OMG AN UPDATE! Why yes, yes it is!
Again, as always, apologies for updating in forever. The good news is, it is summer and school is done with and I will now have time to update much, much more frequently.
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Thank you to all who are still reading. I know how frustrating it is to read something and then find out that it hasn't been updated in a while. Again, I will again reiterate the promise that I made at the beginning, which is that I will definitely and without a doubt finish this story!
Disclaimer: I do not own Charmed or any of its characters.
Chris followed his cousin in an instant. It wasn't at all hard to pursue the orb trail that Darren left behind and soon the witchlighter was standing in San Diego Park, at the edge of the dense woods.
Darren sensed his cousin following and immediately hid.
It felt strange to shapeshift after so many years but within seconds, he became his favorite creature, triangular and vertical grey-furred ears listening closely to Chris taking a few tentative steps into the woods.
Leo and Piper orbed next to their son in little time.
Chris shouted his cousin's name, tone overwhelmed by a sense of panic and desperation that almost made Darren come out. Almost.
He would not give in.
Piper could not bear to hear the unveiled alarm in her son's voice so she stepped forward, joining him in calling for her nephew.
He ignored both of them and with silent, padded feet began to move away from the edge of the forest, deeper into the trees.
He needed to be alone, needed space, needed to gather himself and think, think about what he was going to do next because with the sudden turn of events everything had been put into jeopardy. Every plan he'd made in the last few weeks had vanished with disturbing ease.
Chris stumbled. Leo caught him quickly, before he could fall forward or move forward.
The young witch glared at his father, clearly wanting to be let go.
"Please Chris. You're just recovering. You should be resting."
Chris wanted to scream at him and tell him that he was fine.
But it was painfully clear that he wasn't. He could feel the weakness that plagued his every muscle, could feel the unsteadiness in his legs and he cursed himself for his lack of strength.
He couldn't just leave now, leave Darren alone after what had just happened.
"I'll stay behind and look for him. You go back and rest."
Chris searched his father's eyes.
"If there is ever to be any chance, Leo, of us talking, then you find him. Find Darren."
With that, Chris loosened himself of Leo's gentle grasp and orbed back to the Manor.
Piper stood still, looking at the woods before her that seemed to stretch on forever.
"We'll never find him like this. We need to head back and scry for him."
Leo smiled sadly at her. "You go ahead. I'll stay here and try to sense him as an Elder."
Piper's eyes immediately flew to her husband's, "Do you think they…knew? That he was alive all these years…and didn't say anything?"
Leo frowned at the implications of that but looked away when he realized that what Piper was suggesting was completely possible.
"I don't know Piper. But as soon as I'm done searching, and we find him, I'm going up there to find out."
Piper took his hand and squeezed.
"We messed up really bad didn't we? All of us. And now our children have to pay the price."
Leo's heart clenched. She was right.
"That's why we have to do our best to fix it."
Before he knew what he was doing, Darren was shimmering to his old home.
If it could even be called that.
He didn't know why he'd gone there. Seeing the dilapidated house brought back unpleasant memories and his stomach lurched but he forced himself forward.
He went to the woods behind the house, feeling the familiarity of the trees. It was calming to some degree, until he remembered why he'd come.
Even now, years before he'd discover it, he was able to find the big oak that had served as his refugee far too many times.
It was as tall as he remembered, the trunk still as wide, even now that he was no longer a child.
Darren ran his fingers along the coarse bark, circling the tree slowly, his fingertips once again committing the unique contour and texture to memory. A blade was in his hands the next second, and he was carving something into the tree the next minute.
The words formed no sentence, nonsensical to everyone but him.
He wondered if his younger self would ever find them.
The dark haired witchlighter orbed into his room at P3 right before dawn was breaking.
His instincts screamed at him to leave, that this was dangerous and he'd be caught within minutes.
But for once, he ignored the frantic inner messages. He chose instead to listen to his heart and with a heavy sigh he reached to his bed, grabbing the stuffed bear that he'd started keeping there with tremulous hands.
He wanted to tear it to shreds, split open the seams and spill the white stuffing he knew was inside. He wanted to bury it, to burn it, to make it not exist.
Instead, his fingers curled tightly around it. He remembered that children would hold it close to them, and he did the same, pressing the soft toy to his chest.
And when he felt the all too familiar but much hated burning in his eyes he let go, and for once did not make any movement to grit his teeth.
He simply closed his eyes and held the bear tighter and cried.
Slager looked at his subordinate in frustration.
"What the hell are you rambling on about?"
The smaller demon averted his eyes to the floor and backed away a little.
"The traitor, sir. He's one of them!"
"One of who? And if I have to keep asking you to clarify yourself…"
The demon backed away some more at the implicit threat.
"He's a Halliwell sir. Son of the middle Charmed One and Belthazor."
Slager grinned. So the son of a bitch was something after all…He'd always wondered why Wyatt had taken such a keen interest in the brat.
"That all you had to say or do you have more important information?"
The demon looked up, more confident now that his commander was no longer yelling at him.
"He and the others…They had some kind of fight, I don't really know. I wasn't close enough to hear it all, but the point is, sir, that they're separated. Lord Wyatt's brother and his family are at the Manor. Halner is alone."
Slager was on his feet in an instant.
His chance had arrived.
"Go and tell the others to get ready. The traitor isn't an easy catch."
Leo's search turned up nothing useful. He felt tiny traces of the younger man here and there but not enough to locate him.
Just enough to sense that the other male was still there.
Until he wasn't.
The Elder frowned deeply at the loss of the presence. He could no longer sense Darren in the woods. Or anywhere in the state of California for that matter.
He searched quickly for a trail of orbs and found nothing. And then he sensed it.
A fresh shimmer trail. It was still faint, but shimmering was harder to mask than orbing and he took the chance to follow the path, wherever it would lead him.
When he reformed after orbing, he looked around him in confusion. He could tell that he was no longer in California but that was it.
Again he sensed the world around him, closing his eyes in deep concentration.
Darren had left again, but this time the trail ended in a familiar place P3.
And Leo realized with a growing sense of dread, he wasn't alone.
Chris would have rather passed out in the woods than come home to the expectant eyes of his aunts.
Her face fell quickly.
"Do you know where he might have gone?"
"That's where I went to look…Leo, um…he stayed behind to keep looking."
"We can scry for him," Piper offered, stepping forward.
They were all unsure what to do with Chris.
He saved them the trouble.
"I'll go rest for a little bit and then I'll be back to help you search."
Even as the words came out laced with unmistakable exhaustion, Chris hated himself for his body's betrayal.
He'd always despised feeling useless and now, as he climbed the stairs slowly, the feeling rose in him with strength, clawing at his chest with guilt.
Please be okay Darren. You don't have to run anymore.
For a minute, sensing a good presence in combination with a bad presence, confused him.
And then he was up, throwing the bear on his bed just in time to bring up that arm and parry whatever it was the intruder had tried to stab him with.
The fact that the weapon sliced his arm was an unfortunate cost of having been caught so unprepared.
He heard commotion outside the door and it suddenly dawned on him who the good presence was.
Chris may be angry at his father but Darren was pretty sure that his cousin didn't want him outright killed.
Darren kicked his door open just in time to see Leo electrocute a nearby demon with his Elder powers.
The blue lightning was absorbed harmlessly by the red shield that the demon put up at the last minute.
Dammit, Slager's around.
Though he had yet to sense the evil commander, Darren had no wish to stick around and find out.
He made his way to Leo, vanquishing the demon that got in his way.
"We have to get out of here Leo."
The look of relief on Leo's face when he saw him was a little heartwarming.
"Are you all right?"
"Good. What's the plan?"
"Get out of here before the big bad arrives."
Darren was about to tell the Elder to follow his orbs when a force launched them apart.
"Why are you so eager to leave the party, Darren? We're just getting started."
"Sorry. This little brawl you have going on really isn't my style."
Slager scowled at Darren's smirk.
"Oh come now. You used to love a good fight."
"With even chances yeah. You've got what? A little army? Against one?"
"Two, Halner. You've forgotten how to count."
Leo eyed the demon in front of him warily. He looked to Darren, standing beside him now and tried to discern what the younger man was thinking.
He was right though. There were two of them against…Leo did a small head count of the gleaming eyes he could make out in the near pitch-black darkness of the club.
Two against seven.
"One, Slager. Leave the Elder out of this."
Leo glared at his nephew.
Darren glared back.
"I think I'll leave the Elder in. He chose to come here and involve himself. His own fault as far as I'm concerned."
"So what now Slager? Ready to offer us the option to come quietly?"
Slager grinned and shook his head, "No chance, traitor. I want to hear you scream!"
Before he could command his demons to attack, Darren gripped Leo's arm and pulled him back.
He clashed his hands together and dropped them to his sides, fingers moving as if playing an invisible instrument.
The flames came to roaring life, sprouting out of the air and blanketing them in heated orange.
Leo needed no words. He took the black-haired man by the shoulder and orbed them to the Manor.
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