Disclaimer: Nothing in the Charmed universe belongs to me and no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: Okay this is it. The last chapter of the story and I have to admit a lot of it is just family fluff. But my do I just love family fluff. As always I hope everyone enjoys it.
Chapter 32 Too Long
"I still think I was a much cuter baby," Wyatt whispered to his brother as they stood in the door to their mom's hospital room as they watched their parents and aunts fussing over the new baby. Wyatt was holding his smaller counterpart who had taken as much a liking to him as he had his brother.
A small smile graced Chris' lips as he thought about that statement. "You know, Wy, I'd have to agree with you on that, but can you explain to me what happened when you grew up?"
Wyatt shot his brother a sour look and then walked forward into the room. Once he was standing next to the hospital bed he leaned over so little Wyatt could see the baby. "Hey, buddy, you see him. Well that is your little brother and it's your job to take care of the little squirt."
The younger version of Wyatt looked wholly unenthused at the suggestion, which they could all see. "Yeah, I know, he doesn't look like much right now, but someday you're gonna want him around."
Little Wyatt just blew bubbles at that suggestion as he turned to play with the buttons on his older self's shirt.
Chris had walked forward and was trying very hard to keep his laughter under his breath. "You never did listen very well, bro,"
"Yeah, your laughing now but I hope you remember how funny it is when he starts orbing you out of the house," Wyatt countered.
Piper and Leo both shared looks of terror at that statement and Wyatt quickly qualified his words. "Only to Grandpas. Don't worry."
"He says don't worry," Piper said her voice slightly strained.
Leo just chuckled. "Guess I better get used to visiting Victor then." It wasn't his favorite pastime but he also knew just how much Victor had meant to Chris in his first timeline so they'd just have to get over their differences for the boys sake.
Wyatt smiled but it was easy to see how strained it was. It had been nearly twenty-four hours since Chris' birth and the oldest Halliwell brother had yet to say more than two sentences to his father, which was beyond frustrating for both Chris and Leo. They both understood Wyatt's unwillingness to get too close to Leo but it made what should have been a joyous celebration into a less than perfect one. "Hey, Wy, lets go find something to eat. I'm starving," Chris suggested and Wyatt nodded in agreement as he handed his younger self to Paige. "You guys want anything?"
Everyone else shook their heads in the negative but Piper called out just as they orbed away. "Clean up when you're done."
"How do you know they're going to the Manor? Maybe they're gonna go for a burger or something." Paige asked in surprise.
Leo answered that one for her though. "In the year and a half Chris was here did you ever see him buy anything? He never has any money." They had to admit that was true. It wasn't as if Chris had time to hold down a job.
"They're not going there to eat anyway," Phoebe suggested staring off into space a look of sadness on her face. She knew that Chris wanted to have a private talk with Wyatt. She had recently become very good at reading both her nephews. Even Chris was no longer a mystery. Apparently that empath blocking potion, which none of them were supposed to know he took, didn't last forever and now that he wasn't trying to keep secrets from her his emotions came more freely to her mind.
Piper and Paige both gave her curious looks but she shared a look of understanding with Leo. He had been thinking the same as she had. "Don't worry, Leo. If anyone can get through to him, it's Chris."
Leo nodded his agreement. "I know, Phoebe. I'm just wondering if anything short of him going back and seeing the future will convince him that I can be a good father. I don't really want to have to wait twenty-three years for my son to realize just how much I love him."
Paige handed him little Wyatt and said the only thing she knew might help the pain her brother-in-law felt. "You don't have to wait. Start today, Leo, with this little guy and baby Chris. Once he goes back he'll see just how great a dad you are because he'll gain all the memories of this little one."
Leo nodded pulling his son into a tight hug and kissing his forehead. "I love you, little guy, and that will never change," he whispered causing his son to giggle in happiness.
Once they appeared in the kitchen at the Manor Chris stood back as Wyatt opened the fridge and started to pull out stuff to make sandwiches with. Once Wyatt turned around facing his brother he could see how Chris stared at him. He let the items he was holding fall to the counter top on the breakfast bar. "All right, I know you aren't interested in eating but I am, so go ahead and talk while I fix my lunch."
Chris smirked at that. His brother really wasn't as dumb as he acted at times. "So you really aren't gonna let this go until we get back to the future, huh?"
Wyatt knew exactly what his brother was talking about and he also knew how much he disliked the idea too. "Yep."
"Is that really fair to Dad?" Chris asked quietly.
Wyatt didn't answer for a moment as he started to make his sandwich. He wasn't exactly sure how to answer that. No, it wasn't fair, but nothing about the whole situation had been fair yet. "Chris, I don't want to get my hopes up, and you shouldn't either."
Chris snorted at that. "Wy, I've had my hopes up for months, now. It's a little late for that, don't you think?"
Wyatt didn't bother looking up at that. "I'm sorry, Chris. I just can't. If things are fine when we get back to our time then I'll work on the whole father and son thing but for now, I'd rather not."
"Wy, you know you can be a real bastard at times," Chris loved his brother dearly but enough was enough.
Wyatt dropped the knife he was using and looked up. "Chris, I have a right to feel how I feel."
Chris just stared at his brother for several minutes and then he said his final peace on the subject. "Yeah, Wy, you do. But while you're feeling that way, why don't you think of something. You and I will be stepping through that portal and will immediately be in the future. We'll know instantly if things are right or not. But he has to wait twenty-three years to find out whether or not you are gonna hate him for the rest of his life." Chris had no intentions of pulling his punches on this one and he could see how those words made Wyatt flinch. "And there's something else you might consider. He jumped off a bridge to become what you wanted him to be. He didn't do that for me or for mom or anyone else. I tried to convince him not to do it. I knew deep down that something wasn't right about it. But he didn't listen to me. He did that for you, and he nearly died doing it."
Wyatt didn't want to admit to Chris that he had already thought of all of that but was still very hesitant to accept Leo, but he knew Chris wasn't gonna let it go. "Chris, how did you feel about Mom when you first came back to this time?"
Chris was startled by that question but didn't mind answering it. "I loved her. I'll always love her."
"Chris, how did you feel about Piper?" Wyatt corrected.
Then Chris understood what he was getting at. "I was afraid to get too close to her because she might not have been there when I got back…" Chris paused after saying that as it started to make mores sense. "Just like you are afraid that Dad might not be there when you get back." It made perfect sense actually. He should have seen this coming. He had had months to accept Piper as his mom before he was forced to admit it. "I'm sorry, Wy. I should have realized."
Wyatt just shook his head and went back to the sandwich he was making.
"I can tell you something that might help though," Chris spoke up hoping that Wyatt would be willing to listen to him. "Even though I wasn't ready to accept Piper as my mom when I got here, now that I look back at it I wish I had never wasted so much time pretending to be something I wasn't. I wish I hadn't hurt her all of those months. I know it had to be hard for her to keep my secret and to have me so close but not able to tell me that she loved me."
Wyatt didn't answer. He just nodded slightly and finished what he was making. Chris walked over to his brother's side and squeezed his shoulder in a sign of support. "Whatever you decide, I'll be there for you, bro, whether Dad is or not. But believe me when I say that I have complete faith in him."
"Thanks, Chris," Wyatt whispered still looking down at the sandwich he hadn't bothered to eat yet.
"And besides, if things aren't right in the future, I'll just come back and change it again." Chris just couldn't help adding that.
This caused Wyatt to laugh as a smile lit his face. "Mom would tie you up in the basement."
"She'd have to catch me first, and the complete eternity of time provides a lot of hiding places," Chris said in a conspiratorial whisper.
2 days later
Leo found himself sitting in the nursery again just as he spent most of his time since Piper brought Chris home from the hospital. He couldn't get over the fact that he was free to spend as much time with his sons as he wanted. He hadn't realized just how tense he sometimes was before, knowing at any minute he could be called away from them. This was so much better. Chris was asleep in his crib and Leo was holding Wyatt on his lap. His oldest son was almost asleep. It was slightly difficult to think of these two small boys as being his two grown sons who would soon be going back to their own time.
Once he was sure that Wyatt wouldn't wake he moved him into his own crib and tucked a blanket around the napping toddler. He had seen someone come up to the door out of the corner of his eye and was expecting it to be Chris. Before things had gone all wrong Chris had often spent time in the nursery with Leo while they put Wyatt down for his nap. But he was surprised to see his other son standing in the doorframe. He placed one finger in front of his lips in a shushing motion as he moved towards the door. They both walked into the hallway and then into Leo and Piper's bedroom. "Is everything okay?" he asked seeing the very serious look on Wyatt's face.
"Yeah, I'd just like to talk to you about something. Do you mind if we get out of here for a little bit?" Wyatt asked not exactly looking at his father.
"Not at all," Leo answered letting his son grab his arm as they orbed away.
Leo was sort of surprised when they reformed on top of the Golden Gate Bridge but he waited patiently for Wyatt to speak.
"This is okay, right? Shoot, I should have thought about it first." Wyatt realized too late that his father might not exactly enjoy revisiting the place that had almost been the scene of his death.
"It's okay, Wyatt. I still like it up here. I just can't get here on my own anymore," Leo assured him. He didn't regret anything about his decision to take the fall and this was still the most peaceful spot in all of San Francisco.
"Chris always loved it up here too. I wasn't so found at first but I got used to it because of him," Wyatt said remembering the first time Chris had convinced him to orb to the bridge top. At the time Wyatt had refused to tell his brother that he was slightly afraid of heights but he had gotten over that with time. He soon realized that if he wanted to spend time with his brother he'd have to get used to it. Chris was always looking to the skies but now that Wyatt thought about it, maybe Chris had a very good reason for that.
"Chris said you were leaving later today." Leo had already spent several hours with his youngest as they just sat and talked while Chris told him of his hopes for the future he'd return to. Leo had enjoyed the time spent with Chris but he felt as if something was missing without Wyatt there too.
"Yeah… um… did you two happen to talk about me any?" Wyatt wasn't sure how to go about telling his father how he felt and part of him wished that Chris had explained his feelings for him.
"Not really. He said that he hoped you'd want to talk to me before you left but he wasn't sure," Leo said hopefully. If only he could get Wyatt to open up. "Wyatt, I do understand your fears and I don't blame you for them. I just wish that there was some way I could help you with them now."
"Dad, I can't live on blind faith like Chris is right now. I wish it was that easy for me but I've always been the one who had to be the skeptic. It's the only way I knew how to protect him and Mom," Wyatt explained hoping his father could understand.
Leo nodded sadly. He hated the fact that his son had had to grow up that way. "I should've been the one doing that, Wy. I'm sorry you had to take my place. It wasn't fair to you."
Wyatt just shook his head. "They needed me. I couldn't have done any different, but that's beside the point. Things will change if the future goes the way you and Chris want it to."
"Wyatt, I've already promised you that it will. I'm not gonna just repeat myself. But I will tell you that I don't expect anything of you." Wyatt was surprised by those words. He had expected his father to be as pushy about the subject as Chris was. "Wyatt, I love you and in your future when you go through that portal I hope you can start to care for me too. But that's completely up to you."
Wyatt hadn't really looked his father in the eyes for most of the conversation. He had been nervous about doing so but as he glanced up at them he realized just how easily he could read his father's eyes. Just as easily as he could read Chris'. And what he saw there gave him pause. It didn't matter that he had said it was Wyatt's decision; just the thought of being rejected was breaking his heart. "Twenty-three years," he whispered echoing his brother's words from the other day.
Leo had just barely heard it but he didn't comment as he nodded sadly.
His father was willing to walk around through life for twenty-three years with the pain of knowing his son might not ever care for him, just so he wouldn't feel pressured into anything. 'Too long' he thought sadly to himself. "Let's say I have a little bit more faith in you, if you promise me that you won't disappoint Chris too much. I know he thinks you walk on water or something and that's a lot to live up to but at least make sure he grows up happier than he did before."
Leo smiled at those words and Wyatt could see a light of hope in his eyes. "That I can do."
Wyatt nodded and turned looking out over the horizon for a moment. "Oh, and don't forget to show us this place. Chris really likes it up here." With that Wyatt reached out and placed a hand on his father's shoulder as they orbed into the attic in the Manor.
Chris and the sisters were waiting there for them. As they reformed both of them noticed Paige hand Phoebe what looked like a five-dollar bill and the look on her face showed she was unhappy about it. Wyatt glanced at his father who shrugged not understanding at all and then looked back to his aunts waiting for an explanation.
"Oh, don't look at me like that. It was only a little friendly wager," Paige said sulking slightly.
Chris rolled his eyes and stood away from the table he'd been leaning against. He walked over to Wyatt who still looked like he wanted to know what was going on. "She bet you'd leave Dad on the bridge."
Wyatt rolled his eyes too. "I'm not twelve, Aunt Paige. Give me a little credit for being able to act like an adult. At least the rest of you had more faith in me."
"Actually, if I had had any money to bet, I'd have bet on Dad ending up in Valhalla again," Chris admitted. "Good thing I'm broke."
Wyatt's mouth gaped slightly at his brother but then he remembered something. "Don't I still owe you for a comment you made before we left?"
Chris just smiled wickedly. He didn't believe that his brother would ever follow through on even one of those threats.
They all knew it was time to go but each of them seemed to be stalling not wanting this to happen yet again. Chris knew it was time though so he decided to start it off. He stepped over to Phoebe first. He remembered the words she had said to him right before he left the time before and couldn't help himself. "You know, Aunt Pheebs, when I was a kid I thought your constant smothering of me was the most annoying thing I'd ever seen." With his words Phoebe's mouth dropped in shock and he could see the stricken look covering her face. "Don't ever change. It's the way you show those you love how you truly feel. I wouldn't want to live in a world without an embarrassing aunt who smothers me all the time."
Phoebe gave him an exasperated look but hugged him anyway then she stepped over to Wyatt hugging him tightly. "How did you ever live with that growing up?" she asked him shooting Chris a small grin.
"It wasn't easy, Aunt Pheebs. I promise you it wasn't." He hugged her back tightly and waited for Chris to move on to their other aunt.
Paige stood and walked over to Chris. "Who taught you to be such a smart alec, Mister?" she asked hugging him tightly.
"That would be you," he answered her returning the hug.
She pulled back looking him straight in the eyes. "I might have done too good a job there." Then she pulled away and made her way to Wyatt. "I think I'm gonna miss you just as much as Mr. Sarcastic over there. We didn't have nearly enough time to get to know you though."
"I'll miss you too, Aunt Paige," Wyatt answered. "Just don't bet against me anymore, okay?" She nodded pulling away. She wouldn't make that mistake again.
Then Chris moved on to his mother. Yet again this would be very hard to do. He wrapped his arms around her trying not to hug her too tightly as he just let himself enjoy the feel of being hugged by her and the wonderful smells he always incorporated in his mind as belonging to her. Reluctantly he pulled back and said something to allay her worries. "Just so you know, we'll arrive twenty-three years in the future to this day. And just like the last time, if things aren't right we'll come right back, okay."
"Can't a mother worry?" she asked as tears sprung to her eyes.
"I would be shocked if you didn't," he said teasingly but then he took on a much more serious tone. "I love you, Mom."
She pulled him back into the hug and whispered into his ear. "Whether you are seven or thirty-seven I'll never get tired of hearing you say that."
Chris had promised himself that he wouldn't cry this time around but there was no way he could keep that promise. "I'll say it forever if you want me too," he said as the tears started to fall from his eyes. They shared a couple more minutes of just hugging each other and then Chris stepped back letting Wyatt take his turn with their mom.
"See, I never realized until now that it was gonna be twice as hard to say goodbye this time around," she said reaching up and folding her oldest son in a hug. "Wyatt, you've always been my sunshine and light. Whatever you do, promise me that you'll stay just like you are today."
"I promise, Mom," he said squeezing her even tighter. "I love you."
"I love you too, baby," she whispered not wanting to let him go. Twice as hard was an understatement.
Chris had moved over to his father's side and Leo had wrapped an arm around his shoulders as they watched Wyatt saying goodbye to their mom. "I don't know anything else to say to you, Chris, except I love you and I'm very proud of you. And I promise to get things right this time around."
"I know you will," he answered with a look of complete faith on his face. With that he hugged his father tightly and said the words that for the past few days had come so easily for him. "I love you, Dad. I just wish it hadn't taken me so long to learn to say that."
Leo found his eyes full of tears again as his son said the words that he had come to crave almost as much as the air he breathed. "Just don't forget to tell me in the future, okay. I know how boys get embarrassed to tell their dads that kind of stuff."
"Everyday, Dad," he promised.
Then Chris backed away and looked towards his brother pulling the spell from his back pocket again. The Triquetra was still waiting on the wall for them.
Wyatt walked over next to Chris who held the spell up ready to say the words, but then something unexpected happened. "Wait a minute, Chris," Wyatt said placing his hand over the spell. Then he glanced up at his father and walked quickly over to him. "Twenty-three years is way to long, Dad." With that he reached out and hugged his father tightly his eyes swelling with tears.
Leo was shocked at first but then he returned his son's hug just as tightly. "I love you, Wyatt," he whispered through the tears streaming down his face.
"I love you too, Dad," came the soft reply. They stood like that for several moments and then Wyatt pulled away wiping the tears from his eyes and backed up next to Chris again. He could see that his brother wore a huge grin and the tears were flowing even harder down his cheeks.
Hear these words
Hear the rhyme
Heed the hope within our minds
Send us forth to where we'll find
Our home in place and time
With that they stepped through the portal side by side and out on the other side. As before their was a second set of themselves waiting there for them and Chris and Wyatt both felt that pulling sensation as they were merged with their new selves. They looked at each other and could see very little difference. "Well so far, so good," Chris commented and then they turned to see three people sitting on the couch waiting for them.
Within seconds they were surrounded by their mom and aunts who were hugging them tightly and making a major fuss over them.
"You'd think they hadn't seen us in years or something," Wyatt teased.
Chris smiled at that but was looking around the attic for the one person who was missing. That fact hadn't passed Wyatt's notice either but he was waiting for Chris to say something.
"Mom, where's Dad?" Chris finally asked.
Piper smiled at her sons and called out, "Leo."
Chris and Wyatt shared a look of fear. There was no way he had gone back to being an Elder or a Whitelighter. 'I swear to god if he orbs in I'm gonna punch him,' Wyatt thought to himself darkly.
But at that moment footsteps could be heard pounding up the steps and their father was in the door within seconds. "Damn, I missed it, didn't I?" he asked stopping just inside the door.
"You have to pardon him, kids. Getting old is not as fun as he thought it'd be," Paige quipped and both boys could see the age lines on their father's face and the gray hair at his temples.
Both brothers broke out in huge grins as they rushed forward and wrapped their father in hugs and teased him about his gray hair.
After things had calmed some Chris looked over to his brother wrapping one arm around his shoulders and couldn't help but say it. "I told you so!"
Wyatt looked to where his father had one arm wrapped around their mother's waist and was gazing at her like a man who had just fallen in love and she was returning the gaze right back. "For once, Chris, I'm more than glad that you were right and I was wrong."The End For Now
A/N: Well that's the end of that one and boy did I not want it to end. The last chapter is always the hardest for me to write.
Anyhow, I need to offer thanks to all of my great reviewers and readers who have stuck with me through this roller coaster ride. You are all the best and I'll never forget the encouragement you've given me.
Next on my list is to work on my Sacrifice Series, which I know a couple of you were reading but I must warn that I won't be able to update as often on that one. Probably more like once or twice a week. I'm gonna try my hand at writing a book to be published so I'm gonna be busy with that but I won't forget my Charmed stories either. So don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. Good night and farewell for now my good friends.