“Second Power” [PG-13] – 6/8

“SECOND POWER”

PART SIX

Jack McNeill strode inside the TWA terminal, at the San Francisco International Airport. Judging from the clock above the airline’s desk, the McNeill matriarch’s flight from Edinburgh had just arrived. Jack strode inside the Lounge and spotted his elderly mother walking toward the end of the arrival ramp.

Mother and son greeted each other with warm hugs. The latter grabbed his mother’s carry-on luggage and the pair strode toward the lounge’s exit. After Elise McNeill described her brief time in Scotland and trip home, Jack asked a question. “So, how did the family take the news?”

“The news?” Elise repeated. “About Olivia’s new power?” She paused dramatically. “They were flabbergasted.”

Jack chuckled. “I’m not surprised. Considering that no witch from our branch of the family hasn’t been a potential Keeper of Aingeal in nearly 70 years.” He sighed. “I haven’t told Olivia about the staff, yet.”

Elise frowned. “Oh? Why not?”

“She’s been in a bit of an emotional state, lately. Ever since the New Year. And her emotions were affecting her new powers. Gwen and I thought it would be best if she learned to maintain some control of it, first.”

The pair headed for the Baggage Area. There, Jack hired a porter to collect his mother’s remaining luggage. All three then headed for terminal’s exit, where the McNeill limousine awaited them. Along with Davies. “Miss Elise,” the Welshman greeted, “it’s good to have you home.”

Elise smiled at the manservant. “I’m glad to be home, Davies. Thank you.” Once the luggage was placed inside the limousine’s trunk, Jack tipped the porter and the McNeills and Davies headed back toward the city’s limits. “You said something about Olivia being in some kind of emotional state?” the older woman continued.

Jack sighed. “Well, she’s been a little tense, lately.” He paused momentarily. “Something happened between her and Cole at Warren Mitchell’s New Year party.”

“Oh. What happened?”

“Don’t worry, it’s nothing horrific,” Jack reassured his mother. “Bruce and Barbara saw them kiss . . .”

“Oh!”

Jack continued, “. . . kissing. Then Cole went into some kind of panic and pushed Olivia away.”

Elise shook her head. “Oh God!”

“Yeah. Fortunately, all is not lost. Harry managed to convince Cole to break the silence between him and Livy, and teach her how to control her power.”

Elise continued, “So, Olivia and Cole have . . .”

“Well, not quite,” Jack answered. “They’re at cease fire at the moment. But, who knows what the future will bring?” He paused before revealing one last piece of news. “By the way, Leo knows.”

Elise stared at her son. “About Livy’s firepower?”

“About the Staff of Aingeal,” Jack continued. “James, my old whitelighter, told me this morning. Apparently, Leo found out from Cousin Keith’s old whitelighter.”

A gust of breath left Elise’s mouth. “Well! The Elders are not going to like this. Not at all! The Keeper of Aingeal acquainted with Belthazor? Oh Goddess! They definitely will not like it. Mind you, I don’t give a rat’s ass. It’s not really their business.”

“I agree.” Jack paused. “It’s just . . . I don’t know. I only hope that the Elders don’t try to interfere.” He glanced at his mother. The expression on her face told him that interference from the Elders was something they should expect.

* * * *

You’re telling me now?” Paige said over the telephone. “This is awfully short notice, isn’t it?”

Harry McNeill’s voice replied, “I thought you already knew. Didn’t you guys celebrate last year?”

A sigh left Paige’s mouth. “Yeah, right. I forgot. How did you guys find out? Did Cole tell you?”

“Most reluctantly, I might add. About a month ago.”

Paige continued, “I suppose that Olivia is planning all of this.”

Slight regret inflicted Harry’s voice. “Uh, not quite. I think she’s still a little pissed at him. It was Mom’s idea. But Livy knows about it. Do you plan to bring anything?”

“Yeah, I guess.” A frustrated sigh left Paige’s mouth. “Looks like I have some last minute shopping to do. I wish you guys had told me before today. I hate these Saturday shopping crowds.”

Harry added, “By the way, will your family be here, tomorrow? I know they don’t usually bother with the Sunday brunches . . .” Paige felt a twinge of embarrassment, “. . . but since tomorrow is a special day . . .”

“To be honest, I don’t if they’ll come,” Paige murmured. “But I’ll tell them they’re invited.”

Harry’s voice now radiated cheer. “Great! I’ll see you tomorrow. And don’t forget the gift.”

“I won’t,” Paige replied with false cheer. “Buy.” She hung the telephone and muttered an oath. “Shit!”

“Is there a problem?” Phoebe asked. She, Piper and Leo strolled into the Sun Room.

Paige replied with a sigh, “No. It’s just . . . well, Harry just told me that the McNeills will be doing something extra for their Sunday brunch, tomorrow. A little birthday bash for Cole. And now I have some last minute shopping to do.”

Shock, followed by realization, lit up Phoebe’s dark eyes. “Oh God! I forgot! Tomorrow is his birthday, isn’t it?”

Something resembling a grunt left Piper’s mouth. “You’re going to buy Cole a birthday present?” Then she rolled her eyes. “Of course! I forgot. You two are buddies now.”

It became Paige’s turn to roll her eyes. “Please Piper! We’re not going to start another bitch fest over Cole or Olivia, are we?” She paused. “Besides, Cole and I aren’t that close.”

Piper’s eyebrow rose another inch. “Oh? Finding it difficult to bond with a murderous half-demon?”

“Piper!” Phoebe glared at the oldest Halliwell. Who shrugged.

Paige continued in a sharp voice, “Actually, I think Cole has difficult bonding with a witch who had unnecessarily killed him, eight months ago.” Her sisters responded with tight expressions. Paige’s voice softened. “Besides, I hope this might be an opportunity for Cole and me to be closer. I miss being friends with him.”

“Oh God!” Piper shook her head in disbelief. “Well, don’t expect me to show up. I can certainly do without his company.”

Paige hesitated. “Well, the McNeills did invite all of us.”

“I’m not interested. And neither is Phoebe.” Piper turned to the middle sister. “Right Pheebs?”

Phoebe opened her mouth to respond, but Leo spoke up, instead. “I am,” he replied in a firm voice. Everyone stared at him. “What? This has nothing to do with Cole’s birthday.”

Phoebe frowned. “Is this about Cole helping Olivia with her new power? Is something wrong?”

Leo nodded. “One, I don’t like the idea of him helping her. Especially in another dimension.”

“I told you that Cole isn’t training Olivia in some demonic dimension!” Paige retorted.

Blue eyes stared knowingly at the youngest woman. “I know what you said. And I even told the Elders that they had nothing to worry about. But still, I can’t help but wonder . . .” Leo paused and took a deep breath. “Besides, who knows what Cole is teaching her. And there’s another problem.”

Piper asked, “Like what?”

Shaking his head, Leo replied, “I can’t say. It’s a private matter. Whitelighter/witch business.”

“Really?” an obviously resentful Piper retorted. “That didn’t stop you from telling Olivia all about us. But you can’t tell us anything about her?”

“Piper!”

Paige suppressed a sigh. Another Piper and Leo spat. Frequent since the beginning of Piper’s pregnancy, their fights have acquired a bitter tone since the disastrous McNeill brunch, when the Halliwells and the McNeills learned about the trouble brewing in the Whitelighter realm.

Interrupting the quarreling couple, Paige said, “Listen, uh . . . I’ll just leave you guys to your little . . . talk. I have some shopping to do.” Paige left her family and headed upstairs to retrieve her purse and car keys. When she returned downstairs, she discovered that Piper and Leo were now fighting in the living room. Along with Phoebe, acting as the peacekeeper. Paige murmured a quick “See ya,” and immediately left the house. Unaware that her family had not heard her.

* * * *

Olivia sat on the thick grass, her legs tucked under her body. Her arms were stretched out on either side, while a column of fire hovered above each opened palm. Cole looked on, approvingly.

Saturday meant that Cole and Olivia would have continued her exercises for her new power on the McNeills’ back lawn. However, Cole had one last exercise planned for today and what he had in mind could be considered dangerous to practice at the McNeills’ home. Which was why they were back in the Tuatha Dé Dannandimension.

“How long do I have to do this?” Olivia complained in a slightly irritated voice. “I think my arms are getting tired.”

A sly smile creased Cole’s lips. “Well, I had planned to let you stop,” he answered. “Until you had opened your mouth. Now, you can continued this exercise for another ten minutes.”

Olivia’s arms wavered slightly. And so did the twin towers of flames. “Cole, you . . .”

“Keep it up and I’ll make it another fifteen minutes.”

Sounds of grumbling escaped Olivia’s mouth, but she managed to keep her retorts in check. The exercise continued. After another ten minutes, Cole finally decided to end it, much to Olivia’s obvious relief. She let out a gust of breath, lowered her arms and stood up. “What’s this last exercise you wanted me to do?” she asked. “Has it . . .” She frowned, as Cole backed away. “Where are you going?”

Three daemons appeared out of nowhere. Cole stood by and watched them attack Olivia. Using considerable skill, the red-haired witch sent one reptilian-looking creature flying several feet away with a kick to the chest. She dispatched another by flinging its body into an exposed tree branch, using telekinesis. The demon died instantly. Olivia found herself engaged in a martial arts bout with the third, until she finally killed it by breaking its neck. The first demon rose from the ground, looking slightly disoriented. Olivia cried to Cole, “Hey! I could use a little help!”

Cole coolly replied, “You seemed to be doing just fine on your own.” Three more beings materialized. Unlike the previous trio, they were in human form – two men and a woman. “Why don’t you use your pyrokinesis, this time?”

“Huh?” The reptilian demon took a swing at Olivia. She ducked. Unfortunately, the former responded with a low kick to her legs, sending her reeling on the ground, rear end first.

“Your power, Olivia! Use it!”

Still prone on the ground, Olivia stretched forth her hand toward the demon. Who immediately became engulfed in flames. Cole smiled. The other three attacked. One by one, they met the same fate. Olivia struggled to her feet. She strolled toward Cole.

“Very good!” the half-daemon declared. “You’re really learning how to control and use your new power. Who knows how long before you . . .” He was interrupted by a small fist striking his jaw. Cole fell to the ground, bleeding from the corner of his mouth. “What the hell?”

Green eyes blazed with anger, as Olivia towered above her companion. “You did this on purpose, didn’t you? You summoned those daemons to attack me!”

The bruise at the side of Cole’s mouth disappeared. Along with the blood. He stood up with great difficulty. “Yeah, I summoned them. I wanted to see how effective your power was in a surprise attack.”

“You insane bastard! I could have been killed! What the hell were you thinking?”

Cole rolled his eyes in annoyance. “They weren’t real. Sure, they were able to knock you around, but they weren’t able to kill you. I made sure of that. See?” A new daemon appeared beside Olivia. She gasped, as the creature shoved a knife into her side. Instead of reeling from the wound, Olivia incinerated the demon with her pyrokinesis. Another smile touched Cole’s lips. “I see that you’re really getting into the habit of using that new power of yours.”

“You sadistic son-of-a- . . .”

Raising his hand, Cole interrupted. “Look, I’m sorry. All right? But I couldn’t tell you what I had planned. Like I said, I wanted to see how you would use your power in a surprise attack.”

Olivia merely responded with a dark glare. “Kiss my ass, Cole!”

He heaved a sigh and shook his head. “I see that you haven’t forgiven me, yet. Have you?”

“You’re damn right, I haven’t!” Olivia retorted. “You went too . . .”

“I’m talking about what happened at that New Year’s Eve party,” Cole quietly added. “That’s why you’re so unforgiving right now.”

Olivia immediately glanced away. Her face turned bright pink. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she muttered. “And quite frankly, I’m not in the mood to . . .”

“Well, I am!” Cole grabbed Olivia’s shoulders, forcing her to face him. “Look, I’m . . . I’m sorry for what I did. Pushing you away like that was a big mistake, and again, I’m sorry. Can’t you understand that?”

A quiet moment passed, before Olivia heaved a sigh. “Can’t you understand how humiliating that night was for me?” she replied in a soft, intense voice. Her green eyes now bore into Cole’s. “I felt as if I was being rejected. And I’ve had enough of that to last a lifetime, thank you very much.”

“Olivia . . .”

But the witch would not – could not stop. “It was humiliating, Cole. I realize that you’re not in love with me.” She glanced away. “And I know that I’m . . . well, not in . . .”

“I know,” Cole quickly interjected, before she could finish. For some reason, he could not bear hearing Olivia telling him that she did not love him. “I know how we both feel. It’s just . . .” He sighed. Shifted nervously from one foot to the other. “Look, about that kiss . . . I enjoyed it. I mean, really enjoyed it.” Olivia’s face grew even pinker. “And that was the problem, you see. I mean, you’re one of my closest friends. In fact, you’re the first true friend I’ve had in a long time. And here I was, kissing you and enjoying it. You see, I’m not ready to get seriously involved with anyone, right now.”

Olivia nodded. “You mean, so soon after your divorce. I understand.”

“Yeah. Well, I guess I just panicked. Especially since I had enjoyed the kiss so much.”

Again, the pair fell silent. Cole’s eyes roamed about in an effort to avoid Olivia’s gaze. Then he heard her ask in a light voice, “So, you think I’m a good kisser?” He finally met her eyes. To his relief, they danced with mischief.

A smile tugged Cole’s lips. “Well, maybe I had exaggerated. You’re not that bad.”

“Bastard!” Olivia slapped his arm, playfully. The two friends laughed. Once their laughter died down, Olivia added, “By the way, will you be dropping by for Sunday brunch? I’ve . . . missed you.”

Cole’s eyes drank in the redhead’s presence. Olivia practically glowed from an inner light. God, she looked beautiful! “Yeah, I missed you, too,” Cole mumbled. “And I’ll be there.” Olivia responded with a bright smile. Cole felt as if he had finally arrived home after a long trip.

END OF PART SIX

Advertisements