Returning Readers—I've changed the tone, background information and way some of the events have played out in the last three chapters to go with direction I've decided to take this story. A lot is the same but I recommend you skim through it so you aren't confused as we go forward.
Piper felt like all of the breath was gone from her lungs until there just a painful emptiness that left her body panicking as it tried to right itself, tried to remember how to breath.
"What have I done?"
It came out in a gasp.
No one had an answer for her. The shield in front of them fell away, disappearing into nothingness as if it had never even been. The fire that had been burning the ceiling died and a ripple of magic originating from the closing portal left almost everything just as it had been. She would have thought the whole thing had been her overworked mind's idea of imagination had it not been for the blood pooled on the floor where Chris had been laying.
Oh God, the blood. She studied the floor all the way to the wall, where a just a second ago, a second that had passed unbearably slowly, significantly and irrevocably, a window to her second son had been open.
There was so much blood.
'Baby brother.' The words in his cold amused tone played in her head like a horrible song she couldn't stop.
She closed her eyes, 'No it's not true.'
Balling her fists in her hair she tried to cling to that thought as strongly as she could with every ounce of her tenacity.
Only her instincts, her magic and the deepest part of her heart had already acknowledged the truth was indeed the truth, and try as she might she couldn't lock those parts away to silence them. The part of her that had already catalogued his every feature and matched it to her own, reconsidered his every word, and had known on some level somehow before Wyatt even uttered it, the part she had stopped listening to somewhere along the way since Prue died, was telling her it was the truth.
Chris was her son. Her unborn baby boy. And it was her blood smeared on the floor leading to a now perfectly blank wall.
"Baby brother…" She hadn't realized she was repeating the words aloud in an almost chant, a crazed half whispered jumble as she pressed her fists harder into her skull.
It wasn't until Phoebe placed her hand on her shoulder, her lip quivering trying to find the words to say but failing, that she realized what she was doing.
Paige walked to the blood on the floor, which Piper could no longer bare to look at, and placed her hand in it, allowing enough to stick damply on her skin so that it was tinged red.
She walked over to the potions materials and rubbed her hand into the bowl so the blood was smeared there.
She met her sisters gaze as she started flipping through the book for a potion or a spell to test whether what Wyatt had said was true.
Piper nodded to her to continue, ignoring the whisper deep down that told her she already knew the answer.
'It's not true, it's not true…' She kept telling herself, if she said it enough times surely it would be the truth. It had to be.
She could not have failed so miserably as a mother to them both. That would be too unbearable to accept.
No, there had to be another explanation.
"It's not true," She whispered out loud but it carried across the silent room. She ignored the way Phoebe's head dipped to the side as she studied her sadly and how Paige flinched. She had to believe it though.
'And besides,' a nasty part of her conscious whispered vindictively to her in a voice sounding scarily like a part of her she had lost in her own fear the last year,
'Ignoring is what you've proven you're good at lately, isn't it?'
Chris hung, his arms in chains as he was held up, suspended in the air by the manacles on his wrists making a mockery of a cross. It was a position that made even breathing difficult and he had long ago stopped feeling the searing pain in his shoulders even though it burned on. He was pretty sure the tendons and ligaments in them were stretched so far that they would need magic to recover, but he also had no doubt his brother would heal him once he felt that he had made his point.
Wyatt loved to string his prisoners up that way but in the past he had never done so to Chris, he had never allowed anyone to lay a hand on Chris. Chris's dungeon sessions had always been more of a time out. He even had had his own special cell with a couch in the past.
He had really done it this time.
He had been the last person Wyatt trusted and while Wyatt still wouldn't kill him, he was not past a little painful correction.
He hung his head, his chin touching his chest as he rested it there, trying to find some kind of strength somewhere in his character to go on. The burns on his back stung and he knew Wyatt would be along soon enough to have another talk when he finished whatever it was that had drawn him away.
The room was circular and very small although the ceiling was close to twenty foot high. It was made of concrete and only had one window, so dirty it could not be seen out of, near the top that let in the smallest amount of light so that the room wasn't completely dark.
It smelled like blood and sweat. Grime covered the floor and the walls.
Chris knew he had only been there a few days but already time was beginning to blur.
The door creaked open, he grit his teeth and tried to brace himself to face Wyatt again.
When he raised his head his eyes widened slightly in surprise, as he saw not Wyatt, but the Phoenix assassin standing there looking at him in a clearly planned unimpressed manner with her arms crossed over her ridiculous leather outfit.
He sneered at her, "Get tired of his lordship already?"
She ignored him and lowered the lever so that the chains dropped him until his feet only hovered six inches from the floor.
"Are you an idiot?" She asked casually, although her tone seeped with annoyance.
"Actually my IQs near 160, a frickn' genius," Chris replied with a snort, enjoying her reaction as she clenched her fists, his smart ass answer pissing her off.
'Get used to it bitch,' he thought angrily.
Wyatt himself could be the most charismatic person in the world when he wished to be, he just generally didn't have the patience to swindle what he could take by force. The only one that charisma had never worked on had been Chris.
Chris wasn't sure why he thought this little pet of his could sway Chris where he couldn't.
He must have a lot of faith in her these days, Chris thought, surveying her as she walked around him like a predator would their prey. Before he had left Wyatt had been very particular about who could talk to Chris, strangely and obsessively overprotective of him. Before he had left for the past she had already killed several good witches and white lighters for Wyatt and was moving up the ranks quickly.
"Only a fool would refuse him. He's offered you a full pardon. All you have to do is simply pledge your loyalty. He never offers such leniency to anyone else." She hissed, stopping to stand in front of him, her face a foot lower than his between the chains holding him up and their height difference.
"Mom always did say I was too stubborn for my own good." He replied back flippantly.
"Mommy dearest also let your brother drag your bloody unconscious body through a portal for God knows what from her perspective. Face it Christopher, she sold you out."
Chris flinched at the immediate retort, his own sarcastic comment dying on his lips. There was nothing he could really say to that.
A gleam of triumph flashed in her eyes and Chris clenched his fists even harder until his nails drew blood, he wished he could punch her.
"Now, why exactly are you refusing him?" She asked, her tone like she was talking to a five year old.
"Oh gee, well let me think about that-" Chris's voice was cutting, mocking with derision seeping from his words, "—maybe because he's the motherfucking lord of all EVIL!"
He rolled his eyes not caring that it was a childish gesture, "And what can I say, black leather has never really been my style," he sent a disgusted look aimed at her outfit.
"All you're going to do is get people killed, maybe even yourself." She shot back her voice low and serious.
"Didn't know you cared, I'm touched, really."
She punched him in the stomach and despite himself he gasped, the air knocked out of him and his already bruised and broken ribs sending a shock of pain through him.
"I don't give a fuck about you, you little spoiled asshole," she spat at him, for the first time losing her cool aloof composure. "But for whatever reason you are all Wyatt gives a damn about and I know the feeling is mutual otherwise you would have just killed him in the past. So what is keeping you from taking back your place now?"
Chris would give into Wyatt eventually, he knew he had no choice. But he felt like he had to make a show of it or his every move would be watched until he was old and grey, as it was it would take years to get any freedom again. He was out of options.
He eyed her though seeing the desperation in her eyes that she was trying to hide and replied on intuition.
"You don't give a damn about me that's true, but you do about someone, and it's not Wyatt, not really. So who is it he's threatened to make you his little lap dog?"
She glared at him and he knew he was right.
"You don't know shit about me, so don't try to act like you can tell me who I am."
She walked over to the door and pulled the lever, raising him back ten feet in the air. "If you don't agree to join him he's going to kill them."
He looked over to where she was standing, her back to him while her hand rested on the handle of the door.
"Every good witch he can find, every innocent, he'll start with them for now. Then he'll move on to everyone you've ever known."
His blood froze in his veins, Penny, Patience and Henry's faces coming to the front of his mind. It was always a dangerous game to play with Wyatt.
She left Chris with that in the empty cell, the silence pressing into his already too heavily burdened shoulder where he hung helpless in the air, his powers neutralized.
"We don't know the spell he—"
"We're the Charmed Ones Leo, I don't give a damn what the elders have to say. We can't…after what I've done, what I failed to do…" Piper's voice dissolved into a choked sob and she turned away from her ex-husband, burying her face in her hands.
But she immediately bit her lip and took a deep breath, she was not only a charmed one, she was the charmed one dammit, the matriarch of the family and she had cried enough yesterday.
Today was a day for action.
"Piper are you sure what you saw was even—"
"Yes Leo, Paige tested the blood. What more do you want? You could've seen it for yourself if you hadn't run up to the heavens."
"Chris has done nothing but trick us since he got here, how can we be sure he didn't find a way to fool us now?"
Piper didn't answer, her arms crossed over her chest and a stubborn set to her jaw.
"It does bother me, why did Wyatt heal him?" Paige asked.
"We don't know that that was Wyatt—"
This time Phoebe interrupted Leo, "I felt anger from Wyatt but also concern and…love I guess for Chris? Unbalanced but still there, he cares about him."
"He's his brother." Piper said quietly.
"Then what are we even worried about?" Leo asked, a little bit of annoyance and sarcasm leaking through. He still didn't believe the sisters hadn't been tricked.
"You didn't see him. Chris wasn't lying, something happens to Wyatt. If I had just listened to him…"
Piper turned back to them, "Leo we are going, if not for Chris's sake then for Wyatt's. What I saw—that can't be the Wyatt I raise, I need answers. And we owe Chris that much. Either get behind us and help or get out of our way."
Leo stared at her a long time before giving her one short, terse nod. Something in the set of her sister's tense shoulders must have convinced him though.
Leo sighed, "I'll inform them of your decision then."
He paused before looking over to Piper where she still faced away from them,
"And then I'll be back. I…I need to come on this one too." His voice faltered ever so slightly at the end.
Some silent communication that neither Paige nor Phoebe could understand passed between them, whatever it was though, it clearly gave Piper strength. She stood a little straighter.
"We need to make a plan for Wyatt while we're gone." He added before disappearing in a flash of orbs.
Piper turned to Phoebe. Her face was set determinedly and the resemblance to Chris was so overwhelming that Phoebe couldn't believe they had been too blind before to see it.
Phoebe picked up her little yellow notepad and began to pace, chewing on the end of the pen as she tried to find the words.
"What do you have?"
Phoebe stared a moment uncomprehendingly, still startled by how alike Chris and Piper really were before Paige cleared her throat, snapping her out of her thoughts.
"Oh…um, well for time travel we need to be specific, but, well-we don't exactly know what year Chris is from Piper."
"He said about twenty years didn't he?" Paige asked.
"Yeah but that's not gonna cut it. We need to be in the very moment, or as close that we can be, that W—that Chris is taken to from here. He's in danger, we have to get to him in the exact right time." Piper explained, pacing the attic with one hand on her hip, the other gesturing to punctuate her words.
If her other sisters noticed her reluctance to speak her oldest son's name they showed no indication of it.
"Time travel is such a picky bitch though." Paige sighed, flipping through the book.
"We don't have a specific date, we have to word it to take us to where Chris went, but specifically enough it takes us to the right time and not just anytime that Chris exists." Phoebe tapped her pen on the pad while Piper nodded at her words.
"There's the problem though, how do we do that?" Paige asked frustratedly.
Piper sat down then on the old couch, her legs crossed in front of her and her elbow resting on her knee with that hand supporting her chin.
"We have to say it for the Chris we have met, that limits the time frame some, then the spell can only apply to him after he has traveled back to this time and met our present selves."
"To travel that far into the future the spell will have to pack a punch, may need to be backed up by a potion."
"We're the charmed ones, we are the punch." Paige pointed out.
Paige turned to Phoebe, "Just put in there something about being in front of a grown Wyatt. I mean—he hasn't been near an adult Wyatt since he came here, and that would get us where he is."
"But what is the safeguard for overshooting then?" Piper asked. "I mean yes he hasn't been around…but that doesn't mean he won't continue to be without us getting him if he stays in that future If that is the only safety net we have we could end up months or even years after he is taken from here in this time."
"I think I might have an idea…" Phoebe said, handing the pad over to Piper where she had written the spell down, several words crossed out and others added in certain places until it read;
Takes us to our Halliwell
The very one we have come to misjudge so well
To Chris who's seen his young mother
One younger than he who is his big brother
Let us go through time
To where Wyatt is in his prime
But do not send us too far
Lest we be too late
And do not save him from a cruel fate."
"This has gotta be the longest spell we've ever done." Paige said, glancing over it from where she had moved to stand behind Piper.
"Its more likely to send us to the wrong time than it is the one we want, but it's our best shot." Phoebe said warily.
"I still think we'll need a potion for something this big." Phoebe added.
Piper nodded to Paige, "Let's do it."
"Piper, are you sure you want this? I mean, we've been warned now, we can protect Wyatt, keep that future from ever happening—"
Piper's tone brooked no argument. "No, I can't leave him there. I have to know that he'll be alright. After all I've done…I can't leave him there, we'll save him and then we'll work on saving Wyatt."
Paige nodded, somewhat taken aback by the vehemence of her answer, Phoebe placed a hand on her shoulder and guided her towards the door.
Piper then started preparing, pulling out potions ingredients, candles and whatever else they could think of that might help them reach through decades of time. Paige went to go consult some of their friends in the magical community for any advice while Phoebe read through the book's section on it again.
"He sent you again? What are you, my girlfriend now?" Chris asked sarcastically from where he hung suspended by the chains, looking down to the door where the assassin had walked in.
"Don't flatter yourself," she dropped the chains abruptly and stopped them just as quickly a few inches from the ground so his shoulders were painfully jerked.
Chris grimaced, quickly turning it into a glare at her as he hung helpless.
"What do you want then?"
"Nothing, Lord Wyatt has decided you to be watched at all times. Still worries you'll try to escape. So I've been assigned baby sitting duty."
She walked toward him then releasing the chains so that he dropped to the ground but his wrists were still cuffed so that he was restrained both physically and magically.
He wondered if she would try again to convince him to pledge his loyalty to Wyatt. Which Chris was almost ready to do, or at least pretend to. He felt he had played the defiance card long enough that Wyatt might at least hope his acquiesce was genuine.
Chris had really shown his hand with the time travel and he had come up short.
"So how is life with Wyatt? Have you all gotten motorcycles yet? Sit around listening to Back in Black?"
She sneered at him, but didn't move from her place leaning against the wall.
"No comment on the motorcycle gang look though? I mean I see you're into it too but you have to admit—think of how all the demons would've blended in so much better if you didn't wear 'please vanquish me' clothing."
She glanced at him before looking away again but he had seen a corner of her mouth twitch up for a moment. Then again it had been so brief that he might've imagined it.
"I'm no demon dumbass, and it's not as if they have to hide anymore." She finally responded.
"No, Wyatt did fix that I guess. I think its because he wanted to feel like less of an outcast while wearing leather pants. Brought the movement from underground to the streets so to speak."
"Do you ever say anything without being so…flippant?" She asked exasperation leaking through her tone.
"Every other Monday."
She brought her hand up to her face and buried her forehead in her palm. It was the first emotion Chris had seen from her other than disgust and anger.
They were both quiet for a while until she asked, curiosity in her tone, "You were loyal to Wyatt for years, what made you decide to try this stupid plan of yours in the first place?"
"I told Wyatt and I'll tell you, Wyatt wasn't supposed to be what he is now. He was supposed to be the greatest force of good in the world."
She didn't look convinced. "But why take the chance? If you want to fix this so badly to risk your existence then why not just kill him as a baby?"
"He's my brother," he said simply as if that explained everything.
And to him it did.