Leo paced the length of the attic, seemed like walking back and forth was the only thing he'd been doing these past few hours.
He’d gotten back just when he saw Chris running down from the attic. In his panic, the boy hadn’t even noticed his father and just ran out. Before Leo could think, Wyatt came right behind him shouting for Chris to stop. Expectedly, Chris didn’t.
“Damn it Chris!”
Leo intercepted the pursuer before he too could leave the manor.
“Let him go for now son.”
Leo had not offered an explanation. Wyatt had grimaced and cursed and upended the dining table. He did not argue, but he wasn’t happy at all.
Chris ran, then when he got breathless he walked… and finally when he couldn't take another step, he collapsed onto the sidewalk. In his haste, he didn't get a jacket and it was freezing. He looked around himself… an isolated junkyard area of the city with not a soul in sight. No street lights either. From what little he registered of the scenery as he ran past… the city did not *seem* overrun with warlocks and darklighters. Evil did not *seem* to be on an unstoppable rampage – not above ground anyway. A new future this… maybe even a better one.
//Wasn’t this a change? A good change?//
Onset of winter… temperatures dipping and any day now it would snow. The holiday season was round the corner as well… he wondered if people were brazen enough to celebrate Christmas round here. He wondered where he could go to escape the biting cold. Trying desperately to catch his breath and at the same time wishing the icy wind would not go into his mouth and nose, he dragged himself up and started towards a tiny flicker of light glowing at a distance.
Chris was trying valiantly hard to not think. Thinking just led to remembering things he wished he could forget and remembering led to the irrepressible urge to howl which just made his throat hurt all that more. Not good.
And if he did *seriously* start thinking about the conversations he'd had with Wyatt this night… he would have to take a closer look at all of the feelings, thoughts and guilts he'd buried deep within himself all those years ago.
He wasn't ready for that. All Chris knew was that Piper was dead. And Wyatt was teetering on the edge of good, just waiting for the next gush of wind to throw him into the pits of evil and then it would all be back to square *hell*.
For all he knew, Wyatt might even be *wishing* for a release like that.
//You don't really think that.//
Chris was angry… so angry at his so-full-of-it-ridiculously-powerful brother who thought he knew everything there was to know about anything! Fuck him! What did he know?
//He knew about your guilt.//
Although Chris did *grudgingly* admit to himself that he’d totally got the two versions of Wyatt scrambled up in his head. Like most everything else. The concept of life and death, family and foe… good and evil. Everything was just a big fat yucky throw-uppy mushroom mélange.
The boy shivered.
//You brought the hell that was your world right back to this one… locked inside your own damn head.//
//Way to go Christopher.//
Chris closed his eyes just for a moment as if to shake loose the voices and the images. And in that single serene second the sidewalk ended. Chris lost his balance and would have fallen flat on his face but got his knees and hands in the way first. The good leather scratched and his knees were badly scraped, and his appendages did not fare so well either. At least he wasn't knocked flat out with a concussion.
He could have *really* used a concussion right about now.
Eventually he reached the small fire that a couple of homeless people were huddled around. He hesitated as did the other two men. The boy was dressed in clean and fashionable clothes. No jacket though… and he was obviously freezing. Without a word, as if one look at the boy's face had revealed his sad destiny… the men moved to make place for Chris. Chris sank to his knees before the fire, feeling no greater necessity than to merely get warm. After a long debate amongst each other, the men passed him something in a dirty brown paper bag – a bottle of cheap liquor…
Chris wondered how far he could possibly allow himself to fall this night?
He laughed… he'd fallen from nowhere to here… from practically dead to probably alive… thats gotta be pretty hard to beat? He snorted. After everything he’d been through, you’d *think* he deserved more.
//You deserve to hang.//
//shut up shut up//
//yes you do//
Chris accepted the drink with a soft thanks.
Back in the attic, Wyatt sat on a wooden chair in a corner.
He'd set up a table with a lamp here and this is where he used to study at night to complete his education. It had been tough… growing up… mom dead, aunts and uncles and cousins he grew up around all gone. A father who couldn't be around all the time. But Wyatt had never complained – not once. He was too busy taking care of his little brother Chris who was taking the death of their mother very very hard. The younger boy would wake up screaming from terrible nightmares and wouldn't go back to sleep unless Wyatt stayed with him. He'd teleport his food away to empty his plate and no one realized he'd stopped eating until the day he fell unconscious in school. Wyatt would sit with him and make sure he finished his food for months after that. He'd get Chris to do his homework, practice his defense spells (couldn't possibly let him leave the manor unprotected) and generally keep him busy and distracted all day long. He didn't send Chris to Magic school because the boy couldn't bear to be apart from Wyatt that long. And Wyatt leaving the manor unguarded? Out of the question.
At sixteen, the world’s weight had fallen from the Charmed three sisters’ to his young shoulders.
Wyatt was responsible for the well-grounded nearly-normal individual Chris had grown up to be in this world, in every possible manner of speaking. It was exhausting… raising Chris… but Wyatt made a promise to his dead mother, and he was determined to keep it.
Tonight, however, he couldn't stop cursing himself. He'd made a mistake, again. Seemed like every little mistake of his would always bring about dire consequences. Wyatt Halliwell was totally not allowed to err. Period.
The burden was sickening and there were times it got so heavy he thought he'd snap in two.
"Relax Wyatt. We know where he is."
Wyatt stood up at that, agitated beyond reason.
"He is sleeping behind a dumpster dad!! Why cant we go and get him home?"
"Because he will not listen! He wont come with us right now kid."
Wyatt sighed, he knew Leo was right. The three men were infamous for their stubbornness and Chris could get completely out of hand. Leo continued to pace.
"Its all your fault. You've spoilt him so much."
Wyatt softly chuckled.
"Its not the same Chris dad. This one hates me."
"They're both the same person now, thanks to you. We just need to give him some time to accept this new world. We have no idea how frightening all this must seem to him."
"I know, its just… he's obsessed with the idea of me being evil. And with… mom's death. I suppose he blamed me, or the evil me for her death. And now in this world where she is still dead… he has sub-consciously assumed that I am still evil too."
Leo placed a hand on his forlorn son's shoulder. He could understand the sorrow Wyatt felt at the sudden rift between the two brothers who used to be so close.
"And then there is his own guilt. I thought we'd dealt with it so many times before! If he is the same person… why doesn't he remember?"
"Like you said, he is suppressing."
Wyatt shook his head, feeling anxiety take over again. He was very worried about Chris' current state of mind. The wild look in his eyes as he fled the manor imprinted deep on his mind.
"I shouldn't have…"
"Wyatt stop. The last thing I want is for you to lose your objectivity too."
Leo now had a good idea of what happened after he left. His younger son kept pushing and provoking until the older one lost control of his own temper. Bond or not… the cruelty by words that one's own family is capable of… no stranger is. Wyatt was no more to blame than Chris himself.
Anyhow, the rebuke worked, and Wyatt gulped down the self-deprecation he was about to stutter. Leo was right… it was guilt and most of it misplaced, that had gotten him and Chris into this mess. Adding more was not going to help.
"God I just wish he'd come back."
Leo squeezed his son's shoulder again and Wyatt reflexively leaned in.
"We'll get him back son. In time."
Wyatt looked into his dad's eyes. Leo's presence was always a soothing balm and a blessing. For a change, he could rely on someone and let his guard down. And he knew Leo was right. It would be of no help to bring Chris back to the manor against his will. They would just have to try and get through to him another way. Or wait for him to come around.
"If he would just stop running from the new memories… everything will be fine. I know it will."
"I know but how do we get him to trust us enough to do that?"
"Dad he does trust you."
"He might be having his doubts… we worked through his issues back in the past but looks like he might be regressing."
Wyatt didn't understand.
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, he might be thinking I favor you more, because I trust in you. And that would lead him to believe I don't love him as much!"
"Don't worry son, we just need to give him some time. Let him spend the night away from us and sort out his thoughts okay."
"Okay… but he doesn't even have his powers back yet. I'm gonna have to keep a close watch on him if he's staying away from the manor."
"Do what it takes."
Chris slept wrapped in newspapers and rags that the hobos had been generous enough to donate. The liquor helped and the boy was out like a light most of the night. At daybreak though, it got so cold his teeth were clattering and Chris feared he’d lose a finger or two.
//What the hell am I doing?//
Things couldn’t possibly get any worse damnit. Which means they should get better then right?
No spell, no way to go back to… to mom and dad. No book – that’s back there at the manor where that *fiend* was. And what do you know… no powers either!
Chris didn’t wish to be reminded the same guy had saved him from… something… whatever. He didn’t wanna discuss it. But boy did he need help. After a good night’s sleep the boy was now lucid enough to realize three facts – one, he didn’t know where he was. Good world? Bad world? No idea, nada. Two – he was utterly famished and three, his breath stank. Now where could he possibly find his toothbrush in this goddamn… wait a minute.
Chris cursed his muddled up mind for not providing him this memory when he was freezing his ass off last night. He kept a toothbrush and shaver and stuff, alongwith change of clothes at the little room at the back of P3! Why?
Because… after turning twenty one, he’d taken over the management of the club from his overloaded brother?
Chris sighed. Whatever… right now, he totally needed to take a shower and for that he was willing to risk running into Wyatt and… and even Leo.
P3 it is.
Wyatt smiled as he looked up from the scrying map.
“He’s at the club.”
“Told ya he’d come around.”
Wyatt nodded. Leo was about to suggest he go catch a few winks, Wyatt had been up all night. His son thought he didn’t know, but Leo had noticed Wyatt orb out in the middle of the night. No doubt the wizard had stood guard over a sleeping Chris all night despite the *arrangements* he’d made.
//How can you doubt this brother of yours, Chris?//
“Do you… do you think maybe Chris wants me… *needs* me to be evil?”
Leo sighed. He had no answer.