In Her Hands

Thank you for the responses for the last story I posted. I'm very glad you liked it. This story is a continuation of Out of our Hands. Hopefully you will enjoy it as much. As always my continuing invitation for you guys to visit my fanfic site at http://leopiper.cjb.net

In Her Hands

She turned in one corner, her eyes surveying the environment for the specific people she had come to find. The park looked the same as any other park. People laughed seated in benches and mothers pushed prams with cooing babies waving fists in the cold air. Melinda stopped the car for a moment and opened the window. The air was brisk. Something was very wrong.

She spotted the blonde woman talking animatedly with a friend. The pram beside her was alive with the baby's activity. Melinda frowned at the sight of red fingers clutched tightly into fists. A surge of irritation rose within her. Mothers who neglect their children were one of those that angered her the most. 

Her heels rang loudly against the asphalt of the sidewalk as she approached the two women. She prepared the biting reminder that she would tell that negligent mother. She should realize what a gift a baby was. Some mothers were not given the chance to raise their babies, no matter how much they wanted to, no matter how much they deserved to.

A few yards away, just a moment before she sharply called out, she saw the young mother turn and pick up the child. With a worried exclamation, the mother sat down on the cold bench and rubbed at the baby's hands. She drew cotton gloves from her purse and enclosed the small hands in them. And then the baby laughed. From her vantage Melinda saw clearly was the child's eyes lit up at being picked up by its mother. The woman lifted the infant and rubbed her nose with the baby's.

Melinda took a deep breath. And then she turned her back on the three and returned to her car. She turned on the ignition and with one last glance at mother and child laughing and cooing at each other, she stepped on the gas and resumed her task.

One by one she would take them down. She had hunted down so many and she would never stop. She would kill every last one of them. Some may think that she had been hardened. Who could blame her? Since she was six years old she had known the evil these beings could do. She knew everything first hand. She had suffered. And so instead of curling at the corner, clutching old photographs and crying her heart out, she decided to do something that would have a result. Melinda had enlisted her Aunt Phoebe's help in vanquishing a darklighter and obtaining an arrow. With her Aunt Paige's genius for chemistry, they had used the arrow to test and copy the formula. Surprisingly, all ingredients were of easy access. It was merely the procedure of getting the sample that had taken them months. At fourteen she killed her first whitelighter. And now two years later she was still seeking vengeance. No. Justice. She was just seeking justice.

Two years of honing her instincts sharpened them enough that she could feel their presence in the air. Like hearing an indistinct but undeniable call, Melinda's head turned left. She immediately saw the young girl on the swing, in a bright yellow dress, her face turned to the sun, smiling in contentment.

And behind her the man quietly watching her every move. By the skip of her heart, she knew that this was one of them.

Melinda grabbed her purse, which contained a dagger, a syringe and even a needle, all tipped with poison. What was difficult with these killings was that the poison had to be introduced into the whitelighters' system. And after those years of preying on the whitelighters, they already knew her, and at first glance would orb out.

She slammed the car door shut and hurried over to the unaware girl. She could hardly call out for help about a supernatural kidnapping. And anyway, there was no other person within sight. Just as the whitelighter's arms reached to snatch the girl from the swing, Melinda's hand rose to ward him off with a blast.

The girl screamed and jumped off the swing. "Run!" Melinda yelled at her, running towards the whitelighter knocked out by the explosion. She would have poisoned him, but the girl was coming towards her. The girl grabbed her hand and pulled. She stammered out incoherent words and by the time Melinda finally found out what she was trying to say, the whitelighter had woken up and orbed out.

A boy was coming towards them, and she automatically pushed the girl behind her. They would stoop as low as using an innocent looking boy. "Bobby!" the girl cried, pulling away from Melinda and embracing the new arrival.

The boy shoved the hair away from the girl's face. "You okay, huh, Jassie? I saw everything! I couldn't come fast enough."

The girl nodded. "She saved me," she told him. "This is my brother Bobby."

Bobby offered his hand, which Melinda promptly shook. "I'm Melinda."

"Thanks so much for saving my sister Jasmine!" Bobby kept pumping on her hand.

Carefully, she extricated her hand from the boy's. "Where are your parents? You two are not safe alone."

Jasmine nodded. "Daddy told us that. But it's okay. Bobby was s'posed to protect me. He can, you know."

The boy took on a mature stance and nodded. "I'm sure he can," Melinda replied. "But like now. Bobby can't always be there. You need your mommy or your daddy around. Mommy's a witch, isn't she?"

"How did you know?"

"I know."

"Well, ok. Mommy's just around the corner working."

"Well go to her. I have to leave." She turned and proceeded back to her car. Never form attachments to any innocent. Never form bonds and attachments. Never ever love.

Loving kills.

~~

At the end of the day, she always feels the same. When the time came for her to put her duty behind her and remember that she was only sixteen, she always was worn down. Aunt Phoebe had warned her before she even started. What Melinda was about to embark in was a harsh job, one certain to kill so much in her. But she was hurt enough to be willing to put her innocence on the line for the sweet taste of revenge.

Melinda slammed the car door shut and entered her apartment. Something smelled. Someone had been in here. In fact, she thought, seeing the light coming from the kitchen, someone was still in here. She grabbed her bag and drew out the poisoned dagger. Those animals would never infiltrate her home without due punishment. Taking a deep breath, she positioned herself defensively by the door and kicked it open.

"AAAAAAHHHH!" the young girl standing on the chair, peeking down the boiling pot screamed at the violent entry. The boy threw Melinda by instinct, and she was left lying on the couch wit her skirt over her head, breathing harshly at the impact. She could hear the small voices blaming each other in the kitchen. "Bobby, why'd you do that to her!?"

"Why'd you scream, Jassie?" Little feet ran over to where she had fallen.

Jasmine's small hand reached to lift the skirt off her face. "You okay, Melinda?"

She glared at the young girl. "What in heaven's name are you doing here?"

"We're lost," the boy piped in.

"And you're little liars, aren't you! How did you even manage to get here before I did?" She got up and sat looking at the two through squinted eyes. "Oh right. Witches. Never mind."

Jasmine smiled at her. "Me and Bobby made food," she announced, and Melinda's stomach rumbled. "My mommy taught me how," was the proud claim.

Melinda got up. "Well, maybe I'll try it," she allowed, although she was very hungry. "And then you two tell me how I can contact your parents because you two aren't my responsibility."

She watched in amazement as in a few calculated motions the two were able to set the table. Melinda sat down and took the first bite. It was…

The world around her spun until she saw herself not in the dark apartment she had chosen just a few months before. She was in a cheery looking dining room. Melinda looked down at herself. She was wearing a denim jumpsuit over a yellow cotton t-shirt, her feet not even touching the floor. There was a woman puttering around. A smile graced Melinda's lips at the wonderful sight of the long brown hair in curlers. The woman turned around and brought over a plate of steamy hot choco chip cookies.

"Mommy…"

The giggle started her out of the dream. Wearing a guilty expression on her face, the hazy veil before her eyes vanished and she stared at the two tickling each other. "Hey, no playing in my house!"

"Yes, ma'am." The two sat down meekly in front of her. She looked down at the food and blinked away the memory that kept creeping back. At the corner of her eyes she saw that hands still stole away for a tickle once and again, but she did not want to get too involved with these children's little delights. She ignored them.

~~

Melinda tapped her foot as she listened to the boy give the address to his father on the phone. When he placed the receiver back on the cradle, Melinda sighed in relief. The sooner they were out of her hands, the better off they would all be. The girl sat next to her brother, and the two whispered together. Even though she didn't want to get too close to anyone, she could not help but ask, "So your daddy is picking you up?"

"Uhuh. He'll be quick."

"Good. Isn't your mom worried about you two?"

"Mommy doesn't know we're gone yet."

Melinda nodded. She heard the familiar sound that she had already learned to fear and loathe. Her arm snatched at the two. The lights formed just a few feet away, so she pushed the two behind the couch. "Stay down!" she cried.

"Daddy!" she heard Jasmine call.

Her head whipped around to the sight of all her nightmares come to life. She grabbed the knife she had put aside earlier and with a yell of fury, jumped over the whitelighter. She placed the tip of the knife threateningly at the rapid pulse of his neck. "Damn you! What right do you have for a happy family?! You took mine away!"

The man beneath her didn't recognize her. He couldn't move to throw her off because he realized that the knife must be poisoned. Otherwise, she would not dare hold it up to an immortal like this. It was obvious she knew what she was doing. If he orbed out, that left the children to her, and he would die before he allowed anyone to hurt his children.

"A witch!" she spat out on his face. "You married another witch! Make your last wish, you bastard!"

Leo could not understand the fury that trembled through the slight body of the young woman. His children were sobbing loudly at what was taking place before their eyes. He was so proud of them. Just like he and Piper had taught them, at the face of danger, instead of fighting without fully knowing the capabilities of the enemy, they would leave their parents to fight their own battles and follow a few simple things. Jasmine would stop crying, because her cries distracted Piper most of all. Bobby would cover his sister's eyes and shield her. And they should just escape. Jasmine had stopped crying, and Bobby was standing in front of her.

Leo held Melinda's eyes for a long moment. His mind was more on the children than the danger before him. He swallowed deeply before rasping, "Just not in front of my kids." Her lips curled in disgust. Leo closed his eyes and waited for the sharp pain.

It never came.

When the weight above him lifted, Leo's most immediate thought was of the children. "Jassy, Bobby."

The softness of his daughter pressed against him allowed him to breathe again. He saw his son staring at some high point in front of him, and his eyes followed his son's gaze. "She's got a picture of mommy," Bobby says, pointing at the framed picture of Piper holding a small bundle in her hands.

Taking in the photograph at the treasured place above the mantel, Leo's lips parted in shock. "Melinda…"

~~

The incessant knocking irritated Phoebe. "Coming," she yelled. "I'll be right there." But the knocking won't stop. And so she went to the door at almost a run. Only Melinda and Paige ever did this, so she did not bother with the peephole. "What is it, Melinda?" She pulled the girl into her home. "What happened to you?" She was drenched from head to foot, trembling and crying silently. Phoebe led her into the kitchen. "Wait here while I get you a towel." She returned moments later to find the girl still sitting there, staring into nothing. "You came here to tell me what's wrong. So do it."

Melinda shook her head. Understanding that she would speak, merely needed time to compose herself, she turned her back and prepared some coffee. Behind her Melinda's soft sobbing sounded, and Phoebe knew that she would soon be ready. She poured two cups and returned to the table. "I'm ready whenever you are, honey."

Melinda swallowed hard and took the cup, blowing gently on the liquid. "He's alive, Aunt Phoebe. And he had a happy family. The bastard married another witch," she bit out. She sipped on the coffee to calm herself with the action. "I hate him so much!"

Though shocked beyond belief, she was mature enough to prioritize her reactions and her opinions. Phoebe reached out and gripped her niece's cold hand. "He may have been pressured. I hope you don't judge him too harshly. Leo Wyatt really did love your mother."

Her eyes were blazing as she looked up at Phoebe. "But that didn't keep her alive, did it?!"

"Melinda!"

She would not be stopped. Instead Melinda put more force into her voice. "It's the truth, Aunt Phoebe. And I have this right to be furious with him. Piper was mother!"

"And she was my sister," Phoebe threw back.

"I know that!"

"Then do you also know that Leo is your father?" Melinda scoffed at her aunt's rhetoric. "Come on, Melinda. Where's that all knowing woman who stormed in here burning with hatred? Can't you even admit that part of this comes from not having grown up with Leo? Do you even stop to consider what it was like in his shoes?"

"I'd never be in his shoes, Aunt Phoebe. I'd never betray my family."

~~

Melinda saw herself driving down the same street the next morning. She told herself that the force that made her come back to this park had nothing to do with the two children who were her half-siblings. She was here because of the role she had assumed. The whitelighter after Jasmine and Bobby had escaped yesterday. She was here to finish the job she started. The kids were innocents. That's why she was going to protect them until the end.

Did Leo Wyatt learn nothing? Why did he allow his children back here when the whitelighters were after them? Was he really that cruel that he would sacrifice his own children to his kind's preposterous search for that justice?

Just like yesterday, a whitelighter took form behind Jasmine. Melinda broke into a run. "Jasmine, honey!" A blast knocked the whitelighter out, but she had not raised her hands yet. A woman caught the child into her arms, rocking her.

When the woman turned to leave, Melinda's breath caught in her throat. "Mommy."

Piper looked up at the young woman standing a few feet away from her. "Melinda." She placed Jasmine down.

With a sob, Melinda dropped the poisoned knife and ran towards her mother. Her legs ate up the distance as tears coursed down her cheeks. "Mommy!" When Piper's arms enclosed her, it was as though the hell that had shrouded her entire life fell off. Her mother's scent was familiar in those dreamlike memories, but they have been so long that they were unreal to her. Piper's hair brushing against her cheek was sweetly tormenting. "Mommy." She could say nothing else. The avalanche of emotions was too much to put into words.

"Melinda, my baby!" Tears seeped out of tightly closed lids. "We searched for you over and over, but your father couldn't find you. I've almost given up hope. And then they told me yesterday that—"

Rough hands pulled them apart. In terror, Melinda realized that they had both let their defenses down. "Mom!" she screamed. She was aware of the trial, and whitelighters getting a hold of Piper would mean execution. She was not going to lose Piper. She had only just found her. Furiously, she struggled against the man holding her captive. She caught her mother's eyes, expecting to see a reflection of her own horror in them. Yet just before the one holding her orbed them out, she saw the opposite in her gaze. Piper's eyes were soothing, relaxing her. The smile on her lips had nothing except fulfillment.

~~

"Get your filthy hands off me!" Melinda demanded as the whitelighter dragged her into a room. "You're all crazy!" She was forced in and the door slammed behind her. In response she rammed her fists on the door, screaming, "You have to let me out of here!"

"Shhh. Calm down, Melinda. That won't do you any good."

She whirled around to face her mother. "Mommy! We have to get out of here. They'll kill us! I know they will. Aunt Phoebe told me everything. So they'll probably execute you first since your trial was over long ago. We can't let that happen. We have to get out."

Piper's answer was to sit down on the edge of the cot and pat the space next to her. "Come here beside me. I haven't gotten a good look at you yet." Her voice lulled Melinda somewhat. She walked forward and took the place beside Piper. And then she did something she'd longed to do for ten years. Melinda wrapped her arms around her mother's waist, laid her head on her breast and closed her eyes. Piper's soft chuckle rumbled against her ear. "Well all right. We'll get to that later. Tell me, Melinda. How have you been?"

"Missing you," was the swift answer.

"I've missed you too. But I want to know about your life. What have you been doing?" Hesitantly at first, Melinda related how her mission developed. To Piper's infinite terror, Melinda told her about the whitelighters she had killed, and about the innocents she had saved by eliminating the whitelighters' threat. "Their blood, Melinda, in your hands?"

"They're evil, mommy. I despise them all!"

"You're so young. Your passions are high, but your reason you push back so far at the back of your mind. Generalizations are folly. That's what brought all this chaos on in the first place. Melinda, you have to remember. Your father is a whitelighter."

The girl in Piper's arms stiffened upon hearing the word. "I know, mommy. And I hate him more than all the others combined."

Piper caught her daughter by her shoulders and moved her to look in her eyes. "Listen to me! Never hate your father. He has been my entire life." To soften the harshness of the command, Piper ran her fingertips on Melinda's cheek. "When we lost you, I went insane. He was my only anchor, Melinda. He was strong although I know he was hurting as much as I was."

It was a long time before Melinda responded. When she did she broke her mother's heart. "Even if that's true he could have prevented so much if he spoke up before things went too far!"

"Your father had to consider so much. These people have been his family for fifty years. Someday, when you're older, you'll realize how difficult it is to make choices. In the end, he chose to save me. And you have two beautiful siblings. Leo—"

The door opening cut their conversation short. Piper immediately stood up, subtly shielding her daughter from the arrival. "Piper Halliwell, it's been a long time."

Piper straightened her posture as she recognized the prosecutor who tried her all those years back. "And I see you've not progressed. You're still in the same position you've been in a decade ago."

"And you still have the same smart ass mouth you've had for just as long," the man snidely remarked.

"Shut up, you jerk!"

"Melinda, that's a bad word," was Piper's automatic reply. And then she caught herself. With a smile, she turned to her daughter. "I keep forgetting you're no longer six. You were still a baby when we lost you."

It was as if he noticed Melinda only then. The prosecutor turned his next comment on the young woman. "And I see you've got the same shitty mouth your mother's got."

"Get out of here," Piper gritted. "You're only here to gloat. We don't need that."

The prosecutor grinned and then settled on a chair. "Are you sure you want me to leave? Maybe I'd drop by the other room and say hello to little Robert Wyatt and his sniveling sister."

"You bastard!" Piper rushed over to him and raised her hand.

"Hit me and I'll hit Jasmine. Such a smooth cheek. You wouldn't want it all red, would you, mommy?"

Piper backed off, tears running down her cheeks. She felt Melinda's arm around her waist, supporting her. "What do you want?"

"Oh. The little girl can speak something other than shit." Melinda had to tamp down the urge to strangle the arrogant man. "You two are too hot-tempered. And here I was kind enough to drop by to give you some news." He paused for dramatic effect, but neither Melinda nor Piper volunteered to fill in that void. "My old friend Leo has given his word to surrender in exchange for his two children. I'm gathering he meant those two in the other room." He looked at Melinda. "Damn, Melinda. Daddy forgot about you again!"

"Don't listen to him, baby," Piper whispered to her daughter. Melinda was silent. "So what's it going to be?"

"Well we're agreeing. Can you even imagine how much the Elders want to get a hold of your husband, Piper? We've been hunting him down for ten years after he betrayed us all by obstructing justice in your execution."

"You didn't expect him to stand by and watch me die."

"We did. We shouldn't have trusted the lovesick fool."

~~

"Leo!" Melinda watched from her seat as her mother ran forward and wrapped her father in a tight embrace the moment he stepped into the room. She was silent when her mother drew Leo's head down for a deep kiss. He looked sincere. She had to give him that. He certainly seemed to have missed his wife.

When the two broke apart minutes later, she cleared her throat. She was not going to wait for her father to speak. She didn't want to listen to anything he had to say. "I have a plan. I will get us out of here, mommy. We can't let them take you. The moment they open the door, you have to freeze them. I'll blast our way out. I think we can't use our powers only inside the cells. When we're out we can make a run for it."

"Melinda, we have no way of getting back home."

"Orb us," she snapped at Leo. "Your powers aren't suppressed even in this cell. You can even just orb us away now."

"And have them hunt our family forever? No, Melinda," Piper answered. "You're protected against them. Your father and I are undetectable. But Jasmine and Bobby. They'll always be in danger."

"I'll protect them!"

"They won't let go. They will be after our family forever. I don't want your brother and your sister to grow up looking over their shoulder."

"So you're fine with all of us getting killed up here and the two of them fending for themselves, mom?" Melinda demanded. "I know how I feels to be an orphan. I won't let them grow up without parents!"

"Melinda." Leo moved forward to take his daughter into his arms, but Melinda stepped away. Leo took her arms firmly in his hand and pulled her forward. "I'm sorry." A sob caught in her throat. She didn't know how much she had been waiting to hear that from her father. "I'm sorry for the hell you had to go through because of us."

"I won't let them grow up the way I did," she sobbed out. "My aunts could only do so much. I wanted to have my parents!"

"I know, honey," Leo murmured. "I know."

"So don't do this!"

"We have no choice," Piper said.

Leo took a deep breath and reluctantly pushed her away to look her in the eye. "I'll orb you down. Stay with your siblings. Raise them the way you think we would have wanted. It's the best we could do."

Melinda's gaze flew to Piper. "I can't. I've only been with mom too short a time. I won't leave her here."

"You know you have to, Melinda. It's your responsibility. You have Jassy and Bobby to think about. I know you're going to do the right thing." She opened her arms, and Melinda flew into them. Piper kissed her daughter's forehead. "There are so many things we missed doing, baby. There's a lot I could have done for you. And I'm sorry I never got around to being the perfect mother. Maybe in some other lifetime you'll be my daughter again. And I can make up. Right now I need you to take care of two of the four most important people in the world to me. Will you do that?"

Melinda nodded in acquiescence. Slowly, she walked towards her father. "I'll be right back," he told his wife. He held his daughter in his arms and orbed her outside the home he and Piper have been living in. "I won't take you inside. I don't want to break their hearts by saying goodbye."

"Are you going back there?"

"I gave my word."

"You're here already. You could just vanish into the crowd, you know."

Leo held his daughter's cheek. "You have so many things to learn about your father. Unfortunately, we have no time left for that anymore. I could never live without your mother."

"This is suicide."

"I have to go back to Piper."

"You can't live without her so you'd rather Jasmine and Bobby live without either of you. Don't you two think about anything other than yourselves?"

"You know that's not true," Leo told her quietly. "But I don't have the time to convince you, Melinda. I just wish you'd learn them in the future." The lights began to gather around him.

"Daddy, wait!"

It was the first time she had called him that. Leo thought he'd never hear her say those words. She was two when he left. At that time Melinda called him 'dada.' He closed his eyes when she wrapped her arms around him. "I love you, Melinda. You were the most beautiful gift I've ever been given. You were my baby." Tears coursed silently down her cheeks, and she held on tight to the figure of her father until she was holding nothing more than air.

"I love you too, daddy." But he was already gone, and she did not know how to let him hear her first declaration of this her entire sixteen years.

~~

"Leo Wyatt, do you realize the gravity of your sins against us?"

Everything was the same as it was ten years ago. They both noted this as their gazes met. From his position on the stand, Leo was able to focus his entire attention at Piper who was anxiously sitting with the rest of the audience. Oddly enough, their places have switched now. The prosecutor walked around him. At the edge of his consciousness Leo saw his old friend as a tiger stalking a prey. "Yes I do. And I remain convinced of the justice with which I finished the processes that have disillusioned me during the time."

"Leo Wyatt, we do not care for your explanations a decade after you ignored the powers of this court," the judge instructed. "Are you prepared to face up to the consequences?" Leo nodded curtly in response. The judge may have shown him and Piper mercy in the privacy of his chambers back then, but Leo couldn't hope that the judge would show the same kind of clemency in front of the entire population of whitelighters. He only hoped that somehow, whatever punishment they would think of, he would be permitted to be with Piper. The children were now fine. They didn't need to worry about them. Melinda had always been a tender child, and after all that she had been through, a fighting heart. "Then you will be stripped of the powers we have given you, and you will be banished to earth, never to be part of this society again."

One of the jurors rose in protest, calling to the judge. "Leo Wyatt is a criminal and a traitor! I call for death!"

The gavel rapped steadily and furiously. "Take your seat. And I suggest that you all forget about this man." Leo stared at the judge in shock. "You've taken ten years off these people's family life. I may even argue that the murder of all the whitelighters can be traced back to the witch hunt."

"One of us was killed! We had reason to take revenge."

"Vengeance is an unending cycle," the judge answered. "And I was not asking for your defense counsel. I am delivering my judgment. Will you all just respect me enough to allow me to finish?"

"I'm sorry," the prosecutor humbled himself.

"We've all lost track of who we really are, what we are supposed to do. The crime that killed a whitelighter years ago was unfortunate. But the woman sitting there did not commit it. I take no prejudice against Leo Wyatt for knowing it. And for those who will argue that he did it not for justice but for love… There is no greater reason to my knowledge, to do a foolhardy act." The last sentence brought a smile to Piper's lips, and she folded her hands on her lap, thanking her own faith for not failing her. She did not care anymore about her own passed judgment. She was grateful enough that her children would at least have a father. "Aren't you relieved?" She glanced up to see Leo on his feet, seeming displeased.

"I can't accept this." She gasped. Leo could not do this. Not when everything seemed to be falling into place. "I will not live a life without my wife. I've said it before and my convictions have not changed. They've gotten stronger. You've taught me this," he told the judge, looking straight into his eyes. "Don't tell me to forget your lessons just because you need an easy out."

"Leo, it's all right," Piper said softly.

The courtroom was quiet as the judge faced Leo. Piper could hear the silent hum of tension, the heartbeats, and the short inhalations like thunder. Finally, the old man spoke, "Then take her with you."

As the entire courtroom rose in protest, Leo took advantage of the confusion by going to Piper. She laughed softly when he wrapped his arms around her. He waved a farewell to the judge, and Piper inadequately tried to show her gratefulness with her smile. The judge waved a hand, and the two vanished in blue light.

To take form in the middle of the living room, where their children were gathered. Melinda stood up. "Mommy!"

"Baby!" Jasmine wrapped her arms around Piper's legs. Bobby's eager embrace infiltrated that of Piper's and her eldest's. And so Melinda moved away to give her younger siblings the chance.

She turned around and saw Leo watching his family with a look of utter contentment. It was time he heard. "I love you, daddy." The tears in his eyes were enough. She dove into his open arms and finally, truly forgave him for sins he never committed. "I love you."

The end.