The Life and Times

Part 5: Of a good beginning cometh a good end.

Chapter 49

"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

Paige went upstairs to her room. She threw her bag on the bed and wandered around the room a little restlessly, drifting to the box sitting on her dresser where she had put all the little things that were left when Mark passed on a year ago. She fingered them gently as if they were the most precious things in her life. She bit her lip and glanced at her face in the mirror. Her hair was still tousled. No makeup, eyes even she could see had a brightness that was almost magical and maybe finally not a girl's face , a woman's.

Paige fingered each thing in he box, aftershave, a handkerchief, a toothbrush, one of Mark's stupid ties, he had liked to wear when he was at the employment agency, a particularly gaudy Elmer Fudd one, that had got lost under her bed one night and she only found about two weeks after he passed over. She ran a finger across Elmer Fudd's silly hat and smiled, almost melancholy. It was the morning after the night before, and the cold light of day, where without Mark's presence , the intoxication of the night before and the romance of the island she could examine in the context of her own life.

Paige wandered to her bedroom window and because she was alone and seeing her promises from a distance she swallowed a certain amount of guilt that her secret love would have to be hidden away from those to whom she had committed her services as a witch, a certain amount of regret that she could not share her love with anyone outside her family. And even in her family then Mark was not going to be part of anything but the closest family dinners, Christmas's or picnics, or children growing up.

Paige shook her head, at the irony that loving Mark in many ways solved the question she and her sisters had often discussed. What would happen when and if she decide to commit, to marry? The same problem Phoebe and Piper had had. The Charmed Ones were strongest in a house in the nexus. Leo managed to live there, after as Paige understood it, some initial problems. Cole had moved in because the truth was they gave him little choice but it was not a situation that was likely to be repeated a third time. So loving Mark solved some things.

However loving Mark also meant dealing with the complications of keeping parts of her life separate.

Paige sucked on her lip a little, somewhat nervous of how all the separate worlds she was building, would not tear her apart and force some choices which she was not prepared to make.

She made her way back to her dresser and picked up the box with Mark's things. She fingered several CD's he had left behind from his stays at the manor when he had been making a point of ever so gently asserting his own individuality.

Paige pulled one out. She had always decried Mark's old-fashioned taste in everything and music was no different. It was titled Great Movie Themes. Old movie themes. She smiled. She barely recognised any of the titles of the movies.

She needed to shower and go to work. She had a day of very long meetings over a job seeking initiative with the archdiocese. She was tired, hadn't slept all that much last night. Only a few hours lying close against Mark in an old-fashioned great bed which had a big thick feather mattress and fresh citrus scented sheets. Paige smiled to herself, sated and in one area content and sure of her future, in another way uncertain.

Because she had made a lifetime commitment the night before. She hugged herself. Maybe more than a lifetime.

The prim island hotel keeper, locked in a plain always separated from the rest of the realm had demanded some the proof of marriage if they wanted to share a room. They had quickly manufactured something and thereafter Paige was addressed on the whole island as Missus and the old fashioned term Mistress. Mark's humour had failed a little when she had suggested that one was more appropriate.

"We can't marry "Paige had told him.

"We can make the vows to each other " he had said his jaw trembling with emotion.

So without much more discussion, they had walked hand in hand into a church on the main square to make some very personal promises without really talking the consequences out.

Paige put Mark's CD on her player turning it up very loud partly so she could hear it over the shower and because she knew the music drove Rodik crazy.

Paige stood under the shower letting the water run over her face. Old-fashioned hotel rooms were...interesting but the could be vastly more interesting with the addition of a few things like a shower, Paige wondered if telling the island plain lost in its own timeline about a few modern conveniences would screw the culture.

It had been magic with Mark, seeing him as flesh and blood, planning some sort of life outside the life both were living, planning a hidden life away from the reality.

Mark was not like Leo, a whitelighter who had proven his value, and even then Paige had not forgotten the stories Piper and Phoebe had told her about Elder's threats of unspeakable wrath. She had to assume Mark was being monitored. Her father Sam had guarded Mark as before Mark had passed over to his calling as a whitelighter, surely he had known how not-docile, how bloody minded determined to get his own way and how true to his own conscience Mark was.

If Elders decided that Mark was not suitable as a whitelighter, or more trouble than he was worth, the alternate would be to allow him to pass on though limbo and face his reincarnation and next existence.

Leaving her to mourn him second time. Paige was not sure she could do it and keep her belief in good and magic and stay sane. So she had made a commitment to Mark to live a small hidden life that was only slightly related her to her life she live in the manor. As her sisters before her Paige was finding truly loving some-one magic was not an easy road.

And it wasn't just Mark pulling her way from total immersion in her role as a Charmed One. Paige's commitment to the employment centre, which had almost been her reason for existence in the long year when she had lost Mark and her connection to magic, was expanding into a role that she felt was as important to the cause of good as her witch role. She only had to think how getting a job for Cole's deadbeat client Tommy Hicks had resulted in saving that child the other day to know it.

Paige only had to see the change in people when she got them jobs, only had to see them find their dignity to know, her job was not a part time role to earn money but as it had been for Mark before he passed on , a lifetime passionate commitment.

And there was her responsibility to Jade's daughters. Paige hadn't known Jade very long but something in her common sense acceptance of magic and the idiosyncrasies of the Elders and the works of good and evil a had made Paige like Jade, connect to her.

At a time when Paige was feeling disconnected from magic the way after all her years fighting evil, Jade was so excited by being involved in 'real magic, higher magic had been inspiring, but it had come at a very high price. Jade had made her choices but her loss was made worse by the sheer futility of it and Paige swallowed down a still burning anger at Rodik, that finding Mark had not quite put out.

Paige thought of Jade's three daughters. The eldest was only sixteen, a little younger than she had been when she had lost her parents. Paige, felt responsible for their mother being missing and she could remember herself at 17. And she knew they needed some-one.

True the girls had a father and a family but they were facing their coven and the Elders pressure to take their place as witches and continue the battle against evil. It was a great deal to ask of young girls so soon after losing their mother and they needed help, magic and friendship to deal with all the pressure and the fear that the fate of their mother and other lost witches in their family could be their's.

Paige felt she owed it to them, to magic and to their mother to help them find something better than duty and loss in their calling. They had a whitelighter but something Paige felt they need something closer to big sister to share their fears, anger and doubts.

Paige knew should get out of the shower and go to work but instead she put he face into the streaming hot water feeling it run down her whole body. All she had dreamed about was finding Mark and she was committed without regret to him. And yet she feeling stretched beyond her life, and uncertain how she could manage a life with so many parts disconnected.

She sighed and felt the blissful soothing of the hot water sensually running down her body, a body that she had used to express her love for Mark only a few hours ago. The water offered her a sensuality and feeling of freedom and magic that she usually found on the spirit wind and she made a prayer for the salvation of the person who invented hot showers. For the peace and sense of well being they had given the world.

Paige knew she should go to work. She stayed under the shower, feeling the spray and enjoying the sensuality when she became aware of the music belting out from Mark's CD. She recognised it as theme from a war movie that Mark loved because its main story was the nobility of men rising above the sordid evil of war to show their true heroics. Mark had insisted she watch the movie because he loved it and in certain senses she had understood why even though she had resisted and complained about watching it. During the last year Paige had hidden in her room to watch that movie alone when she had needed to find something of Mark's soul.

She listened to the theme, stirring and volatile and yet strangely poetic and….noble and as she did she felt the fading eclipse pull her once more into the spirit winds. As she came out of the swirling winds to find herself in a blue/green meadow of an enchanted realm she thought she was back amongst the Unicorns for a second. She felt again…. Equine.

The gentleness, the nobility and spirit , power physical and spiritual beauty of horses overtook her senses. And then she knew what she was. She was the Great Winged horse Pegasus. The Pegasus was deep in a communication Paige did not understand with an awesome, translucent , magic almost mortal creature that Paige did not recognise.

The great winged horse Pegasus sniffed the air, feeling the spirit winds and it pointed a foreleg and half bent the other in a sort of bow to the magic creature. It shook its head and flared its nostrils, shook out it wings and then soared into the winds, high above the realm outside the 'up there' and the 'down below', soaring higher and higher carrying a message that Paige did not understand. It flew beyond the magic worlds Paige knew, toward what seemed giant sun and then moved on into the starlight and cloud.

High above Pegasus eased its speed and surveyed all the realms far below and for an instant Paige saw something she would carry with her all her life magic and mortal. She saw the magic and mortal world through the keen sight of the great Pegasus. She saw the things those below never saw, the connection, the dependence and the balance. She saw events in one realm create life and destiny in another. For that second she understood how magic and mortal lives intertwined even when they did not know about each other. She saw how each creature's life was essential to the realm. She saw magic not as a disparate and isolated world but an intrinsic part of a inherent order…. beautiful, natural.

Never would she completely understand it, although she would spend a lifetime trying to, but in that instant she saw the realms magic and mortal, as an entity with a meaning and purpose and a creation of great and mystic origin.

Before she could fully comprehend it Paige was pulled back though those spirit winds that the Pegasus flew. She found herself standing in a shower in the manor with from theme from the movie Mark loved still playing. She gulped in deep breathes of air realising she had been granted a vision of eternity, peace and creation that most magic creatures would never know. She did not understand it but she knew she seen the real truth of magic.


Phoebe was not having a good day at work. She did the radio show that morning and in response to a caller discussing keeping romance alive in marriage when family and life interfered, told a somewhat sanitised version of her and Cole being interrupted by people coming into the house uninvited, leaving out the magic parts and the fact that she and Cole shared a house with her family.

The story went down well with the audience and got positive response, and some amused comments about her husband's patience. However she arrived back at work to find the lost soul evil minion Lori had been doing her work for evil snitching to Elise about Phoebe's absence the day before. She was feeling moody and out of control and didn't know why. There was a message for her to see Elsie and she looked at it disgusted and debated whether to ignore it when Cole rang.

His intention was to let her know he had listened to the show and he thought it funny but somehow it degenerated into a row about his continued absence at work functions. He was tight and on edge with Rodik in the house and he didn't take much pushing to let fly.

Somewhere in the back of Phoebe's brain as they argued it occurred to Phoebe that he was feeling very safe to be this snaky. And she said suddenly " Is this going to be great makeup sex tonight?"

"Only if you can guarantee me not to fall asleep?" Cole told her."

"Go to hell Cole " she hissed into the phone embarrassed.

"Want to know what you'll miss if you go to sleep?" he asked her and before she could say yes or no proceeded to tell her.

Phoebe started to get very hot in her panties and very uncomfortable because there was nothing she could do about it.

"Just go Cole" she roared down the phone wriggling on her chair in discomfort. "I'm ready to just call it quits until you can be reasonable and behave." Phoebe heard a cough at the door and given the way her luck was going at work she was not surprised to see Elise standing there.

"So" Elise drawled "There's a serpent in lover's paradise. If you're ready to call it quits I take it hubby won't be at the paper dinner party on Friday. Pity "Elise smirked because the new CEO and his wife just can't wait to met you and this paragon you're married too."

"Cole's coming." Phoebe snapped. "He was telling me…." She hesitated.

"Telling you what?" demanded Elise.

"I'll be there," Cole promised her having heard the conversation through the phone. "I'll be there just to watch the bitch squirm. Client got to go. Love you baby "He added and hung up as Phoebe glared at the phone, which Elise did not miss.

"He's coming." Phoebe told Elise who snorted and without a word, handed her several sheets of paper with the grammar on her next week's column corrected then turned and left.

Phoebe in irritation glared at the paper when her assistant told her she had another visitor. Phoebe feeling moody disgruntled and irritated said just get rid of them as Francesca appeared behind the assistant who tried to shush her out.

"Its okay "Phoebe told her assistant less than gratiously. "I suppose you always write using perfect grammar," Phoebe asked Francesca belligerently.

"Generally dear "Francesca answered taking the paper form her and reading it. "This has some technical errors" Francesca told Phoebe "But if you are using a chatty, colloquial style intended for conversation its more than adequate" then she added "Which is more than I can say about the corrections. The pronouns are confused, two sentences have infinitives and no active verbs and while I have no true quarrel with using US spelling, it needs to be consistent, using either z's or s's but not both."

"Is there anything you don't know everything about?" Phoebe asked Francesca moodily.

"I'm sure there is," Francesca answered "But as yet I don't know what that is," her eyes twinkled.

Phoebe suddenly pushed down a bitchy answer as she remembered the exchange she had with Francesca and her total confusion about the guardian Proctor's friendship. "There are things Francesca does not know." she thought to herself. "What can I do for you?" she asked out loud making a semblance of getting it together.

"I just want to know how you are doing after the great Elder vanquish yesterday?" Francesca told her.

"How did you know what happened?" Phoebe asked."

"I was there" said Francesca told her: "In case the Elders needed protection straying into dangerous territory."

"Why didn't you say something?" Phoebe demanded angrily thinking of all the hooded whiter-robed figures and how intimidating the whole scene had been.

"You appeared to do very well without me dear," Francesca answered, not responding to Phoebe's temper. "I came here to congratulate you"

"Thank you " Phoebe replied a little tightly.

"You're welcome dear," Francesca said standing up.

"Did you catch up with Cole ?" Phoebe asked casually.

"Not yet" said Francesca. "He's has been calling but I cannot feel anything untoward on the winds, so I assumed he was just being temperamental. He's managing well enough with Africa."

"Cole's very frustrated by Africa " Phoebe told Francesca who nodded her lips pressed together, the expression on the plain, intelligent middle aged face she used in the present age slightly amused. It was a face which no longer hid from Phoebe the passionate being behind it " but that wasn't why he was calling. Patsy had an accident."

"What sort of accident?" said Francesca grim and concerned. "I'm sorry dear. I'D have come if I realised."

"Not that sort" said Phoebe suddenly understanding things could be worse for her mortal son. "A magic accident.

"Really " aid Francesca in control.

"You know how Cole thinks Patsy should pick up some magic powers," Phoebe said. "To fill his core."

"Yes," said Francesca" If you're asking me if he should, I would have to advise Cole is the expert," she said.,

"Patsy got some powers, accidentally " Phoebe told Francesca. "Willem's."

Francesca froze for barely a second and then asked calmly in control "How many of Willem's?"

"All of them" said Phoebe dramatically, tragically, "All the good ones, and the ones from some of the other warlocks I suspect," she added just so Francesca saw the enormity of the problem.

"That is a problem" said Francesca non committal "it also changes things. Why isn't the balance changing ?" she asked herself,.

Phoebe stared at her.

"Good power are still inexistence, were in one creature now transferred to another. No change really." Francesca answered, her eyes raised upward and her hand lifted as if she was feeling the magic balance in the spirit winds.

"My baby son has just got hold of a trillion or so magic powers and no-one knows what he can do "Phoebe whimpered "You sure the balance is okay. Cole was freaked and…"

"My guess is Cole was thinking and acting like a father not a guardian" Francesca answered "The balance is very good I would l say."

Phoebe thought about it "With Melinda so powerful and Whosit collecting all those powers for good, and the Charmed Ones still fighting , isn't Good winning by ….well a lot"

"You have some wisdom dear "Francesca told Phoebe who flushed under the approval "My experience is that if good looks suddenly more powerful it is an indication evil is getting more powerful. Which is not unusual when there is relatively new source " she said.

"I'm frightened for my children " whispered Phoebe " child I mean and Piper's."

"I know what you mean" said Francesca not trying to diminish her fears. "The last time the new source started to assert his power was a very bad time for magic, for witches and good people" she said. "But the means was there to keep the balance."

"Hilma " Phoebe added. "but some good beings were lost. I learned about it. Individuals. I read some of the hideous things that happened to witches, and people accused of being witches. The balance may have been preserved but evil did some terrible things," she said defying Francesca to disagree."

Yes " agreed Francesca who lived it.

"You are not going to say it was meant to be just part of the plan" Phoebe demanded.

"No " Francesca shook her head, her expression grim "I saw some terrible things dear and ….No dear I would not say that, I would not say evil is justified to do evil because it is needed to hold good to account. I am Good." Francesca added. "It is not my calling to justify the sins of evil against the innocent."

"Its a hard heritage for my children" said Phoebe "Yet you believe in the balance "Phoebe asked grimly.

"Yes," aid Francesca " I have seen some great creatures arise and answer their destiny, which does not justify the actions of evil creatures. But it does balance them " she said.

Phoebe nodded.

"But it doesn't diminish the loss of he innocents and victims of battle "Francesca said, the passion of a thousand years of fighting the battle, and the consequences in her voice.

"Speaking of unjustifiable actions "Phoebe said finding the courage.

Francesca looked at her.

"Please" Phoebe said catching he hand. "I there are things that I said to you, that last time you came here that I shouldn't have said."

"But," said Francesca gently "You are after all a truth speaker and some truths are particularly unpalatable to hear, so I have to acknowledge a certain truth in your words."

"I shouldn't have said if "Whispered Phoebe.

"Only because your reasons in saying it were less than kind "Francesca agreed. "Not because there was not some truth in it."

"There are some truths that are it are better not said." added Phoebe who was a truth speaker and knew it.

"That dear " smiled Francesca " is very wise and true."

"I .Thank you" Phoebe said quietly " I. You know well I'm a difficult Madame." She said smiling awkwardly. "Arturo says so."

"I do know that," smiled Francesca a little school marm.

"I'm not going to stop being  Phoebe just for you " Phoebe shrugged defiant "I like Phoebe. I learned to like Phoebe. Cole thinks there is something special about her. It makes me special. Do you know what he did for me because I'm Phoebe?"

"Yes said Francesca" "And I do thank you dear," she added." For you honesty and for your respect. And for your trust."

"Thank you" said Phoebe.

"You're welcome dear. I must go" Francesca nodded "Its been an enlightening conversation."

"So you don't think I should worry about Patsy?" Phoebe asked.

""I didn't say that," Francesca answered.

Phoebe nodded apprehensively and it struck her from just a slight rigidity in Francesca's stance that she had been caught by that well of loneliness that Phoebe had experienced when she shared with Francesca that last day with Hilma.

Phoebe watched her go. She saw Francesca though the glass window walking to ward the hall., while Phoebe thought of Cole and became more determined than ever that he was not going to face his destiny and his duty alone. Caring about people doing his duty and walking away from them, like Francesca.

And she suddenly took a deep breath and impulsively stood up and ran, catching up as Francesca walked toward the elevator, probably planning on orbing from there.

"Is something wrong?" Francesca asked turning.

"I .I" said Phoebe "I didn't offer you a coffee. Or anything." She asked terribly awkward and wondering if she had taken a step that would not be welcome, or worse politely accepted for politeness sake.

"Do you want to go have a coffee, if you're not busy. Nothing business just a chat? " Phoebe swallowed nervously.

"Thank you dear" said Francesca polite "If you have the time. That would be very pleasant."

"Good" said Phoebe "I'll get my purse." She hesitated then in a rush said. "I'm sick of coffee " she said "There is a great place, really French, cakes and tea at the Crystal so if you want and have tea …" She tailed off. "If you'd like.."

"That would be lovely dear" said Francesca gently.

Over tea at the Crystal Phoebe did her best to not talk of magic or business.

"Cole says you draw." Phoebe asked suddenly feeling tongue tied. "So does Paige.

"Just a hobby "Francesca answered politely. "Just faces in the crowd. "I'll must ask to see Paige's work." Francesca smiled as if she made a decision. "When I draw faces, I feel as if I can see what is behind them."

"How would you draw me? Phoebe asked a little apprehensively.

"I believe you would require a number of portraits turned in many directions, showing many different faces" answered Francesca.

"Oh" said Phoebe flushing. "How would draw Cole?"

"At the moment "Francesca replied very schoolmarm "Sucking on a dummy I think."

"Oh" said Phoebe and lapsed into silence.

"You won't be missed at work dear? " Francesca asked sipping tea elegantly. "You won't be in trouble with your boss.

"Yes" said Phoebe. "But I'm so pissed at her I don't care. She wants to fire me for immorality"

"Well your marriage isn't exactly normal but I wouldn't describe it as immoral " Francesca replied. "I believe the point of being married is that it makes sex between. spouses highly moral, in almost any culture."

"Elise can't get it into her head that I'm happily married." Phoebe explained "But the ratings on the radio show just went up and so did the surveys that said 'Ask Phoebe' is one the most popular columns, because it has quote 'an intimacy and understanding. Ask Phoebe is not just a help columnist, she a friend'. But of course its all a damned lie if I'm not happily married."

"You really love your job don't you dear?"  Francesca commented.

"Yes," said Phoebe "Apart from Elise." She laughed "I get to find out some great gossip that never gets published , from the guys who work the politics and entertainment and sport columns." she told Francesca confidentially.

"Really" said Francesca interested.

Phoebe took a deep breath " yes she said. "She leaned forward. "One of the guys following the campaign, told me the real reason why the senator did not make it to the LA press conference last week, when it was announced he was sick."

"I did read about that " Francesca admitted.

"Do you want to know what he was sick of ?" snickered Phoebe.

"What? " asked Francesca leaning forward.

Phoebe whispered giggling while Francesca listened her eyes raised in interested disapproval.


Cole finally finished with his client, the son whose mother kept getting caught shoplifting by telling the client bluntly she needed psychiatric help.

"She just does it to get attention" the son told him. "It's only shop lifting."

"It's stealing" Cole told him firmly "If she wants attention, tell her to take up violin lessons."

Cole finally convince the son, that the next time would be a conviction.

"She can afford a fine," the son argued.

"How about the time cleaning up highways on a community service order," Cole asked. "Or cleaning toilets in a gaol."

When the client left Cole turned his chair around put his feet on the window sill staring out the window thinking about the eclipse and the battle of good and evil that had gone on around the manor, family and finances and the unwelcome guest. From the glimpses of future he had seen, knew that his memories of this small life, would be the only thing that made sense of that future.

He smiled to himself at the chaos Patsy and Melinda were causing and wondered how long it would be before Wyatt added to it, even if his only magic was a limited whitelighter inheritance and not witch powers, he was going to have enough to be a problem. As a demon Cole had hated children, now he doted on them for all most for the same reason he had hated them. He no longer had to watch their hope and innocence and hate them for it. Now he could love them.

The small glimpse of his future had told him there would be moments that would be hard. Piper was not well. Leo knew it, her sisters knew it and he knew it. Paige seemed to be making some choices that moved her into another life but he had no idea what they were or why she made them. It was apparent that some magic crisis triggered a mortal crisis in Patsy and Melinda's time. However the truth was although he had seen a glimpse of his future and his family in the future he was really no wiser about that future and the events that would make it happen.

And as for Phoebe. Truthfully no matter how much he said he did not want her to choose the path she apparently would, he was overwhelming relieved to know the terrible fear he had of being without her, on some level would not happen. What the existence of a witch, a Charmed One , a mortal witch in an eternity meant to the balance , the order and that which was written, he was none the wise and guessed he would not be any wiser until it happened.

Cole's avoidance of work by musing on the effect of the eclipse was bought to a halt by a shuddering in the balance that always announced another guardian. He sighed and stood up, not quite feeling like another lecture on touching Greater Magic, that could not even get Rodik out from the manor and walked into the outer office, ready to face Proctor or Arturo.

He stopped dead because instead he was confronted by a small monk like man, wearing baggy clothes and an innocent expression. Therold was talking politely to Eduardo who had seen enough odd characters in Cole's office to be slightly suspicious of him.

"Mr" said Eduardo and he read the paper in his hand. "Mr Therold says you were expecting him, but his name's not on the appointments."

Cole took in the vision at the small monk like man with his balding pate and cherubic air and knew instinctively that he was confronted by a very dangerous magic.

"Its okay" he told Eduardo. "I was told you would call in when it was convenient " Cole said politely to Therold

 "I am sure you were told I would call when it was necessary" said Therold and moved in to Cole's office without waiting to be asked.

Cole glanced at Eduardo and raised his eyes before following Therold into the office and shutting the door.

"Friend Therold." Cole held his hand out and the cherubic little monk shook with some hesitation.

"I have looked forward to meeting you" Therold said cherubic smile on his face, which did not quite reach his eyes.

"Why?" asked Cole and winced slightly as he saw the cherubic smile turn peevish. He remembered the ritual of hospitality. "You drink tea I understand." he said. "I haven't got much here. Just black tea and some lemon" he said trying to redeem himself.

"Tea bags?" Therold asked not hiding his distain " Coffee will be sufficient " he said as Cole winced.

"Why have you looked forward to meeting me?" Cole asked as he offered Therold coffee which the small ex-demon sipped with a sad and disappointed expression.

"I have an interest in legends. It is also my calling, my business," Therold told Cole "To collect the myths and legends and prophecies and map the great plan, after the eclipse…. to create the lexicon of the next 500 years."

"I am not legend." Cole bit out almost angrily "I am what I am. I did what I did for me and because I loved… some-one and because….It wasn't about eternity. I loved Phoebe, I love Phoebe "He said. "So maybe you should record in your lexicon, it was as simple as that."

"It is my wisdom to understand that the reality of legend is often a contorted image of its mythology." Therold said primly.

"Oh" said Cole fairly certain he had been insulted but not certain how.

"But then the story of the love of a beautiful witch is a myth to which all creatures of good respond. It's natural, for good to want to believe Love can result in conversion to its cause. Which we know is false." said Therold.

"I guess so" said Cole lost.

"Because we know evil cannot Love," said Therold "And therefore conversion is irrelevant."

"I guess so" said Cole remembering how much he hated lore masters when he was a demon.

"So to business," said Therold pushing his coffee cup as far away from himself as possible. He dug around in the open tatty brief case he carried and pulled out a notebook and ball point open which struck Cole as very undemonic weapons to record great magic "What did you see in the eclipse, in the future," Therold asked in the same disinterested voice Cole used to asked people to describe extremely personal and embarrassing details on the witness stand.

Cole hesitated.

"Its all guardian's business" said Therold showing a spark of impatience.

"It was personal stuff" said Cole reluctantly, "My family, my wife."

"Only from you perspective," said Therold writing busily. "Details " he insisted.

"Um" said Cole.

"I quite understand personal intimacies," said Therold in a somewhat prissily voice that made Cole doubt he did. Therold tapped the notebook with his pen.

Cole realised he was not getting out of this "I saw I survived and I saw Phoebe pass through the spirit winds to be with me. I saw some questions. I found very few answer," he said.

"Your wisdoms grows Belthezor if you know that." Therold answered giving the impression he thought that there was a great deal of room for growth. "Your wife must be an exceptionally beautiful, devoted lady " sighed Therold wistfully.

"Who Phoebe?" said Cole who loved her. "Phoebe wants her own way. Phoebe wants what Phoebe wants."

The expression on Therold's face was decidedly more peevish. Cole was fairly certain Therold was thinking the lady was wasting her devotion on him. "What exactly did you find out?" Therold asked in a business like voice.

Cole bit his lip and finally answered. Therold pushed better than any arsehole lawyer Cole had know and took a studied blank indifference to all parts of Cole's life to come, that did not involve Phoebe's loyalty, beauty or devotion He sighed audibly when Cole mentioned Phoebe, and caused Cole to become more and more irritated. Therold slowly forced out of him the details of his visits to the future. He listened to future with Patsy with a slight hmm.

"This dos not augur well, " Therold said less prissy and more guardian, detached.

"Why" said Cole belligerently feeling fire in his hand as an instinctive protection of his son. Then catching his breath as he realised he was not beyond temptation.

Therold did not miss Cole's reaction "I understand why you would want to protect the son of your beautiful wife," said Therold "I meant " he said peevishly "The emergence of a creature of great power means the emergence of a great evil precedes it" said Therold matter of fact shutting his notebook. " I am sure your wife's son could not be evil."

Cole thought of the cereal dripping off the ceiling at breakfast, the broken glass on the cupboards and Melinda and Whosit covered in chocolate milk but decided against saying anything

"The last time, when you found all these 'prophesies'. Did it come to pass?" Cole asked. " Did it happen, exactly as it was seen?"

Therold winced "I was not the recorder so I did not hear it all. I assisted but I saw only that which it was my business to see and hear," the little monk caught his breath.

It suddenly made Cole realise the frightening pain and responsibility to be the guardian, the only one, who saw the pieces of the jigsaw of the future together as he traced the vision of the eclipse. Cole said a silent thanks for his own calling.

"Some things," said Therold "Were common knowledge. The old source saw his passing at the hands of the Charmed Ones and knew his nemesis and wasted much of his evil trying to destroy his nemesis. In the end this brought about by his very need to protect himself. Which was not foreseen."

"And me, did you know it was going to be me all along. Did you know who brought him to the Charmed Ones " said Cole "Did you know his passing was going to …cause my calling."

"No" said Therold suddenly guardian in his voice "If we had known that then most of us would have slept more easily. Belthezor's fate was never written. Belthezor always made his choices and those choices were not written,." He sounded almost disapproving. "It was written the Charmed Ones would defeat the source. There was some relief when they arose and then the sister was lost."

Cole stopped suddenly.

"No" said Therold answering a question. "It was not written. It did not end the way we expected but it happened the way it was written. I would have preferred it was written the Charmed Ones took the Grimoire. It would have saved some…concern which you may remember. It was certainly written Tempus would retrieve it. The connection was not apparent."

"I wish you well on your search" said Cole swallowing." It is long hard one."

Therold glanced over his notes and Cole could feel the disappointment and disapproval emanating out of him. "It is the small trivial things that make up the greater magic" Therold answered. "in the greater plan the lives of each of us, all of us, who we are, what we are, we are none of us lost and it is everything."

"Lucky for Great Magic I met Phoebe," Cole muttered.

"So I understand." said Therold carefully putting the top back on his pen. " Arturo tells me she as exceptionally beautiful and delightful woman, witch."

"I wouldn't quite say that" said Cole.

"Arturo has wisdom" answered Therold peevishly." I look forward to meeting a lady who lives in myth and legend, who is as exceptional as the stories tell of her."

"What stories?" demanded Cole suddenly suspicious of what Therold knew.

"Those which will be told." said Therold almost off handed "You must visit me soon"

"I do not want to burden you " Cole said nervously.

"It will be a pleasure," Therold said unenthusiastically "Bring your beautiful wife. Be well …. Brother Belthezor. " he added without much enthusiasm and shimmered leaving Cole to work out a way to explain how he left the office to Eduardo and to ponder eternity in the company  this ex demon and thinking how badly he did not want Phoebe to make the choice to stay with him and how badly he did.