The Life and Times

Part 1: Magic in the air

Chapter 4


"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

Phoebe unlike Cole really enjoyed her time working and being " Ask Phoebe".


She knew her son was safe, with her family and his father when she was at work. She could manage her work so she got to spend time with Whosit and Cole and the only thing she really missed out on was some sleep. She was happy in her life and being happy in her life made her happy in her work. She enjoyed being Phoebe Halliwell, sometimes Turner. When she wrote her column, people accepted her advice, did not argue about her 'wisdom' and rarely told her to shut up when she told them a truth, unlike her family.


Between being a successful witch and feeling in control of her magic, knowing she was a loved wife, being a proud mother and succeeding in her job, Phoebe was feeling very good about herself.


She was staring at her computer screen that had a picture of Whosit on it and thinking just how good her life was when her cell rang.


"I'm in the foyer," Paige said "Darryl wants us to fix something that he is pretty sure is a magic problem. I have to orb you back to the manor. "


"Sure" said Phoebe in control of life " She grabbed her purse, called to her assistant she had a family emergency and would be back as soon as possible and ran to the elevator. Paige was already in it when it arrived, Phoebe went in and Paige caught her hand and they orbed back to the attic.


"What's the problem?" Phoebe asked as they orbed in.


"Nothing to bad." Piper said. "Police got another report 2 women being beaten up in a mall garage, even though they claim they fell over. And the description of the guy lurking fits the warlock Count Fleischer."


"Again" said Phoebe because four women had needed first aid over the last few weeks and each time a man who fitted the description of a well known warlock was seen in the area.


Darryl Morris suspecting magic, when a couple of security video tapes had shown the man fighting the women and then disappearing suddenly, although the victims denied it happened, had given the witches some pictures off the tapes. Each time the women had given false names and addresses.


"Only this time" Piper explained, "a guy in the back of the garage also saw the fight and swears the man disappeared and he wasn't alone. Says there was another one. "


"They get the woman's name" Paige asked.


"Not from the women" Piper said "but security guy who spoke to them, noticed a shopping bag and they traced one through a credit card."


"And " said Paige.


"I'm pretty certain it’s the same Jade Simpson, that Maggie mentioned she knew from a coven over the bay." Piper answered.


"Witches and warlocks" said Phoebe. "Never ends."


"Darryl knows his magic these days" Piper acknowledged.


They again checked Count Fleischer in the Book of Shadows. He, been round for years, quite high in the warlock hierarchy and had a deflection power, stolen it from witch about 200 years ago. But he was unlikely to be a difficult vanquish for the Charmed Ones.


"I scryed but could not pick it up" Piper said "But if is attacking witches in broad daylight no-one can argue against summoning and vanquishing it."


"Damn vulture. Summon it " said Paige "Cole can't bitch. I mean ogres can't complain. Damned thing is openly attacking. Terms of battle."


"He won't. This is not his business." Phoebe said looking up the summoning spell and taking a few minutes to adjust it for Count Fleischer.


"Hasn't got any resistance to summoning powers has it " Piper said.


"Nah" said Paige reading the entry "Its not an upper level demon or anything strong enough to resist the call. Even if it had stolen the power to resist it would need some warning it was coming, and to know exactly what the spell said.


"Well they aren't going to do that" Said Phoebe " I just rewrote it."


Paige glanced around the room, blinked and started to say "Phoebe."


"What?" said Phoebe.


"I ...nothing " said Paige feeling suddenly disorientated. "What did you say?"


"I said I rewrote the warlock summoning spell," Phoebe snarked, shaking her head feeling a little dizzy and taking it out on Paige.


"Let's just summon it and get rid of it" Piper ordered them with a glare.


The three witches moved around the Book of Shadows and as they had done a hundred times before maybe more, chanting a Power of Three summoning spell to end the hunting days of a predator of good witches and innocents.


They said the spell, almost bored, certainly very ho hum, because they had done it so many times before. Waited…and waited as nothing happened. Not even a waver in the spirit winds. They said the spell again. Nothing.


"Let's scry for it " said Phoebe pulling the crystal out of the drawer where it was kept. She used the world map and got nothing.


"Try the realm map we....borrowed from Scotland when you and Leo , uumm hid in the realms after you got pregnant. "Paige said to Phoebe who nodded.


Paige looking around furtively to make sure no whitelighter was going to orb in pulled the cover off what looked like a multilayered crystal tray, they scryed the crystal tray and the lights flashed green in a small corner. "Damn " she said " Not in this realm."


"But that's a green one" said Piper "Witches" powers work in green ones, don't they?"


"Think so" said Paige.


"Then the only way it could not be summoned if it knew about the spell " said Phoebe "And don't tell me to shut  up because I'm right " she added seeing the expression on her sister's faces and knowing what they were about to say.


"The only way that could happen is if something was here. "Piper said " scry the house."


"Nothing evil" said Piper scrying as the crystal flashed green " Just witches. Damn Melinda's getting strong s" she sighed as she noticed the depth of colour."


"Marly's here too:" said Phoebe hopefully.


Piper gave her a dirty look.


"I have to go back to work," said Phoebe.


" So do I" said Paige "Meeting with the archbishop of San Francisco."


"Archbishop?" said Phoebe " he's got a job."


"Joining up with their services. Extending the network " said Paige more interested in unemployment than magic.


"I'll call Darryl and tell him we lost the warlock," Piper said. " And see if I can find Jade."


"Good " said Paige " maybe you can find out more about this damned warlock's Powers too.


"Get some rest " Phoebe ordered, reluctantly resisting running down to see Whosit because Marly claimed he got very grizzly when she popped in and out. The magic upset him.


"Sure" said Piper "in between chasing up warlocks, feeding Wyatt, and organising the contracts for the new bands at P3."


"Make Cole do that " ordered Phoebe as Paige orbed her away.


"I had a baby. I'm not an invalid," muttered Piper to herself.


Paige left Phoebe in a quiet corner of the Bay Mirror foyer and Phoebe went back to her office feeling slightly less in control of her world than she had when she left. And then she was reminded another truth of the world. Even in paradise there was a serpent.


"Elise wanted to be told as soon as you came back" Phoebe's assistant told her. Phoebe shuddered and went into her office. She put her hand out to the phone and stopped wondering if using offence, as a defence was the wisest choice.


Elise, her editor, appearing at her door, saved her a choice. "Where were you?" Elise demanded.


"Family emergency " Phoebe answered, her voice getting a little squeaky even though she tried to be in control "Its in my contract. I can leave for them."


"You missed the promotion meeting with the new mayor" Elise told her adding sarcastically. " Mayor not your type."


"It was an emergency" Phoebe said trying to sound strong.


"Why couldn't your husband handle it?" demanded Elise.


"He's.. he was busy." Phoebe said wincing a little.


"Did you ask him? "Elise demanded.


"Um " said Phoebe knowing she was on shaky ground. Then the Phoebe who used to be a wild child surfaced " It was not anything Cole can handle " She said assertively. "It needed me."


"Did you ask him?" said Elise again. "What's going on between you?" she asked. "He used to be around like a bad smell, now he's almost non existent."


Elise had some rather unpleasant memories of Phoebe's other half, not the least of which were a couple of visits where he had smiled at her in such a way she had shivers down her back and a peculiar premonition of danger for days afterward. Elise also had reason to remember the other half's tendency to come into the office and cause all sorts of rows and that he could play at being hero and then act in a decidedly off manner afterward. Elise had protected Phoebe through a particularly nasty divorce and spun news of the remarriage to put the best view she could to her romantic readers to protect circulation. All in all though, she did not see Phoebe's romance and marriage as anything but a potential disaster for the Bay Mirror.


"Cole's busy starting up law practice" said the assertive Phoebe who used to be a wild child.


"Are you sure he exists any more" Elise demanded "He's always 'busy', to busy to be with you on any promotional parties. He was to 'busy' to be with you at the awards dinner, he was to 'busy' to be with you at the company ball, and the dinner party with the publisher. What is he doing running a practice permanently in night court. Or was that whole wedding just a farce to give your kid a name. And he's done a runner now."


"My marriage" said the very assertive Phoebe through her teeth "is none of your business."


"You made it my business when you started speaking about this damned happy marriage of yours in the talk shows. "Elise snapped, " So you goddamned well make sure it is a happy marriage, or at least there is no chance of your moronic fans finding out it isn't. Because if it turned out you were fantasising or out right lying just to "entertain" and Ask Phoebe's integrity was open to question, we would have reason to reassess your relationship with this paper wouldn't we" Elise bit out as she turned on her heel and left.


" I just tell the fans how happy we are, how we make it work " Phoebe said defensively, as assertive Phoebe disappeared, because there were so many secrets about the man being she loved she could not share, the ones that explained why he was so wonderful.


"Hmmm" snorted Elise stopping and turning back. " If you are going to tell fairytales, at last make it believable. Not the crap you talk about in those shows. I've been married three times" said Elise " I know all about marriage. And it isn't that crap" she told Phoebe. "No man would put up with it. I just have to watch the way you flirt to know you don't have a happy marriage. And if that affects the circulation, there's a morals clause in your contract." she added perkily.


"My marriage is really happy, Cole's just busy, I only flirt because, Cole just…. I feel safe," whimpered the Phoebe who knew her job was the only thing that was keeping her family from destitution and bankruptcy and was not comforted by Elise's snort.


Phoebe stared at her computer screen and sighed wondering how the hell wanting to tell the world about a wonderful safe and loving and exciting relationship with a creature of power and magic who literally came back from the dead to be with her could get her into so much trouble.


Phoebe sighed, okay she could only tell the world about little pieces of her life with Cole, just enough to say how much she loved him. Then she giggled the Phoebe who had some wisdom in the ways of magic and mortals, knew why it could get her into trouble. Because very few adults, struggling just to pay mortgages and feed families could ever believe in fairytale marriages.


It was really just one of those innocent things that she did without thinking of consequences, or perhaps she did it because Cole was never far away from her thoughts and she just could not help herself talking about him.


She was doing an interview on one of the morning "info and interview" shows, one that although no-one ever would say it in such a way, was aimed straight at the female, audience.


In her role as Ask Phoebe and with a female alderperson and a female minister and a female who ran her own computer business and a female interviewer it was really just supposed to be a girl's together discussion about how working mothers, coped with family and jobs and what sort of support they expected from their partners.


It had just slipped out really when the minister commented about how even when men tried to be helpful and supportive they could be damned nuisances, at least it was when said supportive partner had no comprehension that you could hang clothes on clothes hangers. Phoebe then told a story that was not only true but had had her sisters and two visiting witch friends in fits of laughter. It was about how she finally lost it at her very untidy husband so badly that he somewhat sheepishly hung up all his laundry and clothing, and she was feeling very satisfied until they discovered because at least a third of his clothing was usually anywhere but in the closet, there was simply not enough room for all of what he owned to fit and hang properly. Two days later, running late for a court appearance, (because Cole had spent 15 hours trying to deal with one of the never-ending African magic disasters, but Phoebe did not explain that) he had ripped through the closet trying to find an uncreased unscrunched shirt, pulling shirt after shirt off its hanger and throwing it in disgust on the floor. Finally he had found one and planting a quick kiss on Phoebe's lips, tore off to court leaving more,  shirts, sweaters, pants and jackets on the floor than had been when he 'tidied' up his clothes.


It got a big laugh on the TV show too.


At the next radio show one of the callers mentioned the story and said how funny she found it and Phoebe was tempted to tell another little story, in sympathy with absent husbands mentioning how her husband's 'job' meant he was either always there under her feet or at other times he was missing so much that one night she found this strange man in her bed and wondered who the hell he was. Then she remembered he was some-one she married. "Mind you" she told her listeners " I did congratulate me on my good taste in men."


After that somehow or other she was asked and she found herself slipping in little stories. Although she never mentioned Cole's name all her listeners knew she was married to the untidiest man who ever lived, he hated sleeping on the side of the bed away from the door, they knew how much he loved anything lemon and he bitched about her obsession with chocolate.


Or sometimes she just talked about her marriage because listeners seemed to find her views more acceptable when they thought she was talking from experience


"When you and your husband fight, how do you stop it getting out of hand. " a listener said.


"We don't" Phoebe answered" we just say what we think."


"Isn't that dangerous" asked the listener.


"Not really" Phoebe answered brightly," we only fight about little things that don't matter, never the big things."


"So you work out compromises on the big things" asked the listener.


"Lord no " said Phoebe being honestly. "What good does a miserable compromise do?"


"So even if you disagree with what he wants, you just trust him" asked the listener in disbelief.'


"Well of course I trust him and he trusts me" said Phoebe airily "That's how it works and was not thrilled to hear the listener snort and two people in the studio raise their eyes.


And the more Phoebe talked the more the more listeners kept asking for little snippets.


Even Victor, Phoebe's father asked Cole why he did not kill her for talking about him. He said quite truthfully to Victor as he did to any-one else he thought it was funny, and was somewhat annoyed when they would not believe him.


"Are you sure its okay?" Phoebe asked him apprehensively when people around her half convinced her talking about her husband could be a problem. "I won't do it if you really hate it."


"I think its funny " Cole told her somewhat smugly added. "I know you only talk about me all the time because you can't stop thinking about me."


"I " said Phoebe and then she giggled, "Pleased with yourself for being right "and he laughed.


The real reason that the listeners loved the snippets was that Phoebe could not talk about Cole, even when she was talking about his quirks, without her voice taking on the soft caress of some-one who loved and knew she was loved, the voice of some-one who lived with a man she worshipped and any one listening to her who had an ounce of sensitivity knew it.


Unfortunately newspaper editors such as Elise and executives were not noted for their sensitivity. All they saw was that 'Ask Phoebe's' popularity and consequently, their paper circulation increased after her marriage and as they all knew about Phoebe's extremely difficult divorce and the scandalous rumours about who was the father of her child, they lived in fear of the consequences to paper circulation if it turned out Phoebe was 'fantasising' or downright lying about her marriage.



After her sisters left Piper called Darryl and told him they were fairly certain it was a warlock attack but could not get the warlock. With a little help from Darryl and witch connections she managed to verify the two women who had been attacked were witches. They were members of a coven who all lived in on the other side of San Francisco Bay and who Piper had no previous contact. She tried calling one of them, more than a little concerned that the easiest way to locate a witch was to look her up in the phone book.


The witch was less than forthcoming, highly suspicious of a phone call professing to be from another witch without a real reason. Piper glared at the phone and started to call their whitelighter "Casper." she yelled and nothing happened, getting more angry she called Casper again and nothing happened.


She tapped her foot. "Where the hell is that damned ghost when I need him? " she asked Melinda who was bored playing with Patsy and decided to keep mommy company in the attic.


"Not Casper, mommy " said Melinda.


"What" said Piper staring at her daughter. Bad enough her sisters and husband and even Cole were telling her how to do things. Now her three year old daughter was too.


Piper called again for the whitelighter and he appeared, a tall thin man with a saintly demeanour and a never-ending font of patience. With an air of extreme tolerance indicating he had decided that he would not rise to provocation, no matter how much he was tempted, the whitelighter informed Piper he would consult with the Elders. Piper between her teeth said "good" and with no further words the whitelighter orbed. Piper started to look up Count Fleischer again in the Book of Shadows and suddenly found herself flicking through the pages on darklighters, the only being that could kill whitelighters. She hastily flicked back to Count Fleischer.


"Just another warlock, some old thing, chasing witches trying to get their powers, you know," Piper told Melinda "That's why they call it the never ending battle. It just goes on and on while all you ever do is worry about all the rules. Damn" she said "There's not even magic in magic any more."


She flicked the pages of the Book of Shadows and came to the entry on Sprites.


"Sprites live in places that serene and cool." Piper read out to Melinda "They like to play with nymphs or tease butterflies but they would never hurt them. Sprites are responsible for changing the colours of a tree's leaves in Autumn using bright paint in every shade between red and yellow. Sprites are very creative often muses, artists, and poets."


"Sprites mommy " said Melinda, enjoying having mommy alone for a few minutes.


"That sounds like...magic" Piper told Melinda " hell of a lot more fun than blowing up boring old warlocks.


Casper–not came back and patiently informed Piper that he had discussed Count Fleischer's attack on the witches with Elders who would discuss it with the other witch's whitelighter and then they would let the Charmed Ones know what they had discussed.


"Good" said Piper dismissively "I'll discuss it with my sisters."


"Excellent" said the whitelighter patiently and orbed.


"Ffffff" Piper saw Melinda watching her "Fooey " she said. With Melinda following behind went down to Marly who had stayed all day when Piper thought she needed her to look after the children when they thought they were going to chase Count Fleischer. Marly was justifying staying by ironing. Piper had guilty resented paying someone to iron when money was so tight and then she saw huge pile of carefully ironed clothes she would not have to do and it suddenly seemed worth it.


"I'm going on some witch business " Piper said "Can you stay?"


"You have to work tonight, shouldn't you be resting " Marly asked, willing not to be shy to protect Piper.


"I had a baby, I'm not an invalid" Piper snapped. " Honest Marly" she pleaded as Marly pursed her lips. "I'm okay."


"You look to thin " Marly told her not giving in "You need to rest." And Piper inwardly moaned.


Piper called Paige at work and told her to come home.


"What, has the warlock attacked? " Paige asked whispering the word.


Piper explained that they needed to talk to the witches and she needed some magic to convince the witches not to be suspicious.


"I've got to have the stats in for last month, to make sure the funding doesn't get cut ," Paige said staring at her computer while she talked "and I have 4 interviews scheduled. Can't you just go over and blow something up?"


"They'll probably think I'm a warlock too, orbing might convince them" Piper insisted.


"Oh hell, all right" said Paige sucking on a pen. She told her co workers that the family emergency was back. The co workers at the community centre all operated on a be there when you can principle and the new member, John who had joined since Mark died nodded and agreed to take her interviews. Paige noticed one was Arlene so suddenly the magic did not seem as much interference as it had been.


She slipped out of the building and orbed home.


"What took you so long " muttered Piper as Paige raised her eyes and held out her hand.


"Where?" she asked.


Piper gave her the address of the witch Jade, and they orbed to the witch's house on the other side of the Bay, a large family home, of a style built twenty years ago, to find a woman maybe 10 years older than them vacuuming a large living room and making muttering noises about stains on the carpet.


She looked up and switched the vacuum cleaner off as she saw the orbs.


"Jade?" asked Piper.


"Who are you? "Jade demanded. " Where's Caleb".


"Is Caleb your whitelighter?" said Paige surprised " he used to be ours."


"What " said the witch leaning on the vacuum cleaner " Who are you? I haven't really got time to go off demon hunting." she told Paige and Piper "This place is a mess " she said indicating the room which did have a decided sort of lived in look about it.


"I called you earlier " Piper said. "I wanted to ask you about the attack you had today. The warlock attack."


"Who are you?" Jade asked again suspiciously.


"We're the Charmed Ones " Piper said "Piper and Paige".


"The Charmed Ones are the Power of Three" said the witch narrowing her eyes.


"Phoebe's at work." Piper explained" We aren't here for magic just information about what happened this morning, about you getting hurt."


Jade not entirety convinced asked, "What do you want to know?"


Piper and Paige looked at each. "The police told us about you, not officially just a friend, but that was the fifth similar warlock attack.


"The police told you it was a warlock attack?" Jade asked sceptical.


"No" Piper said trying to be consolatory and failing. "Our friend recognised the signs. He's known about magic for quite some time."


"I told the police nothing happened. "Jade said.


"I know " said Piper  "what did happen?"


"Nothing " said Jade " I told the police nothing happened because nothing happened. I fell over something..I think and my cousin helped me up."


"Sure it was not a warlock "Paige asked.


"I've been taking on warlocks since I was 16 " said Jade a bit annoyed "I know what a warlock attack looks like and that wasn't one. I tripped over in the damned carpark, and she put her hand up to brush her hair out of her face and both Paige and Piper noticed a huge ugly red graze on her arm.


"So whitelighter won't heal that" Paige asked.


"Not in the rules " said Jade a little pissed. "if you know Caleb.."


"Yeah " said Paige and she giggled " my sister was itching so much with stitches after her son was born, she was threatening to go demon hunting to rip the stitches so our whitelighter would heal them. Who was that whitelighter?" Paige asked Piper.


"Can't remember " said Piper feeling a bit awkward.


"Wouldn't work " said Jade " After my fourth was born I had a damn Stiltskin demon visit, baby snatcher, attack" she added. "My power is visual, I can burn evil, some of 'em, not the upper level ones, just the flammable ones, by looking if I concentrate. This one exploded when I got it, must have been the acid and I got burnt. Damn whitelighter healed the burns and left the stitches alone" she said.


"You've got four kids" asked Piper. "How do you manage?"


"Five now " said Jade. "Two boys three girls. Jade flicked a hand around the room "I don't manage" she said.


"Wouldn't you think that using magic to take care of families and homes wouldn't be personal gain, it would be survival?" Piper shook her head sadly.


"Yeah well " replied Jade pushing he hair back out of her face. "Ever noticed Elders and Powers That Be aren't exactly the family friendly types. "


"We noticed," said Piper.


"I'd offer you a coffee" said Jade "but I got in laws coming for lunch tomorrow. Husband's pretty good about witch business but the in laws can't understand why he married some –one who can't even manage to keep a house clean.


Piper nodded "You sure nothing really did happen."


"Look being a witch in between car pool duty and dentist visits may mean my magic isn't very magical but believe me I know a warlock attack when I see one " said Jade. "Keep in touch. I can help if you need it".


"Sure" said Paige as she orbed.


She came out of the orb in one of the older malls in the centre of the city, where there was one if their favourite and more expensive coffee shops. " Coffee " she said to Piper.


"Why not " said Piper " can't remember the last time we talked just about sister stuff not with family all about."


"No " said Paige" me either. Are you starting to think this may not be garden variety warlock attacks?"


"Yep "Piper answered then after a second she mused. "That witch Jade, she sure.. man you don't get much help being magic and saving the world every other week, or thanks.. " and she looked at Paige " or satisfaction."


A waitress came and took their order. "Decaffeinated "Piper said snakey. " a teeny bit of chocolate won't hurt.


"Phoebe says there is no such thing as a little bit of chocolate" Paige informed Piper.


"Damn Phoebe"' said Piper. "Cinnamon only" she told the waitress giving in to Paige's frown.


"Double cream latte," Paige ordered. 'You know orbing uses calories." She told Piper  who grinned. As soon as the waitress left Paige asked "You're not finding the magic very satisfying either?" she asked.


"To much to squeeze in I guess " Piper said "or maybe when you know you've achieved your destiny, there's not much magic left in it."


"I know what you mean about to much." Paige said, "Mark put everything into the centre. Its want he wanted to do. And it takes everything I have and sometimes not much is left for magic. Or maybe I just can't find much passion for it. Like Jade."


"I know" agreed Piper " Change Wyatt, buy diapers and vegetables, take out the warlock, blow up the demon, check the books at P3."


"Yeah " said Paige" sometimes that angel of destiny thing. I wish, you know we hadn't stayed with it.


"Phoebe is glad we did" said Piper.


"Phoebe is just so damned happy with her whole life. Pisses me right off sometimes." Paige admitted.


"I suppose she deserves it" said Piper not entirely convinced " I'm not unhappy with my life you know, just.. tired of being tired."


"You've got two kids and a business" Paige said "And making sure Wyatt.. there was no problems when you carried him. It tired you."


"I'm not an invalid," Piper said.


"I know" agreed Paige, not entirely convinced. "Just tired. You know I've been thinking about that destiny thing,  "Paige said "all day a, what Francesca said about the prophesy of our destiny."


"She talked about the prophecy"  Piper exclaimed "what did she say?"


"She said that the prophecy was really only an interpretation of a vision of the future that the old source got in the last eclipse." Paige said " So I've been thinking that the Destiny thing, if its an only interpretation and you know how stories get changed as they're handed down."


"Mm" said Piper.


" I mean maybe they couldn't tell us any more about our destiny because they only knew what they found out from the stories about the last eclipse, only knew what was 'written' at that time. " Paige said. "Other things could have been written in the last 500 years."


"So it was all just a fraud" Piper said a touch bitterly. "They really don't know if we still have a destiny."


"It was magic, just not the way we thought " said Paige "Maybe after the next two weeks , there will suddenly be another prophecy about our 'destiny'.  I wonder if that damned whitelighter is going to tell us about the eclipse."


"Maybe they don't really know a lot about it." Piper mused "After all if their magical knowledge come from myths and rumours from the last eclipse," Piper said " Maybe they believe, it really is prophecy."


"Yeah " said Paige. "Or maybe witches and beings don't remember, or think it's a dream and they hope it will pass us by."


"Maybe," said Piper. "Maybe it doesn't happen to witches. Francesca was really warning Cole wasn't she."


"I wouldn't mind," said Paige "I mean I could really do with something magic, real magic, not the day to day stuff."


"Me too " sad Piper "though with my luck I'll probably get exchanged with some creature that hates ironing too."


Paige laughed, "Well Proctor said you might get a surprise about what is your equal."


"You finally got to meet Proctor. What was he like?" Piper asked.


"Looked like the devil to me " said Paige " Francesca really didn't like him" she added " Didn't bother to hide it. Makes you wonder how whitelighters can guide beings they dislike and I guess she does guide him." Paige considered for a second " probably does it out of a sense of duty."


"Maybe that's how Casper an all those other whitelighters feel about us," said Piper. "Duty. Its not particularly pleasant thinking some.. being only puts up with you because it is their duty."


"Wrong ghost" said Paige. "I sort of felt Proctor was enjoying himself pulling Francesca's strings about. She must have known" Paige added " she backed off a when it got didn't get out of control. I guess she's had hundreds of years experience dealing with beings she has a duty to."


" Yeah" Piper took a deep breath "Talking about duty…and ironing" she said "I've been thinking" she said "Damn it. Things aren't going to get better with money. Probably worse but there has to be more to life than ironing. Marly likes ironing. We can afford a few dollars a week to let her iron. The contract is up on the condom vending machine at P3. I can put a few more dollars on that."


"Using rubbers to pay to look after the kids has a certain irony," Paige smiled.


"Hell with the mortgage P3 has, what we pay Marly to iron and come every day with the kids isn't going to make any difference." Piper said.


"Its about time you worked that out "Paige said quietly.


"Well its not like we're paying a house keeper for cleaning " Piper narrowed her eyes as she saw Paige swallow.


"Don't you dare tell me you and Phoebe have been sneaking a house cleaning service in " Piper said annoyed. "I knew it was to well done."


"No said Paige "I …don't.. kill me or yell at me." She winced "Phoebe made Cole learn how to do it. You know how you like it done, so he can flick his finger and .."


Piper stared at Paige "Cole learned how to clean the house the way I like " said Piper as she started to laugh.


"He bitched big time" Paige told her, as if that made it all right.


"But he learned the difference between tile cleaner and mould remover " Piper asked, a smile that was almost a smirk around her mouth.


Paige nodded " Sorry " she said.


"Poor Cole." Piper said taking along sip of coffee. She considered it "l don't suppose there's any point telling him I know," said Piper grinning. "This can be out little secret."


Piper looked down at her expanding boobs. "I really need to go home and feed Wyatt," she said. She stood up "Cole learned how use wood polish and vinyl polish " she said as Paige nodded. "Poor Cole " said Piper not even remotely looking sympathetic.