Author's Note - After a long hiatus I'm slowly getting back to this fanfic and giving it my full attention again. THANK YOU for sticking with me D.

CHAPTER SIX

And my question to you is:

How did this come to pass?

How did this one life fall so far and fast? Blood Sings - Suzanne Vega

Connor resisted the urge to scratch at his tattooed shoulder but it itched terribly. Savage had wondered if his healing ability would actually take away the ink but so far it looked bright and clear. He was enjoying being out in the fresh air. Being grounded sucked but he had gotten a reprieve to help Cerridwen do her shopping.

Cerridwen had dumped him when she went into a boutique, knowing he didn't want to shop for women's clothes. It suited him just fine to sit in the park. It felt good to have the breeze on his face. It might clear his head. He was still having delusions that he had seen Justine.

He shut his eyes, his head falling back to let his face drink in the sun. Sensing someone standing in front of him, he cracked open an eye, feeling his mouth drop open. "I didn't dream you."

"Why would you think that?" Justine sat on the bench beside him. Her fine hair ruffled in the breeze.

He crunched into the arm rest, trying to confirm what his eyes told him. Scent backed up his sight. "What are you doing here, Justine?"

"Looking for you." Justine took his hand, her face softening. "I thought maybe I could find you before you drifted out of town. How did you ever find this place?"

It was then he realized how hard she truly was. Her eyes seemed cold, warming just a bit upon seeing him. The lines of her mouth were tight, like a knife's edge. The hand holding his felt like beach sand against skin. She looked older than she was, tired and washed out. "I'm not drifting," he told her.

"How did you get here?" she persisted, waving a hand at the buildings. "Wales is a world away from Los Angeles."

"With a friend. What are you doing here, Justine?" Connor wondered why he was so paranoid about giving her any information. She had been kind to him. Father had cared for her. She had shared in Father's death, helping him care for the man's body after the beast had slain him. Of course, if Angel was to be believed, it was Justine who had killed Holtz. That was part of his problem. Connor didn't know who to believe. If Justine told the truth, then Angel slaughtered Holtz; if not then she was a murderer. At one time the idea of Angel being a killer would have made Connor feel justified in his hatred of his father but now he found himself wanting to believe in Angel's love. It was hard. Thinking Justine could have been Holtz's killer was even worse because that meant she lied to him, that he had done that horrible thing to Angel for the wrong reasons. Angel still deserved it for what he had done to Father's family but that wasn't why Connor had devised something so devilish as a punishment.

"When Wes let me go, I knew Angel would come to kill me so I took off. I left the country and disappeared the best I could." She let his hand go as he puzzled out what she meant by Wes having her. That explained how someone had found Angel. Connor had known deep down it couldn't have been by accident. "I'm guessing that's what you did, too."

Connor scanned the store fronts willing Cerridwen to stay where she was and not find him with Justine. He didn't want to have to explain who Justine was nor did he want to lie to his friends. "Not exactly."

"Did he hurt you, Connor, for what you did?" Concern colored her voice as she caressed his cheek. Her hands seemed to scrape over his smooth shaven skin.

Connor looked away, shifting uncomfortably. "No, well, not much. He threw me around a little then tossed me out of the hotel."

Justine stiffened. "Into the streets of L.A? He tossed you out there to be killed. He knows how dangerous L.A. can be, especially to a kid who doesn't know the rules."

"He tried to make it up to me later," Connor offered, thinking about the one lame attempt Angel had actually made to get him to come back. It took losing his home before his father took him back. Maybe he hadn't deserved a home. He was sure that's what Angel's friends would have said if he hadn't killed them all. He knew they would have been right.

"I hope you didn't fall for that," she said, the lines around her eyes deepening.

Connor shrugged then surprised himself by defending the man. "Angel really tried. Father wanted me to live with Angel."

Justine's brow beetled as she brushed back her washed out hair. "What are you talking about?"

"Father gave Angel a letter. Holtz told me himself, he wanted me to live with my real father."

She shook her head. "That doesn't make any sense."

"I know." Connor stared at his hands, feeling tears pricking at his eyes. "But it's true. It hurt so much." He rubbed his eyes, trying to hold in his emotions. "I don't know why he wanted it Justine but he did. Both of my fathers threw me away. What's wrong with me?" "No!" she said, sharply, dragging him against her. "Daniel must have known he would die, Connor. He wanted Angel to trust you. He had to have thought that was for the best. If Angel trusted you, you'd have a better chance of hurting him."

He pulled away from her, composing himself. "Maybe. I don't want to talk about it."

"I should have just taken you and ran as soon as we dumped Angel in the ocean. We both would have been better off. We could have hunted vampires half a world away from him." She smiled softly and he considered that. It held a certain appeal. "I could have shown you the ranch in Utah or the White Cliffs of Dover. Daniel would have wanted that."

"Can't turn back time." Connor wrinkled his nose. "At least not without a lot of magic."

Justine cocked her head, maybe puzzling out how he'd know that. He wished he hadn't thought about it. He'd give a lot to turn back time so Cordy, Gunn, Fred and Lorne would be alive.

"Why didn't you try to kill him once Wesley fished him up?" Justine asked, her eyes sharp like a predator's.

Connor got the impression she was testing to see if he had betrayed Father. The truth was he had. "Why didn't you?"

"If Wesley could kidnap me, I realized Angel would have no troubles getting hold of me. I needed to put space between me and him. But I think the Fates had something in mind for us, Connor. I mean, why else would our paths cross here in the middle of nowhere?" Her face brightened momentarily. "We're a team again. It'll be good."

"No." Connor shook his head. "I can't leave."

"Why not? It's what Daniel would have wanted, us working together." She brushed his hair out of his eyes. "He wanted me to take care of you."

He tried not to flinch at her touch. Between Rhiannon, Cerridwen and Arian, he had gotten used to being touched but he wasn't particularly thrilled by it. Mad Dog didn't touch him much but he wished she would. "I know but I've got a place here. I have a job. I'm taking classes. I've been adopted into a cool family," he said earnestly, wondering if he should even mention it. A little voice in his head was telling him she was dangerous. He wished he knew why.

Justine sat back, surprise in her eyes. "Aren't you old for adoption?"

He shrugged. "I guess you'd call it fostering but they say I'm family. What I'm trying to say is this is my home now. I don't want to leave. I feel normal for the first time."

Her lips curled in disgust. He could see the depths of her disappointment. "You weren't meant to be normal, Connor. You're special. I was normal until vampires killed my twin. You can't go from this crazy life back to being normal. You might be able to fake it for a little while but the weirdness won't let you go."

"I'm not like you, Justine. I've never been normal. I just want my chance." He realized that was true. He hadn't ever consciously thought about it but it was true.

"I understand. Just so you know, Connor, when the bottoms falls out on normalcy, it'll be heart-wrenching." She didn't sound like she was warning him as so much as predicting his doom and enjoying being able to say 'told you so.'

"Pain and I are friends," he assured her, looking around trying to see if Cerridwen was around yet. Something told him the Maddocs and Justine would mix like oil and vinegar.

"I'll be around for a while, Connor, in case you need me." She gave him an impulsive hug but it felt awkward, like she wasn't used to giving them. It lacked the warmth of Cordelia's hugs or the sensuality of Faith's. Cerridwen managed to blend the best of those two women into one but Justine felt too hard to be giving out embraces. "Even if you don't leave with me, I'd like to be your friend."

"Okay."

She tucked an errant strand of her hair back as her eyes narrowed. "Only maybe you shouldn't tell your new family I'm here."

The warning bells went off in his head. "I was thinking that myself."

"I just have one more question. Do you know where your father is, Connor?" She got up, looking down at him.

"I know."

"And yet you haven't avenged Holtz's death." Her eyes went to stone. "Why is that?"

Connor let his dyed hair fall over his face, hiding behind it. "That's more than one question."

"Don't dance around it." Her words cracked like Father's switch against his backside.

"Father knew I wouldn't be able to kill Angel. He told me so." Connor grabbed the bench's metal arm. It creaked ominously. "Maybe he was right."

"It was the only thing he ever wanted. I don't believe that he'd change his mind," Justine said, hotly.

"Father did tell me I didn't have it in me to kill my real father. Maybe I don't want to kill Angel," Connor said, defiantly. He tossed his head back.

Justine's face registered shock. "I thought...I didn't expect to be wrong about that."

And Connor suspected she was thinking the same thing he was. If she was wrong about that, what else had she been wrong about? What had he been wrong about? She spun on heel and headed off.

She turned back, looking suddenly more forgiving, "I'll see you around."

"Okay. I'm usually in town at lunch time."

Connor watched until she disappeared then glanced around for Cerridwen. He didn't see her. He didn't want to think about why he said yes to Justine. Why hadn't he just cut ties? He knew it would be easier that way, safer. But she had risked herself for him and Father. He owed her something.

He put Justine out of his mind. Figuring he had given Cerridwen plenty of time, and he might be pushing the time off the leash he had been given, he headed into the boutique. She wasn't inside so he headed to her next favorite store, a fancy pet shop full of gourmet treats and stuff to pamper pets. He didn't understand it. He loved Caniad and all of Saeth's wolfhounds and Rhiannon's corgis but they were just as happy with plain old dog food as they were with very expensive handmade biscuits so why go through the expense? If they really wanted to please their pets, why not shovel up some roadkill since that's what dogs seemed to like best. Cerridwen should go pick up a squashed rabbit for her wolfhound, Boogiepop Phantom.

As he poked through the flavors of biscuits, he mulled things over. Had he made a giant mistake agreeing to see Justine again? He hated thinking that he might have. There were things she needed to know about him, about what had happened and he didn't think he could tell her. He also knew that he should tell his guardians about Justine but they'd tell Wes and Angel. He wasn't ready for them to know. It might not be safe for Justine. Of course, he didn't know if he should even be concerned with that. He knew Justine had tried to kill Wes. It was only sheer luck she wasn't a murderer. Maybe that was one of the cruces of his worry. Of course, he could be wrong about that. She might be a murderer, if Angel wasn't lying about who killed Holtz. He just couldn't see Justine killing Holtz. It had to be Angelus even if he didn't want to believe that either.

He shoved it from his thoughts. It was too late to change his mind. Well, he could always avoid her but he knew he wouldn't. He sniffed, filtering Cerridwen's scent out from all the dogs'. She had been in here but he didn't see her. He paused in his search to look at a doggie birthday cake. Did dogs even know their birthdays? He had never even had a birthday cake, not once, no parties, nothing so how did a dog warrant?

"I sense deep thoughts."

Connor looked over his shoulder at Cerridwen, wondering where she had been hiding. At nearly six feet tall, she should have been easy to spot. Her ample breasts, barely restrained by her paisley halter top, momentarily distracted him. Doggie birthdays, keeping secrets, trusting Justine, being grounded, that all froze over as he got caught in those two mounds of tanned flesh. Hearing her cough in warning he made instant eye contact and said, "I was thinking Caniad probably has had more birthday cakes than me." He pointed to the cake.

Cerridwen wrinkled her nose at him. "Can you honestly see Mad Dog having a birthday party for a dog?"

"Mad Dog, no." Connor grinned. "But I'm not so sure about Savage."

"I'm telling him you said so. Are you telling me you've never had a cake, Connor?" She gave him a sympathy hug.

"Nope. Don't even know when my birthday is." He shrugged. "My ID says November twelfth but who knows."

"I think Angel told them that date." Cerridwen thumped his arm. "Ready to go?"

He rolled his eyes. "I'm only here 'cause I got tired of waiting for you."

"I'm done." Cerridwen shoved the shopping bags in his hands and flounced out of the store.

"Do you think Angel told them my real birthday?" He followed her on the long walk back to her grandmother's place where she was staying for the summer.

"I don't see why he wouldn't." Cerridwen gave him a long appraising look. She slowed down in the park where he had been talking with Justine, in no hurry to get home. "I'm sure it's right. You're such a Scorpio."

His eyes slotted. "What's that mean?"

"Means you're stubborn, hot tempered and cranky." She gave him a cattish grin.

He scowled. "I am not!"

"Uh-huh," she replied, airily. "Also means you're romantic and passionate."

"I am that...or I could be." He gave her a hopeful look. "What are you?"

"Gemini, I'm the twins."

He took another look at her chest. Parts of him showed his appreciation of the view by growing longer and thicker. "I'll buy that."

She swatted him. "I said I am the twins, not that I have them, but thank you for noticing. I was beginning to think you were more in line with Rhys' take on the dating scene." "I don't like Rhys...well, not like that." Connor shot her the evil eye. "Rhys is fun but I like girls."

"I can see you like parts of them." Her green eyes flicked towards his crotch.

Connor's face made like a ruby and he turned his back, stopping in his tracks . "You can't judge by that. It has a mind of its own."

She shoved him lightly. "Oh, do you know how many times I've heard that from my brothers over whatever girl they were ogling?"

"Isn't that why you wear shirts like that? Because you want us to notice?" Connor asked plaintively, turning back to face her, no less aroused.

"Yes, but you're not supposed to act like you're noticing. So, what do you plan on doing with that?" Cerridwen grinned, her eyes below his belt line.

He covered his crotch with her shopping bags, looking mortified. "Everyone in your family is a mage. I even think of touching you, I could end up a toad or worse."

"Scaredy cat." She giggled, rubbing her hip against him.

"You have no mercy," he breathed then dropped onto a bench in the park.

"You plan on just sitting there?" She ran a hand over his hair, her eyes soft and inviting. "I know somewhere we can go that isn't crawling with my siblings."

Connor's breath caught. He wanted to say yes but he couldn't take advantage of her. She was younger than him and her family trusted him, made him one of them. He couldn't betray that, no matter how much Cerridwen was able to make him want her. "Safer just to sit for a minute or two."

Cerridwen scowled. "In other words, you're gonna do nothing. Fine, see you at home then." She headed off without him. "Don't lose my packages.

Connor settled the packages near him. He shut his eyes as he tried to find thoughts that would help reverse the flow of blood south. It didn't help that Cerridwen's scent lingered on the air. He could tell she hadn't just been teasing him. She would have made love to him if he had wanted it but it scared him. He didn't dare open himself up like that but even thoughts of making that kind of emotional connection didn't quell his own sinful thoughts. A mental cocktail of Quor-Toth and Angel did the trick.

"Enjoying the fine afternoon?"

Hearing the Irish lilt, Connor opened his eyes. "Hello, Savage, Giles. Heading to the pub?"

"A reward for a hard day's work," Savage replied.

"Any reason you're just sitting in the park?" Giles asked.

"Getting ready to take these home." Connor nudged the packages with a toe.

"You?" Shopping?" Giles' eyebrows arched. He picked up a bag and peeked inside, pulling out brilliant scarlet underpants. His inquisitive look deepened.

"Those are Cerridwen's." Connor grabbed the panties, shoving them in the bag, his face matching their hue.

"Uh-huh and what kind of evening did you have planned for her?" Savage asked, pulling a large red and rhinestone dog collar and matching leash out of the other bag.

"That's hers! I don't know what she bought. I'm just carrying the bags." Connor snatched the leash away.

Giles tried not to grin at the boy's discomfort. He gently changed the subject. "Where is she?"

"Gone home." Connor's voice picked up a sulky tone.

"Why aren't you with her?" Savage asked.

Connor squirmed on the bench. "I had to sit down."

Giles smirked. "Ah, it's terrible growing up, so to speak."

"Oh, shut up!" Connor crossed his arms over his chest.

"Touched a nerve there, Rupert." Savage smiled.

"Not as many as Cerridwen touched." Giles flashed an impish grin then shuddered. "Those bloody California kids have corrupted me."

Savage snorted. "Try that on someone who hasn't known you forever. They just put you in touch with who you really are and it's a good thing. Just like Cerridwen puts Connor in touch with his tallywhacker."

Connor looked up at the psychiatrist, momentarily slack jawed. He snapped his mouth shut and flashed them the bird. "Aren't you a few pints behind at this point?"

Giles winced, shaking his head mouthing the word, 'no.' Savage just grinned wickedly. "I see I'm dealing with a cheeky little bastard who wants me to schedule a full body exam, inside and out."

Connor's chin jutted out. "You started this. Besides, you're just a head doctor. You can't do the inside stuff."

"Really?" Savage did his best 'Spock's eyebrow.' "You think I don't know any other doctors, ones who'd love to do me a favor in the pursuit of a patient's health?"

Connor's pout grew. He got up, grabbing the bags. "You don't have the nerve," he said with less conviction than showed in his face. He stalked off, knowing they were too polite to laugh at him publically but he knew they would once they were in the pub. He knew he shouldn't let it get to him but it did a little. It wasn't as if Cerridwen and her brothers didn't constantly poke fun at him, because they did. Giles, Savage and Mad Dog did it often, too. He had asked him to when he noticed that they joked with Dylan and his friends and family but not with him. They had treated him like he was fragile until he insisted they tease him like they did everyone else. At first it felt good then it made him feel guilty. It was the urge to laugh with them that bothered him. He didn't deserve to feel good.

Cerridwen wasn't in the living room of Rhiannon's home when he got back. Her brothers, Dylan and Bron, were sacked out in front of the television.

"Took you long enough," Dylan said, burying a hand in a bag of crisps. "We were ready to send a search party for you."

"Only we didn't want to see what you might be doing that took so long," Bron added, hitching up on the couch.

"Drop dead. Cerridwen couldn't have come home more than five minutes ago," Connor argued.

"I see she made you the pack mule again." Bron gestured at the shopping bags.

"Yeah." Connor tossed them on the coffee table. "She here?"

"Yep."

"Hey, Cerridwen, Giles pawed your new panties," Connor called.

"Probably pulled them off Connor's head," Dylan said as Cerridwen appeared to reclaim her packages.

"I have never worn panties over my head, you pervert," Connor replied, slapping his friend. "Besides, they're new, no scent."

Cerridwen shuddered. "I sometimes think being straight is a curse since it means putting up with you gross creatures."

"We are what we are," Dylan said. "I have to get back to Mad Dog's place," Connor said. "I just needed to drop of Cerridwen's crap."

"It's not crap," Cerridwen said, pulling out the panties, waving them like a flag.

"Uh-huh. Is Nain in?" Connor asked.

"She's still in the Watcher's complex," Bron said.

"Okay. I'll get along home then," Connor said.

"Running away so soon?" Dylan asked.

"I've got that paper I have to do. I haven't even started writing it. I don't want grounded more." Connor sighed.

"You're so responsible. It makes me queasy." Dylan grinned.

"Just grew up that way," Connor said trying to figure out if that was a joke or an insult.

"All the more reason to have fun now," Bron said.

"Kinda not feeling fun," Connor said.

"We've noticed," Cerridwen said, her green eyes darkening. She put the panties away, her playfulness gone. "Is there anything we can do? We're getting worried."

Connor nibbled his lip. Had her flirtations just been to get him out of his depression, because she was worried about him? No, she had wanted him, he was sure of that. He just didn't understand other teenagers, especially the female ones. "I don't want you to worry about me. Just been doing a lot of remembering...not pretty stuff."

"Sorry." Cerridwen kissed his cheek, pulling him against her athletic body. "You know you can ask us for help, tell us anything."

He nodded, drinking in her comforting embrace. "I know. I appreciate it. You don't want to know what's up here though." He tapped his head.

"We can handle scary stuff," Dylan said so soberly it frightened Connor. He had never seen the young man serious before, not like this. It gave him a hint of danger, an air of someone older than he was. All three of his friends seemed very adult at that moment.

"If I need you, I'll let you know. Right now, I need to get home and work on that ten page paper on a demon." Connor hoped that would make them less worried about him, knowing he was doing work like usual. He took a step away from Cerridwen. "Which one did you pick?" Bron asked, accepting the topic change.

"The duo of Angelus and Darla," Connor said, gauging their expressions, which were unanimously shocked.

"Savage thought that was a good idea?" Dylan asked, still somber.

Connor hesitated, wondering if he should have kept his mouth shut. They didn't seem very approving of his choice."We talked it over with Giles and Mad Dog and we agreed it's all well and good for them to tell me all the good stuff Dad's done now but it doesn't mean much out of context."

"This has to be pretty ugly context," Cerridwen said, her eyes filling with pity for him. She gave hi hand a little squeeze.

"It is but I want to know," He said earnestly. He meant it. He absolutely needed it. "I want to understand my parents."

Cerrridwen wagged her head. "Good luck. No kid understands parents. They're like freaks, the lot of them."

Connor frowned. "It can't be that bad. Your parents seem easy to understand."

"That's because you don't live with them," she assured him. "They're insane."

"I figured that's because they have too many kids." Connor grinned.

"We kept telling them to sell a few on the open market but they won't listen." Dylan kicked his feet up on the table.

"They'd probably start with you," Connor said, feeling a slight lift in his spirits.

Cerridwen giggled and Bron said, "No doubt."

"You're right, Connor, it is time for you to go home." Dylan stabbed a finger at the door, smiling.

"See you later."

Connor started the walk home. Maybe he could convince Mad Dog he should have a motorcycle. Not that he was incapable of walking, he just loved the speed of the motorcycle and the independence. Ever since Dylan had taught him to drive instead of waiting on the adults who seemed more interested in arguing over whose car would be sacrificed in his training, all Connor had wanted was either a fast little car or a motorcycle. Only he didn't had the nerve to ask for it.

As he walked, he contemplated his situation, going back over ground he had already covered. He knew he should tell his guardians Justine was here. On the other hand, they kept encouraging him to find his own friends and to be independent. Connor knew if Angel got wind of it, he would never allow Connor to be friends with Justine. He didn't trust his son to make his own judgments. Given his and Justine's history, Connor knew if his guardians found out, they would automatically tell Angel.

No, for now he'd keep quiet about it. After all, he wasn't sure if he wanted to be friends with Justine. He could tell she was angry about him not killing Angel. She might push him in that direction and given what Angel had done for him in regards to the killings in L.A., Connor didn't want his father dead. He'd meet with Justine and make his own decisions. He considered it a step towards being independent and adult. His guardians should be proud of him.

Now if he could only figure out what he should do about Cerridwen.