lydia_golis (lydia_golis) wrote,

Prescott and Pine (Binding Ties)

A/N: Quotes from 1x01, "Something Wicca This Way Comes".

Piper stood in the doorway to the bedroom, a large cardboard box behind her. She'd finally managed to find the time to – no, actually, she'd stopped putting off dealing with Prue's personal belongings, telling herself it needed to be done. She sighed and finally approached the bureau. The top was clear, the way Prue had always kept it. She opened the top drawer.

There, to one side of a stack of neatly folded blouses, was a hat box. Rather more curious now, she lifted it out of the drawer and set it on the bed. The lid came off more easily than she expected, and she certainly wasn't prepared for the sight that met her eyes: scraps of fabric in forest green and eggshell, a catering menu from Schroeder's, and, she rifled through, stunned, a guest list 180 names long. It was the large piece of embossed card stock, though, that made tears prick at the corners of her eyes.
"Mr. and Mrs. Oliver and Marjorie Laurent of Santa Clara announce the marriage of their son Roger to Ms. Prudence Halliwell of San Francisco. The wedding will take place at Mission Dolores Park on June 15, 1998." 

Almost three years later, Piper marveled. Prue kept all of this, and it's preserved – Piper swallowed past a lump in her throat -- like it was yesterday. She brushed her hand over the swatch of eggshell, and her wedding ring caught her eye. The tears came slow and silent, and she thought, You ruined the wedding I obsessed too much about, and because of you I had the wedding I actually wanted. Phoebe's run-in with Roger had done pretty much the same thing for Prue, but as Piper sat looking at the box, she grieved that her big sister never got her own second chance.

Nursing a cup of tea in the kitchen late that afternoon, Phoebe flipped aimlessly through the classifieds from that morning's Chronicle. Nothing in the few offerings looked remotely like a good fit, and her memories of the false starts she'd gone through before finally getting her degree kept her from jumping at every half decent possibility. When the phone rang, she nearly sprang up to answer it.

Paige, of course, just leaving work. “Pearl Harbor just opened, and I wondered if you ...” Phoebe was so relieved to be able to grab the chance to do something, anything, other than continue to stare at a creased newspaper, that she said “of course” before it registered that Paige wasn't really inviting Piper. Which wasn't bad, exactly – a single girls' night out sounded great, and there was so much they still didn't know about Paige that Phoebe was fiercely curious about: what she'd been like in high school, where she went to college, and most intensely of all? What growing up Halliwell, sort of, with two (happily?) married parents had been like.

So Phoebe repeated “of course,” more firmly, and asked Paige what movie theater they should meet at. “The Canon is about halfway between South Bay and the Manor,” she replied. “How about there?” Even as she agreed and they settled on the 9 pm showing, Phoebe thought We can't keep meeting like this. She hadn't had to schedule sisterly time quite like this since Grams first got sick

Surprisingly, the theater wasn't that packed, and the movie was a decent romantic drama, although Phoebe couldn't help but think Leo would never take Piper to see this. Even I can see it isn't that accurate. And it didn't seem like Paige thought it was either – she'd just wanted to spend the time.

As they walked out of the theater, Phoebe was trying not to think about returning to her stack of classifieds. Paige looked like she didn't know whether to be content with company or boxed in. Both were lost in thought, and the first screams coming from behind the theater didn't register at first. But as they turned toward the parking lot, Phoebe distinctly heard the sound of someone – and by the screams that now registered, a female someone – being stabbed.

The sight that greeted them when they rounded the corner gave Phoebe a strong sense of deja vu. There wasn't time then to think about it though: the attacker was already running away, and the woman was bleeding from the neck. Barely stopping long enough to notice that the wound appeared to have been made by an athame, Phoebe shouted to Paige, “This was demonic, get her to Leo!” Even as Paige nodded and began to orb the woman out, Phoebe was off and running after the attacker.

Around that other corner, though, she only found a homeless man asleep on a pile of rags. “I could have sworn...” she muttered, glancing around. But there was nothing for it but to head back to her car and head home to the situation there.

In the stand of trees on the edge of the lot, a man in a suit watched as she pulled away.

Piper hovered by Leo's shoulder as he healed the innocent, who lay unconscious on the Manor's living room sofa. She could admit to being a little hurt by not only Paige's implied snub and the innocent duty Paige had subsequently orbed in to hand off, but she would not until the situation was under control.

Paige did seem to get that this was only the first act, though, and that did mollify Piper, a little. Which meant she was relatively focused when the innocent began to wake up, followed moments later by the sound of Phoebe at the front door.

The first thing the woman did was clutch at her throat, which wasn't surprising. What was, somewhat, was the necklace that Phoebe only saw fully now. Three silver crescent moon charms on a thin chain. She walked into the living room slowly, trying not to startle the woman, who was looking around at them and saying, still a little weakly, “Thank you, I – I don't know how to thank you.”

Trying remember where – somewhere in the book, she was sure – she'd seen the symbol before, Phoebe sat down on the coffee table, smiled, and looked at the woman. “Let's just start with your name.”

Despite her still wary eyes, the woman returned Phoebe's smile with one of her own. “Samantha.”

“Well, Samantha, tell us who was after you. I never even saw who it was.” Phoebe glanced up at Piper in acknowledgment; Piper then looked to Paige for confirmation.

The woman, however, was shaking her head. “I don't really know. He just started going after my coven a few weeks ago. Picking us off, one by one.” The weary fear in her eyes kept the lid on Phoebe's own slight impatience – and, Piper's too, apparently.

It was Paige, standing off by the fireplace who then spoke up. “All the same way?” Everyone looked at her. But the scrutiny didn't make her wilt completely – it seemed she was trying to figure something out. “I mean, if this demon's like Shax, then he'll only kill in one way, right? That's some kind of clue.”

Even as Phoebe thought to herself, Where there's an athame, there's usually an energy ball, Samantha glanced at Paige, and said quietly, “No. One or two were killed with energy balls. He,” she took a breath, “he made sure they never saw it coming.” She reached up to touch the charms on her necklace – reassuring herself, they all saw.

“The triple crescent.” Phoebe pressed the chance to go on the offense again. “It's your coven's symbol?” The woman nodded, and Phoebe gently held out her hand. “May I?”

Without a word, she unclasped it and pooled the chain in Phoebe's palm. No sooner had Phoebe closed her fingers around the necklace than she was pulled into a vision: A grassy area, with stone steps leading away from the secluded path. Their innocent, in a light spring jacket and bohemian hat, walking in the evening, when a large demonic figure, with markings red on black, surprised her from behind and began to pull her towards the shadowed side of the steps. The shape of his eyes, the build, the markings, all like ...

“Belthazor.” She came back to herself abruptly, seeing the startled faces turned toward her. She took a breath and tried to explain. Paige and the innocent were both completely lost, and Piper and Leo were eying her warily. “The demon after Samantha, he looked a lot like Belthazor.” Aware of how she sounded, Phoebe gestured with her fist around the necklace, a bit less confidence in her voice. “Build, height, only this one's markings were red on black.” Almost as an afterthought, she relaxed her grip on the coiled necklace, and handed it back. The crescent moons had begun to faintly imprint on her palm.

She stood up, saying briskly, “Definitely an upper level demon. So, at least we know the game plan.”

Piper wasn't completely fooled by Phoebe's decisive act, but they did need to get the ball rolling, and so she nodded. “Where?”

Phoebe glanced at Samantha. “On the edge of somewhere grassy, like an outdoor amphitheater. At night.”

Their innocent nodded. “Sounds like it could be Stanley Arboreta, I pass by there on my way home from work.”

Piper and Paige stood then too. Paige still looked confused, but she also looked like she had that ability to set the issue aside, for the moment. “Well,” Piper glanced at the clock – it was nearly midnight -- “it sounds like you aren't in danger tonight.” Phoebe, already moving toward the foyer, stopped and nodded confirmation. “So,” Piper continued, gently but nevertheless firmly steering Samantha that way as well, “why don't you go home and get some sleep. We'll meet there at 8pm tomorrow.” She nodded, trying to give strength to the innocent and herself. “And we will vanquish him.”

The woman rose, but stopped at the archway to the foyer. “How do you know --” she began to say, to protest. Phoebe, in front of her, raised her eyebrows, and then breathed a silent sigh of relief that her voice didn't waver. “Because we're the Charmed Ones.”
Sending Paige into the kitchen to begin brewing the base of the potion was surprisingly easy – which was to say that it was only as complicated and prolonged as Piper's need to give precise, detailed instructions made it. Once she was safely out of earshot, Piper turned to Phoebe. “You know you have to tell her about Cole.” Phoebe looked up, startled not so much by Piper's words as her tone, and how they seemed to have shifted places almost without her fully noticing. You went and started turning yourself into the eldest child.

Piper went on, determined. “If she goes into that fight tomorrow not knowing what we know about this type of demon...” She closed her eyes against the thought, and opened them. “And she deserves to know how we know it.”

Phoebe let her eyes retrace Cole's memorable reentrance into their lives through the foyer where they now stood. “Yeah.” She nodded at Piper. “I'll tell her.” Then, her demeanor losing none of its seriousness, in fact, much the opposite, she added softly, “Just promise me you'll tell her about Jeremy sometime.”

Phoebe walked into the kitchen to find that Paige had managed to make a good start on the potion based on Piper's instructions. The pot was filled with a thick, light purple liquid, to which Paige was sprinkling in some herb or salt or Phoebe couldn't guess what which caused it to darken considerably. “You're really starting to get the hang of potion brewing, huh?” Phoebe looked down at the softly bubbling liquid. “It almost looks ready for the cockles.”

Paige glanced up, and considered Phoebe, comprehension clear in her voice. “You sound like you've done this before.” She adjusted the heat under the pot. “On Belthazor, maybe?”

It was easier to answer than Phoebe imagined. “Yes. Except Piper and Prue did this part. I was off trying to figure out what was going on with my boyfriend.” She began fiddling with the dried herb bottles. “My murdering, energy ball using, athame carrying,” she couldn't help the wistful thought, “wonderfully attentive, dedicated, protective boyfriend.”

Phoebe made herself look up at Paige. Her little sister's face had a sort of concentrated determination written across it, but there was also a hint of amused recognition. Paige said simply, “You dated a – what did you call it? High level demon?”

Phoebe nodded, and let herself remember the fond admiration on his face and in his voice on what had been the last time she'd seen him as simply mortal. “You've come a long way, haven't you?” Then she fixed her gaze on the simmering purple liquid in front of her, and said steadily, “Demons that powerful have a human form that lets them walk the earth, blend in better. Cole's wasn't just a mask, though.”

Paige, who'd begun shifting the bottles they'd finished with back to the cupboards, said carefully, “He, uh, had a human name. But how do you know that wasn't just -- “ she trailed off, suddenly unsure how far to go on this rocky ground of her sisters' past.

“After we found out he was demonic, Prue and Piper brewed this potion for an upper level demon – it's ready for the pig's foot, by the way -- “ Paige grimaced despite herself, and a ghost of a smile flicked across Phoebe's face, “and we tried to vanquish him. But he'd failed to kill us several times already, and the Source was just furiously impatient, and so we, “ she smiled, self-deprecatingly, “they ended up tracking him down with alongside a demonic bounty hunter who'd been sent after him.”

Paige's mouth had formed a small “O” of astonishment at this recounting. And she could only imagine that this “Source” who she'd heard Piper also mention once or twice was on the side of evil. But she had an inkling where this was going, nevertheless. “This bounty hunter still wasn't that crazy about witches, I'm guessing?”

Phoebe turned the heat off under the potion. The other part of “how they knew what they knew” was in the attic. As they left the kitchen and crossed through the dining room, she said simply, “This one tried to kill me. I was in his way, trying to protect Cole.”

Paige stopped on the threshold to the foyer. The “why” in the wary look she directed at Phoebe went unspoken. “There was a reason he couldn't kill me, or us. And it wasn't just because we fought back and won. And we came really close to killing him.” She couldn't say the rest standing on the stairs, so, determinedly, she climbed the rest of the way to the attic. Paige, her brows furrowed, followed.

The familiar sight of the triquetra on the cover of the book was not the reassurance it usually was. All she could think of now was the Andras-amped fight and how it had split the triquetra, stripping their powers. I'm home, right where I should be. And on that note she opened the book to as close to the entry for “Belthazor” as she could. She turned to Paige. “Any question is fair, okay?” And with that, she flipped the rest of the way to the entry.

The color drawing – charcoal, she thought – caught Paige's attention first, of course. Something almost exactly like that thing attacked that coven of witches. And will attack again. Trying to set aside that thought, she looked at the text. “Beware this demonic soldier of fortune...” It was everything they had hinted at, and more. Then, she noticed, tucked in the binding, a strip of photo booth photos. Phoebe, smiling, laughing, her arms around....

“That's him.” Paige looked up, and the determined nonchalance in Phoebe's voice rang even more false alongside the way her eyes were making a conscious effort not to land on the photos.

“You”, she pieced this together even as she looked between the drawing, the photos, and Phoebe's face.
“You loved him.” The sarcastic follow up softened at Phoebe's flinch. “I'm guessing you didn't know about the....” She nodded at the the drawing.

They both looked away, and Phoebe said softly, but with a measure of steel, “He had a soul, Paige. He was half-mortal. Is half mortal. The bounty hunter told us so, and he had no reason to lie about that.” Her eyes finally slid to where Paige had pulled the photo strip. “And somehow it was reawakened by little old me. And that's why he couldn't kill me.”

They looked at each other, and Paige, who was beginning to feel the late hour, closed the book. “But what about all the others that he did kill?”

Phoebe spent the next morning tracking down the remaining potion components – cockles, which they were out of, and to her grim determination, a pig's foot. He “bumped” into her as she was leaving a Chinatown butcher's with the brown bagged purchase.

“Excuse me, were you at the Canon Theater last night, by any chance?” She turned around, surprised, mainly, and a little wary. “I only ask because I was there, on the advice of the SFPD. There's been a murderer in that area targeting young women around your age.” He motioned her to the side of the sidewalk, and with some hesitation, Phoebe followed. “The latest attack happened last night, but the police don't have many leads. If you saw anything, please get in touch with me,” and he handed her his card. “My name is Sykes, Oliver Sykes.” He melted back into the crowd before she could ask who exactly he was. She looked at the card. Oliver Sykes. Assistant District Attorney. And Phoebe had to pry the bagged pig's foot from her own suddenly fierce grip.
Piper was worried enough about the state of the potion (“I just don't know what leaving it cold and unfinished overnight is going to do to it.”) that Phoebe decided not to mention her run-in with the new ADA. She had enough to do figuring out her own feelings.

She knew, of course, that continuing as the Charmed Ones meant continuing to run the risk they'd encountered last year: becoming crime witnesses who were far more than mere witnesses. But there was also the completely irrational thought that the business card inspired: I'm jinxed. She could barely articulate it further: she was spooked. But there was the potion to finish, and the memory of the looks on Piper and Leo's faces after her premonition last night kept her from dwelling on her fears, let alone any other emotion inspired by the morning's encounter. They all had a job to do, an innocent to protect so that she would be the last witch this monster hurt.

And, she reflected as she stirred, she had an altered sisterly job description. Piper had gradually started
to find her way as the eldest, the family leader. So between her and Paige, the new Halliwell, there was going to be tension – it seemed inherent in the legacy, even, of their upbringing -- which meant something, someone had to be a buffer. And when had Piper, as middle sister, run the most crucial inference of their lives? “When I came home,” she whispered. Startled that she'd voiced the thought aloud, she continued unraveling the logic silently.

Looking back with the grief not quite so fresh, it was amazing how much history had repeated itself, with one glaring difference—Paige was in their lives, and hearts, because of magic first and foremost. She didn't have the completely mortal sisterly need to depend on them. And if nothing else, her physical address across town was just inconvenient. What had Prue said to Piper when Piper had wanted to move out of the Manor after the wedding, claiming they'd lived apart before? “Our lives were apart, Piper.”

Something clicked, then. Phoebe just didn't want her little sister's life to be separate from hers any longer than it already had. And now all she needed was a damn good reason to convince Paige to move home.

The darkened path looked pretty much like it had in her premonition. Piper, behind her with a paring knife, was just wondering this for the fortieth time when they saw Samantha walking ahead of them – and something was definitely following her. Phoebe barely had time to mutter, “Got the empty vial?” to Paige before it was clear they needed to alter the plan of attack. Piper quickly (and not without relief) handed over the steak knife, and Phoebe pulled Paige after her to crouch on the side of the amphitheater.

The demon had begun to close in, but Phoebe knew they needed to get the timing right, or Samantha would startle and give them away. “One shot,” she mouthed to Paige. Five seconds later, she signaled, and they ran at the demon from behind.

She connected and sliced into him before he responded, and the slicing was clean through. The demon rounded on them, and as she drove for the grass Paige grabbed the piece of flesh, sticking it in the empty vial. Phoebe, meanwhile, was up again and fighting the demon, trying to land a roundhouse kick. Samantha's initial yelp was silenced when she saw Piper running to help.

Phoebe had almost subdued the demon to go in for another slice – and Paige was on the verge of getting to her feet to show the vial's contents – when they all heard the whistle of a dagger being thrown.

The aim was off, and it sailed past the half prostrate demon to embed in an oak on the other side of the amphitheater. With a sneer, the demon shimmered out. A woman then ran onto the path. “I had him!”

Piper, crouching with Samantha, looked up in baffled exasperation. “Who the hell are you?!”

They again let Samantha go home, before decamping to the Manor with the dagger-throwing woman.
“Emma,” she'd told them.

“You're out at night throwing daggers at demons in parks....why?” Piper's sarcasm had hit near boiling point. Phoebe spoke up, putting an arm on her sister's shoulder.

“What she meant was, 'That's a pretty risky thing to do.' Especially if, like you said, you aren't a witch.”

Emma slowly shook her head at them, Piper and Phoebe on the living room couch, Paige and Leo standing around the coffee table. “He killed my fiance. Andrew was a witch, and I've studied his books.” She looked at Piper almost defiantly. Again, Phoebe tried out her new mediator role.

“To hunt down his killer?” Emma nodded.

“Well,” and this, the improvisation, felt like much more familiar territory, “You haven't studied ours. Why don't you head up to where we keep it in our attic, and look through it, see what else you can learn about the demon.” She glanced at her brother-in-law. “Leo can show you the way.” Piper, glancing between her husband and the innocent, nodded as well.

Once Emma and Leo had begun to climb the stairs, Piper said, “So, that'll keep her occupied while we go and figure our how to try again to get -- “ Paige cleared her throat, and held up the vial containing the demon flesh.

Piper blinked. “--that potion finally brewed! Okay, into the kitchen.”

The interrupted boiling time hadn't hurt the potion at all – in went the demon flesh, and poof, it was ready to bottle. They were just tossing ideas back and forth, with Paige, to Phoebe's quiet joy, making a few very good suggestions about other places around the Canon the demon might try, when Leo suddenly orbed in. “Emma discovered something,” he said hurriedly to their startled looks, “and you should be prepared. This demon,” he nodded at the vial of vanquishing potion, “wasn't the one who killed her fiance --”

The door to the dining room opened, and in came Emma. She held the open Book of Shadows in her arms. Open, they could see as she marched over to the center counter table and set it down, to the entry for Belthazor. “This one was.”
Piper and Leo were both willing to let Phoebe talk to Emma one-on-one; Paige, on the other hand, needed some convincing. “If we're a trio,” she began, “then we owe it to both of them to be united on this.” She tried, but failed to articulate the idea that Phoebe was probably the last person on the planet Emma wanted to talk to at the moment. Their innocent had to have seen those photo booth photos, still stuck in the book at the entry. But Piper was slowly shaking her head. “Phoebe needs to do this, and she needs to do it by herself.” Perhaps remembering Billy, the man who had hunted the Wendigo because it had killed his fiance, she added, “I think Emma can hold her own.” She picked up the potion vial. “Besides, we've got our own demon to fight.” She nodded toward the back door. “Come on, we'll try around the Canon.”

They never even sat down. Phoebe, knowing this conversation could go in directions she really couldn't begin to deal with, especially right after her explanation to Paige, grabbed the chance to set the tone. “What was his name?”

Emma glanced out the window, into the street lamp-lit night. “Andrew. He...” She seemed to make a decision, although Phoebe doubted it had to do with trust, necessarily. “He was a grad student in computer science at UCSF. We were waiting until he got his degree to have his family come out from Wisconsin for the ceremony.”

There was nothing she could say, and yet dread made her ask, “When-when had he been planning on getting his degree?”

Her eyes are wet, but she answered. “On the 8th.” And Phoebe knew she had no right to reel from that information, but she did Only the impulse to be thorough, and the fact that her heart did hurt for this woman, allowed her to ask for the rest of the pieces of the puzzle.

This too, however, Emma seemed to want to tell – she wanted, Phoebe saw, not only vengeance, but her lover's memory kept alive. “He was a conjuror. He could create the most wonderful things – apple shaped oranges, pens with wings....” She smiled shakily, her memories mixed with pain.

“Evil probably felt threatened by how powerful he was,” Phoebe put in, steadily. “Emma, I am so very sorry for your loss.”

And there came the fury. “How? How could you even begin to understand what I've been going through when you couldn't even see that murderer for what he was?”

Some blows, Phoebe would reflect later, you just couldn't fully brace for. This one felt like a knockout punch to the solar plexus. “I did see, actually. I saw him kill. And after that I knew that there was no turning back.” The woman opened her mouth to protest, but Phoebe went on, quietly. “The really cunning evil we've fought, it's all lured us in somehow. And that lure is the truth, too.” She looked at her innocent, hoping the hard-earned lesson was enough.

And maybe it was, but from her grief, and not her desire for revenge, she wondered. “Have you ever lost anyone to evil?”

Now Phoebe found she could look this woman in the eye. “My mom, when I was two. My big sister, three weeks ago.”

Emma was not shocked, nor was she now silent, but she was subdued. “I'm not going to find him, am I?

Turning from the window, Phoebe's eyes rested on the fireplace. “He's in hell, where he belongs.”

The drive to the Canon Theatre was silent, until they were nearly there, that is, and Piper said, “Quite the little outing you two had. I never would have thought of this place.” Paige had the good grace to look somewhat sheepish as they pulled into the parking lot. Making sure they had the potion secured before they got out of the car, Piper asked, “So what did movie did you two see?”

Paige was about to answer, and Piper was looking around warily as they got out, when a fair haired man in a suit approached them. “You two ladies are awfully brave to come poking around a crime scene when the murderer's still at large.”

It was like walking a tightrope, trying not to tip their hand until they were sure one way or the other. Some intimidating creeps were human, after all, Piper reminded herself firmly. The sneaking sense of deja vu was probably nothing, but still. Paige responded primly. “Who said anything about a crime scene? And, uh, who are you?”

He gave her a small smile. “Name's Oliver Sachs. I'm the assistant district attorney, looking for witnesses to the murder that occurred here the other evening.” And just like that, the doubled sense of deja vu hit Piper again full force. One false word, just like with Jeremy.

Carefully, she replied, “Attempted murder, actually. She survived.” It came out sounding probably too much like a boast, but the cat was coming out of the bag anyway.

Sachs' smile, still aimed mostly at Paige, deepened. “So there are no real witnesses this time. Only...more potential victims! Well, I was warned Belthazor would be a tough act to live up to.” The energy ball formed in his palm. And before their eyes he transformed into his demonic form, its skin black streaked with red just as Phoebe had foreseen.

Paige looked between the energy ball and the demon and thought, Imitation's the sincerest form of flattery, but this is a bit much. I wonder what originality can do. She glanced at Piper, and as the demon loomed over them, silent agreement was reached.

Paige held out her hand. “Energy ball!” It came to her as though pulled, and that so surprised the demon that he nearly appeared to freeze on his own, even as Piper made sure. Paige tossed the energy ball against a low-slung brick wall at the edge of the lot, and Piper threw the potion.

It made sense to do this sort of thing at night, Paige thought, as they watched the demon explode in a brilliant fireball. Plus, “No evidence left behind!” Piper turned to look at her, and her smile was wistful and fond.

They were again quiet on the car ride back to Church Street, but the silence had a more relaxed feel. Then, “Maybe try a movie theater closer to the Manor next time.” Paige had to really look to see if Piper was serious, before the hint of a smile gave her away. But Piper was warming up to something she'd been thinking about ever since she found that hatbox. Life had to go on – they couldn't be like the contents of that box, three years behind the times. And to the loud voice in her mind protesting that it was too soon, well, very little in their magical or even their mortal lives happened when they wanted it to. Things tended to happen when they needed to happen. Or when they were meant to.

“And try all the good restaurants about four blocks down Pine, and there's a good bookstore down that way too...” Piper kept her eyes on the road as she said all this, but Paige wasn't that fooled.

“Wait. Are you saying I should move into the Manor?” It was the question she'd been batting about her own mind, but Piper suggesting the move gave it a whole different dimension.

“It would make everything easier.” Piper nodded to the road. “Potion mixing, vanquishing, you and Phoebe sneaking nights out that don't include your boring married sister...”

Paige's grimace was real this time. “You heard the backstory there.” At Piper's arch nod, she sighed.

“I'm still getting used to this whole sibling thing. Figuring out all these rules.” Piper looked at her sharply, but she went on, “And my loft is roach-infested and tiny and the floors tilt, but it's mine, you know?” She stared through the windshield. “I'm not sure I want to give that up.”

Piper said quietly, “The Manor is yours, too.”

Paige looked askanse out her side window – they were almost at Church Street. “I want it to be. But I've kind of gotten the impression that you don't really want me there.”

Piper began to protest that of course that wasn't true, but just as they were about to turn onto the 2200 block of Church, the memory came back to her: Phoebe'd said almost the same thing to Prue the night she came home from New York, and they'd gone back and forth about ... the meaning of the house, which had been in the family for generations. “I grew up here too,” Phoebe had said. “No history lesson needed.” Suddenly, Piper was furious again – with herself. The whole point is to keep history from repeating, remember?

She forced her grip on the wheel to relax before she turned to Paige. “I've always struggled with making a good first impression.” A tentative smile in reply. “There is so much we've all missed. I don't want to miss any more. I know Phoebe doesn't.” She gazed levelly at Paige. “We've got a spare bedroom. It's yours, if you want it.”

Paige looked at her, and nodded. “I do.” Almost in the same breath she added, “And I'm so glad you offered just before the fumigation was scheduled.”

Tags: binding ties, charmed fic

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