The Life and Times

Part 3: Rhymes and Reasons

Chapter 32

"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

The witches spent all Sunday afternoon scrying for Willem who remained elusively hidden in the realms as he had done since Clarissa had taken his blood. They took turns between scrying on San Francisco maps, the realm map, giving herself a facial and manicure in Phoebe's case, writing up spells in the Book of Shadows in Paige's and making dessert for Sunday supper in Piper's case.

"Bastard has been all around for weeks, now we want him out he won't come snarled Piper. "Why?"

"Because we got his blood and he figures we might work out a spell to get him," said Phoebe.

"Shut up Phoebe" said Paige.

"And" Phoebe persisted "Because he was chasing me to tempt Belthezor out and that didn't work, so he's planning something else."

"Shut up Phoebe," said Piper. "So we need to plan what we are going to do with the minions the cowardly bastard brings along and lets fight for him." She sighed " I know warlocks aren't the bravest bunnies in the world of evil but this one puts the cowardly lion to shame. Even when he knows we won't remember him he won't come out."

"Can't use the memory power with other powers." said Phoebe still filing her nails. "Shit " she said. "Don't look at me like that " she said. "It just comes out. I don't know where it comes from. If I could make it come out I would." She looked at her sisters "Honest" she said "I would."

"Shit" said Paige.

"What?" said Phoebe and Piper.

"He was at Jade's and he heard me tell her who Cole is." Said Paige. "Or some-one using the memory power was. That's why they didn't attack."

"Shit" said Phoebe and Piper.

"Okay" said Piper "let's start thinking like a warlock."

"Eek" said Paige.

Piper counted on her fingers, "Warlock wants powers. Warlock maybe wants to be source. Has a huge amount of witch and demonic power butů."

"Wants more" said Paige " because it's evil."

"Naturally " said Phoebe. "So it came after the Charmed Ones and recognised Belthezor in mortal form when it saw Cole save Melinda."

"They never do get original, " sighed Paige "Same old thing."

"Because it has some stolen power to recognise half demons in mortal form." said Piper. "And that's only an upper level power."

"So what it found out at Jade's doesn't matter?" said Paige hopefully.

"I wonder," mused Piper. She got up and went downstairs where Cole and Leo were watching football. Wyatt was in front of the TV in his baby bouncer and Whosit was on Leo's knee. Leo considered it was never too early to introduce the boys to football. Melinda was sitting on Cole's knee. She did not like the football but it was a perfect excuse to sit with him.

Leo had spent 3 years trying to explain football to Cole, who never seemed to quite take it in, or didn't want to and had finally given up. Cole to amuse himself because Phoebe was busy had decided to take an interest., to Leo's annoyance. Piper smiled and sucked her lips. She would bet a great deal that if she met Cole in thousand years he would still be going out of his way to be annoying.

"Hey Cole " Piper asked standing at the arch. "When a demon or something evil sees a demon, they see a demon don't they, no matter what shape they are in."

"Yes" he answered, "I still don't get if it's called football why most of them throw the ball " Cole sighed as Leo gnashed his teeth in annoyance.

"Cole" said Piper.

"Wha?" he asked.

"If they see a half breed demon in mortal form." Piper asked " what do they see.

"A mortal " Cole said. "That huddling together always reminds me of a demon convention," he told Leo who raised his eyes.

"And those who have the power to recognise the mortal as a demon." Piper asked.

"Don't know " Cole answered "Spirit form of some sort. I still don't get why the score more for falling over the line instead of kicking it over the line when they call it football, not chasey " he said to Leo.

"Okay " said Piper and turned upstairs.

"Thank you " Cole yelled after her. " I don't get " he started to say.

"Shut up Cole" said Leo.

"Well" said Phoebe when Piper came back upstairs.

Piper smiled feeling pleased with herself "Up until the other day, Willem didn't get that Cole is Belthezor. He recognised Belthezor not Cole. Now he knows where to look for Belthezor," she said. "I remember Cole was sitting outside the group that night Willem attacked Melinda, being an arsehole. All Willem got was that Belthezor in some sort of spirit form is hanging around and has some power."

"So" said Paige.

"He tried to get Phoebe out so Belthezor could save her," Piper said. "He wants to be source, he may even have enough power, to defeat most demons, but he needs to claim the spirit of a source, Belthezor, and he thinks he can get that if he gets Belthezor to lose it over Phoebe."

"So we give him what he wants" said Paige. "Are we really certain Cole is so powerful that Willem can't destroy him the way Willem thinks he can."

"More or less, " said Piper wincing, "Desperate times means desperate means. We get Willem, Rodik goes. End justifies the means andů hCole's smart. He knows not to interfere. He won't interfere when we want him to. So.."

"Use Cole as bait " grimanced Phoebe "He gets so damned snitchy when we do that." She thought for a second "Oh hell I just want to get rid of Willem and Rodik. Cole can get snitchy."

"He'll just go all guardian and say witch's business, he's smart, he knows not to interfere, " said Piper. "I can live with Cole being snippy if it means I can live without Rodik."

"I wish to god he would work out what it is he knows that we need to know to get rid of Willem" said Paige.

"Doesn't matter now" said Piper. "Paige you want to go visit Jade tomorrow and tell her where Cole will be rescuing Phoebe, on the off chance one of the minions or Willem is there, listening."

"Cole's in court most of tomorrow" said Phoebe.

"We've fought demons there before" said Piper "you make sure you don't go blabbing to him tonight ,Phoebe."

"Got my period so we'll probably go to sleep anyway" Phoebe said a catch in her voice " and afterwards he'll be so damned glad to get rid of Rodik he won't be that pissy."

"Cole ?" said Paige. "Won't get pissy?"

"We're doing okay" said Phoebe " and its not like we're asking him to be guardian, just bait."

"We aren't asking him " said Paige.

"We have to get rid of Rodik " said Piper " Desperate times mean desperate means." she repeated. "And with luck he might be so pleased to get rid of Rodik he won't get pissy."

"Sure "said Phoebe and Paige.

"Just as long as we make sure Cole does not interfere" said Piper. "Nothing can go wrong."

"Sure "said Phoebe and Paige.


Cole lay awake that night, nervous, worried because after the emotional edges of the day he knew something was going to happen again that night and he was feeling, raw, exposed and uncertain he could deal with any more visions. 

"Teach me to be smug" he thought "thinking I'm so unique the eclipse is passing me by." 

After a day thinking about visions he decided that knowledge of any part of the future was a curse, and not much better than sharing some-one else's deepest experiences and emotions and pain. How many times had he heard Francesca and Arturo thank god they had no gift of vision.

At least whatever had shared his soul had just got to find out what it was like to really love some-one he thought bitterly, not the felt the anguish he was feeling now and that was his last thought before the spirit winds dragging him away, resisting as hard as he could.

The first thing Cole became aware of was the stench, of vomit, urine and he did not want to think what else. Cole also became aware that the body, being whose soul he had crossed with was all but comatose, lying on a stinking bed in a stinking cold room.

All Cole could do was exist and try and quash the feeling of helplessness that was contorting his soul until a little late, either because Cole was conscious and prodded it or because it was simply time, the demon/watcher Proctor struggled into a form of consciousness. Proctor after lying for some minutes, in considerable discomfort in the mess of the bed made an effort to sit up but as soon as he lifted his head the room started to spin and he fell back on a bed.

Cole cursed that along with the movement of his soul, his senses had also transferred. Proctor was beyond a coherent thought about anything as he lay there heaving and sucking in the putrid air of the room. Cole did not know what was making him feel worse, the stench of the bed and hard wool mattress he was lying on, and the room,   or the nauseous feeling in all Proctor's stomach not just the pit, and the vile bitter, ill taste in his mouth.

Tasted like shit didn't even account for the stale booze and vomit, and hangover did not half describe the thumping banging in his head and the ache in every part of his body, the body, and the shakes as the lack of alcohol started to work on him. For Cole worse than the monumental hangover of a chronic binge drinker, and worst than the shakes, and the stench of vomit and urine on the bed was the frightening, only to familiar feeling of co-existing in the same body as evil.

Cole had not understood the exchange would be this bad. He thought he would observe the life of another being but he was sharing the physical feelings and the pain of a divided soul, part demon, part mortal, that was born to evil, and yet could not quite commit to it. And as Proctor was incapable of moving all Cole could do was lie there and share the misery of the demon watcher Proctor.

Half mortal, hating of the evil, angry at the world of dark magic, bitter at what he saw in his life, wanting, craving to be rid of the pain, and the taste of evil, frightened to be vanquished because of fear of re-creation as a demon and facing in another existence the hatred and bitterness and agony he felt now, and frightened beyond belief of a destruction that would condemn him to the mores of hell because watcher that he was, Proctor had seen something of the mores of hell.

Cole shared the half awake, barely formed thoughts of the demon watcher Proctor realised he had forgotten the part of being evil that was almost as bad as the craving for more. Fear, was a way of life, fear was constant companion, fear of the Source, fear of the mortal secrets of a soul that wasn't quite evil being exposed, fear of vanquishment, fear of death, 'there's dead and dead,' fear of good, fear of other evil creatures, fear of failure, fear of living.

Proctor had existed for just over 140 mortal years. His demon self had been the strongest part of him, and its great fear had always stopped his mortal self finishing the misery. But lately for Proctor, the misery of his mortal half had overwhelmed the demon, taken control, until the demon was almost castrated in its control of him. Proctor saw it as a further proof of his weakness and failure. Cole with his Guardian wisdom, and own experiences, knew that Proctor was discovering the great truth of the mortal hybrid demons, known to only a few. Their great power was not their demon self but their humanity and when they finally learnt the secret of that great power, demondom destroyed them.

Proctor's time in the service of evil was one way or the other, numbered.

Proctor lay there testing the misery, testing the pain, and Cole knew what Proctor was feeling, on a cold dark day in February 1483, as he lay on the filthy stinking bed of a hovel lodging not far from the Duomo, the Great cathedral of Florence. Proctor was testing to see if the three day drinking binge, the bitterness, had made his mortal self, disgusted enough, hurt enough, brave enough to finally face vanquishment, to end it and risk whatever reincarnation he would face and hope that one would not have the soul memories he carried into his miserable life from the last one.

Proctor, three days ago in the mortal realm time, had been sent to watch a minion of good, a whitelighter, hiding away amongst the mortals, observed in passing by sniffers. Proctor had been ordered to report on its activities and the machinations of good in the thriving city. And Proctor had drunk himself ill for three days to find the courage to do what he was about to do. Instead of surreptitious observation, hidden and unnoticed, he was going to openly confront the minion. He had seen many whitelighters in his 140 odd miserable years as a watcher. Where the whitelighters were, there were witches and demon/watchers, barely hanging on to their place at the bottom of the upper hierarchies of demondom, were vulnerable to witches. A spell, an active power such as burning or obliteration and the watcher was lost. Proctor had seen many brother watchers go, through a careless moment, a smart witch or plain bad luck, but he had always been to clever, to observant, to sly, to frightened to be caught. But today that would be different. Today would be the end, and at that thought Cole as well as Proctor, felt the demon self contort and revolt but it no longer had the power to control him.

Cole/Proctor staggered half upright and then with an effort that cost him what ever reserves he had he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and unable to move any further. The room smelt nauseating of old urine and vomit much of it coming from the bed and then Cole/Proctor half fell forward and threw up half into the rank straw on the floor and half on himself.

Now nauseated from himself as much as the alcohol Proctor had poured into human form the night before, Cole/Proctor found his whole body revolting against the abuse.

"Shit " Cole/Proctor, one or other of them thought. He staggered out somehow found a door and more or less made it to a pile of rank straw in dimly lit stone courtyard. Proctor was beyond further effort. Cole struggling with the medieval clothing and cords and an existence without buttons didn't quite succeed.

Over whelmed as much from humiliation as the stench, Cole controlling the body stripped off the rank clothing and found himself, half bent over throwing up in the straw then dry-retched as his gut turned over. He slowly stood up naked in the cold morning air of Firenze, Florence, shivering miserably and still dry-retching and decided he hated the demon watcher Proctor almost as much as Proctor hated himself.

He glanced down at the naked miserable thin body of Proctor and the stinking mess of clothing on the ground. There was a well in the corner and Cole if not Proctor managed to pull a bucket of water from it, up end a freezing water over the body then draw another and shove the clothes in it and do his best to scrub them before, still dry retching, he pulled on the wet scrunched woollen hose, leather cods piece, spun shirt and woollen vest and leather coat, and stuck Proctor's feet into sodden stinking leather shoes, bitterly regretting feeling everything that Proctor felt.

However bad Proctor felt, it was enough for him to find the determination, the courage, to start what he planned to do. He found his way out of the lodging, a disreputable house in a lane way off a long narrow street. There was an old church at the end with a square and Cole/Proctor decided this was not where wanted to go. Turning toward the narrow street, he rounded the corner from the laneway and fell back against the stone wall of the house as a group of passing women hissed their disgust at him, beard straggled still stinking from whatever he had thrown up that morning, yellow teeth, scrawny mortal body.

Cole/Proctor staggered on a few yards and was pushed out of the way by a group of workers in woollen hose and leather vests and clogs. And a man wearing fine hose, a long velvet jacker and cap jauntily on one side of his head, covered his nose with a linen handkerchief and moved to the side of the street at the sight of him. He staggered on to the end of the street,

A group of guards in some nobleman's livery, were ahead and Cole/Proctor had nowhere to go and his legs seemed to hardly hold him. One of the guards pushed him and he fell back into the filth and manure on the hard pavement. In the weakness of the moment, what was left of Proctor's demon self made Cole/Proctor lying on the dirt and filth in stinking wet clothes half raise a fire star, the swirly circle of fire that was the watcher's weapon, small, lethal it could rip its victims in half. But it was Proctor who stopped it not Cole.

Cole felt what Proctor felt as the fire star fizzled out. Proctor hated the power to kill, hated killing and he hated himself when he killed, hated himself as he watched with demonic fascination when the weapon of his hand ripped creatures of magic apart in  a flash of black powder or spewed blood.

Far to nauseous to think about shimmering, Cole/Proctor crawled and staggered his way past the citizens of Firenze,  some who treated him with disgust, some who simply ignored him, intent on their own business. He suddenly found himself in a magnificent piazza towered over by the great green, white and red marble of the Duomo, the cathedral of Firenze. With its beauty and awesome architecture, it  laughed at him taunting him, because unlike him it would last hundreds maybe thousands of years in all its beauty. Proctor shivered, and hugged himself surrounded by his evilness, the ugliness of his inner self and his hopelessness.

Citizens of Firenze busily crossing the piazza of their prosperous city, developing it's great reputation as a home of culture and commerce sniggered their contempt at Proctor as he weaved his way to face his fate. And Proctor still the watcher could only believe he deserved their contempt, dark, dark creature of evil that he was, half breed slave of evil sent to watch and report their weaknesses and failings to evil for its greater gain.

He barely made it across the piazza. Cole/Proctor half fell on some steps at the edge of one of the covered veranda clutching his heaving stomach. Leaning back against the stone column, he watched the citizens of Firenze for what he hoped was the last time. He saw the children and the merchants, the trade people, the farm people loading mules and donkeys used for bringing in produce and wood, men pulling hand carts, laden with merchandise. Proctor saw good people, innocent people, bad people, weak people, living a mortal lives that he could never have.

Proctor hated them and he hated himself and he hated what he saw in them. Proctor saw more things than almost any other evil watcher. Half breed son, of a female watcher and god knows what mortal she was sent to breed with, the demons believed the mortality of the half breed enhanced the abilities the watchfulness and gave them understanding of what they saw. And the demons were right.

Proctor saw the evil only to well, and he helped the evil and he told his masters enough to do the evil. And he saw the consequences. He saw the children left to starve, and he saw the great disappointment of those who sold their souls for more and never found enough. He saw them become the slave of the creature that bought their soul, never to be free again, and Proctor unlike the citizens of Firenze, had seen enough to know how much of the city's prosperity was bought at the cost of lost souls.

He saw it all, deaths of children, beautiful girls turned to whores or stoned as witches, he saw death and torture which was called religion, and he saw the profit of evil and he could not stop it, had no wisdom which could tell him how to stop it. And huddled against the stone column, shivering in his stinking clothes he would no longer have the chance to find out.

A shopkeeper, a tailor came out the shop behind and remonstrated with him as he huddled in the cold sickened by the smell of his stinking body and clothes. The tailor and a small fat cobbler chased him off the veranda, one brandishing a big straw broom and the other a great stout beech wood walking cane. Proctor felt his demon self raise the heat of the fire star in his hand and Cole /Proctor, one of them slowly let it down.

It started to rain in Firenze turning the gutters in the stone streets to running sewers of animal manure and god knows what other filth. Cole/Proctor was not far from where he was supposed to be, not far from his fate, his destiny and the misery of the cold driving rain soaking his already wet clothes drove him on to face it. He looked up into the driving rain and it fell down his face cleaning the mess in his beard and clearing something of the pain he felt in his head. It frightened him, knowing if he could think clearly he may not find the courage to do what he was about to do.

He found the tavern he was looking for easily. It was half way down the broad street that led to the river  nestled among a number of shops and merchant houses. The rain pelted down and the nauseating smell of food being cooked and displayed in a number of small soup shops nearby made him start dry retching again and strengthened his resolve. He staggered into the tavern and pulled himself up to his full height knowing the end was close.

It was a clean respectable tavern, well lit by lamp and torch, the front door and windows onto the broad street let in a large amount of light. The stone floors were scrubbed and spread with clean sawdust and the wooden tables were also well scrubbed. Although a tavern, there was no smell of stale alcohol but a comforting smell of candle and herbs. Against one wall was a large fireplace, with some logs stacked neatly beside it and even early in the day a cheerful welcoming blaze warmed the room. Against the far wall, beside a door leading to what Proctor presumed was a kitchen were barrels of spirits and wine and beer all neatly tapped. In front of them a bar stretched the length of the wall.

There were already five customers two men in livery having mid morning tankards of warm ale and 3 prosperous merchant sharing ale and the warmth of the fire.

As Proctor took what he thought would be some of his last breaths he observed a young man neatly dressed in dark hose and woollen over shirt and vest and leather shoes, sweeping floors and a woman appeared at the kitchen door.

She was barely medium height, plump, wearing a dark green dress and the typical starched white cap and shirt waister of a prosperous Firenze trader's wife. Over her clothes she wore  a neat and clean white apron, Cole jumped with shock. Because it was Francesca, hair not quite as pepper and salt as he knew, more a dark brown with some streaks, pulled back in a very neat bun, and her real face, pock marked and distorted. She wiped her hands on a cloth and firmly but kindly gave the young man orders about lining up a bung on one of the barrels.

The young man pointed to Cole/Proctor standing hunched by the door just keeping out of the rain.

Cole clearly heard Proctor's thoughts" "Whitelighter bitch " he thought. "Recognise my evil and call your witches and have done with it."

Cole with a growing sense of concern and Proctor a satanic smile on his thin miserable face watched her as Francesca walked toward him hands on hips, an expression of total control and disapproval at his appearance on her face.

Proctor wanted to raise the fire star, force her to call witches for help, but as Francesca stood a few feet from him, and in the school marm voice that Cole recognised, asked him what he wanted, the demon in Proctor and the mortal also, not entirely to Cole's surprise, were completely intimidated.

And he could merely stutter a demand for hot wine and shrivel a little more as she eyed him even more severely and then directed him to sit at one of the tables reasonably close to the fire.

"Ugly bitch Minion of good " thought Proctor viciously. "Ugly bastion of good, you know nothing. " he thought "Know nothing of being good. None of you do that I can see." and he snorted almost over the top of her hair thinking. "Stupid minion. Can't even recognise evil when you see it."

Francesca did not give ground.

The young man came toward her, "Senora Rinaldi " he said shaking his head in disgust at the sight of Proctor.

"It's raining " whispered Proctor in a hoarse voice that was more of a plea, because if he went he would never have the courage to come back and force her to do what he had come to have done.

"There is no concern Franco "Francesca told the young man over her shoulder "Sit down " she ordered Cole/Proctor in a voice that Cole recognised well " before you fall down. "

She indicated the table and chair. "Its raining" she said "So you can stay but vomit on my floor, or even think of pissing on it and you will so fast you will not know which end you walk on."

Cole/Proctor nodded and staggered to the table, near the fire, which caused a fearful reaction in the demon watcher Proctor, because Proctor hated the heat. He spent too much time in pain and terror in the hotter climate of the underworld, but Cole who was freezing won the battle to stay there.

Proctor eyed the fire apprehensively but he was also in his mortal form and soaking wet and the cold was chilling him as his mortal body shuddered. He huddled nearer in his wet miserable clothes. Half leaning on his arms he scornfully watched 'the minion of good' disappear into another room, taking her time to serve him while the five customers looked at him contemptuously.

Cole wondered if Francesca was there to protect Proctor when he crossed, pretending to work in the tavern but Proctor was thinking of vanquishment, the darkness was to deep in Proctor's soul for him to consider crossing to the light.

Proctor sneered to himself, watching in anger one of merchants who stared at him with a particularly disgusted expression. He considered destroying the mortal to provoke the bitch whitelighter to summon her whore witch charges and vanquish him. While he pondered it, the minion of light bitch whitelighter appeared out of the kitchen door. She carried a tray and a large tankard. Proctor sneered as evilly as he could toward the merchant and Francesca eyed him with the expression Cole had seen shrivel the unwise, the unwary and the foolish into total submission and he almost laughed, catching Proctor by surprise. As much as anything else, Francesca's magic was that she could not be intimidated by anyone or anything.

And Proctor knew what Cole knew. He was confronted by a great power of good, one far more powerful than him, one who was in no danger from him, and one who was capable of recognising what he was and could act according to her nature because she had no need to fear him.

Proctor told himself he could nor even succeed in failing. He finally exposed himself to good, finally found the courage to end it and the minion he picks has to be the one bitch who was so good she actually took pity and showed kindness to a creature of disrepute. Proctor laughed cynically to himself and for the first time Cole jumped as he recognised the cynical satanic humour he associated with the Proctor. "

Francesca came over to Proctor carrying the tray with two tankards.

"Its good wine" she said holding out her hand for payment while Cole/Proctor dug around inside the stinking clothes and found a few coins.

"It 's not my nature to appreciate anything Good," Proctor replied meeting her eyes.

"That is of no concern to me " replied Francesca taking the money. Proctor knew she was fully aware she was confronted by a minion of evil that she dismissed as nothing for her to fear.

"What's that?" Proctor demanded and pointed to the other tankard.

"Hot water " she said blandly but her eyes were amused because she clearly knew the physical agony he was suffering " with honey :" she added.

Proctor snorted in disgust.

 "It will help what ails you " Francesca said with a twinkle in her eye, that Cole recognised, and he ground Proctor's teeth is irritation that Francesca could be so careless as to tease when confronted by evil minions.

Proctor sniffed the tankard and hissed in disgust at the smell.

"Drink it " Francesca said, the twinkle in her eyes in place "And feel a little better. Or not. It matters nothing to me " She added "but vomit on my floor or spit and you are out into the rain," she warned Proctor severely.

Proctor met her expression, bitterness and evil all over his thin face .

 "Or drink you wine or not. It matters nothing to me," Francesca told him firmly as she walked away.

Proctor reached out for the wine tankard.

Only Cole feeling every bit of the nausea, the bile, the headache, the cramping stomach, knew even if Proctor could swallow the wine he could not,. And if Proctor did drink it he was going to add to Cole's humiliation by being thrown out for vomiting on Francesca's clean floor and Cole would never be able to win another argument with her. It took most of his power of the light to control Proctor who was confused at the conflict but eventually the demon/watcher extended his hand to the hot water tankard with the honey. "

"Sip it slowly " Francesca said over her shoulder.

Cole/Proctor as many had done before did as he was told. He sipped the sweet water and Proctor's whole body was revolted, as much as Cole was revolted by the nausea and the shit taste in Proctor's mouth. It was hot and it was very sweet and its warmth started to feed in the mortal body of the demon Proctor.

To Cole who had lived happily mortal for a number of years it was relief just to be able to lift Proctor's head without vomiting as Proctor nervously sipped the hot sweet, far to sweet honey water. As it warmed and eased his body Cole was startled to feel not only Proctor's body but his soul came to a shuddering awakening when it was touched by the sweetness. Cole who had experienced the nightmare, the torture, of facing the most evil depths of his own nature and because of this had walked through a fire of his own making to cleanse his soul, gasped to himself as he realised in sipping the honey water Proctor had lit a small flicker that would become his own fire.

Proctor finally managed, forced by Cole, to sip the last of the honey water. Proctor ready to douse the small flame in his soul then reached for the wine tankard and before Cole could stop him and jumped as Francesca appeared in front of him, wiping her hands on her apron and eyeing him severely.

"You want more honey?" she asked, her voice daring him to refuse.

Proctor hesitated. He glared at the hated minion of Good and she shrugged and turned away. As Cole felt a wave of affection for Francesca's ability to control any situation, Proctor felt his heart leap and his soul shuddered. Then he conceded his fate and set himself on the path to his destiny. He made his choice. "Please" he replied harshly. "It is sweet " he whispered, "It is good." "And said nothing else because there was nothing else to say.

Frances reached for the tankard and doing so accidentally touched Cole/Proctor's hand. He should have pulled away but because she was familiar to Cole or because Proctor simply resisted it Francesca had to snap her hand back.

Proctor smiled satanically. "It was sweet. It was good " he repeated and Cole who at last felt he was not imminently in danger of humiliating himself in front of Francesca could only agree.

Francesca suddenly laughed and Cole who knew the laugh well, felt himself smile at the familiarity of that golden laugh but he was stunned by the jump in Proctor's soul as he heard it for the first time; " It is a useful thing to know " she said "when you're tavern keeper's wife. You are certain you want more " she asked again, making him truly choose.

"I want more," muttered Proctor demon that he was.

She took the tankard away and Cole realised suddenly that Francesca was the innkeeper's wife, that this was her marriage and the life she could never quite stop talking about but always said she did not want to discuss.

Francesca brought back another tankard and Cole/Proctor dug inside the streaming stinking clothes for coins.

"It's water and honey ": said Francesca "Such a small thing, a very small thing  and no cost to me."

Proctor put out a hand and caught Francesca's arm hand. She glared at him, only softening slightly when Proctor stammered, "You are good " he choked "It is a kindness. Not such a small thing."

And Cole knew that what Proctor knew. That this was the first time Proctor had ever known kindness, that it was the first time another being had touched his miserable mortal soul and that Proctor irrevocably loved her for it.

"Drink it," Francesca ordered Proctor. And she laughed the golden laugh that Cole knew and loved as many before him had known and loved. As did the demon/watcher whose soul was crossed with Cole's.

And in truth if Cole had not once experienced himself the incredible intensity and passion of that moment of recognising what it was to love another creature beyond any caring of his own needs, the emotion of the moment would have frightened him back to hell. As it had when in a 17th century Virginian village, Phoebe had breathed his name.