To know Phoebe is to...


Part 1:Better to have loved and lost


Chapter 7


It was five in the morning and Cole was actually asleep. Sleep was not something that came to him all that easily after a lifetime, a very long lifetime of denying it, and over the six months since Phoebe had stopped him, since he had stopped himself, falling into evil, he had learnt much about living as a human and one of the things that he learnt was unlike demons they did not function very well without sleep. Magical creatures like him could exist without it but he sometimes he wondered if some of the recent into madness had been because he deprived     the human side of his nature.


On this Friday night he had not felt like working. He had a few drinks with his colleagues at the law firm but felt very much an outsider so he left and wandered around the harbour watching the ships go under the bridge, even walking out across the bridge to feel the sea then he returned to his apartment. He sat in one of the chairs in the living room and read a long book because Cole hated being alone in the bedroom. It was one of the books that Phoebe told him she loved, one by Jane Austin. Previously he had always been put off by Phoebe’s taste in literature but these days it brought him closer to her. He also secretly enjoyed the book but he was prepared to tell Phoebe how to vanquish him before he would admit it to her.


He read for a couple of hours and surprisingly even though he got lost in the book, started to feel healthily, sleepy. Sober but very tired about two in the morning he staggered into the bedroom, stripped off his clothes and left them distributed around the very untidy bedroom and fell onto the bed asleep.


He woke in confusion just after five, with dawn light coming through the window and the noise of the elevator buzzer being pressed urgently. Cole woke up enough to lean over to the buzzer beside the bed and press it  “Yeah” he said.


“Cole” Piper said urgently “We have to come up. Now” she said when he hesitated.


“Who’s we” he said sleepily


“Paige and me” said Piper urgently “Cole?” she demanded.


“Okay, okay” he said and punched the code in “Come on up” he muttered into the speaker. He caught Piper’s angry sigh.


He staggered around the bedroom finding pants that were left on the floor and new underwear in a drawer and as he hear the elevator door ring, he went to come out of the room, then turned and found the shirt he had worn to work in a crumbled heap and thought as it was Piper he had better put it on.


He went out of the room still tucking his shirt in and caught Paige purse her lips  “What do you want? “ he snarled.


“How come, I couldn’t orb in” Paige demanded.


“Because I put a block on anyone else’s magic materialising here” Cole answered in a voice that was barely reasonable.  “What do you want?”


“We need your help “Piper said in a voice that was something only marginally less than a demand


“Phoebe” breathed Cole, ready for action  “Where is she?”


“She‘s dropping Melinda off at the babysitters” Piper answered  “Leo, Cole”  Piper said and this time her voice wavered  ”We think demons have him in the underworld”


Cole hesitated for a second and then softened. Gently he asked, “What happened?”


Piper quickly told him about the soul sucker, leeches taking Leo. Cole’s expression turned grim.


“They should not have taken Leo to the underworld. It’s against all demonic law to kidnap innocents and drag them to the underground like warlocks stealing powers from demons. Punishable by death.


Paige eyed him. Phoebe told me that’s what you did to that detective” she said.


“I was bad” he said unrepentantly “I’ll see what I can find out “he said and went to shimmer then came back.


 “Shoes” he answered as the girl’s looked at him quizzically. He went into the bedroom and found a pair surprisingly easily. Piper and Paige who were used to Cole being more organised, exchanged a glance.


“Can I let Phoebe in while you’re gone?” Paige asked.


Cole nodded and went to shimmer. Paige caught his arm. “What's the code Cole?” she asked.


Cole was genuinely embarrassed. “Phoebe’s birthday” he mumbled. “Numbers” and shimmered out so he did not have to see their reaction.


He had not been in the underworld for three months and then it was only been quickly. A part of him was hoping that Leo was in the underworld because if he wasn’t Cole could not, would not, must not help the Charmed Ones, and he was not looking forward to telling them, to telling Phoebe that. He found his way to the Source’s new headquarters. Tempus, no fool had not left anything the way it was when the Charmed Ones had destroyed the Source and the upper levels of the underworld. He noted a few things. One was that there were blocks on good magic. Orbing down would have been very dangerous. He reminded himself that he should warn Paige. Cole did not risk going close enough to see Tempus but he did get to a meeting chamber. Cole mused to himself that if it weren’t for running meetings, where factions fought and enemies could slip in and overhear plans, evil would have long since taken over the realm.


It did not take him very long to discover that Tempus hold over the underworld was very limited, that many of the demon cults and underground groups of warlocks were acting independently and in competition and without focus and cohesion. The soul suckers operation was not “official” but Tempus was operating on the principle of letting opposition and rogue groups do as much damage as they could and then fight each other. In time he would finish off the remaining ones. And that meant letting them break every law of the underworld including kidnapping innocents to the dark world. Leo was definitely somewhere in the underworld. And Cole guiltily felt some relief. He did not have to face Phoebe and her sisters and refuse to help them. Cole smiled softly to himself and thought of something he foun in all the reading he had doing to fill time “Chaos is the law of nature.” It certainly was in the underworld”


He shimmered back to the apartment. Piper was anxiously pacing up and down while Paige sat nervously on the edge of the sofa. Phoebe was standing at the balcony window staring out at the view of across the harbour. She knew that view well. It seemed to be there for every ache she had in her heart.


She was almost immediately aware of Cole coming back and turned to face him. She had time to compose her expression but the sight of him, the first time in more than 3 months made her heart leap. He looked dishevelled, he needed a shave, his hair was uncombed and longer than it had been. He was wearing a crumbled blue shirt that had 4 buttons undone so that the hair on his chest showed, and blue grey trousers that badly needed pressing, the shirt was not tucked in properly. He took her breath away.


He had a about a second to compose himself and managed to give her a wry smile that did not reach his eyes. But inwardly his whole body tensed with the ache. She was plumper than she had been when he last saw, and the slightly fuller figure suited her, her breasts were fuller and jutted a under a sweater and a the fuller hips were displayed under rather tight stretch jeans. Her hair was longer and had blond streaks in the dark colour. Somehow or other she reminded him of the Phoebe he had fallen in love with. Her large brown eyes weren’t smiling and she looked very, very worried. With an effort Cole pulled himself away from looking at her and turned to Piper.


 “Well “Piper said anxiously


Cole sucked his lips together then answered “Good news and bad  it isn’t the new source Tempus, just a cult group. Lots of them seem to be operating at the moment. Tempus is choosing to let them. Does not want to risk losing a battle with them”


“We know about the cults “ Piper snapped, “Where’s Leo?. Can you find him?“


“I don’t now” Cole answered “This group is operating out of someplace along way from Tempus. The underworld is riddled with pockets. Could be anywhere.” 


Piper started to yell “Cole” she demanded.


“I’ll do what I can Piper” he said. He turned to Paige “You’ve been able to sense him before. Can you do it again?”


“I can’t sense him at the moment” Paige said "I tried that is why we are sure he's down below and unless they have a dark lighter still; alive “


 Cole shook his head “Doubt they have a darklighter. Leeches don’t work well with dark lighters” he said cryptically “Come down with me” he said to Paige


” I’ll orb” Paige said hastily.


 “You can’t” he said and explained.


He stood facing Paige but eyeing Phoebe as she went to Piper and put her arms around her. As she turned her back on him, Cole noticed the Jane Austin book on the chair, so quietly he slide over and jammed it behind a cushion and looked up to see Paige watching him. She glared at him he sighed and held out his hand. Paige took it and he shimmed her down to the underworld. Paige felt nervous and the air of evil seemed to weigh her down.  


“Why is it worse than before?” she said to Cole who had to hold her


“Evil out of control” he whispered.


They tried a few spots and then a long way from San Francisco Paige was finally able to get a glimmer .She turned to Cole “I can’t locate him but he’s a long way from here. In that direction” she said pointing at stone, “In pain but still complete”


Cole nodded. He held out his hand and he and Paige shimmered back to the apartment. She immediately dropped her hand from him and told an anxious Piper what had happened 


Piper was brief in her reply. When she was frightened she was always sharp “Okay how do we find him?”


She said getting angry. She pointed at Cole accusingly “He can’t find Leo, you can barely sense him.”  But her face was drawn and colourless, and she was wringing her hands in tension.


Phoebe looked at Cole and spoke to him for the first time  “Maybe I can get a premonition down there” she said not taking her eyes of Cole’s face. He sighed and looked away and missed the quick flash of longing.


“We’ll do all we can Piper” he promised


“Everything” Phoebe said and held her hand out to Cole. He gingerly touched her fingers.


“I’ll have to go to the manor and get something of Leo’s” she said not looking at Cole. He nodded and shimmered them off.


Phoebe gulped mid shimmer because she had forgotten that unlike orbing the demonic movement involved total absorption of the person or object touched and she shuddered as she felt Cole totally surround and absorb her body.  She had once loved that feeling of being lost in him. He brought them out of the shimmer in Piper and Leo’s bedroom and immediately dropped her hand as if it burnt him. She snatched it back.


She moved over to Piper and Leo’s dresser and smiled a little wryly to find that the dresser was covered with Piper’s things. In the laundry basket she found an unwashed shirt of Leo’s and picked it up.


“I hope this will do” she said a lite awkwardly to Cole who was almost cringing back against the bedroom door in order to put as much available space between them. She held out her hand and he touched her fingers. Throughout the shimmer she tried very hard not to be totally sensually aware that Cole had absorbed her body, but the sheer velocity of the evil as they went through the underworld actually overwhelmed her senses and as they came out of the shimmer she found herself clutching on to his shirt just to with stand the pressure.  Cole dropped his hand and Phoebe dropped her hold as if his body burnt her. She glance sideways at him under her lashes and was frightened by the grimness of his expression.


Cole had brought them out in a dark caverned space where the only light seemed to come from a grim green glow on the walls. She whispered to Cole “ Is this place safe?”


“Trust me” he said and she was confused as to whether he was being sarcastic or reassuring her or both.


Taking a deep breath, because the air on the underworld made her ill she held Leo's shirt against her and then willed and forced a premonition and it was horrific. It was a cavern with a stone of green and ochre colours, cold forbidding and she saw green translucent, demons swarming over Leo touching, evil sucking away his magic ands the whole force of his soul. She noted the place, the cold, nauseating light. Why was the green and ochre light so ugly,? She felt the damp, different to the rest of the underworld, she felt the feeding frenzy of those demons and she noted the feeling of lateness and time moving slowly pulling away from her.


She gasped and staggered back as Cole caught her and jumped as her body went on fire from his touch. He dropped her like hot coal.  “Got something” he said


She told him what she had seen in a tight little voice that cut him into pieces


When he sighed she forgot the tension between them and asked concerned. “Anything there that can help you find Leo?”


“I have an idea nearly where he is being held and when that premonition happened “Cole said” I know where and when that ochre, green light happens but what you told me is but enough to go and get him.” He caught the hurt and disappointment in her eyes


She spun on him “ You’re supposed to be unvanquishable. What’s your problem?” she hissed at him


With more patience than he felt eh said quietly “Its not whether I can be vanquished. Its whether I can get in their close enough to Leo and get him out before they swarm on him and suck his soul out” Cole reached for her hand without being aware of it. “Phoebe, I’ll do my best and my best includes not letting Leo end up a soulless zombie”. He went to let her hand go when he realised he had taken it but she held on. He looked down at her with the special smile he saved for her and said with more determination than she had believed he felt  “I’ll get him back Phoebe.


He clasped her hand a little more tightly and shimmered them away. Phoebe knew Cole was doing his best not to connect and it left her feeling a sadness and rejection she never thought she would feel.


They arrived back at the apartment maybe 15 minutes in that time span after they had left. It was close to 6 am and Piper and Paige were both together sitting huddled on the sofa. Piper jumped up as Cole and Phoebe appeared and demanded” Well?”


Phoebe moved to sooth her and Cole smiled a little. He recognised Piper’s bitchiness was a cover for pain.  Phoebe explained the premonition and Piper concerned said “What does it mean. We just let Leo get hurt, without doing anything.


“It hasn’t happened yet Piper “ Phoebe answered


“How do you know that” Piper demanded.


“She doesn’t, I do Piper “ Cole said as patiently as he could


Cole met Phoebe’s eyes over the top of her sister's head. “I know fairly well where they are but not close enough to locate Leo exactly, but that premonition was not until, later much later. There is no day or night in the underworld but ther eis a time of transition and that ochre light is the transition, about 10 hours from now” Cole said “I ‘m guessing What Phoebe saw was what happens when you refuse to pay the ransom, when you don’t back away from protecting witches in solstice and the soul suckers go back to exact vengeance, and suck Leo’s soul out.”


“You can’t let that happen” Piper snarled


“Well I am going to do my best not to let that happen” Cole snapped and met Phoebe’s eyes again


“I know” she mouthed he smiled a little


There was an awkward silence between all four, when Paige decided that this was not the time to deal with issues. Leo’s problems were far more pressing. She said “Okay Cole what do you want to do what can we do””


‘What are we going to do” bit out Piper ”Cole is going to shimmer us down there and we are going to get him out, that’s what we are going to do”


“No “Cole said very quietly “ We aren’t going to do that”


All thee girls stood to face him. “How many time had that happened” Cole thought to himself. “Fighting all the way.”


He took a breath  “You are going to do what you had to do for solstice to protect those who need protecting. Do what you have to do. when the leeches go back for Leo I follow them and get him. I know where they are going; they won’t lose me in the move


Piper looked at Cole and gaped “If you know where he is why don’t you go down there and just get him” she demanded hurt, aching in pain and Cole, felt it, every last aching pain, understanding the loss of some one you loved; being forced to make choices that hurt them so badly they maynever recover.


He turned away from the venomous stares the three witches were giving him to look over the harbour view which was now bright light. He took a deep breath and then turned back


“Because Piper” he said as gently as he could “There has been enough breaking of the rules. You are not going to the underworld to start blasting away at demons in their own territory. They don’t go up there and you don’t go down. “


Piper started to open her mouth to yell at Cole and he said softly “Piper shut up” and thought of all the times he wanted to say that to her and would have enjoyed it. “And “ he continued, “You wouldn’t be of any use. You all have good magic souls. They would just swarm you, and all you would do is put yourself at risk and not save Leo. And “ he added pointedly” You would make me chose who I can save and you know who that would be “ and he looked at Phoebe who glared.


“Don’t even think it “ she said


“Wouldn’t be anything to do with you honey” Cole said “my choice not yours” Then as she looked ready to explode” But you’re not going down there so it isn’t going to happen”


“Then you just go down and get him. You’re unvanquishable. You can take the demons out” Paige said 


Cole shook his head” If I go in there blasting demons away, they will swarm Leo and suck the life out of him.  Before I can get to him and secondly” he said very slowly “because I no longer have the self defence, defence. I can’t go in there and kill every creature in my way and claim it ‘s to protect my life, because they can’t kill me. Hell I could be blasting some bloody demon that is on the verge of crossing into good, I don’t know if any are, do you?”


Piper stared at Cole who crossed his arms and challenged her with the stance of his body. Numerous emotions crossed Piper’s face until the one Cole least expected which was that she crumpled into tears. “You have no idea what it is like to be so frightened of losing some one you love” she said to Cole and he then with a glance at Phoebe who lowered her eyes, Cole said “I’ll get him back Piper.”


“He’s right Piper” Paige said in the voice of someone who hated herself for saying it. Phoebe said nothing but kept her eyes on Cole’s face until he looked away.


The girls, with Piper summoning her courage arranged to go to the solstice festival.. Cole shimmered after them and had plenty of opportunity to consider what he was about to do. He knew he was very close to crossing the line where he should not interfere and if he did anything that was not involved in rescuing Leo he would. He also knew the risk he was taking to himself. Because those demons smelt good magic souls and when they smelt as powerful a soul as Cole’s in the underworld, he was gambling that the demonic origin of his powers would confuse the swarm long enough to stop them swarming Leo. He also swallowed a bitter hurt that none of the witches had questioned whether his soul was at risk


Cole spent the day watching the girls and several other witches at various times and in various ways battle the soul sucking demons, who attached their sucker right near the heart at the close point of the aura. They sucked on the aura and took the magic and spirit from the soul, leaving a soulless zombie in their place. The soul suckers appeared to have won the battle for the rights to attack in San Francisco on this Solstice. They were attracted to magic human by scent almost and once hanging on were extremely difficult to get to let go, because if they left their tentacles in, it took very powerful good magic to heal.


They also fought in a way that always repelled Cole. They sent in their weaker soldier demons to fight and distract and be vanquished while the more powerful of the swarm hung back waiting until the victim was distracted by the swarming lower level demons then they stuck their leech sucker s in and fed and became powerful, while the soldiers who survived were lucky if they got a taste.


Cole watched the girls efficiently dispatched the soldier resisting the impulse to protect when it wasn’t necessary. After failing to feast all day it took quite a few minutes of this fight before the upper level more powerful members of the swarm realised that the Charmed ones were fighting. They were standing back in human form, watching the ceremony and suddenly one almost erupted as it realised the flashes and bangs that looked part of the ceremony were the Charmed ones were getting rid of soldiers. It took, off to fast for Cole to catch it but when a second one left, he was able to track it straight away and he followed it to a strange fluorescent green cavern where it was almost impossible to tell which were demons and what was walls until the wall began to shake and he realised it was the demons swarming Leo.


The soldiers sniffed Cole immediately and spun toward him. It was a crazy swarm like bees or insects beating at him but the size of the swarm protected Cole and no upper level sucker demon was able to get hold of him. And the swarm left Leo free of all but a few high ranked demons which had attached themselves to Leo. Cole felt himself stung but the demons seemed confused at the demonic power and nothing attached to him. He was able to shimmer from the swarm to Leo where he zapped the demon attached to the whitelighter. He decided that was a handy power he had acquired recently, and fireballed two more before reaching Leo touching him and shimmering out.


Leo tried to gasp something which Cole was unable to understand but Leo seemed pissed. Leo was in a bad way. The demon had got suckers into his aura and he needed some very powerful whitelighter power to heal him, or his soul would slowly ebb away through the injury. Cole shimmered Leo to the manor left him there and shimmered to the girls to find Paige. It hurt to shimmer. The bites he had taken from the soul suckers were starting to effect him, and as it was his soul that was effected not his body, all his healing powers did not work.


The swarms had got the Charmed Ones away from the other witches and the soul suckers had decided to to swarm to the largest power. Paige was surrounded and Piper was not keeping up with the number attacking her. Phoebe was on her own because it was obvious they were looking for her more powerful sister. The swarm stopped as Cole shimmered in and they felt for the powerful magic. Cole managed to quickly protect himself from the worst of the swarm who fortunately were low ranked soldiers while Phoebe and Piper wiped the others off Paige. Those demons left must have felt leaderless and outnumbered because they all disappeared in quick green light flashes. Cole glanced around, people were walking in the park, games were going on and no one noticed a full demon attack on a public park. Cole caught Phoebe glancing around just as nervously.. “San Francisco” she mouthed as passer by’s paid no attention. Cole, raised his eyebrows. Just for an instant both forgot the past year.


Cole moved to where Piper was leaning over her sister. She looked up to him to ask ”Leo? “


“Not good “he answered, “he’s out but he has some suckers in him. He needs an elders or a powerful whitelighter to get it out. I was coming to get Paige here to orb him up there”.


Paige weakly nodded but she was not able to do anything, even move


“Can you feel any talons, or claws or suckers in you” Piper anxiously asked.


“No “Paige whispered weakly “ just stung – a lot. This feels worse than the bats.”


“Cole, Leo?” Piper demanded her voice hoarse. “He needs to get up there. Paige can’t help”


Phoebe hovering over Paige put out her hand and touched Cole and his body felt on fire” Can you get Leo up there?”


“You’re joking” Cole said “ You’re not joking” he answered himself as he saw Phoebe annoyed face 


“You can try” she ordered him.” Leo could go down, you can go up. What’s with the not trying.” She glared at him Phoebe of old pushing at him making him do what she wanted him to try.


“Phoebe he said we’re talking about up there, elders, I’m you know what I am“


“I thought you weren’t evil, Why can’t you go up ther”’ she said bitterly” What are you?”


Cole shrugged helplessly then he caught Piper‘s tear stained face and he gave up and shimmed out.


Back to the manor where Leo was lying in the sofa almost comatose, Cole took a deep breath, took some paper wrote a very clear note saying the Charmed Ones needed a white lighter and Leo had sucker demons talons in his soul and stuck it in Leo’s shirt pocket. Then Cole took a deep breath as if he were about to dive into very deep water without an air supply, firmly grasped Leo’s shoulders and shimmered.


It was agony, for Cole. It was like swimming with his lungs bursting for air and feeling he would never find any. He was drowning on the feel of it and it took all his efforts to drag himself through the barriers and finally he emerged on the edge of up there, where he was still gasping as he materialised and found the air seemed so light it barely filed his lungs. He gasped and gasped as he tried to take enough in and then slowly looked up to see the emerging forms of ghostly elders and white lighter’s closing toward him. He slowly said choking to get the words out. “He needs help and lowered Leo to the ground.”