Disclaimer: Charmed belongs to Constance M. Burge, Brad Kern, and Spelling Entertainment. I own nothing.

Author's note: Set in an alternate universe, the story asks the question, "What if Phoebe had died instead of Prue?" A big thank you to Jen for the beta read.

“She doesn't like me,” Paige Matthews muttered. She stood in the doorway, her hand nervously tucking a stray strand of dark hair behind her ear.

Piper Halliwell watched her, looking for signs of her mother, her grandmother, or herself in this woman. Her heart went out to her.

“That's not true. It takes her a while to warm up to new people, and this, all of this, has come at us pretty fast. She doesn't like change; that's all.” Piper gave Paige a smile, hoping it would reassure her fears, but Piper didn't feel so reassured herself. She leaned against the door. “You head home and get some rest. I'll talk to Prue.”

Paige nodded. “All right.” She met Piper's brown eyes. “Thank you...for everything. I only wanted to know where I came from. I don't want to replace anybody.”

“I know.”

Paige stepped outside and waved. Piper watched her reach her car safely before she closed the door.

When the door's latch slid into place, Piper leaned against it and sighed. She never realized how quickly things could change in one month. Was it really only a month ago that Phoebe had been alive and well? After Leo healed both Prue and Piper, they learned that their sister had paid the ultimate price for their lives.

Leo had recounted the tale through tears about how the Source wouldn't reverse time unless Phoebe agreed to break the Power of Three. The youngest Halliwell hadn't hesitated. Despite Cole's desperate pleas, Phoebe had offered herself to save her sisters.

“I've done nothing but take from them,” she had said. “It's my turn to give something back.”

Cole and Leo both tried to stop her, but it was to no avail. Both watched helplessly as the Source plunged a sword into Phoebe's heart.

Afterwards, the Source tried to kill Leo and Cole, but Cole brought them safely back to the surface. Once Prue and Piper were safe and alive, Cole disappeared and didn't even return for Phoebe's funeral.

Prue had taken Phoebe's death the hardest. After all, the Source didn't even give them a body to bury. She sealed herself away from everyone, and barely spoke to anyone, even Piper.

When Paige appeared at the funeral, Piper thought she was one of Phoebe's friends. Until she saw her at P3 several nights later. Shax went after her in the alley behind the club, and Piper saw the girl orb out and then back. Her shocked look told Piper the woman hadn't known what she had done. On reflex, Piper froze the demon and was amazed the other woman didn't freeze at all. From then on, Paige was a part of the Halliwell's lives.

But Prue refused to let Paige in completely. She accepted her long enough to defeat Shax, but she would hardly stay in the same room with woman.

Piper moved away from the door, heading for the living room. She found Prue sitting in front of the fireplace, her back to the entrance. Her shoulders shuddered and Piper knew her older sister was crying.

“Prue?” she ventured.

“Is she gone?”


Prue turned around and her blue eyes met Piper's. “I can't do this. I can't go through this again. Phoebe was my responsibility. I should've died instead of her.” Her voice rose in pitch. “I was the oldest, damn it!”

Piper crossed the room in three strides. She pulled her sister into a hug and felt tears well in her own eyes. “It wasn't your fault. It wasn't anyone's fault. Phoebe made the choice she felt she had to make.”

Prue pulled back and shook her head viciously. “No. She should've found another way. I should've found a way to save her.”


Prue wiped at her eyes and peered into the fire. “And now I have to take on the responsibility of a sister I never knew I had? I'm supposed to welcome her with open arms because we share blood?” She glanced at Piper. “I don't know if I can. She's a stranger to me.”

Piper settled herself next to Prue. “We're strangers to her, too. Remember, when we found out we had powers, we had each other. All of a sudden, she gets premonitions and can orb, and she doesn't have anyone to help her through that.” She placed a hand on Prue's shoulder. “Paige didn't ask for this anymore than we did.”

“I know.” Prue's voice was soft. “But it feels so much like we're replacing Phoebe, and that isn't right.”

“No one can replace Phoebe. Paige knows that, and she isn't trying to be Phoebe.” Piper watched the fire. “I think Paige is trying to put her life back together the same way we are.”

“She has no reason to put her life together,” Prue responded bitterly. “She didn't lose a sister.”

Piper was quiet for a moment, letting the words sink in. “Yes, she did. Only she didn't know her.” Piper considered the fire for a moment before speaking again. “Phoebe would've liked Paige. They have the same spirit.”

Prue turned to her sister, a ghost of a smile on her lips. “She would have, wouldn't she? Phoebe would've jumped up and down if she knew she didn't have to be the youngest anymore.”

“I can hear her now. 'Now Prue can have someone else to be made at,'” Piper said.

Prue allowed herself to chuckle. Then her face grew serious again. “Do you think Phoebe thought I was mad at her when she died? I know we didn't see eye to eye over Cole. In fact, we rarely saw eye to eye over anything.”

“No.” Piper answered without hesitation. “Phoebe knew you loved her, and she knew you reacted the way you did because you cared about her. I don't think Phoebe held a grudge against you at all.”

A fresh tear trickled down Prue's cheek. She watched the fire, choosing her words carefully.

“I suppose I should talk to her tomorrow,” Prue said. “To Paige, I mean.” She looked at Piper. “After all, she's going to be a part of our lives now.”

“Yeah, I think that's a good idea.” Piper leaned her head on her sister's shoulder. “Phoebe will never be forgotten, but I think there's room in our hearts for Paige, too.”

“Maybe.” The fire cracked and popped in the fire place, breaking the heavy silence that fell between the two sisters. “Maybe.”


© 2006 Crimson Idealist