Connections At Work
Author's Note: This is probably the most cohesive story I've written since The Harm in Trying and is dedicated to everyone who doesn't hate Bianca. This is supposedly a romance and I am terrible at writing them, so don't expect too much. Plus this is my first Charmed story so it might be a little off-canon.
Piper Halliwell watched her second son forlornly as he stood in front of the Book of Shadows, telekinetically flipping the pages. He was a grown man, now. Older even than the first time she met him. Thirty-five years old and just the same as he was at twenty-two.
His brother had long ago settled down, providing Piper with her first granddaughters. Most of Chris' cousins were married now, and though it made Piper feel old, she loved her grand-nieces and nephews. Paige's youngest two, the twins, were in half-Cupid approved relationships, though they weren't married yet. Even Piper's own youngest, three years older than the twins, had provided her with a grandson, though not, as Piper would have preferred, with her current husband.
It was only Chris who remained stubbornly single. Not only that, he hadn't dated anybody in a very long time. It wasn't that he was so old that Piper worried for him. It was that he didn't seem to be trying. These days he never seemed to have any time for himself. He was too similar to the Chris they'd met before he was born. This Chris lived in a world balanced more in the side of good's favour, so why did he seem to think it would all turn around in a second?
Chris was always so serious, and always thinking about somebody else. He made his mortal living as a doctor at a hospital, following in his father's footsteps. He was always looking for magical causes so that he could help people magically, after learning the hard way that non-magical cases couldn't be cured magically. He was all business all the time. That was what really had Piper worried.
Piper and her sisters had always wanted normal lives outside of saving people, but Chris had never wanted that. He lived his life as though it was falling apart around him and he was desperately trying to hold it up. It was hard to get Chris to stay still for a minute, and you could only force him to pay attention with a long logical explanation. Emotions weren't enough to cut it. He showed up at family gatherings, but more for them than for himself. He slept and ate only because he knew he couldn't function well enough to help people if he didn't. Through everything he thought about other people... and never himself.
Chris got the eureka look and orbed out. Never once had he noticed his mother watching him. Piper sighed. Something had to be done. She went across the street to Phoebe's house to see Coop.
x x x
Coop had retired from being a cupid once his youngest became one full time. The elder two girls embraced their witch sides more than their cupid ones, so Cathy was the only one. Coop had realised that if he wanted to live a full life with Phoebe, he'd have to age with her, too. He would die, but reasoned that he'd never wanted to live forever anyway. He'd never thought about it before, but it made sense now.
"Can't you, or Cathy, actually, take him to see his past loves like you did with Phoebe?" Piper asked Coop as they sat at the kitchen table with mugs of cocoa.
"To do that, Chris would have had to have loved someone. He never has and that's why it's never worked out," Coop explained.
"Really?" This was worse than Piper had thought. "Not even Marguerite?" Marguerite had been Chris' girlfriend the longest. She was the best friend of one of his earliest whitelighter charges. Piper had seen Chris and Marguerite together and thought there was something between them. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking on her part. Marguerite was a lovely person.
Coop shook his head. "I still had powers back then. Chris didn't love her, and she didn't love him."
"And we're never going to be able to set him up on a date again."
All three of Coop's children had had their chance to set Chris up with someone, but he never stuck around long enough to get to know someone well enough to fall in love with her. After showing them it wouldn't work, he'd said that he would never do it again. He'd stuck to that since, not even agreeing to double date with Wyatt when his brother desperately needed someone.
Sometimes Piper wondered if maybe Chris was gay. Wyatt had teased him often enough when they were teenagers that Piper had made an effort to make sure he knew he'd still be accepted in the family if he was. But Chris never looked twice at a man, and still occasionally slept with women (one thing Piper wished she didn't know about her son).
"Sometimes," said Coop. "I think the only way he'll ever notice is if a demon comes after him."
"No," Piper shook her head. "I've never seen him bat an eyelash when they've tried to seduce him. Even the ones who didn't want to kill him. It's like he knows it's all fake. He's never gone out with one even though it's practically a family tradition."
Besides Chris, Phoebe's daughters were the only ones who had never dated a demon. Henry Jr was currently in a long term relationship with one. They weren't biologically compatible, so they could never have children, but the Halliwells knew that the only reason why they weren't already married was because Xita didn't believe in marriage. She didn't think you needed to put a name on staying with someone for the rest of your life. For all intents and purposes, they were married.
The Halliwells had long ago gotten over their xenophobia regarding demons. Sure, most of their relationships with demons hadn't worked out, but they'd come close to making friends with a lot of them. These days they'd only kill a demon if they tried to kill them first and if the demon was being sent to kill them, they would go after the one pulling the strings first, letting the hired help make their own decision once they were no longer being threatened or bribed.
Piper continued her thought. "You can't get his attention by being a damsel in distress, either. He's too much of a whitelighter and refuses to get involved. The only way to get his attention is to attack him."
Coop raised an eyebrow. "So you're going to set him up by having someone attack him?"
Coop had meant it as a joke, but Piper saw merit in the suggestion. "That's it!"
"You aren't seriously considering sending someone after your son."
"Not just anyone," said Piper. "Bianca."
"Bianca?" Coop couldn't remember having heard of this person before.
"She's a Phoenix. The only reason why I'm really so worried about Chris is because when he came back to us in 2003, he was engaged. Phoebe felt that he was in love with her and that she broke his heart. That means he was capable of loving her, of wanting to make a lifelong commitment. He just hasn't yet and maybe that's because he hasn't met her."
"How did they meet last time?"
"That's the thing," said Piper. "She attacked him. He told me that she'd been sent to kill him. She didn't succeed and he managed to turn her away from working for Wyatt. We just have to get her to do it again."
"You're insane," said Coop.
Piper shrugged. "Maybe. But what can it hurt?"
"They could kill each other."
"I'll tell her not to kill him. And if she doesn't try, neither will he."
"And what could you possibly give her that she'd want?" Coop continued trying to talk her out of it, not realising that every flaw he pointed out would only help her come up with a better plan. "It would have to be something big to make her want to keep him alive."
Again, Piper shrugged. "I'll think of something. She's definitely not going to want to kill him if she's not paid."
Coop shook his head. "I can't condone this. If you go through with this I'm going to tell Chris."
Piper frowned. "Really, Coop? You're a cupid and you're going to stop my son from finding love?"
"I'm not giving up on him. I'm exercising patience."
"It's the only way," said Piper.
Piper exhaled. "Fine," she lied. "I promise I won't."
Piper left the house soon after, and shook her head. There was no way she was keeping that promise. She had to do it even if it meant keeping it a secret from everyone. Now she just had to figure out how to do it without personal gain consequences.
x x x
Eventually Piper justified to herself that it wasn't personal gain because Chris' well-being was important to every innocent he was trying to protect. And, she wasn't doing this for herself. She was so sure of her reasoning that she found herself summoning Bianca that evening and wondering why she'd never tried this before; never tried to find Bianca before. Piper guessed it was because she'd never been this worried about her son before.
The Phoenix witch stared out of the crystal cage as though she was seeing things. "What did I do to deserve the wrath of a Charmed One?" she asked. Bianca had always been sure to only take on jobs that wouldn't call the attention of powerful witches.
"Nothing," said Piper. In situations like these it was important to appear bored and confident, though inside Piper was bubbling with excitement, thinking she'd finally be able to get her son on the right path. "Not yet, anyway. I have a job for you."
"You have a job for me?" Bianca was obviously sceptical.
"Phoenix witches are neutral, right? You'll take a job from anyone willing to pay."
"And what would you pay?" asked Bianca.
"I'm sure I can find something you'd like." Secretly, Piper was hoping that Bianca would fall in love with her son and be so thankful that she wouldn't demand payment. On second thought, that was absolutely ridiculous.
Bianca still wasn't sure, but was curious to find out. "What is it, then? What demon is there that you can't deal with yourself?"
"Oh it's not a demon," said Piper. "And I'd actually prefer it if you didn't kill him."
"Not kill him?" Bianca raised an eyebrow. "What part of 'assassin' don't you understand? Let me guess: the 'ass' part?"
Piper rolled her eyes. That was the sort of stupid joke Chris and Wyatt were both prone to making. "I need you to attack my son."
Bianca smirked. "I get it now. You aren't Piper Halliwell, are you? She'd never send anyone to kill her son."
Frustrated, Piper blew up the Phoenix, then crossed her arms over her chest. "Satisfied?" she asked once Bianca had reformed.
Bianca's mood was definitely worsened by her molecular disturbance. "I'm not doing it," she said outright. "Having the twice-blessed after me is not worth anything you could possibly give me."
Piper frowned. People were always underestimating Chris just because magic didn't stop the day he was born, and because he wasn't Excalibur's heir, or in any other way prophesied. It wasn't just because she loved her boys equally that she thought their powers were equal; she knew it. Maybe Wyatt had more powers, but that didn't make him a stronger, better witch. Chris was Wyatt's equal in every way save age and height. In every way that mattered.
"I have another son, you know?" said Piper. "Chris."
Bianca shook her head. "That's worse. That one never lets up."
Worse? thought Piper. Bianca was definitely the girl for her son. Chris still had an inferiority complex when it came to Wyatt. He needed a woman who would inspire self-worth in him. Bianca seemed like just the right one.
More determined than ever, Piper explained further. "You only need to attack him. One hit, non-fatal. Whenever you feel like it. As long as it's clearly non-lethal, he'll come after you, but he won't try to kill you. You'll evade him and maybe he won't even catch you. If he does, just tell him I sent you and he'll come after me."
"Is he going to believe that? I don't believe it and you're right in front of me."
"He will if I give you something to prove it. Name your price, Bianca. I know you want to do it. It's a challenge: pitting your wits against Chris Halliwell's with no repercussions. You won't even have to kill anyone."
Bianca was suspicious. "How do you know I don't enjoy committing murder?"
Because Chris told me, thought Piper. "You're neutral," she said instead. "Not evil. It means you think about the consequences."
Bianca continued to eye Piper with suspicion. "What do you get out of this?"
"I need to force a confrontation with my son," was her cover story. "I want to prove to him that a magical attack is the only way to get his attention these days. He's very single-minded, I want that to stop."
Bianca didn't entirely understand, but she bought it. "What do I get, then?"
"Well," said Piper. "I'm guessing you don't want money."
"You wouldn't have enough money," said Bianca. "In these cases I usually take magical artefacts as payment. I have quite the athame collection."
Remembering Bianca pressing one to her neck, Piper believed it. She walked over to the potions cupboard and selected a ready-made one to show Bianca. "Power of three blessed vanquishing potion. You can't always enjoy the chase and this will get the job done quickly and efficiently."
"You think one little potion is enough for this?"
"Two?" ventured Piper.
"Try five," said Bianca. "And whatever you give me to prove to your son that you're after him, I get to keep."
"Three and a protection amulet," bargained Piper.
"Done," Bianca agreed. "Now will you let me out of this cage?"
Piper rolled her eyes and kicked a stone out of place with her foot. She was not surprised to find an athame pressed against her neck the next second.
"This had better not be a trap," Bianca warned before dropping her weapon.
Piper reached around her neck, pulling a crystal triquetra from against her skin. Chris had made it for her a long time ago and she never thought she'd part with it. But this was important, and if Bianca was who Piper thought she was, there was no one she'd rather pass it on to. "You can take this now. Just don't let him see it when you attack him. You'll get the potions once you've attacked him."
"Don't you want to wait until you've got your confrontation?"
Piper shook her head. "If he doesn't catch you I'll consider that proof that he's not just about magic." And that there's nothing left to be done about his romantic life.
Bianca nodded. "I'll be back." She shimmered out.
Piper turned to leave the attic, but saw Leo blocking the doorway. "Was that Bianca I just saw?" he questioned.
Piper had no idea how she was going to get herself out of this one. "Was it? I think she just shimmered into the wrong house. She was gone before I got a good look at her."
"So you've been up here for the past hour doing what exactly?"
Piper sagged, seeing that Leo wasn't going to let it go. "Okay, fine. I'm worried about Chris."
Leo put two and two together. "Honey you know you have to let him make his own decisions. You can't force him to be with somebody."
"What's the harm in a little matchmaking? He loved her before, why not now? Maybe she's the reason why he never settled down. Maybe now he will."
Leo couldn't be mad at her for trying to mother their son. "I just hope you took personal gain into account."
"Of course," said Piper.
"You're lucky it was me who saw you up here and not Chris."
"I know he has a night shift," said Piper.
"And when has that ever stopped him from popping back here to look up a demon?" asked Leo.
At that moment, Chris orbed in and looked at his parents. "Talking about me again?"
Piper recovered from her surprise quickly. "We're your parents. It's our job."
Chris rolled his eyes. "If I'd known you'd be here all the time I never would have suggested that you retire."
"So what's going on?" asked Leo.
"I think the hospital might be haunted," said Chris.
"And it was necessary for you to come back here? It couldn't wait?" asked Piper.
"There are so many people in the hospital. I just needed a moment to myself."
Piper reached up to hug her son. "You're allowed to have time to yourself without the excuse of a demon."
"Ghost," corrected Chris.
"You're right, but you aren't," said Chris. "The longer it takes me to figure it out, the more innocents who'll be in danger."
"There will always be another innocent, Chris. You can't save them all," said Piper.
"We've tried," added Leo.
"I know, I know. You became an avatar and realised that free will was more important."
Piper looked at Leo. "I think we need new stories."
"Or a son who is less of a smart Alec," suggested Leo.
"I like it," said Piper. "Let's go with that one."
"Cute," Chris commented with another roll of his eyes. "Isn't it past your bedtime, old-timers?"
Piper crossed her arms and prepared to launch into a tirade, but Leo cut her off. "Okay, we can take a hint. We'll get out of your hair." He took Piper's arm and led her out of the attic.
"What was that for?" she demanded of her husband.
"The longer we were in there the more likely he'd wonder what we were doing up there."
"Oh," said Piper, thinking of the broken crystal circle and the Book of Shadows probably still open to the summoning spell she'd used. Why hadn't she cleaned up after herself? She was still holding a vial of vanquishing potion. "I doubt he'll figure it out. he's tracking something and you know how single-minded he can be."
"Come on," said Leo, kissing his wife gently. "Let's go to bed."
x X X x
A/N: I think I'll put this on a five reviews or twenty-four hour publishing schedule. So the more reviews the faster I post, but I'd never hold chapters hostage for reviews.