The Secret Ingredient

AUTHOR: sodoto

SUMMARY: Chris comes to Piper on another of his demon quests, and decides to help her speed up the process, unwittingly letting slip his biggest secret...

WARNING: Inspired by a demon plot bunny.

SPOILERS: All episodes up to and including "The Legend of Sleepy Halliwell."

DISCLAIMER: Charmed belongs to, and is not limited to, Warner Bros., Aaron Spelling and Spelling Productions. This is a fan fic, for the fans and by a fan and no money exchanged hands what-so-ever. I do not own the show or the characters and I make no claim to their ownership. Fraggle rock also does not belong to me.

A/N: Assuming no one knows about Chris' true identity, takes place maybe around Spin City, ish. And God knows where this little demon plot bunny dragged me to by the end...

"Piper, there you are."

Piper looked up dourly from the bowl in her hands, evenly whisking the smooth batter while staring disapprovingly at their neurotic new Whitelighter.

"Didn't think to look for an ex-chef in the kitchen, huh?" Piper managed sarcastically, beating the liquid for another few seconds until putting the bowl down and starting to hunt down some spices from the cupboard. "Y'know, regular spices are awful to find in here. They're all mixed up with the potion ingredients."

"The cinnamon's in the other cupboard," Chris said distractedly. "Look, I think I've got a lead on who turns Wyatt evil. There's this demon ca-"

"No."

Chris stared. "Excuse me?" Leaning forwards on his hands, he looked at her incredulously. "You haven't even listened to what I have to say and you're putting cookies in front of your firstborn's safety?"

Piper scowled faintly, bustling around him as she gathered ingredients. "No, I'm not. It's what the cookies represent."

"A normal life free of demons?" Chris asked, sarcasm in his voice. "I think I've heard this tune before, Piper. You won't ever have a normal life. Not if we don't save Wyatt."

"Can't it even wait an hour?" Piper demanded. "Look, be useful, give me a hand here and I'll listen to your pitch."

"Fine," Chris snapped, casting a calculating glance over the batter. "How many cookies are you making?"

"Wyatt has a few friends coming over for a play date tonight, so it's three batches," Piper said, pursing her lips together. "Do you know where the vanilla flavoring is?"

"I'll deal with the flavoring," Chris said absently, grabbing a bowl and a spoon, and starting to pull out spices and flavoring from the shelves. Piper shrugged and started to sieve in the plain flour. "Anyway, this demon."

Piper nodded. "What about this demon?"

"They're called Hebridean Goblins," Chris explained, adding a pinch of ground nutmeg to the bowl he was mixing up. "But don't be put off by the whole goblins bit."

"I thought you said we needed to update our goblins entry," Piper said, casting an appraising look at Chris.

"You do," Chris said, looking surprised. "You remembered?" He smiled when she nodded. "Uh- Do you know where the ginseng is?"

Piper frowned. "Probably - well, we made that vanquishing potion for the vile imp that had the ginseng in, so it may be near the arrowroot."

Chris rummaged in the cupboard, and came out with the right pot. "Anyway, they're not strictly goblins. Look more like vampires, really, but the nasty bit is, is when it's the full moon, they can change their aura, reverse their polarity, leaving them able to get through Wyatt's force field." He added a few drops of lime juice to the bowl and stirred vigorously. "It's a fairly simple vanquishing potion, but I'm afraid it's a power of three spell."

"You called for the power of three?"

Chris glanced up from the bowl in his hand, looking a little relieved that Paige and Phoebe had just walked in. "Great. Piper was just agreeing to a little vanquish today, weren't you?" He turned to look at Piper, and stopped, his brow furrowing. "Piper?"

Worried, Paige and Phoebe hurried forwards.

"Piper, honey?" Phoebe pushed Chris aside to take Piper's wrist, and the elder sister shook her head as if shaking herself out of a daze.

"You okay?" Paige asked, concerned.

"Yeah, I-" Piper flickered a nervous glance at Chris and the bowl in his hand. "It's just-"

Suddenly apprehensive, Chris stared tentatively back. "What?"

Piper's mouth worked silently for a long moment. "He just mixed the secret cookie ingredient!"

Phoebe's head flew up. "What?"

"Huh?" Genuinely surprised, Chris shook his head in bewilderment. "But.. this is just..." Suddenly he looked a little doubtful. "It's just how everyone makes cookies!"

Piper shook her head, looking triumphant. "Nu-uh, the vanilla, the ginseng, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, lime juice, the cinnamon... that's the secret ingredient passed down from Halliwell generation to Halliwell generation! And-" Her eyes widened in abrupt realisation, and her voice pitched upwards to match her surprise. "You're a Halliwell!"

Chris blanched visibly. "No. No! You just- uh-" He flushed, realising it was too late to lie, and held up his hands as if in apology. He tried to lie anyway. "You just... really trust me in the future?"

"None of us are going to fall for that one, mister!" Paige declared, standing shoulder to shoulder with her sisters, hands akimbo as they faced the young Whitelighter down.

"Stop lying! One of us taught you that recipe in the future," Piper said. She paused, her eyebrows rising as she realised what it meant. "One of us is your mother!"

Chris' mouth opened, and fell shut, and opened again. Exhaling hard, he looked away, and then looked sheepishly back at them. "Uh- Well. This demon, anyway, we have to vanquish it, and now seeing as we're all here-"

"Paige, your mom has to be Paige," Piper declared staunchly, nodding her head.

Paige looked abruptly astonished, her brown eyes widening impossibly. "Whaat?" Paige edged slightly away from Piper and Phoebe, who were both looking at her appraisingly. "I'm not! I can't be! Just 'cause I'm a half-whitelighter doesn't mean..."

Phoebe and Piper were still looking at her.

"Chris!" Paige pleaded quickly with Chris. "Please tell them I'm not your mother."

"Paige is not my mother," Chris said quietly, looking at the tiled floor slowly before raising his gaze defiantly. Then a small amused expression crept on his face. "Just a rather kick-ass aunt," he admitted, spreading his hands awkwardly.

Piper's mind whirled at the faint admission that their Whitelighter was actually one of the family, and she started to feel faintly guilty that they had mistrusted him so much, when he'd risked so much to save the family.

Then her mind stopped whirling as she realised Paige and Phoebe were now looking at her, and started plummeting wildly downwards. Her stomach clenched as she realised that the possibility was there. "Noooooo."

"You have the Whitelighter ex-husband," Phoebe supplemented.

"Precisely!" Piper exclaimed. "EX-husband! I may have made having a Whitelighter partner fashionable..." She gestured weakly at Chris, who summarily winced. "And you are SO my future son! Oh! Oh! Oh!" Holding her hands to her chest, she stared at Chris.

He ducked his head, looking to one side. "Y-yeah," he said softly. "I am." He looked up, hard. "But you have to see why I couldn't tell you. It was too dangerous. At least now I know I have a chance in this lifetime."

"Huh?" Paige cocked her head to one side, looking with deepening admiration at the young man before them.

"My-uh-" Chris looked abruptly amused. "My conception date was, uh, a month ago. When you and Leo were, uh, trapped on the ghostly plane." He had the grace to look a little embarrassed.

Piper stared in disbelief. "I- I- I'm pregnant?"

"So that's why you almost disappeared!" Paige looked as if someone had just turned a light on in her mind. "Not because Piper and Leo save your parents' lives at some point in the future, but because-"

"Because they are my parents, yes." Chris shifted uneasily. "Look, I know this is huge, but the demons aren't going away, and my brother is in more danger every day we can't find what turns him."

"Demon?" Phoebe asked, suddenly brisk and businesslike.

"Hebridean goblin," Chris started to explain.

"The ones that switch their morality polarity every full moon?" Paige stared in consternation. "But it's the full moon tonight!"

"Precisely," Chris said. "We gotta make a vanquishing potion, and-"

Chris never got the chance to finish what he was about to say, as a shimmering in the middle of the kitchen got their attention. The brief flash of black scales and thin red eyes was enough for Chris to quickly identify them.

"They've come early!" Chris yelled, as they ducked for cover. An energy ball sizzled through the air.

"What does that mean?" Phoebe demanded, fragments of energy showering down on them from their limited hiding position.

"It means we don't need the complicated potion," Chris said. "I hope." At their combined looks of worry, he shrugged. "I've never had to face them before, you're supposed to have wiped them out fully by the time I turned five!"

"Cover me," Piper said quickly to Paige, tensing as if to stand up. Paige noticed, and copied her. They both stood up at the same time.

"Energy ball!" Paige yelled, extending her hand, calling the energy ball to her, and pushing it away towards the demon. It smashed into the scaled goblin, and it reared back in pain.

Piper gestured at it with her powers, clenching and unclenching her hands, and it disappeared into a thousand fragments with a disappointed howl.

Phoebe and Chris struggled to their feet, looking around at the burned kitchen warily.

"You ought to get started on that potion," Chris said briskly. "They're known to travel in packs, meaning there's probably another seven gonna try and attack, unless that attack has scared them off. I'll go to the underground and see if I can find out the-"

"No you don't."

Chris stopped, startled, at Piper's words.

"We're going to make the potion, and we're going to be ready for them here," Piper decided. "You're going to tidy up this mess and finish the cookies."

"But-" Chris started to protest.

"But nothing. You're a member of this household, and you're going to have to start contributing to the housework." Piper patted him awkwardly on the shoulder, then patted herself wonderingly on the stomach. "And if you or mini-you in here gives me any cheek what-so-ever, just remember I can ground you for the rest of your life."

"I'll get started on the potion," Paige said, winking at Chris wonderingly and orbing away to the attic. Phoebe looked a little lost for a second, and pitched forward with a squeal.

"You're so cute!" Phoebe put out a hand and messed up Chris' hair. "I could just eat you up!"

Chris laughed. "You never stop that, do you?"

Phoebe looked guilty for a second, but grinned. "I can't help it if all my nephews are adorable." She settled against the counter for a second, and then looked at Piper and Chris quickly. "Uh, I think I'll go up and help Paige," she said quickly, turning and leaving before Piper could stop her.

Piper watched her go, and turned back to face Chris, taking in the half-Whitelighter slowly, as if trying to imprint his image permanently into her memory, like a photograph. "It must have been hard, not telling us. Especially when we didn't trust you."

Chris shrugged lightly, but his eyes told a different story. "I'll do whatever I have to, to save my family."

"If- If that's the case, then why did you send Leo to Valhalla, and split us up?" Piper cocked her head to one side.

"I really shouldn't-" Chris said. "Can we say something vaguely along the lines that it will save his life, some time in the future, and that although it wasn't strictly necessary, I guess-" He faltered. "I was kind of mad at him for not being there, and then when there was finally the chance of him being there, he- Well. Died. Because he didn't know in enough time what he learned at Valhalla."

Piper, stunned, stared at him for a long second, and when she finally spoke her voice was quiet. "Oh."

"Oh," Chris echoed. "Well, it's not gonna happen this time round. Unless it was, y'know, destined and I- I don't really want to think that, no matter how much-" He stopped, suddenly, as if he'd said too much.

"No matter how much you hate him for not being there for you," Piper finished. Chris looked at her sharply. "You're not the only one who grew up with a father who was never around. You're always going to be a little dodgy around him, honey, but love- it kind of sticks around too."

Chris smiled, but the smile did not completely reach his eyes. "That's what you said in the future, too."

"Must be right, then," Piper declared, her skin shriveling a little at the sound of the word future, but pushing it away. "Right, I'll go upstairs, you finish the cookies."

Piper moved as if to leave, but stopped at the small change of expression on Chris' face. "They, uh, they could probably make the potion without you," Chris started, hesitantly, as if it was the hardest thing he'd ever said.

"I know," Piper said. "I was going to clear out the old nursery so we can fit one of the old beds in there."

Chris' face mirrored the confusion evident in his eyes. "Huh?"

"For you to stay here." Piper grinned. "Can't have someone who knows the secret Halliwell cookie ingredient leaving the Halliwell home, now, can we?"

Chris small smile was all she needed. Piper returned the expression, feeling a little giddy but warm at the knowledge swelling through her body, that the baby she carried would live and flourish and love his family enough to risk his life to save them.

"Hey," Chris called as she reached the door.

Piper twisted to look at him.

"Don't lift any heavy objects."

Piper wrinkled her nose as Chris glanced at the floor, toeing the tiled floor with his worn sneakers. Her motherly instinct kicked in, startling her, and decided to suggest a shopping trip for Chris in the near future to Paige and Phoebe. With the power of three against him, there was nothing he could do to say no.

"Why, Chris, it's almost as if you cared about the health of the baby I carry."

Chris sniggered impishly. "While you're at it, you might want to lay off the cookies. You're getting a little waist heavy if you catch my drift."

Piper smiled sweetly. "Does the phrase 'grounded for life' mean anything to you?"

"Does the phrase 'both of your sons can orb' suggest anything about what that answer would be?"

"And you're testing the boundaries of the woman who can enroll you in many different extra-curricular activities from a young age," Piper returned sarcastically. Chris squinted uneasily. Piper delivered the retort with timing perfected by years of living with her sisters. "Mind you, you may enjoy being a ballerina who can knit baby bootees while singing tragic opera and whose favourite activity is to voluntarily scrub toilets at retirement homes, and may I warn you, some old people's bowels are loose."

"If I mentioned I virulently hated football, cooking, music and films right now, would you believe me and for punishment sign me up for those?" Chris grinned fiercely, whipping the mixture in the bowl almost violently.

"You like cooking?" Piper blinked.

"How could anyone grow up around you and not?" Chris asked, his voice deadpan until he winced. "Except for Aunt Phoebe."

"God, did she ever try and make you meatloaf?"

Chris' wince was enough in reply.

"Want me to try and change that for the future too?"

"Don't tempt me."

Piper laughed. "Oh, and don't forgot to-"

"-wash up after myself," Chris finished. "Yeah, yeah."

"Oy, cheeky," Piper teased, turning again and heading up the stairs, to where she could hear Phoebe and Paige discussing their new nephew in high-pitched, excited voices, berating each other for not spotting it sooner. Leo was bringing Wyatt down in an hour or so, after asking to spend some fatherly time with his son. Maybe when he came down, she'd be able to tempt him to stay a bit longer with a cup of tea and some genuine Halliwell cookies.

Humming a little under her breath, Piper moved to finish climbing the stairs when she heard another sound coming from the kitchen, a contented melodious whistle. She started as she realised it was the same tune that she was humming, realising he must have grown up with her humming the tune for him.

Feeling more at peace than she had for a while, even if it was a kind of restless peace, Piper continued humming the song as she climbed, and tried not to imagine her newly-discovered twenty-odd year old son from the future doing the dance that - according to the current generation of Halliwell sisters - went along with the song.

Theme of Fraggle Rock. Lyrics deleted.

Fini.