"SPELLS, LIES AND REMORSE"
Two hours after Paige had delivered an unconscious Olivia to her bedroom, she drove her green VW toward the Halliwell manor. There, she found Piper, Leo and Phoebe inside the family kitchen. "You're home early," Piper commented. "In fact, everyone seemed to home early, today."
"I managed to finish work early," Phoebe said. "So, Elise allowed me to go home." She turned to Paige. "Where have you been? I had dropped by Ostera's on the way home. You weren't there. Barbara told me that you were on some kind of errand."
Paige stared at an uncomfortable-looking Leo. "You haven't told them, yet?" she coldly asked.
"Told us what?" Piper demanded. "Why are you staring at Leo like that?"
"Why don't you tell them, Leo?"
The whitelighter opened his mouth. He hesitated. "I . . ." Then he asked Paige, "What happened after you guys left?"
"He's alive." As she continued to stare at Leo, Paige said to her sisters, "Olivia tried to kill Cole, today. She would have succeeded, if we hadn't stopped her. Sorry Leo. I guess your little scheme didn't work, after all." The whitelighter's jaw stiffened.
Both Piper and Phoebe regarded the other two with stunned expressions. "What the hell?" the former cried out. "Paige, what the hell are you talking about?"
Phoebe gasped. "Oh my God! Olivia tried to kill Cole? Why? How was that possible?"
Paige returned her gaze to the whitelighter. "Leo?" But her brother-in-law remained silent. He turned his back on the others. So, Paige told her sisters about Leo and Paul's scheme, the spell cast on Olivia, and the latter's attempt to kill Cole. "Like I said, she almost did it. Olivia came pretty damn close to killing him. I don't know how, but she did."
"Oh my God!" Phoebe cried.
The youngest Charmed One continued, "But we managed to stop her. At least Harry did. He and Bruce are trying to find a potion to counteract Paul's spell."
"I have to see Cole!" Phoebe sprung from her chair and left the kitchen.
Piper stared at Leo, shaking her head in disbelief. "My God, Leo!" she exclaimed softly. "What have you done?"
"Why did you do it, Leo?" Paige demanded. "Why would you stoop so low to that level?"
Leo cried, "You don't understand! It's possible that Cole might re-organize the Underworld! Or have you forgotten?"
Paige retorted, "And that's your excuse for using Olivia to commit murder? For allowing Paul to put her under that spell? So, you could use her to kill her own boyfriend?"
"She was the only one who could do it! At least according to . . ." Leo paused at the sound of the front door slamming shut. Phoebe.
"Don't tell me," Paige said with a sigh. "According to Cecile Dubois." She shook her head in disgust. "You and Paul tried your best to make sure her vision would come true. Didn't you?"
His eyes cast downward, Leo mumbled, "At least everyone came out of this alive."
"Don't be too sure about that," Paige replied coldly. "Paul didn't. He's dead."
Leo gasped aloud. "What?"
Paige explained what happened. "It's simple. I tried to stop Olivia. Paul tried to stop me by using his cyrokinesis on me. Bruce managed to deflect his attack with his aerokinesis and Paul ended up as a frozen statue. And when Olivia had used her telekinesis on Bruce when he tried to stop her, Paul fell back upon the floor." She paused. "Into a million little pieces."
"Oh my God! Paul!" Leo's face expressed shock and grief.
"As far as I'm concerned, that bastard got what he deserved!"
Piper admonished her younger sister. "Paige!"
Looking defiant, Paige continued, "What? After what he had done to Olivia, do you really expect me to feel sympathetic? By the way Leo, I suggest that you stay away from her and the McNeills for a while. Or Mr. McNeill might dig up that darklighter's arrow he has always been threatening you with." She shot her brother-in-law one last glare and marched out of the kitchen.
Olivia's eyes blinked open. An anxious face belonging to her mother hovered above her. She felt a dull ache in the center of her forehead. "Oh God," she murmured. "How long have I been out?"
"Not very long," Gweneth murmured. "Perhaps a little over an hour. Here," she handed Olivia a steaming mug of tea. "Drink it."
Olivia stared at the drink. "What is it?"
"Tea made from cedar wood and cloves," the older woman replied. "Harry made it. Just drink it, Livy. Now."
The firm, yet urgent tone in Gweneth's voice convinced Olivia to follow her mother's orders. She took a sip. Cedar wood and cloves, all right - the same ingredients her family used for counteracting a potion. Too tired to ask her question, Olivia drained the rest of her tea. Seconds later, she experienced a bout of dizziness. And then . . . "Oh my God! Cole!" Memories of the past days struck her with the force of a thunderbolt. Olivia stared at her mother in horror. "Is he . . .?"
"He's still alive," Gweneth dryly reassured her.
Olivia wracked her brain, trying to figure out what had happened. "I don't understand. What happened? I only remembered thinking . . . I remember thinking that Cole was a threat or something. And that he had to die. I don't under. . ."
With a sigh, Gweneth sat on the edge of Olivia's bed. "Oh my poor Livy! I believe you are not going to like what I have to tell you."
The soft voice penetrated his mind. "Cole? Cole, are you okay?"
Cole opened his mouth to speak, but not a sound came out. It seemed that his mouth had become dry.
"Baby, are you awake?" The voice, he finally realized, belonged to Phoebe. What was she doing here? Wherever "here" happened to be. He took a deep breath and finally mustered the energy to speak. "Wha . . . what happened to me?" he whispered.
Another voice replied, "Uh, Olivia almost killed you."
What? The fog in Cole's mind immediately dissipated, as he shot up to a sitting position. He saw Phoebe sitting on the edge of his bed, wearing an anxious expression. Behind her stood Bruce. "Say that again?" he demanded.
Bruce repeated, "Olivia tried to kill you. And she came pretty damn close to doing it. Harry managed to stop her in time."
Disbelief rang in Cole's voice. "Olivia had nearly killed me? How?"
All eyes focused upon Bruce, who squirmed with discomfort. "She used an old theory of ours for killing the Source. But I guess that she had decided to use it against you, instead."
"Cole, do you want a drink?" a concerned Phoebe asked. "Maybe tea or something else?"
"Tea sounds nice." Cole barely noticed the light kiss Phoebe had planted on his forehead. Once he and Bruce were alone, he added, "Look, I realize that Olivia was . . . is pissed at me. For some reason or another. But why would she attack . . .?"
Bruce sighed. "That's right. You don't know. Olivia . . . was under a spell. One that Paul had cast."
A stunned Cole stared at the witch in disbelief. "Did you say that Margolin had cast . . .?"
"It's a long story." Bruce sat down on the spot previously occupied by Phoebe. Then began to reveal what seemed to Cole, a fantastic story.
Two days later, the Halliwell manor's doorbell rang. Piper placed Wyatt's bottle on a nearby sideboard and answered the front door. She glanced through the peephole and winced. A grim-faced Olivia McNeill stood outside.
"Oh God," she murmured. Then she took a deep breath, fixed a too bright smile on her face and opened the door. "Olivia! Hi!" Oh God! She sounded like Mary Poppins! "Come on in." Stepping aside, she allowed the visitor to enter.
Her mouth still formed in a tight line, Olivia said, "Hey Piper. Is Leo home?"
Piper's smile disappeared. She shot a quick glance at Olivia's hands. No darklighter bow-and-arrow seemed to be present - thankfully. "Oh, uh . . . Leo? He's uh . . ."
"Piper?" a familiar voice cried. "Who is it?"
The oldest Charmed One's heart sank at the sight of her husband and Paige entering the living room. Leo stared at the visitor and froze. Olivia's green eyes became hard as polished emeralds. "Hello Leo," she greeted in a chilly voice.
Leo's face turned red. "Olivia, I . . ." Before he could finish, the redhead took a few steps forward and punched him in the jaw. The whitelighter reeled back and landed on the floor with a thump.
Piper rushed to her husband's side. "Leo!"
"I'm going to make this brief," Olivia continued coldly. "When Richard had died over a year ago, I guess you can say that I was in great funk. I couldn't even face my family, because Aunt Rhiannon was responsible for his death. And he was responsible for hers. So, I turned to you . . . my good friend, Leo. All I had to do was open my mouth and tell you that Richard and Rhiannon had killed each other, and without me saying anything further, you had assumed that Richard was to blame. You had really pissed me off that day, Leo. So much so that I had seriously considered hiring a darklighter to kill you. Fortunately for you, I have a brother who happens to be a telepath. And once Harry had discovered my intentions, both he and Bruce talked me out of it. In fact, I even felt ashamed for even considering having you killed. But you know what?" Olivia paused, as her eyes blazed angrily. "After what you and Paul had done to me, I'm beginning to wish that I had hired that darklighter in the first place."
Piper, shaken by Olivia's words, helped Leo to his feet. Then he spoke. "Look Olivia, I realize that what I had done was wrong, but something had to be done about Cole. The Council feared he would reorganize the Under . . ."
Olivia's fist shot out again, and struck Leo in the nose. Again, he reeled back on to the floor. "I can't believe this! You really disgust me, Leo! Do you know that? You had conspired with Paul to violate my mind in order to have Cole murdered, and all you can do is make excuses?"
Blood pouring out of his battered nose, Leo struggled to sit up. "Olivia . . ."
"Don't . . . talk to me! Don't ever talk to me, again! Unless circumstances demand it." Olivia glared at the fallen whitelighter. "As far as I'm concerned, it's over between us! We are no longer friends!" She turned on her heels and marched toward the front door. Her hand on the doorknob, Olivia paused. "And you can tell your precious Whitelighter Council to keep their damn noses out of my business!" And on that note, she left.
Once the door slammed shut, Piper and Paige helped the battered whitelighter to his feet. Leo wiped the blood from his nose and mouth. "Leo?" Piper began in a concerned tone. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Leo mumbled. He stared sadly at the closed door and sighed. "I'm just . . ." He paused and cocked his head. Piper knew what that meant. The Council was summoning him. "I, uh . . . I think I've been summoned."
"What do they want?" Piper asked. When Leo failed to answer, she added, "Leo?"
The whitelighter replied unhappily, "It's probably about Olivia. And Cole."
Confused by her husband's answer, Piper shook her head. "Wha . . . I don't understand. Don't they know what happened?"
A pause followed before Leo said, "They do now. I guess they must have found out about Matilda's plan."
Again, Leo hesitated. "Matilda Everhard. The Elder who had planned this whole thing from the beginning. She was the one who had recruited me . . ."
Now, Piper understood. One of the Elders, acting against the Council's knowledge, had drawn Leo into the scheme to use Olivia to kill Cole. The oldest Charmed One felt mortified. Not only by the fact that an Elder would resort to using a witch against her will and a fellow whitelighter for such a scheme, but that Leo had allowed himself to be used. "Oh my God!"
"How long do you think it would take for you to explain everything?" Paige asked.
Leo gave the two women a wan smile. "I don't know. And I don't know how they'll react." He kissed Piper's cheek. "I'll see you later." With his face still maintaining its sad expression, he heaved a large sigh and orbed out of the room.
Nearly thirty minutes later, Olivia stepped out of her apartment building's elevator and strode toward the double doors leading to Cole's penthouse. She stared at the doors, struggling to keep her emotions in check. Especially her fears.
What if Cole did not want to see her? What if . . . What if he had not forgiven her for rejecting him? For trying to kill him?
Olivia wanted to return to her apartment. Wanted to hide in the privacy of her bedroom, until she could find the courage to face him. But she realized that the longer she procrastinated, the harder it would be fore her to deal with the past week's events.
She took a deep breath and rang the doorbell. The seconds that Olivia had waited for the door to open, seemed like hours. Finally, the door opened and she found herself facing the last person she had expected to see. Wide-eyed, Olivia stared at the figure before her. "Phoebe?"
"Olivia," the middle Charmed One declared nervously. "Um, what . . .?"
Keeping her shock in check, Olivia replied, "Oh, uh . . . I'm here to see Cole."
"Oh." Phoebe continued to block the doorway.
"Is he here? Cole?"
A wary expression appeared on Phoebe's face. "Yeah. Are you . . .?"
Olivia allowed a mirthless smile to touch her lips. "Don't worry. I'm not here to hurt him."
Phoebe's face turned red with embarrassment. "I didn't think . . ."
"Phoebe?" The voice came from inside the penthouse. Olivia glanced past the Charmed One's shoulder and spotted Cole wearing blue terrycloth robe. And nothing else. Judging from his damp appearance, he must have stepped out of the shower. His eyes focused upon Olivia and he immediately stiffened. "Oh. Olivia. What . . . uh, what are you doing here?"
Olivia's first instinct was to flee . . . run away from Cole and the implications of Phoebe's presence. Instead, she remained in the doorway, mindful of the task she had to perform. "I came to see you," she said. "Talk to you. About . . . what happened."
Cole blinked. "Oh. Uh, . . ."
Phoebe opened the door further and allowed Olivia to enter. She closed the door and smiled politely at the older woman. "I'll let you guys have a little privacy." Then she disappeared into the kitchen.
Olivia stared at Phoebe's retreating back. "She's become quite the little hostess, hasn't she?" Then she winced at the slight hint of jealousy in her voice.
Cole flashed a brief smile. "She's been helping me around the place, ever since . . ." He broke off, as his smile disappeared. "Well, you know."
"Since I tried to kill you?" Olivia finished gently. "Look, I can explain about all that. In fact, I can explain my attitude for the past . . ."
"I know what happened." Cole paused, as he took a deep breath. "Bruce told me about Margolin's spell. And Leo's part in the whole thing. I'm sorry that they had used you like that."
Olivia cast her eyes downward. "So am I. I've . . . uh, I've ended it with Leo. Our friendship." She snickered briefly. "Hell, he had stopped being my official whitelighter, years ago. Anyway, perhaps one day I can forgive him. But not now."
"He thought he was doing the right thing," Cole gently added. He gave a nervous cough. "Well, at least he had picked the right person to 'vanquish' me."
Cole continued, "Well, after Phoebe and her sisters had failed to kill Barbas, when he had my powers, I figured that no one would be able to kill me. Until I met you. After I got to know you . . . I figured . . . well, I figured that you, of all people, would find a way."
Olivia stared at the half-daemon in disbelief. "Was that supposed to be a compliment?"
"I'm only complimenting your talents as a witch." Cole paused. "How did you do it, by the way?"
Leery of even discussing the matter, Olivia hesitated. Then, "Bruce and I had this theory about killing the Source." She sighed. "Instead of using brute strength, we thought about using a more subtle manner. We got the idea from that movie called . . . you know, the one with Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum."
Cole shook his head. "Sorry, I don't know what you're talking about."
Reluctantly, Olivia continued, "In the movie, these alien invaders proved to be too powerful for the heroes to destroy. So one of the guys . . . Jeff Goldblum, I think, came up with the idea of creating a computer virus to weaken the aliens' defense system. And Bruce and I thought if we could come up with a potion, combined with a spell to infect the Source's powers with a virus and destroy him from within . . ."
Realization dawned in Cole's blue eyes. "Oh, I get it. Clever."
"Yeah, so I created a potion and a spell that would infect your powers, via the elements. But instead of a spell utilizing the five elements, I used one utilizing seven."
"Your seven element theory?"
Olivia nodded unhappily. "Yeah." She fell silent. So did Cole. They could hear Phoebe moving about in the kitchen. Speaking of the Charmed One . . . "How did you and Phoebe . . ." Olivia paused. "How did you two end up as . . . friends?"
Cole frowned. "Didn't the others tell you?" Olivia shook her head. "Last week, Phoebe had visions of what really happened between me and the Source. We, uh . . . we made our peace."
"Oh. I'm happy for you both." Olivia fell silent, unable to meet Cole's eyes. After another minute, she added, "How long has she been here?"
"For two days. Since the attack. She's been a great help."
'I bet.' Olivia kept the sarcastic response to herself. Then she spotted an unfamiliar travel bag near the sofa. Her heart lurched sideways. "How nice," she finally murmured.
"Olivia . . . look . . ."
Phoebe returned to the living room, carrying a steaming mug. "Here you go," she said, handing the mug to Cole. "I thought you might want some tea."
"Thanks," Cole murmured. He took a sip.
A perfect picture of domesticity, Olivia thought bitterly. Before she could hold her tongue, she said, "Cole was telling me about your reconciliation."
A bright smile illuminated Phoebe's face. "Oh! Yeah. I'm . . . really glad that we've decided to try again. I mean, whoever said there was no such thing as a second chance?"
Olivia frowned. "Second chance?"
"Oh yeah. Didn't Cole tell you? We've decided to give our relationship a second chance."
Stunned, Olivia stared at an uncomfortable-looking Cole. "I . . ." She shook her head. "I mean . . . no, Cole didn't tell me." She added quickly, "But I already knew." With a dim smile, she added, "Congratulations."
Cole began, "Olivia . . ."
"I'm sure that it'll work out between you two, this time," Olivia continued, barely able to get her words out. "I mean, now that you've come . . . to some kind of closure. Over the Source, I mean." She took a deep breath, mindful of the tears that threatened to fall. "Well." Olivia glanced at her watch. "Time for me to go. There's a movie I want to check out and it comes on in less than an hour."
Cole opened his mouth. Phoebe touched his arm, and he nodded. "Yeah. Well, I guess . . . I guess we'll see you around?"
Olivia responded with a too bright smile. "Sure. I'll see you guys." She turned away and headed for the door. A quick glance back at the couple revealed Phoebe possessively clutching Cole's arm. "Bye."
The moment she closed the door behind her, Olivia took a shuddering breath. And allowed the tears to finally stream from her eyes, as she made her way back to the elevator.