A/N: Finally – this is the last chapter for this story as I think the story thread ends nicely here. Here's hoping you think so too.
Thanks go to:
Charmed ravenclaw: I think so too. Thanks for the review!
Chattypanndagurl: I may 'revisit' Chris and Bianca again another time. I've left the ending open for me to do so but first, I have to overhaul Redundant as promised. Thanks so much for the wonderful comments.
Miaka Summers: You hit the proverbial nail on its head. I'm so glad to hear that their relationship read the way I wanted it to. Thanks for the feedback!
IcantthinkofaFnick: As usual? I'm not sure about that…glad you could identify with my treatment of the Bianca character. I really wanted to write her as strong and capable but vulnerable, and it looks from your comments that it sort of worked. Thanks again for all your wonderful feedback and encouragement.
Sparkling Cherries: Glad you liked the fight scenes – they are, as always, the most challenging scenes for me to write and so it's always encouraging to hear they came off okay. Thanks for compliments!
Ilovedrew88: Hope this chapter lives up to your expectations. Thanks for the review!
Zeria: Tension? What tension? (just kidding…) Consider the bone tossed. (wink, wink.) Thanks again for all the wonderful feedback and encouragement.
Providence (prov-i-dence). noun: 1.Timely preparation for future eventualities; Care or preparation in advance; foresight. 2. The prudence and care exercised by someone in the management of resources. 3.The protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power.
"So are you ever going to talk to her?" Les wanted to know.
They were situated, once again, in the small meeting room in the command centre. Les was currently pacing back and forth as Darryl continued to look over some papers he had spread out across the surface of the round table placed at one end of the room. Meanwhile, seated at his desk on the opposite side, Chris looked up from his reports blankly, "Are you talking to me?"
Les narrowed his eyes in exasperation, "Of course I'm talking to you. Who else would I be talking to?"
Chris blinked at Les' tone, before explaining mildly, "I don't know. Darryl, perhaps?"
"Why would I ask Darryl if he was ever going to talk to Bianca again?" Les pointed out rather crossly.
Genuinely confused, Chris shook his head, "I'm not following you. Come again?"
"Am I speaking a foreign language?" Les asked rhetorically, throwing his hands up in the air in an exaggerated gesture. He heaved a sigh before pointing his finger at Chris, "Bianca. Are you ever going to talk to her again?"
"Of course I am," Chris shot his friend a dirty glance. "Just…not right now. I'm sort of busy." As if to illustrate his defensive statement, Chris began to shuffle his papers rather obviously.
"So then when?" Les pressed impatiently.
"I don't know!" Chris threw back, annoyed. "Why are you on my case anyways? You don't even like Bianca. Why do you care if I ever talk to her again or not?"
"Because you're both killing me…" Les moaned, as he pressed the back of his hand to his forehead mock-dramatically. "The lingering looks, the wistful glances, the heartfelt sighs…I feel like I'm trapped in some badly written romance novel. Hook up already, will you!"
Chris gaped at his friend in stunned silence.
"I think," Darryl cleared his throat, deciding to interrupt Les' rather disturbing display of theatrical non-talent, "What Les is so…inelegantly…trying to say is that you've been avoiding her. Like the other day in the hallway, you didn't even look at her when she said 'hi.' But then later, in the mess hall, you couldn't keep your eyes off of her the entire time while she was sitting clear across the other side of the room."
"Darryl! I was in the middle of a heated argument with Odin in that hallway! I couldn't suddenly stop just to be polite to her!" Chris protested defensively. "And at dinner, she was talking with Theresa at the mess hall…I couldn't just interrupt."
"Look," Les jumped in, "all we're saying is there's something going on between you two, then fine. I'm not saying I approve of you getting together with a former assassin, but this whole 'will they or won't they' is interfering with your work."
"The key word here being 'former', right?" Chris replied rather stiffly. "And I wasn't aware that it impacted my responsibilities at all."
"Les is right," Darryl agreed. "You've missed weapons training and hand-to-hand ever since Bianca took over teaching those classes. You, more than anyone, need to keep up with your combat training ever since Wyatt's put a bounty on your head."
Shortly after returning from the big fight for the train station, Les had mentioned to Darryl and Chris about putting Bianca's skills to use. With her training and background, she had been the perfect choice to take over offensive combat classes. She was merciless in her teachings; Chris had heard more than a few complaints of the brutal sessions. She pushed her students to exhaustion, her wooden practice sword endowing more than one Resistance fighter with a painful bruise for a souvenir.
"I've been busy!" Looking for any sign of vulnerability in either man's stoic visages and finding none, Chris rolled his eyes, "Fine, I'll talk to her. Okay?"
Darryl nodded while Les looked at the clock on the wall rather pointedly, "She should be finishing up combat training for the newbies right about now."
"Now?" Chris squeaked, paling slightly. "You want me to talk to her now? What am I going to talk to her about?"
Les shook his head in slow amazement, "Did I just experience an episode of narcolepsy the last five minutes? Go talk to her about her. And you. You and her."
"I'm not sure I'm ready for this," Chris said a little nervously, remaining seated at his desk.
"Chris, this isn't something you can prepare for," Darryl's mouth quirked into a small semblance of a smile. Amused, he advised, "Just be yourself."
Sighing, Chris shoved his chair back and got up. Eyeing his two friends rather irritably, pointing his finger in an accusatory fashion in their direction, "I'm only doing this now because the two of you won't shut up about it until I do. For the record, I was going to talk to her about…it…eventually. As soon as things settled down."
"Things never settle down," Darryl shrugged. "And if you keep waiting for them to, you may never have that opportunity again. Or haven't you learned anything?"
"You're right," Chris sobered for a moment. Nodding resolutely, he left the room, throwing over his shoulder as he exited, "Thanks."
The door closed.
"You know – some people might call what you just did cheating," Darryl mused out loud.
"Helping…helping, Darryl," Les insisted, pretending offence. "Can I help if I'm a hopeless romantic?"
Darryl's eyebrows shot up into his hairline, "And how much is in the pool?"
"8 chocolate bars, 3 offers to trade shifts and 2 KP duties," Les rubbing his hands gleefully.
"So what day did you have picked for the pool?" Darryl asked, referring to the 'will they or won't they' get together pool that Les was running on Chris and Bianca.
Les' smile widened. "Today."
God, he was tired.
They had won the train station, but at an incredible cost of human lives. Meanwhile, it seemed as if the loss had barely affected Wyatt. He had pulled back his demons, yes, temporarily; but they were still continuing to nibble at their perimeter, forcing the Resistance to give up ground here and there. The steady deterioration of their borders was causing Chris sleepless nights.
Silently, Chris walked through the halls, deep in thought, nodding absently to friends and strangers alike as he passed them, heading to his favourite place. Regardless of what he had just told Darryl and Les, he needed to be alone with his thoughts right now as he tried to sort his thoughts and feelings out.
The funny thing was, he knew how he felt. The connection with Bianca was real…tangible. There was something between them – he was positive, which, with time, could easily grow into a deep relationship. What he needed to sort out was what to do. Oh, he knew Darryl and Les thought he was avoiding Bianca because he was afraid. And he was, in a way. As much as Darryl and Les seemed to think it was a no brainer, there were other concerns he needed to consider.
Lately he had begun to feel increasingly alone. The war had wrought a change in him, beating his hopes and dreams until they resembled nothing more than a pile of meaningless drivel, leaving him feeling tired and drained. Part of the despair was rooted in his belief that they were fighting a losing battle. He had looked at a map of their borders and a tally of their pitiful numbers, and he knew…
He didn't dare voice his feelings to Darryl.
Instead, he functioned. He read reports, he gave commands and pretended they still had a fighting chance – yet his real self lived apart from the daily events in some sort of mental stasis from which friends and family departed one by one. A relationship could give him that stability again…that companionship he so missed and desperately craved. But was that a reason to pursue one? It seemed, at best, selfish on his part.
Reaching the place he was looking for, he put his shoulder to the steel cover, pushing upwards. Emerging into the light, he shivered as the wind hit his face. The sun was setting, giving the air an almost forlorn quality.
He silently questioned his own good sense as his practical side kicked in. The voice in his head reiterated that war was no time to pursue a relationship. In fact, it was probably the worst time. He'd seen the way it had impacted those around him. Darryl was but a shadow of his former self. He knew of others who were simply so traumatized by the loss of their loved ones that they'd retreated into a catatonic state. And those who were still together? More often than not, one partner suffered from incredible anxiety and worry when separated from their loved one. Worse, he'd seen examples of individuals who lost all their nerve on the battlefield, terrified that they would lose their life and never see the ones they loved so much ever again, rendering them useless.
While he sympathized and felt for all of them, he knew he didn't have the luxury to give in to any of those feelings. Ever. Too many people were counting on him.
So was it any wonder he didn't have the desire, much less the energy, to pursue a relationship?
It all seemed rather obvious.
He smiled bitterly and kicked at an imaginary stone.
On the one hand, he longed for a relationship with Bianca…someone to share his thoughts and feelings with. Someone with whom he could be himself with, who could understand his strengths and accept his weaknesses.
It had been so long since he'd felt anything in the way of joy, let alone love. Was it so selfish of him to want a little something for himself?
There, invading his special place, was the very person giving him all this inner turmoil, not to mention an ulcer.
He studied her silently, knowing that with her back to him, he could do so unseen. Her hair billowed in the cool, brisk breeze and he could see she was shivering slightly as she pushed herself back and forth on the swings.
Obviously, he wasn't the only one who came to this place to think.
What had Sheila said to him?
Let love into your heart and into your life again, sweetheart. I promise you that you'll be better off for it.
Maybe there was only one way to find out.
She rocked herself side to side on one of the swings. Shivering, she drew up the collar of her coat and huddled deeper into the snug fabric. Around her, the wind whistled, blustering and sending dead leaves skittering across the deserted children's playground in its wake.
She had come here to be alone.
She'd seen the looks from those on base. She'd heard the whispering, the accusatory glares…where once there had been acceptance and friendship there was only distrust and wariness now.
At least she had her weapons training classes. There, she was able to show everyone how the Phoenixes had earned the reputation of being 'elite.' She had three sessions a day, and she drove all her students to the brink of collapse. She was a hard taskmaster, but no one ever complained about her classes. At least, not to her face. They knew that what she was teaching them was more than just weapons training – these were survival skills. And if she was a little hard on them – so be it. A whack! from Bianca's practice blade when she corrected their mistakes was a small price to pay if it meant they would remember to never make the same error again on the battlefield.
Those hours were the only ones where she actually felt comfortable in her own skin. Even better, the classes kept her busy and away from the general populace; like her inability to participate in actual military operations, it would require too much trust from those who were ready to still believe the worst.
Meal times were excruciating. Pretty much the only person who would still speak with her was Theresa. The other woman had seen her all alone and taken pity on her; there were still awkward silences, but at least Theresa wasn't afraid of her.
Unable to bear the scrutiny a minute more, she'd fled to this corner of the base. The very place where she first realized she had changed.
She glanced in the direction of the empty bench, her mind easily picturing the memory of her attempt to kill Chris.
She shook herself.
Killing was a part of her past. As was Wyatt and everyone else connected with her past 'career'. She grimaced slightly. At least – the killing of innocents was in the past. Like ghosts, she knew that her past would haunt her for the rest of her life.
She hadn't wanted to fall in love. Especially not with the man she had been sent to kill. But he had wormed his way into her heart, and no matter how hard she tried, he refused to be displaced.
She stretched her hand out to collect some snow and the flakes melted from the warmth of her palm. Snow, though not unheard of, had once been a rare instance in California. No longer. As with many other things, Wyatt's magic had affected even the weather it seemed. She puffed out her breath, watching the condensation form in the cold, brisk air. Where was Chris? Since they had returned to base, he'd been swamped with a million things to do as his responsibility as leader of the Resistance. She wondered if he was also using those tasks as an excuse to avoid her. And would he even be willing to talk to her after everything that had happened? The other day she'd seen him in the hall and he had barely acknowledged her salutation. She'd tried not to dwell on the sharp pain that had inflected her heart at his rather obvious avoidance.
Then again, it wasn't as if he'd ever indicated he even remotely returned her affections.
Well, she thought unhappily, there was that time in the mess hall…he seemed interested then. Of course, that was before I tried to kill him.
She thought back to her assassination attempt. He was concerned more about me then he was that I tried to kill him. She grimaced again. Knowing him, he was just showing the same concern he would to any person he thought was in distress and was trying to kill him.
Neither thought was encouraging.
Pushing her feet into the hard ground, she tilted the swing back. Letting her feet dangle in the air, she let the swing pull her idly back and forth.
She jerked her head in the direction of her name, "Chris?"
Stepping forward, she watched as he approached her slowly. The snowflakes continued to fall, sticking to his chestnut hair and clothes, melting as they landed on his face. His hands were tucked in the pockets of his jeans and his denim jacket seemed too thin to provide any warmth. His breath came out in a mist, "You couldn't pick someplace warmer?"
Her heart ached at the sight of him. She shrugged casually, "I like the cold. It suits me."
His green eyes met hers steadily, "No, it doesn't."
"Doesn't it?" Bianca shot back, slightly angered that he seemed to think he knew everything about her. "You don't know me."
"No, no, I don't," Chris agreed, taking the wind out of her sails. He paused significantly, "But…I'd like to."
Her eyes fell away from his, her heart pounding, studying the ground beneath her feet rather intently, "You…you would?"
Chris leaned on the metal framework of the swing post, "Yeah. Yeah, I would."
Her eyes swung up to meet his. Fear leapt into her throat as she croaked, "What about…what about everyone else? Your friends? Les? They don't trust me. Everyone…everyone hates me."
"Everyone doesn't hate you," Chris replied patiently. "And this is between you and me. Not me and everyone."
Her heart sank. She shook her head, sadly. "No. It is between you and me and everyone. Chris – you have to face facts. You're their leader, their friend. What they think, what they feel – it would impact any sort of relationship we tried to have."
Chris sighed. "And I'm not saying it wouldn't. You're absolutely right – those friendships are important to me. But you're important to me, too."
"They don't trust me," Bianca whispered. "They never will."
"Did you give them a reason to?" Chris countered. "Trust is a precious commodity. Once you lose it, you have to earn it back."
Hearing the truth in his words, she flinched, feeling hurt and, acting instinctively, lashed out and retaliated, "Where'd you get that from? A fortune cookie?"
"Hey – I'm on your side, Bianca. It's going to take time. You can't expect everyone just to forget everything you've done and forgive you," Chris replied. "But that's the great thing about being human. It's our capacity to forgive. Give them some time…I know they'll come around."
"It won't be easy," Bianca cautioned, the emotional roller coaster sending her hopes soaring.
Chris shrugged. "Nothing worth fighting for ever is. I think we found that out together these past few days." He paused, before continuing, "So what do you want to do?"
It was such an innocuous question. She thought about everything that had happened since she first met Chris. Her life as an assassin seemed so long ago. It seemed so far removed from the destiny she had been given as a child. From that time to when her coven voted to side with Wyatt to her mother's death, no one had ever, ever, wanted to know what she wanted. And now, finally, someone was asking her what she wanted.
What do I want to do?, she asked herself. What do I want? And because she'd never been asked before, she hadn't really thought about it – because she never thought she would have a chance to. Looking into Chris' green eyes, the choice was clear, at least to her. She gathered her courage, feeling her heart in her mouth, taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly. She opened her mouth and heard herself reply wistfully, "To start again."
He straightened, his gaze steady, stretching his hand out towards her to pull her into his embrace. Unable to look away, Bianca searched his eyes, brilliant with heat and emotion. He took a step forward. Peering into their depths, she felt her own close against the strength of the emotions blazing from his.
Their breaths mingled, and she held herself perfectly still, her lips tilting upwards to meet his. It seemed that she had waited an eternity for this kiss. As he closed the distance between them, she realized that nothing could describe the intense feelings coursing through her.
Nothing could describe this perfect moment.
As his lips touched hers, she heard him murmur, "Then welcome to providence."
Providence, she thought before her mind became all jumbled, indeed.
Anyone who's been following my stories know I have a tendency for overly long author's notes/musings…feel free to skip to the p.s. part if all you care about is learning the fate (pun intended) of 'Redundant'.
In writing Redundant, I found myself 'trapped' within the confines of the universe of 'Charmed' as the story supposedly takes place in the 'present.' That's when I decided I'd rather revisit Chris' story where I could let my imagination take me where it would…the future which wasn't established (well, not really…) in the Charmed canon and hence, Providence came to being.
I quickly discovered that the problem with writing prequels is that everyone knows how the story will 'end.' I found myself wanting to kill off characters to create tension and suspense, but couldn't because they appeared in 'No Fate'! I desperately tried to think of ways to keep the storyline suspenseful – I wanted my story to have twists and turns to keep the reader interested even though the ending of the story was pretty much set. I wanted the reader to stop and say, "Well, I didn't see that coming!"
I once saw an interview with George Lucas who was explaining how he came about the story for the prequels to Star Wars. He explained when he wrote the original Star Wars, he had to come up with a 'back story' for each character – I guess he kept them for present use. When I wrote 'No Fate' I had a vague idea of how Chris' life in the future (or is it his past?) would have been like but I hadn't really expected to revisit it in a story and didn't pay much attention to the details I invented in 'No Fate.' Too bad I didn't keep notes like George Lucas…
No matter what else he has done (they killedChris!), I give credit to Brad Kern for introducing a character that inspired my imagination and allowed me to explore my creative writing ability. I also want to give credit to the many great fan fiction authors (Storydiva, Zeria, teal-lover, IcantthinkofaFnick…to name but just a few in the Charmed community) out there – I was originally a lurker for almost a whole year before I decided to give it a go. Thank you for sharing your wonderful creations and providing me with the inspiration to share my own.
Many thanks must also go to those readers whose encouragement provided me with the drive to start and complete each story. There is nothing more satisfying and uplifting to know that there are people out there who enjoy your writings. Who knows what chapters would not have been written if not for you?
Lastly, I hope that you've enjoyed reading this story as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
I will revisit Redundant next as promised. However, I am going to try to take a short hiatus before I start up again, hopefully, sometime in the fall. Of the 4 stories I've posted, I can honestly say that Redundant is the one story I'm unhappy with in this arc - I don't like it as I think it's sloppily written. I've decided that I will be re-writing it completely. What does that mean? I'm not quite sure yet, so I'll provide more details in the first re-post once I've started the overhaul. I will say this – if you like Redundant the way it is, you may want to save it to your computer…I'm not sure what plot lines will stay and what will change, (or even if the title will remain the same) but I'm fairly certain it WILL change pretty significantly.