Title: The Nature of Memory
Disclaimer: I don't own anything
Author's note: Alright, here we are, at the end of the story. This is just a little bit of an epilogue to tie things together. I hope you all enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Summary: When Chris loses his memories, it's up to the sisters to try to help him. But when a familiar stranger comes to visit, can Chris remember his past before it kills him?
Epilogue: Over and Over Again
There was no happy ending for Chris Perry. He didn't confess his deep love for his mother, didn't tell his father that he never really hated him, didn't laugh and joke with his aunts. He shared those emotions in brief looks, caught only by the closest observers; in the way he watched Piper move about the kitchen, in the way he begrudgingly worked with his father, in the way he "accidentally" let slip information about Henry and Melinda. But he couldn't share his innermost thoughts, because that simply wasn't the person he was, and nothing would ever change that.
There was no happy ending for Chris Perry. He didn't give up, not even at the very end when the pain in his stomach was the only indication that he hadn't died yet. He didn't give up, ever, because there was still something driving him forward, something forcing him not to stop, not even to relax.
There was no happy ending for Chris Perry.
But there was a happy ending for Chris Halliwell.
Wyatt's Apartment, 2025 (changed future)
Wyatt opened his bleary eyes and yawned at the last vestiges of sleep passed away. He blinked once or twice, trying to shake the strange sensation from his mind. Something was different, somehow, but he couldn't figure out what it was. It was like he was forgetting something, or maybe it was that he was finally remembering something…
He just didn't know what it was.
"Okay, so what do you think of this one?" Melinda asked, holding up a black belt with a silver buckle. A pile of shopping bags littered the ground at her feet, and all the clothing she had bought was scattered across the floor and furniture of the sunroom.
Chris squinted at the belt in Melinda's hand, then glanced down at the one she was wearing. "How is that any different from the belt you have on now?" he asked in confusion.
Melinda looked down, then rolled her eyes. "Chris, the belt I have on now has an elongated circle buckle. This belt that I just bought has an oval buckle. They're totally different."
Chris shook his head. "They're both black with silver buckles. Silver buckles in the shape of ovals."
"No," Melinda corrected patiently, giving her cousin an exasperated look, "one is oval and one is elongated circle."
Chris blinked. "Is there a difference?"
Melinda gave a huff of impatience and was about to protest the stupidity of all men when a ripple of air signaled the arrival of Chris' fiancée. The Phoenix took one look at the belt in Melinda's hand and exclaimed, "Oh, that is adorable! Where did you get it?"
"It's exactly the same as the one she's wearing," Chris interrupted, glancing from Melinda to Bianca.
Bianca frowned at the belt on Melinda's waist. "No," she answered, shaking her head, "that's elongated circle. The one she's holding is oval. Totally different."
"I give up," Chris muttered, shaking his head in despair.
"What do you give up on?" a voice asked, and Henry Jr. walked into the room.
"Women," Chris replied. "They're all insane. Stay away from them, kid. They're trouble, I mean it. Save yourself while you still have a chance."
Henry grinned a little, then turned to Melinda and said, "Aunt Piper let your Mom cook."
Melinda groaned. "Seriously? Is she out of her mind? The last time anyone let Mom cook, we almost burnt down the entire house. Plus, the food attacked us! Mom finds a way to bring these things to life and make them want to kill us."
"I hate to break this to you, sis," another voice said, and a girl a few years younger than Melinda appeared next to Henry Jr. "but your cooking isn't actually any better." She smiled, swatting brown hair out of her doe-eyes.
"That's not true, Patience!" Melinda retorted hotly.
"Uh… yeah it is," Chris joined in. "Remember that time you tried to make soup and Wyatt thought it was a vanquishing potion?"
"If I recall correctly, that stuff could have served as a vanquishing potion," Bianca quipped, giving Melinda a teasing grin.
Melinda replied with a pout, "Well, fine. Maybe I inherited Mom's lack of cooking ability. But it's not like any of us are as good as Aunt Piper."
"Chris is," Patience pointed out fairly. "On the other hand, Wyatt's the worst of any of us, so between the two of them, they average out to being mediocre."
"But Chris is a good cook," Bianca murmured, leaning in to kiss the witch-lighter. "And I expect home-cooked breakfasts in bed every single day after we're married," she added.
Henry Jr. reached across and patted Chris on the arm, throwing back his cousin's earlier words, "Women are trouble, Chris. Save yourself while you still can."
Leo poked his head out of the kitchen. "Hey, kids," he called, " we're starting dinner." His eyes settled on Bianca, and he said, "Oh, you made it. Chris said he wasn't sure if you were going to get away from your work in time."
"It's a Halliwell family dinner," Bianca answered. "It's Piper's cooking. I wouldn't miss it for the world."
As they all made their way into the kitchen, Chris turned to Melinda and asked in an undertone, "Where is your Dad? He's not here yet."
Melinda's face hardened somewhat, but she replied in an even tone, "I don't think he's coming tonight." He hadn't come to these family dinners in a while, and obviously his deteriorating relationship with Phoebe was placing a strain on Melinda and Patience.
Chris reached out and draped an arm over his younger cousin's shoulder. She smiled gratefully at his silent show of support.
"My mom is so going to kill you," Chris remarked as he pulled Phoebe out of the way of yet another fireball. The clan of demons they had accidentally stumbled upon had not been pleased by the operation, and had also managed to quickly erect an anti-orbing spell over the cave, cutting off the two Halliwells' only means of escape.
"Me?" Phoebe asked, redirecting a fireball with her empathy. "Why me?"
"Because you're older, Aunt Phoebe. You are supposed to be the responsible one," Chris answered, pausing long enough to smirk at his aunt before launching another telekinetic attack on the rapidly approaching demons.
"It was your idea to track that warlock who attacked you," Phoebe countered. She levitated and kicked one of the demon's in the head, sending him flying back into several others. They fell to a tangled heap on the floor, and Phoebe landed easily back on the ground.
"True," Chris agreed, "but you should have known better than to let me do that. Especially without knowing if I would need Wyatt or the Power of Three."
"Oh, don't worry about it, kid," a voice said, and a figured stepped out of the wall behind them. "Your mother knows Phoebe well enough to know responsibility isn't one of her strong points." Then, without warning, he reached out and grabbed Phoebe and Chris by the arm and shimmered the two of them out of the cave and away from the danger.
They reappeared in another part of the Underworld, and Phoebe pulled away from their mysterious rescuer, a look of shock on her face. "Cole?" she gasped.
"In the flesh," the half-demon replied with his trademark smirk.
Chris and Bianca's Apartment, 2025
Three sets of blue and white lights danced in front of Chris and Bianca as they sat at the kitchen table, eating lunch. Chris looked up in mild surprise, having clearly not expected visitors, but the lights faded and he smiled in surprise at the unexpected company.
"Who is Cole Turner?" one of the girls asked without pausing for pleasantries, "and why is Mom throwing a fit about him being back?"
Chris frowned at the girl for a moment, then looked past her to the other identical twin. Switching his gaze back to the first girl, he determined that she must be Helen, and answered, "Cole Turner is the human form of a demonic mercenary that Aunt Phoebe used to be in love with."
The other twin, Patty, looked at Chris in shock. Next to her, the last of the three visitors, Henry Jr., let his mouth fall open in surprise as well. Helen seemed mildly startled, but said nothing.
"Aunt Paige never really liked Cole," Chris continued calmly, as though not realizing the information he was imparting to his three cousins was particularly surprising. "So that's why she's having a fit about him being back." Then he paused with a contemplative look on his face before adding, "But for some reason, my Mom is actually sort of happy to see him."
"Aunt Piper is happy to see a demon?" Henry Jr. asked, bewildered.
"Uh… yeah," Chris replied, shaking his head.
Helen took a seat across from Chris. Folding her arms over her chest, she said, "So… my half-angel mother doesn't like Aunt Phoebe's half-demon boyfriend?"
"They aren't dating now," Chris replied, stressing the last word. "Although… they did used to be married, I think."
"Married?" Henry Jr. sputtered.
"So, my half-angel mother doesn't like Aunt Phoebe's half-demon ex-husband?" Patty said, leaning against the seat Helen was sitting on.
Bianca stared at the four of them and shook her head. "God, your family is messed up."
"And yet you still want to marry Chris," Helen pointed out. "Well, I did always wonder about your sanity."
"Funny, very funny," Bianca deadpanned. Glancing at the clock on the wall, she rose to her feet and said with a sigh, "Well, I hate to break up the party, but I have to get going. My clan doesn't like it when I show up late too our meetings, especially now that my mother…" She trailed off. Even after all these years, it was hard to think those thoughts, hard to reconcile herself to the fact that her mother was gone.
"Picking the next target?" Henry Jr. teased. He knew that the Phoenixes, although still elite, were nowhere near as active as they used to be. Times had changed, and the world was a more peaceful place, allowing neutral clans such as the Phoenixes to stay out of the conflict more than they had in the past.
Bianca grinned as she answered, "Something like that. So watch your back, kid. You might be next."
"Aunt Phoebe married a demon and then a cupid, Aunt Piper married a white-lighter-turned-Elder-turned-Avatar-turned mortal, and now Chris is marrying a reformed assassin witch," Patty mused to herself. Glancing at Bianca, she said, "You were right, this family really is screwed up."
"So… remind me again why we're doing this?" Chris asked as he followed his father and uncle into the sunroom of the manor.
Leo turned stern eyes to his youngest son. "Chris, it has been a tradition since you were born that the men in this family spend at least one Sunday of the month watching some sports game."
"We have to keep up the tradition," Henry agreed. The parole officer smiled at his nephew as he took a seat on the sofa. "Otherwise we'd be overwhelmed by estrogen."
"Yeah, but Bianca was going to…"
"You see Bianca all the time," Henry Jr. interrupted, hurrying into the room and sitting down next to his father. "Don't you want to spend some time with us?"
"Watching hockey?" Chris asked. "I don't even like hockey. So, would I rather spend time with my father and annoying kid cousin watching a sport I don't like, or with my incredibly sexy fiancée…"
"Woah, stop right there," Leo said, holding up a hand. "I don't need to know what you and Bianca were planning on doing in your alone time, son."
"I'm not annoying," Henry Jr. added. "I can be annoying thought. I can spontaneously orb in on you and Bianca during whatever it is that you would be doing…" He grinned mischievously. "So you might want to rethink the whole bailing on us thing."
Chris laughed and telekinetically threw a pillow at his cousin. "Fair enough." He sat down next to his father. "And I suppose I do enjoy not being overrun by women."
"If you wanted to avoid women, you chose the wrong family to be born into," Leo muttered under his breath.
"Where's Wyatt?" Henry Jr. asked as his father grabbed the television remote and flipped through the channels.
Chris glanced over his shoulder. "He said he was going to grab some chips. I guess I'll go check to see that he's okay." He got up and walked back into the kitchen.
Truth be told, he did really enjoy these days. When he was little, his father would take him and Wyatt to the park on the weekends, to have some time with them away from the craziness of the manor. As they grew older, the trips to the park had morphed into trips to the baseball cages for batting practice, driving lessons, and finally monthly meetings to watch sports.
Those were some of his fondest memories of growing up, being able to spend time with his father, just hanging out and not doing anything particularly important.
He was pulled from his thoughts by the sight of Wyatt, standing in the kitchen, rubbing his eyes wearily.
"You okay?" Chris asked in concern.
Wyatt grimaced. "I just… I've been having weird dreams for a few weeks," he said, "and they've been keeping me from sleeping. I guess I was more tired than I thought."
"Prophetic dreams?" Chris demanded, instantly concerned.
"I don't think so," Wyatt replied. "I don't really even remember them. It's just a haze, you know?" Chris didn't look convinced, but Wyatt insisted, "Really, it isn't anything magical. Nothing to worry about. I promise."
Before Wyatt could reply, a sparkle of orbs lit up the kitchen, and Helen appeared, bringing Melinda with her.
"You're not allowed here," Wyatt said instantly. "It's guys-only."
"I know," Melinda said, "but we need to grab a couple of potions ingredients neither Helen or I had."
"Are you going after someone?"
"Relax," Helen said, rolling her eyes at Wyatt. "We can take on a lower-level demon without the help of the almighty Twice Blessed."
Wyatt shook his head and retorted, "I was just asking." Then he yawned, and reached up to rub his eyes again.
In concern, Chris asked, "Are you sure you're okay? Maybe you should take a nap or something."
His question instantly caused an uproar from the two girls, and Helen launched herself onto Wyatt's arm and asked in a sing-song voice, "Oh, did you need a nap? Did the big boy get tired?"
Melinda smiled teasingly and, standing on her tiptoes, patted Wyatt on the head. "Are you all awake-y now, ickle Wyattkins?"
Helen promptly burst out laughing, and Wyatt gave her a look of such suffering that Chris began laughing as well. Wyatt pushed Melinda and Helen away from him and glared angrily at his brother. "Did you really need to bring that up?"
"I'm just worried…"
"I'm fine," Wyatt said gently, "completely and totally normal."
Chris grinned. "Well, that remains to be determined. Personally, I always thought you were a little… special?"
"Unique," Helen suggested.
"Different?" offered Melinda.
"How about just insane?" Chris finished. "I think insane is a good description."
"I'm the Twice Blessed, the Reincarnation of King Arthur, the Bearer of Excalibur, the Leader of the Magical World… and I'm getting teased by a my younger cousins and brother," Wyatt complained, sounding an awful lot like a petty toddler.
Helen and Melinda laughed, and Chris beckoned for Wyatt to follow him out of the kitchen.
"Hey," Wyatt said, catching Chris by the arm just before he walked out of the room. The younger witch-lighter paused and looked back, confusion etched into the lines in his forehead. Wyatt frowned, then said, "You know I would never hurt you, right?"
Chris' eyes widened slightly, then his forehead creased in concern. "Are you sure you're alright?" he asked.
"Yeah, yeah," Wyatt replied dismissively, suddenly feeling very foolish for his confession. "I'm fine. Just… woke up feeling weird this morning."
"Huh," Chris said with a shrug. "Must have been one hell of a dream."
Wyatt nodded, draping his arm over his brother's shoulders, and the two left the room.