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24 April 2012 @ 08:31 pm
The New Normal (Binding Ties)  
A/N: A quote in this chapter comes from 1x02, "Thank You for Not Morphing".  Nothing is mine. 



Paige didn’t expect any grand gestures after the incident at the mausoleum, but still, when Piper showed up at her desk at South Bay Social Services the next day with a basket of homemade baked goods?  Paige was torn -- there was her gratitude, and then there was her fear that either Mr. Cowen would decide to check up on her right then, or that Piper wasn’t just here with a peace and appreciation offering. 

Even with the boost in productivity and the discovery of the letters, Paige found herself feeling uneasy about casting the spell.  Especially since she had a nagging feeling that hearing Piper’s true feelings at the mausoleum might have been part of it. 

But then she heard Piper reply to Jon Kemmel, the office CPA and a guy who was kind of protective of Paige in a big brotherly way, when he asked the inevitable “who are you, again?”   He was trailing her as she made her way to Paige’s desk,  trying to avoid bumping into the large wicker basket.  

Piper set the basket down on the desk, and looked across it at Paige.  “I’m her sister.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

The conservatory.  Phoebe didn’t realize she’d been avoiding it until she’d seen Paige at the wooden cabinet, and only now, with Piper safe, did she wonder.  Why was Paige crying? What had she been looking at? 

And there was only one way to find out, of course. 

After Piper left the house the next day, Phoebe finally worked up the courage.  Everything looked the same, which both comforted her and unnerved her.  It was reflex, really, that made her look at the spot where Prue had died.   But she forced herself not to look away.  She had faced this fear so many times already, what was one more? 

A spring breeze blew through the branches of the trees in the side yard, just through the windows, and Phoebe shivered despite herself.   But thinking of Barbas now made her think of her mom’s words in the Book of Shadows.  She took a deep breath. 

“We’re okay, you know,” she addressed the windows.  “Even Piper.  Yesterday was just…well, you know better than I do what she was like after Grams.  We’re okay, and we‘ll be okay.  Please don’t worry.”  She smiled, even as her eyes grew moist.  “Rest in peace, sis.  You’ve earned it.”

It was as she was turning back toward the doorway to the rest of the house that Phoebe realized.  The cabinet was in her peripheral vision, and she remembered putting the many letters between her mom and Sam that she couldn’t fit in the scrapbook into a box that she’d put in the cabinet for safekeeping.  Really curious now, Phoebe went over and opened the cabinet.  And there on the shelf was a single folded note dated February 10, 1977.   By the time she finished reading it, tears were streaming down her face.  

She walked back into the kitchen, sniffling.  Tea, maybe that would help.  She knew Piper had only gotten through the funeral by mainlining chamomile.   She had just put water on to boil when the phone rang.  Of all people in the world, it was her father. 

He’d had to fly out to a meeting in Phoenix right after the funeral, and so he was just calling now to see how the two of them were holding up.  And Prue used to think my timing sucked, Phoebe thought, trying not to laugh and start crying again. 

After assuring him that yes, they were doing as well as could be expected, Phoebe got off the phone with him and called P3.   She drank half a cup of the too-hot tea waiting on the line for someone to find her sister, who, of course, had been up half the previous night baking her peace offering.   When Phoebe finally got a hold of Piper, she got right to it.  “Dad just called. Wanted to know how we are. And let’s just say I’m holding in my hand a really good reason, in Mom’s handwriting, to sit him down and tell him what’s happened.”  Hearing the stifled curse on the other end of the line, Phoebe suddenly remembered Piper was surrounded by liquor bottles.  “So, uh, why don’t you hand some work off to your capable assistants and come home so we can figure out how to handle this.”

Piper agreed, begrudgingly, and then said, “Wait.  Should we call Paige?” 

Phoebe shook her head at the tea kettle.  “Let’s just have a conversation, the three of us.  The news alone will be hard enough.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
After they’d called him back and told him that they had something they needed to tell him when he got back to San Francisco, and no, they could not just tell him over the phone,  they’d see him when he got back, Piper asked to see the letter.

“February 10, 1977.”  Her eyes are already bleary when she looked up at Phoebe.  “That was right after our last Christmas with Dad….”  Phoebe nodded, torn.  She thought she had her feelings nailed down one second, and then they’d shift.   And Piper…

Piper, whose eyes have skipped down, read aloud, “I love this baby already, and I love that she’s yours.” 

And she remembered how every time she and Dan had a moment to themselves, there would be a crisis, there would be Leo, and there would be doubts.  And then there were a whole different set of doubts after Dan, but thinking back, she could admire her mother’s clarity, and long for the freedom she must have seized to just say it.

The words are out of her mouth before anything can stop them, “We’ve been trying, Leo and I, since we moved into the master bedroom, we’ve been trying to…”  She looked down at the letter again.  “If Dad can’t handle Paige as our sister, I don’t know what I’ll …”

Phoebe reached out and pulled her into a hug.  “I know, sweetie, I know.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Victor had needed to get away.  That he’d needed to leave his family again to do so, well, the cynic in him dismissed this as just the latest in the quarter-century long list of ways he’d failed them. 

His eldest girl was gone.  And somehow the news had just unblocked a psychological dam within him: memories he’d tried so hard to forget, over the years.   From Patty flinging a record in a high, unnatural arc across the room, and as he’d looked on astonished, saying, “She’s telekinetic, like my mother,”  to his first sight of her beautiful, large solemn blue eyes, to guiding her as she learned to walk,  to how his joy was magnified when Patty became pregnant again and the news widened those eyes (“A sister! Thank you Daddy!”).  Oh, yes, he did also remember how those eyes had looked at him reproachfully while his mother-in-law had told him in no uncertain terms where to get off.   “Your back walking out the door,”  Prue had said.   And then, over two decades later, they’d opened that door again.  He’d been so thankful for the sight of the poised, confident young woman he’d gotten to know then.  A woman scarred, certainly, by what he’d done, but with the strength to go on.  Like her mother.

There in the middle of the desert, Victor struggled to see the glass half full.  She died too damn young, he kept thinking.  I wanted the chance to give her away.  I wanted to see her work, to see her win that Pulitzer.  Grandkids…

His ringing cell phone ended that thought. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They sat with him by the Manor’s fireplace.  Piper, still getting used to speaking up first, began, “Dad, you remember that strange girl at Prue’s funeral?” 

He looked back and forth between them, and settled on Phoebe.  “The one who gave you that premonition that made you collapse?”  She nodded.   He, less certain, nodded back. 

“I saw her get attacked by the same demon that killed Prue,”  she continued.  “We followed her, and that’s what happened.  Except…”  Phoebe looked to Piper.

“Except this girl, this witch, she saved herself.”

His total confusion showed. “And you two called me here to tell me this….?”
Phoebe’s turn.  “She orbed out of the way of Shax’s energy ball, Dad.   She’s half-witch, and half-whitelighter.  And then we found out…” 

“Wait.” He held up a hand.  “How do you know she’s a witch? Have you seen her power? She could just be a regular whitelighter, couldn’t she?”

Phoebe opened her mouth.  Closed it   They hadn’t seen Paige use telekinesis.  Yet.  But…

Piper said, remarkably steadily, “She came to us, Dad, with some information that is pretty convincing.”  Phoebe looked at her in alarm.  Piper ignored her.

“Mom’s name is on her birth certificate.”  Even as his eyes widened and he couldn’t look at them, she pressed on.  Paige’s truth, her truth, and both of her families depended on it.  “It’s dated August 2, 1977.”

Phoebe felt a rush of sympathy for her father then.  They’d just buried Prue, and now he had to confront this slap in the face.  Still, she knew what Piper was doing -- laying everything out all at once, so there’d be no bombshells later.  Her sister had learned.  “You’re right,” she conceded. “We haven’t seen her wiccan power yet.  But we’ve seen that she can do magic.”  It was like she’d taken away his last sight of light in a long tunnel.  And that hit her like a stack of bricks. 

She moved to sit beside him -- the story of her life.  Put her arm around his shoulders.  “She helped us vanquish Shax, Dad.  And we need her.”

“You need her?”  His disbelief was wrenching to hear all on its own.  But then, “You need her to replace your sister so that you two can keep risking your lives on an almost daily basis?” 

Even Phoebe didn’t have a good response to that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maybe muffins made the morning, or maybe she was just riding the high that comes after stress is relieved, but Paige was having a productive day.  Her caseload for the week was down to two, and since it was only Tuesday, she decided to take her lunch break and check in with, well, her sisters. 

Her first clue should have been the Ford Taurus in the driveway.  Her next clue should have been actually needing to ring the bell.   When Piper answered the door with a strained and falsely cheery expression on her face while blocking the doorway with her body, she finally realized something was up, but only when she heard the middle aged male voice say, “Oh, is that her?”  did she consider turning around and getting back in her car. 
She recognized him, of course, from the funeral --the older man in a suit sitting next to Phoebe, looking for all the world like his reason for being had just disappeared.  And as he came out of the living room now trailed by Phoebe, she put a label to the situation, the one she’d been taught never to use about any of the kids she helped. 
I’m his wife’s bastard,  and it doesn’t matter that I didn’t know that or that I didn’t grow up with his daughters.  And magical destiny be damned; I’m the living reminder of his marriage falling apart. 

How many times had she seen the clues to a similar dynamic in the case files at work? She’d tried on all the backstories to adoption that she’d seen with those kids, tried to see how much they‘d fit. But this reality rang far more true.  And there was only one was to face it: like the pro she was and wanted to be.

“Mr. Bennett,” she drew the name from where she’d committed the funeral program to memory, “My name is Paige Matthews.  I’m so sorry for your loss.”  She deemed “sir” to be overkill at the last second, and glanced at Piper and Phoebe.  They’d gone still at her words, and now all eyes were on Victor. 

And all Victor could suddenly do was stare.  How old was she, he asked himself.  Twenty-two, twenty-three? Twenty-three, they’d said.  She looked so much like Patty had at that age. 

So much like Prue, in the few months he’d been back in their lives.  And he saw, looking at her, that she had that same look in her eyes that Phoebe and Piper had had when he’d first contacted them again.  The look that said, now my family is more complete.

She’d been looking for her family, he told himself.  Whatever questions (and he had plenty of questions) and issues he had with Patty and … this girl’s father, who was he to deny his girls family, especially right now?

He reached out his hand, and, with less hesitation than even she was expecting, she took it.  “Thank you, Paige.  It is wonderful to meet you.  Please, call me Victor.”  

The sighs of relief were almost audible, though everyone pretended not to notice.  Piper asked if he would stay for lunch, and then hustled Phoebe and Paige into the kitchen. 

“I’m so relieved that went as well as it did I’m not even going to be annoyed at your bad timing,” Piper told Paige as she got out the salad mixing bowl.   Phoebe, who did a mental double-take every time Piper acted like this towards Paige, got out cans of tuna and mayonnaise.  Paige, seeing how seamlessly they worked together, fidgeted, at a loss.

There was silence for a few minutes,  and then she said, “I just want to respect what he’s been through.  I don’t want him to think, just because of magic, that I could ever…”

Piper and Phoebe exchanged a look, but said nothing.  They simply handed Paige the salad and took the food into the dining room.

The last time they’d sat here with their father, Piper remembered, was her rehearsal dinner.  How things had changed.   She smiled across at Paige.  They had landed on their feet.  And if there was one thing she and Phoebe knew how to do, it was grieve and endure.

Victor, unsure, had simply gone with the old stand by, asking Paige about her job.  Social work, he thought.  And then, it suits her. 

Phoebe watched that interaction between her father and her sister and smiled, although, for her as for Piper, it brought back bittersweet memories.  What a motley bunch we’d made, she thought.  And she was just deciding that she really could still think of that as a good memory when her father apparently decided to give Paige a chance to actually eat something.

“So, Phoebe,” he said.  “I read the obituary you wrote for Prue.  And I was impressed.  You’ve graduated now, sweetheart, and I think you really have a skill you could put to use.”

She would remind herself later that he never did say the word “work”.   But it had been clear enough what he meant.  And the comparison of “Prue”, “work”, and “look at your sister, Phoebe, and follow her example” was both so hard-wired into her as a trigger for “race to the nearest exit” and so very confusingly new coming from her father, the man she ran away to find, that Phoebe was struck as still as if Piper could freeze her.

Unfortunately, her hold on her water glass was not so solid.   It slipped from her fingers only slow enough for Paige, sitting across from her, to put her hands out and shout, “Watch your glass!”  Only the sheer pain on her father’s face kept her from grinning with distracted joy to see blue orbs coalesce around her falling glass and carry it onto Paige’s palm.

Later, when Phoebe remembered the moment, she was struck by how fitting it was.  A water glass.   And that’s when she knew she and Piper needed to show Paige the lake. 

 
 
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