"Dammit!" The curse and accompanying crash were loud enough to make most of the other police officers in the department jump and reach for their guns. They relaxed when they located the source of the outbreak and went back to business -- not without a few dirty looks and mumbled curses towards the source of the shock.
Inspector Andy Trudeau was completely oblivious to the fact that he'd almost gotten himself shot. He hunched over his desk and ran his hands through his short dark hair, still swearing under his breath as he stared balefully at the paperwork in front of him.
His partner leaned back in his chair, out of range, before asking casually, "Problem?"
Trudeau didn't bother to look up. "Nothing. Not one single lead. There must have been 20 people outside the bar, and no one saw a damn thing. Or they're too scared to admit to it!"
Morris nodded slowly, shoving his chair back another careful inch from the desks that were his only shield from his partner's increasingly uncertain temper. Ever since the breakup, whatever that had been about.... "Maybe nobody *did* see anything. It was midnight, Trudeau, and a pretty dark alley."
Trudeau finally looked up. "They were less than a block from the Embarcadero," he pointed out, with the kind of strained patience that is usually accompanied by negotiations and demands to release hostages. "4 million tourists flood Pier 39 every day to see sea lions, and buy Fisherman's Wharf out of clam chowder every night, and you're telling me none of these people saw *anything*? It's not possible."
Morris sighed and risked his life (or at least vital body parts) by leaning forward across his desk. "Look, Trudeau, maybe you're right. Maybe someone saw something. Someone probably *did* see something. But you've been looking for that someone for over a week; I don't think whoever it is is going to come forward like a good little citizen at this point. And they're sure not going to come forward if you jump down their throats like you've been jumping down everyone else's lately."
Trudeau started to snap something back, but caught himself. He closed his eyes and took three very long, very deep breaths. "You're right," he finally said, his voice still under careful control. "Sorry."
"No problem," Morris said, sitting back in his chair. "My pleasure. Anything to protect the citizens of San Francisco."
Trudeau tried to turn his laugh into a snort and almost succeeded. He sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair, letting his head fall over the back. "I just can't believe this. Four nights, two women dead, and we've got nothing except a guy who can apparently disappear into thin air."
"I'm not real happy about it either," Morris pointed out. "But killing yourself chasing down dead ends isn't going to do those girls any good. And it's sure as hell not going to do much for you." He leaned forward again, resting his elbows on his desk. "You know what you need, man?"
Morris gave him a Look. "No. You need to get out of this station. Go to a movie. Go to a bar. Get a date. But do *something* with yourself."
Trudeau blinked at him, toying with a pencil. "Since when are you so concerned about my personal life? Anyway, there's nothing out I want to see, bars bore me and there's no one I want to date."
"No one except Ms. Prudence Halliwell."
Trudeau's grip tightened on his pencil; it almost broke before he consciously and carefully relaxed his grip. "That's over."
Morris nodded. "So you keep saying." He thought about saying a few other things, but Trudeau really did look too miserable to harass. He stood up instead, putting on his suit jacket. "Come on, let's find a bar and I'll try and keep things from getting too boring for you."
*And if I get you drunk enough, I get to listen to you tell me all about breaking up with the woman you fell for after three seconds,* he added mentally as he herded Trudeau to the door of the squad room. *Another fun evening out with the SFPD.
"Prue!" Phoebe's voice echoed up the stairs and off the walls. Her older sister ignored it determinedly, settling back harder against her pillows and shoving her glasses up her nose.
"Prue, we're leaving!" Piper's voice joined Phoebe's, less shrill and more coaxing, but no less annoying. "Come with us, Prue, it'll be fun!"
Prue took off her glasses, slamming them down into the bedspread. "I told you, I'm not going!" she shouted back.
Silence. She could almost hear her two sisters whispering back and forth. 'We have to make Prue go out.' 'We have to cheer Prue up.' 'Prue shouldn't stay at home.' 'It'll be good for Prue to get out.' 'Prue is still depressed about Andy.' 'We should make Prue go out.'
"We should leave Prue *alone*," Prue groaned, putting down her book and sliding down, burying her face in her pillows. Going out wasn't going to fix anything; watching Phoebe try to pick up, and Piper hide from, anything in pants was not her idea of a fun time. Not when the only thing Prue wanted to be picking up was a cop with a great smile and a fantastic...
"Prue? Come on!"
"Gng!" She buried her face deeper in her pillow and pulled another one over her head.
For about two minutes. Then she sensed Piper come into the room, and debated pretending she was asleep, or just being bitchy and driving her off. Then she gave up and took off the pillow. She could have done it to Phoebe, but not to Piper.
Sure enough, Piper was kneeling beside the bed, her pretty face set with worry and sympathy. "Prue...." she started.
"I know, I know," Prue cut her off. "I need to get out, I can't stay up here and be depressed. But that's what I want to do, so can you please just leave me alone to do it?"
Piper bit her lip, but pushed on. "Look, Prue, I know it's been a month today since you did the truth spell thing, and I know what Andy said. But you can't..."
"Can't what? Can't be depressed because the guy I fell for can't handle me being a witch? Can't be unhappy because I'm stuck with these powers and this stupid 'protect the innocent' mission so I have to give up everything else in my life? Can't spend one single, solid night feeling sorry for myself when I *really* deserve it?!? Watch me!"
Prue's voice had risen to a shout, and come way too close to breaking on the last words; without looking at Piper, she turned over and pulled the pillow back over her head. Behind her, she heard Piper sigh and felt a gentle hand touch her shoulder. "It's okay, Prue. If you want company, we'll be downstairs, watching old movies and eating ice cream."
Piper left, and Prue huddled closer into herself on the bed. It wasn't fair. She'd gotten rid of a louse of a fiancÚ, and immediately met the perfect guy, a guy who was sweet and smart and funny and handsome and responsible... and a cop. An inspector who would never be able to handle the fact that his girlfriend was a real, practicing, card-carrying, incantation-chanting witch. It wasn't *fair*.
A tear squeezed past her eyelid and she brushed it away impatiently, sniffling once, hard.
She could still remember the expression on his face when, time running out on the truth spell, she'd pressed him, "Can you, or can you not, accept that I'm a witch?"
His small shake of the head, the way he'd barely been able to look her in the eyes. "I don't think so, Prue... "
Another tear squeezed out, followed by another, and she sniffed them back. "It's not fair," she repeated into her pillow, the chant of a wounded little girl. "Not fair."
Phoebe looked up as Piper walked into the living room and dropped onto the couch, her arms crossed over her chest and her face sober. "No go, huh?"
Piper shook her head. "No go. All she wants to do is stay home and mope."
"Well, can you blame her?" Phoebe pointed out. "She's got this great hunk of a guy and then poof, he's gone. She's gonna be depressed until she goes out and finds another hunk -- preferably one who can handle magic, this time."
Piper glared at her younger sister. "Try to have a little sympathy, Phoebe? Prue's relationship with Andy was about more than him being a great hunk, and you know it. She's in love with him."
Phoebe sank lower in her chair, making a face. "I know, I know. I just don't get why she's making such a mess out of it. She could just, oh, I don't know, tell Andy the truth?"
"She tried that, remember?"
Phoebe made a rude noise. "Yeah, right. He doesn't remember, so it doesn't count."
Piper threw her popcorn halfheartedly, bouncing kernels off her sister's head. "It counts to Prue." She sighed and tossed a few pieces of popcorn into her mouth for lack of anything better to do with it.
Phoebe hunched lower in her chair, wrapping a pillow close to her chest and staring grumpily over it at the opening credits of the movie. "If this is love, I'll take liverwurst."
Piper sighed. "Well, there's only one thing we can do about it tonight."
"Chocolate." Phoebe said it with her and they grinned weakly at each other as they got up. "You make the brownie mix, I'll spoon out the ice cream."
"Can I help?" They looked up the stairs and found Prue leaning against the railing. She was smiling a little, but her eyes had the red look that came with crying and trying to hide it. "I could spoon out the whipped cream."
Piper recovered and smiled, holding out her hand. "Sure. The Power of Three versus Haagen Daaz."
Phoebe nodded and Prue's smile got a little stronger. "The ice cream is toast."
Two hours later, they were still comfortably settled in front of the TV with popcorn, ice cream, coffee, and black and white tearjerkers.
"Why are you crying, Piper?" Prue teased, sounding almost normal even to her own ears. "We're only half an hour into the movie, nothing's happened yet."
Piper sniffled and reached for another kleenex. "But I know what's *going* to happen. She's going to leave, and he's going to let her, and...." She trailed off with a guilty look sideways at Prue.
"Way to go," Phoebe said under her breath, launching another handful of popcorn in Piper's direction. Piper looked even guiltier and Prue sighed.
"It's okay, Piper. Andy isn't exactly Rick, and I am certainly not Ilsa," she said with as much humor as she could muster.
Piper smiled reluctantly and spooned up another scoop of ice cream. Phoebe snerked lightly and tossed another scoop of popcorn, this one aimed at her mouth. But her hand froze halfway up and the popcorn sprayed over her chest and the chair beneath her.
"Phoebe?" Prue sat up straight as Piper leaned over to grab her sister's shoulder. Phoebe's face had gone dead white, her eyes wide open and focused straight ahead on nothing her sisters could see. Piper shook her once, then again. "Phoebe? What's wrong?"
Just as Prue was starting out of her seat and Piper was beginning to seriously panic, Phoebe suddenly shuddered and came back from wherever she'd been, gasping for breath and grabbing for Piper's hand. "Oh, god. Andy!"
Prue's blood froze, then suddenly burned, pounding through her veins so loudly she couldn't hear anything else. She made it to Phoebe's side in two steps, clutching her younger sister's shoulder. "Andy? What about Andy? Phoebe, what did you see?!"
Phoebe shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut as if she could block the images out. "Andy... I saw Andy. Oh god, Prue -- there was blood... so much blood. I think... I think someone shot him!"
The small bar was packed to the rafters for a Friday night, music and voices filling the air as thickly as the smoke. Morris had gotten picked up by a good-looking woman and was trying to impress her with tales of derring-do on the job. So he didn't notice when Andy escaped into the clean air outside.
The city was almost quiet near midnight -- the tourists had headed for their hotels and the residents were either home safely or still tucked in their favorite nightspots. The only sounds were the occasional shushing of tires on the wet pavement, the lap of the waves against the shore of the Embarcadero a block away, and the distant echo of the sea lions on Pier 39, talking softly among themselves.
Andy turned the collar of his jacket up against the chilly drizzle and considered catching a cab back to the precinct. He could pick up his car, head home, maybe get a full night's sleep for once. But even as he thought about it, he was already walking towards the Embarcadero.
Just one walk up and down, he promised himself. Maybe 45 minutes, just to take a look around, make sure nobody was wandering around alone, look for anyone who made a habit of wandering around alone and might be a witness.
Make sure no one was lurking in the shadows to kill another woman. The second murder had happened two nights after the first; if there was a single killer, he might strike again tonight, two nights later. If he did, Inspector Andy Trudeau intended to be there to stop him
There were still a few couples wandering along Pier 39, walking hand in hand or arm in arm, whispering to each other as if there was no one else in the world. Andy tried to ignore them, shoving his hands deeper in his pockets. He and Prue had hit the Italian restaurant near the end of the Pier once a few months earlier, feeding each other bites of the fresh seafood and fighting over the last of the mozzarella sticks. Then they'd wandered along the Pier and laughed at the sea lions and....
He caught himself and jerked his thoughts away from Prue. That was over. He couldn't stay involved with someone who didn't trust him, who kept so many secrets from him he wasn't even sure if anything she'd ever told him was true. Up to and including the part where she cared about him.
It wasn't like he wasn't a trustworthy kind of guy, he told himself, and he'd trusted Prue to begin with. But when she kept showing up at weird crime scenes with no explanation; when she kept canceling dates with no real reason; when she avoided him and dared him to get a warrant to simply ask her a few questions... it was just too much. He couldn't live like that and he wasn't going to.
But he kept remembering her smile, and the warmth of her touch, and the way she felt in his arms after they'd just made love...
"And you're starting to sound like bad song lyrics," he muttered to himself, shoving his damp hair out his face with a single disgusted motion. "Just check out the street and then go home, before you lose what's left of your mind."
The Fisherman's Wharf sign shone dully in the light from the streetlamps above him as he wandered past, doing his best to look like a tourist or, better yet, a drunk. Anything but a cop. It apparently worked -- no one seemed to notice him at all as he strolled down past the closed t-shirt stands and souvenir shops. Everything was quiet, peaceful....
Something moved in the wide alley across the street. Andy stopped dead and squinted into the darkness, trying to find the source of the scuffling sound. Nothing.
But there was something there, every instinct he'd developed in eight years as a cop was sure of it. Squaring his shoulders and making sure his gun was in reach, he headed across the street.
"Where is he?" Prue repeated, shaking Phoebe with every word. "Where, Phoebe?"
"I don't *know*!" Phoebe said, almost crying, too scared and sickened to fight her sister off. The images kept replaying in front of her eyes -- Andy falling back as something hit him, Andy sprawled on a concrete floor, blood spreading in a dark stain over his shirt... "Someplace dark, with concrete floors... I don't *know*!"
Piper pulled Prue away. "Prue, this isn't helping, she can't tell you what she doesn't know! Look, where is Andy supposed to be on a Saturday night?"
Prue shook Piper off and dragged a shaky hand through her hair. "I don't know! He didn't go out much, unless he was with me, or unless he was working..." Her voice trailed off and she looked up, her face. "Oh god. He's been working on the murders down by the Embarcadero -- I saw his name in the newspapers. Oh my god, he's probably down there now!"
She was out of the room before either of her sisters could stop her, barely taking time to grab her jacket and car keys. "Page him!" she snapped over her shoulder as she went out the door. "Or call the department, call anyone!"
"And tell them what?" Phoebe shouted after her, but the door had already slammed shut. Seconds later, the tires of Prue's car squealed as she pulled away. "Oh, great! Piper! We've got to call someone! We've got to go after her!"
Piper appeared from the kitchen holding Prue's cell phone, her face set and grim. "Get your jacket, we'll call on the way."
For once, Phoebe scrambled to obey without a fight.
Andy moved into the shadows of the alley carefully, one hand on his gun. "Come out!" he shouted into the darkness, his voice echoing off the stone walls and the two closed doors leading into the buildings beside him.
Nothing moved. He took a few steps further in, his eyes flicking over the alley in search of anything that didn't belong. But not even a rat made an appearance.
The back of his neck prickled and he spun around, half-drawing his gun. He could have sworn he heard a scuffle, but there was no motion. Just his own breathing, and the insistent nerves that told him he was not alone.
His heart stopped as a shrill noise split the air. "Sonuva--!" His beeper. Without looking or taking his right hand off his gun, his left hand fumbled across his body for the off button, abruptly silencing the high-pitched beeps.
"Call you back later," he muttered to whoever had paged him. "After I recover from the heart attack."
"Oh, you'll be recovering from more than that."
Andy spun again, dropping into a half-crouch, with his gun in his hand before he even thought about it. But there was nothing to aim at -- the alley was completely empty. "SFPD!" he shouted in frustration. "Come out with your hands up!"
"Don't think so, Officer," the same snide, amused voice said. "Not tonight."
It was behind him again; he spun again, but there was no one. "Come out, you sick son of a bitch!"
"Over here," the voice said smugly; confused and furious, Andy swung around one more time--
--And something struck his wrists with a sickening crack. With a grunt of anguish, he stumbled back, his gun dropping from suddenly nerveless fingers. He dimly heard the pistol hit the ground, but nothing else seemed to matter through the pain radiating up his arms. He staggered back into the wall, shaking his head to clear it, his heart pounding.
*I'm in trouble,* he thought dimly, and amended it to, *Big trouble, * just before hands he still couldn't see shoved him to the ground. He instinctively tried to break his fall, and didn't realize his mistake until the blinding agony ripped through his arms again.
Finding a parking place at Fisherman's Wharf was usually impossible; tonight, Prue didn't care. She slammed her car into the first space she saw and jumped out, not stopping to see if it was legal or even to lock the doors. The only thing she could think about was getting to Andy. Phoebe's voice repeated itself in her head endlessly. *...there was blood... so much blood... so much blood....*
"Andy!" Her shout seemed loud enough to wake the dead as she ran down the street past Pier 39, past the crab that glowed down at her from the tall Fisherman's Wharf sign. There was no answer, just the curious looks of the three or four people she raced past. She ignored them. "Andy! Where are you?"
No answer. But something inside her, hidden deep down near where her magic lived, told her Andy was here. Somewhere.
"Andy? Please, Andy, answer me! Andy!"
"No answer! He's not calling back!" Phoebe slammed the cell phone against her hand. "What do we do?"
Piper was intent on the road, driving with what was, for her, a reckless disregard for traffic laws and pedestrians. Her voice was clipped and even. "Did you call the department? Andy's partner?"
"Yes! The department doesn't know anything, and Andy's partner isn't returning his page either!" Tears burned hot in Phoebe's eyes. She didn't know Andy well, but he always had a grin for her, and he made her sister's eyes light eyes up... "How is Prue going to find him? How are *we* going to find both of them?"
"Not we," Piper said without taking her eyes off the road. "You."
"Use your power. Find them. Where they are, where they're going to be, whatever. Find them."
Phoebe stared at her sister in disbelief. "What, you think I just make a wish and I can see? My power doesn't work like that, I can't control it! You *know* I can't!"
"Try!" Piper snapped. "And make it work or Andy's going to die!"
Andy's arms were throbbing, the right one with an intense, familiar pain that meant he'd probably broken it again. But he concentrated fiercely and started to move past the pain, to focus on the rest of the world. slowly, it began to clear around him.
He'd been dragged inside a building and was now sprawled flat on his back on what felt like cold concrete. He opened his eyes a slit and saw lights flickering around him -- *candles* he realized with an effort that hurt his heard even more. And somewhere above him, out of his range of vision, someone was talking.
"This is not what I had in mind for the ritual," the voice from the alley was saying sarcastically.
"Beggars can't be choosers," the same voice answered, but from Andy's other side. "He's a cop -- what were we supposed to do, let him chase off all the other possibles? He'll do, nothing in the spell says it has to be a woman."
"Not as much fun though," the voice said from its original position. "Still... I guess he'll work, and this is the last one. Let's get going, it's almost time."
"Right. Whatever." The voice -- voices? two of them -- moved off, and Andy cautiously opened his eyes further. Yup -- candles, black ones, and was that a skull? Yes, it was. And the floor beneath him... He lifted his head just enough to trace the blood-red lines of paint and didn't like the symbol he came up with. A five-pointed star.
Suddenly, the two murders made a lot more sense. Naked bodies with a single stab wound to the heart -- human sacrifice. Satanists. *Oh shit,* he swore to himself, some instinct keeping him from saying it out loud.
He sensed more than saw someone bend over him -- there was no one there, just a shimmer in the air and the sound of someone breathing, faint puffs of air against his cheek. "Awake, are we?" the voice said. "Well, that'll make it more interesting. Don't worry, Officer, this won't hurt a bit. Well, not much more than a bit."
"Stop fooling around," Voice Two said sharply. "And quit wasting your power; we'll need it for the spell. He's not going anywhere."
"All *right*," Voice One said with a hefty, put-upon sigh. The air shimmered, then solidified, and a man appeared in front of Andy, from out of thin air.
*I must have hit my head,* he thought wildly. *This is nuts!*
But real. A very real face with brown hair and brown eyes and a smirk that perfectly matched the sulky voice. Young, no older than Andy himself, and smug, dressed in a black robe and upside-down pentacle that were straight out of some bad horror movie.
"Tie him up," Voice Two ordered, and Andy had a second to wonder why he was thinking of them in Dr. Seuss terms. Then a second face joined the first -- an identical face, right down to the eyes, the robe and the smirk. "We don't want him getting away, now do we, Officer?"
"Sounds great to me," Andy said through gritted teeth, trying to get one of his arms to move. The right one twitched, but Voice One pounced on it instantly.
"None of that--" Voice One started, but he was cut off by the shout, coming from right outside.
"Andy! Answer me!"
"Prue?" Andy shouted back before he had time to think or even breathe. "Prue, get out of here!"
Instead, something banged against the door, sounding like a battering ram. Voice One and Voice Two both jumped to their feet, and Andy took his chance, shoving himself self dizzily to his knees and launching a clumsy tackle at the knees of Voice One.
Voice One went down hard, his head cracking against the concrete, and Andy rolled back over, nearly shouting at the pain from his arms. But he made it to his knees -- and froze as Voice Two pointed his own gun at him, his face twisted in a mask of petulant rage.
"Now, that wasn't very nice, was it?" he said between his teeth. "You've outlived your usefulness, Officer." His finger tightened on the trigger, and Andy braced himself for the explosion, and the pain.
But the door exploded first, flying off its hinges to crash against the far wall. Incredibly, Prudence Halliwell's slight, fragile form was right behind it. She came through the door at a run, and Andy shouted a warning. "Prue, watch out!"
He was too late. Voice Two had already changed aim and fired at Prue, the gunshots shattering the night at the same time Andy shouted her name.
"Concentrate, Phoebe!" Piper urged, cruising up and down the Embarcadero.
"I'm concentrating!" Phoebe snarled back, her eyes clenched shut and her hands fisted in her lap. "I just can't..."
"There's her car!" Piper shouted, screeching to a halt next to Prue's shiny red car. "They've got to be here someplace!"
"Well, I don't know--" Three gunshots suddenly split the night and both women froze, staring down the street. "Oh god."
"Prue," Piper whispered.
And Phoebe's world suddenly went gray. Images flashed in front of her, almost faster than she could follow. Andy in front of Prue, protecting her. A robed man with his hands on fire. Prue shouting. Fire flying through the air and flames igniting, casting flickering light on a pile of crates and the lettering on their sides....
"Brohgen Brother's Magic Shop!" she shouted as her eyes popped open, already running beside Piper down the street. "Oh, god, they're going to kill Andy *and* Prue!"
Andy made it back to his knees on sheer fear, knowing he would be too late to save her, as Voice One fired three times at Prue.
And, unbelievably, missed all three times. Prue's dark eyes, narrowed in fury, focused on him, and he seemed to fly back as if he'd been slammed with a log, crashing back fifteen feet into the wall. The impact shook the building but he kept his feet, as Prue put herself between him and Andy.
Andy pulled himself the rest of the way to his feet, adrenaline replacing exhaustion and pain. "Prue, no!" he tried to tell her, trying to get between her and the robed thug. "He's got my gun!"
"Stay behind me, Andy," she said grimly, without looking away from Voice Two. "You don't know what you're dealing with."
"A gun," Voice Two said viciously. "And I won't miss the cop or the witch this time!" He fired at point blank range, four more rounds and Prue's eyes narrowed again, her fists clenching at her side. This time, Andy swore he could see the bullets bounce away from them at a 90-degree angle, burying themselves in the wall ten feet away with little puffs of pulverized concrete.
It was impossible -- but so was Voice Two lurching into the air again, and flying headfirst into the crates stacked against the same wall his bullets had hit. The crates shattered and, this time, he slumped to the floor, still.
"Oh my god." It was all Andy could manage, as he stared open-mouthed at Prue, who, without moving, had somehow stopped bullets and slammed an opponent twice her size into a wall. "Prue, what the hell did you just do?"
Prue faced him, the avenging angel gone, replaced by an beautiful, uncertain woman. "Andy, I...." she started, before her voice trailed off helplessly.
Andy kept staring at her, even the pain in his arm receding behind his shock. "Is *this* your secret? Whatever 'this' is?"
"And what did he mean, witch?!"
"My brother meant," Voice One said from behind them, "that no one interferes with a warlock's rituals!" Andy and Prue both whirled as Voice One, on his knees and one hand, raised the other to them, glowing with a unearthly green light. "And particularly," he continued, his lips peeled back from his teeth in a snarl, "not one of *our* rituals!"
He shouted something in a language Andy didn't recognize as a hand shot forward, throwing the light. Andy's single working arm shot up instinctively as he twisted in front of Prue, with the desperate hope of keeping it -- whatever it was -- from hitting her. Prue dragged at his shoulder, trying to get past, but he wouldn't let her. *I don't want to die without telling her I love her* was his last thought as he squeezed his eyes shut--
And nothing happened. He waited, braced for the impact, for the burning pain he was sure would follow, but there was nothing. Prue's hand tightened on his shoulder, then abruptly let go. "Oh god," she sighed in one long breath, moving out from behind Andy. "Nice timing, Piper."
"No problem." And it was Piper's voice, breathless and scared, drifting across to them from the doorless entrance. Slowly, carefully, Andy lowered his arm. No, his eyes weren't fooling him. Voice One -- a warlock?!? -- was still in front of him, one arm still extended from throwing the ball of green lightening that hovered in the air less than a foot from Andy's head. Hovered unmoving, like lightning caught and frozen in mid-strike. Voice One was equally motionless, his face caught in a snarl of hatred -- Andy couldn't even see him breathing.
And Piper Halliwell stood in the doorway, breathing hard, with Phoebe beside her. The two of them, Prue and Andy himself were the only things moving in the warehouse, which didn't seem to surprise anyone but him.
"How did you find us?" Prue was asking, oblivious to Andy's dazed look at her.
"Phoebe's power came through," Piper explained cryptically.
That didn't make any sense, but it seemed some response was appropriate. "Good for Phoebe," Andy said.
If he was surprised at the sound of his voice, rough but surprisingly controlled, the effect it had on the three women was even worse. All three of them jumped and stared at him. "Andy?" Prue asked, her eyes wide with shock. "You're not frozen."
"Nope," he said calmly, blinking and trying to figure it all out. But there was just too much happening at once. "Should I be?"
Prue and Phoebe's eyes both swung to Piper who shrugged, looking embarrassed. "Well, I didn't want you to be -- so I guess you weren't. Pretty neat."
"Yeah," Phoebe said admiringly. "Looks like I'm not the only one who came through."
"Um, guys," Prue broke in, stepping away from Voice One and pulling Andy aside with her, "Isn't our little friend here going to unfreeze in a second?"
"Oh, yeah!" Piper stopped looking vaguely smug and got scared again. "What are we going to do with him?"
Andy thought about it seriously for a long second then looked around, his mind struggling to take in everything he'd just seen. The conclusion was surprisingly easy, once he put together all the months of clues he'd dismissed as impossible. Impossible was looking... possible all of a sudden.
He nodded once, and turned towards the warlock. "I'll take care of it."
On cue, everything around them abruptly flashed into motion again. The ball of lightning cut through the air and splashed against the wall, shattering into an explosion of green-tinged flames. The warlock gaped at the empty space where his targets had been -- then Andy's left fist slammed into his jaw and he slumped to the ground, out cold.
"All right, Inspector Trudeau!" Phoebe cheered.
Prue flashed a relieved smile up at him. "My hero," she said, without a trace of sarcasm.
Andy just looked down at her, too tired to even be amazed anymore. His arm was starting to hurt again, along with the knuckles he'd just bruised, the heat from the very real flames the ball of lightening had caused toasted his face, and he could still see Voice Two flying across the room, propelled by nothing but Prue's narrowed eyes.
"You're a witch," he said blankly. "Just like those two said." He looked around at the other two Halliwell sisters. "You're all witches. And that was magic. They were invisible, and you threw them around without touching them, and that guy threw lightning and...."
Prue stopped him by taking his hand, thankfully the one on the non-broken arm. "I'll explain it all, Andy," she said, pulling him urgently towards the door, as he stared dazedly down at his girlfriend... ex-girlfriend... witch girlfriend. "But we've got to get out of here before this place burns down!"
"Witches," was still all he could manage.
"Andy!" Prue lost her patience; she gave his arm another yank and he went this time, stumbling after the sisters into the alley.
"We're in trouble," Phoebe moaned, staring out at the street as the first sirens began to scream towards them. "How are we going to explain this one?"
"You won't, I will," Andy heard himself say. His mind abruptly cleared, as if the sound of the sirens and the panic in Phoebe's voice had pushed some 'cop' button in his head. He didn't stop to analyze it, was just grateful for it. If Inspector Trudeau was running the show, Andy wouldn't have to deal for a while. "Get out of here, I'll keep an eye on Voice One and Voice Two until everyone else shows up."
"You're hurt!" Prue protested, staring up at him with eyes wide in concern. "I won't leave you alone with these two, you don't know what they can do!"
Flames suddenly spiked up in the doorway behind them; Andy pushed Prue and Piper out of the way, and Phoebe ducked behind them. The green-edge fire roared higher behind them, started to tear with unnatural ferocity through the roof of the building. They stared at it soundlessly.
"I don't think we're going to have to worry about them," Piper choked, from the smoke or from tears, Andy couldn't tell.
"I'm still not going to leave you alone," Prue rallied, glaring up at him with the stubborn expression he loved even when it infuriated him.
He touched her cheek, but couldn't quite manage to smile. "it'll be a lot easier to do this if I don't have to explain you three," he pointed out. "Gunshots and.. molotov cocktails, if I can't think of anything better -- those I can handle. Magic is going to be a little harder to convince people of." He rubbed his neck with his left arm, since the right one was just a flare of agony from wrist to shoulder. "I'm not sure I believe it."
Prue looked miserable and started to say something, but he cut her off as the sirens got closer. "Get out of here."
Her lips tightened, but she nodded finally, then surprised him by kissing him once, hard. "I'm sorry, Andy. I'm sorry about all of this."
He nodded, not trusting himself to answer that yet. The sisters made their escape from the scene and Andy leaned his head back against the alley wall, letting his eyes close tiredly.
Magic. Witches. Sacrifices. Warlocks. Prue.
He opened his eyes so he look helplessly up at the sky, as the first shouts and footsteps of cops and firemen sounded outside. *Why me?* he asked the universe plaintively.
The universe declined to answer.
By four o'clock the next day, Prue's sisters were ready to kill her themselves and be done with it.
"Why hasn't he called?" Prue asked no one in particular, getting up from the chair she'd sat in barely a minute before and resuming her pacing. Piper and Phoebe rolled their eyes at each other behind her back.
"He's probably still asleep," Piper pointed out with affectionate, if strained, patience. "You said he didn't answer when you went over to his apartment."
"Or when you called him," Phoebe continued helpfully. "All five times."
Prue glared at her, then went back to pacing.
"You know, sleeping wouldn't be a bad idea for you," Phoebe tried pointing out. "You barely got any rest last night and you've been up since six. Unfortunately for the rest of us," she added under her breath.
Prue didn't hear. "I'm not tired," she brushed Phoebe's suggestion off.
Phoebe snorted rudely. "Please, you're ready to fall on your face!"
Piper threw a warning glare at Phoebe. "She's right, Prue," she agreed gently. "Go take a nap or a nice long bath, and we'll get you the second Andy calls. Promise."
Prue looked like she would argue, but a wide, deep yawn caught her by surprise. Her sisters watched her knowingly. "All right, I'll go," she gave in less than gracefully. "But you have to promise you'll come get me."
"We promise," Phoebe and Piper assured her in an exasperated chorus.
Prue wrinkled her nose at them, but headed reluctantly up the stairs. She'd almost made it to the top when the knock on the door came.
"Stay!" Piper ordered sharply, but Prue was frozen at the top of the stairs anyway. Piper beat Phoebe to the door, took three deep breaths, then opened it.
Andy Trudeau stood on the doorstep, looking tired and still smelling vaguely of smoke, his hair rumpled and his eyes red. He'd changed clothes, though, into jeans and a sweater, and his right arm was encased in a neat fiberglass cast. The light rain bounced off his trenchcoat.
"Andy," Piper greeted him cautiously.
"Piper." Andy forced a polite smile. "Is, ah... Is Prue around?"
Piper nodded and wordlessly stepped aside, letting him in. He walked past her, moving like every step was an effort, and stopped at the foot of the stairs, looking up at Prue. "Hey."
"Hi." Prue bit her lip and didn't move. Andy looked stuck, too, neither of them able to make the first move.
Phoebe finally broke the deadlock. "Andy, Prue, why don't you two talk in the living room," she said loudly, with a wide, fake smile.
"Good idea," Piper seconded equally loudly, ducking past Andy to get up the stairs to Prue, and not-so-gently pushing her back down towards the bottom. Prue went, never taking her eyes off Andy, who waited for them.
"Living room," Prue echoed her sisters. "Um, this way."
"Right." Andy nodded and took off his coat, then followed her, leaving Piper and Phoebe to stare after them.
"Boy, this could get ugly," Phoebe commented after a minute.
"Oh, yeah," Piper agreed with a sigh. "Come on, let's go make some coffee. I think everyone's going to need it."
Phoebe trailed after her, looking back over her shoulder at the living room as if she would rather stay and eavesdrop. Piper didn't blame her, but pulled her forward anyway. "Do we have any Haagen Daaz left?" Phoebe asked, resigned.
"No. It all melted when we left it out last night."
Prue led the way into the living room and watched as Andy lowered himself carefully onto the couch, leaning his head back with a sigh. He looked exhausted, line of pain still carved around his eyes and mouth. She hovered over him, wanting to smooth them away, but not sure what kind of welcome she'd be offered. His words from a month ago, the ones rejecting her, hung in the air like ghosts.
"How's your arm?" she asked weakly, perching on a chair a few feet away.
He shrugged without opening his eyes. "Broken in two places. Cast for six to eight weeks, long lecture from Morris and my lieutenant about solo patrols and calling for backup. But they bought the story."
Prue bit her lip, looking down so that her hair blocked her eyes, blocked out the hollow tone in Andy's words. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" he asked, with polite curiosity. She risked a peek, but his face was blank, his eyes still closed.
She would have preferred it if he'd yelled.
"I'm... I'm sorry you had to lie for us. I'm sorry I lied to you. I'm just... sorry."
He nodded slowly, without lifting his head from the soft cushions of the couch back. "I guess that would cover it."
She bit her lip and lowered her head again, studying the texture of the upholstery. The silence stretched between them, thick enough to touch. Brittle enough to shatter.
"You could have trusted me," he said finally. His voice still wasn't angry, but there was a kind of quiet hurt that was worse than anger.
Her teeth sank deeper into her lip. "I wasn't sure," she admitted quietly. "And it wasn't just me. it was Piper and Phoebe. And... I didn't think you'd believe me."
"Didn't think I'd accept you," he corrected, with a perception that startled her. It shouldn't have, she realized. Andy was good at reading people, it was what made him a good cop, he'd explained once. She just hadn't know he could read *her* so well.
But he could, and had. He must have seen every time she'd avoided him, every time she'd evaded his questions. Every time she'd lied to him. She owed him the truth now -- and they'd both have to live with it this time.
"I didn't think you could accept it." Her hair fell away from her face as she looked up and met his eyes, open now and looking back at her, still unreadable. "My father couldn't. He couldn't live with our mother and our grandmother, and he couldn't live with knowing what we were going to be. So he left us."
Andy nodded slowly. "Your whole family? They could all do... this?"
"For three hundred years, the women in my family have been witches." It was surprisingly easy to say -- maybe because she'd been able to practice it once before. "We -- Piper, Phoebe and I -- didn't know until after our grandmother died and Phoebe found her Book of Shadows. She read an incantation, and suddenly we had these... powers."
"You can move things," Andy prompted. "Like telekinesis." She looked at him, startled, and he shrugged. "I've been doing some research. And Piper? She freezes things."
"Yes," Prue confirmed slowly. "And Phoebe.. she sees things. Before they happen."
"Precognition. Jesus." Andy got up, shoving his good hand in his pocket and pacing deliberately towards the front window. "Your daughters?" he asked over his shoulder. "Will they be witches, too?"
Your daughters. Not our daughters. She took a shaky breath. "Yes."
He shook his head, still staring out the window at nothing. "This is.. a little much to take in. I've been trying since midnight last night and it's still.. a little much." He laughed faintly, without much humor. "This was not what I had in mind when I thought about my future. Falling in love with a witch."
Prue's heart sank. This was the part where he said he couldn't deal, where he walked away. But....
"Are you in love with a witch?" she asked, and had to force herself to breathe as she waited for him to answer, as if everything didn't depend on what that answer was.
"Yeah," he said finally. "Looks like I am."
Her breath came out almost as a sob, and her head fell forward again as she wrapped her arms around herself, caught between joy and fear. "I love you, too," she whispered.
"Yeah." She wanted him to hold her, wanted to be able to throw herself into his arms. But he didn't move, and she couldn't.
"So, what are you going to do?" It took more courage that she'd thought she had to ask that.
"I..." He sighed heavily. "I don't know, exactly. But...." He turned away from the window finally, and she looked up -- her eyes fearful, his tired. "I don't know if I can live with a witch, Prue."
That was it, then. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and stared blindly at the wall, determined not to cry. She'd known, after all....
Then, suddenly, Andy's hand was cupping her cheek, and he was kneeling in front of her, his face sober. "But I learned one thing, Prue, when those bullets came at you, when I thought you were going to die on me. I might not be able to live with a witch... but I can't live without you." He shrugged lightly, almost smiling. "So I guess I'm going to have to try."
There should have been background music swelling softly, with violins and organ. There should have been sunlight suddenly breaking through the clouds. There should have been cheering and hosannas and rainbows, all the traditional effects of a spell being cast or a dream coming true.
But there wasn't. Nothing was fixed yet, nothing was certain; both of them knew that. There was going to be a lot to figure out between a cop and a witch. And for now, the only magic in the world was in Prue's small sob of relief and joy as she leaned forward against Andy, her arms clutching him; in Andy's sigh as, cast and all, his arms came up to pull Prue closer; in the silence that wrapped around them as he buried his lips in her hair and rocked her against him; in the sound of the rain falling softly against the windows behind them.
So, this was my resolution to the situation, just to satisfy my own sense of what would have happened much sooner if either of them had had half a brain. This is the single and only Charmed fic I intend to write, so I hope you paid attention. I don't want to have to go through this again.