Chapter 1: Something Wicca Comes Again
San Francisco, California
Phoebe Halliwell stared off into space, one hand covering her mouth as she shook her head slightly, the headset nestled between her ear and shoulder. How could this be happening, now of all times?
"Of course I understand, Burt," she murmured, desperately trying to will away the tears. "I'm so sorry we can't be there for you and Suzanne." She closed her eyes and pressed her lips together. "And Kurt," she whispered, her breath slightly catching. "I'm just…so sorry."
She cleared her throat and nodded at whatever the man was saying, finally cottoning on to the fact that he couldn't actually see her acknowledgment of his words.
"Don't worry about Piper," she said softly. "I'll explain everything; she'll understand. The last thing you need to worry about right now is us. Just…take care of yourself, Burt, okay? Give our love to Suzanne and kisses to Kurty." She bit her lip and nodded. "Call us with any news, and I mean any news, mister. You got me?" She ran a hand through her hair. "Goodbye, Burt."
She gently placed the receiver down on her desk and released a shuddering sob. She then quickly wiped her eyes and primly straightened the hem of her skirt, silently telling herself to get it together.
Her subconscious told her to shut the hell up.
She couldn't deal with this right now, not on top of everything else. Not when Piper was having a very polite breakdown which was sure to result in her going batshit crazy at the worst possible time; not when Cole was wanted dead by every demon in the underworld, and possibly by everyone who had ever existed; not when she looked at the dull, vacant stare in her father's eyes; not when she had a sister to bury.
She laughed out loud.
Prue. She needed Prue.
Prue would know what to do, always had. Prue had grabbed the world by its throat and throttled it into submission.
Except for the one time she couldn't.
Dead. Prue was dead.
It was strange how often she had to keep reminding herself of that fact. She would wake up and go downstairs and think to herself that Prue must have gotten up early and already left for the magazine.
Oh, wait. Prue was dead.
Or that Prue was running late on a shoot and would be tired and cranky when she finally walked through the door long after midnight, but would still sit up and tell them all about it as she ate a plate of Piper's white chocolate macadamia cookies and guzzled coffee like it was water. After all, she had to be back at the magazine in five hours.
Why was Prue's car still in the driveway? She must have caught a cab. Prue didn't wait for anything, least of all a dead car.
Dead car. Dead Prue.
Dead, dead, dead.
She just wanted to hit something. Or someone. Anyone would do: Piper, Leo, Cole, Darryl. Dead sister.
Phoebe really wanted to hit Prue, preferably in the head. But she couldn't because Prue was dead.
She figured the more she reminded herself that Prue was dead, the sooner she would begin to believe it. She had taken enough psychology courses to understand that she was in Denial, while Piper had bypassed that stage and gone straight to Anger, throwing Bargaining and Depression into the mix when it suited. Phoebe actually would have preferred it if Piper lashed out, but that wasn't Piper's way. She would hold it in until she couldn't anymore, and then woe unto those who found themselves standing unceremoniously before her.
Only this time there would be no Prue to rein her in.
She would sometimes catch Piper staring at her from the corner of her eye, and she was pretty sure Piper was convinced the wrong sister had died. She didn't know if that were true, but it might have been, and that was all Phoebe needed to allow herself to feel the guilt and the pain and the sorrow that she had been trying to suppress since it happened.
And now Suzanne.
Phoebe sighed. There was nothing to do now but break the news to Piper.
She prayed to whatever sadistic gods were watching that there was wine in the house.
Piper warily eyed the two wineglasses her sister carried into the room, not that she would refuse the glass once it was offered. She hadn't been blinding drunk since college and was in the mood to revive some traditions.
Looking at the way Phoebe was patently avoiding her gaze, she knew she would not like whatever news her sister was about to deliver.
"I figured when they get here," Piper smoothly opened, "I could stay in your room and give them mine. That way we wouldn't have to disturb anything in…her room."
Christ, she couldn't even say her sister's name. That was just pathetic. Piper rolled her eyes at her own behavior and screamed silently in her own mind to grow up. She knew she was doing neither herself nor Phoebe any favors by being a basket case. Not to mention how Prue would react if she peeked down and saw her acting like a maudlin teenager.
She had always wished she had been more like Prue and found that desire returning full-force. It wasn't that Prue was emotionless or prone to denial, but she'd had an uncanny ability to suppress her feelings and deal with situations in a logical, rational manner. Of course, Prue had suffered in silence for so long that her pain eventually became a part of her, particularly in the way she would distance herself from other people, even her own family.
Still, there was something to be said for being functional, whereas Piper felt that if she started screaming out loud, she'd never stop.
"Piper," Phoebe said.
And she understood. "They're not coming," she said flatly, grinding her teeth and shaking her head. "Look, I get that Burt is uncomfortable with magic, but this is ridiculous. We're the only family Suzanne has, and Kurt adored Prue." A brief smile flashed across her face. "I swear, I thought when they visited that Prue wasn't going to give Kurt back."
She winced. Prue would never have children. That was just so wrong.
Prue would have been an amazing mother. Watching her with Kurt had been a revelation. She'd never seen her sister so relaxed, so comfortable in her own skin. Kurt would look up at her with those huge eyes of his, and Prue had melted, melted, melted until she was nothing but a big pile of goo. Prue had swatted Phoebe when the girl had called her on it, but she hadn't denied it either.
Phoebe looked down at her hands, clasped together so tightly her knuckles had turned white. "Suzanne's in the hospital, Piper. It…it's not looking good."
Piper stared blankly into space and said nothing.
Phoebe waited to speak further, looking for some cue from her sister, but when none was forthcoming she continued. "Suzanne was pregnant…"
"There were complications. After they rushed her to the hospital, they did an ultrasound and found," she swallowed heavily, "several tumors." She sighed. "Stage four ovarian cancer. They wouldn't even have known if not for the miscarriage." She fiddled with her earring and looked away. "That was three weeks ago. It's only a matter of days."
Piper snorted. "Well, that's just great. Terrific! That pretty much takes care of our entire family, doesn't it? Prue's gone. Grams and Mom have been dead for years. Dad shows up when he feels like it." She picked at her cuticles. "Suzanne was the only Warren witch left other than us, and it looks like the curse is about to take her too." She growled. "I want to summon Melinda's ass and then beat her to death again for what she's done to this family."
Phoebe closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair. "Piper," she said halfheartedly.
"Save it," Piper snapped. "We're all we have now, Phoebe. Burt will never let us see Kurt again, and without Suzanne in the picture, Kurt will grow up ignorant of magic. He won't remember Suzanne having powers. We're alone."
"Kurt isn't a witch, Piper."
"We don't know that," she argued. "Suzanne never said one way or the other. If you'll remember, she always changed the subject whenever we tried to question her about whether he was magical."
"Warren witches are female."
Piper snorted. "According to Grams, who hated all men with a passion."
Phoebe shrugged. That was true enough, she supposed. It wasn't out of the realm of possibility for Kurt to be magical. "If he does have powers, I'm sure he'll be assigned a whitelighter."
Piper harrumphed. "The bottom line is that Burt will make sure Kurt has nothing to do with us." She held up a hand to forestall the interruption. "Don't put words in my mouth, Phoebe. I know that Burt likes us and considers us part of his family, maybe even loves us in some way, but he doesn't like magic. I don't blame him for it either. It's certainly cost the two of us more than enough. He'll probably reach the conclusion that having us involved in Kurt's life would be dangerous. And he's not wrong."
"He's not," Phoebe softly agreed. "That was the reason Grams bound our powers, after all." She sighed. "I just feel so badly for the little guy, Piper. Burt told me that he'd explain to Kurt about Prue, but it's going to break his itty bitty heart. Kurt all but worshipped Prue, and having to deal with that on top of losing his mom and his sister? He's only six."
"The same age Prue was when we lost Mom," Piper whispered.
Phoebe startled and turned horrified eyes on her sister. God, was it ever going to stop? How much more was their family expected to sacrifice? How much more did they have to give? They'd lost their mother, their grandmother, their sister, and now their only cousin. Another Warren child was losing his mother. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair.
And for what? The demons weren't going to halt their attacks. If anything, now that the Power of Three was broken, they would become more relentless than ever. How were they supposed to survive without Prue? Leaving aside the very real and terrifying notion that their eldest sister, the one who had all but raised them and kept them safe, was gone, they were now sitting ducks for any demon who wanted to make their reputation by taking out the two remaining Charmed Ones.
Not that they were Charmed any longer. Phoebe realized that, as only Piper had active powers, she would be the next logical target. If the demons managed to defeat her, Phoebe herself would be easy pickings. They still had Leo and Cole, but Leo was limited as to what he could do in their defense and Cole himself was as much a target as she and her sister, if not more. Great.
She picked up her wineglass and threw it across the room, roaring like a wounded lion. "This sucks!" she shrieked.
Piper chuckled hollowly. "This is our life."
St. Rita's Medical Center
Burt didn't know how the hell to break this to his wife; he couldn't even explain it to himself.
Prue Halliwell was dead. Murdered.
He hadn't known her well, despite the fact that the woman had been a member of his wife's extended family, some distant cousin or something; Burt didn't really understand all of the degrees, not that it mattered. Suzanne had loved Prue and her sisters endlessly, and that love was fully returned.
The Charmed Ones.
He hadn't appreciated that for what it was, even after Suzanne had explained it to him in painstaking detail. It was one thing to know of magic, but another matter entirely to accept it.
The fact that Suzanne's powers were defensive, rather than offensive, had allowed him to linger in denial. He didn't see magic or have to deal with it on a regular basis, so he happily pretended that it wasn't real, just a quirk. There was no danger. There were no demons. His family was safe.
The only intrusion into this carefully-maintained delusion was Cassie, Suzanne's whitelighter. Watching someone materialize in front of you in your kitchen wasn't something you could just explain away. Still, as Lima had little to offer the plethora of demons who roamed the earth – hell, Lima didn't have much to offer its mortal residents – and Suzanne wasn't really an active participant in the supernatural world, the fact that his wife had been born into a legacy he couldn't even begin to contemplate was relatively easy to ignore.
Then he had taken his wife and son to San Francisco so that Suzanne could introduce Kurt to what little family he had, and everything changed.
It had been fine, initially. He liked the sisters and loved the Manor, appreciating its architecture and grandeur. Piper was an amazing cook and a truly lovely woman; she seemed well matched with Leo, though it was odd to consider a witch and whitelighter together in that way. Phoebe was saucy and funny and the life of the party. They doted on Kurt, to whom they were virtual strangers, and Burt had been stunned to see his normally shy and reserved son come alive in their presence. That alone had been worth the price of airfare.
Burt had been most impressed with Prue, however, as had Kurt. Prue was blunt, no-nonsense, and would kill anything which threatened her family. These were traits Burt Hummel deeply admired, and he had found himself considering her as something of a kindred spirit. He had believed they might become great friends, and hey had.
He had been shocked that Kurt was most taken with Prue. She had simply adored him.
It had somewhat upset him; he and Prue were so similar in personality, yet she had bonded with his son, while Burt himself had not. Kurt had always preferred his mother's company over that of everyone else, including his father. It was very difficult to bear, believing your own child hated you.
Actually, Burt had believed hate would have been preferable. Kurt had always seemed utterly indifferent to him. He loved his son with everything inside him. He would do anything for Kurt, would gladly kill for him, but, for some reason, Kurt always appeared reticent to be alone with him, as though he were scared of his own father.
Why? What had he done, or not done, to his child?
Suzanne had always tried to play the peacemaker, facilitating negotiations and creating events that would unite them as a family. Kurt never fought her, was never belligerent or difficult. In fact, he was such an exceedingly polite child that it was rather disconcerting. He was never interested in the activities of children; in truth, he didn't seem to like other children and went out of his way to avoid them. He preferred reading, and his reading material was at least ten years above his age level. When Burt had walked in on him reading The Scarlet Letter, Kurt was able to describe in detail the meaning and symbolism of the story, as well as offer a feminist semiotics commentary.
And then Burt had realized that perhaps it was he who was afraid. Afraid of what Kurt was, what he would become. His child was brilliant, there was no question. He had seen hints of it. Kurt had begun walking at seven months, his large eyes taking in his surroundings with an almost calculating air. He had been late speaking, but once he started, he not only spoke in full, grammatically-correct sentences, but entire paragraphs. By the time he was two, his vocabulary was that of a fourth-grader and it improved at a rapid pace.
He had taught himself to read six months later. He followed along as Suzanne read to him until he had memorized the stories. He then was able to match up the words to his memories of where they were placed within the story. He hadn't used phonics; it was rote memorization and phonetics.
When Kurt was three, thanks to a series of videocassettes he had insisted his parents purchase, he could hold rudimentary conversations in both French and Spanish and wished to add Chinese to his repertoire. Unfortunately there were no videocassettes for that particular language, so he had settled for Italian, to which he took like a duck to water.
It was intimidating. Burt Hummel was intimidated by his three year old son. His wife thought it was hysterical. At first.
The further the distance grew between Burt and his son, the angrier Suzanne became. Burt grew frustrated; he loved his child more than life itself, but that love wasn't returned. He had accepted that Kurt was different, unique, and enjoyed a special relationship with his mother.
Kurt was the essence of a mama's boy and Burt didn't have a problem with that. He had been closer with his own mother than he ever had been with his father and had vowed not to repeat with his own child the mistakes his father had made with him. He had failed, somehow, though he had comforted himself with the knowledge that Kurt was distant with everyone but his mother.
Until they had gone to San Francisco and Kurt fell in love with the Halliwell sisters.
Burt had pouted and been resentful until Suzanne had literally knocked some sense into him, explaining that Kurt removed himself from his father's company because he sensed Burt's discomfort with him. Kurt believed his father didn't like him, so he sought to make it easier for Burt by not trying to interact with him. Burt had sobbed for an entire day.
Prue had come to his rescue.
She had stormed into the guest room, forced him to eat and to shower and then sat him down and explained a few things, the most shocking of which was that she believed Kurt was probably gay.
He had scoffed and railed against her, insisting Kurt was too young to be anything. But then he had thought about it, of the signs that had been there that he had willfully ignored, and he started to realize Suzanne had been right. Kurt knew he was different and believed his father didn't like the fact that he was, so the little guy tried to stay out his sight lest he anger him all the more.
Kurt believed his father hated him for something he didn't understand and couldn't control.
It had been devastating. It wasn't that Burt was angry, though he was disappointed; he was frightened. He didn't know anything about gay people - if he had ever met one, he was ignorant of the fact - but he knew how the world would treat his son, how he would be perceived, and the dangers that existed in the world for gay people. He had no idea what would befall his child in Lima, but sensed it wouldn't be good.
Prue had dragged Burt and his son down to the Haight. It had been quite an education.
Burt had seen men walking hand-in-hand, women lovingly attending to each other, and he felt completely out of his depth. Prue had introduced him to several of her gay friends, all of whom worshiped her and had been captivated by Kurt: his clothes, his poise, his intelligence and wit. Kurt had fit in there. The shy, reserved child had come to sparkling life in their company.
His singing voice, already so remarkable, so crystalline and pure, had enthralled his small audience, several of whom congratulated Burt on his amazing child, insisting that Kurt was in possession of a gift that had to be cherished and nurtured.
They had given him advice, all of which he had desperately needed to hear. They told him about books he should read, about organizations and hotlines and support groups. It had all boiled down to one simple tenet: love your child regardless. It was such an innocuous truth, so simple, that he had blinded himself to it. He loved Kurt more than life itself. He just had to find a way to show his son that, to connect with him.
Prue had explained further about their magic, about how the Charmed Ones operated. Their powers came from their emotions, their connection to each other as sisters. In the end, the magic itself was irrelevant; it was the love which allowed them to triumph. All Burt needed to do was tell Kurt that he loved him. He just didn't know how to go about it.
Prue had rescued him once more, albeit unwittingly. Her car had broken down in the driveway and she had asked Burt to take a look at it to see if she should call a tow truck. She had shepherded Kurt with them for, by then, he had all but attached himself permanently to her leg. Burt had looked the car over, poking and prodding, and finally Prue had demanded he explain what he was doing. He did so, and a look of wonder had come over Kurt's face.
It's like a puzzle, the boy had said. Daddy solves puzzles.
Burt's eyes had widened and locked with those of Prue. She had passed Kurt into Burt's arms and the man explained to his son everything he was doing, everything he was looking for, what was wrong, what was right, the names of the different parts and how they worked together.
Kurt had been utterly fascinated, questioning his father further, making connections faster than Burt could explain them. Once the problem had been identified, Kurt insisted on helping Burt with the solution. He handed him tools, again asking for names, explanations, and functions. Three hours later, the car was fixed, Prue had already left by taxi, and Suzanne was watching from the living room, tears streaming down her face.
Burt had finally connected with his child, his amazing, wonderful child who was so much more than the biological product of his two parents, a child who was so much more than a frightening intelligence or a sexual orientation or a polyglot.
All of Kurt's reserve had suddenly melted away and it was Burt he followed and questioned relentlessly, wanting to know everything his father knew, wanting to know his father. Burt had been so happy, as happy as the day he married Suzanne and as happy as the day their child had been born.
The next day, demons attacked the Manor.
Burt hadn't known what to do, what was happening, how to protect his family. He watched, hidden in a corner and covering Kurt, as the sisters fought for their lives, for their family.
He had been in awe. He had known about magic, had thought he had understood it, but he had never seen it in action. The way the sisters worked in perfect synchronicity; the way they attacked and defended, moving as a cohesive unit and never losing sight of each other. It was beautiful, that obscene ballet of destruction. But then Phoebe had fallen, followed by Piper, and Prue was left to finish off the attackers.
And then a demon targeted Suzanne.
Suddenly Burt was flying through the air as Kurt burst out from behind him, screaming with rage, waving his hands and scattering all of the demons throughout the lower level of the Manor, inadvertently becoming a target himself. Three demons had maneuvered Prue into the conservatory and were keeping her so occupied she had no idea what else was going on in her house.
Five demons converged upon Kurt, who was standing before his unconscious mother and a barely-conscious Phoebe, a tiny child blazing defiance, his enormous eyes lighted with menace and rancor. He had waved small hands in a complicated choreography that only he understood - sending demons flying, falling, spinning - somehow knowing what they were planning before they even had the opportunity to implement it.
He had kept them on the defensive long enough for Phoebe to recover her wits and rouse Piper and they both began bellowing for Leo. He orbed into the Manor just as Prue burst in through the dining room like an avenging angel, only for both of them to stop and stare, befuddled, as Kurt continued his assault. Finally Piper managed to freeze the demons and the sisters cast a spell to vanquish them just as Kurt keeled over from exhaustion.
Burt had stood there, motionless, staring at his unconscious child as Leo rushed around to heal Phoebe and Piper. He made for Suzanne and Burt snapped out of his stupor long enough to scream for Cassie, unsure as to the whether the woman would respond to his call. His wife's whitelighter orbed into the room, bewildered and confused as she took in the scene. She raced for Suzanne and healed her, all while demanding explanations.
In the meanwhile, it was Prue who had stormed to Kurt's side, picked him up in her arms and held him tightly to her. She related the events, of Kurt's incredible power, of how he had protected her sisters and his mother, and that he shared her power; he was telekinetic, like her.
Kurt was a witch.
Suzanne had burst into tears, bawling, terrified for her child, knowing what an offensive power was likely to mean and not wanting this to be Kurt's life.
Leo had wanted to consult the Elders, but Cassie refused; she would not allow them to dictate Kurt's life. He was a child, all but a baby, and there was no grand destiny waiting for him. He wasn't Charmed and he wasn't a Halliwell.
Phoebe and Leo had protested, but Prue and Piper had leapt to Cassie's defense. Kurt would become a target for any demon that became aware of him. He was too young, far too young, to defend himself, and Suzanne had no offensive powers.
Phoebe had argued that Kurt should live with them, that they could protect him, and Suzanne had gone completely insane. She was not turning her child over to anyone, family or not. The sisters were attacked with regularity and often injured; they might have offensive powers and be Charmed, but they could no more protect Kurt than she could. If it became common knowledge that a magical child had come under the protection of the Charmed Ones, there would be no respite; the attacks would only increase.
Prue, Piper, Cassie, and Suzanne began screaming at Leo and Phoebe that this was not right, that Kurt was not ready, that it wasn't fair to him. And finally Burt had had enough.
His son was a witch. His son was enormously powerful. His son would be targeted by demons, and he would not allow that to happen. He wondered if Kurt was even aware of his powers, if he had known about them for some time, or if he had been so traumatized by the attack against his mother that he had simply surged forward to protect her, not even knowing if he was capable of doing so.
Burt Hummel could accept many things: magic was real; his wife was a witch; her cousins were the most powerful forces of Good in the world. Fine.
He could accept that his son was most likely gay; that, though they had faltered, his son loved him and they would forge an incredible relationship; that his son was the most important person in the world to him; that he would kill anyone or anything that dared to harm his wife or son. Absolutely.
He could accept that his son was a witch, that he was enormously powerful, that he had saved the lives of his family, and was more amazing than he had ever realized. Without question.
But one thing he could not accept, could not even posit, was his son being placed in danger.
He hadn't even been aware that he was relating these thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness narrative. Prue and Piper were nodding at his words, Suzanne softly murmuring her agreement with everything her husband said as Cassie watched her charge's husband with appraising eyes. Leo and Phoebe halfheartedly continued their protests, but had determined it was a lost cause.
They would bind Kurt's powers, Prue had said. There was a spell in the Book of Shadows, the same one Penny had used to bind their own powers after Patty's death. If Kurt knew he was magical, that knowledge would be erased from his memories after the spell.
Suzanne would have to be the one to cast it, as Kurt was her child. The sisters could do it themselves, but it would be more effective were Suzanne to perform the spell; as she had said earlier, Kurt was not a Halliwell, he was a Bowen. They were all Warren witches, but of different branches. Offensive magic wasn't required for the spell; Suzanne was a witch of the Warren bloodline and the Book would open for her, would reveal its secrets.
Suzanne had hastily agreed.
Prue had then added that Cassie should use Memory Dust on the Charmed Ones and on Leo so that they too would have no memories of Kurt being magical; only Burt, Suzanne, and Cassie would know. Kurt and Suzanne, other than the Charmed Ones, were the last remaining Warren witches. The Halliwell name carried more recognition and fear than any other in demonic circles, so much so that other branches of the Warren line had all but been forgotten. There was no need or reason to let anyone think differently.
The others had agreed, Leo and Phoebe reluctantly, and they decided to perform the spell immediately while Kurt was still unconscious, lest he try to fight them. Cassie would then orb the Hummels back to Lima before word could spread that the Charmed Ones were harboring a powerful magical child. There could be no more visits.
The sisters, all of them, had been crushed by the idea of being cut off from Kurt. There would be phone calls and emails and Christmas cards and pictures, of course, but it wouldn't be the same. They were so alone already, had always been such, and to have this taste of family, this connection, severed, was heartbreaking. Piper had been stalwart, Phoebe hysterical, and Prue, though outwardly cool and collected, had been devastated. So had Burt and Suzanne.
They had done the spell and returned to Lima before Kurt had awoken, Cassie leaving a letter for the sisters that demons had attacked them and the Hummels, and that the Cleaners had altered their memories so that magic would not be exposed.
The sisters had no idea what had occurred, only that Kurt had been placed in danger, they assumed, because of them, something which they would never again allow.
Kurt had never forgiven any of them. Not his parents, not the sisters, and not Cassie.
He had no memory of what had transpired, of what he had done, but a hole had been left, something for which his suppressed magic had desperately yearned. He had cried, sobbed, begged, whined, cajoled – all to no avail. He was allowed to speak with the sisters via the telephone, but eventually those conversations had tapered off, the girls too upset by Kurt's repeated pleas for them to allow him to visit. He had demanded to know what he had done wrong, how he had misbehaved, because he didn't remember saying goodbye or coming home.
No matter how many assurances they gave, no matter how often they told him that they loved him and missed him, no matter the number of birthday and Christmas presents they sent, he had continued to blame himself, so sure that he must have been at fault. The sisters hadn't known what to tell him, for they had no memory of the Hummel's departure either; they only knew, for some nebulous reason, that it was safer for Kurt to stay away from them. Finally, Kurt had refused to come to the phone when they called.
And, slowly, he had begun to change.
He was no longer shy, but his reserved nature reasserted itself with a vengeance. He was still polite, but he became cold and aloof. Burt and Suzanne never let a day, an hour, pass without telling him that they loved. He returned the sentiments, for they were true, but he remained distant.
They enrolled him in all kinds of lessons to distract him, to help him make friends, and sometimes it worked. He had hated the tap dancing, but excelled in ballet and gymnastics. He had refused to play soccer, but was passable at tennis and incredible on the ice rink.
Suzanne taught him the piano and drove him to Dayton twice a week for voice lessons. Burt took Kurt to the shop and taught him everything he knew about cars, and while their bond continued to grow and strengthen, Burt nevertheless remained cognizant of the chill in the air when the subject of the Halliwells came up.
By the time Kurt was ready to enter first grade, he had two friends - or BFFs, as he insisted his parents call them - Santana Lopez and Brittany Pierce. They were always together: at lessons, at sleepovers, making sure their mothers shopped for groceries at the same time so they could run into each other.
They were inseparable, an unstoppable force, and Burt and Suzanne couldn't have been more pleased, loving the girls as if they were their own. Kurt was held in the same regard by the Lopez and Pierce families. Burt and Suzanne had been slow to recognize this new dynamic for what it truly was.
Kurt had created for himself a Power of Three.
Santana, the eldest by mere weeks, was so much like Prue in personality that it was eerie. She was devoted to Kurt and Brittany and fiercely protective of them, almost as though they were her own children. Brittany, the youngest, recalled Phoebe: sweet, pleasant, fun-loving, and whimsical. She could always make Santana laugh or snap Kurt out a funk. Kurt, like Piper, was the middle child, and took to that role with abandon. He was the nurturer, the caretaker, and the peacemaker during the group's rare disagreements.
The only difference between Kurt's friends and the Charmed Ones was that, while Prue was the unquestioned leader among her sisters, Santana was merely a figurehead. She outwardly took the lead in public, but behind the scenes, Kurt held all the power and the girls happily deferred to him.
Burt knew how badly his son would need his friends in the coming weeks, months. Perhaps years. He could only hope Kurt would allow Santana and Brittany to help him.
Suzanne drew in a shaky breath, the morphine easing her pain but not the symptoms of the disease which was ravaging her body. Her hand rested in that of her husband and she laced their fingers together, palms pressing tightly.
"Tell me," she whispered. "Whatever it is, Burt, tell me."
He swallowed heavily, his heart in his throat, not wanting to comply but knowing he must.
"Please," she begged.
He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Prue is gone, Suzie."
Suzanne blinked owlishly, certain she had misheard. "What do you mean gone? Has Prue been taken? Kidnapped?"
"She was murdered, Sue. Prue is dead."
"No," she breathed, her eyes wide and filled with horror. This couldn't be happening. This absolutely could not be happening.
"Phoebe called me," he continued. "The funeral is tomorrow. I had to explain why we couldn't attend. She…" He shook his head. "It's bad, honey. It's so bad. I've never heard her sound like that. Piper…is not dealing with things very well."
"Oh, dear god. Oh, Jesus," Suzanne babbled, shifting restlessly in her uncomfortable hospital bed. "How did it happen? Who did it?"
Burt frowned and again shook his head. "Some demon," he grunted. "Must have been pretty damn powerful to take out Prue Halliwell. He's still on the loose. Phoebe said she was sure that she and Piper were still in danger. I can't remember his name. Something stupid like Shasta or Saxophone."
"Shax," she murmured. "Oh, sweet Lord. It was Shax."
He nodded warily. "That was it. Who the fuck is this demon, Sue?"
She stared up into his eyes. "He's the personal assassin of the Source."
His eyes widened.
She nodded. "You know what this means. The Source is going on the offensive. Phoebe was right; she and Piper are not safe. None of us is."
"What do you mean?" he nervously asked.
"With Prue's death, the Power of Three is broken. Piper and Phoebe are no longer Charmed." She shook her head. "They're still powerful, probably two of the most powerful witches in existence, but they're also sitting ducks. I read through the Book, Burt. The spell to vanquish Shax is a Power of Three spell. Without Prue, they can't cast it, and nothing else will kill him. He's relentless; he won't stop until he kills them both. With the Charmed Ones gone, with the Halliwell line extinguished, that makes it open season on all witches."
"But Lima's off the radar," Burt said, confused. "We've never seen a demon here. There's never been an attack. Kurt is safe."
"Is he?" she challenged. "When I die…"
"Listen to me, Burt, this is too important!" She took a deep breath. "When I die, the spell will be broken and Kurt's powers will be unbound. I'll be gone; Prue is dead. The only ones who could cast the spell again are Piper and Phoebe, and we don't even know if they'll be alive to do it. Even if they were, would it be worth the risk to take him to San Francisco when the girls are being hunted by the assassin of the Source of All Evil? If you tried to bring them here, Shax would follow them. Kurt would be exposed and any number of demons could come after him."
"Shit," he hissed, closing his eyes.
"It might not even work," she added. "He's two years older, Burt. His powers may have been bound, but that doesn't mean they haven't grown. We don't know how powerful he is or how powerful he'll become, but even now he's certainly more powerful than me. He's a Warren witch. He has Prue's ability and you saw how strong she was. You have to remember the sisters had only had their powers for a year when we were in San Francisco."
"Dear god," he whispered.
"We don't know if Prue was given new powers or what they were. All of them could have additional powers by now, and I can't even begin to think what powers Kurt might eventually receive."
"What are you saying?" Burt questioned, his eyes narrowed.
She sighed. "There's a lot you don't know, Burt. You never wanted to know, and I didn't want to tell you. Neither of us had any reason even to suspect that Kurt would be magical. We had four years with him before it presented itself and I've had two years to think about what it might mean." She shifted onto her side. "Burt, you have to know that his powers can't be bound forever. It's just not natural, and who knows what that would do to him. Even now, part of him must sense that something is wrong, that something is missing. That's probably why he was so hurt when contact with the sisters fell away."
He mumbled something incoherently.
"I should have been preparing him," she savagely muttered. "He doesn't even know I'm a witch, Burt. He's the last of the Bowen line and has no idea what that means, of the legacy into which he was born. That's wrong. I wanted to keep him safe, not ignorant."
"That was never my idea," Burt said carefully, doing his best to suppress his rising anger. "You know that I've never had a problem with you and Kurt being witches. All I've ever wanted was for you to be safe."
She raised her hand and cupped his cheek. "I know that, sweetheart. I wasn't blaming you. I just…thought I'd have more time," she gasped, eyes filling with tears. "This is the curse of my family, Burt. We leave. We leave our children far too soon. Kurt is now the age that Prue was when Patty died. Prue never got over it. I don't think Kurt will either."
Burt said nothing, but knew his wife was right. He had no idea how he was going to cope with Suzanne's death, let alone helping Kurt through it. "How do I help him?"
"By teaching him to help himself. You have to make him strong, Burt, even stronger than he already is. You must keep him in Lima, at least until college. He's safe enough here for now, but it's going to be hell for him."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, come on," she spat. "You know what this place is. You see the looks he already receives. It will only get worse. He's gay, Burt. Lima will not be kind to him, but it will keep him safe."
Burt was livid. "I don't give a good goddamn that he's queer. What the fuck difference does it make? So he likes boys instead of girls. Who cares?"
She raised a brow. "And what will you do if he falls in love, Burt? How will you react if he brings a boy home to meet you?"
"No," Burt declared with finality. "No boys. They'll want to touch him, put their hands on him. Fuck that. Kurt's not allowed to date until college."
She laughed. "You're doing it again."
"Doing what?" he demanded.
"Treating him like he's a girl."
"I am not!" he thundered. "Kurt's a boy, I know that, but he's my baby. He's my perfect, precious baby. I know boys, Suzie. I was one, as we both well remember. You know what they say: boys marry their mothers and girls marry their fathers. Well, what if gay boys marry their fathers? I won't have him date someone like me! You know how I was! I won't have him…have him be…defiled!"
"Defiled?" she giggled, incredulous. "Oh, Burt," she groaned, shaking her head, "we both know that if he were straight, as soon as he hit fifteen you'd give him a box of condoms and tell him to be safe. And if I remember correctly, it was me who defiled you."
"That's different," he mumbled, flushing.
"How?" she barked.
"He's so small, Sue. He's delicate. They could hurt him. What if they tried something and he couldn't stop them?"
She snorted. "Our son is many things, Burt Hummel, but delicate isn't one of them. He's cold, prissy, argumentative, and a hell of a lot smarter than a kid his age should be, but one thing he's not is delicate. You can't lock him in an ivory tower, Burt. You can't hide him away from the world, and if you try, I will haunt your ass until I drive you insane."
His eyes widened comically.
"You need to trust him, Burt," she said gently. "Trust him to make the right decisions. You have to guide him so that he's capable of making them. He already knows right from wrong, the difference between a lie and the truth. He knows to stay away from strangers, not to take their candy or get in their cars. But you can't protect him from everything. He'll want to date, Burt, and he absolutely has the right to do so. He'll want to find boys like him, boys who will like him. If you tell him he can't date, he'll resent you, go behind your back, and do it anyway. He'll think you find him objectionable or an abomination, and then you won't know what he's doing or with whom he's doing it. He'll never trust you."
"Maybe he'll be asexual," he said, voice filled with hope. "Maybe he won't even want to have sex. With anyone! Ever!"
"Oh, for Christ's sake," she moaned. "Grow up, Hummel. It's your responsibility to teach him how to value himself so that no one else undervalues him. I can only dream he manages to find a man like you. You certainly don't want him to end up with someone like that little thug Noah Puckerman. You know what they say about opposites attracting."
Burt Hummel made a silent vow then and there to keep his son away from Puckerman at all costs.
"He loves you so much, Burt. You're his hero. Make sure you're worthy of that."
"He doesn't like me," Burt whispered.
"No," she fiercely denied. "He's not like you. That's the difference. You don't have a lot in common, but you're family. You're connected. You have to make sure that connection remains strong. You can't allow yourself to bury your head in the sand. You can't ever make him feel as though he can't come to you, can't entrust to you his secrets, his fears, or his pain. Don't make him feel like he's less than what he is. He's gay, but he's a man. Treat him like a man, not some princess to be coddled. You're a damned good father, Burt Hummel. Trust in that. Believe in that, and everything will work itself out."
"How am I going to do this without you?" he wondered, tears streaking down his face.
"Because you have to," she answered simply. "There's no other choice. You're all he has left in the world, Burt, other than Brittany and Santana. Talk to the Lopezes and the Pierces. Let them help you, let them be there for you and Kurt. Don't remove yourself from the world. Because if you do and Kurt sees that, he'll follow that example. He'll isolate himself, push everyone away, including you, and he'll end up completely alone."
"I won't let that happen," he vowed.
She smiled. "I know." She cleared her throat. "Now, as to other matters. Kurt will receive his powers, Burt, there's no way to stop it and there's little I can do to prepare you for that. I myself am unprepared. This was never supposed to happen."
He frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Kurt is the first male Warren witch," she said. "The Warren magical line and all of its various branches have always been matrilineal. We've given birth to boys, of course, but none of them has ever been magical."
"Exactly," she nodded. "The Bowen branch has only ever possessed defensive magic, but Kurt has at least one offensive power: telekinesis. It's possible he will have more. He could also develop defensive powers. I simply don't know."
"How am I supposed to help him with magic?" asked an hysterical Burt.
"You can't, sweetheart," she said. "Even if I were here, I'd be of little help to him. I don't have offensive powers and would have no way to help him control his own. It will all be trial-and-error. Or trial-by-fire."
"What aren't you saying?"
"He'll only grow more powerful, Burt, and he'll eventually attract attention."
"You mean demons."
She nodded. "It's unavoidable. If we're lucky, it won't be until much later, after he has a handle on his powers. That's why I want you to keep him in Lima, under the radar, like you said."
"But what about his powers?"
Cassie orbed in. "I can help with that."
Burt eyed her. He liked Cassie, even loved her in some fashion. She had been a part of his life for as long as Suzanne had. He knew how much Cassie loved Sue and Kurt, that she would do anything for them, but part of him resented her presence now. He knew it was irrational. He knew she couldn't heal Suzanne of the cancer. She didn't have that power, and even if she had, the Elders would never have allowed it. Suzanne hadn't been harmed by evil, but by her own body. Still, Cassie reminded him of what he was about to lose, of what he had already lost.
The sonogram had shown the baby Suzanne had carried was a girl. A daughter he had never seen, would never know, but mourned as if she had died in his arms.
Kurt had been inconsolable. It was harder for him to process that he had lost his sister than it was that he was losing his mother, even though he had effectively already lost them both. Burt didn't know how to help him. Cassie had tried, but it was difficult for her to be around Kurt and not tell him everything she knew about who he was and what he could do. She wanted to protect him, of course, but it was in her nature to want to guide him.
"You're going to be his whitelighter, Cass?" Suzanne asked.
"No," Cassie said. "I wish I was. I would love the chance to stay with him and watch him grow into the incredible man I know he is going to become, but I'm not the right one. I asked, but the Elders said no. There's another."
"Who?" Burt asked, voice laced with suspicion.
Prue Halliwell orbed in.
Chapter 2: Future Consequences
St. Rita's Medical Center
Burt and Suzanne gaped at Prue, who looked a curious mixture of triumphant and inconsolable.
"You're dead," Burt whispered.
She nodded. "Still am, but I've been upgraded."
Suzanne had absolutely no idea how she was expected to react to this revelation. Prue was her cousin and she loved her, but not a moment earlier she had been struggling to accept the almost impossible idea that Prue – Prue Halliwell, Charmed One – had been murdered by the personal assassin of the Source of All Evil. She hadn't been able to say goodbye, wouldn't be physically allowed to attend the funeral or comfort Prue's sisters, and was facing her own death.
And now Prue stood before her, healthy and whole, ready to serve as Kurt's whitelighter. A part of Suzanne was thrilled; if anyone would be able to care for Kurt and guide him, it would be Prue, especially since they shared a power. Hell, it had taken almost everything the Source had to get rid of her and Suzanne knew Prue would protect Kurt at all costs.
And therein lied the problem. Prue was technically dead, and newly dead at that. Suzanne believed that Prue deserved to be mourned properly, to be allowed the time to mourn what had been stolen from her. And what about Piper and Phoebe?
Perhaps she was also slightly bothered by the fact that while she loved and trusted Prue, her cousin nevertheless had been killed by a demon, so how could she truly feel comfortable leaving Kurt in her care? It was selfish, she knew, and guilt wracked her.
"I don't understand," she said, somewhat belligerently.
Prue smiled wryly. "Well, that makes two of us. I've had it explained to me at least three times and I still don't really get it myself."
"Which is why you shouldn't have been given this assignment," Cassie sniped.
Prue rolled her eyes. "Not this again," she muttered under her breath. She shook her head and looked at Cassie. "Look, honey, it wasn't my decision, but I'm here and I'm not leaving, so you need to get over it. I'm sorry you're losing your charge, but in case you missed the memo, Suzanne is my cousin, my family."
"And you just had to have Kurt too, right?"
Burt and Suzanne exchanged an uneasy glance.
"Are you serious right now?" Prue barked. "There's a little boy who's about to lose his mother, and you want to stand here and whine because he's not going to be named your charge? Newsflash, lady, you're not his mother. You're not his family."
"He barely knows you!" Cassie protested.
"He knows me well enough," Prue argued, "and his magic recognizes mine."
"You're dead! You don't have any magic!"
"What?" Suzanne asked, blinking owlishly. "You mean your whitelighter powers?"
Prue grimaced and tried to think of a way out of this, before deciding it couldn't be helped.
"The Elders assigned you to Kurt?" Burt asked her, still trying to make sense of this drama unfolding at the foot of his dying wife's hospital bed. From what he knew of the Elders, they wouldn't do this out of the kindness of their hearts. They had put the sisters through hell, so why were they so keen on helping Kurt? Why would they assign his cousin to be his magical guardian? There was some agenda at work, he knew it.
Prue smirked. "No. I was assigned to be Kurt's whitelighter, but I'm not under the purview of the Elders."
Cassie stilled. "That's not possible."
"All things are possible."
"Who sent you?" Burt demanded.
Prue stared at him before her gaze slowly slid towards her cousin. "I'm an agent of the Powers That Be. I'm technically a whitelighter, but I've also retained my Wiccan powers."
Suzanne paled far beyond what the cancer had already leeched from her skin. "Oh, god. What do they want with him?"
"The Powers That Be What?" asked a confused Burt, incognizant of his wife's question.
Prue gave him an indulgent smile. "I'll explain everything, but first Cassie has to leave."
"Absolutely not," the other whitelighter spat.
"This doesn't concern you." Prue snapped, growing angrier. "I understand that you love this family, Cassie, and I respect that. Suzanne won't be taken from you before you're allowed to say goodbye, but there is far more at work here than you know. I can't risk the Elders finding out and interfering – and you know they will. They're angry this was taken out of their hands. They know that I'm Kurt's whitelighter and that I don't answer to them, but they don't know why. They can't know. This is too important, Cassie. Kurt is too important."
Most of the wind left Cassie's sails. "They'll find out anyway."
Prue nodded. "They will eventually. Even were I not in the picture, they'd find out the moment Kurt's powers were unbound. But their knowledge is now limited and will remain such. They'll try to interrogate you, but there's nothing you can tell them other than what they already know. That's for your protection as well as Kurt's. The Elders would try to recycle you."
Cassie paled. She couldn't even conceive of any circumstance why that outcome would be considered, but she could tell that Prue wasn't lying; her fear and concern, both for Kurt and Cassie herself, was real.
"This ultimately does not concern the Elders," Prue said, "and they will be made to understand and accept that." She shrugged. "They really don't have a choice. The consequences would be too severe."
Cassie stared at her. "What are you?"
"I'm beyond you. Don't try to understand it; you're not ready yet. One day you will be and then I will come for you, but today is not that day."
"You're here for Kurt," Cassie said slowly.
"Far more than you or anyone else yet realizes."
"You'll protect him?"
"No matter the cost." She hesitated a moment. "You kept him off their radar once before, Cassie," she said in a low voice. "I need you to do it again. I need all the time you can buy me."
Cassie nodded, blew a kiss to Suzanne, and orbed out.
Prue cleared her throat, held out a hand, and sealed the door to Suzanne's room. "Brace yourselves," she said to them. "There's a lot to tell."
"I feel like I should give you my condolences on your, uh, death," Burt said to Prue, who smiled.
"I sure didn't see that one coming." She shrugged. "Maybe Phoebe would have, but she was in the Underworld at the time."
Prue raised an eyebrow and turned toward Suzanne. "How much have you told him?"
"Not nearly enough," a pained Suzanne whispered. "It never seemed relevant." She shrugged. "Who am I? I'm not a Halliwell or a Charmed One. I'm just me."
Prue scoffed. "Well, just you is pretty damn spectacular in your own right, and if you undercut yourself that way again, I'll knock you out, cancer or not."
Burt tried to swallow his snicker but ended up snorting instead. Suzanne rolled her eyes.
"But your son, Suzanne…" she trailed off, shaking her head. "You couldn't have known, no one knew, but Kurt is important. Extremely important, much more so than me, you, or any other witch."
"What?" Suzanne demanded. "You're a Charmed One, Prue!"
Prue shrugged. "Not anymore. Now I'm a whitelighter. Well, I'm still a witch. I guess I need a new title." Her brow furrowed. "How does witchlighter sound?"
"Lame," Burt said.
She nodded. "I agree."
"Prue," Suzanne said through gritted teeth, "what about your sisters? Shax is still after them. The Power of Three is broken."
Prue's eyes filled but she blinked the tears away. "It's not. It will be reconstituted."
Suzanne screwed up her face. "What the hell are you talking about? That's not even possible, unless…" Her eyes widened. "Unless…"
Prue nodded. "There's another sister, my baby sister. She's a half-sister, strictly speaking, one I didn't know about and who I'll never get to meet. Her name is Paige; she's Mom's daughter with her whitelighter, Sam. She was given up for adoption to protect her from the Elders." She dropped her hands to her sides and stared at the floor. "Piper cast a spell. She wanted to see me again, so she called for a lost witch. She got Paige. Or she will soon."
Suzanne shook her head dumbly.
"Why can't you meet her?" Burt gently asked. "Paige, I mean."
Prue snorted. "The Elders. They can't keep me from Kurt, but they can keep me from my sisters. Piper and Phoebe are not allowed to summon me. The Elders had Grams tell them it was because they need to accept my death, accept Paige as their sister, but that's not why. It's punishment."
"That's disgusting," Suzanne hissed.
Prue made a strangled noise. "But they can do it, and there's no end run I can make around them.
"It's actually rather ingenious. When I died, the Power of Three was broken. Piper tried so hard to bring me back, to speak with me again, that she inadvertently reactivated the Power of Three with Paige in my place. I'm still their sister, I still have my powers, but I'm no longer their sister witch. I'm not Charmed, and I no longer fulfill the hallmarks of the prophecy."
She sighed. "The Elders are petty and stupid, and I think this will actually make it worse for my sisters in the long run, Piper especially. She won't accept my death anytime soon. She'll become me, the leader of the family, cold and hard like I know I am. Phoebe will become Piper, the middle child, the peacekeeper, and Paige will feel completely out of her depth, made to feel as a replacement for a person she's never known and trying to fill my shoes rather than her own. It's short-sighted and dangerous. The Elders are spiting me, but could end up hurting so many people and they don't care."
Burt curled a lip. He was offended for her and her sisters, even Paige.
"Still," Prue said, "I can understand the necessity if not the process. As much as the Elders believe they control so many things, they don't control Magic; it's a force unto itself. We don't know what would happen if my sisters could summon me at will, especially with Paige in the picture. If they made me corporeal with my powers still active, there would technically be two Power of Threes: Piper, Phoebe, and me, which is no longer Charmed; as well as Piper, Phoebe, and Paige, the new Charmed Ones. I'm not Charmed, but I'm a Warren witch with the prophesied power, the same one Paige will possess, if not the same manner.
"Who knows how Magic would react, how it would differentiate between the subsets? It could cause one or all of us to lose our powers, and then the Power of Three would be irrevocably broken. There simply can't be two Powers of Three existing in the same time and place."
"That doesn't preclude Piper and Phoebe from summoning you as a ghost," Suzanne argued. She was pissed and thought the Elders were idiots. She narrowed her eyes. "They'll do it to me too, won't they? They'll make it so Kurt can't summon me after I die."
Burt's eyes widened. He had never considered the idea that his son would able to summon Suzanne, that the mortal parting they would soon be forced to endure wasn't permanent. And now that hope, he sensed, was about to be snatched from him.
"Probably," Prue softly admitted, "and they'll probably try to make it so that I can't either." Then she raised her head and they saw the sparkle in her eyes. "It won't work, of course, but even if it did, that doesn't mean another witch couldn't summon you."
Suzanne gasped. "What other witch? I know of no other witches in Lima."
Prue gave her a half-smile. "You hid yourself very well to protect your family, but they're here, loving you more than you could ever realize."
She stared. "I know them?"
Prue nodded. "Very well. Lydia Lopez and Ashley Pierce."
Burt and Suzanne exchanged shocked looks and then Suzanne turned back to face Prue, who nodded.
"Their daughters are witches, too, and Santana and Brittany will stand at Kurt's side resolutely. They are not only his best friends; they'll become his greatest allies."
"Santana and Brittany are witches," Burt muttered.
"They are," Prue confirmed, "and they're well aware that Kurt is one too, though they've been keeping that bit of information under their hats, from their parents and from Kurt."
"But how?" Suzanne asked. "The spell…"
Prue clucked. "One of Brittany's defensive powers is hypersensation. She can tell when a person or object is magical just by looking at them. She knew Kurt was a witch the moment she laid eyes on him, but also recognized his magic was bound. She didn't know why or what it meant, so she didn't say anything to him, but she did tell Santana, who decided it was best to keep it quiet until the situation explained itsel.
"Our spell bound Kurt's powers and removed the memories that he had them from Kurt himself, as well as me, my sisters, and Leo. Obviously, after I died and entered the afterlife, I remembered everything. I still contend we made the right decision. Were Piper and Phoebe to become aware that Kurt is magical, they would seek him out, desperate for any connection to what little family they have left."
She shook her head sadly. "That's too dangerous, and they'll be busy enough trying to teach Paige everything she needs to know in order to survive. The Source was actively hunting us before, but once he learns the Charmed Ones have been reconstituted, he'll redouble his efforts, especially since Paige is a novice. She's incredibly vulnerable, but I trust Phoebe and Piper to look out for her. Kurt is even more vulnerable. He has to be kept away from them until the time comes when he's able to defend himself."
Burt understood her point and appreciated her desire to keep Kurt safe, even from his own family, but still felt she was underestimating his son. "He was able to defend himself well enough in San Francisco."
"That's the point," Prue said sharply, "he wasn't defending himself at all; he was defending his mother and my sisters. He had no conscious thought for his own personal safety. His trigger, like mine, is anger, and his rage at seeing his mother and cousins hurt caused his magic to overwhelm and seize control of him. He was operating solely on primal instinct and nothing else. It never occurred to him that he could have been hurt or killed. Even if it had, he wouldn't have cared. In that moment, all that mattered to him was protecting his family, even if it was at his own expense."
Burt swallowed heavily, proud of his son but terrified. Suzanne had tears rolling down her face.
Prue took a deep breath. "This is why the Powers wanted me with Kurt, to help him understand his magic and to make him recognize his limits. I didn't recognize my own until it was too late." She shook her head. "I don't know if my death could have been prevented, but I made mistakes. All of us did, including my mother. We took things for granted and thought we knew better, and didn't realize the impact it would have should one of us fall. And now the magical world has been thrown into chaos."
"But you're the Charmed Ones," Burt said.
Prue looked at Suzanne. "And Kurt is the Hand."
Suzanne bolted up from her bed. "No."
"What the hell does that mean?" Burt demanded. "The Hand of what?"
"I will not allow this, Prudence," she whispered darkly.
"I don't want this for him either, Suzie," Prue said quietly, "but it's not within our control. You know the prophecy." She averted her gaze. "And he fits more than one."
"Not my son. Goddamn it!" Suzanne screamed. "Not my son!"
"One of you better tell me what the fuck is going on here," Burt seethed. "What the hell is my son?"
"He's your son first and foremost, never forget that," Prue replied, "but he's also more. He's so much more."
"I can't believe this," Suzanne whispered, shaking her head. "Why him? Out of all the witches in this world, of this time, why does it have to be him?"
"We'll never know for sure," Prue said. "If the Powers know, they didn't tell me, but I honestly don't believe they know either. Like the Elders, they believe in their own omniscience, but they're sometimes just as blind as we are."
"Tell me!" Burt roared, standing up and kicking the chair out from behind him. "What the hell is happening to my son?"
"Kurt is powerful, Burt," Prue whispered. "Far more powerful than we realized, more powerful than that for which you ever could have prepared. The Charmed Ones were prophesied to be the most powerful witches in existence, but as a collective force. Singularly, me, Piper, and Phoebe are phenomenal, and together we were almost invincible." She paused. "Kurt is more powerful than me or my sisters."
She crossed the room to stand before him and stared up into his eyes. "Kurt Bowen Hummel, your son, will become the most powerful witch in the world."
His eyes widened, head shaking in denial or perhaps incredulity, as he staggered back against the wall and slid down to the floor, his head in his hands. Suzanne laid back in her bed, sobbing.
"Let the enormity of that statement wash over you," Prue quietly said. "You can try to deny it, try to fight it, but, in the end, you'll only be fighting your child. I don't want this for him any more than you do, any more than my mother wanted this life for my sisters and me, but it's out of our hands. Kurt was chosen by whatever power for whatever reason. All we can do is make sure he's kept as safe as possible, that he learns as much about his powers and how to control them as he can, and that anything that comes after him dies bloody."
Burt raised his head and nodded sharply. All of this shit, this magic shit, he didn't understand and didn't particularly want to. He didn't care how important his son was to the world or to Magic or to anyone other than himself and his wife. That was all he knew: to keep his son safe.
"You have to tell us everything, Prue," he said stonily. "We need to know what we're up against, what Kurt will be facing."
"Along with Brittany and Santana," Suzanne whispered, voice shaky.
Burt winced. He couldn't even imagine those two little girls as witches, let alone powerful ones.
As if Prue read his mind, she held up a hand. "Let me put you at ease with that one," she said. "Do not underestimate those girls, Santana especially. Kurt may be powerful, but Santana is fearsome, especially in defense of her friends."
"And Brittany?" Burt asked.
"She's vulnerable," Prue confessed, "due to the nature of what she is. She has no offensive powers and never will, but her defensive powers are incalculable. She will prove to be invaluable to Kurt."
"What are they?" Suzanne asked. "Her powers, I mean."
"She's an Oracle."
Suzanne's eyes bulged. "That…makes so much sense, why she always appears to be off in her own world. She is. She sees…everything."
Prue nodded gravely. "It's a tremendous gift and a horrible responsibility. She will need Kurt and Santana as much as they need her."
"And Santana's powers?"
Prue smirked. "I can't say just yet, there's too much at stake, but they're a doozy."
Suzanne pursed her lips. "What about Kurt's powers? We know he's telekinetic, but there's more, isn't there?"
Prue took a deep breath. "A lot more. He has the potential for many powers, but which ones will ultimately be given to him is anyone's guess. He'll receive them as he can handle them, but they're about equal in number in terms of offense and defense. He already has two active powers, as well as a passive one."
She looked at Burt. "You were the only one in the room who was conscious when Kurt attacked those demons. What do you remember most about it?"
Burt frowned and went over the assault step-by-step in his mind. "His control startled me. He knew exactly what he was doing, but as you already explained, he was operating on instinct; it was unconscious." His frown deepened. "But the way he attacked them, as if he knew what they were about to do before they did it…"
Suzanne closed her eyes. "He's telepathic."
"Holy shit," Burt murmured, running a hand over his face. "My boy can read minds?"
"Not as such," Prue said slowly, "but soon. As he grows, his magic will grow, and so will his individual powers. Right now, he's able to read thoughts in a very rudimentary form. Like his attack on the demons, his telepathy is instinctual. It isn't something he can access at will, which is a good thing. He will need to learn to control it and himself in order for him to shut out extraneous thoughts that are irrelevant. He will also need to learn focus, so that he can zero in on a target and read them when it's necessary."
"How can you help him with that?" Burt demanded. "You're not telepathic."
Prue shrugged apologetically. "No one can really help him with that, Burt. Even among those who have the gift, the amount of power they have and their reactions to it vary. Most of the work will have to be done by Kurt himself, alone. However, the one bright spot is that Santana is his anchor."
Suzanne's face blossomed with hope.
"What does that mean?" Burt asked.
"It means that Santana is the one mind he can't read," Suzanne explained. "She's his eye in the hurricane. She will keep him anchored in this reality, to keep the thoughts from overwhelming him."
Burt sighed with relief. "That's good, I guess." He looked at Prue. "This all sounds like it was predestined or something. Sanny being my boy's anchor thing, Brittany needing their protection but offering the insight they'll need to do deal with this…whatever this is. You still haven't explained that part."
"In a moment," Suzanne said. "Kurt's defensive power?" she asked of Prue.
"First," Prue began, "Burt is right. This was all predestined, and I will explain that, I promise. As for his passive ability," she looked at Suzanne, "I'm not the only one with whom he shares a power."
Suzanne threw her hands up in the air. "Great! So he's empathic too. That's terrific! Because everyone knows that telepathy and empathy go so well together." She snorted derisively. "Tell me, Prudence, how long do you think he has before he's driven completely insane? How is a child supposed to cope with being able to read the thoughts and feelings of everyone he encounters?" She shook her head. "Fuck this. No, seriously, fuck this. I'll bind his powers again somehow. I'll write a spell to do it, or one to strip him of his powers altogether. I will not allow this to be my son's life."
Burt's mind raced with the thoughts of what could happen, of what probably would happen, and his wife's words echoed throughout his skull like ricocheting bullets at the same time another mystery was solved. His wife had been right two years ago when she said that Kurt had pulled away from him because the boy had known he made his father anxious and confused. They just hadn't realized that Kurt had been experiencing those emotions as though they were his own.
Jesus. His poor kid. All of that time Burt had believed his son didn't love him, when the truth was his boy had been trying to spare his feelings, feelings neither one of them had understood. Kurt must have been so miserable, felt so unwanted, unable to differentiate the emotions from each other and from reality, yet his first instinct had been to protect his father, just as his offensive powers had first manifested in defense of his mother.
"Was the empathy blocked?" Burt asked in a rough voice. "Did the spell block that too?"
"I don't know," Prue murmured.
"So this could mean that all of my fear and anguish over slowly watching my wife die…my six-year-old son has been reading that from me? He's been feeling all of that on top of his own terror at losing his mother?" His eyes filled and he shuddered. "Oh god." He covered his eyes with a hand and howled brokenly.
This was too much, this was all too much. Kurt was just a child, a baby. These should not have been his gifts.
Prue remembered when she had temporarily become an empath, of how she had almost lost her mind, but she had learned to control it by necessity and knew that Kurt could as well. He was strong enough to do it and too strong not to.
"No, Burt," Suzanne said softly. "If his empathy was unbound, I'd be able to read him. At this point, he's okay, but once I die and the spell dissolves, he's going to be hit hard. There will be nothing you can do about that either, baby. You can't fix this one for him. He's going to need help and so will you, more than Prue or any of our friends can provide."
She laid her hand on his shoulder. "I want you to promise me right here and now that you will see to it that both of you seek counseling. From a professional. I know you hate the idea of psychology, but you have to do this for Kurt. He won't be able to move on unless you move with him, and I will not allow you both to move on in your own ways, only to move on from each other. So you're going to have to take the bull by the horns and deal with things as they come." She raised a brow. "Everything, Burt," she said harshly. "Do you hear me? Are you listening?"
"I promise," he eventually said, reluctant to voice the words. He knew his wife was right, she always was, and he knew he had to agree to this not only for her peace of mind, but for their child's as well. But he didn't like it.
"I'll have Lydia make a referral," Suzanne said, "and Prue will make sure you follow through."
Prue nodded swiftly. "I will. As for what you said earlier, you're not able to strip Kurt's powers, Suzanne," she said in a steady voice. "His magic is more powerful than yours and would reject the intrusion. You bound them once after they first manifested, when they were still in their infancy, but that's no longer the case. Stripping his powers doesn't negate the prophecies or his role in them. All it would do is condemn him to an early grave. You know that, Sue. You would leave him defenseless; they'll come after him anyway. Who he is cannot be kept secret forever. He will have enemies, yes, powerful ones, but he will also have allies. Don't discount them."
Suzanne laid back against her pillow and stared off into space.
Prue heaved a sigh and turned to Burt. "You know about the prophecy of the Charmed Ones, the one made by Melinda Warren."
"The two concerning Kurt are even older, made centuries ago before the Warren line was ever created. Melinda willed the Charmed Ones into existence, channeling her magic to exact vengeance and provide defenders to persecuted witches, but what Kurt is to become is far older. The prophecies concerning him were not made by witches, but by gods."
"That's the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard," Burt scoffed. "What, so Zeus came down on his thunderbolt two thousand years ago and pontificated about an adorable gay moppet from Lima, Ohio and how he was supposed to save the world?"
"It was Apollo, actually," Prue said smoothly, "and he didn't come down from Olympus as such, but rather spoke through the Pythia, his oracle. Of course, it was merely a repeat of a prophecy which had been made millennia before in Babylonia. And India. And Assyria. And Judea. And Japan." She turned to her cousin. "He's in the Sybilline Books, Suzanne, as well as the Akashic Records."
"Oh my god," the woman whispered, gagging.
"I'm starting to get the picture," a nauseous Burt mumbled. Holy fuck, now they were dealing with ancient gods? Was Xena going to pop up next? "What do these prophecies say?"
Prue crooked her finger and a chair flew across the room. She gracefully plopped down into it and exhaled. "There a lot to this. I know you want me just to get to the point, but if I do that without preparing you, without explaining what's come before and how we arrived here, it will do little good. So I'm asking you for patience. Some of this Suzanne, I assume, will already know. However, much of this will be information of which most mortals, most humans, are unaware. We need to keep it that way."
Burt nodded warily. Suzanne merely sighed.
"Okay, cousins," she smiled grimly, "here's a brief history of the true nature of our world."
"I don't want this to get too esoteric," Prue opened, "but a certain amount of metaphysics is required in order for any of this to make sense."
Burt rolled his eyes impatiently.
"This world, what we call Earth, was created by an essence humans have colloquially termed God."
His head abruptly pulled back and he stared at her. "God is real?" he asked reverently.
Prue hesitated. She had the sense that no matter what she said, Burt would not be pleased. The truth did not mesh with his idea of God, a God at which he was already angry for slowly taking his wife from him. She also had the feeling that, despite her cautioning words, he would interrupt her continually, thus drawing this out far longer than necessary.
"God exists," she acknowledged, "but not in any form that has been popularized. What we would call God is, as I said, an essence, a consciousness that wields tremendous power, power which was used to create this world and the life forms that would eventually evolve into animals and humans." She gave him a measured look. "Do not mistake that for anymore than what it is. This power is not benevolent or malicious; it just is."
Burt was obviously struggling to reconcile that information in his own mind, and before he had a chance to argue or refute her claim, she barreled ahead.
"The creation of the planet exhausted this essence and it dwindled in a coma-like state for literally thousands of millennia. During this time, the earth was overrun with demons. Geomantic lines of power crisscross the globe and, in certain places, that power collects and builds exponentially, creating surges of supernatural energy which can be harnessed by those who know how. The worst of these places, the most dangerous, cause the barriers between worlds and dimensions to thin, allowing demons entrance. These spots are called Hellmouths."
She paused, knowing this was a lot to take in. "With me so far?"
Burt nodded robotically, too enthralled with her tale to dispute it or even rationalize it. Suzanne raised a brow. As Prue had said, most of this information was somewhat familiar, though she was being given far more detail than she could have ever imagined.
"The active Hellmouth is located in a small town called Sunnydale, in Southern California, about two hours north of Los Angeles. Its Guardian is the current Vampire Slayer, Buffy Summers."
Burt blinked. "I'm sorry, the current what?" He turned to Suzanne, who shrugged helplessly. She'd never heard of any such thing.
Prue couldn't blame them. Until a few days ago – she guessed it was days; time passed so differently there, wherever the hell she had been – she had never known anything about the Slayer or her Calling.
"Don't worry, I'll come back to the Slayer, but we need to get through other things first. As I said, the worst of these places of mystical convergence are Hellmouths and the active one is in California." She hesitated. "There's also a nascent one, and though it won't be an issue for years, I can't in good conscience not tell you. It's Cleveland."
"Shit," Burt hissed, frantically shaking his head. "I know what we discussed, Sue," he said to his wife, "but I can't. I can't have Kurt anywhere near a place like that. We'll have to move."
"That's exactly what you shouldn't do," Prue interrupted, "for reasons which I'll soon explain." She held up a hand to ward off his argument. "You need to hear these things, Burt, and you need to let me say them if you have any hope of protecting Kurt."
His protests died on his lips.
"There is one other type of these places of convergence," she explained. "They're called Nexuses. Unlike a Hellmouth, the power of a Nexus is neutral; it can be used by either Good or Evil. Stonehenge is probably the most famous example, although very few have learned how to access its power. Delphi is another." She paused. "Another Nexus lies beneath Halliwell Manor. The Charmed Ones are its Guardians."
Burt and Suzanne reeled back.
"That's why so many demons attacked you in your home," Suzanne whispered.
Prue nodded. "They were out to kill us, certainly, but they were ultimately after the power of the Nexus. They would have to take possession of the Manor in order to access it, and its power is a far greater allure than even the heads of the Charmed Ones."
"I assume there's a point to this," Burt sneered.
Her eyes flashed. "There is," she snapped, "and this is it: Hellmouths attract Slayers, whereas Nexuses attract witches. The war between Good and Evil is being fought on two different levels, with different kinds of magic. On the one hand are Slayers, mortal girls endowed by an ancient spirit with superior gifts like increased speed and strength, as well as accelerated healing. They don't live long, and when one dies, the spirit animating them Calls another. Slayers are primarily concerned with vampires and other lower-level demons, but they're essential to the continuation of this world. The current Slayer, one of the most accomplished and long-lived, is responsible, along with her friends, for the aversion of approximately half a dozen apocalypses."
"What kind of bullshit is this?" Burt demanded. Suzanne was noticeably silent.
Prue ignored both of them. "On the other hand are witches, like Suzie, Kurt, and myself. We're considered natural witches who were born with magic and specific powers. Our enemies, the ones who hunt us and seek to steal those powers, are higher-level demons, those that desire to take over this world but not eradicate it. These fronts have always been distinct, but a point is approaching where that will no longer be possible."
"And somehow Kurt figures into this," Suzanne guessed.
Prue nodded. "That's the reason for the history lesson, because it's important you understand all the players in this endless war. Forewarned is forearmed."
Burt exhaled and gestured for her to continue.
"After the Power who created this world slipped into, well, let's call it unconsciousness, the first race of demons exploited a Hellmouth and crossed over into this realm. They were called the Old Ones and ruled for an incalculable period of time. While we were still evolving from protozoa, they were conquering other races and building nations. Their evil poisoned everything, including each other, until there were only a few left who were strong enough to rule. That's when God woke up."
Suzanne dropped her head in her hands and moaned softly. Burt just stared.
"God didn't like what it saw," Prue continued, "so it began expelling the demons from this dimension. Not all of them, of course, but the Old Ones were either forced to leave or lapsed into eternal sleep. Some are still hidden in pocket realms on this plane of existence, waiting to be awakened."
"The Deeper Well," Suzanne murmured.
Prue blinked. "How did you know?"
She gave her cousin a tired smile. "The Bowen Book of Shadows is heavy on ancient lore."
Prue slowly nodded. Stupidly, she had never before considered that the Bowen branch would have their own Book, but now she found herself fascinated, wanting to devour it in its entirety and compare it that of the Halliwell family.
"So God got rid of the demons," Burt reiterated.
"It did," Prue confirmed, "but again, it lapsed into unconsciousness. The amount of power required to accomplish this was devastating to it. Other demons appeared, as did other gods. The world was ripe for the picking. The new demons had learned from the fall of the Old Ones, however, and kept to the shadows, interfering with humans, who, by then, had evolved and began to populate the earth, only when necessary."
Suzanne raised a brow. "Like feeding from us?" she blithely asked.
Prue nodded. "Vampires are by far the most prolific demonic scourge humans have ever encountered but, like I said, the new demons had learned from the mistakes of their predecessors and covered their tracks. As the earth and humans evolved, so did Evil."
"And the gods?" Burt asked.
"Most of what you've read, what we consider mythology, is true. Gods existed and still do, but not in any tangential form. Only a few were able to manifest themselves physically in this realm and, though they ruled for a while, the majority of their worshipers turned away. By this time, God had once again awoken and decided to take back its creation. This happened over a period of millennia."
"You mean like in the Bible?" Burt asked. "The Flood?"
She shook her head. "The Judeo-Christian idea of God is probably the most accurate representation of this essence, but the majority of the Bible is allegory. It's a moral guideline and should not be taken literally, especially as it's static and doesn't evolve as we do. Whether it was inspired by God's Word or not, it was still written by humans, and humans always have an agenda. There was no Garden of Eden, no Great Flood.
"The Bible, as we are familiar with it, is not complete. Scholars and historians selected which books to include. After the persecution and crucifixion of Jesus, who did exist, the Christians revised the Bible further, rejecting any number of available Gospels for myriad social and political reasons."
"Jesus was real?" Burt croaked.
"He was, and he was sent by God, but every major religion has a Christ-like figure born of a virgin, and they all walked this earth, as well, though their fathers, for lack of a better term, were different deities."
She sighed. "God became fascinated with the humans it had inadvertently created and fixated on them. It was jealous that humans were worshiping deities who had no hand in their creation, so it expelled as many as of the gods as it could. As the Common Era dawned, Christianity began sweeping through the Mediterranean Basin and expanded at a relatively rapid pace. Many pagan gods left this dimension or were exiled. Those who didn't want to leave descended to earth and intermingled with humans, passing their gifts on to their offspring. Magical witches were the result."
"We're descended from gods?" an hysterical Suzanne barked.
"Yes," replied a serious Prue. "That is why we were so persecuted by the Church and other sects during the Middle Ages, through the Reformation and the colonization of the New World. That's why Melinda was burned at the stake. Witches were a threat to the dominant regime, but not the only ones."
"Who else?" Burt asked.
"There's more than one kind of witch. There are magical witches who are descended from pagan gods, like those of the Warren line, and there are witches who are not born with the power of gods, but who can access it."
"How?" Suzanne demanded.
Prue shrugged. "They invoke the gods who did not flee, the ones who didn't breed with humans but instead hid themselves in pocket realms. These witches call on their patron gods and goddesses and they are heard. There are not many of these witches, but they are very powerful. Not as powerful as we are, but you have to understand that when they exercise their power, it is the undiluted power of a god. It is addictive and often more than they can control. There is such a witch in the company of the Slayer. She is perhaps the strongest of her kind."
"And the Elders?" Suzanne asked.
"The Elders were created by the First Brood, the original set of offspring between gods and humans. They were long-lived, but not immortal. After they passed into eternity, they decided they needed to create some kind of body to govern the world, or at least the witches within it. After the Second Brood died, the Elders endowed them with whitelighter abilities so they could return to earth and guide the next generation of magical witches, as well as those who were descended from the union between a god and a human but who had no powers: future whitelighters."
"This is unbelievable," Burt said, dropping his head into his hands. "What about Satan?" he snickered wildly. "Is he real too?"
"Yes," Prue snapped. "You see, that's one of the fundamentals of existence. For every good, there must be a corresponding evil. Nature – the entire universe, for that matter – is predicated on one thing: balance."
Suzanne nodded. The Rule of Three, karma, the Golden Rule, the law of personal gain; all were hypothesized in order to keep the balance of energy in equal measure.
"God needed a counterpoint," Prue said, "so it created Lucifer, whose Fall was mandated by his very nature, and that is not the only example of the world requiring balance in order to function. During the second time that God fell asleep, those humans who were aware of demons decided they needed a defender, an inexorable warrior to keep the demons at bay. A group of them, ancient humans called Shadowmen, captured a young girl and performed a ritual. They merged her essence with that of a tremendously powerful and incorporeal demon."
"The Slayer," Suzanne guessed.
Prue nodded. "As I earlier explained, the Slayer is a young girl – and it is always a girl – whose destiny it is to fight demons. The demon gave the first Slayer, known as the Primitive, several gifts, including accelerated healing, enhanced speed and strength, and the ability to sense demons in their midst. The strength of these gifts varies from Slayer to Slayer. Girls who have the ability, for whatever reason, to become a Slayer are called Potentials. When a Slayer dies, a Potential is Called to take her place."
"These girls," Burt grunted. "How old are we talking about here?"
"The youngest on record was nine," Prue said, her disgust obvious.
"That's fucking sick," he rasped. "Some group of assholes stood in a circle and decided the best way to fight scary shit was to have little girls, babies, do it for them? Fucking assholes."
"I agree," Prue said coolly. "It's an abomination, but it's also reality."
"And the current Slayer," Suzanne interjected. "You said she was, er, successful?"
Prue nodded. "The most successful on record. A large part of that is due to the friends who surround her. Before, the Slayer always fought alone. She no longer does."
"That's something, I guess," Burt muttered.
"And does she have an enemy to maintain the balance she upsets?" Suzanne asked.
"All demons are her enemy," Prue replied, "but they exist with us in this realm. There is another enemy that lurks beyond the walls of our dimension, of all dimensions, constantly seeking a foothold into whatever reality can admit them. The last time it entered our world was long ago, before records, even before speech, but it's out there, just waiting to return. The Slayer will be the first to stand against it, but if she falls, our world goes with her. This enemy belongs to all of us, though no one wants to claim it or even acknowledge the fact that it is real."
"What is it?" Burt whispered.
"The First Evil," Suzanne murmured. "It's the genesis of all Evil. It's responsible for every wicked thought, every treasonous action, every lie and betrayal. It is the physical manifestation of Evil itself." She stared down at the blanket covering her weak, trembling legs. "Evil is real, Burt. It is a true and potent force in this world, and it is always seeking entrance. And do you know why people deny it, why they don't know? Because they don't want to."
He closed his eyes. Ignorance had been bliss.
"But I've never heard of the Slayer or how she was made," Suzanne continued. "You would think this would be known information to natural witches, or at least whitelighters."
Prue shrugged. "The origin of the Slayer has been lost to time. Even the Council, the Slayer version of Elders, has no idea of how the Line was first spawned. Whatever her powers, she's still mortal, just like witches. Just like me. She can die. In fact, the current Slayer has already died once; her friend resuscitated her, inadvertently spawning a Second Line. Now two Slayers walk the earth and will in perpetuity. The boy who did that, the Father of the Second Line, also figures into the prophecies regarding Kurt. He will become one of Kurt's greatest protectors."
Burt exhaled shakily, grateful for this information yet still horrified at whatever was to befall his son. "That's the point of all of this, isn't it?" he asked. "The two lines of this war, the ones fought by Slayers and witches, they're going to collide, aren't they? They're going to converge, and Kurt is the one who is going to bring it about."
She paused and licked her lips. "What you must understand is that God and Satan are the balances of power only for this world and in this time."
Burt frowned. "What do you mean?"
"God and Satan are the arbitrators of this plane of reality, but there are eleven such planes, all of which coexist within our own. That does not take into account parallel worlds, which exist in concert with this world in this dimension; alternate worlds, which are mirror images of this world in this dimension; other dimensions; and the universe itself."
"I need drugs," Burt moaned. "I can't get through this without being stoned." He turned to his wife. "Can you share your morphine drip?" he begged.
She seriously considered his question, because she was about to depress the button to have more narcotics pushed into her bloodstream.
"I'm so sorry," Prue whispered. "I know how difficult this is. It's all still new for me, too, so I understand your fear and confusion. Most humans never need to be aware of this knowledge; many of those who come to know it reject it. I wouldn't be doing this to you unless it was absolutely necessary. Please believe that."
Suzanne sighed. "I know, honey."
"It's all for Kurt, right?" Burt asked.
He shrugged. "Then that's all that matters."
"So," Suzanne said with false brightness, "the other planes of reality in this dimension, that's where the Powers That Be come into play, right?"
Prue released a breath and nodded.
"And they're the ones who sent you?" Burt asked.
She nodded again. "The Powers That Be are the arbitrators of this dimension and the planes of reality that exist within it - all of them, including parallel and alternate worlds. Usually, these worlds function well enough with minimal interference. They have their own arbitrators and their own rules, but occasionally there are events so cataclysmic that they interfere with this natural order. That's when the Powers step in and appoint Champions to their cause, to be their representatives on the specific plane affected."
"And Kurt is one of these Champions?"
"He will be," she said, "but first let me explain a bit more about the Powers." She waited for them to acknowledge her with nods. "They are immortal, but their duties are not; they can and have often been replaced when deemed to be inefficient. They, like the God of this reality, are neither Good nor Evil. They are not immoral, but rather amoral; their sole function is to maintain the balance between Good and Evil." She paused. "Now this is where things start to get very tricky. How much do you know about physics?"
Burt snorted. "Sorry, I skipped that class. Every single one of them."
Prue smiled wryly and looked at Suzanne, who shrugged.
"All I remember are the Laws of Thermodynamics."
Prue's eyes shined. "And what's the First Law?"
"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction," Suzanne quoted.
Prue nodded. "Yes," she said in approval, "but that can be reduced even further: for every force, there is an equal and opposing force, and so it is with Good and Evil. These are merely monikers humans have bestowed upon these essences, but, at their simplest, they are merely opposing forces. That is the true nature of existence: balance. It is not morality which determines an outcome, but intent. Intent, whether it be natural or supernatural, physical or psychical, is at the root of every action. If that force which we deem Good pushes ahead, then its corresponding force, Evil, pushes back.
"It really is," she concluded, "just that simple. There is no grand design, no master plan. We all have been drafted as warriors in the eternal battle to maintain the status quo. Everything happens for a reason, but that doesn't mean the reason is necessarily good."
"I think I get it," Burt said slowly. "The whole universe and everything within it, including us, are made up of these two forces. Everything has the potential to be Good or Evil, or both, like Nature is both, loving and cruel at the same time. Whether we choose Good or Evil depends on the circumstances of those decisions. We change as the circumstances change. With every decision, every choice we make, the balance shifts, and it spirals out beyond us, affecting everything else."
"Yes!" Prue all but shouted in her excitement.
Suzanne nodded, proud of her husband. Of course, she had always been proud of him. "Tell us the prophecy. Or prophecies. You said there were two."
Prue nodded somberly. "God has fallen asleep again, and the choices humans have made, the way we've reacted to Evil, have thrown both this world and several of the others out of balance. God will eventually awaken, but the battle for this world is almost lost; it's already effectively lost to its arbitrators. Soon there will be no God or Devil. The Powers have finally realized that God and Lucifer simply don't understand the harmony of the spheres, that what happens to this world, here in this time, can have disastrous and permanent consequences for the other worlds. So the world will be taken from them and they will be expelled to another dimension.
"The Powers have no control over the Slayers; Slayers are a human construction. The Powers have named a new Champion, but given what he is facing, it's entirely probable that he will be unsuccessful in his ultimate mission. They've foreseen an event which will level the playing field dramatically in our favor, far too much so, and somehow the Slayer's witch is involved. I don't know what it is or when it will happen, but there is one Power that believes the balance will be shifted irrevocably - and not for the better. Everything will fall out of balance, the entire universe, because of a supercharged butterfly effect. If that happens, this world could be annihilated. I'm not speaking of an apocalypse in which demons assert dominion over the earth. I mean that this world and everyone in it will be blinked out of existence and replaced, so that the balance will never again be so threatened."
They stared at her. What the hell could they say to that? And where were the drugs? They definitely needed some drugs - in heavy doses and of every possible variety.
"There are currently three Powers who govern this dimension," Prue continued. "Three were selected so that any action taken would be by vote of majority, a system of checks and balances. The problem is that the Powers are just as fickle and hubristic as God and Lucifer, as the pagan gods and the Elders, and the Shadowmen and the First. They argue, they bicker, they waste time when important decisions have to be made. Like I said before, while they are immortal, their positions as The Powers That Be are not."
Suzanne narrowed her eyes. She had an inkling of where this was going and she didn't like it. Burt looked utterly confused.
"The Power who is so concerned with the Slayer's witch and the new Champion is the same one who recruited me. It plucked me out of the afterlife and explained to me what was happening, what could happen, and the role Kurt was destined to play." She looked at them sorrowfully. "I didn't want to believe it. I still don't. But I decided that whatever happened, I would be at Kurt's side when it occurred."
Burt nodded stalwartly. "But what is that role?"
Prue stood and began pacing. "Dawn is breaking," she said. "That's what the Power told me. A time is fast approaching that will herald the end of the reign of the current Powers That Be. Prophecies throughout all of the worlds have confirmed it. It can't be denied or fought. At the hour of the greatest menace, when the most dangerous enemy attempts to seize control of this dimension, the New Power will claim Its throne, exile Its brethren, and cleanse this realm to reset the balance."
She looked at them.
"The New Power approaches, and this world will tremble at Her Hand."
Burt swallowed. "Kurt is the Hand?"
"And this New Power?" Suzanne asked, quaking. She was familiar with the prophecy and its variations, at least as far as this world was concerned. That it had been validated by an untold number of prognisticators throughout the dimension was stultifying. She knew about the Powers That Be, at least in the abstract, enough to understand that there was a force or forces beyond the existence of just this world, beyond the Elders and whatever deities ruled, a force which guided things toward a specific destiny.
"There will be portents of Her arrival," Prue replied. "The King will be crowned; an Old One will again walk this earth; the Twice-Blessed will be born; Cain and Abel will rise; and the Pentad will awaken."
"The Pentad?" Suzanne gasped.
Prue nodded, looking away. "The second prophecy concerning Kurt is that of the Pentad. You're familiar with it, Suzanne. I know it. If it's in our Book, it's most likely in yours as well. It's coming, and the Hand will lead it."
Suzanne shook her head in disbelief. The Pentad was only legend. It was only ever supposed to be legend. It could never possibly exist. Their power would exceed even that of the Charmed Ones. How bad was this world going to get that both the Charmed Ones and the Pentad had to be activated, that two supernatural armies would have to come together to fight for their very existence?
She couldn't even fathom it, was somewhat grateful she wouldn't live to see it, but Jesus Christ, her child would be leading this fight? Her brilliant, beautiful baby who still required bedtime stories and checks under his bed and nightlights before he could even think of going to sleep? He was tasked with keeping the darkness at bay?
It was obscene.
She knew Prue was right, that she couldn't fight it, but once she crossed over, the Elders, the Powers, whoever met her in that long corridor, was going to be in for a very rude awakening. She would see her son again, this she vowed. She would be at his side whether or not he knew it, and woe to those who would try to stop her. Because there was one thing these Powers, Elders, and gods couldn't negate: free will. Her body might be betraying her, might be slowly dying, but she had an iron will, one she had passed on to her child, and together they would demand a reckoning for everything that had and would be done to them.
"What the shit is a Pentad?" Burt demanded, snapping Suzanne out of her vengeful thoughts. "And what of this New Power? When the hell is that supposed to happen?"
Prue's gaze was steely, resolute. "It's not known who or where She is, nor when She will arrive, but She's coming."
"That's it? That's all you know? Some chick is going to take over this dimension and use my son as her war general, and you don't anything about her? Are you serious?" Burt raged.
"All that's known is that she is called the Queen."
Chapter 3: Something Wicca This Way Goes
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
A pall of silence had descended over the hospital room as Kurt's parents contemplated what his future was to entail.
Burt longed to linger in denial about the entire affair, desperate to convince himself to believe that his son was, in fact, not a witch, and certainly not one who literally had the fate of the world resting on his shoulders. He had believed he had understood, even if only dimly, what it meant for the Halliwell sisters to be the Charmed Ones, what it was for his wife to be a witch, but now he realized he had never had even an inkling.
Suzanne, meanwhile, had entered Project Mode, wanting to tie up as many loose ends as possible prior to her death.
"Do you know how much time I have left?" she asked her cousin.
Prue shook her head. "Not long," she said thickly. "I don't know much, but I know that." She sighed. "I'm so sorry, Sue."
Burt stared down at the floor, suppressing a sigh.
"Forget it," Suzanne snapped, though not unkindly. "What we have to do is prepare as much as we can so that Kurt will be ready."
"How?" Burt asked dully.
"I'll talk to him," Suzanne said. "Explain to him about magic and what we are."
He shook his head sadly. "He won't believe you, Suzie," he quietly said.
Suzanne stared at her husband for a long moment and at last nodded. "You're right. It would be better coming from Prue."
Prue blinked slowly and nodded. "I can do that," she said, exhaling loudly. She had no idea what the hell she was going to say to the little guy, how she could make him understand all that was happening and what was in store for him, but she knew she had to try. She figured it was best to start with things with which he might already be familiar. "How much does he know about Cassie, about what she is?"
"I honestly don't know," Suzanne confessed. "To my knowledge, he just considers her a family friend. It's possible he could know more, that perhaps he's seen her orb in and out of the house." She shook her head. "If he has, he would have kept it to himself. He's very removed from us. He has been, ever since San Francisco."
"I'm sorry," Prue said quietly.
"I'm not," Suzanne said sharply. "Don't get me wrong. I don't like this; in fact, I hate it. But you were right before: I can't fight it. History is filled with stories of men and women who have tried to avert prophecy. It never works. I don't want this life for him, but I know he can handle it. I choose to believe that. I have to believe that, otherwise I couldn't go on."
"So what do we do?" Burt asked no one in particular.
Suzanne stared off and contemplated her options. "After I die, how soon will the spell be rescinded and his powers restored?"
Burt glared ineffectually at her.
"Almost immediately," Prue answered. "It could happen as soon as you start to slip away. I'd say within a day."
"But why?" Burt asked. "You told me yourself that you and your sisters didn't receive your powers until six months after Penny died. You only got them when Phoebe read the incantation from the Book."
She gave him a smile she didn't feel. "Because our magic is, in part, tied to the Book. Our Book of Shadows isn't just a book of magic, Burt, it is magic. That's why every demon wants it."
"Is yours?" he asked his wife, feeling stupid for not already knowing the answer.
Suzanne shook her head. "No. My Book has spells and remedies and family history, as well as lore, but it's not a magical tome. My branch of the family simply never had the level of power required to make it such." She blinked. "That could be a problem."
He nodded and looked away. He wanted to help, but there was nothing he could add, no real solutions he could offer. He didn't even know why he had stayed for this. There was nothing he could do to help his wife and son with this part of their lives.
He felt as though he were a complete failure as a man. He had lost his daughter, would soon lose his wife, and then he would spend the remainder of his days wondering as to when he would finally lose his son. He thought of Patty Halliwell and could only assume that she had experienced similar thoughts after giving birth to Phoebe, knowing she had delivered the Charmed Ones. He longed to call Victor Bennett and ask how the hell the man coped with having his daughters as the Charmed Ones.
Suzanne reached over and grabbed his chin. "You'll need to be with him. I don't want him with me when I die. He's far too young, Burt, and that will be all he remembers of me. It will color all of his memories of me. I don't want that for him. I don't want that for me."
"No you don't," Prue softly agreed. "I watched my mother die. No child should witness such a thing."
Suzanne raised her eyes and looked into those of her cousin. "What?" she whispered. "You were there when Patty…"
Suzanne faltered, having no idea what to say. "I didn't know that."
Prue shrugged diffidently. "No one did, not even Grams. I never told Phoebe or Piper. They didn't need to know."
"How old were you?" Burt asked.
"I was six," she said, her eyes staring sightlessly before her. "I was as old as Kurt is now."
Suzanne turned her head and choked back a sob.
"How did you deal with it?" Burt asked.
"I didn't," Prue confessed, "not really, but it definitely informed who I became. As Suzanne said, it colored everything, poisoned it in a way. Kurt shouldn't have to deal with that." She closed her eyes. "My mother died by violence, trying to destroy a demon. Twenty years later, that same demon almost killed me. I almost embraced it, because I had always expected to die young." She gave him a wry smile. "And I did."
She shook her head and cleared her throat. "Even though your death will be natural, Suzanne, as natural as any death can be, it's not something Kurt should see."
Burt said nothing, but disagreed with their decision. He remembered too well how Kurt had changed since San Francisco, how mature he was now, far too much for such a little boy. The truth was that he believed there was very little his son could not handle, but with so many life-altering events crashing down upon him all at once, it was more than conceivable that he could break. Besides, this was Suzanne's call. It was her death; she should plan for it in whatever way might bring her comfort.
"What about our Book?" he asked Prue, deliberately changing the subject. "How will we keep it safe?"
Suzanne smiled faintly at his use of the possessive. He husband might not have understood magic, might not wanted his son to have to deal with it, but from the moment Kurt had been revealed as magical, Burt had vowed to protect him, and that meant protecting every tool that Kurt would require to fulfill his destiny.
Prue grinned. "Just leave that to me."
Five minutes later, Prue orbed back in to the hospital room with the Bowen Book of Shadows, which she had liberated from the Hummel house, clutched in her hands. It was smaller than the Halliwell book, but she could feel the ambient magic it emitted; it wasn't as strong, but it was more gentle, definitely reflecting its most recent bearer.
What she was about to attempt to pull off might be easier than she had thought.
"What are you going to do?" Suzanne asked, her displeasure and unease with someone else holding the tome patently obvious.
"This is more than just a book of spells," Prue said softly. "This is your son's legacy. It will grow and change as he does, as he and those who come after him add to it. It must be protected at all costs."
Burt's brow furrowed. "How?"
She smirked. "I'm going to call upon our own higher power." She placed the book at Suzanne's feet, closed her eyes, and opened her arms wide.
Suzanne frowned as she watched a protective circle appear around the perimeter of the room. It must have been a whitelighter power, because she'd never heard of any Wiccan ability that could make such a circle tangible; either that, or the Halliwell line was far more powerful than anyone could have ever conceived.
She felt vaguely resentful that she had never been a recipient of that power. She too was a descendent of Melinda Warren, but the Halliwell line had always contained the most potent abilities. She then remembered her son and blinked. The magic must have been waiting for him, she realized. Her terror for her son's future renewed itself.
Burt couldn't see the magic filling the room, but he could certainly sense it. It was a new experience for him and he didn't know if it was because of Prue – because she was a whitelighter – or if it was something altogether different. Whatever it was, he hoped it was permanent and would perhaps give him some kind of edge in keeping his son safe.
Prue took in a deep breath. "I call forth, from space and time, matriarchs of the Bowen and Halliwell lines - mothers, daughters, sisters, friends; our family spirit without end – to gather now in this sacred place and help us to bring a child to grace."
Slowly, one by one, they appeared, beginning with Melinda, followed by her daughter Prudence. Melinda's mother Charlotte stood behind them, smiling gently at Prue.
Melinda beamed widely. "Blessed Be, my daughters," she said to Prue and Suzanne.
Suzanne covered her mouth with a hand. "Oh, my god," she whispered, tears gathering in her eyes. She had heard of summoning, had known it was possible, but she had never witnessed one. She didn't even know if she possessed enough power to perform one.
"This is just the beginning," Prue said, grinning.
More and more spirits emerged from the ether: Laura, Astrid, Helena, Grace, Deborah, Sarah, Anna, and Felicia; all of whom stood behind Melinda and formed two distinct lines, one Halliwell and the other Bowen. Finally, Patricia and Penelope Halliwell appeared, standing on either side of Melinda.
"Prue?" asked a confused Patty.
"What is going on, Prudence?" Penelope tersely demanded.
Prue opened her mouth and just as suddenly closed it as one final ghost materialized.
Suzanne moaned deep in her throat. "Mom?"
"Hello, my darling," Olivia Bowen said.
Penny stalked forward, hand on her hips, and gave Prue a sweeping look. "Well?"
"You remember our cousin, Suzanne," she replied, gesturing to the woman in question.
Penny frowned. "Of course, and it's lovely to see you, sweetheart," she said to Suzanne before turning back toward Prue, "but that doesn't answer my question."
"You always were a blowhard," Olivia said, rolling her eyes.
Penny whirled on her heel. "Well, there's a voice I haven't missed. I should have known I couldn't escape you even in eternity, Livvie."
Olivia's eyes hardened and she opened her mouth to retort before Patty cut her off.
"Both of you can shut up," she spat. "I'll be damned if I'm forced to put up with this bickering in the afterlife. I had enough of it on earth, and it's the reason Suzanne and my daughters didn't grow up together." Her eyes narrowed. "As they should have."
Suzanne glared at her mother as Prue glared at Penny. Both ghosts lightly blushed, which was really quite a feat, in Burt's opinion.
"Prue," Patty hesitantly began, "where have you been? You were supposed to stay in the receiving chamber while your grandmother and I spoke to your sisters."
Prue nodded slyly. "How is Paige coping?"
Patty's eyes widened as she stumbled back.
"How did you know about her?" Penny demanded.
Prue raised a brow. "Grams, I love you, but I'm dead now. There's nothing you can hold over my head to force me to bend to your will. The fact of the matter is that I know far more than you about what's going on in this world, as well as in several others. That's why I'm here with Suzanne, and it's why I summoned all of you. Things are far more unbalanced than most people have realized."
Although surprised by her granddaughter's admonishment, Penny dismissed it from her mind. "Very well," she said, nodding. "What can we do to help you?"
Prue shook her head. "It's not me who needs your help, but Suzanne."
Patty blinked and suddenly took in her surroundings. "Why are we in a hospital?" She silently answered her own question and her eyes filled with sadness as she looked at her cousin. "Oh, no," she whispered, "not again. Not so soon after Prue." She covered her mouth with a hand. "This just isn't fair."
"It never has been," Olivia said darkly, crossing to her daughter's side and taking her hand. "Oh, my darling, I'm so sorry," she said softly, stroking her daughter hair. "I don't know why I wasn't informed about what the hell was going on down here, but you can be sure that I'll find out. This shouldn't be happening."
"But it is," Suzanne said evenly, struggling not to cry, "and I have to make sure Kurt is safe."
Olivia's brows gathered. "What does this have to do with my grandson?" She blinked. "Hello, Burt. I'm sorry we never had the chance to meet while I was alive, but I want you to know how happy I am that my daughter found such a wonderful man with whom she could share her life."
Burt blushed. "Thank you, ma'am," he mumbled.
She waved a hand. "Tosh! Call me Olivia. Now, what is this about Kurt?"
Burt and Suzanne immediately looked to Prue, who nodded.
"Something incredible has happened," she began, "something no one in our family even considered possible."
Penny raised a brow. "Which is?" she drawled.
Prue shot her a look. "Six years ago, Suzanne gave birth to the first male Warren witch."
The excited and confused murmurings of the ghosts quickly filled the room, giving Burt a headache.
"Ridiculous!" Penny finally thundered. "Warren witches are always female."
Melinda frowned and made to argue, but was interrupted.
Burt stood and glared at Penny. "Things change. My boy is a witch, lady, and a pretty damn powerful one. He's a member of your family and he needs your help. So are you going to help him, or do I call Ghostbusters to blast your ass out of here?"
Penny curled a lip and opened her mouth to retort, but was interrupted by Prue.
"I wouldn't advise it, Grams. Burt is far more stubborn than you, and you really don't want to see the lengths to which he will go to protect his child. Believe me, this is one man you should absolutely respect."
Penny closed her mouth, tilted her head, and gave Burt a thoughtful look. Finally, she nodded. "I like you."
"I really don't care," he shot back.
She grinned. "Which is why I like you." She rubbed her hands together gleefully. "All right, what's going on and how can we help? If young Kurt has shown himself to be magical, he must have powers. What are they?"
Prue smiled. "He shares our power, Grams. He's telekinetic."
"Outstanding!" Penny squealed. "What else?"
"He shares my power, too," Suzanne said quietly. "He's empathic." She looked up at her mother. "He's also telepathic."
Olivia winced. "Shit."
"Oh, dear," Patty fretted, wringing her hands.
"Difficult to manage," Penny allowed, "but certainly not impossible. He's a Halliwell, after all."
"He is a Bowen," Olivia spat.
Penny rolled her eyes.
"Enough!" Melinda interjected. "At the end of the day, this child is a Warren. He is my blood, and he will be embraced by the entire line." She glared at Penny. "As for you, Penelope, your ridiculous prejudices against men have no bearing on this conversation. They are not shared by every member of this family, and you would do well to remember that you were only ever alive thanks to your parents, one of whom was a man. A man is the only reason you had Patty. And whatever you think of Victor, it is partly because of him that you are the grandmother of the Charmed Ones, in whom you take so much pride." She stared the other woman down and then finally walked over to Prue. "Whatever you ask of us is what we will do. It's just that simple."
"Thank you," Prue said, sighing.
"Where is Kurt?" Olivia asked excitedly. "It's about time I met my grandson!"
"He's in the daycare center," Suzanne explained. "Burt dropped him off there to tell me about Prue's, uh, death."
Penny nodded. "Which brings me back to my original question, granddaughter. What are you doing here?"
"I'm Kurt's whitelighter."
Patty gasped. "The Elders made you a whitelighter? Already? And for a member of your own family?"
Prue snorted. "Of course not. The Elders didn't assign me to Kurt. I'm above them now. After I died and crossed over into eternity, I was reunited with you. When the Elders called you away to send you to Piper and Phoebe, I was summoned by the Powers That Be."
An eerie silence fell over the room.
"What do they want with that boy?" demanded an angry Penny.
Olivia was soon at her side, her fierce glare also asking for an explanation, their love of family overriding their rivalry.
"It's why I summoned you," Prue said softly, gathering her courage. She looked up and ensnared the assembly before her in her gaze. "Kurt Bowen Hummel, our kin, our blood, is the Hand."
The explosion was immediate.
"Absolutely not," Olivia said flatly. "I will not allow this," she hissed, unconsciously echoing the earlier words of her daughter.
"This is ridiculous!" Penny expounded. "He's a child!" She shook her head. "No. This is outrageous. How much more is our family expected to give? How many more sacrifices must we make to ensure the safety of this world? Unacceptable. This is simply too much."
Melinda sighed. "I agree, but it's irrelevant. If Kurt is the Hand, that means he was prophesied to be so. We're all aware of that prophecy. We know the price Kurt would pay were we to interfere. Destiny will always have its way, no matter what machinations we devise in an attempt to thwart it. There is nothing we can do except help him as much as we can."
Penny and Olivia were furiously whispering to each other, united for the first time in life and death by a mutual loathing for the powers which ruled their dimension.
Patty studied her daughter. "There's something more, Prudence. What aren't you telling us?"
Burt cleared his throat. "There's another prophecy. Kurt is supposed to lead something called the Pentad."
Penny's eyes bulged as Olivia once again swore under her breath.
Melinda gritted her teeth. "Oh, this really is carrying things too far. To saddle a child with such responsibility is simply reprehensible."
"My Wiccan powers have been restored," Prue interrupted, "and I've been given full whitelighter powers."
Suzanne narrowed her eyes. "That's…slightly different than what you said before. What exactly does it mean?"
Prue smirked, lightning bolts appearing in her hands. She twirled them around as though they were revolvers. "I have the powers of an Elder."
Burt grunted. "Huh. That's new."
Prue flicked her wrists and the lightning bolts disappeared. "I can't prevent Kurt from fulfilling his destiny, but I can do everything in my power to protect him as much as possible, and that's exactly what I'm going to do."
"If this child has been positively identified as the Hand," Charlotte said quietly, "then the Gloaming is upon us. It could occur within his lifetime."
"The what?" Burt asked.
"The Gloaming," Suzanne repeated. "It's also known as the Twilight, the time in which this world will fall." She nodded to Prue. "Tell them."
Prue gave an abbreviated version of what she had been told and the Matriarchs ruminated over her words.
"And you have no idea who this Queen is," asked a suspicious Penny, "or of when She will Ascend."
Prue shook her head. "None. The Power who told me didn't release that information, if they even know." She frowned. "This is just a feeling, but I got the idea the Queen wasn't known, not to the Powers, not even to Herself." Finally, she shrugged. "Maybe She hasn't been pressed in to service yet."
Penny grunted. "Perhaps."
Patty tilted her head. "Hasn't been pressed in to service yet," she slowly repeated. She looked at her daughter. "Why did you phrase it that way?"
Prue looked at her blankly. "I don't know," she finally said. "But if the Powers don't know who She is, or of the precise time of Her arrival, it stands to reason that they don't know anything about Her, which makes me think that though this may be Her destiny, that She was created for it, it doesn't mean She's aware of it. She might not have any more choice in this than Kurt does."
"A logical supposition," Melinda murmured, "and a frightening one. If She truly is unknown to the Powers, to Herself, then how could She possibly prepare for what is to come? If Kurt is the Hand, it makes sense that he would be called to Her side."
"What about the rest of it?" Charlotte asked. "Who is the King who will be crowned?"
"I don't know," Prue admitted. "Honestly, the more that I think about it, the more I believe Kurt is the only known quantity involved. Obviously, this King is some kind of consort, but that doesn't mean he's an equal of the Queen, only that he will stand at Her side. If Kurt is the Hand, perhaps the King is the Heart."
Several of the ghosts nodded.
"And the Twice-Blessed?" Penny asked.
"There were rumors," Melinda recalled, "ones that predated my time, in which a magical child born of a most incredible union would be delivered into this world as planets burned and magic died. Not necessarily a permanent death, but perhaps merely a day of rest."
"Piper's child," Suzanne whispered.
"What?" asked Penny, Patty, and Prue.
"It's logical," she replied, her voice gaining strength. "A magical child of a most incredible union? Piper is now the eldest of the Charmed Ones. She is the most powerful witch in the world until Kurt assumes that mantle. Most likely, Piper will begin having children before Kurt is of age. Her husband is a whitelighter, one of the strongest forces for Good in this and any other world. Any child of theirs is guaranteed to be remarkable."
Burt frowned. "What about Paige? She's half-whitelighter."
Suzanne shook her head. "Patty wasn't Charmed." She frowned deeply. "Surely the Elders are aware of the Twice-Blessed prophecy and how Piper might deliver it." She raised her head and stared at Penny and Patty. "You must watch over them. The Elders have plotted against Piper and Leo before. I always thought it odd the Elders allowed the marriage. Patty gave up Paige, fearful of what the Elders would do to the girl, and I doubt they've relaxed their stance significantly since then."
Patty swallowed heavily.
"Which means," Suzanne continued, "the Elders will either try to prevent Piper from conceiving, which I doubt they can do, or they want the child to be born. The question, of course, is why."
Prue swore under her breath.
"I knew her marrying that…that man was a bad idea," Penny spat.
Prue and Patty rolled their eyes.
"An Old One will again walk the earth," Olivia quietly repeated. "The very idea is terrifying. I don't think the Charmed Ones or Kurt would stand a chance against it. We're talking about a god incarnate. Granted, this Old One would probably not have access to their full powers, but at the very least would be significantly more powerful than a mortal witch."
"But what can we do?" Deborah asked. "Mortals, even magical ones, don't have access to the Deeper Well. There are rumors that it's not even located on this plane of existence."
Helena nodded. "Not to mention that it contains the remains of all Old Ones not expelled from this world. It's possible that the combined forces of the Hand, the Charmed Ones, and the Twice-Blessed would be able to subdue one Old One, but for them to go in to the Deeper Well and potentially face several or all of them?" She shook her head. "They would never survive."
"But could the Queen?" Burt asked.
"Doubtful," Olivia replied. "Beings of such power are not able to manifest themselves physically in this realm. That is why the First Evil must use agents like the Source to enact its will. Likely, this Queen will find Herself in a similar situation. My grandson, as well as this mysterious King, are likely to be two of Her agents.
"Does he have other powers?" she asked, turning toward Prue. "Or, should I say, will he?"
Prue nodded. "As I told Suzanne and Burt, Kurt has the potential for several abilities, most of them offensive powers. He will become the most powerful witch this world has ever seen, surpassing the individual powers of the Charmed Ones. As he already shares one of my powers, it's possible he'll share another."
"Astral projection," Patty guessed.
Prue nodded. "Or some other form of teleportation. I choose to believe that whatever Power created him for this had enough foresight to provide him with a method of transportation so that he's not forced to be reliant on me."
Olivia shrugged and nodded. "Makes sense."
"And the Pentad?" Penny asked. "He will lead it?"
Prue smiled wryly. "Right now, it's just a triad, but yes, eventually all five witches will come together under Kurt's leadership."
"Who are the other two current members?" Melinda asked.
"Two little girls Kurt's age," Prue answered. "Santana Lopez and Brittany Pierce."
"I'm not familiar with those surnames," Penny said, frowning. "And their powers?"
"Brittany is an Oracle."
Several of the ghosts gasped.
"The other, this Santana?" asked a thrown Patty.
Prue shook her head. "Not here, not yet. I can't be sure we aren't being observed. All I will say is that Santana is Kurt's anchor; her mere presence will be able to help him master his defensive powers. Together, they will shield Brittany." She looked around nervously. "The cloaking spells I cast should keep us off the Elders' radar, but I don't know what else could be lurking about. Remember that we are no longer dealing with just Wiccan powers, but those of the godlings."
Several of the witches grumbled.
"The worlds of the Slayers and natural witches are beginning to collide," she continued. "If we have prophecies, they might have their own. We're no longer just fighting demons and Elders, but also pure demons, the Council, and the First Evil. I'm an agent of the Powers That Be, but remember that everything they know is also known by the Wolf, Ram, and Hart. We have to assume they have their own agents in place, as well."
"Don't get ahead of yourself," her mother warned. "Let's just take this one step at a time." She paused. "Is Kurt aware of what's happening?"
"No," Burt said. "Right now, it's all he can do to cope with the loss of his sister. He knows his mother is terminal, but he refuses to think about it."
"Sister?" Olivia frowned, before gasping and turning toward her daughter. "Oh, baby! Were you pregnant?"
Suzanne's face collapsed and she began shuddering with sobs.
Olivia looked to Burt, who shook his head. "There are times when a child needs her mother."
She nodded sadly and went to take her daughter in her arms as Burt crossed to stand next to Prue.
"Three years ago," he began, "Sue, Kurt, and I went to visit the sisters in San Francisco. Kurt fell in love with them, but then demons attacked. Piper and Phoebe were injured. Kurt held the demons at bay until Prue could vanquish them."
Penny gaped. "At three years old your son did this?"
She blinked. "Well, hell." She shook her head. "Then what?"
He explained about how Prue and Piper fought with Phoebe and Leo, finally forcing them to agree to help Suzanne bind Kurt's powers, and how Cassie, Suzanne's whitelighter, used memory dust to make the sisters forget that Kurt was magical.
"A very wise decision," Patty said, before shaking her head in consternation. "What was Phoebe thinking, wanting to keep Kurt from his parents and raise him in the Manor? The next time she summons me, I'll have to force myself not to shake some sense into her!"
"So the other girls still don't know about Kurt?" Penny asked.
Burt and Prue shook their heads.
She heaved a sigh of relief. "Good. And Kurt doesn't remember any of this?"
"No," Burt replied, "but he knows something happened. His forced separation from the sisters did not go over well. He's never forgiven us or them."
"Stubborn," Penny said fondly.
Prue snorted. "From what I remember about Kurt, he's worse than Piper, Phoebe, and me put together."
Penny shuddered and turned to Burt. "My condolences, but it is a family trait."
"It's one of mine, too."
She smirked at him and turned back to Prue. "What do you want us to do? Obviously we're here for more than a debriefing."
Prue nodded and retrieved the spellbook. "This is the Bowen Book of Shadows. This is Kurt's legacy, containing the history of his line and their magic. I am requesting that all of you – Halliwells, Bowens, and Warrens alike – step forward and bless it. Fill it with your knowledge; everything you know, everything you believe, anything you think might be possible, put in to these pages. He cannot be left undefended."
She looked at all of them solemnly. "We must help him, because if Kurt falls, the rest of the world will go tumbling after, including the Charmed Ones, their children, and all of us. If this world goes, the associated heavenly dimensions and the Higher Realms will go with it. The Warren line will be extinguished. I will not allow that to happen."
Burt sat and stared, stupefied, as each of the Matriarchs stepped forward, closed their eyes, and laid their hands on the Book. As each blessed it, the Book itself began glowing and changing, growing in both length and width. By unacknowledged yet universal acceptance, Melinda was the last. She stepped forward toward the foot of Suzanne's bed and beckoned Suzanne and Burt to join her.
Suzanne leaned forward and placed her hand on the book, but Burt hesitated.
"I'm not magical," he said.
Melinda smiled. "Perhaps not, but that doesn't preclude your line from being so. Your son is magical, Burt. It's possible your ancestors were, as well. Victor's were."
"What?" Prue, Patty, and Penny all whispered.
"Everything happens for a reason," Melinda said patiently. "Magic is not confined to a gender. The father of my own Prudence was a witch, a strong one, who unfortunately encountered an even stronger demon. Though my powers were greater, I was heavily pregnant and at my most vulnerable. Lucas sacrificed himself so that I and our daughter might live."
She looked at her descendents. "Despite what you think of Victor, do you truly believe he would do any less to protect his own children?"
"There's not a doubt in my mind he would protect his children with his life," Patty said staunchly.
Slowly, Prue nodded. "He would."
Penny was the holdout.
Melinda frowned. "Penelope, you watched him as well as I did when he was told of Prue's death. He was completely destroyed. Prue was his first-born, and though Phoebe is his youngest, Prue was his baby. He will never recover from her loss, any more than you did when Patricia was stolen from you."
Prue pressed her lips together as her eyes filled with tears. Patty drew her close.
Finally, Penny nodded, looking away. "I handled him all wrong," she quietly admitted.
"Victor will love Paige," Melinda continued, "because Piper and Phoebe will, because Patricia does, and because Prue would have. The Charmed Ones will need allies, yes, but more importantly, they will need their family. Other than Kurt, Victor is the only one left."
It was a sobering realization for the Halliwells.
Melinda turned back to Burt. "Every mortal possesses a kernel of magic, though they may never be able to access it. The bottom line is that, in the end, magic matters very little. You are Kurt's father. Your love for him is magical in and of itself. Burt Eugene Hummel, place your hand on the Book."
Burt looked up at her with gratitude shining in his eyes and did as she commanded.
Melinda laid her ghostly appendages over the living flesh of Kurt's parents, closing her eyes.
"Prudence, Patricia, Penelope; Laura, Astrid, Helena, and Grace; Deborah, Anna, Sarah, Felicia; Prudence, Charlotte, and myself, Melinda; Olivia, Suzanne, and Burt. Warren Witches, allies, friends; never will we allow this circle to end. In this time and in this hour, I call upon our ancient power. All magic and wisdom, pass through me. Fill this Book with our love and guarantee."
Her eyes opened and were opalescent.
"Kurt Bowen Hummel; Hand and Pentad Head; son, grandson, nephew, and cousin. Flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood, bone of our bone, this I vow: never shall you walk alone."
The Book itself groaned as it was flooded with magic. Light poured into it before bending prismatically and exploding outward, the pages rustling and whipping back and forth in a fierce wind. It expanded for the final time, quadrupling in size, before the cover slammed shut. There was a crackle of lightning as a pentagram was carved into the leather. The pentagram then caught fire, a circle of flame burning itself around the points and transforming it into a pentacle before it was extinguished.
"Evil will never touch this Book," Melinda swore, her voice booming and ricocheting off the walls of the small hospital room. "It is now tied to Kurt himself. It cannot be taken from him. It will open to none but those he permits access."
To demonstrate, she closed her fingers around the cover and tugged, but the Book remained stubbornly shut.
"Not for me," she whispered, a small smile on her face, "and, I'm sorry to say, Suzanne, not even for you. The Book will wait until Kurt is ready to claim it."
Suzanne keenly felt the loss as the magic closed to her and her connection to the Book was severed, but she didn't regret it. For the first time since Prue had orbed into her room, she felt she had managed to do something to protect her child.
"How will we get it home?" Burt wondered. "It can't stay here. It's not safe."
Melinda tilted her head and considered the problem. Finally she looked down at the Book and raised an eyebrow. "Home. Your Master comes."
The Book disappeared in an explosion of golden orbs.
Prue blinked. "Whoa. Can we do that for our Book?" She startled and looked down at the floor. "For their Book, I mean."
Penny scoffed. "That Book will always be yours, Prudence. You know very well that I am still able to access it."
Patty took her daughter's chin in her hand and forced Prue to look into her eyes. "You are Prudence Halliwell. You will always be Prudence Halliwell. You may no longer be Charmed, but you are forever a Warren witch. Piper, Phoebe and Paige will always be your sisters. That connection does not end with death; not yours, and not theirs."
Prue pursed her lips and nodded.
"To answer your question, Prue," Melinda interrupted, "we cannot do this for your Book. Were we to try, the ancient magic which protects it would consider our spell to be a corrupting influence and the Book would destroy itself. It was created with a different purpose in mind. Though the Bowen Book was filled with ambient magic, it was not sentient. Now it is, as that of your Book always has been."
Penny stared at her. "Is that what would happen to our Book if something happened to the girls?"
Melinda nodded. "If Piper, Phoebe, and Paige were to perish before they had their own children, the Book would incinerate itself so that Evil could not take possession of it. The spells of protection were laid over it for precisely that reason. Though demons seek the Book, they will never truly be able to claim it."
"But it's been taken before," Prue argued.
"Yes," Melinda nodded, "but it has always returned to you. Even when it was corrupted by the dark priestess and her demon slave, it remained intact because you and your sisters lived. The Book is tied to the Halliwell line, not to a specific person. The Bowen Book is now tied only to Kurt. If he dies, it will go with him."
Burt and Suzanne really didn't wish to contemplate their only child dying and said as much.
"We need to know," Prue said softly. "It helps that I don't have to expend any time or effort protecting the Book and can instead focus exclusively on Kurt." She looked at Melinda. "Is his Book more powerful than our own?"
She nodded. "It contains the magic of the entire Warren line, not just the Halliwell branch. It is Halliwell and it is Bowen. It is Baxter, it is Russell, it is Johnson. It is all the knowledge we have ever possessed, even those Warren branches which have been extinguished or lost to time."
"And it's tied to Kurt?" Burt asked, wanting to make sure he understood.
Melinda nodded again. "The Book cannot be removed from his side. If someone or something somehow ever manages it, and I truly can't conceive of such an instance, the Book will simply return itself to him. If he perishes, the Book will immolate itself."
"What if he turns Evil?" Prue asked. "Not that I think he ever would, but because of a spell or something," she rushed to add, ducking her head at the combined glare from Burt and Suzanne. "It happened to us."
"But that wasn't your conscious choice," Melinda said gently. "The Book was turned Evil because you yourselves were through a spell, and the Book is tied to your emotions. Once the spell was rescinded, the Book was returned to its proper self. If Kurt chose Evil, fully committed himself to it, the Book would destroy itself and could never be reconstructed." She paused. "That said, though Kurt's powers are also tied to his emotions, and even though the Book is tied to him, that tie is predicated on his legacy as a Bowen, and thus as a Warren, not simply to his emotions. If a spell turned Kurt, the Book would not turn with him."
She raised a brow. "Therefore, I would suggest that as soon as he takes possession of it, he grants access to his father and to Prue, so that should something happen to him, they will be able to help him. Whatever access he grants will be dependent on his intentions, so he can limit the circumstances in which the Book is available to anyone other than him."
Prue shook her head in wonder, feeling slightly jealous of Kurt's Book and its capabilities, even though she was the one who had engineered it all. She knew it was for the best, and she was excited to see yet again what magic could accomplish; yet even though she knew she would eventually be able to use the Book, she wondered how different her life would have been had it been in the possession of her and her sisters. "Wow."
"Will our Book be closed to the Charmed Ones, as well?" Suzanne asked.
Melinda frowned. "Theoretically it would be, yes. Kurt could allow them access if he so chose. I assume he eventually will allow access to Brittany, Santana, and the other two witches who will join his coven, whoever they might be. If something happened to Kurt, the Book would not pass to the Charmed One or their offspring, nor would it be inherited by his other coven members or their future children."
"What if Kurt has children?"
Melinda shook her head. "It won't automatically pass to them. He can give them initial access and then do a blood ritual to allow the Book to enter their possession upon his death."
"What if he adopts children?" Burt suddenly asked.
"Why?" Penny asked.
"Kurt is gay," Prue said fiercely, glaring at every ghost in her proximity and daring them to say something against her little cousin.
Penny shrugged. "As long as he has a Wiccaning for his child or children, be they of his blood or not, it should not be an issue. The blood ritual would still work and the family magic would recognize them." She looked at Melinda. "Yes?"
Melinda nodded. "Of course." She looked at Burt and Suzanne. "Please, never think for a moment that Kurt's nature would be considered unacceptable to us. There have been Warren witches since the line began who have been oriented toward their own sex. It matters not to us, and we would never deny him." She stared into their eyes. "We have spent centuries fighting and destroying Evil. We know what it is and what it is not. No expression of love is ever Evil, regardless of what others might think."
The Matriarchs nodded firmly and as one.
Penny frowned and looked at the Hummels. "Speaking of which, did Kurt himself have a Wiccaning?"
Suzanne looked down, flushing with embarrassment. "No," she admitted. "By the time we learned he was magical, he was already four and we were more concerned with hiding him from the Elders. Besides, his powers have been bound for two years."
Penny clucked and shook her head.
"What's a Wiccaning?" demanded a confused Burt.
"It's akin to a magical baptism," Patty said. "It's a ceremony in which the family spirits are summoned to bless and welcome the child as one of them. It also helps stabilize the child's magic, grounding it in the family line."
Burt nodded carefully. "Then Kurt will have one."
"Honey," Suzanne began.
"No, Sue. I understand why we didn't before, but that was then. This ceremony is not only important to who he is and who he will become, it's his birthright. My son is a witch, and a powerful one at that. I won't allow him to be denied his due." He shrugged. "Besides, after his powers are restored, he'll need the stability Patty says this Wiccaning will give him. You'll be gone, Sue, and frankly, I don't know how well I could handle everything. I can't do magic. I can't help him with his gifts. Thank god Prue will be there, but every little bit helps, right?"
Suzanne smiled and nodded, tears in her eyes, as she took Burt's face in her hands and kissed him full on the mouth.
Penny really liked this man.
"My girl did well for herself," Olivia murmured.
Penny nodded. "Absolutely."
Suzanne pulled away from her husband and sighed. "I just wish I could be there for it."
Burt gripped her hand.
"Why can't you be?" both Penny and Olivia barked.
Prue scowled. "Once Kurt is exposed, the Elders will make it forbidden for him to summon Suzanne, as they have Piper and Phoebe from summoning me."
"Wait, what?" Patty hissed.
Prue smirked and shook her head. "They lied to you, Mom. Keeping me from my sisters won't help them to move on, and the Elders know that. Phoebe wasn't there when I died, and Piper was unconscious. After Leo healed her, she woke up to my dead body. She'll never get over that. She needs closure, and the Elders are denying it to her because it suits them to do so. They're hoping to bring Piper under their wing, and now I realize it's most likely because of the Twice-Blessed prophecy."
Patty curled her lip and snarled.
"Don't worry, Suzie," Prue said to her cousin. "You will be at Kurt's Wiccaning. Like I told you before, even though he can't summon you, no one can stop me from summoning you for him, and I will. Even if I couldn't, there's no reason Brittany and Santana, or their mothers, couldn't call upon you. If necessary, I'll help Kurt write a spell to call on all the Warren Matriarchs, not just the Bowens. The Elders won't be able to stop that."
Olivia and the other Bowens nodded fiercely.
"You will call on all of us, Prudence," Melinda decided. "I don't answer to the Elders, and I do not know who they think they are by forbidding anything. They certainly do not control my family. They may believe that they are beyond our reach, but that belief is false. I would be happy to prove it to them."
Her mother Charlotte nodded. "We are all Warrens, especially Kurt. He will require and receive blessings from us all. We will not leave him undefended in this mockery Destiny insists should be his life. He will have to face many things, but he will never do so alone."
Suzanne laid back, closed her eyes, and breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank god," she whispered, "and thank all of you."
And then she died.
Burt stared stupidly at his wife's body.
"We have to go," Penny said urgently. "If we're not there to welcome her, the Elders will sense our absence." She glanced at Suzanne with sorrow. "We will take care of her, Prudence. That I promise you."
Prue nodded absently. "Her whitelighter is trying to get in. I promised her she could be with Suzanne before she…" She sighed. "I have to dispel the circle." She shook her head. "Suzanne must have known. Even if she didn't know, she knew. She waited until we could do something for Kurt."
"Summon us whenever you need," Patty whispered in her daughter's ear, "even if it's just to talk."
Prue nodded again.
Olivia pressed her spirit form in between that of her daughter's body and her son-in-law. "Listen to me, Burt. Please listen. This is not the end. There is no end."
He stared at her sightlessly.
"You will see Suzanne again. You will be with her again. Love always survives."
As she reached up toward him, her hands became corporeal. She cupped his face in her hands. "Don't lose yourself because you've temporarily lost her. Don't lose Kurt because you're mourning Suzanne. You must protect him."
"You've had no time to prepare, and I'm so sorry for that. We can only assume that there is a reason behind this. Kurt's powers will soon be unbound. You have to be ready." She leaned forward and brushed her lips across his forehead, leaving a faint silver sheen in their wake. "What would she want you to do?"
"Kurt," he mumbled.
Olivia nodded. "Don't allow yourself to lose both of them," she warned. "I never got the chance to meet my grandson, but I know him. He will pull away. He will fight you. He will put up walls to keep you out. Don't let him."
Burt choked on a sob. "He's so much stronger than me. He always has been. He's never wanted me."
"Fiddle-faddle. Kurt is your son, so be his father." She stared into his eyes. "They're coming, Burt. I don't know who they are, and I don't know when they'll arrive, but they're coming, and they're coming for Kurt. So the question is: what are you going to do about it?"
"Hold tight to your son, Burt Hummel. Never let him go." She pulled back, once again turning transparent. "I will take care of Suzanne, and together, she and I will watch over you and Kurt. Make us proud, son."
He nodded and she was gone in a swirl of golden lights, the other ghosts following her. Prue raised her hands and the circle was disbanded. Cassie immediately orbed in.
"You promised," she seethed at Prue.
"Not now, Cass," Burt sighed.
"Shut up," he hissed. "Suzanne was my wife. Suzanne was the mother of my son. What you want or what you feel you're entitled to doesn't matter here." He shook his head. "We've had our problems, but I love you, Cassie. Don't make this worse than it already it is. She's dead. They won't allow you to come back. Don't let this be how we leave things."
Cassie huffed as she swatted angry tears from her cheeks, knowing he was right and hating him for it.
Burt looked at Prue. "What happens now?"
"Time is temporarily frozen," Prue whispered. "Cassie will retrieve Suzanne's soul from her body and help her cross over. The others will be waiting for her." She paused. "There are things you'll have to deal with. I'll go to the daycare and get Kurt." She closed her eyes. "What do you want me to tell him?"
Burt shook his head. "He already knows. I can feel it. He'll ask, so tell him the truth. He'll know if you lie."
Cassie nodded, albeit reluctantly.
Prue nodded in concert and left the room, the door swinging shut behind her.
"Do what you need to do," Burt said dully to Cassie.
She looked at him and hesitated.
"It's just a body," he said, though it was obvious he didn't truly believe his words. "It's not her anymore. I have to take care of Kurt. She said she'd haunt me if I didn't."
Cassie blinked, snorted, and began laughing hysterically, tears streaking down her face.
"I meant what I said, Cass," he said lowly. "We haven't always gotten on, but I do love you. You're family. Even if they won't let you see us anymore, I know you'll be watching, somewhere, somehow, and I'll make sure Kurt knows that, too."
"I'll miss you," she whispered.
"I'll miss you, too, but this is how it has to be. For Kurt."
She nodded. "For Kurt." She stepped forward toward the bed and raised a hand, and Suzanne's spirit rose from her body.
"I can see her," Burt whispered. "How?"
Cassie was dumbfounded.
"Magic," Suzanne said, smiling as she got to her feet. She turned toward her husband. "Mom must have used a spell. Don't question it. Don't try and figure it out."
He shook his head. "I'm too grateful."
"Mom was right, Burt. This isn't the end."
"I know," he warbled, fat tears seeping from his eyes.
"Be strong, baby," she murmured. "I love you so much. You are the best decision I ever made."
He shook his head and sobbed. "I didn't deserve you."
"Don't be an idiot," she grinned, and then sobered. "Take care of our son. Trust Prue. Trust the girls. Don't trust anyone else. If anyone comes to you and claims I sent them, don't believe them. If you ever feel in doubt, if you ever feel that something is wrong, tell Prue. You've got excellent instincts, Burt, better than my own. Trust them. Trust those of Kurt. His are almost as good as yours."
"We have to go," Cassie whispered. "Time is restarting, and the doctors are coming."
"I'm always with you," Suzanne vowed to her husband. "And now I'm going to go and be with our daughter."
Burt doubled over and sobbed.
"This isn't the end," she reminded him. "Prue will be able to summon me. We'll never be apart, Burt. We're forever." She leaned over and whispered into his ear. "You are the love of my life. That will never change."
"Please don't go," he begged. "Don't leave me."
"I'm so sorry, baby," she said brokenly. "It's not fair, it's not, but it's not the end. Trust in that. Trust in us." She passed through him and Burt gasped, shooting straight up as her essence merged with his. "Until we meet again."
He collapsed into the chair and curled in on itself, giving in to his despair.
Cassie held out her hand. "Ready?"
Suzanne took it. "Never, and there's a stop we need to make first."
Santana Lopez was hosting a slumber party for her best friend, Brittany Pierce, and, at her mother's insistence, another girl named Quinn Fabray.
Santana didn't like Quinn. Quinn was pretty and smart and very bossy. She had come into Santana's house like she owned it and everyone inside of it. Santana had set her straight pretty quickly, especially after the walking Skipper doll had tried to boss Brittany around, and though Quinn hadn't challenged her as Santana had expected, the seething resentment was obvious.
Santana so didn't care. She didn't have time for Quinn. She was far too busy worrying about Aunt Suzanne and Uncle Burt, and especially Kurt.
It was kind of interesting that Kurt was a lot like Quinn, except Kurt was much prettier and a lot smarter. He was bossy, but it was okay because he was always right and he bossed everyone around, including his parents, her parents, Brittany's parents, and that boy at the park who smelled like a puppy shelter. But he never bossed her or Brittany around. He loved them too much.
She thought that if she introduced Kurt to Quinn, he would hate her, which was awesome, since it would totally validate Santana's belief that Quinn was not to be trusted. She didn't even know why Quinn had to be there. Just because their mothers were friends? That was so lame.
She rolled her eyes as Quinn began telling her and Brittany all about some Disney on Ice thing her mother had taken her to see in Dayton last week. The only reason Santana hadn't told her to shut up was because Brittany liked Disney. She listened with half an ear as Quinn prattled on and on about Belle and Jasmine and Ariel until Santana wanted to claw her eyes out. Unfortunately, Brittany was styling Quinn's hair and was thus blocking access to the twit.
Everyone knew Mulan was the only Disney Princess worthy of note. Mulan ruled. She was a complete badass and boys bowed down to her, which is exactly the way things should be, in Santana's opinion. It was just the natural order of things. Well, it had been.
Now, everyone should bow to her, Brittany, and Kurt. Quinn especially should bow.
"I wish Kurt were here," she muttered.
"Who's Kurt?" Quinn chirped.
"Kurt Hummel. He's our best friend," Santana snottily replied.
Quinn sneered. "You're best friends with a boy? That's so gross! Boys are foul and nasty. I won't ever like them."
"Good," Santana snapped, "because there's no way he could ever like someone like you."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Quinn demanded, huffing and narrowing her eyes.
Brittany pulled at one of Quinn's pigtails. "You be nice. Kurty is a good boy. He's very pretty and smart and speaks European. He ice skates and dances and does gymnastics like me and Sanny. He's very sad now, but he's still okay enough to kick your butt."
Santana growled. "Now you've upset Brittany! You'll have to be vanquished!"
Quinn rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry, okay? I wasn't making fun of your friend, really. I don't even know him!" She hedged. "He sounds pretty cool," she said softly.
"Kurt is the best," Santana insisted. "He helps me protect Brittany, and last week at the playground, Dave Karofsky pushed me off the swings and Kurt kicked him in the naughty place."
Quinn's eyes widened. That was indeed impressive. Karofsky was a real jerk, always picking on girls and pushing around the other boys. Quinn couldn't stand him. "What does Kurt look like?"
After all, she couldn't properly judge him on unimportant attributes like intelligence and bravery.
Brittany squealed and skipped over to Santana's bookshelf, grabbing a photo album and darting back to Quinn, dropping down next to her. "This is us! All three of us. We've been best friends for ages."
Quinn blinked and took the album from her, thumbing through the pages.
Brittany was right. Kurt was very pretty, as pretty as Quinn herself was. She wasn't sure she liked that.
His skin was pale, like the color of the dolphin sculpture she had in her bedroom. He was also very short, shorter even than Santana. His hair was dark, though not as dark as Santana's, and it was really, really shiny. His lips were pink like Bubble Yum. If all boys looked like Kurt, she might like them more.
His eyes mesmerized her. She had always wanted to have blue eyes because she thought they would better match her blond hair, but Kurt's eyes were the most beautiful she had ever seen. They were blue and green and grey, all at the same time. His eyes changed color in almost every picture, depending on the light or where they were or what clothes he was wearing.
And the clothes! They were the most amazing thing of all. They were bright and pretty and colorful and Kurt looked like he had just stepped out of a magazine.
As she scanned the pictures, it was pretty obvious that Kurt was very important to Santana and Brittany. Quinn desperately wanted friends, and though she had been reticent about this slumber party, the prospect of spending the night with two girls her own age was too good to pass up. She liked Brittany well enough, even if the girl was a little strange, and she really liked Santana, though she was sure Santana didn't like her.
But why would they want to be her friends? They had Kurt. She thought she'd like to be friends with him too. Maybe he would like her?
"Where is Kurt now?" she asked.
Brittany's eyes filled with tears. "He's in the hospital."
Quinn became alarmed. "Is he okay?"
"Aunt Suzanne, his mom, is really sick," Santana said softly. "She has cancer. She also had a baby in her tummy, a little girl, but the baby died. Aunt Suzanne is going to die too, so Kurt stays at the hospital with his mommy so she won't be lonely and sad."
Brittany was now sobbing and fat tears streaked down Quinn's cheeks.
"That's awful. That's not right," she said, shaking her head. "That's not fair."
"No, it's not," Santana said bitterly. "My mommy's a doctor at St. Rita's, and she visits Aunt Suzanne every day. So does Aunt Ashley, Brittany's mom. They're three friends just like me, Brit, and Kurt."
"He's so sad," Brittany murmured. "I don't want Aunt Suzie to die. She's really nice and makes really yummy brownies and gives the best hugs."
Santana clenched her teeth and stared down at her hands in her lap.
"I want to meet Kurt," Quinn said importantly.
"Why?" Santana hissed. She was not about to let Princess Barbie around her best friend.
"Because he's sad. Because he needs friends now." She sighed. "And if I don't become friends with you all, Mommy will make be friends with that Rachel girl." She shuddered and wrinkled her nose. "That girl is very, very loud and is always talking about shows that I've never heard of. They're not on TV; I had Mommy check."
"She sounds weird," Brittany said.
Quinn nodded. "And she has two daddies but no mommy."
"Really? I didn't know you could do that."
Quinn nodded again. "That's what my daddy said – well, he said it shouldn't be allowed – but then Mommy yelled him a lot and told him not to be so judgy or something. Rachel's dads were really nice, but her room is pink."
Well, that sealed it for Santana. She couldn't abide pink or anyone who called it a favorite color. It was acceptable in small doses, like Pepto Bismol for when your tummy hurt, but pink was gross and girly.
Except for Hello Kitty's bow. Hello Kitty was awesome, and if she wore pink, that was okay.
Rachel was obviously not okay and would need to be avoided at all costs. The girl was probably a demon.
"Two daddies?" Santana repeated, frowning.
Quinn nodded. "They're gay."
Brittany brightened. "Kurty is gay! He likes boys instead of girls."
Quinn shrugged. "I don't blame him. Who'd want to date girls?"
Brittany and Santana exchanged a quick glance but said nothing.
"Does he have a boyfriend?" Quinn asked. "Finn Hudson is my boyfriend. I told him so yesterday. He's tall and kind of dumb, but he's nice. I mean, he's dumb, but he's not stupid like other boys. He gave me his apple juice at aftercare when Jacob dropped a booger in mine."
Santana scowled. "I hate Jacob. He's in my dancing class. I take tap, but Brittany and Kurt take ballet. Jacob's nasty and dirty and smells like bugs. He used to follow Brittany around, even after I punched him."
"Kurt takes ballet?" Quinn asked.
Santana nodded. "He and Brittany are in Madame Deveraux's class," she said grandly.
Quinn's eyes widened. Madame Deveraux's classes were super advanced and by invitation only. She didn't even know kids their age were allowed in that class. She herself was in the beginner class with Mrs. Kathy. She liked it well enough, but could take it or leave it. Maybe she should switch to tap; at least she'd be with Santana. Of course, she'd also be with Jacob. Ew.
"So what else does Kurt do?" she asked. "You said ballet and gymnastics, right? And ice skating? Do you mean hockey?"
Brittany shook her head. "Figure skating, like the pretty girls on television. He can even do some jumps! But he falls a lot, too. He's better at spins."
"He also plays piano and takes singing lessons," Santana added in a bored voice.
Quinn so wanted to meet Kurt Hummel.
"Did Jacob stop following you?" she asked Brittany, who nodded.
"Yep! Kurty made him, but I don't know how. Kurt whispered something to Jacob, and then Jacob wet his pants and started crying. Now he leaves me alone and runs away from Kurt!"
Okay, Quinn definitely wanted to be friends with Kurt.
"Sanny," Brittany whispered, scrambling to her feet, her stance rigid. "Sanny!"
Santana's head snapped around and she mumbled something in Spanish. Quinn was pretty sure it was a bad word. Santana raced to her desk and grabbed her Lisa Frank pad and her favorite purple glitter pen.
"What's wrong?" a worried Quinn asked.
Santana shushed her. "I'm ready. It's okay, Brit."
"'kay," the girl sniffled, before her eyes turned glassy. She pitched forward slightly and her hair blew back from her face by a sudden wind, her slack mouth opening and a rumbling, low voice began speaking.
"The Knight of White, the Seer of Truth:
He, pure of Heart; She, Sayer of sooth.
Born of the Light, yet dark with great pain,
Their joint Ascension shall herald a New Reign.
Blind to each other so shall these two be,
until she comes along, a Warrior Queen.
Her path shall they walk, at her side yet alone;
From her despair, the Light shall they glean."
Santana blinked. What? This was far beyond what she could deal with and she knew it. Her hand was already cramping from trying to write down everything Brittany had said, but a lot of words she didn't understand, and she sure heck didn't know how to spell them. And since when did Brittany deliver in rhyme?
"Try to hang on, Brit. Mom!" Santana screeched. "Aunt Ashley! Brittany needs help!"
Quinn stared at Brittany in fascination. "You're witches," she breathed.
Santana grunted. "What of it?"
"I'm one too," Quinn whispered.
Santana's eyes widened as all three of their mothers tore in the room, questions dying on their lips as Brittany continued. Ashley Pierce immediately took out a pocket recorder and switched it on.
"The Knight will face trials of incredible breadth:
A father, a witch, a daughter, and Death.
His Heart shall shatter again and again,
and only the Hunter shall cause it to mend.
The Seer's path will be no less dark,
and she will lose much before finding her mark.
A fall through space, and one from grace;
a martyred life will begin her race.
When the Knight falls, the Seer descends.
Reclaiming her throne, several hearts will she mend.
The Knight will acknowledge only his Queen
and only through him can She ever be seen."
"Dear God," Judy Fabray murmured, eyes wide.
Lydia Lopez and Ashley Pierce dimly registered her exclamation but ignored her. Memory spells existed for a reason.
" An army will gather to bolster their rule,
yet one of their strongest will be but a fool.
As the Queen is anointed, the Knight becomes King.
Beacons of hope, the Bells of Heaven will ring.
The Sisters Three shall be torn asunder,
their line broken by a temporal blunder.
The call of Two will be answered, though not as expected.
Another one comes who must not be rejected.
The Twice-Blessed approaches; the heavens will tremble.
The Omega will travel but must never dissemble.
Love and Valor will prove themselves true
and the Line will spawn Magic anew."
Lydia and Ashley exchanged a glance.
There was no doubt this prophecy was, in part, referencing the Charmed Ones, but what exactly did it mean? Had the Power of Three been broken? Had something happened to one or all of the sisters?
They didn't know the Charmed Ones except through myth and legend; no one did. There had been rumors that they had been activated a few years back, but no one knew their identity or where they were to be found, although speculation offered California as a possibility. Demons would know more, of course, but there were none in Lima, and as curious as witches were about the Charmed Ones and their line, questioning a demon to discover more about them really wasn't a top priority.
"The Last Scion rises as the Lioness falls,
Three cubs surround him, reinforcing his walls.
As an angel departs from the hereafter,
only the Scion can halt the coming disaster.
The Queen will awaken, Her transformation complete.
And Judgment at Her hand shall the world meet.
Her pronouncements are final; Her words resolute.
The tainted will tremble at Her rebuke.
And the Scion shall be Her Hand.
The Pentad approaches."
Lydia's eyes widened to the size of banjos. Ashley gasped. Judy stared.
Brittany gave an exaggerated blink and then began bouncing up and down with excitement. "Did I have an English accent this time? I really want an English accent!"
Prue robotically navigated the hallways of the hospital, lost in thought and paying no real attention to where she was going. She only dimly registered the notion that she need not have bothered anyway. She could sense Kurt.
It was utterly bizarre. There was a dim buzzing in the back of her mind that told her where he was, that he was in no immediate danger, and that he was mildly anxious. It wasn't bothersome, not exactly, but it was still a foreign presence in her mind and was therefore unwelcome. She was sure she would grow accustomed to it – would even come to be thankful for it – but she wondered how Leo could stand it, especially given that he had more charges than just her sisters.
She had no idea how she was going to approach him or what she was going to say. How was she supposed to tell her sweet little cousin that his mother was dead? And that was to say nothing of how he would react upon seeing her. As far as he believed, she had sent him away from San Francisco three years ago. She and her sisters had tried to keep in touch with him, but he had resisted and finally refused to come to the phone to receive their calls.
Of course she now remembered the spell and its effects; she knew it wasn't her fault. They had been trying to protect him. That didn't mean, however, that Kurt would see it that way.
And then, on the heels of delivering the news of his mother's death, she was to tell him that he was a witch with special powers? She shook her head. Why would he believe her? She wouldn't, were she in his shoes. Hell, she had been in his shoes once and had laughed at Phoebe after she had pronounced them witches.
For the first time since this had all started, doubt crept in to her thoughts. Could she do this? Could she really play the role of Leo for someone else? Especially someone who was so very young, someone who had just lost his mother?
But then she thought of what might happen had she refused. She didn't know if she could keep Kurt safe, if she could truly help him in what he would eventually face. What she did know was that if she hadn't agreed, if she had just gone on into that white light, she would have spent eternity wondering and castigating herself for being a coward.
It wouldn't be easy. Kurt himself was not easy. Of course, neither was she.
But what if they were too similar? What if he pulled away from everything the way she once had? Kurt was now the age she was when her own mother had been killed. She had interacted with her family only because it had been required, because Grams had needed help with Piper and Phoebe. Still, she had locked a large part of herself away that day, and it had never truly been released. She had become sensible, responsible, helpful, and resourceful, but she had suppressed so many of her emotions, her willingness to be happy and have fun. It was only recently that she had begun getting back in touch with that side of herself.
And then she had died. Awesome.
She hesitantly pushed open the door to the nursery and ventured inside, wincing at the volume of the shrill cries of children of all ages, of toys being tossed around and played with, of off-key singing, and the general din that arose when children were gathered in one place.
In the middle of the room sat Kurt.
God, he was a beautiful child. He always had been, but two years had passed and they showed well on him. Prue could see glimpses of the man he would become, and that man would be stunning.
She suddenly had the realization that she would never have children of her own. She would never get married. She probably wouldn't be allowed to see Phoebe marry, or her and Piper have their own children. She felt so cheated, so angry. But this wasn't about her, and if one there was one thing Prue Halliwell knew how to do, it was prioritize.
Kurt sat in a small chair, his posture perfect, reading a book, the size of which she supposed she should have found alarming. Of course, she knew that children's books were much larger than her own had ever been, thanks to the Harry Potter series. She was all for children reading. Most children didn't read Anna Karenina, however.
He wasn't interacting with any of the other kids, nor was he heeding the cautious glances thrown at him by the staff. He simply sat and read, calm and contained in his own personal bubble. She could all but see the walls he put around himself. It set off alarm bells within her, mainly because it was so damn familiar.
She took another step forward and watched, mesmerized, as he carefully placed a bookmark against the page and shut the tome. He laid the book in his lap and looked up at her.
Jesus, his eyes.
How had she never noticed that he had her eyes?
She had always thought his blue eyes were the hallmarks of his father, but the eyes too had changed. They were blue and gray and green, with golden threads. She immediately knew they would change color depending on whatever emotions he experienced, like mood rings. But the shape of the eyes, their color at that moment, the almost preternatural shine that bespoke of knowledge, were all hers. The cheekbones were another Warren legacy, and when his baby fat melted away, they would be so sharp they could cut glass.
She pursed her lips and willed away the tears in her eyes. "Hey, sweetheart. Do you remember me?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Yes, of course."
She raised an eyebrow in reply. Wow, he had that move down. Impressive little guy.
"Can I help you?" asked an irritated voice.
Prue blinked and turned to her left, to see a harried young woman regarding her with suspicion. "I'm here to pick up Kurt Hummel."
"And who are you, exactly?" the woman rudely demanded.
"This is Prue Halliwell, my cousin," Kurt answered.
The woman turned and gave Kurt a look of such condescension that Prue winced. "Now, son, I'm sure that you…"
"I am not your son," Kurt forcefully, yet politely, interrupted, "and I would appreciate you not referring to me as such. As I've told you, this is Prue Halliwell, my cousin. I'm quite certain as to who and who is not a member of my family, madam."
The woman's mouth fell open and she stared at Kurt, who immediately dismissed her from the conversation. He stood, tucked his book away in his small backpack, which he then placed over his shoulders. He walked over to Prue, looked up at her, tilted his head, and regarded her with placid eyes.
"Mommy has died, hasn't she?"
The staff member gasped. This time, Prue didn't bother to blink back the tears.
"Yes, baby, she has."
He frowned, nodded, and stared straight ahead. "Where's Daddy?"
"He's speaking with your mommy's doctors, honey."
Kurt nodded again and fell silent for a brief moment. "I have to be a big boy now. I have to take care of Daddy."
"You don't have…"
"I have to take care of Daddy," he repeated.
At last, she nodded. "May I help you with that?"
"You may." He raised his arms. "Up, please."
She swallowed heavily, bent at her waist, and hauled him into her arms. He weighed practically nothing, she noted. He was rather small for six years old, but he was also very thin. He didn't look unhealthy, but she wondered how well he had been eating since Suzanne had entered the hospital. She held him tightly to her as he wrapped his legs around her waist and his arms around her neck.
"I missed you," he whispered in her ear.
"I missed you," she murmured, ghosting a hand over his hair. "Every single day."
The daycare attendant finally emerged from her stupor. "You can't just take him!" she protested. "You're not on the list! I don't even know who you really are!"
Kurt stiffened in her arms and slowly turned around to face the woman. "My mother has just died. My father is all alone. I have already identified this woman as my cousin. Obviously, my father sent her to pick me up and bring me to him. If you really insist on being so very bothersome, you may contact my aunt, Lydia Lopez. She is the Chief of Cardiology at this hospital. I doubt she will welcome your interruption of one of her few days off, but please, if it will make you feel better, go right ahead. We'll wait."
The woman stared at him, flabbergasted. "Who are you?"
"I'm Kurt Hummel. Shouldn't you know that?"
Prue wanted to burst out laughing and barely refrained from doing just that. Kurt was far too young to be so articulate and combative, but it was endlessly amusing. Of course, she knew that she wouldn't appreciate his wit and candor once it was turned on her, but at the moment, in this entire surreal experience, the levity was welcome.
"I have to go see my dead mother now," Kurt said to the woman. "Thank you for taking care of me, even though I only sat in a chair and read for three hours."
A deep flush overtook the woman's face.
Kurt turned back into Prue's embrace and indicated they should take their leave. Far be it for her to contradict him.
So they left.
Lydia, Ashley, and Judy were gathered in the Lopez kitchen. Richard Lopez was working late at his law office and wasn't expected home for several hours. They scheduled their working hours down to the minute to ensure maximum time spent with their daughter, as Lydia didn't believe in babysitters unless absolutely necessary. Ashley, who didn't work, often took care of Santana, but as she was considered family, and Lydia herself returned the favor with Brittany whenever possible, they didn't regard the hours their child spent with the other as babysitting.
Lydia was transcribing Brittany's prophecy from both Santana's notes and the recorder, knowing Ashley was too wound up from recent events. The nervous wringing of her hands was a dead giveaway.
Ashley peered speculatively at Judy, who was desperately struggling to remain calm.
"I had no idea there were other witches in Lima," Judy whispered, more to herself than her friends, "and I never would have expected the two of you. I've felt so alone, so trapped."
"Does Russell know?" Ashley carefully asked.
Judy snorted with derision. "Are you serious? He'd most likely burn us at the stake. You know what the Bible says about witchcraft, and Russell is such a good Christian when it suits him." She raised an eyebrow. "I think he's screwing the grocery store clerk this month," she frowned, "or is it the paralegal? It's so difficult to keep track."
Lydia looked up from her notes. "I think the better question is why you put up with him."
Judy shrugged, looking distinctly uncomfortable. "He's my husband. He's Quinn and Emily's father."
Ashley looked at her sympathetically, but Lydia was having none of it. "And what effect do you think it will have on Quinn and Emily to see their parents in a loveless marriage, one in which their mother is constantly disrespected and belittled, where she feels she must hide herself? Whether or not he's your husband, he will always be your daughters' father." She sighed. "Judy, I like you a lot; you're a good friend. So for your sake and for that of your daughter, get rid of him."
Judy bit her lip but said nothing.
"Do you have powers?" Ashley asked.
Judy nodded. "Only a passive one. Psychometry."
Lydia's eyes widened. "Impressive."
"If you say so," Judy said, shrugging. "Why didn't either of you ever tell me?" she suddenly demanded, her anger palpable.
"It really isn't something we advertise," Ashley said wryly, "and please forego the self-righteousness; you never said anything to either of us. I know you and Lydia are close, Judy, but you and I know each other enough to say hello in the grocery store or the bank. I was not about to spill my secrets to you, especially considering that you might have let something inadvertently slip to that brute you call a husband. Brittany is very special, very unique. I will not allow anything to harm her."
Judy fell silent, recalling with vivid clarity the prophecy the girl had spoken in Santana's bedroom. That kind of power was simply astonishing. Prophecies were almost unheard of in the modern age, and for a mere child to deliver one so complex, so obviously important and compelling, Brittany had to possess an amazing amount of psychic ability.
She looked at Ashley with concern. "Does she have an active power?"
"No," Ashley muttered. "I doubt she'll develop one either. My family has always possessed psychic gifts, but Brittany is different. She possesses all of them: clairvoyance, precognition, and retrocognition, as well as a few others. She sees everything. It is very difficult for her to walk through this world, to interact with people, because she sees every possibility, every moment in time. What it was, what it could be, and what it will be." She sighed. "Thank god for Santana."
Lydia reached over and grabbed her hand.
"Kurt helps too," Brittany piped up, pulling a frightened Quinn and a bawling Santana into the room with her, "and now we have to help him." Her face was fierce and determined.
Lydia raced forward and swept her daughter into her arms, Santana burying her face in her mother's neck. "What happened, darling? And what's wrong with Kurt?"
"Who's Kurt?" Judy whispered to a pale Ashley.
"Kurt Hummel, the girls' best friend," she replied. "His mother Suzanne is very ill. She doesn't have much longer."
"Aunt Suzanne came to say goodbye to me," Brittany said. "She said I have to protect Kurt." She glared at her mother. "No one hurts my Kurty."
"Suzanne is dead?" Lydia gasped. "Oh, god. Oh my god."
"Brittany, sweetheart," Ashley said slowly, forcing her grief for Suzanne and the Hummel boys to the back of her mind for the moment, "why do you have to protect Kurt?"
"Because the spell will soon be broken," Brittany replied. "His magic will be free now."
Ashley stared. "Kurt's a witch?"
Brittany nodded. "Aunt Suzie locked his magic away to protect him from the demons. Kurt is very strong, a lot more than me and Quinn, even stronger than Sanny."
"We'll help him, Brittany," Quinn vowed. "He'll need us now that his mommy had to go away."
"His mother must have bound his powers," Judy said softly, "but what demons? There are no demons in Lima."
"I want to be with Kurt!" Santana wailed.
"What else did Aunt Sue tell you, Brittany?" Ashley gently asked.
Brittany frowned, obviously considering the question. "Kurty is very important. He's the last of his line. He wasn't expected. He's something new."
The three women looked at each other, puzzling over her words.
"Santana," Lydia said, "I need you to listen to me, alright? This is extremely important. Did you know that Kurt is a witch?"
Santana sniffled and reluctantly nodded. "Brittany and I knew."
"Has he told anyone else?"
"Why would he?" Brittany asked. "He doesn't even know."
"What!" Lydia and Ashley thundered.
"Brittany could see his power," Santana said, "but she said it was locked away. So we didn't think it would be a good idea to tell him."
"You were probably right," Lydia replied, hugging her daughter close to her. "I'm just not sure what we can do. If Suzanne bound his powers, there must have been a valid reason to do so. Demons, I'm guessing, like Brittany said." She shook her head. "But there are no demons in Lima!" She sighed. "I can't believe all these years I never knew Suzanne was a witch. She was my best friend and she never told me." Her eyes spilled over. "Oh god, she's dead. Suzanne is dead. I need to call Burt."
"Aunt Suzie told me not to bother Uncle Burt," Brittany said. "She told me to call for Aunt Prue."
"Who?" Ashley asked.
"Kurt's aunt," Santana answered. "She's going to live with them now and take care of them."
"Who the hell is this woman?" Lydia demanded. "Suzanne and Burt are only children, so there's no way this person can be Kurt's aunt."
"Let's find out!" Brittany chirped. "Aunt Prue? Aunt Prue!"
"What are you doing?" her mother asked.
Brittany looked at her, puzzled. "Calling her."
"Sweetheart, I don't think Aunt Sue meant…"
Prue orbed into the Lopez kitchen, Kurt wrapped around her, and her free arm wrapped around Burt Hummel's waist.
Apologies for the rather lackluster prophecy. Rhyming is not my forte.
Chapter 4: The Once and Future King
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Santana flew to Prue's side, ignoring the older witch as she reached out with her hands and tried to gain some purchase on Kurt.
"Kurt!" she warbled.
Kurt startled and pulled his head from Prue's shoulder. "Hello, Santana. How are you?"
Santana stared at him, as did everyone else.
Kurt began to prattle, either uninterested or uncaring of his audience. "Mommy died and went to be with my sister and grandmother. Prue's going to help me take care of Daddy now."
Burt blinked heavily, trying to throw off the shock of his wife's death so that he might parent his child. "Baby boy, Prue is here to help me take care of you."
Kurt cocked his head and considered his father. "If you say so, Daddy," he said, clearly disbelieving.
Burt couldn't help but laugh, though it sounded and felt hollow. He felt guilty for finding even a modicum of light in the dark wake of his wife's death. He could almost hear Suzanne scolding him for being ridiculous.
Kurt tapped Prue on the shoulder. "Down, please."
She acquiesced and gently dropped him to his feet. Immediately, Santana and Brittany were all but on top of him, hugging him to within an inch of his life and crying quietly over the loss of their aunt. Quinn watched this with sadness and envy, turning shy and awkwardly looking down at the floor.
"It's all right," Kurt said to his girls. "Mommy had to go. This isn't her place anymore. Now she doesn't hurt."
"Did she come to say goodbye to you, too?" Brittany asked, sniffling.
"No," Kurt said slowly. "Did she come to see you?"
Prue and Burt exchanged startled glances.
Brittany nodded. "Aunt Suzie said that Santana and me and Quinn had to protect you because you're special, but I already knew that because you're too pretty not to be special and your skin is really soft. Can I kiss you?"
"I suppose," was his bewildered reply.
Brittany immediately attached her lips to his, the others watching this development with confusion and concern.
"You kiss really good," Brittany said, panting heavily, after Kurt gently pushed her away.
"Well, Brittany," he corrected. "People kiss well, not good."
She nodded. "I'll remember," she promised. "You kiss very well."
"Thank you. Who is Quinn?"
That was a question to which Prue also wanted an answer. She could only assume that the other older female present was Quinn's mother. Before she could even open her mouth to posit a question, she felt three more bonds snap into place; while she had been expecting those of Santana and Brittany, the third was a surprise, which meant Quinn was to be the fourth member of the Pentad.
Well, that certainly was convenient. Hm.
"She is!" Brittany said grandly, turning around and pointing at the other girl, who had wrapped her arms around herself for lack of anything better to do.
"Hello," Kurt said.
"Hi," Quinn said shyly.
"You're very pretty."
His blunt demeanor indicated to her that he was being truthful. "I know. You're pretty, too."
He nodded. "Yes."
Santana rolled her eyes. "Welcome to Club Narcissism."
Kurt raised an impressed eyebrow.
She glared and swatted him. "I can know big words!"
Quinn put her hands on her hips and huffed. "It's not narcissism if it's true."
Kurt liked Quinn and told her so, much to Santana's veiled displeasure.
Quinn smiled widely and skipped over to join him.
As the three girls surrounded Kurt and cooed at him, the adults unconsciously came to stand next to one another, though Burt noticed that Kurt kept one eye on him and Prue.
"Is he handling this too well?" he asked her.
"I honestly don't know," she replied, looking uneasy.
In truth, she was somewhat overwhelmed by her ability to sense three new people. The bond with Kurt, though considerably stronger, given that they were kin and shared a power, had been much easier to assimilate because she was already familiar with him. She didn't yet know the girls, but their magic, even at this age, was incredibly powerful. After Kurt, Santana was the strongest, but Brittany and Quinn were certainly in that rarefied league. She could only wonder how Leo had managed to be bound to her, her sisters, and countless other charges. Her respect for the man grew exponentially.
She cleared her throat. "He shifts so rapidly between adult and child that I can't get a firm reading on him. When I went to pick him up in the daycare center, he was sitting by himself, reading Anna Karenina. Then he looked up and saw me, politely bitched at the attendant who tried to stop me from taking him, and then demanded that I carry him to you."
Judy's mouth fell open.
Burt snorted. "I guess he finished The Catcher in the Rye."
Prue's eyes widened. "Seriously?" She shook her head. "I know he's smart, but that's just ridiculous."
He shrugged a shoulder. "He's a sponge with an eidetic memory. His vocabulary is already at a high-school level and he speaks four languages. The administration at Patton Elementary wanted Suzanne and me to skip him to the fourth grade when the fall term starts."
She raised an eyebrow. "Are you doing it?"
He shook his head. "We considered it, but thought there would be problems with the other kids in the class. Kurt's already small for his age and bringing a big brain into it seemed a little dicey. Still, we decided to leave it up to Kurt. We asked him if he was interested, but he refused. He wouldn't leave Brittany or Santana." He looked at his son. "Or Quinn, apparently."
Prue and the other women turned toward the children. Santana was sitting in Kurt's lap with her arms wrapped tightly around his neck. Brittany was grooming the boy's hair, which surprised those who knew Kurt and were familiar with how particular he was about his hair. Quinn was whispering furiously into Kurt's ear and he nodded at whatever she was saying.
Judy couldn't believe how easily and quickly Quinn had taken to Kurt, who seemed just as enamored. That alone proved to her just how magical this boy was, because Quinn, for all her loneliness, had no real use for other children. She knew her daughter had only agreed to this sleepover so that she wouldn't have to be subjected any further to Rachel Berry. As bizarre as all of this was, if Quinn could come out of it with three good friends, Judy was definitely counting it as a win.
"Burt…" Lydia said quietly, her voice strangling on the sob trying to burst forth.
"I know, Lyddie," he said, patting her arm. "I know." He paused, swallowing heavily. "I saw her, after, when Cassie called her spirit from the body."
Judy and Lydia stared.
Ashley frowned. "Cassie?"
"Cassie was Suzanne's whitelighter," Prue murmured. "Kurt and your daughters have been assigned as my charges."
"A whitelighter?" Judy reverently uttered. "I thought they were just legends."
"No witch in my family has ever had a whitelighter," Ashley remarked, forcing a casualness into her tone which she hoped would not betray her concern or resentment.
Prue shrugged helplessly. "I don't have an answer for that. This is all new for me too." She gave them a wry smile. "I've only just died."
Lydia's eyes bulged and she shook her head. "Apparently Suzanne told Brittany that you are to be Kurt's aunt?"
Prue nodded. "I thought that would be easiest. Suzanne isn't from Lima and her family isn't known here. I figured Aunt Prue would be less objectionable to some than an unknown cousin close to Suzanne's age just suddenly moving in with her widower and son. So, as far as anyone else will know, I'm Suzanne's sister."
"I never knew she had cousins," Ashley said.
Judy stared at Prue. "Who are you, really?"
Prue raised an eyebrow. "My name is Prue Halliwell, Suzanne was my cousin, and Kurt and Burt are my family. Until my death, I was the eldest of the Charmed Ones."
Judy and Ashley couldn't even begin to process that statement, but Lydia had already moved on to more important things.
"Kurt is a Warren witch," she said softly. She knew what that meant, both for him and her daughter. She could only guess what would be expected of Kurt, and knew Santana would always stand at his side. She also knew that there was no force on this earth which could separate Santana from Kurt. That had been apparent from their very first meeting. The thought of predestination had never been so terrifying.
"He is," Prue said fiercely, nodding, obviously proud of her little cousin.
"The Power of Three is broken," Lydia whispered.
"No," Prue answered. "I have another sister. The Charmed Ones will be reconstituted."
Burt's eyes widened as an unwelcome thought entered his mind. "Prue," he said lowly, "do you think your death was engineered?"
The eyes of the other three women widened.
Prue gave him a long, measured look before replying. "I think we have to assume so. Everything happens for a reason, but I believe it's fairly obvious what the reason behind this was. I had to be put into a position where I could help Kurt the most, but as to whom engineered it, I have no idea.
"Given that I was killed by Shax," she continued, ignoring Lydia's choked gasp, "it would be easy to assume that Evil played a role in this, though I think that's too pat an answer. Any speculation would be pointless."
He nodded uneasily. He could read in her eyes that she was just as unsettled as he, but was determined to put it behind her. She probably had to in order to function. Still, a nagging feeling of guilt persisted. Whatever the reason, whatever grand destiny was to unfold for Kurt, the simple truth of the matter was that, for all intents and purposes, Prue's life had been sacrificed for his.
"She's not a pawn, Daddy," Kurt said, his mouth turning down into a frown. "In the most basic terms, the war between Good and Evil can be likened to a chess match. Two forces are constantly battling for position, either pushed forward or compelled to retreat. This is no different. Even if Prue were a pawn, upon her death she reached the Queening Square and can now return to the Game as any piece she wishes. In the end, it doesn't really matter who or what was responsible for this. They made the foolish decision of underestimating my cousin."
He raised an imperious brow and nodded to himself. "It will be their undoing."
Burt gaped, as did the other four women, Kurt's vow ringing with a certainty that recalled Brittany's prophecy.
Kurt turned to Prue. "Your death will not go unpunished. I promise you this."
"Who is this boy?" Judy whispered in awe, shaking her head.
Prue stared hard at Kurt. "You know everything, don't you." It was a statement, not a question. "About magic, that you're a witch, about your powers. The spell never worked on you, did it?"
"For all intents and purposes, no."
"Oh, god," Burt hissed, gagging on bile.
"It's all right, Daddy," Kurt assured his father. "I'm not angry. I understand why you and Mommy made the decision you did. It's not your fault that the spell didn't work completely."
"Completely?" Prue pressed.
Kurt gave her a small smile. "You and the sisters forgot something elementary, Prue. Just because Mommy was an empath doesn't mean I inherited the ability from her. Empathy is not necessarily a Wiccan power. When you were cursed to be an empath, that power was stolen from a mortal, not a witch."
Prue gaped at him, feeling inordinately stupid and resenting it.
"My empathy is a human gift, not a magical one. I'm what's known as an absolute empath, and therefore my power is not bound by magical standards. I've researched this extensively, of course. Theoretically, there is no upper limit to my ability."
Burt stared helplessly at his son, while Prue and the other women desperately puzzled over Kurt's words.
"My telepathy is also a human ability," Kurt continued, "I don't remember possessing it prior to San Francisco, so my only recourse is to believe that it manifested due to the absence of my Wiccan powers. I had to compensate. After I woke up and was back in Lima, I could hear Mommy and Daddy's thoughts quite clearly and determined the gist of what had happened."
He tilted his head and looked at Prue. "I want to thank you, and Piper, for fighting for me. If Phoebe and Leo had won and I had been forcibly separated from my parents, I very much doubt the Manor would still be standing."
She silently agreed with him.
"The spell bound only my Wiccan powers," he repeated, frowning. "I don't know what those are, but I can only assume they drew unnecessary attention to me. I can feel them, but can't access them. The telepathy and empathy, however, I can, and I've been able to for almost as long as I can remember."
Burt paled and had to sit down, as did Judy.
Prue dumbly shook her head. This changed everything.
Lydia and Ashley, long familiar with Kurt's intelligence and bluntness, exchanged a look and nodded, deciding to take control of the situation.
"Please do," Kurt said, smiling.
Lydia raised a brow. "Stay out of my mind, young man."
He gave a contrite nod.
"Can you?" Ashley gently asked him. "Can you control your powers?"
Again, Kurt nodded. "Not as well as I'd like, but yes. As I'm sure you can imagine, being so young, it is very difficult for me. I do well enough at home, or here or at your house, Aunt Ashley, but public places are much more taxing. The extraneous thoughts and feelings," he exhaled harshly, "can be overwhelming. Mortals think constantly and feel safe to do so within the privacy of their own minds. They should feel that way, of course, but there are some thoughts and emotions I would very much prefer not to hear or feel." He shuddered.
Burt felt as though he was going to vomit at any moment. All he wanted was his dead wife. He knew Suzanne could have dealt with this so much better, sharing one of Kurt's powers herself. Burt doubted if he would be able to deal with it at all.
Prue laid a hand on his shoulder. "I can only guess how you must feel, but we need to understand the context of this."
He nodded and looked at his son. "How strong are you, buddy?"
Kurt shrugged. "I'm not sure how to qualify my answer, as I have no standard against which I could measure my powers. That said, I've yet to come across a person I cannot read, except for Santana and Brittany. That's why I prefer to be with them whenever possible. Not only because I love them, but because they are, for me, the eye of the hurricane."
"That makes sense," Prue said, nodding. "I was told that Santana would be Kurt's anchor, that she would be the one person whom Kurt could not read." She frowned. "I don't understand why the same holds true for Brittany, however."
Lydia knew that her earlier supposition had been correct. Nothing would separate Kurt and Santana. They had all but been created to walk together through this life. Not to mention that she knew her daughter was already more powerful than her, and Kurt's own power was most likely incalculable. Separating them would never work, not for very long, and she wasn't sure she'd ever even consider the possibility.
Kurt gave another mild shrug. "Her mind is too chaotic. There are no stray thoughts because she spends a majority of her time cataloguing and organizing the information she possesses. It's overwhelming."
Brittany smiled triumphantly.
"Did you know we were witches?" Santana asked him.
Kurt shook his head. "Not exactly. As I said, I cannot read or feel either of you, but I get a sense of your powers, though I don't know what they are. No two witches are the same, even if they share a power. Mommy was different from me, though we shared a power, albeit of different degrees. I just knew that you were more than you appeared to be."
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"It wasn't my secret to tell."
Santana hugged him fiercely. This was why she loved him so much: he always put the welfare of others, particularly her and Brittany, above his own. His natural instinct was to protect, just as her own was, though she wasn't nearly as self-sacrificing and had no interest in being so.
"This explains so much," Burt said in a choked voice. "Why you never spoke of San Francisco, why you refused to talk to the sisters, why you pulled away from your mother and me."
Kurt bit his lip and his eyes filled. "I had to, Daddy. It was all just too much. It was nothing you did, and even if I had told you, I don't think it would have helped. Mommy was an empath, but she couldn't shield herself because it had never occurred to her to try."
He sighed lightly. "Also, my empathy is much stronger than hers was. I could read the sisters even over the phone, how much they loved me and missed me and wanted to see me, but I knew that couldn't happen for a long time. I had to develop my own shield and, in order to do that, I had to retreat inside myself as much as possible. It was just something I had to learn to live with, but it's not bad. I'm not upset about it."
"How much do you know?" Prue asked in a defeated voice.
He raised a brow. "I cannot possibly answer such a vague question."
She grinned. "You're obnoxious."
"It runs in the family."
She threw back her head and laughed, long and hard and loud, and only slightly hysterically.
"There are things I could tell you about what I know," he said carefully, "but I don't think it would be very useful. In fact, it might be hurtful."
"I need to know, Kurt," Burt said softly.
The boy gave a gentle sigh. "All right. I've always known that Mommy was a witch. I've always known that I am one, too. I knew Prue and Piper and Phoebe were witches, were the Charmed Ones, because you and Mommy knew that. I knew that Mommy was pregnant before she did. I knew the baby was a girl before you told me."
"Could you read the baby?" Prue whispered.
He shook his head. "She had no thoughts or feelings as we understand them, but I felt her presence, her existence." He looked down at his shoes. "I loved her," he whispered. "I miss her."
A sobbing Brittany all but tackled him with a hug. Both she and Santana had been looking forward to Suzanne's baby, thinking of her as their own sister. They had been devastated. She looked at Santana and was unsurprised to see her mask of cold indifference descend. To those who knew Santana well, it was an automatic indicator of how terrified she was and how badly she was grieving.
"The baby…" Burt began.
"Her name was Lila, Daddy," Kurt said quietly, but forcefully. "Everything should have a name. Lila was hers."
Bitter tears spilled over. "How did you know that?"
Kurt smiled sadly.
Burt nodded and looked away.
"I felt no pain from her," Kurt added. "No sense of what was coming, on her part. That helped. I hope it helps you."
"It does," Burt said thickly.
Ashley was in tears, as was Judy for, though she hadn't known Suzanne, any woman who had been married to a man like this, who could birth a child like this, deserved respect and remembrance, as did her lost little girl.
"Did you know Aunt Suzanne was going to die?" Santana whispered.
"Yes. So did she." He cocked his head. "This is why I am the why I am. I have to be. I have to remove myself as much as possible in order to function. It's why I prefer individual activities rather than group activities. Ballet is acceptable because it's mostly silent and the other children are too focused on their dancing to worry about anything else. I participate in figure skating, gymnastics, piano, and voice for the same reasons."
Prue nodded, dumping all of this information into her brain and analyzing it as Kurt spoke.
"I feel everything," Kurt continued, "all the time. I feel the pain of other people, as well as their joy and their fear. I hear their thoughts, their concerns and worries and prayers." He paused. "I learn from them. I learned to read not from phonetics and memorization, but because Mommy said the words in her head before she spoke them. I could see the words there and learned to match them on the page.
"My Spanish improved because Santana and Uncle Robert think in Spanish. I do well at gymnastics because I learned them from Prue and Phoebe; I read their muscle memory. I do well in figure skating because Aunt Ashley was a figure skater; I know how to do the jumps and spins because she does."
Ashley frowned, considering his statement. She didn't feel it was accurate, and she worried that anything which made Kurt special was considered by Kurt himself to be borrowed information or talent, which wasn't the case. Kurt, at six, was far more talented a figure skater than she had been at sixteen. He may be prepossessed of knowledge, but that meant little in the long run; it was what he did with it that counted.
"And it's getting stronger," Kurt said. "I can pick up stray thoughts from people in passing cars, from other neighborhoods. It can be very trying to shut them out. This is why I don't like touching people or being touched, because when contact is made, I not only feel their emotions, but I see them. I see, in their minds, the images from which those emotions are born."
He shrugged. "I learned to block Daddy out for the most part, even before I could talk. It was very hard, and I know he believed that I didn't like him, but that was never the case. I've always loved Daddy. It was that he thinks so much, feels so much, that I could no longer distinguish my thoughts and feelings from his."
Burt inhaled sharply. His boy had always loved him; that had never been the issue. Instead, his constant worry and fear that Kurt disliked him had actually caused Kurt to turn from him. His poor baby must have been so confused.
"I never had to block Mommy," Kurt continued. "Even though my empathy is much stronger than hers was, she never realized I had that power. Also, even though she couldn't shield herself, she was used to reining in her emotions; it had become second nature to her in order to deal with the stray ones of others. So she felt my emotions, but her love for me overwhelmed them and unintentionally created a feedback loop. We could read each other perfectly, but she just assumed that I was intuitive, picking up on her cues." He shrugged again. "Perhaps that was the case, or maybe she was just in denial that I was a witch."
His brow furrowed. "In fact, she most likely was, as there has never before been a male Warren witch. Since my powers were bound in San Francisco, I can only deduce that that they must have exhibited themselves in some manner. I don't know how, as the spell worked well enough to take those memories, but it meant my Wiccan powers were active prior to that. Even if I had never before displayed any particular defensive or offensive power, she should have sensed that I had them." He cocked his head. "Interesting."
His face cleared and he rolled his shoulders.
"I feel and read all of this, so much of everything," Kurt said quietly. He paused, gazing into Prue's eyes. "But I won't be ruled by it."
She flinched, remembering similar words spoken by the slain whitelighter, Natalie, but she now understood them in a way she hadn't then. In the end, it was about survival and nothing more. It wasn't that Natalie hadn't cared for her charges, and for the Charmed Ones and Leo, even for the entire world, but she had realized that letting emotions overwhelm her would make her useless to those she was meant to help.
Kurt was strong because he had to be, not necessarily because he felt that he was or even that he wanted to be. He had detached himself from the world around him and the people in it so that he could survive.
He nodded at her. "You will have to learn that, as well," he cautioned. "It's not easy."
She grinned, though it was pained. "I know. It's happening already. I can feel you and the girls in my head."
"What?" Santana asked.
"Us?" Quinn demanded.
Prue nodded. "I'm your whitelighter as much as I am Kurt's. I'm able to sense you; your location and state of wellness."
"What does a whitelighter do?" Brittany asked, frowning.
Prue smiled. "It's my job to guide you as witches as you grow into your powers. I'll be your teacher, as well as your healer, a kind of doctor, if you're hurt because of magic."
Quinn stared, first at Prue, then at the other adults. She exchanged glances with Kurt and Santana. "What are we?" she asked. "What are we really? We're more than just witches."
Prue nodded. "You are."
Lydia, Ashley, and Judy looked at each other in fear.
"What are they?" Lydia demanded.
Prue held her gaze for a long moment. "The girls in front of you will one day be members of the Pentad. And Kurt will lead them."
Burt listened with only half an ear as Prue once again went through her spiel about destiny and the world of the Slayer and the godlings and the First Evil and everything else.
His eyes never left Kurt's face, and he was almost undone by the utter boredom Kurt was exhibiting, as if this were nothing incredible, as if his entire life hadn't been stolen out from under him all in order for this never-ending cosmic chess game to continue.
Judy and Ashley hadn't wanted their children to be a part of this discussion but had been overruled by Prue, Lydia, and Santana, the latter of whom espoused that Kurt would just tell her anyway.
Kurt had simply nodded at her statement. "There's no point in hiding anything from us," he had demurred. "I'd pick it up eventually, and Santana, of course, is right; I would tell the girls. Forewarned is forearmed."
Quinn had nodded, as several pieces started fitting themselves together.
Kurt had turned toward her. "What prophecy?" he whispered.
She had gruffly sighed. "I'm never going to be able to lie to you, am I?"
He had frowned. "Why would you ever feel that you had to?"
She'd had no answer for that and merely crawled into his lap.
So the children sat in silence as Prue explained everything.
Ashley and Judy were practically hysterical. They didn't want this for their children anymore than Suzanne had, but, as witches, they knew their objections were all but useless in the face of the truth. Their hysteria was born from their feelings of utter uselessness, as if they had failed their children on a fundamental level.
Kurt scoffed. "Aunt Judy, that's just ridiculous."
Her eyes flew wide open. He considered her another aunt, in the vein of Lydia and Ashley?
"Of course I do," he replied. "You're Quinn's mother." He frowned. "You really should divorce your husband."
"Kurt!" Burt thundered.
Quinn rolled her eyes. "I've thought that for years."
Judy's hysteria morphed into hysterical laughter, especially with the pointed glances of agreement Lydia and Ashley shot at her.
"What would I do?" she finally asked. "Where would I go? I haven't worked in years, and I have two children to support."
She surprised everyone by posing these questions to Kurt, who frowned in thought.
"Your elder daughter, Emily," he said, "is she a witch?"
Judy raised a brow. "Don't you know?"
He shook his head. "I picked up her name as a stray thought from Quinn, but Quinn hasn't consciously thought about whether or not her sister is a witch, and I'm doing what Aunt Lyddie asked and trying to stay out of your heads."
She smiled. "No, she's not."
"Does she know you and Quinn are witches?"
Judy nodded. "She does, but what does this have to do with anything?"
"Does she accept you and Quinn being witches? Does she support you?"
"Yes," Judy replied, frowning.
Kurt bit his lip. "I'm trying to formulate a plan. It's highly probable that Mr. Fabray will eventually see evidence of magic, especially as Quinn grows into her powers. He will not react well to this."
"No," Quinn said sullenly.
Kurt turned toward her. "Do you love your father?"
"Yes," she whispered, now looking down at the floor, "but I don't think he loves me. He doesn't love Mom, and he barely tolerates Emily."
Judy, embarrassed, wrung her hands and looked away.
Brittany tugged on Kurt's sleeve. "That's not right. You have to fix it."
The adults meant to interject, but Prue held up a hand to silence them. She wanted to see how Kurt would handle this. This was, in essence, his first trial as leader of his coven.
Kurt tilted his head. "My house has four bedrooms. I have one, Daddy has one, and Prue will have one, which leaves one extra." Though he said the words aloud, it was obvious he was speaking only to himself. "We'll redecorate the basement, and I'll move down there. That way, Aunt Judy can take my old room, and Quinn and Emily can share the guest room."
Burt blinked. "What?"
Santana startled. She definitely did not like Kurt's idea.
Kurt turned on his heel and stared at his father. "Mr. Fabray hits Aunt Judy, Daddy."
Color flooded Burt's cheeks as he angrily breathed through his nose. Any man who raised his hand to a woman was, in Burt's estimation, not a man, but a coward who attacked weaker prey in order to deflect his own self-loathing. He would not stand for it, and he certainly wouldn't allow two young girls to bear witness to it.
Judy, now completely mortified, hid her face in her hands.
"Oh, Judy," Lydia whispered, "why didn't you tell me?"
Judy merely shook her head in reply.
Quinn, to whom Kurt's plan was already a foregone conclusion, looked at him. "Can't I share a room with you instead?"
Santana's eyes bulged. Okay, that would not be happening. Ever. It was one thing to tolerate Quinn for the sake of witchy stuff, but it was altogether different to have a walking Skipper doll sharing a room with her Kurt.
Kurt shrugged. "I suppose. The basement is quite large."
Judy make some strange clucking noise, but Quinn waved her off.
"It's okay, Mom. Kurt likes boys."
"It's not fair," Brittany sniffled. "He's such a good kisser."
"I don't think this is a good idea," Santana blurted.
Kurt turned toward her and raised a brow. "Why not?" he asked, honestly curious.
Santana took a moment to work out her answer. She had to approach this delicately, or else she'd just be accused of petty jealousy. Which was true, of course, but that was neither here nor there. Praise Hello Kitty he couldn't read her mind.
"It's really nice that you want to help, Kurt," she said carefully, "but what about your powers? It's one thing to pick up stuff from strangers, but it's something else to have people you don't really know living in your home. You'd have three new people living in your house, and that's a lot of thoughts and emotions you'd have to deal with. All the time. Are you strong enough to do that, especially now?"
Kurt paused. Her words had merit.
Santana was positive her smugness wasn't apparent.
"I agree," Prue said quietly.
Kurt opened his mouth to retort, but Prue cut him off.
"I'm not saying we shouldn't help," she continued, "but you're being irrational, Kurt. I appreciate that you care for Quinn, and I'm very proud that you're willing to do all you can for her, but you've just lost your mother. You already have two very difficult powers you're trying to master, and soon more will be added. Don't forget that Quinn is my charge, so of course I'll do everything I can for her, but you're my cousin. You have priority, whether you like it or not."
He glared at her.
"That doesn't work on me," she said, "and you have far to go before your glare even approaches the terror mine can induce." She shook her head. "I don't care how mature you are, Kurt. You're still your age. You don't get the final say on things."
He grimaced, but acknowledged her with a nod.
Burt wanted to laugh again, and only barely refrained. He supposed he should just be glad that Prue was willing and able to keep Kurt well in hand because, at this point, he would find it very difficult to refuse his son anything he wanted.
Quinn was furious and hurt. She had just been offered sanctuary only for it to be cruelly snatched from her. She hated Santana a lot right then, but she couldn't really blame her either. She was sure Santana was jealous and didn't want to share Kurt with anyone, but she also knew the girl was right; three new people, whom Kurt didn't even really know, living in his house would be overwhelming for him. She didn't want her new friend to hurt, and she certainly didn't want to be the cause of that hurt.
Lydia released a slow breath and looked at Judy. "Have you kept your license current?"
Judy frowned, confused, but nodded. "Of course."
Lydia nodded in kind. "Then you and your daughters will move in here until you can afford your own place. We have more than enough room, and I'm sure I'll be able to find you a position at the hospital. You're one of the best surgical nurses I know, Judy, and there's a severe shortage right now."
Santana certainly wasn't thrilled by her mother's generosity, but understood the necessity. She didn't want Quinn living in her house, but at least she would be able to keep an eye on the girl and her developing friendship with Kurt. She didn't want Quinn getting ideas. Also, she supposed she didn't want Quinn to suffer any pain. At least, pain which Santana herself hadn't inflicted.
"I can't ask you to do that," Judy whispered.
"You didn't ask; I offered," Lydia countered. "I'm sure Robert will represent you against Russell, and I really doubt Russell will make that much of a fuss. He won't want custody, and if we can arrange it so that he only has to pay child support and not alimony, he won't press things too far. He won't want certain issues to come to light in court. It would ruin his reputation in the community and surely get back to his board of directors."
Judy tilted her head and considered the words of her best friend. It really was the best option. She refrained from mentioning then and there that she had hired a private investigator to follow her husband. She knew far more than that of which he was aware; a few well-placed threats would neutralize him. She had to do this for her daughters.
Finally, she sighed. "I don't know why I waited this long."
"Because you loved him once," Ashley softly answered, "and he's the father of your children." She paused, eyes darkening. "That doesn't mean, however, that he has the right to treat you as he does. The longer you wait, the worse it will get, and eventually he'll start taking out his anger on other targets."
Judy paled and nodded, her hands shaking.
Quinn knew what that meant. "Daddy would never hit me. I wouldn't let him."
Santana cocked her head. "How could you stop him? Hey, what are your powers?"
Quinn smirked, dropped her chin to her chest, and suddenly two identical copies of her were standing on either side of her. The three figures then moved around at a ridiculous speed, rearranging themselves, and it was impossible to tell which was the original.
"Cloning," Lydia murmured. "Impressive, and very advanced magic."
Burt gaped. He could at least understand the gifts of his son and the Charmed Ones. Telepathy, empathy, telekinesis; these made sense, though they were relatively fantastic. He even allowed for freezing and premonitions, but cloning?
Kurt was utterly fascinated by Quinn's powerful display. "What are the limits of this particular power?" he asked the Quinn on the far right.
"How do you know she's the real Quinn?" Santana demanded.
He gave a mild shrug. "I can read her thoughts. They're replicated in her duplicates, of course, but also somewhat...muted." He blinked. "If we were to encounter a warlock with this power, it would give me pause," he allowed, "but my empathy is stronger than the telepathy in this case. Still, it could cost precious moments."
"Warlock?" Burt repeated. "What the hell is a warlock?"
"A warlock is a witch who betrayed his or her powers and uses them for evil," Prue lectured. "The literal meaning of the word is oath-breaker. After the initial betrayal, in which they commit themselves to Evil, they become upper-level demons, but the only way for them to advance their powers is to kill good witches. They then call that witch's powers and said powers become their own. Therefore, even the weakest warlocks typically have more magical abilities than some of the strongest witches. That doesn't mean their magic is stronger, only that they have more tricks of the trade, so to speak."
Burt nodded, slightly dazed. "But why are you worried about warlocks, buddy?" he asked his son.
"We have to consider every possible threat," Kurt explained. "You can't necessarily recognize a demon, because some look just like us, so we have to be prepared." He sighed. "Each of you thought your families were the only ones in Lima with magical gifts, but we've proven tonight that's not the case. There could be others. There could be demons. We just don't know."
He looked at Prue. "Is there such a thing as demonic children?"
She flashed on her misadventure with the Ice Cream Truck. "Yes," she said. "I agree with you; we should be on guard. We can't afford to take anything for granted. Once your powers are unbound, you could become a target. I can help you with one of your abilities, but if you've gained another, you should try to master it quickly."
"When will Kurty get his powers?" Brittany asked.
Prue frowned. "Actually, I'm surprised it hasn't happened. The spell should have departed when Suzanne did."
"Didn't Piper tell me that you three only received your powers after Phoebe read some spell or incantation or something?" Burt asked.
She nodded absently. "Perhaps we should check the Book."
"Do we have to?" he asked in a small voice.
"Yes," Prue hissed. "Kurt needs his magic, Burt."
Burt bit his lip.
"I'll be fine, Daddy," Kurt assured him. "You worry too much."
Burt stared at him and then released a harsh bark of laughter.
"What Book?" Lydia asked.
"The Bowen Book of Shadows," Kurt answered.
Burt and Prue glanced at each other and then at Kurt.
"How did you know that?" Prue asked.
He merely raised an eyebrow.
She pursed her lips. "Never mind."
Burt couldn't stand it anymore. "I don't understand any of this," he murmured, shaking his head. "It's too much. It's too soon."
Kurt toddled over to his father and gave him a hug. "Daddy," he said softly, "I know that Mommy died. I know what that means."
Burt's eyes welled.
"You saw her spirit," Kurt continued. "You know that she's moved on somewhere else, someplace better." He paused. "I'm sad, I'm very sad, and I will always be sad that she can't be here with me, with us, but we can't change that. We have to do what she would want us to do. That's the only thing we can do."
Burt nodded miserably.
"Now she's with Lila and Grandma, and Aunt Patty and Aunt Penny and all of the rest. That doesn't really make it better, but it helps, because I know they're all watching over us. You know that, too."
Burt nodded again, feeling disgusted with himself for allowing his six-year-old son to comfort him. He should be comforting Kurt, helping him grieve, not taking advantage of his naïveté.
"Please don't feel that way," Kurt whispered. "Daddy, I may be only six, but I'm not naïve. Neither are the girls. We better understand what's going on in this world than most adults. Children have fought wars and built nations. Please don't treat us as less than that just because we're young."
Lydia, Ashley, and Judy stared, unable to comprehend how a child so young could be so wise. It was disconcerting, upsetting their views of the world and their place within it. None of them, however, found themselves able to argue his words, or even wanting to argue them.
Burt flinched, his mind screaming that Kurt was wrong, was too young to understand, but he knew that was fallacy. Despite Kurt's intelligence and maturity, his son was also very pragmatic, able to maintain rationality when most would crumble. That outlook hadn't been gifted by magic or a stultifying intellect; it was just who Kurt was.
Still, he didn't want his son drafted into this nadir of Good and Evil. He wanted Kurt to enjoy his childhood and his friends. He wanted Kurt kept safe. The boy was still so innocent.
Kurt pulled back and took his father's face in his hands. "Daddy," he said quietly, though it rang throughout the room, "innocence is the only gift we're given in this life; for everything else, we must fight." His eyes were all but glowing. "In that gift lies purity, and in that purity lies strength."
Burt experienced a rush of emotions so profound, some so unfamiliar, he could ascribe them no names, but he was humbled as he stared into his son's eyes.
"I am strong, Daddy," Kurt said. "Not because I want to be, not because I have to be, but because I am." He tilted his head and smiled sadly. "Please don't ask me to sit on the sidelines. Please don't ask me to watch as this world falls away."
"I don't want to lose you," Burt whispered.
Kurt's eyes filled with tears. "Daddy, has it occurred to you that I'm much more likely to lose you? I have magic to protect myself and I'll use it to do just that, and protect you. Shouldn't I have that right? Shouldn't I be able to fight for my family?"
Burt didn't have an answer that wouldn't sound petulant or idiotic. How had it not occurred to him that his son must be terrified he might end up an orphan? How could he ask any less of his son than he would ask of himself? This was Kurt's family, as well, after all.
"We're not alone, Daddy," Kurt said. "We have each other and we have Prue. We still have Mommy, even though she can't be with us right now. We have Santana, Quinn, and Brittany. We have their families. One day, we'll have Piper, Phoebe, and Paige. We have to let that be enough, because it's just too sad otherwise."
Burt opened his mouth and, just as abruptly, closed it.
"I need your help, Daddy. I can't do this without you."
Burt picked up his son and settled him on his lap, recalling the words of Melinda's spell. "You'll never have to."
The adults decided it best to continue the next day, as there was still much to discuss. They wanted to include Robert Lopez and Patrick Pierce, both of whom were also witches. Brittany refused to go home with her mother, wanting to stay with Santana, and cried when Kurt said he would be spending the night at his own house.
Judy left to pick up Emily. She and her daughters would move into the Lopez mansion that night and would return to the Fabray house the following morning to retrieve their belongings. Burt and Prue informed her that they would accompany her and would brook no argument to the contrary.
Prue and Burt got little sleep that night, fretting to each other about Kurt and how he was handling the loss of his mother, thus pushing aside their own mourning, though both knew it was unwise to do so.
Kurt dreamed of his mother.
They once again gathered in the Lopez kitchen. While the Hummel and Pierce homes were large enough to accommodate everyone, many felt they should continue their discussion where it had begun.
Lydia and Ashley had explained, to the best of their ability, everything to their husbands, who were no more pleased than their wives. However, as Robert and Patrick were themselves magical, they knew there was little to be done. Interfering with prophecy was a dicey notion, and the consequences, no matter how well-intentioned, were always severe. Also, they knew Kurt and loved him as their own. They would never abandon him, so how could they ask their children to do the same?
Both men had been appalled by what Russell had been doing to Judy, and while Robert was particularly sympathetic, Patrick harbored some anger at the woman for not sooner extricating herself and her children from the situation. He was more than happy that he wouldn't have to involve himself and his family in that drama.
"Uncle Ricky!" screeched a cheerful Kurt, bounding into the kitchen with unfettered joy and throwing himself at Brittany's father.
"There's my little man!" Patrick exclaimed, throwing the boy into the air and catching him, before clutching Kurt tightly to his chest. Kurt's tiny arms automatically wound their way around Patrick's neck.
Ashley and Robert rolled their eyes; while each was loved by Kurt, the boy had always preferred Lydia Lopez and Patrick Pierce. Lydia was obvious, given her close relationship to Suzanne, but Patrick was chosen, many were sure, because he was exceedingly pretty. His golden hair shimmered in every light, loose curls artfully disarrayed, and his blue-green eyes always sparkled with happiness.
Burt just shook his head. He had the vague idea that his son would one day bring home a boy who looked a lot like Patrick Pierce. If said boy possessed half the personality and intelligence as Patrick, Burt would consider his son well-matched.
"How are you doing, kiddo?" Patrick softly asked Kurt, kissing his cheek.
"A little better," Kurt said. "Mommy came to me in my dreams last night. She said that she was happy and would always be watching over me. I knew this already, of course, but it was comforting to hear it directly from her."
Patrick nodded. He had loved Suzanne as much as Ashley, Lydia, and Robert, and while his grief was overwhelming, he refused to burden Kurt with it. He rested Kurt on a hip and shook hands with Burt.
"You must be Prue," Patrick said to the unknown woman, who nodded.
"It's nice to meet you, Patrick," she said warmly, though he detected an undertone of distraction.
"We were just at the funeral home," Kurt whispered, resting his head on the man's shoulder.
Patrick widened his eyes and cuddled Kurt closer. His wife was soon at his side, their daughter in her arms, who held out a hand to join with one of Kurt's own.
"Is there anything we can do, Burt?" Ashley asked for both herself and her husband, tears in her eyes. When the cold light of day had dawned, she had finally allowed herself to admit to her grief.
"Thanks, Ash," Burt said quietly, "but we've got it covered. Sue had made plans, so there wasn't much for anyone to do, other than pick a time and call the paper. She didn't want a viewing; the cancer had really eaten her up, and she didn't want to be remembered that way."
She stifled a sob and nodded.
"Where's Santana, Aunt Lyddie?" Kurt asked.
Lydia rolled her eyes. "She and Quinn are fighting over the bathroom, despite the fact that they don't share a bathroom."
Kurt rolled his eyes in concert. "Girls," he said sourly.
Brittany thwacked his arm. "Hey! You spend more time in the bathroom than me!"
"Flawless perfection takes time," he drawled, "but I would never be so common as to fight for a bathroom. My natural superiority ensures that I don't have to."
She nodded. "Okay, Draco!"
They both lapsed into giggles, which brought Quinn and Santana running into the room, pushing at each other as they tried to get there first.
"Please don't fight," Kurt said.
At once, the girls stopped their shenanigans, though they continued to glare at each other.
"What's the plan for today?" Patrick asked.
"My Wiccaning," Kurt promptly said. "I need the grounding. I can feel my magic struggling to break free." He ducked his head, eyes pained. "It hurts," he said softly.
Patrick frowned, clutching the boy even more tightly to him. "Brittany and Santana had theirs when they were babies." He looked at Judy. "Did Quinn have one as well?"
Judy cocked her head. "Not a Wiccaning, per se, but I did have a blessing ceremony for her. Her father wasn't involved, of course. I don't know if I even have the power to conduct a proper summoning."
"All magical witches have that ability," Prue interjected. "You have a power, Judy, so it wouldn't be an issue."
"It doesn't matter," Kurt said. "The Matriarchs will bless all of us. We will call upon them again when we find our Fifth." He looked at Brittany. "Do you have any idea who it is?"
Brittany shook her head, her pigtails whipping about. "I know there are other witches our age. I've seen them at kindergarten and on the playground."
"You have?" several people demanded.
"Anyone we know?" Santana asked, somewhat irked that Brittany had never shared this information with her. She understood, of course. As Kurt had said last night, Brittany received magical impressions at an astonishing rate. It was all second-hand to her at this point, so she didn't bother sharing her knowledge unless it directly affected someone they knew.
"Not really," Brittany said, "and I don't even know for sure if they're witches or something else, like you are."
Robert and Lydia exchanged a look.
"Something else?" repeated an interested Burt, eyebrow cocked.
Santana flushed. "I am a witch, just not one like Kurt, Brit, and Quinn."
Prue immediately threw up a shield which enveloped the entire room, much as she had the day previous in the hospital, to keep any potential spies at bay. "Santana, I know very what well what you are, and it is nothing of which you should be ashamed. Take pride in your power and the legacy into which you were born."
Santana's eyes burned fiercely as she nodded.
Prue turned to Lydia. "Do you want to explain, or should I? I'm assuming the Pierces already know?"
Lydia nodded. She called her daughter to her side and they each extended their left arms, the undersides facing toward the ceiling. Lydia waved her hand, dispelling two glamour charms. A marking appeared on the insides of both of their wrists.
"Santana and I are Phoenixes."
Burt and Judy had no idea what this meant and looked appropriately lost.
"Okay," Judy said slowly.
"And?" Burt grunted.
"This is nothing to be taken lightly," Lydia said. "Phoenixes are exceedingly dangerous. We're a clan of elite assassin witches, descended from the Burning Times."
"Assassins?" Judy repeated, eyes both skeptical and scared.
"Burning Times?" Burt asked.
"The witch trials," Kurt softly explained, "during the Middle Ages in Europe, and shortly after colonization here in the United States."
Lydia shook her head. "Our particular branch is descended from the Basque witch trials in Spain, which occurred in the seventeenth century under the Spanish inquisition."
Burt paled. Never had he consciously considered the witch trials, of the people who had been burnt at the stake simply because of who they were. He couldn't help but consider how his wife and son would have fared under those tender mercies, and he felt rage.
"The American Phoenixes are very different from the European ones," Lydia continued. "They are vengeful and amoral, using their gifts to fulfill the whims of the highest bidder. They were born from vengeance and seek to enact that vengeance on whatever target they're assigned. Our beginnings are shrouded in mystery, and the American Phoenixes prefer not to recognize their cousins, for lack of a better term."
Prue nodded. "American Phoenixes are said to have risen from the ashes of Salem with vengeance in their hearts. They have no allegiance to anyone save their burning anger, and will seek and destroy any bounty they're hired to assassinate, including other Phoenixes." She paused. "Most of this is fallacy. Phoenixes existed in Europe before they ever rose here; American Phoenixes just have better PR."
Lydia smirked. "An interesting way to put it, but essentially true. European Phoenixes are similar to Americans in that we all share some measure of the same abilities, but we're not amoral. We are a very insular community and do tend to segregate ourselves from other magicals, because we're erroneously considered evil due to the nature of our powers."
To demonstrate, Lydia suddenly disappeared from her husband's side and reappeared next to Patrick, lifting Kurt from his arms and taking him into her own.
"That's called shimmering," Prue explained. "It's typically considered to be a demonic power, but that's nonsense. It's merely one of dozens of methods of teleportation. Another common method is blinking, in which someone literally disappears and reappears somewhere else in the blink of an eye. Again, it's usually associated with demons, but I know for a fact that it's also a Wiccan power. A few years ago, my sisters and I went up against a warlock with this power, one he had stolen from a witch. Again, it's all a matter of PR. Magical powers are neither good nor evil; they just exist. It's what you do with your abilities that matters."
Kurt looked at Santana with wide eyes. "Can you do that, too?"
She nodded and disappeared, only to reappear a second later right next to him. She began tickling his ribs and he shrieked with hysterical laughter. Santana smirked at him before both lapsed into giggles. Kurt then demanded that Lydia return him to Patrick. She huffed and complied.
"Shimmering is usually the first ability a Phoenix masters," Lydia said, "and it's considered a defensive power on its own, as it allows the Phoenix to escape dangerous situations."
Kurt, with his arms once again around Patrick, decided to try something. Santana, if you can hear me, look at me, but don't let on that we're communicating.
Santana blinked owlishly and swiveled her head in his direction. Whoa. I didn't know you could do this!
I didn't either, he replied. Does Brittany have a power like yours, so that she can defend herself?
No, Santana answered, her inner voice both sullen and fearful.
Kurt narrowed his eyes. Well, we're going to have to do something about that.
She smirked at him.
"Do all Phoenixes have the same abilities?" Burt asked Lydia, who nodded.
"Yes, but as Robert is also a witch, there's a strong possibility that Santana will inherit other powers. They haven't manifested themselves yet, and I'm not sure when they will, but it's entirely probable. At the present, Santana has one other power." She turned toward her daughter. "Show them, baby. It's okay."
Santana looked at her, considering. Finally, she shrugged her shoulders, moved away from Patrick and her mother, and adopted a defensive stance. She centered herself and then conjured a deadly athame and threw it at the wall. She quickly followed up with two more athames, each of which embedded themselves in the wall only millimeters from the first.
"Wow," whispered an impressed Quinn.
"What other powers will Santana develop?" Kurt asked.
Lydia released a controlled breath. "All Phoenixes are capable of shimmering and conjuration. As Santana matures, she will also develop agility and sensing, as well as the abilities of energy balls and power extraction. She will also be able to reform."
"Reform?" asked a boggled Burt.
Lydia nodded and looked at Prue. "Are you capable of throwing energy balls?"
Prue hesitantly nodded. "It's an elder power I possess."
Lydia nodded once more and steeled herself. "Do it."
Prue swallowed, conjured an energy ball in her hand, and threw it at Lydia, who allowed it to hit her before she disappeared in a swirl of dots, similar to those of a darklighter. A second later, she once again stood hale and whole.
"Sweet Jesus," Burt murmured, shaking his head in wonder.
"Reconstitution," Lydia explained. "It's not always foolproof. I could tell from the voltage that Prue wasn't really trying, which I appreciate. In general, Phoenixes are able to reform after attacks by lower-level and a few upper-level demons. It's a talent which should never be depended on completely. Shimmering away is always the best defense."
Several people nodded.
"As she grows, Santana will also develop the abilities to adjust her physical body to attack, as well as a high resistance to certain powers, usually temporal and molecular in nature."
"Like Piper's freezing ability," Prue mused.
Kurt raised an eyebrow. "So, basically, Santana can kick a lot of butt."
"Yep!" Santana said proudly.
"What about you, Uncle Robert?" Kurt asked.
Robert smiled. "I'm not as powerful as your Aunt Lydia or Santana, but I have the ability of deviation, which means I can return an attack to its sender. For example, if Prue threw an energy ball at me, I could send it back to her without it harming me. I also have the power of cloaking. That means I can make someone, including myself, invisible and unable to be sensed magically."
"That's amazing," Prue murmured. "So you could hide yourself, or any of the children, from whitelighters or other demons?"
Robert nodded. "Yes."
"What's your gift, Uncle Ricky?" Kurt asked.
Patrick grinned at him. "Well, let me put you down for a moment, and I'll demonstrate."
Kurt pouted spectacularly, but allowed Patrick to settle him on the floor.
Patrick moved a few steps away from everyone, then looked at Burt. He waved his hand, and Burt suddenly disappeared.
Kurt looked up at him. "Interesting."
Patrick grinned. "It's called apportation. It's the ability to teleport objects or people through space. I just sent your dad back to your house."
Kurt snorted. "If I were you, I'd bring him back. He's not likely to be happy."
Patrick's smile faltered and he hurriedly returned Burt to the kitchen.
A startled Burt looked around like a scared rabbit. "What the hell was that?"
Patrick quickly explained.
Burt heaved a sigh of relief, much to the confusion of everyone present. "That's good," he said. "That means you can transport any of us in case of attack."
Patrick nodded. "Everyone but myself. For whatever reason, I'm unable to teleport."
Kurt turned to Prue. "You can, however, correct? You could orb Uncle Ricky to safety?" he demanded sternly.
She nodded, amused by her cousin's obvious infatuation with Patrick Pierce.
Kurt nodded and raised his arms. "Up, please," he said to Patrick, who beamed, picked him up, and cuddled him closely.
Kurt laid his head on Patrick's shoulder and blinked innocently at the others.
"Do you have any other powers, Quinn?" Brittany asked.
Quinn shook her head. "Not yet," she said sadly.
"Well," Santana said, "cloning is pretty cool." She looked furious with herself for admitting it.
Quinn smiled shyly at her. "Thanks."
"What's your power, Brittany?" Kurt asked.
The girl shrugged. "I don't really have one. Not one that I could show you, I mean."
"Brittany is what's known as an Oracle, Kurt," Ashley quietly explained. "That means that she's able to see both into the future and the past..."
"Precognition and retrocognition," Kurt interrupted.
Ashley blinked and nodded. "She's also clairvoyant and clairaudient." She stared at him. "Do you know what those mean?"
He nodded. "Brittany is able to see and hear things beyond the realm of typical human perception."
Ashley smiled. "Very good, sweetie."
Kurt smiled bashfully and buried his face in Patrick's neck.
"She can also commune with Higher Beings and make prophecies," Ashley added.
Prue blinked. Brittany could communicate with Higher Beings? Those who existed beyond the realm of the Elders? Impressive, yet dangerous. It could also be a great boon to them.
"Prophecies?" Kurt suddenly asked, sitting up straight in Patrick's arms. "Like what Quinn mentioned last night?"
Ashley nodded. "Brittany made a prophecy last night before you arrived with your father and Aunt Prue. We didn't know what it meant at first, but after Prue's explanation of what you and the girls are meant to become, we were able to understand some of it."
Prue was now all business. "Did you write it down?"
"Of course," Ashley said, going toward the table and rummaging through her tote, emerging with a yellow legal pad. She handed it to Prue, who read through it quickly, and then went back over it more carefully, paying particular attention to the lines specific to the Charmed Ones.
"I can't say for certain how much of this has already come to pass, but some of it has," she said. "This should prove helpful."
Kurt signaled for Patrick to put him down. The man complied and Kurt walked over to Prue. "I'd like to see it, please."
She smiled down at him and passed him the pad, interested in his take on it.
Kurt took a seat at the table and the girls immediately swarmed around him.
"It was really long," Quinn said. "We should go through it line by line."
Kurt nodded. "I agree. Brittany, will you please read it to us?"
"Okay, Kurty!" She took the pad from him, narrowed her eyes, her tongue poking out from between her teeth. She blinked. "I said all this?" she asked Santana and Quinn, who nodded. "Wow."
"Should we take notes?" Quinn asked.
Kurt nodded. "Would you mind, Santana? You have the best handwriting."
She preened and ran to the island, withdrawing another pad and a pen from a drawer before returning to sit down next to Kurt. "I'm ready."
"They're already working as a team," Burt muttered.
Judy nodded, dazed. "I've never seen Quinn fit in so well with other children." She looked up at him. "I can't thank you enough for that. I thought she would always be alone."
Burt smiled sadly at her. "I thought the same of Kurt until he met Santana and Brittany. They have each other, and they have us. We can only hope it will be enough."
"It'll have to be," she said, her voice shaky yet hopeful.
"How did it go last night?" he asked her.
She shrugged. "Russell wasn't home, which was no surprise. Emily is still asleep upstairs." She shook her head. "I can't believe I was so ignorant about how all of this was affecting her. Quinn has always been strong; it's who she is. Emily, however, feigns her strength. I know she's relieved to be out of that house, but she misses her father."
"Does she miss him, or miss who he should've been?" Burt gently asked.
She sighed. "The latter, I would expect."
"You did the right thing, Judy, and all of us will help you as much as we can."
She bit her lip, trying to control her tears. "Thank you," she said, voice thick. "I just feel terrible for placing this burden on you when you've just lost your wife."
He shrugged. "No burden, and certainly not on me. Our kids, though..."
She nodded. "We will protect them."
"Or die trying."
"It would be a good death," she said quietly, looking down at her hands. "Certainly better than at the hands of my husband."
"We won't let that happen," Burt said staunchly. "Don't worry about that asshole, Judy. We'll take care of you and of each other."
"Thank you," she whispered.
"So the first part mentions three distinct people," Kurt said, after Brittany had read the first stanza of the prophecy. "The Knight; the Seer; and the Warrior Queen, whom I gather is not the Queen referenced by Prue."
The girls nodded.
"The Knight and Seer sound like they're probably mortals, or at least started out as mortals."
Brittany bit her lip. "It doesn't say whether or not the Queen's a witch, just that she's a Seer. Seers don't have to be witches, right?"
"I wouldn't believe so," Kurt said slowly, looking up at Prue for conformation.
She nodded. "I think that's a fair assessment. We'll have to do more research, but I think if she were a witch, she would be noted as such."
"The Knight sounds like he's really close to her," Santana said, "like a best friend or boyfriend, or something."
"It sounds like a lot of bad stuff has happened to them, or will happen," Brittany fretted. "We should help them."
Kurt laid a hand over hers. "We don't know who they are, sweetie, or how to find them. These things could have already happened. The prophecy doesn't offer a sense of time."
"Even if we knew, that doesn't mean we should interfere," Prue said. "Sometimes things have to happen in due course, even if they're bad."
Santana nodded. "Plus, it sounds like these things have to happen in order for the Seer to become the Queen."
Kurt and Quinn nodded, rather dejectedly.
"What about the Warrior Queen?" Prue prodded.
"The Slayer?" Burt wondered.
"That makes sense," Kurt said. "That would fit her duties rather well, a mortal imbued with the strength of a demon to fight other demons. She's a soldier, an inexorable warrior."
Quinn cocked her head. "Then the Knight and the Seer are probably her friends, or at least fight with her. They have to know her, because the prophecy says they walk at her side."
Prue was now glad she had held back a few details from last night's explanation. She certainly hadn't counted on a prophecy, let alone such an informative one. It was obvious that the Knight was Alexander Harris; that nickname had been given to him by Angelus, now Angel, the new Champion of the Powers That Be.
That didn't account for the Queen, however. There were multiple possibilities as to whom might fulfill that role: Cordelia Chase, who had already left the Hellmouth for Los Angeles; Anya, the former vengeance demon who was now mortal and in a quasi-relationship with the Knight; Willow Rosenberg, the best friend of both the Knight and the Slayer; and the new witch who was about to join their circle. Prue hadn't been given the girl's name, only that she was coming.
"Then these people are in Sunnydale," Kurt said.
"Not necessarily," Prue said. "The prophecy could refer to people already at the Slayer's side, or people who have yet to join her. As you said, Kurt, there's no sense of temporality in the prophecy."
He sighed and nodded.
Prue was pleased at dodging that bullet. The last thing she needed was four prepubescent children haranguing her to take them to the Hellmouth, especially children who didn't yet have all of their powers or could exercise with control the ones they already possessed.
"We should at least keep our eye on Sunnydale," Santana said assertively. "Watch for news reports and stuff. We should know what's going on there, even if we can't really help."
Brittany and Quinn nodded.
"We really can't help, can we?" Kurt quietly asked of no one in particular. "We're not strong enough yet, and we don't have our Fifth. No matter how bad it is there, we shouldn't interfere. We could accelerate events that aren't yet supposed to happen, or cause halts to things which must occur."
"That's exactly right," Prue agreed. "I know it's frustrating, honey, but that's the nature of this work. It's hard, often thankless, and the waiting is horrible. It's easier said than done, but accepting that you can't save everyone, that you can't always make everything better, is half the battle."
He held her eyes for a long moment, and at last nodded. She could tell that he was convinced, but still unhappy. The girls looked mutinous, but would follow Kurt's lead for the moment.
"Let's move on and look at the next part," Santana suggested.
Brittany slowly read the next stanza as the others listened carefully to the words and tried to ferret out their meaning
"What about the Hunter?" she asked. "He sounds like the Knight's boyfriend."
"It's possible," Kurt said, shrugging, "but we don't know if the Hunter is male or female. We don't even know what kind of Hunter they are, or what Hunter means."
Quinn groaned. "So we keep going."
"It says the Knight will face Death," Santana said. "Does that mean he's going to die? Because that seems kind of stupid. What's the point of including him if he's just going to die? He has a lot of stuff to do."
"Maybe it's not a literal death," Kurt said, "or perhaps it means he faces Death itself." He looked at Prue. "Is there such a thing?"
She nodded. "Yes, there is an Angel of Death. I've met him."
"Really?" asked a startled Patrick.
"A mortal was assigned to me," she said. "I was to protect him. I took my duty very seriously and tried to intervene when Death came for him." She paused. "I fought Death himself to keep my charge safe, but you can't defeat Death, not really. Eventually, everyone must face him."
"Did Mommy?" Kurt whispered.
"I don't know, sweetie," she said, "and that's the truth. It's very possible that he was in the room last night, waiting for her. I imagine that he was. He probably followed your mother and Cassie until Suzanne's spirit passed into the afterlife."
"So Death isn't bad?" Brittany asked, her nose scrunched.
"No, he's not," Prue said. "Death is sad, but not always bad. Yes, some people die in bad ways, ways that they shouldn't, but Death isn't evil. Death is a part of life, a transition from here to the hereafter. Death can bring relief from suffering and pain, as it did with your Aunt Sue. It's sad for us, the people who are left behind, but those who die go on to their next journey."
Brittany stared at her for a long moment. Finally, she nodded. "Okay."
"Well," Quinn said carefully, "it looks like the Knight meets the Hunter after his fight with Death, so I guess we'll eventually meet the Knight."
"Makes sense," Santana said, shrugging.
"But something does happen to him," Brittany argued, "because after it does, the Queen comes for him and makes him better or different or something."
Kurt nodded. "I agree."
"Yay!" she cheered, before reading aloud the third stanza.
"So," Quinn said, "someone in the Slayer's circle will do something stupid, but it sounds like it works out okay?"
Prue held her tongue, positive the line referenced Willow Rosenberg. This was why she hated prophecies, or even general foreknowledge. She knew what Willow would eventually do, but there was nothing she herself could do to stop it. If she interfered, things wouldn't play out in the manner they should, nor in their proper order. She could end up doing serious harm.
Kurt slowly shook his head. "I'm not sure. It really doesn't suggest that things work out well, only that they happen. That could mean anything, really. What I think it's saying is that, no matter the mistake, the Knight, who is now being referred to as the King, and the Queen will attempt to reconcile said mistake."
"Huh?" Quinn asked.
Santana rolled her eyes. "If you're going to hang out with us, you need to learn Kurtinese. He uses really big words, but eventually you'll get the hang of it. Translation: someone does something stupid, and the King and Queen try to make it better."
"Oh," Quinn said, nodding. "Okay, then."
Kurt rolled his eyes as well, snatching the pad from Brittany and rereading the passage. "The Sisters Three shall be torn asunder," he said softly. "I'm sorry, Aunt Prue." The title by which he now addressed her was uncomfortable on his tongue, but he knew he had to become accustomed to it.
She ruffled his hair, ignoring his indignant squawk. "It's okay, honey. There's nothing to be done for it, and everything happens for a reason. The reason for this was to bring me to you and to bring Paige home."
Kurt nodded uneasily. "I would imagine that she is the one who must not be rejected?"
Prue nodded. "It won't be easy for any of them, but Piper in particular will be very angry and upset."
"You two were very close," Kurt said.
"We were. We're so close in age that we always saw each other as sisters, as equals, but with Phoebe, who's younger, we considered her almost our own child. It was a difficult dynamic to master, but eventually we got the hang of it. We all became close, but I was always closest to Piper."
"I can't imagine what she's going through," Burt said. "Piper was the epitome of the middle child, but now she's found herself the eldest of two others, one of whom she doesn't even know." He shook his head. "It won't be easy for her."
"She's always held on to her anger," Prue agreed. "She guards it closely, almost jealously, as if releasing it scares her." She shrugged. "Actually, it probably does. I was always angry, but anger fueled me. It fueled my magic. Anger was my trigger to access my powers, as fear was for Piper. I imagine that will change now."
"And Phoebe's trigger?" Burt asked.
"Need," Prue replied after a moment's thought. "Phoebe has always needed to do good, to be good, either to be better than she believes herself capable of being, or to be better than others perceive her as being."
Kurt slowly turned and looked up at her. "I'm like you."
She nodded. "I know."
"What happened in San Francisco" he demanded, his little face purpling with anger. "Why did you send me away?"
She looked to Burt, who nodded, and sighed. "Five days after you and your parents had arrived, the Manor was attacked by demons."
"Manor?" Santana interrupted.
"Our house in San Francisco is called Halliwell Manor. It's been in our family for generations."
Kurt's eyes turned distant and hazy. "There's something more. There's something about that house that makes it different from any other place I've ever been." He sighed. "I wish Brittany could see it. She would know."
Brittany smiled at him.
"It sits on a Nexus," Prue said.
Lydia and Ashley gasped.
"Truly?" asked an awed Robert.
Prue nodded. "The Charmed Ones are its Guardians, must like the Slayer is the Guardian of the Hellmouth." She then explained the precise nature of a Nexus.
"So it was the power of the Nexus that I sensed?" Kurt asked.
"Yes, which is surprising," Prue said. "Before me and my sisters were made aware of the Nexus, we couldn't sense anything about it. Even after we knew, we never sensed it; we just knew it was there."
"What does that mean?" asked a frowning Burt.
"It means that Kurt is strong," she said. "Very strong."
Kurt dismissed the idea. "What happened when the demons attacked?"
Prue turned to him. "Phoebe and Piper fell first, and then so did your mother."
Kurt glared at nothing in particular.
"Your father was hiding you behind him," she continued. "I had been separated from everyone, fighting three demons in the conservatory."
"What did I do?" he asked, a small trace of fear present in his voice.
"You escaped your father and fought five demons, protecting your mother and my sisters, until I could get to you." She didn't see the need to sugarcoat it.
Kurt stared at her for several long moments. "How? What is my power?"
"Five demons," Lydia said faintly.
Quinn, Brittany, and Santana gaped at him.
"You used your telepathy to predict their attacks," Prue said, "which suggests that was the first time that power manifested, not when your other powers were bound. Then you countered their attacks with a Wiccan power. Like me, you're telekinetic."
Kurt's brow furrowed. "I see."
Silence reigned for over a minute as Kurt processed the information.
"That's it?" Patrick finally asked as Kurt picked up the pad and began silently reading once more.
Kurt shrugged. "What is there to say? Let's get back to the prophecy."
Burt blinked owlishly then shook his head to clear it.
"The Twice-Blessed approaches," Kurt read.
"We believe that references Piper's future child," Prue said, and then launched into an explanation as to why it might be the case.
Kurt nodded. "And the rest?"
He snorted as Brittany began to read the last stanza.
"The Last Scion rises as the Lioness falls; three cubs surround him, reinforcing his walls."
"Mommy," Kurt whispered.
Prue and Burt startled and looked at each other.
"That makes sense," Burt said slowly. "Kurt is the last of the Bowen family and, until the Charmed Ones have their own children, he is the last Warren witch. Suzie always was a mother lion, and it's obvious the girls are the cubs."
"I have a question," Santana said.
"What is it?" Prue asked.
"Piper is married to Leo, right? He's a whitelighter."
"Well, I know how babies are made. Mom told me, and I told Brittany."
"Santana," Lydia hissed.
Patrick and Ashley exchanged a nervous glance.
"But Leo's dead," Santana rushed on. "So how can he make babies?"
Kurt blinked and then looked up at Prue, smirking.
"Um..." Prue said intelligently. "Magic," she finally said.
Kurt, Brittany, Quinn, and Santana all scoffed.
"Whatever," Quinn said.
"That just means she doesn't know," Brittany said.
Prue blushed and averted her eyes.
"As an angel departs from the hereafter, only the Scion can halt the coming disaster," Brittany read.
"Prue is the angel, and Kurt has to stop the yuckness," Santana said.
"Yuckness?" Kurt repeated.
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, pardon me, but not all of us have swallowed a thesaurus."
Everyone snickered, save Kurt, who buffed his nails on his pants.
"More's the pity."
Prue and Patrick cackled.
Brittany read the final lines and then looked up at Kurt. "Does this mean I can call you Handy?"
He glared. "No."
"But it's your name."
"It is not," he insisted. "I am the Hand."
"I know where you keep your glitter pens."
She gasped and her eyes filled with tears.
"False tears do not work on me."
She hastily wiped her eyes and glared at him. "Fine," she seethed.
"I'm glad that's settled," he said primly.
"Well," Lydia interjected, trying not to snicker, "we worked through most of the prophecy. I really don't see what we can do with the information, other than try to keep up with events in Sunnydale."
The other adults nodded.
Burt wondered why they were treating this prophecy as though it were gospel, but he didn't voice his concern. First, it wouldn't go over well were he to question Brittany's power, which he was sure was legitimate. Second, the prophecy made mention of events which had already occurred, specifically Suzanne's death and Kurt being identified as the Hand.
"What do we do now?" Brittany asked, bouncing up and down in her chair.
"We summon the Matriarchs," Prue said, "and give Kurt's magic back to him."
Again, updates for this story will always be slow-coming, given the number of fandoms and characters to be reconciled.
Before anyone submits a review decrying my depiction of Kurt, allowing me to state the following: Yes, Kurt is a child, but he's abnormally in control of himself. As stated in the chapter, he has to be so that he can function. Imagine being a child and hearing the thoughts of everyone who crosses your path. Consider the number of times per day you think about love, family, hatred, enemies, fear, and sex. Imagine if you were a child and could hear the thoughts of every adult around you. It would be terrifying, and you would withdraw.
Kurt is not unemotional, but he is very, very reserved. He is often cold and indifferent. I don't find this terribly different from his early canon characterization, save that he is younger. I've merely supplied a magical/superhuman reason for his attitude.
Originally, this chapter was to be much longer, disproportionately so, and I've thus cut it back. You may feel that proper attention to Suzanne's death has yet to be given, but it will be. Keep in mind that all of the characters know for a fact that there is an afterlife and their loved ones continue in some for. This is, for them, knowledge, not belief. It comforts them. Burt witnessed Prue summoning the Matriarchs as well as Suzanne's crossing over. Suzanne is mourned, but there are other pressing issues at the moment. The next chapter will include her funeral, the revelation of the fifth coven member, and several time skips as events move forward.
The powers of the adults are fixed, but the children's will grow.
Also, Patrick Pierce is not a pedophile. He adores Kurt and considers him his own.
Finally, remember that this an extreme AU involving magical powers. The characters will appropriately be OOC.