Author's Notes: This story is set after The Courtship of Wyatt's Father, but before Hyde School Reunion. Phoebe did not succeed at her vision quest, and thus her premonition powers are still being unreliable and sporadic.
Piper is about 4-5 weeks pregnant and showing the barest signs of pregnancy- namely, some nausea that comes and goes randomly, and a minor hormonal shift that has her rather on edge. She hasn't figured out that she's pregnant yet, but the Elders have, and are concealing this from Leo in fear that he will abandon his calling...among other reasons.
Tipping the Balance
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
- H. P. Lovecraft
"Have you heard?"
"About the second one? Yes. Many are worried that this will tip the balance too far."
"And rightly so! This could change everything in unforeseeable ways."
"But what can be done? The last time the Elders tried to interfere, the Cleaners were completely ineffective. Their tenacity is just too strong."
Leo slowed his steps through the misty halls of the heavens, his eyebrows furrowing in puzzlement at the clicking conversation floating over to him. Many of the whitelighters and Elders congregating in recent weeks had been having hushed, worried conversations that immediately fizzled out as soon as he drew near. Though he had tried to hold on to the serenity and peace that was demanded of him as an Elder, still he could not help the seeds of suspicion blossoming in his heart. And at these words, he suddenly knew those suspicions had all been justified.
He only knew of one event where the Cleaners had ever failed...and that was when they tried to erase the memory of his son from the family - his family.
Stealthily, praying that no one would notice his odd, fugitive motions, Leo slowly changed direction and moved closer to the group of three whitelighters whispering in a small corner off the edge of the hall. The power of invisibility, granted to him upon his ascension to the Council of Elders, would not serve him well here in the heavens where their angelic senses were impossibly heightened and honed. Frowning in concentration, Leo instead called upon the skills trained into him by the Valkyries. Lightening his footsteps and calming his breath, he quietly made his way forward and concealed himself in the shadowed alcove between two connected pillars. Bowing his head and closing his eyes, he focused on relaxing his facial muscles into the perfect picture of serenity - any passing Elder or whitelighter would assume that he was meditating or communicating with others, and would thus not disturb him. Secure in the knowledge that he was free to listen in on the conversation without anyone noticing his eavesdropping, he refocused on the hushed whispers...just in time to hear a sentence that froze his heart more effectively than Piper's fingers ever had.
"-doesn't matter anyway. What matters is that the eldest Halliwell is having yet another forbidden child. Something must be done!"
Choking on the knot forming within his throat, Leo tried desperately to hold on to the aura of peace he was attempting to project, but the clamoring mix of rage, despair, jealousy, and horror was overwhelming. He grasped his hands together behind his back, choosing not to notice how they trembled with his building anger and sorrow.
He had known Piper would eventually find someone else to love her - who couldn't love her, after all? - but he never realized it would be this fast, nor that she would have another child with a man who would most likely have no idea how lucky he was.
But before his reflections could progress further or focus on the strange declaration of an apparently 'forbidden' child, one of the gossiping whitelighters spoke again.
"What can we even do? There have been whitelighter-witch unions before, but never has there even been a union between an Elder and a witch. This is a complete unknown! Even the Elders don't know what to do."
An Elder? But that meant-
Exhaling in a surprised whoosh of air, Leo reached up and covered his mouth to hold in the shout of joy he wanted to release.
Piper was pregnant.
With his child.
"I overheard their most recent meeting. Many of the Elders fear that this child will be another Twice-Blessed."
"But there is only the one prophecy!"
"Even so, the situation points toward the possibility of this one being even more powerful than their firstborn. That one whitelighter, Chris Perry - he came back to stop a great evil, but never revealed to the Council what that was. What if this is the evil he came back to prevent?"
A chill coursed through the unseen Elder's veins at this suggestion.
That couldn't be possible. The evil that Chris was trying to prevent...though he refused to believe his beautiful baby boy could ever turn into that evil entity from the future, hadn't Chris said that it was Wyatt who turned? Leo had been too horrified by the prospect to even consider reporting it to the Council - they had already tried to take away his son once before, after all, and there was no telling what they would do if they discovered they'd been right to fear his existence all along. But if Chris was telling the truth, then his second child couldn't possibly...
But he has lied before, whispered his mind.
"There's talk of deleting the pregnancy before the Halliwells notice."
"But they tried to erase the first child before and nearly caused the Charmed Ones to go back on everything they ever stood for. Think of what would happen if they tried and the Halliwells found out this time."
"Regardless, it is not our decision. And we should not discuss this openly anyway. They are trying to keep this secret from...certain individuals...until a decision has been made."
His hands slowly clenched into fists.
I won't let them take my children away from me.
With this thought firmly in his mind, Leo orbed.
All things considered, Chris was having a pretty good day.
The sisters were tolerating him again - despite his evasiveness when they demanded why he faded away during that whole genie mess - and he'd managed to be conceived without having to resort to a love potion or a spell, something that most assuredly would have gone wrong if he had attempted it. He'd finally managed a breakthrough on his latest trip to the Underworld, discovering hints and whispered rumors of an unnamed power recruiting demons for a secret mission involving the Charmed Ones and possibly Wyatt. He'd even managed to get more than three hours' sleep and had treated himself to coffee and a muffin this morning, all three of which were luxuries that had been exceedingly rare in his future.
So, all in all, he was in a rather good mood.
And then Leo orbed in.
The man looked utterly ridiculous in those flowing golden robes - honestly, all the Elders were completely nuts if they thought wearing shiny robes somehow made them look more peaceful or benevolent. It made them look like strutting peacocks.
Attempting to hide his amusement behind a sarcastic smirk, Chris greeted him rather unenthusiastically. "Something I can do for you, Leo?"
The Elder's face darkened like a thundercloud. "Why didn't you tell me?"
There were many ways he could respond to such a loaded question. After all, it wasn't like there was just one thing he was keeping from the man, and how could he possibly guess which secret Leo was talking about this time? So with a small sigh and a rather large amount of exasperation, Chris rolled his eyes in response. "Tell you what, Leo?"
Leo stalked towards him with an unrestrained fury on his face that reminded Chris instantly of another time early last year, when the man had been fresh from Valhalla and ready to point swords at the source of his unintended kidnapping. Despite everything he'd seen and been through, Chris couldn't help himself from taking a step back at the sight of his father's rage.
"About my child!" he shouted at the witchlighter. Abruptly, the faint sounds of talking from downstairs broke off.
Chris scowled. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I already told you that I'm here to save Wyatt-"
"Not Wyatt!" Leo yelled, incensed. "My other child!"
Chris froze in horror, his eyes shooting up to meet Leo's enraged gaze. Despite his usual ability to think through any problem, to strategize and plan at a moment's notice, the only thought he could summon at this proclamation was simply: Oh crap.
Footsteps thundered up the stairs, and the three sisters clattered noisily into the room, bodies tense and poised for battle. Piper took in the sight of Leo looming menacingly over Chris, her whitelighter's wild-eyed stare, and the demon-free attic, then slowly lowered her outstretched hands.
"What's going on here?"
"Chris," Leo hissed the word like it was a curse. "Was just about to explain why he never told us about our second child."
"Our what?" Piper repeated sharply, her sisters' exclamations of surprise echoing behind her.
Silence fell at these words, with all eyes fixating upon Chris. Who looked mere seconds away from bolting or orbing away in panic, his eyes darting swiftly around the room as though looking for feasible exits.
"Answer me!" Leo demanded.
Chris' jaw tightened and and ground together slightly, as if he were processing exactly what could be said to diffuse the situation. Then his mouth slowly opened, and he started to say: "I can't-"
"Don't finish that sentence," Piper warned menacingly. Chris' mouth shut immediately with an audible click of teeth. "Now, someone better explain to me what is going on."
Leo sent one last spiteful look toward the younger man, before turning towards the sisters with a serious expression. "I overheard a conversation Up There that I apparently wasn't meant to hear."
He paused, frowning as his eyes darted down to Piper's stomach and then back up to her face. "The Elders discovered that you're, well...you're pregnant."
All three of the sisters' eyes widened at this statement, Piper's eyebrows shooting up on her forehead in surprise. "But that's impossible, we-"
She broke off, blinked, and then flushed slightly. "Oh."
Leo, too, suddenly seemed to realize the implications of his statement and blushed, his eyes darting off to focus on one of the many uncoordinated furnishings cluttering the attic. "Y-Yeah."
Phoebe squealed, ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room. "We're going to have another baby in the house?"
"Oh great," groaned Paige. "More diaper duty."
Out of the corner of her eyes, Piper noticed that Chris looked wholly uncomfortable with this entire conversation - and yet, somehow, oddly relieved. He opened his mouth as if to say something, closed it, swallowed, and then grimaced. "Right, um, I'll just go-"
"Stop right there, mister," Piper threatened, pointing a finger at him threateningly. "Why didn't you tell us about this before?"
His mouth twisted in discomfited embarrassment. "Because telling you could have caused h- the child to be conceived too early or too late, therefore completely changing the timeline in ways I don't even want to think about. Would you have really wanted me to mess with that?"
There was a short pause while the sisters and Leo considered this option.
"He has a point," Paige commented thoughtfully. Piper huffed beside her, unwilling to admit that she agreed.
"So is it a girl or a boy?" Phoebe inquired excitedly, her wide grin threatening to take over her entire face.
"I can't tell you that," he said in exasperation.
"Chris," she whined.
"That's not important," Leo suddenly interrupted, with a strange urgency to his voice. Everyone in the room turned to regard him with varying levels of surprise and confusion. "The Elders are worried. There's talk of deleting your pregnancy before you could find out naturally."
Piper's face changed from surprise to absolute fury in seconds. "Over my dead body."
Chris flinched violently, and closed his eyes to conceal the pain her words sparked within him. Thankfully, everyone's focus was still on Leo and his slip went unnoticed.
"How could they?" Paige demanded, outraged. "The last time they tried to meddle, I'm pretty sure we warned them never to try something like that again."
"I know," Leo replied, his face pinched with worry. "But apparently they're worried that our child will be more powerful than Wyatt because I'm an Elder now, and that it might tip the balance of good and evil too much. Thankfully they haven't decided to try anything yet, but..."
He trailed off, unwilling to finish the sentence.
"Hey! Future boy." Piper stepped towards her whitelighter, glaring at him until he slowly turned to face her with a carefully blank face. "Let's solve this right now. Tell me about my child."
His voice was soft, regretful. "You know I can't do that, Piper."
"Well you better change your mind. Now."
"I cannot tell you," Chris replied slowly, enunciating each syllable carefully as if speaking to a particularly dense child. "You know I can't tell you about the future."
"I don't care!" she snapped. "My child is in danger of being erased, and I want to know what happens to my baby!"
The whitelighter from the future pressed his lips together in a thin line. He seemed to struggle for a moment internally, and then sighed. "They're alive, okay? Satisfied?"
Piper breathed a heavy sigh of relief, raising up her hands to gently cover her stomach as if she could already feel the life growing within her. "Thank God."
"Well I'm not satisfied," Leo retorted with a dark scowl. "The Elders are terrified because there's never been a union between an Elder and a powerful witch before, and no one will tell me anything about it. I had to eavesdrop in order to find out everything I did. What decision do they come to in your time, Chris?"
Chris hesitated, his green eyes darkening in visible worry. "I...don't know."
Leo's scowl deepened. "You're lying."
"No!" the whitelighter exclaimed, surprisingly appearing to be just as concerned as them over this new development. "I really don't know! This wasn't supposed to happen."
He flinched slightly as the words left his mouth, clearly regretting his choice of words.
"What do you mean?" the Elder said suspiciously.
Chris hesitated. "Originally, you became an Elder...after your second child was born."
The tension in the room skyrocketed.
"So this is your fault," Leo hissed maliciously. Alarm sparked within the whitelighter's jade orbs, but he kept his face perfectly clear of his building anxiety.
"It doesn't matter. Your child lives and is fine in the future, regardless of what was changed."
"Doesn't matter?" Piper repeated in outrage.
"Weren't you just telling us you didn't want to mess with their, er, conception?" Paige pointed out, her expression torn between amusement and disgust.
Chris huffed impatiently. "I didn't!"
"But you did," Piper interrupted, her eyes glittering with anger. "You messed with my family, again."
"Piper-" he began heatedly.
"No, Chris. I'm tired of you messing with our lives. Either tell me what happens to my child, or get out."
They stared at each other across the attic, silence stretching between them like an impassable ravine.
"I can't," he whispered finally.
"Can't?" Leo repeated calmly, his eyes hard as flint. "Or won't?"
The time-traveler didn't seem to know how to answer, continuing to stare at Piper's aggressive expression with regret reflected in his eyes.
"Then let's write a spell," Phoebe suddenly suggested firmly.
Paige nodded beside her, then blinked. "...wait, what?"
"We write a spell to see what happens, so we can know what decision the Elders make in the future."
Chris flung an arm out wildly. "No! Absolutely not. There is far too much risk of personal gain that could cause it to backfire."
"This isn't up to you," Piper growled, choosing to ignore the scowl he directed at her. "And I think that's a brilliant idea, Phoebe."
"I dunno..." Paige responded doubtfully.
"I hate to say it, but Chris is right. This could backfire in so many ways," Leo warned, but he seemed unsure whether he really wanted to be fighting their decision in the first place.
Piper threw her hands up in the air in a show of complete frustration. "What else can we do, Leo? Just sit back and wait for them to decide whether to kill our baby? No. I'm going to find out what happens to my child, and I will do it with or without your help."
He bristled in response. "Of course I'm going to help! I just...think this could go horribly wrong."
"I don't care," she snapped.
"No, you can't do this!" Chris protested. "There are too many things about the future that you shouldn't-"
"So help me Chris, if you don't stop that sentence right now, I will blow you up!"
"Fine!" he snapped, throwing his arms up in an eerily similar gesture. "But don't blame me when it all goes wrong."
"Fine!" she sniped right back at him, whirling around to storm out of the attic. "I'm going to call Dad to see if he'll take care of Wyatt. Phoebe, start writing!"
Phoebe immediately ran to their unofficial spell-writing table, throwing herself down gleefully in the chair and starting to work. Paige sighed, announced that she needed more coffee, and followed her older sister out of the attic.
"This is going to end badly," Chris declared to himself.