This follows The Piper's Song in my series.  It has, obviously, branched off from the show.  The last episode, show canon, that is accepted for these stories is We All Scream for Ice Cream.  This has taken another direction.

Untangling the Web

//"He's still alive," Phoebe said. There was a pause where Leo digested the information. Then she tacked on, "For me. He's still alive for me."//

Leo still didn't know what to make of it. He couldn't figure out whether Phoebe added the "for me" part to cover up what she had done or if she actually meant it and added it only to clarify.

If Leo could get headaches, he would have one now. A really, really bad headache. He couldn't figure out if Belthazor was still alive and it was driving him crazy.

It was also giving him a really bad temper. He didn't like not knowing whether a threat to the girl's safety was still out there or not. And the Powers that Be were, as usual, keeping quiet on the matter.

Neither Piper nor Prue had commented on Phoebe acting different, so Leo was almost convinced his young charge was still just a little subdued from finding out her boyfriend was a demon trying to kill her and her sisters, and then having to vanquish him. Of course, she might also be acting that way because she was hiding her not-dead demon boyfriend.

All he knew for sure was he wasn't going to bring Piper or Prue into this until he had more evidence than just some odd behaviour. He would be keeping an eye on Phoebe.

~*~

 

"Hey Piper, Leo," greeted Prue. She had just come home from a weekend out of town. "How was your weekend?"

"Great," Piper said. She was at the stove, making omelets for a late brunch. "How was yours?"

"Ugh." Prue made a face. "Awful. Boring. Completely pointless."

"What happened?" Piper asked, but before Prue could answer, Phoebe came into the kitchen.

"Phoebe!" Prue exclaimed. "What happened to you?"

Phoebe looked awful. Her eyes looked raw and unless Leo was mistaken, she was still wearing the same clothes from the night before. She didn't answer Prue, she just dropped on to a chair at the kitchen table with a thud. She looked stunned.

Seeing no answer was forthcoming from Phoebe, Prue turned on Piper and Leo. "What happened to her?"

"I don't know," Piper said, looking just as worried as her older sister. They both turned to Leo.

"Don't look at me," he said defensively. "I didn't even know she was home."

Forgetting all about the food, Piper went over to Phoebe. Prue scowled at Leo before going to join her sisters.

"Phoebe, honey," Piper said, kneeling down beside the youngest Halliwell. "What's wrong?"

"Did something happen?" Prue asked from the other side of Phoebe.

Phoebe finally snapped back to life. "I don't feel so good," she moaned.

Piper's hand instinctively went to her younger sister's forehead. "You don't feel warm," she said fretfully.

"I don't feel good," Phoebe repeated.

"Come on, sweetie," Prue said, helping Phoebe up. "Let's get you up to bed."

Phoebe, too weak to protest, allowed herself to be led off by her two sisters.

So much for brunch, Leo thought to himself. He knew Piper and Prue would spend the rest of the day fussing over Phoebe. He didn't blame them, either. Phoebe looked pretty bad.

With nothing else to do, Leo started to clean up the kitchen. The omelet was ruined anyway. This way Piper didn't have to worry about it.

He was sweeping when he noticed a business card on the floor. He bent over to pick it up.

There was no name, just a number. Who's ever it was, they seemed to have used it often. At least, it looked like it had been handled a lot. Leo pocketed it. He would remember to ask Piper and Prue about it later.

"Do we have any orange juice?" Piper asked, coming in and opening the fridge door.

"I don't think so," said Leo.

"Would you mind running to the store and getting some?"

"Not at all," Leo answered honestly. "Do you want me to pick up anything else while I'm gone?"

"Yeah. Ginger ale and soda crackers, just in case."

"How's she doing?" Leo asked.

"Not too badly," replied Piper. "I mean, she feels awful, but at least she doesn't have a fever. If she stays in bed resting today, she'll probably be fine tomorrow."

Leo kissed Piper gently. "She'll be fine," he said. He started to leave, but remembered the business card. "Oh," he said, turning around. "I found this. Is it yours?"

Piper looked at the business care, confused. "I don't think so. Why don't you ask Prue? It might be hers."

Leo nodded and left.

~*~

 

"Hey Prue," Leo said, coming into the kitchen. He set the grocery bags on the counter. "How's the patient."

"Sleeping," Prue said, helping him put the groceries away. She held up a bag of chips. "I thought Piper sent you to get things for Phoebe, not junk."

"I just thought I'd pick up a few more things while I was out," he explained. "So did you find out what happened?"

Prue shook her head. "Phoebe wasn't exactly in the mood for talking."

"Well, did you phone her friend? Maybe she knows."

"No." Prue stopped and frowned thoughtfully. "That's odd. Come to think of it, I don't even remember who she was going out with."

"Nether do I," Leo said.

"I'll go ask Piper," said Prue. She started to leave the kitchen, but Leo stopped her.

"Prue, does this belong to you?" He held out the business card for inspection.

Prue looked at it. "Nom," she said, handing it back to the whitelighter.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," Prue said. "Why don't you ask Piper? It might be hers."

"It isn't," Leo said slowly, but Prue had already left the room. He stared at the card with growing suspicion and hoped, for all the Halliwells' sake, he was wrong and Piper knew whom Phoebe had spent the night with.

~*~

 

By dinnertime, Phoebe had an explanation. Leo, Piper and Prue were all gathered around her bed, which she was still laying in. Phoebe was pale, but other than that, seemed to be doing much better.

"Sorry to worry you," she said.

"Don't worry, hon," Prue said. "We're your older sisters. It's our job to worry about you."

"So what happened?" Piper asked.

"Well, I was out last night - but I guess you know that part." She grinned. "I wasn't feeling so well, so I came home. Now, I knew you and Leo were supposed to have a romantic evening alone - " This was directed to Piper. " - and I didn't want to ruin it. So I snuck in and fell straight to sleep."

"You shouldn't have done that, Pheebs," Piper said. Her guilt over being responsible for, in her words, "kicking Phoebe out of her own home" had only augmented with Phoebe's illness.

"No," Phoebe insisted stubbornly. "It was okay. Don't start on a guilt trip again."

"Who were you with?" Leo asked suddenly.

"What?" The question seemed to puzzle Phoebe.

"You were going out with a friend, weren't you? Who was it?"

"We couldnít remember who it was earlier," Prue explained. Her tones were soft, as if to convince Phoebe she wasn't on trial, despite the harshness of Leo's voice. "We wanted to see what happened, but couldn't remember who you had gone out with."

"Oh," Phoebe said. "One of my classmates. I don't think you've met her."

"Who?" Piper asked.

"Mandy." No one recognized the name. "She's in a couple of my classes and we thought we'd hang."

"Where did you go?" Again, it was Leo who asked the question.

"Where did we go?" Phoebe repeated before answering, "To a party. A college party. On campus. I don't know whose, exactly."

"I'm sure at least half the people there didn't know whose party it was, either," Piper joked. Phoebe managed a weak smile.

"What time did you get back?" Prue and Piper glared at the whitelighter, but Phoebe didn't notice.

"I don't know," Phoebe said. She was looking down at her hands.

"About when?" Leo's persistent questioning earned him a whack in the arm courtesy of his loving girlfriend.

"I don't know," Phoebe repeated.

"That doesn't matter," Piper interjected before Leo could ask anything else. "Leo, could I speak to you for a sec?"

Leo hated those words, especially when they were coupled with the sickeningly sweet yet deadly tone of voice Piper was currently using.

"Sure," he said, wishing he were anywhere but there. Why couldn't the Elders ever summon him at a good time, like when he was trying to avoid one of the sisters.

Piper pulled Leo out of the room. "What are you doing in there?" she hissed. "Phoebe's not on trial here, she's not the bad guy. She's sick and you're giving her the third degree. Give her a break."

"Iím sorry," Leo apologized. "I'm just worried about her." Technically speaking, that was the truth. Leo was worried Phoebe had gotten herself into a lot of trouble by lying about Belthazor's death. But he wasn't about to tell Piper that.

Somewhat appeased, she said, "Okay. Just don't do it again."

"I won't," Leo said. Piper went back into Phoebe's room. Of course, that was when the Elders chose to summon him.

~*~

 

Leo didn't return to the manor until the next morning. Both Prue and Piper were working, so he and Phoebe were alone in the house.

Leo pulled the mysterious business card out from his pocket once again and stared at it, finally reaching a decision. He shouldn't do what he was about to do, Leo knew, but he was going to do in anyway.

He reached for the phone and dialed the number. It rang once, twice, three times. Finally, after about the seventh or eighth ring, the answering machine picked up.

"No one's here right now. Leave a message after the beep." The voice was male, but otherwise nondescript. It seemed somewhat familiar, but Leo couldn't decide whether that was because of the distortion the telephone gave to the voice or because the whitelighter knew it from somewhere.

Leo stared in disappointment at the receiver. He hadn't known what to expect, but thought he would have learned something, at least.

"Hey, Leo," Phoebe said, bounding down the stairs. I didn't realize you were back."

Leo whirled around and clumsily tried to hand up the phone behind his back. "Phoebe," he said.

"What's up?" Phoebe asked.

"Nothing," Leo said quickly.

Phoebe didn't believe him, which was understandable, considering Leo's behaviour. He just wasn't good at lying. "Nothing," he said again to counter her raised eyebrows. "See?" He spread his empty hands in front of him.

"Okay." Phoebe gave him an odd look, but let it go. She went into the kitchen.

It was then that Leo noticed the phone was off the hook. He hung it up and waited a few second before trying the number again, hoping if he heard the voice again, he might learn more. This time, he got a busy signal.

Leo frowned at the phone. Then, wondering if perhaps the busy signal was a side effect of trying again too soon, he hung up the phone again and waited a full minute to redial. The line was still busy.

Twice more Leo tried and twice more he was unable to get through. He only stopped when Phoebe came back into the room.

"Who're you trying to call?" she asked, seeming only mildly curious about the answer.

"Nobody," was the automatic response. Then Leo reconsidered. "Is this yours?" he asked.

Phoebe paled when she saw the business card. "Where did you find that?" she asked in a shaky voice.

"It was on the kitchen floor," Leo said. "Is it yours?"

"Is that who you called?" Phoebe demanded.

"Is it yours?" Leo challenged.

They were at a standoff, neither of them wanting to answer the other's question. Phoebe caved in first. "It's mind," she admitted. "Is that who you called?"

Still, Leo did not answer. "Whose number is it, Phoebe?" The Charmed One looked away, unwilling to meet his eyes any longer. "Whose is it?" Leo repeated. Still nothing. Finally, Leo moved in for the blow. "Is Belthazor really dead?"

Phoebe looked up again. Unshed tears filled her eyes. She lifted her chin slightly, as if to give the illusion of dignity or pride. "No. He's not."

The End
Wednesday, January 31, 2001

For the series name, I was thinking either Secrets or A Tangled Web.  What do you think?  Tell me, either by review or by e-mail.  trinityday@hotmail.com Please remember, I love feedback.  Next up, I should be continuing SHIMMER: An AU.  Then, the sequel to this.  I think that's it.  Don't forget to review.  *grin*