The Life and Times
Part 3: Rhymes and Reasons
"To expostulate why day is day, night night, and time is time,
"Francesca is being a bitch " Cole glowered.
"Why? " Phoebe asked knowing the answer.
"She's acting like," he paced the office, " like its.... she doesn't want to be.... like its about duty."
"Does it matter?" Phoebe asked quietly, her lip trembling. Even if he had not been empathic, and connected to her he could not have missed that the question was rhetoric.
"This is so…this guardian calling is so… frustrating and." he stopped lifted his hands and let them fall "You can't fix things and you can't succeed and you can't walk away and its lonely and, mostly alone. "There is so little to keep you from going insane " he told her "Its...I've been there before when I couldn't handle being caught between good and evil and..."
Phoebe eyes tearing whispered "I'm sorry."
"I… Francesca pulled me out of it. I grew to I depend on her… friendship" Cole said shrugging in frustration because it was something he never dealt with well. "She appears to have decided our friendship…which I…. Phoebe don't mistake this as anything that effects you and me, but I need that friendship." He put his head on the side and shrugged a little awkward "Which apparently Mrs Rinaldi does not."
Phoebe's heart skipped a beat. She took Cole's hands. "Don't hate me," she whispered.
"I couldn't, you know that "he said softly.
"Don't get mad at me, " she said even softer.
"No promises " he answered in a slightly different tone.
"Cole I got…you know me and you know, sort of …Rodik had me in state and feeling. I got, you know jealous and I sort of… I told her " she confessed in a rush. "Francesca said if …. If it bothered me she would not be… friends sort of with you."
He looked down at Phoebe.
"Don't be mad at me," she whispered clutching at his hands.
"I'm not mad at you," he said after considering it for a while "But I am mad at her" Cole said to a horrified and guilt ridden Phoebe. 'It's not her choice " Cole said "With no apologies whatsoever baby, you don't chose my friends. And Mrs Rinaldi should know that."
"Cole I asked her too." Phoebe insisted, horrified.
"Would you going to stop being friends with Arturo " Cole asked " because I ask you not to be? Wouldn't you be pissed if he stopped being your friend because I told him to stop?"
"No" she said thought about it "Yes."
"I just have to trust you," said Cole "and you me. She thinks she knows everything. She should know that."
"I'll talk to her " Phoebe offered.
"No you won't " Cole told her firmly.
"What" gaped Phoebe.
"Baby. Its Mrs Rinaldi and me" he said slowly not letting her go "And as you keep telling me about family. What goes between you and Francesca is not my business. Its between you and her."
"Promise me you won't be horrible to her " Phoebe pleaded.
"Its between Francesca and me " he said. "What are you doing here?"
"Hated being at work thought we could do something together," she said.
"Well the way I'm feeling you know what I want to do" he said tension pushing itself in sex.
"Rodik will make some snitchy remark and kill the mood this time of day" Phoebe sighed.
"It was easier when we were sneaking off together" Cole muttered. "Sneaking off and using any suitable surface."
Phoebe glanced at the sofa, then the desk.
He grinned "Want to call Elise and tell her you slipped of early to have sex on my desk?"'
"She wouldn't believe me," Phoebe sighed. "She doesn't believe married people do that."
"Kay" he said eyes bright, bright blue. He opened the door "Take an early day" he told Eduardo " Who cares whether the files are away tonight, they'll be there tomorrow."
Eduardo didn't miss Phoebe peeping out or her expression. "Thanks " said Eduardo thinking his wife was going to enjoy hearing the latest chapter in his working day stories.
Cole helped him quietly as he cleared the office and switched off his computer then he put on is hat and coat while Phoebe some what bemused wandered around the office picking up papers, straightening them up and inspecting corners for dust, glancing over her shoulder at Cole with slough eyed sensuality.
Eduardo finally left and Cole quietly locked the door.
"I thought he'd never go" Cole said as he strode to Phoebe and lifted her so she had to wrap her legs around his waist and cling to his neck and as then whimpering as she caught his tongue and sucked.
He finally move to his desk, she kicked the boots off, as he put her down the desk and with practice pull he ripped the jeans and panties off her. He stopped only to sigh at the somewhat modest floral panties.
He caught the back of her head "There was a time when you used to wear sexy stuff just in case I did this "he moaned into her ear.
She reached for his belt and undid it dropped down his trousers "There was a time I used to get a real surprise doing that." Then giggling, she put her hand down "But a little knowledge is not a bad thing." she added as he caught her under her thighs and pulled her to him, groaning her name as she sunk her teeth into the his shoulder.
Phoebe finally pulled her sports car into the drive at the manor. She was driving because when Cole went through her purse to extract the keys she had already hidden them in her pocket. Neither Piper nor Cole's car were in the driveway at the manor but the house was unlocked and the lights were on inside. They called out loudly.
Finally from the basement, Leo yelled "Down here."
Wyatt was in a baby bouncer where Leo could watch him. Leo, carpenter belt in place, was planing away at the somewhat fancy doors he had decided could be renovated into cupboard doors for the floor to ceiling storage he planned on the 'boy's room', next to Melinda's little room at the back of manor.
The 'boy's room' project, converting the larger of the two old servants room and piling everything into the one remaining small one, was something of a sore point with Cole, despite family conference after family conference to decide the best way to give the boys some space.
Firstly he was cross about it because Piper wore down every objection he had to converting the room for two children. He claimed it was too small; they could do a magic exorcism on the cold uncomfortable spare room and it would not creep people out. Secondly, because facing the fact that Patsy was soon going to be to old to stay in his small nursery in his parent's room seemed like a breaking up of his and Phoebe's small world and thirdly because it was a 'gonna'. Something Leo was gonna do one day. Leo only ever worked on it when he was in a very bad mood or needed alone time. But he would not let Cole use magic to fix it.
Leo continued planing away with enthusiasm on the doors while Patsy beside him was pounding two bits of wood into grooved slots with a rubber hammer. Leo had the wood set up in a clamp on the floor so Patsy could hit to his heart's content.
Phoebe ran down the basement stairs ahead of Cole and picked up Wyatt to give him a cuddle. She sat on the floor with him rocking him happily, then put him on the floor kicked of her boots that were killing her and sat cross-legged with him in her lap.
"Where is everybody?" Cole asked.
"Rodik is in his room meditating" Leo snapped.
"Are you sure? " Cole asked leaning on the banister rail, and resisting going to Patsy who had acknowledged his father and mother by half looking up and then crumpling his face into total concentration to solving how to line up the wood in whatever fashion he had decided they lined up.
"Yeah, he's meditating: I heard snoring coming from his room " Leo sniped, giving the wood plane an extra hard shove.
"Oh " said Phoebe, finding it harder than Cole not to pull Patsy away from his hammering, so cuddling Wyatt extra hard instead. "Melinda with Piper at the club?" she asked.
"No " said Leo tightly "Apparently Melinda discovering if she orbed something hard at Rodik's ah lower regions, makes him cry, means she and mommy have to go on a shopping trip for lots of new clothes. Melinda has a goddamn closet full of clothes" Leo added "And just last week we couldn't afford a replacement for the cracked tiles in the downstairs bathroom."
"If Rodik was upsetting Melinda going shopping makes sense " said Phoebe cuddling Wyatt because she perfectly understood the need for retail therapy overrode all considerations of limited funds. "Anyway might help with the nightmares she's been having lately."
Cole and Leo looked at he and raised their eyes.
"The nightmares will go when Rodik goes " said Cole.
"Mean old Wodik is crying mommy " Leo mimicked laughing.
"Amazing. I would have thought that nothing could hurt him there" said Cole after a few seconds.
"Surprises me too, he has any balls" said Leo.
"Maybe itsy bitsy ones " said Phoebe bitterly "Just enough to get some-one else killed and get himself a good jerk off when he picks up powers.
Cole and Leo looked at her.
"You should see the expression on his face as he gets 'Called up there' with powers" she said.
Cole and Leo exchanged glances.
"Wyatt learnt to roll over today " Leo told them a little proudly.
"Wow a month ahead of the average " said Phoebe cuddling Wyatt. "Clever Wyatt"
Phoebe knew all the milestones for childhood development. She was very proud of how far ahead of the average the three children in the manor were. Cousin Rory and his wife had a baby that was three months younger than Patsy. As their baby was a few weeks behind the average, they were less than impressed by Phoebe's knowledge.
Patsy finally decided he had solved whatever the problem was and he wanted his mother's attention by letting out a loud " mammmmmmmmma". As she went to him she saw the wood in the groove was lined up.
"Do you think he understands what he did?" she asked proud mom. "What a smart boy " she told swooping to hug him while Cole who had moved just behind her managed to rescuer Wyatt from being squashed between the two.
"He knows " said Whitelighter Leo, more concerned than proud as Patsy's mother glowed.
Leo planed some more… with enthusiasm .
"Rodik been a bastard all day " Phoebe finally asked as she knelt on the floor with Patsy.
"Not just Rodik " said Leo closely inspecting his work sighing and stopping "Cheese making dragons and Durand."
"He seems to be having big problems there " Cole commented not without some pleasure to know he was not the only guardian suffering frustration. Phoebe rescued Wyatt from Cole and put him on the floor beside Patsy.
"Be careful with him " Cole told her.
"Stop being a fussy man. Babies aren't that fragile" Phoebe told him. "They get born don't they" she added.
Cole and Leo exchanged glances.
"Trolls got involved " Leo told Cole packing his tools carefully.
"Trolls " said Cole surprised.
"The dwarf ones " Leo explained pursing his lips with a frustration.
"Those little bastards " Cole said with some scorn. "Can't stand 'em.
"Neither can Durand. They really pissed him off "Leo explained. "Couldn't fix the problem either because of them."
"Really " said Cole interested in the suffering of other guardians.
"Yeah" said Leo " took it badly. When I left him he was in Vladivostok on his second bottle of vodka singing very crude Russian song of about fu" Leo glanced at Phoebe who had stood up and was glaring at them. "Of a sexual nature " Leo explained.
"God you can be a priss, Leo " Phoebe told him irritated. " I know what fucking is. I'm a mother. Stop trying to make a boy's club."
Cole and Leo exchanged glances.
"These songs weren't about….motherhood " Leo told her firmly .
Cole laughed. "He has the right idea. Alcohol is a good antidote to greater magic. Want a beer?"
"Thought you'd never ask" grinned Leo.
Phoebe stood up and snakily offered her hand to Patsy who declined to take it preferring to stay with the boys. She sniffed and picked up Wyatt. "That's okay" she said "You guys have had such a hard day with the greater magic. You go relax. I've only been working to earn a living and support the family. I don't mind making supper for 6 adults and twp kids."
Cole and Leo exchanged glance.
Phoebe stomped toward the basement stairs, elbowing Cole out the way. "Bring that baby bouncer up with you," she ordered Cole "and my boots."
As she got top the top of the stairs she turned back "You know Cole " she snapped "It will serve you right if I can find a way to be with you for eternity and so in the end the only person you can talk to about greater magic is me." She slammed the basement door hard.
Cole bent to pick up Patsy and the baby bouncer "Where the hell are her boots? " he asked.
"Under the chair " said Leo taking Patsy.
On his hands and knees Cole pulled the boots out. He stood up " You know Leo" he said "it scares me you know. How much I love Phoebe even when I don't have a clue what's going on in her head."
"I understand," said Leo "Piper doesn't agree but sometimes I think you have to be saint to live with her." He put his hand on Cole's shoulder sympathetically.
"I appreciate you understand Leo. I really do " said Cole.
Piper arrived home not long after carrying a large number of parcels, and with a tired but happy Melinda who had had a whole afternoon of mom's undivided attention. Mom was not as inclined to indulge her as much as aunts and uncles and daddys who could not resist little girl smiles and cuddles but then mom made up for it by being mom.
Melinda was happy to kiss daddy and her beloved Unca Cole but for once she was more anxious to show off her shopping to an appreciative aunt.
"Gotta see Auntie Phoebe" Melinda told Phoebe "Gotta see my new clothes. I look gorgeous" she announced.
"She does " Piper told Phoebe "we got her three outfits and she looks gorgeous. And I bought myself a silk sweater and a night dress."
"So how broke are we?" Leo asked as he saw the bags .
"The night dress was for you " Piper told him snippily "Now,I'm not sure you're going to get it."
"I'm sorry dear" said Leo contritely and grinned as Piper tossed her hair, both of them suddenly remembering they were only 6 years and two children away from their wedding.
"Where's Rodik " Piper asked.
"Meditating" said Leo "Unless he's woken up"
"Can't we just kill him while he's sleeping? " Piper asked.
"Sure, " said Cole raising a fireball on the tip of his fingers.
"Stop that Cole, " ordered Piper. "He'll feel the power"
"He's meditating ," said Cole "besides all he feels is the need to be a prick."
"When are you going to stop being a reckless idiot " Piper said flaring up while Leo glanced at Phoebe and rolled his eyes.
"What did you buy her?" Phoebe asked before Cole could answer. To his annoyance. She eyed the parcels with a light in her eye. Retail therapy worked even second hand.
"Auntie Phoebe," demanded Melinda pulling at her.
"Okay precious " she said.
Phoebe to make her point about cooking had gone to the trouble of making her specialty lemon chicken pasta. Most of Phoebe's specialty recipes included lemon because Cole liked anything lemon. Leo and Piper had a private joke about how many recipes Phoebe could find that included lemon.
Phoebe's specialty recipes also included special ingredients, chopped to direction, sauces and bits and pieces to be added at precise times, unlike Piper who could just add what she wanted on a whim and instinct and it always worked. When Phoebe cooked, ingredients were spread out in piles, extra dishes were everywhere and measuring implements. The kitchen had a definite 'cooked in' look.
Phoebe winced a little at the mess, caught between creation and aunthood, then as Melinda spied the chicken and started to frown she decided she was not going to spoil her niece's retail therapy by reminding her what Rodik told her about meat.
Phoebe caught Melinda's hand and allowed herself to be dragged out the kitchen. Piper followed her sister and daughter, taking time to look back at Cole and Leo with a grin as Phoebe called instructions to them on how to finish cooking supper.
"It's different when girl get together than boys " Leo explained to Cole.
"At least Melinda seems over her Rodik upsetting her " Cole replied. "She didn't say mean old Wodick once. " He laughed "Phoebe's right about retail therapy. Damn her " he added because he got as irritated at Phoebe being irrationally right, without any rhyme or reason, as the rest of the family.
"Rodik still should not have upset Melinda" said Melinda's daddy.
Leo glanced at all the bubbling pots and cut up vegetables. And extra spinach and cheese pasta that Phoebe had prepared for Rodik. He eyed the chopped garlic and onion that was to be a last minute addition to the sauce Phoebe was preparing for the lemon chicken and then focused on the knife she had used to dice the chicken. "
"Rodik hates it when you use a meat knife on his vegetables" he said conversationally to Cole.
"Rodik hates it when you put onion in his meals" said Cole. "Putting onion in it, using a knife that had touched meat would be a really childish thing to do …and definitely not angelic."
"I know " said Leo picking up the knife. "Downright demonic."
Phoebe sat on Leo and Pier's bed and watched while Melinda and Piper modelled the day's shopping. Melinda actually had five complete outfits, only one of which was remotely practical for a very active toddler, the other four were just little girl pretty.
"You look so gorgeous" Phoebe kept telling Melinda on each change,
"I'm sick to death of being practical and worrying about value." Piper told Phoebe as she pulled her jeans back on after modelling the red and silver silk skirt and slinky black chiffon blouse that was modest compared to what Phoebe would buy but nevertheless did not represent value for money in terms of the amount of material.
Piper decided that she would not tell Leo about the outfit or the satin mini dress, both suitable for P3 but not much else. Not That Leo could complain about money Piper earned. She just felt it could leave her a little vulnerable next time she complained other people, such as males, spending money on tools or books.
Melinda paraded a verty pretty frilly dress that she thoroughly enjoyed swirling around and feeling the skirt swing. She skipped around the room enjoying the girlie feeling of the net and chiffon skirt.
"It was on sale at the Market " Piper explained to Phoebe "And the silk top and skirt were are the big emporium in China town "I wasn't completely reckless."
"Maybe you should be " said Phoebe. "I have a feeling tight finances are never going to get her better."
Piper sucked her breath and pursed her lips.
"So we may as well be reckless and just enjoy ourselves once in a while." Phoebe got out before Piper could tell her to shut up.
"So you think we'll ever enjoy ourselves again " Piper asked " Leo shouldn't have stopped you killing that little bastard." She nodded toward Melinda who was happily spinning about the room, calling look at me "I'm gorgeous." I want to kill him so bad today " Piper said.
"I'm glad Leo stopped me " Phoebe confided " for me not Rodik. Yeah " she added confidently "This will be over sooner or later, we'll find a way to get Willem, and some other poor witch will have Rodik inflicted on them, or maybe Willem will get Rodik " she said hopefully," and we'll be back to the way we were, but maybe not quite, " she added. "Something's will change. Good and bad "
"Maybe, " said Piper. swinging her legs on the bed an then looking at her sister. "You think " she asked "You know."
Phoebe shrugged awkwardly because she did not know where the words came from any more than her sisters.
"I've been thinking lately, especially you know after seeing al the magic in the realms, all the other magic around," Piper put her head on the side. "The Charmed Ones are an important part of the magic world, but not the centre of it."
"What was the last change? " Phoebe asked understanding
"Fairies " said Piper "Finally got to really see them. Like you."
Phoebe snorted. Getting thrown out of fairyland when she and Leo had tried to hide there during her pregnancy had not entirely endeared fairies to her.
"They play with Melinda" said Piper " "You can tell they are here when the crystal flashes pink."
"I'm glad" said Phoebe trying to be noble for Melinda's sake.
Phoebe glanced at the crystal that Arturo had given Leo. It stayed in Leo and Piper's room because it worked from anywhere in the whole house and covered the whole nexus and both Rodik and whitelighters seemed to find the visual evidence, such as a double bed, of a witch and whitelighter together abhorrent, so they stayed out of that bedroom.
At first the crystal had baffled and confused the witches with irregular flashing colours and it made no sense, until Phoebe pointed out that the colours seemed to be consistent with the colours that flashed on the realm map when they scryed They started to recognise the flashes and what amazed them just how much magic there was in the nexus, and how varied it was.
Cole who was in snit Arturo gave the crustal to Leo told them in a somewhat patronising tone which annoyed the hell out of Piper he supposed the nexus was a merging place of some of the realms and sub realms.
"Which means ?" Piper challenged .
"How the hell do I know " said Cole realising he was on dangerous ground.
After a certain amount of fascinated observation they finally realised the crystal flashed particular colours for magic creatures when they appeared and there were many, many subtle variations. The crystal would go quiet and then and then become brighter and more luminous when those creatures actually used magic. If several creature were using magic at the same time the crystal sparkled colour.
"Damn I wish we had that right from the start." Paige said.
"Especially when Cole turned up," snarked Piper.
"And the fake whitelighter handyman" said Phoebe.
They soon realised the deeper the colour the more powerful the magic. When Leo orbed the crystal flashed white with blue lights. When Paige came it was the green of witches but the green was then almost obscured by blue white light which seemed spark out of the middle. With Piper it was a deep green with almost emerald lights and Phoebe it was green with a flash of dark blue light and it took some time to realise that the dark blue light was time power.
"I'm not as powerful as you " Phoebe told Piper "I don't get why the green is the same shade for all of us "
"Charmed thing " said Paige.
"Maybe" said Phoebe.
When Cole came in, it flashed deep dark red with vibrant crimson lights, and the colour was so powerful the change was not easily missed. It annoyed the hell out of him that every time he so much as touched an aura Piper and Leo could see it in the crystal. He was always threatening to explode the crystal because Piper knew when he used his powers with Rodik in the house.
"Or you could stop using your powers with Rodik here" she hissed at him.
For Melinda the crystal turned the same dark green as her mother but it had a deep brilliant white core with the flashing blue light, much more vibrant than with Paige.
"What does that mean?" Paige asked.
"She's a powerful witch getting a massive boost from the whitelighter" sighed Leo. "Not a powerful whitelighter."
Somewhat to Piper's relied it only flashed lightly for Wyatt, blue lights and whitelighter orbs, a mortal child with some of his father's whitelighter powers, a magic core, a Good magic core."
"God and it took me so much to control him in the womb" sighed Piper.
Patsy was an oddity, the light flashed a faint earthy green and a not much else,
"It may change when both boys get to puberty, " warned Leo.
"I hope not " said Piper.
Aside from those they learnt to associate with the family the crystal showed touches of brown light, pale blue and lilac and various shades of yellow and pinks and leafy green colours, an occasional bright orange, leaving all of them to amuse themselves guessing what creatures where coming in and out, as the realms met.
With the warlock block they did not see any of the dark purple colours that indicated warlocks on the realm map and only once they saw a deep black that was almost dead with a darkish brown core. They did an all purpose demon seeker spell and found that the second armchair in the attic had been replaced by a chameleon demon, Piper blew it up and Paige had to shower for 2 hours because she had sat on the chair.
Piper and Phoebe watched Melinda dancing and swirling around the bedroom a few inches above the ground, the movement sending her frilly skirt flying and the crystal was flashing the deep green of her power, with its luminous white and blue of her power,.
"That thing says she's one powerful witch" said Piper sadly.
"Why does that make you sad?" Phoebe asked. "You should be proud of her."
Piper swallowed " Phoebe "I've been thinking about the power we see in the crystal for her and us and its. Damned powerful" she said " Compared to other magic. Sooner or later you know the Charmed Ones will have to change. " Piper grimanced.
"Why?" Phoebe asked. "we're needed."
"You know damned Cole" Piper said.
"I know damned Cole " smiled Phoebe.
"He's got me convinced of the balance" Piper sighed, "Which means with a witch as powerful as Melinda around, and the Charmed Ones, the only way it will stay in balance is if evil becomes massively more powerful, or…."
"Or " said Phoebe taking her hand.
"Or some of the power of good is... diminished." Piper said shaking her head "Melinda has a future. The Charmed Ones have fulfilled their destiny."
"And " Phoebe asked nervously " You think we must break up. "The angel of Destiny said we can go on being witches" Phoebe told Piper.
"I believe there must be a price for that choice" Piper said. "I get scared. I haven't been well you know since, Wyatt."
"Its only what not quite 5 months " Phoebe said. "Just get a check up."
"I did the other day " said Piper "Nothing. Just you know, doc just told me to take more vitamins. I feel weak in my soul," she said "I keep remembering how the magic, worked for me. I thought I couldn't have children but the magic worked for me. Wyatt isn't that strong according to the crystal, yet it damned near killed me controlling the magic."
"That was his magic with your witch power though " Phoebe mused.
"You remember what the magic did to Grams." Piper said determined. " Her body just could not stand the power of her magic."
"Her heart. And they never found that until it was to late." Phoebe asked nervously "Did you get that checked.?"
"Nothing wrong according to medic" said Piper smiling and shrugging. "Just hormonal I guess. Only" she said "Phoebe if you get any… premonitions, promise me you'll tell me, won't you."
"Premonitions about what? Money? " sighed Phoebe. "That we go broke"
"That too " said Piper smiling hugging her sister.
Melinda realised she was not the centre of attention suddenly stopped her little girl games and planted her hands firmly on her hips and announced "I'm very gorgeous auntie Phoebe."
Phoebe started to laugh "You are too " she said. "Give me a hug. I love hugs from gorgeous girls."
"Hi" said Paige at the bedroom door and nodded as both her sisters jumped. She had a concerned look that said she had heard the last conversation.
"You'll tell me too won't you? " said Paige tightly,
"If Phoebe has any premonitions about money" said Piper.
"That to" said Paige "I'm a Charmed One too."
"You're a sister too " and don't you forget it, "Phoebe mock glowered at Paige, then held out her hand as Paige sat on the edge of the bed.
"Look at me Auntie Paige" called Melinda levitating in the air and swirling the skirt of her dress, so the crystal flashed crazy colours of green with white and blue light. "I'm gorgeous " said Melinda.
"You most certainly are precious" Paige told her as Melinda threw herself at her.
Piper watched her daughter in Paige's arms "You know" said Piper "If the choice is breaking up Charmed Ones, maybe it would be better than evil getting more powerful and creating havoc."
"You know "Paige told them " I've been thinking similar things."
Phoebe and Piper stared at her "
"But " Paige continued "Melinda is far to young. Cole's right. Won't be a while."
"Bit your tongue " said Piper.
Paige laughed "And it would not be good if now if she had to fight evil. And it would not be good if evil got more powerful because we weren't around. But if one day there isn't room for Charmed Ones and Melinda. Better to break up the Charmed Ones than to let evil grow big enough to balance with Melinda and …us."
"Yes "agreed Piper and Phoebe.
"I can live with that but I can't and won't live with breaking up our family. You understand me " Paige told he sisters firmly.
"Yes ma'm" said Phoebe swallowing and laughing.
"Sure" said Piper half cowering.