Categories > TV > Charmed3 Reviews
Almost 16 years into the future, a rainy day and a photograph lead to questions about the future that might have been for Piper's children.
Half-Truths and Consequences
By Taynna (Taynna42@aol.com)
I do not own the characters contained within nor do I profit from my use of them in any monetary way. I also recognize that this disclaimer does not excuse my breach of copyright. However, as I have no assets, I assume that those who do own the rights to these characters have better people to sue.
This fic started out as one plot bunny, one story from when I taught toddler Sunday School and one-line that I REALLY wanted to use. Just so there's no confusion - unless my muse is keeping secrets from me, this is a one-shot with ZERO chance of a follow-up.
Also - I owe lots and lots of thanks to Katie - she's now read at least three drafts of this story and has had to listen to me chatter about it for days upon days upon days... I love you! You're the best roommate ever!
Post Season Six - No spoilers for how the season ends, though it does fit the spoilers that I've read.
It had been raining all morning and their mother had forbidden them from orbing somewhere more fun in favor of a magic-free family day, which really meant that they sulked and their mother ignored them. Like she was ignoring them right now, deeply engrossed in a crossword puzzle. Wyatt had finally gotten bored enough to examine the family photos. "Mom?"
"Yeah, Wyatt, what do you need?"
She hadn't even bothered to glance up from her puzzle and Wyatt couldn't help rolling his eyes, a habit his mother often blamed, loudly, on her sisters. "The picture of me and the blocks - this guy looks a lot like Chris, doesn't he?"
Chris got up and joined his older brother in front of the framed pictures, examining the one that Wyatt had indicated more closely than he had in years. "He does look like me. He's older but... Mom, who is he?"
Piper had set the crossword aside when Wyatt mentioned the picture and joined her sons where they stood, wrapping one arm around Wyatt's waist on her right and Chris' on her left. At fifteen, Chris most recent growth spurt had allowed him to overtake her height by several inches and had banished the last of his baby fat while broadening his shoulders. Though he definitely still had growing up and filling out to do, more and more frequently Piper could catch glimpses of the man that she knew her baby boy was growing up to be. She'd made the decision long ago that she would tell the truth when this question was, inevitably, asked but she couldn't make herself pronounce the words.
--15 Years Earlier--
The latest addition to the family pictures in the Manor's living room drew Piper's eye like a magnet every time she walked through.
It was a typical print from some one hour photo place in a small silver frame: Chris and Wyatt were playing together on the floor of her room at Magic School. Large wooden blocks of various shapes and colors (that she'd later found out Chris had snuck out of the Magic School nursery) were spread around them and Wyatt was watching with rapt attention as Chris built a simple tower with them about 3 feet tall. The memory of what followed made her smile: when Chris finished his tower he would scoot back from it and pronounce it done, which was Wyatt's cue to knock it down so that Chris could build a new one. The loud racket that the blocks made on the stone floor made both boys laugh every time.
Sometimes she could barely believe that the happy, grinning boy in the photo was also the haunted and intense young man that had pursued his goals with near-frightening intensity. Chris had usually worn a stoic mask, even after they discovered his real identity; she could remember only a few times that his smile had touched his eyes, even fewer times that his laugh had expressed happiness or joy.
She was still contemplating the picture when Phoebe found her some time later. "Hey, there you are."
"Here I am." Piper echoed, still distracted by the photo. "Did you need me for something?"
"Paige just got back with dinner, we called you but I guess you didn't hear us." Phoebe was standing beside her now, following her gaze to the picture on the table. "When did you put that picture out?"
"Only a few days ago." Piper said. "I think that might have been the only time I really saw him laugh."
Any response Phoebe might have made was cut of by Paige joining them. "What's out here that's more important than dinner?"
"We're coming. Just looking at the picture that Piper put out the other day."
"Ooh, I love family photos!" Paige exclaimed, momentarily forgetting her hunger and joining her older sisters. "Aww, that's so adorable," she cooed after Phoebe pointed it out to her.
Paige considered it for another moment before she asked, "What are we going to tell Chris and Wyatt when they ask who that is? How are we supposed to explain any of this stuff to them? I mean, there's no way we can tell them the truth and I know we've got a few years to make up something convincing but..."
"No!" Piper exclaimed suddenly. "No more secrets or lies. From now on, this family tells the truth to each other. The whole truth. Lying can't do anything but hurt this family more."
Paige closed her mouth so quickly on whatever she'd been about to say that Phoebe heard her teeth click together. Now Paige was looking at her like... like she wanted Phoebe to be the one to try and talk whatever was bothering Piper out of her. Great. "Umm, Piper, honey, why don't you go ahead and sit down?" She sighed in relief as Piper allowed their younger sister to lead her to the couch.
Phoebe sat across from them, leaning forward to keep as much eye contact with her older sister as she could. "What's going on, honey? Why the sudden panic over how truthful we are with each other?"
Piper sighed and leaned back against the couch with her eyes shut, making no move to answer the question until Paige elbowed her softly. "I just... I want my children to trust me enough to tell me the truth. I want them to know that we're truthful with them. I want them to talk to me and tell me what's going on and how they are and trust me to be there for them and I..."
"Woah, Piper!" Phoebe interrupted as her older sister began to truly freak out, waited until she had her attention back and continued, "Sweetie, Wyatt has a 200 word vocabulary and Chris hasn't even started to walk yet. What do you want them to tell you?"
Paige eased her arm around her oldest sister's shoulders, "Phoebe's right, Piper. Calm down, everything's okay. Wyatt and Chris are safe and we're going to make sure they stay that way."
"I know." Piper said softly. "I know that, really. It's just... I keep thinking."
Paige smiled, "That can be dangerous."
Piper rolled her eyes a bit, which both Phoebe and Paige took as an encouraging sign. "I keep wondering about Chris. I mean, future Chris, when he came... went... you know what I mean. When he visited to save Wyatt."
"What about him?" Phoebe asked.
Piper answered her with a distant look in her eye, probably recalling the brash, know-it-all young man as she'd seen him before she knew him as her son. "He was so alone, he had so much to live with and no one to help him carry the burden. He lied to us every time he opened his mouth for awhile there."
"Piper, he had his reasons." Paige argued.
"I know that. I do. It's just... if he'd trusted us in the beginning, when he first appeared to fight the Titans. Or if he hadn't been such a good liar. If we'd trusted him first. If we'd paid more attention to the things he said that only family could know..."
Phoebe shifted over the couch so she could hug Piper, "Piper, you can't do this to yourself. He didn't tell us, we didn't trust him. There are no what-ifs. There's only what was."
She protested as Piper pulled out of her embrace to get up and begin pacing the room - just as Chris often had, she noticed with some amusement. How could he have been anyone else's son? Wyatt was much more like Leo, tending towards the calm and serenity that marked his whitelighter heritage. Chris on the other hand... Chris was clearly his mother's son. He paced, he borrowed trouble like crazy, he was overdramatic and terribly determined to prove himself. He drove himself into the ground trying to protect those around him, forgetting, just as Piper often did, that in this family there was always someone to provide support.
Piper paused in front of the picture, "I don't want my baby to ever get that good at lying to me." She turned and faced them, "If we were wrong, if it were to happen again - I don't want Chris to be capable of lying to me like that. I want him to know that we'll help him."
"Okay," Phoebe said. "Then we won't lie."
Paige stood and joined Piper in front of the picture again, "So, what are we going to tell them?"
Phoebe gave her an exasperated look as she took a place on Piper's other side, "We'll tell them that Chris came ... went ... came from the future? Went to the past? I hate time travel."
Paige continued, allowing Phoebe to nurse her emerging headache, "He came from the future to save his family. Should we really tell them that Wyatt was turned evil? When they ask what he was saving his family from?"
Piper smiled wistfully, "I'll tell them what he told us."
Piper's smile became more mischievous, reminding her sisters more than ever of the man their nephew would grow to be. "I'll just say what he would."
Phoebe and Paige both began to laugh, realizing what she meant at the same time and appreciating the irony.
"I like it." Paige said, "I think it's only fair."
Phoebe's laughter faded to soft giggles, "He drove us crazy enough with it - I agree, it's only fair."
Chris and Wyatt exchanged concerned looks over her head that they must have thought she wouldn't notice. "Mom?"
"I'm okay, Chris." She tightened her arms around them briefly in reassurance before letting go of both to pick up the frame. "This picture was taken at Magic School while I stayed there before you were born, Chris. The reason that he looks like you is that he is you - or you in six or seven years."
Wyatt used his height advantage to lean over her shoulder for a better look, an annoying habit that his younger brother was picking up, "That's Chris? How is that possible?"
Now that she'd started, the story flowed easier than she'd thought it could, "Time travel. He never really did explain the how to us - he was more concerned with his mission."
"So, that's ... me?" Chris didn't sound nearly as curious as his older brother.
"Yes ... and no." She answered slowly. "He was you - but he was a version of you that was formed by different experiences. A 'what if' version of you."
"What was he like? Was it weird having him around?" Wyatt was still full of questions and Chris still didn't look comforted. This was much harder than she thought it would be.
"It was very strange having him around - even in this family, it's odd to meet your children before they're conceived." Chris, like any teenager, reflexively made a face at that idea. "He was determined and kind of ... haunted. His future was a pretty dark place and he was determined to change it and save his family."
"It worked?" Chris' voice was so quiet she almost didn't hear him. Wyatt remained silent, thankfully, realizing for once that his younger brother needed to hear this from her.
"Yes. It worked. He saved his family and changed the future so that you and your brother could have the life he wanted and wouldn't have to make the choices that he did."
She took the photo from Wyatt's hands and placed back in its place. "It's not something to dwell on. You have to live the life that you have here and now - not worry about what might have happened, Chris."
She pulled him into a hug and was glad to feel him squeeze her back as a small smile broke slowly across his face. Wyatt was at her back and wrapped one arm around his little brother's shoulders for one of the quick macho hugs he preferred these days. "Mom?"
"Yes, Wyatt?" She let her youngest slip from her arms as they both turned to face Wyatt again.
"What was he saving the family from?" The question was in Chris' eyes, but he held back, letting his older brother's curiosity serve his own.
She kept from rolling her eyes by sheer force of will, her eldest had a curious streak that rivaled both her sisters and had apparently also inherited Paige's inability to keep quiet. She should have known that he would ask the one question that she would never answer - no one needed to know that only a trick of chance and an overly-determined younger brother kept them from becoming the greatest evil ever known.
A part of her was glad that he'd asked though, because it gave her the chance to say what she'd been dying to for almost sixteen years.
"I can't tell you that."