The Life and Times

Part 2: Friends, family and other contradictions

Chapter 16


"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

Next morning over breakfast, Rodik threw a temper tantrum over the orange juice not being fresh and his expensive cereal box not being sealed so it was stale.

"Shut the fuck up" Piper told him without even changing her voice.

Piper was making toast having already fed Wyatt. Leo who had not been able to seriously look at his books since Rodik came was reading the paper. Phoebe was supervising the children and Cole and Paige were both doing hasty reviews of whatever papers they needed that day. All of them were ignoring Rodik.

Melinda looked at mommy and Rodik's surly face and lifting her hand telekineticed the cereal box over his head.

"Melinda " said all the adults not very seriously, all except Cole who sat watching Patsy screw his face up and wave his arm like Melinda and then throw his own cereal on the floor. Piper looked at his glance and saw Patsy's action.

"That witch/child in an abomination" Rodik told Piper and Leo who refused to look up while Melinda gave him an angelic smile." Spoilt " he added.

"Mean old Wodik " said Melinda

Paige went over to get another cup of coffee. "Just as well Patsy cannot telekinetic or Rodik would be big trouble." Piper whispered to Paige.

"Cole has plans for that" Paige whispered back " wants to get him some powers." she said."

"What?" said Piper staggered.

Rodik finding no-one paying him attention left declaring the whole family was an abomination not just Melinda, and Leo only just managed to grab Melinda's hands before something else went flying at him while Patsy tried to imitate her and cried when nothing happened.

Phoebe reached to comfort her son.

Piper waited until Rodik had gone tromping upstairs before she exploded.

"Are you stark raving mad Cole. Find powers for Patsy " she demanded "What the hell do you want to do? Create another super being in your image."

"And of course " said Cole to Phoebe his voice icy " it would be really bad to blab things we talk about in our marriage to some-one like… I don't know .. a sister." Paige and Phoebe both stuck their tongues out at him.

"Cole " said Piper. "Finding powers for Patsy is crazy. Look at the problems Melinda is causing being ..precocious with magic."

"I'm a good girl " Melinda announced.

"I don't want a super being " Cole said defensively "I want what's best for my son " he looked at the various expressions of annoyance and disbelief " and I am not talking about indiscriminate powers. I'm talking about something he craves and I know how dangerous that craving is."

Leo bit his lip "Just because he wants something doesn't mean its good for him to have it " he said " you're the one who keeps saying demons are never sated, they want more."

"He isn't a demon and neither am I " said Cole" but the core has to be filled, you know how dangerous it is. If the core in mine..our souls is empty" he said "I don't want more but I know there are things I can't do without. Its not that I need to use the powers but you know what its like if I haven't got them. They find me. They'll do it to Whosit too" he said.

"He already has two powers", Paige said slowly "The one' s he got when Phoebe got in the warlock' s way when she was pregnant. He has the transgleaming and the metal changing power. They'll probably come with puberty and that's more than most witches have."

"He isn't a witch "Cole said "Witches don't have his core."

"What about next time he craves something" Leo asked.

"I'm talking about the power he craves now. " Cole said. "And in case you have doubts this choice isn't a vote. Phoebe understands. Its going to happen as soon as Rodik is out of the house,.

"So you just agreed "Piper snarked at Phoebe.

"I didn't agree " Phoebe said slowly " but I do know I'm no expert on demon core and Cole is." She lowered her voice. "He's a powerful guardian, sometimes we forget that ."

"So the guardian speaks" Piper snarked.

"Its me speaking Patsy's father" Cole said firmly.

"This discussion is not over " Piper said firmly.

"It is as far as I am concerned " Cole said.

Piper turned to Phoebe.

"I'm not choosing sides" she said before Piper could yell "And I am listening to you but in the end Patsy is Cole's and my child. I know you have a stake but like us with Melinda, you don't have the right to interfere."

"You interfere with Melinda " said Piper " you hit her."

"I smacked her backside" said Phoebe defensively "and she asked for it."

"Mean Auntie Phoebe " said Melinda.

"So you know what's best for my child but I don't know what's best for your's " said Piper.

"End of discussion " said Cole firmly.

"Not buy a long shot " said Piper.


Cole went to work after giving Phoebe his point of view that talking to her sister was no different to him speaking with Francesca. Phoebe chose not to agree. Feeling that every-one was picking on her Phoebe went up to the attic to scry for warlock activity before she went to work, as it was about the only way she could help at the moment. in a wood There was an enormous amount going on 10 miles away  a wood that Phoebe knew was regularly used by a number of covens for some ceremonies. She was concerned that her scrying also showed witches in the area.

Phoebe told Paige and Piper who tiredly nodded "There goes the day at the club" she said to Leo.

Paige called Jade who said she knew the coven who met in that wood and she would warn them and then meet the Charmed Ones at a point not far from the wood.

Phoebe went upstairs to check again and when she came down Rodik was in the hall giving Paige instructions on exactly what she had to do for the next vanquish. Paige was listening with her head on the side and an expression that was bordering on the edge of mutiny.

Angela arrived followed by not-Casper who said that it was the Elders advice that they should put warlock hunting on hold until they learned more about Willem and his intentions and asked other about ideas in how to vanquish a warlock who could wipe any memory of himself.

Neither whitelighter missed that both Paige and Piper looked relieved. "Not that we are scared to fight " Paige explained.

"But it would be very reckless to offer yourself as bait," agreed not-Casper.

"And have the Elders made any decisions about me? " Phoebe demanded.

"All the Elders have to decide about you " said not-Casper not entirely kindly "Is whether they trust you."

Rodik was furious. He did not understand why there was any difficulty especially when there would be a whole coven of witches to help, and warlocks would be easy pickings.

"A whole coven of witches to get hurt." said Angela, wearily.

"I do not understand your snivelling " sniffed Rodik "We could take Phoebe along " he added slyly "Maybe this demon that is following her will come out and Willem will be so distracted that we can get him."

"How " said Paige " we don't know how to vanquish him, assuming normal warlock vanquishing spells don't work."

"Maybe we should try" said Phoebe. "I mean you should try ..."

"You wouldn't say that if you had been out with that fucking moron" said Paige as Phoebe sighed in frustration.

Rodik finally became offended enough to sniffle off to the kitchen for snack on the imported French cheese and expensive crackers he has insisted they buy the night before.

"Thought he would never go" said Piper.

Angela smiled looking more strained than ever" "We'll be in touch " she said. "I know it seems hard" she explained "But Rodik does have a purpose and to some extent he is right about how important that good powers be returned to good and not corrupted to the service of evil."

"And as soon as we find a way to vanquish this Willem " said not-Casper "we may even be able to return some stolen powers. You realise what a boost to the side of good it will be to get some of his powers back."

"If we could find out which ones he has " said Angela as they orbed.

"At least, thanks to Clarissa we know there is a way to vanquish him" said Piper."Looks like we get to spend a day at the Club Leo, looking at renovations."

"Good " said Leo already working out how he could find a way to slip into a corner for a few hours and read Plato. Over the last few days Leo had often found him self thinking of the peace and quiet lost in old texts in the Vatican Library."

"I can go to work " said Paige " You know earn some of that money that pays for fresh orange juice " she snaked.

"Me too " said Phoebe unenthusiastically.

"I take it, Leo and I won't be interfering with Patsy's upbringing if we take him with us, with Melinda and Wyatt " Piper asked Phoebe sarcastically.

"I trust you with Patsy the way you trust Cole and me with Melinda " Phoebe said taking the high ground while feeling very hard done by.

Phoebe called Jade and said the day's hunting was off and Jade told her she was on her way out too the coven to warn the witches, so if they changed their mind she would be there.

Phoebe helped Piper pack all-day baby bags for three children, food, changes of clothing, diapers and favourite toys to add the pile that were in the cabinet in the office at P3 and waved them goodbye.

She came downstairs ready to go to work and found Rodik sitting on the seat at the under the stairs, staring into space..

"I was just meditating " he sniffed "You interrupted me. This is your fault" he glowered at her. "You do realise that it is because they think that you are untrustworthy, that you with a demon, Good is loosing the chance to retrieve powers from at least five warlocks. Powers that could change the course of the battle."

"Assuming that they do something evil to justify vanquish " Phoebe told him.

"So that's your excuse" Rodik sneered.

"Why don't you just go?" Phoebe sneered back. "Just accept you aren't going to do any good here and go harass some-one else' s family."

"I have decided " sniffed Rodik "My duty is clear. The powers this Willem has must be returned. And" he said slyly " he is not going to so anything to 'justify vanquish' is he, until you come out. You are the key. But you know that. You just refuse to answer your calling. Want  to be safe with your demon lover"  he snipped

"The Elders won't let me go " Phoebe protested "They think I'm to weak …."

"They never thought you were to weak before " Rodik hissed, knowing he found her vulnerable spot." You're a Charmed One. How many warlocks have you vanquished, demons. You weren't to weak to vanquish this demon Belthezor. If you're telling the truth.

"That was power of three" said Phoebe wracked with guilt "with my sisters."

"All of the vanquishes were power of three" sneered Rodik.

"No" whispered Phoebe" I fight, I levitate. I throw athames. I kick them to Piper to blow up. I say spells."

"So its not because you are weak " sniffed Rodik "Its because you are untrustworthy that you do not go. Unless of course you are just afraid and want your sisters to fight for you."

Phoebe froze. "So If I get Willem, I get rid of you. Sounds fair to me" she said stung "let's go and see if we can find out how he can be got.".

Phoebe called Jade and told her about another change of plan.

"Are you sure?" said Jade doubtfully. "we don't know how to vanquish this damned warlock.".

"I'm just coming out to see if we can tempt this Willem out " she said. "If he might reveal a few more secrets if I'm there. Can you arrange for a couple of your friends to stay out of range but watch to see what happens?"

Not much more than an hour later Phoebe was having some understanding o her sister's problem with Rodik. She was feeling pretty proud of herself because between them she and Jade had tempted three warlocks who had been watch in a simple affirmation ritual that three witches were performing in the woods. The warlocks had moved on the witches and Phoebe and Jade had moved in on the warlocks.

By playing hide and seek in the trees, Phoebe and got one warlock with the all purpose spell and Jade had burnt another and then working together Phoebe had levitated and kicked the third one to Jade who finished it off.

Also using the magic of cell phones, one of the witches in the coven who were keeping well out of the way reported a Dracula-like warlock directing the proceedings from the safety of the woods in the clearing, although Phoebe looking there could not see anything.

Rodik, high on an adrenalin-like burst from the powers he had retrieved and hearing that the warlock Willem was there and the direction it was screamed at her to get out there so the demon that protected her would come and Willem would be exposed.

Phoebe knowing full well that the demon who protected her was in Court No 3 arguing that stealing a 15 year old bomb of a car was not grand theft auto declined.

Phoebe as she hid behind a large oak tree with Rodik hiding behind her spun at the retriever. "Are fucking insane " she said to Rodik " She pulled on the fine wool orange scooped neck sweater she was wearing " Does this look like a fucking asbestos suit. " she asked sweetly. "That means I am not fucking well doing it."

Rodik turned his nose up offended. " I do not respond to that type of language" he said haughtily "Witches should be should be aware of the great responsibility to the mortal morality."

"Shut the fuck up " said Phoebe keeping out of sight but watching the wood where Willem was.

"That warlock has a dangerous power that it stole from good witches. Good witches, who were lost in the great battle. We owe their memory to do everything possible to retrieve their power for the cause they served" Rodik answered with a a prim sniff.

"How come the only witches you have any respect for are the dead ones?" Phoebe demanded.

Rodik sniffed. "The demon Belthezor will come and protect you " he said.

Phoebe knew the demon Belthezor would spend the next two weeks damning her for all sorts of stupidity for coming out with Rodik, so she once again declined.

"Well I am not stupid enough to jump out in front of it and get killed" said Phoebe " just so you can tell other witches what a great hero I was for the cause" she hissed.

"I don't think that's likely" Rodik sniffed and then sniffed again just so Phoebe understood what he meant. He suddenly glanced up ward and sniffed. "I smell demon powers " he yelled almost wetting himself with excitement.

Phoebe somewhat fearfully looked around and was almost relieved when she spied three great Gaganas, demon retrievers hovering in anticipation.

"They're demon retrievers " she told Rodik firmly.

"If you lack the courage " Rodik sniffed and stepped out from behind the tree.

Phoebe cursed and all but decided she was going to let him die, and then Jade moved to protect Rodik as did three witches from the coven hiding in the woods. And she knew she could not let the witches die for her rashness.

Phoebe had many impressions as she jumped in front of Rodik. She saw four warlocks that had not been there before, come toward her, she had the impression of a Dracula like creature hiding behind a tree across the clearing.

"Gutlessly letting its cohorts die while it waited for Cole to rescue me," she thought. She pushed Rodik to the ground and faced the warlocks, aware that Jade was trying to get in position. Phoebe started to say the all purpose warlock spell, managing to curse Rodik at the same time as Jade burnt one to a crisp.

She struggled with the words fatalistically  accepting she simply did not have the time or the power to vanquish three warlocks on her own and refusing to run.

One of the warlocks sent a yellow burst of solar power at her. A stolen witch power Phoebe thought.

Strangely as she ran out of time to get the words of the spell out f, everything slowed down in her head. She realised as she could even see the warlock' s eyes close, that she was going to die for a shit like Rodik and that she did not want her last thought to be anger.

Patsy, Patrick Benjamin Victor, the name came out clearly in her head

"Cole" she whispered shutting her eyes and seeing his smile and knew she was going to die as the yellow light burst at her and then it suddenly stopped bouncing harmlessly off a some form of shield. Phoebe opened her eyes just in time to see the warlock with the power blown apart and two others blink out when they were faced with the question.

She heard Rodik scream demon and dreading what Cole had done, she focused on the figure behind the warlocks and to her surprise she met the somewhat rueful smile of the demon Guardian Arturo.

Before she could call his name she was distracted by the retriever yelling " stupid witch " he screamed at her "Stupid useless female You lost the warlocks. I set it up you had plenty of time."

Phoebe almost lost for words stared at him. She could not think of anything to say because she had already used up every swear word she knew.

"What is it coming to " screeched Rodik " when the supposed Charmed One cannot kill even a few useless warlocks, with help." He stood up and brushed himself "I saw the demon " he snorted.

Phoebe was saved from an answer by Rodik being drawn upward in a halo of light his expression more miffed than orgasmic. Arturo nodded and shimmered as all the witches from the coven and Jade were distracted watching Rodik go.

"What happened?" said Jade coming up. "I thought you were going to get killed."

One of the witches who had been hiding arrived "The Dracula thing just suddenly freaked and disappeared " she said "I thought you were gone " she said to Phoebe . "One second four warlocks were on you. I saw Jade get one and the one sort of blew up and then the others blinked."

"Did you see some-one way over in the clearing" said Another witch "I think a mortal nearly blundered in on it all" she said.

"A mortal" said another witch "Are you sure?"

"Yeah" said the witch " way over in the clearing to far away to really see anything happen. So no danger there I think."

"I'm okay" Phoebe told them "You know warlocks, run at the drop of the hat. One of the garganas must have got the one that went. >They seem to be gone" She added thinking quickly."

"Gutless wonders" said a rather excited witch. "Did you see that retriever. Miserable little shit. He nearly got you killed Jade, and Phoebe."

Almost on queue a bright light appeared and Rodik somewhat dishevelled appeared. He glared at Phoebe.

"Elders pleased to get the powers " she asked sweetly.

"This is your fault " snarled Rodik making Phoebe very certain the Elders were not pleased " Do you know how many powers were lost in that last act of reckless stupidity?"

The witches surrounding Phoebe suddenly all found reasons to be somewhere else.

"I'll  be in touch " Jade said giving he a huge. "Don't kill him " she whispered in Phoebe's ear. "He isn't worth it."

"Thank you" Phoebe said " you made me feel like a whole witch again."

"Stop snivelling round with those witches " Rodik ordered.

Phoebe not daring to say anything, spun on her heel and stalked to her car, as Rodik realised he was just maybe in trouble.

She reached her car and dived in slamming the door as hard as she could and jamming the keys in the ignition.

Rodik tapped on the window indicating he wanted her to open it. Phoebe started to reach for the door lock and then she sat up, purposely and slowly gave him the finger and drove of, being only aware of Rodik left standing in the road.

She went nearly 200 yards before she hit the brakes only narrowly avoiding being rear ended by a car behind her. She ignored the abuse of the driver as he pulled around her and grimly watched in her rear view mirror as Rodik huffily shuffled up to the car.

He tapped on the passenger window with an expression of such distain and contempt for a second Phoebe seriously regretted stopping.

"Shut the fuck up " she snorted as he climbed in.

She began to move the car " Stop" he ordered "My seat belt is not done up,"he told her, struggling to find the belt that was caught slightly.

 Phoebe hit the accelerator as hard as she could.

"Stop " Rodik ordered .

And Phoebe hit the brakes as hard ignoring the horns blowing behind her so Rodik screeched as his head hit the windscreen.

"I'm just a dumb female " she said to the teddy bear hanging from the rear view mirror.

Phoebe driving recklessly, and over the speed limit back to the manor choose  the hilliest part of San Francisco while a nauseated Rodik screamed at her to slow down. She swung up the driveway far to fast, stopping the car with a skid of brakes before Rodik could brace himself.

She slammed out and was not a little surprised to see the demon guardian Arturo, dressed casually and carefully in expensive grey trousers and tweed sports jacket, sitting on the stone fence waiting.

"You should have gone inside " she said creating him with a kiss because she realised she was only walking in her front door thanks to him. "The door is open."

"I did not want to frighten you finding some-one in the house." he smiled urbanely.

"Thanks " she said awkwardly, for Phoebe almost humbly  "I mean really thanks."

"My business " Arturo smiled " only a minor interference and no damage done to the Great Plan. I hope."

"Your business " Phoebe asked. "This is witch's business."

"My business " Arturo told her gently "Even guardians need to be protected. I believe the response of my ah friend to the death of his wife ..would not be ..good ..for any-one."

"Your ah friend is going to kill me when he finds out what I did today " Phoebe sighed.

"No said Arturo "My ..ah friend is going to yell at you, very loudly and you young Madame will deserve everything he says to you."

She looked at him under her lashes "I'll  tell you something if you promise me you won't tell Cole" she said.

"I promise " said Arturo smiling.

"You're right " she told him as Arturo laughed.

Rodik after sitting in the car, finally came inside to find Phoebe was sitting in the living room with a strange man, looking at him with an expression of total hero worship.

Rodik looked at Arturo sitting on the sofa opposite Phoebe, hands resting on his knees as he leaned forward. Arturo was smiling, never entirely unsusceptible to a pretty woman.

"You're… " Rodik demanded belligerently.

"A friend of Phoebe's husband" said Arturo amused at the tone.

Rodik was clearly confused, trying to think what Arturo was. He remembered the stories of the demon Belthezor and wondered. He sniffed and felt the smell of demon powers. He was convinced Phoebe had been saved by a demon that morning but he had been to busy hiding behind a tree to see.

Burt as he looked at Arturo's calm control and easy assurance, and vaguely dangerous  smile, Rodik's nerve failed him. He was not brave enough to challenge Arturo as a demon.

So Rodik fell back to safe territory. He sniffed very loudly." Yes" he " said" I can understand the attraction to a man who is beyond it. Is that what you do, prey on attractive women, wives who are lonely. Who are bored with their marriage. I know your type" he said " I know the evil of predators, cannot hold a woman of their own. Or one not one worth having, ."

Phoebe looked at Arturo as his eyes narrowed. he caught his breath and was still for maybe half a second before smiling at Phoebe and asking urbanely "Perhaps we could go somewhere more private. If you would grant a man who is past it the privilege of your company."

Phoebe saw the sneer on Rodik's face and the blankness on Arturo's and suddenly was overwhelmed by a feeling of protectiveness for a demon guardian far more powerful than she could ever understand. She was suddenly caught by a feeling of a hurt and fear far beyond her comprehension. "Good idea " she said. She caught her hair" Five minutes " she said.

"Certainly my dear " said Arturo dryly.

"And so you a friend of her husband's too? " demanded Rodik knowing he had found a vulnerable spot in his victim..

"And this is your business how?" asked Arturo.

"I believe in good " said Rodik.

"I don't " smiled Arturo and turned away.

Phoebe came downstairs, in only 10 minutes, still wearing the tight low-necked orange sweater and the bright red pants but her hair rearranged into a more sophisticated loose knot and her makeup discrete.

Arturo stood back to open the door. Phoebe smiled a little, realising how much after five years, more or less, with Cole she took such things for granted.

On the porch, Arturo wordlessly held out his hand and Phoebe with a little shudder of excitement took it.

Seconds later she breathed again as Arturo came out of the shimmer beside a floor to ceiling glass wall that was obviously in a very high building overlooking a spectacular views of a harbour.

"Is it…."she asked, suddenly shy and little girl and realising this was the first time Arturo had ever shimmered her without anger or annoyance at her.

"Hong Kong " he said. "Around lunch time too. The view from here is quite spectacular if a little cut off but we can go somewhere more traditional if you prefer."

"Maybe later " she said looking at the almost toy ferries below and a cruise ships that looked like a models.

Arturo took her arm and walked to a cordoned off area, guarded by a maitre de in a dark suit, and had no difficulty at all being offered a discrete table for two.

"I thought you would be going to Delphi " she said nervously.

"No " said Arturo " At this point it is not peace I require."

A waiter came and without asking Arturo ordered a very sweet aperitif and a seafood entrée.

"Thank  you I do like seafood" Phoebe said pointedly.

"I know" said Arturo not put out. He raised his glass . "Thank you for the pleasure of your company " he said.

She raised her glass "Thank you for saving my life " Phoebe replied  awkward, excited.

"As my intention was to protect my brother guardian from his instincts to kill any creature who hurt his beloved I must deny your thanks" Arturo smiled "And that in itself has a certain irony.

"I don't understand " said Phoebe.

"Do you know I thought I was beyond  temptation." Arturo commented.

"Aren't you?" Phoebe asked nervously ."

Arturo shook his head "I damn near killed that retriever" he said calmly.

Phoebe opened her eyes wide and looked at Arturo's calm controlled expression "You're not joking" she said.

"No" he agreed smoothly. "Ironic" he smiled.

"Maybe you should be talking to Francesca " Phoebe said uncertain.

"Maybe I should not " Arturo replied, his eyes amused. " I doubt she would approve me flirting with the beloved of Belthezor " he said "Francesca has standards."

"I know" Phoebe told him "I don't meet them very often. Are you flirting with me." she asked suddenly feeling very powerful.

"Yes" said Arturo, not beyond enjoying the effect he was having "because I resent being told I am past it."

"Well when you are an old married women " Phoebe told him, flashing big brown eyes  "Its nice to be flirted with."

"Then we understand each other " said Arturo with a smile.

Phoebe suddenly felt fifteen and on her first date. And then she looked at a very old sophisticated man who she barely understood. "You may understand me " she said honestly , just being Phoebe. "I don't understand you. Which I think is probably a very good think."

"Well I have some understanding of Belthezor too " Arturo told her " you really are a fascinating contrary little madame  aren't you?"

"Yes " she agreed, being Phoebe. She sighed. "What's it like to love so much that it s worth eternity alone because you love?" she asked.

"Lonely " said Arturo quietly.

"Unbearable? " Phoebe asked.

"Almost " said Arturo.

"Would Marie Jeanne have wished that for you?" Phoebe asked understanding his pain.

"No" Arturo answered her a soft lost look in his eyes. Marie Jeanne would have wished me ..happiness."

"And you are not happy?" she asked

"No" Arturo told her "My happiness was with Marie Jeanne."

"Oh " said Phoebe " and you have not seen her for a thousand years, Please tell me" she begged . "I need to know." She said apprehensively.

"I have connected " Arturo told her after a hesitation "On the spirit winds and in those places between realms and where I truly exist. When I needed it because, I could not face my destiny without her. " he replied his voice haunted.

"That is good" Phoebe said.

"It is agony " Arturo told her "and the only thing that I can imagine worse would be not to have it ."

"Oh" said Phoebe.

"Marie Jeanne waits for you " Phoebe asked "It is very hard for her."

"Yes " said Arturo "They ..fuss that she should pass on.. but she resists."

"She must love you" Phoebe said.

"She does " Arturo said softly with the longing of thousand year wait. "And god help me she says it is enough." He added in pain

Both were silent for a while.

"It seems so hard" Phoebe said. "such a terrible penance."

"Perhaps but " said Arturo with a soft smile " I was very evil .. as a demon. So was Belthezor " he said pointedly."

"Cole didn't want to be evil " Phoebe said with a choke.

"That my dear " said Arturo "is his salvation, not his justification."

"Oh " said Phoebe.

"What is your fate the Arturo " Phoebe asked " Your's an Marie Jeanne."

He looked at her" My fate " he said "is to serve my calling in penance for my sins. My fate is to live to the strength of my honour. and my reward is that a beautiful witch who loves me, lord knows why, awaits. My destiny , when I pass from this calling is to serve a greater one but because I serve this one..well , where ever I pass to because we have held true, she will be there and we will be together . No great legend or myth" he said ."I …we.. just Marie Jeanne and me, who we are. The cost of my evil, the cost of our love will be paid."

"She s a lucky lady " Phoebe sighed.

"The luck is mine " Arturo said simply.

The waiter bought e the bottle of very expensive white wine Arturo had ordered and poured it. Arturo tasted it, indicated his approval and then smiled gently as the waiter filled his glass and Phoebe's.

Arturo held his glass up "To a lovely lady " he said.

Phoebe swallowed and her held her glass "To Marie Jeanne " she said swallowing nervously.

"To two lovely ladies " Arturo said a small smile about his face. "Be safe Phoebe. I am beyond temptation …in some ways. Are you?" he asked."

She sipped her glass then holding it close to her face so she was half obscured, then nodded.

"I am relieved " Arturo sad with smile "I ask your company only " he said and shook his head "I must face some ..dark thoughts as a result of a second or two's lapse today and….I " he said " I need some light before I do."

"Will it ever end for you? " Phoebe asked gently.

"I pray " he sad simply.

"I can't bear to think of Cole spending a thousand years alone, without me,  paying for sins he was born too" She rushed.

"His sins are his own" said Arturo " as were mine. He, we had choices and he was the demon of the century and I was… the greatest warrior of the millennium."

"You could have been vanquished " Phoebe said.

"As I said ,we had our choices." Arturo replied " and we sinned until we made them, and Belthezor took damned long enough to make his choices."

The waiter brought them a main course and Phoebe feeling out of her depth asked nervously "Why were you there.. I mean this afternoon?"

"Nothing to be concerned about, nothing sinister for you " Arturo answered softy " I have an .. interest in the wars of evil. Well that and I rather assumed at some point you would reject all good advice to the contrary and join the fight."

"Accept that I am weak and listen to the Elders" Phoebe gasped ." Did you do something to make the Elders keep me out of the fight. Why? " she demanded as a smile played about his lips.

"There is a battle going on between good and a section of evil that is the business of witches "Arturo said " I do  think Belthezor would keep his head if your sister's were hurt although I think I would not wish to be Rodik." He smiled "But it would be better if Belthezor's witch listened to good advice."

"It was only another damned warlock " Phoebe said no longer feeling so powerful.

"Was it? " asked Arturo.

"That damned Willem was hanging around" Phoebe asked.

Arturo smiled.

"Is it more than just warlock wars " she asked.

"I am always interested in how these little eruptions in evil play out" Arturo said ."

"Would you have bothered if I was not Cole's witch?" Phoebe asked, little girl.

" I have no ideas " Arturo said honestly ."But I am glad I stopped a warlock killing a reckless and impetuous young madame .. for whom I have a ..fondness."

"Why are you..fond of me" Phoebe asked curiously "Do you think I am like Marie Jeanne?"

"You are not " Arturo told her . "The only thing you have in common with her is your passion and lack of moderation."

"I like who I am " said Phoebe almost defiantly.

"So do I " said Arturo raising his glass.

"I don't really think Francesca approves of me " Phoebe said. "I mean she .. "Phoebe hesitated.

"You mean" said Arturo not a fool "that you would like me to tell you what Francesca has said to me about you."

Phoebe looked down and flushed.

"I betray no confidences " Arturo said. "But I will tell you that Francesca has a great capacity to love above and beyond her duty, and a gift for finding those worthy of her love. And an even greater gift for not asking anything in return."

"Oh" said Phoebe softly. "I think she really loves Cole."

"So do I said " Arturo. "But" he said "I understand a little of your concerns because Francesca loved Marie Jeanne and at one time hated me."

"She did?" Phoebe asked leaning forward because she could never resist hearing more of a romance.

"Yes " she did " Arturo told her understanding and then giving her what she wanted.

"Francesca was Marie Jeanne' s whitelighter. Marie Jeanne was a woman, I would not say she was ahead of her time it would be more accurate to say she was out of it. She married quite young, 14, arranged, to a man who was not worthy of her, a poor match. She was beautiful and he was rich and older and I suspect her father thought this man would manage her volatility. He was mistaken.

They had four children and of course there was no separation but Francesca nursed her through some bad times. Marie Jeanne hated the confines of her village, she hated being bound where she was and Francesca took her to places, unknown to others in Marie Jeanne's world, to help her escape an unhappy life. The husband was dying when I came to ..cause mischief, seduce her, but she held to her marriage vows. Francesca knew what I was and advised her strongly to resist me. She did" Arturo said lost in his memories, almost unaware he was with Phoebe "She held true to her vows but to Francesca's disgust Marie Jeanne came to me the day after her husband died" Arturo sighed. "And for the ten years we were together, before she passed on, Marie Jeanne was caught between Francesca very firm that I was a demon who would destroy her and me telling her she ought to cut the ugly, shrivelled old crone from her life."

"You didn't say that to Francesca " said Phoebe, horrified feeling the pain and hurt in those words a thousand years on.

"To my shame " Arturo nodded " But I lived to regret it . Francesca can be …forgiving, but you are right I cannot take away the words..ever." he shook his head.  "If you asked me now I would say hers was the most beautiful face I have known bar one but it cannot take away the words."

"How did she, I mean follow your calling.. be your .. whitelighter to you." Phoebe asked.

"When Marie Jeanne passed on, I was nearly lost. Francesca was Marie Jeanne's friend and for friendship sake she protected me and somewhere along the line she, I like to think because of me found herself. She lost the hate and the fear and found the courage to follow a very long and necessary calling, follow with.. dignity humour, but It's a lonely one." Arturo said.

Phoebe nodded

"The word friend means a great deal to Francesca." Arturo explained " she had a hard lonely life, and her calling to be whitelighter was as you may have noticed with whitelighters, one of duty and responsibility, not one of friendship. I truly believe Marie-Jeanne was the first friend she ever had, not I am pleased to tell you the last one.

"She once told me she was married " Phoebe said.

"Yes " said Arturo "To a tavern keeper in Firenze, Florence, nearly six hundred years ago just before the end of the Old Source, older Source, before Proctor and Hilma crossed."

"So she had a romance" said Phoebe.

"Not in my view " said Arturo who knew romance "Giovanni Rinaldi was a good man, a widower with five daughters. He was kind not a strong man, was drinking away his profits and his daughter's dowries when Francesca found him in a time when she was unhappy with her calling and eternity. It will not surprise you to find " said Arturo " that Francesca protected both his income and his daughters."

"Were they grateful? " asked Phoebe.

"Very, they loved her dearly " said Arturo " But as the guardian Hilma used to say considering what she did for them it was the least they could do. Hilma was a great friend of Francesca's until she passed on."

"I am glad even guardians pass on" said Phoebe.

"It is the promise made to us " Arturo said ."Francesca has great courage. Courage to love knowing it may not be returned and knowing it will end, and knowing the pain when it does, and yet she persists in loving." Arturo said " I do not think I have this courage."

"Cole loves Francesca " said Phoebe "And so do I ..except."

"Except " said Arturo.

"Except she acts.. always like she knows everything about everything, always is right."

"Well she nearly always is " said Arturo "It is difficult to enact a false humility when you know this."

"Francesca does not like Proctor" Phoebe said.

"Proctor goes out of her way to ensure she does not" said Arturo suddenly laughing as the waiter brought them dessert.