"I've got nothing to say," Cole said. He was shaking. He had reached the most dangerous moment in his century long life. He knew he would have only one shot, one chance to destroy the Triad. "Except—" In a single smooth move he pulled the knife from his waistband and flung it at the Triad member on his right. For a long second the demon stared at the knife handle that protruded from his chest. Then he slumped to the floor and dispersed into ashes.
Cole didn't wait to see what the response would be. The circle was broken and he could get out. He winked from view and reappeared behind the second demon. Before the creature could react, Cole snapped his neck and lashed out with a lightning bolt that killed the last of the powerful demons.
When the Triad were nothing more than puddles of dark ashes, Cole sank to his knees and wept. By the Source, it hurt! With the three's bond destroyed, thousands of voices, their victims of ages past, screamed their agony inside his head. Cole howled, adding his voice to those inside his mind.
He didn't know how long it lasted -Minutes? Decades?- when at last the voices silenced. He curled up on the cold, stone floor and sobbed. His stomach hurt, where Piper had cut him, and he could feel the blood seep through his fingers. Cole realized that he was doomed to live the rest of his life between two worlds. He couldn't live in the Light; his crimes were too gruesome for the Elders to allow it. Yet he was no longer part of that other world either. When he killed the Triad and betrayed the Source, he had placed a price on his head. Demons would hunt him without mercy. The one that succeeded and killed him would surely find favor with the Source.
At least Phoebe was safe. For now.
Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep.
With a groan Phoebe opened her eyes. The room was dark and it dawned on her that it wasn't the alarm clock that woke her. It was her cell-phone. Who would call at this hour of the night? Not to mention wake her from a pleasant dream that involved Cole and a deserted island.
One hand slipped from beneath the covers and she felt around on the nightstand until she found the small device. "'Ullo," she mumbled.
"Cole!" Phoebe shot up in the bed. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, yes," his voice said in her ear. He didn't sound fine. Stressed and hurt, that's how he sounded. "We need to talk."
"I'll be right over." Phoebe didn't need a second moment to think it over.
Sleep was the furthest thing from her mind as she hopped off the bed and put on a pair of jeans and a sweater. She sensed that Cole was finally ready to tell her whatever terrible secret he was hiding. She left a note that explained she had gone out, then slipped out of the house and into the dark night.
A short while later the taxi drew up to Cole's apartment building. Phoebe paid the driver and while the taxi drove off, she looked up at the lit window that was Cole's. She felt alert and apprehensive. What truth could be so horrible that he had needed this long to gather up his courage?
With a sigh she entered the building, climbed the stairs and knocked on the door. "Cole? It's me, Phoebe." Only a few hours ago she had stood here, distraught and in tears, and he had been there for her. From the sound of his voice, he needed her support now.
The moment he hung up the phone, Cole regretted that he called her. He should have disappeared from her life in the knowledge that, with the Triad gone, she was safe. He had tried to call her again but there was no answer.
When she knocked on his door, he took a deep breath. It hurt to breathe; yet he relished the pain. A few minutes from now, Phoebe would fear him and hate him. And the pain of the knife wound was nothing to the pain he felt in his heart at the thought. Still it was for the best. It would be easier for her to forget him and move on with her life if she knew who he was, what he was.
He opened the door. "Come in."
She slipped through the opening, threw her arms around his chest and hugged him. Cole winced at the pain that sliced through his abdomen.
"Are you all right?" Phoebe pulled back and studied his face. "You look pale and… Oh my God! You're bleeding!"
Cole looked down and noticed the red fluid seep through his shirt. Phoebe's hug had caused the bandage to shift and the wound was bleeding again. "Yes. Phoebe, please sit down." He took her arm and tried to lead her to a chair.
"No, no," she said. "You need to see a doctor. C'mon, I'll take you to the hospital."
Cole shook his head. "No, I'll be fine. Please, Phoebe, I need to say this."
She contemplated for a few seconds and looked from his face to the red stain, then back to his face. "Okay. Just for a minute, then I'll take you to a hospital, no matter what you say."
He nodded. Fair enough. She wouldn't want to take him anywhere after he was done.
She sat down on the edge of the chair and he knelt before her. "Phoebe… I know who you are, what you are, you and your sisters," he began. She raised her eyebrows. He got back to his feet and started walking back and forth. He wondered why it was so damn hard to say the next words. He had always been proud of who he was. Proud of the fear that the name 'Belthazor' struck in the hearts of humans and demons alike. Now, he wished it wasn't his name.
"My name is not Cole Turner." He stopped pacing and turned to look at her. "My true name is Belthazor."
"Belthazor?" Phoebe barked a laugh. "Are you trying to tell me that you were that big, red, ugly demon last night that—" She swallowed. How did he know about Belthazor? Her eyes drifted back down to his stomach, where his right hand pressed against the wound. She had a sudden image of Piper slashing at the demon. The blood drew out of her face and she jumped from the chair. It fell over with a loud clatter.
"Oh boy. Oh boy," Phoebe breathed. Her head whipped around as she searched for a way out. Cole -no, Belthazor- stood between her and the door. She glanced at the windows. They were on the third floor, but she could levitate.
"Don't be afraid."
She turned her eyes at Cole. Much to her surprise, he stepped away from the door and out of her path to safety.
"I won't hurt you. Neither will the Triad. They're dead. I killed them."
Phoebe hesitated. Every instinct told her to take this chance, to run. Still, if Belthazor spoke the truth… He could have killed her a dozen times; she had given him every opportunity.
"Why?" She didn't make a move to leave although her muscles were as taut as coiled springs.
Cole -she couldn't think of him as Belthazor- gave a shrug. "The Triad wanted me to destroy you and your sisters. The Source is afraid of you Halliwells, you know. And I was going to carry out their orders… but I can't do it. Not anymore."
Phoebe experienced another flash back. "I can't," Cole had said last night. "You're vulnerable right now." She had thought he meant taking her to his bed. With a shudder she realized he had meant killing her. To think she had trusted this man – this demon.
"Why should I believe you?" she asked, her voice bitter. "Why should I believe it isn't another trick? Everything else was a lie, wasn't it?"
He shook his head. "No! It started that way, true, but I fell in love with you. Phoebe, you gave me something nobody ever did in all my existence. You gave me a heart." He shifted and grimaced in pain. "It doesn't matter if you believe me or not. I'll be gone soon. Your sisters have started on their potion to vanquish me, with the piece they took of my flesh." He let his hand drop down from his abdomen and revealed a large red stain. "I'll die in peace, knowing that the Triad is gone, that you are safe." He stepped forward, took her shoulders and turned her toward the door. "Go now, and do what you must."
"No," Phoebe said. "I believe you. Prue felt what you feel for me. It's no longer up to us to decide your fate. Cole, you need to give yourself up to the Elders. Let the Powers That Be judge you. Leo can help."
Cole chortled humorlessly. "Thank you, Phoebe. I don't think that'll work. It would just postpone the inevitable. No, you go and help Prue and Piper and we'll get this over with soonest." Before she could say another word, he shimmered and disappeared. "Remember that I love you," his voice echoed through the empty room.
"Cole!" Phoebe cried. "Cole!" No reply. She sank down on the edge of the bed, confused and dumbfounded. Cole had been Belthazor. Then something he said sank in. She glanced out of the window and noticed that the sun was peeking over the horizon and bouncing off the first of the high-rise buildings in the east. Prue and Piper would be up, ready to make the vanquishing potion. She had to stop them!
Phoebe raced down the steps and out of the door. There was no time to wait for a taxi and she ran through the early morning streets, until she reached the stairs of the house, panting and gasping for air. "Stop!" she cried when she rushed into the kitchen. Her sisters were at the stove, as predicted, preparing to brew the potion.
"Stop??" they asked in unison and turned to stare at their younger sister.
Phoebe nodded and attempted to get her breath back. "Belthazor is no longer a threat to us," she said. "The Triad is gone. Please."
"Phoebe, what happened?" Piper asked. "We found your note. Where have you been? And what's that stain on your shoulder? It looks like blood!"
"I'm fine. I was… at Cole's," Phoebe said. "He is—" She couldn't give away his secret. "Trust me, okay? It's over."
"Don't be ridiculous," Prue said. "You can't know that. Come on, we have to vanquish Belthazor before he returns."
"No! I am not going to do it. And you two can't do it without me."
"Phoebe!" Piper warned. "Remember what happened the last time we fought?"
"Yes," Phoebe said. "I remember. But I'd rather lose our powers right now than have you go through with it."
The twinkle of tiny bells interrupted the argument and Leo took shape in the middle of the kitchen. A wide smile was plastered on his face.
"What are you so happy about?" Piper asked.
"I've got good news," he said. "The Triad is dead. Belthazor has disappeared. You're safe."
Prue and Piper turned to stare at Phoebe. She shrugged. 'Told you so', that shrug said.
"Guess that settles that," Piper said.
"Yes." Phoebe turned and went up the stairs. In her bedroom she walked to the window and stared out over the garden. The sky's color slowly changed from the early dawn orange to bright blue. It was going to be a beautiful day. "Good bye, Cole," she said softly. "I love you." And was it her imagination, or did the air beside the tall oak tree indeed whirl for a brief moment?