A/N: This is the final chapter. Wow. That's weird to type. I've been working on this for years. It's a little crazy. What will I do with myself? There WILL be, however, an epilogue! Yay! Hopefully that will be posted soon. Now, enjoy the "finale" and remember my two most favourite things: I own no rights to Charmed and make no profit from this, and it's AU after "Prince Charming."
His hands were shaking as he let them hover over Chris.
He wouldn't let him die. He wouldn't. Chris could survive for a few minute after his heart stopped beating; it was possible, wasn't it? It was. Because he was not going to die now, not when it was finally all over.
Warmth gathered inside him and flooded down his arms and out of his hands. This was his son, his boy, and Leo knew he had failed him in the future. He couldn't fail him now, too. His mind flashed to when he'd tried to heal Prue and nothing had happened. It wouldn't be like that.
He had lost charges before, many more than Prue. But he wouldn't lost Chris. He wouldn't.
"Leo," someone murmured.
"No," he said, not taking his eyes off of Chris, "no."
"It's too late," said someone else.
"It's too late?" someone repeated, anger searing her tone. Leo recognised the voice. It was Piper. She was here. She was watching her son die, too (because he wasn't dead yet, he wasn't), and Leo wouldn't let it happen. She wouldn't have to see him die. She wouldn't have to lose him. She wouldn't have to suffer anymore.
He tried to pour himself into his magic, and he felt it surge inside him, but Chris remained motionless.
"How can you let this happen? How can you stand here and watch my son die?"
"Piper, I know that you —"
"No, don't give me that! He's done nothing but good, and he doesn't deserve to die! He deserves to live a life that isn't haunted by the mistakes other people have made!" Piper shouted. People kept talking. Leo tuned them out. He closed his eyes. He laid his hands on Chris's chest, as if somehow that would make the magic work. It had to. Please.
Someone placed a hand on his shoulder. Heat seared Leo. His eyes flickered open, and he looked down to see the golden glow of his magic was blazing. There was another surge of heat through him, and the glow burned white. Yet another gush of heat rolled over him, and the magic beneath his hands grew so bright it blinded him.
He found himself raising up a hand to block his eyes.
And then it was over.
He reached his hands to Chris again, because he wasn't going to stop, he was going to kneel on the attic and pour himself into Chris until his son was okay. But his hands paused, and something inside him choked.
Chris was looking at him. He was blinking and suddenly he started coughing, and he lurched forward. Leo just managed to catch him. Someone started laughing, maybe Phoebe, but Leo didn't care, because it had worked.
Chris was alive.
Chris was alive.
"It's okay," Leo told Chris, trying to steady him. "You're okay. You're okay." He repeated the mantra in his head. Piper was beside him a moment later, wrapping her arms around Chris and pressing kiss after kiss to his temple.
Leo slowly pulled away, disbelief making him delirious, and his eyes landed on the five Elders that stood nearby — Adonis, Meredith, Lilah, Cassandra, and Augustus. Lilah smiled. "You're welcome," she said.
"What happened?" Chris asked, Piper helping him to his feet.
"We did it," Phoebe said tearfully. She was hugging Wyatt to her, and the small boy looked a little bored, if anything. He was okay. He was unharmed. He was safe. "You and Leo did it," Phoebe said. Leo glanced over at Gideon's body, at the Elder who had betrayed him, at the Elder he had killed, and his eyes flew quickly back to the others.
"We understand," Augustus said. "He had fallen from grace, and it was the only way. He must face other judges now." He nodded solemnly.
"Thank you," Phoebe said. "Thank you for helping save him. Thank you so much."
Leo glanced at Chris. The boy's expression was unreadable.
Adonis reached forward and placed a hand on Leo's shoulder. "You have been through much, Leo. We hope that you have not lost faith, not in goodness, not it us. In the coming storm, we will need you."
His mind flashed to the all the times he hadn't been able to heal as a whitelighter because the Elders hadn't allowed it, because it was too late, they said. This time they had added their magic to his in order to ensure that it wasn't too late. They had saved Chris.
Gideon had fallen. It wasn't Leo's fault. It was Gideon who hadn't understood.
"I haven't lost faith," Leo said. He looked over at Phoebe and Wyatt, at Paige, at Chris and Piper, at his family, and something inside him that had absolutely nothing do with magic warmed.
"We must be on our way," Cassandra said. "The others need to be informed. Things are going to change." Her grim eyes fixed on Gideon. "I will take care of him." She went over to the body, kneeling down beside it. Leo looked away.
"There's one more thing," Lilah said, tilting her head as she looked at Leo. "You have attacked and attempted to manipulate other Elders, Leo," she said. "That can not go unpunished."
Leo swallowed thickly. "I did what I had to do," he said.
"He was trying to do good," Phoebe defended.
"He killed another Elder," said Augustus.
"You yourself just said that was okay!" Paige exclaimed.
"I'm sorry," said Meredith. "But it is necessary."
"You're fucking yourselves over," Chris said. Leo's head snapped to his son. Chris wasn't looking at him, wasn't addressing him. His eyes were trained on the other Elders. "You keep talking about a growing storm and how you have to hold strong against it and we shouldn't lose faith, but you're trying to punish the best you've got? Are you kidding me?"
It took Leo a moment to realise what Chris had just said. Had he misunderstand? Was Chris actually defending him? A new kind of hope soured up within him and curled around his heart.
"For someone who's life we have just saved," Augustus replied sharply, "you show astoundingly little respect."
"So sue me," Chris snapped.
"At least he's consistent," Paige said cheerfully. "That's something, right?"
Augustus only crossed his arms over his chest.
"We still hope for your help in the future," Lilah said, "all of your help." Her eyes flickered over the Charmed Ones. "But, Leo Wyatt, you do not belong with us. Not any longer. You have proven more than once that you are a man better suited to serve on Earth than with us. You are a whitelighter. You are a husband, a brother-in-law, and a father. These duties are those to which you give your loyalty."
Leo stared. He knew what his punishment was. "You're — you're demoting me?" he asked.
"I suppose that would be the word," Meredith said. And then she smiled. "Thank you, Leo, for everything. Do not be a stranger." She nodded at Cassandra, and they both orbed, Gideon disappearing with them.
"That is okay, isn't it?" Lilah asked, a kind of twinkle in her seven-year-old eyes. Adonis and Augustus were both looking at him expectantly.
Leo's eyes found Paige, Phoebe, and Wyatt. They were awaiting his answer, too. His gaze travelled to Chris and Piper. Chris was staring determinedly at the ground. But Piper met Leo's stare, and he could see the answer in her face, an answer that had always been there, even if he hadn't always seen it.
"That's okay," Leo murmured.
"I rather thought so," Lilah said. And she orbed. Leo could have sworn she winked as she left. Adonis stared at Leo, and a gush of something cold swam through him. Adonis nodded and orbed. Augustus followed soon after.
Leo wasn't an Elder any longer.
He looked back at Piper. Her eyes were gleaming with tears. She stepped away from Chris. She bit her lip. She started to smile. He found himself smiling, too, and suddenly she was walking towards him, and the moment she was within his reach, he wrapped his arms around her. She was warm and alive and his, and how had he ever thought it possible to leave this, to leave her?
"You're coming home," she said.
"I'm coming home," he answered. He closed his eyes momentarily, taking a deep breath of her, and he knew that he wasn't coming home. "I already am." After all, wasn't that what she was?
She pulled back slightly, wiping at her eyes, and laughed slightly. He felt a little as if she had just kissed him for the first time or they had just gone on their first real date or they had just finally exchanged their wedding vows. He felt a little as if as something was beginning, something that was so right, just like all those past moments that had made them who they are.
Looking at her, he knew it wouldn't be easy. It never was. After everything they had gone through, after the way he had left as if he didn't have a choice, after all the doubt and confusion and heart wrenching separation, they couldn't simply start back where they had left off. But they could start somewhere, and it would eventually be the way it was supposed to be, because they were Leo and Piper, and they were supposed to be together from the beginning.
They had been, and after this, they always would be.
The next thing knew, Phoebe and Paige were both approaching him, and his three favourite women were surrounding him, were hugging him, and Wyatt giggled as he was pressed between his aunt and his father.
"You made a sucky Elder anyway," Paige told him. Leo laughed.
"Wait," said Piper, stepping back and glancing around the room. "Where's —?"
She looked back at Leo. Some of the giddiness faded from him. Wyatt made a cooing sound, waving his tiny fist through the air, lost in his own world from his perch in Phoebe's arms. No one said anything.
Chris was gone.
He slowly sat down on the bed.
It still seemed strange that he had spent the last year living in P3. He hadn't been able to step foot in it for years, not after his mother had died in it. Once the world really went to hell, the building was destroyed in one of Wyatt's many demonic battles — Chris couldn't remember which, because, hell, who really cared? — and P3 became part of hazy memories that meant as little as everything else from his childhood.
Yet he lived here now, in this back room, on the make shift bed. Piper had entreated him multiple times in the last few weeks to come live in the house, but there wasn't room, and he had sort of grown attached to his back room.
He'd be leaving it soon. Now that he'd done what he'd come to do, now that he'd saved Wyatt, there was no reason to stay in the past any longer. He'd finally done what he'd planned for months. He had saved his family. If it had worked, if it had really worked, then they would all still be alive.
When he went to the changed future, would he remember how it had once been? What would it be like to have his mom and aunts still alive? Would they have the memory of when he'd returned to the past? They would have to. And what about Leo — would he really forgo becoming an Elder? What would it be like growing up with him?
"Don't you see that you've already lost? You lost the day Chris came back to the past."
The words echoed in his head. The events of the last few hours were mainly blurred. He had been on the brink of death, after all. But he could remember Leo's words, could remember listening as his father faced off with Gideon while the rest of the world turned black at the edges.
"It was Chris. He's already stopped you."
He couldn't really fathom that his father had actually killed Gideon. And then the other Elders had helped save Chris. It went against everything Chris had always known growing up. What did all of that mean for the new future? And did it even matter what it meant? What were the chances Chris would remember any of this? Would it have been simpler if he simply died, and eight or so months from now when Piper had him, he would be raised in a new future and never have to return to the past?
"It wasn't Wyatt who got you. It was Chris. Both my sons are better than you."
And, of course, there was the question of whether or not they had really done it. Did this really guarantee that Wyatt wouldn't turn evil? Was Gideon the one who, single-handedly, had turned him? Chris's spinning mind slowly stopped and steeled. He needed to make sure.
He orbed to her apartment. She wasn't there. He orbed to her lair in the underworld. She wasn't there. He was about to orb to her father's lair when she shimmered into the room. "You're alive," she said. Her eyes flickered from his head to feet and back again. "Pity."
"Is it changed?" he asked. There was no point beating around the bush.
"I was expecting you to come sooner, if you lived. I suppose it took you a little while to . . . fathom it all." She splayed her hand in the air with a dramatic air. She shimmered again and reappeared on the stone table at the far end of the room, leaning back on one arm with her legs crossed as she tilted her head at him.
"Is. It. Changed?" he demanded, gritting his teeth.
She bit her lip. "What if I say no?"
"Then I'll expect you to explain who's after him next and why killing Gideon wasn't enough," he replied sharply. He wasn't in the mood to play games.
"Oh, so persistent," she said. "You really do love your brother, don't you?"
"We don't all get our kicks killing off our siblings," Chris snapped.
"That's because no one ever tries," she said. "I bet you'd like it if only you'd give it a chance." Her lips curled back in her awful grin, one he had seen so many times in the future.
He only stared at her, willing her to give an answer.
"What I see," she finally said, a kind of gleam in her eye, "is many battles between you and I. After all, I can't very well have her kill me, can I? The silly girl will try. And you'll do everything you can to protect her from my wrath until she can protect herself. Fights between you and I will ensue. It's unclear who will win. Future telling always has been a fickle fiend. But I suppose that's a worry for another day, isn't it?"
Chris had dealt with a cryptic Salome before. He knew how to spot the key. "Who's she?" he asked. This better be some ridiculous roundabout way of answering his question. He could hear Piper calling in his head, but he ignored her.
"Melinda," she said simply, her voice curling around the name.
He frowned. "Who's Melinda?"
"Your baby sister." The words hung in the air. "She's a bratty little girl, if you ask me," Salome went on. "She gets whatever she wants, because if anyone tries to argue with the precious darling, her beloved big brothers interfere. The only forces of good as annoying as the oh-so-powerful Charmed Ones are the tag team Wyatt and Chris Halliwell." She rolled her eyes as if annoyed, but the smirk never left her face.
She was taking way too much enjoyment out of all of this.
But Chris didn't care. He took a quick, shallow breath.
It had worked.
"It looks like you can count this one as a victory," Salome said breezily. "Good triumphs." The words rang with her scorn, yet she was smirking at him. "Of course, I can't deny that I'm all for this turn of events. I suppose I should even thank you." She paused, her eyes flashing, "I rather like the idea of not being his darling."
Chris's mind spun with all the possibilities once more. Wyatt would never turn evil. Wyatt would never turn evil. No matter what it changed, it was a good thing. The changes would be good. He would have a sister. His family would live. His mother would live. Penny would live. The world wouldn't be terrorised. Wyatt would be somebody to count on again.
Wyatt would never turn evil.
"Oh, look at you," Salome cooed, the sound strange with her raspy voice, "all delighted. You almost look happy. A new feeling for you, is it?"
Chris only smiled. A sudden burst of fondness for Salome grew up within him. How messed up was that? He shook his head. He really had gone soft in the past. And maybe, he thought, maybe that wasn't such a terrible thing. After all, there wouldn't be a Resistance to fight for in the future, would there?
"You've never been anybody's darling," Chris finally replied.
"Let's keep it that way," Salome said. "Keep an eye on Mellie — I certainly will be." And looking immensely pleased with herself, Salome Wentworth shimmered away.
"Mellie," Chris murmured.
He orbed back to P3 and lay back on his small bed. It occurred to him that maybe he should have asked after Bianca. He had only met her through Wyatt's evil, through Salome saying that Chris would turn evil if Bianca could seduce him. Would he be able to find her and turn her and get a happy ending with her now, in the changed future?
"Yes," he told himself. Because it was what he wanted, and after all of this, Chris was going to get what he wanted, what had nothing to do with his family or with the Resistance or with Wyatt. This one would be all for him.
A kind of excitement to return to the future and see it all righted bloomed inside him. He had to go back soon.
Someone orbed into the room, and Chris sat up just in time to greet Paige. "Hey," he said, picturing her in the future, wondering what it would be like for her to be alive, for her to be the person she now was. Would she still get divorced? Would she be the person she is now? Had that changed?
"Hey yourself," she replied, putting her hands on her hips. "You're not really trying to worm your way out a celebratory dinner, are you? Because Piper will come after you with that huge industrial cooking pot of hers and those scary kitchen knifes Phoebe bought her last Christmas."
"What?" Chris said. "Are you saying you don't think I could take her?"
"Have you seen those knives? I fear for my own life just looking at them."
Chris shook his head at her, smiling. "I just had to check a few things." He paused. "I talked to Salome."
Paige's face lit up. "And?"
"And we did it," he said, he found the words tumbling out of him, as if not saying them quickly enough would make the less true, would make them lose their value as time passed. But they were true. It was true. "We changed it. Wyatt never turns evil."
Paige pumped a triumphant fist in the air. "Damn straight we did!" She grinned widely, and then her face softened. "Damn straight you did, kid."
"Yeah," he said, nodding. "Yeah." It was quiet, and Chris found himself thinking of the changed future again, or how different it would all be. Would he have gone to college in the changed future? Would he be in college when he returned?
Penny used to want to go to Stanford.
"So how about you come home?" Paige asked. "We'll all get a nice home-cooked meal to celebrate, and Piper won't come after you with knives and beat you over the head with her industrial pot? It's a win-win," she said.
"Well, if you put it like that," he said, standing. She laughed a little, and Chris thought again of what it would be like growing up with this Paige as an aunt. They both orbed.
"There you are!" Piper exclaimed before either Chris or Paige had fully materialised. "You can't go running off like that." She was smiling as she looked at them.
"Chris went to see Salome," Paige said.
"Ooh, what did you get out of her?" Phoebe asked from the kitchen table. "Did it work? Is all right in the future?" She looked eagerly between Chris and Paige.
Chris only nodded.
"Of course it is!" Piper said. She beamed. "Now sit," she told Chris. "I'm making lasagna, and you're not leaving this kitchen until it's been made, served, and you've had three servings."
"As long as you put extra cheese on it," Chris said, sitting down beside Phoebe. His mom always used to make it with extra cheese. He didn't like it otherwise, and for that reason, hadn't eaten a bite of the dish since he was thirteen.
"I always do," Piper said.
In the future, would he come home from breaks at college to have his mom make him lasagna?
"We should do something completely fun and crazy this weekend," Phoebe said. "I'll turn in my column in advance and we can all get out of town, orb somewhere — where's somewhere you always wanted to go?" she asked Chris.
He had never much thought of where he'd want to go on vacation. The last time he longed to, he had probably been about ten, and Disney Land had topped his list. He wasn't sure he would like vacation, would like a week or a weekend spent sitting around doing nothing.
"I don't know," he said, shrugging. "But I won't be with you, so where have you always wanted to go?"
"Oh, of course you're coming with us, sweetie," Phoebe said dismissively, as if wasn't even up for discussion.
"What else are you gonna do?" asked Paige. "Sit around and brood? You've got nothing left to brood about."
But Piper was looking at him thoughtfully, and he knew she understand what had somehow momentarily escaped Phoebe and Paige. "So soon?" she asked softly.
He nodded. At Phoebe's puzzled face, he said, "I have to go back. This isn't my time. I don't belong here. I've done what I came to do. It's time for me to go home."
"Oh," Phoebe said. "I hadn't even . . . wow. That's weird to think about. I've gotten so use to you being around." She smiled. "But maybe you could wait a little while? A few more weeks? We never really got to enjoy just being a family."
He shook his head. "I don't belong here," he said. "I never have."
"Do you know how to get back?" Piper asked. "I mean, safely?"
"The spell that brought me here can be reversed," Chris said. "It's what Bianca did."
It was quiet.
"Well," Paige said. "You're not going back tonight, are you?"
Chris shook his head.
"Then let's enjoy tonight," she said. "Right?" She looked at Phoebe, who nodded and echoed the word.
They went on talking about inconsequential things, joking, discussing P3 and how it could still be so successful when they all neglected it for so long. Phoebe started doing impressions of the people who worked at the paper with her that made Paige laugh so hard she started crying. Paige announced an ambition to become a social worker again and to go skydiving and to try dying her hair blonde.
"Please don't," Chris said. He thought she looked strange enough with fading red hair.
"Oh, yeah, sweetie, you wouldn't look good blonde," Phoebe said. "Well, actually, you always look good, but blonde would just be weird."
"Says the girl who dyed her hair blonde while I was on vacation and couldn't stop her," Piper said. Phoebe stuck her tongue out at her.
Chris looked down at his can of Pepsi. It was all so normal and simple and easy. He supposed maybe sometime when he was little there had been moments like this. Maybe before Paige and Phoebe became invested and obsessed with their own lives, maybe before Piper had started to struggle to support her family, maybe when Chris was little and didn't understand the things that went wrong, maybe before Chris had finally really acknowledged that Leo didn't love him.
Chris glanced around. Leo wasn't there. Where had he gone? He had killed Gideon, his mentor, and then been stripped of his powers as an Elder. Was he upset? His earlier words echoed through Chris yet again.
"Where's Leo?" he asked.
Phoebe, who had been in the middle of saying something, paused, looking surprised. She glanced at Piper and Paige. "I don't know," she said.
"He said he needed a little time to himself," Piper said. Her voice was soft. "I thought he deserved it. This has been hard on him, and it's probably going to stay hard for a while." She cleared her throat. "But he'll be back for dinner, I'm sure. Don't worry."
Chris nodded. "I'm gonna see if I can find him," he said. The last thing he saw before he orbed was the clear shock on Phoebe's face.
He knew where to go. He might never have been close with Leo, but he still knew enough about the man, and, sure enough, Leo sat atop the Golden Gate Bridge, gazing down at the city with a blank face. He looked over at Chris's arrival and smiled. "Piper send you?" he asked knowingly.
"She's still working on dinner," Chris replied, and he sat down beside Leo. He didn't really know what he was doing, and he stared out at the sky rather than face Leo, who was surely taken aback.
"Chris," Leo said hesitantly, "I . . ." He sighed. "I know nothing has changed between us, and I know you must be — I know you'll return to the future soon. But I want you to know that I don't regret killing Gideon, because it was what I had to do to protect Wyatt and to protect you, and I might have done wrong by you in your past, but I'm not going to in my future."
It sounded as if he had been planning what to say.
Chris looked down at his hands. "Those things you said," he murmured. "To Gideon. You said . . ." He paused. He didn't even know what he was saying. "It's not easy, you know, being Wyatt Halliwell's little brother. And for as long as I can remember, I've been Wyatt's baby brother. I mean, everybody knows me through Wyatt. I've never just been Chris. I've always been Wyatt's brother. And I . . . I don't even know what I'm trying to say."
He looked back out across the cloudless sky.
"Chris," Leo said, and a hesitant hand touched Chris's shoulder. "I know that Wyatt is powerful. But magic doesn't define us. The choices we make, the people we become, the hearts we touch, the lives we change . . . the battles we choose to fight, no matter the cost — that's what matters.
"Everyone knows how powerful the Charmed Ones are," Leo went on. "But what makes them great, what makes them . . . what makes them the Charmed Ones isn't just their powers. It's their sisterhood, their love for each other, their . . . I don't know who Wyatt will become. But I know you will be a good man. A great man. You're determined and — and passionate and loyal and . . and good. You, Chris, regardless of who your brother is or what he does or the magic he possesses, you are everything that the Charmed Ones are. You're their legacy.
"And no matter what happens, remember that. Be proud of that. And know that I'm proud of you for that. I'm proud of my boy."
The stupid wind was making Chris's eyes water.
He glanced over at his father. "You've never said that before. That you're proud of me." He choked on a laugh, unable to hold Leo's gaze and instead staring back off into the sky again. "I never thought I was good enough for you. And at some point, I stopped trying to be, or I told myself I'd stopped, and I said it didn't matter, but it always . . . it always mattered."
It had always mattered.
He grew up thinking of himself as the accident after his parents had tried for years to have Wyatt, as the weak little boy who his father had sacrificed to heal, as the little boy who was never as smart or fast or strong or powerful, as the little boy who just wasn't worth the trouble. And the only way to deal with that was to say that he didn't care.
Wyatt had always known that Chris did care.
And so had Chris.
"Believe me, Chris," Leo said. "You're plenty good enough for me. And when Piper has her baby, when she has you, I'll make sure I tell that baby how good enough he is, how proud of him I am, and how much I love him every single day."
Chris faced him again, and his father squeezed his shoulder, and this time when they orbed to the Manor, Chris knew he really was coming home.
"I can't believe you're really leaving," Phoebe said. "I'm so used to having you around."
"I'll be around again soon," Chris said, nodding at Piper.
"I know," Phoebe said, "but I have a feeling changing your diapers isn't really going to be the same."
"Um, speaking of which . . . can I sign up for another duty?" Paige volunteered. "Like making sure he doesn't eat marbles or something?" She made a face.
Piper shook her head at the both of them and Chris was momentarily distracted by the idea of the Paige and Phoebe he knew, the Paige and Phoebe who were more his friends than his aunts at this point, changing his diapers and wiping his spit-up and spoon-feeding him. It would be as weird for them as it was for him to see his mother and aunts young and alive.
Leo finished drawing the triquetra in chalk on the wall of the attic. "Is it wrong that I'm a little nervous?" Chris asked. He had no idea what to expect. How could he not be nervous?
"I'd be freaking out if I were you," Paige said.
"You can stay another day if you'd like," Piper suggested hopefully.
"No," Chris said, taking a deep breath. "It's time." He stared at the chalk symbol. "Do you think I'll remember?"
"Do you want to?" asked Phoebe.
"Honestly?" Chris said. "I have no idea."
He finally looked from the attic wall to see they were all watching him. "Well," Paige said, "I guess I'll go first." She stepped towards him. "I'm really gonna miss you and your neurotic ways."
"I guess I'm trying to say that I don't want you to start calling me Aunt Paige and I don't want a hug and I'm not going to force anything down your throat, but I just . . . I just want you to know that you can talk to me."
He smiled. "I'll miss you, too, Aunt Paige." But maybe he wouldn't, because she would be waiting in the future.
"Now here comes the hugging," she warned, smiling, and she hugged him. He tried to remember the last time he had hugged his aunt Paige. He wasn't sure he ever had before. She pulled back. "Say Hi to Penny for me," she said, grinning. "And if I'm still smoking in the changed future, buy me a nicotine patch, will you?"
"Sure," he promised, smiling despite himself.
Phoebe came forward next, and she squeezed him tightly. "Ooh, I wish we'd had longer with you, even if we get baby you soon enough."
"You are so strong, Chris. So much like Prue. You have this determination, and this goodness in you that I see, and I — I see it and I know, I know that I could love you even if you weren't my family if only I had the chance to. If only you would let me. And maybe if I can, then I will be a good aunt one day."
He laughed. "Thanks, Aunt Phoebe. Thanks for everything."
What would it be like growing up with this Phoebe for an aunt?
"Of course," she said, stepping away. "Family takes care of each other, right?" She tilted her head, and before he knew what was happening, she was hugging him again. Paige laughed. "Be good!" Phoebe said, kissing his cheek as she finally let him go.
When she stepped back, she was wiping away tears. She looked at him with a soft expression. "Enjoy that beautiful, beautiful future you helped create." She wiped away another tear. Paige grinned at him and wrapped an arm around Phoebe's shoulder.
"I guess it's my turn, right?" Piper asked. Chris turned to her. It wasn't really goodbye, right? She would be in the future. She would be alive. It wasn't goodbye. He hugged her, his eyes flickering closed. She smelt like his mom. "Thank you for coming here," she said quietly, running a hand over his hair. "I love you."
"It's okay . . . it's okay. You've saved me now. You've saved me. . . . It's okay. You saved me."
"I love you, too," he murmured, "I love you so, so much, Mom." He pulled back and she smiled up at him, wrapping an arm around her stomach.
And then all that was left was to say goodbye to Leo.
"Goodbye," Leo said. "Good luck." He smiled. He didn't try to approach Chris. There was reserve in his eye, a restraint to respect Chris, but there was also a kind of determination, and Chris knew for what. Leo really did believe he was going to do right by Chris the second time around.
And Chris finally believed him.
"You're my son. I love you. There is nothing that could ever change that."
He stepped towards his father. Leo was surprised, Chris could tell, but he opened his arms, and for the first time in his memory, Chris hugged his father, and it might have been a little awkward, a little strange, but it was enough.
It was enough.
"I love you, son," Leo said. Chris pulled back and nodded.
"I know," he said. It was barely a whisper, then, but, looking at Leo, he said what had long been his best kept secret. "I love you, too."
It all happened quickly, then. The sisters said the spell, the triquetra glowed and the portal opened. Glancing one last time at his family, at little Wyatt playing on the ground with his toys, oblivious to the world around him. "See you, buddy," Chris said. He waved his hand.
Wyatt smiled, biting his lip. "Bye bye!" He waved a chubby fist. Piper gasped. "Bye bye, Chris," Wyatt repeated, giggling. "Bye bye."
"Brothers have got to stick together, right?"
And before he could lost his courage, Chris stepped into the portal and went back to the future.
A/N: What did I say about happy endings? There is an epilogue; it's an exciting look at the future Chris returns to, with a little twist. It should be up soon. Please review!