catheryne

The Unmailed Letter

The unmailed letter flew out of the open window. The light paper floated in the air and rose, rose. It caught at a tree but was blown away until it reached the clouds. The letter burst higher still until it lay on his floor. He began to read the wind-carried message that felt oddly intended for him.

This isn't going to make me need you any less. And this sure isn't helping me forget about you. I know that you told me to go on. And I'm doing that.

Day after unending day.

Minute after torturous minute.

Until I would sit in front of the clock and watch the long hand's pursuit of the short. I watch them near and kiss and draw apart, and near and kiss and draw

apart again in that timeless dance of ill-fated lovers. Hour after painful hour.

If fate expected us to live like this, then she is too cruel. I know that we shouldn't be together. But if that's really so, why do we exist at all? Why do we live when the stars have written out that we have no course to follow, no other path to tread, except for that which leads us to the other? Are we being taunted?

I wonder what it is that you're doing right now. I wonder if you will look at the sky and confide your feelings to the stars. That is what I will whisper to the moon tonight--that I long for you.

Someone told me once that there is nothing in the world more tragic than never finding the one meant for you. Heartily I agreed. But I was a child then. I no longer am.

Today I know that something exists that is more painful than never finding. I'm unfortunate to have gotten so familiar with it. Nothing on this earth, or on any other, is worse than finding the one who fulfills the void in your soul, then loving him and being loved by him, only to discover that you cannot be together, that snatches of time in an eternity is all that you can afford.

He traced the outline of a dried tear on the thin paper and sighed. The paper crumbled in his hands. The travel from Earth must have made it too brittle. It doesn't matter. The words were etched in his heart. He could recite it by heart. Even without knowing to whom it was for or from whom it was, he took out a pen and stationery and began his reply…

The open window of her room let in the leaves blown in by the cool autumn breeze. And then a piece of paper flies in. The letter slides to the table and then onto the floor, hiding under the bed, seeking comfort from the darkness.

She came in tired and sleepy. Almost immediately she fell onto the bed and closed her eyes. What force drove her to look under the bed, she would never know. Still, she squinted at the dark hollow beneath and could glimpse the flash of white. She reached out and took the paper and began to read.

I have no way to stop this pain inside you, for I am also dying.

There has never been a moment that I do not think of you. I am thankful. I am grateful everyday that I have the memories to see me through. Yet there are those moments, such as now, that I curse those little details that make me ache all the more.

What are you doing right now, I wonder? Are you thinking of me?

I told you not to, but how can I expect you to follow a rule that even I have broken a million times over, and continue to break a thousand times every minute?

The stars have become my best friends. Whenever I weep, they shine more brightly through the tears. Sometimes I lull myself into thinking that I am looking at your eyes.

And that we never parted.

I am not good with words. I cannot write you a poem or a song to show you just how much I long for you. All I know to say is I love you. And I have said it a million times before. But love doesn't seem to matter anymore. We're being driven apart by a power well beyond us. We've struggled. We've fought. We've rejoiced and despaired at every reunion and at every division. And to keep us from suffering through another forced parting, I reluctantly tore myself away.

May Mercy grant that I have enough courage to stay away, for the moment I touch you again, I may never let go.

She closed her eyes and tried to picture him, her angel. Very slowly she opened them and told herself not to be a fool. Letting go means not having to remember, because remembering will make her ache even more. He had told her this before he went. He tells her this every night in her dreams. She shakes herself free from the thought. No dreams. She doesn't dream of him. Not anymore. Or at least she would never admit it to herself.

She wrapped the blanket more tightly around herself. They told her that he dropped by again, but she didn't come downstairs to speak to him, or even smile at him. She had no patience for it. It was not him that she wanted to see. Let him go back inside his house and mope around. She had no use for his kindness, or for his unending generosity that resembles that of a brother.

She missed the fire that only her angel could bring. Help me! But there wasn't much anybody could do.

"Why don't you insist on staying here? At least brighten up the room a little." The drapes were pulled open and she squinted at the brightness.

"I'm thinking."

"Of him?"

"Who else?"

"Don't. He doesn't deserve it."

"You don't understand."

"He shouldn't have left you."

"He needed to. It was the only way."

Her sister took her hands and pulled her towards the full length mirror. "No body has the right to leave anyone like this. Look at yourself."

She averted her eyes. There was no use. She already knew what was reflected there.

"You're a shadow. Nobody deserves this. Not you. Not even the man who does everything to make you come to him. He understands what happened. He'd been coming here for you everyday."

"Who told him?"

"We did."

"He knows…everything?"

"Everything."

"And he still comes."

"Because he loves you."

"I don't love him."

"A man like that… It doesn't take long to learn." She took clothes from her cabinet. "Will you think about it?"

"I will."

He read the letter over and over again, disbelieving. How could this be? There was no logical explanation for her to think these things. Whoever it was that she was crying out to, she must love him very much. Once more, he traced the trail of dried tear that served as the signature of the writer. He shook his head, deeply disturbed of what he had read.

The planets must be against me. There is no other explanation. But even as I claim this I know that it is foolish. My despair are all my own. My mistakes, committed by myself. And now even as I cry out I know he would never hear me. Because this is what we have decided upon.

We've told ourselves that we can manage our time apart. And in reality I haven't even tried.

It breaks my heart that you are gone.

And now I will try to finally do as you asked. Today I'll bury your memory, because that is where it belongs—deep within the recesses of our minds—back there in the dark where it will not find its way out.

I know I must look forward to this, but I find that I cannot. I am still yearning for you with all my heart. Because whenever I close my eyes, I see your smile. And whenever I breathe, it's your scent that fills me.

I cannot delve into this anymore. I must forget. I keep telling myself this but it seems that you were right. I am a stubborn woman. I am determined too, so on by one I burn those thoughts of you. I will do this, even if for only to relieve those who love me of their worries.

Who knows? If I learn to love him with even a piece of the heart I've dedicated to you, it would be more than enough.

He paced. This is where failure stems from. When one settles for the second best, the betrayal begins. He was sure that Cupid must be hyperventilating right now. Someone must save this girl from committing the greatest act of sin against Love.

"You're still so beautiful."

"Thank you."

"I cannot imagine any reason in the world that's worth leaving you for."

"How about a reason higher than any on Earth?"

He laughs softly. "Only Heaven can keep me away from you."

She smiled. "Then it must be Heaven."

"Your sisters tell me that you've not been feeling well."

"I heard that my sisters actually told you everything."

"Yeah well," he coughed, embarrassed. Why should he be embarrassed? He'd done nothing wrong. "They did."

"How's your niece?"

"Her parents sent for her."

"Oh. It must be very lonely for you these days then. Oh, are these yours?" She touched the petals of the two dozen roses arranged on the tall glass vase.

"You don't want to talk about it, do you?"

"Is it that obvious?"

"No. I just know you. You may not admit it to yourself, but I understand you."

"Go away, Dan. You don't need this."

"I think it's up to me to decide what I should or shouldn't have."

"Do you really need this burden? Do you really want to be saddled with this? You're a handsome, free man who has a future ahead of you. You shouldn't be tied down with a problem you didn't even ask for."

"Do I look like a man trembling and running away? I want this. I want to take care of you."

He was standing in front of her. And he touched her pale lips with a finger. Slowly he traced the hollows beneath her eyes and swore that he would take care of her. Her eyes closed, and he smiled. She must be very tired. He was glad his hands could calm her. She stood in front of him, letting him touch her. She smiled, and he took it as enjoyment. She was imagining her angel again. She remembered the time when he gave her a massage, or all those times when he touched her face.

"I want to take care of both of you."

She entered her room a couple of hours later. She was tired. She hoped she doesn't have an attack of migraine tonight. Her life was complicated enough as it was. She didn't need that splitting headache that has been bothering her ever since he left half a year ago.

Why should she be afraid to say his name? Oh yes. She didn't want to get too familiar with it again. She has to push him back in her mind because remembering was needing. A breeze blew inside and she hurried to close the windows. As she shut it, a paper was caught in between. How could it be? She took the letter and read it.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to get over pain.

I find myself doing my best to forget about love but I have no success in such. I've learned to love someone I shouldn't love. And it has brought me great pain. But at the same time I regret nothing because loving her was the most exhilarating moment of my life. It was the best part of my existence.

I read your words and suddenly my vision clears. It has been blurred for the past half year. I speak as a man whose vision has been restored. Do not let others affect your way of thinking.

It is up to you if you want to settle for less. But I assure you that you will be committing a grave injustice to Love. For when you've found the one for you, you must fight for that beloved for all eternity.

She closes her eyes. "You can speak like that, because you're distanced. If you were a piece on this chess I am in now, you would be running for cover as we speak." She walked towards the mirror and looked at herself. She was pale and frail. "If you could see me now, I wonder what you would do." She turned to her side and looked at her rounded belly. "You had no right to leave me like this. But then again, you had no idea, had you?" She ran her hands over the mound. "Our neighbor knows, baby, and he still comes and tells me that he'll take care of us." She walked over to the window and looked on as he entered his house. "Well, I would never consider this if it wasn't for you. But I know that he's a good man, and you need to have at least a father."

"Honey, why don't you have some of this soup?"

"I don't want to."

"You didn't have lunch."

"I have no taste for food right now."

"Your doctor called. He said you missed your appointment today. He tells me it's important so he rescheduled you for later."

"All right, thank you. But right now I need to speak with Dan."

"What are you talking about? This has been my dream ever since I was a little boy. Of course I'm ecstatic!"

"Please. Just let me finish."

"Alright. I'm sorry. But this, this is overwhelming."

"I know." She motioned to the chair in front of her. "Sit down. As I said, if you really want to then I agree. I have no real choice left. I want my child to grow up with a father." She takes a deep breath. "But this is more than that. This time I'll be asking you a favor more than any other I've asked you before."

He took her hands between his. "What is it? Anything."

"And when you hear it, I want you to know that you're free to get out of our agreement."

"That would never happen."

"It may. Come with me today on an appointment. Then when we come home this afternoon, you can tell me is you're still in, or out."

"All right."

The bell rang, and he rose to answer it.

"Well hello, pretty neighbor boy. My sis around?"

"Come right in."

"Hey, Pheebs. What are you doing here?"

"Prue called and told me to remind you of your appointment."

"Actually, Dan and I were just leaving to go there."

"You're taking Dan?!" She looked at Dan's grinning face.

"Dan's taking me really, but what's the difference?"

"What's your schedule, Pipe?"

"She's on in thirty minutes."

"Alright, let me get my jacket." Before running for it, he kissed her on the lips, and she let him. Phoebe looked at her as though she were out of her mind.

"Go home, Phoebe. Let me make my own mistakes."

Whispering furiously, her younger sister responded, "If you know you're making a mistake, why still do it?"

"Someday, Pheebs, you'll understand me."

"Ready to go?"

"Yeah, sure. Come on out with us, Pheebs. You don't want to get locked in inside an empty house do you?"

At home, Phoebe waited for thirty minutes. Prue told her to call up the hospital and ask if Piper made it in time. She picked up the phone and dialed.

"Good afternoon. This is Phoebe Halliwell. I'd like to confirm if my sister was able to go to her appointment with Dr. Davis. Her name is Piper Halliwell."

"Well, you should try calling local 423, Miss. Dr. Davis isn't in this department."

"Isn't this obstetrics?"

"It is."

"My sister is having her baby checked with Dr. Davis."

"You must be mistaken, Miss Halliwell. Dr. Davis is our chief neurosurgeon."

He sat there on the waiting room chair, his head in his hands. "I just don't understand."

She took him into her arms. "It's life. I've known about it about the same time I got my pregnancy results."

He raised his head and looked at her with teary eyes. "Why didn't you tell anyone? Is this why he left?"

"He doesn't know."

"Don't you think this is a little unfair for him?"

"Do you want out?"

"No!"

"Then don't ask me these questions now."

"How long?"

"A few months."

"A few months. Alright. What about your sisters?"

"I don't want them to know."

"That will be hard, you know. Even after we get married they'd see you."

"You have a job offer in Portland."

"When you told me that you accepted my offer, I turned it down. I thought you would have wanted to stay close to them."

"Can you still accept it?"

"Yeah."

"I don't want you doing anything against your will."

"I thought this was a dream come true. He left. You agreed to marry me. And there's a baby on the way, I don't care whose. But now this."

"I know it's unfair to you—"

"How about the baby? What will I do when—"

"I know you'd be a wonderful father."

"Your sisters would want to see the baby when it's born. By that time, you'd—"

"We'll worry about it when that time comes."

"I don't believe this is happening."

"Shhh. It'll all work out." He buried his face on her heck and started sobbing softly. She closed her eyes. At least I've spared you this, Leo. For that I'm thankful.

There are days when I blame myself for letting you go. There are times when I am tempted to call out to you. I want you to hear my distress and come to the rescue. But I don't wish to be unfair. I want you safe. Sad, but safe.

As I wait for that time to come, I wonder what it would have been like, had you been here. I ask myself why I ever let you go and tell myself again and again. That choice was for your own good.

I wonder how my child will grow up. I cry when I think of a graduation, a wedding, a birth of a grandchild that I would not be able to attend, that I would be depriving you.

But when I look into his eyes and see the hollowness inside, my heart tells me that I did good. I would spare you the months of agony that he would now go through. I don't wish to be unfair to him. I've given him an out. He wants so much to be a part of this, and whenever he smiles

at me, I know I've given him fulfillment by making him suffer.

And now I begin to wonder if you would have wanted to be here, no matter how painful it is. Would you have chosen to stay with me? I have no doubt you would. But I also know that it would kill you more than it would him.

Because that's just how we are. We're too much a part of the other. Now I look at is as if I'm only beginning to teach you how to live without me.

"I can't believe you're getting married!"

"Why do you act this way, you two? Prue, you were the one who told me to go with Dan. I'll learn to love him too."

"When do you move out?"

"That's another thing I wanted to talk to you guys about. We'll be living in Portland."

"What?"

He read the letter and crumpled it in his hands. How could he speak to her personally when he didn't even know whom it was from? She was making a big mistake. If the man loved her as much as seemed to think he did, then he had the right to know.

No more! He had to see Piper. He was going out of his mind. He orbed into the manor and found nobody home. He sought her with his mind and he immediately orbed into a function of some sort. His heart froze in his chest as he saw them. They were both seated on a presidential table at the front of the room. Why was she so thin and pale, dammit! She just got married! He saw the man slice the food carefully for her, and she daintily picked on it.

Her eyes moved unerringly to look into his from the distance. He saw her catch her breath. She must have seen the betrayal he felt in his eyes. He orbed immediately out of the room—and out of her life.

She never told anyone that she saw him that day. She moved with Dan to Portland, and the baby was due to arrive in a month.

The letters have stopped. She never expected them to continue. It was only a strange coincidence that every letter she received from the wind was written as though it was meant for her alone.

Dan was the best husband she could have asked for. He went to work and arrived at seven every evening with something for her. From the moment he entered the door, he'd always ask the same things, "How's my baby and the mommy?" The days have become a ritual. She would greet him with a peck on the cheek and take his gifts.

She had never seen Dan cry. At least not until the night after their wedding. She was preparing a feast for him, because she owed him so much. She tinkered in the kitchen of their cozy home, and she felt the first prickles of pain. She shook her head and tried to ignore it. The phone rang.

"Hello."

"Hey sweetie! Phoebe and I wanted to make sure you two got there alright."

"Yeah, we did. Dan is the epitome of a careful driver."

"Well, we miss you."

"I miss you too."

When she had placed the receiver on the hook, her new husband arrived.

"Hey!"

"Hi. Come here and sit down, honey. I made you a big dinner."

She was carrying a bowl of soup to the table when all of a sudden, a blinding shaft of pain raced through her brain. She automatically grabbed at her head, and the bowl dropped. The sound of glass breaking filled the silence, and she felt the hot soup burn her feet.

"Ohhh. Ahh."

"Piper. Piper, are you alright?"

She clutched at his shirt and held on. "The pain. Dan, it's getting so much worse."

"We'll go to the hospital."

"They can't do anything about it. This is just how it goes. It'll stop in a while. Would you hold me? Ahh!"

"Shhh." Dan took her in his arms and rocked back and forth until the pain abated. "Is it gone?"

"Yeah," she answered weakly. She rested her head on his shoulder, unable to raise it so she could look at him.

"This will happen for the next months, won't it?"

"Until I die."

He didn't answer for a long while. "I'll be with you through this. God help me."

"Thank you."

"How will I be able to go through all this?"

She had finally gathered enough energy to face him. She lifted her hands and wiped away his tears. "Don't cry, Dan. If I knew you couldn't take it, I wouldn't have asked you."

"I can take it, Pipe. I just haven't thought of months watching you fall apart."

"Hey. Let me up. You haven't had dinner yet, and I made this all for you."

"Let me help you."

"No. You sit down there and wait."

He watched her move around her kitchen. He picked everything out for her convenience, from the cabinets to the stoves to the smallest utensil. He'd have done everything for her. As she brought the mean over to the table, she caught him staring at her and blushed.

"I'm gonna miss you, Piper."

She wanted to cry, but all she could do was smile in return. That was the first time she saw him overcome with emotion. In the months following, she was to see it more often. As the pain got worse, they became more and more dependent on each other.

Every night, when the pain got out of hand, he'd hold her tightly on the bed, letting her scream as much as she wanted. He'd soothe her with stories that she hardly heard. Soon, they'd both fall asleep, crying, holding on to each other.

More than ever, she needed Leo. Every time she'd think of a way to call him, the pain would attack from behind, and in the aftermath, she would tell herself that she wanted to spare him from that.

"What is it?"

"A boy, Mr. Gordon. It's your first son."

"My wife."

"She's inside. You may come in now."

Dan entered the room and saw her sleeping. He sat beside her bed and touched her hand. She was so pale now. All those sleepless nights were showing. Her lips looked so dead, but she was still beautiful to him.

"I wanted to die, Dan," she whispered.

"I thought you were asleep."

"No. I was just resting my eyes."

"It couldn't have been that bad, Pipe. Many women go through this without wanting to die."

"No, I meant, the past few weeks, I was praying for my death. This whole thing is too hard. It's painful for me. It's painful for you."

"No matter how painful they were, we were together. And I'm grateful for that. So don't say that. We'll take every single minute possible. If we can, we'll bargain for more."

"That's just what I mean. Before the baby was born, I just wanted to get this over with. Now I'm so scared. I don't want to go, Dan."

"I love you. Do you want me to call your sisters so they can come meet their nephew?"

"No! Look at me, Dan. They'd know at once. They can meet him after."

"We don't know how long that would be. Hopefully not very soon."

Piper closed her eyes and turned onto her side. "Ask them if I can have my baby, Dan."

Dan left and the phone rang. Piper groaned as she reached to pick it up.

"Hey! Why didn't you call us?"

"How did you know?"

"Phoebe had a premonition. No!" Prue was chuckling on the other line. "No one was answering your line at home so I called your neighbor. She said you two left yesterday for the hospital. What was it?"

"It was a boy, Prue."

"Oh! I am so excited! I can't believe it. Pheebs, it's a boy! So does he look like you or Leo?" Silence. "Piper, I'm sorry."

"Don't come here, you two. Dan and I have a few things to work out. We'll call you when you can come."

"Piper, I'm so sorry."

"It's fine, Prue. I'll tell you whose features the baby has as soon as I see him. And please forget that Leo's the father. I don't want my child growing up questioning who he is. I won't always be here to comfort him. I don't want it to be you and Phoe who confuses him."

"Hey, Pipe, look here. Is this a tooth?"

Piper opens her eyes and looks at Dan carrying Peter. "Sweetie, he's only three months old. He can't possibly be teething."

"Hmm. Yeah, you're right. Okay, I'll just bathe this little man." He bends to kiss her. "Are you going to write again? Would you like me to mail them for you?"

"No, no. It's just some scribbling. Nothing important."

"Will you make a letter for Peter? I want him to be able to read your writing when he's grown up."

"I have a box full of letters for Peter, Dan. When you teach him how to read, then he can practice on them. Did you have the film developed?"

"Yeah I did. You'll put them on the photograph album for me?"

"Of course. Let me hold the baby for a while, Dan." He hands her the baby, and she rocks him gently. "I hate this Dan. I hate this calm preparation we're doing. I hate accepting it like this. I can't even get up from the bed anymore without you to help me. It's telling me that this is almost over." And I still haven't seen him again. I haven't said goodbye.

"Piper, I love you and Peter. You have nothing to worry about. When it gets too painful, just let go. I'll take care of our son."

"Get him, Dan. It's starting again. Wash him, and don't get him out until it's over. I don't want him hearing me."

Dan took the baby from Piper and shut the door of their bedroom. He prepared the bath and began washing Peter. He could hear her screaming. He knew she was trying to be quiet, because most of her cries were muffled. He breathed in deeply, harshly. This would be over soon.

Dan took the baby inside the room.

"Hello, mommy. We're all washed up." Dan stood in front of the bed and saw the photos scattered around a sleeping Piper. He smiled and put the baby on the cradle in the far side of the room. "Now be quiet, Peter Gordon. Your mommy's sleeping." He proceeded to pick the snapshots of Piper and Peter and stacked them on the table. He noticed that her head was not on the pillow. Gingerly, he lifted her head and put the pillow underneath.

He went to the baby. "Come on, Peter. Let's go downstairs. I don't want you suddenly yelling your head off and disturbing mommy."

He kissed Piper and took Peter downstairs. A few hours later, Dan woke to the shrill sound of the alarm he placed beside his head. His ears were ringing. Luckily, Peter seemed to be out of it. The baby never even stirred. It was five o'clock, time for Piper's medications. He ran to the kitchen for some water and took one look at Peter's position. No chance of him falling from that crib.

He opened the door to her room, surprised that she had not even moved.

"Honey. Honey, it's time for the capsule." She didn't move. His heart raced. He put down the water and the medicines and grabbed her hand. He felt for a pulse. There it was, faint but steady. She moved his head closer to her face. She was still breathing. They've been waiting for this. Piper has taken him step by step to what he should do when this happened. Like a robot, he called the hospital for an ambulance. He then packed some clothes in their overnight bag and called the neighbor to see if she can keep the Peter while they were gone. And then he added something else to the rote. Piper didn't want this, but there had to be some closure.

"Prue, you and Phoebe had better come right now. Drop everything. Get here as soon as you can."

"Why?"

"It's Piper."

"Is she letting us see the baby already? She's been pretty aloof since you two got married."

"For Heaven's sake, Prue, just get here. Do you have any idea how I can contact Leo?"

"Why do you ask?"

"I need him to be here too. Don't ask too many questions."

"Well, we'll call him for you."

"Fine. Get here as soon as you can."

Leo felt bereft. It has been months since she married him. He couldn't forget how they looked together. They were such a handsome couple, sitting there, behind the table. He almost wished he never left her.

He heard them calling his name. He orbed into the manor, looking at the two beautiful women he had not seen for very long.

"What is it?"

"You have to come with us to Portland. Dan called and he wants all of us there."

"No."

"No?"

"I will not go with you to see them. I don't want to see her in her new house. I don't want her to smile knowing that it's him that made her happy!"

"What if Piper needs us?"

"I'll orb you both there and then I'll leave."

"It's your choice, Leo."

"She probably won't wake up anymore. She'll slip away unconscious."

"So there's no chance that we'll have an extension?"

"I'm afraid, Mr. Gordon, that your wife has reached the stage where there's no going back. If she wakes up, then you could take it as a sign that there's a possibility. But in most cases even if the patients wake up, they still pass away that same time. So if there are anyone you think should be here, ask them to come. If Mrs. Gordon does wake up, encourage her to talk to you. I don't mean to dash your hopes, but it may well be for the last time. Even she knows that."

"I already did."

"Mrs. Gordon gave birth here not so long ago, didn't she?"

"Three months."

"Well Mr. Gordon, have your baby sent for. Maybe the child would comfort her while she's passing on."

Dan picked up the receiver and dialed.

"Mrs. Weaver? Yes, this is Dan Gordon. I'd like to ask you a favor. Could you bring Peter over to the hospital? Yes. Hi mother's not going to make it. I want him here at least. Thank you, ma'am. You'll never know how much this means to me."

"Here you are."

"In a hospital?"

"I'll leave now."

"Don't you even want to see how she is?"

"And risk knowing that she's pregnant? I don't think so."

Phoebe started to speak, but Prue hushed her. "You make your own choices, Leo. If you want to leave, then leave."

After asking for Piper's room number, Prue and Phoebe immediately went to the elevator, holding hands. They entered her room and were met by Dan, who looked harried.

"You'd better say your goodbyes to your sister."

"What's going on?"

"Brain tumor. She's known even when she was still with you."

"Why didn't she tell us?"

"She didn't want you to worry."

Phoebe ran to Piper's side. "Honey. Piper, honey."

"That's why you moved."

"Yes. Phoebe, she might not wake up."

"No, no. She must have been waiting for us, Prue. Look."

Piper's eyes fluttered open. "Hey. So Dan called you. I told him not to."

"What are you talking about? We want to be here. We'll help you pull through."

"Phoebe, I'm dying. I've known it for almost a year now. Why do you think I asked Leo to go?"

"Piper…"

"Dan. I—I want to see--my baby."

"Mrs. Weaver will bring him soon. Don't talk anymore. Conserve your energy."

Leo orbed into the hospital again. He couldn't help it. Now that he was so near, he couldn't help himself from going to her. He asked the information booth nurse for directions.

"I can't hold too long, Dan. Thank you for everything."

Dan held her hand and touched it to his lips. "My married life was beautiful, no matter how short it was."

"Don't cry. I told you. Don't cry," she whispered. "Take care of the baby, Dan. I know you will. I trust you."

"You'll never have to worry about Peter. I'll show him all the pictures and all the letters. I'll make him sit through the home videos we took. He'll never forget you, Piper."

Phoebe and Prue turned away. This was what real shock felt like then. They were both still numb.

"I love you, Piper."

"Thank you, Dan."

For the last time, Dan pressed his lips to hers. "Phoebe, Prue, I think you should talk to Piper now."

"Piper, sweetie. You should have told us. We would have wanted to be with you through all this."

"No. I didn't want you exposed to this. Dan should have done as I asked and called you only for the interment."

"We would have hated him for that. Piper, I love you."

"I love you, Piper."

"I love you guys."

Leo was looking for the room, walking briskly.

"Tell—tell Leo. Tell Leo that I—"

Leo turned the knob on the door and stepped in.

"love him."

"Piper? Piper? Dan, she—"

Dan rushed out to get the doctor and Leo stood there, staring in disbelief. He was pushed from the doorway when a team of nurses, interns and doctors rushed in to try and revive her. Leo ran his hands over his face. The medical team stopped and left.

"I wanted to see her."

"You're too late."

"I can see that."

Leo moved forward to look at the woman lying there, as pale as the sheets. "Dammit! Why didn't any of you tell me? Why didn't she come to me?"

"Mrs. Weaver. Thank you for bringing Peter over in such short notice." Dan took the baby into his arms.

"How is she?"

"She's gone, ma'am."

"Oh the poor girl. She's always been sad, hasn't she? Always looking out the window, flinging papers in the air." Leo glanced at the older woman. Mrs. Weaver walked over and brushed her hair away from her forehead. "Sleep tight, dear. Maybe you'll find up there what you've always been waiting down here for." The old woman patted Dan's arm. "You take care of your little boy now, Dan Gordon, or she'll never get her peace. I'll be outside if you need me."

Leo was looking at the child in Dan's arms. How long have they been married? Six months?

"Look, Peter. There's mommy. Say bye mommy. Bye."

"Can I hold him?"

Dan hands the baby over to Phoebe, and Phoebe and Prue look down at the baby. "Hey, Peter." The baby opens his eyes wide and Phoebe catches her breath. She quickly looks at Leo.

"Give me Peter, Phoebe." Dan moves forward to take the child from her.

"Let me see the child, Phoebe." Since he was nearer, Leo was able to take the child from Phoebe. His own face stared back at him, the baby's hazel eyes unwavering as it met the bigger versions. "He's mine."

"It's my son, Leo. I can show you the birth certificate. I have all legal rights to keep him."

"A paper doesn't ensure paternity, Dan. You and I both know it's my baby."

"Leave, Leo."

Leo sat on his chair and closed his eyes. Piper was gone. He never even suspected. He had one last job to finish. He would never let Dan keep the only remaining part of Piper.

Dammit, sweetheart. Why didn't you tell me?

He ordered a plan in his mind. He would take the baby and raise him up here. Dan would never find him. But was that fair to Peter?

He saw a paper floating by the clouds, and he remembered that his window was closed. He opened the window and jumped up to grab it.

He received the shock of his lifetime. He saw his name carefully written on the top of the page.

To my angel

I don't know if you'll ever read this. I'm hoping that in some way, you already know. But I'm still writing this to keep myself sane. Not being able to talk to you is driving me mad.

Everytime I look at our child I remember what it was like to be held in your arms. Because he is so like you.

You must be wondering why I never told you about him. I didn't find out until you left. And I couldn't go through another goodbye. I know you would have come if you knew.

I never mentioned to you the pain and agony of the last months simply because I'm selfish. I didn't want you to see me like that. I take pride in being the most beautiful woman you've ever known. After all, you've been around a long time.

But most of all, Leo, I wanted to shield you. You didn't deserve to see me crumble. You didn't deserve to watch me die.

Darling, leave the baby to Dan. You and I both know his future is best secured as his son. Dan loves Peter. From the moment he saw him inside me, he'd seen Peter as his. Don't break his heart by taking the baby. He has done so much for me. There is no life for a growing boy up there. And Dan knows everything that I want for him. Dan will devote his time to Peter. If the two of us raised him, we would have destroyed him by our absences.

I chose him because I trust him. Believe me when I tell you that Dan would be an exemplary mother and father to Peter. He will allow you to see him whenever you want. I told him to make you godfather. But please do not confuse the child. He is Peter Gordon, Dan's son. I'm sure you will do and say nothing that would disturb our baby.

I love you.

Leo knocked on the Gordon's door five years later. Dan welcomed him inside with a smile.

"We've been waiting for you, Leo."

"Where's the little guy?"

"Hey, Peter! Uncle Leo's here!"

"Uncle Leo! Look what mom got me for my birthday last June." The boy came running the stairs.

Leo looked askance at Dan.

"It's one of the arrangements we made. A gift each year. She picked out everything and she hid them everywhere. The home videos tell him where to look."

They watched the child as he ran down the stairs. "Be careful!" They looked in horror as the toddler tripped and went flying. As the toddler went what?

"Hey, look! I'm not falling!" Dan's jaw slackened. The child lost his grip on the miniature plane and it began to drop. "No! My plane!" In front of their disbelieving eyes, the plane stopped in mid air.

"What the—" Dan stared at Peter and the plane, blood leaving his face.

Leo grinned. Well Piper, you didn't really take this into consideration, did you? "Peter, come here to Uncle Leo." It seems that I have to take our son under my wing—literally—once and for all.

FIN