Title: Another Brilliant Idea

Author: tommygirl828 (at) gmail (dot) com

A/N: The next part in the New Future A/U saga that ladybug218 and I have created. It's best if you're not following both our updates, to check out the link on my info page that goes right to the entire list of stories. Thanks to everyone who has commented, love you all! Feedback, as always, is greatly appreciated.

The only clear thought in Chris Halliwell's head as he orbed into the manor with his brother and Uncle Kyle was that he had screwed everything up. First, he had unburdened himself onto his parents, then his brother discovered the truth about his alternate evil self, and now it looked like his whole family was facing a crisis because he was too stupid to figure things out sooner on his own. Chris should've insisted on moving on after Gideon stabbed him. He shouldn't have allowed those things to mess with his head or allow him to believe that what they were doing was a reward. It figured though - he had finally made progress with his own worries about belonging in this new future only to discover that it was likely the work of a creature hellbent on controlling the world. Chris had been raised to know better than to trust something too good to be true, so why hadn't he seen this coming?

Not to mention, the idea that the avatars had used all the pain of his original future to try to turn him against his brother…it further fuelled his anger and guilt.

As he made his way into the living room, Chris barely heard his Uncle say that he would get the rest of the family together, nodding only to avoid questions. It all seemed like too much to process. His father had mentioned having a hard time after Chris had "died" but to trust the avatars and get his mother to follow suit? This was his fault.

Chris was pulled out of his thoughts, more like knocked, when his brother hit him in the chest before sitting down in a chair and said, "Stop it."

"Could you not puncture my lung?" Chris groaned.

He glared at his brother, but Wyatt shrugged it off and said, "You were getting all 'woe is me' for a minute there and now is not the time to indulge in a pity-party for one."

"Gee, thanks. Your understanding is overwhelming."

Wyatt raised his eyebrow and said, "You think I don't understand? Chris, I can only imagine all the shit you endured because of me. But Uncle Kyle is right. We're not responsible for this."

Before Chris could respond, his mother rushed into the room and practically tackled Wyatt. On any other occasion, it would've been hysterical and Chris would've been searching for a camera, but considering what they had gone through in the past twenty-four hours, it wasn't nearly as amusing.

Piper pulled him up out of the chair and continued to squeeze him, "Baby, I'm sorry you had to learn about that stuff, but it doesn't matter. Your brother had faith in you and so do we. You're a good man."

Wyatt managed to pry himself free and said, "It's fine, mom. Fine. I swear. Chris and I talked stuff out this morning and I know it wasn't me."

"Honey, I'm sure you have some questions…" Piper's voice trailed off when she noticed Kyle reappear with the rest of the family. She glanced at each of her sons and said, "Oh god. What happened now?"

Chris stood up and placed his hands on his mother's shoulders. He smiled as he guided her to the sofa and said, "Don't freak out, mom. We all need to talk after last night."

Piper sighed and said, "I guess that's true, but I was hoping your father and I could talk with you boys alone first…"

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that, Piper," Paige responded as she entered the room. She looked her oldest nephew over with an appraising stare and asked, "Are we good?"

Wyatt couldn't resist and, with a twinkle of mischief in his eye, he replied, "Definitely not evil."

She hit him in the shoulder and said, "Smart ass, just like your brother."

"Who do you think I learned it from?" Chris responded.

Phoebe entered and said, "Kyle said that we all needed to talk…so let's talk."

"Your father's at the magic school. We weren't expecting any of you tonight," Piper replied. She glanced at Kyle and Paige and said, "Plus we figured Paige and Kyle would be busy with their own charges."

"So you thought you had a few minutes alone with your husband with Paige and Kyle out of the manor and you sent him to the magic school? Trouble in paradise, sweetie?" Phoebe asked.

Piper glared at her sister while Chris and Wyatt exchanged sickened glances. Wyatt asked, "Where's the rest of the St. Claire part of our family?"

Phoebe smiled and said, "The kids have homework they need to finish and both Les and I know better than to leave those two home alone."

Kyle took control and said, "Well, then, it seems we're only waiting on Leo."

Chris nodded and called out for his father. Leo orbed in a few seconds later and said, "Everything okay here, sport?" Chris motioned to the rest of the family and Leo locked eyes on Wyatt and said, "Is this about last night?"

"Sort of, dad. Do you have a minute?" Chris asked.

It still surprised him a little bit when his father smiled and replied, "I always have time for you boys." There were still so many memories of when his father wasn't around, but Chris was no longer angry about it. He knew that his father had learned from his mistakes and, as far as fathers went, Chris had lucked out.

Although he was beginning to wonder if he wasn't supposed to have lucked out, or lived to see how much his father had changed. Maybe he was supposed to move on all along and all the avatars did was prolong the inevitable. But before he could get too caught up in his own thoughts, his brother hit him in the stomach again.

Chris glared at him and said, "Stop it."

Wyatt grinned and replied, "You first."

"Boys..." Piper warned.

"It's nothing," they replied simultaneously.

Kyle moved everyone closer to the sofa until they were set up in a makeshift circle. He glanced at the boys and cleared his throat before managing to state, "We brought everyone together because…well, the boys came to me this afternoon with a theory and after we talked a bit more, it seems like a possibility."

"What is with the vagueness?" Paige inquired. She folded her arms and stared at Kyle appraisingly before asking, "When did you fit in a conversation with them and your charges?"

"Well, technically, Chris and Wyatt are still considered my charges too." Kyle didn't look at her and went on, "As for the vagueness, it's because this is a topic that I know none of us ever planned to approach again, but I'm not sure we can avoid it any longer."

"That doesn't sound good," Piper replied. She glanced at her sons and instinctively reached for Leo's hand. She said, "And considering my sons are here, I really don't like this."

Chris wanted nothing more than to tell his mother that everything would be okay, but he wasn't sure he believed it. Chris exchanged a glance with his brother and spoke up, "Wyatt and I were the ones who went to Uncle Kyle, not the other way around. It makes sense that we would be here, mom."

"What did you go to him about?" Piper asked.

"I'd like to know that too," Phoebe piped in.

Chris took the initiative when his brother didn't immediately start talking. He said, "Wyatt and I dealt with some stuff this morning regarding the other future and, in the process, he pointed out that he didn't understand why something would make me remember that old future."

"Yeah, I've wondered that too," Piper admitted.

Chris looked at his brother who nodded for him to continue and he said, "And being the overprotective idiot that he is—"

"More like Chris being overly-trusting as usual," Wyatt countered.

"Boys! Stay focused!" Piper replied.

"Wyatt decided to do some research on possible scenarios and then he somehow recovered memories of his toddler years," Chris replied with a roll of the eyes.

"Can I help it if I have an amazing memory?" Wyatt responded. When he noticed the look on his parents' faces, his expression quickly turned more serious. He added, "I remembered hearing about a powerful being that fit the profile of what Chris described to me. It was the only thing I located in any of the books that possessed the powers that it would've taken to do this to Chris. I was worried about him...and the rest of us."

"Honey, your brother is fine."

"I'm not so sure about that, Piper," Kyle replied. He cleared his throat again when he noticed all eyes fall on his. He took a fortifying breath and said, "Not if the boys are right and the avatars are involved."

Everyone remained quiet for a minute, staring at Kyle, then at Chris and back again. It was Paige who spoke up first. "But they're gone."

"Not really. You never vanquished them. They've been biding their time," Kyle replied. He moved closer to Paige and squeezed her shoulder. It was meant to be a simple, reassuring gesture.

It didn't work. Paige jumped up and said, "First they try to take you from me and now they're going after my nephews? The hell with this." Paige turned to walk away, but Kyle grabbed her.

"Where are you going?"

"We need to do something! And you should've told me the minute you had any idea about this, mister," Paige replied.

"The boys and I came right here after we talked."

"Talked?" Piper responded. She seemed to snap out of her daze. She glanced at Leo and said, "Talked about what?"

Wyatt and Chris exchanged nervous looks and Leo sighed. "The boys know about me, Piper. Don't you?" Leo asked his sons.

Chris looked away and Wyatt said, "Sort of."

"They what?" Piper replied, her voice rising. She glared at Kyle and said, "It wasn't your place to tell them—"


"They're my children and if you thought..."

"MOM!" Chris shouted. When she looked at him, he said, "Don't blame, Uncle Kyle. Wyatt and I went to him."

"He should've sent you to us."


"Christopher, you cannot be serious!" Piper exclaimed.

"Why would we want to worry you and dad if there was nothing to it? We didn't know anything for sure – and you would've freaked out at just the thought of it."

"Of course I would've freaked out. I don't want those things anywhere near my family," Piper replied. She shut her eyes and sat back down, resting against Leo for support, and added, "Your dad and I…the last time the avatars surfaced, we were going through a hard time. The whole family was. They take advantage of that sort of thing."

"That's why we're here, mom," Wyatt added. He sat down on the other side of his mother before continuing, "We think that they were hoping to turn Chris and I against one another. First they went after him, made him remember things that were better left buried, and when it didn't work out the way they wanted—"

"What do you mean?" Paige asked. She had calmed down a bit, but Chris could tell she was still angry. Kyle's death, even though they were together now, must've really hurt her because Chris couldn't recall ever seeing her so angry and thirsty for a vanquishing.

Wyatt pointed at Chris and said, "They weren't counting on the fact that Chris has never been able to stay mad at me."

Chris frowned at the comment. It was true, but Wyatt didn't seem to realize that there were times Chris hated himself for not being able to stay angry enough with his brother, convinced that his own inability to hate was the cause of so much death. Chris shook his head and said, "Wy, don't be an idiot…"

"I'm not."

As though his father sensed Chris' fraying patience, Leo intervened. "Wyatt, that future was harder on your brother than any of us will ever understand. The fact that he came back to save you is a testament to his love for you and our family, but I don't think we should oversimplify it like that."

Wyatt sighed and said, "That wasn't what..." Wyatt glanced at his brother with an apologetic expression etched on his face and Chris smiled weakly. Wyatt started over, "The avatars weren't counting on Chris not holding this version of me responsible for those actions in the other future. They were hoping he would hate me, but thankfully he doesn't. Right?"

"Of course not." Chris felt everyone's eyes on him and he shrugged. "I don't hate him. I made promises never to hold this Wyatt accountable for the other one's behavior. And I don't."

"So their plan failed. They can't be too happy about that," Phoebe said.

"Oh great," Piper muttered. She pointed at Chris and then Wyatt before stating, "You're both staying at the manor until we have this sorted out."

"Mom, I think you're—"

Piper raised her hand to stop Wyatt from finishing his sentence and said, "This isn't up for discussion. I want the two of you where I can keep my eye on you. I'm not risking your safety."

"But they've already struck again, mom, so there is no need for babysitting. Right Uncle Kyle?" Wyatt said, turning his attention to his uncle. Chris could see Wyatt silently praying that he didn't have to move back home. His mother would kill him if she saw what a slob he was. Chris felt a smile curling at the corner of his lips at the thought of her witnessing his breakfast ritual, but he stopped it from forming. It wasn't the right time for enjoying Wyatt's torment.

Kyle looked around at everyone and said, "We think they must've done something to Wyatt – something to get him in a position to find out about the alternate future. He doesn't remember why he came back to the manor last night."

"Yeah, that was a little odd, considering he said he had an early day," Paige admitted.

"We're thinking they might've planted a thought in his head, sending him to the manor in time to overhear the truth about the other future," Chris replied.

Piper glanced at Leo and said, "It's happening again, Leo, and they're going after our children."

"We're not children," Wyatt replied. He looked to Chris for back-up, but Chris knew better than to push his mother's overprotective buttons when she got this upset.

Especially not when everything that was happening was his doing. Chris said, "This is all my fault. I shouldn't be here and because of my selfishness everything's falling apart."

"What? Sweetie, it's not like that," Piper replied.

"But it is. I wasn't supposed to be here. I died and because they pulled me out—"

Leo shook his head and said, "We've been over this, Chris. You belong here with your family. You didn't deserve what happened to you."

"It doesn't matter what I deserved. Gideon killed me, dad, and I should've...I don't know...stopped existing or moved on. Maybe we need to contact the Elders and have them make that happen? Maybe that will stop the avatars?" Chris offered. It wasn't something he was looking forward to, especially the idea of ceasing to exist, but he had sacrificed too much to save everyone to have it backfire because of his own desires for this life.

Piper stood up and moved over next to Chris. She stared at him and said, "That is not an option. You're not ceasing to exist. Do you hear me?"

"But mom..."

"Chris, man, shut up! This wasn't your fault and none of us are going to let you play martyr," Wyatt snapped.

Chris sighed and said, "But if something has to be done..."

"You apparently died for me once, bro. You think I'm going to let you do it again?" Wyatt countered.

Chris' worried expression deepened when his mother started to sob. He couldn't recall her every crying like that in either future in front of him or Wyatt. Suddenly, she threw her arms around Chris' neck and said, "No one is going to—Chris isn't going anywhere." She ran her fingers through his hair and pulled back enough to look at him. She added, "I won't let you die again, Chris. I won't. We're going to protect you this time."


"You heard your mother," Phoebe stated. She glanced to Paige and said, "Even if it that seemed like a last resort, we would all choose fighting over losing one of you boys."

"Exactly," Paige added.

Chris hugged his mother and glanced at the looks on each member of his family's face. Each said the same thing – they weren't going to let him sacrifice himself. Chris was both relieved and agitated. Couldn't they see that it might be necessary? Didn't they understand that sometimes huge sacrifices were necessary? He had learned that the hard way.

His eyes locked on his father and said, "But I'm the reason for this. Both times."

Leo shook his head and said, "That's not true, sport. We're all responsible for our own choices. I was in pain and I didn't know how to deal with it. I pulled away from our family and then I chose to become an avatar because of that pain, overlooking all the obvious questions that I should've addressed."

"We all wanted a demon-free world," Phoebe said.

"But it was too high a price to pay and we made that clear to those bastards," Paige added.

Piper pulled back. She smiled from Chris to Wyatt and said, "We will this time around. I promise."

Chris glanced to his Uncle Kyle and said, "Is that even possible? Look what they did to Uncle Kyle when he went against them."

Kyle forced a smile and said, "We'll handle it, guys. They're going to surface at some point and we'll be ready this time around."

Piper nodded in agreement and said, "I'm glad you boys came to all of us with this. Now that we know what we're facing, we can handle it together."

"How do we fight the avatars if they're the ones causing all of this?" Wyatt asked.

"We still know how to make that potion that your Uncle Kyle used," Paige stated.

Kyle nodded and said, "It packs a mean punch, let me tell you."

"Do we tell the Elders?" Chris asked.

Leo shook his head and said, "Not yet. That's a sensitive area for them as much as it is for us. We should probably do our own investigating first to make sure that we're definitely dealing with the avatars."

"But how? There isn't much written about them," Wyatt said. He stood up and said, "I looked through the Book of Shadows and the library at the magic school."

"I have a feeling that they'll try to contact someone else before too long," Leo said matter-of-factly. He placed his hand on Wyatt's shoulder and explained, "If they're trying to create a big enough rift between all of us, they'll have to make another move. Sooner or later, they will have to reveal themselves in order to accomplish their goal."

"And in the meantime?" Wyatt asked.

Piper chuckled under her breath and said, "Sweetie, patience has never been your strong suit."

Wyatt rolled his eyes and said, "Not when someone messes with my family."

Piper smiled and nodded in understanding. She glanced at Chris and said, "You're both still staying here."

"Mom," both boys said with a groan.

"No arguing this point. Orb home to get some clothes, but you had better be back here in an hour."


Leo cut Wyatt off, "No use arguing with her when she's made up her mind, Wy. You know that." Leo motioned to Chris and said, "You both better do what your mother says."

Chris shook his head and said, "It's because they want to have an adult talk now about how to handle this."

"Yeah, like they think we haven't figured that out after all this time," Wyatt added as he orbed out of the room. Chris followed right behind him, pretending not to hear his mother making some comment.

Once both boys were back at their apartment, Chris headed for his room, but his brother pulled him into the kitchen. Chris groaned and said, "I think you pulled my arm out of its socket, Wy."

"What the hell was that back there?"

"I think we were all talking about dealing with the avatars and until it's handled, mom is forcing us home," Chris offered.

Wyatt narrowed his gaze on Chris and said, "You know what I mean, man. What the hell was with you wanting to kill yourself?"

"I don't want to kill myself."

Wyatt raised an eyebrow and studied him suspiciously before replying, "That's not what it sounded like back there! How could you ever think I would let you make some boneheaded move like that?"

"It wasn't boneheaded," Chris complained. He rubbed his shoulder and said, "I'm trying to do the right thing. Some people might call it noble."

"Let's leave nobility in the middle ages, shall we?" Wyatt countered. He folded his arms and replied, "You can't keep blaming yourself for being here, Chris. I realize that you probably lost people, but—"

"Probably lost people? PROBABLY?"

"Okay, I...uh...it couldn't be easy—"

"Wyatt, I had to watch our mother die. Then our aunts. Then Daryl and Sheila. Then friends and…" Chris' voice closed up before he uttered her name. It felt wrong somehow, discussing Bianca with Wyatt. It wasn't that Chris blamed him, but it was too weird. Chris shut his eyes to keep the bottled up pain and worry from spilling out. He had to get control of things. He used to be good at that, dammit. He was able to keep his emotions in check to get things done. Chris shook his head and finally managed, "There were a lot of people that I lost, Wyatt. That's what happens in a war."

Wyatt sat down at the table and stared at the chair across from him. Chris knew Wyatt was silently ordering him to sit down, and, of course, he did it. Once he was seated, Wyatt said, "A war that the other me caused."


"And you can't forgive me for that, can you?"

"It's not like that," Chris said, his voice rising. He looked away for a second and then forced himself to meet his brother's line of vision. He said, "That wasn't you, Wyatt. It wasn't even meant to be you. I always knew it. No one really ever talked about it with me, but I was well aware that something happened to you when you were little."


"He took you, tried to kill you, and left you in the underworld from what I can gather – luckily, we were able to stop him the second time around."

"And it got you killed."

"I knew all the risks when I said that spell to take me back to the past. It was worth it to me."

"Chris, I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to be sorry for, Wy."

"I got you killed."

"First of all, Gideon is the one who killed me, if it can even be called that since here I am. Second, I have no doubt in my mind that you would've done the same thing for me if our roles were reversed." Chris leaned back in his chair and continued, "Finally, I meant it when I said that I don't blame you for what he did."


"But I feel guilty about the people I abandoned, the people that died and didn't get this comfy new future."

"How do you know they didn't? I mean look at Uncle Daryl and Aunt Sheila. They're both alive and constantly kicking my butt."

Chris smiled slightly and said, "Not everyone survived. They told me so."

"And you trust the avatars? After everything we heard from Uncle Kyle, you don't think there is a chance that maybe everyone else is alive out there too?"

"Don't say that!" Chris jumped up from his chair.


Chris shook his head. He couldn't allow himself to believe that. He couldn't let himself even contemplate the thought that Bianca was out there somewhere waiting for him and he had moved on with his life like she had never existed or mattered. Chris bit down on his lip, but the anguish overtook him, "You don't get it! No one does! Do you have any idea what I went through to get to this point? There were people that were taken from me, people that I loved, and, if they do exist now...I let them down."

Chris started to orb out of the room, but his brother grabbed him before he could get away. Chris pushed him aside and said, "Get off of me."

"No. You obviously need to get this out. So c'mon, bring it on, bro."

"Would you stop acting like you know everything?"

"I don't know everything, but I know you, Chris. Whatever version you are. I know that you need to get this off your chest."


"I can take it, I swear. I know it wasn't me. I know you don't blame me. You said so and you've never lied to me. Let me have it."

"I can't."

"You don't have a choice. Even if I have to cast a spell on you of some sort, you're going to talk to me and get this out of your system once and for all."

Chris glared at him and scoffed, "You think it's that easy? One good talk or cry or fight and it's over and done with?"

"No, but at least I'll know then that you won't try to do something stupid."

Chris laughed mirthlessly. "Don't worry. I'm too selfish to do anything like that."

"You're full of shit. I see the wheels spinning already and I won't let you sacrifice yourself anymore than mom or dad will."

Chris folded his arms and said, "Who said it was up to you?"

"You're my little brother. I'm the boss of you, not the other way around. Got it?"

Chris pushed his brother again. It had been years since they had a fight like this, and he wasn't even sure this was a fight so much as Chris wanting to punch the know-it-all smirk off Wyatt's face. Deep down he knew where his brother was coming from, but that didn't really matter in the moment. It was as though all the logic in his brain was blocked out and the only thing left was emotional reaction. Chris flung his arms at him in a semi-punch that landed on Wyatt's chest and said, "You sound like him."

"Is that the best you've got?"

"Stop it, Wyatt. You're not helping," Chris replied. His hand was still clenched in a fist at his side and he added, "He killed her. I had to watch her die and I promised her that I would save her, save us...and I didn't. She's gone, Wyatt. You don't know what that feels like. You have no idea what it's like sometimes when I look at Heather and see her there, but not...and I hate myself."

"What are you talking about?"


"Who's Bianca?"

"We were going to get married. We were going to save you and fix things so that we could have a good life together."

"And she looked like Heather?"

Chris nodded. "The looks, the voice, the I-know-what-you're-thinking smile. It's all the same, but everything else is different."

"And I killed the woman you loved."

Chris nodded again. "You sent her back to get me from the past. You had her strip my powers and bring me back to you to be handled. When you were about to kill me, she intervened and saved me."

"And I killed her," Wyatt finished. Off the look on Chris' face, Wyatt staggered back and said, "I thought you said that I didn't try to kill you. That I still looked out for you."

"Most of the time you did, but..."

"But not when you really needed me to."

"That's not what I meant," Chris replied in barely more than a whisper. He was exhausted, sick of all the fighting and rehashing of things he couldn't seem to escape. He shook his head and said, "That was a different Wyatt anyway, but I'm a different Chris. I don't know if I belong here with you and our family and Heather."

Wyatt sat there for a few seconds, not saying anything. Chris wondered if Wyatt was having the same thoughts that he was and couldn't deny it any longer. His brother took a few deep breaths and said, "You belong here, Chris."


"What happened at my ninth birthday?"

Chris stared at him, unsure what that had to do with anything, and replied, "Before or after you ate too much cake and threw up on that scary-ass clown?"

"And what about your first day of high school?"

"You threatened to shave off both of Billy Hendricks' eyebrows if he even glanced in my direction after you caught him trying to stuff me in my locker."

"And what about my graduation?"

"You promised me that we would always be the terrible twosome no matter what you decided to do."

Wyatt smiled and said, "See. You're not a different Chris. You're the same guy you've always been."


"Don't you see what's going on?"

Chris glanced around the room and replied, "Not really."

"Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths."

"That won't fix things."

"For god's sake, just humor me!"

Chris shut his eyes and mentally counted to ten. He felt the anger and everything else dissipate like the early morning fog that was so dense sometimes that it surprised him that it could so easily disperse. When he opened his eyes, his brother was staring at him with concern. Chris said, "It was them, wasn't it?"

"I think so," Wyatt replied. He shook his head and said, "I don't know what possessed me to push you like that. It was as though I wasn't in control of my own feelings."

"Me either. I knew fighting didn't make sense, but I couldn't help myself. I didn't mean to unload on you. God, those things I said..."

Wyatt shook his head. "Don't worry about that. We've got to come up with some sort of spell that will keep them out of our heads like this." Chris nodded in agreement and Wyatt continued, "And, for the record, we can't be sure that it wasn't in the original plan for you to reappear in your new future, to simply become part of the Chris that was born."


"What I mean is, you belong here, whichever version you are, and maybe the avatars used that to further complicate things."


"I thought you were the medical genius! Why am I explaining this to you?"

"Because this isn't medicine, oh twice blessed one!"

Wyatt shrugged and replied, "They've targeted you for a reason, right?"

"I think it's all of us they want, Wy."

"But it was by using you, using everything you did for our family to their advantage like they did the first time around."

"Okay..." Chris replied, still unsure where his brother was going with this.

Wyatt sighed in frustration and said, "They're bombarding you with memories of the other future, making you feel guilty for all that loss to the point that you're almost willing to sacrifice yourself for the greater good."

"When you say it like that, it makes me sound crazy."

"Not crazy, confused. By them. Because they know that no one in our family will let that happen. No matter what."

"Great. So I'm the weak link?"

"Aren't you always?"

"Ha, HA."

"Think about it, Chris. It's almost ingenious. They go through you – the only one of us who has truly witnessed how bad things can get when evil rules – and if they can get a hold of you...well, you heard mom earlier. None of them could lose you again. They would do whatever it takes to keep you safe. Whatever...it...takes."

Chris sighed and replied, "That still brings us no closer to ending this."

"But it does."

Chris rolled his eyes and said, "Why do I get the feeling you've come up with some brilliant idea that is actually anything but?"

"Because it is a brilliant idea."

"Oh no."

"We use you as bait, little brother. That's if you think you can handle it."

Chris swatted him away and said, "I'm not some invalid that can't fight anymore."

"No, but you're vulnerable."

"Shut up."

"I don't mean that as a dig. It's a simple fact. It's true that we might all have to deal with you remembering things, but it's hardest on you. As long as you don't get too caught up in that, we might be able to use it to our advantage."

"How do you suppose we do that?"

"You're not going to like it at first."

"Oh, this sounds good."

"You'll need to pull away from everyone, including Heather, and all that anger you were directing at me earlier? You need to embrace it for now," Wyatt said. He placed his hand on his brother's shoulder and added, "But this is a no-go if you can't really handle it. If you think that it will cause you to crack or do something like offer yourself up to the Elders, it's not going to happen."

Chris stared at him for awhile. It did seem like a good way to lure the avatars out in the open if he could handle it. If being the key word. Finally, he managed, "I've handled a lot worse in my lifetime."

Wyatt slapped his back and said, "At any point, if it gets to be too much, you stop."


"You promise?"

"I promise. But…" Chris paused. He had been down this road once before – the secrets, the lies – and he had hoped to never have to put his family through that again. He said, "I don't want to hurt mom or dad, and Heather doesn't even know about my time traveling experiences."

"Chris, none of them can know what we're doing. It has to look real otherwise we'll never get the avatars out in the open," Wyatt said.

Chris nodded and said, "I guess I should get my stuff together. Mom will be sending dad here soon if we don't get back to the manor."

"And then we put the plan into effect?"

"It's not like we have much choice," Chris responded.

Before he could move, his brother did something completely out of character. He wrapped his arms around Chris in a protective bear hug and said, "I've got your back, bro. Just remember that."

Chris smiled and said, "I know." He walked down the hall to his room and shut the door behind him. He took a moment to catch his breath. He had no idea if this plan of his brother's was going to work, or if it wouldn't drive him completely over the edge along the way, but it wasn't the first time he had given up everything to save the people he loved. He just hoped they could forgive him.