Rating: T to be safe.
Summary: Chris never wished for Leo to forgive him in I Dream of Phoebe. As a result, Leo threatens to send Chris back to the future, and in his anger Chris reveals his secret. After that, Leo tries to win his son's trust back. But sometimes, second chances are hard to earn.
Disclaimer: I don't own Charmed.
Author's note: This is purely a Revelation and "What could have happened" story. It follows Chris and Leo through a few different scenarios, like tracking their progress through different episodes. If you're reading Nightmare, then this is also a gift to you, since no one has found out about Chris in that story yet. Enjoy!
"Now that the whole crisis with the genie is over, I think we have some things to discuss."
Chris looked away from Phoebe, who was making a wickedly accurate impersonation of Jinny the demon-turned-genie, and focused on his father. Leo's expression was hard, his mouth tight and his eyes narrowed, and the laughter immediately died in Chris' throat. Whatever Leo wanted to talk about, it couldn't be good. Chris knew that look far too well.
Phoebe glanced between the two of them and then met Chris' gaze, her eyes suddenly pinched with concern. After a moment, she asked, "What do you want to talk about, Leo?"
"I'd rather discuss it with Chris, if you don't mind," Leo replied tightly, his lips barely moving.
"Whatever you have to tell him, you can tell me too," Phoebe countered determinedly, crossing her arms over her chest. Leo stared at her for a moment, and Chris had the feeling Leo didn't understand why she was suddenly so defensive of Chris. The young Witchlighter felt immensely grateful for her support.
"Fine," Leo replied, shaking his head as if he didn't have time to worry about Phoebe's change of heart. "I told you before that the Elders want Chris to go back to the future. Since he's not your Master anymore and Jinny's been vanquished, there's no reason for him to stay."
"Leo, you can't—" Phoebe began, but Chris interrupted her, anger pounding through his veins.
"The Elders want me to go back, or you do?" Chris demanded, gritting his teeth against the bitter resentment that flooded him. Even now, when he was fighting like hell to save the future, Chris still couldn't measure up to Leo's expectations. Even now he drowned in them. "At least be honest, Leo! It's you who thinks I'm not doing a good enough job, not them."
Leo's expression remained inflexible, unbending. "Fine. If you want me to say it, Chris, then yes, I think you're doing a poor job. There's just no reason to keep you here anymore."
The words hurt, badly, but Chris tried desperately to cover it up with disgust. "You think I care? You think I give a shit what you think? You have no idea what you're talking about—you never have."
"I know you're not helping them," Leo replied, something other than restrained irritation lighting his features, and Chris was glad to see it. He wanted Leo angry, furious—he wanted to inspire some kind of passion in the usually reserved and inaccessible Elder. "They can do this with or without you, and since you're not meant to be here, it's only logical that you go back."
Heat flooded Chris' face and his heart pounded so loudly in his ears that he was sure both Phoebe and Leo could hear it. He knew vaguely that his aunt had rested a light hand on his arm, but he was too frenzied and frantic to really feel it. "Do you know what will happen if I go back? Do you have any idea what he'll do to me?"
There was no kindness in Leo's eyes, no compassion. Like always, his emotions were hidden under a mask of unwavering calm, and Chris knew from experience that the composure wouldn't break. It never broke. "I'm sorry, Chris, but what happens to you isn't my problem. You came to save the future, and you've given the sisters enough information to let them do that. We can't shelter you here just because your future is dangerous. It goes against the rules of magic."
Chris didn't hear much past Leo's first sentence, and the words echoed deeply in his mind. "Not your problem," he repeated numbly, fracturing and breaking in all sorts of places at that simple phrase.
He had always suspected that he wasn't important to Leo, but he had never heard his father say it so bluntly before. In that moment, he entirely forgot that he was in the past, that the Leo standing in front of him wasn't the wizened Elder who had always treated Chris like he was a little too unimportant, a little too insignificant to be noticed. Chris stared at his father, feeling completely, utterly hurt.
He knew something must have shown on his face, because some flicker of emotion finally passed through Leo's eyes. But it was buried, contained, and Chris knew it wouldn't affect his actions.
"Leo, you don't understand," Phoebe began, her voice deep and low as Chris stared at Leo in a kind of horrified trance. "You can't do this to Chris. You just can't. You have no idea what damage you'll cause."
"To the timeline?" Leo asked, eyes finally moving away from Chris' face. "Phoebe, it won't cause any damage to the timeline. If anything, Chris staying here for so long has put the future in danger. We can't put his welfare above the world—it just wouldn't be right."
Chris stood still for a moment longer, and then suddenly he was furious. Rage flooded him, burning and consuming him like fire, and he moved toward Leo without even realizing it.
"Of course you can't," Chris retorted, his voice loud and sharp to his own ears. "You never have! I hate you, you son of a bitch!" And then yelling wasn't enough, and Chris stalked forward and grabbed Leo by the lapels of his shirt. Leo responded immediately, shoving Chris away, but Chris held firm and shook Leo. "It's always everyone else, isn't it?" Chris demanded fiercely, moving in close to Leo's face. "It's always Wyatt or the world or someone else, right?"
Leo seemed to realize that something else was going on, something he didn't understand, but he didn't back down. He never did, even when he should. Chris knew that all too well, knew the way Leo never apologized or admitted he was wrong.
Leo pushed Chris, hard, and Chris skidded back a few feet before he regained his balance. "Of course I put Wyatt first, Chris! Why wouldn't I? I feel bad for you, I really do, but why should I care more about you than anyone else?"
"Why should you care?" Chris repeated scathingly, a bitter, incredulous smile on his face. "Well, hell, I don't know. Think you can tell him, Aunt Phoebe?"
Leo made a convulsive movement and Phoebe said quickly, "Chris, you don't want to—"
"Maybe because I'm your son, you selfish, heartless bastard."
There was a moment of complete, stunned silence. Chris glared at his father, too incensed to care that he had revealed his secret. Out of everything Chris could have said, he knew this would hurt Leo the most, and he viciously enjoyed his father's pain and disbelief. Finally Leo would feel some fraction of what Chris went through every single day.
Then Leo leapt into action, grabbing Chris by the shoulders and shoving him roughly. Chris raised his hands instinctively to defend himself, but his father held tight, just as Chris had done earlier.
"You're lying," Leo breathed, and Chris hadn't seen him so actively angry since Valhalla. "This is just another one of your tricks to manipulate me!"
"Leo, no!" Phoebe shouted, forcing herself between them as she had done the day Leo bodily attacked Chris. "If you don't stop now, you're going to ruin any chance you ever had with your son."
Leo stilled, breathing harshly through his nose. "You believe him?"
"I know it's true," Phoebe responded steadily, staring Leo directly in the eye. Chris watched motionlessly, again feeling like he was stuck under some kind of spell. "I saw it in my vision quest. Chris is your son."
Her words knocked the sense back into Chris, and the consequences of his carelessness began to hit him. His mouth fell open, and before either his aunt or his father could say anything, Chris disappeared in a mass of blue orbs.
Leo reached out to Chris as the young Witchlighter orbed away, whether to grab him or plead with him Phoebe didn't know. She stared at Leo in concern, realizing that even though Chris had taken terrible hits in this argument, Leo had taken just as many. She had known Leo for years, loved him like a brother, and she hated to see him in this kind of pain.
"No," he said quietly, the denial echoing from the bottom of his soul.
"Leo—" Phoebe began, but he interrupted her.
"It's not true," Leo said loudly, almost combatively. "It can't be true."
"It is," Phoebe replied, holding firm. "It would be easier if it wasn't, I know, but that doesn't change it. He's your younger son."
Leo flinched, looking like he might cover his ears in denial. "But… how? He came from the future, and he lied to all of us and manipulated us so many times! How can he be family? How can he be my—my…."
"It's different there, Leo," Phoebe said gently, gripping the Elder's forearms in effort to make him listen to her. "It's hard and dangerous and difficult, and he's been living in it for so long. It changed him."
Leo's expression finally crumbled, and he looked desolate and lost. "How could I not know?"
"None of us did," Phoebe responded, squeezing Leo's arms. "It's not your fault."
"But it's different," Leo replied forcefully, pulling away from her in a stiff, jerky motion. "I'm a Whitelighter—an Elder. I should have been able to sense him, to know."
"It doesn't work like that!" Phoebe replied, feeling near tears. "Leo, you can't expect to be able to identify your son from the future. Your powers weren't designed for something like that."
"What did I do?" Leo demanded suddenly, like he hadn't heard a word she'd said. "He said… he said I never cared and that I—what did I do to him? Why does my own son hate me so much?"
She raised her hands to convey her helplessness. "You'll have to ask him that."
Leo stared into space for a moment, still wearing a wounded, hurt look that made Phoebe desperately want to comfort him. Then he said, "I will."
And with that, Leo disappeared just like his son had a few moments before.
Chris gritted his teeth and clenched his fists, wanting more than anything to indulge in the anger and hatred that whirled like a hurricane inside of him. But at his core, he knew the truth. He knew that as much as he despised Leo for everything, he loved him just the same. And his words had hurt Chris, more than the Witchlighter could ever admit. Even now they twisted and writhed inside of him, slashing their way to his heart.
Why hadn't he gotten over this, dammit? Why did he still care what Leo thought? For the first time in his life, he wanted to be as hard and cold and distant as his father. It wasn't fair that Leo felt nothing while Chris felt everything.
Chris sensed Leo's presence before he had even fully arrived, and he seriously considered orbing away. But what good would that do, really? He would have to face Leo eventually, especially if he wanted to continue working with the sisters to save Wyatt.
Chris stared longingly down at the cars driving across the bridge, wishing he could be in one of them. Wishing more than anything that he was normal, that the weight of the world didn't rest on his shoulders.
"Come to drag me back?" Chris asked bitterly once Leo appeared a few feet away from him. "You still want to send me back to the future, don't you?"
"No, Chris, I don't," Leo replied, and to Chris' surprise, he didn't sound nearly so calm. "You know that."
"But the world's in danger," Chris retorted, his laugh carried away by the harsh San Francisco wind. "And everyone knows Leo Wyatt can't rest when the world's in danger."
"Maybe that's true under normal circumstances, but these aren't normal. You're my son."
Chris recoiled at the words. He had used them to hurt Leo, and now Leo was doing the same thing to him. Chris didn't think it was intentional, but he didn't let that soften him.
"And suddenly that matters?" Chris asked, looking out at the horizon. The sun was just setting, the air turning cold as it lost its source of warmth. The change in temperature reminded Chris of his father. Like the atmosphere, Leo couldn't create heat on his own. "It never did before."
"Maybe to your father," Leo replied, his words unsteady and thin as they floated on the breeze. "But I'm not him—I haven't lived your past yet. It's not fair of you to blame me for it."
"Maybe not," Chris said, still refusing to turn toward him. "But I'm not feeling fair."
"What did I do?" Leo asked, and despite the anger in his voice, there was something else, something real. Leo sounded pained, regretful, and it startled Chris enough that he finally looked at Leo. There was sadness on his father's face, and it wasn't covered or buried this time. Instead it was right up on the surface, and Chris didn't think he had ever seen Leo so open.
"Nothing," Chris said, so surprised that he answered truthfully. "That's just it. You didn't do anything. You didn't try, you didn't care. Unless it was about Wyatt, mom or the world, and then you listened. But you never bothered if it was just me."
"I wouldn't have done that," Leo denied harshly. "I know I wouldn't have done that to my son, Chris."
"So what are you saying?" Chris demanded, finally whirling around so that he faced Leo completely. He wanted to rage and storm at the man, but it was hard when Leo looked so diminished. He didn't even resemble the father Chris knew, despite being completely identical to him. "That I'm lying? Fine, believe what you want. I don't care."
"You do," Leo said certainly. "I know you do. You wouldn't be so angry if you didn't."
The sentence caught Chris off-guard, and he could feel the confusion and sorrow spreading over his face. Then he slammed his defenses back into place, and his entire body tensed. "Why'd you come here, Leo?"
"Because I can't just leave things like this," Leo responded, almost desperately, but Chris refused to be moved. "I don't want you to hate me."
"It's too late for that," Chris said, shaking his head and turning away again. "You're still him, Leo. It doesn't matter that you haven't lived my future, because you're still him." He stopped suddenly, afraid his voice would break if he kept going. Chris only continued when he knew he could sound strong. "He doesn't deserve anything from me, which means you don't, either."
Without warning, Chris orbed away from Leo again. This time, his father didn't follow.
When the blinding light filled the room and the portal opened up, Leo couldn't say he was surprised. He watched almost impassively as his future self stepped through the wall, the bridge between the two timelines closing neatly behind him.
Chris, on the other hand, gasped audibly, the Book tumbling from his unsteady fingers. A moment later, both Leos heard the bell-like sound of Chris orbing out of the room. Leo had gotten very, very used to that sound.
"You're here," Present Leo stated calmly, cataloguing the differences between them. The other Leo's hair was longer, shaggier, like he didn't have enough time to cut it. His clothes were rough and worn, but clean, and his face reminded Leo of stone. It should have been weird, staring at the man he would grow to be, but Leo supposed he had prepared himself for it. "I wondered when you'd come."
And he had. From the second Leo had found out that Chris was his son, he had known Future Leo would pay a visit sooner or later. After all, Leo had thought of nothing but fixing things with Chris over these past few weeks, and he wasn't even the one who had betrayed his son. Naturally his future self felt the same way; Leo was positive he hadn't changed that much.
The other Leo nodded, eyes scanning the room even though he knew perfectly well Chris wasn't present. "This is the first chance I've gotten since I learned about Chris' plan. It hasn't been easy to slip away."
Leo gritted his teeth at the casual way his future self said their son's name. He, Present Leo, had received the brunt of Chris' anger and resentment for weeks now, and the cause of it all was standing right in front of him, talking about it as easily as he could have talked about the weather.
"What the hell did you do?" Leo demanded, standing from the couch. He clenched his fists in effort to control his temper, wondering how his counterpart could be so cool and calm.
Then, to Leo's surprise, the other man slumped visibly and ran his fingers through his unkempt hair. "Something terrible," the aged Elder admitted, and the confession fell heavily from his lips. "I didn't mean to."
"Of course you didn't—I know you didn't," Leo said impatiently. "But still, how could you let it happen? Didn't you see it?"
Future Leo shook his head again. "You don't understand—you haven't lived it. You remember how much we struggled with the Charmed Ones, how difficult they were as charges? Wyatt is even harder, and I was still trying to keep an eye on the sisters and the rest of the family, and I just—I let him slip through."
"'Let him slip through'? He's your son, dammit!" Leo retorted, neither accepting nor understanding Future Leo's excuses. Logically, he knew that there was no point in yelling at a man who was essentially himself, but it was hard not to view this Leo as a different person. And considering how much Future Leo had changed and experienced, he really was different from Present Leo.
Future Leo's eyes hardened and his expression turned foreboding. "Do you really think I don't know that? Do you really think I haven't realized what I've done? You should know better than anyone."
"I know that my son hated me before I even got the chance to know him," Present Leo retorted, eyes narrowed in much the same way his counterpart's were. "What I don't know is how it's possible for me to do what you did to him. I haven't seen my Chris, I haven't witnessed his birth or held him yet, but I can't imagine loving him any less than I do Wyatt. And I really can't imagine neglecting him to the point where he hates me."
Future Leo's expression broke for a moment, and he looked both miserable and ashamed. Then his features blanked again, and Leo could only catch a glimpse of the sadness buried deep inside the Elder. "I understand your anger, but you know as well as I do that this discussion is pointless. We're the same—you're just as culpable as I am. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go find my son."
"Don't bother," Chris said from the doorway, and both Leos whirled around to stare at him. "I never left."
Future Leo's eyes roamed hurriedly over Chris, and his face lightened as he took a step toward the Witchlighter. "Son—"
"Stop," Chris interrupted quickly, holding up his hands in an almost threatened gesture. Future Leo halted, something flattening in his expression. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to make sure you were alright," Future Leo said after a moment, gaze still scanning restlessly over his son. "I was worried."
"Really?" Chris asked, a touch of disbelief in his shaky voice. "That's why you've come here after so many months? What took you so long, Dad?"
Present Leo's breath caught at that, even though Chris wasn't actually addressing him. It wasn't easy to see proof that Chris had really lived as his son and suffered for it.
"I couldn't just leave," Future Leo said calmly, crossing his arms over his chest. It struck Present Leo as a decidedly defensive move, and he didn't understand why his duplicate was being defensive at a time like this. Wasn't he going to apologize or explain or do something? "You know that, Chris."
Chris' entire body was tense, his hands still held out in front of him as if he were warding off an attack. When he spoke, his voice betrayed his emotions in a way that Future Leo's never had. "What, exactly, do I know?"
Future Leo raised his eyebrows. "You know how important my work is there. Even if you're trying to change the future, it's still happening. People are still dying, and it's my job to protect them. It's always been my job."
Present Leo stared at his doppelganger in stunned disbelief. How could he say these things to Chris? Didn't he know, didn't he realize how they sounded? Every sentence out of Future Leo's mouth only confirmed Chris' notion that he was insignificant, unworthy.
From the look on his face, Chris thought the same thing. Leo had never seen the Witchlighter look so vulnerable.
"And if I had died here while you were doing your job there?" Chris asked, his voice hushed as he stumbled over the words. The question was dangerous, and Present Leo knew it had taken Chris a lot to ask it. "If you hadn't gotten to see me, what would you have done?"
Future Leo's face shadowed at the thought, and Leo wondered if he was imagining it. Chris had experienced so many close calls in the past that it was easy for Present Leo to build a scenario. One wrong move, one missed step, and Chris could have been lost. Leo's mind shied away from the thought, his blood rushing through his veins as the fear crawled through him.
Future Leo felt some fraction of his fear, Leo knew, but the older man didn't show it. Present Leo could perceive the emotion, but only because he knew himself and he knew how deeply he felt everything. But Chris wouldn't be able see it.
"I would have been devastated," Future Leo said finally, but he sounded too polished, too pulled together. A father should never sound like that when discussing the death of his child. "You know that, Chris."
"I don't know that," Chris snapped, voice harsh even as the hurt welled in his eyes. Eyes that were the same exact color as Leo's. "I don't know anything about you. Why don't you just go back, huh? Just go back to your precious Innocents who need you so much, because I don't. I didn't need you then, and I won't need you now."
"Son, just listen—"
"I'm not your son," Chris interrupted, a thread of steel in his voice. His expression was hardening too, his gaze turning cold as he stared at his father. "You've never treated me like a son, and you know it. You wanted to see that I was alright? Well, fine, I am. I'm still breathing, which means you got what you came for, so just get the hell out of here. I'm trying to save the world—I don't have time for you right now."
Present Leo stared at his future self and Chris in turn, knowing that he should have left the room a long time ago. He had just been too riveted by the interaction between his double and Chris. It nearly destroyed him to see how much Chris disliked him, but it was even worse to see that he deserved it. Present Leo knew his other self had to care about Chris, but Future Leo just couldn't express it in a way that Chris understood. Even when he tried to fix things, he only made everything worse because he didn't know his own son.
And now, when Future Leo should have been fighting like hell to make Chris listen to him, he was backing down. The older man nodded slowly, his eyes darkening a shade or two, and after a moment he turned his back on Chris. He waved his hand, and the portal opened up immediately. Leo wondered briefly where his counterpart had gotten that power, but the question seemed too unimportant to voice.
"Just know one thing, Chris," Future Leo said, turning to look at his son. At last there was some hint of honesty on his face, but Chris wasn't looking at him now. "I'm proud of you."
Chris finally looked up, but Future Leo had already turned back to the portal. A moment later, the Elder stepped into the blinding light and disappeared.
Silence reigned in the attic once the portal closed up, and then Leo turned to his son. "Chris…"
"Don't," Chris interrupted harshly, his eyes sliding shut. He raised a hand to push back his bangs, and Leo thought his fingers might be shaking. "I can't—I can't deal with you right now. Just… leave me alone."
"No," Leo said gently, but his voice was firm around the edges. "I—he's been leaving you alone too long. We need to talk about this."
"Dad—Leo—" Chris broke off and shook his head, his eyes still shut tight. Then he opened them again, and his mouth settled into a hard line. "I won't do this."
And then Chris orbed away. Leo reached out to him instinctively, but there was no point. Leo debated with himself, sorely tempted to just go after the Witchlighter. But seeing his father had obviously upset Chris, and Leo didn't think it would be right to push him after something like that. After all, Leo was the man who had hurt him in the first place, at least in Chris' eyes.
"Fine," Leo said to himself as he stood alone in the attic. He would let Chris go this time, but only because he didn't want to hurt his son anymore than he already had. Eventually, though, he would force Chris to listen. Eventually he would get through to him. Chris could count on it.
"That's the third witch this week. We have to do something, and soon."
Leo nodded fervently at the sisters, all of whom stood across from him in the attic. Chris was there too, but had distanced himself a little, leaning up against the table.
"I agree," Leo said, trying, as always, to keep his eyes from lingering on his son. "I don't know if the demon has some sort of plan in mind, or if he just likes killing, but it needs to stop. The Elders are worried."
"Oh, they're worried?" Piper asked, sharp derisiveness in her tone. Leo looked at her, wishing he hadn't mentioned it. She had never been on good terms with the Elders, and now that they had essentially taken Leo away from her, she liked them even less. "It's nice of them to worry, when witches are down here dying."
"The Elders have always been cold," Chris said unexpectedly from his spot at the table. "They won't change, and it's exhausting to hate them for it."
Leo whirled to look at Chris, but Chris studiously ignored his gaze, just like he had been doing for weeks now. He barely spoke to Leo anymore, except for secretly pointed comment like the one he'd just made. It was clear that whatever headway Leo might have made before, Future Leo had smashed it to pieces.
"They're not," Leo said curtly, but he really meant, I'm not.
Chris still didn't look at him. "Prove it."
"How can I, when you're not even willing to listen?" Leo demanded, and Chris' gaze finally met his. It took Leo a moment to realize that his son's eyes were wide and anxious, and even longer for him to understand why Chris was afraid. Leo had kept Chris' secret out of respect for the young Witchlighter, but it was clear Chris believed Leo's last comment would garner suspicion. Sure enough, both Piper and Paige looked confused and intrigued. Only Phoebe's eyes were deep and understanding, but she knew much more than her sisters.
"What's going on?" Piper asked shrewdly, eyeing the Elder and the Witchlighter in turn.
"Nothing," Leo and Chris said at the same time, and then they looked at each other in surprise. Chris's eyes immediately darted away, and Leo shook his head.
"Listen," The Elder said, hoping to draw the conversation back on topic. "We need to figure out this situation before more people die."
"Okay," Piper said, allowing the earlier topic to drop. Leo didn't need to look at Chris to know his son was immensely relieved. "But we don't have any eye-witnesses, or any clues as to what's doing this. The only people who have seen the demon are dead."
"How were they killed?" Phoebe asked, picking up the thread. "I mean, was there anything identifying in the way they died?"
"The first two were hit with energy balls," Leo replied, pacing as he relayed the facts. "The last one put up more of a fight—she was killed by blunt, physical force."
"So it could be… any strong demon that can throw energy balls." Paige concluded, wrinkling her nose at their scant list of facts. "That doesn't exactly narrow it down."
"What about bait?" Chris interrupted unpredictably again. He hadn't exactly been an eager participant in their discussion until now. The sisters and Leo looked at him inquisitively. "He goes after witches, right? So give him a witch."
Piper's eyebrows arched high at that. "You think it's a good idea to put ourselves in danger?"
Chris shook his head and said, like the answer should have been obvious, "No, he'd never go after a Charmed One. Based on the skill-level of the witches he's attacked so far, he's a lower level demon—maybe hoping to move up, or maybe just having a good time."
"So, what? We find some witch and ask her to risk her life for us?" Phoebe asked, disdain hot in her voice. "We can't do that Chris."
Leo had some inkling of where this was going by now, and he narrowed his eyes at Chris.
"No, of course not," Chris said with another impatient shake of his head. He seemed baffled that they weren't picking up on his train of thought. "Use me."
The room was silent as everyone else absorbed that. The sisters' silence seemed thoughtful, but Leo's was full of astonished anger.
"You're willing to do that?" Piper asked once she caught on, looking like she was actually considering it.
"No," Leo broke in, his voice hard and unbending.
Chris looked at him quickly, eyes narrowing. "But you guys won't stop unless you find him, which means you can't get back to focusing Wyatt until you do, so—"
"I said no," Leo repeated harshly, and Chris fell silent, staring at him in puzzlement. Then the surprise in his eyes was replaced by a challenging glint, and his silence didn't last long.
"Why not?" Chris countered, stepping from behind the table to stand level with Leo. Leo clenched his jaw tight when he saw the scarcely hidden dislike on Chris' face. "I'm a witch, right? Partly anyway, and I can take care of my—"
"I told you it's not happening!" Leo interrupted, feeling the anger grow to a burn inside of him. "I'm not letting you go off and put yourself in danger just to stop this demon—you've already risked too much as it is. For the last time, no."
Chris stared at him, the mask of bitterness and distrust finally slipping from his face. He looked honestly, openly confused, as if Leo was speaking some strange language that he didn't understand. Leo kept his eyes on Chris, but his son didn't seem capable of forming a reply.
"But why not?" asked Paige, who had perhaps always been the most callous of the group. "I mean, if he's offering to—"
"Because," Leo interrupted firmly, and Chris' expression flashed a secret warning to him. Leo nodded, trying to signal that he wasn't going to tell them anything significant. Then he turned back to the sisters. "He shouldn't interfere with something like this. If he hadn't come back to the past, you would have handled it on your own, and that's the way it's supposed to be." Leo paused for a moment, but couldn't help adding, "And he could get hurt."
"Yeah, but he's been helping us for months," Paige argued, apparently ignoring the last part of Leo's speech. "I mean, Chris has been involved in all the stuff we've dealt with lately, so why start worrying about it now?"
"No, Leo's right," said Phoebe, shaking her head at Paige with something like reproof in her eyes. "We can't let Chris do that."
"Since when do you let me do anything?" Chris demanded, finally seeming to regain himself. His eyes were fierce as they landed on Phoebe.
"She's just trying to help, Chris. Don't snap at her," Leo said, shooting his son a stern glance.
"Don't start telling me what to do!" Chris warned, cheeks heating with anger as he whirled around to stare at Leo.
"What is going on here?" Piper interrupted the multi-faceted argument, raising her hands in effort to grab everyone's attention. When no one answered, she continued, "Whatever it is, it can wait, alright? Now, if Chris wants to help us, I'm not going to stop him. But if you're worried, Leo, you can go with him. Use your Invisibility Coat or whatever it is you have now."
"Cloak of Invisibility," Leo corrected automatically, smiling fondly at Piper. Then he realized that he wasn't supposed to do that, and he turned away from her.
"Yeah, that," Piper said distractedly, waving the correction away. Leo resisted the urge to grin again. "You and Chris can go to the park where the last witch was attacked."
After considering the idea carefully, he finally conceded, "I guess it could work, as long as I go."
"That's completely pointless," Chris muttered, but he didn't put up any further arguments, and just settled into a disgruntled silence.
Chris shot Leo a look a look of absolute annoyance, his eyes slanting in the midday sun. This section of the park was almost completely deserted save for a few singing birds and buzzing insects. Leo met Chris's gaze with a relaxed, easy look of his own, and then focused on calling up his Cloak of Invisibility.
"You realize you don't need to be here, right?" Chris asked, staring at the spot where Leo had disappeared. Leo let the question hang in the air, walking around in a slow circle as he examined their surroundings.
"I disagree," Leo said simply, and Chris jolted toward the sound of Leo's voice.
"Don't do that," Chris griped, glaring at Leo's chin. "It's annoying."
"It's good you decided to recreate your teenage years. Otherwise I might have missed the attitude." Leo couldn't help his sarcastic reply, but he bit his tongue when he saw Chris' eyes flash.
"I don't get why you insisted on this," Chris groused after a moment, apparently not deigning to respond to Leo's comment. Leo grinned, glad that Chris couldn't see it.
"Because I was concerned," Leo replied, his voice gaining a little edge. "You know that."
"Why do you always have to tell me what I know?" Chris asked, and the question would have sounded aggravated had his voice not shaken on the last syllable.
"Because you do know it," Leo replied, keeping his eyes glued to Chris' face. Chris squirmed, as if he could feel the pressure of Leo's unseen gaze. "You just don't want to believe it."
Chris couldn't see him, but he knew his general location well enough to turn his back on Leo. The Elder studied the tense lines of Chris' shoulders. "So what?" Chris asked roughly. "Maybe it's easier."
Leo's chest ached at the underlying pain in that statement. "I know it seems that way—"
"No, it is that way," Chris interrupted, whipping around to face Leo again. His eyes scanned the blank scenery intensely, as if Chris could see through Leo's Cloak just by sheer force of will. "So you're worried about me now, so what? That doesn't mean anything. You could forget, or get distracted or busy, or the Elders could call you up and you'd listen to them because they come first. They always do."
"I'm sorry," Leo said, and it must not have been a phrase his future self used often, because Chris froze in his tracks. "I'm sorry for the way he—I treated you. I'm sorry for how things turned out, but I promise I'll do everything in my power to treat my Chris better."
Chris was still frozen, not one muscle moving. He looked like he could be carved out of stone. Leo took advantage of Chris' speechlessness and continued, "But I'd like to treat you better too, if you'll let me. I wasn't there for you then, but I want to be there for you now."
Chris inadvertently met Leo's gaze, and the expression on his face was heartbreaking. The emotions inside his eyes conveyed years of disappointment, of betrayal, of being let down over and over again. And Leo could see it, more plainly than he had ever been able to see anything else: Chris was scared. Scared that if he trusted Leo now, he would only be abandoned and disillusioned again. It was clear in that moment that Chris hadn't always been so unwilling with his chances. No, he had given his father dozens of opportunities to fix things, and one by one, Future Leo had wasted all of them.
Leo hurried forward, reaching out to grip his son's forearms. Chris flinched at the unexpected touch, but surprisingly he didn't pull away. His eyes stared through Leo, focusing on some spot in the distance.
"Son," Leo began, reminding himself irresistibly of his older self. Leo knew Chris thought the exact same thing by the way his muscles tensed under Leo's palms. "I don't know if I can ever fix what happened. I don't know if I can ever make it up to you, but please let me try."
The look in Chris' eyes turned raw and painful. "You don't understand," he whispered, his arms beginning to shake between Leo's fingers. "You're different from him, but you're not. In some ways, you're the exact same person, and I just—I'm so…"
"Scared," Leo finished. The ache in his chest spread to his throat, lodging itself there.
Chris nodded but looked alarmed, like he hadn't really wanted Leo to know the truth. He pulled away, but Leo held tight; he got the feeling that if he didn't reach his son now, he would never get another opportunity.
"No more running," Leo said determinedly, and for a moment he believed Chris might start struggling. His son certainly looked panicked enough to do it, but after a few seconds he stilled again. "If you're going to force me out of your life, then face me and tell me yourself."
A derisive look floated across Chris' face. "I can't even see you."
"Then it shouldn't be hard for you. Go on, Chris, tell me one more time to leave you alone."
Easily, with a perfected indifference that betrayed years of practice, Chris said, "Leave me alone."
And just as easily, Leo said, "No."
Chris looked astonished. "But you said that if I—I told you—"
"I lied," Leo said simply, hoping this plan wouldn't backfire on him. "I'm not leaving you, not ever. You're going to have to start dealing with it."
Chris stared at him, open shock still painted on his face. Leo thought maybe he'd finally done it; maybe he had finally been able to convince Chris that he was trustworthy. Leo felt the jittery happiness swell within him, but before the emotion had even found an outlet, Chris started to back away.
"No," Leo denied harshly, his grasp tightening reflexively. This time Chris did fight him, though not in an alarmed way; instead his movements were firm and insistent. He wasn't struggling, but he refused to be held any longer. Leo let him go, a strangled sound making it past his lips.
Perhaps Chris heard Leo's sadness in the noise, because he said, "Look, I'm not—I'm not saying I don't believe you. I'm not saying I do," Chris added hurriedly, as if he was afraid to give Leo even that much of an affirmation. "But we're here for a reason, alright? And the demon's either going to decide I'm too crazy to mess with, or he's going to know you're here. Let's just… focus on this."
"I guess you're right," Leo grudgingly agreed. "But we'll continue this discussion later."
He expected a denial or a haughty retort, but Chris simply nodded and said, "Okay."
The hope blossomed in Leo's mind again, perhaps not as boisterously as before, but enough to make him feel lighter. He stepped away from the Witchlighter, and caught Chris watching Leo's feet as they pressed indentions into the cool, green grass.
"You used your invisibility to trick me once," Chris said, speaking quietly out of the side of his mouth. His eyes focused carefully in the opposite direction of Leo, whether for the demon's benefit or Chris' own Leo couldn't tell.
Leo didn't understand why Chris had mentioned it, but he realized that his son was presenting some kind of test. "I know," he replied slowly, likewise keeping his voice low. "I was wrong to do it, and I'm sorry."
Again Chris seemed to still at those words, but the reaction was less severe this time. After a moment he turned away completely, pretending to take in the peaceful scene around him. Both Leo and Chris were silent as they waited.
The demon still didn't show.
"You know the plan, right?" Leo asked Chris after awhile. Chris rolled his eyes, but his expression was less hateful than annoyed. Leo smiled at the sight of it, fairly certain that he was bugging Chris.
"Yeah. If the demon shows up—and so far that seems like a pretty big 'if'—one of us will orb back to the manor and grab the sisters. The other will hold him off until they get here."
"I'm staying," Leo said decisively, crossing his arms over his chest. He shot Chris a stern glance, even though he knew the Wightlighter couldn't see him.
"Leo," Chris began, the annoyance as strong in his voice as it had been in his expression.
"No, Chris, I'm staying. You orb back to the manor and grab the girls while I keep the demon busy."
Chris huffed his exasperation. "But the demon doesn't want you, remember? It's going after witches, not Whitelighters. Or Elders."
"So far it seems like it's just looking for a good fight," Leo replied quickly. "And if so, I'll provide that. If not—well, I don't care. I told you I'm not putting you in danger."
"That's such a stupid sentiment," Chris protested, but his shoulders had already slumped in defeat. Perhaps he wasn't used to arguing with people who wanted what was best for him. "But fine. Whatever."
Leo nodded in satisfaction, glad that for once he had managed to convince Chris without much difficulty. His son was stubborn as hell, but Leo supposed it was expected. He was a Halliwell, after all. Or he would be soon—that was, if Piper and Leo got back together and conceived Chris as they were supposed to. Leo frowned at the thought; what if they didn't get back together? Would Chris cease to exist? Leo tensed at the thought; he absolutely wouldn't let it happen. He would tell Piper if he had to.
He opened his mouth to ask Chris, sure that his son had already thought of it, but a demonic shout interrupted him. A second later, a dark figure had smashed into Chris, knocking him into the ground. The demon.
Chris' breath left him in a whoosh, his head slamming back against the damp ground as the demon barreled into him. He was dazed, but forced himself to move immediately. The one good thing about coming from a terrible future; he had gotten used to battles and pain. He leapt to his feet just as the demon rounded for a second attack, but suddenly was Leo between them, blocking Chris.
"Chris, go!" Leo shouted, fully visible now as he squared off with the demon. Fear bolted through Chris, halting him in his tracks, but Leo waved an impatient hand. "Go!"
Chris obeyed without thought and orbed away, appearing rapidly back at the manor. The sisters came into view almost immediately, their worried faces looming in front of him.
"Come on!" he ordered quickly, grabbing Phoebe's hand and orbing away. He trusted Paige to bring Piper along with her, and Chris urged their particles to move faster. The fear for Leo was unexpected, but it was an excellent motivator. They finally rematerialized at the park, and Chris caught the flicker of blue lights that signified Paige and Piper's arrival as well.
The demon had gained the upper hand in the time that Chris had been gone, and he stood above Leo. The Elder was lying on the ground, looking momentarily stunned, and the demon had raised something that looked like a Darklighter arrow high over his head. Terror swept through Chris, nearly knocking him off-balance.
"Dad!" Chris shouted, forgetting himself as the point of the demon's weapon descended quickly towards Leo's chest.
Chris threw himself at the demon, just as he had done to Chris earlier. The demon rocked on his feet but didn't go down, baring his teeth as he struggled to throw Chris off. Chris caught sight of the weapon in the monster's hands, which turned out not to be an arrow, but a thin, tarnished blade. The demon lashed out with the weapon, catching Chris in the shoulder, but Chris didn't flinch as he rammed his fist into the demon's face.
The demon flinched back, and the girls began raining potion bottles down on him. The bottles exploded and made the demon howl, but they failed to cause any real damage. Phoebe chose more physical means and began sparring with the demon, pulling him further away from Leo and Chris.
A sudden thought occured to Chris, and he hurried forward and trapped the demon's arms from behind. "Phoebe, the knife!" he called to her.
She caught on almost immediately and grabbed the demons wrist, twisting sharply to loosen its grip on the strange weapon it held. She quickly snatched the dagger out of the demon's fingers.
Chris held the demon still and Phoebe used the knife to stab him. The monster released a bloodcurdling howl, and Chris let go of him hastily as the demon burst into flames. A few seconds later, all that was left was a charred circle in the otherwise lush, green earth.
Chris paused for a moment, breathing deeply and relishing in their success. Then he turned back to Leo, hurrying over to him as the Elder sat up.
"Are you alright?" Chris asked, struggling to sound less concerned than he felt. Leo had never liked open displays of emotion; he would always tell Chris to—
"I'm fine," Leo said, interrupting Chris' restless thoughts and patting Chris comfortingly on the shoulder. He smiled paternally, and Chris felt the strong urge to deny that anything had changed. So Chris had felt a moments' concern, so what? He was tempted to tell Leo that Chris had only been concerned for himself; after all, if his father died now, Chris wouldn't even exist. But the lie felt cold and heavy on his tongue, and for some reason he didn't want to say it.
"I'm okay," Leo assured again, his grip light and firm on Chris' shoulder. "I promise."
The denials were there, as available to him as the air he breathed. Instead of voicing them, though, he just said, "Okay."
"Um, excuse me?" Paige demanded, and Chris looked up at her. He had honestly forgotten she was there. Her expression was incredulous, disbelieving, and it only took Chris a few seconds to realize why. He gasped and stumbled to his feet, his face blanching as his eyes switched from Paige to Piper. His mother look equally stunned, her kind brown eyes stretched wide. He stared at her and she stared at him, and the moment seemed to last forever.
Then, finally, she opened her mouth and asked, "Did you just call Leo 'Dad'?"
A/N: So, that's two revelations in one fic! Short, sweet, and without too much plot but hopefully you enjoyed it! Reviews are lovely.