“The Power of One” [PG-13] – 1/20

 

“THE POWER OF ONE”

RATING: PG-13 Adult language and mild violence.
SUMMARY: A Vodoun sorceress develops an interest in Wyatt’s powers and becomes his new nanny. Set three weeks after “An Afternoon in Babysitting”. AU S6.
FEEDBACK: – Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, Wyatt Halliwell and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. The McNeills, Cecile Dubois and Andre Morrell, are thankfully, my creations.


————-

“THE POWER OF ONE”

PART I

Piper Halliwell examined last month’s profit sheet one last time and shook her head in despair. “Oh my God! I can’t believe this! I just can’t . . .”

“What’s wrong?” Paige asked. The Charmed Ones sat inside the manor’s Solarium, as they watched television. Actually, Paige and Phoebe watched TV, while Piper focused her attention upon her nightclub’s profit sheets.

Heaving a sigh, Piper continued, “Last month’s profits for P3. They’re . . . Oh my God! Has it really gotten this bad?”

Phoebe glanced away from the TV screen and frowned. “Profits are down?” She continued to gently rock Wyatt, who was fast asleep in her arms.

“That’s the understatement of the year,” Piper muttered. “They’ve been down before. But not like this. By at least twenty-five to thirty percent. I guess I’ve just been too busy with Wyatt.”

The middle Charmed One continued to rock her nephew. “So, what are you going to do about it?”

Her eyes still glued to P3’s account book, Piper answered, “Well, I’m going to fire Everett for starters. He had really let things slide. What in the hell had he been doing . . .?” She broke off with a sigh. “Looks like I’ll have to fix this. At least until I can get a new manager.”

“And Paige and I will take care of Wyatt, while you deal with P3,” Phoebe added, before planting a light kiss on the baby’s forehead.

One of Piper’s brows formed a dubious arch. “During the daytime, as well? While you two are working? And what about when you two are out on dates?”

“Get Leo to baby sit,” Paige declared. “I’m sure that he won’t mind.”

The mention of her soon-to-be former husband brought a grimace on Piper’s lips. “Well that sounds great. I’m sure that Leo had abandoned his family, so that he could baby sit Wyatt, in between Council meetings.”

Paige shrugged her shoulders. “I’m sure that Leo won’t be stuck in Council meetings forever. On the other hand, you can always consider hiring a new nanny or an au pair for Wyatt. Didn’t you once consider hiring one before he was born?”

Piper stared thoughtfully at her youngest sister. “You know, that’s not a bad idea. Except . . . how do we find someone willing or capable of dealing with a magically powerful baby? Or deal with demons or warlocks like those two who had tried to snatch Wyatt a few weeks ago? I’d consider rehiring that Elf Nanny, but you saw how she had reacted, after the last attack.” Two warlocks had recently appeared at the manor, disguised as employees from the city’s Publics Works Department, and tried to kidnap Wyatt. Without any help from the Charmed Ones, Piper’s infant son managed to stop the warlocks all on his own.

“Try placing an ad at some local occult shop,” Paige suggested. “I’m sure that Barbara might know which shops you can do that. Or maybe Chris or Leo can ask around in the Whitelighter Realm. Or, you can place an ad in one of the local Wiccan newsletters or newspapers.”

Impressed and a little surprised by her sister’s suggestions, Piper stared at Paige. “Wow! You sure got it all figured out, don’t you?”

“Just remembering some ideas I had the last time you thought about hiring a nanny.” Paige’s gaze returned to the TV screen. “Oh. By the way guys, don’t forget that we’ve been invited to dinner at the McNeills, one week from tonight.”

Phoebe frowned. “Why?”

“Cecile and Andre are coming to San Francisco,” the youngest Charmed One continued. “They’ll be here for at least a week or two.”

Now, it was Piper’s turn to frown. “Who?”

“Hel-lo? Cecile Dubois? Olivia’s friend? And her boyfriend, Andre Morrell? Who’s also Cole’s friend? Remember them?”

“Oh. Yeah.” Now Piper remembered. Olivia and Cole’s Vodoun friends. To be honest, she had forgotten about the dinner invitation. Concern over P3’s profits have occupied Piper’s mind during the past several days. And now, she has a new nanny for Wyatt to think about. Speaking of a new nanny . . . “Uh Paige, could you do me a favor and ask Barbara, Olivia or Harry about where I can place an ad for a nanny?”

Paige reassured the older woman that she would do as the latter asked. Satisfied, Piper returned her attention to P3’s account book.

———

Located near the northwest corner of Fredrick and Cole, the Red Pyramid happened to be a popular coffeehouse that also served as an occult shop for past 30 years. Not only did students of the occult frequent the place, but it also counted many of the city’s magic practitioners as regular customers. One of the Red Pyramid’s regular customers happened to be a bokor – or a sorceress named Daley Baker.

A native of nearby Oakland, Daley’s family had emigrated from Alabama to California, back in the mid-1930s to seek financial security during the Depression. At the age of thirteen, Daley had discovered that she possessed a psychic ability – namely, thermo kinesis. And even more importantly, a talent for sorcerery. Her grandmother suggested that she study under an old Vodoun priestess from Baton Rouge, which she did for several years. Although Daley’s skills in magic eventually developed, the spiritual aspect of Vodoun only eluded her. Quite frankly, she never had the desire to use her skills to help others. Only herself.

On one particular afternoon in late October, Daley dropped by the Red Pyramid to purchase some figure candles for her altar and gris-gris bags. She had tried the Botanica Yoruba on Valencia, but that particular shop did not have what she needed. While searching for her items, she overheard two voices from the other side of the one of the store’s shelves.

“. . . is dead,” a female’s voice said. “Can you believe it? Killed by a child.”

Her ears perked with curiosity, Daley held her breath. The woman’s companion replied, “Well, what did you expect? The boy is a child of one of the Charmed Ones.”

The Charmed what? Confused, Daley shook her head. What the hell was a Charmed One?

The woman exclaimed in a soft hiss, “A child of one of the Charmed Ones? You mean the Halliwells? The witches who had vanquished the Source and God know how many other daemons and warlocks? You mean to say . . .?”

“Yes!” the man retorted in exasperation. “I’m saying that the baby is a child of the oldest Charmed One, and her whitelighter. Well, former whitelighter. No one knows what happened to him. As for the child, I hear that he’s extremely powerful. Probably the most powerful magical entity around.”

Daley’s brows rose several millimeters toward her hairline. Hmm, how very interesting.

The man continued, “Which is why Sidney and Dominick didn’t have a chance, when they tried to snatch him.”

“Because of this child?” the woman demanded.

“They wanted the baby’s powers. Who wouldn’t?”

The woman replied, “Not me.” Daley found her answer hard to believe.

Apparently, so did the woman’s companion. “Oh please! Are you serious? You mean to say that you would pass up the chance to acquire all of that power?”

“Yes,” the woman replied. “I’m saying . . . yes, I would. Look Michael, I’m very satisfied with what I am right now. I don’t need the extra powers. Nor do I want it or have to deal with everyone else trying to steal them from me. Personally, I think that Dominick and Sidney were fools to go after that child. They would still be alive if they hadn’t.”

The man conceded, “You’ve got a point. Still . . . could you imagine yourself with all of that power? Frankly, I rather like the idea.”

So would I, Daley silently added. Maybe she should contact Marc Beaudine from Oakland . . . and hire him to search for more information on these Charmed Ones. And the baby.

————

The two men and the woman materialized in the middle of Cole’s penthouse. “Here we are,” the half-daemon declared. “Home sweet home.” He had just teleported Cecile Dubois and Andre Morell from the former’s New Orleans house. “At least, while you’re here in town.”

Cecile glanced around. “Both of us are staying here?”

“No. You’ll be staying at Olivia’s apartment, as usual. In fact,” Cole glanced at his wristwatch, “she should be home in another twenty minutes or so.”

The Vodoun priestess said in a voice that struck Cole as slightly cool, “Could you send me there, anyway? I’m sure that Livy won’t mind.”

Andre stared at his girlfriend. “What’s the big hurry? Frankly, I could use a drink, after all that traveling.”

“Traveling that took us a few seconds,” Cecile retorted. “Besides, I want to get unpacked. Get everything ready for tomorrow’s presentation.” Her dark eyes penetrated Cole’s. “Do you mind?”

With a shrug, the half-daemon waved his hand and sent the priestess and her luggage to Olivia’s apartment. Once Cecile had disappeared, he frowned at Andre. “Is there something wrong with Cecile? She seemed a little . . . I don’t know . . . withdrawn.”

“I think she’s worried about the presentation,” Andre replied, as he sat down in a nearby chair. “Ever since she had approached Olivia’s dad about selling her new computer software program to his company, she’s been . . . well, a little on edge. Anxious.”

Cole went over to the liquor cabinet to prepare a drink for himself and Andre. “Anxious? Hmmm, she seemed more . . . distant to me. Cold. Not anxious.”

“Well, she’s been pretty moody lately. Ever since she began this little project.” Cole handed Andre a glass of whiskey and soda. “Thanks.”

The half-daemon poured himself a glass of bourbon. “I know why Cecile is here – considering I’ll be acting as her legal representative. But what about you? What are you doing here?”

“Didn’t Olivia tell you?” Andre asked. “It’s about her new shop. The one that used to be owned by that guy who ended up killed. She wants me to do a little appraising for her.”

Taking a sip of bourbon, Cole replied, “But Olivia already had that shop appraised. Before it officially became hers.”

A knowing smile appeared on Andre’s lips. “I’m talking about certain . . . items in the shop. Of the supernatural variety. It seemed this Stefan Kostopulos or Whatever, was quite the collector. You mean to say that Olivia didn’t tell you all of this?”

Cole sighed. “She probably did. But I’ve been so busy lately with Cecile . . . becoming her new attorney and helping her set up this deal with Jack McNeill that I must have forgotten.” As he took another sip of bourbon, he noticed Andre staring at something. “What is it?” he asked.

“What’s that?” Andre pointed at a small, folded newspaper on the coffee table.

Cole replied, “Some newspaper or newsletter for local Wiccans. Olivia must have left it.”

Andre placed his drink on the coffee table and snatched up the newspaper. “Hmmm. A friend of mine operates a newsletter at home for Vodoun practioners. But this seems more like a newspaper. The LUNAR VOICE.” He opened the paper and read. “Not bad, he said before turning to another page. “It even has want ads and job positions. I’ve got to tell Bobby about all . . .” Andre broke off, as his eyes narrowed into slits. “What the hell? Say, what’s the name of your ex-wife? Piper or something, right?”

Cole stared at his friend. “It’s Phoebe. Why do you . . .?”

“And isn’t her last name – Halliwell?”

“Yeah.” Cole paused for a brief moment. “Why?”

Andre tossed the newspaper to the half-demon. “Check out page eight. Someone named P. Halliwell, at 415-306-1468, had placed an ad for a nanny.

It was not hard for Cole to find the advertisement. He reeled in shock, as he read the following:

“WANTED – Nanny for nine month-old baby Salary $8.00/hour
Contact P. Halliwell 415-306-146”

“What the hell is the matter with her?” Cole exclaimed. “Is she crazy?”

Andre frowned. “Which sister are you talking about?”

“Piper! Phoebe’s older sister. You know, the one who can freeze time.” Cole stared at the advertisement. “What the hell is she doing, getting a nanny for Wyatt? That kid is too powerful to be placed in the hands of some stranger. Hell, I’ll bet that Leo would agree with me.”

A sly smile appeared on Andre’s face. “Maybe. Of course, she could always get you to baby sit Wyatt, again.” Cole stared at him. “Olivia told me and Cecile about your little babysitting job, last month.”

Cole groaned. “Oh God! Thanks for reminding me! Between Wyatt’s crying, eating my shirt and stealing other people’s stuff, I had one hell of a time dealing with that kid! And Piper expects some stranger to handle him?” He shook his head in disbelief. “What the hell is that woman thinking?”

END OF PART I

“An Afternoon in Babysitting” [R] – 3/3

“AN AFTERNOON IN BABYSITTING”

PART 3

The middle-aged man and his two daughters climbed the stoop leading toward the manor’s front door. Piper glanced at her father, who wore a mournful expression on his face. “Are you okay, Dad?” she asked.

Victor heaved a sigh. “Oh . . . uh, yeah. Yeah, I’m okay.” He shot a reassuring smile at his daughter. “You don’t have to worry about me crying again. I’m okay.”

“I guess Aunt Lillian must have been very close to you,” Phoebe said, as she slid her key into the lock and opened the door.

Nodding, Victor replied, “You could say that. She was almost like a second mother to me.”

Once inside the manor, the two sisters and their father found Leo pacing back and forth, across the living room floor. Piper immediately stiffened at the sight of her former husband. “Leo? What are you doing here?”

The Elder immediately rounded on Piper. “Where’s Wyatt?” he demanded. “I tried to sense his whereabouts, but I couldn’t find him. And why isn’t Paige here?”

“Huh?” Piper gave Leo a confused stare.

Phoebe spoke up. “Wait a minute, Leo. Piper and I were at a family funeral with Dad. In San Jose. So, Paige had agreed to stay behind and baby-sit Wyatt. Are you saying that both of them are missing?”

His face red with emotion, Leo cried, “Yes Phoebe! That’s exactly what I’m saying! After I had finished a Council meeting, I realized that I couldn’t sense Wyatt. So, I rushed home and . . .”

“Home?” Piper snorted with derision. “That’s funny. I don’t recall this house being your home, any longer!”

Victor patted his daughter’s shoulder. “Piper . . .”

Through gritted teeth, Leo corrected himself. “What I meant to say was when I got ‘here’, there was no in the house. Including my son!”

“I wonder what happened to Paige and Harry,” Phoebe said, frowning. “You couldn’t sense them?”

“Paige is no longer my charge. And Harry has never acknowledged me as his whitelighter.”

Victor murmured, “Smart kid.” His comment earned him a glare from the Elder.

At that moment, the front door opened. Paige and Harry rushed inside the house. Piper noticed her youngest sister, holding the side of her jaw. “Hey, I see you guys are back,” Harry greeted. “How was the funeral?”

Victor replied, “Oh, it went . . .”

“Where’s Wyatt?” Leo demanded, interrupting his former father-in-law. “Where’s my son?”

Piper added, “Leo’s got a point. Where is Wyatt?”

“Ed wid Lide und Co,” Paige mumbled. Everyone stared at her. “Uh . . . Sowee.”

Phoebe demanded, “What happened to you?”

Harry spoke for Paige. “She had a little dental emergency. Something about a molar.”

“Oh my God! I knew you had an appointment on Tuesday. Was the dentist able to do anything?” Phoebe rushed over to comfort her younger sister.

Harry added, “We couldn’t get in touch with Paige’s dentist, so I took her to mine.”

“And what about Wyatt?” Piper asked, before Leo could. The blond-haired Elder looked as if he was about to blow a gasket.

“Oh. I couldn’t get hold of Mom or Gran. So, I left Wyatt with Olivia and Cole.” Harry paused and frowned. “Ooops. I guess I forgot to pick him up.”

Leo’s face turned a deeper red, as he shouted, “YOU LEFT MY SON WITH THAT DEMON?”

———-

Olivia stirred briefly from her slumber, wondering why she was hearing bells. A groan left her mouth and returned to sleep. Unfortunately, it did not last, for more bells rang in her ears. Another minute passed, before she realized that the penthouse’s doorbell had been ringing.

“Huh? Oh.” She glanced down and saw Wyatt sleeping peacefully in her lap. Cole sat next to her on the sofa, with his arm around her. And also fast asleep. The doorbell rang for the third time. Olivia groaned and gently lifted Wyatt from her lap. She placed the infant in Cole’s lap and slowly stood up. Wyatt squirmed for a few seconds, clutched at Cole’s shirt with his tiny fist and fell back to sleep.

Again, the doorbell rang. Olivia reluctantly dragged her body toward the front door, muttering, “I’m coming, I’m coming.” She opened the door and found Harry standing out in the hallway, along with Piper and Leo. “Where’s my son?” the latter demanded, as he tried to enter the penthouse.

Olivia shoved the Elder back into the hallway. “What are you doing?” she cried. “Haven’t you ever heard of waiting for an invitation?”

A sigh left Piper’s mouth. “Sorry about that. Leo’s just . . . worried. About Wyatt . . .”

“He’s on Cole’s lap. Sleeping.” Olivia stepped back, and allowed the visitors to enter – including Leo. She led them toward the sofa, where Cole and Wyatt presented an odd picture of domesticity.

Piper murmured, “Talk about a disturbing scene.”

“Actually, I think they look cute together,” Harry commented. Both Piper and Leo stared at him. “What?”

Olivia shook Cole’s shoulder. “Hey! Wake up! Piper and Leo are here for Wyatt.”

The half-daemon groaned, as his eyes fluttered open. “Huh? Wha . . .?”

“Wake up! Piper’s here to pick up Wyatt.”

“Oh.” Cole gathered Wyatt into his arms. The infant squirmed a bit, before he finally woke up. Then he yawned. Cole blinked at the visitors. “Uh . . . Piper, Leo. Hi.”

Piper gave the half-daemon a polite smile. “Cole. I see you and Wyatt have managed to . . .” A perplexed frown appeared on her face. “. . . bond?”

“Have they ever!” Olivia added in an enthusiastic voice. “They’ve become quite close.”

All eyes fell upon Wyatt, who seemed preoccupied with chewing Cole’s shirt. “Yeah . . . uh, being with Wyatt has been . . .” Cole gently pried the baby from his shirt and immediately handed him over to Piper. “. . . uh, interesting. Let alone, hell on my shirts.”

“I hope he didn’t give you any other trouble,” Harry said. His green eyes twinkled with amusement.

Both Olivia and Cole exchanged cryptic glances. “Oh, no trouble at all,” the former replied.

“But what?” Leo asked, looking suspicious.

Olivia shook her head. “Nothing much. “Um . . . we took Wyatt out for a walk at the Marina Green. He . . . uh, sto . . . teleported some things from a few people.”

“What?” Leo looked horrified.

Piper gave her son an admonishing stare. “Wyatt . . .” Harry’s amusement remained unabated.

Olivia continued, “Don’t worry. Cole managed to return the items. Without anyone being the wiser. And when we had returned to the building . . . um, a few daemons tried to kidnap Wyatt in the parking lot. By using me as a hostage.”

Piper shook her head in disbelief. “Oh my God!”

“But not to worry,” Cole added. “They weren’t a real threat. Just a bunch of morons with a bad kidnapping plan. Both Olivia and I took care of them.”

Her anxiety abated, Piper said, “That’s a relief.” She gave the two babysitters a grateful smile. “Well, thanks a lot, you two. I guess we better get going.”

Cole said, “If you need a lift to the manor, I’d be more than happy to provide it for you.”

“I’d . . .” Piper hesitated. She glanced at Leo with mild distaste. “On second thought, maybe I’ll take that offer. Uh, where are Wyatt’s belongings?” A second later, the carry-on bag appeared on Piper’s shoulder. And the pram, along with the baby’s car seat, materialized in front of the visitors’ feet. “Oh. Okay.”

Harry added, “Don’t forget to send me back. My car is there.”

Cole walked over to where Piper held Wyatt and chucked the latter’s chin. “Good-bye Partner. It’s been . . . interesting. Don’t be a stranger.” The baby gurgled.

Olivia planted a kiss on the baby’s soft cheek. “Bye Wyatt. Maybe we’ll do this again, some day.” Cole muttered something under his breath and Leo wore a doubtful expression. But Olivia ignored them and said good-bye to both Piper and Harry, before Cole teleported the three adults, the infant and everything else back to the Halliwell manor.

Disbelief illuminated the half-daemon’s blue eyes, as he stared at Olivia. “Uh, what exactly did you mean by ‘do this again’?”

“You know,” Olivia said with a shrug. “Baby-sit Wyatt.”

“You mean . . . ‘you’ might baby-sit him, again. I don’t recall volunteering for another afternoon with that kid. Not if I want to keep my shirts and sanity in check.”

Olivia regarded Cole with surprise. “I thought that you had grown to like Wyatt.”

Sighing, Cole returned to the sofa and sat down. “Okay, the brat’s not so bad. I just don’t want to go through another afternoon like that again. And that includes being pissed on.”

Chuckling, Olivia replied, “Oh come on. It wasn’t that bad.” She headed for the liquor cabinet and reached for the club soda and a glass. “Despite the crying, Wyatt pissing on your shirt, the stealing and those demonic morons who . . .” She paused, as she poured the club soda into the glass. “Okay, this afternoon was a bit . . . busy. But it wasn’t all bad. Right?” Olivia faced the sofa and found Cole fast asleep.

After returning the bottle of club soda to the cabinet, she strolled over to the sofa, and sat down. Shaking her head in mild disbelief and amusement, she began to stroke Cole’s forehead. “What do you know? The mighty Belthazor brought to his knees by the shenanigans of an eight month-old baby.” She plant a kiss on his forehead, laid back against the sofa and began to sip her drink.

THE END

“An Afternoon in Babysitting” [R] – 2/3

“AN AFTERNOON IN BABYSITTING”

PART 2

Within an hour, all seemed well inside the penthouse. Wyatt was fast asleep in one of the guest bedrooms. Olivia and Cole were on the living room sofa, locked in another passionate embrace. Actually, Olivia sat on Cole’s lap with her arms wrapped around his neck. And her lips pressed against his.

“Do you think we should be doing this?” she murmured, after Cole’s lips traveled to the curve of her neck.

Cole planted a soft kiss, emitting a small moan from her. “Why not?” he whispered. “Wyatt is fast asleep in another room.” His tongue flickered into the hollow of Olivia’s throat. “And we finally have an opportunity to enjoy some quality time, together.” His mouth returned to hers, and the couple engaged in another passionate kiss. Then . . . cries of an infant reverberated into the living room. The half-daemon heaved a long suffering sigh. “Shit!”

Olivia reluctantly climbed out of his lap. “I better see what’s wrong.”

“Probably nothing,” Cole growled. “I think that damn kid simply wants some attention.”

“Wait a minute. I thought you and Wyatt were bonding.”

Cole rolled his eyes. “I had to do something to keep that kid quiet. Besides, this is the second time, I had to deal with ‘coitus interuptus’, thanks to his crying!”

More wails traveled into the bedroom. Olivia sighed. “I’ll be back.” She marched into the guest bedroom, where she found Wyatt squirming underneath his baby blue blanket. Olivia picked up the squalling infant. And sniffed. “Cole!” she cried. “Could you come in here, please?”

Seconds later, the half-daemon rushed into the bedroom. “What’s wrong?” he demanded. Then he sniffed the air. “What the hell?”

Olivia replied, “It’s Wyatt. We need to change his diapers.”

Cole took a step back. “We?”

“Yes, Mr. Turner. We!” Olivia grabbed the reluctant half-daemon’s hand and jerked him forward. “I’m not the only one who’s going to be changing diapers, today.”

Terror filled Cole’s eyes. “But I don’t know how!”

Smirking, Olivia replied, “Don’t worry. By the end of the day, you will be an expert. Now, hand me that bag, and then remove his diaper.” She dumped the soiled infant into Cole’s arms. He regarded her with horror. “What?”

Cole handed over the handbag filled with Wyatt’s belongings. “You want . . . me . . . to remove his diaper?”

A sigh left the redhead’s mouth. As much as she loved Cole, he could be so anal at times. She handed him a smaller blanket. “Yes. Put this on the bed, lay Wyatt down and remove his diaper. You don’t need written instructions!”

Muttering to himself, an annoyed half-daemon spread the blanket on the bed, using magic. Then he lowered the still squalling Wyatt on the blanket. He stared at the diaper. “Okay,” he began, “how do I unfasten this?”

While she rummaged through the bag containing Wyatt’s belongings, Olivia replied, “Unfasten the tapes at each side of his diaper. Near the waist.”

Cole heaved a deep sigh and bent over the infant. Olivia realized that he must have found the adhesive tapes that held the diaper together, for Wyatt finally stopped crying. And a ripe odor filled the room, as Cole removed the diaper. “God, he smells . . .” the half-daemon began. Then it came at him without any warning. One minute, Cole was holding a soiled diaper, while talking to Olivia. The next moment, an arc of urine streamed out of Wyatt . . . and struck Cole right in the center of his chest.

“Wow!” Olivia exclaimed. “Talk about bullseye!” Then she broke into laughter, earning a glare from the half-daemon. Cole returned his attention to the now gurgling infant, and regarded him with a murderous stare. Olivia’s laughter continued, unabated.

Nearly twenty minutes later, Cole strolled out of the bedroom, with Olivia close at his heels. She held Wyatt in her arms. “Oh God,” he moaned. “That was probably the most traumatic experience I have ever endured. Not even getting killed by Phoebe and her sisters come that close.”

Olivia gave him a cheerful pat on the back. “Oh come on! It wasn’t all that bad. You did a good job.”

“That . . .” Cole glared at a placid-looking Wyatt. “That crea . . . kid pissed on my shirt.” He pointed at the wet circle on his T-shirt. “On my favorite T-shirt.”

Mock sympathy appeared on Olivia’s face. “Hmmm, Wyatt does have good aim, doesn’t he?”

“I’m glad that you found it funny,” Cole growled. “Meanwhile, I have to deal with piss on one of my favorite shirts!”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “For heaven sakes, Cole! Just change shirts, will you? And stop making such a fuss.” Cole shot her one last glare and headed for the bathroom. He heard her give one last parting shot. “And I would take a shower, if I were you!”

———-

Less than fifteen minutes passed before Cole emerged from the bathroom. He wore a clean, white long-sleeved shirt. Olivia now sat on the sofa, rocking Wyatt in her arms. She looked very maternal. “Is he asleep?” the half-daemon asked. Upon closer look, he noticed that Wyatt seemed focused upon the television set. “I guess not.”

“I can’t get him to sleep.” Olivia shot Cole a long-suffering glance. “And I think he’s turning into a TV addict. If he hasn’t become one, already.”

Cole sat down on the sofa, next to her. In a sardonic tone, he suggested, “Why don’t you take him for a walk? Maybe that will stop him from becoming a couch potato before his time.”

Despite his sarcastic tone, Olivia seemed to find the idea acceptable. “That is a good idea. We can take Wyatt out for a nice, afternoon stroll. Maybe at Fisherman’s Pier. Or the Marina Green.”

Cole stared at her, as if she had lost her mind. “Are you crazy? I was just joking!”

Olivia stood up, breaking Wyatt’s attention away from the television. The baby began to cry. “Well, it’s a good joke. And it’s also a good idea. Why don’t we?” With Wyatt still crying in her arms, Olivia strode toward the guest bedroom.

Cole closed his eyes and sighed. “Me and my big mouth,” he muttered.

————

Forty minutes later found Olivia and Cole strolling along a paved path that woven between the park and the marina. The reddish-gold spirals of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge loomed in the far left. Cole pushed a baby blue pram that contained the increasingly hyper Wyatt Halliwell.

Olivia took a deep breath and glanced up at the sky. “Isn’t it a beautiful day? A blue sky, white clouds, the boats, and the bay looks cleaner than . . .”

“We shouldn’t be here.” Cole glanced nervously around, as if expecting a daemon to pop up from the nearest bush. “Allowing Wyatt out in the open like this is a mistake. What if we’re attacked by . . .?”

“By another daemon?” Olivia snorted. “Well, I can only assume that we’re both capable of dealing with an attack. Come to think of it, even Wyatt can take care of himself. Don’t you think you’re being a little paranoid?”

Cole rolled his eyes. “Of course I’m paranoid. How do you think I’ve managed to survive for over a century?”

Looking slightly annoyed, Olivia retorted, “Well, can’t you ease up a bit? You’re ruining my day.”

“May I remind you that this park serves as a gateway to one of the demonic market places?” Cole shot back. They passed a man standing next to an ice cream cart. He seemed to be placing a wallet in his back pocket.

Olivia shook her head in disbelief. “That was at the Golden Gate Park, Cole! Remember? And as I recalled, Piper and Phoebe had destroyed that marketplace, last spring. So, why don’t you please get it together and put your paranoia on ho . . .” She glanced down into Wyatt’s pram and found the infant playing with a wallet. “What on earth?”

“My wallet!” The cry came from the man standing near the ice cream cart. “Someone took my wallet!”

And Olivia knew who was responsible. She gave the baby an admonishing stare. “Wyatt!” Then she turned to Cole, who looked slightly confused. “Wyatt took a wallet from that man near the ice cream cart. Could you send it back?”

“Huh?” Realization slowly dawned on the half-daemon’s face, as Olivia pointed out the distraught man. “Oh. Yeah.” Cole waved one hand over the wallet and it disappeared. And Wyatt . . . began to cry. “Hey! Kid!” He picked up the infant. “I’m sorry, but you can’t go around swiping other people’s wallets.”

The man near the ice cream cart cried out, “My wallet! It’s okay. It’s here on the ground.”

Wyatt continued to cry. Cole tried to hand him over to Olivia, but she removed a bottle of milk from the shoulder bag, instead. She tried to stick the bottle’s nipple into the baby’s mouth. “Here you go, sweetheart. Are you hungry?” Apparently not, for Wyatt’s wails continued.

Cole lifted the baby, until they were face-to-face. He shook Wyatt for a few seconds. “Hey. Hey! Wyatt?” he said in a stern voice. “Stop this. Listen to me. Listen. You can’t go around taking other people’s stuff. It’s called theft and you can get into a whole lot of trouble.” Olivia rolled her eyes in disbelief. Was he kidding? Cole continued, “Trust me on this. I know from personal experience. You hear me?”

To Olivia’s surprise, the speech worked. Wyatt’s cries finally subsided. Cole coddled him for a few seconds and returned him to the pram. The baby picked up the bottle of milk and happily shook it.

“I don’t believe it,” Olivia exclaimed in disbelief. “He actually listened to you. I’m beginning to think you’re not so bad with kids, after all.”

Cole growled, “Don’t fool yourself. This experience is only going to make me insist that I use contraceptives, as much as possible. And that we should have stayed indoors.”

A long-suffering sigh left Olivia’s mouth. “I see the paranoia has returned. Your mother was right. You are too paranoid for your own good.”

“Like I said, being paranoid has kept me alive.”

Olivia shot back, “It’s too bad that it didn’t save you from being possessed by the Source. Or being killed by Paige and her sisters, over a year ago.”

“What?”

“Look Cole, being vigilant and careful is fine. But no amount of paranoia is going to keep you completely safe.” Olivia began pushing the pram. “We all take chances with our lives, when we wake up, every morning. Surely after 118 years, you’ve managed to figure that out.” She glanced down into the pram and heaved an exasperated sigh. Wyatt sat happily inside, playing with a pair of sunglasses that did not belong to him, Olivia or Cole. “For crying out loud! Wyatt!”

Cole demanded, “What did he do now?” Olivia pointed at the baby and the sunglasses. A smirk appeared on the half-daemon’s lips. “I see. Now I wonder if this would have happened, if we had remained at the penthouse?”

Annoying bastard! It took all of Olivia’s willpower not to bitch-slap her boyfriend. It was a miracle that more than one woman had ever fallen in love with him. Glaring at Cole, she retorted, “I used to do it all the time with my telekinesis, when I was kid. I had even released a bunch of puppies at a pet store, once. And I don’t recall being kept inside the house all of the time. Now, will you please return those glasses?”

“Whatever,” Cole muttered. He waved his hand over the sunglasses and they disappeared from the pram.

The couple continued to argue over the merits of staying indoors, while they continued their stroll through the park. By the time they had returned to the safety of Olivia’s BMW, Wyatt had teleported another seventeen more objects.

———–

“In Purson’s name!” a tall, blond-haired man hissed in a low voice. “I can’t believe my eyes!”

One of his companios, a portly man with thinning dark hair asked, “You found the portal, Ciyaher?”

The blond man, a daemon from the Khorne Order, replied, “I found something a lot more interesting.”

“Not the portal to the new marketplace?” The portly man, whose name was Grogor, hovered near Ciyaher’s shoulder.

Ciyaher sighed. For the umpteenth time, he wondered why he had allowed such a single-minded creature like Grogor to serve under him. “He’s not talking about the new market’s gateway, moron,” the third member of the trio retorted. A gangly redhead, sporting a goatee and mustache, dragged Grogor away from their leader. “He’s talking about Belthazor.” Ciyaher gave the red-haired daemon a grateful nod. Unlike Grogor, Umbar possessed brains.

“Belthazor? Where?” Grogor glanced frantically around him.

“Over there, idiot!” Ciyaher pointed at the couple climbing into a dark-green BMW. “There’s Belthazor . . . with his witch. And a baby.”

Confusion whirled in Grogor’s dark eyes. “Belthazor is a father?”

To Ciyaher’s satisfaction, Umbar swiped the side of the slow-thinking demon’s head. “No! Of course not! Belthazor doesn’t have a child! We would have known, if he had. That must be the Halliwell baby. Belthazor and the witch are familiar with the Charmed Ones. They must be taking care of the child.”

“But I thought that Belthazor’s witch was one of the Charmed Ones,” the idiot insisted.

Ciyaher closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Why did Grogor always seemed to be one step behind the times? And why did he continue to allow the idiot to be a part of his circle? Then his eyes snapped open. “Belthazor’s relationship with the Charmed One is over, Grogor. He is now dating a McNeill witch. And I don’t recall any of the Charmed Ones being a redhead. Do you?” He glared at his minion.

A nervous looking Grogor shook his head. “No Ciyaher.”

“Then shut the hell up! Unless you are spoken to.” Ciyaher paused and thoughtfully regarded the green BMW pulling out of the parking space. “If only we could get our hands on that child. What a source of power he could be for us! Only . . . I don’t know how we can take him from Belthazor and the witch.”

Grogor commented, “The car must belong to her.” The other two daemons stared at him. “What?”

“Did I ask for your opinion?” Ciyaher growled.

Grogor’s face turned red. “No Ciyaher. Sorry.” He fell silent.

Ciyaher turned to speak to Umbar . . . until he regarded Grogor’s words. In Purson’s name! He was about to ask for this idiot’s opinion. He took a deep breath. “Why do you think the car belongs to the witch?”

“Because she’s driving, instead of Belthazor.”

Umbar regarded the younger demon as some kind of idiot savant. “And your point?”

Grogor shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? The man driving the car, and the woman holding the baby? And with Belthazor holding the baby, how do we get it from him? How are we supposed to get the baby from him?”

Shaking his head in disbelief, Umbar retorted, “How did that tiny brain of yours ever dredged up such nonsense?”

“It’s not nonsense,” Ciyaher commented. He stared at Grogor, surprised that the younger demon’s babbling had made some sense. “Frankly, it’s good observation on Grogor’s part.” Umbar gawked at the blond demon. “Even more importantly, they’re traveling by car and not teleportion.”

A confused Umbar shook his head. “What are you getting at Ciyaher?”

The senior daemon smiled cryptically. “I have an idea.”

————

Olivia drove the BMW into the building’s underground parking lot and eased it into her usual space. After she switched off the engine, Cole climbed out of the passenger seat. “Uh, mind opening the trunk?” Seconds later, the trunk popped open. Cole removed the pram, placed it on the ground and unfolded it. While Olivia climbed out of the car, he reached inside for Wyatt and placed the latter inside the pram. “Ready?” he asked.

“Just a . . .” Footsteps clattered across the concrete floor. The couple exchanged wary looks. “Oh. Someone’s here,” Olivia said. “We better use the elevator, instead. You go on ahead, while I get Wyatt’s bag from the back seat.”

Cole nodded, as he began pushing Wyatt’s pram toward the elevator. He had not gone very far, when he heard what sounded like a gasp, followed by a scuffle. Alarmed, he turned around and spotted Olivia surrounded by three men. One of them – sporting red hair and a goatee – held the witch in a tight grip. “Olivia!”

“That’s far enough, Belthazor!” a familiar and deep voice ordered. Cole recognized that voice. It belonged to a mid-level daemon he had not seen in twelve years. Ciyaher. The latter continued, “Or else my associate will kill the witch.”

Keeping his fear and anger under control, Cole took another step forward. He stared menacingly at the three demons. “Nice try, Ciyaher. But you won’t be able to hold on to her, very long.” He waved his hand at Olivia. And nothing happened. Much to his consternation. “What the hell?”

Ciyaher smirked. “Thought that would take you by surprise. Didn’t you look carefully, Belthazor? Your witch is wearing a little present I thought you might appreciate.”

Cole’s eyes narrowed, as he spied a necklace hanging from Olivia’s neck. An amulet. Or a talisman. “What’s that?” he demanded.

The three daemons chuckled. “You don’t recognize the talisman around the witch’s neck?” Ciyaher mocked. “I’m surprised at you, Belthazor. You’re losing it.”

An exasperated sigh escaped from Cole’s mouth. “Well, why don’t you enlighten me?”

“It’s a talisman. Valac’s Talisman. Surely you’ve heard of it?”

Indeed, Cole had. The talisman had been created by a dominion spirit for some wizard, over four hundred years ago. It prevented any magic practioner from teleporting a person or object that the talisman hung from. “Very clever,” Cole murmured. “How did you manage to get your hands on it?”

Smiling, Ciyaher replied, “Oh, the talisman has been in my order’s possession for nearly thirty years. It used to belong to Artemus, the head of my order – until the Source had him imprisoned in the Stygian Abyss. Now . . .” The daemon’s smile disappeared. “. . . I want you to hand over the Halliwell baby. To my companion over there.” Ciyaher nodded at a dark-haired, stocky being, who stood near Olivia’s captor.

Cole hesitated. Ciyaher had him trapped and he knew it. As much as he wanted to save Olivia, he could not sacrifice Wyatt. The eight month-old baby got on his nerves, but Cole could not hand the child over to a second-rate monster like Ciyaher. If only he could teleport Olivia . . . Wait a minute. The talisman only blocked a teleportation power.

“So I can’t teleport a person or object while that thing is around,” Cole said. “Am I right? Is that all it does? Block teleportation?” He shot a meaningful stare at Olivia, who arched a brow.

Ciyaher frowned. “What do you mean? Of course that’s all it does! It’s all I need it for. You can’t rescue your little girlfri . . .” He rolled his eyes in disgust. “Don’t tell me that you’re still going to try to rescue her? Give it up, Belthazor! Hand over the child, and you’ll get her back.”

“I know I can’t rescue her,” Cole retorted.

“Good.” Ciyaher’s amusement returned. “Now, don’t tell me that you’re attached to that baby. He’s the son of your enemies – one of the Charmed Ones and that whitelighter. The son of one of the witches who had killed you, over a year ago. You want to protect him?”

Cole sighed. “No. I guess not.”

Nodding, Ciyaher added, “Why don’t we end this ridiculous standoff and you hand over the child to Grogor.”

Feigning reluctance, Cole reached inside the pram . . . and waved his hand over Wyatt’s form, causing the infant to disappear. He straightened up, empty-handed. “Why should I hand Wyatt over to you? What if Olivia . . . is able to rescue herself?”

Ciyaher rolled his eyes. “What are you getting at? She’s not a Charmed One, Belthazor. So, stop playing around and hand over the child! Or the witch dies! Umbar! Why don’t you give our old ‘friend’ a demonstration? Don’t kill her. Just . . . show a little blood.”

Before the red-haired daemon could press the knife against Olivia’s neck, it flew out of his hand . . . and toward his stocky companion. The hilt buried deep into the latter’s forehead. As the daemon called Grogor dropped dead to the ground, Olivia sent Umbar flying against a concrete pillar. He quickly flung a fireball at the witch. Using her telekinesis, she deflected it back toward him and he incinerated into a ball of fire. Olivia removed the talisman

The blond-haired daemon reacted with horror at the deaths of his minions. “Oh my . . . Wait a minute! This wasn’t supposed to happen!”

“No kidding,” Olivia muttered sarcastically.

Cole sneered at the other daemon. “It probably wouldn’t have happened, Ciyaher, if you had also used a talisman to block telekinesis.”

A roar from Ciyaher filled the air, and he whist the pram from Cole’s grip. At the same time, he flung an energy ball at Olivia. Cole waved his hand, and the witch and the other demon immediately switched placed before the energy ball engulfed Ciyaher.

Once his screams died to a whisper, Olivia turned to Cole. “Not a very bright bunch, were they?”

The half-daemon glared at his girlfriend. “And you consider taking Wyatt away from the safety of the penthouse, bright?” He waved his hand for the second time and Wyatt returned inside the pram, happily gurgling, as usual.

Olivia rolled her eyes. “I see we’re back to that topic, again.” She grabbed hold of the pram’s handle. Cole immediately teleported all three back to his penthouse.

“There’s a lesson to be learned from all of this,” Cole replied. “Like safety.”

“Well here’s a lesson for you.” Olivia removed Wyatt from the pram. “It’s unhealthy to give in to our own paranoia. Wyatt will always be in danger from daemons, warlocks and maybe even humans. Just like the rest of us.” She began to bounce the baby up and down. “It’s one thing to be vigilant. It’s another to become a prisoner of our own paranoia. Besides, Wyatt had a pleasant time at the park. Right Wyatt?” She planted a light kiss on the baby’s cheek.

A wide grin appeared on the infant’s face, and he continued to gurgle. Cole folded the pram and shot Wyatt a mock glare. “So much for saving your ass, kid. Thanks a lot.” Wyatt responded with more gurgles.

END OF PART 2

“An Afternoon in Babysitting” [R] – 1/3

“AN AFTERNOON IN BABYSITTING”

RATING: R Mild sexuality, mild violence and language
SUMMARY: Due to a Halliwell family emergency, Cole and Olivia are forced to baby-sit Wyatt on a Saturday afternoon.
FEEDBACK: – Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Wyatt Halliwell, Leo Wyatt, Victor Bennett and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. Olivia and Harry McNeill are thankfully, my creations.
NOTE: The story picks up about two weeks after “In the Wake of Valhalla”
.

———

“AN AFTERNOON IN BABYSITTING”

PART 1

“Phoebe and I are going to be in San Jose for most of the day,” Piper said to her youngest sister, as she and the other two Charmed Ones descended the stairs. “Do you have everything you need?”

Paige nodded. “You mean for Wyatt? Sure. Plenty of diapers, lotion, baby powder, baby food, his milk . . . Don’t worry, Piper.”

The three sisters reached the bottom of the staircase, where Victor Bennett awaited them. He, along with Piper and Phoebe were dressed in mourning clothes for a Bennett aunt that had recently passed away. They planned to attend the funeral being held in nearby San Jose. And since Piper felt leery about bringing along her eight-month old son, Paige had volunteered to stay behind and baby-sit. Especially since she had no family connections to the Bennetts.

“What about protection for Wyatt?” Phoebe added. “Maybe we should bring him along.”

Paige heaved a sigh. “Don’t worry! Wyatt has his own built-in protection system. Or something. Besides, I’ll just add a protection spell around the house, if it would make you feel better.”

Anxiety flared in Piper’s dark eyes. “No, it won’t! Paige, you know that protection spells aren’t very reliable. I don’t want some spell to backfire on Wyatt.”

“Harry doesn’t think they’re unreliable. Neither do Olivia and the others,” Paige said. “Besides, he thinks we might not know how to perform a protection spell, correctly.”

“And he does?” Phoebe retorted. She was not a fan of any of the McNeills, save for Bruce.

Victor gave his youngest daughter a reassuring squeeze. “Don’t worry, honey. Paige may be right about Harry. Don’t forget, he’s been practicing witchcraft longer than any of you.”

Piper, however, did not seem assured. “I don’t know . . .”

Heaving another exasperated sigh, Paige exclaimed, “Piper, c’mon! Don’t worry. Harry knows what he’s doing. He’s coming by, today. To help me cast this protection spell. In fact,” she glanced at the grandfather clock, “he should be here, any minute.”

“If you say so,” Piper said reluctantly. “By the way, do you have Uncle Russell’s number?”

The doorbell rang. Paige rushed toward the front door. “That must be Harry.” When she opened the door, she found the red-haired male witch, standing on the stoop. “Hey! I wondered when you were going to show up.”

Harry planted a light kiss on Paige’s mouth. “Sorry. I had overslept this morning.” He entered the house. “So, where’s Wyatt?”

“Sleeping in his crib, upstairs,” Piper answered. She cast Harry a dubious look. “Now that you’re here . . . I guess we can leave.”

A touch of sarcasm tinged Harry’s voice. “And it’s nice to see you too, Piper.” He nodded at the middle Charmed One. “Phoebe. Mr. Bennett.” He shook Victor’s hand. “It’s been a while.”

Victor smiled at the younger man. “Not that long. Just five months. How are Jack and Gwen? And your grandmother?”

“They’re doing fine. Will you be coming by for brunch, tomorrow?”

“Uh . . .” Victor cast a anxious glance at his two daughters.

Paige impatiently answered for him. “We’ll all be there. Okay guys, it’s time to go. You don’t want to get caught up in traffic.”

A reluctant Piper added, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. The funeral starts in less than three hours. And it’ll take us at least an hour to get to San Jose. If the traffic’s okay.”

Paige almost told her sisters and stepfather to have fun . . . until she remembered that they were headed for a funeral. “Uh, have a safe trip. Bye.” After the three Bennetts left the manor, she closed the door and sighed. “Finally. Alone. I never thought they would leave.”

Harry slowly made his way toward her, a seductive smile stamped on his face. “I didn’t realize that you wanted to be alone with me that badly.” He slid his arms around Paige’s waist.

She responded with a teasing smile. “Don’t flatter yourself. You’re not that . . .” A shot of pain stabbed the back of her mouth. “Ow!”

Harry frowned. “Something wrong?”

“No. It’s nothing. I . . . It’s just a molar.” Paige winced from more pain. “Needs to be pulled out.”

“Maybe you should go to a dentist. For an emergency.”

Shaking her head, Paige replied, “Nah. It’s okay. I have a dental appointment on Tuesday, anyway. I guess I can hold out for another three days.”

Harry removed his arms from her waist. “Well . . . okay. If you say so. Meanwhile, let’s get started on that protection spell. Shall we?”

———

The redheaded witch and the half-daemon washed the last of the breakfast dishes, wiped them dry and placed them inside the kitchen cabinets. “Now that was a first-class breakfast,” Olivia declared with a heartfelt sigh. “You make a better Eggs Florentine than either Mom or Bruce.” She added surreptiously, “Don’t tell them I said that.”

Cole chuckled. “Don’t worry. I won’t say a word. And I’m glad that you enjoyed it.”

“Hmmmm. You know, you should give up the law and become a chef. You’ve already been trained as one.” Olivia shook her head. “How many daemons can claim that they had studied at Le Cordon Bleu Academie in Paris?”

Dumping his rag on the nearby counter, Cole murmured, “You’d be surprised.” Then he sighed. “So, what do you have planned for today?”

Olivia stared at him. “What’s that?”

“Nothing.”

“Do you have any ideas?” Olivia asked. She followed Cole into the penthouse’s living room. “For today?”

A desperate idea flashed in Cole’s mind. “Well . . . the invitation to spend the weekend at Mark Giovanni’s Santa Rosa ranch is still opened. Marbus and his wife were also invited.”

Visions of a weekend with the Giovanni family filled Olivia with horror. “I don’t think so.” Olivia shot Cole an anxious look. “You did turn down his offer. Right?”

“Well I did consider saying yes,” Cole replied sarcastically. “Until I contemplated two days in Pamela Giovanni’s company. Of course, we could still head out . . .”

“No thanks. The idea of bearing witness to the ongoing Giovanni soap opera fills me with dread.” A possibility occurred to her. “How about a drive down the coast? Go as far as Monterey? Or Santa Cruz?”

Strong arms encircled Olivia’s waist, taking her by surprise. She could feel Cole’s hard body pressing against hers. “Or why don’t we simply stay here?” he murmured in one of her ears, causing her to shiver. “Spend the day together. In bed.” He nipped at the delicate spot where Olivia’s neck and shoulder met. A slight moan escaped her mouth. “What do you say?”

“Uh . . . are you suggesting . . . that we indulge in some kind of sexual marathon for . . .?” Olivia paused and pondered on what she had just said. “Wait a minute. Am I actually resisting this idea?”

Cole nipped her exposed flesh for the second time. “You tell me.”

Olivia turned around to face her lover. “Hmmm, now that I think about it,” she smiled seductively, “your idea sounds a lot better.”

“Glad you think so,” Cole murmured, before he lowered his mouth upon hers.

———–

“Okay, do you have the Angelica root?” Harry asked.

Paige nodded. She held up the herb in question. The two witches stood inside Wyatt’s nursery. Upon Harry’s instruction, they had earlier placed sprigs of Mallow on every windowsill inside the manor. “It’s too bad that mallow didn’t work.”

“Yeah, well I guess it just didn’t work for you. Angelica root seems to be more your style.”

A smile curved Paige’s lips. “Ah yes. The herb that is under the guard of angels. That old whitelighter heritage coming back to haunt me. So, what do I do next?”

“Place the Angelica Root in a small blue or white cloth bag and hang it outside the house,” Harry instructed. “Near the door, if possible.”

The Charmed One headed for the Solarium. “Let’s see. There were some pieces of cloth inside that desk near the . . .” A familiar shot of pain filled the back of her mouth. Without thinking, Paige grounded her teeth, increasing the pain. “Aaaugh! My tooth!” She dropped the Angelica root from her hand.

Harry rushed forward to comfort her. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”

“My tooof!” Paige mumbled. “It huuths!”

“Must be your molar, again.” Harry’s green eyes regarded her with concern. “Maybe we need to get you to a dentist.”

Paige’s eyes flew open. “Noo! My dooctah ez guw! Wihaat! Whud abooh . . .”

“Huh?”

Heaving a sigh, Paige tried again. “My dooctah! Heh’z guw! Und Wihaat!”

“Did you say that your doctor hez . . . I mean . . . Your doctor isn’t in the office, today.” Harry said. “Is that it?” Paige nodded. He continued, “Okay, I’ll take you to mine. As for Wyatt, we’ll drop him off at my parents’ . . .” Harry hesitated. “Oh wait! Shit! I forgot. They went to Tom Boucher’s wedding in Palo Alto. Gran’s also there. As for Bruce and Barbara . . .”

Paige screamed in pain.

Harry took a deep breath. “Right. Look, I’ll go upstairs and get Wyatt and his things.” He started toward the staircase. “Don’t worry, we’ll find someone to take care him.” Then he raced upstairs, leaving Paige to continue moaning in pain.

———–

A serene air almost permeated the atmosphere, inside Cole’s living room. Almost. Serenity could have been achieved, if it were not for the passionate moans emitting from the couple locked in a horizontal embrace, on the living room’s sofa.

With Olivia’s body writhing underneath his, it took all of Cole’s self-control not to rip off her remaining clothes, part her legs and sink right into her. Instead, he slowly stroke every inch of exposed flesh. Including the pale tan flesh that strained above Olivia’s lacy white bra.

“Cole . . . please . . .” Olivia moaned between ragged breaths. “. . . now. I need . . . oh!” Cole had finally removed her bra. He gently squeezed one fleshy globe, before covering its coral pink tip with his lips, allowing it to become engorged. Another moan left her mouth. And when he gently bit into the nipple, she immediately arched her body.

At that moment, the doorbell rang. Olivia gasped with surprise and breathlessly asked, “Was that the doorbell?”

Cole reluctantly removed his mouth from her breast and murmured, “I didn’t hear anything.”

Again, the doorbell rang. Olivia sat up, causing Cole to moan with frustration. “That was the doorbell,” she said. “Maybe you should answer it.”

“Shit!” Cole muttered the oath, as he sat up and donned his T-shirt. Scowling, he marched toward the front door and peered through the peephole. Harry. It was Harry standing in the corridor outside, and holding . . . something. Cole sighed and opened the door. “Harry. What do you . . .?” A quick glance at the bundle in the male witch’s arms told Cole that he was staring at Wyatt Halliwell. “What the hell?”

Harry dumped the baby in Cole’s arms. “Here. I need you and Olivia to take care of Wyatt for a few hours. She’s here, right?”

“Wha . . .?” Cole stared at the infant, who immediately began to wail. “What the hell?”

Olivia appeared in the doorway, wearing a bra . . . and her STANFORD U T-shirt. “What’s going on?” she demanded.

Harry quickly explained that he and Paige were babysitting Wyatt, when the Charmed One developed a dental problem. “I’m taking her to my dentist, since hers isn’t available. Mom, Dad and Gran are at that wedding. And Bruce and Barbara went to Santa Barbara for the weekend. So . . .”

To Cole’s relief, Olivia took hold of the squealing Wyatt and began to rock him. “So, why didn’t you summon Leo?”

“I don’t know. I guess I just forgot about him!” Harry retorted, as he handed a large shoulder bag to Cole. “How often do I summon Leo? Besides,” he grunted, as he placed a folded pram inside the penthouse, “I figure it would be hard to find him, considering the whole Elder gig. There.”

Frowning, Olivia asked, “How did you know where to find me?”

“I tried your apartment, downstairs. I figured that if you weren’t here, I’d take Wyatt to the dentist with us.”

Cole retorted, “Why didn’t you take him with you, anyway?”

“And have to deal with both Paige and him? Oh.” Harry reached inside his jacket pocket for a slip of paper and handed it to Cole. “This has my cell phone number. And Piper’s, in case you can’t reach me. So, uh . . . I’ll be back, later.” He turned away.

“Wait!” Cole cried out. “You expect us to baby-sit . . . this . . . this . . . uh, kid?”

Harry flashed him a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. Olivia has done some babysitting before. Right Livy?” His older sister glared at him. “Anyway, I better get Paige to that dentist as soon as possible. Bye!” He rushed toward the elevator and entered, before Cole and Olivia could do or say anything further.

———–

Back inside the penthouse, Wyatt’s cries filled the living room. Cole glared at him. “Why is he crying?”

Olivia sighed, as she continued to rock the baby. “I don’t know, Cole. Maybe he’s having abandonment issues. I’m not a tele . . .” An empty bottle materialized in Wyatt’s small hands. “Oh. I guess he’s hungry.”

Cole stared at the bag filled with Wyatt’s belongings, in his hands. “You don’t really expect me to make baby formula . . . or milk . . . or whatever, do you?”

“No, I don’t. I’ll do it.” Olivia placed Piper’s son in Cole’s arms. “You can hold him, instead.” The infant continued to cry. “Rock him up and down,” she ordered. “Gently. And I’ll take this.” She removed the bag from Cole and headed toward the kitchen.

As Olivia had instructed, Cole began to rock Wyatt in his arms. At first, it seemed that his efforts might be in vain. The baby continued to cry, while squirming in Cole’s arms. Another five minutes passed before the tears subsided. Wyatt’s cries became gurgles, as he stared at the half-daemon with wide, curious eyes.

“Hey there, partner,” Cole murmured. He eased into a nearby chair. “You’re finally getting used to me. Huh? You know, the way you’re staring at me reminds me of your dad. Well, when we used to get along. God, how long ago was that?” Cole continued to rock the infant. “Did you know that I almost had a son, myself? Yep. He would have been at least a few months older than you. Of course, I was possessed at the time, when he was conceived. Sometimes, I . . . I wonder sometimes if . . .” The half-daemon sighed. “Never mind. I guess it’s best that we put the past behind us.”

Wyatt gurgled once more and grabbed a fistful of Cole’s T-shirt. Then he began chewing on said shirt. Cole smiled. “Getting hungry there, are we? Let’s see if Olivia has that bottle of milk ready.” He carried the infant into the kitchen, where Olivia hovered over the stove. “Is the milk ready? Wyatt is beginning to mistake my shirt for food.”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “It’s almost ready. She removed the bottle from a small saucepan. After a brief wait, she dabbed the bottle’s content on her wrist. “Just to make sure that the milk isn’t too hot.”

Cole glanced down at Wyatt, who continued to chew on his T-shirt. “Is it ready now? I don’t think I’ll have a shirt left, within the next half hour.”

With a sigh, Olivia walked over toward the pair. “Here you go, Wyatt,” she said in a singsong voice. “Here’s your widdle milk. Poor thing. You must be very hungry. Huh? Does Wyatt want his milk? Here we go! Choo-choo!” Cole stared at her in disbelief, as she plopped the bottle’s nipple into Wyatt’s hungry mouth. Then she looked up at Cole, before a horrified expression appeared on her face. “Oh God! I sound just like Phoebe whenever she uses that ridiculous baby voice! What’s the matter with me?”

Cole’s eyes watched Olivia rush out of the kitchen in a fit of horror. Then he returned his gaze to Wyatt, who had also been staring at the redhead. The half-daemon and the half-whitelighter’s eyes regarded one another. Cole sighed. “Partner, women are a curious breed. Even after a century, I still don’t understand them.” He regarded the infant with a sympathetic smile. “And you’re going to find out, for yourself. One day.”

Wyatt’s blue eyes blinked, as he continued to guzzle from the bottle.

END OF PART 1

“In the Wake of Valhalla” [PG-13] – 1/1

“IN THE WAKE OF VALHALLA”

RATING: PG-13 Adult language.
SUMMARY: Olivia McNeill learns about the Charmed Ones experiences in Valhalla, and its effect upon Darryl Morris. AU response to “The Valhalley of the Dolls”.
FEEDBACK: – Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, Darryl Morris and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. The McNeills are thankfully, my creations.
NOTE: The story picks up about three weeks after “The Half-Blood Demon”

————-

“IN THE WAKE OF VALHALLA”

Flight 910 from Miami, Florida landed at the San Francisco International Airport without a hitch. Nearly twenty minutes later, the flight’s passengers – among them, Olivia McNeill – disembarked and made their way into the airport terminal.

The moment Olivia entered the terminal; she rushed straight into the arms of the tall, dark-haired man who waited for her. “Hey! Welcome back,” Cole murmured, before covering her mouth for a long kiss.

Once the couple’s lips parted, Olivia gazed warmly at her lover. “Wow! That’s a hell of a greeting, considering that we last saw each other only three nights ago. When you popped up in Miami.”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Cole replied before planting another kiss on Olivia’s mouth. “Even after three days.”

Olivia chuckled, as she and Cole linked arms and strolled out of the Delta Airlines lounge. After they picked up her luggage, Cole beamed them all back to her apartment. While she began to unpack, Olivia asked if anything had happened since they last saw one another.

“Not much,” Cole replied. “Your mother purchased a new restaurant. Which means that the Golden Horn is now completely in Bruce’s hands. I haven’t heard from Darryl in the past three days. Some radio station had hosted some kind of beach party in honor Phoebe’s work at the BAY-MIRROR. I was invited, but I wasn’t interested. Besides, I didn’t want to deal with your old ‘buddy’, Jason Dean, who was.” The half-daemon winced slightly.

“Jason’s not . . .” Olivia broke off, realizing that she was about to contradict herself. “Never mind.”

Cole continued, “Harry and Paige went on another date.”

“Did they go to Phoebe’s beach party?” Olivia asked, as she removed a pair of pants from her suitcase.

Chuckling, Cole replied, “Oh no. Both of them managed to avoid it. By the way, Leo’s back. And Piper’s no longer acting like a Stepford wife.” Just before her trip to Miami, Olivia’s former whitelighter had disappeared. Not even Natalia Stepanova, one of Leo’s colleagues and now a friend of Olivia’s, had no idea of his whereabouts.

Olivia glanced up. “Piper and Leo are back together?”

“Nope. He’s still an Elder in the Whitelighter Realm.” Cole frowned. “Leo thinks that Chris was responsible for his disappearance.”

“What?”

Looking slightly amused, Cole added, “That new whitelighter. According to Paige, Leo thinks that Chris had arranged for him to be trapped in Valhalla.” His amusement disappeared. “Of course, I don’t blame Leo for his suspicions. Ever since I met Chris, I’ve had this feeling that he doesn’t like Leo. And for personal reasons.”

Olivia stared at the half-daemon. “You too? I’ve always wondered what he has against Leo.” She paused, as she removed the last item from her suitcase. “You know, there’s also something familiar about him. About Chris, I mean. I just can’t put my finger on it.” Then she added, “Did you say . . . Valhalla?”

Cole shook his head. “I don’t know all the details, but Paige told me that Leo believes that Chris had arranged for him to be trapped in Valhalla. You know, I had the feeling that Paige was holding something back. Even Harry seems to think so. Oh, by the way . . .” Cole paused and gave Olivia a knowing look. “Phoebe has a third power.”

Olivia removed her suitcase from her bed. “Oh really? What is it?”

“Empathy. I’m sure I don’t have to describe what that means.”

With a sigh, Olivia said, “Oh God. I can just see her reading people’s feelings left and right. And broadcasting her knowledge. Looks like the Halliwells have a Deanna Troi in their midst. Must be a bitch for her to control it.”

“According to Paige, Phoebe has started using meditation to control it.” Cole added, “But she’s also considering a potion to prevent her from reading everyone else’s emotion. Harry plans to refuse the potion. He thinks she should stick to meditation. And not broadcast everyone’s emotions out loud.”

Olivia smirked. “Good for Harry.” She glanced at Cole. “What about you?”

The half-daemon sighed. “I’ve been avoiding her. Which hasn’t been that difficult, considering how we had parted nearly a month ago. And that’s all the news for the week. You have any more trips to Miami planned?”

“Probably two more. The next one won’t happen until January, I think. Or February. Or maybe later.”

“Good.” Cole stood up and drew Olivia into his arms. “I don’t think I like sharing you with the U.S. Justice Department. Even for a few days out of several months.”

Sliding her arms around Cole’s neck, Olivia murmured, “I heartily agree.” Then she sighed with pleasure before lowering her mouth upon Cole’s.

———-

The following morning, Olivia arrived at her place of work – one of San Francisco’s many police stations. A member of her squad, Scott Yi, was among the first to welcome her back. “Well, look who’s here!” he crowed. “Hail the conquering heroine!”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“Your testimony against Alexis Gurov, of course! Looks like the bastard will finally be spending some time behind bars.”

Snorting with derision, Olivia added, “Yeah, but for how long? He’s just a local businessman. Do you really think the Federal courts will give him a stiff sentence?”

Scott replied, “A local businessman . . . with ties to a Columbian drug cartel headed by Manny Serrano? Gurov may not have previous record, but the Feds – thanks to you – have him on some serious shit. You bet they’ll give him a stiff sentence.”

Olivia sniffed. “I’ll bet you ten bucks that his sentence won’t be that severe.” She paused. “By the way, I heard the news. About the Leung brothers’ arrests. Good work.”

The younger inspector dismissed Olivia’s praise with a shrug of his shoulders. “It was nothing. Well . . . the arrest wasn’t all that difficult.” He paused and glanced around the squad room. Then he summoned Olivia with his finger. She walked over to his desk. “Listen, something happened to Darryl after he had arrested George Leung. I don’t know what, but I think it had something to do with those three witches who are friends of his. The Halliwells?”

“Did anyone else find out?” a concerned Olivia asked.

Scott indicated the closed door on the left side of the room. It led to Captain McPherson’s office. “Darryl is with the captain, right now. Giving him a verbal report on the arrest.” Scott paused. “I don’t know how to describe this. Some strange women dressed like extras from “HERCULES” and “XENA” had appeared out of nowhere and attacked us. Darryl got hurt. So did one of the Leung brothers. I think the Halliwells managed to take care of them. But Darryl . . .” Scott broke off, as McPherson’s door opened.

Darryl walked into the squad room. As he strode toward his desk, he glanced up and noticed Olivia standing near Scott’s desk. “Hey, welcome back,” he greeted with less than his usual enthusiasm. “How was Miami?”

Olivia exchanged a brief glance with Scott, before she joined her partner at his desk. “Not bad. Pleasant weather, except for a little rain during the last two days. No major hurricanes, thank goodness.” She settled in the chair, next to Darryl’s desk. “Scott tells me that the squad managed to arrest the Leung brothers.”

Flashing a wan smile, Darryl replied, “Yeah. Just a bunch of cops doing their jobs.” He paused. “I supposed that Scott told you about me being attacked by those women.”

“Yeah, he did.” Olivia paused to peer closely at her partner. “How did you explain it to McPherson?

With a sigh, Darryl revealed that he told Captain McPherson a story about the squad encountering a female biker gang, dressed up in costumes, the night they had arrested the Leungs. “Hey, this is San Francisco. Anything can happen. Of course, the Captain was a little pissed that we didn’t arrest any of the women, but he seemed willing to let it slide. Especially since we have the Leung brothers behind bars.”

“Is that what you and the Captain were talking about? Those women?”

Darryl curtly replied, “No.” Olivia stared at him. Then, “I mean . . . we were discussing a new case. You’ll find a copy of the file on your desk.”

Olivia stood up. “Oh. Okay. At least everything ended well.”

Darryl focused his eyes upon the contents on his desk. “Yeah. Just peachy keen.”

Her partner’s acerbic tone led Olivia to ask, “Darryl? Is there something else wrong?”

He glanced up with dark eyes that looked blank. Emotionless. “I’m fine,” he replied innocently. “By the way, have you bought Stefan Kostopulos’ shop, yet?” Darryl referred to an antiquity shop in the downtown area that had been the scene of a murder, nearly two months ago.

“Not yet. I have to get it appraised. Why?”

A sigh left Darryl’s mouth. “Nothing. Just wondering. Don’t forget the file on your desk.”

Olivia replied, “Yeah, I’ll get on it, right away.” She sat down behind her desk and opened the file. The latter provided general information on the murder of a nightclub owner named Brad Everett. A quick glance at her partner told Olivia that he seemed perturbed about something. And sooner or later, she will find out. After all, she can be patient.

———-

Later that afternoon, Olivia parked her BMW into an available space not far from the Halliwell manor. Before her trip to Miami, she had lent one of her favorite blouses to Paige. And now she wanted it back.

After climbing out of her car, Olivia climbed the manor’s stoop and rang the doorbell. She did not have long to wait before Piper Halliwell opened the front door. “Olivia,” the other witch greeted with mild surprise. “I didn’t know that you were back in town.”

“Didn’t Paige say anything?” Olivia replied. “Harry knew. I guess I had assumed that he would tell her.”

Piper stepped back and allowed the redhead to enter the manor. “So, when did you get back?”

Olivia said, “Yesterday evening. Cole picked me up from the airport.”

“I’m surprised that he didn’t give you a lift all the way from Miami.”

With a shrug, Olivia explained that the Justice Department had provided plane tickets and hotel reservations to her precinct. “I would have had a hard time explaining how I had traveled from Miami to San Francisco, without using the tickets they had provided.” She glanced around the living room. “Uh, is Paige home?”

“Yeah. Just a minute.” Piper turned toward the staircase and bellowed, “Paige! Olivia is here!” The redhead winced from the volume.

Soon, footsteps on the staircase announced the appearance of the youngest Charmed One. She greeted the visitors with a friendly, “Hey! When did you get back?”

“Yesterday,” Olivia said with a mild frown. “Didn’t Harry tell you?”

“I guess he forgot.” A sly smile curved Paige’s lips. “So, how was the ‘Land of the Great Boob Job’? Meet any plastic surgeons?”

Olivia rolled her eyes in disgust. “More than I care to count. I may have encountered more plastic surgeons than can be found in Beverly Hills and Switzerland, combined. One of them tried to get both Cole and me to sign up as patients.”

“Cole?” The middle Charmed One appeared in the living room. “He was in Miami?”

Olivia struggled to maintain a friendly smile. “Hi Phoebe. Yeah, he had dropped by to see me at least twice. The last time was about three days ago.”

“Oh.” Phoebe’s face assumed a pleasant mask. “Well . . . it’s nice to have you back.”

“Thanks.” Olivia literally had to force the word out of her mouth. She turned to Paige. “By the way, do you have my blouse? You know, the one I had let you borrow before my trip?”

Paige sighed. “You want it back.”

Olivia smiled. “If you don’t mind.”

“Be back in a minute.” Paige raced upstairs.

Meanwhile, Olivia found herself alone with the other two Halliwells. Unfortunately. With a polite smile fixed on her face, she asked Piper, “How are you feeling?”

“Huh?” Piper blinked.

“Well, before I had left, you were acting a little strange. Like one of the Stepford Wives. You seemed . . . well, normal right now.”

Piper sighed. “Oh yeah. Uh, Leo had . . . cast this little spell on me. Something to ‘take away my pain’. Only . . .” She paused. “Only, it took away a lot more.”

“Like your personality?” Olivia suggested. Piper frowned. “Honey, you were almost part of the Borg Collective. Did Leo . . .?” Olivia hesitated. “Did you know that he was going to cast that spell?”

Piper groaned. “Oh. Yeah. Yeah, I knew he was going to cast it. In fact, I had given him permission to do it.” One of Olivia’s brows formed an arch. “Yeah, I know it was a stupid thing to do, but I was so desperate . . .” She gave Olivia a shrewd look. “You still haven’t forgiven him for that spell Paul Whatshisname had cast, haven’t you?”

Olivia stiffened. “No, I haven’t.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Phoebe added, “You’re going to hold a grudge against Leo forever?”

Olivia stared at Phoebe. “Let’s see. Should I continue to hold a grudge against Leo . . . who had recruited a fellow witch to violate my mind with a spell so that I could murder Cole in cold blood? Hmmm . . . why not? I don’t recall Leo expressing any remorse for his actions, as of the moment. Do you? He probably still believes that he had done the right thing.”

“But still, can’t you . . .?”

At that moment, Paige appeared downstairs with Olivia’s lime green blouse. “Here you go.” She handed the item to the redhead . . . very reluctantly. “Can I hold on to it, a little longer?”

“Nope,” Olivia replied with a smile. “If I did, I probably won’t ever see it again. Why don’t you buy one for yourself?”

Paige rolled her eyes. “Yeah right. And give up one-sixth of my weekly income?”

“Put it on layaway.” Olivia draped the blouse over her arm. “Anyway, I’ll see you all later.” As she started toward the front door, a thought came to her and she paused. “By the way, Cole told me about your little adventure in Valhalla, to rescue Leo. How did you manage to get there in the first place?”

Both Paige and Phoebe exchanged wary looks. “What do you mean?” the latter asked.

Olivia closely eyed the pair. “How did you get to Valhalla? What do you think I meant?”

“We had disguised ourselves as those warrior women, of course,” Paige answered.

“Valkryies?”

The youngest Charmed One nodded. “Yeah. That’s it.”

Recalling her knowledge of the Valhalla myth, Olivia added, “But in order to reach Valhalla as a Valkryie, you would have to arrive with the soul of a warrior. Or something like that. And since Leo was already there . . .” She paused. “Did you use Chris’ soul? I’m surprised that he would allow you to use his soul, considering . . .” She shook her head. “Never mind. I guess Chris had allowed you to use his soul.”

Paige’s dark eyes widened. “Uh . . . no. No, but he did help us with . . . with those Valkryies. When they ended up here.”

“Yeah. Darryl told me about his encounter with one or two of them.” Olivia paused. “But how . . . I mean, how were you able to enter Valhalla without a warrior’s soul?”

Paige hesitated. “Well . . .”

Piper spoke up. “What are you two being shy about? I thought you had used Darryl’s soul to get us into Valhalla.”

Olivia’s eyes narrowed. “Darryl’s soul? He never said anything about that. You mean that he had actually volunteered his soul to help you save Leo?”

“Why do you find that so hard to believe?” Phoebe demanded. “We had to use Darryl’s soul to enter Valhalla. End of story. Right Paige?”

The youngest Charmed One remained silent. A dark suspicion entered Olivia’s mind. Darryl’s distant behavior. Paige and Phoebe’s evasiveness. It all seemed to be adding up. “Wait a minute. Darryl did volunteer to help. Right?”

Piper shrugged. “I don’t know. I was half-zonked, thanks to Leo’s spell and Paige’s counter spell.”

Olivia turned to Paige and Phoebe. “Well?”

An exasperated huff escaped from Phoebe’s mouth. “This is ridiculous! Why are you giving us the . . .?”

“All right!” Paige cried out, interrupting her sister. “Phoebe and I did ask Darryl for his help, but he refused. Okay? So we . . .” She hesitated. “We took his soul anyway, using a potion. But Darryl didn’t seem to mind after it was all over. He even said so. Although I think that being attacked by one of those Valkryies in this plane bo . . .” Her voice died down under Olivia’s horrified expression. “What?”

“Oh my . . . Oh my God!” Olivia cried out in disbelief. “You took his soul? My God! No wonder Darryl was acting strange, today!”

Shaking her head, Phoebe demanded, “What do you mean? Paige said that Darryl was only bothered by the Valkryies’ attack. Why are you making such a big deal about Darryl’s soul? Okay, we took it without his consent. But everything came out okay in the end.”

Olivia regarded Phoebe with pure disgust and contempt. “Wha . . . what in the fuck are you doing? Why are you standing there, making excuses? Do you have any idea of what you two had done?”

Paige’s face grew paler. “C’mon Olivia! We had no choice! Don’t you think that you’re . . .”?

“Making a big deal out of it?” Phoebe finished. “I think so. Yes, we took Darryl’s soul without his consent. We didn’t like it, but it was necessary. How else could we get into Valhalla and rescue Leo?”

“Rescue Leo? For crying out . . .” The redhead glared at the two sisters. “I don’t know whether to regard you two as stupid, or just a pair of truly callous fucks! Are you listening to yourselves? You took Darryl’s soul without his permission! Don’t you understand? You had violated his body and spirit . . . and now you’re making excuses! You know what? In our circle, that’s called psychic rape!”

A mixture of discomfort and annoyance flitted across Phoebe’s face. “Okay. Now, you’re really exaggerating.”

“No Phoebe, I’m not! Why do you think I’m pissed off at Leo? Why do you think I had asked Piper if she had given him permission to cast that spell on her? You and Paige had used magic on an innocent man! A close friend, for crying out loud! Without his consent! Magic that had caused him harm! Hasn’t that penetrated that fuck-addled brain of yours, yet?”

A wide-eyed Phoebe stared at the red-haired witch. “I . . . but Darryl . . .”

“Oh yes! Darryl!” Olivia retorted derisively. “He quickly forgave you for that whole pile of shit you had dumped on him, didn’t he?” Shaking her head in disbelief, she added, “Does that mean it’s okay to easily dismiss what you had done? And by the way, Darryl is pissed off about what happened. He’s just keeping it to himself, because as usual, he doesn’t want to rock the boat!”

Phoebe shot back, “But it was for the greater . . .”

“Oh spare me that ‘greater good’ bullshit!” Olivia shot back. “That’s the same excuse that Leo had used for getting Paul to cast that spell on me. Nothing – and I mean nothing in the world can excuse what you had done to Darryl. So what if Leo was trapped in Valhalla! That did not give you the right to steal Darryl’s soul! Who in the fuck do you think you are to play God with someone’s life like that?”

The two younger Charmed Ones exchanged uneasy looks. “I . . . I guess we should talk to Darryl,” Paige murmured. “Again.”

“Oh gee, you think?” Olivia heaved a sigh and shook her head. “Goddess! I’m out of here. I’ll see you all later.” She shot the two Charmed Ones one last dark look. “Maybe.” Then she turned her heels and marched out of the manor in disgust.

———

The doorbell to the Morris residence rang. Darryl reluctantly tore his gaze away from the computer screen and stood up. “I’ll get it!” he cried to his wife, who was busy inside the kitchen, washing dishes. He made his way to the front door and opened it. Outside stood two of the Charmed Ones – Phoebe and Paige. He struggled to maintain a friendly countenance. “Ladies! What are you doing here?”

After a long pause, Paige replied, “Hey Darryl. Uh . . .” She glanced uneasily at Phoebe. “Uh, how are you?”

Darryl frowned. “Fine. What’s this visit about?”

Again, the two sisters exchanged glances. Phoebe sighed. “Listen, Olivia had told us that you weren’t in a good mood, today. And after we told her about what happened in Valhalla . . .”

“. . . she figured out why,” Paige finished. “Why you weren’t . . . in a . . . good mood.” She looked away.

Darryl stiffened. The last thing he wanted to discuss or even think about was Valhalla. Today had been bad enough, when Olivia had mentioned it. “What do you mean?” he coolly asked.

Phoebe cried out, “Oh God! You are pissed about what happened! Aren’t you? I can feel it!”

“Phoebe . . .”

“Why didn’t you say something, Darryl?” the middle Charmed One continued.

The question turned out to be the last straw for Darryl. “Hey, I have a question. Why did you do it, in the first place?” he snapped. “Why did you use that potion on me?”

“We needed to get Leo . . .”

Darryl interrupted, “Why didn’t you simply call for that new whitelighter of yours? Chris! I mean, if you needed a soul that badly! Why pick me?”

“You were . . .” Paige’s voice dropped to a murmur, “. . . convenient.”

Convenient. Darryl could not help but shake his head at the irony of it all. He had to admit that the word best described his relationship with the Halliwells. Sure, they had treated him as a friend. A close friend, at that. But they have also treated him as a “convenient” lap dog, whenever they found themselves in trouble with the law. But this last incident – ripping out his soul from his body without his permission . . .

“You know what Paige?” Darryl finally said. “If that’s all I am to you – convenient – why are we continuing this friendship?”

Phoebe sighed. “Darryl . . .”

“No Phoebe. Let me finish.” Darryl paused, shaking his head. “Maybe I should have been more honest about my feelings. About what you had done to me – ripping out my soul and leaving my body in that alley. But what you had done wasn’t the act of a friend. Considering all I had done for you during the past four years. It hurts. In fact, I could have ended up dead, thanks to you.”

Paige took a deep breath. “We understand, Darryl. We really do. And I’m sorry about what happened. Very sorry. Right Phoebe?”

The middle Charmed One lowered her eyes and mumbled. “Yeah. We didn’t . . .” A sigh left her mouth. “We didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Nodding his head, Darryl said, “Yeah, okay. I’ll accept this apology. For once. But the next time . . . I don’t know.” He started to turn away. “Well, goodnight.”

“No late night coffee?” Paige asked with a hint of desperate humor.

Darryl stared at her. “Not tonight. I have work, tomorrow. Maybe some other time.”

“Oh.” Paige glanced away.

Phoebe gave the police officer a strained smile. “Well . . . goodnight.”

“Bye.” Darryl closed the door, unable to prolong the strained visit any longer.

———–

Wednesday morning dawned when Darryl arrived at the precinct twenty minutes later than usual. Olivia greeted her partner with a frown. “Wow! This is unusual. Darryl Morris, late for work?” The police lieutenant smiled at his partner, before placing a white envelope on her desk. “What’s that?”

“A thank you present,” Darryl replied. He sat down behind his desk. “For giving me the opportunity to remove my head from my ass. Phoebe and Paige had paid me a visit, last night.”

“Oh.” Olivia nodded. “Glad to help. Even if you should have told them how you really felt, in the first place.”

With a sigh, Darryl leaned back against his chair. “Yeah, well I don’t even know why I had said nothing. I guess I was just relieved that I had survived the whole thing.” He paused. “And maybe I didn’t feel like rocking the boat. After all, I’ve been a friend of the family for a long time. Besides . . . I don’t think they’ll do something like this, again.”

Olivia merely rolled her eyes.

Darryl frowned at his partner. “What?”

“It’s amazing that after . . . what? Four years? Five? I just find it odd that after knowing them for so long, you still don’t understand them.” Olivia shook her head. “I’ve known the Halliwells a lot longer . . . especially their grandmother and Prue. They’re the type of people who believe in their own goodness. Or at least want to. And people like that have a habit of causing misery for what they believe is the greater good. They usually have a hard time believing that what they are doing is wrong. Or if they do realize it, they usually ignore it in their minds.”

“Look, I think you’ve got them all wrong. They’ve done a lot of good over the past several years. And just because they did this one thing . . .”

“Darryl? Have you forgotten what they had done to Cole?” Olivia gave her partner a hard stare. “They killed him when he was possessed by the Source. They had jumped to the conclusion that he had deliberately chosen evil. They didn’t even bother to wonder how he had become the Source in the first place. Look at what Leo had done to me. He still refuses to admit that what he had done was wrong. And if I hadn’t said something about what happened to you, they would have dismissed the whole matter without another thought. They believe that just because they fight on the side of ‘good’ and are‘protectors of the innocent’, they have the right to do whatever is necessary . . . for the greater good. Without bothering to consider the consequences. They’ve always had trouble accepting responsibility for their actions.” A dark scowl appeared on Olivia’s face. “Prue was like that. So were her mother and grandmother. They all still believe that Victor Bennett was solely responsible for the breakup of his marriage, despite the fact that Patty had never bothered to tell him that she was a witch before their marriage. Or that she was . . . emotionally playing around with her whitelighter, before it became physical. They’re incapable of taking responsibility for their actions.”

Darryl shot back, “And you think this means they’ll do something else in the future?”

“I don’t know. But there’s a good chance.”

Shaking his head, Darryl replied, “No. No, I think they had learned . . .”

A sigh left Olivia’s mouth. “Darryl? Why don’t you simply pin a sign on your ass that reads ‘KICK ME’ or ‘DOORMAT’, every time you see them? Personally, I have nothing against a little selfishness every now and then. But that . . . family has redefined the word. Haven’t you noticed that when someone causes harm or pain to someone else close to them, they can be so fucking unforgiving? Like they were to Victor and Cole? And yet . . . when they harm someone – whether that person is close or not – they expect immediate forgiveness. Trust me. Just yesterday, Phoebe was criticizing me for not forgiving Leo.”

“So what are you saying?” Darryl demanded. “I should keep my distance?”

Olivia shook her head. “No, Darryl. But I think you should show a little more self-respect, the next time. Don’t make it so easy for them to get away with their actions.”

“What do you mean . . . the next time?”

“Hel-lo? Have we forgotten what Andy had went through, just before his death?” Darryl stared at Olivia. She nodded. “Yeah, I knew. Hell, Andy had known about my family ever since Bruce’s last year in high school.”

Darryl shook his head in disbelief. “Jesus!”

Olivia continued, “Remember the trouble that Internal Affairs had put him through over four years ago, because of his association with Prue? Have you forgotten how you almost became persona non-gratis with the department, while covering their asses after his death? And after all that, they steal your soul.” Her mouth formed a humorless smirk. “Trust me, sooner or later, they’re going to fuck you over . . . again. The question is – are you going to lie down and accept it? Or not?”

Darryl contemplated Olivia’s last question. And came to the disturbing realization that he did not have an answer.

THE END

“The Half-Blood Demon” [PG-13] – 7/7

“THE HALF-BLOOD DEMON”

EPILOGUE

The doorbell rang. Olivia stared at the door, wondering who could be her new visitor. Certainly not Paige, who could have simply orbed back inside the apartment. Could it be . . .? Olivia held her breath in anticipation, as she walked toward the door.

She peered through the peephole and felt a slight twinge of disappointment. It was Cole’s mother – Nimue. Olivia fixed a faux smile on her face and opened the door. “Nimue. Hello. Is there something else I can do for you?”

The demoness entered the apartment. “Oh no, not really,” she answered. “I just wanted to thank you. For helping me deal with Belthazor.”

“It was nothing. I thought he was making a mistake and wanted him to reconsider his actions.” Olivia sighed. “I suppose Phoebe will have to live with the fact that the man she loves will never be completely mortal.”

Nimue snorted with derision. “That is a dilemma that Miss Halliwell will not have to face very long.”

“Meaning?” Olivia frowned.

“My dear, isn’t it obvious? Belthazor’s relationship with his former wife will not last. Especially after his decision to remain a daemon.” A wry smile touched Nimue’s lips. “And he’s still in love with you. I certainly could tell. I assure you – he will return to your arms in no time.” Her smile widened.

Annoyed by the other woman’s assumption, Olivia retorted, “What makes you think I care about reconciling with Cole?”

“If you didn’t, why did you bother to try to stop him from removing his powers in the first place?” The demoness’ blue eyes widened.

Olivia hesitated. “I . . .” She realized that lying to Nimue seemed futile. “Never mind.” She gave the demoness an appraising stare. “Why are you so anxious for Cole and I to be together?”

“I don’t care who Belthazor ends up with . . . as long as she can make him happy.” Nimue paused. “I feel that you can make him happy. Accept him for himself. You seem like an open-minded young woman. Or perhaps I have a fondness for . . .”

The doorbell rang. Olivia stared at Nimue. “Fondness for what?” Before the demoness could answer, the doorbell rang for the second time. Still frowning, Olivia made her way toward the door. She glanced through the peephole. It was Cole. The red-haired witch opened the door and stared at the half-daemon. “Cole! What . . . what are you doing here?”

Cole glanced at his feet, as if reluctant to meet Olivia’s eyes. “I . . . uh, I wanted to thank you. For stopping me from making a big mistake. I also . . .” He glanced up and stared past Olivia’s shoulder. A frown appeared on his face. “Mother?”

“Belthazor.” Nimue coolly strode forward.

Suspicion now glimmered in Cole’s eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“For the same reason as you. To thank Miss McNeill for helping you.”

“Really?”

Nimue heaved an exasperated sigh. “Really Belthazor! You need to keep that paranoia of yours, under control. I’ve told you so many times in the past. There is nothing . . . sinister . . . about my visit. Understand?”

Cole’s face turned red. “Sorry,” he muttered.

The demoness faced Olivia and smiled. “Again, thank you for your help, Miss McNeill. And good day. Who knows? We might see each other again.” She faced Cole. “Good-bye Belthazor. For now. I might be dropping by for another visit sometime in the near future.” She shimmered out of the apartment, with that same smile stamped on her face.

Silence filled the apartment. Olivia stepped aside, allowing Cole to enter. They seemed reluctant to look at each other. Then Cole finally said, “Well, I better get going. I only dropped by to thank you . . . for your help.” He paused. “Uh . . . thanks.”

“Back to Phoebe, huh?” The words left Olivia’s mouth before she could stop herself.

Cole’s eyes narrowed, as he gave her a hard stare. “No,” he coolly replied. “No, I won’t be going back to Phoebe. It’s over between us.”

The news not only stunned Olivia, it filled her heart with joy. And hope. Until she began to speculate on who was responsible for the break-up. Cole seemed to have read her mind, for he added, “Before you ask, I was the one who ended it.”

“I didn’t ask,” Olivia snapped.

Cole shot back, “You were about to.”

Heaving a sigh, Olivia began, “Cole . . .”

“Olivia, the real reason I’m here is . . .” The half-daemon sighed. “I wanted to ask if we could start over again. I want you back.”

Struggling to keep her emotions in check, Olivia demanded, “Why? Because you’re no longer with Phoebe?” She felt a little bitter that it took the half-daemon three weeks to want her back.

“Did you think I had enjoyed being with Phoebe again?” Cole cried out in a fit of anger. “Because I didn’t! It was a pain in my ass dealing with her possessiveness and her family’s self-righteous bullshit!”

Now angry herself, Olivia retorted, “Then why did you stay with her FOR THREE WEEKS?”

“Because I was desperate to be with someone! Especially after you first dumped me, and then ran out on me with you tail tucked between your legs after Margolin’s spell had ended!”

“I’m not the one who had rebounded with my ex!”

“And I’m supposed to be condemned for that . . . forever?” Cole demanded. “My God, Olivia! It was a mistake! I was in a world of pain, when you dumped me! And since Phoebe and I had recently made our peace over the whole Source thing, I went back to her. Well . . .” Cole lowered his voice, “. . . actually, she was the one who had suggested we give it a last chance. And considering what happened between us, I thought . . . why not? Especially since I thought we were through.”

Olivia added, “And then?”

Cole sighed. “I found out about Margolin’s spell. And when you showed up at the penthouse that day . . . Shit! I was in such a state of shock that I couldn’t say a word. Then Phoebe let the cat out of the bag about our relationship.” He paused. “And you left.”

His last words brought back memories of that awful moment to Olivia. And her subsequent reaction. “Okay. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that,” she murmured. “But seeing you with Phoebe . . .”

“Yeah, I understand.” Cole shook his head. “Those three weeks with Phoebe were . . . I had no idea that it would be so difficult. She tried to pick up where we had left off. Before the Source had possessed me. But I guess I wasn’t in the mood. And dealing with Piper and Leo was no picnic. But the last straw was when Phoebe had suggested I get rid of my powers. I wanted to tell her to shove that idea up her ass . . .”

Olivia snickered, amused by the image in her mind.

Cole continued, “But after a year and four months of silent warfare between us, I . . . I just gave in. I surrendered. I think our divorce may have taken a toll on me. I just didn’t feel like fighting Phoebe over the whole powers issue. And she would have bugged me to death, if I had said no.”

“So, your mother and I came to your rescue.”

“In a way.” Cole fell silent. Olivia glanced away, aware of his eyes upon her. “So . . . like I had asked before . . . I mean . . .” He shook his head in self-disgust.

Olivia quietly asked, “You mean what?”

Cole sighed. “I don’t know. Pick up where we had left off. Start all over again? I’m still in love with you, Olivia. I miss you. I just . . . I guess I just want to be with you, again.”

“Oh.” Olivia stared into those blue eyes that expressed love and passion . . . and nearly drowned. “I . . .”

Cole took a step forward. “Yeah?”

Olivia let out a slight gust of breath. “I feel the same. About you.”

“Which is?”

Typical Cole. Always needed details for everything. Olivia glared at him . . . half-heartedly. “God, you’re such an asshole! Sometimes I wonder . . .” She paused.

Once more, Cole took a step closer. “Wondered what?” he murmured.

Olivia inhaled, reveling in his scent. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m in love with you. Why I still want to be with you.”

“Well, let me remind you.” Olivia became breathless, as Cole lowered his mouth upon hers. The touch of his lips seemed like water, after a week in the desert. She moaned lightly, as he gently slipped his tongue into her mouth. While they continued to kiss, she reveled in his hard body pressed against hers. His hand then slid underneath her blouse and caressed her waist. Another moan left her mouth. And when he lifted her off the floor and into his arms, she gasped with surprise.

Olivia protested softly, “Hey!”

Cole lifted an eyebrow. “Moving too fast?”

A wide smile curved Olivia’s lips. “How about . . . not fast enough?”

“It has been too long, hasn’t it?”

“Hmmmm.” Olivia giggled. Then she pressed her lips against Cole’s for a quick, hard kiss. “Definitely too long.”

“Well, I have a solution for that.” Cole kissed her again, as he carried her toward the bedroom.

THE END

“The Half-Blood Demon” [PG-13] – 6/7

“THE HALF-BLOOD DEMON”

PART 6

Just as she had been instructed, Paige orbed to the summit of Twin Peaks, overlooking the city. To the west, the reddish-orange sun had began its descent. Also on the hillside stood a petite black woman with three men and two women standing behind her. The Charmed One walked toward the woman. “I have Belthazor’s powers,” she said. “Just as you had instructed.

The woman held out her hand. “Give it to me.”

Before Paige could hand over the jar to the woman, Olivia and Cole’s mother materialized on the hillside. Olivia stretched out her hand and snatched the jar from Paige’s grasp, using her telekinesis.

“What the . . .” the black woman began. She stared at Cole’s mother. “Nimue?”

Cole’s mother smiled unpleasantly. “Zamora. I had no idea that the Khorne Order was behind all this. Why? Who in the Order recruited you to steal my son’s powers? Or is this little operation your own idea?”

Zamora regarded the other demoness with contempt. “I don’t have to tell you anything!” She turned to her minions. “Kill them!”

Paige merely stood by and watched the red-haired witch and the auburn-haired demoness fight off Zamora’s minions. The fight did not really take long. Nimue killed two of them with energy balls. Olivia roasted one with a stream of fire and killed another by forcing his knife into his heart.

Zamora disappeared. Seconds later, she reappeared next to the Charmed One. “Paige,” she whispered. “Save my friends.”

The young witch nodded wordlessly. The moment she saw Nimue toss an energy ball toward Zamora’s surviving minion, she summoned it with her power and threw it at Phoebe’s former mother-in-law. Olivia re-directed the energy ball at Zamora’s minion, who vanquished into a ball of fire.

Paige overheard a slight gasp from Zamora. Then the latter whispered, “Get the jar.”

“Yes Zamora,” the Charmed One quietly replied. Unaware of the consequences of her actions, Paige teleorbed the jar out of Olivia’s hand.

Zamora grabbed the jar. “Thank you.” The next thing the half-whitelighter knew, the jar flew out of the demoness’ hands and into Olivia’s.

“Good-bye Zamora.” Cole’s mother quickly flung an energy ball at Paige’s companion. Before the younger demoness could escape, she dissipated into a ball of fire.

A dizzying sensation struck Paige and she sank to the ground. “What the hell?” she groaned. “What am I doing . . .?”

“Paige?” The Charmed One glanced up and found Olivia and Cole’s mother staring at her with anxious eyes. The redhead added, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I think so.” Paige glanced around. Stared at Cole’s mother. And at the jar in Olivia’s hands. “What’s that?” she asked.

The demoness replied, “Belthazor’s powers. You used a potion to take them away from him.”

The revelation struck Paige like a thunderbolt. “What?” She struggled to her feet.

Olivia gave the younger woman a pitying look. “It’s obvious that someone had cast a spell on you. It’s a long story. Can you . . . orb?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Paige shook her head in confusion. “I don’t know.”

Cole’s mother grabbed Paige’s hand. “I will return you both.”

“Uh . . . teleported . . . by a demon? I don’t . . .”

Blue eyes challenged Paige. “Is there a problem? Do not worry.” Her mouth twisted into a wry smile. “You won’t catch anything.”

“Huh.” Despite her reluctance, Paige allowed the demoness to maintain a grip on her hand. Olivia grabbed Nimue’s free arm. And the latter teleported the two witches from the hillside.

———

Seconds later, two figures emerged from behind a large bush. Artemus regarded the now empty scene with a stony stare. “Do not say a word,” he tonelessly instructed Prax. “Not a damn word.”

Unbeknownst to the chameleon daemon they had recruited, Artemus and Prax had appeared on the Twin Peaks summit to witness the young witch/whitelighter hand over Belthazor’s powers to Zamora. And to ensure that Zamora would not use them for herself. What Artemus had not counted on was Olivia McNeill and Nimue, of all people, interfering in the transaction.

“But . . .” Prax began. He closed his mouth, under the senior daemon’s hard stare.

Artemus continued in a low growl, “Yes Prax. I am upset. I’m more than upset. I’m pissed off! That red-headed bitch is really becoming a problem!”

Prax finally regained his courage and asked, “Why didn’t you kill Nimue? She wasn’t aware of your presence.”

“Because Nimue possesses reflexes that even I envy,” Artemus shot back. “Because I could not take the chance of her knowing that I was no longer in prison and planning on becoming the next Source.”

“Surely . . .”

Artemus cut off his assistance. “Prax, Nimue and I have a long history. We had a brief romance over 200 years ago, but it didn’t go anywhere. I . . . well, betrayed her by dabbling with a French warlock named Danielle. She retaliated by cursing me with a . . .” Artemus broke off, deciding not to reveal that little humiliation. “Let’s just say that it was an incident that left our relationship less than amiable.”

A frown appeared on Prax’s countenance. “Strange, I don’t recall you two hating one another.”

“We’ve never hated each other, Prax. Actually, it was Raynor whom she hated. But ever since Danielle, she has never trusted me. I’m beginning to wonder if she ever had. And I know for sure that she would have never supported my attempt to destroy the Whitelighter Council. Or support my bid to become the Source. Especially now that she’s head of the Thorn Order.” He sighed and shook his head. “Why is it that nothing seemed to be going my way, lately? Can you tell me why, Prax?”

The other daemon merely regarded him with wide eyes and shook his head. Artemus rolled his eyes in disgust and left the hillside.

———-

Once again, Cole found himself as a mortal again. And once again, he hated the experience. What made this so difficult to endure was listening to Phoebe babble on in an attempt to reassure him, without a means to shut her mouth or escape from her presence.

“. . . might be feeling a little disoriented right now,” Phoebe was saying. “But maybe it’s for the best. Maybe Paige did you a favor.”

Cole stared at his ex-wife, wondering if she had just experienced a lobotomy. “Phoebe, Paige has my powers. And God only knows what she’s done with them. Or to whom she has given them.”

“I understand,” Phoebe said in that defensive whine that he has always found irritating. “You don’t want them to fall into the wrong hands. But if Olivia manages . . . well, to find Paige . . . you wouldn’t take them back. Would you?” She regarded him with anxious eyes.

Cole opened his mouth to reassure her . . . until Olivia’s accusations of him caving into others’ desires flashed in his mind. “I don’t . . .”

Three figures shimmered into the living room – much to Cole’s relief. Paige, his mother and Olivia . . . holding a jar. Cole stared at the jar. “My powers,” he murmured.

“We had managed to find Miss Halliwell . . .” Nimue began.

Paige corrected her. “Miss Matthews.”

“. . . just as she was about to give the jar to Zamora.”

Phoebe frowned. “Who?”

“A chameleon daemon,” Cole grimly explained. “Remember the shapeshifter I had exposed before Piper was kidnapped by the Source?” The Halliwells nodded. “Zamora is the same kind of daemon. Only she’s associated . . .”

Nimue finished, “. . . with the Khorne Order. It is possible that she had been spying on this household for the past several days. And after discovering Miss . . . Matthews’ reluctance to help strip Belthazor’s powers, she must have cast a spell to make your sister cooperate. Probably a telepathic manipulation spell.”

“Bitch,” Paige muttered.

Piper eyed her youngest sister. “So, Paige is no longer under a spell?”

“Don’t worry. I am once more, my own woman.”

“Good. That means I don’t have to watch you act like a pod person anymore,” Piper added.

Cole’s eyes refocused on the jar. “I see that you got my powers back.”

“Yeah, we did,” Olivia quietly replied. She held out the jar. “Do you want them back? Or should I hide it somewhere?”

Green eyes stared into blue ones. There seemed to be no demand for Cole to make a certain decision. Olivia’s eyes only expressed curiosity. Cole recalled his choice before Paige had stripped his powers. In a clear voice, he declared, “I want them back. I want my powers back.”

Olivia heaved a sigh of relief.

“Cole!” Phoebe regarded him with dismay. His mother, on the other hand, flashed a triumphant smile.

Olivia nodded. “As you wish.” She tossed the jar at Cole’s feet. As the glass shattered, a dark gray cloud rose from the ground and seeped into his body. The disjointed feeling that Cole had been experiencing since the loss of his powers, disappeared.

Cole lifted his hand. An energy ball hovered above his open palm. “Back to normal.”

Anger and resentment flared in Phoebe’s eyes. She stared accusingly at Cole. “Excuse me,” she muttered angrily, before marching in the direction of the Solarium.

Cole heaved a sigh. “Shit. Just a minute.” He followed Phoebe into the Solarium, where he found her sitting on the sofa and picking up the TV remote. “Phoebe?”

Angry, dark eyes glared at the half-daemon. “What Cole? There’s nothing else to say. You’ve made your decision. Apparently, your powers are more important than us.”

Weary of his ex-wife’s dramatics, Cole exploded. “God Phoebe! Can’t you give it a rest? For once in your life, can you stop being such a drama queen? Everything’s not all about you!”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It means that I have my own life to live!” Cole shot back. In a lower voice, he added, “It means . . . I have to be my own man.”

Phoebe retorted rather nastily, “You just lost your chance to be a man, Cole! Now, you’re just a demon again.”

“Daemon, man . . . who gives a shit? I just want to be me! Is that so hard to understand?” Cole sighed. “But if you can’t accept that . . . well, to be honest, I don’t really care.”

Phoebe shot to her feet. “Cole!”

Three weeks of frustration finally spilled out. “C’mon Phoebe. Why don’t we be honest for once? This ‘new’ relationship of ours is not working. And I think we both need to realize this.”

“Oh I see.” Phoebe gave him a knowing look. “This is all about Olivia. You still want her back, don’t you. I can feel it.”

Feel it? What the hell? Cole shook his head. Why deny his feelings? After a long pause, Cole said, “You’re right. I do want Olivia back. We, on the other hand, should have stuck to being friends like we had originally intended.”

“So what are you saying Cole? That you were just using me for rebound?”

Another sigh left Cole’s mouth. “Yea, Phoebe. That’s exactly it. And I forgot the old saying about being unable to recapture the past.” A brief smile touched his lips.

Phoebe glared at him. “You really are a bastard! You know that?”

“Perhaps I am. But you’re the one who didn’t bother to break it off with Jason Dean.” Wide-eyed, Phoebe stared at Cole, who continued, “You were using him as back-up, weren’t you? Just in case it didn’t work out for us.”

Shock, followed by guilt flashed in Phoebe’s eyes. “How did you . . .?” Now realization lit up her eyes. “Paige!”

“Paige didn’t say a word,” Cole said. “I was there that night. Remember? When I took you to Quake’s over a week ago? While I was waiting for you, Dean called. Now why would he call, Phoebe, when we had been dating for at least two weeks? And then there were the other signs.” Cole paused. “Like the fact that you never allowed me to take you to lunch, in case I showed up at your office. All I had to do was put two and two together.”

Phoebe’s body sagged in defeat. “I suppose you think I should feel guilty about . . .”

“No Phoebe, I don’t.” Cole sat next to her. “But I think we should end it between us. Before it gets any worse. Maybe we should make a stab at being friends again.”

The Charmed One backed away from his closeness. “I guess,” she murmured. “But not now.” Phoebe lowered her head. “I just can’t . . . Not now. Okay?”

“Yeah. Sure.” Cole stood up. “I’ll see you Phoebe.” He turned on his heels and left the Solarium. Upon entering the living room, he found Piper sitting on the sofa. And no one else. “Where’s . . .?”

“Your mom left. She said that she’ll drop by to see you later. Paige took Olivia back to her apartment.” Piper glanced past Cole. “Where’s Phoebe?”

The half-daemon replied, “Still in the Solarium. Upset. You’ll be happy to know that it’s over between us.”

Piper hesitated. “I’m sorry.”

Cole shrugged. “I’m not. We shouldn’t have taken it this far in the first place.”

“Oh.” Another long pause followed before Piper continued, “Listen, about what Paul Margolin and Leo had done . . .” The telephone rang. Piper picked up the receiver. “Hello? Oh. Jason? Uh . . .” She flashed an uneasy glance at Cole. “It’s good to hear from you. Oh. Oh yeah. Phoebe’s home. One minute.” Piper removed the receiver from her ear and screamed, “Phoebe! Telephone!” After a brief pause, she hung up.

Cole decided that it was time to leave. “Listen, I better go. I’ll see you later.” Just as he was about to beam out, he remembered that his Porsche was parked outside. He headed toward the front door.

At that moment, Leo orbed into the living room. Piper glared at her husband. “What are you doing here?”

“Piper, we need to talk,” the Elder calmly replied.

The Charmed One shot back, “Talk about what? We have nothing to say!”

“Piper! I know you’re hurt. Look, maybe we can’t be a family again, but I can do something . . .”

Cole slipped out of the manor, closed the door behind him and heaved a sigh of relief. Poor Leo, he thought. Still trapped in that web of Halliwell dramatics – if not physically, then in spirit. Thank God that he had finally escaped. Feeling emancipated after three long weeks, Cole whistled a childhood tune, as he marched down the front steps and toward his car.

END OF PART 6