Unwell

Sequel to "Neurotic". Everyone thinks they know Christopher Paul Halliwell. What he likes. Who he likes. What he wants to do in the future. But when the devastating truth about his Uncle Perry is revealed, what will he do?

Disclaimer: If Charmed belonged to me, Chris would have his own spin-off. Does he? NO. So does Charmed belong to me? … NO. Young Wizards™ also does not belong to me. Kudos to all who figured out where Kit was from. :D

Author's Notes: OMG HAHA people do still want to read this. I'm sorta surprised after the wait I gave you! But this thing has to be finished, because Unwell!Chris honestly lives in my head daily. And I'm getting tired at him whining at me, y'know?

MoonGoddessShadow – it's in my profile that I'm British. Uh, if you don't have metres in America what do you have? *clueless* Let me know and I'll fix it! :)

And. Uh. Well. Two years is a really long time! I totally forgot Alicia should be called Alice. And I knew Wyatt played basketball too, really, I did. D'ohhh. Sorry about the slip up! I'll go back and fix the mistakes ASAP!

Thank you so much for not forgetting about me. xx

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Chapter the Fifth

"Hurt"

-----

"Everybody hurts."

R.E.M.

-----

Perry was pretty much sure a bomb had just hit the family. Although there was no physical evidence, no black scorch marks up the walls, nobody suffering from a burn, everyone seemed to have the same dazed look as surviving victims of a bomb blast seemed to have. Chris's uncharacteristic outburst rang in their ears like tinnitus. Piper had tried to call Chris back, but Wyatt actually pushed her away slightly and stormed down the stairs after his brother, and the rest of them, well, it was like they were stuck in the kitchen.

Over at the table, Kit was placidly pulling out textbooks, as if nothing was wrong. Perry tried to covertly study him. Kit hadn't survived past the age of thirteen - a couple of months after meeting Chris in that timeline. Kit must have been one of the wordsmiths that tried to infiltrate the city. Eventually they took a large chunk out of one of Wyatt's headquarters before Wyatt tracked them all down and killed them – Kit must have just been one of the unfortunate early victims.

Perry had assumed, of course, that Kit was his friend, and Wyatt was just trying to teach him that eternal lesson - that he was not allowed any friends, not allowed anything good in his life. Even now that lesson was hard to shake off - even though he fought it hard in the waking hours, it haunted his nightmares. Like that one the previous night, in the graveyard, when he watched his younger self walk with his Grandpa past those graves. It wasn't a perfect memory - Perry found his later knowledge altered his memory dreams, made it all the worse that Paul was Paige's and not Piper's, because his memory reconstructed itself as if he should have known, as if he should have always known, even though it had been hidden so well.

He'd even - for a moment - felt extremely paranoid that he was being watched in his dream. Perhaps it was because he had felt under surveillance even back then, almost constantly since the fateful day in the tunnels with the cherry blossom and the ink dark water. The fateful day Wyatt took his evil and went beyond everything, ripping the Power of Three out of existence with the flash of a sword he should not have ever been allowed access to.

Perry shuddered, didn't realise he'd blanked out the room in his reminiscing, and was surprised to see Kit by his elbow.

Kit looked exactly as Perry had assumed he would when older, his dark hair a tumbling contrast to his olive skin, dark eyes warm with a hint of mischief, eyebrows tilted slightly, as if he was always asking a question of the world.

"Hi there," Kit said, his voice low with amusement.

Perry hadn't run into anyone new for a while that was alive in this timeline that had died tragically in his timeline. It flummoxed him. Kit had started to be a really good friend, before Wyatt had him killed. Perry felt Kit's dark eyes on him in curiosity, and didn't want to hesitate too long, because he worried that with all the secrets he had they might just spill onto his face, and Kit had always been extremely observant. Perry doubted that was due to nurture and believed it very much t of Kit's nature, so chances are, if Perry hesitated too long, Kit would read him like - apparently pun intended - a book. Still, here he was hesitating too long - Perry resorted to the equivalent of magic small talk. "I had no idea wordsmiths were still so prevalent," Perry said.

"I had no idea the Book of Night with Moon was human now," Kit returned simply.

Perry's insides abruptly knotted. There was a time when he was working for (as head of, really) the Resistance, and he'd been living a double life, and his days were filled with these stomach swooping moments when he was sure the jig was up and his life was over. He hadn't had a stomach dropping moment in so long that this one was unexpected and it hurt.

"Yes. About that- Don't tell Chris," Perry said, his voice low, his terror at Chris finding out barely contained, because if Chris knew, if Chris knew he was Chris, then not even the Angel of Destiny knew what would happen next.

"I kind of already have," Kit said. Perry didn't like to be surprised, but his eyes widened before he could help it. Kit flashed a smile at him that was almost shark-like. "After all, you and he are the same person, aren't you? You have the same power signature. What's the matter?" Kit baited, with a sideways glance. "Did I not tell you I was a wizard in your timeline? I not trust you enough, or something?"

The question stung. No, Kit hadn't told him. No, Kit hadn't trusted him enough. But he obviously trusts Chris. So your life is better, Chris, it is, that's what makes all this worth it.

"Something like that." Perry kept his voice low so no one could overhear, but he wanted to shout and scream and the pain of it burned his throat and he clenched the bench and almost just the thought the guilt of it felt worse than dying. Even though it wasn't Kit's fault at all, his confusion over Chris's outburst and Kit's appearance made him snap out, "You died when I was thirteen like everyone else goddamned did, and you can't believe how much it hurt, so if you hurt Chris with this now I'm going to rip your throat out, wordsmith or not, you understand me?"

Okay, so maybe he'd not been as quiet as he hoped.

"What on earth's going on?" Dan, as always, leapt to the front of the others - a trait Paige was trying to cure him of as he refused to even try and learn any defensive spells, but as yet to no avail.

Kit just smiled that strange shark-like smile again. He looked sideways at Dan. "I know more than Mr. Halliwell is comfortable with, is all." He looked back at Perry. "I won't tell Chris anything he doesn't already know, don't worry."

"What do you know?" Sam instantly asked.

Perry looked at him angrily, helplessly. Things were unravelling, only a little, but he couldn't let them unravel any further. He shot a heated look at Piper for guidance.

"Perry's path crossed with the wordsmiths a while back, Sam," Piper said, thankfully taking the hint. She turned to her nephew and touched his arm, guaranteeing all of Sam's attention on her. "There's a... book. And Perry managed to stop the bad things it could have done, including. well. Chris nearly died."

"What?" Sam looked at her unhappily, then at Kit.

"It's not my fault!" Kit folded his arms across his chest.

"I go away for one week and this family goes cuckoo crazy," Sam muttered.

"Well," Alice said, from where she had been sat on her chair rather awkwardly now Wyatt had gone to talk to Chris, "it's more like Chris has gone a little cuckoo crazy if you ask me."

Perry couldn't help it. His power lashed out before he could bring it in, and the lightbulb exploded, shattering glass and electrical sparks everywhere before plunging the room into semi-darkness. The bulbs from the dining room still kept the room light enough to see. "Don't you dare ever say that in this house." He meant to speak it - instead it came out as a strange sort of scream. Alice looked absolutely terrified. And now everyone was looking at him, worried. Probably thinking both of us have gone crazy, but I can't stand it, I couldn't stand it if he was falsely accused of it too, I can't, I can't. "I won't have that said," he repeated, stubbornly, feeling completely wretched - especially when Adam just crumpled into a ball. Piper shot him a look over Adam's head that was one of forgiveness - which of course made him feel even worse - and he knew Paige, Cole, Dan and his Grandpa understood - but Sam, Kit, Alice and even Bianca were looking at him strangely.

Which was fair enough.

"I'm sorry," Alice said. "I didn't mean it in a bad way. More like it's just a little out of character to be- well, to be so himself in front of everyone."

Perry blinked at her.

"So himself?" Sam questioned, hands on his hips as he looked down at her. "So wallflower Chris is an act? I think I like him more than ever." Sam looked impressed. He looked curiously at Alice. "He's normally that sassy and confident? Then why he's so meek to all of us?"

"Because you don't see him," Kit said, and his voice was sad. "You have so much going on with your lives as the Charmed Ones that somehow, you missed him out. Just because he smiles and says what you want to hear. Tell me, when was the last time you asked him if he was okay and got an answer other than fine?"

"Just earlier," Sam said, but he was the only one.

"I notice him, I do, of course I notice him, he's my son," Piper said, somewhat unhappily, and the distressed note in her tone made Adam start to rock in her arms. She pulled him even closer.

"You notice Chris," Kit said, looking sideways at Perry for one second pointedly, before looking at them all heatedly. "You don't notice Chris." The subtle inflection was enough for Perry, and enough for all of those in the know - but subtle enough so those who didn't know remained in the dark and consequently rather confused.

"I've had enough of you." Paige folded her arms and stepped closer to Kit, narrowing her eyes. "You burst in here, all weird magic power and talking about visiting the moon, and saying you know Chris better than all of us, and we don't even know if we can trust you. You're an unknown factor and I strongly dislike unknown factors."

Kit kept his cool and stared at Paige. "I do know Chris better than all of you. And I know you're lucky - he's a hell of a boy. And you're overlooking him because you think you know him, but I promise you - you don't know him at all. So if you want to look at an unknown factor, you might want to start with him. And start wondering why that is."

Perry couldn't move. He couldn't. Perhaps the word was stricken, he wasn't sure. But if what Kit was saying was right, if Chris put on that meek unassuming ordinary attitude for some reason, if he felt he had to hide who he was- There wasn't any reason for it, Perry was certain, Chris had a happy home to go to, no one was evil or trying to kill them (at from the usual suspects), but there was no reason for Chris to have to hide who he was.

Unless it was true, and for some reason - for some reason, and Perry hadn't noticed, the rest of the family didn't see Chris, they didn't see him because - to them - he was already there.

Horror choked him, and he swayed a little, his back connecting with the cooker. He thought back for the last eighteen years, to all the conversations he had with the rest of the family. Were you this obsessed with music at that age? Piper had asked, just the previous day. He had answered, and Piper had said she wouldn't worry then, so- so- so- Of course she wouldn't go and ask Chris afterwards. She wouldn't spend the time bonding with him to find out how much music was part of his life. Why would she when she already knew?

Everything in Perry closed down - he felt broken. He stared ahead but couldn't take in a single thing.

All he wanted was for Chris to have the life he could never have had. It was all he wanted in life. And he'd selfishly stuck around because he was weak and spineless and greedy, and now look at what had happened. They all thought they knew Chris because they knew Perry, and didn't take the time to find out for sure. Chris must feel completely abandoned, and, and, and, yes, okay, Perry never had his family around for the full time so his abandonment issues were clear, but how much worse must it be for your whole family to be there and for none of them to pay any real attention to you?

He was vaguely aware of Cole suddenly moving to his side, shaking him a little, but he was too numb. He shook his head a little, taking in the worried glances of his family, and he hated it, hated it completely - Chris was the one who needed their love and attention, not him, they should stop wasting it on him.

"I have to fix this," Perry said, and did the only reasonable thing he could think of in the situation.

He fled.

------

Chris dried his eyes and pulled away from his brother, keeping his eyes downcast and feeling his cheeks heat up. He'd told the story of what he knew as tersely as possible, and Wyatt had taken it so well, none of those plastic forced expressions he got from his family when he is positive he's been lied to. Wyatt genuinely didn't know, and Chris couldn't express the surge of joy he felt at that news. Or are you just happy that you're not completely alone? You're the only one they didn't trust with the truth?

"You're either batshit completely off your rocker strange, or-" Wyatt frowned and tried to think of a nice way to say an alternative. "Or not." Well, Wyatt had always had trouble expanding his vocabulary.

Chris was much too relieved at the genuine reaction of his brother to really say much more. He'd been so scared that he would school his face and expression and responses like he realised everyone had been doing to him his whole life that it felt like he'd been unable to breathe and only now was he allowed oxygen.

"It's. well. JUST like them," Wyatt added, almost murderously. He pursed his lips, and then looked down at his hands, folded in his lap. He edged a look at Chris. "So you sure I was Evil Overlord of the West in this alternate timeline? Because that's pretty messed up."

"I'm sure," Chris said, a little nervously, because he'd thought Wyatt would react in the usual way he did when he was angry – shout, yell, break things – so this uncertain tone from his brother was disconcerting. "If it helps, I'm pretty sure you were possessed, or raised by demons, or something like that in your timeline. I overheard Perry saying everyone died when I was thirteen."

"I was, like, fourteen and a mass murderer?" Wyatt's eyes bugged slightly. "No way. That's kind of cool."

Chris shot him a weird look.

Wyatt held his hands up. "But not! Not cool whatsoever, no sirree."

"Okay, it's a little cool." Chris rolled his eyes and shook his head. "So, what do you think? You think I'm right?"

Wyatt quietened. "Yeah. I really kinda do. And it sucks out loud. Because-" He looked at Chris, miserable. "I do see you, you know."

Chris squirmed, uncomfortable, and then decided to get right to the point – he'd cried, made himself the centre of attention and voiced his idea of the truth to someone who was possibly Hitler and Genghis Khan and Stalin rolled into one in an alternate timeline. What was a deluge of sappy Days of Our Lives-esque moments compared to that? "Then why have you been ignoring me?"

"Dude," Wyatt said, his default expression. "You're always so busy with music practice! And you skip all my basketball games-"

"-there's a perfectly valid response for that," Chris interjected.

"And," Wyatt continued, "you were the last person to date my girlfriend and now you're going to act all lovey dovey with her on stage."

His brother, Chris thought guiltily, definitely had a point. He flushed, awkward. "Alice is- I hate her, Wy. I do. It's going to take me a while to get over that hate. But I'm trying. For you. Because I know how much she means to you. And your taste in girls sucks ass."

Wyatt punched him in the arm quite hard. Chris let him – he kind of deserved it. "We have the same taste, obviously," he muttered, mutinously. "But I-" He shrugged. "I guess I should have come and cleared the air about her. It really was, uh, unfortunate the way she dumped you."

"By making out with you? On my bed?"

"Uh," Wyatt said, guiltily.

"It's okay. 'sides, I'm pretty sure she's an evil hellbitch anyway. If anyone could tame her…" Chris half-smiled at Wyatt. Wyatt rolled his eyes to the ceiling but smiled back.

"What is the valid reason for you missing my games, though?" Wyatt was genuinely curious.

"Uh," Chris said, floundered, and pulled a face. "Because I got captain of the cheerleading squad? Oh, and the other night I had to sing for the mayor."

Wyatt looked almost cross-eyed for a long moment.

"Has this been too much information all at once?" Chris asked.

"Understatement." Wyatt sounded winded. "But it does explain how you're the most popular kid in school now."

"What now?" Chris snorted. "I'm the biggest performing arts geek on campus. Girls look at me funny all the time, like I'm the biggest freak in the world."

"Ah, I finally know something you don't!" Wyatt crowed.

Chris frowned at him.

"Let me bask in it for a moment," Wyatt added, grumpy.

Chris waited.

"Chris," Wyatt said slowly, "the girls stare at you because they think you're hot. Not because they think you're a freak."

Chris stared.

"What?"

"They think you're hot, idiot."

Chris stared some more. "But-"

"No buts," Wyatt said. "Huh. I guess it really makes sense now – why all the cheerleaders go oh, you're Chris's brother."

"They think I'm what?" Chris said.

Wyatt looked amused. "Okay, so your brain coped fine with being completely and utterly betrayed by the grown ups in this family, but it breaks on this?"

Chris shrugged. "Please. Like anyone's ever accused me of being smart."

"True," Wyatt said.

Chris shrieked in fake indignation and fake punched him in the arm as hard as he could.

Wyatt squealed like a girl (later he would deny it) and moved to put his brother in a headlock. Chris was in the middle of smacking him back with his pillow when the door opened, and Alice cleared her throat noisily.

"We're busy in here," Wyatt said, a little shortly. Chris looked at him in surprise. Whenever he'd had small chats with Wyatt in the far past, as soon as someone had interrupted them, Wyatt had instantly gone off with them - he'd never chosen Chris before over anything. Chris had told himself in the past that he hadn't wanted Wyatt to choose him over anything - but the feeling was amazing.

"I'm sorry," Alice said. "But we need your help. Perry's gone."

Wyatt frowned. "He's left before for small stretches, he'll come back." He turned back to Chris.

"He's never really left like this before," Alice pressed. "He seemed all weird and angsty and was blaming your emo spaz attack-" She glanced derisively at Chris. "-on himself for some bizarre reason."

"The jerk is to blame," Wyatt said, heatedly.

Alice looked at him confused. "Huh?"

"After what he's done-" Wyatt blurted, but stopped when Chris touched his arm.

"I don't think he meant me harm. He had a really tough childhood, believe me, it's not his fault," Chris said amiably.

Wyatt frowned at him. "Have you always done that? Said peaceable things when I know you're feeling crazy angry?"

"Uh-" Chris said, helpfully.

"Yep," Alice said. "He's good at it."

"You've got to stop it," Wyatt said, shooting a small dark look at Alice, before looking back at Chris. "I'm kinda glad he's gone. I don't think I could face him."

"You can't say anything," Chris hissed, tugging at his sleeve.

"Can't say what?" Alice squealed.

"Promise me, Wyatt." Chris tugged his brother closer, ignoring Alice's exasperated sighs. He stared at Wyatt desperately.

"Okay," Wyatt said. "I promise."

"Right." Chris let him go. "Let's go find Uncle Perry."

He got up off the bed as Alice breathed "finally", but didn't feel better until Wyatt muttered mutinously, "Well, we'll pretend to go look for him" under his breath, only loud enough for Chris to hear. The sudden smile that swept onto his face when he heard it felt unfamiliar, like it maybe cracked his face a little, but it felt good too. Maybe this is what family's supposed to be about. Little things that make you happy. Not lies that tear you apart. He rolled the thought about in his head for a while, but he couldn't stop thinking it, and faltered on the bottom step leading up the ground floor.

"I'm, uh, I'm just going to go to bed, okay?" Chris said, shying away at the last minute.

Alice sighed audibly. Wyatt paused on the steps, and looked down at Chris. The obvious worry on his face was almost too much for Chris to process. "Are you okay?" Wyatt asked, and added quickly, "and don't say fine."

"I'm-" The lie of fine was half-way out of his mouth already, but he choked it back in and looked up at Wyatt gratefully. "I'm going to be fine."

Wyatt looked torn, like he was going to stay, but nodded at Chris and turned away. Chris watched him go and went back to his room slowly, his conversation with Wyatt going round and round in his head.

It was good that the thing with Alice had been mostly cleared up – it was long overdue. He'd dated Alice for nearly a year, but had never been able to bring himself to kiss her. He told her again and again it was because he was waiting, but obviously Alice had translated that as thinking she was a freak or unattractive. It wasn't the case – Chris had genuinely adored her. Until the making out with his brother on his bed thing, that is.

He'd been lying to her the whole time, though, he could admit that to himself now. He'd dated her because he was trying to put Bianca out of his head. She was clearly enamoured with Perry – she had shown that the other night by shoving herself away from him to drape herself all over Perry – and that just made it all worse, because Perry was him. Chris remembered the way Perry looked at Bianca, and his stomach curled.

Perry looked at Bianca the way Wyatt looked at Alice. The way his stupid dad looked at Piper when he was around. The way Cole looked at Phoebe. And Bianca looked back at Perry that way.

Was he so unlovable? Was there something so disgusting and wrong with him that his older, alternate self who had gone through such childhood trauma – and obviously not come out undamaged (Uncle—Perry was neurotic as hell, and overly paranoid – one didn't get that way being fed cookies and sunshine as a child, and obviously now it was because of his older brother single-handedly wrecking the world)--- Perry was damaged, and Bianca preferred that over him.

Because I'm damaged too. And somehow, I'm damaged worse.

He sank onto his bed, staring hollowly at the wall. Was that why he did so much? The cheerleading, his piano, singing, dancing, performing… It all occupied his brain, gave him something to do, so he didn't look too hard into why he kept the same mask on around his family and swapped it out for a different one when they weren't around. It was just how he was.

Except, it wasn't. It was because he was pushing everything down, because he didn't want the pain that would come with self psychoanalysis. He stayed busy, ridiculously busy, and the stupid crux of it all was that he didn't actually know whether he enjoyed it or not. He was good at it – scratch that, he was awesome. He enjoyed the adulation from some people who really appreciated how good he was. But he'd probably never sat down and decided what to do with his life – it was more, what can I do now? What can I fill these gaps in with? and it had all fallen into place.

I don't even know who I am.

The tears wanted to fall again, but Chris had none left to shed – he curled up on his bed instead, and shook into his pillow, his whole body racked with the jerking movement of the denied tears.

The tremors stopped eventually. When Chris raised his head, he knew two things – one, his head really hurt, and two, it was three AM in the morning.

He was worn out, more physically worn out than on a Tuesday (which was piano lesson before school, two hours maths, one hour biology, singing practice, one hour gymnastics, one hour dance, one hour cross country, one hour musical theatre, cheerleading practice until six) which really was saying something. Chris pulled himself under the covers, not even bothering to dress for bed, and tried to sleep.

And tried.

And tried.

But try as he might, for five hours, Chris couldn't sleep.

He forced his body into the shower at eight, orbing himself right to the bathroom door so he didn't have to run into anyone and thankfully the bathroom was free, and he orbed himself back to his bedroom after, feeling stiff but a little more able to move after the shower.

Chris dressed in his cheerleading outfit, feeling rebellious and hurt and somehow numb too - because what else did he have to hide? His whole life was a lie anyway – and picking up his school bag, he pushed his door open and climbed the stairs to the top, passing Cole and Dan sparring as he did. He ignored them, even though Dan asked how he was, which would have made him smile, except now they were forcing it, they didn't want to notice him, they just felt guilty and were trying to make up for not doing it naturally before now, and he was just entertaining the thought of being able to make it out to school without being noticed when he pushed open the door.

Piper was sat at the kitchen island, nursing a coffee.

She looked as awake as Chris felt.

Chris stopped at the edge of the kitchen awkwardly. His bag dropped from his hands to the floor – he didn't have the strength to hold it any longer. He swallowed, and then looked up at her, almost sheepishly. He was scared of her reaction. Her face was pale, and her eyes dark around it, like her mascara had smudged really badly. Except she wasn't wearing make up, not even lip gloss.

"Hi," Chris said, but the crying had the unfortunate side effect of making his throat a little sore (Mrs. Williamson – Prue – was going to be so pleased with him---- but wait, she had reacted like she knew Perry's secret too, so he didn't care a whit what she thought, she could go to hell with the rest of them) so his hi came out somewhat broken. He flushed, toed the tiles awkwardly, and tried again to speak. "Uh. Did Uncle Perry come back?"

Piper looked at him, her head tilted. "No. I'm sure he'll be back when he's calmed down. Are you-" She looked timid, shell-shocked, like she'd been crying all night. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," Chris responded automatically. Piper nodded, moved as if to turn her head, but froze mid-action, and frowned. Her hand clenched a little on her knee and she turned her head fully to face him.

"The truth?" Piper's voice was thin, winded.

"Really tired. I couldn't sleep."

"Familial trait, I'm afraid. I can never sleep after any sort of conflict, however slight." Her eyes raked his face, as if maybe the answer to why everything was wrong was on it. She stared at him, and then pushed her coffee towards him. "Some caffeine might help?"

"Uh. No thanks. Caffeine might stunt my growth."

Piper stared at him as if he'd said something odd. I did, Chris realised. I said what I wanted to, not what I thought would make her smile, would make her day a little better.

"Like you need to grow any taller." Piper's lame attempt at a joke would be better if she didn't sound like she was going to cry when she said it – still, Chris appreciated the effort.

"I have to go to school now," Chris said, and turned to go. He didn't want to stay in the same awkward stalemate it seemed they were locked in, and besides, if he didn't go soon he would be late.

"Wait, wait." Chris turned at the sound of her stool skittering across the tiles, and turned wide surprised eyes to Piper as she grabbed hold of his by the elbows. She looked at him like she was memorising his face, like it was the last time she was going to see him again. "Baby," Piper said, her voice like broken glass, tears staying unshed in her eyes. "We're going to fix this, I promise. We're going to fix us."

Chris looked at her wordlessly.

"However long it takes," Piper promised, fervently. "You and Wyatt and Adam, you are everything to me. Everything. I would die for you."

Maybe, in the past, you already did. But that wasn't for me, that would have been for Perry. Chris shrugged. The anger was still too strong. He didn't want to speak – either he would come out with the same sort of banality he was used to, or he would start screaming.

The truth needed more effort. He forced it out. "I never wanted to cause you any more hassle than you already had. I thought I was okay with you never noticing me, only noticing Wyatt and Adam, because- god, I love them both more than anything, I mean-" Chris had wanted to keep his composure, because he had a day full of school to get through, but his body seemed to want to betray him too. He shut up, instead of breaking down.

"I just-" Piper looked down at the floor, then back at him. "I have to know why you thought you had to lie to us, why you thought you had to pretend you were someone you're not, because I love you, however you turn out, whatever you want to do, I don't need you to lie for me. Just having you okay gives me strength."

Chris let his head fall back for a moment, his eyes shutting. He exhaled, the pain of the whole situation twisting a skewed smile onto his face. When he opened his eyes again, Piper was looking at him desperately.

"I lied because-" he started, but then the doors to the manor clattered open. Chris tried to open his mouth to continue regardless, but Piper's eyes automatically left his face to see who it was, and Chris reacted instinctively. He knew they had to be vigilant, because demons could attack any time, but this was just typical. The moment he tried to be completely, absolutely honest, something interrupted him and the moment was always lost.

It was Phoebe, clattering in with a bunch of suitcases. Chris hadn't realised she'd been away. It must have been some overnight business thing, he figured. Phoebe was pretty much an international celebrity now.

"Piper! You'll never guess who I saw at the airport, you never will guess it, I mean I was pretty mad at Paige not orbing me down, but this was so worth it-"

"I have to go to school now," Chris said, breaking away from Piper and picking his bag back up.

"Chris," Piper said, pleadingly, but Chris just pushed past Phoebe and went out the door.

"I'll be later," he said.

Piper ran forwards. "Chris, please, don't go. Not like this-"

Phoebe managed to move aside to let Piper past, but she looked terribly confused. "What's going on?"

"It's a Thursday, I'll be back after seven," Chris said, and clattered out of the door.

The door was slow to close, so Chris heard Phoebe say, "What's going on? And since when was Chris a cheerleader?"

Out of all his aunts, Chris could maybe have excused Phoebe for not noticing him – she only noticed fashion, really, when she was busy, and she was busy all the time. So it stood to reason that she would notice what he was wearing. Still, he felt angry. He shouldn't be grateful for such a tiny scrap of attention from his family. Over the years he had told himself again and again that he hadn't wanted their attention, he hadn't needed it. But obviously he did, if he responded to just the tiniest sign that he was actually part of the family after all.

Chris sighed, and ducked into the nearest best hiding spot to orb. His power activated easily and he jetted over towards the school, intent on one thing – to find and talk to Kit. Kit had called Perry some sort of book and hadn't explained, and Chris needed to know as much about Perry as he could.

Or maybe I'm just trying to distract myself, give myself something to do so I don't have to think, so I don't have to feel. In a way, it was running away. Chris thought angrily about Perry, and realised that maybe, running away was just what Chris Halliwells did.

-----

To be continued