Disclaimer: I don't own W.I.T.C.H. or any characters in this fiction or Caleb's Coat. If they make any official Caleb coats, you can bet I'll own one then. That thing is tight, yo!

Summary: It's more than just a garment, it's a statement of who he is. Prequel one-shot to "DJINN: The Way to Home."

Author's Note: Like the sum says, this is a prequel to my next-gen Guardian story called "D.J.I.N.N." Very few spoilers, though, so no worries if you have committed the heinous crime of not reading "DJINN: The Way to Home." You can go to Phobos' dungeons after you review.

A Coat is a Coat

"Nice look, babe."

The figure in the brown overcoat glared at the giver of the compliment. "I don't look 'nice.' Nice is for girls." The coat-bearer said the word like it was an obscene group of letters.

Irma Lair chuckled. "Oh, don't be like that. Can I wear it next?"

The figure growled. "No! This is a man's coat. A manly man like me; a little girl like you would probably collapse if you put it on."

"Really? Then can I at least snuggle in it with you, you handsome hunk of beefcake?"

The coat's owner appeared to think it over before finally saying, "Nope, sorry. There's only one chick that gets under this coat." The figure extended a hand toward the "chick" in question. "What do you say, sweetie? Want to ride the Rebel Express?"

Cornelia Hale feigned being flustered by the come on even as she struggled not to laugh. "How can I say no to that coat? It's so... rugged." Cornelia took the figure's hand and shrieked happily when she was yanked to the figure in a dance-like motion. "Oh, Caleb, you're so... hee hee... incredibly blunt."

"Caleb" smirked. "Comes with the territory, honey." "He" dipped Cornelia and looked into her eyes. "Now, give us some sugar, baby." "Caleb" leaned forward and pressed "his" lips to her neck... and blew a huge raspberry that made Cornelia laughingly scream and squirm in "his" grip.

Will Vandom rolled her eyes even as Taranee Cook and Irma burst out in snorts and giggles at the scene. "Honestly, that is so not what Caleb would act like."

"Caleb," actually Hay Lin in her role's old trench coat, shrugged as she swung Cornelia back up. "If I did what Caleb usually does to Cornelia, we'd cross a couple of lines I 'd rather not."

Cornelia shrugged with a blush. "Well, she's got a point. Though I admit, the raspberry would be kind of fun..."

"Ugh," Irma groaned. "I really don't want to know about your hedonistic escapades, Corny."

"Don't call me Corny," Cornelia said automatically. "And you're just jealous."

"Is it that obvious? You guys are playing the field and I'm still warming the bench here!" Irma sighed. "I bet Martin scares away guys. The fact he's still alive must make them think I actually like the attention and, therefore, I'm insane."

"But you are insane," Hay Lin said, slipping back into her rough Caleb voice. It was eerie how close it was to the original, but seeing as Caleb practically lived with the young girl it was understandable that she could mimic him the best. "All Earth girls are."

"And easy?" Cornelia said with a grin.

"Heck no! Too high maintenance! Always talking about their feelings and buying ungodly amounts of shoes." Hay Lin placed her tiny fists on her coat-covered hips. "And don't even get me started on your makeup. What is this planet, a giant circus? 'Cause you all look like clowns." Taranee laughed so hard she nearly swallowed her braid.

"Do you have clowns in Meridian, Caleb?" Will asked with a smile. This was getting interesting. Maybe Hay Lin could be Matt next? Though the Keeper could do without the raspberry...

"Yes, we do. I, me, Caleb, am the King of the Clowns, and we all travel around on hoogongs giving larvek eggs to the bad boys and girls and chocolate to the good ones." Hay Lin thrust her chin up at the ceiling, like she was posing for a propaganda poster. "My only regret is that I'll never be able to give a larvek egg to every girl on Earth, so that they'll get eaten and make the universe a better place."

The only appropriate response from the other Guardians of the Infinite Dimensions was applause. "It's like he's actually there!" Irma said sarcastically. "Me next! Me next!" Hay Lin shrugged the coat off and handed it to Irma, who threw it on.

Not taking the time Hay Lin did to roll up the sleeves, Irma stomped over to an chalkboard that once displayed the special of the day for the Silver Dragon. "Alright you girls," "Caleb" said in a booming voice as "he" pointed to the chalkboard with a floppy appendage, "Listen up! Our plan of attack is simple: I'm going to sit back while you guys do all the work, and then I'm going to complain about it. That's about it. Any questions? You. Make it quick."

Taranee lowered her hand. "Surely you're not going to just sit there and do nothing, Sir?"

"Of course not, you foolish girl! I'll be checking you all out in your skintight outfits, particularly that oh-so-hot Irma Lair. Dang, that honey is fine!" Everyone laughed uproariously. "Caleb" looked both gratified and put off by this. "Hey, it wasn't that funny."

"It's not you, Irma," Will said, drying her eyes with a handkerchief shaped like a lily pad. "It was sorta true. Pure Caleb."

"You know," Hay Lin said as she tugged on the coat gingerly, "I'm starting to feel bad about beginning this thing. He has a lot of high points, too. Just last week he covered me with this coat when I fell asleep doing homework down here. It kept me warm the whole time. He can be a real sweetie sometimes."

"I know what you mean," Will added. "Two days ago, that freak rainstorm caught me while I was carrying our dry-cleaning home. Caleb held his coat over me and the clothes all the way to the apartment, and got soaked in the process. And he didn't complain, not once! I thanked him when we got there and he said it was good to get some use out of the old thing."

Cornelia smiled as she thought of another way the coat had come in handy. "And he always offers it to me when we walk after dark. He's not trying to score points, either; he just throws it on me if I say no." She laughed and said in a passable Caleb voice, "'Stupid girl wants to freeze to death!' Chivalry isn't dead, it's just rude!"

"But it's part of his charm and don't you deny it, Cornelia!" Hay Lin said, winking at her. "Most guys that act too nice are after something, but with Caleb he's all grouchy so you know he means it! Uh, if you get my drift."

"It's like the coat," Irma added as she held her arms out to display it. "Doesn't look like it on the outside, but it keeps you warm and dry."

"Yep, he's just a big softie. He'll make a great dad one day," Taranee deduced as she waggled her eyebrows suggestively at Cornelia.

Cornelia's eyes widened. "Oh, no, there's no way I'm ever getting pregnant. And have his kid? I'd have to be crazy."

"Oh, my god I...! I should have knocked!" Hay Lin's face burned even though she was facing away from the sight of Caleb and Cornelia laying under his coat. On his bed. And clearly naked under the garment. Even the still-innocent eighteen-year-old knew what had transpired. "I'm going now! God, you're lucky you're sleeping over tonight, Cornelia!" Hands over her eyes, Hay Lin bumped into several objects until she made it to the stairs. "I'll lock the door," she added before she closed it behind her, a click resounding through the dark basement.

Cornelia blew a strand of her long hair out of her mouth and looked over at Caleb, who was propped up on his elbow and grinning at her. "Well, so much for keeping this a secret. We should have planned better."

Caleb reached over and brushed the hair out of her lovely blue eyes. "We didn't really plan much for this, if I recall."

True. It had happened so fact: one minute they were laying on the bed, exhausted and cuddling, then something seized her and she was running her hand up his shirt. So fast... "Oh, god! Caleb, we didn't use any protection! What if..." Cornelia couldn't say it, fear and an odd feeling of excitement running through her.

Caleb soothed her, whispering, "It's okay, it's alright. Whatever happens I'm here with you." He pulled the coat over her bare shoulders to guard against the chill of the basement.

"But... but what about Meridian? Your duties..." Cornelia sucked in a breath. "If I'm..."

"Then my duty is to be with you. That's where I've always wanted to be. Just rest now." He smiled impishly. "I know you're tired."

"Why would I be?" she asked defiantly, though she she blushed as she said it. Both of them knew why she was exhausted; her take-charge attitude was as apparent in her love-making as the rest of her life. "Oh, quit smirking and go to sleep, Rebel Boy."

"Yes, ma'am."

"It's... it's positive," Cornelia said as she stared at the plastic device.

"Are you okay?" the father asks as he puts his coat around her shoulders.

"...yes... yeah, I am."

"I'm Daddy!" the little girl shouts to the assembled young adults, raising her little arms in the too-long sleeves. "Let's get Phobos!"

"Guardians Unite!" Aunt Will shouted while the rest of girls second her with battle cries.

"Too late," Cornelia said as she takes the old coat off her only child. "We already got him. Time for bed, 'Caleb Jr.'"


"But Mom, you'll miss my birthday party!"

"I'm sorry, Baby, but I have to make this qualifer to get into the Olympics. Won't it be cool to say your mom is on TV?"

"I guess..." And the nine-year-old trots off with her father's coat behind her. Cornelia knows she'll hide under it until she falls asleep like a safety blanket.

"She'll understand one day," her husband says as his arms encircle her. "If I only I could provide for my family like I should be..."

"No," Cornelia said, "We knew it would have to be this way. At least be there for her when I can't. I swear to God by the time we have more children, this won't happen again. I swear."

"You always keep your promises," he replies. "Just remember, one day she'll be leaving us behind."

"Mom! Dad! I'm about to go!"

"Hold on a sec'," Cornelia urged as she entered the living room where her daughter was pulling on her father's old coat. "Honestly, Ingrid, why do you wear that old thing? You have so many nicer clothes." Cornelia, still an avid shopper at thrty-two, had made made sure of that.

Ingrid looked back at her mother with eyes identical to hers and rolled them like her father still did. Fliping her shoulder-length brown hair over the large collar, she explained, "My 'nice clothes' would get torn up fast in Meridian. This 'old thing'," she patted the coat, "has been through the worst it has to offer. Besides, it looks really cool. Very bass."

Cornelia registered this as the new slang for "bad ass." It sounded ridiculous to her, but the world had changed a little since she was a girl. Only a little bit, but one particular development had turned her life upside down and drove her crazy with worry.

Tall and lanky like her father had been yet still as beautiful as her mother was, Ingrid Hale was a force unto herself. Fifteen-years-old and able to pass as college-age, most girls would have been awkard and out of place in high school due to her height of six-one. Instead, Ingrid reveled in her uniqueness with more confidence than even her mother had possessed when Cornelia was her age.

Boys came in two varieties for her: those who were intimidated and not worth noticing, or those that had the slight potential to be a date. Unlike her parents, who had remained steady throughout most of high school, Ingrid seemed content to play the field and never seemed to be wanting for partners, despite her odd taste in clothing. Cornelia crossed her arms and glared at her only daughter. "Well, as long as it looks cool," she said sarcastically.

Strong arms looped around Cornelia's waist and a soft lips pecked her cheek. "You never seemed to mind wearing it," Caleb said playfully. "Especially when it was all you had on hand." Cornelia blushed at the memories that summoned up.

Ingrid made a disgusted face at the overt parental flirting. "Urgh, do you have to that in front of me? Look, I have to get going." She wrapped her long arms around her parents, squeezing her mother between her father and causing Cornelia's heart to swell with indescribable emotions. "'Love you." With that she darted out the door to join her friends.

Cornelia sniffed as she watched her world just dash off like it was nothing. "There goes my baby, wearing her father's ratty old coat."

Caleb smiled as he held her tighter. "One day, we're going to have to tell her that she was conceived under that thing."

Cornelia chortled as she dried her eyes. "That might actually make her stop wearing it." Somehow the thought of that was distressing to Ingrid's mother. "Actually... let's wait until the boys are fighting over it."

"Okay. But when do we tell the boys that they..."

Cornelia grabbed at his sides for an open-handed pinch/tickle assault. Caleb yelped as the struggle led them over to the couch. One second Cornelia had the upper-hand, the next she was pinned gently to the cushions. Her husband was laying lightly on top of her and grinning in intolerable smugness. "It's a good thing the twins are at your parents' house," he whispered as he trailed kisses along her neck. "We need some time alone together."

"Oh? And why would I want to be alone with you, Mister Hale?" It was a weak defense, but she was determined not to make it easy for him. It didn't help that she was unzipping his pants at the same time.

Damn that man's smile. It was one of the many reasons she'd had his babies. "I could tell you, but I'd rather show you."

A thought occurred to Cornelia, something that rang of tradition and rites of love and passion that had built a family and made her complete. It was a little thing, but it had made a world of difference for her.

"...we need a coat."

The next day she hugs Will and tells her how happy she is that the "New Girl" came to town. When she leaves a confused Will looks at the others for a possible explanation; it's Irma that points out the "glow."

Will laughs. Now it makes sense.

But before all that... a couple of girls were playing around with an old coat. "Who wants to go next?" Irma asked.

"Can I give it a try?"

The girls whirled toward the stairs and, sure enough, the owner of the coat was sitting on the steps and grinning at them. The "Calebs" grinned back sheepishly as he rose and walked over to Irma and held out his hand. Irma, unusually bashful, removed his coat and handed it to him.

"You know," Caleb mused as he looked at the garment, "it is a nasty old thing. Maybe I should just throw it away..."

"NO!" the girls cried out. Caleb looked at them with surprised amusement. Hay Lin offered an explanation that was only half-true. "It's still good, I mean, we mean..."

None of them say that they see him and the coat as one entity. A horse and carriage, of sorts, that can always be there when the rest of the world changes so fast; the Oracle reigns in Candracar, Will fights and makes up with her mother and Caleb will wear his coat. Its one of the small things that becomes ingrained in the heart so much that the absence is felt keenly. Cornelia, the one who can't stand out-of-date fashions, would be mollified if Caleb went on a mission without it.

The owner of the coat shrugs. "Well, if you're sure, I'll keep the thing. Still, it's just an old coat."

Cornelia says what they all are thinking. "It's more than that."

Author's Note:
Pure fluff, ain't it? I think I salvaged it with the D.J.I.N.N. tie-in, anyways. Basically it started as "girls are playing with Caleb's coat" and went to Sappy Town, pop. 1. Hay Lin's awkward moment in the basement was really Ingrid's conception, btw, putting this squarely in the D.J.I.N.N. timeline; the scene with Ingrid leaving with the other Guardians takes place two years after "DJINN: The Way to Home".

Speaking of Ingrid, this was another "conception" in a way. Only my new Keeper of the Heart existed at this point when I made up Cornelia's daughter, which tells me how long it's been since I first started this; this and a lot of my other W.I.T.C.H. one-shots have been waiting to be published awhile partially because of spoilers like this and my wait-and-see approach to the end of Season Two.

D.J.I.N.N. fans should be interested since this is literally the first time I ever wrote Ingrid down and the other three girls weren't even a gleam in my eye yet, so to speak. From Ingrid the others formed around her personality; as "D" is the "first" of D.J.I.N.N., Ingrid is the core of the team in both the acronym and terms of character development. I can hear a certain "N" screaming in horror!

Sappy Town aside (it's a few miles down from Angst Ville, turn in at the second exit), there is a little deeper meaning behind Caleb's distinctive coat in that it is symbolic of Caleb himself. He comes off harsh but is ultimately a nurturing and protective person who is entirely devoted to whatever he cares about. Cornelia, bless her heart, likes to be devoted on so once Meridian is out of the frying pan it isn't (to me) unthinkable that a life-long relationship would result and that is what they have in D.J.I.N.N.

Their marriage has always seemed to me to be one of the points of D.J.I.N.N. I would need to defend because (as strayphoenix points out smartly in her profile, check it out) why would the girls automatically marry their high school boyfriends? Well, Cornelia's cute, but as a guy I can tell you looks take a backseat when a girl is too pushy or demanding; Caleb's not one to be pushed around, so they balance out... or they will eventually. I guess that makes me a CxC fan, but I at least I gave some good reasons besides they're just meant to be. I mean, hell, Ingrid had to come from somewhere, right? That said, Peter Cook was a close second for Cornelia's baby daddy, actually, and if I had based D.J.I.N.N. on the comic version instead of the show, he really would have been Ingrid's chromosome donor. Ingrid would then have had a hankering for red hair dye, naturally. And a goatee.


Something You Absolutely Don't Need to Know: My absolute favorite pairing? Caleb/Will/Irma/Taranee/Cornelia/Hay Lin. Or is that a grouping? (Evil Laugh)