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Family, Perhaps

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“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Piers’s response to the announcement of Sherry and Jake’s engagement was expected, but much quieter than predicted. Chris sipped his coffee as he desperately avoided eye contact with Piers, whose glare to be placing the ‘blame’ of this event on him. Claire smiled and sat up straighter, adjusting herself in her chair.

“I think Chris can agree,” Claire said, ignoring Chris’s cringing, “that Sherry is very happy with Jake, and I know that’s what I want for her. She deserves happiness.”

“It’s Jake Muller,” Piers said flatly.

“It’s her choice.” Chris said.

“Babe, are you serious?”

“I just wanted to have a nice breakfast with everyone.”

Piers rolled his eyes before turning to Jill. “Jill,” he started.

“Don’t.”

Chris snorted at Jill’s warning tone. She continued her crossword puzzle, tapping her pen against her lips. He’d known her long enough to tell that if Piers were to continue his question, he would lose his other arm. Claire and Leon glanced between the two, as they were also aware of this.

However, Piers was not, and continued into the hornet’s nest.

“What do you think about Jake Muller?”

“What do you think about being six feet in the ground by noon?” Jill quipped back, giving him only the slightest glance.

Piers pressed his lips together before opening his mouth and closing it again. He slumped against his chair, crossing his arms and pouting like a child not getting their way. An uncomfortable silence fell over the sun-filled breakfast nook, the only sound coming from Jill occasionally filling an answer in on her crossword puzzle, Leon clearing his throat, and Chris placing his coffee mug on the glass table. Claire hummed and tapped her fingers on the table, drawing Chris’s attention. “Chris.”

“What?”

“Did you tell him?”

“Claire,” Chris sighed.

“What? Tell him what? What did you mean to tell me, Chris? I’m hoping it’s good,” Piers said, sitting up and forcing a smile. Chris took a deep breath, shot a look at Jill who was trying, and failing, to hold back her laughter, and spoke.

“Claire is my sister,” Chris started, putting up a hand to stop any comment, “let me finish, Piers. Claire is my sister, and, as you may have forgotten, she legally adopted Sherry in 2003.”

“Absolutely not.”

“So, that would make her my niece,” Chris continued.

“You can’t be serious.”

“And since you and I are married,” Chris pushed on.

“No. No, I refuse. This is unacceptable!” Piers stood up and Chris sighed in exasperation.

“You refuse to accept how family relationships work or refuse to continue to be married to Chris,” Leon snickered.

“No! No! None of this! I hate this,” Piers threw his hands up, nearly swatting Jill in the face with his prosthetic arm.

“Tragic. Truly, the worst thing that’s happened to you, obviously,” Jill said with a roll of her eyes. She stood up and stretched before placing her pen behind her ear. “As much as I’d love to watch this episode of Jerry Springer, I have a date with Sheva in half an hour, so I’m heading out. Try not to destroy my house while I’m gone,” Jill said, waving behind her as she shut the door.

“Bye, Jill! Have a nice date!” Claire shouted at her. Chris glanced at her from the corner of his eye.

“You still have a crush on her, huh?” Chris said, going back to his coffee mug.

“Everyone’s had a crush on Jill.” Leon said. Chris hummed. “Piers, you gonna sit back down or what?”

Piers huffed before walking away, the door to the bedroom closing harshly. Chris placed his coffee mug down once more, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. He had absolutely expected Piers to be upset. If he was being honest with himself, he had partially expected Piers to have walked out earlier, and found his relatively calm response concerning, considering the events of the past few weeks.

Nightmares would wake Piers constantly in the night, and their intensity had increased, but Chris had been denied any sort of reason from his husband. Piers tended to lock his emotions and traumas away, and as Chris tried to comfort him or find a way to help, Piers became more and more distant and cold. He would walk around the house or sometimes even the neighborhood at night instead of sleeping, and was rarely affectionate.

Chris was scared.

He knew Piers was at a boiling point.

Leon shook Chris from his thoughts. “I’m sure he’ll come around, Claire. Don’t worry. I don’t think he can stay mad forever.” Leon said, affectionately rubbing his thumb over Claire’s knuckles.

An argument from a rough night six weeks ago between Chris and Piers and two phrases, screamed in a rage, floated back through Chris’s subconscious, and he felt a pang shoot through his chest. He picked at his nails in a futile attempt to fight back the insecurity that had been haunting him for so long.

Chris sighed. “I don’t know about any of that,” he whispered softly.

Claire and Leon looked at Chris in near shock. They had never heard Chris talk about Piers with any sort of doubt before, had rarely heard him speak with doubt at all. Claire began to ask him if Piers’s hatred for Jake truly ran that deep when she saw Chris’s face. “Chris, what’s wrong?”

Chris rubbed his face before a soft laugh left his throat. His eyes landed on his wedding picture, noting how happy they both had looked.

“Piers said he hates me. He wishes we’d never met.”

Chris laughed as tears fell from his eyes.

Chapter Text

Claire and Leon looked at each other in panic before back at Chris, who was sipping his coffee with tears rolling down his face and the strained smile of a man who was desperately trying to hold himself together.

Chris examined the crossword page Jill had been working on prior to her departure, shaking his head.

"Wow, Jill. Twenty years and your handwriting is still atrocious. Figured you would have gotten better," Chris mused to himself. He squinted at one of the words before a short laugh escaped his chest. "Still can't spell, either."

Claire opened her mouth to attempt to comfort her brother, only to realize she had no idea how to comfort him. She looked at Leon for help, who shifted in his chair before taking a deep breath.

"How... how long has this been happening?" Leon asked slowly.

Chris didn't look up as placed his now empty coffee mug onto the table. "What, Jill not knowing how to spell? Eh, she's never been really-"

"Chris," Claire said firmly, cutting him off.

"Yes?"

"He meant... how long have you and Piers been having trouble?" 

Chris set his jaw as he smiled and looked into the distance. His tears had stopped falling, but his eyes were still misty. He hummed as he tried to remember.

"Maybe four months. Can't really say."

Leon's eyes widened and he leaned back.

"Chris, that's a long-"

"That's just how long he's been saying he wishes he hadn't met me. We've had problems for much longer."

Claire let out a heavy breath, not realizing she had been holding it. Her shoulders sagged, a feeling of guilt washing over her. She'd been around Chris quite often since he'd gotten married, and of course she'd seen he'd been tired. She'd just never asked why.

"How much longer," she whispered.

Chris froze, pressing his lips together before sighing. "Since he saw Jake at the wedding."

"Four years?!" Claire shouted.

"Four years of absolute bullshit," Piers's voice echoed from the hall, followed by the door slamming once more.

A small sound came from Chris as he sunk his head into his hands, frustrated and scared as the house fell back into silence. He could hear Piers pacing in their room and the occasional swear as he would stumble over something. Leon and Claire were attempting to get the other to say something, but both were too shocked to know what to say.

Eventually, Piers grew silent down the hall as well.