Title: Dance of Love
Published: April 24, 2001
Author: Christine Lemieux/ Justright
Content Warning: N/A
Summary: Cole and Phoebe meet Angel and Buffy and two of them get caught in a strange vortex.
Disclaimer: All the characters from Charmed, Buffy and Angel belong to the Charmed Productions, Spelling, the WB and UPN. I only lay claim on the character(s) that I created myself…
He came to meet her in a smoky bar. She told him on the phone that for the moment, she didn’t feel like talking to the others, and he understood.
As soon as she sees him, she feels a little better. She needed a friend, and in spite of everything that they have been to each other, the good and the bad, he has been that, most of all. Always a great listener, she sometimes wonders how he manages not to get bored with all of her little problems. After all, he has so much more experience than she does. Yet he does, and tonight she really needs him for that, even if it meant leaving town in the middle of a crisis. However, she has good friends back there, and they can hold the fort for a day or two; just what she needs.
"Hey, I didn’t expect you to call me...at least not so soon." The man says with a timid smile, as she comes closer.
"I know that it may have seemed sudden, but I was suffocating back there. I needed to talk to someone other than they. My sister is so distraught she won’t even talk to me anymore. I’m afraid she thinks it’s my fault."
"I’m sure that she doesn’t really mean that."
"Look at me, I didn’t even say hello and already I’m telling you about my problems."
The man uttered with a little smile.
"I told you that anytime you needed me I'd be there, and I meant it."
The girl is grateful.
Then she puts her head on his chest and they just stand there, simply understanding each other without words, as they have many times before.
In another part of town, a couple is taking a stroll in the park. They are walking slowly, holding each other lovingly, apparently without a care in the world. It is a very pleasant evening and they wanted to take advantage of it.
"Isn’t that wonderful? The stars seem even brighter tonight," the young man says with a smile to his girlfriend.
The girl chuckles.
"You’re such a romantic…"
The man turns to her and kisses her, then he asks:
"Hey, I thought that’s what you liked about me?"
The girls smiles lovingly.
They then start kissing passionately, and are so into each other that they never notice the weird phenomenon that takes place only a few feet from them. It’s as if a wall was coming out of the ground but nothing like the real thing. It’s a dark wall that moves and shimmers. Then the wall starts moving toward the couple…
At the Halliwell’s manor, the girls are returning slowly to their normal routine after Phoebe’s return from the dead. Well, as normal as it can get in that crazy household, Piper had wanted to point out, to the amusement of everybody else. But for a while there, everything had been so dark and sad that now even the occasional trouble seemed almost trivial. Still, even after a week, they had noticed that Cole seemed unsettled. Piper and Prue were actually wondering about this over breakfast that morning.
"Hey, do you think that his attitude has to do with his mother?" Piper questions
"It’s hard to believe that someone could grieve for a demoness like that, but on the other hand of course, she was his mother."
"I suppose that no matter what, it would stir something in a man to lose his mother, but it still surprises me of him."
Phoebe woke up to find him sitting by the window, lost in thoughts apparently. It had been happening a lot lately and although she knew that he would need some time to get over the latest events, she still was worried about his attitude. For a while, she just observed him, but in the end, when she realized he wouldn’t acknowledge her she asked:
"Cole, are you ok?"
He seemed to have to make an effort to pull himself out of his somber thoughts. He still turned to her at last with a weak smile.
"Of course why wouldn’t it be? You’re here and safe. That’s all I need to be happy."
"To be very honest, you don’t look too happy now."
"I’m sorry," Cole says getting up and going to her. "It’s just that I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve done something wrong."
Phoebe pulls his head to her and just caresses his hair in silence for a moment then:
"I wish that things didn’t have to go this far."
"We both know that there was no other choice. It’s just, feeling these emotions makes it all the more difficult to deal with stuff. Until I met you, this kind of problem, I didn’t have."
"And do you regret it?"
"No, of course not" Cole replies, looking up. "I just would like to know how to get through this, that’s all."
"There is only one remedy, and it’s time."
"I like how simply you put things."
"Thank you," she says kissing him. "But I might have another idea."
"And what might that be," Cole asks, pretending suspicion, which made her laugh.
"What do you say we give another try at this vacation idea? The last time we went to LA it was rudely interrupted, but maybe this time would be great, and it would make for a good distraction."
"Are you sure that you want to go away now?"
"Well, there is also the fact that Piper and Prue have been smothering me a little lately. Must be the whole back from the dead thing, and I really need a breather."
"Hum, I thought that you enjoyed being the center of attention," Cole says teasingly.
Phoebe pretended to be offended.
"Hey I’m entitled to a little attention here. It wasn’t a walk in the park for me either."
When it looks like she is going up on the other side of the bed, he catches her.
"You’re not going anywhere without me again…"
They both laugh at this and forget about the bad stuff for the moment.
Later, when they got to the dining room, her sisters proved her point for her by immediately coming to her and asking how she was.
"Hey Phoebe, everything ok?" Piper asks.
Phoebe gives a little knowing smile toward Cole.
"Oh yes, more than ok. You should start thinking about yourselves guys. I’ll be fine, I swear."
"You know that I still can’t get over you being here."
"I know, I can barely believe it myself."
"Oh by the way, I made sure the school got the message that there had been a mistake."
"I’m sure they found it rather amazing that I went from dead to a little indisposed…" Phoebe says half-seriously.
"All that matters now is that they will just give you an extension for the time you missed." Piper replies.
"Wonderful, I really thought that this time my graduation had gone down the tube."
"No, you’re still going to have to work on it." Prue utters with a smile.
"And I will. But not before Cole and I went on a little vacation…"
"You want to go now?" Prue exclaims.
"Why does it surprise everybody so much?"
"You just came back from quite an ordeal," Piper explains. "I'd have thought you'd prefer sticking around for a while."
"I didn’t have a real vacation for a long while now; the last time was cut short. By the way Prue, do you think your friend is back from theirs? You know, the one with the apartment in LA?"
"I’m afraid so. Is that where you wanted to go?"
"I was kind of hoping for that yes."
Paul enters the room then and hearing that they want to go to LA he adds:
"Hey I could help you with this, and in return I would just ask a little favor of you."
"Ask away…" Phoebe replies.
"It’s just something that I've got to deliver to an acquaintance of mine there. I don't trust the mail for that. The fact of the matter is, we parted somewhat bitterly the last time, and I think he'd prefer if it came from someone else."
"What did you do to him?" Prue questions.
"I can’t really talk about it." Prue is miffed, but she knows there is no point in arguing. "Anyhow," Paul pursues, "I have a little time share in LA myself and it is free now, so I thought that you could just deliver the package, then you would have the rest of the time to yourself."
"That sounds fair, although we simply could have rented a room."
"Nonsense! You’ll have more privacy there and I’m sure that it'll also be safer, if you know what I mean…"
Cole imagined that he meant some serious protection was already on the place, and he was very grateful for the actual chance to relax.
"Then, that’s a plan…"
"I still believeyou should think about this more Phoebe. We just got you back, and it pains me to know that you’re going away again."
"Come on Prue, it’s not the same thing at all."
Prue reluctantly admits.
"So, who's that person we have to deliver the package to?" Cole asks of Paul.
"Here is his card, I think he still has an office there. It’s some kind of a detective agency."
Cole notes the wings on the simple card.
"Yes, that’s it."
The next day, Phoebe and Cole are walking in a very shady neighborhood, in search of the address for the Angel’s agency. Cole is a bit irritated, as they have been looking for quite a while.
"Well, I would have thought that Paul was making business with more important firms than this, or did we make a mistake?"
Phoebe is not in a better mood.
"I told you already, we took a wrong turn the last two times but I'm sure it's the right place."
"Those vacations are starting on the wrong foot."
"If you’d trust me more, it wouldn’t have taken so long."
Cole decided to drop it, not ready to admit his mistake, and Phoebe shrugged, hoping that they both would be in a better mood when this errand was finally over.
At last, they found the little office, and again Cole exclaimed:
"What does Paul MacKail have to do with a shady little place like that?"
Phoebe sighs but doesn't answer, and when a man comes to answer the door, they pretend that everything is rosy in spite of their little argument.
"Enter, enter! Welcome to the Angel Agency."
Cole finds the little man amusing, but a look in Phoebe’s direction tells him not to comment.
Wesley continues his little speech:
"Whatever your problem is, our agency can handle. Come in and take a seat."
They enter the place, taking in the cheap furniture and poor decoration, as well as even poorer lighting.
"Oh we’re not here for this, we just have a package to deliver to Angel in person. Are you Angel?"
Wesley seems very miffed at this, but he tries to keep the irritation from his answer.
"No, but I'm his boss, so it will do if you just give it to me."
"I’m sorry, the man who asked us to deliver this was very precise in his instructions."
Wesley is about to reply snidely, but a tall man comes out of the backroom.
"I’m Angel. Who is that from," he says, approaching them with a timid smile?
"That’s from Paul MacKail, he asked us to deliver this to you personally," Phoebe says, handing him a thick manila envelope.
However, the smile had rapidly vanished from Angel's face at hearing the name. Still, he asked calmly.
"Is he a friend of yours?"
"Well yes... we’ve only known him for a little while, but I consider him a friend," Phoebe answers hesitantly, seeing his reaction. Paul told them that something was the matter between them, and now she can see that it must have been more than a little tiff.
"Well, that’s just about it," Cole says then.
His voice trails when Buffy enters behind Angel, and for some reason he feels an immediate connection, not to mention that the girl is very pretty.
"Hello," Buffy says, and then turning to Wesley, "I see you’re finally getting more clients…"
Wesley doesn't answer, still put off by their insistence at seeing Angel in person.
"No, these are just messengers, sort of."
"Cole Turner," Cole announces, suddenly remembering that they didn't introduced themselves.
Phoebe coughed and he turned to her sheepishly.
"And this is Phoebe Halliwell."
Buffy feels there is something strange about them, but can’t put her finger on what it is. "Buffy Summers," she says, shaking Phoebe’s hand, and then Cole’s, who holds on just a little longer than necessary.
Phoebe has trouble hiding her annoyance at seeing this.
"Well I think that we’re done here," she utters sharply.
"Thank you." Angel says.
Cole distractedly answers.
"You’re welcome," as Phoebe grabs his hand , and he finally realizes she's in a hurry to get out.
Once in the street, he still looks back curiously at the office. This time, Phoebe can't resist questioning him about his attitude
"What was that about?"
Cole appeared surprised by her question.
"What was what about?"
"That moment you had with the pretty girl?"
Cole answered innocently enough.
"Don’t you play that game with me. What was it?"
Cole can’t help but smile, which irritates her even more, and then he says:
"Did you know that you're even prettier when you’re jealous."
In spite of herself, Phoebe feels like smiling back, but she still insists:
"What was it?"
"It had nothing to do with her appearance although," and then he looks at her teasingly, "it’s true that she was pretty."
When he sees that she doesn’t like this particular joke, he continues more seriously.
"No, it was just... I felt something about her, as if she was also magical."
Phoebe is now more curious than angry. Almost…
"I can’t be sure of course, but it’s just like that fellow Angel... did you notice how pale he was, and his skin was colder than a grave."
Phoebe smiles, amused.
"Well actually, I didn’t notice these things...I just saw that he was quite a handsome man…"
"Hum! Whom exactly are you referring to," Cole says annoyed in spite of himself, "the Detective or his boss."
Seeing that she has succeeded in giving him some doubts, Phoebe puts on her best lascivious look and said softly:
"The detective of course! What a nice man too…"
For a moment, Cole actually wonders if she is serious, and then she can't help but laugh at his expression.
"On the other hand, jealousy doesn’t become you."
Cole understands that he has been had and decides to play it cool.
"Why don’t we stop talking about that for now? At any rate, whatever they were, we'll probably never find out anyway. One more of Paul’s secrets…"
Phoebe smiles ruefully, but agrees to drop it.
"I guess… Let’s start those vacations at last."
Inside Angel’s agency, Angel himself is opening the envelope with an annoyed expression.
"What is with that guy?" Buffy questions.
"Oh just someone I met a while back, and I'd have preferred not to hear from again. He used me shamelessly and then, when things got serious, I had to fend for myself. He’s just the kind of guy who sends people to do the dirty work for him." After looking over the paperwork he had just received, he changed attitude slightly.
"Well, at least this time he came through for me. It’s some background information on WolFram and Hart."
"I'm gonna have to see, but not for right now. Didn’t you tell me you wanted to take a stroll in the park?"
"I almost forgot…"
Not long after leaving the agency, Cole and Phoebe decided to go see the town. During their walk, Phoebe notices a newsstand and a big title attracts her attention. There, on the front page of a local paper, there was an article about multiple disappearances that occurred all over town. She didn’t know what it all meant but decided to try and force a premonition, if only for practice. It worked better than she expected. The moment she touched the picture on the front page, the vision started.
‘The detective and the girl from this afternoon were walking in a park and suddenly a kind of dark wall came out of the ground, shimmering. Then the wall came after them, unsuspecting. In a moment, the wall had passed through them and they had vanished. Then, as fast as it had appeared, the wall dissolved.’
Cole noticed immediately the look on her face and took her arm.
"What is it?"
"Hardly enough, I think we're going to see our friends from this afternoon again…"
"You got a vision about them," Cole asks, surprised.
"Yes and some kind of vortex was swallowing them."
"Where?" Cole immediately questions.
"I don’t know the town very well... it was a park, but maybe we should try one near their office?"
"Let’s do that."
When they get to the closest park, Phoebe knows right away that it isn’t the same place. It isn’t nearly as pretty as the one she saw in the vision, and they hurry toward the next one on the map they bought.
In the park, Angel and Buffy have been walking without saying a word for a while, just happy to be together, even if it is only for a few more hours.
Angel breaks the silence.
"How are you dealing with all this?"
"Like I said, I feel lost without her. And Dawn's so upset; I don’t know what to tell her. I just hope that she'll get better soon. I've got too much to worry about without trying psychology on my own sister."
"I'll bet she just needs you to be there for her."
"I’m not sure it’s enough. There are things you don’t know about her. I wish I could tell you, but I can’t right now."
Angel is about to add something when, turning to look behind them by force of habit, he spots the couple from the afternoon, walking rapidly toward them.
"That’s a big coincidence, isn’t it?"
Buffy half turns to see what he is talking about.
"I don’t believe in coincidence. I told youthere was something weird about these two. "
Angel doesn’t answer, as Phoebe and Cole are coming closer. As Angel turns completely in their direction, he notices a strange dark wall coming toward all of them, but when he is about to warn the couple, it is too late for Phoebe, who stood slightly behind, unable to walk as fast as Cole because of her pregnancy. She is quickly engulfed in the wall , cursing herself for falling in the very trap that were trying to prevent. Angel starts running unnaturally fast, which gets Cole to wonder even more about him. He hasn't noticed what happened behind him yet. Angel is fast, and by the time Cole realizes that Phoebe went in the vortex, Angel has been engulfed as well, and then the wall dissolves before Cole has time to get in himself.
Buffy tried to reach it too, but like Cole, she was too late. Then, they both scream in frustration.
"We’ve got to find where this thing goes." Cole exclaims. "Maybe it just moves them away to…" Then he looks in Buffy's direction, unsure if he should tell her. He himself can’t track the vortex, and he is also wondering about this.
"What the hell was that?" Buffy exclaims in turn.
"I've got no idea, but we have to find them," Cole says nervously. The idea of having lost Phoebe again, after she just returned from the dead, is just too much to bear.
"And how am I supposed to know that you didn’t do this to Angel?"
Cole is astounded at her suspicion.
"Hey we came here to try and stop it."
"Again, how the hell did you know?"
"Who cares? Are we gonna stand here all night discussing, or are we gonna look for them?"
The harshness in his voice makes Buffy very uncomfortable, as well as the very angry look on his face, and she guesses then that he isn’t exactly a sweet guy. However, she agrees that time is of the essence. They start searching the whole park and beyond, hoping against hope that at least, they can find the phenomenon again, but to no avail.
They cover a large area before returning to where the event happened, as the sun is coming up.
Cole wasn’t very surprised to find Leo there.
"Where were you? I've been looking around here for hours."
"So have I." Cole answers irritably.
"So, where is Phoebe?"
"I don’t know," Cole says, defeated.
"Who is he?" Buffy questions when no one is taking notice of her.
"It’s Leo." Cole simply announces
Cole doesn’t feel like explaining.
"Where are Prue and Piper?"
"I didn’t tell them yet," Leo answers, also ignoring Buffy's question. "I wanted to know what happened first. I think the last time was already quite a trial."
"She disappeared in some kind of vortex, and it’s not a parallel world or I would know. I couldn’t track it."
"What the heck are you two talking about?" Buffy exclaims angrily.
At first, Leo and Cole do not answer, and instead, decide on what they should do, irratating Buffy all the more.
"I’ll go ask the Elders," Leo says, "and then I’ll tell Piper and Prue." Then he finally pays attention to Buffy, who is now fuming.
"What about her?"
"Somehow, I don’t think your departure will surprise her too much."
"If you say so..."
Leo orbs out, and Buffy’s jaw drops.
"What's going on here?"
"Don’t ask. Now we might want to continue searching…"
"I think it would be smarter to go get the others. They should be at the office by now. But it’s a distance from here; do you have a car?"
"A rental, but there's no time for that…"
Cole doesn’t think more about this and grabs Buffy's arm. They shimmer directly in the office, and this time Buffy reacts violently. There are too many unanswered questions, and she is done playing the good little girl. Cole realizes his mistake a little too late. Buffy pushes him away almost effortlessly, and then kicks him, sending him flying into the wall where he leaves a dent. That brings Wesley and Cordelia, who were sipping coffee in the back room. Cole feels the pain intensely in his ribs and takes a second angry look at the girl. Now he knows for sure that she isn’t ordinary. Even Phoebe couldn’t kick him that hard and she really tried once.
"Stop it right now."
"Why should I? I want answers. Who the hell are you and what have you done with Angel? And also, who was that other guy?"
Cole takes a few seconds, not only to recuperate, but also to work on his anger. He really doesn’t want to become a demon here and now. Then he says:
"As you have noted, I really don't have to stay here and take this kind of abuse…"
"You want my help or not?"
"Not under those conditions, no. I’m sure we can find Phoebe and your friend on our own."
"Buffy, you should work on your anger problem. Look at what you’ve done to that man, not to mention the wall…"
Buffy is too upset to endure Wesley’s pettiness.
"You're not my watcher anymore! For that matter you never really were, so stay out of it."
Wesley is a bit hurt, but he understands that now is not the time to argue with her. On the other hand, Cordelia won’t be impressed by Buffy.
"What is it you’re saying about Angel? And Wesley's right... your outbursts are not welcome here."
Buffy sighed heavily then she turned to her.
"Angel fell in a vortex with his girlfriend." Buffy says impatiently while indicating Cole." We’ve been looking for them or the vortex all night, but we didn’t find either."
"What did it look like?" Westley questions, suddenly all business like.
"A shimmering black wall that came from the ground and disappeared as soon as they were in it."
Wesley is puzzled.
"I will look it up. Meanwhile could you try to calm down?"
Cole has been listening to their exchange, and realized, at last, what it was he felt about Buffy. What they say and her supernatural strength are indicative enough…
"You’re the slayer, aren’t you?"
Buffy turned back to him, alerted.
"How would you know that?"
"I know an awful lot more. I was a little distracted for other reasons earlier, because that would've come to me eventually. And I suppose Angel is that infamous vampire with a soul?"
"Who told you that?" Cordelian exclaims. "That man Angel told us about yesterday?"
Cole ignored her question, to her great displeasure, while he is observing the slayer curiously.
"Somehow, I imagined the slayer older and bigger." He doesn’t add but thinks "and not so pretty". Then, he inwardly slaps himself, thinking of what Phoebe would say about that. Just thinking of her brings back the anxiety and now he is tired of all the talking.
However, Buffy isn’t done quite yet.
"Ok if you know who I am, why don’t you tell me who you are? And don’t tell me there's nothing special about you."
Cole looks in Cordelia’s direction, wondering how much he should reveal, and mostly how dangerous it is.
"You can talk in front of her; she’s seen her share of supernatural events already."
"Thank you." Cordelia replies
Buffy casts her an annoyed look, and then she returns her attention to Cole.
"Before I say anything," Cole begins, "I want your word you're gonna keep those kicks of yours to yourself."
"It'll all depend on what you're gonna do and say."
"I've got no intention of fighting you. But I must say that if you persist doing this, you might regret it…"
"I heard that from bigger than you…"
"You’d be surprised... Slayers and my kind don't frequent the same circles. At least not usually… But I think that in your case, you had the occasion of knowing some of us. That is how I heard of you."
Cole still looking at Buffy:
"Well, you don’t really look like one."
"I like to think so. And maybe if the situation was different, I could give you a demonstration, but right now all that matters to me is that we return to the park and meet Phoebe’s sisters there. Your friends can come if they wanna help, but I won’t have anymore of this talking. Who knows what's happening to her right now," he says and Buffy can see that he is genuinely concerned.
"So, I guess you’re of the good kind of demons?" Buffy asks hesitantly.
"For now yes, but if you stall any longer, that could change."
"I don’t respond well to threats. Besides, my friend's in there too."
"Now, that's the one ironic thing I never understood. What’s a slayer doing being friend with a vampire?"
"Like you said, no time for that. Cordelia, tell Wesley and Gunn to join us at the park."
"I’m going with you."
"I think not, we've got a faster way to get there, don’t we?" Buffy says.
Cole smiles at this:
"Well, good!" He simply says, before going to her and shimmering them back to the park. Cordelia stares in astonishment, and then babbles nervously for a second before going toward the back room.
There were two very upset sisters already in the park, and Cole sighed at the thought of the accusations that were sure to come.
"What did you do with her again," Prue begins angrily. " And where the hell were you?"
"I was simply getting some help. Meet Buffy Summers." Cole answers curtly.
Piper, who was also very upset:
"Who is she?"
"Her friend's in there with Phoebe. What did Leo find out?"
"Nothing, he has no idea what this is…" Prue answers, slightly calmer.
Meanwhile, Angel and Phoebe have fallen into a world that makes no sense at all and most of all they don't even remember who they are. All around them, they hear plaintive voices. These repeat over and over:
"Come with us, we’re alone. Come dance with us."
Phoebe and Angel have been looking around the place for like forever. There doesn't seem to be any way to get out of it. They are walking through an endless mist, barely seeing each other at all. But presently they find more like them, and those are apparently dancing to a silent tune, oblivious to everything around them. Each couple is totally enthralled. The couples move in and out of the mist, and always they hear the same complaint.
After a little while, Phoebe thinks that she hears something else, though. A hypnotic tune, that for some reason, she finds irresistible. Without even thinking about what she's doing, Phoebe begins dancing. Angel comes to her apparently hearing the same tune, and he takes her in his arms as they start dancing endlessly, not caring how exhausted they already are…
Leo just orbed in again, but his news was not good:
"The Elders don't understand more than you," he says to Cole… "They say that like me, they can feel her being right here in this park. Not in one specific place but rather all over the park."
"That doesn’t make any sense."
"I know but that’s all they could tell me."
Cole became upset:
"Those Elders of yours are really useless."
"There is no need to get upset at Leo. He has nothing to do with it."
But Cole isn't done yet.
"And he does nothing to help either."
"Cole you should calm down! What you’re doing now isn't gonna help Phoebe."
Cole takes a deep breath, and then turns back to them.
"And the book, was there anything useful in it?"
"Nothing. But we didn’t have much to go on…"
"I have a friend who's looking it up right now," Buffy offers. "Maybe he'll have more luck?"
The girls’ attention now turn to Buffy.
"And what would you or your friend know about this?" Prue questions suspiciously.
"Don’t worry about it. Prue," Cole answers for Buffy. "They know plenty, and that's all you really need to know. But in the meantime, maybe we could give another try at finding this vortex."
"I don't like to be in the dark, as you know." Prue answers pointedly.
"Buffy here's a little like you, Prue. Some things are better kept secret."
Prue and Piper are not happy about this, but they agree that they should look around the park.
"Why don’t you and…Buffy?" Buffy acquiesces. Prue continues:
"Ok you and Buffy look your way, and we’ll take the other side, let’s meet here afterward. Maybe your friends will have had an idea if we didn’t find her by then?
"Believe me… Prue?" Buffy answers, "I wanna find this thing just as much as you do."
"Then let’s not lose any more time."
"Finally…" Cole exclaims impatiently.
Prue frowns but doesn’t add anything, as she is too upset at the moment.
"Don’t worry," Piper tells Cole, "we'll find her."
Cole smiles weakly and turns to go to their side of the park.
Prue, to the others:
"Sometimes that man just makes me wanna scream."
"Prue he's just as upset as you are; you should know that by now."
"All the more reason not to hide things from us."
"I think that he has a good reason Prue." Leo intervenes.
"Is there something that you're not telling us?"
"Just like Cole said... the girl has her own secrets, but what should matter to you is that she fights on the same side as you."
"I guess that we'll have to accept that…"
Leo smiles at her, although knowing that it’s probably not the last he heard of it…
Cole and Buffy were walking fast. And they already had covered quite a way by then.
"So you’re a demon, you say? And by the way, thank you for not telling about me."
"It’s nothing, I’m kind of used to secrets. Of all kinds…"
"And I suppose you won’t tell me who, or what, those girls are?"
Cole smiled a bit at this:
"Curiosity killed the cat you know?"
Buffy smiled too.
"Well, at least you’re a funny demon."
"Prue wouldn’t say that. They actually think that my sense of humor needs a lot of work."
"And the girl you were with, whose baby was she pregnant with?"
Cole is not sure of what he should tell her, and he hesitates a long time.
"Is that a secret too?" Buffy insists
"Not really, it’s mine…"
Buffy just utters a meaningful:
"But he is human, if that’s what bothers you."
"How is that?"
"I’m only half demon, which of course explains my present appearance…"
"Which means that you don't always look like that?"
"Now you're really getting very curious…"
"That’s ok you know... I’ve seen worse."
In the vortex, Phoebe is dancing a slow and sensual dance. She doesn’t know the real name of the man dancing with her, but it really doesn't matter. By now, she starts to feel like there is someone else inside of her. Someone full of regrets… And that person sees a very different man dancing with her. The man kisses her passionately, but it feels as if there is a lot of pain between them; memories lost forever. Then she remembers their names: Julian and Lauren. That is all that matters now. They only want to stay here forever, in that moment. All around them, a dozen of couples at least are dancing in the same manner.
On the other side of the park, the girls and Leo are getting discouraged.
"What if we don’t find her," Piper asks in spite of the assurance to the contrary that she gave to Cole earlier. The fear of losing her for good is very real this time.
"Don’t be pessimistic." Prue utters although she isn't very reassured herself. "For god sake, she came back from the dead. What’s a little vortex for her?" She says this with a falsely optimistic intonation that doesn’t fool the others, but they don't contradict her at this point.
"If it was done by a demon, we'd know what it was, wouldn’t we?"
"I think so too... it must be something else. I can still feel her all around us. This is very strange."
"I know, I tried to scry for her and it went crazy, turning all around the park area. But there were a few spots where it seemed to concentrate and I’m directing you to one of them right now. Maybe the answer lies there? Was there anything relevant in the history of this park?"
"It is said that every 20 years or so, a number of couples have been declared missing without any appearance of foul play. Some of them were found dead mostly in this park, others were never found. It started about 80 years ago or at least, has been documented for that long. Although the disappearances have been happening all over town, this park is where most of them were concentrated."
"And nobody did anything about it?"
"No one knows what caused it. And of course, the authorities never assumed that supernatural events were taking place…"
"Obviously!" Prue exclaims. "But why didn’t anybody from up there try to find out?"
"The souls of those people never reached them. They seem to be lost somehow."
"That’s terrible…" Piper says.
Prue enters a particularly thick bush, and after a moment she calls for the others.
"Hey, come here, I think I found something."
Her voice is shaky and it alerts the others…
"What is it," Piper asks nervously.
"I think that I might've figured out what happened to the couples who disappeared…"
Leo and Piper come closer, pushing the vegetation aside with difficulties.
"I might know why those weren’t found." Piper says. "It seems a very tricky place to get to, and isolated."
"That is one of the spots I scried for," Prue utters sadly as she is staring at the ground. Then, the others finally understand when they see what she found. In a pile, there are dozens of bones at various degrees of decompositions. Obviously people have been dying there over many years. The bones are almost all buried and they guess that there must be much more underneath.
"Oh my god. What happened to them?" And then, she spotted something else that caused her to scream.
The others look in the same direction and find two fresh bodies. They seem to be still in an embrace, and on their faces, they have the creepiest of smile. They apparently died in this position and fallen to the ground where they stood. No indication on what they died of though.
Leo ooes to the bodies to try finding marks or wounds but there is nothing. Then he notices that under their eyes, there are deep pockets, as if they have been pushed to exhaustion before they died…
On the other side of the park, Cole and Buffy stopped talking a while ago, and for his part Cole is becoming more anxious by the moment.
"Do you think that your friends might have an idea on what happened?"
Buffy is startled out of her own worries.
"I hope so; I couldn’t stand losing someone else…"
"What do you mean?"
Buffy is not certain that she wants to talk to him about it, but in a way she thinks that talking about her mother might put Angel’s disappearance on the back burner.
"My mother just died two weeks ago."
Buffy looks at him intently, as she senses that she hit a nerve somehow.
"Is there something the matter?"
"Just… Well... the situation is really not the same.I assume that you loved your mother very much?"
"Yes, tremendously… I could always count on her."
Cole remains silent a moment longer, and then he says.
"I don’t know how it's gonna sound to you, but I think that you're very lucky…"
Buffy is not too sure how to take that.
"You did understand that she died, didn’t you?"
"Yes, but at least you have fond memories of her. And she obviously raised you well. Did she ever know?"
"Yes she did, although she didn’t take it very well. But why are you saying this?"
"I kind of lost my mother recently as well... but it’s nothing like you…" Cole quickly adds.
"It must still be painful..."
"Not in the same sense as your loss. Like I said, I’m half-human…"
"Oh I see…"
"Still, strangely enough, I do regret her passing somehow. But it seems so incongruous, considering what she did."
"What did she do?"
Cole looks at her, wondering if he really should talk to this woman about it. Then he decides that it might even be easier than to tell the others.
"She hurt Phoebe badly and well… I had to help…" Cole's voice trails as he can't get himself to finish this sentence.
"That’s all right. I get it. Like you said... this is very different."
"Phoebe told me that only time could heal that feeling of loss… Maybe it’s good advice for you too…"
"I don’t think that I could ever not regret our time together, but it’s true that I’ll have great memories of her."
They are just returning to the same spot they left a few hours ago and find Wesley, who gestures to them animatedly. "I believe that I know what is happening here…"
They hurry toward him.
"I found this in the history of the town. Apparently, this place wasn’t always a park. About 100 years ago, there was a house built almost at the center of it. It belonged to an old family. But the last owners were a couple who died in the fire that burned their house to the ground. The place was taken over by the city and they used it as a park ever since. It would seem that the couple in question, a certain Julian and Lauren Dorsey, had been married only days before the fire."
"That’s very sad," Buffy replies. "But what does it have to do with Angel and Phoebe disappearing."
"I was coming to that…" Westley answers with a hint of irritation, "I think that somehow, the ghosts of those two people got stuck in this place, and they're reliving a moment in time over and over, with such intensity that they are bringing other couples in, and then these get entangled in their fantasy. There is a history of couples disappearing every 20 years of so for the last 80 years. Some were found dead of exhaustion according to the ME reports. As if they had been doing something non-stop until they fell dead. What's strange of course is that nobody has ever seen any of them alive while they were doing whatever that was. They went missing for days before being found dead, almost exactly where they had been last."
Prue, Piper and Leo are just returning, and tell the others of their own macabre discovery.
"So, in reality," Leo says afterward, "all of this is caused by two souls who haven't found peace, and are collecting more souls along the way."
"What can we do about this?" Prue asks.
"I thinkwe should try to communicate with the original souls.Make them understand what they're doing. Maybe it'd be enough to break the cycle?"
"A good old fashion séance?" Westley approves.
"Yes, but it would've to be on the very spot where they were last to have a better chance to work."
"That I can help with. Here are the blueprints of where the house stood a hundred years ago."
"That is almost exactly where we found all those bones…" Piper exclaims.
"That makes sense now."
"Tell me what you need, and I’ll go get it. Then we can do this as soon as possible."
"Hurry up. Phoebe is pregnant and I don’t know how long she can hold on."
Buffy took his hand and he knew that she understood. "At least" Buffy thinks to herself, "Angel won’t die." Although she still wonders how he could have been caught in this place the same as a normal human.
Prue frowns a little at the sight, but decides to ask later about this.
About an hour later, Wesley comes back with an assortment of candles and séance paraphernalia. Then they all move toward the spot where the bones were found.
Cordelia who has come with Wesley helps them set the place for it, while looking curiously at all those people assembled there. She has the distinctive feeling that only Wesley and her are what one would consider human, but for once, she understands that no one feels like chatting about it.
Eventually, it is all ready and the girls enlist Wesley and Cordelia in the séance.
Cole, Buffy and Leo stand back, anxiously awaiting the result.
The night is falling and it reminds Buffy that they better find them before daybreak for Angel’s sake. She often forgets about his particular situation. It also brings back to her the painful fact that they probably can never be together.
Piper and Prue are reciting a spell to call the dead which distracts Buffy from her somber thoughts.
"Julian, Lauren, Listen to our call
Come to us, be here to us all"
They repeated the chant many times, holding hands, until the shimmering wall seemed to grow out of the ground beside their group.
Cole moves toward it but Leo grabs him, restraining him. Then Leo whispers
"If you go in there, you’ll be just as stuck as they are, and no use to Phoebe…"
Cole stops but he is still unsure if this is true. All he can think about is that Phoebe is still stuck inside that vortex, and he only wants to get her out.
The sisters and the others intensifie the chant and finally, two spectral entities seem to be coming at the edge of the wall. As if from a distance, they call to them.
"Come to us, we’re alone, come dance with us…"
Prue opens her eyes when she hears them, and she tries to reason with them. However, no matter what she says, they continue their litany, as if they couldn’t hear her.
Just then, Cole thinks that he saw Phoebe, dancing with the vampire. She seems about to fall, but Angel holds on to her and they dance on, oblivious to everything else.
Cole called to her:
"Phoebe!" Then he calls louder, many times and suddenly she reacts.
Phoebe still hears the music, but through it, she suddenly hears someone screaming a name that seems vaguely familiar. She turns toward the voice but all she sees is the mist. She looks back at the man she's dancing with and she realizes that he isn’t the Julian that the entity sees. She pulls herself away, fighting total exhaustion. The man looks at her curiously, and then he seemed to hear another voice as well.
Cole continues calling to her when he sees Phoebe heard him, and now Buffy is doing the same for Angel. Slowly they come toward the edge of the vortex, and when they are almost out, Cole pulls himself out of Leo’s grip and goes to Phoebe, pulling her completely out. Angel manages to free himself, and soon, many other people come out of the vortex as well, at various degrees of exhaustion. Some of them faint the moment they're out. However, the couple that came to the edge first is still staying in. Phoebe turns to them as her memories and theirs are coming back to her, and she calls to Lauren:
"Lauren, you've got to come out. You won’t lose him if you do. You'll just go to a better place."
The woman finally turns to her with what looks like tears in her eyes. Phoebe remembered her pain.
"You won’t lose your love, but if you stay there, you will condemn countless lovers to an eternity of torment."
Lauren turns to the ghostly figure of her husband, and they seem to understand each other without words. In the end, they held each other’s hands and stepped out of the vortex. The wall dissolves behind them, and just before disappearing, they smile toward Phoebe. She knows that they are now free.
That is as much as she can take however, and she falls in Cole’s arms, unconscious .
Phoebe wakes up in bed, and it takes her a moment before she realizes that she is now in the timeshare where they were supposed to spend their vacation.
Cole is by her side the moment he realizes she's awake.
"How are you feeling?"
He appears very anxious, but Phoebe is still a little confused and takes a moment before answering. Finally she gives up on remembering what happened on her own and she questions Cole.
"What am I doing here? Did we manage to help those people?"
"Yes, they’re fine too. But we were very worried about you."
"Leo and your sisters are here. Actually, even Buffy and Angel stayed to make sure that you'd be ok."
Phoebe gives him a curious look.
"Hey, isn’t that the pretty girl from this morning?"
"That was yesterday, honey. Don’t you remember anything?"
"Just feeling a lot of love and loss. But it’s like a dream." Phoebe answers.
"It was no dream; we couldn’t find you…"
The look on his face tells her that it was really hard on him.
"I hope it didn’t make things worse? I wanted this vacation to help you forget and relax."
"That’s ok, it actually was somewhat instructive. But all that counts now is that you're ok."
Phoebe smiles and Cole kisses her softly before going to the other room, to give the others the good news.
Buffy and Angel come to her to say good bye, and then they take their leave of the Charmed Ones without ever having known who they really were. But it really doesn’t matter, as they think that they have still made friends that day.
Before going out, Buffy takes Cole aside.
"Thank you," she simply says. When she understands that he is a little puzzled as to what she's thanking him for, Buffy adds:
"I think I needed someone to tell me how lucky I was…"
Cole smiles and she waves good bye one last time to the others before departing.