A RIFT IN TIME
Summary: When a grown-up Wyatt and Chris unexpectedly find themselves in an alternate and evil future, they must work together with their past family to prevent the universe from spiralling into utter chaos before it's too late…
Disclaimer: The characters in Charmed do not belong to me. No infringement is intended, no profit is made. The characters of Emily and Chloe do belong to me though, but they can be borrowed as long as I'm asked first.
Notes: Hi everyone! Welcome to my new story. It requires a rather lengthy introduction so please bear with me.
This is essentially a Charmed Season 7/New Future Wyatt and Chris fan fiction. The Future part takes place in my 'Unrequited' universe, but if you haven't read that story then please don't let that put you off. It isn't necessary to have done so to understand this. If you do have the time and inclination however, reading it will help you understand some of the characters and their motivations a bit better.
Next follows a quick summary of the relationships established in Unrequited to introduce the non-canon characters and to set the scene for you. If you have already read Unrequited, then you can skip this next bit if you want, and just start reading Chapter 1 of 'A Rift in Time', which begins immediately after the summary. All you need to know is that it starts around two years after Wyatt and Chloe's wedding. If you haven't read Unrequited though, please do read the summary first or you might be a bit lost as to who is who.
Previously in 'Unrequited'...
Unrequited was a future Chris (aged around 24) and Wyatt (aged 26) story. It assumed that Season 6 of Charmed took place but that only the first part of season 7 did. Therefore, no Avatars, Leo didn't completely lose the plot and is also still an Elder. He is the headmaster of Magic School however.
Wyatt is good, Chris is the grown-up baby Chris from the TV show and Piper didn't die. Also, having had a happy upbringing, this Chris is more relaxed than, and not as intense as, the first Chris was. Both boys teach at Magic School – Chris full-time and Wyatt part-time. They also both know about the other Chris, although they weren't told about him until their early twenties. There is a general family consensus that, while the two Chris's are biologically the same person, they are two separate individuals in a personal sense. Piper and Leo view themselves as having three sons because of this.
Unrequited started with my original character, Emily Hargreaves (aged 23) moving into the apartment below the one that the grown-up Wyatt and Chris shared in the future. Emily is a witch, but she had a 'magic-light' upbringing due to an incident in her parent's past where her father, David (a mortal) witnessed his younger sister (also called Emily and Emily's Mom's best friend in college) being brutally murdered by a demon.
He therefore believed all magic to be bad and his wife Bella respected his wish to keep magic out of their family's life, although she never lied to their daughter about what she was. Emily only started experimenting with her powers when she went to college therefore, and was having some difficulty controlling her telekinesis and potion-making skills when she first met Wyatt and Chris. She quickly became friends with both boys, but clicked much more with Chris and eventually started to fall in love with him. Chris was still involved with Bianca at this point however, so Emily's feelings went largely unrequited (hence the title of the story).
About this time, the second of my original characters, Chloe Simpson was introduced. She's Emily's cousin and a witch also. The two girls are more like sisters than cousins however. This is because they're both only children and grew up alongside each other in their hometown of Oakenvale (a made-up place in small-town America somewhere). Chloe was still living there when she had a serious car accident in Chapter 7 of the story.
Because Emily couldn't get a flight home quickly enough, Wyatt and Chris orbed her there instead, and, upon arrival at the local ER, they discovered that Chloe had only been given a few hours to live by her doctors. Luckily, Wyatt was able to heal her, although he could only do so in short bursts because he didn't want to expose magic by having her recover too quickly. He kept visiting her in hospital to make sure she got better, and then finally healed her completely when she was discharged several weeks later.
Ostensibly to avoid gossip about her miraculous recovery, but really because she and Wyatt had begun to fall for each other, Chloe then came to stay with her cousin in San Francisco. While Emily continued to struggle with her feelings for Chris, Wyatt and Chloe started dating. Chris meanwhile, was having issues with Bianca, because although he loved her, he couldn't really see himself being with her forever. He didn't feel like he could admit to that however, because the first Chris had wanted to marry her and everyone - including Bianca herself - just assumed that he'd feel the same.
The situation eventually came to a head when Emily was kidnapped by demons and during her rescue, she saved Chris from being killed by one of them. Bianca, along with Chris, realised her true feelings at that point, but each reacted rather differently to the discovery. Because Emily had never tried to come on to him, Chris didn't think she should be blamed for simply feeling the way that she did. Bianca though, was not of this opinion and the couple ended up having a huge row about it, which was unfortunately witnessed by a mortified Emily. Dismayed that her secret feelings had been exposed, she decided to take a job transfer to LA in an attempt to move on with her life.
Chloe and Wyatt were pretty close by this time however, so Chloe stayed on in San Francisco and set up her own business there – an alternative therapy practice where she combines her college training as a dietician, her potion-making skills and her empathic power of aura-reading (she can read and manipulate people's auras) to help people.
The story then jumped on seven months. Wyatt and Chloe got engaged, and Chris and Bianca split up when he eventually realised that it wasn't fair on either of them if they continued to live a lie just because they were apparently destined to be together in a different future. Chloe persuaded Emily to move back to San Francisco to help with the wedding arrangements, and she and Chris re-established their previously close friendship, although Emily was a little bit wary about getting too involved because of what had happened before.
The rest of the story centred on Wyatt and Chloe's wedding plans, the boys' relationship with their family, plus Chris and Emily's slowly developing mutual love for each other. After finally getting together, the couple had a few troubles because Emily was still extremely insecure and scared of being hurt again. They eventually ironed out these difficulties however, and the story ended with Wyatt and Chloe getting married, and Chris and Emily happily in love.
'A Rift in Time' begins approximately two years later…
Chapter 1 – The Homecoming
The Year 2030 - Wyatt and Chloe Halliwell's apartment, two years after their wedding…
Coming home after a full day of classes at Magic School, twenty-eight year old Wyatt Halliwell orbed into the lounge, his school robes slung carelessly over one arm.
"Chloe?" he called as he emerged from the cloud of blue lights in the centre of the living room.
"In here," his wife's familiar voice echoed from their bedroom.
Tossing his work-clothes over the back of one of the armchairs, he quickly walked down the short hallway to the master bedroom. Pushing open the door, he found Chloe surveying her reflection in the full-length mirror fixed to the wall. She flickered a brief glance at him as he entered the room and then returned her gaze to the glass in front of her.
"I'm a whale," she said, pouting disconsolately.
Folding his arms across his chest, Wyatt leaned casually against the doorframe and smiled. "Yeah," he agreed, "But a very beautiful whale."
"You haven't quite learned the art of tact yet, have you darling?" Chloe said sarcastically. "You're supposed to try and make me feel better about myself, not knock my confidence further."
Her husband laughed and then crossed the room to join her. "You are my beautiful…" He bent to kiss the side of her neck, "Gorgeous…" He tenderly pressed his warm lips to her temple. "Wife, who just happens to be…"
"Unable to see her own feet," Chloe cut in grumpily.
"Carrying our first child," Wyatt finished, stroking his hand over her prominent seven-month pregnancy bump.
As if on cue, their unborn baby chose that moment to wake up and Wyatt grinned as he felt the pressure of a tiny foot against his palm. "Hey little guy!" he murmured.
"Or girl," Chloe pointedly reminded him.
"Or girl," Wyatt agreed, "Although I'm definitely erring on the side of guy."
"You haven't cheated, have you?" Chloe said, twisting her head around and looking at him suspiciously, "Because we said we'd wait and see."
"No, I haven't cheated," her husband assured her. "Let's just say I have a feeling."
"A feeling encouraged by your Aunt Phoebe? Or just a feeling?" Chloe enquired with a knowing look.
"Didn't I just say I hadn't cheated?" Wyatt replied, protesting his innocence. "Besides I don't think it's possible for her to tell unless she gets a premonition, and I doubt the sex of our child is particularly relevant when it comes to saving innocents."
"No," Chloe agreed. "Boy or girl, it likes to interfere regardless."
"Why? Did something else happen?"
"Oh yes," Chloe said, sitting down on the edge of the bed to take the weight off her swollen ankles. "Baby Halliwell decided to help out with Mrs Evans' aura-alignment today. By the end of it, she was so chilled, she was practically horizontal – her family is probably going to think she's on drugs or something."
"It's not funny, Wyatt," Chloe chastised him when he started to chuckle. "The impenetrable shield and instantaneous healing I can live with, but this… I have a professional reputation to maintain, you know."
Her husband grinned as he sat down beside her. "Yeah, I imagine my Mom felt much the same way when I turned her blowing up power into flowers."
Chloe giggled. "You didn't."
"Apparently so - I suppose my pacifist whitelighter side must have been developing that day."
Chloe nodded and then her face lit up. "Hey! Aura aligning's my power."
"I was wondering how long it would take you to figure that one out," Wyatt remarked with a smile. "I guess Next Generation Halliwell in there." He lightly poked her stomach, "Takes after his – or her – Mommy as well as their Daddy."
"Mmm," Chloe agreed, and then leaned forward to kiss him, looping her arms about his neck as she did so.
"We should start getting ready," she said when they drew apart. "We don't want to be late."
"I don't see why not," Wyatt said as he stood up and tugged her to her feet, "I'm pretty sure the guests of honour are going to be."
"They're not back yet?" Chloe asked as she waddled rather ungainly towards the on-suite bathroom.
Wyatt shook his head. "Not unless my sensing power has gone suddenly awry, no," he replied. "They're still on a different continent to the rest of us right now."
"I thought Chris said they'd be back today," Chloe said with a hint of exasperation in her voice, "Your Mom is not going to be impressed if they're a no show tonight. She organised this welcome home dinner especially."
"I know," Wyatt said, "And Chris does too. So if he knows what's good for him, he'll be there - or else be prepared to suffer the consequences. I know which option I'd prefer if it were me."
Chloe giggled at the slight rueful way in which he said this. "Which is precisely why I should take pointers from your Mom on keeping our children in line," she quipped with a mischievous smile.
"Humph," Wyatt grunted in a non-committal tone as he reached inside the shower stall and turned on the water for her.
"I can do that myself, you know," Chloe protested mildly, unfastening her wraparound maternity dress and letting it drop to the floor behind her.
"I don't want you slipping over," Wyatt said. "Your centre of gravity is not where it normally is right now."
"Tell me about it," Chloe agreed with a long-suffering glance downwards at her protruding stomach, "But I'm pregnant not an invalid. And thousands of expectant women manage to take showers every day without any help."
Wyatt chuckled. "All right – point taken. I'm being annoyingly overprotective, aren't I?"
"Just a bit, but then I'm big enough to forgive you the occasional lapse so… And I did not mean that literally!" she exclaimed as her husband's face split into a broad smile at her unintentional pun.
"I don't like you," she pouted, stepping into the shower and shutting the frosted screen on his grinning face.
"Unfortunately, Mrs Halliwell, there's overwhelming evidence to the contrary on that," Wyatt said, perching on the edge of the bathroom counter so that they could continue with their conversation while she showered.
Chloe let out a silvery little laugh. "Well, I can't exactly argue with that in my condition, can I?"
"'Fraid not," her husband concurred. "The ring on your finger is a bit of a giveaway too."
"Mmm... Speaking of rings – you reckon someone else will have one on her finger tonight?"
"I wouldn't like to say."
"It's about time your brother got his act together, don't you think?"
Wyatt shook his head with a laugh. "Says you. Why are you so desperate to marry them off anyway?"
"I'm not – it's just that they've been seeing each other for two years now and living together for the past eight months. Plus, they've just spent three months travelling around the world together. Why is Chris so scared to make things official?"
"I don't actually think he is," Wyatt replied calmly. "Everyone is different, Chloe. From what I've seen, he and Emily are perfectly content as they are. They'll make it official when they're ready – whether that's now or in ten year's time, what does it matter as long as they're happy?"
Chloe sighed. "It doesn't, I guess. I just worry about Emily getting hurt again, I suppose."
"That was a long time ago, Chloe - and it wasn't Chris's fault either."
"I know that."
"So stop fretting about it then. Look, if it makes you feel any better, it's not like it was with Bianca, okay? Chris doesn't have any doubts in that respect. He adores Emily, you know he does. He's totally committed to their relationship and would never do anything to hurt her. And besides, she doesn't seem unhappy to me anyway – the complete opposite in fact."
"You would have to be the logical one, wouldn't you?" Chloe grumbled good-naturedly.
"Well, someone has to be. Don't you think you're getting a bit obsessed with the idea of them getting married?"
"I just want them to be happy that's all - and properly settled before the baby's born."
Wyatt laughed. "What does that have to do with anything?" he said. "I'm pretty sure our baby couldn't care less whether they're married or not. He or she'll be spoiled rotten regardless."
"I didn't say it was a rational want, did I?" Chloe replied in a huffy tone.
Much to her annoyance, Wyatt continued to chuckle at her illogical reasoning. "I think your nesting instinct may have gone a little bit haywire," he remarked laughingly. "It's our home you're supposed to be making ready for the baby's arrival, not its Uncle and potential Aunt's!"
"Can we change the subject now please?" Chloe demanded in a plaintive tone.
"Why when this one is so much fun?" her husband countered teasingly.
Wyatt laughed, hearing the pout in her voice even though he couldn't see it on her face at the moment.
"Since you haven't got anything better to do - other than annoy me that is - why don't you make yourself useful and go and unpack the stuff your Mom brought over from the Manor this afternoon?" Chloe said acidly, informing him in no uncertain terms that their previous discussion was over.
"What stuff?" Wyatt asked as he hopped down from the counter-top.
"I'm not sure. She didn't really say. The box has 'WYATT' written on the side of it though, so I'm guessing whatever's in it belongs to you. I put it in the nursery if you want to take a look."
Wyatt frowned. "I thought I brought all my things over here when me and Chris moved in," he mused.
"Not everything, obviously," his wife said. "And you're not going to find out what you missed unless you open the box, are you?"
"Why do I get the impression that you're trying to get rid of me?" Wyatt enquired with a vague note of complaint in his voice.
"Because I am," Chloe bluntly replied, the smile on her face evident in the light, teasing cadence of her words.
Wyatt shook his head in amused resignation as he made for the door. "You're lucky I'm not super sensitive or I might have taken offence at that," he informed her dryly.
"Just beat it, Wyatt," she responded in a droll tone.
"Fine, I think I will, seeing as my so-called loving wife insists on abusing me with every other sentence!" he returned in mock indignation.
Chloe's resultant laughter followed him out of the room and he smiled broadly in response. Two years had passed now since their wedding, and his wife was still as adorable as ever. Their marriage had been a resounding success so far. Sure, they had their ups and downs like most couples, but they'd been extremely happy for the most part. He'd never once regretted marrying her and had no qualms about moving things onto the next level now. Having children was, in some ways, an even bigger commitment than marriage, and although he certainly had some anxieties about becoming a father, he was completely sure of his choice of mother for his children.
After passing through the main bedroom again, he stepped back out into the short corridor off which the apartment's other bedroom and large family bathroom were accessed. Twisting the handle of the door opposite, he entered the bedroom that was once the domain of his younger brother, but which had now been transformed into a nursery for his and Chloe's coming child.
The walls were painted a pale lemon yellow and a border of stencilled zoo animals encircled the room at approximately waist-height. A beech-coloured chest of drawers, shelf unit and matching closet were positioned along the length of one wall, and a large, wooden cot stood in the opposite corner, ready and waiting for its intended occupant's arrival into the world. The brightly coloured mobile, which was to hang above their baby's bed, was still packed safely away in its box however, along with various other essential items required by their impending newborn – plastic bottles, sterilizers, diapers and the like.
Chloe had placed the large, cardboard box that Piper had dropped around earlier on top of the chest of drawers, and Wyatt strode quickly across the room towards it, eager to see what was inside. A criss-crossing pattern of packing tape held the mysterious box closed, and his name was written in his Mom's familiar script across two sides of the cardboard container.
The box was also slightly dusty on top, which told him that it had resided in the Manor attic until recently. The attic was the only room in his childhood home that was ever dusty. Piper's super-efficient housekeeping ensured that the rest of the rooms were spick, span, and dust-free at all times. Pulling a strand of the packing tape free with his thumb and forefinger, Wyatt ripped open the box with a little boy's enthusiasm and peered inside.
"Wuvey!" he exclaimed in a delighted tone, reaching inside to pull out his once much-loved, but ultimately abandoned teddy bear.
The brown, fluffy toy had been washed so that he looked almost brand-new, and Wyatt reckoned that the bear had acquired a new pair of eyes and a restored nose along the way too. Propping up the teddy on top of the chest of drawers, he reached inside the box again and withdrew a large, blue blanket with the Charmed Triquetra embroidered across it. This was followed by a plastic teething ring that was slightly chewed around the edges, and a silver photograph frame that held a picture of his Mom, Dad and what he assumed must be a newborn him inside of it. His baby self was wrapped snugly in the Charmed blanket and both his parents had wide, beaming smiles on their faces, as if they'd just been presented with a gift from heaven.
Wyatt felt a warm glow fill him up from the inside as he gazed down at the slightly faded photo in his hands. In a few short weeks, he and Chloe would probably be wearing similar expressions of overwhelming pride on their faces as they held their own newborn child in their arms. He tenderly traced the edge of ridged photo frame with his forefinger, and then suddenly shivered as an unexpected sense of foreboding washed over him.
The room around him seemed to shift out of focus, fading into the background. The freshly painted walls turned a soot-streaked, off-white colour and peeling paint patches and damp spots marred their surfaces at regular intervals. The lush, newly laid carpet was suddenly threadbare and dirty, while the bright, cheery sun streaming in through the large, square window waned to a muted, miserable grey light. The air around him was chill and musty, and you could smell the underlying damp in the walls and floorboards every time you drew breath…
"So – what was in the box?"
Wyatt blinked twice in rapid succession and found himself back in the warm, sunlit nursery once more. Whirling around in a three hundred and sixty degree circle, he frantically reassured himself of his location, his heart rate galloping and his breath coming in short, shallow gasps.
"Wyatt – what is it? What's wrong?"
Noting the frightened concern in Chloe's voice, Wyatt forced himself to meet her violet-eyed gaze with a calmness that he didn't feel inside. His heavily pregnant wife was standing in the doorway, wrapped in a voluminous bathrobe, and with her long, blonde hair hanging in wet tendrils about her pretty face.
"Nothing, I… nothing," he said.
He didn't have the power of premonition. So how could he have seen what he'd just seen? There was no point in worrying Chloe with this until he knew more, not in her condition anyway. He would talk to his father and brother tonight, see what they thought about it. The Elders always seemed to have prior warning when something big was afoot, so his Dad would know if there was anything in particular that he needed to worry about.
There was a tinkling orb sound then, and Wuvey disappeared from his perch atop the chest of drawers and reappeared in Chloe's outstretched hands. She looked rather taken aback for a moment, and then she smiled, the worried expression fading from her face and her eyes softening as she looked tenderly at the toy in her hands.
"Aww! He's cute. Was he yours?"
Grateful to his son – or daughter – for providing a timely change of subject, Wyatt nodded. "Yeah, he was in the box, along with these." He showed his curious wife the blanket and the photograph. "I guess Mom thought we might want them for the baby."
"Well, the baby certainly wants Teddy," Chloe remarked, touching gentle fingers to her rounded belly in an almost unconscious gesture. "What's his name anyway?"
Chloe giggled. "What kind of dumbass name is that?" she asked.
Wyatt grinned in spite his underlying anxiety. "I haven't the faintest," he replied with a laugh. "He's always just been Wuvey."
"Well, Wuvey it is then," Chloe said, plumping up the toy and straightening his slightly wonky ears and black button nose. She crossed on bare feet to the cot on the far side of the room and sat the bear on top of the folded bedclothes inside.
"How about we leave Wuvey here for now, sweetie?" she said in a sing-song tone to the developing baby in her womb, "'Cus Mommy needs to find something suitable to wear for dinner at your Grams' tonight. And Daddy needs to get ready too or we'll be late, and your Grams definitely won't like that."
Wyatt grinned. "Yeah, word of advice, little one. On family dinner night, make sure you, your brothers and sisters arrive first. That way your cousins will cop the flack for being late instead. It's always worked a treat with your Uncle Chris."
"Wyatt!" Chloe remonstrated disapprovingly. "Stop teaching our baby devious habits. You're supposed to be setting a good example."
Wyatt playfully wrinkled his nose at her. "I am," he said with aplomb, "I'm teaching him not to be late for family dinner night."
"But only so he – and his currently non-existent siblings - can get one over on their equally non-existent cousins!" she exclaimed.
"Well, they've gotta have some fun in life, haven't they?" he retorted unrepentantly.
"Wyatt!" Chloe protested with a helpless little laugh. "Behave, will you?"
Her irreverently unapologetic husband grinned impishly at her, and then began to laugh as well…
Meanwhile at a five-star hotel in Venice, Italy…
Emily Hargreaves leaned against the balcony railing, looking out over the large expanse of water and architectural splendours that comprised the view from the luxurious hotel's third floor windows. It was still a few hours until sunrise, but the pre-dawn air was muggy and humid, and only marginally cooler than the sweltering heat of the previous day. A slight breeze ruffled her wavy, shoulder-length red hair however, taking the edge off the sultry temperature and allowing her to savour her surroundings in relative comfort.
"Emily – it's nearly time to go," Chris said, as he emerged from the air-conditioned coolness of their hotel room out onto the warm, moon-drenched balcony.
"I know," she said with an almost regretful sigh. "I was just taking one last look at the view. It's so beautiful here."
Coming up behind her, Chris placed his hands either side of hers on the railing, then rested his chin on her shoulder as they looked out together over the night lights of the famous city. "Saved the best for last," he remarked with a smile.
"Mmm, you sure did," Emily concurred wholeheartedly. She leaned back against him and surveyed the cluster of sparkling diamonds on the third finger of her left hand.
The small, pinprick sized jewels had been artfully arranged into the triquetra symbol of Chris's family, while a triangular-cut, azure-blue sapphire formed the centrepiece of the unusual assembly. Emily wasn't quite sure whether Chris had had the ring especially made, or whether he'd magically altered it himself. She hadn't really thought to ask him in the forty-eight hours since she'd accepted his proposal. She'd been floating somewhere in the vicinity of the outer-stratosphere since then, and it hadn't seemed particularly relevant somehow. She asked him about it now though, curiosity getting the better of her.
"I kind of cheated," her fiancé admitted sheepishly. "They were going to charge me a fortune for something I could just as easily do myself."
"You didn't just conjure the whole thing, did you?" Emily asked suspiciously.
Chris laughed. "No – I'm not quite that cheap," he said. "The sapphire was originally set in a double circle of diamonds – I can change it back if you want."
"Don't you dare!" Emily clutched her left hand against her breast, protecting her precious ring from harm. "I love it just the way it is."
Chris pressed a kiss into her soft hair. "Yeah, I kind of noticed that," he murmured silkily, his voice low and seductive in tone.
Emily flushed pink at that, and then berated herself for doing so. How, after two years together, did he still have the capacity to make her blush like a schoolgirl? You'd think she'd have gotten used to it by now. But no, he still caught her unawares on a regular basis and obviously delighted in doing so too.
"You make it so easy," he told her with a low chuckle, uncannily picking up on her train of thought.
She twisted around in his arms and shot him a censorious look, but that only made him smile even wider. Looking up into his laughing green eyes, she capitulated as she always did.
"You're a very bad man, Christopher Halliwell," she reproved with a sensuous pout and an airy toss of her flame-red tresses.
"And yet you love me," he said, responding with his familiar refrain before he ducked his head and quite deliberately pressed his mouth against hers.
Emily sighed and wrapped her arms around Chris's back as his lips repeatedly claimed hers in a series of protracted and searing kisses. His fingers tangled in her hair as he held her still for his embrace, and the slow, circling movement of his thumbs at her temples made her swoon like a gushing heroine in a historical romance novel.
"Yes, definitely a bad man," she concluded dreamily when they eventually broke apart.
Chris smiled down into her cobalt-blue eyes, his green eyes twinkling merrily. "I aim to please," he quipped, and she slapped him lightly across the chest in protest.
"Chris!" she admonished.
He laughed and then grimaced slightly. "You do know everyone is going to be expecting an announcement when we get back, don't you?" he said.
"No really?" Emily asked, all wide-eyed and ingenious. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
"Call it a hunch," Chris responded dryly. He made a face. "I hate being so predictable," he lamented.
Emily giggled. "So what are you suggesting? That we don't tell them?"
Chris's eyes took on a cunning glint. "Maybe," he said slowly. "My family are just that little bit too sure of themselves sometimes, don't you think?"
"I always wondered where you got that from," Emily shot back teasingly.
"Funny," Chris responded with flat sarcasm and she laughed.
"You're serious, aren't you?" she asked after a beat of silence.
"I'm not suggesting we keep it secret forever," Chris replied. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I am happy about this…"
"Glad to hear it."
"It would drive them crazy though," he continued slyly. "Aunt Phoebe'll tie herself in knots trying to wring a confession out of us."
Emily laughed. "Now that I can believe," she said. "And Chloe's not going to be much better either - she's been asking leading questions every time I've called her since we've been away."
Chris grinned. "It'll be worth it just for the entertainment value then."
Emily smiled up into his face, her blue eyes dancing with silent laughter. "I can't believe I'm actually agreeing to this," she remarked in a slightly disbelieving tone.
Wrapping his arms around her waist, Chris exuberantly lifted her off her feet and kissed her soundly on the lips. "That's my girl," he said, spinning her around in his arms and making her laugh out loud.
"What about my ring though?" she asked him, when he eventually set her back down on her feet. "I don't want to take it off."
"I think we can work a little magic to make it invisible," Chris replied, lightly tracing the outline of the ring with his forefinger.
"You think of everything, don't you?" she said.
"Well, I try," he told her with false modesty.
"We're not going to keep it secret for too long though?" she wanted to know.
"Of course not," Chris reassured her. "Just for today, twenty-four hours at most. Just long enough for them to regret their presumptuousness."
"Of course, their presumptions are actually bang on the money in this case," Emily felt the need to point out.
Chris shrugged with an affected air of indifference. "So? What does that have to do with anything?"
"Everything I'd say."
"Nah! That's where you're wrong. It's the principle of thing, you see."
"Of course it is," Emily's voice was rife with sarcasm.
Chris crossed his eyes at her. "Do you always have to think the worst of me?" he enquired plaintively.
Emily giggled. "Pretty much, yeah," she told him archly.
"You know, I believe I might want to take my proposal back."
"You can't do that." Emily's response was quick and immediate. "How will you pull your family's leg if you've got nothing to conceal from them?"
She threw him an impudent little smile and Chris laughed his rich deep laugh. "I so love you," he declared, curling his hand around the nape of her neck and kissing her with unconcealed enthusiasm.
"Mmm, I love you too," Emily murmured as she kissed him back with equal fervour…
The Halliwell Manor, a couple of hours later…
Piper Halliwell-Wyatt glanced at the grandfather clock in irritation and then down at the watch on her wrist. "You told him seven o'clock, right?" she demanded of her eldest son.
"Nineteen hundred precisely," Wyatt intoned crisply, trying to suppress a grin but not entirely succeeding in the attempt.
Chloe punched him lightly on the arm and he looked at her in mild protest. "What?" he asked innocently.
"You know," she told him in a tone so like his Mom's that he almost cringed.
"Hey! It's not my fault little brother has the worst time-keeping ever!" Wyatt protested as his gaggle of female cousins started to giggle at their Aunt's growing chagrin.
A frosty look from Piper silenced them in a flash, and Wyatt was forced to duck his head as he bit back his own laughter. The twinkling sound of orbing came from the hallway then, and his brother's familiar voice rang out seconds later.
"Hey? Anyone home?" he called.
"You're late," Piper said, striding into the hall to greet her wayward son.
"Only twenty minutes," Chris replied, nonchalantly shrugging off his tardiness. He grinned widely at her. "And I had to make the grand entrance after being away for so long, didn't I?" he added roguishly.
Piper shook her head with an exasperated laugh. "You've got some front, you know that, mister?"
Chris laughed. "So, did you miss me?" he asked as he leaned down to hug her hello.
"Like a hole in the head," she teased, returning his embrace with a mother's tender affection.
"Hey!" he protested and Piper laughed again.
"Let me look at you," she said, taking his hands in hers and stepping back to survey what changes, if any, his travels had wrought in him.
It had been three months; she didn't think she'd ever gone that long without seeing one of her boys. The months travelling around the world had obviously agreed with him however. He was tanned and healthy-looking, with a smattering of brown freckles across his nose and his green eyes shining like polished emeralds. His hair was a little longer, slightly unruly, and a stray lock flopped brazenly across his forehead making her itch to push it back.
As Leo stepped forward to greet their son, Piper's gaze shifted onto Emily, who was standing quietly by Chris's side, allowing them the time to savour the return of their wandering adventurer before she made her presence felt. The young witch's normally pale skin was lightly tanned, although with her fair complexion she'd obviously taken care to protect herself from the sun's harmful rays whenever possible. The outdoor life had coloured her rich auburn hair with streaks of gold however, and her blue eyes glowed with a calm, inner happiness.
Moving forward, Piper reached out and hugged her son's girlfriend with ready affection. "Welcome home, honey."
"Whoa! You're big!" she heard Chris exclaim from behind her, and felt Emily dissolve into laughter even as she smiled inwardly to herself. Tact was not one of her son's stronger personality traits it appeared.
While Wyatt reached out and cuffed his sibling upside the head, Chloe stuck her tongue out at her brother-in-law, and then turned and held out her hands towards her smiling cousin. Emily stepped into the offered embrace and hugged her tightly.
"He's right, you are big," she teased when they drew apart.
"Yeah and I missed you too," Chloe responded with a roll of her eyes. "So?" she asked expectantly.
"So – what?" Emily responded with an absolutely straight face.
"Did you get up to anything interesting on your travels?" Chloe asked with heavy emphasis.
"Oh yeah, it was fantastic," Emily replied with genuine enthusiasm. "What we saved orbing instead of flying meant we had money left over for all sorts of little luxuries. We had an authentic mud bath - which was an experience and a half, I can tell you. And the helicopter ride above the Swiss Alps was just amazing! Wasn't it, Chris?"
She turned to look at her as yet undisclosed fiancé, who nodded his head in agreement. "Yeah, the views were incredible," he said. "Do you think we could talk about this over dinner though? I've been hankering after one of Mom's home-cooked meals for weeks!"
"And it smells like my favourite," he added with an affectionate glance at his mother.
"Italian baked chicken," she confirmed.
"And homemade cherry cheesecake?" he prompted.
"Of course," Piper replied with an incline of her head.
Chris rubbed his hands together in delight. "Okay, let's get stuck in then," he said, taking Emily's left hand in his and leading her through into the dining room. "I'm starved."
"It's not even breakfast time yet," Emily said, reminding him that their body clocks were still on a different time zone to everyone else.
"So? What does that have to do with anything?" he replied. "Food is food whatever time of day it is."
He smiled affectionately at her and clandestinely rubbed his thumb over the invisible ring on her finger, as they took their seats at the table. Emily smiled back at him, her blue eyes warm with the shared knowledge of their secret engagement. With Wyatt's help, Chloe lowered her heavily pregnant form into the chair directly opposite them, a slightly putout expression marring her pretty features. Unable to stop himself, Chris let out a short laugh at the chagrined look on his sister-in-law's face.
"What?" she demanded suspiciously .
"Nothing," he replied in an airy tone, "Just remembering something that's all."
Chloe's eyes narrowed slightly, but she chose not to pursue the matter further. Lowering her head to conceal her smile, Emily nudged Chris pointedly in the ribs and they both had to bite back snorts of laughter as a result. The next test of their resolve came after the first course was served and Phoebe looked enquiringly across the table at them.
"So how was Paris?" she asked.
"Paris?" Chris responded blithely.
"Yes," his Aunt replied with a nod. "I mean you had to visit Paris – it's supposed to be one of the most romantic cities in the world."
"Well, it was okay, I guess. The view from the Eiffel Tower was pretty spectacular…"
"Yeah, we went up at night," Emily chipped in helpfully. "You could see the whole city from up there."
"And the Louvre was something to experience," Chris went on conversationally. "I'm not particularly into Art, but the place gets to you somehow."
Emily nodded in agreement. "And we took a boat ride on the Seine too," she continued, making them sound like a pair of enthusiastic tourists rather than a young couple heady on love.
In fact, the days that they'd spent in Paris had been some of the most romantic of their whole trip. Emily had been fully expecting Chris to propose on their last night there, and had had to push back the bitter sting of disappointment when, after three wonderful days, he hadn't. She should have known he wouldn't take the obvious route, but she had suffered a brief wobble of uncertainty about their relationship nevertheless.
In the end, she concluded that it didn't really matter as long as they were together. Chris, sensing that she was having a bit of an insecurity attack, had taken care to reassure her that by her side was where he wanted to be, certain in the knowledge that he'd be giving her the surety she needed before long. He'd been extra loving and slightly more tactile than usual until she'd finally relaxed and accepted that his failure to propose was no indication of his lack of regard for her.
When he did eventually ask her to marry him therefore - over dinner in their luxurious hotel room in Venice - it had taken her completely by surprise. She'd been speechless for a minute or more before she'd finally managed to gather her wits enough to say yes, and she knew that Chris had been extremely gratified that she hadn't seen it coming in the slightest…
Two days before…
"You didn't think I wanted to marry you," he teased, as they lay together on the reclining wooden lounger out on the balcony, gazing up at the stars twinkling brightly in the indigo-black sky above.
Emily felt a delicate blush rise to her cheeks. "No, I just…" she trailed off, unable to deny that she had thought that. She turned onto her side and rested her forearm across his chest, placing her chin on top of her hand as she looked up into his face.
"I decided it didn't particularly matter as long as you loved me," she told him.
Chris reached out and coiled a lock of her titian hair around his forefinger. "Which is exactly why we should get married," he said quietly, "Because love matters above everything else."
Sliding up his body so that her face was level with his, Emily proceeded to communicate her earnest agreement of his statement with a serious kind of kiss that could only have one possible conclusion…
Back in the present…
"Concentrate," Chris murmured in her ear, recognising the slightly glazed look in her eyes and worried that it might give the game away.
Emily came back to herself with a jump, realising that the conversation had moved on while she'd been lost in her daydream. Chris smiled down into her eyes and then bent to kiss her, despite his previous concerns about letting the proverbial cat out of the bag. The kiss was brief but heartfelt, and Emily could sense every eye upon them as their mouths clung together for a few, tantalising seconds and then released with a soft, wet popping sound.
Straightening up, Chris nonchalantly picked up his knife and fork and carried on eating as if nothing untoward had happened and Emily, trying desperately not to laugh, quickly followed suit, conscious of the frustrated speculation palpable in the air around them. It was glaringly apparent that no one knew what to make of the situation – and just as obvious that they did not like being kept in the dark about it either.
She and Chris clearly gave the impression of being a couple deeply in love, but this was offset by their apparent lack of need for a formal commitment to one another. Emily knew that Chris's family, although liberal in some ways, still held rather traditional values when it came to love and marriage. She was therefore fully aware that, while their co-habitation was tolerated now, they would not be very happy if it continued indefinitely without the promise of a more permanent arrangement.
Her own parents held similar opinions, she knew, so it was fortunate that both she and Chris had been raised to respect and value those strongly held beliefs. If Emily was brutally honest with herself, she knew that she could not have accepted the status quo for very much longer anyway. As much as she loved Chris, she would have needed that commitment from him before long. Okay, so it wasn't necessary right now, but in a few years' time, she would have been questioning whether he was really serious about her if marriage still hadn't been on the cards.
The rest of the meal passed in a similar fashion, with various family members asking pointed and sometimes extremely direct questions, which Chris and Emily expertly fielded with the skill of a couple of professional baseball players. By the time coffee was served, the young couple were definitely winning the metaphorical game, whereas the majority of the other side were sullenly languishing on the substitute bench.
As they retreated into the lounge area after dinner, Chloe tried a different tactic however, drawing her cousin to one side for a more private, one to one chat. Emily deftly countered this strategy by turning the conversation on its head and questioning her cousin about the progress of her pregnancy instead. It was a perfectly legitimate enquiry – Emily had been away for three months and a woman's first baby was one of the most life-changing experiences of her life. It was normal for her to want to know how this had affected her cousin's life therefore.
Watching the two girl's contest from the sidelines, Chris had to admit that he was rather impressed with his fiancée's virtuoso performance. Emily had a devious streak in her nature that he hadn't fully realised until now. He would be marrying an intelligent, complicated and very resourceful woman, he knew. Still simple and straightforward was boring and Chris was not one for an easy life. He liked a challenge and he knew that being married to Emily would challenge him every single day of his life.
"Umm – Dad? Chris? Can I have a word please?"
Chris turned at the sound of his brother's diffident question. Wyatt was standing in the doorway between the lounge and hall, and, from the strained look on his face, Chris knew that the time for light-hearted fun was over. Nodding in quiet acquiescence, he obediently followed his father and brother upstairs to the attic – the place where all such serious discussions were conducted.
Wyatt sat down on the sofa with a heavy sigh, silently contemplating his hands in his lap for a moment before he lifted his head and looked directly at his father. "Something weird happened today…" he began, and Chris listened with growing concern as his brother outlined the strange experience that he'd had in the nursery earlier.
"I know I don't have the power of premonition, but this just seemed so real," he finished. "Have the Elders heard anything about a new threat on its way?"
Leo shook his head. "No, but I'm not sure this had anything to do with that. You were in the nursery, you say?"
Wyatt nodded. "You don't seem very concerned," he remarked.
Leo smiled. "Probably because I'm not," he replied, "It's as you said – if there was a real threat imminent, the Elders would know about it. I think maybe this has more to do with you than anything else."
"I don't understand."
Leo sat down beside his anxious son and steepled his fingers together in his lap. "You were in the nursery thinking about what becoming a father would mean to your life, I presume?"
"Well yeah, I suppose."
"And you were concerned that you might somehow fail your child," Leo went on wisely.
"I guess so, yeah." Wyatt's voice was slightly wary as he admitted to this.
Leo reached out and patted him reassuringly on the back. "We all go through that at some stage, Wyatt," he assured him. "Having sole responsibility for another human being is a big deal for anyone. More so for us when you think about what bringing another Halliwell into the world entails. I'd be more worried if you weren't anxious about it to be honest."
"I don't see how this is relevant to what I saw though."
Leo shrugged. "You've made your fears become real before," he said.
Wyatt's eyes widened. "I have?"
"Yes, when you were small. I think it was your way of dealing with things."
"I bet that was interesting," Chris remarked with a sly grin.
Leo smiled at his younger child. "There were a few hairy moments," he admitted before he turned back to his other son. "The point is though, Wyatt - providing a secure, happy home for your child is one of the most fundamental aspects of being a parent. You were probably just unconsciously projecting your worries onto your surroundings, turning the safe haven that you've created for your baby into somewhere that was uninhabitable for him."
"So I'm going crazy, is that it?" Wyatt asked ruefully.
Leo shook his head. "No, not at all. What you're going through is perfectly normal…"
"Well, in relative terms anyway," he clarified off Wyatt's look of disbelief and Chris's snort of laughter. "You're aware of it now – that should be enough to stop any more of these little side trips into make-believe land. Face what you're feeling, Wyatt. Don't sublimate it and things will be fine."
Wyatt nodded. "So, did I conjure my nightmares a lot?" he asked curiously.
Leo laughed. "No, just every so often, thank heavens. You grew out of it when you could talk enough to communicate what you were feeling."
"So our baby might do the same thing?"
Leo smiled. "Considering what powers he or she appears to have already, I think that might be a distinct possibility, yes. Forewarned is forearmed though, Wyatt. At least you and Chloe won't have to work out what on earth is going on like me and your Mom did."
"And that's such a comfort," Wyatt said with a slight grimace. "I think it's best if I don't mention this to Chloe just yet. She's having enough trouble with the whole powers from the womb thing."
"Who thought fatherhood could be such a trial?" Chris quipped lightly, and then dodged quickly out of the way when his brother orbed one of the sofa cushions at him in retaliation.
Leo laughed. "Oh, it has its compensations, believe me," he replied, getting to his feet. "Now come on. We better go back downstairs before your Mom sends out a search party."
"So Chris – what exactly did you and Emily get up to while you were away?" Wyatt asked as the three of them trouped down the stairs in single file with the youngest at the front and eldest at the back.
Chris threw a rather cryptic smile over his shoulder, his expression deliberately impassive and giving nothing away. "Ahh well," he said. "That's for me to know and you to find out, isn't it?"
Wyatt's lips twisted into a wry smile. "Somehow I knew that was going to be your answer."
"So, why bother asking then?"
"I'm endlessly optimistic, bro," Wyatt returned dryly. "One day you might just surprise me…"
Chris's ensuing silence spoke volumes and Wyatt shook his head in long-sufferingly exasperation.
"But then again, maybe not," he swiftly recanted. "That'd be too good to be true, wouldn't it?"
"You said it, bro – just remember that, huh?"
Wyatt scoffed. "Well, it's not like I'm ever going to forget, is it?" he remarked acidly.
Chris laughed and then re-entered the lounge, where he was immediately cornered by his inquisitive Aunts, who proceeded to work in tandem to exact a confession out of him. Their nephew was having none of it however, and the two legendary Charmed witches were left disappointed, thwarted by their own flesh and blood's unique and canny ability to circumvent every one of their underhand methods of persuasion.
So it was then, as he and Emily bid his family farewell later on that night, Chris had to admit that he hadn't had so much fun in ages…
To be continued…
A/N2: And that's the calm before the storm, folks! I should probably mention that the first few chapters of this story are, out of necessity, mainly future-based. They're almost exclusively centred on Wyatt and Chris as well. The Charmed Ones and Leo do come in to it later however.
P.S. I looked up the name of Wyatt's teddy bear on the subtitles of my Charmed Season 7 DVD. 'Wuvey' was what Leo called it when he was trying to get little Wyatt to give it to him at the end of the 'Imaginary Fiends' episode.