Daddy Dearest

Daddy Dearest

by Catheryne@leopiper.cjb.net

"Don't talk to me, okay? I'm only keeping myself from hurting you because of my daughter."

"Victor," Leo whined. "Dad--"

Phoebe slapped her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing out loud. "Oh, Leo, you're really asking for it!"

"I can't believe I actually went through with this! Letting my baby marry a whitelighter when I know whitelighters are the least trustworthy beings ever."

Prue bit her bottom lip to hide her grin. "They're like… guardian angels, dad. What angels are not to be trusted?"

Victor turned his dark frown on his eldest daughter. "Whitelighters, I said. No one can argue with me."

"Fine, fine."

"And you," he said, as he turned back to the being in question, "are not allowed to call me daddy."

Just then Piper rushed down the stairs. "Hey guys! Leo, have you said hello to daddy?"

"Hello, daddy," Leo said.

Victor glowered at him. "Where are you going?"

"We're spending a day out, Leo and I. They gave him some time off since we're newlyweds." Leo smiled down at his bride and they lightly kissed.

"Here now, none of that!"

Piper arched an eyebrow at her father. "Dad, we were just married. You were supposed to do that strict thingy in high school but you missed out on that. I'm Piper Wyatt now. I can kiss, you know."

"What time are you coming back?" he demanded.

Piper groaned and hooked her arm into Leo's. "Prue, you talk to him!"

"Ummm, dad," Prue began. "I think you're supposed to let go of the curfew business now too."

Victor sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Sorry, okay. I'm having a hard time with this. Maybe I'm sorry I missed all those years. And I probably still see you as my little girls."

"Well," Prue brightened, "you can still have some authority over Phoebe since she's still in college."

"Hey!!" the youngest Halliwell protested.

The doorbell rang and Phoebe rushed to open it. "Good morning, sir."

"And who's this character?"

"Dad, it's my boyfriend Cole."

"He in anyway like Leo?"

"Yeah!" Phoebe enthusiastically replied, getting a shocked look from Cole. "Like Leo, who loves your daughter very much, he loves me." She went to Victor and gave him a peck on the cheek. "He's taking me out for a walk."

"I think I'll come with you," Victor decided. Cole's eyes widened and Phoebe gasped. "I hope there are no objections." Both Phoebe and Cole shook their heads.

"We'll wait outside," Phoebe whispered, still a little stunned.

"Good!" The two walked out and Victor winked at his eldest daughter. "I'm gonna go see if they're really just going out for a walk."

Prue slowly nodded. "Well now they would be!"

~~

"So Cole, what do you do for a living?" Victor asked. Phoebe snorted as she trailed behind the two men.

"Well, Mr. Bennett, I was--"

"Please call me Victor. You're dating my Phoebe, aren't you?"

Phoebe's drooping lids snapped open when she heard that. Was this the same Victor that until now is grudging in accepting Leo?

"Well thanks, Victor. I was saying that I used to practice law, but now I'm just a businessman."

"A businessman!"

"Uhuh. They say business is unpredictable, and I say this is the only life to live." The two clicked their paper cups together. "I'm sure you know the feel of a successful venture. The exhilaration, the pride."

Victor turned to look at Phoebe, who was by now, although her interest had been peaked, was dragging her feet on the ground. "I like your man, Phoebe. I'm glad you know how to choose your guys. Now this guy is completely trustworthy. All you have to do is explain certain stuff, you know. He looks like someone who'll understand."

Cole looked askance at Phoebe. "Dad doesn't like Leo 'coz he's a whitelighter. Don't worry, Dad, he knows about me." She turned back to Cole. "And he trusts you more than Leo."

Cole choked on his coffee. "Excuse me! Well I'm glad you feel that way, Victor."

Victor nodded and took the empty cup from Cole. "Let me have that to throw with mine." He walked away from him and towards the trashcan.

"Your father is going to be pissed when he learns he's favored the demon more than the whitelighter."

"I'm not too sure. He has whitelighter issues."

Victor returned and ruffled Phoebe's hair. "Well, I can see that you're in good hands, baby. I'm just going to catch a cab home and keep Prue company. You two have fun."

"Thanks, Dad."

"I hope Leo and Piper are back already. Who knows where he'd take your sister."

Cole chuckled. "Your daughter and her husband are probably out having a "good time" if you know what I'm saying. After all, it's technically still honeymoon."

Phoebe slapped Cole's arm. "Cole!"

Victor's eyes narrowed. "This is the biggest mistake I've made. Piper's too young. She's just my little mouse. She's not supposed to be out kissing and making out with some random guy."

Cole opened his mouth to reply, but Phoebe caught his arm and shook her head. "It's best not to answer," she whispered.

Victor got into a cad and, as they continued walking, Cole asked, "Your father is aware that Piper is a married woman who's probably doing more than just getting teenage naughty with the angel that she's known for three years and been part of her past lives, is he not?"

"Umm, you know, Cole, I think my father really has no knowledge about the past lives business. But I think he's still in denial that he's pet little mouse Piper is actually… you know…"

"Well he's got to get over that pretty soon."

"I hope so. And pretty soon. Else I can predict without premonition that chaos will be erupting at the manor. Dad can't really insist on denying that Piper's not a baby anymore, can he?"

Cole wrapped his arm around her shoulders and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "You'll be surprised at how much fathers can actually deny when they set their minds to it."

~~

He held her hand as they waited. An hour, she had said. And so they have been waiting here for that long, throwing occasional longing glances and timid little smiles.

"There she is." They stood up immediately and walked forward.

"Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt?" Leo nodded, and she requested them to sit down. "The results have come out." She handed him a piece of paper. "Congratulations."

"Ohh!" Piper clapped her hands. Leo burst out of his chair and caught her up in his arms and whirled her around once. "Leo, this is wonderful! I can't wait to see the reactions on their faces."

"Yes! Phoebe and Prue will really scream," he said.

"And just imagine what Daddy will say when you tell him, Leo!"

Leo set her down on the floor and swallowed. "Oh boy!" he breathed out. "I can imagine." Face turning beet red, and then blue, and then purple. The veins would pop out of his forehead, and his vocal chords would show through a taut neck.

"You're not scared of Daddy, are you? 'Coz he's really a great guy."

"Oh no, don't worry. I'm just telling myself not to let into the conversation anything about my job," he told her in a somewhat tremulous voice.

"A baby, Leo! Imagine!"

~~

"Piper is still a child, Prue. You should have insisted that they wait until after you get married. You're the eldest."

"Ouch, Daddy."

Victor sighed. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. It's just… I'm having a hard time accepting all these."

"I know, Daddy." She heard the jeep park outside. "Well, there's Piper's car. They're home."

Victor waited for the front door open, and he opened his arms towards his middle daughter. "There's my baby! How is my little mouse?"

"Happy, Daddy!" She threw her arms around him and hugged tightly. "It was a beautiful day."

Victor nodded to Piper's husband. "Leo," he acknowledged curtly.

"Victor," Leo greeted. He suddenly looked up, and then guiltily back at his father-in-law. He turned to his wife. "They're calling me, Piper."

"Awww," she protested. "But we're supposed to have time together."

"They say it's really brief but urgent. I'll be back soon."

"Okay. Hurry." He leaned to catch her lips for a kiss, and Victor immediately stepped forward. However, his son-in-law had already orbed out.

Piper sighed. Seeing that his daughter looked so disappointed, he offered his hand. "Come here, Piper, and tell me about your day."

"Be right back." Prue ran off and up the stairs.

Piper smiled and took hold of Victor's hand. "Where's Prue going?"

"To her room to change. She has a date with some guy who just called a few minutes ago."

Piper grinned. "A date with dear old Justin, I bet. Sounds fun."

"It is fun. You should be out there, like Prue and Phoebe, dating, having lots of fun. You're too young to be--"

"Dad!" she groaned. "Not this again."

"Fine. I'm sorry. We won't talk about your husband."

"Thank you!" She settled on the sofa. "Why don't we watch some tv?" She flicked open the television, and Victor had no choice but to sit beside her to watch.

A few hours later, Prue and Phoebe were still not home. The phone rang, and Victor answered it. A few moments later he returned to the living room. "Baby, I need to drop by the office for some important papers. I'd hate to leave you alone here but--"

"You can go, dad. It's okay."

By nightfall Piper knew that Leo had been held up. How unfair! They said they'd give Leo time off for their honeymoon. It was seven o'clock. She should probably fix some dinner but what's the use? Cole would take Phoebe out to some fancy restaurant and Justin always made fabulous home-cooked meals. Prue would have gained two pounds after a day with Justin.

She decided to not stir from her relaxed slouch in the couch. "Hey."

"Hey, dad," she greeted. "Glad to see you back."

"Your sisters not home yet?"

"Nope. You can't expect them for a few more hours."

"Have you eaten?"

She shook her head. "Nope. Not hungry. You not going home?"

"I am. I just came back here since most of my office stuff are in my blue bag." He excused himself to take the bag from the guest room. "Okay, sweetie. Eat dinner, ok? I'm going now."

"Bye bye, daddy," she said softly, kissing his cheek.

He turned to go and Piper returned to the couch and flipped on the television. Victor glanced back and sighed heavily. Her hair hung loose around her face and she looked so lonely sitting by herself in the living room. He placed the bag on the table and walked back to her. "Daddy, what are you still doing here?"

Victor sat beside her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "You know when you were young I used to tuck you in in bed every single night. You made me read you fairy tales but you never stayed awake long enough to hear the end of the story," he related tenderly. "And you did the sweetest thing. Always, just before you slipped off you'd say 'daddy' so softly."

"I did?"

"Yes. It warmed my heart. You're always going to be my baby, Piper. Once I was late from work and your mom had to tuck you in bed. When I leaned to kiss you goodnight you still whispered 'daddy' to me." Piper yawned. "Maybe you should go to bed, Piper."

"I have to wait for Leo, dad."

"It's not fair that you have to wait like this."

"It's part of being married to a whitelighter, daddy. And Leo's so much worth it."

Outside, Phoebe was giggling as Cole nibbled on her neck. "Hey, you better go."

"But I don't want to leave you just yet," he said, burying his face in her fragrant hair.

"Phoebe?"

Phoebe pushed Cole away from her. "Daddy!"

"Cole!" Victor greeted. "Had fun?" Phoebe nodded. "That's great. Why don't you two come on in?"

"Actually, dad, Cole was just leaving."

"That's silly." Victor took hold of Cole's arm and pulled him inside. "So Cole, you seem like a good gentleman. Tell me, is it right what Leo's doing to Piper, making her wait like this and just orbing out when he wants to?"

Phoebe cleared her throat. "Dad…"

"Fine. I know it's not fair to ask that since you two are probably tight being two guys and all." Cole had to bite back a grimace. "Have you two had dinner?" They nodded. "See? And Piper's the only one who hasn't eaten. We should get her to--" He stopped short. Piper was curled up on the couch with the television still on, sleeping.

"I'll go get the blanket," Cole offered. He returned a little while later with it. Phoebe pulled Cole into the kitchen.

Victor sighed as he looked down at Piper. He shook open the blanket and covered her with it. He tucked the edges in the way he always used to do. When he bent down to give her a goodnight kiss, he felt like someone had hit him in his gut. "Goodnight, baby."

Piper turned her face away and smiled. "Leo," she whispered.

He sat down on the armchair and slept.

The next morning Cole arrived at the Halliwell manor early. Since Phoebe was still asleep, it was Victor who opened the door for him. He liked Cole but six thirty was way too early. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.

Cole lifted the grocery bag. "Breakfast," he replied. "I know Piper's supposed to make breakfast but seeing as she'd probably still be out I thought to help out a little."

That pleased Victor. "Now aren't you just the perfect son-in-law!"

So Cole made breakfast. As the two of them set the table, Phoebe entered the kitchen. "Cole, what a pleasant surprise!"

"This guy is making breakfast so we don't need to disturb Piper. But I think you can go wake her up. She didn't even get to have dinner last night."

Phoebe went to Cole and kissed him in greeting. But Cole pulled away. When Phoebe looked askance at him, he explained, "I don't think it's proper for us to kiss with your dad in the same room."

Cole was scoring magnificent points. Phoebe was almost afraid that Victor would love him so much he'd adopt Cole. "Okay then. I'm gonna go get Piper. Better yet," she suggested, getting a breakfast tray, "I'll prepare a breakfast in couch for her."

A few minutes later, Phoebe bent over her sister. "Honey. Honey, rise and shine! Cole fixed break--"

Piper started up and turned green at the sight of the eggs. "Move!" Phoebe jumped out of the way and Piper scampered away from her and went to the nearest sink, which was at the kitchen. She heaved under the shocked gaze of Cole and Victor.

"Piper, are you all right?" Victor handed her a towel while Cole still stood there stunned.

Moments later she composed herself. "I'm sorry." The former demon merely nodded mutely. "I'll be fine, dad. Just a little dizzy."

Finally, Cole got himself moving. He wrapped his arm around her waist and helped her back to the living room where Phoebe was waiting with breakfast. "Better take that away, honey. She's not feeling very well." Phoebe left with the tray, and Cole knelt in front of Piper. "Fine now?" She nodded. "Okay you better just drink some juice." He sounded so caring that her eyebrow shot up. She looked nearer. He was grinning. "Telling Victor is sure going to be so fun. I won't miss it for the world."

Piper groaned and grabbed the throw pillow to hit him with it. "Tell daddy before Leo and I do and dear daddy's gonna know her youngest is consorting with Belthazor!"

Cole sobered a little, but he still looked very delighted. "Wonder when angel's orbing in."

Phoebe and Victor went into the living room. "What was that?"

Piper kicked Cole's ankle. "Probably just a virus I'm getting."

"A nine month virus," he mumbled quietly, earning a glare from Piper.

"So Cole," Phoebe began. "What time are you leaving for work?"

"Actually I'm not. I'm staying for the entire day."

"What do you mean?"

"I thought I'd keep you guys company here. I haven't seen Leo for a while. I'd like to be here when he comes back."

Phoebe smiled and drew him down for a kiss. "That's really sweet of you."

Victor sat beside Piper. Eight o'clock. Nine o'clock. Cole and Phoebe decided to go to her room and surf a while. Twelve o'clock. Piper's stomach settled enough for her to have breakfast. At three, she made up her mind to go to P3.

"No," Victor said emphatically. "Absolutely not. We don't even know about this bug of yours. What if you get dizzy on the road?"

"Dad…"

"Piper."

"You know I can freeze you and just go," she informed him.

"But you won't because you know I have a point."

She sighed. "I'm so bored." Victor grinned, thinking that boredom was an easy problem to solve. After all, he'd always entertained his girls with games and stories when they were little, and they always enjoyed it. "I want my husband."

"Well, looks like everything's going to be fine now then," he pointed out as he saw the blue orbs that he has always disliked form behind her. Though he felt left out, Victor still was happy at the sight of his daughter's eyes widening with excitement. Piper immediately knelt on the couch and faced Leo, wrapping her arms around him and kissing him.

"Where have you been?" Victor demanded. "She's not been feeling well."

Leo regarded Victor from the top of Piper's head. "There was some danger we had to overcome." And then he turned to Piper. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to come home last night. We've been very busy."

"It's okay," she whispered. "You're here now."

"You haven't been feeling well?"

"Yeah. But it's all part of the process, so I'm not complaining." She closed her hand over Leo's, and he sat down beside her on the couch. "Dad, Leo and I have something to tell you."

Victor didn't like this at all, but he supposed he had to accept it. After all, this whitelighter seemed to be making his baby very happy. "Yeah, what is it, Piper?"

"Well, we've been in love for almost three years now. And we're married," Piper began. Leo picked up. "The thing is, Victor, our great news is that you're going to be a grandfather!"

Victor immediately felt fear rise within him. Piper was just a baby herself, and they're going to have a child of their own? Leo couldn't even be expected to regularly come home to dinner and they thought he'd be a good father? But seeing his daughter's eyes twinkling in joy Victor cracked a smile. He felt moisture sting his eyes as he stood up to embrace Piper. "You'll be a wonderful mom, baby." He shook Leo's hand, knowing that although he wasn't ready to give up his position as the most important man in his daughter's life, he is being forced to. "Congratulations. Just be sure you'd be there when you're needed."

Phoebe and Cole climbed down the stairs. "He knows already?" Leo nodded. Cole made a face. "I missed it!"

Piper yawned, so Leo excused the two of them. "Well seems like little mommy's very tired. I haven't had much sleep myself. We'll just curl up in our room." He orbed the two of them away.

"Little mommy?" Phoebe repeated. And then she squealed. "I'm gonna be an aunt!"

Cole watched Victor carefully, expecting him to burst in anger at any moment. Instead he felt a strange kinship with Victor when he noticed the older man rub the bridge of his nose with his fingers. True, he was able to come back in to his daughters' lives, but the three all had different concerns now. For a father whose memories were mostly of very young girls, the events happening right now made him feel lost.

Cole pulled Phoebe to the kitchen. "Phoebe, listen to me," Cole whispered. "There's a group of vigilante demons out there hunting me for betraying the dark side. They may use you against me, and I want you to be on the lookout."

"Vigilante demons? What? Are you going to be safe? What are they like?"

"Evil, Phoebe. Very evil."

"Oh come on, Cole, I'm not that stupid. They're demons! Of course they're evil. You have to give me more than that."

Victor walked in to the kitchen. "Hey, you two!"

Upstairs, Piper curled herself in Leo's embrace. She laid her head on his arm. "What took you so long?"

"It was a little more complicated than they first thought. I had to go to four different witches to get the answer one priestess needed. I wanted to come back quickly. I'm sorry I couldn't."

"It's okay, Leo," she said, trying without success to stifle the yawn. "When are you free to come with me for my check-up?"

He heard them calling him again, but he ignored them. They promised free weeks after the wedding, and if they weren't getting that, Piper at least deserved a full hour. "Just say the time and I'll be ready."

"What if they need you?"

"They'll have to wait. You and the baby are my priority."

She smiled. "Tell us a story, Leo. You should start your fatherly duties now, even if our baby's still inside."

"Okay." He started with, "Once upon a time there were three little witches." His soothing voice relaxed her. Soon, Leo noticed her grow heavy and figured that she'd fallen asleep. He waited a few more minutes, savoring the feel of her pressed against him, knowing that the slight bulge of her belly proof that his first child is growing and healthy. And then he gently pulled away.

"Phoebe."

Phoebe looked up and saw Leo at the doorway. "Hey, Leo. How's Piper?"

"Sleeping like a baby."

"She was a baby before you went and got her with a baby," Victor muttered.

"Dad, it's growing old," Phoebe muttered.

Cole wanted to talk to Leo about his little demon problem, but didn't know how to broach the subject. How did one of the greatest and most feared demons go about asking an angel for help?

"Listen, the elders are calling me. I have to go. Could you check on her every few minutes and explain when she wakes up?"

"Sure thing, Leo!"

Victor snorted. Leo orbed to answer the Elders' call. "So that's the kind of husband your sister's gonna have to suffer for life?"

Cole kissed Phoebe on the cheek. "I have to go find out more about the vigilantes," he whispered. "I gotta go check on some of my businesses, Mr Bennett."

Victor draped his arm over Phoebe's shoulders as they walked Cole to the living room. "Come on, honey. We'll go watch some tv so you don't miss Cole. I'll be right back. I'll just walk him to the car."

"Really, Mr. Bennett. There's no need."

"But I insist!"

~~

"Justin!" Prue giggled. "Stop it!"

Justin nibbled at her earlobe. "Last night was fun," he whispered. "Wanna just go back to my place? Nobody's seen you yet."

"My father's gonna kill us!"

"Prue, you're old enough to go to a guy's place! You make us sound so high school. I know for a fact that we won't be in this position if we were in high school."

"Prue, is that you?"

"Bye, Justin. Hey Pheebs!"

The door slammed closed on Justin's face. The windows shut one by one. The simultaneous slamming shut of all doors and windows in the house sounded. "What the--"

The electricity flickered out. Prue tried the doorknob and it won't open. "Phoebe, try the windows!"

"Prue! It won't open!"

Prue looked around and calmly pronounced, "Something sealed us in. Get Piper."

"She's asleep."

"It's best if we're all together and alert. Wake her up. This looks serious."

~~

Victor tried the knob. It won't budge. He tried turning again. The door won't open. He turned at the sound of yelling. It was Justin running from the back of the house. "What happened?" the young man asked.

Cole steps down from his car and goes to the two. The vigilantes were too quick. "Humans can't come inside. There's a seal barring all physical ways of entry," he explained. Justin looked stunned. He thought it better to explain to Victor. "I know about everything, Victor. Don't worry."

"How are we getting my girls out?"

"I hate to say this Victor, but we need Leo."

"It's time he had some use around here. Leo! Leo!" Leo appeared before them, and Justin took a step back, still not saying anything. "We need you to orb us in there. You're the only one who can. Some--"

Leo held up his hand to silence Victor. "I know the situation, but not everything. All I can focus on right now is that we had better hurry. I'll take one and Cole can take the other." He glanced coldly at Cole.

"Cole? What are you talking about? Anyway, just come on. While you were away carousing with your other charges my daughter, your wife, has been stuck in that house. At least he's been here planning."

Leo was about to snap. "Look, Victor, open your eyes for just a second. You're being unfair."

"You're the whitelighter and he's the one who knows about what's going on here!"

"Victor," Cole interjected, "don't--"

"Victor, come on, he's a demon! Of course he'd know what's happening; he's one of them!"

"WHAT!"

"Damn," Cole muttered. Justin would have turned tail and run except for the fact that Cole didn't sprout horns and a tail right there. He knew he needed to save Prue. "Okay, here's what we do…"

Victor glared at both Leo and Cole. "Great! A panicky mortal, a demon and an unreliable whitelighter are my daughters' only hope for survival! How many demons are there?"

"Four." He faced Leo. "And I can't shimmer one of them with me. First of all, I can't take anyone with me, Leo. And next, they'd automatically sense my presence."

"Evil blood calling to evil blood?" Justin croaked out. Victor looked at him in a brand new light.

"Something like that," Cole bit out. "Look you need to get past this demon thing. I'm reforming, repenting my sins, so you can't keep throwing my past sins back at me. It isn't fair."

"Don't talk to me about fair, Cole. At least you committed the sins. I haven't done anything yet and look at what I'm getting!"

Justin held up his hands. "You two can boast about your depressions after we get the girls safe. Now, the job at hand is to save them. So you're going to wait here outside, Cole? Leo is taking Victor and me in with this… 'orbing' thing you're saying."

"Yes," Leo nodded. "Justin, you take the one nearest Prue. Victor, attack the one with Phoebe. I'll help Piper. Now take my hands." As he orbed the two mortals in, he called out to Cole, "And you wait for any demon scampering out of the house!"

They orbed in and saw the girls fighting off the demons. Prue flung the demon after her into the wall. Justin ran out to her and when the demon stood up, he picked up and chair and smashed it against its head. "Justin!" Prue used her powers to tie the demon up. "I'm so glad you didn't touch him! His skin is lethal." Justin sucked in his breath at the information.

Phoebe wrestled with the demon on the floor. The demon was relatively heavier than her and sat on top of her. "Die, witch!" Victor growled and tackled the demon, using him as a punching bag. However, the demon was able to slash him on the arm. This made Victor even angrier, and he threw punches a lot harder. Finally, the demon lay unconscious and Phoebe threw her arms around her father.

Victor looked up to see Piper running away from her demon. "No!" he yelled, seeing the fireball coming towards his daughter. Leo orbed in beside her and pulled her down on the floor. The fireball bore into the far wall.

"Leo, you could have been hurt!" Piper cried. "You shouldn't have thrown yourself into the path like that."

"I couldn't let you get hit. Besides, I'm immortal. What harm can a fireball do?"

"Leo," Phoebe cried. "Dad's hurt!"

"Oh, Leo, go heal dad."

"No, I'm fine. I don't need a whitelighter to heal me," Victor groaned. Leo approached him and left Piper. Prue and Justin ran to look at Victor's wound.

Leo healed the wound and smiled in relief. "All accounted for."

"Wait," Justin said. "Didn't Cole say there were four?"

Leo slowly looked up. "Yes," he whispered. "No!" He turned around to where he left Piper standing at the doorway. There was no one there.

~~

"Look, you want to take your revenge on the turncoat demon, don't you? Why don't you just let me and my sisters go and spend your powers and energy on finding Belthazor!?"

The demon smirked at her. "Do you even have any idea what sole creature is powerful enough to destroy a demon as high as Belthazor, witch?"

"If I did, I'd be contacting him right now!" Piper snapped at him. "And stop pulling on my hair!" She slapped at the greasy hand.

"You're too arrogant for someone so ignorant! The only creature powerful enough to go against Belthazor is a creature like this!" He pulled back his arm and then slammed it into Piper's belly.

She looked down at his hand, or where it vanished into her body. "Aaaaaaaahhhhh!"

"Blood of a Charmed One, child of a whitelighter. Talk about great destinies. I need this baby, witch!"

Piper could feel the numbness creeping up her body. She was going to lose consciousness, and the demon would have her child. The door burst open to reveal her husband, Victor and Cole. They were able to open the doors as soon as the demons were overcome.

"Help her, damn you!" Victor hissed at Leo.

Before Leo could move forward, the demon stayed them with a warning. "Don't step any closer, or I'll crush it."

"Go!" Victor said.

Leo's mind rebelled at the thought. This demon was ruthless. If he said he will kill the child, he definitely would. "I can't—"

"What do you mean you can't? He's killing my baby!"

"And if I do he's going to kill mine!" Leo yelled back at him. Victor was stunned. He was being too much of a father that he failed to take into account that Leo was merely acting as a father would too.

"He's right," Cole said. "Think this through."

"Tooot! Time's up!" the demon grated. He pulled his hand out of Piper's belly, and Victor turned his head away at the sight. A bloody fetus on the demon's grasp. With a flick of his hand, it was encased in a dark blue crystal for safe transport. Blood pumped out of the hole on Piper's stomach. With a thud, she fell on the floor. "Bye bye, losers." The demon disappeared, leaving three speechless men.

Leo immediately went to his wife. With trembling hands, he tried to heal her. Cole stopped him. "It won't work. She's not getting better until we have the child back."

Phoebe finally ran up. "What happened?" she demanded.

"I'll get the child back, Leo," Cole offered. "This is too foul, even for them. And this has to be reversed before you can heal the wound."

Phoebe caught Cole's arm. "That child is your destruction," she whispered.

"She's your sister," he told her softly.

"You're my soulmate."

"Phoebe, think. You don't want your sister to die, do you?"

"I don't want you to die either."

Cole tried to make light of the matter by chuckling. "But I'm Beltha—"

She slapped her hand over her mouth. "No, you're not!" she screamed. "You're Cole. You're my Cole."

"Phoebe, this is the only way."

"There's another. I'll find it." She looked up at Leo, ashamed. Was this selfish of her to do this? Her sister was going to die. Their baby in the hands of a demon. And she won't allow for the only way possible for them to be saved.

Leo nodded to assure her of his support, but Phoebe could see the questions in his eyes. This was his family after all.

That night, weary of searching in vain in the Book of Shadows, Phoebe passed by Piper's room. Hearing a voice, she just stayed at the door.

Leo was lying in bed beside the unresponsive Piper. His voice was not sad. It was conversational, as though her sister were awake instead of slipping closer and closer to that end. "And then everything just became beautiful. I knew then, at that very moment, that we were meant for each other. And nothing, not even those powerful elders, could keep love like ours apart…"

"Phoebe."

Phoebe started at the sound of his voice. She turned around. "Cole, go."

"I knew you were going to say that."

"I'll go with you." They turned to see Leo standing there, beside the bed. "I need to be part of this."

~~

"Be careful, Cole. Please."

Cole drew her into his arms and laid his chin on the top of her head. "I will, Phoebe. Just stay here with your family until we get back. Stay with your sister and change the covers on her wound. We'll be back in no time, I promise. And then we'll fix her up and everything can return to normal."

Leo sat beside his wife on the bed and kissed the closed lids. "Everything's going to be all right, sweetie. I won't let anything happen to the baby. I swear."

He turned to see that Cole stood at the door, waiting for him. "Every moment counts, Leo."

Leo nodded and walked over to Cole. He was about to orb, and Cole shimmer, when Prue and Justin ran down from the attic. "Wait! You need a mortal to open the crystal encasement which locks in the crystal holding the child!"

"Then I'll go with you," Victor offered.

"We have to find someone else, dad. The crystal will not open to anyone blood related to the baby."

Leo tensed. "Then I'm doubly useless in freeing my own child!"

"I'll do it," Justin whispered.

"Are you up to it?"

"Do we have a choice?"

Leo nodded and smiled thankfully at Justin. He held out his hand to take him with them.

~~

"Do it!" Cole yelled as demons advanced around them. Leo fought off three simultaneously, while Cole reverted to being Belthazor to fight off more demons faster.

Justin snapped off the green bindings on the blue crystal. "It's free!" he called out. A demon advanced at him and he kicked at its stomach. "What now?" he demanded.

Belthazor glanced back at Justin. "Leo, orb them out of here!"

Leo fought off a couple more attackers and then rushed to Justin's side. He would have taken the crystal which he knew preserved the baby before whatever ritualistic transfer they planned when Justin grabbed for it again. "Wait! It's your child, Leo. Don't lose focus. We can't bungle up now." Leo nodded and held onto Justin's arm and orbed them out.

They appeared in the manor. A few minutes later, Cole shimmered in. "Sorry. I had to transform back and clean out the slimy green demon blood."

Justin shuddered and lost his grip on the crystal. "Spare me the details."

Cole's eyes widened as he fell down on his chest to catch the crystal. "What do you think you're doing?!" he demanded.

"Throwing up!" Justin called as he ran away from the two.

"We need to do this, Cole."

Cole shook his head. "You can't come in there, Leo." The door of Piper's room opened and Phoebe regarded the two. "You're too attached. This has to be controlled."

"I'll stay," she said.

"No. I'll have to become Belthazor in there, Phoebe. I don't want to expose you to it."

"Cole, I've tried to run away from the truth too long. Now I can't deny it any longer. You are as much Cole as you are Belthazor. And I love you all the same."

Cole stared into her eyes for a long moment before holding out his free hand. Together they walked into the room and shut it close. Leo stood there for a long moment before turning his back and climbing down the stair to the living room.

On the couch, Leo waited tensely. This was all too much. When they were married, he had thought that the problems were over. It seemed that it's just the start of even bigger and more dangerous concerns, especially on the issue of the supernatural child, whose witch's blood would be heightened to the peak of powers by being mixed with that of a whitelighter's. How could he be on alert all the time? Will they even survive this? How much can he trust Cole? True, he had been important in retrieving the child. But for the ritual he would have to be Belthazor, and although Leo was beginning to accept that Cole can be counted on, Belthazor was another thing. Phoebe may say that Belthazor is Cole, but to Leo, there's a big difference between the demon and the man.

"It's like waiting a labor out, isn't it?"

Leo turned and saw Victor looking at him. "I wouldn't know. Haven't had a baby before. All I know is that this is driving me insane."

Victor chuckled. "Wait until she's giving birth then."

"I don't care if that drives me out of my mind. She can curse me for the entire labor. I just hope we get to that part when she can."

"You're not sure if Cole can pull this off?"

"Let's just say that I won't fully trust a demon," he answered. "At least never with my wife and child if I can help it. Now I have no choice."

Victor laid his hand on Leo's shoulder for support. "You'll learn. Look at me. I think I'm beginning to trust a whitelighter."

Prue gave Justin a glass of juice. "I'd understand if you stand up right now and walk out that door, Justin. Even I think this is too much. But know that I'll never be mad. And that I'll always be thankful for what you did for us today."

He gulped down the entire glass. "Prue, I told you once and I'll tell you again. The supernatural makes life more interesting." He took the box from her hand and drank the contents straight down. "Just give me some time to adust."

"Leo! Leo!" Leo looked up and saw Phoebe calling to him from the stairs. He and Victor immediately followed her up to Piper's room.

Cole faced Leo, looking tired and worn. "She'll wake up in a while." Phoebe pulled him away to give them some privacy.

Victor remained at the doorway and watched as Leo sat heavily down beside his sleeping daughter. Leo laid a hand on her stomach, where their baby was now safely nestled, back where it belonged. Leo surreptitiously wiped the moisture from his eyes. Knowing that everything was back to where it started was too overwhelming for him. Their second chances were countless, and so unbelievably fulfilling. He leaned down and kissed her cheek. Piper groaned and smiled. "Leo," she murmured. A few minutes later, moments in which Leo never took his eyes away from her, brown lashes fluttered open. "Hey."

"Hey. You're both okay," he whispered. She nodded, and Leo bent to kiss her stomach. He whispered to the child. "Hi, baby. It's me, daddy."

Victor moved away from his post and went to the living room. His eyes caught the framed picture of the happy family. Victor picked it up and traced the smiling faces of himself, Patti and the three girls. He took the photograph to the window and looked out at the starry sky.

Victor closed his eyes, and from beneath closed lids, he saw three young girls with bouncing brown hair running towards him with arms outstretched. "Daddy! Daddy!" his mind's ear heard. He caught one of them in his arms and was smacked on the cheek with a very very wet kiss. "You're the bestest daddy in the whole wide world!"

He smiled. Prue was in the kitchen, probably talking her man through the forced initiation he'd undergone. Phoebe was in her room with her half-demon, doing who-knows-what. He didn't really need to find out. And Piper was in her room with her whitelighter husband, whose name had replaced Victor's as the most important man in her life. Even "daddy" didn't mean the same to her anymore.

He took a deep breath. "Soon, I bet, I'll tuck in little boys and girls and they'll murmur granddaddy in their sleep," he told himself in consolation.

The end