Note #1: This is a sequel to "Redemption", which means it'll be better understood by those who have read the previous story. It sort of takes place in the fifth season, after the whole mess with the Source has been solved. Wanna know how? That's why I told you to read "Redemption" first.
Note #2: I don't know if Phoebe will keep the power to throw fire balls in the show. In my series, I chose to let her keep it, since she had this power on a past life.
Credits: I don't own Piper, Phoebe, Paige, Cole or Leo, but I do own Ben and Sarsour. And the trolls. And the elves. See? Lots of people.
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Piper is sitting on the edge of her bed, humming a Carpenters tune as she folds the laundry. Unlike her sisters, she doesn't find this task unpleasant; she actually enjoys it: it keeps her hands busy and her mind free to wander around. And she definitely has had a lot to think about lately. Her own pregnancy, for a start: seven months after her nephew's birth, Piper is two months pregnant.
Piper smiles softly as she thinks of Ben: despite of the series of stressing events that marked Phoebe's pregnancy, he's the sweetest, most peaceful baby ever. His good temper and easy laugh can cheer his family up at the end of any rough evil fighting day. Also, after having had a baby in the house for seven months, Piper feels much more confident about their hability to protect a little child. Cole, who used to resent being kept out of a battle, doesn't have to be told twice to pick his son up and leave the room when trouble starts. He and Leo actually seem to have developed a pretty good wordless communication when it comes to determine which one is closer to Ben: there are times when Leo takes him in his arms, orbs to where Cole is and gives him the baby with no need for words and, before the demon/warlock/darklighter/choose your beast knows what's going on, father and son are out of the room. If they can just adapt the routine to include soon-to-be-born Melinda, everything's gonna be just fine, she thinks as she folds the last piece of laundry.
It's funny, Piper thinks as she stands up and starts putting the clothes in the appropriate drawers, that Phoebe ended up being the first one to have a baby. After all, when they traveled to the future, Piper was the only one who had got married and had a little girl of her own. Then again, that's exactly why they traveled to that future: to learn how to avoid it, to prevent Phoebe from killing a man and being convicted to death. While putting Leo's blue shirt on top of the ones already inside the drawer, Piper bites her lower lip with a pensive expression, suddenly wondering if it was the changes that they made to prevent Phoebe's death that brought Cole into their lives.
"Well," she thinks, closing Leo's drawer and proceeding to hers, "we can't say it wasn't a good deal. Sure he almost caused her to lose her immortal soul but, what the heck, he was also willing to let himself be vanquished in order to save that same soul."
She sighs, straightening herself and walking back to her bed.
He's doing his best, she thinks as she picks up the basket and walks out of the room. And you can't blame a man for doing his best, can you? Cole never talks about what he found on the other side -- at least, not with her -- but it must have caused quite an impression on him, 'cause the man has changed. He still has that temper, oh yes, and quite a sharp tongue, nothing could change that, either. But she's noticed how he sometimes bites his lips and leaves the room without a word, instead of making a caustic remark. He still vehemently defends his point of view, but he doesn't interrupt others as they're expressing theirs, nor does he make derisive remarks about them -- well, at least almost never. And, most important, the man is finally getting the idea about the whole team work thing. His experience with the Source seems to have taught him that he's not able to solve every problem by his own.
As Piper walks down the corridor, she hears Cole's voice coming from the room he shares with Phoebe. She stops short, frowning. Phoebe went to see an herbalist across town in order to get some ingredients they're out of, Paige is at a friend's house, and Leo was summoned by the Elders ten minutes ago. Hating herself for being so distrustful, Piper silently approaches the ajar bedroom's door and peers inside.
What she sees makes her bite her tongue to avoid laughing. Ben is lying on his parents' bed looking at his father with those big blue eyes as he's lying beside him, resting on his elbow and gesturing with his free hand as he speaks. Ben's solemn expression could make someone think he is following every word of the speech addressed to him, except that he always copies his father's expression. He smiles when Cole smiles, gets serious when he gets serious, laughs when he laughs, even frowns when he frowns.
"So, you see," Cole is now saying, "there are good witches and bad witches. Your mother and aunts are good witches: they protect the innocents, and do good and everything."
"Humpft!" goes Ben.
"Yes, even your Aunt Piper. I know she can be quite a scary lady sometimes, but she's a good witch. And bad witches, they're called warlocks and they are very, very mean. You should always -- always! -- stay away from them."
"Right. One thing that should help you identify a warlock is the fact that they blink. They magically disappear from one place and appear in another, like this." -- he snaps his fingers.
"In fact," says Cole, frowning slightly as the thought occurs to him, "almost every creature that can magically disappear from one place and appear in another is evil. Warlocks blink, demons shimmer, darklighters orb... Hum!" -- he absently reaches out and fumbles with the little foot dressed in a white cotton sock -- "You know, I guess the only good guys who can do that are Whitelighters. You know what a Whitelighter is, right? Your Uncle Leo is a Whitelighter. And he's okay, but I don't know any other Whitelighters, so I can't actually guarantee that all of them are good, no matter what they say about all Whitelighters being good and everything. I mean, if a demon can go good, why can't a Whitelighter go bad?"
"You know what?" Cole points his finger to his son, who quickly reachs out to grab it. "Anyone who can magically transport themselves from one place to another, and it's not your Uncle Leo or your Aunt Paige, you stay away from them. Just in case."
"Good. Now, where was I?"
"Warlocks can blink," says Piper, showing herself, her face red from the effort to hold back the laughter.
"Hey!" -- Cole jolts, blushing, as she leans against the door frame and laughs so hard that it brings tears to her eyes -- "That's not polite, you know, prying into other people's private conversation."
"God, Cole," she says, wiping the tears from her eyes, "don't you think he's a little too young to have this talk?"
"Better safe than sorry," he says, averting her eyes as he reaches out for the sock that Ben has already kicked away and starts dressing the chubby little foot in it again. "Attacks from evil are a part of our everyday routine."
"Cole, he's seven months. Do you actually expect him to understand what you're saying?"
"Phoebe says he does," he says, stubbornly, "she says that it all gets into his subcouncious, and it'll help him make better decisions in the future."
"The two of you should really stop reading those books," says Piper, rolling her eyes, "otherwise I won't let you get anywhere near Melinda."
"Excuse me?" she says. "Are you implying that my child's welfare is not as important as yours?"
"No," he says, with a hint of annoyance, "I'm saying that Leo doesn't have half as many enemies as I do, and that it's very unlikely that someone comes to this house looking specifically for Melinda. Ben, on the other hand..."
He picks the baby up and puts him sitting on his knees, leaning against his chest, and Piper can't help but notice that Ben's smile has been replaced by an upset face identical to his father's.
"You think that they could come after Ben?" she asks, disturbed, because the idea had never ocurred to her.
"Well," he says, shruging, "I did make a lot of enemies during my short lived reign in the Underworld. And... well, so we know he's not evil, but do they know?" -- he points his chin down, obviously not referring to people on the first floor -- "What if someone wants to make sure he'll never demand the throne? Or decides he would make a good figurehead, a Source that could be represented -- and manipulated -- by a tutor?"
"Wow," she says, sitting on the edge of the bed. "You really have given the idea some thought, huh?"
"Well, that's one aspect of parenthood no one tells you about," he says, with a humorless smile, "you become much more aware of how dangerous life is."
"You know," she says gently, "so far you have made a pretty good job keeping him safe. Besides," she adds, smiling, "you really should drop this long face: you must have noticed by now that your son won't smile unless you do."
Cole looks down at the baby, who's now watching him with the grave expression that only a seven-month-old could show. He chuckles, and Ben immediately giggles in response.
"You," he says with a smile, poking Ben's belly and making him squirm and laugh, "are a piece of work, young man."
With a quick glance to his watch, he adds:
"Mommy said you should eat at this time. So, what do you say? Are you hungry?" -- Ben gives him a toothless smile -- "I'll take that as a yes."
As they both stand up, Piper takes the basket and says:
"I'll be in the living room if you need any help."
"Why would I?" says Cole, leaving the room with his son in his arms. "I have done this before."
"Yes," says Piper, following him, "under Phoebe's supervision."
"Oh, please! You think I can't handle a seven-month-old?"
"Believe me, you don't wanna hear the answer to that question."
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When Phoebe gets home, she finds Piper and Paige sitting in the living room, engaged on a lighthearted but passionate debate about the band that's performing at P3 tonight.
"Hi!" she says, joining them. "Where are my husband and my son?"
"In the kitchen," says Piper, pointing her chin towards the door. "Cole is feeding Ben."
"By himself?" says Phoebe, arching her eyebrows.
"Of course not!" says Piper, with mocking indignation, "Leo's there with them. And oh, by the way, Pheebs," she adds, nonchalantly, "you're the one who's gonna clean up the kitchen's floor after they're done."
"You guys are so mean!" says Phoebe, watching her sisters' thinly veiled smiles, but she's clearly amused, too.
"What?" says Piper, softly. "They said they had everything under control, why would I doubt them?"
"After all," says Paige, with a sly smile, "it's not like he's some man-eating beast... which by the way, they could handle, too: he's just..."
She abruptly shuts up when a green and blue striped demon shimmers in. The three sisters jump to their feet, and Piper raises her hands towards him, but the demon surprises them by raising his own hands over his head and screaming:
"Don't shoot, I come in peace!"
Caught by surprise, the girls stand frozen in place, Piper with her hands still up, Phoebe with a fire ball on her open hand, and Paige looking nervously from the skinny demon to the kitchen's door. As they give him a second look, they see that he seems beaten up: his clothes are torn in several places, he has bruises on his raised arms and on his face, and his lower lip is bleeding. He doesn't seem to be much of a threaten, standing here with his eyes shut, murmuring to himself:
"Please let it be the right house, please let it be the right house..."