The Life and Times

Part 2: Friends, family and other contradictions

Chapter 10


"To expostulate why day is day, night night, and time is time, 
were nothing but to waste night, day, and time"
Hamlet, Act ii, Sc.2

God defend me from my friends; from my enemies I can defend myself.
Ecclesiasticus 6, 13

"What do you mean you were blue?" Paige demanded as she thumped through the Book of Shadows.

"You know its just as well the Book of Shadows looks after itself." said Phoebe who was rocking herself in the chair in the attic as she filed her nails and trying not to feel guilty that she had insisted that if she and Piper could manage to look after two kids in the park it was not beyond Leo's capabilities.

"I was a pixie" Piper said enthusiastically as she breast fed Wyatt. "Pixies are blue and little and live on the moors."

"So you were in another realm" asked Phoebe.

"No not really, its pixie sort of sub- realm of this one." Piper answered.

"Sub-realm" said Paige "Lord what the hell is that, is it like a plain, or an alternate universe or…'

"It's a sub realm, and they live in their own magic, in this realm." Piper answered.

"If they are sort of in this realm" Phoebe asked. "Don't they get seen?"

"No" Piper explained "They don't get seen because they're blue and little and the grass is a sort of blue green and the wild flowers and moss are a sort of blue purple and they fade in."

"Why don't they get stepped on?" Phoebe asked interested.

"Because they hide in the long grass and throw stones at people who come to close," Piper explained.

"And this works?" Phoebe asked shaking her head.

"Yes" said Piper happy with memory "I threw this stone. Well a pebble at this great big oaf who wandered off the walking track, when all the signs asked walkers not to leave the tracks. Got him smack in the chin. Pixies have great aim. He yelled like hell and one of the local guides told him it was the pixies who did not like big boots tromping around their homes. And he snarled 'ha very funny' so I threw another one at him" she said. "Its magic with pixies you know. How they can hit anything they aim at with a stone. Even the females can throw overarm. Hard."

"Pixies!" snorted Paige thumping the Book of Shadows.

"Paige" complained Phoebe not stopping filing "Show some respect for the Book. And what it represents" she added as Paige glared at her.

"Pixies" said Paige thumping the Book again but not quite as hard. "The Book of Shadows says pixies or sometimes called piskies were beings who were not good enough for heaven, nor bad enough for hell and so they have no where else to go so they have to wander the moors forever."

"That's not the way the pixies tell it" Pipier said. "They say they just decided to remain neutral in the war between good and evil and good just makes up that story. They couldn't treat them as the enemy because pixies are clearly not evil."

"They're not good" said Paige still reading "They steal horses."

"Only or a bit of joy riding" Piper explained "No harm done. It was fun. You wait until the horses have their nose in the grass grazing and you jump up and catch their manes and hang on like crazy. Then you sort of make the air move. Pixies can do that and the horses kick up their heels and start to run and then if they jump over gates, or streams their manes fly in the air and you fly with them."

"Isn't that dangerous?" asked Phoebe stopping filing.

"No" Piper shook her head. "You wrap the hair around you so you can't fall. Leaves their manes in tangled mess though. Really pisses their owners off."

"So pixies aren't evil" Paige said crossing her arms" they are just blue and like joy riding on stolen horses."

"Its only fun, no harm done" explained Piper " And pixies work hard, growing crops and keeping the moors clean from things that could destroy the water, and kill the moor land plants."

"I get it" said Paige her head on the side "Tell me this though. What sort of emotional connection have you got that you would get exchanged with a pixie?"

Piper snorted as she put Wyatt over her shoulder to burp him. "Pixie's are very independent beings" she said haughtily. "They don't respect authority, unless authority has earned respect" she added.

 Wyatt gurgled happily at being the centre of his mother's attention. Paige and Phoebe smiled.

"Pixies love their children" Piper explained . She swallowed and smiled at her sisters. "They love their families" she explained.

"I get it sweetie," said Paige smiling softly.

"You don't" Piper told her with just a touch of superiority that Paige did not miss.

"Attic" Phoebe yelled as Cole called her name from the hallway.

"You don't get it" Piper told Paige "but when you change when you feel the magic and something really magic not just the magic you get for being a plain every day witch".

"I like being a witch" said Phoebe as Cole came into the attic and leant over her blocking her sister's and taking his time with a long deep kiss.

"Hi baby" he breathed.

"Good evening Cole" said Paige smarmily.

"When you get a chance to be a really magic creature" said Piper determined to get her point across, "You will get it."

"Good evening Paige" said Cole just as smarmily "Piper."

"Piper got exchanged with a pixie" Phoebe told him.

"A pixie" Cole said with mock surprise "What's Piper got in common with fey, snarky, petty thieves whose only really good point is that they can hit a demon's eye with a rock thrown two hundred yards."

"Cole" said Paige annoyed.

"Col" said Phoebe warning as Piper stuck her tongue out at him.

"Oh I get it," he smirked.

"Arsehole," said Piper.

"Where are the kids?" Cole asked ignoring her and purchasing somewhat precariously on the arm of the rocking chair so he could be near Phoebe.

"At the park with Leo" Phoebe told him.

"Its getting late, maybe I should" he said.

"Don't shimmer" ordered Piper "No magic."

"That little bastard retriever isn't here yet" Cole muttered.

And was interrupted by the sound of orbs as whitelighter who wasn't called Casper appeared.

Paige turned her nose up and then guilty remembered Francesca telling her to show some manners around whitelighters. "Good evening" she said "Casper um .. I mean."

"I believe you are confusing me with a cartoon character" the whitelighter said with dignity." Charmed Ones," he acknowledged carefully and for once nodded at  Cole. "I have to speak to the Charmed Ones" the whitelighter said.

"Anything you want to say to the Charmed Ones, you a can say in front of me" Cole told him not bothering to hide his irritation.

"We have no secrets in this family," Phoebe claimed loyally catching Cole's hand.

"That would appear to me to be unwise" the whitelighter told them" I am glad you are here." he said to Cole. "I am glad you are all here. I would have come earlier but I was not getting a strong sense of Piper."

"I was asleep" Piper interrupted waiting for  the whitelighter to ask how that made a difference but he obviously had made up his minds not to let the witches provoke him so he ignored her.

"As you say" said the whitelighter clearly interested in other things. "The whitelighter Angela, she is friend of mine. I spoke to her earlier. I spoke the Elders, about the retriever, about Rodik being here."

"Did you?" said Paige with a false chirpy smile. 

"We have, the Elders, have .. there are concerns" mumbled the whitelighter.

"Are there why?" asked Piper blandly rocking Wyatt, while Phoebe clutched Cole's hand with both of hers, a false bright smile on her face. Paige crossed her arms tighter.

"I wanted to tell you, the Elders wanted me to tell you.. to explain about .. about Rodik." continued the whitelighter nervously.

"My husband used to be his whitelighter" Piper informed not-Casper " He explained about Rodik."

"Your husband" not-Casper said carefully, "Was well known for seeing the best in his charges, for being blind to their faults, for being ..generous in his estimation of their qualities."

Phoebe and Paige exchanged glances, while Cole snorted.

"Leo said this Rodik is a fucking little arsehole" Paige told not-Casper.

Not-Casper smiled a little, "Yes exactly" he said "That's my point. Leo often.. generous in his estimation of his charge's qualities."

The witches stared at not-Casper while Cole started to laugh.

"That's why I wanted to talk to you" the whitelighter told him" Rodik isn't.. kind to mortals. He lacks ..consideration for them. He is often… quite.. he is not kind, or thoughtful or understanding toward non-magic creatures."

"Really" said Cole grimly.

"He does not approve of mortals being with witches" not-Casper said.

"How does he think you get little witches?" Cole asked.

"Rodik understands the necessity of the process of procreation" not-Casper explained. "He just does not approve of it and expresses his disapproval."

"Cole and I are married" Phoebe spat out" and even if we weren't, it's not any of his business."

"I do not believe that Rodik has any comprehension that he could mind his own business." not –Casper replied. "In fact he seems to feel it is his duty not too." He shrugged. "The last witch who offered him hospitality. Her marriage did not survive his visit."

"Just what are you trying to say?" Piper demanded.

Not- Casper shook his head then dropped all pretence. "This damned retriever is a right fucking little shit" he said "He has no magic gifts at all, except an unnatural instinct to focus on the one vulnerable spot in any being's soul and psyche. Finding all those little doubts that you just ignore and making them seem .. the only thing likely. And he goes for the jugular every time. He can't help himself."

Cole sucked his breath.

The girls looked at him Paige was biting her bottom lip, Phoebe's eyes were wide open.

Not-Casper shrugged "I heard once that an Elder tried to choke him, and being magic could have killed him." Confidentially the whitelighter whispered. "Apparently at least three others Elders were prepared to stand back and let their colleague do it."

"What are you saying?" Piper said holding Wyatt so protectively that he protested with a loud WHAAAAAAAAA.

"I'm saying, I'm asking, I'm begging" said not-Casper. "Don't let him aggravate you into trying to kill him. I know nearly every creature who comes into contact wants to, but you are magic and a rash moment, an angry unconsidered response. You're magic, you could kill him." The whitelighter pleaded.

All three witches stared at him.

"I know  you... the Charmed Ones can be volatile" not-Casper begged." But for no other reason than not giving him the satisfaction of being a shit, don't let him get at you, provoke you."

"Sounds like magic, everybody would be better off without this Rodik" said Paige grimly.

Not-Casper shook his head. "That" he said" that is the pity, the tragedy, the irony. So much of the battle we fight against evil, when we are not protecting innocents" and all three witches glanced at Cole who stared straight ahead. "Is about protecting our powers from evil. You know how many times evil in some incarnation, has come after your powers, warlocks, demons, even the Old Source."

The girls despite themselves nodded. "And even though powerful creatures of evil come after witches and ..other magic good beings.. creatures, good creatures cannot steal powers. Evil's powers cannot be used for good, by creatures that are not evil."

And all three witches avoided looking at Cole who restlessly stood up and removed Wyatt from his mother's arms because she was squeezing him to tightly.

The whitelighter took a deep breath. "It's not just that this .. this damned retriever allows us to ..retrieve some of those powers they steal and use them again. Its.." Not-Casper searched for the word. "It's a violation of the good that witches and other creatures do, the innocents they protect, that evil should subvert the powers witches use to do good, that demons and warlocks subvert those powers for evil. Rodik, retrievers, are our only way to stop that subversion, to stop the loss, to honour those who have fallen by not allowing what they lived for to be diverted to evil." He looked around:" It's.."

"We understand" said Phoebe quietly while Paige and Piper exchanged glances and Cole looked at the whitelighter with surprise and reluctant respect.

"And there is something else" not-Casper said knowing, he had his audience and taking advantage,"Rodik's whitelighter Angela."

"What about her?" demanded Piper.

"Leo .. when he guided Rodik" not-Casper explained "he was .. famous for his ability to remain in control with his charges, not be traumatised by their behaviour."

Piper and Phoebe drew deep breaths, while Cole tried to bury a laugh by pulling Wyatt close to him.

"Angela is friend of mine" not-Casper explained "And I have to say she is not Leo. The Elders thought she could cope. Before she became a whitelighter. In her life, previously, she was a French resistance worker, she rescued children from concentration camps, until she was caught and…"

"Yes" said Paige.

"Angela is at the end of her tether" not-Casper explained" She could not deal with the consequences of an eruption, between the Charmed Ones and Rodik. For her sake, for the purpose of not loosing a good, good, being to the battle against evil, I am begging you to resist any temptation to kill Rodik, to respond to him, to deal with him as he deserves to be dealt with."

Not-Casper looked around and the girls all very reluctantly nodded. He stared at Cole who shrugged and eventually nodded.

"All this trouble for a damned retriever who is not any higher in the hierarchy than a sludge is in the demon hierarchy" sighed Paige.

"Who told you that?" demanded not-Casper sharply.

Paige swallowed, "I read it somewhere when I was researching retrievers today" she flushed guiltily.

"Hmm" said not-Casper" perhaps you could pass that onto Angela if you get a chance. It could even get a smile out of her" and he nodded to each one of the witches and held Cole's gaze for a second. Then orbed.

They were all silent for a few minutes until Phoebe shook her head annoyed.

"Doesn't it just piss you off" said Phoebe the truth speaker" when some-one who really bugs you is so damned honourable .. and right.".

She glanced at Cole and her sisters who were still silent.

"Aren't you going to tell me to shut up?" she asked sweetly.


Phoebe had a very restless night's sleep, not made any easier by Cole disappearing twice during the night.

"Damned eclipse" he muttered as he went back to bed the first time" a couple of Xindi got exchanged with a Bogeymen but thought they were Bogle's and panicked.

"Do I have the slightest ideas what you're talking about:?" Phoebe muttered mostly asleep.

"I hope not" he said and reaching to put his arm across Phoebe.

"Now I can't sleep wondering;" Phoebe said wide awake.

"Bogeymen and Xindi are both spirit creatures who are inclined to be friendly to mortals if they like them. Bogles are the evil version of Bogeymen. Really evil." Cole sighed.

"Oh" said Phoebe "goodnight."

"Night baby" he said.

Phoebe lay awake for a while Cole asleep breathed evenly beside her. She finally caught his shoulder, and woke him. "I thought Bogeymen were evil" she said.

He sighed "No" he said" Bogle's are evil, Bogeymen are just mischievous."

"Oh" she said.

"It's a common confusion" he answered. "Night baby."

He closed his eyes and was barely asleep before she woke him again" Xindi" she asked" they're just mischievous too."

Cole did not open his eyes" Phoebe, shut up" he said.

"Night baby" she whispered and felt like she could get to sleep. She was drifting off when Cole move beside her sitting up.

"Africa" he said a certain grimness in his voice.

""kay" said Phoebe sleepily, "You're going again. Be..oh…".

"Yeah I will" he said kissing her cheek before he shimmered.

Phoebe woke with the feeling something was wrong. Then she remembered . Bastard Retriever about to arrive. She got out of bed and woke Whosit who was not thrilled.

Piper was already up. She called across the hall she was dressing Melinda. Phoebe changed Patsy and dressed him, feeling as bad as most people after broken sleep and at least a had a second to compose herself as in the hall to the kitchen, she heard Francesca say. "Have you any reason to think it is something outside the battle. Nothing on the winds."

"I feel nothing" Cole replied.

"Then" Francesca continued "It may be this never ending obsession with the economy. How do you think evil is doing this outside the Great Plan?"

"On the edge of it" Cole answered"  And I don't know how they are doing it. I'm a lawyer not an economist."

"Just as well or I would not have married you" Phoebe said as she came into the kitchen, pulling her features into a smile. "Francesca good morning" she greeted her brightly. And put Whosit Patsy in his chair, noting that Melinda was sitting in  her high chair eating like a good girl because she would not dare do anything else while Francesca was there. Francesca was seated at the table, with Leo and Paige apparently having accepted a breakfast invitation. Piper was cooking which Phoebe concluded was why Francesca was staying. "Morning Leo, Paige" she said almost as brightly.

'Morning Pheebs" said Leo who had a half read paper in front of him, and eyed her cautiously wondering if she was as mad at him over the retriever as the rest of the family but even if Cole was furious with him, Leo could not resist the chance to have a dig at lawyers

"First let's kill all the lawyers" Leo quoted" Shakespeare" he added.

"Do you know how boring that joke gets after the first thousand times you hear it." Cole snarled.

"No tell me," smirked Leo.

"Did you hear that news item" Paige interrupted  "About the neighbourhood good Samaritan who went to take a collection because the lawyer next door had died so broke there was not enough money for a funeral. Little old lady opposite got out her purse. 'So she said to the Good Samaritan, all you want is five dollars and you guarantee the lawyer is dead. Sounds like a bargain to me.' Morning Phoebe."

"Ha" said Cole.

"That story is an urban myth dear" Francesca told her severely.

"I guess" said Paige a little intimidated in Francesca's presence lately.

"Whoever heard of a lawyer dying broke?" Francesca said sipping coffee.

Cole made to glare at her . Phoebe caught her breath as he stopped sucked his lips together and smiled wryly.

"Well the way Cole's practice is going, just as well he can't die or he might be the first" said Piper happily adding pancakes to Francesca's plate, and glad she finally had someone in the house who took time to enjoy breakfast.

"What the hell is this . pick on Cole day?" Cole grizzled standing up.

"No ,just a normal day" smirked Piper.

"Shut up Piper" said Cole amiably." I have to be in court in 40 minutes." He added as if that ought to make a difference to the way they treated him.

"Don't forget we'll have a visitor when you get home" Phoebe told him. "Remember you promised to behave."

"When did I do that?' he asked blandly while she pulled a face.

Cole gave her a with a big hug goodbye, agreed there was nothing that a little bastard retriever could do to make any trouble between them. He kissed all three kids and wished every-one a general goodbye and Francesca a particular one as Phoebe narrowed her eyes.

"You know about our visitor?" Phoebe asked Francesca brightly.

"I heard" Francesca said. She stopped. "Have you been warned about him." she asked almost gently.

"I used to be his whitelighter" Leo said a little defensively. "I told them about him."

"Really" smiled Francesca. "Sometimes whitelighters are ..over..generous in their evaluations of beings.  It's the angel factor, they confuse it with honesty."

"Our whitelighter, what's his name, not-Casper agreed with Leo" Piper said loyally.

"What did you tell them the retriever is?" Francesca asked Leo.

"Like I did/ A god damned fucking little bastard" Leo replied pushed.

"It is my advice in the circumstances, complete honesty would have been better" sighed Francesca with only just a twinkle in her eye.

Leo grinned.

"You won't be around, while he is here?" Phoebe asked Francesca almost hopefully.

"Not unless its necessary dear" Francesca answered her tongue in her cheek. "I know what cannot be cured must be endured but on the whole if you have the opportunity its better avoided," and she did not miss Phoebe's relief.

"I suppose it is better" Phoebe agreed not quite hiding her pleasure.

Francesca stood up "I must be off, that breakfast was delicious dear" she said to Piper who glowed. "I can be tempted to come again."

"Piper doesn't make a big breakfast that often" said Phoebe quickly.

"When you do, I'll  be most happy to accept an invitation." Francesca answered Piper choosing not to notice Phoebe.

"I like cooking and being appreciated" Piper all but beamed" Come anytime you are welcome" she added glowering at Phoebe and daring her to argue.

"I suppose I had better try and explain to Durand that he should not come around here while Rodik is here." Leo said" He was talking about it being the time to meet Cole."

"Its Cole's lot to suffer" Francesca answered amused. "Durand is probably the safest of all of us with Rodik. He knows right from wrong, and it would be wrong to kill the ….little ..gentleman. which reminds me I had better go and advise Proctor not to come here." she said.

"Will Proctor listen to your advice?" Paige asked curious" he didn't strike me as the sort who takes advice. Just a opinion"  she added hastily as Francesca frowned.

"He listens dear" Francesca said. "But only after he has enjoyed himself being obtuse at my expense. It was irritating when I first knew him, and little has changed. I do not like demons" she said and orbed.

Phoebe came home from work early, after a day spent trying not to yawn and fall asleep over her desk, listening to phone calls from both her sister how they would like to kill Leo for bringing the retriever into the manor.

"We agreed" Phoebe pointed out" Leo just asked. Anyway he was not much happier than us."

"He did not even offer any other solutions" Piper insisted. "Sometimes I think he hasn't entirely moved away from being the elder's dogsbody whitelighter."

"That's not fair Piper" Phoebe argued. "You know we had to agree. Not because Leo pushed but because of everything else."

"Because….gee we have to protect Cole again" Piper sighed.

"Because we have to protect the greater magic" Phoebe said firmly.

"I know" said Piper hanging up.

"That damned Rodik has already got our knickers in a knot" Phoebe told Paige when she called. "And we don't really know what he's like. I mean they could all be making gross personal judgements."

"You think Cole and Leo and Francesca are all lying." Paige said.

"I think maybe they are letting their personal experiences blur their judgement : Phoebe said.

"Francesca?" Paige said in disbelief.

"Francesca is only human.." Phoebe answered primly" I means she, she isn't infallible."

"She isn't?" asked Paige.

"No" said Phoebe firmly and then spent the next two hours writing a column about being brave enough to make your own decisions and judge others by how you find them and not what people tell you about them.

Cole called twice, once to tell her he won the court case by getting a shoplifter off.

"Were they guilty?" she asked.

"I can't answer that" he told her which she assumed meant the shop lifter was guilty.

"Well at least this one wasn't pro bono" she sighed.

"I wouldn't bank on getting paid" Cole told Phoebe. "I suggested she stops shoplifting" Cole said.

"So" said Phoebe.

"I don't think she is likely to pay unless she needs me again" he sighed.

"God damn cheap crooks and criminals" said Phoebe. "Why can't you defend rich guilty people who pay their bills?".

"Don't know  any" Cole said hanging up. He called her an hour later to tell her he loved her.

"I know" she said dismissing it. "You are going to behave yourself and not make things worse in the family and not risk you magic being exposed and not tease Piper or fight Leo. You hear me" she demanded when he was silent.

"I hear you" Cole answered.

"And you won't do it?" Phoebe pushed.

"I hear you" he answered and hung up before she could say anything else.

Phoebe called him back. "Cole" she started to say.

"I heard you" he said.

"I love you " she said.

"I know" he said and she could almost see the smile on his face as he hung up.