Takes place after Coyote Piper. Minor spoilers for it. Also a sequel to my own story, Guilt.
Phoebe was running through the campus parking lot when her cell phone ran. "Prue?" she asked, answering it. "I'm so sorry I'm late. I was in the library - the real library this time - and I completely lost track of time. I'm on my way home right now."
There was a pause, then the person on the other end chuckled. It was a deep, definitely masculine laugh. "And here I thought you were the psychic one."
A smile spread across Phoebe's face. "Cole," she said.
"What's this about a real library?" he asked.
"Umm . . . " she hesitated. She didn't exactly want to keep fact she had been looking into his background a secret, but it also wasn't something she thought would be prudent to discuss over the phone. That was a face-to-face conversation if there ever was one. "Nothing," she finally said. "It doesn't matter."
Cole was willing to drop the subject. "I told you I'd call," he said.
"Yeah, you did," agreed Phoebe.
"Are you free?"
"Yeah. Well," Phoebe amended, at last reaching Prue's car, "I will be as soon as I return Prue's car. I was kinda supposed to be home twenty minutes ago."
"How 'bout I pick you up, then," Cole suggested.
"Sure," Phoebe said. "When?"
"I'll call you back in half an hour, okay?"
Phoebe thought about it. "Prue should be in enough of a hurry that she'll save the yelling at me until after she gets back," she mused, "so that sounds fine to me."
"I'll see you soon, then," Cole said.
"Bye." Phoebe hung up the phone then made the drive back to her house in record time.
Just like she thought, all Prue really had a chance to do was demand why she had been late before rushing off for her appointment.
As the eldest Halliwell witch walked out the door, Phoebe thought she heard her mutter something about hoping there was at least gas in the tank for once. Phoebe decided it would be best to ignore it.
Her sisters had finally realized all she needed was a little time and space and were finally requesting Phoebe's need for privacy. They had stopped tiptoeing around Phoebe about a week ago, much to her relief and in the last few days especially, had things had started to go back to normal. Prue wasn't curbing in the anger that only Phoebe seemed to bring out in her, at least.
They had also called Phoebe out on avoiding them, which had been the first time since the whole Cole/Belthazor mess that they'd had a confrontation with her, even though normally that couldn't be called a confrontation, it was a step.
There was no time for her to be pondering her relationship with her sisters. Phoebe made a beeline for her room so she could get ready for her ate with Cole.
"No," she chided herself. "Not a date, not a date."
"What's not a date?"
Phoebe hadn't even noticed Leo standing there, she was that distracted. He seemed to be looking at her with faint suspicion in his eyes, but Phoebe was too startled to really notice.
"Uhh," she said, her mind racing to find a suitable lie. "Nothing. Just talking to myself."
"But what was that about a date?" the whitelighter pressed. "Are you going out?"
"No. Well, yes. But not a date. It's just this term paper I have. I couldn't remember when it was due. But I'm going back out to work on it."
"I see." Leo was working hard to keep his face a blank slate, which worried Phoebe. She couldn't figure out what he was thinking, whether he had bought the story. Luckily, she found it hard to concentrate at home, so going out to write her papers wasn't unusual behaviour for her.
Leo stood there a minute longer than was necessary, regarding the youngest Halliwell sister. Then he abruptly left, not saying another word.
A few days ago, just outside of P3, Phoebe had let it slip that Cole was still alive. Well, not so much slipped as chickened out of her decision to let him, and her sisters, know what had really happened the night Belthazor had been 'vanquished.' Although she had covered up quickly, Phoebe didn't think Leo was buying the "for me" bit. At least he hadn't told Piper or Prue. That was a plus.
Phoebe sighed and, pushing all thoughts of Leo out of her head, got ready for her date - not date - with Cole.
Cole phoned exactly when he said he would. They arranged a place to meet and Phoebe managed to sneak out of the house without running into either Piper or Leo.
"You look nice," Cole commented. He had, once again, been waiting off the path so that he was partially hidden.
"Is this going to be happening a lot?" Phoebe asked. "I mean, are you going to turn into Angel, always lurking in the shadows?"
"What?" Cole asked, looking confused.
"Angel. You know, from Buffy." Cole didn't look like he had the slightest clue what she was talking about. "As in the tv show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel is a vampire who is always hiding and staying in the shadows. You know, your tv IQ is appallingly lacking."
"I'll see what I can do to remedy that," Cole deadpanned. "But I don't think I should parade around in full sight of everyone."
"No one's come - " Phoebe asked, suddenly panicking.
Cole shook his head, anticipating the question. "I haven't seen hid not tail of a demon since Krell. I just don't want to risk someone recognizing me."
"Probably a good idea," Phoebe said glumly. She suddenly had a vision of the two of them always sneaking around, always hiding, and it depressed her.
Cole seemed to know what she was thinking, because he wrapped his arms around her and said, "Don't worry, Phoebe. This won't last forever. I just have to lay low for a little while until what happened isn't such hot news."
"But even then, all it takes is one demon to see you, and we're right back to square one," Phoebe pessimistically said.
"Not so. Few demons actually know what my human form looks lie. And those that do . . . " he trailed off. "Just give it a few more weeks."
"My sisters would recognize you. So would Leo, or Darryl, or -" Cole pressed a finger to her lips.
"We'll worry about that if it happens. Call me selfish, but I don't get to spend much time with you. I'd like it if I could actually spend time with you, instead of discussing endless what-ifs."
"You're right," Phoebe agreed. She smiled coyly at him. "Though Cole suits you much better than selfish." She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
"See?" Cole murmured. "Isn't this nicer?"
They continued kissing for quite some time until a few teenage titers and a catcall of "Get a room!" made them remember they were in a public place. They broke off, Phoebe bushing uncontrollably, while Cole was only somewhat successfully trying to hide a grin. There was a group of junior high students who seemed to have enjoyed the show.
"Maybe we should go somewhere a little more private," Phoebe suggested.
"You don't like an audience?" Cole asked, nibbling on her ear. She jerked away, embarrassed. The kids were still watching.
Cole laughed. "Actually, I was kinda hoping we could go see a movie, or something."
"Ah. That infamous 'dating' thing that people are always talking about. I've always wondered what that was like."
An emotion Phoebe couldn't identify briefly flitted across Cole's face. "We haven't really had a chance to do anything normal for awhile, have we?"
"What's normal?" Phoebe asked, trying to keep her voice light.
"I mean, I'm a witch, you're half-demon. We're not exactly spokespeople for
"No. But how 'bout, just for tonight, we forget all about that. We can pretend we're normal, go on a normal date. What do you say? Dinner and a movie?"
They argued for ten minutes over what movie to see and ended up not watching it anyway. At least, after they left he theatre, neither of them could say what the movie was about.
"I feel like a teenager again," remarked Phoebe. "I haven't
done that in years."
Cole smiled. "Any ideas for dinner? Italian sound good?"
Phoebe's face fell. "I'm not sure dinner's such a good idea," she said.
"Why not?" Cole frowned slightly.
"It's getting late," Phoebe said.
Cole looked at her as if she had sprouted wings. "Late?" he questioned. "It's barely seven. Since when is that late?"
"Since my sisters think I'm at the library, which closed at six," Phoebe explained.
"Oh. I see." Phoebe thought she could hear a hint of disappointment in his voice, but wasn't sure. Cole was very good at hiding his emotions from her most of the time.
A tiny little voice in the back of her head reminded her that's how he managed to trick her for two months, hiding the fact that he was the demon trying to kill her and her sisters. Phoebe firmly pushed that niggling thought aside. Now was not the time for that. They were trying to be a normal couple tonight.
"I'll call, see what I can do," she compromised. The smile Cole gave her was worth the effort it would take to think an excuse her sisters would buy.
They went outside because it was too crowded and noisy in the movie theatre to use a cellphone. Phoebe dialed the house, but got the answering machine. "Hey, it's me," she said, leaving a message. "I'm out, uhh, obviously. You're probably at P3. I probably won't be home for a few hours, but I have my cellphone if something comes up. Umm . . . that's all. I guess I'll have up now." She laughed nervously and clicked the end button on her phone.
"Machine?" Cole asked.
"Yeah," Phoebe answered. "Prue and Piper are probably over at the club."
"Then that means we're on for dinner." Cole's voice rose a tiny bit at the end, making Phoebe wonder if he meant that as a question.
"Good." Cole smiled. "So that leads me back to my original question. Where exactly do you want to go?"
A few hours later, after dinner at a rather nice Italian restaurant, Cole drove Phoebe home. Again, he stopped a few blocks away. Although Prue and Piper were probably still out, there was no sense in taking an unnecessary risk. Cole did, however, get out of his car so he could give Phoebe a good night kiss.
"You don't always have to wait so long between calls, you know," Phoebe commented.
Cole had the decency to look guilty. "I'm sorry about that. But I am trying to stay low. And as much as I hate it, spending all your time with your girlfriend is not a good idea."
"I know," Phoebe said quietly, though there was a definite whine to her voice. "But it doesn't mean I hafta like it."
"I hate it, too," Cole said. He leaned in and kissed her. Phoebe felt him slip something into her hand. "If you ever need to get in touch with me," he whispered.
In Phoebe's hand was a business card, blank except for a phone number. She closed her fingers tightly around it and watched him drive off. Then she went home.
Just as she had suspected Prue and Piper were still at P3. There was no note, but the answering machine was blinking so Phoebe pushed the button to see who had called.
First message. "Hey Pheebs. We forgot to leave a note. Prue and I are over at the club. We'll be there all night if you need us." Beep.
The second message was a hang-up.
Then Phoebe's voice came on to the machine. Phoebe listened to herself in disgust. She knew she had sounded guilty, but she didn't realize how bad it was. She was glad her sisters hadn't heard the message; they would now something was up for sure. Phoebe slammed the erase button.
After that Phoebe got changed, fed Kit, who was meowing loudly for dinner, and settled down at the kitchen table. She did, after all, have a paper to write.
Saturday, January 20, 2001
Go to "The Piper's Song"