Title: Opening
Author: Wicked R
Disclaimers: characters belong to the WB. No copyright breach intended. Bare in mind, it's just for fun.
Genre: future fic
Rating: G.

Summary/set: AU. In a world of Utopia, Phoebe comes home to San Francisco after a few years of travelling around the world to find, that back home, not everything is as she would expect them to be.

Warning: not beta read and English is still not my first language. Watch out, Phoebe bashing (as usually with me)! My mind only functions one particular way…but honest, I'll try to retrain it in some other way too.

Phoebe took in the sight of a fascinating collection of satin underwear, belts, accessories and anything else the boutique in the most prestigious San Francisco shopping mall offered. She took a deep breath, turned on her heels and marched out the shop. Why would she buy any of these things? So that her next one night stand could enjoy the view? She didn't have a half decent relationship with anyone since she left this city three years back, not long after Leo's sacrifice of giving up his life for the sisters to realise utopia was the greatest con that ever existed, turned out to be in vain as Phoebe couldn't convince her sisters in any way to see sense. They have practically thrown her out onto the streets for trying to create waves. Without her empathic abilities, they had little chance of understanding what was going on. It was ironic though, how it was herself that could convince them about her vision of utopia, but not the opposite. She knew they were blinded by the spell that everybody was under, but it still hurt that they choose that over her. On top of it all she had to be grateful to the Avatars they didn't make her disappear on the spot, so that her sisters could mourn over her by simply saying she's in a better place now and getting on with their business. Thanks to Elise's generous offer to send her column in every day via email, along with her travel reports from all over the world, also partially financed by the paper, she passed the time somehow. But how could she establish a decent relationship with anyone? Everybody was acting like the Avatars' puppet, smirking and rallying round like mad men. It was a freaking freak show and she felt like the mental health patient in the madhouse, who thinks everybody else gone crazy bar him. And she didn't even know what the big plan of the Avatars' behind it was. What benefits did they get out of it? All right, they ruled the world, but all they ruled were a bunch of marionettes, not worthy of reigning. Did they really do it solely for that power? It didn't make sense. Maybe this retail therapy wasn't that much of a good idea of getting away from her thoughts after all. Contacting her sisters seemed pointless, even if she felt drawn back to the place they all lived together once, so much she impulsively stepped on a plane the day before in Venezuela. She made her way to the packed food court on the sunny terrace of the mall and stalked people while they ate, trying to grab a table the moment somebody left. To the shock of her lifetime, at one of the tables in the middle of the luminous yard she could see a tall man with dark hair and green eyes, made so noticeable by the bright light. There was no way she could mistake Cole with somebody else, although his features looked less round, than the last time she saw him, giving him even more charisma.

Cole was eating fish and chips and there were three young boys doing the same next to him at the table. Her ex husband was holding the youngest one is his lap, handing him a chip. He couldn't have been more than two years old. The older boy was blonde, about five and although Phoebe haven't seen him for years, there was no doubt about it in her mind that she was looking at Wyatt. And if so, the other boy was Christopher sitting next to him.

"We were going to tell you. Really," she heard a voice behind her. It was Piper. She was biting her lip, smiling apologetically, making a wavering step towards her.

Phoebe didn't leave her to her insecurity much, she jumped right into the welcoming arms of her sister. They hugged each other for what seemed like an eternity, eyes getting wet from the overpowering emotions.

"Then why didn't you?" Phoebe asked as they let go. Phoebe felt hurt again by her sister, although she never tried to contact them herself over the years. Not to mention this thing with Cole. How was it possible? And why does Piper leave him with the kids in a peaceful or not peaceful world? Cole was Cole, you never knew when things got dangerous around him all of a sudden.

"It's complicated," Piper sighed.

"It always is," Phoebe agreed grumpily.

"Come, I'll explain. I have a small boutique in the mall, just right after the corner. With not many demons to vanquish, and Cole looking after the kids most of the time,

I had enough time to expand. The boutique is called P3 as well…Cole brings the kids to meet me here after work."

"Takes the kids…I…I don't understand, Piper. What is it with Cole?" She was guessing it was another illusion created by the Avatars to make everybody look good and that's why Piper trusted him.

"Come, before he sees you. We can talk in my shop."

Phoebe didn't feel like confronting Cole, now, or ever, so she tag along, really hoping her predictions were not right and Piper was not so blinded by the Avatars as she seemed. It was a good sign how she greeted her though. To Phoebe's amazement, annoyance and spite, the shop she left a few minutes ago turned out to be the one that Piper owned. She should've looked at the sign above the door!

tbc

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Chapter 2: Harangue

Piper led her to the back and started talking, "there was one night, a couple of weeks after you left that I stretched myself in the bed and realised Leo wasn't there. Of course, that wasn't unusual, he wasn't there a lot, even when he was an Elder, but the kids were still unsettled a lot of the time and I always dismissed it saying they will be fine. But they weren't and as a mother, I had to make it better for them. The only way I could do that is to figure out why they were so upset. And then I realised that you were right. The boys were just too young to feel the way that we did, the way we were programmed to feel."

"I'm so sorry Piper," her sister hugged her again. She felt a bit relieved though that she wasn't alone against the whole world anymore.

"I guess they were scrutinising me at that time, because I hardly started to attempt making an Avatar killing potion, not even knowing what the ingredients should be, they already sentenced me to death for it, but couldn't execute me, because of internal struggles. One of the Avatars opposed to the collective decision. Cole. He's been an Avatar for quite a long time, he had been tricked into becoming one. That's how he has been powerful enough to create alternate realities. But since he couldn't win you back that way either, he's given up on you. The Avatars couldn't afford to loose him, because he's one of the strongest. They couldn't kill him, because it would've weakened the collective too much. But by the next day, they found a solution. They dumped Cole at the manor, possibly for me to take care of after they had sapped almost all his energy away, to the extent he wasn't able to move, let alone use any of his powers. He's bound to the Avatars, and they violate him by taking his demonic energy away every week with some clever spell. Sometimes they leave him with some shimmering powers or else nowadays, cause they don't feel endangered by him as much anymore, but sometimes they still leave him physically sick for a few hours after the procedure. They do as they please and use his energy to sustain utopia. Not to mention that without his powers he can't do anything against them, create conflict so to speak. And they are bound to him, without Cole they don't have enough energy."

"So if Cole is killed all this crazy world goes to hell?"

Piper looked at her glumly, "I was afraid you would say that…this is one of the reasons why I've never contacted you or Paige. She would suggest the same. Besides, it would anger them up there to see us all together, they would probably view it as a threat and eliminate at least somebody…"

"Did you never try?"

"To kill Cole? Phoebe, he was invincible before, now he's an Avatar. They can make him suffer, make him ill, make him unconscious for weeks in a row…"

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22nd of November, 2004, California Hospital Medical Centre,

Piper was rushing down the corridor feeling guilty. She spent most of last week at home with the kids and not at Cole's bedside at the hospital where the Avatars ordered her to take him. He had to be fed intravenously to gathered his energy back so that they can sap it away from him again. Of course, Christopher had been teething and Wyatt was jealous of his brother, so Piper felt drawn in several directions at the same time…"Is he asleep?" She asked in a muffled voice upon entering his room.

"Yes. He hasn't stirred since you left yesterday," Darryl confirmed.

"Not even to get a drink or anything?"

"No."

Piper walked past her friend and stopped at Cole's bed, listening to the shallow, but rhythmic breathing and looking at the numerous tubes that were fixed to the demon at different points. There was no chance the doctors would notice anything unusual with him, he healed worse than a human right now. She sighed, "never mind, I'm still going to go on with the daily routine," she released the breaks of the hospital bed and started pushing it towards the window.

Cole's eyes fluttered, "Too tired for the sun today…"

"…but there is no way you can kill him without an Avatar killing potion. And as we all know, we have no idea how to make one or get hold of one. The more you weaken him, the stronger the Avatars get…"

"There has to be a way…"

"You want me to kill my husband?"

"I did," Phoebe frowned at her sister incredulously.

"You mean you want me to kill the father of my child? Not any unborn child I must add."

"The father of your child? That little boy he's holding? Piper, how could you? You were not under the Avatars' spell anymore as I understand."

"Somebody had to take care of him, even if it was the Avatars' wish too!. At times he wasn't able to lift an arm and I…I always felt sorry for him. The way he tried to fit in. I didn't ever want to take him away from you while I thought he would be happy with you, but you didn't want him Phoebe. You wanna kill him right now as it is!"

"That is exactly why I'm asking, how could you forget he was evil?"

"He's not evil. He's a lost boy that needs help. Look, at first I wasn't sure about it myself. I have been afraid of Cole's demonic side, of what he could do to us, and couldn't completely give in to my positive feelings towards him. But when he was so weak, he needed my mothering instincts to help him. It all happened in a haze. I was still upset because of Leo. I wanted to share my bed with someone and for a few hours I pretended it was Leo. I must say Cole wasn't willing to join in with my game at first either. If he would've not been still confined to bed, he would've run off immediately, I'm sure he would have. But I guess the way I've shown him love and affection while caring for him, convinced him after all…"

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Arriving at his hospital room door, Piper stared at Cole unnoticed by him for a few minutes. At long last, he lifted his head to meet her corny gaze, "good morning," he welcomed her cheerfully and a warm smile crossed his face.

Piper returned the smile and took his hand, that he extended towards her invitingly. Leaning in, she pressed her lips to his in a brief kiss that was both tender and full of passion at the same time, "feel ok?" She asked just to make sure.

"Very well," he assured her.

"Sun today?" She asked with cheerfulness and smiled, happy for his recovery, "and not any kind of sun, cause you will enjoy it outside now!" she reminded him he was given the white flag to leave the hospital. Piper encircled her arms around him so as to steady him for getting to his feet.

"Thanks," he reacted appreciatively.

This would be our first real kiss standing up, Piper thought and lifted her chin to his with the intensions of carrying through.

He let her go and stepped away one, "Piper…don't think that I'm not grateful, but

you know, the other day…"

"I'm pregnant," Piper anticipated what he wanted to say, not willing to give in. Certainly not now that she was carrying his child.

"Come again? How?"

"Normal way I guess? No magic there."

"I have to take a walk to let this sink in," Cole said after a long silence, "I'll be back."

"Are you sure you're strong enough to go by yourself? And…will you? Be…back?" Piper was getting nervous. She didn't know what reaction to expect and this was right enough one of the scenarios she'd imagined, but the other was him running off for good right away.

"I promise I will be back. Soon," Cole gave her a half smile, acknowledging her fears, "need a little time to me ok?" He slowly walked out the door and she knew she could physically catch up with him anytime now that he couldn't use his powers and was hurt, she didn't even need to run, but there was no point…

tbc

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Chapter 3: Creepy-crawly

"Are you ok?" Piper asked him with unease as he entered the manor that afternoon.

"Yes…I'm sorry I left. I just needed to get my head on straight. I'm happy.

I really am. Can you believe that? It took me a few hours to finally have that sunk in. I can't wait for the baby. Do you think I deserve all this? I got another chance to properly raise a child too! I'm not going anywhere. Will you marry me?"

"Are you really proposing?" Piper asked sensitively, anxious to trust him.

"Yes," he said enfolding her into his arms and kissing her.

"You should be in bed," she hugged him back, "you'll get your answer in bed."

"Does that mean I'm not going to be alone in bed?"

"I love you," Piper giggled, and led him towards her room. She wanted him to hold her in his arms and nothing more…

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"…but by the time he came back from hospital and was able to come down the stairs by himself I was already pregnant with our son, Philip…"

Phoebe narrowed her eyes in annoyance. But no worries, she tried to calm herself down. At least she could speak to old Piper now, as much as she could be the same person after spending years with her Cole! Although she never wanted to renew her relationship with her ex, she couldn't help feeling jealous, with the overpowering feeling of how this was all wrong. Maybe Piper was still under the Avatars's influence to some extent? There was only one way to find out. By pressing the matter of their elimination once more, "if Cole is an Avatar, can't he not turn back time, or create another alternate reality or something?"

"Phoebe, don't you hear me? Cole is an Avatar, yes, but he's so weak at times he can't go out to bathroom alone! What do you want him to do? Levitate a soap bar? Maybe he can manage that sometimes…but listen, we shouldn't talk very long in case they catch up with us up there."

"So what? I just disappear and we live our lives separately in this ridiculous show of a world?"

"I didn't say that. The fact that we are not dead already, means that the Avatars got more confident and don't keep checking up on us on a constant basis. Still, I'm quite sure they would notice if I or Cole disappeared for a while. This is why it is you who has to go back in time. The only people we know of possessing the potion that we're looking for, are Kyle's parents. You need to take it the same way Kyle did when he went back with Paige."

"Where is Paige anyway?"

"She took off with a guy on a Harley one day. Never heard of her since. Did you notice that people in the utopia had also become rather superficial?"

"Unreal, yes, like holograms. How you want me to go back in time?"

"Remember the demon Leo called upon when we wanted to send Paige back to see why her parents died?"

"That filthy thing with the ghosts on the loose?"

"Do you have other ideas?"

"No. I'll do it. I'll get the potion. Then?"

"Then we need to act very fast before they realise we got it. Now, they harvested Cole's energy three days ago. That means, if you come back with the potion before next week, he will be most likely possess enough power to shimmer us up there and I'll make the vial explode in all their faces, before they take his powers away again. Now go, hurry," she led her sister to the entrance, giving her another hug before going back to her computer to key in some bills. She paused as she sat down and sighed, acknowledging that the Avatars were not the sole reason she ushered her sister out so quickly. In fact, she feared this moment for years. Even though Phoebe didn't seem to show positive emotions towards Cole, she was still terrified of her husband's eventual reaction once they met. She had remembered the epic love the demon loved her sister with and she was never sure if it completely died or not. She wondered if once the illusion of the perfect life in utopia ceased, the illusion of her perfect marriage will subside as well. Cole will have his powers back and free to exercise them. Will the Cole Phoebe was so afraid of, return then? However it was, utopia had to stop. People had to take charge of their own lives. To the detriment of her own, if necessary, it was a witch's destiny. First of all, she had to find a moment to tell her husband of what they had planned, so he was ready when the moment came…

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"…move, move…go!…Crash Daddy's car!…Get it Chris!"

Piper was mixing the ingredients for her delicious pancakes in the kitchen, vaguely being aware of the kids playing in the sun room. They were at it again, Christopher's favourite amusement, the car orbing chase. Wyatt has established the racing track touch points, where everybody had to have their cars pass through to get to the finish line, either orbing or shimmering their cars through the established trajectory. It was a special boy's game, as she couldn't join in, and they were very happy today as daddy has agreed to take part in the car shimmering exercise. Not that Cole didn't find playing with the kids the best activity in the world, but he could only use his powers for a few days at a time before the Avatars cashed in on them again. He could use his powers right now, but where was Phoebe? Her sister was overdue appearing with the potion she sent her for and Piper couldn't help, but fret about her safety. Perhaps she didn't manage the time travel, but more worryingly she could have been caught by the Avatars. Apart from that, there was an additional concern that crept into her mind. She knew her husband well enough to know he has been perturbed by the news on Phoebe and that he was just as worried about her not showing up than she was, if not more. Not to mention that they could not even talk about it, it was risky enough letting him know about the plan. Under the potential eve of changes to the world, she kept contemplating if her life together with Cole was a lie. That deep feeling of perfect harmony when they lay in each other's arms, was that her own make-believe experience too? Did he really love her or did he just need her?

She was suddenly interrupted by Wyatt's head appearing in the doorway, as he popped in, leaning to the doorframe with one hand, "mom."

From the sadness in his eyes, Piper knew it was Cole. And again, the kids had to witness how he got violated by the Avatars, taken up in the air, and spun around at a fast speed, with his energy visibly spiralling away from him to an upward direction. Then, when the invisible agency would abruptly let him go, he would get thrown to the wall by the force of the centrifuge with the force of a lorry. Piper rushed after her son to deal with the after marks.

"Dad, are you ok?" Christopher was sitting next to the shaking body of his step father. Philip, still disturbed by such sight, burst into crying.

"It's ok, son," Cole tried to struggle to raise on four.

"Wyatt, hold Philip," Piper instructed while trying to get Cole up the floor and to the sofa, where he leaned back, shivering, his face grey from the overpowering weakness.

Wyatt spontaneously activated his force field, and let it grow to encompass all his family, tossing back an intruder with it a few steps.

Piper looked up to see her sister lifting up an ancient looking vial, "Phoebe, this is so not the right time…Wyatt, peter out the force field," she stood up to get to her sister. When the blue light faded, she became aware of the hiss of an object moving through the air, on a flight path directed behind her, towards her husband. She lifted her hands to freeze the scene as the contents were already oozing out of the bottle…

Tbc

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Chapter 4: Awake

Cole reacted quicker than she did. Piper saw the image of the bottle flickering in the air, and she felt the sickening feeling of being transported up the Avatar headquarters simultaneously. She had her hands up for arresting all movement, and she quickly changed the effect into blowing the vial up, hopeful that if Cole was able to shimmer, he will place the poison in the appropriate position for the perfect kill up there. There were a couple of surprised yelps, the clatter of some of the pieces of the bottle shattering on the command board, then complete silence as the Avatars fell all around. Two others, standing a bit away dematerialised out the way of death, but the cameras connected to earth to spy on people already started to show humans yelling at each other for different reasons.

Piper looked back at Cole. He smiled at her, crushing up all the equipment with a wave of his hand, clearly possessing his powers again, "there's no need for this anymore. Now, maybe we should go back and see what obtuse ideas does Phoebe have regarding the kids."

"Great!" Her sister greeted them back at the manor, going up towards her and trying to hug her, "it worked, didn't it?"

Piper stepped away from her, holding her hands up to stop her, "you mean that wasn't an attempt to kill my husband?"

"Well…it was then or never, wasn't it?" Phoebe lifted her shoulders slightly, the side of her lips curving down, "we needed to do something, we agreed on that. He was either gonna shimmer up, or he was going to free us of the avatars anyway, one way or another…"

They had no time to react, because Paige suddenly orbed in, "uh, guys, I just sorta remembered all of a sudden that I should see how you were doing…" She grimaced

apologetically, "my god Piper, the kids have grown. Haven't they just!"

"Oh, Paige!" Phoebe tried her luck with her younger sister for a hug, "how are you?"

"Oh, gods," Paige frowned again, "you're not gonna be happy about this now that we kinda let go of the happy go lucky way of life…"

"What's wrong, Paige?" Piper asked.

"Oh, nothing as far as you guys are concerned, but…I kinda got married Phoebe."

"But why would that be bad?" Phoebe questioned.

"Because I married Jason. You Jason. Sorry, Phoebe."

"Geez, Paige," Piper interrupted, "did you not attend my wedding with Cole or what? What's the big deal?"

"Well, I thought she wanted a chance with Jason…" Paige shrugged.

Phoebe alternately stared at her two sisters, looking from one to the other, "oh, I…I'm very happy for you Paige."

"But not for me, huh?" Piper guessed.

"Well, I need to think about that."

"Come with me!" Paige offered, "I'll show you were we live. Jason's got this super modern house up in the mountains, you'll love it."

"And he's okay with you orbing back and forth?"

"He got used to it. Amazing amount of things you can get people used to, good and bad, if they are given the ultimate happy utopia pill…by the way, guys, I'm so sorry about the way I behaved…"

"You were blinded Paige," Piper shook her head, making her arms wide to welcome her.

Phoebe joined in to create a group hug, "I'm so happy we are all together, like in the good old days. I can hardly wait to see my room. Hope you didn't change it much?"

"Oh, me too. Let's orb up," Paige suggested cheerfully and made it so.

Piper walked over to her husband, who was standing back with the kids, slightly confused by the arrival of their aunties. She leaned onto Cole, touching his chest, "

Phoebe's assuming everything is going to go back the way it was, but I'm not sure I can live in the house with someone who would kill you at any hint of doubt of your integrity."

"Piper, consider the power of three."

"Don't tell me you want her around. Don't tell me you still feel for her after all she did to you."

"Piper, don't be silly. I'm only considering your well being. With the demons back on the scene, you need her, you will need the power of three."

"I am considering my own interests. I wanna keep you. And you know what? You can say that it is because you are my everything, but it's also because I know I have nothing to fear with an all powerful demon by my side…well, okay, okay, you're right. I won't be able to treat my sister like that for long, but it won't be just like this when I accept her. She needs to prove herself. She needs to prove she is not a threat to you."

"What about Paige?"

"Did she ever say she wants to stay here? I'm sure she wants to be with her husband."

"I'm not sure how you can throw Phoebe out of her own home."

"Home, yes, but I have the papers. This is legally my house," Piper looked up worried that she had a reason to be jealous.

Cole understood her expression right away, "hey," he turned her face towards him, "I love you. Besides, I'm not suicidal to run after her."

"So you agree with me on this?"

Cole moved to hold her in his arms as a response and engaged in an intense French kiss, only to be interrupted by the kids' curious looks and giggles.

Piper let her husband go a bit reluctant, "Phoebe goes and that's the end of it."

The End.