Author: Kat Lee
Rating: Soft R/M
Challenge/Prompt: fffc 17.12: Masquerade and prompt_in_a_box: "Is this what you want?"
Word Count: 1,398
Date Written: 20 June 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Spelling Entertainment, not the author, and are used without permission.
She wakes, tangled in a sheet, her heartbeat racing. She pushes her way out of the sheet and sits up in her bed, her mind whirling with images both past and further past, much, much further past. Realizing that she's alone in bed, she peers through the darkness until she finds the man who had literally been in her dreams standing and looking out her window. "Cole?" she calls, slipping from the bed. A chill touches the small of her back, and she shivers.
"Phoebe!" He almost jumps, and he certainly does look guilty as he turns away from the night to face her. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't. I think . . . I think the dream did." She makes a face, trying to remember, but stops before him, pushes those thoughts aside, leans up, and kisses his lips sweetly. She strokes his face. "What are you doing looking out the window this time of the night? You should be in the bed." She takes his hands, wraps them around her bare waist, and snuggles closer to him. "With me. Behind me. Around me."
He grins, and for just a moment, with the shadows partially concealing his features, he looks a little darker, a little more like the Demon she knows is always lurking inside of him. "Inside you?" he whispers, leaning down and brushing his lips slowly, teasingly around her upturned mouth.
"Always." She giggles but then grows serious before he can kiss her again. "But something's bothering you." She frowns up at him and strokes his handsome face again. "What's wrong?"
He sighs and looks back out at the night and the dangers within it with which he's always been well familiar. It's easier to face them than it is to look into her caring eyes and know that he's not the man she deserves. She deserves a man who is strong enough to protect her or at least fight beside her, but without his Demon side, he's neither of those things. "Cole." She uses the hand stroking his face to turn his head back to her. "Look at me. What's wrong?"
"Phoebe, you know what's wrong," he grinds out.
"We've been through this before. I don't care if you're a Demon. I don't care if they come after us. You're one of us now. You're the man I love. If I can use my powers to protect innocents, I can damn sure use them to protect you!"
But that's exactly the problem! he wants to argue. It's his place to protect her, not hers to protect him. He should be a man who is capable of fighting both his battles and hers, but instead, he's not even able to fight his own.
"Cole -- " Phoebe starts, but he turns away and stalks over to the bed. She knows he's frustrated. She wishes she had the words to assure him that what he views as weaknesses are not problems to be overcome. He's the strongest man she knows not because he fights the evil that's on the outside but because he stays rigidly true to fighting the evil inside of him so that they can be together. That is a far worse evil than anything the outside world can throw at them, because it and it alone has the power to separate them.
Suddenly, her mind flashes back to an earlier moment in time. She again sees the apple core curling outward into the letter that was meant to represent her True Love, and she once more feels the presence of that strange but handsome man in the mask. She had learned in that moment that her True Love's name had began with a C, and both the stranger and she herself had been surprised, but that man . . . the way his mere presence standing beside her had made her feel . . . He had been no stranger after all. "That was you!" she says in surprise, looking at Cole now.
"What was me?" He frowns but looks up at her from his hands.
"You were the man in the mask!"
"The man in the mask?" he repeats, clearly not following her train of thought. His frown deepens instead. "Phoebe, I haven't been to a masquerade -- "
"Not a masquerade," she says quickly. "When we time traveled back to deliver Melinda Warren's child, our ancestor. That was you in the mask! The one who stood next to me. We saw together that the name of my True Love starts with a C."
He sighs, his eyes again dropping to his hands, but he doesn't deny the fact. Instead, after a long moment that she uses to cross back across the room and stand quietly before him, he finally asks, "Is that what you want? Are you sure?"
It's her turn to feel puzzled. "What?" she asks uncertainly.
"Phoebe, there are a million names that start with C."
She shakes her head, her lips lifting from a frown into a smile. "But only one that's the name of my True Love, and that one, Cole, we both know is you!"
"Of course we do!" She grabs his hands and lifts them, bringing his gaze back up to meet her face. "What's wrong with you tonight? Why do you keep staring at your hands?"
"Because they're useless!" he growls, but before he can shake them out of her grasp, Phoebe lifts them and kisses each one.
"They're not useless," she tells him. "They're perfect."
"I can't do a damn thing with them," he growls, exasperated, "except fight!"
"No." She shakes her head as she speaks gently, "That's not true." Once again, she wraps his arms around her and secures his large hands on the small of her back. "They're perfect," she tells him, "for loving me just as you're perfect for loving me. I don't care how many other names start with C, Cole. You're the only one for me! You, and you alone, are my True Love!"
She kisses him deeply, passionately, determined to show him in that kiss just how true her words are, but even as he melts, something deep within the pit of Cole's stomach sours. He loves Phoebe, and he loves making love to her. He can never turn her away. But he knows there's going to come a time that he's going to have to make a choice. He's going to have to choose between protecting her and releasing his Demon, and he knows already the choice he'll make. If he is her True Love, then Phoebe is his. That much is easy to believe for he's never even imagined he could feel as much love as he holds for this incredible woman so freely making herself completely his right now.
But he's going to have to make a choice, and when that moment comes, it's going to break both their hearts. If he was a stronger man, a better man, he might send Phoebe away from him or, rather, himself from her for it's under her house he's living. Her kiss swallows his frustrated sigh. This is all wrong! This is all wrong -- except their love! He can not deny that he loves her and she loves him, and it's because of the very love they share that their ending is going to be so painful.
The time will come, he knows, and he knows already the decision he will make and what it will cost. He will save her life, but in so doing, he will lose her love. She'll remember the monster he is, and she and her sisters will have no choice left but to vanquish him. And he'll have done it all for love. There are tears in Cole's eyes as Phoebe pushes him back on her bed, but she never sees them for they're tightly closed. They're tightly closed, and they stay closed as he gives himself in and surrenders all the fears he knows will come to be made reality in honor of loving her. He'll spend the rest of his days loving her. He'll even love her when she kills him. He wonders what C will come after him, but then he pushes those thoughts away and concentrates on loving her. His time on this Earth is limited, but he'll make the most of it always, loving her.