A/N: Because it took me so long to update, I figured I had better make it worth your while. This is the final chapter with the epilogue. Thanks to all who read and reviewed – this story would NEVER have been completed without your ongoing support.
Special thanks to those who reviewed the last chapter: Sky Samuelle, Sabrina, YamiTsubasa, Sparkling Cherries, charmedtomeetyou, Zeria and Charmed Ravenclaw.
The End of All Things
At the Resistance's Headquarters…
The valkyrie looked down at the body of her friend and mentor, the slight swallowing movement of her throat the only sign of her distress, "That's Kate."
Darryl quickly drew the sheet up over the still body, "Chris found her body not far from Valhalla. The wound in her back clearly indicates she was struck by an arrow – probably a darklighter arrow at that."
Freyna snorted as she retorted hotly, "That means nothing! The mortals use arrows –,"
"But not laced with darklighter poison," Lilah interjected sharply.
Freyna shot the whitelighter a look from beneath her lashes, "You're sure?"
The whitelighter nodded tiredly, "I'm sure. And you know whitelighters cannot lie."
"Did she…" Freyna paused, blinking furiously. "Did she die quickly?" No need to ask about pain – it went without question that darklighter poison was not an easy way to die.
Lilah cleared her throat, offering what little comfort she could, "Yes, she did. But Freyna – I hate to ask you this now, but speed is of the utmost concern. Will you call off your valkyries?"
Freyna gave no indication that she heard the request. Emotions flickered across her face, grief warring with rage, "She was my sister. She deserved better than this. She deserved to die honourably. Not shot in the back by some sneaky, snivelling coward…"
Darryl exchanged a silent glance with Lilah, not unaffected by Freyna's grief. He too, was all too familiar with the deaths of loved ones. However, there were more critical matters at hand. He said, not unsympathetically, his voice gruff with emotion, "Freyna – will you call off your people?"
Freyna turned dull eyes towards him. "She was my sister."
Closing her eyes, she released her breath in a slow hiss, "And she would want me to keep my promise to Chris." She opened her eyes to stare steadily into Darryl's, "I will keep my word."
Darryl released the breath he hadn't realized he was holding, "Thank you."
Freyna looked away, unable to continue holding Darry's gaze, "And now, you'll have to excuse me. I need to tell the others about our sister." She paused as she began to make her exit, "Oh, and Darryl? Could you let Chris know I'll be a little late for our meeting?"
Darryl's brow furrowed, "Meeting?"
The valkyrie nodded wearily, "He asked me to meet him in San Francisco to discuss the situation. However, given what I know now…"
The valkyrie was cut off by as the door suddenly swung open and a frantic woman entered.
"Darryl!" She ignored everyone else in the room, her entire being focused on gaining Darryl's attention. "The control room is going crazy! Something's happening in San Fran! Magical readings are off the chart! We can't even get a telepathic message from any of our contacts. The concentration of magic emitting from the area is causing our communications network to go haywire!"
Darryl didn't even hesitate.
"Lilah – San Fran – now!" He barked, grasping the whitelighter's hand. In the background, he could hear Freyna telling Lilah she was coming with them. He ignored them, yelling at the shell shocked messenger as the blues orbs swirled up to transport him away, "Get back to the control room and wait for my update!"
Michael's rough voice broke through his consciousness, "You okay, big brother?"
Groaning, D.J. opened his mouth to respond but instead ended up curling onto his side as he tried to hack out one of his lungs. In lieu of a response, he gave his brother a 'thumbs up' sign before weakly opening his eyelids.
Michael was crouching over him in concern but as soon as D.J. opened his eyes, he saw his brother visibly relax. Michael patted him on the shoulder none too gently, unbeknownst that he was setting off flashes of pain through his brother's body. "Stay here. I'm going to check on Duncan."
Shooting his brother a glare, he merely nodded. As if I could move even if I wanted. God damn it. Everything hurt. Swallowing, D.J. began a mental inventory of his injuries – as he assessed his damage, he could hear in the distance the distinct sounds of orbing.
He blinked in wonderment as his father's face was suddenly in his vision. Before he could respond, his father was thrust aside to be replaced by the very worried face of their friend Lilah. She smiled at him encouragingly, her mouth whispering words of comfort through his haze of pain as the feeling of a gentle, golden warmth spread through his body.
Michael's voice sounded in the distance, urgency in his tone, "Lilah! I need you here!"
Helping D.J. into a sitting position, she nodded over her shoulder at Darryl, "I'm going to check on Duncan. Be right back." She looked sternly at D.J., "Don't move."
And then she was gone.
"You okay, buddy?" Darryl's forehead was creased with worry.
D.J. coughed once, flexing his muscles and testing his injuries. The dull twinge of pain that responded back was nothing compared to the intense pain he had felt just moments earlier. Thank God for whitelighter healing, D.J. thought. Aloud, "Yeah. I think so. What about Michael? He okay?"
Darryl glanced over his shoulder, watching his youngest kneel next to Lilah nearby. The pair were hovering over the prone body of who Darryl could only guess was Duncan. He swallowed, convulsively. Was Duncan too far gone? Darryl knew there was only so much healing a whitelighter could do. He gave himself a small shake and clamped down on the negative thought and diverted his attention back to D.J. "Seems so. Definitely in better shape than you. I'll feel better when he tells me though." He looked down at his son, "You want to fill me in?"
Before D.J. could respond, his brother stumbled over. The two brothers exchanged a look, telling D.J. everything he needed to know. "Duncan's okay, then?"
Michael nodded wearily, sinking to his knees next to his family, "Had to give him CPR for a bit, but luckily Lilah got here in time. That guy has nine lives." He glanced back over his shoulder, "Lilah's just finishing with him now."
"What about…" D.J. swallowed nervously. He had deliberately averted his gaze from Chris' family. "Was Leo able to…"
Michael shook his head, his breath catching slightly, "I don't know. I don't think so. I think…I think Chris is…gone."
D.J. flinched, his eyes closing in resignation. God damn it all, he thought bitterly, why is there always a price to pay?
"What happened?" Darryl demanded, interrupting the brief silence.
"I'm not sure…" D.J. mulled it over in his head. "One second we were running towards Zankou, trying to distract him so that Chris could get his chance…"
"I remember pushing you out of the way of a fireball…" Michael continued, his voice distracted as he wiped at the soot on his face.
D.J. nodded, picking up the story thread again, "And then Chris had Excalibur in his hand…"
"And the next, there was this brilliant white light," Michael shrugged. "And then I woke up with a hell of a headache, checked on D.J. and Duncan and you guys arrived."
"White light?" Darryl's voice was puzzled.
"It was Chris." A shadow fell over the Morris' family as Duncan towered over them before collapsing in exhaustion next to them. "That white light was the backlash of power of destroying Zankou with Excalibur." He shrugged off Darryl's concerned look, "I'm good. Lilah healed me right up. She's checking on…the Halliwells."
"Backlash of power?" D.J. shook his head, trying to fit the pieces together, his forehead still throbbing in pain. He tried to wrap his mind around what had happened…and Chris was gone?
"A demon that powerful – there was no way Chris could have destroyed him without Excalibur. And when two such powerful magics collide, you literally have the magical equivalency of an atomic bomb." Duncan explained, his eyes trained on the Halliwell family weeping less than 200 feet from them.
"Then why aren't we dust? Not that I'm complaining," Michael injected hurriedly.
Duncan smiled grimly, "Because at the last moment, Chris threw all his energy into a shield to contain the devastation." He jerked his head in the general direction of the crater which they all just laid outside of. "If we had been within a hundred feet…"
As D.J. absorbed the information, there were so many questions he wanted to ask. Was that all part of Chris' plan? Had he known about the potential backlash? Had he died protecting his friends? D.J. swallowed convulsively, his throat refusing to work, managing only to croak out, "Did he…did he know?"
As if he knew exactly all the other questions behind this one that D.J. was asking, Duncan seemed to weigh D.J.'s question before answering, "I…I don't know."
"God," Michael blasphemed, dragging his hand down his face wearily. "What do we do now?"
Darryl stared grimly at the scene unfolding. Anger and grief battled with denial and despair. If only they had been able to prove the darklighter poison earlier. If only they had been able to convince Freyna for just a little more time…maybe none of this would have been necessary.
But it was done. They'd had no choice but to go at the issue two ways. Chris had set out to confront Zankou because they weren't sure if they'd be able to convince the valkyries otherwise in time. And besides, as Chris had pointed out rather dryly to Darryl before he had left, it wasn't as if they didn't know Zankou was evil and they would have to deal with him eventually.
But not now. Not when they weren't ready.
Darryl shook himself slightly. What did it matter, now? Whatever else had happened, Chris had stopped Zankou. The valkyries had agreed to abandon their misdirected thirst for vengeance. And mortals were still distrustful of all things magical, but alive.
They were back at square one. With nothing to show for it except a dead friend.
And as Darryl looked around, something caught his eye. Sheridan, who must have arrived on the scene shortly after they did, was standing side by side with Freyna. Behind them, humans and valkyries alike stood intermingled, their entire attention on the small group huddled around the still smoking crater. Grief and sympathy showed visibly on all faces; for once, everyone united.
Maybe there is hope after all, Darryl thought.
He looked back at his son, who was still waiting for a response, "We do what Chris wanted us to do."
And he could almost hear Chris agree.
How long they sat there, Piper didn't know.
What she did know was when she finally raised her head the sky was no longer pinkening, but a deep purple as the evening chased the setting sun from the sky.
She gazed lovingly down at her youngest son's face. His eyes shut, his expression serene, he looked like he was sleeping peacefully.
God, how she wished he was asleep!
It was only the stillness of his chest – where breath should have made it rise and fall in time with the hum of life – that made her acknowledge that this was a sleep he would never awake from.
A clearing of the throat made the Halliwells turn in the direction of the sound as Lilah slowly approached the group.
Lilah's face was incredibly sad. "I'm sorry. So very sorry. But you need to leave. Back to your own time. Now."
"My son…," Piper's voice was creaky with disuse.
"I…we…will take of him," Lilah murmured, her gaze focused on her friend's still form. "I promise. But you must go. Now." Sinking to her knees, she carefully brushed her head over Chris' forehead, whispering sadly, "Oh Chris…where are you?"
Piper felt her throat clench at Lilah's whisper, the whitelighter's question resonating through her as her eyes still studied Chris' peaceful face. My baby…I wish you were still here. A shadow fell over her, causing Piper to raise her tear streaked face to meet Darryl's concerned gaze.
Darryl's voice sounded insistent, "Piper?"
She shook her head, "He's gone, Darryl. He's not here." She felt Darryl kneel next to her and she turned her pain filled gaze towards his direction, "What are we going to do without him?"
Darryl's hand reached for hers, his fingers lacing through Piper's before giving it a strong squeeze, "What he wanted us to do, Piper. To continue forward." Darryl glanced down at Chris' serene expression. "And not look back."
Darryl's matter of fact voice made Piper want to scream. She wanted to beat her fists against Darryl's chest and demand why it had come to this. Opening her mouth to protest, Darryl cut Piper off, "Lilah's right, Piper. There's nothing more you can do here." He paused, before continuing, "But there's something you can still do."
Paige stood up, wincing at the pain in her knees from kneeling in the dirt for too long. Assisting Phoebe up, she nodded, "We can still change the past."
"For Chris," Darryl nodded. "For all our sake's."
Feeling her sisters back away slightly, Piper silently looked into Leo's watery gaze. Elder or not, he looked like he had instantly aged ten years. Seeing her pain reflected back, her right arm reached out for her husband and she laced her fingers through his. Together, they gently laid their son flat against the earth.
Leo studied his son's face for a long time before leaning down to press a soft kiss against Chris' forehead, "I won't let this happen, Chris. I promise. I won't let it happen."
Standing, he held his hand out to Piper to help her up. Pressing a soft kiss to her hand, she touched her hand to Chris' lips. Her heart heavy, Piper swallowed, her voice breaking, "Don't worry, peanut. Everything will be okay." Placing her hand in Leo's, she let him pull her up, all her strength gone.
Staring at Chris, Phoebe asked Darryl, "What will…how will you…"
"We'll take care of him, Phoebe," Darryl's tone was filled with grief. "We'll make sure he'll have the peace he craved so desperately in life."
Sniffling, the sister could only nod uselessly. Feeling Paige's arms wrap around her in a comforting hug, "He's going to live a long, long life. He's going to be happy, Darryl. I swear it."
Darryl nodded solemnly, his eyes grave, the slight break in his voice betraying just how affected he was by Chris' death. "I know he will."
In Lilah's peripheral vision, she could see Darryl speaking with the Halliwells. But all her attention and focus was on her friend.
The darkness in her heart threatened to overwhelm her. Anger, resentment and bitterness were so foreign to her that it took her a moment to recognize the emotions for what they were. For an instant, the negative emotions coloured her thoughts, the complete antithesis of everything a whitelighter should represent, It's not fair. She'd lost many friends over the years. But rarely one so young as Chris. It was these deaths that were the worst for her to accept – young men and women who had their whole life in front of them. Shining futures and brilliant dreams all shattered in an instant. Why?
Biting her lip, she struggled to hold onto her emotions. The family was barely holding it together, and Lilah felt guilty for her own grief. It seemed almost selfish to want to indulge in her tirade against the unfairness of the world when Chris' loved ones, Chris' family, were experiencing pain beyond belief. They had just lost a son…a nephew.
But she had lost a friend.
She sensed another presence next to her and looking to her right, she was surprised to see Jenny Sheridan. Lilah's gaze swept upwards and she realized as she and the others were kneeling in the dirt, grieving over Chris' death, the people from the city had emerged, likely drawn by the climatic explosion that had rocked the surrounding area.
Sheridan's eyes were suspiciously dry, her shaky voice the only facet of her demeanour betraying her true feelings, "Is he…did he…?"
"We need to move him out of the no orbing zone," Lilah said dully. "I need to take him back to base," Lilah started to babble. "I can't orb him here. I can't."
Hearing Lilah's words, Darryl left the Halliwell family to approach his friend. Placing a gentle hand on Lilah's shoulder, "I know." Nodding at his sons, the unspoken instruction clear to the Morris', D.J. and Michael slowly shuffled forward. Gently, D.J. moved to take Chris' shoulders while Michael moved to lift Chris' feet. About to lift him from the ground, Sheridan held her hand up to stop them.
"Stop," Sheridan nodded in the direction of her fellow citizens. A large crowd had gathered outside the city walls, the news of Chris' death spreading swiftly through San Francisco like a brush fire. Her eyes were glistening with unshed tears as they met Darryl's, before glancing over her shoulder, "Someone brought a stretcher…"
For the wounded but not the dead. How ironic.
Lifting him carefully, the Morris brothers' placed their friend gently into the stretcher. Wiping away her tears, Lilah moved forward to fold Chris' hands across his chest before gently pressing a soft kiss against his forehead.
Sheridan averted her gaze, her eyes touching on Chris' hands briefly. Swallowing convulsively, she nodded at the Morris' as she positioned herself to one side of the makeshift carrier, ready to shoulder the burden, "I'll help you."
Gripping the handles, they lifted him as one and as they slowly began their trek, they were brought to a stop by the valkyrie blocking their way. Without a word, Freyna moved to the side, gripping the other side of the stretcher. As if by unspoken agreement, the four silently bore their precious burden to the city limits.
As they passed humans and valkyries alike, all bowed their heads respectfully. Whatever personal feelings they may have had towards each other, they were united in their grief for the death of the young leader of the Resistance.
They may not have agreed with him, they may not have liked him even, but they respected him. They respected him for what he had done, what he continued to do until his death and what he represented. A chance for humans and magical beings to put aside their differences and work together for the common good.
His death was an impact that would be felt for years to come.
No one was thinking of tomorrow – of whether the valkyrie or human currently standing next to them would be an enemy. Today, right now, this moment – they were united in their grief for some who called friend, others had called leader and some, simply, 'Chris.'
Trailing behind the procession, Lilah swiped at her eyes. A handkerchief magically appeared in front of her eyes, which she gratefully grasped. As they approached the city limits, she looked up at her friend, her voice husky with unshed tears, "Darryl…"
His eyes were dark with sorrow, "I don't know, Lilah."
The crowd remained a respectful distance away as the makeshift pallbearers lowered their friend to the ground once more. Darryl nodded at Lilah, who sank to her knees next to the young man who had been her friend for so long. Swiping at the tears in her eyes, she drew in a shaky breath and placing her hands on his arm, she orbed them both away.
At the Halliwell Manor, present time…
"I don't understand," Piper said dully, as her husband and sisters materialized into the attic.
Leo glanced over at his wife, "I don't understand, either."
"It's not fair, Leo. It's not fair!" Piper's eyes blazed with anger and unshed tears. She suddenly turned on her husband, beating her fists against his chest as she struggled with her overwrought emotions. "How can this be happening? How can this be happening to our kids?"
Gently grasping his wife's fists, he pulled her close, pressing his cheek against the top of her head. "I don't know, Piper. I don't know. But I swear, we won't let it happen I won't let it happen." He heard her sniffle, and then the reluctant nodding against his chest.
Paige wiped at her eyes angrily, trying to focus on helping her nephew now. "So how are we going to get rid of what is, essentially, an indestructible sword?"
As the quartet looked at each other blankly, Phoebe suddenly snapped her fingers together, "Leo – what did you do with the genie bottle?"
Leo blinked. "Well, I, uh –,"
"No, no!" Phoebe said hurriedly. "Don't tell us. But it's safe, right? No one will ever find it, right?"
Leo blinked again, still confused (as usual) by Phoebe's whirlwind thought process, "Uh, yeah."
"So then you take the sword and hide it in the same place!" Phoebe smiled triumphantly, looking at her sisters for their approval.
Paige nodded, "That does sound like a good idea."
Piper stepped back to look up at her husband, "What do you think?"
Leo thought about all that had happened in the last few days. How one event had literally set off a chain reaction, the links stretching into the future and still reverberating from the choices they made today. He thought about how tired and sick his son had been and yet Chris had never given up. He thought about how Chris had continued to fight for the promise of a better tomorrow but knowing that it would never be a guarantee. He thought about the promise he had given his son, and he knew…he knew…A slow smile stretched across his face, "I think…that it's a very good idea."
Twenty two years later…
"Hello? Anyone here?"
"Wy?" A voice answered. "That you? I thought you had a hot date with that blonde…" The sentence broke off as the voice's owner came around the corner, his eyes widening comically as he took in the sight of his older brother. "What the hell happened to you?"
Wyatt Halliwell, the eldest son of Piper Halliwell and Leo Wyatt, renowned for his blond good looks, easy going nature and general clean cut appearance, was covered from head to foot in green goo. Giving his younger brother an evil glare, he grumbled, "Don't you dare laugh."
Recovering from his initial shock, Chris blinked in surprise before he could feel the corners of his mouth twitch involuntarily. The indignant look his brother shot him only served to add to his merriment and unable to help himself, Chris burst out laughing. "Oh my God…Wy…you…you…look…" Doubled over in laughter, Chris tried to form a coherent sentence, "What is that stuff?"
"Demon guts, I'd guess," Wyatt continued to give his little brother the evil eye. "Except I can't seem to get it off me." Doing his best to ignore his brother's laughter, Wyatt questioned him "I tried washing up at home but all I did was clog the drain. I was hoping Mom and Dad would be here?"
Chris shook his head, "Don't know. They weren't here when I orbed in. I just stopped by to pick up a couple of things." He had recently moved out of their childhood home and Chris was finding all sorts of things he had forgotten to pack. Wyatt had moved out first over Piper's vehement protests, telling his mother it wasn't healthy for a grown son to live with his parents. Chris, already use to being on his own and home only for school breaks anyways, had recently announced he was moving in with his brother. Although his mother had grumbled and complained, Chris knew she had been relieved that at least the two brothers were living together. Chris fought to keep the grin off his face, "Think you can wait that long?"
Narrowing his eyes at his baby brother's taunt, Wyatt replied, "Why don't you stop being an ass and give me hand, please?"
Heroically swallowing his mirth, Chris closed his eyes and muttered his Aunt Paige's favourite spell, "May the object …"
"I didn't mean use magic!" Wyatt exclaimed exasperatedly as he was bathed in a flash of golden light before it disappeared. Completely clean, Wyatt glared at his brother as he lectured his brother, "Would it have killed you to hand me a bloody towel? What about personal gain?"
Chris grinned good-naturedly, not one iota perturbed by Wyatt's sermon, "That wasn't personal gain. It was for you!" As Wyatt opened his mouth to argue, Chris quickly interjected, "Besides, there's no way I was getting close enough to you to hand you a towel. Who knows where that stuff has been and what I could have caught from it!"
Sighing loudly to clearly indicate his displeasure and exasperation, Wyatt pointed out with a pained expression on his face, "You – are – an – idiot."
"Hey! You - ," Chris cut his retort short as two demons suddenly shimmered in, his eyes widening as he shouted a warning, "Behind you!"
Wyatt whipped around at his brother's warning and acting on instinct, threw his hands up to blow the two demons up.
"Shit!" Wyatt said disgustedly, looking down at himself. "Great, just fucking great." Once again, the twice-blessed witch was covered with green goo, dripping slime all over his mother's living room floor. "I am so going to be late for my date."
One look at his brother's revolted expression and Chris doubled over with laughter. As he finally regained some semblance of control, he glanced up to look at his older brother. The resigned, annoyed look on his brother's face, combined with the slow downwards ooze of the green goo along the side of Wyatt's face set Chris off again. Every time Chris thought he had himself under control, one look at his brother's state of affairs merely served to send Chris off into another fit of laughter.
"It's not funny, Chris!" Wyatt said irritably, holding one arm out to inspect the damage. He shook his arm slightly, trying to get rid of some of the icky goop, watching it land with a 'plop' on the living room floor, "Mom is going to kill me!"
The thought of their mother arriving home to see her eldest son drenched with green slime and dripping all over the living room carpet served to only further increase Chris' amusement to the point where tears began to stream from his eyes. He gasped out between his choking laughter as he met Wyatt's eyes, "Only…only if…only if it stains…"
"Very funny," Wyatt glared at his brother sourly. "Haha. You're a regular comedian. Are you going to help me or what?"
About to reassure his big brother he would do just that (after he got himself under control, of course!), the sound of the door opening made Chris snap his mouth close.
Her eyes wide and her voice was full of shock, Piper Halliwell took in the sight of her eldest son covered in copious amounts of what she could only surmise was green slime. She stared at her son, her mouth opening and closing in silent amazement before finally finding her voice and asking rather hoarsely, "What happened?"
"Demon attack – and apparently the kind that leaves demon guts behind," Chris piped up before Wyatt could explain. Giving his brother a sly look, Chris said innocently, "Boy, I hope that stuff doesn't stain the carpet."
"Oh! Oh!" Piper began to hyperventilate. "The carpet! The carpet!"
Shooting his little brother a dirty look, Wyatt said contritely, "Sorry, Mom."
Making shooing motions with her hands, she wrinkled her nose as she neared her eldest, "Go! Go! To the kitchen, for heaven's sakes. Haven't I at least taught you if you're covered with demon guts to clean up in the kitchen?"
Giving his brother one last evil glare, Wyatt sighed resignedly and moved towards the kitchen, leaving little puddles of green goo behind.
Clucking her tongue, Piper made to follow Wyatt before abruptly narrowing her eyes at her youngest, whose grin was a mile wide. Pointing her finger at him, "And you, young man. You clean up in here."
His mouth dropping open in surprise, "But Mom –,"
"No buts, mister! Don't think I don't know you were laughing at your brother," Piper cut her son off sharply. "Clean! Now!" Stomping off towards the kitchen, she paused, turning around slowly, "And no magic!"
Chris emitted a long suffering sigh before saying craftily, "All right. No magic. Even if it does stain…"
Piper rolled her eyes before disappearing into the kitchen. "Fine. A little bit of magic, then. But just a little!"
"Yes, Mom." Chris said smartly, his voice completely innocent. With his mother and brother both in the other room, Chris put the room to rights quickly. Releasing the spell, he smiled in satisfaction as the room returned to its normal appearance and any trace of the green goo was now long gone. Pleased with himself, Chris made his way to the kitchen to see his mother dab ineffectively at the green goo on his older brother's face. "Need help?"
As Wyatt looked pathetically at his mother, she sighed, "All right. I guess because it's demon guts, you should be able to use magic." With a quick wave of her hand, Piper repeated the same spell Chris had used earlier.
"Thank God! I thought that stuff would NEVER come off," Wyatt said gratefully.
Chris smirked, "I think I can still see some in your hair."
Wyatt's eyes widened anxiously as he swore, "What! No way!" And before either his mother or little brother could stop him, he disappeared into a swirl of blue orbs. A thud from upstairs told the two in the kitchen that Wyatt was now in the upstairs bathroom, all in likelihood staring in the mirror. A pause and then a yell, "Chris! I'm going to kill you!"
Piper eyed her youngest with mock displeasure, "You shouldn't tease your brother like that."
Chris shrugged, "If I don't, who will?" As his mother rolled her eyes again, Chris grinned, "Everyone knows that's what little brothers are for."
"You mean little twerps," Wyatt retorted, as he reappeared in the kitchen behind his brother. Grabbing his brother in a headlock, he began to knuckle Chris' head. "Brat!"
"Hey!" Chris protested, taken by surprise. As he tried to wrest free, "Get off me! Mom!"
"Boys!" Piper said sharply, though her tone barely disguised her amusement. "You're adults, not kids anymore. Behave like it."
Letting his brother go, Wyatt gave Chris a slight playful shove, cuffing him lightly on the back of the head, "Twerp."
"Jackass," Chris shot back, rubbing his head as he rolled his eyes at his brother.
"Chris!" Pausing from putting away the groceries, his mother's disapproving frown was for real this time as she glanced over her shoulder at him. "Language!"
"Sorry, Mom," Chris replied automatically, resisting the urge to revert to his childhood years and stick his tongue out at his now grinning brother. He silently mouthed an insult to his brother, Asshole.
Wyatt's eyebrow merely rose as he mouthed back, Bitch.
"Aren't you suppose to be studying? I thought finals start Monday?" Piper suddenly directed her penetrating gaze at Chris and forcing him to swallow his ready and equally profane retort to his brother.
Chris threw up his palms in innocence, "I needed a break. All that studying was driving me crazy so I thought I'd come by and see you and Dad. Where is Dad, anyways?"
"Right here," Leo smiled at his two sons, his arms full of groceries as he suddenly appeared in the kitchen. "Want to give me a hand?"
Each of the brothers took a bag each, unloading the contents on the kitchen counter as their mother began to put things away. Chris rummaged through the last sack of groceries, "Hey, did you get any Cheerios? Wy ate the last of the cereal this morning and I haven't had any breakfast yet."
Slapping lightly at his hand, Piper waved her son away from the grocery sack, "Check the cupboard."
Spying the exact yellow cereal box he was looking for, Chris let out a small whoop before pouncing on the breakfast food. Finding a bowl and settling down to pour some of the cereal into it, he caught the amused expression of his father. Chris grinned, pointing his spoon emphatically at his father, "Hey! Maybe if you were living with the human trash compactor, you'd be pretty happy to have a bowl of Cheerios too."
Leo gave his youngest son a pointed look, "I did. And so did you. For the first twenty odd years of his life. You knew what you were getting into when you moved in with the bottomless pit. You've got no excuse."
Chris inclined his head respectfully to his father, a playful smirk on his lips, "Touché."
"Hey!" Wyatt protested, grabbing a spoon out of the nearby kitchen drawer to quickly spoon some of the soggy material into his mouth. His mouth full, the words came out slightly garbled, "I resent that!"
"Wy, you can't resent something that is pure fact," Chris rolled his eyes towards his brother, swiftly bringing his own spoon up to whack Wyatt's away. "Get your own damn cereal."
Ignoring his brother's attempt to defend his cereal bowl, Wyatt aimed his spoon this way and that, trying to deflect Chris' spoon. "Hey, sharing is caring. Besides, I just want a bite."
Snatching the bowl off the counter, Chris began to back away from his brother as he looked plaintively at his mother, "See what I have to put up with?"
"Well, you could always move home," Leo replied dryly even as Piper's face brightened up at the prospect.
"That's right, sweetie," Piper reached over to pinch her youngest's cheek. "No cereal-snatching monster here."
"Errr, no thanks," Chris sidestepped his mother before she tried to pinch his other cheek. "But if I start to waste away, you'll know why."
"I'm a little offended that you didn't ask me to move back home," Wyatt told his parents jokingly as he went to pour his own bowl of cereal. Putting the milk back into the fridge, he tossed casually over his shoulder, "What's up with that?"
"Frankly son, you were eating us out of home and hearth," Leo said gently, his expression full of humour. "Your mother and I were thankful you decided to move out and started paying for your own groceries."
"Speak for yourself," Piper shot at her husband, an amused look on her face. "Any time you want to move back in, you know there'll be a room waiting for you," she cooed, this time reaching over to pinch Wyatt's cheek.
"Thanks, Mom," Wyatt said with a panicked expression on his face, the idea of giving up his hard fought independence clearly alarming. He tactfully ignored Chris' snort, "But, uh…I think we're good."
"So what are you boys up to today?" Leo asked, watching his two sons munch their way through Cheerios. "Just hanging with the folks?"
"Wy's got a date with that teacher from Magic School," Chris said sing-songingly, pretending not to notice the annoyed glare Wyatt shot him. "That all important third date, eh?" Chris grinned at the scowl Wyatt threw him.
Piper frowned, "What's her name again? Britney? No, that's not it. Beverly?"
"Brandi," Leo replied patiently, glancing over at Wyatt for confirmation.
Nodding his head, Wyatt swallowed the last of his cereal and dumped the bowl in the sink, "Like the liquor, but with an 'i'."
"What's that?" Piper frowned.
"Like the stripper," it rolled off his tongue before he could stop himself. Chris ducked as Wyatt threw his spoon at him and his mother clucked her tongue at him disapprovingly.
"Christopher," his father said, sighing.
"Oh, come on," Chris rolled his eyes at his family. "Honestly, who names their child Brandi, with an 'i'? That's got to be a stripper name." As his family stared at him in exasperation, Chris blinked innocently, "What? What?"
Piper could only shake her head at him as she tried to frown sternly at her youngest, the twitching corners of her mouth betraying her, "You are a horrible child. How you learned this inappropriate sense of humour is beyond me."
Chris grinned cheekily, his eyes sparkling mischievously as he swiftly responded, "Aunt Paige."
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Leo shook his head in mock sadness at his son.
"At least I date women," Wyatt retorted, emphasizing the last word. "Unlike some wimpy momma's boy who seems to only attract girls who want to take care of him."
Chris looked affronted. "Hey!"
"He's got a point there, son," Leo pointed out, backing his eldest up. "That last girl wanted to take care of you 24/7. Your mother and I were seriously getting annoyed."
Chris blushed at the mention of his last girlfriend. At first, it had been flattering for him to have someone outside of his family so intent on caring for him. When he'd come down with the flu, she had brought him homemade soup and cleaned his dorm room. However, the novelty had quickly worn off as she began to follow him everywhere, insisting on hanging out all the time. He'd finally had to put his foot down when she had tried to separate him from his family. Family came first and she was quickly shown the door. "Take his side, why don't you," Chris muttered into his bowl of cereal.
Leo reached over to pat Chris on the arm consolingly, "You really think I was going to let you get away with that crack about one of my teachers?" Leo's eyebrow arched as he referred to his position as headmaster at Magic School.
Wyatt grinned, "Give it up while you can, lil' bro."
Chris rolled his eyes, "Don't you have somewhere to be?"
Looking down at his watch, Wyatt's eyes widened, "Shit! I'm suppose to pick Brandi up in fifteen minutes. I've got to go home and get dressed."
"Wyatt! Language!" Piper yelled at the dissolving orbs. Realizing she was shouting at thin air, Piper looked disgusted, "Damn it."
Choking on his laughter, Chris kept his head down as his mother directed her gaze at him. She wrinkled her nose at him as he smiled innocently and asked, "What?"
Leo laughed. It was times like these that he treasured. Family 'squabbles' that revealed their affection for each other. He couldn't be prouder of both his sons – Wyatt working as a cop, surrounded by people like Darryl and Henry who he could trust to support him; and Chris, finished one degree and still in school pursuing his post graduate studies. "So what are your plans?"
Chris shrugged, leaning back in his chair as he crossed his ankles, "Thought I'd hang out here for awhile, if that's okay. Spend some quality time with the old folks. I was sort of hoping for an uneventful Saturday to regroup before I go back to studying."
"Less of the 'old', please," Piper frowned playfully, secretly pleased her adult son still wanted to hang out with his parents.
Leo patted his son on his shoulder, gesturing for Chris to follow him, "Come on, sport. I've got some shelves I've been hanging in the attic that have got your name on it."
"Awwww, Dad," Chris reluctantly dragged himself after his father. "When I said 'hang', I meant like, watch tv or something. Not actually 'hang' something, like shelves."
"Well then you shouldn't have come here," Leo ribbed his son gently, placing his hand on Chris' shoulder to steer him towards the staircase.
"Why is it every time I say 'quality time' you interpret it to mean 'repair things'?" Chris grumbled good-naturedly, his voice drifting down the stairs into the kitchen where Piper was still puttering about.
She smiled, not able to hear Leo's response. The tread of footsteps on the stairs faded away as the two disappeared upstairs.
Could life get any better than this?
Somehow, she didn't think so.
Author's Final Notes
With the destruction of Excalibur, I think this nicely ends the story arc. There will be no sequels to The End of All Things. Regarding the ever-increasing body count: This was always my intention as evidenced by the title of the story. I wanted to prevent myself from creating a sequel to a sequel so I figured the best way was to kill off as many of the No Fate characters as I could (and the Charmed universe would allow me) in TEOAT.
Originally, I was planning to write a chapter around Leo getting rid of Excalibur (sort of a Lord of the Rings inspired thing) but decided in the interest of completing the story to leave it to your imagination. Also, I know I sort of left that id cards issue hanging – that was partially intentional as there was never going to be a resolution to that issue. All in all, even with some glaring errors and plot holes, I think TEOAT came out better than Redundant. Or at least, I hope it did for you.
I've had a couple of requests to pick up where Providence left off. Frankly, this looks unlikely for a couple of reasons. Mostly though, real life has taken over all my free time and resulted in erratic updating as evidenced by TEOAT – I would be hard pressed to say this would change for any future writing endeavour. What I may try to do instead is finish the story first before posting to cut down on the lag time but who knows when, if at all, that would be. However, if someone else would like to play in the "No Fate" universe, I'd be more than happy to see this, provided you mention the linkage appropriately in your story.
Many, many, MANY thanks to all my reviewers – you cannot guess the number of times I was ready to 'throw in the towel' on my writer's block and give up with this story. It was only the knowledge that there were people who enjoyed the story that made it worthwhile for me to continue writing.
If I do decide to do a sequel to Providence, I'd like to get a beta reader going forward. If you're interested, could you leave me a note or pm me? It may not be for awhile (if at all), but if I do, I'd like the option of contacting someone to see if they're interested. Thanks!