The Life and Times

Part 1: Magic in the air

Chapter 2


"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 in the living room, watching  Melinda and Whosit Patrick playing. Wyatt had been fed, washed and played with for an hour and put to bed and with any luck, a lot of luck would sleep through. He had fed the other two and battled Melinda over everything she was told to eat and managed to stay patient while Whosit Patrick investigated every mouthful of food with his nose and only sighed when Whosit decided fingers and feel were better than spoons. "You're lucky Piper's not home" Cole told his son "we'd both be in trouble."


Phoebe thought Whosit Patrick was sweet when he explored his food. Piper and everybody else did not. It drove Paige crazy and even Leo who was inclined to spoil Whosit rotten about everything else sighed over meal times.


The children were on the floor in front of the carefully screened off fire, playing. If Piper a been home Whosit would have been in bed and Melinda would be getting looks but Piper and Leo were at the club and Phoebe was caught at a late editorial meeting and she hated missing putting the children to bed so Cole left them up. Melinda was making herself happy with some game of orbing and telekineticking farm animals around the flood while Whosit Patrick was building something or trying to. He kept putting bricks in his mouth and then throwing them in the air. Cole frowned a little as he watched his son. Whosit was trying to imitate Melinda flicking the toy animals in the air. He kept waving his little hand at the blocks and when they did not move, he got an expression of intense annoyance and then his face would crumple and then he would try a again. Cole sat on the floor for a while to play building blocks with him and resisted very hard the temptation to let Whosit have any of his power or flick the blocks around for him but he saw the frustration on his son's face and felt every bit of it for him.


Cole was only finally distracted by the sound of orbs. He looked up, a not entirely friendly expression on his face. He expected it to be the girl's whitelighter and the latest one was another in the long list who did not entirely approve of mortal husbands, especially when they fathered non witch male children. Then his expression turned to a sort of half smile as his whitelighter Francesca Rinaldi appeared. She was in her whitelighter robe, with the hood back. Her salt and pepper hair was pulled back into a pony tale. Her face was in its scarred mortal form, the real one it been after, as a girl her beauty was taken from her by disease and ignorance. Cole had long since come to recognise the vanity which made her live her magic eternity in this form and he was smart enough to know that when appeared as who she was, she was showing a trust in him by revealing more than her face.


"You almost look pleased to see me" Francesca commented.


"I thought it was going to be Casper the friendly ghost coming to give Phoebe another lecture about responsibility" Cole said standing up.


"Who?" asked Francesca.


"I never get the right ghost's name, whatever, the latest whitelighter." Cole answered.


"And Phoebe listens to these lectures?" Francesca asked tongue in cheek.


Cole did not bother to answer but he smiled.


Melinda stood up an approached Francesca, all good girl "Mrs Winaldi" she said very properly as she approached "Hello".


"Hello dear" said Francesca " "How are you?".


"I'm very well" Melinda answered head on side, all grown up "I go play now " she added still good girl because she knew her limits with Francesca.


"You're a good girl " told her Francesca kindly.


"Yes I am" agreed Melinda politely before going back to her toys. Francesca because she knew the family, took the time to bend over and gently touch Whosit. "I drink wine," she said over her shoulder to Cole " Red. The good stuff."


"I know" Cole answered getting up and going into the kitchen.


He came back with two glasses and a bottle of red, the good stuff and poured it. Francesca with a slight smile accepted the wine as she watched Whosit lost in concentration pile blocks and Melinda whiz her toys around her head.


"They get to you, you know " Cole explained. "You never realise how they can take over your whole life, how their existence can be your existence."


Francesca smiled "They make you feel you have an existence, an eternity outside magic?" she commented.


Cole nodded almost shyly "You never had any?" he asked.


"Steps " she replied " along time ago " she hesitated "they were dear to me. You're not supposed to care about step children are you? Supposed to be the wicked stepmother. They were dear to me" she said sipping wine. "It's a myth they have to be yours " she said "You just have to have an…investment in them."


"I know" Cole answered glancing at Melinda.


Cole sat on the chair opposite where he could see Francesca and the children.


"You're alone" Francesca stated.


"Piper and Leo at P3 supporting the family" Cole answer "Paige is at work, Phoebe was at a meeting" he said caressing her name "she'll be home soon. Just me babysitting."


"Such along way from the demon Belthezor" Francesca commented.


"Sadly Belthezor is never far enough away from me to make me sure I can forget his existence" Cole answered. "He haunts me," he added.


"Yes well ghosts do that " said Francesca "and we all have them. Not just reserved for demons who found a different path." She added sipping wine. " But it is one of their penances."


Cole was quiet for a minute. Finally he said, "You sound dispirited".


"Oh terminal problem with the never ending a battle " replied Francesca "enjoy your small family life Cole " she said "Take my advice. Treasure each moment every word."


"I do," he said.


"I know" she answered. Then matter-of-factly Francesca asked "You dealt with the African problem satisfactorily?"


"I dealt with the African problem to the best of my ability," Cole answered "But no I did not deal with it satisfactorily. Africa seems to be Africa, whether the problem is magic or mortal, Africa seems to be beyond solution." He stopped looked down and then looked up at Francesca. "I..I don't have the wisdom to solve the problems of Africa, justice for one creature, magic or mortal is damnation for another. Africa" he said. "I have no idea how any-one could have the wisdom to solve it, mortal or magic."


"That's a good start" said Francesca. "Didn't some-one say Africa is a paradox."


Cole laughed "I would bet a great deal on it. Leo can tell you who" he added not quite nicely.


"Be kind to Leo" Francesca said severely "His wisdom grows."


"So does the cost of buying books," Cole muttered.


Francesca looked down her nose at Cole and then softened as he grinned. "Africa was the cradle of the realm," she said "To much conflict, to much history, to much passion. To much scope for demons to find lost souls, to much opportunity for good to call to arms. Africa." she said severely.


"Perhaps next time I get a call for Africa I should just get you to go over there, glare at them and tell them all to behave." Cole suggested with a half smile.


"Don't be cheeky " Francesca said not quite as severely as she meant to and laughed, the golden laugh that Cole thought like others before him, very beautiful.


Cole joined Francesca's laughter and then stopped as Phoebe appeared at the door. Just seeing her unexpectedly, caused his face to flash with the smile Phoebe loved, the one he saved for  her alone. "Hi baby" he breathed.


"Hi Baby " she breathed, eyes big and brown and soft with an expression just for him, an expression that did very good things for Cole's ego among other things and made Piper complain of feeling ill. Unlike Piper who seemed to get thinner after child birth, Phoebe was plumper. It suited her although she was forever asking Cole "Will you still love me if I'm fat?"


He had tried answering, " I'll love no matter what you look like." Or "You look perfect to me " and then when those answers caused her not to speak to him for a day, he tried practically saying, "If putting on weight worries you lay off the chocolate." Which meant she didn't speak to him for three days although she was not angry enough with him to refuse sex. After that when she asked the question, Cole simply said yes, which annoyed the hell out of Phoebe but she could not find a way to turn it into an argument.


Francesca smiled at the wife, girl/woman, witch and future heroine of legend and myth when the songs of the demon who walked away from evil for her were sung, the girl who Cole Turner the demon guardian Belthezor loved. She thought Phoebe had never looked so naturally beautiful. Her hair was longer than ever and the dark was streaked with about 4 shades each of red and blond. When she had it done last week she asked Cole what he thought of the hairdo. "Lovely " he said and meant it. "How much did it cost?" because he had learnt a few things since he and Phoebe married.


"Nothing" said Phoebe " from a sponsor".


"It looks absolutely gorgeous," breathed Cole.


 It also was permed into loose curls that she had clipped back by a large emerald clip that caught the light. She had light makeup and wore a long dark blue chiffon skirt with a somewhat startling not quite matching the clip sweater with flowers over the boobs. Phoebe over thirty and a long way from the girl who had curiously opened an old book that her grams had left in a wooden chest 8 years earlier looked like a woman who knew love, who could love, who was loved. Phoebe looked beautiful.


The somewhat doe eyed softness Phoebe reserved for her husband, how Phoebe loved that word, fell away a little as she saw Francesca ensconced on the couch drinking wine and laughing and joking comfortably with Cole. The Phoebe who understood magic and was intensely proud and protective of the long road Cole had walked to become the being she loved and adored understood that because of what he was, there were parts of his life she could not, must not share. But the Phoebe who would always be Phoebe could not quite be so understanding when she was confronted by the knowledge that some-one else could share those things with him.


"Hi Francesca, great to see you" Phoebe smiled and meant it. Because she really loved Francesca and owed her and felt guilty as hell when the little green monsters attacked without warning.


"Good evening Phoebe" Francesca said with just enough of a smile to make Phoebe certain she knew all about Phoebe's little green monsters, and Phoebe shuddered with guilt. Phoebe walked behind the sofa and caught the back of Cole's head to turn his mouth to hers in what was supposed to be a brush of the lips but went on longer than was probably necessary for a couple who had been together on and off for nearly five years. Francesca obviously thought so.


Phoebe caught Francesca's amusement, swallowed and left Cole and planted herself on the floor pulling Whosit Patrick onto her lap and catching him in a quick precious cuddle he because he was hers. Then planted a big kiss on his face, taking in the clean milky baby smell. Phoebe sighed cuddling her son, Cole's son to her. Melinda obviously thought that cuddle went on to long, she planted herself in front of Phoebe little hands on hips, reminding Cole of her mother.


"I envy you that" Francesca told her and Phoebe caught her breath. She pulled Melinda beside her and caught her while bouncing. Whosit.


"Bubby is asleep" Cole said using he nicknamed for Wyatt that Leo started and Piper hated.


Phoebe nodded "Good " she said "Why " she said to Francesca. "Why do you envy me?"


"Motherhood" Francesca "Its such primeval emotion. So basic, so much a core of the soul." Francesca smiled a little uncomfortable, as Cole glance at her and then caught Phoebe's eyes.


"You never had any kids," Phoebe asked.


"Steps" Francesca said ending the conversation primly.


"Why did you come?" Cole asked Francesca curiously when the silence became a little long "not just to talk about Africa."


"I" said Francesca and stopped as Paige called hello from the kitchen.


"Here" called Phoebe letting Melinda go when she decided she was bored just being loved and wanted some entertainment. Phoebe picked up 3 of Whosit Patrick's blocks and Melinda invented her own game of juggling with them in the air while Whosit happily snuggle up to mom.


Paige came in dressed in a terribly sober dark business suit with a very short skirt. She had rescued the suit on one of her and Phoebe's trips to preloved clothing shops. It was known in the family as the screw-you suit and its appearance always announced the start of another battle with the Powers That Be that oversaw the local community employment service, where Paige worked. The death and elevation to whitelighter, as yet unseen by the Charmed Ones, of Paige's boyfriend and employer Mark at the hands of demon whose name was not often mentioned in the Manor, left a hole in Paige's life that refused to be filled, despite best efforts of family, both birth and adopted, and friends and Paige herself.


She tried. Paige had taken over his job at the community services employment centre and learned among other things to respect Mark's memory. Not just because she loved him but because she discovered in doing the work he had done, he was a gifted and determined and talented man who knew how to fight and was prepared to sacrifice a great deal to help those he believed needed help. Paige was finding Mark's shoes very big one to fill. After all the sighing about Mark being so much older than her, fourteen years, the irony that one of the Powers that be  chief weapons was to belittle her youth in the job she had taken on, was not lost., The screw you suit was a means of counteracting that. It was noted in the family that it usually worked.


"Hi love " said Phoebe " you won " she said a statement not a question.


"Powers That Be suck " said Paige in an all purpose statement "Francesca, hi" she added with a smile and sat on the floor beside Phoebe to giving Melinda a hug and leaning over and stroke Whosit's face.


"I live her here" said Cole .


"I know," said Paige an stuck out her tongue. "Good evening Cole. How are you?"


"I'm well, thank you for asking," he replied sucking his lips.


"I am glad" replied Paige with the same expression on her face while Phoebe and Francesca raised their eyes. "Bubby asleep."


Francesca sighed. She was used ti the kids came first rule in the manor. She even respected it quietly.


Paige grinning finally asked Francesca "Are you here because Cole has been a bad boy?" she smirked.


"No dear I came to tell him about some magic." Francesca explained.


"Got attacked by a warlock today " Paige said. " Stupid fool should have known better. Orbed its own athame back at it."


"Hell me too " said Phoebe "Kicked it into a fence and used the all purpose warlock be gone spell.Stupid warlock."


The phone rang and Paige somewhat lazily called phone and orbed it into her hand .


"What Piper " she said into it. "You too, at the club just then. So did Phoebe and me. No mine looked like a has-been boxer." She handed the phone to Phoebe. "Piper wants to know what your warlock looked like."


"Kinda tubby" Phoebe said "with little piggy eyes. You got the good looking one" she said to Piper. "Guess it wasn't a cat then. Yes Piper Whosit's asleep and Melinda is nearly" she said not lying. "All right" she said conceding" I'll get them to bed in a minute.


"Warlock and cat" said Paige.


"A Cat turned into warlock once " explained Phoebe " we had to vanquish it 9 times.


"We ought to get a cat," said Paige.


"No we shouldn't" snapped Phoebe" "why are you here Francesca?" she asked.


"Well dear " Francesca started to say.


 "Warlocks aren't any fun, not like demons." Paige said "Not that I enjoy killing" she added hastily for Cole's benefit as she saw a certain expression on his face "Its just they don't even provide any challenge, just nasty and poof and they're gone. At least your bitch of mother was a worthwhile challenge. At least demons make the battle, well, even."


"Yeah " said Phoebe "Demons are, well, they make you feel like.." she hesitated at the sound of shimmer. "Demon " she screamed as she jumped to her feet holding Whosit and found herself staring at a dark, satanic figure wearing a long black coat .


"Demon" yelled Paige throwing Melinda behind her.


"Demon " yelled Phoebe jumping beside Paige and noticing Cole had not moved. "Cole!!" she screamed. "look after the kids."


"Guardian" said Cole .


"Cole, demon in the house " yelled Phoebe.


"Phoebe Guardian " Cole yelled back at her as he stood up. "Friend Proctor " he said. "well met. I think."


"Friend Belthezor " answered Proctor, ignoring the witches. He had seen that reaction in Good when he appeared many times.


"Guardian" said Paige flushing.


"Francesca " Proctor said "a pleasure " he murmured in a dark dry voice as he moved over her to shake her hand.


"For you," Francesca agreed remaining seated and extending her hand with an expression on her face that made Cole wonder if she wished she was wearing rubber gloves.


"As always" Proctor answered, not missing the expression.


"Guardian" said Phoebe looking a little embarrassed.


"I don't believe you have met my wife "Cole said still a little fragile and emotional with the word.


"Not officially. I did see her at your wedding ," Proctor replied "Mistress Belthezor " he acknowledged Phoebe.


"And her sister Paige " Cole said trying to swallow the laugh as he saw Phoebe's embarrassment.


"Young Mistress" said Proctor acknowledging. Paige "You have wine " he said looking at Francesca's glass.


"I'll get you some" Cole said choking a little, as Francesca's expression was highly reminiscent of some-one sucking lemons.


Phoebe sat on Cole's chair after picking up a somewhat disgruntled Whosit Patrick who did not appreciate being woken once he had fallen asleep curled up against mom. Melinda, now wide awake walk up to Proctor and stood head thrown back to see all of his tall frame. " Demon Guy Patsy " she said to her cousin.


"Melinda" said Paige horrified and pulling her away.


"Guardian young mistress " said Proctor dryly.


Wewah " said Whosit Patrick annoyed they were disturbing his sleep.


"Why are you here Proctor?" Francesca asked snippily as the guardian sat on a chair opposite her without asking or being invited and Paige and Phoebe glanced at each other.


Paige sat on the sofa and Melinda planted her self firmly on her aunt's knee.


"I spoke to my friend Therold today and felt as a courtesy to pass his words to my brother Belthezor" Proctor answered even drier than before.


"I have spoken to Therold," Francesca replied " I was about to tell..Cole."


"Then my visit was sadly unnecessary." smiled Proctor satanically and Phoebe would have almost sworn he was laughing behind the sneer.


"Proctor" Francesca told him prissily. "You do this often. Precede my messages. Don't you trust me to advise my charges?"


"Madam Whitelighter I trust you implicitly " Proctor answered at his most satanic, while Phoebe exchanged glances with Paige " But as you did not seek me out to me to, I assumed, wrongly, that you had chosen on this occasion to withhold your advice," he challenged.


Phoebe held her breath then somewhat to her disappointment Francesca declined the challenge.


"Touché Proctor " she said raising her empty glass to him.


"Tell me what?" said Cole whose demonic hearing had picked up the conversation when he was in the kitchen. He glanced at Phoebe and then Paige who pointedly looked away. He had a glass of mineral water, two glasses and a bottle of wine. He put the mineral water down in front of Paige without asking and she smiled and offered the glass to Proctor who indicted he wanted it filled to the top. Cole offered the other glass to Phoebe and after refilling Francesca's glass smiled wryly as he realise there was barely enough left for him.


"Tell Cole what?" asked Phoebe as Cole sat on the arm chair beside her, so her could touch her hair and stroke his sleeping son.


"Tell him what?" said Paige.


Francesca glanced at Proctor who raised his satanic eyebrows "There will be an eclipse next week, for a coupe of weeks young mistress" Proctor said " At least this is the wisdom of my friend Therold I have no wisdom in such matters."


"What is your wisdom?" Paige asked genuinely interested.


"I have little wisdom " Proctor answered with a smile that was almost not satanic. "I am a watcher. I see what I need to see. I do not always understand everything I see."


"You see far more than you need to see" said Francesca severely. " And explain far less than you understand."


"I explain what is necessary when I do understand it" Proctor answered calmly as Francesca pursed her lips and Cole and Paige and Phoebe exchanged glances.


"What do you see that you don't understand?" Paige asked.


Cole was about to tell her not to ask when Proctor answered "Many things " Proctor answered " Such as the less than innocent and kind acts of mortals who do not have the excuse of being born to a demonic and evil heritage."


Cole glanced at Francesca who shrugged and Cole wondered if Proctor came with the intention of answering such questions.


"A two week eclipse" said Phoebe "People will go wild. They'll think it will be the end of the world."


"They will neither know nor understand Mistress Belthezor " Proctor answered. "Only magic beings are effected ."


"Its an eclipse of the realms. The Magic Realms " Francesca explained. "According to Therold they occur for 14 and the odd half cycles of the earth realm.


"Exactly 10 of the magic realms" clarified Proctor.


"Every " said Francesca, "every 503 years and 4 months".


"Every 410 cycles of the magic realms exactly " clarified Proctor .


"That is correct" said Francesca pushing .


"You wine is tolerable Belthezor " said Proctor commented, declining the challenge and holding out his glass.


"What happens in these cycle?" Phoebe asked as Cole went to the kitchen.


"The realms cross each other " Francesca said "and the spirit winds which separate the realms also merge, and frequently time and magic" she said " I have lived through two such eclipse. They were" she said searching for a word "enlightening."


"I've never heard of the an eclipse of the realms" Cole remarked as he returned with another wine bottle "what happens?"


"Everything and nothing" said "Proctor " it seems they define the rule of a source of all evil." And Cole stared at him "The old source " said Proctor. "Came to power just before the last eclipse. And Tempus has come to power just before this one."


"The one before came just before the first eclipse I lived through." Francesca said.


"From my observations" Proctor informed  Cole " I believe one of the visions each new source sees is their own demise."


"So the source spends their whole reign knowing their end is determined" said Francesca not completely unhappy with this.


"It would appear so" Proctor shared her bemusement.


"So the prophecy about the Charmed Ones defeating the Source" Phoebe said.


"Came from the Source's own vision of a future that was already written." Proctor agreed, "so my friend Therold tells me. I do not have this wisdom."


"So Tempus will see a vision of his passing and know who his " Paige said.


"Nemesis will be, yes" said Francesca "and plot and destroy and not be able to change it."


"That would be..hell " said Phoebe "I think you are well out of the Source business Baby," Phoebe told Cole.


"I know" said Cole smiled at her "So it is possible see the future?" Cole asked and his voice was very quiet.


Francesca recognised the quiet tone "In the future you seem to meet yourself alone. Perhaps because there is so little certainty, that meeting other magical creatures futures is unlikely but I suppose it is not impossible. Only that which is written already can be seen" she said gently "and very little is written."


"The usual experience is other magic creatures past and present." Proctor said slowly.


"There is no need to fear the future " Francesca said as Proctor nodded in agreement "I saw things from my future last time and I recognised them when they happened. But it was a little like reading the last page of a book, it was out of context, it was always a surprise what happens and why its does even when you have some idea. Nothing to fear." She said pointedly.


"What about your own past and present?" Phoebe asked .


"You may very well experience it" Francesca answered " but as nothing changes it would be very hard to tell if you were just remembering or not. I suppose if you find yourself remembering in detail, certain things in the next two weeks, it is possible you are reliving them."


"Is it dangerous?" Paige asked.


Frances glanced at Proctor "Its not dangerous " she said "But magic creatures can find themselves in other plains and realms and times living other creatures lives. For a short while."


"What all creatures?" Paige asked.


" You won't turn evil. Unless you are already" Francesca "Its seems we exchange or cross lives with of creatures of our own power or emotions because most of us find our power in our emotions."


"You change nothing "Procter answered, "at least according to the wisdom of my friend Therold.  I have no wisdom in such matters" he said modestly.


If Cole had not been concerned about both his future and past, he may have noticed a very unworthy smirk cross Francesca's face. Phoebe did not miss it.


"It may seem you are living another life making a choice but in truth," Francesca said. "You are a shadow a mirage and the choices, decisions are made by the other creature. You just experience the feelings and emotion."


"It is not without its amusing side" Proctor said.


"Really " said Francesca snippily.


"I recall Pietro " Proctor commented in a dry voice.


Francesca suddenly laughted the golden laugh that Cole knew well "That made it all worth while" Francesca said raising her glass  to Proctor whose smile was only slightly satanic for a second.


"Who is Pietro?" Paige asked.


"Was Pietro dear" answered Francesca and laughed again, as did Proctor "a retriever dear" she said .


"Retriever?" said Phoebe "I never heard of them."


"I have" said Cole grimly.


"Nasty creatures" said Francesca. "Necessary to the side of good. They retrieve stolen powers of good from warlocks when they are vanquished. But even for a retriever Pietro was particularly arrogant and ..."


"Lacking amiability" said Proctor.


"He was a right little bastard " said Francesca, while Phoebe and Paige stared in shock when she swore. Francesca smiled school marm "Pietro like many before and since, confused the necessity of his role with his own importance. Retrievers have no powers and cannot use those they retrieve."


"Warlocks hate them of course " said Proctor. "Demons regard them as scavengers. Nevertheless Pietro somehow concluded he would be better respected by evil, and converted to their cause at the time of the last eclipse" Proctor glanced at Francesca whose eyes started to tinkle. "He was exchanged in the eclipse with an evil creature of equal power and emotion" Proctor said the satanic sneer at odds with the amused light of his dark eyes.


"A sludge:" said Francesca and she and Proctor started to laugh at the memory.


"To the great amusement of both demons and the powers of good " said Proctor "Warlocks were less than..happy to discover, their bane was a creature who had the same power as a sludge."


"Was he splat " Paige asked.


"No dear" answered Francesca" But it convinced him that his interests were better served with the side of good."


"It gave me.. faith in the balance of the great plan" Proctor remarked with a satanic smile that caused Francesca to glance at him.


Both Phoebe and Paige laughed but Cole was looking grim. "These creatures who exchange with you. Do they remember. " he asked " the things in your life."


"I did" said Proctor.


"They could know things, you did not.. you prefer were not known?" Cole asked .


"Yes " said Proctor. "We either trust their discretion," he said " or recognise their power over us." He stood up "Francesca as always, a pleasure" he said. "Mistress Belthezor, I am gratified to finally meet you." he bowed to Phoebe whose eyes softened. "Young mistress" he said politely to a Paige "an honour."


"Thank you " said Paige taking a deep breath.


"Belthezor your wine is tolerable", Proctor told Cole  politely then stopped and thought "You need to discuss port with Arturo" he suggested. "Be well" he said and shimmered.


"Arrogant..." sighed Francesca.


"From what Piper says" Paige said contemplatively " Proctor is much more..likable than Durand."


"That my dear " said Francesca very school marm "is not a glowing recommendation."


Whosit Patrick was sound asleep in Phoebe's lap and Melinda doing her best to stay awake as she cuddled up to Auntie Paige was slowly losing the battle.


"Those two should be in bed" Paige said "Piper will have a fit if she finds out they were up at this time."


"Yes" said Phoebe standing up carefully so as not to wake Whosit.


"Want Chinese take away " Paige asked "I'll order while you put them to bed."


"Do you think we should be ordering takeaway so much when we supposed to be broke?" Cole asked hoisting Melinda up to his shoulder.


"You want to cook?" demanded Paige.


"Black pepper chicken for me" said Cole.


"Would you like to join us?" Paige asked Francesca.


"Thank you but no dear " Francesca answered with barely smile. "I like my Chinese food to taste like it came from China not San Francisco." She stood up and wished a pleasant and amused goodnight before orbing.


Phoebe looked at the empty wine bottles "Damned lucky we get the good stuff discount or entertaining higher powers would send us broke." She giggled.


"Broker " sighed Paige.


As Cole followed Phoebe upstairs with Melinda all but asleep on his shoulder, he said "Do you really think it is any of Piper's business what time we put our son to bed?"


"Gee Baby, do you want to tell her it isn't?" Phoebe asked him sucking on her lip.


"God no " said Cole genuinely scared.