Piper had to force herself to admit that last part; judging by the way the two kids talked about Gaea, they weren't going to be receptive. She was still struggling with their story too. Piper could accept the existence of gods and monsters and titans. She could even accept the gods having kids. But… their version of events didn't match up with her experiences at all.
Piper would be lying if she said she was surprised by the kids' reactions. She just announced herself as their greatest enemy. The least she could do is allow them the meager protection of a dagger and strange bronze sphere.
"What did you just say," the girl's voice shook as she held the dagger out as a buffer between her and the two strange adults.
Piper raised her hands in a peace sign, "I don't know what's going on, but for about two days I held sway over nature." The experienced witch couldn't help swallowing hard. Piper didn't much like how the young mechanic was brandishing his sphere.
Beside her, Piper felt her husband rub his face. "This… it just… The gods were mortals imbued with enhanced magical abilities by the Elders. They were meant to help trap the Titans; however, they let the power get to their heads and ruled as deities for centuries before the Elders managed to remove their powers and place them safely within a vase Up There." Leo looked up at the kids, who were staring at him in utter bafflement. "When several Titans got loose and started killing whitelighters and Elders, I had no choice but to give the Charmed Ones those powers."
By now, teenaged Piper had lowered her dagger completely, "What?"
"I gave Paige, the youngest of the three sisters, the power of the War Goddess, also known as Athena. I gave Phoebe the power of the Love Goddess, or Aphrodite," here, he glanced at teen Piper, and Piper recalled the girl claiming to be Aphrodite's daughter. "And… I gave Piper the power of the Earth Goddess, Gaea. Home, hearth, and power over nature."
"The goddess of home and hearth is Hestia, not Gaea," teen Leo murmured, speaking for the first time since Piper's bold declaration.
"The real question is if the gods still exist as you say, and truly are immortal creatures, then what exactly is in that vase," adult Piper turned to Leo and crossed her arms.
Leo, however, looked completely lost. He gazed weakly at his wife. "I wish I knew, Piper. I really do," he murmured softly.
Piper pursed her lips together. This wouldn't do. She needed answers. Now. Her husband couldn't give them, and the kids were as in the dark as she was. So, she did the logical thing. Turning her face to the sky, she called, "Paige!"
"Piper!" Leo immediately reprimanded.
"Piper, she's at work! This isn't that urgent; it's not like it's a demon attack."
She continued to ignore her husband, "Paige! I could really use your help here!"
Behind her, she heard teen Leo mutter to his companion, "Is it just me, or did she lose her marbles?"
"Paige!" Piper yelled one last time. She heard a familiar tinkle of whitelighter dust, and smiled.
Why in the name of Hades—and Zeus and Hephaestus and every other god under the sun—was this woman yelling at the sky? Her husband looked like he was going to spontaneously combust from exasperation.
No, scratch that. How, in the name of all that is sacred, is there a girl materializing out of thin air? All be-it with a faint blue shimmer of lights and a very fairy-like jingle….
"What is it Piper?" the woman, pale and dark-haired, stared down her nose at adult Piper. "This better be important; I was actually making progress on all my paperwork for once!"
"Magic school can survive for five minutes without you, Paige," adult Piper snarked back.
The woman— Paige, apparently—turned her glare to adult Leo who shrugged and gave a face that clearly said 'don't look at me!' He gestured weakly behind her to where Leo and Piper were standing. She whirled around and gave them a slack-jawed look.
"You might want to be careful, lady," Leo couldn't help himself, "Or you might swallow some bugs."
"I might swallow some bugs?! Why aren't you two shocked or something?" Not waiting for an answer, she whirled back around, "Seriously, Piper! Why did you call me in front of innocents?"
Beside him, Piper frowned, "We aren't innocent."
Leo snorted, "Yeah. I think I grew out of that the moment Jason turned out to be all kick-ass on that school trip."
Piper glared at him, "You mean you grew out of it when we were attacked."
Leo rolled his eyes, "Same, same."
The two demigods turned their attention back to the adults, who were having a heated discussion about telling innocents ("Who aren't even innocents since we aren't protecting them!") about what they are. Which, despite Leo's personal misgivings, appeared to be witches, yet completely separate from Hecate's followers and children. Not to mention these 'whitelighter' people, that adult Leo used to be and this 'Paige' currently was. Apparently.
"I'm not saying anything about new charges, Paige! This isn't about danger, it's about questions! We can't go Up There but you can! All I want you to do is ask the Elders if gods weren't just special mortals, but actual creatures!"
Paige scowled, "The Elders are not going to like that, Piper, and you know it! It's not in the whitelighter job description to go asking questions that don't directly relate to keeping an innocent safe."
Adult Piper sighed, "Please, Paige? Who knows how this could help us, or our children, with future evils." Paige's scowl lightened, but she frowned deeper. Piper tried again, "For me? As a sister?"
That worked. "Fine," Paige shook her finger at adult Piper, "But I'm blaming you if they put me on suspension!"
Leo and Piper stared in awe as adult Piper's sister disappeared in a shimmer of bright blue lights.
"What is that? I mean, how does she do that?" Leo tripped over his own words.
Adult Leo gave the demigods a small smile, since adult Piper seemed to be stuck in glare-a-thon mode. "That's orbing; it's a form of teleportation that all whitelighters have."
"And what, exactly, is a whitelighter?" Piper jumped in, "Besides a guardian, you already told us that."
"Well, a whitelighter is a human who dedicated themselves to helping others in life—living selflessly, and sometimes even dying for their cause," Leo had a slightly distant look in his eyes.
"Wait, what? Dying? You mean she was dead? Like a ghost or something?" Leo stared at his older namesake.
"No," adult Piper jumped in, "Paige is different. She's a whitelighter-witch. Our mom was a witch, but her dad was a whitelighter."
"But you were just a whitelighter?" Piper asked adult Leo. At his nod, she continued, "So… you're dead?"
"Not anymore. I died in World War Two and chose to become a whitelighter. I married Piper, and later—after lots of complications, such as becoming an Elder, and then an Avatar— I clipped my wings and became mortal so I could stay with Piper free from politics Up There."
Leo glanced at his friend. The daughter of Aphrodite looked downright pale. "I—I think I'm getting a headache."
The son of Hephaestus grunted in agreement, "Just when you start to think you understand the world…."
The adults glanced at each other. The ex-whitelighter sighed, "We understand that."
Adult Piper was just opening her mouth to speak when a jingle of blue lights interrupted them. Leo was stunned to see Paige's transformation… she looked quite pale. No, that wasn't quite right. She looked terrified. She looked like she had just seen Cerberus for the first time, or had found herself staring up at a very angry giant. Leo hadn't even been there, and he still felt the anxiety grip his chest tightly. He didn't have to look to imagine the look on Piper's face right about now.
"Paige?" Piper found herself staring at a face she had only ever seen on her little sister maybe twice. Once when she had shown up at Prue's funeral, before she had known who she was, and once when they found out who Chris was and what Wyatt…. But that face meant that Paige's entire world view had been flipped upside down. "Honey," Piper stepped forward to hold her by the shoulders, "What's wrong?"
"This wasn't supposed to happen." She was breathless.
"What wasn't supposed to happen?" Leo supplied gently.
"These worlds weren't supposed to cross," she glanced apprehensively at the two demigods. "The Elders said that only two of even them know the full truth—they said something about the Mist—and that the consequences of an encounter between the two worlds would be disastrous. The gods and demigods and monsters aren't supposed to know about witches or demons, and we aren't supposed to know about them."
Teen Leo frowned, though he still looked a little uneasy, "I'm not seeing any signs of the apocalypse. I think we're ok."
Paige shook her head vigorously, "What if the Titans found out about the Source of All Evil?"
The demigods obviously didn't know what that was, but they got the idea.
"But you're telling us there has never been a breach between your world and ours?" teen Piper looked unsettled.
Paige shook her head stiffly. "Not for more than a few minutes, before the Elders manage to clean it up. To prevent anyone else from finding out."
"We could've introduced some of the world's greatest evils to each other just by stumbling across two kids with our names?" Leo asked aghast, staring at his former charge.
Paige nodded, eyes tightly closed. She then turned to the two demigods, "Sorry about this, but I'm supposed to wipe all of our memories about this chance encounter. The Elders think that we're safe though; no demons are anywhere close to us, so they haven't broken through the Mist too."
The young witch held up a bag. Memory dust. That was the last thing Piper thought before she forgot everything.
Leo remembered he had a bad feeling about something. Something about… the Mist. And, um… blue lights? The young mechanic shook his head and sat up. He was beside Piper; they had fallen asleep on a hill by the bay, the sun on their faces, the fresh smell in their noses.
San Francisco was beautiful.
Giving a contented sigh, he fished in his tool belt and pulled out the Archimedes' sphere and started fiddling with it. He soon lost track of time.
"So," a voice from beside him eventually ventured, "You going to stop stressing about Calypso?"
Leo gave Piper a brilliant grin, "Never."
Piper scowled at him, "She isn't going to leave you, and the entire wrath of both camps would rain down on anyone who'd try to force her back onto that island, since—technically—Percy made the gods promise to let her go. You have nothing to worry about."
For a moment they sat in silence, save for the clinking of Leo's tools. Eventually Leo sighed. He wasn't sure how or when he'd figure it out, but…. "I can't take her for granted. I won't ever go that, because if I ever do…. Whenever we think we understand the world and how it works, that's when everything goes wrong. So… I think I'm going to follow Murphy's Law and doubt everything."
"I'm pretty sure that's not Murphy's Law."
"Right. It's his brother's theory—the poor guy never got anything right."
Piper chuckled and rolled her eyes. "Come on," she heaved herself to her feet, "We should head back; maybe we can sneak into the feast at Camp Jupiter tonight."
Leo immediately abandoned his sphere, "Feast? There's a feast?"
"Maybe. Race you to the Fields!" And she was off.
"Hey! No fair!"
"Hey, Piper," A gentle voice gently prodded at her addled mind. Piper grumbled a little and tried to shift to a more comfortable position on the ever so-slightly boney surface she had her head rested upon. "Piper, we should head back home. Billie is probably at her wits end."
That got through to her. Piper sat bolt upright. The boys! They were probably not even home anymore if they had anything to do with it. And she had so much to think about, what with Gaea and… uh… Paige? What did Paige have to do with anything?
Leo smiled, no doubt at the expression she wore. "We fell asleep on the bench," he offered in explanation.
Man, dreams were just weird sometimes!
Piper sighed, "I'm going to call Paige really quick, and then we should go rescue Billie, since she's the only babysitter we've got."
Leo frowned, "Why?"
"Just want to check up on her—just a feeling," Piper was already dialing her sister's number.
A rather cranky voice answered, "What?"
"Just wanted to check up on you, sweetie."
"Besides falling asleep on my desk again, I'm just peachy. Why d'you ask?"
"Just had a weird dream. Listen, honey, you should really get more rest. You can't run a school if you don't sleep."
"Says the woman who just admitted to taking a nap in the middle of the day. I thought you were out with Leo?"
Piper chucked, "I am."
"Well, then stop talking to me!" Paige sounded exasperated. "I'll see you at dinner tonight—or did you forget?"
Crap. Just—crap. They were doing a family dinner tonight, since everyone had been so busy. "I—I need to cook! Oh no! I haven't even gone shopping yet!"
Leo forced her to look at him, "Piper, you are not allowed anywhere near the kitchen today."
Piper was faintly aware of maniacal laughter through the phone "Good luck feeding all seventeen of us!" The phone line clicked dead.
Piper stared to her husband in horror, "When did our family get so big?"
A/N: I'm sorry. That was cruel. But... it had to happen. It was the only thing I could write once I thought of it, and it wrapped up the story nicely without dangling plots. And, I mean... if the gods and whitelighters knew about each other, wouldn't the demons and monsters know too? And where would that lead the world?
If anyone has a suggestion, I can try writing an alternate ending, but for now... that's what 'cha get.