To know Phoebe is to...
Part 3:Keeping it in the Family
Cole arrived at the hotel later than he intended because he had to go to office and collected his car. Sometimes he muttered to himself living mortal was a damned nuisance. When he entered the hotel room he was found the television on, the remains of a room service salad and cake still on the table and Phoebe naked under a hotel room robe sound asleep.
He lent over he and kissed her gently
“Hi“ she said waking up.
“Hi you“ he said, happy just to look at her
“Been here long“ he asked.
“A while“ she said.
“Stay in bed“ he answered.
“You eaten“ she asked, and he shook his head “That’s not good.“ she said.
“It isn’t necessary.“ he said.
He pulled off his jacket and threw himself on the bed “Long day“ he said.
“Did you put the fear of god into someone“ she asked conversationally.
“I think so“ he answer “Are you worried?“
“No“ she said“ I trust you. Are you surprised?“ she added.
“I’m trying hard not to be surprised at anything you do.“ he said tired.
“I’ve still got some tricks that will surprise you.“ she said “You have to eat.“ she added.
He gave up and went and showered while she ordered him room service. To his disgust a very healthy sandwich and a peace token lemon pie.
He heard it arrive while he shaved. When he came out of the bathroom Phoebe had eaten most of the sandwich so he ate the pie, and had a glass of wine.
He threw himself on the bed and turned out the lights they lay side by side, in the dark enjoying being with each other. After a few minutes Phoebe said “Piper is giving me hell about my new boyfriend" she said carefully. "She thinks getting involved with a man who doesn’t know what I am can put us all in danger risk the Charmed One.“ she stopped realising Cole was smiling.
“Piper is right“ he said “oh god I’m doomed to eternal hell. I just agreed with Piper. “
“We can’t go on meeting in a hotel.“ she said.
“Not if I’m paying the bills.“ he agreed.
“I hate your apartment.” she said.
“I know“ he answered, “So do I. The lease is up in a couple of weeks I told them I wasn’t renewing.“
“Why did you keep it if you hated it?“ Phoebe asked.
“So you’d know where I was of course" he said "I thought I might look for something closer to Prescott street“ he said a nervously “Want to help me look on the weekend“
“Perhaps“ Phoebe said, then she took a deep breath “I want to tell my family about us tomorrow“ she said. He didn’t answer. “Cole“ she said. He didn’t answer “Cole“ she said again “they can’t stop us being together. “
He didn’t answer. She turned over so she was lying half across his chest and could see the outline of his face in the dark “We’re together.“ she said firmly. “I said I would not chose you over my family but I’m not choosing them over you either. “
“I know that“ he said slowly. Phoebe slipped off him and lay as close to him as she could, before tiredness got hold off her and she fell asleep as he stroked her hair. After an hour Cole to fell asleep, knowing very well that for better or worse after tomorrow, the fairy tale romance they were playing at was over and everything would change.
Cole rapidly decided that he hated Thursdays. Thursday fortnight ago, was it only two week s ago, he had a miserable day thinking he was really going to have to walk away from Phoebe. Last Thursday, he had been concerned that Phoebe would walk away from him, and this one he was giving good odds he would have to walk away from Phoebe because he believed her when she said she would not chose her family over him and he was going to have to make the choice for her.
Cole met Phoebe outside her work. He offered to come up but she was very reluctant and he finally dragged out of her that she had not told anyone at her workplace she was back with her husband, ex husband. She felt concern that with her advice column and her growing fame, notoriety, public profile whatever you wanted to call it, there would be a nine day wonder, as soon as it got around, and given what Cole guessed he might have to do that night he reluctantly supposed she was right.
He had spent a year loving Phoebe from afar and in the last six months without any expectation that it would be returned. He had dreamed but those dreams were so faraway from the reality of what he was living that he had never really considered the consequences of what her deciding she wanted to be with him would be. He had his fantasies about it, sweeping Phoebe into his arms and the smug pleasure he would get out of telling Phoebe’s family that they were together and they would have to live with it. Fantasising about Piper’s annoyance, Paige’s distress and bursting Leo’s pomposity had got him through some very bad moments. When Phoebe had thrown him the loop about demanding they comeback together he had just been happy to have her and the nagging doubts of the consequences he had just pushed aside.
Since the day Cole had met Phoebe the whole of her existence had been about her family and he had accepted it. He had walked away from life as a demon, fought battles with her family and killed for them and to save them because he knew the only way he could have her was to accept that the family came first with her. And when the Source had taken him over, he had used what Cole had known about Phoebe’s need of her family to very nearly destroy the Charmed Ones, not by vanquishing them but by pulling them apart.
And that was the problem for Cole. He had not just betrayed Phoebe; he had betrayed her family. Phoebe forgave him because she had loved him. It was different with her family. Certainly he had shared moments with Phoebe’s family, happy and sad, Leo and Piper’s wedding and Prue’s death: farcical ones, such as Piper’s rehearsal dinner, the memory of which always made Cole wince and the stupid vanquish attempt when Phoebe became a banshee always made Cole laugh. There had been moments when they had even been kind, when he was lost and confused after the vanquish of Belthezar but mostly what was between them was the pain he had caused Phoebe and not any amount of promises would convince them that this time it would be any different. And Cole could not blame them.
And if he was part of Phoebe’s life, then whether any of them wanted it or not he would be part of her family’s life. During the last few weeks the tension had eased a little but letting time ease the tension was not the same as acceptance. Phoebe’s family, the people who had been his family had closed ranks and turned their backs on him when he returned from the wasteland and nothing had happened to give them reason to change and Cole could not blame them.
Phoebe’s belief that she would not have to choose was he believed, Phoebe at her most guileless and naive. He had come to the conclusion if her family would not accept him and Phoebe would not make the decision to choose her family, he would do it for her. He owed them that. And this time at least he would be walking away not with the memory of love but with the knowledge of it and it would be enough. He hoped.
It was late when they drove back to the manor because Phoebe had a very late deadline. She kissed Cole only lightly on the lips when she jumped in the car, chatted non-stop about work, shopping, and changes to the traffic all the way back to Prescott Street. Cole pulled up a little away from the house and finally put his finger across her mouth.
“How are you going to tell them? “ he asked.
“Just say I’m back with Cole“ she said.
“Yeah“ he said. “You sure you don’t want me to come in?“ he asked.
“You know after all the fuss about the new boyfriend they’ll be glad its you.“ she said not very convincingly.
“Why do I doubt that?“ Cole said dryly.
As she got out the car Phoebe stopped and turned back “Do you hate my family Cole?“ she asked.
“No“ he said and Phoebe knew he was not lying. “But its not what I would have said six months ago.“ he added
She nodded. Understanding. “You wait here.“ Phoebe ordered him.
“Yes ma’m.“ he muttered and sat in the car and watched her go into the manor, knowing full well that the fairy tale was over.
Phoebe opened the front door and went in. Paige was in the parlour reading more books on magic and witchcraft, Phoebe wondered if the married professor was with his wife. Leo and Piper were on the sofa, Leo watching TV and Piper was sewing. Lately she had decided hand made baby clothes made up for leaving her daughter with a sitter
Phoebe stood at the archway and coughed nervously. Piper looked up and saw her and said not all that kindly “I thought you were on a date. “
“Not a date exactly.“ Phoebe said coming into the room and sitting on a chair arm near Paige “We just met after work. “
“What happened Phoebe?“ Piper said suspiciously.
“Nothing happened“ Phoebe said looking down then looking up and then glancing around. “He just drove me home.“ she said.
Leo jumped in started to say, “Who is this guy Phoebe?“ and stopped as he saw Piper’s jaw drop and Paige freeze. He followed their glance and saw Cole standing in the archway, tie undone hands nervously thrust in his pockets. “Its me“ he said slowly
“I told you to wait in the car“ Phoebe spun on him.
“I know“ he said. “I just didn't do it. “
He eyed the other three who were stunningly quiet. For a full 5 seconds then they all suddenly broke into movement and words.
“What did you mean you two are together again?“ Leo said stunned.
Paige looked at Phoebe “Why aren’t I surprised“ she said angrily.
Piper just stared stony faced and Cole had to make an effort not to shrink away.
Then there was silence again while they all took it in.
“When did this all happen?“ Piper finally asked slowly.
“About a month ago?“ Phoebe said.
“What?“ said Piper Paige and Leo and Cole.
Phoebe answered “Cole and I, well I decide we may as well get back together then.”
Cole shook his head and moaned and said “Phoebe.“
Piper asked grimly “And what does it, mean being together?“
“Being together, a couple.“ Phoebe answered guilelessly.
Cole swallowed the words “I’m not asking her to move out“
Paige exploded giving way to the worry and concern she had kept to herself for more than a week. “And that is supposed to be all right.“ she yelled. “After everything he’s done, everything that happened. It may not have been all his fault but he put us through hell Phoebe literally. You expect us, you expect me to go back to just hey Cole no problem. He hurt you, tried to kill me. You decide you can’t live without fucking him and we supposed to forget it. Just say all is forgiven.“
“That would help“ Phoebe said “it wasn’t Cole’s fault so what ‘s your problem“ she snarled at Paige getting angry. “You had no problem living with me after the demon of fear made me try to strangle you or living with Piper after she tried it when she was a Fury. What’s the difference with Cole? “
“He was the fucking Source of all evil“ Paige yelled.
“I thought we got through that, thought we all knew what he had been through. I don’t get your problem. I love Cole; he loves me. We want to be together.” Phoebe yelled back. “Get over it Paige. We have. “
Cole leant against the wall listening to the argument and the insults flying, his face expressionless.
Paige let fly “You two love each other. Damn it. Phoebe, it isn’t just about you. “
“I know its not about me, us“ Phoebe yelled back. “What do you think we’re here for? “
Leo tried to step in and stop it and both turned on him and told him to mind his own business “It is my business“ he said, “This is my family too and it effects me as well. “
“Shut up Leo“ snapped Phoebe “What is it with you. You and Piper are the only ones who are allowed to be happy. As long as everything is just great for you, you don’t give a stuff about any-one else being happy“
The fight raged on between Leo and Paige and Phoebe. It covered everything from Phoebe being a selfish little bitch who never cared about how much trouble she caused her family, who was only concerned was for herself, to Leo being lecher who let his wife support him to Paige blaming Phoebe and Piper because Pattie had given her away at birth.
Piper and Cole were both silent. Him standing almost out of the room, her sitting rigid, sewing having fallen on the floor. Cole met Piper’s eyes and shook his head. He mouthed the words “I’m sorry”, then he went into the room and literally hauled Phoebe out of the arena. She spun around and he said “Its not just about you Phoebe, its not just about your family, its about me. And I get a choice too.“
“I know it wasn’t my fault Paige“ he said mimicking her gently “but I get your problem. And Phoebe isn’t going to bludgeon you into agreeing to something you really can’t accept“
Phoebe stamped her foot, glaring up at him “I told you I am not going to chose between you and my family. “
“I know you’re not honey.“ he said, “so I am and the answer is your family. “
“Sorry“ he said to the family. “I..she offered me everything I wanted, I hoped for. It was a long shot but I just had to try. Sorry“ he said again as he watched Paige and Leo’s angry expressions and Piper’s blank rigid face. He reached out and touched Phoebe’s face gently “Thanks love“ he said.
“You knew you were going to do this“ she yelled.
“Yeah I did“ he said because he could not lie to her.
Phoebe roared at him. “We decided we were going to be together“
“You decided“ he said gently. Piper never took her eyes off them. Cole bent over Phoebe and kissed her gently. She kept her lips tightly together.
Cole smiled shrugged ruefully and turned to leave, watched in silence by Leo and Piper and anger by Phoebe and not at all by Paige who stared at her sister standing there with tears running down her face.
Paige looked over to Piper and bit her lip and glanced at Cole’s disappearing back. Piper raised her eyes and shrugged and as the door banged Paige ran toward it and threw it open and almost ran into Cole who had stopped at the top of the stairs while he gasped for breath. Paige caught him by the arm and turned him around and was horrified to see his face damp.
“Why do you do this? “ she demanded “Put Phoebe through, this put us through this. Why can’t you just disappear?” Paige put her hands on her hips “I know the answer“ she said “because you love Phoebe and because damn, her damn her she stupidly still loves you“
“It isn’t about us“ he repeated.
“Yeah I know“ Paige roared at him. “Its about the sort off hell Phoebe will put us through if you go. You know Phoebe, she’ll start bitching and you’ll get to be the innocent and it will all be our fault. “
“Paige you don’t have to“ Cole started to say.
“Hell you’re not getting out of it so easily buster“ Paige said irately “You can do what the rest if us have to do. Stay and suffer. And Phoebe is going to be so damned mad at you, right now you're going to suffer“
Cole sighed Paige “Not if its going to cause fights like just happened. “
“Cole” Paige said “Remember how you were the one who told me those fights were nothing to worry about, just family stuff“ she said. And then exasperated as he shook his head she caught his coat lapels and hauled him back into the house where Leo and Phoebe and Piper were still in the parlour.
Phoebe looked mutinous but teary and she glared at Cole who knew how much trouble he was in. Neither Leo nor Piper looked particularly happy. Leo was on his feet behind the chair, almost defensively and Piper standing in the middle of the room, her arms crossed in front of her, every line of her screaming her disgust.
“It appears“ Piper announced as Cole did his best not to let Paige drag him back into the room “that we have decided none of us have a right to interfere with Phoebe’s um romances. “
“Piper“ he said pulling himself free of Paige’s grip, “I’m not asking Phoebe to make any choices“ he said awkwardly, looking from Paige’s almost soft smile to Leo’s prim disapproval, to Piper’s anger to Phoebe’s triumph.
“That my friend“ Piper bit out “is the only thing that saved you.“
Phoebe grinned at Cole “I knew there was nothing to worry about“ she said happily. She glanced at her family. “Okay“ she said brightly “No problem if Cole moves in on the weekend?“
“What?“ shrieked Leo Paige and Cole. Only Piper remained quiet.
Phoebe repeated “Cole move in with me. On the weekend. No problem ?“
Cole glanced around at the witches and the whitelighter. Paige was stepping back away from him shaking her heads and getting ready for war, clearly regretting the impulse that made her drag him back.
Leo was still behind the chair, his hands gripping the back, his body weight retreating and his expression horrified. Piper stood there legs apart, hands on hips and expression carefully blank.
There was total silence.
Finally Phoebe said “What?“
Cole winced as he stepped backwards so he did not quite see her eyes and said “I don’t think that is a good idea Phoebe.“ very carefully
“Why not?“ she said eyes big and innocent.
Cole half moved his hand to indicate her sisters and Leo “I think that’s obvious.“ he said “and you know it.“
“What I know “Phoebe said spinning toward him ready to argue "is that I live here, and I am not moving. Living somewhere Cole does not just mean the place where you keep your clothes. Its the place where you live, it’s the place where you eat it’s the place where you sleep. From this weekend I am sleeping in the bed upstairs , my bed and I hate sleeping alone so if we’re going to have any sort of together you better be planning on sleeping there too. “
“Phoebe“ he said trying to keep the annoyance he was feeling at the games she was pulling out of his voice. Because he had really not expected to get past the family even accepting him in her life again, he had not considered to much about the next step. Phoebe obviously had and he was starting to get very angry with her for using blackmail to push all of them into accepting more. “Just wait until I find a new place to live. Like I said something close by and we can sort it out.“ he said.
“Sort out what?“ she demanded oblivious of the audience “I‘m still living here” she said “and the same applies to you. If I’m here you’re here then what’s the point of saying you are living somewhere else when its only going to be where you keep your clothes.“
“Phoebe“ Cole demanded, “Leave it be for a while, just give it time and we can work it out. Some sort of compromise. “
“Oh stop trying to sound like a lawyer. You don’t even like being one.“ Phoebe answered with absolutely no logic.
“Phoebe“ he said the temper rising “Quit pushing it you’ve got what you want. We’re together, your family are ok.. dealing. Cut the games, stop seeing how far you can take it”. he was getting really angry. “I’m not even hanging around to talk about it“
“I’m not playing games“ Phoebe said sweetly “I mean it“
Leo said “Phoebe don’t be ridiculous“ he said “None of us can go back to where we were“
The look Cole sent him was clearly not appreciative of the support.
“I’m not going back“ Phoebe answered “I’m going forward, planning on living..together“
“Phoebe“ Paige said, “I think the problem is not you and Cole living together, its Cole and us living together. I don’t think he want’s to live with us. “
“Cole just wants to be with me“ Phoebe said blithely “He’s just being difficult“
“I don’t think its Cole who is being difficult“ Paige said earning her a look of gratitude from Cole.
“Phoebe“ Leo interrupted trying to reason with her, “No-one is saying that Cole can’t isn’t wel.. they have a huge problem with Cole staying over, its just that.. “
“I am.“ Cole snarled.
“I’m not just being difficult.“ Phoebe said pushing it “I don’t see how me being here and Cole being somewhere else is being together. And I hate sleeping alone“ she added“
“Phoebe“ said Paige, Cole and Leo.
“We’ll talk about it some other time“ Cole finally said “I am out of her“ he added. He started to move, glanced behind to see if Phoebe followed him, but she stood watching him with her eyes wide open and up yours expression on her face.
He stopped “Phoebe“ he demanded.
Cole turned back, lifted his hands and let them fall by his side. He looked around the room, at Paige’s annoyance, Leo’s irritation and Piper still standing there rigid, her face blank, her eyes never leaving Cole’s face.
He turned to Piper. In this mood Piper was the only one who could reason with Phoebe “I can’t get through to her” he said addressing Piper. “You’re going to have to deal with her. “
Piper regarded Cole her face totally blank. Piper thought "Phoebe is really screwing Cole around." She knew what Phoebe was doing to him, putting him through the ropes just to see how much he would take, just to find out how far he would go. Knowing Phoebe, and all that happened, Piper could understand why she felt the need to get very clear lines drawn with her family and Cole. Maybe she was even a little wise to do it, even if her methods left something to be desired.
She should have felt a little sorry for Cole, knowing how much Phoebe was using what power she had to control him, because she plainly intended he should concede a great deal for her family. Knowing Phoebe, Piper could even understand why she felt the need to go this far just to impress on her family that she was not going to make a choice between Cole and them, that they were important. Which was all very well but Cole was getting so angry he was not able to appreciate the point.
Piper glanced at him and remembered all the problems and pain he had caused her family, from the time he had first come into their lives. Not the big things but the family things, the long bitter arguments between Prue and Phoebe over him, the drawn out painful silences, the lies Phoebe had told about him. Even her wedding had been one long fight between Prue and Phoebe about Cole. Piper thought of fights and misunderstandings with Paige he had encouraged when the Source took him over, she thought of the cloud he put over her own happiness because he made her feel guilty for being happy. And here they all were again, another family uproar because of Cole.
Piper looked at Cole turned away, standing outside the family circle, hovering between, anger, fear, exasperation and desperation, confusion, not knowing how to deal with Phoebe, not knowing how far she was going to drag it out before she gave way and what it would cost him. Piper could appreciate what Cole must have already conceded to come here and face Phoebe’s family and how unreasonable Phoebe was being demanding more. She could help him, tell Phoebe to stop playing her games, be sensible and acknowledge what he was doing instead of trying to push more out of him. It was in her power to give him back a little of the happiness he had given her or really hurt him.
Piper often wondered what she would do if she ever had the chance to return the pain. If she ever had a chance to do to him what he had done to her, to screw him so badly he would never recover. Would she be strong enough to resist it? And here was vengeance, being handed to her on a silver platter.
And with both hands Piper accepted the gift, with no remorse and no regret.
Without taking her eyes off Coles face, she said, “I think that’s the best solution. Cole moves back in here with Phoebe.“
And if she lived to be a hundred, Piper would never forget the sheer pleasure of vengeance she got as she watched Cole. She had never seen his eyes bug out of his head before. He went white then green and then grey.
He actually started to shake, whether from anger, fear or shock or all three was hard to tell. He looked sick, he looked stunned and it was very clear that whatever he had considered together meant it was not returning to the manor. In fact Piper was willing to bet that if Cole had been asked to define hell on earth, he would have described it as living with Phoebe’s family.
And if looks could have killed, Piper knew from the venom coming out of those blue eyes, she would have been a dead witch. Cole knew very well what Piper had done. Regardless of any objections, annoyance or misgivings Paige and Leo had, once Piper agreed, the deal was done. He had not a hope in Hades, heaven or the realms in between of making Phoebe shift ground.
Phoebe ran forward and flung her arms around Piper while Leo started to say “I don’t think that is really a good idea“ and then shut up as he saw the unholy glee of Piper’s expression.
Paige let out an exasperated and almost amused “Piper!!!” then she joined her sisters in a hug. Because just watching Cole’s complete disintegration as he realised there was no way out, that he was doomed to a lifetime of Halliwells, was far, far more fun than vanquishing him.
Cole glared helplessly at the witches hugging, saw Leo’s unconcealed annoyance and turned and walked out. He got half way to the door and came back. Piper met his angry blue eyes over her sister’s shoulders.
“Bitch“ he said very loudly.
“You should be careful what you wish for my friend“ Piper answered unconcerned “You just might get it. “
“Bitch“ he mouthed again “and I’m outta here“ Cole muttered feeling a very strong need to escape or kill some one. He stalked out the room and Phoebe left her sisters, running to catch up.
Leo and Paige and Piper watched him go. They all knew he would be back by the weekend because as he had so often said he would do anything for Phoebe and that included walking through hell frozen over.
Leo turned to Paige and Piper. “I don’t get it“ he said, “I don’t get it. A few hours ago it was about worrying about this new man is in her life and now Cole is moving back in here. What the hell happened? “
“I bet Cole is wondering that too“ Piper answered gleefully.
“Did you have any idea that was what as going on?“ Leo demanded of his wife.
Piper shook her head “I ought to have known. Phoebe was so secretive and its always Cole when she acts like that. Why don’t I ever learn its always about Cole with Phoebe?“
“I knew?“ Paige said brightly
“Why didn’t you do something“ Leo demanded.
“Because I didn’t want it to be true“ Paige answered.
“Then why did you call him back Paige?“ Leo asked irritated “Cole moving back here. Do you realise how crazy that is?“
Paige took a deep breath “I had to Leo. Leo, I don’t hate Cole.“ she smiled “I saw something I knew I had to do. We talk about using our powers for good. I saw some one hurting very badly, doing the right thing for right reasons at his cost. “ She took a deep breathe “I had the power to do something good for some one. I didn’t have the magic power to do something good, but I had the human power. All Cole wants is Phoebe and yet he would walk away from her because of us. Isn’t that what its all about? Having the power to do something good. “
Leo turned to his wife helplessly “What about you? why didn’t you say no?“
“Because“ Piper said honestly “I want Cole and Phoebe to be happy“
“With Cole …here?“ Leo demanded.
“If that’s what it takes “Piper said thinking of all that guilt that had just lifted off her shoulders.