"THE HALF-BLOOD DEMON"
Just as she had been instructed, Paige orbed to the summit of Twin Peaks, overlooking the city. To the west, the reddish-orange sun had began its descent. Also on the hillside stood a petite black woman with three men and two women standing behind her. The Charmed One walked toward the woman. "I have Belthazor's powers," she said. "Just as you had instructed.
The woman held out her hand. "Give it to me."
Before Paige could hand over the jar to the woman, Olivia and Cole's mother materialized on the hillside. Olivia stretched out her hand and snatched the jar from Paige's grasp, using her telekinesis.
"What the . . ." the black woman began. She stared at Cole's mother. "Nimue?"
Cole's mother smiled unpleasantly. "Zamora. I had no idea that the Khorne Order was behind all this. Why? Who in the Order recruited you to steal my son's powers? Or is this little operation your own idea?"
Zamora regarded the other demoness with contempt. "I don't have to tell you anything!" She turned to her minions. "Kill them!"
Paige merely stood by and watched the red-haired witch and the auburn-haired demoness fight off Zamora's minions. The fight did not really take long. Nimue killed two of them with energy balls. Olivia roasted one with a stream of fire and killed another by forcing his knife into his heart.
Zamora disappeared. Seconds later, she reappeared next to the Charmed One. "Paige," she whispered. "Save my friends."
The young witch nodded wordlessly. The moment she saw Nimue toss an energy ball toward Zamora's surviving minion, she summoned it with her power and threw it at Phoebe's former mother-in-law. Olivia re-directed the energy ball at Zamora's minion, who vanquished into a ball of fire.
Paige overheard a slight gasp from Zamora. Then the latter whispered, "Get the jar."
"Yes Zamora," the Charmed One quietly replied. Unaware of the consequences of her actions, Paige teleorbed the jar out of Olivia's hand.
Zamora grabbed the jar. "Thank you." The next thing the half-whitelighter knew, the jar flew out of the demoness' hands and into Olivia's.
"Good-bye Zamora." Cole's mother quickly flung an energy ball at Paige's companion. Before the younger demoness could escape, she dissipated into a ball of fire.
A dizzying sensation struck Paige and she sank to the ground. "What the hell?" she groaned. "What am I doing . . .?"
"Paige?" The Charmed One glanced up and found Olivia and Cole's mother staring at her with anxious eyes. The redhead added, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I think so." Paige glanced around. Stared at Cole's mother. And at the jar in Olivia's hands. "What's that?" she asked.
The demoness replied, "Belthazor's powers. You used a potion to take them away from him."
The revelation struck Paige like a thunderbolt. "What?" She struggled to her feet.
Olivia gave the younger woman a pitying look. "It's obvious that someone had cast a spell on you. It's a long story. Can you . . . orb?"
"Yeah, I guess." Paige shook her head in confusion. "I don't know."
Cole's mother grabbed Paige's hand. "I will return you both."
"Uh . . . teleported . . . by a demon? I don't . . ."
Blue eyes challenged Paige. "Is there a problem? Do not worry." Her mouth twisted into a wry smile. "You won't catch anything."
"Huh." Despite her reluctance, Paige allowed the demoness to maintain a grip on her hand. Olivia grabbed Nimue's free arm. And the latter teleported the two witches from the hillside.
Seconds later, two figures emerged from behind a large bush. Artemus regarded the now empty scene with a stony stare. "Do not say a word," he tonelessly instructed Prax. "Not a damn word."
Unbeknownst to the chameleon daemon they had recruited, Artemus and Prax had appeared on the Twin Peaks summit to witness the young witch/whitelighter hand over Belthazor's powers to Zamora. And to ensure that Zamora would not use them for herself. What Artemus had not counted on was Olivia McNeill and Nimue, of all people, interfering in the transaction.
"But . . ." Prax began. He closed his mouth, under the senior daemon's hard stare.
Artemus continued in a low growl, "Yes Prax. I am upset. I'm more than upset. I'm pissed off! That red-headed bitch is really becoming a problem!"
Prax finally regained his courage and asked, "Why didn't you kill Nimue? She wasn't aware of your presence."
"Because Nimue possesses reflexes that even I envy," Artemus shot back. "Because I could not take the chance of her knowing that I was no longer in prison and planning on becoming the next Source."
"Surely . . ."
Artemus cut off his assistance. "Prax, Nimue and I have a long history. We had a brief romance over 200 years ago, but it didn't go anywhere. I . . . well, betrayed her by dabbling with a French warlock named Danielle. She retaliated by cursing me with a . . ." Artemus broke off, deciding not to reveal that little humiliation. "Let's just say that it was an incident that left our relationship less than amiable."
A frown appeared on Prax's countenance. "Strange, I don't recall you two hating one another."
"We've never hated each other, Prax. Actually, it was Raynor whom she hated. But ever since Danielle, she has never trusted me. I'm beginning to wonder if she ever had. And I know for sure that she would have never supported my attempt to destroy the Whitelighter Council. Or support my bid to become the Source. Especially now that she's head of the Thorn Order." He sighed and shook his head. "Why is it that nothing seemed to be going my way, lately? Can you tell me why, Prax?"
The other daemon merely regarded him with wide eyes and shook his head. Artemus rolled his eyes in disgust and left the hillside.
Once again, Cole found himself as a mortal again. And once again, he hated the experience. What made this so difficult to endure was listening to Phoebe babble on in an attempt to reassure him, without a means to shut her mouth or escape from her presence.
". . . might be feeling a little disoriented right now," Phoebe was saying. "But maybe it's for the best. Maybe Paige did you a favor."
Cole stared at his ex-wife, wondering if she had just experienced a lobotomy. "Phoebe, Paige has my powers. And God only knows what she's done with them. Or to whom she has given them."
"I understand," Phoebe said in that defensive whine that he has always found irritating. "You don't want them to fall into the wrong hands. But if Olivia manages . . . well, to find Paige . . . you wouldn't take them back. Would you?" She regarded him with anxious eyes.
Cole opened his mouth to reassure her . . . until Olivia's accusations of him caving into others' desires flashed in his mind. "I don't . . ."
Three figures shimmered into the living room - much to Cole's relief. Paige, his mother and Olivia . . . holding a jar. Cole stared at the jar. "My powers," he murmured.
"We had managed to find Miss Halliwell . . ." Nimue began.
Paige corrected her. "Miss Matthews."
". . . just as she was about to give the jar to Zamora."
Phoebe frowned. "Who?"
"A chameleon daemon," Cole grimly explained. "Remember the shapeshifter I had exposed before Piper was kidnapped by the Source?" The Halliwells nodded. "Zamora is the same kind of daemon. Only she's associated . . ."
Nimue finished, ". . . with the Khorne Order. It is possible that she had been spying on this household for the past several days. And after discovering Miss . . . Matthews' reluctance to help strip Belthazor's powers, she must have cast a spell to make your sister cooperate. Probably a telepathic manipulation spell."
"Bitch," Paige muttered.
Piper eyed her youngest sister. "So, Paige is no longer under a spell?"
"Don't worry. I am once more, my own woman."
"Good. That means I don't have to watch you act like a pod person anymore," Piper added.
Cole's eyes refocused on the jar. "I see that you got my powers back."
"Yeah, we did," Olivia quietly replied. She held out the jar. "Do you want them back? Or should I hide it somewhere?"
Green eyes stared into blue ones. There seemed to be no demand for Cole to make a certain decision. Olivia's eyes only expressed curiosity. Cole recalled his choice before Paige had stripped his powers. In a clear voice, he declared, "I want them back. I want my powers back."
Olivia heaved a sigh of relief.
"Cole!" Phoebe regarded him with dismay. His mother, on the other hand, flashed a triumphant smile.
Olivia nodded. "As you wish." She tossed the jar at Cole's feet. As the glass shattered, a dark gray cloud rose from the ground and seeped into his body. The disjointed feeling that Cole had been experiencing since the loss of his powers, disappeared.
Cole lifted his hand. An energy ball hovered above his open palm. "Back to normal."
Anger and resentment flared in Phoebe's eyes. She stared accusingly at Cole. "Excuse me," she muttered angrily, before marching in the direction of the Solarium.
Cole heaved a sigh. "Shit. Just a minute." He followed Phoebe into the Solarium, where he found her sitting on the sofa and picking up the TV remote. "Phoebe?"
Angry, dark eyes glared at the half-daemon. "What Cole? There's nothing else to say. You've made your decision. Apparently, your powers are more important than us."
Weary of his ex-wife's dramatics, Cole exploded. "God Phoebe! Can't you give it a rest? For once in your life, can you stop being such a drama queen? Everything's not all about you!"
"What the hell does that mean?"
"It means that I have my own life to live!" Cole shot back. In a lower voice, he added, "It means . . . I have to be my own man."
Phoebe retorted rather nastily, "You just lost your chance to be a man, Cole! Now, you're just a demon again."
"Daemon, man . . . who gives a shit? I just want to be me! Is that so hard to understand?" Cole sighed. "But if you can't accept that . . . well, to be honest, I don't really care."
Phoebe shot to her feet. "Cole!"
Three weeks of frustration finally spilled out. "C'mon Phoebe. Why don't we be honest for once? This 'new' relationship of ours is not working. And I think we both need to realize this."
"Oh I see." Phoebe gave him a knowing look. "This is all about Olivia. You still want her back, don't you. I can feel it."
Feel it? What the hell? Cole shook his head. Why deny his feelings? After a long pause, Cole said, "You're right. I do want Olivia back. We, on the other hand, should have stuck to being friends like we had originally intended."
"So what are you saying Cole? That you were just using me for rebound?"
Another sigh left Cole's mouth. "Yea, Phoebe. That's exactly it. And I forgot the old saying about being unable to recapture the past." A brief smile touched his lips.
Phoebe glared at him. "You really are a bastard! You know that?"
"Perhaps I am. But you're the one who didn't bother to break it off with Jason Dean." Wide-eyed, Phoebe stared at Cole, who continued, "You were using him as back-up, weren't you? Just in case it didn't work out for us."
Shock, followed by guilt flashed in Phoebe's eyes. "How did you . . .?" Now realization lit up her eyes. "Paige!"
"Paige didn't say a word," Cole said. "I was there that night. Remember? When I took you to Quake's over a week ago? While I was waiting for you, Dean called. Now why would he call, Phoebe, when we had been dating for at least two weeks? And then there were the other signs." Cole paused. "Like the fact that you never allowed me to take you to lunch, in case I showed up at your office. All I had to do was put two and two together."
Phoebe's body sagged in defeat. "I suppose you think I should feel guilty about . . ."
"No Phoebe, I don't." Cole sat next to her. "But I think we should end it between us. Before it gets any worse. Maybe we should make a stab at being friends again."
The Charmed One backed away from his closeness. "I guess," she murmured. "But not now." Phoebe lowered her head. "I just can't . . . Not now. Okay?"
"Yeah. Sure." Cole stood up. "I'll see you Phoebe." He turned on his heels and left the Solarium. Upon entering the living room, he found Piper sitting on the sofa. And no one else. "Where's . . .?"
"Your mom left. She said that she'll drop by to see you later. Paige took Olivia back to her apartment." Piper glanced past Cole. "Where's Phoebe?"
The half-daemon replied, "Still in the Solarium. Upset. You'll be happy to know that it's over between us."
Piper hesitated. "I'm sorry."
Cole shrugged. "I'm not. We shouldn't have taken it this far in the first place."
"Oh." Another long pause followed before Piper continued, "Listen, about what Paul Margolin and Leo had done . . ." The telephone rang. Piper picked up the receiver. "Hello? Oh. Jason? Uh . . ." She flashed an uneasy glance at Cole. "It's good to hear from you. Oh. Oh yeah. Phoebe's home. One minute." Piper removed the receiver from her ear and screamed, "Phoebe! Telephone!" After a brief pause, she hung up.
Cole decided that it was time to leave. "Listen, I better go. I'll see you later." Just as he was about to beam out, he remembered that his Porsche was parked outside. He headed toward the front door.
At that moment, Leo orbed into the living room. Piper glared at her husband. "What are you doing here?"
"Piper, we need to talk," the Elder calmly replied.
The Charmed One shot back, "Talk about what? We have nothing to say!"
"Piper! I know you're hurt. Look, maybe we can't be a family again, but I can do something . . ."
Cole slipped out of the manor, closed the door behind him and heaved a sigh of relief. Poor Leo, he thought. Still trapped in that web of Halliwell dramatics - if not physically, then in spirit. Thank God that he had finally escaped. Feeling emancipated after three long weeks, Cole whistled a childhood tune, as he marched down the front steps and toward his car.
END OF PART 6