A/N: This is my first try at a fanfic, as I have only recently signed up. Many thanks to Gilluin for offering me tips, and for letting me know when my chapters needed work. I do not own any of the classic 'Charmed' characters (duh), although I did add a few during this story. Demon Like Me is set somewhere in the late part of Series Seven of the show, because that's where it seemed to fit best. It's sort of an AU after Seven Year Witch. But then again, aren't all fanfics sort of AUs? I like constructive criticism, both good and bad, so if you have something to say, please do not hesistate to let me know. There is some swearing in the story, but no more than the actual series; if you can watch the show, you'll be able to read this. Now, on with the story :)
Chapter I - Dances with Demons
Another night's moon began to rise up outside the window of Number 1329, Prescott Street. Outside, the wind howled like a wolf on the hunt, having picked up a scent of its prey. Trees clawed at the thin window, as if trying to scratch their way through the glass. As the eerie blue-white light spilled down the house and lawn, an uncomfortable figure lay tossing and turning in the bedroom. Her eyes were squeezed tight, as if she were trying to deal with some unbearable pain. She turned onto her side, the images in her brain not ceasing to leave her. She watched through closed eyes the confused shapes and pictures of a night that she only wished she could forget. She could see the pictures. She could hear the sounds. She could feel the fear. All over again. As the dark images merged and blurred together into a painful array of soul-shattering colours, the terrified conscious of Phoebe Halliwell sprang into action. She sat up; awake, though dazed at her surroundings. As her eyes focused on the dark shapes of her bedrooms, Phoebe began to laugh hysterically to herself. It was the fifth time that week.
"Not again," she breathed into the darkness, trying not to cry. "Not again."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Piper jumped at the movement of someone else in the kitchen this early in the morning. She turned to see Phoebe standing in the doorway, her dressing gown draped loosely over her shoulders. Hey eyes bore the look of somebody who hadn't seen a peaceful night's sleep in months.
"Hey sweetie," Piper cooed, smiling. "What are you doing up this early?" Phoebe avoided her sister's gaze, and merely slumped at the table. She sprawled out across it, and laid her head on her arms.
"Rough night?" Piper continued, stirring her steaming mug of tea.
"Mhmm," Phoebe replied, not looking up. Piper wandered over and stroked her sister's hair absently. She knew there was something Phoebe wasn't telling them. She knew there was something that Phoebe wasn't dealing with. And she knew that Phoebe wouldn't tell them until she was ready.
"You can go back to sleep if you want. It's only six am."
At this Phoebe looked up into the dark eyes of her older sister. A flicker of jealousy passed through her eyes, but she composed herself before she said something she would regret. Instead, she smiled, shook her head, and moved out of Piper's reach.
"I'm ok," was all she said. Piper frowned, but didn't move. She sipped at her tea, enjoying the soothing liquid washing against her throat. She loved Phoebe dearly, and nothing could change that; but sometimes, she just wished that she weren't so stubborn. She wished that she had the power to reads minds. But then again, a memory of a spell with Prue some years before quickly reminded her that hearing other people's thoughts was not always a good thing. At the memory of Prue, she smiled.
"What's up?" Phoebe asked, interpreting the look as some sort of dig to her mood.
"Oh nothing," Piper mused, hiding her smile. "I was just thinking about Prue."
"You can't live in the past, Piper," Phoebe almost snapped. Piper frowned into her mug.
"I know. You don't have to get all ratty about it."
Phoebe rolled her eyes and looked to the ceiling. "I'm sorry," she said quietly, meaning it. But she wasn't only talking to Piper.
"Phoebes," Piper said suddenly, interrupting Phoebe's wandering mind.
"Yeah...?" Phoebe replied distantly. Piper put down her tea, and then put her arm around her sister. She looked at her face, but couldn't quite read the expression on it.
"You don't have to fight alone. You know that, right?"
Phoebe looked to the floor and smiled.
"Yeah. I do."
"And you know that if you need to talk... You always have me. Or Paige."
"I know. That's half the problem."
Piper took her arm away from her sister's shoulder.
"What do you mean?" she asked indignantly.
"Well, you guys. I love you, but... you're always here. I barely get any privacy anymore."
"Are you saying you want to move out?" Piper questioned, unable to hide the accusation in her voice.
"No, no, of course not," Phoebe reasoned. "I'm just saying that some things need to be mine, okay? My problems and my solutions."
Piper picked up her mug of tea from the counter. Hurt at her sister's comments, she turned to leave the kitchen. Without looking back, she said, "There's hot water in the kettle. Maybe you should make tea."
And then she was gone.
Phoebe, alone once more, collapsed into a chair by the counter. She laid her head in her hands and groaned into the morning. Rays of light were shining through the window now, and the sun had long been awake. They were mocking rays of sunlight, of hope, and they dazzled her dreary early-morning vision. She didn't need them. She didn't want them. But, she thought, without sunlight, there was only dark. Was there no happy medium? Was there nowhere she could escape from the watching eyes? Was there nowhere she could be happy? She already knew, of course, that the answer was no. It was always no. And it always would be.
Phoebe sat, guiltily, thinking about what Piper had said. She had meant well, she always did. But being reminded that her sisters, not to mention witchcraft, were always around was the last thing she had needed to hear. What she needed was a guide. Memories of spirit guides and vision quests popped into her mind, but she shook them away.
"No," she said aloud. "No more magic."
"No more magic?" asked a quirky Paige. Phoebe jumped and let out a gasp. She turned around, anger written all over her face. But at the sight of her calm and collected baby sister, the anger ebbed away. She smiled, but could not take the annoyance out of her voice.
"Paige, you shouldn't sneak up on people like that."
"Hey, it's not my fault you're not a morning person," she replied, opening the fridge and raiding through it. Phoebe raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, but neither are you."
Paige closed the fridge door and looked up, a sparkle in her mischievous eyes.
"A girl can change, can't she?" she asked innocently. She fetched a glass from the cupboard and poured out some milk. "What's this about no more magic, anyway? I thought you loved being a witch."
"Not recently..." Phoebe replied, more to herself than in answer. Paige, thankfully, didn't seem to hear. She sipped at her milk thoughtfully. Phoebe sighed, trying to work up the courage to ask a question she had been meaning to ask for a long time.
"Paige..." she began slowly, closing her eyes. She felt like holding her breath, as divers do before their first jump. But before she had time to finish her question, an almighty crash echoed down the stairs. Phoebe met Paige's worried eyes, but they hardly had time to make it to the door before they heard Piper's shrill cry call down the stairs.
"Oh, for crying out loud!" she yelled, anger and frustration straining through her voice.
"Good thing I didn't go back to bed," Phoebe mused momentarily to herself before following Paige out of the kitchen and up the stairs. They were met by a very dishevelled looking Piper, whose obvious rage was burning in her eyes so much that Phoebe swore she saw sparks fly out of them. Piper's right shoulder now sported a ripped dressing gown and raw graze.
"What happened?" Paige demanded, looking around the hall and failing to see Piper's cut.
"Honey, are you okay?" Phoebe asked, heading towards the cut like a mother to a child.
"No, I am not okay," Piper snapped, batting away Phoebe's hand with her good arm. "I can't even have a freakin' Sunday morning without any interruptions! What sort of demon attacks in the early hours of daylight anyway?"
"Calm down Piper – "
"Oh, you calm down!" she shouted. She looked at the carpet, frowned, and then yelled, "If any more of you scumbags want to ruin my day, go ahead! Now's your chance!"
She was almost surprised when nothing happened.
Paige patted Piper's arm consolingly.
"What did the demon look like?"
Piper thought for a minute, trying to reach into the part of her memory that always faded away when she was put on the spot.
"Kind of big and ugly looking," she said eventually. "And he had a really wrinkled forehead; as if someone had stretched it out too much, then tried to put it back together really badly."
Phoebe tried to hide a smile, but it showed in her voice.
"I'll go check the book, then," she said, starting towards the attic.
"No need," Piper interrupted.
"Because now, he looks like that."
She pointed to a smouldering pile of ash on the carpet. Paige giggled, and even Phoebe couldn't help cracking a smile. But when the laughter was over, she looked back to Piper's cut, not even trying to hide her worry.
"That looks nasty. Maybe you should get Leo to look at it?"
Piper shook her head and motioned towards the ceiling.
"He's taken the boys up there to spend some time with them. I don't want to interrupt him if I don't have to."
"If you're sure..." Paige said, sounding worried.
"It's fine! Besides, if it does turn into something life threatening, I'll almost die and then you guys will figure out a way to save me; that's what we do!"
Phoebe knew that she was joking. But a pang of concern stung her heart, and as Piper disappeared into the bathroom, she vowed that she would keep an eye on her during the day. There was enough grieving going on in her mind without having the death of another sister. She returned to her own room. She leant against the hard, wooden door and let out a long, loud sigh. Last night, she promised herself, would be the last night of broken sleep; she would get the bottom of it, even if it meant confronting something she had been hiding for years.