I'll Wait in Heaven
His legs carried him briskly away from the Elders as his mind worked furiously. It had been a loud meeting, with him finally bursting out his frustration at his superiors. Never in his years of service had he even thought that this could happen. What did he do wrong? Why were they taking that small event against him now, after everything that he had done?
"Hey, hold up, Leo." He turned to see Natalie looking at him in concern. "What is it?" she inquired.
"What did I ever do to them, Natalie?"
She took hold of his hand and squeezed it in silent support. "Calm down and tell me all about it."
"She's back, Natalie."
From the look in his eyes, she did not have to wonder who he was talking about. "And yet you're not happy. You've been waiting for this for so long. Remember everything you're supposed to do. Happiness is only one--"
"She's my charge," he cut in.
The rules have changed.
"Someone call 911!" The scream ripped through the gathered crowd.
She ached all over, and she was rapidly losing consciousness. Dimly she realized that her sister lay beside her, unmoving. She turned her head with all the energy she had left. "Prue." There was no movement. Piper reached out to shake her awake. "Wake up." Darkness crept over her. "Prue!" she said louder. "Prue, don't do this to me!" Terror gripped her heart in an icy fist. She felt her limbs grow cold. "Prue, wake up!"
There were deafening sounds of sirens, and people running all over. Uniformed paramedics bent over her sister, and she felt hands over her own body. "Prue," she moaned. "Help her," she begged. "She's not hearing me! Prue, please!"
"This one's dead," one paramedic snapped off.
Then her mind blacked out.
"Come on, Ms. Halliwell. We can save you," she heard faintly. "You were conscious a while ago. Don't give up on us." The doctor bandaged her ribs while he checked on the X-ray results. "Wake up, Ms. Halliwell."
Another doctor entered the room, and the man assigned to Piper looked up. "What about the other one? Is she really—"
"Yeah. On the spot as far as we can tell."
"Have you performed autop—"
"Punctured lungs, shattered ribs, cracked skull. There wasn't much hope for that one."
The doctor frowned as he looked back on what he was doing to Piper. "This one's not that much better off. But at least she's alive. I'm surprised you'd say that, Matt. We're here to keep people alive."
"Better that she died, Dave. Those people will rip them apart after what they've seen. They'll come here and find that one," he nodded in Piper's direction, "and there'll be hell to pay. She won't even be able to raise a finger in self-defense." He turned around. "I'll just try to contact any family these two might have."
Dave stared at the dark moons that the shadows of her lashes created under her eyes. She looked too beautiful to be a scary witch. Witches were ugly crones with warts. This one was an angel. And angel or no, no one deserved to die in the hands of a scared and angry mob. He went to the door and pushed to lock it. He checked the woman's vitals. And then he raised the blanket over her face. "I'm sorry, Ms. Halliwell."
He scribbled on the charts, then handed it over to the nurse. "She died, Dr. James? I thought she would have survived. Poor girl."
The nurse placed the chart on the desk. The doctor who had attended Prue picked it up and looked down. And then he went to his friend. "You did what you could, Dave."
"I always do everything to make sure my patients live."
"I know," the other doctor replied in understanding. "Come on. We'll go to the cafeteria and have a talk. Losing any patient is hard on you, I know."
Dave held up his hand. "I want to see this through, Matt. Have you contacted their family?"
"No family. Apparently there is one sister, but she's gone missing. Poor girl didn't even see the attack. But she's the luckiest, I'd say. No other family besides that. All records show they're single. One police inspector is the only friend they have. He'll be coming down soon."
"Careful. Don't make a noise. As if you could, huh?" Dave assisted her into his car and closed the door. "I'm doing this for you, Ms. Halliwell."
Darryl heaved into the sink. The doctor handed him some water. "Sorry, Mr. Morris. We know this is hard for you."
The inspector massaged his temples as he leaned back. "She looks—"
"It's not pretty," the doctor agreed. "We know. We found a picture of the three of them in one of the wallets. They're pretty beaten up. In the case of Prue Halliwell, the veins popping when the skull cracked caused the blood to cl—"
"Please!" Darryl stopped him. "Those girls are like sisters to me. I don't want to know. This will be in my nightmares for a long time."
"What about Piper? She's—"
"Dead. Would you like to see her?"
He stared at the doctor for the longest time. And then he shook his head. "I think I'd much rather have a memory of how she looked happy and alive."
"Mr. Morris, we need to know what to do with the bodies. Do you know how we could contact their sister?"
Phoebe had been out of touch for a couple of days. And knowing the three, he knew it would be hard to figure out exactly where she was. "I'll call their father. Figure out what to do."
Her head ached horribly. Her entire body was screaming in pain. A groan accompanied the slow opening of her eyes. Beside her, a friendly face smiled down. "How are you?" the man beside her inquired, and she moaned at the painful pangs it sent up her nerves. "Oh I'm sorry. How are you doing?" he asked in a softer voice.
"I can say fine but I would be lying," she rasped.
"Killer pain huh?"
She chuckled. When she felt the pain lance through her head, she winced. "I don't know about that. I'm still here suffering," she said lightly. "Where is here anyway?"
"My house. My name is David. I was treating you, and I thought it best in the circumstances to bring you here for your own safety."
"Circumstances?" He saw that she did not understand what he was talking about. "What do you mean?"
"You don't remember what happened?"
Slowly, she shook her head. "David, I don't remember anything…. Not even my name," she whispered.
Phoebe shivered at the feel of a cold finger running up her spine. She turned to her companion. "Leo, could you please go up to see that they fulfilled their part of the deal? Tell them what they have to know so that they're prepared."
His eyes were still red and bloodshot after what he had seen up there. He was almost afraid to go back. Seeing what he had, with her so cold and still, was too much, but he knew he had to, even for the chance that they did what Phoebe had asked, and Piper was still alive. Leo nodded and orbed himself to the Manor.
And then he saw destruction. His eyes widened. This was the very way the Manor looked when he had to heal Piper and Prue. He made his way through the debris. "Piper!" he screamed. "Prue!" Leo ran over the shattered glass and wood chunks, stopping before the very spot where he remembered that they had fallen. There was no one there. But the drying pool of blood told him that it had happened. "Piper…"
Leo rose and shook off his pants. He had to think. There was no use for him to fold up now. At least the possibility that what he had seen did not come to pass assured him. Now he had to stay calm and figure out where they were. Obviously, people had found them. This was too conspicuous an event to be ignored by the neighborhood. Paramedics had to have been called in. Which hospital were they taken? He hurried back into the kitchen and picked up the phone.
"Darryl. It's me."
"Leo, man! Where the hell have you been? Everything is
"Darryl, I'm in the Manor now. Where are they?" There was a pause on the other line. "Darryl, I have to find them right now. Their lives are in danger."
"I don't think you have to worry about that, Leo," Darryl related slowly.
"What are you talking about?"
Leo did not answer. Instead, Darryl stared back at the receiver waiting for him to respond when Leo suddenly orbed beside him. Darryl jumped back and kicked the door closed. "I don't believe you."
"Do I look like I'm lying about this? And will I ever kid about the girls like that?" Darryl demanded.
Leo slowly lowered himself onto a chair. "Where are the bodies, Darryl?"
"Victor took care of that. Cremated I think."
"It was awful, Leo."
"I saw Prue. That was enough for me. I loved them too much, man. I couldn't… I saw Prue. And I knew Piper would look—I wanted to remember the way she looked on your wedding day."
Leo closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I have to go." He vanished in swirling blue lights.
"Leo, were they—" Phoebe stopped when he saw the look on his face. "Leo…"
"The Source didn't hold up his side of the bargain, Phoebe. Now they're both dead," he told her dully.
"No," she whispered. "Leo… my sisters!" He enveloped her in his arms and met Cole's eyes. "Prue," she moaned. "And Piper… she's been so happy the past few months, Leo."
Her words ate at his heart. "It's going to be okay, Phoebe," he murmured.
"No, it's not!" she yelled. "Why did they die? Couldn't they have sent another whitelighter to heal them? You were doing a job, Leo!" Phoebe sobbed.
"Phoebe, things just happen. I'm sure everything happened—"
"For a reason?" She pulled away. "You can't even finish your sentence because deep inside you're angry at them too!"
"We've worked our damned Wiccan butts off for them for three freaking years, Leo!" Phoebe screamed.
"Stop it, Phoebe! This is your pain talking. Prue and Piper knew how hazardous this job is but they did it because of the greater good."
"You talk of them knowing the dangers… Do you know how many times Piper had tried to quit? Do you realize how terrified she is whenever she needs to do her job? Do you understand why she wants to live a normal life? She hates witchcraft! She wanted a normal family! And thanks to those selfish bosses of yours, she's not going to have that anymore, is she?"
"They're the losing side, Phoebe. Stay here."
Phoebe brushed away the tears running down her face. "You know what? I think I'm going to."
"Phoebe, you have to consider—"
"Shut up! What do I do with your creepy good advice? I lost my sisters fighting for the side of powerful beings who won't even lend a helping hand when Prue and Piper were bleeding to death!" She turned her back on Leo and walked towards the Source.
"Go away and live in a dream world, Leo."
"Then you don't have a whitelighter anymore," he bit out.
"Who needs you?"
"I've lost three charges," he related stiffly to the elders. "Right now the dark side is strong. A Charmed One has joined them. I need charges. Assign me new witches to train."
His blood pumped strongly in his veins as he faced his superiors. The situation was dire, and he knew his job. No matter how strong the urge was within him to fold up and grieve, he realized how much he needed to keep upright at the moment. He was not going to let three years of work from the people he loved the most go down the drain because of one tragedy.
"Leo, you lost only two. You still have one Charmed One to defeat evil with. We want you to focus your energy on using that witch."
"I lost three. I am not willing to guide one who has turned to the dark side."
One of his superiors shook his head. "As far as we are concerned, you have one more Charmed One, and several other witches. Put all your energy into that, and everything will be right again."
Leo was orbed down to earth. Very discreetly, he gathered all his charges into one convention. He trained each and every one of them to maximize her powers. On the other side, Phoebe has risen to earth and had begun wreaking havoc. For their first mission, Leo sent three of his best trainees to drive Phoebe down to the bowels of hell where she had come from.
He expected each and every one of their moves. Belthazor would try and take down two of the witches, and easily they managed to throw him off. Phoebe levitated to attack the third, whom Leo had cleverly chosen to have the power to levitate too. Midair the fight ensued. He had taught the witch well. She met Phoebe with a kick for every kick, a punch for each of hers. Leo had counted on everything except for one detail. After ten minutes of sparring ten feet from the ground, Phoebe got exasperated and whipped her hand to throw the witch against the firewall.
And then unerringly Phoebe's eyes found Leo on the ground. "What, Leo, trying to kill me with minor witches?"
"You have telekinesis."
"You didn't think I would let my sisters' powers go to waste, did you?" she said cuttingly. "The moment you left I looked for a spell to draw the powers to me."
"You took Prue's and Piper's powers," he said, dreading the answer.
"I only got Prue's. Your wife's," she emphasized, "was strangely difficult to snatch." The second she saw the flicker in his eyes, she knew that his firm hold on his emotions was flickering. Slowly she lowered herself to touch the ground. Her expression took on a sympathetic look. "Poor wife. Don't you agree, Leo, that she has to be avenged?" she whispered.
"That's what I'm doing," he bit out.
"You're doing the wrong thing. Your superiors are parasites!" she spat out.
"And yours are the ones who killed them!"
"At least this side has not hidden what they wanted from the start. Yours have been deceiving us for years, pretending to care when all they wanted was our service but never gave a damn about our safety."
Leo's eyes narrowed. "You make me sick. Prue and Piper must be so disappointed at how you turned out, after everything they've done."
Phoebe threw him against the wall. "Don't you dare talk about my sisters to me!"
"Yet you can talk about them to me," he countered as he got up from the ground.
"They were my family. I have a right to."
"If you think I don't, then you're deluding yourself. They loved me." He hated to hurt Phoebe, but this angry hissing person before him now was no longer their Phoebe. "And right now, the way you are, I'm sure they love me more than they love you."
Her eyes flashed with white hot fury. Calling to Belthazor, she started to stalk off. "Train those witches until your mouth is dry, Leo. You'll never kill me. I'm Charmed. Only a Charmed One can kill me. And I'm the only one left of the Power of Three. It's a futile effort," she warned. The partners vanished as Belthazor shimmered them away.
The man looked fondly at the young woman seated at the dining room table. She was frowning heavily as she digested the information he shared. "So my name is Piper Halliwell. And I had a sister who died."
"Yes, that's correct," he answered slowly. He didn't know how to respond. He didn't know what she would feel.
"I—what was her name?"
She took a deep breath. "This feels so odd. I can't even feel hurt by what you said."
"It will come. You just don't remember. And in most ways I'd say that it's better. While you're on the road to recovery, it's good that you don't remember yet. At least you can heal without the grief."
"Why am I here?"
"As far as I can tell, Piper, you're safer here in the mountains with me than back in San Francisco. People are hunting for you there."
"Why? Am I a criminal? And why did you help me? How can you be sure they wouldn't go after me here?" she rattled off the questions.
"Let me see. You're not a criminal. In fact you're a heroine. But people are afraid of you. They're afraid of things they can't understand. I helped you because I believe you're a good person. And I can't let them get to you. You're my patient, Piper. I'm devoted to making sure my patients are safe."
"And having me here can keep me safe how? They'll come after me if they're so bent on killing me."
His lips curved a little. "They won't. I can assure you of that."
"Piper Halliwell, in all records, you died the same day Prudence Halliwell did."
Piper gasped. "But my other family."
"It was needed, Piper. But it doesn't matter too much. According to your records, your mother died years ago. Your father abandoned you. You were a single woman living with two sisters. Prudence was one. And Phoebe has been missing for weeks. The police highly suspect that she's dead too."
Piper closed her eyes. "I seem to have a tragic family life."
"Yes. Kind of makes you glad you don't remember it."
"But I still wish I did. Right now I'm nothing. I have no life at all."
"You can make a life again while you're trying to remember what you lost," he told her.
"David, I think that I should go. If they think I'm dead, no one would be looking for me. I should go and get a job. Try and make the most of what I have. I feel much better now, just a little sore." She frowned at the way he was looking through the refrigerator and the cupboards and coming up empty. "Umm.. David, what is it?"
"This place has no food at all! I better run down for some supplies."
"What are you talking about?" She rose from her seat, grimacing at the pain. Biting her lower lip to keep from groaning, she took some vegetables from the compartment and gathered a few other ingredients from the freezer. "You have enough here for several days yet! And a trip down the mountain to the nearest store would take how many hours?"
"Two," he answered. "This cabin is far from civilization."
"Well then forget it. You'll die of starvation along the way." She started washing the vegetables. "And this will be great. I'll make you some chopsuey."
"Chinese mixed vegetables with a perfect tangy white sauce. I can make it in a jiffy. All I need are—" She stopped and looked at him in surprise. "Why can I remember recipes?"
"Because it's instinctive, I suppose."
"Maybe," she shrugged. Piper started cooking him his dinner.
"Stay and be my cook."
"What are you talking about?" She turned to look at him.
"You're a lifesaver. We can help each other out. I'm still worried about your health, and you can cook for me. That way I look after you. You look after me. We're both happy."
From behind her the pan got too hot, and a few cauliflower blooms popped up. Startled, she turned and froze them midair. Her jaw dropped. She looked at David. "You're not scared of me."
"I've seen the news. The people are scared of you because of that, but you won't hurt a fly."
She gave him a relieved smile. "Then all right, David, I'll stay."
The room was dark, yet he did not wish to turn on the light. The glare of a white room did not suit his mood. Instead, he bent under the flickering candlelight holding the well worn picture of a young bride in his hands. "I know you don't want me to give up on her, but it's just too much now. This is a losing battle, but I have to try. I can't let go of this just like that. I may have lost you. But I won't rest until I make them pay."
"Leo," he heard a faint voice call. Leo turned around and saw one of his charges peeking in to his room. "Hey Leo. I was going to my room when I saw the light under your door. Your bulb burned out?"
"Uhhh no." He cleared his throat. Hastily he shoved the picture facedown on the table. "I just preferred to use the candle."
"Oh good. I was worried since we have no more spare bulbs."
'Uh yeah, no problem here, Christy." He turned his face away. "Could you close the door when you go?"
He heard her sigh deeply. The door closed, and Leo's hand stole to hold the picture again. "Leo, what's wrong?"
She hadn't left. "Nothing. I'm just thinking."
"Come on, Leo. Show me. I've been your charge for five years now. I can tell something's bothering you." The witch reached out to hold his free hand as she settled to sit beside him. "You can talk to me. You're always guiding all of us, always giving us advice. Maybe this time I can return the favor."
"Guiding you is my job, Christy."
"But then we became friends. So you can tell me. Is it…"
Sadness settled in her eyes. "Oh yes. Your wife. I'm so very sorry about what happened, Leo." Her gaze fell to the picture he was holding. "Is that her?"
"You must miss her so much." He had no words to answer her with, so he did not even try to speak. "I can tell the exact day you met her when I look back into those days. If it were possible, I think she made you a better man."
"It is," he answered. "A happy man. A whole man."
They were silent for a few minutes, until she asked tentatively, "May I?"
Leo hesitated, until he saw the pool of understanding in her eyes. Reluctantly at first, he extended the picture to Christy. She smiled as she reached for it. "She's beautiful," she breathed. "Is this your wedding?" He nodded. "Oh Leo! She has the loveliest smile I have ever seen." She traced the face with her finger, and then she gasped as a premonition hit her. Christy sucked in her breath at the rapid images in her mind.
"Christy, what is it?"
She was caught in the premonition, reading and understanding the scenes before her eyes. Piper was laughing happily as she set the table, teasing lightly with a man whose back was to her. For a moment Christy was afraid that she was seeing Piper and Leo as a married couple living their lives. It would hurt so much. She ached to think of Leo's loss without even knowing Piper. But to actually experience how in love they were would add to the pain she felt for the two. And then the man turned to talk to Piper, and she was surprised to see the face.
"Christy!" Leo repeated.
Her eyes flew open. "Piper," she gasped, catching her breath. "Leo, your wife is alive."
"What are you talking about, Christy? Piper died with Prue."
Christy shook her head. "No. I distinctly saw her. She was laughing, Leo. She was in a kitchen talking to some guy."
"Are you sure it's not a premonition from the past?"
"I'm pretty sure it isn't."
"Who is it then?"
"I don't know."
"Do you recognize the place?"
"It was just a room like any other room. I'm sorry I can't help you much."
Leo closed his eyes and took a deep breath. And then e enfolded his charge in his arms. When he drew away, she could see the moisture shining in his eyes. "Can't you see, Christy? That's the best thing I've ever heard for weeks! I'll be grateful to you forever."
She smiled. "Find her then. You deserve to find her."
"Thank you. But what I want to know is why I can't find my wife with my mind. I should feel her presence, hear her call."
"I don't know. But what I can tell you right now is that we will all help you. You've given us so much since we knew you. This time, we'll all concentrate on scrying for her."
He nodded, unable to speak as a knot rose to his throat. She was alive. His wife was alive, and he would find her.
"That's weird," she murmured as she heard the doorbell. "David, are you expecting Matt?"
"No," he yelled from upstairs.
The bell rang again. "How about anybody at all?"
"No," he answered. "I'd tell you if I were so you can prepare."
"I wonder who that is." Piper rose from the couch and walked to the front door. She pulled it open to see a man and a woman standing outside. "May I help you?" The woman looked happy to see her. The man seemed taken aback and pale. "Anything I can do for you?"
"Piper," he whispered.
She stepped back. "How did you know my name?" she demanded. Have they been found out? She couldn't let David be involved if these people were here to seize her for an imagined crime. "What do you want?"
"Don't you remember me?" the man asked.
"Obviously I don't. And you're making me very uncomfortable. Please go away."
"Piper, it's me. Leo. Your husband."
Her eyes narrowed. "David!" she called. "David, come down here!"
Leo glanced up to see a man hurry down the stairs in his robe. His hair was still full of suds. Apparently, he heard Piper's call from the bathroom and with no further thought, grabbed his robe and went to her aid. Leo felt a stab of fury that he tried to tamp down. What sort of arrangement was this? "Who the hell are you?" David demanded from the stranger.
"I'm her husband. And I'm taking her with me."
"The hell you are! She's not married to anyone! Don't you think I'd have known that?"
"You stay out of this!" Leo took Piper by her arm. "We're leaving. And you can explain yourself later."
"Let go of me!"
David caught Leo's shoulder and threw the first punch. Piper screamed as she saw his lower lip split. Leo returned the attack with his own. "Leo, stop this!" Christy cried. "This isn't you."
"What's going on?" Piper asked Christy. "Why is your friend doing this? You're not going to get anything from this! I'm not hurting anyone so please leave us alone!"
"What do you—Piper, you honestly don't remember him?"
"I've never seen him before!" Piper insisted.
It dawned on Christy that this wasn't pretense. She truly didn't remember. "Leo, stop it! We'll figure this out calmly."
Leo, having not physically fought for decades, lacked practice. Soon, David had him flat on his back, and was pummeling at his face with a gym honed fist. Piper's eyes widened at the sight. The man wasn't even fighting back. All he did was stare at her with his bruised eyes. "David, stop it!" The doctor didn't hear her though. He was intent on defending her, since he also thought Leo to be one of those villains hunting her down because she was different. "Stop it!" she yelled once again, raising her hands. The potted plant by their heads exploded loudly. The impact sent David rolling off Leo and Leo covering his head with his arms.
Piper stared at the two stunned, unable to move. "What was that?!" David shouted.
"I think it was me," Piper answered faintly. She looked at her hands in surprise. "I was trying to make you stop."
"That wasn't stopping!" David told her loudly. He was still trembling in shock. "What you did a few days ago was stopping. This was not stopping!"
"I realize that!" she replied tearfully. "What happened? I'm so sorry! I—I—"
Christy rushed to Leo's side to help him up. Looking at Piper's fear-strained face, she urged her friend. "This is your chance, Leo."
Groaning at the pain, he walked over to his wife. "No! Stay away! You might—"
"It's all right, Piper. Just calm down. What you did before was freezing, and this is a whole new power. I need you to put your hands down and take deep breaths," he carefully instructed. "There's nothing to worry about, Piper."
"I'm making things explode!"
"I know. But we'll get through this. We got through this once, honey. We'll get through this again. Just trust me."
"How do you know these things?" came David's question.
"I told you before," Leo answered. "She's my wife. And I'm the only one who can help her." Leo looked back at Piper. "You don't know me?" She shook her head. "I need you to remember, Piper. I need you to train yourself using your powers. Phoebe has to be stopped."
"Your sister. She's part of the dark side now. Will you come with me?"
"Piper, you don't even know this man," David said. "He could be one of those trying to kill you."
Piper took a deep breath and walked over to David. And then she smiled at him. "His eyes are good."
"I can't do this!" she screamed, frustrated. Another pot fell two feet in front of her and smashed into a thousand pieces. "This is too hard! I'm not cut out for this," she cried.
"Of course you are!" Leo yelled from the sidelines. Since Piper's powers were destructive, he kept the other witches away, and stayed back from Piper's range too. As long as she can't control her powers, they all had to take the necessary precautions for safety. "Just focus on what you want to happen, Piper!"
She picked up another pot and glanced at the man. "Freeze," she mentioned tentatively. The man who claims to be her husband nodded. She threw up the pot and tried to freeze it. The pot exploded, and she hid her head in her arms. "This isn't working, Leo!"
"Piper, I need you to work on this. Please. Phoebe will attack soon I know. Think of al the innocents that she and Belthazor will destroy if you can't put a stop to it!"
He turned and saw Christy frowning at him. "Why not? I'm telling the truth. That's why we're all here. We want to stop Phoebe."
Christy took a deep breath. "Just look her," she commanded softly. "She's falling on her feet. She has no idea who you are, not really. And you just took her from the only home she remembers. Now you tell her that she has this huge responsibility on her shoulders when she hardly even understands why. Have pity on the girl, Leo."
"My pity isn't going to save her life, Christy!" Leo snapped.
"At least care about something other than this mission."
"Why do you think I'm driving her like this, Christy, when all I want to do is catch her in my arms and kiss her for all the weeks I've thought I lost her? Are you seriously thinking that this is for the innocents? I couldn't care less about them right now. But I need to know that my wife is going to get past this. I thought she was gone, Christy. She's here. And I can't even touch her because I don't want to drive her away!"
"This is insane," Christy whispered furiously. She pointed to Piper in the middle of the field, looking harassed and panicked. "That girl is tired, and confused! And Phoebe and Belthazor don't even have to come here to kill her. You're doing a fine job of doing it yourself!"
Leo glanced back at Piper in time to see her knees fold up. She fell heavily on her thighs as she covered her face with her hands. From that distance, he saw her shoulders tremble, and heard how her heart cried out to him. He took a deep breath. "Christy—"
"I'll tell them," she replied, not waiting for him to finish his request. Not a minute later the other witches left the field together.
He stepped over the boundaries they had erected and walked over to Piper. He fell to his knees beside her and drew her into his arms. Softly she tried to pull away. "Don't. Leo, get away. I might hurt you."
"I'm sorry, Piper," was all he said. His arms around her tightened as he cradled her close to him.
The struggles slowly ceased, until he held the quivering young woman in his embrace, her head resting on his chest. The sobs quieted, and he could feel the tension flow away from her body. "I promise I'll try harder next time," she rasped.
Leo took her by the shoulders to look down into her eyes. "I want you to try for us, Piper. I want you able to fight for yourself. But if you really can't, it doesn't matter. I'll take you away from here."
"What about the innocents?"
"You're the only one important to me. For lifetimes my priorities have been skewed. This time it will be for us, Piper. I won't let this end without us getting what we truly deserve." He looked down into the moist pools that gazed up at him. "I love you."
She wet her lips. The seconds ticked by while they merely looked at each other. And then her hand rose to touch his cheek. "I don't know you."
His hand covered hers. He drew it away from his cheek and pressed her fingers to his lips.
"I just wish I could remember. I'm so sorry, Leo. But to say it without—"
He nodded. "It's all right, Piper."
"No, it's not. I hurt you. And I don't want to. But neither do I want to lie to you."
"You don't deserve to be hurt," she answered gently. "I just wish I could—"
"Love me?" he finished lightly. "You already do, Piper. It will just take a little time for the shock to wear off. So you'll remember. And I won't rush you."
Her lips curved in pleasure. "Thank you."
He rose to his feet and offered his hands to pull her up. "Let's go inside and rest a bit. You need it."
Hand in hand they walked inside.
When he dropped her off at her door, Piper asked, "What time do we start again?"
He shook his head and gently pushed her inside. "Go and sleep for a while Take a bath. Watch some tv. I don't want you training until at least tomorrow afternoon."
"But you still need to teach me so many things," she reminded him.
"I know that. But all work and no play.."
She smiled. "Well then thank you. I know how much it costs our fight for you to give me even a moment to myself, but I really appreciate it."
"You're welcome. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Leo." She waited for him to turn and leave, to return to his charges and prepare them for the arrival of the force of evil that was her sister and her lover. She didn't know how to move when he remained in front of her, lingering. "Leo?" He bent, and she was frozen to where she stood. Was he going to kiss her? His warm breath teased her lips; he was so close.
And then he straightened up. "I'm—I'm sorry," he stammered. "I guess it just feels—"
Piper took a deep breath. "I understand how hard it is for you—seeing your wife but having to keep yourself from expressing yourself, losing her and getting her back when she's not even whole anymore." Slowly her arms reached up and her hands rested at the back of his head. She pulled him down and tentatively pressed her lips against his. He caught his breath. The longing of the past months caught up with him. He grabbed for her butt as he strove to mash their bodies so close together that they were one. Piper felt herself caught up by the strength coiled inside him. She felt the knob of the door pressing against her spine, but she didn't care. He needed her, and she was woman enough to want to answer that need.
Together, without allowing even an inch to separate them, they stumbled to the bed. With awkward fingers she unbuttoned his shirt. He drew one arm out of the sleeve and started with the other when he caught her looking at him anxiously. Slowly he shrugged into his clothes once more. "What is it?"
Leo reached out to brush the strand that fell on her face. "You don't remember anything, do you?" She shook her head. "I'm not going to let you do this."
"Give yourself to a stranger."
"But you're not a stranger, Leo. You're my husband."
"Because that's what we all tell you." He took a deep breath. "And we're not making love until your heart remembers." Leo dropped a kiss on her forehead. "Now get some rest."
"You need an army to defeat six witches and their whitelighter?" Leo asked derisively when Phoebe and Belthazor shimmered in with their cohorts.
"I'm amused. You can't fight the witches yourselves so you bring in a crop of demons that we can easily dispose of."
"In that case…" She turned to the large red demon beside her. "Show us some more, my love." Belthazor motioned widely with his left hand, and a portal opened to let loose of another batch of demons, doubling the number and making the fight three against one.
Leo's head whipped to watch as the women he trained took on the demons. It was not a fair fight, but he expected no less from Phoebe. The demons fought dirty, and they were at a disadvantage.
"Christy, beside you!" he shouted. He watched in horror and Christy turned a fraction of a second too late. The demon jumped over her.
And then two feet away from the witch it exploded in midair.
More to his terror he found Piper standing alone yards away from them, easy target to the demons crawling all over the place. "Piper, get back!" She wasn't ready yet. She may be Charmed, but it was not as though she remembered any of it. Instead of listening to him, Piper started freezing and exploding the demons she saw. It was a disorderly process, and he half suspected that she didn't know exactly what the outcome would be whenever she used her powers. Fortunately, the witches around didn't let out a peep. Whenever she froze, they went in for the kill. And whenever she exploded, they covered their heads.
Through all this Phoebe stared in shock at her sister. When Piper walked towards them, she immediately ran and wrapped her in her embrace. "Piper!"
Piper pulled away. "Phoebe. You've been busy," she said.
"Come with us, Piper." Phoebe frowned at the emptiness in her eyes. She glanced at Leo and remembered his fear at seeing Piper there. Her lack for reaction said it all. Piper had always had an open gaze, baring her soul to the viewer.
"You're evil," Piper bit out. "You're a vile creature. Whatever it was that we shared, Phoebe, I regret every moment."
Phoebe sighed. "Well that's a pity then, Piper, because if you did, you could save your husband." Belthazor shimmered out.
Piper saw him shimmer behind Leo. "No!" she screamed.
Leo turned around and Belthazor buried the dagger to the hilt in his stomach. "Care for some darklighter poison?"
"Very good, love." Belthazor goes back to Phoebe. "We'll be back. Since we won't see each other again. Toodles, Leo! It's been great."
When he fell, she was frozen where she stood. Her mind flashed hotly with memories of a wedding gone wrong, of looking into a home where a beautiful child played tea party, of kisses that seemed to last forever. Piper ran towards Leo and fell to her knees beside him. She pulled the dagger out. "Christy, what do we do?"
"It's darklighter poison!" one of the witches cried. "There's nothing we can do."
"That's not right! We should do something to ease him."
The chatter of the charges was too much for her. She wanted to shut them out. She needed silence. "Go!" Piper said. "Go back to the house. Get everything we can use. Bandages, hot water, anything!"
"We'll just take him inside," another suggested.
One of the witches levitated Leo. "Don't do this to me, Leo," she sobbed as they took him inside. "There's still so much—"
"Maybe some other time," he faintly teased.
"You remember," he whispered.
"But not everything!" When Leo was situated in the couch, she sat on the floor beside him. "I need to remember what to do. I know there's something I can do!"
"It's a spell," he got out from dry lips.
She closed her eyes and held on tightly to his hands. Minutes ticked by like a mocking insect, derisively snorting at her utter uselessness. "I'm sorry! There's nothing."
"It's okay, Piper. Just as long as you're back." Slowly, his lids drooped down.
Piper bent to press her lips against his. "I love you," she breathed out. His lips curved. Piper sat up and wiped the tears from her cheeks. He was going to drift away but what would save him was just curled at the back of her mind. Please… let me remember… help me… "Leo." There was no movement from him. "Leo, please."
The walls seemed to close around her. She placed her hand on his chest and prayed for a heartbeat, but there was none. Her lips trembled as the words flew out in a rush. She did not even know what brought it on. "What's mine is yours, what's yours is mine. Let our powers cross the line. I offer up this gift to share. Switch our powers through the air." When the spell was over, she wondered how it happened. She never had the chance to further think on it though, when she felt a strange tingling sensation in her hands.
Piper turned to freeze or explode the wildly blowing branch outside. Nothing happened. She sucked in her breath and sat beside his still form. "Wake up, Leo." She didn't know what to do with it. "Leo, you have to tell me how this works. Leo didn't respond. "Too late? This can't be." She leaned to rest her head on his chest and closed her eyes.
"I love you so much," she whispered wearily, drifting off to sleep.
The gently caressing hand running down her back eased her into dreams.
She tossed restlessly as memories of Leo whispered to her in her sleep. She tried to force them away. And then suddenly she cried out, mentally embracing the pictures of herself and her husband. No matter how painful, she had to hold them close to heart for she only now recalled them.
Her eyes flickered open to see the afternoon brightness of the sun filling the room. The cheery light was so at odds with her depression that she turned and curled herself tightly into a ball in the middle of the bed. The bed? How did she get into bed? She knew she was sitting beside Leo…
Piper sat up. "Leo!"
The void in her chest paralyzed her, and she felt as though all that could save her sanity was if she floated into oblivion right now. How could she have lost him?
Her head snapped to the door. The blood rushed from her face as she grabbed at her heart. "You're—you're—" she stammered in disbelief. "I didn't lose you!"
"No, Piper, not at all." He walked towards her and sat down beside her. Before he could move towards her, she had jumped onto him and embraced him.
"Thank God! I thought for sure—"
"Shhh… you won't ever lose me."
Her eyes were tightly closed as she inhaled his scent, carving it to her memory so she would always, always remember from now on. "So it's over?"
"Not quite," Leo answered. "Phoebe will be back, Piper. And this time she will be prepared for you."
"Is there no way to stop her?"
"I'm afraid not. She's a Charmed One, Piper. You three were meant to be the most powerful supernatural force of good."
"Yet Prue was killed."
"You and Prue were caught in very harsh circumstances. Phoebe is too immersed in that world now. You know as well as I do that she has always had a passion for it. And now… Piper it's irreversible."
"That can't be right."
"It will forever be you against her, Piper. There can't be a winner or a loser here. You and Phoebe—you're both…"
"I know what we are Leo." Piper took a deep breath. "And I think the only way to resolve this is to look at the Book. The Book brought the powers to us. I think the Book has the answer. Hopefully Phoebe didn't get it."
"She couldn't," Leo reminded her. "The Book recognizes evil, even in a Charmed One."
"All right. Take me to the attic."
He held her hand and together they orbed away to the manor.
"I can't let you do this," came his tortured voice. "I don't want you to do this."
Piper stared down at the page that would hold their destinies, that will determine the fate not only of herself, Phoebe or Leo, but of the entire world. "It's for the greater good good, Leo," she told him gently. "The only way to vanquish a Charmed One is to vanquish the power and the very essence of the Power of Three. Our line ends with us. This spell is perfect, and the only solution available. Phoebe took Prue's power, so the triquetra remains intact."
Leo shook his head. "This sacrifice is insane, Piper. You've done nothing wrong."
"But Phoebe has. You know the three of us are linked. And with Prue gone, there really isn't much sense in the Power of Three, is there?"
"You're not just destroying the one who turned evil with this spell, Piper. You're—"
"I now you understand why I'm doing this, Leo. No matter how hard you resist, you know this is the only way."
He didn't want to answer, because his reply would prove her right. Now, more than any other time in their life together, he didn't want her to be right. He wanted her to be wrong and safe, not right and noble but ready for a sure execution. "How many times do I have to lose you?"
"As many times as needed to fulfill our destinies," came her answer. "I know it hurts. But think of the innocents, Leo. It's always been for them. When we were fated to protect, we have been living for them."
"When is it going to be for us?"
"It will come. Someday." Her arms rose to wrap around him as he cradled her in his embrace, burying his face in her hair. He had memories he wanted to lock safe in his mind too. Strawberries. Jasmine. Eternally the same sweet combination.
Piper brushed her nose at the lapels of his shirt. How many hours did they have? She wanted to do this forever. "Tonight, when they arrive," she began, "I will talk to her. No matter how evil, Leo, she is still my baby sister. I have to give her at least one last chance."
"That's fair," he murmured against the soft hair.
"But if worse comes to worse, and she remains firm, I need you to shield me while I complete the spell. I need you to help me do this."
"Anything," he rasped.
She reached to tear the page from the Book. "Let's go home."
The sky was black velvet studded with tiny diamonds glittering in celebration at the choice of life. Around them the breeze teased the hanging leaves. Had it been for any other event, Piper would have been overjoyed. Now she was only thankful for the relaxation it provided her. She was, after all, killing her own sister.
She stood in the middle of the field with Leo. Six witches formed a wide circle around them, just to make sure that whatever evil Phoebe and Belthazor would unleash would not get out to wreak havoc on innocents.
At the strike of midnight, just as expected, Phoebe and Belthazor arrived. Surprisingly there were only two of them, but no one breathed out a sigh of relief. Belthazor can conjure demons as quickly as he can snap his fingers.
"What still alive?" was Phoebe's first question upon seeing the whitelighter. "Oh how sweet! My sister remembered?" She turned to Piper. "Your memory came back at the fear of him dying?" Phoebe held her hand mockingly at her chest. "How sickeningly romantic!" Her eyes narrowed as she continued talking to Piper. "Yet nothing at all yesterday when you first saw me after al these months. Shows what kind of sister you are!" Phoebe nodded to Belthazor. Sure enough, with the flick of his wrist, six demons appeared primed for attack. "Last chance, Piper. Join me! Together we will be great!"
"No!" Piper threw back. "Last chance, Phoebe. You and Prue and I—we were good witches! We fought for principles instilled in our hearts since we were children. We fought, and we succeeded. And I know how hard losing Prue was for you. But we can get past it together. Please, Phoebe, come back," she begged.
Phoebe sighed and help up her hand. Using Prue's telekinesis, she pulled one of Leo's charges with her mind. "My answer, dear sister, is this." Quickly that Piper was unable to freeze her, Phoebe snapped the witch's neck. The witch fell to the ground lifelessly.
"So cold. If that's how you want it—" Piper pulled the page from her pocket.
Phoebe's eyes widened as she saw what Piper held. "The spell!" she cried out. "Belthazor!"
Belthazor sends out a fiery ball in Piper's direction. While he was turned, the witches gain on him. Leo saw Belthazor's action and responded with his own. A clear shield rose to surround him and Piper. Phoebe tried to force her way in, but couldn't.
"I'll wait for you," she said as she met his gaze.
Leo stepped close to her and bent to catch her lips. "Promise me I'll find you," he whispered against her lips.
He felt her mouth curve as they pressed faintly on his. "I won't go making new promises when we haven't fulfilled that first one. Let me stop promising and start fulfilling."
"But you're going."
"I'll wait... I said I'll wait. This time in heaven."
"How can I find you?" he asked.
Instead of answer, she unfolded the paper and recites. "Hear now the words of the witches, the secrets we hid in the night," she recited. "The oldest of gods are invoked here. The great work of magic corrupted. In this night and in this hour, I call upon the ancient power. Take away the power of three. Darkness has penetrated, the Charmed line must be eliminated. Purge us of powers. Take the powers. The line ends this midnight hour."
"For the greater good," she reminded him. The electricity rushed from her limbs to center at her heart, and she gasped for breath. She glanced outside the glowing shield and saw Phoebe fall to her knees.
"Belthazor!" Piper heard her scream, but Belthazor was nowhere to be found.
"It's working," she coughed out. Leo nodded. She felt her chest tighten as her entire essence as a Charmed One collected in her heart. "I love you," she whispered. And then swiftly that she stiffened in his arms, a glowing ball shot out from her chest.
Her limp body fell forward in his arms, and the shield collapsed around them.
"Phoebe's dead," Christy told him soberly.
"And so is she," Leo replied. He lifted the body in his arms and walked back into the house.
The room was dark, yet the old man did not wish to turn on the light. The glare of a white room did not suit his mood. Instead, he bent under the flickering candlelight holding the battered picture of a blushing young bride in his hands.
"Uncle," he heard the faint voice call. "Do you want me to turn on the lights? That's bad for your eyes."
"Uhhh no." He cleared his throat. "I just prefer the candle."
"Is that your wife?" the young girl inquired.
"She's beautiful!" she exclaimed.
"Your mom said the same thing," he reminisced.
"You must have been one hot guy to catch a prize like this!" she teased. "I never met her, but mom said she was a courageous witch, like us."
"She was an angel."
"No, Uncle, that was you. Before you clipped your wings," she reminded the old man. She handed back the photo. "Why did you do it, Uncle? That was insane. You could have lived forever!"
"Who wants to live forever? That would have kept me from ever seeing her again."
"But you were immortal. You must be the craziest man ever!" She helped the old man into bed. "Goodnight, Uncle Leo."
The man placed the picture over his chest as he closed his eyes. The girl turned to close the door when she heard the whisper. "I'll be right there, honey. I just wish I knew how to find you."
The girl closed the door and leaned her head back. Uncle Leo, she knew, would leave them tonight. "Or maybe the wisest," she capitulated.
He rose through the clouds, his heart bursting with excitement at the thought of holding her in his arms again. Yet how many years had it been? Countless. Since the time he clipped his wings he had been waiting for this moment. How to search heaven for a soulmate?
"You're here!" a woman's voice cried.
His eyes rose to see her standing there, just right outside the gates, looking as beautiful as ever. "And I was worried about how I would find you." He walked towards his young bride. With every step, he felt the years falling off his body until he stood before her looking exactly the same way he did when they were married.
"I told you I'd wait for you," she reminded him as she touched his cheek.
"You didn't have to wait outside."
"Oh yes, Leo, I did. I would never enter heaven without you again." His hand closed around hers, and hand in hand, they walked past the gates.
The pearly gates gently closed behind them, and their figures disappeared as they vanished inside.
Faint voices were heard in gentle caressing conversation.
"Is this forever now?"
"Yes. It's forever now."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because finally we've carried our part in the artwork of life."
"But we'll live again?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe there's someone in here we can ask."
The giggles played like music as the cool clouds carried them through the air. The voices drifted away as they wandered through heaven together.
…And did you know… true mates who find their way into each other's hearts and fulfill their destiny are bound to be together in the next life, and the next, and the next… for infinite eternities…