Leo Wyatt’s worst memory will be ingrained in his mind forever – Chris dying in his arms will haunt him for the rest of his life. It sent him down a path of self-destruction that he still hates himself for. (Then again, he hated himself already for not being able to save his son. His behavior afterwards made him feel worse, even though Phoebe kept assuring him that his grief had taken over and he wasn’t to blame. The Avatars’ manipulation was on them, not him.)
Piper tried to get him to see a therapist after he became human, but Leo had refused. He didn’t want help – Chris was alive and with them and he was healthy. That was all that mattered. The former Elder was fine most days anyway. The bad days usually hit out of the blue, but they were few and far between. It didn’t matter that the bad days (Which were extremely rare, no matter what Piper said.) sent him swirling into despair and refusing to leave the bed (Where his son had died, and fuck, that made everything worse, but he couldn’t find the energy to move.). Piper sent the boys in to cheer him up, and it did help. Wyatt and Chris always managed to get him in a good mood, and then he was fine until the next bad day.
And after Leo was frozen so the Charmed Ones could battle the Ultimate Evil and brought back after it was all over, he hadn’t expected to see his future sons in the manor. After Piper hinted that Chris remembered everything, he took his youngest son aside and they had a long talk, which helped.
However, for the first time in months, the nightmares came back that night and he woke up in tears. “Leo, sweetie, you have to tell me what’s wrong. I’m worried about you.” Piper hadn’t seen her husband like this in a long time, and it scared the fuck out of her.
“I keep dreaming about that night. Seeing Chris today brought it all back, and I hate it. He forgave me and I still can’t forgive myself. Fuck. He said it wasn’t my fault, but it is – I brought Gideon into your lives and I’m always going to hate myself for that. It hurts so fucking bad and I can’t stop seeing it in my head.” Leo choked back a sob and wished that he had never met Gideon, that he hadn’t trusted the man. He shouldn’t have left Chris and Wyatt alone once they figured out the truth about the Elder.
Piper rubbed his arm and bit her lip to hold the tears back – Leo didn’t need her falling apart on her. Unlike Leo, who had tried to manage his grief by killing every evil being in the Underworld, she had thrown herself into caring for the boys and had taken comfort from the fact that they still had Chris in newborn form. She hadn’t been there and actually watched Chris die, but she knew the memory had completely fucked up Leo and Paige. Occasionally, Paige would walk by their room and just stop, staring at nothing. She had gotten help, however, and had moved on. “Sweetheart, I think you need to go see someone who can help. You love Chris, I know you do, and I know talking with him today helped, but you can’t let the grief affect you like this. It isn’t healthy. Will you please go see a therapist – I can find a magical one.”
Leo sighed. “Yeah, okay.” He wanted to stop feeling like this because it sucked. The nightmares had actually gone away for a little while, but he wasn’t sure if they were back for good now. He hoped not.
A few days later, he started visiting a therapist who also happened to be a witch. And it worked – He started working through his grief and coming to terms with the events that had happened during the time Chris had come back to save Wyatt.
The bad days occurred less and less, but they still struck at the most random times. Four months after Melinda’s birth, the flu struck the Halliwell household, taking Leo down with it – And the fever brought back what he had spent a long time trying to bury.
Paige, who had brought in to help Piper deal with her sick husband and children, was found crying in the hallway after trying to take care of a feverish Leo who had been pleading for Chris to hold on. “Sorry, Piper. I love my nephews and nieces, and I know Chris is alive and happy and healthy, but seeing Leo like that made me remember that day.”
“Don’t apologize – It’s not your fault. Not Leo’s either. I think you two need to talk about this after he’s over this flu.” Piper didn’t know why she hadn’t suggested it before – Maybe because Paige and Leo tended to avoid the topic of Chris’ death. Any time the subject had come up – Like when Leo had started attending therapy, she had quickly changed the topic of conversation. It was just easier to not talk about it.
Paige took a deep breath and then went in the bathroom, where she straightened herself up. After that, she returned to Piper and Leo’s bedroom to care for her brother-in-law and put on a brave face.
Once Leo recovered, Piper made her sister and husband sit down in the living room and have a conversation about that day. “Once I realized he was going to die, it felt like my whole world had just fallen out from underneath me and I didn’t know how to deal with that. You were there when I completely fucked up the attic.”
“I was. It’s stupid to miss Chris when he’s right here, but I can’t help it sometimes. I love both versions of my neurotic little nephew – Hell, I see him in the little guy occasionally and it makes me smile.” Paige gave him a watery smile.
Leo nodded, agreeing with her. He loved seeing glimpses of his future son’s behavior in Chris – It was nice. However, despite the fact that Chris has assured him he was a great father after his return visit with Wyatt a year earlier, he couldn’t help but worry that he’d fuck it up again – It was a real problem that he was also trying to work through. “I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you about this before, Paige. You were there too, but I just didn’t want to think about it.”
“Me either. I still have a good cry on his birthday, but then I pick myself up and have fun with Chris – It always works. He’s such a happy little guy.” Paige beamed at the thought of her youngest nephew.
The talk between Paige and Leo led to them both feeling much better about the situation, and Leo’s therapy worked. The bad days gradually lowered and they only seemed to affect him right around Chris’ birthday. He also stopped attending his therapy sessions after a few years because they had helped and he didn’t need it anymore.
The bad days didn’t even send him spiraling into a depression that forced him into bed, which he considered progress. However, as Chris’ twenty-third birthday approached – And his memory of the other timeline started to emerge – Leo found himself right back in the bad headspace. He couldn’t help it, especially when Chris lashed out over something that had occurred during his visit to the past. It was a very miserable few weeks for the Halliwell family.
“I know he loves me and that Chris is just remembering everything that went down, it still hurts. And I know he means it when he apologizes for his outbursts, but it feels like that year again, when everything I did was wrong in his eyes.” Leo took a sip of his coffee and looked up at Piper and Phoebe.
“Leo, you have to remember that he’s going through a lot too, and you’re not talking to each other about it, which is just frustrating.” Piper was sick of being caught in the middle of Chris and Leo’s fights, and she just wanted her son to remember everything so this stopped.
Phoebe really didn’t feel Leo’s emotions much because of the potion that he had taken years earlier, but his sadness was kicking her empathy into overdrive – His grief was extremely overpowering and she was fighting the urge to cry. “Honey, she’s right. You two honestly need to sit down and have a real conversation. I know you two talked when he came back to the past with Wyatt when we fought Christie, but that hasn’t happened yet for him. And I can tell that you’re not doing well.”
“Do I have to?” Leo wasn’t looking forward to having this conversation with his son again.
“Yes, you do. You can’t keep letting the grief in – It’s hurting you.” Phoebe excused herself from the table and hurried into the bathroom so she could cry in peace.
Leo finally took his sister-in-law’s advice the day after Chris’ twenty-third birthday – His son’s memories had fully returned and he was repeatedly apologizing for his behavior during the past month and a half. Everyone had already forgiven him, of course, and so had Leo, but he wasn’t sure if his son had forgiven him. (And that was always going to be a fear of his.)
“Hey, Dad. What are you doing here?” Chris hadn’t expected his father to show up at his and Wyatt’s apartment.
“I just wanted to talk to you.” He smiled nervously at him.
“I’m just gonna go.” Wyatt orbed out, though Leo was sure it was just outside the door so he could eavesdrop.
“What’s up?” Chris had a feeling about where this conversation was going, and he wasn’t sure if he liked it.
“I just wanted to apologize for allowing Gideon into your lives – If I had known what that fucking bastard was up to, I would have killed him before he got the chance to hurt you.” Leo closed his eyes at the sudden onslaught of tears.
“Dad, it’s not your fault – Is that really what you’ve thought for the past twenty-three years?” Chris was amazed – He hadn’t realized that this was still screwing with his father. Two decades had passed!
Leo opened his eyes and nodded, a tear leaking out. He sniffled and wiped it away. “It is my fault – If I had just figured it out sooner, maybe you wouldn’t have died.”
“Oh God. Hey, look at me – I never have and never will blame you for my death. I was prepared to die for Wy, and I did – I don’t regret it. And it was never your fault, so stop thinking that it was. I treated you badly during that year, too, remember? And you don’t hold it against me – Why should I hold your actions against you? If you want to hear that I forgive you, then I do. But you don’t need my forgiveness, because again, not your fault. It was that fucker Gideon’s fault – And it always will be his problem. Got that, Dad?”
“Got it, Kiddo.” Leo laughed as his son swung his arms out and hugged him. The two did so for nearly five minutes, before they were interrupted by Wyatt.
“Can I come back in now? This moment is touching and all, but I’m tired of listening outside the door.”
Chris laughed loudly at that and Leo’s heart swelled – He’d never get tired of hearing his children’s laughter – Piper, Wyatt, Chris, and Melinda meant the world to him. “I love you.” He knew Chris knew that, but he had to say it.
“I love you too, Dad. Now, you want to help me get revenge against my eavesdropping older, very annoying brother?” He had a plan to make Wyatt squirm.
“No, and don’t you do it either. I’m going to head home now – You boys want to come over for dinner tomorrow?” Leo couldn’t stop smiling, and he didn’t understand why.
“Sure.” Chris impulsively hugged his father again just as Wyatt finally had enough and orbed back in.
Leo would never fully recover from the events of that day, but Chris’ forgiveness (For a second time) helped out so much. His grief – A constant, but occasional companion for the past twenty-three years, gradually faded away for good.