A/N Guess who's not dead! That's right- me! I'm very sorry for the wait guys. All I have are the regular excuses: School, work, family stuff, fatigue…

Please forgive me :) And please enjoy…

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Chapter 24

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"He must be dead." A large, green skinned demon stated, banging his fiercely clawed hand down on a stone table. "It's been almost a day now, and he has not returned…"

Coronus nodded his small pug like head slowly as he took a seat on the chair his master had occupied only a few short days ago. It was true, Demetrius had not been heard from in almost twenty four hours…it was entirely possible that he had not made it out of the manor alive.

"I agree." An auburn haired darklighter stated as he paced back and forth across the musty underworld cavern. "If he had fought the Halliwell's and won, he would have returned by now. Did he not tell you that he would be back soon?"

"Yes." Coronus agreed quietly. "Demetrius intended to kill the good Halliwell's and return here to lead us in our conquest of the upper world…"

"But now he's dead!" The green demon growled again, his patience clearly growing thin. "And I don't know why we continue to wait…we should go up there and finish the task ourselves…"

"You mean, kill the Halliwell's?" Coronus asked, his watery eyes growing wide. "But if Demetrius couldn't then surely we can't…"

The green demon scoffed. "Demetrius was an arrogant fool. He thought that Balthazar and his and daughter would help him with his task, but they clearly betrayed him…part humans cannot be trusted."

"But my master…"

"You have no master any more, Coronus!" the demon replied, cutting him off before he could finish. "You are a powerful demon in your own right and you don't need him to tell you what to do… you're free now, and together we can do what our fellow demons have dreamed of for decades…take a bit of the glory for yourself, for once…it was you that cast this spell, was it not? It was you, not Demetrius who was powerful enough to reveal every magical creature for what they truly are…"

Coronus hesitated, and looked down at his former master's desk.

It was true…he had accumulated many powers over the past several centuries, he had been responsible for a great many hexes and curses, but had never really risen to be more then a simple accomplice.

Maybe it really was his time to take lead…

Demetrius may have been the brains behind this particular plan, but it was he that had had the raw power…

"Yes," he began, slowly rising from his seat and looking up at the four other demons that now occupied the room. "Yes, we will finish what Demetrius started. We will kill them all, and then, we'll be free to take the human world for ourselves…" Coronus paused again, and nodded at the others- all of whom had turned towards him with gleeful anticipation. "We have already waited long enough…it's time to kill them all…"

And with that, they shimmered out, ready to annihilate their biggest foes.

If they succeeded, the Halliwell's would not live to see another day…

XXXXXXXXXX

"Come on," DJ began, his voice still full of unwavering determination. "Keep looking. There has got to be something in this room strong enough to bust down the door..."

Darryl nodded slowly and continued the search. Unlike his young son, he did not think that they would find such an easy escape, but he could bear to dash the boy's hopes. It was obvious that DJ's love for Mel would not allow him to give up hope until absolutely every inch of the room had been searched.

The two had been locked in the small office for over half an hour now, and Darryl knew that that was more then enough time for Jameson and his men to get to the manor and back. Even if he and DJ found a way out, it was too late to get warning to the Halliwell's. In all likelihood, they were all knocked out and locked up at this very moment…if not worse.

He shuddered at the thought as he continued to rifle around in one of the other officer's desks, looking for something –anything- that could help them get to freedom.

Pencils… papers…an old metal ruler…

Absolutely nothing of use.

The older man slowly raised his head and looked over at his frantic son. DJ was rifling around almost violently in a desk across the room, his brown eyes dangerously fierce.

"Anything?" Darryl asked, his voice coming out quieter then he had intended. The sight of his son in such an anxious love struck state had caused a sudden lump to well up in his throat. He could only imagine the pain the boy was going through. He didn't want to think about how terrible he himself would feel if his own beloved wife was in the danger Mel was in now.

Darryl had always suspected that DJ was harbouring secret feeling for Phoebe's daughter- he had even caught the boy stating at her with deep adoration on a few recent occasions- but he never suspected that the love DJ felt was this strong.

He could see it now though.

Very clearly.

He knew that DJ loved Mel with every fibre of his being…

"Yes." The younger man muttered suddenly, breaking Darryl away from his musings.

"What? What is it?"

But instead of answering, DJ simply dashed towards the door, a small metal object in his hand. Even from his spot ten feet away, Darryl could hear the boy muttering under his breath. "Of course…stupid, stupid, stupid…"

"What?" Darryl asked again, his own hopes lifting at DJ began jabbing the small object into the door handle and wiggling it, a look of deep concentration across his face.

"Left…right…right…"

Realizing that his son was far too wrapped up in his escape attempt, Darryl leaned back against the desk, watching intently as DJ continued to do whatever he was doing.

Maybe this was it…maybe they were really going to get out…

A minute of almost complete silence passed, and despite himself, the man felt the familiar sinking feeling return to his stomach.

He sighed.

Maybe DJ hadn't figured it out after all…

Looking sadly down at the floor, he opened his mouth and tried to think of the best way to tell DJ that they'd probably be better off if they just keep searching for another way. But before a single word escaped, a loud clicking noise resounded off the walls of the small room.

"YES!" DJ cried, his voice full of both triumph and anticipation. "I did it, we're out…"

And sure enough, the large metal door swung slowly open.

"What…how…?" Darryl asked, his heart suddenly beating frantically in his chest.

DJ held up a small metal paper clip, now strangely warped from being prodded into the door's lock. "I don't know why I didn't think of it before…" he began excitedly. "The whole time I was looking for something big and heavy to bash the door down…and the easiest solution was right in front of me…"

"I didn't know you knew how to pick locks." Darryl stated, surprised by his sons newly revealed skill. It wasn't exactly something one would expect of a young cop.

DJ smiled for a brief second before the levity of their current situation suddenly reregistered across his face.

"That's not important now." He said firmly, turning to face the now open door. "We have to get Mel and the others out of here…fast."

"Right." Darryl agreed, quickly moving to his son's side. "I'm willing to bet that Jameson was successful in capturing them…it's just a matter of figuring out where he'd put them once he brought them here…"

DJ nodded his eyes once again full of pain and determination. "Let's split up." He stated, swiftly moving out of the door. "You go left, I'll go right."

The older man was about to suggest that they lay out a better plan, but before he had a chance to speak, DJ tore down the hallway- evidently too set on his task to spend anymore time talking.

With a nervous sigh, Darryl began to head in the opposite direction, hoping beyond hope that they weren't already too late to help save the day…

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"Are you sure you'll be alright?" Leo asked, glancing nervously over at his wife. He had just finished orbing her, Phoebe, and Jenny's mother Emily into the alley way behind the San Francisco Police Department, and as he looked ominously at the small rusty door that would lead the women inside he could not help but think that maybe there was a better way…

This whole thing felt so unplanned…so unnerving…

"As sure as I ever am when we go on these missions." Piper replied after a brief moment of silence. "So basically, not sure at all."

Phoebe snorted, obviously amused by her sisters comment, but the whitelighter was far from impressed. He was much too scared to acknowledge the humour in her voice. He, unlike Piper, did not resort to sarcasm in times of crisis.

"Piper, I'm serious…" he began again, reaching out to take her small hand in his. "Are you sure this is the best idea? Maybe I should come with you, so that I can orb you out of there if I have to…"

The woman shook her head stubbornly and looked up to meet her husband's eyes. "You know that's not a good idea in your current state." She said, her eyes glancing briefly at the large pair of feathered wings protruding from his back. "You coming with us will attract a lot of unwanted attention. And besides, the station isn't too big- we'll be able to find Paige and the kids quickly and they can orb us out."

"But what if…"

She raised a hand to silence him before he could complete his sentence. "We don't have time for what ifs." She stated, taking a step back to stand at her sister's side. "There's only half an hour left to set things right, and we have to do this. Now."

Leo felt tempted to object again, but, unfortunately, he could see her point. Time continued to tick away- they really couldn't afford to plan this mission anymore then they already had.

The girls had to go in there…the girls had to find them…the girls had to bring his boys home safely…

He could not possibly stand in the way of such an important task.

"Alright." The man sighed, giving his head a reluctant nod. "Go. But call me if you need any help…"

His wife smiled at him weakly, before turning to Emily and her sister, her brown eyes now full of fierce determination.

"Let's do this." She stated firmly as she took the first brave step in the direction of the door. The others soon followed.

Leo could do nothing but watch and worry as the three valiantly made their way inside. He saw one final swish of Piper's long shining hair, and watched as the rusty old door closed behind them with a resounding bang.

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DJ continued his fast jog down the relatively quiet hallways of the SFPD. Thankfully, he had only passed one other cop so far, and the man had merely shot him a confused look. Evidently, not everyone knew of Jameson's plan to keep him and his father in captivity.

The boy was still kicking himself for his own stupidity- why hadn't he thought of it sooner?

He and his older brother Michael had perfected the art of lock picking at an early age…they had used the skill to take an early peak at their Christmas presents, to escape from their rooms when they'd been grounded, and do other stupid childish things of that sort.

But, when this skill had turned out to be more important then it had ever been, he had somehow lost his head, and completely forgotten to make use of it.

If the time he had pointlessly wasted locked in that wretched room had allowed Inspector Jameson to harm Mel or the others, DJ knew that he would never forgive himself. The guilt for such a thing would stay with him forever…

Trying- somewhat unsuccessfully- to push those horrible thoughts from his mind, DJ began running at full speed down the hall. His search was becoming more and more frantic- he saw no sign of them anywhere, and this only served to fill him with further anxiety. He rounded yet another quiet hallway, noting with confusion that this one appeared to be strangely. Slowing down his run, DJ walked a little more cautiously, keeping his eyes out for any sign of movement around him. He wasn't sure why exactly, but he suddenly felt the hair pricking on the back of is neck, and he suppressed an involuntary shudder.

He was getting close to something…he just didn't know what…

Drawing a deep nervous breath, DJ called out into the darkness.

"Hello?"

He could have sworn that he hard a slight ruffling noise in the distance, but there was no immediate reply.

"Hello?" He called again, more forcefully then he had before.

He knew someone was there…he could feel it now…their presence was drawing him near.

There was something- some force- bigger then himself, telling him that he had to go on. Telling him that this was it…

"Mel?" he asked, hardly daring to believe that had found her. But, despite the persistent doubt, he knew that it was her. He knew he had found her at last.

"Yes." A voice- her voice- called back from the darkness. "I'm here."

DJ felt himself instantly swell with excitement and relief. It was her. And best of all, she was still okay…

Too shaken to reply, DJ continued his walk down the hall way, his legs propelling him faster and faster with every step. His heart was beating rapidly, his head was spinning, and his lungs burned from the physical excursion–but he paid his own pain no notice. All that mattered right now was Mel. All he wanted, was to keep her safe…

"Mel." The boy cried again, his voice cracking with relief as he approached the small cramped cell. He could see her now. He could see her face illuminated by some distant light.

"DJ." She replied, the look of fear and worry on her face instantly replaced by a look of relief. "It's you…I was so worried it would be another cop."

He smiled softly, looking down to meet her now demonic eyes. "Yes. It's me." He said, slowly regaining his breath. "I'd have come sooner but Inspector Jameson locked my dad and me up so that we couldn't warn you guys that they were coming for you. He figured out that we were trying to protect you…"

"Jameson?" she asked, tilting her head thoughtfully. "I don't think I've heard of him. I assume he's the bastard that put me here in the first place." She paused, her eyes suddenly growing wider. "What about the others? Are they okay?"

DJ hesitated, not wanting to dash the hope he could feel emulating off of her. He wished that he could tell her what she wanted to hear. "I…I don't know." He admitted honestly. "I just escaped my own captivity, and you're the first one I've come across."

The girl nodded sadly- it was evident that she had prepared herself for the worst. "Alright then." She began. "Get me out of here, and we'll go find them. Together."

DJ hesitated and glanced at her cell, his brow furrowing in confusion. "Okay- but how can I do that? Why can't you just shimmer out? I thought…"

"Crystals." She replied simply, cutting him off before he could finish. "The cops must have nicked some crystals off some of the demons they caught last night, and figured out how to use them. When the crystals are placed in a circle, it stops a magical being from transporting themselves out. All you have to do it kick one of them away. IF you break the circle, I'm free."

Trying not to over think the strange magical explanation, DJ quickly kicked the nearest white crystal across the dark room. There was a slight flash of blue lights as the other stones appeared to deactivate, and seconds later, Mel shimmered herself out of the cell and reappeared at his side.

"That was easy." DJ observed, his heartbeat suddenly quickening again as he realized that Mel was only a few inches away from him now. He could feel the heat radiating off of her body…he could smell the sweet honey sent that was so undeniably her…

She was perfect…so wonderful…so close

He could hardly stand it.

A moment of awkward silence passed between them before both chanced a glance in the others direction. They caught each other's eyes, and smiled.

"Thanks." Mel said her voice soft and quiet. "Thanks for saving me…"

DJ shrugged and tried to look nonchalant. "No problem." He replied. "I mean, I'm no prince charming, but at least…"

"Who says your not?"

DJ's next breath caught in his throat, and he barely managed to stop himself from lapsing into what would have been an embarrassing coughing fit. Her comment had caught him completely off guard.

She couldn't have possibly meant what he thought she had meant. He may have been harbouring secret feeling for the girl for as far back as he could remember, but he had never received any indication that she had felt the same. According to Wyatt's account, she preferred to date arrogant pricks from her high school…guys with money and charisma…guys that were capable of charming a girl as perfect as Mel.

He was just DJ.

Her long time, somewhat quiet, fairly ordinary friend towards whom she had never shown interest.

He didn't have a chance.

"I can't believe how stupid I've been."

The sound of her soft voice sent a jolt through his body and tore him away from his train of thought.

'Yes' he mused sadly. 'Of course she regrets what she said…she couldn't have possibly meant it…'

"You've been here- right in front of me the whole time." Mel continued, looking straight into his perfect brown eyes. "And I never even noticed…"

He found himself unable to breathe once again.

What was she saying? Did he dare hope…?

"What didn't you notice?"

He knew as soon as the words left his lips that he was being to forward…he shouldn't have pushed her…he shouldn't have made his hopes so clear…

But, instead of growing angry, Mel simply smiled her beautiful smile. "I didn't notice that the perfect guy has been right next to me my entire life." She replied.

Heart bursting with happiness and unable to resist her for another second, DJ reached out and drew her into his strong arms. Her small frame fit so perfectly against his, and he was overwhelmed by how good it felt to finally hold her close. He had dreamed of this moment for years, but never thought that it would actually come.

He loved her. She had just admitted that she felt something in return…

The light from a distant hallway cast a gentle glow over the young couple, and if it had not been for their dreary surroundings it would have been a picturesque moment.

"I've always wanted to hear you say that." The boy admitted, drawing back slightly so that he could see her face. It didn't matter to him that she remained in demon form. It didn't matter that her face was lined in read and black.

She was still perfect…and most of all, she was his.

His Mel.

Somehow, the thought just felt so right.

"I'm sorry I couldn't have said it sooner."

The young lovers drew close once again. DJ bent his head slightly and marvelled at the fact that her lips were now only inches away.

This was it. It was really happening.

The gap between their faces was almost closed…their lips were about to meet…

'BANG.'

A sudden sound echoed through the hall way, breaking the two apart before they could share what each so desperately wanted.

"What…" DJ began, looking around in worry, his mind suddenly remembering the seriousness of the situation.

"The others." Mel replied, eyes wide with fear. "Let's go."

And with that, she grabbed hold of his hand and the two tore off down the hallway.

Worried. Afraid. Unsure.

But more importantly, together…

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(Meanwhile)

"Okay, I think it's safe to say that we are officially screwed." Chris said moodily as he continued to pace the small cell which now contained him, Wyatt, Jenny and Paige. "Fifteen minutes left. No sign of any help…no way to get out…it's time to face the fact that we are now permanently stuck as angels."

"Always the optimist…" Wyatt muttered, less then impressed by his brothers depressing speech. Truth be told he wasn't in a much happier state of mind at the moment, but he, unlike Chris, had not felt the sudden need to rant about it.

"Fifteen minutes is fifteen minutes." Paige said, trying to lighten the mood that had been growing more and more dismal by the minute. "Anything could happen. And besides, even if your parents don't get us out on time, I have every faith that they will get us out of here. If we are stuck like this, at least we can still have lives within the magical community…magic school…'up there'…"

Chris merely rolled his eyes and shot a pointed glare at his aunt. "Oh good." He began, with scathing sarcasm. "I'll spend the rest of my life as Chris, the good little whitelighter who gets to meditate with the elders and roam around magic school. That's what I've always wanted…"

"Life doesn't always give us what we want, Chris." Paige shot back, her lips tightly pursed. "I never asked for any of this, and yet here I am…"

The boy scoffed. "What are you talking about? You love magic. You always have." He pointed out, stopping his nervous pacing for a moment to face his youngest aunt. "I, on the other hand, wish I didn't exist."

It was Paige's turn to laugh. "You sound just like you mother when I first met her." The woman began, her mind drifting back to memories of first times she had met her half sisters. "But she came to realize- in time- that magic had done her more good then harm. Don't forget, Chris- without magic none of us would have ever been born."

The boy opened and closed his mouth several times to reply, but the look on is face showed that he had seen her point. She was right, of course; without magic, all of their fathers would have died regular mortal deaths, and never would have been given the chance to guide good witches…never would have met their mothers…

"Maybe…maybe that would still be better then this…" he muttered, taking a seat next to Jenny on the cold stone floor, obviously too worn out to continue with his pacing.

"You don't mean that." Paige remarked, giving him a sad smile. "I know you don't. I agree, this is a less then ideal situation, but I still think it's better then not existing at all. And besides, spending your life as a whitelighter really wouldn't be that bad." She paused and gave bother nephews an impish glance. "Remember what I always used to say…"

Both boys rolled their eyes and exchanged a glance before replying in unison.

"Whitelighters are the glue that hold the magical world together."

"That's right." Paige replied proudly, inciting a quiet giggle from Jenny. The girl was evidently amused by how well she had trained her young nephews.

Chris shook his head- also in amusement- before shooting a thankful look at his aunt. Somehow, she of all people, always managed to say the right thing to cheer him up. "I suppose you have a point." He admitted, resting his back against the wall, careful not to squash his white feathered wings as he did so.

He was still upset. Still afraid. But also suddenly reassured that –ultimately- things would work out.

"They're going to come eventually." Wyatt said, after a brief moment of silence as he too took a more comfortable position next to his brother. "I know they will. The only question is, when…"

All four witch-whitelighters remained quietly in their positions, starring off into various undefined points in the distance, thinking of what lie ahead.

The way Chris saw it this situation had one of two outcomes.

One- they would be rescued in due course and have to adjust to their new lives as visible outcasts.

Or two- his parents and aunt would rush in at the last minute, free them, and together, they would vanquish the responsible demon once and for all…

Before Chris could ponder their predicament much further, a loud BANG echoed in a not too distant hallway, causing all to jump to their feet in anticipation.

Suddenly, option number two seemed very plausible…

Maybe there was still hope after all.

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(Meanwhile)

"Don't you think they should be back by now?" Cole asked as he paced anxiously back and forth across the room. "It's been almost fifteen minutes…and that means that there's only fifteen minutes left before we're stuck this way forever…"

Leo nodded slowly from his position on the attics couch.

He too was growing extremely nervous as the minutes ticked past, but unlike is brother in law, he was managing to keep up a calm facade. "They'll be here." He said, trying to sound sure of himself. "They always pull through…"

But a small yet persistent voice in the back of his head would not allow him to wholeheartedly believe his words. Sure- the sisters had always saved the day before- but what if this time, there were simply too many factors playing against them?

They had to deal with the cops…they had to save the kids…they had to vanquish the demon…they had to reverse the spell…

And all of that had to be done before the hour was up.

It was a daunting task, perhaps too daunting- even for them.

"Don't give me that crap, Leo." Cole retorted, his demonic face twisted with worry and rage. "Get off your cloud and face reality for a change. This time, we're screwed."

The whitelighter glared briefly at the demon, but found him self unable to harbour much annoyance.

He was far too worried to be annoyed right now.

"All we can do is continue to hope…there's still time" he stated softly. There was less conviction in his words then there had been before…maybe Cole was right…maybe they really were screwed this time…

"No." the demon replied, his pacing growing continually more frantic. "We can do more then 'hope', we can help…I say we go find the girls and see what the hold up is."

Leo sighed.

In a way, he found himself agreeing with the other man; sitting back and not being able to assist with the mission was making him terribly nervous…but on the other hand they had all decided that it would be better if he and Cole were not seen in their current state…a demon and an angel busting into the police station was sure to attract a lot of unwanted attention…it could very well put them in an immense amount of danger.

"We can't." he sated firmly, standing up and starring Cole straight in the eyes. "Doing that will only make things worse."

The demon stopped his pacing for a second and let out a loud scoff. "Yeah?" he began, using his imposing bulk to attempt to stare the whitelighter down. "How could this situation possibly get any worse?"

Leo opened his mouth to reply, but before a single word could escape the answer to Cole's question shimmered into the room…

The two men turned abruptly towards the intruders, instantly forgetting their quarrel.

Five heavily armed and highly imposing demons now stood on the other side of the attic. One of them took a step forward- and both Leo and Cole instantly recognised him from the book of Shadows. This was Coronus, the demon Phoebe had seen in her vision…

"I think we can take on Balthazar and a whitelighter, don't you?" He asked, raising his gnarled hand and summoning a large fireball. "It'll be a nice warm up…"

The others laughed menacingly as they too powered up their fireballs and raised their crossbows.

A wide and triumphant smirk spread across the demons ugly face as he stared confidently at his two foes. "The time has come to finish what my master started…"

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A/N Dun dun dun! There you go. Next time- we see the final out come. What will happen to Leo and Cole? Where are the girls? What was the bang?

I hope next time won't be too far away. Hope this was okay- yes, the love part was sappy- I couldn't help it, I just saw a romantic French movie and I had to put some mush in.

Please Review! (I'm sorry I can't answer them anymore- I'm just too pressed for time- but please know that I REALLY do appreciate all the input and inspiration. You guys are awesome.)