"Are you sure you're gonna be alright?"
Connor held back a sigh as Gil pulled up to their childhood home's driveway. He gazed over at the house, frowning slightly at the new paint job and wrap-around wood porch. The shutters and trim were a dark brown while the house itself was a coffee color. He also noted the additional porch lighting that looked like small, rustic lanterns adorning the sides near the garage and front door. It sure didn't look like the house he'd grown up in anymore.
'Mom did a lot of redecorating in a year...' Connor thought, taking it all in. It'd been a while since he'd last visited. So much had gone on back in Verdani; he was so glad to be past all of it, but he was not without his mental and emotional scars. Realizing he'd left his brother's question unanswered, he turned to him and nodded, not meeting his eyes.
"Yeah, I'll manage." the redhead rasped, barely above a whisper. He fidgeted slightly under the other male's green gaze. He wanted to avoid it at all costs. He was so sick of the pity from everyone. Sure, Gil listened and cared, much more than he used to, but he couldn't truly understand, no matter how hard he tried. He was going to miss him terribly though. Biting his lip and placing a hand on the door handle, he forced a small smile. "Thanks, Gil."
"Hey, don't mention it. It's the least I could do, drivin' ya up here. I want ya to take care of yourself, okay?" his brother said. "Call me if ya need to talk or anything. And I'll call once a week to check in on ya." He cracked a grin. "More if the boys' wanna talk to their uncle."
Connor let out a small chuckle and nodded, then glanced towards the house again. Gil studied him for a moment before smiling softly.
"I'm gonna miss ya, lil' bro."
Connor turned slowly, meeting Gil's eyes this time and smiled. "I'm gonna miss you too, Gil. An' everyone... But especially you. I'm really glad this whole thing happened in a way, y'know? Gave us a chance to get along again. I just... Can't handle it anymore."
"An' no one can blame ya for that, Connor, trust me. It's a really fuckin' hard job, an' it weighs on ya. I'm just glad they're givin' you this leave time."
"Yeah... Me too." Connor agreed as he fiddled with the edge of the bandages wrapped around his wrist. Gil watched as he did this and turned his attention to the house. Connor glanced over. "You gonna come in an' see mom?" Gil chuckled.
"Guess I prob'ly should, huh? She'd kill me otherwise." The brunette let out a snort and opened his door, nodding his head to gesture getting out. "C'mon, I'll walk ya in."
Connor pushed himself out of the car and retrieved his bag from the backseat before following Gil up the porch steps.
"Who's gonna knock?" the brunette asked with a slight grin. Connor rolled his eyes and went up to the door, knocking twice and stepping back.
"I get that mom's intimidatin', but really? You're 31, for God's sake."
"Yeah, yeah, I don't wanna hear it." Gil grumbled, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets and turning to observe the changing leaves of the tree in the front yard. Connor snorted and shook his head, hearing light footsteps approaching. He smiled slightly as their mother answered the door, opening it with a wide grin.
"My boys! Ooh, it's been so looong!" Sheena exclaimed, throwing both arms around their necks to pull them into a hug. "Come in, come in! I've been expectin' ya all night!" she continued, turning and heading back inside. "I was wonderin' when you were gonna show up! You're lucky I'm up so early." Gil chuckled as he gestured for Connor to go in and followed in after.
"Yeah, sorry about that, ma. Traffic got a little tied up."
"Excuses, excuses." Sheena teased as she led her sons into the kitchen. She started up the coffee maker and sat down at the kitchen island. "How are things?"
"Pretty damn good." Gil responded, keeping his focus on Connor out of the corner of his eye as they sat down across from Sheena. The redhead was quiet, letting the two of them have the conversation. "Breyer's great, dunno how she handles our lil' monsters, but she does it." he said with a laugh. Sheena smirked.
"Now ya know my struggle with you two." she joked with a grin. Her gaze flicked to her younger son and her smile softened. "And how's my baby?"
Connor blinked, seemingly snapping out of his thoughts and flashed a small smile at his mom. "I'm... I'm okay, ma. Much better now that I'm away from everything."
"Good, baby. I'm gonna take care of you, don't you worry."
Connor nodded, smile widening a little. He paused for a moment before standing. "I hope you guys don't mind, but I'm wiped from the trip... I think I'm gonna turn in."
"Go ahead, honey, that's fine. You get some rest." Sheena reassured with a smile. Connor came around the island to give her a hug before walking over to Gil.
"Thanks again, Gil."
"Like I said, don't mention it." the brunette replied with a smirk, reaching up to ruffle his brother's hair before pulling him into a hug. "Take care of yourself."
"You too. I'll talk to you soon."
They exchanged a few more words before Connor headed upstairs and to his old room. He quietly opened his door, tossed his bag down, and flopped down on the bed with a sigh.
'I can finally stop worrying about everything, I hope...' the male thought, sighing as he kicked off his Converse. 'This is what I need.'
Connor let out a sigh as he settled back into the pillows and pulled the covers up, then closed his eyes. He grumbled slightly, hearing the birds chirping in the trees in the backyard. The redhead sighed again, turning over to face the other way.
'Yeah, sure, I'm tired, but did I really think I was going to get to sleep?' Connor thought with a scoff, flicking his eyes open. 'Especially in the daytime.'
With another grumble, he took his pillow and threw it over his head, then pressed it down over his ears. He stopped as he heard something flutter to the carpet and he lifted his head to see what it was. Blinking, he reached down to pick up the photograph that had fallen face down. Sitting up and turning it over to look at it, a hand flew to his face in shock.
'I didn't realize I still had this...' Connor chuckled softly as he looked it over. He found himself smiling a little at it; it showed him and his Dad when they'd taken a camping trip so many years ago. It had ended up being hectic and it had rained, but they'd had fun. And it'd been nice to just have some father-son time away from everything and everyone else. 'That was a good summer.' Connor leaned over to place the photo on the desk and lay back down, still smiling slightly.
'God, I miss him...' was his last thought before turning back over and succumbing to a nap.
Hours later, Connor stirred, finding the light of day starting to fade into night as he sat up and rubbed his eyes. He withheld a sigh as he swung his legs over the side of the bed, stood, and stretched. A sudden chill ran through him from the cold breeze coming in from the open windows.
'I forgot how cold it gets around here... My concept of seasons is all screwed up.' he thought as he went over to shut them. The redhead then turned to his drawers to see if he could find warmer to throw on. After rummaging for a few seconds, he got out an oversized pullover hoodie and some sweatpants.
As Connor dressed, his attention caught the photo on the nightstand again. He bit his lip, staring for a moment, before he reached for it and placed it in the pocket of his jacket. He headed over to his bag to grab some supplies before going into the bathroom that connected to his room. He started unraveling the bandages that covered his forearms, sighing as he stuffed them into the small trash can.
'Starting to heal at least.' he thought, running his fingers over the multiple slash marks running up and down his wrists and arms. Some were old and healed, discolored or white and permanently upraised. Others were just scabbing over from his most recent session, a few days ago, but at least he wasn't bleeding. He started to re-wrap his arms with fresh bandages to prevent any temptation he might have; not that it would help in the long run anyway. He glanced up at himself in the mirror, noting the dark circles under his eyes from many a sleepless night, and how stringy and dry his shoulder-length red hair was looking.
'You'll get there.' Connor thought as he shut the light and started out of his room. 'Things are going to start turning around soon.'
"Oh, you're up!" Sheena asked from the living room as he came down the stairs. "How was your nap?"
"Good." Connor replied, smiling slightly. "Definitely the best I've had in a while."
"I'm glad to hear that. I was just about to make some cocoa and sit out on the porch. Care to join me?"
Connor nodded, smile widening. He didn't care if he felt like a kid, being taken care of; it felt so damn good to be home.
'Besides, I'm here because I have to be.' the redhead thought as he helped to make the hot chocolate. 'They deemed me a liability to myself and my team, so I got discharged. I should be happy about that, shouldn't I?...' They worked in silence until they finally went out on the porch. Connor hugged his knees to his chest as they sat on the swinging bench.
"Still don't know how you do that." Sheena said as she sat down next to him.
"I have to have my feet on the ground on this thing or I get dizzy."
Connor snorted and shook his head.
"I'm glad you find that funny." she said, nudging him lightly with her elbow and smirking as she took a sip of her drink. They sat for a couple of minutes before she asked. "So really baby, how are ya?"
"I don't know... What's there really to say...?" Connor asked, shrugging and placing his mug down on the small table beside the bench. He hugged his knees tighter. "You know me... I guess I'm doing okay right now, especially since I left Verdani, but I still feel like crap. Still feel hopeless and down, crying all the time for no reason. I wanna sleep all day an' not see anyone. Meds don't work and there's nothing else on the market right now. What else is new?"
Sheena sighed softly, nodding. "I know, hun, I know... I can't imagine what you're going through." she sympathized, rubbing his back. "I'm just... so glad you're still here. I know you don't want to be, but hell, I'm proud of you for pulling through this far. I don't think I could live if I lost one of you boys..."
Connor frowned, glancing over at her as he noticed her voice breaking. His mother was usually always open about her feelings, and so understanding about his(or lack thereof), but it still always caught him off guard when she got upset. And he hated being the cause of it. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her into a hug.
"I'm sorry, ma. I promise, I'm tryin'."
"I know, Connor. Thank you for that."