Categories > TV > Charmed
This woman is not his mother, not yet. Fine creases have yet to claim the skin around her lips, her eyes. Her shoulders are straighter than he remembers: young, and proud, and undefeated. She does not know him, nor look upon him with a mother's love: he is a stranger to her body and to her heart.
He knows the shape and feel of her anger, now and in the years that may still come. He feels it as much in the heaviness of the air as he does in the narrowing of her eyes and lips, the slow hardening of her jaw.
Chris has never felt so far away from home.
Behind his back, he folds his fist into his palm. He keeps his elbows loose, ignores the crawling tension in his forearms. "Look," Chris says, abrupt, defensive. Piper's lips thin further, and Chris is talking too fast now, too loud: "Look, I'm sorry, okay?"
Piper's hair slides against her shoulders as she tilts her head. She doesn't press her hands against her eyes, and sigh. She doesn't open her arms to Chris, doesn't murmur comfort against his ear, doesn't press a soft kiss to the spot of pulsing pain at his temples. She says: "I don't know what to think. I don't. You've been lying--"
"No," Chris says, sharp. "Not lying. I haven't lied." He has been alone for so long, a stranger to his own family, a guest in his own home. "I wanted to tell you."
The silence is sudden, painful in its intensity. Piper's hair curtains her face, but Chris can see that her lips stretch in sympathy before twisting into a grimace. "I hate time travel," she says, and Chris knows, and understands, and tries not to wince with the unexpected pain of that statement. Her face is unreadable for long moments, but her anger is softer when she looks at Chris again. "This is a lot to deal with--"
"I know," Chris says, "believe me, I know."
"Magic and demons are one thing," Piper continues with grim humour, "but dealing with my possibly soon-to-be-evil baby, and my uncommunicative, time-travelling second-born is something else entirely." She huffs a pained laugh into her palm.
"I'm sorry," Chris says again, softer now, pleading. He bites the inside of his lips against the reassurance he can not, and will not ask for. "I'm sorry."
Piper sighs, almost closes her eyes against the sight of him. She stills her restless hands by folding her arms before her, hands tucked tightly against her ribs. "There are so many things I want to know," Piper says, "so many things that I don't understand." She looks at the picture on the mantelpiece: Piper and Leo and Wyatt, the life she'd had before Chris.
Finally, Piper speaks again, slowly, unhappily: "I'll try not to press you for answers you can't give." Chris doesn't answer, and Piper sighs, her expression caught between frustration and reluctant amusement. "You must have been a handful," she says, and it isn't quite a compliment.
"Do you really think I'm that bad?" Chris asks, and curses himself for the petulance in his own voice. Piper's eyebrows curve, surprised, considering. "Never mind," Chris says quickly, and fits a smile to his lips, tight, uncomfortable. "This is harder than I thought it would be."
He hadn't counted on homesickness while planning this desperate mission. He had taken everything into consideration--from the difficulty of the spell itself to the disorientation of living in a time not his own--and had schemed, and trained, and been prepared for anything--
Anything except the inescapable presence of his own memories, superimposed over everything he has seen in the here and now.
"It's pretty awkward from my side of things, too," Piper agrees.
She hesitates, and finally pulls her curled hands from the crook of her elbows. She moves towards him, purposeful, eyes narrowed in thought. Chris almost jumps, almost leans into the touch, almost cries. He does nothing, but stands still, and slits his eyes until everything blurs before him. Piper's fingers are careful against Chris' face: tracing upward from chin to jaw, cheek to forehead. She trails down the bridge of his nose, smoothes the edge of her thumb across his eyebrow.
A light tug at his bangs, and Piper offers Chris a slanted smile. "I don't know how I could have missed it," she says, finding traces of herself, of Leo, everywhere she looks.
"You were never supposed to know," Chris says, and it isn't a complete lie. He had told himself, again and again, that he could not tell anyone more than they needed to know. Don't alter the timeline, don't reveal more than you have to, and he had been expecting Piper and Leo to see and to know.
She is a good woman, now, always. "Chris," she says, testing his name against her lips. "Chris."
He swallows, fighting the urge to fold to his knees and bury his face against her belly. Mom, mommy, I've missed you, I've missed you so much, and it would be too easy to pretend for these few brief moments that he belongs here. He can't forget the future he's left behind him, though, can't banish the image of Piper's dull eyes and slack face, he can't.
"It must have been hard for you," Piper says softly. He wonders what she sees in his face, how much of her own future she reads in the tightening of his lower lip, the wet sheen in his eyes.
"It's worth it, so long as I can save--" you, Leo, Wyatt, Phoebe, Paige, everyone, "the future, make it right."
Piper hardly hesitates at all. "Chris, honey, come here," she says, and opens her arms.
There are subtle differences in her body, her scent, and her hands are uncertain against his hair. Chris heaves a shuddering breath that makes Piper hold him closer, coos wordless comfort against the crown of his head with something that might almost be love. This woman isn't the mother he knows, not yet, but she's the closest he's come to home in far too long.
"Mom," he says, "mom."
"Hush, baby, hush. Everything will be all right," she says.
He almost believes her.
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