Piper walks into the club and hears screaming.
It’s not the screaming she normally hears the club, the shrieks of joy among friends and lovers, trying to get the other’s attention or the glee of hearing a good song. This screaming is different. It’s deep and troubled, and laced with fear.
“What the-,” she finds herself muttering, scanning the club to try and find the source of the noise. The screaming is coming from the back room. She drops the paperwork she’s carrying and runs to the door. She throws it open, hands up, expecting a fight.
What she doesn’t expect, is Chris Perry spewing chunks into the mop bucket. He’s covered in sweat; his hair is damp. Piper takes in the scene. There’s a blanket and pillow strew across the floor, and the kid is barefoot. He’s gotten up in a hurry.
“Chris!” Piper exclaims. “Are you okay?”
She, at least, has the decency to wait until Chris finishes coughing into the mop bucket. He’s still kneeling in front of it when he replies.
“Yeah.” He says, his voice hoarse. A long, thready line of spit is hanging from his mouth and he wipes it away with his shirt sleeve. “Just a dream.” He mutters, not looking up.
“I- what?” Piper asks. Chris is still leaning over the bucket, so Piper finds a clean rag and dampens it. She folds it and places it on the back of Chris’s neck. He shivers at the contact of the cool water. Piper sees goosebumps rise on his skin.
“A dream? Uh, most dreams don’t make you scream. Or throw up.”
“Mine do.” Chris says curtly, standing up. He takes the rag off his neck and wipes his face of any remaining traces of vomit. He looks at his watch, squinting. He still hasn’t looked Piper in the eyes.
“Why are you here so early, the club doesn’t open for hours.”
“I had to get ready for the health inspector-, does this happen often?”
“Wait, health inspector? Is that today?”
“Uh, uh, don’t try to dodge the topic young man.” Piper says sternly. There’s a flicker of emotion that passes too quick for Piper to make out on Chris’ face. It’s gone as quickly as it came.
Chris sighs and sits down on the couch. He looks tired.
“Not all of them. Just the bad ones.” He says casually. He nods at the bucket. “I’ll clean that up before the inspector gets here.”
“How often are the bad ones? And don’t even think of lying to me.” Piper says, pointing a finger at the whitelighter.
Chris shrugs. “On occasion. Not so much now.”
He stands up and looks at Piper for the first time, not quite meeting her eyes. “So, did you want something or?”
“No, no. I just wanted to see… Okay, I’ll just…I’ll go.” Piper says a little awkwardly. She turns around and walks out the door, leaving Chris alone.
Chris puts his head in his hands.
It’s a wonder how they ever get anything done, Paige thinks to herself as she watches Piper try to instruct Leo on how to build Wyatt’s new playground in the backyard.
She hears footsteps behind her and turns to look. It’s Chris, standing there with two beers in his hand. He sits down on the back steps next Paige. He offers her the beer, which she takes. It’s cold, which is a nice considering the heat wave they were currently in. She’s sweat through her sheer cotton top, which is just plain old unfortunate.
“Uh, are you old enough to drink this?”
Chris rolls his eyes. “Relax, I’m 23.”
“Oh. Then thanks.” Paige says. She unscrews the cap. It’s cheap beer, but it’s good and cold, which is a welcome change from the heat.
Chris looks just as flushed as Paige feels and he pressed the beer to his cheek for a moment before opening his.
They sit in comfortable silence for a moment, sipping their beers and watching Piper and Leo argue over the playground.
“You’re the all-knowing whitelighter, why don’t you just poof the A3 screw into existence!”
“Ah, nothing let domestic arguing to cool things down.” Paige says. Chris makes somewhat of a strangled noise. Paige looks over at him. Chris has his hand on his forehead.
“You alright, kid?”
“I- yeah, just-,” Chris sets his beer down on the stoop and rubs his head with two fingers. “It’s the heat, I think. I’m okay. Just dizzy.”
Paige looks at him for a long moment. He has dark circles under his eyes. He looks exhausted. Even his shoulders are stooped low, like he’s carrying something heavy on his back. His lips are dry looking and cracked.
“When’s the last time you drank any water, man?”
Chris drops his hand from his forehead. “Yesterday? I’m not sure.”
Paige furrows her brows. “Well, no wonder you’re dizzy. Hang on.” She goes to the kitchen and gets a plastic bottle of water for Chris. She comes back outside and gives it to him. He cracks it open and takes a small, hesitating sip.
“Thanks. Sorry, I’d thought I’d be okay. I normally don’t have much clean water to drink so I had to be careful.”
Paige frown into her beer. “How much do you normally drink?”
“About a liter a day.”
Paige looks up from her beer, her brain racking for information about water and dehydration.
“You’re supposed to drink, like, three liters a day normally.”
Chris gives a haphazard shrug and takes another small sip of his water. “If I had three liters, I’d make it last longer than a day. I can normally make do with a liter. The heat’s taking a lot out of me, I guess. In my time drinking more than a liter is wasteful.”
Paige tries not to think of the implications of what Chris has just said. Not having something as simple as clean water to drink… she suddenly feels very guilty about the twenty-minute-long shower she had taken this morning.
“Well, we have plenty of water here so don’t be afraid to drink what you want. Can’t have our most annoying whitelighter getting heatstroke on us. In which case-,” Paige takes the beer that Chris had set on the steps and takes a swig of it. “Stick to water.”
They sit on the steps as the sun blazes in the sky and watch Leo and Piper build a playset.
Chris finishes his water.
“Chris!” Phoebe calls up the stairs. There’s no reply. She knows he’s here; he had walked in the front door nearly ten minutes muttering about finding a certain spell in the Book of Shadows.
“Chris?” she calls again. When there’s no response, she sighs and hauls herself up the stairs to the landing and then to the stairs to the attic.
“Chris, Piper will kill you if you-,” Phoebe stops in her tracks. There are voices, two voices, talking through the attic door. Phoebe stills, listening, but it’s hard to make out the voices through the door. She edges closer to the door, finding it open just a crack. Enough for her to listen in.
Phoebe has never considered herself a nosey person. Everyone else did, but she didn’t. This time was no exception.
She peers through the small crack. Chris is standing by the window, talking to a pretty-looking woman wearing old, rough looking clothes. She looks pissed. Chris looks just as stoic as usual.
“You need to come home. If you stay here any longer, there will be serious consequences for you. I need you. Come back with me.” The woman is saying. Chris runs a hand though his hair.
“I can’t! you don’t understand, I’m so close-,”
“You will die, Chris! You are going to die if you stay here. Once I leave, that door shuts. Forever! I barely enough energy to make this stupid door!” The woman exclaims, an edge of panic to her voice.
“So what? What, Bianca? Do you just expect me to-?”
“Damn it, Chris! How can you think so little of yourself? Your parents-,”
“My parents,” Chris says, stepping closer to the woman, Bianca, “Are not a factor in this. The only one who’s important right now is Wyatt.”
Phoebe’s heart skips a beat. Chris was so incredibly tight-lipped about his parents, other than the fact that his father was an asshole and his mother died when he was fourteen. Phoebe had never heard him mention anything else about his parents.
“Unbelievable. After all he did to you. To your mother. To your family-, you still think you can save him?” Bianca asks him. It feels like a weight has dropped in Phoebe’s stomach. It dawns on her for the first time that maybe Chris’ parents weren’t the only ones he had lost.
“I know I can. I have to.”
The woman’s lips purse into a small, tight line. She’s unhappy.
“Are you sure? Even after what happened?”
Chris stays silent.
“Chris, you spent seventh months in that place before the Resistance was able to organize a rescue mission. You know how disorganized we are without a leader, and it took two months for you to even be able to walk again-,”
“Everyone said we were stupid for trusting a sixteen-year-old to lead us, and you promised us that you would stop at nothing-,”
“Bianca,” Chris tries again, but she’s too wound up to calm down.
“And then you go and try to talk some sense into Wyatt, and he tortures you-,”
“It wasn’t like that!” Chris says.
“Oh, so that cage we found you in, almost on the brink of death, chained to the wall by your neck, that wasn’t torture, was it? Or what about the burns on your feet, or those marks on your back, or-,” Bianca reaches out quickly and yanks the collar of Chris’s shirt down. Chris grabs her wrist so tightly; Phoebe can see the veins on the woman’s wrists pop up.
Phoebe must cover her mouth to keep from making a noise.
On his shoulder, right under the collarbone on his left side, low enough that it would be hidden easily by rounded shirt collars, high enough that he’d have to see it every time he looked in a mirror.
Even from a distance, Phoebe could make out a scar, a raw chasm of puckered, raised flesh. It looked old, the edges around were lighter in color than his skin tone. Looking closer, Phoebe could see it was four smaller scars that almost overlapped with one another, forming a shape. It wasn’t a shape, she realizes, it’s a letter.
It’s a ‘W’.
There’s a ringing in her ears as she tries to focus on what the duo are saying.
“ -er, you’re telling me this wasn’t torture?” Bianca is asking.
Phoebe missed something. She tries to turn off her thinking. Stupid, stupid thinking!
“Other people have it worse. He wouldn’t have let me die, anyway.” Chris says, his voice quiet now. He releases his grip on Bianca’s wrist, but she leaves her hand on his chest, fingers lightly grazing the old wounds.
“Do you remember when he did this to you? One red-hot metal bar at a time. He did this to you. He could have had his cronies take care of it, but he didn’t. He did this to you. A man you once considered family.”
Chris is staring down at Bianca’s hand. His brow furrows, he’s biting his lip now, but his eyes… his eyes are blank. Glossed over. Remembering. He starts to shake.
“He is obsessed with you. He will stop at nothing, alright? Nothing to get you back if you don’t die here first. If I can figure out a way back, so can he. He’ll send people after you, and this time he will never let you go. You best chance at survival is leaving now, before he makes his move.”
“I don’t matter.” Chris says finally. He looks up from Bianca’s wrist. “I don’t matter, you don’t matter, not really. The only thing that matters is Wyatt. That’s all this has ever been about.”
Bianca looks like she’s about to say something, and Phoebe edges as quietly as she can away from the door. She beelines it to the bathroom and throws up in the sink.
Wyatt, cute little baby Wyatt- did that to Chris? There’s no way that her little nephew could do something like that to anyone, much less Chris. Bianca said Chris had considered Wyatt family once.
Chris… he said he was only a kid when his mother died. He was only a kid when he became the leader of a rebel group. He was only a kid-,
Phoebe throws up in the sink again.
Leo really needed to get a cell phone. Or two.
“Anyone here?” he calls out to the house, to no reply. He racked his brain, trying to remember where the various sisters said they’d be. Piper had said something about going to the club, Paige was on babysitting duty which meant she probably took Wyatt to the park where she could just toss him in the sandpit and relax on a bench with a book. Phoebe is… well Leo’s not too sure. The three Halliwell sisters were never good at organizing, but Leo was sure no one was home. He walks into the kitchen to make sure the Paige had brought the baby formula to the park with her, she often forgot when it came to making sure his kid was fed when she was babysitting.
There was a soft mummering coming from the behind the basement door. Leo paused, listening. No one should be the house. Hearing talking from the basement, well, that wasn’t good.
Defenses up, Leo quietly orbed through the door. He crouched at the top of the landing, peeking through the slats in the stair railing to get a good look at the basement.
He’s sitting on the basement floor, knees drawn up to his chest, arms wrapped around them like a security blanket. In front of him is five white candles and a familiar drawing on the floor, forming a circle. Standing in the middle of that circle is someone Leo thought he would never see in this lifetime again.
There’s no mistake about it, it’s Prue, with her glossy black hair and no-nonsense attitude. She’s wearing the same clothes she died in, a sheer black top over a black halter top, black pants and belt and her favored leather jacket. Leo felt a lump form in his throat.
Prue had been his charge, just like the other Halliwell sisters. She was the one he couldn’t save. Prue Halliwell has, and always will be, Leo Wyatt’s greatest failure.
This is the first Time that Leo has seen Prue since she died, and it feels like he’s flung himself out of a plane without a parachute.
Prue is standing in the circle, an amused smile on her face. Wistful. Caring. Loving. She’s considering Chris, who is staring up at her with an almost reverence in his gaze.
The two don’t seem to notice him, and Leo doesn’t have it in his heart to say anything. He’s just staring at Prue.
“I think you’re doing a good job.” Prue is saying to Chris, who frowns.
“It doesn’t seem like it. They all hate me.” Chris mutters.
“I would have killed him.” She says, bluntly.
“What?” Chris asks, a surprised tone edging his voice.
“I would have. The minute I got to the past. You didn’t. So you have to save him.”
Leo feels his heartbeat in his throat. They’re talking about Wyatt. His Wyatt.
“Why did you answer me, Prue? That first time, I mean” Chris asks suddenly.
Prue shrugs as she studies the kid, keen eyes looking him up in down in consideration.
“I don’t know. I normally don’t as a rule, but the one who try are normally my sisters. You are not them. I suppose I just had a feeling. Now, you want to tell me why you’ve so royally upset my sisters?”
“They don’t trust me.” Chris says. “You can’t fix that.”
“I can fix anything, Chris.” Prue says, tossing her hair behind her and placing her hands on her hips in the way that only Prue could.
“Maybe.” Chris says back, a little sad.
“Prue, I just…” The kids trails off, looking at Prue but not quite. His eyes are glassy and far away. He looks devastated and it does something inside Leo that makes his heart ache.
“I only get bits and pieces of good days, who I used to be. Who Wyatt used to be. I keep losing everything and everyone I care about. I keep losing the trust of those who I’m supposed to protect. I hate keeping secrets. Things are starting to… blur.”
Prue tilts her head.
“I think you were supposed to be mine. If I hadn’t died so young. You’re too self-sacrificing. Slow to trust. It’ll get you killed.”
Chris stays quiet and Prue rolls her eyes.
“Okay, so even when I’m dead my joke aren’t getting better. Look Chris, I think you’re brave. The bravest out of all of us. I wouldn’t answer your summons if I didn’t believe in you. I wouldn’t have given you my gift if I didn’t have faith in you, you little brat.”
Chris sniffs. Leo can just make out the glistening of tears reflecting off cheeks in the dim light of the flame from the candles.
“Thanks.” Chris says.
Prue sniffs. “Remember when you used to just summon me for spell writing help? Things were simpler back then.”
Chris laughs thickly.
“Yeah. The biggest problem I had back then was rhyming and dealing with the fallout when Wyatt introduced his boyfriend to his parents.”
“That boy was no good, and you know it!”
Leo orbs out of the basement and ends up in the kitchen.
He stares through the hallway at the bay window that Prue had gone through when she died.
It was no secret that Prue’s spirit was trying to stay away from the sisters. She also refused to meet with the Elders or even Leo. He hadn’t been able to contact her either, and not for lack of trying. Why Chris? Why, out of everyone, her sisters, Leo, even Paige who hadn’t even met Prue, would she appear for Chris?
The front door opened with a creak.
“Hello? Anyone home?” called a voice, followed by a series of some curses and thudding sounds. Leo walked into the entrance hallway. Paige is home, hair tied up from her face, trying to lug Wyatt’s stroller through the door.
“I am.” Leo says, moving over to help Paige.
Chris appears in the kitchen hallway.
“Where were you?” Leo asks, as casually as he can. Gone is the relaxed Chris he had seen talking to Prue only moments before. He looks as serious as always.
“Working on a spell in the basement.”
“Well, no more basement time, because Auntie Paige needs a nap! Babysitting duty-,” Paige points to Chris, who eyes the baby in his stroller cautiously, but goes over to the baby and picks him up. Leo stares at Chris as he awkwardly holds Wyatt, like he’s afraid of dropping him.
He looks so much like Prue.
Phoebe is at work when she gets the call.
She’s busy typing away for next week’s advice column, brain muddled as she tried to think of a way to advice the writer that he needed to break up with her boyfriend for cheating, when the sharp, tinny ringing of her phone draws her mind from her screen.
She pulls the receiver up to her ear.
“Hello, is this Miss Phoebe Halliwell?”
“you’ve got her. What’s up?”
“Hello Miss Halliwell, my name is Doctor Jessup. I’m calling from San Francisco Memorial Hospital. We have a patient here, Chris Perry, who has you listed as the next of kin?”
“What? Oh my god, what’s happened?”
“Chris was involved in a car accident.”
“He doesn’t own a car?”
“Oh, no Miss Halliwell, from what I can gather a child wandered into the street and Chris threw the child out of the way and landed hard. He was transported by ambulance to the hospital. He’s fractured his collarbone and elbow. We’ve put him in a temporary cast, although I would recommend that he visit an orthopedic doctor in the next few days. We need you to come and sign some discharge paperwork.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Phoebe hangs up the phone.
Phoebe shuts down her computer and fumbles for her purse. She stops into her boss’s office and lets her know that she’s had a family emergency and high tails it to her car.
Phoebe is no stranger to driving to hospitals from a phone call, but only for her family members. Prue and Leo, mostly, Wyatt once when he had such a bad fever his day care took him to the hospital and Prue wasn’t answering her phone. Never friends, and certainly not Chris.
Chris Perry was a mystery to Phoebe. Surly and serious, Chris never seemed to warm up to Phoebe’s charming personality like so many others did. That made Phoebe wonder why Chris would have listed her as next of kin. Why did Chris even have a next of kin in the past anyway?
Thoughts rattling in her brain like pennies in an empty jar, Phoebe pushes the legality of speed limits until she researches the hospital. She spies her reflection in her car mirror. She looks frantic. Scared. Not something Chris needs right now. She shuts her eyes, trying to calm down, focusing on her breathing. She smooths her hair down, straightens her clothes, and walks into the hospital.
The ER is surprisingly quiet, and Phoebe can walk up to the desk to ask after Chris. When the nurse at the desk checks her ID, they let her into a closed off hallway, leading her to curtained off room.
“Knock knock.” Phoebe says, softly. She grabs the curtains and pulls it out of the way.
Chris is laying in the bed, looking like shit. His hair is matted and caked with sweat and dirt. He has what looks like road burn on his cheek and down his neck. His eyes have dark circles under them, and he’s sort of muttering to himself.
Phoebe walks over to Chris and places a gentle hand on the boy’s forehead.
“Mom?” Chris asks weakly. Phoebe’s stomach lurches, but she forces herself to smile warmly.
“Hey sweetie, It’s Phoebe. I’m here to take you home.”
Phoebe hears footsteps behind her, and she turns around. It’s the doctor, a good-looking dark-skinned man in a white coat. He shakes Phoebe’s hand and spends the next ten minutes explaining Chris’s different injuries, most of which goes over Phoebe’s head, but she does pick up hematoma, abrasion, and fracture.
“Why is he so out of it?” Phoebe asks.
“We gave him some pain medication in the ambulance. It’ll wear off in a few hours. Right now, he needs some sleep. I’ll include care instructions and some contact numbers for some orthopedic surgeons in the discharge paperwork.”
Phoebe spends the next twenty minutes signing off paperwork and filling in insurance information, vaguely wondering if it would be fraud if she claimed Chris was on her plan, but she did so the papers anyway.
When she gets back to the room, the nurse has taken the IV out of Chris’s arm.
“Do you want help getting him dressed?” the nurse asks. Phoebe shakes her head and the nurse leaves, closing the curtains behind her. Chris’s clothes, jeans and a long -sleeve shirt, are folded neatly on a bedside table. Chris is wearing a thing hospital gown, the kind that ties in the back. In the twenty or so minutes since Phoebe had left and came back, Chris seemed a little more aware of his surroundings, and he looked like he was freaking out.
Phoebe tries to place a hand on Chris’s shoulder, but the boy yanks it away so quicky Phoebe is afraid that he’d hurt himself.
“Chris, It’s Phoebe. You’re the hospital. I need to take you home.”
Chris stares up at her with his big, green doe eyes, fear in his face. This is the most scared Phoebe has ever seen him. He never got this scared, not even when dealing with the supernatural. But he looked scared now.
“No. Not again. Go away.” Chris utters under his breath. He places a hand to his forehead and leans over the side of the bed, trying to stand up. He almost keels over and Phoebe rushes to stop him from falling to the floor.
“Chris, you’re okay. You’re in the past. You had a car accident. You’re in the hospital. It’s okay. You’re not…” Phoebe’s voice catches in her throat and she licks her lips “You’re not with Wyatt.”
The kid’s breathing hitches at this and he seems to calm down. “Hospital?” he asks, seemingly finding some clarity.
“Yes, San Francisco Memorial, sweetie. Let’s get you changed, and we can head home, okay? They gave you some pretty strong pain medication, that’s why you’re so confused.”
“Okay.” Chris mutters.
“I’m going to untie your hospital gown now, okay? I’m sorry if my hands are cold.”
Phoebe makes quick work of the ties in the back of the hospital gown and despite her warning, Chris still flinches at her touch. Paige winces apologetically.
“I’m going to need your help to get your left arm and elbow out of the gown, okay? If you need me to stop, say so.”
Chris says nothing.
With trembling fingers, Phoebe takes the gown off Chris. When she sees his back, she makes a whimpering noise that may have once been a scream that had gotten caught in her throat.
His back is a mess of scars. Old and new ones puckered red and raw in some places, pale and thin in others. They cross across his back seemingly randomly. They look like lash marks, like someone had taken a whip or belt to the kid’s back. There are tiny, circular lines that follow the line of Chris’s spine, burn marks, that are chased by carvings in flesh.
Chris whines in pain, and Phoebe shakes her head and quickly works the gown off Chris, being delicate around his collarbone and elbow. She manages to take it off without too much pain, grateful that the kid is still wearing boxers. Phoebe crosses the room to grab Chris’s shirt, and tries to not look at the W brand in his collarbone.
The boy’s chest has faired better, but not much. The blacked, charred skin at his collarbone seems small compared to the kid’s stomach. There are three large lines that tear, jagged and harsh, across his stomach, like claw marks. His chest is riddle with small marks and nicks, shorter than the one on his back, but deeper. There was a circular pattern on his shoulder that looked like a bite mark.
His ribs are showing, and phoebe wonders how much the kid weighs. He’s tall, and if he’s skinny enough for his ribs to show so prolifically…. Phoebe shakes her head.
Phoebe couldn’t hide her trembling now as she helped Chris into his shirt. She grabs his pants and kneels to put his legs through. She stares at the bottom of the boy’s feet. Thick, puckered skin covers the soles. He’s been walking on scars this whole time. Phoebe pulls the boy’s pants up scarred legs to about mid-thigh.
“Chris, honey,” Phoebe hates the way her voice trembles. “Can you pull your pants the rest of the way up for me?”
“Ngh…Yeh.” Chris mutters. It takes almost five minutes, but Chris managed to pull his pants over thin hipbones. Phoebe ties Chris’s shoes on his feet just as an orderly comes by with a wheelchair. Together, the lift Chris into the chair and wheel him to the curb. Phoebe gets her car from the parking lot and drives up to the curb. Phoebe and the orderly put Chris into the front seat. Phoebe smiles and thanks the man, who nods and goes on his way.
Chris struggles with the seatbelt, trying to place it over his sling. Phoebe reaches over and buckles the seatbelt. Chris makes a noise that could have been a thank-you or a fuck-off, which one, Phoebe doesn’t know. He leans into the window and shuts his eyes, exhausted.
“Hey Chris. You hungry? I can get you something to eat.”
“’mm not hungry.” Chris mutters. Phoebe is about to take the turn to head home, but she thinks about Chris’s ribs poking through his shirt and changes her mind. She turns the car in the direction of the local fast-food drive thru. It’s not something she’d normally get for herself, unless it was finals or midterms back in her college days and she was stress eating, but she figures Chris could use the extra calories.
Ten minutes later, she’s parking the car in the driveway at home, the smell of greasy fries wafting in the air. It looks like she’s the only one home, it is still in the middle of the workday after all. It takes some effort on both their parts, but Phoebe is able to usher Chris into the living room and settle him onto the couch. He’s a little more aware now, but the clear exhaustion on his face is still making his movements slow and words slurred.
Phoebe tries her best to prop Chris up on pillows so he’s comfortable, deciding on resting his sling on a stack of pillows. She’d call for Leo to heal him later. Now, Chris needed to eat something, even if that something was 1800 calories of saturated fats and sodium.
She places the food, a burger, and some fries, on a paper plate and puts it in front of the kid, who stares at it like it’s a dead rat.
“Chris, please eat something.” Phoebe says, trying to keep her voice calm. She can’t remember the last time she saw Chris eat something. In fact, now that she thinks about it, she can’t recall a single time Chris had ever eaten something.
“I-, I’m not hungry.” Chris mutters. Phoebe feels tears prickle in her eyes and her throat get warm. This damn, sad, exhausted kid.
“Chris,” she implores gently. “You need to eat so you can get better. You need to heal. If you don’t want this, I can make you something else.”
Chris looks like he’s on the verge of tears himself.
“it’s not fair.”
“What’s not, sweetie?”
“It’s… it’s not fair. So many people.” His voice cracks. Phoebe bites her lower lip.
“So many people. Dying. Sick, starving and I-,” his voice catches, thick with emotion. “I don’t need it; I can keep going. I can keep going.” He mutters, more to himself than Phoebe.
“Honey it’s okay. You can eat this. It’s for you.” Phoebe says to Chris. She goes to the kid and places a hand on his cheek. Chris leans into it.
“I’m strong enough.” Chris gasps out between shaky breaths.
“You are Chris. You’re strong enough. You can eat this. You can do this. Because y-you’re strong enough.”
With one trembling hand, Chris reaches for a fry. Very slowly and deliberately, he brings it to his mouth. He chews it and swallows. Phoebe sits next to him for the next two hours as Chris slowly finishes the meal. He gags at some points and needs to stop for minutes at a time, but he finishes it. When he’s done, Phoebe can see the exhaustion in his face. His eyes are less medication-induced glassy. Now he’s just tired. His eyes are drooping, struggling to stay awake. Phoebe takes off his shoes and lays him down on the couch, arm still propped on pillows. She finds a spare blanket in the linen closet and throws it over Chris.
“You did so good today, Chris. So good. You need to sleep now, okay? Can you do that for me?” Phoebe says kneeling next to Chris and placing a comforting hand on his forehead, brushing the hair from his eyes. Chris gives her an almost imperceptible nod, and phoebe stays there, stoking his hair, until his breathing becomes low and patterned.
He’s finally asleep.
“Everybody just shut up, okay, shut up!” Chris yells, putting out a hand. Surprisingly, the room goes silent.
Chris wonders how things had gotten so out of hand. One minute, he was helping Piper cut up potion ingredients in the kitchen, she had oddly amicable around him recently, and the next minute, glass was flying everywhere, and a masked man was throwing electric-charged orbs at Chris and the Charmed Ones.
For all their big talk about being the big, powerful protectors of the innocent, it’s easy enough to catch them off guard. Honestly, Chris isn’t sure how they had gotten backed into this corner, Chris facing the masked man in the living room, furniture scorched and tossed over this way and that. Next to Chris is Phoebe, who’s nursing a nasty looking spilt lip. On Phoebe’s left is Paige, hands up, looking for a fight. Leo is pulling himself off the floor, pushing away the shattered remains of what once was a very nice armchair that he had smashed into.
Piper is standing next to the masked man. Well, she’s standing in front of the masked man. With a knife to her throat. The man had grabbed her during the chaos of it all and made a demand. He’d let Piper go in exchange for someone else.
Now they stand, all staring at one another in silence, waiting for Chris to say something. He licks his lips as he stares at the tip of the blade pointed in Piper’s throat, thin beads of blood dripping down from her neck. This cannot happen again.
“Look, I will go with you. I will drop everything and go with you, but you have to let her go.” Chris speaks, the words sounding hoarse and foreign on his tongue. He was never one to give up so easily, but when it came to Piper…
Let no one say he wasn’t a good son.
“Chris-,” Piper starts to argue, but the assassin’s blade gets closer to her throat and she quiets. The man in the mask tilts his head, as if considering Chris’s offer. Then he all at once releases Piper, throwing her with unhuman strength into her sisters hard enough that all three of them go tumbling down like bowling pins.
“Always knew you were the weaker brother.”
“Brother?” Paige groans from her spot on the floor. She’s holding her head, which is bleeding now. Her blood falls to the hardwood floor.
The man in the mask scoffs and looks from Chris to the sisters and back again.
“You never told them?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Chris says quickly.
“Oh, I think it does. Poor little Chris, never getting the love and attention of his parents. Always the forgotten one. Always the second best to the twice-blessed.” The man in the mask says teasingly as he walks towards Chris. He grabs Chris on the wrist so tightly it burns.
“Now for your end of the deal, Chris. Lord Wyatt will be glad to see his baby brother safe and sound. He was so worried about you, you know.”
“What the hell is he talking about?’ Piper asks, shakily getting onto her feet. Chris looks nervously from Piper and her sisters to the man in the mask.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Chris says weakly, shame burning from inside him. He looks over at Phoebe, whose lip has stopped bleeding now but looks red and raw. She’s pale, staring at Chris. She knows. She’s always been the smart one.
“Little Chrissy here-,” the man yanks on Chris’s arm and Chris hisses, “Is Lord Wyatt’s little brother. Now I can see why you wanted to come to the past, Chris. Your mother really is a looker. Shame about her.”
Chris tries to control his breathing, but he’s actively shutting down. Now is not the time to panic, but for some reason he can’t slow his breathing. Never in a million years did he think he’d end up back into Wyatt’s hands again. He tries not the hear his own screams ringing in his ears and the feeling of cold metal around his neck and his brother’s gentle, maniacal teasing.
What’s wrong Chris, you look so cold. Here let me warm you up.
Don’t think of the sear on his skin and the smell of his own burnt flesh cooking-, and it burns but he’s still so cold.
The man spots Leo and gasps in faux surprise. “Oh! That must be Daddy. This must be, what, the fourth time you’ve ever seen him in your life? Oh look, the aunties too. What a darling little family.”
“Chris?” Piper asks, her voice quiet.
He can’t look his mother in the eyes.
Think, stupid! Do something!
He hears Prue’s voice in his head.
I wouldn’t have given you my gift if I didn’t have faith in you, you little brat.
Chris goes limp in the man’s arms. It surprises everyone in the room, including the masked man who must rebalance himself to support the dead weight.
“Chris!” comes a strangled cry from somewhere, but Chris can’t focus on it. He projects himself into the front hallway and runs to where the masked man is holding his limp body and tackles him to the ground. There are sounds, confused sounds probably, at the sight of the two Chris’s, but he can’t afford to think about the implications right now.
He grapples with the masked man, grabbing for the knife. They fall to the floor, scrambling. He watches the knife cut his body’s chest, shredding his shirt open. Chris feels the sting of the slash. Finally deciding this wasn’t going to work, Chris yanks himself away and lifts a hand.
He knows the spell, he knows it by heart, from stories his mother used to tell him as a small child.
The effect is instant, and glowing ball of fire forms in his hand. He wastes no time, chucking it at the masked man. It hits him square in the chest and the man screams in agony. Chris can smell flesh cooking. The man is sill screaming, but he looks up at Chris, voice seething with hate.
“You will have to come home eventually. And when you do, I will be there.”
In one fell swoop, Chris’s spirit form kicks the man in the face. The man goes crashing to the ground and disappears into the flames still burning on his chest. Chris stares at the spot the man once was, his breathing ragged.
He spares a glance up from the floor. Leo is helping Piper up off the floor. Phoebe is holding Paige up, pressing her shirt into the bleeding headwound. They’re all quiet. Staring.
Chris takes a step back. He closes his eyes and within second he’s waking up in his own physical body, still sprawled on the floor. The knife wound across his chest is bleeding through his shirt, a large, gaping hole starting from his collarbone, which he had broken only days before, to his navel.
“What is that?” Piper asks suddenly, voice harsh enough to cut steel.
Chris looks down to where she’s looking. The small spot under his collarbone, no bigger than his palm, is the brand that his brother had seared into his skin. It wasn’t a metal ‘W’ shape, it was just a thin metal bar Wyatt had found somewhere and placed, four times, into his skin to make the shape. It had long since healed, but some days Chris still smelled the burning flesh. He could hear his screams echoing in the caves that his brother brought him in.
Chris is... Chris was strong. He can take a lot. The cuts, the lashes, the burns, they were things Chris could handle. But this… this was reminder. A permeant reminder of what his brother had become. Of what his brother could do to other people.
“It’s a W.” Chris answers lamely. He gathers the tattered remains of his shirt in his hand and presses it to the knife wound to try and stem the bleeding. He tries, at least, but his hand is shaking.
“Did Wyatt do that to you?”
Chris looks up. It’s Phoebe, tears pricking her eyes.
“I-,” Chris tries, but falters.
“You just astral projected. That’s Prue’s power.” Leo says, almost accusingly.
“I just-,” Chris feels his stomach lurch and he rushes out of the room and into the kitchen, not caring about the glass crunching beneath his feet. He vomits into the sink. He can’t breathe, it’s getting harder to breathe and Chris doesn’t know where he is and he hates throwing up, and there’s hands on his back and he’s pushing them away because he can’t stand to be touched.
He yanks shirt over his head and presses the whole thing to his knife wound, still leaning over the sink. He thinks he’s done vomiting now. The hands have left him alone. He takes his bloody shirt from his chest and wipes the bile from his face, breathing hard and fast. He licks his lips and tastes acrid bile and iron.
He’s shaking with the effort of trying to keep himself together in front of these people, and it’s not working. He’s suddenly very, very tired and he recalls Prue telling him about how much Astral projecting can take out of a person. He feels very weak on his feet and his knees start to buckle under him. He grabs onto the edge of the sink, trying to concentrate on the cold edge of it to bring himself back to the present. It’s not working, and Chris feels himself tilting. Strong hands on his lower back and upper arm guide him to the ground, and now that he’s laying down the ringing in his ears fade to a dull stop and he blinks until he can see clearly.
It’s Leo. Dad.
“Chris?” he’s saying.
“I’m okay.” Chris says. He’s sure no one believes him.
Leo doesn’t say anything. He nods. Leo places his hands on Chris’s chest and there’s tingling feeling that means he’s being healed. When Leo draws his hands away, Chris feels like he can breathe again.
“Let’s get you to bed, hey?” Leo is saying, and Chris is feeling too tired argue so he just nods his head. He feels cold hands help him stand up. He’s dizzied and can hardly see straight, but he can see. Leo and Phoebe are helping him up the stairs and into the guest room. Leo holds him up by himself as Phoebe draws back the sheets. Leo gently guides him into the bed and folds the covers over him. It’s nice. Cold. Leo places a hand on Chris’s cheek.
“Is everyone okay?” Chris mutters, not quite sure.
“Yeah. We’re okay.”
“Okay.” Chris says, too tired to keep his eyes open now, but too wired to sleep. He closes his eyes, still awake and listens.
The room is quiet for a good few moments, and when someone speaks, it’s Phoebe.
“I knew it.”
“What?” It’s Leo.
“I knew. I knew when I picked him up from the hospital after his accident. He was too drugged up on pain med to get dressed so I had to help him.”
Leo is quiet.
“Do you really think Wyatt will be capable of doing something like this? To his own brother?”
Leo doesn’t say anything.
Chris lays there, still. He feels his father’s hands, calloused and roughed, like he remembers from when he was small, and things were better. There’s a gentle, cool cloth being wiped across his face and chest. He can barely make out a quiet muttering between Phoebe and Leo. He still can’t give himself permission to drift off to sleep, but his body is screaming at him to rest. He doesn’t move as the cloth is wiped over him again, this time a little warmer.
The sheets are being pulled back over him and Chris hears footfalls coming up the stairs.
“Is he okay?” Paige asks.
“He’s sleeping.” Phoebe says. “We’ve cleaned him up the best we can.”
There are more footstep sounds, and Chris hears more people walk into the room.
“Piper-,” Leo is saying, and what comes next surprises Chris. He can picture it, even if he can’t see it. There’s a hard slap.
“Piper!” Paige exclaims.
“He is your son. How could you have abandoned him?” Piper is saying, her voice hoarse.
“I haven’t!” Leo exclaims.
“Future you has! If what he’s said is true, and I died,” her voice catches for a moment, “you were supposed to take care of him. You left him. You will, I mean, shit!”
“Piper,” Phoebe is saying, “You can’t get mad at Leo for something he hasn’t done.”
Piper’s voice is rough and heavy.
“I sure as hell can. He’s our son, Leo. Our child. How can you look at him and see-,” she struggles to find the words.
“We did.” Paige says.
“What?” Piper asks.
“We treated him awful. We didn’t trust him. We said all those terrible things about not wanting him around. That he’s not family.”
“That was before we knew he was!” Piper says.
“We shouldn’t have treated him like that in the first place. It shouldn’t have mattered if he’s family or not. What kid wants to hear that he’s not wanted around?”
The room is quiet again.
Chris falls asleep.