Chapter 1 of 9
Paige frowned at her bank statement. How could that bill be higher? It wasn’t high per say, wasn’t more than what she used to pay when she lived by herself but that’s the point, no one was there. So yes, she had asked the super’s wife to go clean every now and then and she paid the woman for that, but the rest of the time the apartment was empty, she should be paying just the minimum as she had been paying before. Did electricity go that much up? She didn’t know. Piper was the one who handled the bills here and she had to admit that since moving to the manor she had stopped paying attention to those details and she also had to admit she didn’t check her bank statements that frequently, which she should, because according to these statements her electric, gas and water bill had all gone up a few months ago. Paige nodded and decided to go ask her older sister.
She purposely walked from her room to the kitchen where she found Piper, cooking, what else? And Phoebe writing in her laptop at the kitchen table.
“Piper,” she started “Did the electricity, gas and water prices rise?”
Piper looked at her strangely and answered, “No, why?”
“Because my bills increased,” Paige said brandishing her bank statements.
“What bills?” Piper asked bewildered. Uh, oh, Paige winced. She had forgotten the little detail that her sisters didn’t know she still had her apartment.
“Hum, uh, never mind,” she tried to weasel herself away and run from the kitchen but Phoebe was faster and had grabbed the bank statements.
“Since when are those bills credited in your account? They have always been in Piper’s. Ever since Grams died,” Phoebe frowned.
“They are,” Piper agreed.
“Then what are you paying Paige?” Phoebe pointed at the statements.
“Hum, well, you see- The apartment was mine actually. I bought it with the money my parents left me. And I thought I’d rent out,” Paige fidgeted a little, “and that renting out would be easier if everything was still connected but then I never got to actually looking into renting out and then, my stuff is still there, and at first I didn’t know if this would work out, but I do now,” she hastened to add firmly, “I just never got around it you know?” she winced at the end giving them a feeble smile.
“No,” Piper said looking at her with that expression she uses when she’s about to chew your head off. Lately that expression had been solely dedicated to their Whitelighter, and Paige had been so grateful for that, but for some reason she was staring at her that way and Paige wanted to cringe. Piper crossed her arms and Paige just whimpered.
“You kept your apartment ready to move back in?” Phoebe asked and there was a little hurt in that voice that made Paige want to whimper even more.
“Noooo,” she tried to appease them, “Well, erm, yes. But just in the beginning. I mean, we were just getting to know each other then!” she defended herself. “I didn’t know if this would work out and then I just kind of forgot. I don’t still keep it because I think of moving out I just, I don’t know- Never got around renting it out. Please you have to believe me! Put yourselves in my shoes! Would you have just moved into stranger’s house with no backup plan? I love you two but let’s be truthful, back then the only reason you accepted me was because I was family, and some people,” she stressed with a significant look at Piper, “Had a hard time even with that.”
Piper relented her admonishing expression as she cringed a bit and Paige felt a little safer.
“Let me see that statement,” Piper said grabbing the statement and quickly changing the subject. She frowned. “Paige, this isn’t right. There has to be someone living there with these costs.”
“There isn’t. I swear. The only person that goes there is Mrs. Smith to clean for me and that’s once every two weeks. Just so my stuff doesn’t get ruined with dust.”
“Your stuff?” Piper asked.
“Well, it’s as if my furniture was welcome here,” Paige huffed and the other two cringed.
“Sorry,” Piper said regretfully. “Why don’t we go check this out and then maybe we can see if we can bring some of your stuff here? I mean, we could maybe use a change in décor.”
“Yeah,” Phoebe added happily as she realized that Paige was right, they hadn’t opened that much space for Paige to bring herself to the house. This could be a good way to make up for that. “We could.”
And that is how the three sisters found themselves walking to the front door of the apartment building where Paige had been living when they met her. They were going to go in and check the apartment before meeting the super but Mr. Smith had been washing the sidewalk when they came.
“Ms. Mathews!” he called. “What a wonderful surprise! The boys aren’t late with the rent are they? Because really, they have been so good to have around, I’d hate for you to lose such great tenants.”
“Er- the boys?” Paige asked bewildered but Piper decided to take over.
“Oh, no! They pay on time. We just wanted to make sure they are not causing you trouble,” she smiled widely poking Paige on the ribs.
“Yes, of course,” Paige smiled forcedly.
“No trouble at all,” Mr. Smith said. “The youngest is always at work. Don’t really know what he does but that few times I see him he is completely rung out so I think he should slow down. But I understand, poor kids. All alone in the world having to support themselves so young. What can they do? The oldest managed to get a job down at the grocers and is always doing the odd job for me here, you know? I’m not as young as I used to be and his help is welcome.”
“Of course, such good boys,” Paige said vaguely. “So, is Mrs. Smith still cleaning the apartment?”
Mr. Smith laughed heartedly, “Ms. Mathews I’m the old one here and you’re the one with memory problems. When you came to introduce me the boys you said they couldn’t afford her remember?”
Paige laughed, “Of course I do, I just thought that working so hard they might have made enough money you know?”
“Don’t worry. Mrs. Smith. Is always worried about them kids living alone, you know her, soft heart and they remind her of our boys, so she always takes some food to them and she says they keep the apartment and your furniture in pristine conditions.”
“Great!” Phoebe said. “Hum, are they home?”
“At this time?” Mr. Smith said looking at his watch. “I doubt that, Matt is still at the grocers and the youngest well, I really don’t know his schedule. Sometimes I swear I don’t hear him coming in from the door but then they come out together!”
“Imagine that!” Piper laughed. “Well, Mr. Smith. Thank you for the talk. We’ll stop by another time. Oh, but don’t tell them. We want to make a surprise check if you understand.”
“I do,” he chuckled. “But I’m telling you, there’s no need for that with those two.”
“That is personal gain,” Leo said frowning at the girls.
“No, it’s not,” Phoebe shook her head. “The super said Paige introduced them, which means that unless Paige has an identical twin we didn’t know of, whoever is living there used magic to glamour themselves into Paige or at the very least change Mr. Smith memory. And isn’t that too much of a coincidence? Someone using a Charmed One’s apartment? So this is magical and therefore totally acceptable.”
Leo frowned at her again but said nothing.
Piper huffed as she closed the book, “No useful spell here. We might need to write one.”
“What are you looking for?” Leo asked.
“Well, we thought of barging in,” Paige said. “Our usual MO but then we decided to be more subtle, and find out who they are and what they want. We want a spell to make us invisible and cloak in case they can sense us.”
“I could do that,” Leo said calmly.
“You could? Can I?” Paige asked eagerly.
“No, this is an Elder power. I can make myself invisible and cloak myself and could probably extend that to you.”
Paige huffed disappointed but Phoebe nodded, “Great, that’s better than a spell that might back fire. Let’s go!” she said extending her hand.
The apartment was empty when they orbed in.
“You sure they won’t see us? Because I can see you,” Piper asked and Leo smiled with his hands entwined at his back.
“Yes, I’m sure, you can see me because you’re under my cloaking. They won’t be able to see or hear us.”
Paige who had been looking around and had to admit that the apartment was being well kept, at her expense no less, said as they heard a click on the door, “We’re about to find out.”
The door opened and a tall blond man carrying grocery bags came in shutting the door behind him with his foot.
“He’s cute,” Phoebe said and Piper glared at her.
“He’s probably a demon,” she reminded Phoebe.
“Still cute,” Phoebe shrugged. “And he doesn’t look like a demon.”
“Neither did Cole,” Paige reminded her as she glared at her “tenant”. “So, do you think that’s Matt or the other one we don’t know the name?”
“That shirt looks familiar,” Piper frowned as she looked at the way the man- boy- he looked very young, was dressing. He was well dressed, don’t get her wrong, but somehow the clothes didn’t seem to belong to him. A lot like someone else she knew.
Matt had just finished putting away the grocery and started preparing two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He left them open and had drawn smiley faces in them. He seemed quite pleased with his handy work and was in the process of sticking two candles to two cupcakes, a 1 and an 8 when Piper heard Phoebe call from the only other room in the small apartment.
“Er, you have to see this.”
They went to the small room and Piper looked around. There was one bed, she figure the bed must have been Paige’s and one mattress on the floor and she recognized the mattress as being that spare one that she had in the back room of P3. The sheets didn’t cover the mattress fully and the whine stain she had made once was there in the exact same spot. She frowned; they were living in Paige’s apartment and taking her spare mattress? She looked at where Phoebe was pointing and gaped. The Book of Shadows and a sword that looked an awful lot like Excalibur were resting innocently inside the wardrobe.
“That book looks a lot thicker,” Paige noted.
“They stole our book,” Piper stated shocked.
“How, we had the book right under our noses just before orbing here?” Phoebe asked.
“Be right back,” Paige said and orbed out. A few moments later she orbed back. “Book and sword right where they are supposed to be.”
“And these?” Leo asked.
Piper stared at Matt and said, “I say we grab him and put him in a crystal cage now and get some answers.”
“What about the other one?” Leo asked.
Paige bit her lip and nodded, “We wait till he gets here and then we surprise them.”
They didn’t have to wait much more. Matt had arranged the sandwiches and cupcakes on the coffee table as they all decided to lean on the wall and watch him and no sooner had he finished orbs started forming and a very familiar Whitelighter materialized in front of them. At first they thought he had tracked them down but Matt wasn’t surprised. On the contrary he jumped up and cried, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”
Chris looked at his overexcited accomplice, because now Piper knew he was up to no good, and she also realized where she knew that shirt from, she had washed that shirt, and he smiled.
“I made us a banquet!” Matt pompously said pointing at the sandwiches and Chris burst out laughing.
“You know that your mother was an award wining chef don’t you? What would she say Wy?”
“I think she’d be immensely proud of my prowess in the kitchen, besides, made you laugh,” Matt poked Chris.
“Chris!” Paige cried. “What the hell? Why is he here? And what did he do? Come in a field trip to the past and munch of my apartment?”
“Apparently,” Leo said pleased. Absolutely sure he was going to prove Chris’s evil plan. “We should spy more. We finally have the opportunity to find out his plan.”
Matt pushed a smiley face sandwich towards Chris as they both sat down.
“Today you become a man! You become of age. You can enlist in the army and you can legally drink…in most countries. Today has to be celebrated and today there will be no talk about missions and the dreary future we come from.”
“No, no, how would we be spending this day if everything hadn’t gone to hell?”
“Well,” Chris said with a wistful smile. “Mom would invite all my friends and throw me a special party. Dad would send a letter a couple of days later apologizing because of some bull business that was important came up and he couldn’t be there but next year he promises he’ll be there,” Chris snorted. “My lovely aunts would probably give me a sports car-“
“Dream on,” Matt snorted but Piper was frowning. Chris was turning eighteen? Since when did Whitelighters age? And why did he keep calling Matt Wy? She was answered soon enough with Chris cry:
“WYATT!” and she just stared at the blond boy in a new light. That was Wyatt? Her baby boy? Butwhat was he doing with Chris? What had Chris done to him? She glared anew at Chris and Leo was copying her exact look and thoughts. He knew this was Wyatt, he sensed him and felt his little boy.
Phoebe and Paige on the other hand had other thoughts. Maybe, just maybe, if Chris was here with Wyatt, and Wyatt was so very obviously fond of Chris, he wasn’t evil.
“My lovely aunts would give me a sports car, and would hug me, embarrassing me to no end in public and say how proud they were their little peanut was all grown up,” his smile faded and he continued. “Except we’re not home, the world did go to hell, and they are all dead. And Piper would rather blow me up than throw me a party, unfortunately Leo is around and he likes to threaten me, and I’m not my aunts little peanut. And we do have a mission Wyatt, we can’t forget that.”
Leo narrowed his eyes. Of course Piper wouldn’t throw him a party! Why should she? He was the one responsible for breaking up their family. He glared at Chris realizing the Whitelighter had lied again, because why would he have a birthday party if he was dead? That meant he was not a Whitelighter and probably stole orbing powers from one. Which explained why he couldn’t heal.
Wyatt had gotten up from his spot and sat down next to Chris pulling him close in a hug and Piper frowned. She would be talking seriously to Wyatt about the friendships he made.
“That’s why we need this night out. I know they’re getting to you and I don’t like it.”
“Not your fault,” Chris mumbled.
“If I had my powers I could be the one there but I can’t. I can’t protect you from their blows but I can at least try to make you forget for a few hours. I’ve been saving. I know we don’t have much money,” he snorted. “We have squat money and if we hadn’t been living of Aunt Paige we’d be in the streets but I got enough that we can go out and have some fun.”
“What did he mean he had no powers?” Piper and Leo thought worriedly. Did Chris steal Wyatt’s powers? Had he cast a spell on Wyatt making him be so compliant?
Chris nodded and orbs started forming when the young men heard a double shout of “Stay where you are!” They looked up abruptly and instantly were on their feet in a defensive manner as in front of them, without any signs of orbing, the Charmed Ones and Leo materialized.