Sunday, August 23, 2009
"Second Power" [PG-13] - 1/8
Below is a follow-up to the AU CHARMED story - "Auld Lang Syne":
SUMMARY: Olivia McNeill's new power sends shockwaves throughout the whitelighter realm and presents Cole with a chance for reconciliation. Set two weeks after "Auld Lang Syne". Alternate S5.
FEEDBACK: firstname.lastname@example.org - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, the Charmed Ones and other characters related to Charmed to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. The McNeills are my creation.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: To understand what is going on between Cole and Olivia McNeill, please read "Auld Lang Syne" first.
Paige Matthews waited breathlessly as the tall manservant stepped aside to allow her entrance into the McNeill manor. She greeted the latter with a polite smile. "Morning, Davies."
"Good morning, Miss Matthews," Davies replied in his usual Welsh accent. "Today's Sunday brunch won't be held out in the garden, today."
"Oh? Why not?" Paige followed Davies toward the house's large drawing room.
Davies gave the young half-witch/half-whitelighter a quick smile. "The weather, miss. It's a bit cool and Miss Gweneth has decided to hold the brunch, inside the house." He opened a pair of double doors, made from heavy oak.
After murmuring a quick "thank you" to the manservant, Paige stepped inside the drawing room. A quick scan revealed that she had been the last to arrive. All of the McNeills were there, along with Barbara Bowen, Bruce McNeill's fiancée, and a middle-aged woman with salt-and-pepper hair. Paige felt a twinge of disappointment at the Morrises' lack of appearance. They had become regular visitors, following Darryl Morris' possession by a West African sorcerer's spirit. Paige did not become a regular at the McNeill brunches, until she and Olivia McNeill became good friends nearly a week before Christmas. A friendship formed from Paige's discovery that her former brother-in-law had been an innocent victim of the Source. Speaking of Cole . . .
Paige walked over to the buffet table, where she found Harry McNeill examining the food. She picked up an empty plate and stood next to him. "Hi," she greeted.
Harry glanced up and smiled. Red-haired men had never been Paige's type, but she had to admit that the youngest McNeill's chiseled features and startling green eyes were very attractive. Very. In fact, downright delicious. "Hi," he greeted back. "Just arrived?"
"Yeah." Paige fell silent, as Harry scooped a spoonful of Eggs Florentine and dumped it on his plate. She continued, "So, who's the lady standing next to your mom?" She pointed at the middle-aged woman.
Harry replied, "That's Carla Bianchi. She's a witch. And an old friend of Mom's."
"Huh?" Paige peered at the woman. "But her name . . . it's Italian."
"Well, there is such a thing as a witch of Italian descent. Mrs. Bianchi practices Strega, or Stregheria. It's somewhat similar to Wicca."
Paige shook her head. "Boy, I sure have a lot to learn." She scanned the room once more. "By the way, I see that Cole is missing again. Where is he?"
Not even her casual tone could disguise Paige's curiosity. Or concern, judging by the look Harry gave her. "You noticed it too, huh?" he replied. "This is the second time he's missed our brunch. And he hasn't missed one since he first started coming."
Then Paige bombarded Harry with a series of questions. "So what happened? Is there something wrong with Cole? Is he pissed off about something? Has he pissed off Olivia? Is he even in town?"
"The answer to all of your questions is - 'I don't know.'" Harry reached for a croissant. "I've already asked Olivia once and she nearly bit off my head. And none of us haven't been to get to Cole. He's either busy or unavailable."
A sigh left Paige's mouth. "You too, huh?" She reached for a slice of quiche. "I tried calling Cole once. Didn't answer my call. Maybe if I can talk to Olivia . . ."
Harry shook his head. "I wouldn't, if I were you," he warned. "Olivia has been . . . well, acting strange lately. Almost erratic."
"So, what's wrong with her? And what has this to do with Cole?"
Green eyes stared at Paige, glimmering with humor. "Are you always in the habit of asking more than one question at the same time?"
Paige heaved an impatient sigh. "Har-ry!"
"Okay, okay!" Harry paused. "Bruce thinks it might have something to do with what had happened at Warren Mitchell's New Year party. He and Barbara saw . . ." The McNeill witch broke off, as a third figure approached the table. Olivia.
Jack and Gweneth McNeill's only daughter greeted the newcomer with a too cheerful smile. "Paige! Honey! I'm glad that you could come!"
The youngest Charmed One stared at her friend, as if the latter had grown a second head. "Uh, glad I could make it. Are you . . . are you okay, Livy?"
"What do you mean?" Green eyes, similar to Harry's, widened with innocence. "Couldn't be better."
"It's just that . . . well, you look strange. Weird. Like you've taken one too many happy pills." Or like Phoebe in a state of denial, Paige added silently.
Olivia laughed. Loudly. "Honey, don't worry. I haven't begun a drug habit, if that's what you're thinking. I just feel great!" She flung out a hand, and a burst of fire streamed upward, scorching the ceiling.
Gasps filled the room. A look of horror replaced the faux happiness on Olivia's face. Paige cried out, "Oh. My. God!"
Harry coolly gazed at his horrified sister. "Say Livy, you want to answer that question again about feeling okay?"
* * * *
Cole Turner gazed approvingly at the active crowd on the street below. "You know, I've forgotten how much I like New Orleans. Can't understand why I've stayed away for so long." He stood upon a balcony that overlooked Royal Street, in the Crescent City's French Quarter.
The balcony's other occupant, a tall handsome man with rich brown skin and intense black eyes, sat in a wicker chair. Sipping coffee. "For so long?" Andre Morrell repeated. "What are you talking about, man? I've seen you six times in the past ten days, let alone three more times since Cecile came back, late last month."
"You know what I mean!" Cole retorted in a mock snarl. "Before Cecile had returned. We haven't laid eyes upon each other in two years."
Andre lazily shot back, "And whose fault is that?"
"Okay, so I've been busy during the past few years. Between dodging the Source's zoltars; helping Phoebe and her family, especially after Prue's death; losing my powers . . . Hell! You know what I mean! I just haven't found the time to visit. Until now."
Nodding, Andre replied, "I understand what you're getting at. But what I don't understand are all of these visits during the past two weeks." He cast a shrewd glance at Cole. "Is there a reason why I've been seeing so much of you, lately?"
Images of Olivia McNeill's face flashed through Cole's mind. Every time he had visited his friend, the latter would ask the same question. And Cole would usually avoid an answer with complaints about his job. This time, Cole decided to change tactics. "I'm thinking about moving here," he answered. "To New Orleans. It's always been one of my favorite cities. And I think I've had enough of San Francisco."
"Uh-huh. Who's the woman?"
Cole glanced sharply at Andre. "What are you talking about?"
Andre rolled his eyes and placed his coffee cup on the small table next to him. "C'mon man! You seem just a little too cheerful, today. It's not your style. It can't be work. You're always bitching about that. When something or someone really bothers you, you tend to keep it to yourself. So, who's the woman? Your ex-wife, Phoebe?"
A sigh left Cole's mouth. There were times he wished that Andre did not know him so well. Hell, three years ago, he would have killed someone for knowing too much about him. But that had been three years ago. Two years with the Halliwells and nearly three months with the McNeills had changed everything. Changed him.
"There was . . ." Cole began. He paused, as his eyes focused upon the Spanish Colonial buildings, situated across the street. "It happened on New Year's Day. Around midnight, to be exact."
Andre frowned. "What happened?"
Cole took a deep breath and explained what happened over the New Year holiday. He told Andre everything - Olivia's invitation, the actual party at the Fairmont Hotel, Cole's doubts about kissing Olivia, the actual kiss . . . Cole's reaction, and Olivia's.
"Oh. Dear. Lord!" Andre stared at Cole with disbelief. "Please tell me you didn't, man!"
Nodding, Cole replied, "Yeah, I did. It was . . . I don't know! It was stupid of me to kiss her like that. I mean one doesn't kiss a friend. Not like that!"
Andre rolled his eyes in disgust. "Just how long have you been without a woman, boy?" he retorted with mild contempt. "There was nothing wrong about that kiss. I was talking about your reaction. You practically pushed the woman away!"
"Haven't you heard a word I had said? I had kissed a friend! A very close friend!"
The New Orleans-born man shot back, "So? She's a woman, ain't she?"
Cole hesitated. "Well, yeah."
"Did you enjoy the kiss?"
Again, Cole hesitated. "It was . . . it wasn't . . . bad." He glanced up and saw the knowing look in Andre's eyes. "Okay, yeah I did. I enjoyed it very much. But dammit, Andre! You don't understand. I didn't want to give Olivia the impression that I was interested in her. I don't want to spoil our friendship."
A snicker escaped Andre's mouth. "I'd say you've already done it. You know what your problem is, don't you, man?"
Cole stared at his friend, wearing a bewildered expression. "Problem?"
"Yeah. You've spent most of your life seducing other women for a certain purpose that you've never really learned how to deal with romance." Andre paused. "Actually, I can think of a lot of mortals who are the same way. Let's face it. When it comes to romance . . . or a woman, you're just a babe in the woods."
Cole flashed an annoyed glance at his friend. "Thank you for that in-depth analysis, Dr. Ruth's Son. May I remind you that I was once married?"
"May I remind you that you were possessed by a powerful daemon at the time?" Andre retorted. "What happened next wasn't exactly a reflection of your skills in the Romance Department. Of course, I can't say the same about Whatshername."
"Thanks. And her name is Phoebe."
Andre continued, "Look, you want my advice? Here it is. Apologize to Olivia. Tell her that you're sorry for what happened, and that you enjoyed the kiss so much that it took you by surprise. Simple." He paused. "Then again, this is Olivia we're talking about. Apologizing to her ain't gonna be that simple.
Cole reflected upon Andre's words with a sigh. "I guess you're right. I have to apologize. I just hope that Olivia is willing to listen." He took one look at his friend's dubious expression and realized he had a battle on his hands.
* * * *
Nearly everyone stared at the scorch mark on the ceiling with shock and surprise. Well, not everyone. Olivia noticed that one person in particular, reacted with horror. "Oh my God!" Paige cried. "Oh God! You've got a demonic power!"
Olivia and the others stared at the young witch with confused eyes. "Demonic what?" the former asked.
"A fire power," Paige replied. "Demonic power. Phoebe had the same when she was pregnant with the Source's child. The baby took control of her. Gave her a demonic power."
Jack McNeill rolled his eyes. "Paige, don't take this the wrong way, but what in the hell are you talking about? There's no such thing as a demonic power. I thought you knew that."
Paige's eyes shifted back and forth - from the McNeill patriarch to Olivia. "Oh," she began in an uneasy voice. "I mean, yeah. I guess . . . I forgot." Then she asked, "But is it really common for witches to have a fire power?"
"Yes it is, love," Olivia's mother patiently answered. "Pyrokinesis is quite common." She glanced uneasily at her daughter. "Except at that strength is quite rare. Pyrokinesis . . . it's a rather difficult power to master."
Olivia let out a groan. Mastering her telekinesis had been difficult enough when she was a child. But pyrokinesis!"
Paige continued, "But I don't understand. I knew that Bruce has a second power, and Mr. McNeill. But Livy, why did it take you so long to receive yours? And why don't the others have one?"
"Family tradition," Jack replied curtly. "Possessing two powers is usually common in the McNeill family. And we usually receive our second power, while we are in our late twenties or early thirties. I received my second one when I was Olivia's age."
Olivia added in a remorseful voice, "Yeah, but you didn't receive pyrokinesis. How am I going to deal with this?"
Gweneth slipped an arm around her daughter's shoulders and gave them a tight squeeze. "You'll deal with the same way you did with your first power. Besides, you shouldn't treat this new power as a curse. You're a McNeill witch with pyrokinesis, love. Don't you realize what this means?"
"No, I don't."
The head of the McNeill family let out a sigh. "I forgot. You don't know about . . ."
Blue lights heralded the arrival of Leo Wyatt, whitelighter to the McNeill siblings and the Charmed Ones. His blue eyes expressed more than concern. They expressed outright anxiety. "I found what happened!" he declared breathlessly to Olivia. "About your new power." His gaze focused on the scorch mark on the ceiling.
Paige stared at her brother-in-law with disbelief. "You know about Olivia's new fire power, already?"
"The Elders became aware of it the moment Olivia first used it." Again, he faced Olivia. "How . . . how on earth did you get a demonic power?"
A long sigh escaped Jack's mouth. "Okay! That's it! I've had enough of this demonic power shit! Leo, Olivia does not have a demonic power. Pyrokinesis is not evil. Nor is any other power. And why in the hell are the whitelighters concerned about her?"
"Really?" Leo retorted. "Because I've yet to meet a witch with the power of pyrokinesis!"
Bruce rolled his eyes, while his father shot back, "Then you must not have seen much for a whitelighter who has been around for sixty years. I have met witches with pyrokinesis. Including members of the McNeill family. Including my dad's Cousin Keith, who had recently passed away. Even Olivia's great-great grandfather had it, as a matter of fact."
"Her great-great . . .?" Leo blinked.
"Oh yeah," Bruce added. "I remember Grandad talking about him. Great-great Grandfather William. I heard that he could form fireballs. Like Cousin Keith."
Paige frowned. "Fireballs? Like demons?"
The McNeill men stared at Paige. Olivia remained silent, her hands tucked underneath her armpits. "Hey! People! While this great philosophical debate is going on, can someone please tell me how to deal with this new power?"
Her mother gently guided Olivia toward the sofa. "Pet, I've already told you. You're just going to have to deal with it in the same manner that you learned how to control your first power."
"Like practice," Paige suggested.
Gweneth spared the young witch a grateful smile. "Including practice. However, I believe meditation will also help."
"Meditation." Olivia nodded. "Right."
Harry spoke up. "Maybe you can find someone to help you practice with your pyrokinesis. Like Cole. He once told me how difficult it was for him to control his fire power at first."
Olivia automatically rejected the idea. Nearly two weeks had passed since that disastrous New Year's party. And right now, she had no desire to receive help from Cole. Let alone see him.
Paige frowned. "I thought he only used to have energy balls. Electrokinesis."
"Who cares what he had?" Leo cried. "Don't any of you understand what's going on? Olivia has a firepower! A demonic power! And all of you are standing around, acting as if there is nothing to be concerned about!"
An annoyed Gweneth McNeill retorted, "Of course there's nothing to be concerned about!" Her voice softened. "Once Olivia learns how to control her new power."
"Yeah, but . . ."
"Leo?" Jack's voice rang clear and sharp. "I realize that you're only concerned for Olivia - although I don't know why considering you haven't been her whitelighter for over twelve years. But I'm getting sick and damn tired of this ridiculous morality of yours! Olivia now has pyrokinesis. Nothing more, nothing less! She's not some damn warlock or daemon! And if any of my children end up suffering, because of the whitelighters' self-righteous attitude, I swear to both the God and Goddess herself that I'll find a darklighter's crossbow and use it on you!" Blue-gray eyes radiated cold anger. "Understand?"
Silence enveloped the drawing room. Olivia's father continued to glare at the whitelighter. Olivia, her brothers, Paige and the other guests, stared goggle-eyed at the pair. Davies took the opportunity to surreptiously slip out of the room. And Gweneth suddenly became interested in the food on her plate.
"I . . ." Leo began. Then he broke off. He seemed unable to say anything further.
Jack shot back, "You what?"
"Never mind." Leo took a deep breath. Then his eyes glanced upward. "I think I've been summoned. Excuse me." He orbed away without any further words.
Everyone else heaved sighs of relief. Everyone, except for Jack, who faced Olivia. "Now, let's see about dealing with this new power of yours."
Olivia decided that she had it all figured out. "It's simple," she explained. "All I need is daily meditation and some practice, and I should have it all under control."
"Oh really?" Gweneth added. "You think it's that simple? Livy, this is pyrokinesis, you're dealing with. Handling fire is difficult for those who practice magic. If you're going to learn to control this power, you need to find someone who can help you. Someone who also has pyrokinesis."
Aunt Carla, Olivia's godmother, spoke up. "Oh, I wish I could help. But the only person I know who had pyrokinesis accidentally killed himself, while conducting some spell. Poor thing. He didn't really know what he was doing. And he had just learned how to use this power."
"Great," Olivia mumbled. "Something for me to remember always."
"I know someone," said Barbara. The perky blonde placed her plate on the nearest table. "Margot Palmer. She's part of my old coven. We're not exactly friends, but I think she would be willing to help."
Bruce added, "Why don't you just ask Cole? He's the perfect person."
"I'd rather ask Barbara's friend, thank you very much," Olivia grumbled. "I don't see why we have to run to Cole, every time we need help."
Gweneth glared at her daughter. "And why not? If there is anyone who would know about pyrokinesis, it's Cole. And something tells me that Ms. Palmer's fire power is not as strong."
Olivia opened her mouth to retort. Then she closed it. "What?" her father demanded. "Were you about to say something?"
"No. I was merely considering Barbara's suggestion."
Jack continued, "Really? And what's wrong with Cole? Do you think he would mind helping you?"
A hesitant Olivia paused, before answering, "No. I don't think so."
"Then why haven't we laid eyes upon him in nearly two weeks?" Jack gave Olivia a pointed stare. "Can you explain that?"
Olivia could, but she would be damned if she would give any of her family the satisfaction.
END OF PART ONE