Leo quickly orbed to make sure Paige had gotten home safely -- he thought it was a safe bet that would be where she’d go. Piper and Phoebe finally went to bed. Neither slept very well.
In the morning, Piper and Phoebe unfolded the newspaper and paged though the Metro section. Phoebe had quickly written a short obituary Thursday night, after they’d moved Prue’s body. It noted that the funeral was the next day, although the obit itself would run in the Chronicle’s Saturday edition. She figured Grams must have done pretty much the same thing for her mother -- a very quick turn around on the obit, possible at the right price, kept appearances normal, but didn’t invite unwelcome scrutiny. Magic, or specifically the fear of exposure, really did touch every aspect of their lives, she thought. Down to the tiniest details.
Piper took her time reading what Phoebe had written, pausing to smile wistfully or swallow past the lump in her throat. Phoebe stared at the headline the Chronicle had given the piece, which the paper had folded into a crime blotter story about the investigation: “Photojournalist dies in freak accident: Victim, 30, found in home.” They’d used that exact term with the police, and Phoebe tried out the explanation again in her head. Today, she knew, she would have to start to deal with the neighbors’ questions. My sister died two days ago. No, she wasn’t sick. It was just a freak accident. I know, yes, it’s horrible. What a world we live in. Thank you. Yes, she was only thirty. Yes, it’s tragic beyond belief.
Piper looked up when she finished reading the article. “This is really good,” she said quietly. “Everything about Prue, everything that mattered, it’s all here.”
Phoebe blinked in disbelief, and reached for the folded newspaper. “You think so? I just wanted the obit to be accurate, Piper. As accurate as possible anyway. Better her family write it than some reporter.”
Piper, who had a definite opinion on the choice in question, was just about to let Phoebe hear it -- again -- when the doorbell rang. She stood and looked at the clock by the door to the laundry room. “It’s barely eight thirty. Who do you think --”
Shaking her head, Phoebe answered, “Three guesses and the first two don’t count.” Piper followed her to the front door, where Paige stood, looking uneasy.
“It was unlocked, but I thought I’d ring the bell anyway,” she said by way of greeting.
“Good morning to you, too,” Piper replied, not bothering to hide the sarcasm. “I guess you’d like to come in?”
“Yeah,” Paige replied. “I’ve got all these questions, about last night and what it all means and just…everything.” She smiled a little sheepishly.
Phoebe looked from one sister to the other before smiling and clapping Paige on the shoulder. “Of course you do. Come right in and we’ll try to answer them all.” She turned with Paige back into the foyer, shooting Piper a look over her shoulder. Piper rolled her eyes at the front door, but closed it behind her and followed them into the living room.
Phoebe had waved Paige to the couch. “So, pretty amazing what you did last night, huh?” She grinned slightly at Paige’s flustered look.
“I guess. Leo’s okay, right? I mean, the wound disappeared and he started to get up --” Paige bit her lip and glanced at Piper. Maybe it hadn’t really worked, she thought. Better not remind her that I just bailed on them, again.
Phoebe‘s grin widened. “He’s fine, Paige. Thanks to you. In fact, he can help explain. Leo!” She turned toward the foyer. A moment later Leo walked in, smiling slightly. Paige gaped at him.
“Hey, Paige,” Leo said quietly, trying not to startle her further.
“You’re okay,” she answered. She shook her head slightly, and shifted on her feet.
“About that,” Leo started to say, but she cut him off, nodding.
“No, I get it. I mean, I’m part whitelighter and all, so white light comes out of my hands and poof, you’re healed.” She nodded again, but Phoebe and Leo could see her lower lip jutting out a bit.
Leo frowned at her. “Actually, that’s not what happened, Paige. You actually channeled my healing power. I’m not sure you have the power to heal on your own.”
Phoebe looked from Leo to Paige before she jumped back into the conversation. She put a hand on Paige’s arm, and steered her back to the couch. “We’re not really sure about a lot of things about you, though. Like where exactly you were born or how Mom kept you a secret from the Elders … it’s all pretty mysterious.”
Paige raised an eyebrow before she sat down. “The Elders?”
Before Phoebe could reply, Piper spoke up from where she stood by the entryway. “The whitelighters’ bosses. They,” she pressed her lips together and shook her head, “They don’t believe in the whitelighter-witch relationship being anything but professional.” Leo glanced at his wife curiously. Piper had taken the Elders’ opposition to their own relationship very personally, and she hadn’t been shy about her feelings about his bosses. But this was different, and Leo saw that Piper was trying to be sensitive to Paige, (in this, at least) whatever the youngest Halliwell’s feelings might be.
Paige slowly nodded. “So they were against my … father, and our mother, being together too. They would have been against me being born, wouldn’t they? If they had known, I mean.” She glanced uneasily at Leo. Slowly, and sadly, he nodded.
“Yes, they were. The Elders are used to working a certain way, and they fear anything that changes that order. They were afraid that allowing even one relationship between a witch and her whitelighter opened the door for evil exploitation. They were especially worried because your mom already was…” he paused and looked at Piper, unsure. Paige took the hint. She looked up at him clear-eyed.
“The mother of the Charmed Ones. Makes sense. I wasn’t just a freak, I was a dangerous spare freak. Okay.” She glanced at Piper, who had gone very still. “I’ll just…stop wasting your time.” She got up and walked out the front door.
Phoebe tried to call after her, but Leo said, “Let her go. She needs to deal with what this means for her, and she has to do it by herself. ” Phoebe started to protest, and Leo quickly added, “I’ll follow her, make sure she doesn’t get hurt, and be ready if she wants to talk, or come back. You two need to focus on Shax.”
Piper sighed. She looked at him for a moment and then said, “Fine. I want this demon vanquished. We’ll start working on a spell.” She headed for the stairs.
Leo found Paige parking on the edge of Mission Dolores Park. She sat in her car a moment before getting out and walking into the park. Deciding to follow her at an unobtrusive distance, Leo waited a few minutes. When he caught up with her, she was walking seemingly at random along the path, and muttering under her breath.
“I can’t believe what…how did that…what did I get myself into?” As she kept moving, Leo had to duck behind trees and benches on the chance that she would nervously turn and notice him. Thus, the appearance of the young man dressed in black caught him off guard.
The young man approached Paige. When he came into view her face lit up. “Shane? You’re okay!” She ran to him, laughing shakily. He stood stiffly while she hugged him. “I was so worried, and then all this stuff started happening… I found out, Shane. I’m really related to the Halliwell sisters.” Her voice as she said this was not as joyful as she thought it would be, just hours ago. The grim look on Shane’s face didn’t help.
“That’s what I was afraid of.” He pulled away from her. “Some cops were waiting for me back at my apartment last night. They wouldn’t leave until I answered all these questions about you and the Halliwells.” Shane ran his hand through his hair. “I didn’t even understand half of it, Paige. I don’t even know them! The cops kept going on about all this occult stuff, and unsolved cases. They said they’ve got evidence tying the Halliwells to dozens of cases over the last few years. I just…” He finally stopped when he saw the look on her face.
“I don’t need protection from my own family, Shane,” Paige said, her voice dangerously quiet. “So if that’s what you’re trying to do, please just leave me alone.”
Faking nonchalance, he back away, hands raised in mock defeat. “Hey, I was just trying to warn to you to be careful. Didn’t want cops knocking on your door in the middle of the night -- because I care, okay? But if you want to get mixed up with whatever the Halliwells are involved in, great. Glad you finally found your birth family.” He shook his head and started to walk off.
Paige stood in the middle of the path for several seconds, stunned into silence. She did feel mixed up. Mixed up and now more freaked out than ever. “Shane. Wait. I didn’t mean that -- ” A noise in the bushes to the side of the path cut her off. Before Leo could duck into the open to warn or help them, a black clad figure stepped onto the path. He had an energy ball in his palm, and he drew back his arm and hurled it at Shane.
Paige felt her body react before her mind did: she grabbed Shane and pushed him down to the ground, throwing herself over him. The energy ball flew over them, crashing into a tree, which burst into flame. The demon stopped short when his eyes fell on Paige. He sneered and then shimmered away. Leo hurried over a moment later, and helped Paige to her feet. Both of them eyed Shane uneasily.
Shane sat up, rubbing his head. “What,” he asked, “was that?” Paige turned to Leo. She had no idea where to begin, or whether she even wanted to.
Over his more than fifty years of experience as a whitelighter, situations like this one never got any easier, Leo thought. But, appearances occasionally to the contrary, he wasn’t in the business of routinely manipulating mortal memories, and, Leo told himself, that wouldn’t change just because he’d lost his most powerful charge to exposure. He held out a hand to Shane. “That,” he told the young man as he helped him up, “is the secret the Halliwell sisters have to keep from the police.”
Paige stared at Leo. But when Shane turned to her for confirmation, she found herself telling him an abridged version of the whole story. She felt like she needed to tell someone, to make the whole thing seem as real and serious as Leo, Piper, and Phoebe were treating it. As long as she kept talking, it was harder and harder to laugh.
Shane started shaking his head before she finished. “What you’re telling me is that neither of you are human, that the Halliwell sisters aren’t human, and that the guys who attacked us,” he gestured to himself and Paige, “also aren’t human -- that they are actual evil demons. You want me to believe that you’ve all got supernatural powers, and that Paige is being targeted because she’s supposed to take the place of the Halliwell sister who just died in some pre-destined coven of, of…” Shane paused and glanced back and forth wildly between Paige and Leo. He seemed to want them to deny it, but Leo only put a steadying hand on Paige’s shoulder. She swallowed and nodded. Somehow, it was easier to accept when everything was spelled out.
“Of sister witches, Shane. I’m a witch. I was born a witch.” Even with her growing confidence, Paige couldn’t look him in the eye for long. She studied her hands instead, remembering how the healing power had flowed through them. The goodness of that, the rightness, gradually nudged aside her fear. But when she dared look up again, Shane was backing away.
“Stop. Just stop. This is crazy. I can’t believe that you believe all this!” Paige started to respond, but Shane walked off, calling over his shoulder, “Maybe you accept everything he’s said, but I don’t have to.” A moment later he turned a corner and was gone.
She stood looking after him until Leo said, “I’m sorry, Paige. Sometimes that’s what happens when mortals --” He stopped, tensed and listening. “Piper and Phoebe are calling me,” he said to Paige’s baffled look. “They’ve probably found the spell.”
Paige shook her head. Things were happening so fast -- had it really only been forty eight hours ago that she was simply another young assistant down at the South Bay center, blissfully unaware? Her own curiosity had changed all that, and curiosity made her ask now, “Calling you? How? What spell? Leo, what are you even doing here?” But he shook his head and held out his hands.
“There’s no time to tell you everything. Your sisters need you, and I need you to trust me right now. Take my hands, Paige.” She blinked at him in confusion, but did. They orbed back to the Manor, straight into the attic.
As Paige stumbled and recovered herself, the sound of rushing wind came through the open door. Piper and Phoebe, huddled around the Book of Shadows, beckoned her over. “Shax is here, we’ve got the spell. All we need is you,” Phoebe told her.
Paige glanced at the attic door. The noise was getting louder. Piper didn’t meet her eye as she looked back at them. Phoebe, between them, took Paige’s hand and started to chant. The door shook on its hinges, and Piper took Phoebe’s other hand. Shax burst through the door seconds later. Over the noise, they chanted:
Evil wind that blows,
Killer who lurks below,
No longer shall you dwell,
Death takes you with this spell.
The demon howled as he exploded into blinding light. Once he was gone, Piper and Phoebe looked at each other. “The Power of Three,” Phoebe whispered.
Piper stood looking up at the neon sign, P3, for several minutes before going into the club. Monday morning meant either inventory or a booking meeting, depending on the week. New Found Glory would be headlining a benefit Friday night. Work, Piper told herself. Surprisingly, keeping busy with the club‘s routines took her mind off of everything- for a while. But every so often, she would glance at the corner alcove where she, Phoebe and Prue had celebrated, brainstormed, and grieved together. She tried to ignore the memories, but it was as if some unseen force compelled her to look.
Then she saw it. The sweater-- Prue’s favorite sweater. She went over to the alcove sofas to pick it up, and the distinct odor of cigarette smoke hit her nose. Piper turned around, ready to snap at whoever had snuck into the closed building to light up. But what she saw took the words from her mouth. Three women wearing very tight leather stood watching her intently. Smoke surrounded them. Piper flung her hands at them, but nothing happened.
“We are immune to your powers, Piper. You can’t hurt us.” The leader of the three women stepped forward as she said this. Her voice softened. “But we won’t hurt you.”
Piper raised an eyebrow, but she simply nodded to the athame in the leader’s hand. “Then what is it you want?”
Another of the women stepped forward. “To give you what you want,” she said. And with that, she blew a puff of smoke in Piper’s face.
Repulsed, Piper almost jumped back. “What in the hell?” But seconds later, her question answered itself. Nails lengthened and curled into claws; and the demons’ dark brown warpaint spread in streaks across her face. She blinked, and then smiled at the two demon women. “I guess I owe you a thank you.”
The lead demon shook her head. “Your presence is enough. Come.” They took her hands and vanished together in a poof of smoke.
They rematerialized in a vacant lot. Piper shrugged free of their grip, but before she could protest again, her attention, and the women’s, had shifted to a very intimidating young man nearly covered in tattoos, who was swaggering through the nearby alley. Nodding to each other, the women approached him, their grins turning to hisses, as Piper hung back.
Yet her reluctance was soon overwhelmed by a small voice in her head, one whispering that this man was evil, and had blood on his hands, just like Shax. Just like Shax, he needed to pay, to know the pain of those he hurt. These thoughts pulled her forward to join in blocking the man’s path.
“Ladies, I don’t know what you’re up to, but I got places to be, you know?” The only response was a unison of hisses, and the billow of cigarrete smoke. Piper watched as whatever the stuff was took effect, reducing the man to a writhing, whimpering ball. A slow grin spread across her face. This is what she had needed.
Paige rolled her eyes at her desk, stacked high with paper files. When would they digitize these things? Sighing, she began sorting the files, mostly adoption applications, by due date. Suddenly, the name on one caught her eye. “The Powell kid,” Paige murmured, slapping her forehead. She had been doing research on his case last Thursday when she’d seen Prue’s funeral notice on the net. And his adoption hearing was scheduled for, she rechecked the master list, 9 am the next morning.
“Damn,” Paige breathed, suddenly frantic. She turned back to her computer; three very long documents still needed to be finished before the file was complete. It was 3:44, though, and this was definitely more than two hours’ worth of work.
Her mind flew, trying to see a way out. She needed the hearings this week to go well; Mr. Cowen had been hinting heavily that she was good enough to go through certification, finally, and that this week’s work was, well, like an exam to prove it.
Stay late? Sure, but she’d been hoping to track down Shane, see if they could talk things out -- maybe even stop by the Halliwells… the Halliwells. She suddenly felt like there was just enough time for a drive halfway across town and back.
The front door was unlocked again, and if she hadn’t been on a mission Paige would have wondered about that. As it was, she only passed Phoebe, in the living room, doing something with a map and a string tied around a crystal. She’d have to try not to explain if she said hello, so she didn’t.
Sometime around the attic stairs she decided to simply copy the spell she needed once she found it. And it was easy to find, somehow there in the front of the book a few pages in.
“To Gather Knowledge”.
What is sought I cannot know
Wisdom of ancients, let my mind grow
Towards what I seek become my guide
For this day, may facts no longer hide.
She didn’t feel different. But getting back to work to test it would be the only way to know. Passing the living room again, she heard Phoebe mutter, “Piper, where are you?” Paige guiltily ducked out the front door just as Phoebe raised her voice to call “Leo!”
The research and form completion took no more than half an hour max, back at the office. “Whew,” Paige sighed, sending the final drafts to the printer. All of Jimmy Powell’s biographical data had just sprung right out of the databases. She was even able to get head starts on the files of kids with hearings later in the week. One of them even had a birth parent living near the Halliwells.
She didn’t remember making the decision -- just driving back to Prescott Street, letting herself in, and making a beeline for the wooden chest in the conservatory. Somewhere in here -- yes, a photo album. With the letters between -- it was still hard to even think of calling Patty Halliwell “her” mom -- and her whitelighter. Sam.
It took her breath away, how tender they were. One of Paige’s dormmates at Stanford had written letters like this to her beau, and Paige, still thick in the punk scene, had scoffed at how unironically sappy the whole thing had seemed. But this? “They loved each other,” she whispered. How many years had she wondered about them, about that question?
She is still mostly dry-eyed when she comes to a longer letter dated February 10, 1977. “Sam,” it began.
My hands are trembling as I write. I don’t know how to tell you this. I can barely believe it myself, and I’m sure one of the girls will wander in and see me. Sam, darling, I’m pregnant. I think about seven weeks. I’ve been half in denial, half overjoyed the whole time. Forgive me, Sam, for waiting to tell you you’re a father. Part of me hoped I could keep you, keep us all, safer that way. I think of my girls, how happy they’d be. I suppose I didn’t want you to think we had taken their birthright from them. My mother still doesn’t know -- I dread her reaction as much as Theirs, I think.
But I am so happy, Sam. I love this baby already, and I love that she’s yours.
All of my love,
Paige doesn’t realize there are tears running down her cheeks until Phoebe’s frantic and confused voice brings her out of her reverie. “Paige, what’re you doing, and doing here?” Then she waved away the question. “Nevermind right now - we have a major problem. Piper’s missing.” As Paige struggled to dry her eyes without Phoebe catching on, Phoebe filled her little sister in: “I can‘t find her by scrying, and Darryl Morris just called to tell me there are reports,” they were now climbing the stairs to the attic, “of a group of women going around attacking people, in brown outfits with warpaint on their faces. They’ve committed a bunch of assaults recently. He said one of them looked like Piper.”
She started flipping through the book, and Paige tried to keep her focus. Was this what being a Charmed One was like? Crisis interrupting life every time they turned around? She didn’t like where these thoughts were taking her, not after what she had just read, and so she was secretly glad when Pheobe stopped at a page, looked up and said, “Uh-oh. Paige, we’ve got a problem.” She turned the book around. “Piper’s turned into a Fury. Look.”
Paige had thought she’d seen demonic ugliness with Shax, but this -- these Furies were just horrible looking. Magic sure was the opposite of glamorous. “So, uh, how do we get her back?”
Phoebe took a breath. “Repressed anger motivates them, and they’re attracted to those who’ve committed evil, like moths to a flame the book says. Basically, they’re extreme, supernaturally amped vigilantes. If --” she cut herself off. What was the use?
But Paige looked up, sharply. “If what? Something can help get her back?”
Phoebe ruefully shook her head. “If only my old boyfriend were here, he probably would’ve volunteered to be bait to lure the Furies to us.”
Paige was still one page behind. “Your boyfriend was a murderer?”
The ruefully smile deepened. “You could say that. Except he killed witches with energy balls.” Paige’s mouth was a perfect stunned O. Phoebe nodded toward the lectern. “He’s in the book. But the point is, we don’t have the easy start to a solution.”
Paige thought about that. Pull-or-push. Push-or-pull. “Could we just lure Piper with whatever she’s angry about?” She bit back “or whoever she’s angry at?”
Phoebe’s face was a mix of “what else can we do?”, and intrigued. “I could write a spell, I suppose…” She eyed Paige. “You’ve got a theory.”
Paige shifted her weight from foot to foot. “She’s angry at me. You guys would‘ve been able to just grieve in peace and then go back to being regular people, but I had to come into your lives,” a self-deprecating grin crossed her face, “and keep your destiny going by taking Prue’s place.”
Phoebe waved this away. "Paige, we were all born witches. If you hadn't come into our lives right now, we'd be sitting ducks, forget grieving." She sighed. "Piper and I are just having to adjust to life without the one person we could count on to be there for us. It's not about you, it's about Piper and ...."
Their eyes met, and the same thought passed between them. “She’s angry at Prue”, came out as a revelation in unison.
“Okay,” Phoebe continued thinking aloud. “Spell to summon a demon crossed with the spell to find a lost witch….”
“’Sister‘,” Paige put in. “I’m guessing ‘witch’ won’t work that well if she’s a Fury.”
Phoebe smiled at that, and made a few more corrections. “Okay. You ready?”
She who is pulled forth and back
Let us tell her what she lacks
Forces of darkness, forces of light
Bring us our sister so we may aid in her fight.
And sure enough, a whirlwind opened up, right there in the attic. Like Shax, Paige thought. Like Belthazor, Phoebe thought. But no, when the wind cleared all that stood in front of them was a Fury -- Piper, a Fury. She hissed at both of them, and moved as if to claw at them.
“Leo!” they shouted. He hurried over as soon as he orbed in, and though Piper resisted, he was able to orb out with her.
“The maseloum”, Phoebe answered Paige’s look. “And we need to get there ourselves, fast.” Paige could see where that was headed. She started shaking her head. Phoebe took her hands. “You’ve got to try. For Piper, okay?”
Paige nodded, numbly. The image of Piper Furious filled her mind, and she gripped Phoebe’s hands. The next thing she knew they were standing in front of Prue’s tomb. “Whew.”
Piper’s whole demeanor had changed -- she was tense, frightened to even look at the inscription. Then Paige spoke up. “I get it, okay? My parents died, and I hated them for it. I hated that they abandoned me, right when I needed them most.” She was shouting now. “Face what you’ve been running from, Piper. You hate her for dying and abandoning you. It is okay to hate Prue!” The last line was almost screamed, and it snapped something within Piper.
She ran at the inscription, screamed at it: “I hate you! I hate you! Why did you have to die and leave me here all alone? Did you really think I didn’t need you anymore?” Even as she screams this she has started to cry, and as she beats her fists against the tomb marker some of the strength goes out of her. As she sinks, crying, to the floor of the masoleum, Leo is beside her, and to his relief the warpaint is clearing from her face. “She always rushed into danger, and she never thought about what would happen to us if we lost her,” she continued, voice thick.
Paige let them have their moment. Not that she could do anything more, right then, than stare at that deceptively simple inscription.
Current Mood: good