Disclaimer: Everything recognizable from Charmed is not mine, and I am making no money from this. It is the property of Aaron Spelling and Co.
Author's Note: Don't let the title fool you; this is the original version of Down the Twisted Path. I know I said that I was taking it down, but I'm reposting because I've been getting a lot of requests for it. And this time, it's staying up. I changed the title (back to the original, actually) so that it won't get confused with the new-and-improved version of DTTP (to be posted god-only-knows when). I'll be posting in parts, because I'm putting this up in my spare time.
For Gossamer, the prequel to the revamped series, go here: s/7943163/1/Gossamer
Chapter One: The Legend of Sleepy Halliwell
Piper looked around the play room where Wyatt and about a dozen other babies and toddlers were playing. Some were in groups, some were with their parents, and her little angel was sitting under the window, playing with blocks.
"Wyatt doesn't have any siblings, does he?"
Startled, Piper whipped her head around to stare at the woman speaking to her.
"Excuse me?" she asked.
"Wyatt is an only child, isn't he?" the woman asked.
"Well, yes, but how did you know?" Piper asked, frankly puzzled as to what this woman was doing butting into what was clearly none of her business.
"Well, he doesn't play well with others," the woman continued, oblivious to Piper's amazed look.
"He's not even a year old yet," Piper protested, while a little voice in the back of her mind wondered why she was even talking to this woman.
"The sooner you start, the better," the woman said brightly. "And good socialization skills are what get a child into the best schools."
"Oh, you mean preschools?" Piper asked.
"No," the woman said. "I mean schools like Harvard and Yale. Don't tell me you haven't signed Wyatt up for preschool, yet."
"No," Piper said. "I thought I still had a few years."
"Well, to each his own, I guess," the woman said airily, "but I had my little Jasper signed up for Hoskins preschool as soon as I found out I was pregnant."
"How nice for you," Piper muttered, looking wildly around the room for an escape. Seeing Paige and Phoebe walk through the door, she hurried to their side.
"Thank God you're here," she said. "That woman was going to drive me nuts!"
"Sorry we took so long," Paige said, shrugging out of her coat and slinging it over her arm. "Traffic was just awful."
"Yeah," Phoebe said. "Some women were blocking the street, staging a protest for the right to breast feed in public."
"How do you even protest something like that?" Piper asked.
"Naked, apparently," Paige said, shaking her head in disgust. "But we're not here to discuss local politics."
"Why are we here?" Phoebe asked. "Not that I mind being here, but I just blew off a staff meeting to come. And I can't keep doing it, or Elise is going to fire me."
"Elise would never fire you; you're too valuable to the paper," Piper assured her. "And you're here because the play group is having a family day. Leo's out of the picture, so you guys are it."
"Gee, sis, we love you, too," Paige said sarcastically.
"Leo's not out of the picture," Phoebe protested. "He's around all the time."
"He's around for Wyatt," Piper corrected her. "But he's not going to be able to be around for school and all that stuff."
"Well, in that case, let's be the ideal family, with or without Leo," Paige said decisively. "What?" she asked, catching Piper's look.
"Nothing," Piper said. "It's just, how do I know I'm doing the right thing for Wyatt?"
"What are you talking about?" Phoebe asked.
"Just look at Wyatt," Piper protested, gesturing at her son.
"He's playing," Paige said.
"By himself," Piper emphasized. "I'm a terrible mother. I'm raising an antisocial child!"
"That's ridiculous," Phoebe told her.
"Phoebe's right," Paige said. "You are not a terrible mother, Piper, trust me."
"And don't you think you're being a little paranoid, anyway?" Phoebe asked.
Piper looked back at Wyatt just in time to see him orb out of his corner.
"No," she said, plaintively.
Piper and her sisters orbed to where Paige had sensed that Wyatt had gone, and found him standing in the middle of an alleyway.
"Wyatt Matthew Halliwell!" Piper scolded, hurrying over and picking him up. "That was a very bad thing to do!"
"I think Wyatt's misbehavior is the least of our problems," Paige said from behind them, sounding faint.
Worried, Piper started toward Paige, but she snapped back to attention and shook her head violently.
"No!" she barked, spinning to block the view of what held her attention. "Don't bring Wyatt over here. He doesn't need to see this."
"What's wrong?" Phoebe asked, joining her. Then, she gasped in horror and her hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, my God."
Staring at the headless body lying carelessly in the alleyway, she felt the bile rising in the back of her throat.
"Yeah," Paige agreed, quietly. "Look, I'll call Darryl. You and Piper go home and hit the Book. You need to find out what kind of demon could have done this."
"How do you know it was a demon?" Phoebe asked, keeping her voice quiet.
"I don't think Wyatt orbed here by accident," Paige replied. "We were meant to find this. Now, we need to stop it from happening again."
"One more question," Phoebe said. "Just how are Piper and I supposed to get home without you? I doubt Wyatt could orb us both back to the Manor."
"Give me a second," Paige told her. "Oh, and, I'm sorry in advance about the landing."
Gesturing at Phoebe to stand over by Piper and Wyatt, she closed her eyes in concentration and breathed deeply, forcing herself to relax.
Calling out "Home!", she waved her hand and watched her sisters orb away.
Taking out her cell phone, she turned back to the body and shook her head sadly.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"Ow," Phoebe whined from her place on the floor. Looking up at Piper, she continued, "Why'd you land on the couch?"
"Because I'm the one holding the kid," Piper pointed out logically. "Did you know that Paige could do that?"
"You mean, remotely orbing us here?" Phoebe asked. "Well, it's what she did to Excalibur. She's probably just been practicing."
"Probably," Piper agreed. "I'm going to go put Wyatt down, and then I want you to tell me what you saw in that alleyway."
"I'll be in the attic," Phoebe told her.
Piper carried Wyatt upstairs to his room and laid him in his crib, covering him gently with a blanket.
"Sleep tight," she whispered, kissing his forehead before walking to the door. Continuing on to the attic, she found Phoebe poring over the Book of Shadows.
"Find what you're looking for?" she asked.
"No," Phoebe said, exasperated. "How's Wyatt?"
"He's fine," Piper told her. "What did you see in the alley that you couldn't tell me about before?"
"There was a headless body not twenty feet away from Wyatt," Phoebe said quietly.
"Oh God," Piper breathed. "If he'd seen that…" Her voice trailed off in horror at the thought.
"Paige actually thinks that Wyatt orbed there purposely," Phoebe said. "That we were meant to find the body."
"It was a demonic attack?" Piper asked.
"Paige thinks so," Phoebe said. "That's why we're here, checking the Book for possible suspects, and she's dealing with Darryl."
Shooting the Book a dirty look, she added, "I hope she's having better luck than we are."
"How do you know for sure that a human didn't do this?" Darryl asked Paige, speaking in an undertone.
"Because humans usually aren't capable of beheading a person with a single blow, Darryl," Paige told him, just as quietly. "If this isn't demonic, what is it?"
"A person high on drugs, especially ones like PCP," Darryl said.
"A drug addict commits a senseless and extremely violent act of murder while under the influence, but has the uncanny sense to hide the murder weapon and obliterate any traces of himself?" Paige asked rhetorically.
"So it's demonic," Darryl conceded. "What are you going to do?"
"Wait until your group is done here, and then find something to scry with, or for Phoebe to get a premonition off of," she replied.
"Just make sure it's nothing conspicuous," Darryl hissed. "You don't want… please go over what happened, once more, Ms. Matthews," he said quickly, as another cop walked over. "For the record."
"Like I said, I was just walking along when I heard a noise coming from down here," Paige said, improvising quickly. "It sounded like a puppy, so I went to check it out. That's when I found this poor fellow."
"You thought you heard a puppy?" the officer asked, incredulity written on his face.
"Oh, yes," Paige babbled earnestly, hoping to scare the man off. "I'm a sucker for lost animals; just ask anyone. Why, I've practically got a whole menagerie at home that I've rescued. I'm probably up to one or two dozen, now."
"That's nice," the officer said, shooting Darryl a look.
"I think I can handle her," Darryl said, sharing a knowing look with the officer. "Why don't you go back to the scene?"
"You got it, Lieutenant," the officer replied, walking gratefully away.
"Handle me?" Paige asked, raising an eyebrow.
"You know what I meant," Darryl replied, tiredly.
"Right," Paige said, sobering instantly. "So, how soon till they're done?" she asked, gesturing to the forensics team. "The sooner we can start our own investigation, the sooner this stops."
"It shouldn't be too much longer," Darryl assured her. "Just be patient."
"I just can't help but think that this demon could be out there killing someone else," Paige said. "I hate the thought that another Innocent could be losing their life while I'm just sitting here, not able to do a thing."
"Welcome to a cop's world," Darryl told her, sadly.
Half an hour later, the forensics team finished their investigation and left the scene, leaving Paige free to do some investigating of her own. She searched the area meticulously, looking for anything that might have been left behind or missed by the cops, anything that could help her find the one responsible for this tragedy.
Finally, after nearly fifteen minutes of searching, she found a piece of blood-soaked cloth hanging from a jagged nail in the wall. She shivered when she recognized it as coming from the shirt worn by the young man who'd lost his life, but folded it up, nonetheless, and placed it inside her pocket.
Moving backward until she was concealed by the shadows of the alley, she orbed home, to where she sensed her sisters. She wasn't surprised to find them in the attic, working intently.
"Hey," she said quietly, startling them both. Holding up the scrap of cloth, she added, "I found something of the victim's we can use as a focus."
"Well, that's good," Phoebe said, "because we think we found the demon."
She indicated a page in the Book, and Paige took a look.
"Beylar," she read. "A Dark Priest who has lived for centuries, Beylar is best known for his use of blood sacrifices in his rituals, particularly human. There's a vanquishing potion."
"That's what Piper's working on," Phoebe said, indicating the eldest Halliwell with a nod of her head. "I'm writing a summoning spell. We'll summon him into the cage and question him there," she added, gesturing at the crystals on the floor.
"You're sure this is the guy?" Paige asked. "It doesn't really mention beheading; only sacrifices."
"As sure as we can be," Phoebe said. "There's nothing in the Book about demons who behead their victims; Beylar was the closest we got."
"I just don't want to lose another Innocent," Paige said, more to herself than anyone else. "Why don't you try getting a premonition?" she asked, speaking to Phoebe.
Phoebe held out her hand and accepted the cloth Paige dropped into it. Closing a fist around it, she closed her eyes and concentrated. After a moment, she opened her eyes and shook her head.
"Well?" Piper asked, looking up from her potions work. "Did you see anything?"
"I didn't get a premonition, but I could sense the victim's emotions imprinted on the cloth," Phoebe explained. "His pain and fear were so intense, it felt like I was the one experiencing them."
"Was there anything to tell you if Beylar is really the demon we're after?" Paige asked.
"No," Phoebe said. "All I could sense was our Innocent."
"Great," Paige remarked. "So, if this isn't the demon, we're getting ourselves into a wild goose chase."
"Have you called Chris?" she asked, quickly changing the subject. "Maybe he knows something because of his demonic contacts."
"Piper wants to do this without his help," Phoebe said.
"Let me guess; you still don't trust him," Paige said. "Piper, he did save Wyatt."
"And before that he lied to us and got my son kidnapped by the Order," Piper snapped. "So, no, I don't trust him. Besides, we don't need his help."
"Is the Beylar vanquishing potion ready?" Phoebe asked.
"Just finished it," Piper said, a note of satisfaction in her voice.
"Then let's summon him and get this nightmare over with," Paige said.
Tying the piece of cloth around a scrying crystal, she dangled it over an open flame while she and her sisters chanted the spell.
"Magic forces black and white,
Bring the priest Beylar into our sight."
"That's what you get with an hour's work?" Paige hissed. Phoebe opened her mouth but the smoke that filled area enclosed by the crystals cut off any reply she would have made.
"Who dares summon me?" a voice asked, from the center of the smoke. The smoke dissipated, revealing a tall man in stark black robes.
"We do," Paige said, unconsciously straightening to appear taller.
"The Charmed Ones," Beylar said, his voice silky. "To what do I owe this honor?"
"You killed an Innocent," Piper accused, "and we're going to stop you."
"I?" Beylar said, feigning innocence. "I don't know what you're talking about. I haven't killed a human in months."
"He's telling the truth," Phoebe said, clearly dismayed.
"Always trust the word of an Empath," Beylar remarked casually. "I must say, I admire your precautions. I should remember them for when I perform my rituals."
"You won't be performing any more rituals," Piper said, drawing back her arm to throw the potion.
"Ah, ah," Beylar said, wagging a finger at her. "You wouldn't want to kill me before hearing what I have to say, would you?"
"Piper, wait," Paige said, placing a restraining hand on her sister's arm. "He is in the cage; let's hear him out."
"Fine," Piper said. "Start talking."
"I know of the murders which you speak," Beylar began.
"What do you mean, 'murders'?" Phoebe asked. "There's been more than one?"
"Two others, to be exact," Beylar told them. "And the skill which with they're performed is admirable, to say the least."
"What's your point?" Piper asked, harshly.
"No point," Beylar said pleasantly. "Just a distraction technique."
Moving quickly, he kicked the crystal he'd been working at out of his way, and lunged toward the Book.
"Book of Shadows!" Paige snapped, quickly orbing it out of harm's way, even as Phoebe moved to confront Beylar.
Beylar simply held out his hand. A black mist radiated from his palm to engulf Phoebe, causing her to fall limply to the floor.
"Phoebe!" Paige cried, rushing to her side. Piper threw the potion at Beylar, but he just laughed as he evaded it, and tossed something at her. A tiny dart embedded itself in her shoulder, and as Piper pulled it out, Beylar disappeared.
"How's Phoebe?" she asked, worriedly, retrieving the Book from where Paige had dropped it.
"She's unconscious, her breathing is shallow, and her pulse is unnaturally slow," Paige said. "How are you?"
"I'm fine," Piper said, brushing off the incident.
"Well, we need Leo, now," Paige said.
"Leo!" Piper called, clearly expecting him to appear immediately. After a moment, she called again, annoyed now. Still, there was no answer.
"Leo, get your ass down here!" Piper yelled.
"He's not coming," Paige snapped. "Obviously, becoming an Elder means he's too good to help his family."
"So, how are we supposed to help Phoebe?" Piper asked.
"Start searching the Book for ways to reverse demonically induced comas," Paige told her. "I'm going to call Darryl."
"What?" Piper demanded. "Why?"
"I need to find out if what Beylar said about those other Innocents is true," Paige said.
Catching Piper's look, she added, "We still have a demon to stop, Phoebe or no Phoebe."
Opening her eyes, Phoebe found herself standing in the foyer of the Manor.
"How'd I get down here?" she wondered aloud. "Piper? Paige? Anyone here?"
Receiving no answer, she huffed out an irritated breath and started up the stairs to the attic. But, with each step she took, her chest tightened with an unknown pressure and it became harder and harder to breathe. Finally, she was forced to turn around and return to the foyer before she passed out from lack of air.
"My sisters are up there with a demon!" she yelled, wondering if the Elders were even listening to her. "They need me!"
She waited a few moments, and then ran up the stairs again. The pressure was still there, but this time she was able to make it up to the first landing before collapsing from exhaustion. Her breathing was shallow and ragged, and her muscles were limp. She felt like she'd been running a marathon.
"You're not going to make this easy on me, are you?" she muttered, not sure if she was speaking to the Elders or herself.
"The Vision Quest is never easy on anyone, dear," a voice said, startling her.
Phoebe looked for the source of the voice and found herself staring at the Crone.
"You!" she gasped, panicking.
"Oh, relax," the Crone said, waving a careless hand. "I'm here to help you, not kill you. Not that I could anyway, seeing as how my powers don't work here."
"Why you?" Phoebe asked, struggling to stand. "And what's a Vision Quest?"
"The Vision Quest is just what it sounds like," the Crone explained patiently, as though she were speaking to a child.
"It is a journey every Foreseer must go on, as a way to prove that they've truly earned their powers. As for why me, I'm the best one on either side to help you. After all, I've been practicing my power for centuries. Not even the Source's Seer has my kind of power."
"Okay, I get all that, but why does it have to hurt?" Phoebe whined.
"Your powers have come too easily to you," the Crone said sternly. "You've had your premonitions, your levitation, and your Empathy handed to you on a silver platter. You haven't had to do a thing in order to earn them, or even keep them. But now you do. You need to prove that you're worthy of keeping your powers. And to do that, you need to work for it."
"What if I can't prove to their satisfaction, whoever they are, that I'm worthy of my powers?" Phoebe asked quietly.
"Then you'll lose them," the Crone said simply. "Shall we begin?"
"Tell me you have something for me, Darryl," Paige said into the phone, pacing around the living room impatiently.
"You're not going to like it," Darryl warned her.
"I already don't like any of it," Paige informed him. "Just give me the bad news."
"Well, it seems that your demon was right," he told her. "There have been two other murders in the past week just like this one. The victims were beheaded and dumped in an alley, and the killer left no traces of himself. Neither case has any leads"
"So we know he likes patterns," Paige said. "How does that help us?"
"That's not all," Darryl said. "I looked up the first two victims and it turns out they've got records."
"You mean criminal records?" Paige asked.
"Yeah," Darryl said. "The first one was accused of beating his kids. The second was convicted of murdering his son and served three years."
"A vigilante serial killer?" Paige asked skeptically.
"Demons don't do vigilante work?" Darryl asked.
"Not so much," Paige replied. Hearing something from behind her, she looked up and saw Piper coming down the stairs.
"Just a second, Darryl," she said. "How's Wyatt?" she asked, covering the mouthpiece with her free hand.
"He's sleeping peacefully," Piper told her. "Are you sure he didn't see anything in that alley?"
"As sure as I can be without having orbed there before him," Paige said. "Look, Darryl's got some news about our demon. It seems Beylar was telling the truth."
As Piper gasped in shock, Paige turned her attention back to the phone conversation.
"Have you identified the third victim, yet?" she asked.
"I should have a name for you in a couple of hours," Darryl said. "I just need to light a fire under Forensics' butts."
"Well, we're going to continue working on this end," Paige said, her tone suddenly weary. "We'll call you if we find the demon."
"Sure," Darryl said, hanging up.
Paige clicked off the cordless and turned to Piper.
"So, what did Darryl have to say?" Piper wanted to know.
"Just that our demon seems to be a vigilante," Paige said. "It turns out the previous two victims had child abuse convictions against them, and it's likely that this one does as well."
"Our bad guy is killing bad guys," Piper said. "That's certainly a new one."
"Yeah," Paige agreed. "And there's a small part of me that wants to let him continue what he's doing."
"Paige," Piper said warningly.
"I said a small part," Paige grumbled. "I just can't stand people who abuse their kids. How's Phoebe?" she asked, quickly changing the subject.
"I've got her inside a crystal cage up in the attic," Piper said. "I reversed the polarization on the crystals, so no one should be able to touch her."
"Did you find anything in the Book about reversing her condition?" Paige asked.
"Nothing," Piper said. "I did learn more about Beylar, though. It seems he uses a paralyzing agent to subdue his victims before he kills them. I'm assuming that's the mist we saw."
"Wonderful," Paige sighed. "You know, Chris and his demonic contacts could really come in handy right about now."
"I don't want him around Wyatt," Piper snapped.
"Piper," Paige said, clearly exasperated, "he had a good reason for doing the things he did."
"It still doesn't excuse the fact that he got my son kidnapped," Piper muttered darkly.
"Even if he saves Wyatt from turning evil?" Paige asked softly.
"And that's another thing," Piper retorted. "How do we know that it wasn't the Order that turned Wyatt evil in Chris' future? How does he know?"
"I think we can safely assume that since he's still here, Wyatt's still evil in the future," Paige said.
"What are you talking about?" Piper asked.
"Think about it," Paige said. "Chris came back to stop Wyatt from turning evil. If he'd accomplished that already, he'd have gone back to the future because Wyatt would be good and Chris would have no reason to come back."
"Come again?" Piper asked, confused.
"Never mind," Paige said, shaking her head. "Back to my original point, I think Chris could really help us."
"No," Piper said flatly, spinning on her heel and stalking into the kitchen. Clearly, the discussion was over.
Paige heaved a sigh and followed her sister. She found Piper standing at the island, furiously throwing ingredients into a saucepan simmering on the stovetop.
"I said no," she growled without looking up.
"I wasn't going to talk about that," Paige assured her. "What are you making?"
"Another batch of the Beylar vanquishing potion," Piper said. "We're going to summon him, make him reverse Phoebe's coma, and then we're going to vanquish his sorry ass."
"Piper, if we couldn't handle him with the Power of Three, how, exactly, do you propose we take him on ourselves?" Paige asked.
"We'll manage," Piper said shortly. "Where are you going?" she asked, seeing Paige walking out of the kitchen.
"Book of Shadows," Paige replied. "There's still a vigilante demon roaming around on the loose."
"I thought you couldn't do anything more until Darryl calls again," Piper said.
"Well, I can't just sit around and do nothing," Paige retorted.
"Well, take this with you," Piper said, grabbing a vial and filling it with the vanquishing potion. As she went to hand the vial to Paige, her hand suddenly went slack, and the vial slipped from her grasp.
"Vial," Paige called, rescuing it from smashing on the floor. "What's wrong with you?" she asked, turning her attention to Piper.
"I don't know," Piper said, confused. "I lost my grip and now I can't move my hand."
"Are you sure Phoebe was the one hit with Beylar's paralyzing agent?" Paige asked, rhetorically. "Never mind," she added, after a moment. "Let's just get you up to the attic while you can still walk."
Slipping an arm around her sister's waist, they started the walk to the attic. By the time they reached the top of the stairs, Paige was supporting all of Piper's weight, and had to orb them the rest of the way or risk dropping her.
"What are you doing?" Piper gasped weakly.
"Putting you in the crystal cage with Phoebe," Paige said. "It should keep you both safe."
She orbed one of the crystals into her hand, breaking the crystals' circuit, and eased Piper down to the floor beside Phoebe. Stepping back, she replaced the crystal and watched the cage shimmer back into existence.
Piper tried to say something, and a look of panic came into her eyes when she realized she could no longer move her mouth.
"Don't worry," Paige assured her. "I'm going to find Leo and get him to heal you, and then I'm going to vanquish Beylar. I won't be gone long, I promise."
Exiting the attic, she shut the door softly and placed her hands against it, focusing her energy on the room and its precious occupants. Taking a deep breath, she whispered her spell.
"I call upon the Powers, above,
To stand guard over the ones I love.
Protect those within this space;
Keep all evil from this place."
"Keep them safe," she hissed at the Elders before she ran downstairs.
"So, did Beylar send me on this Vision Quest?" Phoebe asked.
"The Priest only put you in a coma. We took advantage of that fact to put you to this test," the Crone informed her.
"We?" Phoebe asked. "Who are 'we'? And how are you here, anyway? We vanquished you."
"We are the Tribunal," the Crone answered. "We are the governing force behind magic, both good and evil. And you only thought you vanquished me."
"I take it you're a part of this Tribunal?" Phoebe asked.
"Of course," the Crone said. "How else would I have been able to pass that law regarding your sister's baby?"
"But what-" Phoebe began, but the Crone cut her off impatiently.
"No more questions," she said imperiously. "Your trial begins now."
"What do you mean?" Phoebe asked frantically, but the Crone ignored her in favor of continuing up to the attic. Phoebe was left with no choice but to follow her. She noticed with some relief that her earlier problems with climbing the stairs seemed to be gone. For the moment, at least.
"What are we doing up here?" Phoebe asked, entering the attic. "Hey! You can't touch that!" she yelped, seeing the Crone handling the Book of Shadows.
"It's a Vision Quest. I can do whatever I want," the Crone informed her. "Besides, it's not the real Book of Shadows."
"Oh," Phoebe said. "Right. So what's my first test going to be?"
"This," the Crone said, lazily waving her hand. At the gesture, a demon appeared in the middle of the attic.
"What am I supposed to do?" Phoebe asked, looking nervously at the Crone. "Fight him?"
"No," the Crone said. "Learn from him."
"Learn what?" Phoebe asked, but the Crone refused to answer, choosing, instead, to settle on the couch on the far wall. After a moment, Phoebe turned warily toward the demon.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"Not who," the demon intoned, "but what. I am a manifestation of your failures."
"What am I supposed to be learning from you?" Phoebe asked.
The demon just smiled and threw a fireball at her. Yelping, she dove out of the way and hit the floor, scraping her shoulder as she fell. Scrambling to her feet, she tried to get away from the demon, but he reached her, anyway, and clamped his hand around her upper arm. Phoebe gasped, shuddering, as she was thrown into a premonition.
She was crouched on the attic floor, cowering in fear. Someone was coming slowly toward her, his expression menacing.
"Paige, what's the matter?" Cole asked. He lobbed a fireball at her and laughed cruelly as she cringed away. "Are you okay?"
"How did you do that?" she cried.
"Do what?" Cole asked softly.
"Just admit it," she said. " You're a demon, just tell the truth."
"Paige, I can't believe you'd even think that," Cole said, advancing on her. "You're the one who's acting strange. If you keep this up, you're gonna hurt yourself."
She crawled backward, fearfully. "Stay away from me! I'm gonna tell Phoebe!"
"Oh, come on," Cole scoffed. "You don't really think your sisters would leave me alone with you if I was evil."
"Stay away from me," she whimpered.
"You really think Phoebe would have married me if I was a demon?" Cole asked, his voice dangerously quiet. His eyes blazed and she shrank back in terror.
Just then, Cole's phone rang and his whole demeanor changed. "Hello?" he said, cheerfully. All she could hear was his side of the conversation, and she was grateful for the brief respite.
After a moment, he continued, "Does that mean you found Karen? Perfect. Well, that means she can't expose you guys as witches. You know what? If we hurry, we can still make late check-in."
Phoebe must have said something because he chuckled. "I can pack for you. I know what I like," he said suggestively.
He listened to the other end for a second before saying quickly, "Hey, wait-wait-wait. Why don't you tell Leo and Piper to orb straight to Hawaii, don't even bother packing. You never know when the next demon's gonna attack."
Smiling in satisfaction, he turned just as she made a break for the door. Flames engulfed him and quickly died down, and she stopped in her tracks.
"Stop it," she cried, hating how her voice cracked with fear, but unable to do anything about it. "Why are you doing this?"
"What's the matter?" Cole asked, mockingly. "Seeing things?"
Turning on his heel, he stalked out of the attic. She watched him go before losing it. She began destroying random objects in the attic, stopping only when a beam of energy shot from her palms, obliterating a dollhouse. She stared for a moment at what she'd done, then sank to the floor, sobbing desolately.
Phoebe tore her arm from the demon's grasp and glared at the Crone.
"Why did you make me see that?" she hissed, furiously. "What was I supposed to learn from that?"
"Your sister was being tortured by your husband, and you took his side over hers," the Crone said nonchalantly. "You could have used your powers to find if she was telling the truth, but you blindly chose to believe only what you heard."
She gestured and the demon shimmered out of existence.
"I get it," Phoebe snapped. "I was a terrible person and a terrible sister. But I've changed since then."
"Have you?" the Crone asked mildly. She waved again, and Phoebe was hit with a series of premonitions.
"Thanksgiving is early this year!" she sang out, walking up the steps holding the turkey that had been Spencer Ricks.
"Phoebe!" Paige yelled, exasperated. "What about Leo?"
"I have a DJ to grill," Phoebe informed her, walking away without a second thought.
She was standing in front of Jason's Parisian business partners, turning food into snails and casting curses on his merger.
"That last one was only a short while ago, wasn't it?" the Crone asked. "You don't seem to have changed since then."
Ashamed with herself, Phoebe didn't say anything for a long while. When she finally did speak, it was in a much more subdued tone.
"I guess I'm not worthy of my powers after all," she said, dejectedly. "Am I going to lose them?"
"That depends," the Crone said cryptically.
"On what?" Phoebe asked, scarcely daring to hope that she might not lose her powers after all.
"On this last trial," the Crone said. She gestured, and Phoebe was hit with a force that rocked her backward. She felt like she was falling, then she felt nothing at all.
"Chris!" Paige yelled, as she hit the bottom of the stairs. "Chris, get down here!"
"What?" the young witch-lighter asked frantically, as he orbed in. "What is it?"
"Where's Leo?" Paige snapped.
"He's Up There, in a meeting with the Council of Elders," Chris told her. "He's been sequestered all day. Why?"
"Well, I need you to orb his ass down here, or some other Whitelighter, because Phoebe's in a coma and Piper's about to die," Paige said angrily.
"What do you mean, Piper's about to die?" Chris asked, panicked.
"She was infected by some sort of paralyzing agent, and it won't be long before the paralysis spreads to her lungs and heart," Paige informed him.
"I'll get him," Chris said quickly, orbing away. The light from his departure had barely faded when Paige's cell phone shrilled insistently.
"It's me," Darryl said, when she answered. "I've found at least two other victims, besides the two your demon friend mentioned. All had prior convictions of abuse."
"Great," Paige sighed, dropping her head in her hands. "Got any more bad news?"
"Actually, I do," Darryl said quietly. "Turns out the last victim, the one Wyatt found, doesn't match the others. He doesn't have any convictions, doesn't even have an arrest record."
"What's that mean?" Paige asked.
"It means your killer is getting careless," Darryl said. "He's no longer as picky about who he kills."
"He's going after true Innocents, you mean," Paige said, resigned. "Thanks, Darryl. Call if you find anything new."
She clicked off the phone just as Chris orbed in, with Leo in tow.
"Where the hell have you been?" she snarled, turning on her ex-brother-in-law.
"I was in a very important meeting," Leo told her. "I don't appreciate being interrupted."
"Come with me," Paige growled, grabbing him and hauling him up the stairs.
Flinging the attic door open, she pulled him over to where Piper and Phoebe lay. Piper was gasping desperately for breath, a panicked look in her eyes. Paige orbed one of the crystals away and shoved Leo forward.
"Heal her," she snapped.
"I don't understand," Leo said, turning to her.
"Heal. Her." Paige repeated slowly, her face carefully devoid of any emotion. After a heartbeat, Leo turned back to her sisters.
Satisfied that he wasn't going to leave them alone, Paige grabbed the Innocent's shirt scrap went downstairs to where Chris was waiting.
"Let's go," she said, snatching her purse and keys from the table.
"Go where," Chris asked, trailing her out to her car.
"We have demons to vanquish," Paige said shortly. "You're a witch, so you get to help me."
"Do you even know where these demons are?" Chris asked.
"I will," Paige said, handing him the keys. "You're driving."
"Why me?" Chris asked, climbing in the driver's seat, regardless.
"Because I need to focus on finding the demon," Paige said.
"How are you going to do that?" Chris asked.
"My Whitelighter sensing ability extends to detecting evil," Paige said. "It's time I worked on developing it."
"That's a good point," Chris conceded.
Starting the car, he backed down the driveway and drove down the street, going wherever Paige told him to. She was sitting in the passenger seat, the bloody cloth in her hands and her eyes closed in concentration.
After about fifteen minutes, she opened her eyes and pointed.
"This one," she said, indicating a small yellow house on the right side of the street.
"The demon lives in suburbia?" Chris asked skeptically.
"I'm not so sure it is a demon," she said softly. "Come on."
Getting out of the car, she walked up to the door, Chris following quickly behind.
"What are you going to do?" he hissed, as Paige lifted her hand to knock. "Say, 'Hi, I'm here to vanquish the serial killer who lives here?'"
"Of course not," Paige replied.
"Then what?" Chris asked.
"I'm not sure," Paige told him. "I hadn't thought that far ahead."
She went to knock again, when they heard a child's scream from inside the house. Paige grabbed the doorknob and twisted as Chris shoved at it with his telekinesis. The door shuddered in its frame, but otherwise didn't budge. They tried again, as another scream split the air.
"Can you orb the door away?" Chris asked.
"And risk the whole neighborhood outing us as witches?" Paige hissed, shoving at the door with her shoulder.
Chris nodded shortly. "Stand back," he said quietly.
Focusing his will, he gathered his power and shoved at the door with all his strength. The door groaned and then flew open to slam into the wall. He and Paige flew inside, in time to see a man go flying across the room. His assailant was tall, dressed all in black, and carried a long axe.
The man lay crumpled in the corner, as his assailant advanced on him menacingly.
"Hey!" Paige shouted, waving to get the demon's attention. "Over here!"
The demon ignored her in favor of going after his victim, and Paige orbed over without a second thought, placing herself between the man and the axe headed for his neck.
Chris watched, horrified, as the axe fell toward Paige, the demon clearly unable to stop it in time.
"No!" he yelled, holding his hand out and wondering if he was already too late to stop it.
Phoebe opened her eyes and found herself once again in the foyer of the Manor.
"Very funny," she called, wondering if anyone on the Tribunal was listening to her. "I thought I was supposed to facing one last trial."
"Whom are you talking to?" Piper asked, coming up behind her and scaring her half to death.
"Um, no one," Phoebe stammered, looking around.
"Well, if you're done talking to no one, we need you in the sun room," Piper told her. "Paige thinks she found the demon."
"Oh, really," Phoebe said. "So, is there a vanquishing spell, or potion, or what?"
"You'll see," Piper said cryptically, stopping in front of the doors. Holding one open, she gestured. "After you."
Eying her sister warily, Phoebe stepped over the door jamb, and was scared out of her wits once again as half a dozen people leapt up from hiding places, shouting 'surprise'.
"What is this?" Phoebe asked, turning to Piper in confusion.
"Your baby shower, silly," Paige said, joining her sisters.
"Baby shower?" Phoebe echoed, looking down. Sure enough, she was visibly pregnant.
"You didn't think we were going to let our niece go without a baby shower, did you?" Piper asked, hugging her.
"You guys," Phoebe said, feeling herself tear up. "This is so sweet."
"Aunt Phoebe, Aunt Phoebe!" a chorus of voices cried, drawing her attention downward. Two boys, one with long blond hair, the other with brown, ran up and stopped abruptly in front of her.
"Open our presents for the baby first, Aunt Phoebe," the blond boy said, brandishing a messily wrapped package at her.
"We picked 'em out and wrapped 'em without any help from Mom," the brunette bragged. Phoebe shot Piper a questioning look, and her sister smiled.
"Guys, why don't you let Aunt Phoebe sit down?" she suggested. The boys darted off and cleared one of the armchairs off, gesturing grandly for her to take a seat.
"Mine first, mine first!" the blond cried, shoving his package at her.
"Wyatt," Piper reprimanded gently. "Let your little brother give Aunt Phoebe his present, too."
Phoebe accepted the presents and looked at the boys.
"Thank you," she said sincerely.
Looking up at her sisters, she saw Piper beaming with pride. Paige had a wistful look on her face. But before Phoebe could find out more, she felt something pulling at strained, trying to see further but the world jerked, and she found herself standing in the attic, facing the Crone once again.
"I thought I was supposed to be facing another trial," she said, confused.
"So I did," the Crone mused. "You passed, by the way."
"But I don't understand," Phoebe said, confused. "What was my trial?"
"At the end, when I pulled you out, you wanted to use your powers, to learn more," the Crone informed her. "That was all that was needed."
"You're saying all I had to do was try to get a premonition?" Phoebe asked.
"No," the Crone stated. "You had to genuinely want to use your powers."
"Does this mean I get to keep my powers?" Phoebe asked.
"Only so long as you don't abuse them," the Crone told her sternly. "Remember, we of the Tribunal can remove them at any time we so choose."
"I'll remember," Phoebe assured her.
The Crone nodded once and faded away, leaving Phoebe standing alone in the middle of the attic. Even as she wondered how to get out of her situation, she thought she could hear someone faintly calling her name. A heartbeat later, she found herself lying on the floor of the real attic, Piper and Leo on either side of her.
"Hey, sis," Piper said. "Where'd you go to?"
"You're never going to believe it," Phoebe told them, getting to her feet. "But, later. Don't we have a demon to vanquish?"
"Beylar," Piper informed her. "Paige already went after the one killing all the Innocents."
Phoebe smiled. "Then let's go get Beylar."
Going over to the Book, which was still open to the Dark Priest's page, she laid her hands on it and focused.
A few moments later, her eyes snapped open and she grabbed the nearby vial of vanquishing potion someone had left on the table.
"Got him," she said simply, walking out of the attic. Piper followed, wondering just what had happened to her sister.
Chris watched, horrified as the axe descended on Paige and the man. He held his hand out, trying to stop it telekinetically, but Paige was quicker.
She grabbed the man's arm and orbed them both away, appearing behind the demon on the far side of the room. Chris promptly changed his direction and sent the demon flying across the room, separating him from his axe.
Undaunted, the demon got back up and advanced slowly on Paige, who was still protecting the man. Chris started toward her, but a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach warned him they weren't going to be able to protect the man for much longer.
Suddenly, he caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning, he saw a young girl huddling in the corner, her hands over her mouth and tears shining in her eyes. Acting on a hunch, Chris changed tactics and approached her carefully.
"Hey," he said softly. "What's wrong?"
"I-I made him, but now I can't stop him," she whispered tearfully.
"Him?" Chris said. Shooting a look behind him, he asked, "You created that demon?"
"I just wanted him to stop hurting me," she whispered. Chris blinked, not sure if she was still talking about the demon.
"What do you mean you can't stop the demon?" he asked, deciding to focus on the more immediate danger at hand.
"He used to go away when I told him to, but now he won't," the girl said, sniffling.
"How did you create him?" Chris asked, trying to figure out how to end the threat.
"I wished for a protector and he came," the girl told him.
"Can't you just wish him away?" Chris asked, looking back at Paige, who was still evading the demon. She shot him a desperate look before orbing herself and the man away from danger again.
"I tried!" the girl cried, her voice cracking with hysteria. "It's not working," she added softly.
"Try again," Chris urged. "Here, I'll help you."
Taking the girl's hands in his own, he coached her gently.
"Close your eyes and imagine him gone," he said quietly. "Make a wish, like you did when you summoned him. Wish him away, somewhere where he can't hurt anyone."
"Go away, go away, go away," the girl whispered, a furrow appearing in the middle of her forehead.
"Focus," Chris encouraged, giving her hands a gentle squeeze.
"Go away, go away, go away," the girl repeated, her voice becoming stronger and more confident by the moment.
Chris dared to take a look behind him just in time to see the demon disappear into thin air. Paige reversed her flight mid-orb and heaved a sigh of relief.
"Thank God," she breathed. "I didn't know how much longer I could keep that up for."
"Why didn't you just orb out?" Chris asked. Feeling a weight in his hand, he looked down and saw Paige's cell phone in his grasp.
"And leave you and her alone with the demon?" Paige asked. "At least my orbing kept him distracted while you worked with the kid."
Making eye contact with him, she mouthed, "Call Darryl."
"Now," she continued, turning to the man she had an iron grip on. "Why don't you tell me why this little girl was willing to summon a demon to try and protect herself from you?"
"I don't have to tell you anything," the man growled, twisting his arm away. He tried to bolt for the door but found Chris blocking his path.
"You're going to start talking, or I'm going to put a truth spell on you," Paige said, her eyes flashing furiously. "The choice is up to you."
"I hear truth spells hurt," Chris said idly, dialing Darryl's number. As he listened to the ringing of the phone, he turned to the girl.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Rebecca," she whispered. "But everyone calls me Becky."
"It's nice to meet you, Becky," Chris said. "I'm Chris and that woman is Paige."
"Is she going to keep my daddy from hurting me?" Becky asked, her voice trembling.
"That's why I'm calling the police," Chris assured her, trying not to show how angry he really was. "He is never going to hurt you again."
"Hello, Sheila," he said, when Darryl's wife answered the phone. "It's Chris. I need to speak to Darryl."
"What is it, Chris?" Darryl asked, picking up the phone.
"Paige and I found and dealt with the demon," Chris said quietly. "Now, we need you to come arrest the guy he was going to kill."
"Another not-so-Innocent?" Darryl asked.
"Exactly," Chris said. "You should hurry. I don't know how long I can keep Paige from finishing what the demon started. Or myself, for that matter."
"Give me ten minutes," Darryl said, upon hearing the address. Hanging up the phone, Chris turned to Paige.
"Darryl said ten minutes," he told her. Paige nodded wordlessly.
"Is she okay?" she asked after a moment.
"Yes," Becky said, surprising them both. "He only hit me once, tonight."
"Only," Paige repeated, pain crossing her face as she remembered what Becky's father had told her.
A sudden knocking on the door drew everyone's attention, and Chris let Darryl and a pair of uniformed officers into the house. While the uniforms handcuffed Becky's father and read him his rights, Paige took Darryl aside and explained everything to him.
"He admitted to abusing her for years," she said quietly, looking to where Chris was talking softly to Becky. "It turns out she was using thought projection to conjure the demon as a protector, but since it couldn't go after him, it went after other child abusers. I swear, I could just… "
"I know," Darryl commiserated. "But, if the evidence holds, he's never going to touch his kid again. Does she have any other family?"
"According to him, he's her only living relative," Paige told him. "But I've got an idea for a foster home."
"Will you have to bind her powers?" Darryl asked.
"No," Paige said, smiling for the first time that day. "I think he'll be just fine with the idea of a magical daughter."
"So the Innocent was really the bad guy?" Phoebe asked, later that night at P3.
"Yeah," Paige said, leaning back into the couch cushions. "Our demon was just a little girl's cry for help."
"So what happens to Becky, now?" Piper wanted to know.
"I found her a good foster home," Paige told them. "You guys remember Derek, the guy with the Manticore baby?"
"He adopted her?" Piper asked, clearly delighted.
"Well, it's just a fostering, right now," Paige clarified, "but I'll be working with him to help speed up the adoption process. Both he and Becky are thrilled by the situation, and Becky loves having a baby brother."
"Sounds like you're in your element," Phoebe said. "Does this mean you're going to go back to social work?"
"You never can tell," Paige said. "So, you guys vanquished Beylar?"
"Once Phoebe had a premonition showing us where he was," Piper said beaming with pride over her younger sister's accomplishments.
"You're having premonitions on command, now?" Paige said, raising an eyebrow. "I'm impressed."
"Well, let's just say that I've got a new outlook on my powers," Phoebe said. "Excuse me," she added, spotting Chris as he entered the club.
"Chris, can I talk to you?" she asked, approaching him quickly.
"Sure," Chris agreed, leading the way to Piper's office.
"I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to tell me the truth," Phoebe said firmly, once the door had been shut.
"Okay," Chris said, surrendering to the inevitable confrontation.
Phoebe took a deep breath and steeled herself, wondering how to best phrase the question.
"Are you Wyatt's younger brother?" she asked finally.
Chris was silent for so long that Phoebe feared he was going to not answer her. Finally though, he did respond.
"Only if I can get my parents together in time," he said softly.