Leo was called and he returned to the clouds. Wyatt shook himself together and started the day as he usually did. Or tried to.
Wyatt was in field training with the SFPD to be an officer of the law – a job he figured would be perfect cover for his actual responsibilities of everyday life. Darryl helped a lot, now that the man was Chief of Police. It didn’t matter that Morris had offered the favor only to alleviate some of his own guilt for abandoning the sisters all those years ago.
Wyatt got his land rover out to go to work, strengthening the forcefield of the manor behind him. With time much advancement had been made both above ground and below, so the book simply could not be left unprotected. Apologized to the next-door neighbor for last evening’s fender-bender caused by Chris’ mazda. Again. Gunned the engine and pulled out.
But damnit he couldn’t possibly focus on anything today. Leo may have been confident that Chris would come around by himself, but he wasn’t the one that Chris was running away from. Besides the boy’s powers were still not back and that was also a very very worrying factor here. Him being out there, alone… Wyatt gritted his teeth and skidded the car round back to the manor. Not a good day for work.
Wyatt walked back into the attic, throwing his jacket on the bed and headed straight for the book.
The void left by the demise of the power of Three was never filled. But Wyatt’s presence on the scene made sure evil gained an upper hand not *once* in the last eight years. They tried, sure they did. Now four vanquished sources and only over three thousand dusted demons later, the dark worlders weren’t so sure there *was* a void to begin with.
“Okay. There’s gotta be something in here to restore his powers.”
But Wyatt had read and memorized the entire book word for word. There had been no cases of retrieving souls lost between timelines before Chris so no way to predict the side effects. He closed the book, nothing found. Wyatt knew he sucked at rhyming, Chris was so much better at it. He sighed and scrunched his face.
“Magic forces far and wide
Hear my spell and set things right
Restore the Charmed son’s power
And make whole… my beloved brother?”
He waited. Nothing happened.
// Potion maybe… some sorta potion.//
Pushed his long blonde hair behind the ears.
// Aunt Phoebe… I so wish you were here…//
Five thousand miles and fourteen hours away round the world… acclaimed columnist and Booker winning author Phoebe Halliwell tossed in her bed. Jason was away for an overnight trip to Singapore, and the girls were sound asleep. It was after all two in the morning and the woman had a long day ahead of her. She so did not need this right now. Phoebe huffed and sat up in bed.
“Damn it Wyatt.”
All day she had walked around distracted, sensing her nephew’s worried thoughts and pacings with her highly empathetic mind. Bonds of magic may have been severed, but bonds of family weren’t.
Wyatt had always been close to her and long after Piper died and Phoebe came away to Hong Kong, he would tend to reach out to her almost unintentionally. To the world, he was the stronger, calmer older son taking care of everything from Piper’s funeral to Chris’ counseling sessions. But whenever things would get too much for the teenager, his mind would zone out and try to touch Phoebe’s… sometimes only to assure himself she was still there. Feathery light brushes and she would know Wyatt was thinking about her, missing her. There were times he’d linger, ask how the girls were doing and stuff. Phoebe would have long-distance conversations with the boy only as long as they spoke of family and impersonal matters. They did not discuss witchcraft.
Phoebe had been shattered. She’d survived Pru’s funeral… but there was no way she could sit through a second sister’s funeral while the third one reeled under catatonia. She was done.
Done losing the people she loved… good against evil, right and wrong didn’t matter… nothing was worth this anymore. And God how’d begged Leo to let her take Wyatt and Chris with her. Leo refused to budge – all that shit about destiny she didn’t give a rat’s ass about. Wyatt refused to budge – he was determined to fall for the same traps that his mother and aunts had before him. And Chris… the poor boy couldn’t bear to be away from his brother at all.
The mind-talks gradually dwindled as it became easier with time to just pick up the phone and hear an actual voice on the other side. It became easier to fly (no orbing allowed) back and forth for short visits so the cousins could see each other and remember they were one family… one blood. So now Wyatt would usually come knocking on her mind only when… when there was some sort of magical crisis on. Now *that* Phoebe was not interested in.
She’d tried her best to ignore him. All damn day.
She and the girls had called up Chris in the morning to wish him. Everything had been fine.
No, something was obviously not right right now. Wyatt wouldn’t be paging her so restlessly for nothing. Even if he didn’t know he was doing it.
She cursed again, switched on her bedside lamp and picked up the phone.
By the time Chris got out of the shower and changed into fresh, and to be honest more comfortable loose fitting clothes, he was feeling less dead and more alive. His thoughts were still going around in circles though. He remembered and yet did not remember the newly renovated club that was his mother’s legacy – among many other things.
//Man, did I really order these handmade magenta lamp shades? What the hell was I thinking??//
//They do look kinda funky.//
So the Chris in this world had flamboyant tastes but the majority of him was still bent on holding back. One voice in his head bawked at the *colorfully* named cocktails on the menu… another sniggered, thoroughly pleased with his *creative* streak.
//The crowds love it man.//
//Mom wouldn’t like this at all.//
The only cleaner guy (not a magical one) who worked mornings came in and greeted him like he’d known Chris forever.
“Hey boss, did you sleep here last night?”
“Uhh yeah. I did.”
//Brian is it?//
“Well congratulations. Looks like big brother finally cut you loose.”
Chris just scowled in return and went back to the solace of his office.
There he found a little fridge to raid for whatever unexpired food he could find. Chris needed a plan – he needed to prove to dad that Wyatt couldn’t be trusted. And he needed to get his powers back asap. Stripping Chris of his powers even before he’d opened his eyes was the smartest thing Wyatt could have done to cover his ass. Undeniable proof of his true evil intentions – why was he the only one to see that?
Leo was so naïve, so completely blinded by his love for the firstborn. Probably another thing that did not change despite everything that happened back in the past. Chris felt a familiar hollowness he hadn’t felt now for months.
//Get a grip Halliwell.//
Chris also couldn’t help feeling an irrational envy for his father. He loved him still doubtless. But he wasn’t liking him too much at the moment. He needed someone who would understand him and want to bring Piper back as much as he did. Someone who knew what could happen if Wyatt was to give in to his inner demons.
The window flew open and a cold breeze blew in. Chris turned to face the horizon and almost without intention, words of a well-used ditty rose to his lips.
“spirit winds you know her name,
find the witch who lives in pain…”
He paused, he smirked.
“…summon her from magic school,
she'll kick my butt, but that's cool.
Hear this spell, hear my chant
return to me my favorite aunt.”
He waited. Nothing happened.
Chris closed his eyes and his head dropped to his chest. Obviously his active powers were not the only powers gone. He was not even capable of basic spells every witch and wizard was supposed to be born with. He scrunched up his eyes tighter. It was hopeless. This was all so absolutely ridiculously…
“What the…? Oh way to go Christopher, perfect timing!”
Chris startled, and looked up to find Paige… dressed in Magic School standard issue black cloak with a nasty toe nail clipper in one hand, poised for action.
“I am so going to kick your skinny little…”
Before she knew it, Chris charged her and pulled her into a tight desperate hug. And he was not letting go.
“Uhh… okay… alright…”
Chris let go and parted, realizing what he just did. “Sorry.”
Paige got over her shock of being suddenly retrieved out of Magic School and into P3 and dropped the clippers.
“Do you have any idea how difficult it is to convince a phoenix to donate her claws? After weeks of deliberations I finally got her to stand still long enough for me to clip a sliver and just when I thought I had it…”
“Sorry again?” Chris, now slightly blushing but not sorry at all, threw her his best innocent look.
Paige humphed. “A little warning nephew that’s all I ask!”
Chris nodded eagerly, not finding any words to explain the exhilaration he felt at seeing her. He was sure he’d summoned her several times before without warning and his aunt had pretended to be annoyed every time. He was sure he was gonna do it again.
Chris continued to stare as she straightened her cloak until the witch figured something was off.
“Okay, out with it.”
The Halliwells was not a normal family, never had been. And Paige had left the fold eight years ago. Although she’d visited Chris every time he’d called her, she did not like visiting the mortal plane anymore. Most expectedly, she did not remember.
“Aunt Paige… today’s my twenty second birthday.”
Paige was stunning to look at even now when the years had hardened her features. Her eyes did not sparkle with the same intensity. But they weren’t dead either – they were filled with the light of wisdom that only experience and pain brings. The hair was back to original black, which somehow made her look more morose than when Chris saw her in the past. She’d carelessly piled it on top of her head making her tall frame look taller. She wore no makeup. Paige was the most beautiful woman Chris knew.
The Charmed one’s face melted first with mild amusement, them embarrassment (she forgot again), and then with stunned realization as the implications of the event sank in.
“Oh my God. Wyatt did it.”
That was the last thing Chris had wanted to hear. He flinched away.
“Lemme guess… having trouble reconciling with your new life?”
Chris snorted. “What new life?”
Paige frowned. “You’re acting weird.”
“Look there is no time to explain. I need your help.”
“To do what?”
Chris stated matter-of-factly. “To fix this. Again.”
“Fix what? You already saved Wyatt from turning evil.”
Paige sighed loudly. “Christopher you’re trying my patience now.”
“I am *trying* to tell you we did not succeed in making sure Wyatt *never* turns evil.”
“Wyatt was saved from Gideon in time. I know I was there!”
“How do you know it was in time? How do you know its not all an act like in my last world? How do you know he wont drop the act and blow everything up tomorrow?”
Paige narrowed her eyes at him.
“Chris don’t you see the difference between the man who tortured and tried to kill you in the other world, and this one who is your brother and who *loves* you??”
Chris bit his lip, losing patience himself.
“He took away all my powers Paige!”
The witch paused.
“He did mention there could be unforeseen side effects.”
“He *told* you he was going to do something to me and you didn’t stop him?”
“Stop being a dolt. If he wanted you out of the way why would he bring you back in the first place?”
“Well… maybe because dad asked him to… I guess… I don’t know!”
“You are not *trying* to know! Stop fighting it Chris. The new memories will allow you to see how much you did *not* fail! And how much different this world is.”
Chris muttered softly. “You’re not any different. You still don’t like to be touched.”
The silence that followed was not comfortable. Paige’s glance turned cold and she quickly looked away.
“I have to get back.”
“No wait. We need to discuss this.”
“There is nothing to discuss.”
And Paige was about to orb away.
“We need to get mom back!”
She stopped. “What? Ho-how? Chris you mean you wanna go back in time again?”
“That’s the only way isn’t it?”
Paige pursed her lips and considered what Chris was saying. Chris was reminded of another good reason why his mother needed to be alive again. This was for the best – it was not only to save Wyatt, it was to save Paige too.
“The spell is not in our book but it must exist somewhere in the Magic school library. We could look for it and…”
“Its… too late. Everyone’s moved on. And Piper is… well her too…”
“Aunt Paige the fate of the world hangs in the balance don’t you see? Wyatt is the most powerful being to have ever been born and without mom to control him, he… he could…”
“You sound just like Gideon.”
Chris was horrified. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. His mouth fell open to say something but he couldn’t think of any words to respond to this… this…
“Trust your brother Chris. He is not the Wyatt you once knew. You are not the Chris you were. You’re much more than that. And you *love* him.”
Chris winced as something he was suppressing tried to force its way up tearing through his mind and heart painfully.
“You don’t get it. I thought you of all people would understand me!!”
“I do! And that’s why I know…”
“YOU KNOW NOTHING!”
Chris screamed Paige into silence.
“Living in that Magic School away like some hermit has made you so cold!! Hiding behind your invisibility cloak just like *he* did! You don’t understand what family is anymore! God how could I expect you to help me at all! If anyone here is like Gideon its YOU!”
Paige closed her eyes. The words didn’t sting because she knew they weren’t true. Well, not completely. She did live the life of a hermit and she… did hide behind that stupid cloak. But what she felt right now was sadness for what Chris was going through. The nephew she’d seen grow from a baby to an adult had a sorrowful past but he wasn’t this neurotic, or this manically disturbed. The Chris of this world had accepted the fact that everything happens for a reason. And that when some things are meant to be, no power in this world or any other could possibly change it.
“Chris… just stop… stop fighting this.”
“He cant, sweetie.”
The couple then realized there was a third presence in the room. Since when, they couldn’t say. Paige and Chris turned to look at Phoebe… who stood slightly out of their peripheral visions with her arms folded, studying Chris very intently.
“At least not yet. He’s too much like his mother. Its his nature to fight.”
Paige overcame her shock and went to her sister. They embraced a long time as Chris looked on.
“Talk to him please.” she whispered.
Chris was curious how Phoebe knew to find him here, and also how she got into the room.
“You didn’t use the door.”
“Wyatt orbed me in.”
Chris got agitated again. “Just so like him to go running to you!”
“Like you came running to me?” Paige quipped.
Chris scowled. “Well technically you came to me not…”
“Yeah, we know.”
Phoebe interjected and Chris shut up. They stared each other down. Chris was already not trusting her because she was sent by Wyatt. She had to be careful.
“Don’t I get a hug?”
Chris pouted. And that’s all he did. Vaguely he remembered talking to her only… yesterday on the phone? From Hong Kong?
“Lemme guess, you came here to tell me I should accept my new life and move on. Right?”
Phoebe smiled sadly at him.
“Paige do you remember how Piper was like right after Pru died?”
Paige nodded, reminiscing.
“She was so angry… she lashed out at everyone, you for putting yourself at risk. Leo for not healing Pru, *them* for not saving her… me for… for trying to replace her.”
Chris didn’t like where this was going. He turned around and went to stand by the open window. Phoebe still studied him intently.
“She was in as much pain as you are today Chris. But in time she realized it was self-destructive to hold onto the past and she let go. She accepted Pru’s death and moved on for the rest of us. Me, Paige… Leo. You think you and your brother would be here if she hadn’t?”
Chris did not react. But he was holding a storm inside. Phoebe went to stand behind him and put a hesitant hand on his shoulder.
“She was alive and real for you till yesterday night and today she’s dead. Sweetie… I can imagine what you must be going through.”
A sob escaped Chris.
A painful flashback crossed the empath’s mind… of Piper breaking down…
//It hurts to talk… it hurts to breathe…//
Phoebe turned him around and slowly drew him into herself, his head resting on her shoulder. He let her hold him but his hands hung by his sides.
“Don’t blame yourself baby. And don’t blame Wyatt. It was meant to be.”
A harsh gasp.
Phoebe did not respond, only gripped him tightly. But it didn’t help, Chris tore out of her embrace and with tears in his eyes demanded the eternal answer again.
The sisters didn’t know what to say or do. They were thinking Chris needed to go back to counseling again.
The pain the guilt… the fear – it was all too much to bear now, he felt like he could barely breathe. But if Piper were alive… yeah… mom could fix this. Mom could take care of everything. Chris wiped away his tears, they were no use anyway.
“Are you guys going to help me or not?”
Paige sighed, hadn’t she scoured the magic school library day and night to find something… anything that could bring Piper and Richard back? Hadn’t Chris suffered through this once? Poor child… this shouldn’t be happening to him again, she thought.
“Chris there is nothing we can do. And even if there was, Piper doesn’t want us to do anything!”
Phoebe advised him gently. “Go back to the manor darling and speak to your mother.”
The tears threatened again. “How can I face her…” and the muttered whispers were so low they weren’t heard.
“I failed her… again…”
Paige asked, hugely concerned for the boy. “What did you say?”
Chris clamped shut. No… he could fix this. He could still fix this!
“Fine. You guys have such perfect wonderful lives, go back to them! I’m only your dead sister’s second son why should you care what happens to me?”
Phoebe rolled her eyes. “Chris you know that’s not true.”
Frustration now. Helpless again… to save mom, to save Wyatt… he was screaming inside again.
“Wyatt is going to turn! Unless we bring Piper back.”
“No he’s not.”
Paige tried, but Chris rambled on like he hadn’t even heard her.
“And the first one he comes after is me! You know why??”
“Because he blames me too! He thinks I was this stupid wimp who could do nothing to save Piper during the attack!! He will come after me for that and he will kill me!”
The sisters were frantic.
“Jesus! Chris, we’ll get you help. You can get past this sweetie!”
Chris did not listen. Talking to the sisters was useless. As far as he was concerned, these women were not the Charmed ones anymore. He would have to find a way to bring mom back himself. He heard nothing of what his aunts said to him, and just walked out. Into the cool winter morning.
Life was difficult for the underworlders in this age… and getting difficult-er. Demons using corrupt humans to do their bidding above ground was not a new phenomenon. But since of late the number of demons volunteering to be above ground had dwindled, dependency on greedy mortals had multiplied and they were running short of the right… rather *wrong* sorta humans. Fortunately, the San Francisco coven of assassin witches had planted the perfect mole… Brian.
Chris shoved open the back doors of P3 and stamped out… too engrossed with his inner demons to worry about the ones outside. If he’d looked up once to a nearby terrace, he would have seen three assassins perched with blessed athames. If he’d glanced left behind the dumpsters, he would have found a fourth one there.
And if he’d paid attention, he would have known the fourth one had been following him around since last night.
Voices in his head were too loud and too chaotic for Chris to hear anything else. What the fuck…. he almost preferred the world he had come from. At least things were not this murky – right was good and wrong was evil. Whatever happened to the clear demarcations and his instincts that had never failed him before?
// I gotta speak to… I should… oh God I cant face her! //
Footsteps too close for comfort behind and left of him. By the time he turned around … it was too late.