Disclaimer: See First Chapter.
Author's Note: Hi!
It's finished! This is the first multi-chapter Charmed fic I've finished! Yipppppeeeeeee!
I hope you all like it.
Thanks for reading...
Thanks for reviewing...
"What about our divorce? Was that for his own good too?" Piper asked sharply, and I felt everyone's gaze on me.
Even Mom was waiting for delightfully clear explanation…
Too bad for us all that the one had to give was so un-delightful.
I'll give her credit—she managed to keep the anger and suspicion to a minimum. Instead the overlying tone of her voice was curious… as though she really did want to know if that's why I'd done it.
I, however, couldn't help but flinch, "I don't actually have an explanation… for that… except that I didn't mean to, not really anyway. I wanted Leo out of the way for awhile, so I could get closer to all of you… but I just didn't think of you and him in terms of… ummmm… in terms of a marriage."
Piper arched an eyebrow, and I felt myself start to sweat, "It's just that you… well not you… the you I'm used to… which is, well… Mom… you and Leo have always just been… Mom and Dad and I never really; that is… I never…"
I had to stop, I was tying myself up in knots and I still hadn't actually said anything. How was I supposed to explain the shock I'd felt when I realized that I'd actually destroyed my parents marriage?
No, kid ever wants to do that. People end up in therapy for years because they think they did that. How was I supposed to tell her what I'd felt when I realized that I'd actually destroyed the basis of my existence, that I'd completely altered the world I remembered, that I'd made my mother miserable…
"It's okay, Chris, I just want to know…" the soft word drew my attention away from my thoughts.
It wasn't so much her words that surprised me, as the fact that she was comforting me. I'd expected comfort… but from Mom.
I looked over at Mom; she was looking at me with those loving, dark eyes and when I met her gaze she winked at me.
I took a deep breath and finished what I was trying to say, "I never really realized that you had to work for your marriage. All my life you and him, together, just seemed as natural as breathing… I never thought that I could ruin that. And it definitely wasn't my goal or anything… to, you know, separate you guys…"
"I would hope not," Mom said a little tartly, her eyes though, glimmered with understanding, "…considering you haven't been conceived yet and all…"
"Oh jeez, Mom!" I cried, glad for the distraction, "Could we not talk about conception please…"
There are some aspects of traveling to the past that are just too gross for words. This is most definitely one of them.
"What?" Mom asked innocently, her smile sweet, "Surely my dearest son, you're aware that if Leo and I don't-"
"Mom!" I cut her off, my tone clearly expressing my horror.
They all laughed.
"How cute is that..."
"It's a fact of life baby…"
"Ugh! Yes I know, but… not my parents…" I told her emphatically, "I mean do you think about your Dad and Mom…"
"Ooooh! Please! Change of subject!" Phoebe cried, shielding her eyes dramatically.
"I second that motion!" I cried.
Mom smiled at me, "Of course you do darling, but before we move I just want to tell myself something…" I saw her gaze land on Piper and the way Piper stiffened.
"A little thing like him being an Elder shouldn't separate you and Leo. Chris was right in being confident about your relationship—he could never ruin it. Leo is the love of your life; I know because he's the love of my life," she told Piper, "He and I never had it easy; and we never will; but ours is the kind of love that's worth fighting for. I… you… are the most important thing to him—even more than the Elders. He just needs to know that you feel about him the same way he feels about you. You can't give up on him…" she paused and gave Mom such a wistful smile that my heart clenched— my parents were so much in love it was embarrassing. "…there are still so many wonderful moments for the two of you to live together." She whispered.
Piper didn't say anything when Mom finished her little speech, but her eyes had misted over. She was thinking on it, I could tell by the way her eyes fell to her lap, as the though she'd find the answers there.
It was exactly what Mom did-
Abruptly I cut those thoughts off… I didn't want to see too many similarities between Mom and Piper.
Yeah, technically they're the same person… but in order for me not to become completely suicidal while I've been here, I've kept them as two distinct people.
It's probably not a psychologically good thing to do—but than again I had to. I had to make it Piper who didn't like me, Piper who didn't want me around, Piper who didn't trust me… I couldn't make it Mom.
But now that Piper knew…
Now she and Mom were beginning to merge… and that was kinda scary… because once Mom left… who's to say Piper wouldn't revert to her old ways…
"So…" Paige said, interrupting my thoughts, "Did I ever hit on you?"
"Oh jeez! From gross to grosser!"
"Just answer the question…" Paige insisted.
"NO, you didn't!" I cried, then couldn't help but smirk, "But Phoebe did," I told them and watched as said woman turned scarlet. Piper and Paige chuckled, Mom out-right laughed.
"I did not!"
"Yes, you did… when I first got here… it was all I could do to keep the disgust off my face…"
"Oh, I don't know Chris; maybe you could have pretended to date Phoebe that would have gotten you their trust…" Mom said, still laughing.
Now it was my turn to laugh too, "Oh please, Mom, don't you remember… the people they date are the ones they're most suspicious of!"
"Only because they usually turn out to be demons," Piper stated calmly.
"Not usually, Piper, only sometimes," Phoebe said, "Jason wasn't a demon…"
"Most times they are…" Piper insisted.
And Phoebe had to concede, "I'll admit our track record isn't the best, but…" she said with emphasis before Piper could speak, "… I must remind you that you are the one who started it all off… you, my dearest sister, were the first to date a demon." She finished triumphantly.
"At least I didn't marry one," Piper hissed back, her eyes smiling.
"Wow," Mom whispered, drawing all eyes to her, "It's been years since I've thought of Jeremy."
"It was a long time ago," Phoebe said softly, "Even for us…"
"Thanks for the nice subtle reminder that I'm a lot older Phoebes," Mom complained good-naturedly.
"If the shoe fits," Piper responded, and Mom sent her a glare.
"Who's Jeremy?" Paige asked.
"Oh! I'll tell it!" The words were out before I could stop them; the next instant I wanted to shove my fist in my mouth.
But it was too late; they were all looking at me and quite suddenly I didn't want to tell it anymore. For just one moment, I'd forgotten where I was and who I was with—for one instant I'd let my guard down and been myself…
And "myself" loved to tell stories. Wyatt and I would vie for the chance to tell one…
Everyone at Magic School always wanted to hear stories about the Charmed Ones and he and I always tried to outdo each other… to see which brother could remember the best ones, which brother could tell it first, tell it best…
"Tell them, Chris, tell the first Charmed Ones story," Mom said gently. Mom knew about the game, about me and Wyatt and our private competition.
Aunt Paige had told her—when she'd uncovered the secret ballet the student body used to vote for the best story.
The memory brought a smile to my face.
"What's so funny?" Mom asked.
"Just remembering the story lecture…"
She nodded and laughed.
"You guys gonna fill us in or what?" Piper asked, looking between us.
"And I still don't know who Jeremy is…" Paige commented.
"Okay, Chris'll tell you the Jeremy story and I'll fill you in." Mom told them.
"Why do you keep calling it a story?" Phoebe asked, her eyes searching us.
Mom grinned, "I'll tell you when I fill you in."
Their gazes fixed on me and I fixed my gaze on Paige, "Jeremy was the guy Mom was dating when she, Aunt Prue, and Aunt Phoebes first discovered the Book of Shadows…"
"… and so in unison they repeated over and over again 'The Power of Three Will Set Us Free, The Power of Three Will Set Us Free' and to their amazement it worked. Jeremy was consumed by ravaging flames and exploded into nothingness—and earning the distinction of going down in history as The Charmed Ones' very first vanquish."
The attic was silent for a moment when I finished, before Paige's mouth dropped open, "Wow…!" she said softly.
I shrugged, "It's pretty tame stuff compared to, you know, vanquishing the Titans—but I supposed it is pretty cool—'cause it was the first."
"No, no, the 'wow' wasn't for the story, it was for you…"
I frowned at her and glanced at Mom quickly, where I found absolutely no help, she was, however, looking mighty pleased with herself.
"That was amazing Chris," Phoebe said.
"Uh… guys… you're the ones who lived it. What's wrong with you people?"
"The way you told it…" Piper said softly, "That's what's amazing Chris… you made it sound like," she shrugged a little, "… like a legend or something."
And that made me smile.
They were so young. They really were. So completely naïve to what they'd done, and what they'd do and who they'd be.
"You are legends," I told them simply.
"Psssst," Mom said, swatting my arm, "Don't tell them that-"
"You are," I cut her off, giving her my best smile.
She grinned, "We just do our job, mister…"
"You're a legend to me."
"Good, I should be. I'm the one who had to pay off that lawyer who came to the house…"
She laughed, "Okay, maybe not payoff but memory dust was definitely involved."
"A lawyer?" Phoebe asked.
"Yep, hired by this babysit-"
"Weren't you going to fill them in on the game?" I interrupted, my tone just a bit frantic.
Which of course caused Mom to burst into laughter.
Laughter that confused the sisters and was pissing me off.
"Okay, ok…" she said between breaths, "I just forgot how much fun it is to tease you!"
"Torture, is more like it," I grumbled.
She reached over and ruffled my hair, before turning to the sisters, "Wyatt and Chris spent three months out of every school year at Magic School. It was not an option and not negotiable—according to the mortal world I was home schooling them. Anyway, one day when Wyatt was about fifteen and Chris thirteen, Paige orbs into the kitchen and starts yelling her head off. When I finally answer her, she drags me to Magic School and into her office—the principals office—where I find my two sons."
"She actually sent us to the principal's office that day…" I complained, thinking back, "We didn't actually believe it when she told us to go. I mean we're her nephews…"
"She was furious-"
"She was unreasonable." I corrected.
"Hey!" Paige cried.
"She had good reason." Mom said, giving me the lets-be-logical look, before continuing, "It turns out my beloved sons were running a campaign for student body leader… mind you, not president, but leader. They weren't interested in an official position; no, what they wanted ran more along the lines of most-popular. And what were they peddling to the public, you ask?" she shot me a heated glare, "Not promises of the improvements they'd make or the renovations they'd try to institute, oh no. My sons were peddling family stories."
"Charmed stories were in high demand," I defended.
Mom didn't bother to glance my way, "Paige had found the ballots… the public had to vote which story they liked best and who they thought told stories the best. And I'm not talking just you're average-day-vanquish stories, nope, more like the life-altering-moments-of-our-life stories."
"Well no one wanted to hear the average ones," I stated.
"The campaign had been going on for three weeks and in that time pretty much every intimate detail of every significant event and/or vanquish of our lives had been revealed."
"My god," Piper whispered.
"Jeez," Phoebe said as she released a breath.
Paige grinned, "So who won?"
I scowled at her, "You didn't let us count the ballots. We never found out… although I'm pretty sure it was me… Wyatt just doesn't have my flare…"
Mom rolled her eyes, "Paige was actually considering suspending them…" Mom sighed, "But of course she didn't."
"Why not?" Piper asked.
"Chris pooled tears in his eyes, batted the long lashes, pouted and said he hadn't realized it was a bad thing-"
"And I hadn't."
"-he was very, very sorry-"
"And I was."
"-and he'd never, ever do anything like that again."
"And I didn't." I finished with a satisfied smirk.
"He really could've gotten away with murder…" Phoebe said after a moment.
Mom snorted, "You don't know the half of it."
"But we will…" Piper said softly.
Mom met her gaze, "Yes," she whispered, "… you will."
It was an abrupt reminder. Suddenly, I realized that the sun was setting, that I'd let my guard for quite awhile and that my moment had to end sometime—and that "sometime" was drawing near.
The others realized it too; Mom sighed, "I have to go-"
"Not yet." I cried, a chilling dread was sitting in wait at the base of my stomach, I could feel it… just waiting to spread. It was making my mouth go dry and my heart hammer…
When Mom left… I'd be alone again.
Alone with them.
"You know better than that Chris," she whispered, "We've suspended reality for long enough."
She was right. I knew it. The sisters knew it.
"We've probably said too much as it is. It has been fun, but-"
"Reality always has a way of setting in doesn't it?" I asked, my tone bitter.
She gave me a sad smile, and again I felt like a brat—this wasn't easy for her either. And with the sisters watching our every move I felt like I wouldn't even be able to say goodbye properly.
"Unfortunately, it does," she whispered. "That doesn't mean it has to be around 24/7 though, Chris, as you can see… it's good to give reality breaks… it helps put things into perspective… sort of rejuvenates us." She reached out and tweaked my nose, "Take reality breaks every once in a while, kid."
I tried to smile at her, I don't think it worked though, and when she stood up I gave up trying. I felt tears sting the back of my eyes as I watched the sisters follow suit and stand as well.
I wasn't going to cry, though, I'm done crying. I've shed enough tears. It's time to pull it together and finish what I came here to do.
Mom is right; I do feel rejuvenated somehow—more focused. Focused on what it is I'm trying to save, on the memories I'm trying to preserve.
I can see the blonde-haired boy who taught me how to ride a bike again… for a moment I couldn't see him. I vaguely remembered him… but the creature he'd turned into overshadowed everything else.
Now though, I remember him… his laughter and his kindness. Now I remember him before the darkness took over, before he gave in…
I'm going to prevent that darkness from ever entering him… I have to.
Slowly I stood and walked over to the women, with effort I drew my mind away from my mission and focused my attention on Mom's goodbye to her sisters.
"… I'm really glad you came…" Paige was saying.
Mom grinned, "I wasn't going to see any of you, but I'm thrilled that I got a chance to…"
"Are you sure you have to leave now?" Phoebe asked smiling.
Mom nodded, "Yeah, I've already been here too long…" her smile faded, "My being here is rather complicated and we don't want to risk anything more than we already have."
The sisters nodded understandingly, "Don't give up on the temp jobs Paige…" Mom said as she reached for her youngest sister and embraced her, "They're teaching you something very important…"
"To never expect a normal job?" Paige joked.
"No… to always look beneath the surface…" Mom whispered, squeezing her tight.
Phoebe was next; she had a smile ready, "So… see ya in twenty-one years, huh?"
Mom didn't answer… just drew her into a tight hug, "Don't go nuts looking for the-one Phoebes… he'll come to you…"
Phoebe pulled back, "Yes… but will I know him, or just send him packing…"
Mom laughed, "Oh honey, he won't pack." She told her and I cleared my throat… too much information I told her with my gaze. She didn't respond, just moved to stand in front of herself.
Piper shrugged, "So uhhhhhhhh thanks for stopping by…" she said awkwardly.
Mom said nothing, her expression remained serious.
"I know it's probably a little silly," Mom began, "… to entrust your own son to you… but I'm going to do anyway…"
"MOM." I said angrily, I didn't need to be entrusted to anyone…
"Be quiet Chris." She responded instantly, without taking her gaze off Piper.
I glared at her, but remained silent.
"It is a little silly, but it's what I'd do, so go ahead," Piper answered her wryly.
Mom nodded, "The minute I disappear from this attic he's going to retreat, to pretend like it never happened, like I was never here, like nothing's changed. And you sure as hell better not let him. Things have changed; I don't ever again want to hear my little boy calling out for me because he feels like he's all alone." She took a step closer to Piper, "Okay? He's a part of this family and I need to know that you're going to treat him like that."
Piper met her gaze, then nodded, "Of course we will… I will…"
Mom nodded too and there were suddenly tears in her eyes as she reached out and embraced her younger self, "I know this is going to be hard for you…" she whispered, "… knowing him before he's a glimmer in your eye…" she added wryly, but squeezing just a bit tighter she finished, "But always remember… as hard as it is for you… it's harder for him… he has to know you without yet knowing you. Remember he's just a boy…"
I turned away at that point, unable to bear the love on her face. She wanted to transfer some of that love for me to Piper… and I… I just didn't want her to.
Piper was Piper, not Mom. I needed that distinction. I need it. I don't know how to do my job in this world without it.
Piper I can boss around and yell at. Mom… well, Mom is Mom.
I could hear their hushed voices, "Don't let him pull away…" Mom was telling them.
"How do we stop him…?" Phoebe asked, her voice was plaintive and I wished I could just block them all out.
"Chris." Mom called.
And I turned around, they were all standing there, looking at me… and there was such tenderness in all those expressions, such a desire to care for and to help… that I felt my throat closing up again.
I felt my anger melting away… because in that moment—they were my family.
"It's time baby," Mom said, and I could see the tears glistening in her eyes.
I almost ran to her, "Mom, stay a little longer… please," I pleaded.
She tried to smile—and failed, "You know better than that Chris."
I wasn't going to cry. My throat was on fire and my jaw clenched but I wasn't going to cry.
"It's time, baby," she repeated.
I shook my head in one last desperate attempt for more time.
Her tears slipped, "Please Chris, don't make this harder. You know it has to be this way… I can't stay. You knew that when you summoned me. I don't belong here… you more than anyone here knows that." She swallowed hard, "We both knew the longer I was here the harder it would be to let go… but we did it anyway. We knew better, but we did it anyway… now it's time to pay up."
She reached out and touched my cheek.
I'm not going to cry.
"It'll be okay, baby. Your family is here now; they're going to help you, to take care of you—you're not alone here anymore, darling." She whispered.
I don't even remember taking steps into her arms. I was just suddenly there. And she was holding me tight and I was holding her and I didn't give a damn that the Charmed Ones were watching.
"I love you," I told her.
"Oh baby, I love you so much," she whispered back, "It's going to be okay Chris…"
"What if I disappoint you? What if I can't do it?" I said, my eyes shut tight, "What if I fail? If I'm not good enough, strong enough to fix this? What if he wins?" The fears and doubts spilled out of my mouth without thought.
Mom pulled back roughly, her hands gripping into my shoulders, her eyes blazing, "If there is anyone in the universe who can fix this Chris, it's you. You are the only one who can reach Wyatt, the only one strong enough to do what has to be done. You're brilliant and innovative—I have no doubts that you can do this."
"If I fail-"
"You won't," she cut me off.
"If I do-"
"You won't—especially not with cooperation of the Charmed Ones," she said, trying to lighten the mood.
I wasn't having any of it.
"If you stayed-"
"You know I can't."
She was right. And I knew it. There was nothing I could do. She didn't belong here.
"Piper will help you." She offered.
"I'd rather have you," I responded.
She smiled and her face filled with good humor, "Oh, baby, one day… she will be." With those words she pulled me to her again.
She held me tight. We stayed like that for a while; in complete silence. I kept my eyes closed and my thought off.
She began pulling away again after a few minutes. Gently she kissed my forehead and ran her hands through my hair, "My baby boy… you could never disappoint me. I'm so proud of you Christopher. So very proud."
I'm not going to cry.
"It's time." She said, her voice firm now as she stepped away from me, I saw her take a deep breath. Saw her step into the circle. Saw her become translucent.
I'm not going to cry.
"Blessed Be," she said, her gaze fixed on the sisters behind me.
"Go on Chris…" she whispered, the tears spilling again, "Send me back…"
I swallowed hard, determined to keep the tears in check.
She waited patiently, they all did. And a few minutes later I stepped closer to the circle. Taking a deep breath I uttered the spell that would take her away from – for the last time.
"I send forth through space and time
To her proper place in the Halliwell line
Piper Halliwell, my mother dear…
Blood of my blood I release you from here."
One moment after I finished the spell Mom began to vanish. And I felt panic rising up in me—she was leaving me… I'm alone again.
"Mom," I cried, even as I was losing the battle with my tears… I couldn't help it.
She was fading— almost gone, but I still saw the small smile on her face, the love in her eyes, and the words she mouthed to me, "Trust me, trust them…"
And then she was gone. Just like that, the circle was empty.
And I am alone again.
I don't know how long I stared at the empty circle; could have been a minute or an hour, I do know that it was a warm hand on my shoulder that made me remember there were other in the room.
It was Piper.
She looked at me a moment and then slowly reached out and wiped my tears away. I pulled away from her. She had no right… she wasn't Mom…
"So Chris…." Phoebe said, and she was smiling when I looked at her, "… how 'bout we suspend reality again…"
I stared at her in astonishment. Was she serious? Did I look like I wanted to tell her anything? To talk to her even?
Her smile widened as if she knew what I was thinking.
"I'm very interested in a particular story, and your Mom told us to ask you."
"Look," I began, "I appreciate you're attempts to-"
"Trust us Chris," Piper interrupted me, and I looked back at her.
Dammit, she looks so much like Mom… it isn't funny. Her face isn't hard and distrustful anymore; her eyes aren't serious and cold. There's tenderness and warmth written on her face and something that looked suspiciously like pride in her eyes… pride mixed with love?
And it was making her look like Mom… and she wasn't, she was Piper… just Piper and nothing more; she wasn't Mom.
"One day… she will be…"
Mom's words filled my head suddenly.
"One day… she will be…"
Piper wasn't Mom… but one day she would be… the thought was freeing and I almost sighed. The distinction between them doesn't have to be completely clear-cut, not now; the line can be blurred a little.
Life would be easier with the line blurred.
If the line was blurred, I wouldn't be alone…
"I trust you." I told her hoarsely.
She smiled at me, "Then let's suspend reality for just a bit longer."
I took a deep breath, still meeting her gaze… Mom was in that gaze; watching me, loving me…
And I felt happy suddenly… happy because I wasn't alone, because I had my family— not the right version, but still pretty close, and because in the end I knew that we would save Wyatt… because we were working together; and together: Halliwell's were unbeatable.
I gave Piper a smile, "Okay, I'll bite… let's suspend reality."
"Great!" Paige cried.
Phoebe nodded her agreement with a smile and I waited for them to make the next move. I knew they would.
I should have been prepared… after all Mom had left them instructions—still though, the question took me completely by surprise; and just as I knew Mom had imagined, it made it impossible for me to retreat.
"What exactly is the babysitter incident?"