Author's note: I own nothing.
Sections in past tense are the unchanged future. Everything else - you'll figure it out.
Enjoy.All Roads Lead Here
It's a stupid plan.
Chris knows it's a stupid plan. It's been a stupid plan every time he's done it so far and it'll be a stupid plan every time he does it after today. Because he will do it again; he knows himself well enough to know that.
Life in Halliwell Manor is a lot easier these days, but it's still not home. He had the Golden Gate Bridge, for a while, but now Leo keeps 'dropping in' to make awkward attempts at bonding, no matter how often Chris assures him they're fine. It's almost suffocating, their attempts to make up for slights Chris never even registered.
So yeah, this is a stupid plan, but his well meaning family won't be able to find him here. Barring emergencies, he should be safe for a little longer. He can soak in her presence, even if she doesn't know he exists.
Across the road, Dawn shifts on the school steps, turning her back on the weirdo guy. Kit, who knows what's going on – well, sort of – is busy distracting Carlos for her. Dawn smiles absently in thanks, watching the construction crew nearby.
Xander, busy hammering something, glances up. His eyes meet hers for a second, wandering over her shoulder; he turns back to his work, hammering quickly for another moment before turning the work over to another crew member and wandering away, talking into his cell.
Dawn turns back to Kit and Carlos, picking up the thread of the conversation with ease. If her mystery stalker holds true to form, they have just a few minutes before...
A blonde figure sits down next to him. Dawn grabs Kit in one hand, Carlos in the other, and runs.
The voice startles Chris. He wastes precious seconds gaping, and by the time he really reacts she's sitting next to him. Her hand on his arm will look friendly to anyone watching, but it's pinning him in place without effort. He fights down an atavistic urge to orb away, run, whatever it takes.
"So." Buffy Summers, the Prime Slayer, smiles sweetly at him. Chris can't remember the last time he was this terrified. "Want to tell me why you're stalking my sister?"
"Want to tell me what you thought you were doing?"
Chris, flat on his back on the floor, waved a hand vaguely towards the crates of supplies. "Same thing I do every night, Pinky."
"You don't get yourself fired on every night." Brisk, gentle fingers explored the wound.
"It's nothing. Splinters. I didn't duck fast enough."
"It's glass slivers, Chris. You have glass slivers in your shoulder. They're going to be a bitch to get out."
"I numbed it. When it happened." She scowled and he hurried on, "Didn't have time to feel the pain right then."
"It'll come back on you later."
She brushed her fingers across his forehead, standing to fetch the first aid kit. "You're gonna run out of laters eventually, Chris."
He braced himself as she knelt back down, tweezers in hand. "Never happen, Dawnie."
"I don't mean her any harm," he blurts.
It's possibly the worst thing he could say to Buffy, because now she's convinced he's some kind of nasty. "Buffy," he adds, derailing her trail of thought before she can get too far, "I know what this looks like. I'll leave and you'll never see me again, I swear. But I would never hurt Dawn. I hope you believe that."
"You've been watching her for nearly a month and I'm supposed to believe you don't mean her any harm?"
"You're hurting me," he says as calmly as he can. If she squeezes even a tiny bit tighter, she'll break his arm.
"Buddy, you don't know hurt yet. What are you?"
He orbs to his feet; it's just enough to free his arm, he's not actually any further away from her than he was. Across the road one of the construction workers starts towards them; Chris winces when he realises it's her friend, the dark haired man.
"I really don't mean her any harm," he says, retreating behind the bench as the man comes to join them, standing just behind Buffy's shoulder. "Ask your Watcher about Whitelighters, Buffy."
"Whitelighters," he repeats patiently. Buffy frowns and he smiles gently. "Did you think you'd seen it all after seven years? There are things you can't dream of out there. Beauty and horror both."
"Which are you?" she demands.
He smiles again, orbing out. Her frustrated yell is almost worth the whole thing.
"Anyone ever tell you you're too impetuous?"
"Scavenging word of the day calendars again, Dawnie?"
"Nothing's going to happen to me."
"You aren't untouchable."
"I'm the closest thing there is. They aren't allowed kill me."
"They can do an awful lot of things without killing you."
"You need me to keep doing what I'm doing."
"We need you alive, Chris. Be careful."
"Always. I promise."
Dawnie – his Dawnie – would skin him alive for this. Chris sighs, trying again to persuade himself to leave. If the first idea was stupid, this one is suicidal. He wonders vaguely if he'll become a true Whitelighter when he dies. It's something he's spent a lot of time thinking about.
He isn't really surprised when she comes out, pausing just inside the pool of light on the grass. It'll make it harder for her to see him, but it means he can't approach her without being seen. One of the girls is hovering between her and the house; probably out of earshot, but definitely close enough to get to them if he tries anything.
"You're not supposed to be here," Dawn informs him.
Chris nods. "I know. May I join you?"
Dawn thinks for a moment before gesturing to her right. Chris steps up onto the grass and into the light, a careful four feet from her. The other girl – Rona? Maybe? Chris had never had much to do with Dawn's Slayers – watches him carefully.
"Why are you watching me?" Dawn asks. He turns his attention back to her, drinking in the sight. Even now, twenty years younger than he knew her, she's still Dawn.
He has to turn his back on Rona to talk to Dawn, and he does it without hesitation. He knows that' a test, too.
"Do you believe in time travel, Dawn?"
It's a risk. But if she doesn't believe him, if she storms away or calls him a liar – he hasn't lost anything. Dawnie, his Dawnie, still exists in his memories and always will. If he succeeds here, his younger self will probably never know her anyway.
It makes him sad, for a moment.
"Never really thought about it," Dawn is saying, and he pulls his attention back to her.
"Can you pretend? For a few minutes?" She studies him, and he adds, "I'll go. Tell me to and I will. But if you'll listen, I'd like to tell you."
"Is there any chance you are clinically insane?"
"It's sad that that would be more comforting to you."
Dawn smiles. It's slight, but it's there. "Tell me."
Chris deliberately didn't look up, making meaningless but significant looking doodles on a map. "Tell you what, Dawnie?"
"Don't call me Dawnie, I'm twice your age. Tell me what this fantastic plan is."
He shrugged, looking up finally. "Not that fantastic?"
"Probably not. Tell me anyway."
"P3's still running. Well, more or less. Wyatt doesn't care about it, he never goes there. Holed up in the Manor with the Book."
"So, P3 sells food. And bottled water. There are other things we could legitimately order. I can hide it from Wyatt, from everyone."
"We need things. There are children here, Dawn, and we can't feed them or keep them healthy and he'll kill them if he gets his hands on them."
"He'll kill you if you move against him."
The worry in her eyes made him pause. "No," he said softly. "He won't."
"I know what he is. I know what he's done. I'm not deluding myself, Dawn. He won't kill me. He wants me on his side." He smiled a little. "I can't go against him openly. You're right about that. But this is something I can do, and it's something we need."
Dawn sighed, folding her arms. "Is there any chance at all I can argue you out of this?"
"Persuade you out of it?"
"Logic you out of it?"
"I don't think so."
"And you'll be careful?"
She leaned forward, cupping his face in her hands. It startled Chris for a moment; he didn't think anyone had touched him so tenderly since his mother had died.
"Don't get killed, Chris."
"It's not on my list, Dawnie."
She doesn't believe him – at least, he doesn't think she does – but she doesn't call him a liar, either, or send him away. She lets him talk, lets him explain all of it, and after a few minutes she sends Rona out of earshot with a look.
"If you move," she warns him very softly, "someone will probably stick something pointy in you."
"Won't be the first time," he says bleakly, and goes on talking.
It's not like him. He knows that, even as he's talking. It took him months, and Phoebe's empathy, before he told his family who he was. He still doesn't think he would have told them if they hadn't found him out, though he knows now it was for the best.
But Dawnie always knew him better than anyone else. Bianca, he'd loved her. He still loved her. Dawnie had been his friend, though. She'd told him once he reminded her of a friend, but that was all he'd ever heard from her on the topic.
He knew who she was. Buffy Summers' Scoobies were legendary. But she'd never mentioned her past to him and he'd never asked.
She hears him out, now, listening patiently, asking the right questions at the right times. By the end of it he's sitting on the kerb, drained; Dawn's perched on the hood of the nearest car, still safely out of his reach and now with the advantage of height over him.
"The others weren't there?" she asks, immediately correcting, "Won't be there?"
"They weren't." He ignores the correction; he tends to talk about the future in the past tense, and most people he talks to pick up the habit fairly quickly. "You never talked about them, though, and I never heard that they'd been killed. And I think I'd have heard, even after everything went to shit." She nods slowly, thoughtfully, and he adds, "There was a fighter, one of the best. About your age. Connor – um. I'm not sure I ever knew his surname. I didn't know many of your Resistance, just in case. But I think you knew him, before all of this happened."
"I know him," she agrees distantly. "Or, at least, I know who he is. We've never met. We researched Whitelighters, you know."
"Figured there was a reason Buffy hadn't killed me yet."
"You're not assigned to me."
"I'm not assigned at all. Special case."
"How come Willow doesn't have a Whitelighter?"
"Born and bred on the Hellmouth." She studies him curiously and he adds, "Whitelighters don't like the Hellmouth. It – confuses us. Throws us off. A witch steeped in Hellmouth energy would never be assigned a Whitelighter, we wouldn't be able to cope with it."
"Nice for you," Dawn murmured. "You're here."
"Like I said. Special case."
"Are you a hybrid?" she asks interestedly.
Chris laughs softly. "Am I what?"
"Paige Matthews, first known whitelighter/witch hybrid. Wyatt Halliwell, your boogyman, second known. Are you the third?"
"Uh huh, stop trying to change the subject."
He laughs again, unable to help himself. "Yeah. I'm the third. What have you done, Dawn?"
"Truth spell," she says apologetically. "It'll wear off in a little bit. Willow insisted, and Spike was ready to just rip your throat out and be done with it. This seemed safer."
"Idiot." There's no heat in the word.
"I know. Sorry. But hey, I believe you."
"I was never worried about you."
He orbs away, ignoring her cry of protest.
Later, when he's lying in his parents' bed and everything is hazing out and the wound in his stomach is burning so brightly he can't even see his father, there's a brief sense of satisfaction. He believes in his parents, in his family; if anyone can stop this, they can. But if they can't, at least Dawn has been warned, and she'll believe it. She'll have no choice.
His father exclaims, suddenly, starting to protest before cutting off abruptly. The bed dips and Chris forces open weary eyes to see what's happening.
Dawnie smiles at him, tears standing in her eyes. "Chris."
"Hey Dawnie," he breathes.
"Come with me if you want to live," she murmurs, and he almost smiles at the reference.
"Can't. You know that. Him or me and I can't...god..."
She grips his shoulder, holds him through the wave of pain, and he weeps helplessly.
"Oh, Chris," she murmurs.
"They'll change it." He has so little strength left; his eyes slid shut and he can't open them again. "I promise. Go home, Dawnie. It'll be better once you get there."
"I never worried about you." Something brushes his forehead; it might be her fingers, a move so familiar he barely feels it, or it might be her lips. "I'll see you soon, Chris."
"Soon," he echoes. The bed dips again as she stands; Leo startles back into life, released from whatever spell had held him, and quickly forgets the intruder in the face of Chris' last few moments.
"Don't give up," Leo begs.
Chris forces his eyes open again, dismayed to find his father crying. "Don't you," he says as strongly as he can, and then everything is very, very dark.
It was very, very dark. Chris breathed as steadily as he could, waiting for Wyatt to figure out what had happened and come back to finish him. His shoulder burned, bleeding steadily through his fingers. He couldn't find the strength to orb away, to look for help from any of his diminishing number of allies.It's very, very dark. Chris breathes as steadily as he can, waiting for Wyatt to figure out what's happened and come back for him. His shoulder burns, bleeding steadily through his fingers. He can't find the breath to call for help.
Footsteps echoed down the alley, confusing him until he wasn't sure where they were coming from. It could have been anywhere. When they stopped, it took a moment for him to realise they were right next to him.Footsteps echo down the alley, confusing him until he isn't sure where they're coming from. It could be anywhere. When they stop, it takes a moment for him to realise they're right next to him.
He cracked one eye – all he could manage – and focused blearily on a tall brunette. Hope flared for a moment, but it wasn't his parents or his girlfriend. He didn't think he'd ever seen this woman before.He cracks one eye – all he can manage – and focuses blearily on a tall brunette. Hope flares for a moment, but it's not his parents or his girlfriend. He doesn't think he's ever seen this woman before.
She crouched easily next to him, taking him in in one long look. "Got you this time, didn't he?"She crouches easily next to him, taking him in in one long look. "Got you this time, didn't he?"
She smiled, pulling a pad of material from a pocket and pressing it against his shoulder. "We've been waiting for you, Chris."She smiles, pulling a pad of material from a pocket and pressing it against his shoulder. "I've been waiting for you, Chris."
She caught his hand, pressing it against the pad to hold it in place. Rising to her feet, she went to the mouth of the alley; there was someone else with her when she came back, a tall, dark-haired man. Between them they got Chris on his feet and stumbling towards the street. "We have somewhere you can rest for a bit," she told Chris. "Until Wyatt stops wanting to kill you, anyway."
"Dawn Summers."She catches his hand, pressing it against the pad to hold it in place, and pulls a cell from her pocket. "Directory enquires? Halliwell Manor, please....thank you." She smiles down at Chris, rising absently to her feet. "Mrs Halliwell? My name is Dawn Summers and I'm with Chris. Can you have Wyatt come get him? He's been injured."
"Summers," Chris breathed. He knew that name, everyone in the magic community did."Summers," Chris breathes. He knows that name, everyone in the magic community does.
Dawn smiled, propping him up more strongly. "We've been waiting for you," she told him again.Dawn smiles, brushing his hair off his forehead. The sensation is startlingly familiar and he closes his eyes, frowning. "I've been waiting for you," she tells him again, gently.
Blue lights filled the alley and Wyatt was there. "Chris," he snarled, fireball already forming in one hand. Dawn shoved Chris into the other man's arms, saying something very quick in Latin and throwing herbs into the air; Chris identified half of them by scent, but he didn't hear the words clearly enough to know what she was doing. Wyatt froze dead and she took Chris' arm again, hurrying them away.
Blue lights fill the alley and Wyatt is crouched beside him. "Chris, I'm so sorry, I was chasing him, I didn't realise..." He takes Chris' arm, orbing them away.
Dawn was still with them, Chris realised a little later; he'd been bandaged and a healer was fussing around, complaining about his general health and how run down he looked, and Dawn was leaning against a nearby wall, watching with some amusement.Dawn is still with them, Chris realises a little later; he's healed and his mother is busy fussing, complaining about them going demon hunting on their own, and Dawn is leaning against a nearby wall, watching with some amusement.
"Who are you?" he asked. The healer hesitated, following his look."Who are you?" he asks. His mother hesitates, following his look, and on his other side Wyatt sits up straighter.
"No. I know that. I mean...you were looking for me.""No. I know that. I mean...you were looking for me."
She smiled. "Yeah. I've been looking for you for a while, Chris. Didn't mean it to be that dramatic, but you're a hard man to find."She smiles. "Yeah. I've been waiting for you for a while, Chris. Didn't mean it to be that dramatic."
"Looking for me?" Chris quietly started gathering his energy; he didn't have much, but he thought he could orb out if he had to."Waiting for me?" Wyatt has tensed up and Chris deliberately stays as relaxed as possible to keep him calm. He's pretty sure she doesn't mean him any harm.
"For a while now, yeah.""For a while now, yeah."
"How long?""How long?"
"Couple of years. Since Wyatt started throwing his temper tantrum.""Years. Since '03."
"Why?" A lot of people have looked for Chris since then; demons trying to kill him to get on Wyatt's good side, demons trying to catch him to get on Wyatt's side, witches trying to make him betray Wyatt, witches trying to use him to overthrow Wyatt...he doesn't think she's any of those things, though."Why?" He knows what happened in '03 - Buffy Summers empowered an army - but he was barely born, it had nothing to do with him.
She smiled at him, a genuine smile. "Welcome to the Resistance, Chris."She smiles at him, a genuine smile. "Do you believe in time travel, Chris?"