Well, this is it. It's been a long hard battle, finally finishing my first WIP. I hope that you all are pleased enough with the result. This isn't to say that there's not a lot more to say about the mess that was created in this story between these characters, just that whatever comes next, that's a whole new ball game and something that I'm not planning on going into any time soon (my head spins just thinking about it). Thank you to everyone who took the time to read or to review. For all of you waiting so patiently for me to finally crank this out, apologies for the wait, I hope this at least lives up somewhat to your expectations.
Chris knew who he was
Chris knew who he was. He had lived two lifetimes, consecutively. He remembered growing up, and growing up again. He remembered how first it was his father he struggled with, and now it was his mother. He remembered his older brother evil, and now he knew his older brother as good.
But he wasn't confused about any of that. It just was.
There had been moments when he'd wanted to blurt it all out. He'd wanted to shove it in Wyatt's face as a child many times. Times when Chris wasn't good enough to hang out with his older brother, times when the aunts seemed to favor Wyatt. Well, you were evil before, so there! But he knew, he always knew, that it didn't matter. Wyatt wasn't evil now, he didn't even remember being evil. Wyatt was good, and Chris had messed with things enough that whatever was left for him would have to be okay.
And he'd often wanted to yell it at his mother, at the aunts. I saved you! I saved you and you're not even grateful. You can't even look at me. What's the matter with you? What's the matter with me? But he couldn't. There was still evil to fight, demons to vanquish. There was no time for whining, no time for petulance. He'd made this bed, and he would lie in it.
Sometimes he would wonder why it was that he remembered. It often felt like a punishment. On his fourteenth birthday he'd woken up shaking crying, and it wasn't until the day was over and everyone was still alive that he'd let himself relax. It hadn't been too great of a birthday, in either lifetime. Other times he'd start to say something, and have to catch himself. You remember the spider demon, dad? Remember when you kicked me out of the manor, mom? And they did remember those things, but he wasn't supposed to. He was supposed to be a normal Halliwell, which isn't very normal at all, but other Halliwell's don't come with previous lives tucked under their belts. Other Halliwell's are just what they appear to be.
Maybe that was why they didn't like him.
He remembers lying, and scheming, and how they felt about it. But he remembers how he felt about it, too. He remembers that there were things that were just more important than everyone's feelings at the time. He remembers, and he wouldn't change it. He'd done what he'd thought was right and Wyatt hadn't turned into an evil dictator and killed the rest of the family. He was going to stick to that.
"Chris?" Leo was still sitting next to him, Victor since retreated again to bed or to read or just to leave them some time alone. They'd stopped arguing, stopped talking, and the room had been silent for several minutes. He looked at his father, really looked, and saw a man he'd tried to beat to death, a man who'd deserted him and ignored him. He saw a man who knew he'd made a mistake (even though he hadn't technically made it) and was trying to make amends. He saw two fathers, and even though he'd always loved both, it was hard for him to reconcile one with the other. He saw two fathers, and they were both tired.
Chris knew who he was, but maybe he didn't really know who the rest of the family was anymore. He kept waiting for Leo to disappear, for Wyatt to turn evil. He kept waiting for the sisters to kick him out of the manor. He kept waiting for his life to be only an amalgam of the worst of both lifetimes, rather than fighting for the best of both.
"Yeah," he said. "Yeah."
The first time, Chris had been a much loved youngest child. He'd been a happy baby, held and comforted and cooed at. He'd been spoiled and fussed over, and left often in the company of a proud older brother. The first time, he had been just another Halliwell, just another of a special line of witches, loved and cherished as only members of their family were.
The second time, maybe because he wasn't a surprise, was just himself all over again, he'd been just a little bit forgotten.
"Nothing's going to change if you don't try to change it," Leo said, and Chris thought about Bianca, who he had loved, and left, and later been forced to watch die. She was gone now; the only part of her that remained in his life was his memory. She'd wanted him to change things, too. She'd known he was the only one who could.
And he had. And now he was supposed to shelve himself away and do it again. He was supposed to fix one of fate's mistakes and open himself up to questions and interrogations about everything he did not want to talk about. He did not want to talk about the things he remembered. There was no point. It was over and done, and they had all made their choices.
"Sure," he said. "I'll do that. Maybe I'll even open a few time portals while I'm at it. Remember the time mom made me go on that fieldtrip instead of staying with the family for that demon hunt? What a mess that was. And here I knew all along how to make that potion, but it was me that everyone was mad at when that came out. I didn't send myself away. I could change that."
"Chris…" Leo started, a little stunned at the shift in emotions, at the quick way Chris was getting agitated.
"Or forget about a time portal. I guess I really need a portal into another world. I need a portal to take me back to that time mom was murdered, and I could fix that."
"I don't think that—"
"Just how much could I change, do you think, before the whole world sucks itself into a black hole. I could destroy the earth." He cocked his head to the side. "Hell, that's nothing Wyatt hasn't tried before."
"This isn't healthy," Leo said. "And you know that's not what I meant."
"You're right. I can't stand portals anyway." Chris stood up. "I think I'll go home now. There're some things I want to consult the book for."
Leo stood up as well. "Now hold on a minute. Rushing home angry isn't going to make things change the way you want them to."
Chris stared at him, at the lines under his eyes and the desperation in them. He shrugged. "I'm done changing the world," he said. "Let someone else have a turn."
The first time, Chris had played video games and action figures and Legos. He'd spent time with his brother and his cousins, learning all the things that young children learn: how to share and how to give, what will hurt others and what will make them happy, what will hurt him and what will make him happy. Sure, Wyatt may have been a bit traumatized, may have already been started on a path towards infamy, but when they were young they were still happy enough.
The second time, he'd already known those things, had spent his time focusing on what he thought were more important things, and he'd been just a little bit ostracized.
He orbed into the attic only a fraction of a second before Leo materialized behind him. He went instantly for the book, noticing, but ignoring Piper and Wyatt on the little couch. He used his powers to flip open the cover before he even reached it, and the pages flew like a strong wind had caught them.
Piper made a little gasp as she watched him, and stood up only to be caught and restrained by Leo.
"Chris?" Wyatt asked, stepping around his parents to get to his little brother.
"I think I have a solution," he said, and the book stopped on a relatively unadorned page. He picked it up and thrust it at Wyatt, then left the attic, headed down the stairs. He heard the book hit the floor of the attic, and Wyatt was grabbing his arm on the stairs before he even made it to the landing.
"You aren't serious!" he yelled, spinning Chris until they were nose to nose.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Chris asked, wrenching his arm free. "Don't I look serious to you?"
"A memory spell? That's not a solution to anything."
"It fixes everything," he said. "No one has to pretend anymore if they don't have anything to remember. This will make them happier. This will make me happier."
"You're lying," Wyatt said, but Chris only shrugged and continued on to his room.
"They're used to that," he said. "I'd say you'll get used to it, too, but you won't remember, so it won't make any difference."
The first time, Chris had watched his older brother grow more and more distant, more and more angry. He'd watched his family fall apart from stress and lies and deaths. He'd watched as his mother died and his father might as well have. He'd watched his brother become the Source. And throughout it all, he'd kept fighting, kept trying. There may have been a few times he'd fallen off track, but he'd always had people there helping him get it together. He'd had aunts, and cousins and Bianca. He'd everyone until he was the last one left, until he'd finally managed to do what it was they had all been fighting for.
The second time, he had the prize they'd all wanted, and he'd been just a little bit disappointed.
Chris started digging into his closet and his dresser, throwing things out onto the bed. He could sense Wyatt standing in the doorway, staring at him.
"I'd like to see you try," Wyatt said finally, after Chris had made decent headway on a sizeable pile.
"What's that?" Chris asked, not at all expecting that response.
"I'd like to see you try and cast a spell on me," he said. Wyatt's voice was low and steady. He hated it. He hated how calm and easy going his older brother was.
"Oh, because you're the chosen one? Mister Twice Blessed. I guess I couldn't handle that, huh? I guess I'm just not good enough." He picked a book up and threw it against the wall, enjoying the thwack it made against the plaster, enjoying the way he saw Wyatt jump out of the corner of his eye.
"Well whatever, Wyatt. Do it yourself or don't do it all. I don't really care." He still didn't look over towards the doorway.
"That's not true," Wyatt said. "You do care."
Chris shrugged, then grabbed a bag and started shoving things into it. "So? Even if I did, it's not like it matters to anyone."
He heard Wyatt sigh, and come into the room, before finally sitting on the bed facing him. "Stop that and listen to me," Wyatt said, and reached a hand out to grab his nearest wrist, stilling him. Chris didn't pull away this time.
"She cried on my shoulder."
Chris didn't say anything.
"She cried on my shoulder and she told me about you; about what you were like, and what they were like. She told me that she didn't love you the way she should have."
Chris turned his head away.
"That's what you wanted right? You wanted her to admit that she'd done wrong by you."
He pulled his hand and sat down on the foot of the bed, presenting Wyatt with his back.
"No, I didn't want that," he said. "I wanted there to never be a problem in the first place. I wanted to never have a reason to bury anything away in the back yard. And that reason, that problem wasn't her, it was me. I'm the problem, Wy."
The first time, Chris had lied, and cheated, and brought demons into the house and consorted with everything but all out evil. He had given the sisters away in order to have them learn a lesson, and he'd messed with their potions and their hunts. He'd forgotten that they were young, and inexperienced compared to the mother and the aunt he'd already lost. And he hadn't cared. He'd put the ends above the means, the world above his family. In the end, he'd gotten what he needed, but he hadn't anticipated the expense.
The second time, he shouldn't have been surprised when there was fallout, and he'd been just a little bit despised.
Wyatt sighed again, and it was heavy. Chris could hear the weight settling in on his shoulders, and he didn't like it. He didn't like what he had done to this family. He'd tried to make things better, and everyone was still alive, but better was relative. He caused problems every time he opened his mouth, and often when he didn't.
Maybe if he'd only been more carefree, if he'd been able to take the gift of a second chance and not look at it with the eyes of one who'd already seen the world go up in flames. Maybe. But that wasn't him, and he knew who he was. He was Chris. He just was. He wanted them to love him for him, but you couldn't throw all the worst parts of yourself out there and expect no one to notice.
They'd definitely noticed.
There was a throat cleared at the doorway. Chris didn't have to turn to see who was standing there. He'd recognize that noise, that voice, that presence, anywhere. Piper. His mother. And no doubt his father, too, standing just off her shoulder. He wouldn't look. He couldn't.
"I'd like to talk to you, if I could," she said, and the bed moved when Wyatt stood up to leave. There was a brief murmur of voices, of Leo and Wyatt greeting one another and moving off. The door closed gently and then it was just them. Just mother and son, just whitelighter and witch. Just Piper and Chris.
She sat in the spot Wyatt had vacated, or near about. Chris still didn't turn to look, but he felt the bed shift again, less than before. She wasn't a large woman, much slighter than Wyatt, and than he himself. Chris looked down at his hands instead, at fingers twisted around each other.
She cleared her throat a little again when it was clear he wasn't going to turn or speak, and then she started.
"When you were a little boy…" she said, and trailed off. He'd rarely heard her sound so uncertain. "When you were a baby," she tried again, "they handed you to me, and I didn't know you had died. You were so little, so red and frail, and I really knew you were mine."
She stopped and shifted on the bed. It seemed nervous of her, and he didn't like it.
"Chris? The baby in my arms, he was new and fresh and later when they said you had died... I think for a second I thought that the baby wasn't you. I think I thought, 'Well okay, that's over. Here's something new.' I know that's horrible, but you were dead. You were dead and it seemed like things could be less secretive, less difficult.
"And then you started to grow up and I could see. You weren't new. You already knew so much, could already do so much. I tried to keep you young and innocent for a while, but it didn't work, and then I pushed you away and tried to pretend that Chris Perry hadn't ever come into my life. I tried to convince myself that there was no way you were the same person.
"But that day in the kitchen? That day when you told me you knew how to cook and I had never taught you? It was like the bubble I'd been hiding away in had burst open. I think in my heart I always knew it was you. Both of you. I just didn't want to admit it because it always made it seem like you weren't mine. And I wanted you to be mine, Chris, I really did."
Her voice got really quiet at the end, and her speech died out into the silence of the room. He didn't know what to say to that. It was confirmation that he wasn't loved like he should have been, and it was confirmation that it was his fault, that family didn't love unconditionally, no matter how loudly, or quietly, they might claim to.
"I was always yours," he finally whispered. "I've always been yours."
If he could have stepped outside himself, he would have seen her reach for him, and pull away before her fingers touched his back. There were so many walls between them, even sitting in the same room, on the same bed. Maybe especially there.
Outside, they could pretend, they always had. He was the annoying son that she didn't always get along with, who had too much demon hunter in him, was a little bit too much devoted to his work like his father used to be. They could still smile at each other, and strangers rarely felt the tension there. But inside? Inside they were too much Piper Halliwell and Chris Perry. They were too much all the lies that had defined their lives together. They were too much his memories and not enough hers. If only she remembered like he did. If only she remembered two lifetimes, too. But she didn't.
He would always be grateful that she didn't have to remember Wyatt evil or her husband gone, that she didn't have to remember dying because, well, he had that, and it wasn't pleasant. But there was something cosmically unfair about him being able to remember everything, like a mother that didn't have the shadow of her son's lies and deception hanging over her, who knew only that her little boy was hers, had been born hers, and would always be hers. And maybe because of that he had perhaps placed too much on her shoulders, expecting her to cope with things she didn't even know about, with his drive and his quirks, his cloudy days that seemed to come more often than his sunny ones, his suspicion that everything would go to hell in a hand basket if he didn't keep a ready eye open all the time. All of that was a product of a world long since avoided, long since forgotten, by everyone but him.
How could she love him if she didn't know him?
He slid around on the bed until they were shoulder to shoulder, and stared straight ahead even though he could feel her eyes on the side of his face.
"We used to cook a lot," he said. "Together, I mean. I loved being with you in the kitchen. You taught me everything I know." I learned from the best.
He wrung his hands some more, until she finally reached out and, tentatively, placed her hand over his, stilling them just like Wyatt had stilled him earlier.
"And then you died," he said, having to force it out and it came out in a rasp. "You died and went away and I was alone. I had to learn how to be like that. I had to learn how to survive."
"Wyatt was evil," she said. "I know that part."
"No, you don't," he said, "because I haven't told you, not really. Wyatt was evil, but that doesn't tell you what happened to me. I was…not your little boy anymore. I had changed, and when you met me, you were young and I was different, harder, angrier. I wasn't ready to be your little boy again, and by the time I was, you didn't want me anymore. You didn't think I needed you."
Her fingers squeezed around his, and she sniffled. He finally turned to look at her, and she was crying. He pulled a hand away to wipe at her tears, pausing with a thumb just beneath her eye, but she didn't flinch away like he thought she might.
"I did some pretty terrible things," he said, "as Chris Perry. I didn't mean to, but I just…did. At the time, diplomacy wasn't my strong suit."
She nodded, there was no use in arguing that, but, "We did some pretty terrible things, too," she said. "We didn't make it easy for you."
He shrugged, a little stunned to hear it from her lips. "I came here to do a job. Everything else was secondary."
She sighed, obviously that was something they'd always disagree on, even though ultimately, their priorities were the same. Means vs. Ends, the eternal Halliwell battle. But she only said, "You were here to save the world, and you did."
"I couldn't have done it alone. I needed you. I still need you."
He saw her hand come up in his peripheral vision to rub at her eyes. "I'm not going to use a spell," she said, "to forget you. And I don't want you to do anything either. I don't need to forget you. I need to remember you, and to learn about you."
She started crying again and he touched her shoulder gently but she turned away. He pulled his hand back and sat a little awkwardly, wondering if he'd gone too far.
"I've been so stupid," she sobbed out. "All I had to do was start this conversation with you years earlier, and all this time wouldn't have been wasted."
She turned abruptly and threw her arms around him, pulling him into a gripping hug. He put his hands on her back lightly, tentatively.
"I'm so sorry, Chris, I'm so sorry," she said into his shoulder. He let her hold onto him, wondering if this was it, if this was finally the end of all the problems between them, but he didn't feel overjoyed. Instead, he felt a little numb.
They could cry together, and apologize and expound upon how wrong they'd both been until they were blue in the face, and she'd still forget herself later and toss him a spiteful look, and he'd still be more interested in hunting down demons than booking a new band and stocking the bar. They didn't change who they were just because they'd finally admitted there was a problem between them.
He pulled her arms off of him and looked at her. She had wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and her hair had long since started to lose its chestnut brown color, and her face was streaked with tears and remorse, and she was looking at him for the first time like she actually saw him, instead of the stranger in her home that she didn't trust. She was finally looking at him like he was her son. Like he was hers. And he looked at her and saw a woman he'd never seen before, older than she'd ever been before, but he still saw more of that mom that he remembered, finally coming through towards him, and he recognized it for what it was: love, finally starting to peak through the shadows. She didn't remember it, but she was both mothers, tied together in one.
"It's not going to fix itself tonight," he said. "These things just don't go away once everyone says their apologies." He stood up and turned back, holding his hand out to her. "But come on, we can start by making dinner." He hesitated, wondering if he was going too far, but plunged on anyway. "I know a recipe you might be interested in. A woman taught it to me long ago, and I have a hunch you might be excellent at it."
She looked at his hand, and then up into his face. When she smiled, it was a little bit sad, but she took his hand and they went down to the kitchen together. Eventually, everything would either work out or it wouldn't. They weren't perfect, they were just family, and these were the mistakes they made.