There's always a Choice

Chapter 4

 

Piper lay awake as Leo breathed noisily beside her. She could never have imagined herself as angry as she was at Leo right now, to imply that she was out of control on power seeking vendetta against Cole, to say that she was like Prue. Being like Prue was fine, to imply being  like Prue was a problem. That was ridiculous. Suddenly Piper threw back the covers ands jumped out of bed. She left the room and went to that attic. She retrieved the blue candles from the chest they kept the witch tools, inevitably remembering Prue threatening her when she wanted to take that chest away. And for a second Piper softened and there was a glimmer of the girl she had been.

 

Piper put the candles in a circle and opening the Book of Shadows, she read the calling a lost witch spell. She really did not believe it would work, that she would see Prue but she was caught by an overwhelming anger to prove Leo wrong.

 

It came as a total shock to her when Prue appeared in a transparent ghost form .

 

It was Prue and not Prue, Her hair was shorter and she wore a long bluish gown, that was cut a good deal tighter and more stylish than Piper would have believed appropriate to a ghost.

 " Prue " she breathed " What have you done to you hair? "

 

 " Cut it  "  Prue answered  sharply, then laughed " its .. good .. to see you again sis "

 

 " I never thought I would see you again " Piper said.

 

 " Grams told you, that you would see me when you need me " Prue said gently.

 

 " Itís not that I need you exactly " Piper said " Its just " she swallowed, then rushed on " Leo said, I was getting like you and thatís fine by me, but I had to know if some of the things he said about you.. going were true "

 

Prue smiled a little, " Go on " she said

 

 " Leo said, he said you caused your.. passing, then he said I was going the same way. Prue you know how much I love Paige but I have never stopped missing you, and I canít help thinking that all this mess with Cole would not have happened if you had been ..here still." Piper added anxiously, falling into old habits of being Prue's little sister, asking advice, asking approval.

 

 " Yes " Prue answered carefully " It is exactly what would have happened. That is why I had to .. leave "

 

 " I donít understand " Piper muttered

 

 " Thatís a good sign " Prue said. "Piper love " she said reaching and stalling when she could not touch. "I know a few things now I did not then. Piper being good isnít just a matter of thinking you are good. I made some mistakes you know " Prue said with the air of some- one admitting a great secret   " and I failed the test. You see you and Phoebe passed the test of good then and I failed and it was better I went than destroyed you."

 

 Piper stared at Prue in disbelief. " Prue, I still donít understand. " Piper said. "You were the best of us. You were the one who kept us on track, you were the one who took on evil regardless of the cost or consequences"

 

 " It's simple " Prue said " those damned consequences are what it is all about, not what we do but why we do it. Being good is a constant commitment to the nature of good.  We were tested that day . Phoebe passed. She went to Cole. She heard the voice of a soul crying for help, trusted him, had faith in him and she passed, and you believed in me and Leo and when faced with the inevitable of exposure, you did not go for vengeance or anger, you faced it and the consequences. Me ,when I was questioned, when it seemed like I would lose you, I never really looked at other choices but just used my power, just listened to my anger and wanted vengeance. If I had lived I would have turned, I would have turned us down a path that was very dangerous, I would have believed that I was right to do that and it would have  led all of us to evil. "

 

"Prue " Piper said " you could never be evil."

 

"Well the road to hell is paved with good intentions " said Prue " I didnít intend it, but I wasnít vigilant. I thought I was .. good. I thought I was ..right. Piper love its hard when you feel you are responsible, that you must protect when you feel if you show any doubt., everything you care about will be destroyed,  its hard to trust your own doubts, to question, to listen to other voices and other ways." Prue stretched her hand out as if to touch her sister "Piper love, I think you need to be sure you have considered all the choices. You need, honey, not to be me"

 

 " You mean about Cole " Piper said.

 

 " I mean ĖPrue answered carefully " That its not always..good ..to believe you know the answers, that you and you alone know the way. " Prue sighed "Remember when I used to get mad at Phoebe because I thought as she was the youngest, she never knew what was right. I should have listened to her more. She was right going to Cole then and maybe someone else in the family is being wiser than you right now.  Maybe they are wiser because they have purer motives. That was always it with me  and Phoebe. Piper I have to go. I shouldnít have come. I am not supposed to. But I know you are hurting. damn them " she said  "You need someone Piper "

 

 " Iím glad you did " Piper said softly.

 

 " I know what it is like to feel you have no -one to turn to, to look after you. I could not let my little sister hurt. " Prue said.

 

 " About Cole " Piper asked

 

Prue shook her head " Heís beyond those I see.  They have no idea about him "

 

Piper said " Heís evil Prue. Heíll destroy us "

 

Prue crossed her hands " I thought he was an innocent once but you may be right " She hesitated and then said " I watched Piper. I saw Phoebe Ďs premonition. He certainly did in that. He always, always choses to protect Phoebe, what has changed? "

 

Then as she faded, she stopped " Piper, you, you already know the answers. Look to what you already know.  All of you. Give my love to Phoebe " and she disappeared with only the flickering candle light indicating to Piper she had really been there

 

Piper sat curled on the attic sofa, with a rug huddled around her, thinking of things gone by. Thinking of Prue and almost laughing at her and the memory of her sin of pride, and then the dawning realisation that was exactly what Prue was trying to tell her. Pride was the sin the evil that could not be defeated. Piper started to think how much easier it had been when Prue had been there to take charge. To decide and it suddenly hit her, easy for every one but Prue. It had cost Prue her life, because she fell to the evil of belief in her own invincibility. Piper began to think of the first time she had had to act without Prue. When Prue had been turned into a dog, to find the banshee.

 

Piper remembered trying to vanquish Cole after she had summoned him when Phoebe had turned into a banshee. Funny how Cole had never really been angry about that, in fact he seemed to regard it as a joke. Not like now, this was different. And then it hit her, how was this different and it was because  that time, Cole was not evil, hurting bitter and confused but not evil. There had been times when Piper had had nightmares about that, because if Cole had not protected himself from that potion, the consequences would have been horrendous, Phoebe would have been an evil banshee, the Charmed Ones would have been lost, Paige never found, so many bad things would have happened. This time of course she was sure of what Cole was, but then in horror she remembered she had been very sure what Cole was then too. Only .He. Was. Not. Evil. Then.

 

Phoebe as a banshee, taken over by evil, returned only because she had not committed an evil act, lucky Cole had been there. Then Piper remembered herself turning into a fury, god if she had killed some one. Lucky Cole had been there, then Paige as a vampire, even as the source Cole had killed the queen. Lucky Cole had been there,

 

And Piper stopped in horror. " Oh God she thought. Cole, Cole, Cole  I hate him. I hate him. I know the answer."

 

She ran down the stairs and banged on Phoebeís then threw it open. " I know the answer " she said  "to Cole." Paige appeared at her door, her red ringed eyes evidence she had had little sleep,

 

 " What " said Paige

 

Piper almost teary said " Cole . I know the answer" and then she softened a little and said " at last I think I do

 

ÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ.

Far away in a realm much different from the world of the Charmed Ones as a guardian of the universe breathed a sigh of relief.

ÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ.

 

 " What is the answer? " Leo asked appearing at the bedroom door obviously sleepy "

 

Piper shook a little as she answered " There is no white magic to kill him, and we canít use evil magic. The answer is he must not die " she said her voice  wavering as Paige sagged in relief and Phoebe went white ands started to shake.

 

The girls and Leo sat around the kitchen bench drinking coffee and quiet as they contemplated that from a misconceived sense of good and evil, evil had nearly tempted them into doing something grossly wrong. Phoebeís premonition was not to warn them to avoid using black magic to destroy Cole but to warn them not to destroy him at all. Cole becoming the Source did not make him the ultimate evil. The ultimate evil was that they in self righteous conceit nearly committed an act of gross evil, destroying a victim of evil, by confusing the victim with the nature of evil. In their belief in their own understanding of good, they had driven an innocent to the brink of evil.

 

After almost an hourís silence as each of the four contemplated their role, Piper suddenly said " This is so frightening. Every other time we have faced evil, been turned to something evil, there has always been a villain someone or something we can defeat, but this has just been the nature of evil itself infiltrating, finding our weak spots, preying on who we are."

 

 " Thatís what evil does " Leo answered " Iím so sorry. I should have realised. I should have noticed something." He stared glumly into his coffee, realising once again t hat he let Piper push him into failing the sisters.   Funny how when Cole was around that had not happened. Leo remembered Cole and he had convinced Piper to find her inspiration to save the muses. Leo closed his eyes in horror. He had failed Piper by letting her worse instincts rule her  and somehow, Cole the ultimate evil had been able to keep them in check.

 

 " All of us should have realised " Phoebe said sadly, her eyes still red rimmed and her face pale and drawn. "At least Piper and I should have, just like we should have listened to Paige". She  stood up and hugged her sister " You were right about Cole when he was the Source and you were right this time.  God I am so sorry" Phoebe gave Paige another hug "I promise faithfully I will always believe you when you sense evil"

To Paige's distress and Phoebe's horror, Piper said " Well I won't"

"Piper"  Phoebe breathed "How can you say that?"

"Because I mean it" Piper said . Then she softened " I am never going to believe that any of us could always be right about anything ever again. I just promise to listen very carefully to what you say Paige. I will promise never to dismiss your concerns about evil or good, no matter how silly they seem"

Paige stared at Piper for a second, then she started to laugh. She held out an arm to Piper and the three girls hugged. 

 

Paige sighed " This still leaves us with what do we do about Cole " she said " we canít kill him and we canít let him become the source "

 

Phoebe sighed " We have to stop him turning full on evil " she said.

 

 " And how do we do that? " Paige asked.

 

"We have to pray he has not killed an innocent yet and get to him before he does. Then we have to find a way to convince him that he can resist the pull . " Piper said then added "I think "

 

Phoebe smiled through her tears " Stop it Piper, we know thatís not pride " and Paige grinned "I promise we will tell you when its pride" and she held her hand's up" Scout's honour" she added and then said "How do we get Cole to resist evil. Get him to agree to strip the powers. Look what happened last time I tried that " Paige said.

 

 " No " Piper answered " We .. know the answers. We know that is not the answer. " She hesitated then said "Tyler " 

 

Leo said  "The fire starter, we bound his power. Bind Coleís "

 

 Piper shook her head "I -we know the answer " she repeated " Every time, we' anyone has tried to remove powers from Cole, he's found a way to get them back, or they have found a way to get back to him. I think we can take it as a given, he is meant to have them " Piper looked at Leo " I told Tyler the answer. Why couldnít I have remembered for Cole. "

 

Leo looked confused. Piper took a deep breath " It isnít the powers, itís the way they are used "

 

 " What " said Paige  with more than a hint of sarcasm " We just have t o tell Cole that itís okay to have all these demon powers as long as you use them for good. Thatíll work."

 

 " No" said Piper " we have to convince him to believe it "

 

Phoebe shook her head " Piper he said he tried to be good because he loved me . He said that was the reason. " Phoebe looked at her sisters in despair " Paige, Piper I canít lie, I canít tell him I love him. Because all I can see is the evil I nearly became because of him. The hurt and the pain and .. " Phoebe hesitated " the regret.. And I Ďcanít lie to him "

 

"So what have we got? What can we tell him? " Paige said.

 

Leo glanced at the girls  " Maybe we need to think about it for a little while "he said. "There's not much we can do now." They all shrugged and went to bed. each one to consider their role in the way they had driven Cole to the point he was now at.  Piper to reflect on her arrogance, Phoebe to wonder how a love so beautiful could have driven her to act with such hatred, Paige to wonder how she could have let the evil that had consumed her sisters intimidate her into not acting on her good instincts. Leo to wonder why once again he had failed to recognise evil when it was consuming his family

 

The girls were not much wiser in the morning about what they could say to Cole Actually Paige said with a low humour " Its easy. All we have to say is Hey Cole, we were wrong, we donít think youíre evil yet and it will be better for the world if you donít go that  way, as well as us by the way " 

 

Neither Leo, Piper or Phoebe laughed.

 

The next thing was to find Cole and it became abundantly clear at this point he did not want to be found. They tried a spell to call him; they tried scrying for him, and even tried ringing him at his apartment and work. His work said he was off sick and the phone kept ringing at the apartment. Paige and Leo orbed Piper and Phoebe to the apartment and it did show signs that Cole had been there very recently but neither calling or waiting did any good. Phoebe left a message for him, on the unmade bed and in the kitchen that needed cleaning. Phoebe felt a small bitter tear as she was reminded how she and Cole used to argue about his untidiness. More tears threatened to flow. She choked them down.

 

Piper was getting angry and desperate " We have to find him before he kills an innocent " she raged. Seeing Leoís look she muttered " Itís the innocent I am thinking of " she muttered.  "Someone who does not want to die to turn Cole evil "

 

 " We know, we know "  Paige answered, smiling.

 

Piper sighed " I cannot believe how every thought and every word could lead to such dangerous places and now I have to keep reminding myself " She smiled " It wonít turn us evil if I say right at this moment I hate Cole for what he has brought us through. " She saw the expression on her sister's faces "All right Iím just really pissed at him, "

 

 " Pissed is good " Paige said.

 

They tried again to find Cole  but he had obviously determined to use his powers not to be tracked in any way.

 

 " He covers his tracks so well " Paige raged.

 

 " Perhaps we need to find him somewhere where he still has not left tracks " Piper asked.

 

" What?  " said Paige and Phoebe together

 

 " The future " Piper answered. "He sent messages back a few weeks ago from his future, probably the future Phoebe saw, so maybe if Phoebe can get a premonition of him doing something in the near future, maybe she can project into it and get him to come, to talk. "

 

Phoebe tried and could not. Paige concocted a potion to give her more control over the premonition but for a little while things looked very bad when Phoebe faced something she did not want to, they needed top focus on a particular incident of the future, and the only one they could think of for certain with Cole was that sometime in the very close future he would cross a line and kill an innocent.

 

She needed something of his and something of his that was close to evil and it took Phoebe much courage to pull out from a hidden drawer in her dresser the athame that she had kept so long ago when Cole declared his love for her in the mausoleum, that very first time.

 

She sat on the floor surrounded by candles as the girls chanted a search spell. Paige thew the portion and Phoebe collapsed forward. She opened her eyes to find herself standing in a small side street near the harbour. She seemed alone, no sign of Cole and at first she saw no sign of any other people.

 

She wondered why Cole would choose to kill an innocent here. Then she noticed the three homeless men under the staircase and her memory stirred. To a time when the Brotherhood were killing the homeless seers. If Cole was returning to the underground the first thing he would do is make sure the seers did not announce it to the forces of both good and evil.

 

Almost on cue, Phoebe looked up and saw Cole shimmer in. Not far from the seers.  He looked worse than the last time she had seen him. The three day beard was now a full fortnight beard and she rather doubted he had showered or washed in that time. He wore jeans and a grubby shirt and looked nearly as down and out as the people he watched.

 

Cole raised his hand, but did not call up an energy ball. He stood there starring at his hand as if he could not believe it belonged to him, and then he started to shimmer out, to Phoebeís relief and then he returned, the blue eyes suddenly over bright, and angry and very alien to Phoebe. He looked at his hand again and she saw the fire start to form.

 

With a huge effort of will, Phoebe pulled herself into being part of that future. She fully materialised in the alley and called Coleís name. At first he did not seem to notice her and she called louder and he turned to her.

 

 " Such a surprise " he said nastily " Come to stop me killing an innocent have you "

 

Phoebe nodded slowly.

 

 " And how are you going to do that " he asked in an odd high voice that to Phoebe in her heightened telepathic state did not seem part of him.

 

 " Iíve been calling for you " Phoebe said  avoiding the question " Didnít you hear, didnít you get my messages."

 

Cole eyed the homeless men under the stair then turned to Phoebe.  His eyes changed colour., less brilliant and his voice seemed more like his own when he said " I got the messages about 3 days ago. Nothing I want to hear from you, unless itís maybe I love you and I want to be with you "

 

 " No " she whispered.

 

 " Didnít think so " he said his eyes blazing dark and his voice back to that strange high sound,.

 

" Cole  " she said " donít do this. "

 

The eyes blazed bluer and crazier " Cole "she said again " Iím begging you "

 

 " For a second his eyes blazed bluer than ever and then he smiled, a nasty angry hard smile that truly frightened  Phoebe " Thatís not playing fair " he said in his normal voice " Threats are much easier to deal with, ignore. Begging hmm. "

 

 " Cole " she said again pleading.

 

 " Why shouldnít I " he asked as if he was chatting about illegal parking. "I kill these ones and I can sneak into the underworld, without anyone knowing Iím coming, without any complications, I can rule again. All I have to do is kill a few seers and no enemies there are ready for me. Mine for the taking "

 

" Cole " she said slowly " you never wanted to rule, you never cared about that sort of power, you always said you would be crazy to even think about it " then she realised what she had said and stopped. After a few seconds hesitation that seemed for ever, Phoebe braved it " If you kill them " she said " You would be evil "

 

 " I am crazy " he said " I am evil " he added  unpleasantly " I have no choice but to be evil. Everything I am is made of these evil powers; even the body I corporalised using them is evil, you told me so yourself. "

 

 " You will be evil if you kill an innocent " she said " and you are not crazy. You are just hurting so badly that its easier to let it drive you insane, Cole you're just frightened of being evil and trying to find any way you can not to feel it.  And god Cole, I know why anyone would do that. " There was not a hint of understanding in his drawn, hard expression or the rigid stance of his body, as he stood, facing her, fire lights burning on his hand. Phoebe tried again " But if you need to be crazy to be evil, you are not really evil, not yet, just in pain."

 

He raised the energy ball in his hands and she flung herself in front of him catching his arm. "Cole " she pleaded " You are not fully evil - yet. You know how it works, you are not evil until you kill an innocent, a real innocent " she added catching the anger in his yes and remembering how she had accused him of murder with Miller and the two bikers " Donít do it Cole " she said again in agony, for him, for her, for what it would cost if he did it " You still have a choice Cole."

 

He looked at her half crazy " I believe that" she said " He glanced down where she still had hold of his arm and she slowly let it go " Cole " she said still pleading " We have to talk. You have to talk to my sisters and me. You have to come to the manor so we can work this out "

 

 " Got a new trick " he asked nastily. But it was his own voice and his eyes looked almost normal, angry, hurt but no blazing evil or madness.

 

 " Please" she said

 

" Iíll think about it he said and laughing he shimmered out

 

Phoebe came out of the premonition; to face the concerned looks of her sisters and all she could tell them was that he said he would think about. And then all the three could do was wait the three days to see if he would come.

 

Phoebe  spent  three long and hard days thinking and facing all the thought she had hidden since the day she had touched her husband 7 months before and been confronted by the vision of him as the source of all evil.

 

In the time she had blamed him for her pain and confronted the fears of her own nature and its closeness to evil, the loss of her child, the torture of all she had faced. The loss of her own innocence and behind it all the aching pain of memories of the time she spent with a one time demon and how she had once loved him and believed the goodness of their love would preserve it for all time.

 

And for the first time she had cried for the loss of that love and wondered why she had been put through it all to end so bitterly. And for the first time, after she cried the loss she was able to remember the things that had been good about it. She remembered the selflessness Coleís love, the trueness of it, the times he had risked his life, his soul, to protect her, to protect innocents and to protect her family. She wondered how they ended in this mess and then she remembered that without him, simply the Charmed Ones would not be. She had had the perfect love, and the cruelty of its loss became as overwhelming as all the other loss.

As Phoebe faced the awful path where that tragic love had taken them, she found the answer, and the answer was one that Cole had told her long ago. That Cole had always known the answer and so had she.

 

And then she had to face the realisation that her capacity for evil had nearly taken her down a path that destroyed them. And only the memory of laughing blue eyes and a special smile of love had saved her.

 

He had told her so long ago that evil could not love and while he loved her he could not be evil but as his love for her descended into an unquenchable lust he had fallen toward evil. And as she remembered the things that had past between them, she remembered all the times he had fallen. And how he had picked himself up. How she had admired and loved him for his courage and determination to keep trying, no matter how evil tempted him. And she had faith in him then, she had had faith in his courage and faith in his love. And then she knew what would stop him now, not vanquish not stripping his power. He had told her how Raynor had turned him evil. Raynor had destroyed her faith in him.  Faith that was the secret of it all. He had comeback from the dead determined to be good. And he had tried. When had he started to lose it was when she had lost faith, when she had told him he was evil, that his good deeds counted for nothing because he did them with evil and she cried long and bitter tears.

 

Paige and Piper had been more forgiving of her than she was herself but all three were very frightened as they faced the fact that the only salvation for the world, for all of them, was if a half mad and bitter demon could find, somewhere in the memory of the good man he had once been, the strength to forgive.  If he could find a way to love Phoebe without lust or expectation of return. It was a great deal to ask. What soul would answer such a call to pain.  One maybe who since the day he fell in love with Phoebe has until pushed into madness had always unlike Phoebe been completely selfless in his love. Could he find enough goodness in his soul to be selfless again.

 

Cole came, 12 hours after the time Phoebe had left him. He shimmered into the attic the morning after as all three girls having given up hope he would come, were searching The Book of Shadows for anything that would help. They were frantic. During the night Paige had twice orbed Phoebe back to the alley.  Once to repeat the conversation she had with Cole, as it really happened while Paige stood hidden away in the shadow, a strange surreal conversation and nothing, nothing changed it. It ended the way the last one had. After Cole left, the girls tried to get the innocents to move but they flatly refused and Phoebe and Paige had waited a number of hours in case Cole returned but he either chose not to come while they were there or had, hope of hope, changed his mind. They finally left but a few hours later Phoebe and Paige both returned to check the homeless innocents. To both girls relief Cole had apparently not come back.

 

Cole shimmered into the attic so quietly that for a few seconds the girls did not realise he was there.  Phoebe turned to see him standing there watching her intently and for a second forgot all that had changed between them. "God " she said " Donít do that. You scared the hell out of me "

 

 " Iím not God Ė he said slowly almost awkwardly but he smiled a little as he said it. The smile left his face as he indicated the Book of Shadows " Still trying to find a way to vanquish me " he asked nastily.

 

 " No " Phoebe said " just to find you. " She took a deep breath " We have to talk " she said.

 

 " We " Cole asked suspiciously looking at her sisters .

 

Piper stepped forward "All of us " she said firmly.

 

" What have you got to say that I would want to hear " Cole asked bitterly.

 

Piper took breath "I have to say Iím sorry " she said ĎI am sorry for the .. the vendetta "

 

Cole looked at her stunned; he blinked opened his mouth to say something then blinked again, and turned to Phoebe almost helplessly lost for words.

 

Then he leant against the nearest door jam and folded his arms " And " he smiled and it was not pleasant "Now I am supposed to say. Thatís okay no problemís, youíve said youíre sorry and Iíll be a good boy from now on "

 

 " Weíre all sorry " Paige said

 

" Yes " said Phoebe

 

" And I thought I was crazy " Cole breathed.

 

Phoebe walked toward Cole and to her horror he shrank back as if the closeness of her repelled him. She stepped closer and touched him and he flinched as if burnt but he did not pull away. She pulled him closer into the attic while he stared at her hand as if it was burning him.

 

 " I had a premonition " she told him and described to him what she had seen, told him what they became if he became the source . 

 

  "And it will be all right if I find a way to become good again " Cole smirked bitterly

 

 " Stay good " Paige interrupted

 

 " What happened to Cole you are evil, Cole you have evil powers that  make you the ultimate evil. Cole you must be vanquished . Cole we will exterminate you on out terms. Cole we are coming to get you " he asked almost hysterically.

 

Phoebe glanced at her sisters and answered "We were wrong " she said.

 

Cole tried to say five different things and did not get the words out. Finally all he could say is " Iím evil Phoebe. Canít be anything else, Donít have a choice "

 

 " You always have a choice " she said and they both stopped remembering when those words had been said in this same attic, in a different time. Phoebe glanced to Piper and Cole followed her glance. He met Piperís eyes and then turned away as she lowered her glance.

 

 " Iím out of here " Cole said angry refusing to give in.

 

Piper called his name and he turned back to her " There has been evil since you came back Cole, " Cole's expression was ugly, dangerous. Piper continued "Cole its been us, its been me. "  

 

Cole laughed " and I am supposed to be grateful for the kind words"

 

Piper looked as if she was getting angry and then caught her temper. she tried to tell him what she honestly felt. Hoping that to reach any small amount of good that was left. " You remember when you stopped Prue taking vengeance on the Seekers, you knew then it was not the vengeance the infliction  of pain but the need to protect the innocent that was important, that was good and you reminded Prue. There was no-one here to remind me. All I could think was not that I had to stop you but that I had to hurt you, make you feel the pain that you made me feel and the people I loved, feel . " She stopped hoping to see some softening but if anything Cole's face was grimmer. 

 

Piper tried  again "And then I discovered I had the power to do that and it just took me over. " She touched her stomach. "I didnít even know it was consuming me. I thought it was for all the right reasons. " She pleaded with him " Cole you know evil, you know better than anyone what it does. I could feel evil and I could not see anything evil but you and it seemed if I van -killed you I killed evil. It just consumed me."

 

He nearly relented, and then it caught him. "It seems we Ďre both evil " he said " see you in hell Piper "

 

 " Cole " Phoebe called "

 

 " What are you going to tell me " he snarled " that you love me, that if I try and be good. I can have you; well at seems like if you are going evil." He stopped "Are you going evil? Well if you are it seems to me I get what I want."

 

She started to cry

 

 " Do you love me Phoebe " Cole asked in a voice she knew well, one she had once loved. "No " she answered. She saw his hurt and added " I donít know. I donít know anything any more. All I can feel is the pain that you caused. The pain that happened to me because of you. I loved you and it nearly destroyed me and I am so frightened of that ever happening again"

 

 " But "she continued "Cole. I saw you trying to be good and something, evil in me made me want need to destroy you. You could not be better than me. Because if you could return from the dead and be good, it made me something very, very bad, " Her eyes pleaded with him and Cole caught by her pain looked away. Phoebe whispered " If you were evil it made me better than you. Cole all I could think of was what had happened to me, how everything happened to hurt and destroy me, so I wanted to destroy you and II could do it ."

 

 " Oh really how " he said pleasantly a voice that frightened all the girls as they realised how close he was to crossing to evil. " could destroy your hold on good " Phoebe whispered. " All I had to do was tell you that you were evil, you trusted me when I said you could be good, you believed me when I told you that you were evil. "

 

He just looked at her.

 

 " Canít you say anything " she said.

 

 " Hmm " he said " Thanks, "

 

Leo and had been silent through this.  Finally he intervened to say " Cole you wanted to be good. Okay the girls- we convinced you could not be but we are saying youÖwe were wrong."

 

Cole suddenly turned on him blazing. "For six months " he roared "Iíve heard nothing but how good you all are, how you decide what is right and what is wrong. No matter what I tried, I was evil and you all knew what was right. Everything I ever did, every innocent I tried to help, I was evil because the means I tried to help were acquired through evil. For six months Iíve had nothing but anger and pain and now suddenly I am supposed to say oh gee its all right and Iíll be good because you want me too."

 

Leo could only sigh and agree.  " We were wrong " was all he could say.

 

Cole finally could stand it no longer. "Iím out of her; I want to be evil " he said " it does not hurt when Iím evil. Do you know I am wanted when I am evil. Hell evil embraces me, when I am evil, I belong."

 

Paige who had been silent through this finally spoke.

 

 " Cole " she said

 

 " What? " he snarled 

 

 " Cole " she asked "Do you love Phoebe, want to protect her, like you did when I first knew you? "

 

 " No " he answered " I want her " but his voice cracked.

 

Paige pushed " When I first knew you, I remember you told her you would do anything for her but be a coward. Isnít that true any more? "

 

He started to say no but swallowed the word. Paige saw this and tried again " Cole if you cannot find a way to be good, then weíre lost and youíll be evil and we will destroy you and then we will be evil and we will be destroyed,  "

 

Paige looked at Cole and then glanced toward Phoebe standing in touching distance of Cole, her hands tightly clutched, her eyes never leaving his face. Paige continued "You see I think, I think Cole that maybe you and Phoebe are tied closer than we like to think. Phoebe told me that you once said loving her was your hold on good but I think her ability to be good is maybe tied closer to you than is fair.  Because every time you have been evil so has she "  and as Phoebe gasped in horror " and when you are good so is she, do you want her to be evil, to be as ugly and as crazy as I see you "

 

 " You still have a choice Cole " Piper added

 

"And so I have to take on the pain of the world to save you again " he asked bitterly. " I have to feel and hurt and be good and be damned for it, just to keep you safe"

 

Piper and Paige glanced at each other and at the demon who stood in front of them, eyes blazing, in anger and pain.

 

Phoebe had gently put her hand to his face. " Iím in no danger "  she said softly  "Cole you want to be good. That is what it comes down to. Not because I make you or because you can only have me that way but because you want to" He looked down, blue eyes no longer half mad but angry, bitter and hurt. Phoebe took a deep breath and continued  " Thatís why you are going like this  because your worst fear is the same as mine, turning evil again. I think you can win. I think you can be good"

 

"And how I am supposed to do that " he  snarled

 

Phoebe smiled through tears " We were told that we already had the answers about..you. If we just listened to what we already knew. But so much of what I knew is what you told me. I think you already know what to do, just listen to your own advice."

 

"So I am supposed to be good, for the sake of good, alone, without you" he said  but the bravado and even anger had left him and all that was left was a desperately unhappy and frightened man. Cole stopped talking, he looked at Phoebe and then gently reached his hand toward her face, stopped himself and shrugged helplessly then he turned and shimmered away.