23

xXx

The wind gave one more ferocious wail, and then fell quiet. There was only a lingering breeze as it departed, and then it was still. They startled as the musical tone of the Grandfather clock began to tell the hour. They listened as it chimed three, then four, five…

The sisters crowded in shoulder to shoulder, Leo to their back. O'zeph stood at Leo's left.

Eight. Nine. Ten.

"Be careful," Leo told them, though his eyes looked anxiously at Piper.

"Lock away your fear," O'zeph instructed. "She has no power over you if she can't use your fear."

Eleven.

Twelve.

And then the tap-tap-tap of footsteps was heard in the foyer, followed by the image of an odd middle-aged woman. She was removing gloves from her long claw-like fingers and glancing around the interior of the home appraising it. Leo could see large lumps on her skull through thin patches of white hair. Her face was a carved mask of eyes that were too large and a nose and mouth that were mismatched to the point of grotesque. Bones of different sizes, some crooked, bulged from beneath a purple robe. It was the creation of a body by a creature that had no great love for the human form; made in a fit of madness.

"That's her—the woman from my premonition," Phoebe told them. "But she wasn't so…messed up then."

O'zeph whispered, "A body that reflects her state of mind."

The Aox Mother lumbered toward them, then stopped. "O'zeph, my child," her mouth wavered in what seemed like slow-motion, "bring them to me and all will be forgiven."

O'zeph didn't move. "We've left you, Mother. I no longer serve you, nor do my brothers. If you come back with me now, and forget this crime against the Charmed Ones, we will help to restore you to the gentle being you once were." He lifted his hand, in silent plea to the Aox Mother.

"You leave me?" She laughed hideously. "What is The Law, O'zeph?"

O'zeph closed his eyes. "Separation brings death."

"Bring them to me," She demanded.

But O'zeph stood his ground.

"Leave him alone," Phoebe said loudly. And she took Prue and Piper's hand so that they made a protective circle about O'zeph with outstretched arms.

Leo put his hand on the ancient man's shoulder in support. For a moment, they huddled there surrounding O'zeph, hoping for a standoff. But then O'zeph's shoulders and chest began to shake and shiver, droplets of light began to flee his body and drift to the Mother. Impulsively, Leo tried to hold his hands over O'zeph's chest as if the fleeing light came from a wound. But O'zeph's life-light just passed through Leo's hands as Leo watched helplessly. O'zeph suddenly slumped against Leo, weak and no longer able to stand.

"Stop it!" Phoebe yelled; she broke free from her sisters and ran toward the Aox Mother.

"Phoebe!" Piper and Prue screamed after her.

But it was what the Mother was waiting for, and in an instant all three sisters were gripped in paralyzing horror, gasping for breath like fish out of water.

Quickly, Leo guided O'zeph to the sofa.

O'zeph strained to speak. "Help them…White Lighter." But Leo was already springing into action. His Light was burning inside him, barely containable; it had ignited upon seeing the sisters in trouble and it was within an inch from exploding from his body. He realized he must focus the Light before he set it free upon the Aox Mother.

Mentally, Leo collected the strength of the Light to his palm, but then he almost lost control of it when Piper suddenly went limp. She levitated there, several feet off the floor, head thrown back and eyes closed.

Leo's roar was primal as he released the Light. It rocketed from his hand, his arm, knocking him backwards. He staggered, trying to maintain his balance.

The Aox Mother screamed as she countered Leo's Light with her own. The two bolts of light crashed into one another and then locked in a strange battle of push in which each tried to gain ground and overcome the other. From the corner of his eye, first Leo saw Prue stir, and then Phoebe. His battle with the Mother was weakening her hold over the sisters. And then his heart jumped in his chest when Piper opened her eyes and took a gulp of breath. Phoebe and Prue pulled Piper down until her feet were on the floor, and supported her weight when she was too weak to stand.

The three sisters linked arms and chanted:

The Power of Three

Shall set us Free

No Fear shall ever quell

The Power of a Halliwell

The house shook as if in the midst of an earthquake. The Aox Mother screamed, and then the bolt of light that still battled with Leo's Light, fell away. For a second she swayed on her feet, disoriented, her grotesque head flopping from side to side as if too heavy to hold up. But then fissures of light split her flesh apart creating a great implosion. As he watched, Leo thought that it was like a bright and unworldly mirror shattering into itself.

"Piper!" Phoebe cried. And Leo's head snapped around to where Piper had collapsed to the floor. O'zeph was crawling to her as Prue and Phoebe knelt to her side.

xXx

"Her heartbeat is fading, White Lighter!" O'zeph said as he touched the side of Piper's neck. "Be quick about it!"

On his knees, Leo's Light-filled hand hovered over Piper's chest. The Light was searching for Piper, her essence, her spirit. Searching and searching—where was she? The Light reached further into Piper, diving and surfacing, diving and surfacing. Leo was panicking. Her voice was echoing in his head from earlier: I want a normal life. Nearly impossible…Won't stop me from trying…

"She's slipping away, White Lighter…You must open the gate all the way!"

Leo clenched his jaw. I won't lose you—I won't. His chest was on fire; he felt as if he were splitting into as more and more of the Light flowed through to his hands, until it was spilling over and casting its brightness throughout the room. It carried her name with it, Piper…Piper…a hushed whisper that filled his ears. And still the Light kept coming from some unknown place…

…and suddenly he was swept up and riding the Light.

He was no longer in the Halliwell house. Or on Earth. Traveling so fast that he had to close his eyes, he clung to the Light, trusting it. He was brushing past things he could not see in the darkness—yet they felt familiar…and comforting.

The reckless pace the Light was traveling began to slow. She was near; every Light-filled cell in his body told him so. And then she was there before him, a drifting and confused spirit.

He wrapped the Light around her and took her back home.

xXx

For the longest time after opening her eyes, she didn't speak. She simply stared up at him.

He smiled.

She blinked in disbelief, "You are an angel."

"Yes, thank God," Phoebe said, shaking with relief.

"It's good to have you back, potionist." O'zeph said, patting her hand.

Prue lifted Piper's head to place a pillow underneath. "Yeah, I thought we'd lost you…"

"For a few minutes, you did." Then she looked up at Leo, "I owe you my life," Piper said. "After everything I said to you…"

He shook his head. "Piper…" he sighed, "you don't owe me anything; I'm your White Lighter." But then he paused, and considered. "Although, I would like to keep our dinner date."

She grinned. "I'd like that."

End

xXx

Note: A huge Thank You goes out to everyone who followed the story to The End. This was my first fanfic and a learning experience. There are flaws in the story—I started out writing to a younger audience but couldn't sustain that voice, and I was afraid that I had lost that younger crowd. But surprisingly, most kept up with the story anyway.

Also, writing a segment every day doesn't leave much room for revisions—it's a crazy pace. So thank you for overlooking the mistakes.

And yes, I did take certain liberties with Leo's character. To me, angels are timeless, ageless creatures. And I wanted to explore Leo's Light and have it mean more than maybe what the show allowed. I'm sorry if that offended anyone.

-Anna