Soothe

Soothe

By Catheryne@leopiper.cjb.net

http://leopiper.cjb.net

Alternate Reality – All characters are powerless mortals.

"Mine will be under the stars," Phoebe sighed. "Maybe he'll hire a boat and we'll do it over water."

"In public!" Piper gasped. "That's already pretty wild for a first time fantasy. How about you, Prue? What will your first time be like?"

Prue grinned cockily at her sisters. "I've already had a first time, youngsters." She laughed at the two pairs of bulging eyes turned to her. "Hey, what do you expect?! I'm almost twenty-four. You can't seriously think I'd be a virgin. You two are not normal. You should be experienced by now, especially you," she pointed at Piper.

"I'm waiting for the right time, Prue. You know that. And the perfect man."

"That's not gonna happen. You're living in a dream world, sis."

"I can wait, can't I? So, Prue, tell us what—"

"I'm not gonna tell you what my first time was like!"

Phoebe scrunched up her lips. "Spoilsport! How about telling us your fantasy first time then, be it the real one that happened or something you've dreamed about."

"Okay." Prue lay back on the picnic blanket they laid out in the university lawn. "Well I've dreamt about my first time at the back of a blue convertible."

"Eeeewww!!!"

"I was just kidding!" Prue laughed at her younger sisters. "Actually I dreamt that my first time would be up in the mountains, where we'd be one with nature, high above the rest of the world."

"Oh wow, that's beautiful, Prue," Phoebe said.

"Thank you."

"But it's so public. What if some mountain ranger just happens on you?"

"Piper, you've gotta learn to live a little. Don't tell me you want your first time in some bed?"

Piper blushed to the roots of her hair. "Not some bed, Prue. Mine or his. My first time will be… heaven," she pronounced dreamily. "The room would be full of flowers, and he'd be so careful with me. We'd kiss and touch for hours before he even moves to take off my blouse." Sparkling brown eyes met her sisters' raised brows. "He'd tell me over and over that he loves me while we're making love. Afterwards, we'd cuddle together in the afterglow."

"Ehem." The three girls snapped to attention at the sound of the clearing of the throat. "I'm sorry to disturb you ladies. I was going to wait until you finished your girl talk, but I have a class in eight minutes."

Red-faced, the Halliwell girls smiled shyly up at him. Phoebe got up on her feet and handed the guy a brown envelope. "Girls, this is Leo Wyatt. He's a professorial assistant in my psych class, and he needed these photocopies back. Leo, these are my sisters. This is Prue, and that one is Piper." Leo nodded politely at the two women. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough," Leo grinned at them.

Prue bit her lip. "So you must like this university very much, Leo, to have decided to work here."

"I'm only a professorial assistant until I finish my masters. And then I'm into psychiatry practice."

"You must think we're all nuts and you want to treat us, headcases," Piper muttered with a nervous laugh. "Hey, look at the time! You should get going before you're late."

"Oh yeah. I'll see you around some other time. Nice meeting you." He turned and ran to the building.

Three pairs of eyes followed. "Now that is a fantasy first time," Prue commented. "Nice butt. One of you snag the guy."

Piper sighed and fell on her back. "That looked just like my dream man."

Phoebe and Prue looked at each other. "Does meeting him first count in this?"

"All's fair in love and war, Pheebs. If Piper wants him, then she's free to go after him too," Prue settled.

"I'm not going after him," the middle sister denied. "You can have him. You'll be seeing more of him anyway."

Phoebe giggled. "You are so transparent, Pipe! Don't worry, I'll help you."

"Don't be silly, Phoebe." She looked down at her watch. "Okay, Prudence. Lunch break is over. We better get going."

They fixed their picnic stuff and loaded it into Piper's jeep. "Bye bye, Phoebe. Don't fall asleep in class ok?"

"Okay." She watched as the two cars drove off to opposite ends of the city.

~~

"Hey, Piper, it's for you!"

Piper wiped her hands on her apron and took the phone. "Yeah. Hey, Pheebs. No, I don't think I'll be home for dinner, honey. There's a party of people who suddenly arrived for celebration, and I'm working my butt off here." She saw the waiter signaling for something. "Hey, honey, call back later if you wanna check on me. I'm swamped. Yeah, love you too. Buhbye."

"Piper, we're shorthanded out there."

She nodded at the waiter. "I'll bus too, Jake." She made her way out of the kitchen and took a pad and pen from the counter. "What table hasn't been taken orders from yet?"

"Yours is twelve til twenty."

"Woah!" Taking a deep breath and knowing nothing's going to happen if she complained, Piper went to table twelve. "Good evening. May I take your orders?" The man on the table looked up and she caught her breath. It was Mr. Dream Guy.

"Piper! Your sister told me you worked here."

"Oh did she?"

"Yup. Like the customers I brought in? It's the faculty celebrating."

"Oh this is great."

"You're just waiting for my order, aren't you? Well, I need you to answer a question for me first."

"Oh okay."

"Will you go out with me tomorrow night? I know it's your day off."

"Oh."

"Will you ever stop with the oh's?" he grinned.

"Oh well…" She laughed uneasily. "Umm.. sure. I'd love to go out with you, Leo."

His eyes brightened. "Terrific!" He ordered for their table and Piper went to the kitchen weak-kneed. She owed Phoebe, she thought, as she peered over the counter at the magnificent golden head.

Too soon they had to leave. She waved farewell as they left. As manager, she remained in the restaurant to close up. She went to the kitchen and checked the equipment to make sure that everything was turned off, and that the windows were closed. Piper turned off the lights and went to the dining hall. When she assured herself that everything was secure, she reached up and flipped off the lights. And then she made her way to the door.

A large hand covered her mouth. Terrified, she began struggling from the strong arms that held her. Roughly she felt herself turned around and found herself facing her attacker. She pushed at the chest. "Let me go!" Gathering up all her strength, she pulled away and ran from him. She felt the stinging pain at her scalp as he caught her hair and pulled at it. Determined to escape, she tore away, ignoring the burning sensation on her scalp. She pushed at the chairs and tables in an effort to get away.

Piper glanced back and was terrified to see that he was almost upon her. She ran harder and pushed a chair tumbling down the floor when he had almost caught her. He tripped down but was able to grab her leg. She screamed as she went down hard on the floor.

"Hold still!"

"Please no!" She kicked at him as he pulled her under him by her leg. "Let me go!"

"Shut up!" He went over her and slapped her hard across the face. Piper could see stars beneath her eyelids at the dizzying blow. Her breasts were flattened between them, and she could not buck him off because of the enormous weight of his body. She grabbed at his hair and pulled, but he easily caught her wrists and tightened his hold upon them to cut off the flow of blood. Soon, he had pinned her flailing wrists over her head.

"Please don't do this." Oh God, this was not the way it was supposed to be! She squirmed under him in a desperate effort to be free.

He held both her wrists with one hand, while the other groped down her breasts. He squeezed ao painfully that she screamed. Her protests seemed to please him. "Look, I've got a surprise for you." He drew out a thin leather strip from his pocket and tied her wrists with it. "Look." He lifted up his hands. "Free." She struggled as he placed both hands at the waist of her pants. "Let's get this off, shall we?" When he ripped at it forcefully, she screamed with all her might. "You've been screaming since you saw me. There's no one around to hear you." With a snicker, he deliberately pulled off her panties, looping it off one wildly kicking leg then another. "Haven't you realized yet that it's useless?"

With one last effort, she kicked his face with her right foot and then madly scampered up to her knees and then her feet. She tried to get the ties on her wrists off, but it wouldn't budge. She ran away, stumbling a little, from her attacker.

With a growl, the man rushed after her. "Help me!" she screamed. Although she didn't want to think about it, he was right. No one was around to hear her. "Help!" She reached the door and tried furiously to turn the knob with her tied hands.

And then his arms imprisoned her from both sides. She was sobbing heavily, and she slid down the wall, begging. "Please don't do this."

The pale blue eyes were cold and unflinching. He grabbed her shoulders and pushed her down on her back. Naked from the waist down, she clamped her legs together to keep him from having access. Forceful hands pulled her legs apart, and then he inserted his knees in between and pushed wider. "No…" she moaned, knowing that there wasn't anything else she could do. The phone started ringing, she realized dimly when he thrust into her. With one final scream, she felt herself rip open and felt blackness descending over her. He kept thrusting and thrusting, and she knew that he was killing her. As she slipped into oblivion, she neither cared anymore that Phoebe was finally calling to check on her or that this stranger was moving between her legs, violating and uninvited. Her mind closed off the raw burning tenderness that replaced her dream of a first time.

It must have been hours later when her eyelids fluttered open. At first, in the darkness, she could not remember where she was. Only when her mind registered the soreness of her scalp, the pain on her arms and ribs, and that awful throbbing down there did the memories come back. With a groan she rolled over to her stomach and raised herself up. When she was standing on her feet, the trembling overcame her. Her hands, still tied together would barely cooperate. Her knees felt like they would give at any moment. She wildly glanced back and forth, hoping in the dim light to find what she wanted to.

Her chest threatened to burst, and she did not know what to do. She stumbled towards what seemed like a heap of blue and bent to pick it up. And then she turned around and saw her panties caught at the leg of a chair. She went over to take them.

And then she fell to her knees. She took a deep breath and looked down at the bit of cloth torn at the side and it was as though her mind closed to everything except that piece in her hands. "Please," she whispered. "Someone tell me this didn't happen!" What answered her was the silence of the room.

She gripped at the table and pulled herself up. There was no way that she would crawl, no way that she would acknowledge how low this had taken her. She ached all over, and she could still feel him all over her. Holding tightly to the articles of clothing she proceeded to the kitchen and manipulated a knife into proper position, intent on cutting off the ties that held her hands together. When finally, she got her hands free, she went directly to the bathroom and scrubbed madly at herself, hating and relishing the hurt that came from washing off his marks on her.

Piper looked at herself in the mirror and saw the eyes almost closed from the crying and the numerous bruises that served as the marks of the ordeal. Her breasts hurt and her ribs were sore. She was pale and exhausted, but her sisters did not deserve to find out about this.

Pulling from the last remaining energy left in her body, she put on a fresh change of clothes from her locker and pinned her hair up. With fingers still trembling—she doubted that they would ever stop—Piper applied on the makeup to cover the night.

The ringing of the phone startled her from the reverie. She put the lipstick down and picked up the receiver. "Phoebe? Yes, I'm sorry I worried you," she told her sister calmly. "I'll be right there. I got held up for a bit. Oh was that you calling a half an hour ago? Sorry. Ok, I'll see you. Don't wait up though. Well, all right." Slowly, Piper hung up and returned to the mirror, doubling the amount on her face. At the back of her head, she heard a voice warn her not to put too much, that they would not recognize her. "Good." Piper stared back at herself in the mirror, allowing that there were no physical traces of the past hour evident.

She grabbed her bag and the keys and walked to her car, automatically locking up as she went. Inside, no one saw the way her heart bled, or how her spirit cowered from the shadows shifting around her.

Phoebe opened the door for her when she arrived home. "Hey, finally! Want to me to heat dinner up for you?"

"No, thanks," she answered quietly. "I'm not hungry."

"Okay then." She pushed the lock button on the front door. "Are you going up?"

"Yes. I'm going to go take a bath."

"Your hair is still wet," the youngest sister pointed out.

"I want to take a bath," she insisted.

Phoebe grinned. "All right. All right. No one's telling you you can't. I'm just saying—"

"Okay go get some sleep."

"Goodnight, Pipe." Phoebe leaned forward to kiss her cheek. Piper stepped back. "Is something wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong."

"Then why won't you let me kiss you goodnight?"

"You're too old for that, Phoebe." Phoebe shrugged and ran up to her room. Piper followed her sister with her eyes. And then she shut them tightly and took a deep breath, recalling how her skin crawled and her ears thundered when she realized that her sister was going to touch her. God! I can't even let her touch me.

Phoebe walked to her bedroom when the door to Prue's opened. "Pheebs, she home yet?"

"Yeah, she just went to the bathroom to wash up."

Prue glanced blearily at her watch. "At this hour?"

Phoebe shrugged. "Beats me. She's acting a little strange."

"Okay." Prue went over to the bathroom and knocked, but received no response. She turned the knob and went in. She found Piper asleep in the tub, up to her chin in bubbles and Prue sat at the edge. "Hey sweetie, tiring day?"

Brown eyes snapped open, and Prue was surprised at the stark fear in them. "What the hell do you think you're doing!? Who gave you the right to just come inside the bathroom when someone's inside, Prue?"

"Piper, the door was open," Prue explained calmly. "Besides, we never minded our sisters going in and out the bathroom."

"When will I ever learn to lock properly!"

"Piper, is something wrong? Did something happen in P3?" Piper stayed silent. "Did you get into a fight with your boss? Is that what's going on here? You know you can quit there anytime. I don't like seeing you this way." Prue laid a hand on her sister's knee, which peaked out of the bubbles.

Piper pulled her knee away. "Why won't you guys stop touching me? Keep your hands to yourself!" She drew a shuddering breath and looked at her sister. "I'm sorry, Prue."

"Where did that come from?" Prue didn't understand it. The three of them had parted at lunch time teasing and kidding and now, just several hours later, her sister was afraid and on guard. "Piper, what happened between lunch and now?" she demanded.

"Nothing!"

"Piper, I know you. Something has to have happened." Prue cupped her sister's chin, and Piper flinched away. Prue's brows slammed together in worry. "God, Piper, won't you tell me?! You're making me so afraid."

"Prue, don't cry."

"Why won't I cry when you seem to hate my touch?"

"I don't. Please, you don't understand."

"It's better if you didn't know. I swear I'll be back up like before starting tomorrow. I just need tonight to myself."

Prue stood up, realizing that she shouldn't push her sister. She walked over to the door and pulled it open. She saw the heap of clothes at the head of the tub. "You changed your clothes at the restaurant?" she mentioned offhandedly. "Good. Maybe I can have those blue pants you were wearing this afternoon by tomorrow. I'd like to wear it on Friday."

"Prue—" Realization transformed her features as she looked down at Piper. She turned around and ran down the stairs.

Piper rose from the tub and grabbed her towel to wrap around herself. "Prue!" she called. "Prue!" She ran after her sister and saw from the top of the stairs that she was opening the plastic back that she had meant to burn. "Prue, don't touch that!" she screamed, stopping at the middle of the stairs. "Please!"

But Prue had opened the bag and drawn out the articles of clothing inside, staring down in horror at their state. And then she looked up at Piper, who just sat numbly at the steps, with her arms wrapped tightly around herself. "Baby…"

Piper rocked herself back and forth, not wanting to meet her sister's eyes. Prue climbed up until she stood two steps below Piper. And then she bent down and took her in her arms. Tears trickled down her cheeks when Piper froze in her embrace, neither hugging back nor relaxing in her arms. "I'm so sorry."

~~

As promised, Leo arrived at seven the next night with a shock of red roses bundled together in what Phoebe would term as a worthy bouquet. From the looks of him, Prue gathered that he had planned to take Piper to a classy dinner, but neither Prue nor Phoebe thought that Piper would be ready for anything like that. Piper had not gone out of her room since Prue allowed her to lock herself in.

Prue took the flowers and thanked him, and Phoebe led him to the living room. With all three of them seated, Phoebe began the excuse. "Leo, you know this is so nice of you but Piper can't go out with you."

"What are you talking about? I asked her last night at Quake and she agreed." Leo frowned in confusion.

"Yeah, but you know there are certain matters that—"

Leo's face brightened as he stared over their heads. "Hey. You had me worried there a bit."

Both sisters turned around to see their sister standing a few feet behind them in her mini black dress. "Piper—"

"Did I forget to tell you guys that I had a date with the assistant professor?" Piper grinned. "Sorry. Don't wait up for us. Come on, Leo."

"I'll go ahead," Leo said. "I couldn't find any parking space so I had to park a black away. I'll stop in front of the house." Leo left the three girls in the living room.

"What are you doing, Piper? Are you sure you can do this?"

Piper smiled at her sisters. "I appreciate your concern. I really do. But I'm not letting something so ugly ruin my life. And of all people, I think the two of you would understand and be proud."

"Oh honey! Of course we are. Don't be out too late." Both Prue and Phoebe hugged her, but like last night, Piper flinched at the contact and slowly disentangled herself. She caught the flicker of sadness in Prue's eyes. "Okay, so have fun," Prue whispered.

"I will." Piper walked away from them, careful to not to allow even her dress to brush against them.

~~

"Thanks for a lovely night, Leo," she said when the car stopped in front of their house. All night he had been the perfect gentleman, opening doors for her and holding interesting conversation. Now she was almost sorry to see the date end.

"You made the evening spectacular. Thanks for going out with me."

"We should do it again sometime." He released a long breath he did not realize he'd been holding. "What, relief?" she teased.

"Yeah," he laughed. "I'm not used to asking girls out. I didn't know how to ask again."

"Well you don't need to be shy around me," Piper assured him. "Because I have a feeling I'm going to be around your life for a while. Do you want to go in for coffee?"

"No, I better get going. Your sisters seem to be worried about you." Leo indicated the two figures at the doorway. "I guess I'd better surrender you to them, even though I don't want to yet."

Piper turned and saw Prue and Phoebe. "Yes, they look pretty anxious, don't they?"

Leo turned and stepped out of the car and appeared by her side holding her door open. "So I'll see you tomorrow afternoon."

"Tomorrow?"

"At lunch. You always have lunch with Phoebe right? I'm inviting myself."

"Oh well I give you leave to crash our little picnic!" She caught her breath when he leaned close. Her gaze fell to his lips, and she felt her own lips… Nothing. Instead of anticipation, as his face moved closer to hers, an intense dread suddenly paralyzed her. Leo saw the flicker of alarm in her eyes, but thought nothing of it. He laid his hands on her shoulders and pressed his lips on hers. And then he lost himself to the softness against his.

At the back of his mind, he felt hands slapping at his shoulders, arms pushing away. He thought he heard the panicked moaning of a trapped animal. "Leo, let her go!" someone shouted. In surprise, he opened his eyes and, with his senses about him, felt the trickle of tears on her cheeks wet his. He abruptly took his hands off her.

"Piper, I'm so sorry!" He was alarmed at the sight of her. She had her arms wrapped tightly around herself as she rocked. Neither Prue nor Phoebe touched her. There was only Prue's murmur of, "Hush honey, you're okay." He looked askance at Phoebe. "What's wrong?" he demanded. "What did I do?" At the touch of his lips to hers, he had lost himself to his dream world, but he was certain he did not hurt her. He would never do that to her. "Phoebe, I swear—"

"Go, Leo," Phoebe pleaded. "Please."

"But I should talk to her." When he stepped forward, she stepped away with a squeal. "Wha—"

"Just leave, Leo," Prue said more firmly. "We'll call you."

Not understanding, but realizing that he was merely contributing to the problem, Leo got into his car and drove away, seeing the reflection of two women talking to Piper intently, their hands carefully tucked in their pockets.

~~

They had thought that he would not be back. After that first date, Phoebe had had to call Leo to tell him about a few things, as they thought was fair. After all, he had been there and was forced to witness something as jarring as that. He had to know that he did nothing wrong, that he had been perfect. And that perfection, however, was not something that her sister was ready for.

They were caught off guard the next day though when the man they had thought would merely vanish in the dark recesses of oblivion stood at the porch bearing a brown stuffed bear and a box of chocolates. When Phoebe opened the door and met his eyes, she saw a quietness about him that belied the cheer pasted on his lips. "Why are you here?"

"Isn't it obvious? I'm not the type of guy who disappears after the first date."

"Leo, I told you—"

He held up his hand. "There's no need to go into those details all over again, Phoebe. Now I came to visit with Piper. I don't know if she'll see me, but I'd like to find out."

"You saw what happened last night, Leo. She's not ready to—"

"And she'll never be if you keep hiding her behind your skirts. Didn't you listen to all those lectures Mathieson kept droning on and on about? After a fall, the best way is to go."

"That's easy to say, but not so easy to do. I'm not forcing into doing anything she doesn't want to do," Phoebe answered.

"I'm standing here with a stuffed toy and candies. I hardly think this is a show of force." Leo sighed. "I understand how you feel, Phoebe. All I want is a chance. I can help. Believe me."

In response Phoebe opened the door wider and turned around to go to the living room. And then she returned, nodding to him. "Prue and Piper are sitting on the couch. I want you in the armchair."

"Thanks."

And so it began with the four of them conversing somewhat stiffly about the weather. Prue found it uncomfortable the way everyone seemed to move around the topic that she was sure was foremost in his mind. Still she did not see him interjecting it into the conversation, and soon she started to trust Leo not to commit an error that would send her sister to the verge of emotional collapse.

For the next few weeks the arrangement began to change. Phoebe had to go to the university and Prue would sit on the armchair while Leo and Piper sat facing each other at opposite edges of the couch. When Piper baked a small angel cake, it seemed such a bother to slice it up to put on different plates. Leo moved closer to the dessert, and not long after that, it did not even seem to matter that the hem of Piper's skirt brushed against his pants.

Weeks turned to months and Prue's job took most of her time. Piper knew she could never return to Quake, so she buried herself in planning for the club she had dreamed of owning. Phoebe was helping Piper sort through the mess of paperwork when the doorbell rang. "Now who could that be? It's almost ten in the evening."

"Oh that's Leo," Piper said offhandedly. "I told him I was having a little trouble with keeping up with these little details, and he said he'd bring something over."

Phoebe looked at her sister in surprise. She was about to comment on Piper's decision to let down her guard, but thought better of it. This must not be a conscious decision, and she doubted that Piper would let any other man get as close to her as Leo has gotten. Whatever the reality behind this was, Phoebe didn't want to question it. For her to question aloud, Piper would start doubting herself too.

"Hey!" Piper greeted as Phoebe walked into the living room with Leo. "Are you going to be a savior and help me resolve this mess?" For that one teasing moment, Phoebe's heart grew lighter.

"This is the answer to your problems," Leo announced, holding a cd between her fingers.

"Play a music to calm me down while I'm diving through the papers?" Piper grinned.

"No." Leo raised his brows. "And you're getting mighty cheeky. Phoebe, where's your laptop?"

"Upstairs. I'll go get it." Phoebe turned to go but stopped herself, unsure whether or not to leave her sister alone with Leo.

Leo knew what was on Phoebe's mind, but he was going to say nothing. "Phoebe, it's okay! I'm not liable to jump on your assistant professor!" Both Phoebe and Leo stared at Piper in shock. "Go. I want to finish this." Phoebe turned around and left.

Leo didn't say anything, merely helped Piper stack up the papers that were scattered all over the coffee table. Piper was quiet after that remark, so Leo took up on her example and sorted through the flowcharts and graphs. "You know, sometimes I want to kill him." Leo looked up and found her staring at some negligible point in space. "There are moments when I just want to find him and kill him."

Her eyes were lifeless, and Leo could see no fury or even regret in them. "I want to kill him too," he replied. "It's a reasonable emotion to feel."

Those eyes turned to him, and he was relieved to see a flash of something, though it be anger. "Don't go all psychiatric with me, Leo! This is real life, not some curriculum you're working on. This isn't some damned book; it was my body!"

"You're right. I don't understand. I won't fully understand." He wanted to hold her against him, but he knew the moment he laid his hands on her, all the progress that he had made would go down the drain. "And I can't say enough how sorry I am for what—"

"Why won't he just go away?" she whispered. "He keeps hounding me, Leo. My dreams… are nightmares. And every quiet moment alone, I see him… feel his hands…"

"Piper—"

"Why won't he let me fall in love?"

Leo took a deep breath. Very carefully, he reached out to touch her cheek, watching her face for any sign of distress so that he could draw back. His heart leapt when she turned her face so she could press a kiss on his palm. His fingers brushed at the tears. "He can't do that. He did what he did to your body, but he would never have enough power to have affected your heart, and your soul." She looked up at him, her eyes soft, trusting. "And you know why?" She shook her heart. "Because those are yours no matter what."

Piper gave him a tremulous smile. "And yours."

"What?"

Her warm hands closed over his cheeks as she drew his face close to hers. "I love you. You made me live again." She leaned to press her lips on his, first uncertain, and then more firmly. Leo didn't move his lips, didn't press forward, afraid of suddenly terrifying her. "Kiss me," she whispered. "I want my dreams to be of you." Gently, his lips captured hers, and for the first time, the touch of another person made her feel safe.

Phoebe stood at the doorway, laptop in hand. And then she backtracked and sat at the bottom step of the stairs. Putting the laptop down, she buried her face in her hands and her shoulders shook with her relief.

In the living room, Piper's head rested on his chest as they sat silently together on the couch. It was though he was about to burst in exhilaration. After months of gently coaxing her out of the hard wall she had built around herself, she was now beginning to step out of those barriers. It would take time to heal, he knew, even longer than those months he had spent coming to her as her friend when all he wanted to do was to love her.

"Leo," he heard her say. Immediately, he looked down at her, to show that he was listening. "Will you make love to me?"

Leo carefully disentangled himself from the embrace. "Yes," he said.

With a smile, Piper stood up and offered her hand. "Let's go up to my room." When he didn't place his hand on hers, she took his hand and pulled. "Come on, Leo."

"Not today, Piper."

"What is this, some sort of a joke?" She grinned. "Don't tell me you haven't been wanting to since you asked me out, Leo."

"I won't deny that I have those feelings for you, but I'm not an animal who can't control himself or wait for the right time."

"Do you or do you not want to make love? Leo, I just want to feel your hands where he touched me! Forget him and replace those memories with you!"

Leo shook his head. "Do you hear yourself right now?"

"What are you talking about?"

He stood up and cupped her face with both hands. "Piper, when I make love to you it won't be because you want to erase some other man from your memory. There's not going to be a third party in our bed. It'll be you and me. Just us."

"Leo, I want to—"

"Me too. But not now. When the time comes, you'll know it. Okay?"

Piper nodded, returning back to his arms. "It's been months. If I were another girl, and you were another guy, we'd have crossed that line long ago," she said.

"But we're not. We're you and I. Piper and Leo."

"And so sad. I'm sorry, Leo."

"You don't have to be sorry for anything. You've given me the best gift a woman can give to a man."

"No," she shook her head vigorously. "He took that away!"

"Your love? It's your love, Piper. It's what's important."

"Is it? I don't feel complete enough for you, Leo. And I want to."

He dropped a kiss on her lips. "You're as perfect as you can be. That's why I love you." They both started when his phone rang. Leo turned and walked a few steps to answer it. And Piper could hear only bits and pieces of his side of the conversation. "Where? Every night? Good. Good. Okay, I'll be there. Thank you for your help."

When he flipped his phone closed, Piper asked, "Do you need to go?"

"Yeah. But I'll pick you up tomorrow for dinner." Leo brushed a strand of hair away from her face. "I love you."

"I love you, Leo."

"Soon," he said. "I promise."

~~

"Leo, this place is amazing." Leo pulled up a chair for her. "Thanks."

"Mr. Wyatt?"

"Yes?"

The waiter nodded courteously at Piper before turning back to Leo. "You have a phone call, sir."

"Will you excuse me?"

"Sure." Piper smiled at him and pored through the menu as she waited. A few minutes later, he came striding back looking worried. "Is something wrong, Leo?"

"What? Uhhh.. no. Everything's okay. It was just a call I had to take."

"You know, if there's anything you need to get back to, we can take a rain check."

Leo grinned, shaking his head. "Of course not. Tonight would be perfect. I promised, didn't I?"

A smile curled the corners of her lips as she tried to guess at his meaning. "I can't wait for dinner to be over."

He laughed. "That doesn't say much for the food, now does it?"

"You know what I mean, Leo."

"Do I?" he teased, glad that she seemed so comfortable around him.

Piper met him smile per smile, grin per grin, as they finished the dinner served before them. She noticed however, at certain moments when he thought she wasn't looking, the touch of frown on his lips, and the little worry that creased his brow.

About an hour later they were sitting quietly sipping their wines. Piper waited for him to speak, but it turned out that he was going to play the drawing out game. She licked her lips and was pleased with the sweet taste of his choice. "Umm, so the professor gave the class a very hard project huh?"

"What?"

"Phoebe. She's gone overnight at her groupmate's place. For Psych class."

"Oh yeah. Yes. Mathieson goes insane whenever the end of each semester approaches. I was surprised Phoebe still took him for Advanced when she found out how heavy his load was even in the Basic."

Piper nodded and took another swallow of her wine. "So Prue's gone for the week," she said. "She has that shoot in Florida."

"So I heard," he answered.

The silence dragged on and Piper studied the crocheted pattern on the tablecloth. She abruptly looked up at Leo and asked, "Will you take me to your place tonight?"

"No, Piper."

Disappointed, she sighed and continued studying the delicate patterns. "All right."

"I'm taking you home."

"Good. I want you to take me home. Yes, home is good, even though I'm all alone there without either of my sisters." Piper pushed her chair back. Leo immediately stood up to assist her and Piper suspiciously squinted when he bit his lip to stifle a laugh.

In the car, Leo slipped in a CD and started his engine. I'm not talking of a hurried night, a frantic tumble and a shy goodbye, creeping home before it gets too light. That's not the reason that I caught your eye, which has to imply I'd be good for you. I'd be surprisingly good for you.

Piper giggled, and Leo raised his brows to look at her questioningly. "Leo, Evita?! Since when have you listened to musicals?"

"I have a unique selection in here. And I have an appreciation for musicals, you know."

"Well that one certainly is a selection! But you don't follow through," she told him. "You're the only guy who can be called a tease." Leo didn't answer. Piper took a deep breath and released it heavily. "Sorry. I'll just keep silent."

Please go on. You enthrall me. I can understand you perfectly and I like what I see, what I hear and knowing me, I will be good for you too.

Piper burst out into a chuckle. "Why, thank you, Mr. Pryce!"

Leo grinned at Piper as he continued driving on to the manor. He parked in the driveway and opened Piper's door. "You don't have to walk me in," she said. "I know you have a lot to do, so you can go."

"Of course I should walk you in." His warm hand closed over her arm as he led her up the steps. "Give me your key."

Piper handed him the keys. He turned the knob and pushed the door open. Piper stepped in through the door and gasped. She looked around the room and saw that petals were strewn through the floor on a path leading to the stairs. Behind her, Leo whispered, "Didn't I tell you this will be a memorable night."

She turned around and flung her arms around his neck. "This is beautiful!"

"You forgive me for not taking you to my place now?"

"Forgive you? I adore you!"

"Wow!" Leo chuckled. "Adoration just for petals on the floor. Let's see what happens when I show you the rest." He turned her and entwined his fingers with hers. "Let's follow the rose path, shall we?"

"We'll crush the petals!" she protested. "I don't want to crush the petals."

"Okay," he agreed. "I don't have any problem with crushing the petals." She squealed as he caught her up in his arms and followed the path with her lifted high. "Good enough?"

"Leo, you're crazy!" she laughed.

"And don't you love it!" He followed the path of the rose petals up to her room, where it stopped at the closed door. "I should let you go in." He put her down on her feet and nodded for her to enter.

Piper pushed the door open and stepped in while Leo waited outside. And then she strode outside and walked away. "Hey, where are you going?" He caught her to him.

"That was my fantasy first time, Leo!"

"Yes it is. I tried to recreate the dream the way you told your sisters," he said slowly, pulling her back into the room. Piper kept her eyes down, not wanting to see the sheer brilliance nor smell the wonderful scent of dozens of different flowers that filled every possible space. "I remembered everything, and did it the way you always wanted."

She tried to squirm out of the embrace. "But don't you understand that you can't!? This isn't going to be my first time!"

"This is!" he insisted. "Piper, look at me." His fingers tipped her chin up. "I love you, and you love me. This is the first time that a man will be making love to you. From now on, this is the night you'll remember." He pressed his lips down on hers. "And you won't talk about that other time, because that was nothing where it really counts."

It was just like all the dreams she'd had since she was old enough to think about it. His hands were gentle as he caressed every nook and fold and curve of her body. Gently, he led her to the bed, which he also filled with blood red petals. In her fixation with his eyes, and with each pleasant sensation he was evoking within her, she didn't even notice, much less mind, the way she crushed the petals beneath her.

Piper moved to unbutton her blouse, but his hands stopped her. "We'd kiss and touch for hours before he even moves to take off my blouse remember?" he said to her.

"Yes, I do. And so do you."

He nodded. "Ever word. Now will you let me stick the rules you set?"

Her smile was tearful as she agreed. Piper laid back down on the bed, and he followed shortly after, snuggling with her. She closed her eyes as he nibbled on her earlobe. "Maybe we should make some amendments, Leo, because I wouldn't be able to stand hours of only this," she whispered.

"Request approved." Grinning, they took off the impeding clothing. As each button slipped from the eyehole, Leo's lips greeted the skin bared, searing each pleased sigh and sensation in her memory.

He laid on his back, and Piper raised herself on her elbows in question. Leo smiled at her. He helped her move over him. "I won't do anything to force you," he said. "And I won't make you feel trapped."

She met his eyes, not knowing what to do. And then instinctively, she met her lips, and only hands and sighs and holding gazes told her how to carry on. Both their eyes closed in fulfillment when she found the way. They moved together in a fluid dance that made her weep. She laid her head on his chest afterwards, glorying in the aftermath. "You're right. This is my first time. And this is my first afterglow. It's beautiful."

Wrapped in his arms, she drifted off to sleep. Never had she felt safer in her entire life. How odd that her only security would be with a man, when it was with another that she was first betrayed. She burrowed deeper in his embrace.

Leo pressed a kiss at the top of her head, knowing that what happened tonight had bound him to her forever. Nothing was going to hurt her ever again. And nothing was going to destroy what she had worked so hard to regain. That was a promise to himself that he would keep.

Piper stiffened in his arms, and then started struggling. "Ohhhh God," she moaned, trying to get away. He held her fast so she would not fall off. "Please no. Don't do this!" she murmured in her sleep. "Help me!" she screamed.

"Piper!" he shook her. "Piper, wake up. It's okay. You're safe. It's Leo."

Brown eyes snapped open, full of fear and panic that they almost choked him. "Leo," she whispered pitifully. "Leo, it's not going to be the same again. Even now he's haunting me! I thought it would only be you and I."

"Shhh… everything will be all right." Exhausted, she wrapped her arms tightly around him and fell back into sleep to his soothing voice. "I'll make everything okay. And you won't ever have to feel scared again." Leo reached for his phone in the pocket of his discarded pants and sent his message.

~~

Piper woke up to the feel of eyes staring down at her. She met the tender hazel gaze with a soft, satisfied smile. "Hi."

"Hi."

"How long have you been up?"

"A half an hour, maybe," he answered.

She grinned. "And have you been looking down at me that whole time?" He nodded, and she laughed at loud at the prospect. "You must have been very bored!"

"It's the smartest thing I've ever thought of doing besides asking you out. It's the best thing I've ever done since I fell in love with you," he said.

"You, Assistant Professor, have a silver tongue. I better watch myself around you!" She slapped him playfully on his shoulder and he fell down teasingly over her. And then he raised himself quickly and lay on his back. "You know, Leo, you don't have to walk on eggshells all the while. I wish we could just be normal."

Leo drew her in his arms and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "But then we'd not be the same. And I love you the way you are. You love me because of who I am to you now, don't you? Any other way is too unsure."

Piper took a deep breath and curled closer to him. "You're right. With you, I know all my tomorrow would be beautiful."

Leo smiled against her hair. "Beautiful and safe. I'll do anything to give you the kind of life you deserve."

Piper was quiet as she drew invisible shapes on his chest. Leo grinned as she concentrated on a very intricate pattern above his heart. He sucked in his breath the moment he heard the loveliest words she had ever uttered aside from her profession of love. "I trust you."

"Thank you." And she will never regret it.

~~

Leo stepped out of his car and shrugged into his jacket. He looked around the isolated parking lot. Leo glanced down at his watch. Just a few more minutes.

At the exact time that Buddy Walker had told him, the object of his search walked out of the building. Leo picked up the shiny metal on the driver's seat and proceeded. His strides took him at the back of the man in no time. "Hey, hold up," he called.

The man turned. Pale blue eyes considered the blazing hazel ones. "What's up, man?" he easily asked.

"I need you to come with me downtown."

Eyes turned to slits. "You a police officer? 'Coz we've been over this too many times. You don't have anything against me."

Leo shook his head. "I'm not a police officer. But I have enough evidence. I've had you followed for months, you bastard," he related coldly.

The man threw Leo's hand off his shoulder. "Get away from me."

"How many times did she say that?" The whisper was menacing because of the sheer detachedness.

"You don't know shit!" the man bit out, then swiftly turned around and walked away.

"Not so fast." Leo grabbed the man's arm and forced him around. And then he threw the first punch. "You heartless bastard, you have no idea what you put that girl through." The background fell black as Leo's sights focused only on the man.

"Don't I?" the man gasped out. He fell down at the force of a punch. Leo immediately went down to his level and continued the bruising vengeance. Caught off guard, the man barely got his smashes in. As he was being pummeled on to the ground, he decided to take another path to getting to his attacker. "Are you sure I didn't know? Of course I knew!" he hissed. "She was crying and pleading all the while. Uumph." His head snapped back at the blow to the side of his face. "She was twisting beneath me like I was killing her! Do you still think I don't know what I put her through?"

"Damn you to hell!" Leo drew out the silver blade from his pocket and held it to the man's throat. "I'm going to kill you."

At the sight of the deadly weapon, adrenaline pumped through the man's veins and allowed him to buck Leo off. He crawled desperately to his backpack and took his own dagger. "You don't know who you're dealing with here, mister. If you think you're walking away from here alive, you're kidding yourself."

Leo gripped the blade tightly in his hand. "As long as I take you with me…" Leo lunged for the man, swinging his weapon.

~~

Piper brushed her lips on the cold metal ring he had left on her nightstand. For perhaps the thousandth time since she had found it, her fingers traced the tiny engraving inside.

"Honey, we have to leave now," her sister said softly from the other side of the door.

"Yeah, I'll be there." Piper took her coat from the hanger and put it on. Her eyes fell on the bed. It's been a week since she had experienced heaven there, but it seemed both like it were only tomorrow and centuries ago.

"Are you okay?"

"Of course I am."

The drive to their destination was silent. Piper stepped on the grass, crushing them under her feet the way he had crushed the petals under his. She closed her eyes against the memory, and allowed the teardrops to fall like rain. She looked down at that perfect repose, and at the back of her mind her subconscious created the look in his eyes as he was watching her sleep after their night together. Piper shook her head free of that vision. When the time came, she brushed her lips against the coldness that only served to remind her of how hot his kisses were all over her shivering skin.

She stepped away when she was quietly asked to. As they lowered him down to his body's final bed, all she did was look down at the words in his ring. Was it about his promise of the tomorrow she deserved? It doesn't have to be with me.

Piper raised her face to the sky and opened her heart to the bright, warming sun. She slipped the ring on her finger and rested her hands on her belly. "Please God," she slowly prayed, eyes closed, "let him have left me this simple remembrance."

The End