This is the final chapter. I don't think I can squeeze anymore out of the hopes I originally had for this story. Hopefully you all like the ending and if not, liked the story in between.
This short (but sweet) chapter is very Piper-light, but my focus was always the Chris and Leo relationship and I really wanted to do that justice.
I've been wracking my brains for a while, but I just could not come up with a fitting Piper or Leo POV to include in this chapter. If it does strike me, I'll include it as an epilogue, but I am happy with how this ends for all three characters. I'm sure there's another scene between Piper and Chris that could really finish it, but my brain refuses to create it yet.
There have also been a few questions about where this story fits in the plotline. I envisioned it starts close to the episode where Bianca died, but the actual story spans over a week or two at the most. Hence, I've ignored (pretty badly) the order some things happened in the show to do with this what I wanted. Let's pretend it all fits in nicely.
Thank you all for the kind reviews and for sticking with the story over the ridiculous amount of time it took me to finish. I wrote it in spare minutes between some major life changes, so I'm glad to see the completed status if only for myself.
The time starts passing in seconds.
Chris is sure he's never felt each of his own heartbeats like he can in these seconds.
They're rattling in his chest so loudly he would bet money that Leo and Piper can hear them too.
Not that he's sure, because he hasn't been able to look up or open his mouth since he first sat down at the kitchen bench.
He's gotten his way through a glass of juice and a bite of a sandwich without ever taking his eyes off the bench in front of him.
Chris sighs and moves a hand to his chest to rub it, because every muscle in his body is still creaking in pain.
His head might be clearer and he doesn't feel like a demon is moving around in it anymore, but he still feels like hell. Every single one of his muscles is one wrong move away from not working.
There's this tired ache to his bones that has his guard still down to the ground and he feels wide open.
And that's why he won't look up. It's hard enough when he has his guards. It's way too hard in this moment, with this pain.
He can almost feel Leo and Piper's eyes scraping over him, but he'll be damned if he lets them know that he knows.
He's so busy staring at the grain of the bench that it takes him by surprise when a hand, wrapped with blue tinges of healing magic, grasps his shoulder. He looks up at the face attached to the hand before he remembers his no eye contact rule and swiftly looks down again.
Those eyes are searching for him again but he refuses.
Chris clears his throat. Wants to say something. He still doesn't have the words though. It all feels too small, too meaningless. It all has, every day since he first arrived in this time.
"Why?" Leo's voice drifts towards him. It still has that low, gently quality from the past few days. It makes Chris feel like they're all afraid he'll bolt if their voices get too loud.
He supposed it is a little bit like that.
"Why what?" he says. His voice is low and grumbled, but it's there.
"Why did you come back?"
Minutes pass before he speaks again. He notices the hesitation to Leo's question and he realises he can't take this conversation back now.
"You know why," he says, eyes still fixed to the bench. He doesn't want to relive that conversation about Wyatt. He remembers how it ended the first time.
"Yeah, but why you?"
This time it's Piper that speaks. He wonders whether it's an accusation but he sneaks a look at her face and he knows the question for what it really is. Why both her sons? Why is it always her family?
He smiles tightly.
"I was the best choice," he says.
"The only one, really."
They all fall back into silence. He's surprised they aren't pressing for more, but he knows he still looks like he'll shatter if they push too hard. He also knows that conversation isn't over.
More minutes pass. Again, it's Leo that breaks it.
"We don't really get on, do we?" the whitelighter asks rapidly. Both he and Piper are trained on Chris, waiting for a response.
Chris almost laughs at the understatement, but he holds back for this version of Leo. For future Leo, he definitely would have laughed, but for this Leo? Chris feels like he owes this Leo a break.
He pauses before he decides to hell with it. He'll be honest.
"No," he says.
Leo stares at Chris as more minutes pass.
"When did you stop calling me dad?" Leo asks rapidly again, like the questions have been bottled up for days.
Chris looks up in surprise.
"I've known you for a while now Chris, enough to know I must have been an arsehole of a dad," Leo continues.
"You've never once came close to slipping up with me and calling me dad," Leo continues. "Not once."
"I'd like to think if I was any kind of father, you would never have been able to come here without slipping up." Leo's eyes are piercing.
Chris almost slaps himself as he realised he had forgotten how attentive Leo is.
"I was 14," he finds himself saying. The honesty is spilling out of him.
Involuntarily, he finds himself looking at Piper. He meets her eyes and looks down.
"Stuff happened," he says. His voice almost catches, but then it doesn't because it's been a long time since he was 14 and there is no version of Leo that can drag him back there.
He thinks they might get what 'stuff' means because they're suddenly standing right next to each other and a step closer to him.
Leo grasps Chris's shoulder with a strong hand, and for a second all he has is an overwhelming feeling of safe.
Leo's voice reaches Chris and the hand on his shoulder squeezes tight.
"I hope we can help you change that," Leo states. It's simple and loaded.
There's a beat of silence between the three of them. Chris starts thinking about what this conversation means, and whether the words mom and dad might start working their way back into his vocabulary.
He tunes back in as Piper starts murmuring about rooms and moving to the manor and saving Wyatt and meals at a table with family and Chris finds himself smiling.
She grasps the shoulder that Leo isn't and his heart soars.
The rational part of him is pleased because his mission to stop Wyatt will be so much clearer now.
But the Halliwell part of him? The part that still wants his mom and dad? That part is nothing less than ecstatic, because now he has the safe hands and the mom voice telling him he can come home.
Even if it is a couple of decades too early.