Chapter 35: Perceptibility
Disclaimer: If I owned Charmed, HMC's character on Pretty Little Liars would have this huge secret where she's actually a witch with two sisters living in San Francisco and she—wait; they already made that show, didn't they? Aw, man.
A/N: I just wanted to say a big thanks to all the people who really seem to love this story. I've gotten such great feedback about it over the last 8 years (yowza I took forever to finish this…) and I never expected fans to take to it like they did. Hope this last chapter is worth the almost decade-long wait!
"He's killing her!" Phoebe gasped, eyes closed and doubling over in pain. "Leo, make it stop!"
"It's all right, Phoebe," Leo soothed with a hand on her back. "What you're seeing is the future, we have a chance to stop it."
The group was gathered in Phoebe and Paige's room, where Leo had instructed Phoebe to do her best to get a premonition. She had been clutching onto Paige's old Army jacket when the vision hit her, taking over her body in a manner she wasn't quite used to yet.
"Try to work through the pain," Leo instructed. "Focus, and tell us what you see."
"It's us," Phoebe began. "When Leo orbs us in, Damien kills Paige immediately. He has four demonic bodyguards each hidden in a corner of the room—when we run to help Paige, three of them kill us with fireballs and the fourth has this big crossbow he uses to shoot Leo," Phoebe struggled for a minute, trying to process the impending deaths of everyone around her but Andy. "After that, Damien turns on the four bodyguards and vanquishes them so that he can take the credit for getting rid of the Charmed Ones."
Phoebe opened her eyes and breathed heavily for a moment before speaking again. "It's all over in a millisecond, Leo. How can we possibly beat them?"
"That's why your Perceptibility is so important, Phoebe. We know what they're planning, now we just have to work around that," Prue spoke in Leo's stead.
"I just don't think we're ready," Phoebe rebuffed Prue's confidence. "They moved so quickly, it was like they were swatting flies."
"Ready or not, we need to try," Piper asserted.
"I know," Phoebe sighed. "I just think that maybe I should stay here with Andy. I'm useless; I don't have an active power—I'll just get in the way like he would! No offense…"
"None taken…" Andy huffed, hating that he was reduced to powerlessness when it came to demonic maters.
"Phoebe," Leo offered. "You have to remember that you don't just have premonitions. With that much magic around you, your Perceptibility will allow you to feel what's going on in the room. It might even give you a sense of what moves a demon's going to make before he makes it. That'll help you and all of us to stay safe."
Though Phoebe still seemed unsure of her abilities, she knew she owed it to Paige to do everything possible to rescue her.
"We need to think of a counter-plan," Prue said, final. "Damien might not wait too much longer before he decides that eliminating one-fourth of the Charmed Ones is good enough for him."
"This is getting exhausting," Damien exhaled dramatically and looked at a nonexistent watch on his wrist. "I knew you little girls were inept when it came to magic, but this is extraordinary. Perhaps I miscalculated." He faced Paige directly, continuing, "Are you certain they care enough about their half sister to save you? I should've grabbed one of the others. They probably still just think of you as some orphan girl."
"Shut up!" Paige growled inadvertently, breaking her internal rule to stay quiet and not arouse Damien's anger. "Don't talk about my sisters that way! They'll come for me, you'll see."
Damien smirked at finally having struck a nerve with Paige. His faced contorted into a toothy grin as he whispered, "Oh, I do hope you're right. What a pity it would be if you got all bloodied up with no place to go. Just a little fun won't hurt."
Paige comprehended the meaning of Damien's words just as he was advancing on her with his athame. She closed her eyes tight in anticipation, but opened them once more when she heard the door slam open.
Prue came running into the room, much to Paige's relief.
"Prue!" Paige yelled. "Be careful, he's going to—"
"It's the oldest!" Damien rejoiced, cutting Paige off. "I'm sure the others aren't far behind.
The first of Damien's bodyguards stepped out from his dark corner hurling a fireball directly Prue. As it hit her in the abdomen, Paige's crestfallen face met Damien's ecstatic one in horror. However all inhabitants of the room soon donned a flabbergasted gaze, as Prue exploded into a flurry of blue and white orbs and materialized as Leo.
"It's just a glamour! He's the Whitelighter!" Damien hollered, furious at being foiled.
The Darklighter moved forward in place of the other bodyguard, but Leo orbed out just as he shot his arrow. The Darklighter's poison dart went through the space that previously held Leo's form, and pierced the heart of his fellow demon. As the bodyguard burst into vanquished flames, Leo materialized once again.
"NOW!" Leo screamed, signaling to Prue, Piper, and Phoebe that it was safer for them to enter the room.
Piper was quick to throw her vanquishing potion at the Darklighter first, and Prue killed a third who had emerged from his corner during the scuffle.
Piper threw up her hands to freeze Damien and was shocked to see that it was actually holding.
"It's the Power of Four," Leo responded to Piper's confused expression. "The sheer force of having all of you using magic together is making your separate powers stronger."
"Speaking of four…" Phoebe trailed, "The fourth bodyguard is thinking of taking Paige out with a fireball."
"He's thinking about it? What do you mean he's thinking about it? Where is he even?" Paige rattled off nervously.
"Perceptibility, remember?" Phoebe shot back. "I can't see him, but I know he's here and I know what he wants to do."
"Well let's get her out of this chair before he has a chance," Prue suggested, moving behind Paige and beginning to untie her binding.
As Prue worked, the fourth man in question leaped swiftly from the shadows and flung a fireball at Paige. Paige panicked, thinking the fireball was coming too fast for her to be able to do anything. She closed her eyes, once more preparing to feel excruciating pain, but was instead enveloped in a light feeling that left her with just a hint of queasiness. When she opened her eyes again, she realized that she was still in one piece and must've successfully orbed out of the fireball's path.
Paige felt a momentary swell of pride, until she heard Piper scream in anguish and realized that moving herself out of harm's way meant putting Prue directly into it.
Prue was on the floor next to the chair, bleeding profusely after clearly having been hit squarely in the chest by the demon's weapon.
"Go to Hell!" Phoebe demanded, throwing her potion and vanquishing the demonic bodyguard who had fatally wounded Prue.
"I'm so sorry!" Paige wept, making her way over to her fallen sister.
"It's all right, a lot of Whitelighters orb in the face of danger when they're first getting the hang of it. It's not your fault," Leo hastened.
"Leo, heal her!" Piper urged even though Leo was already on his way over to his charge.
"You can heal her, right Leo?" Phoebe begged, hope and devastation dripping from her tone.
"Let him focus!" Piper barked in response.
The three girls held a collective breath as they watched their Whitelighter. Leo kept his eyes down and concentrated on healing Prue, refusing to give up despite the fact that he knew how seriously she'd been hit.
"Leo?" Piper pleaded after too many gut-wrenching moments had gone by without any progress. "Why isn't it working Leo?"
Leo tried not to get distracted by the aching in Piper's voice—he knew that losing Prue would be the last straw for her.
"LEO?" Piper repeated.
"Piper, I—" Leo began, not wanting to deliver the news he knew he might have to. Her turned to her with nothing but regret in his eyes.
"Wait, look!" Paige exclaimed, bringing everyone's attention back to Prue. "It's working!"
Prue's wound had begun to close, the warming glow of Leo's healing touch finally taking affect.
Leo breathed a deep sigh of relief before bringing Prue back to full health.
Prue slowly awakened, still a little weak as she sat up to meet the embrace of all three of her sisters.
"Easy," she laughed at their enthusiasm. "I feel like I got hit in the chest with a flaming cannonball."
"Well," Phoebe shrugged. "That is kind of what happened."
"Prue I'm so sorry!" Paige wailed despite Leo's earlier consolation.
"Don't worry, sis," Prue reassured. "It's a good thing that you're getting a handle on those powers of yours."
Paige smiled warmly at Prue's gesture of affection.
"Now," Prue grunted slightly as she rose to her feet. "Who's in a rhyming mood?"
She pulled out four copies of the Damien vanquishing spell and distributed them to her sister witches, motioning for them to join hands.
"Piper, will you do the honors?" Prue questioned.
"Don't mind if I do," Piper smirked, unfreezing Damien with a twirl of her wrist.
"N—NO!" Damien shrieked, realizing what unfolded during his temporal stasis. "How did you—you're only girls!"
"Oooh, strong words from a dead demon," Phoebe teased. The four then began the spell in unison.
The flame from Damien's hand burns deep
Wakes children from dreams, and corpses from sleep
We send you now to the farthest stretch
To a place that no mind may surmise or etch
We banish you now, we sisters four
You will not haunt us anymore
Damien howled in agony, flames engulfing his entire body. The wailing increased in volume as he began to dissipate, eventually exploding into nothingness at the girls' feet.
"Hmm, I didn't mind the shouting so much this time," Piper smiled as Prue pulled her into a new embrace.
"How about I take you home?" Leo proposed.
All four girls quickly joined hands in preparation to orb out, seemingly never having heard a better idea in their lives.
Back at the Manor, the girls gathered on the couch with some celebratory ice cream, more befitting of their age than anything else they had done that night.
"So, let me get this straight," Paige began. "We're gonna have to do that—what we just did—like all the time?"
Leo laughed slightly. "It'll get easier, don't worry. You'll develop strategies just like you did tonight, and your powers will only get stronger. You felt how potent the Power of Four can be when you guys put it to work tonight—when you all move as a unified front, nothing will be able to stop you."
"Nothing demonic, anyway," Phoebe sniped. "Both Paige and I have final exams tomorrow morning."
"ARGH I forgot about school Phoebe why did you remind me?" Paige moaned.
"You're almost finished," Prue prompted. "And then it's summer break. I'm sure both of you will have lots of fun hanging out at Mr. Micelli's Laundromat."
"You mean we can keep our jobs?" Phoebe brightened. "Your Pride won't lash out as us about it again?"
"Sure," Prue rolled her eyes. "As long as he doesn't push you too hard and you're always home by curfew, I think it's admirable of you two to show that much responsibility. And my Pride will just have to deal with it."
The three shared a loving glance before Prue adopted a more mothering tone and continued, "Now, it's too late to study and you must be exhausted, so go straight to bed and wake up early. Andy will drive you in before school starts so that you have a chance to cram in the morning." She turned to her boyfriend. "Right Andy?"
"Aye aye, Captain," he concurred. "As long as no one goes almost dying again, I'm fine with it." He took Prue's hand, unsure of what he would've done if he had lost her.
Phoebe and Paige heeded their marching orders, less in an act of deference to Prue and much more out of the sheer sleepiness that was beginning to overcome them.
"I think I'm gonna hit the hay too, Prue," Andy commented, heading for the foyer. "Do you want to come over to my place?"
After a moment of consideration, Prue returned, "No, that's all right—I think I'm just going to stay here with my sisters tonight.
Andy nodded knowingly before giving her a hug and exiting the Manor. When Prue, Piper, and Leo were left alone, Prue turned to the couple on the couch.
"Leo, I can't thank you enough," Prue began. "For what you did tonight and for what you do every night."
"Prue, it's my job," Leo obviated. "No thanks necessary."
"No, it's more than that," Prue corrected. "Just watching how you were with Phoebe and Paige—guiding them about their powers and staying strong for us through all that's going on—has made me realize that I've been unfair to you. I think we all know by now that it's hard for me to cede responsibility, and I'm sorry that I've been so dismissive of you since the beginning when it comes to the family…and to Piper especially. I just need you to know that I appreciate all you do. So…truce?"
"Truce," Leo laughed, shaking Prue's hand in agreement.
"Good," Prue nodded. "I'm heading up to bed too. I'll see you guys in the morning."
With Prue gone, Leo took Piper's hand. "Piper, I—"
"Don't say it," Piper smiled. "Don't say you're sorry. There's nothing to apologize for. I understand it now, after fighting together in that room with my sisters. Yes, the potions control our lives and the lives of the people around us in horrifying ways. That, I'll never condone or get over. But I get now that the question of condoning the potions isn't even really the issue, because the potions made us. They are us. And trying to completely reject that is futile. That doesn't mean I won't resist any particularly awful situation that the potions may cause in the future, but after tonight I know that the larger matter at stake is that these potions and our powers will allow us to do an immeasurable amount of good in our lifetimes. I felt like something in me started to heal while we fought tonight. Like for once I wasn't weak anymore. I have power, and I can use it to help other people who have faced suffering. Grams would be proud of that, and I think the Matthews' would be too."
"Of course they're proud of you," Leo smiled, tucking Piper's hair behind her ear. "I'm proud of you, too. Your maturity and your strength never cease to amaze me. I love you, Piper," he kissed her forehead lightly. "And I'm so glad that I get to."
Piper's heart lurched a bit, knowing that Leo meant his words but not being aware of what she did to deserve him. She rested her head on his lap, whispering, "I love you, too," like it was a secret she'd been saving for his ears only.
Phoebe sat awake in her bed, more than tired enough to sleep but also a bit wired on the energy in the house. For the first time since Grams died, peace hung over the Manor. She was grateful that her Perceptibility allowed her to feel just how graceful the spirit of each Halliwell sister was at that moment. After all the trouble and turmoil in their lives, Phoebe could finally sense their hearts beginning to ease.
They were going to be all right.
They were the Charmed Ones.
A/N: That's all, folks. Thanks for a decade of amazing support.