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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 returned about fifteen minutes after he'd left, sporting a new set of bruises and holding a thin blue notebook in his hand. He tossed the notebook onto the coffee table as he rejoined Phoebe on the loveseat.

"Well, there are now two less demons in the world," he announced, while Prue picked the notebook up off the coffee table.

"Were you followed?" she asked, and Cole snorted in derision.

"Give me some credit," he told her. "I was a demon for nearly a hundred years. I know how to dodge a tail."

"How's my place look?" Prue asked.

"Not bad," Cole told her, "so long as you like having your things in about a million pieces." Seeing Prue's wince, he went on, "Once we've got Josh back, and we're out of here, you can stay here, if you want. Apparently my alternate universe counterpart was renting this place, and as far as I've been able to tell, the rent is paid for the next year. He most likely had to delve back into black magic to do it, but there's no reason you shouldn't reap the benefits."

"I think I've had enough of black magic affecting my life," Prue said, softly, a strange expression on her face. "But, thanks for the offer."

"You should take this place," Piper prompted, looking around. "I mean, if demons know about your old place, obviously it isn't safe, anymore-"

"I, um," Prue started, hesitantly, "I really don't think I'm going to need it. Not if we succeed in stopping Piper and Phoebe."

"What do you mean?" Paige asked, cautiously, and Prue looked down at the notebook she held in her hands.

"You might as well see it," she said, passing the notebook over to Paige. "And, I think I was in the middle of telling you guys what happened."

"You were just about to tell us how Henry died," Phoebe reminded her, gently.

"Are you sure you want to know about this?" Prue asked, speaking to everyone in the living room, even though her eyes were fixed squarely on Paige.

Paige couldn't answer; she wasn't sure that she really wanted to know the details of her best friend's death, but she knew that she had to know. Prue shot her a look, like she knew how Paige was feeling, but she continued with her story, after a moment.

"So, Henry and I went snooping around in the attic," she said, picking up where she'd left off. "We found Piper and Phoebe's ritual tools, and that notebook, and they documented the whole thing. In meticulous detail."

Taking the cue, Paige flipped open the first page and skimmed through Piper's neat handwriting. She felt herself grow pale as she read through the steps of the ritual.

"Yeah," Prue said, softly, seeing what she was reading. "Mom and Sam had a kid while they were sneaking around behind the Elders' backs," she quoted, from memory. "Leo says that the Elders think that she can be used to reconstitute the Power of Three. They're crazy if they think that this stranger is ever going to take Prue's place. She's never taking Prue's place. But maybe she can bring her back."

"They wrote down how they killed Paige?" Cole commented. "That's – disturbing."

"Henry was so angry," Prue said, and her voice was thick, like she was holding back tears. "And then Piper came into the attic, and he confronted her, and she-" Her voice cracked, and she rubbed wearily at her eyes. "She blew him up. He was telling her that she was going to pay for Paige's death, and she just-"

"Excuse me," Piper interrupted her, a hand clamped over her mouth as she bolted out of the room, headed for the bathroom. Phoebe looked like she wanted to join Piper in getting sick, clutching Cole's hand in a painful-looking grip.

Paige could feel herself shaking. She could see all-too-clearly the images that Prue's words had conjured up. She'd seen Piper blow up hundreds of demons without ever really thinking about it, but now every explosion was replaying in her mind in slow motion, every demon's face replaced with Henry's.

"That was when I took off," Prue said, quietly. "I'd just watched my sister turn into a monster, someone capable of murdering a good man in cold blood. I was dead to the world, I didn't have anywhere to go, anyone to turn to, but I ran away. I couldn't stay there, with them. The two people I'd cared about most were dead, and I-"

She trailed off, staring helplessly down at her hands. "They're my sisters," she whispered. "How could they do this? How could they think that I'd want to come back like this?"

Paige wrapped her free arm around Prue's shoulders, pulling her oldest sister down against her side. Prue dropped her head onto Paige's shoulder, heaving a weary sigh. When Piper came back from the bathroom, smelling strongly of mint and with a bit of toothpaste on the corner of her mouth, she reached out and grasped Prue's hand, squeezing gently.

"This ritual," Paige said, slowly, as she read through the notebook, "it used your Paige's death as the catalyst of your resurrection. But, if I'm reading this correctly, it's powered by Piper and Phoebe's magic."

"That's right," Prue said, softly, not moving from where she was pressed up against Paige.

"If we fight them," Paige went on, "they would try to kill us. Leaving us with very few options."

"Yeah," Prue agreed, tonelessly. "Kill or be killed, that's pretty much what we're looking at, here."

"But-" Paige protested, but Prue cut her off before she could continue.

"Let's just figure out what we're going to do to find Phoebe and Cole's son," she said, hastily, pulling away from Paige as she sat up on the couch.

She shot Paige a sharp look when she tried to continue, and Paige finally nodded, closing the notebook so that she didn't have to look at the incriminating evidence, any longer. The ritual that had brought Prue back to life, the one that was even now being powered by Piper and Phoebe's magic, it would end if anything interrupted their magic, like their deaths. And when the ritual ended, so would Prue. If they succeeded in stopping their evil alternate selves, Prue was going to die, again.

'And this time,' Paige thought, glancing over at her sisters, 'we'll be the ones killing her.'

But, she could tell from the look on Prue's face that she didn't want Piper and Phoebe to know. Knowing Prue, she probably didn't even want Paige to know, but then she had handed over the notebook in the first place-

Paige was drawn out of her thoughts by the sound of Cole's voice, and she tuned in to hear what he was saying.

"It's been a week since Josh was taken," Cole was saying, and Phoebe stared at him in horror.

"A week?" she echoed, incredulously. "It can't be – it wasn't even an hour, back home."

"It's been a week," Cole echoed, and when she looked closer, Paige could see every second of stress lined on his face. "I've been trying to find Josh, but the Underworld is enormous, and I've never been very good at tracking skills. Plus," he added, a dark look coming over his face, "I've had to spend the week trying to avoid being vanquished by your alternate selves. I've had more than a few close calls."

"Do you have anything of Josh's? Something with a personal connection?" Paige asked him, but Cole shook his head, regretfully.

"We've spent the last five months hopping from one reality to another," he reminded her. "We haven't really had a lot of time to accumulate belongings."

"Blood it is, then," Paige declared. "I assume there are knives in the kitchen?"

Without waiting for an answer, she got up and went into the kitchen, grabbing a small, sharp knife from the wooden block on the counter. Opening a few cabinets, she took a few seconds to admire the alternate Cole's preparedness. He'd collected more than enough potion ingredients before his death that she had a very well-stocked supply to work with.

She gathered the ingredients that she needed from the cabinets, loading her arms up as she headed back into the living room. A second trip took care of the rest of the ingredients. Setting everything on the low coffee table in front of the couch, she reclaimed her place next to Prue and held the knife, handle first, out to Cole.

"What's that for?" Cole asked.

"You have your tracking spells," Paige told him, "I have mine. Hold onto that; I don't need blood, yet."

Cracking the plastic lid on the distilled water she'd taken from the kitchen, she carefully poured until the low, shallow bowl sitting in the middle of the table was half full. She shredded the rosemary by hand, sprinkling it into the water, and then she added the lavender, thyme, burdock shavings, and nearly a dozen other ingredients. Then, she nodded at the bowl.

"All right," she said, looking at Cole and Phoebe. "I want at least three drops of blood from both of you."

"This isn't a spell from the Book," Phoebe commented, as she pricked her finger and let the blood fall into the water and herb mixture.

"That's because it's not in the Book, yet," Paige admitted. "I'm kind of making this up as I go. I took elements of the spell to call a lost witch, and the blood to blood summoning spell, and I combined them with a modification of a potion I found in a book of Druidic magic; the original was used to induce visions."

There was a silence, and then Piper asked, dryly, "So, you're saying that we need to find you a life before you wind up rewriting the Book of Shadows?"

"I think it's a little late for that, actually," Paige replied, distractedly, as she stirred the potion with her finger. Nine times clockwise, and then she let the water settle into stillness. "Hey, Prue?" she asked, looking over at the older woman, "there's a spell, and more power can't hurt-"

"Like I'm going to pass up the opportunity to work some magic with my baby sister," Prue replied, a teasing tone in her voice. "What's the spell?"

Paige scrawled the words on a clean page of the notebook, and Prue studied the spell for a moment. Then, the two of them started chanting, softly.

"Powers of the witches, rise,
Show us who we wish to find."


"You know," Prue commented, "rise and find don't really rhyme."

"Next time, you can work magic on the fly," Paige grumbled."Besides, it's working, isn't it?"

And it was working, the water in the bowl swirling into a small cyclone that actually rose up into the air above the lip of the bowl before falling back down with barely a splash. As the water stopped moving, an image started to form in the middle of the bowl, of a young boy huddled against a rocky wall. There was a bruise on his cheek, and an utterly miserable look in his eyes, but he was alive.

"That's him," Phoebe whispered, tears choking her voice as she stared down at her son. "Oh, Josh."

"But, that could be anywhere," Cole argued. "The Underworld is enormous. Without any kind of landmarks-"

"That's where the scrying comes in," Paige told him. "Now, if I understand the Underworld correctly, it's more or less analogous to real world measurements, right? If I orbed straight down from this spot, I would wind up in a section of the Underworld that corresponds with it, right?"

"That's roughly how it works, yeah," Cole replied. "When demons were first banished from this world, they carved out the Underworld in an imitation of the only world they'd known. They keep doing it, now, because it's the easiest way to keep track of locations in this world."

"Got a map?" Paige asked, and Cole got up, retrieving scrying components from an ornate chest nestled against the wall.

Paige nudged the bowl to the side of the table as Cole spread the map out, accepting the crystal that he held out to her. She dipped the rough chunk of quartz into the bowl, letting the magic from the potion seep into the crystal, and then she held it out over the portion of San Francisco that the map was open to.

"Most likely," she said, as she let the crystal swing free, "Piper and Phoebe kept him in the portion of the Underworld that corresponds to the Manor. It's their base of power aboveground, and they probably wouldn't want to travel very far away from it."

"Plus," Cole added, "the Source's chambers are located almost directly below the Manor."

"You're kidding, right?" Piper asked, incredulously, a comment that was quickly echoed by Prue.

"Think about it," Cole pointed out. "You've got the Nexus under the Manor, and even though its magic is primarily controlled by the forces in control of the Manor, there's a kind of – trickle, for lack of a better word – a trickle of magic that constantly flows downward and seeps into the area around it. And, of all the nexuses in San Francisco, this one is the strongest, since your family has had control for over one hundred years, and their magic has fed the Nexus."

"That's creepy," Phoebe commented, "and I think I could have lived the rest of my life without knowing that the Source is almost literally our next door neighbor."

"And, yet," Prue replied, "he's still not as annoying as that guy who lived next door when we were kids, and he blasted rock music every day at three in the morning while he welded his scrap metal art together."

Paige chuckled at the image that brought to mind, and then she got serious, again, when the crystal dropped onto the map.

"I think I found Josh," she announced, and a hush fell over the room.

"How sure are you?" Phoebe asked, a barely restrained urgency in her voice.

"Well," Paige cautioned, "there's always the chance that your blood honed in on your alternate self. But, since this is using the same potion we found Josh with the first time, I'm fairly confident that it's him."

"Where?" Cole asked, sharply.

"A little bit up the street from the Manor," Paige replied, checking the map.

"Which means right near the Source's chambers," Piper said. "I guess they wanted to keep him close."

"Well, ladies, and gentleman," Prue said, into the silence that followed Piper's comment, "we have a rescue to plan."

Continued here
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