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Chapter One: Intuition

November 16th, 2013. 8:00

Burying the warding crystals around the school had seemed like a good idea at the time. The sisters had been spoiled by the complete safety of Magic School and missed the security when they'd transferred the boys to a mortal school. So what could they do? Pre-enchanted protective crystals, and good ones too. So powerful that any form of evil couldn't get within sixty paces of the building.

They sisters congratulated themselves on their own brilliance and allowed themselves to relax. Then some Warlock got it into his head to switch the ward's polarity, keeping anything good from getting in... or out, as the situation happened to be.

Now, as he wedged himself under Principal Yoder's desk, staring dully at a inspirational poster clearly labeled "Determination", nine-year-old Christopher Halliwell couldn't help but develop a quick hate for magical stones of any kind. Scrying? Never again. He was already thinking of horrible places to orb the warding crystals just as soon as he got out... if he got out.

He supposed he should just be glad that the ward hadn't stopped any of the mortals from getting out. He just wished Wyatt was in there with him. He imagined this scenario going drastically more in his favor then.

"...Happy birthday to you...Happy birthday to yoou..."

The voice echoed down the empty hallways and Chris covered his ears stubbornly. It was the demon. He didn't know how the thing had found out it was his birthday, but he'd been singing it ever since, and off-key to boot.

"Happy biiiiirthday dear Wit-chyyy..." The demon's voice reached a particularly sharp grating note just as he poked his alarmingly purple face into the room.

Chris gulped down his fear and froze, trying not to rattle the cheap imitation plywood desk. He leaned, ever so slightly, peering out a small gap in the siding, attempting to get a good look at what he'd been dealing with all night.

The demon was oddly proportioned and disturbingly purple. The way his face was arranged left him looking perpetually happy, his mouth cutting a line literally from ear to ear, thick with needle teeth. Sharp, bone white horns grew out from its temples and curled around to the back of its head again in the back.

It was a regular nightmare under the bed, everything a kid should be scared of. Despite prior experience, Chris shouldn't be any exception. He'd never had to face one of these things solo before, especially not for extended periods of time.

As the demon's feet squished grotesquely against the tile, Chris realized something. He was inexperienced, nearly powerless, and all alone. He should be terrified.

He should be... but he wasn't. He just felt utterly pissed off.

It was the familiarity, Chris pinpointed. Hovering at the back of his mind like a tune you couldn't put a name to. He'd felt the sensation before. Wyatt called it his "Intuition" and experience had taught the both of them not to question it.

Chris peeked out again, getting a letterbox view of the thing's legs, backwards hinged and meaty. A large, yellow scar traced down the back of the thing's leg. It was an old wound, expertly placed to cut all three of the tendons along the multi-jointed leg.

Chris had to stop himself from audibly gasping as the pinprick of light that was his Intuition brightened and expanded.

."You sent me into a trap, Dax. That's a hell of a big problem. I don't have time to deal with this. I'm going ask nicely again, and you're going to answer me truthfully if you feel like walking again..."...

He knew this demon...

Not just in a general way, he knew his powers, his preferred prey, he knew where he hung out, who his allies were... he could even recall his favorite alcoholic beverage, whatever the heck a Mojito was.

More importantly, he knew how to vanquish him.

"Birthday boy!" The demon cheerfully crooned, leaning dangerously close to the desk, "You have to come out so I can use you as bait! Doesn't that sound nice?"

In a rush of confidence, Chris pulled himself from behind the desk, finding himself close enough to the demon's face to count the teeth in his smile. He smiled right back, displaying his own canines in a smile no nine year old should be capable of.

"Hey Dax. How's the leg?"

He had a moment to see the closest approximation of shock on a Demon's face before he grabbed a stapler off the desk and planted the business end in the demon's nose. He didn't wait to hear the thing howl in annoyance and orbed down the hallway, breaking into a run as soon as his feet hit the cheap tiling, careening down the hallway and orbing through a locked door.

He heard the Dax hit the door behind him but didn't stop. He used the time to scramble to the back of the room and into the janitor's closet, pulling open toolboxes and hoping that everything in here was just as old as the rest of the school.

The Dax crashed through the door, behind the door nearly in half.

"You." The demon hissed as soon as it caught up with him, murder in its black eyes. "It is not possible."

Chris ignored the comments, not in any mood to decode the ramblings of an insane demon and clawed open the hatch on the last box he found, grinning.

The Dax snapped its teeth, "It matters not. You are smaller now. Easier to kill."

How does one kill a Dax? Iron.

"Wrench!" Chris commanded, throwing his hands up in the direction of the demon, orbing one of the old rusted tools out of the box. The orbs traced a light into the demon's chest and solidified, making a horrible squelching sound as it did.

The Dax had barely a second to realize what happened before it burst into flames and disintegrated, taking the wards with it.

"So long, Dax." Chris said, all of a sudden tired.

He let out a breath and sunk down to the floor. It only took a moment for the room to brighten with blue and white orbs not his own depositing three angry looking mothers into the room. It took them a moment to realize that they were standing in the demon's ashes before they turned to look at him.

Chris just shrugged and closed his eyes.

"Birthdays suck."

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

November 16th, 2027. 6:00 AM.

Wyatt Matthew Halliwell didn't particularly like torturing his brother. The fact that he did it so often had less to do with him actually wanting to drive the younger Witchlighter to distraction and more with the fact that Chris desperately needed to be taught a lesson. He was sure his brother could appreciate that on some level and, knowing that, he hoped Chris would one day forgive him.

Ever so quietly, he snuck up on the sleeping prey--er, brother. He was stretched out on the couch per usual, having passed out there with some ridiculously complicated looking book opened on his stomach. Wyatt leaned over the back of the couch, getting as close as he dared and then, just as the moment was right, he screamed.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

... and immediately staggered back as a blunt force to his solar plexus sent all of the air rushing out of his lungs. A lifetime of training being the only thing to keep him standing. The Twice-Blessed took a moment to wheeze, drawing a hasty breath before he looked back over at the couch.

All he could see over the top of the couch was his brother's hand, still poised from the telekinetic attack. Chris drug himself up, eying his brother flatly.

"Wyatt..." He glowered, looking positively murderous, "I swear to god, if you weren't my brother..."

Wyatt grinned in spite of it, flicking a his hand behind his back subtly. Suddenly the whole glare-that-could-kill thing seemed a whole lot less threatening as a pink birthday hat orbed on the top of his brother's head.

"Good thing I'm your brother then, right? Otherwise I'd be drawn, quartered, hanging off a flagpole, blah, blah. Great hat by the way." Wyatt gave a brilliant display of teeth before ducking down and out of Chris's immediate range. The hat hit him square in the face anyway. Damn telekinesis.

Chris rolled his eyes, watching his brother try to quickly escape into the apartments small kitchen. He eyed the book in his lap briefly, trying to decide if it would be too childish to hit him with that as well. He flipped the book over, holding the page. 'A Brief Summary of Quantum Mechanics and the Relationship of Matter.'

He snorted lightly. Yeah, way too smart of a book to waste on Wyatt. Plus, somewhere along the line, he had gotten the reputation of being the most mature of the next generation of Halliwells and he didn't feel like spoiling that now.

He caught the edges of a few blue orbs and reached up in time to keep the party hat from rematerializing onto his head.

Wyatt, apparently, had no such hangups.

Chris held it out in front of him like it was a vat of demon spleens, noting from the corner of his eye that Wyatt had peeked around into the room just to see the reaction.

"Come on!" He called, "You can't really still think your birthday is evil!"

"Sure I can," Chris answered flatly before happily orbing the hat into the city garbage dump and attempting to go about his day. He rolled off the couch, pulling at his shirt as he went, realizing he'd fallen asleep in yesterday's clothes... again. His mother would not approve.

"Besides," He dropped the edges of his shirt with a shrug, "I don't really think it's evil."

Wyatt perked up, "Really?"

"It's not evil, it's just cursed. Difference."

"Oh, for the love of... Chris!"

The younger Halliwell ignored him and crossed the small living room to his bedroom closing the door behind him as an answer.

"Yeah, that's mature." Wyatt's muffled voice added glumly, making Chris smile in spite of himself. Wyatt was right, he did somewhat understand, and perhaps on a really good day, appreciate the gesture, but there wasn't anything to be done for it. He'd accepted a long time ago that his birthdays just went bad. He had no idea why his family had such a hard time doing the same.

No doubt Wyatt was in the other room calling reinforcements. Chris knew the routine well and like every year before this, he'd just have to suffer through it.

A wave of drowsiness washed over him abruptly as his bed came into view. The piece of furniture was practically begging him to catch up on the sleep he'd missed in the past week. He sighed and bypassed the idea, heading to get ready for the day. His family was bound and determined to drag him out into the world today, show him that it was possible to have a nice, catastrophe free birthday, hell or high water.

...Well, come to think of it hell and high water had already happened already. He'd have to think of a better metaphor.

Grudgingly, he moved over to his closet and pulled out some clothes at random, knowing Wyatt would only give him a few minutes before he orbed the door off its hinges. No way was Wyatt letting him off as easy as a party hat and a wakeup call. He had other things planned...

No sooner had he tugged a fresh shirt over his head when one of those plans reared its ugly head.

"Wyatt..." Chris called, magicking his door open with a glare.

The blond man peered around the door frame, smiling, "Yes?"

"Why is my phone singing Happy Birthday?"

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Piper Halliwell hung up the phone with an inwardly satisfied smile, not disturbed in the slightest when Chris didn't pick it up. Knowing him, he'd probably orbed it out the window again.

Strictly speaking, the family didn't need cell phones anyway. With so much whitelighter blood in the mix they practically had a network going all of their own. The only thing that kept the little contraptions around was the fact that they were all trying so hard to fit into the mortal world. Yelling at the skies to communicate tended to make one look a bit crazy.

"Oo, Waffles," Leo leaned around his wife, grabbing the plates of food to set on the table. Piper squinted at him and brandished a finger.

"Don't touch those until the boys get here." She warned in her, 'I-mean-it-buster' voice.

Leo chuckled, "You mean Wyatt's actually trying to drag him out of the house?"

"Drag being the word," Piper rolled her eyes and and tipped her head back, shouting at the ceiling, "Chris, Wyatt. Stop fighting and come get breakfast!"

Piper tried not to look too pleased with herself as a blue glow obediently filled the kitchen, coalescing into her two eldest. Chris knocked his elbow into Wyatt's side bitterly, forcing the other to release the choke-hold that had brought him here.

"Hello boys," Piper smiled widely and stood on her toes to give each of them a kiss on the cheek, "Happy birthday sweetie."

Chris mostly hid his wince and bit off a thanks before trying to distract the issue by helping set the table. As concentrated he was at that task, he didn't miss the nudge and look Wyatt gave their parents, pointing at him and swirling a finger around his ear in the universal sign for Cuckoos Magoos.

Piper swatted Wyatt before turning to look at Chris, "Still? Really?" Piper sighed forcefully and leaned around her eldest, "Christopher, there's nothing to be worried about, really."

"If you say so..." Chris said noncommittally, pointedly not looking at them.

"Your mother's right," Leo chipped in, "Nothing has happened in years."

Chris was infinitely happy that his back was turned as he'd never been able to hide his guilt. He'd been convinced for years that Piper has some kind of scary witch sixth sense for lying. He was a fantastic liar normally but he could very rarely slip something past her.

He hoped this was one of those times. After all, technically he hadn't lied about the last three years... he'd just... omitted... a lot.

He chanced a look over his shoulder and saw that she'd paused in setting the table, eyes narrowed, head titled slightly to the side. Oh yeah, she was catching on.

"Brothers dearest!"

Chris let out his breath. Saved by the sister.

Melinda Halliwell resplendent in purple pajamas and mussed hair swept into the room like a queen in her very own castle. Of course that's how she walked everywhere. She flashed a smile at them and jumped up on her tiptoes to peck Wyatt on the cheek.

He waited patiently until she was on solid footing before mussing up her light brown hair even more. "Are there any ex-boyfriends I have to beat up today?"

"Meh," Melinda made a show of considering, "Try back next week, we'll see how this one lasts." She turned to Chris and gave him a once-over, eyebrow crooking up immediately.

"Oho! Someone woke up on the wrong side of the couch this morning," Mel sidled up next to him, bumping him conspiratorially with her elbow, the height difference meaning she got him right in the pressure point in his side. Chris wonder, again, why his siblings liked to beat him up so often. It was even more infuriating with Mel because he'd never be able to hit her back.

Of course, Mel knew this and used it to her full advantage, conniving person that she was.

"Oo! Dad, look! Waffles!" Thankfully, she was also easily distracted.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

8:00

"So," Melinda asked innocently, swirling her pen around in her fingers, "How's it feel to be 23 and independent? Good? Bad? Awesome?"

Chris eyed his little sister like one would look at a lion cub. Sure, it seemed cute and innocent, but it's idea of playing was going for the jugular. Beware all who tread here...

He turned back to doing the breakfast dishes, pretending like he was considering the question, "Hm, it feels exactly like being 22 and independent but one day older. Go figure."

Mel tapped at the textbook in her lap irritably, "Sure seems nice to be out there in the world...outside of the Manor..." She leaned in her chair to emphasize the words.

"I'm not helping you convince them to let you move out."

The younger Halliwell crumpled in her seat, preparing an epic pout, "Oh come on!" She practically pounced out of the kitchen chair holding her French textbook in front of her like a shield. "Why are you so mean to me?"

Chris just gave her a look that was purely Piper before dropping the last dish into the drying rack.

Mel changed tactics and latched onto his arm, widening her green eyes and batting her eyelashes like a proper damsel, "Please-oh-please! Pretty please with sugar plums and hot fudge and marshmallows--."

"No."

"Why?" She huffed, letting him go, "You and Wyatt got to move out years ago. I'm 19 Chris, they're stifling me! I need to be out there where I can actually live."

Chris turned the water off and sighed. He knew how she felt. In some ways she was more grown up than any of them. She balanced her witch and mortal duties easily, had been in college a year, had a decent savings, and knew exactly what she was doing with her life. That last one alone topped him and Wyatt in a heartbeat. It was a bit of cruelty to keep her locked up in her childhood room, staring at the severely outdated pink teddy bear runners on her walls.

"We offered to let you move in with us last year." He said halfheartedly. She only rolled her eyes in return.

"That'd be even worse than here. You guys are like a second set of parents. Wyatt freaks out any time I try to dress in something that doesn't cover me from knees to neck." She groaned in frustration, "This isn't fair. Just because you're not powerful enough to live on your own--" She froze and looked at him, wide eyed.

"Oh my gosh, I didn't mean that." She gasped and threw her hands out theatrically, wrists up, "Vanquish me now, really. I mean it." She winced, waiting for his response.

Chris pushed the annoyance into a corner. His lack of power was something he'd always been a little sore about, but he'd had years to come to terms. Didn't mean he didn't want to get her back though... He looked over at her and smirked, "Said the girl who can't orb."

The tension eased out of her shoulders and a half smirk came onto her face, "Says you." She wiggled her fingers in a small wave and a blue light overtook her body, orbs whisking her up and through the ceiling... and then she just popped back to where she was standing, looking smug as ever.

Unfortunately for Melinda, she'd been born after their father had gotten his own mortality. Technically she was still a witchlighter, but the dormant whitelighter genes were nearly impossible to coax out. Powers wise, she was the most vulnerable of the three, but she was too stubborn to let that remain the case.

The one power she did have she used to perfection, making her a very dangerous illusionist. She could make a blind man see, if it suited her. Still, it wasn't enough for their parents who were insisting on the magically buddy system. As much as he understood Mel's point of view, he sympathized with his parents' more. Better a stifled sister than a dead one.

"You can't illusion yourself an offensive power, Mel," Chris poked her in the shoulder, "You can still be hurt."

"Point is that the demons don't know I can't orb." She shrugged, "I'd just fake the orb, pull an invisible woman, and bravely hide in the closet. I'd be fine."

She frowned when her brother made no moves to answer her. He just gave her an apologetic smile and moved off into the dining room.

"Besides," She pitched in, halfheartedly, "I have two ridiculously awesome brothers who can swoop in to save me."

Chris barely heard her, too busy with the sudden dark pressure he felt. The world faded momentarily and he blinked sightlessly, almost forgetting to breathe in as a sudden overbearing feeling overtook him. He couldn't identify it as it seeped into his skin and then, just as it reached his heart, it dawned on him.

Complete. Utter. Hopelessness.

... and then his heart stopped.

"Chris!"

He sucked in a breath and stagged back shortly, only standing straight because of the hands on his arms. He blinked and focused on Melinda, her nearly identical green eyes staring at him widely.

"Chris," Melinda breathed, paler than usual, "Are you all right? You're...cold."

Was he alright? He wasn't entirely sure... He shook himself out of it, shutting his eyes briefly to find his balance before answering, "Yeah..." He said even as he put his palm over his heart to check if it was still beating.

"..the hell was that?" Melinda pressed, noticing the movement.

"Nothing," He said with more conviction than last time, "I'm fine." He stepped out of her grip and gave her a smile. "Really."

Melinda squinted at him, suspicious, but for once she didn't have a comment to add.

Chris looked down at his watch and winced slightly, "Ah, yeah, I gotta go make an appearance at Magic school." He stepped around her and deliberately ruffled her hair, "I'll see you at dinner tonight, alright?"

Chris disappeared in the shine of the bright blue orbs, leaving an uneasy looking Melinda standing alone in the Manor.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

A/N:: Okay, so we're trying something a little different. Okay, a lot different for me. Not entirely a new concept in the future fics but I gotta do it. I promise to do something slightly out of the ordinary with it. As for update times. I've got about a quarter of the fic done but I'm notorious for losing inspiration. So here's to hoping I can keep that going cause this fic is oodles of fun so far.

As typical, Reviews are win in a can and keep the creativity wheels greased.