“The Power of One” [PG-13] – 4/20

 

“THE POWER OF ONE”

PART IV

“Hey.” Jason popped into Phoebe’s private office.

Phoebe smiled at her paramour. “Hey yourself. What can I do for you?”

The publisher leaned over Phoebe’s desk, his face hovering inches away from hers. “How about lunch . . . with me?” he asked in a seductive voice.

Smiling, Phoebe automatically picked up a paper weight that had been an office-warming present from Piper. “Well . . . hmmmm. Let me think about that,” she whispered. “Now, where do you plan to take me?”

“Well, there’s the Compass Rose at the St. Francis Hotel.”

Phoebe wrinkled her nose playfully. “Too stuffy. How about . . .?” A gasp left her mouth, as images of a demon attacking her older sister filled her mind. Despite Piper’s best efforts, the demon kills the oldest Charmed One and kidnaps a sleeping Wyatt. The vision ended with the disappearance of the demon and her nephew.

Jason stared at Phoebe, frowning. “Something wrong, honey? You looked a . . . I don’t know. A bit spaced out.”

“Oh, uh . . .” Phoebe quickly tried to think of an excuse. “It’s nothing. Nothing big. I . . . uh, just remembered.”

“Remembered what?”

Think Phoebe, think! Finally an answer came to the Charmed One. “Uh . . . I just remembered that Piper wanted me to a favor for her. Pick up both her and the food she had prepared for some private luncheon at P3.”

Jason’s frown deepened. “A luncheon at a nightclub?”

“Actually . . . it’s a party. Office party.”

“Yeah, but at a night . . .”

Phoebe stood up and walked around her desk. “Oh baby, I’m sorry.” She planted a light kiss on Jason’s cheek. “I’m going to have to take a rain check on lunch, today.” Then she grabbed his arm and steered him toward the door. “We can have lunch, tomorrow.”

Reluctantly, Jason allowed himself to be dragged out of the office. “Okay, but you tell Piper that I’ve got you all booked for myself, tomorrow.”

“Okay baby. Bye.” Phoebe gave Jason one last kiss and slammed the door in his face. She leaned against the wall and sighed. Then she picked up the telephone receiver on her desk and dialed the number for Ostera’s.

After the third ring, a voice answered. “Ostera’s Herbal Shop. May I help you?”

“Hello? Who is this?” Phoebe demanded.

The voice continued, “This is Maddy. May I help you?”

“Maddy, this is Phoebe Halliwell. I need to speak with Paige. Is she there?”

Maddy replied, “Sorry, but she’s making a special delivery right now. I can take a message.”

Phoebe hesitated. Until she realized that she could reach Paige by the latter’s cell phone. “Never mind. I’ll call back, later.”

“Is this some kind of magical emergency?” Maddy’s question reminded Phoebe that the shop assistant happened to be a witch. “I could get hold of Barbara.”

“No, that’s okay. Thanks anyway. Bye.” Phoebe hung up the phone. Then she took a deep breath and cried out her whitelighter’s name. “Chris! Chris, I need you! Now!”

———

Around the same time of Jason’s visit to Phoebe’s office, Cecile sat inside the McNeill boardroom, as she provided the last figures for her presentation to the Board members. “Cresent, Incorporated now provides computer office software to over thirty companies and corporations in the Lower Mississippi Valley, and parts of the Southeast,” she concluded. “With McNeill Enterprises, I hope to expand distribution to the West Coast. I could provide the Board with a list of my clients and their contact numbers. I am sure they will confirm what I have just told you.”

Bursts of conversation broke out among the members inside the boardroom. Both Cole and Harry gave Cecile reassuring smiles. She smiled back, despite the fact that her heart was not really into the meeting at the moment. Cecile had managed to put aside her bleak mood regarding Andre during the meeting. But once she had completed her presentation, her mood immediately returned.

Perhaps she should consider ditching the idea of breaking up from Andre. To be honest, she did not really want to end their relationship. Hell, she was in love with him! Why on earth would she want to break up with the only true love she had ever had in her life?

Then Cecile thought of Piper Halliwell and Olivia’s former whitelighter. She recalled Olivia telling her about the couple’s difficult courtship and the problems they had encountered, getting married. Piper and Leo had viewed themselves as soulmates. Yet, less than three years after their wedding . . .

The vision hit Cecile’s mind without any warning. She saw Piper unsuccessfully fighting a demon. . . Piper dying . . . and the daemon stealing Wyatt from a basquinet before disappearing from the Halliwells’ Solarium. The vision ended and Cecile gasped out loud.

The others inside the boardroom stared at her. “Is there something wrong?” Cole asked.

“I . . .” Cecile began to rub her forehead. “I think I’m getting a slight headache. Uh, excuse me.” She stood up. Cole and the McNeills did the same.

Mr. McNeill gently took Cecile by the arm. “Why don’t you come inside my office, Cecile?” I’m sure that my assistant could find some aspirin or something for your headache. Cole?”

“Yeah.” The half-daemon and the witch escorted Cecile into the latter’s spacious office. Once they were alone, Cole demanded, “Are you really having a headache? Because if I didn’t know any better . . .”

Cecile sighed. “Yeah, I just had a vision. I saw some daemon killing Piper, before kidnapping Wyatt.”

Mr. McNeill frowned. “How is that possible? I thought that Wyatt had some kind of protective shield.”

“I only know what I saw,” Cecile insisted. She turned to Cole. “Maybe we should pop over there. Now.”

Cole nodded. “Yeah. Right.” He took hold of Cecile’s hand. “We’ll back,” he said to Mr. McNeill. Then the two friends teleported out of the office.

————

Twenty minutes before Phoebe and Cecile had simultaneously experienced their visions, Piper ended her interview with Warren Koslo and bid him good-bye. Then she turned to the Latina woman. “Mrs. Madrigal? Could you follow me, please?”

Mrs. Madrigal rose to her feet and followed Piper into the Solarium. The applicant shot a quick glance at the sleeping Wyatt, before she sat down in a nearby wicker chair.

“So,” Piper began, “I understand that you saw my announcement on the bulletin board at the Red Pyramid. Do you . . . go there a lot? Or was that just a one time visit?”

Mrs. Madrigal nodded. “I’m a regular customer. Are you?”

“I’ve been there a few times.” Piper hesitated, unsure of how to ask her next question. “Um . . . are you into . . . uh, the occult?”

The older woman frowned. “Aren’t you? I had assumed that you were also into it . . . considering where you had posted the ad.” She paused. “You are into it. Right?”

Piper replied sardonically, “More than you can imagine.” Mrs. Madrigal’s eyes grew wide. “I’m . . . uh, a witch. One of those Wiccans. I’ve been one for at least five years.”

“Oh.” The older woman’s shoulders sagged with relief. “Well, I’m glad that I wasn’t wrong. You see, I also practice magic.”

Relief flooded Piper’s veins. “Really? Are you some kind of witch?”

Mrs. Madrigal stood up. And right before Piper’s eyes, she transformed into a pale, stocky man with wintergreen eyes. “No,” he said in a deep voice. “I’m a daemon!” He tossed an energy ball at the Charmed One.

Piper let out a squeal, before she flung her hands at the energy ball and destroyed it in mid-air. “Oh crap!” Then she flung her hands at the demon. His body immediately exploded . . . and reassembled within seconds. “Oh crap! Chris! CHRIS!”

The demon flung another energy ball at Piper. She froze it in mid-air and ducked behind the chair. The demon waved one hand and the energy ball continued its course toward her, striking the wall and missing her head by inches. With her sisters at work and Chris failing to show up, Piper realized that she might be in serious danger. “You can’t hide from me forever, witch! And your sisters can’t help you!” The demon sent another energy ball toward Piper’s direction. Before she could destroy it with her combustion power, it blew up the chair in front of her. And led the Charmed One to rue the day she had thought about hiring a nanny, in the first place.

————–

Daley heard a woman’s voice cry out the name – Chris. She frowned. What in the hell was going on in the other room? Then she heard a man shout, “You can’t hide from me forever, witch!” At that moment, the sorceress realized that something was wrong. She had seen a middle-aged woman follow Piper Halliwell into the other room. Where did the man come from?

An explosive sound interrupted Daley’s musings. Without thinking, she rushed into the other room and found Ms. Halliwell cowering before a stocky man with pale skin. And no sign of Mrs. Madrigal. An energy ball formed in the intruder’s hand. Viewing him as a threat to her plans, Daley quickly reached for a dagger in her knit bag and threw it at the man. The dagger’s sharp point pierced his shoulder, forcing him to cry out in pain and dissipate the energy ball.

“You!” the man growled, as he glared at Daley. An energy ball materialized in his hand. As he hurled it at Daley’s direction, she cried out, “Deflect” in Yoruba. The energy ball zinged back toward the man. He ducked before it could strike his body.

Daley rushed toward Ms. Halliwell. “Are you okay?” she asked, breathlessly.

“I could be better,” the other woman shot back. “Do you . . . uh, recognize this demon?”

“He’s a daemon?”

Another energy ball zoomed toward them. Ms. Halliwell flung out her hands and the energy ball exploded in mid-air. “I guess that’s a no.” Desperation shone in the witch’s dark eyes. “Do you know any spell to get rid of this guy?”

“Uh . . .” At that moment, one immediately came to Daley’s mind. “Wait. Here’s one.” She began to chant, “Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won’t hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase.” The two women stared at the daemon. Nothing happened. “Damn! Maybe we should say the spell, together.”

Both women took a deep breath and repeated the spell. “Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won’t hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase!” Instead of the daemon’s death, they were faced with another energy ball that missed Ms. Halliwell’s head by inches. The pair quickly scurried on their knees, toward the sofa.

“Too bad my sisters aren’t here,” the witch commented. “I could use the Power of Three. And why does that spell sound familiar?”

Daley asked, “Why is he trying to kill you?”

“So that me and my sisters won’t come after him, if he steals my son.”

Ah! So the attack was about the child. Then Daley’s eyes narrowed, as she spotted a string holding an object around the daemon’s neck. “Look! There’s something around his neck! Let me . . .” Focusing her attention upon the object, Daley murmured a chant underneath her breath. The string broke, taking the daemon by surprise. Then the object – obviously an amulet – fell upon the floor. “The spell again!”

The two women chanted, “Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won’t hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase!” Cries of pain poured out of the daemon’s mouth, as flames engulfed his body. Within seconds, he exploded into a ball of fire and light.

Ms. Halliwell rushed over to the basquinet for a peek at her son. “He’s safe,” she said with relief. “Awake, but safe.” She turned to Daley. “Are you still interested in the job?”

Daley struggled not to flash a triumphant smile. “Sure.”

“You’re hired.”

END OF PART IV

“The Power of One” [PG-13] – 3/20

“THE POWER OF ONE”

PART III

Power transference. Daley heaved a sigh, inside her private office. She had checked her spell book for anything on the subject, but came up empty. Not surprising, since she has never dealt with the transfer of power during her fifteen years as a sorceress.

Another sigh left her mouth and she examined her spell book one more time. Again, nothing. She slammed the book shut. Perhaps she should forget about this insane idea and go ahead with the plans to expand her business. Then again . . . to hell with it! She had to find a way to access that child’s powers.

Out of desperation, Daley scanned her bookshelf for any information she might find on West African magic. She finally came upon a book titled “THE SUPERNATURAL WORLD OF THE IVORY COAST”. It had been written by an early 20th century anthropologist named Jonathan Close. Much to Daley’s surprise, the book contained detailed information on the region’s myths . . . and practices of various West African shamans. Including spells that she never knew had existed. It still eluded Daley that a British anthropologist would come upon such a discovery. And record them. Perhaps he had been so fervent in his desire to record West African culture, he failed to realize that he had exposed practices and spells that others would consider valuable . . . and dangerous.

After removing the book from the shelf, Daley examined it – page by page. She came across rituals that had been performed by now dead houngans, mambos and other magic practioners. Rituals for good health, prosperity, and protection against evil spirits. The latest chapters, however, included spells and ritual on a more sophisticated level. In one of the chapters, Daley finally found a ritual that transferred psychic abilities and magic from one being to another. A ritual, according to the book, that had first been created by a 12th century sorcerer. After reading the details of the ritual, Daley realized that she had found what she was looking for. The sorceress copied details and instructions of the ritual on a notebook. Once she was finished, she reached for her cordless telephone and dialed a number.

“Hello?” a voice finally answered. “This is the Halliwell residence. May I help you?”

Daley replied, “Is this P. Halliwell, who had placed an ad for a nanny?”

“Yes, this is Piper Halliwell. Who is this?”

Taking a deep breath, Daley continued, “Hi, my name is Donna Thompson. I saw your ad in THE LUNAR VOICE newspaper. And I was wondering if the nanny position had been filled.

Piper Halliwell informed Daley that she had not filled the position. “Right now, you’re the second person who has called about the job. Uh, why don’t you come by, tomorrow? Say around eleven in the morning? There might be a few more applicants. And after I finish with the interviews, I’ll . . . make my choice.”

“Okay. Sounds great to me. I’ll see you tomorrow, around eleven. Bye.” After the other woman said good-bye, Daley disconnected the line. And smiled.

———

Around five-thirty that evening, Piper bid good-bye to the third and final applicant for the position of Wyatt’s nanny and hung up the telephone. “Well, that’s three so far,” she said to her guest. “Two women and a man have answered the ad.”

Chris, who had dropped by to warn the sisters about a shape-shifting demon that steals the essence and powers of other beings, frowned. “What ad?”

Piper shot an annoyed glance at the young whitelighter. “The ad I had placed in newspapers and in some of the local occult stores for the position of nanny. For Wyatt.”

“A nanny for . . .” Disbelief poured out of Chris’ blue eyes. “Are you crazy? Getting a nanny for Wyatt?”

“Well, it’s either that or allow my club to sink into bankruptcy,” Piper retorted. “I need some time to get back my customers and attract new ones. Which means I’ll need a regular babysitter for Wyatt. A nanny.”

Chris demanded, “What about Paige and Phoebe? Or D. . .Leo?”

Piper sighed. “Both Phoebe and Paige have jobs . . . and a social life. As for Leo . . .” She rolled her eyes in contempt. “Forget it. He’s too busy being an Elder.”

“Still . . .”

“Don’t you have other charges to see?” she interrupted in a too-sweet voice that failed to match the hard gleam in her eyes.

The whitelighter’s face turned red. “There’s still the matter of that demonic shape shifter . . .”

“We’ll let you know when we find it. Bye.” Piper continued to stare at Chris, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he was no longer welcomed.

Fortunately, Chris got the hint. He gave Piper a sharp nod and immediately orbed out of the kitchen. Much to the Charmed One’s relief.

————

Dinner at the Golden Horn restaurant did not turn out as Cecile had hoped. Or expected. Although Olivia and Andre proved to be lively dinner companions – with Cole providing his usual caustic wit – Cecile remained mired in her present dark mood.

She stared at her boyfriend, while he related his findings at Olivia’s new store. Poor Andre, she thought. He seemed so happy. So energetic. Soon, she would have to pull the plug on his happiness, when she breaks the bad news. Cecile had considered telling him over a week ago. But when Olivia had asked him to accompany her to San Francisco and help appraise certain items in that new shop, the Vodoun priestess had decided to postpone her announcement. She realized that it could wait until their return to New Orleans.

“. . . and the next thing I knew,” Andre said, “I found myself holding a statute of Ammut.”

Olivia frowned. “Who?”

Cole explained, “Ammut. An ancient Egyptian daemon that devours the souls of those whose hearts proved to be too heavy to be sent to the Hall of Maat. Which is where judgment of the dead is performed.”

“Ewww!” Olivia said with a shiver. She said to the half-daemon, “You seemed to know a lot of this stuff.”

“Not as much as Andre,” Cole protested. “He had studied a lot on the mythologies of this world and other dimensions.”

Andre shook his head. “What I can’t understand is how this guy . . . what was his name?”

“Stefan Kostopulos.”

“How did he get his hands on such stuff?” Andre continued, “Including a medallion created by a dominion spirit.”

The red-haired witch replied, “I don’t know. According to his son, Kostopulos was a big collector of antiquities. He also studied the occult, but I got the feeling that he didn’t know the significance of some of the stuff he had collected.”

“I bet that Cecile’s mama would love to get her hands on some of that stuff. Right, cherie?” Andre addressed the question to Cecile.

The Vodoun priestess blinked, aware that she had been drawn into the conversation. “Huh? Oh . . . yeah, I guess.”

“You guess?” Andre shook his head. “Baby, I’ve seen some of the stuff inside your mama’s shop. A lot of those items are pretty freaky. I mean, there’s a reason why she keeps ‘certain items’ locked up in that storeroom in the back.”

Olivia frowned. “Is that what Mrs. Dubois does with her . . . uh, with the certain items in her shop? Lock them up in a back room? Maybe I should do the same. There’s an empty storeroom in the back.” She squirmed slightly in her chair. “Right now, I think I need a trip to the restroom.” She stood up.

Andre also stood from his chair. “Yeah. Same here. Excuse us, folks.” He and Olivia left the table.

The moment the pair exited from the private dining room, Cole turned to Cecile. “Is there something wrong?”

“Huh?” Cecile blinked. Was her bad mood that apparent?

Looking worried, the half-daemon said in a low voice, “You seemed to be on another planet, lately. I’m talking about what you had told me, earlier. About our lives being in a rut. What was that about?”

Oh shit! Cecile could have kicked herself for opening her big mouth. Realizing that Cole would not easily dismiss the matter, she heaved a large sigh. And decided to tell the truth. “It’s about . . .” Cecile hesitated. “I . . . I guess I want something new in my life. You know what I mean?”

A confused looking Cole shook his head. “No, I don’t. What . . .?”

“May I ask you something?” Cecile realized that she had caught the half-daemon off guard. To be honest, she did not really care. “You were the one who first brought up marriage to Phoebe, right? You were the one who asked her to marry you? And not the other way around?”

Cole’s expression became guarded. Almost mask like. “What are you getting at?”

Cecile’s mouth curved into a wry smile. “I guess that’s a big yes.”

“Yeah, I had asked Phoebe to marry me. So what?”

After a brief hesitation, Cecile continued, “Why? What I’m getting at . . . Hell! Look, all I want to know is why you were the one to ask Phoebe, before she could ask you.”

Cole hesitated. Then a slight smirk appeared on his mouth. “I don’t know, Cecile. Because it’s traditional for the man to ask, I guess.”

Cecile rolled her eyes in contempt. “Cole, get real! This is the 21st century. And I know you’re not a sexist. So, stop bullshitting me and please answer the answer the question.”

The half-daemon shot a quick glance at the dining room’s door. And sighed. “All right. If you must know . . . I guess I had wanted something different with Phoebe. Something more permanent. You know, build a life together. Only it didn’t . . .” Pain flashed in his blue eyes for a brief moment. “I guess it didn’t work out.”

Nodding, Cecile said, “Now, you know what I want.”

Surprise reflected in Cole’s eyes. “Wait a minute! Are you saying that you want to get married?”

After a brief hesitation, Cecile shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. Maybe.” She paused again. “Yeah, I do. Why not? I’m tired of our old relation . . .” Spotting Andre and Olivia in the doorway, she broke off. “Don’t say anything to Andre or anyone else!” she hissed. “Please? Not until I’m ready.” Then she smiled at the newcomers, ignoring Cole’s stunned expression. “So, are you guys ready for dessert?”

———-

The doorbell rang. Piper glanced at the grandfather clock. It read 10:43 in the morning. It seemed that the first applicant for Wyatt’s nanny had finally arrived.

Doubts began to assail the Charmed One’s senses. Piper took a deep breath. Calm down, she told herself. But what if she was making a mistake? Chris seemed to think so. Along with Barbara McNeill and Cole. And their experiences with that elf nanny seemed to hint to Piper that perhaps a nanny might not be in the cards. After the last attack on Wyatt, the Elf Nanny decided she had enough with the Halliwell household.

Again, the doorbell rang. Piper sighed. Screw it, she decided. Might as well finish what she had started. She fixed a bright smile on her face and opened the door. “Good morning,” she greeted the slender man, standing in the doorway.

The newcomer held out his hand. “Hi! Warren Koslo. I uh, I saw your ad on the bulletin board at Ostera’s.” He referred to the herbal shop where Paige worked.

“Oh.” Piper shook his hand. “Um, why don’t you come inside?”

Mr. Koslo smiled. “Sure.” Piper stepped aside and ushered him inside the manor.

Less than five minutes after Warren Koslo’s arrival, the doorbell rang again. “Excuse me,” Piper said to her guest. Then she left him inside the Solarium with Wyatt and headed for the front door.

The next applicant turned out to be a middle-aged Latino woman with short hair and stoic features. “Good morning,” she greeted in a pleasant voice. “My name is Mrs. Rosa Madrigal. I’m here for the nanny position. I saw the ad on the bulletin board, at the Red Pyramid.”

“How nice.” The Charmed One smiled at the newcomer. She widened the door. “Why don’t you come in?” Then she held a hand to Mrs. Madrigal. “I’m Piper Halliwell, Wyatt’s mother. Uh . . .” She glanced toward the direction of the Solarium. “I’m interviewing another candidate right now.”

Mrs. Madrigal looked slightly disappointed. “You are?”

“Oh, don’t worry. He’s the first one to arrive. Um, why don’t you wait here, until I finish?”

A polite smile appeared on the older woman’s face. “Oh. Okay. Of course.” Then she sat down on the sofa. Piper flashed one quick smile at her, and returned to the Solarium and Warren Koslo.

The doorbell rang for the third time that morning. Piper bit back a frustrated oath, and smiled at Mr. Koslo. Once more, their interview had been interrupted. She sighed and shot a weary smile at the applicant. “Excuse me.” Then she glanced at Wyatt, who seemed fast asleep in his basquinet, and headed for the living room.

On her way to the front door, Piper smiled at Mrs. Madrigal. The doorbell rang one last time, before she finally opened it. Outside stood a slender black woman of medium height, curly long hair, along with wide brown eyes and narrow cheekbones on a narrow face. “Hi,” the woman greeted, “I’m Da . . . Donna Thompson. I saw your ad in THE LUNAR VOICE for the nanny position.”

Piper shook the woman’s hand. “Come on in. You’re the third person to show up.”

Brown eyes widened in surprise, as Ms. Thompson entered the manor. “Third person?” she said with a frown.

“Yeah, um why don’t you take a seat?” Piper indicated the living room, where Mrs. Madrigal sat. “I’ll get to you, as soon as I finish with Mrs. Madrigal, here, and my other applicant.”

Ms. Thompson eyed Mrs. Madrigal with wary eyes. She sat down in the chair, left of the sofa. The two female applicants exchanged polite smiles. Piper heaved a soft sigh and returned to her guest in the Solarium. At that moment, the Charmed One realized that she was in for a long morning and afternoon.

END OF PART III

“The Power of One” [PG-13] – 2/20

“THE POWER OF ONE”

PART II

Later that evening; Olivia, Cole, the two visitors from New Orleans and the Halliwells appeared at the McNeills’ house for the dinner party hosted by Jack and Gweneth McNeill. No sooner had the guests arrived, they – along with the McNeills – gathered inside the large drawing room and waited for the family manservant to announce dinner.

“I just read the latest copy of THE LUNAR VOICE,” Barbara said to Piper. The blond-haired witch, who was married to Olivia’s older brother, had joined the redhead, Cecile and Piper near the fireplace. “And I saw an ad placed by a P. Halliwell . . . for the position of nanny. Was that . . . Did you place that ad? Is that the reason why Paige was asking me about local Wiccan newspapers?”

Piper sighed. “Yeah. I . . . I’m trying to find a permanent nanny for Wyatt.”

“Why?”

Olivia immediately came to Piper’s defense. “Barbara!”

Her sister-in-law assumed an innocent and confused expression. “What? I simply asking Piper about that ad in THE LUNAR VOICE.”

“Yeah, and with all the subtlety of a Gestapo interrogator. Is there a problem?”

Barbara let out a gust of breath. “No, there isn’t a problem. I’m simply curious, that’s all. I mean . . . this is Wyatt we’re talking about. He’s only nine months old and already he’s had more supernatural activity surrounding him than all of us in a period of three years. And I’m just . . . surprised . . . well, you know what I mean!”

“I understand,” Piper replied. “That’s why Olivia had suggested that I place the ad in ‘certain’ newspapers and shops in the city.”

“Where’s Wyatt right now?”

Olivia pointed to where Paige, Phoebe and her grandmother stood. “Over there, in Gran’s arms.” She said to the other women, “I had also asked Cole’s uncle – Marbus – if he knew of anyone who could baby sit Wyatt.”

“What about Leo?” Barbara asked.

Piper’s face immediately became a cold mask. “What about him?”

“Um . . .” Barbara began. But a quick jab in the side by Olivia cut her short, leaving her to finish lamely, “Never mind. What about that Elf Nanny?”

Piper continued, “Oh, she, uh . . . vowed never to step foot inside the manor, after those two warlocks tried to attack Wyatt. She likes a quiet household. So, I need a new nanny, fast. Like I had told Olivia, I’m having trouble with P3 at the moment. And splitting my time between Wyatt and the club – along with dealing with demons . . . and Leo’s absence . . .” The Charmed One sighed. “I don’t know. It seems like everything is falling apart.”

“In other words, this whole mess started, because Leo decided that being an Elder was a lot more important than his family.” The other women stared at Cecile, who had broken her silence. She stared back. “What?”

Frowning, Olivia commented, “Is it just me, or are you sounding a little bitter right now?”

“I’m not being bitter,” Cecile protested. “Just telling the truth. If Leo had really loved Piper . . . or if she was that important to him, he would have never become an Elder.”

Piper’s eyes cast downward. “I think you might be right,” she muttered.

Triumph gleamed in Cecile’s dark eyes. “See? You really can’t trust a man’s love. First, they’ll move heaven and earth to possess us. Then sooner or later, they end up taking us for granted. We become like background noise to them.” The others continued to stare at her. “Well, am I wrong?” Cecile let out a gust of breath, turned on her heels and walked away.

“Wow,” Barbara murmured. “What’s wrong with her? You don’t think that she and Andre are having troubles, do you?”

A new voice added, “She’s frustrated. Cecile, I mean.” Olivia and the other two women found Phoebe standing behind them. “I could sense Cecile’s frustration.” Annoyed, Olivia bit back a retort.

Piper, on the other hand, made her displeasure known. “Phoebe! Do you mind?”

Looking slightly affronted, Phoebe protested, “What? Cecile is obviously frustrated about something! Probably Andre.”

Her older sister heaved a sigh. “We all know that you’re now an empath, Pheebs. But could you please put a sock in it?”

“I can’t help sensing everyone’s emotions!” Phoebe retorted. “I don’t know how to control this new power. At least not yet.”

Olivia tartly added, “But I’m sure that you can control that tongue of yours. Must you broadcast everyone’s feelings to the world, every time you sense them?”

A deep silence fell between the four women. Phoebe’s face turned pink. “Excuse me,” she said in a stiff voice, before walking away.

Feeling slightly remorseful, Olivia apologized to Piper. “Sorry about that. I guess I had lost my temper.”

“I’m not,” Piper grumbled. “That new power of hers has been driving us crazy. Just over a week ago, Paige had lost her temper and shoved an apple into Phoebe’s mouth.”

The image of Phoebe’s mouth plugged by an apple nearly sent Olivia into a spate of giggles. Nearly. Instead, she kept her mirth to herself and said, “Oh well. At least you can’t deny that Phoebe is right about Cecile. She is frustrated.”

“Do you think it has to do with Andre?”

Olivia responded silently with a slight shrug.

————-

The following morning, Andre and Olivia met the latter’s grandmother outside of an antiquity shop on Union Square. “There you are,” the elderly woman declared. She glanced at her watch. “You’re late.”

“Only by fifteen minutes,” Olivia muttered. She retrieved a key from her purse and used it to unlock the shop’s front door. “Here we go. Welcome to . . .” Her face formed a slight frown. “Well, I haven’t renamed it, yet.” She switched on the lights.

Andre took one sweeping glance around the shop’s interior and whistled.

“My sentiments exactly,” old Mrs. McNeill added. “Goddess! I’ve never seen so many . . . How much is all of this stuff worth, Livy?”

With a sigh, Olivia answered wearily, “You really don’t want to know. Fortunately, Alexis Kostopulos wanted to get rid of the shop so badly that I managed to buy it at a cheaper price.”

“Why?” Andre asked.

“Well, his father had been murdered by someone looking for a medallion that used to be in this shop. Didn’t Cole tell you about the Erebor medallions, and the attack on the Whitelighter Realm?”

The houngan nodded. “Oh yeah.” His eyes fell upon a small, sandalwood box with Druidic symbols carved on the sides. “So, where are the . . . um other pieces that you were talking about?” He picked up the box. “Besides this?”

Olivia replied, “The rest of the items are scattered throughout the shop. Mixed with the other items. Hopefully, you and Gran will be able to identify and separate them from the regular items. While I’m at work.”

“Hmmm.” Mrs. McNeill swept a finger across one of the glass casings. “This looks like a job that might take a week or two.”

Andre added, “That’s no problem for me. Besides . . .” he paused, wondering if he should allow the two women in his confidence.

“Besides what?” Olivia asked.

The houngan sighed. “This trip should give me plenty of time to find . . . a ring. To buy.”

“A ring?” Mrs. McNeill frowned. “What for?”

After a brief hesitation, Andre decided to confess. “Well, I plan to ask Cecile to marry me. I’m looking for an engagement ring.”

The two women reacted with delight. “Oh my God!” Olivia cried. “I can’t believe it! Finally! After all these years!”

“I’m so happy for you,” Mrs. McNeill added. Then she frowned. “But . . . you mean to say you couldn’t find a ring in New Orleans?”

Andre sighed. “Yeah, I did look around for one. But I couldn’t find one that satisfied me. You know, the right one. Maybe I’ll find one, while I’m here in San Francisco.”

Olivia’s eyes grew wide with excitement. “Wow! An engagement! I can’t wait for Cecile to find out. Maybe this will get her out of that bad mood of hers.”

A smile illuminated Mrs. McNeill’s lined face. “Oh, I’m sure that it will”

————

Cole and Cecile silently stood side-by-side inside the elevator, as it conveyed them to the spacious boardroom of McNeill Enterprises. The half-daemon tried to think of something to say. He even considered discussing the upcoming business conference, but they had covered that topic more than adequately, in the past few days.

A quick glance at Cecile’s forlorn expression told him that she was not in the mood to talk. Come to think of it, the Vodoun priestess has been in a bleak mood since her arrival, yesterday. Unable to deal with the silent tension any longer, he finally murmured, “Penny for your thoughts.”

“Huh?” Cecile stared at the half-daemon with wide eyes.

Cole continued, “You seemed to be deep in thought. Is there something on your mind? The upcoming meeting?”

Cecile shook her head. “No. I’m fine. I . . .” She sighed. Long and hard. “Have you ever thought that your life might be in a rut, sometimes? That no matter how much you try, everything stays the same?”

Wondering what brought on this rant, Cole stared at her. “Uh . . . well, considering the changes I’ve been through during the past three years . . . not really.”

Another sigh left Cecile’s mouth. “What about those years before that? Before you first met Phoebe? I mean . . . didn’t you feel then that your life was in a rut?”

“What are you getting at?”

“I . . .” The elevator stopped. The doors slid open and Cecile walked out before she could form a coherent answer.

The pair found themselves greeted by a well-dressed young executive. “Ms. Dubois? Mr. Turner? Hello, my name is Milo Kendrick. I’m Mr. McNeill’s assistant. Please follow me.” He led Cole and Cecile into an expensively furnished boardroom, where Harry and Jack McNeill awaited them. Along with other members of the Board. As the door closed behind them, Cole realized that Cecile’s surprising revelation would have to wait for another time.

————

A young man in his late twenties burst into Daley’s herbal shop off Telegraph Road, later that morning. The Vodoun sorceress recognized the newcomer, and rang up her customer’s purchases. No sooner had the latter left; she led the younger man to the stockroom in the back.

“Did you and Jeffrey find out anything about these . . . Charmed Ones?” Daley asked.

The young man, a narrow-faced novice bokor with rich brown skin and handsome features named Marc Beaudine, breathlessly sat down on a nearby stool. He removed a small notebook from his jacket pocket. “Yeah. They’re practically famous in the local Wiccan community.”

“That’s nice,” Daley commented tartly. “The question is . . . why are they famous?”

Marc removed a few sheets of folded paper from his jacket and handed them to Daley. “I got that from the Internet. There’s this tale, or legend or whatever about these three sisters from a long line of witches, who are destined to become the world’s most powerful witches. Called the Charmed Ones. They were destined to kill the leader of some demonic faction. Someone called the Source.”

Daley read the sheet of paper, which had been printed from an Internet website on Wiccan mythology. “I think I had heard about this Source. From a warlock I used to know. Too bad he’s dead.”

“Well, I know this other warlock,” Marc added. “And he told me and Jeffrey that this Source is dead. He had been killed nearly two years ago. By these witches called the Charmed Ones. Wilson – he’s the warlock I had spoken with – told me a lot about them.”

“So, who are they? The Charmed Ones?”

Marc continued, “Like I said, three sisters who happened to be witches. They’re believed to be the most powerful witches ever.”

A frown appeared on Daley’s face. “What do you mean by . . . believed? Aren’t they the most powerful Wiccan witches?”

“Well . . . not really. According to Wilson, they would have been, if it wasn’t for the Aingeal Staff Bearer.”

“Now, I’m confused. The who?”

Sighing, Marc added, “A witch from some Scottish family, who happens to be the bearer of a powerful wizard’s staff. The present bearer is a descendant of this wizard. But no one knows his or her identity. But the Aingeal Staff Bearer is just as powerful as the Charmed Ones. And these sisters are only that strong when they come together as the Power of Three.”

Daley took a deep breath. “And what is the name of this family of witches?”

“Halliwell,” Marc replied. “Right now, the family’s name is Halliwell.”

“That name sounds familiar.”

A sly smile curved Marc’s lips. “It should. Phoebe Halliwell. Of the ‘DEAR PHOEBE’ column of the BAY-MIRROR.”

Daley felt flabbergasted. “Are you kidding me?” The idea of a local celebrity being a powerful witch would have never occurred to her. “Wait a minute. She’s one of the Charmed Ones?”

“Yep! And so is the owner of that nightclub on Fremont. You know . . . P3? Her name is Piper Halliwell. There’s a third sister, but Wilson didn’t get her name. As for Piper, she’s the mother of this powerful child you had told me about. Do you remember that day, over eight months ago, when we weren’t able to perform any magic?”

Nodding, Daley replied, “Yeah. I never did find out what happened that day.”

Marc leaned forward, his brown eyes glittering with intensity. “That was the day Piper Halliwell gave birth to her son. His father is believed to be a whitelighter.”

“A what?”

“Whitelighters. They’re daemons. Only they’re on the side of good. Guardian angels or something like that.”

Daley said, “So, what you’re saying is this child is the son of an extremely powerful witch and a daemon.”

Marc continued, “And he’s also an extremely powerful little baby. He has great magical powers. Stronger than his mother, his aunts, his daddy and everyone else. Other daemons and warlocks have been trying to get their hands on his powers for months.”

The idea of possessing the Halliwell child’s magic struck Daley as very appealing. With such power, she could destroy the leadership of the local Vodoun community. Or any other magical community that opposed her. And protect her little side business, so that it could develop into a multi-billion dollar business. If only she could get her hands on the child.

“By the way,” Marc added, “I’ve discovered something interesting about the Halliwell baby.” He handed Daley a newspaper. “That’s one of the local Wiccan papers. Called THE LUNAR VOICE. Turn to page eight.”

Daley turned to the page as instructed. It was filled with employment ads and notices. “What am I looking for?” she asked.

“The ad near the bottom of the page. In the column, second from the left.”

Sure enough, Daley founded what she was looking for. It was an ad seeking a nanny for a nine month-old baby. It featured a telephone and a person of contact – namely P. Halliwell. The sorceress smiled. This sounded promising. Very promising, indeed.

END OF PART II

“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