The Life and Times

Part 2: Friends, family and other contradictions

Chapter 17


"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

Arturo shimmered Phoebe home around about the time she would have gotten home from work. Phoebe had  carefully texting both Cole and Piper to say she would be out all day. After a long. long lunch, where she had learned more secrets than she thought any guardian, including Cole would tell her, flirting shamelessly and feeling a very sophisticated lady she had happily shopped in Hong Kong for a couple of hours, very much accepting Arturo's advice on silk and cotton and some what awkwardly accepting a very beautiful and expensive jade bowl he insisted on buying her.

Arturo smiling thanked her for he company and somewhat old fashioned told her to thank Belthezor for her company too.

"Cole wasn't around to ask " Phoebe whispered ."

"Nevertheless thank him anyway " Arturo said" I was a day when I failed myself a little and " he stopped "I have resented staying here when ..others pass on, I have ..I want to pass and today I learned, I was not beyond temptation, I have much to think about " he said slowly " and very little of it pleasant but you .. you helped me today and I thank you " he said and kissed her hand before he shimmered.

Phoebe feeling magic had opened her to a world she had never dreamed, feeling that she was a long way from the naive and unsophisticated little girl who had found the Book of Shadows 8 years ago, waltzed into the manor and stopped cold as she saw her family and Angela and not-Casper and Rodik with Cole sitting just outside the circle deep in conference around the dining table. She hastily slide the bags with Hong Kong on them on the sofa where she hoped they would not be seen as the whole family glared at her.

"Hi " she said brightly "Hi baby " she said going to Cole planting a big kiss on his mouth.

"Hi baby" he said dryly.

"Phoebe where have you been?" demanded Piper.

"Where have you been?" asked Leo primly.

Phoebe looked at her family, the whitelighters, Rodik and her husband.

"Well" she said slowly thinking hard.

"I'll  tell you where she's been" screeched Rodik " she's been off whoring with Belthezor.. he was there today don't tell me he wasn't. I felt a great demon presence and then you go off with that .. that demon who came here. I felt the power, the demonic power of that creature you were with, you went off with." He yelled pointing his finger at Phoebe.

Phoebe sagged against Cole who put his arm around but it was more to hold onto her than to protect her as he pulled her down on to his knee.

"You feel demonic power all over the house" she said sarcastically. "You claimed Melinda's power was giving you a headache the other day when you thought she was in the attic, and it wasn't even her. It was me. You know, weak little witch me who can't even be sent out after the warlocks. So don't tell me you can start feeling demonic powers out of ordinary people who visit here . We have a life outside you" Phoebe  snipped, feeling quite proud of herself for thinking fast.

The whitelighter not-Casper looked at with an expression of distrust. "Are you categorically denying that you had any contact with Belthezor today? he asked.

And Phoebe sucked her breath as Cole's arm around her locked like steel.

"What are you saying you believe that shit ." she challenged aware that her sisters and Leo were annoyed enough at her to be enjoying her discomfort.

And not-Casper looked at Angela and they both nodded.

"Belthezor was vanquished" Phoebe told them calmly.

"Are you denying that Belthezor saved you today. I saw that … creature I saw behind you" Rodik screeched "That was Belthezor."

"You heard the witches, a mortal wandered in on the vanquish" Phoebe said scornful or as scornfully as she could with Cole's arm so tight it was stopping her breathing.

"I know what I saw and felt " screeched Rodik.

"What you saw and felt was dirt" said Phoebe "while your face was buried in it. Lying on the ground, in case the warlocks missed me and got you. So stop making up tales."

"So who were you with this afternoon "asked the whitelighter.

"A business acquaintance of Cole's. A… a friend of both of us" Phoebe answered, wondering if Cole's arm would crack a rib " He often calls in when he comes to.. town. Cole was in court so I went to lunch with him. Nothing more. He's a nice man " she said " charming and I enjoyed talking to him. Knows a bit more than just living in San Francisco."

"Who Phoebe? " said Paige wyes narrowing.

"Arturo" said Phoebe safe in truth.

"Who is this ..Arturo? " asked Angela.

"A business acquaintance of mine and friend of both of us" said Cole quietly. "So I guess the inquisition is over.".

"Not yet " said Piper angry " why the hell did you go out with that fuck today" she demanded.

"That was stupid" Phoebe conceded" he just goaded at me saying how weak I was and I gave into temptation" she said and hissed as the vice around her squeezed her in two.

"Did you find anything out?" Angela asked.

"Yeah " said Phoebe "Willem looks like Dracula and he'll kill me if he could. Thinking it will bring out Belthezor, not that it will" she added smugly "We vanquished him. And Rodik is a moronic shit."

"I know" said Angela turning on Rodik "What were you told by the Elders about baiting witches, trying to guilt them, abusing their willingness to serve?" she demanded.

Phoebe smiled happily feeling, a little like her son when he managed to get Melinda blamed or something he did. "So much for sophisticated lady " she thought.

"I guess that finishes that conversation" Cole said standing up an pushing Phoebe to her feet but keeping a firm hold of her upper arms " we need to discuss a few private things " he said over Phoebe's head as he pushed her to the front door.

"You're a fool and cuckold " Rodik spat at him.

"You're half right " Cole said as Phoebe tried to wriggle free. He got her out the front door and pushed her against the wall hands on either side of her while she looked up this face nearly in hers.

"How much of that garbage was true? " he asked quietly.

"You were the on who told me a little truthful passion goes along way to making a lie stick " she whispered "and I was only protecting you."

"I see" he replied just as quietly ".

"Arturo stopped the warlock killing, me " Phoebe explained and was a little relieved when the blue eyes looking down on hers flashed with fear and concern "He was there because he did not want to risk you getting mad at Rodik over hurting me and doing something stupid." She said " It isn't because I'm weak that they stoped me going out. Arturo pulled some strings, or Francesca or some-one did  because of you " she said "So its your fault." she tried her luck.

"I must tell Arturo how grateful I am :" said Cole not letting himself be drawn.

"Pretty ironic " said Phoebe "because when he came her, you know the way Rodik hits, goes for the jugular, he really got at Arturo, Arturo said for a second he wanted to kill Rodik. And then he felt pretty down because I thought he had added centuries to his sentence wasn't beyond temptation so he can't pass over to Marie Jeanne. "Phoebe explained. 'So I just went to lunch so he had some  company.

"So it was only kindness" Cole murmured moving closer and to Phoebe's relief getting angry.

"To a friend" she agreed putting her arms around his neck.

 "You flirted didn't you?" Cole demanded angry.

."Yeah; it was fun," she answered happily, knowing Cole was okay when he was angry "Arturo told me I was a lovely lady, said I was very attractive"

"And I don't" Cole snarled .

"You still want to have sex with me when I'm wearing cold cream. You say you love me despite my faults, You talk about breast pumps " Phoebes explained as Cole's eyes brightened with annoyance.

"I love you" he said bitterly

"Arturo told me to thank you fro the pleasure of my company" Phoebe told Cole.

"Well I've known thieves to leave thank you notes before" Cole muttered.

"You're jealous " Phoebe sighed happily "I finally found some -one to flirt with who you think is a threat " she said reaching for his mouth.

Cole made her work hard for it before he gave in and let her have what she wanted.

"I do love you baby" she said " and I never want to be with any-one else. but.." she giggled  "its nice knowing that I did I'm still ….desirable I'm still attractive, especially when the man is a mythical romantic hero.."

"Don't ever change Phoebe" he sighed not altogether thrilled. "And I do love you baby."

"And you want to be with me for eternity? " Phoebe pushed.

"Yeah but as Rodik just pointed out I'm a fool " Cole said not entirely mollified.

Phoebe gave him one last kiss and waltzed through the door ahead of him, jumping as his hand hit he backside pretty well as hard as he could.

"Ouch" she squealed as she spun at him "That hurt." she  accused.

"Worked for Grams" Cole answered smugly.

Phoebe snorted and turned around to see sisters still standing in the hall, glaring at her, although Rodik and the whitelighters had gone.

"No problems" she told them brightly.

"You think " said Paige coming forward to grab her and haul her into the kitchen where Cole and Leo could hear Phoebe saying but but but while Piper and Paige roared at her.

Leo looked at Cole nervously " What are you thinking?" he asked.

"How much I love Piper and Paige " Cole  answered "Want a beer?"

"I'll get it" said Leo grinning.


Phoebe and Cole had a wild night, between temper and emotion and some evidence of trust and just the need to be together, they giggled laughed and just enjoyed each other, so much that Rodik who claimed to have super hearing came across the landing and belted on their door.

"Shut the fuck up " yelled Phoebe and Cole in unison and fell on each other laughing.

Whosit Patrick made some soft whuffling noises and Phoebe got up and snuck over " Patsy'll sleep through anything" she giggled.

"I won't" yelled Piper banging on the wall.

They both giggled louder. Then there was silence in the next room and they laughed again and Piper banged on the wall " I don't care what you are doing but do it quietly" she yelled.

They lay in each others arms for a while and Phoebe giggled "Do you think we woke Leo up ?" she said as she heard noises in the next room.

Cole was still for a second or two "Yes " he said "Demonic hearing." He explained.

"Do you think we should bang on the wall and tell them to keep it down" whispered Phoebe.

Cole thought about it "No " he said. "I'm scared of Piper when she's pissed " he said. "and interrupting her now might piss her off."

"Rodik's going to be pissed lying awake listening to people enjoy themselves." said Phoebe happily "About today." she started to say.

"Don't make promises that will piss me off if you break them" Cole told her sleepily."

"We're doing okay " Phoebe whispered as he went to sleep.

Phoebe did not sleep. She lay awake thinking of the spirit winds and the possibilities and a little wondering if there was a way when she felt the winds shift and found herself a sucked into them, for half a second panicking then realising it was the eclipse. She shut her eyes and opened them expecting to find herself as some odd creature or another being but instead all she was aware was a surreal clouded feeling and instead of lying beside her husband and lover, she was standing on a balcony that she recognised as Arturo's, standing behind Cole who sat alone in a seat staring out at the view across the Corinthian Gulf. He held a glass/goblet with wine but was not drinking.

Phoebe glanced around her. The house was recognisable but different. The furniture had changed to a material she no longer recognised and the house seemed to have more coloured transparent walls and paintings of a style she did not know. She move to Cole's side. He was older, his hair had streak's of grey. She was relieved to see that although the lines around his eyes were deeply etched,  the humour was still there, the gentleness she loved, the kindness, the understanding. He was dressed in a loose trouser and shirt she made of some dark material she did not know. She noticed he still wore his wedding ring. Down below there were boats in the water and the trees were familiar but she knew she was in a time far, far in the future to her.

She could feel the aura reaching out from him, there was a sadness to the present but he seemed locked away in another space and time and what he was feeling was the overwhelming memory of great happiness. She shared and connected with that and something told her his mind was back in the night she had just left, but his mind was not locked in children crying, or retrievers arguing, it was totally immersed in the memory of happiness and pleasure they had just shared. From staring at the sea, he looked toward her, the intense blue eyes in both pain and joy. She put her hand out to touch his face, and almost imagined she felt the life blood of him". He smiled toward where she stood and out loud said "I love you Phoebe" as if he knew she was there.

And then she felt herself sucked away. She came back to the present, lying against him.

"I love you too" she murmured.

" What "He muttered half awake.

"You said you loved me" she whispered.

"I do but I didn't." he said.

"Go to sleep " she said kissing him gently and curled up against, a small shudder going through her, excitement that she just may find away to be with him, and fear of what it might cost.


The demonic hierarchies had recognised the eclipse of the realms. Demon lore masters who had some understanding of the nature of the eclipse covetously colleted stories as they could, especially those of any future visions, only most tended to believe those fleeting glimpses to be premonitions to change rather than a connection to the determined future.

The few demons hiding in small caverns with manuscripts and musty records who by inherent wit, slyness and just good luck had survived long enough to remember the last eclipse had a small inkling that the visions that were whispered were not a warning but a fleeting glimpse of a future that was already written but as the stories were as much about failure as fortune, they were reluctant to express this. They knew that during the last eclipse there were the glorious stories of great visions granted to seers and others of the upper hierarchies, of the rising of three Charmed sisters to defeat the Old Source, of Tempus great honour in retrieving the lost Grimoire and his ascendency. However there had been other stories of zoltars and watchers who obtained great, great power to rival the Source and of course that had not happened to the disappointment of the demons of those casts and derisive glee of their rivals.

Already the senior lore master and advisor to the Source had managed to collect some things of interest to him, and to his master if he chose to tell.

He did chose to tell Tempus of a great increase in demonic power and decisive victories over Good as a result of demonic intervention in Africa, and chose not to tell the Source of a proportional increase in the power of Good.

And heard an odd story of the appearance of the demon Belthezor  and his witch or a spirit like him, appearing to castigate and the Source when he would find the power to cross the realms and call on the winds to rule above and below may years in the future. Unfortunately a lore master of less wisdom brought the vision to Tempus, hoping for reward and honour.

Tempus taken by surprise and remembering that it was that it was Belthezor's accursed witch who had first defeated him with her damnable weak time powers screamed that he did not understand why Belthezor so long gone should haunt him when he was vanquished.

The unwise lore master trying to find wisdom explained that Belthezor was always a demon who evoked a certain mythical status even while alive and demons  remembered his cleverness, sly humour and uncanny ability to betray to his friends and enemies to his own advantage until the last great and legendary fall, betrayed by the witch he loved. The unwise lore master explained to Tempus that memories of Belthezor made him an iconic figure, even those whom he had betrayed finding a certain status in the recalling of their failures. "Undoubtedly the warlock Willem who tries to arise to kingship to challenge hopes to profit by associating his name with the icon, by painting himself through association with the power of Belthezor as a nemesis of the natural order " the unwise lore master bowed toadyish, waiting for his due reward.

He got it. At the mention of the word nemesis, Tempus swung on him and fried him to a smouldering heap to the sheer disbelief of the demons who watched and to some murmurs of approval that Tempus was a strong demonic leader who would lead evil to victory and power, leader enough to vanquish one of the great red robed masters

"The fate of those who seek my displeasure" sneered Tempus. "I fail to understand why any –one here claims to see a threat in this warlock."

"This warlock grows in power my lord" said the third highest of the priests " If he has acquired some upper demon is possible, though unlikely."

"Perhaps the truth is" said a demon who would not exist long enough to gain wisdom " that Belthezor in some incarnation is always the nemesis is of the source."

Tempus just caught the eye of the demon and without a word he lifted his hand and slashed the demon apart with the lightning power of the source.

"Belthezor's gone" he pronounced "And this warlock who dares invoke his name soon will soon be gone" and he shimmered to his chamber where he was surprised and angry to find the senior lore master waiting for him.

The lore master inclined his head. "This warlock grows powerful my lord."

"I can defeat it " Tempus said angrily. "I can summon it and slay it as I slay those who question me of nemesis.

"But my lord is that wise " said the lore master bowing.

"You doubt I can destroy this warlock" Tempus lifting his hand.

"I have no doubt but at a cost my lord " the lore master replied carefully " and an unnecessary one.

"So I should leave this warlock to invoke my enemy's name, Belthezor and his witch" Tempus sneered "I should smite her."

"My Lord has long ago proved his wisdom over his predecessor by recognising that the Charmed Ones, having fulfilled their destiny, are an icon who can do him no harm, unless he choses to make them appear more powerful than they really are" said the lore master who had watched demondom fall apart under five years of war waged against the Charmed Ones."

"I want to smite the bitch " said Tempus peevishly.

"To waste demon lives on a weak witch who will undoubtedly be protected by Good because of her iconic status " said the lore master "just demonstrates fear."

Tempus eyes flamed.

The lore master knew he stood on a precipice where he could fall or gain great power ."It is to the gain of demondom my lord "he said "if the witches fight and destroy warlocks. Good gains a few powers but we regain more. We send our retrievers out to find all the powers lost, without the minions discovering just how many demonic powers have been stolen by warlocks during the obsessive interest in witches of your predecessor. The longer the fight goes the stronger we become and the more obsessed and weak Willem becomes and the more we have to retrieve."

Tempus eyed him considering ."

"The Charmed Ones will get him eventually, as they have got so many before but it is worth remembering the stronger the enemy the greater the victory. The reward for destroying weak enemy is ignominy. For destroying a strong one their strength becomes your own."

"So to destroy Belthezor's weak witch love would be ignominy " Tempus sneered.

"Willem has some strengthen and it is in the interest of his conqueror that strength be known. His defeat will be at a cost. Let someone else pay, let the witches pay and then let us claim the deed and the reward." advised the priest. "Even if it means letting him invoke Belthezor's legend. When Willem is defeated so is the legend of Belthezor."

"There is no nemesis" said Tempus.

"Only if it is to our gain there should be one.. for the moment " said the lore master bowing.

"You serve me well" said Tempus considering him and not missing the slight sneer on the loremaster's face.


Cole came home hoping that there would be none of the eruptions of yesterday, Rodik had been warned not to take risks and desist warlock hunting. As he walked in the front door of the manor he was struck by an unnatural quiet. No children yelling, no music. And it was just over a week ago he  had walked in thinking how  he loved the manor abut he could have done without the noise. He threw down his brief case. Phoebe and Paige were both at work, and Leo had said at breakfast he was planning on spending the day with the works of Herodotus, just for light reading, he added as Cole snorted and Piper raising her eyes said she was staying home as well, to enjoy time with her children.

"I take it I won't be interfering with Patsy's upbringing if I enjoy time with him too?" she asked sarcastically while Cole and Phoebe exchanged glances.

Cole was greeted by both Patsy and Melinda coming from the living room but with nothing like the enthusiasm of a week ago. Both were looking sulky and the smiles were only half hearted.

Melinda did not even bother to go through his pockets looking for chocolate and when he gave it to her she very carefully broke it in two even pieces and gave Patsy his half.

Cole glanced at Leo sitting on the living room, sofa. Leo who sucked his lip and shrugged helplessly. "Rodik managed to make up for his disappointment in not getting any warlock' s and the thrill of retrieving powers by taking it out on the kids," he explained.

"How?" Cole asked grimly.

"Told Melinda that ham was cute little piglets" Leo said." I think we may have a vegetarian on our hands. " He shook his head "Piper told him he was all sorts of shit so he told her in front of Melinda she was a bad mother. Melinda told him she would eat him not the piggies. Then he complained Melinda gave him a headache with her power. Piper and I think" Leo said waiting for Cole to react "That Patsy has some of your empathic power because every time Melinda and Piper got upset he started to cry."

"You don't have to be empathic to feel the tension " Cole   winced." And that power is so small in me, it would be… "And stopped as Leo stuck his tongue firmly in his cheek.

"Well " said Leo told him " you know more about Patsy's connection to magic than Piper and me."

"Rodik is not making it easy for them" Cole said deciding retreat was safest.

"We can't protect them from life." Leo answered helplessly.

"We should be able to " Cole replied just as helplessly. Melinda across the room looked at him and suddenly managed to shift herself into a half orb, the bracelet Marly made her wear stopped her orbing completely, and fully levitated so Cole suddenly found himself getting a big chocolaty kiss as he caught her.

"I love you" she said in her funny grown up/little girl voice and clutched at his neck.

"Levitating is part of orbing "Leo told him, she suddenly decided she could levitate more than a few inches  this morning when Rodik told her little girls should be seen and not heard. So she levitated into his face and sang itsy bitsy spider."

"I love you to" said Cole hugging Melinda back. Melinda accepted it and then put her hand out flicked her fingers and Cole actually jumped as a vase was blown to pieces.

"She decide she could do that too" said Leo  "Don't blow things up honey " he told Melinda "Piper and I decided its self defence. She feels in danger from Rodik and its forcing her powers out.

"Great " said Cole who still, holding Melinda bent to his son who had squashed the chocolate into his mouth and was grimacing his face and squashing up his body.

"He's been trying to copy her levitating all day." Leo explained  waiting for a comment .

"That is all we need " Cole said deciding this was not the time for an argument  " he has that transgleaming when Phoebe got in the way of that warlock power before he was born. What if that comes out right now/"

"I checked " Leo said " that is a power they get at puberty, but I called Marly to put a none-materialising bracelet on him any way. She came while Rodik was out."

"Good idea " said Cole in a very regretful voice picking Whosit up so he got another chocolaty kiss. "Anything else I should know about magic happening today."

"One thing " said Leo.

"What " said Cole as he half tuned and then glanced through the glass door into the conservatory. "What the hell " he said. "That.. what .. that's" he said not able to point because his arms were full of children. "That's.

"Mommy " said Melinda.

"Its not really Mommy " Leo explained to Melinda. "It's a nymph."

"Why is it here?" Cole said looking back as the Piper nymph danced around the conservatory with pretty pirouettes and arabesques and leaps off the furniture."

"Eclipse " said Leo.

"Piper's naked " Cole said still looking.

"I wish you'd stop staring " Leo said" and it isn't Piper, it's a nymph."

"So there' s nothing I should worry about" Cole said trying to stop looking and not being able to, "That's an awful lot like Piper " he said.

"Nothing to worry about" Leo said "I locked all the windows and doors and nymphs can't dematerialise in this realm ".

"Good" said Cole still looking.

Leo said "It scares the hell out of me what Piper has an emotional connection too" he told Cole. "I'm starting to get really worried about the next one. You can stop looking " he added.

Cole left the kids with Leo and went up stairs to change, even hanging up his suit and putting his shirt in the laundry basket because he did not want to upset Phoebe. He put the small bag with an expensive hair ornament that Phoebe had rejected on the weekend as to dear, on her pillow, because he decided he could afford it when one of the dead beat clients had been rearrested and he would not agree to defend until they paid him the bill, in cash, and went downstairs as he heard Paige and Phoebe's voices.

Both of them were standing in the archway to the conservatory watching the Piper /nymph dance. Phoebe was holding Patsy and Melinda made sure she was not ignored by levitating up to Auntie Paige and so Paige had to hold onto her.

 The nymph was lost in trance as if totally unaware of an audience. Rodik had appeared from wherever he had been and was surreptitiously watching Piper from behind the girls.

"She's naked" said Phoebe with Patsy sitting on her hip "And she's not even noticing us."

"Maybe she thinks she's dancing in magic dell somewhere" Paige answered as Melinda clung tightly to her neck, legs around her waist.

"Mommy's pretty" Melinda said ."

Rodik looked. "No she's not pretty" he sniffed" her breasts are to small and she does not have a proper ratio between her hips and her waist."

Phoebe swallowed and Paige nervously said " I suppose you want an explanation" she said to Rodik.

"I am well aware of the magic cycle at the moment" Rodik sniffed "Do you witches suppose that you are the only ones touched by the greater magic worlds, the only ones who have knowledge outside your existence."

"We wondered" squeaked Phoebe.

" I know at this time when magic creatures are exchanged with the lesser beings to make them aware of their place in the hierarchy " Rodik answered" I myself have experienced this several times and imparted to those creatures the importance of subservience." And with another glance at Piper and a disgusted sniff, he pushed past Cole who was half way down the stairs.

Cole half choked half swallowed.

Phoebe made a little a whimper.

"Mommy dances like she was a bird flying " said Melinda.

Paige hugged Melinda "She loves animals so much. We really should get her a pet " she said.

"We are not having a pet in this house " said Phoebe in a don't mess with me voice.

 "I don't think that is a good idea" said Leo.

Paige looked at Cole who shook his head and shrugged.