Thursday, August 14, 2008
"Whatever You Desire" [R] - 5/5
"WHATEVER YOU DESIRE"
"Paige? Stop staring at him like that. Please!" Nathalie added for good measure.
A fleeting spark of guilt lit up the young witch's eyes, before she tore them away from the daemon sitting in one of the kitchen chairs. Sobbing. Paige refocused her eyes on the cup of Glogg sitting on the table. "Sorry," she muttered.
Nathalie sighed and said to the sobbing Stregheria demon. "Riggerio? Listen sweetie, why don't you finish your Glogg? It'll help you feel better."
More tears fell from the handsome daemon's eyes. "I do not know, Nathalie," he sobbed. "You should have seen her. That woman looked just like my . . . my Sofia. It's just . . . just too much for me to bear."
Paige whispered to Nathalie, "What is he talking about?"
Nathalie whispered back, "A Stregheria witch named Sofia Pasolini. Riggerio and she were in love, some forty years ago. She was killed by a warlock named Fonetti."
Shaking her head, Paige commented, "And I thought that Phoebe was the first witch to fall for a demon."
"Oh no, honey. That sort of thing has happened a lot, over the years." Nathalie paused. "It happened to your grandmother."
Paige's eyes grew round with shock. "What?"
But Nathalie returned her attention to Riggerio, who had finished the last of his punch. "How do you feel, honey?" she asked. "Better?"
The daemon sighed. "A little. Your Glogg is excellent, by the way. Better than that Glogg I once had in Stock . . . uh, Stooo . . . why do I feel so strange?" Then he swayed slightly, rolled his eyes and slumped forward on the table.
At that moment, Cole entered the kitchen. He glanced at his fellow daemon and said, "I see that you've finally found a way to stop his crying."
"I had added an extra touch of Valerian to make sure that I knock him out, right away," Nathalie replied. "I guess it's okay for him to sleep here."
Cole added, "Better here than in the other rooms. The whole place looks like the aftermath of a battle. Especially with all of those bodies strewn about."
"So much for your party," a mournful Paige said.
Nathalie dismissed the comment with a wave of her hand. "Don't be too sure. The antidote should keep everyone out for at least an hour or two. And it's not even ten o'clock, yet. The night's still young."
"The night is over, Nathalie," Cole declared firmly. "That Valerian might wear out within an hour or so, but it might take everyone a lot longer to recover from its aftereffects. By the way, how much Valerian did you put in the Glogg? It nearly took Olivia and Harry forever to fall asleep."
Nathalie stared briefly at Cole, as she noticed a few things different about him. A slow smile crept across her face. "Well, of course it took longer for them. They're redheads."
"Meaning," Nathalie continued, "it has been recently discovered that redheads require more anesthesia during operations. They have some kind of genetic mutation that gives them a higher resistance to drugs. You . . . uh, had a little problem with them?"
Cole rolled his eyes and sat in the chair, opposite the unconscious Riggerio. "Tell me about it."
"Is that why you have lipstick on your chest?" Nathalie asked saucily. She nodded at Cole's gaping shirt.
The half-demon's fingers immediately flew to his shirt and began to fasten the remaining buttons. "That's an old scar, not lipstick," he murmured, as his face turned red.
"A scar with the same coloring as Olivia's lipstick? And what's that on your neck? Another . . . scar?" An amused Nathalie watched the half-daemon squirm with discomfort.
A snicker escaped from Paige's mouth. Cole glared at her. "Okay," he said with a defeated sigh, "so things got out of hand with Olivia," he grumbled. "She got a little . . . aggressive. But nothing happened."
Nathalie's smile widened. "Of course. Whatever you say."
The door swung open in a violent manner. Bruce and Barbara stumbled into the kitchen, their clothes in disarray. "Hey!" Barbara declared cheerfully. "Is the party over?"
* * * *
Phoebe slowly made her way downstairs to the Halliwells' living room, the following morning. Upon arriving, she found the room empty and strode toward the kitchen. Sure enough, her family - sans Leo - was there, eating breakfast at the kitchen table.
"She's awake!" Paige declared in a genial voice. "Finally!"
Groaning aloud, Phoebe asked, "What time is it?"
Piper glanced at the kitchen clock. "Eight forty-five. I'm surprised that you're up, already. I thought you would be sleeping a lot longer, considering how hung over you looked when Paige brought you home, last night."
This time, Phoebe sighed. She eased her body into the remaining empty chair. "I still feel hung over. The last several hours seem to be a blur. The last thing I remember is eating and drinking some raspberry punch." She paused and glanced at Paige. "Shouldn't you be leaving for work, by now?"
Paige said, "I just got a call from Barbara. Ostera's will be closed, today. Barbara is . . . recovering."
"Is that all you remember from last night?" Piper asked. "Just eating?"
A frown creased Phoebe forehead. "That, and talking to Cole, Olivia and Paul. Only I don't know what about."
"You mean that you don't remember . . ." Paige broke off and shook her head. "Never mind."
Phoebe demanded, "Never mind what? What happened? I know about the potion in the punch. You told me about it, last night. But that's all I remember."
Piper glanced at Paige. "Well, our little sister didn't tell me much. Other than the party had ended early, because of the potion. And the antidote this Nathalie person had later served. What kind of potion was in that punch?"
"It was made from bluebells," Paige said, as she cut into her sausage patty. "Which are used to free a person's inhibitions. You know, causes them to be more open about their feelings."
Frowning, Piper said, "Wait a minute. Has this something to do with that ridiculous theory that we had heard about duel psyches or something?"
"I wouldn't exactly call it ridiculous, Piper." Paige popped the piece of sausage into her mouth and chewed. "You didn't see a demon weep uncontrollably over the memory of a dead witch."
"What?" Both Phoebe and Piper screeched at the same time.
Then Phoebe added, "Are you talking about Riggerio? I remember seeing him at the party."
"There were DEMONS at the party?" Piper demanded.
Paige nodded. "Yeah. I mean, Cole was there. And so were Riggerio and three other demons. They were all affected by the bluebell potion. Well, except for Cole, who didn't drink any of the punch."
"Five demons and not a drop of blood was spilled?" Piper asked in a disbelievingly voice.
"Not a drop," Paige replied. "Although . . ." she hesitated, "there were a few flare-ups." Her eyes slid toward Phoebe, who stared back. "Including one between Pheebs and Olivia."
Phoebe warily eyed her younger sister. "What exactly happened?"
"Oh, nothing much. You two got into a fight. You tried to punch Olivia. She blocked you and tossed you onto the ground." Paige shrugged her shoulders. "Simple."
Phoebe groaned. "Oh God! I can't believe . . ." She stared at Paige. "Wait a minute! Why would I attack Olivia?"
"Because of the potion," Paige explained in a matter-of-fact tone that irritated Phoebe. "It had released all of your inhibitions."
Curiosity gleamed in Piper's eyes. "Exactly what kind of inhibitions are we talking about?"
Paige hesitated before she answered. "Oh, like Phoebe's feelings for Cole."
"I have no feelings for Cole!" Phoebe retorted. "He means nothing to me!"
Rolling her eyes, Paige shot back, "If that's true, why did you get into a fight with Olivia? I mean, God Phoebe! You practically admitted to me that you still love him. You practically tried to get him to admit that he still felt the same about you. And when Olivia had pointed out that he didn't, you attacked her."
Panic rose within Phoebe, as her sister's words spewed out. Paige had to be wrong! There was no way she would get into an argument with another woman over Cole! "You can't be right!" Phoebe protested.
"Pheebs . . ."
"I don't know where you got this idea, Paige, but you're wrong! You probably misunderstood something I had said, because I am quite certain that I don't love Cole."
Heaving a sigh, Paige surrendered. "Okay, Phoebe. If that's what you want to believe." Then her dark eyes glittered, as they pinpointed Phoebe's. "But you can't keep lying to yourself, Pheebs. Sooner or later, you feelings are going to come out. And it might be at the worst time, possible."
Phoebe silently vowed that it would never happen. Because as far as she was concerned, she had no feelings for Cole. No matter what Paige believed.
* * * *
Paul was sipping a glass of apple juice, when Leo materialized in the middle of his apartment. "Hey Paul!" the whitelighter cheerfully greeted.
A groan escaped the witch's mouth. "Morning Leo. What brings you here?"
Leo explained that he had heard about Nathalie Gleason's party from Paige. And the potion that accidentally ended up in the hostess' Raspberry Sunset punch. "Yeah, if you can call it an accident," Paul grumbled. "I'm beginning to think that she added it on purpose."
"That doesn't sound like Nathalie Gleason," Leo said with a shake of his head. He sat down on the living room sofa. "She may be unorthodox, but she would never used magic on someone without his or her permission."
Another grunt left Paul's mouth. "Yeah. Whatever." He gulped down the last of his juice. "So, did Paige and Phoebe give you the details? Because I sure as hell don't remember them. Well, I do remember waking up in a strange bedroom, feeling groggy. And seeing Beltha . . . uh, Turner talking to Phoebe at the refreshment table." He added in a morose voice, "And Olivia being jealous." A frown creased his forehead.
"Paige wasn't exactly forthcoming when she and Phoebe came home, last night," Leo explained. "She had mentioned the potion, and the herb Miss Gleason used to cleanse the potion from your systems. Of course Paige, Cole and Miss Gleason didn't drink the punch, so they weren't affected."
Paul sighed. "Lucky bastards," he mumbled darkly. "Because right now, I feel as if I had a close encounter with a cattle prod. God!"
"That must be the Valerian that Miss Gleason added to the . . . uh, antidote. That's probably why you're still feeling groggy. A day's rest should do you some good." He paused, reluctant to express what was on his mind. "Uh Paul, can I ask you something? Are you sure that you don't remember anything after drinking the potion? Like anything between Olivia . . . and Cole?"
Shaking his head, Paul replied, "No, nothing." He gave Leo a suspicious look. "Why? Did Paige say something?"
"Not really. It's . . ." Leo sighed. "Well, according to Paige that potion had literally exposed everyone's feelings. I just thought . . ." Noticing the horrified expression on Paul's face, the whitelighter quickly amended his words. "Don't worry. It's nothing. Besides, if anything had happened, Paige would have said something. It's nothing." He gave Paul a reassuring smile. Yet, a small part of Leo did not feel so confident.
* * * *
The doorbell rang. Olivia sauntered over to the front door and glanced through the peephole. "Well, look who's here!" she drawled laconically, before opening the door. She greeted her new visitor. "Nathalie! I see that you've finally worked up the nerve to face me?"
The dark-haired witch greeted both Olivia and her brothers with a nervous smile. "Hey Livy! You seem to be feeling better. Bruce. Harry."
The McNeill brothers returned Nathalie's greeting with curt nods. "So, what are you doing here?" Olivia asked.
"To apologize," Nathalie replied in a humble manner. "In fact, I want to apologize to all of you."
Bruce asked, "Why didn't you simply call?"
"Well, I did. I called your house." Nathalie added, "But your mom told me that you and Harry were here, at Olivia's apartment. So . . ." She held out a rectangular-shaped pan that contained some kind of dessert. "Here's my peace offering. A peach cobbler."
Harry rose from his chair and walked over to the two women. "Cobbler? Did you make one for each guest at your party?" he asked Nathalie.
"No, just for the three of you. The last thing I want to be is on the bad side of a McNeill." Nathalie smiled at Bruce. "Especially since one of them is getting married."
Shaking his head, an amused Bruce said, "Your invitation will be in the mail. Don't worry."
Nathalie immediately perked up. "Great!"
"Wait a minute!" Olivia gave her friend a dark look, as she took the cobbler. "You're still on the bad side of this particular McNeill."
Dark eyes pleaded with the red-haired woman. "Oh, c'mon Livy! You're not sore, are you? Putting that potion in the punch was an accident. I swear!"
"You know something, Nat? I don't even know why I had bothered to accept your party invitation in the first place," Olivia retorted. "The last time you had one, I ended up acting as referee between two warlocks, whose covens were involved in a blood feud. But this . . ." She shook her head in despair.
Nathalie reached for the cobbler. "I guess that means my peace offering is out of the question."
"Did I say that?" Olivia demanded, as she moved the cobbler out of Nathalie's reach. Then she added in a curt voice, "And by the way, you're forgiven for last night."
The dark-haired witch replied sarcastically, "Gee, thanks."
Olivia added, "However, we want to know what happened, last night."
"Yeah," Bruce said. "Everything."
After a brief hesitation, Nathalie did as she was asked. "Okay," she said to Bruce, "if you insist. For one thing, you and Barbara were at each other like cats in heat. All night long." The oldest McNeill's face turned beet red with embarrassment. Harry, on the other hand, chucked with amusement. "I wouldn't laugh if I were you, Harry. Especially since you were all over Paige Matthews."
The smile on Harry's face disappeared. "What? What are you talking about? She's not even my type!"
"Oh really? Then why were you trying to kiss her?" a smiling Nathalie asked. "I saw you."
"I . . ." Harry hesitated. A giggle escaped from Olivia's mouth. He glared at her. "Okay, so I find her a little attractive. Why shouldn't I? I'm a man. She's a woman. What's the big deal?"
Olivia's mouth curved into a smirk. "Don't worry, Harry. It's no big deal."
"Oh, I don't know about that," Nathalie said. "From what I saw, Paige had no problem with returning your kiss." Again, Olivia giggled. Nathalie stared at her. "What are you laughing at? All Harry did was kiss Paige. He didn't get into a big fight over her."
Olivia retorted archly, "Meaning?"
"Meaning, you and Phoebe Halliwell managed to get into a big fight over a certain half-daemon."
Green eyes narrowed dangerously. "Excuse me?"
"Honey," Nathalie said, shaking her head, "you don't want to know the whole truth. Trust me."
Blind panic struck Olivia. For the umpteenth time since last night's party, she found herself wondering what happened to her, after drinking Nathalie's punch. Not even fear of any revelation regarding her true feelings for Cole, could squash her curiosity. "And what exactly is the truth?" she demanded. When Nathalie failed to answer, she added in a voice tinged with steel, "Nat, I suggest that you tell me what happened, now. I don't like being kept in the dark."
Nathalie heaved a sigh. "Okay. If you insist." Then Olivia listen with horror, as the former revealed what happened last night - how one Winifred McKenna had tried to proposition Cole, Olivia and Phoebe's reactions, and the fight that had ensued between the latter two. "After that," Nathalie continued, "Cole had sent you, Phoebe, Harry and that Paul Margolin to separate bedrooms to cool off, while I made a bowl of Glogg with some cloves and cedar wood to cleanse out the potion. I don't know what happened when Cole and Paige went upstairs to give you guys your Glogg, but . . ."
"But what?" Olivia demanded, interrupting. "What about upstairs?"
The dark-haired witch's eyes grew wide with innocence. "Nothing. I have no idea what happened, upstairs. I only know that Paige gave the Glogg to that Margolin fellow and Phoebe, and Cole did the same for you and Harry."
A dim memory of a bedroom lingered in the back of Olivia's mind. Only she could not flesh out the details. "Did something happened between Cole and me?" she asked.
"How would I know?" Innocence continued to linger in Nathalie's dark eyes. Olivia gave her a suspicious stare. Either the older woman believed that something had transpired between Olivia and Cole. Or knew. The latter filled Olivia with horror. Oh God!
The doorbell rang for the second time. Her mind still fixed on Nathalie's suggestions, Olivia barely heard it. Again, it rang. "Uh, Livy," Bruce said, jolting her out of her reverie, "I believe someone is at the door."
Olivia responded with a vague nod. She walked over to the door and glanced through the peephole. Her heart fluttered at the sight of the figure standing in the corridor. It was Cole.
Nine minutes later, Cole beamed out of Olivia's apartment, holding a bottle of tarragon. He really did not need the herb, but he did need an excuse to visit Olivia and find out if she had recovered from last night's party. Or if she had remembered anything.
Judging from what he had seen of the McNeill siblings, they had all recovered. But Cole had noticed something else - namely the smug expressions on the faces of the McNeill brothers and Nathalie. And the air of embarrassment that surrounded Olivia whenever she talked with him. And her reserved manner. He had a deep suspicion that Nathalie had told them everything - including her own suspicions of what had happened between Olivia and him, last night. Shit!
After placing the tarragon on his kitchen table, Cole opened the refrigerator and retrieved a bottle of water. He unscrewed the top and took a swallow. Whether or not Olivia had remembered anything, Cole realized that he could no longer dismiss the incident. Thanks to Nathalie's potion, he now knew about Olivia's true feelings. That she was in love with him - Cole Turner, aka Belthazor. Cole wondered if she had turned to Paul Margolin out of frustration for Cole's reluctance to pursue more than a friendship.
But Cole's reluctance had disappeared. Thanks to Olivia's burgeoning relationship with Margolin and last night's revelations, he was through trying to be friends with the redhead. He wanted more with Olivia than friendship. In fact, he simply wanted her. Period. Paul Margolin, as far as Cole was concerned, had just acquired a serious rival for Olivia's heart.