Well. Wow. I can't believe I've finally made it to the very last chapter of Destined to Die. This was my baby. I've been working on it since September 5th, 2005. Forever ago!
What happens to Chris in this chapter was inspired by a story I read quite some time ago, that the author deleted after just a handful of chapters. I greatly enjoyed this story, and always wondered what would have happened next. I've taken the opportunity to use this story, as well as it's VERY LIKELY SEQUAL to explore that.
Well, I'll leave the sob stories and goodbyes for after this chapter. For now, just enjoy.
Wyatt was numb. He felt nothing, physically nor mentally, as he rode the blessedly empty elevator up to the third floor. Leaning bracingly against the cold metal railing at the back, he stared blandly as the glossy, reflective doors, the very slightly wavered metal revealing a grainy, rippled and distorted reflection back at the witch. He looked like an abstract oil painting, lines loosing their clarity as they hit the silvery sheet like an artist's masterpiece under the merciless siege off diluting turpentine. Enough clarity to know his dirty blonde curls were lank and beginning to live up to their hue description, far too bleary to see the dark rings around his baby blues.
Thank God for small mercies. He knew he looked like the hell spawn he spent his life vanquishing; he didn't need the visual proof. Not that he could care right now. Only the vein and heartless could give so much as a thought to their own appearance when there was someone close to them suffering a fate much more urgent than a bad hair day.
The elevator climbed up the shaft with a languid sluggishness, as though being lifted upwards by a single man with a pulley. He only had to go up from the ground floor to the third. A differe4nce of two floors, but it dragged on for seemingly two hours, giving his tired, overworked and sleep-exhausted mind ample time to sort through oh-so-many possible scenarios it was churning out.
God, he didn't know how much more of this he could take. Only a few days. A week ago, everything was fine. Demons, warlocks, the occasional hag; those were the immediate threats upon their lives. They suffered cuts, scrapes, a few broken bones, maybe a concussion or two, but rarely anything more serious. But in less than 100 hours, everything he had ever taken as normality in a life where the word had scarcely any meaning had been ripped away from him. It was as though trapped in a horror movie, where everything was foreign, nothing familiar, and one could only imagine the horrors waiting behind the next corner.
Why? Why was this happening? Why was Chris's soul cursed? Why was he in the psychiatric ward? What could have happened?
Wyatt startled as the elevator lurched gently to a stop, the ticker alerting him to his arrival as the doors slid in among themselves to disappear within its panels.
Time to face the monsters.
He used the bar behind him as leverage to give him the incentive to abandon the relative security of his industrial cocoon. This…this was just too much. The straw that would soon break the camels back, he supposed. One man could only take so much stress, so much heartache…
Hell. Maybe that's what happened to his baby brother.
San Francisco General Hospital's psychiatric ward looked remarkably like every other wing in the hospital he had visited this far. White tiled floors, while spackled walls with a soft, pastel colored border running a third of the way up. Four hallways branched out in crossroads around an 8 sided nurse's desk. The only difference was that none of the rooms had doors in their frames, save the locked double doors on the farthest hallway, and he prayed to a God he was loosing faith in that Chris wasn't sleeping in that wing.
Still feeling almost apathetic, he walked despondently over to the center island, feeling more detached than a soap opera viewer. Perhaps he felt it better to hide from his pain, from his grief as long as he could, to postpone the anguish. More merciful to just bar his heart from the what if's until he knew for sure what he was about to have to deal with.
He didn't even bother with speaking to a nurse this time around. He had no use. He knew the room number, and knew if he asked for information he'd be turned away until morning, and he couldn't wait until morning.
The first room the emotionless witch encountered was 364, and a look down the hallway produced only descending numbers. Crossing the lobby area, he investigated the numbers above those doors. They went in the correct direction.
He did his damndest to keep his eyes away from the gaping doorways, to ignore the many occupied rooms, and the patients resting (or not) within them.
Wyatt had never visited such a ward before, and wasn't sure what he was expecting. There was no one screaming in the hallways, no one hissing at him from behind glass panels. From his reluctant glances, no one was rocking in a corner or banging their heads against walls. Perhaps those were the sorts kept behind the locked doors.
372. 373. 374.
But there was certainly more activity here than in most parts of the hospital. He could hear a number of mutterings, one-sided conversations meant to fall upon imaginary ears. He could see more than one pair of blood-shot eyes staring at his apprehensively as he walked by.
And the number at the next door, white embossed over deep turquoise, was 377. Wyatt didn't bother pulling the angst card, waiting outside the doorway for what seemed like hours, dwelling and anguishing and lamenting over what may be found past the threshold. No, he took one last look at the inscribed numbers and walked straight through the door.
There was only one bed in the room. One bed, a nightstand, bolted to the wall. A window, most likely reinforced tempered glass.
One bed. His baby brother.
Chris lay curled up in bed, face tucked down to pulled-up knees, a pale blue blanket tucked securely around him and in his arms, he clasped some sort of plush animal, too firmly held to be immediately recognizable. Wyatt supposed he should find this odd, as his brother was now officially 23 years old and far, far, too old to be sleeping with a stuffed animal, but he couldn't bring himself to care. It did, however, bring his attention to other oddities scattered throughout the room. Another animal, a yellow bear, was perched merrily at his bedside, a black smile stitched permanently onto his velvety muzzle. He sat by his lonesome, in loe of the flowers that usually adorned the hospital rooms of beloved sons. On the wall, attached with short pieces of Scotch tape, were a couple crayon drawings, sloppily rendered in an amateur's hand. The dim light of the lamp made it impossible to really tell their subjects apart. The small pack of 8 crayons, generic, lying beside the sunny bear, were barely worn, meaning they were new.
Chris didn't have teddy bears. Chris didn't color with crayons. Something was undeniably wrong with this picture but, then again, things were seldom right.
By his bed was a chair, just a plastic chair, a step above a Dollar Store clearance. But he was bone weary, the weight of the world feeling like it was steadily increasing, and he sank into it like an English leather armchair.
Beside him, Chris stirred in his slumber, nuzzling down into his pillow even further, but he did not wake. Wyatt knew he was probably exhausted. He sure was. But that was too bad, because he needed answers, damn it.
"Chris? Chris, hey little brother, time to get up!" he called, just loud enough to attract Chris's attention and no one else's. He accentuated this with a firm shake at his shoulder.
Chris all but growled at Wyatt, like a small dog with a tasty bone.
Wyatt almost smiled. Almost.
"C'mon, Chris. This is no time to be lazy! Rise and shine!"
With another grumbly growl, Chris eased open one irritated eyes, blinking in the anemic light. He stared at Wyatt drowsily for a minute, allowing the green orb to focus before a tired smile curled at his lips.
"Wyatt!" he grinned, holding the animal (now recognizable a lion) even closer to his chest.
Wyatt did his best to smile back, to show he was happy to see him. And he was. Happier than he could ever think, seeing him alive and healthy. Ecstatic to see his breathing, smiling, after he'd last seen him weak and a breath from death's door. But…happy as he was, something was holding back true calm.
"Wyatt, what are you doing here so early?" he murmured, sounding like he was still mostly asleep.
Wyatt sat in silence, elbows resting on his knees as he contemplated the question. One he wasn't sure how he was suppose to answer. He knew nothing of what was going on in this new timeline, didn't have a clue why Chris was where he was.
"Erm…I…I just missed you, that's all," he replied nonchalantly, hoping the generic answer would be enough. Chris was smart, though, and surely he wouldn't buy into such a meek-
"Oh. Ok." Was Chris's only reply, swallowing the excuse with no skepticism. Only acceptance.
Wyatt looked up, wide-eyed and startled at the unwavering and unquestioning trust in Chris's voice. That wasn't his Chris. His Chris would have taken one look at him, eyebrow cocked, before replying with a snotty retort about not being as dumb as his brother.
He should have known from the very beginning, finding Chris in the place he was, that this wouldn't be either of the Chris's he knew.
"Hey Wyatt?" Chris's voice was lofty, soft. "When can I go home?"
Another question he couldn't answer. Feeling as lost as Hansel after the crow's ate his breadcrumbs, Wyatt simply tried to produce a bracing smile.
"I dunno, Chris, but I'm sure it won't be too much longer."
Chris nodded, his eyes lowered. "Is Momma still mad with me?" he wanted to know.
Wyatt's brow furrowed, and he was sinking deeper and deeper every moment. Reaching out, unsure of how Chris would act, he took Chris's hand, relishing the feel of his warm, living skin. "Chris, why would she be mad with you?"
His little brother lowered his eyes, using his free hand to pick at the fuzzy pills that collected at the surface of his blanket. "Cause," he murmured. "I broke the curio cabinet and got hurt."
"You…you broke Mom's curio cabinet?" Wyatt repeated, gathering every word Chris said n an attempt to piece together a puzzle with half the parts missing. "Why would you do something like that?" Maybe if he prompted him, he could get an answer.
"I told you, Wy," Chris all but pouted, unable to look his brother face to face. "I don't 'member doin' it. I promise!"
Wyatt gave Chris's hand another reassuring squeeze, wishing with everything he was for answers. And where the hell was his mother? Surely she would have been right behind him.
Someone. He needed to find someone, talk to someone. Someone who could tell him what was going on, light a candle and point him in the right direction.
"Uh…I don't know, Chris. There's no reason she should be mad at you. Do you think it was an accident?"
"I think so," he agreed hesitantly. "But like I said, I don't remember it."
"How long have you been in here, Chris?" Wyatt asked bluntly, far too emotionally drained to try to sneak around with delicate questions.
If Chris was at all taken aback by Wyatt's forwardness, he didn't show it. Instead, he thought hard for a moment, before telling him, "Two days, this time."
Wyatt took a moment to let the words "this time" sink in before sighing deeply, his heart pounding in his temples. This was too damn overwhelming, too much emotion crammed into just a few days. He hung his head, fisting his fingers into his matted curls, suppressing (barely) the primal urge to just start screaming.
"Wyyy?" Chris cooed, pushing himself up in bed, sitting cross-legged amongst a nest of blankets and sheets. "Wy? Are you sick?"
It tore him up every time Chris spoke, with that sweetness, that naiveté, without a drop of snark to be found.
"No, Chris. I'm just tired," he finally groaned from behind his hair, "I am tired, damn it! Tired, and confused, and I just…I just…"
"You want answers, don't you son?"
The witch's head snapped up, and in a heartbeat he was off his seat, standing defensively before Chris's bedside, his posture still, imposing, ready to fight.
But the figure he was met with hardly looked like a threat. An aging black man in a custodial uniform, blue coveralls, with graying hair and a craggy face. Not exactly the menacing underworld thing he was expecting. He looked like he barely had enough spunk left in his to tackle a rogue mop.
All the same, Wyatt was on the defensive. Experience, painful experience, taught him to be on alert at all times, as demons and warlocks would do anything to get to a tantalizing and bountiful witch.
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded of the senior citizen, hands itching, fingers flexing in anticipation of a quick draw of magic.
Wyatt was a formidable opponent; standing nearly six and a half feet tall, all muscle and tough sinew, he was intimidating to even the most hardened demon. But this man didn't seem fazed at all by his standing at full height. In fact, he drew closer, casually strolling over the the two brothers. Instinctively, Wyatt moved closer to Chris's bedside, but the younger crossbreed was about as tense as their alleged foe. Smiling, he leaned forward, green eyes bright at the prospect of yet another visitor.
"Clarence!" he greeted gleefully, nearly bouncing in bed.
"Hey there!" Clarence smiled back, pulling up another chair beside Wyatt's, sitting backwards with his arms folded on the back. "How you been, sport?"
"Fine," Chris smiled, suddenly becoming bashful at the attention.
Wyatt let the exchange last only a moment before he intervened, standing very much in Clarence's personal bubble.
"Excuse me, Clarence, but may I ask you just one question?" he asked with a voice dripping with satire.
"Of course! Shoot!" was the casual reply, as though about to be drilled with a little classic sports trivia.
"Who the hell are you?!"
If Wyatt's booming voice and wild, Tarzan appearance startled the janitor, he failed to show it. He remained calm and mild, his face placid. "I'm Clarence."
Groaning with frustration, Wyatt shook his head, using every ounce of self control to not lay a shot on him. "I got that much, smart ass!" he ground out. "But WHO are you?"
"Clarence said he could help us."
Chris spoke with a sudden clarity, somber almost, but hopeful. His brother turned around, as though now depending on his les than mentally stable brother to give him the answers he sought. "Chris? What was that?"
"He's gonna help us, Wy," he chirped, slipping back into his childlike tone. "He said he can help us make things right again."
Wyatt eased himself back down on Chris's bed, feeling the firm mattress dip at his weight. "Make what right again, bro?" he asked slowly, waiting with held breath.
Chris shrugged. "I dunno," he replied simply and he began to fiddle with the red polyester mane of his feline buddy. "Just…things, I guess."
"What things?" Wyatt's temper reared again, startling Chris, who jumped and stared at Wyatt with wide, wary eyes.
"Don't go flyin' off the handle with him, son," the Blackman reprimanded sternly. "You know well as I do that none of this is his fault."
"Then who the hell's fault is it then?" Wyatt demanded, not really caring about keeping his voice under control. "Who's is it? Cause God knows I'd like to beat the crap out of something right about now, and if you don't start spitting up answers, grandpa, then you may start looking like a damned nice target!"
The three men in the small room were stifled bu the heavy silence following the witch's harsh words. Even Wyatt himself was surprised; he never lost his temper like this. At least, not until the last few days. And he regretted it. What the hell was he going to fix by loosing his cool? What would he accomplish, aside from frightening his mentally ill brother?
But all the same, could anyone really blame him? How much hell had he gone through in the recent hours? All the questions, building up and multiplying, and not an answer in site. Why was Chris in here? Just how accurate was Gideon's final prophesy? Who or what was Clare4nce, and why had no one run into the room to investigate his tantrum? There was a nurse's station just down the hallway! They'd send security in to drag him off if he wasn't careful.
"No one's around to hear, Wyatt, so calm down." His voice, the man's, had a strangely calming quality to it. "Now sit yur ass down for a minute fo' you give yourself an ulcer."
Although an open sore in his stomach was the least of his very long list of anxieties right down, Wyatt did as he ws told, more fearful that he'd kele over from heart failure.
Quietness settled over the room for a beat, as Wyatt allowed Clarence to have the floor.
"Well, Wyatt, I know Chris is more the brains in your duo, but surely your memory ain't that full of holes. Think boy; don't I look familiar to you?"
Wyatt studied his deeply creased features, wracking his brain with all he had. He did look familiar, so familiar.
"How bout a hint?" he suggested, and held his hand out, bare and weathered palm upwards. In a matter of seconds, a folded piece of paper began to materialize in his hand, fading in from nowhere.
The magic trick failed to impress Wyatt. The contents of his hand blew him over. That piece of parchment…aged, withered, falling to bits…hesitantly, as though expecting it to be snatched away from his grasp, he reached out with a quivering hand to take it, already knowing full well what it would say.
A spell. THE spell. The one he used to travel back in time…
The one Chris used to travel back in time. 24 years ago, but not a day before today. Time's paradox.
"This…this is…" Wyatt sputtered, looking from the pape4r up to the man. He knew who he was now, as well as he knew his own father.
"What are you?" he cautioned, not sure he wanted this particular answer.
"I'm an angel of death." Clarence said, casual and calm as anything.
Now Wyatt felt like the insane brother. "Right. What else?" he mumbled to himself. Then, "Wait, woah, just hold on a-"
"I'm not out to collect your soul!" He laughed, knowing exactly what Wyatt was thinking. With a good chuckle, he slapped his knee, gathering himself again. "it's like Chris over here said; I'm here to help you put this whole mess back together."
Wyatt said nothing, but hung on to Clarence's every word.
"I'm an angel of death, Wyatt," he said again, his tone loosing it's laughter. "I know your bother. Knew him since he was someone else."
"You knew the other Chris…" he stated, stealing a side glance at his brother. Alth9ough he looked up every time his name was said, he was off in his own world for the most part, completely uninterested in the serious conversation around him.
"That's right," he confirmed with a nod. "Years and years I've known him, and I know as well as you do that he doesn't deserve this."
"And just what is "this?" Wyatt asked, jerking his head to the left.
With a sigh, Clarence studied the young man in bed, black eyes filling with a profound sadness. "Your brother had had a hard life this time around, Wyatt. Perhaps not the hell he went through the first time, but he deserves much better than what he's had."
"Up to you to find out."
"I beg your pardon?" Wyatt was taken aback, staring in chock at Clarence. "Why can't you just tell me?"
"Because this is your new destiny, Wyatt. When you changed Chris's death, you changed his life, and yours. You changed everything the two of you were, despite the best of intentions. You changed your purpose in life."
"And totally screwed up his." He grumbled sorrowfully. "This is the third time around, damn it! Isn't third time supposed to be the charm?"
And Clarence gave him the most piercing look before he said, "Good things don't always come in three's Wyatt," with such a sternness and seriousness that Wyatt had the feeling he was trying to convey a much deeper meaning than the word's immediate sound.
"OK, you know what? I'm sick of crypticism. I'm sick of runaround clues, halfassed answers and more dead ends than solutions! I'm starting to feel like that chick from Labyrinth! So how bout you just tell me what the hell I need to do to fix this whole damned thing?"
"You're lucky we're not on the mortal plane anymore, Wyatt, or your maniacal screams would earn you a spot in the next bed!" seeing that his humor was less than appreciated, Clarence coughed awkwardly and went on. "Erm, right. Anyway, welcome to the ghostly plane, Wyatt."
"The...ghostly plane? Why do I not like the sound of that?" Wyatt grimaced, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"It's not as bad as it sounds, son," the angel reassured. "I intentionally brought you two here. It's a place with less solid dimensional barriers. This plane, the one between life and death, is the only psychical plane in which all worlds intertwine. Every person, no matter what world they lived in, will come here when they die."
"Like an interdimesnsional transfer bus."
"Rather, yes." He conceded. "My point is, tis is the world where the rules of logic, reason and continuity are the weakest. This room looks like Chris's hospital room to you, but if someone died in a hit and run in another world, on a road that coincided with this room, they would see the highway. You would interact with them on a very straightforward way, but neither of you would see the same thing."
"Patience, Halliwell." My point is, there are thousands, millions of worlds, too many to know about. Not just parallel universes, but parallel timelines. When someone travels back in time, they are not actually doubling back on their own time. Instead, they are returning to the very original timeline, and creating their own pocket universe, running directly along their own until the point of change. It doesn't matter how small the change is; you could kick a rock across the street and create a whole new dimension."
"Ok, that makes no sense!" Wyatt protested, ready to give his soul for morphine. "If traveling back in time is actually going back and creating another world, then how can…how can…Oh, I don't even know where to start."
"Let me try again," he offered amiably. " Imagine your computer as the universe, the entire universe, holding all the worlds within it. The files on your computer is each separate dimension. Imagine if you wrote a story on the computer. And you saved it as Story One. Now, imagine copying and pasting that story into a whole new document, but tweaking one little word. If you change so much as one letter, and then try to leave, what's going to happen?"
"The processor will prompt you to save the changes as a new document," Wyatt said slowly, starting to understand.
"That's right. So now you have two stories, almost completely identical, but with one little change. Now, if you changed a whole sentence, a whole paragraph, you couldn't just leave it like that, or your story would make no sense. So you have to change more. Those changes lead to more changes, and more, and so on. Before you know it, you have 30 different stories, so many that you can't keep them straight. And sometimes, you get them mixed up. Even the ultimate universe of your computer mixes them up, because they're all running at once. You may get two windows trying to open at once, files mixing up. THAT'S the universe, Wyatt! Thousands of files, each containing dozens of versions of the same story."
Wyatt ran this through is own internal computer, sorting like a processor. "Ok…I think I get it. But I still don't get what the point is."
"The ghostly plan is the motherboard, Wyatt, where everything merges and comes together. You can get to any world you can imagine through this dimension, once you figure out how. I'm telling you this, Wyatt, so you can use it."
"Use it for what?"
"As one last chance to give you and your brother the life you deserve."
"The life we deserve…"
"Look at your brother, Wyatt," he prompted gently, and Wyatt did. "What do you see?"
"What do I see?" Chris sat in bed, content with playing with his lion. "I see Chris, but he isn't the brother I grew up with."
"He isn't." Clarence said bluntly. "He was brought up in a way no child should be. You tried, Wyatt, with the best of intentions, to make life better for him-"
"But it didn't work."
Eyes still locked on Chris, Clarence shook his head. "No, it didn't. But you can still try."
Wyatt looked at Clarence with exasperation. "But, Gideon said Chris's soul was marked, scarred for life, that no matter what we did-"
"Gideon's nothing but an Elder, and the knowledge of an Elder isn't as expansive as they would like to think." He snorted, almost contemptuously. "I've been around a hell of a lot longer than any living Elder, and consider myself something of an expert at dimension hopping."
"Ok, so give it to me straight forward- how am I suppose to fix this mess?"
"Like I told you, the ghostly plane is the best way to get through to other worlds. Once you figure it out, you are free to move within any of your worlds, all of your worlds, to collect your story. Read all your files, so to speak."
"And what am I suppose to do with that?"
"Again. That is for you to figure out." Clarence seemed to take pleasure in his distraught expression. "All I can say is, you need to use everything you saw, everything you learned, to decide what needs to be done. I can help you only in one way, by giving you a fair start, a point in the right direction"
Wyatt said nothing, but steepled his fingers studying the tiled floors in contemplation. Traveling all his timelines, seeing all that's happened, and decided the best way to change things? Painfully confusing, tantalizingly easy…
"Are you ready?"
Wyatt jumped after such a long silence, then stared at death aghast.
"What? You mean, I have to start now?"
"Would you rather wait for a holiday weekend?" Clarence quipped lightly.
"No! God no, but…but I still don't really understand…how am I suppose to get to different worlds? Just click my red glittery heals together and hope I end up in California? And what am I suppose to do with Chris?"
"Why, take him with you, of course!" he replied. "He's a little…different, but perfectly capable of traveling with you. And besides, you might even find him a help."
Wyatt looked at his brother with skepticism. A help? He was in the psych ward. He had no idea what the hell had put him there. How the hell was he suppose to be a help?
"It's like I said, Wyatt," Clarence piped up. "Good things don't always come in three's."
Before Wyatt could continue his overwhelmed interrogation, an all too familiar feeling overwhelmed him, the F5 tornado wind engulfed the room, blowing the drawings off the wall, bedding whipped against the occupants and he couldn't see a damned thing.
Somehow in the magical storm he managed to find hold of Chris's hand, clenching it tight enough hat he was sure it hurt. He heard him cry out, whether in pain or fear, he didn't know.
As the rom dissolved around him, as he felt himself and Chris going to God knows where, he heard Clarence's voice following him, ominously reminiscent of Gideon, but his message was not the bleak threat that Gideon's held. Instead, it merely boggled Wyatt's fogged mind, and he struggled to process one final clue-
"Good things don't always come in three's, Wyatt. Sometimes…they come in two's."
Well. That's it. I did it. I can't believe I actually did it. Almost 3 years after I started, I have finally finished Destined to Die!
This ending is nothing like the ending I originally had in mind when I first started this story. Nothing at all. Perhaps along with the SEQUAL, I will write that original bonus ending.
If the time explanations were somewhat confusing, don't worry; I'll elaborate in the future.
Thank you to all of my reviewers, from my first to my last. Thank you JessieBee185, SparklingCherries, And everyone else! I can't believe it's done!