The Life and Times

Part 1: Magic in the air

Chapter 3

 

"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 and Phoebe finally got to bed much to late for people who were working very long hours, caring for children and had no magic emergencies. After Francesca left they ate Chinese takeaway around the kitchen table, listening to Paige's tale of woe about her long day vanquishing the Powers That Be of the community service. Paige and Phoebe discussed a little about the possibilities of the coming eclipse and Cole was silent.

 

"Aren't you a little interested to find out how the other magic half lives," Paige asked him.

 

"No" he said bluntly.

 

"I told Leo I would put a magic zapper on the house so Piper can get some sleep" Cole warned Paige and Phoebe. "Don't want a repeat of warlock attacks tonight. "

 

"You sure you can't find away to do it so we can use magic."

 

"We've discussed it before" Cole answered because he was sick of discussing it "You it put in on to stop certain types of creatures or all magic. Do you know how many type of evil creatures there are. And if you use it generally,  whitelighters are sooner or later going to ask why they can't get through. Or even recognise the reason as demonic power."

 

"Who gives a damn about whitelighters" muttered Paige as she started to yawn and Phoebe started to copy.

 

"Put the zapper on" Phoebe ordered "I don't feel like fighting evil this late. There is time and place for magic."

 

"All right for you " Paige said to Cole before she staggered upstairs " you don't need sleep."

 

"Only if I don't live mortal" Cole replied in the mock patient voice he used when one of the witches accused him of using magic for his personal gain or well being.

 

"Are you ever going to explain exactly what you are, what your powers are?" Paige asked.

 

"No" said Cole .

 

"Nite " said Paige who didn't care.

 

Phoebe and Cole checked on the children. Wyatt in the nursery corner of his parent's room was sound asleep with his thumb in his mouth.

 

"Looking hopeful he'll sleep through," said Phoebe.

 

Melinda was also asleep, cute in pink pyjamas and snuggling up to her favourite soft rabbit toy and Whosit sleeping on his tummy because regardless of everything the books said he always twisted that way, was making whimpering noises.

 

"Contrary like his mother" said Cole but his voice was soft. Cole touched his chin "Do I have to shave?" he asked as Phoebe turned the bed down.

 

"Bed or shower?" she asked.

 

"Shower" he said .

 

"Don't bother shaving" Phoebe shook her head and pulled him down to her to kiss, long and slow. And then more passionate, finally making their way into the small ensuite off their bedroom, leaving a trail of clothing which Phoebe would not complain about until the morning.

 

They shared the shower and had sex under the running water Cole leaning Phoebe against the tiles while he held her with her legs wrapped around him.

 

"Don't let me go" Phoebe giggled.

 

"You know I won't," he muttered lifting her so he could bury his face in her breasts.

 

"I do know that " she whispered and then whimpered with pleasure as he caught her nipple in his teeth.

 

Cole finally left her, reluctantly to dry her hair and checked Wyatt who was still asleep. "Looks like Bubby will sleep through. If I was on my own he'd be awake. You're lucky," he told Phoebe as she collapsed into the bed.

 

"I know," she said.

 

Phoebe sighed as she remembered a time when she was apprehensive of the safety of being with Cole. Like many girls who slept around she had been frightened of any long time familiarity, of him finding out that she was not the world's greatest lover, that she was not always able to get orgasms, that sex was something she used to buy affection. That he might even tire of her or get bored with her.

 

She had miscalculated on how much he loved her and wanted her. That after all they had been through together, having her was enough for him, a miracle for him. They fell into some routines, the idea of which once frightened her and she now treasured, routines that made her feel safe and sure she was loved and wanted. Phoebe knew she was lucky, that she had a lover who understood her so well, who loved her to care enough to always make her feel loved.

 

Cole lay down and pulled her against him. She yawned, tired and happy " One thing I was scared about when we got married, hasn't happened," Phoebe sighed sleepily.

 

"What " he said making sure she was laying so he could rub his thumb on the back of her neck.

 

"I thought we might start choosing sleep over sex:" she said falling asleep.

 

"Not likely " Cole told her wondering if she heard him.

 

Cole did not sleep. He heard Leo and Piper come in and got up to tell them Wyatt had not been fed. Piper looking tired and a little pale came out of Melinda's room, just as they heard Wyatt apparently sensing mom was home started to whimper.

 

"Its okay " Piper told him  but looking very tired, "better for me if I feed him" she said. Cole said good night and went back to bed, shutting he door so he could block the sounds of Leo and Piper sharing a life together.

 

There was silence in the manor Phoebe was asleep snuggled up against Cole. He could feel her hair against his chin as he half listened in the dark for sounds of breathing as his family slept around him.

 

Visions and memories flooded Cole as he thought oft the path that had led him to this place and time. He had memories of the first time he had seen Phoebe, her eyes lit up and glinting, God was it five years ago, he remembered moments of pain, the surging feeling of the times evil had overwhelmed him. Looking at Phoebe sleep, he remembered every touch, every kiss. He thought of sisters and bickering and moments of fear and moments of trust. He saw Piper at her wedding and with her daughter in her arms and he remembered Paige when she came to the family and the distrust and fear and the slow developing caring. He thought of the times slipping away for a beer and shared silences with Leo.

 

Cole lay awake for a long time. Some hours later, he moved a little and disturbed Phoebe who turned and lay on her back, then back on her side. She put her hand out to gently guide Cole to face her.

 

She knew him well "Lying awake storing memories?" she whispered.

 

He did not pretend, "Yeah" he said.

 

"Well" she whispered, "make sure you remember that you are not just loved by me but earned yourself a family" she sighed "for being who you are. Nothing that ever happens can take that from you."

 

"Arturo says love isn't a memory, it's a living being that walks with you wherever you go, whatever you become" he said.

 

"Arturo knows a few things" sighed Phoebe falling asleep again.

 

Both Phoebe and Cole were up early to go to work. Neither were particularly happy as they shuffled around each other in the minute bathroom. Phoebe was not happy because she was not a morning person and she hated working early and Cole was not happy because he had to go to work at all.

 

After showering and half dressing still grumpy Phoebe woke Whosit Patrick to change and dress him. Whosit Patrick, his mother's son was also grumpy because he was not a morning person either.

 

Phoebe had barely dressed Whosit, and Cole was only just pulling a shirt on when their door opened and Melinda in pink pyjamas came flying in bouncing and happy. She flung her arms around each for a kiss, Cole first, Phoebe noticed, then she nearly squeezed the life out of Whosit giving him a hug, giggling loudly.

 

"Shhh " said Phoebe "Melinda, you'll wake mommy. I'll get her dressed " she said to Cole "Can you start breakfast? Damn " she said loudly as she caught a nail on the edge of Whosit's cot and broke it."

 

"Shh. Auntie Phoebe. Wake mommy " said Melinda seriously.

 

Cole nodded to Phoebe and grinned as she raised her eyes. Melinda skipped over to her room ahead of Phoebe.

 

Cole went downstairs and put on coffee, started to warm milk and set out sugar fruit loops cereal for the children, because they did not have time to fight with Melinda over healthy cereal or wait for Whosit to examine every mouthful of it. Both ate the sugar foods quickly.

 

Phoebe, wrapped in a kimino brought the kids down. She glared at the fruit loops. "Marly will kill you when they're on sugar hype all morning " she said but didn't put them away.

 

"Marly's problem " said Cole grimly, trying to encourage Whosit to eat and not get covered in milk. With finances so tight, paying Marly the witch babysitter had become a subject of discussion, as to whether they could afford a babysitter at all and how much they owed her for her loyalty. When she found out how tight things were, Marly who felt she was still indebted to the Charmed Ones for saving her from evil, offered to do it without payment. As Marly's finances were worse than their's, Phoebe insisted she earned enough to pay Marly, and then regretfully forced herself not to walk into shoe shops, and sighing unhappily bought generic products in the supermarket.

 

 Phoebe did stop the house cleaning service and made Cole, who did not give a damn about personal gain, one way or the other, understand how to clean a house properly so he could flick his fingers and get the house up to Piper's standards. When Piper commented on how the house got so clean, Paige and Phoebe claimed they did it, so as not to upset her about personal gain. As Piper was convinced Cole could never learn how to clean a house properly, to Phoebe and Paige's delight she believed them.

 

Phoebe warmed some muffins in the microwave and sat down "Chocolate okay " she asked Cole.

 

"For breakfast " he sighed.

 

Phoebe ignored him as she had started to warm the muffins before she asked him "I get the bonus for the TV appearances this week " she said "I'm only going to put half of it in the school fund. I really need the overnight trips away. Us time. If we only stay in two star places and take the kids food with us, we can get a trip a month for six months on it."

 

Whosit Patrick was barely 2 months old when Phoebe and Cole started wandering off to beaches and the odd little hotels they liked in Europe. Piper had been horrified when they said they were going off with him.

 

"You can't just hike him around the world liked he was spare luggage," she said."

 

"We can't go without him " Phoebe said logically "I'm breastfeeding and besides I couldn't bear to leave him."

 

"Its not good for a baby to be hiked all around the world " Piper insisted.

 

"Its not like he's flying " Phoebe said  "12 hours in a plane or anything."

 

"You don't leave Whosit alone with strangers?" Piper asked concerned.

 

Cole and Phoebe were horrified. " Of course not. We just go to restaurants hotels and places that were baby friendly. Its amazing how many baby friendly places there are in the world if you know where to look " Phoebe explained. "It's possible to have a life and baby you know." she told Piper.

 

Piper at the time 5 months pregnant, was having a hard time of it and she gave up arguing. So Whosit saw the Swiss Alps, Hawaii, numerous small European villages, Vienna, Venice, Fiji Tahiti and the Cayman Islands before he was 7 months old.

 

Whosit Patrick apparently did not find the experience of being absorbed through daddy's shimmering on the spirit winds anything to get upset about. He snuggled into standard baby carrier to sleep, got excessively used to baths in odd shaped hotel basins and didn't seem to notice that the days had different daylight patterns.

 

In recent months the baby friendly places had needed to include toddler friendly places. Piper took a long time to convalesce after Wyatt was born. Melinda had a very hard time of it with Piper being weak and Wyatt a grumpy baby which may have been related. At first Cole and Phoebe stayed at the manor to look after her then finally somewhat tremulously Cole and Phoebe suggested since they were hiking around with Whosit Patrick one more child was no big deal. The first few trips were really just day trips with a car. Melinda suddenly found herself out and about away from San Francisco and then there was no stopping her. If she got the idea that Cole and Phoebe were getting ready to take Whosit Patrick out she was going, so with some fear and trepidation, Piper and Leo agreed to let Melinda go on a trip to a small pension and safe child beach on a Greek island.

 

Melinda in a country here children's presence was natural and where she was spoilt by every person in the pension and out door cafes, flattered for being sweet and given extra special treats and told she was a good girl for helping Aunt Phoebe look after Whosit was not going to be left behind again.

 

Piper always sent them off  with lists of  instructions about sunscreen, shade and beach clothing for both children and protected by mom's orders to Phoebe and Cole to never let either child out of their sight  Melinda started visiting beaches of the world.

 

"As if we would let her out of sight" said Phoebe indignantly and only regretted that Melinda's mother was not getting the chance to watch the little girl play in the sand and water and as Whosit Patrick got big enough to play sand castles with him.

 

Both Melinda and Whosit Patrick got views of the world the other children in their  play group would never understand. Melinda found the view of the world sitting on Cole's shoulders was the view she most enjoyed whole Whosit Patrick preferred the one from a a baby carrier snuggling up to Phoebe where he could confidently sleep or look as the mood took him. Phoebe also started writing long advice columns about sharing life experiences with children which were not always appreciated by mothers who did not have magic to help them or overtired sisters.

 

"Nothing will be really new to them " Paige said told them when she saw the children dressed up in travelling clothes.

 

"Nothing will be strange to them" Cole said.

 

"Are you planning on taking Bubby too?" Leo asked defeated.

 

"Why not?" said Cole ad Piper tired and feeling the strain of working and running P3 shook her head.

 

.

"So" said Phoebe "You don't think I'm being a real bitch keeping some money back for us time"

 

"No" Cole said dryly. "Lucky I can contribute by shimmering."

 

Phoebe came over to touch his face and kiss him. "We're married, we're family, what's mine is yours." He looked at her and she sighed " you really don't..hate living off your wife's earnings do you?" She asked  concerned, because she had never forgotten how he had hated it when he was made so dependent on her after she stripped Belthezor's powers and left him, she thought, mortal.

 

He shook his head and kissed Phoebe while Melinda watched with interest "I don't mind in the least living of my wife" Cole grinned "What I object to is having to work so damned hard and still live off you. I better go " he said. "I have to finish drafting old Kobe's 15th will change before I go to court." He very reluctantly stood up and nearly cannoned into Marly who had slipped through the back door and was glaring at the fruit loops.

 

"That's not good " she said.

 

"Cole gave them to the kids" Phoebe said ignoring Cole's snort and then, getting up, followed him upstairs.

 

After Leo yelled at him to remove the magic zapper because he could not orb, Cole took himself off to the offices he still thought of as new even though he had been using them since just before Wyatt was born. When he had first started working for himself, taking on small insurance cases and drawing up contracts and wills and leases, he had worked from home, happily hiding in a corner of the conservatory and spending more time with the children than being a lawyer. This had not pleased Leo or Piper or Paige, although Phoebe was just happy he was working at all. He actually was making some money so he was very happy with himself, but the rest of the family got very edgy when he took on a bottom of the market court case for a family with well known criminal connections and many of his interviews with them took place at the manor.

 

 Piper had also brought him a major client , to his great annoyance. P3 often dealt with a liquor importer called Talbet for some of the more exotic items Piper needed for the club. He had in passing, as an excuse for a non-delivery said he was having legal import problems. The nature of his business meant he was subject to unlawful elements showing an interest which caused big problems with customs at times. Piper, desperate for the order, had told Talbot her brother-in-law was good at dealing with that stuff. Real arsehole tough guy lawyer, she told Talbot because she needed his imports. After three weeks of frustration, Talbet had approached Cole. It took Cole about another two weeks to sort out his problems and save him a great deal of money. Talbet was effusive in his gratitude and had gone out of his way to recommend Cole to other people.

 

Which was when with another baby on the way the whole family told Cole he was not working out of the house any more. He moaned and put off finding anywhere, when Piper on a visit to the paediatrician, which was only 10 minutes away in a small shopping centre in the old suburbs, noticed a small 2 room office which shared reception and other services, for rent in the building.

 

Paige and Piper were delighted.

 

"There's even room to baby-sit the kids if you have to," Piper told Cole.

 

He was furious. And complained bitterly about working only to pay rent and that he did not see any point sitting alone in an office located ten minutes away just to write contracts and wills when he could just as easily do it in the conservatory.

 

"You don't understand " Cole told Piper.

 

"I understand you don't like being lawyer," Piper said.

 

"I've got all eternity to be a lawyer" Cole complained bitterly. "I want to stay home and be with my kids, our kids. You get your whole life with them but this is the only time I get to store an eternity of memories for my family, to live with all the time I don't have a family " he said pathetically.

 

"Serves you right for being good at lawyering " Piper told Cole unsympathetically knowing getting to the eternity thing with Cole was can of worms she did not want to open.

 

Paige and Piper and Leo ignored his complaints. Phoebe listened sympathetically, agreed it was ridiculous but managed to stop short of telling him not to do it.

 

As Cole with total ill grace moved into the offices, Paige called him and said she had solved his problem about working alone in the office. For half a second he thought he was going to get out of moving when Paige told him she had found the perfect clerk for him. Cole was furious which was rather unfortunate because the man Paige was suggesting was sitting opposite her at the time and was very uncomfortable. Eduardo Degas was 58 years old. Until 2 years earlier he had worked for an insurance company in their claims department when he was restructured out of a job, or shoved as he described it and had not been able to find another.

 

At first it did not promise to be a happy relationship. Cole interviewed Eduardo in the middle of moving into the office and he only had to touch the man's aura to know everything he needed to know and as he did respect Paige's recommendation he was not worried about whether Eduardo could do the job. The interview was something of a farce as Cole did not even pretend to do it formally. Mostly he sulked until Eduardo with some dignity got up to leave and made a comment that he deserved more respect, than to be put through an interview where there was no real job. Cole repented a little, and thought it was lucky Francesca was not around or she would kill him for the way he was behaving.

 

"There is a job " he conceded and Eduardo who having found himself reluctantly installed in the office was about a week later prepared to walk over hot coals for Cole. Cole asked for advice about an insurance complaint for a witch client, by co-incidence the company that had let Eduardo go. Cole unhesitatingly accepted the advice then thoroughly enjoyed himself screwing the hell out of the insurance company.

 

Eduardo acknowledged his pleasure at watching the proceedings and helping some-one who needed help. "Not for vengeance you understand. Justice" he said.

 

"Yeah and it was fun too" said Cole.

 

So Eduardo worked in the office and mostly just opened his eyes and shook his head at the assorted family members and in laws who wandered through the door to harangue, complain, demand Cole's help, drape themselves over the top of him (in Phoebe's case) or drag him out for a beer at very peculiar hours, usually Leo after a session of 'guiding' Durand. He also got used to a variety of unsavoury, somewhat deadbeat clients, little old ladies changing wills, business people such as Talbot whose connections were sometimes a little shady and the odd scatty, vague or very intense female.

 

The witch fraternity in San Francisco had passed around word that Phoebe's mortal husband was very good at dealing with the legal crises of security contracts, insurance and the odd police visit and coroner's inquest, without needing any explanations about magic. Leo was not totally in favour of these clients, fearing that one day one would use a magic scan or pick up on Cole's power which Cole shrugged off. Eduardo also got used to Whosit dragging himself around the office putting everything in his mouth and Melinda pulling everything on the floor. Eduardo had grand children.

 

Cole for his part enjoyed himself bitching about how he was working to pay off Eduardo's mortgage and keep his family, as well as pay for rent, running repairs on cars, and buy an extra computer. He was actually making an income, it just wasn't very big, and he had a bad habit of getting caught in pro-bono cases for people who were innocent just as he was about to celebrate having something in the bank account. Which lead Piper to demand of their policeman friend Darryl when he and his wife came to visit newborn Wyatt whether the police actually ever arrested any-one who was guilty.

 

They did have a near family crisis when after one of Cole's sessions bitching about hard he was working, Paige suggested he get some more help. She knew a legal clerk who wanted work. Since the previous year when Phoebe had rescued Cole's former assistant Arlene among others, from evil, Arlene had decided that part of her force for goodness was to find work relying on her skills and not screwing. Paige was trying to help her but a year later she was seriously believing that Mark was wrong. There were some people in the world who were totally unemployable.

 

She half jokingly suggested Cole employ Arlene. Cole's sense of humour totally failed him. He hit the roof and told Paige what he thought of the idea. Paige bitterly, angrily revisted every hurt and slight back to and including the fact that all her problems had started because Cole was a pervert who liked watching other people make out on roof tops. "Deny it " she screamed at him.

 

"I should have left you ungrateful little bitch playing whores for the vampire queen" Cole told Paige.

 

"So you weren't taken over by the Source "Paige yelled back "it was you all the time, lying bastard" she screamed and stalked out the front door slamming it so hard the glass broke.

 

Cole lifted his hand to flick the glass back.

 

"Don't Cole " ordered Leo to late, as the door went back with the glass rattling and not quite fitting.

 

"Why in the hell just once can't you do as you're asked?" demanded Leo knowing he was going to spend the next day trying to fix the glass instead of in the Vatican Library.

 

"To busy trying to earn a living while you're off reading " Cole snarled at him.

 

"You're not earning a living. " Leo said forgetting he used to be an angel "Phoebe's keeping you." and orbed before he really said something he regretted.

 

Cole left standing in the middle of the hall fuming, as he heard orbs and expecting Leo or Paige started to say "You damned....."

 

And stopped when he realised it was Francesca. "What ever it is I'm not interested " he snapped at Francesca and then shimmered off to a beach so he could calm down.

 

"What in the name of heaven was that about " Francesca asked Phoebe who was sitting at the dining room table typing, totally ignoring it all.

 

"Don't know " Phoebe answered "I always leave those things between Cole and whoever he's arguing with."

 

"You have some wisdom don't you dear" Francesca said.

 

"Do I ?" answered Phoebe flushing with pleasure at the compliment.

 

"Sometimes dear " Francesca added.

 

"Well with so many people being wise around me it isn't often necessary " sighed Phoebe.

 

"True dear" said Francesca " tell Cole to call for me when he feels like being a grown up." she added as she shimmered.

 

So even though as Paige told him regularly, work was about dignity, despite the fact that as he was a very good lawyer and enjoyed screwing bad guys and got some satisfaction helping those only an arsehole tough guy lawyer could, mostly for Cole the offices represented a place that kept him away from Phoebe and his children.

 

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