Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Cole/Phoebe, Leo/Piper
Challenge/Prompt: lands_of_magic: Happy Little Working Song (If you join, be sure to tell them Kat Lee of Team Winter sent YOU!)
Word Count: 4,385
Date Written: 24 and 25 June 2017
Summary: Cole struggles to be the man Phoebe needs and deserves.
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Spelling Entertainment, not the author, and are used without permission. All lyrics and songs belong to their rightful owners, also not the author and are used without permission.
Every Morning there's a heartache hanging
From the corner of my girlfriend's four-post bed
I know it's not mine and I know she thinks she loves me
But I never can believe what she said
She always rights the wrongs
She always rights the wrongs
Sugar Ray's Every Morning
He wakes in a cold bed, and even before he stretches his fingers out for the other side, he already knows why he feels so cold, so lonely, so empty inside . . . She's not here. Familiar terror clutches at his heart as his hand gropes an empty bed. His eyes flash open. Sunlight streams into them, so bright and forceful that he has to shut his eyes again.
Voices drift to him from below. Sizzling bacon makes his stomach rumble, reminding him that eating has become a habit he enjoys a bit too much, but then there's many things in his life right now that he enjoys too much. Forcing his eyes back open, Cole rolls from his girlfriend's bed, grabs a robe, and dashes downstairs.
"Don't you dare!" Cole hears Piper scold, and he enters the kitchen just in time to see her brandishing a wooden spoon at Phoebe, who holds a box of cereal.
"But, Piper, if I don't hurry, I'm going to be late for class!"
"You'll think better on a full stomach, young lady. Put those Cheerios down!"
Phoebe frowns and begins lowering the box. Just then, she catches sight of Cole behind Piper, and her entire face lights up. Cole instantly feels his insides warm again as her bright and happy gaze focuses on him. "Good morning," she says, tossing the cereal back on the shelf, coming to him, and wrapping him in a huge, warm, and reassuring hug he knows he doesn't deserve. She grins up at him as she squeezes him. "Sleep well?"
She doesn't need to know the nightmares start again the very second she leaves him. She doesn't need to have to worry about him any more than she already does. He doesn't deserve her worry now. He never will, just as he'll never deserve her love, but she's still giving it to him -- at least for one more day, and even that is more than which he deserves to ask for. He plasters a big grin on his face that he knows must look silly but still quickly becomes genuine just because she's there, hugging him, and loving him still. "With you? Always," he assures her, and tries to assure himself, before leaning down and kissing her good morning. He can face another new day -- he can face anything --, because she loves him -- or, at least, she thinks she does, and even that is more than he'll ever deserve.
Well you think that you can take me on
You must be crazy
There ain't a single thing you've done
That's gonna phase me
Oh, but if you want to have a go
I just wanna let you know
Get off my back and into my game
Get out of my way and out of my brain
Get outta my face or give it you best shot
I think it's time you better face the fact
Get off of my back
Brian Adams' Get Off My Back
He stares at the sign. He knows it wasn't placed there for him. It was placed there for a human, probably for another college student like his Phoebe, but its big, bold letters keep calling to him until with a sigh, a weary sag of his shoulders, and another glance at his watch to confirm Phoebe's still got another fifteen minutes, at least, before he can be with her again, Cole starts over to the little bistro.
It's a simple place, ran for college students by college students. It's a place that, once upon a time, he would not have set foot into, but times have changed. He no longer has the millennia of wealth to draw upon that he did when he was working for the Source. He's got bank accounts scattered across the globe, and other treasures hidden too, but if he touches a single one of them, he'll be opening himself up for an attack -- and worse, he'll be leading them to his current whereabouts and, thus, to his sweet Phoebe, who deserves so much better than he can ever give her, financial or otherwise.
But maybe, if he had a little money coming in, he could buy a gift for his sweetheart every now and again. Maybe he could buy her that simple, little necklace she was looking at at the mall or a new pair of shoes (he knows how she loves them). Maybe he could pay their way for just one night instead of always having to let his woman pay for them -- and not even from her own pocketbook at that, but from her sisters'.
Squaring his shoulders, Cole pushes through the door of the little cafe and hears a hiss. "Belthazor! We knew that was you!" Snickering laughter like crackling flames races through the dark cafe.
"They said you wouldn't be here," adds another, "but we knew they were wrong and we were right!"
"Yeah! And now we're totally gonna get rewarded by the Source!"
Cole shakes his head. He should have known the place would be a trap, but it's really not a big matter. He can keep things as simple as the simple minds of these new Demons. After all, using his Demonic powers against Demons doesn't count, does it? But then he remembers the knife he snuck into his boot earlier on a whim and realizes he doesn't have to play their games at all.
A dangerous smile plays across his lips; it's the first time he's smiled when not in Phoebe's presence in he doesn't know how very long. "Fine. You got me. Now what are you going to do with me?" He starts to lift his hands in defeat but then moves faster than their little minds can process, withdrawing the dagger from his boot and hurtling it through the air. It slices one, two, three Demons' heads off. Still smiling, Cole walks forward to retrieve the weapon, muttering as he moves passed the decapitated bodies, "If you're going to play with the big boys, make damn sure you can play the game."
Wiping the Demon blood off on the clothes of one of the carcasses, Cole looks around in smug satisfaction. He can still protect himself after all. He defeated all three of those Demons with a bare flick of his wrist and none of his powers whatsoever. But then . . . They knew where he was. His satisfaction vanishes; his smug grin falls into a deep frown. They knew where he was, but the others had not believed them. He still has time, but how long? This morning has proved two things: He's still able to protect himself, but they will find him. They will come, and when they come, they'll come after Phoebe too.
Movement on the wall catches his dark gaze. His eyes flick to the clock as the hands move together. He hides the knife again on his body and hurries to go meet Phoebe for lunch.
(I won't back down)
Hey baby, there ain't no easy way out
(I won't back down)
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won't back down
Well I know what's right
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around
But I'll stand my ground
Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down
His heart is in his throat as he appears in his old flat. He knows this is risky, but he couldn't stand it any longer. Phoebe is so good to him -- so much better than he deserves and so much better and more loving to him than anyone, including his own mother, has ever been. He can't stand to go another day without being able to give her something.
He goes straight for his vault behind an antique painting, spins the dials swiftly, and opens it. He's just beginning to load his hands full when he smells the sizzle of sudden flame behind him. He releases the money; gold and bills fall through his opened hands.
"Belthazor." He knows this voice. His back straightens.
"Damon. It's been a while."
"No small talk. Turn around."
Cole's mind runs swiftly. He knows he's about to be handed over to the Source, and after the Source has him, it will just be a matter of time before he catches Phoebe too. Swiftly, Cole makes the only decision he can, and when he turns, he immediately hurls two energy balls. Damon leaps over the first one, as Cole had known he would, but the second catches him head on. Cole hits the floor as his fireball spirals straight at him . . . and into his vault.
Cole gets slowly back to his feet and eyes the flaming remains of the Demonic bounty hunter. "I always did say Damon was a pathetic name for a Demon." He sneers, but then his face falls as he looks back into his vault and all his ruined treasures. He could try another of his old hide outs, but they're probably already staked out just as this one was. Any effort he makes to get anything from his old life will only bring the enemy closer to his love.
"Damn it!" he snarls and shimmers away. He stops in several more spots across, and beneath, the Earth before finally returning to the Manor. Fierce hands grab his collar just as he appears and slam him into a wall.
"Cole!" Leo snarls in his ear. "Where have you been?!"
"Well, well," Cole tries unsuccessfully to laugh, "what would Piper say about this very unangelic side of you, White Lighter?"
Leo pushes him harder into the wall. "What would Phoebe say if she knew you'd be shimmering around Hell, Belthazor?!"
Cole hesitates, and it's the true sorrow Leo sees in his eyes that makes the Angel release him. Cole peels himself up off of the wall and tries to straighten his clothes. "I'm . . . sorry. You're right. I was in Hell. I . . . I tried to get something from my former life. It didn't work out."
Leo frowns and eyes him suspiciously. "What?"
"Somebody was waiting for me. They're taken care of now," he says, confidently flicking his collar up, "but that stopped any thoughts I had of . . . "
"Of what? Of escaping? Of going after the sisters again?"
"No! Leo, you know I love Phoebe just as much as you love Piper! I would never do anything to harm her!"
"Going back to your old haunts is a good way to do just that!"
"I dealt with it! I just . . . " Cole sighs and looks away. He looks to his left, to his right, and finally to his feet before asking in a small, sad voice, "Don't you ever get tired of having your woman always being the one to pay your way? Of her taking care of you? Don't you ever want to be able to gift her with . . . with something? Anything?"
Leo's face falls. "Yes," he admits, "all the time when we first started dating, and I still do sometimes. But I find other ways to treat her."
"Like rubbing her feet. Rubbing her back. Flowers." He smiles, his eyes twinkling with the memory. "I covered her with rose petals once when she was waking up, and it didn't cost me a thing."
"But you're romantic," Cole says with a sigh. "You're a freaking Angel! Of course you'd think of things like that!"
"You can too," Leo tells him gently. "You just have to think with that," he touches Cole's chest, just over his heart, "instead of that." He points at his head and indicates lower with a wave of his hand.
Cole snorts. "Whatever." He turns and walks away but pauses just before he can leave the Angel entirely. "Leo?" he asks, turning back.
"Are you going to tell them?"
"I . . . " The two men look into each other's eyes. Leo lowers his head with a sigh. "No, I won't unless I catch you doing it again or you try something else stupid."
"I won't, and I won't let any harm come to her. I'll fight everything in Hell before I let them touch her." He walks away, leaving Leo to sigh again, a sound like fluttering wings.
"I know you will."
"There used to be a graying tower alone on the sea
You became the light on the dark side of me
Love remained a drug that's the high and not the pill"
Seal's Kiss From A Rose
"He's down there," Piper says, indicating Cole, who's sitting at the P3 bar with his shoulders slumped.
"Did he say anything?" Phoebe asks, concerned.
Her sister shakes her head. "Not a word. If he was a normal guy, he wouldn't be able to walk right now. But I've got to cut him off, or people are going to start talking."
Phoebe rolls her eyes. "Like they don't already. People always have to have somebody to talk about."
"I know; I know," she grumbles. "I'm going."
Piper feels Leo orb in behind her. He reaches out and gently touches her elbow. She doesn't look at him but keeps watching Cole and Phoebe in concern. "Do you think he'll be okay?" she asks her husband.
"He will be," Leo assures her, "with time." He comes closer to her and hugs her from behind. "I didn't know you cared so much about a Demon," he teases gently.
"He is a Demon," Piper acknowledges. "At least, half of him is, but he's also the best man I've ever seen my little sister with. He makes her happier than anybody else ever has."
Leo kisses the back of her long, dark hair. "They'll work it out," he assures her.
She turns in his arms to look at him. "How can you be so sure?"
He shrugs. "We did, didn't we? A Demon's not so far from an Angel. It's just the flip side of the same coin. But we worked things out because we love each other, and they will too because they love each other."
Piper smiles and kisses him just as Phoebe reaches Cole.
"Phoebe." Cole waves his glass in the air. "You're finally home."
"You're not," Phoebe observes carefully. Reaching out and taking the drink from him, she sits it back on the counter and slides it out of his reach.
He stares at her, and she wishes she could know what he's thinking, if it's at all coherent. It shouldn't be, from the number of drinks her big sister has told her he's downed, but his deep, intent stare makes her think otherwise. Any other man wouldn't know what he's thinking by now, but something in Cole's eyes tell her he does -- although he doesn't have the words to tell her that she seems like the answer on a long, hard, and lonely day. She is the answer, his answer, his completion, his savior, and why he keeps doing everything he does these days, trying to somehow eek out a living as a mere mortal man when he has so much power raging inside of him. It's only in times like these, when she's close to him, that he can clearly remember why it is he keeps fighting, why he makes a sacrifice of part of himself every single day of his life now: She is that answer, that reason. She is the woman he loves and everything good that's left in his world.
He clears his throat. "Yes," he insists, wanting to tell her so much more but not having the words, "I am."
"No, you're not."
"Yes, I am," he insists.
Phoebe frowns. "No, Cole, you're not. This is not the Manor."
He catches her hand. "No," he agrees, wrapping his fingers gently around her hand. "But it's where you are, and that's home for me. You're the only home I have now."
Phoebe smiles but then frowns. "I think Piper was wrong. You have had too much."
"No, I haven't -- "
"Yes, you have." She tugs on his hand. "Now come home with me."
"You don't have to go fight another Demon?"
"Then I'll come with you." He follows her silently from the club, but as they get into Prue's car, which Phoebe has borrowed again, he adds softly, "You know, Phoebe, I'd follow you anywhere."
He looks at her so sweetly and speaks so sincerely that, for a moment, Phoebe can forget the number of drinks he's put away. She beams, melting inside at his words and the knowledge that they and he are true and he loves her. "I know," she says, entwining her fingers with his, leaning up, and kissing him deeply.
"I think I love this woman's way she shimmers, the way she shines
The way she radiates
The way she lives, the way she loves
The way she never hates
Sometimes I think of all of this that can surround me
I know it all as being mine
But she kisses me and wraps herself around me
She gives me love, she gives me time
And I feel fine I feel fine"
Shawn Mullins' Shimmer
Silver moonlight streams through Phoebe's open curtains when Cole wakes again. Her body is pressed close to his, and in the quiet of the night, he reaches out, strokes her face, and puts her to bed. He remembers her gently but firmly declining him every time last night, but it wasn't because she didn't want him. She wanted him to be with a clear mind when they made love. She always puts him first, even over her sisters, and he's always marveled over that dedication tough he's never found the words to tell her.
There's so much he hasn't told her, and so much he wants to say, but he's never been good with words. He remembers when she first came to the apartment he had when he was undercover as the local DA. She had told him then that she's always been better with letting her actions speak for her than using actual words. It's one of the many, many things they have in common, but he still wishes he had the words to tell her everything she means to him. If he was a poet, he could write them; he'd write her sonnet after sonnet. If he was a musician, he could craft songs about her love and how it makes him feel, but he's not talented in either department.
He's only himself, and every day of his life he fears that's not going to be enough. He never doubts her, but he knows she can do so much better and deserves so much better than him. He's afraid that one day she's going to wake up and realize that she's in love with a monster and that she, her sisters, and the whole world will be better off if she just vanquishes him. He can't fight her. He could never fight her. He loves her too much to ever lay a hand against her.
The very reason he does everything he does is because of that love. It would be so easy to revert to his old ways. He could give her an entire kingdom to hail Princess Phoebe of Phoebeville, like the sand castles she builds, if he stopped fighting his instincts and became Belthazor again. He could give her the world, but she doesn't want the world. She tells him that every day; she told him that again tonight as he was drifting off to sleep. She doesn't want the world; she wants only him.
He can't believe how lucky he is! This life he's building with her is like a dream just waiting to be torn asunder. So many times a day, he thinks it can't be real, but then she touches him. She kisses him. She calls his name, and again, he's reminded that this, that she, that the love they share are the most real things he's ever felt: the most real, the most powerful, the most wonderful, and surely the things most worth fighting for out of every cause he's ever championed before.
She shined tonight when she walked into her sister's club after him. She shined like a beacon in the night, like a bright and silver beacon of hope, like the only light that she is in his dark, dismal world. He didn't have the words to tell her how seeing her then made him feel; he still doesn't now. But it's seeing her shimmer like that, seeing her shine, seeing, knowing, and feeling how much she truly loves him that makes him want to shine, that makes him strive day after day to be a better man and put his Demon side behind him.
He succumbed this afternoon, but he had very little choice. Once he was there, in front of that other Demon, there was only one way to escape with his life. He might not have done it if it had only been his life at stake, but the reason he keeps fighting to live is because he knows the end of his life will also mean the end of his time with her.
Phoebe murmurs in her sleep. Her body turns toward him and strains a little. He wonders what she's dreaming. His fingers comb her soft, dark hair. He leans down and places a kiss on her forehead. "Sh," he says, "it's okay. I'm here." He will protect her and love her until the end of his life, and he's hopes that's a very, very long time away not because he cares a whit about his own survival but because he wants to spend every second he possibly can with her.
"C-Cole?" Phoebe's eyes flutter open. She looks at him, and the light in her brown eyes seems to shine again in the darkness to Cole. Her whole being seems to shimmer before him, and he's reminded of a song she likes.
His fingers thrust further into her silky hair as he lowers his lips over hers. "I want to shine for you," he murmurs and kisses her deeply. Phoebe responds instantly, melting at his touch and meeting his kiss with equal fire and passion. He's never been good with words, but with his lips and his hands, with his whole body, he drives to show her everything he wants to say, to make her feel everything he already feels, all through the night and into the next day.
(Every Morning when I wake up)
(Shut the door baby, don't say a word)
(Every Morning when I wake up)
(Shut the door baby, shut the door baby)"
Sugar Ray's Every Morning
Cole awakes to an empty bed again, but today, he doesn't hear the traffic outside or what seems to be a vast and empty house. He hears the buzz of happy voices downstairs, his Phoebe talking chief amongst them. Her voice floats over him. He doesn't try to catch her words. He just listens to her talk, listens to the smile he can hear in her voice as she spends time with her family, and lets her voice wash over him.
His body sings from last night, still flushed with warmth from her. He reaches out, pulls her pillow to him, and buries his nose in her scent. He could lay there all morning, just listening to her talk and inhaling her scent, but he wants to be with her. Rolling from her bed, he dresses quickly and hurries downstairs, taking the steps two at a time.
She looks up from the breakfast table at him. He barely notices the aroma of the bacon. He's hungry, but not for food. The hunger he feels this morning is one that he knows will never be sated and will instead be with him forever. He wants more of her; he needs more of her. But Piper and Leo are watching, so as he ducks his head and kisses her, he's careful not to let his passion override his judgement.
He takes the seat right next to hers. "Comics?" she asks, offering him part of the newspaper. "Garfield's a hoot this morning."
"He could take lessons from Kit," Piper interjects, but there's a fond and amused smile in her tone of voice.
Cole takes the paper, but his hand lingers over Phoebe's. Right now, he wants nothing more than to throw her on the table and make wild, passionate love to her.
He almost jumps at the sound of Leo's voice. Taking the paper and releasing Phoebe's hand, he looks across the table at the smiling White Lighter and nods while carefully watching his eyes for signs of scrutiny. He claimed he wouldn't tell Piper, but Cole knows he has very few secrets from his wife. "Much," he answers, hoping his voice sounds normal and casual.
Leo's smile brightens, and Cole realizes it's truthful. "Good." He pushes back his chair and stands with a nod to the coffee pot. "Coffee?"
"I'll get it -- "
"I've got it, dear. Thanks." He kisses his wife's cheek and nods again to the pot while watching Cole. Cole inclines his own, dark head and follows. As Leo pours them both cups, he whispers over the pot, "Just make sure it doesn't happen again."
Cole wants to ask him what he wants of him, but he can't. His eyes flick back over to Phoebe. The sisters, especially his Phoebe, are far too close for this conversation.
"Keep loving her," Leo instructs, "and don't hurt her."
Cole's gaze snaps back to the White Lighter's judgmental eyes. "You don't have to worry about that," he tells him. "I'll always love Phoebe."
"Boys," Phoebe calls, watching them, "put the horns and halo away."
Leo looks up and then frowns and shrugs apologetically to Piper. She waves him away with an understanding smile. "Go. I've got to get going anyway," she adds, standing and grabbing her bag. "Phoebe, will you . . . "
"Finish the dishes?" her sister asks and grins. "Sure." She waits until Piper's gone before grabbing Cole's hand and dragging him away from the kitchen table.
"I thought you needed to do dishes?"
"They can wait." She grins. "Don't you know what today is?"
He looks at her blankly. He used to always know what day of the week it was, what time it was, and what he needed to do when, but now he hardly every knows what time or day it is unless he's meeting her.
"It's Saturday," Phoebe exclaims happily, "which means no school, and there's no Demon attack yet, so . . . "
"You're free!" he breathes excitedly.
Her head bobs. "I'm free, and I'm all yours!"
She shrills with joyful laughter as he scoops her up in his strong arms and races up the stairs to their room. He could shimmer them there more quickly, but there's no need for his Demonic powers and she doesn't want him using them. It's a small price to pay to be with her, to be loved by her . . . Anything is a small price to pay to be loved by her. Their laughter echoes through the Manor, and for the first time, Cole thinks maybe this place can be more than Phoebe's home. As long as she loves him, maybe it can be his home, too. Regardless, he's home. He's home, because he has her and her love, and for the first time in a long time, as he lays her down on her bed and covers her body with his, he feels complete, like the man he was born to be, his Demon side unneeded and unwanted as love reigns supreme and his day, spent with her in his arms, is a joyful one indeed.