Chris slept the day through, he was perfectly spent. After he collapsed in the hall, Wyatt carried him upstairs to his bedroom and tucked him in. Covered him up to his chin with blankets but also left a window slightly ajar to let a cool breeze in. A younger Chris had once told Wyatt he didn’t like to be completely warm, instead he preferred to be a *little* bit cold… just enough that made it all the more enjoyable to snuggle under the covers. Smiling at the innocent memory, Wyatt stood a long while leaning by the door frame with his arms crossed, watching the boy sleep.
// What can I do? What can I possibly say? //
Paige came up behind him, breaking him out of his reverie. He sighed deeply, softly closing the door behind him and turned around to face his aunt.
Wyatt nodded and the two headed on downstairs to where the assassin witch stood. Her stance cold and rigid as always.
“Thank you.” Wyatt said to her softly.
Bianca stared back. “You pay me to do my job.”
Wyatt knew that was not the reason. He merely stood watching the woman intently, while Paige walked away to a corner, observing the exchange.
“Your cover’s blown, its not safe for you to go to the coven now. I could arrange for you to…”
“I’m not running away. The crisis isn’t over yet. Herbert escaped and by now everyone down there knows Chris doesn’t have his powers.”
Of course. If Chris had had his powers, Barker wouldn’t have gotten as close to killing him as he did.
Wyatt at this point was more angry with himself than anyone else. He did put Bianca on Chris’ tail after he ran out of the manor last night and the woman had guarded him all night, even when he slept fitfully out in the open, unprotected. Wyatt himself stood watch over him but had returned in the morning when Leo called for him. He never should have left or this would never have happened.
Twice in twenty four hours… it was more than he could bear. And Leo didn’t even know yet.
He turned back to Bianca, his jaw clenched tight.
One of the missions Leo assigned to him was to return the assassin witches back to the side they truly belonged. They had all once been extremely powerful, good witches but after an ancestor was turned by a warlock into a cold-hearted assassin back in the eighteen-sixtees, every descendant since had abandoned the light for the dark. They were still extremely strong though, and with their unique ability to steal powers from others… getting stronger. Wyatt had managed to undo the ancestral curse and convert about fourteen of the SF coven. They all worked for him now, for a small compensation of course. A century of bounty-hunter breeding cant just go away overnight. But Wyatt now knew the stories Leo told him of the assassins’ fierce loyalty were not exaggerated.
“No one else is exposed yet right?”
Bianca shook her head.
“Good. I still think you should take off, go see your mother. The house in Burge is protected so you wont have to worry.”
Bianca hesitated, flitter of pain crossing her alabaster face.
“Bianca listen to me…”
She looked away, not willing to… to abandon Chris.
“I think it would be easier on both of you to… you could use the distance right now. You know how much he wants to move on with his life. And that would be very difficult if you’re around. Besides, you don’t know all of what’s happened to him…”
Bianca rattled almost automatedly.
“His memories are all mixed up and he doesn’t know what or who to believe.”
“I know… I saw it in his eyes this morning. He doesn’t remember me… or us…”
Wyatt bit his lip and waited. He hated playing the *ex* card but she had to be sent away so she could be safe. Bianca looked back at him, the mask having fallen back in place.
“I will leave on one condition – you call me if you ever need to… you *call* me.”
They gazed at each other a moment longer. Then she shimmered and was gone.
Paige had fixed herself a drink (orange juice) and now came forth to sit on the couch. She sighed, knowing the history there. Bianca and Chris had broken up only two months ago. There used to be arguments off and on, but somehow they would make up every time, except the last time of course. There was genuine love there once.
“What is it with you brothers and older women anyway?”
Wyatt let out a short chuckle as he took a seat beside her.
“Sure didn’t help to grow up around two beautiful aunts who loved to strut around half-naked in the house!”
Paige’s mouth went wide open with mock horror.
“We never *strutted*!”
He laughed some more and she threw a cushion at his face. Then she laughed too. It was good to be back at the manor, with family.
“So how is Lindsey?”
The nephew shrugged. “She’s okay… called this morning, asking about Chris. I wouldn’t know how to explain to Dr. Rydill what happened this time, let alone Lin.”
Paige frowned. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Right now, we gotta make sure Chris stays inside the manor until his powers return.”
“Yeah and what’s with that? Why are his powers still down?”
Just then Leo orbed in.
“Hey” and then seeing someone he did not expect, “Paige?”
Paige got up to give brother-in-law a hug. When she parted she gave him a sharp glare.
“You missed a lot.”
Leo raised an eyebrow intrigued, specially since Wyatt refused to look him in the eye.
When Chris woke up, it was dark outside but a lamp shone somewhere on the inside. Slowly his eyes opened and took his surroundings. He was in his bedroom, it was night and automatically he reached for the digital watch he knew stood on the table to his right.
June 27, 2026. Saturday.
// Dude… you got an exam in two days. //
Not good. He rubbed his eyes and scratched the fresh stubble on his face. His head felt woozy and it made him wonder how much he had to drink last night… then he wondered what time he came back home and… did he actually sleep all day? Chris raised an eyebrow to himself, was still having trouble keeping his eyes open though.
// Shit. Wouldn’t be the first time. //
He’d done it before, partying hard all Friday evening up until Saturday morning and returning only after cleaning up and closing P3. Wyatt would be annoyed, but he’d let him sleep in as long as he wanted. Well… he never slept till it got dark before? And he sure didn’t remember closing up the club either… oops. How totally sloshed was he?
He pushed himself out of bed and walked towards the bathroom. Noticed he was in his sleeping t-shirt and boxers and couldn’t remember changing his clothes…
// Damn. //
Did Wyatt have to come get him last night again? Oh crap. He was so gonna not *ever* hear the end of it.
Went in, switched on the light and faced the mirror.
// What the? //
Where did all the bruises come from? He saw himself looking back at him… but there was something in the face that wasn’t him. Not… really him.
And then he was standing at the end of a long dark tunnel with a tiny flickering light at the other end that beckoned him. He focused on that light as if in a trance and suddenly the ground beneath his feet gave away and he felt himself propelling into the dark void like he was being sucked in! Into that gaping blackhole of… pain… and guilt and… memories that came at him from nowhere and everywhere… rushing past him and into him… his face, his eyes, his nose, his mouth…
// We’ll get through this… together I promise. //
Chris choked, then hyperventilated. Breaths rapid and incessant and too hard on his heart… beating too fast…
// Kill him, before his brother comes! //
His brother the First Progeny… Wyatt… Wyatt who killed his friends, who killed Bianca… who almost killed him…
//You sound just like Gideon.//
No. Not him… anyone but him!
// If he wanted you out of the way why would he bring you back in the first place?//
His knees collapsed and Chris fell to the floor, eventually dragging himself to rest against the shower door. He was cold and he was sweating. He would have retched if there was anything inside to throw up. Instead he just hugged his knees to his chest, tightly.
// Go back to the manor darling and speak to your mother //
Yes… he needed to face mom but God how *could* he?
//Wyatt! Wyatt please, mom’s bleeding!! Mom hold on!! Hold on please!! Wyatt!!//
His lungs contracted painfully and he gasped, his shoulder throbbed.
// You blamed yourself for not being able to save mom when the attack came. //
He knew… of course he would know…
// You and I, we have a brothers’ bond…//
Just like the sisters did… Pru, Paige, Phoebe… Piper.
// You wouldn’t let me change the bed covers and sheets for weeks. You… you missed her so much… //
But wasn’t he evil? Anymore? Wasn’t he the one to blame for… for…
// I don’t *want* you to be evil!//
// Nothing changed. Nothing fucking changed! //
No that wasn’t true… some things changed. The Golden gate still stands… he was not having a meltdown in a museum’s public lavatory…
// Welcome home son //
Was he welcome really? What had he done ever since he came back? Wrecked havoc? Thrown accusations left, right and center?
Did he really belong here?
// shh baby boy, just let me hold you… //
Chris closed his eyes, hitting his head on the door behind him with deliberate force. The memory of his father’s soft voice alone washing over him like soothing balm to his aching wounds. And he sure had many of them. Which was ironic considering he was the son to a healer… brother to a healer… a brother whom he refused to trust despite the fact that Wyatt had done nothing but save him ever since he’d brought Chris back…
// Happy Birthday Chris //
… from the dead.
// Easy… easy baby. I got you Chris //
The breathing came easy, the trembling trickled away.
He suddenly realized Leo was calling for him. Chris opened his eyes just as Leo walked into the room not having received a response to his knocking. He couldn’t allow him to see his son in such a pathetic state *again*. He’d caused enough stress to everyone he knew for one day, thank you very much.
“Chris you in there?”
Chris quickly got to his feet and locked the door before Leo could enter.
“Yeah… I’m in the shower dad.”
Not like doors could actually stop the Elder but hey, he was not going to walk in on his *supposedly* bathing son. At least Chris hoped he wouldn’t.
Leo didn’t ask him how come he couldn’t hear the water running. Chris realized soon enough though and ran to turn the tap. Leo smiled.
“Okay… just wanted to see how you were doing.”
Chris smiled, had to shout now over the water’s noise.
“I’m… fine! Everything’s fine dad!”
// Don’t lie to me kid. //
Chris leaned against the door on his side, Leo leaned on his. The boy fidgeted, wanting nothing more than to open the damn door, run to his father’s arms and tell him about the bizarre episode he just had. He held his silence, and finally heard the resigned sigh in Leo’s voice from the other side.
“Okay, come down for dinner when you’re done. How does steak sound?”
Chris softly smiled. “You’re vegetarian dad.”
Not to mention, you don’t really need to eat at all, he thought but didn’t say it. Leo smiled too, and reflexively placed a kiss on the door before heading out of the room.
And when Chris realized Leo was gone, he sank to the floor again. This was going to be more difficult than ever. He’d rather just be ranting and yelling at the top of his voice. But no… his dad deserved better from him.
And perhaps… so did Wyatt?
Paige needed to return to her beloved Magic School, but she promised she would keep looking for ways to restore Chris’ powers. After she actually *kissed* the men goodbye and orbed out, Leo turned to Wyatt with a happy curiosity on his face.
“What did you two do to her?”
Wyatt knew what Leo meant and just shrugged smiling.
“It was all Chris, not me. Guess this day made her realize she cant shun family forever.”
Paige not recoiling from physical contact, actually hugging and kissing people was definitely a good sign. Wyatt was setting the table for dinner as they waited for Chris to come down.
“Aunt Phoebs actually let me *orb* her to the club today.”
“That’s amazing… I had given up hope after all these years.”
Leo sighed. Maybe there would be a bright side to all this chaos after all. It would definitely be great if Phoebe would let go of the past and actually come back to the manor someday. Probably wasn’t too probable though.
Chris showered and shaved and changed into a steel blue tee-shirt and well-worn but excellent condition black jeans. He was amazed at how huge and classy his wardrobe was. Back in his world he had never had enough money or time or even inclination to…
// Damn it. //
He couldn’t stop comparing the old life with this new one. But maybe that was the whole point. Chris being more clear-headed now than before, could see the differences between that world and this one… even though he kept reminding himself constantly how it all still depended on Wyatt’s morality. It wouldn’t take long to revert back to the badness if Wyatt was ever to…
// Don’t go there Chris. Not now. //
Chris sighed, and brushed his hair back from his face. They were of a longer length than he would normally prefer… then reminded himself he probably did prefer longer hair *normally*.
// Jesus. //
Was it any surprise he was losing his mind? He took deep breaths, one then another and another. Then headed out of his room for dinner.
The sight of Wyatt in an apron standing by the hotplate was enough to bring a brief chuckle to Chris and draw the men’s attention towards him. Wyatt scowled jokingly at him just before the light moment disappeared and Chris avoided looking at him altogether after that. Wyatt decided he would just have to wait, at least Chris was not attacking him.
Dinner went well, by everyone’s standards. They made rapid small talk – mostly Wyatt and Leo because Chris was content to just smile and nod and generally not make eye contact with them at all. They did not push him and for that Chris was grateful. Besides he was famished and didn’t want to be disturbed while he ate like a pig.
Later, when Chris got up from the table and wondered what he was expected to do next, Leo spoke up.
“Isn’t it your turn with the dishes today?”
Leo was handing him the silly apron and Chris looked at him like he’d lost his mind.
“Its okay dad, I’ll do it.”
And Wyatt went to take the apron again. Chris frowned, wondering why he suddenly felt inclined to take on household chores.
“No wait, I got it.”
Chris put on the apron and headed to the sink, so he missed the unhappy glower Wyatt threw at Leo. Leo just smiled waving away the older brother’s protectiveness and shortly announced he needed to go check up on an old charge of his. Then orbed out, leaving Wyatt and Chris alone. Immediately, Chris tensed up. But continued to rinse the dishes and place them in the dishwasher.
“Here let me help you with…”
“I said I got it.”
Wyatt backed off quietly. Chris didn’t look up at him again, though he suddenly felt guilty for snapping at him. He didn’t mean to, he just… the proximity with this man he’d feared so much and still did, maybe wrongly and maybe not… was making him edgy.
When Chris was done, he rinsed his hands, wiped off on a towel Wyatt handed him and took off the apron. He took his time folding it, not wanting to look at Wyatt even as he was continually aware Wyatt was looking at him. Finally, he realized he couldn’t wait any longer. He put the apron to one side and looked up… at Wyatt. His voice trembled ever so slightly, but he managed to keep it together.
“I don’t know how to believe you.”
Wyatt stood passive, the hurt wouldn’t have been evident to an outsider but somehow Chris knew. The older man did not respond.
“Earlier, when I woke up in mom’s… in my bedroom, for a few minutes I was… you know, your Chris. All these thoughts about college and the club filled my mind and they were all so…”
Wyatt waited. “So?”
“It was like I was standing in one corner looking at myself going through these… *motions* of a real life… an actual normal life. And then…”
Chris moved away from the kitchen sink now, clearly agitated.
“then I don’t know what happened. One look in the mirror and Bam! I… *slammed* back into… me again.”
Chris winced, knowing how crazy he must have sounded. Wyatt just nodded, understanding.
“I know I wasn’t the best-est brother in your last life… you wouldn’t have such a hard time trusting me if… if you weren’t so scared of what he did to you.”
Chris snorted. “Scared?”
// Its true, you’re scared. //
Wyatt bit his lip and said nothing.
“Look, I’m just trying not to make the same mistakes twice alright?”
“The mistake of trusting me you mean?”
Chris did not answer.
“What happened Chris? What did he do to you?”
It was not lost on Chris that Wyatt used *he* instead of *I* to refer to the evil version of himself. Chris liked that. But he didn’t want to talk about it. He suddenly found himself wishing he could forget everything about his last life altogether.
“I wish you’d find something to turn me off completely. Leave the real Chris like he’s supposed to be.”
The boy was taken aback by the sudden passion in his brother’s voice. Wyatt took a step closer to where Chris stood, wanting so much to hold the boy but he couldn’t.
“I didn’t bring you back to *turn* you off!”
Chris yelled at him now. “Yeah? Why did you then? I wish you hadn’t!”
And the boy rushed to get away but Wyatt was faster. He caught Chris by the elbow and one hand holding his head behind the right ear.
“Hey… listen to me, listen to me Chris!”
He tugged at Chris’ hair a little to emphasize his point.
“You *are* the real Chris. You are not two people – you are one unique guy who helped create a better future! A better world. Chris you have no idea how grateful I am to you.”
And then Wyatt let go, hoping he would stay on his own.
“I asked you what he did to you but truth is I don’t wanna know! I don’t know if I have the guts to listen to a description of *myself* in another world that made you… hate me so much.”
There was genuine emotion, even fear in his voice. Chris felt surprisingly at ease and uncompelled to get away just yet.
// Throwing in the towel already? You never learn do ya? //
Chris flinched. Okay, a section of his being was still impervious to Wyatt’s charms. And now *that* section needed to get away. He turned around and saw the door to the garden. Walked towards it, opened it and stepped out into the moonlit night. It was just as beautiful and tended as he’d seen it in the past. Wyatt followed but stopped at the doorway, leaning against it.
“You’ve taken good care of mom’s garden.”
“What makes you think I do?”
Chris looked back at him. “I do it?”
Wyatt snorted. “Oh Noo.”
The boy frowned, then his eyes widened. “Mom! She… still waters her plants doesn’t she?”
Wyatt smiled. “Yep.”
“What is it with ghosts and weird fixations? I’d much rather prefer she *cook* for us.”
“And that’s your way to tell me a zillionth time I suck at cooking, thanks man.”
Chris just made a face that made Wyatt laugh. He was glad at least the brothers were having a civil conversation. Meanwhile Chris marveled at the fact he actually talked about Piper without losing it… for a whole three seconds. He was losing it *now*.
Wyatt saw the boy going slightly pale.
“Chris you okay?”
Chris just nodded, and looked away.
“Don’t you… don’t you wanna see mom?”
Chris blinked. Yes… he should… he wanted to see Piper so bad it hurt. But at the same time, he feared what she would say, what seeing her would do to him…
No. He wanted to see her alive damn it! She was not supposed to be a flimsy pale shadow of the woman that she was only yesterday. Chris shifted his feet, the panic slowly building up in him and Wyatt caught on.
“Chris, tell me what you’re thinking.”
Wyatt demanded, softly. Chris looked at him, then away. Part of him wanting to pour his heart out but he restrained himself. He didn’t wanna talk about… anything really anymore. No wait… there was one thing.
“I… I want my powers back.”
Wyatt nodded. “I’m working on it.”
“How long will it take?”
“Shouldn’t take too long. I think I almost cracked it. Although…”
Wyatt sighed, as if contemplating whether to speak his mind or not. In that very moment, Chris thought he looked very much like his father.
“In a way, I think your powers being down is like… a good thing.”
Chris snorted and shook his head. “I don’t believe this.”
“Think about it. You never trusted the Wyatt you knew. Maybe when you came into this new world, the spell took away your powers to make you not fight this… *new* me and see that here I *can* be trusted. Even when… when you’re not in the best position to defend yourself against me.”
Chris glared at him with scorn.
“You’re just glad I haven’t been able to blow you up in one of my fits of rage!”
Wyatt nodded vigorously. “Oh yeah, that too.”
Chris glared again, but couldn’t help it. He laughed. Wyatt joined in.
It also worked cleverly to keep Chris at the manor, where he was sure to adjust to his new life faster. He was not safe outside the force field and Chris was very well aware of that now.
After awhile, he just shook his head. “I still want them back.”
“I’ll get em back. I promise.”
Chris felt a shiver up his spine… he realized he believed the man! At least he was terribly terribly inclined to.
“On one condition.”
Chris bit his lip, much in the same way Wyatt would now and again.
Wyatt took a moment. “Go see mom.”
Chris sighed. Its what Phoebe had asked him to do too… talk to your mother. Damn it, what hope would he have left if his own dead mother discouraged him from trying to get her back? Cant be… she would want to be back surely. She wouldn’t want to be away from her kids right? Piper had been scared of not being there for her children the way her mother wasn’t around for her and her sisters. He knew that for a fact – after all it was recorded as part of the Charmed Ones’ history and preserved in the Manor museum back in his old world.
Chris nodded mutely.
“Will you help me?”
Chris had never been able to get all the tools for a séance set right by himself. Wyatt led the way up to the attic and Chris followed.
Once inside, Chris was reminded of the last time he’d been up here… when he had accused Wyatt and Wyatt had blamed him in turn. On some level, he knew that none of them was responsible and that they couldn’t possibly have done anything more given their circumstances. But the loss of a mother is too harsh to accept and displacing blame is probably the most natural of all human reactions. He should know, he was majoring in psychology after all.
The candles were lit, and Wyatt now stood at the book beckoning Chris to his side. Chris came tentatively and stopped a few feet away from him. Wyatt frowned then understood.
“Okay this is the spell, you’ve seen it before. I’ll… be downstairs if you need me.”
And Wyatt shoved his hands in his khakhi trouser pockets and made to move out. Chris went and stood by the book and looked at the spell.
The wizard turned around. “Yeah?”
“Did you… send Bianca after me to… “
Wyatt was nodding already. Chris didn’t need to finish the question, and another answer supplied itself to his mind that froze him for a second – Wyatt had an army of assassin witches working for him… even in this world.
“Umm yeah, I… I don’t think I wired the money to Mahogony’s account for last night?”
“I got it.” And Wyatt started walking out again.
Wyatt turned around again, this time quite hopefully. “Yeah!”
Chris gave him a look he somehow knew Wyatt would understand. “It was Brian.”
And Wyatt understood. His eyes clouded over and the eager smile disappeared. The transformation was eerie… and Chris suffered a painful flashback…
That’s how Wyatt looked just before he killed his two best friends.
Wyatt nodded slightly and left the attic. Chris gathered his wits, now doubly convinced of what he must do… and looked down to the spell.