Author Note: Hi! This is my first Charmed story. This one-shot takes after a Wrong Journey into Right. I hope you like it ;)
Many thanks to my lovely beta Evil Amplified. Hon, you're the greatest ;)
Disclaimer: Do I look like Charmed's owner? No? Of course I'm not. I'm just borrowing the characters to play.
Just be there
Bright blue and white orbs pulled Chris out of his thoughts. He tore his gaze away from the stars to see his father's form coming out of the orbs.
"Hey!" Leo smiled broadly at the sight of his youngest son. Chris nodded his head in greeting. The older man walked a couple of steps to stand closer to the boy. "Is this a bad time?" he asked shyly.
Chris shrugged noncommittally. "Suit yourself. This bridge is huge and it has more than enough space for the two of us."
Leo nodded and sat in front of his son. He tried to get his son's attention for a few minutes, but Chris was too engrossed in his stargazing. He sighed and relaxed a bit. At least the kid was consenting to spend time with him. In his heart, that was a huge advance.
They spent many minutes in silence, Chris gazing at the stars, and Leo staring at his son.
"Piper was calling for you a while ago. Are you hiding from her?" Leo asked, trying desperately to break the ice.
Chris blinked and stared at him. "Hmm, I didn't hear her. I put everyone on mute for a while." He paused and bit his lip. "Was she too mad at me?"
Leo smiled softly at his son's puppy dog expression. "You were in jail, Chris. Of course she was mad." The boy lowered his eyes and Leo softened his voice. "But I think she was more scared than mad. She worries a lot about you. We all do, Chris."
"I'm fine, Leo. You don't need to worry about me. You need to give all your attention to Wyatt," Chris said matter-of-factly.
Leo frowned. Just that afternoon Chris had called him Dad for the first time, and it had been one of the most amazing moments in his life. And now he was back to being Leo.
"Chris," he started to say. "You're our son, of course we're going to worry about you. And yes, Wyatt is important, but you're as important as him. Don't ever doubt that, please." Chris opened his mouth to interrupt him, but Leo made a shushing gesture. "Yes, Chris. Wyatt is under threat right now, and we're doing everything in our hands to keep him safe, but we're not going to focus solely on him. You need protection too."
Chris crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. "Leo, I told you. I don't need protection. I'm a big boy."
Leo smiled fondly at his petulant posture. "And I told you, Chris. You're our son. I don't care if you're twenty-two, in my eyes, and in the sisters' eyes, you're our little boy, just as Wyatt. Especially in your mother's eyes. You're growing inside her at this moment, son. And maybe she has problems in letting you know, but she's having trouble in separating you from the baby growing inside of her. Sometimes she has the urge to wrap you in cotton wool and not let you out of her sight, ever."
Chris couldn't resist and chuckled at the last words. "Yeah, she was the same while I was growing up. She had this insane urge to keep me from any harm at all times."
Leo chuckled too, happy to see his son in a better mood. "Of course she does, you're our youngest." He took a deep breath. "It's not an insane urge, you know. When you become a father, you will feel the same urge, the same love that she feels. That I feel," he finished looking straight at his son's eyes, trying to convey the sincerity of his words.
Chris lowered his eyes and flushed a bit. He put his hands in his lap and stared at them for a while, as if they were the most interesting in the world. Leo said nothing, just waited patiently for his boy.
After a few minutes Chris raised his eyes and looked at his father. "I'm really thankful for what you did today, you know?" he said softly.
Leo cocked his head. "What? For bailing you out of jail? You don't need to thank me for that, son."
Chris sighed despondently and Leo felt the urge to wrap him in his arms and never let go. "I just never thought you'd do something like that for me," he admitted in a murmur, half hoping that his father wouldn't hear him.
But Leo heard him, and felt his heart breaking at those words. His son had so little trust in him, held him in so little regard. And that spoke volumes about his parental abilities.
"Chris," he started to talk. "I know you told me a few weeks ago that I was never there for you, and your last words just confirmed that to me, t-that I was a horrible father to you if you thought that I wouldn't be there for you in your time of need." He pinched the bridge of his nose and blinked back tears. "I can't possibly understand how I could have bailed on you when I love you so much. But, please Chris, tell me what I did wrong in your time, besides not being there."
Chris shrugged. "It doesn't matter, Leo. It's already in my past."
"Of course it does matter, Chris!" Leo all but yelled, starting to get desperate with his son's refusal to open to him, to talk to him. "It may be your past, but it's my future. And I never, ever would want to do anything to hurt you, Chris. Please, believe that."
"Oh, but I believe you, Leo. I know that the things you did, or will do, weren't on purpose," he answered and Leo could feel the bitterness behind those words.
The older man ran a hand through his hair and took many deep breaths to keep the desperation at bay. He felt that his son was putting up his barriers again, and he didn't want that. He wanted, needed to bond with him, to form a relationship, to have a second chance, even if he wasn't guilty of the things he had done in Chris' past. That hasn't happened, yet. He searched his brain for a few minutes, trying to come up with something, anything that might get to Chris. The only thing that occurred to him was to talk.
"You know son," he started to say, and smiled inwardly when the boy turned his attention to him. "I always dreamed of having a family, having a loving wife and two or three kids. I died too young, and I only had one year of marriage with Lillian, so I didn't have time to start a family. Then, I became a whitelighter and put my entire energy into that. Sure, I loved some of my charges as if they were family, but with time, I lost hope that I'd be able to have a family of my own. Then, I met your mom, Chris. I fell in love with her pretty fast, and she's the most amazing woman I've ever met. The day of our wedding was wonderful, and I thought that it couldn't get better than that. Of course, I was wrong." He paused and stared at Chris, who was paying him the utmost attention while trying to cover it up. "I thought that there would not be a better day than my wedding day, you see. But then, Wyatt was born. What a miracle that day was."
"Yeah, the magic stopped and all that," Chris said softly.
"Yes, the magic stopped and many other things happened. But I'm not talking about that. I'm referring to Wyatt being born. My long time dream finally came true. I had my long awaited family. And now, Piper and I are waiting for our second boy, and the feeling is... I don't even have words to express the love I have for you and your brother. You two are true miracles, and with your mom, are the best things that ever happened to me."
Chris swallowed hard and blinked a few times to fight back tears. "You don't even know me," he choked.
Seeing the emotional turmoil his son was in, Leo gave into his urge and wrapped his arms around the boy. Chris resisted for a bit, but Leo held firm. After a few moments, Chris relaxed and returned the embrace. Leo felt that his heart might burst from emotion at his son's action.
"That's not entirely true, son. I know that you are very determined, intelligent, courageous, strong, resourceful, loyal…"
"Manipulative, a cheat, and neurotic," came Chris' muffled voice from his chest.
Leo chuckled sadly. "Every Halliwell is neurotic, son." He paused and ran his hand slowly through his son's hair. Chris sighed contently at the caress. "As I was saying, I know a few things about you, and I yearn to learn more and more." He swallowed. "Besides, I love you just because you're mine. Then, with every good action you do, with every personality trait I discover, I love you more." He paused for a moment. "About being manipulative and being a cheater... I now understand why you have done those. Yeah, maybe you could have found a better way to do things, but you're a young boy, Chris. A boy who has a huge responsibility on his shoulders, one I wouldn't wish upon anyone. All in all, you have done a great job of saving your brother, and I couldn't be prouder of you, son."
"But..." Chris started to say.
Leo held him tighter and his eyes took on a far away look. "Sometimes, we have to do things we don't want to, or don't feel proud about."
They stood a couple of minutes in silence, just enjoying their closeness.
"Yeah. I didn't want to lie and cheat so much, Dad. I promise. It wasn't like mom and the aunts raised me to be like that, but I-I didn't know what to do."
Leo kissed the top of the boy's head when he heard the word 'Dad'. "I know you didn't mean it, son. I know it's a difficult situation, but now your family is here, ready to help you, guide you and support you. You're not alone anymore, Chris. Together, we will find the threat to Wyatt and destroy it. Then, you and your brother are going to have the life you always deserved. No matter what I have to do, Wyatt and you will be safe and happy."
"Just be there, Dad," Chris murmured from his chest.
"I will, son. I promise," Leo choked, his voice full of emotion. He lost the battle and a tear fell down his cheek.
"No more letters. I'm tired of letters. I hate them too," Chris said bitterly and Leo held him tighter.
Leo's breath caught in his throat. When they had problems with the genie, Chris had said that he had had enough letters in his life. "Instead of being with you, I sent you letters," he replied brokenly.
Chris nodded but said nothing. He too was losing his battle against his tears.
"Tell me about the letters, Chris. I beg you," Leo pleaded, desperate for his son to talk about something, anything, even if it was painful for the two of them.
Chris sighed and finally relented. "The first letter I got was on my fourth birthday. You had an Elder meeting and couldn't escape, so you wrote me a letter and sent it to me. Of course, I couldn't read at the time, so Mom read it to me. It was pretty long, almost an entire page. You wrote how sorry you were for not being there with me, and regaled me with a personal story. You told me about the first time you played baseball." He paused for a few moments. "Since I was just starting in the pee-wee league, I thought that your story was awesome. So I forgave you for not being there on my birthday."
"I'm so sorry," Leo said, feeling the need to say something.
Chris shrugged. "A year later was my first game, I was a first baseman, just like you were, and I was really hoping you would come. You didn't, but you sent a letter; once again blaming the Elders and telling me another story about baseball, this time about the first homerun you hit. Then you missed my seventh birthday, and my first Championship game. More letters, more stories. One from the times you played with your dad, and the other from the first time you saw Babe Ruth in person."
"That was an amazing day. I was sitting with my dad behind the third base."
"Yeah, you told me. It was one of the longest letters, four pages long. You detailed me every play, every out, strike, hit. In the years since, every time I read that letter, I felt like I was there with you." He took a shaky breath and tried to break the embrace, but Leo didn't let him.
"Don't move, please," Leo almost pleaded. He didn't know when he would have a chance to hold his boy like this again. Chris nodded and relaxed again.
"When I was nine, you started to spend more and more time with the Elders. You would spend entire weeks without coming home. Wyatt was the only one to see you because he was training with the Elders. Since I don't have as many powers as Wyatt, and mom and the aunts were doing a fine job with me, I wasn't deemed worthy to train with the Stiffs. So, I practically didn't see you. Of course, you came when one of us was hurt, but that was it. You sent me one letter per week, saying how much you missed me and wanted to be with me, but that your work with the Elders didn't let you. This situation lasted for several months. Then, mom issued an ultimatum; if you didn't come back at least four days a week, she would divorce you. You backed down and made a deal with the Elders. The deal lasted until my eleventh birthday." A tear fell down Chris' cheek. "There was a huge, coordinated attack, and the Charmed Ones almost died while saving Wyatt, my cousins, and I. After that, you spent more and more time in Elderland, trying to find out who was behind the attack. That was the last birthday you spent with me. The letters came again, but now, every other week. By the time I was twelve I stopped reading them. The letter you sent me for my thirteenth birthday was the last one. You lost interest afterwards, since I wasn't reading or responding to them anymore."
More tears fell down Leo's face, too pained at the realization that he had let his work come before his family, that he had let his baby boy suffer immensely thanks to his absence. Once again, he vowed again to himself that that future wouldn't happen. That he wouldn't abandon his family; not for the Elders, not for anyone.
"You're right, Chris. No more letters. I hate them too," he vowed, his voice thick with tears.
Chris nodded but said nothing, just hugged him harder and Leo returned the affection. He smiled through the tears, knowing that his son had understood the message. He wasn't talking just about the letters, but about his excessive job, his bailing out on his family, his absence.
Leo felt sure that there would be no more of that. He would make sure of it.
They stood there, embracing each other and gazing at the stars, enjoying their new found trust and closeness, refusing to let go of each other for the fear of not having an opportunity like that again.