Disclaimer: I don't own Charmed. Lyrics are 'The Young and the Hopeless' by Good Charlotte
Timeline: The good future.
A/N: Dedicated to everyone who reviewed chapter 1. Thanks very much. I read all your reviews a couple of weeks ago, and started writing so you definitely made this (rather overdue) sequel happen. If there is anyone still interested in this story, I hope you like the return of Chris. Merry Christmas.
MIGRAINES THROUGH TIME
The Young and the Hopeless
Death, Chris Halliwell noted, was not the peaceful, restful experience he had thought it would be.
Chris had thought he would go to heaven. Okay, so he hadn't been the perfect son. And maybe he hadn't always done as he was told, and there were a few occasions when he had been accused of 'having a bad attitude'.
Sure it had been said that Chris pushed the boundaries of acceptable social behaviour on a daily basis, and the manipulation of the people around him hadn't been a mistake, it had been his lifestyle choice.
Granted he had treated the ten commandments as rules which were made to be broken, and he had turned deception into something of an art form. But he had saved the world, giving up his own life in the process. That had to count for something.
Yet, he was not in heaven. He was nowhere. The ether or limbo or whatever you wanted to call it. Chris had never been one for doing nothing in his life, and the thought of spending his eternal afterlife doing just that…well, he wasn't very happy.
But then there was a bright light, and before Chris could even think of walking towards it, it was slamming into him with the force of one of his brother's telekinetic blasts.
He still remembered. All of it.
Hard days made me,
Hard nights shaped me,
I don't know they somehow saved me.
They had been counting down to this day since Chris had left. All of them from the youngest Halliwell, to the oldest, and even the ones that were long dead. They had all been waiting with a mix of apprehension, excitement, worry…pretty much every emotion in the book had applied at some point, particularly for the Wyatt-Halliwell branch of the family tree who had felt Chris' absence most acutely.
The plan was that they would take turns waiting for Chris to return. Leo was going to take the first shift, but it was only ten minutes in and Wyatt had already stuck his head around the door three times to see if his father needed anything, and Piper had been in to put some laundry away in the cupboard, and then back to double check she'd put it in the right place. When Piper came back into the room four-and-a-half minutes later to change the bedding, and Melinda had volunteered to help her, Leo had known that the whole shift idea wasn't going to talk out.
"Why don't we just wait together?"
They sat down in Piper's and Leo's bedroom, all four pairs of eyes settled on the bed.
"You know, it won't happen for hours yet." Leo said, despite the fact that he had been waiting there since he had woken up. Just in case.
Wyatt and Mel exchanged looks, but neither of them left. The dark circles under their eyes, under all their eyes made it obvious that no one had gotten much sleep the night before. They'd been counting down the months, weeks, days until Chris would be coming home, now that day was here it was like a huge orchestra crescendo of nerves and emotion, all moulding together so you didn't really know what to feel.
They sat there for over four hours. Leo sat perfectly still with his eyes closed in silent meditation, only the frown creasing his brow betraying how worried he truly was. Piper was not nearly so Zen and every ten minutes readjusted the bedspread that Chris would eventually reappear on. Wyatt had taken to switching between tightly gripping the arm of the chair he was sitting on and resting his head in his hands, pulling on his hair. Mel sat cross-legged on the floor, all the chairs were taken and there was no way she was sitting on the bed, looking blankly at the book sitting in her lap.
Nearer the time they expected Chris back, Phoebe and Paige arrived and took their place leaning against the wall by the door. Leo and Paige shared a look of understanding. They had been the only ones there when Chris had died twenty two years ago. They knew what was coming.
Then they all felt the magic rise and everyone rose to their feet. He was coming.
There were no outward signs like Wyatt had half expected, no flashing lights or rising winds, in fact the whole event was rather anti-climatic. Chris just slowly faded into existence, deathly pale unconscious and bleeding. Wyatt and Paige were by Chris' side in a flash, hands anxiously hovering over his stomach and willing the golden glow to appear.
Leo froze for a moment as Chris' body became solid, breath catching in his throat as he was suddenly pushed twenty years into the past and had to watch his son die.
"Dad, the potion." Melinda urged breathlessly. Never before had she wished she could heal quite this badly. She placed her hand between Wyatt's shoulder blades, opening up her telepathy and offering her brother silent support and access to her magic to pour into that healing glow that would bring Chris back to them.
Leo snapped out of his reverie, reaching for one of the glass potion vials which stood on the beside table alongside several spares in case of emergency and already uncorked and ready to use. He lifted Chris' head as much as he could without jostling the stab wound and poured the contents of the vial down his throat, heartened when Chris spluttered - that basic reflex was just a sign that his son was still alive.
Before their eyes, Chris' skin slowly started to knit back together, the blood fading, but the poison was making progress painstakingly slow and the strain was beginning to show on Wyatt and Paige's faces. If it had just been two regular Whitelighters and not the Twice Blessed and one of the Charmed Ones then it was doubtful that it would have had any effect at all.
As Leo gave Chris a second vial of the healing potion, the healing light got a little brighter and Wyatt felt less like he was fighting an uphill battle. One last push ought to do it…
"Mom." Melina held out her hand, hearing Wyatt's thought and using her telepathy to channel their mother's magic through to Wyatt in order to give him the strength and power for that one last push.
The colour returned to Chris' cheeks, but Wyatt couldn't help but notice he was still much paler than when he had left. He'd lost weight too, and there were dark circles under his eyes. All in all Chris looked like hell warmed over, and even as the golden glow began to fade signalling the completion of the healing process, none of those things faded.
'Why hasn't he woken up yet?' Wyatt wondered as the healing finished and he withdrew his hands.
"Just give him a minute." Leo muttered, answering the unasked question, eyes carefully monitoring Chris for any sign he was regaining consciousness.
The truth was, Chris was conscious. He had slowly come around as they had healed him, but had used a habit engrained into him in his other life, slowly taking in his surroundings before admitting he was awake. The warm room told him he was indoors, the comfort meant he was on a bed. So either he was safe, or he'd been kidnapped by a tribe of pixies who wanted to brainwash him and make him their prince. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be the first time.
He didn't open his eyes even when Chris heard his father's voice, which considering his conflicting views from his two lives and his father's parts in them, was not as reassuring as it could have been.
Mel bit her lip anxiously. She could tell Chris was awake. She could hear his thoughts, okay they were jumbled and confused, but they were definitely conscious thoughts.
The hesitant voice sounding only in his mind snapped things into place. Mel. And if Mel was alive, then that could only mean that he'd done it. He'd changed the future and now he was home to live in it.
The minute his eyes snapped open, Mel pounced on him. Chris caught her reflexively and returned the hug, grateful for the physical barrier against the rest of the world for a few more minutes.
*You have no idea how good it is to see you.* Chris thought, knowing that his sister would hear him.
"Right back at'cha." She murmured, bringing him back to the real world. Or at least this version of it.
Looking over her shoulder, Chris could see the rest of his family waiting anxiously, his mom in particular was practically buzzing with nerves.
"Mom?" Chris pulled back from his sister and hesitantly reached out. He had been the Chris from the dark future for the last eighteen months so that personality was stronger within him. Although he could feel all the emotions of his second life, they seemed to be muted somehow, and overlaced with fear and bitterness. So, even though there was a part of him who had grown up with Piper all his life, there was another stronger part which remembered her broken body lying on the attic floor.
"Oh, Chris." Seeing his torn expression, Piper felt the tears spill onto her cheeks despite her best efforts. "I'm so sorry, peanut. Thank God you're home. We're so proud of you, baby."
"Thanks, Mom." He muttered around the lump in his throat into her hair as she clung to him, his eyes feeling suspiciously damp.
"Let the boy breathe, Piper." Paige joked not unkindly when she could see Chris getting uncomfortable. She returned his grateful smile, unshed tears of happiness glistening in her eyes…unlike Phoebe who had rivers running down her cheeks and her hands clutched to her chest.
Chris' eyes fell on Wyatt, standing frozen at the end of the bed. He looked more worried than Chris could ever remember seeing him in either lifetime, and there was not one speck of black in his wardrobe. This was the brother who he was always meant to grow up with.
"Hey Wy." Chris said, hating his voice for sounding unsure. He didn't need to be afraid of Wyatt anymore.
"Hey lil' bro." Wyatt said, using the childhood nickname now only used when Chris was sick or upset.
Chris relaxed slightly. Lil' bro. Wyatt had never once called him that in the old timeline. Occasionally Lord Wyatt had been known to sneer 'little brother' when he captured Chris breaking into his fortress or otherwise ruining his plans, but never anything so affectionate as lil' bro. Welcome memories flashed behind his eyes, of Wyatt healing him after a demon attack; ruffling his hair in the school cafeteria in front of everyone; coaxing him out of his room when his junior high girlfriend had dumped him… "come on lil' bro, you can't stay in here forever…"
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine." He offered his brother a shaky smile. "Just a little out of it, I guess, from the time travel and everything."
Wyatt nodded his acceptance, lips tightly pursed, not sure how to push it.
Chris was glad Wyatt didn't try to hug him, hell, a traitorous part of him was glad his brother didn't even step in his direction. It would take a lot of getting used to not only the changes between the life he had just left and this one, but also the changes within himself as the two very separate halves of his personality struggled against one another. While logically he knew that Wyatt had been under a spell the first time round, and had been the best brother you could ask for the second, still Chris couldn't help but remember that the last time he had seen Wyatt he had killed his fiancé...
…Leo, however, had never been under a spell which meant that his actions (or lack there of) in the dark future were purely his own.
Chris felt a twinge of guilt when his father's face crumbled, but he pushed it back and focused on the familiar anger and disappointment. Okay, so Leo had being trying to mend their relationship in the past, but it was too little too late. There was a part of him remembering the father Leo had been the second time around, always there for all of his children, but once again he pushed it back finding it easier and less confusing to focus on the bad. He'd only wanted Chris after he'd seen the consequences of ignoring his existence. The first time around, when he was expected to love his son just because, it hadn't been enough. He felt reassured by the familiar emotions, everything else was so different, Wyatt was the paradigm of good, Mom and all the rest were actually alive…Leo still looked exactly the same.
"Chris, baby…" Piper tried, somehow hoping to soothe both her husband and son.
"It's okay, Piper." Leo murmured. If Chris needed space, then that's what he would have. At this point, Leo would give him anything he asked for.
Piper sighed and Chris hated herself for disappointing her, but he just couldn't help it. Everything was so confusing…
Piper ran a hand through his hair (it was too long, she noted; he would need a haircut soon) and when he lifted his eyes, he just looked so lost and it nearly broke her heart. "Why don't you have a shower; and I'll make you something to eat."
"Sure, okay." Chris nodded and a few minutes later he was standing under a stream of scalding hot water, letting it wash away the dirt and blood from the other world.
If only it was that easy.
I take what I want,
Take what I need,
They say it's wrong, but it's right for me.
Chris had been back for two days. It had been a long two days.
To his parents' surprise and Wyatt's delight, he had quickly opted to go back to the flat he shared with Wyatt rather than to stay at the Manor. It might have seemed strange, going with the brother half of you remembered as an evil dictator, but within half-an-hour of arriving back in his future, Chris had been able to distinguish good-Wyatt and bad-Wyatt as two totally different people…they even looked different.
The original, bad-timeline version of himself found it awkward, of course he did, but no more so than being around Leo (who he remembered as a shoddy father) or Piper and Mel (who had been dead for years). At least when living at the flat he only had to deal with one of the pseudo-doppelgangers-from-another-reality. Not to mention, bad-timeline-Chris had fought to save his brother for a long time; it felt good to see the success of the mission standing right in front of him in an atrocious blue-striped shirt and a dopey grin.
It was good to feel like he could do something right when this world felt so unfamiliar, despite the fact that part of him had technically grown up in it.
In the debriefing, the Elders had said that currently, because it had been the only personality for over a year, bad-timeline-Chris was in control but slowly, good-timeline-Chris would begin to assert himself. Chris hadn't liked the sound of that. It made it seem like part of him, currently the most dominant part, would be killed off or, worse still, locked up in his head; an observer in his own life. The Elder's had assured him that wouldn't be the case (and all the Halliwells had threatened to hunt them down if they were lying). The spell the Elders had placed on him to make him forget his good-timeline-life would slowly wear off, and the two personalities would simply co-exist; after all, they were essentially the same person, just shaped by different events.
Chris would retain all his memories from both lives, but they would come naturally, unlike at the moment when, although he remembered the bad-timeline clear as day, his second life felt a bit wispy, with the memories sneaking up on him when something triggered them. Eventually that would settle down, when he fully remembered both sets of events.
It would not be easy; people Chris had met in his first life would be different now, places had changed, the world was different. But he would be able to move forward.
So Chris had tried to get on as normal, to fit back into a life that wasn't familiar anymore. His family had tried to help, but it was difficult to see them as something so different to what he remembered, so he kept his distance, hoping that when the Elder's spell wore off it would make things less difficult, but until then he needed something.
It was his first 'mission' since coming back. He'd reached out with his whitelighter senses until he found her, working in a non-descript office building. He didn't bother trying to find out what the company was, just loitered outside until she made her appearance.
When she did, his breath caught in his throat; Bianca. She looked beautiful; hair styled shorter than it had been, clothes clearly picked for fashion not battles, but most importantly, she was alive…and she was getting away. Chris hurried to catch up, not about to lose her again.
He followed her as she turned into a side street and, the minute he stepped away from the main road, she waiting for him; he never could sneak up on her. Chris was relieved to see that she was waiting confidently, and hadn't attacked him for following her. That had to mean she remembered him, didn't it? "Hello, Bianca."
"Chris," was her brief reply and then she threw her arms around his neck, kissing him like it had been a lifetime since they had seen each other. In some ways it had been.
"Guess that means you remember me then." Chris said when they broke apart, unable to stop from grinning even though he was aiming for his trademark smirk.
"Nope. It's a total blank." She was grinning deliriously too.
He rolled his eyes at her satirical reply, despite the fact that he was sarcasm's number one ambassador himself, before turning serious. He reached out, tracing his thumb along the familiar-yet-not line of her jaw. "God, you have no idea how good it is to see you."
"Don't I? It feels like I've been waiting for you forever."
Bianca didn't bother asked what he meant. "None of it, not really."
"Bianca…" There was a note of warning in his voice and she knew he wouldn't let it go.
"The Elders sent me back, like they did with you. You know what happened when I was in the past, but when we stepped through the portal on this side, the Elders hit you with memory dust and kept you Up There until it was time to send you back. Your past-life memories filled in the blank spots."
"They gave you back your old memories?"
"Mostly - it's kind of fuzzy though, like a dream I only just remember." She shrugged. "I guess as I was only going back for a few hours the spell didn't need as much behind it as it did for you. And over time they fade a bit, so the me from this world is more in control."
Chris shrugged noncommittally.
"Hey," she wrapped her arms around his waist, fingers curling into the small of his back like they had done a million times before. "I still remember I love you. That will never change."
He smiled slightly, resting his forehead against hers, and exhaling slowly. He didn't feel in control at the moment; not either version of him. But loving Bianca came easily to him in both timelines. No, that's not right. Loving Bianca had never been easy, but it had been natural, like every fibre of his being was meant to do it.
"Everything's so different." Chris murmured, breathing in the slightly fruity scent of her shampoo before he stepped back frowning slightly. He wasn't used to her smelling so girly. In the later years when they'd been living at the Resistance headquarters and he had first met Bianca, scented shower products were a long forgotten luxury.
"But Chris, that's what we were fighting for. We wanted it to be different."
"I know, I know. God, I know it sounds ridiculous. This is everything we wanted. But it would have been so much easier if I didn't remember, if I'd just…" He trailed off guiltily.
"If you had what, Chris?" Bianca asked sharply; she knew she wouldn't like what he was thinking because he was refusing to meet her eyes. "If you'd died."
His silence gave away the answer, but then he lifted his head, peering out anxiously from behind his hair, and he looked so lost that the angry words died on her lips. She wasn't used to seeing him look so vulnerable, even when it was just the two of them. He always insisted on being strong for her, he hadn't been used to relying on people. Bianca hoped that it had been different for him this time around.
"Don't you ever even think that." Bianca chided gently, cupping his face in her hands. "Do you know what it's been like waiting for you to come back to me?"
"I'm glad you did." Chris said, leaning in and resting his forehead on hers. "I can't help but be selfish with you."
"Well, then your lucky that I'm all yours. Always. No matter what reality we're living in."
He smirked. "And don't you forget it."
"Ahh, there you are." She pulled back smiling slightly, looking into his eyes that always told her what he was feeling. "I was wondering when my sarcastic, neurotic jerk of a boyfriend would be back."
Chris rolled his eyes, well used to her teasing. "Come on, let's get out of here."
She stepped back a little bit. "Oh no, you know I hate orbing."
"But you don't know where I live." He reasoned, holding out a hand.
'So it wasn't The Manor, that was interesting,' Bianca thought briefly, but she shook her head. "You think of the destination, I'll handle the transportation. Isn't that our deal?"
"You'll have to get used to it eventually." He smirked, but allowed her to wrap her arms around his neck as he wound his around her waist so there was no danger of him getting lost mid-shimmer.
They rematerialised in his flat, thankfully in his room so there was no danger that Wyatt might have seen him shimmer in with her. That would take some explaining, and Chris really didn't want to be talking with his brother right now.
He telekinetically shut the door to his room and reached for Bianca who was looking around with interest. Chris had never had a 'normal' room in the time she'd known him before, but here there wasn't a battle plan or casualty list in sight.
"You can admire my bachelor pad later."
"I can only imagine the horrors." She muttered with a smirk, but she allowed him to pull her closer, breath catching in her throat as she saw the intensity in his eyes. Her whole second-life, something had been missing; she felt like she had been waiting for him.
He kissed her, demanding and full of confidence. His hands were in her hair, tangling in the new shorter length. Then they were on her shoulders, pulling her even closer and sliding down her sides to squeeze her hips. He knew every inch of her, better than any man she'd ever dated in any time. She matched him move for move, never left behind, and battling for dominance. Her hands raked through his hair, over his shoulders and down past his chest, feeling the muscles in his abdomen tighten under her touch. She was his, and he was hers; they fit no matter what world they found themselves in.
"I missed you." She said simply when they broke for air.
"Me too, Bianca. But now we get our forever."
She smirked. "That's so corny."
"Don't you think we've earned corny? Happy ever afters, white picket fences, 2.5 kids and PTA; the whole boring nine yards." He grinned, seeing a future for the first time in God knows how long. "Just you and me, babe. We're gonna have it all."
I won't look down,
Won't say I'm sorry,
I know that only God can judge me.
The following morning had been awkward.
Chris had told Bianca that he lived with Wyatt. He'd made it very clear that Wyatt was good now and wouldn't harm her at all. And that was easy to believe on a theological level, but when she stepped out of Chris' bedroom to see Wyatt sitting at the breakfast bar, spoon hovering a few inches from his mouth as he looked at her in surprise, logic flew out the window.
She froze and felt Chris' hand come to rest at the small of her back, thumb rubbing small, comforting circles against her spine. Jesus Christ, how did Chris do this every day? She forced a smile onto her face for Chris' sake, but she couldn't stay in the apartment with Wyatt. "I just remembered, I said I would meet my mom for breakfast today, but I'll be at home this afternoon. Sense for me?"
He nodded, looking slightly worried as he didn't believe her cover story for a minute. "Are you okay?"
She nodded, reaching up to cup his cheek. "I'm so glad you're back."
He kissed her forehead gently. "I'll come and find your later."
She offered him one last smile and shimmered away, leaving Chris staring at nothing but air,
Wyatt was staring at him, mouth agape. "What the hell, Chris? She shimmers?"
"Yeah…" Chris said slowly, surely the Elders would have told his family that they had to send Bianca back too. They must have realised that one of the first things he would do would be to look for her to see if she remembered too?
"You brought a demon back to the apartment?" He spluttered incredulously. Okay, so Chris had been gone for a long time, but surely he wasn't trolling the Underworld for dates now?
"Of course not. She's a witch. Didn't they tell you about Bianca?" Chris asked, confused.
Beat. Blink. "Wait, that was Bianca?" Wyatt asked, looking more shocked that he had when she had first stepped out of the room. "I thought she was one of the bad guys?"
"No." Chris said firmly. "She's good; anything she did...she was just trying to keep me safe. We were engaged. She only ever wanted to keep me alive."
"Oh." Wyatt blinked stupidly, then he grinned. "She's hot. Didn't think you had it in you, little brother."
Chris rolled his eyes, not even dignifying the last remark with a response. "I'm going over to the Manor."
"To see Mom and Dad?" Wyatt asked hopefully.
"There's been some rumours of a clan of Tarriq demons gathering. I want to check the book; try to find out what they might be planning."
"I haven't heard any rumours." Wyatt said suspiciously.
Chris shrugged, muttering something incomprehensible.
"You've been going down to the underworld without me, haven't you?" Wyatt accused, noting that Chris didn't look remotely apologetic.
"Of course I have; I've been living in the past for over a year, Wyatt, you weren't there to keep me safe then." He said, consciously leaving off the part that in his most dominant memories, Wyatt was the one who was trying to kill him most of the time, so Chris really didn't want him watching his back while demon hunting. It was too confusing and the battle field was confusing enough as it was.
Wyatt frowned. "I know you don't trust me, no, don't deny it." He added as Chris opened his mouth to protest. "You don't right now, and that's okay. You don't even really remember me."
Chris looked guilty. He wanted to remember his brother, this version of him, rather than the one under the influence of an evil spell. But he couldn't control when and how quickly the memories the Elders' spell had taken would return.
"It's okay Chris, it will happen eventually." Wyatt said, knowing what Chris was thinking and, though it pained him so much that his brother was on his guard around him, he would take that over the last eighteen months without him. "I can't force you to take me with you, but please let me help. If anything happened to you, I don't think this family could take it, I know I couldn't. So you have to let me help you. Call me, anytime, if you're in over your head or you need healing. I'll come, whatever you need; you just have to ask me."
Chris nodded. "I will. And I know that, Wy."
"I know you're blocking our link. I can still feel it there, even if I can't reach you." Wyatt continued. There was a lump in his throat; Chris was blocking him. Chris had never blocked him out for more that a couple of hours, but Wyatt hadn't been able to sense him or reach him once since he had come back from the past.
Chris was finding his shoes very fascinating. He'd had that wall up for years. It protected him from Wyatt; his location and by default the location of the Resistance, his thoughts and plans of attack and defence… Most of all, it protected his sanity. Without that wall, Wyatt could reach him whenever he wanted, taunting him through their family link. Chris knew he didn't need the wall anymore. So why did he keep it up?
"If you get hurt and I can't find you…" Wyatt continued, watching the emotions play across his brother's face. "Please, Chris."
Chris looked at his brother's face and was hit by a memory.
Chris had been fairly young, maybe ten or eleven, and he and Wyatt had been left with their Grandfather while Piper ran some errands. The brothers had had an argument, Chris couldn't remember what about, so when the Darklighter had attacked the Manor, Wyatt had been shut away in him room while Chris and Grandpa played downstairs.
He'd heard Chris' scream and orbed down to see him on his knees, bleeding whist weakly trying to keep the Darklighter at a distance with his telekinesis. Wyatt blasted the Darklighter, killing it instantly. As he turned around, he saw the relief in Chris' face as he crumbled to the floor unconscious.
"No, Chris, wake up!" Fear froze Wyatt's heard as Chris didn't wake up, or respond to his calls, vocal or telepathic.
"Wyatt, heal him." His grandpa snapped him out of it and Wyatt held his shaking hands over the arrow wound, desperately trying to counteract the darklighter poison.
*Please, Chris.* Wyatt pleaded silently, hoping Chris would hear his thoughts. *Please don't leave me.*
"Chris!" Wyatt shouted in delight as his brother's eyed flickered open. He pulled his brother into a tight hug. "Don't ever do that to me again, I can't lose you, little brother. Please, Chris…"
"Chris?" Wyatt asked anxiously, pulling Chris back to the present.
"Sorry." He muttered, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes. Brick by metaphorical brick. He began to disassemble the wall. He allowed Wyatt to sense him, to call for him and to hear Chris' calls in return. He held back his memories; Wyatt didn't need to see those.
Wyatt fought not to grin as he was suddenly able to sense his brother standing five foot in front of him.
*Thanks, Chris* Wyatt thought, because now he knew Chris would hear him.
Chris offered him a small smile in return. "So, can I go now? You happy, or do you want to hug it out?"
"Nah, I'm good." Wyatt grinned, not letting his brother's sarcasm dampen his mood.
"Fab. In that case, I'll be with the book." He paused and looked back at Wyatt. "If you need me, call."
"Right back at'cha." Wyatt said, keeping the tone light, but the moment Chris orbed out he frowned. He couldn't stop Chris from hunting demons, but that definitely didn't mean he liked it.
Chris materialised in the attic, and immediately regretted not sensing first, as his mother and aunts were already there.
"Chris!" Piper looked pleasantly surprised; Chris didn't just drop in these days.
"Why, hello nephew-mine." Paige grinned.
"Hi." Chris returned with a wave. He saw Phoebe looking at him intently; she was trying to get a read off him so he sent the empath a blast of 'irritation' to send her on her way.
Phoebe looked at him surprised.
Chris shrugged. "I didn't like it when I was seven, and I don't like it now."
"You remember that?" Phoebe asked taken aback and slightly embarrassed to have been caught out.
Chris shrugged again. "It's coming back slowly."
"That's great, Peanut." Piper gushed.
"Damn straight." Paige added, thought she was smiling happily. "This 'Lost in Translation' act has been getting old."
"Paige!" Piper scolded as Chris shook his head smirking. Aunt Paige could always be relied on to lift the mood.
"Relax, Piper. He knows I'm only joking; don't you, Chris?"
"'Course I do." He answered automatically, making a beeline for the book.
His mother and aunts exchanged worried looks. It wasn't particularly surprising, but he was reminding them of the Chris Perry who had turned up in the past. Although logically they knew that Chris was bound to find it difficult when he came back to them, they all hoped that he would fit back into the family like he had never left. But it wasn't like that. For the last eighteen months, Chris had been the missing piece in the Halliwell jigsaw, but now he was back they found the piece didn't fit anymore.
"Do you need any help?" Piper offered, trying to sound casual, but hoping he would take her up on the offer.
Chris looked up briefly before returning is gaze to the book. "No, I'm just looking."
"Tarriq…" Chris answered absentmindedly, flipping another page.
"Tarr-who?" Paige asked; she'd never heard of any tarriq demons.
"Tarriq…clan demons." Chris vaguely explained.
"I see." Piper said slowly, although she didn't really. "You're not planning on going after these demons by yourself are you?"
Chris bit his tongue to keep from snapping. His mom meant well; it wasn't her fault he wasn't used to answering to anyone. It wasn't her fault that he wasn't her little boy anymore. "I'm just looking, Mom. I'm not planning on vanquishing anything." Yet. He added mentally.
"I don't want you to go down there by yourself, Chris." Piper's voice raised slightly, desperately.
"Wyatt knows what I'm doing." He tried, slightly defensively.
She didn't appear to hear him. "You could get hurt."
"What's going on?" Leo asked, coming into the attic. He heard Piper's raised voice, saw Chris by the book and Phoebe and Paige watching nervously.
"Nothing, Leo." Chris said offhandedly.
"Chris," Piper started reproachfully.
"It's okay, Piper." Leo said with a sad smile. Much as it killed him that Chris wouldn't acknowledge him as his father, he didn't want to stir things up further by pushing matters. "What's going on."
"Chris' researching a demon
"Chris, you can't-"
"I can't want, Leo?" Christ interrupted, losing his grip on his temper. "I've been doing this by myself for the last eight years, and you didn't give a damn then."
"Chris, we would never let you go after a demon by yourself. That didn't really happen." Phoebe tried, though she had a feeling that this situation was too far gone to save.
"But it did." Chris burst out. "It did for me, don't you get that?"
"And I'm sorry you had to go through that, but everything's different now." Leo said softly.
"So you keep on telling me. But I barely remember any of it." Chris said bitterly. "Last week, it was all real. Last week my life was exactly as I remember it. Now I have a few hazy memories and you suddenly expect me to be a different person? I can't do it. I just can't."
They were all staring at him, not knowing what to say. There was nothing they could say to make this better.
"Just forget it." Chris sighed. "I have to go anyway."
"No, Chris, wait-" Piper started, but Leo caught her arm and shook his head.
"Let him go, Piper." Leo said, trying to do the right thing as the conversation was clearly upsetting Chris. He did not expect the glare that his youngest son threw him for his troubles before he orbed away.
I'm troublesome I've fallen,
I'm angry at my father,
It's me against this world and I don't care.
"Honey, I'm home." Chris muttered, his voice dripping with sarcasm, as he entered the Manor. He'd been tracking the tarriq demons in the underground for nearly three days, right up until one of the them spotted him. A fight ensued, and Chris had twisted his ankle. That put an end to his demon hunting until he got healed, but Chris didn't think Wyatt would appreciate a 7am weekend-wake-up call for a twisted ankle, and Bianca would kill him if he woke her up to hide out there, so he'd decided to go to the Manor and double check the demons in the Book of Shadows. Well, he had to do something to put off the inevitable going back to his flat, falling asleep, and facing the nightmares, and it never hurt to be certain when it came to demons…
He didn't expect anyone to be up at seven on a Saturday morning, so he jumped when he heard his father's voice.
"Chris? What are you doing here so early?"
"Nothing." Chris muttered. Leo was blocking his path up the stairs so he just stood awkwardly in the hall.
"Where have you been? I thought you were meant to be helping Wyatt but he said haven't been home in two days." Leo said, keeping all traces of anger and judgement from his voice. Now Chris had remembered the shoddy father he'd been in the other world, he was making every effort not to be like that. He wasn't shouting or getting angry at times like this when his youngest son did something irresponsible.
"Actually it's been three days, but who's counting." Chris retorted scathingly. Not that he expected Leo to notice such things, he thought bitterly. On top of everything else, he was tired and more than a little cranky.
"I thought you were meant to be helping Wyatt?" Leo repeated, refusing to rise to the bait. He would not get mad, thus proving to Chris was a terrible father he was.
Chris shrugged, going into the living room. "Something came up. Is that a problem, Leo?"
Leo shook his head with a sigh, making a note to tell Wyatt to keep a closer eye on his brother. It was then Leo noticed that Chris was limping, he was hurt. And the only way he would have got hurt was if he had been hunting. And, as Wyatt clearly didn't know anything about it, probably alone. "Have you been to the underworld?"
"So what if I have?" Chris said, helping himself to the bottle of scotch he knew his parents kept for special occasions. He unscrewed the cap.
Leo watched him, wondering why Chris was acting this way. He was staring at his father, one eyebrow raised in a clearly challenging way. What the challenge was, Leo had no idea.
Chris sighed and put the bottle back down on the side, not even touching a drop. He hated the taste of scotch, especially when he was sober. But did Leo not even care enough to stop him drinking at eight in the morning? "What do I have to do to get a reaction out of you?"
"What?" Leo asked, not really hearing the broken whisper.
"What do I have to do?" He repeated louder, staring his father in the eye. "I've been blowing off my duties, demon hunting alone, getting wrecked and staying out all night, and treating you like crap but still you don't do anything! What, can you not be bothered anymore? Or did you never give a shit in the first place?"
Leo could have kicked himself as his son worked himself out into a shout. He'd been trying to show Chris what a good dad he could be, but all he'd done was made him believe that he didn't care. How many times had his kids acted out to get attention? How did he miss it this time?
"I'm sorry." Leo said quietly, but that wasn't what Chris needed. Leo straightened up, folding his arms across his chest. He meant business this time. "Chris, you're grounded."
Chris snorted. "Leo, I'm twenty-two and I don't even live here anymore, you can't ground me."
"I'm your father; I can do what I want." Leo declared. "You are not leaving my sight until I know that you can look after yourself, okay?"
Chris ducked his head and nodded slightly. Well, he'd got his reaction. That meant that he did care…at least a bit.
Leo approached his son and grabbed his shoulders. Chris looked up, surprising Leo when his eyes were glistening.
"Do you understand?" Leo demanded. "I can't risk anything happening to you, Chris; not again. You got that?"
Chris nodded, offering up a small, watery smile. "Yeah, I got it, Dad."
"I need you to look after yourself, you hear? God, Chris; when you were gone this family was a mess. All of us." Leo frowned distantly, and then shook his head, bringing himself back to the present. "Whatever you need, time, space, someone to yell at, whatever…you can have it, but please don't shut us out."
"I didn't mean to." Chris mumbled guiltily.
"Yeah, you did." Leo correctly gently, knowing he was right when Chris blushed and ducked his head. "And that's okay, but if you don't start letting us in…"
He trailed off, leaving the rest of the sentence unsaid, but Chris nodded anyway.
"I love you, Chris." Leo said sincerely, wondering why it hadn't been the first thing he had said when Chris had come back. "I know it's confusing for you right now, but please, don't forget that."
"I know." Chris whispered, and he did. Everyday he spent with his family, in the new world, made things seem more real. Some days, he even felt like he belonged there. 'Let them in,' Leo had said. Well, isolating himself wasn't working; maybe it was time to give something else a shot.
And if I make it through today,
Will tomorrow be the same?
Am I just running in place?
When Wyatt came out of his room the next morning to see Chris already up, dressed, and pacing the length of their living room, he was surprised. When Chris actually came home, he usually slept until lunchtime; nightmares kept him awake for most of the night until he was exhausted enough to doze off, so Chris had taken to going out at all hours god-knows-where, or watching old films until dawn before reluctantly dragging himself to bed when he could barely keep his eyes open.
But not today apparently.
Chris spun around when he heard Wyatt and held onto his resolve. He was Chris Halliwell. He had saved the world. He'd given up everything to do it, so there was no way in hell he was going to keep running away. He just had to let go, which for Chris was going to be one of the most difficult things to do.
Wyatt watched the emotions play across his brother's face; he could tell he was psyching himself up for something, knowing Chris it could be anything, but Wyatt would wait patiently until he figured it out and hope that he wouldn't bolt in the mean time.
"Hi." Chris started.
"Hi." Wyatt responded, still curious.
"Do you want to…" Chris tried, but trailed off, looking both irritated at himself and uncertain. "I just thought…It's Sunday." He finished lamely.
"It is." Wyatt answered, still not really getting the point.
"It's Sunday, and I wondered if you wanted to do something…with me." Chris said, managing to sound nonchalant even though he was nervous. It was the first time he'd initiated spending time with any of the family. It was the first time he'd put himself in that position where they could tell him 'no' or, potentially even worse, 'yes', and then it would be awkward because they wanted him to be the son they remembered and Chris was still at least fifty percent stuck in the past.
"Why Chris," Wyatt said with a sly smile; "are you asking me out on a date?"
And just like that the tension was broken and Chris relaxed, for the first time really allowing those confusing other memories come through. "Unless you've got something better to do?"
He shook his head. It was the first time Chris had asked him for something more than to 'pass the salt' at dinner. Wyatt would have cancelled on the president if need be. "What did you have in mind?"
"Well, it's Sunday morning, so I thought breakfast?"
Sunday morning breakfasts; their unofficial routine from before. Usually at least one of the brothers would be nursing a bit of a hangover from a Saturday night out, so their Sunday mornings had become full of steaming hot coffee, toast, bacon and whatever else they fancied at the café down the street. And Chris remembered. Wyatt tried not to grin to hard. "Sounds great."
Chris rolled his eyes. It was just breakfast, no big deal (conveniently forgetting how worked up he had been a few minutes before). "Let's go then."
"Whatever you say lil' bro." Wyatt said, still grinning. "Whatever you say."
And if I stumble and I fall,
Should I get up and carry on?
Will it all just be the same?
Piper opened the door and barely kept the look of surprise off her face. Wyatt was there as expected, but standing a step behind him was Chris. Chris who had avoided all family get-togethers since he had come back like there were slime demons attacking.
"Hey Mom." Wyatt said cheerily, making eye contact and clearly conveying that she was not meant to make a big deal out of this.
"Hello Wyatt." She stepped aside, hugging him as he entered the house. She repeated the action with Chris, managing to only hold on slightly longer than normal when she hugged him. "It's good to see you, Chris."
He smiled, peering out from behind his hair in that way that when he was younger, had his aunts eating out of his hand.
"Come on, dinner's ready." Piper said, forgetting that ten minutes ago she was planning to scold Wyatt for being late.
The first thing Chris noticed was that they had set a place for him at the table, despite the fact that he hadn't shown up for any of the other family dinners since he had been back. He felt guilty; how many times had his mother set his place at the table, hoping he would show, only to clear it away again?
The second thing he noticed was that everyone was staring at him. He took a breath and met their gaze, crooking an eyebrow in question. His aunts and uncles dropped their eyes, offering him a smile and a 'hello' before resuming their conversations. Chris pretended that he didn't notice that they were all talking about him. His cousins continued to stare. It was the first time he had seen some of them since coming back and little Pearl, Phoebe's eight-year-old daughter and the baby of the family, was buzzing in her seat.
Wyatt gave his brother a knowing smirk as he passed. "You're gonna have to let them eventually."
Chris sighed. "Fine. Let me have it."
Pearl stood up on her chair and launched herself at her cousin, trusting Chris to catch her (which he did with a little help of her telekinesis to lessen the impact). The minute she was safely in his arms she was babbling, far too quickly and erratically for him to understand, about everything she had been up to since he had been away. Chris had always been her favourite big cousin, and she'd been very cross with her mother when she hadn't been allowed to go and see him the minute he had come back.
Patty, Phoebe's middle child, joined them a second later wrapping her arms around Chris' waist, allowing him to ruffle her hair with the hand that wasn't holding Pearl.
Pearl was still chatting away when Patty let go with a "glad you're back, Chris." and headed back to her seat. Chris tried to set her back down on her feet, but she tightened her grip like a little Wiccan limpet.
"Henry?" Chris asked, the only other cousin he hadn't already seen as the older girls had all been around the Manor visiting Mel when he'd been there at one point or another.
"Yeah?" He asked and Chris immediately noticed that while he'd been away, Henry Junior's voice had broken.
"It's good to see you, kid."
"Not a kid, jerk."
"Henry!" Paige scolded half-heartedly as Chris laughed.
"Fine, I'm glad you're home…even if you are a jerk." Henry Jnr. said with a cheeky grin at his cousin. Chris knew he didn't mean it.
"Thanks, kid." He turned to Pearl still sitting on his hip. "Don't suppose you want to get down do you? You're heavier than when I left."
"I wanna sit next to Chris." She announced loudly, and pointedly to Melinda who had been sitting next to her.
"Don't I feel loved." She muttered, but was grinning as she slid round a seat at the table.
Piper watched from the doorway as Chris interacted with his youngest cousins. He should have known that they would be able to get through to him, they always had been able to make him smile when he was younger. Leo came up behind her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.
"He seems better."
"I don't want to get my hopes up." Piper said. "But yes, I hope so."
Leo kissed Piper on the cheek and joined his family at the table. "Hello, Chris."
And when Chris replied "Hey, Dad" it was only slightly forced. It was progress and Chris was trying; and that was all Leo wanted.
Chris sank into his seat, allowing himself the luxury of observing. Usually he was always in the middle of things, but this time his family seemed content to let him soak in all in, except for the little ones of course, but they hadn't seen him yet and they weren't asking anything of him. For the first time, it didn't feel overwhelming.
As Chris sat there, his family's chatter washed over him like a balm. This…this was what he had been fighting for. And for once, all the voices in his head were in full agreement. Sitting there, surrounded by family, he allowed the memories to come into him, merging seamlessly like they had never been missing…Mel loosing her tooth in a Sunday Roast, Prue spilling a whole gravy boat in Coop's lap when she had tried to help serve, Henry Jnr accidentally catapulting a forkful of mashed potatoes right into Piper's wine glass…little things, still full of gaps, but more than he had before.
Wyatt was watching him anxiously and Chris nodded slightly that he was okay. Chris even offered his father a small smile when he met his worried eyes. They were not the enemy. Chris was his own worst enemy, he could admit that now. Part of him didn't belong here, not in this time, but that didn't matter anymore. Half of him did belong here and the other half, well, he of all people deserved to be here, and the rest would fall into place in time. He would be okay in the end.
They'd all be okay.
Cause I'm young and I'm hopeless,
I'm lost and I know this…
It's me against this world and I don't care.
I don't care.
Fin. Thank you for reading. For those of you that have been with me since part one, massive thanks and I hope this second-part didn't disappoint.
Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and very best wishes for the New Year. Kx