Note #1: This story is part of a series, and will be better understood by those who've read the previous installments. The sequence of the stories is: (1) Redemption; (2) The Demon's Advocate; (3) So Mote It Be. For those who haven't read the previous stories, here's the scenery: Cole and Phoebe have left the Underworld for good, and their son is a ten months old human baby. Piper is five months pregnant, but it's Leo who's having all the side effects, like morning sickness, cravings and mood swings. If you want to know more, then I'm sorry but you'll really have to read the previous stories.
Note #2: I had so many reasons to write this story, but the main reason was that I had been waiting for this moment since "Black as Cole" (what am I saying? since season 3!), and when the writers gave us that poor excuse for a wedding, I felt betrayed. Phoebe and Cole deserve better. And so do we, the loyal fans. Well, now we're gonna have it, whether the writers like it or not.
Note #3: I'll post the first chapter of "Roll the Dice, Run for Your Life" in a couple of days and, sure, Mimi, I'll be glad to translate "Charmed Again -- The Missing Scenes". Gee, lots of projects! :-)
Credits: "You're Still the One" is a song by Shania Twain. As for the characters, I don't own anyone but Ben and Vanessa.
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Phoebe and Cole are cuddled together on the couch, enjoying a moment of peace during Ben's mid-afternoon nap, when Leo orbs in.
"Hey, Leo," says Phoebe, smiling at her brother in law. Her smile vanishes, though, as she sees his worried expression. "Is there something the matter?"
"Hum, sort of," says Leo, looking a little uneasy. "May I talk to the two of you for a minute?"
"Sure," says Phoebe, straightening up and exchanging a concerned look with Cole.
"It's really not a big deal," says Leo, sitting before them, "but some of the Elders... Not all of them, but still..." -- he sighs -- "They aren't very comfortable with the, uh, circumstances involving your wedding."
"You mean, the fact that we got married in a dark ceremony?" says Cole, gravely.
"Well, yes," says Leo. "They're worried that there may be consequences in the future, not just for the two of you, but also for Ben."
"There's nothing wrong with Ben," Phoebe quickly says, defensively.
"I know, Phoebe," says Leo reassuringly, "and so do they. That's exactly why they're concerned about his welfare. Listen, there's actually no need to worry: all they want is that you get married again, in a Wiccan ceremony, performed by a High Priest."
"Is that all they ask?" says Cole.
"Yes," says Leo. "We could ask Penny, and I'm sure she'd be glad to perform the ceremony, just like she did for me and Piper."
"So," says Phoebe, cautiously, "we write our vows, get Grams here, have a Wiccan wedding, and everything is fine?"
"Absolutely," says Leo, smiling.
"Okay," she says, with a hesitant smile. "So," she says, turning to Cole, "you're okay with it, too?"
"I'll gladly marry you a thousand times," says Cole, smiling and kissing the tip of her nose.
"Same here," she says, smiling back at him. Cole has his arm around her, and he's glad to feel the tension leave her shoulders. "I'll summon Grams..." -- Ben's happy squeals come through the baby monitor and she smiles and rolls her eyes -- "later."
"Don't worry," says Leo, as Phoebe stands up and walks towards the stairs, "I'll talk to Penny."
"Thanks, Leo," she says, stopping at the bottom of the stairs. "Ask her to come as soon as possible, will you? The last thing I want is to have the Elders on our back, just when things are finally working out around here."
"I will," he says, before orbing out.
Phoebe blows Cole a kiss and walks upstairs. As soon as she is out of sight, Leo orbs back.
"So," he says, sitting by Cole's side on the couch. "Do you think she bought it?"
"Hook, line and sinker," replies Cole, smiling. "You know, for one who's supposed to be all righteous and everything, you're a damn good liar."
"Like you aren't!" says Leo, smiling, too. "Is that all they ask?" he says, mocking Cole.
The two men chuckle slightly, then Leo adds:
"Now, Piper knows her part. Does Paige know hers?"
"I've explained it to her twice," says Cole. "But I'm counting on Piper to make sure she won't spill the beans."
"I'm sure Piper can handle Paige," says Leo, patting his shoulder. "Relax."
"You know what they say," says Cole, "a secret between three people is only a secret if two of them are dead. And, in this family, sometimes not even then..."
"It'll only be a secret until Friday night," says Leo. "I'm sure even Paige can keep a secret for three days."
"I guess," sighs Cole.
"So," says Leo, "how are the tasks distributed?"
"You're in charge of the dead guests, I'm in charge of the quick, Piper is in charge of the food and Paige is in charge of the decoration. Am I forgetting anything?"
"What did Piper say?"
"That I've got everything covered."
"Trust me, if Piper says you have, then you have. Now," says Leo, standing up, "I'd better go invite some ghosts for your wedding. You call Darryl and Victor, write your vows and relax, Cole. You and Phoebe have gone through this twice already, in the church and in the cemetery's chappel. Third time is the charm."
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When Phoebe walks past Paige's bedroom, she hears her sisters chatting inside.
"Hey," she says, popping her head in. "What's up?"
"Not much," says Piper, smiling. "I was just showing Paige my wedding album."
"Those pictures are very good," says Paige. "Prue was quite a talented photographer."
"Yes, she was," says Phoebe, smiling as she joins them.
As she sits on Paige's bed, Ben tries to leave her arms and go to the bed, but she restrains him:
"No, sir," she says, waving her finger at him, "until you learn not to put everything in your mouth, you won't get anywhere near those pictures."
Ben frowns and squirms in his mother's arms, but he knows better than to make a scene. He tries a new trick instead, one he's been using for the past couple of days with great success. He gives mommy his best smile and says:
"Oh my God, has he just said 'hi'?" says Piper, delighted.
"Yes," says Phoebe, grinning. "He has recently learned this word. And," she adds proudly, "he said it to me first..."
Ben laughs victoriously when Phoebe releases her grip on him and lets him crawl to the bed, while Piper and Paige watch him, all "ahs" and "ohs". Feeling benevolent, he gives each one a "hi" and a smile before going straight to Piper's veil, that's neatly folded next to the wedding album.
Phoebe reaches out to stop him, but Piper dismisses her with a smile, while closing the album and putting it out of the baby's reach."
"Nah, that's okay," she says, smiling as Ben sits on the bed and pulls the veil over his head, giggling.
"I'm afraid we're raising a little tyrant here," says Phoebe, but she can't help but laugh when Ben turns to the mirror on the door of Piper's closet and starts playing peek-a-boo with his own image. He says "hi" instead of "peek-a-boo", because this is the only word he knows, but he seems to find it as amusing as the traditional version of the game grown ups play with him.
"Let the little king enjoy his reign before he has to share the spotlight with Melinda," says Paige.
"I just hope he doesn't get jealous of her," says Phoebe. "Judging by the way Leo has been acting, when Melinda is born..."
"He'll probably behave just like Cole," says Piper, giggling, and Phoebe can't help but smile, too. On Ben's first weeks of life, Cole often had to be dragged away from the side of his crib in order to perform basic tasks such as eating and sleeping. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night and find him sitting by the crib, just watching with eyes full of love and wonder as Ben slept peacefuly.
"Probably," she says, smiling softly. Then her thoughts turn to the conversation they've just had with Leo. "Do any of you have plans for this evening?" she asks.
"I don't," says Paige.
"Neither do I," says Piper. "Why?"
"Just in case you want to talk to Grams," says Phoebe, shrugging. "Paige, I think you haven't met her yet, have you?"
"Actually, no," says Paige. "But why is she coming? I mean, ghosts don't come over to pay a visit, do they?"
"No," says Phoebe, smiling. Her smile fades as she adds: "But Cole and I need a High Priestess." Her sisters give her inquisitive looks and she adds: "The Elders now want us to get married in a Wiccan ceremony. After almost two years, can you believe that?"
"Oh honey," sighs Piper, "you know the Elders..."
"It doesn't sound so bad," says Paige. "Why are you so upset?"
"I'm not upset," says Phoebe. "Oh well, maybe a little..." she admits, with a sigh. "It's just that, after all that Cole and I have been through..." -- she hesitates, biting her lower lip -- "I know that we almost screwed it up big time, but we came around, didn't we? Would it have killed them to show some appreciation? Specially for Cole: can't they see how hard it all has been for him? How much he endured since he switched sides?"
"Oh, sweetie..." says Piper, pulling her close and hugging her. "You know how the Elders are: it's not personal, it's just... them."
"You know," says Paige, reaching out to stroke Phoebe's hair, "since it's inevitable, we might as well enjoy it." Phoebe gives her an interrogative look and she explains: "You and Cole don't have any pictures of your wedding. Why don't we all get dressed up for the occasion, have this wedding, take some pictures and then have a nice family dinner to celebrate?"
"I like this idea," says Piper, getting the hint.
"I guess it'd be nice..." says Phoebe, smiling tentatively.
"Of course it will," says Paige. "But then it can't be tonight: I refuse to let anyone take a picture of me until I have my hair cut."
"Then, when?" Phoebe asks. "I want to put this behind us as soon as possible."
"How about Friday?" Piper offers.
"Friday is good for me," says Paige.
"Okay, then Friday it is," says Phoebe. "But then I'd better go tell Leo not to bring Grams here today."
She reaches out for Ben, but Piper stops her, saying:
"Let him play a little longer, I'll take him with me when I go downstairs."
"Okay," says Phoebe. "Bye bye, sweetie!" she says, waving at Ben.
"Hi!" he says, waving back at her and making the three girls laugh.
Once Phoebe leaves the room, Piper and Paige smile at each other and high five, while Ben watches them with an intrigued expression.