The Life and Times

Part 4: The truth will set them free. More or less.

Chapter 36

"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

There is a history in all men's lives
Figuring the nature of the times deceas'd
The which observ'd, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, which in their seeds
And weak beginnings lie in treasured.

(William Shakespeare.2 Henry IV III.i. 80-85).

Leo stepped out of the shower and glanced at his somewhat misty form in the steamed over mirror. The symbolism of the mist and the irony of an immortal spirit being taking showers struck him. Then he sighed and turned away, thought about shaving and decided magic could take care of the problem. He did clean his teeth and mused vaguely on the half mortal life he lived as a husband and father, and how far he had come from his naïve days as a whitelighter and minion of the Elders. He decided that reliving his past was no more useful than contemplating the fuzzy symbolism of misty images in the mirror so he wrapped a towel around himself and opened the bathroom door.

Everything was suspiciously quiet after the dramas of Rodik's return that night. No raised voices anywhere. Even whitelighter hearing could only catch a soft whisper from the girls up in the attic where they said they were warlock hunting but Leo guessed probably just sister-talking. Leo had lived with them for a long time.

From the guest room, half strangled snores with a characteristic wheeze indicated Rodik was mediating on the woes of his night. Leo shook his head. The somewhat vindictive and non angelic put down with which the whitelighter Angela had dismissed Rodik's claim that Cole was Belthezor bothered him. Not as much as it had bothered Rodik who had launched into a string of abuse. Leo was not to sure which one looked more like they were going to kill Rodik. Cole standing there with his arms full of Disney toys or the Elder Alanna whose presence had encouraged Rodik to spit out his venom.

He touched the door gently and realised it was locked .Leo bet himself Rodik had also jammed a chair against it, although if he really believed Cole was the demon of the century Belthezor, how he thought that would protect him left Leo bemused.

Leo opened Melinda's door but as she was sleeping soundly, having missed most of the night's dramas, he only stayed a minute, and then crossed to Cole and Phoebe's room. The Disney toys Cole and Phoebe had bought for the children during their day at Disneyland to celebrate Jade's memory were thrown on the bed and the Donald Duck had fallen out of the bag.

Leo half smiled. He agreed with Cole. It looked like Wyatt although he hadn't quite been brave enough to confess that to Piper. In the middle of all the drama Piper had seen the toy and asked Phoebe and Cole why they bought it. In the heat of the moment Phoebe told the truth and Piper had explained to Cole precisely what she thought of him for seeing a resemblance.

Other than the toys everything was normal. The room was untidy from where Cole had dumped the bags, and Patsy was asleep on his tummy. No matter how much Piper insisted that Cole and Phoebe never put him down to sleep on his tummy, Patsy did what Patsy wanted to do and turned. His father's son. And his mother's. Leo shook his head, smiling a little as he looked at the real consequence of the love story of the demon of the century and one of the most powerful witches of her time. He turned away and finally went to his and Piper's room.

In his room he glanced at the bed with a little more longing than a non mortal whose magical calling was to the higher plains should have had but he knew all after the strains of the day all that was going to happen there tonight was sleep. And that wouldn't happen until the girls had discussed the whole long drama in minute detail. It could be hours before Piper finally agreed to go to bed. He sighed and found a pair of jeans. He had a feeling long as this day had been it was going to be longer.

Leo pulled on his T shirt and then with it half over his head he jumped mightily, as he heard the sound of orbs. As he struggled to pull the T shirt down he met the whitelighter Angela's concerned and tired eyes.

She swallowed hard as he asked quietly "What can I do for you?"

"You really aren't surprised I came back are you?" she asked quietly. "In the circumstances."

"No" said Leo, trying to keep the tension from his voice. "Not in the circumstances."

"Where is your …family?" she asked wandering round the room. Angela picked up a couple of items on Piper's dresser and put them down. She turned to face Leo "Your brother-in-law?" she asked.

Leo met her eyes. "Girls are in the attic, checking on warlocks," Angela inclined her head, her expression derisive.

"Talking" said Leo, and then added defensively "They have a lot to talk about. Magic... Rodik cost a friend and …" he stopped "Cole called away, work" he said.

"The mortal works odd hours" Angela said slowly and Leo hissed his breath. Angela was silent for a while wandering around the room, then she turned to Leo" I can't manage Rodik, Leo" Angela said " and I am going to tell the Elders I can't." she added her expression distraught. "If I had been able to manage Rodik better...Jade would be alive now."

"You don't know that" Leo said. "Jade knew what she was doing and even told the girls she thought if Rodik pushed they would go into protect the little bastard. Her words."

"Her whitelighter Caleb is terribly upset," Angela told him. "You know what it's like Leo to lose a charge."

"I know," said Leo quietly "You wonder all the time, what you could have done differently."

"I know " said Angel "And Caleb has kept out of this, well because he hasn't had a good relation with the Charmed Ones and Kitchener for all they fuss, does seem okay with them: And Caleb trusted me with his charge and I lost her."

"You didn't lose her" Leo said "And in the heat of the battle there are always so many what ifs and it's easy to say it afterward. You should have done something, or advised better. We have a saying in our family nearly doesn't count. I think 'what if' doesn't count." He reached over to touch her hand. "We do what we can do and sometimes no matter what we do, we lose charges."

"I've heard all this before "Angela said "It doesn't help."

Leo met her pained eyes "It's not meant to help "he said" it's meant to explain. Witches die; soldiers die. It's the natural order. You fight, putting your life on the line. Some lose. And some things we can't change. I remember when my sister in law Prue was killed. You know there were so many what ifs. Time lines changed and do you know she was lost in both and I wonder if she was not always going to be lost."

"When did you get to be so wise?" Angela asked. "You used not see things so….wisely."

"Bitter experience." Leo answered truthfully "Not something I would wish on any-one else."

"Sometimes can't avoid it" said Angela. "Can't always see how you gain wisdom from it. Elders don't want you to be wise. They want you do as you're told."

She wandered around the room. "I heard stories when your sister in law was lost. There were whispers. Something about the greater calling and the misuse of witchcraft for hurting innocents" Angela said softly. "It was whispered the Ogres got her."

"No Prue… got herself, the mortals, the innocents, they pissed her off. She reacted badly." Leo explained "Well got to say it didn't take much to piss Prue off. And you know there is no rule that said innocents have to be likable."

"Your wisdom may be true but I don't like it Leo" Angela told him with a tremulous smile around her mouth that did not reach her eyes. "So no Ogres, no mythical guardians to keep us from turning evil, exterminate those who do."

"I always thought the Ogres were about making sure good was not subverted to evil," Leo mumbled not quite meeting Angela's eyes.

She wandered around the room again, picking up a wedding photo of Leo and Piper taken at the belated wedding supper. Leo was hugging Piper and Victor the girl's father had his arms around Prue. Cole and Phoebe were close behind Piper and Leo, Cole's hand half out, supporting Leo. That photo had been hidden for quite a number of years, it was only a month or two before Wyatt's birth that Piper had brought it out and put it on the dresser.

"You get on okay with your brother–in–law" she asked. "It's an odd arrangement isn't it? Living with your wife's sisters. Well magically that makes sense but he's just some-one who married your wife's sister. And it doesn't seem to me that you two have much in common."

"I guess you're right in way. We're almost the opposite ends of everything, and it isn't like either of us had a choice, except maybe divorce" Leo said uncomfortably "We've had our difference. But you know, we've shared some moments good and bad. You know …seen the best and worst of each other. Sort of got used to it," he said. "Cole came from a bad place and made his way out. Work" Leo said hastily as Angela inclined her head, "Family. I respect him for it and you know he knows what I am and I know he respects me."

"So you're best buddies" she asked with almost sarcasm."

"I wouldn't say that." said Leo. "Cole's…We're family."

"Your family are important to you aren't they Leo?" Angela asked putting down the photo and spinning to face him. "Do they mean enough for you to betray your calling?"

"I found some years ago that it was by being loyal to my family that I could be loyal to my calling and to myself," Leo answered not taking his eyes off her. "It was putting my calling ahead of my family that got me into....that caused a problem."

"Which is why you are no longer a whitelighter" Angela commented. "I don't have any family" she added.

Leo half nodded then swallowed looked away and looked back. "Thank you for tonight" he said, "for looking after my family."

Angela inclined her head again "Are you thanking me for pointing out to Kitchener and Alanna that Rodik had already accused another friend of Phoebe's of being Belthezor. Or thanking me for asking if he had the slightest idea of what he was talking about. Or thanking me for pointing out that Rodik hates Phoebe and would do anything to discredit her."

"Yes" Leo said carefully.

"Ah well that is the truth isn't it" Angela said half wringing her hands. "Because the truth is Rodik has picked up on powers magnified in the nexus, and has absolutely no understanding about what is happening. So to make himself important he jumps in accusing without thinking, without understanding, calling Phoebe names, branding any-one in range with his own misunderstanding."

"Yes" Leo agreed carefully.

"Which if he was right could have had very unfortunate consequences" she smiled without reaching her eyes. "If he was right about Phoebe's husband being the evil demon Belthezor, then we would have all been smote, because any evil demon when it comes to self-survival would simply smite any creature in its way. And if the evil demon Belthezor is as powerful as legend says, there was nothing any of us could have done to stop him. Rodik is an idiot" she added wandering around the room. She stopped near Arturo's "crystal which, because neither Leo nor Angela were using magic was a clear crystal colour. Leo inwardly winced nervously but hid it.

"Its not as if an evil creature is capable of a selfless act or it wouldn't be evil would it?" Angela pressed.

"No" said Leo" A selfless act would be good, so that a creature that can be good cannot be evil. Even if it can also do very bad things."

"And" pushed Angela "Some very good creatures are capable of some very bad things if they are pressured enough."

"We have to know how to guide charges who have been possessed," said Leo in a neutral voice.

"Even if it's plain anger" Angela continued. "Pretty remarkable creature that had the power to kill and didn't no matter how they were tempted. Didn't Phoebe and Piper try to kill Rodik?"

"Yes" said Leo carefully.

"In fact" said Angela picking up the crystal as Leo caught his breath "It's a blessing that given how annoyed Phoebe's husband was at Rodik calling Phoebe a whore once to often, he really isn't an evil demon. Demons aren't famous for resisting temptation to use their powers.

"No" said Leo carefully.

"Such a mortal response," Angela said "Not demonic at all. Not evil at all. Just pissed." she added watching Leo's reaction carefully. "In fact" she said, "I think I could forgive Phoebe's husband a great deal for the satisfaction I got from that. Punching Rodik's light out twice in three days has to endear any-one to me."

"The girls are a bit annoyed you fixed Rodik's broken jaw" said Leo slowly.

"Well I didn't 'fix it completely so it's going to ache for some time" she smiled wryly "That crack was one of the more pleasant noises I have heard in a long time. Phoebe's husband has style "she added "The calm way he asked her to hold the Disney toys and then stepped into the punch." Angela smiled at the memory. "It was satisfying. I guess I'm not really an angel any more. I enjoyed it too much. ."

"We're also human" Leo said carefully "Or we were. And Rodik has tried the conviction of many an adherent to the cause of good." He said primly

"Yeah I know. They keep trying to kill him. "Angela answered as she held the crystal. "Why did you just thank me Leo?" she asked suddenly "Because after all I was only doing my duty. Rodik just doesn't understand. There is no need to thank me for that. Only reason to thank me is if I did something above my duty. Like protect a member of your family that the Elders would not think should be protected."

Leo met her eyes but could not say anything.

"You asked me once before to trust you" she said.

"Yes" said Leo. "I am not lying to you when I said there was greater magic than the Elders understand."

"Yes" she said. "I know" she suddenly threw her hand in the air and orbs flew and the crystal flashed bright white and blue core.

"It tells about magic, who is magical" Angela stated. She wasn't asking.

Leo s sucked his breath trying to find words that did not come.

"What colour would this show if your brother in law came in?" Angela asked. "He is the demon Belthezor" she stated.

"Cole's not evil" Leo said urgently.

"So you think we would be having this conversation if I thought he was the evil demon Belthezor" bit out Angela fervently. "They want to make it complicated, to fit the stories. Phoebe fell in love passionately, irrevocably with a demon and then, suddenly she realised her error and married a mortal. A mortal who understood about being taken over by evil, who understood her fixation with a demon, who just conveniently was waiting in the wings, who damnit even understands her having a fling with her brother in law, her magic brother in law just in case an alibi was needed for why she gave birth to a magic… male child."

"Have you seen any evidence Patsy is magic?" demanded Leo.

"I wouldn't would I?" said Angela derisively.

"Cole always loved Phoebe" Leo half whispered.

"Shut up Leo" said Angela, "I was a resistance fighter in France during that war. I've been a whitelighter as long as you. Mortals, even good mortals would have to be saints to accept that. Your brother in law isn't a saint or he wouldn't have punched Rodik out...twice."

"Angela" said Leo.

"Don't try and lie to me with half truths." Angela said "Its crock. It's all that simple. Phoebe fell passionately and irrevocably in love with the demon Belthezor and she is passionately and irrevocably in love with her husband. So he must be the demon Belthezor. And you all lied about vanquishing him." she accused.

"They vanquished him" Leo answered knowing there was nowhere to go but truth. "He um … reconstituted."

"What colour would the crystal be if your brother-in-law came in?" Angela repeated quietly.

"Deep dark red" answered Leo truthfully. "How did you know about the crystal?" he demanded.

"Not black?" Angela asked "Not demonic black."

Leo shook his head.

"Angela laughed cynically "But the Elders wouldn't want to ever believe a demon could change. They need a clear enemy; they do not want... doubts."

"Evil is evil so they are right to disbelieve it" said Leo. "And it doesn't happen often, and it's far greater than Elders. What do we do now?" he asked.

"I" Angela turned around "I have to tell you something Leo" she said "And them I'll ask a couple of question and I would be …beholden to you" if you answer truthfully because to me, it means some very hard choices, whether I trust ever again the Elders, whether I continue or choose … something else."

Leo took a deep breath "If I can" he said.

Angela nodded "It's all easier if its simple" she said "Good people support this demon so they're either stupid or he's not evil. He hasn't killed Rodik, not to stop insulting some-one he loves, not to stop him hurting people he loves, or innocents. He hasn't killed him and even good people want to kill Rodik, so if he isn't in league with Rodik. He's beyond temptation because god knows all the rest of us have been tempted."

"He's not beyond temptation" Leo explained "he just…can resist. It. "He…Cole 's. just damned annoying," he said helplessly.

"The crystal would be the same colour deep dark red if your family friend, Arturo was here. That was Rodik's first claim to recognise great power." Angela asked. "It's also simpler to believe Rodik isn't lying."

"Yes" said Leo.

"I know what the crystal is, Leo" she said "I came to tell you. Some whitelighters have reported some strange hallucinations lately. I've been hallucinating Leo" she said. "And you know why."

"Yes" said Leo.

She wrung her hands. "The family friend. I know you see. I had this dizzy spell and I wasn't me. I felt that almost like I was caught in a small tornado from the spirit winds and when I looked up I wasn't me. I and I was sitting in Delphi talking wisdom to a very wise and frightening creature. Your family friend. He looked mortal and yet he …frightened me, or awed me which is not quite the same as frightened" Angela told Leo. "This family friend who talked of the glory of what I was called to be, of whitelighters. Only it was in a cynical almost…bastard way. If he had been respectful it wouldn't have affected me but he wasn't. Not like the Elders talk about our calling as a holy grail. It was as if... he was apart, not even … he saw us.. from the outside. It was.. demonic and he made me very.. I wanted to be what he told you we were." Angela said "Only I'm not."

"Oh" said Leo.

"He gave you the crystal" Angela said as Leo nodded once, his expression tight. So I wasn't dreaming or hallucinating, because there it is." she insisted.

Leo shook his head, trying to find a way to tell her about greater magic without destroying her any more than Rodik had done. "I think" he said carefully, "That in what we do daily, dealing with pissy frightened and irritating charges, we find it hard to step back and see ourselves as others see us. Some people call us angels. I know very little but I know... Arturo is some-one who knows the difference between the evil and an angel. Believe him." Leo pleaded.

Angela shrugged wanting to believe but afraid to take the step "after he gave you the crystal the winds shifted and suddenly, I was… you were watching a big... some-one similar to the... creature at Delphi, incredibly powerful but.. frightening. Awesome in a different way. He was bald, that looked like the walking dead" Angela told Leo "And the dragons, he made them listen to him, by... their awe of him I think." He wasn't very nice but he was right "Angela said" I wish I could be like that. Brave enough not to care about being nice or hurting. To know what is right and not let Rodik or any-one else do what is so wrong.

"It's not always as simple" Leo said "as right and wrong."

"Isn't it" said Angela."

Leo slowly shook his head.

"Leo when I left here tonight I was frightened, Rodik was right despite everything and what I had done. I was sucked into the winds again" she said "I saw… It was weird ….It was like it was me in the future.. I was wise, I was remembering this conversation," she said" I was an Elder maybe something… higher magic and the man, the creature from Delphi and the bald one they were telling me I was wise. There were other creatures and other Elders… frightened talking destruction of Belthezor, talking crazy talk of war and destruction at any cost but I was saying… I said I understood. I talked to them about him. The other Elders, all the other creatures were frightened. But I knew of Belthezor. I was... in awe of him. I told them they could not destroy good because of their fear of greater magic and the Ogres, the guardians were beyond their comprehension. I told them to accept Belthezor for what he was because they had no choice. I told them he was a great and powerful presence and he wasn't evil. I told them he was beyond evil. I told them to be thankful he existed because they did not have to make decisions and choices about Good and Evil. Because he protected them from such terrible things. The Ogres, the guardians, the one from Delphi and the bald one told me I was wise. They were very powerful creatures... and they bowed to me."

Leo swallowed. "The future can be hard to understand" he said lamely.

"Have I seen the Ogres Leo" Angela asked "And if I have why is Jade dead? You think Jade was called?" Angela asked.

"I hope so" said Leo quietly.

"Where did you get to be wise Leo" Angela asked again. "You, I remember, were not always as wise when I worked with you."

"The only wisdom I really know is that I am not very wise" Leo said "Not wise enough to completely understand why a witch who is loved by friends and family is called away."

"Your family feeling upset about Jade" Angela asked.

"Of course, they fought with her. They liked her. She had a blunt… She called a spade a bloody shovel": Leo answered.

"I know" said Angela "drove Caleb crazy."So you don't think Rodik is to blame" Angela asked.

"I don't think he is responsible" Leo said "because if he was, he would have answered."

"But if I have seen Ogres and they know about Rodik" insisted Angela" there will be some form of justice."

"I don't know. I have no way. God I hope you're right" breathed Leo.

"I need to believe I am because I cannot work, be a disciple of a cause that would throw away the live so its followers... for an expediency " Angela told him.

Leo took a deep breath" I respect our family friend and even the…bald one. " he said" and I trust Cole . Jade may have been called and witches may be lost in the fight but … it will not be through …evil corrupting good." There is a purpose for Rodik and…we may never know it but... " he shrugged.

Angela nodded. "Then I can tell the Elders I want to follow my calling but they better find some-one else to manage Rodik because I can't stand the little shit."

"I would say so" Leo agreed.

"So" Angela said taking a deep breath "because I know your secret you can answer me something else."

"What?" Leo asked suspiciously.

"Can you tell me why the Charmed Ones keep calling Kitchener, Casper" Angela asked determinedly sniffing back tears.

Leo swallowed uncomfortably. "Not-Casper" he said as if that justified it.

"You owe me the truth Leo" Angela insisted.

 "He made the mistake of telling Phoebe his name was Kitchener Walker." Leo winced.

"I don't; understand," said Angela.

"Phoebe used to watch too much TV, the Phantom cartoons. Kit Walker the ghost who walks." Leo explained.

"Oh Lord" said Angela.

:"Well you know he sorts of sneaks in like a ghost. It was funny at the time," Leo said embarrassed.

"You used to be a whitelighter to witches," Angela said disapprovingly.

"I'm sorry," Leo answered hanging his head.

 "You should be." Angela reached out for his hand.  "Thank you" she said as she orbed.

Leo caught himself in the mirror. The image was clear and sharp. "Who would have thought that Rodik being a shit is the reason, the Elders don't do anything stupid about Cole" he said out loud. And then he remembered he had promised to tell Arturo, not believing it possible, if the world changed because of their discussion about philosophy on the hill top in Delphi.

"Who would have thought" he said out loud.


Phoebe restlessly turned and tossed in bed some hours after talking to her sisters. The only thing they had really decided was that even if Jade had chosen to take the risk and even if her name was on the Angel of Death's list, Rodik was still a danger to all witches and something had to be done about him.

And they needed to get Willem very fast, or this was going to end up with another confrontation with the Source of all Evil.

And the Elders were freaking so much about Belthezor they were in danger of acting very irresponsibly. And something had to be done about it before Good imploded. On that decision Phoebe had finally given into misery and shrugging off Piper and Paige's concerned hugs, had gone to bed alone and pondered once again all the mistakes she had made in her life.

And as for her magic life. She was almost ready to give up. The stuff them attitude to Elders and powers that be of magic when they suspected her of lying about Belthezor had deserted her. Once it had made her feel...superior because she knew her lying was fully justified, well she did these days. Why she had lied in the days after Cole returned from the wasteland when he was going crazy, when she declared how much she hated him, was something she didn't want to answer except as things turned out it was just as well she had. Anyway she hadn't hated him exactly; she had just felt passionate about him... as always.

Only just over a couple of weeks ago, Phoebe had been so happy, loving her life, her job, her magic, her baby, her husband. Now, now it looked as if all the fears about Belthezor having to protect himself from protecting himself, were coming to haunt her. Sometimes she thought bitterly as she lay there it was as if evil was tracking her, every time she felt happy it was sending something to destroy that.

And she murmured to herself, the problem was that she had always only felt happy and complete when she was with Cole and since she had known him, mostly evil in some form or just circumstances, kept trying to destroy that by pulling him away from her. Prue had less than kindly, teased her about her Cole fixation and the truth was she was more fixated on him now than she had ever been. She had married him and all she had to do to be happy was to be with him. Because everything else was making do. Without Cole, she would raise their child, there would be happy moments, but she would never be happy.

Phoebe hugged herself, curling up in foetal position. As usual, look where Cole and her just wanting to be happy together had got them. Needing to be apart.

Jade was dead, the magic world was in uproar and the Elders had reached panic point about Willem and fear that Belthezor had resurrected all because she wanted to be with Cole. And the only solution seemed to be not to be with him. Let him go, to his destiny, his fate, to be what he was called to be.

She hadn't been able to talk to him after he rather satisfyingly punched Rodik's lights out. He had barely put the toys on the bed when he cursed and muttered "Damn. I guess…a small problem" he said.

"Africa: she asked quietly.

"Africa is a big problem" he answered with a small grin then reached forward and kissed her. "Hey baby it will be all right "he said suddenly; in is guardian voice."Don't kill Rodik while I'm gone."

He didn't have to be empathic to see her doubts "It will be all right" he said more firmly as she half turned up her nose and he sighed then muttered love you as he shimmered.

"It won't be all right " she thought tragically and pulled his pillow over to her to feel closer to him." she thought, even Whosit's sleeping whuffles did not make up for just how alone a person sleeping by themselves could feel in a double bed.

And she was going to go on being lonely. She sniffed. She was Phoebe Halliwell a good witch and she believed in good, not maybe some of the shits who worked for Good, but what it stood for. She promised herself that no matter what, she was not going to be led astray or be responsible for good imploding. She had been close to the edge herself once, allowing her dark feelings and fears to drive Cole somewhere very bad. Okay it was written she conceded. The only way he could save himself was if he fell into a fire he made but even though it saved him she had known the darkness and where it could lead her and she was not going to let it happen again. She was not going to let Good fall to the darkness. No, matter the cost she thought nobly and cried as Patsy whimpered.

"Don't you dare be like your damned father" she told Patsy as she checked him "Living with one person who can sense what I'm feeling is bad enough." Two would be impossible."

And then she sniffed as she bravely realised from now on it would be one.

She was in restless unhappy half dream when she was awakened by Cole shimmering in. She looked up and in the dark she felt his smile more than saw it.

"Solve the problem" she asked switching the bed lamp on.

"Wasn't in the mood to solve it "he answered "Threatened them with hell in the realm if they didn't solve it. Nugents having a territorial war that threatened a Dryad circle." He undressed and half threw his clothes on the chair by the door and as they fell on the floor, glanced at Phoebe to see her reaction.

"Oh" she said not noticing his clothes on the floor.

Cole went into the bathroom and she got out of bed and carefully checked Whosit because she didn't want to be in bed when she told him. He came out of the bathroom and nodded at the clothes on the floor. "I'll pick them up" he promised."

"What/" asked Phoebe and he grimaced guessing what was coming.

Phoebe looked at Cole nervously wringing her hands. He saw her face and shut the bathroom door, leaning against it his head on the side quizzical, his expression far from pretty.

"What" he said finally when she couldn't find the words.

"I" she said.

"What" he said.

"I think you should go" she said with a bitter whimper.

"I see" he said still; nit moving. "Are you pregnant? Is it going to be a pattern I get booted every time you're pregnant?"

'It was only once "she said distracted.

"Twice" he drawled" if you count vanquishing as booting, which I did" he added sarcastically."

"I only finished having period only a few days ago" she said "Why do you keep bringing that up. It was necessary."

He shrugged.

 "Like you having to go." she added in a martyr voice. "I think its best you go."

"Do you?" he drawled.

 "Cole for god's sake" she said pleading "It's dangerous for you here around me. They'll find you."

"They can't hurt me" he said slowly.

"You can hurt them' she told him her voice taking a saintly note which he did not miss "They're, Cole, they're not wise and you've seen good not be wise, and good people get hurt because of it" she added tragically.

"So to protect good I have to go" he said dry "Leave my family, my children, my wife."

"It's for the best" she said nobly as he nodded. She moved close to him and pressed against him, he let her clutch him for a while before he finally put an arm rather lightly around her.

"I take it this is a permanent arrangement you're talking about" he drawled.

She nodded and sniffed against him. "It's bigger than us Cole. Its more important than just us being happy."

"The problems of two little people don't matter a hill of beans" said Cole who had been dragged through many romantic films in the last few years.

Phoebe nodded tearfully.

"It won't be like we can't…. see each there" she said "But at least we'll know we are doing the right thing for good. I know the Elders can be... not very wise but separating is the right thing" she added almost pleading.

"So we can still sneak off to the rim for a quick fuck?" he asked.

"Its, I'm not saying we never be together again, Just I don't think we should be together." she said. "For the sake of good."

"Won't it be a bit crowded up there in the rim?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" she said starting to suspect he was not in agreement with her.

"With Paige and Mark sneaking round up there too."

"We could go somewhere else Cole " she pleaded.

"Well you see he answered "I've got past wanting quick fucks because it's all we get, I only like...'em because its fun. And it just doesn't strike me sneaking around the rim…with my wife."

"Cole" Phoebe implored said. "It's for the sake of good."

"Well" he said pushing her away 'I got used to living here Phoebe "he said "So stuff 'em."

"What do you mean?"she asked trying to get herself angry. She stamped her foot and he looked down at her quizzically.

"I'm not good" he said.

'Cole I don't want to be responsible for good turning... not good" she demanded."

"Let the bastards be responsible for themselves," Cole told her "Seeing they are so...good."

"Cole please," she pleaded tragically. "How can I live, knowing my happiness was at the price o good…not being good."

"Find a way" he suggested bluntly" I'm not going. I could tell you it's because I'm needed here. I could tell you I don't believe you and your sisters know how to raise a child with a magic core that is not controlled by Elder's magic. I could tell you it's because Melinda really needs me, maybe wouldn't make it without something, some-one outside the witches magic to turn too.'

Phoebe stamped both feet and hissed her breath out.

"Hell" he said "I could even say I won't go because you need me. Since we married you've been happy, never seen you so happy, and it wasn't because things weren't going badly around you, its just you're at peace with yourself, well except for times like now when you're being an idiot." He added as Phoebe half put her hand toward him which he caught as a precaution "And I am not flattering myself when I say that it's because of me."

She swallowed and started to say something but he interrupted "But the truth is the reason I am not going is because I don't want to."

"That is so selfish" she bit out angrily but he did not miss the relief in her voice.

"Straight personal gain" he agreed "But hell I don't have problem with personal gain. And so now you aren't responsible for happens. You tried to kick me out. I refused. Nothing you can do about it."

She glared at him.

"Let every-one else be wise" Cole said "Hell that is what they are all telling me isn't it."Be wise. Act on you own wisdom,' Well the secret of Belthezor must be the worst kept secret in the history of magic. It's Arturo's role. He said it is and I believe him or Francesca one of them can fix it, or it isn't meant to be fixed. I've got enough to look after beside Africa and trolls and unicorns and Nugents and dryads. That's my business. And being with my wife and children and family. It's what I want."

She swallowed.

"And what if I lose my power?" she asked pathetically "You going to let it happen?"

"Yes" he replied without even pretending to think about it.

"You don't care what I w ant. About being magical." Phoebe accused happy now she knew she was going to lose the argument.

"I think" he said slowly, "you underestimate your connection to magic. To be honest I don't think they can take as much away from you as you think, those damned premonitions you keep blurting out don't come from the Elders. But if they do, you know,  it's not my business, it's...theirs. And if its you lose your powers or me lose you its no contest. Straight personal gain."

"Its so… " Phoebe muttered.

"So bloody selfish. I know. Deal with it.'" Cole told her "I've still got my wife and children and family and I'm going to bed." he said letting her go.

He went to bed and lay down with his back to her. Phoebe finally had to concede she had no hope of winning the argument. Thankfully, she got into bed and lay on her back staring at the ceiling. Finally she said "Cole?"

"What" he answered back to her.

"What the hell are nugents?" she asked.