I woke up the next morning to find myself in a strange room. I wasn't at home, so where was I? After a moment, it all came flooding back. A glance at the mirror confirmed that, yes, it had not been a dream.
"Good morning," Prue said.
"Morning. I'm guessing that today will be an eventful day."
"Yes. We'll probably be dealing with the Elders."
"Who are the Elders?"
"They run the heavens."
I analyzed her tone. "You and your sisters don't seem to think much of them."
"Well, they've never helped us much. They mostly just tell us when we're doing something wrong."
"Oh. Did you sleep well?"
"I don't have a body, so I don't have to sleep."
"Where did you go, then?"
"I'm not quite sure. It might have been your dream."
I couldn't remember what I had dreamt, but it still threw me off. "What did you see?"
"Just some garbled images, nothing clear."
Prue had a lot of tact. She knew precisely how to read anyone and everyone, and she was the kind of woman who could take control. Even though I had only known her for one day, I liked her. I found her past fascinating, especially her relationship with her sisters. Even though Prue had just given me the cliff notes on all their adventures, I had been captivated. Their bond was so strong that they were able to vanquish demons using the Power of Three. Part of that captivation owed to the fact that magic was so amazing; the other part owed to the fact that I was an only child and had never experienced such a strong bond.
I got ready, feeling a little uncomfortable. Yesterday had been so frantic that I had barely thought about the fact that Prue was quite aware of everything that I was doing. Now I realized it, and it was like having someone watching my every move. Needless to say, it was unnerving. I paused at the door, almost afraid of facing all these strangers.
"Are you going out there?"
"Yes," I said, a little embarrassed. I wasn't sure if Prue could hear my thoughts or not, but she was perceptive enough to tell what I was thinking. I cleared my throat, then grasped the handle and opened the door. I stepped out and glanced around.
"Are you afraid of running into my family?" she asked bluntly. There was an annoying knowing tone to her voice.
"No." I spoke quietly, not wanting to wake anyone. The result of that was that I sounded unconvincing. That didn't matter to me; I was lying, after all. I was always uneasy when I stayed in other people's homes, and I didn't even know these people. Prue was right. I didn't want to run into her sisters. This whole situation was so… weird. It was complicated, and I liked things simple.
"But that's how you feel."
"How would you know?" That may have sounded a little accusatory. I regretted saying it.
"Your body reacts to your emotions, and I can feel your body perfectly well."
"Huh. I thought that you had to be in control to feel what I feel.""Apparently not. Look, I know that you're uncomfortable with this-"
She was really good at this. Being right seemed to be Prue's strong point. That would balance out my habit of guessing quite neatly.
"-but my family is not uptight or anything. I'm probably the one that people like the least. So just relax."
"Why would people not like you? I like you. You seem to be a good person."
"Thanks. I'm a fairly controlling person."
"You take charge. Someone's got to do it."
"You're one the few who thinks that way."
"How did you get so good at this, anyway?" I could see Prue as a scrupulous person, but she didn't seem like the type that would read emotions readily.
"You have to notice all kinds of things when you're dealing with dark beings."
Ugh. That subject again. The softer label of 'dark being' didn't help. I was not looking forward to any confrontations with demons. After all, this woman had been killed by a demon. If the… oh, what were they called? Ah, Charmed Ones. If the Charmed Ones were targets for demon attacks, I would certainly be involved with that. I grimaced at the thought, then found my way downstairs. "Erm… do you want to take over?" I felt like I was obligated to give her an even turn with my body. She was finally home, and the least I could do was let her enjoy her newfound life.
"I don't think I should keep doing that until we figure out what kind of an effect my presence is having on you and your body."
"That's very… meticulous."
"That's how I like it."
"But who cares?" I continued. "If something happens, we can probably fix it."
"The 'probably' is what bothers me. You can't always fix things."
"You should really take your own advice."
"What advice?" Her mind was obviously on other things.
"Relax. You're alive again. That's got to feel good."
"I won't be able to relax until I figure out why this happened. This wasn't meant to happen. I was supposed to move on."
"Maybe it wasn't your time."
"But I felt it. I know that I was supposed to move on."
"You're awfully pessimistic, you know. You could focus on some brighter possibilities. Why do you concentrate on the bad stuff?"
"Because that's how it is in our family."
"I'd hate to be in your family." Someone was in the kitchen. "Are you sure that you don't want to take over? I really don't mind." I was at a dead stop now. Usually I wasn't at all shy, but these people wanted Prue, not me. I felt I was keeping them from her.
"Just go in. Piper's a great cook."
"Go. I know that you're hungry."
"That's kind of weird." I tried not to hesitate any further as I pushed on into the kitchen. You'd think that I was going to my own funeral by my constant hesitation. I had a tendency to be a drama queen. It was something that my friends teased me endlessly about. I was even annoyed at myself now, which encouraged me to move it along.
It was indeed Piper who was cooking in the kitchen.
"Hi," I said awkwardly.
"Morning." She seemed a great deal perkier today. "Do you like cheese omelets?"
"Sit," Prue commanded.
I obliged her. Why did she have to add herself to my internal conflict? She was trying to make me feel at home in this strange place. It was a nice thing, it really was… but there was still the problem of me - me and my drama queen tendencies. The two of us certainly had erupted back home yesterday… I pushed back the thought. I couldn't do anything about it until later. For now, I would just have to concentrate on the more pressing matters.
To get my mind off of the more unpleasant aspects of the last twenty-four hours, I studied Piper. Yesterday, of course, had been mostly a rush. All the details had blurred together in a strange, mystical vat of magic soup. Normally, I didn't care much for minute details. This situation, however, was significantly unusual.
Piper had the illusion of being someone who was timid and withdrawn. Prue had confirmed that that was in some ways true, but she had also told me the Piper had a hidden fiery core. I could almost see that in her when I looked closely enough. Once I saw it, I could practically sense the power emanating from her. She must have gained some of that when she took over for Prue. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to lose one's older sister and then have to take over for her. It must have been awful.
All of a sudden, I realized what Piper was doing. "Oh, you really don't have to cook for me. I mean, I'd be fine with cereal…"
"It's no trouble. I always cook for my sisters." After the last word, her eyes kind of glazed over. She turned away a little so that I couldn't see her face clearly. She made a pretense of checking the eggs, but her emotions were clear. Though I didn't know her, I could easily gather that she was frustrated. Her sister was alive again, but she couldn't see her. There happened to be a sixteen-year-old in her way. My interference wasn't what she needed right now. She needed her sister.
"If you want to talk to her, I can just let her take over," I said slowly.
They spoke at the same time, but their tones were different. It made for a nice chord, but it was one put me back in square one. It seemed that I wasn't going to make any advancements on this issue any time soon.
"No, we should really get this worked out first," she finished, a wistful look in her eyes.
They were certainly on the same wavelength on that issue, but for different reasons. Prue felt the way she did because that's what she believed was right. Piper felt that way because she was an overly polite person. It was a matter of manners for her. With Prue, I had a chance at arguing - even if I was doomed to lose. With Piper, though, there was just no winning for anyone.
I'm going all philosophical here. I wonder if it's because of Prue. Can she really have an affect on my brain? Well, she is able to influence my body. I suppose that it could be because of her.
The muffled sensation in the room disappeared as Piper placed a plate in front of me. The food was definitely picture-perfect. Neither of my parents had ever been very good cooks. My mother thought that the food was done when it was blackened, and my father had nearly set the kitchen on fire when he had attempted to cook. I felt like I was getting the royal treatment. "Thank you."
"Oh dear," Prue murmured.
I decided to try to ask her what she had motivated her to say that. What do you mean by that? I directed the thought towards her, hoping that she would hear it.
"I think that Piper's getting you mixed up with me. That's my favorite breakfast."
Another mystery was solved. Maybe she just had an urge to make this, I responded. I tried some and found that the egg was as delicious as it looked.
"Coincidences don't occur in this family."
Is that an absolute law? It wasn't meant to be a cheeky question. You never could tell with this family. Prue had told me some pretty weird stuff about the Halliwell family. It seemed like they had been through it all. I couldn't wait to hear about Paige's adventures.
Prue was curious about Paige too. There had been little time for bonding the previous day. Not enough hours in the day. I was careful to make sure that I didn't direct all my thoughts toward Prue. I did want some privacy. It was a good thing I wasn't one of those people who kept everyone out. This whole situation would have been hell.
"Good morning," Phoebe said in a singsong voice as she entered the room. Paige followed her closely, not saying a word. She looked as though she hadn't slept much. Perhaps she had been up thinking. Of all the sisters, Paige seemed like the one I could relate most to. She wasn't fitting into this equation very well either. Phoebe, on the other hand, looked refreshed. She and Piper were clearly renewed by the rebirth of their sister.
I felt an odd pulling sensation. It was like I was trying to be in two places at once. It kind of reminded me of how I felt when I couldn't make my mind up, which happened a lot. It took me a moment to realize that I wasn't the one who was feeling that. It was Prue. Finally, I was on the receiving end of this unique relationship. I would have been smug if it hadn't been for the fact that there was pain mixed in with the pulling feeling. She felt as guilty as I did. It was good to know that I wasn't alone.
Are you absolutely, positively certain that you don't want to take over?
"Yes," she said irritably.
An annoyed Prue was something that I didn't know how to deal with, so I quickly tried to get her on a different track. Can you taste the eggs? It was kind of stupid question, but it would at least make her think about something else.
"Yes. I told you Piper was a good cook."
It's way better than the charbroiled stuff that my mom makes.
The pained feeling was ebbing away. I could almost feel a little happiness sliding in. But Prue was a fighter in every way, and she didn't seem to want to let her guard down for a bit of happiness.
"Morning, you two."
The sisters settled down at the table. Their attention was turned to me. It was like they expected me to suddenly morph into Prue. Honestly, that would have been a good thing. It would have been much easier.
"Did you sleep well, Christy?" Phoebe asked me.
Phoebe, as Prue had informed me, had once been a rebel. It was hard to see a rebel in the woman before me. She seemed so composed and professional, though I could tell that she was more laid back than her sisters. Well, Prue and Piper. Paige was unknown to Prue and me.
"Yes, really well." It was basically the truth. I had talked with Prue for a long time, but when I had gotten to sleep, I had slept well. San Francisco was a lot like New York City in certain ways, but there were a few things that were different. I was fiercely loyal to my city, but San Francisco was going to grow on me.
"San Francisco is a bit different than New York, but they're alike in many ways," Phoebe commented.
Whoa. Is she a mind reader?
"No, Phoebe isn't a telepath. I would hate to see her as one. It would probably be as bad as being an empath."
"Empath. Someone who can feel what other people feel," she clarified. "I was once given empathic powers for a short time. That something that I didn't get into last night."
Oh. There was a lot of stuff out in the world of magic. I could see that I was in for quite a ride when it came to learning the quirks of this secret little world.
"We're going to be looking through the Book of Shadows today. I don't think there will be anything in there, but you never know," Piper informed me.
I was eager to take a look at the mysterious Book of Shadows. Prue had described it to me, but she hadn't described it in much detail.
"Where's Leo?" Prue wondered.
"Where's Leo?" I asked automatically.
This didn't register with them at first. It wasn't surprising; I barely knew anything about Leo, other than the fact that he was a whitelighter and that he was Piper's husband. Prue had told me the story. I thought it was so sweet.
"Er… I mean, Prue wants to know where Leo is."
"Well, the Elders are reportedly in a frenzy up there. At first, they didn't believe Leo. But after they saw you, they changed their minds."
"They can see me?" The Elders were starting to seem a little freaky.
"Yeah, they can watch over people from their lofty perch," Phoebe put in. Their distaste for the Elders was quite evident. Even if I had no background on them, I would have been able to see that. However, I had background, and I was very sympathetic with Piper.
"Anyways, they're trying to figure out how this happened. They're not ruling out the possibility that this was the work of a demon."
Paige still hadn't said a word. She didn't strike me as the shy type, so it had to be because of Prue.
Whoa. Whole new sensation. Prue was concentrating her attention on Paige. It seemed like she was trying to get a read on her. But what else was in that emotion? It felt like… curiosity. Consideration, perhaps? It was hard to tell. She had a mask over all her feelings. Why was that?
All of a sudden, a man appeared out of nowhere. But he wasn't quite like a man. He looked deformed. What the hell? was the first thought that came to mind. That was followed by another, more logical thought. Huh. It must be a demon. A demon! A split second later, Prue was in control. She knocked the demon down with her telekinesis. He jumped back up and threw a ball of fire at Piper. She froze it.
"Fireball!" Paige cried and threw the mass of blue light back at the demon. It didn't kill him.
They all attacked him. It happened so quickly that it was almost a blur. Somehow, the demon erupted into a collection of flames and disappeared.
"Prue, you rock!"
Hold on. She was smiling. She was actually smiling.
"It's good to be alive again."
"That's the spirit."
Purposefully she turned to Paige. "Nice orbing," she said smoothly. It was interesting how she could take my voice and make it completely different. The sisters wouldn't have much trouble differentiating the two of us.
"Thanks," Paige said. She looked relieved.
Another man appeared, but this time it was Leo.
"Hi there." Piper kissed him.
"Aww. How adorable." I was a sucker when it came to a good love story. Piper and Leo's story definitely qualified there.
"Yes. The Elders have a few main theories on this situation, and they'd like to talk to the four – five of you."
"They're allowing us up there?"
Piper studied his face. "Is there bad news about this?"
Jeez. And I thought this had been an uneasy situation. Now I would have to face the high and mighty ones. "Prue, you are not going to go back into your comfort zone."
They'll want to talk to you too, she assured me, not without certain smugness.
I was going to have to face them. "Dang it!"