Leo leaned against the doorway of the kitchen and smiled at the sight. Piper was stirring a steaming pot of casserole in front of the stove. She leaned down and opened the oven to test the cake. He felt a hand on his shoulder and he snapped out of his reverie.
"Someone's checking out the cook."
Piper turned at the sound of Phoebe's voice. "Hey, it's you two! How long have you been there, Leo?"
He grinned unabashedly. "A while. I was thinking that the fairy tales of witches stirring the cauldron or leaning at the oven were all wrong. You don't have a crooked nose with a wart on top. And you most definitely don't look scary to me."
Phoebe shook her head in mock hopelessness. "I know! We should sue the storybook writers. They only show the stereotypical witches. It's almost slander the way they generalize."
Piper smiled at Leo in invitation. "Come here and taste this," she said, raising up the ladle.
Leo walked forward and tasted. "It can almost compare to you," he whispered. He kissed her on the lips and they both thought they still had the tang of the food on their lips.
"Hello!" Phoebe cried. "I'm talking here. I'm still here!"
"Sorry, Phoebe," Piper apologized, laughing. "What was that?"
"Never mind!" Phoebe left them alone at the kitchen.
Leo grinned. Piper frowned. "You think she's mad at us?" After a while she answered herself. "Nah! So you think it needs more spice?"
"It's fine the way it is. It's your life that needs spicing up."
"Oh?" She raised an eyebrow. "You think I should call someone to do it for me?"
He grabbed her by the waist. "No. Lucky you I'm here. I'll help you put your life to rights." He kissed her deeply before pulling away. "Thank you for understanding."
In the living room, Phoebe flipped on the tv to watch the news. She grimaced at the bulletin. She started surfing.
Piper touched his face. Sooner or later, he had to know. "Leo, I—" She noticed him suddenly look up. "They're calling you."
"Yes. Hold that thought. I'll be right back." She nodded and he orbed out.
Phoebe's eyes widened. She was engrossed at the telenovela on the screen.
"You don't even understand it, Pheebs." Phoebe held up her hand. Piper got curious. Phoebe doesn't usually get involved with foreign dramas. She sat beside Phoebe. "No!" She shook her head. "That's not true. Turn it off, Phoebe!" Phoebe turned it off. "What are you doing?" Piper grabbed the remoted and flipped it on again. They were both speechless the remainder of the hour. After the show, the credits climbed the screen.
"He'll never know, Piper."
"No!" she insisted. "That wasn't her. I know it, Phoebe. There is no possible way."
A message blinked on the screen. The cast will be touring the States. What luck! They'll be in San Francisco tomorrow.
Piper couldn't understand
it. She was Ana Maria Hidalgo. Who was that impostor arriving the next
day? And where was Leo now?
Leo orbs into the whitelighter council, grinning.
"There's a certain spring to your orb, young man." The elder who spoke looked askance at the other elders. "Is that even possible?" He chuckled. Leo smiled, noticing that they were in a fine mood today, considering he got called from Piper's embrace.
"I'm just very happy," he replied.
"Well, that's good to know. We like our whitelighters happy." Leo wondered at that again. Are these the same elders who kept telling him what was forbidden and what was not? There must be something in the clouds tonight. "Did you remember it was grant-a-wish week for the decade, Leo?"
It suddenly came back to him. "Oh yeah. It slipped my mind."
"How could it have? Whitelighters wait for this day for ten years and it simply slipped your mind?"
Leo grinned. "Seeing as I'm a fulfilled man, maybe I won't be granted anything for 2000."
The elder shook his head. "There's always something granted." And Leo found out his good mood. "I got my wish today. I had a dream of my childhood. I've almost forgotten about it. Why are you laughing, Theodore? You'd forget yours too if you were two hundred ninety four years old!"
"Yes, old man. One hundred eighty two is very young!" answered Theodore. Leo was not used to seeing the elders so lighthearted. Theodore turned to Leo. "Don't worry, Leo. I'm sure you have a hidden desire somewhere that'd be granted very soon. What did you wish for the past… how many decades have you been with us?"
"This is my sixth. I don't exactly remember the gifts. Well, I attended my sister's wedding for 1950. 1960, I think I was promoted. I saw my best friend '70. I can't remember what I got for 1980 but I'm pretty sure I got this week long vacation 1990."
"Any ideas for this year?"
Leo shrugged. "I have everything I could ever want. Maybe you'd cut me some slack with my witch." The elders stare at him for long moments, and then they all burst out laughing. Leo stared at the group of dignified old men struggling to breathe in between bursts of hilarity. "What? I thought it was wish week?"
"It'd take more than wish week for us to throw out the rules, boy!"
Leo raised his hands in surrender. "Fine! Now just tell me why you called me. I'm sure it's not about my wish."
"Oh yeah," one of them breathed out. He shook the laughter away, but was still grinning. "You really are a funny one, Wyatt."
"Stop it already, will you?"
"He he he. You have an innocent for your witches to save. We're not sure what the problem is exactly. She's not being hurt, but she's always being followed by a demon. Find out what he wants with her."
"What's her name and where can we find her?"
The elders look at each other. "Any of you remember?"
"Sorry, Alfon, I was a little busy with my wish this morning."
"Why did you ask for a cat anyway? It's just mess up our clouds. I imagine earth won't appreciate the kind of drizzle it'll shower them." Leo looked weirdly at the now irresponsible elders. "I have her name somewhere here."
The elder stepped down from his platform and hauled a huge Fila sports bag and unzipped it. Leo's eyes widened. One of the other elders noticed Leo's face. "Yeah we saw the other whitelighter with one one time two years ago. It's really very useful. A lot of stuff can be put in there," he commented. Leo swallowed his laughter until he thought he would choke.
"Here it is," said the elder knelt beside the sports bag. "Hey, lucky you. She's a singer and an actress. Must be lovely. I remember when I was human I had this gorgeous—"
"Right. Her name is Cecilia Madrigal. She'll be in San Francisco tomorrow touring. Now you go back to the Halliwells and have dinner. I know she was cooking when we called."
"You people are spying on me now?"
"No, boy! We don't stoop that low. I just… well I can smell it. You have the scent all over you. One thing about that witch, she's one great cook. I have to give that to her. Smells fabulous."
Leo's forehead creased as
he orbed out.
Phoebe and Piper were glued to the tv screen. The credits rolled so quickly. No Ana Maria Hidalgos. Piper sighed in relief. "Maybe it was something so eerily looking like her."
The phone rang. Phoebe got up. "Hello. Oh, Johanna Kingston! Hey!"
Piper stood up. "Phoebe. Phoebe, give it to me."
"Wait, I'm saying hi! So… really? Well, congratulations, doctor. Yes, yes, I'll see you soon. Here's Piper."
Piper took the phone and turned her back on Phoebe. "Yeah, yeah, I feel fine. So how did it go?" Piper paused and looked at Phoebe. "I see. Well… I don't know what to say. Yes. Yes. I'll come by of course. Thanks for calling it over. Okay. Bye, Jo." She replaced the receiver on the hook.
Leo orbed in. "Hi. Is Prue here?"
"Hey, I didn't think you'd be back so soon." Piper walked forward and kissed him.
Prue climbed down the stairs. "Dinner ready?"
"Yes. Go in to the kitchen."
They all sat and ate in silence. "So… why did they call? No emergencies? Because I have something to ask you."
"Actually, there's an innocent we have to look for tomorrow. Cecilia Madrigal. What is it?"
Phoebe almost choked on her food. She made hand signals to Piper, for which she received a glare. "Cecilia Madrigal. Hmmm… Oh nothing. I'll just… ask you after we save her."
After dinner, Phoebe and Prue were assigned to do the dishes, because Piper prepared the food and Leo helped her shop for the ingredients. Piper and Leo were on their way upstairs when the phone rang. Both Prue and Phoebe ran but Piper beat them to it. When she'd replaced the receiver, she faced the three seriously. "Looks like we won't have much trouble tomorrow, Leo. That was Guillame."
"That talent manager you hired to get us the shows for P3?"
Piper nodded. "Yes. He'd booked Cecilia Madrigal for a performance at P3. She's coming to meet us there tomorrow to finalize the program."
Leo smiled. "Isn't tonight wonderful? That cuts the job in half if she's coming to us."
Phoebe's and Piper's eyes
met. The reckoning was coming earlier than expected.
The next morning Leo woke up to see that Piper's side of the bed was empty. He reached for his shirt and pants and dressed himself. He didn't know what Piper was thinking, or what she was feeling, but last night was exhilarating. There was an abandonment in her, a frenetic boldness that was so unlike her. He didn't say he didn't like her that way though.
He grinned and went downstairs. Piper was on the phone. When she saw him, she immediately replaced the receiver on the hook. "Hey, Pipe, isn't it a little early for phone conversation?"
"Oh, it was just—a friend. Why did you need anything?"
"Well when I woke up this morning I expected to find you still beside me, sleeping. I would have wanted to wake you up in the most pleasant way you can imagine." He grinned when she blushed. "Are we meeting Cecilia Madrigal this morning."
"Of course. Piper, what's wrong? Don't you want me to go with you? I have to be there too because she is also assigned to me."
She shook her head. "No, no, Leo. There's nothing wrong. What time is it? We're meeting her—"
Prue and Phoebe come running down the stairs. "It's good you two are dressed already! Come on, we'll be late!"
"But we're not meeting him for about two hours."
Prue elbows Phoebe. "Tell them."
"Ummm… I sort of forgot to inform you that I answered the phone last night. Guillame said that Cecilia had a press conference moved so she'll be waiting for us in…" She glanced at her watch. "Approximately thirty minutes."
"What?" Piper grabbed her purse. "Come on."
The four of them arrived in P3. Guillame was waiting for them at the bar. "She's back in your office, Piper."
"Okay, thanks." They stood before her door. Leo turned the knob and stepped in. Phoebe grabbed Piper's hand. Prue entered the office. Cecilia Madrigal had their back to them, and Piper stayed back together with Phoebe. "I can't do this, Phoebe." Phoebe squeezed her hand, and stayed with her outside the door. Phoebe sensed the tension in her sister and she led her to the bar. Guillame had left. She fixed Piper something strong to drink as they waited for the outburst that was sure to follow.
Leo and Prue were surprised when Piper and Phoebe decided to stay back. "Miss Madrigal," Leo called.
Cecilia turned at the sound of that voice, so hauntingly familiar. "Leo," she whispered.
Leo stood frozen as those lovely almond eyes looked back at him. Heaven. She was alive again, just as they promised. And she was standing before him. Her present incarnation looked no different from the way she looked back in the war. His prayers have been answered. They were at that point in time when they met again. "Ana," he breathed.
Prue's horrified eyes took in the sight before her. The girl they had seen when they went back to the past was standing in the middle of Piper's office, and she and Leo stared at each other as though the other were an oasis and they have starved for decades—which probably they have.
She suddenly turned inquisitive eyes on Leo. "Forgive me. I don't know where that came from. Is your name Leo? I guess I must be psychic. It just slipped out." She took Leo's proffered hand and shook it. "And how did you know my name was Ana? I didn't think my agent revealed my real name to anyone."
Prue began chatting with Cecilia as Leo excused himself. His jaw was set as he left the office and went to the bar. Piper downed the shot of whiskey that Phoebe poured for her. Her hands were trembling. Phoebe waited for Leo's anger with bated breath.
"You knew about this, didn't you?"
Piper stared down at the empty glass, not bothering to look up at their whitelighter. She couldn't have borne to see the fury in his eyes—fury directed for the first time at her. "I didn't know how to tell you," she replied. "It isn't Ana, Leo."
"I can't believe how selfish you're being. You have no idea how it felt to have Heaven in your arms and have it snatched from you all of a sudden."
She finally looked up at him. He was hurting her, not physically, but in a worse way. "I didn't want to lose you."
Leo didn't like to see the hurt in her eyes, knowing he had caused it. He turned. "Are you going in there? It's your club."
"No," she answered. "I can't. I can't face her. But you have to believe me. It's not Ana."
He stopped and replied without facing her. "When she saw me she called me Leo. Slip of the tongue. Now tell me it's not Ana. Did you even see her?" He continued walking towards the office. "I have to go back. It's my job to look after her." He pauses. "The elders reminded me that it was wish week. They said I would soon discover my most fervent wish granted. Maybe, just maybe, this is it."
Cecilia Madrigal's beautiful head peered out. "Leo! I have something to clear with you about the band." Leo immediately walked forward.
At the sound of the door closing, Piper squeezed her eyes shut, vainly trying to block out the memory. She felt Phoebe's arms around her. She didn't know when she started. She didn't know the exact moment the first teardrop fell. All she knew was that she was soon shaking and sobbing and Phoebe was cooing, rocking her back and forth. "It's going to be alright, Piper. You'll see. You always get a happy ending," she reassured her.
But I've never had to compete
with the memory of me.
"Prue, would you look over these for me? Piper's a little busy right now." Prue took the documents and looked over them. "Well, we can handle this set-up, Miss Madrigal. Why are you even bothering yourself with this? You could have asked your agent to meet us for this."
"Oh no. He knows I don't let anyone else arrange anything for a performance. I want everything to be the way I picture it." She turned back to Leo. "So as I was saying, I had this weird dream of an old church with a huge lawn. The church was huge, the ceilings high. There were stone pillars with plaques. I've never been to anyplace like that before but that picture recurs in my dreams."
Prue was startled. She looked up from the stage description. Leo was looking at Cecilia in the same way he looked at Ana Hidalgo when they saw him in 1942. She'll have to have a talk with Leo later. He must have no idea what he's doing. He was destroying what he had at present in the vain effort to hold on to a past long gone. She shakes her head and leaves them alone.
"Hey, honey." Prue moves forward to take her sister in her arms. "What's this? You know he's not going to set you aside for some… actress. You've been together for years. More than that if you count all the past lives you've led."
"You see, Piper? I told you. He'll come back to you. He was just… a little taken aback seeing Ana again."
"Phoebe, she's not Ana."
"It's not Ana! I'll show you something from the BOS. Then you'll believe me."
Her sisters nod. "As soon as we get home. Hey, why don't you go in there? Show Leo you have faith in him. Go there and speak with Cecilia. At least then Leo would know that you trust him to make his own decisions."
Piper smiled. "All right."
Leo and Cecilia chuckled. "…so they asked me if I could perform then. I told them as long as the two kept away, I will!"
"You really are lovely. No exaggeration."
"Thanks! I had no work done."
Cecilia raised a brow. "How do you know? Leo, I have the strangest feeling with you. It's like…you're so familiar to me, and I just met you."
"I can see that."
She sighs. "You know what else? It's weird so don't laugh. I have this image in my mind of a stone bridge. And a carved heart."
Leo closed his eyes. When he opened them she was standing so close to her. Just lean a little forward. "It's not something to laugh about," he whispered. He'd waited for this for so long. "Ana." Very softly, very tenderly he laid his lips on hers. He felt a thrill of electricity shoot through his body.
"Leo." Cecilia slanted her head to take more of his essence. She raised her hands to press his head against hers. Her fingers threaded through his hair. "I love you."
It hit him. The moment she said those words, he pulled away. He remembered the same words from Piper, and knew at once that he wasn't meant to hear it from anyone else. No, not even Ana. This was a life with Piper. He set her back, meaning to apologize, and felt a cold dread wrap around his heart. Someone was standing at the door. From those lovely black eyes, his shifted to devastated brown ones. "Piper…"
Piper wrapped her arms around herself. She was prepared to see Leo stare at Cecilia in adoration. She was prepared to hear Cecilia's sweet words. But nothing— nothing in her life had ever prepared her for the sight of Leo locked in a passionate embrace with another. She turned on her heels and grabbed her purse from the bar. She hurried outside.
"Piper!" Phoebe called out.
The sisters see Leo run out
of the office. "Piper!" He ran after her, but she was already speeding
away in her jeep. "Piper!" She never stopped, nor even once looked back.
Piper wiped away the tears streaking her face. She enters the kitchen and moved mechanically, setting their lunch. One, two, three, four. Of course they would bring Cecilia here. Wasn't she the innocent Leo's been assigned to protect?
The phone rang and she hurried to answer it. It was Johanna again. "What time? I'm fine. P3. Uhuh. I'm sorry. It slipped my mind. Yeah I'll be there." She put the phone down. She was so happy. Now… now she just felt empty. Now this very thing that she thought was the fulfillment of her dreams seemed more of a liability.
If Leo could do this thing, be it because of the memory of Ana, what does this say about her, Piper, in this life? Had she regressed so? How could Leo easily relegate her to the back of his mind at the chance of another love with someone who should have been past? Damn it, this was her time now!
Blindly she scrambles to go to the attic. She will drive herself insane with this. She flipped open the Book of Shadows and tore a page out. And then she stopped before the page she had seen before, and thought she would never use. She took twelve candles from one of the drawers and proceeded to create a lighted circle on the floor.
Piper stepped in the center. "I love you." She closed her eyes and her lips moved, quickly. Over and over she recited the spell, her voice barely above a whisper. Set me free. She faltered, having not enough courage to complete the spell. An image of Leo and Cecilia's embrace flashed through her mind. She felt the candles around her, creating a heated circle around her. Off I go, send me out to this ancient space. No…why am I doing this? Where all is good and none exists but me. Take my spirit to this ancient Druid place. She couldn't breathe. The heat had risen and she struggled for air. To Whispering Glen, set me free.
Her lids and limbs were heavy. She felt oddly out of place in the room. Her hand held tightly to the folded paper in her hand. Her eyes closed, for the last time she realized, and she knew that the spell had worked. As she felt herself falling down, she smiled. No more of this numbing agony…
Prue drove them all home, with Phoebe sitting beside her and Leo and Cecilia at the backseat. Noone spoke, and Leo felt that it was the longest ride of his life. He wanted to orb to the manor, to see for himself that Piper was there, so he could speak to her and explain.
"She's not here, Prue!" Phoebe cried.
"That's impossible." She moved her hand and the door opened. They could see the jeep parked. "Her car's just outside. Did you check in her room?"
"I did. No one been there. Leo, did you find her?"
Leo opened his eyes. "She won't tell me where she is. Either she's unconscious or she doesn't want to be found, and she's blocking me."
A blue light appeared near them, and a figure of a man materialized. "Leo! Just the angel I was looking for."
"What is it, Grant? I've no time."
The other whitelighter shrugged. "I'm sure you don't. I just wanted to congratulate you for getting the wish. I'm sure you're pretty happy and will be celebrating for some time."
"What are you talking about?"
"Come on, Leo. Don't be so modest. I know you've been granted the wish—the biggest one ever, if I may say so myself. What were the elders exact words? He will soon be reunited with his soul mate and raising a family with her. I'm going now. They're calling." Grant orbed out. Leo fell silent, digesting his words. Did he mean this—that he would see Ana once more? Why did he feel so unfulfilled then? Why was he suddenly dreading what should have made him happy?
Cecilia looked at them all with wonder. "What are you people?"
"We have no time to explain," Prue snapped. She fished for her phone and dialed Piper's cellphone. They heard a distinct ring and Phoebe followed the succeeding ones.
"Guys… you gotta see this. Piper was just here." They all go to the kitchen where they see a table neatly set for four, with the food still warm on the stove. Piper's phone, together with her car keys lay beside the pitcher of orange juice. Phoebe moved to take Piper's phone, when she was gripped by a premonition.
I> Piper stood at the center of a ring of candles as she chanted a spell that Phoebe had never heard of before. She was crying. Heat rose up and the flames of the candles seemed to flare more brightly. Piper seemed to fall into another level of consciousness as her eyes closed. And then she fell, hitting her head on the floor. She lay there, so still, her hair spread like a fan around her head. /I>
Phoebe gasped. "What is it, Phoebe? Did you see her?"
"She's—in the attic!" Leo orbed out before either Prue or Phoebe could move. "Stay here, Cecilia!"
"No! Let her come with us. She's still our responsibility," Prue insisted. The three girls ran up the two flights of stairs.
Leo knelt beside Piper, feeling her wrist for a pulse when Prue, Phoebe and Cecilia burst in. "I can't wake her."
Phoebe rushed beside him and shook Piper. "Honey, what was the spell? Damn it! Where did she find it?" She spots the Book of Shadows open at the back portion. They never look for anything at that part of the book. It was full of—"No," she gasped, disbelieving.
"What is it, Phoebe?"
Phoebe stared down hard at the page. "It's on the page of Spell for Freedom. Prue, Piper's gone to Whispering Glen."
Leo held Piper in his arms. "Whispering Glen?"
Prue was frantic. "Dammit! This is insane. Leo, take Piper to her room while Phoebe and I figure this out."
Leo stood up. He'd carried Piper before, but this time fear clawed at him. She lay limply in his arms, her head hanging from the crook of his elbow. Even her lips were so pale. If he didn't see the shallow rise and fall of her breasts, he would have thought her dead.
"Whispering Glen… What is that? What's happening to her?" His heart raced when he noticed Phoebe surreptitiously wipe away a tear. They won't answer him. Why won't they answer him? "Tell me!"
Phoebe bit her lip and looked him in the eye. "Whispering Glen. It's an ancient Druid place where witches go to escape. I thought it was a legend. Obviously it's not."
"She'll be back."
Phoebe shook her head. "Leo, once you step into Whispering Glen, you're lost. It is an escape. And to the ancient Druids, the ultimate freedom lies in death."
Phoebe read the handwritten text carefully. "Piper is stuck there, with no way of returning here. The body-" her voice broke. "The body is as good as gone."
Cecilia stepped forward and peered at Piper. "What are you talking about? Will someone please tell me what's going on!"
"Leo, please take Piper to her room while Phoebe and I try to look for some sort of solution. Cecilia, just—are you okay?"
"Are you kidding? This is just like one of the movies I starred in. A World War II flick. Hold a minute…I never made a war movie. Where did that come from?"
Leo was on the way out the door with Piper when he heard her. He stopped stock still and turned around to look at Cecilia. She smiled at him. He looked straight into her eyes before turning back around and proceeding to take Piper to her room.
"What now, Phoebe?"
"I don't know." She read the page again. "There's nothing here about calling spirits back from the glen."
"I think I remember reading something about Whispering Glen once," Cecilia said, and the two looked at her expectantly. "Ummm… well, oh, this is so weird. It's actually real life."
"Just spill, Cecilia!"
"Fine… fine. Well, I went out with a scriptwriter once and he did a research on Anglo-Saxon England. I think he told me about a legendary place called Whispering Glen."
"How do we get her back?"
She shrugged. "Well, she obviously can't come back on her own. Because she's already free. And that ultimate freedom means freedom from pain, from problems…"
"From earth," Phoebe continued. "Here it is." She points to a certain passage on the book. "Which means she is totally separate from this realm now. Whatever we do here will not affect her."
Leo sat at the edge of the bed, touching her cheek. "This was a stupid idea, Piper. How could you have just decided something like this at the snap of your fingers? But don't worry. We'll figure something out. We'll have you back soon. I promise." He turned at the sound of Phoebe, Prue and Cecilia arriving. "What did you find out?"
"We have no way of calling her back, Leo."
"We let her go." She winced as Leo set his jaw and shook his head. "We have no choice! There isn't a way for us to call her back."
Piper's phone rang and Phoebe hurriedly answered it. "Hello. No, it's Phoebe. Ummm… yes. What? Why?" Phoebe glanced up at Leo. "Oh. I see. Okay. Yeah. Thanks."
"It's simple. If there's nothing in the book that can take her to us, then I'll go and fetch her."
"It's wish week. The elders owe me a wish. I'll ask to be sent to her so I can convince her to come back. After all, this was my fault."
Cecilia grabbed his sleeve. "But you already had something granted. Don't you remember, Leo? I was given back to you."
Leo looked down at that face, a face he'd dreamed of for decades. He listened to her voice—one he'd repeated over and over in his mind for half a century. He tried to recall to mind everything they shared, but strangely enough, he could only see emptiness in Cecilia's eyes, when once he drowned in them as Ana's. Where once he'd have felt the warmth of her body so near his, all he could think about was the frightening limpness of Piper's hand against his.
"No. I didn't ask for this. I'm sure they'll give me another wish."
"Leo." He didn't turn to Phoebe. He was absorbed watching the rise and fall of Piper's breasts. It assured him that she was alive, for now. "It was Johanna on the phone. Piper missed an appointment with her."
Prue tried to recall where she'd heard the name before. "Johanna. Piper's friend from high school?"
"She's a doctor now. Piper had an appointment to see her. She—Johanna wanted to remind her to stay off the alcohol, because it was bad for the baby." Leo's eyes snapped to Phoebe. "The elders have granted you the wish. You can't ask for another. It wasn't Cecilia. It was Piper you were given a chance with."
Leo shook his head. "I'll speak with them." He orbed out and the girls waited fretfully for him. About half an hour later, Leo arrived with a piece of rune in his hand. "A second chance. This is it."
"What is it?"
"My passport in and out of Whispering Glen. As long as I have it, I don't lose touch with this plane. If I can convince Piper to come back with me, then I know we'll make it through."
Cecilia shook her head. "The danger. Listen to me, Leo. Maybe this is what was supposed to happen," she cried frantically. "Maybe she's supposed to die today! It's fate. So what if she's pregnant? That doesn't tell you that she's the one the other man spoke about. I was the one you've been dreaming of for half a century dammit!"
Leo held Cecilia firmly away from him. "I'm sorry, Cecilia. Even if you are Ana, I find myself knowing that this life is for Piper. Out life together was beautiful and yes, it could have ended better. We could have had more time together. But that beautiful life was a stray one, and I'd always cherish it as a beautiful rarity. But heaven knows that my heart, my very soul, has always belonged and will always belong to that girl lying there. And I put her there because I didn't realize it before. I'm thankful we shared at least those months together, but my eternity is hers. Hers alone."
Cecilia shook her head. Tears fell down her eyes as Leo grasped the rune stone firmly in his hand and vanished. "I'm going to die!"
Phoebe looked coldly at Cecilia. "Don't overreact!"
At that moment a man in black cloak materialized beside her. He grabbed her by the neck and began to squeeze. "I give you everything you will ever need. I gave you her face, her voice, her body, her memories to use and manipulate but still you fail!"
Prue watched as Cecilia choked and struggled. She was working for a demon! Her sister was lying there, nearer death than life, and it wasn't even the real Ana who was taking Leo away. She moved forward.
"No! Don't help her. She's the cause of all this."
And then Prue's mind cleared. Phoebe was too emotional, too involved. This was a matter of protecting the innocent and as far as she knew, Cecilia had been used. "No, Phoebe. We do our job. The Founders have said that Cecilia was our innocent, and so she must be."
Phoebe ran upstairs to take a spell from the Book of Shadows. She was surprised that the book was open at the very picture of the demon. Prue meanwhile threw the demon away from Cecilia, who collapsed on the floor, gasping for breath. Together they vanquished the demon.
"Are you all right?"
Cecilia gasped. "Yeah. I am now. I'm sorry."
"You were an instrument."
"Yes. I was so afraid. I'm sorry for the trouble I caused. Do you know how we can tell Leo to go back here?"
"Because your sister is in Whispering Glen. He'll never be able to just go there and convince her that he's sorry and that she has to come home."
"Why is that?"
Leo looked around the beautiful valley known as Whispering Glen. There were beautiful crystal springs at corners and laughing brooks. He smiled as he held on tightly to the stone. That's why so many are lost in this beautiful place. The plants were varied. He knew that this was a tropical forest setting. Suddenly, as though the realm pinpointed an intruder, the bright sun was eclipsed by thick clouds. And then the air was still. Strange sounds came from the top of the trees. I> Whispers. The whispers of Whispering Glen. They can drive you insane They help you forget. /I>
He looked at the stone in his hand. Without this, he would have fallen to the enchantment of the place already. Where was Piper?
And then he saw her, sitting on a boulder by the side of the brook, holding a full stem of orchids. She was laughing at the antics of several people bathing a few feet away. Leo's legs quickened as he walked towards her. He stood so near her, and it was all he could do not to embrace her, because here, she was blossoming, alive and beautiful again.
She turned her face to him
and smiled. There was an orchid tucked at her ear. "Excuse me. Why do you
call me that? Who are you?" His heart froze as he stared into those clear
brown eyes that looked to him as though he were a stranger.
"Piper, it's me. Leo."
She looked at him strangely and shook her head with a smile. "I'm sorry I don't recognize you." Her gaze shifted to the group of young women in the water and she waved at them. "You must be new here. Or maybe you've been away because… well… I'm new." She grinned as she saw them spraying water at each other.
"Piper, don't look at them. Look at me. We haven't got much time. You have to go back."
"Go back? Where? What are you talking about?"
"Piper, this is not your home. You don't belong here."
"I know that."
"Then think about where you're from and go back."
She gave him a small smile and jumped down. "I'm sorry I can't help you. Please leave me alone." She turned and began to walk swiftly away.
I> Freedom in Whispering Glen. It's an escape from everything. /I> Of course she would not remember. She's free from memories, because memories were painful.
"Piper, listen to me. Please. Don't go away. I need you to listen," he called out. "Please, Piper. I didn't come all the way here so you can walk away from me!"
Very slowly, she turned around to look at him. "You came from where I was from?"
"We need you home."
She stared at him. The air picked up, and her eyes went to his hair the breeze caressed it. He looked so alone, lost. "But this is a beautiful place."
"So is home. You have sisters there. You have a life. You have…" He walked towards her until he was not even a whole foot away from her. His hand grazed her jaw. "You have me."
She shook her head and stepped back. "I- I can't go back. I don't want to go back. Please. There must be a reason why I left. And besides… I can't go back. I don't know this place you're talking about."
Leo knew he was losing her. Once she was in those woods, he'd never find her again. This was his second chance. It was also his last. "I can make you remember."
"Don't you want to remember? Can you go on with your life here with an empty past? Don't you want to be able to look back at your sisters, at your life in the home you loved so much?"
She wet her lips. "If- if my life were as wonderful as you claim, then why did I leave?"
Leo held out his hands. "Put your hands in mine, Piper, and you'll find out everything. Risk this freedom for memories." She looked into his eyes and very slowly she raised her hands. "Do it, Piper." Just before her skin touched his, he took his hands away. "But first give me a kiss." He knew that once the memories flooded back, Piper would recall everything. When she remembered, she will feel the same pain she felt when she saw him with Cecilia. He had to feel her against him just one more time.
Piper seemed unsure. After all, he was a stranger to her. But he woke up something in her that she was sure she felt only for someone very special. Her lips parted and her arms lifted to rest on his shoulders. She leaned her head and his dipped to catch her lips. Her eyelids fluttered close.
It was the touch of a butterfly's wings against her lips. At that moment she knew she had to come home if only to experience this every single day of her life. She opened her eyes to see him looking down at her.
She smiled. "I'll come home," she whispered. "Make me remember everything so I can picture home in my mind. I want to return."
Why did he look sad when he held up his hands to receive hers? She gasped at the feeling. The moment her skin touched his, images, sounds, emotions rushed to her, flooding her mind. She remembered every scent and every sound from her earliest memory of cuddling with her mother to her last casting of the spell that took her here.
Leo watched the play of emotions on her face. He waited with bated breath, holding her hands, until she opened her eyes. When she did, he had hoped to find pain-filled one looking at him. He was prepared to answer the condemnation there, the anger. But he was taken aback by the frigid coldness that he met.
She pulled her hands away
from his and stepped back. "I'm never coming back," she whispered. "Damn
you, Leo. Damn you for not leaving me alone. Damn you for making me remember!"
"Please come home, Piper. We need you."
She wiped away the tears streaking her face. "Get away from me! Go back there! Just get away!"
"Piper, Phoebe and Prue need you."
"And I need them. But I can't live there. Not when you're there. I thought I've escaped, but you just had to go and destroy everything, didn't you?"
"Come home, Piper. What you saw was just a foolish mistake I made. I can never apologize enough for it. But I know now that even if Cecilia were Ana, you're still the one I love. This stone can take us back. It's what took me here. It's kept me from getting lost in the whispers. It's our way out. You must have felt its power when you placed your hand on mine. Please come back to me, Piper."
"All my life I've waited for you, Leo. My perfect man. And then you came and I built my whole life around you. You destroyed every foundation when you did what you did. The future I wanted… It's gone."
"Just come home. I promise I'll make everything right."
"No. I've nothing to live for there anymore."
Leo closed his eyes. When he opened them she was right where she was when he closed them. She hadn't moved a bit. He moved closer to her, and he was hurt when she winced. He took her hand and placed the rune stone in her palm.
"What are you doing? You can't lose this, Leo! You're going to die here!"
"If this is how you've chosen to go, then this is how I choose to go too."
"I don't understand! Go back, Leo. You're free to do as you will now. Don't throw your life away like this! Take it back!"
He shook his head sadly. "If you die here, Piper, I die here too. With you gone, I'd have nothing left to live for either."
Piper's eyes widen as the
stone began to emit a strange heat. Of course, it was not in the hand of
the person it escorted to Whispering Glen. Her eyes snapped to Leo. He
was facing her, begging her to understand. Her gaze shifted to the glowing
stone in her hand. Suddenly she knew what she had to do. Piper ignored
the pain of the burning stone against her palm as she ran to Leo.
"Prue…" Phoebe called. "Prue!"
Prue ran to the room and saw Phoebe sitting beside Piper. "Why, what happened?"
"I think Piper's waking up." Piper's eyes fluttered open. "Hey honey, how do you feel?"
"I'm fine, Phoebe. Hi, Prue."
Prue looked around. "Where's Leo?"
Leo materialized beside her. "Piper—"
Piper shook her head. "Leave me be, Leo. For once, just let me be." She turned in the bed and presented her back to them.
"Watch over Cecilia for me."
"The demon after her is gone. You don't have to worry anymore, Leo."
Leo nodded and he orbed out.
"I need to think. Could you guys please close the door on your way out?"
She waited for the sound of the door closing before sitting up. Her palm was still hurting, although the burn did not occur physically. She opened her hand and saw the folded page from the Book of Shadows still there.
Three nights later, P3 was jampacked with people who were waiting for Cecilia to perform. She performed the crossover album that sky rocketed her to stardom. Leo stood in the shadows, saying goodbye to his image of Ana Maria. It was time to finally bid her farewell. It didn't matter if Piper took him back or not, the rest of his life was only devoted to her. It may be archaic, but she owned him.
"I received a very special request from a friend of mine. You know Piper Halliwell, right? Good. She owns the place. So kids, let's move to the sidelines for a bit, ok? Good."
P3 was suddenly filled with the haunting melody. Cecilia sang the song as Piper's request.
I> We had the right love
at the wrong time /I>
I> Guess I always knew inside /I>
I> I wouldn't have you for a long time /I>
Piper stepped into the middle of the dance floor and looked directly at Leo. He stepped forward, unable to believe that she forgave him.
I> But somewhere down
I> Our roads are gonna cross again/I>
I> It doesn't really matter when/I>
"You forgive me now?" he
I> I understand more
than you think I can/I>
I> You have to go out on your own/I>
I> So you can find your way back home/I>
"I love you so much."
Piper closed her eyes and leaned her head against his chest, not answering him, just swaying to the melody.
I> Is just another way to say
I> I'll always love you so
Leo tightened his hold on Piper. He'd thought that he had blown his second chance, that he'd lost her forever. But here she was, requesting the song she played when she found out about Ana, when she forgave him for loving her.
'Cause somewhere down
Our roads are gonna cross again
It doesn't really matter when
But somewhere down the road
I know that heart of yours will come to see
That you belong with me
"I belong to you, Piper. I know that now. Maybe I've always known it. I was just…too afraid to let go of the past. Maybe I thought if I forgot Ana, I'd be lost in you. But I already am. And it feels good."
The crowd applauded Cecilia's performance and Piper pulled Leo away to her office.
"I have something to show you. Actually… two things."
Leo waited. She handed him a folded piece of paper. Leo slowly unfolded it. He burst into a wide smile. "Thank you, Piper."
"You're not surprised?" she asked, disappointed.
"The Founders let it spill during wish week."
"Ugh!" She handed him another piece of paper, the torn page in the Book of Shadows. "Oh well, I think this may be the reaction I'm really looking for."
Leo took the paper curiously. He unfolded it.
"I found it after we got home from seeing Ana in 1942."
The soul is without body or form. It is spaceless, timeless, ageless. Endless.
Leo read about the piece on vanishing.
"No." Leo fell back against the chair and stared at the paper in his mind. A few minutes later, he looked up at Piper. "All these years." He held out his hands. "Come here," he said roughly.
Piper sat on his lap and leaned her head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead. He touched her belly, where his baby was already sleeping.
"You have an appointment to see Johanna tomorrow morning," he whispered.
"Happy birthday, Mel!"
A huge box was rolled into the house. "Let's open it, Aunt Phoebe!"
Phoebe and Melinda began tearing the paper wrapper.
"It's a dresser of stuffed
animals. And it's full," Prue commented wryly. "Well, there goes the giraffe
I got her."
Leo laughed. "Who's it from?"
"Hmmm... what's this?" Phoebe drew out the brown envelope inserted at the glass window of the dresser. "A college plan!"
Piper drew out of Leo's embrace to take the envelope from Phoebe. "From your most beautiful aunt."
Phoebe gasped. "I'm gonna kill Cecilia!"
"Just because she's got the highest paying job, that doesn't mean she's the prettiest!"
"You're right, Prue!"
Piper went back to Leo. She
drew out her phone and dialed. "You can't keep doing this, Ces! And did
you get the stock certificate we sent back to you? I'm telling you, a five
year old girl has no business getting a stock certificate on her birthday!"
Piper continued chatting with Cecilia on the phone as she leaned against