Author's Notes: All right, everyone. This is the last chapter of this story! I hesitated in posting it because, in a way, I didn't really want it to end. I had a lot of fun writing this story, and I think it's definitely up there in terms of one of my favorites, next to the story that it spawned from. Thanks to everyone who stuck through it and gave me feedback, because I really appreciate that. This chapter is dedicated to you!
And this may be the end of this story, but that doesn't mean it'll be the end of my writing. I'm working on a Supernatural fic The Choices We Make, and since summer vacation isn't over for another several weeks, I may be able to squeeze some other stuff out. We'll see. At any rate, please leave me a review letting me know what you thought about this chapter, the story in general, etc. I always appreciate and love reading them. :) Again, thank you all!
Reversing the effects of the draught that Lilandra had used on Piper, Phoebe and Paige hadn't been difficult, particularly due to Leo's help. Wyatt, Chris and Melinda were capable, but their father still had decades of experience under his belt that they didn't, and that proved to be invaluable. The three sisters were all awakened from the knock out draught within just a couple of hours of having been hit with it, and none of them were really the wiser. They were all incensed about having missed out on the fight, but in reality, Piper's children knew that it was probably best that they didn't have to go through it. Though fully capable of fighting, they had passed it on to Wyatt, Chris and Mel for a reason.
Time passed by quickly over the next couple of days. Everyone went back to their daily schedules as they always did after a demon fight, but even with that, Chris' mind eventually drifted back to Landon, and what had happened with him. It was eating at him little by little; bothering him while he worked, while he read, while he helped his charges…He kept waiting for Landon to call, but nothing came his way.
So, finally, some few days later—it was nearly a week since the incident, if Chris remembered right—he worked up the courage to call Landon himself and see what was going on with him. Landon seemed a little bit more distant than usual, but Chris had been prepared for that. In fact, he had been preparing himself all week for the worst possible scenarios, just wanting to be safe. The last thing he needed on top of everything that had just happened was a broken heart from false hope.
Landon had agreed to meet him sometime later on that week, and after some finagling, they set the day for Monday—the day upon which they normally met up. Chris suggested the local bistro just a ways from his house, which Landon agreed to. Monday was only a couple of days away, and over those days, Chris worked a lot, so he wasn't terribly concerned about keeping himself busy.
One night, during his lunch, Chris was sitting in the break room, absently picking at a pile of mostly eaten spaghetti on his plate, when he heard the door open. He lifted his head up, and when he saw who it was, he chuckled.
Chris had suavely been avoiding any alone time with his mother at home, knowing that what was about to happen was bound to happen eventually—the talk. Sure, they had discussed Landon a little bit when he had brought him home, but not with the same depth that Chris and Piper usually talked about things. And Piper had respected her son's privacy up until this point, but now, it seemed, he had finally given her the in she was looking for, and she was most certainly going to take it.
Piper sat down casually across from him and crossed her legs beneath the table. "How's it going?"
"Same old, same old," Chris said, taking a bite of spaghetti.
"You've been working a lot lately. Hope it isn't too much for you."
"Nah, it's nice, actually. You know how I like keeping busy."
"Oh, yes. 'Course I do."
Through a slightly full mouth, Chris returned the question. "How about with you?"
"Not too bad. Had to send a chef home for the night, so we'll be a little shorthanded, but I called someone and they said they could come in. So I'm not too worried. I'm taking my break, too."
Chris snorted faintly. Swallowing, he then said, "How convenient, hm?"
An amused smirk appeared on Piper's face. "And just what are you implying?"
"You know exactly what I'm implying."
For a moment, Piper remained entirely silent. But after, she moved in, resting her sleeveless arms on the table. She eyed her son thoughtfully. "Have I ever told you about Dan, Chris?"
"Dan?" The dark haired witch paused, running through his memory banks. When nothing came up, he said, "No. Don't think so."
"There…was a time, in my life, right after I'd met your father and had been with him for a while, that I decided we needed to take a break." Piper lowered her head slightly. "And in the process, I ended up dating this man named Dan who had moved in next door. He was a really great guy…" She trailed off, but then shook her head with a light groan. "Too great, actually. But there came a time when Dan started getting jealous of your dad, and so he dug up some dirt on him. It ended up with him finding your dad's army records. But, anyway, I broke it off with him and…long story short, he eventually found out that I was a witch."
For the most part, Chris knew the stories of his mom's personal life. He remembered the hellacious period she and his father had gone through around his inception and conception, and how rough things were even after that. But anything before that had seemed to stay close mouthed around their house. Anything before the death of his aunt Prue, it would seem. And although this was new to him, it wasn't very exciting. But it was relatable; that was what kept his attention.
"What did he do?" Chris asked.
"I think you know what he did," Piper said. "He…well. Freaked out, more or less. It didn't help any that we were fighting to control this genie at the time, which was the whole source of the problems in the first place, but." She sighed. "I tried to talk to Dan about it, and he basically shrugged me off, like what had happened between us didn't mean a thing to him." She clasped her hands together and pursed her lips momentarily. Her voice wavered just a little. "I still remember what he said to me. 'I wish I didn't see what I did."
There were very few times in which Chris had ever seen his mom get emotional over something that didn't involve the family. So it was a little surprising to him when he saw her look away, and even heard her sniff faintly. When she looked back at him, he creased his forehead just a little.
"In the end, after saving the genie, it was actually nice enough to grant me the wish of giving Dan peace of mind. So…he forgot about everything. Forgot about us, about finding out about my being a witch…all of it. And he eventually moved away. But the pain was still there, because I hadn't forgotten."
"What did Dad think of it?"
"I think your dad was just happy I chose him," Piper said. "He had never particularly cared for Dan, and I can understand why. They got in a fight once." That made her chuckle. "But what I'm trying to get at here is that I moved on. I found happiness with someone else, and now I can't imagine my life any other way."
It never ceased to amaze Chris just how on the money his mother could be in pinpointing the exact things that were bothering him. He stared at her, almost in disbelief at first, before he turned his gaze downward and chuckled. "How the hell do you always know?"
"Chris, I'm your mother. I'll always know what's going on with you in some way, shape or form." Piper reached out and took her son's free hand. "And I'll always be here for you to help however I can. Don't ever think I won't want to, or that I won't listen to you. Especially in matters of the heart."
Damn it, the young witch thought. There was no reason for him to feel like he was going to cry right then and there. No reason at all. Yet for some inexplicable one, he felt his throat tighten and could feel the backs of his eyes warming up, all signs that he was preparing to. He blinked continually for several seconds straight, trying to keep his eyes from moistening.
"Thanks," was all he managed to say.
Piper gripped his hand tighter, and rubbed her thumb over it. "I love you. Always."
"I love you too, Mom."
"Are you going to be okay?"
Now it was Chris' turn to talk. He gave a deep, pensive, yet unsure sigh. "I don't really know. He didn't call for nearly a week, so I finally called him, and he seemed distant. We agreed to meet up. But…just…all week. I dunno. I think I've been preparing myself for the worst."
"You don't expect to get through this?"
"In all honesty? No, I don't."
"Are you not willing to?"
Chris felt mildly offended by that question, and he showed it momentarily before he realized his mother meant no harm in asking it. He sighed again. "I am, but I don't think he is."
"What makes you think that?"
"Secondhand experience. The way he was acting on the phone…and the way he acted after he woke up, when I healed him."
"Are you scared that he's not going to be able to keep your secret and that you'll have to modify his memory?" Piper had told Chris of several events in her past in which that had been necessary, so it was plausible.
"In a way, yeah. I…don't want to forget him, Mom. I don't want to lose him. But I think I may have already." Those warm tears behind his eyes were still prickling, and Chris began blinking more and more, fighting them.
"All you can do is go in there and meet him, and be yourself," Piper explained. "You can't force the decision on him any more than I could on Dan. I hate to say it, but this kind of stuff happens." Her tone lightened some. "But it won't always be this way. Keep that in mind."
What his mother said was true. She, along with both of his aunts, had ended up married and with children. Granted, he was far away from worrying about marrying or having children, but the idea of a nice, long-term relationship was nonetheless appealing to him. And it was possible with mortals. He had her, his aunt Paige and his late grandma to thank for those models…
"It'll be okay," Piper reassured him, squeezing his hand. "If not him, then someone else. You don't get a limited number of chances."
Chris nodded. "Yeah."
Suddenly, the alarm on his watch began to beep.
"Sorry." He looked at his mom, slightly embarrassed. He was still doing that, cursing in front of her. Why it bothered her so much he would never know, but he followed her rules. "My break's over, so I need to get back."
Piper let go of his hand then. "All right. If you need to talk…remember: I'm here."
As Chris got up from the table, he took his plate over to the trash and dumped the few remnants of his spaghetti into it. He held the dish and the fork in his hand, smiling.
. . .
Chris awaited Landon's arrival at the coffee bistro that Monday morning somewhat anxiously. He felt like no matter what he did, he couldn't get his heartbeat to slow down. His hands glistened a little with sweat, and he rubbed them against his brown cargo shorts. They had agreed upon meeting at 10. Not too early, but not too late. A good time for morning coffee and maybe a muffin. But the anxiety that Chris felt—even despite the conversation with his mother—was preventing him from fully enjoying the poppy seed muffin and dark coffee that were in front of him.
When he saw Landon's car pass and head into the parking lot behind the bistro, he felt his heart do a flip. He needed to remind himself to keep calm. Drinking coffee wasn't really going to help that, but he wasn't thinking about that. He hadn't drunk much of it anyway.
The older man appeared on the street not too long after his car disappeared into the parking lot, and he approached the table Chris was sitting at. When Chris moved to stand up, he stopped himself, because Landon was already taking a seat.
"Hey," the younger one settled on saying.
"Hey," Landon replied.
There was an undeniable tenseness between them that was worrisome, and that made Chris feel even more anxious than before. He didn't really like that, but it wasn't like he could fix it. It took two to tango, and it would take the both of them to fix the situation. He couldn't yet tell if Landon was willing.
Chris settled on some small talk, just to get the conversation flowing. "How've you been?"
"Been okay." Landon shifted in his chair, then looked at the coffee that Chris had ordered. "I should probably get me one of those."
"You can have mine." He extended his drink to his boyfriend. "I'm not really thirsty. Mostly hungry."
"Oh. Okay. Thanks." Landon smiled a little and took the proffered coffee, sipping briefly at it. Since they both liked theirs straight and dark, there was no reason to for him not to drink it all.
The conversation fell into silence after that point. It didn't take long for that silence to become too much for Chris to handle, and he eventually said:
"Look, I'm…just gonna come right out and say this, cause I don't know how to, otherwise. But…you and me. Are we okay?"
The sigh that came from Landon was almost like a punch to the gut. It was deep and uncertain; plus, mixed with the avoidant glance of the other's eyes, it spoke volumes. He didn't even need to say anything for Chris to know what the answer was.
"I don't know," Landon eventually offered.
"You don't…know," Chris repeated, slowly.
"I don't know. I…really want us to be. I really do. But I just…God, Chris, this is still so hard for me to grasp. And the fact that it's all true makes it just…" Landon took a sip of the coffee he had, looking uncertain still. "I don't know."
"I don't mean to be pushy, Landon, but I really need more than an 'I don't know'. I've been trying to deal with this for a week. Longer than that, even. You've had a lot of time to think about it. If you really cared about me as much as you say you do, I don't think that it would take this long."
"That's not fair, Chris," Landon said. He furrowed his brow. "You know I care about you. A lot. And I know you care about me, too."
"Then answer me this: are you okay with it, and do you think you could live with it?"
The question was so blunt and forward that it surprised both of them. But Chris had been holding it in for a long time, and he needed to know. But even before Landon responded, it slowly dawned on Chris that this kind of discomfort between them would never completely go away. Even if Landon said yes, there would always be some kind of inkling in the back of the other's mind, one that would keep him from fully giving himself to Chris. And really, the young witch wasn't going to give himself completely to someone who couldn't do the same. Having hang-ups about it all was understandable, but that wasn't conducive to a healthy relationship.
"No," Landon finally answered.
Chris had thankfully braced himself for this. It stung, but not nearly as badly as it could have. "Okay," he said quietly.
Neither of them said anything for a while after that. Landon drank his coffee and Chris picked bits and pieces off of his muffin. There was no anger in the air, but there was clearly discomfort and hesitation still. But then, Landon spoke. He said:
"I'll keep your secret, Chris. If you don't wanna believe anything else I say, at least believe that. I promise you."
"I trust you, Landon. And I know you will." He nodded slowly, because he did trust him to do that. Even if they were no longer together. Landon had never broken any of the promises he had ever made to Chris, which was quite possibly the only reason why he would believe him here.
That seemed to be the end of it right there. The conversation really had no way to go other than toward good-byes, and they both sensed it, because soon Landon was shifting in the cool metal chair again, eying the dark haired witch across from him.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"I know. Me, too. But I understand." His voice was a little distant, if not somewhat resigned. But Chris couldn't really help it.
More silence followed. After about a minute, Landon cleared his throat and looked at his watch. "I should…probably get going. I have to go into work for a short shift today, and I haven't gotten much done around the house like I had planned to."
"All right," Chris said.
As Landon moved to stand, so did he, mostly out of politeness. They stood there, momentarily awkwardly, until the older man grabbed his cup of coffee and smiled faintly.
"It was good seeing you," he said.
"You, too," Chris agreed. He smiled—genuinely, if not a little sadly. It had been nice to see Landon one final time. He wanted to say 'see you around' or 'see you later', but he didn't think that would happen. In fact, it would have probably been best if they never did again.
Interestingly enough, it had been Landon who said it. "See you around?"
"Sure, yeah. Of course."
Landon gave a nod then, moving slowly away from the table. He offered Chris a good-bye, and was about to walk toward his car, but was suddenly stopped by the hand gripping his wrist. He turned his head to look, and that was when Chris kissed him. Landon didn't pull back, and the kiss was slow, also somewhat somber. When the young witch pulled back, he let out a gentle exhalation of breath through his nose.
"Bye," Landon said softly. He hesitated for a minute before turning back around again, making his way to his car.
Even if things between them weren't going to work out, Chris knew that everything was going to be all right. He knew that he was going to be, too. It had been a good experience for the both of them, and hurt though he was, he would move on, learn, and grow from it. That was what his mother had told him, and he trusted her completely. In matters of the heart, just like with everything else Chris had ever gone to her with, she seemed to know her stuff.
So maybe that was why he didn't feel angry toward Landon as he watched the other walk further away from the bistro table. Maybe that was why, as his now ex-boyfriend rounded the corner to the parking lot, Chris only looked at him for a moment before looking down at the table beside him. He didn't smile, but he didn't frown, either. He just sighed lightly.
Tomorrow was a new day, he told himself.
If not Landon, then certainly someone else.