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Stand (you're gonna run again)

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He’s not sure what he’s expecting when the train arrives. It’s certainly not a pale, tiny little boy who looks so lost and alone all Quentin wants to do is pluck him up and carry him home.

He refrains, however, knowing he’s still a stranger. And worse, he’s a stranger in a far away place, far from Barry’s home in Central City. They’ve got more than a little bit of trust to earn, but Quentin is hopeful given the shy, very sad smile Barry gives the Lances as he walks up hand in hand with the social worker. It’s hard to look away from him to pay attention to the paperwork thrust his way.

He’s halfway through the first page when he realizes Sara is no longer at his side, mostly because Laurel immediately tattles and because her shock of blond hair is noticeably no longer there. He looks where Laurel is pointing, unsure whether or not her sister should be in trouble or not, and Quentin, in an instant, is so very glad he brought his girls along.

Sara, in all her confidence, is talking to Barry excitedly, like he’s a long lost friend come home at last. She’s been, admittedly, the most excited about their family extension - second only to Dinah, who’s been working nonstop on getting a room ready for the little boy to move in - but it’s still a new kind of pride and joy to see her so easily welcoming in a stranger and making him a friend.

Laurel, he knows, is more reserved in her judgment of everything and will be until they all find their rhythm with each other. Still, he’s pleased to note that her smile is warm and welcoming when Sara introduces her to Barry.

And Barry… the poor kid is clearly overwhelmed, but seems far more at ease with kids his own age. Sara, Quentin realizes as he passes Barry’s DOB on the documents, was born the same year, and Laurel is only two years difference between them both. And Laurel’s friends - begrudgingly, he’ll admit it - are Sara’s friends, and though Oliver and Tommy have their major faults, they’re relatively good kids and will adopt Barry as one of their own the moment Laurel deems it so. It’s just the getting there that he’s worried about.

Barry looks shy and miserable as Quentin finishes the paperwork and he wants to be sick. A whole life reduced to a stack of papers. No one had wanted him, which cuts even deeper, and Quentin makes doubly certain his smile is gentle and kind as he kneels in front of the boy, bracketed on both sides by his daughters.

“Welcome to Starling, Barry,” he says, offering his hand. “I’m Quentin. I’ll be looking out for you from now on.”

He doesn’t say dad, doesn’t dare go there. He doesn’t feel like this kid’s dad, anyway, and he knows by the stubborn little clench of Barry’s jaw that even guardian is pushing it. And why wouldn’t it? He’s determined that his father is innocent. Who needs a dad when he’s already got one?

Still, Barry takes his hand with a small hello that gets his girls grinning. Quentin chuckles and ushers them all to the car, keeping a careful eye on Barry all the while. He’s a known runner and Iron Heights is an hour train ride away and who knows if he’s carrying any money on him that would get him a ticket.

But it seems his worries are assuaged as his girls take Barry hand in hand, Laurel on one side, Sara on the other, and lead him through the parking lot. Sara is still chattering excitedly and Laurel is finally getting excited too. Barry looks stressed but grateful for their support all at once and puts up little fuss as he’s buckled into the car.

It’s driving home that it really hits him, that he’s now a dad of three. A boy even, something he’s always wanted, and that gives him flutters he hasn’t felt since the day his girls were born. Peeking at them all through the rear-view mirror, he’s pleased to note Sara is still holding Barry’s hand and happily so, and Laurel has that older sister look she gets sometimes when it’s clear she’s adopted something.

Somehow, despite the odds, Barry does fit with them. It’s far too early to think it, he knows, but he’s still optimistic. Safe and happy, that had been his charge, to keep Barry safe from harm. And he knows he will, as he knows the sun will always rise, or how he knows Dinah will always burn supper. Only time will tell if Barry will fall in love with them as his girls are falling for him now, and Quentin allows himself to hope it, that this will all work out.

Stealing glances at them all the way home, he smiles and laughs and comments on Sara’s serious questions, and prays that this will become their new normal.