SUMMARY: Paige discovers what really happened between Cole and the Source during late Season 4. Sequel to "Return With Vengeance". Set in alternate Season 5.
FEEDBACK: june_daley@rocketmail.com - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, the Charmed Ones, other characters from CHARMED and the transcripts featured in this story are the property of Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. Olivia McNeill and Cecile Dubois are my creations.
*AUTHOR'S NOTES: All flashback scenes are from actual CHARMED Season 4 scripts that I had found on the CHARMED SCRIPTS site - www.charmedscripts.tv/*
The inhabitants of the Halliwell manor seemed to be in some emotional quandary, these days. Or so it seemed to one Paige Matthews - half-whitelighter/half-witch.

She remembered when it first began. During a visit to one of the McNeills' Sunday brunches, over a week ago. That visit had resulted in a few startling revelations. The Halliwell family learned that several whitelighters, guardians of good witches, had defected to the Underworld with detailed information on their own charges, the Charmed Ones, the powerful McNeill clan, and Paige's former brother-in-law, the half-demon Cole Turner. Piper, Paige's oldest sister, had seemed particularly upset that her husband, also the family's whitelighter, had known about the defections.

An even bigger revelation had rocked the Halliwell household. In an outburst of anger toward middle sister Phoebe's attempt to warn Olivia McNeill about Cole, the red-haired McNeill witch accused the Charmed Ones of vanquishing Cole in a moment of haste and fear, when he was leader of the Underworld. The Halliwells had harbored the suspicion that Cole, unable to deal with the loss of his demonic powers, embraced evil once more by becoming the Source. The McNeills, Olivia included, had hinted that the Halliwells never really bothered to learn how Cole became the Source. And realize that he had been a victim of possession.

Piper had dismissed Olivia's words to Phoebe as nonsense spouted by a woman who transferred her dislike of the late Prue Halliwell to the rest of the family. Leo came forth with a theory that Cole may have manipulated the McNeills' minds with a lie. Phoebe, Cole's ex-wife, seemed inclined to believe Leo. Her stint as the Source's Queen of the Underworld, and Cole's reluctance to grant a divorce following his resurrection had left her burned out and emotionally drained.

In all honesty, Paige did not know what to believe. She wanted to believe either Leo or Piper. It would be much easier to accept the family credo that Cole could not be trusted. And that he deserved to have his "evil ass" vanquished. Unfortunately, the McNeills' argument, especially Olivia's, seemed to make sense to the youngest Charmed One. When she finally dug up information on the Hollow, she realized that they were right. The Hollow only gave Cole the opportunity to absorb the Source's powers, not make him the Source.

But several questions remained unanswered. How did Cole become the Source in the first place? And had he deliberately chosen to become the Source? Or did it happen against his will, as the McNeills had suggested?

Paige sat on the bed, inside her bedroom. She stared at the painting she had begun, last week. If only she had the power of telepathy, like Harry and Elise McNeill. Or summon up images of the future . . . and the past. Like Phoebe. The closest thing to psychic powers that she possessed was the ability to sense evil. Today was one of those days when Paige envied Phoebe and two of the McNeills.

A wild idea suddenly came to Paige. Perhaps she convinced Phoebe to use her power to summon the past. Learn what happened to Cole, last spring. Wondering if Cole had left any belongings behind, Paige glanced at the clock on her nightstand. It was three-fifty in the afternoon. Phoebe should be leaving work in a little over an hour. All Paige had to do was ask Phoebe to . . .

The moment the idea popped into her head, Paige rejected it. She knew that any mention of Cole would send Phoebe into a fit. Despite the middle Halliwell's declaration that she wanted nothing to do with her ex-husband, she seemed obsessed with him. Obsessed by a fear that he would give in to evil and kill all of them. Not even Phoebe's doomed romance with the late Miles and attempts to ignore Cole had seemed to squelch this obsession. And it had grown worse, thanks to Cole's friendship with Olivia McNeill.
Since asking Phoebe seemed out of the question, Paige realized that she needed another solution. Search Phoebe's bedroom for any of Cole's old possessions left behind, and seek help from someone else with psychic abilities similar to her older sister. If only she knew such a person.

* * * *

"Good grief, Cecile! How much stuff did you buy, today?" Olivia McNeill grumbled. She and her best friend, Cecile Dubois, stumbled out of her building's elevator. Each woman carried a large shopping bag loaded with purchases. Cecile's purchases. The New Orleans-born woman had spent most of the day raiding many of San Francisco's department stores for Christmas presents.

Huffing, as she lugged her bag along the hallway, Cecile protested, "I didn't buy that much! These are mainly presents for your family. Besides, I wanted to do most of my shopping before I return home. So I can save on postal fees."

"Cecile, you've been here for how long? Almost three weeks? If these resents are for us, what the hell took you so long?" Olivia paused to take a deep breath. The two friends stopped in front of her apartment door.

A third voice added, "I'd like to know, myself." The two friends turned around and found a tall, handsome man standing behind them. Cole Turner regarded the pair with amused eyes. "What did you do, Cecile? Clean out Macy's?"

Olivia sighed with relief. "Finally! Some help. Could you please help us carry these bags inside?"

A slight smirk curved Cole's lips. "Looks like you've managed to carry your bags, this far. Do you really need my help, now?"

"Do you want me to tell Cecile what the name Cole is short for?" Olivia coolly threatened.

Seconds later, Cecile, Olivia, Cole and the two shopping bags disappeared from the corridor. And reappeared inside Olivia's apartment. Cecile thanked the half-demon. Who leaned forward and murmured into Olivia's ear, "I'll get you for that."

"I can hardly wait," Olivia murmured back.

Cole waved his hands over the shopping bags and they disappeared. "You'll find them inside your bedroom," he said to Cecile. "I am curious about one thing. What did you give me?"

The Vodoun priestess grinned. "You'll have to wait another five days to find out."

An overdramatic groan escaped from Cole's mouth. "Oh well. I have another question. Are you two free, tonight? I've just received a bonus for closing a very important case. And I'd like to celebrate."

The two women nodded. "Sure," Olivia said. "Where do you plan to take us?"

Cole opened his mouth. A second later, familiar blue lights appeared inside the apartment. They converged into the form of Leo Wyatt, Olivia's whitelighter. And Cole's former brother-in-law.

"Hey, Olivia," Leo greeted. He spotted Cecile and smiled politely. "Cecile." His smile disappeared the moment his eyes lit upon the half-demon staring at him. "Oh. I didn't . . . uh, I didn't realize you had company."

The redhead sighed. "Hi Leo. Is there a problem?"

Again, the whitelighter shot a dark look toward Cole's direction. "Somewhat. Do you mind if I speak to you? Alone?"

Cole smiled nastily. "I see that I'm about to become the topic of conversation, again. Looks like it's time for me to leave."

"No!" Olivia's eyes narrowed dangerously. "No. Leo, if you're here to talk about Cole, don't do it behind his back." She stared at him with determination stamped on her face.

Leo stared back. His charge noticed that for once, Cole did not wear a smirk in the whitelighter's presence. With a sigh, Leo continued, "All right. If you insist. It's about that conversation you had with Phoebe, over a week ago. At that last Sunday brunch we were at."

"You mean the one after Cecile vanquished Dako?" Olivia asked. She sighed. "Oh God! She must have told you. Look, I'm sorry if I came off as negative, but she annoyed me with her little warning about Cole."

Cecile frowned. A surprised expression appeared on Cole's face. "What was that?" he demanded.

Olivia faced her neighbor. "Phoebe tried to warn me that you might betray my family. For a moment, I thought she had some kind of premonition. But it turned out that she thought she was just being . . . helpful. I guess I should have told you, but I didn't think you wanted to know."

Cole heaved what sounded like a frustrated sigh. "I'm glad that you didn't tell me. Christ! I'm getting sick of her paranoia!"

"Can you blame her?" Leo retorted. "You had put Phoebe and the rest of us through a lot of hell!"

Cole angrily shot back, "Hey, I went through my own brand of hell! How would you like it if you lost your powers, became possessed by the Source, got vanquished by your wife and her sisters, spent four months in the Wasteland, and saw your marriage go down the drain within a month-and-a-half? I sure as hell didn't!"

"And you expect us to believe that? That you were possessed by the Source? And what's your excuse regarding Ed Miller?"

The half-demon's eyes became cold and deadly. Olivia shivered. No wonder Cole had a reputation for ruthlessness. At the moment, he reminded her of Andre Morrell . . . and her own father at their worst.

"You know, I'm getting damn sick and tired of you throwing my past back into my face!" Cole hissed. "Maybe you should concern yourself with your own sins - like risking the Halliwells' lives, so you could marry Piper behind the Elders' back! And quite frankly, I've had enough of the Halliwell Code of Ethnics and your damn preoccupation with personal gain!"

The whitelighter's face now matched the color of beets. At least it seemed so to Olivia. She watched Leo, as he struggled not to retaliate against Cole's remarks. Instead, he turned to Olivia and in a low voice, said, "Olivia, I'm only going to say this once. This man . . . if you can call him one, will be the death of you, if you're not careful. Even the Founders are worried about your relationship with him."

"I'd say that the Founders have more important things to worry about," Olivia quietly replied. "Like the four whitelighters who had recently defected to the Underworld. Or that detailed file on all of us that ended up in the Crozats' hands."

Leo heaved a sigh. "Olivia . . ."

"For crying out loud, Leo! Now, I'm only going to say this . . . for the last time." Olivia fixed her whitelighter with a hard glare. "As far as I'm concerned, Cole is a friend. A close friend. I do not turn my back on friends in fear of what they 'might' do to me. That's call playing it safe, not friendship. And I find it repellent. If I do end up dead because of Cole, you can stand over my grave and shout 'I told you so,' until the cows come home. In the meantime, back off! And if you can't handle my friendship with Cole, I suggest that you ask the Elders to find another whitelighter for me. Understand?"

A long stretch of silence followed. Olivia found herself regretting her outburst to Leo. One glance at him and she could see that the poor man looked as if he could not decide whether to die from sheer embarrassment or angrily lash out at her and Cole. Especially Cole. Instead, Leo's cheek twitched, as he replied in a cool voice, "Fine. I'll back off. I guess I better leave. It's obvious that I'm not wanted."

"Leo!" Olivia cried. But it was too late. The whitelighter disappeared before she could utter another word. She let out a gust of breath. "Great! I guess I can kiss that friendship, good-bye." Olivia plopped down on the sofa.

Cecile sat next to her friend. "I didn't realize you two were friends. I mean, you were always bitching on how difficult it was to reach Leon. Especially during the last four years or so."

"It's Leo," Olivia retorted. "And we are friends." She added soberly, "Or maybe were. Leo came to me a lot, when he was having trouble with Piper, three years ago. And as for that other matter . . . Okay, it was difficult dealing with a whitelighter who seemed more interested in the Charmed Ones than his other charges. But I understood. Somewhat." She glanced at Cole. "Do you really think he'll ask the Elders to give me another whitelighter? The last time I had another one; Leo's wings had been clipped. And quite frankly, Dorian was a bit of a pain."

Cole snorted. "And Leo isn't?" Olivia shot him a quick glare. "Sorry. Look, I doubt that Leo would ask to assign you a new whitelighter. He's just upset, that's all. He'll get over it."

"I hope you're right," Olivia said with a sigh. "About that dinner . . . where are you taking us?"

A dark eyebrow formed an arch. "Taking you? I've made reservations at the Top of the Mark, at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. Seven-thirty, tonight.

The two women exchanged surprised looks. "You've already made reservations?" a frowning Cecile asked. "What if we had said no?"

"If I had considered that possibility, I would have never made the reservations," Cole responded with a knowing smile. "See you in two-and-a-half hours."

Olivia glared at him. "Cheeky bastard!" Cole's smile widened and he disappeared.

Cecile shook her head. "Honey, you really have a talent for making friends with some odd people."

* * * *

Making sure that she was alone in the manor, Paige orbed inside Phoebe's bedroom. Minutes ticked by, while she searched for any of Cole's remaining possessions, inside the closet. Unfortunately, Paige ended up empty-handed. She sighed with frustration. Perhaps she should try Phoebe's desk or dresser bureau.

Several minutes later, more failure greeted Paige. A growing suspicion began to form in her mind that Phoebe had rid the bedroom of Cole's possessions. Or anything that might relate to the half-demon. Paige also wondered if Phoebe had performed some kind of exorcism, using a spell from the Book of Shadows.

Then another idea came to Paige. The Book of Shadows! Of course! There was an entry on both Cole, and his demonic half - Belthazor inside the book. Maybe if she tore it out . . . Paige raced out of the bedroom and headed upstairs to the attic. She barely heard the front door close, downstairs. Upon reaching the attic, she strode toward the stand that held the family's reference on the supernatural.

A quick flip through the Book of Shadows brought the youngest Halliwell to the page that featured Belthazor. Paige frowned. Something seemed wrong. Where was . . .? What happened to the page that featured Cole's human side? The entry that Phoebe had added just before Prue's death?

"Hey sis!"

Paige glanced up. Speak of the devil. The middle Charmed One stood inside the attic's doorway. Smiling. It was the first smile that Paige had seen on Phoebe's face since Miles, over a month ago.

The older sister marched inside the attic. "Guess what!" she crowed. "I have a date!"

So that was the reason behind the smile. Paige felt happy for her sister. "No kidding! Who's the lucky guy?"

"His name is Jake," Phoebe continued. She halted in front of the podium. "Jake Landers. He's a sports writer for the Bay-Mirror. A 49ers fan. We met inside the building's cafeteria. Very high on the cute factor, if you know what I mean. We got to talking and the next thing I knew, he . . . uh, asked me out for a date. Tomorrow night."

Paige smiled. "That's great, Phoebe!"

"Yeah, he's got this friend . . ."

Oh no! Double date! Paige's luck with boyfriends has not been that promising, these past two months. Her last relationship had ended on a dull note. In fact, she had not heard from her old friend, Glenn, in quite a while. The last thing she needed or wanted was a mercy date. "Listen Phoebe," Paige began, "I've just broke up with Simon, and I'm not ready for another boyfriend. Especially a blind date."

"It's only one date," Phoebe protested. "Jake and I decided that if all goes well tomorrow night, we thought that a double date on Saturday would . . ." Her eyes fell upon the opened Book of Shadows. She stiffened.

Paige's eyes followed her sister's. The book lay open on the page that featured Belthazor. Trouble.

"Why are you suddenly interested in Belthazor?" Phoebe coolly demanded. Her good mood had obviously vanished.

Should she tell Phoebe the truth? Paige seriously considered it, but that would mean admitting that she had been inside the latter's bedroom without permission. So Paige lied. "Actually, I was searching the book for a glamour spell. I only got this far." She paused. Although she hated to ruin Phoebe's mood, Paige could not avoid the subject. "Phoebe, I noticed that one page in the book is missing. The one with information about Cole's human side." After a pause, she continued, "You didn't . . . I mean, you didn't tear it out of the book, did you?"

An exasperated sigh escaped Phoebe's mouth. Paige recognized that sigh. It meant that her older sister would rather avoid the subject being discussed. "Yes Paige. I tore it out. So what? Cole is no longer in my . . . a part of our lives."

"And yet, Belthazor is still in the Book of Shadows?"

Now, Phoebe looked annoyed. "What is this all leading to?"

"Belthazor is gone, Phoebe. He's been gone for over a year. And yet, Cole is still among the living. With new powers. Don't you think we should have listed his new po . . .?"

Phoebe glanced away. "I don't need this, Paige. Not now," she said in a hard voice. "I don't want to talk about Cole or see his face anymore. Not after that crap I had to endure from Olivia McNeill. Don't you understand? I'm trying to move on."

Paige could not fathom her sudden desire to play devil's advocate. Even a month ago, she would have perfectly understood Phoebe's feelings. And support her sister's actions. Then again over a month ago, she did not harbor doubts over how the Source debacle had been handled.

"How can you move on?" Paige asked. "When you refuse to face or discuss what happened in the first place?" Aware of her sister's increasingly hostile expression, Paige continued. "I mean, both of us and Leo had forced Piper to face her feelings over Prue's death. And all of you forced me to deal with my step-parents." She paused. "Maybe it's time for you to face what happened between you and Cole, last spring. Talk about it before you move on."

Dark eyes coldly stared back at Paige. "You know what, Paige? Forget about the double date. Just . . . forget it." Phoebe turned away and headed for the doorway.

"Phoebe!" Paige called after her older sister. But the latter had already disappeared. Paige sighed. It looked as if she was in for a chilly evening.