Author's Note: This one-shot story takes place during Season 6, between the events of "Prince Charmed" and "The Legend of Sleepy Halliwell." Feedback is much appreciated!
Disclaimer: If I owned Charmed, Chris would still be on it. I don't, so I'm left with reminiscing about the good old days via fan fiction.
Lost and Found
I will get my son back, and when I do, I don't want to see you anymore.
It was one thing, in moments of self-doubt, to feel like your family only loved you because they had to. If there were no ties of blood, they'd see you for what you were, and kick you to the curb.
It was quite another thing to have that proven in fact. Chris had come to them a stranger, and in a few short months, they had learned to dislike and mistrust him — at best, tolerate him. And then, they had run out of tolerance.
She had run out of tolerance. Not Phoebe, not Paige, not even Leo for once, but Piper. Her memory had carried him through some of his darkest times, and now he had lost that.
Round and round his head the thoughts ran as he stared at the ceiling, lying in bed. He had overslept, and now couldn't find the will to get up and out of there. Lack of sleep was catching up with him. For four nights now, he had avoided coming to his little space in the backroom of P3 until he was sure the club was deserted. Then he would wake in the morning and orb out before Piper arrived for work. That had left a decent window of time for sleep on the weekdays, but he did not dare take full advantage of it. Anything to avoid talking to her. For one thing, she would probably boot him from the nightclub, and he had nowhere else to go.
He considered, as he had dozens of times before, running to her and telling her everything. He played the scenario in his mind: She would be shocked, she would be skeptical, but eventually she would believe him, and would let him come back. He was her son; she'd have no choice.
He couldn't do it.
But as much as he had tried to conceal his identity, part of him had believed that she, of all people, would have recognized him. She should have seen him for who he was. She should have known him, pulled him from hiding.
Instead ... Her words returned relentlessly ...
I don't want to see you anymore.
What would he do now? Without access to Wyatt, how was he supposed to carry on this mission? In between the echoes of Piper's words to him in the attic, one other thought had preyed on his mind in the past few days: Maybe it was time to quit.
God, he had made such a mess of things. There alone was a reason to give up. Quit before he continued to make life exponentially worse.
The only one of his family that he had seen since that day was Leo, who had come not for Chris, but for Wyatt. Always for Wyatt. After months of suspiciously tailing Chris, Leo was now trying to play the wise Elder role, mediating between Whitelighter and Charmed Ones. Not that it would do a damn bit of good. If the sisters — if Piper — refused to see him, what chance could there be to regain their trust?
She had not come after him — not to berate him more, certainly not to reconcile. She had so thoroughly put him from her mind that she had not even bothered to make sure he was kicked out of P3, too. He no longer existed.
All too fitting, considering his other dilemma ... but that one he shoved to the recesses of his mind. He couldn't quite handle another impending crisis just now. There was time yet — right?
He was saved from having to worry about this question by the noise of someone arriving. He heard his mother's voice. It was Friday, and Piper had come in early.
Chris scrambled out of bed and frantically threw on the nearest clothes that had been thrown aside on a chair. He had just managed to shove his feet into shoes and was on the verge of orbing out when Piper, with a cell phone to her ear, flung open the door.
"I'm sorry, but I can't wait until Monday for that delivery. You said it would be —" She stopped talking when she caught sight of him.
Chris could feel his heart pounding as he orbed out; the vision of her shocked expression — was it changing to one of anger? — imprinted on his mind as the room faded and his surroundings re-formed into the alley outside P3.
He did not immediately move on; he hoped, honestly, that she might come out after him. It was a ridiculous idea: For all she knew, he could have gone halfway across the world. He started walking.
He headed towards a nearby park, familiar to him from his childhood, where he would stop to collect himself and figure out how he would spend the day.
So what if I did quit? he asked himself. He could disappear into this time, hope that Wyatt didn't come looking for him. Better yet, he could go to a different time altogether, try out different epochs until he found the one he could settle in. Suddenly, that had some appeal.
When he was younger, he used to dream of traveling the world. When he was finally free to orb wherever he pleased — not so much by parental permission, but because of his father's lack of attention — Chris did travel a bit. It was fun for a while, and took his mind off Mom's death and the disintegrating situation with Wyatt. But eventually the thrill wore off. It was too easy, and life at home was too hard to forget. Maybe traveling through time would revive that early feeling of adventure, the possibilities of being someone different — just as this journey to the year before he was born had, at least in the beginning. He could keep moving, and one day find his place.
But Wyatt would always follow.
Even though there had been no sign from his brother since that one horrible day — since Bianca's death — Chris could still feel his grip. Wyatt was biding his time, letting Chris think he was forgotten, dismissed as ineffectual and unimportant. But eventually, he would come. Wyatt would find a way.
When Chris arrived at the park, it was fairly well populated. Parents watched over children on the playground, and a few vendors had congregated. He settled on an empty bench and tried not to think.
His efforts had not been very successful when he noticed the approach of a familiar figure: a human-looking demon named Penka, one of his underworld contacts. Chris's shoulders sagged and he heaved a sigh as Penka, who was cheerfully eating an ice cream cone, reached where Chris was sitting. Chris was hoping his body language had sent an unmistakable message: Go away.
The message was received, but ignored.
"Nice to see you, too," Penka said by way of greeting, and sat down on the bench.
"What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you, actually. I was lucky enough to catch sight of you outside that nightclub, and I followed you here."
"Great. My own demon stalker."
"I'm not doing this for my health, you know. Remember? You're the one forcing me to help you. I got the connection you wanted."
"The demon to scan that kid for evil."
"Oh, that." Just another plan, another useless plan that was going to need entry into a house his mother had barred him from.
Stop thinking about that.
"Get this," Penka was continuing. "He's even willing to do it for free. No payment or strings attached. Good thing, too, because you're running out of threats or promises that anyone in the underworld will believe."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about how some got suspicious when Gith was killed while doing business with you. I'm talking about rumors that you don't have as much sway with the Charmed Ones as you'd like folks to believe."
Chris shot him a look of offense, while wondering, slightly panicked, how Penka or anyone outside the family knew of his banishment.
Penka just shrugged his shoulders and took a bite of ice cream. "Word is," he said, "that they pretty much don't pay attention to a thing you say."
At that, Chris felt more assured that Penka was speaking generally, and knew nothing about what happened the other day. Not that it made much difference. Still, some feeble flicker of pride wouldn't allow the remark to pass.
"You're still here," he told the demon.
That cracked Penka's nonchalance a bit. "Yeah, well — I don't need any trouble. If I don't help you, you're going to set the Charmed Ones on me, and who's to say that might be the time they decide to listen to you? I'm a lower demon; I keep a low profile. I don't need that kind of attention." He sounded as if he were trying to convince himself. "So I'm stuck."
They sat in silence for a moment, Chris's mind wandering back, yet again, to Piper's words in the attic. Penka attacked the last of his ice cream, apparently lost in his own irritable thoughts.
Finally, Chris asked, "Why doesn't the demon want anything in return?"
"To do the job for me. To scan for evil in the baby."
"He just wants a chance to read someone as powerful as that kid. Don't worry. There's nothing he can do to hurt him."
"I'm not worried." Because I'm not going to bother, Chris added to himself.
"Whatever you say. Anyway, I wrote down what you need to say to summon him." Penka fished a none-too-clean scrap of paper from a pocket. Chris took it, with every intention of tossing it once the demon was gone.
Penka waited a moment before standing and saying, "Okay. Well. You're welcome."
Chris rolled his eyes. "Thanks, but you know, I'm really not having a good day. So now that you've delivered this — I kinda want to be alone."
"Fine," Penka said — almost pouting, Chris could swear — and he shimmered out.
"Idiot!" Chris hissed as he looked with alarm at the people within sight. Fortunately, no one seemed to have noticed. If they did, they weren't looking at him now.
Despite his mood, it really was quite a beautiful day. In his rush to leave P3, he had been unable to take some money from the small stash he had collected, which would limit his activities today. It wouldn't be such a bad thing to just hang around in this park until evening. In his adult life, of course, the park was as blighted as the rest of the city, but here, in this time, it was the same as it had been when he was a kid — a small, unassuming, but well-kept place to play, conveniently near Mom's work. Almost all the memories of it were happy ones. Except one time — indeed, one of the last times he had come here — after Mom's funeral.
Chris had fled the subdued gathering of family and friends that had followed the service. The manor had echoed with hushed conversations; the attentive sympathy that enveloped him had threatened to make Chris dissolve. He had escaped first to his room, and then orbed out.
The park had been empty of all but a few hardy joggers on that cold day, just a few days after Chris's fourteenth birthday. He had curled up against an out-of-the-way tree, and felt the hours drag on — until Wyatt showed up.
He orbed in in front of Chris, casting a perfunctory glance around to see if he had been observed. Wyatt had always been careless about exposing magic. At this time in his life, though, he still at least feigned concern.
"Found you," he said. "We thought you might actually have gone somewhere safe, like P3, not out here like an idiot."
"I want to be alone."
"Yeah, that's what Aunt Paige told Dad. But I thought she was wrong."
Chris pulled himself to his feet, told his brother, "She wasn't," and started walking.
Wyatt easily kept up with him. "If that's true, why don't you just orb out of here? You're not going to get away from me this way."
"Wouldn't you just orb after me?" Chris shoved his frigid hands into his pockets, and determinedly walked away toward nowhere. "Besides, someone might see."
Unconvinced, Wyatt looked again at the deserted, darkening park. "Look, I know all those people were getting to you; God knows they were driving me crazy. But they're gone now. It's just Dad and Paige and Phoebe. Come on home."
Chris stopped. He stared at a grove of trees, fighting tears again. "It's not home anymore," he whispered.
Wyatt was silent. Chris looked up at him, and caught a glimpse of an unfamiliar pain in his brother's eyes. But then Wyatt set his jaw; his face hardened again.
"It may not be home," Wyatt said, "but at least you'll have a roof over your head." He held out his hand.
Chris could have gone back on his own power, but instead he had taken Wyatt's hand and let his big brother carry him out, orbing them both to the hollow warmth of the manor.
Eight years later — or, looking at it another way, fifteen years in the past — Chris sat on a bench in a different area of the park, listening to children yell as they played on a sunny day. He studied the piece of paper that Penka had given him. The key to Chris's latest, fruitless plan. A demon to scan for evil, ferreting out the roots of how Wyatt had become hardened not merely against pain and death, but against Chris, against his family, against the world.
Wyatt would always follow him, even when no one else would.
Grasping the paper in his hand, Chris stood and headed out of the park, seeking a secluded place where he could summon up a demon. The plan might be fruitless; who knew if Chris would be able to get the demon close enough to the baby to read him — but he had to try. He would find a way.
Wyatt would not let him go. Chris could do no less.