Title: Dark Clouds May Hang
Author: Jinni R
Characters: Xander, Piper/Leo, Phoebe/Cole
Disclaimer: All things BtVS belong to Joss Whedon, et al. All things Charmed belong to Aaron Spelling, et al. Lyrics that will be used throughout, and inspiration drawn from, are from Dave Matthews Band's "Dancing Nancies".
Distribution: The normal places.
Author's Notes: Will include spoilers up to and through Season Six of Charmed and perhaps even Season Six of BtVS. This is fair warning.
Summary: They loved him enough to set him free…
x x x Prologue, Year 2008 x x x
The attic was quiet for all that it was scattered with people. Sad, teary eyes watched the couple in the center of things. Leo and Piper on one side, Paige standing with Chris and Wyatt on the other. They'd come far and tried so hard, but in the end it was coming down to this.
"I've known this day was coming since the second I got pregnant..."
"And yet it still hurts... as it should."
Phoebe nodded, gazing down at the tiny bundle in her arms. Small pink hands, curled into miniature fists, batted with breathless energy at nothing in particular. Just the random movement of a child not even two weeks old in this world, flailing about with innocence. A thin dusting of baby fine dark hair covered the tender flesh of his scalp and she knew that if he deigned to open his eyes she'd see his father in those dark depths.
"How do we know this is right?" she whispered to everyone and no one at all, leaning into the gentle yet firm hand he laid on her shoulder. She trusted that strength to keep her standing, to get her through this. Outwardly she might look calm… but inside a storm was brewing, raining down on her heart, drowning her in sorrow. She couldn't even take solace in the fact that once this was over…
He smiled softly, running a finger over the baby's cheek before giving a significant look upwards. "I think proof of it being the right thing to do is sitting Up There right now, Phoebe."
She nodded, blinking back tears. Her eyes savored the sight of Cole touching the baby with such tenderness. Hands that had done so much... killed so many... and yet he was more gentle with his son than one would be touching spun glass. She'd never even dared to imagine this moment until that day, years before, when she'd been told the impossible... and even then she'd tried to deny it.
And now the blessed impossibility that lay in her arms was ending.
"Shh," he whispered, laying a finger over her lips. "We don't have to do it if you don't want to."
The words meant nothing, just a sympathetic gesture to try to soothe her frazzled nerves, and she offered him a tremulous smile. "Liar."
They had to do this.
It was the only way to make sure...
... and wasn't the young man waiting Up There for the okay to come back down just proof of that?
She shut her eyes, cradling the sleeping baby to her chest.
"What if they find him?"
"They won't even be looking for him," Leo spoke up, taking a step forward.
"And..." Phoebe paused, eyes shifting to Cole before back to her son. Hard to think about that part of things, harder still to give voice to it. "What about the part of him that's... not human."
Cole raised his eyebrows at her and she fought back a flush. "The demonic part, I assume you mean?"
"Yeah, yeah," Paige sighed as she joined the group in the center of the attic with one more glance over her shoulder to make sure the two boys were content to sit and play with their toys. "Daddy's little gift to his son - what about when he loses control? No one will be there to stop him."
"Paige," Phoebe hissed, giving her sister an unfriendly look. No matter how much time passed, it would always come back to this. There weren't enough apologies in the world for some of the things Cole had done to them and she had given up trying to keep her sister in line when it came to things like that – the demonic stuff. Like now.
"What?" The other woman shrugged. "Valid question. We didn't really talk about that. Look at how much trouble your boy toy had... still has sometimes."
"He's only one quarter demon, not a half. Not like me," Cole interrupted, voice firm. "And binding his powers will do the rest. He won't be able to tap into the evil because he'll never come close to it."
They hoped, Phoebe corrected herself, looking down at her son. One quarter human, one quarter demon... and one half witch. He was something special. And for that reason they had to do this. Send him somewhere safe... somewhere where he stood a chance of reaching adulthood. They couldn't do that here and now. Not with both Wyatt and Chris needing protection. Two special children... a third had been unexpected.
And they just couldn't handle it. Not right now.
It wasn't fair, she fought not to scream. Later she'd break down. Later she would scream to the heavens about what was right and wrong, fair and unfair. She'd curse and yell and hit things. The thought lingered, though; it wasn't fair. Piper had never even dreamed of doing this with either of her boys. She got to keep both of her wonderful children near her.
But, then again, when had life ever been fair to any of them? She was thankful for the time she had... the husband that had come into her life... and this beautiful baby boy that she already knew would grow up to be a wonderful man.
"Alright," she whispered, her voice breaking only slightly. "Let's do it."
He was still sleeping as she laid him in the center of the circle, tears pooling unbidden in her eyes. She wiped at them, taking her place next to her sisters as Leo and Cole moved across the room to stand with Wyatt and Chris. The binding spell, so carefully prepared, was spoken in quiet, hushed tones. She didn't know if she'd be able to go through with it if he woke up... if she had to look into his eyes and know that she was sending him away.
He never stirred, tiny hands now snuggled carefully beneath the soft blue baby blanket that Paige had given her. It was one of the only baby things that she had for him. What had been the point in buying a room full when they had known all along what the future held?
"It's done." Piper murmured, wrapping an arm around her sister's waist. Phoebe melted into her embrace, silently accepting the comfort she was trying to offer. "That should hold his powers... for a good twenty years."
"Twenty-two," Paige corrected absently. "It'll hold for twenty-two years."
Phoebe nodded, moving away from the Book of Shadows, back towards her son. This time his carrier came with her, fetched from the side of the attic. Her husband beat her back to the circle and was holding the sleeping infant when she joined him. It looked... so natural to see the two of them together, for all that it was anything but.
"I'm going to miss him."
"We're not losing him," Cole offered the little reassurance that he could.
"Yeah, I know. Still..." Again the reassurance that the statement should have given her failed. She'd never see him grow up. Get his first tooth or take his first step. She wouldn't be there when he started school or did all those other things that little boys did. There would be no first dates for her to worry over or late nights wondering why he hadn't come home yet. She would miss out on the so-called best years of his life.
Yet it still came down to having no other choice. Not if she wanted to do what was best for him.
She stepped closer to the pair, breathing in the soft scent of the baby powder she'd used that morning, mixing with the spicy tang of Cole's cologne. His free arm pulled her against him, the baby safely snuggled between their bodies, and she sighed, letting that last moment of contentment with this...version... of her family wash over her.
"One more thing," she whispered. "We can't forget the --" She tapped the inside of one tiny wrist meaningfully. He nodded tightly, eyes betraying the fact that he was least happy about this part, of all of it. "They'll be hidden," she reminded him. "Until..."
Phoebe nodded and placed her hand over the small wrist, murmuring the words that they'd worked hard to come up with. They didn't want to change anything, not even this. If it meant marking their son... then so be it. The glyph appeared on his skin as she chanted softly to herself, a mixture of the Triquetra and the symbol for Cole's demonic form, something so old that he had only barely recognized it when she showed it to him in the Book. It flowed in rich blackness over the smooth pink skin, flaring to life in a moment of golden light before fading away to nothing. One day it would show itself, at the right moment in time, when proof was needed, but for now it was dormant and hidden.
She nearly broke down and sobbed openly as Cole stepped back from her, placing the baby in the carrier she'd brought into the circle. Knees trembling, she knelt beside it, fumbling for her husband's hand in support even as she placed one last kiss on her son's baby cheek.
"I love you, Alexander," she whispered as she allowed herself to be pulled to her feet, drawn out of the circle and back to the Book of Shadows by her husband. They had to finish this, of course.
"And one day you'll show him just how much you love him," Cole murmured into her ear. His voice broke and she felt the grief well up in her own throat again. She didn't know if she'd be able to do this if –he- broke down. Not now. Not when they were so close to finishing. Her own delicately balanced composure would collapse if that happened. He backed up a step and she could see the wetness in his eyes, knew that the tight rein he'd kept on his emotions was rapidly reaching a breaking point. Demons... especially half-demons... still had feelings. He was living, breathing proof of that. She squeezed his hand and turned to her sisters before she could see anything else that might break her resolve.
This was for the best.
Lights swirled as the spell was begun, the carrier shielded and protected before the portal even began to grow beside it. With a gentleness that finally tore a cry from her throat, the carrier disappeared.
Now Phoebe collapsed, tears pouring unheeded down her face, as the portal slipped closed. Watching him go was like losing a part of herself. She hadn't expected it to hurt like this. Hadn't thought for a minute that she would cry so hard for a child that she would, without a doubt, see again one day. She sobbed, her very heart and soul aching for the baby she had just sent away 'for his own good'.
She heard Piper speak, but the words barely registered as Cole's strong arms slipped around her, his body sinking to the floor next to her. They were just parents… not Pheobe and Cole… or a witch and a half-demon… Right then and there they were just parents grieving.
The bluish-white of orbing caught her eye as she looked back towards the empty circle and she turned her head without thinking, watching as Leo materialized... watching the shimmer that coalesced right beside him. Her breath caught in her throat as it took shape and she wanted to speak... to say something.
The young man was crossing the room before she could re-gather her wits, falling beside the two of them and into a hug that she wasn't sure she ever wanted to let go. She breathed deep, nestling her face into the crook of his neck, and for a second she could imagine that she smelled the baby powder, even though she knew it was impossible. For her it had only been a few minutes...
But for the young man that was currently telling his father how boring Up There really was... it had been a lifetime.
She touched his arm, smiling as he turned to face her, brown eyes sparkling.
"I missed you, Xander."
x x x End Prologue x x x