, Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Diana Prince were the closest, most beloved family he had. Connor knew that Lois was really his mother's cousin, and that made her his second cousin. He also knew that Clark was an extraterrestrial from not just another planet but another galaxy. But, Chloe and Lois were like sisters, and Chloe and Clark had already been best friends for years by the time they were Connor's age. He loved them both best because his mother was so close to them, and his father was tight with them, too. Connor had been calling them Uncle Clark and Aunt Lois since he could speak, and ever since he first came out with those affectionate terms, they all insisted he keep using them. They were his godparents, as well. If anything ever happened to both Oliver and Chloe, Lois and Clark were ready to adopt Connor faster than Superman outrunning a speeding bullet.

His Aunt Diana was a different matter. Apparently, she had been "discovered" by Chloe during her globe-trotting days with the Suicide Squad about a year before Connor was born. But, it was his Uncle Clark who later recruited her to the Justice League. He had convinced her to join their ranks soon after she made her debut on the world scene (or as she curiously put it "being sent into Patriarch's World"), and they had been close friends ever since. Sometimes too close according to Aunt Lois, but nobody believed there was anything wrong going on between them, least of all Connor. Chloe was absolutely thrilled when Diana joined the League. The two of them quickly formed a great friendship, and both enjoyed the fact that their history together was longer than what anyone else in the League had with Diana.

Being best friends with his mother and his favorite uncle, it was a foregone conclusion that she would be a major part of Connor's life, as well. And, that was perfectly fine by him. Diana was nobility, royalty even, single, and drop-dead gorgeous. Connor's had a bit of a heavy crush on his surrogate aunt since he was a young boy. At first, it was perfectly innocent; he was simply very fond of her. And, she was very fond of her little "nephew." But, as Connor grew from a boy into a young man, his fondness grew into attraction to Diana. He never did anything inappropriate or made anyone uncomfortable, but he wasn't a master at hiding his feelings, either. Diana was aware of how he felt. He'd begun to drop the "Aunt" from time to time when addressing Diana about a year or two ago. And, there were times when he could've sworn that she was flirting with him. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. Then again, maybe not. Oh well, perhaps in a few more years, who knows?

For now, Connor was barely seventeen and he, among other things, had already lost his virginity, experienced his first hangover, and gotten high off of recreational drugs. Truth be known, he regretted all three, especially the two latter. But, if attending services at the local Catholic Church on Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Easter, and Christmas every year had taught him anything, it was that redemption is possible always and from anything. Not that Connor needed that much more in the way of redemption than your average human being. Yes, he had his mother's thrill of discovery. And sure, he had inherited his father's appetite for partying, drinking, and the opposite sex. And, he had a double share of temerity from both of them to boot. But before he married Chloe, Oliver used to want to just drown his problems, his woes, his fears, his (self-)doubts in women, booze, and debauchery. Connor Hawke genuinely enjoyed a good time and he was not nearly so self-indulgent. Still, it could all get pretty shallow pretty fast. Not like Dad, but still kind of close. Regardless, whatever trouble he'd been in wasn't the result of being exceedingly reckless or feckless or any other kind of "–eckless." Connor was basically a good kid. He was both fiercely loyal and fiercely protective of friends and family. Actually, that more often than not was when he got into trouble; when he was being fiercely loyal or fiercely protective or both. He'd made some mistakes and he'd made amends. Still, before he turned eighteen and became a legal adult, and his juve record got buried, and he had to go the straight and narrow straight as an arrow (at least on legal paper), he wanted to live a little while he could.

So, that was what he was doing right now: Heading to downtown Metropolis to look up and hook up with some old friends, hopefully make some new friends, and have an overall night to remember out on the Big Apricot. As he headed toward the apartment's foyer, there was just one concern about this whole venture that he approached with some trepidation, a little apprehension: Which car to take? The Ferrari, the Corvette, the Mercedes, the Rolls, the BMW, or the Porsche? Decisions, decisions. He made up his mind and took one of the six sets of keys before him off its hook, saying to himself, "Tonight, we'll go the American way." He tossed the keys slightly up in the air and smiled as he grabbed them in his hand again. Then, he turned and quickly started toward the door, but he stopped dead in his tracks when a knock came from the other side.

Directly outside, Clark and Diana could do nothing but wait. Diana anxiously looked down the long, plush corridor in both directions. Confirming the hall was empty and that they were alone, she turned back to Clark and asked, "Is he home?"

"He's home," Clark answered while staring intently at the door.

"Well, is he going to answer the door? Where is he?" Diana asked as her eyes darted from Clark to the door and back again.

With a quick nod toward the door, Clark said, "He's right on the other side of the door, just standing in the middle of the room, staring at it."

Diana once again looked at the door and back at Clark, paused, and blinked. Expectantly, Diana inquired, "What's he doing?" emphasizing each syllable for effect.

At this point, Clark was nearly as frustrated with Diana's interrogation as he was with Connor's apparent, sudden episode of paralysis. He turned momentarily from the door to look at Diana and replied, "Probably the same thing you are: wondering whether he's going to answer the door or not." Quickly, he shifted his gaze back to the door. Technically, Clark wasn't staring at the door; he was staring through the door, courtesy of his X-ray vision.

"We don't have time for this," Diana said impatiently and knocked on the door, again, louder and longer than before.

"Careful, Diana. You might scare him."

"Not likely, Kal. Nothing ever scared him when he was seventeen."

Clark grinned at the comment and then mumbled quietly at the door never taking his eyes off of it, "Come on, Connor. Don't make us open this door ourselves. Maintenance won't like it—wait, okay, here he comes now."

Coming to a decision, Connor approached the door from inside the apartment and looked through the peephole. Surprised, he glanced downward as if mulling something over in his mind, then rolled his eyes, and resignedly opened the door. Clark entered first, glancing at the young Connor as he walked past him, looked about the place, and said, "What took so long? I thought you'd never let us in."

Connor forced a smile. "Uncle Clark, what a surprise. Just make yourself at home," he said as he gestured toward the apartment's interior.

"Hello, Connor," he heard Diana say to him in a low voice. He turned around to see her smiling provocatively at him.

Connor swallowed, genuinely smiling this time, and replied, "Hi…Aunt Diana." She locked eyes with him as she casually strolled past him into the apartment and took her place at Clark's side.

Connor began hesitantly, "Uh…Mom and Dad aren't home…"

"Yes, we know," Diana answered, briefly glancing at Clark.

"So, you're here to see me?" Connor looked them both over in their very formal-looking attire and asked, "Who died?" The irony of the statement destroyed any pretense Clark and Diana attempted to establish. Both of their expressions changed to ones of guilt and distress. Connor, being the perceptive young man that he was, adopted a note of concern in his voice, "So, not just a friendly visit. What's wrong? What's happened?"

Clark had been going over and over in his mind, a hundred times and more, what he was going to tell Connor at this point. He had yet to come up with anything. He just looked at the young man in front of him and sighed. After a moment, Clark covered his mouth with his palm and wiped the bottom half of his face with his right hand. Whether that hand motion was deliberate or subconscious on his part, even Clark wasn't sure. Nevertheless, it was obvious that Connor had noticed it. In fact, his eyes were glued to it.

The "it" was a ring on Clark's middle finger, rather large, appearing to be made of gold, with a distinct design embossed on its face: The letter 'L' geometrically inscribed within a circular rim with a tailed starburst in the angle. Connor recognized it immediately even though he'd never actually seen one with his own eyes until now. He knew that his uncle had one, but he also knew that his uncle never wore it. He had never even shown it to his nephew, only described it to him, and told him a few stories involving it. And, because of those stories, Connor knew that it wasn't made of gold at all but was instead made of an otherworldly alloy called "Valorium." Because of those stories, Connor knew exactly what the 'L' on it stood for. And, because of those stories, Connor knew that his uncle regarded it as dangerous—very dangerous. That was the only reason he kept it at all, well-hidden and well-protected at his Fortress of Solitude: to prevent it from ever being used by anyone. Connor quickly looked at his aunt and focused his attention on an identical ring adorning her right hand.

Connor Hawke slowly took a full step back from Clark and Diana. Training his eyes on them both apprehensively, he pointed to both of them, as if holding them at a distance with his gaze and his accusatory index fingers. He asked them, "Who are you and what do you want?"

Meanwhile, elsewhere, an approximately human-sized red blur with gold highlights could be seen streaking through the streets of Metropolis. It came to a halt right at a spot on the other side of the street across from the apartment complex entrance. Bart Allen a.k.a. the Flash frowned as he observed the blonde-haired teenage boy being escorted to a blue sedan by a man and woman with matching black hair and matching black outfits. Activating his earpiece communicator with a touch of his finger, he spoke, "Flash to Watchtower. Come in."

"Green Lantern here," came the transmitted reply.

As the car drove off with its three occupants, Bart Allen continued, "Hal, what am I doing here?"

At Watchtower, Hal Jordan a.k.a. the Green Lantern was observing the Flash on the monitor in front of him. "Funny, but now's not the time for jokes," he responded unamused.

"Who's making jokes? I'm dead serious."

"Bart, you're about as serious as a paper cut and just as irritating. Now, have you located Connor Hawke, yet? Is he safe?"

"Oh, he's safe all right and probably on his way to Watchtower right now. And, thank you so much for the heads-up."

At that comment, Hal Jordan furrowed his brow and squinted in confusion.

"Look, if Clark and Diana were just going to pick up Connor themselves, what did you need me for? You don't exactly need back-up to babysit. By the way, what's with those outfits? They looked like they were dressed for a wake. I mean, Supes, okay, I can understand, but Diana has more fashion sense than that."

Now, Hal's eyes came fully open and he turned his head to look over his shoulder with a quizzical expression at two individuals standing off to the side about ten feet behind him. The taller of the two approached the chair the Green Lantern was sitting in and reached past him to press a button on the console. "Flash, this is Superman. Can you repeat that last thing you said, please?"

Bart's heart sank as he spoke into the communicator with a resigned tone, "Clark, is Diana with you?"

"Yes, she is," came the unmistakable voice of the Princess of Themyscira from the other person behind the Green Lantern as she also stepped up to the console and monitor.

Hal confirmed their presence, "Clark and Diana are right here, Bart. They never left Watchtower."

There was a pause, then, "You both don't happen to be dressed like undertakers, do you?" the Flash asked hopefully.

"Not unless you're completely colorblind," Wonder Woman replied.

"We're both dressed for the freak' Fourth of July, just like always, Bart," Superman said in a voice that conveyed diminishing patience and growing anxiety.

Another pause followed. "Terrific. Well then, who did I just see driving away with Oliver's and Chloe's son? Did you let Bizarro out of the Phantom Zone, again?"

"Bart, tell me you got a license plate number or that you can see what street that car is driving down now?" Clark's voice was thick with concern. Unfortunately, the only thing being transmitted back was a long moment of quiet static. Finally, there came a very sheepish-sounding, "Negative."

"Damn it!" Clark swore as he pushed himself up from the console and monitor. Hal just hanged his head in his hand, propped-up by his elbow resting on the console. Clark struggled to get a hold of himself. With equal parts anger and fear, he yelled at a slightly startled Diana, "Oliver's dead, Chloe's disappeared, and now we've lost Connor!"

.


A/N: Sorry for the exposition-heavy chapter, but if the little boy we saw in Finale is going to be a fully-realized character, I wanted to establish him up front (and Diana, too). BTW, no idea what Oliver Queen's and Connor Hawke's canonical birthdates are, but for the purposes of this story, it's the same for both: January 20. There's probably a reason for that...