"My Own Worst Enemy"

An Espionage Adventure starring W.i.t.c.h.

By: A J

Standard Disclaimer applies, please don't sue.

Chapter 8

'Mina hadn't been gone ten minutes when there was a knock at the Cooks' front door. Lionel answered, and drew up imposingly at the sight of his little girl's long-time beau. "Yes, Mister Ashcroft?"

"Heya, Mister Cook. Is Taranee in?"

"Yes, as you very well know. You should be home as well. The curfew is for all school age residents, Nigel."

"Yeah, I'm headed home from work now, Mister Cook. I … just wanted to say good night to Taranee. In person …" Nigel let his voice drop off, as Lionel Cook just eyed him stonily for a moment. Then …

"TARANEE!" Lionel bellowed. "DOOR!" He stepped off to one side as the girl of all Nigel's dreams came jogging dutifully out at her dad's summons, flushed from the run.

"What is it, Daddy … OH! Hey, Nigel!" She stepped out onto the porch and gave Nigel an enthusiastic hug and a long, if rather chaste, kiss. She giggled when Lionel growled behind her, turning to see her source's male parent eyeing them gruffly.

"Wow! Hi T'ree," Nigel managed, blushing fit to match his Irish hair under Lionel's glare.

"Nigel just stopped by … to say good night," the exasperated father said. He glanced significantly at his watch, and they both got the message.

"Oh, right … the curfew," Rhea sighed. She turned back to Nigel. "So … I'll see you tomorrow." She held tighter to his hand, letting that sensory memory soak in for Taranee's return later.

"Yeah, tomorrow," Nigel replied. "Well … good night Taranee …" He pulled her in for another quick kiss, mindful of her litigious-minded father still standing there. They parted slowly, and he didn't take his eyes from hers until he was off the porch and their hands parted.

Rhea watched as he climbed back into his family's second-hand car and drove off with one last wave. Then she turned to head back in, only to find Lionel still standing there. His expression had softened considerably with Nigel's glacial departure, and the dreamy smile he'd seen on both teens' faces.

"So … saying good night … in person … it's … cute." He grinned mischievously.

"Daddy ..." Rhea sputtered, her head lowered and her cheeks flaming. He just nabbed the tip of her chin, making her look up at him again.

"It is cute, honey. And, I can see why you two are still together. It's not just a crush after all, is it?"

"I … I don't think so, Daddy." Rhea couldn't hide the shy smile that took her blush away.

"You know, much as I hate to admit this as your father … I like him, too, Taranee. When this … unmentionable … is caught, and Heatherfield's back to normal, we'll talk about your normal curfew. No promises," he added at her excited 'Eeeep!' "C'mon inside, it's getting dark, honey." They went back to their individual nightly pursuits.

Lionel returned to the Final Four game he and Peter were watching while Rhea sat at Taranee's vanity in 'their' room. Before she continued the now-boring (compared to real life) paper on Romeo & Juliet for lit class, she spent several minutes just looking at her reflection in the mirror in front of her, making sure the image would stick in her mind. Then she said clearly to Taranee's face as it looked back, "Lucky girl."

Enemy

Jayne spun her way through her finishing triple-axle, made her landing, and shuished to a halt in front of her family and her coach, Antoni Rozhenko.

"Goot vork, Cornilia," Antoni grunted, while Lillian cheered. "You yust haf to add a manera*1 more zpeed before ze finish, for ze lift, and you will be back to ze compititionz like zat Mirai Nagazu."

"Thank you, Trener*2," Jayne responded with a satisfied nod, and smiled. As often as Cornelia had been practicing her routing lately, Jayne was doubly glad that she'd remembered all of it. Apparently the magic that made Astral Drops possible was also capable of duplicating skills and talents when needed after all, despite the early mishaps the girls had experienced with their doubles. When Cornelia had summoned her earlier tonight, and the whole emergency had been made clear, the nagging worry had occurred to Jayne that her mystically-made body wouldn't be able to pull off the maneuvers that Cornelia had learned through countless hours of dedicated practice. Now she knew better. She itched to call Elyon and tell her too, like any normal Earth girl, but realized that the young queen and the others were probably super-busy with all the Guardian business they had going on.

"All right, honey," Harold Hale told his daughter's doppelganger. "Let's get us all home. Coach Rozhenko, as always, a pleasure. We'll see you next week, yes?"

"Da. But nyet the week after," Antoni snorted down his moustache with a grin. "Iz my anniwirziry. Thirty-three yearz, my Katyarra and I haf."

"Well, congratulations, and many happy returns," Harold told the older man while the three females 'Aawwww'ed' next to them. Lillian giggled afterwards.

"Soooo," she needled Jayne as the latter sat to take off her skates. "Does that give you any ideas on how to pick between Caleb and Peter?"

"No, it does not, little Miss Nosy," Jayne huffed, now working on the second skate. Though now that the little pest had mentioned them, thoughts of both of Cornelia's prospective boyfriends started to race through her brain. 'Hmm, time to settle some of those questions for myself ... and Cornelia,' Jayne mused, slipping her flats on and sliding the blade-guards on her source's skates.

Enemy

Will and Hay finished with their massive download, Taranee sorted the pile of files onto flash drives by decade, and the Guardians and Regents started sifting through them for anything relevant.

"Jeez, who'd've thought the Seventies could be this boring" Irma whined after a half-hour. Cornelia just grunted in agreement, checking the latter half of the same decade.

"I hate to say it, but there's really not much more in the Eighties," Matt sighed. He pushed back and rubbed his eyes.

"Except the end of the watch on Halinor," Elyon said, turning her screen for the others to give it a once-over.

"I wonder who this Agent Flamel is," Taranee muttered, tapping the screen.

"We can ask Agent Zephyr later," Hay returned, with a sad expression. She had taken the new century's entries for herself, determined to be the one to find out whether her mother knew about them. None of them envied her the job. "Along with who Agent Daedalus really is. The reports from him start right after we started at Sheffield."

"Well, that could be anybody," Cornelia said, going back to her files.

Will, sifting through the end of the sixties, jumped when the Browns' computer before her gave a 'BEEP!' The too-loud noise made all the others in the quiet room look her way as well. "What is it, Mavrice?" she asked Aldarn's MacBook.

"Pardon, Mistress Vandom, but that computer you all have shown such interest in just logged a fresh report from a local server."

"WHAT!" Hay cried, leaping across the room. "Mavrice, can you dsplay that new report?" She was shaking as she asked, her nerves were so taut.

"Certainly, Guardian." What came up on screen got everyones' attention.

FILE #: NPSA 74988

REPORTING AGENT: Daedalus

Possibility of imminent attack; Subject: Vandom, W. was taken into Emergency Care for 'electrolytic depletion and physical exhaustion.' (see attached hospital file). Subject was last known to be in the presence of Subject: Olsen, M. before collapse. Surveillance to continue.

END REPORT.

"The #&][?" Will blurted, amid gasps from most of the other girls and an anguished cry from Hay Lin.

"Mavrice, shut that link down," Matt charged harshly. "Now." With a whirr and a beep, the MacBook complied.

"Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod …" Taranee started when the implication hit her. "Will ... who's watching YOU?"

"I think I know who Daedalus is," Thomas Alborn Brown said. When all the others turned his way expectantly, he stood straighter, trying to lend some authority to his idea. "As a Royal Guard, I kept close track of new arrivals to Heatherfield over the years. A new teacher at our daughter's new school had me briefly curious, but then all the business with Cedric and Metamoor drove it out my mind." He cleared his throat, "Mister Collins. Dean Collins is Daedalus; he's got to be. He's the only one that's been that close to you and your mother, and also been able to see what goes on at the school," he added, tapping the report currently on Hay's Lappy's screen.

"That son of a 8!+(#!" Will seethed, her hair sparking with static discharge. Matt stood and wrapped his arms reassuringly around her. Then a fresh worry occurred to him.

"Hey… this just got filed," he shot out. "That mean something happened with the A.D.'s, gang. Kor, Napoleon, stay with Lillian, I'm gonna go find 'Subject: Olsen, M'." His brow dropped.

"With backup," Will said. She looked around. "Cornelia, go with the Regents. Hay-hay, we'll help Matt, invisible. T, Irma, you two stay on this … we need to know everything."

"Gotcha," Cornelia and Irma both said, getting a strained chuckle from Elyon.

"We'll help these two," Miriadel said, taking Matt's abandoned seat.

"Get going … and good luck," Alborn told the two trios before they all left, Cornelia just remembering Napoleon's carrier in time.

Enemy

Cornelia, Huggles, and Napoleon arrived on her doorstep seconds before the curfew's start. Huggles transformed himself back into Matt again, Napoleon hopped in his carrier with a disgruntled sigh, and the harried Earth-girl hid around the corner to the stairwell. 'Matt' knocked.

"I've got it," Elizabeth told Harold from the kitchen. She was putting the finishing touches on Lillian's birthday cupcakes, for school. Too busy to make them from scratch, she'd compromised, bought three dozen pre-baked chocolate-frosted chocolate monstrosities from the corner bakery, and was now adding little piping 'L's, '7's and candy florets to each one, as well as putting candles in a Ziploc ® for each she'd finished. Her older daughter's best friend Elyon had made her a banner in their Art class last week, which Elizabeth took great pains to keep hidden for the next weekend's party.

Peeking out through the peephole, Elizabeth smirked. Matt had kept Napoleon so Cornelia wouldn't have to bring him to the rink with her. Apparently the cat and the boy's girlfriend's dormouse weren't getting along thought, for here was Napoleaon, carrier and all.

"How do you get him in there? The girls can never manage," she asked with a grin after she'd opened the door for them.

"Bribery," 'Matt' answered after a telepathic prompt from Napoleon. He grinned toothily. Elizabeth chuckled and pointed out Lillian's room. Younger daughter and father were entrenched with the end of the latest Harry move still, and Cornelia – so far as she knew – was puttering away on her homework.

"Just put his carrier in her closet and leave him to roam," she started to say, closing the door. There was a sudden clatter in the kitchen. "Shoot … you better not be in those cupcakes, young lady!" Elizabeth gave the door a final swing, headed in the other direction to check.

Kor sent out a telekinetic snare to stop the latch at the last second, and Cornelia snuck in behind them. "This is getting so old," she muttered, popping the lock on Napoleon's cage open. He bounded out and into the living room to check on his Mistress.

"Napoleon!" the nearly seven-year-old squealed, and seconds later he reappeared, firmly ensnared in Lillian's arms. He looked despairingly at the pair of his magical allies.

"Sorry, Charlie," Cornelia chuckled, reaching out and ruffling his fur, then Lillian's hair. Harold Hale appeared behind them.

"So what's the damage, Olsen?" he asked good-naturedly, reaching for his wallet. 'Matt' blinked a couple of times, then his toothy smile returned.

"On the house," he rumbled. His grin redirected to Lillian and Cornelia.

The youngest Hale, fresh from a mushy scene with Harry and Ginny, looked from her sister to 'Matt' and back, and grinned as well. "Ooooh, so does Caleb have more competition?" Cornelia rolled her eyes.

"Not likely, pipsqueak. Anyway, I think Will'd prefer pet-boy here kept breathing, so don't even THINK that one again." She turned back to Huggles. "Thanks for bringing him home, Matt." She lay a fingertip on Napoleon's paw for a second, relaying a quick micro-message. Napoleon sent it on to his partner with a feline crinkle of his eyes.

"Gotta go… Grandpa's waiting," 'Matt' said, holding a hand out for Harold to shake. Harold took it confusedly, and Huggles shook his whole arm heartily. "See ya later, Lilli-gator," he shot the sisters' way and left.

"Here, I got that … I gotta get back to my homework," Cornelia said, taking the empty carrier. She chucked it into Lillian's closet and ducked into her room through the least possible amount of open doorway.

Jayne looked up from 'their' Macbook, where she was cursing at Cornelia's Algebra II homework. "Hey, sis. So … how bad is it?"

"Oh, it's bad, Jayne. Missus Lin isn't alone for starters," Cornelia sighed, flumping back on her bed. Jayne gasped out another curse, "Yeah, our sentiments exactly, Jayne. One of 'em's Mister Collins…"

"How'd you find that out?" Jayne squeaked.

"He posted a report while we were still sorting the rest of them … Which reminds me! Did something happen with 'Mina while you girls were out?"

"No," Jayne admitted. "But I was dropped off first, for practice … Which reminds me. No practice in two weeks, for Antoni and Katyarra's anniversary."

"Ooh, that's right," Cornelia smiled. "I've got to remember to get them something."

"So … Dean Collins ..?" Jayne redirected.

"Yeah," Cornelia grumbled. "Well, at least he's spending most of his time tracking 'Subject Vandom, S.' and her daughter."

"So the government does know about W.I.T.C.H.?"

"Looks like it," her originator sighed. "How's homework going?"

"Math's almost done. Killing me, but almost done," Jayne smiled.

"If you can finish it, I'll get some of this read," Cornelia replied, holding up her English book. They were supposed to be reading Hamlet, but thanks to Guardian duties and regular teen life, Cornelia hadn't gotten more than five pages in. She suspected Irma hadn't even gotten that far.

"What if someone comes in?" her 'Drop asked, glancing at the door.

"Hmm … I'll read over here," Cornelia responded, taking Hamlet and settling at her vanity in the far corner, the last place anyone coming in her door would glance towards. The two settled into their respective tasks, humming quietly to themselves, until Cornelia realized they'd both been crooning the same Meridian song. It had been performed at a fair she'd gone to with Caleb. She shot a grin at her double. "We should do this more often, Sis," she said, adopting Will's usual address for 'Mina.

"Definitely," Jayne grinned back. They returned to finishing 'their' homework.

Out on the Hales' patio, Kor sat in vigil, eating the last of his vegetarian sweet and sour dinner.

Enemy

Hay, Matt, and Will stepped into the alley behind Saint Nicholas Hospital's ambulance garage and immediately fanned out. Matt and Will opened their respective mystical senses, feeling for where Matt Two or 'Mina were. They immediately found Will's Altermere, in a bed on the third floor of the hospital, already hooked up to a bank of monitors. Exchanging uneasy looks, they doubled their efforts to find M-Two.

Hay Lin took advantage of their distraction. Turning invisible, the Air girl took to the sky over the hospital parking lot, looking for Sue Vandom or Dean Collins' car. When she found both, parked next to each other in the valet lot, it confirmed (to her at least,) Alborn's theory.

Alighting between the two cars, Hay gave Susan's green Accord a sympathetic pat before turning to Dean's tan PT Cruiser. A millisecond microburst of Air on the inside of the car, and she had the doors unlocked and the glove box opened. Unfortunately, she'd forgotten to take the alarm into account.

"Damned for the hen as much as the egg," she muttered once more, and used the Air again to open the door and bring her the contents of the glove compartment on a mini-tornado. Snatching the flying papers out of the air and closing the door again with a hip-bump, she teletransported back to the alley.

"Hay-hay, what is that?" Will asked of the new armful of papers.

"Evidence … I hope," Hay replied.

"From where?" Matt had to ask for the Guardian leader, who was still just gawking at her teammate.

"Mister Collins' car," the Air girl admitted sheepishly. Matt thumped his forehead with a fist.

"Alright, let's see what you got," he said with a sigh. She handed him some of the papers, and split the rest with Will, who was now glaring at her.

"Okay … Registration for his PT Cruiser … Owner's manual for a … Volkswagon …" Both girls chuckled nervously behind him. "What?"

"Er, we're the reason he had to get a new car …" Will began.

"Do I want to know?"

"Not right now ..." Hay told him.*3 "I've got nothing here," she complained, waving her handful.

"I think I've got something," Will said reluctantly, holding out a folded yellow note with some distaste. She had almost gotten over the last of her misgivings about her mother's boyfriend … until this. She was right back to resenting him wholeheartedly now. Hay took the note and opened it warily.

"Well?" Matt asked, his eyes flashing green with worry.

"'Need to clarify reference from Zephyr about Heart'," Hay read aloud after a gulp. She traded sickened looks with the other two teens. Their worst fears were coming to pass – exposed to the government as well as their parents. "What now?" Hay whined.

"We find Two-me," Matt spat. "Mina's safe … for now. Let's find out what happened …"

"Found him," Hay blurted, pointing to the far side of the parking lot … next to Dean and Susan's cars. He and a security guard were both looking at Dean's PT Cruiser as the alarm blared. The guard held up his walkie-talkie, and Hay told the other two he'd called in the license plate number, ostensibly so the owner could come shut it off.

"We need to leave," Will swore. She looked at the armfuls of paper they each were holding. "Come on, if Mom's here with Sis, we can put this stuff at my place. Maybe I can convince him he brought it all in to sort out …"

"You two go," Matt told the girls. "I'm gonna talk to my twin."

"We'll talk to him," Hay countered, handing her papers – including the incriminating one – to Will. "No one works alone from now on. Hurry back, Will." She turned Matt and herself invisible after the other two nodded sadly in compliance, and Will got the rest of the papers from Matt as well, then disappeared while the Air girl and the Regent kept watch.

Notes:

*1: manera – touch in Russian

*2: Trener = coach in Russian

*3: Those familiar with the W.i.t.c.h. episode 'A Service to the Community' know what happened to Dean Collins!