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There’s nothing that makes you more insane than family. Or more happy. Or more exasperated. Or more . . . secure.” ― Jim Butcher, Vignette

XXX

Giles gently pushed Connor along through Nigella Endicott’s modest home to the library, dismayed by the proceedings taking place around him. Connor seemed paralyzed by it.

“I don’t understand any of this,” Connor hissed.

He studied the young man briefly. He’d gotten to know Connor fairly well over the last three months as Giles’s partner, Lorelei, a Watcher psychiatrist, cared for him while Connor struggled with his heroin addiction. Giles admitted to openly studying Connor because what Watcher worth his salt could resist the temptation of the child of two vampires? Even Nigella, long retired, was fascinated. He knew Connor, in spite of his literally hellacious upbringing, had a head crammed full of basic knowledge so he obviously understood the packing up of someone’s home after they had passed. Granted, neither of them had known Nigella had finally succumbed to breast cancer until they showed up for their bi-weekly perusal of her old texts. Well, he perused while Connor played with her cat. Giles was on glorified babysitting duty. Some days Connor would help him but on bad mental health days, he’d spend the hour tossing toys to Nigella’s enormous feline, which frankly always put him in a better mood so Giles never complained.

“What don’t you understand?”

"Nigella's been dead less than three days, and they're already boxing up her stuff and putting price tags on things," he whispered, his voice tight. "She was their mother!"

Ah, that was it. Angel had told him what family meant to Connor, a near mythical beast of perfect happiness. Giles didn't need Lorelei to explain that one. Giles had always thought the pressures put on him by his father had been unbearable. Connor had been abused, gaslighted and ultimately abandoned by three different fathers who had unrealistic or even cruel expectations of him. Certainly, being thrown in with their merry band of Watchers, Slayers and friends, one giant found-family unit, helped but things were still too new, too fresh from the breaking of the spell Angel had cast upon his son for Connor to truly embrace that. "People grieve differently," he replied diplomatically, "Though it does seem a bit rushed. They knew Nigella was sick."

Connor grunted. He understood just fine. Giles realized he simply, obviously, didn't like that understanding. "Sucks."

"Everything about cancer does. At least, Nigella had lived a nice long life." That was true. She was ninety-nine years old, hoping to make the century mark.

Before Connor could reply Nigella's daughter, Dianna, stepped out of the library. "Glad you're here, Mr. Giles. Mother wanted you to have her library. We were going to call you so it's lucky you showed up today."

"You have our sympathies, Dianna. We didn't see the obituary or we wouldn't have called unannounced."

She shrugged. "It's your normal meeting day, right? It's fine. Can you put them all in your car now? We want to get the house on the market as soon as possible."

Giles blinked. Next to him Connor stiffened, and Giles put a hand on his shoulder hoping to calm him. Lorelei, with Connor's permission, had explained her diagnosis of PTSD and borderline personality disorder to their group. Really, it had been too much to hope that it merely the leaking spell that had made Connor think he was schizophrenic. Growing up as he did had scarred his psyche. Giles knew that borderlines literally drew lines us versus them in their minds, and he could tell which side Dianna just crossed into.

"I'm not sure we can fit it all in in one trip," he replied.

"No worries. My brother and I will be here for the next few days boxing everything up. You can come back."

He nodded. "I can, and I'll bring my friends if that's okay."

"Yes, please. We could use the help. Neither Clive nor I are Watchers. If there's anything else in this house that is Watcher related you can have it."

"Thank you. Let me put a call in to them now," he said.

Dianna left them alone in the library with the boxes they already had in there. He called Dawn, Willow and Xander to come assist him. Buffy would be at the school, and Angel would be hiding from the sun either at home or behind necro-tempered glass at Wolfram and Hart.

Connor remained eerily quiet as he boxed things up. Giles hoped he wouldn't have to call in Buffy to deal with him. He and Willow should be able to come up with a binding spell should there be an incident. He texted her to tell her she might want to bring some meds for Connor just in case. He wished Nigella's daughter, Emma, was here. She had been the Watcher in the family along with her two kids, all of whom had perished when the Watcher complex was destroyed.

Connor boxed and carried without a word, almost forgetting he couldn't carry out three boxes at once. Usually he had a good handle on not calling attention to his non-human strength. He stopped every time to pet the cat who watched the proceedings with interest, half the time getting into the boxes.

"It's full," he said after the third trip. By that time Xander and Dawn had arrived. Willow was still en route.

"You're quick," Dianna said, having returned to see how they were coming along. "I appreciate the help more than you know."

"I think Connor and I will head back with this load," Giles said, deciding he'd set Connor to unpacking it in their library and putting them in piles according to language. He didn't think it was in Connor's best interest to stay.

"Who's taking Charles?" Connor asked, scratching the cat behind the ears.

Dianna's brow wrinkled. "He's going to a shelter."

Connor's eyes went acetylene torch hot and Giles braced himself for the brewing onslaught. Dawn set her books aside, hurrying over to take his hand. She could calm him like no one else. "But your mother loved Charles! You can't just put him in the shelter. He'll die."

"Clive's allergic, and I hate cats. He'll be fine," she waved him off.

Connor pulled free of Dawn, tromping over to Dianna. "Do you have a garbage bag?"

"Hmm? I'm sure we do. Why?"

He stalked to the corner of the library and picked up a scratching post. "I'm taking Charles with me," he growled then took a deep breath and added more calmly, “I'll take all his stuff too that way you don't have to worry about finding a shelter and paying them to take him. I'll give him a good home."

Giles knew he shouldn’t have been surprised. This was a man who, while grievously injured after a demon attack had paused to save his cat, Ratter, so the demon wouldn’t get her. Connor had done things he didn’t want to talk much about in order to feed the half dozen runaways he had cared for. Connor wanted to help but he didn’t always seem to know the best way to go about it. Giles chalked that up to being raised in hell.

Dianna smiled. "Fine by me, let me go get his harness and his box."

Dawn helped Connor gather up everything while Giles kept working with Xander to box up more books. There ended up being no room in the car for the box so Connor volunteered to hold Charles in his lap instead of making the cat wait. Giles tried to make him let Dawn take the cat since the box was now in her car but Connor wouldn't let him go. Giles decided to let him be. Angel wasn't kidding when he said his kid was stubborn as hell.

"I didn't get to mourn my father long," Connor said once they were underway startling Giles.

It took him a moment to realize he meant Holtz. "I'm sorry."

"I wanted to but they all wanted me to forget him," Connor said bitterly.

"They did seem a bit short sighted on that end. They should have realized that he wasn't a kidnapper to you," Giles replied, honestly believing that Angel and his friends had done a lot of damage in that regard. They had been blinded by their own pain.

Connor nodded, burying his face in Charles' long smoky gray and black fur. It was so thick Connor’s features all but disappeared from view.

"Connor, are you all right?"

"Not really. I want to medicate so bad right now." He lifted his face, wet streaks gracing his cheeks. "I won't, but I'm not going to lie. I want to."

Giles knew he meant take heroin and not the prescribed medications Lorelei had him on. "I'm sure you do."

"I'll behave," he promised. Giles wondered if he'd make the same promise if his actual father was the one behind the wheel. Connor got along with him much better than he did Angel. "It's like they forgot her already. They don't even care about poor Charles, and he has to be missing his mommy." His voice waivered and nearly broke.

"I don’t have to tell you not every family is a good one, Connor. You saw that with your street kids. That’s why you fought so hard to keep Niklas with us."

"I'm thankful every day you and Lorelei took him in."

"I know."

He hugged Charles harder, and the cat's purring nearly drowned out the radio. "Why are people so damn shitty?"

"Oh, Connor, if there was an answer to that, this world would be such a nicer place."

"Yeah."

He settled back down into his sullen silence. Giles goosed the gas pedal, thinking Connor needed to be home so he could relax.