A/N: Hello, again! Quick note: A reviewer pointed out last chapter that Dean had been killed (by Sam) before Chris went to the past, and yet, in a flashback, we show Dean alive when he kills Bianca. We botched that detail up a bit. Dean was killed by Sam, but he was brought back again by Wyatt. We've edited the flashback to show Chris being more surprised to see Dean alive again - check out Chapter 2 if you're interested. Thank you Always an Angel for pointing that out! Without further ado, the chapter:
Title: Lonely Light of Morning
Chapter 12: The Face of Affliction
I've seen the face of affliction, of my reality;
I'm being tortured by the future of things
that are yet to be;
I'm being haunted by a vision,
It's like the moment never comes,
I feel the burden of confusion; always searching, on the run
-Full Blown Rose, "Somebody Help Me"
Although Chris had wanted nothing more than to lose himself in demon hunting for the next few hours, he knew he was off his game. Exhausted and sleep-deprived, he realized after an hour and three near death experiences that if he stayed down here any longer, he would be killed. The thought was a lot more appealing than it should have been, and it was only his constant awareness of his unfulfilled mission that made him find the willpower to orb up to Golden Gate Bridge.
He must have been more exhausted than he had realized, because as soon as his feet touched the metal, he felt his knees buckle. Managing to grab onto a beam for support, he slid to the ground, until he was sitting with his legs splayed out in front of him. Unnerved by his body's sudden betrayal, he took stock of himself, and was dismayed by the results. He was still feeling nauseous even though his stomach was completely empty, and his hands, when he tried to hold them steady, trembled. Worst of all, his legs felt so watery that he honestly wasn't sure if he could get up again without holding onto something.
Exhausted, he clenched his eyes shut and let the silent, cloudy day wash over him. He must have dozed off, because the next thing he knew, images were flashing beneath his closed eyelids- Dean, Sam, gunshot, blood, nononono- his eyes flew open and he was leaning forward again, dry heaving helplessly as fresh waves of nausea overwhelmed him.
After a couple of minutes, he slumped back, even more tired than before. When he raised a hand to wipe his mouth, he noticed the shaking had gotten worse. He felt a sudden burst of fear. He had always known that everything he had been suppressing over the last few years would catch up with him eventually- how could it not?- but now was seriously the worst time for it to happen. He was on a deadline, and if he couldn't pull himself together fast, the entire future was at stake.
But hey, no pressure, he thought with bitter sarcasm.
A gust of cold wind hit him, and he rubbed his arms. He didn't know why he wasn't feeling happier. Today was a victory. He had resurrected Dean; saved Sam's life. It was what he'd wanted for so long, but so little had gone according to plan. Seeing Wyatt, being forced to relive those memories, and Sam's death- he shuddered again.
And then there was what Wyatt had said, which had sent waves of dizzying fear crashing through him as soon as he'd heard it. No matter what you change, Chris, I'll remember it. I made sure of that, just like you did.
Chris had cast a spell to let him keep track of changes to the timeline, so that he would know for sure when his mission was accomplished. If he ever went back to his time, he would have two sets of memories which would let him know how much he had managed to change. If Wyatt had done the same, then he would know what the original timeline was supposed to be like the second he got back to the future.
And if he chose to go after Dean again, Chris might end up losing Sam anyway. Or worse.
If only Chris could see the future himself- one glimpse to know that Sam was still alive, it would make all of this worth it. But of course, that wasn't an option. After what had happened the last time he had tried-
Chris! Get your ass down here now!
He groaned out loud and resisted the urge to thump his head backwards on the metal surface behind him. Damn it, couldn't he get a second's peace? What could Paige possibly want from him now?
CHRIS! Piper's voice had joined Paige's, and she sounded beyond pissed. You have some serious explaining to do, mister!
What the hell did that mean? He thought back, trying to figure out what he was supposed to have done now, and came up blank. He had just resurrected Dean; couldn't they give him a break before ripping him a new one? He wasn't even sure he was up to orbing right now, let alone a confrontation.
As Phoebe's voice joined her sisters', he realized he had no choice. Praying that his frayed nerves would hold out, he orbed.
"Call Chris down here, now," said Leo, orbing into the manor's living room in a barely controlled flurry of blue-white.
Paige, sitting in the armchair reading a magazine, looked up in surprise.
"Leo!" she said brightly, beginning to stand. "Did you hear how the trial went? Chris and Sam won! We just met Dean – Phoebe's showing them the Book right now–, but I have to say, he's cuter than I thought he'd–"
"Leo?" said Piper, peering through the doorway from the kitchen, drying her hands off on a dish towel. She paused, frowning, as she recognized something on his face that Paige had missed. She set the towel on the counter and walked into the living room slowly. "What's wrong? What happened?"
"Get Phoebe," said Leo. "I need for you to call Chris down here right now. He's been lying to us. The Tribunal just called the Elders to tell us – to tell us what Chris really showed them. Wyatt – he's been lying about Wyatt."
His fists, down at his sides, clenched and unclenched almost convulsively. There was a strange light in his eyes Piper had never seen before – something angry and dangerous and very, very frightened. He was speaking to them with a fragile calm, and Piper wasn't sure what would happen when it broke.
Piper's thoughts raced to Wyatt, and she crossed the room to kneel down beside him in his play pen. Stroking his hair, she yelled towards the stairs, "Phoebe! You guys, come down here; Leo needs to talk to us!"
She picked Wyatt up and held him on her hip as Paige began yelling for Chris, and after a moment of nothing happening, she joined in.
Phoebe, Sam, and Dean came trotting down the stairs, looking concerned.
When Phoebe finally added her voice to the call, without a word of explanation from her sisters or Leo, the familiar orblights began to descend.
Chris' form had barely materialized before Leo stalked forward, face contorted with rage, and punched him in the face.
"You lying son of a bitch!" he roared as Chris staggered from the blow, knocking against the coffee table and sending it skidding. With a wordless snarl, he leapt forward, grabbed Chris' shoulders to keep him from toppling, and drew back his fist to punch him again.
Finally, Piper found her voice amidst the shock. "Leo!" she screamed. She set Wyatt back down in his playpen and flicked her fingers toward the fight, aiming at Leo's flying fist.
It froze in the apex of the hook, and Leo snarled wordlessly again. "Piper, you don't understand!" he said. "This bastard has been lying to us from day one, and now all of your lives are in danger! I'm not going to let that happen! They can't do that because of this worthless fucking coward!"
"Do what, Leo?" asked Piper. Her heart was suddenly hammering against her ribcage, and her lips felt numb with fear, but she kept her voice calm and controlled. She had never seen her ex-husband like this; she had never thought the pacifist whitelighter even had it in him. So, whatever it was that could scare him to this point... "Leo?"
Chris staggered out of Leo's grip, and Piper saw that Leo's punch had been just as brutal as it had looked. Blood flowed freely from Chris' nose, and already, dark splotches grew around it in what would doubtlessly become one big, vicious-looking bruise. He stumbled the rest of the way to the floor and sat, apparently bewildered and not just a little angry about being attacked unprovoked.
"The Tribunal," Leo growled, "called the Elders right after Chris' trial to discuss what to do about what they'd seen."
Maybe Piper imagined it, but she thought she saw Chris' face pale a few shades, his eyes going just a fraction wider.
"Chris didn't come back in time to save Wyatt," Leo continued in that barely controlled growl. "He came back to stop Wyatt from becoming the Source of all evil!"
Silence rang out like a gunshot.
Piper felt her heart drop out of her chest. A little voice somewhere in the back of her mind understood the words and started whispering, "No, no, it can't be, no..." while another voice simply screamed.
Her eyes fell on Chris, who sat frozen, shocked. "You're lying," she breathed. Her voice rose to a scream, and she said, "That can't be; you're lying!"
"It was the Tribunal, Piper," said Leo, sounding like he understood her reaction perfectly. "They have the Circle of Truth. If they say that's what happened, then that's what happened."
"But there's no way!" said Phoebe, speaking up for the first time and looking as distressed as Piper felt. "This is Wyatt. We would never let him become – become something like that. We would stop it, no matter what else happens in the future!"
Paige nodded emphatically. "That's right," she said. "There has to be some kind of misunderstanding –"
"There's not." It was Chris' voice, slightly muffled through the hand that was trying to staunch the blood pouring from his nose. He still looked stunned, but he was adjusting quickly. He said, "I did come back to save Wyatt, I swear that's the truth. But I came back to save Wyatt from becoming evil, not from being hurt by evil. In the future, Wyatt grows up to take over the world, mortal and magical, and he uses his powers to destroy and terrorize. I came back to keep him from ever becoming that, from ever turning. But that's it. I'm still on your side. I still want the same things for Wyatt that you –"
"Chris," Piper interrupted, her voice coming out sharper than broken glass, "shut up. I don't want to hear a word out of you right now, or else I might release Leo's arm and let him shut you up himself. I can't believe a word you say anymore. Now, nod if you understand me."
For a moment, Chris looked even more shocked at her words than Leo's revelation. And then he closed his mouth. He gave a quick, jerking nod.
"Good," said Piper. "Leo, did the Tribunal say anything else? Anything that could prove it or... or help us? What exactly happened?"
For several long seconds, Leo seemed to struggle with himself, battling between anger and despair. Then, finally, the despair won. He closed his eyes and seemed to age ten years before their eyes. His shoulders sagged until he might have been using his frozen arm to keep him upright, the lines in his face deepening into shadowed crevices.
"They threatened to erase Wyatt once and for all if we fail to save him," he said, all life drained from his voice until nothing was left but the pain. "I told them we would never stand for that; that the last time they tried to erase him, you three remembered and fought it until you won. And then... then they said that they would just erase you, too. That it was worth tipping the balance of good and evil against you, as long as it prevented Wyatt from rising to power and taking over both magical and mortal worlds." His face screwed up with the agony of his words, until the anger returned, bitter and ugly. He shouted at Chris, flecks of spit flying, "Do you see what you've done, you bastard? You've put my entire family at risk! They would never be in this position if you'd just kept your goddamn mouth shut! They could all die now, because of you! Is this what you wanted? Is this worth it? Coming back to the past to destroy the Halliwells, my family? You know, I'm glad you're not a real whitelighter, so I can actually kill you once and for all, you son of a bitch!" His voice cracked on the last few words, and he screwed his eyes shut, fighting tears.
Chris had listened to Leo's explanation in the beginning, his face getting progressively paler and paler. The words seemed to hit him like bullets, every new sentence slamming into his chest and leaving a bloody, ragged wound.
"No," he said, his expression the exact picture of Piper's denial only moments ago, learning about Wyatt becoming the Source. He shook his head, apparently unable to adjust to this new development. "No, that's not... that's not... that wasn't part of the plan. I never…"
"Shut up," said Piper, unwilling to witness Chris' shock. "Just shut up, Chris. I don't want to hear a word from you."
She didn't want to be sympathetic. It was his fault. She had a right to be angry. If Leo was serious – and Piper didn't doubt for a second that he was – they would never have been in such a precarious position if he had just left Dean Winchester alone.
Was his life really worth all four of theirs? Her sisters, her son. Herself. They could all be erased from existence over this.
She couldn't believe they had been celebrating it only minutes ago.
"Piper, I swear I never –" Chris began, unheeding of her silence.
"Get out," she said.
Chris didn't move. A distant part of Piper didn't think she'd ever seen him so off his game, so openly surprised so many times in a span of only minutes.
Another part of her mind exploded like a brick of C4. "I said get out! You've been lying to us about everything since the moment you got here! I have no reason to believe you've ever said a single honest word to us! And now you've put the lives of my family – my son, my sisters – into the hands of the most powerful force in the magical world, and they've threatened to annihilate us because of you! Get out, and I don't ever want to see your face again! If Wyatt's in danger, we can save him without your help. Now, GET OUT!"
Chris, his face white and bloody and bruised, eyes wide, whispered, "I'm sorry," and orbed out.
Piper closed her eyes. With an almost absent flick of her fingers, she released Leo's arm, and he let it sink back to his side.
The silence seemed to rush in her ears like a waterfall.
Slowly, she sank back to the ground next to Wyatt's playpen, opened it, and let him crawl into her lap. She didn't know how long they sat there in silence, her fingers stroking her son's hair.
When Chris orbed out, Sam could only stand there, frozen for half a minute. This wasn't what he had wanted. If he had known that this would be the cost of resurrecting Dean- well, it probably wouldn't have changed his mind, but he wouldn't have pushed Chris so hard to resurrect him. He would have waited until Chris managed to save Wyatt. And God, the look on Chris's face...if this cost him his mission, Sam knew the kid wouldn't survive it.
He glanced at Dean, and winced at the tangible waves of guilt rolling off him. This was going to kill his brother, too. He shifted closer to him and said in an undertone, "We should leave."
Dean nodded, and they slipped out of the house, unnoticed by the shell-shocked Charmed Ones. Silently, they got into the Impala. When they could no longer see the house in the rear view mirror, Dean said in a hollow voice, "You should have left me in there."
Sam jerked where he was sitting. "Don't you say that," he said heatedly. "You think I'd let anything stop me from-"
"Sam, the only good witches I've ever met might get erased because my little brother decided to raise me from hell!"
"No one knew that would happen, not even Chris," Sam argued. "And now it's done, and it can't be change. The only thing we can do is help Chris on his mission."
Dean stiffened at Chris's name. "We should probably check on the kid," he said, in an off-hand tone that didn't fool Sam for a second. "He looked like the walking dead when he...left."
"It's called orbing, and I don't know where he is, I guess we could try P3," Sam babbled worriedly. "We'll need to find a motel room close by to stay at. This is going to kill him, Dean. He was already barely getting any rest with the nightmares and the insomnia, and now this. I need to stay here and keep an eye on him, it's the least I can do. If you want to hunt-"
"No," Dean interrupted tersely. "You're right. We have to stay. We can find hunts within the city for the next few months."
They drove to the nightclub in silence. Sam was out of the car the second they pulled into the parking lot. He made a beeline for the back room and barged in without even bothering to knock. He stopped short; worry and disappointment curdling in his gut when he realized the room was empty. And then he noticed the door to the bathroom was slightly ajar.
"Chris, are you in there?" he called, striding towards the bathroom. When there was no response, he warned, "I'm coming in."
He pushed the door all the way open. Chris was sitting cross-legged on the floor, leaning against the shower stall. His face was coated with dried blood, making his pale skin stand out all the more starkly. His eyes were completely blank.
"Hey," Sam said cautiously, crouching before him. "Chris? Are you okay?"
Chris didn't move; his eyes seeming to look right through Sam. Sam scanned his face with an expert eye, and let out a relieved sigh when he saw that Leo hadn't managed to break his nose.
"Chris," he said again, and again it was as if Chris hadn't even heard him. Was he in shock? He exchanged a worried look with Dean, who was hovering awkwardly at the door. "Chris!" he tried again, grabbing Chris's shoulder, and the next thing he knew he was flying back, an unseen force pinning him against the opposite wall.
Dean rushed forward with an angry "What the hell!" but Sam cried frantically, "No, Dean, it's okay- Chris, it's just me! Snap out of it!"
"What-?" Chris gasped as he came out of his daze, and then he spotted Sam. "Fuck," he muttered, and released him abruptly.
"What the hell did you just do to my brother?" Dean demanded, striding forward angrily. He froze in shock when Chris shrank away from him with unmistakable fear.
Sam grimaced as he realized what the younger man had flashed back to. He crouched beside him again. He had never seen Chris this disoriented before. "Hey," he said softly, fighting to keep the worry out of his voice. "He's not a demon, remember? And he never will be, thanks to you. Calm down."
He realized that it was the wrong thing to say when he saw pain and guilt flash through Chris's eyes. "I really fucked up," he said hollowly. "If they die-"
"That is not going to happen," Sam interrupted. "I promise you, we'll find whatever turned him and stop it from happening."
"They threw me out of the house and said they never wanted to see me again," Chris said, his eyes dark with anguish. "Without the Charmed Ones' help, I have no hope of finding this demon. It was already like searching for a needle in the stack of needles, and now-"
"Chris, we'll figure out a way," Sam insisted. "You're not alone in this anymore. But you need to stop worrying about this tonight. You look half dead. You need to sleep."
Chris flinched away from him as if he'd been slapped. "Don't," he said sharply. "You don't get to do that. You're not him. Just because you saw-"
"It's not about that," Sam shot back. "Even if I'm not him yet, I'm still your friend, and I'm still concerned about you. And I'm also right. You can't even get up, can you? You wouldn't have been sitting on the floor so long if you could."
Chris dropped his eyes. "I just need some glucose, and I'll be fine," he muttered.
"No, what you need is something solid to eat and six straight hours of sleep," Sam said, getting to his feet. "Now come on."
He held out a hand to Chris, who waved it away. "Sam, just- can't you just leave me alone?" he said, exasperated. "If I eat something I'll it throw it right back up again. And if I sleep-" He stopped abruptly, as if he had said more than he had intended.
"I'll stay here," Sam said softly. "I can wake you up if you have nightmares." He had done that for Chris before he knew about any of this.
But something snapped in Chris's eyes. "Fuck you, Sam," he said angrily. "I just had to watch you commit suicide for the second time in my life! What the hell do you think I'm going to be dreaming about? You are the last person I want to see right now!"
Sam stepped back, feeling as if he'd been punched in the gut. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dean, white-faced and rigid at what he had heard, but he couldn't focus on that right now. He hadn't realized how painful his own presence must be to Chris. The thought that he would be in his nightmares...
"Chris," he said helplessly, not knowing what to say.
Chris sighed heavily, and all the fight seemed to go out of him. "Just get me the glucose and go, okay?" he said tiredly. "I'll sleep, I promise. I just- please, Sam. I need to be alone right now."
It was the "please" that got to him. He had never heard Chris sound so defeated before. Much as he hated it, he knew his presence was only making things worse.
"Fine," he said, and walked out of the room.