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Once and Future

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            Apparently, being evil made him thirsty, because the first thing Wyatt Halliwell did upon returning from the past and to his own time was head straight toward the fridge for a beer. Anyone else would have needed at least a minute or two to process everything, but him? Nah. Stuff like this happened all the time, although never to him, exactly . . . 

            As he twisted the cap off the bottle, he glanced at the microwave and raised his eyebrows in surprise. It was just past two a.m. Still. Puzzled, he walked into the living room and glanced at the television, further surprised to see that not only was it still on the same terrible movie he’d been watching in an effort to combat his most recent bout of insomnia, but it was still the same scene. 

            “Huh,” he breathed in mild shock, taking a sip of beer and then looking down the hallway toward the bedrooms. Grinning wickedly to himself as he was suddenly hit with the full impact of what had just happened, he rushed down the hall and invited himself into his younger brother’s room, wasting no time in jumping onto the bed on top of him, knees planted firmly on either side of Chris’s hips. 

            “Hey, guess wh—” 

            He was really, really going to have to learn not to challenge Chris’s amazingly sharp reflexes, he thought bitterly to himself as he slammed into the far wall, too stunned to orb in time to prevent the hit after being telekinetically pimp slapped. Dejected, he looked over his shoulder to take in the newest dent in the cheap drywall; they were never going to get their safety deposit back now, even if they did somehow convince the landlord to ignore the burnt wallpaper in the kitchen from a potion gone wrong or the suspicious green stains embedded in Wyatt’s bedroom carpet because Chris just had to vanquish the demon there, like, there was a window right there and Chris could have just orbed the thing and – 

            “Jesus, Wyatt!” 

            “Either one works,” Wyatt answered automatically, groaning slightly as he picked himself up out of the floor. He could just make out Chris’s glaring face in the darkness, and he offered his most innocent grin, only to immediately be flipped off for his efforts before Chris pulled the blankets up over his head. 

            “Hey, come on. Not my fault you’re a jumpy, paranoid freak.” 

            “Get bent.” 

            “So guess what?” Wyatt continued, utterly unfazed by his brother’s usual grouchiness. Chris was a nice enough person under normal circumstances, but God help anyone who tried to speak to him when he first woke up – or, for that matter, when he was rudely awaken in the middle of the night by an overzealous roommate, relative or not. When Chris didn’t answer, Wyatt pursed his lips for a second and continued in a deliberate falsetto, “Gee, I don’t know, Wyatt. Obviously you have something really important to say, so here, have my full attention.” 

            Chris pulled the blankets down over his head just enough to reveal two very thin slits at his eyes. “Go to bed, Wyatt.” There was a pause, then an indignant, disgusted noise. “And I do not sound like that.” He disappeared behind the blankets again. 

            “I just got back,” Wyatt continued, waiting for a couple suspenseful seconds before adding in a whisper, “from the past.” The blankets didn’t move, and Wyatt frowned, reaching out to tug the covers down to reveal Chris’s face. “Dude, did you hear me? The past. I’m a bonafide time traveler now.” 

            Chris’s eyes narrowed further as he studied Wyatt’s face, and for a moment Wyatt thought he’d actually succeeded in capturing his brother’s interest. 

            “Are you high?” 

            “What?” Wyatt shot back, somewhat wounded by the accusation. “No!” 

            “Because I swear to God, Wyatt, I am not covering for you when you start drunk texting Mel your plans to start up your own taco truck. Again.” 

            Wyatt opened his mouth to defend himself, stopped, then tilted his head a bit to the side. “Okay, first of all, it’s not ‘drunk texting’ when you’re high. Second, one time, Chris. Let it go. Third, we could make a killing with a good taco truck around here. I still think you’d be adorable in a giant taco costume. You could walk about a block or two ahead of the truck shouting, ‘The tacos are coming! The tacos are coming!’ Think about how much business that’d –” 

            “Wyatt.” 

            “Okay, fine. But you have to admit, that makes more sense than the Paul Revere costume.”

            Chris clenched his jaws tightly together, gathering what little patience he could muster before speaking again. “You have five seconds to get the hell out of my room before I TK your balls to Oklahoma.” 

            “That was . . . disturbingly specific.” 

            “Three seconds.” 

            “Mom summoned me.” 

            “She summoned you,” Chris repeated blankly, blinking slowly in a manner that made it abundantly clear that he was very close to losing his temper. Wyatt nodded enthusiastically, prompting Chris in turn to snort and drag the blanket up over his head once again. “You’re drunk, Wy. Please go to bed.” 

            “I’m serious!” 

            “So am I! I have organic chem in the morning and I’m tired.” 

            “She wrote a spell in the past to try to talk to me – uh, baby me, I mean – but she got me instead. Chris, I’m Marty McFly without the sweet car.” 

            Chris slowly, cautiously lowered the blankets, peering over the edge at Wyatt with nothing short of disbelief playing across his face. When Wyatt just kept staring at him with that same look of flushed excitement, Chris’s sleep-addled brain finally kicked into gear, making him prop himself up on his elbow to better see his older brother. 

            “You’re lying.”

            “Nope.” 

            “What year was it?” 

            Wyatt frowned. “You know I forgot to ask? Aunt Paige was just becoming a full-fledged Whitelighter. Mom said something about Zankou, so . . . 2005, I think?” 

            That seemed to pique Chris’s interest, and his eyes widened accordingly. “Bullshit.” 

            “I swear,” Wyatt answered, holding a hand up as though that could prove his honesty. 

            “You went back to 2005.” 

            “Yep.” 

            “You – you asshole!” Chris spluttered, though it was good natured enough as he reached out and pushed Wyatt playfully on the shoulder. “Why didn’t you take me with you? God, that would’ve been so cool . . .!” 

            “I didn’t exactly have a say in the matter, Chris,” Wyatt pointed out with a smirk. “One minute I was watching some made-for-TV horror movie about giant killer ants and the next, bam! I was on the sun porch and Mom and her sisters were all, like, twenty years younger.” He paused again, a slow smirk crossing his lips. “You know, pictures don’t really do it justice, man. You were a really chubby baby. Like, Jabba the Hutt chubby. In fact, you started crying once and your face screwed al up and you kinda looked like Jabba when he –” 

            “And yet I still turned out as the hot one. Go figure.” 

            “Whatever.” Wyatt rolled his eyes, though his grin was friendly enough as he perched on the side of the bed. Chris, still yawning, sat up against the headboard and reached a hand up to rub the sleep from his eyes. 

            “So what happened? I mean, did Mom and Dad know who you are?” 

            “Oh yeah, definitely. I think Mom already knew, actually, but she didn’t really believe it until I confirmed it. Oh! I also went evil. Just for, like, an hour or so, but I pulled a Darth Vader, turned to the dark side and everything, you know?” 

            Chris’s eyebrows shot nearly into his hairline. “Wait, how did – what is it with you and all the Star Wars references?” He shook his head, deciding he really didn’t care when there were far more interesting questions he wanted answered. “How did that happen?” 

            “Uh. Funny story about that. You know that teddy bear I had that you ended up orbing into the Bay ‘cause I broke that fake guitar toy you had?” Chris’s once again narrowing eyes told him that, yes, his little brother did in fact remember that. Very clearly. “Turns out it was evil.” 

            “Yeah, no crap.” 

            “No, no, I mean, it wasn’t always evil. Just when I was there.” Wyatt frowned, holding up a hand to cut Chris off before he could speak. “Forget I just said that. Look, point is that some creepy pedo-demon or something was after me – little me, I mean – and gave my bear magical evil cooties or shit. Don’t ask me. All I know is that little me touched the bear and suddenly I went all Sith Lord. Or Slytherin, since you’re tired of my Star Wars references.” 

            “Hold on. Back up for a second. You went evil?” 

            Wyatt waved his hand dismissively. “It happens. I got better. Paige said I looked like the lead singer of Nickelback.” 

            “Who?” 

            “I don’t know, some band that was big then, I guess. But dude, I could dark orb and everything.” 

            Chris eyed his brother warily, ever so slightly leaning away from him. “You sound way too excited about that.” 

            “Well, duh, I don’t really wanna be evil,” Wyatt explained, rolling his eyes exaggeratedly in his head. “But it was kinda cool to know what it feels like. Come on, you’ve never wondered?” 

            “Not really, no.” 

            “Now who’s lying?” Wyatt sighed quietly and looked away, plucking idly at loose threads at the bottom of his jeans. “It felt . . . kinda good. Not necessarily the dark orbing, that just felt like regular orbing, mostly. But the . . . I can’t really explain it. The power, the potential power that was right there . . . I can see how people can get taken in by it.” 

            “. . . You did say you weren’t evil anymore, right?” 

            “Shut up. I’m just saying.” 

            Despite himself, Chris nodded. He didn’t have any firsthand knowledge of this sort of thing, but it also wasn’t hard for him to imagine it happening. There were plenty of examples in the history books of even the best witches being seduced by dark magic and the call of ever-greater power, including his own family on multiple occasions. He also knew Wyatt had experience of his own in the matter, close calls with tapping into his vast repertoire of powers and nearly losing himself in the process. It scared Chris on a very deep, instinctual level, a fear that was far more intense than just one brother worrying about another. It seemed like something intrinsic to him, some hardwired need to keep Wyatt good, no matter the cost. He didn’t understand it, nor did he understand where the particularly vivid nightmares came from, but he figured he had to be doing a fairly good job of making sure Wyatt remained true to his Charmed roots. 

            “We should go back.” 

            Chris blinked in surprise, thoughts interrupted by Wyatt’s abrupt (and quite frankly irresponsible) suggestion. “What?” 

            “We should go back,” Wyatt repeated, louder this time as though Chris’s hearing was the problem. “We could go back and – Chris, think of how many innocents we could save. We could go back and meet Aunt Prue. Hell, we could save her!” 

            Chris blinked again, staring blankly at Wyatt like the older Halliwell had just grown a second head. “And while we’re at it, let’s keep going back into the past. We’ll kill Hitler as a baby, tell people in the Middle Ages to quit hanging out with diseased rats, and then go back and find the Holy Grail. Then on the way back, we’ll make a pit stop in the 80s and invest in Microsoft.” 

            “God, you’re even a bitch when you’re half-asleep.” 

            Ignoring him, Chris rolled his eyes. “Just because we can change the past doesn’t mean we should, Wy. You know that.” 

            Wyatt huffed indignantly, but his downcast eyes and lack of an immediate response were telling enough. “I guess. But maybe we could just go back and visit?” His frown deepened when Chris just shook his head. “Killjoy.” 

            “Loser.”

            Wyatt grinned and leaned over to ruffle Chris’s hair affectionately, earning a stern glare and a smack to his hand by doing so. “Night, brat.” 

            It was Chris’s turn to grin that time, though it was a little more subdued than Wyatt’s. He nodded and made a shooing gesture with his hand to get Wyatt off his bed. “Night, Wy.” 

            Wyatt left before one of them inevitably said or did something to ruin the moment, though he was still far too wired to sleep. Still nursing his beer, he dropped down onto the couch in the living room and stared at the television screen without really seeing it. He was looking into it, beyond it, at a world that seemed intimately familiar and yet frighteningly alien all at once, and if he concentrated, he could still feel the darkness of the magic in his veins, calling to him like a siren beckoning him to his death and rebirth. He could still feel his hands tingling with the strange energy he’d used to strip Vicus’s invisibility shield, just as he could still perfectly recall the brief but intense rush of power as swarms of demons answered a call he didn’t even have to give. It was terrifying and intoxicating, chilling and alluring. It was the ghost of what he could have been, both a warning and a promise, the culmination of the ultimate good and evil. 

            It would not be his last encounter with the other side.