JM: Young tilted head closeup

cyndrarae

Rebelling against Reality since 2003

v14.0


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JM: Young tilted head closeup
cyndrarae

Charmed: Manipulations



**Warning**: Domestic Discipline ahead.

Author’s notes: Complete and Utter Mush!! You’ve been warned:) Set after the episode Spin-City and my story ‘Future Amends’. Assumption is Piper is 6 months gone and the Witch Trials ep has also happened – so Phoebe has lost her powers and everyone knows Barbas is back.

***********

Chris and Leo were in the attic, cleaning up another massive mess in the aftermath of another attack. The sisters were too tired, specially Piper and they’d crashed soon as they were sure the piles of ashes were not gonna regenerate. Chris read the spell and the windows became whole, so did the antique furniture the Halliwells were so fond of and yet incessantly careless with.

“Good job.”

Leo stood with his arms crossed, watching his youngest son at work. These days, he made sure to pay lots of attention to everything Chris did. It was as if he was compensating for the mistakes he hadn’t even made yet. And Chris noticed. He chided himself for feeling literally *giddy* whenever Leo praised him… or when he’d pass Chris by and squeeze his shoulder or something, leaving Chris struggling to not let his happiness show. Chris knew his defenses against a father he’d once hated with all his guts had completely fallen apart. He wasn’t complaining, of course not. But he desperately held on to, or at least *wanted* to hold on to his grudges against Leo. Because without them… there was no way he could justify the horrible things he had done in the past… to his own father.

Chris scowled at Leo and closed the book.

“Yeah, well if I’d gotten here on time, there wouldn’t *be* a mess to begin with.”

Leo frowned. This was the nth time he’d heard Chris deriding himself in two days.

“Something on your mind son?”

This was it, his opportunity to speak his mind. Chris bit his lip.

“Dad I… I think you should come back and be the Charmed Ones’ whitelighter again.”

Leo sighed. He knew where this was coming from and where this would be going.

“Chris, you know I am an Elder now. I have responsibilities up there which I…”

“… which you could easily transition out to someone else. It's not like there aren’t enough Elders to go around up there.”

“They need me right now. The wounds haven’t healed yet after what happened with the Titans. And you have everything in control here anyway.”

“No I don't! I can't heal. You have to come down every time someone gets hurt and that’s way too often these days, ever since I became their whitelighter. I just ain't good enough for…”

“Stop right there. I don’t want you talking like that about yourself again alright?”

Chris glared at his father. This wasn’t working.

“Dad I just… you need to come back period. I’ve messed things up enough as it is.”

An eyebrow went up, but quickly came down. Leo let out his breath.

“I know you’re talking about… your mother and me, and that’s the reason why you want me to come back to the manor.”

Chris looked away. “Of course not dad I was just…”

“Are you going to lie to me son?”

Chris quickly shut up. That was the biggest rule of ‘em all wasn’t it. He pouted instead. Leo shook his head and went to stand where he could look into Chris’ limpid eyes again.

“Chris… Piper and I, we’ll probably work things out eventually… at least I *hope* we will.”

That stung, knowing his father still loved his mother but was helpless to do anything about it, thanks to *him*.

“But now is not the time. Right now our priority is the safety of our children. That includes you.”

Chris ran a trembling hand through his hair and lowered his head. Leo relented, he knew how Chris must feel about his separated parents. He softened his voice.

“Once you kids are safe and home, I promise you I’ll… I’ll give it my best shot. Okay?”

Chris smiled hesitantly and nodded. “Okay.”

“Good.” Leo smiled and winked at his son.

“I’m going to check on Wyatt. Get some sleep.”

And he left. He did not see Chris biting into his lower lip, trying desperately not to give in to the tears.


*********

“I do have a right by *birth* to be concerned. I am the aunt after all!”

“Sure! And I’m the mom so *back off*.”

“Alright missy, the only one backing off here is you. Step away from the dough. Right now!”

“Baloney.”

“PIPER!!”

Piper winced. Typical Phoebe Halliwell. Her last resort was always to start screaming till everyone around was blue in the face and forced to give in. So she did.

“Okay okay. Stop screaming or Chris will be born deaf and be glad for it!”
She left the bowl of cookie dough and whip on the table and walked away to ease herself onto the couch. Then gave her younger sibling a scowl.

“Happy?”

Phoebe grinned from ear to ear.

“Very. Now you take it easy, I’ll bake the cookies.”

“Huh! Right.”

And the sisters glared at each other again. That was when Chris came down, noticed the exchange and plonked himself next to his mother.

“What’s going on?”

“Your mother obviously isn’t worried about little you inside her.”

Piper narrowed her eyes, very close to blowing *something* up.

“They’re just oatmeal cookies Phoebe!!”

“Cool, where? I love oatmeal cookies.”

And the sisters turned to Chris, both smiling in surprise. Chris didn’t get it.

“'Kay what’d I say?”

“Oh, nothin. Guess that’s another thing you got from me.” Piper smiled and gently caressed her son’s cheek with her knuckles.

Chris smiled too but only for an instant, remembering the mother he’d known in his future and who baked excellent cookies. The mother who’d died when he was fourteen. Died because Leo wasn’t around. And couldn’t reach her on time.

“Mom, I… I need to talk to you.”


*********

Chris kicked another stone across the Atlantic. He was getting increasingly frustrated, and angry and jittery and uneasy and… scared.

“Well, that went well.”

He turned away from the vast expanse of water and sat down, folding his knees under him. He clutched himself by the middle and unconsciously rocked back and forth.

//Mom and Dad aren’t together because of me. What if they never get together?

I was supposed to come fix things but I’ve only made them worse. Damn it!//
Chris rocked harder, it was getting chilly and he was only wearing a flimsy jumper but he didn’t care. The ache he felt inside overwhelmed every other sensation right now. He thought back to the conversation he’d had with Piper this morning.

//Chris, what happened back in the spirit realm was ages ago. Nothing’s changed because of that. Leo is still an Elder and he has greater responsibilities now than… //

//Than his own family? How can you say that mom? You want him here don’t you?//

//It doesn’t matter what I want. Can we please just, focus on saving Wyatt and getting you born first?//

//But Leo is the only one who can heal! He needs to be here with you.//

//*Leo* will hear me whenever I need him. He always does. And I don’t think you want your *dad* hearing you call him by his Christian name do you?//

And that was that. Piper had refused to discuss the issue with him anymore and he’d left sulking. But he was still convinced that he was right about this. Leo had been needed to set things right upstairs after the Titans attacked, but back in his own timeline, he had managed to do so without becoming an Elder himself. If Chris had not played the situation to his advantage, he wouldn’t have had any reason to come to the Manor and be close to the Charmed sisters. But at the same time, Leo wouldn’t have estranged himself from his family either. He remembered the look of pure pain in Leo’s eyes when he’d last seen Piper with the fireman. Chris shut his eyes tight as if trying to dispel the image his memory was generously supplying.

//Dad I’m so sorry.//

And that is when he made a decision. Chris had made a mistake, he needed to correct it. By whatever means necessary.


*********

That night, Chris sneaked up to the attic after ensuring everyone in the manor was fast asleep. Locked the door behind him and dimmed the lights. He set up the crystal trap at its usual place, except for the last stone that he placed on the floor at kickable distance. Then opened the book to the page he knew was in there and read out the summoning spell.

“Magic Forces black and white
reaching out through space and light,
be he far or be he near
bring me the demon Fubas here.”

A bellow of smoke grew rapidly then dissipated to reveal a befuddled lower-level demon standing in the middle of the crystals. Chris moved swiftly to kick the fourth stone in place and the cage sprung alive. The demon tried to run but got electrocuted for his effort and screeched.

“What the hell is this? Where am I?”

The demon was obviously furious and meanwhile Chris was quietly congratulating himself.

“Fubas. You’re in the house of the Charmed Ones.”

There was immediate and utter terror in the demon’s eyes, as also amazement.

“What? But I haven’t d-done anything! I haven’t even left the underworld in f-five years!”

Chris stood with his arms folded and stared him down.

“I know, Fubas. I know everything about you. You are a demon of *fear*, among other things.”

The demon listened intently.

“You’ve been secretly training for the last ten years to go upper-level, increase your powers so you can defeat Barbas and take over as the most powerful demon in the Underworld.”

“S-So what?”

Chris smirked.

“So… Barbas doesn’t know about you *yet* does he? It's gonna take you at least five more years to get anywhere in the same vicinity of Barbas and his powers! Ever wonder what happens if he got wind of what you’re up to? Like… tonight?”

Fubas got anxious. “How do you know so much about me?”

Chris knew because it was all in the history books at Magic School in his future. He also knew Fubas tried but failed to vanquish Barbas, but surely he needn’t tell him that.

“Doesn’t matter. I could keep your little secret until you’re ready to take on Barbas yourself of course.”

And Fubas’ eyes widened with understanding. “In exchange for something I presume?”

Chris smirked and came perilously close to the crystal trap.

“I want you to do two little favors for me. In exchange, you have my word… your secret will be safe with me. If you refuse, I could just as easily summon Barbas and let him know he’s got competition, is all.”

Fubas groused in rage but realized he had no choice, he would just have to take the boy’s word.

“What do you want me to do?”


*********

Leo was seeing his charge Feroja after quite some time. What with his additional Elder responsibilities, he found himself wishing there were more hours in a day, or at least longer hours in a day. Heck if nothing else, he should be able to manipulate time like some superior Elders could. He deserved some extra powers after everything he’d done, didn’t he? All he asked for was to be able to spend some more time with his charges, his family and children… with Wyatt and Chris.

“Hullo?? Leo!?!”

Leo started out of his thoughts and turned to Feroja guiltily.

“Sorry.”

The Uzbeki witch in her thirties and mother of three herself, smiled.

“No worries. I get cranky too if I have to be this far from home on a Saturday morning ya?”

As always, Leo realized this woman could read him like an open book.

“How many now?”

Leo beamed, “Two. Uhh one’s due in three months but… it's like he’s with us already.”

Feroja “awwed” like an American and together they laughed.

“Off with you then my guardian angel. I don’t want to keep you any longer from your children.”

Leo smiled gratefully.

“You’ll be fine Feroja. Call me if you need me okay?”

“Of course I will!”

They said their goodbyes and Feroja rounded up her playful kids. Leo watched them leave as he planned to orb up once and checkpoint with the Elders before heading to Frisco. But before he could actually do anything… he was overwhelmed.

//You were never there for me.//

Gruesome images from a very recent memory… of Chris being attacked by the dragon and his minion grimlocks… rushed to Leo’s mind.

//Leo help me!//

Chris screaming for help… Piper rushing to him but getting caught in the vicious flames herself. His family was on fire!

//You were there for everybody else…//

//Leo! Leo!//

Where is Leo? Where am I? Why don’t I help? Why are my feet glued to the ground as if I were stone??

Awful screams rang out into the heartless night. Smoke teared up his eyes and the cruel stench of charred flesh filled his nostrils. Leo the whitelighter, Leo the Elder stood and did nothing as he watched his family die painful, tortured deaths.

//You were never there for me dad!//

“No! Oh God no!!”

“Leo? Leo are you alright?”

Feroja’s face suddenly came into focus… and then her heavily accented voice broke through his hellish reverie.
And just as suddenly, there was no fire… no dragon and no flames… hell it wasn’t even night. He found himself still standing amidst the snow-laden landscape of Uzbekistan. The vision dissipated, leaving Leo gasping in confusion and rage… and insane fear.

//What… where did that come from?//


*********

Phoebe walked behind Piper with Wyatt on one hip and a big bag of baby supplies slung on another arm as they descended the manor stairs. Piper had a doctor’s appointment and they were running late.

“Piper really, there is no need to *gallop* will you please just watch it…. take it easy damnit!”

Piper couldn’t help but chuckle at Phoebe’s exasperated tone. The aunt-to-be was more nervous and panicky than the mother-to-be herself.

“What’s up with you? You weren’t this bad during Wyatt!”

“Seeing as you’re so unbothered, someone’s gotta remember there is a *baby* growing inside of you and we’re the ones responsible for him!”

“How can I forget with you shrieking at me to ‘Watch it’ every time I so much as *breathe*!”

And then Piper halted, making Phoebe halt in turn and look questioningly at her older sister.

“No really, why the jitters Phoebs? Is it like an… intuition or somethin?”

No clear intuitions, no. Not even vague ones, considering she didn’t have her empathic powers anymore. But even without them, Phoebe had always been a very intuitive person, innately sensitive to vibes and such. And something about Chris… somehow made her quite… anxious. Phoebe couldn’t really explain it, and that just bothered her all the more.

“Maybe… we were assured Wyatt could protect himself even in the womb but since baby Chris isn’t that powerful I’m feeling a lot more protective.”

Piper pondered that a moment, then started climbing down again. Now Phoebe realized she may have alarmed Piper for nothing.

“Or maybe at the time of Wyatt we thought he was a girl! And we know all Halliwell women can take care of themselves so…”

Phoebe’s quip resulted in Wyatt making protesting sounds at her and Piper laughed. Phoebe joined in too.

“I’m sorry sweetheart!” She nuzzled Wyatt lovingly, then turned back to Piper.

“I just wanna make sure you and I can't be blamed for your second son’s neurotic-ness in the future.”

“Phoebe!!”

“What? You don’t suppose we dropped him on his head or something do you? ‘Cos in that case I swear never to handle baby Chris ever!”

“Nice try. But there’s no way you’re getting out of diaper duty missy.”

“Damn.”

“Damn right. Now take Wyatt and his stuff to the car, I’ll just check up on those cookies and come out.”

Phoebe grumbled as she headed out the manor.

“Underestimating my culinary skills again are we?”

“Skills? What skills?”

Phoebe scowled and Piper smirked as she headed towards the kitchen. But she never made it.

Pain… searing, stabbing pain in her middle and… oh God no… no!

//Baby Chris isn’t that powerful//

The world spun, and Piper couldn’t support herself anymore as she fell to the floor clutching her stomach.

//He can't protect himself in the womb.//

The pain… she couldn’t breathe, her pleas for help trapped and wedged within her lungs. And then she felt something liquid between her legs. Her heart stopped, no… no this couldn’t be happening!

“Leo!!”

Leo never came. Tears ran down her cheeks and into her mouth and still she screamed.

“Not my baby… Leo!!! Phoebe!! Somebody help me!”

She lay on the floor crying, hemorrhaging when Phoebe ran into the manor.

“Piper!”

She rushed to her sister’s side. “What’s wrong? Piper talk to me!”

“My baby, my baby… Leo!!”

“Oh God what's happening? Leo where are you?”

“Blood… blood… call Leo. Where is he? Leo!!”

Piper was holding her shaking hands up, red and wet with the blood of her son, her little baby…

Phoebe looked at the… pale white hands… and frowned.

“Blood? What blood?”

“My baby…Leo!??”

She checked again. And again.

“Piper!! Snap out of it, there *is* *no* blood!”

The spell was broken. In an instant, the pain in her stomach subsided to nothing… Piper blinked once and looked at her hands through her tears. There was no blood. She held her bloated belly protectively, her voice still raw and broken from all the screaming.

“Phoebe? What just happened?”


*********

“Piper?”

Leo heard the anguished calls and orbed into the manor fast as he could. He rushed towards his ex-wife still lying on the floor, too tired and disoriented to get up.

“Are you alright? What happened?”

She didn’t respond. He supported her and helped her to the couch. Phoebe came back with a glass of water.

“Leo thank God. Don’t worry, I think it was a false alarm. But you should check her just in case.”

Which Leo did, Piper was fine… just thoroughly shaken. She rested herself in Leo’s arms soon as he came close and refused to let go. Leo could feel the tremors in her body traveling into his.

“Piper, honey what happened?”

Piper sighed and looked up.

“I… I don’t know. I was suddenly overwhelmed with this intense pain and… it felt like I was… I was bleeding and…”

There were tears again and Leo held her tightly to herself. After awhile Piper took the glass of water from Phoebe and turned to face Leo.

“Leo you’ve got to stay here… at least until the delivery.”

Leo frowned. He very much wanted to, heck even *after* the delivery. He never wanted to leave period! The nightmare he’d had pretty much had him seriously considering quitting his job as an… woah.

Wait a minute.

“Piper it was just a vision you know that right?”

“But, the blood…” and she looked down at her hands again. Leo pressed again, gently.

“It was just a hallucination, wasn’t it?”

Piper closed her eyes a moment and took a deep breath. When she opened them her objectivity was back, somewhat.

“Yeah… I guess. It was a nightmare… like my worst fears come true.”

“I had the same experience just minutes before you called for me. A vision of my worst nightmare come true.”

Piper and Phoebe looked up at that.

“Barbas?” The sisters asked together… and Leo nodded.

And that was the moment Paige Matthews chose to stride in with her hands full of grocery bags.

“Hey people! What's up? Piper didn’t you have an appointment with…”

She stopped mid-way, mid-sentence. “Who died?”


After the trio filled Paige in on what had transpired, she was just as angry.

“What does that bastard want from us now?”

Phoebe shrugged, Piper looked worried and Leo got up and walked over to the window. Piper knew that look on her ex-husband.

“Leo… you know something don’t you?”

Leo didn’t turn around. And that just confirmed Piper’s suspicions all the more.

“What is it?” she asked again.

Leo sighed, “I’m not sure, it's just a hunch and… you’re not gonna like it.”

The sisters were all at their wits’ end now. “Just say it.”

Leo turned to face them.

“It seems to me… the visions were meant to play up on our worst fears and both our fears right now happen to be about not being there for our children. Right?”

“Right, and?”

“After the vision, I was seriously considering quitting and coming back to stay at the Manor. And so were you Piper.”

Piper nodded, “Which is fair. After all it is a huge risk Leo, your not being close to your family when anything can happen and we might need you the most. In fact not two days ago Chris was sayin' just… “

And Piper paused, giving Paige the chance to hike up her eyebrows and mutter a quiet “Uh-oh”.

“… the same thing.”

Piper ended and narrowed her eyes.

“You think… Chris… our Chris had something to do with this? That he somehow managed to get Barbas to play on our worst fears just so you and I would get back together again?”

Leo didn’t reply but the expression on his face said it was quite possible.

Phoebe interjected. “Come on guys, we have no proof. It could just be a coincidence.”

Paige muttered again. “For the kid’s sake I sure hope so.”

Piper shook her head. “Too much of a coincidence, one that plays right into what Chris wants.”

Phoebe pressed on. “I know he’s been a conniving little brat before but surely he wouldn’t turn *Barbas* of all demons, loose on his own parents!”

Leo’s jaw was set in a very straight very angry line.

“I don’t doubt his intentions Phoebe. He loves his mother, and I *know* he loves me.”

The intensity of his words stunned Piper and the sisters into momentary silence.

“But something tells me this isn’t just coincidence. The visions were very vivid but too abrupt and did not linger long enough to do any permanent damage.”

“No damage?” Piper exclaimed. “Leo I was so sure I was losing my baby that…”
She was still distraught and just didn’t know what to say. Leo sighed and went back to her side.

“I know… but Piper if this really was Chris’ doing… I’m sure he didn’t intend any harm whatsoever.”

Piper agreed. Phoebe too felt it was quite plausible. She clenched her eyes shut.

“How could he possibly trust a demon at all… and Barbas at that!”

That was the one thing still not making sense to Leo.

“Maybe it wasn’t Barbas? There are lesser known demons of fear too. Rare though, ever since Barbas made it his personal mission to kill off any competition.”

Paige shook her head. “Chris obviously doesn’t think ahead enough about the consequences of his actions.”

Piper just winced. “How did I end up raising two egomaniacs willing to go to any lengths to get what they want?”

Leo looked at her with sympathy. And pain. “Lets just hope I’m wrong about this. If not, I am obviously not going to make a very good father am I.”

Piper retorted, “Please don’t say that.”

But Leo wasn’t looking for consolation right now. A moment of silence followed, then his mind was set. He turned to Paige.

“Find out what our second offspring is up to will you?”

*********

Back alley of P3, Chris was pacing back and forth relentlessly. Obviously agitated… restless and troubled beyond reason was more like it. From what Fubas had just recounted, Chris wasn’t happy at all. He knew the low-life was basically harmless, which is why he’d employed him in the first place. But only now did he realize the demon was as incompetent as they came! The visions sounded patchy and unnaturally abrupt, which meant his parents would see right through them and realize it was a fear demon’s job. What he’d had in mind was a persuasion of a more subtle kind but obviously he’d chosen absolutely the wrong conduit to do so.

“I specifically told you not to overdo it you damn fool!”

Fubas stood suspended in air, hovering slightly above the lanky boy, smug expression on his face.

“I only did what you asked me to do. Not my fault your mother couldn’t withstand a little pressure. Some *powerful* witch she is!”

Chris was furious.

“Shut your filthy mouth demon. And get out of here before I change my mind about mailing your coordinates to Barbas!”

Fubas was a phenomenal idiot. He wasn’t very powerful and could be vanquished easily, so he knew it was best for him to disappear soon as possible. The demon shimmered away without waiting to be threatened twice.

Chris kicked a pebble grunting in his frustration (and if he’d admit to himself, a large amount of guilt). But there wasn’t much he could do anymore, what was done was done. He turned around to re-enter the club.

“Christopher!”

Chris stopped, instinctively recognizing who the very enraged voice belonged to. Reluctantly he turned around to face his father.

Leo stood ten feet away, with Piper walking up to join him by his side. They both looked extremely… angry? No, worse… indifferent.

“We are so disappointed in you Christopher.”

Tears welled up in the boy’s eyes, and he knew they hadn’t even started yet.

“Mom… dad… I can explain.”

“Don’t bother. We don’t wanna hear any more lies from you.”

Leo’s voice cold and unfeeling like never before. Piper agreed with him.

“We thought you’d change. We thought you were good inside and actually capable of loving and being loved. But we were wrong.”

“Mom I know you’re angry and you have every right…”

“Don’t call me mom.”

Chris was shocked. He felt himself slowly shattering to a million pieces inside.

“We’re not your parents anymore. Don’t think we ever were. You don’t deserve us.”

“But… dad please…”

“I have just one son, and his name is Wyatt. You were right… you are nothing but an unwanted aberration.”

Chris’ ears burned. His breath caught in his throat and no voice could escape. He slipped to his knees on the ground, gasping… hyperventilating. This couldn’t be happening! This can't be true!

“Mom please, dad! Please give me another chance. I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

Leo and Piper just snorted at him, turned around and started walking away. Chris pleaded and begged… for his unfeeling family to come back. To take him back.

“No! Dad please! I’m sorry alright! Please don’t leave me. I am your son! I am your son!”

And suddenly the retreating couple stopped and turned around. What Chris saw in their faces was the epitome of evil *wrath* and when they spoke, their voices thundered without mercy.

“HOW DARE YOU CALL YOURSELF OUR SON!”

“YOU CAME INTO OUR LIVES AND RUINED OUR RELATIONSHIP!”

“YOU SHOULD BURN FOR THIS CHRIS! IN HELL!”

And both Leo and Piper raised their hands together to direct all their magic powered by all their hatred and anger… at him!

Inside the club, people were rocking away to the beats of Jamiroquai while Paige and Leo threaded their way through the crowd looking for someone.

“Are you sure he’s here?”

“Positive. I checked the office at the back, but I don’t think he’s been there in ages.”

Leo was getting concerned by the minute. Something wasn’t right, he could feel it through and through. He turned to Paige, taking her by the elbow and steering her toward the back door.

“Lets check outside.”

The Elder pushed open the heavy iron door and the meager light escaping the club illuminated the dark lane enough to show the couple what they needed to see.

“Oh my God, Chris!”

Leo ran towards a lone figure curled up into a tight fetus and writhing in pure agony… the loud and uncontrolled sobs wrenching his heart out. Leo reached his son’s side and turned him over.

“You alright kid? Are you hurt? Chris talk to me! It's dad!”

The spell broke.

Suddenly there was no fire… no pain. Not on his flesh anyway. But Chris still couldn’t stop his tears from flowing. He was trembling and confused and couldn’t figure what was real and what wasn’t.

“D-Dad?”

Leo checked him all over for any injuries and finding none studied the boy’s face intently. The fear and near-insanity reflected in those large eyes drove home another painful comprehension.

“Barbas. Damnit I am going to kill him with my bare hands!”

Leo was so furious but this time Chris was sure that fury was not directed at him, at least not yet. He was just so… so relieved that it’d all been just a nightmare… a horribly *real* and frightening… nightmare.
One that was intended to kill.

“Fu-Fubas.”

He managed to rasp through his sore throat but Leo didn’t really hear. Instead he gathered Chris close to himself while Paige scoured the place for the demon. Chris couldn’t control his racing heart or his quivering limbs, and felt drained of all his energy. He barely clung to Leo’s broad chest and hid his face there. But he knew he couldn’t hide there forever.

“It was n-not Barbas… it was a lower-level demon Fubas. Does the s-same k-kinda thing.”

“Induce your worst fears as hallucinations?”

Chris slowly nodded, not able to meet his father’s eyes. “Dad I… I’m so sorry.”

Leo realized his hunch had been right. But this was not the time.

“Shh. We’ll talk later, first lets get you home. Your mother is worried sick.”

//She is? She isn’t angry with me?//

He felt his father’s arms tighten further about him.

“Paige, lets go.”

The witch wasn’t able to detect any demonic presence (Fubas had run for his life soon as Leo and Paige appeared) and turned around just in time to see Leo orb out with Chris in his arms. She followed.


*********

When the spinning stopped and the ground mercifully re-appeared underneath his feet, the demon pulled on all his meager resources of courage to open his eyes, and look around.

“Fubas I presume?”

Fubas was back in the darned crystal cage. Slow as he was, it took him awhile to realize it wasn’t the scruffy half-witch boy who’d summoned him this time.
It was the Charmed Ones. And an Elder.

“Oh fuck.”

Piper raised an eyebrow, as the sisters stood studying the captive.

“Jeez, he’s so pathetic.”

Fubas didn’t like that.

“Yeah. Very sad-lookin.”

Further mortified.

“Plastic, they sure don’t make ‘em scary anymore.”

Fubas just had to butt in. “Now wait a minute ladies, maybe you don’t know who you’re dealin' with here. I am the mighty demon of *fear*! All mortals and a substantial number of demons cower at my feet I’ll have you know…”

“You tried to kill my son!” Piper added pseudo-cheerily.

Yeah, the demon had forgotten about that.

“Uhh… it was just a prank! No harm ever came from a p-prank, you g-guys are fine aren’t you?”

No response was forthcoming.

“b-b-by the way it was all his idea! Sho-Shouldn’t you be havin' this c-conversation with h-him?”

Leo spoke for the first time, quietly, absently. “Oh we will, we will.”

The demon tried to joke. “Heh. G-Guess I wo-wouldn’t wanna be hi-him right now huh.”

He tested the cage again, but couldn’t escape obviously. Phoebe yawned.

“I feel cheap doin' this.”

“…d-doin' what?”

Paige kicked a crystal away to break open the cage. “This.”

Before it registered with Fubas that he was free, Piper raised both her hands and blasted him into oblivion.


*********

Chris drifted between sleep and wakefulness for a good hour before he managed any sort of lucidity of thought. And the first thought to enter his mind was…

//I am *so* screwed.//

Soft music floated in the air interspersed with a teasing whiff of hot cinnamon rolls. Chris decided he was not gonna be tempted even though his stomach growled at alarming decibel levels. No way. He planned to pretend to sleep all day. And night. Make that all month. As long as it took for Leo to forget all of yesterday. That isn’t too much to ask now is it?

//Ella Fitzgerald?? Mom must be *really* upset.//

Who the hell left his door open to let the damn breakfast waft in? Probably the same someone who’d pulled back the curtains? Good old Californian sunlight streamed in, making him scrunch up against the brightness. He rolled onto his stomach and dug further under the covers.

“How long do you intend to keep this up kid?”

Chris froze. Leo was right there beside him! He decided the best strategy right now was to act like he was still out of it.

//That’s right Chris, you’re fast asleep. You didn’t hear a word.//

Leo chuckled. “Okay that’s it.”

Chris felt the covers being pulled off of his head and a firm hand gripped his shoulder to turn him over. There was no escaping now. He squinted one eye open with much trepidation to look at his father. Leo sat by his side on the bed with an undisguised look of adoration he was trying his best to control. But there was also an element of pain and… disappointment there. Chris groaned and tried to turn back to sleep but Leo wouldn’t let him.

“Chris it's almost noon, you should get out of bed now.”

“Don’t wanna.”

“Why not?”

“Because.”

Leo sighed. “You wanna act seven you get treated like seven Chris.”

Chris pouted but said nothing. Leo could see he was struggling to find the right words. Chris knew he was in trouble and so Leo decided he should be given a fair chance to explain, and apologize to him and…

“You can't sp… sp… you can't punish me again.”

Leo started. Well, no one said the boy wasn’t direct.

“And why do you think I should *spank* you again?”

Chris fumbled. In his nervousness he’d said the first thing to pop into his mind but was now totally regretting it.

“You shouldn’t! That’s what I just said… you c-can't. I won't allow it!”

Leo raised his eyebrows. “You won't *allow* it?”

“I…” Chris sighed and fidgeted but Leo didn’t help. So he continued.

“Dad… I know I made a big big mistake and I’m sorry but… I almost got killed in the process myself right? Couldn’t you like… go easy on me on sympathetic grounds? Please?”

The boy was dressed in his undershirt and boxers and had tangled himself up in the sheets quite well. Half-sunk between pillows, hair mussed up more than usual… Leo forgot the boy was nearly twenty one years old, right now he looked and sounded barely an overgrown twelve. Leo smiled sadly, as he gently ruffled his soft chestnut hair.

“Do you remember our discussion two weeks ago?”

How could he forget, it had preceded the very first spanking of his life. At the time he’d sworn it would be his last but damn it here he was again. On the verge of another… no way. Not gonna happen. Chris squirmed.

“Yeah.”

“Well, I promised myself I would never go easy on you. Because that’s not what you need from me Chris.”

Chris glowered. “That sucks!”

Leo glared back at him dangerously and Chris looked down. “Sorry.”

“Good boy. Now tell me, do you remember the rules we discussed?”

Chris nodded petulantly.

“What were they?”

Chris studied his hands intently and mumbled.

“Didn’t get any of that son.”

Chris humphed and went again. “Don’t swear. Don’t lie. Don’t put yourself in unnecessary danger.”

Leo nodded. “Good. Add another one – don’t send demons after your family to get them to do what you want!”

Chris was whining now. “I tried talking to you guys but you wouldn’t listen!”

“And that justifies going behind our backs and plotting with demons?”

“I only meant for him to leave subtle hints in your mind to… to think about it! You know like… Power of suggestion and all that shit?”

Leo rolled his eyes as Chris continued rambling.

“And besides, all history books of my time said he was completely harmless and…”

“He tried to kill you Chris.” Leo interrupted him softly.

Chris grimaced innocently, shrugging where he lay. He couldn’t think of anything to say to that. Yeah, Chris knew he’d made the mistake of first dealing with a demon, and second by underestimating and turning his back on him, leaving himself open to attack. The vision of his parents so angry and disappointed that they were willing to *kill* Chris, sprang up in his mind and he shuddered. Another minute in that nightmare and Chris’ mind would have believed the flames and the pain enough to cause his *own* death.

Leo was apparently thinking the same thing. He picked Chris up by his sides and pressed the boy into his chest, holding the son he almost lost. Chris at first was scared that this was it… the sp... the punishment. Then relaxed against his father’s strong arms when he realized it was just a hug. He could really use a hug. Leo pressed a kiss on the top of his head.

“You don’t play games with us Chris. And we both know this isn’t the first time you’ve done something like this.”

Against his will, Chris found himself agreeing with Leo.

//Definitely not the first time, there was Mr. Right before this and… lets not go down there please?//

“You can't manipulate your own family into giving you what you want okay?”
Chris’ fervent nods were smothered in Leo’s flannel.


*********

Paige came down the stairs and into the kitchen where the other two sisters stood, squabbling over a batch of overdone pancakes.

“I told you to stay away from my kitchen.”

“Jeez when you wanna help!”

“You can help me by *not* helping Phoebe!”

Paige snickered, just as Piper looked up at her, pancakes forgotten.

“Is it over?”

Paige inhaled loudly and shook her head.

“Underway as we speak.”

Piper placed an anxious hand on her stomach almost reflexively, and looked up.

Upstairs, father and son were still locked in embrace. Abruptly, Leo put Chris back on the bed and started to untangle the sheets from around his waist. Chris panicked and tried to push his hands away.

“Woah! Dad no!”

“YES.”

“No I mean it dad! You can't do this to me, I’m an adult now!” Chris whined and struggled to get up, making Leo pause.

“What you did wasn’t very adult-like Chris.”

“Listen dad lets try something else alright?” Chris was desperate.

“You could ground me for a month! Or… no dinner for two weeks… uhh make it one week. No how about…”

“Shut up Christopher you’re just makin' me more angry.”

Leo almost shook the boy who was now sitting and desperately trying to work the sheets off his legs as they restricted his movement.

“How could you even think you’ll be starved as punishment? Wait… did I do this in the future?”

Chris saw how Leo was completely alarmed and snorted.

“No, hell no dad. You were never around to punish me remember?”

That hurt too. Leo asked meekly, “Oh. Then, did Piper…?”

Chris winced. “Of course not! It just… sounded like a good punishment that’s all. Anything’s better than sp… sp… that other thing!”

Leo sighed. “Okay no more stalling.”

And with that he grabbed Chris who was trying to slide off the bed and pulled him forward.

“Come on now.”

Despite his loud protests and struggles, Chris found himself face down over his father’s lap… again. He tried orbing, which obviously didn’t work. Paige grounded his powers long before he woke up.

“Don’t bother Chris. You know you had this coming.”

Leo pressed the boy down across his thighs and pulled off the thin cover of the boy’s boxers. Chris jumped. The undershirt wasn’t long enough and even so Leo pushed it upwards and away from the small of his back.

“Daddy please!”

Chris hid his furiously blushing face in the cushions and tried to plead with his father again, but it was a half-hearted effort. He realized nothing would change Leo’s mind and at some level just wanted to get this over with.

The first slap came as a shock, the sting followed a second later. Chris didn’t make a sound. Leo started off a series of slaps all over his smooth butt making it burn. And Chris was soon hissing and cursing which just earned him harder swats.

“Language Chris.”

“Sorry ah! You’re hitting too hard!”

“This is *supposed* to hurt remember?”

And with that Leo smacked him harder until the boy was squirming but watching his vocabulary and seriously thinking about why he was in this situation again.

“Tell me why you’re being spanked Christopher.”

Smack. Smack. There was a regular frequency to the swats but it still hurt like hell.

“Because I broke your *golden* rule.”

Leo scowled and swatted him particularly hard at the lower curve of his right cheek.

“Oww!”

“Minus the smart-assedness if you please… what is this spanking for?”
Chris winced and threw back a hand to shield himself but Leo grabbed it and pushed it into the small of his back. His legs were still stuck in the sheets but he kicked anyway.

“I… m-made a deal… ah... with a stupid …ouch!… demon.”

“And I don’t need to tell you how *stupid* a move *that* was do I?”

Leo spanked both cheeks alternately and watched as they went from pale white to bright pink. “What happened then?”

“Asshole screwed it up. Oww!!”

Leo shook his head, there was way too much obstinacy in the boy today.

“You turned a demon loose on your own parents Chris.”

No response was forthcoming. But his indignation was quite evident.

“You still think it was justified?”

Swats landed continuously throughout the conversation and Chris wriggled and squirmed but couldn’t escape his father’s iron grip around him.

“Ouch! You wouldn’t listen to m-me! Both of… ah…both of you!”

“How could you trust a demon!! What if he’d tried to kill me or Piper?”

Chris closed his eyes, against the accusation, against the pain. He had truly believed the demon was a weakling. He surely wouldn’t have sent him otherwise. Besides Fubas had a secret to guard, and he wouldn’t have done anything to jeopardize the deal.

//I think.// he silently added.

“Daddy please… I’m not *that* dumb… ah… he w-wouldn’t… c-couldn’t have hurt you! Or m-mom!”

Leo huffed. That wasn’t the point and *this* wasn’t working. He stopped spanking and Chris wondered if it was over. Then he felt Leo reach out and turned to see what he was going for. To his horror, Leo retrieved a hairbrush from his drawer.

“Wha… oh no, dad no!”

Leo shook his head resignedly. “You went too far this time kid.”

And with that he swiftly brought the wooden back of the brush down across both his cheeks.

“Oww!!”

It stung like hell. Much much worse than what Leo’s hand could do and instant tears sprung to the boy’s eyes.

“If memory serves me well, the demon did try to hurt someone Chris. Do you remember?”

Chris scowled, his father was at his sarcastic best today but he wasn’t gonna respond to the trick question.

“Ouch dad that really hurts!”

Leo didn’t say anything but continued to use the brush on his bottom uniformly. Chris struggled and now both his hands were being held in Leo’s grasp behind his back. The door was open again. Maybe Leo left it ajar on purpose, so his mother could hear him being chastised downstairs. His face burned as much as his well-spanked behind. After a few minutes, Chris couldn’t take it anymore.

“Okay! yeah! I remember!”

“Good!” said Leo brightly. And Chris relented, albeit painfully.

“He… he t-tried to k-kill me. He… al-almost did.”

Leo’s voice was soft and heavy. “You made so many mistakes Chris. And I know you’re smarter than that!”

A compliment at this time only served to make the boy more miserable.

“I’m s-sorry.”

“I don’t care for what Fubas did to me. But your mother was shaking long after the vision left her, did you know that Chris?”

No he didn’t. Chris closed his eyes and groaned not with pain but tremendous guilt.

“She thought she was hemorrhaging, she was so scared that she was losing you.”

Chris did know that, Fubas had told him and he’d been angry about that too. Goddamnit it was his own fault! How could he do it? What the hell was he thinking?

“I… I’m sorry dad. I’m so sorry.”

Chris tried to bite back the sobs, but he didn’t struggle anymore.

“For what son?” Leo pushed gently, but did not stop the spanking.

“I… I tried to mani… mani… ugh… manipulate you and mom into… ah… getting back together… again!”

“Do you not trust our judgment?”

“I do…”

“Don’t you think your mother and I are capable of making our own choices?”

The pain couldn’t get any worse now. “Yes. You are…”

“You know me Chris. After everything we’ve been through, do you think I could ever abandon you again?”

Chris whimpered, tears blurring his vision of the bed sheet before him.

“No…”

The swats only seemed to be getting more unpredictable by the minute.

“No what?”

“You… won't…”

And Chris was sobbing openly. He convulsed and cried out at every swat but didn’t protest.

“I won't what son?” Leo pressed on. Chris couldn’t respond, he just cried harder.

Leo dropped the hairbrush to his side and instead rubbed the small of his boy’s back. “Talk to me Chris… I won't what?”

Chris struggled to marshal his senses enough to form a reply. Maybe he wasn’t so sure two days ago. Maybe he’d been afraid Leo would not be around for him and Wyatt and Piper after all. Maybe he thought despite everything that had happened these last few weeks, Leo would still get sucked back into the Elders realm. That he would go back to being the heartless, letter-writing, never-visiting father he despised.

But not today, not anymore. Something about the touch of his father’s hand… raised in punishment or tenderness… assured him. Soothed him. And Chris was sure now.

“I know that… you would n-never abandon me again. I know that now dad…”

He cried bitterly. “I know.”

Leo knew Chris had had enough, and he couldn’t wait to gather the boy into his arms again. But he stilled his restless heart and let go of Chris’ hands. He very gently rubbed the sore cheeks to temper the sting and with another hand stroked the boy’s head.

“Shh… it's okay son. It's over now.”

Unexpectedly Chris started shaking his head and whispered. “It's not enough. It's not enough!”

Leo frowned but pulled up the boxers, causing Chris to moan in pain. Then he held Chris under his armpits to turn him over but to his surprise Chris struggled.

“No… dad it's not enough! You can't stop yet!”

The boy was hysterical and adamant to go back to his earlier position. Leo tightened his embrace and held the boy close to himself in a half-sitting position.

“Chris it's okay! It's over baby boy, it's all over.”

“But…”

“Shhh… you're okay.”

Leo pressed his brunette head into his chest and rocked him steadily.
“I am the dad. I get to decide when it's enough kid. And it is. More than enough.”

Leo kissed his forehead and held him tightly while the boy wept the last of his guilty tears away.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Shhh you’re forgiven. Everything’s okay now.”

Leo continued talking to Chris and rocking him until he calmed down. Chris had finally gotten the damn sheets off his legs and curled up further into his father’s frame. Leo tried straightening him out on his stomach to alleviate his pain but Chris refused to let him go.

“No… don’t go dad, please!”

Leo wasn’t planning to. He was moved by the intensity in Chris’ eyes and voice and realized the healing would take much longer this time around.

“I’m right here son. Right here. Always.”

The sobs died, eventually, turned to hiccups and then to nothing. Leo wiped away the tears and kissed the boy’s forehead, caressed his hair and held his hands. Later he settled against the headboard allowing Chris to lean against him and drift back to sleep.

“You’re safe… and we love you. I love you so much Chris.”

Sleepily, Chris replied. “I love you too dad..”


*********

Downstairs, Phoebe held Wyatt in her arms and gently danced to the old classic playing in the sunlit conservatory. Piper sat by the gramophone, remembering the time Patti, her mother, would play these old records and dance in the very same place… and Pru and Piper would be skipping and hopping all about her.

Come to me my melancholy baby
cuddle up and dont... be... blue.
All your fears are foolish fancy maybe
you know dear that I’m in love with you…


Piper smiled at the happy memory, then sighed and looked up longingly at the stairway. She wished she knew how to help her disturbed son. The choices children make are more often than not a result of their upbringing. Unfortunately, she was not going to be around to see her children grow. How long did she have with her babies? She couldn’t push Chris for answers because future consequences were important to him and she respected that. But God knew she had hated her mother not being there for a long time. She didn’t want her kids to grow up hating her too.
//At least Leo would be a much more active parent this time.//

Every cloud must have a silver lining
wait until the sun shines through.
So come my honey dear
while I kiss away each tear,
or else I shall be melancholy too!


Piper sighed. She didn’t have the luxury to be melancholy either. She had to keep smiling, laughing, be happy for her babies… she turned towards an excited Wyatt as he squealed ‘mommy look mommy look!’ in Phoebe’s swaying arms. Piper waved back… perhaps she couldn’t be there forever to take care of them… see that they were fed and educated… and loved. But this she knew… as long as she was able, she would not lose a single minute of the precious time they did have together. Not with Wyatt, not with baby Chris. And certainly not with the Chris who carried the weight of the world on his too young shoulders. Who was hurting so much.

//If it's just a day, even if it's just a moment I have… I’ll make it last, my sweet children. We’ll make it last forever with our love.//

Piper smiled again and looked up. Leo stood there on the stairs, smiling back at her.


**THE END**

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