Charmed -:- Borrowed Time

Episode Summary:

(Part Two of Three) In the aftermath of the day before, the surviving Halliwells regroup in the safety of Magic School, planning their retribution for their lost loved ones. But even when all hope seems lost – things can always get worse…

Author's Note(s):

I'M SO SORRY! I know that it has been a while (in fact, almost a year to the day since I last updated...) and I am so very, very sorry about that – especially with that last cliffhanger :S

And you're probably still going to kill me as this is not actually a completed chapter. Thanks to a couple of people demanding an update, I have decided to post the quarter of a chapter that I've had sitting on my computer for the past year waiting to be finished. I would love to complete this fic, but I've hit a wall and I'm struggling to write the characters at the moment. If anyone is interested in continuing for me, I do have a detailed plot outline that I can post – just leave a comment or send me a PM and I'll get right on it.

But for now, here is the long awaited beginning of chapter ten. Enjoy!

Ten -:- Flawed Design

Sunday 21st November 2027 – The Morning After
California State Emergency HQ, Modesto CA

As the footage came to an end, silence enveloped the room.

No one present could quite believe what they had just witnessed; their mortal minds already struggling to come up with that 'perfectly logical explanation'. But there just wasn't one. This was no hoax. It wasn't a terrorist attack. Simply put; a giant hole had opened in the middle of San Francisco and spewed monsters onto the streets.

There was no contingency plan for this kind of event.

An office building had been commandeered in Modesto, which was apparently a safe enough distance from the now overrun city. Politicians, officials, commanders, generals – anyone of importance – had been airlifted from the hot zone and the surrounding areas and gathered in the impromptu HQ, tasked with figuring out what the hell had just happened – and what in the world they should do next.

To get everyone on the same page raw news footage and confiscated films from evacuees had been cut together onto a disc and then played for the benefit of the unofficial war council. Images of monsters parading through the streets, causing havoc and destruction were permanently burned onto the retinas of all present. Acts of violence and fear from the panicking human masses impressed upon them the need for action – but what action could they possibly take…?

All eyes slowly turned to the head of the table where the Governor of California struggled to regain her composure. Elizabeth O'Connor had been in office for only a few months; hailed as the youngest woman to ever hold the position – and she knew she was way out of her depth. She could feel that the colour had drained from her face and knew that her nervous tick of tapping her foot was creating the only sound in the room, but she tried her hardest to come across as the calm leader she was meant to be. She clasped her shaking hands in front of her on the table. "What options do we have?"

Two Generals shared a look, wondering which one would be the first to suggest a military response, while the others gathered at the table gave them both expectant looks. This may have been an unprecedented event but the response everyone seemed to share was basic and primal.

They wanted revenge.

"Before you make any decisions," A woman announced as she swept into the room uninvited. "You should really listen to what I have to say."

"And who the hell are you?" the Air Force general asked, an eyebrow quirking in annoyance.

All eyes turned to the newcomer. She was tall, pretty, with short blonde hair cropped around angular features. She wore a smart business suit and carried an armful of files that she perched on her hip. She smiled politely, looking every bit the young professional. "My name is Dr Patience Bennet, paratheologist with the Society for Psychical Research. I'm the expert you asked for."

"I didn't…" Governor O'Connor began and then blinked, an odd expression clouding her features. "Of course, Dr Bennet. Thank you for answering my call."

Patience smiled brightly and nodded. "Not a problem, Governor. I believe things will be better for everyone if we understand the situation better." She began handing out the files, each person present receiving an official looking folder with the words 'EYES-ONLY' stamped across the front.

"What is this?" asked the second general, this one from the Army, gingerly holding the folder as if expecting it to explode at any moment.

"That would be your crash course in all things supernatural, General," Patience replied as she handed out the last file to a hastily dressed politician who had clearly been dragged out of bed in order to attend this meeting. She then came to a stop at the end of the table in front of the television screen. "It was all highly classified, but considering recent events it seems silly not to read in the people dealing with a full on demonic incursion."

"Supernatural… demonic…?" the Governor asked uncertainly, beginning to flick through the file. Her eyes widened with every picture she saw and passage she sped read. "You knew…?"

Patience nodded. "Of course. There's nothing we do not know, Governor. We have been aware of this threat for quite some time, but as you can imagine, it's hard to prepare for an attack from forces that nobody believes in, ma'am."

The Army General closed his folder and dropped it onto the table. "You expect us to believe in this bullshit?"

"Why, General Jackson, I expect you to believe what you see," Patience gestured at the television behind her. The General grunted, looking uncomfortable. "Out of curiosity, may I ask what logical theory you have come up with to explain the attack?"

Jackson averted his gaze and didn't answer.

Patience sighed to herself and casually flicked her wrist. Any and all arguments and questions died on the owners' lips as the gathering gave her their full, glassy-eyed attention. "Let me explain everything, from the beginning…"

Half an hour later, Dr Patience Bennet had given a brief history of demons and magic, outlined the differences between Good and Evil – emphasising the fact that there were many good witches fighting to protect Innocents and that they were not to be confused with the demonic masses currently inhabiting downtown San Francisco. She explained about the hell hole and the Evil influence that had turned the day to night and twisted mortal minds. By the time she had finished she knew that there was no more that she could do.

"Thank you for your time," she said to her slack jawed audience. They all gawked at her with the same vacant stare, none of them noticing when all of the files she had handed out vanished into thin air. With one last look around the room, Patience turned on her heel and left, the door closing behind her with an audible click in the silence.

The moment she was gone, Governor Elizabeth O'Connor blinked and looked around her council. She clasped her shaking hands before her on the table, trying her best to hide the fact that she was completely out of her depth. "What options do we have?"

Outside in the corridor, Patience leant her back against the wall and ran her hands through her short hair. Out of nowhere, an older woman appeared beside her, wrapped in long white robes that glowed oddly as if they didn't quite belong. "How do you think it went?"

Patience shook her head. "I have no idea. I just wish that there was more that we could do."

"We've already interfered too much," the older woman muttered, though she looked as eager to help as her younger counterpart. "They're on their own now."

"I know Grams," Patience sighed, both frustrated and resigned. "I know."

Magic School

Paige stared at the white sheets that covered the two corpses.

She couldn't quite remember how she had gotten there, she couldn't really remember anything after the moment that she had made her choice, but somehow she had ended up in Magic School. One of the classrooms had become an unofficial morgue, a couple of desks pushed together to make beds for them. Someone had found the white sheets, covering the cold, lifeless bodies as a sign of respect. Blood had seeped through and created dark red stains above their hearts.

Under one was her sister.

Under the other was her husband.

Paige sank to the floor, her legs no longer able to support her. She had never felt so weak and helpless, so broken. So hollow. She sobbed painfully, her shoulders shaking and her eyes squeezing shut; but no tears fell. There simply weren't any left. Hours had passed, a whole night vanishing without her realising, and all she had done was cry. Dry rivers now stuck to her cheeks, but she hadn't the strength to wipe them away.

She was only vaguely aware of the people who had come by and tried to comfort her. Her children had stayed with her for a while, before P.J had come along and taken them away to rest. Phoebe had spent most of the night with her, both of them mourning their sister. But then she had gone to be with her family. The only person who had never left was Leo. He had stayed beside Piper's shroud from the moment he had seen her pale, bloodied skin.

The pair of them never talked. They were as quiet as the dead that they mourned, respecting each other's pain as they drowned in their own. No one else could understand the emptiness of losing a lover. No one else could feel the hole in their hearts that would never be filled again.

At least, not yet, that is.

When Chris awoke, it took him a moment to realise where he was. Luckily, he was pretty used to waking up in strange places and didn't shoot upright in a blind panic, as curled against his side was his baby sister. He propped himself up on his elbow, wincing slightly as the movement pulled at the bullet wound on his arm, and looked down at her with concern. He could see the dried tears on her cheeks, her eyes red and puffy from crying.

He sighed painfully and looked around at his new surroundings. He was at Magic School, though how he had ended up there he had no idea. They were in one of the smaller classrooms that seemed to have been turned into a makeshift dormitory. Several camper beds lined one of the walls, some of them claimed by small piles of belongings, though their owners were nowhere to be seen. Fake sunlight glowed through the windows; the Magic School way of telling people that in the real world it was meant to be daylight now.

He had only moved slightly, but it was enough to wake Melinda who blinked up at him. She gave him a sad smile as she pushed herself upright, "Sorry. I didn't want to be alone."

Chris nodded and sat up as well, swinging his legs over the edge, absently rubbing at the bandage wrapped around his arm. He knew that the wound wasn't serious, just a graze, but the dressing was irritating him. "What happened?"

Melinda's eyes went wide, her mouth opening slightly and tears reforming in her eyes. "Y-you don't r-remember…? Ab-bout M…?"

"No, no, I remember that," Chris reassured her, knowing that it was horrible to be one to break that kind of news. He'd done it enough times in his stint as a leader of the Resistance. He squeezed her arm slightly, trying to offer what comfort he could. Her horrified expression melted into one of sadness as they both thought about their mother. "I meant, after that."

"Oh," Melinda said in a small voice. She curled up into a ball and wrapped her arms around her legs, leaning her back against him slightly. "Auntie Paige came back before you. The twins orbed her and Junior back. Uncle… Uncle Henry's dead."

Chris put an arm around Melinda's shoulders, as much to console her as himself. He closed his eyes against the pain of the loss, shoving everything behind his mental blocks. He had already lost everyone once; he was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to handle it again. So he pushed everything away and tried to tell himself not to feel. It wasn't really working.

"Dad was acting weird," Mel continued, staring off into the distance. "I think… I think that he already knew, even before…"

"I'm sorry…" Chris whispered, so quietly, Melinda wasn't even sure that she had heard him. She glanced up at him, but she couldn't read his expression, and she didn't feel up to trying out her telepathy on him. She looked away and continued the story.

"When you showed up, Dad was the first one next to you. He took Mom from you and you just collapsed," Mel sniffled slightly and brushed at a tear. "I thought… I thought that you were gone too. Uncle Coop and P.J helped drag you in here and just said that you were exhausted and that you'd wake up when you were ready. That was over twelve hours ago. I haven't seen anyone since."

They fell into silence then, both of them unsure what to do or say to make things better. Chris highly doubted that there was anything that could fix this. He tried so hard to keep himself together, but he couldn't ignore the heavy weight of guilt that had settled in the pit of his stomach. The only sound was the eerily loud ticking of the clock on the wall.

"We should go see Dad," Melinda announced after ten minutes or so had passed. Chris flinched slightly at the suggestion, making her furrow her brow in confusion. "What is it?"

Chris sighed and stared at the floorboards. "Last time… last time Mom… Leo…"

"He said it was your fault," Melinda finished, uncurling from her ball and turning to face him. "They're not the same person anymore, Chris. Dad would never say…"

"I don't think I can hear it again," Chris muttered, his gut twisting. "Not when this time it's true."

"What?" Melinda asked incredulously, giving him the same look that their mother always gave them when they had just done or said something incredibly stupid. He had to look away from her painfully familiar brown eyes. "No one blames you for what happened, Chris. No one. Why would you even think that?"

Because I'm still alive.

Chris chewed his lip, resisting the urge to spill the secret that he had made her forget. He had survived his twenty-fourth birthday when he shouldn't have. He shouldn't even have existed in the first place. And now his mother and uncle were dead.

It was only meant to be him.

"What happened, Chris?" Melinda asked, watching the conflict in her brother's eyes. She didn't understand; she didn't know what he was thinking. She softly tested his mind with her telepathy, but his walls slammed down so fast she physically flinched. "What aren't you telling me?"

Chris shook his head. "You should go and see Dad."

Melinda glared at him a moment longer, then sighed resignedly. "Fine. But when you're ready to talk, you know where to find me."

He refused to look at her as she gently touched his shoulder and stood. He listened to her footsteps recede and the door slam behind her, and then he dropped his head into his hands. He couldn't believe how badly wrong everything had gone.

But he knew that he would be the one to put things right.

Edwards Air Force Base, East Kern CA

Specialist Javier Fernandez of the US Army looked around the room curiously. He had been woken way before the bugler sounded and dragged from his barracks before the sun was anywhere near ready to rise. He and his unit had been bundled into one of a train of trucks without a word of explanation and driven halfway across the state until they were unloaded on the Air Force base.

Still having no clue as to what in the world was going on, he and his brothers in arms had been herded into a briefing room with a stack of paperwork and left to wait and wonder.

All around him was an odd collection of both Army and USAF personnel seemingly from every rank and branch he recognised. Some looked just as confused by their current situation as he did; others had weird looks on their faces, somewhere between disbelief and fear. Javier wondered if that was because they had some idea as to why they were here.

Apprehension built in the young soldier – something big was about to go down. But at the same time, he was excited. The massive document in front of him was partly responsible for that. An NDA – Non-Disclosure Agreement – the kind of thing that they handed out when missions were beyond Top Secret. He had never been on a classified mission before. This had to be the coolest thing that had ever happened to him – and he wasn't even sure what the hell he was doing yet.

The light chatter of the room died into complete silence as two men with many, many stars and stripes on their shoulders stood to attention at the front of the assembly. On the left was General of the Army Paul Jackson. On the right was General of the Air Force Lewis Jameson.

Javier's eyes widened. This was even bigger than he thought.

"We are going to skip the pleasantries and get right to the point," Jackson stated in a voice that would have made Javier's drill sergeant jealous. "Yesterday, there was an unprecedented attack on the city of San Francisco. The enemy is a force that we have never faced before, and their origins are something that has to be seen to be believed. What we are about to show you is highly classified and cannot leave this room. Understood?"

A chorus of 'yes-sirs' followed and the lights in the room were lowered. A holo-projector activated and suddenly they were looking at a full 3D rendition of San Francisco. Javier's jaw dropped against his will as he watched monsters pour onto the streets. He gaped as he watched a man and an elder woman holding off an army of creatures with supernatural powers and what looked like glass vials full of coloured water. He couldn't help the gasp that escaped his lips as the Golden Gate Bridge vanished in a massive fireball.

The film came to an end, but the stunned silence of the audience didn't. It was as if they were all waiting for someone to shout 'April Fools!' but at the same time they all realised that there was no way that this was a prank.

Javier's mind flashed back to the stories his Abuela used to tell him as a child. She had always spoken of the creatures in her tales as if they were real – had she really been telling him the truth?

"Some of that footage was broadcast worldwide on the Sky network; however the CIA and NSA have already begun countering the story, claiming it to be a hoax. Very few people, aside from those gathered in this room know the truth," Jackson continued, his eyes hard as he scanned the crowd. "It's going to stay that way."

"As you can imagine," Jameson, the Air Force General, picked up following the unspoken threat. "The people of the city are panicking. We have lost contact with local law enforcement as of 2300 hours last night, but we have managed to discern the situation from the accounts of fleeing citizens. Its pure chaos, gentlemen."

"It's our duty to this country to restore order to the region," Jackson clicked a remote in his hand and the holo-projector came back online, this time showing a topographical map of the city. As he spoke the hologram played out the battle plan. "The Air Force and the Army are working together on this one. We have three companies of eighty men which will each focus on different districts of the city. Each company will be broken down into platoons made up of four-man fireteams that will be deployed via helicopter. As well as ground people, the Air Force will also be providing air support."

The presentation came to an end, the lights becoming a little too bright after the darkness. "This will be a mission unlike any other you have ever undergone before. This is a war on our soil and it is United States citizens that stand in the crossfire. Exercise restraint and good judgement; and let's send those monsters back to hell."

"See your CO for your assignment and be ready to roll out at 0800 hours. Good luck and God speed."

Magic School

Despite his exhaustion, Henry Jr. had not slept a wink that night. He hadn't cried, sobbed or mourned his father's death either. That… that would make it real.

Instead he had frozen up. He hadn't spoken or moved of his own volition; the only reason that he was now at Magic School and sat in the Teachers' Lounge was because his sisters had forced him to his feet and frogmarched him away from their mother's distraught form; and their father's cold corpse. He stared unseeingly, his mind locked in the last few moments he could remember.

He remembered being shot. The beating before that was just a haze, but the white hot sting of the lead in his chest was as clear as day to him. His hand rubbed the now-healed spot absently as he sat there, slumped against the wall. He remembered his mom and sisters rushing into the room, the horror on their faces as they took in the scene.

He remembered looking up into his mother's eyes, watching the conflict there as she was forced in that moment to choose. He had thought for sure that it was the end for him. He could feel the darkness closing around him, his body cold and shaking as the blood pooled around him. He was certain that his mother would choose her husband because he knew just how inseparable they were. Junior was just the adopted kid, a charity case given Henry's name to make him feel like family. He wasn't a Halliwell by name or by blood. Why had she chosen for him to live?

On either side of him sat Tam and Kat. They had each taken one of his arms and hugged him throughout the night. He could feel that the sleeves of his shirt were wet with their tears. Junior couldn't for the life of him figure out why they stayed with him. He was the reason that their father was dead and their mother lost in grief. He was an outsider, a cuckoo in the nest, and he had torn their family apart.

The guilt and pain of that realisation spurred Henry Jr. into movement. He detached himself from his sisters' grips, unintentionally waking them in the process, and pushed himself up and onto unsteady feet.

"Henry…? Where are you going…?" Kat asked blearily, rubbing at the sleep that had formed in her eyes from crying into the night. Junior ignored her and headed towards the door. Kat glanced at her twin, the pair of them sharing a concerned look. "Henry?"

"Don't call me that," Junior grumbled hoarsely, his throat dry from lack of use. He made it through the door and slammed it behind him, but the barricade didn't stop his sisters from catching up. "Stop following me."

Tam sped up and stepped into his path, placing a hand on his chest. "Where do you think you are going?"

Junior rolled his eyes and tried to sidestep her, but Tam stayed persistently in the way. He could sense Kat behind him ready to cut him off if he tried to back track. They both watched him warily, clearly worried about him. But that didn't make Junior feel any better. He didn't want their concern – he didn't deserve it. He glared at them impatiently. "Move out of my way."

"We're not going anywhere, Henry, and neither are you." Tam said forcefully.

"I said don't call me that!" Junior growled. He knocked Tam's hand away and shoved her aside with more force than he intended. He flinched guiltily when he heard her slam into the wall, but he didn't look back as walked away.

"Henry! Henry wait!" Kat called after him, jogging to catch up and then dancing in front of him and grabbing a hold of his shirt to stop him escaping. "Please! It's not your fault!" She said it with such conviction, that for a moment he almost believed her. Almost.

Junior shook his head, feeling the first of the tears form in the corners of his eyes. "It is my fault, Kat. I was never meant to be a part of this family. If I hadn't of been, Mom wouldn't have had to choose and Dad would still be alive – don't you see?"

Kat shook her head in disbelief. "Is that really what you think?! If you were never meant to be a part of this family, why the hell do you think Mom chose you? Huh? It's because she loves you regardless of the fact that you're freakin' adopted! She knew that she could only save one of you, and she chose you. If you leave right now, Mom would have lost you both! Is that what you want?!"

Junior sighed heavily and pried Kat's grip off of his shirt, keeping a hold of her hands. "Mom made the wrong choice."

Kat blinked up at him, stunned by his words. She stood frozen to the spot as Junior brushed past her and disappeared into the library, heading for the doorway back to the real world.

He wasn't entirely sure what had possessed him to take a walk down that particular corridor, but as Chris came to a stop by an open door he realised just where his feet had taken him. He leaned back against the door frame and out of sight, feeling like an intruder on the moment.

Inside the room he could see the two stained blankets that covered his mother and his uncle. Beside the bed on the left Melinda and Leo sat on plastic chairs, staring forlornly in complete silence. Melinda had taken a hold of her father's arm and rested her head against his shoulder, though from Leo's vacant expression, Chris was pretty sure that he had no idea that she was there.

Chris pulled back and leaned against the wall with his eyes closed, unable to make himself enter the room. He had already watched his mother die in his arms, twice. He would never forget her still, pale face and open empty eyes for as long as he lived. Staring at her covered corpse was not going to change anything.

Instead he walked away, back down the endless hallway and through another corridor without a destination in mind. He wasn't paying any attention to his surroundings until a short, elderly woman with grey hair and half-moon spectacles came charging past him, ranting under her breath in Russian. "Ms Sabinsky?"

The librarian looked up at him, her eyes narrowing in annoyance. "Great! Another one! You and your family have no respect for books! None whatsoever!"

"Huh?" Chris asked intelligently, but Ms Sabinsky was already marching off, still muttering in her native tongue. "Okay then. Good talking with you."

With an eye-roll Chris headed towards the library figuring he should probably find out which Halliwell it was that had evicted the irate librarian. He pushed open the grand oak doors and stepped cautiously into the massive space. Surrounding him on all sides were floor to ceiling bookcases, the ladder attached to a rail above them propped to his left. There was no faux daylight in the room as the library had no windows; the space was illuminated purely by the scattering of lamps. All the tables in the centre of the room were empty, but Chris could hear a voice coming from deep within the stacks.

Suddenly, a book came sailing through the air, dangerously close to hitting Chris on the head. Thankfully he caught it instead, flipping it over so that he could read the front cover. Instantly he knew who he was looking for.

Another book took flight, but Chris ignored it, instead heading into the stacks, heading for the section helpfully labelled 'Armageddon'. What he found made his heart wrench and the guilt in his stomach double. "Aunt Paige!"

Paige ignored him. She probably couldn't even hear him. She was too busy scouring the books and tossing them when they didn't give her the answers she wanted. She manhandled the old tomes, ripping pages and tearing their spines, discarding them before she could possibly have actually read anything. She didn't even know what she was doing. She just couldn't sit around doing nothing any longer. Her misery had turned to anger and before she knew it she was attacking the library with a blind vengeance.

"Aunt Paige!" Chris tried again. He closed the distance between them and took a book from her grip. She made to grab another, not registering his presence at all, but he grabbed a hold of her wrists and pulled her away. "Paige! Stop it, Paige!"

Finally she stopped fighting him and her knees buckled beneath her. She brought Chris down with her and he kept a hold of her arms until she was sat on the floor with her back leaning against a bookshelf. He sat down opposite her, picking up a couple of books that had hit the deck rather than take a vacation through the air. They sat in silence for a few minutes as Paige gradually calmed down. Once her breathing was back under control and her hands had stopped shaking she whispered "I'm sorry… I… I…"

"Don't worry about it," Chris half-smiled, then gestured towards the door. "I think you might have made an arch nemesis out of Ms Sabinsky though."

Paige made a small choking sound, somewhere between a laugh and a sob.

Chris picked up a book from the neat pile he had made and started flicking through it absently. "What were you looking for?"

"I… I don't even know," Paige shrugged and gestured helplessly. "Something to do. Anything we could use to fight back. I… I can't sit around doing nothing. I've been doing that all night and I just feel so…"

"Empty," Chris finished, keeping his eyes on the page he was pretending to read and ignoring the surprised look his aunt was giving him. "Like there's a black hole inside you and you're so close to being sucked in. You feel like you need to be constantly moving, because if you stop you're just going to fall apart."

Paige closed her eyes briefly and then placed a comforting hand on his knee. "Sometimes I forget that you've been through this before. Does it ever stop hurting?"

"Never," Chris said, slamming the book closed. "Not even when you get them back."

Paige nodded to herself as if she were expecting that answer. "The last time… in the other timeline, when I lost… how did I cope?"

"You were the toughest person I knew," Chris said distantly, his lips turning upward slightly in a fond smile as he recalled the other version of his aunt. "I guess you had to be. With Mom gone you and Aunt Phoebe and Leo started the Sanctuary, and you helped a lot of people. But then Wyatt… we didn't know he had turned until he tried to kill Phoebe but Parker got in the way. After that, Leo went into denial and disappeared and Phoebe… well she just broke. That left you to keep everything together. You turned the Sanctuary into the Resistance, and for a while we started winning…"

"How? How did we fight back?" Paige leaned forward eagerly as she latched onto the idea.

Chris chewed his lip, not entirely sure if he should answer. He had only seen the desperation in her eyes once before… and it was one of the last times he had seen her. "We had more witches that knew more powerful magic and we armed mortals with firearms that could actually kill demons, and we fought smart. We won battles – we were nowhere near winning the war."

"But…?" Paige prompted. "You're holding out on me, I can tell."

Chris threw her a look and then sighed heavily. His mind flashed back to half a year ago when he had been poisoned by dimension-jumping demons and thrown into a series of vivid memories. He remembered thinking at the time that they felt like a warning, and an uneasy feeling settled in his stomach. "After you were gone, I came up with a large-scale spell."

Paige nodded. "Sounds promising."

"It's risky. We only successfully cast it once and it cost us a lot. The spell requires five witches to cast it – we only came home with three."

"We'll be more careful," Paige brushed off. "What do we need to do?"

"It uses the Nexus," Chris explained apprehensively. "Five witches, one at each corner of the internal pentagon perform an Old Magic ritual simultaneously and it wipes out all evil within the Nexus' radius…"

"Would that include the Evil that's affecting the mortals?" Paige interrupted, her eyes disconcertingly fervent.

Chris nodded. "Yes, but it's dangerous. The spell takes a lot out of the witches and they're completely defenceless while they're casting it. It's chaos out there; all the mortals are on the lookout for anything weird. They see a random person kneeling in the street speaking in tongues they're gonna shoot first and not ask questions ever."

"The mortals are never going to understand while the Evil is influencing them. We need them to actually be able to hear us when we try to tell them we're protecting them, not…" she drifted off, her mind flashing back to the police station.

"The mortals have just had their world turned upside down by magic," Chris pointed out. "With or without the Evil influence they are still going to be afraid of us and fear… well it makes people do stupid things. That prejudice isn't going to go away just because the sun shines again."

"It's better than doing nothing. I can't do nothing." Paige said dangerously, grabbing Chris's forearm to prove a point. He winced as her hand pinched the bullet wound and sent a tremor of pain through his arm. Curious of his reaction, Paige pushed up his sleeve to see the bloodied bandage wrapped just below his elbow. "What happened to your arm?"

Chris tried to shrug it off. "It's nothing."

Paige raised an eyebrow and then peeled off the dressing. "Let me heal it."

She held her hand over the wound and it began glowing gold. But the gash wouldn't close. Paige furrowed her brow in confusion and tried again, but still it wouldn't work. Her expression became worried. "My powers aren't working. Why aren't my powers working?" Her breathing started coming out in short gasps as she began panicking. "Is it… is it because I didn't…?"

"I don't think it's you," Chris muttered as he pried her grip off his arm and wrapped the bandage back around the wound. He remembered on the bridge the day before in the moments after the Darklighter had failed to kill him. He had felt something snap within him, something changed. He wasn't meant to have survived past that moment. That apparently meant that now he couldn't be healed – technically he wasn't even meant to be alive.

Paige looked at him questioningly. "What else could it be?"

Chris didn't particularly want to have to explain, but thankfully he was saved from that conversation by the sound of the library doors slamming open. The pair of them climbed to their feet and headed out of the stacks, just in time to see Henry Jr. march towards the door to the Manor.

"Junior?" Paige asked, concerned by the odd expression on her son's face. She moved to intercept him but he just kept going, completely ignoring her. "Wait! Where are you going?"

Chris stayed back just at the edge of the stacks as mother confronted son. Junior almost made it to the door before Paige orbed herself right in front of him. "Get out of the way."

"Excuse me?" Paige asked incredulously.

"I'm trying to do you a favour!" Junior cried impatiently.

Paige grabbed her son by the shoulders and forced him to look up at her. "And what in the world is that supposed to mean?"

Junior huffed and dropped his chin to his chest. "It's my fault," he mumbled to the floor. "If you hadn't of adopted me you wouldn't have had to choose and Dad…"

"Oh my God you silly boy!" Paige admonished, tears leaking down her cheeks as she pulled Junior into a warm hug. "It's not your fault. None of this is your fault. I love you so much, Junior. I'm glad you're alright."

"But Dad…"

"He would have made the same choice," Paige said with absolute certainty. She pulled out of the hug and met his eyes. "We both love you so much. Being adopted has nothing to do with anything. You are my son. Don't you ever think differently."

"I'm so sorry, Mom."

So there you have it. Thank you so SO much to everyone who has read/reviewed/favourited and/or alerted this fic – you have been totally amazing and supportive and I can only say sorry again for leaving this hanging for so long.

If there is any interest in adopting the story pretty please let me know!

Thanks again,

Manic x