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[personal profile] sara_wolf
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.

*****

If she'd had her choice, Paige would have much rather orbed into the alternate universe's Manor, rather than been transported there by a spell. Her sisters insisted that there wasn't a difference, but Paige knew differently. Orbing just felt different than other means of magical transportation, familiar in a way that the others weren't. She knew, instinctually, how her body moved through space after being broken down into light photons, knew how she was going to land. It was as integral a part of her as breathing.

But, with the other methods, there was none of that certainty. She'd travelled by flame, once, when Cole had been possessed by the Source, and had been trying to torture her into insanity. And aside from the naturally-bad associations that came from any memories of that time, she'd never managed to get over the feeling that she was being burned alive. When possessed by Isis, she'd travelled with Jeric in a whirlwind that had felt like she was being ripped apart. And, spells made her nervous because there was always the chance that a single, mispronounced syllable was going to have her emerging from the ether with her nose sticking out of her shoulder.

Not to mention, other methods of teleportation left her with her head spinning, a disorientation that always took a couple of seconds to shake off. And those couple of seconds nearly cost them their lives.

She caught a flash of something out of the corner of her eye, and she reacted instinctively, grabbing Piper and bodily shoving her pregnant sister behind her. Then, her vision cleared and she saw a huge, hulking demon standing in the middle of the attic.

"Whitelighter!" the demon spit at her, an enraged look on his face.

He summoned an energy ball into the palm of his hand, and from behind Paige, Piper flicked her hands out to blow him up. Then, she stared in confusion from her hands to the still-intact demon.

"What the hell?" she muttered, stunned.

"Energy ball!" Paige snapped, and then she blinked in shock when nothing happened. "Oh, shit."

She wrapped a hand around Piper's arm, dragging her to the ground. Phoebe, next to them, had also hit the floor, her palms smacking into the floor with a painful thud as she caught herself. Paige lunged toward Phoebe as she saw the demon forming another energy ball in his hand, and without letting go of Piper, snagged Phoebe's sleeve and orbed them out of the attic.

They rematerialized in a dark room, and Paige blinked as her eyes adjusted, realizing that they were in the back room of P3. Or, at least what used to be P3's back room. From the layers of grime that covered every surface, it was clear that no one had been there in a while.

"It looks like a tornado hit in here," Phoebe commented, as they stood up and picked their way across the debris littering the floor.

"Maybe in the alternate universe, Piper's a slob," Paige teased, lightly, grabbing the doorknob and pulling the door open. Then, they stepped out into the main part of the club, staring in amazement at the utter disrepair that the nightclub had fallen into.

"What happened to my club?" Piper shrieked, and Paige winced, covering her ears with her hands.

"Tone it down a little," she suggested, as they made their way out onto the dance floor, in front of the stage. Piper stared at the hole in the middle of the stage, and then she whirled around to take in all the damage.

"How – why – what?" she spluttered, indignantly.

"Nouns, sweetie," Phoebe spoke up, as she righted a couple of chairs and dusted them off. "Nouns are our friends."

"And verbs, and adjectives-" Paige added, ducking when Piper grabbed a chunk of drywall and chucked it at her. "Okay, seriously, chill."

"You chill," Piper groused at her, grumpily. "Look at my club!"

"To be fair," Phoebe pointed out, "this isn't really your club. We're in an alternate universe."

"I don't care," Piper told her. "Alternate universe or not, I would never walk away from P3. I'd have to be dead, or evil, or – scratch that last one. Even evil needs money, and the club is doing pretty good, these days. It would probably make a pretty good cover-"

"Would you focus?" Paige sighed, in irritation. "I think we have some more important matters than your club in ruins."

"Like what?" Piper muttered under her breath, looking mournfully around the club.

"How about getting you out of here?" Paige replied. When Piper shot her a sharp look, Paige went on. "You don't have any powers. That means the baby doesn't have any powers."

"That means you're not invincible, anymore," Phoebe realized, a horrified look crossing her face.

"And we're not putting you and the baby in danger," Paige finished for her. "You, missy, are going home. Phoebe and I can do this alone."

"What if you need the Power of Three?" Piper asked, a challenging note in her voice.

"Well, then we're screwed, with or without you," Phoebe shot back. "Because, we don't have the Power of Three, either way. Paige is right. We're getting you and your daughter out of here, back where you'll be safe."

"What we?" Paige muttered, under her breath, shooting Phoebe a look. "You don't have any powers, either."

"All right, fine," Phoebe retorted. "This is your show." She gestured, expansively, at Piper. "Have fun."

Paige stuck her tongue out at Phoebe, and then frowned as she looked back at Piper. Snatches of spells ran quickly through her mind, but she wasn't sure what she should use. The spell they'd used to bring themselves to the alternate universe had a specific counter, but it was also meant to be performed in a specific way. The reversal spell was meant to be cast by someone on the other side, not by the person who'd used the original spell. But, maybe with some tweaking…

"Return to home," she muttered, trying to see how the words sounded. "No longer roam-"

"What are you doing?" Phoebe asked, and Paige shot her a sharp look.

"Brainstorming," she retorted. "Shush." She paced a small circuit as she ran through different lines in her mind, seeing what worked and what didn't. After a few minutes, she thought she might have something. "All right, let's do this."

"That was quick," Phoebe commented.

"Walking Wiccan encyclopedia," Paige reminded her. "Piper, you ready?"

"To leave you guys alone to face God only knows what?" Piper asked, rhetorically. "No, and I think splitting us up like this is stupid."

"Your opinion is noted," Paige replied. "However, as the two of you have delighted in reminding me over the last year and a half, majority rules. You've been outvoted, and you're just going to have to deal with it." Turning to face Piper, Paige took a moment to clear her mind, and then she started chanting her revised spell.

"Return my love,
To the place called home.
Through time and space,
No longer may she roam."


Glowing, white lights obscured Piper from view, but when they faded, she was still standing there. Paige scowled, chanting the spell again, before anyone could say anything. Still nothing.

"Okay," Phoebe said, into the silence that followed, "I guess you're not going home, after all."

"I don't get it," Paige groused. "That's a good spell. It's concise, it's specific-"

"Sweetie, there are any number of reasons that spell didn't work," Phoebe said, consolingly. "We're in an alternate universe, you're under stress, and like it or not, your powers aren't at one hundred percent, either. You couldn't orb that knife in the attic, remember?"

"But you could still orb us," Piper realized, slowly. "Why? If we don't have any powers, how do you still have yours?"

"Well," Phoebe suggested, "I don't know if it works the same way, but when we went back to the past, our younger selves had powers, but we didn't. We figured that it was because only one version of us could have powers at the same time, remember?"

"So, what?" Paige asked, confused. "I don't exist in this universe?"

"I'm sure there's another explanation," Piper said, hastily. "I mean, where would you be? No, there's got to be some other reason you've got powers."

"That still doesn't explain the discrepancy in your powers, though," Piper pointed out.

"Yeah, it does," Paige replied. "Whitelighter versus witch," she told her obviously-baffled sisters. "I've had my Whitelighter powers, or orbing at least, for years. But I didn't really start the witch stuff until I met you guys."

"That's it, then," Piper declared, triumphantly. "You never reunited with us, therefore you never got your witch powers – which explains why you couldn't send me home. You weren't casting spells before you met us, either."

"But, if alternate-Paige is still alive," Phoebe interrupted, "then how does our Paige still have her powers? If there are two Paiges walking around-"

"You're ruining my theory," Piper sniped, glaring at Phoebe. "Paige is not dead, all right? She just isn't. I won't accept anything else."

"I'm just saying," Phoebe muttered, but she subsided at a dark look from Piper. "Okay, so that's one question partially answered. Next question, why are there demons in the Manor?"

"Well," Piper said, "the most logical answer is that Cole and Phoebe – the evil versions, at any rate – took over the Manor to gain control over the Nexus."

"What Nexus?" Paige asked. "I read in the Book about nexuses being places of spiritual power-"

"And the house is sitting right on top of the strongest one in San Francisco," Piper finished for her.

"And there's a demon that lives inside," Phoebe added, "but, don't worry, we're safe so long as Good controls the Nexus, and no one releases the demon."

Paige stared at her sisters in disbelief. "Neither of you," she said slowly, "could think to mention this at any time during the last year and a half? What, the fact that a dangerous magical entity lives under the house just wasn't relevant?"

"We're sorry," Phoebe muttered, sheepishly. "You're right, demons in the house are kind of a need-to-know situation."

"Kind of?" Paige repeated, incredulously, but she was willing to let the matter drop. For now, anyway.

"Okay, well, Phoebe and Cole are in control of the Manor; that still doesn't explain where you and I are," Piper spoke up, to Paige.

"Hopefully," Paige answered, "holed up somewhere, fighting Phoebe. No offense, honey," she added, glancing over at her sister.

"None taken," Phoebe reassured her. "No, you're probably right."

"Well, right or not," Piper said, "we're never going to figure anything out just standing here. We need to get out there, and we need to get some answers."

"And then we need to find Cole and Josh," Phoebe said. "No matter what else, I want my husband and my son back."

"And we're going to get them back," Piper told her, immediately.

"Yeah," Paige echoed. "No matter what, Pheebs, Cole and Josh are coming home with us. No matter what."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXX

After they left the club, the three of them headed for the precinct where Darryl worked. If they couldn't get answers from the Manor, and from their alternate selves (and Leo wasn't answering their calls), then they'd get answers from Darryl and Henry.

The precinct was noisy and crowded, and Paige could barely hear herself think. She hung back as Piper and Phoebe went to the front desk to ask about Darryl, looking around to see if she could see Henry. She looked for him in the crush of bodies moving around the bullpen, but she didn't see him. What she did see was his picture on the wall, and she moved across the room, a sinking feeling growing in her gut as she took in the rest of the pictures.

Each neatly-framed picture had a name matted underneath, and a range of dates. Paige's eyes flicked across the pictures, taking in names that she remembered Henry talking about, names of officers that had fallen in the line of duty. Then, slowly, reluctantly, she looked at Henry's picture.

'Officer Henry Mitchell. August 5, 1977 – May 21, 2001'

Paige blinked back a sudden rush of tears, trailing her fingers lightly across the glass covering Henry's picture. She could feel herself shaking, and she bit down, hard, on the inside of her cheek to keep herself under control. When a hand dropped onto her shoulder, she jumped, turning around to see Piper and Phoebe standing behind her.

"Darryl's out on a case," Piper started, but then she stopped, taking in the look on Paige's face. "What's wrong?"

"Piper, look at the picture," Phoebe said, before Paige could reply.

Piper looked, and then a sympathetic expression flashed across her face. "Oh, sweetie," she said, quietly, "I'm so sorry."

"I guess you were right about me being gone," Paige told her, trying to muster up a weak smile. "Because I would die before I let anything happen to Henry, and he's-"

She broke off, unable to finish her sentence, and Piper wrapped her arms around her in a tight hug.

"I'm so sorry," she repeated, as Paige clung to her, briefly.

"Thanks," Paige replied, scrubbing at the tears on her cheeks to dry them. "Um, did you guys find Darryl?"

"He's working on a case," Phoebe told her. "The desk sergeant gave us an address. Are you ready-"

"Let's get out of here," Paige said, hastily, turning away from the wall of photos.

The three of them went outside the station, ducking into the alley along the side of the building. Paige slung her arms over Piper and Phoebe's shoulders, orbing them to the address that Phoebe had gotten. Piper gave her a sidelong look when they materialized in the middle of a sidewalk, but Paige just shot her a grin when a uniformed officer passed by them without even blinking.

"Leo taught me a Whitelighter's trick for orbing to a charge in public," she explained. "No one's going to be able to see or hear us for a couple of seconds."

"Handy," Phoebe commented, as they set off down the street toward where Darryl was supposed to be. "So, Darryl's supposed to be investigating a woman who was murdered in her apartment. Here," she added, nodding at the building in front of them.

They went inside the building, riding the elevator to the third floor where Darryl was. The door to apartment three-eighteen was wide open, and they could hear voices coming from inside the apartment.

"-shouldn't be here! I don't care if you can help me with this case."

"Don't be so stubborn, Darryl. There's no one else around; who's going to see me?"

Paige froze at the sound of the familiar, beloved voice. She looked over at Piper and Phoebe, seeing the same, shocked looks on their faces that she was sure had to be reflected on hers.

"It can't be," Piper whispered, staring at the open doorway.

Slowly, they crept forward and peered into the apartment. They could see Darryl standing over a large bloodstain in the beige carpet. A woman with long, dark hair was beside him, her back to the doorway. The pair was still arguing, and the woman turned toward Darryl, her face coming into profile as she moved, and Paige could feel her breath catch in her throat.

"Oh, my god," Piper said, from beside her, a stunned look on her face. "Prue?"

Continued here
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