The Life and Times

Part 3: Rhymes and Reasons

Chapter 33

"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

If Proctor had had any understanding where the choice he had just made could take him, he may have left Francesca then and there but watcher that Proctor was he needed to see her life for himself, understand her, observe her.

Almost an hour later with the wine tankard untouched and another of honey and water still half full Cole/Proctor was still sitting at the table near the fire but he was slightly less huddled and the cold was only in his body not his bones, and he could breath without he nausea racking him.

He watched a few customers came in to be served with a cheerful familiarity by Francesca. The customers addressed her as Signora Rinaldi, so Cole/Proctor had to assume somewhere there was a Signor Rinaldi.

About 15 minutes after the rain ended, while the young man Franco eyed him with some concern, and Francesca ignored him a young woman entered the tavern. She was dressed in a dark coloured dress and apron and the matron's bonnet of a respectable married woman. She carried a big rush basket in one hand, a baby in the other and a small boy of Cole guessed about 3 and Proctor who knew the times recognised as about 4, and a little girl of maybe six followed carrying another rush basket.

Proctor the watcher who saw more than Cole, noticed the dress had considerable darning which indicated her husband was not so well off he could buy his wife a new dress, noticed that the little girl had a slight limp and the young woman had a shake in her left side and a fragile texture to her skin that was not healthy and did not augur well. He also noticed that the young woman and both children had the slight dusting of flour on their clothes and some bread in the basket suggested her husband was a baker.

The young woman went over to the bar and put the rush basket on it and Francesca came out from the kitchen, sleeves rolled back obviously working. She shook her head at the basket with a number of loaves of bread in it.

"I was coming to get it " she said to the young woman " You didn't have to bring it in the rain. I can walk a f short distance you know."

The young woman went to Francesca and caught her in a hug with a familiarity and confidence that Cole and surprisingly Proctor could only admire and…envy. Francesca returned the hug and then caught each one of the children kissing them with uninhibited affection.

"It stopped raining and I needed to walk " the young woman smiled " anyway mamma, just because you can do things, quite capably does not mean that you should always. Allow us the pleasure to help you mamma. It's a small thing we can do."

Cole missed but Proctor the watcher saw the expression of unconditional love and affection on Francesca's twisted face, and the fear that replaced it for a second as she observed the young woman's fragility. As the young woman smiled, Francesca with an effort buried her concern and smiled back affectionately.

Francesca reached for the baby and took it to rock in her arms until the little girl pulled hard on her sleeve calling "Nonna"

Francesca gave the baby back to its mother and then laughed her golden laugh as the boy and little girl demanded a treat. She reached under the bar and produced some sweet treat that the children gobbled and then both also dug under the bar and the boy emerged with some sort of leather ball that he sat on the floor and started to throw it against a marked corner of the wall and catch it, and the little girl also pulled a raggedy doll from the same place and proceeded to rock it and talk to it.

The young woman and Francesca sat at a table. Francesca taking the baby and they drank something, Cole had no idea what respectable women drank in Firenze tavern in 1483. As Francesca held the baby and watched the children playing she had an expression of such indulgence that Cole had to laugh and Proctor jumped at the laughter, and then Proctor watching the light in Francesca's eyes suddenly wondered why he had thought the minion of good ugly. Then he bitterly picked up the tankard of wine, sipped it and shuddered and pushed it way.

Cole/Proctor with their demonic hearing listened to the conversation.

The young woman said she was a little tired and Francesca's face darkened with concern.

Then the young woman launched into a long complaint "I saw Gina in the piazza by the church " she said primly "Mamma you should make her stay here and help you, not gossip with her friends down there and " continued the young woman outraged. "Those two sons of tailor Pieto were lounging around watching her. I do not like my sister being watched….that way " She uttered with all the horror of a respectable married woman. "Gina is so wild. You can never trust what she might do " she added.

Francesca laughed and this time Proctor almost smiled satanically, bemused, amused. "I trust her or I do not " said Francesca " and if I cannot we can always find a friendly priest for the wedding. It would not be the first time in this family "

"Mamma" said the young woman horrified  "Maria was…" said the young woman awkwardly.

"In heat " said Francesca the affection in her voice softening the words.

"In love" said the young woman with the fervour of youth.

"In lust " sighed Francesca.

The young woman suddenly giggled. " Where's poppa?" she asked looking around.

"Sleeping" said Francesca with no judgement in her voice. She cuddled the baby.

The girl swallowed "Tonio told me poppa was enjoying himself last night. Very happy with the customers."

"Yes" said Francesca quietly.

"Did you make a profit on the night?" the girl asked.

"We managed to...just " replied Francesca her crooked face falling into a gentle and forgiving smile.

The young woman's lips pursed.

"He's a good man, Angelina, a kind man." Francesca explained cuddling the baby again.

"He drinks to much," said the young woman Angelina severely.

"A good man " claimed Francesca holding the baby close.

"A weak one," insisted Angelina with the harsh judgment of youth." I love him " she said " he's my father but "she caught Francesca's hand "What would we have done without you? Five daughters and poppa drinking the profits and our dowries. What would we have done if you had not come along? Or Poppa had married again, to someone-else, some-one who would not love us."

"It's been my pleasure" Francesca answered softly, her eyes twinkling and gentle with affection for the young woman. She hesitated, then smiled her face alight and Proctor as Cole had before him and would ahead of him, thought it one of the most beautiful he had seen.

"And as for what you would do without me. It's I who should ask that question. I was lost. I was lonely " she said "I was caught in a life that was… I had lost Francesca in that life " she explained " I think " she said " I have found her because of you." she squeezed the young woman's hand. "So it is I who should thank you. "

"Thank us?. What for? Loving you " said Angelina with mock scorn "How could we not?" and Proctor very slowly unobserved by the girl raised his tankard to her.

Francesca and the young woman talked for about an hour while the children alternately played and ran to Nonna to tell her something or demand treats, which were always indulged.  To Cole's amusement and Proctor started to notice his amusement and indulge his own affection.

Finally the girl left, she and the children sent on their way with affectionate and uninhibited hugs. Francesca resumed her duties, serving some customers, frowning at Cole/Proctor's miserable despicable form and asked if he wanted anything.

" Food?" she suggested pointedly and for a reason to stay he nodded and she asked him, almost daring him to say yes if he wanted more wine.

"No " he said "I do not need it."

She asked about the water and honey and Proctor crossed a line. He shook his head " It is good," he said "it helped it but it is sufficient. I have had as much as I desire."

She brought him small amount of broth and some of the fresh bread and left him. The broth nauseated him but he ate the bread.

A little later Proctor if not Cole was finally able to stomach some of the broth and was sipping on it when Cole felt the spirit winds shift and for a second hoped he was about to part company with Proctor and then to his surprise he saw a man enter the tavern and it was Arturo.

Proctor reacting a little to Cole's response, and some to his own observation of Arturo's confidence and assuredness, hunched down in his chair. Arturo glanced around the room, focusing a little on all the customers and longer on Proctor's miserable figure. He undoubtedly recognised the minion of evil and Cole was very thankful that Guardians could resist the temptation to smite evil on sight.

Arturo wore the clothing of a prosperous landowner. Long woollen shirt and vest under a leather jacket, which reached the long boots of a horseman. His hair was short as was the fashion of the time and he was pulling gloves off.

Francesca was scrubbing the bar while the young man Franco served customers. She looked up almost immediately as she saw Arturo and her expression was the most unwelcoming and irritated that Cole had ever seen on her face.

She came over and put her hands on her hips "What do you want? she demanded far from happy to see him.

"To talk to you," Arturo told her clearly unhappy at her lack of enthusiasm..

She waved him toward a table furthest from the fire and the customers, and sat down hands primly crossed and an expression on her face that would have intimidated the demon/guardian if he was not so annoyed.

Arturo did not sit. He stood glaring down at Francesca who met his glare with a sigh. "This is ridiculous" Arturo told her eventually.

"Do you know in the odd moment I have to myself" Francesca replied calmly "I once countered how many times you have said his to me in the last 12 years "

"You know how to stop me saying it " drawled Arturo.

"I  have responsibilities here which you know about." Francesca told Arturo. "So do not come here and ask what I can only deny you "

Proctor for second wondered if this man was a lover before he suddenly understood what Cole was feeling and recognised a great and dangerous magic, one outside the magic and the worlds he knew. Cole who had never seen Francesca show anything but support for Arturo watched fascinated as they battled.

"You have other responsibilities, far greater and more important responsibilities in the world of magic" Arturo told her only just refraining from thumping the table.

"No I have duties in the world of magic" Francesca answered slowly "And I have family in this one."

"Francesca what are you looking for" Arturo demanded.

"What I have found here, " she answered with a small smile.

Arturo stepped back, turned away then he turned back and as Francesca watched him her hands still folded, the matron's bonnet adding to her primness. He sighed with irritation and sat at the chair opposite her.

"You need to return," Arturo ordered her arrogantly.

"I do not " said Francesca in a blunt unintimidated voice..

"I find Chandra's wisdom…" he said slowly, less arrogantly.

"Unpalatable " Francesca interrupted quietly and he winced.

"I find her wisdom…… limited " he said as Francesca smiled. "I understand she is a great power, but she lacks…imagination and. comprehension of the Greater Magic," he picked his words. " She is a whitelighter but she lacks your ability to see beyond your own calling. " he added trying to keep the anger out of his voice. "You are not as your colleagues. You have a special calling they do not share."

"I have a special calling here" Francesca answered, not yielding Arturo anything.

"What calling " he sneered and then with an effort changed his voice to soften it. "Playing wife and servant and. guardian to a drunken tavern keeper and his daughters. Don't tell me the sex is so wonderful it makes everything else worth it."

"Stop it Arturo " Francesca said quietly half standing.

To Cole's amusement, Arturo flushed realising he had gone to far.

"Giovanni is, I grant not a strong man," said Francesca in a tone that Cole at least knew not to argue with "but he is a kind one." She stood up "Giovanni gave me a home when I was lost and a hearth and warmth and affection. "Francesca told Arturo "He gives me respect, he thanks me and he is grateful for what I do for him. That is no small thing my friend" she told him, her voice gentle.

"So it is because a drunken innkeeper says thank you, desert your calling," Arturo sneered the demon he used to be taking over.

 Francesca looked down at him, her expression severe "It is more than has been offered by creatures who think themselves greater or more worthy" she answered and Arturo, Cole/Proctor observed, flushed again.

Losing the argument, Arturo resorted to attack "You hold it against me " he said "You resent I told you I found your wisdom unpalatable. You resent I chose to not accept it. I was right " he added arrogantly.

"I do resent that, somewhat " Francesca agreed and for the first time showed a little agitation. Arturo smiled smugly "But" she added firmly "You were also wrong, as I was also wrong. As I was also right " she added.

 "Francesca" Arturo began to speak again.

"I did not leave Arturo because you refused your whitelighter's wisdom," Francesca interrupted "You are not the first to do it and undoubtedly not the last. I left because when you asked me, the only wisdom I could offer you, was your whitelighter's wisdom and none of Francesca's. I left because I did not know what Francesca's wisdom was."

"You calling is beyond your own personal desires" he said realising she was not going to concede.

"Then it is just as well I left because." She smiles "If I cannot find Francesca, I can only offer the wisdom of a whitelighter and all you would have is a whitelighter. You have Chandra " she added.

"Chandra cannot manage Durand and he cannot stand her allegiance to the nature of good." Arturo bit out.

"That thank god, is Chandra's problem:" said Francesca firmly, refusing to give him anything.

"That is selfish" Arturo snarled.

"Then god help me I need to be selfish in order to be what I must be," said Francesca told him wiping her hands on her apron.

Arturo pressed his lips together. "You are needed." he said.

"Am I wanted? " she asked "My family want me. They love me. Do you love me Arturo?"

He stopped and then sighed "Yes " he said.

"They love me for who I am " Francesca told him " Its makes no difference for the…way I look. They come to me and talk to me and laugh with me."

"They should, you do everything for them." Arturo snapped.

"It is my pleasure" Francesca replied smiling "and they are grateful. They say thank you. I need as any-one to be loved Arturo" she explained quietly "It's a small thing I know but as much as any-one I need…it"

"You think your charges do not love you." Arturo demanded.

"As you do," Francesca answered "I know, it is in the Great Plan. But it is not a love that fills the long hours between the battles, that shares affection and companionship and comforts you in the night and in time of doubt. It is a higher love and a very lonely one.," she told Arturo. She put her hands on her hips " I have had my fill of higher callings and higher love. It is not a love that… it is not what I have here." she said wiping her hands on the apron again.

H e stood up lifted his hands and dropped them" You are in danger, " he said playing his final card "there is much in this realm to harm you."

"There is much to harm me anywhere. I have my magic and my own wisdom. "Francesca replied and smiled at the contradiction.

"The sniffers have been round" Arturo told her noticing the smile "And they can smell you as any other whitelighter."

"I know " Francesca answered.

"If they call a darklighter you are at risk, " he said.

"I have my on powers against darklighters," she answered.

"You re in danger if you are distracted by children and tavern keeper" Arturo pushed.

"Well that is as always " she answered .

"There is something not good. Close by," "Arturo told her with a glance at the huddled figure of Cole/Proctor.

"Oh that" Francesca answered unconcerned "Just a drunken watcher" she said "Another doomed minion. It has no evil that threatens me " she flicking her head toward him laughing.

And as Proctor huddled at his foolishness in handing his fate to a minion of Good who had no fear of a nameless low level demon, Cole wondered not for the first time what Francesca's magic really was.

"This is ridiculous," Arturo said helplessly as she watched him id "You re a whitelighter with a great calling."

"Here I have a calling " Francesca told him firmly "I am called Nonna, I am called mamma. I am called Francesca,.

"Francesca " said a voice behind them and both Arturo and Francesca jumped. They turned to see her husband Giovanni leaning a little uncomfortably on the bar. He was short rotund man, bare head and mostly bald. He had a cheerful ruddy face and somewhat large belly not entirely hidden by the wide vest he wore. His face was benign but at the moment showing signs of extreme discomfort and his eyes narrowed against he light coming from the window.

"Arturo" he said slowly "it has been some time. What do you want? " he added with just a hint of annoyance but bowed his head as Arturo regarded him arrogantly.

Francesca stood up and went to Giovanni. She kissed his cheek and he put a possessive, chubby arm around her and was not unhappy to see Arturo bristle.

"Giovanni" Arturo answered with an effort to be polite but Cole/Proctor could see his scorn.

"Sit I will get you food." Francesca told Giovanni.

"Just bread my dear" said the tavern keeper "And some honey and water."

"I will get it " she said "

"Thank you " Giovanni smiled to her even though the effort cost him dear and he moaned.

Cole/Proctor understood why Francesca knew about the ways to sooth a hangover.

"I am going," Arturo said shortly and Giovanni, not without relief, wished him a pointed farewell.

Francesca walked with Arturo to the door,.

"This is ridiculous" Arturo told her.

"Giovanni loves me" Francesca answered "and I am grateful."

"That is not love, " said Arturo who had known love.

"It is form of love " Francesca replied "He is kind man, kinder than many who think they are better."

"You do not know love," Arturo told her " It is not … about gratitude."

"I am no heroine, it is love enough for me " said Francesca glancing back to Giovanni with a gentle smile in her eyes.

Cole/Proctor watching only just resisted a demonic desire to smit the tavern keeper.

 "What I have is 'good' Arturo. Whatever happens" Francesca "I have been loved Arturo," she added. "which was more than I had before I came here."

Arturo left. Cole/Proctor who it appeared was not going to be vanquished that day, felt himself being called from below. He stood and was surprised his legs supported him. He watched Francesca bring sweet water to her husband and Cole pushed down a hint annoyance he felt and Proctor did not try to quash a demonic rush of jealousy for the rotund little tavern keeper. Nor did he fight, demon that he was, a touch of hatred for the man, because he knew the whitelighter, bastion of Good, Francesca could never feel any affection for a demon/watcher barely existing on the edge of the upper hierarchies, no matter how much he loved her or craved her attention or company.

She had begun scrubbing tables for the long day ahead when Cole/Proctor shuffled over to pay her for the food.

"Good day " she said as he left, only just glancing up. She stopped scrubbing "Find somewhere to bath "she suggested not unkindly. " You will feel good, clean afterward" she added.

"It will take more than a bath to make me feel either" answered Proctor " but you have…helped me" he added hoarsely. "Thank you."

"My pleasure " Francesca answered with half smile that he knew indicated her amusement at a demon saying thank you. "I would do it for any-one who needed shelter from the rain, though. It costs me nothing."

Proctor had stretched out his hand, but withdrew it and slowly, shuffled his way into the streets of Florence, Firenze where the stone paths were still wet and the sun reflected the light on the pavement. He walked more confidently a short way toward the river and for some minutes stood watching the boats on it and the citizens of Firenze go about their day.

Proctor had entered the tavern, broken and intending to die and he left it irrevocably in love and determined to live no matter what the cost, to guard her and protect her and care for her. He smiled cynically. The truth was she did not need him or any other creature to care for her. She had her own magic and it was powerful magic and it was good magic. With a little vigilance and reasonable precaution, she could walk through her life, unintimidated, uncontrolled by any creature known to Proctor. But it was a small thing he could do that just sometimes, even though she could protect herself she would not have to.

He felt the call to the underworld. He would come back he knew, hide as watcher's hide, observe her for the pleasure of knowing she was part of the world he would live in, and he would live, for the pleasure of knowing she lived in is word, even though she would never even remember  a small act of kindness to a nameless, faceless creature, that cost her nothing.

He felt the call to the underworld, the call from his masters who would ask what he knew ,what he had seen of the whitelighter in Firenze in a cold February in 1483.  And he would lie for he, he would deny her to them, give her something to preserve her small happy family life for as long as she could.

So it was s a small thing he could do…. ease her burden. That she was unaware he made her burden lighter or even cared was irrelevant. He loved her and it was small thing he could do for her.

The spirit winds called and Cole felt himself pulled away from Proctor the demon/watcher who on a cold wet day in Firenze tried to end his misery at the hands of whitelighter and came away with a destiny.

Cole to his huge relief found himself safely back in his own bed, which smelled of fresh lemon scented sheets and Phoebe. The room a had a crisp cold feeling from the window he insisted they left open and he could hear his son breathing evenly snuggled in his cot in his nursery corner.

Cole put his hand out and ran his finger down Phoebe's face, she smiled in her sleep whimpered and half turned to him.

"Love has a lot to answer for " he told both Phoebe and his son, and lay back on the pillow with a contented sigh.


The next morning Phoebe who had an interview set up with a reporter from a women's magazine owned by the Bay Mirror, went to work promising not to let her cell phone out of sight. Piper stayed home to scry for warlock's and Leo stayed with her to child-mind. Paige went to Jade's, taking the crystal that Arturo had given them with her and spent the time chatting about magic.

They had a plan to get Willem; they had the means. All they needed was Willem.

"He just better come?" they told each other.

"All he has to do is find out Phoebe is in a situation where he thinks Belthezor will want to protect her and we have him." Piper insisted.

"You think Willem or some warlock borrowing the memory wiping magic will be in Jade's house." Paige asked for the tenth time.

"Well something was there to find out we know how to get Willem" said Piper. "we can only hope."

The Charmed Ones had had a quiet and intense conversation about how they were going to explain the trap to the whitelighters, Rodik and Clarissa ,and had unanimously decided that the only reasonable thing they could do was lie.

Rodik had been on some of his worst behaviour that morning, magnified by the fact that all three witches were counting the minutes until Willem was defeated and Rodik would be gone. No amount of telling Phoebe she was a whore, Piper she was a bad mother or Paige she was a useless witch had any effect. They simply ignored him. He had tried starting up on Cole, telling him he was not part of the family but Cole was so lost in thought over his exchange with Proctor he did not even notice, let alone respond to Rodik's taunts. And Rodik had stalked up stairs to meditate vowing they would all suffer for their evilness.

Piper scryed on the map of San Francisco and  she let Melinda scry on the realm map which helped and frustrated Piper .

"Purple" Melinda kept calling indicating she was finding Willem in the realm map, when Piper could not.

"Clever, Melinda " said Piper caught between concern for the level of Melinda's powers and annoyance Willem wasn't surfacing. She finally located some warlock activity near Jade's house and called Paige.

Paige and Jade had spent the morning having a cosy chat about magic, and families and the costs and the rewards and surreptitiously watching the crystal, which fascinated Jade.

"Its great" Paige told Jade "to talk about magic like its away of life, a normal way of life, not some…Holy Grail, mystic family calling ,…You know what I mean."

"I've got... had four aunts " said Jade "I know what you mean" and she flicked her head toward the crystal flashing purple, just as the phone rang.

"Purple alert " said Piper.

"I know " said Paige " Big cheese?"

"No bite size variety" said Piper "Big cheese is still safe. But go for it."

"Kay " said Paige taking a deep breath and loosening her shoulders for the role, "What do you mean Phoebe has gone after the rat demon's  alone. Hell I don't care how many innocents they are dragging down with their evil finances. She's an idiot to go alone. Oh she'd going to the court house " she said in a different tone while Jade admired her acting. 'Not to worry then."

Paige nodded, had to struggle to keep the act up, as Piper recited a nursery rhyme for something to say." I know there are always demons hanging around there to pick up souls. Okay, okay " she said "Piper we'll get there but I think Phoebe can handle it alone, and anyway Cole's in court all day, he won't let anything happen to her. Piper he's Belthezor for god's sake. He's one of the most powerful demons around, he'll look after her. Okay we'll come," she said.

Paige turned to Jade and for dramatic effect told Jade" I don't know why Phoebe has to decide to go demon hunting right in the middle of all this warlock problem."

"Business as usual " said Jade somewhat stiffly but trying hard. "Your sister is very Impulsive," she said " and trying to prove herself because everyone keeps telling her she isn't strong enough to take on this Willem." She stopped and glanced at Paige and then the crystal, lying unobtrusively next to Paige's purse.

"No more purple" Jade said her voice shivering with anticipation of the fight ahead.

A few minutes later a big grin came across Piper's face as Melinda still swinging the crystal over the realm map said in a disappointed voice said " No more purple mommy"."

"Clever Melinda " she said. " We have to put that map away honey." " she said and yelled to Leo.

"You do realise Cole's going to kill you? " Leo remarked apprehensively.

"Just be pissy as hell, " Piper told him. She threw her arms around his neck. "Rodik will be gone tonight " she whispered.

"Cole can be pissy" sighed Leo.

Piper called Phoebe "Bombs away " she said and then she called Clarissa who said she had the motor running in anticipation.

Phoebe who was not enjoying the grilling she was getting from Elise about what she said in the magazine interview, put her phone in her pocket." Family emergency. Gotta go. In my contract that I can go," she added as Elise started to say something.

"Maybe you could write a column about how rude it is ti answer cell phones in the middle of meetings" Elise snarled after her, "If you are still round to write columns."

But Phoebe was too excited by the prospect of getting rid of Rodik to pay attention.

Piper called the whitelighters and scryed again and was delighted to see huge amount of warlock activity suddenly around the courthouse.

"Bombs away " she said happily to Leo as both whitelighters arrived. Piper had seriously considered not taking Rodik along but in the end bowed to Not-Casper being right. If it was at all possible they owed it to the witches who had been lost to retrieve the powers. If it could be done safely.