Those Who Depend

by

Princess McPhee


Disclaimer: Not mine. The WB, Constance M. Burge, are not me.

Author's Note: Touchy subject. (Abortion) Don't read if you'll be offended.

Rating: PG-13 for now

Summary: When something happens to Phoebe, she realizes that she really only has one option.


The house is quiet at 2am. Everyone is asleep, even Leo and Cole, who often stay up late into the night, taking turns at keeping guard duty. They think we don't know, but we're witches. They're only an immortal whitelighter and a half-demon. I can hear Piper's steady breathing as I walk past her room, and Leo is mumbling something in a distinctly sleepy tone. Sounds like dream-fare.

At the door to the next room, I peek in. It's my right, after all. It is my room. The sight makes me smile. Cole is stretched out, sprawled over the bed, taking up what is definitely more than his share of the space. His legs are flung out, and his right arm is lying on the bed beside him, his left across his chest. His head is practically lost in the pillow, I think Paige was performing spells on those, today.

I continue silently into the bathroom, where I left my pajamas. I change quickly out of the clothes I'm wearing, folding them neatly and putting them back on the counter. Sliding into the pajamas, I muss my hair on purpose, and put on a sleepy look. It isn't hard.

Turning off the light, and waiting for my vision to adjust, I wander slowly down the hall back to my room, wondering what I'm going to do.

The door to my bedroom opens on it's own, and Cole stands there. He looks very sleepy, but concerned. I don't usually get up in the middle of the night. "You okay, Phoebe?" He asks.

I nod. "Just needed some water." God, I wish that were the truth.

He takes my hand, and leads me back into bed. Lying down, I snuggle against him, and contemplate the situation I somehow managed to get myself into. Momentarily, Cole distracts me. He kisses my ear, and I shiver. It's purely a physical response, and we're both too tired right now, but boy does he know how to push my buttons!

Cole falls asleep almost instantaneously, and I lie in bed, tired but wide awake, just thinking. I think that Cole is the first guy I ever really told how to make love to me. Before, I was always too shy. Odd, huh, Phoebe too shy. But it's true.

Let's just say that I recommend telling your partner what turns you on. If they're at all like Cole, they'll make use of it.

Now, though, I'm somehow going to have to deal with the repercussions of my actions.

*********

I want to tell him so badly, but I can't. I'm smart enough to know that, even if I wasn't smart enough to keep me out of this mess in the first place. I know I have to deal with this quietly, quickly, and silently. No one can suspect anything. It's enough that I have to go through the mental anguish. No one else need have to. It's not like there's another feasible decision to be made, anyway.

The clinic pencils me in for the next day.

I pray that night, for what is probably the first time in my life.

*********

"Dear God," I say, my voice shaky. I am knelt on the floor, hands clasped together in my lap, looking into the ceiling, but seeing the stars. "Please take this child, and give him or her a wonderful, happy home, and make sure she knows I love her, and I didn't get rid of her because I wanted to. I-- I just can't afford to be selfish about this. Too many people's lives depend on me being able to do my job."

My gaze drops to the ground, and this time I don't see a projection of my imagination. I see hard, cold, wooden floor--floor that my child's feet will never touch, floor that his or her stocking feet will never slip on, the way Prue and Piper's and mine always did when we were young. Floor that my child will never even see.

I cry silently, the tears running down my face, my anguish clouding my vision, and only barely manage to crawl into bed before the mental exhaustion overwhelms me and sweeps my consciousness away.

**********

I don't mean to keep this a secret. I'll tell them, I'll tell them as soon as it's over and done with. As soon as no one can possibly get in my way. Because I know what I have to do, and I'm going to do it, awful, burning pain or not. And I'm not talking about pain in the physical sense, either.

It's not like me, I realize that. I've always led with my heart, always let my head take a backseat. Thinking before diving in was sort of Piper's division. More recently, it's been Cole's. Funny, that Prue always sort of led with her instincts, too. Maybe I've changed because I've become the middle sister.

It's odd, that Piper has taken on Prue's role now. She's the leader, she's occasionally the domineering older sibling, she's the one who leads with her instincts. Granted, her instincts are almost never wrong, as were Prue's, but still.

And Paige... Paige acts like I did a year ago. All passion and no brain.

Maybe it's another side effect of the Power of Three reasserting itself. It would actually make an odd kind of sense. Our powers have to balance each other, maybe the way we think has to, too.

But I've really gotten off track. As I was saying, I'm going to do this, because I have to. I really must. It's not like I want to, but I don't have a choice.

Lives depend on my decision here. Not just mine and Cole's, but Piper's and Leo's and Paige's. Others, too. Hell, the whole world depends on the ability of the Charmed Ones to do their job. And as much as my heart screams at me to do so, I can't risk the world for one life.

One life that I can feel so very well, growing within me.

*********

It's over and done with. And I feel hollow and strangely empty and oddly relieved and at the same time, completely devoid of emotion. I told 'them all' that I was taking a lazy day because I was tired, and came home was going to go to the library and then come back home.

Luckily, they're all gone by the time I come back. I crawl to my room, lie in bed with a book that I don't even think of reading, and grab the remote for my stereo. Playing Sarah McLachlan at a moderate volume, I spend the day that way.

I know something is wrong when 'Angel' comes onto the stereo. Usually it makes my eyes pour with tears, now that Prue is gone. Today, it does nothing. Not only do I not cry, I don't even feel sad. I listen to the lyrics, but they are only words, with no context within my emotions.

Paige comes bouncing through at about four-thirty. She asks me briefly what the ingredients to a spell she's doing for Piper are, and when I don't bother to grill her about what the spell is, she asks me if I'm alright. I tell her I'm not, but send her on her way with the ingredient and a false smile. She goes, obviously not knowing what else to do.

Piper comes in an hour later, arguing lightly with Leo about what she should fix for dinner. Leo dares not suggest going out, so he fumbles with the names of her more exotic dinners, suggesting that they take something and go out to eat at a park or dock or something. Piper is steadfastly insisting that she's doing enough work and is going to make spaghetti for dinner.

Cole finally shows up half an hour after that, shimmering right into my room. I don't startle or blink, anymore, and just watch as he gets his bearings and turns to face me. "Hello, Phoebe," He greets me. He never calls me by a nickname. I wonder why that is.

And I wonder why I thinking about nicknames right now, too.

"Hello," I answer.

Cole's Phoebe-meter goes off immediately, because he frowns deep in his forehead, and looks me over with a concerned eye. "Are you okay?" He asks.

I shake my head, still emotion-less. "No."

He sits on the bed beside me. "Well, what's wrong?"

I simply spit out the truth. "I had an abortion this morning, Cole." I wait for his reaction.

For long moments, he sits stock-still, apparently disbelieving of what I told him. Then he shakes his head a little, and his eyes stare deep into mine. "You what?" He asks, even though I know he heard.

Calmly, unnaturally calmly, I repeat myself. "I had an abortion."

He just looks at me for moments longer. Then, he stands up and faces me, and his anger and confusion radiate off him in waves. "What the hell is going on, Phoebe?"

I shrug a little, feeling like I should be sympathetic or something, but the emotions simply aren't here. "I got pregnant. I didn't tell anyone because I knew I'd end up keeping it if I did. And the Charmed Ones can't exactly do their job with first a pregnant witch, and later a child around, can they?"

Cole is trembling with his anger now, and still I sit impassively as he glares down at me with a look that burns, even in my current state. "You had an abortion, Phoebe, without telling me?!"

I nod.

Cole is flabbergasted. He opens his mouth to speak, but the only thing that comes out is a shocked "God!"

I know Leo and Piper are standing downstairs, looking at the ceiling, and wondering if they should come visit, and see what's wrong.

"I had to, Cole."

"You had to?"

"Yes."

"You had to have a fucking abortion, without telling me?!" His face is red with anger now.

I finally avert my gaze from his. "What else was I supposed to do?"

"Well, tell me, for one!"

Slowly, feeling is seeping back in. "I couldn't tell you, Cole. You would have stopped me. And believe me, part of me wanted to be stopped. But you know why we couldn't have had the baby."

Cole is pacing now, his anger in no way subsiding. "I do? Why not? Why the hell not, Phoebe?"

I'm starting to get a little pissed with his apparent ignorance. "Why do you think? You don't like the danger I'm in right now! Would you like to find out what kind of danger I'd be in as a pregnant witch? Think about it. My powers might not work the same way, wouldn't that be great? And after the kid was born? What were we supposed to do then, huh, Cole? Take it with us to vanquish demons? And how about if she ever got used as leverage? You do enough stupid things for me, what would you do if it were your son or daughter on the line?"

Cole looks at me, just looks deep into my eyes, and a shiver goes down my spine. "You killed our child, Phoebe."

"The hell I did!" Something inside me disagrees, though, and my already nauseous stomach is starting to churn again. I did, and I know it, too.

Cole just stands in front of me, and shakes his head for a few long moments. Then, locking eyes with me, he shimmers out.

*********

Piper's knocking on the door. I don't really want to deal with her, but if I don't let her in, she'll worry, and if I don't answer, she'll just come in. "It's open!" I call tiredly. Flopping listlessly back on the bed, I wait for her to enter.

Opening the door cautiously, she pokes her head in. "Phoebe?"

I nod. "Yeah. Come in, Piper."

She walks hesitantly inside, and comes to sit on my bedside. She looks a little shell-shocked, and I know instantly that she was outside my door while Cole and I were having our screaming match. "Did I hear what I think I did, Phoebe?"

I nod tiredly, avoiding her eyes. "Yeah."

"Oh." She just sits there for long moments, not quite sure what to say, I guess. Finally, I tire.

"Piper, not to be rude or anything, but if you don't have something to say right now, could you leave so that I can go to sleep?"

She looks over at me slowly, and nods, as if in slow-motion. "Sure." She stands, and turns to leave. I nestle down into the pillows.

"Phoebe?"

"Yes?"

"I'm... here when you want to talk about it."

I smile a little, and look up at her. "I know."

She gives a shaky smile back, and leaves the room.

**********

It's been five days. Cole won't come back. Piper says he's just cooling off, but I can't help but worry. Leo can't sense him because he would actually try, and god forbid the Elders allow him to try and help an ex-demon.

At least I'm not crazy enough to think I can look for him. I mean, a couple of weeks ago, he spirited me to France from San Francisco, I know that without that kind of power, I'm hopeless. Leo could look for him, but again, god forbid he actually be allowed to help!

I overheard Piper saying I'm just moody because my hormones are all messed up right now. Which is probably true. But she doesn't understand! She can't, she hasn't been here.

I've killed things before. When they're demons, I feel no remorse. When they're the occasional human who's incredibly evil, I feel a little sad. When they're a human who is in the wrong place at the wrong time, usually by possession, I feel upset, but life goes on. At least for me.

This is different. This time, I killed a true innocent. A being who had done nothing to the world, who hadn't even seen the world yet.

And I killed her.

I don't know why I insist on calling this... fetus 'her'. Just a feeling I had. I think she would have been a girl, actually.

But I can't think about that. Because that brings me back to the whole 'I killed her' thing.

I really hope Cole comes back soon.

I really hope Cole doesn't hate me for life.

********

Well, Cole paid us a visit today. He very nicely protected my sisters, and left me to fend for myself. He dropped in when we got attacked, and left the instant the demon was vanquished.

It's odd. I really wanted to see him, because I was worried about him, but now, I'm a little pissed that he didn't stop to talk to me. I know he's a mess of raw emotions, but doesn't he understand that I am, too?

At least he hasn't gotten killed by any bounty hunters.

Yet.

********

Paige is really awkward around me, lately. I think that she doesn't believe in abortion, but thinks that our relationship is too new to jeopardize with that information. However, I wish she'd just tell me she thinks what I did is awful, and get it over with. Because the constant jumpiness and sudden little bursts of anger and mood swings are starting to make me wonder if she's pregnant.

God, I hope not. That's all we need.

Piper knows something. I think Cole came by while I was at school, because my sister is a very bad liar, and she's hiding something.

********

I finally collapsed, today. I've been holding it together very well, but with a very, very thin thread for the last couple of weeks. Today, I was looking at pictures of Prue and Piper and me when we were little, and I just missed Prue so much, and then I realized that I would never get to miss my daughter that much, because she could never be born, now, and I just fell apart.

I felt so alone. No one was home. I couldn't go get Piper, she was at work. I couldn't go get Paige, I wouldn't dump this on her. Normally, I'd turn to Cole, but since he's kind of MIA, that's hard to do.

So, I turned my tear-stained head to the sky, and cried out Leo's name.

Leo's been really good about this. I have no clue how he really feels, and to be brutally honest, at the moment I don't really care. I just needed someone to collapse on, and he was so good to me.

Leo may be my sister's husband, but he's been the best thing for all of us. It's a shame that Paige didn't get to see him court Piper. It was god-awfully annoying sometimes, but I don't think I've ever seen a cuter thing in my life. Those two were clearly meant to be.

Which brings my thoughts in an unfortunate turn, back to Cole.

Who I'm not going to think about right now.

So, I turned my tear-stained face up to the ceiling and called out his name, and moments later, he shimmed into sight in front of me, in the clear spot on the living room floor.

The floor that my daughter's feet will never touch.

Stop it, Phoebe!

Leo comes to my side, looking sympathetic, but not surprised. "I'm surprised you held up this long, Phoebe," He says softly, sitting down next to me. He doesn't say anything more, just waits for me to do something.

I bury my face in his shirt, and bawl.

*********

Well, my errant boyfriend returned today, and again, didn't speak to me. It's been three weeks, and I'm starting to get worried that he may not forgive me.

I'm not sure I could live with that.

I did what I did as much for him as for me.

You see, Cole may present a very tough front, but he's really a softie, and he would have done too much for his daughter.

He would have died for her.

In our line of work, she would have been kidnapped twice by the time she was six months old, in danger a thousand times a week, and used as leverage by the Source at least once. Cole would have died for her.

And I couldn't let that happen.

This daughter of ours, she's a figment of my imagination. She was just a little bit of flesh, not even bones by the time I... got rid of her. Everything about her, that she'd have Cole's smile and my eyes and light brown hair, it's all an illusion. She'll never be like that, she can't be now.

But Cole...

Everything I know about Cole is real. How his face crinkles by the corners of his eyes when he smiles, how he has a dimple that you can just barely make out, how his eyes are really an odd shade of blue, how he likes me to be the aggressor at the beginning of sex, but then surrender control when we get into it.

It's all real. It's all Cole. And I don't think I could live with myself, knowing I put him in danger, again.

Odd how it doesn't matter that he's in danger every day he's with me.

**********

I'm alone in the house when the air in front of me starts to move. My heart starts to beat faster, my mouth dries, my breathing quickens. Cole knows that it's only me here, so he must want to see me. And I have no clue what to do, what to say.

The air coalesces, and Cole's form takes shape. He looks different. His brow is thicker, somehow, his eyes deeper with intensity. But overall, he's still my one and only demon lover.

I stand slowly, not sure why he's here, or how I should react. I want to throw myself into his arms, but from the look on his face, that won't be accepted, or at least, not until he's said his piece. "Hello, Cole."

He doesn't answer, just looks me over and over, and I notice that his gaze lingers on my stomach. I try not to think about it, and wait for him to say something. Finally, he does.

"Good morning, Phoebe."

He's so calm. He's been gone for three and a half weeks, and the only thing he has to say when he comes back is 'Good morning, Phoebe'? For some reason, it drives me crazy, and I answer with an explosion.

"'Good morning, Phoebe'? Is that all you have to say, Cole? You've been gone almost a month, and all you have to say is 'Good morning, Phoebe'?!" I stare at him, wanting desperately for him to answer me, though I know he can't. He's trying to deal with this, same as me, he's having as much trouble as I am, I'm sure.

"What do you want me to say?" His tone is still deadly calm.

"Well, you could start with telling me you're sorry for being gone so long. I know you had things to work out, but you worried me to death, Cole!"

He goes to speak, but I just continue, talking over him. "Then you can tell me how you're feeling, because although I may be a witch, I'm not psychic. If there's something you want to talk about, you've got to tell me!"

Suddenly I notice the tears glistening in his eyes, and as he takes two quick steps towards me, I open my arms and fall into his. His shoulders heave with silent sobs, and my own chest catches with tears, though I've already cried enough for a lifetime. "God, I'm sorry," I gasp out in anguish. "I didn't want to, Cole, really, I didn't."

He rubs my back with his hand, and pulls his head out of the crook of my neck where it was resting. "I know, Phoebs. I know." He holds onto me with the arm around my back, and brings up his other hand, tucking my wayward hair behind my ear, and then stroking my curls with his long fingers. I breathe hard, trying to resume some kind of remotely normal pattern.

"I'm sorry too, Phoebe," He says out of the blue. "I didn't mean to worry you so much. I was just so angry, and I didn't want to come back until I'd dealt with it." He looks down at my face, and when he notices my anguish as he says he was angry, he kisses me on the forehead.

"I wish I could say I was never angry, but I can't. I do promise I'll never lie to you, though. I realize now that you did what you had to, and I'm sorry I couldn't see that."

I wrap myself into his arms, holding him as much as he is holding me, wishing a person could shrivel up and crawl inside another, because I've never felt more secure, more contented than I do at this moment in Cole's arms.

"I know this isn't over," He continues. "But I love you, Phoebe, and I promise we'll get through it. Together."

I nuzzle my face into his chest, then look up at him. "Together," I repeat, letting the word swirl around my tongue and cheeks and teeth. It feels like heaven above.

"I don't think anything could be better."


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