The Life and Times

Part 2: Friends, family and other contradictions

Chapter 15


"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

Cole sat on the edge of the bed, pulling socks off while Phoebe stood at the bathroom door cream all over her face.

"So" she said in between scrubs "You just go and blab to Francesca, all about us all about things that go on between us."

"I don't" he said " Blab. I was talking to her because US is not just US but magic and destiny."

"Well in future just keep it to magic and leave me out" Phoebe ordered him "Bad enough I have to put up with our whitelighter bitching at me without yours."

"She hasn't bitched at you " Cole told Phoebe. "About what I said."

"She will " said Phoebe grimly.

"What's the matter with you? Cole asked irritated standing up.. Phoebe just turned up her nose ".

"Nothing " she said. "I just get sick of Francesca being there all the time. Everything between us goes straight back to Francesca."

"It doesn't" Cole told her. Then he hesitated "You sound like you're jealous."

 Phoebe turned away.

"Phoebe you're not jealous of Francesca. For god" s sake that's ridiculous. . Mrs Rinaldi." he said catching her arms

Phoebe turned back at him and then let him pull her onto the bed" "I'm ."

"What " he said hand on her hair.

"Honestly " she said "I'm jealous of the fact of her. Not because I think .. because .. I love Francesca" she said "But…."

Cole shook his head "But?."

In a rush Phoebe said " she has parts of you I can't have. What you really are. I know you care about her and...".Phoebe swallowed "Its not just magic, you laugh with her and talk to her about….things."

"That is so ..foolish." Cole said pulling back to see her face as she looked down, nor meeting his eyes. "There are other people I share things with I don't share with you. Eduardo at the office, with Leo. I laugh and joke with Piper and take Paige to lunch when she wants to talk. You don't get jealous of them " Cole said "Do you?" he asked concerned.

Phoebe shook her head uncomfortably. "Its just Francesca,  she not only has you now. In the future, when I'm not here, she will be . You'll be laughing at her jokes and her moments and when you' re lonely it will be Francesca who you talk too, not me." 

"Phoebe," he said somewhat helplessly. "You know its always you. I never. I have this life because of you and if there was a way to make it a.. a future with you. Don't you think I would?" 

"No " she said "Honestly, I don't think you would."

"Phoebe " he said " you think I wouldn't chose you in an instant if I got the chance?"

"I think " she said slowly meeting his eyes " you would decide it wouldn't be good for me to be .. without family. You'd choose not to take it." She smiled, loving him "I know you. You would just decide what was best for me wouldn't you."

"I " he said caught.

"You can't lie " she said.

"I " he said " I don't know why you are so jealous, caring about other people doesn't make me care about you less. I can only do it because you gave me the.. you taught me how to love. "

Phoebe turned her nose up not missing that he avoided the question.

 "Anyway I don't get jealous of you when you flirt and tease. Never complain, don't get upset " he said finding the high ground.

"If you said that to "Ask Phoebe":" Phoebe told him " she would tell you that is only because you don't see any of them as a threat, as any risk to what you have with me, of taking anything from you."

"'Ask Phoebe' is such a damned Know it all " Cole told Phoebe his face two inches from her.

"Yeah well "Ask Phoebe" would also tell you that if I flirted with someone you thought was a risk, some competition, or could move in me, you'd get just as jealous as me." Phoebe whispered against his mouth.

He was silent.

"I suppose " said Phoebe giving him a little "The one I really should be jealous of is Melinda. At least Francesca does not push me out the way to get to you."

He laughed and pulled her on to him taking a slow passionate kiss.

"UGGGGGGGG" he said to a very offended Phoebe as he came up for air

 ."What? she hissed.

"That cream tastes disgusting" he said.

"You could at least pretend to be romantic" she said going into the bathroom to wash it off.

"Look what being romantic got me " he said with a smile on his face the one he saved for her.

Several hours later Phoebe was lying awake, lying very still trying to feel her soul and her thoughts and the only way she concluded she could describe what she felt was a shadow on her soul. It was eerie and it was unnatural and yet she did not feel evil or just haunted.

She tried to be still but could not, she got up went to the bathroom, looked in the mirror. All she saw Phoebe, brown eyes, hair looking decidedly untidy, a few little laughter lines around her eyes, thank god it was laughter and maybe in a quick glance a little plumper than she really felt she wanted to be. She sighed, and went back to bed,.

Cole had been woken by the movement "What's wrong?" he asked turning on his side to look at her. "You're not still fretting about Francesca are you?."

"No " she said " Nothing is wrong" as she reached to touch his face but still lay on her back.

"Sure " he asked clearly not believing her.

"I feel funny " she said.

"What " he said " half sitting up " You promised we would talk about more kids, you wouldn't just rush off.:."

"No I didn't " she said quietly " any more than you promised to talk about Whosit's powers."

"Phoebe" he said sitting up his voice angry, bitter, hurt.

"So " she said "Deciding to have another baby without 'consulting' you would not be breaking any trust." 

Cole sucked his lips together. 

"If I was pregnant, which I'm not " she told him.

"Oh " he said sitting back somewhat deflated.

"I feel funny " she said. "Like a shadow on my soul. I think It's the eclipse " she added "Like some-one is living my life"."

"No-one else is feeling that " he said.

"My powers are time powers" she said "And I feel time. Cole we you have secrets, I mean… .I wonder who it is?" she said.

"Any-one and anything " he answered lying on his back staring at the ceiling.

"You know how, well Paige and Piper we were talking about those prophecies and legends start during magic eclipse. You know how we keep getting told about myths about us you know what we are" she said.

"Yeah" he said."

"And we say whose going to know " Phoebe said.

"Maybe this is how, some-one, something is here hearing us about us, but not understanding it all " she said. "So they start some stupid myth that is not really us at all."

"Hmmm" he answered.

"What " she said.

"I was thinking" he said "If they come here to learn about the life and times of Belthezor and his witch you know as a, a romantic legend or anything, they're going to be disappointed ."

"What do you mean?" asked Phoebe insulted.

"All they will know about is we talk about breast pumps, and whether we can afford to eat at McDonalds, and your bitch of a boss and arguments about a bastard retriever " Cole grinned.

"Might learn know " she said after thinking about it " that on the happy eve after score, we're doing okay, even if we are married " she said. "I think we're doing okay even when we fight about things that don't matter. We're doing okay." She repeated

"I think you're right " he said.

They were quiet.

"So" said Phoebe "If whatever this is that is sharing this moment, isn't getting any romance out of it, want to give 'em a threesome they'll never forget?"

" Sure " Cole agreed eagerly said "AAAAAAGGGGGGG"he hissed as Phoebe threw herself on top of him and knocked the breath out of him.


Melinda was not a completely happy little girl. It was true she was sitting on the sofa cuddled up to Uncle Cole while he read her a Piper approved sanitized version of the Ugly Duckling but she also had to share him with Patsy who sat on his daddy's knee. Patsy did not care all that much about the story, like she did, he just made satisfied ga noises, enjoying being with his father.

Melinda was glad Unca Cole found her animal stories to read.

Melinda loved animals, any animal and any story about animals and anything in animal form. Just a couple of weeks ago, unknown to mommy, Daddy who was supposed to be baby sitting had to go and see Mr Durand. Daddy had put Patsy in a carry sling and held Melinda's hand and orbed her and Patsy with them. Big bald ugly Mr Durand had been talking to a Pegasus and then with Melinda hanging tight to Daddy' s hand while he talked to scary big ugly Mr Durand, Melinda had watched the beautiful horse Pegasus bow and then soar into the sky, a great and beautiful winged horse and the sight had entered her soul. She had barely stopped thinking about Pegasus and how beautiful it was since.

Melinda loved animals, anything animal and she had seen enough odd animal beings in her life not to be scared of them. As she listened to the Ugly Duckling, and Unca Cole's voice she glanced at the dining room table where mommy and daddy and her aunts and some other people were talking to the horrible mean old Rodik.

Melinda hated Rodik. He upset her mommy and her aunts and he made them ignore her. And he had killed a spider the other day, a big black one that had lived in the conservatory for a week. Melinda told him she was going to squash him like he squashed the spider.

And he made Aunt Phoebe smack her and upset mommy. Since Rodik had come to the house her mother and aunts seemed to be preoccupied and not pay her quite as much attention. Melinda discovered the surest way to get attention back was to make Patsy cry and she would do that by sitting quite a way from him and flicking her finger which she copied from Cole and effectively hit or pinch him.

Patsy soon learned when he saw her do it and having no magic to protect himself he would toddle as fast as he could  and hide behind his mommy. Melinda made the mistake of trying to use magic to pinch him when he was hiding behind Phoebe and ended pinching Phoebe very hard. Phoebe saw her gasp guiltily and knew what she had done. She caught hold of Melinda and tapped her bottom.

"Don't you hit my daughter " yelled Piper furiously.

"Worked fine with us when Grams did it" snapped Phoebe.

"Yeah look what you turned out " said Piper " stealing drinking, sleeping around."

Mommy and Aunt Phoebe had not spoken for hours after that. Melinda blamed Rodik and got her revenge by flicking her fingers whenever she could and upsetting water over him and once plaster and twice tripping him on the stairs.

Rodik caught he at the last one and managed to reduce Piper to fury and some guilty tears by telling her she was unfit to raise a witch and that if Melinda continued that way she would end up evil.

Melinda seeing her mother upset ran to her and Rodik told her Melinda was a spoiled little brat.

Melinda sitting cuddled up to Uncle Cole knew he was not giving her undivided attention but listening to what was being said at the table. She raised her hand and flicked and a large hunk of plaster just missed Rodik. Uncle Cole went to catch her hand and stopped because Patsy watching her had lifted his hand mimicking and Cole suddenly seemed more interested in his son than Melinda, so even if Uncle Cole was reading her a story about animals, Melinda was not an entirely happy little girl.

Rodik pushed the plaster away and hissed at Piper that Melinda had done it on purpose.

"Probably " said Piper and turned her attention back to Clarissa as not-Casper and Angela listened with concern.

"All I can tell you is what I heard " said Clarissa "While Piper and Paige took on the warlocks, the other two stood and watched. The normal looking one said 'This is useless, Belthezor's witch isn't here. She is so weak they aren't sending her out. Just accept we are not going to tempt Belthezor out striking at these witches'.

And Willem  who sounds like Dracula and looks a bit like a bad movie version says they have to find a way of tempting Belthezor to protect her, then the first warlock who Willem called Cinq said Belthezor was not worth the cost they could find another way to get the power to defeat the source .

And Willem says he has to get Belthezor. He knows for certain he wasn't vanquished and then he hisses it is not just defeating the Source. 'Belthezor knows how to defeat me. I hid for fifty years because of Belthezor and then when I think it is safe to take on Tempus because Belthezor has gone, I find he's about. That damned demon is my nemesis. He appears to haunt me . Belthezor knows how to vanquish me, The same power that means I can take his powers he can use to vanquish me'."

Clarissa looked around " I don't really know about this Belthezor? " she said "I mean upper level demons are not my province. Who's Belthezor's witch."

Paige and Piper looked at Phoebe

"I am" said Phoebe guiltily " Belthezor was a lover of mine."

"Just one of many " said Paige hastily while Leo and Piper glanced toward Cole who had his eyes down still reading.

"But we vanquished him" said Phoebe" "This demon is gone" she said not looking at Cole. "Perhaps they really did know you were immune to Willem' s memory blind and were just putting up a smokescreen."

"Is that why Hesta thought evil was around you " Clarissa asked " because you once had a demon lover, but you're not the first witch." And Clarissa also glanced at Cole. Then she shook her head "Do you know I think they were trying to hurt Piper and Paige, not kill them, only kill Rodik. I think he was wanting them to ask for help."

Not-Casper grimanced, while Angela looked dismayed.

"Phoebe are you certain, " not-Casper asked. "Are all of you certain that Belthezor, or some demon who appears like him is not stalking, hanging around you, some-one some creature near you that this Willem thinks is Belthezor."

Phoebe shook her head after glancing at her sisters.

 "What you are forgetting" said Rodik "Is that while the warlocks are trying to tempt this.. this Belthezor out the warlocks are attacking and I can get their powers " he crossed his arms smugly "So it should be that Phoebe comes out and we can tempt these warlocks, even this Willem out. If these witches are bringing the warlocks out, then we keep doing what we are doing.

"We are not using my family as bait" said Leo.

"I do not understand why you fear a few risks for the great glory of Good for the just cause " said Rodik " the witches lives are insignificant in the greater arena of magic, witches are lost that is the nature of the battle. They're going to die anyway, so as long as their powers are safe and I can make sure that are not lost if they are killed no harm is done" He looked around at the angry faces "Anyway " he added with sniff " its not as if the whitelighters cannot heal a few bruises."

"Shut the fuck up " said Angela Not-Casper, Clarissa Piper, Paige and Leo . Phoebe glanced at Cole who did not look up.

Angela and not -Casper said they would discuss Belthezor with the Elders while not-Casper begged Phoebe to think about anything she could recognise and then quietly whispered to her "We do understand you loved this demon. No-one is looking to punish you, we just need to make sure witches are safe from him. Phoebe this is one of the most dangerous evil demons that existed. No matter how much you love him, loved him, can you guarantee he will never hurt another witch."

Phoebe flushed guiltily "We vanquished Belthezor." she said as Paige came and put an arm around her.

"And are you prepared to be held to account for any evil deeds Belthezor may do." Not-Casper asked more severely making very clear he did not believe Belthezor gone.

"We vanquished him" said Phoebe as the two whitelighters orbed.

Clarissa watching sadly said goodnight and walked to the door followed by the girls. She stopped to hug good night and said "There is so much I don't know about magic and what we do. I just thought we protected innocents, not all these complications."."

"That is what we do " said Phoebe.

"This is just..politics " said Paige.

As the girls showed Clarissa out, Leo was left at the table alone with Rodik who moved to the stairs ignoring Cole standing there with Melinda defiantly leaning against him and sticking her tongue out and Patsy hanging onto his trouser crease hiding behind daddy. Cole had a smile on his face, but his eyes  were narrow. "Just so you know" he said " if anything happens to my wife or her sisters because of you, I will hang you up by your dick and rip your balls out."

Rodik looked at him" Its quite pathetic mortal, the way you pretend to yourself you are part of the family, making threats you can't keep. Can you?" he asked. "They don't care about you, you can't be part of a magic family. You're an outsider, even to the children you know, always will be, . Maybe the powerless boy will have some affection."

Cole swallowed and his eyes narrowed even more and for a second bitter hurt showed in his blue eyes.

"Rodik " sad Leo quietly " mortals are the innocents in these battles."

"It is the role of the innocent to keep quiet and be protected " sniffed Rodik as he pushed past Leo  triumphant and Cole half raised his hand.

"Cole" Leo said from behind almost pleading.

"You just keep that shit under control" Cole said calmly dangerously.

"Be careful, don't give him any reason to wonder where you would get the power" Leo muttered "He's a bastard not an idiot."

"I won't let him hurt my family" Cole answered quietly.

 "I won't let him hurt our family " said Leo as Cole shrugged and nodded.

Phoebe and Piper took Patsy and Melinda off to bed, and Leo went upstairs to fairly obviously discuss the meeting with Piper.

Paige stood looking at Cole. "Oh what a tangled web" she said. "And now Clarissa' s getting mixed up in this crazy magic war instead of just doing what she thought she was called for."

" She's still doing that " said Cole as Paige went into the living room and threw herself on her favourite chair.

" I think this place is becoming whitelighter central " she said.

"Except for one": Cole sitting on the sofa and not missing what she meant.

"I miss Mark " she said, eyes bright. "It’s a year and I still miss him. He's been gone longer than I loved him and I still miss him. I understand he's gone and I even understand why he did not tell me he chose to go." she sighed " though if he had to make the choice to go I wish he had left all the passwords he used to lock up some of his book keeping. No-one can find anything."

"Knowing Mark " said Cole smiling "That's why he did it."

Paige smiled then he face fell. She looked down and up "I'm ..I hate this magic Cole" she said.

"Paige I could kill Rodik too " Cole told her, "With the greatest pleasure but you know  this will pass, its just another small magic crisis in the life and times of the Charmed Ones . I've been around long enough to have seen it happen over and over. They pass."

"They don't pass" Paige shook her head bitterly " all the little things come back to haunt and hurt." She sat up to face Cole "Something you did sixty years ago is haunting you now and you can't even remember."

"If its like some of the other things I did sixty years ago I'm almost glad I can't remember." Cole smiled" Its all part of destiny Paige" he added. "maybe even one of us killing Rodik'' he added smiling.

"You take it on faith " said Paige bitterly not responding to the smile. "Some demon comes out and tells you its the greater magic, the Great Plan, the Great destiny." She looked up at him "How do you know that it is not just some evil creature playing mind games?"

"You're a creature who feels and moves on spirit winds" he challenged. "What do you feel?"

"I feel whispers and voices that I don't understand and frighten me and I wonder what these creatures who whisper are, what they rule, how they rule us " Paige told him softly. Then more determinedly she said . "I wonder if they rule you " she said "And I wonder if it is not evil or just about .. pain and duty for what real purpose. To protect the innocents, " she asked. "Look at some of the damned innocents. Are they worth protecting?"

"Well according to Rodik " said Cole somewhat bitterly " that's the purpose of innocents. To shut up and be protected." He met Paige's eyes. "I answer to no creature and no-on holds me to account except me." Cole insisted." Its not an order of power as limited as you feel here." he smiled slightly "There is only the Great Plan, the decree of the natural order, the order of realm and the order of the universe and the natural order is that there is balance and harmony and some of that order is destiny and some is just the way it is."

She looked at him, eyes clouded unhappy "No-one directs you? " she asked in di almost scornfully." Arturo orders you. Tells you not to do things. Tells you not to go below."

"Arturo gives me good advice, which I don't always listen to" Cole admitted ruefully "He does not have to order me. I know  without the order that there is no place for me in the underworld. I'm outside it and my power would make it ..unbalanced."

"Why?" she demanded.

"Because they are totally demonic and there is nothing to counter balance them I suppose " he said.

"Why can Arturo or that other guardian go there?" Paige demanded.

"I assume because there is something that can counter balance their powers" Cole answered " but why I have no idea. I do  not understand the nature of his powers or Therold's."

"I don't believe in the balance" Paige insisted. "I don't believe in the nature of destiny. I believe in evil." she said "And good and power and the desire for it, and the use of it and to make me….to make people unhappy.".

"There is more Paige" Cole said " and to me the balance has, it makes the magic ..beautiful. " Cole told " The realms are supported and protected by the spirit winds and they exist in accordance of the great plan of the universe and that is as much and maybe more than you need to know." He told her in his Guardian voice.

Paige just looked at him blank faced. "Its still power used to ..hurt other people even when its supposed to be for good.

"Don't you see anything beautiful in it " he asked her, "In the magic that is created  and ...manifests itself in this universe. Don't you see any beauty in the light and the shadows. In the power of the wind and the songs that can be heard. You orb Paige and you see no beauty in it." he asked sad for her.

She swallowed " I feel pain " she answered bitterly " I feel a fool for ever believing in it" she said. "for ever believing it was anything but duty."

"I wish… " he said feeling helpless in the face of her disenchantment. "I would not like you.. Some-one I cared about to follow a dangerous path because of their …disillusion.' He said reaching over to touch her hand.

"I'm not going evil Cole " Paige insisted bitterly "I see nothing better in that than being good but….I find no beauty in it" she said sadly.

Cole shook his head "That's why I must guard the magic. Because if it perverts and fails. Then the beauty is lost, everything is lost. Paige unlike you, unlike when I was a demon I don't live, in a realm and use the spirit winds to demateriaise and form my magic. I exist in the spirit winds,. I come here and I live this small life… I " he hesitated "love." But its for me, my fantasy."

"I wondered if you would ever tell em what you are" she said an unhappy half smile on her face.

"It's a lonely place Paige" he said. "I am outside and beyond the realms and the plains and everything I know. But if I had to choose now, knowing what I do, I would choose it." And he hesitated, realising it was the first time he had ever admitted that to himself. "Have you ever seen a unicorn Paige?

"No" she said disinterested "Are they beautiful?"

Cole met her disbelief intently "I was called to arbitrate justice for one  just days ago. It was lost Paige, lost and in very dark place and heading down a course of vengeance and retribution. I was called and gave it a chance, and it listened to me Paige. It listened to me. It was beautiful and it listened to me." He swallowed searching for words" there is beauty in the order, in magic …love." he added

"Its not beautiful to me " she insisted standing up unable to talk any more "None of it is beautiful to me. Its just duty and hard work and pain."

"I'm sorry " he answered and meant it  as she went upstairs, alone.