All sections are in the changed timeline unless otherwise stated.
Chapter One: Intuition
November 16th, 2013. 8:00
Burying the warding crystals around the school had certainly seemed like a good idea at the time.
The sisters had set had been spoiled by the absolute safety of Magic School and they set out to combine that safety with the normality of a mortal school. Exhaustive researching into the pros and cons of various spells, wards, and other magical shenanigans had lead them to the least risky option. Pre-enchanted warding crystals. Harmless to mortals, while keeping those pesky demons at bay, and, once installed were difficult for mortals to accidentally tamper with. The only risk being that, in said installation, the Halliwells gained a reputation for burying shiny rocks on school grounds at odd hours of the night.
These things were so powerful they'd peel the skin off a demon at fifty paces, and, after a few demons got cocky enough to test it for them, the sisters considered it a job well done. They patted each other on the backs, and allowed themselves to relax.
This was a stupid idea. You'd think after all these years they'd have figured out the personal gain rule.
Not long after, some Warlock figured out their trick, and switched the ward's polarity. Now anything good couldn't get in... or out, as the situation currently happened to be.
Now, as he wedged himself under Principal Yoder's desk, nine-year-old Christopher Halliwell couldn't help but develop a quick, all-encompassing hatred for magical stones of any kind. Scrying? Never again. Crystal cages, no way. He could only hope there were no spells in the Book that required dust of warding stones because even that would be too much. Right then, all he really wanted to do was think of horrible places to orb warding crystals just as soon as he got out... that is, 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, fear taking over. All he could to was try not to rattle the cheap imitation plywood desk with the shaking in his arms. He squeezed his eyes shut and breathed, scrambling to remember exactly how his brother would handle this. First, He hadn't had a chance to look at the demon until now, and he needed to know what he was dealing with. He focused, leaned, and ever so slightly, peered out through a small gap in the desk.
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, sticking close to his head and curling around to join at the back of his neck. Its whole body was thick with sinuous muscle and spiked with bone claws, it was a regular nightmare under the bed, everything a kid should be scared of.
Despite the advantage of prior experience, Chris shouldn't any exception. He'd never had to face one of these things solo before, especially not for extended periods of time. Yet even as he listened to the demon's feet squishing grotesquely against the tile, nails clicking right after like a tiny macabre drumline, Chris realized something. He was inexperienced, nearly powerless, and all alone. He should be terrified.
...and he wasn't. He was just utterly pissed off.
It was the familiarity, Chris pinpointed. Hovering at the back of his mind like an annoying 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 from under the desk again, getting a letterbox view of the demon's legs, backwards hinged and meaty. A large, yellow scar traced down the back of the thing's leg like a zipper. 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 one more time, and you're going to answer me truthfully if you feel like walking again..."...
He knew this demon...
Not just in a general way though. 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.
Most importantly, he knew how to vanquish him.
"Birthday boy!" The demon cheerfully crooned, slamming its claws down on the desk as if it were a drum set, "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 grin no nine year old should ever 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 slammed the business end right into his nose. He didn't wait to hear the thing howl in annoyance, orbing even as he turned to run. He coalesced back down the hallway, the ward keeping his range short, breaking into a run as soon as he had feet to do it with. The demon was fast. He could practically feel the thing's breath on his neck and knew he was running out of time. Chris careened down the hallway and orbed through the first locked door he could find.
He heard Dax hit the door behind him, the steel door straining against the frame, but he didn't stop. Chris used the time he'd gained 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.
Dax shouldered the door again, and again, until the door gave away at the hinges, the frame itself loose from the mortar around it.
"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 on the shelf, 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 tiny closet. 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.
November 16th, 2027. 6:00 am.
Wyatt Matthew Halliwell didn't particularly like torturing his brother. The fact that he did it so often anyway 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. 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.
... 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 the only thing keeping him standing. The Twice-Blessed doubled over and 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, his sleep mussed condition doing nothing to soften the glare he was sending at his brother.
"Wyatt..." He glowered, looking positively murderous, "I swear to god, if you weren't my brother..."
Wyatt pulled himself up and 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 Chris'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. He decided to make his exit. In his experience the first object was followed by a much heavier one.
Chris rolled his eyes, watching his brother try to quickly escape into the apartment's 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 it over, holding the page with a finger. '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 in 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 municipal 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, letting the sound of the door slamming behind him be the only answer Wyatt would get.
"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.
Chris sighed and looked over at the closed door one more time. 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. He'd turned back to his room, hoping to prepare the best he could.
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 happened already (birthdays 6 and 13 to be precise). 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, it was why he never got the nice phones.
Strictly speaking, the family didn't need cells 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 dead set on fitting 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, forming into her two eldest. Chris knocked his elbow into Wyatt's side bitterly, forcing him to unloop his arm around Chris's neck.
"Good morning boys," Piper smiled widely and stood on her toes to give each of them a peck on the cheek, "Happy birthday sweetie."
Chris mostly hid his wince, bit off a thanks, and tried to duck any similar comments 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.
Piper swatted Wyatt before turning to send a exasperated look at her other son, "Still? Really?" Wyatt just heaved a shrug.
The Charmed One sighed forcefully and leaned around her eldest, "Peanut, 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 had 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.
Chris let out his breath. Saved by the sister.
Melinda Halliwell, resplendent in purple pajamas, 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 that it already was. "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 his side. Chris wondered, again, why his siblings liked to beat him up so often. It was even more infuriating with Mel because (being the gentleman he was) 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.
"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.
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 convincing 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 bludgeoning 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-."
"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 cruel 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-" Her whole body froze and she looked at him, wide eyed, hand popped up to cover her mouth.
"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 magical 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.
He sucked in a breath and staggered 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:: Take two on this fic. For those that don't know I moved this fic to a new account here and am reposting it little by little. As soon as it's all up here (and edited), I'll be deleting my other account and start posting new chapters here. Yet again, thank you all for your patience.
As always, Reviews are win in a can and keep the creative wheels greased.