To know Phoebe is to...


Part 1:Better to have loved and lost


Chapter 6


Paige and Piper spent a very hectic day, scrying for evil and checking through San Francisco for unusual evil activity and magic. The next day, Saturday, was summer solstice and for the last five years Piper and Phoebe had known that this was a time with so many witches and Wicca followers celebrating, that demonic activity became very hectic. Sometimes just held their breath and hoped for the best.  Last year the underworld had been in chaos. Even those demons that were outside the old Source’s hierarchy were to disorganised they were not a serious threat but this year would be different. Ever since Tempus became the new Source, the Charmed Ones had been fighting demon cults and lodges which were on the outside the main hierarchy or had openly been at odds with the old Source but to frightened of him to act independently. The Elders believed that now they were fighting their way up the hierarchy and operating out of control, trying to establish their own power base.  


Evil may not have been as strong but the nests of activity this year were disturbing In same way when evil was strong it was easier because they could focus on the enemy but now, the rogues and cults were doing what they wanted and how and when they liked and it was harder to keep track of what was happening.


Leo was back and forth between his charges and the Elders and Paige and Piper managed to map the biggest pockets in the city. They had some anxiety about swarming demons and were very concerned about a huge activity around the edge of San Francisco where some of the major Wiccan feasts and activities happened.


Phoebe came home early from work, missing the usual Friday night out with her colleagues to be with her sisters. She almost wished she had not when Paige passed on Cole’s message and Piper challenged her to know why Cole was so annoyed. Phoebe was stunned, caught between the venom of Cole’s message and guilt because what drove her to contact him originally was tat she ws feeling downright horny. Even if the other calls had been about making him acknowledge her. Phoebe stumbled over the words, trying to find a way of explaining.


Piper stood with her hands on her hips glaring “Phoebe” she asked in her severest tone ”Why have you been calling Cole?”


“I .”.Phoebe stammered.


“Phoebe “stormed Piper  “I know you so don’t lie to me”


Phoebe gave in with a sigh “ I just wanted to make sure he was all right, “ she answered half truthfully” I just wanted to be really certain he was keeping his promises “she said  “And he was filthy rude and he annoyed me.”


“I have a right to know what he is doing” Phoebe said falling back on self righteous anger “ and damn it he is not going to get away with hiding so he does not have to explain himself to me” she added.


“Phoebe” Paige tried to be reasonable  “Don’t you think Cole has maybe a right not to account himself to you”


“No of course not” Phoebe said in a voice clearly stated such an idea was preposterous “Cole was the Source of all; evil, and he went pretty well off the rails in the New Year. Of course I have to check on him, of course he has to explain himself otherwise he might turn evil again” 


Piper sighed  “Oh Phoebe” she said in the voice of someone explaining to a child “Cole is not your Cole any longer. You divorced him remember. He isn’t your husband. He isn’t the Source. He isn’t evil”


Phoebe looked more and more confused. “I know he’s not evil. I’m just making sure he does not go back that way” she said” Weren’t you the ones who said if he goes I go” and she smiled with the satisfaction of some one who had won an argument and had avoided explaining something she did not want to explain.


Piper knew Phoebe in this mood was beyond reason and gave up. Piper went into the kitchen to check on some casseroles she was making in case they did not have tome to prepare meals in the next few days. Paige opened her mouth to keep on arguing, but caught her sisters smug smile. For a second she clearly considered it would be a pleasure to slap Phoebe then satisfied herself by saying “You listen to me madam. If you want to go bitching around at Cole and arguing with him, you keep it between yourselves. Whatever he does for you, being woken up by Cole is not my idea of pleasure” and she stalked into the kitchen after Piper.


Phoebe guiltily swallowed.


“She really is screwing Cole around isn’t she” Paige said to Piper almost in despair” I’m feeling more and more sorry for him every day”


Piper shook her head  “Well Cole had better do something about it. He seems to be the only one who can get through to her in this mood”


Paige returned to the parlour and made Phoebe go to the attic to do some serious scrying while Piper called the baby sitter for Melinda. The woman was a witch but not very powerful. She understood magic enough not to be shocked at the goings on in the Halliwell household. She was unmarried in her forties and very, very shy. Piper had found Marly quite by accident when the Charmed Ones had been involved in protecting witch some not very powerful witches from some rogue warlocks who were out of Tempus’ control. When asked if she wanted to celebrate solstice with a coven Marly said that she was more than happy to celebrate as a sole practitioner.  She was rather overwhelmed at working for the Charmed Ones but the arrangement, aside from Phoebe being extremely uncomfortable with the hero worship, was working. The baby sitter said she would be happy to be there in the morning, or as soon as they wanted her.


The scrying told them of massive demon activity north of the city. Phoebe and Paige went to check it out. Piper called Leo and as a little surprised he did not answer but she knew this as a busy time for him and that the solstice was well on its way in some parts of the world and he would be busy. She called him several times in the next hour but he did not come.


Paige and Paige returned home and reported huge activities from a lower level sect but an all purpose demon be gone spell had frightened most off and the others they had dispatched with a fairly one side fight, then they returned home tired and sleepy.


Piper put Melinda to bed and went herself, She called Leo again before she went to bed and he did not answer which was unusual because he usually tried to let her know he was all right. But this was an unusual time of year. She slept fitfully always a little annoyed at the times she spent alone and woke at two to feed Melinda. She called Leo again but still no answer. She finished breast-feeding Melinda and put her daughter back to sleep and she checked her sisters.


Paige was asleep but when Piper went into Phoebe’s room Phoebe was lying awake staring at the ceiling. Piper sat down on the edge of the bed and said” Hi  sweetie.”


Phoebe looked as she sat on the bed


“What's wrong love?”  Piper said


Phoebe sighed “Have you ever thought about how big a double bed is”? She asked  “when you sleep in it alone “


“Often” Piper said “lately alot . I know Leo does his best” she said “You know we promised he would not let US get in the way of his work  But hell it gets lonely sometimes “ she said wistfully. ”Phoebe Is that why you were calling Cole” Piper asked. 


Phoebe nodded “I just feel so alone and so frightened of being alone. She smiled a little “And well there is an itch I so need to scratch it but I do have to talk to Cole about a few things before I, before both of us can move on” she looked a little teary” Piper I am tired of living in the past. I need a future.” 


Piper answered carefully “Cole could be a be a pretty dangerous scratch ” she said  “Are sure there is no other medicine?”


“I’ve been looking” Phoebe said ruefully “ But lately I’ve been thinking that has its own problems too. I keep wondering what if I meet some-one, not Cole, I mean and he was great but well the itch did not go away.”


Then Phoebe giggled “Apart from all the other stuff, have you any idea how great Cole was in bed?”


“ No” Piper answered dryly  “its not something I ever thought to find out from him“


Phoebe giggled again “Well he was fantastic” she said and then she took a deep breath  “Piper, would you understand if I said he was also safe “


Piper said, “What do you mean?”


Phoebe smiled a little wistfully and in the dark as the two sisters huddled close to whisper. Phoebe continued “I mean when everything was good, before it was shot to hell. He never judged, or made me feel, freaky, no matter what I wanted, and it was not the sex, it was having it with me, that mattered’


Phoebe whispered confidentially  “I tried to fake it with him once you know, I was tired and a bit PMT and he wanted to, but I could not get there. I wanted the sex but I just wanted comfort sex, you know but then I thought hell, he’ll think there was something wrong with him so I faked it. He knew straight away. I’m not sure how. I thought I was better than that but he was furious with me, not, for not getting there but for thinking he needed me to fake it to keep his ego going. He said being with me was enough.” Phoebe took he sister’s hands “I need to find some one who can make me feel like that again. Safe” but then she giggled nervously ” But then I think if I find someone like that he might think it was all I needed. Cole never thought that”


Piper gulped and Phoebe giggle again “ Actually” she said “I just meant to say sex with some one you love and trust is better” She looked at her sister hoping for understanding” If I ever get the chance of that again, I’m grabbing with both hands and never letting  go”


“I know honey” Piper said sympathetically. Then after a few seconds she said gently and as carefully as she could. “ Phoebe, Cole isn’t safe though, whether he is good or evil, human or demon he is the most dangerous being any of us have ever faced and nothing is going to change that”


Phoebe nodded through her tears “ I know how dangerous he really is, he just never was to me, at least until the end”


Piper nodded sympathetically and leant over to hug her sister but she could say no more. Both girls jumped as the phone rang. Phoebe who had an extension in her room reached out and took the call. She said yes in a tight voice and handed it to Piper.


Piper spoke for a few seconds and then said “Oui” and called Leo. He did not answer. “Okay “she said “Okay oui” into the phone. She turned toward Phoebe he face white.


“What’s wrong?” said Phoebe getting out of bed


Piper answered grimly “ That was Marie Claire in Toulouse? Another witch Leo looks after, I met her once. Leo is not answering her calls. She did not want to worry me but as its solstice…”. Phoebe started to get dressed and Piper went to wake Paige.


Paige jumped out of bed and ran to get dressed. Phoebe threw on clothes then with a quick conference they decide that Paige and Phoebe would orb to Toulouse and see Marie Claire while Piper organised the baby sitter.


Half an hour later Phoebe and Paige returned very worried because, there was no sign of Leo and no calling from any of them got his attention. Piper trying not to panic said to Paige to try and get up there to where she could contact the elders. Paige agreed when all of a sudden there was a flash and they turned and a rather odd shaped demon with a human from that was almost translucent green in the face, very skeletal and dressed in a black robe appeared behind them. Piper lifted her hand to blow it up when it gestured to stop and then with a skeletal smile that looked hideous said evilly “Stay away. Let us feast or it suffers and forever” and then in a burst of almost bilious green light it disappeared.


The girls looked at each other in horror and surprise.


“What was that?” Paige said in stunned voice Paige and Phoebe went upstairs to check the Book of Shadows and Piper went to check her daughter. Melinda was thankfully all right and with a coldness that belied her fear she slowly put into action the arrangements they had made for emergencies. She called the baby sitter and arranged to take Melinda there rather than stay in the manor, and pulled out the protection spell that would keep magic good and bad from working near the baby. Marly whose powers whose witchcraft was herbal lore, not magic was more than happy to have this arrangement.


Paige and Phoebe came back down carrying the Book of Shadows with a big picture of a being very like the skeletal green creature they had seen.


“What was it?” Piper asked.


“Soul sucker” Paige said reading from the Book. “Not much about them, a lower level cult, feeding off good magical souls. Something way off the usual evil radar. Don’t kill good magical souls just leave them as immortal zombies. Does not say just mortal souls, so if they have Leo he is in huge trouble, not to be killed by them but ….” she caught Piper’s distraught face and stopped.


Phoebe continued  “I’m guessing with so many witches gathering tomorrow they think if they can blackmail us into not protecting the witches by taking Leo”


“Why didn’t this happen in other years” Piper demanded


Paige and Piper exchanged looks. Phoebe said slowly, “because the Source obviously ordered them off but you know the new one isn’t strong and these guys are looking for a feast.”


The girl had a quick discussion. Phoebe would drive Melinda to Marly’s place because with the magic protection, she could not be orbed there. Piper said Paige should go up there to talk to the elders.


Paige bit her lip then as calmly as she could pointed out the Elders would not know how to get Leo back. “He’ll be in the underworld, that’s where they would hide him. We can’t find him there” then she sighed. “But we know some one who can don’t we?”


Piper with grim determination said  “We’ll meet you at Cole’s, Phoebe”


Phoebe nodded, not voicing her concern. But she could not help wondering about the wisdom of falling back on old habits of asking Cole when it got to hard for the Charmed Ones.  Wondering what it did to them, what it did to him.