Stuck In The Middle
Chris hated nothing more than coming into a situation smack in the middle. As he stared down at the huge book filled with musty, yellow pages, he felt that frustrated feeling of walking into the room right in the midst of something huge. Except this time, he couldn't walk back out and claim ignorance. This time, he had to deal with his newfound magical abilities, two resurrected parents and aunts.
He glanced up and noticed that Leo's gaze was fixed on him. Chris had mentioned the creepy feeling he got when his parents stared at him to his grandfather, but Victor asked him to deal with it for awhile longer, going on about how this wasn't easy on any of them.
Frankly, Chris didn't give a damn if his parents were having a rough time. He and Wyatt had grown up without them, thinking they had died in some horrible accident, and had only recently learned that their fabricated deaths were only the tip of the iceberg of lies.
Chris shut the book and met Leo's gaze. He said, "You don't need to keep me company. I'm a big boy."
"You and your brother need to start your magic lessons, Chris. It's important that you understand—"
"—I understand plenty. Trust me," Chris interrupted. He stood there for a few seconds, but it felt like a lifetime, what with his father staring at him and him thinking about all the things he used to associate with having a dad. Chris shook his head, trying to get the thoughts out like water stuck in his ears, and added, "Besides, I have enough lessons to keep me busy thanks to classes. And grandpa was really clear about the whole magic not interfering with my classes' thing."
Leo nodded and said, "I agree. College is important, but you need to make time for this stuff. Your life depends on it."
Chris smirked and replied, "Now I know where Wyatt gets his flare for the dramatic."
To Chris' surprise, Leo chuckled and placed his hand on Chris' back. A part of Chris wanted to squirm free and run for the hills. It was too weird having his parents suddenly involved in his day-to-day life when he was already an adult. But another part of him, the part in control, simply laughed along with his father.
Leo patted his back and said, "I wish I could tell you that all of the harping about training was nothing more than theatrics, but you boys are way behind on your training."
"Whose fault is that?"
Chris sighed when his brother appeared in the doorway of the attic. He quickly put a few feet between himself and Leo, worried that his brother would think Chris had forgiven their parents and get really pissed at him. Right now, Wyatt was the only person Chris felt one hundred percent sure of – everyone else had lied to him.
"Hey Wyatt," Leo offered.
Wyatt ignored him and focused on Chris. He asked, "What are you doing up so early?"
"I couldn't sleep so I went for a run and came up here afterwards. I thought I was alone, but Leo was already here."
Wyatt noticed the blankets on the old couch. He turned his attention to Leo and asked, "Did you sleep up here?"
"Well, the house is pretty full. I let your mom and your aunts have the extra room," Leo paused and motioned to Wyatt and Chris before adding, "Plus I figured this way the two of you couldn't avoid me forever."
"Nice to see you care so much, Dad," Wyatt commented. Wyatt moved over next to Chris and asked, "He wasn't bothering you?"
"Are you sure? Because we had a deal—"
"—I'm fine, Wy. Stop being so overprotective."
Wyatt shrugged. He took the book off the stand and flipped through the pages. In the past week or so since their powers were unbound, Wyatt had become something of a savant, whereas Chris was struggling with even the simplest of things. But, for some reason, Wyatt hadn't glanced at the book for more than a few seconds at any one time.
As though to keep his record intact, Chris watched Wyatt shut the book and yawn. He mumbled, "I'm starving. Want to stop by the diner with me on the way to class?"
"Maybe the two of you should use this time to learn more about your history and…"
"It's like the crack of dawn, Leo. I can't even think straight enough to make my own cup of coffee, let alone study up on demons," Wyatt countered. He patted his brother's arm and asked, "You coming?"
Chris felt like he was being torn in two as his brother and father stared at him. He shrugged and said, "I don't have class until later and Amy has her internship this morning, so I might as well take advantage of the time to work with them on this stuff."
Wyatt laughed and patted his brother's arm again. He said, "Always the peacekeeper, man."
"It's cool. I can't be late for work though, so I'll talk to you later," Wyatt replied. He got to the doorway before he said, "Bye Leo."
Once Wyatt was gone, Leo focused his attention on Chris. He smiled and said, "I'm hoping that you'll be able to help us get your brother to come around. He's so angry and I'm afraid that things might end up like the last—" Leo stopped abruptly. He took a seat on the couch and said, "Why don't we start with learning about some of the less dangerous underworld creatures?"
Chris frowned and asked, "You're afraid of what?"
"It doesn't matter. All that matters is preparing you boys for what's coming."
Chris folded his arms across his chest and said, "If something might happen to Wyatt, you better tell me."
"Son, nothing's going to happen to him. He's got you and his grandfather and…"
"The parents that abandoned him." Chris noticed his father's reaction to his comment. He let out a slow breath and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that."
"No, it's not. I promised Grandpa that I'd give this whole thing a chance."
Leo nodded. He replied, "You're a good man, Chris."
"Yeah, sure. Whatever."
"No, you are. I had no doubt you would be, but I'm glad that I get to see it up close."
Chris shrugged against his father's words. He didn't know how he was supposed to react during these awkward moments. He opened the Book of Shadows and said, "We should probably get started."
"You might not believe this, Chris. But your mother and I love you," Leo replied, ignoring Chris' not-so-subtle attempt to change the subject.
"We missed you and your brother every day, but we thought we didn't have a choice in the matter. It was the hardest decision we ever made, but it was the right one at the time."
Chris shut the book and said, "Leo, I don't care about all of that. It doesn't fix things or change the fact that I grew up without a mother or father around."
"I know, and I'm sorry for that."
"All we're asking for is a chance to be a part of your lives now."
"That's a lot to ask."
"Fair enough." Leo glanced from the book to Chris and back again. He said, "We'll stick to the deal unless you boys decide otherwise. We'll get you trained in your new powers and teach you enough about the history of magic to give you a fighting chance. At that point, what you do with the information is up to you. And so is whatever relationship we end up having."
Chris laughed mirthlessly. He met his father's confused glance and scowled, the anger erupting over his stupid, phoney façade. He said, "Would you stop? Stop with the guilt. Stop with the pressure. Stop with everything."
"Why is it that I'm the one who feels like I did something wrong, when you and mom are the ones who walked away? I keep…no matter what I do I'm in a lose-lose situation here, Leo, and no one seems to realize it but me." Chris ran his hand over his face, trying to wipe the stress away. It used to work before a big game, but this was different. This was too much. He let out a deep breath and added, "I can't just let you guys in and be an automatic family. It's not that easy. Not for me."
"No one expects this to be easy for you or Wyatt, but who could it hurt to try?"
Leo shut his eyes and sighed. After a few moments, he stared up at Chris and said, "Sometimes a person has to take a leap of faith, son. We're all learning as we go here, but you've got to be willing to let change happen."
"I wish we could back to the beginning. Fix it from there."
"I wish that too. I wish that I could've been the one to take you to your baseball games and to help Wyatt with his homework, but we have to make due with what we've got."
Chris rolled his eyes and replied, "Now you sound like grandpa."
"Sometimes Victor is a wise man."
"And sometimes he's just loony," Chris countered. Off the look on Leo's face, he explained, "The man walks around quoting Shakespeare all the time. Tell me that's normal." Chris chuckled and before Leo could say anything, Chris added, "So you wanted to talk about the less dangerous underworld creatures?"
Leo didn't say anything at first. Then he leaned back, cleared his throat, and started talking about the jobs of lower level demons and the magic that worked best on them. Chris tried his best to pay attention, but really, he was still trying to get used to starting a relationship with his father in the middle.