'If all else perished, and she* remained, I should still continue to be, and if all else remained, and she* were annihilated, the Universe would be a mighty stranger.' - Wuthering Heights

*

Chapter 4

"Prue I can explain –" started Paige.

"There isn't anything to explain," replied the older witch turning on her heel and walking up the stairs. Paige ran after her, more out of instinct than anything else. Cole threw Leo a quizzical look before shimmering to the attic. Damn it felt good to do that. A sense of liberation. Who he was. He turned his head as Piper jumped when he shimmered in and Leo orbed in beside him. She threw him a disgusted look as she flipped through the Book. He smirked back.

"Use the stairs next time Cole," said Prue banging her way through the room. "That goes for you too, Leo." Leo opened his mouth probably to protest his innocence but Cole felt that Prue needed little encouragement at the moment. God, help the unlucky bastard who threatened her right now. Well, that bastard happened to be a 'witch' named Paige. Oh, the irony.

Prue strode towards Piper. "We have a problem."

"Other than losing our sister? Gee, how wonder how bad this one is."

"Yeah, well this one is HUGE." Prue pointed at the anxious Paige. "Meet our new sister, Paige."

"What? What are you talking about? She's not our –"

"Mom had a bastard."

"Mom – WHAT?" spluttered Piper

"Well that's something you don't see ever every day," Cole muttered to Leo, who was cautious in making any sudden movements. "Piper speechless."

"With her whitelighter. Sam. Remember him?" steam-rolled Prue, not catching what Cole had said.

"But she would have –"

"What? Told us?" laughed Prue bitterly. "Fat chance." Prue took a deep breath then – "GRAMS! Get down here NOW."

"No need to shout dear. I maybe dead but I'm not deaf," answered a sultry voice followed by the old spinster appearing in the middle of the attic. "You called."

"Why didn't you tell us?" hissed Prue at Grams. "That we had another sister."

"Really dear. I would've thought that you'd want to know how Phoebe is doing," she said causing Cole to set his jaw. He hated the old bat. Every fibre of his being did. She had his Phoebe. They had taken her away, somewhere where he couldn't reach her. Cole grinded his teeth, repressing the urge to hurt every single one of them in the room. He hated every goddamn single one of them. Prue, Piper, Leo, Paige and even the grandmother. It was hate that boiled in his stomach with the heat of a fire and it rose rapidly in their chest. Fuck them all! It was consuming him, and all it did was fuel the pain and loneliness, widen its borders. His hands shook as he clenched them into fists of fury. Belthazor was calling and he would succumb. He knew it.

"Where is she then?" he grunted. "I want to see her."

The old woman turned to him, "She's fine Cole. Sends her love." Cole snapped and strode towards her, "That's not what I asked."

"Well, that's what I'm telling you."

"Tell me..."

"Cole. You of all people should know why she's not supposed to see any of you –"

"Screw the rules. Send her to me now. I need to see her, hear her voice..." he trailed off in time, realising just how vulnerable he sounded. He didn't want to sound so weak and needy. But goddamit he was. Just to be able to near Phoebe, that's all he wanted. He wouldn't even ask to touch her but he knew he would want to. She was a weakness he couldn't overcome. Being in the same room as her would cause him to feel as though love existed. He was able to love. Cole honestly didn't know where his soul started and Phoebe's began. They were one, yet here he was breathing, whilst she was dead. How was that possible? How could he be here whilst she wasn't? She was his whole purpose. Gods, what he wouldn't do for her smile, to feel her lips, her silky smooth skin... Cole gritted his teeth. He couldn't bring himself to breathe normally let alone talk. All he wanted to was throw back his head and yell and scream from his heart. Like a wounded animal who could feel his life slipping away from him. How could they be so cruel? How could they take away the one thing that he wanted above all else? Belthazor had been a monster, evil yes. But by gods, how could they snatch away the one thing that made Cole want to be good? He breathed in a shallow breath, addressing the old woman.

"What do you suggest?" he asked her surprising himself. Heck, this was no time for self-pride. If the old relic could bring Phoebe then he'd get down on his knees and beg her. Not that he's let her know that, he thought resolutely.

"One problem at a time Cole," she mothered. "We have some family issues to take care of-"Cole closed his eyes. He knew they were walking a thin line here, with a half-demon about to lose patience and control. None of them took notice as the drama went on.

"Yes, damn well we do, "burst Prue. "How come you didn't tell us –"

"I couldn't dear. I wanted to, but I was sworn to secrecy."

"By who?" spoke Piper for the first time.

"By me," said a voice followed by the spirit of a young woman.

"Mom?" asked Prue in wonder. "But why?" Getting a little side-tracked thought Cole wishing he could physically motion action plans. Instead, he walked over to an antique looking chair and sat down. If he stood any longer he'd shimmer out and he knew it. Besides, Paige bashing from here, looked more appetising.

"It was forbidden. To be with Sam but we fell in love and –"

"Could we please fast forward to the part where you get knocked up because time is of the essence," Cole interrupted getting a couple of death stares. No way was he gonna sit here and listen to the details of that union. It made him queasy, like he was somehow looking into the mirror somehow, except it wasn't an angel that he saw but a demon.

"Er, I got pregnant," said Pattya little dazed herself. "You thought I was getting fat-" she started to smile.

"You had her and then gave her to a church," interrupted Prue.

"Yes." They stared at each other for a few moments. "Prue , I –"

"Leave. Just please go."

"Now Prue, really," quipped Grams who'd been awfully quiet. "You should be happy, you have a-" Cole scoffed.

"Don't," uttered Piper in a whisper to her Grams shocking all into silence. Paige, half-forgotten in the shadows, looked like she needed a miracle. Get in line, thought Cole watching her from the corner of his eye. A few seconds later, Prue burst into a hollow laugh shattering the fragility of the situation. Everyone turned to her.

"You know what's weird? My baby sister is dead. Her half-demon boyfriend may become evil and kill us but there's only one thing I can think of right now. You know what that is grams? You, asking me whether you'd done a good job with raising us. Today, I can finally tell you. Like hell you did."

"Now, young lady –"

Prue held up her hand. "Please grams, save it." With that, she turned around and walked out the door of the attic. Leaving the dust to settle.

"Don't tell me I'm overreacting."

"I think it was a little harsh," said Piper defensively. "I mean you didn't have to attack Mom about it. It's not her fault she fell in love..." Piper trailed off.

"Oh gosh Piper, I'm so sorry, "said Prue the realisation of the situation dawning on her, as she leaned against the table and held her sister's hand. Cole cleared his throat whilst pacing frantically; both sisters looked up.

"We don't have much time, so ..." Frankly, he was getting tired of the hold-ups.

"Yeah, er...Leo!" the whitelighter orbed in. "What is it?" said his wife reading his expression.

"Well, we have big problems. Portals and dimensions are randomly opening up everywhere. It's chaos. Demons that were sealed are coming back." Leo stopped as they absorbed this. Cole's heart skipped a beat as he remembered how the whitelighter had informed him earlier. There might be hope yet.

"Increased activity?" Leo nodded towards him.

"What do we do?" said Prue.

Leo took a deep breath. This did not look good. "You can't do much. Not without being the Charmed Ones."

"Well Phoebe isn't here."

"No... but" Cole could see Leo treading very carefully. "But Paige is." Silence.

"No way. Even if that bastard is a Charmed One, it won't be strong enough to make anything work..." Prue said as Paige walked into the kitchen carrying the Book of Shadows. Cole watched for Prue's reaction – none as Piper got up. "Sit here," she said indicating to her seat. Paige sat down a little surprised. "Find anything?"

"Nope. There's nothing," sighed Paige closing the book. Everybody stared at her in the uncomfortable silence as Cole began to wring his hands tightly. This family shit was really getting on his nerves and he was just about to say so when –

"Isn't this cosy?" Oh no. The old woman was back again floating through the kitchen as though nothing in the world was wrong.

"You haven't gone?" asked Cole, a little worried now. What if Phoebe needed her? After all crossing-over was meant to be tough. He didn't want her to be left alone, anymore than necessary.

"We can't get back."

"What?"

"We can't get back, you know up there..."

"What-"

"It's kind of – sealed off..." muttered Patty.

"LEO!" screamed Piper. "What the hell is going on?"

"I'm not sure." The favourite phrase. "I'll go check..." he orbed out. Now was the time for some action. He needed to move. If the connection between this dimension and the upper heavens was sealed off then it was possible the demonic planes were the complete opposite. Weirder things had happened.

"I'm going to the Underworld," he announced.

"No," said Prue staring at him suspiciously. "You've got to be here when we bring Phoebe. Can't risk you getting killed." Aw the ice-queen had a heart after all.

"As touching as that is, I may be able to find out what's going on. Besides, I think the Source has bigger problems right now than me." He looked around at their wary faces before shimmering out.