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Title: My Heart Nearer to Thee
Rating: PG
Warnings: character death
Summary: When Phoebe's husband and son are abducted to a dangerous alternate universe, the sisters must travel across reality to save them.

*****

"Cole," Phoebe gasped, taking a step toward him. She stopped when he hefted the energy ball higher, glaring at her. She shook off Paige's hand when her younger sister grabbed her arm and tried to pull her back.

"Don't move," he repeated, coldly.

"Cole, it's me," Phoebe entreated, but he didn't look convinced.

"Prove it," he snapped.

"Prove it, how?" Phoebe demanded.

"What is our son's middle name?" Cole asked, after a moment.

"Ben," Phoebe told him, with a sad smile. "He said that it's after his grandfather, but we don't know which one, because he won't tell us if it's short for Bennett, or Benjamin."

Cole crushed the energy ball in his hand, and Phoebe hurled herself across the space between them to wrap her arms around him in a crushing hug. They were talking in low, quiet voices, and Cole was staring down at Phoebe like he was seeing the sun after a lifetime in the dark.

"That's why you and Nick didn't work out," Prue muttered in her ear, so as not to break the spell between the pair. "He never looked at you like that. Henry, though," she added, pointedly, and Paige rolled her eyes.

"Even in an alternate universe, you don't give up," she muttered back. "You're incorrigible."

"What are you two on about, over there?" Piper asked.

"Nothing," Paige said, hastily, shaking her head, minutely, at Prue when she glanced at her. She felt like a coward for hiding her past from her sisters for as long as she had, but she just couldn't bring herself to talk about it. Especially now, when they were trying to find Phoebe's missing son.

"Well, I don't want to break up the tender moment," Piper went on, "but do you think that this penthouse is the same as the one in our reality? Because my little darling has decided to amuse herself by kicking Mommy in the bladder."

"I'm sure she's not doing it on purpose," Paige protested, getting a look from Piper.

"After all the other stunts this kid has pulled from the womb," she remarked, "I wouldn't put it past her."

Paige chuckled as Piper left to hunt down the bathroom. Then, she shot Prue a sidelong look, a smirk twisting at her lips.

"You know," she commented, softly, "if I didn't stand for it when I was married to Nick, then what makes you think that Phoebe's going to stand for it, now?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Prue said, an innocent expression pasted on her face.

"You're about to march over there and protest Phoebe's marriage to Cole," Paige replied, and Prue flushed, guiltily. "I'm just warning you that it's going to fail, miserably."

"He's a demon," Prue muttered, stubbornly.

"Yeah, and I've already tilted at that particular windmill," Paige told her. "Phoebe's a big girl, and she's more than capable of making her own choices. She doesn't need us to protect her. Besides, Cole's a different guy. Human, now."

"That energy ball says differently," Prue reminded her. "How can he conjure energy balls if he's human?"

"Because as far as I can tell," Cole interjected, overhearing Prue, "that dagger I pulled out of the other Cole's chest was a power-absorbing athame. They're rare, and highly sought-after."

"Let me guess," Paige said, "it takes the powers of the victim and gives them to the one wielding the dagger."

"Or the one unfortunate enough to grab the dagger without knowing what it is," Phoebe finished, looking up at her husband. "So, you have the Source's powers, again?" she asked, clearly trying to hide the worry in her voice.

"No," Cole reassured her, quickly. "This Cole Turner was still Balthazar when he died."

"That's a nice explanation," Piper added, as she walked back into the room, "but it doesn't explain how Paige has powers, unless her alternate self really is dead." She and Phoebe both automatically flinched at those words, and then Piper glanced at Prue. "Which I'd love to hear about," she added, pointedly, "seeing as how you were so convinced that Phoebe and I were going to hurt Paige."

"Let's go in here and talk," Cole suggested, leading the way into the living room. "Because there are some things I need to tell you, too. But, Prue should go first."

He sat down on an oversized chair, Phoebe settling against his chest, and Paige took a seat on the couch next to Piper and Prue. She reached out to her oldest sister, twining their fingers together as Piper mimicked her action on Prue's other side. Prue looked slightly amused at their action, but it didn't stop her from holding on to her sisters.

"So," she started, hesitantly, "I'm going to assume that, up to a certain point, our realities were essentially the same. And I'm also going to assume that the divergence was when Shax attacked – when I died."

"You still died, here?" Phoebe asked, in a small voice, and on Prue's other side, Piper looked completely stricken.

"I did," Prue confirmed, quietly. "And it tore you – my Piper and Phoebe, I mean – apart. They couldn't handle my death, and they used every magical way they could to try and bring me back."

"So did we," Piper told her. "We're not so different, there."

"But, you are," Prue stressed, looking over at her. "Because when the spells in the Book of Shadows failed, they didn't just stop, and learn to live without me. They-" She broke off, shaking her head in disbelief. "I still can't-"

"What happened?" Paige prompted, gently, and Prue squeezed her hand, hard.

"Piper and Phoebe started looking at black magic to try and bring me back," she said, softly, her voice hollow. "And they found a spell that succeeded."

"What kind of a spell?" Piper asked, sounding like she really didn't want to know the answer.

"One that required a sacrifice," Prue said, nodding grimly when Piper and Phoebe gasped in shock. "Yeah."

"You're saying that our counterparts sacrificed an Innocent to bring you back to life?" Phoebe demanded, hoarsely.

"Not an Innocent," Prue corrected her. "They found out about Paige, and they invited her into their lives, their home, and then they killed her. She was the sacrifice that brought me back to life."

Piper looked horrified. Phoebe looked like she wanted to get sick. Paige shivered, thinking of how desperate alt-Piper and alt-Phoebe had to have been, to consider human sacrifice acceptable. Then, she remembered how desperate she'd been after Pax had disappeared, how, in her darkest moments, she'd been willing to do anything to get her baby girl back.

'I can understand where they're coming from,' she thought, wisely deciding not to mention that to her sisters. What she said, instead, was, "Thanks for saving me, and not-"

"Killing you?" Phoebe asked, faintly. "Well," she added, in a weak, joking tone, "there was that time you ran us out of milk-"

"That was Henry," Paige protested, getting a look from Piper.

"Yeah, and he practically lives at our house, half the time," she retorted. "Which means that you get to go shopping when he runs us out of groceries."

"I miss that," Prue said, wistfully, "fighting with my sisters like that."

"Maybe you will again, some day," Phoebe suggested, hesitantly, but Prue shook her head.

"Not after what they did," she said, softly. "No, my sisters are dead, and I don't know who those women are anymore."

"I'm sorry," Piper murmured, squeezing Prue's hand.

"How did you find out about it, though?" Cole asked, curiously. "I doubt that Piper and Phoebe would have just told you how they'd brought you back; they can't think that you'd approve."

"They didn't tell me," Prue answered. She looked down at her hands, a pensive look flashing briefly across her features. "They had some vague answer about a ritual that they found somewhere, and I just didn't question it. I guess I was just too happy to be alive. So happy that I couldn't be bothered to question anything," she added, bitterly. "Maybe if I had, Henry wouldn't have died."

"What happened?" Paige asked, almost afraid to hear the answer. "I saw his picture down at the station, but I thought it was his job. He always said that if he had to die, he wanted it to be because he was protecting someone he cared about."

"He was," Prue told her. "He was protecting me." When Paige looked curiously at Prue, she got a faint smile in return. "Henry was trying to find out what happened to Paige. After she disappeared, he started looking into things. He came to talk to Piper and Phoebe, because he knew that she had been going to talk to them the night of my funeral. He came to the Manor, but they weren't home."

"But, you were," Phoebe guessed, and Prue nodded.

"Piper had warned me not to go outside, avoid answering the door, that sort of thing," she replied. "She said that they weren't sure how their spell had affected my death, if it had reversed it, or erased all memory of it, or how it had affected the outside world. It sounded reasonable, and everything was so overwhelming, so I didn't mind staying indoors for a few days. But, I was up in the attic, and when I looked out the window, I saw Henry. And, normally, I wouldn't have answered the door, but it was Henry," she added, looking plaintively at Paige.

"What happened?" Piper prompted, gently, when Paige couldn't say anything.

"He was shocked to see me," Prue told her. "At first, anyway. After a couple of seconds, it was like he'd forgotten that I'd ever died, at all."

"An effect of the spell," Cole interrupted her. "I think I know the ritual they used to bring you back from the dead. It's an ancient spell, blood magic. It was created to resurrect the armies of the Source in times of battle, using the blood of their fallen foes."

"That's nasty," Phoebe commented, giving him a sidelong look.

"Well, I've never used it," Cole said, defensively. Then, he winced when he realized just what he'd inadvertently implied with his unspoken words. "Sorry, I didn't mean-"

"No offense taken," Piper told him, with a wave of her hand. "Phoebe and I are not the same people as this universe's Piper and Phoebe. We would never-" she added, pointedly, looking at Paige.

"I know," Paige said, cutting Piper off. "So, what happened with Henry?" she asked Prue.

"Like I said, he forgot that I'd died," Prue told her. "But, he seemed to remember when I reminded him, and he told me that Paige had been looking into my death. That she'd been coming to talk to Piper and Phoebe the day she disappeared. We started talking, and I realized that some things weren't adding up. Like how Shax could have been vanquished, if I was dead, why Paige would have gone missing from here – Henry and I went up to the attic, and in the old trunk, the one where Grams kept all her spell supplies, and I found a notebook. Piper and Phoebe had used it to document their ritual to bring me back."

"Do you still have it?" Cole asked, suddenly, and Prue nodded, a small frown creasing her features.

"It's at my apartment," she told him. "Why?"

"Call it professional curiosity," Cole told her. "Besides, their notes could be of some use."

"My apartment isn't safe," Prue warned him, but she gave him the address, anyway.

"I'll be quick," Cole promised, and then he shimmered out of the penthouse.

Continued here
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