Charmed: The New Power Of Three
By Julien Gregg
Chapter Seventeen:
The New Halliwell Manor

Damon was floating near the ceiling of the coffee house, watching Jason as he healed Drake and Dean. He could feel their horror and agony as they looked at what was left of his body on the floor where a scorch mark indicated where the warlock had stood. He understood that this was the end. He'd fought his last battle and lost. There was no going back this time.

There was so much that he wanted to say to his cousins. He loved them and he feared that they would never be able to fight the evil that they would surely face while they suffered in grief. He wanted to tell them to just let go and be happy for him. He would be moving on to a better place. There was family there. All of his questions would be answered once he got there.

He watched as Jason attempted to heal him. Whit light enveloped the torn pieces of his body as Jason tried over and over again to heal what he couldn't heal. Death wasn't reversible. Still Jason wouldn't give up. Damon could hear him sobbing as he tried and tried again. His cousins were hugging each other and crying as well. What he didn't like was the sight of Mikie's frozen body standing next to where Jason was trying to heal him. Why wouldn't Jason just give up? He could heal Mikie. He should move on and save the one who was still alive inside that cursed ice. He'd freed Dean and Drake, but Mikie was still frozen.

As soon as he thought about that, a brilliant white light enveloped him. He turned around to face his own mother. She was the most beautiful thing in the world to him as she stood before him with open arms. Her long dark hair was blowing on a nonexistent breeze, and she smiled at him.

"Come, my son," she said, though he didn't see her lips move. "Let me hold you once more in my arms."

Without so much as a backward glance at the events that were continuing to happen in the coffee house, Damon raced into his mother's embrace. He'd never felt as loved as he did now that he was in his mother's spectral arms. He never wanted to let go. Here was the mother that had been robbed from him when he was a infant. This was the woman who had gave him life.

"I've missed you so much," he said as he held her tight.

"I've always been with you, Damon," she replied. "I've watched over you throughout your life, and I can't begin to tell you how proud I am. My son, a charmed one. Damon, you've always made me proud."

"We're finally together again," he sighed, clinging tighter to her.

"This isn't your time, my son," she said, pushing him back to arm's length. "You have to go back, Damon. So much is in store for you. Your life doesn't end here."

"How can I go back?" he asked quickly. "Jason can't heal the dead. It can't be done. I'm dead, Mother."

"You're soul is not," she argued. "Oh, but I'm so happy that they've allowed me to come to you."

* * *

"I can't accept this!" cried Jason as his latest attempt to heal Damon failed. "This can't be happening! Merrick, I need you. Please come!"

Dean and Drake had no idea who Jason was calling for. Perhaps Merrick was an Elder. When the amber light filled the room, they knew that whoever Merrick was, he wasn't an Elder. He wasn't a whitelighter at all. He was dressed all in black, and there was no glow of any kind around him like that of the Elders. He knelt down beside Jason, and the two of them exchanged words that Dean and Drake couldn't hear.

Then Merrick placed both hands over the torn pieces of Damon's body and red light enveloped them. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes as more red light flowed through his hands. Dean gasped as he saw the blood moving back toward the center of Damon's broken body. Piece by piece his body reconstituted itself until he was whole again. Dean held his breath as he stared at his motionless cousin lying on the floor.

"Mom," mumbled Damon as he turned his head away from his cousins. His eyes opened, and he looked up at Jason and the long dark haired man dressed in all black. "What have you done?"

"Damon!" cried Jason, grabbing him and wrapping him in a tight embrace. "I thought . . ."

"Jason, what have you done?" Damon demanded, struggling against his embrace. "I was with my mother! She was there, Jason. I saw my mother!"

"Damon, we had to save you," said Jason as Damon finally got away from him and stood on shaky legs.

"My mother," he whispered as he shook his head and backed away from the kneeling whitelighter and his black clad companion. Already the memory was fading from his mind, and he fought hard to keep hold of it. How cruel it was for them to take the memory of his mother's embrace from him so soon after he'd been ripped away from her for the second time in his life.

"You're alive," Dean finally said as if he'd only just found his voice. As soon as the words were out of his mouth he launched himself against his younger cousin. "My God, Damon, you scared me!"

Then Drake was with them, his arms around both of them. He mumbled things into Damon's shoulder as he held on tight, but Damon couldn't understand him. It felt good to be in their arms, though. He soaked up the love that radiated from them. It was no match for the love he'd felt in his mother's arms. Tears fell from his eyes as he realized that he couldn't remember anything more than the love he'd felt when she'd held him.

"Mikie," he said, suddenly remembering that Jason still hadn't un-froze him. "Jason you have to . . ."

He stopped as Jason walked over to Mikie's frozen body and began his healing. Once it was over, Mikie looked up at Jason with a weary expression. All eyes returned to Damon as he stood up and walked to the bar to sit on a stool. He was crying openly now, and he didn't care that they could see him crying. The whole experience was just too much for him to handle without showing any emotion. He'd seen his mother and now he knew that she was in a better place. Part of him was so angry that he couldn't stay there with her, but he knew that he had to come back and help his cousins fight.

"Damon," Jason said, taking the seat beside him. "Are you all right?"

"I saw her, Jason," he said, trying to wipe away his tears, but they kept coming. "My mother was there. She hugged me."

"Your mother?" Jason asked, putting a hand on Damon's shoulder.

"She's proud of me," he sobbed, collapsing against Jason's chest.

"Oh, Damon," sighed Jason, wrapping his arms around his charge. "Of course she's proud of you. Shae was a good witch, Damon. She knew that you were charmed, and she was always proud of you."

"You knew my mother?" Damon asked, pushing himself away from Jason enough to look him in the eye.

"I never met Shae," admitted Jason. "Gregory told me about all of your parents and what they'd done. Damon, she really was proud of you. She is still proud of you. You have to believe that."

"Oh, God," breathed Damon as he embraced Jason again.

The coffee house was silent. The only thing that could be heard were Damon's sobs and Jason's whispered words of comfort. Dean and Drake stood watching until David took Dean into his arms. They were all oblivious to Mikie leaving. Mikie didn't think they'd want him there to see them so emotionally raw.

Jason orbed Damon upstairs to his room after it became clear that Damon wasn't going to get a grip on his emotions for a while. Dean, David and Drake came up shortly after and found Damon in bed, lying on his side. David and Jason left the room to allow the cousins time to be together. Shortly after they left the room, Dean crawled into Damon's bed behind him, and Drake crawled in in front of Damon. The three cousins held each other as Damon cried.

Dean had been so scared when he thought Damon was dead. It amazed him how quickly he'd grown attached to both of his cousins. Imagining going on without either of them was just not possible. He'd come so close to losing one of them that all of the little arguments and disagreements between them seemed stupid and pointless.

They snuggled together while Damon silently cried. No words were spoken, and they were not needed. Damon was thankful for their closeness, and they didn't have words to comfort him. Instead they just held on to each other and tried to comfort each other that way. It worked in a way that none of them even understood. What they couldn't do with words they did was love. It worked so well that they fell asleep in the exact positions they were in.

In the morning, Damon silently and carefully extracted himself from his cousins' embraces and headed for the bathroom. Once he made it downstairs, he found David cleaning the counter and getting things ready to open for the day. He stood and watched him for a few minutes while David couldn't see him. It was funny, but just watching David clean the counter made Damon happy that they'd saved him. He didn't even want to think about what it would be like for his cousins without him.

"Morning, Damon," said David, startling him. He hadn't known he'd been noticed until David spoke.

"Morning," he replied. "Sorry for spying."

"No problem," said David with a smile. "Come on over and sit down. I've got just about everything ready. You want a cup of coffee?"

"Sure," replied Damon as he walked over and sat on a stool in front of David.

"You know we should really find employees to take over for us soon," said David as he sat a cup in front of him. "Once the manor is finished we'll be moving back, and with everything that happens to us all of the time we won't be able to run this place alone for long."

"I know," agreed Damon. He was thankful to David for not making him talk about his problems. He thought that if they could just get on with things without spending a great deal of talking about it, he would be fine. "We should probably put something in the paper."

"That'd work," he replied. "Are Dean and Drake awake yet?"

"They were sleeping when I left the room," said Damon. "I didn't want to wake them. We can handle the place for a while on our own."

"We sure can," said David with a smile. "Let me just flip the signs and unlock the doors."

They day moved on for them as customers began to fill the coffee house. Dean and Drake came downstairs shortly after the first customers arrived. They didn't say anything to Damon. The three of them started cleaning tables and mingling with the customers. Just before noon there was a break for them. The coffee house nearly emptied of customers, and the three cousins sat at the bar to eat sandwiches.

"David and I think we need to hire employees to run this place," Damon said after they'd all sat down and started to eat. "When the manor is finished we'll move back in, and with everything that happens in our lives there just isn't time for us to run this coffee house on our own."

"Aaron said something about that, too," admitted Drake. "He said that the other guardians were talking about it."

Damon looked at his younger cousin for a moment, wondering exactly when it was that Drake started to care what the Guardians of Destiny had to say. He'd threatened them when they were keeping him and Aaron apart, and now he was listening to advice that had come from them. It was strange how fast Drake's mind could change.

"I think its a good idea," said Dean. "We're going to need some time off soon, anyway."

"Why?" Damon asked.

"David and I have a wedding to plan," he replied, smiling.

* * *

"This is great!" cried Damon as he stood with Dean and Drake in front of the finished manor. "I can't believe it was built this fast."

"Almost like it wanted to be built," said Harold Brenner, the owner of the construction company. "I swear this is the fastest job we've ever done. I assure you, though, the house is sound."

"Oh, I'm sure it is," said Dean as Harold handed him a ring of keys to the front, back, sun room and attic doors. "Thank you for all of your work."

They watched as Harold walked to his truck and got inside. Once he'd pulled away and drove down the street they went inside the empty manor. The inside of the manor looked almost the same. Sure the rooms were in a different order, but the wallpaper and flooring were the same styles as before. Dean started to imagine furniture in the rooms as they walked through the house. His breath caught as exactly what had been in the manor before began to appear in each room. Family heirlooms, antiques, rugs, curtains and every other little thing that had been in the manor before it was destroyed was back again as if nothing had happened.

"What is this?" Damon asked, turning around in a complete circle as they stood in the sun room.

"The Nexus," replied Jason as soon as he orbed in to stand beside Damon. "Each time the house was destroyed, the Nexus saved everything. I'm a little surprised that the manor looks so different, though."

"How many times did you say the manor had been destroyed?" Drake asked as they walked into the kitchen. He walked over to the refrigerator and laughed when he saw that it was fully stocked.

"Seven, that I know of," said Jason with a smile. "Each time the Nexus rebuilt the manor, it looked the same. This is the first time that it changed the layout."

"The outside is different, too," said Dean. "White siding instead of brick. Even the windows look different."

"Well I, for one, thank the Nexus," said Damon. "I was sad to think that everything that tied me to my family was gone."

"Everything is back," assured Jason. "Don't worry. All of the photo albums and memorabilia are back in place. If you check the attic, I'm sure the Book has come home, too."

Each of them went to their rooms before heading to the attic. Damon was happy to find all of his possessions completely safe and where they were supposed to be. He sat on the edge of his bed and sighed with happiness. He just hoped that his mother could see the house.

Over the next two weeks, several things happened. The cousins hired a full staff for the coffee house, and they didn't have to do more than paperwork there anymore. They usually ended up sitting on a sofa in the coffee house, sipping coffee and talking about their day each evening. They were relaxed and happy for the time being. No demons had come for them, and they hadn't even had to use magic much at all.

Dean and David were busy planning their wedding. Dean told his cousins that he was planning to summon their parents and grandfather for the wedding. He wanted their grandfather to perform the ceremony. Damon saw the pure happy look in Dean's eyes as he described the plans, and he couldn't help being happy for him.

Another thing that started to happen that Damon continued to keep to himself was that Mikie kept showing up here and there to talk to him. He supposed they were becoming friends, and he had to admit to himself that he was attracted to Mikie. He wasn't sure that saying anything about Mikie's visits or his attraction for him to his cousins was a great idea, though. Drake had held firm on his belief that Mikie and his brothers weren't innocents just because their powers were bound. Dean hadn't said anything on the matter, but Damon wasn't too sure that Dean didn't share Drake's belief.

Then one night Damon found his mother's journal. It was almost full of her feminine handwriting. He read about how unsure she'd been when she learned that she was a witch, but he envied her the fact that she'd had her powers from birth. No one had bound hers or kept anything from her. Instead his grandfather had shown her the Book of Shadows and explained everything to her when she was only thirteen years old.

He laughed as he read about her life in the manor. He envied that life spent around family and witches that didn't hide things from her. He loved his father, but he wished that he hadn't been denied the life his mother had lived here inside Halliwell Manor. Why couldn't his father just tell him the truth? Why did there have to be so many secrets and lies in his past?

When he read about his mother's first love, he at first thought it had to be his father. As he read more and more of what she wrote about her boyfriend's abilities, he knew it wasn't Adam Jamison. This young man's description didn't match, and his father had no magical abilities. He was even more interested as he continued to read what she'd written about him. His name was Tom VanHorn. Damon wondered if he could find him now and let him know that he was Shae Halliwell's son.

As he read further, though, he was shocked. Tom wasn't a good witch. He'd come from a long line of warlocks, and he'd fallen in love with Shae, promising to turn good and fight beside her. Yet when her father learned the truth, even her brothers wouldn't accept Tom. They'd waged war on his family, and in the end Tom had stood beside his family instead of Shae. She'd been forced to kill her lover.

He closed the book with a sigh and a tinge of fear running through him. Was Drake right about Mikie? Would Damon have to kill him eventually?

Chapter Eighteen:
Knowing The Enemy

"It's a beautiful day here in Storyville with sunny skies and not a cloud in sight," said the weatherman on the television in the kitchen as Damon came in to get coffee. "The temperature is at a mild eighty degrees, humidity is a record low for this time of year and you allergy sufferers can breathe easy today. The pollen count is low as well."

"Morning, Damon," said David as he turned from the stove where he was making an omelet. "How was your first night back in the manor?"

"I slept great," replied Damon with a smile. "It's good to be home again."

"It sure is," said a yawning Dean as he came into the kitchen. "I could have slept forever. I'd forgotten how comfortable that bed is."

"Morning," said David, leaning forward for a quick kiss as Dean passed him. "Breakfast?"

"Just coffee this morning, thanks," replied Dean. "I've got to head over to the coffee house and make sure all of the new employees are actually working."

"They're doing fine, Dean," said Damon with a chuckle. Dean would always be worried about what the employees were up to while they weren't there. "How're the wedding plans going?"

"So far so good," said Dean with his first real smile of the day. "We've decided to summon everyone."

" Everyone ?" Damon asked, lifting his brows at him. "That could make the manor pretty full."

"Well I want my parents to be there," replied Dean as he sat down across from Damon at the table. David came over with his plate and sat at the head of the table. "We decided that Grandfather should perform the ritual, too."

"That's probably a good idea," agreed Damon after a moment of quiet thought. They didn't know anyone else in the magical community.

"Where's Drake?" David asked between bites of his omelet. "His door was open when I passed, but he and Aaron weren't in there."

"Aaron probably had to see to a charge," said Dean. "I don't know where Drake is. He didn't say anything about any appointments or anything last night."

They were all silent for a moment as they each thought they knew where Drake was. Now that Dax had resurfaced they were sure that Drake would be doing everything in his power to keep tabs on his brother. Dean wasn't so sure it was a good idea. Following demons without the intention of vanquishing them was never a good idea. He knew that talking to Drake about it wasn't a good idea. Each time that he or Damon had tried to talk to Drake about Dax had resulted in heated arguments. He hated to admit it, but he had to let Drake figure out for himself that there was no saving Dax this time. He was a demon again, and there was nothing they could do about that.

Dean drank his coffee while he talked with David about other arrangements and things they both wanted in their wedding. Damon sat and listened to them talk, but he didn't contribute to their conversation at all. In fact, he was almost shocked to find that his thoughts kept wandering. They always seemed to settle on Mikie Kerry. He knew that if Dean and David knew who he was thinking about, and what it was that he was thinking, there'd be a lengthy discussion that he wasn't in the mood for. With that thought in his head, he got up and rinsed his coffee cup. He turned to them before he left, but they were still wrapped up in their discussion, so he went out the back door to his car.

He drove through the city not really thinking of going anywhere in particular. When he found himself in the parking lot of Washington Park he turned off the car and locked up as he got out and surveyed the area. Not many people were there yet, so he had time to sit on one of the benches that surrounded the small pond to think about things without worrying that one of his cousins would read his expression and hound him to tell them what he was thinking.

He watched two younger boys on the other side of the pond. They were giggling and dangling fishing line that they'd tied to sticks into the water's edge. He found himself envying the simplicity of their lives for a moment. They didn't have demons to watch out for and try to kill before they were killed themselves. They didn't have secrets that the world would be more than interested in if they were spilled. No, their lives were blissfully free of the strangeness that surrounded his own.

He supposed he was being stupid. He wasn't exactly unhappy with his life in Storyville. Even the demons didn't make his life unbearable. Sure they all tried to kill him, and one had actually succeeded for all intents and purposes. After all, he'd been dead for at least a little while. He remembered the white light and his mother's pride in him. She was proud of the witch that he was, and that was enough to make up for all of the things he couldn't heave because of magic and keeping it secret.

No he didn't want to give up being a witch or anything like that. He just wasn't sure that he could kill Mikie Kerry if he ever got his powers back. He had to admit that he found him attractive. He didn't really know him, and what he did know about him wasn't good. However he really believed that now that Mikie's powers were bound he was an innocent. He couldn't hurt anyone with magic now. Sure he could kill just like any other mortal man in the world, but did that make every man evil? Damon didn't think so. They were innocent even though they had the capacity within them to cause harm. That was why he believed that Mikie was no worse than any other man. He was a little more attractive than some, but that wasn't a bad thing, was it?

He was probably worrying about nothing. Mikie probably didn't find him attractive. Hell, he was probably straight. Just because Damon found him attractive he shouldn't think he was gay. That was being far too presumptuous. Mikie Kerry probably only thought about Damon Halliwell because he was charmed and had been a part of stripping his powers and leaving him vulnerable. That made him chuckle, but not with any mirth. Did he wish that Mikie was gay and could think of him in any other way? He wasn't sure about that, but he knew that he was lonely. It had been a long time since he'd been held in the arms of another man, a long time since he'd felt anything for another man at all. He missed it. Did he have to put his life on hold so that he could fight evil? He didn't think so. Both Dean and Drake had relationships. Hell, Dean was planning a wedding. Didn't that mean that there could be a balance between love and magic?

He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. This line of thinking wasn't really getting him anywhere. He wished that there was someone he could talk to about all of it. It would be better to talk it out with someone rather than sit on the park bench, staring at two kids and thinking. If only there were someone he could talk to. It wasn't as if he really knew anyone in Storyville. His time in the city had been spent vanquishing demons and trying to stay alive.

"Uh, can I sit here?" asked a shaky voice, startling him out of his thought.

He turned to face Mikie Kerry, the very man he'd been thinking about. He silently cursed his wishing ability. It never worked when he wanted it to, and it seemed to mock him when he wasn't trying to use it. He smiled at Mikie, though. There was no need to be rude. After all he was the reason he was sitting there thinking to begin with.

"Sure," he said, sliding over a bit to allow more room on the bench.

"Thanks," replied Mikie, sitting down and folding his hands in his lap. "I wasn't sure if you'd even want to talk to me."

"I can understand that," he said, dragging his eyes away from Mikie and looked at the children across the pond again.

"I wanted to thank you for getting Dax off my back," Mikie said softly. "And for getting your whitelighter to heal me."

"No need to thank me," he replied. "Dax has no business chasing you, or your brothers. Jason shouldn't have to have been told to heal you either."

"Well thanks anyway," said Mikie flashing him a small smile.

"So how are you?" Damon asked, feeling nervous for some reason. Wasn't this what he wanted?

"I'm doing better than I thought I would," admitted Mikie. "It's hard to live without magic, but I'm kind of glad its gone in a way."

"Yeah, I was just sitting here trying to remember if my life was simple when I didn't know I was a witch," replied Damon.

"You mean you didn't know?" Mikie asked excitedly. Damon shook his head and smiled. "When did you find out?"

"Well a lawyer brought me a letter to tell me that my grandfather had died and I was required to come to Storyville for the funeral and reading of the will," said Damon. "When we got here, I met my cousins for the first time. Then we learned that we were witches. We each knew that there was something about the family that our parents had tried to keep us away from, but we didn't know that."

"That's amazing," said Mikie. "I can't imagine not knowing I was a witch. We grew up knowing that we were witches. We even knew that we were . . ." He stopped and looked down at the ground for a moment.

"It's all right, Mikie," said Damon, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You can say it."

"Well it isn't what you think," said Mikie, looking him in the eye. "We never wanted to be evil, Damon. That wasn't something we dreamed about growing up. We found out that we were charmed, and we knew what that meant. We were excited about it. I mean it isn't every day that you learn that you're one of the most powerful witches in existence."

"No, it isn't," chuckled Damon. He was thinking about the day that he'd learned that he was a charmed one.

"Well then we found out that what our family did wasn't good magic," he said, turning away from Damon as he spoke. "My father was one of the most powerful warlocks in the world. He had ties with so many demons, and then he had us blessed by an evil priest. It isn't like we chose to be evil. It was just the way we were taught."

"Didn't you know that what you were doing was evil, though?" Damon asked, getting excited about the topic. "I mean wasn't there some little voice inside you that told you that what you were doing was wrong?"

"Sure there was," admitted Mikie. "My father told us that in time that voice would go away. He urged us to embrace evil and not worry about it. He talked to us all the time about how much better evil was. After a while, my brothers believed him. I still didn't feel right about what we were doing, but what could I do? They'd have killed me if I had tried to stop what was happening."

"I think I can understand that," replied Damon, feeling sorry for him.

"Then we found out about you and your cousins," he said softly. "When we found out that Drake could use demonic magic, we didn't know what to think about you guys. Then you started vanquishing demons. I mean, when you guys vanquished Ash it was like the ultimate news in the evil world. Ash was supposedly untouchable, yet you guys vanquished him."

"I wouldn't go that far," replied Damon sadly. "Ash wasn't vanquished. At least it wasn't the kind of vanquish we thought it was. He's back now."

"I know," said Mikie. "But you really did do something that no other good witch had ever succeeded in doing before. I mean, he killed every witch that he came across."

"I know," said Damon, thinking about his mother. "We'll vanquish him for good. It may take a bit more magic, but we'll do it."

"See? You're all confident," he laughed. "That's not what its like to be evil. When you're evil you're cocky, but you're never confident."

"Then why do it?" Damon asked seriously. He couldn't imagine using magic if he couldn't be confident that what he did would work at least part of the time.

"Maybe you do it because you afraid that if you don't do it, you'll die," Mikie said almost too softly for Damon to hear.

Damon didn't know what to say about that. He didn't have that to worry about. Sure, demons and warlocks wanted him dead, but he didn't have to worry about doing magic a specific way because the alternative meant death. He felt more sorry for Mikie than ever now. He was even more convinced that Mikie was innocent. Even before they'd bound his powers it sounded as if Mikie had been forced into doing what he'd done. It didn't excuse the taking of an innocent life, but he didn't think he should hold anything against Mikie. He seemed to be a victim.

They talked for hours and even walked out of the park to a deli to get lunch where they tamed down their discussion to talk about anything other than magic. After lunch they found themselves right back in the park again. They talked until they were hungry again. Then Damon went back to the manor to change while Mikie went to his new apartment to change as well. They met for dinner at The Plaza. Mostly they met there because Dean and Drake had never been there. Damon hated that he was sneaking, but he wasn't ready to explain his "friendship" with Mikie to his cousins.

"So what does a good charmed one do when there aren't demons to fight?" Mikie asked as soon as the waiter left their drinks. His expression was kind, so Damon knew that he wasn't mocking him.

"A lot of thinking and reading I guess," replied Damon. "I haven't really made any friends here, so I guess I don't really know what there is to do for fun in Storyville. Today was the first time I ever even set foot a Storyville park."

"Well you seem to do all right with people," said Mikie, smiling. "I mean, you put me at ease. We've been talking since this morning, and you even agreed to come to dinner with me."

"You have an advantage over most people, though," laughed Damon. "You've tried to kill me."

"Well not actively," replied Mikie. "But I guess that does give us a past stocked with a certain kind of intimacy."

"That's one way to look at it," laughed Damon.

They talked throughout the meal and were still talking when they restaurant closed. When it was absolutely time for them to leave the restaurant they talked about heading back to Mikie's apartment to continue their discussion. Though there was now no doubt in Damon's mind that Mikie was gay and probably very interested in him, he wasn't comfortable with going to his apartment just yet. Instead he asked Damon to come back to the manor with him. He knew it would probably be a problem for his cousins, but he thought that if they went straight upstairs without making much noise they'd be fine.

As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. Dean, David and Drake were gone when Damon brought Mikie through the front door. They were most likely at the coffee house, so Damon had the place to himself. He still suggested that they head upstairs though. He didn't want Mikie to get the wrong idea, so he told him that it might be a little awkward if his cousins came home and found him in their living room.

"So this is your room," said Mikie as he walked around to look at all of the family photos that were sitting on the dresser and the nightstands. "It's great that you could save all of this after the explosion."

"Oh," said Damon, deciding quickly not to mention the Nexus. Mikie may be without power, and maybe he really was pushed into evil, but the Nexus was too powerful. Anyone would want its power. "Yeah, we were lucky."

"Um, I get the feeling we're sneaking around right now, but how am I supposed to get back out of here without your cousins seeing me if they come home?" Mikie asked as he sat down on the sofa in front of Damon's windows.

"I hadn't thought that far ahead," admitted Damon. "I wish that we didn't have to sneak around at all. I mean I should be able to choose my own friends without them getting involved."

"Sounds like you're a little upset with your cousins," urged Mikie, looking at him with sympathetic eyes.

"I'm not upset with them," denied Damon. "I just wish they didn't see you as a warlock."

"Right," sighed Mikie. "I was wondering about that actually. I mean you guys are friendly with Dax, and he's a demon. So why are they so insistent that I'm the enemy?"

"That's what I tried to say, but they wouldn't listen," said Damon. "It was more Drake than Dean, but Dean didn't exactly agree with me. In fact he didn't say anything at all."

"What exactly do you want them to think about me?" Mikie asked. "I mean, it isn't as if I have to be a part of their lives. I don't have to be a huge part of your life, for that matter. I mean we're only getting to know each other."

"Well I don't know about you, but I was hoping we'd get to maybe be a bit more than friends," said Damon, watching Mikie's eyes as he spoke. He didn't want to scare him off.

"I'd like that, Damon," replied Mikie. "I just know that it will be difficult for you with your cousins. It'll be difficult for me with my brothers, too."

"Where are you brothers?" Damon asked.

"Probably back in Australia by now," replied Mikie. "We all kind of went our separate ways after . . ."

"I'm sorry," Damon said softly.

"Hey, it's all right," Mikie said, smiling. "I mean we can't exactly do much damage without powers, right? And I really do feel kind of liberated now that I can't freeze anyone I choose. I won't lie and say that I'm happier than I was. The truth is that I just don't know how I feel about it."

"Let's not talk about being charmed or powers then," suggested Damon, knowing that there was more to how Mikie felt about his powers being bound.

"All right," agreed Mikie. "Tell me more about you."

"What's to tell?" laughed Damon. "I was a skier in Alaska. I had a lot of friends and a life without magic. I found out not long after I got here that one of my friends was actually my whitelighter, but until then I didn't know there was anything different about him."

"Did you have a boyfriend in Alaska?" Mikie asked, looking at him expectantly. Damon thought that if he'd had a doubt that Mikie was gay, he didn't now.

"Not a steady one," admitted Damon. "I didn't sleep around or anything. I just wasn't in a committed relationship. I don't know if Phillip slept around or not. I didn't ask him. I was too busy trying to hide that I was gay from my father and friends."

"Your father doesn't know about you?"

"Well I'm sure that if he finds out it won't be a huge shock," laughed Damon. "He knows about Dean and Drake. He seems to accept it all right. I don't know what he'd say. I don't really care, though."

"Well if you thought you should hide in Alaska, why don't you feel like its such a big deal here?" Mikie asked.

"That's a long story," sighed Damon. "My father and I aren't exactly on the best terms. Let's just say that he doesn't like magic and leave it at that."

"Fair enough," nodded Mikie. "I guess I can think of something a little more interesting to talk about."

"I think I can, too," laughed Damon.

Instead of talking they looked at each other for a few minutes. Damon almost didn't realize that Mikie was leaning toward him, but then he was leaning in to meet him and their lips met in a brief kiss. It was like electric pulses ran down Damon's spine as his lips rested on Mikie's for that brief moment. Everything he'd been worrying about didn't seem to matter anymore. All that mattered was that he wanted to kiss Mikie Kerry over and over again.

* * *

Drake stepped back from the door when he saw them kiss. His first thought was to burst into the room and demand that Mikie Kerry leave the manor. He couldn't believe that Damon was kissing him! Sure Damon had held out that Mikie wasn't a warlock anymore since Dean had bound his powers, but Drake would have never even thought that Damon was soft on the guy. The very idea made him sick with anger. How could Damon be interested in a warlock?

He walked down the hall to his own room where he could think without them finding out that he'd seen them. As he walked into the room, Aaron orbed in. He stared at his lover for a long moment before he said anything. He stared long enough that Aaron started to look worried.

"What's happened?" Aaron asked. "Are your cousins all right?"

"That's one way to describe them," mumbled Drake as he sat down on the edge of his bed and sighed.

"Drake, what's going on?" Aaron demanded as he sat down beside him.

"I just saw Damon kissing Mikie Kerry," replied Drake hatefully. "Right here in the manor. He actually brought him into the manor!"

"Drake, calm down," said Aaron, trying to wrap his arms around his lover, but Drake pushed him away.

"How could he?" he asked, turning to look at Aaron with big eyes. "I mean, Mikie tried to kill us, Aaron. How could Damon even want to talk to him?"

"Drake, I don't think you should try to get involved in this," warned Aaron. "Damon knows what he's doing, and if you interfere he may not appreciate it."

" Appreciate it?" Drake gasped. "Aaron, Mikie is a warlock. He's evil, and you know that evil never changes. He's only out to hurt Damon or break apart the power of three. If I don't say anything, then that means that I'm just sitting back to watch it happen."

"How do you think Damon feels watching you and Dean with me and David every day when he doesn't have anyone?" Aaron asked. "Think about it, Drake. He doesn't have anyone."

"So he just jumps into the arms of a warlock?" Drake spat. "I'm sorry, Aaron, but that isn't a good thing. Don't expect me to be all sympathetic to his cause here. What's going on with me and you is different. You're not evil." He got up off of the bed and headed toward the door.

"Where are you going?"

"To talk to Dean," he replied in a tight voice. "I can't think about this on my own, and Dean deserves to know."

* * *

"You're sure it was Mikie?" Dean asked when Drake told him about what he'd seen.

"Of course I'm sure it was Mikie, Dean," fumed Drake. "How could he?"

"You need to calm down," said Dean as David just looked at them without speaking.

"Calm down?" spat Drake. "Dean he tried to kill us! He's evil."

"He doesn't have powers now, Drake . . ."

"Don't give me that," interrupted Drake. "He's still evil. Think of what he's done!"

"You don't know what he's done," said Dean. "We'd never heard of them until they showed up at the coffee house and Gregory warned us about them."

"Oh, so you think its a great idea that Damon's kissing a warlock?" Drake demanded, glaring at Dean.

"I didn't say that," sighed Dean. "What I'm saying is that we shouldn't get all bent out of shape. Damon's a grown man, Drake. He knows what he's doing."

"Well I don't want Mikie Kerry in the manor," spat Drake.

Neither of them saw Damon. He was standing in the open doorway, watching and listening to them. He turned and walked away when Drake said that he didn't want Mikie in the manor.

Chapter Nineteen:
Family Feud

The automatic timer went off on the coffee pot in the kitchen as the television popped on according to its own timer. Dean had a love for auto timers, and he smiled as he came into the kitchen, noting that both had worked perfectly. The coffee had just finished brewing when he walked over to get a mug out of the cabinet. Aaron was coming into the kitchen as Dean sat at the breakfast bar, sipping his coffee and reaching for the morning paper.

"Morning," said Aaron. "Coffee smells good. Have you seen Damon this morning?"

"Not yet," replied Dean. "I guess he's still sleeping."

"I checked," said Aaron, getting a mug of his own. "His bed doesn't look slept in, and his car isn't in the driveway."

"Maybe he went to the coffee house early," said Dean, though he didn't think that's where Damon was. Damon wasn't the one who had the coffee house on his mind all of the time. He believed that he knew exactly where Damon was. He just hoped that Drake would let it all drop.

"Maybe," said Aaron. "I just wanted to make sure he was feeling all right. He hasn't talked much about his experience."

"I don't think we should push him on that," replied Dean. "I don't know why, but I get the feeling that he wants to keep it to himself for a while."

"Probably," admitted Aaron. "I'm just worried about him."

"Worried about who?" asked Drake as he came into the kitchen.

"Damon left before any of us got out of bed this morning," replied Aaron, leaning down to kiss Drake and hand him his cup of coffee. "I was telling Dean that I'm worried about how he's dealing with his experience." He crossed the kitchen again to get another mug of coffee for himself.

"He's probably with Mikie Kerry again," said Drake sarcastically.

"Drake," sighed Dean. "Leave it alone."

"I will not leave it alone," said Drake angrily. "I can't believe you're not even worried about this, Dean."

"I didn't say I wasn't worried about it, Drake," replied Dean evenly. "I'm just not sure I understand why you're so upset about it."

"I don't want to argue with you about this again," said Drake, sitting down at the breakfast nook across the room from Dean. "You know why I'm against it."

"And you know why I'm of a mind to let Damon make his own decisions," said Dean. "Damon didn't argue with you when you threatened the Guardians. Why should we get involved in his relationship?"

"Because none of us should even have a relationship that could jeopardize our safety," snapped Drake not having noticed that Damon was now standing in the kitchen doorway.

"Hi there, Damon," said David, alerting the two cousins that he was there, but the look on his face wasn't a welcome one.

"I see that I'm still the topic of conversation," said Damon, coming into the kitchen fully. "I'd have thought that the two of you said all you had to say last night."

"What are you talking about?" Drake asked, looking back at Damon evenly.

"Oh come off it, Drake," spat Damon. "I heard you arguing with Dean about me and Mikie last night. I even stood right outside the room and watched for a few minutes before I left the Manor. I only came back today to tell you both that if I can't have my own personal life, then I want to move out."

"Damon, please," said Dean quickly. "I've told Drake to leave this alone . . ."

"But he hasn't, has he?" Damon asked. "I'm telling you right now that no matter who I'm in a relationship with, its my business and mine alone. As for Mikie Kerry, I don't know if I have a relationship with him or not. If I do its certainly none of anyone's business."

"That's bullshit," snapped Drake. "I saw you kiss him, Damon. And where do you get off saying that its none of our business? We're in this together in case you've forgotten."

"In what together, Drake?" Damon snapped back. "Were we in it together when you threatened to embrace evil if the Guardians didn't send Aaron back? Were we in it together when you went traipsing off into the underworld to find Dax? Tell me Drake, just when were we in anything together?"

"You have no right to throw any of that in my face," said Drake coldly. "Aaron and I are in love, Damon. You can't compare that to you and Mikie Kerry. Besides, Aaron isn't a warlock."

"So that's what this is all about," said Damon. "You don't like it because of what he is. Well that's rich coming from you, Drake. You're the one who refused to let us vanquish Dax even after he killed Aaron. You're the one shimmering from place to place and throwing energy and fire balls. Don't you dare talk to me about warlocks, demons or evil ever again."

Before Drake could reply, Jason and Stephen orbed into the kitchen. Stephen looked at them coldly while Jason looked worried. Everyone was quiet for a few moments while they stared at each other. Damon was actually glad they'd come, because he was actually thinking of using his powers against Drake if the argument went on much longer. That would have been a terrible mistake, and he knew it.

"You three have got to stop this arguing," said Jason finally. "The Elders know about the argument."

"How do the Elders know?" Dean asked.

"Dean, this argument is between the charmed ones," said Jason. "Even the underworld knows about it. They may not know exactly what you're arguing about, but the Elders do."

"Are they watching us constantly now?" Drake asked, looking at Jason hard.

"No, but they know that Damon was with Mikie Kerry yesterday," said Jason. "They forbid this relationship, Damon. It can't happen."

"Oh, it can't?" Damon asked icily. "I wondered when the Elders would start to interfere. You just go right back to them and tell them that Damon Halliwell doesn't give a shit about what they condone or forbid. If they meddle in my life the way they all tried to meddle in Drake's they can forget about their precious charmed ones. I'll bind my own powers, Jason. If they get to dictate how I live my life, then I don't want anything to do with them."

Everyone stared at him for a second. He was so angry that he was ready to blow Jason up. He had to get hold of himself fast. After another moment of silent staring, he did the only thing he knew would help him get a handle on his anger. He left without another word.

"Maybe we should go after him," said Dean slowly as soon as he heard the front door shut.

"I don't think that's a good idea," advised David. "He's angry, and he needs to think."

"He'll think all right," Drake said sarcastically. "He'll think his way into Mikie's bed."

"That's it!" cried Dean. "Drake if you hadn't spied on him we wouldn't have to worry about where he's going and if he's coming back."

"Oh, so you don't care that he's kissing a warlock? You don't care that he left us to be with him?" Drake bit back.

"He left because we drove him away, Drake," replied Dean. "This whole thing is stupid. He was right about you and Dax, Drake. He was right about a lot of things. You won't listen to him, though. You're so stubborn and sure of yourself all of the time, and its going to cost us Damon."

"Fighting isn't the answer guys," interrupted Jason.

"Butt out, Jason," snapped Drake, glaring at the whitelighter.

"Jason, I think its time that you and Steven leave," said Dean, carefully minding his tone. He was angry with Jason, too. Jason had a hand in making Damon go just as Drake had.

"I'm not leaving until this is settled," replied Jason. "The charmed ones can not be allowed . . ."

"Allowed?" snapped Dean, losing his grip on his neutral tone. "Damon was right, Jason. The Elders have no right to tell us what we can and can not do. We're the charmed ones. I get that. But that doesn't give anyone the right to take away our free will. Now go!"

* * *

"Damon," said Mikie when he answered his door and found him standing on the other side. "Come in." He noticed the pained look in Damon's eyes right away, and he wondered what was going on.

"Thanks," said Damon, following Mikie into the apartment and shutting the door behind him. "Things kind of blew up at the manor this morning."

"Because you spent the night here?" Mikie asked once they made it to the living room.

"Drake saw us kissing last night," Damon explained. "When I got there this morning, they were still arguing about it."

"Wait," said Mikie. "Dean and Drake were arguing about it?"

"Don't get the wrong idea, Dean is no more for us being together than Drake is," replied Damon. "He just doesn't think they should get involved."

"So what happened?"

"Jason and Steven orbed in," Damon said hotly. He was still angry about the Elders. "They said that the Elders knew we were arguing and what it was about. I told him that they Elders couldn't tell me what I can and can not do, and I left."

"Whitelighters told you that you can't be with me?" Mikie asked, raising his eyebrows. He hadn't thought about that part of the equation. Of course the whitelighters didn't want them together. It made perfect sense. After all, Mikie was a warlock. He didn't have his powers, but he could still cast spells. He was born a warlock. The whitelighters were probably having a fit.

"That's basically what they said," replied Damon, confirming Mikie's thoughts.

"So that's it?" Mikie asked, giving Damon a look of pure fear.

Instead of answering the question, Damon put his arms around him and pulled him close. The kiss was slow and passionate, but Damon couldn't help thinking that he was probably rushing into things with Mikie just because he'd been forbidden to be even friends with him. The thought didn't last long, and the kiss didn't either. They were interrupted by a presence in the room with them.

"Touching scene," laughed a deep voice as they broke apart. "I wasn't told there would be two of you, but it doesn't matter."

Damon turned to face the source of the voice. The demon looked almost completely human, but his eyes glowed red, and there were energy balls in both of his hands. For a second Damon thought it was a joke, but as the demon threw his energy balls he knew it was real. He dove off the couch with the energy ball passing safely just over his head as he moved. He glanced beside him to where Mikie now lay on the floor and his stomach flipped over. Mikie hadn't been so lucky. He'd been hit as he moved, and Damon could see blood pooling on the floor underneath him.

"One down," said the demon as he formed another energy ball.

Damon did something he'd never done before. He closed his eyes and concentrated on a scene in his head. Snow covered the furniture, and ice hung in jagged cycles from the ceiling fan. His breath fogged in front of him and he smiled as he opened his eyes to see the demon looking around the room in confusion.

"How did you . . . " The demon broke off as his gaze found Damon's again. The smile on the young man's face was what stopped him.

"I'm charmed," replied Damon, smiling wider as he brought up his hands, opening and closing his fists as he did so. The demon exploded instantly, and the scene he'd invented in his mind was broken.

However, Mikie's wound wasn't part of the illusion he'd cast. He was still bleeding on the floor, and he wasn't conscious. Damon turned him over and saw the source of the wound. A large bloody hole in Mikie's chest confirmed Damon's worst fear. Mikie was dying.

"Jason!" he cried, holding Mikie in his arms.

For a moment, he thought Jason wouldn't come. He thought that Jason wouldn't be allowed to orb to him now that he'd actively defied the Elders, but the tell tale white and blue glittery lights told him he was wrong. Hope surged in him as Jason orbed into the room.

"Damon . . ."

"You have to heal him," Damon said, cutting him off. "I tried to get him out of the way in time, but I couldn't. The demon was too fast. Please, Jason."

"I can't heal him, Damon," Jason replied without even a shred of sympathy in his voice. It was even, almost cold.

"Don't say that!" snapped Damon. "He isn't dead. I can feel his pulse."

"I didn't say he was dead, Damon," said Jason in that same even, cold tone. "I said I can't heal him."

"You can't, or you won't?" Damon asked icily, glaring at his whitelighter.

"I'm not allowed," replied Jason. "He's a warlock."

"God damn you, Jason," hissed Damon. "Heal him!"

"I'm not allowed to heal warlocks, Damon," he said.

"Then what good are you?" Damon bit back.

"I love you, Damon," Jason said, confusing him for a second. "I've always loved you. I hate to see you like this, but I can't help Mikie. My powers won't work on evil."

"You did it before," cried Damon.

"That was a special circumstance," said Jason. "This is different. He wasn't attacked by Dax."

"What does Dax have to do with it?" Damon asked, fully aware that they were wasting time. Mikie was dying in his arms.

"I can't explain . . ."

"Just leave, Jason," shouted Damon. "Go!"

"I really do love you, Damon," Jason said before he orbed out of the apartment.

"Merrick!" cried Damon, calling on the only other person he knew that could heal the dead. Mikie wasn't dead, but he would be very soon. "Merrick!"

Damon had never seen an avatar phase in before. He was happy that Merrick had heard his call, and he was thrilled that he'd come. Mikie was his primary concern, though. He looked at Merrick with tears in his eyes and then down at Mikie. He mumbled something incoherent, and then Merrick took Mikie out of his arms. He couldn't stop crying until he heard Mikie gasp.

Mikie coughed and slid across the floor away from Merrick, clutching his chest as he moved. He was alive, though. Merrick had come, and he'd healed Mikie when Jason refused. Damon's mind churned that thought over and over again as he stared at the avatar.

"Damon, you must go back to your cousins," said Merrick finally. "You are weak without them, and they are weak without you. You must go back."

"I'm staying with Mikie," he replied, not even realizing that he'd made that decision until the words were out of his mouth. "My cousins don't accept him, and I'm not going back there."

"The great evil is getting stronger, Damon," warned Merrick. "You need your cousins to fight it."

"I'm not going back to them, Merrick," Damon growled. "I'll give up magic forever if they try to come between me and Mikie again."

"Then this is a sad day for magic," replied Merrick as he phased out of the apartment.

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