To know Phoebe is to...
Part 3:Keeping it in the Family
Phoebe woke up at 8 and the first thing she did was dial Cole. She decided that she hated, just hated sleeping alone. The bed was big, the room was empty.
“Morning" she said breathily as soon as he answered.
“Morning“ he breathed as slowly.
“Miss me?“ she asked.
“Like hell“ he answered.
“Good“ she said.
“Where are you?“ she asked as if it was the most important thing in the world.
“Having breakfast.“ he said as if it was too.
“Where?“ she asked.
“Café“ he answered “3 doors down from where I work. “
“Not high cholesterol stuff like bacon and eggs and hash browns “ Phoebe pushed.
“Can’t hurt me.“ he said.
“You can be awfully miserable and not dead.“ Phoebe answered seriously
“Pancakes“ he said.
“Wheat germ?“ she asked.
“No“ he said “white flour, lots of butter. “
“You have no idea how to eat healthy“ she told Cole severely.
They talked a little while and Cole finally cut off the call wondering why a little over a week ago that school ma'm voice had made him slam a phone down on her. All it did at the moment was make the desire to shimmer over to her almost impossible to resist.
Phoebe went downstairs and broke the news to Piper and Paige that she was spending another night with the new boyfriend. The news was greeted by dish banging from Piper who was washing up and blatant curiosity from Paige for a few seconds before Paige dismissed Phoebe’s carefully connected explanations about the new boyfriend and said she had a new boyfriend herself, a professor she had met at the college library researching books about folklore.
“You know him Phoebe“ Paige said.
“I do?“ said Phoebe
“Yes“ said Paige "he’ s an expert on demons and mythology.
Piper with her back to the other sisters interrupted “He’s that creepy demonologist guy who gave us the information on warlock coven last year“
“He’s married“ Phoebe said.
“Separated“ said Paige?“
“Maybe“ said Piper her voice tight.
Phoebe and Paige both suddenly remembered they were in a hurry to be somewhere else.
Leo orbed in an hour later and received the full force on Piper’s views about her sister inability to develop healthy relationships.
“I’ll say one thing for Cole“ Piper said.
“What?“ said Leo stunned.
“At least you knew what Phoebe was up to when she was with him "It was all about just keeping Cole.“ Piper said.
Cole called Paige that morning. He had thought of asking Phoebe for the protection spell and decided things were complicated enough, and they had enough issues without that one. Paige was not all that pleased to hear from him and even less pleased when he said he wanted to get her to do the protection spell.
She was so reluctant Cole was really glad he was not trying to argue it out with Phoebe, and without thinking offered to take Paige to lunch to explain what he wanted her to do. It was only when she very awkwardly and uncomfortably agreed he realised that even though he now lived in a world where he was used to being treated as a person, in Halliwell eyes at least he was a freak, pariah, a monster to be excluded.
He hung up the phone shaking his head, wondering what the future would bring with Phoebe’s family and how he could keep her when he could not, would not, dared not ask her to make any choices between him and her family.
He picked Paige up in front of the manor. When he got out to open the car door for her, Paige was looking at him as if he had two heads and for a second he thought she was going to refuse to get in the car. But she finally just snorted at him “New car?“
Cole said "No. Its three months old.“ and Paige snorted again.
Early that morning when Paige had gone out to collect the paper, Mrs Taylor from opposite had been waiting to happily inform her that she had seen Phoebe snuggling up to a man driving a green Mercedes. Paige had less than politely informed Mrs Taylor that Phoebe was a grown up who was allowed to date who she wanted, without anyone interfering but for a whole two hours Paige had suffered a sense of overwhelming relief, because she unlike Piper had no belief what so ever that Phoebe was ready to move on, find another man, or get over Cole. Since the day Paige had come to the family, Phoebe had been totally absorbed by Cole. Paige had never known Phoebe when she wasn’t in love with Cole, and she was convinced her sister would never be in love or love any-one else. Paige had seen her dating this year and all she had seen was a girl; trying to pretend an interest that did not exist and then suddenly Phoebe was saying she had a man and it was serious enough to be considering ever afters. Piper may have seen Phoebe through to many romances but Piper was always blind about Phoebe and Cole, blind when things had been wrong and blind to what Phoebe wanted.
As far as Paige was concerned if Phoebe was in love and happy as she appeared to be then it could only mean one man and that was bad news. She knew, as she told Mrs Taylor, that Phoebe could date who she pleased but what she rapidly believed was a probability scared her. As far as she knew Cole still had the Porsche so when Mrs Taylor had told her about the green Mercedes Paige spent a happy two hours believing she was wrong about Phoebe, until she saw the green Mercedes come down the street when her heart hit rock bottom.
She sat herself in the very comfortable seats and glanced around as Cole drove off, and didn’t miss that Phoebe’s pink afghan was sitting on the small back seat. She choked back a sob and Cole turned asked her if she was all right.
She wanted to scream at him you cheating lying bastard keep away from my sister only god help her she did not have the right, she had helped, made Phoebe save that man, that whatever he was, and Paige knew only to well from her experience that family bitching only made you more determined to stick to bad relationships and if he hurt Phoebe she would find a way to kill him.
Cole accepted her silence; he did not even attempt to make small talk but drove down to the bay to a small rather exclusive restaurant that Paige had fanaticised about when a girl friend told her about it well over a year ago.
“Damn Cole“ she thought, “he’s really trying to set me up. “ She was tempted to refuse to go in with him but the parking valet was watching and she decided a temper tantrum would only get Cole sympathy. Cole was by this time severely regretting the thoughtless impulse that had made him ask Paige to lunch. He had over the last few times he had seen her slipped into something of the old bickering relationship and he was cursing himself for just feeling normal which made him forget everything else.
They were lead to a really good table by the window overlooking the bay. Paige noted that Cole was doing all the right things. He always had old fashioned manners at least when he wasn’t being an arsehole, opened doors, stood up when women left the table, pulled chairs and he did it this time.
Paige glanced around the restaurant and was not unaware of some envious looks from other women that she was object of some very good manners from a very attractive man. She did not meet to many men who could make those sort of manners seem normal, so because she was actually stuck with the lunch she decided just for a little while she may as well enjoy it.
The waiter gave her the menu and the prices truly shocked her. She then and there decided if Cole was being an arsehole to her sister he could at least pay for a really expensive lunch for her. He started to ask her about the spell and she flatly refused to talk about it until after they had ordered. She ordered the lobster, oysters and the most expensive salad on the menu waiting for Cole to start glaring but he just smiled, and ordered the expensive stuff himself.
"Its on the expense account" he explained. Paige suddenly panicked, Cole living well off the firm he worked for was one of the first signs of suspicion she had had about him when the Source took him over.
“Why do you get an over the top expense account?“ she demanded.
“I don’t usually, in fact you’ll be pleased to know my services are so not valued there at the moment that usually I’m lucky if they’ll pay for McDonalds.“ Cole replied “Stop worrying“ he said quickly as the concern showed “I’m enjoying myself being what do you like to tell me I am; an arsehole. “
“What do you mean? “ She said worried.
He smiled at his most charming “One of the villains, you’ll be helping me um vanquish will be paying the bill for this and I just like the idea that he gets to pay for the lunch that sets up his demise. “
“What do you want me to do Cole?“ Paige asked not missing the fact that the chic bleached blond at the next table couldn’t keep her eyes of Cole. It was very rude to eye of some-one else’s lunch date she thought. After all the blond did not know Cole was only Paige’s arsehole ex brother in law.
“Do a protection spell that will pretty well eliminate any likelihood of two people meeting a um a murderous end. One of whom is the villain who is paying for this lunch you’ll be pleased to know“ Cole told Paige “Can you do that? “
“I can“ Paige answered carefully “Just combine the permanent part of the power binding spell and with the protection from magic spell, and change the words. All I need is some hair or nails or something like that for the potion“
Cole looked less than impressed “You know what you’re doing“ he said.
“Why do you want, why do you need to protect them Cole?“ Paige asked as plate full of oysters was put in front of her.
“Because I don’t want their deaths on my conscious?“ he answered as if explaining to a simpleton when the waiter left.
“And why would they be on your conscious?“ Paige asked really enjoying the oysters and noticing the chic blond was all but panting.
He told her about the case. He added “I need Eddie Rodriguez protected in case some of the bad boys go after him and I need Carter protected because those guys have a habit of eliminating people who screw up. “
“Why don’t you just go to court? “ Paige asked. The blond was bouncing around in her seat. Cole either didn’t notice or didn’t care because he paid no attention. It occurred to Paige that her sister must be very special if she was all he wanted, when he plainly got other offers.
“Because it never comes off clean, people get hurt“ he smiled “No innocent is completely innocent. Everyone has his or her guilty secrets“ he said.
“Really“ she answered with her sweetest smile “What are your guilty secrets Cole?“ To her great delight he flushed red to his hair, then he smiled almost shy.
Paige caught the smile. She remembered she had had such a crush on Cole when she first met him, was downright jealous of Phoebe’s love of her life, that she had a drop dead gorgeous demon lover until Paige had realised just what that demon lover had been and then all she could see when she looked at Cole was not the smile but the demon monster behind it and even when he was human, the memory if that monster had never quite faded.
Her shock at discovering what he was, was greater because she had liked him. Of the family he had been kind, he had never been anything but amusingly supportive of her nervous initiation into magic. An outsider to the family circle himself, he had always been inclined to step back and let her in, he had been the first to make her feel like she belonged, when Piper was still so locked into her grief at Prue’s death, and Phoebe so frightened Paige would not be able to fulfil her destiny as part of the Charmed Ones.
She had liked him when he was human, even when he annoyed her by living up to his demon nature, even admired him for the courage and humour he had handled a situation for which he was totally unprepared. She had liked him, because he was so genuinely and unashamedly in love, because he was generous and because demon or not, even when he bitched, he was kind.
Perhaps that was the reason that she knew something was wrong when the Source took him over was because the one thing the Source could not imitate was his innate kindness. It was missing and replaced by a watchful slyness that even at his most demonic he had never had.
And then he had betrayed her as he betrayed Phoebe and Piper and Leo and worse for her because she always felt it was Cole not the Source who had done the betraying. The Source had used what Cole knew about her fragile relationship with her family to very nearly succeed in destroying the Charmed Ones. What hurt her was that Cole knew just how precarious that relationship was, must have considered it and knew how it could be used. The Source just exploited what he had chosen not to.
And Cole sat there opposite smiling; friendly, even being kind and she wondered what things he knew this time.
“Will you do it?“ he asked gently.
“Why don’t you ask Phoebe?“ she said.
Cole gazed at her “Because with Phoebe it’s another complication in a complicated mess; with you it’s a simple favour from a…friend.“
“Why don’t you ask Piper?“ Paige said.
“Because I’m not an idiot of course.“ Cole answered.
She thought about it. She wanted to say no and then something about the intensity of the blue eyes opposite her made the word yes come out.
Over dessert he asked her if Piper had been cross about the mirror and lamp.
Paige nearly snapped “Why don’t you ask Phoebe?“ and only just remembered no matter how worried she was she didn’t have the right to interfere.
“She’s pretty mad at me“ Paige said “Couldn’t you have done anything but smash the stuff?“
“Yes“ Cole answered honestly “but I guess I took Leo’s um advice and did it the least reckless way, besides“ he added “it was so fun. “
“Try telling Piper that “Paige said.
Cole laughed “It was only a mirror“ he said.
“It was Jemima’s mirror“ Paige said.
“It was ugly“ Cole answered.
“Phoebe thought it was beautiful“ Paige said almost slyly.
Cole grinned. “You know how much I love Phoebe don’t you Paige?“
She nodded nervously
“So you understand that it is because I really love her that I can honestly say Phoebe’s taste is … sometimes.. questionable“ he said straight faced.
Paige giggled and then sobered because she knew immediately that if he was able to comfortably joke about Phoebe, it was beyond doubt he seeing her.
Cole suddenly asked very quietly “Paige would you mind if I said something that’s really none of my business?“
“What?“ she replied.
“It doesn’t do either you or Piper any good to let her bully you, to be afraid of her“ Cole said seriously.
“I‘m not frightened of her. I argue with her all the time“ Paige said.
“You argue with her and you lose Paige.“ Cole said “ Don’t argue with her. Tell her. “He continued “She isn’t your boss, she can’t throw you out, and she doesn’t have a right. “ Cole met her eyes. “Why should you be scared to tell her you broke a mirror in your home? You didn’t do anything wrong, so you practised some magic, no harm came, no disaster happened. You were sensible, you got help as soon as you needed it. Piper’s got nothing to gripe about. “
“Jemima’s mirror got broken“ Paige repeated.
“It was ugly“ Cole said. He shook his head showing how uncomfortable he was but leant forward and added “It doesn’t help Piper to let her be a miss bossy britches all the time. That’s what Prue was; always thinking she had to be the one in charge and it got her killed.“
Paige’s eyes went wide open. She had never heard Cole even remotely talk about her family like that before, as if he had really been part of the family.
He leant back and said “If Piper bitches ask her why your house is the only one in the street that doesn’t have decent Christmas decorations, or why she doesn’t use grams sewing machine any more.“
“Why?“ Paige said.
“Ask Piper?“ Cole told her “Don’t take this the wrong way but I’ll make you a deal. I broke the damn mirror, I’ll replace it as long as you go out and get something YOU like, so some future generation of Halliwell witches can have a family dustup over who broke Paige’s mirror.“
“A deal?“ he said smiling and received a long hard glare for his trouble. Cole inwardly cursed himself for letting the familiarity get to him again and forget what was between him and Phoebe’s family.