A/N: This is my first Charmed fanfic and I thought I'd try something different with this story. Each chapter is going to be told from the perspective of one of Piper's children, starting with everyone's favourite neurotic little freak: Chris. I'm using the canon that's been established in the TV show and the season 9 comic series, although as I started writing this about a year ago there might be small discrepancies by now. Hopefully you'll forgive them!
Chapter One - Chris
Chris Halliwell was having a lousy day.
It hadn't started well. Still half asleep, he'd managed to smash his alarm clock against the wall with an accidental burst of telekinectic orbing. The clock he wasn't fussed about, but the dent in the wall was going to be harder to explain. The last thing he needed was another lecture about self-control and extra lessons with his Aunt Paige.
The great alarm clock debacle had made him late down to breakfast – something that didn't go unnoticed – and resulted in a mad dash to school. Consequently Chris had stumbled into homeroom as the bell went, flustered, hair a mess and his math homework sitting forlornly on his desk at home.
After double gym – always a riot of male bonding and communal showers – he'd had to explain the lack of homework to Mr Perkins, the monster of the math department, who hated anyone under the age of 60. Hunchbacked and half-blind from squinting at chalk boards for the last thousand years, he looked like a shoe-in for being a card-carrying member of the demonic community. Chris had even gone so far as to sneak into the teacher's lounge and spike Perkins's coffee, but there'd been no resulting fireworks. He was a sadistic bastard sure, but not actually a spawn of the Underworld.
Still it hadn't come as much of a surprise when he'd rejected Chris's I've-done-the-work-it's-just-at-home excuse and sentenced him to a month's detention. His parents were really going to be impressed with that one.
Biting back an overly dramatic sigh at the unfairness of it all, Chris pushed the double-doors open and stepped out into the sunlight. The quad spread out before him like a drawing in a picture book, with tables full of happily chatting kids backed by the rich green of the football field and a shimmering blue sky. It was so at odds with Chris's mood that he pulled a face, convinced the world was conspiring against him.
"Keep it that way too long and your face will stick," a mocking voice said.
"Yeah, well it would almost be worth it."
The curly-haired girl who'd materialized beside him threw an arm around his shoulders. "What is it this time?"
"Perkins is a jerk," Chris replied around a mouthful of Emily's frizzy hair. "And the sun's too bright. I'm hot."
"Well that's what you get for wearing so much black." She took his arm and began dragging him down the steps. "C'mon grumpy boy, move it along."
Chris went willingly enough and Emily deposited him in an unoccupied chair on the far side of the quad. The table's other occupant, a dark-skinned boy, was tucking into a mountain of fries.
"Hey man." The boy waved a fry in greeting. "You looked particularly pissed. Trent giving you a hard time again?"
"You know, I actually haven't had the pleasure of his company today." Chris resisted the urge to do a quick scan of the quad and amused himself by reaching across the table and stealing a fry instead. "Maybe his abnormally large head got stuck in his locker."
"Nah, the world wouldn't be cruel enough to have that happen without us there to watch," Devon pointed out with an easy grin.
"Sorry to spoil the party boys, but the flamingos are descending." Emily nodded her head back towards the steps. "And there's our favourite juvenile delinquent."
Now Chris did look – he couldn't help it. The double doors had opened again and a sea of varsity jackets spilled out. They bunched around the steps, laughing and goofing off, and generally managing to draw as much attention to themselves as possible. Standing head and shoulders above the rest – mainly because he'd laid claim to the top step – was a guy with perfectly styled dark hair, handsome features and a bright, easy smile. Warren Trent in all his glory. As they watched he grabbed the blond guy standing next to him and pulled him into a headlock. The blond pushed him away, laughing.
"I've never understood how your brother could be friends with someone like Warren," Emily commented idly.
Chris shrugged. "Wyatt never did have great taste."
"Well that's obvious." Emily wrinkled her nose. "Melissa Reynolds, Cristi Ellis, Tonya Jenkins…"
"Abby Cole," Devon threw in helpfully.
"Ooh good one – I'd almost forgotten her. And of course, the latest flavour of the week: Helena Washington." She paused, then added thoughtfully, "Bitch."
"You always say that," Devon told her.
"And I'm always right."
Devon muttered something that sounded like "jealous". Emily rolled her eyes at him. "No, just honest. She pulled my hair in pre-school and stole my Barbie."
"You had a Barbie?"
"Yeah so I wasn't so fussed about that, but have you seen how much hair I've got? Pulling it frigging hurt. Bitch."
"Totally jealous," Devon said to Chris, stuffing a handful of fries into his mouth.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah – hey, Devon? You wanna change that record? It's been broken for years."
"You're saying you don't fancy him?"
"I'm saying he's Wyatt Halliwell." She tossed a cloud of curly hair back over her shoulder. "I don't wait in line for anyone."
For all her bluster, Chris had long suspected that if she'd had a chance, Emily would have been at the head of that queue. It was a bizarre flaw in her otherwise excellently eccentric character. Then again, it wasn't like she was alone. Wyatt Halliwell was tall, blond and captain of the football team. Loved by girls, envied by guys, he was the poster-boy for the American teen. Mr Perfect. Captain Popular. Of course he was also quite possibly the most powerful witch on the planet, capable of levelling the school with the flick of one finger, but even if everyone here had known that, they'd probably all still love him. Everyone always loved Wyatt.
"You know, I'm sure Chris'd put in a good word for you, huh, Chris?"
"Well, sure, I would, but as that would involve actually talking to my brother, I'm thinking… no."
They watched as Wyatt and his friends descended on a pair of tables that had been left empty for them, joking and jostling for positions. A willowy brunette in a cheerleader's outfit emerged out of thin air and draped herself over Wyatt, twining her hands around his neck.
"God what it is with people popping up whenever we say their names?" Emily complained. "Oh for fu– do they have to do that in public?"
Wyatt and Helena Washington had started kissing. It was like a car crash. They couldn't look away. Emily started making obnoxious kissing noises. Devon continued to happily munch his fries and it was left to Chris to poke Emily in the arm. "Knock it off."
She turned on him, lips smacking together. "You want some of this?"
"In your dreams."
Emily raised one eyebrow. "You wish."
Chris didn't have a sensible answer for that so he just raised an eyebrow back. They stared at each other, unblinking. Chris's eyes began to water and he narrowed them. Emily narrowed hers back. Chris's left eye started to twitch. Emily's mouth twisted and she bit her lip. She was struggling, she was tiring, if he could just –
A hand landed on his shoulder and Chris looked up into the smirking face of Warren Trent. He tensed – and then hated himself for it. Truth was, he wasn't scared of Warren. Not really. After years of fighting demons and risking his life on a daily basis, Warren's threats didn't carry much weight. But there was just something about having the school's star linebacker looming over you that set his nerves jangling. It was happening more and more lately too; like a dog with a bone, Warren didn't seem to be able to let go.
"Hall-i-well," he drawled, drawing the syllables out. "Been a while. Anyone would think you're avoiding me."
"Now why would I feel the need to do that? I enjoy our little encounters oh so much. In fact, I was just saying to my friends here –" Chris waved a hand in Emily and Devon's direction " – that I'd missed your company."
"Always the smart-ass." Warren's smile turned cruel. "How's that working out for you?"
"Oh you know, has its moments. So, what'll it be today? A little trading of insults capped off with a punch in the face? Or shall we just skip to the big finale – ooh, I could cry!"
Warren took the empty seat next to Chris. "How about we just have a friendly chat about why Ryan Westwood just asked me if we'd broken up."
"We've broken up? Why didn't I know about this… is this – is this why you haven't been around to the house in so long?" Chris shot a look at Devon and Emily. "Did you know about this?"
"Ryan Westwood was laughing at me. Ryan Westwood." Warren picked up a discarded plastic fork and started scraping it back and forth across the metal table top. The scratching sound was distracting. "Ryan Westwood does my homework. Ryan Westwood buys my lunch. Ryan Westwood does not laugh at me."
"Wow, Ryan's opinion sure means a lot to you… wait, is that it? Are you breaking up with me because of Ryan – agh!"
Warren drove the fork into the back of his hand with such force that the plastic handle cracked. Tiny beads of blood welled up and Chris watched as they trickled down his white skin onto the table.
Warren leaned close. "You think this is so funny. Just a game. But this isn't a game, Halliwell. People are saying that I – that I'm like that. They believe it! So you're going to shut your mouth and do what I tell you. If I want you to fetch something from my locker, you'll do it. If I want you to do my math homework, you'll do it. If I want you to lick my boots, you'll do it. Or I will hurt you so badly that you'll be spending the rest of the semester in a hospital bed." He smiled. "Do we understand each other?"
Chris bit the inside of his cheek to try and counter the pain. "Not very smart there, Warren, threatening me in front of witnesses," he gritted out. "Not normally you're style either. You're more of a darkened, deserted corridor kind of guy. Hey, maybe that's where the rumour came from –"
"The rumour came from your smart mouth," Warren hissed, pressing hard on the fork. "And this is the end of it or –"
Chris brought his face within kissing distance of the other boy. "You don't scare me," he whispered. "You don't scare me so you can't control me. Drives you mad doesn't it? And you just can't let it go. You have to pick, pick, pick. You spend all your time thinking about me. Obsessing. Denying your true nature. So c'mon, let's knock this sexual tension on the head." With his free hand he swept the table clear, sending Devon's tray of fries tumbling to the floor. "Let's do it right here on the table."
People at the surrounding tables were beginning to watch them now. Whispers were flying as more and more heads turned. Anger flared in Warren's eyes, but he was powerless to act. Walk away and he'd look weak. Linger too long and he risked drawing more unwanted attention and fuelling the fire of an already explosive rumour.
"That was stupid move, Halliwell," he said finally, before grinding the fork into Chris's hand one last time and then striding back towards his football cronies.
Chris thought about just letting him go, but he could never resist having the last word. So Warren wouldn't be able to hear it, and there was the whole "person-gain" issue, but… what the hell. Yanking the fork free, he covered his mouth with his hand and muttered a quick spell under his breath.
Warren was moving through the middle of a sea of tables when he suddenly stumbled and lurched to the right. Tripping over the leg of a chair, he sprawled across one the tables, knocking two freshman girls flying. When the tangle of arms and legs finally sorted itself out, there was lettuce and spaghetti in Warren's perfectly coifed hair and a smear of some kind of sauce down one cheek.
Laughter rang out, brilliantly loud in the sudden silence. Warren scrambled upright, brushing bits of food off his clothes and shaking his head like a wet dog. His face was bright red and he scanned the crowd, looking for something. When his eyes met Chris's, the younger boy blew him a kiss.
Beside him, Emily snorted.
"You've got a total death wish."
"It's just my daily exercise." Chris rubbed the back of his hand. The four small holes left from the fork had stopped bleeding but he couldn't deny they hurt like hell. "Keeps my brain sharp."
"So you piss him off and it's my fries that suffer? How's that fair?" Devon moaned, disappearing under the table as he tried to salvage his lunch.
Chris coughed. "Yeah, uh, sorry about that. Casualty of war."
"You'll be a casualty of war if you're not careful," Emily informed him bluntly.
"She's right, man," Devon chimed in, voice muffled. "No offence, but when it comes down to a fight –"
"When it comes down to a fight?"
"Chris, you've made the whole school think he's gay. It's gonna get ugly." Emily dragged a thick notebook out of her bag and flipped it open. Hundreds of doodles filled each page, bracketed by what looked vaguely like class notes. It was hard to tell; those pages were almost as covered in doodles as the others. "And then Warren'll squash you like a bug."
"Wow, thanks for the pep-talk. It was real… inspiring."
Emily flipped him off and then nudged Devon. The black-skinned boy jerked and there was dull thumping sound from beneath the table. When he emerged he was rubbing his head. "What'cha do that for?"
"I'm adding insult to injury. Or injury to insult. Whatever. The point is, Chris, we think this has gone too far and you should tell Wyatt."
"Hey, I never actually said that," Devon protested.
"Alright, I think you should tell Wyatt."
Chris looked back and forth between them. "And… why would I want to do that?"
"Self-preservation," Emily said promptly.
Devon ran a hand over his short-cropped dark hair. "She's got a point man. The way he was just talking –" He shook his head. "Pretty intense."
Emily held up her pad. On it she'd drawn a ladybug wearing a top hat being crushed by a giant, comedy hammer. Thoughtfully the ladybug was wearing a name-tag. Chris knew she was only messing around, but somehow it irritated rather than amused him. He felt his brief bout of good humour fading.
Devon squinted at the picture. "Why's it wearing a top hat?"
"Um… it's weird. Like putting a dog in a wife-beater or something."
"You know, that's not such a bad idea." She scribbled a little more. "How's that?"
Ladybug Chris had now been joined by a muscular Alsatian in a sleeveless top. The dog stood in a heroic pose between the trembling bug and threatening hammer, arms on hips and chest puffed out. There was no name-tag this time, but the metaphor was impossible to miss.
"Great, that's just great." The words twisted in Chris's mouth, coming out sour and angry. "So you think I should go running to my big brother?"
Devon and Emily exchanged a glance and Devon shrugged. "It's your choice, man. But if Wyatt knew what was going on –"
"He could sweep in and save the day? I don't need Wyatt's help. I can handle Warren myself," Chris insisted, voice rising.
"Calm down, Drama Queen. We're not suggesting –"
"Yeah you are. God, what am I – twelve? I can sort out my own problems!"
"Alright, alright – subject closed." Emily slumped back in her chair, arms folded across her chest. Chris narrowed his eyes at her, but she just stared back insolently. "Just don't think I'm going to scrape your sorry ass of the sidewalk once Warren's through with you."
"Emily – case closed, remember?" Devon reminded her half-heartedly.
Chris pulled his bag into his lap and yanked his lunch out with more force than necessary. Emily had been needling him about Warren Trent for weeks. So had Devon, but more subtly. And this wasn't the first time Wyatt's name had come up.
Perfect Wyatt with his perfect hair and perfect friends and perfect football average. Sometimes Chris just wanted to punch him in the face. Other times he wanted to transfer schools so he didn't have to put up with all the inevitable comparisons and inevitable disappointments when his teachers discovered he wasn't a carbon copy of his older brother. He idly wondered if Wyatt realised how hard his legacy was to live up to. Probably not. Wyatt wasn't the most observant of guys. And Chris wasn't gonna tell him. Just like he wasn't going to tell him about Warren.
Chris could handle Warren himself.
Chris plunged into the cool evening air with a sigh of relief he could feel all the way down to his toes. It felt like he'd just been released from prison. The hour he'd spent in detention with Perkins had been slow and tortuous to say the least, but now it was over and he had a whole day before he got locked up with the little troll again.
The school was pretty deserted at this time. Only a handful of cars idled in the parking lot and as he drew closer, one of those pulled away and disappeared down the road. Wyatt was supposed to be giving him a lift home and would probably expect him to be waiting here… but Chris felt like wandering instead. Maybe he'd meet his brother on the way. Maybe not.
Chris had never had a problem with darkness and silence, not even since he'd found out that there really were monsters lurking out there, waiting to strike. It was a little bit reckless – his mom would probably have a heart attack – but Chris liked the solitude. Out here, away from everything, he could just be himself. Not a witch, not a Whitelighter, not a son of the Charmed Ones. Just Chris.
And hey, being able to orb away to safety any time he wanted wasn't a bad escape clause.
He circled the main school building, heading back towards the football field and athletics track. There was a low wall running alongside the path and Chris stepped up onto it, balancing like an acrobat on a tightrope. He followed the wall as far as it led and then jumped down, rounded the corner of the science block – and stopped.
There were three figures blocking the path, their faces washed out by the harsh electric lights from the school. All three were wearing football jackets and the two in the back started nudging each other when they saw him.
So… football practice must have finished then. Either that or they'd stolen off early. Still, it wasn't hard to work out why three of the team's star players were loitering behind the science block, preparing for a little post-practice fun. This was revenge for standing up to Warren. Humiliating him. Emily and Devon had been right – Chris had finally pushed things too far.
He briefly wondered how they'd known he was going to be here… and then the answer came to him. Wyatt. His brother had probably given them the information with a big, dumb smile on his face.
Warren took a couple of slow steps forwards. A cigarette dangled carelessly from one hand. Chris's pulse was racing as he weighed up his options. Any sensible person would have turned and run. The odds were stacked against him and there was nothing to be gained from sticking around and having his face pounded in. So what if it made Warren insufferable? At least Chris would be all in one piece.
And yet… he didn't move away. He just stood there and let Warren approach. Not because he was scared, no, nothing so basic as that. But because turning and running would have meant sacrificing something far more important.
He couldn't let Warren win. He just couldn't. Even as part of his brain was screaming that he was an idiot, a reckless grin was spreading across Chris's face and words were spilling out of his mouth. "Aw, you coming to walk me home, Warren? You do love me after all!" He looked beyond Warren. "Not sure where Jake and Austin fit into things… unless we're talking a foursome? No offence guys, but that's not really on the cards. You see, I likegirls."
"You made me look like an idiot today, Halliwell," Warren said softly, blowing out a cloud of smoke and then taking another drag. "I warned you what would happen if you kept opening your mouth."
"Is this about the face-plant? Because, sadly, that had nothing to do with me. Classic moment though. And a surprisingly good look for you. Have you ever thought about –"
He saw Warren's blow coming before it fell and jumped backwards. The older boy's knuckles grazed his cheek and once again Chris teetered on the edge of fight or flight. This was crazy. Completely mental. Why was he still here? Was his pride really worth getting hurt over?
"Oh so this is about the shag on the table thing then, is it? Sorry Warren, I was only joking. Like I said – I likegirls."
"So do I, you little bastard," Warren spat, dropping his cigarette and directing a second blow at Chris's stomach. "But thanks to you everyone thinks –"
So he'd finally worked it out. Chris grinned savagely, twisting to the side so the blow glanced off his ribs. It still hurt, but at least he remained on his feet. "Warren, we've talked about this before. It's important to be honest with yourself. Really, I was just doing you a favour –"
"Shut your mouth!" Warren shouted, shoving him hard. Chris fell back against the wall of the chemistry lab, banging his head. "You made everyone think I'm – I'm like that. They're all laughing at me. At me. At me. No one does that. Did you really think I'd just let it go?"
Before he could regain his balance, Warren was on him. A couple of well-aimed punches to his stomach had Chris wheezing and doubling over in pain. Then Warren jerked him up and slammed him against the wall, jamming his arm against Chris's windpipe. Chris fought to free himself but Warren was just too strong.
"What, nothing to say? Where are all your clever words now, smart-ass?"
"You told me to shut my mouth," Chris gasped out. "I thought I'd indulge you by following orders for once."
Another blow to his gut had Chris hanging limply in Warren's grip. The other boy was so close he could feel Warren's breath on his face. The sharp smell of tobacco made him feel ill.
"You think you're so special with all these – these clever little retorts and innuendos. Spreading stupid rumours. Well you're not. You're not smart, you're not special – you're just like all the others. Pathetic. Weak. Scared. And I'm going to –"
Chris laughed breathlessly. "I told you earlier – I'm not scared of you."
The words threw Warren off balance. Taking advantage of his surprise, Chris kicked out as hard as he could and caught Warren in the fleshy part of his thigh, knocking him backwards. Free from Warren's hold, Chris fell hard onto his hands and knees. He shook his head to try and clear it. Maybe it was time to sacrifice pride for self-preservation. He'd said his piece, pissed Warren off – his work here was done. Yeah, probably time to beat a hasty retreat while Warren was busy whimpering like a baby –
Hands grabbed his arms and hauled him roughly to his feet as Chris realised what he'd forgotten.
Warren's silent shadows, the drones to his queen bee: Jake and Austin.
They pinned him against the wall as Warren limped forward. Chris struggled, but it was useless; these guys weren't football players for nothing.
"You say you're not scared? Well I'll make you. I'll make you scared," Warren promised, and there was something chilling about the look in his eyes. Like all sense of reason had left the building. "How about this? Are you scared now?"
The blow took him high in the chest and before Chris had a chance to recover, it was followed by another that snapped his head back.
"Are you scared yet, smart-ass?"
Another punch, into his gut this time.
"Or how about… now?"
And so it continued. Faster and faster and faster. Chris refused to give Warren the satisfaction of seeing him buckle and kept his eyes to the ground, biting clean through his lip to keep himself from crying out. The blows got harder and harder, blood filled his mouth and he ended up hanging helplessly in Jake and Austin's grip.
Warren grabbed his hair and yanked his head up. "Are you scared yet?"
It was stupid, it was reckless and he should have kept his mouth shut. But something primeval in Chris rose up in the face of Warren's cruelty. Something deep and dark and defiant. He met Warren's gaze and forced a cocky smile onto his face. "I will never be scared of you. Frustrates the hell out of you doesn't it? Not knowing why. Trying to figure out why I won't just bow down and take your shit like everyone else. That's the real reason why you keep coming back, time and time again. But you know what, Warren? No matter what you do that's never going to change. I don't care who you are, or what position you play or how pretty your face is. Because to me, you're nothing." He spat of mouthful of blood in Warren's face. "You're not even worth my time."
"Not even worth – not even worth –" The veins were standing out in Warren's neck, like Bruce Banner right before he changed into the Hulk. And the look on his face – beneath the specs of blood it was more inhuman than any demon. "I'll show you what I'm worth, Halliwell. I'll show you what I'm worth you little bastard!"
He pulled out a knife. It was one of those army switchblade ones, but it was still a knife and Chris stared at it, his brain screaming at him to wake up and get the hell out of there.
"You watching?" Warren shouted, grabbing him by the neck of his shirt and pulling him close. Chris twisted his face away. "You watching this, smart-ass? You seeing what I can do to you?" He pressed the knife against Chris's cheek. "Shall I cut up your pretty face? Or maybe your smart-ass mouth?"
"Hey, Warren – I think he's had enough, yeah?" one of the drones said nervously. "We should go."
"Or maybe, maybe I'll just stick this right in your belly. And twist it around. Maybe then you'll finally understand how this works."
"Warren –" The other began.
"Shut up, just shut the fuck up!" Warren ripped Chris away from Austin and Jake, and dragged him backwards. The knife pressed painfully into Chris's ribs. Austin made to follow, but Jake caught his arm. "All of you shut the fuck up!"
Later Warren's parents would protest that he hadn't meant to stab Chris. Later Chris would believe them. But in that heated moment, when Chris threw his weight forward in an attempt to escape and Warren turned his wrist so that the blade pointed inwards, their movements collided and the knife slammed into Chris's stomach.
Chris cried out and Warren, panicking, thrust him away. Chris stumbled forwards, shaking hands moving to encircle the wound. Voices shouted in the background but Chris's world had narrowed to a single silver point. Blood trickled between his fingers and his hand slipped off the shaft of the knife. Grunting with effort, he adjusted his grip, counted silently to ten and then yanked the knife out. White hot pain lashed through him, making him gasp and shudder and pray for someone to come and take it all away.
The knife fell from his wet fingers and Chris pressed his hands to the wound. Swaying, he ignored the hands that reached for him and began staggering away from the building. Away from Warren. Away from the horror.
There was pressure building in the air, deep and powerful. Uncontrollable. Demanding to be released. It tightened around him, eclipsing the ache in his stomach, and his vision began to blur, the dark giving way to bright streaks of light. Scorching, painful, brilliant light that made his eyes burn. Light that exploded without warning, screaming with fury, lashing the ground and the buildings with its anger and tossing him into the air like a rag-doll. For one endless moment, Chris felt like he was being burned alive… then the light faded and everything fell into darkness.
A/N: Okay, who's hating Warren right now...? I'm really looking to get some feedback on this story, so please let me know what you think!