The Life and Times

Part 2: Friends, family and other contradictions

Chapter 13


"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

Phoebe had been at a meeting all morning. Paige had text her to tell her they were okay but called in the afternoon after the meeting to let her know what had gone wrong. Phoebe had been in a state all day, all her old insecurities about powers and guilt at the sins of her former life and choices she made about Cole making her feel the weak little sister again. She was relieved to hear they were not badly hurt and not relieved to hear that Piper was ready to kill Rodik and mutilate Leo for bringing him and that yelling at Rodik just made him take it out on Angela.

"What else can go wrong?" she said to her computer as the phone rang.

"Hi baby" she said to Cole as he said her name. She was determined she was going to make up for not being supportive about Rodik. "After drinks you want to go out for dinner. Cheap just us?" she asked.

"Phoebe" he said and she could almost hear the wince in his voice " I can't make it tonight."

"What" she screamed "You promised."

"Francesca is here" Cole told her trying to keep calm " She wants me to go talk to Arturo."

"What going with Francesca is more important than my job? " Phoebe sneered.

"No Phoebe " said Cole "just more urgent." He added unwisely because he was feeling guilty breaking a promise to her.

"You promised " she said angrily. "No-one here will believe this marriage is anything but a farce and you said you would do anything help keep the job, you know we need it."

"I have to go " Cole said firmly. "Honest baby I do. You know I wouldn't go if it wasn't necessary." He pleaded.

"Arsehole " Phoebe yelled down the phone at him " arsehole bastard… lawyer."

"Love you baby " he answered dryly. Phoebe slammed the phone down. She looked up to see Elise her boss standing at her office door. "I take it we'll be one less for drinks tonight " Elise snipped.

Phoebe's day did not get any better when she got home after the drinks. Even the children were feeling the pressure and taking it out on each other. Phoebe as soon as she came in the door, tried to explain her day to Piper and Leo who were grimly ignoring Rodik in the living room, as Piper fed Wyatt.

Paige sat on a chair by the fire ignoring him by thumping away on an oldish notebook writing a report to the Powers that Be at the employment centre. Patsy and Melinda were ignoring him by playing chase around the table. There was a yell from the dining room from Melinda and a screech from Patsy as she used levitating  to go faster and trip him . Patsy struggled to his feet, saw his mommy and scurrying across the hall as fast as he could toddle, hiding behind Phoebe's skirt.

Melinda chasing him, stopped cold when she saw where he was. She stood glaring at Phoebe and Patsy while her Daddy tried not to laugh at the expression on her face so like her mother in a snit, crossed arms and all.

"Don't chase Patsy with magic Melinda. " Leo told her firmly "You have to look after people who don't have the powers you do. Not hurt them.

Melinda looked at Daddy then stamped her foot, and Patsy peeped around from behind Phoebe blowing bubbles and very smug mean expression on his face.

Leo sighed remembered Patsy's father use to be a demon "Even if they aren't grateful " he added while Melinda scrunched her face up, and then launched herself at Daddy.

"Horsy ride " she demanded .

"Those children rule this house" snarked Rodik, and to the delight of his parents Wyatt spewed up his feed, all over Piper and the towel she had over he shoulder and over her clothes, causing Rodik to turn green.

Rodik sucked his breath and sniffed and announced he needed to meditate.

"Do you ever think this house is out of control? " Paige asked with out looking up.

"Frequently " said Leo.

"Where's Cole?" said Phoebe.

"Working" said Leo. "He called, from.. the client he's visiting, said he would be late."

"Hmm " she said "Bed you two " she ordered the children and Melinda stuck out her tongue.

"Now" said Phoebe in a no argument voice that sounded very like Grams.

Cole arrived home just as Phoebe was getting ready for bed. He had to shimmer outside the house and walk up to face a very angry Phoebe who knowing she was on shaky ground getting angry at him about Francesca decided to start an argument about why he would not support Leo and behave around Rodik.

"Because he a fucking bastard" Cole snarled back, as he slammed the bedroom door shut. " He's nothing but trouble. Honest Phoebe it isn't worth it what he's doing, Piper looks liked she will blow over in a second. And you're just trying to be difficult, trying to start a fight." He added as not unaffected by the sight oh her in a  tee shirt that did not cover essentials hands on hips, legs apart as she warmed up for a fight. Phoebe noted the effect.

Cole pushed passed her to go into the bathroom.

"I am trying to support my brother when he is in a jam and needs some family backup " Phoebe snarled as she used her elbow to try and push Cole out of the way to get to her tooth brush. "Just the way the family has stood behind you through some goddamned hard moments" she added " just in case you haven't noticed." She pushed.

"This is not about me" Cole said through his teeth, as he slammed around the bathroom cabinet.

"Its always about you isn't it? " Phoebe told him scrubbing her teeth harder than was necessary  "But not this time. This time its about Leo and our magic, Charmed Ones, and you just have to be goddamned supportive to Leo for once. So quit arguing"

"We are not arguing " Cole said in sharp cut of words and then cursed as he found his own tooth brush on the floor " we are d.i.s.c.u.s.s.i.n.g. what a fucking bastard that little shit is and how god damned dangerous he is to you. He is going to get one of you killed he is going to get some-one killed ."

"I " said Phoebe in a staccato voice " am arguing about Leo. This is witch magic Cole, our world of magic the things we do and it is about dealing with our choices and decisions and not about this greater magic or the great realms. So bloody well do as you're told and goddamned well support Leo" she said elbowing Cole out the way.

Cole reached over her head to deliberately invade her space and plant his tooth brush, then he slowly rubbed his very scruffy 5 o'clock shadow, actually a very dark midnight shadow.

"Don't bother shaving " Phoebe snarled.

"I wasn't planning on it." he snipped back. "You never change do you?" he bit out " always want what you want and everything has to be your choice."

As Phoebe spun at him, he turned on her and stalked out of the minute bathroom. He went over to check Whosit, fortunately sleeping through his parents hissed arguments. Then with some precision as he listened to the noises coming from the bathroom he put his watch on the bedside table, checked his change and then pulled back the comforter getting into bed and lying on his side facing the door his back to Phoebe when she go into bed.

Phoebe after much slamming around in the bathroom came out wearing a bright red long sleeved long nightie with "Of course I'm a sexy lady, how do you think I got to be a mother " written on the front. It was a present from Paige on her last birthday and she was somewhat attached to it. Slowly making a lot of fuss she checked Whosit and then climbed into bed beside Cole, and put out the light.

"Goodnight Cole " she said sweetly with her back to him and got a growl for an answer. "This room is a goddamned mess" she accused him.

She lay back on the pillow listening to his quite sharp and not at all asleep breathing. Finally she said "You know Grams used to say never go to bed angry."

"What " said Cole still not turning around "she was of stay up and fight it out persuasion. Doesn't surprise me."

"Yeah " said Phoebe " I don't think it was that good advice though. Husbands three and four walked out in the middle of the night."

Cole was silent for a while and then he started to laugh as he turned over.

"Don't ever change baby" Cole said and she laughed.

"I won't baby" she promised pulling his head to her. "It's a really bratty thing, not to shave just because you're losing an argument "she told him.

"I know " said Cole into her lips.


Cole went to work the next morning relieved that Rodik had been called to some elder's discussion about what was happening which meant at least one morning not worrying about his family.

"Accounting " Leo whispered. "They only call him up there when he isn't doing what they expect. He'll be worse than ever when he get back."

Cole spent the a couple of hours in court and rushed back for an appointment with Mrs Davis, a widow who depended on the income from 4 apartments in an old converted house and was having trouble with the rent collecting company. Just as he got back Darryl Morris called and asked him to meet him at lunch.

"Why" asked Cole "A case?."

"Just a few things" Darryl said " nothing big."

Cole was late for lunch mostly because Mrs Davis could not believe he would solve her rent problems and kept coming back reassuring herself he had said yes.

Darryl was drumming his fingers on the table and glancing around. He looked up as Cole apologised for being late.

"My time's worth as much as yours" Darryl said only half joking.

"More" Cole sighed " and you don't have to rely on charming little old ladies to get paid."

"Neither do you from the complaints I've been hearing about you around the department" Darryl replied.

"I'm just a suburban, bottom level lawyer doing his job" Cole said straight faced but his eyes danced.

"You're a shit-faced arsehole lawyer out to make the force look like fools" Darryl told him. "And that is the kindest thing I've heard about you around the station."

"Well present company and some others excepted there are a certain number in the department who don't need help from me to look like fools" Cole grinned.

"I'll take the fifth" Darryl said as Cole laughed "But I'm still saying you go out of your way to make trouble."

"I just protect my clients interests" Cole said innocently with only a sly smile that gave him away.

Darryl snorted " Off the record you're not going to try and convince me Tommy Hicks is innocent are you?" Tommy Hicks was a small time thief who made a good living robbing rich houses then claiming any rewards offered for the return of goods. Unfortunately he robbed a member of a senior ADA's family, taking an heirloom which got broken before it could be returned and he was in danger of three strikes you're in for life and the ADA was not disposed to plea bargain.

Cole had got him off with some very tricky moves, none of them magic and left his previous colleagues at the DA's office planing his imminent departure from the realm.

"Some of my previous colleagues need to learn the difference between justice and revenge, a common problem with the those who take the high ground " Cole added sanctimoniously.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Darryl asked.

"You don't want to know" Cole told him " but off the record, the little bastard says he can't afford to pay me until he starts earning again".

"Good" said Darryl "Are you ever going to tell me what you are?" he asked.

"Yeah if you need to know" he answered as Darryl looked expectant "Arsehole bastard lawyer…who used to be the devil."

"Certain cops don't see any difference " Darryl told him. "Maybe I'm better off not knowing."

"Depends on what you do with things you know " Cole said."Is that you wanted to ask me?."

"What make you think I asked you here for anything else?" Darryl countered.

"You haven't asked about the girls or kids" Cole replied, all smart lawyer.

Darryl winced "This is just gossip " he said but then he swallowed "How are things between you and Phoebe?."

"What? " said Cole stunned at the question.

"Around the courts. They're talking" Darryl said. "Cops are enjoying the gossip, so are the DA" s."

"Haven't they got anything better to do than gossip?" Cole asked "Gossip about a hack lawyer who works around the traps to get a living ."

"An arsehole lawyer who' s pissed a lot of people off" Darryl said.

"I don't go after cops or ADA's" Cole told him" I just take on asses who need an arsehole lawyer to protect them "he shrugged " if a cop or an ADA needed an arsehole lawyer I'd do it."

"I know that " said Darryl "Its just that Crean the court reporter for the Mirror apparently told stories that Phoebe's marriage is on the rocks. Any way some of the people you pissed of at the DA's office and cops and at that firm you worked at remember that you fell apart with your marriage the last time and well some of the ones you pissed off would enjoy that again."

Cole laughed "Sorry to upset their game, but my marriage is fine, actually its bloody fantastic, wherever that stuff is coming from there is no truth in it.

"Story is Phoebe is looking elsewhere while spouting marriage stuff on TV " Darryl said.

"There's nothing wrong Darryl. In fact everything is right, great." Cole said.

"Perfect ?" said Darryl.

"I wouldn't say that " said Cole.

"Are you sure?" said Darryl "You know usually the husband is the last to know ."

"In this case he'd be the first " said Cole "And not because Phoebe would tell me."

Darryl nodded "What in the hell is the talk about .No smoke without fire and all that."

"No-one believes in fairy tales " Cole shrugged. " not while they are happening anyway.  So they just can't believe we can be married and happy.' He sucked his lip. "Just out of curiosity aren't you worried what you're telling me might set me off into a jealous rage. Hurt Phoebe." he asked

"I've watched you " Darryl said "You know the last few years. Some time back" Darryl told him, "You changed. I get the feeling Phoebe is safe from being hurt. Not so sure about you."

"I am. I found my destiny " Cole said. "So the world, the realm is safe Darryl " he said closing the subject " Is that the only reason you called? Do you want anything else?".

"Pleasure of your company " Daryl said.

"Ha" said Cole "Why did you call?".

"Didn't want to ask the girls " said Darryl " because it may not be hearsay if I got the right answer but we're getting lots of reports about women fighting men and one of the descriptions sounded like Piper. Seems like the battle of sexes going on," Daryl told Cole " which is freaking some guys at the station. But to me it sounds like witches are doing a lot of fighting in public . Is something big going down?" he asked.

"Yeah" Cole said " there is something going down and of course this is fantasy hearsay" the lawyer told Darryl "Some warlock king is chasing powers and attacking witches all over the city. Trying to gain ascendency in this sector of the realm. Wants to take on the source eof all evil."

"What " said Darryl shocked " there Iis this huge magic war going on."

"Just another chapter in the whole battle " Cole answered. "The one between Good and Evil, or maybe another skirmish " he added complacently.

Darryl glanced over the square in San Francisco, a few tourists and shoppers and business people going about normal mortal lives. "It looks so normal and you tell me there' s this great battle that I can't see and don't know about going on out there."

"Could be huge, but then it may not be very important or it could be the deciding battle for the future. I don't know " said Cole " I have no gift of the future thank god."

Darryl looked at him "Hard to believe " he said.

"You know just because you don't know about it doesn't make it any less real " Cole said." Many things happen, small everyday living things across the realm to creatures I don't know about " said Cole " Doesn't make their existence, or their lives any less real."

"God you sound like an arsehole" Darryl started to say.

"Lawyer " finished Cole.

"Just arsehole " said Darryl grinning.

'You know " said Cole  as their orders arrived "The only thing that really worries me about all these battles is how many drinks Piper has to sell at P3 and how many wills I have to write to pay for all the damage at the manor."


Those episodes set the tone of the next few days. The manor was becoming a battleground of wills. Cole got angrier and angrier. Leo caught between Angela's desperation, Rodik's demands and the Elder's orders, did his best to keep the peace. Paige was twice hurt to the point of nearly dying, and Jade and Piper suffered assorted not life threatening injuries.

Leo sick with worry about Piper because she was looking more and more tired and strained but seeing Angela looking not much better, and having an appreciation of how important the returned powers were to the side of Good, tried to keep Cole and Piper calm with little success. Phoebe frustrated and fed up at the insistence she did not go warlock hunting, felt that Piper was being unreasonable to Leo. Piper and Cole were letting their full vitriol out, with Phoebe and Leo alternately ordering and begging them to stop it. Soon Phoebe and Cole were barely on speaking terms, and neither were Piper and Leo. Rodik believing Cole to be mortal ignored him, or baited him with his supposed helplessness in the face of magic. Paige just wanted to vanquish Rodik.

Paige and Piper with Jade or Clarissa who confirmed always that the extra warlock was there, fought the warlocks and Clarissa's version of events was always vastly different to theirs, as Willem manipulated the witches memories. For every warlock's powers Rodik retrieved, they lost many, although Garganas arriving at almost every battle seemed to be doing very well retrieving demonic powers.

Rodik tried goad the witches into more action, through spite at their uselessness or by putting himself or them at such a risk, they had to act recklessly to protect themselves or him or both, and a couple of times it was only Clarissa's immunity to magic that saved them, as she took the brunt of some of the warlock's stolen firepower.

And when they failed to take the warlocks as they inevitably did Rodik ranted at their ineptitude. When that just made one or all of them to tell him to "Shut the fuck up " he started commenting slyly about the rumours of the closeness of the Charmed Ones to evil and questioning whether or not the failures where ineptitude or a desire to fail.

'Shut the fuck up" Some-one or all of them would answer, which did nothing to reduce the witches' frustration  over Willem's actions.

"He 's losing warlocks left right and centre" said Paige thumping the Book Of Shadows as Phoebe told  her snippily to treat it with respect  "Warlocks just aren't that brave normally. They run when they can't win. What is up with him. Shut up Phoebe " Paige added.

"He wants something " said Piper.

"Our powers " said Paige. "He's a warlock."

"Power " said Phoebe "Cole's?" she asked "Isn't that what the whitelighter's said. He recognised Belthezor and wants source like power."

"He couldn't vanquish Cole " said Piper " even before the wasteland. He was always to powerful for a warlock."

"Wait a minute " said Paige, flicking the Book of Shadows "Got It"' she said "Transmergence. Old time witches power. Can take a demon's power away if the demon can be tempted to use them recklessly, emotionally."

"Oh so he's trying to tempt Cole to use his powers to protect us" said Phoebe.

"That does it Phoebe" said Piper "You are not coming out. You are not tempting Cole to try and save you."

"You think he would not try and save you too?" said Phoebe.

"He better not." said Paige.

They checked the Book of Shadows, and every other source and other witches' Book of Shadows but could find little more about Willem, the powers he had stolen or more importantly from the Charmed One's point of view how to vanquish him. Leo in between finally asked Francesca and she told him what truth she dared, that many of the witch's vanquishing spells were based on selective viewing of the demon Book of Deeds. If Willem's deeds were not recorded there was unlikely to be a known vanquish.

Not-Casper, at the Elders insistence kept asking Phoebe if she could remember anything that Belthezor had told her and Phoebe pressured became very defensive. She was feeling guilty every time one of the witches got hurt and angrily cried out she was a Charmed One, one of the most powerful witches in existence, and they were treating her as useless.

She was hurt and bitter when not-Casper told her firmly that the Charmed Ones were powerful witches, she with her not very active powers was a danger in these battles.

"I can levitate" she said outraged.

"If it appears levitation will save the day, then of course you will be called " not-Casper told her firmly as she glanced at her sisters who to her indignation nodded in agreement.

She tried haranguing at Cole to make him tell he about his time as Willem' s lackey and he said grimly he could not remember.

"You think I'm lying " he said "Phoebe I know you're frustrated about not going out but the whitelighter your sisters are right. Look " he said "I talked about it to Mrs Rinaldi, and Phoebe its better you don't go. I don't believe even transmergence could steal my powers but better for all concerned we don't find out."

"You talked about it" Phoebe spat "To Francesca?."

"Yes " he said wondering where he had made a mistake.

"Well just keep me out of you discussions with her: I am not guardian' s business" snapped Phoebe and stormed off to find some comforting words from Leo who at that moment was not being spoken to by Piper as a punishment for Rodik's latest unforgivable sin.

Paige and Piper went out with Rodik early the next morning, with Piper getting hurt and that ended in a long and loud family battle. Cole and Leo lost it with each other totally. Cole accused Leo of carelessly putting the girls in danger, of being more concerned about what the Elders and whitelighters wanted than care of his family. Leo told Cole that his bitching was making everything worse, that he was worrying Phoebe, making it harder on her than it had to be, that he was putting his own wants ahead of what was the needs of good and that he had no sense of proportion, and not only about Phoebe. The two of them ended standing about a foot apart, giving every indication they were to tear each other apart, with both Piper and Phoebe taking the brother in laws side and Paige yelling at all of them to calm down.

Rodik interrupted them complaining haughtily that had always thought the Charmed Ones had more sense of their own dignity than to bicker like children. Leo realising that Piper was about to lose it completely, and that Cole was in danger of giving into a demonic rage hauled the outraged Rodik out of the room. Cole stalked off to his new office, actually glad he had somewhere to go. Piper disappeared on a pretence of scrying and Paige sighing went off to battle Power that Be of the employment world and wonder why she had once been so thrilled to be magical.

Phoebe went to work where she had another yelling match with Cole over the phone, unfortunately as she realised later, heard by at least three co-workers one of whom was Elsie's favourite snitch.

"Trouble in paradise " asked the snitch.

"My marriage is perfectly happy " Phoebe replied primly, obviously  not  convincingly as the snitch who snorted.

Piper during the morning of ignoring Leo and scrying, to her distress found warlocks stalking one of the covens in the northern suburbs. She called Clarissa to ask her if she would come out warlock hunting, but Clarissa said a little hesitantly that the insurance assessor was coming to her shop that morning and she was meeting Cole there.

"You know " she told Piper "Life and the need for money to pay kid's medical bills getting in the way."

"Gee" said Piper tongue in cheek "Putting life ahead of magic, that will piss Rodik off. Go for it. I'll call Jade."

"Be careful" said Clarissa.

"Took the words out o my mouth" Piper answered. Jade said she would come and Leo tightly offered to orb her and then baby-sit .Marly had not lasted two hours in the house with Rodik, before she had run out in tears, so they were baby sitterless for the duration of his visit.  Another offence to be added to the long list.

"Sure thanks " said Piper tightly while Melinda, who had been in the kitchen when the family exploded watched her daddy and mommy anxiously, feeling maybe her world was not as safe as it was once. Even Patsy was subdued ad grizzly feeling the tension. 

"Mean old Wodik " she told Piper giving her a big kiss.

"You're a good girl " Piper said kissing her back.

"I am" said Melinda " Daddy kiss mommy too" she demanded.

Leo looked at his daughter and Piper 

"Nothing is wrong Lindie" Piper said using her pet name. 

Leo reached forward pulled Piper into his arms and kissed her passionately while Melinda watched with some satisfaction.

"That is disgusting " said Rodik from the door.

"I don't think so" said Piper sighing happily and remembering she was still a lover.

"Mean old Wodik" said Melinda glaring at him.

Angela arrived with instructions from the Elders which Piper accepted because it was not hard to see Angela was at the end of her tether. With only Jade going with Rodik, Angela looking pale, her hair unkempt worn out and pale, and Not-Casper were accompanying Rodik and Piper and Jade, to a certain level of venom from Rodik.

"Shut the fuck up " said Piper to Rodik who stared at not-Casper angrily."

"I have no influence over the Charmed Ones" said not-Casper.

Leo was only with the children for half an hour when he got a call from Durand needing advice. It was somewhat scrambled but he understood it to be about cheese making dragons and territorial boundaries.

"Just as well I'm magic or I wouldn't believe it either " he told Patsy because Melinda was back to her levitating pony game ignoring both of them. He called Phoebe and asked her to come home and baby sit and she jumped at the chance.

Phoebe was barely with the children five minutes when she called Cole and asked him somewhat hesitantly if he wanted to spend the time with her and the kids.

Somewhat politely he told her he had to be at Clarissa's bookshop while insurance assessor looked around.

" Kay " she said sweetly "love you."

"Yeah me too " he said politely.

"That does it" Phoebe told Patsy and Melinda. Half an hour later she had Wyatt in his car capsule, Melinda and Patsy dressed and three bags for of spare clothes diapers and essentials, baby food, and toys. She packed them all into the SUV that Piper had left for Leo and with great determination drove over to Clarissa's shop.