The vial cracked open at my feet. There was pain. That's ok, I was used to pain. It had been a constant companion for so long now. Physical pain was nothing compared to what I have gone through emotionally. It actually took my mind off of the emotional agony.
My heart was actually kind of glad that things had backfired like this. At least now I didn't have to go through each day with my insides feeling like they've been chewed up by a horde of angry Denesian demons.
There's a funny anecdote there, actually, but I don't expect I'll have time to tell it before I'm consumed by the potion.
My eyes fall on the three sisters. They had been both in the last few years, my worst enemy and my best friends. And now, like so many of my brethren, they had vanquished me. I had tried to do it to myself so many times, and I had even tricked them into trying to do it a few times. None of those attempts had worked.
Better late than never, I suppose.
Who would have guessed that she would have been the one to release me? I swear, the little bitch had been a thorn in my side for longer than I cared to think, but in retrospect, I suppose it was because there was so much alike in us. Fierce love for Phoebe drove us both.
I kind of wish now that they hadn't asked me to help fight the Source after he stole The Hollow. I should have listened to Phoebe on that one.
Damn my pride.
Heh, my pride is already damned. So am I.
I kind of like the whole kick-your-ass outfit. I wonder what she is like in this reality.
I don't remember it taking this long to get vanquished. Then again, I've never been on the receiving end before. I'll have to ask Barbus about it when I see him. He's only been vanquished three times. He'd know.
I wish the Triad had never hired me.
I wish you hadn't stripped my powers.
I wish that I hadn't gotten them back.
I wish that the Source hadn't infected me.
I wish I didn't love you so completely.
I wish that...
My knees hit the carpet of my penthouse. The pain is gone. I look around, confused. This sure isn't Hell. I should know, I had a summer house there. Perks of being the Source of All Evil.
What the hell is going on?
My eyes are drawn to a shadow on the floor. It's not mine.
I turn around, and I see that damned Whitelighter. Actually, he isn't as bad as some of them. He was a decent brother-in-law. Even stuck up for me a few times. Considering the bad blood that could have been between us, he's more than a saint.
Leo squats down in front of me. "I know you're confused. According to Elders, when the spell ended, both you and Paige were thrust back into this reality."
I looked at him, feeling the despair well up inside. Why couldn't I have just died?
I must have said it aloud, because he answered me.
"Because there cannot be two deaths of one person. You inhabited the body of Belthazor while you were on the other plane. It was some sort of tension, like a rubber band, that pulled Paige back. I assume the same happened to you." He rose and started to walk towards the balcony.
I felt the bottom fall out of my heart, and rage followed in the wake of the utter desolation. I flung my arm towards Leo, hoping to see that bastard burst into a thousand orbs as the energy ball hit him. It wouldn't kill him, but it would make me feel better.
It took a few seconds for my brain to tell me that nothing was happening. I looked at my hand as though it had betrayed me. Leo looked at me.
"You're mortal now, Cole. Human."
I stood, wobbling on weak legs. Mortal. "Does that mean there's hope for me and..."
He cut me off. "No. It means there's hope for you. Go out and live for once. You've already accepted the fact that she isn't a part of your life anymore. Now face the fact."
I sank against the debris strewn couch. I remember making love to Phoebe on this couch one night, the fire crackling in the background. Back before the Source had taken over. Before Hell had broken loose.
Leo tossed me a fortune cookie. I looked at it, recognizing it from the Chinese I had ordered for supper the night before. Well, the night before I went and shifted time about. When I looked up, Leo was gone.
I cracked open the cookie. The tiny slip of paper inside was rather simple. The fortune read 'When you have two pennies left to you, use one to buy a loaf of bread and the other to buy a lily.'
I don't know why, but that made things a little easier to bear.
I'm still alive. I'm not subject to the evil stirrings. I don't have powers that would tempt me to be evil. I won't have anything to fight against anymore. I know that Phoebe will grow strong and be happy.
I walk into the bedroom, and pack a suitcase. Leo's right. There is a reason I'm still here. Perhaps, just maybe, someday in the future, we'll run into each other again. We might be given a second chance. Or at least, not be enemies anymore. I'm tired of the conflict.
As I pass the door, I grab my ring and hers from the box they reside in now. I walk to the balcony and look out at the bay. Then, with a heave, I toss them both out to the dark water.
For the first time, I was just Cole.
Not Belthazor. Not the Source. Not Cole the half-demon.
And I had a lifetime to explore just who I was.
I turned back into the penthouse, and as I passed the picture of me and Phoebe, I ran a finger across her face. Etching her smile into my memory.
As the elevator doors close, I feel myself smiling in true joy for the first time in a long time.