Title: When the Dust Finally Settles
Characters: Justin, Max, Alisha, Wyatt & Bianca
Summary: Justin's parents are next on the hit list
Word Count: 4,700
Lily was first. You’re next.
Justin backed up as the words resonated with him. His heart thrummed in his chest as anxiety began to rise. How did he not realise this earlier? Why did it take someone else to tell him before it occurred to him that his family were in danger too. He didn’t have some kind of special exemption because he was Chris’ best friend. Hell, he probably had more reason than anyone to be a target, and now that Chris wasn’t around he was far more vulnerable than he realized.
He turned and ran, not caring if he was putting himself in danger. He was barely aware of the horns that blared as he crossed one street after another without looking. Every pounding of his footsteps against the asphalt, concrete and grass was matched by the scampering of toenails at his heels as Chase raced after him, probably thinking it was some kind of fun game. Another pair of footsteps echoed behind him as someone struggled to keep up. More than likely it was PJ but Justin was not about to stop his momentum to chance a glance behind him.
Reaching his parent’s home, the first thing Justin saw was the scorch mark against the wall. As his gaze followed the mark downwards he saw the shattered remains of the floating security cam. Someone had been here; someone dangerous who didn’t want to be caught.
Bianca positioned the blade against Alisha’s throat, her eyes only just able to see Wyatt over the tall woman’s shoulder. He seemed to be inspecting the kitchen, looking for something that only he seemed to know about. The momentary silence was almost deafening.
“Why are you here, Wyatt?” Alisha asked, unable to bear the stillness any longer.
“I should think that was fairly obvious,” he answered. “I was meant to be here. Or didn’t your little presentient powers tell you that?”
“You don’t need to hold a knife at my throat for me to answer that,” Alisha stated.
“True. But we can’t be too careful now, can we?” Wyatt responded. “People have a habit of… being unco-operative at times.”
“I can’t imagine why,” Alisha said, a hint of sarcasm in her voice to illustrate her current situation.
“No need to be so impudent. Bianca,” he coaxed. Reflexively she tightened her grip on the athame and lowered the edge of the blade to the softer past of Alisha’s neck. It moved slightly as Alisha swallowed. This wasn’t just a game to him, not anymore.
“What do you want?” Alisha asked desperately as her bravado began to cave into her fear. She knew what Wyatt was capable of, but never before had she considered he would use it against his own kind.
“I want what’s owed to me. I want what’s mine,” he shouted, slamming his hand down onto the kitchen counter. It glowed briefly before evaporating in a rush. She could see he was struggling to maintain control over his emotions.
“If your parents could see you—”
“Ha. My parents? I have no parents. They were taken from me. Just like everything else gets taken from me. And the Elders think it’s mightily funny to cause Halliwells great pain.”
“Wyatt, calm down,” Alisha said. The more emotion he was fueling into himself, the greater the next outburst of powers would be. Being in close vicinity to the twice blessed witch was not going to have a positive outcome.
“Where were they when my entire family was slaughtered?” he continued. “Offering a helping hand, of course. Because my parents were the ones to break all the rules. And they couldn’t have rule-breakers ruin their faultless Utopian world now, could they? They want to see someone break the rules; then I’ll show them someone who’ll break all the rules. This is my payback.”
“What does this have to do with me?” Alisha asked.
“Everything. Every little thing. You walk around everyday in your picture perfect world as if nothing happened. Under that unblemished face of yours is pure evil.” His hand trailed across her jaw line then dropped to the counter. He inched his face closer to hers, eyes blazing as he tried to read what was behind hers. “Where is that snake who took the restaurant from me? Where is the rat who tried to extract the club?”
“There was no choice, Wyatt,” Alisha said as she instinctively drew back to avoid Wyatt’s heated stare. Wyatt pushed himself away, not only helping her to create distance between them, but there was also now a slight gap between her throat and the athame. “The restaurant foreclosed. Leo couldn’t keep up with the payments. You couldn’t have those places even if you wanted to.”
“I should break your neck,” Wyatt said after contemplating this news for the briefest of moments, his hand rising as his fingers curled slightly. “But that wouldn’t give Bianca much of a chance to cut out your blasphemous tongue.”
He swept his hand backwards, arcing down, his telekinesis taking hold of Alisha’s arm and twisting it so far that pain radiated through her muscles as cracking sounded from bones in her wrist. A cry of agony escaped her mouth and Alisha glanced down as if seeing the damage would help her determine how he was causing this injury to her.
“Now, tell me where your husband is,” Wyatt said, making his words a little more direct this time.
Her heart raced as she thought of her defenceless husband clearing out the attic upstairs. “He’s not here.”
Wyatt narrowed his eyes. He didn’t need her to tell him, he could easily tap into his powers for that. It just provided a little more satisfaction if they became the cause of their own fate. Closing his eyes, he lifted his head and began to search for Maximillian Bell, his sensory powers prodding the room first and then expanding out to incorporate the house, if not the whole city and even the world if so required. With his attention diverted, Alisha knew this was her only chance to escape. She dug her elbow into Bianca’s ribs, momentarily winding the Phoenix and causing the blade to slice the side of her neck as the young woman behind her buckled over. Raising her hand to the wound Alisha’s triumph was fleeting as the Phoenix recovered enough to strike her left forearm against the back of the older woman’s head, the momentum and force of the blow sending Alisha into the edge of the counter. Wyatt’s eyes opened, his gaze flicking from them to the roof as he heard something drop overhead.
“Go!” he ordered Bianca. Her eyes trained on the roof above them she did as he commanded and shimmered out.
“That wasn’t very smart,” he said to Alisha, cupping her jaw with his hand and yanking it to the side. She felt the pull in her neck but he hadn’t done it hard enough to cause any permanent damage. It seemed as if he had already decided what he was going to do with her and was simply stalling for time so that her husband could bear witness.
“Lish!” Max hollered from the doorway as he saw the state of his wife.
Wyatt turned, powering up an energy ball and throwing it towards the new arrival. Alisha lifted her pain-free hand away from where it had been supporting her against the counter and froze the missile aimed at her husband. She knew she would have no luck doing the same to Wyatt – her power would not work on a witch, no matter if they were good or bad.
Irritated with the interference, Wyatt swept his left hand towards Alisha. Her body lifted and smashed into the glass cabinets, an array of translucent shards falling to the ground as he kept her momentarily restrained through his telekinesis. Bianca still had not shown up behind Max and it only served to anger Wyatt further that he had to carry out his plans all on his own. With one last blast, Wyatt knocked Max off his feet, the shirt of Justin’s father smouldering as a giant hole burned in his chest.
“Max!” Alisha shrieked.
Wyatt let her go, allowing her body to crash to the ground as he stepped over the fallen figure of the man who had once been his mother’s financial manager. He glanced up the stairs, looking for the missing Phoenix. She may have been hurt. Or she’d betrayed him. Either way, he was not going to let the moment pass without his inspection. His body dissipated into speckles of blue and white light as he orbed himself up to the attic.
Bianca found her target as soon as she’d arrived. Weapon already prepped, she wasted no time in throwing the dagger at Justin’s father. She worked instinctively, suppressing all emotion, all memory of their previous encounters. He was no longer someone she knew but a thing that needed to be destroyed. She did, however, find her own work to be sloppy as the weapon missed the mark by inches. She never missed. Perhaps doubt had crept up on her to throw her aim off.
Her indecision provided Max with enough distraction to grab something of his own. A solid clay vase – the kind which would be moulded during an amateur pottery class – was heaved in Bianca’s direction. She was quick enough to duck the incoming missile as Max used the opportunity to escape downstairs in search of his wife. Objects clattered behind Bianca but she bore them no mind, her sight locked onto the moving target. She was about to make a move when she heard Justin behind her and froze.
“Your heel should be a little further back if you expect that to work,” she heard him say.
Her jaw locked, gritting her teeth at the judgement. Never, ever would she let another witch get away with criticizing her skills as an assassin. She’d been raised her whole life that way - trained in the art of hunting and killing people. As she rose to retaliate, she heard another voice that stripped her aggression away.
“What kind of a welcome back is that?”
“Chris?” she whispered.
Turning she saw her fiancé before her, and Justin, and a whole lot of concrete. The image flickered once as it caught up with the streaming of the projection from the holobook on the ground. Just behind the book lay the shattered vase, patches of red powder dusting the ground like small footprints leading back to the object it had knocked from the table, one corner of the cover still marked from the moment of impact.
“From what? The flu? Dude, it’s not like you were dying or anything,” Justin said. “You can’t have forgotten an ollie in two weeks.”
“I was doing an ollie, you were telling me it was wrong.”
“Cause I wanted you to try the kick flip.”
“Yeah. But saying ‘It’s like an ollie but way more awesome’ doesn’t help.”
“You just gotta spin it a bit.”
“You want to show me?”
“Nah, dude. You can do it.”
Again Chris jumped onto his board, pushing it forward then shifting his weight to the back and jumping with it off the ground. He pushed the front a little as he launched and the board spun beneath him. Just as he looked like he almost had it, he came crashing back to the ground, his feet racing along the concrete on either side of the board. Cursing as he stumbled he looked back to Justin.
“What?” Justin asked innocently with a shrug. “It’s like the hardest trick you can do. They didn’t used to call it a magic flip for nothing, dude.”
A familiar sound of laughter echoed nearby and Chris strolled over to the girl, pulling her in towards him. “And what exactly are you laughing at, huh? I don’t see you trying it.”
“That’s because I’m not stupid,” the Bianca in the image responded.
Bianca had seen enough of the happy days footage. She moved towards the book, lifting the edge of the cover and slamming it closed before she bore witness to anything else she didn’t want to be reminded of. She hid the volume away as if hiding the holobook would make her memories disappear along with it. Her life wasn’t like that anymore.
Realizing her target was long gone, she began to head back down the stairs in the same direction Max had escaped earlier.
Despite the fact that the broken security cam had alerted Justin to use stealth upon entering the house, his dog had other ideas. As soon as the door opened, Chase bolted down the hallway towards the kitchen, barking to scare away the intruders as he did so.
“Chase!” Justin hissed after him.
There was a flash of light as Chase raced into the kitchen and seconds later her heard the young puppy emit a high-pitched yelp. Justin picked up his pace as he headed towards the room. Out of concern for his pet, he momentarily forgot that Chase would have alerted whoever was in the house to their recent arrival. Barely making it past the doorframe leading from the front entry into the main hall, a slimline boot slammed into his side, ploughing him shoulder first into the frame edging on the other side. His head connected with the wood moments after his body and he slumped to the ground, his temple throbbing. Tongue-in-cheek and pride radiating through her after accomplishing the direct hit, Bianca sauntered towards the fallen witch and brought her foot up between his hands and knees coming into rough contact with his stomach.
“Get up,” she demanded.
Justin coughed, his hand rising as if to cover his mouth but instead grabbing her leg, the other hand helping to affix his grip as he tried to yank her down. The Phoenix, however, was far too quick for his plan, circling her leg around his head and effectively flipping him onto his back. Now standing straddle over him, she re-conjured the athame and leant down towards him, lining the tip of the blade underneath his chin. She lifted slightly, moving his head with the motion as she indicated what she wanted him to do.
“Up,” she commanded. “That’s it. Keep going.”
Justin pushed himself up from the floor, forced to take a step or two backwards as she walked in line with the rise of his body. He almost stumbled as the walk turned into a forceful shove, Bianca’s left forearm striking his chest and pushing him back against the wall. The angle of the athame changed as she turned it so the blade edge would face in, covering more of his skin if she needed to use it.
“You don’t have to do this,” Justin said.
“Haven’t you come up with a new line by now?” she returned.
“You’re here with him, aren’t you?” he queried. She didn’t answer though there was a hint of inquisitiveness in her expression. “Wyatt.”
She looked at the blade, the diversion retraining her focus and preventing Justin from seeing any hint of guilt, shame or sorrow radiating in her eyes. “I’m doing my job.”
“How is this helping you get Chris back?” he asked.
“Angering the Elders for one.”
“So, what? They can kill you?”
“So they can bargain. A life for a life.”
“And where does fucking Wyatt come into that plan?” Justin asked heatedly. He normally would not have been so direct, but the idea that Wyatt was slaughtering his parents in the other room while she had him pinned to the wall made it difficult to suppress his anger.
Bianca’s eyes darkened and she ran the athame across his neck, deep enough to sting but light enough not to open any wounds. She stopped at the juncture of his throat, turning the athame back to its former position and pressing the tip hard against the softest part of the skin – directly over his voicebox. If he even attempted to speak again he would pierce his throat with it.
“You should really learn how not to speak out of turn. One move and I’ll take care of that for you,” she said.
Knowing he was in quite the predicament, Justin’s only resource now was a mental one. He closed his eyes, trying to zone in on PJ and astral project himself to her. Unfortunately for him, Bianca knew him all too well and such a simple move as that one signalled he was channelling one of his powers. Flipping the athame down in her hand, she closed her fist tightly around the handle and smacked him across the face. Justin’s eyelids flew open as his head jolted to the right. If not for Bianca’s forearm securing him to the wall, the heavy blow would have knocked him back to the floor. Despite the ache in his jaw, he was a little relieved she had reconsidered slicing his throat open, but she was still obstructing him from getting to his parents. He had to do something rash, even though he didn’t want to hurt her. She had given him enough room to get between their bodies and, palm up, he raised his arm and slammed the heel of his hand beneath her chin. She instantly let go of him, staggering back as he dashed towards the kitchen.
“Hello, little fella,” Wyatt said, giving Justin a shove back into the room he was trying to escape from. Justin looked down at the hand on his chest, suddenly feeling like the high school geek getting bullied by the big jock. “Come to play hero, have we?”
Justin swiped at Wyatt’s wrist, trying to fasten his hold around it. His grip, however, failed to be tight enough to withstand Wyatt’s telekinesis as the blonde man soon had him skidding on his bottom back across the floor.
“Tut tut, now,” Wyatt chastised. “You can look but not touch. Golden rule number one of this game.”
“I’m happy with that,” Justin said, raising his hand and flicking his fingers towards Wyatt, using his own telekinesis power to send the man into the nearby stair banister.
Bianca’s hand glowed purple and blue, crackling with lightning like electricity as she lit up an energy ball and lifted it threateningly, glaring at Justin. “Do you want to try that again?”
“I don’t need you to fight my battles, Bianca,” Wyatt said, pushing himself up from the stairs. “I can handle this myself.”
“I wasn’t trying to…” Bianca began, lowering her hand and diffusing the ball.
Wyatt snapped his own hand up into the air. Justin’s body followed suit, slamming into the roof. He clutched at his throat, feeling it tighten and constrict. Wyatt’s fingers curled as if he were fastening his hold around Justin’s neck.
“How’s the view up there, Justin? High enough for you? Or shall I take you higher?” Wyatt questioned.
Unable to breathe, his thoughts desperately searching for a way to begin the flow of air into his lungs again, Justin barely took note of the questions. He couldn’t even form a response above gagging. His larynx felt as if it were being crushed.
“Wyatt, you’re going to kill him,” Bianca hissed.
“Kill? No. I’m just playing. This is killing.”
A bright ball of light expanded vastly within his left hand as he generated an energy ball. Swiftly he tossed it at Justin. Barely able to hold onto consciousness, Justin was no longer aware of what was happening below him. He saw a luminescent ball speeding towards him and evoked enough recognition to realise it was a source of energy. He lifted his hand and attempted to focus on the object before him, but his concentration faltered as he struggled to stay conscious and the ball only managed to pause in midair. Slowly sparks dropped down from the spinning object towards the ground like remnants of a burst firework. He did not know who it was that forced Wyatt into removing his hold, but suddenly he was plummeting to the ground, the ball falling with him and puddling on the floor before him as it singed into the floorboards. Two large dark boots parked themselves underneath Justin’s nose as he coughed and tried to draw in as much air as his body would take. Warm breath fell on his face as volatile words were spoken in his ear.
“We’re not finished.”
Attempting to gather together any energy he had left to prepare for the next round, Justin looked up… and discovered that both the witch and the Phoenix were gone. His heart pounded and he raised his hand in signal to PJ that he was okay. His attention turning towards his parents, he dragged himself towards the kitchen door and immediately found his father on the floor, a giant hole in his flesh exposing muscle and bone. It was like someone had picked up a large piece of meat stripped and hanging at the butchers then used it to blanket his father’s body. It was almost certain from the sight of him that his father was dead.
“Dad?” Justin said, looking his father over but not daring to touch the body. Even the clothes his father wore were burnt around the wound, as if someone had laid an iron on them for too long and the heat had sunk through.
Reaching towards the counter, the young man used it as support to haul himself to his feet. As he stood he spied his mother over the other side, sitting in a pile of glass, Chase on her lap as she held him tightly with one arm.
“Mom,” he said with relief, noting she was a little hurt but at least still alive. He grabbed a fresh dish cloth and ran it under some cold water, holding it against the wound on her neck as he crouched down before her. She lifted her hand to cover his and Justin looked down at the puppy in her lap, running his hand through the soft fur. From all accounts Chase seemed to be okay, despite the yelp he had heard earlier. His mother wearily rested her forehead against his and Justin closed his eyes, fighting back tears.
“I’m sorry,” he apologised. “I should have worked it out sooner. I should have been here.”
“We’re okay,” Alisha said.
Alisha shook her head. She had faith in her husband and his abilities. She couldn’t see his body, but unless Wyatt had done more than she had seen she knew he would be okay. There was a soft sound of movement and a deep inhalation of air being drawn into disused lungs from the other side of the counter. Alisha gently pushed Justin towards it. Crawling over to his father, Justin watched in awe as the damaged parts of his body began to bubble in small pieces and knit back together as if nothing had happened. With the extensiveness of the damage it took a few minutes, but finally his father’s appearance returned to normal and the only sign that Wyatt had done anything to him were the crispy remains of the blue shirt he wore.
“Dad, you’re okay?” Justin asked.
His father reached up and gave him a slight pat on the cheek. “You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
“But you were… toast! With extra crispy bacon on the inside.”
“Fortunately I wasn’t the ham, the rind, the sausages…”
“What he’s trying to tell you, honey, is that Wyatt would have had to dismember him completely for him to die,” Alisha said, allowing Chase to scamper across the floor as she joined Justin and Max.
“Got that, mom.”
Alisha shook her head softly. “You two have your own language, I swear.”
Max smiled, propping himself up on the back of his arms. He looked his wife over and the cheerfulness quickly dissipated to concern.
“What has he done to you?” Max asked.
“Can you heal her?” Justin asked.
“Doesn’t work that way, buddy,” Max replied, pushing himself to his feet. He placed his hands on his wife’s face, inspecting the wound at her neck, feeling her flinch as he moved his hand to her arm. “We have to get you to a hospital.”
“He’ll expect us to do that,” Justin said. “Can’t we get a whitelighter? Don’t you know anyone?”
“The only whitelighters I knew are all dead,” Max said pointedly. Justin knew immediately who he was referring to. “And from what I hear, they’re in short supply these days.”
“Why don’t we go see Sasan? He’s got a medical background and I’m sure it’s nothing serious…”
“Lish, you can’t even hold your arm straight.”
“I’m coming with you,” Justin insisted. “I’m not letting him near you again.”
Alisha smiled warmly, putting her hand around her son’s head and kissing his temple. “Thank you, honey. I would expect nothing less. You’ve been through the wars yourself; I want him to check you out too. Don’t forget Chase.”
Justin turned on the couch, murmuring something in his sleep. Max cocked his head to the side as he watched his son.
“How is he?” he asked.
“Sleeping. Finally,” Alisha answered. “He’s been awake all night, thinking Wyatt was coming back.”
Max lifted his hand to his face, clearing the sleep from his eyes as his fingers closed over the bridge of his nose. “This is too much pressure for him.”
“What do you expect, Max? He’s the only one who has any magical abilities that can fight off Wyatt.”
“He’s just a kid, Lish. He shouldn’t have to be trying to protect his parents. That’s our job.”
“And on any given day we would, but it just won’t work against a Halliwell.”
“We need to go.”
“Max,” Alisha pleaded softly.
“Mmm, what’s going on?” Justin asked, rubbing his eyes as he turned back towards them. He sat up, blinking to adjust to the early morning light.
“Go home,” Max said.
Justin looked at him with confusion. “What? No way. I’m not leaving.”
“Yes you are. You’re going to go home, pack your things, and then come back here,” Max instructed. “We’re leaving.”
“I’m taking us all to Miami. I’ve still got some family there. The further we get away from this place, the better.”
“We’re running away from Wyatt?”
“We can’t fight him, Justin.”
“Max, I’m sure these problems are stretching far beyond San Francisco.”
“I don’t care, Lish. Them, we can handle. An all-powerful witch on the warpath, we are defenceless against.”
“You’re asking me to get all my stuff and walk out on my friends, my job… my girlfriend?” Justin asked incredulously. “Dad, I am not leaving PJ here on her own. She’s gone through enough.”
“And if you stay, you’ll end up dead too. Who do you think is going to stop him?” Max asked.
“Chris,” Justin replied.
“Chris?” Max queried. “Chris Halliwell who took off six months ago and hasn’t been seen since? Who didn’t have the audacity to turn up to his own father’s funeral? For all we know, Wyatt could have killed him long ago and dumped his body in the bay. Chris is not coming back, Justin, and you know it.”
Justin closed his mouth and sunk back into the couch. He couldn’t tell his father of Chris’ grand plan to go back to the past and prevent his brother from becoming evil. Besides, in a way his father could be right – somebody may have got to Chris or killed him in the past. It had been an awful long time since he had gone. He should have been back by now if he’d achieved what he’d set out to do. And Wyatt only seemed to be getting worse, not better. Perhaps the plan had failed – and now it really was left up to him and his friends to put an end to this. Without Chris he didn’t know what to do – how was a sidekick to defeat the villain when the hero was gone?