Disclaimer: Yet another day has gone by, and I still don't own anything. (SIGH) lol.


The End of the Beginning

Mel

Bran and Bree look like they were about ready to collapse and fall asleep. It isn't that late—only about nine o'clock—but already their eyelids are drooping. In a moment here I'm going to be sitting alone, trying to suppress my fury at my uncle.

I feel as though it's literally burning me. I can feel Chris, almost, in an outside-of-body way. I can't feel his pain, but I am aware of it. Wherever he is, he's hurt and he's in danger. Not to mention downright pissed off. That's pretty unusual for my cousin, considering where he came from…not allowed to have emotions or anything. But I know Chris has plenty.

I was pretty little when he came back from the Embassy. I can't remember much about it, really—just the adults talking about it and not explaining anything to me. I understood what had happened a few years later, when I thought to ask Chris himself; that was around the time that he offered to start training me. If it wasn't for him, I would probably be flunking Magic School on all accounts.

And for all I know, he's going to die.

Like my mother, I have premonitions, only they're pretty limited. They happen maybe once a month, and very rarely have to do with anything relevant. Usually they involve tying my shoelaces or opening the front door—ooo, couldn't see that coming, now, could I? You see what I mean. So what good are premonitions if you can't even find out what's going to happen to your cousin?

For all intents and purposes, Chris was my brother more than Wyatt's. I'm lucky I don't remember the Embassy and when he came to join us; so are Bran and Bree. I just accepted him when he came into my life, and Bran and Bree were born shortly after that. For us, it was perfect. We never avoided him because he was different. We never doubted his ability to love. We never accused him of wrong deeds he didn't commit.

The others did. Even though they didn't mean to, they most certainly did just that.

I feel a shift; Chris is no longer angry. He's…blank. This happens once in a while, so I don't get too alarmed. It's just the side affects of the Embassy, I suppose. Where could he be, that he'd go back to that trance of his?

Chris baffled me sometimes with his odd emotions. Randomly, I'd find traces of anger, bitterness, sadness or regret. But they only lasted for mere moments, and then the rest of the time he was mellow and content. The only emotion I'd never felt from him was fear. Why, when he was trapped somewhere in the Underworld, in pain and maybe even in the clutches of a demon, was he not fearful?

"Mel?" Bree asks me drowsily.

I squint to my cousin, barely making out the mess of brown hair on her head. "Yeah, Bree-bee?" I say, using the special name I created for her.

"Did Uncle Leo find Chris yet?"

I sigh. "No, honey. Sorry."

"Why not? Where is he?"

I give her a shaky smile, even though she can't see me in the dark. "Don't worry, Bree-bee," I assure her, even though my voice cracks. "I'm sure he'll be home by morning. He'll be fine, okay? Now get some sleep."

She yawned. "But…" she protests, right before closing her eyes and falling asleep.

I watch her. There was a time where I was frightened of things I wasn't sure of, and Chris was always the one to comfort me as I did Bree. If Chris didn't make it back…what would I do? Who would tell me that everything was okay when I started freaking out in the middle of the night? Who would protect the three of us from Wyatt when the adults had no time?

I shiver. Without Chris, we'd be completely lost.

I close my eyes and try to reach out to him again. I smile in relief; now he's somewhere safe. No longer in pain, and safe. He's…content again. There is no anger. Only determination. That's the Chris I know.

Out of nowhere, I feel I'm being sucked into a void. The present world spins out from under me and I'm in the attic, in another time.

The walls are musty and uncared for; a young man and woman are standing before an empty altar. I cannot hear their words, but the brown-haired boy is muttering a spell. The Book of Shadows materializes; then I hear their words loud and clear.

"Remember the mission, Chris. Go back in time to save Wyatt. Don't let the girls know who you really are; you're our only hope."

"I know, Bianca. Just promise me you'll be careful."

The girl smirks. I see a strange mark on her upper arm and mentally note this. "I can take care of myself…trust me. You just need to come back alive. For us."

Chris—my cousin, eight years in the future—nods. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

"Wait—what do I tell Mel and the twins?" Bianca asks as he finishes the verse and a portal opens.

Chris' face falls. He suddenly looks as if he's aged ten year, the guilt and remorse written all over him. "Tell them…" he gulps. "Tell them that I'm dead. It'll be better that way. Besides, I won't be gone for too long…"

"I hope."

He walks into the portal, and I'm sucked out of the vision. But as I'm leaving, I realize that for the first time, something foreign in that vision assaulted me: Chris, overwhelmed with fear for the first time.

"Chris!" I hear my mother scream from the hall.

Shaken by the vision, at first I don't move.

"Oh, thank God, you're home!"

Chris is home. Chris is going to stay at home, and he's not going to die anytime soon. We'll be safe, the three of us, for years to come—and then Chris is going to save us all. The comfort of knowing that is enough for me now. It'll get me through Wyatt's cruelty, it will get me through all the dark nights when I'm afraid. Just like when I was little and Chris told me it would be okay, he was going to protect us in the future as well.

"Bran, Bree." I shake them awake. Their doe-like brown eyes widen. "Chris is home."


Chris

"Okay, okay, let's call Paige or something," Hal says seriously. She lets out a long, squawking hiccup and we erupt in laughter again. We're close to tears now; whether from joy or regret, neither of us know.

"Paige?" I say into the air once we've calmed. "Paige, we're up at the Embassy."

She orbs in a flash. "Chris," she whispers. Her eyes are watery and she smiles. "Hey."

"Hey," I reply, smiling back at her. "I'm ready to come home now."

"What happened?" she asks.

"Not right now," says Hal. "We're all tired. Maybe tomorrow he can do the grand tale justice."

I flash her a grateful expression as Paige takes our hands and orbs out. First we end up at Hal's, but before I can even so much as wave, we've orbed back to the manor. I feel my stomach drop at the thought of facing Leo after all of this.

"Chris!" Aunt Phoebe practically launches herself on top of me in a hug. "Oh, thank God, you're home! When Leo showed up without you…" She shudders. "We thought you might be…"

"I'm fine, Aunt Phoebe," I assure her.

She releases me and stares straight into my eyes. I wonder if she can see right through to my soul. "No, you're not. No one is. But someday…" She sighs.

"Piper!" Aunt Paige calls. "Piper, he's back."

I can hear my mother's footsteps clamoring up the stairs before I can see her. She stops dead when she sees me, overcome with some mixture of emotions. She looks like she might explode; then finally she bursts out into sobs and hugs me.

"I had no idea," she choked. "If I'd known that Wyatt…"

"You couldn't have, Mom."

"I'm so sorry…"

"It wasn't your fault," I say to her. "Wyatt isn't all bad. I know that he's still good in there somewhere. We can bring him back." But even as I say "we" I know that that means "I." This is a task for me, and me alone.

"Oh, Chris…We've been so unfair." She wiped a tear on her sleeve. "And Barbas nearly murdered you! I can't believe you—you vanquished him…Leo told me—you could easily have been killed yourself…And it's all because Leo didn't get his facts straight and he left you there. I promise, Chris, that'll never happen again."

"Can you make Dad promise that?" I ask, remembering all the times I'd been punished for things Wyatt had done.

She doesn't respond. Leo's standing at the top of the stairs, watching the scene unfold. He's so close to me that I can feel the intensity pulsing through the air, yet so far away that he seems like a complete stranger. That's what he was to me before the Embassy crumbled, wasn't it? A stranger. And here we are, back at square one.

"Yes, she can," Leo says. "I'm so sorry, Chris. I wish I could go back in time to change everything, but that's not within my power right now."

"Not within your power, but…"

Everyone whips around to see a pajama-clad Mel with Bran and Bree. She was staring at me in the exact way her mother did only moments before. Only she wasn't searching me like Phoebe…she was looking at me expectantly. This is your path, she seems to say.

I nod at her.

"…within someone else's."

I swallow hard. Time travel? Is that my fate? Could I change…everything?

If I could change the past and make it better, I think to myself, what would I change? What would stop Wyatt from becoming evil? What could change him so he wouldn't be jealous and bitter, then evolve into cold and power-starved?

The Embassy?

"We'll find a way, though," I vow. Even if it kills me, I will find a way.


THE END

All right, guys, I'm going to finish "Twist of Fate" and maybe "Into the Woods," but then I'm gonna go on the down-low for a while. I think my parents are reading this stuff. No comment as they may be reading it right now.

I gotta go anyways since my sister's doing that ants-in-my-pants "GIVE-ME-THE-COMP-OR-I-MAY-DIE" dance about five feet away. Yeahhhhhh, it's weird.