Title: Four's a Crowd
Written For: Charmed Flashfic
Characters: Prue, Piper, Phoebe, Paige
It had been strangely quiet for the last few weeks, almost too quiet given the normally hectic pace of their lives. Not that Paige and her sisters weren’t enjoying the lull in the supernatural weirdness that usually consumed them to the point of not being able to have normal lives, but they felt like they were waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Paige’s rumbling stomach interrupted her musings and made her look up from the stack of papers she was grading. She realized it was nearing six and she had skipped lunch. She also knew that Piper had a huge family dinner planned tonight because Phoebe was finally bringing Leslie over to meet them. Deciding that she could get more work done after sating her hunger, and knowing that she had caught up on her backlog during the quiet weeks, she decided to leave the rest of the tests for the next day and she orbed home.
The chaos she found in the manor almost made her wish she had ignored her hunger pangs and stayed in the calm quiet of her office. Piper was running around the kitchen, stirring pots and checking items in the oven. Chris was crying and Wyatt was making a mess with his toys.
“It’s about time you got home!” Piper admonished as soon as she noticed Paige in the room.
“Can I do anything to help you?” Paige asked.
Piper gave her a look that showed how little she appreciated Paige’s sarcasm. “Chris is overdue for a bottle,” she said. Then she noticed the mess Wyatt was making. “And please put Wyatt in his playpen so I can clean up this mess.”
Less than an hour later, Piper was serving a perfectly prepared meal. It always amazed Paige how her oldest sister pulled everything together all the time. The meal progressed nicely, everyone was in good spirits and Leslie seemed to fit in well. Paige felt a little like a fifth wheel with the two couples, but she reminded herself that it was something they had gone through before and everything would be fine. Plus she knew that her sisters would never intentionally leave her out.
Paige offered to serve the dessert so Piper and Leo could spend a little time together. They were slowly rekindling their relationship and Paige was happy for them. As she put the fruit parfaits on a tray to carry them into the dining room, she heard a loud gasp from Leslie, immediately followed by Piper yelling, “Paige! Get in here now!”
Forgetting dessert, Paige ran into the dining room and found two elders standing in the middle of the room, each holding one of Leo’s arms.
“What the hell?”
“Leo is being charged with the murder of Zolu,” one of the elders began to explain. “We’re taking him up there for a trial.”
“Can we help?” Paige asked, noticing Piper was frozen with shock and Phoebe was trying to keep Leslie from bolting.
“No, Leo must face this trial alone. We will allow him to return at the completion of the trial to inform you of the outcome.”
“Okay, so we’re going to be without a Whitelighter until this trial is over?”
The second elder cleared his throat. “We, um… well… we’ve discussed that and we have a Whitelighter that has just completed training that we’d like to send on a trial basis.”
“Oh, great, a new Whitelighter who probably doesn’t have the first clue about anything. We’ll be lucky if we don’t get killed.”
The first elder interjected. “I assure you, the protection of the Charmed Ones is of the utmost concern to the elders. You will not be disappointed.”
Without another word, the elders orbed out with Leo.
“Phoebe?” Leslie asked in a shaky voice. “What the hell was that all about?”
“Um, well… it’s kind of complicated but basically my sisters and I are witches. Leo was our Whitelighter, a guardian angel if you will.”
Leslie’s eyes crossed as he tried to process the information. After a few moments, he passed out cold.
Phoebe and Paige shared a look.
“What do we do now?” Paige asked.
“Well, we get Leslie off the floor,” she answered. “And then we get Piper to snap out of her trance,” she continued, waving her hand in front of Piper’s face. “And then we ditch the new Whitelighter and find some way to help Leo.”
“You’re not going to be able to ditch your new Whitelighter that easily,” a voice softly commented from the doorway. “But everything else sounded like a good idea.”
Paige and Phoebe turned to stare at the dark haired woman in the doorway. Phoebe’s face went pale with recognition.
A smile spread across her face. “I’m your new, hopefully temporary, Whitelighter.”
Paige stood, shell-shocked, as Phoebe ran to hug her big sister. This was a nightmare come true for Paige. She had often wished that she had known the eldest Halliwell sister, but deep down, a small part of her was still afraid that she was just a replacement and that she would never measure up to the great Prue. Now Prue was standing here, back from the dead, and Paige wasn’t sure how to react.
“Phoebe, I may be dead, but you choking me is still pretty uncomfortable,” Prue joked as she pried Phoebe’s arms from around her neck. “Paige, it is so nice to finally meet you,” she continued, stepping towards the youngest Halliwell sister, arms open for a hug.
Paige felt uncomfortable, but hugged Prue anyway. After the hug, Prue stepped back and gave Paige the once over, as if suspecting that Paige’s welcome was less than enthusiastic. Paige felt panic rising in her chest, afraid that Prue would call her out, but Prue stepped away and stood near Piper.
“Piper, hey, you need to snap out of it so we can help Leo.”
Piper blinked, her eyes focusing on Prue.
“Prue, oh thank god, I must be dreaming. Leo wasn’t really taken away by the elders.”
“No, honey, you’re not dreaming. I am really here, I’m a Whitelighter now. And Leo really is going to be on trial with the elders but I am here to help you.”
Piper looked away from Prue and saw Paige and Phoebe standing behind her, looking concerned.
“Prue? You’re a Whitelighter now?”
Prue smiled. “We have a lot of catching up to do. We also have a lot of work to do. But first things first, I would very much like to meet my nephews.”
After Prue met the boys and Paige cleared the remains of their dinner from the table, the four sisters made themselves comfortable in the living room. Piper kept herself busy by making and serving tea, but they could all see her anxiety about Leo’s situation.
Once they were all settled, Prue explained how the trial would work.
“So what can we do to help Leo?” Piper interrupted after about ten minutes.
“Well, I think the only thing that will save Leo is for Barbas to confess that he was manipulating him at the time Leo killed Zolu.”
Paige rolled her eyes. “I’m so sure Barbas will be totally willing to help us,” she muttered sarcastically.
“Paige!” Phoebe admonished her. “Prue wouldn’t mention something like that unless she had an idea on how to make it happen.”
“Did you conveniently forget that this is the demon that has plagued us for years, who most recently caused you to lose your active powers and, oh yeah, helped Gideon try to kill Wyatt?”
“No, I didn’t forget, Paige, but I’m willing to listen to what Prue has to say. She’s a lot more knowledgeable about this than the rest of us.”
“Well, I guess you don’t need me then. You have the original power of three back. I’ll just go check on the boys while you three sort this out.” Paige stood up and started to leave the room.
“Paige, please,” Piper finally spoke up. “Prue isn’t part of the power of three anymore. You are. And I definitely need you to help me through this.”
Paige saw the hurt on Piper’s face and she sat back down. “I’m sorry, I just…” she wasn’t even sure how to begin explaining how she felt.
Prue reached over and put her hand over Paige’s. “I understand how difficult it is for you to have me here, Paige. That’s why I haven’t come back sooner. You needed to be secure in your position in the power of three before I showed up. We weren’t actually planning on me visiting this soon, but the circumstances didn’t give us any other option.”
Paige smiled hesitantly. “I’m sorry, Prue, I have just always felt like I was second best to you.”
“I understand, but you have to realize that you are much more powerful now than I was when I died. You becoming a Charmed one was part of the grand design.”
Paige smiled at the big sister she never knew. “Thanks, Prue. That makes me feel better. Now, let’s save Leo.”
Paige smiled to herself as she stood with her sisters, ready to enact the plan Prue had laid out for them. She had to admit that Prue was definitely the most level headed Halliwell sister and she was very impressed with Prue’s plan. And she was only a little jealous that she hadn’t thought of it first.
Piper placed the last crystal to create the cage they would use to trap Barbas. Phoebe stood ready with the summoning spell. When all was in place, Prue nodded to her younger sisters and the three began the summoning spell.
As soon as Barbas began to materialize inside the cage, Paige began to recite the spell that had gotten her and Prue both in trouble in the past.
For those who want the truth revealed,
Opened hearts and secrets unsealed.
From now until it is now again,
After which the memory ends.
“So, Barbas,” Phoebe began. “Long time, no see.”
He rolled his eyes and attempted to break out of the crystal cage. His face revealed his surprise at being thrown back in the cage. Then his gaze slid over to where Prue stood and understanding shined in his eyes.
“Reunited with your sisters I see.”
Prue smiled. “Yes, at least for a short time. I’m here to help them exonerate Leo in the death of Zolu.”
“Zolu… that’s the elder I tricked Leo into killing, right?” Barbas looked shocked even as he said the words. “I mean… I didn’t… no, he didn’t kill him of his own free will. I was influencing his actions.” Terror filled his eyes. “Why am I telling you all this?”
“It’s called a truth spell, Barbas, and now that you’ve admitted you set my husband up, Prue is going to take you up to testify at his trial. Good luck with the elders,” Piper sneered. “Give them my best.”
Piper nodded to Prue and then removed one of the crystals to open the cage. Prue grabbed Barbas’ arm and orbed out.
It seemed like they’d been waiting for hours, but Paige knew it had really only been about 45 minutes since Prue had taken Barbas up there to exonerate Leo.
Piper walked in, carrying the tea tray. Phoebe jumped up to help her serve.
“One of us would have made tea, Piper,” Phoebe admonished as she set out cups.
“I know,” Piper smiled at both of her younger sisters, “but I needed to do something. Waiting is driving me crazy. Why hasn’t Prue or Leo come back yet?”
Just then bright blue and white lights filled the room and formed into Leo and Prue, who were both grinning.
Piper ran over to hug her husband. “I’ll assume by the smiles on your faces that things went well.”
Leo held her tightly. “Yes, thanks to you guys. I’ve been cleared of all crimes.”
“It was Prue’s plan that saved you,” Paige said, wanting to give credit where it was due. Prue smiled as she put an arm around Phoebe and Paige.
“Yeah, but my plan wouldn’t have worked without the power of three.”
“So now what?” Phoebe asked. “Is Prue going to stay as our white lighter?”
Leo and Prue shared a look.
“Well,” Leo began. “The elders offered to reinstate me as a full elder.”
Piper pulled away and looked up at her husband.
“But, I said that I needed to be here with my family and asked to be assigned as your permanent white lighter.”
Piper smiled and threw her arms back around her husband.
“Does that mean you’ll have to leave?” Phoebe asked Prue.
“Yes, even with as much trouble as the three of you get into, the elders don’t think you need two white lighters.”
All three sisters were sad that Prue was leaving.
“I wish there was some way you could stay,” Paige said when it was her turn to hug Prue good bye.
Leo and Prue shared another look. “You should tell them now,” Leo encouraged.
“Tell us what?” Piper asked, still a little suspicious about losing her husband.
“The elders agreed that I can come back and be Chris and Wyatt’s white lighter in a few years, when they are older and need their own.”
With that, she blew a kiss towards her nephews and orbed out.