A/N: This is a slash story set after the season seven finale. It may spoil episodes for anyone who hasn't seen that and this might make more sense with that background. Thanks for reading!
Whoever said being a newspaper editor was all glamour and fun was an idiot. Start mentioning the constantly ringing phones, reluctant reporters who always thought they knew best and columnists who didn't turn up for work and you were almost at the reality.
Seconds after putting it down, my desk phone rang again. 'Elise Rothman.'
'Elise?' The voice was familiar even if I couldn't place it at first. 'James Crosby.'
Oh, yes, the editor of The Observer, our biggest competitor for miles. We weren't exactly on good terms since he tried (succeeding in one case) poaching several of my finest reporters so I was immediately on my guard. 'What can I do for you?'
'Phoebe Halliwell and her sisters, just wanted a reaction.'
'Am I supposed to know what you're talking about?'
'Don't tell you don't know?' His voice was mocking me, I could tell that.
'What don't I know, James?'
'You mean to tell me you don't know you're favourite columnist, pride of the city, dabbled in the occult and got herself blown into little pieces this afternoon?'
My mouth went dry until I remembered who I was talking to, it was as likely to be true as the last story he'd spun on his front page. 'I haven't got time for this.'
'Elise, I'm serious.'
After hanging up on him though the idea kept niggling at me, especially because Phoebe had yet to show up for work. Leaving my desk I went to check her office again, still no sign, it was a little worrying. Yes, she might have kept unusual hours but she always phoned in, always.
'Tommy.' I indicated for the closest reporter to join me. 'Any reports of incidents this afternoon on, say, Prescott Street?'
'Um, yeah, actually, haven't had time to check it out.' He ruffled through some papers in his arms. 'Reports of an explosion at 1429 Prescott Street, informant a neighbour.'
'That's Phoebe's house,' I realised aloud. 'Any fatalities?'
'The house was pretty wrecked,' he answered. 'Are you sure that's Phoebe Halliwell's house?'
'Positive. I'm going down there, coming?'
'Yes, Ma'am.' Oh, of course he was. The shrimpiest reporter on the paper, no experience to speak of, probably saw this as his big opportunity. As long as he got me there and got me there fast I couldn't care less though.
As an editor people flocking to the scenes of incidents is a bonus. It means the chances of a high circulation for the next week or so are higher as people decide they want to know the intricate details surrounding the accident they'd given up their day to watch play out. As a concerned boss though, a friend, it was the biggest hindrance in existence.
After an age of trying to force my way through the crowds I noticed a way round the back of the house which was completely unpoliced. A ridiculous situation and one I'd have delighted in drawing attention to if I hadn't had my own reasons for using the channel of access. Slipping away from Tommy I managed to get round to the back without being noticed only to come face to face with a young officer at the door.
'Ma'am, I'm sorry but this area is off-limits.'
'Is it true Phoebe Halliwell was in there when it exploded?' I pressed ahead, ignoring his instructions.
'Really, I'm not at liberty to divulge any information of that nature.'
Years of experience told my gut the truth was in my question. 'What can you tell me?'
Behind him, a black officer came out of the house, one I recognised. 'What's going on out here?'
'Lieutenant Morris, I want some answers.'
Glancing at the young man staring at me he led me down away from the house. 'It's Elise, right? Phoebe's boss.'
'Yes. Is it right what I've heard? Phoebe and her sisters were in there?'
He nodded solemnly. 'Yeah. From the damage, nobody could've survived the blast. I'm sorry.'
I was having a hard time comprehending but the reporter in me won out again. 'What caused the explosion? A gas leak, what?'
'Someone said she was dabbling in the occult,' I interrupted. 'Is that right?'
'Ms Rothman, I really...'
'I need to know, Lieutenant Morris.'
After a few seconds, he nodded. 'It's true. You were close to Phoebe, weren't you?'
That was an understatement. 'I had no idea she was into that kind of thing. I mean... Wha...'
'I realise how much of a shock this is. Can I get someone to take you home?'
'Oh, erm...' I shook my head clear of my mental picture of Phoebe sat at her desk. 'No. I'm here to get a story. Any chance of an exclusive?'
His tight smile showed he wasn't fooled. 'Not unless I want to wave goodbye to my career.'
'Well, I'd better go find my reporter before someone steps on him.'
It was amazing how quickly the vultures disappeared when the carcass was well and truly dead. I knew, I was usually one of them whizzing off back towards the office to type up the latest big headline. Not this time. Prescott Street was deserted; the police tape blocking off 1429 and the smashed windows were merely specks in the suburban atmosphere that was making me sick to my stomach. The Halliwells were dead yet to look at the comfortable street you'd think they had never lived.
Sliding under the tape I walked mutely up to the top of the steps, examining the barricaded doors and taking a seat. The sun was slowly fading, the house cast a shadow over me while I shivered at the lack of noise.
I wasn't sure how long I was sat there running through various Phoebe-led scenarios but eventually a set of high heels clicked up the steps and someone coughed. Wiping the unexpected tear from my eye I looked up, distinguishing a blonde taking a seat beside me in the growing gloom. 'I heard what happened here.'
'Did you know them?' I asked. 'The Halliwell sisters.'
The woman smiled. 'Intimately. Me and Phoebe were er... school friends.'
At that I truly looked at her. 'You knew Phoebe?'
'You were her boss, right?'
'Yes. Well, that was the way she saw me. Someone who paid her at the end of the month.'
'You felt differently?' she answered tentatively, biting her lip in a way reminiscent of Phoebe herself.
'Oh, she was...' Checking myself, I said, 'I'm sorry, I don't even know you.'
'Sometimes it's easier to open up to a stranger. That's why Ask Phoebe was so popular, right?'
I involuntarily smiled at the memories that invoked. 'Phoebe was more than a friend to me. I was...'
'Wait, wait. You were in love with her?'
Despite my usual poker face I couldn't hide my surprise at her perceptiveness. Only Phoebe had ever managed to read my most intimate thoughts in that way. 'I'm sorry, are you a mind-reader or something?'
'You don't believe in that kind of thing.'
'There you go again!'
A small smile crept onto the blonde's lips. 'Look, I'm intuitive. That's why I got on so well with Phoebe. You were in love with her weren't you?'
'In a manner of speaking, yes.'
'How can that ever be in a manner of speaking?'
I made to stand but she pulled me back to the step. 'I'm sorry. I have to go.'
'Did you ever tell her, Elise? Did you ever think about telling her?'
'If you knew Phoebe Halliwell as well as you say, you'd know these feelings weren't reciprocated.'
'How can you know if you don't ask?'
My eyes narrowed. 'What did you just say?'
She looked slightly caught. 'I said how... You didn't ask her.'
'You said that as if she was still alive.'
'Slip of the tongue.'
My investigative instinct kicked back into action. 'No, it wasn't. I'm sorry, you didn't give your name. Who are you and what do you know?'
The blonde clenched her fist and looked down at it. 'Piper's gonna kill me.'
'Piper's alive too?' I questioned incredulously. 'What the hell's going on?'
She placed a hand on my arm. 'Elise, please don't freak out.'
Swallowing, I nodded my agreement. 'Tell me.'
In response she glanced to her knees then looked back up... with Phoebe's face. 'Please don't freak out,' she again implored.
I stood, a mixture of fear and anger bubbling up into my throat. 'Phoebe? What the..?'
'I'm sorry,' she said weakly, also standing and taking hold of my shoulders. 'Everything you might've heard about me today is true. I am witch, my sisters are witches and something- a demon- was trying to kill us today. Plus we had the FBI on our tail. The only way we could survive was to disappear.'
'Sorry, sorry. A what was trying to kill you?'
'Listen, I can't explain this here. It's too risky.'
I just stared at her. 'So you're just going to leave me with this?'
Phoebe looked me straight in the eye. 'Elise, haven't you got it yet? Listen, come with me. I'll tell you everything.' With that, she changed her face back into that of a blonde bombshell.
I couldn't keep my eyes off her for the entire journey, partly worried she was going to disappear and partly worried that she wasn't and I was going to have to rethink my world philosophy. The first thought was a much worse one than the second though in all reality.
She took me to a swanky flat in the centre of town. Obviously not having a key she was forced to knock on the door and a man opened it, one I recognised as Victor Halliwell. 'Where have you been? And who's this?'
'Dad, I grew up a long time ago,' Phoebe answered, changing her face back into her own as soon as the door closed. 'This is my boss.'
She remained defiant. 'You don't understand.'
'I know Piper's going to kill you.'
'Where is she?'
He sighed. 'She and Leo took the boys for ice-cream.'
'Then I'm fine. Come on, Elise.'
Smiling faintly at Victor I allowed Phoebe to lead me into what was probably the spare bedroom. When she shut the door I tried to find some words but settled on the customary, 'It's nice you're alive.'
Indicating for us to sit down on the bed, she took my hand. 'You didn't tell me.'
'I'm being accused of hiding things?'
'Okay, okay,' she relented. 'So I haven't been entirely honest. I had my reasons.'
'So I did. A little fear of rejection.'
For a moment she was quiet. 'Why did you assume that?'
'Phoebe, I've known some straight women in my time and you topped the list. I watched you with Cole, Jason, an array of dates. What did you want me to think? You wanted to experiment?'
'Okay, firstly, it's got nothing to do with experimentation. It's about feelings, I've got those, you know.'
'For who?' I questioned bluntly.
I swallowed, taking note of the way her hands were wrapped around my own. 'All you've told me tonight is unbelievable, you do realise that?'
'It's believable because I'm sat here. It'll take some getting used to but...'
On instinct, I kissed her quickly, pressing my body into hers. 'I want to try.'
'And you're not gonna put this on the front page tomorrow?' Phoebe asked with a smirk on her face.
'Oh, I'll have to see about that.'