The Life and Times
Part 4: The truth will set them free. More or less.
"To expostulate why day is day, night night, and time is time,
After the meeting Phoebe went back to her office, closing the blinds so she could work in peace. She was half way through explaining to teenager that it was necessary to have authority in order to maintain order when she was interrupted by the tinkling of orbs. She looked up and was not as surprised as she ought to have been to see the grave face of the elder Alanna dressed in a somewhat prissy business suit and Not-Casper/Kitchener wearing civilian clothes, loose trousers and an ill fitting sports coat.
Phoebe stood up and came around her desk. "What do you want?" she demanded totally fed up with any-one, magic or other wise who represented authority in her life.
"Perhaps it would be a good idea to ensure our privacy " Not-Casper said to her not unkindly. "You want to orb somewhere."
"No " said Phoebe bluntly " I think I feel a great deal …safe….more comfortable here."
"Lock the door" the whitelighter suggested almost sadly.
"What’s this about?" Phoebe asked accepting the inevitability..
Alanna crossed her hands, very proper and touch self important "Despite the " she sucked her lip. Phoebe would have sworn she was swallowing the word bastard "Retriever's assertion confusing the problem, we, the Elders, have issues with you about Belthezor. This warlock Willem is gaining power using his name and his legend and we have reason to believe his power.
"Why do you have reason" Phoebe asked. "Don't tell me Good lowers itself down to the level of…. "spying on evil.
The Elder Alanna pursed her lips.
"Oh" Phoebe said smugly "I mean isn't spying something only bad unethical immoral creatures do. Not good guys.""
Alanna pursed her lips
" Oh it's moral" Phoebe said mockingly "If it's for...Good."
"That is not the issue. " Alanna interrupted tersely as Not-Casper smiled almost Phoebe was surprised to note, supportively.
"Tell me" Phoebe deciding to go on the attack " Why don't you believe that bastard retriever when he called Cole Belthezor., why didn't you ever think that?."
"Don't you think when you married the mortal Belthezor took over, don't you think " said Alanna quietly we would have checked. "Sent.. " she stopped. "Made sure he wasn't a demon."
"He's not a demon" she said defensively.
"We know that" said Alanna.
"But that retriever has a point. It is a power sniffer and it smells a great power around you and it is not the witches' good power. If you know what it is you have to tell us, for good's sake.
Phoebe sucked her lips, and it suddenly dawned on her that this was another example of Elders lack of wisdom. They understood enough to check on demonic activity near her, which she bitterly resented, but not enough to connect it to a greater power than them. "
Almost as if they could not comprehend a greater power. It crossed her mind that when Francesca talked of her wisdom and the wisdom of guardians she was telling them the secret of their great power. Wisdom. No wonder she was always harping at Cole to be wise.
"The problem with listening to spies is that the information is only as reliable as the creatures that give it to them."Phoebe told Alanna contemptuously "Why is it that 'Secret' information is always supposed to be more accurate than an honest answer?" she asked with an innocent smile.
"Our sources are very reliable " said Alanna rather testily for a power of Good.
"Hardly. They are wrong, "sneered Phoebe "But I will answer honestly. There is no evil power near me " she said. "We vanquished the demon Belthezor. I know he isn't aligning himself with evil. There was never a warlock strong enough to separate him from his powers. I was the only one who could do that, with help from my sisters. So it is impossible for any warlock to have them."
Alanna frowned at her while Not-Casper /Kitchener shook his head regretfully."
"I'm telling the truth " said Phoebe.
"That will be up to a tribunal of Elders to decide" said Alanna a trifle vindictively "Come " she ordered Not-Casper who shrugged helplessly at Phoebe before he orbed.
"Fuck" said Phoebe loudly. "What else can go wrong?"
She went out to the staff room to pour herself a cup of coffee. One of there reporter a small fuggly man called Jake Crean who covered the local courts had lots of contacts with the legal community and who knew far more about Cole 's somewhat erratic working history than Phoebe felt comfortable with saw her.
She braved a friendly hello because Jake was a good source for some of her magic leads.
Jake grinned ." Had fun today :" he told her "You know, watched your husband take on old Fogarty.
"Cole always enjoys himself in front of Fogarty " Phoebe answered.
"He did today " Jake answered " At 2 o'clock Fogarty is sitting in court all in control, by ten past he is a wreck, staggering looking for words, blubbering like an idiot while your hubby is just sitting there smiling, and being ever so polite." Jake roared laughing "Fogarty had to call a recess by quarter past. Even the DA was laughing."
A sudden snarl behind her made Phoebe jump.
Elise glared at her." If your husband was in court at two o'clock who were you having lunch with?" she demanded as Jake decided he better slink away but not quite out of hearing range.
"Lori must have mistaken the time " Phoebe mumbled bluffing and flushing uncomfortable.
"It was not Lori who made the mistake " said Elsie nastily.
Paige came home from work and found only Piper home. Leo was off still focusing on cheese making dragons and taking a short diversion through the Greek National Library, to avoid the embarrassment of a whitelighter killing Rodik. Phoebe was still at work but she had already called with a sniffy account of her day and Paige presumed Cole was still working too or hiding from Rodik.
Melinda and Patsy were running, toddling, throwing things around the kitchen and Wyatt was lying on his tummy making half swimming motions with arms legs and starting to wriggle.
Piper somehow or other was managing to keep an eye on all three children and reading a long legal looking document.
Paige flung her things down, glanced at the unusually messy kitchen which still had breakfast dishes and lunch ones and pots from where Piper had obviously been cooking all afternoon.
"How are Jade's daughters?" " Piper asked. Paige had called over after work.
"Still in shock" said Paige although Jenny has got really mad at magic and blaming it. Probably good they are getting mad but she has her mother's burning power so maybe we need to keep her away from Rodik."
"Maybe not " said Piper bitterly.
"I offered to take them to New York the first weekend we got that Rodik goes," Paige said "I want to get rid of Willem and that little shit this week." She insisted.
"Are they up to it? " asked Piper "Can you afford it."
"I can orb them " Paige said "And just one night in a good hotel. I could make it longer if I stayed with Aunt Beryl but the girls are pretty fragile right now."
"Maybe not " agreed Piper trying not to turn her nose up at the mention of the dreaded Aunt Beryl.
"I remember when my mom and dad died," Paige explained "Every-one wanted me to stay in mourning, give myself time to grieve, which I needed, but I was a teenager and sometime its important to know that life is going on that you have a right to life. So a shopping trip to New York seems something that does that."
"Good idea " said Piper .
"Father's not to happy about the orbing" said Paige "But girls were excited about real magic. Ella told me how thrilled her mother was being involved in such a higher level magic." Paige stoped and swallowed "Maybe It's a good idea they learn that magic can bring you happiness, can sometimes make things better." she said.
"Seen Mark? " asked Piper casually not missing the catch in Paige's voice.
"No " said Paige. "I don't know when or how I will but at least I know he is." She saw Piper 's slightly concerned expression. "Mark a problem?" she asked.
Piper shook her head. "No I say go for it with Mark" she said" He's dead. You're a Halliwell after all Ms Matthews."
Paige smiled "You don't resent me helping Jade's family?" she asked.
"No" said Piper "I admire you for it. Only…."
"Only?" said Paige sitting beside her.
"I guess" said Piper "Things are changing. This Willem fight hasn't been just about Charmed Ones. Seems wide magic, families extending, maybe changing."
"Well " said Paige quietly "It's not a bad thing Piper that we grow. What if we stayed the same? What if we were just hiding amongst ourselves."
"It wouldn't be good " agreed Piper sadly.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Paige asked "This worrying…"
"Yeah, I'm okay. I'm good" said Piper " I was making up a guest list you know for, Patsy's birthday. Just close friends and family and when I started to look at all the names I realised... how much has changed since Phoebe found the Book of Shadow. You know, who is close. And Cole came into our lives."
"And me" said Paige quietly.
"Especially you" Piper put her arm around her sister. "Not changed in a bad way" she said" just different."
"Sometimes in a bad way " said Paige picking up the quest list. "You're inviting the evil stepmother with Victor."
"Daddy wouldn't come without Margaret," sighed Piper.
"Anyway you know the great plan" said Paige.
"What?" asked Piper suspicious.
"You need evil to hold good to account" said Paige straight faced. "Shouldn't Phoebe be organising Patsy's birthday?" asked Paige. "She's good at parties." she added a touch sarcastically
"Phoebe's good at last minute parties. She'll start planning the day Rodik leaves. To have it two days later." snipped Piper . "What do you think," she asked indicating the list.
"Fine" said Paige "I want to ask Jade's girls, " she said.
"I guess our magic family is extending " Piper nodded.
"Yes" Paige agreed and picked up the other papers surrounding Piper . "You definitely going with the Russians on the restaurant ?" she asked.
"Yes " said Piper "You know Phoebe's feelings. That faux Hobos looked ….to good. You know good things don't happen so easily. And I just keep thinking if anything went wrong, we've sold out souls for money and no way out and I couldn't stand Cole screaming at me for not listening to "good" legal advice for years."
"All good reasons" said Paige. "Only…."
"Only what?" asked Piper
"Maybe I could find a way to get a new car" Paige said in a rush if we had taken the money. I mean we wouldn't need my salary to live off and.." She looked at Piper it doesn't matter " she said hastily. "Just wishing you know."
"Cole doesn't complain about you using his car" said Piper.
"He looks" said Paige " and it's.. just about being grown up, not borrowing. It doesn't matter. Let Cole glare."
Piper decided it was best not to remind Paige even when she had her car she was always borrowing Cole's. "Of course it matters. Cole made a bit of money this month, said he was going to put as much as he could toward a car for you." said Piper . "Things happen. Russian place might do okay."
"If the Russian one does okay we'll be just keeping our heads above water " said Paige "And fate happens. Something will go wrong, demons will destroy the house or trash P3. Phoebe will lose her job. Something always goes wrong." She said trying to be fatalistic and sounding bitter.
"Oh" said Piper .
"What?" asked Paige holding her breath.
"The bloody dishwasher broke today." Piper told her.
"God we have to stop Phoebe saying things. Didn't she "Say what a mess we'd be in if it broke?" Paige sighed.
Pipe and Paige both glared at the mess in the sink.
"God I wish Phoebe would learn to shut up" said Piper .
That night leaving Cole and Leo to put children to bed after a miserable supper where the Rodik, despite all efforts to convince him not to come to the table was there first, the witches convened in the attic to discuss getting Willem as fast as possible.
"It's easy " said Paige flicking though the book of Shadows for the hundred and fiftieth time to see what they had missed about Willem "Transmergence is one of the 10 great witch powers" Paige read. "It is only granted to great witches so very few have ever had it. It is power that is based and feeds off emotion."
"Terrific" said Piper "We know a really great witch dies so Willem can stalk Cole."
"All powers feed off emotion" said Phoebe. "He won't stalk Cole for long" said Phoebe. "We'll get him."
"This one is the strongest emotional power of all, only granted to exceptionally good witches" said Paige still reading." One of the few powers that can defeat an upper level demon because they are one of the few forms of evil that have real emotions. It defeats evil by connecting onto their emotions, using the witches' emotions to suck on demons, anger, fear. But it requires an incredibly strong witch to use it. We owe "the witch he stole it from" Paige added "We'll get Willem."
"It’s the least we can do" said Piper and all three were silent for a few sends thinking of the cost.
"Soooooo" said Paige breaking their thoughts " We just have to get the damned warlock, make sure the damned retriever doesn't get one of us killed. And Cole doesn't accidentally give Willem his damned powers trying to rescue Phoebe, then all our problems are solved."
"Only if we somehow discover a few million bucks Willem has stashed away and no-one knows about and he manages to kill the fucking Retriever bastard before we get him. And use his memory power on the bloody Elders " Phoebe said wistfully having tearfully fallen on her sisters' shoulder when she got home telling them about her days woes. " so he can stop trying to out Cole."
"The best proof that Belthezor isn't a problem is to defeat Willem … if Cole can bloody well remember how to get him" snipped Piper .
"That damn spell nearly worked." Phoebe said "And we still have one bottle of the potion. "If Rodik hadn't interfered."
"Willem was coming out of it " Piper reminded them "We have to get Willem."
"Is there anything we haven't thought of?" Phoebe asked.
"Yeah we need to keep him in one spot while we say the spell " said Paige.
"We have to catch the bastard, coax him out again." said Piper .
"Melinda can find him" said Paige.
And the mother in Piper said. "I don't want her fighting."
"She's a witch" Phoebe told her " You can't stop her growing up and using her power. You know what it made you feel like when Grams did it to us, no matter how good her intentions."
"How do we get Willem to come, even if we can find him" asked Piper not quite giving in. "using Cole as bait wasn't the best idea we ever had, it just gave him time to bring backup."
"Summon him " said Paige.
"That didn't work before " said Phoebe.
"Only because he was here and we didn't realise." Paige said. "Or something was here using his memory spell, warned his damned brother. We have the warlock zapper still on. So…."
"So we have to take it off to summon him" said Piper . "And we still aren't sure how to get him.
"It's got to be here" Phoebe insisted " we have been doing everything to keep the warlocks out of her and we just seem powerless to stop them. We need the power here."
"Yes we want them here" agreed Paige " because we're strongest here, because we can track them from here, because this is the place we can most tempt them, and maybe we can use the crystal circle on him."
"We need Clarissa because of the memory block" Piper said "Can we get her here and not let her find out about Cole ?"
"We'll have to" said Paige determined. "We are going to get the bastard.
"You remember that the Source used Paige's orbing power to call the crystal " said Piper "You can bet Willem has something like that too, somewhere in all those powers so we still need to be able to hold him. But if Cole is around" and she lowered her voice. "Willem will still be called by the powers and want to come. The bait idea was good. We just need to be smarter. He won't resist, as long as he thinks he is powerful enough to defeat us, or we can't get him."
"Which he should at the moment, seeing we haven't been able to get him," said Phoebe "We have to get him."
"Kids?" said Phoebe .
"We need Melinda" Paige insisted " then after Leo and Cole can keep an eye on them."
"So one minute Cole is bait and the next he is thumping warlocks to protect the kids." said Phoebe "Isn't that sort of taking advantage of him."
"Yes " said Piper "but if it take using that transmergence power to get Willem, we use anything we can. Cole would use us." she added.
"He would.. Maybe a bit " Phoebe reluctantly agreed.
"Damn Col " snarled Paige. " I wish he would remember what it is that can get Willem ."
"Still don't like I don't like bringing Willem here." Piper said "You can bet he has minions all around him who will follow when he is summoned. He's a warlock."
"We can make the crystal strongest here in the nexus " said Paige "And if we need Melinda to find the bastard. She's better protected here and you remember it was only the power of the ancestors added to the crystal that made it possible to get Cole at the apartment when he was the source. Here we are strongest and we can fight on our terms. We have to get Willem . And get rid of that little shit retriever." She added.
All three witches jumped at a noise at the attic door. Rodik slunk into the attic. He stood there glaring the girls "You're planning something without consulting me " he sniffed sneaking a look around behind him. He glared at Phoebe "That whore " and he glanced again and rubbed his jaw "Said the source was Cole, was Belthezor.
"We said we got the Source at Cole 's old apartment " Piper told Rodik angrily" Get the fuck out of here. And don't call my sister a whore."
"Which whore is he talking about?" asked Paige" You or me Phoebe."
"Don't call either of my sisters a whore, you fucking shit" said Piper .
"You have to consult me " Rodik snivelled "About getting those warlocks. And don't call me names ."
"Talking about calling names would you like me to call Cole?" Phoebe asked. And for a second enjoyed watching Rodik shrivel with fright before wincing as orbs tinkled.
"She just said Belthezor is here " screamed Rodik." The whore just threatened to get Belthezor to kill me. Where's my whitelighter? I have to leave."
"With every warlock in the realm looking for you, this is the safest place for you to be" Not-Casper told him firmly.
"Her demon lover is going to kill me" screamed Rodik.
"I think he would have done it if he was going to " smiled Not-Casper . "If she had a demon lover" he added. And received a grateful look from Phoebe "I believe she was saying it to tease you " said Not-Casper / Kitchener a touch smarmily. "We came to discuss getting Willem, without getting another witch killed " said Not-Casper .
"We?" said Paige looking for Angela as further orbs sounded behind him and Paige gasped slightly as Mark appeared.
"You know Mark " Not-Casper asked blandly.
Phoebe and Piper half nodded while Paige stood there staring at him.
Rodik shrank then huffed up "That is the other whore's gigolo. Took me to Tijuana.
"I know" said Not-Casper .
"What?" gasped all three Charmed Ones.
"I mean" said Not-Casper looking embarrassed "Mark is the whitelighter who interfered…Saved you from Paige's not unnatural anger at the loss of her friend due to your self-centredness. The Elders believe he may have some influence so asked him to come along.."
"He was just there to… he left me in Tijuana ?" screamed Rodik. "Have you ever stayed in Tijuana? Are you listening to me?" he screeched.
"Shut the fuck up" said Mark.
"That's what we say " said Phoebe.
"I will not have anything to do with this." yelled Rodik "This.. this spawn of hell."
"He saved your life and from our understanding was remarkably restrained " said Not-Casper quietly, " you could leave. Perhaps you could call your husband Phoebe?" he asked eyes bright.
"He was screwing the whore" Rodik screamed.
"Who Phoebe's husband " asked Not-Casper icily.
"The other one" bawled Rodik." He took me to Tijuana so he could screw her."
"Phoebe's husband ?" asked Not-Casper in disbelief.
Mark smiled quietly "I took you to Tijuana to stop Paige or her sisters killing you. Sorry Paige " he replied. "Maybe I should have let you kill him. Perhaps I could take you there again" He stepped forward,.
"You can't orb me" screamed Rodik backing off.
"I can orb " said Mark "And drag you on the spirit winds un-materialised" he looked to Not-Casper "Is that why they warn us not to drag beings that cannot be dematerialised. Because the pain is unbearable."
"Yes " said Not-Casper sanctimoniously "That is why. "
"Where's Angela?" hissed Rodik "I don't want some new damned ignorant fool putting my life at risk because they didn't understand how important I am ."
"I understand exactly how important you are" Mark said calmly.
"Angela has requested that she move on. She feels you are a responsibility that she can no longer accept and do her job to her best ability" Not-Casper said. As Rodik started to preen he added. "She wants to kill you."
"You expect this new.. whore lover to protect me from a demon" screamed Rodik.
"I don't believe any-one expects that " said Mark quietly his grey eyes amused and then he glanced back to Paige who stood quietly to one side, clutching at Phoebe for support. "I don't even think any-one cares."
"You need me to retrieve Willem's powers, so they are not lost to Good" screamed Rodik " it's a conspiracy. Whitelighters are jealous of me."
Piper lifted hr hands and froze Rodik.
"About time " said Paige.
"We need to talk about getting Willem. " said Piper turning her back on Willem. She turned on Not-Casper. "We have something worked out but we are no longer interested in the powers if it means risking any-one. We are going to vanquish him and that's it."
"It is your decision" said Not-Casper carefully.
"We are going to do it here" said Phoebe. "And finish this nonsense about him having Belthezor's powers. So we don't need that fucking bastard" she said waving her hand at Rodik.
"We do unfortunately," said Mark quietly "And we're hearing he is on the warlock list of things to get.
"Spies" demanded Phoebe.
"Informants" said Mark calmly " who could verify the rumours."
"I am not keeping him here to protect him" said Phoebe" I want to kill him."
"He's an innocent Phoebe" Mark said still quiet "And I seem to recall you once telling me that innocents can be shits and shits can be innocent."
"Phoebe why can't you learn to shut up?" snarled Piper as Mark smiled softly.
"It is your decision" Not-Casper nodded. "I feel that the spell you used last time could do some work. Have you a copy?"
"It's in my room" Paige answered.
"Why don't you and Mark go and have a look at it, while I discuss a few things with your sisters" said Not-Casper suggested.
Mark's grey eyes narrowed but he followed Paige out silently.
Not –Casper turned to the witch " I just wanted to say" he said " that I am aware even if the Elder's aren't that Mark does have a prior association with the Charmed Ones. I want to asked you to consider making sure that…assist to ensure that any previous relationships stay within the boundaries of not endangering magic,."
"Shouldn't you ask Paige that or Mark" Piper pushed, "If you know so much."
"I believe it is better to ask you " replied Not-Casper prissily "I am not unsympathetic and I can understand temptations from previous lives. I have never been one of those to expect whitelighters to be dead of all emotions and feelings.
"We noticed" said Piper giving in.
"In fact" said Not-Casper . "I feel that the danger is not acknowledging those feelings. But I also feel there are certain…standards and expectations that must be respected and you" he said fixing his gaze at Piper "understand this better than most. Perhaps you could help all of us and explain this to your sister so no unnecessary boundaries are crossed."
"Yes" said Piper somewhat subdued.
"I am going if you can assure me you have a plan to get Willem " Not-Casper told them.
"Almost a plan" said Phoebe the truth teller.
"Please make it work" said Not-Casper as he orbed.
"Don't you just hate it when whitelighters are right and good" said Phoebe.
"Yes" said Piper . She went over to the frozen Rodik "We can make sure I do this to him when Willem comes" said Piper .
She flicked her hand. Rodik unfroze. He flung backwards into the bed head screaming.
"Shut the fuck up " said Piper leaving. Phoebe watched him hands on hip.
"Get out " she said "Bastard" she added.
"Whore" Rodik spat.
"Cole "yelled Phoebe. Rodik scuttled out the attic while Phoebe laughed.
Mark slowly followed Paige into her room where he caught her in along kiss. Finally they stopped and sighing he pushed her far enough away so he could see her face.
"God I love you " he said in that soft quiet voice of his.
Paige stared " What did you screw up to make them hit you with Rodik" she asked trying to keep the longing out of her voice.
"Nothing . The Elders think I ..have great potential." Mark informed her laughing. "Just observing" he said. "No-one else will touch him or the Charmed Ones for that matter. You do win awards for pissing off whitelighters pet" he said.
"Not-Casper seems okay" said Paige.
"Who?" asked Mark.
"What’s his name" said Paige sighing because of where she was.
"Kitchener" said Mark suddenly laughing "At least I know why every whitelighter up there spends their spare time thinking up reasons why they don't want to guide you. And remembering why it was so much better when Leo was around" he added.
"Oh" she said reaching up to kiss him. "Are you sure the Elders don't know what we're doing?"
"I keep telling you it's a radar not a TV screen they watch." Mark answered "Paige I'm not going to do what Leo did " he told her. Ï think I can do some ..good in this calling "he said. Ï think they need ..some-one more concerned with doing…good than keeping all the rules."
"Just so long as you only break the right rules" Paige finished.
"I'm not asking you too, break the wrong rules" she said "Just knowing you are...close. Damn" she said.
"What" said Mark stroking her hair.
"If that shit retriever goes I won't have an excuse to see you. "She said.
"We can see each other" he said ache in his voice. "Just not…I can't do what Leo did. Damn it all for marriage and…it's… to many people to get hurt, including you."
"Couldn't ask you too" she said reaching for him again. And then they jumped as the door opened.
Cole started to say " Paige have you... Shit."
"Knock" she roared at him.
"I …sure. Hi Mark Bye Mark " Cole muttered slamming the door shut in embarrassment.
He went downstairs to where Leo was drinking beer and reading a book of Nostradamus quotes.
"If you look at these in the context of magic eclipse they take on a whole new view " Leo told Cole .
"I just walked in on Paige with Mark" Cole said ignoring Nostradamus.
"Why didn't you knock?" Leo said .
"I didn't think. She walks in on Phoebe and me," said Cole defensive. "I guess some things are changing " he said picking up his own beer. And I guess this is not a good time to yell at her about where my car keys are."
"Wouldn't think so" agreed Leo grinning. "What " he snarled irritably as Rodik appeared at the door to the conservatory whimpering summoning Leo.
Leo angrily put down Nostradamus and strode into the conservatory. Cole, sculled his beer and watched through the glass door as Rodik caught hold of Leo's shirt front, clearly begging for help. He pointed to Cole , he pointed to the attic and he just about fell to his knees before slinking away while Leo all but shook his fist.
He came back to Cole and fell down on the sofa. "I want to kill the bastard " he said. "Do you know how many times he called Paige and Phoebe's whores just then."
"Better I don't " Cole grinned" why doesn't he call Piper a whore?"
"She's an unfeeling frigid bitch" said Leo. " According to Rodik. I want to kill him."
"It balances " said Cole amused.
"You know this morning Francesca asking why we shouldn't kill him, if there was any good reason. Damnit " said Leo standing up "The best reason I could think of is it would make me evil. Damnit."
"I miss being evil" Cole said" you know when I was a demon, it was damned easy. Didn't like 'em kill 'em."
"Look where that got you " Leo said .
"It got me Phoebe " Cole said. "I'm going to bed. You ought to get in touch with your evil side Leo. Remembering it makes being good.. a hell of a lot easier."