When Cole stepped out of the shower, he heard the phone ring. He froze for a minute - Phoebe was the only one with his number - then dashed downstairs without even bothering to wrap a towel around himself. If he had been thinking, he would have realized that shimmering down would have been quicker, but he hadn’t been thinking straight since Phoebe had run of the other night.
It was amazing how, even after living as a demon for roughly a century, his human instincts sometimes took over. Later on he would realize that it had been a blessing in disguised, but when he heard the telltale click of the machine picking it up when he was only halfway downstairs, all he could do was curse.
After the message telling the caller to leave a message came on, the person on the other line didn’t speak, but Cole wasn’t surprised. If Phoebe had finally worked up the courage to call him, she had probably been scared off when she reached the machine. Cole had reached the phone and was just about to pick up and talk when he realized Phoebe was talking, but not into the phone.
“Hey Leo.” Her voice was distant, but Cole could recognize it instantly.
It was the whitelighter who answered. "Phoebe.”
Cole stood rooted to the spot as Phoebe asked, "What's up?"
"Nothing," Leo said quickly, then he repeated, though not very convincingly, "Nothing. See?"
"Okay,” Phoebe answered.
Finally Leo or Phoebe noticed that they hadn’t hung up the phone yet and the machine went dead. Cole stared for a few more seconds, then lunged at it and ripped the cord from the wall. For good measure he also threw a fireball at it, ruining both the machine and the telephone permanently.
There was no doubt about it. Leo knew.
“I can’t believe you, Phoebe!” Leo yelled. “How could you lie to us about something that important?”
“Well, what was I supposed to say?” Phoebe demanded. “That I hadn’t killed him and he was really still out there? What do you think Prue and Piper would have done then? They wouldn’t have rested until he was dead!”
“And they’d have a good reason for that, too!” Leo snapped. “Belthazor is a demon, Phoebe, and he tried to kill you.”
“Cole has changed,” Phoebe said, stressing his human name. “He’s not trying to kill us anymore.”
“And how can you be sure of that? For all you know, Belthazor is just biding his time, waiting for the right opportunity to kill you all.”
“He isn’t,” Phoebe said with passionate conviction.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Cole’s had plenty of opportunities to kill me, but he hasn’t. He hasn’t tried to do anything since he I pretended to vanquish him.”
Leo was still doubtful. “And what if he’s just waiting for an opportunity to get rid of all three of you together at once?”
“He’s not,” Phoebe declared.
“How do you know that?”
“I just do!” She was screaming now.
“You can’t!” Leo argued, also losing his temper.
“Wow.” Both Leo and Phoebe whirled around. They hadn’t heard Piper and Prue walk in. The latter continued, “I don’t think this is a scene I ever thought I’d see. What are you fighting about?”
The question hung in the air. Leo was unwilling to rat on Phoebe - or at least he was willing to give her the chance to come clean herself.
Piper looked from her boyfriend to her sister. “What’s going on you two?”
Setting his jaw, Leo said, “Phoebe has something to tell you.”
Both Piper and Prue turned to stare at their younger sister. “Phoebe?” Prue asked. “Honey, what is it?”
Phoebe bit her lip.
“Is something wrong?” Piper asked anxiously. She probably was afraid another demon had attacked.
“No,” Phoebe answered.
Leo cleared his throat meaningfully. Phoebe glared at him and repeated more firmly, “No.”
“I think you do,” Leo said.
“Phoebe?” Prue asked, looking between Leo and Phoebe and seeming confused. “What’s going on?”
No one answered. The silence dragged on. Phoebe wouldn’t look anyone in the eye.
“Leo?” Piper’s voice had a slightly hysterical edge to it. “What’s wrong? What aren’t you telling us?”
Leo looked at Phoebe, still wanting her to be the one to tell her sisters. She didn’t move. Finally, the whitelighter spoke. “Belthazor’s alive.”
He hadn’t even finished the sentence when Phoebe took off. Before either Prue or Piper could even digest the words, she had run out of the house and slammed the door behind her.
She had been doing entirely too much running these last few days.
Phoebe stood in front of the door to Cole’s house. She had been standing there for five minutes, but she still hadn’t worked up the courage to ring the doorbell. Earlier she had tried to phone him, but after twenty-three rings, desperately counting each one, she had given up. Remembering their fight from the other night, she wondered what Cole would do if he saw her. He obviously was still upset; why else wouldn’t he be answering the phone.
Finally, knowing she had nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to, she took a deep breath, closed her eyes and rung the doorbell. She tried to wait patiently, but there weren’t even any windows for her to peek in and see if he was coming. She managed to count to one hundred before ringing it again. Still there was no answer.
She tried the knob and was surprised to find it open. “Hello?” she called out to the empty house, cautiously going inside. “Anybody home? Cole?”
There was no answer. She turned around to close the door and jumped when she saw Cole standing there.
“God,” she said, breathing heavily. She pressed her right hand against her racing heart. “You scared me. What are you doing, lurking behind the door?”
Cole ignored her question and asked one of his own. “What are you doing here, Phoebe?”
“I came to see you. Why didn’t you answer the door?”
“What are you doing here?” Cole repeated, a little more forcefully.
Phoebe faltered. “I came to see you,” she said, but she didn’t even sound convincing to herself. She didn’t want to think about how she sounded to Cole.
“Why?” Cole asked harshly.
“I wanted to see you,” Phoebe said in a small voice.
“Is that the only reason?” Cole asked.
Instead of answering him, she exclaimed, “What’s wrong, Cole? Why are you acting like this?”
“Leo knows, Phoebe.”
Phoebe’s eyes widened. “How do you know that? Were you spying on us?”
Cole shook his head in exasperation and motioned to the other room. Phoebe looked and saw the remains of his telephone, charred, on the table. “He phoned.”
“You talked to him?” Phoebe asked, shocked. She hadn’t realized Leo had already known as a fact that Cole was alive when he had confronted her.
“Not quite,” Cole said. “He phoned, but got the machine.”
“And you decided to fry it?” Phoebe asked.
“Pretty much. So why are you here?”
“I came to tell you that Leo knew,” Phoebe admitted. “But I guess you already know that.”
“I guess I did,” Cole answered harshly. “Why else are you here.”
Startled at the anger in his voice, Phoebe quickly said, “Nothing.”
Cole didn’t look like he believed her. “And just when are your sisters coming?”
Wondering where that comment had come from, Phoebe asked, “What? What are you talking about?”
To her amazement, Cole laughed. It came out as a rough bark and wasn’t at all pleasant to hear. “You didn’t even realize, did you?” he asked. It was a rhetorical question. “Your sisters can track you, are probably tracking you right now. I expect them to show up any minute now.”
Phoebe’s mouth dropped open and she looked at Cole with genuine shock. She had never thought of that, but now that he had brought it up, it would be just like here sisters to track her down. “I didn’t - I - I didn’t,” Phoebe stammered.
Just then, the screech of a car pulling up the driveway could be heard.
Cole smiled grimly. “Just on time,” he said. He began to shimmer away.
“Wait! Cole!” At the last possible second, Phoebe grabbed onto Cole’s arm and shimmered away with him.
Prue, Piper and Leo burst in to the empty house a minute later.
Shimmering was just as nauseating as it had been the first time, even though Phoebe was prepared for it this time. When they arrived at their destination, she felt her knees go out and would have fallen, except for that Cole caught her. He let go of her again quickly, but not before he saw that she was steady on her feet.
Phoebe looked around. They were in the mausoleum where she had pretended to vanquish him almost a month earlier.
“Why’d you do that Phoebe?” The anger had finally left Cole’s voice and resignation was the only thing left.
Phoebe felt some of Cole’s earlier fury seep into her. “I wasn’t going to let you just run away like that.”
“Why?” Cole asked sarcastically. Apparently the fight hadn’t completely left him after all. “I’m sure if you give them the time your sisters could track us down here, too.”
“That’s not what I meant,” snapped Phoebe.
“Then what did you mean, Phoebe?”
“You can’t just keep running away like this, running away from me,” she said.
“Oh, that’s rich, coming from you,” Cole said. “Weren’t you the one who ran away from me the other night?”
Phoebe shifted uncomfortably, remembering. “That was different,” she said. “I was upset.”
“Oh,” Cole said, unforgiving. “You were upset. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that.”
“Will you stop being such an asshole?” Phoebe asked in frustration. “I’m trying to apologize here, and you aren’t making it any easier.”
Cole was rendered speechless. “You . . . what?” he managed to get out at last.
“I’m apologizing - or at least I’m trying to. I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of it,” Phoebe said. “Why? What did you think I was doing?”
Cole shook his head quickly. “Nothing. It doesn’t matter.”
She didn’t bother trying to figure out what he meant by that. “Look Cole, I’m sorry,” Phoebe began. “I’m sorry I ran away like that. I shouldn’t have.”
“You had a rude awakening.” His voice was understanding and Phoebe knew that she had been forgiven. “Phoebe, I’m - I’m sorry too. For acting like such an asshole earlier.” He grinned at her. It was small and uneasy, but it was real.
Phoebe smiled back, a little unsure of herself as well. “If you can forgive me for running away, then I can forgive you for being upset about it,” she said.
“And what about your sisters?”
Grimacing, Phoebe said, “Leave my sisters to me.”
“Are you sure?”
Phoebe nodded. “I can handle them.”
“We can’t stay here much longer,” Cole told her. “They tracked you to my house, they can track you here.”
Knowing that he was right, Phoebe looked down at her feet. “Will you - can I phone you later?”
“No.” Not expecting that answer, Phoebe looked up in shock. Cole explained. “It’s too risky now that people know I’m there.”
Phoebe almost said not to worry, that it was just her sisters, but she bit her lip at the last moment.
Continuing, Cole said, “If you need to talk to me, come and wait for me here. But come alone, or I won’t show up.”
Feeling a little betrayed that Cole would think such things of her, again Phoebe almost said something and again stopped herself before the words came out. She deserved that. When she did speak, her voice sounded small. “Maybe you should take me back to the manor.”
Cole nodded and took her by the arm and together they shimmered. The more practice she got, the more Phoebe enjoyed the sensation. It was mere seconds before the front hall of her house came into sight. Her sisters and Leo weren’t home yet.
Letting go of her, Cole took a step back and was about to shimmer away again when Phoebe stopped him.
“Wait,” she said.
He looked at her expectantly.
Hesitating only for a moment, Phoebe made up her mind. She quickly ran to him, and before she could change her mind, kissed him, and whispered, “Be careful.”
At first stunned, Cole recovered quickly. He nodded grimly and left.
Phoebe sat back and waited for her sisters to arrive.
Tuesday, December 25, 2001