Title: The Nature of Memory
Disclaimer: I don't own anything
Author's note: Takes place right after Little Monsters. The sisters and Leo don't know that Chris is half-witch yet, but they do trust him somewhat. Will eventually be a Chris revelation story.
Summary: When Chris loses his memories, it's up to the sisters to try to help him. But when a familiar stranger comes to visit, can Chris remember his past before it kills him?
Chapter One: When All is Said and Done
San Francisco, 2025
"Damn it!" The words burst from the young woman's lips as the energy ball collided with her shoulder. Reeling from the pain, she spun around in time to see the demon conjure another energy ball and smirk maliciously at her.
"Ready to dance, love?" the demon asked mockingly, the heavy British accent appearing out of place in the destruction of the city around them.
Without thinking, the young woman flung her wrist forward, conjuring and releasing an athame in one fluid movement. The demon, startled by the attack, was forced to dodge the athame, and the energy ball in his hand fizzled out as he did so.
"Ready," the woman bit out of the word, pain marring the pretty features of her face as she struggled to fight against the burning sensation spreading through her shoulder.
"Well, then…" the demon replied, pulling himself back to his feet and eyeing his target wonderingly, "I'll lead, shall I?" He sprung forward, crossing the entire space between them and slamming into the woman with such force that the air was completely expelled from her body. The energy ball appeared again in the demon's hand, inches away from the woman's face.
But the young woman fought back, rolling with the attack and using the demon's own momentum to know him off balance and tear herself away. She struggled backwards, out of breath, and silently cursed as the demon easily spun to face her once again. How had she lost her skills so completely that she could be bested by a demon?
There was nothing else for it. Knowing that she would not last through the fight, she pulled herself together long enough to shimmer away.
The demon frowned at the suddenly empty air and shrugged. "Have it your way then, love. But you can't run forever."
Manor, present day
Chris leaned over the Book of Shadows, flipping through the pages. He was so intent in his task that he did not notice Piper enter the attic from the top of the stairs and stare at him, a slight smile on her face. By the time he finally looked up, Piper had been standing there for a good five minutes, just watching him, waiting for him to notice her.
"Piper. How long have you been standing there?" Chris asked sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head absently as the eldest Charmed One walked over to him.
"Long enough to realize that you really need a hobby," Piper replied. She stopped in front of him, closing the cover of the Book and giving Chris a stern stare. "When was that last time you took a break?"
"When did you go into mother hen mode?" Chris shot back, rolling his eyes. "I'm a big boy, Piper, I can take care of myself. Besides, this is important." He reached for the Book again, but Piper raised her hands threateningly.
"Don't make me freeze you!"
Chris stopped and wondered abruptly how he would ever be able to explain anything to Piper if she did try to freeze him, and found out that, unlike other white-lighters, he didn't actually freeze. Wanting to avoid any chance of that happening, he gave an exaggerated sigh and said, "Fine. What do you want me to do instead?"
"Help me at P3," Piper said promptly. "I had some supplies delivered, and I have a lot of boxes that need to be unpacked."
"What am I, slave labor?" Chris asked hotly.
Piper gave him another stare. "I am letting you stay in the backroom at P3, aren't I?" she said pointedly. Without waiting for a response, she gestured for Chris to follow her and lead the way out of the attic.
Chris followed the woman who would one day be his mother, and wondered what exactly to make of all of this. She wasn't the way he remembered her. She was younger, and softer around the edges. Life had yet to take away everything that she ever cared about, and she still naively believed that she could somehow have a normal life. He wasn't sure if this innocence made her more endearing or more annoying.
His aunts, too, were different. Well, Paige was still quite a bit the same, obsessed with magic and saving innocents and finding herself through temp jobs. But Phoebe had been a true warrior, not this job-obsessed woman who rushed about, bailing on her family and her magical duties while trying to find love and happiness. It was having children that had done this to her, changed her from a carefree woman to a soldier who gave no quarter and refused to back down. He remembered her fierce protectiveness… and he remembered the way the demons had finally, viciously, conquered her. She had been the last of the Halliwell sisters to fall, and she'd taken almost every attacking demon with her.
And Leo… well, he hadn't seen much of the white-lighter… no, Elder… since the man had finally stopped being suspicious of him. It was strange to think he'd somehow earned his father's trust because if he was truly honest with himself, he had no reason to deserve it. But this Leo was a good father, as of yet untouched by the horrors of losing his family to evil and the world to the amoral beliefs of his older son.
He was pulled from his reminiscence by the sound of Paige's voice, floating to them from the kitchen.
"Piper? We don't have any food."
The youngest Charmed One appeared at the foot of the stairs, staring up at Piper as she descended to the first floor. She had crossed her arms over her chest and was staring at Piper in annoyance, clearly blaming her oldest sister for the lack of any real food in the house.
"You can always cook something yourself," Piper pointed out somewhat dryly.
Paige rolled her eyes. "That's your job," she replied, and Chris had to bite his lip to keep from laughing at the annoyed expression on his mother's face.
"I beg your pardon?" Piper asked, her tone icy.
"I make the potions, you make the food, and Phoebe makes the…" Paige trailed off curiously. "I don't know what Phoebe makes," she admitted. "But you make the food and I make the potions. That's just the way it is."
"And how old are you, Paige?" Piper shot back, but the grin on her face belied her aggravated tone.
Before Paige had a chance to reply, a demon appeared into the room and threw a burst of fire at Piper. Chris, the fastest to react, leapt forward and tackled Piper to the ground. As the fire passed over their heads, he heard Paige calling out for the flames and redirecting them back at the demon. Chris looked up in time to see the demon reach out his hand and absorbed the fire back into his palm. Then he disappeared in a sudden flash of midnight blue light.
"That was… random," Paige commented as Chris helped pull Piper to her feet.
"Are you okay?" Chris asked in concern, eying Piper carefully.
"Yeah… I think so," Piper replied, brushing the dust from her pants. She looked at the spot the demon had stood moments before and sighed. "Anyone recognize our friendly visitor?"
"No, but it looks like he's back," Paige said, her gaze sliding past Piper and into the sunroom. "And he brought friends."
Sure enough, the demon had returned, this time surrounded by several others. They all wore the same outfit, a long dark robe that hung all the way to the ground. Their faces were shadowed by hoods, but their eyes glowed and eerie blue.
One of the demons attacking, throwing a fireball which Piper froze in midair. Paige forced the fireball back towards the demons at the same time that Piper started blowing them up with well directed flicks of her wrist.
"Chris, get Phoebe!" Piper called over her shoulder, and Chris nodded, prepared to orb out.
But before he had a chance to leave the Manor, one of the demons shimmered in front of him, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and slamming him against the wall. His head snapped back, smashing into the hard wood, and his vision momentarily blurred. Survival instincts taking over, used his telekinesis to shove the demon away from him. The demon snarled and attacked again, catching him tightly around the throat and depriving him of air. Chris waved his hand at a lamp on the table near Paige, and it flew into the air, colliding with the demon. Howling in rage and pain, the demon let go of Chris, giving Piper the opportunity to vanquish it.
Chris groaned and fell to his knees. Looking across the room, he saw Piper now battling two demons while Paige tried her best to avoid the attacks of another three. He needed to get Phoebe, but he also couldn't leave the sisters alone for fear that they might not still be alive when he got back.
It happened in a split-second, Piper twisting away from a demon, turning her side to him, giving the other an opportunity to attack her while her back was turned. The athame was leaving the demon's hand just as Chris saw it all, and time slowed to a crawl.
"NO!" Chris screamed, flinging out a hand and sending the demon next to Piper sailing through the air. He stumbled to his feet, all thoughts of getting Phoebe forgotten, and faced the demons attacking his mother and aunt. "Stay away from them," he snarled, crossing the room and grabbing the first demon by the throat. Using his telekinesis to choke one of the demons attacking Paige, he crushed the other demon's throat with the palm of his free hand. Both demons struggled and were gone, crying out before erupting into flames and turning into nothing more than ashes on the floor.
Piper blew up one of the demons and Paige sent a fragment of broken wood into another.
There was only one demon remaining, but he ignored the sisters and focused his rage on Chris. He had caught Chris by the throat and was slowly strangling him with Chris fought to break free. The young witch-lighter's face was turning a pale blue as he gasped for air. Piper instantly tried to freeze them, and the demon stopped moving. Chris, however, unable to freeze, still struggled in the demon's now –frozen vice-like grip. As his vision turned back from lack of oxygen, he could just barely see Piper's confused and then suspicious expression, and had the brief thought that it was ironic how, only moments after wondering what Piper would say if she ever tried to freeze him and realized she couldn't, he was actually facing that exact situation.
Paige lifted a hand and called, "Chris!" and Chris felt his body disappear in a sudden rush of white and blue lights. He reappeared in a crumpled heap at Paige's feet, and saw Piper blow up the demon just as the lack of oxygen finally caught up with him and the entire world faded into darkness.
Paige and Piper both stared at Chris' unconscious form, then Paige voiced what they were both thinking.
"Why didn't he freeze?"
"I… I don't know," Piper said in a whisper, eyes wide. "Unless he's… he's…"
"A witch," Paige finished the sentence. "The telekinesis he just used, the way he fought, the fact that he didn't freeze. Oh, God, Piper. He's half-witch, half-white-lighter. Like me…" She trailed off and glanced over at her sister. "Why didn't he tell us?"
"Why doesn't he tell us a lot of things?" Piper asked suspiciously, bending down next to him. She reached out and checked his pulse. It was faint, but still there. He was barely breathing. "Leo!" she called. Glancing up at Paige, she said, "Leo can heal him and them maybe we can get some answers."
The Elder orbed in at the sound of Piper's panicked call and looked around quickly, assessing the situation. "What happened?" he asked as he noted the destroyed furniture, the scorch marks on the wall.
"Questions later," Piper directing, nodding towards Chris. "Heal now."
Leo quickly rushed to the young white-lighter's side and extended his hands, watching the golden glow spread out and seep into Chris' skin. Slowly, ever so slowly, his breathing became deeper and more even, his heartbeat louder, the color returning to his face.
But he didn't wake up.
"What's wrong?" Paige asked in growing concern. "Why isn't he healing?"
"He is healing," Leo replied quietly. "He's just… I think he's just tired. I can't heal exhaustion. He just needs to rest, his body needs to recuperate." He glanced over at Paige and shrugged. As much as he had mistrusted the white-lighter from the future before, he somehow didn't now. He had resigned himself to the fact that Chris was only there to help, and that whatever he had done, it had been for Wyatt's benefit.
And could he really stay angry at Chris if that was his ultimate goal? Leo would sell his own soul if it meant keeping his son safe.
He waved his hand, orbing Chris to the sofa in the sunroom. Then he turned to Piper and Paige. "What happened here?"
"A lot of demons attacked," Paige said dryly, "and our white-lighter is apparently part witch."
"He has telekinesis and he doesn't freeze," Piper said. "You do the math." She walked over to the sunroom, pausing next to the sofa and staring down at Chris' still form. His chest was rising and falling with each heavy inhalation and exhalation of breath, and for a moment, he looked so innocent and so young that she almost forgot to be mad at him.
And that's when it hit her. If he was half-witch, then he wasn't dead. Which meant however old he appeared now, that was how old he actually was, not how old he had been when he died.
He really was just a boy.
"When he wakes up, I'm going to kick his…" Paige didn't finish the sentence, however, because the sudden cries of her nephew alerted her to Wyatt's distress. She, Piper, and Leo all turned as one towards the stairs that lead to the nursery. Leo grabbed Piper's arm and orbed, and Paige started to follow.
"No," Leo directed as his body broke into tiny orbs, "stay with Chris in case the demons come back." Then he and Piper were gone, and Paige stared reluctantly at her neurotic white-lighter, and wondered who exactly he was.
When Leo and Piper condensed into solid form in the nursery, they saw Wyatt standing in his crib with his shield up, crying softly as a large demon, dressed the same as the others that had attacked, loomed over him, athame in hand.
"Hey," Piper growled, flicking her wrists towards the demon. He threw himself to the side, barely missing her blast of power, and the energy ball flung from his hand towards Leo. The Elder orbed out and reappeared a moment later, after the energy ball had passed harmlessly threw where he had stood.
The demon stared at the two of them, then shimmered away. Piper rushed to her son just as Wyatt dropped the shield, and lifted him into her arms.
"Is he okay?" Leo asked worriedly, watching his ex-wife and son. "Is he hurt?"
"No," Piper said. "He's just a little scared of the big, bad demon, aren't you?" she cooed to her the child.
Wyatt giggled happily now that his parents were here and he was safe.
"Guys?" Paige's voice floated up to them from the floor below. "I think Chris is waking up."
Leo led the way down the stairs. Piper still held Wyatt as she followed her ex-husband into the sunroom. Paige was leaning over the sofa, watching as Chris tossed back and forth, eyes fluttering awake. Piper slid past Paige so that she was standing closest to Chris, and Leo and Paige instinctively flanked her, waiting.
Time for the interrogation to begin.
And they weren't taking 'future consequences' for an answer anymore.
Chris opened his eyes fully and pushed himself into a sitting position, glancing around at the other occupants of the room. His eyes settled first on Piper, and seemed to stay there for a moment, contemplating her face. He turned his attention to Leo, then to Paige, and lastly to Wyatt. Finally, he looked back at Piper, and they all saw the confusion on his face. Confusion and…
Was that fear?
"What happened?" Chris asked worriedly, his tone unnaturally high. "Where am I?"
The second question threw Piper, and she raised an eyebrow. "You're in the Manor, Chris. Don't you recognize it?"
"Chris?" Chris whispered, mouthing the word, letting it role off his tongue. He rubbed the back of his head instantly and looked around the room. His face paled at the destruction he saw, and against the confusion appeared in his eyes. "What happened…? Who…? I don't remember…"
"The fight, Chris," Piper said, her patience growing thin. "Demons attacked and…"
"Demons?" Chris echoed sharply, his voice even higher. "What do you mean?"
"Cut the crap," Piper snarled. "You lied to us. Do you really think pretending not to remember is going to get you out of trouble?"
"Lied? About what?" Chris asked.
"Being half-witch," Paige snapped, irritated. "You know that telekinetic thing you did…? Well, we did actually notice." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.
"Witch?" Chris asked.
Piper was about to respond when Leo laid a hand on her shoulder and shook his head, his eyes still fixed on Chris. Piper gave Leo a searching stare, but lapsed into silence. She unconsciously shifted Wyatt in her arms. Paige, too, remained quiet, giving Leo a questioning look.
"Chris? Who am I?" Leo asked shrewdly.
Chris stared at him blankly, then asked, "How the hell should I know?" He paused, eyes narrowing suspiciously, and then demanded, "Who are you? And where am I?" When he didn't get an answer, he added, "Kidnapping's a serious crime. Gets you twenty-five to life. Answer the damn question!"
"Or you'll what?" Leo asked, he alone understanding and accepting what had happened. "Go to the police? Pretty difficult to tell them you've been kidnapped when you don't even remember your own name." Chris didn't say anything, caught in his bluff, and Leo asked, "What do you remember?"
Chris swallowed nervously and stood slowly, unfolding his tall figure. In a voice barely above a whisper, he replied, "Nothing."
Abandoned Warehouse, 2025
"Come on, pretty one," the demon called as he squinted through the darkness of the warehouse. The light of the moon shone through the long-since shattered windows, casting shadows along the far wall. Everything was covered in heavy layers of dust and broken glass. The warehouse, once a stronghold for the Resistance, had been the sight of a battle almost two years ago. The magical battle had almost caused the place to collapse, and it had been left alone ever since.
It was a good place to hide.
Picking his way through the labyrinth of debris, the demon licked his lips and carefully sorted through the different scents floating in the air. He could practically taste it, the barest hint of blood. He smirked to himself as he traced the smell towards its source.
"Well, if you want to play hide and seek…" He glanced around. Without access to the white-lighter's in the Resistance, the witch would have no way of healing the burn of her shoulder from the energy ball he'd thrown at her when they'd last met. She'd be weak and in pain… an easier target.
But still, he had to be careful. The other's had underestimated her, even Wyatt himself hadn't realized what a threat she could be. No, he needed to proceed with caution.
He heard it, the tiniest echo of a footstep on cement, and spun around just in time to see the athame flying threw the air towards him. He side-stepped it and looked back at the witch as she shimmered away.
He sighed and shook his head, then reached for the athame that had clattered harmlessly to the floor behind him. He stared at it, the ornately carved handle, the deadly blade. She was good, better than he had expected.
This game of cat-and-mouse had stretched out over the course of several days now. He slid the athame into his own pocket and smiled grimly. She could run all she wanted. Sooner or later…
She couldn't outrun him forever.