Sorry this took so long, but I've been having some major computer problems. I even had to type this on another computer. So I haven't had a chance to respond to the last chapter's reviews. But I promise to that as soon as possible. So for now—the Epilog
Thanks for all of your wonderful comments so far, and thanks for sticking with me throughout this really long process. Please let me know what you think:)
20 years later.
Wyatt strolled casually into the kitchen of his parent's home, feeling as welcome rifling through their refrigerator as he ever did in his own apartment that he shared with his brother. His eyes bulged as he honed in on a home baked lasagna tucked away in the back.
"Oooh. Did you think you could hide from me? Oh no, no, no. Because I'm going to eat you." Wyatt grinned wickedly and stuck his head and hands as far back as they would go to reach the mouth-watering meal.
"Wyatt!" his mothers panicked voice echoed in his mind and startled him. Forgetting where he was, his head shot up and banged the top shelf painfully on his way out.
He wished he could self-heal as he rubbed the now sore spot on his head and went to find his mother, whose shrill voice was even louder now. "Mom, what's wrong?"
Piper whipped her head around, "I can't find Chris. He's not answering my calls, or his phone—or. What? Why are you laughing? This isn't funny! He could be hurt—or..."
"Mom, calm down, ok? You know Verizon may have expanded their network, but somehow, I don't think it includes the underworld."
At her look of confusion, Wyatt smiled calmly and explained. "Today is the day that Chris and a few of the other professors are taking the Magic School Graduates down to the Underworld on a field trip? Remember? They do this every year."
Piper sighed softly. "Oh. Well I still don't like it. He could be in danger and we'd never know it."
"I think that's his middle name," Wyatt grinned with amusement as he thought of the change in growing up with his brother this time around.
Gone was the timid, hesitant, and acquiescent little brother. And he was glad for it too. This Chris didn't hold anything back. He was vivacious, outgoing, and to be honest—a hell of a lot more fun now too, Wyatt mused. The energy and strength radiated from him the moment he walked into a room. It made you stand up and take notice; follow when he led. Though Chris was always quick to joke that it was because he was "so damn pretty", and "wasn't it just such a shame that all of the looks in the family skipped over his sibling and went straight for him?"
Wyatt wrapped his arm around his mother and reassured her, "Don't worry, Mom. I keep a connection to him all the time. He's fine. In fact, if there was a postcard for the Underworld, he'd send a picture of fire and brimstone on the front, and on the back it would read something like, having a blast—literally. Wish you were here."
Piper smiled fondly as she thought about it. Yeah, Chris would do something like that. "I guess you're right. That's Chris in a nutshell. But you know I just get so worried—especially now that he's reached the age when you and my future self said he died."
"I know, mom. But you changed all of that. He's happy now. You let him grow up to be who he was meant to be." The blond grinned as he suddenly felt the familiar presence near by. "And if that just happens to be a somewhat cocky, obnoxious--"
"Somebody talking about me?" Chris asked with one eyebrow up as he sauntered into the kitchen, kissed his mom on the cheek and made a beeline for the refrigerator. "Ooh, lasagna."
Piper followed her youngest and frowned, trying to disguise her features from the worry she felt. "Are you ok? How did it go?"
Chris shrugged non-chalantly and pulled out the pan that his brother had been so unsuccessfully at grabbing earlier. "I'm fine Mom. And as far as how it went, well—lets just say that some of the graduates will be taking summer classes if they want me to sign off on their diplomas."
He held the pan out to this older brother, giving him his best wide-eyed, hopeful expression—one that he knew his big brother had never been able to say no to.
Wyatt shook his head, but still waived his hand over the pan, heating its contents instantly with a a controlled burst of energy. 'Better than a microwave' Chris always said.
Chris spooned enough for the three of them before staring at his brother questioningly. "what are you doing here, anyway?"
"Probably the same as you," The older of the two crossed his arms and stared back pointedly.
Piper smiled fondly at her two boys and finished their unspoken sentence. "Raiding my refrigerator. Didn't you two get enough of that in college?"
Chris feigned surprise. "No way, Mom. I had to. I haven't had a decent home cooked meal since I was here last week."
Wyatt shoved him indignantly. "Hey! I made dinner a few nights ago."
Both Piper and Chris shared a look before turning away from the tall blond, humming and scratching their heads while pretending not to have heard his last statement. The oldest Halliwell boy's culinary skills—or lack thereof—were infamous in the Halliwell household. Unless you were purposely trying to diet, you didn't touch the stuff.
Wyatt sucked his teeth and stood up, ignoring their quiet mocking. "Alright. You know what? I don't have to take this kind of abuse. I'm going home!" he declared as he stomped away, grabbing his things on the way out.
Piper couldn't help the tiny giggle that escaped and accompanied a slightly guilty look as soon as he was gone. "He's such a drama queen. He had to have gotten that from Phoebe."
Chris nodded sympathetically as he rose from the table. "Yeah, but unfortunately, the overgrown teddy bear tends to get his feelings hurt easily. So I'm gonna' go after him. We still on for Grampa's birthday dinner Tuesday?"
"You bet I'll even make sure Wyatt or your father don't help me with the cooking."
Chris orbed out in search of his sibling, sighing loudly at finding him sprawled out on the couch—doing his best wounded puppy interpretation. He plopped down next to him. If he didn't know better, he would have felt sorry for the older man. But since he did—he broke out into a grin instead. "Did you get it?"
Wyatt's expression went from wounded puppy to sly dog in less time than it took to blink. He threw his head back before his gaze shifted to the kitchen counter.
Chris grinned even wider when he saw the almost full pan of lasagna that his brother had lifted from their family home. "We'll eat good tonight, Wy."
"More like the next few nights."
"When do you think she'll catch on?"
"Sooner or later," Wyatt told him confidently.
They shared a mischievous grin as their hands slowly rose to cover their ears. Chris began the countdown. "3...2...1--"
"WYATT MATTHEW HALLIWELL! You bring that back here right now, do you hear me?! I know you hear me!----"
The elder witch tuned his mother's ranting out and asked in annoyance. "Hey? How come she never yells your name like a banshee?"
The brunette batted his long eyelashes innocently. "Because I'm her angel. I can do no wrong."
Wyatt snorted, "That's cause you're a momma's boy. Let's not forget that this little heist was all your idea."
"Maybe I am. But what does that make you, 'Mr. I want mommy to tuck me in at the age of 13!"
The older man narrowed his eyes indignantly before lowered his head in an embarrassed concession. "Yeah. Well. No comment." He elbowed his brother playfully and grabbed a couple of forks.
They both dug into the pan to claim the dish, fully aware that Piper wouldn't want it back once they double-dipped into it without a fresh utensil. He couldn't help the fond smile that tugged at the corners of his lips as Chris sighed contentedly.
Piper Halliwell's home baked lasagna was one of Chris' favorite comfort foods, and she made sure to make it often for him. Wyatt used to wonder if it was out of a genuine fondness for the younger boy, or a fear of loosing him. But as time went on, he came to realize that his misguided family were just that--misguided.
None of it really mattered anymore. He and Chris were both loved, and felt it in abundance.
And if it took a little trip to the past to scare the crap out of them with the threat of losing the younger Halliwell, then so be it.
After all, it worked.
All it took was a little Unplanned Change.