This, if it were an episode, would occur after Piper finds out about Chris' parentage and instead of her inviting Victor to help decode his grandson. Got it? Hope you all enjoy my first postable Charmed fic, and the first fic I've posted this year (just made it)! If I was Aaron Spelling, I don't think I would have hired Shannen Doherty when knowing from experience what trouble she was. And I would also own Charmed. But I'm not, so there you go. The title also comes from a play by Harold Pinter. Sorry Harold, please don't sue. Happy New Year!
The Birthday Party
Piper and Chris were arguing. It wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't be the last.
"I just want an answer Chris. That's all. I don't expect forgiveness for whatever I've done, or am going to do, I don't expect you to let me redeem myself or make excuses, I don't want politeness or explanations. I just want to know. Is that so much to ask?"
Today, Piper was following Chris around the house, determined to push her way through the doors that were permanently closed for business. Ignoring that everything in his body language, facial expression and tone of voice was telling her to back off.
"You don't get it," said Chris coldly. "There's nothing you can do. I can't change the future if I wanted to. So face it. This is one problem you can't solve."
"Don't give me that," Piper snapped suddenly. "You came back here in the first place to change Wyatt's future, it has nothing to do with consequences. You don't want to tell me because you can't let go of my future actions and don't want to give me a chance with baby Chris!"
"You have no idea what you're talking about!" yelled Chris. Piper looked shocked. He lowered his eyes, and his voice too.
"Piper, just forget it. Leave me alone."
"Back to Piper are we?" she said softly. "I'm sorry that whatever I did was so terrible Chris. I'm sorry you can't forgive me for that. But I hope you can forgive me for this."
Chris didn't even get the chance to begin a sentence, let alone finish one. He managed to get his mouth partway open before the potion hit him. She had created it specially, that much was obvious. She'd always been the best at potion making, but that job had started falling more and more often to Paige when Prue died and the others looked to Piper for leadership. She loved being in the kitchen, even for potions, despite her constant cravings for a normal life. Some things never changed. He could remember, as though it had happened only minutes previously, her teaching him the method of her favourite potion. Her sons were her excuse. The boys need to learn the finer points of potion making, she'd insist. There are some things only a mother can teach. It could be quite dangerous acquiring the key ingredient, she'd admit that readily enough. But still, she'd say, if you get that far, it never fails. Best potion I've ever come across. Apart from the pigs' feet. She hated the pigs' feet.
Chris looked from where the potion had hit him into his mother's eyes.
"Tell me you didn't."
"Didn't what?" she replied, in what would have been an innocent voice had she not sounded so nervous.
"You throw a potion at me and suddenly I'm recalling making potions with you as if it were happening right now. Tell me you didn't cast a memory spell!"
"No, not at all," Piper said. "I made a potion. We both know what happened last time a memory spell was cast in this house, and I didn't want to erase your memory, I wanted to uncover it."
"Reverse it. Now!" Chris shouted, ignoring her attempts at light-heartedness. Her face fell, upset that he was still going to fight her, but determined nonetheless.
"No. I will not reverse it Chris. I don't know what it is you're hiding from me, but I'll be damned if I stand by and watch my son in pain because of something I've done without…"
Piper broke off. Chris wasn't listening to a word she was saying, and she could see why. He'd been thrown into a memory, and she could see every minute of it.
"Wyatt, I don't know what it is you're hiding from me, but I do know that Aunt Phoebe's handwritten spells can't orb away on their own. Now who's going to be the first to own up?"
"It was Chris' idea!" squealed a four or five year old Wyatt, getting up and running away to reveal the pile of notepaper he'd been concealing under his backside.
"Was not!" cried a little boy not much older than two. "Wy wanted spells to impwess his girlfwend!"
"Not my girlfriend!"
Wyatt bunched his little hands into fists and charged at his brother like a miniature bull. Future-Piper caught him around the middle and began to wrestle him, laughing.
Piper stared at her older self rolling around on the floor with her son. She looked so…happy. More than happy, it was as if she didn't have a single care in the world. She was just a normal mother, playing with her children.
"You have to reverse this. You have no idea what you've done."
Chris' adult voice, sounding worn and weary, brought her back to the present. He looked as fatigued as if he'd been out in a full force gale, and more emotional than she'd ever seen him.
"Piper, you're not supposed to see any of this. You're not
supposed to know what you want to know. Reverse this potion, now,
before it's too late."
"I can't. I can't live knowing I do something that makes it unbearable for my youngest son to know me. I can't imagine what it is that's hurt you so, and if I reverse the potion it might be too late to avoid it."
"Look, you don't do anything, ok?" Chris said desperately. "It wasn't your fault."
"Ok guys, what time is it? I might just have time to nix that demon you wanted before I go to work, Chris."
Piper turned to Phoebe, plastering a smile on to try and ward off any suspicions.
"You're going to work now?" she asked. "It's nearly seven."
"I know, but I told Elise…"
Exactly what Phoebe told Elise, Piper never found out, because another memory had been triggered and Phoebe had been slightly distracted by her future self coming down the stairs. Chris reached up and pulled them both out of sight.
"Guys, what time is it?" Future-Phoebe asked frantically as she hurried out into the living room.
"Oh my God, I'm going to be late to meet Riley!" she cried, catching sight of the grandfather clock. She rushed into another room.
"What the hell is going on?" whispered their Phoebe, glaring suspiciously at them both. "We haven't been sent to the future again have we?"
"Well, no, not exactly," said Piper sheepishly. "We're actually in Chris' memory. Oh, that reminds me! I invented a potion that would make the smallest thing like even a familiar sentence trigger a total recall and everyone else would be dragged into the memory too and I kind of threw it at Chris to find out why he hates me." She said all this very fast.
"What!" Phoebe whisper-shouted, but Chris elbowed her as Future-Phoebe returned, this time accompanied by Future-Piper.
"…we always do something special for her birthday, Phoebe," Future-Piper was saying. She looked unusually upset and angry. "Tell stories, look at photos, so the kids can remember her."
"The kids can't remember her, Piper," snapped Future-Phoebe. "She died before Chris or Patricia were even born, and Wyatt was too young to remember."
"That doesn't mean she doesn't matter, Phoebe," Future-Piper said in a shaky voice. "That doesn't mean you should blow off her birthday to get groped by some Irish pretty-boy."
"Stop holding onto the past, Piper. She's dead, and celebrating her birthday every year isn't going to bring her back. The kids don't care about her, they're just interested in the party food. You can tell yourself all you like it's for them, but I think we all know you're only trying to comfort yourself. So excuse me if I have a life that doesn't revolve around dead people."
She swept past a lost looking Future-Piper and was almost out the door when she stopped and said, "You'll watch Patty for me, won't you? Thanks." And was gone.
The three onlookers saw a little boy leave the hiding place from which he'd been watching the scene and go to his mother.
Future-Piper looked down and took hold of the hand that was tugging on her skirt.
"We care about Aunty Paige."
"I know honey. Phoebe's just in a funny mood, that's all. She cares about Paige too."
"Why was she so mean to you?"
"Oh, she wasn't mean Chris. I think Phoebe's just too upset to celebrate Paige's birthday this year. But we still can, right?"
Little Chris and Future-Piper faded as they walked back into the lounge. Big Chris stood abruptly and walked away from them. Phoebe stood too, looking for all the world like she didn't know who she was.
"Paige was dead," she said, cutting across Piper. "She was dead, wasn't she?"
Feeling more composed, or maybe just unable to ignore the heartbreak in Phoebe's voice, Chris faced them again.
"Yes, she was dead. I told you, in my time, she died when you lured the Titans here."
"So, my sister is dead," Phoebe said, her voice growing steadily higher and louder, "and I'm more interested in chasing dick than remembering her on her birthday? Helping my child remember her!"
"You tried to separate yourself from every aspect of your witch life," Chris said dully. "You started to believe that as witches we were cursed and would never escape from pain and loss. You almost started to deny ever being part of the charmed line."
"Little Chris was right," Phoebe said bitterly. "I was mean. I can't believe that person was even me."
"Don't be so hard on yourself Phoebe. Our lives have been hard, you were only trying to protect yourself from more pain. She…I understood that you were upset."
"No hardship justifies doing that to my family. Piper, you are the sweetest, most unselfish and caring person I have ever known, and I treated you like shit, like you were being too sentimental wanting to celebrate Paige's birthday. And Paige, I wrote her off, wrote her death off like she was nothing more important than one of your staff at P3. I barely seemed to notice I had a daughter."
She rounded on Chris fiercely.
"Was Piper more of a mother to my daughter than I was? Tell me the truth!"
"Yes," said Chris without hesitation. "For the first few years after she was born. The idea was, if you had no one, you had no one to lose. But you became a mother to all of us in the end."
"Why?" Phoebe asked, forgetting her self-disgust for a moment. "What happened to Piper?"
Fleeting though it was, Phoebe didn't miss the immense pain in Chris expression before he turned his eyes down, away from his mother. She looked at Piper.
"Oh God. She doesn't…"
She couldn't finish. Neither could Chris reply, but the truth was obvious. Piper looked up, from Phoebe with her hands over her mouth and terror in her eyes, to Chris, who had almost turned his whole body away to prevent them seeing how his face was crumpled in anguish.
"Oh Chris, Chris, I'm sorry, I had no idea, I'll reverse the potion…"
But it was too late. The fear in Phoebe and Chris' eyes made the resemblance between them quite striking as they both scrambled for a hiding place. Piper did the same, fervently wishing she had never made the potion that was about to make her son relive her death.
A song was drifting through the air as they were thrown into the memory. Phoebe, Piper and Chris crouched just inside the doorway to the conservatory, watching as people materialised around the dining room table. Victor, their future selves, Patricia, Wyatt, Darryl and his family, as well as about three people they didn't recognise were all smiling and laughing as they sang the Happy Birthday song. Victor had his hands on a younger Chris' shoulders, the latter grinning embarrasedly.
"So, 14 eh Chris?" said Darryl in a teasing sort of voice. "Got your life's plans sorted out already, I suppose?"
"How can he?" sniggered Wyatt slyly. "He's still two years away from being legal!"
Most of the people in the room laughed, except Chris, who narrowed his eyes at his brother, and Piper, who rapped her oldest son on the head with an empty coke bottle. Patricia giggled, and Piper grinned at her.
"Patty, can you handle a special job for me?" she whispered, pulling her niece closer.
"Uh-huh! What is it, Aunty Piper?"
"I want you to take this coke bottle," Piper said in a low, mysterious voice, "and hit Wyatt on the head with it whenever he's being a smart alec, ok?"
Patricia nodded happily, and the next time Wyatt spoke, she whacked the bottle down so violently that it bounced off with a 'boing' sort of noise.
"Ow! Hey! What was that for?"
Patty squealed with laughter and tried to make a getaway, but Wyatt was too quick for her. He seized her around the middle and began tickling her.
"Nooo! Aaah! Stop!" she screamed, wriggling for all she was worth. "Ahaaa! Eeeek! No! It was Piper, she told me to!"
"Oh really?" said Wyatt, releasing her and smirking at Piper.
"Wyatt, don't you dare," warned Piper, trying not to smile. He rose from his seat and started towards her; she backed away and took refuge behind Chris' chair.
"Aha!" said one of the unfamiliar people. "Now she's got the big 14 year old to protect her, Wyatt. What are you going to do?"
"Yeah Wy," grinned Chris, rising from his chair too. "What are you going to do?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" retorted Wyatt, coming closer. The doorbell rang, and Piper skipped out of the way, crying, "Ooh! The door! I'll get it!"
She left just in time, as Chris threw a handful of icing sugar at Wyatt, and Wyatt lunged at his little brother while Patty cheered.
"Leo?" the three eavesdroppers heard Darryl direct softly at Future-Phoebe. She smiled sadly, and glanced over at the wrestling match to make sure Chris wasn't looking before shaking her head.
Present-day Phoebe was craning to see where her future sister had gone, trying to ignore the sickening dread crawling up her oesophagus. Chris was watching his younger self wipe tears of laughter from his eyes as Wyatt tried to fend of Patricia, who had decided to relaunch her coke bottle assault.
The rumble of voices of Future-Piper and whoever had rung the doorbell, only just audible over the noise, stopped suddenly. There was a crash, and the sound of an explosion.
"Piper," said Victor, at the same time as Young Chris breathed, "Mom."
The happy, lighthearted atmosphere seemed to have been sucked away by some invisible vacuum cleaner. Wyatt and Chris rushed out to the foyer. Victor, his face set, wrapped his arms around Patricia. There were a few minutes of tense almost-silence as they listened to the fight.
Then the demon appeared.
Even for the sort of people in that room, it was a disconcerting sight. It's face looked entirely human, apart from its eyes, which looked like they'd somehow been turned inside out. Inside its human mouth were rows of yellow fangs dripping oldly coloured saliva, and a split black tongue shot out, tasting the air. A chunk of flesh was missing from it's collar bone up the side of it's neck, though it appeared whatever had attacked it had gotten lucky, because the rest of it's body just seemed to be papery, almost rotting skin stretched over it's bones. It's long footed, reptilian looking legs sported a set of metal claws, as did its hands, except the ones on its hands were about 8 inches long.
For a moment there was a deadly silence. They stared at the demon. The demon stared back at them. Then Patricia broke the silence.
The tension snapped. The demon launched itself across the room at Patty and Victor like it was on springs. Victor yelled, Patty screamed…and the demon exploded in mid air.
"Not here, you bastards," Piper snarled, her hands outstretched. "Not today."
This statement seemed to motivate the previously immobile Phoebe into action.
"Darryl, get your family out of here, now. Caitlin, Lucas, you too. I know you've studied demons," she continued as the woman began to protest, "but knowing and seeing are quite different things. You could get hurt."
Darryl obviously had enough demon experience to leave when he was told to. He grabbed his wife's hand and was forcibly steering his son towards the door when something stopped him. That something was Wyatt being thrown through the exit and crashing into the table with a force that cracked it, and not getting up again. The other stranger to the present day sisters hurried over to check Wyatt's pulse, and then faced the direction from which he'd been thrown, steeling herself. A good thing too, for a moment later, Chris came hurtling towards her, and looked a cinch for the same fate as his brother before the woman, apparently a witch, flung out an arm in a gesture that seemed to make him weightless. He glowed black (if that's possible) and floated gently forward like a balloon in a soft breeze.
"Thanks Velmae," he said gratefully as she righted him and gave him his weight back. "Is Wyatt ok?"
"Fine," she replied. "Just unconscious."
There was no more time for chatting, as the rest of the pack burst in at that moment, looking slightly less than friendly. Piper, Chris and Velmae, the other witch, immediately went on the offensive. Piper was particularly dangerous, as she had obviously gained more power over molecules over the years and things were not only exploding, but also melting and floating apart into nothingness. Chris and Velmae teamed up, and killed two consecutively with Velmae floating them so that Chris could strangle them telekinetically. Phoebe seemed to be fighting some kind of internal struggle, while Patty was having a real one, struggling as hard as she could against Victor, desperate to help. Victor was just as determined to restrain her, dragging her over to the stairs, the other mortals having taken refuge on the landing upon finding their escape route blocked. This caught the attention of one of the pack, and it started towards them, practically salivating at the sight of innocents. Velmae, fortunately, spotted this and suspended the foul creature in mid air. It made a furious noise that sounded like a scream and a roar in one. At this, another demon retracted its claws and smoked out. It reappeared behind Velmae and was about to unsheathe its claws right into the back of her neck when Future-Phoebe bellowed, "Velmae! Look out!"
She turned and ducked out of the way of its claws just before they impaled her. The demon she had been holding in the air dropped with a screech. She reached out to use her power on the second, and before anyone knew what was happening, it retracted its claws, grabbed her head and snapped her neck.
"Velmae!" Piper and Phoebe yelled. Piper blew the demon up, breathing heavily with shock and anger and sorrow. Phoebe grabbed her hand, her eyes filled with tears.
"I know Pheebs. It's ok."
She began concentrating on melting the demon that had got up and was advancing on them. For a moment it looked like its body had holes in it, before the cells started collapsing. Phoebe, her resolve renewed, took over the fight Velmae had been fighting with Chris. She levitated one of the two remaining demons and Chris strangled it, his face screwed up in grief.
Piper had reduced her demon to a puddle of skin and claws, and just before it vanished in a puff of smoke, the sole survivor of the pack saw her. It let out a hellish scream and leaped towards her like some sort of ghastly kangaroo. Before it even landed a cloud of a kind of grey steam came from its open maw into Piper's face. She swayed where she stood, looking suddenly like she was about to faint. Her hands dropped to her sides and her shoulders drooped. The demon put one of its hands around her neck, pulling her closer like it was about to kiss her. She looked as if she was trying to fight it off but was simply too weak.
Chris (the 14 year old version) had just noticed that his mother was in the hands of a demon and seemingly unable to get away. He vaulted the table like an Olympic hurdler and screamed like only a son whose mother's life was in danger could.
The demon looked up. It tightened its grip on Piper's neck as Chris ran towards them, desperate to get there on time. It put a hand gently on Piper's waist, caressing her stomach like a father to be.
"Mom!" Chris cried again, sickened by this gesture and absolutely beside himself with fear. The demon locked eyes with Chris over Piper's shoulder, and with one swift movement, unsheathed its claws through her chest.
Adult Chris reached over and put a hand on Phoebe's mouth just in time. She cried out under his hand just as the scream ripped from her counterpart's lungs.
The scene seemed to play like a slow motion video. A bad quality slow motion video. It rippled and blurred before their eyes, Phoebe clawing at Chris' hand, more to let out her pain than to escape his hold; Chris hitting her hard on the arm before he could stop himself, wild with sadness and anger; Piper staring at her dying self, her entire body cold with horror.
Young Chris had skidded to a halt, his heaving chest the only sign of movement on his body. The demon was grinning horribly, saliva dripping from its jaw. It twisted its claws upwards slightly, drawing a gurgling, gagging sound from Piper. Her lips darkened with a beautiful deep red lipstick. The demon retracted its claws and her body convulsed before she fell to her knees.
Up on the first floor landing, Patty let out a shrill scream; her whole face tense and her eyes screwed shut with the power behind it. Victor bellowed his daughter's name. Piper fell forwards, but landed on her side so her hair concealed her face completely. The demon made to stab her again.
But Chris let out a roar of fury, hatred and despair, and with his emotion-fueled powers tore the demon apart. Everyone on the landing flew down the stairs, besides Patty and Victor, who were already down them and running to Piper. But Chris got there first. He didn't run, he sort of dived and came forward on his knees. He pushed her hair out of her face. It was contorted with pain, and upon seeing it, Chris began to sob.
"Mom, please. Please don't leave me."
She couldn't answer. Her breath was coming in short gasps, each one sounding more choked and pain-filled than the last.
"You're gonna be ok. You're gonna be ok…"
Phoebe was entangling her fingers in her sister's hair, her body wracking with hysterical sobs. Patty was white faced and gasping, tears pouring down her cheeks and looking close to passing out. Victor pressed her into his chest and shut his eyes, letting his own tears fall unnoticed into her hair.
"Mom, you can't, you can't. Don't go. I love you."
She looked into his eyes when he said that. Her mouth moved soundlessly. He spoke for her, for both of them, for everyone.
"I love you Mom. I love you, I love you."
He saw it then, even if he didn't want to. He saw her face relax, the peace pass into her eyes. Then it was gone. Everything was gone.
Phoebe was shaking her sister's shoulder violently, screaming into her unhearing ears.
"Piper! Piper! Answer me! Piper!"
"Stop it!" Chris cried, trying to wrench her away. Phoebe clung on, still screaming, though her words were becoming blurred by howls of anguish. Victor roared at them to bloody stop it, holding an unconscious Patty in his arms. The others stood apart, respectful to the family grief, tears streaking down all of their cheeks. Behind them, unseen and unnoticed by everyone, Wyatt began to stir.
The memory slowly faded. Phoebe clung to Piper, sobbing a lot more gently than her future self. Chris had long since relinquished his grip, and stood up, leaning on the wall to the conservatory, wiping his eyes with his sleeve and staring fiercely out at nothing. Piper stood up too, stroking Phoebe's hair as she rose the way you would comfort a nightmare-ridden child. She went tentatively up to Chris. He looked at her, hard, masking his pain as he always did. She looked away, no longer holding the power or the right to defy his gaze. She held out a vial, and he drank it quickly, throwing the bottle aside to hear it smash.
"I hope you're happy," he said, his voice grating with the effort of holding back tears.
"No, I'm not," she replied, her eyes already red. She took another nervous step forwards.
"Chris, I…" her voice was as soft as she could make it. He couldn't help but look at her. She was looking down again.
"Chris," she started again, and this time she looked at him, letting him see the sorrow, the guilt, the love, everything. "I'm so sorry Chris."
She took another step forwards, and this time he let her come to him, letting the pain break free as she drew him into her arms.