A Mother's Story

By Risa

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Author's Note: I know it's been a long time since I've finished the last chapter of the story. But I felt that I had left a few loose ends that needed to be tidied up. I thought I'd do that in the epilogue but I've been so distracted that it took me ages to do it. Anyway, here it is, and I hope you will like it. Also, this takes place just after the Season 4 premiere. I thought it would fit in best there. Thanks again to all the people who have given me such great feedback!

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Epilogue

            "What's wrong, Cole?" Phoebe asked, as she gently touched Cole's shoulder.

            Cole was standing by the window, his back facing Phoebe, lost in thought. He started at Phoebe's voice and turned, tearing his thoughts back to the present. "What?" he said distractedly.

            "I asked you what's wrong," Phoebe repeated, "You seem pretty distracted today, as if something's bothering you."

            Cole sighed. "It's nothing much, really."

            Phoebe just stared at him.

            "All right," he said reluctantly. "Do you remember when Raynor made me kill that witch?"

            She nodded. Those were times she would rather not remember actually.

            "Well, he actually was holding my father's soul hostage. I had to do what I did partly in order to get it back."

            Phoebe looked at him, stunned. "Why didn't you tell me this? You said Raynor cast a spell on you."

            "Well, he did. But that wouldn't have turned me so fast. My father's soul was just the catalyst. I didn't tell you because it was just too complicated."

            "So what happened to your father's soul? Did Raynor actually keep to the bargain?" the last was said rather sceptically.

            "He did actually," Cole said, "I suppose it was 'cause he no longer had any use of my father's soul."

             "So where is it now?"

            Cole held out his hand with his palm facing upward. A blue orb of energy appeared, floating above it. "I've kept it with me. With all that was happening I didn't exactly have time to think about what to do with it. Recently, I've been trying to set my father's soul free, but I haven't figured out how to."

            "Why didn't you say something earlier?" Phoebe said, "We could have done something about it."

            "I just didn't want to give you any more problems, what with Prue's death and everything else…" he trailed off, seeing the quick flash of sorrow that crossed Phoebe's face at the mention of Prue. He took Phoebe's hands and pulled her closer. "You tried your best. Prue's death was beyond your control."

            "I know," Phoebe sighed. "That's what I keep trying to tell myself whenever the 'what-if's start coming." She forced out a smile and tried to change the subject. "But anyway, let's deal with your problem now." She held Cole's hand in hers and pulled him towards the stairs, "Let's see if there's anything in the Book."

            After an entire morning of searching, they still couldn't find anything. Phoebe sighed as she shut the book. Then, Cole came up with a suggestion. "Why not we ask Leo?"

            "I should have thought of that sooner," Phoebe said ruefully. "Leo!" she shouted.

            Leo orbed into attic. "Hey Phoebe, Cole," he said.

            "Hi Leo," Phoebe said, "Cole needs some help," she said, prompting Cole to speak.

            "Do you know anything about freeing souls?" he asked.

            "What?" Leo said, confused.

            Cole explained the entire story to Leo. At the end of it, Leo nodded and grinned. "Actually, I do know how to deal with this. Whitelighters have had to deal with this sort of thing from time to time. Let me have his soul."

            Cole once again summoned the small orb onto his palm and gingerly passed it to Leo. A warm golden glow surrounded the blue orb that continued to spread until the whole attic was filled with the same golden light. The surface of the orb began to split and fragment and a blue mist began to emerge.

            Within minutes, the ghostly figure of a man appeared standing in the middle of that attic and the golden light subsided.

            The man bore a striking resemblance to Cole and was dressed in what was the fashion at the turn of the century. He had a small smile on his face. "Well, it certainly took you long enough," he said.

            "Father?" Cole said, hardly believing that the sight in front of him was true. He couldn't say anything else.

            The man smiled at him. "Yes Cole. It's been a while."

            Just then, there was a white glow in the room and a woman appeared. "You certainly took your time," she said in mock irritation.

            "Mother?" Cole said, shocked, which quickly turned to suspicion and anger. "What are you doing here?"

            "Leo," Phoebe said softly, "Get Piper and Paige."

            "There's no need for that," Benjamin said. Phoebe looked at him in surprise but motioned for Leo to stop. Benjamin walked to Elizabeth and took both her hands in his. "Could you leave us for a while, love?" he said gently. "We've got some overdue explanations to make and its better they hear it from me."

            She nodded, as pain, sadness and wistfulness swarmed over her, feelings which intensified when she looked at Cole. Benjamin only knew too well what she was feeling at that moment. He brought her hands up to his lips and gently kissed them. Elizabeth managed a small smile and disappeared as silently as she had arrived.

            Cole, Phoebe and Leo could only stare at the scene in front of them, stunned. It was not what they had expected. Benjamin stood there expectantly, waiting for one of them to ask the inevitable question.

            Finally, Phoebe said slowly, "What just happened there? I thought she was the one who killed you…"

            Benjamin sighed. "She did. But it was a lot more complicated than that."

            "How?" Cole said in anger at the actions of his mother, "How complicated can it get?"

            "Very," Benjamin said. He looked at Cole sadly, "You've wronged your mother all these years. But that was hardly your fault. All this was done by Raynor." He began to tell them the story of how he and Elizabeth had met, the deception Raynor had created and the events that had led to his and Elizabeth's own death.

            " – after she died, her spirit was taken by the side of good. Partly because they were touched by the love she had for both you and me but also partly because it was a tit-for-tat measure. Since the other side had my soul, they kept hers. She's been waiting for me since." With that, he had finished his story and all of them sat there in silence, grappling with everything they had heard.

Cole felt his head spin. He had no idea that his parents had had such a history. For years he had hated his mother so much when it turned out that that was exactly what Raynor wanted. He had been a mere instrument in his hands. "How did you know all this?" he asked.

            Benjamin sighed. "Even though my soul was trapped, I was still aware of what was happening outside. It was a way for Raynor to torture me. I saw Elizabeth forced into bringing you up as a demon, I saw you become increasingly evil, but I was also aware of what had happened after you met Phoebe Halliwell," Benjamin gave Phoebe a grateful smile. "Both Elizabeth and I want to thank you for all that you've done for our son."

            She grinned as she looked up at Cole before turning back to Benjamin. "He's done a lot for me too."

            "Anyway," Benjamin said, "whatever I didn't see for myself, your mother told me." At the look of surprise that Cole gave, he grinned. "I don't know how exactly, but somehow she managed to visit me after she died. It was the only thing that kept me sane all these years." He paused, before continuing. "She really loved you Cole. When you were just born, she would just hold you in her arms and look at you with such wonderment and love…"

            Phoebe and Leo looked at each other in surprise. It was difficult to believe that a demon was capable of such love.

            Cole sighed. "It must have been hard for both of you these past few years. And I probably didn't help the situation much."

            Benjamin shook his head. "You went down that path mainly because of the lies Raynor told you. Your mother despaired and blamed herself but I told her that things would change. You were not wholly evil and time has proven me right."

            "And you're really proud of that aren't you?" a voice said sourly. The three of them turned to see Elizabeth appear beside Benjamin.

            He grinned at her. "Why shouldn't I be? You wouldn't let me forget it when you're right."

            "So you've told them everything?" she said softly. He nodded.

            Elizabeth walked towards Cole and said, "I'm sorry for everything that happened, for not being there for you when you needed me." The pain and regret she was feeling was all too evident in her eyes.

            Cole felt the tears come to his eyes which threatened to fall. This was the mother that he remembered from so long ago. The one who used to hold him in her arms and sing him to sleep, who always had a gentle smile for him, who worried and fussed when he got into some scrap or another… "There's nothing to be sorry about," he said. "You did everything you could."

            She smiled at him tremulously and impulsively pulled Cole into her arms, holding him tightly. "You were so much smaller before," she laughed. "You've grown so much." She pulled back and caressed his face with her hands. "I've missed so much," she said quietly.

            Benjamin walked to Elizabeth and placed his hand on her shoulder. "We've both missed a lot," he said gently.

            "But at least we've had this bit of time together," Cole said. "I don't know, I've always thought that you guys were much bigger."

            The two of them laughed. Elizabeth reluctantly released Cole from her arms. "We should get going," she said to Benjamin, "There are people expecting us up there."

            "You'll drop by every now and then?" Cole said, somewhat wistfully. He had missed so much. This reunion was too short to satisfy him.

            "We'll try," Elizabeth said. "But those people up there and their bloody regimental rules…"

            "Elizabeth!" Benjamin said in mock shock before he laughed. Then his face sobered. "We really should get going." He took Elizabeth's hand.

            "Wait a minute," Phoebe said suddenly. "I don't want to hold you guys back or anything but something Cole said keeps bothering me. He once told me that it wasn't possible for evil to love so…"

            " – how could I fall in love with Benjamin?" Elizabeth finished Phoebe's question upon seeing her hesitation. "The truth is that's what we've been brought up to think. Demons, like humans, actually have free will as well. It might be much more difficult to resist our evil tendencies and actually love someone, but it's not impossible." Then she smiled at Phoebe. "I forgot to thank you as well for all that you've given Cole. Take care of him, please." A mischievous smile appeared on her face. "He's a handful, I know. Always has been. At least you'll never lack entertainment."

            Phoebe grinned. Elizabeth was the last thing that Phoebe would imagine a demon to be like. "I will," she said.

            "Thanks," Elizabeth said gratefully before turning to her husband with a look that showed all the love that she had for him. "Let's go," she said. And with that, the two ghosts vanished.

            Cole smiled down at Phoebe as he felt her take his hand tightly in hers. For the first time in a long time he felt a sense of closure and peace about his family. He had finally reconciled with his family and his past after so many years. With Phoebe at his side, he couldn't ask for anything more.

*~Finis~*