It was a quiet Sunday morning in November when Cole shimmered to the Manor. Outside, the world was gray; overnight, fog had rolled in from the Bay and coated everything with a thick, wet blanket of mist. Today, the demons would stay hidden in their lairs; they hated the cold. It was a perfect day to spend some quiet time with the woman he loved.
The woman in question sat at the dining room table, her back half turned toward Cole. Her eyes were riveted to the screen of the laptop in front of her. Although he could see that the screen was filled with text, Cole couldn't make out the words. It had to be interesting; Phoebe was so absorbed in what she was reading that she had not even noticed the near-inaudible sigh of his shimmer.
Cole took a few moments to study her profile: her straight nose, her high forehead, and the long lashes, which protected the deep brown eyes that he loved to drown in. Once again her beauty struck him. A beauty that wasn't in the least diminished by the bulky sweater and sweatpants she had put on. She was breath taking no matter what she wore – or not wore. Cole allowed himself the lustful thought with a grin.
He covered the few steps that separated him from Phoebe with long strides and leaned forward so his cheek was right next to hers. "Hey, beautiful," he said softly, startling her.
"Cole!" Phoebe exclaimed. "I didn't hear you come in."
"So I noticed," he said in a dry tone. Phoebe reached for the screen to fold it down but he stilled her hand. "What are you reading that's so interesting?"
"Stories," she muttered. "About us."
"Stories about us?" Cole repeated, bewildered. He squinted at the text on the screen and caught his name several times, as well as Phoebe's.
"Yes," she said. "It's incredible how many stories people have written. About you, me, my sisters." She found the back button and the screen filled with a long list of titles and links.
"What's this one?" Cole said. He grabbed the mouse and clicked on a link to a story that said it was rated NC-17.
"Nono," Phoebe said. "You don't want to read that." She hit the back button again and the index page reappeared. "Those are really-bad." A light blush colored her cheeks. "Those stories have me and Piper and Paige…" Her voice trailed off. "You know."
"Know what?" Cole remarked. He raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Now you have me truly curious." A story that made Phoebe blush so ought to be worth reading. He made a mental note of the story's title and decided to check it some other time. She glanced sideways and he gave her a sardonic grin.
"There's also one about you and Leo." Her expression was innocent.
Cole turned pale. "A story about me and Leo that's rated NC-17?" He swallowed.
"Yes." She reached for the mouse. "Want to see?" It was Phoebe's turn to smirk.
"Uhm no, I don't think so." Cole shuddered at the thought. "What else did they write?"
"Lots of stuff," Phoebe said, clicking on the title to another story.
Their eyes darted across the first few paragraphs. "Too many typos," Cole observed. He straightened.
"Yeah." Phoebe sighed and returned them to the list of titles. "Too bad. Many stories have decent plots but lousy spelling or grammar wrecks them. It's like some people don't even know that they should use a capital letter to start a new sentence."
Cole chortled. "So much for the educational system, huh?"
Phoebe nodded in agreement. "There are some true gems to be found, though. You just need to search long and hard." She quickly clicked through several links, dismissing stories when she caught numerous errors in the first few paragraphs.
"Gee," Cole said in disgust at the fifth story that appeared. "This one can't even spell your name right. 'Phe-obe'. It can't be that difficult, can it? Even a simple spell checker would catch that."
"Yep," Phoebe agreed. "Oh. What's this? Shaking Shimmers? Interesting title. I haven't seen that one before."
"Let's see," Cole said. He placed his hand across Phoebe's on the mouse and clicked. The moment the text appeared he wished he hadn't.
Phoebe scanned the story and began to laugh when she caught the gist. "Ooh!" she teased. "I like this one!"
Cole huffed with indignity. "That is so not true!" he exclaimed. "I never did anything like that!"
"I know, honey," Phoebe said in a sweet voice. "I would like to see you try one day, though. Just for me." She turned up her face and giggled. "Is that a blush, Cole Turner?" She reached up to caress his cheek with her fingers and suddenly Cole no longer cared what silly things people made him do in their fiction. As long as it brought a smile to Phoebe's face, it was fine with him.
Phoebe turned back to the screen and resumed scrolling through the list. "Hmph," she snorted. "Another one that has me pregnant. We could fill a classroom with all the babies they've been having me have."
"What?" Cole asked, surprised. "Don't you like children?" They had never discussed it but he had always tagged her to deep down be the motherly type.
"Well, sure I do," Phoebe said. "As long as they're someone else's." She grew serious "I don't think I'm ready for a baby yet. I certainly don't think bringing a child into this world is something to do lightly, or worse, accidentally. And with our lives, that would be straight up criminal."
Cole nodded. He couldn't agree more. Every day, demons were hunting him; he still wore a price on his head. He worried enough about Phoebe as it was. The last thing he needed was to worry about Phoebe and a child. Still…
"What about this one?" he said, pointing to another title. "Eye of the Storm."
"Let's see," Phoebe said and clicked. "It's an alternate universe."
"Oh." Cole's voice clearly conveyed his disappointment. "I don't like those. Reality is hard enough to deal with." He reached for the mouse.
"No, wait," Phoebe said. "This looks actually quite intriguing." She skimmed through the chapters. "Too bad it isn't finished yet. You're a slave trader and I'm a castaway who is rescued by you. Then we fall in love. Isn't that cute?"
"Sure," Cole grinned. "You're a hopeless romantic."
Phoebe jabbed him in the ribs playfully and bookmarked the page. "I want to see how it ends," she said in explanation before clicking on the next link.
"Fitting In," Cole read the title out loud. "A missing scene." The story was short and easily fitted in the window so they needed not to scroll down. Cole blinked when he finished it.
"Did that really happen?" Phoebe asked, a hint of a smile in her tone. "Did you really try to make Prue wear that dress?"
"Uhm, yeah," Cole admitted with a sheepish grin. "The story's close enough."
Phoebe sighed, the sound filled with melancholy. "It sure sounds like Prue," she said wistfully. "I miss her."
Cole ran his hand through her hair in support. Silence reigned for a few moments, only broken by the quiet hum of the laptop, and Phoebe rested her cheek against his arm. They all missed Prue, even he. He learned a lot from her during that trip to the old West. She'd been distrustful of him and reluctant to accept his help in saving Phoebe. But she had never told her sister about his mistake, when he used his demonic powers to exact revenge on one of the crooks.
"So, what else do we have?" he asked, breaking the silence and leaning over her shoulder again. He breathed in the sweet scent of her and it momentarily distracted him from the screen. "We've had a pirate story, plenty of demons, that silly ditty about me as a stripper, and lots of babies."
"Marriage," Phoebe said. "The stories where you ask me to marry you. We haven't covered those yet. Lots of them around too. I guess those writers are just as romantically inclined as I am." She smiled.
"Must be," Cole mumbled. "At least they have some sense of my reality."
"What was that?" Phoebe asked.
"Nothing. What do the stories have you reply?"
"'Yes', of course," Phoebe grinned. "Told you they were romantics."
Cole nodded, deep in thought. Could he trust those fanfic writers? Would they know something he didn't? Or was it just wishful thinking on their part? The question had been in his mind for months, ever since Phoebe came to rescue him from evil. He was still waiting for the right time. Cole knew he shouldn't wait much longer. A marriage proposal was in the script for Thursday's episode. And he feared that, if he left it to the writers and producers, they would botch it. Like they botched his going undercover with the Brotherhood. That adventure had nearly cost him Phoebe's love forever. It was only her belief that redemption was possible, that same romantic disposition he had teased her with a few minutes ago, that saved him from a fate far worse than death.
He didn't want to have to go through such heartache ever again. But what if the stories were wrong? What if she said 'no'? Only one way to find out. And now was as good a time as any.
He pushed the laptop away and turned Phoebe's chair so she was facing him. She looked up, a bit surprised, questions written on her face. Cole dropped to one knee in front of her and Phoebe's eyes widened.
"Phoebe- I- Something I've been meaning to ask-" Damn, why was it so difficult? It was a simple question. Cole took another deep breath and plunged ahead. "Phoebe, will you marry me?"