The Life and Times

Part 2: Friends, family and other contradictions

Chapter 12


"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

Francesca orbed into a small cottage in an English village in the Cotswolds in Central England. It was a pretty village, typical of the area, atmospheric with history, stone cottages and buildings  and unspoiled with efforts to modernise it. The cottage  into which she orbed was also very typical of the area, a hundreds of years old, 2 storey stone building, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs a kitchen and living room downstairs, and a wild but attractive garden surrounded by a stone wall. The cottage  was often photographed by tourists who came to the village because of its reputation as the most haunted village in England. They came hoping to see legions of Roman soldiers marching or cavaliers gallop through the village. It amused Francesca that when they photographed the cottage and occasionally even shared a beer with its monk like owner, a rotund little man with a bald pate and baggy clothes who was known to grace the local pub when he occasionally surfaced from his books, the tourists had no notion they were so close  to the magic of a great demon guardian who had chosen this particular time fold to himself away from good and bad magic.

Francesca orbed into the untidy living room-come study-come work area just managing to find a minute space not covered by dusty books, mouldy manuscripts, old newspaper or computer. The guardian Proctor was already there sitting on the edge of an old desk come table because all the chairs were covered with books and large Persian cats that were Therold's constant companions.

Therold was fussily pouring tea for Proctor from a small china teapot, making sure it was just the way Proctor liked it which was as Francesca knew, very weak tea, almost hot water with large dollops of honey in it. The only reason Francesca could think why any one would drink almost hot water and honey was because it was one of the few real soothers for the after affects of a massive drinking binge, and as far as Francesca knew and she knew great deal, Proctor never got drunk, let alone binged.

Therold smiled fussily when Francesca acknowledged him and Proctor "Just in time for tea" he said.

"Such a pleasure " murmured Proctor sipping his tea.

"Thank you" she said politely and caught Proctor looking at her with satanic amusement. The tea ritual was a penance for visiting Therold because he could never be induced to discuss anything until he had discharged what he called his obligations as host. And he never forgot any-one's preference.

Guardians, whitelighters and the odd mortal who visited Therold simply had to endure the ritual. The demon guardian Hilma, the beautiful warrior and one time concubine of a Source who passed on more than 250 years ago intensely disliked tea and the ritual . "Weak as". She used to say.

"I know what it is weak as " Francesca told her.

Hilma had been convince that the only reason Therold ensured king Charles Stewart had married his barren Portuguese queen was because the woman brought tea drinking to England and Therold could inflict his rituals on them all.

Francesca politely accepted Therold's offer of refreshment and wandered around the room while Proctor watched her. Therold lore master, seeker of law, ritual and natural precedence, spent his time reading through the old books in the halls of learning and record in the realms above below and in between. He could spend months, years, chasing a minor point of law and record. Therold's powers of concentration were so great nothing could penetrate them, and when he concentrated on tea, tea was all he would consider. Therold had been convinced the Apocalypse was upon them when tea bags were invented. Francesca suddenly laughed out loud at the preposterousness of it all.

"Just so " murmur Proctor, a satanic smile on his face as he sipped his sweet tea and watched her.

Francesca nodded and turned to regard the view from the window. It was cold and getting dark in an English winter and a car going by had its lights on, and she reflected on the ways of the guardian. Arturo hidden in the old world classic ruins of Delphi, Durand drinking Vodka in Siberia, Proctor high in the Himalayan alps watching the world from the mountains.

Strange realm, Cole not caring for law but seeking justice, the whitelighter Leo trying to find truth in history and legend and Therold tracing the minutiae of governance, often from the same sources.

Therold finally brought her tea exactly as she liked it and settled back in his old leather study chair to sip on his own cup.

"And so" he asked announcing his readiness to concentrate on the problem at hand, Proctor glanced at Francesca who sipped her tea. "You will pass on our views to Arturo " he asked Francesca because the only time more than two Guardians came together was when one passed. The balance of the magic realms did not respond well to all the great powers being in the same place.

"I will" agreed Francesca "Arturo prefers that during the Eclipse he remains as much as possible away from magic."

"That may not be wise " said Therold sipping his just right tea. "One can always learn, even when one has searched over a thousand years." He put his cup down and rubbed his hands "The business at hand " said Therold " the warlock Willem."

"I have watched this warlock king Willem" explained Proctor "And I have seen him grow from strength to strength and it appears now he feels strong enough to challenge the new source."

"And he could not before " Francesca asked.

"From my observation would not " said Proctor. "No fool this warlock, he listened to the legends that said Tempus would find the Grimoire and decided to wait until the means of declaring himself source was available." explained Proctor. " and now I observe he makes plans to challenge Tempus claiming he has the Powers of the one time Source Belthezor."

"You do not believe that this is simply a bluff " Francesca asked "You found no record of this warlock acquiring enough power to aspire to kingship in the Book of Deeds."

"No" replied Therold  "I accessed it a short while ago and it recorded very few very powers for Willem. But " he said "Official records are often more reflective of …politics than truth. Truth however is often available, if one knows where to seek. It is sometimes written and can be found if one had the knowledge and the patience. Willem's deeds may not be recorded in the Book of Deeds but I have reason to believe that he has shared at least, as tribute in tithes, of most witches power stolen by warlocks in the last 200 years, that hidden away in the realms, away from good and evil he has created a quiet army of warlocks. I believe also" Therold told them "As much as he has stolen and profited from witches' stolen powers he has plundered and stolen or made it possible for warlocks to steal demonic powers."

"Why was he not condemned to the mores of hell for this?" asked Francesca.

"I understand the demons do not know that it is Willem." said Therold "I have seen evidence  that he has stolen the power from a witch to make himself and his presence forgotten and another power to recognise demons in their mortal form. There is evidence that when a demon takes mortal form and has provoked good to vanquishment, over the years Willem at first on his own and then sharing powers with his brother Fleischer and certain favoured warlocks has been able to be present to retrieve them. The payment for loaning his power of concealment  to warlocks seeking demonic power has been about triple the tithes on witches' powers according to one informer.

"So this warlock king has acquired innumerable powers of good witches and maybe three times as many demonic ones" Francesca said.

"Yes " said Therold "And as it is the custom amongst warlocks, to elect to kingship the most successful thief of powers, he has secretly led them for many years unobserved.

"So" said Proctor slowly. "The excitement I observed when the lamented Fleischer was sucked to the netherworlds…."

"Was undoubtedly demons reacquiring some of the powers that Willem had ceded to his brother " Therold  stated "And perhaps realising just what powers are held by Willem and what danger he is. "

"And Evil or Tempus realising what it would do for him if he can acquire the powers back from Willem" said Proctor.

"It would seem, " agreed Therold.

"And the story about Cole's , Belthezor's power?" Francesca asked

"One could assume that Willem true to the nature of all warlocks, king or not, decided he was now strong enough to claim the powers of the Charmed Ones, despite the loss of so many of his brethren in previous attempts." Therold theorised with the slight xenophobic sneer of the ex-demon for warlocks "And in the process recognised Belthezor and now believes he can access source like powers."

Francesca commented. "Arturo is very adamant that the message on the spirit winds is this remains a battle between the realms, for powers of the realm and not one for guardians to participate. Just one of the many ebbs and flow," she added.

"Yet if good recognises Belthezor for what he is so early because of this battle, it would be… "Proctor said.

"Unfortunate and inadvisable" said Therold.

"Arturo approaches the great levels those and beyond to deal " said "Francesca "but his wisdom is to deny Belthezor's existence would be as dangerous as to acknowledge it. It may cause some-one to seek an answer, so he moves subtly."

"Even at the risk of being caught in the eclipse" Proctor asked somewhat amused.

"Even so " said Francesca" he will do what is necessary."

"Yes " said Therold "We to let it play out. To give the warlock a chance to win.. lose, perhaps. Do you think it is aware of  what Belthezor has become?"

"if it has been spying on the Charmed Ones " Francesca " said "one would have to assume it does I do not know if it can acquire Belthezor's present  powers unlikely regardless of what it believes.

"Warlocks frequently over estimate their abilities " commented Therold , showing his demonic xenophobia for warlocks again. "It seeks the powers of the Charmed Ones because it is a warlock, even though king its nature is to crave these powers. It is history that other warlocks have sought their powers and failed . As have demons and failed. And yet it tries. " He shook his head at the foolishness of warlocks.

Francesca half smiled and then became very school marm as she realised Proctor caught the smile. "The danger for Belthezor is I suspect ,exposure not theft of his powers, so this warlock cannot acquire what it needs.

"I observe Willem does not risk itself but sends the minions and distracts by using those warlocks who serve him to seek other witches in the vicinity." said Proctor. "It may be a vicious battle."

"This may be why it must play out " pondered Therold. "The Charmed Ones are powerful witches and they have fought warlocks before.  And you tell me that .fiendish ignorant, arrogant ,spiteful, vicious minded retriever Rodik is now involved." he added.

"I observe my brother shows a commendable restraint in sharing his opinion of the retriever" drawled Proctor and Therold just or a second betrayed his demon heritage by laughing.

"So good, and evil thanks to Good capturing Fleischer and alerting them of the lost powers, may retrieve over 200 years of lost powers,

"Only evil may retrieve three times the powers." said Proctor dryly.

"Probably " said Francesca " does this cause the winds to shift."

Proctor slowly shook his head" Not that I am aware " he said

"The battle ebbs and flows" said Therold "As is written in the Great Plan. So the Charmed Ones may altar the course of the battle and not know it."

"The Charmed Ones have done this before without understanding  what they have done" Francesca answered with some satisfaction "After all they defeated Tempus and that allowed him to be the only survivor of the great immolation and assume the throne, courtesy of Phoebe's premonition power. And before that they vanquished Litvak without knowing they destroyed the only voice of reason to the Old Source, setting the Source on the path to destruction. And they did not know what they had done."

"Better Belthezor's little witch does not know what her powers have contributed to the battle" said Therold.

"Let it play " said Proctor. "But for all our sakes it would be best that we all guard carefully against Belthezor's exposure, and from what I observe that includes ensuring he does not act rashly from a need to protect his witch."

"Why does not Belthezor recognise this warlock? " asked Proctor.

"I assume he has not completely withdrawn from  connections to his previous life" said Therold. He turned  Francesca "And you will explain to Belthezor ?"

"No I will not " said Francesca "Or at least very little. He is still with his witch and wise or not, there is guardians business and witch' s business and business between lovers and soulmates."

Therold looked at Francesca".

"Cole has no ability to deny her anything " she said " if she asked he'll tell her. He'll tell her if she does not ask". Francesca explained.

"First love is only a little foolish" quoted Therold. "you will of course talk to Arturo so he can act should it be necessary."

"Arturo will act " said Francesca. " And he will, we will protect the secret of Belthezor and the Great Plan will proceed."

"Arturo should not fear the eclipse " said Therold "There is nothing to fear but fear itself .I have exchanged with a witch mystic. It was ..exhilarating, stimulating enthralling ." he said in his high monk like voice.

"Exhilarating to be witch mystic " said Proctor dryly, his satanic sneer in place,

"Have you exchanged Proctor?" Francesca demanded. "Experienced….exhileration?"

"I have exchanged "Proctor answered slowly "With the elf warrior Gaston."

Francesca stared at him genuinely surprised. "You " she said "you have exchanged with one of the greatest heroes of the far realms."

"Is he? "asked Proctor satanic sneer in place " I found him tiresome, with his unrequited passion for an elf princess. He cut a somewhat ridiculous and pathetic figure." Proctor told her "Also he is considerably shorter than legend would have it."

"You have no romance Proctor" Francesca told him in her best school marm voice  while the satanic smile deepened.  "I am gone " she said " a pleasure gentlemen."

"Be well Francesca" said Proctor " As always the pleasure is ..ours."

Therold stood up from his leather chair making a slight and perhaps exasperated pss noise "You will stay for more tea Friend Proctor? " he asked.

"I will Friend Therold " Proctor answered

"Djarling, weak with honey." Therold recited.

"That would be good" replied Proctor.


Cole and Phoebe were first downstairs with Melinda and Patsy the morning after Rodik's arrival, after a night of reasonably good sex and being unnaturally polite and considerate to each other.

Cole's politeness did not extend to Leo.  After one small comment from Leo, that Patsy's food pickiness was being encouraged Cole hit the roof and demanded to know whose son Patsy was, conveniently forgetting that even though Melinda and Wyatt were not his children, it did not stop him having an opinion. Leo reminded him.

"Please" said Phoebe stepping between them.

"I smell magic near that child " Rodik said coming in to the kitchen sitting down and ordering Phoebe to get him his preferred cereal." Isn't it mortal.?"

"Patsy's Cole's son." Phoebe stated quietly " What else would he be?"

"That is a foolish name for a male child " Rodik told her. "This cereal is not fresh."

"I have to go" said Cole hurriedly and then reaching to kiss Phoebe who caught her arms around him and looked pleadingly into his face. He smiled gently.

"Don't forget you promised to be at the Mirror for cocktails for the advertisers this afternoon. Please " she reminded him." Elise will give me hell if you don't."

"I won't forget " Cole said wincing as Rodik audibly sneered and was very glad he had an office away from the house, even if he had to be a lawyer to justify it. "You be careful today," he told Phoebe "All of you be damned careful " he added with a parting glare at Rodik.

"So sweet" murmured Piper sidestepping him in the kitchen passage.

"Not" said Paige.

Cole laughed and then stopped "Be careful. He said "Please."

"You betcha " said Paige as he left.

Any further discussion of the subject was interrupted by the sound of orbs and both Angela and not-Casper appeared.

Rodik immediately informed Angela that he wanted her to order the Charmed Ones to start scrying for warlocks. With the activity in San Francisco he had a list of powers he expected to retrieve.

"We are only seeking warlocks doing evil" said Paige " we are not randomly attacking any who aren't ."

"End of conversation" said Piper.

"My sister's are right " said Phoebe.

"Perhaps you would like to remember your responsibilities and explain to the Charmed Ones their purpose " sneered Rodik at not-Casper.

"It would appear they do not need my advice" said not-Casper carefully.

"Yes we all know how incompetent whitelighters are in managing the Charmed Ones" Rodik snipped.

"The very least you are going to do is treat our whitelighter with courtesy and respect " snarled Paige while Leo and Angela exchanged glances.

"That reminds me " said Rodik turning on Angela "Did you find out what powers were lost with those warlocks yesterday?"

"It appears one was Jost who had taken some powers of transference, and the other was Kurt who was believed to have killed 3 witches some years ago who had the ability to mutate the powers of other witches.. Angela answered in a flat voice.

"See what you lost " Rodik rounded on Paige and Piper "see what your reckless stupidity yesterday cost, those mutation and transference powers mean magic can be spread through good, used where it is most need . You are responsible " he told them " and so are you " he said belligerently to Angela whose face trembled "if you had done your duty and explained exactly how important it is that I retrieve lost powers it wouldn't have happened."

"Rodik " said Angela teary.

"Talk to me when you can stop snivelling " said Rodik " I am going to mediate to restore my peace" and he left with a somewhat grand exit that was totally ruined when he fell over Melinda's scooter that appeared in his way.

"I'll kill him," sighed Angela in a dull flat voice.

"Melinda " said Leo severely as he noticed her hand in the air." Piper " said Leo just as severely as his wife hugged his daughter "Don't encourage her."

"How bad was last night? "Angela asked Leo ."Any-one try to kill him?"

"No just each other " Leo answered.

"Don't " said Angela "He isn't worth it."

Melinda started to cry and Leo lifted her and then Pasty out of high chairs. "Kids come first " he explained "I'll  take them outside.

Piper who pursed her lips and said "Do that."

"There are a couple of things we have discuss" said not-Casper " the Elders."

"What?" said Piper getting sick of it all.

"Firstly nothing to do with Rodik." said not-Casper "You need to know that there is a certain movement in the realm that may make you feel you are hallucinating. Makes magic beings feel they are stepping into other magic lives. Nothing to worry about " he assured them.

"Thanks for telling us " said Phoebe when her sisters said nothing.

"And" said Not-Casper working himself up to it " the Elders " and he glanced at Angela "Feel with Rodik's. thoughtlessness about those sent to.. about witches who assist.. who he assists. From past experience. Retrieving powers is important but…"

"Yes " said Paige."

"The Elders think perhaps as Phoebe has no real active, or at least offensive power it would be better perhaps if she did not work with Rodik perhaps to the extent maybe Piper and you work " Not-Casper said steeling himself for the reaction. "They don't feel vanquishing with spells is enough protection, faster more active measures may be necessary in the circumstances."

"You mean they think that Rodik is so likely to get her killed through his arrogance because she has no power to kill the warlock in an instant" Piper stated.

"Yes " said not-Casper.

"So those damned Elders don't think I'm not even strong enough to go after a few warlocks " said Phoebe stung.

"Not without strong protection " said not-Casper.

"Its not because they don't trust me " she asked nose in the air.

Angela and not –Casper exchanged glances.

"Maybe you, we should listen to them" said Piper as Phoebe bit her lip. "We don't need Power of Three to vanquish warlocks any more."

"And" said Paige pointedly "If anything happened to you Cole might get upset."

"We would not want to upset her mortal husband," Not-Casper commented a touch sarcastically.

"We do not" interjected Paige firmly as Angela raised her eyes.

"You need three to distract them." Phoebe said " and its just as dangerous for you. I fight warlock's all the time, anyway so what in the hell is the big deal now."

"But you don't fight them when you're weaknesses are likely to be exploited by your own side" Angela told her bluntly.

"May be Jade or Clarissa could come, Jade said she would help and she has an active power and Clarissa is immune to magic, getting killed by magic" suggested Paige.

"Good idea " said not-Casper hurriedly as Phoebe glared at him.

"Since I am not good enough to fight these.. warlocks " Phoebe sneered as she stood up "I may as well go to work." And waited for sympathy.

"Good idea " Piper told her "We need the money to pay for out of season vegetables for our visitor." Phoebe nose in the air made a very nippy exit.

Piper sighing called Jade who agreed to come.

Angela offered to orb Jade over to the manor. Rodik finally reappeared and was not thrilled to see Angela was orbing 'Inferior' witches in, which he said just as Jade arrived, quite excited because she did not get to orb or touch the higher powers very often. Her excitement melted as she heard his comment.

Paige and Piper seeing the distress on Jade's face and Angela's weary, teary expression glanced at each other.

"Shut the fuck up " they said to Rodik in unison.

"Are you going to let them speak to me like that? " Rodik demanded of not-Casper.

"I believe that we have established I have little influence over the Charmed Ones" answered not-Casper with a smugness unworthy of an Angel.

Piper and Paige and Jade had a very dangerous morning. With Cole's warning ringing in their ears to be careful, not to trust Rodik, and Leo's last words not to let him put them in unnecessary danger roundly endorsed by Angela and not-Casper, it was almost inevitable that he did. They located warlock activity in the bay area near where many book shops, herbal and occult outlets were located, many of them run by witches. The scrying indicated an unusual activity which turned out to be a coven of six warlocks patrolling the area.

Piper and Paige wanted to quietly hunt them down one by one, and vanquish them. Rodik felt that they would only get one or two of them this way. The girls argued for time and Rodik fixed the argument by startling Piper into blowing up a rubbish skip in an alley behind one of the streets which announced to every magical creature within two miles they were there.

"You have to freeze them and say the spell so I can drag their powers" Rodik told them "I can't get them all if you blow up or burn more than one at a time.

Five warlocks turned up but not together so that Piper could not just freeze them all and use the spell. They came in one's and two's and effectively stopped her blowing them up by waiting until innocents were near enough to be at risk. She froze the warlocks when she could but Rodik was furious she was concerned about hurting innocents. And before she and Jade could dispose of them or Paige could say a spell, the warlocks unfroze.

"What in the hell is going on?" screamed Paige. Non of the warlocks seemed to have any powers of destruction. They came after the witches with athames and blinking. When they realised that their chances of killing the witches them were not good, three warlocks started to blink out so Rodik jumped out to tempt them back, knowing one of the witches would have to protect him. Paige orbed and took an athame in the side and Jade managed to burn one and Piper blow up another.

"Slowly " screamed Rodik "One at a time."

He jumped into the disintegrating power of the first vanquished warlock when another came at him. Jade burned it. Piper froze another one.

They recited warlock vanishing spells. Rodik moved in for the kill when they were attacked by three fly demons, large green creatures with fly eyes, they hovered in the area and stopped Rodik getting the powers. Piper blew one up but as a result even though they vanquished four warlocks, Rodik only got the powers of one. He was furious. Even though Paige was clutching at her side, blood pouring out he let fly with an outburst that was only stopped by Angela orbing in and Rodik an orgasmic expression on his face being orbed "up there" to return the powers that he did collect.

"Just as well he is not on the level of hierarchy of magic creatures I can kill " Jade said leaning against a doorway and rubbing her arms where a warlock had caught her and hurled her into the air.

"I think he is" said Paige as Angela healed her wound.

"Maybe its better that I don't know that " said Jade savagely as Angela took pity on her and remove the bruising " Time for me to pick up the kids." she said.

Angela offered to orb her "Got to be something good to show for the day " Jade suddenly grinned.

"Sorry about all this " Piper said.

"Any time" said Jade taking Angela's hand. "I might get to watch the little shit get killed one day if I keep helping. Aren't you going to complain about me saying that?" she asked the whitelighter.

"No" said Angela.

Paige and Piper's tempers was at boiling when they arrived back at the manor, where Leo was babysitting. He was obviously very relieved to see them all but his relief turned into anger as Piper roared into him about Rodik's behaviour. Seeing Melinda and Patsy both look upset Leo did the best thing he could and orbed.

 "Mean old Wodik " said Melinda.

"You said it " Paige answered. She and Piper went upstairs and checked the Book of Shadow, the big hovering demons were Gargana the demonic equivalent of retrievers.

"Just great, the demons are getting warlock radar and coming to retrieve and demonic powers that might be floating around. " said Paige "How many warlocks did you count at the fight?"

"Five" said Piper.

"There were six on the scry " said Paige.

"That bloody Willem" answered Piper suddenly worn out from it all. She looked around at the house which was looking decidedly unloved from the lack of attention n the last few days.

Paige seeing her sister's tired face curse magic and its toll "Go lie down sweetie " she said "I'm not going to work. They owe me time. I'll  baby sit and do the house. You'd damn well think magic could help somewhere along the line " she said as Piper snorted.

Paige cleaned the downstairs with some help or hindrance from Patsy and Melinda while Wyatt slept in his pram, then as Wyatt was still asleep she went up stairs to clean her bedroom. She started to tidy and as she did she saw the album of photos she kept of her and Mark and almost uncomfortably picked it up and looked at it, sitting on the edge of the bed and showing the pictures to Patsy and Melinda. Half an hour later she looked up and guilty put the album away

"We have work to do " she told the kids.

Paige pulled her sheets off the bed, even doing that with the same reason she did so many things these days, she had to . She went to the hall linen closet opposite the main bathroom Leo and Piper used and at the moment shared with Rodik, the door to the bathroom was open and Piper was scrubbing it.

"I told you to rest " she said to Piper.

"I did for a while" said Piper "But I can't stand Rodik grizzling about the bathroom and so I thought I would clean it.

The bathroom was not to Rodik's taste. The water pressure was inadequate, the towels were hard and the colour did not please him. And he was sure that sharing a bathroom would subject him to all sorts of diseases.

"They won't kill you " Phoebe had said smirking and mouthing the word "unfortunately " to Paige, who grinned.

"I can be very miserable while I'm alive " said Rodik with a sniff.

"Don't we know it? " Paige had muttered.

Paige watched Piper on her knees scrubbing and frowned "If its good enough for you and Leo its good enough for Rodik'" she said.

"I can't stand him grizzling " said Piper only just remembering not to push her hair back in place with bleach covered gloves. "Just something else for me to do " said Piper "In between running the club, looking after kids, chasing magic for the bastard. I can play housemaid for him in my spare time.

"A woman' s place and all that " said Cole behind them.

Both witches screamed.

"What are you doing here?" demanded Piper.

"Did you shimmer " hissed Paige.

 "I live here " Cole said softly. "I didn't shimmer I drove. You were to busy grizzling to notice me. Forgot the papers for a zoning conference with the council for Daisy North's pet shop " he said mentioning a witch from a local coven. "It will be a miserable meeting. The council exec's hate me " he added not unhappy about it.

"They wouldn't hate you if you didn't keep screwing them over zoning rules" said Piper told him.

"I wouldn't if they didn't try and screw every-one else" he said going into his and Phoebe's room where Paige and Piper heard him tossing things around as he searched for missing papers.

"Phoebe will kill him" said Piper.

Paige laughed and went to the linen cupboard to locate her favourite red floral sheets and comforter set, as usual correctly folded in its right place.

"You'd have more spare time if you did not try and do everything in the house so perfectly " Paige called to Piper looking at the beautifully ordered linen cupboard.

Piper came out of the bathroom "I just put them on the right shelves as usual " she said. Suddenly she grinned "That's my secret" she said "I put them I like I do and you and Phoebe are so scared that I will be upset  you tidy it."

Paige shook her head "Wasn't me this time?" she said.

"Phoebe " said Piper "You know how she likes to put things in order ."

"She said yesterday she had no time to clean their own room." Paige said . She looked over at the open door which thanks to Cole's untidiness and Phoebe's busyness looked like a typhoon had hit it. "Don't think Phoebe will be worried about the linen closet " said Paige looking at the mess.

"Who?" asked Piper perplexed "Not Leo he never remembers things like the linen closet." She stopped and thought.  "Damn Cole" she said "he's an idiot " she said.

"Oh" said Paige. She sighed "He's just trying to help " she said "He's worried about you.

"He's an idiot to use magic at the moment. " said Piper.

She stalked to the bedroom and almost ran into Cole coming out. He had to put his hand out to steady her.

"You're an idiot " Piper snarled at him.

"So I've been told "Cole answered. "Why in particular its time?" he asked curiously.

"You're not helping using magic to fix the house" Piper hissed at him "You just worry me more."

"Okay I won't "he said in the tone of voice he used when one of the sisters yelled at him for crimes he did not understand.

"Are you denying you tidied the linen closet? "Piper demanded "And the pantry downstairs. I noticed."

"Would you believe me I said I didn't?" Cole asked.

"No" said Piper turning her back on him.

"Well then I won't deny it "Cole said to her back. He met Paige's eyes as she stopped him "What?" he asked as she glared.

"If you didn't do it who did?" she demanded.

"Brownies," Cole answered facetiously "Or Rodik to say thank you." and he laughed as he walked down the stairs.

"Very funny " said Paige. She turned to Piper "Go and lie down " she ordered Piper . "I'll  finish. I mean it" she insisted to Piper who nodded and lay down on her bed, smiling and feeling grateful to have a family.


What seemed only seconds after closing her eyes, Piper opened them as a high sing song voice said "Mucha, Mucha what's the matter with you, that's not right . You know what a fussy creature the Piper is."

Piper looked up. She was in a room which seemed to have only a sliver of light coming from a long slit in what she assumed was the wall. Opposite her was the shape of an elfin type figure, dark clothed and wearing a hat with a small light attached The light was shining on something that looked like a very, very large version of Melinda's favourite track pants. Piper move and her foot slipped and she nearly fell through a very large hole. She glanced down and the light she was wearing showed she was balanced on a narrow cross pattern floor of white rails and large holes.

"Careful Mucha" said the voice opposite "These damned clothes baskets, why they couldn't use old fashioned drawers in their daughter's closet I don't understand."

Piper managed to focus the light on her head on the figure opposite. It was an ugly creature covered with brown hair and had a flat face with pinhole nostril. But it had a cheerful smile and happy expression.

"Musha" said a similar voice "We have work to do" and then softly " Mucha I understand you're tired, it has been hard but you know the answer is to enjoy your work and it won't be so hard, it will be a pleasure."

"Yes " said another voice " even if this family make it so impossible by bickering all the time."

"They make up for it by really caring for each other " said another voice.

"And being kind" said another.

"Well I think it is just as well we have been with them along time because sometimes there are times when I wonder why we stay " said another, "That strange magic one who pretends he's mortal is impossible to help, and the daughter is not much better, and as for the Phoebe she is so inconsistent, you just cannot do anything for her at all.

"The Piper's husband and the Paige are sweet" said another sing song voice and Piper wondered how many there were running around in the dark. She tried to focus on the lights but they moved so much it was impossible tell.

"That's the whitelighter blood " said another.

"At least none of them have ever tried to do anything evil like offer payment " said another voice.

And there was a strong murmur of agreement and approval in the dark space.

Piper moved her head so the light on her head revealed other flat noses smiling hairy creatures. She moved to fold the material and one of the creatures hissed softly.

"Musha remember the Piper is so FUSSY. Do it right and hurry, we still have to straighten up the spoons down stairs before we can stop for beer."  said the first voice.

"Can you imagine stupid man put then in the drawer UPSIDE DOWN." said another voice.

Piper swallowed and let the light fall on her own hairy brown arm "Oh my God :" she thought "I'm a brownie folding clothes in Melinda's closet."

Hastily she began fixed the folds so they met exactly.