Chris — Grudge
Chris (17) - Travis (15) - Connor (14)
Post Battle of the Labyrinth
"You have to."
"I don't want to."
"Tomorrow. You're gonna do it.
"Please don't make me, Clarisse."
"Right now then."
Chris closes his eyes and inhales slowly. Gods, he loves her. He really, really do. Her tenacity. Her stubbornness. Her fierceness. Her bravery. He loves it all. But right now, right at this very moment, he hates all of it.
"Clarisse, please, listen to me. You don't know them," Chris pleads again, but Clarisse's scowl only deepens.
"No, you listen. I have been living with them these past years. I know them better than you."
"Connor will hate me. He'll kick me out. I know he will."
"Then I'll kick Connor's butt. Simple as that."
Nothing is simple with Connor. And Chris is ready to begin another bout of pleading when someone knocks on the door to the weaponry.
"Chris? Hello~?" A girl peeks into the room. She's young. Couldn't be older than 8 at most. Her eyes lock onto them and she smiles cheekily.
"Travis asks when you're coming back to the cabin," the girl asks.
And Clarisse, in all her beautiful glory and bluntness, states without consulting him at all, "He's coming back right now, Callie. Go ahead and tell Travis and Connor."
"Okay!" Callie nods and her toothy smile widens before the door closes.
"No, Clarisse, I can't. I can't. I really, really can't—"
"Shut up and listen," Clarisse snaps, but her eyes soften just a tad and she places a hand on his shoulder. "It doesn't matter what Travis and Connor think. You changed. You're good now. And if they can't accept that, then that's on them."
The dread in his heart didn't lift a bit. Clarisse doesn't know Connor. Clarisse doesn't know how long Connor can hold grudges. The small prank he pulled back when he was 9 resulted in a month of revenge pranks.
A month. For one measly, harmless prank.
That measly prank back then… compared to his offense now…
The problems he created. The peers he convinced to join their cause. The deaths he indirectly caused. He's irredeemable. He shouldn't be forgiven. What was Clarisse thinking bringing back his sanity? Going back to Cabin 11, especially now after such a painful battle… it'll only bring discomfort.
"Chris," Clarisse said, "it's going to be fine. Let's go."
"Can't I keep hiding out in the weaponry?" Gods, even to him he sounds pathetic. Clarisse shakes her head and opens the door, gesturing with her head to get a move on.
Chris sighs and wills his hands to stop shaking. "Yeah. Okay. You're right. Might as well get this over with."
He stands and heads outside.
Fine. It's going to be fine. Everything is going to be fine.
A step out to the paved gravel, a turn to the cabins, a step towards the cabins.
Fine. It'll be fine.
One more step to the cabins, one more, one more, one more.
It'll all be fine.
More steps, more walking, more shuffling his feet till he's there, standing before the cabin he called home 3 years ago. The cabin he forsook with Luke to create a better home.
It looks just like it did years ago.
He steps onto the porch.
The creaky board is still the same.
One more step on the stairway.
Nobody fixed the broken rod from that time Luke tried to do parkour.
Another step. He's five steps from the front door.
The front window is still missing its panel.
Somebody still hasn't swept the pine cones off the porch.
The plaque with their cabin's name is still faded and unreadable.
And that porch light is still broken.
He can't do this.
"You can do this," Clarisse says firmly behind him.
Do it all at once. Rip it off like it's a bandaid. Just do it.
And he grabs the doorknob, twists, pushes, and yells first with his eyes squeezed tight.
It's completely silent. Is nobody inside? Did he luck out?!
He peeks an eye open and the first thing they zero in on was the banner being strung across the ceiling by two kids on a ladder.
'Welcome back,' it says.
The second thing he notices, the multicolored balloons scatter throughout the cabin.
The third, his half brother (Travis? Connor?) sitting on the nightstand with a balloon weight in his hands and a blond kid he doesn't recognize on the bed beside him.
His brother is shocked, mouth slightly open, hands frozen,
Nobody move. Nobody talk. Nobody even breathes.
Until (Travis? Connor?) drops the weight and it thumps on the floor. With agility Chris definitely did not remember his half-brother possessing, he leaps from the nightstand, vaults over two of their cabinmates, and topples over a picture frame to stand in front of him.
He skids to a stop, sneakers squeaking on the hardwood.
Behind him, Clarisse mutters, "Spaz."
(Travis? Connor?) smiles widely. "Chris! You're here! Much, much, much~ earlier than we expected! But we're so happy to see you!"
And (Travis? Connor?) opens their arm in a hug that Chris hesitates before walking into. The hug is crushingly tight. He couldn't help the small 'oof' as (Travis? Connor?) pulls him tight against his chest.
Chris is still taller by a few inches. He's still feeling the same tickle as ruly, unbrushed hair brush against his nose. He's still smelling the same, generic shampoo Camp provides to all the yearrounders.
But the number of beads pressing against his sternum. The scar he could see at the base of the neck. The strength behind the hug. It's all new.
"We're so happy you're okay again," (Travis? Connor?) says into his neck, earnest and thick. And that's new too.
Chris swallows. His arms remain by his side.
I'm sorry for leaving you. I'm sorry for betraying you. I'm sorry for destroying for Thalia's Pine. I'm sorry for making camp unsafe. I'm sorry for invading the camp. I'm sorry for hurting you. I'm sorry for everything.
But the hug only somehow grows tighter and (Travis? Connor?) pats his back.
"It's okay. I don't mind—AH! CALLIE!" And the hug is broken as (Travis? Connor?) shoves him to the side to bound down the porch stairs.
"You were supposed to tell us when Chris was coming!" (Travis? Connor?) scolds.
Chris turns around to see the child who had entered the weaponry walking to the cabin. Callie pulls up short of the stairs, eyes flickering between him, Clarisse, and her counselor. He could see her mutter 'oh crap' and genuine panic framing her features before it all melts away into a very sweet smile. She takes the few steps to stand before them.
"I'm sorry. I got hungry." She waves her bag of Fritos. "Do you want some?"
(Travis? Connor?) shakes his head. "Nice try, but I'm not Connor. You can't bribe me with snacks."
It's so weird. To see Travis lecturing… actually lecturing like a counselor would do. He doesn't want to see anymore and he peeks inside the cabin.
45 eyes stare back at him.
Hermes's cabin has always been crowded, but he figures when he and the others deflected, it would be less crowded.
It's more or less the same amount of people.
Most of them are on the younger side. There are a few older ones, but none he recognized.
Maddy. Celise. Mai. John…
The unclaimed and children of Hermes that didn't join them, they're not here. And he doesn't know if that's good or bad.
One of the older ones scowls, turning a back to him.
That sick feeling in his stomach is back. The voice comes full force. 'Traitor,' it says. 'Betrayer. Back-stabber. double crosser. sellout.'
'Why are you even here?'
'They should kick you out.'
'You should leave'
Travis latches onto his forearm, dragging him inside with a crooked grin. "Come on. I'll introduce you to everyone. Clarisse, you're not allowed inside. Not until you apologized to Derek for wrecking his summer project."
"Like hell I — "
The door slams shut and it's just Chris and his 47 cabinmates. The churning in his stomach grows worse.
Behind him, Clarisse bangs on the door and screeches to be let in.
46 demigods stare at him. Some with amicable curiosity. A few with open hostility. More than anything, Chris wants to go back to hiding in the weaponry. He rather be anywhere than here.
The hand on his arm squeezes. "It's going to be okay. Don't be scared," Travis whispers against his ear. When he glances down, there's a fire in his eyes that wasn't there three years ago.
I got your back, he mouths, letting his arm go to stand slightly in front of him.
"So as you all know, this is Chris. He's a —" Traitor. "Son of Hermes. He's actually a really old friend of mine, so everybody please welcome him warmly."
A few people utter hellos. But most stay quiet.
Undeterred, Travis continues, "How about we go around and say our names? I'll start. I'm Travis."
"My name is Veronica," Callie says.
"And I'm Superman!" a boy beside Callie pipes up.
"Captain Marvel!" someone in the back screams.
"I'm Naruto Uzumaki and I'm going to be the Hokage. Believe it!"
Travis claps his hands. "And that's the end of introductions. Thank you all for cooperating. I'll introduce you guys one by one later. Everybody just go back to setting the party up."
It takes a couple of seconds for the group to stop milling about. They each go to different corners of the cabin. A few linger to give him dirty looks, but they all scurry away when Travis threw confetti in their faces.
"Hao, Cedi, Connie, go back to blowing up the balloons."
They disperse begrudgingly, but not without one giving him a finger.
His heart sinks, but this isn't surprising. They have every right to not like him, to not trust him. After all he did, it's to be expected.
"Sorry about them," Travis chuckles, a hand going to scratch the back of his head, "They're, uh, still feeling the adrenaline from the battle earlier."
"Come on. I'll show you to your bed."
Travis turns around and heads for the back of the cabin. And Chris, after a hesitant look back to the door where Clarisse is still screaming, follows without a word.
Maybe it's by coincidence but Travis leads him to his old bunk bed, the bunk bed that's beside the one window that never manages to completely shut. The coldest area of the cabin with the thickest blanket.
Travis slinks onto the bottom mattress and pats next to him, gesturing for Chris to sit too. Travis with his entirely too open smile. Travis with his entirely too relaxed posture. Travis with his lack of acrimony, lack of ill feeling, lack of animosity.
And before he could stop himself, he blurts, "Why don't you hate me?"
Travis blinks owlishly at him, no words were spoken between them for a minute, before a sly smile encroaches his face and he's reminded of their time three years ago. "Should I hate you?"
"Yes, I committed so many… done so many…" Bad things. Atrocious things. Indefensible things.
"That's all in the past. You're good again, right?"
Chris bites his lips. Good? Him? He was never good to begin with, but he sits down across from his brother. Travis smiles reassuringly and tosses him a jacket. The tag in the back says 'Charles'.
Travis's isn't commenting on how he got the jacket from the most well-defended cabin on camp and Chris isn't about to ask as he shrugs it on.
"So I guess first things first, you know I can tell lies, right?"
Chris nods. He recalls all the late night talks in the cabin trying to figure out the mechanism. Random lying to test its capacity. A little fib here and there. Stretching the truth to see how far it can go. That was all Annabeth did for almost two years until she figured it all out.
"Everything except the absolute truth will trigger it."
He nods again.
Travis sighs and leans back. The smile didn't drop on his face, but there's a glint to his eyes, another side to his face, and Chris would be lying if he said he didn't cower a bit.
"So are you, in any way, shape, or form, still on Luke's side to destroy, maim, and tear down Camp Half Blood and/or Mount Olympus?"
In a blink of an eye, the menacing aura is gone and it's in place is Travis's usual frivolous attitude. "Alright. We're good. Welcome home, Chris!"
Chris waits for maybe ten more seconds before realizing that's it.
That's all Travis is going to ask.
"Wait… you don't want to ask more? Like Luke's plans or … or … or… Luke's plans?"
But Travis only shrugs. "Nah, Connor and Anniebeth handle that stuff. I just make sure the person is being truthful."
Then his brother leans over and racks on the window with his knuckles. "Which he is so no worries, guys."
Chris leans over too to see what's by the window, but Travis shoves him back hard by the chest. A moment later, the top drawer of the night table exploded with white powder. They sprinkle down in a shower. A speck landed on the back of his hand and it reddens immediately, already puffing up and itching.
Travis lowers the shield he pulled from nowhere and tosses him an unlabeled bottle, eyes apologetic.
"That's the ointment. It should help a bit with the itchiness. Sorry. Connor's still the same. I hope you finally learned some real escaping skills while away because Connor definitely got better at setting up his pranks."
There's a horrible creaking sound and the door to their cabin caves. Clarisse stands on the other side, foot slamming back down to the ground.
"Travis, you ass!" she says as she marches inside.
Travis flinches but didn't back down. And maybe that's the biggest change.
Three years ago, Travis would have backed away. Three years ago, Travis would have done anything to avoid conflict. Three years ago, Travis would have shoved him in between them. Now…
"Clarisse, what the heck man! We have a strict no cursing policy! You're fixing our door or I'm telling Chiron."