Piper wasn’t sure what was going on but she knew one thing: it was not good. Paige had orbed in with a teenage girl and two small children, the girl staggering slightly.
“What is going on?” Piper demanded. Just once, she’d like a pregnancy that wasn’t rife with drama.
Paige shrugged. “I have no idea. I got the call and we needed to go, so I brought them here.”
“I’m Dawn,” the striking teen said. “Willow might have told you about me.”
The three Halliwell sisters smiled, worry easing.
“How is she?” Piper asked.
Dawn’s breath caught. “Dead. They’re all dead. Except for me, Xander, and Faith.” She breathed harshly for a second. “And Xander and Faith have been regressed
.” She nodded to the two tiny brunettes in her arms.
The sisters gasped.
“Oh, not this again,” Piper said, watching a familiar ball of golden lights whoosh into being. “You promised.”
“I’m not here for Leo,” the kindly Angel of Destiny said. “But the tides are changing. These three children are at the center. I thought to warn you, as a reward for fulfilling your Charmed destiny.”
“Last time you promised to make us normal and now you’re just giving us a warning? You guys suck at the rewards system,” Phoebe said irritably. She was trying to grow a human life, she didn’t need any more trouble.
The Angel smiled brightly. “Your true reward is the return of two very special people. As your Charmed duties are no longer pressing, Prudence Halliwell will be sent back. A fourth sister now won’t change your balance. And Andrew Trudeau, as her soulmate, must be sent back as well.”
Phoebe clutched her arms around her swollen belly and Piper teared up.
“What about them?” Paige asked hoarsely, nodding to the three new kids.
Dawn snorted. “What’s Destiny ever done for us?” She teared up. “Caused death and heartache, that’s what.”
“Your destiny, Dawn Summers, is just beginning. It will be long and fraught with peril, I’m afraid to say, but I believe you will find happiness,” the Angel said earnestly.
“In the end, right?” Dawn said bitterly. “Not at the beginning or in the middle where I could enjoy it but in the end.”
“Hasn’t anyone ever told you? Don’t be snippy with Destiny, kid. It just makes your life more difficult,” a ferret faced man said leaning against the doorway, startling everyone. He tipped his hat. “You mighta heard of me. Name’s Whistler.”
Dawn nodded. “You’re the prat whose ribcage Buffy wanted to rip out.”
Whistler nodded. “That’s the one. Now. Let’s talk about what the Powers are willing to do for the Key.”
“No,” Dawn said automatically. “Whatever you’re gonna say, just no.”
Whistler smiled cagily. “Trust me, kid, you want to hear me out.”
Dawn slumped. “I hate you, ya know.”
Destiny stepped in. “I promise you, Dawn Summers, the changes made today are for the best.”
“Let’s hear’em, then,” she said wearily, sitting and scooping Xander and Faith up onto her lap.
“The kids are gonna need a full coven to protect them,” Whistler said, rocking back on his heels. “The return of Prudence Halliwell, Tara Maclay, Janna Calderash, Christopher Perry, and Cordelia Chase will take care of that. You’ll have to set them up with identities and stuff but we’ll give you a line on the wolf. He should be able to help. Penelope and Patricia Halliwell will also be given a free pass to drop in whenever they want to.”
“How’re we supposed to pay for that?” Piper demanded, hands on her hips.
“Not a problem,” Dawn said, upending one of the two bags at her feet. “There’s a little over a million dollars here. I’ve spent almost a week collecting it from our hidden stashes. I won’t need it where I’m going.”
“Going?” Phoebe said, ignoring the money in favor of the girl. “Where are you going? You can’t go.”
“I have to,” Dawn said, scrubbing the tears off her face like a three year old. “They can track me because I’m familiar to them. Xander and Faith were fundamentally changed but I’m still me. I have to go to keep them safe.”
“We can change you,” Paige said worriedly. “We can strip your powers.”
“Take away my magic and you take away my being. I’m a magical construct, built to contain something powerful,” Dawn frowned. “At least in theory.”
“Second change is totally optional,” Whistler butted in. “The Powers can de-age you and place you in the care of Prue Halliwell. Or you can run.”
“But,” Dawn pointed at the Angel of Destiny.
“The way’s gonna be long and hard, either way. This way, you get family to help,” Whistler shrugged. “The Key will search out someone to protect it, regardless. That’s its nature.”
Dawn looked to Paige, having no idea what to do.
“Stay,” Paige said, taking her hand. “It’s what Willow would want. Stay with them. Stay with us.”
Dawn nodded slowly. “Okay.”
Whistler pointed at Faith. “She’s gonna be the only Slayer by nightfall. The Empowerment works only as long as a Guardian or a Goddess is around to enforce it. She’s the only Powers’ chosen on the planet. That’s gonna tick a few people off. Slayers and
Watchers. Just so you know.”
The blood rushed from Dawn’s face and she squeezed Xander and Faith tight. “Oh, goddess.”
“Luckily, besides L.A., demons have been pretty well neutralized on the topside by the overabundance of Slayers. The Underworld is building itself back up but that’ll take years,” Whistler said. “Unfortunately, the boy’s a magnet for magical beings.” He looked at Piper. “You know that elf nanny you tried to hire? She’ll jump at the chance to protect the kid.”
“Why are you telling me?” Piper asked, bewildered.
Whistler rolled his eyes and pried Faith and Xander from Dawn’s clutches. He thrust them at Piper. “Congrats, Mommy, it’s a boy and a girl. You’re the most powerful. They’re gonna need that.”
“But,” Piper floundered, trying to get a grip on the two wiggly kids.
“We can give them genetic links to you, if you want,” Whistler offered.
“Please,” Dawn said quietly. “Please take them. Protect them.”
“Fine,” Piper said after a second, finally getting them situated around her belly. “Fine, I’ll take them.”
Whistler stepped back, smirking and said, “That’s all she wrote,” and clapped his hands.