A NORMAL DAY Dana Bell
Paige bounced down the carpeted stairs and sailed into the sunshine yellow kitchen. She switched on the light since it was still dark outside. Not exactly certain why Peter insisted they get up early, she grabbed the picnic basket she'd put on the counter the night before after finding it in the basement. She pulled out a half loaf of bread dumped it into the open basket and dug meat, cheese, various condiments, fruit, drinks, cups, paper plates, and plasticware adding it to the future lunch time feast. She also grabbed the blueberry muffins Piper had helped her bake the night before.

"You're up early," Piper commented squinting as she entered the room. She wore a loose flannel robe.

"Peter wanted to get an early start." Paige started the coffeepot. She set the thermos next to it.

"And just where are you two off to?" Piper put a cup in the microwave and boiled some water.

"He hasn't told me yet." Paige smiled at her older sister. "Baby wake you?"

"Of course." Piper dumped a bag into her mug. "I don't know if I'll ever get used to Harry's demanding feeding schedule."

The coffee finished and the red head poured the dark liquid into the waiting thermos. She still wondered about naming her nephew after the wizard in the current popular children's series.

"I'm going back to bed. You two have fun.where ever it is you're going." Piper left the kitchen taking her warm tea with her.

Paige poured herself a cup of coffee and sipped the hot bitter drink. Peter had insisted she wear practical not fashionable clothes. She chosen jeans, a T-shirt and tennis shoes. She glanced up as the door opened. Peter wandered in. She noted he hung two jackets over one of the chairs.

"Cold where we're going?" she asked.

"Might be," he vaguely answered. He rubbed his brown eyes and poured himself the remains from the pot. He sipped it and added sugar and cream. He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. "Can you orb us to this address?"

She took it from him. "Bozeman, Montana? What's there?"

"Our car." Peter gave her a charming smile. She had to admit he looked good in jeans and a loose cotton shirt. They sipped their coffee in silence. When they finished, Paige put their cups in the sink. She noticed Peter slip something into the basket.

"No fair peeking," she scolded with a smile.

"I'm not," he said innocently. He grabbed their jackets. "I suggest you put yours on. It will probably be chilly."

Paige took her jacket and put it on. Peter grabbed the basket and slipped his arm around her. "Ready." Paige grabbed the thermos.

Bright light surrounded them and they reappeared beside a jeep parked by a newly built house. She could see the edge of sod peeking at them from the lighted driveway. Peter put the basket on the hood and kneeled down, his hand searching under the front wheel.

"Who do you know here?" she asked shivering. The morning air crisply bit at her.

"Old friend." He straightened, key in hand. "He's agreed to let us borrow his jeep for the day."

"You're not going to tell me where we're going, are you?"

"Not yet." He opened the door and grabbed their lunch, putting it in back. "Get in. We've got a couple hours of driving."

She got in and Peter pulled away from the house. She noticed a head watching them from the draped windows. Probably the owner of their car, making sure exactly who was taking his car. She settled back in the leather seat. The hill-surrounded valley gave way to mountains and narrow roads. The lanes wandered through the Gallatin National Forest. The sun slowly rose caressing tall pines.

Paige marveled at the sight. The trees where beautiful! Her ears popped at the increasing altitude. "Are you hungry?" She twisted in her seat to gaze at Peter.

"I could use some coffee," he answered.

Paige moved the thermos from the cup holder between them. She reached back into the basket pulling out the two plastic cups and the muffins. She poured Peter coffee and carefully handed it to him. He took a swig. She took one of the muffins and munched on it. Peter finished his coffee and placed the cup in the holder.

The sun rose higher dancing light into the jeep. Paige watched the trees streak by. "How long before we get there?"

"It'll be a couple of hours." Peter rolled down the window and breathed deeply. "I love the smell of pine."

"Have you been here before, Peter?"

"When I was a vampire, I traveled through during the winter. The cold didn't affect me, so I could stay where I wanted." He sighed. "I felt a part of nature. Wild. Free." He grabbed the sunglasses on the dash and put them on. "The civilized part of me didn't allow the hunter to take over. I kept wandering."

"Until I hit you with my car."

He cast her a warm smile. "The best thing to happen to me."

She returned his smile. "I'm glad." She reached across and squeezed his arm.

"Why don't you take a nap? We didn't get much sleep last night."

She treasured the memory of the night before. Peter's lovemaking had been slow and pleasure filled. "I want to stay awake for our little adventure. It isn't often I get away from my sisters."

"This is our time, Paige," Peter reassured her.

They drove on in companionable silence. ################################################################

The sign read, 'Welcome to Yellowstone National Park'. Paige sat up straighter as they took their place in the vehicle line. At the dark timbered booth, Peter paid the admission fee, took the map the ranger gave them and drove into the park. He handed her the neatly folded paper.

"Where to first?" he wanted to know.

"I've never been here." She unfolded the map and examined the park layout. The main road around the park reminded her of a figure eight. Her eyes caught the words 'Artist Point'. The painter in her had to see it. "Artist Point."

Peter followed the twisting narrow road along the river. They stopped a couple of times, like other park visitors, to enjoy a moose standing in the water and gaze in wonder at the tall proud elk grazing in meadow land. They passed Beryl Spring with its clear blue water boiling furiously and trickles wandering down the sides into the cold river. At the turn off, they headed west across the park until they finally reached the parking lot for the place of Paige's interest.

Both stretched after getting out of the jeep. Hand in hand they walked the short distance to Artist Point. Paige caught her breath wishing desperately for her canvas and paints. Gushing water fell into the river, far below. Cream-colored rock walls with mixes of rust and black volcanic rock topped with trees greeted her eyes across the canyon. In the misting bottom of the falls a rainbow shimmered.

"Wish I remembered to grab a camera," Peter commented.

"You'd never capture this on film." Paige moved a little closer to the railed overlook. "If I had known, I might have insisted on bringing my artist stuff."

"I wanted to surprise you."

She smiled at him, her brown eyes shining. "I'm surprised. Thank you."

Together, they watched the falling water for a while and then walked back to the jeep. They continued the loop, sometimes seeing the river, sometimes not until Peter pulled into another parking lot. The place was pretty full, but he somehow managed to find a spot.

"We should take some water with us," he said. He dumped his jacket in the back. The temperature had risen. Paige did the same. She grabbed a bottle and handed it to him.

"I'm going to use the restroom before we start hiking."

He nodded. "Good idea.

He met her a couple of feet from the door of the restroom and the two started to walk the trail. Damp air surrounded them and the stench of rotten eggs invaded their noses.

Paige wrinkled her nose. "Yuck. What an awful smell."

"Common for the park." He took her hand.

The land looked white and sun baked. Fallen branches were bleached and trees had died where roots had fallen victim to the acidic invading liquid. Paige and Peter walked on boardwalk gazing into deep holes of brown, green, blue, rust colored water. At the end of the loop they paused before Dragon's Mouth Spring. Water boiled and hissed, shooting huge drops outward. Other times the arched opening spouted constant steam.

Paige watched in fascination. One steam spout hurled into the air, briefly turning into a dark haired woman in ancient dress. "No!"

"Paige, honey, what's wrong?"

"Peter, look!" She pointed upward.

He followed her finger. . "I don't see anything."

Only steam and fluffy white clouds sailed across deep blue skies. The woman had vanished. She shook her head, hoping no demon marred her day with her future husband. "I thought I saw something."

"The park is very old. I've heard of people seeing scenes from the past."

"Phoebe is usually the one who 'sees' things."

He hugged her. "Come on. We have a lot more to see."

Returning to the car they kept driving. The river lead to Yellowstone Lake. The deep blue water surrounded by tall snow capped mountains, took Paige's breath away.

"Hard to believe we're sitting on top of a super volcano, isn't it?" Peter's voice interrupted her admiration of the beauty.

"This thing is active?"

He nodded. He pulled into a picnic area beside the lake. "Geologists are watching it very carefully. Someplace on the lake, a bulge has started."

"Do they think it will go off?" The thought scared her. She'd seen pictures of the damage Mount St. Helens had done.

"Actually, it's overdue to blow. At least, according to their timetables." Peter shrugged. "I figured we'd eat lunch here. I don't know about you, but our hike made me hungry." Paige picked out a table while Peter lugged the basket over. She opened the top and gasped. Sitting on one side, on top of the bread, sat a stuffed leopard with round brown eyes. She picked it up. The orange black spotted fur was soft to touch.

"I got it in Vegas," Peter explained.

She frowned. "I thought you left all your stuff at your father's."

"I did. I had Leo orb me back to pick everything up. My father went, too. He and Laura needed some things. Laura also wanted her cat, Tri."

"Why do you call her Laura? She's your mother, Peter."

"She didn't raise me. My father did. Annie will always be mom to me."

Paige kind of understood. Her birth mother and father gave her up for adoption. Her adoptive parents were 'mom' and 'dad' to her.

"So," he sat down on the hard bench. "What's for lunch?"

Paige put the stuffed animal down on the tabletop and pulled out the plates and food. They munched on turkey and cheese sandwiches, drank sodas and had fruit for dessert. After packing up their picnic, Paige put her leopard in the car and they drove on until they reached the West Thumb Geyser Basin. There were fewer cars in the parking lot. Steam rose into the air from two metal vents.

Paige gazed down the slope. It wasn't a large area to hike. Peter joined her and the two of them walked the small basin. Most of the features were deep multi-colored water filled holes that seemed bottomless. Or at least, Paige couldn't see where they ended. The most fun feature was the three geysers in the lake itself. Signs told her fishermen used to cook their catch in the hot water.

The sun beat down on them and both drank the bottled water before continuing on the road. They crossed the Continental Divide twice and finally reached the main Visitor Center. The parking lot was huge and filled. It took about ten minutes before Peter zipped the jeep into a recently vacated spot. Paige grabbed the water container and they walked the asphalt lot to the lodge. They wandered in.

Paige felt overwhelmed by the log structure. Peter led her through the carpeted hallways to the ice cream place. He ordered a chocolate cone and she had one, too.

"I'd heard the ice cream was very good," he said licking the cold dessert.

They joined the growing group of people on the wood benches before Old Faithful. Ten minutes later, the geyser hissed white steam, dancing water and soon gushed water high into the air. Some of the spurts reminded Paige of playful sprites. When the show ended they walked some of the path and then continued on through the geyser basin.

They stopped at many of the sights, walking the boardwalk paths and gazing into the colorful pools. Finally, as the sun dipped further into the west, Peter headed back out of the park. Shadows grew darker on the road as they headed to Bozeman.

Peter finally broke the long silence. "I have a sister."

"You do?" The unexpected announcement caught her by surprise.

"Laura told me. I haven't met her, but I do know she works for Barnabas Collins."

"Small world." Paige remembered the English accented gentleman of the Vampire Triumvirate.

"Her empathic abilities helped him in congress and in business." He shook his head, his brown hair limp from all the humidity around the geysers.

"Did you get to meet her?"

"No. Not yet."

Paige pulled her red hair back. The curls hadn't held throughout the day. She needed to wash it before she went to bed tonight. "What's her name?"

"Celeste." Peter fell silent again.

Paige leaned back in her seat contemplating this new development. Later, she'd have to find out how Peter felt about having a sister. Her tired body begged for rest and she fell asleep. ################################################################

Paige woke when the jeep stopped. Peter stroked her face. "Time to wake up."

She smiled at him. All she wanted to do was go home and sleep. They got out of the jeep grabbing their coats, picnic basket and the leopard. Peter marched up the stairs and knocked on the door. The owner had left on the outside light. Paige joined him.

The door opened to reveal a blondish haired man with dark eyes. He wore jeans and a navy sweater. He smiled. "Good to see you again, Peter."

"Hi, Nick." Peter handed the man the keys.

Nick? As in Nicholas Knight? Paige felt a shiver go through her.

"Come in for a minute," Nick invited.

They entered the house. Paige looked around, amazed anyone could match the old piano, brass decorations, and antique furniture with the modern white painted walls and glass fireplace. A tapestry filled one wall while pictures adorned others. The look was both inviting and welcoming.

Nick must have seen her surprised look. "I have my students here a lot for study groups."

"You teach?" Peter asked, obviously surprised.

"At Montana State University. I'm one of the history professors." He indicated the couch. "Please, sit down."

Peter put the picnic basket on the floor and draped their jackets over it. Paige sat beside him on the red velvet Victorian couch. She held her stuffed leopard on her lap.

"I'm not certain how you found me," Nick stated.

"Paul," Peter supplied. "He has ways of finding people. I asked him and several days later he gave me a number."

"You two enjoy your day?" Nick sat in the wooden rocking chair.

"Yeah. Thanks for the loan of your jeep." Peter touched Paige's arm. "This is Paige."

"I'm Nick," he introduced himself.

"I've heard about you." Paige knew she didn't sound friendly. She had put all Peter's vampire past behind and moved on. She'd hoped Peter had done the same.

"She's a witch," Peter explained. "and one of the Charmed Ones."

"Really." Nick sat forward. "Are you the reason Peter is now human?"

"Yes."

Can you help me?" He seemed actually anxious.

"She can't," Peter replied before Paige could speak. Peter glanced down. "According to Laura, Paige's love, the most powerful magic of all, cured me. I was very fortunate."

"I see." Disappointed shadowed his lean face.

"I'm sorry, Nick." Peter rose to his feet. "We need to be going. Thanks again for the loan."

"Anytime, Peter." Nick also rose.

Paige stood up and followed Peter out, after he picked up their stuff. Nick waved from the front door and closed it.

"I'd hoped all this was behind you," Paige said stiffly.

"I just wanted to see how he was doing. He wants to be human again you know." Peter eyes begged for understanding. "He helped me when I first was brought across. I consider him a friend."

"Let's go home, Peter." Paige took his arm and orbed them back to the manor. Once home, she put everything away and went upstairs to shower. She went to bed and felt the bed shift when Peter joined her.

"You're angry with me." He pulled the covers over him.

"I enjoyed today, Peter. I just wish you'd told me up front who you borrowed the jeep from."

"I'm sorry." He turned to her. "Paige, I can't forget my friends of the past. Some, I wont' be able to invite to our wedding, others I can. Not all of them are mortal."

"I know." She shifted next to him. "I guess I just wanted some part of my life to be normal."

He put an arm around her. "Today was normal. We enjoyed a national park just like thousands of others."

She smiled in the dark and snuggled against him. Her eyes closed. She was very tired from all the hiking.

"We need to set a date," he mumbled.

"In the morning," she replied. Briefly the vision of the dark haired woman intruded laughing darkly. Then she drifted from behind her eyelids like the steam in the park. Paige sleepily shrugged it off and fell into blissful rest.