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[personal profile] sara_wolf
Title: My Heart Nearer to Thee
Rating: PG
Warnings: character death
Summary: When Phoebe's husband and son are abducted to a dangerous alternate universe, the sisters must travel across reality to save them.


Present Day

Phoebe looked around the alleyway that she'd landed in. "This looks like home," she remarked, out loud.

"That's because, as far as I can tell, we are home." Cole's voice came from behind her, and Phoebe whirled around, jumping into her husband's arms, happily. She pulled him down into a long kiss, and then pulled back to look him in the eye.

"If we were really home," she told him, "I wouldn't be dreaming all of this."

"Well, technically," Cole pointed out, "this is more of a premonition than a dream."

Phoebe rolled her eyes. "Don't be a smartass."

"Well, you and your sisters are bad influences," Cole retorted, grinning.

"Where's-" Phoebe started to ask, looking around, and then she looked sharply at Cole. "Please tell me he finally picked a name."

"He has," Cole said, and the tone in his voice made Phoebe cautious.

"Please tell me that it's not Arnold," she pleaded, hopefully.

"It's not Arnold," Cole replied, teasingly, and then he finally relented in the face of Phoebe's stony glare. "Josh," he told her. "Our son has named himself Joshua Ben Halliwell."

"Ben?" Phoebe echoed.

"After Grandfather," a young voice said, from behind her, and Phoebe turned around to see her son watching her, a happy smile on his face.

"You do have two grandfathers," Phoebe pointed out, as she wrapped her son up in a tight embrace. "Which one did you name yourself after?"

Josh just shot her a guileless smile, looking eerily like his father in that moment, but he wouldn't answer. After a moment, Phoebe just shook her head in exasperation, matching her son's grin with her own.

"Fine, then," she teased him, gently. "Keep your secrets. We'll find out, eventually. So," she went on, looking back over at Cole. "Where do you think we are? Since we're obviously not home, I mean?"

"Honestly," Cole told her, "Josh and I have only been here for about half an hour, ourselves. Until you showed up the way you did, I thought that we had made our way back to our own reality. I guess that it was too much to hope for."

"At least this is better than the world of the Purple Marshmallow People," Phoebe commented. She and Cole both shuddered at the thought of their thankfully-brief time in the bizarre reality. "I wish we knew what was causing this."

"The Elders still don't have any ideas?" Cole asked, and Phoebe shook her head, ruefully.

"Not a clue," she told him. "They don't know what pulled you out of our reality in the first place, or why you and Josh keep switching realities at random."

"I think I might have an answer," Cole replied. "Mind you, this is only a whisper of a rumor, but it's more than we had before."

"Well, what is it?" Phoebe asked, impatiently. "If I have a hint of even something to tell the Elders, they might be able to get you and Josh home to me."

"There are beings," Cole said, "rumored to exist outside of space and time. Exempt from the laws that govern other mortal beings. They're called the Avatars. And from what I've heard, pulling off something like this would be child's play, to them."

"But, why?" Phoebe asked, confused. "If these Avatars really do exist, then why would they spend all this time and energy sending you and Josh to a hundred different realities? What would they possibly have to gain? Why would they even be interested? No offense," she added, hastily, hearing how her last words had sounded.

"No," Cole reassured her, "I'm as baffled as you are. The only reason that I can think that they would be interested in us is that Josh and I were both possessed by the Source, and if some remnant of the power still lingers in either of us-"

"Wait a minute," Phoebe broke in, catching onto his train of thought, "you think the Avatars are trying to recruit you?"

"Well, I don't think they're doing all of this for kicks and giggles," Cole retorted, dryly. "I think they're testing us. Seeing what we're really capable of."

"Those bastards," Phoebe growled, but the rest of her sentence was cut off by the sound of a young boy's high-pitched scream.

She looked around, panic flooding her when she realized that Josh was no longer with them. Cole was already running in the direction of the scream, and Phoebe was barely a second behind him. They burst into an alleyway to find Josh, standing frozen at the mouth of the alley, a look of sheer terror on his face. And at the end of the blind alley was the reason for that terror.

A pack of scaly, horned demons had their prey cornered against the brick wall at the far end of the alley. And from the sounds coming from the unseen Innocent, the demons were winning.

"We have to-" Phoebe started, but then she broke off in the middle of her sentence.

She was nothing more here than an astral projection; she certainly didn't have any powers to fight the demons off with. Cole, beside her, was a human, just as vulnerable in this moment as she. And then there was their son to think about…

But, out of the corner of her eye, she watched as Josh pressed himself up against the side of one of the buildings, the color of his skin and clothes shifting until he was practically indistinguishable from the brick behind him. And at her side, Cole had pulled a pair of wicked-looking daggers out of sheaths on his arms, holding one out to her in offering.

"Just like old times, yeah?" he suggested, and Phoebe felt an answering grin spread across her face.

"To old times," she agreed, taking the dagger in a firm grip, and then she and Cole charged the demons.

The demons were clearly not expecting to be attacked, and despite their greater numbers, Phoebe and Cole still more than held their own. Phoebe took out two of the demons in quick succession, wincing when a third raked its claws across her arm, leaving a trio of long, shallow gashes running from her elbow down to her wrist. She ignored the fire burning up her arm as she tackled the third demon, knocking it to the ground and driving the dagger home in its heart. Then, she looked over to see how Cole was doing with his half of the pack.

Unsurprisingly, Cole had finished off his demons at the same time, and was kneeling down beside their fallen victim with a concerned look on his face. Then, he gently rolled the man over onto his back, and something like panic flashed across his face. Phoebe scrambled to his side before he could even open his mouth, and then stared down in shock at the body of Cole Turner lying on the ground in front of them.

"Cole, how-" she started, but then she gasped when the doppelganger opened his eyes.

"Mom, what's going on?" Josh called out, shakily, from behind them, and Phoebe quickly turned and motioned for her son to stay where he was.

"Don't come any closer, sweetie," she said, shaking her head. "Just stay there, okay?"

"Okay," Josh agreed, softly, not moving from the spot he was standing on, and Phoebe turned back around in time to see Cole wrap a hand around the dagger buried in his doppelganger's stomach.

For a second, it looked like he was trying to pull the dagger out, but then she saw that the other Cole had his hand around the hilt, as well. Her Cole was trying to keep him from pulling the dagger out.

"Don't," Cole was saying to his doppelganger. "Leave it in. We can get you to a healer-"

The other Cole opened his mouth, a strange, gurgling sound emerging from deep within his throat. A trickle of blood ran slowly down the corner of his mouth, and his eyes rolled back in his head. After a moment, Phoebe reached out with a trembling hand to slowly close his eyes.

"Damn," Cole muttered, under his breath, as he stared down at the lifeless body.

He shook his head in regret, moving to stand up. As he did, he inadvertently pulled out the dagger that he still held in his hand, and once free of the other Cole's body, the blade of the dagger started to glow.

"Um, honey," Phoebe suggested, watching the light from the blade grow in intensity, "maybe you should drop that thing."

"Probably a good idea," Cole agreed, but even though she could see him trying, it was like he couldn't get his fingers to obey him.

The light simply crept up the blade and onto his hand, sinking into his skin. When the dagger was dark, again, Cole was finally able to let go of the blade, letting it fall to the asphalt with a noisy clatter.

"So," Cole said, conversationally, "that can't have been good."

"I'm beginning to think that nothing that happens in this universe is going to be good," Phoebe grumbled, as she left his side to join Josh, hugging her son to her.

A second later, when a pillar of flame filled the air next to the dead Cole, she was beginning to regret her words. Even more so when the demon beneath the flames turned out to be her. Phoebe stared in wordless shock at her alternate-reality clone, taking in the short, dark hair, the expensive clothes and jewels the other was sporting, and, oh yeah, the obvious use of demonic powers.

"Any time you want to get out of here," Phoebe suggested to Cole, in an undertone, "and maybe find some place less evil-"

She hadn't been as quiet as she'd hoped, because the other Phoebe heard her, turning around to glare at the people standing behind her. Her eyes went wide with momentary shock when she saw them, but then she saw the bloody dagger lying at Cole's feet, and the blood covering his hands, and her eyes narrowed.

"You killed him," she growled, furiously, standing protectively between them and the dead Cole.

"No, you don't understand," Cole started, but the other Phoebe wasn't listening to him.

"Guards!" she bellowed, suddenly, and Phoebe started to get a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. The feeling got even worse when a group of hulking demons flamed in to surround her clone, all of them clearly waiting for her next command. "Seize them," the other woman went on, gesturing at them, and Phoebe's eyes widened as the demons started toward her and Josh.

Cole tried to stop them, but he was no match for the demons that simply picked him up and hurled him out of the way. Phoebe fought like crazy to keep them from getting their hands on Josh, but all she did was delay them for a few seconds before she was overpowered. Then, the demons had her and Josh in their iron grips, and she could do nothing to escape. She watched, terrified, as her doppelganger approached Cole with a cold look on her face.

"You took what I loved," she informed him, prodding his fallen form with her foot, "and now I'm going to take what you love. And then I'm going to kill you."

Then, she gestured at the demons, and Phoebe felt the stomach-lurching sensation of being transported in a burst of flame. When they rematerialized, she had a moment see Josh standing beside her, looking scared but determined, and then the shrill sound of a bell pierced her hearing. At the same time, the world started to go gray around her, and Phoebe struggled to stay asleep, struggled to stay in the Underworld with her son…

But, she jerked awake at the insistent ringing of her alarm clock, tangled in her blankets.

'Please,' she prayed, desperately, as she climbed out of bed. 'Please let that have just been a bad dream. Anything but real. Please.'

Then, she looked in the mirror and saw a darkening bruise on her face from where one of the demons had struck her, and the long gashes on her arms, and she knew that it had not been just a dream. Cole and Josh were stuck in that hellhole of an alternate universe, and they were all alone.

Continued here
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