Summary: A Chris and Wyatt story; set in the changed future. It's about life, love and all of that…
Disclaimer: The characters in Charmed do not belong to me. No infringement is intended, no profit is made. The character of Emily does belong to me though, but she can be borrowed as long as I'm asked first.
Notes: Don't worry; I'm still working on 'False Memories,' just struggling with a little bit of writer's block at the moment. I hope to have a new chapter posted soon though.
This idea for a new story popped into my head and wouldn't let go however. So I decided to go with the working muse and start writing it. You may notice a few subtle differences in Chris's character in this. This is because this is a Chris, who has grown up with his family around him i.e. no absentee father, no evil brother and a healthy and alive mother. I figured that would change how he turned out, so he's purposely a little bit different from canon Chris.
Hope you like. Please review.
Cursing under her breath, twenty-two year old Emily Hargreaves struggled up the staircase, a full cardboard box balanced precariously on her hip, and another held awkwardly in the crook of her arm. The boxes were heavy and, after two flights of stairs, she was beginning to think that attempting to carry them both at once mightn't have been such a good idea. They were the last two though and she was impatient to get started with her unpacking.
Just then, she heard footsteps ascending the stairs behind her and immediately quickened her pace, conscious that she was causing an obstruction. Focusing on the way ahead, she failed to notice the puddle of spilt soda on the step in front of her, and so was oblivious to the danger until it was too late.
Everything happened at once - her sneaker-clad foot slipped out from under her and she toppled backwards with a gasp of horror, the cardboard boxes showering their contents back down the narrow staircase. Luckily, a pair of strong arms broke her fall before she could do any real damage to herself and she almost fainted with relief.
"Whoa! That could've been nasty," her mystery saviour said, voicing her own thoughts in her ear as he set her upright again.
Her heart still thumping erratically with shock, Emily turned to look at her rescuer and found herself staring up into a pair of striking green eyes. For a brief moment, she lost the ability to think, before she was startled out of her reverie by an indignant exclamation from behind.
"You klutz! Look what you did to my top!"
Emily whirled around to discover that the shrill voice belonged to a stunningly beautiful woman of about her own age. The girl's skin was flawless, her long, chestnut-coloured hair styled to perfection, and her huge brown eyes subtly made-up to enhance their already hypnotic appeal. She was dressed in a pair of ultra-fashionable dark-blue jeans and a simple white top - which was now stained red by what Emily could only presume, was her cinnamon and red-rose scented bath oil.
"Yeah well, so you should be. It cost two hundred dollars."
"Bianca, give her a break. It was an accident," Emily's rescuer cut in, a hint of reprimand in his tone.
The attractive girl glared at her boyfriend for a second and then stalked off upstairs, muttering something about putting her blouse into soak before it was completely ruined. Wanting to get out of the awkward situation as soon as possible, Emily bent down and quickly began to gather up her spilled possessions.
All in all, it had been a long day. Emily was tired, stressed and in desperate need of some R&R. To her shame, she felt tears pricking at the back of her eyelids and she ducked her head to hide them, embarrassed by her emotional reaction. A warm hand closed around her wrist then, halting her frantic movements in their tracks. Not knowing what to expect, she looked uncertainly up into her rescuer's face, her expression wary.
"Don't worry about it," he quietly reassured her, his gaze steady and calming.
"But your girlfriend…"
"Bianca can be a bit highly-strung at times but she'll get over it."
Emily looked at him sceptically. "You sure about that?" she asked, one eyebrow raised.
"Of course I'm sure," the young man replied with a warm grin. "It's only a top after all."
"A two hundred dollar designer top," Emily reminded him.
"Yeah well, if you ask me, it wasn't worth the money," the mystery guy said, bending down and effortlessly picking up one of her boxes.
"So - I take it you're the girl who's moving into apartment 10?" he asked as he started up the stairs ahead of her.
"Yeah, that's me," Emily replied, following him up the few remaining steps and down the corridor to her apartment. She let herself in, dumped the box of her possessions on the floor, and turned around to face him.
"I'm Emily – Emily Hargreaves," she introduced herself with a little wave of her hand.
"Chris Halliwell," he returned, teasingly copying her hand gesture as he placed the box he was carrying on the table near the door. "Me and my brother Wyatt live in apartment 12 right above you."
Emily's cobalt-blue eyes widened at the names. It couldn't be, surely? "You mean – the Wyatt and Chris Halliwell?" she asked before she could stop herself.
Chris tensed, suddenly on guard. He looked at her searchingly and she shivered under the intense gaze. It was as if he was looking directly into her very soul. "You're a witch," he said flatly, his expression shuttered and suddenly unfriendly.
"So they tell me," Emily said uncertainly, unnerved by his abrupt change in attitude towards her. Was being a witch such a crime?
"I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed," he said, his voice hard and accusatory.
All of a sudden, Emily understood his hostility - he thought she was a glory hunter. She'd heard of the people who tried to ingratiate themselves into the Halliwell brother's lives just for the prestige it gave them. It wasn't her style though, but she had no clue of how to convince Chris of that. For want of a better idea, she tried humour.
"What? You mean you don't breathe fire and obliterate people with a blink of your eye? How lame is that?"
Chris stared at her, open-mouthed, for a second and then laughed, much to Emily's intense relief.
"No - Wyatt only does the blinking eye thing on demons," he replied, his voice returning to its earlier relaxed tone. He'd obviously decided to give her a chance. "And breathing fire isn't one of our talents, so I guess we are kind of lame at that."
Lame wasn't quite what Emily would call it – she'd only been joking about the blinking eye thing! Still, she was glad that the awkward moment had been smoothed over. Moving to San Francisco was her big, solo adventure, and the last thing she needed was to start off on the wrong foot with her new neighbours, especially when her friends and family were all so far away.
"Damn, what an anti-climax," she said in mock disappointment, a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips.
Chris threw her a lop-sided grin and then turned to go. "Well, I'll leave you to it," he said, waving his hand at the clutter of boxes that littered her living room floor. "Hope it doesn't take you too long to get settled in. I'll see you around, yeah?"
"Sure. Oh and thanks for preventing me from breaking my neck by the way."
"No problem – glad to be of service," Chris said over his shoulder as he strode away down the corridor.
Emily leaned against the doorframe and watched him go, waiting until he turned the corner and disappeared out of sight before retreating back into her apartment and closing the door.
As she surveyed the scale of the task facing her, her heart sank - it was going to take her days to get her belongings sorted into some kind of order. Standing around wasn't going to get the job done though, so, drawing in a deep breath, she tucked her wavy hair behind her ears and set to work.
Four hours later, Emily had unpacked and put away all her essential possessions and cleared the living room free of the remaining boxes of her things, stacking them neatly in the guest room out of the way. Her stomach was starting to grumble from the lack of sustenance though, so she decided to leave the rest of the unpacking until tomorrow, and go out in search of some food.
Having taken a quick, invigorating shower, she left her new apartment dressed casually in her favourite jeans, a turquoise wrap-around top, and a pair of low-heeled sandals. She'd tied her glossy, shoulder-length, red hair back into a neat ponytail, but left a few strands free to frame her face and stop the style from looking too severe.
The apartment block appeared deserted as she made her way down the stairs and out the building via the back entrance. The pretty, communal garden she stepped out into was one of the features that had attracted her to this particular apartment block. The design was well thought out and she'd fallen in love with it on first sight. It was a mini-oasis of peace in the midst of a bustling city, a perfect location to relax and curl up with a good book, as well as an ideal place to socialise with its outdoor swimming pool and barbeque area.
"Hello again," a voice came from behind her. "How's the unpacking going?"
Emily turned to see Chris walking down the path with a jug of what looked like fruit punch in one hand and a round cake-tin in the other. He stopped as he came up alongside her and politely waited for her answer to his question.
"Oh, not too bad – I've given up for the day now though. Is there a grocery store or something nearby? Somehow I don't think half a carton of orange juice is going to last me very long."
"There's one a block over," Chris replied. "Just turn right at the end of the street. Why don't you join us for dinner though? We're having a barbeque and there's plenty of food to go round. We always make far too much."
"Oh, I wouldn't want to intrude."
"You won't be – it's just me and Wyatt. We don't bite, I promise, despite what you may have heard to the contrary."
Emily decided to go for it. After all, she'd come to San Francisco because she wanted to expand her horizons, both magical and otherwise. She'd be crazy to pass up the opportunity of dinner with Wyatt and Chris Halliwell therefore.
"All right," she agreed. "As long as you're sure it's okay."
"It's fine. Come on – we're over here."
Emily followed Chris down the shaded path towards the pool. A table stood near to the brick-built barbeque and she could see the platters of food laid out upon it.
"Chris – did you bring any lighter fuel?" a disembodied voice asked. As Emily drew closer, she could just make out the figure crouched down behind the barbeque.
"It should be in the box with the matches."
The man stood up and Emily found herself face to face with Wyatt Halliwell, the most powerful source of good magic that had ever existed. She wasn't entirely sure what she'd been expecting – a long crooked staff and flowing robes maybe? However, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, he just looked like any other young man in his mid-twenties.
Unlike his brother, who had a certain quirkiness about him, Wyatt was the archetypical idea of good looking – tall and blonde, muscular also, but without looking too much like an over-developed body-builder. Being a witch herself and sensitive to such things, Emily was aware of the aura of power that lay just beneath the surface in him, but she didn't find it oppressive or threatening in any way.
"Emily – Wyatt. Wyatt – Emily," Chris succinctly introduced them.
Emily nodded and smiled shyly in greeting. "Hi!"
"Emily…" Wyatt looked puzzled for a moment and then his confused expression cleared. "Oh right - the girl from downstairs – the one who inadvertently dyed Bianca's pristine white top a nice shade of pink."
He grinned at her, his eyes lightly teasing and Emily blushed. Way to go, Em, get a reputation for being a clumsy oaf, why don't you?
"I, err… Tell her I'll pay for the damage," Emily said, shooting an apologetic glance at Chris. "I'm sorry, I should have offered earlier."
Despite the fact that a big chunk of her hard-earned savings had gone on the move to San Francisco, she would find the money somehow. She would just have to do without a few things – like decent food - for a while.
Chris though, waved off her offer with a firm, "Forget about it. It wasn't your fault."
"Yeah, I wouldn't worry too much," Wyatt added soothingly. "She'll have forgotten all about it soon enough anyway."
Emily laughed. "How little you understand women," she commented wryly. "I'm not sure I'd forget about it so quickly if someone ruined my two hundred dollar top. Not that I actually own a two hundred dollar top, of course, but still."
"Yeah well, Bianca's got loads of them," Wyatt said. "Daddy's not exactly short on the cash."
"No just short on real affection," Chris added cuttingly. "The obscene clothing allowance is his idea of fatherly love. Wyatt's right though, Emily – I know Bianca was a bit of a bitch to you today, but she won't hold a grudge. She's just not like that."
Emily nodded, and then stood awkwardly by as Wyatt attempted, and failed, to ignite the barbeque coals.
"You know I swear someone has cast a spell on these just to annoy me," he said in exasperation.
"Why don't you just…?" Emily waved her hand in an imitation of a magical gesture.
She stopped then, realising what she'd just said. "I mean, I heard that you can set fire to stuff with your mind," she rushed on, "Which could easily be just hearsay and rumour, of course, meaning that I've probably made a complete fool of myself. Geez Emily - so not the way to make a good impression. And I'm going to shut up now because I'm totally babbling like an idiot, aren't I? Yes? Thought as much."
Chris chuckled at her embarrassed discomfiture and gallantly moved in to rescue her. "He could do that," he said. "But then that would be way too easy. It's so much more fun to keep everyone waiting for food for hours, isn't it Wyatt?"
With a sarcastic tilt of his head, Wyatt crossed his eyes at his grinning sibling in mock annoyance. "My brother's under the impression that he's actually funny," he told Emily conspiratorially. "Such a dreadful shame he never quite pulls it off."
While Emily giggled at their playful banter, the blond witch-whitelighter bent down and struck another match, trying again to light the barbeque. The kindling flared into life, and then immediately went out, much to Wyatt's chagrin and Chris's intense amusement.
"Okay, so I give up," Wyatt declared, tossing the box of matches aside. He flicked his hand at the coals and they were suddenly glowing red and giving off waves of heat.
Emily was stunned. It wasn't what he'd actually done; it was more the casual way in which he did it, as if it was nothing out of the ordinary.
"That's so personal gain," Chris immediately said.
"No it isn't," Wyatt retorted. "I did it so our lovely guest wouldn't faint with hunger; nothing personal gain about that."
"That's semantics and you know it."
"Quite possibly, but it gets me off the hook, doesn't it? Now, hand me those steaks."
As Chris did as his brother asked, Emily approached the table, taking note of the array of food that covered its surface. There were steaks soaked in some kind of marinade; metal skewers threaded with pieces of chicken and chunks of vegetables, skewered king prawns, and various bowls of differently dressed salads. The loaf of bread that Chris was cutting into slices looked to be homemade, and the cake-tin that he'd been carrying earlier contained a rich chocolate cake, which also appeared to be homemade.
Emily was astounded. It was like being in a restaurant. "Okay – so where are the burgers and sausages?" she quipped as Chris handed her a glass of punch.
"Please, our Mom would be disgusted if we ate junk like that," the dark-haired whitelighter said.
Wyatt came over to retrieve more food for the barbeque. "Yeah – she'd have us living back home in a flash," he agreed. "It was hard enough to convince her to let us move out in the first place."
"Our family has certain issues," Chris explained. "Living all together in one house is kind of a tradition."
"But you two needed to spread your wings a bit," Emily conjectured.
"Yeah – Mom took a whole lot of persuading before she agreed to let us find our own place. We were just lucky that Dad understood why we needed some independence. He talked her round in the end."
"And the non-male-in-their-twenties-like food?"
"A by-product of having an ex-chef as a Mom, I suppose."
Emily blinked. "Piper Halliwell used to be a chef?" she asked in amazement, then cringed knowing she sounded like a star-stuck teenager.
"Yeah – shock, horror – she actually has a regular job - along with being a super-witch extraordinaire, of course."
"God, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean…" Emily flustered, her cheeks growing hot with mortification.
"Relax," Chris said, reaching across the table to lay a calming hand on her forearm. "I was only teasing. Sorry, it's a really bad habit of mine."
"I feel so stupid," Emily said, looking down at her feet.
Overhearing the conversation, Wyatt came over and perched on the edge of the table, next to her.
"Look – we have a reputation in magical circles, we get that," he said in a gentle tone. "You don't really know us yet so you're bound to be affected by what you've heard. But that's okay - the only thing we don't like is people who are insincere with it. From what I've seen, that's not the case with you, and I'm pretty sure Chris agrees with me."
He broke off and looked enquiringly over at his brother, who nodded in silent agreement, making Emily feel infinitely better.
"So, it's alright if I act like a total ditz around you then," she ventured with a self-depreciating smile.
Wyatt laughed. "Oh yeah – ditzy women I think we can handle. We grew up surrounded by them, after all. So – you hungry?"
"Good – let's eat then."
The rest of the evening passed without incident, and Emily was reassured to find her new neighbours refreshingly down-to-earth and honest, despite what they were capable of magically. It was easy to see why Wyatt had the destiny he did – he had all the qualities of a great leader, together with an innate ability to put you at ease in an instant.
Chris, on the other hand, was the perfect counterpoint to his older sibling. Emily could see how it would be very easy for Wyatt start believing too much in his own importance, if it were not for his brother's constant presence by his side. Chris was the anchor that kept him real, the pin that burst his bubble so to speak.
The strong ties of affection that clearly existed between the two brothers, and the teasing banter that bounced back and forth between them, served an important purpose. Chris would never be afraid to tell it like it was, and, consequently, Wyatt would always have a moral compass to steer him in the right direction if he ever lost his way.
It was a powerful combination and it obviously worked. The magical community to which they all belonged was starting to change irrevocably, and it was mainly down to these two and the work they – with the help of their extended family - were doing for the greater good.
When Emily had made the decision to move away from her hometown and follow her dream of living in San Francisco, she'd hoped for excitement and adventure but this was something else. Despite knowing she was relocating to the city in which they lived, never in a million years had she thought she would be occupying the same building as the Halliwell brothers. It was totally unreal.
As she fell asleep that night, she wondered how this would change things for her and what the future now held in store…
To be continued…