part 2 (saving himself)

&

The footnote of the whole time-traveling fiasco was the sisters discovering – quite on accident – that Chris was not just a whitelighter, but also a witch. Chris probably should have minded more than he did, but he was grieving and frustrated and increasingly tired. He forgot about it entirely until Paige brought it up again: "So, what's your powers?"

Chris scowled at her and Paige rolled her eyes. "You know, your witch powers. You're half-whitelighter, half-witch, like me, right?"

"Right," Chris said, answering shortly because he really didn't want to be having this conversation.

"So?"

"So …?" Chris echoed, purposely being obtuse.

"So what's your power?" Paige looked exasperated by this point.

"Telekinesis, not that it matters, and can we please get back to making a potion for the Praxor demon?"

"Wow. Like – orbing telekinesis, or like Prue telekinesis?" Chris glared at her, and Paige huffed. "Just asking. What, you think telling us your powers falls under 'future consequences'?" Paige asked, making quotes in the air and deepening her voice to mock Chris'.

"You weren't even supposed to know that I'm part witch," Chris pointed out, putting down a bottle of thyme with a little too much force.

"Well, we do now, so what's it gonna hurt?" Paige asked, shrugging dramatically. "Oh, wait a minute, do you know your parents? I mean, did the Elders lighten up on the whole witch-whitelighter thing because of me entirely, or—"

"Hey, I have an idea. How about we finish making this potion sometime today?" Chris snapped.

"Paige! How's that potion coming?" Piper shouted from Wyatt's bedroom.

"It's coming just fine!" Paige shouted back. When she turned back to Chris, though, he was gone.

&

While 'vacationing', Chris vanquished thirty-eight demons. He also fell into depression. There was no end to the parade of demons that could turn Wyatt, and even if he stopped one event from occurring, how could he hope to stop all of them? Just because he stopped the event in the original timeline didn't mean something else couldn't come along and undo all his hard work.

There was one surefire way to protect Wyatt from all demonic threats, and he almost thought the sisters would go for it: binding Wyatt's powers. They all whined about magic ruling their life and Wyatt was just one long magical problem, right? Binding his powers would cut their demonic problems by half at least!

It was just his luck, then, that he caught them on an upswing in their relationship with magic. Piper didn't want to bind Wyatt's powers because she didn't want Wyatt to grow up like she had, not knowing her magical heritage. Paige, of course, agreed – she loved magic – and Phoebe trusted her sisters over Chris.

He wasn't above manipulation, however, and he almost – almost! – got them to agree by messing with Paige's magical 'perfect man' gift for Piper's birthday, but in the end his plans blew up in his face and the whole thing almost ended in worse disaster when Wyatt was kidnapped under their noses.

Chris had read about the demons that did it, and remembered a very truncated version of the story of the Order, a group of demons that used a magical device to turn Wyatt towards evil. Even in the original timeline they had saved Wyatt before Wyatt was physically kidnapped; Chris cursed himself violently for getting distracted for even a moment. It ended up being a very, very close rescue.

The good news was, the rescue was easy because Wyatt didn't trust Chris; when it was over, Wyatt stopped raising his shield upon sighting his future younger brother.

The bad news was, Chris, stuck between a rock and a hard place, found himself confessing the truth about the future to the sisters: Wyatt was evil and had to be stopped.

He wasn't particularly surprised when they kicked him out the front door on his ass.

&

Trust wasn't supposed to be an easy thing: in the Halliwell family, trust was only granted to members of the family and a few select people outside it. Exposure was a constant risk, one that the sisters took very seriously; everyone in the family knew how Aunt Prue had died. Even in the magical community most people had an angle when they wanted to befriend the Charmed Ones or the Twice Blessed or the extended family, and often things were not what they seemed (with the number of concealment spells Chris knew, even as a child, he was well aware there had to be many more).

Thus 'Christopher Perry' was proud of what little trust he had managed to establish with his future aunts and mother, despite Leo and despite the Elders and despite everything else working against him.

The irony was murder: when he finally came clean, they assumed he was lying. A surprise? No. But Chris was not ashamed to admit he was offended. They already think he's a golden child and all he's done is wave his arms around and make a few magical messes! It was hard to not resent them – and Wyatt – for it all.

&

Chris' mother was a pessimist. She rarely dared to look on the bright side of things; on the occasions she did brighten up, it was usually just in time for disaster to strike. In all honesty Chris had largely forgotten about this, since she was always telling her sons to look for the positive.

He vaguely remembered Wyatt calling her on it: "Mom, you're always saying the worst things are gonna happen …"

"Do as I say, not as I do," Mom had replied, flinging a finger in the air and turning on her heel to get the chicken out of the oven.

"But you are saying it," Wyatt protested.

"Wyatt!" Piper had barked, and Wyatt had ducked his head and grinned.

So for Piper's birthday he left a mug that said 'This glass is always half-empty (even when it's full)' on her desk at P3. He didn't leave a card and he wondered which sister Piper would blame for the present. He also wondered if she would get angry or think it was funny. Probably both, he decided.

Chris figured he'd gotten his pessimism from his mother. Leo, for all his flaws, wasn't a downbeat person. Besides, it was easier to expect the worst when the worst was all you got.

Or maybe he was just a realist. Getting kicked out of the Charmed Ones' lives put a severe bump in the road, but as he lay in the dark on the too-short couch in P3's office, he decided all was not lost. In the end the sisters would decide they couldn't risk the possibility that Chris was telling the truth; they would invite him back, cautiously, unhappily, but they would need him to guide them to saving their son/nephew. It was the wait that would kill him.

It killed him more to admit that Leo's advice was good: "Don't manipulate them, even for a good cause." Perhaps he had only delayed the inevitable by not telling them the truth right away. Maybe knowing the truth from the beginning would have been the kind of motivation the Charmed Ones needed to keep up the pace.

That didn't mean he was going to tell them his biggest secret, especially now.

&

Piper didn't kick Chris out of P3, and Chris did his best to not be anywhere near the club when Piper was around. He occasionally orbed into the house to take a look at the Book of Shadows and took care not to be seen by the sisters. A growing list of demons that could only be eliminated by the Power of Three sat in his back pocket. However, another problem began to gnaw at him constantly, driving him to distraction.

He had to be conceived soon, or the biggest time paradox in the history of magic was about to occur. But Leo and Piper showed no signs of interest in each other, and they certainly weren't having sex. What Chris could do about it he didn't know, but he had to do something. His uncle, Aunt Phoebe's husband, would have told him to trust in the Grand Design to make sure he was born. Chris was pretty sure he had fucked the Grand Design sideways by being responsible for the very event that would prevent his own conception. He spent sleepless nights writing up recipes for love potions and scheming ways to slip it to his parents, only to throw out his work in the morning.

Off and on he wished he could get Phoebe's advice: she was an advice columnist and she helped strangers all the time. Why couldn't she help her own sister!? But asking Phoebe about getting Piper and Leo back together introduced so many complications he could barely count the variables. One, how would he get on Phoebe's good side enough to ask her? He was still in the metaphorical doghouse for telling the truth about Wyatt. And even if he did, Phoebe would want to know why he was asking. Chris hadn't made much effort to hide his animosity towards Leo, after all, so why would he want Piper and Leo to hook up again? If Phoebe figured out he was actually Piper and Leo's second son, then it would only be a matter of days before the rest of the family found out; she couldn't keep a secret to save her life.

When the aunt in question visited him in his little room in P3, she asked him The Question point-blank: "Are you Wyatt's little brother?"

A wave of terror and a wave of relief crashed over him simultaneously.

"Only if I can get Piper and Leo back together in time," he heard himself say, and relief carried the day as he thought Aunt Phoebe will know what to do. She always knows what to do when it's about couples.

Then she hugged him, and for a second Chris forgot everything and just felt happy.

&

He should have seen it coming; after all, Phoebe's power was that of premonition, and so she was the natural sister to discover Chris' identity. Nonetheless he had counted on Phoebe's inability to have premonitions from years in the future (except in a few isolated instances). Her powers must have expanded; Aunt Phoebe could have a premonition regarding just about anything she wanted to in the future, after all.

She tried to help Wyatt with his own precognition, but the power based in the moon phases was not an easy one to control and Wyatt made a poor student. It was the only power he hadn't mastered immediately, and so he never truly mastered it, unable to be bothered to struggle with one power when so many came naturally to him.

Chris made fun of Wyatt when he got visions as a kid, which Wyatt took in good fun until he turned fourteen and thought Chris was annoying. He faked visions as often as he actually got them, anyway, just to get a reaction out of their mom or Aunt Phoebe: once he picked up a coffee mug in the kitchen and suddenly jerked his shoulders, gasping. Mom nearly dropped the orange juice she was holding. "What is it?"

Wyatt opened his eyes. "I saw … you drinking coffee from this coffee cup!"

Chris had laughed: he was ten and easily amused. Their mother snatched the coffee cup from her son's hands. "Very funny," she said in that sarcastic tone she loved. Wyatt snickered.

But Aunt Phoebe insisted that Wyatt could get premonitions about anything he wanted to if he learned how. Wyatt shrugged. "What if I don't wanna know?"

"But your visions could save innocents," Phoebe pointed out. "You got this power for a reason, Wyatt."

"Right," Wyatt said, but he didn't seem very enthusiastic.

"I'd find out about the future all the time," Chris had put in, headstrong and ready to grab any attention he could. "Then I'd save everybody."

Aunt Phoebe had smiled at him. "That's so sweet!" She tried to pinch Chris' cheek, but he leaned away, making a face, and her smile died a little. "But you can't save everybody, honey."

&

But reality returned like a brick to the head.

"Why didn't you tell us?" Phoebe asked, sitting on the couch Chris slept on with her elbows resting on her knees.

Chris paced the room; it was nine steps from one end to the other. He glanced at Phoebe before glaring at the far wall. "Would you have believed me?" he shot back, his pent-up frustration over the last few weeks coming out in a flow he couldn't stop.

"Of cour—well … okay, I don't know," Phoebe admitted, but she rushed to continue, "But it doesn't matter! This changes everything—"

"It doesn't change anything," Chris pointed out. "What does it change? Does this mean you believe me now just because I'm family? That's great," he barked, throwing his hands up. "But if I'm not born then it's not exactly like we'll have ever had this conversation."

"Yeah, see, that's just weird," Phoebe complained, rubbing her forehead. "How did you say this happened again?"

Chris sighed and flopped onto the other end of the couch, resting his head back and looking at the ceiling. He was intimately familiar with this ceiling now. There were thirty-two cracks in it. "It's my fault. I've created a time paradox. This is exactly why time travel isn't allowed."

"Well, you know, it's not like there's not some time for Piper and Leo to cool down, get their bearings, maybe get back together …" Phoebe temporized.

"Is that all the advice you can offer? Hope for the best?" Chris groaned. I'm not being fair, he thought. No wonder nobody wants to help me. When they finally do wanna help me all I do is snap at them.

"Honey, you can't force love," was all Phoebe said, perhaps used to these exasperated outbursts.

"But they don't have to be in love. They just have to, you know … do it." It was weird to say it out loud for the first time.

"Chris, I cannot believe you," Phoebe laughed – actually laughed! Chris lifted his head to stare at her. "Piper is not just a baby incubator!"

Chris buried his head in his hands, his stomach twisted in knots – disgusted with himself for thinking of his mom that way, and so anxious he couldn't help but continue to think that way, his mental detachment of Piper-the-Mom from Piper-of-2004 finally hitting him in the gut. "I know," he grumbled. "It's just that—"

"It's okay," Phoebe said, still smiling, and Chris startled when she reached out to rub his back; he almost flinched away. "Don't worry, Chris, I'm sure you'll be born, on time and everything."

It didn't mean much, but Chris couldn't deny it felt good to hear it anyway.

&

Like a ball rolling down a snow-covered hill, the problem seemed to get larger and bear down on Chris like a freight train. He put everything about Wyatt on hold: after all, if he wasn't conceived Wyatt wasn't going to be saved. Phoebe insisted that everything would fall into place, but Chris wasn't convinced: this mess was of his own making. Magic, if it was self-correcting, was more likely to just erase him from all timelines then let him be born. (Pessimism, he knew, but trying for optimism wasn't part of his to-do list.)

And that was another thing to worry about: what if all this effort was for nothing? What if Wyatt was destined to become evil? In his waking hours it was easy (easier) for Chris to believe he could succeed, but in his nightmares Wyatt killed people and clapped Chris on the shoulder like it was just good sport. With every month he spent in the past Chris felt his chances slipping away; what was supposed to be a surgical strike was now a hopelessly long struggle with no visible fruit. Anyone would have been frustrated with the situation.

Then the genie mess happened.

&

The grossest part about coming back in time without telling anyone he was Piper's son was that as a result both his aunts and his mother felt free to discuss their love lives in front of him. This included sex lives. Phoebe was the most likely to get graphic, although Paige was known to be the same, and they both liked to egg on Piper into talking about her exploits as she looked for a new love interest now that she and Leo had broken things off. It took a fair amount of willpower to not clap his hands over his ears and shout "Ew, gross!" like a spoiled six-year-old, or make faces. Most of the time he just left; unfortunately he caught them in the middle of such conversations all too often when he actually needed the Power of Three, and the sisters were not overly inclined to drop their conversations until they were done. He limited himself to snide comments like "I so didn't need to hear that," or, "Hey, dude in the room!" Although for obvious reasons, this hadn't been a problem for a little while now: he still wasn't precisely welcome in the Manor with Paige or Piper, even if Phoebe had forgiven him on account of him being her future nephew.

(Sometimes, when he listened to them bitch and whine about this or that problem, he wanted to tell them about their futures just to get them to shut up. Paige, you're not going to marry Richard, so just dump him on his ass and let it go. Phoebe, your boy toy boss can't stand magic and he's going to leave you over it when he finds out the truth. Piper, you're my mom. Stop dicking around with the fireman, get back together with Leo, and have me!

Then he would take a deep breath and let the fantasy go with regret.)

He definitely knew a lot more about his mother's personal life than he ever wanted to know. On the other hand, he had an obligation to know, since if his mom didn't hurry up and screw Leo then he wasn't exactly going to be around to be disgusted by said personal information. Right now his mom was all over some fireman named Greg who looked like he was way too young for Chris' tastes: he couldn't have been much more than twenty-eight. Granted, it wasn't like Piper was a whole lot older than him but he wasn't a whole lot older than Chris, either, and that grossed him out.

In any case, the genie thing happened. Chris could honestly say he didn't remember hearing anything about the genie thing. Genies were bad news but he really thought he was probably safe to take advantage of Phoebe when his future aunt was forced into the role, but the sneak took him literally when he wished for his parents to sleep together and no sex occurred. Damn it.

Leo, still hung up on the Valhalla thing no doubt (which, in retrospect, was one of the biggest reasons his parents had separated and the whole thing hadn't even helped Chris out all that much: he really should have wished the whole Valhalla adventure could be forgotten), had apparently been arguing to have Chris forced back to the future. Chris' accidental wish that Leo would 'get over his issues' with Chris was probably the best thing he'd ever accidentally done in his life, at least as far as his chances of saving Wyatt went. On the other hand reconciliatory Leo was possibly the weirdest thing ever and Chris continued to try to avoid him.

But the worst part of the whole thing was actually Aunt Paige finding out The Big Truth About Chris: if Aunt Phoebe couldn't keep a secret, Aunt Paige couldn't be subtle. At all. Ever. And now Paige, always about solving every problem on her doorstep, was on the case and Chris was definitely never going to be born.

He should have had more faith in his aunts, really – but the truth was, he didn't want his parents to have even a whiff of the chance they were conceiving the whitelighter that spent a good third of his time forcing demon hunts on them. With his luck, Leo would refuse to have sex until Chris' conception date passed (well, okay, maybe before the whole Genie Thing, but still). And Piper, well. Chris didn't want to know what Piper's reaction would be. It would be shock, disgust, denial, or possibly horror – if he knew the present-day Piper – and she wouldn't mean anything by any of them because it would really be about the idea of Leo getting her pregnant, but he just … didn't want to know. It was a little hard to not take things like that personally when it was about your own conception, after all.

But in the end, he could do nothing but accept their help. (Paige at least owed it to him after all the times she'd left him behind with some kind of temp-job mess.)

He consulted tarot cards, a demonic soothsayer, and a fortune teller – they all told him the same thing: his conception date was the day after Wyatt's first birthday, no later, maybe earlier.

Aunt Phoebe tried abandoning Piper and Leo to each other as often as possible. Paige laid it on a little thicker with aphrodisiacs and questions about wanting another kid. Chris suggested love potions and got shot down.

Conception day arrived and Leo and Piper were no closer to doing anything, and Chris started to fade away.

&

His Uncle Coop would often say 'everything happens for a reason' and 'trust in the Grand Design'. Chris liked the idea that everything in life had a purpose, but Wyatt scoffed at it because according to him, a Grand Design meant everything was destined and he wanted to have power over his own destiny. Wyatt was only okay with the idea of destiny when it came to his own prophesied future: a great, powerful King Arthur of his generation.

Grandpa would say 'do your best and everything will turn out right' and 'FDR was right about only fearing fear itself'. Chris ate that up, too. Wyatt didn't like to think he was afraid of anything and everything he touched turned to gold, so he liked Grandpa's sayings too.

Chris gave up on Grandpa's sayings when his Mom died, but he didn't give up on Coop's, even if he hated the 'Grand Design' for taking his mother away. Wyatt, who had never believed in the Grand Design to begin with, lost any semblance of purpose he might have had – or perhaps he simply pursued a different purpose. In any case, it was obvious that he no longer felt any compunction against doing whatever he wanted to, and he was powerful enough to get away with it.

Chris didn't give up on the Grand Design until he saw Wyatt holding Excalibur and leading the Underworld in the grand takeover of San Francisco, because if there was a purpose in everything, well – obviously evil was destined to win, and Chris couldn't live with that.

&

What happened on Chris' conception day almost made him a believer again.

For one thing, Chris got conceived. He had done nothing – neither had Piper's sisters – and yet somehow, he was conceived anyway, while Leo and Piper were in mortal danger and on a different plane of existence, and god Chris really didn't want to think about the details of that one – he was just grateful he was going to be born.

Two, if he hadn't almost faded out of existence – if he hadn't faded out to the ghostly plane and been able to communicate with Piper and Leo – then his parents might have never found a way out of limbo. That was a little too convenient to be a coincidence.

"See, I told you so," Phoebe snickered, smirking at him with the same 'I-knew-it-all-along' look she would give him ten years in the future.

"Yeah, yeah," Chris answered when he'd recovered from his relief and exuberance. When Leo and Piper made it safely back home, he quickly backed off and let the sisters comfort them both in their own way.

He slept well that night. Problem one solved, he thought. Problem two … I'm ready to tackle again.

&

What he was not ready to tackle was his mother.

Chris had been able to impress upon Phoebe and Paige the importance of his parents not knowing he was their son, but the only reason they submitted was because Phoebe reasoned that neither of them would be able to perform in bed if they knew what kind of task they were facing (starting the life of the boy that would save their other boy). Now that the deed was done and Chris was obviously going to be born, come hell or high water or demons or whatever the heck else, neither of them seemed to see a reason to hold back and Chris could give no satisfactory reason for continuing to hide his identity.

"Future—" he started, but Paige groaned over him.

"If you say that phrase one more time, I'm going to orb your voice box to Florida," she snapped.

"Now let the grownups figure out how to break the news gently," Phoebe said with another infuriatingly knowing smile.

"I'm only like six years younger than you," Chris pointed out irritably. "And I'm legal to drink."

"Nine months from now you're going to be twenty-eight years younger than me," Phoebe pointed out amicably.

Chris threw up his hands in defeat. Okay, Leo, no wonder you stayed the hell away. The women in this family are impossible!

&

Leo remained true to form, however; immediately following the whole mess, he left – left for good, in theory, staying with the Elders like he was supposed to be doing back before the whole Valhalla fiasco turned everything on its head. Chris felt equal parts relief, anger, and guilt – after all, his mom was pregnant now and Leo should have been around, but he rather preferred that Leo not be around and it vindicated his dislike for his father.

He wondered how Piper was reacting to Leo's departure, but he couldn't look her in the eye at the moment.

&

When she knew, Chris knew.

He hadn't really caught the whole conversation – but the tail end, enough to know what kind of family talk Phoebe and Paige had engaged Piper in. It was less than 24 hours after his conception and they were telling her already – honestly, no one in this family could keep a secret to save their lives. (Okay, except maybe himself, but that was by luck – certainly not skill, given how quickly the truth had spread once it got out.)

For the first time since his arrival Chris felt nervous as he rounded the corner to come upon the Halliwells of the past, and when Piper – Mom – looked up at him, he knew and she knew and. And.

"Is this a bad time?" he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral (trying to pretend nothing had changed), but she just looked at him, and—

Mom baking Mom cooking Mom yelling and hugging and laughing and saying his name and vanquishing demons and making potions and going to the mall and taking him to sports games and listening to him bitch about his classes and—

Fuck. This was exactly why he didn't want anyone to know.

Tbc

Next part is supposedly the last part, but we'll see. Thank you for the reviews!