The Life and Times

Part 1: Magic in the air

Chapter 5


"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 orbed Piper home and then decided it was late in the afternoon, there was no point going back to work. She slipped off to get her car. Piper had barely finished feeding Wyatt when Leo arrived home.


He orbed into the kitchen and was greeted by Melinda with a big hug and a more decorous pulling at his shirt sleeve until he picked Whosit up "Patsy " he said and lifted him.


"Do you think it is good the kids get so much attention very time some-one comes home ?" Piper; started to say then a saw the expression on Leos face "Just asking " she said.


"You get any sleep?" Leo asked carefully in the voice of some-one pretending to be calm.


" I had a baby Leo "Piper said, " I'm not an invalid. Why you so grumpy?"


Leo sighed "Long day with Durand."


"Usual tactful self " Piper said as she burped Wyatt, and Leo managed to convince Melinda and Whosit to settle down enough to talk.


"Yeah" said Leo " you know just sometimes between you and me I have to say being right isn't everything. This damned coven of witches turned themselves into Wihmunga, evil doers, offered a deal with a small village up in the north of Quebec, to drain a bog to get rid of some Feux follets little tricky spirits who live in bogs and ponds around Québec. They look like little blue flames and they try to lure travellers into ponds to drown them. But of courses the bogs support a whole ecosystem for water spirits and animals and draining them would ruin the system.

"If they're killing travellers" Piper said.


"Durand just said vengeance for one mortal life doesn't justify the destruction of many other non mortal lives. Told them mortals weren't so important, their lives were more valuable than other beings." Leo said. "And explained it to them, so they understood about not arguing."


"I guess he's right" Piper said a little doubtful.


"Oh he's right " Leo smiled " he looked at me  and growled 'Understand this Whitelighter. Most of the trouble in the realm is beings overestimating their right to exist at the expense of others'."


Piper laughed


"Durand wouldn't let them get rid of the witches either." Leo told her "Said they were not beyond redemption and anyway evil had a right to exist."


"Being right isn't everything" said Piper. "It'd be a hell of a lot easier if it was though," she said pensively.


"We don't have to go to P3 for a few hours " Leo asked.


"No " said Piper.


"Why don't you get some sleep" Leo said "I'll keep an eye on the kids and you know I meant to fix the railing in the basement, add the extra rail, I can do it now."


"That means hitting with a hammer" smiled Piper.


"I know," said Leo " hitting things with a hammer is good."


He went to get his tool box and half laughed as Whosit Patrick followed.  Leo gave Patsy a small rubber hammer and let him hit along beside him. "At least you're damned sight improvement over your father " Leo told Patsy. "You learn how things work before you get into them.


Melinda, bored watching Dad and Patsy hit things wander upstairs to find Auntie Paige home and spent some time explaining her to the intricacies of managing toy farms until Cole came home and Paige learned Melinda's priorities as she ran to him.


"What is this fascination you have for women in this family? "Paige asked him.


"Only two" he said as Melinda clung to his shoulder. "Where's Whosit Patrick?"


"Patsy 's down hammering things with Leo " Paige said.


Cole shook his head. "Talk about fascination. Leo have a bad day wit Durand."


"I guess" said Paige "Phoebe's not home. "


"On her way" answered Cole "Going up to change. "Auntie Paige wants to know about milking cows." He told Melinda as Paige raised her eyes.


Phoebe came home while Cole was still upstairs and watched Melinda carefully showing Paige about toy pigs. She only got a cursory " hello " from Melinda.


"We ought to get her a pet" said Paige all kindly aunt.


"No we shouldn't " said Phoebe in a 'don't argue' voice. She decided Whosit would not appreciate being distracted from hitting things and went upstairs to take advantage of half an hour just lying back on the bed talking to her husband.


"Do you feel guilty sneaking away for your children just to be alone?" she asked Cole.


"No " said Cole enjoying time alone to just touch her without some-one gripping all they ever thought about was sex. "How did the cocktails with the advertisers go?" he asked stroking her face. "Did you … ah.charm them into paying for the show to go state wide?"


"You mean did I flirt with them enough to make them feel good enough about me to take up the project " Phoebe asked sweetly.


"I didn't say that?" Cole said finger around her mouth.


"For your information I didn't flirt…with all of them" Phoebe said primly touching his hand "I was nice and charming and correctly friendly."


"Couple of women in the group were there?" Cole asked lying back.


"I" said Phoebe outraged sat up. She looked into the blue eyes staring at her "a couple " she said giggling. Cole reached over and pulled her on top of him.


"I had a miserable day at work. Elise bitched at me. It's your fault that happened" Phoebe pouted at Cole.


"How?" murmured Cole into her lips.


"You wouldn't let me fireball Elise when you were taken over by the Source." sniffed Phoebe pressing hard against him.


"Sorry" said Cole.


"She's a bitch," Phoebe said. Arching.


"I know " said Cole pulling her closer.


"She was bitching on about getting married because of Whosit and its only a front and…" Phoebe explained darting her tongue in his mouth.


"Oh for God's sake " said Cole pulling back almost annoyed.


"She was bitching on about our marriage being a farce and if it gets out, you know there goes the contract on the morals clause. Because the way I flirt if it was real she says you'd have to be a saint to put up with me." Phoebe told him.


"Which is what i am of course" Cole murmured against her neck. "I wish she would try and break the contract on morals" said Cole who wrote it "then we could sue the hell out of the paper and solve a few of the finance problems."


Phoebe laughed then took a deep breath. "It doesn't worry you does it" she said hesitantly and then whispered the little ahh noise of pleasure he loved, as he bit gently on her ear.


"What " he asked his pushing his hand down her pants down to stroke her behind. She made more little content whimpering noise as she felt it.


"Me.. flirting " she said "you're not jealous or anything."


"I'm not jealous or any thing" he said "Quite enjoy it."


"Co-ole " said Phoebe pulling herself up "Why?" she said suspiciously.


"You'll bitch," he said.


"Why don't you mind?" she demanded sitting up.


"You won't like it?" he said.


"Why Cole?" she said getting her hands under his shirt.


"Don't" he said as she started to tickle him " don't " he yelled squirming away and trying to get hold of her hands. "Don't " he said trying to get out from under her.


"Why Cole?" she said stopping tickling but keeping her hands where they were.


"You'll tell me I'm a chauvinistic pig" he said.


"Why Cole?" she said starting to move her hands.


"I've got what they want" he said. "And they can't have it." And waited.


Phoebe sat up "You damned nineteenth century male chauvinist pig" she hollered.


"I knew you'd say that" he said managing to catch her hands before she could start tickling him again. He pulled down to him.


Few minutes later she asked. "You worried about this realm eclipse?"


"Yes" he said seriously: "I have secrets, you know there are things I can't tell you."


"Yes" she said.


 "You worried?" he asked.


"What secrets have I got?" she sighed.


Cole lay on his back with Phoebe half on top of him. He held her head down against his neck and moaned a little as she kissed and licked his skin, just enjoying her against him. He locked a leg around her to hold her against him and just relaxed as he felt her against him.


"What are you feeling?" she whispered.


"Happy" he sighed pushing her head into him.


"This could end up in sex" Phoebe said.


"Or it could end up with us declaring how much we love each other and responsibly going down to look after our children " Cole breathed.


Phoebe thought for a while. "Kids come first;" she said, just a little regretful. They finally went downstairs to find Paige playing mom and fixing dinner.


"No take out" said Cole.


"I can cook," said Paige.


Cole got himself a beer and Phoebe helped Paige. Melinda decided she had some excess energy and the started galloping on her hobby horse around the kitchen laundry and the dining room and back .


Whosit had settled himself on the floor with all the building blocks he could find arranging them in a pattern of his own design. Cole frowned as Whosit occasionally waved his hand and glared at the blocks when nothing happened.


Pipe and Leo came downstairs Piper dressed up in a black chiffon and silver skirt and silver lame top and feeling very 'not motherish' out of jeans and sensible clothes that did not show the stains.


"You look beautiful," Phoebe told her.


Piper twirled "Not new. I forgot I had it. Bought it just before I knew about Melinda." Then she remembered even if she did not look 'motherish' she was one. "You get Melinda and Patsy to bed on time tonight " she ordered Cole and Phoebe. "I don't want repeat of last night ".


"Yes Piper" said Cole and Phoebe contritely.


Cole came home fairly early the next night Friday. Before five. Bad enough he had to work, bad enough being a lawyer, bad enough working for himself and not making any money but working late and still being broke would have been unbearable.


He was tired. He had finished a three day court hearing for a client who had chosen not to pay parking fines in front of his house for nearly two years on a principal. Most lawyers except bottom end of the market lawyers like Cole would have left it alone. The truth was he rather enjoyed the case. The council had fought it all the way and demon that he had been he enjoyed screwing them over on every turn, especially as in the end the judge had ruled in the council's favour but fined the client $1 and no costs when the original fines had mounted to nearly $100,000 without even considering court costs.


Cole had also squeezed in writing 3 wills, negotiating two insurance contracts and threatening to sue a medical insurer who was trying to bail on a client who had a broken leg and broken arm. The client had been accidentally run down in his own driveway by his 85 year old mother when she hit forward gear instead of reverse. The insurance company seemed to think that the fact the client was standing in front of the car when his mother attempted to back it down the driveway mitigated its responsibility.


Even after the time he and Phoebe had been together since the disaster of The Source, since they got married again and Whosit Patrick's arrival, Cole still could not feel a little surprised a little glimmer of happiness he had using the word home, as in "I'm going home" and wonder when people like the receptionist at his office nodded as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Cole could smile to himself and know just how precious it was to use the word.


He parked in the street, noting that Phoebe and Paige's cars were there but Piper's was missing.


Phoebe had called earlier to say that the baby sitter Marly who also had a part time job working another witch's bookshop had called asking if the Charmed Ones could help Clarissa. Her shop was being stalked by a couple of warlocks and they were worried. Cole knew the witch Clarissa. She was a client, recommended by Marly of all people. He just did small time work for her, organised insurance contracts, staff contacts and handed any paper work that was needed for leases and permits. Cole did not know what her powers were. He figured it was her business. She knew he understood magic being married to a witch and that was all.


Cole had hoped Phoebe would be home already. He promised himself to stay away from her work and not worry but when he knew she was out there fighting evil  he still found himself restless and concerned. He should not have worried about warlocks, just day to day evil but that afternoon. However not long before he left Talbet the importer Piper recommended as a client, called into the office. Talbet enjoyed nothing more than a good gossip and was often prepared to pay for the privilege.


Cole was thinking quite grumpily. "I hope you enjoy getting billed for this" when Talbet said "Nice offices. I'm glad they accepted the references I gave you. Although the guy I spoke to about this place seemed decent enough. Not like those other two who came around last week looking for information about Piper."


Cole froze in his seat "Who were they?" he asked as casually as he could.


"It all struck me as quite odd." Talbet told him "They said Piper had given me as a reference for a loan but asked quite a lot of questions that seemed a little to personal about her car and where she lived and her family. I played dumb. I thought it funny she had not asked me about being a reference. Not like when your wife rang for you for this place."


Cole smiled, he did not tell Talbet Phoebe rang him after she had given him as a reference not before. "Piper isn't looking for a loan at the moment" Cole said positively "Probably loan sharks feeling  around. Happens in the club business but if you have any more calls give me a call."


"Are you sure you know what Piper is doing? "Talbet asked.


Cole grinned "Yes "he said "She knows what I do, I know what she does. What did these guys look like?"


"Ordinary, thirties, dark suits. One was taller than the other. Nothing special. One had an unusual ring I noticed. Gold with a dagger serpent insignia, Rubies for eyes" Talbet answered.


"Just usual bunch of thugs" Cole answered wincing inside because the insignia was a warlock coven.


He had called Phoebe and suggested they be careful. Phoebe told him to keep his nose out of witches' business. Then she relented and told him they would be careful. "We thought the attacks are something more than random, this more or less confirms it" she said. "and don't be sarcastic " she added as he took a deep breath.


"It might take longer than we thought, " she told him but Cole still hoped she would be home before him. He could hear a radio on in the conservatory. Leo was sitting on the sofa with Wyatt lying across him. With one hand he was tickling his son's tummy as Wyatt gurgled happily.


Whosit Patrick and Melinda were playing on the rug, a big pile of toys in front of them. As Cole watched Melinda seemed involved in some game where she orbed away every toy Whosit picked up and put them on the other side of him where he could not reach them. Whosit was getting angry, very angry, bawling at the top of his voice, which Leo totally ignored.


As Cole came in the room Whosit apparently decided crying was not doing him any good. Cole sucked his breath as Whosit stretched out his hand mimicking the orbing and then when that did not work he picked up a, fortunately, foam skittle and hit Melinda with it as hard as he could, Melinda roared and telekineticed three plastic blocks at Whosit. Cole flicked his finger and the blocks, to Melinda's disgust, fell to the floor and for a second she wavered between annoyance at her fun being spoiled and pleasure Cole was back.


She finally ran to him while Whosit followed. Cole had Melinda hanging off his coat as he picked up Whosit.


"You know Leo "Cole said " when you stay home to watch after the kids the idea is that you actually watch them."


"Soft toys can't do any harm, " Leo said not looking up from the book.


"They were hitting each other with them." Cole told Leo.


"Just sibling rivalry " Leo said " Ask Phoebe " he grinned.


"Very witty " said Cole managing to sit with both Whosit and Melinda. When Melinda used her size to an advantage Whosit caught his fingers in her hair and pulled as hard he could until she cried. And then Melinda hit him.


"Don't hit:" said Cole automatically to Melinda. So she tried to shove Whosit off Cole's lap. He put Melinda down and she stamped her foot and tried to grab Whosit who aimed a foot straight at her.


"Enough " Cole said and put Whosit down. "That temper has to be Halliwell " he told Leo "It couldn't possibly be you or me."


"When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it--this is knowledge." Leo told him " Confucius " he added.


"Confucius or confusin" " said Cole.


"Very witty " said Leo.


"Heard from the girls" Cole asked trying to sound unconcerned "I left a message for Phoebe but she hasn't answered."


"Warlocks can take time " Leo said.


Cole turned his nose up " Shouldn't take so much time to vanquish a couple of power parasites" he said.


"Any-one ever tell you, you have a very xenophobic attitude to warlocks?" Leo asked him.


"Bloody parasites" Cole said " just exist to steal powers, a couple were chasing information about Piper from Talbot, the liquor importer" Cole told Leo.


Leo looked at him "Its only warlocks" he said. " everyday gimme vanquishes. Nothing to worry about " he said pretending not to be concerned.


Leo put Wyatt on the floor with his favourite toy beside him. Melinda and Whosit apparently benefiting from being ignored were inventing some peculiar game of the roll the ball which only they knew the rules.


"I bet they'll be like that all their lives " Leo said.


"What?" Cole asked.


"Fight like hell with each other and go help any–one who gets between them" Leo said his voice dry.


"You going to the club?" Cole asked, "I'm okay with the kids."


"Called Danny" Leo said, " he can manage for once. It was his sister Reggie married."


"And knocked up " said Cole. "I know how many laws I just broke. I'm a lawyer." he said before Leo could say it. Leo nodded without laughing.


Cole asked finally " Durand getting to you?"


"No" Leo shrugged then deciding he was talking to a guardian, there were things he could say that were better not said to witches, especially ones who had very limited respect for the higher orders of magic. " I got to see the Powers That Be the other day " He said. " Not to thrilled about a previously failed junior whitelighter being present. I'll say this for Durand he has loyalty. He insisted I stayed."


"And" said Cole.


"Durand made his point" Leo said "there are ways of taking advantage of a confrontation between warlocks and demons without dealing or siding with either. That would be wrong. It is not the business of good to become involved" Leo quoted."


Cole grinned "He was that polite was he?"


"No " said Leo " that blunt. I'm starting to respect that bluntness."


Cole looked at him. "Are all these warlock games a factional dispute down there?"


"Don't you feel it?" asked Leo.


"Obviously not the business of the Guardian Belthezor " Cole answered unperturbed. "I have enough problems with Africa."


"I got the feeling that a couple of the Powers That Be were almost grateful that Durand made the argument for them, in his own inimitable way " Leo said. "Some even seemed to understand the great Plan..a little. Almost believe in the part of good winning…just. One even said it is possible to win battles, never possible to win wars, only lose them."


"Fight the battle. Avoid the war" Cole said somewhat sarcastically "Protect the innocent. I wonder where I've heard that before. Think it's worth choosing eternity for."


"Always comes back to the innocents "Leo nodded "up there, down here, down below, any of the realms. Its not without its rewards. He said." "He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own". Confucius." Leo added.


"Shut up Leo" said Cole as he stood up.


Leo grinned. Cole was no more fond of Confucius than he was of St. Augustus or Plato. "Just Cole," Leo almost confided "While some of the Powers welcomed Durand laying down the law, eased their consciences, I think. Justified turning the other cheek, there were others who I could tell.. resisted. They did not want to llisten to the words of a guardian, they feared his strength. And doubted or resented his wisdom, and it is wisdom Cole. I think it is perhaps only Durand's long service that made his wisdom at all …palatable. Without that they may well have even rejected it and tested his strength."


"I realise those who confuse the possession of power with the desire to use it are not confined to the lower orders." Cole replied.


"I think its better, it is wise, that they do not recognise that Belthezor, the vanquished Source of all Evil has risen as a Guardian, with a Guardian's power, for some time" Leo told Cole. "And very little of my belief is about protecting you."


"I know," said Cole seriously: "We are called to protect those weaker than ourselves from those who could hurt them. Even us. I hear that often enough from Arturo " he added raising his eyes "It is not my wisdom."


Cole reached to pick up is brief case but Melinda was too quick. She grabbed it with both hands and took off up the stairs dragging it.


"Halliwell women are always attracted to demons" Leo sighed.


Melinda dragged the bag all the way to Cole's and Phoebe's bedroom only spilling two or three sets of papers.


He changed and came downstairs with Melinda skipping ahead, and then ran the last bit as the phone rang but it was only Victor calling to say he and his wife Margaret wanted to visit on the weekend.


"I hear Africa calling" Cole muttered.


"Not if I hear Durand first "muttered Leo who was no longer completely an angel.


"You'll be the one who'll stay " Cole said thinking he'd won. "I'm not scared of my wife bitching at me."


"You'll stay," said Leo knowing he had won. "You are scared of my wife bitching at you."


"You want to feed these kids" said Cole who had learned from Francesca that retreat was sometimes a way of not conceding defeat.


Leo grinned. He had been around Francesca too. He knew as long as you won the battle there was no need to humiliate the vanquished.


Leo already had Whosit Patrick in his high chair in front of a bowl of what looked mushy mess and was warming Wyatt's bottle. Cole picked up the jar that had the baby food and looked at the label; "Delicious flavour, a taste that will tempt the fussiest eater." He sniffed the jar and turned his nose up. "Eekk" he said as Whosit watched him.


"And you wonder where Patsy learns top be a picky eater " Leo commented. Patsy could never eat anything without checking it felt okay, fingers in the mush, sniffing it and swishing it around the bowl four times. Leo was the most patient with him and even he was sometimes strained. Lately Whosit had taken to flatly refusing to eat anything but the most expensive baby food in the range.


Melinda had worked out that Whosit Patrick got a lot of attention from food fanaticism. And was not above imitation. She was given a sausage, mashed potatoes and peas and Cole told her to eat it.


"It's cold" she said.


"It wasn't when you got it " Leo told her but not entirely immune to baby blue/green eyes. He put it in the microwave. Melinda finally realising she wasn't going to win, contented herself with flicking mashed potato at Patsy and eating the rest.


"And the Powers That Be wonder why guardians have no ambition to rule" Cole told Leo.


"What" said Leo.


"I know my limits," said Cole " I can smite the Source of all evil but I can't make a three year old eat mashed potato."


They bathed the children with Cole checking his cell and his watch every five minutes and Leo glaring at him. "They're okay "Leo said snippily "Feel for Phoebe's aura if you're worried, you two are connected."


"She knows when I do it and gets pissy I'm checking up on her "Cole muttered "Nothing unusual " he added doing it anyway. After all children were put to bed, Leo settled back into the corner of the conservatory reading Confucius and Cole settled onto the other sofa, feet on the table and read through papers that he needed next week for a case he had been ordered to take by a judge to take. Pro bono. A really nasty one where a sixty year old woman had given her abusive husband of 40 years sleeping pills and taken to him with an axe. She had not killed her husband just caused his leg to be amputated and the husband had said if she nursed him he would not testify. The woman refused. On the day of her indictment, Cole had been in court arguing for a truck driver not to lose his licence over a drunk driving charge. The driver claimed he had been eating his wife's fruit cake that was soaked in brandy. The judge who had presided over a number of cases Cole had fought and been somewhat sympathetic called him up and told him he was taking the woman's case, while Cole worked out how many wills he would have to write to pay for it.


In between reading, Cole kept glancing at his cell and every time he did Leo sighed. So when the Piper finally called on the manor phone, it was Leo who jumped up in a hurry and grabbed the phone.


"You're all okay " he asked, "Get the warlocks?"


"More or less " said Piper "they trashed Clarissa's shop."


"Back soon? " Leo asked.


"We have to take Clarissa to hospital " Piper told him.


"Why?" Leo asked.


"She's okay just bleeding" Piper explained.


"Where's your whitelighter?" Leo asked.


"I'll explain later" Piper answered. "Kids?"


"Asleep " said Leo. "Patsy doesn't like the delicious new taste. He likes the old expensive stuff."


"That figures" said Piper "we could be a while, the queue is murderous here. Actually can you come and orb me home for a while: she asked Leo "My breasts are killing me. I need to express milk. Badly. Phoebe and Paige can stay with Clarissa and drive."


"Yeah sure" said Leo." They're okay" Leo told Cole. "Clarissa has to go to hospital Don't understand why. I'm going to get Piper. She needs to express some milk. Says she's in agony. You don't have any Africa.

  "It can wait" said Cole, who firmly supported kids come first rule in the manor and got some what snippy if other people hesitated. "You know " he told Leo just before he orbed "I can remember a time in my life when my daily conversations did not revolve around breast pumps and expressing milk, but I was the source of all evil so I don't suppose it counts."