No, you're not seeing things, I have actually posted a NEW chapter and the LAST one. No long faces now because the sequel is coming soon. I know it seemed like I've fallen off the face of the Earth, but my muse took off and I had a massive case of writer's block. However, my muse has been found and thanks to a special friend (thank you Welsh Girl) who gave me the incentive and encouragement to get cracking, I have finally completed it. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to respond to all of your reviews, but they are, as always, much appreciated. Thanks also to Swedish Mystery for her beta reading. Thanks to her suggestions I re-wrote a whole section of this chapter and made it even better. Hope you enjoy it everyone.
"I thought you said you found them." Phoebe whispered impatiently.
"I did." Sam answered defensively.
"Well then why have we been walking around in circles for the last fifteen minutes?" Phoebe continued, as she felt her way along the dimly lit corridor with her hands.
"They're close. I just can't get an exact location. Someone or something is scrambling the signal." The whiterlighter explained, his voice laced with frustration.
Phoebe remained silent as they crept quietly through the underworld. She could hear the tormented cries and moans of the doomed somewhere in the distance, and she prayed that her sisters weren't among them. The stench of suffering filled her nostrils and made her feel sick. She squinted to see if she could spot Aidan, who lurked just ahead of them, looking out for trouble. With his power to change shape or form, he was virtually undetectable.
Sam stopped abruptly and Phoebe bumped into him. "Did you find them?" She questioned anxiously.
"No. Get down!" The whitelighter ordered as he pushed the witch to the ground just as an energy ball sailed past her head. They watched as Aidan materialized just ahead of them and appeared to jump right out of the wall, surprising their attacker from behind just as she was about to throw another energy ball. He grabbed the demon's arm and drove her own weapon into her chest. She screamed with rage and exploded, knocking Aidan onto his backside.
Paige cried out in desperation as she tried in vain to heal her sister. Her hands shook as she tried to channel all of her power into them, but nothing happened. She was out of breath and her heart pounded with panic. The young witchlighter moaned as she wiped away the tears on her face.
"You have the power to heal. Feel it flowing within you."
Paige froze and slowly looked up to see a familiar form standing before her. She watched as the transparent figure became corporeal and knelt beside her, nearly tripping as she did so. "Damn robes." The young woman muttered.
The witchlighter was awestruck, a look of recognition plastered across her face. "Prue! You're an-"
"-Elder, yeah. Piper is going to be so pissed when she wakes up. Here." Prue took Paige's hands in her own and held them over their injured sister's limp body. "You love Piper, right?" Prue questioned softly. Paige nodded in response. "Feel that love, let it flow through you and channel it into your healing power."
"But if you're an elder can't you heal her?" Paige asked.
"Piper is badly injured. My power alone won't be enough. I need you to help me."
The youngest Charmed One looked uncertain, but Prue gave her a reassuring look. Paige closed her eyes and concentrated. Her fingers trembled and she released a ragged breath. "I can't."
"Yes you can, honey. You have to if you don't want to lose her. Just love her."
Paige closed her eyes and tried again. She thought about how much Piper meant to her and how she couldn't imagine life without her, couldn't see Wyatt and Chris growing up without their mother, couldn't see Phoebe getting married without both sisters by her side. Piper had helped Paige to become the powerful witch that she was. She loved Piper with all her heart and her hands finally began to glow along with Prue's.
Prue watched Paige with great concern, noting her younger sister's unsteady hands and sweat soaked skin. She knew Paige's strength was waning but Piper's survival depended on them both. She spoke gentle words of encouragement in an attempt to keep Paige's concentration. "That's it sweetie. You're healing her. She is going to be okay if you keep doing what you're doing."
Paige coughed and slouched forward towards Prue. The light from her hands began to fade as her strength faltered. There was a tone of urgency to Prue's voice as she spoke. "Don't stop! Just a little bit longer Paige, just hold on. You can do this."
With every ounce of energy she had left, Paige brought her power back to full strength. She was going to heal Piper, even if that meant sacrificing her own life in the process. She coughed again and her hands shook like jelly but she continued to hold them stubbornly over her sister.
Prue's eyes widened with worry. "Paige, you can stop now. I can take over from here. Piper's going to be fine now, thanks to you sweetie.' She nodded and smiled at the baby sister she had never known. Paige smiled in return and let go. Drained of all her energy, she collapsed onto her side next to Piper. Prue didn't move. She had to continue working on Piper before she could help Paige, otherwise she risked losing them both. She worked on the head injury that was so severe it would have most certainly left Piper brain dead. Then she moved on to her battered face. The dried blood, swelling and bruising gradually disappeared. Small fragments of caved in cheek bone fused back together and the injured wiccan's face took on a normal shape. Paige had healed Piper's punctured lung but Prue healed the injuries to her shoulder and abdomen. She then worked her way down to the wound in her knee. With Piper's injuries now healed, her torn and tattered pyjamas were whole once more, all traces of blood had vanished.
With one sister now out of danger but yet to regain consciousness, Prue turned her attention to the other. The youngest Charmed One's breathing was shallow and she was burning up. She felt bad knowing that she would only be able to partially heal her youngest sister as Paige would have to go back to the hospital to avoid raising any kind of suspicion that could expose their magic. Using memory dust on the medical staff was too risky because Sam had used it on them once already. Prue could heal the infection that was the cause of her sister's raging fever, but not her wound. She whispered a spell under her breath as she healed her baby sister to keep her asleep a little longer, knowing that a conscious Paige would strongly object to going back to hospital. Just as Prue had completed her task and the healing glow emanating from her hands had faded, she noticed scintillating blue orbs filling the air in front of her and held her breath in anticipation.
"Oh, thank-" Phoebe froze when she registered Prue's presence and her eyes widened in surprised at the sight of her robes, rendering her speechless.
Sam, on the other hand, was not surprised to see the young Elder. "Are they okay?" He questioned, looking down at the sleeping figures on the floor. Prue nodded absently, her focus on Phoebe.
Aidan looked warily around the cavern and glanced at Phoebe, puzzled by her reaction to the young woman he recognised as an Elder. "Where's the darklighter?" He questioned.
"He's gone. Paige vanquished him." Prue responded quietly. She knew of Aidan and that he was a witch. "Sam, please orb Paige back to the hospital and take Aidan with you. I'll take Piper and Phoebe to the manor."
Sam silently complied, lifting his daughter into his arms. Aidan placed his hand on the whitelighter's shoulder and they orbed out.
Now that Prue was alone with her sisters, she turned her attention back to Phoebe, who had made eye contact with her but remained taciturn. "Sweetie, can you help me with Piper please?"
The young Elder broke the awkward silence that had ensued between them with a sigh. She approached Phoebe cautiously and placed a comforting hand on her upper arm. The younger Halliwell threw out her arms unexpectedly and wrapped them tightly around her big sister, burying her face in her shoulder. This caught Prue by surprise and her eyes bulged out of their sockets. She returned the hug and wave of relief washed over her as she held her little sister in her arms. She had longed for the moment when she would be reunited with her sisters and now it was here. However, she had hoped it would be under better circumstances.
"Piper's going to kill you." Phoebe's voice was muffled by the fabric of her sister's robes.
Prue sighed again as she reluctantly broke the hug. "I know." Both sisters wiped away unshed tears from their eyes and Prue registered the questioning look in Phoebe's eyes. "We should get Piper back to her bed before she wakes up. We can talk at the manor." She turned around and bent over her somnolent sister who was lying flat on her back. Piper's head lolled to one side as the young Elder raised her into a sitting position. She took one limp arm and wrapped it round her neck while motioning to Phoebe to take the other. Together they lifted Piper until she was standing upright with their support. Prue took hold of Phoebe's free hand with own and their bodies transformed into bright blue and white light that slowly faded and finally disappeared altogether, leaving the stony cavern empty and silent.
Back at the manor it was late and glowing blue orbs illuminated the darkness in Piper's bedroom. They had rematerialized near the door and the unconscious witch's feet dragged along the floorboards as her sisters stumbled with her towards her bed. Prue reached out with her free hand to switch on the small bedside lamp, then threw back the bed sheets and lay Piper on her side while Phoebe lifted her legs onto the mattress and covered her with the quilt. The sleeping Halliwell looked deceptively serene. She would be far from it once she awoke.
Another awkward silence ensued between the two sisters and this time Phoebe broke the silence as she questioned her sister point blank. "How did you become an Elder? The last time we saw each other you barely had the power to make yourself visible. I don't understand."
Prue looked down and gestured at her robes. "This is just a recent development. They caught me when I came to you but instead of punishing me they made me an Elder and told me it was destiny, I was meant to become one. Or maybe that was my punishment." The young Elder rolled her eyes. "I mean, look at me. I'm a fashion blunder." she added in an attempt to ease the tension.
It worked as Phoebe cracked a small smile. "Hey, that's my line."
Prue looked at Phoebe expectantly. "That's it? You're not gonna shout at me?"
"Nah. I'll leave that to Piper." Phoebe quipped.
Prue shook her head in disbelief. "You'd think after all the years of me yelling and nagging at you, you'd jump at this very rare opportunity to have a go at me."
Phoebe smiled at her sister's remark but it faded as she turned her attention to her sleeping sister and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Why hasn't woken up yet?" Phoebe questioned, her voice thick with concern. "I mean, usually we wake up once we're healed.'
The young Elder gave her sister sympathetic look and shrugged. "My guess is she doesn't want to wake up right now."
"She doesn't want to wake up?" Phoebe repeated.
"Darklighter tortured her right in front of Paige. He used a spell so I couldn't get to them." Prue sighed heavily and Phoebe felt her guilt. "She's been through a terrible ordeal. She's probably better off asleep for the moment."
Phoebe swallowed hard. "Did he-
"No." Prue firmly shook her head.
The empath blinked and sighed inwardly with relief. "She is going to wake up, though, right?"
"She will. When she's ready." Prue answered as she sat down beside her little sister and wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders. They sat that way until a tiny child's cough suddenly distracted Prue, and her eyes scanned the room for the source of the sound. Her eyes stopped as it registered with her that Piper's walk – in closet had been converted into a nursery and the door stood ajar. She had failed to notice it before. She was certain it was Leo's handiwork. "Is that-"
"Your nephews, sweetie." Phoebe finished for her. "Why don't you go take a look." Prue hesitated, letting the word nephews sink in. "Go on," her sister coaxed.
The young Elder stood up slowly walked towards the nursery, stopping at the door. She watched her nephews as they slept. She covered her mouth with both hands as her heart swelled with pride and her eyes filled with tears of joy. They were beautiful little boys. Even in the dark she could see that Wyatt took after his daddy with his dark blonde locks and Chris took after his mother with his wisps of chestnut coloured hair. They looked so adorable as they slept and she resisted the urge to pick them up and cuddle them. That would have to wait for now. Prue suddenly looked up at the ceiling. 'Uh oh."
Phoebe stood up abruptly and looked at her sister with widening eyes. "Oh no, no, no! They're not calling you are they?"
"They don't know I'm here, or at least they didn't until now." Prue grimaced at the ceiling. "I don't have much say in the matter sweetie." She began to transform from her corporeal state into swirling blue orbs and her voice echoed through the room as she disappeared. "Take care of your sisters. I love you."
"No! Wait! Prue please come back!" Phoebe panicked momentarily and then her heart sank with disappointment. "I love you too."
Phoebe sighed and reached out with her arm to tuck a stray hair behind Piper's ear. "I hope you wake up soon. I need you sweetie." The young empath felt a sudden breeze on her cheek and jumped up and turned to face the demon that had just appeared in the bedroom. She took a defensive stance in front of her sleeping sister.
"Sooner than you think, witch."
Dr. Phillips was relieved that Paige had been found and returned to the hospital. Her temperature had dropped and she didn't seem any worse for wear, but the doctor watched with a look of concern as her young patient slowly regained consciousness in the emergency room.
Paige moaned softly and blinked as her eyes adjusted to the bright light. Her eyes opened wide once she realised where she was and she sat upright, ready to bolt. "Oh no! What am I doing here? I can't stay, I can't stay here. Where's Piper?" Memories came flooding back to her like water through a burst damn. "Oh god, I have to get out of here!"
Both Dr. Phillips and Sam who had been standing nearby leaped at Paige as she threw her legs over the edge of the gurney and ripped the intravenous needle from her hand. Both doctor and father placed strong arms on her shoulders to restrain her. "Easy, easy." Dr. Phillips spoke. "It's okay."
"No it's not okay, it's all my fault! It's all my fault!" Paige burst into tears. Aidan and a nurse ran to her side as she continued to struggle.
"You didn't do anything wrong honey." Dr Phillips attempted to reassure her but Paige continued to resist. "Look, I'm going to get you something to help you relax, okay?"
"No!" Paige protested. All she cared about was getting back to Piper. Her sister had been hurt and it was her fault. She had to make things right again. That was all that mattered. Both she and everyone in the room were oblivious to the unknown substance that pulsed through the distraught witchlighter's veins, impairing her ability to think rationally. It would eventually rob her of her sanity if it remained undetected.
"Piper's fine, Paige. You don't have to worry about her." Sam added, but Paige flailed against the hands that restrained her. A male nurse and an intern jumped in to assist, pushing Sam and Aidan aside.
"Hold her down and get an intravenous line back into her." Dr Phillips instructed. "I'll be right back!" She ran out of the room and returned almost immediately with another nurse by her side.
Sam stood in front of the doctor obstructing her. "What's that?" He gestured at the syringe she was holding in her hand.
Dr. Philips looked up at Sam in surprise. "Methohexital. It's a very strong sedative."
Sam shook his head in protest. "No, no. She's an alcoholic. That can't be good for her."
"Mr Wilder, I'm well aware of that fact. I have no idea why she's reacting like this, but if I don't give her this injection, she's going to end up hurting herself. Do I have to remind you that she's still recovering from a serious lung injury?"
Sam stood his ground. "No. Look, she's scared, that's why she ran. She was attacked, or have you forgotten that? More than once, and right here in this hospital too. Can you blame her? She said no. Please, don't." He pleaded with the doctor.
Dr. Philips' patience was growing thin. "Look, I have no choice. Just look at your daughter." She gestured toward the gurney and the whitelighter turned to look.
"Let go of me!" Paige shouted as the medical staff held her down. She whimpered as the intravenous needle was inserted into her wrist. She managed to wrench her other hand free temporarily from the male nurse's grasp, causing him to stumble backward and knock over a table, which hit the floor with a crash.
Sam reluctantly stepped aside and let the doctor pass. She rushed up to the gurney and quickly injected the sedative into Paige's drip. It burned a little as it went into her vein and she whimpered again. She continued to squirm against the hands that restrained her, but her movements slowed down as her muscles relaxed and the drug began to take effect. She moaned softly and mumbled the word "No," shedding a solitary tear that dripped onto her pillow. After a minute or so, she went limp and her eyelids drooped shut. The medical personnel released their grip on her and sighed with relief.
"What do you want?" Prue had rematerialized in front of a group of fellow Elders and her irritation was apparent in her voice.
The Elders remained silent and simply stared at her.
"Well?" Prue asked impatiently. "Am I in trouble again because I went to help my sisters?"
An Elder with balding white hair and blue eyes shook his head and stepped forward. "You should not be putting yourself at risk by orbing onto the mortal plane. You could be recognised. It is reckless of you and unbecoming of an Elder."
"Did you think I would just stand idly by and watch my sisters die?" Prue challenged.
A female Elder stepped forward, glancing at the older man. "No." She answered. "Forgive Daniel. He's overly cautious, but he has a point. It IS very risky appearing on the mortal plain in the place where you lived before your death, but necessary."
"Oh?" Prue raised her eyebrows in surprise, not expecting a fellow Elder to speak up in her defence and waited for the Elder to continue.
"With both of her sisters down right now, Phoebe is on her own and the Charmed Ones are vulnerable. That's why we have allowed you to be with them. They are going to need your help." The Elder paused for a moment. "Paige has been poisoned by the darklighter."
Prue blinked in surprise. "What? How come I didn't know about this before?"
The male Elder named Daniel took over. "Because we have only just found out ourselves from one of our informants. Apparently, the darklighter received assistance from a powerful alchemist named Gorlon, who prepared a potion which the darklighter administered to Paige while she was unconscious. You-"
"Well, do you have an antidote?" Prue interjected.
"I'm afraid not." The female Elder continued. "There is no antidote that we know of."
"What does this poison do exactly?" Prue spoke reluctantly, fearing the answer.
The female Elder spoke again. "It will poison her mind, make her insane and inevitably destroy her. Phoebe will need your help to find Gorlon and discover if there is a cure. It's the only way to save the Power of Three."