Gaspacho Is Not Tomato Soup

I'm sorry everyone for not posting for so long. Real life issues and a missing muse were the reason. I am currently attempting to finish Secret Aftermath, but until then, I give you this one shot fic, set in Season 4, where Piper, Phoebe and Paige are still learning to live with each other and without Prue. I just got inspiration for this story one day and had to put pen to paper. I hope you enjoy it.

It was just after one o'clock in the afternoon when Piper walked through the front door of the manor carrying a bag of groceries in her hand. She was completely exhausted and every bone in her body ached. She had been planning to leave the club early for a change the night before, but ended up having to close it down when not one, but two toilets in the ladies' room overflowed, and she stayed late to deal with the aftermath. It was just after 2:30am when she got home and she was up again by 8:00am so she could get back to P3 to let the plumber in. Business was slow at P3 these days as it was, and she was not happy to find out that the club would have to remain closed for the next couple of days while the plumber, who would probably overcharge her, repaired the damage. She rubbed her throbbing temples with her free hand as she walked through the house. She froze when she opened the kitchen door, her jaw dropped and her eyes went wide with shock.

"Oh my GOD!" Piper let the groceries drop onto the countertop beside her with a loud 'thud.' Her eyes narrowed and she growled as her shock quickly turned to anger. Then she did an about face, pushed the door open with such force that it flapped wildly back and forth behind her as she stormed through the house and up the staircase. "PAIGE!" She shouted out her sister's name loud enough to be heard in the next State.

Without bothering to knock, Piper opened Paige's bedroom door and barged in. Startled by the intrusion, Paige gasped and jumped up from her chair beside her easel. She dropped her paintbrush, staining the beige rug beneath her with a blotch of red paint, much to her older sister's dismay.

"What the HELL did you do to my kitchen?" There was fire in Piper's eyes as she glared at her sister accusingly.

Paige's surprise quickly turned to anger and she lashed out at her older sibling. "What the HELL gives you the right to burst into my room? Ever heard of knocking?"

"Ever heard of cleaning up after yourself?" Piper shot back.

"Well I was going to later. I haven't been able to paint in ages but I got some inspiration today and I had to act on it now."

Piper glanced at the rather abstract looking painting that looked to her like Paige had randomly spilled different colours of paint all over the canvas. "So you were what, inspired to make a painting that looks like the mess you left on the ceiling? For crying out loud Paige, the kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it! Those stains will never come off! What were you thinking?"

"I was trying to make Gaspacho. I want to cook for my date tomorrow night!" Paige snapped defensively.

Piper furrowed her eyebrows with confused disbelief. "Gaspacho? How in the WORLD did you manage to get it all over the ceiling?"

"Well, first, I sort of didn't put the lid on the blender properly so it flew off and the soup sprayed everywhere. Then it kinda blew up when it was cooking." Paige bit her lower lip and twisted her fingers together.

Piper slapped her forehead in despair. "Paige, Gaspacho is raw vegetable soup! It's supposed be CHILLED. You'd know that if you had bothered to check out a cookbook first!"

"Well…I…I've never been one to follow recipes. I like to do my own thing."

"Augh!" Piper put both palms on forehead and squeezed her eyes shut in frustration. When she opened them again, she glared at Paige and let her hands slap against her sides.

"Paige, I want that kitchen spotless by tonight, and don't think I am lifting a finger to help." Piper spun on her heel and walked away. She stopped when she reached the doorway and turned to face her half sister. "You know, I thought Prue was bad in the kitchen, but YOU top the cake."

The younger of the two siblings flinched as Piper slammed the door shut behind her. Her last words cut through Paige like a knife and her eyes filled with tears.

* * * *

Phoebe parked her Mini in the driveway outside the manor. She wanted a quiet lunch break away from the bustle of the Bay Mirror, and since she seemed to be suffering from a total lack of inspiration for her advice column, she was hoping that the change of environment would do her some good. Her hopes were dashed as soon as she opened the front door and heard the shouting. She rolled her eyes and sighed. She dropped her purse on the floor and headed up the staircase toward the noise. She could hear Piper's voice quite clearly.

Just as she got to the top of the stairs, she recoiled when she saw Piper slamming Paige's door shut and cringed when she saw her banging her own bedroom door shut behind her. "Oh dear," Phoebe mumbled to herself as she pondered over which sister she should talk to first. Paige answered the question for her when she came out of her room and ran right past her. "Paige, honey, wait-" Phoebe listened to Paige's thudding footsteps on the staircase.

Piper's door flew open suddenly, startling Phoebe and her older sister's shrill voice made her jump. "Paige, you had better be going downstairs to clean up the mess you made!" Piper growled in response to the sound of the front door opening and being banged shut and stormed toward the staircase, oblivious to Phoebe's presence. "Paige! You get back here right now!"

"Whoa!" Phoebe intervened, and stopped her big sister in her tracks by grabbing hold of the back of her t-shirt, causing her to squeal in surprise.

"Stop right there, lady!" Phoebe ordered.

Piper tried in vain to squirm her way out of her sister's grasp. "Where the hell did you come from and let go, damn it!"

"Nope," Phoebe shook her head firmly, "Not until you calm down and tell me what happened."

Piper looked at her sister with a combination of astonishment and irritation. "Haven't you seen it yet?"

"Seen what?" Phoebe asked, loosening her hold on her Piper's shirt.

Piper yanked her way out of Phoebe's grip and grabbed her younger sister's arm, pulling her down the stairs. "Come on."

Phoebe followed Piper all the way into the kitchen. "Oh!" Her jaw dropped as she took the state of it. "Was there a de-"

Piper quickly put her hand over Phoebe's mouth, muffling her words. "Don't say it, this day is bad enough as it is, don't make it worse."

"What happened here?" Phoebe asked.

"Paige's kitchen escapade, that's what." Piper began to explain what had happened. "She's only just moved in and she's already turned the place upside down!"

"Oh." Phoebe surveyed the damage. "Okay, but I heard what you said to Paige. Don't you think you were a little hard on her?"

Piper looked astonished. "Phoebe, look at the kitchen. It's a disaster area!"

"It is Piper, but did you have to compare her to Prue? You really hit a nerve."

Piper sighed. "I didn't mean to. It just came out that way. It's just so different without Prue around. I miss her so much and, and the kitchen is my sanctuary. Paige ruined it and I got angry."

"Sure, it's going to take awhile to clean up the mess, but it could be worse. It's only soup, and I'm sure Leo can do a quick paint job on the ceiling if necessary. We've had worse accidents happen in here. I know the kitchen is your sanctuary, but Paige doesn't."

Piper nodded in response. "I am a terrible big sister. Prue was the expert at that, not me."

Phoebe wrapped a comforting arm around her older sibling. "You're not a bad big sister at all, Piper. I think we're both too hard on Paige sometimes. We have to be more patient with her."

Piper sighed as Phoebe continued. "You know, before Paige moved in, I would head downstairs into the kitchen every morning, expecting to see Prue standing in front of the coffee machine, downing, oh, her third cup of the day already and complaining about me needing to get my backside out of bed earlier. Then my heart would sink when I walked through the door, only to find the kitchen empty. Paige has brought life back into manor. Whether you realise it or not, sweetie, she's helping us to move on."

Silence embraced the sisters as the older of the two pondered over her younger sibling's words. Piper nodded in agreement. "You're right, she is." Piper surveyed the damage around her. "But is it too much to ask for her to clean up after herself though?"

Now it was Phoebe's turn to sigh. "No, it's not. Paige should have cleaned up in here, but she's not used to sharing, let alone having sisters. Just give her a chance; it's going to take time. She needs us as much as we need her right now."

Piper smiled at Phoebe. "You make one heck of a mediator, you know."

Phoebe snorted and grinned. "Oh yeah imagine that, considering the number of times you had to stop Prue and me from killing each other."

The older Halliwell's smile faded and a look of guilt washed over her face. "I guess I should look for Paige and talk to her."

Phoebe nodded as she leaned against the counter, being careful to avoid the splotches of tomato that covered its surface. "Might be a good idea, because this mess isn't the only one that needs cleaning up," she said, lifting her hand when she felt a piece of cucumber beneath her palm.

Piper didn't have to look very far for her sister. It was a clear, mild day, and Paige was sitting on the front steps outside the front door. Piper thought she could hear her sniffling softly. "Hi, can I join you?" She asked cautiously.

Paige turned around and glanced at Piper, surprised to see her standing there. "What for – so you can take pity on the long lost half sister now?"

Her sister's remark stung Piper, but she shook it off and, taking a deep breath, she sat down next to Paige. "Okay, fair enough. I deserved that."

Paige showed her discomfort at Piper's close proximity and squirmed a little to make more space between them. "What do you want Piper? You've already made it clear that I'm a thorn in your side. It was a mistake moving in here. It would be better if I just leave."

"I was too harsh, I know. I'm sorry."

Paige remained quiet and unresponsive. Somehow, her half sister's words weren't enough to make the pain that Paige felt in her heart go away.

Piper sighed and closed her eyes and silently reprimanded herself for her feeble attempt to apologise to her sister. "I – we, want you to stay. I-"

"Why? I'm not your precious Prue," Paige interjected.

"You're right, you're not," Piper admitted.

Paige's face flushed red with hurt and anger. "Fine. I am so out of here." She made a move to get up but Piper put a hand on her shoulder and forced her to sit back down.

"Paige, please hear me out. Let me finish," Piper pleaded.

Paige sighed. "You have five minutes and then I'm so gone."

"Okay. It's a deal," Piper conceded. "What I was trying to say is that I don't want you to be Prue. I never wanted that. I never meant to compare the two of you, Paige. I shouldn't have been so hard on you." Piper looked down at the ground and kicked at a pebble. She watched it bounce down the steps and out onto the street. "I have to admit, I miss Prue more than you can imagine, and I've been dealing with my pain by spending time in the kitchen. I find it soothing in there, doing something that comes so naturally to me, and when I saw the state of it today, I flipped. I didn't mean what I said and I'm sorry I hurt you."

The expression on Paige's face softened as the older of the two continued. "I've been so wrapped up in my own pain that I haven't taken the time to think about what you must be going through. You've had a major change in your life too, and I never gave that any consideration."

"I should have been more careful in the kitchen," Paige admitted. "What can I say? I'm used to living alone and doing things my way."

Piper nodded sympathetically. "I know. We just need time to get used to each other. Paige, you're the best thing that's happened to us since we lost Prue. I just want you to be you, honey, and I want you to be happy."

Paige smiled softly and fought back tears. "You know, I never got to know Prue. All that time I spent at the club before I actually got to know you, and I never once even got to catch a glimpse of her."

Much to Piper's surprise, Paige had moved in closer to her and rested her head on her shoulder. The gesture made Piper's eyes water, but she dared not move a muscle for fear of spoiling the moment. "I know, honey, I know, but I can tell you anything you want to know about Prue and I'll share my memories of her with you any time you want." Piper decided to risk putting an arm around Paige, so great was her need to provide her sister with comfort, and she met with success.

"Thanks. I'd like that very much." Paige wiped away at the tears on her cheeks.

"I'm sorry about the remark I made about your painting. It was out of line. I wish I had half your talent." Piper added.

The younger of the two shrugged. "That's okay. It's not exactly my best work."

"So are we good now?" Piper queried cautiously.

Paige smiled. "Yeah."

"I'm glad you found us, sweetie."

"Me too," Paige admitted.

"Me three!" Phoebe chirped from behind them, holding a tray with three cups on it in her hands.

Paige turned to look and laughed. "How did you manage to make drinks in the warzone I left behind?"

"Very carefully." Phoebe winked, holding out the cups to her sisters and taking the last one for herself. She sat down next Paige and put the tray down on the grass. "So, everything okay?" Phoebe asked cheerfully.

"Yeah, we're good," Paige confirmed and took a sip of her tea. Piper nodded in agreement.

"Well, thank god for that." Phoebe breathed a sigh of relief.

"Uh, not that I'm not enjoying your company, but don't you have to get back to work?" Paige asked.

"Nah. I decided to take the afternoon off. I thought we could tackle the kitchen together. That way we'll get it done faster and have more time to do something fun, like go see a movie. What do you think?"

"Oh, I'm the one who made the mess. I should be the one to clean it up," Paige protested.

"Don't be silly, I think it's a good idea."

Paige was still feeling a little reluctant. "Are you sure?"

"Absolutely," Piper reassured her, "And Paige?"

"Yes?"

"Welcome to the family, sweetie."