Sooo I have two papers and a midterm tomorrow... and since the logical thing would be to use the time I have today to, I don't know, get some work done, CLEARLY, I had to go and do the exact opposite. I am the epitome of masochistic procrastination. What you are about to read is the one-shot that just would not die; I was about to dropkick my laptop due to some pretty intense post-modern literature issues I've been having, so I turned on some Beatles (hence my oh so contrived title, haha) and decided to let the creative juices flow for an hour. Only then, an hour turned to five, and the piece I assumed would be like, six pages long somehow kept going for ten more after that. Don't blame me, blame Thomas Pynchon; he may be clever, but the man is ruining my life. I know it's kind of lengthy to be one chapter, and I apologize for that, but I couldn't manage to break it up smoothly or evenly, and I should reaaaally stop playing around with this and go back to work, haha. The majority of the piece is from Leo's perspective, but there's a little bit of Piper's thrown in there too. Have fun!
Begin to Make it Better
When Leo steps through the temporary portal onto the landing, Wyatt and Chris in tow, he is half expecting to hear her muffled movements in the kitchen; restlessly drawn to her sanctuary despite the illness that has more or less confined her to the manor the last three days. For the past few weeks, 1329 Prescott Street has been a breeding ground for bacteria, despite Piper's best efforts to keep things sanitary. Chris picked up the virus from preschool, then passed it on to Wyatt, who infected Piper, who has been having a worse time of it than both of the boys combined. After struggling to fight off the bug for just under a week, she seemed to be improving until a few days ago; now she's back where she started, and it comes as a surprise to him that the house is dark and silent, lacking any signs of recent activity.
The door to magic school disappears behind Leo as he frowns, shifting Chris's weight on his hip before jogging the rest of the way down the stairs. Although the manor is abandoned, nothing appears to be out of place, and as he moves from room to room, flicking on the lights and noting the immaculate living room, the debris free conservatory and the still-standing glass windows, his concern ebbs, while a mild irritation begins to take its place. Despite being human, the connection existing between himself and Piper has not faded away; it has changed somewhat, no longer causing the same degree of excruciating physical pain it used to, but he still experiences an acute, nauseating unease that cannot be pacified until she is one hundred percent out of harm's way. The manor contains no traces of the disorder that usually marks a demonic attack, and that, coupled with the fact that he is not suffering aberrant anxiety, leads him to believe she has probably disappeared on some errand-based excursion that could absolutely have waited until he came home.
When her annoying, but not unbearable, cold started getting worse, Leo took it upon himself to give her as few causes to worry as was possible. The boys have been with him at magic school all day, as they were yesterday and the day before, and it has been well worth the inconvenience of delay after delay (due to the boys' exuberance at the freedom to use their magic in, essentially, any innocuous manner they can conceive of) to know that the arrangement keeps both Piper, and the boys, happy. Happy, however, is a word that no longer applies to Wyatt and Chris, who are now exhausted from the day's events. They begin voicing complaints of hunger before he can even set Chris on his own two feet, and it is when he herds them into the kitchen, de-coring and halving an apple for them to slowly munch while he makes dinner, that he sees the note pinned to the fridge.
I've gone to P3. There's a band playing tonight and I want to be sure everything begins smoothly. Yes, I realize I have an assistant manager for exactly this reason, but I haven't been by in a few days and I just want to be sure things are on track. Relax, I'm not dying, and the cold is totally out of my system. I may be late for dinner, but I will be home by nine at the very latest. Promise. Love you; pass that on to the boys as well.
He shakes his head, resenting the light, teasing tone of her message, because he knows exactly how sick she has been the last few days. It isn't in his nature to worry excessively, but his level head and logic fly out the window where Piper is concerned, and she doesn't always take that seriously. He wants to be angry with her for not taking care of herself; for someone who spends so much time worrying about the welfare of others, she could afford to maintain a little more concern for her own well being.
His gaze drifts to the clock on the microwave; 6:37 pm. Next, his eyes travel to the table, where Wyatt and Chris sit across from one another, discussing animatedly the advanced conjuring class that had captured their attention so completely, Leo had actually obtained a full hour and fifteen minutes of uninterrupted work time. He watches Chris nibble absently at the skin of his apple in between sentences, while Wyatt speaks around baby mouthfuls, and decides that he has more than enough time to make a simple pasta dinner before they finish their snack and demand to be fed something more filling.
As he fills the pot with water, he deliberates the pros and cons to phoning P3. Piper's note seems contented enough, and he doesn't want to start a fight, but he also doesn't want a phone call from an employee telling him that she's fainted.
In the end, his instincts to keep her safe override his instincts for self preservation, and after placing the pot on the stove, Leo picks up the phone and dials.
The phone in Piper's office rings for the third time, and she, for the third time, reaches out a hand to pick up the receiver, only to – for the third time – yank it back. The more cowardly part of her wants to just let the phone keep ringing until the voicemail picks up, but he has already tried her cell phone, and she knows that if she doesn't answer, Leo is only going to keep calling. His apprehension could potentially increase to the point where he considers taking the boys to Phoebe's and coming to the club himself, and she doesn't want that. Her plans for this evening are specific, and she doesn't want anything, including answering his call, to chance screwing it up. The phone rings a fourth time, then a fifth, and Piper's fingers twitch indecisively before she takes a deep breath and relents, snatching up the handset a moment before the machine picks up.
"Hello?" She does her best to make her voice cheerful, because she knows his is going to be anything but. He's going to read her actions as careless, and carelessness, in their relationship, is a sure-fire way to piss off a spouse.
He isn't happy by any means, but his tentative tone tips her off to the fact that he's doing his best to keep himself under control. He doesn't want a fight anymore than she does, and she is glad that today of all days, they are on the same page.
"Hi honey." She greets casually, "Did you get my note? I made a tomato-cream sauce before I left; it's on the second shelf in the fridge, near the lettuce. You can heat some up and throw it over some penne for the boys… I know it's not your favourite, but Chris hasn't been eating tomato based sauces recently, no matter how I season them, and Wyatt won't eat cheese sauces, so I figured they might both eat this one. Well, as long as Chris doesn't pay too close attention, but I have a feeling that he's more turned off by the texture of marinara sauce rather than the taste –
"Piper," he pauses, no doubt in order to carefully plan out his next few sentences, and Piper can instantly picture him pinching the bridge of his nose as he leans against the kitchen counter. "I'm sure it will be fine. Although I think you should consider coming home; you have excellent staff; you wouldn't have hired them in the first place if they were anything less than completely competent."
"I know that, Leo," she states nonchalantly, even as her heart hammers within her chest, "I just want to do one more sound check, and then do the payroll, and after that, I promise, I will come straight home."
There is silence again on the other end, and she holds her breath, hoping that, for at least one more hour, Leo can just sit tight, away from the club. She wants tonight to be special, and in order to enjoy herself later on, she needs to be certain things at P3 are in order.
"I'm worried about you." He admits softly.
And his low tenor, so full of love and concern, is almost her undoing. She almost blurts out her secret then and there, and it is only by, literally, biting her tongue between her front teeth – not terribly tightly, but enough so that the pain keeps her from doing anything stupid – that she manages to keep her voice aloof.
"Honey," she says slowly, not-quite-patiently, adopting a tone she knows he will interpret as one of barely concealed annoyance, "I told you, I feel fine. I've been in and out of the house all day, and nothing bad has happened. I just need a little bit more time to wrap things up here, and then I will leave everything to my very competent staff."
He backs off, just like Piper knew he would, and she feels a twinge of guilt for being so callous. She reminds herself that she's doing this for him in the long run, and he will forgive her, as he always does… regardless of whether she deserves it or not. She tells him she loves him and hangs up the phone quickly, before the suspicion she's sure she's aroused in him has a chance to escalate. Because keeping secrets is a split-hair away from lying, and they aren't good at lying to each other. Because hurting him is hurting her, and this is turning out to be a lot harder than she anticipated.
She unscrews the cap on her water bottle and takes a tiny sip, trying to quell the all too familiar queasiness she feels in her stomach. Be good, little one, she thinks, come tomorrow, I will gladly endure being sick all day, every day until you're born. You're worth it. I just need a few hours with daddy before that, okay?
Almost immediately following this thought, the nausea suddenly becomes too strong to fight against, and she promptly throws up in the wastepaper basket beside her desk. Touche. She thinks dryly, you're in charge. Got it.
Following her secret doctor's appointment that afternoon, Piper has eaten nine saltines, and a snackpack of animal crackers she found in her office drawer, abandoned there by one of her sons. The baby, apparently, is not a fan of animal crackers. She will remember this in the future. She finds herself bent over the basket once more, and when she's finished, she is relieved to discover that she does not feel half as unsettled as she has throughout the entire day; perhaps, now that there is absolutely nothing left in her system besides water, she can actually make it through the rest of the night without getting sick.
As she finishes doing the payroll, she takes another sip of water before phoning Phoebe, who is, unfortunately, part of her plan. She rolls her eyes even as she dials, anticipating the annoying way Phoebe's empathy powers will kick into overdrive the moment the connection between them is made. All three of their powers have continued to grow stronger in the last few years, and the potion provided for them by future-Chris has long since ceased being effective. She wishes Paige and Henry weren't vacationing in Asia, because Paige would have been easier to lie to, not to mention less nosy, and Piper is really, really, really hoping to tell Leo about the baby before Phoebe figures it out and blabs it to the whole world. Again.
When Phoebe doesn't answer, she leaves a brief message – semi-afraid Phoebe will make her way to the receiver halfway through – and reminds her sister to pick the boys up from the manor by nine, knowing this will ensure Phoebe comes around for them by nine thirty; when Piper will be in the shower. If everything goes according to plan, Phoebe will have come and gone before she finishes. She will leave the responsibility of getting the boys ready to Leo, because she will not risk Phoebe reading her anxiousness and excitement.
Leo; consistently the last to be let in the loop when it comes to the pregnancies of his own wife. This is part of the reason Piper is so determined to make things turn out perfectly this time, because Leo deserves to know first. Or at least, second. She can't contain a stab of satisfaction recognizing that half the battle has already been won, since she currently knows she's pregnant, and Phoebe doesn't. Her sister knowing before Leo is bad enough, but her sister knowing before her, not once, but twice, is about as unfair as it gets. She has found out about this pregnancy just like any other normal, non-witch woman in the world, and that in itself is cause for celebration.
She has been dancing about the house since coming home; staying close to the boys, and rambling incessantly any time he comes within ten feet of her, leaving him no room to get a word in edgewise. When Phoebe calls, Piper makes him answer the phone and hovers nearby as Phoebe informs him that she is on her way over. When he hangs up, before he can even relay the message to Piper, she is kissing the boys goodbye and heading upstairs to take a shower. His wife is many, many things; flighty has never been one of them, and he doesn't know how to quantify this atypical behaviour.
True to her word, Phoebe lets herself in fifteen minutes later, and Leo helps Wyatt zip up his jacket as she hefts a barely conscious Chris onto her hip. He shares a knowing smile with Phoebe before gathering the boys' backpacks and walking her to the car.
"Are you and Piper okay?" Phoebe asks curiously as she buckles Chris into his car seat, "I feel like she's avoiding us, and she all but snapped off my head when I walked into the bathroom to say hi."
Leo shakes his head, "We're fine Phoebe, at least, I'm pretty sure we are. I don't think she's angry…just…distracted?"
They have been working hard on communicating, on not suppressing the little annoyances until the inevitable explosion that has caused them, on so many occasions, to scream things at each other that don't quite make sense. And the conscious effort on both their parts has been making a difference, which is why he is fairly confident there isn't anything between them for her to be angry about. Besides, Piper explodes when she's angry, as do unfortunate inanimate objects around her. Everything about her today is inconsistent with her regular disposition, and whatever new game it is she's playing, he's not quite sure he has the patience to learn the rules.
Phoebe nods and climbs into the car, shutting the door and fastening her own seatbelt, "Alright then, see you tomorrow, Leo."
"Thanks Phoebe." Leo says gratefully, kissing her cheek through the open window. "Goodnight boys!"
"Bye daddy." Wyatt calls alertly, waving furiously and grinning the thousand-watt smile he has inherited from his father.
"Bye buddy." Leo smiles back, and he experiences one of those perfect moments where his heart is so full, he can barely stand it. "Bye Chris."
Chris struggles valiantly to force his eyelids halfway open, and he waves tiredly before they droop shut once again.
Phoebe laughs as she puts the car in reverse and begins backing out of the driveway, "Have fun!" She sing-songs with a wink.
When he re-enters the manor, it is obvious Piper has been downstairs during the time he spent outside; all the lights on the ground floor have been turned off, and he takes her not-especially-subtle hint and makes his way upstairs to their bedroom, which he finds empty and dark, save for the suggestive candles that litter all the surface spaces, sending faint scents of vanilla and honeysuckle into the air.
Her avoidance of him thus far tonight is a direct contrast to the affection she usually displays when she has a romantic evening in mind, and he's wary, because up until this point, he has been thinking she wants the boys with Phoebe in order to give them room for a conversation to which she suspects he isn't going to be overly receptive.
She certainly seems to have made a rapid recovery, especially considering the fact that she spent the majority of the last two days locked in their bathroom, but he cannot purge himself of the lingering sensation that something is very much out of place. When the fluorescent light that has been seeping underneath the bathroom door suddenly disappears, and Piper steps out a moment later, he can't even begin to remember where in the world his thought process of five seconds ago had been heading.
Her hair, now free from the practical clip it has been pinned in all evening, falls in bountiful waves over her shoulders and down her back. When she steps toward him, the flawless makeup brushed across her smooth skin is so perfect, he is almost afraid of touching her. He can't place the scent she's wearing, but whatever it is, he is glad, so glad, that it has found its way onto her perfect body. Leo's eyes wander away from her face to the exposed expanse of skin beneath her clavicle, where a glimpse of crimson lace peaks out from beneath the short, mid-thigh satin robe of deep blue.
Red, in all its shades, is a colour she wears beautifully.
Her wide smile breaks some of the sexual tension – although not by much – and Leo finally finds his voice. "You are stunning."
It's not much as far as words go, but Leo is just glad the sentence is verbalized without his voice cracking. A short laugh escapes Piper's mouth, and she pushes him lightly down onto the bed before untying her sash, allowing the robe to drop from her shoulders and pile unceremoniously on the floor beneath her feet.
Eloquence evades him anew as he takes in the deep V-cut of the red negligee, held in place by wisps of lace so delicate, he is certain it wouldn't take more than a breath to rip them in two. The sheer skirt grazes the apex of her thighs, and he's glad that he's already sitting on the bed, because he isn't sure his brain could have handled the focus it would have taken to make sure his legs continued to do their job. As he stares, a slight flush begins to creep into her face, and for the first time since she stepped into the room, the confident demeanour slips slightly.
"It's ridiculous, right? I was shopping with Paige a few months ago and she just would not shut up until I bought it-
"It's not ridiculous, Piper." He murmurs, "I can't believe, after all this time, you still can't see how absolutely beautiful you are."
She smiles again and steps toward the bed, standing directly in front of him and leaning down to teasingly nip his earlobe. "You've been taking care of me the last few days, and now it's my turn to take care of you."
A shiver of pleasure runs down his spine as her breath tickles his skin, but when he takes a close look at her face, now only inches from his own, apprehension supersedes the desire he felt only seconds ago.
"You're still sick." He says, his eyebrows furrowing in concern as he notes the slight glassiness of her eyes.
"I'm not." She insists honestly, and he's confused, because there is no hint of deception in her expression, yet there is no denying she doesn't look quite well.
She forces him back onto the mattress and begins toying with his belt buckle, but he's distracted now, unable to enjoy her motions when he knows she's keeping something from him. Something significant.
"Piper, wait." He gently removes her hands and kisses the tips of her fingers, "We don't have to do this tonight."
And he knows right away that he's said the wrong thing, because Piper all of a sudden looks as if she might cry. A knife twists in his stomach as her face, so recently alight with contentment, falls into ultimate disappointment, and he fights against his natural impulse to take it back; his innate instinct is to fix that disappointment, to make her happy, because seeing her happy makes him happy. And he might be crazy, turning down sex from the most beautiful woman in his world, but he can't give her what she wants when it so clearly goes against what her body needs right now.
A steely determination takes over her features, and she pushes him onto his back for the second time, much less gently. "Honey," she begins steadily, "We're doing this. And that is all there is to it. So you might as well stop worrying and enjoy it."
Then she straddles his hips, and deftly unties the ribbon that is – barely – keeping her decent. He tries to protest – although by this point, he is having difficulties remembering exactly why – but she presses the sweetest of kisses against his lips, and all coherent thought takes flight.
There is nothing frantic about their lovemaking; it is unhurried, tantalizing. Piper asserts control and rocks her hips so slowly against his, so gently, every touch and kiss is amplified to the nth degree until even she can no longer stand the pleasure and the pain of it.
When it's over, she collapses onto his chest, and there is less than a minute of breathless panting before she giggles and sets a playful kiss against his lips.
"Ready for round two?"
He stares at her incredulously, his chest continuing to heave up and down, and he groans when he looks into her eyes and sees that she is semi-serious. "A minute of recovery time would be nice."
"Come on." She whispers seductively, scooting down his body and pressing a line of kisses down his chest, "Play with me."
She grins in satisfaction as his body begins reacting to her touch, but he's not going to let her sidetrack him again. He rolls his eyes and pulls her body back up against his, enjoying the feeling of her cradled against his chest. He feels he could lie with her like this forever, but when she shivers slightly, he reaches for the comforter, which has been thrown carelessly to the floor, and tugs it over their bodies.
"What is up with you? You've been like RedBull personified all night."
Piper shifts a few millimetres backwards, just enough so that she can see his face, and his heart swells with love at the excitement shining in her large brown eyes. She tangles her legs within his, and forces her feet – which are cold as always, despite their workout – against his calves, stealing the warmth from his skin.
He waits patiently for her to speak, and she draws his limbs unconsciously tighter into her own as a large, slightly shy smile graces her face, "We're going to have another baby."
And his heart, he swears, for a second, abruptly stops beating. Because he is so accustomed to finding out from her sisters, it has never even occurred to him that being told by Piper herself, in the privacy of their own bedroom, bodies intimately intertwined, could make such a world of a difference. This is something entirely new.
"What?" His heartbeat resumes, and his face splits into a wide grin even as he asks the question; because he doesn't doubt what he heard the first time, but he wants to hear the words again. From her mouth.
"I'm sure, Leo." She assures, placing a hand on his cheek and brushing a kiss against his lips, "I saw the doctor today. That's why I've been acting like a mental patient; I didn't trust that I could keep it to myself around you. I almost spilled my guts like, four different times on the phone alone, and I wanted to wait until the right moment. I wanted everything to be perfect; I wasn't going to blow the one time I managed to figure it out before Phoebe. This was like my once in a lifetime opportunity."
"I know before Phoebe?!"
The words have tumbled out of his mouth before he can stop them, and he flushes slightly when she begins to laugh at the astonishment in his tone. He knows Phoebe doesn't know, couldn't know, or else she would have let it slip within ten seconds of entering the manor. It is then that he realizes why Piper so urgently needed to shower the moment she knew Phoebe was on her way; she was protecting her secret. She did it for him.
"I love you so much." He breathes.
The present point in time is perfect, and he hates that with every breath, he comes a step closer to it being over. He smiles again and shakes his head in disbelief, because right now, there are only two people in the entire world who know she's pregnant. He smiles because the lengths that she has gone to, in order to make this night special for him, is just as much of a gift as this baby.
As he holds her, all the little pieces fall into place; the reason she grew worse instead of better when she was sick, why her symptoms differed from the boys, the cause of her emotionality. Anyone else might have been able to read the signs, especially by the third pregnancy, but he – and apparently she as well – has taken for granted the way both her previous pregnancies were revealed long before she was far enough along to display symptoms. Besides, Piper has always been lucky, in both senses of the word; she has managed to carry two, now three, children, with the odds stacked against her conceiving even one, and she has cheated death more times than he is comfortable thinking about; conversely, she has a tendency to find poison ivy practically every time she ventures off a sidewalk, and it is an almost certainty that any minor wound she sustains will develop an infection of sorts if not promptly healed. Because of this, it came as a surprise to no one when her mild cold, passed on from a sick Wyatt, advanced to what they all assumed was a strenuous bout of the flu.
Then the perfect moment ends, and the all consuming joy vanishes as two words, two horrifying, nauseating words, flash to the forefront of his mind; toxemia. Hemorrhaging. Two premature births, both laden with complications, the last one very nearly costing them her life. And he's torn, because he's too selfish to not already love this baby, and too selfish to cope with the risk of losing his wife.
His grip around Piper tightens, and she immediately senses the change in his temperament, but he's squeezing her so hard she can't twist away to see his face. Her stomach turns once, then twice, but she doesn't want to move because she can feel the way Leo, for some reason, needs to hold her right now. So she doesn't complain, but when her mouth begins over-salivating faster than she can swallow, she knows she's fighting a losing battle; staying put is guaranteed to end in embarrassment, not to mention a mess.
"Leo?" she questions gently, but he doesn't hear her, and she stiffens anxiously as the probability of her throwing up in her own bed increases by the second, "Leo, now." She commands. The desperate tremor in her voice penetrates his conscious, and he's barely released her before she's out of the bed, across the room, and slamming the bathroom door behind her, pulling the comforter along with her.
Leo pulls two of the dresser drawers open on auto-pilot; he knows Piper doesn't like him hovering while she has her face in the toilet – her words, not his – so he keeps an ear tuned to her in case she needs him, and puts aside a pair of underwear, and a set of pyjamas for her to wear when she comes out. He winces as her dry heaving continues, but he respects her wishes and stays away from the door; instead, he focuses on finding a pair of pyjama bottoms of his own, and on trying to push those two words out of his head.
She exits the bathroom looking deathly pale, tired in a way she hadn't looked an hour ago, and his heart clenches, because it's starting already.
"Sorry." She smiles weakly, "I guess the baby took our little heart to heart seriously."
This grabs his attention, and Leo furrows his eyebrows and cocks his head to the side, waiting for the explanation.
"After I finished talking to you on the phone earlier, I told her she could make me as sick as she wanted for the next seven and a half months, as long as she behaved herself long enough for me to tell her daddy about her."
Despite himself, Leo smiles, "She?"
Piper smiles back sleepily, but doesn't comment, and soon they are back beneath the covers, her again in his arms, only the air is now thick with the tension of everything Leo can't say, won't say, to his wife. He isn't surprised when she turns to face him, because he is sure she has spent at least six of the past ten minutes pondering whether she should press, or wait for him to speak. The familiarity of Piper's compassionate nature warms his heart, even as a piece of it breaks when her exhausted eyes meet his. It's his fault she's so drained, and his fault she won't let herself fall asleep, and the list of things he feels guilty about is growing by the minute.
"What's wrong?" she asks softly, "I thought you were happy about this."
"I was. I am." He answers quickly, and it makes him sick to think that even for a second, he has made her doubt how much he wants this child.
"Then tell me what's bothering you." She rephrases with tender persistence.
"I can't lose you." Leo's deepest fear comes out gruffly, forced with thick emotion through a throat that grows constricted just from saying the words aloud.
"You're not going to lose me." Piper responds with an easy smile, and he doesn't know whether to hug her or shake her, because while he appreciates her attempts at comfort, her casual, confident attitude is a significant part of what has him so concerned in the first place. She is so sure that because she vanquishes demons, a little thing like childbirth can't possibly be where her life ends; too sure. She takes for granted that, by chance, she survived the last close call, and the severity of that situation has vastly diminished in her memory over the years.
"Go to sleep." He whispers, kissing the top of her head.
"Leo, I mean it." She frowns slightly, taking offense as always when she gets the impression that he is not quite taking her seriously. "I'm not going anywhere without you. Ever. I would raise so much hell Up There, they would have no choice but to send me back."
He gives her a half-hearted smile, because she's trying, so the least he can do is try too. "That's not quite how it works, Piper."
"That's not quite how it works now. Either they would change the rules for me, or I would find a way around them. It's not like they could threaten me with death."
He rolls his eyes, amused by her comment almost as much as he is amused by how easy it is to get her riled up, and he decides that he needs to pull himself together, because she isn't going to fall asleep until she believes he is okay.
"I don't doubt it, honey." He draws her back against his chest, his left hand creeping under her shirt and tracing circles over her stomach, "There isn't any demon or deity you haven't steamrolled at one point or another."
His teasing tone relaxes her, and she snuggles back into his embrace. "Get some sleep while you can, mommy. We both know we're not so good at making babies that actually sleep through the night."
She laughs, and he feels the last of her concern for him fade away, for now. Within a few minutes, she is breathing deeply, evenly, and Leo stands guard to make sure she stays that way. Because nothing bad can happen as long as he doesn't take his eyes off of her.
The irony is, she sees him as the innocent; the helpless mortal. The one who needs to be protected. She has been a witch for so many years, experienced so much loss because of it, that she has forgotten she isn't impervious to mortal perils. There are very real dangers existing in the "normal" world, however she has become so hyperaware of the demonic threats, she no longer takes active notice of the human ones. He wants to protect her, because that used to be his job, and the truth is he misses the way she used to rely on him; he misses feeling like a part of their team. But he can't protect her against this. And he hates knowing that if something human happens to her, anything from rare fevers to hemhorrages, there is no breaking the rules and healing her regardless of consequences. He is powerless to do anything but watch her die.
Leo's troubled musings continue for hours, drifting from the positive to the negative and back again; sometimes he smiles, because he is envisioning the perfect little girl he secretly desires. When Piper asks him whether he wants a boy, or a girl, he will tell her it doesn't matter, that he will love either. And it will be the truth, because how could he not, when he or she will be half of her? But to himself, he will picture the dark haired little girl, who will look at him with his wife's eyes and smile and believe he can do anything.
He pictures her with her older brothers, whom he is sure will pick on her mercilessly. He sees her giving as good as she gets; clever enough to avoid the games they knowingly manipulate so that she can never win.
He sees himself and Piper, the way they will be in seven and a half months; outnumbered. A zone defense required in place of the man to man routine they currently have down pat.
He sees himself with the little girl and the boys, but Piper is conspicuously absent from the picture, and he can't make his children happy because he can't be both of them. Because they need her, and he needs her, and with her gone, the family has lost its heart.
He sees himself with just the boys, and it makes him angry, because it means she has promised it will be okay, and he has trusted her, and then in the end he has lost them both. And it breaks his heart, because Wyatt and Chris will be too young to remember firsthand how much they were loved by her; she will fade from their memories, and he will have to remember for all three of them… only he doesn't know if he can bear it.
When he cannot stand to see any more, he carefully untangles himself from Piper and treads softly out of the room, leaving the door slightly ajar as he travels to the kitchen to put on the kettle. He burns himself twice; once, distractedly splashing the kettle water onto his arm, and again when he swallows the scalding liquid too quickly, but the tediousness of all his actions help restore a fragile composure. When he climbs back into their bed, he leans against the headboard and sips the hot tea slowly as he watches Piper rhythmically inhale and exhale.
Before he has finished a quarter of the cup, she flips over to face him, and while her eyes are cloudy with sleep, she is most definitely awake.
"I hate it when you do that." She mumbles groggily.
"Stare at me while I'm sleeping."
"Why, because that's your sole right?"
A hint of pink creeps into her face, and he allows himself to grin victoriously, because getting the upper hand against Piper is not something that happens often. Score one for Leo.
"You know about that?"
"Yeah," he admits with a laugh, "I know about that."
He wants to tell her to go back to sleep, to enjoy the rest she can get with the boys out of the house, since Wyatt and Chris will be waking Phoebe and Coop up at the crack of dawn for once instead of them, but he doesn't. More than all of that, he wants her company.
Piper sits up and puts her head on his shoulder, then she wordlessly takes his free hand in hers, locking their fingers together atop the blanket and squeezing lightly.
"Whenever you're ready." She says sincerely. Then she takes his mug with her free hand and steals a sip.
The unfeeling, cold, black of midnight has long since faded into a stern navy, but as they slowly, silently pass the mug back and forth, the array of shades begin shifting and dissolving so quickly, it is impossible to count them all. Finally, the soft, foggy blue of first light penetrates the curtains, and they both look up, startled, because the clock now reads 5:26AM. A wave of love washes over Leo as he stares at his wife, who has defied her very nature; patiently sitting in comfortable stillness for over an hour without once trying to speed things along.
He pulls his hand away from hers so that his arms are free to hold her body, and he shifts her closer as he works up the courage to try and explain.
"I'm scared." He whispers, moving a hand to cover her stomach, "I love you both so much, and I'm terrified."
"Me too." She answers calmly.
And it's strange to see their roles reversed; him the worrier, her the voice of reason. Yet it's not strange at all, because so much has happened to them, and they have each had to assume so many parts, sometimes it's hard to remember what role originally accompanied whom.
"…but I'm going to be careful, Leo. For both of us. Even if she has a shield. However little salt, or however much bed rest… I'll do it."
He shakes his head, "That's not it, Piper. I know that. I know the only person who can love this baby as much as I already do, is you."
Piper nods, "I would die for her."
He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, trying to clear that image from his head, "I don't want you to have to."
"Well, it wouldn't be my Plan A." she scoffs.
He smiles, even though it's not that funny. She's just so indignant, so practical, so Piper, he can't help himself. "You almost died giving birth to Chris."
"I've almost died doing a lot of things." She states carelessly, "You need to tell me exactly what's bothering you before it tears you apart. I can't help you unless you let me."
"Piper," he snaps tersely, his façade of serenity vanishing as he runs a hand through his hair, "That is what's bothering me. You've been maimed and killed and almost killed by demons more times than either of us can count, but you used to have me to heal you. And now you have Paige. Plus you have one hell of a power. But none of those things matter in the non-magical world; you've idealized the notion of a normal life to such a great extent that you've forgotten that the normal world carries dangers of its own; the effects of which not Paige, nor I, nor your powers, can reverse. You have no advantage, and I don't want you to die!"
It is so quiet in the bedroom, it feels as if Leo's last words are echoing across the walls. They sit still, both equally stunned by the intensity of his outburst, and Leo pulls away from her, embarrassed, and fiddles absently with a loose thread on the comforter.
She chews her bottom lip thoughtfully, regretting her previous choice of words, but grateful at the same time to get to the root of the problem. Because she knows she can't make it better for him, but she can give him back the words he gave to her what seems like a lifetime ago. She can give him back faith.
She pushes away the bedding and pivots so that she is sitting in his lap, face to face. She takes his hands and settles them on her hips, where they belong. Then she cradles his face lovingly in her own hands and wills him to look at her.
"Do you remember what you told me a few years ago, back when I was a complete mental case, after the Angel of Destiny brought you back?"
And he remembers, but he doesn't want to tell her. Because that was different. Because back then, it had been him, not her.
She ignores his silence, and loops her arms around his neck, "You brought up a series of close calls. Of times I was sure that there was nothing left. That we had finally pushed too far and reached the point where "us" was never going to happen again: our first wedding attempt, the Elder business, those stupid Avatars, the amnesia thing…" she rattles the list off easily, with frequent eye rolling, because it all seems like child's play now. Until she hits the last one. "…the Angel of Destiny."
She tries to mention it nonchalantly, but her voice catches slightly, and Leo knows it still hurts her to think about it. She is doing better, much better, but it will be a long time before she can speak about that period as casually as she can the others.
With an all but invisible shake of her head, she locks that experience back in its box and focuses her warm eyes back on his own, "You told me that it wasn't just luck, the way you always managed to come back. You said that no one in the universe is that lucky. You helped me believe that it was meant to be. That we are fated to be together. I still can't say I enjoyed any of it, but the fact is, all of those things helped lead up to this moment… and I very much like this moment. And I am thankful to you for helping me get to where we sit right now. Husband, wife, baby."
She leans forward, tightening her grip around his neck and continuing her speech quietly into his ear, "The Oroya fever…" her voice trails off and he looks at her in confusion as she pulls away, a thoughtful frown marring her features, "… you know, I was about to mention the whole, Shax, fiasco, but I just realized I don't even know the name of that dumb bitch who shot me."
Leo laughs and tightens his hold on her waist, because there is no denying Piper's way with words, and he feels his heart lift slightly in spite of himself. "Alice Hicks."
She rolls her eyes, "Leave it to you to remember something like that." Then she drops a tender kiss on his lips, and her expression grows serious once again, because she is determined to be as much of a rock for him as he has always been for her. "Alice Hicks, Rick and Nathan Lang, Zankou…Gideon."
She winces as she sees all traces of laughter leave his eyes, but it is necessary for her to mention the deranged elder, because he is indirectly the cause of Leo's fears. Because the bottom line is, Chris shouldn't have been premature, and it is possible his birth might not have been such a close call for both of them if she had carried him to term.
"It isn't your fate to lose me, just like it isn't mine to lose you. You need to trust that. You need to trust that our destinies are intertwined. They are going to end the same way they began; together."
And then she hugs him tightly, fully, her arms circling his neck at the same time as her legs loop around his back. And she is so soft, so warm, so loving, that for now, he lets go of his anxiety and pretends that there is nothing to think about outside of the scent of her shampoo. That there is nothing to feel outside of the weight of her cheek against his. He senses residual echoes of the fear, existing, thriving, gnashing its teeth wanting control, but she has relieved it for the time being, and at this present moment, that is enough.
"Promise me one thing."
"Anything." She immediately responds.
"I get to tell Phoebe about the baby."
She giggles into his neck and playfully bites his shoulder. "Poor Phoebe."
"Poor Phoebe?" he questions indignantly, "What about poor Leo? I cannot believe I've missed out on this experience twice."
"Alright," she gives in, holding her hands up in mock surrender, "if you're going to be such a girl about it."
He is all of a sudden exhausted; content, but way past the point of exchanging quips with his wife. In time with his thoughts, Piper climbs off his lap and stifles a yawn.
"You're happy?" she double checks.
"I'm very happy." He confirms.
She falls asleep more or less as soon as her head touches her pillow, and Leo smiles as he goes about the long practiced ritual of pulling the covers up to her neck, and drawing her body flush against his. He plants one last kiss on her cheek, and as the sun begins casting streams of golden light through the thin curtains, Leo Wyatt finally drifts into a deep sleep.