Chris stood at the center of the attic in a continuing daze. He felt drained, empty…
The flipside to traits as being *focused* and *driven* to fulfill a mission, is that once the mission is accomplished, or… taken away… there seems to be nothing left to go on for. No purpose, no goal, no meaning to life… and you agonize with a loss of self-worth and value, until a new mission comes along.
But it wasn’t just *a* mission was it? It was… an intense need, a desperation beyond words that drove him to try and right the wrongs and once again see his family happy and prosperous and… alive. To the boy, there seemed no apparent reason to exist any more really. Except his mother’s words that continued to echo through his soul…
//Your destiny still awaits.//
With his mother *departed*, Chris slowly became aware of certain physicalities like the growing chill in the attic. And the fact that his temples throbbed and his throat felt scratchy and dry. How long had he been standing here in the dark?
Chris managed not to stumble down the stairs as he made his way to the kitchen and got himself a glass of iced water. Walked slowly and lowered himself onto a couch in the living room then pressed the chilled glass to his aching forehead. That’s how Wyatt found him, fifteen minutes later.
Wyatt walked in from outside, after seeing off a messenger from the Underworld. Shut the door behind him with a casual flick of his right hand and turned to find his brother, lost deep in thought.
The boy looked up. For a split second, there came a wildness to the limpid brown eyes, and then miraculously, it was gone. Wyatt waited, having learnt the hard way to first gauge Chris’ mood and which way it was likely to *swing* before he made another move…
And that’s all the boy said, going back to staring at the carpet.
Wyatt was getting increasingly concerned at the diminutive behavior. Chris had been nothing but unpredictably whimsical these past two days but this sudden calmness was new and quite… unsettling.
“Are you okay?”
Chris, half-dazed and forlorn, looked up at Wyatt.
//He’s different. He’s not evil.//
The length of golden unruly hair was the same, the height and breadth were all the same. Wasn’t dressed in black from head to toe as before, blue denims instead. Quite placid really. The eyes… were not manic with rage at anything and everything. They were radiant, determined… concerned. And now that he was *truly* paying attention, Chris also noticed the slight beginnings of white at the corner of Wyatt’s temples, minute but there.
“Your hair’s going grey.”
Wyatt started. Right eye brow went up high and it reminded Chris of… Piper.
“Well, yeah… probably because of the force field for the manor, takes a lot out of me to put it up, then take it back down you know… or maybe its just plain worry ever since… umm, are you alright?”
“I am. Yeah. Very much. Thank you.”
And Chris went back to staring at his glass of water. Wyatt inched in closer and when Chris did not bolt, he slowly kneeled down right in front of Chris.
“You spoke to mom?”
The Adam's apple in Wyatt’s throat did a little dance which amused Chris.
“She… she alright?”
“Yeah, she’s great! Yeah. Lots of action and… stuff.”
The boy nodded almost absently.
And Wyatt lowered his eyes, wondering if he should push for more information on what exactly had transpired.
“What did you do with Brian?”
The question startled him and Wyatt looked up with a slight frown. And Chris now looked as if he was regretting throwing out the question. The boy bit his lip. Wyatt drew a sigh and looked him in the eye.
“I fired him, obviously.”
Chris shook his head in disbelief, but his voice was low and hesitant.
“That’s it? You j-just let him go af-after what he did?”
Wyatt tilted his head to one side, straightened up where he knelt so now he was on eye level with Chris.
“I didn’t hurt him… *too much* Chris, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“No broken bones, just bruised ones. Although he deserved much *much* worse.”
Chris saw his brother’s face cloud a bit with suppressed anger. But his words sounded honest.
“I wont lie to ya kid, I wanted to hurt him. Bad. He almost got you killed and God knows if they had succeeded… “
Wyatt gritted his teeth and looked away. Chris sighed. Of course.
//If they had, it would have been an encore of eight years ago. You and dad and the aunts would have vanquished everything and everyone responsible, wiped out half the underworld… for me.//
//Oh God… I’m glad he didn’t kill Brian but if it were the other way round, wouldn’t I have killed him for almost getting my brother assassinated??//
The brothers sat in silence, each lost in own thoughts. Wyatt was the first to come to, and throwing caution to the wind he reached out and pulled Chris into a gentle hug. Chris continued to hold the glass of water in both his hands.
He didn’t mind, but like all other times that Wyatt had held him close, he felt nothing. The first time, at least there was fear and suspicion. Now, there was simply nothing… that is except a sudden gathering feeling of complete exhaustion.
Wyatt let go of him, fearing an admonishment for crossing the line or something.
“I’m tired, could you like, orb me to my room?”
Wyatt got up in a rush.
“Sure. I’ll come with… that is, if its okay with you?”
Chris raised his eyebrows once in affirmation.
Wyatt put a hand on his brother’s shoulder and together they disappeared in shimmering orbs. Wyatt orbed Chris so he was now sitting on his bed with the same glass of water in his hand. Wyatt sat down next to him. He noticed the water wasn’t chilled anymore, and tiny droplets condensed on the outside were falling onto and wetting Chris’ knees.
“Are you done with this?”
Chris then became aware of where they were and also of the utensil, which Wyatt took from his hands and placed on the nightstand. The older man couldn’t resist raising a hand and placing it on Chris’ forehead, just to check he was *really* okay. Chris’ first instinct was *not* to flinch away. Or maybe he was too tired to bother, he didn’t know.
And it didn’t matter. Wyatt assured himself there was no fever and pulled back the covers. Chris stepped out of his shoes and nearly collapsed into place, then pulled up the covers over himself. Wyatt sat down by him and adjusted the sheets with such familiarity as if he’d done it a thousand times before.
Chris just continued to stare at him, his graceful moves, his face creased with lines too old for someone so young. This was the face he had once feared, loathed. Could the fear be replaced so easily with trust? The hate with love?
//He’s different. He’s not the same.//
He thought back to his last moments in the past when Leo had asked him not to hold a grudge against Wyatt.
//He is going to be good. He is not going to remember being evil.//
//I’m trying dad. I really am.//
“You need anything else?”
Chris shook his head. Wyatt smiled, gently brushing hair back from the boy’s face.
“So, lemme know if you wanna talk okay?”
Chris bit down a laugh… yeah right. Talk to Wyatt of all people about his problems when Wyatt was the *Source* to begin with.
//Pun so NOT intended!//
The boy nodded non-committally.
“By the way… Lindsey called.”
//Lindsey? I am supposed to know this name?//
“She was asking how you were doing, wanted to speak to you.”
//oh Lindsey! Yeah course I know her! She was seeing Wyatt when I was seeing… Dr. Rydill.//
And Chris smiled.
“After all these years Wyatt, you cant still think she calls to talk to *me*?”
Wyatt frowned in mock ignorance.
“You know she misses you. And *you* miss her too.”
//I am not making this up right? How do I know all this? //
Wyatt smiled, and rolled his eyes.
“Go to sleep champ. We’ll talk in the morning.”
With that he got up from the bed and after taking one last look at Chris, switched off the lamp.
Wyatt left but Chris found himself assured he wouldn’t go too far. And then he started – why did he *need* that assurance in the first place? Chris was infamous for his fierce independence and self-sufficiency. But this world was rapidly seducing him into letting his guards down and depending on others… on *Wyatt* of all people for… for everything.
“Good night. Wyatt.”
The door closed and the boy realized he had no strength left to contemplate or worry anymore this night. Chris fell asleep almost instantly.
Wyatt could have jumped in joy, he couldn’t and wouldn’t stop smiling as he walked down the stairs and into the kitchen.
//He’s going to be okay.//
The twenty four year old was extremely relieved and happy to finally see progress being made on the Chris front. He couldn’t wait to tell Leo about it. The sleeping boy had given him another big reason to smile tonight… had confirmed what he’d suspected for awhile, but his self-doubts had made him not too willing to believe it. Lindsey had seen a few guys off and on after they split up but nothing serious ever came out of those flings. Similarly, Wyatt dabbled in a few flirtations but… really he’d never found the same love and companionship in any other woman after Lindsey.
//Maybe I should give her a call tomorrow… like, tell her Chris is okay now or somethin.//
//Jeez, Chris is so right! We’re both using him as an excuse to hold on. Maybe its time I stopped hiding behind my little brother.//
Wyatt chuckled to himself. The reason he was heading toward the kitchen was so he could finish the new potion he was working on to restore Chris’ powers. As he reached the kitchen, he could see a pale shadow moving among the greenery in the garden. Floating really. And his smile grew wider, if that were at all possible.
Wyatt exclaimed, hugging his mother from behind while she watered her favorite herbs. Piper bit back a coy smile and let Wyatt engulf her, then put down the water sprinkler and turned toward him.
“How is he?”
Wyatt nodded gratefully.
“Thanks to you, I think he might well be on his way back. To us.”
Piper sighed. “The poor boy is still so lost Wyatt. You have to understand where he comes from, you’re not exactly the *father figure* that you are here, in this world.”
Wyatt’s smile dropped.
“I know that, I know he’s trying real hard to start trusting me. There is hesitation, but tonight there was also a… a willingness to give me a chance.”
Piper caressed his cheek gently.
“It might not be over yet.”
“What? Why do you say that?”
Piper stared at him squarely.
“I am not trying to screw your happiness baby. … I just want you to be prepared in case there is a relapse or something.”
Wyatt’s eyes narrowed.
“Why would there be a relapse? Things should only get better now.”
Piper did not respond, just went back to her task of watering the plants. Wyatt waited, then gave up.
“You know I really hate it when you do this.”
“Do what?” she inquired innocently.
“This! You drop teensy little hints and leave me to figure out the rest in *due course of time*! Why don’t you just come clean with the whole deal and save me a lot of running around?”
Piper tried not to laugh.
“Okay, is it just you or do all ghosts get their kicks out of hassling mortals?”
This time she didn’t stop herself.
“Stop being melodramatic and tell me, how are my sisters doing?”
Wyatt just resigned himself to not getting any more answers from his dead mother. Wouldn’t be the first time either. He sat on a cane table nearby and told her about Paige and how she didn’t shy from physical contact this time around. Piper smiled mildly, overcome with emotion. At least she could visit Paige whenever they felt like seeing each other. Her other sister was a different matter.
Wyatt’s voice dropped a notch.
“She… she let me orb her to the club to talk to Chris yesterday.”
“Yeah, I heard. Cool huh.”
And mother and son shared a quiet moment of small but meaningful victory.
“Maybe someday she wouldn’t find it so painful to set eyes on my shiny new self anymore.”
Wyatt held out a hand to Piper which she took and held firmly.
“Amen to that.”
Mother and son composed themselves. Piper sat next to him on the table.
“So did you find out about who’s the new Source on the block?”
Wyatt’s face suddenly took over a hardness and concentration that usually never surfaced when among friends and family.
“From everything I’ve heard, its seeming more and more likely the guy’s a half-breed. Half upper-level demon and half vampire.”
“Yeah, but apparently has none of the usual vampiric weaknesses. Many have tried to get him the usual way – sunlight, garlic and stuff… nothing works.”
“He sure works fast - organizing and uniting an underworld that’s been in shambles for the last four years in just a month. He controls the phoenixes too now doesn’t he?”
“Yeah. I’ll personally fry him for sending the bastards after Chris.”
Wyatt shook with rage and this time his mother slipped an arm around his, comforting him with her nearness.
“You do that, for you and for me.”
Wyatt looked down at her resolute face, and mutely nodded once.
Piper thought for awhile. Obviously the villain wasn’t in the book, the next best place to start digging should probably be with the Elders.
“I’ll run upstairs and see what I can find.”
Piper just pulled a face and got up. Then she pretended like she had *just* thought of something else.
“By the way, did you find something to restore his powers?”
Wyatt winced sheepishly. “Not yet.”
Piper turned away.
Piper sighed. “That relapse I was talking about? It’s a real possibility Wyatt, Chris could seriously hurt you if he lashed out in anger and right now, we cant afford any of you to be out of commission for a minute! Besides, I don’t want the Progenies using their powers on each other. You know what happened the last time the Charmed Ones ending up *attacking* each other.”
Wyatt remembered. This was when Prue was alive and the sisters were all under demonic influence. They had not just lost their powers but almost got themselves vanquished by the big bad-now-good-now-bad-again-good-again Balthazar.
Everyone knew *that* story. Wyatt gave it a moment’s thought and no more.
“He’ll know I’m stalling and all this progress we’ve made will go waste. No mother, I don’t wanna lie to him.”
Piper sighed. “Okay, where are you with the potion?”
The wince returned.
“It bombed, thrice now. I don’t know what I’m doin wrong.”
Piper bit her lip and Wyatt realized skewed his eyes.
“You’re not going to help me are you?”
“Baby like I said…”
Wyatt got up and paced in agitation.
“Fine. Don’t! Aunt Paige promised to google the school library for me. She never turns me down.” And he accusingly glared at his mother.
Piper smirked and got up too. She picked up the water-can where she’d left it, emptied and put it back in place. Then spun around to face her oldest son.
“Alrightie then, see ya.”
“Wait, you really wont help at all?”
Piper huffed, turned away then back again.
“Our powers are linked to our emotions remember?”
Wyatt blinked. Of course, and Chris’ emotional state was in utter state of shambles right now. Suppressed emotions, suppressed powers!
Piper gradually went from corporeal to ethereal, her voice now a distant echo.
“I would wait… for the *potential* relapse to pass Wyatt… watch for it.”
“Mom wait! How long?”
She faded away. And Wyatt threw his hands up exasperated.
Wyatt recognized his father’s voice behind him, and didn’t bother to turn around. Just stood with his hands on his waist, staring at the spot his dead mom was not a second ago.
“I hate it when she does that.”
Leo came forward, put a hand on his son’s shoulder.
“You know ghosts aren’t really allowed to help mortals at all, they can only bend the rules a little or call in *favors* to guide you now and again. Course, your mother has *lots* of favors to call in.”
Wyatt didn’t find it amusing. He rubbed his eyes in response, hadn’t slept a blink for two days.
“I know dad its just… I don’t mind playing her little games usually, but not right now and not… not with this Chris situation. It gets onto my damn *nerves*, her withholding information I can use.”
Leo sighed and changed the subject.
“Yeah. He seemed so… defeated after he spoke to mom. And yet in a way, *relieved* and a lot more…”
“Calmer. What did she say to him anyway?”
Leo just grimaced and shrugged. Wyatt recognized the expression.
“Not talking again? What happened?”
Leo squeezed his shoulder then made to go into the house.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll go check up on Chris.”
The Elder left Wyatt frowning in even more agitation. Now *both* his dead parents were getting on his nerves.
Terence was having a very bad night. Being a sole surviving Phoenix from the band sent to vanquish the Second Progeny isn’t everything its cracked up to be. At all.
A humongous dark silhouette sprawled on its throne, adorned with skulls and bones of myriad species, some with flesh still rotting on them. It was the throne of the Source, and Terence knew enough to kneel, keep his forehead pressed into the ground and dare not look up.
It… the Source… thundered, tapping ugly long nails on the armrest. Was that a sign he could get up? Best not take any chances, Terence continued to heel.
“The second witch has no powers you say?”
Terence trembled and slowly raised himself.
“Ye-yes m-my lord. He… he was weak and hel-helpless and we almost had him u-until…”
“Until Wyatt showed up.”
The thunder increasing by decades of decibels at the cursed name. Iron knuckles cracked against each other.
A sudden sharp clap of lightning followed. For the smallest moment the dark dank netherworld lit up like a beacon and all the Source’s minions shielded their eyes against the white light. A scream rang out and echoed in four directions, then it was gone. By the time it got dark again and they could see, Terence was a pile of ash that the half-breed ruler trampled on when he got off his high throne in agitation.
“Phoenixes are useless. Get me the Seer.”
The Second Progeny was so vulnerable right now, it… the Source… thought. Best make use of this Devil-send before that wretched brother of his fixed him.
Paige grounded the second stick of black calendula and carefully extracted a pinch of the powder onto her now equally blackened palm.
And Wyatt shifted to allow his aunt by the electric cauldron that he’d been stirring all this while. He was exhausted and could barely stand or see, everything was a blur. He only hoped he hadn’t made any mistakes but trusted Paige would have caught him if he did.
“Thanks for coming over aunt Paige.”
Paige pulled a face at him, and went back to adding the last ingredient to the potion.
“Anything for my favorite nephew, you know that.”
“Not me though.”
Paige smiled oh so cutely at him. “Not you.”
Wyatt chuckled. Together they watched as the mixture lost all its color and morphed into a crystal clear liquid.
Paige breathed in relief.
"There you go. Of course we cant be completely sure until you've tried it. *On Chris*. And he's gotta say this spell after taking it."
Paige handed him a slip of parchment with the spell. Wyatt read the words silently, nodded and pocketed it. Then he carefully bottled the concoction and thanked Paige again.
"Shut up Wyatt. And now you should go sleep. You look like a zombie."
She picked up her robe and donned it, getting ready to leave. Wyatt yawned widely.
"Yeah I know. Chris was pointing out all my gray hair to me. I bet the imp would be pleased to know he's responsible for every single white strand!"
“At least he’s paying attention. Good to see you’re getting some back kid.”
Wyatt just smiled and lowered his eyes. Paige came over, gave him a quick hug and orbed out.
//Okay Chris. I got your powers right here with me.//
Wyatt sealed the vial and leaned against the kitchen table staring at it.
//I would wait… for the *potential* relapse to pass Wyatt.//
//Watch for it.//
Exhaled long and hard, then placed the vial in the chest pocket of his shirt.
//I’m sorry bro. I cant fix you right now.//
But that didn't mean he would let Chris walk into the world outside alone and unprotected. Wyatt planned to be as close to the boy as possible. Now that the Source knew Chris was sans his powers, the attempts on his life would increase. Which was why he was not completely convinced he was doing the right thing.
Two days, he decided. Not more than that. In these two days, he would try and show Chris as much of this new world as possible inside the protection of his force field. Some things were bound to shake up his memories and force them to come to the fore. In two days, Wyatt planned to let his little brother know how much he loved him. And if there is a relapse, so be it. He'd be prepared this time.
Chris acted like no one had bothered to care for him in his old world, especially the way he'd shy away from or not react at all to physical proximities. A Chris that wasn’t animated? Who wouldn't *not* talk for hours non-stop? It was a side of Chris that Wyatt had most trouble reconciling with.
Wyatt orbed back to the attic that was his bedroom. Normally he would climb the stairs telling himself he needed the exercise. But tonight he had no energy left to take another goddamn step. Once there, he put the potion and spell in a safe well-guarded by magic. Then pulled off his shirt and flopped face down onto the bed.
//You got two more days to throw a fit kiddo. After that… I’ll just have to let you go.//
The next logical thought to occur sent his eyes flying open. What if he chose to leave? Once he had his powers back, Chris would have no need to stay at the manor under his protection. What if Chris decided he couldn't bring himself to trust Wyatt at all and walked away?
Wyatt turned over and stared at his ceiling. He did not sleep for hours that night.
Next Chapter >> (Coming Soon)