The Life and Times

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

Chapter 50

"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

The witch Clarissa stood at the back of her bookshop. It was almost back to its pre-Willem/warlock-trashing state, that for her had started the whole magic adventure with the Charmed Ones. In fact some of it was better because the lights on the mezzanine had been replaced with decent no shadow fluorescent ones and the tables and seats had been covered with an expensive easy maintenance material and the shelves were a little further apart making customer comfort and access better. And she was not going to be financially ruined. The book stock had been cleared and sorted and while some would be going out on sale it was recoverable.

"Was it only three weeks ago" she thought. Three weeks ago she had been caught up in the world of greater magic and something bigger than she had ever envisaged magic to be. The Charmed Ones may have just accepted Willem's vanquish as another chapter in their lives. To Clarissa it had been a view of magic that had left her in awe and a little disconcerted and envious.

Because she had seen magic she could never feel and the Charmed Ones did not seem to understand what a gift of magic they had.

Clarissa's gift of non magic seemed  insignificant No matter how many times Phoebe called her and said they would not have got Willem without her, Clarissa felt a strong sense of regret and disappointment that she was always on the edge of it. And she was unnerved as well. And aware after Jade's loss, of the terrible consequences of the battle between good and evil. And how close she had come to getting killed herself twice, if Cole had not interfered.

She hobbled downstairs from the mezzanine still very sore and sorry for herself from the injuries she had received fighting Willem, cursing Rodik for putting her at risk, and her non magic power which made her immune to whitelighter's healing with every step. It may not have been good but she hoped with every fibre of her magic resistant body that some-one would come long and give the retriever exactly what he deserved for the pain he caused. Very long and very slow. She has said as much to her whitelighter when the woman had visited her yesterday and the whitelighter had been horrified that a witch could wish such a thing.

"Bloody whitelighters," thought Clarissa. Easy for them to preach. They don't get their livelihood trashed and their families at risk. Magic takes care of them. And they can't even take care of me."

Clarissa moaned out loud from the pain in her broken ribs. At least the Charmed Ones had whitelighters who could heal them as well as preach. Hesta her whitelighter only preached. Still as she had to concede, magic had indirectly made some things better in her life.

The visit she and her husband Mike had had to her son's specialist that morning had been both difficult and a relief with the insurance money and some more against lost wages Cole had wiggled for her and the bulk payment the operation for her son's deformed hip was happening very soon. Strange how the shop being trashed by the warlock; had made it possible months earlier. And out loud Clarissa thanked the gods and any other higher beings for Cole.

She smiled thinking of the Charmed Ones snitching and snaking at Cole for being an arsehole lawyer. She for one was damned glad he was an arsehole because she truly doubted that the insurance company would have acted with such 'Good faith' without him.

Phoebe may have described it as arseholeness but to Clarissa, whose son's health was in the balance, Cole's air of good humoured bloody mindedness and refusal to be intimidated or angered or moved by any tactic that the insurance company threw at him was nothing short of heroics.

Clarissa's conscience had pricked that somehow between lost wages and being paid for damages to equipment and book stock she was actually able to retrieve there was more money than it all seemed worth Cole had bluntly told her to shut up about.

"I can't take money for things that weren't damage," she argued. Guiltily. Because she wanted to take it.

"You insured to get yourself back in business so you don't suffer any loss due to the um accident." said Cole "Its money. You start refusing what's on offer on moral grounds and you'll screw the whole system."

"But " she said. "Its not fair I take.."

"Look " he said "The economic system sucks. Its manipulated so some people make money and most other people pay. it is never fair. Some people make more money."

"I fell odd about it " Clarissa told him.

"It's the way it works." Cole insisted "Just occasionally you come out the right way because the system works that way. You start arguing with a valid assessment and they might start checking deeply into how valid other parts of it are. Mostly you lose." he said "Occasionally you win. When you do its…. justice. A gift for times paid. You aren't stealing it. You insure for a problems that they usually try not to pay on. You aren't taking it from any-one else. And if they put up the rates because of claims like yours, you're going to be paying like everybody else. It's what they're in business to do. Take the risk. So then you get a gift do what I've been very bluntly to do lately."

"What's that?" Clarissa asked.

"Don't ask how much the gift cost. Just say thank you," Cole grinned.

Clarissa shook her head. She owed Phoebe's arsehole lawyer husband a great deal; her son's health, her shop and her life which he had saved twice by interfering with magic. And then she pushed away a couple of suspicions because she did owe him.

Clarissa heard a knocking on the front door of her still closed shop and saw Piper standing there. She hobbled over and opened it.

Piper looked at her bruised cheek and black eye and arm in a sling and said "Oh Clarissa, you look like the walking wounded."

"I know." Clarissa replied ruefully "Mike and I went and saw the surgeon about our son's operation and she kept looking at me and giving Mike sideways glances as if he was evil incarnate. Just as well she is scheduling the operation or Mike would have lost it."

"They're going to do it " Piper said catching Clarissa's hand because Clarissa was clearly too sore to hug.

"Yes we can afford it now, pretty well thanks to Cole's arseholeness over the insurance," said Clarissa "She had an opening and we could say yes. So. You need some more non-magic help " she asked trying to sound enthusiastic.

"No" said Piper "All quiet on the magic front. I wish it wasn't. We might get rid of the bastard retriever. I just came to see how you were," Piper said. "That was quite a beating you took."

"Call it my contribution to magic" said Clarissa trying to brave it out but her voice trembled "Coffee?" she asked Piper.

"Yes," said Piper "I'll get it."

Piper busied herself and then brought it over to the small coffee corner of the shop that now had a newly covered sofa and new coffee equipment thanks to Cole's arseholeness lawyer skills.

"When you opening?" Piper asked.

"Monday" said Clarissa. "Only I need to pinch Marly next week because of Brad's operation."

"You get her," said Piper "We still have the shit retriever with us. Seems they have a problem finding somewhere to send him "Piper said bitterly.

"I wish the little shit had got killed." said Clarissa vehemently.

"Me too" said Piper bitterly "Downside of magic. Magic shits."

"Been wondering lately if there is an upside," asked Clarissa taking a deep sigh. "What with Jade and everything. Best thing that has happened to me through magic your arsehole mortal brother in law fixed." And despite herself Clarissa could not resist a quick check to see Piper's reaction to describing Cole as mortal.

"Oh" said Piper taking a deep breath, long enough for Clarissa to frown in confusion. "That's probably not good place to be. Hating magic, blaming it for things that aren't right in your life. Blaming it for the things you can't be. I understand. "She added. "Been there done that. Recently too."

Clarissa smiled a somewhat watery smile. "Well truthfully my non-magic power is not the reason. Its my lack of real power that makes me ….so frustrated. Just once I'd ;like to experience real power. Like you have."

"You have real magic power and a big one," said Piper with out hesitation "We couldn't have got Willem without it."

Clarissa shook her head "I've always been on the edge of 'real' magic and that's okay. My family has this calling. We protect sister witches from evil magic. It's a good calling but this is the first time I have ever been close to 'great' magic and to be honest its left me feeling …conflicted."

"I understand that," Piper nodded "But your power is just as magical as mine."

"Is it?" asked Clarissa ruefully "one side of me resents that I can't feel magic the way you can. I'm, you know, the beggar at the feast and the other side resents magic for deserting me and maybe another side says I am lucky to know magic really exists. You probably can't understand that."

"Can't I?" Piper nodded "I always just wanted a normal life. I didn't want to be a witch and I didn't want to get caught up into magic the way I am." She laughed "My family hate me saying the word normal, they get all pissy."

"Your family pissy" said Clarissa smiling. "Fancy that."

"They do" said Piper straight faced "Good and pissy. I ….lost mom too young and grams, and we've… had issues and problems because of magic. Found some things I …. had to face …. about myself. Did some things….not as good as I could have done and I …. just felt I would never have had to deal with…. if we weren't magic. Phoebe loves it," said Piper "And Paige did until she lost her boyfriend to it but now she's okay but me …."

"Even with all the Belthezor things and the whitelighters giving her hell Phoebe loves it " asked Clarissa.

"Especially because of it" said Piper. "Phoebe is never happier than when she is having a good fight. I think that is why she and Cole enjoy bickering so much. Not me."

"At least you have known magic" Clarissa argued.

"Magic has cost me …. things." Piper tried to explain "I was told I couldn't have children and then damn it I'm pregnant twice and you know what its like with kids."

"Suddenly its not about you any more," said Clarissa.

"I worry about them" Piper confessed said "When I'm not here for them."

"Like Jade," said Clarissa.

"Our family has a bad history of surviving." Piper told her. "You know Grams didn't make it much past 60 and mom was just over 30 when she was lost. And my gram's sister was barely 18 and my great grand mother was only 29 and her sister was 37. You know we have a history of not lasting. My sister Prue was 31."

"Mom was 69" said Clarissa "Died of cancer. I thought your Grams died. naturally" Clarissa asked.

"Gram's was heart but I think magic weakened it. It worries me" said Piper quietly.

"You ever feel let down by magic that they asked a great deal and offer nothing." asked Clarissa.

"I was you know," replied Piper," and there will always be things I wish I had .. not done, that made me not like me and maybe blamed magic for. But… but you see I found some things. Do you know about the eclipse? Because one of the things I have learned from that is that magic does look after us. Its just we don't always know it."

"Eclipse?" said Clarissa not understanding.

Piper nodded. "Its nearly over but magic world realms are in eclipse, crossing each other and lives, magic lives cross and some magic people with similar souls can lives each other's lives."

"I didn't know," said Clarissa a touch resentfully " and I guess I'm not magical enough to even feel that," she added trying to laugh it off and not succeeding. "Elders or whitelighter didn't tell me," she added bitterly.

"I don't t think Elders and whitelighters exactly understand." said Piper carefully but not quite keeping the smugness out of her voice.

"Why do you? " asked Clarissa.

Piper stopped.

"Because there is greater magic in your life. Like scrying maps Elders don't know about and love affairs with demons " Clarissa answered her own question " What exactly is Cole anyway?" she asked not feigning innocence anymore.

"He's not evil" said Piper hurriedly.

"I'm not an idiot Piper," said Clarissa "I hang around the Charmed Ones and hear rumours about Phoebe's demon lover and I see a mortal who is not afraid of magic." She said. "And mortals are afraid of magic, so I have to assume he is magic of some sort. I'm very grateful to him for saving my life." She added "Its just everything I was ever told is that demons are evil and the enemy " she said. "Never saw a real demon. Have I seen evil?" she asked."

"No" said Piper carefully, thinking of what Phoebe got away with at the tribunal and scared she was about to open it up again. "Unless you count Rodik."

Clarissa shook her "Cole is magical?" she insisted.

"Very" said Piper hoping she was on safe ground but feeling she could not as a friend lie to a friend.

Clarissa. nodded. "I thought it was to good to be true a mortal could defeat magic. Well I guess what he is, is more magic I don't know. I feel very separated from magic" she said.

"That's what I wanted to explain" said Piper "Sometimes there is more magic around than we realise. I found out magic does things for us. Just things to make it easier. Like we do things for innocents." She said almost sarcastically. "You know saving the world on a regular basis and they never know."

"I guess" said Clarissa.

"Its just when the things are done for us we never notice," said Piper. "Have you got something you hate doing and when you go to do it, its usually much better than you think?"

Clarissa thought about it " Putting books in order," she said "I hate it. Often thank the higher powers I have the world's tidiest customers."

"Bet you haven't" Piper told her smugly. "Bet you have family brownies who do it."

"God." said Clarissa " I've been thanking the wrong people."

"Don't thank brownies" said Piper hastily. "They hate It. Believe me I know. I better go " she said." Wyatt's at home and needs  feeding"

"I noticed." said Clarissa glancing at Piper's breasts.

Clarissa hobbled to the door despite Piper's protests. As she said goodbye, she sighed and told Piper "You know even if you think magic left you feeling bad about some things,  it is still a special gift you have."

"I know. There are some things I just …" said Piper "Some things magic I did. I don't want any-one to know. Some things that made me hate myself being magical."

"I'd still like the chance to know." shrugged Clarissa as Piper left.

Clarissa hobbled back to her counter and began checking supplies of bags when suddenly in shock she felt the room start to spin and instead of just a soft breeze of the spirit winds she was caught in a massive whirlpool pulled away and drawn between the time and space of magic.

She found herself in the conservatory in the manor, her hands tight behind her clutching at a bottle. Leo was behind her, she was angry and frightened and consumed by a hatred and helplessness that Clarissa had never felt. She jumped barely keeping her fear to herself as a tunnel of wind swirled and Cole appeared, long black coat and arsehole smirk on his face that for a second even Clarissa knowing what he would become, felt justified murder.

"You rang?" he smirked "Piper, not the sister I was expecting."

Clarissa/Piper jumped. Piper snarkily and not bothering to hide her hatred and trying very hard to hide her fear told him that Phoebe was in trouble. She'd been turned into a Banshee. Because she was hurting, over him.

Clarissa, shuddered as Piper continued. Arrogantly telling Cole. "And I think you're the key to turning her back." Piper clearly hated Cole and Leo behind her was not much better , and Clarissa not knowing how the eclipse worked wondered if someway she was there to stop Piper doing something she would regret. Clarissa wonder if somehow she was there to use her non magic power to protect Cole. When she thought what she owed him, it almost made her glad that she could use her non magic power for him.

Although the smirk on his face, the arrogance and total arseholedness made Clarissa feel a little sorry for the insurance people, and understand why Piper was as provoked as she was.

He said he didn't love Phoebe any more, sarcastic mocking and yet something in the strain of his voice, the mockery, caught Clarissa and she wanted to hold Piper back. Make her understand how badly Cole was hurting.

Clarissa not understanding discovered there was nothing she could change. Suddenly remembering all the insistence that the Charmed Ones had vanquished Belthezor, Clarissa became very afraid for Cole as Piper clutched hard at the potion and Cole declared a little to smarmily for it to sound true his feelings for Phoebe were Love-d. Past tense.

Clarissa not understanding what could happen in the eclipse became very afraid she was about to change history. She tried to influence Piper and for a second she thought she had succeeded despite Leo pushing harder than she believed a whitelighter could to murder some-one she knew in another time and place had saved her life. Clarissa became fearful if Piper killed Cole, he would not be there to save her, shared the hurt when Cole told Piper his feelings for Phoebe died when Phoebe gave up on him and he was returning the favour.

Piper almost as if she was trying to tempt him into hurting her told Cole he had helped the Charmed Ones before they had helped him and Cole smirked pushing at his arsehole best asked if they were trying to help him or vanquish him when they summoned him that morning.:

And the fear Clarissa was feeling that she was changing history and killing Cole and maybe herself infected Piper as Leo encouraged her to throw the potion.

As Cole told her it was over, Piper giving into the hatred and fear and without any real reason, to Clarissa's panic, agreed it was over…and threw the potion. Clarissa almost shut her eyes and tried to shut Piper's, terrified of watching Phoebe's beloved husband blow up in cloud of demonic black goo. She was sick she was guilty ,wondering why at her only chance at real magic, sent back to perhaps save Cole she had failed and Clarissa's guilt started to seep into Piper until Cole completely unharmed smirked "Surprise."

Clarissa was so relieved that she had not failed; Piper had not killed Cole that she barely noticed just how frightened Piper suddenly was. And then she wondered if maybe she was there to save Piper from being killed by Cole until it dawned on her as Cole leered into Piper's face bitterly and cynically ordering Leo to orb her away, that Cole did not have the slightest intention of hurting anyone. And Clarissa realised all she could do was watch past events and perhaps learn why being magical has its downside.

The rest became a blurt for Clarissa as Piper ignored the conscience that told her she had tried to kill a creature that had no intention of harming her. Her determination to ignore it seemed to inspire her anger and hatred of Cole, of herself, of magic. For Clarissa the next hours of Piper's life passed in a kaleidoscope of quick scenes as the dog that Piper identified as her sister Prue returned, as the Banshee that was Phoebe attacked Cole and he changed into a demon that totally freaked Clarissa out; as every piece of glass in the conservatory shattered; as Prue change back from a dog; and as Leo brought a distraught and remorseful Phoebe home.

Then there were flashing scenes of Piper's, acute hatred of the magic, combined with the guilt where her fear had lead her and helplessness at her sister's distress that the stopped and Clarissa/Piper found herself in the manor kitchen at a time she thought was the some nights after.

Phoebe was sitting on stool in the kitchen huddled, clutching a large mug of coffee, her a hair awry, her eyes red from several all night and day crying sessions and she was now reaching a boiling anger.

Pipe was trying to cook a meal. She was glaring in disgust at two  large half frozen chickens on the kitchen bench and a microwave with a shattered glass door.

"I told you not to throw your hands around like that " snipped Phoebe.

"How in the hell am I supposed to make dinner for 6 people," Piper snarled a still feeling angry and guilty. "Those things have been unthawing for hours and they are still half frozen."

"Hair dryer," suggested Phoebe sarcastically. "Or blow on them." Then she sniffed as the tears came again.

"Get down Kit " Piper said angrily swiping at a Siamese cat as it yowled around the table. "If Aunt Eleanor saw a cat on the kitchen table she'd go ballistic" Piper said as irritated, she swiped at Kit to push him off the table.

Kit in disgust jumped on Phoebe's lap. Phoebe caught the cat and pulled it to her "I don't see how you could do it Piper," sniffed Phoebe.

"He's a goddamned demon" Piper snarled as she looked at a trifle that would not set "Can't freeze one, can't unfreeze the other. Like my bloody power. Nothing works," she moaned.

"I love Cole " Phoebe sniffed." and you know it Piper. To try and kill him like that, its like...its like murder. To do that to someone I love " she sniffed cuddling Kit who yowled at the pressure.

"He's a goddamned demon" said Piper "And he threatened to kill me," she added a little lamely and then cursed as the beater fell out of the mixer while she was using it to whip cream and cream spattered over half over kitchen.

Phoebe glared at her "You wanted to use good magic power to murder Cole."

"Well you wanted to use it to murder Cole about 10 hours before I did." snorted Piper. "Didn't you try to summon him to do exactly what I did?"

"I wouldn't have done it, I wanted to see him " wailed Phoebe cuddling Kit so hard he yowled twice as loud and then wriggled free.

"You were going to kill him before he could say a word." sniffed Piper in angry incredulity, hands on hips and then cursing as she splattered more cream over herself.

"You threw the damned potion." Phoebe accused.

"Cole's an arsehole" said Piper and Clarissa felt her angry at everything, angry at herself, her powers, her magic, Phoebe, Cole "Get away from that," she roared at Kit as he made his way along the bench licking up the cream that splattered.

"I love him and even if he is a demon, he loves me," Phoebe wailed tragically. "And you should have thought of that before throwing that potion."

"Don't come here telling me what I should have done or shouldn't," snorted Piper "He's not dead, worse luck. We don't t know how dangerous he is and I don't need your premonition power to know that he's going to do some damned evil stuff before this, this obsession, you have about him is over."

"I love Cole," whimpered Phoebe.

"Well I don't," snarled Piper "I hate him."

Phoebe fell into heart rendering sobs.

"Oh just go and help Prue clean up the glass" snapped Piper "The repair people left just as big a mess as you did, that damned banshee did. And keep that up you'll turn into one again."

Phoebe sniffing, glared and in then high dudgeon headed for the conservatory where Piper could here her sniffing her woes at Prue. Kit was on the floor licking up some of the juice from the half frozen chickens.

"Get out of here," said Piper swiping at him. He jumped on the bench and had a lick at the chicken's themselves and she threw an oven mitt at him, so he jumped down and headed for the cream on the table.

Piper found a laundry clothe and wiped up the mess on the floor. She glared at the unset trifle, at the cream all over the kitchen and the not thawing fast enough chickens. "I hate magic. I hate Cole and I hate you Kit " she yelled. "And I hate you Prue. Why couldn't you have the guts to say No to Aunt Eleanor coming to dinner today of all days."

"Because she knows we always have Sunday supper," roared back Prue from the conservatory. "And I couldn't say we just didn't want her."

"Well we aren't having Sunday supper tonight because nothing is working." Piper yelled even louder.

Prue in skimpy pink top and tight white jeans, hair pulled back and green eyes glowering came into the kitchen. She crossed her arms "God Piper do something" she said as she looked at he mess. "Can't you clean it up. Can't you freeze the trifle or something."

"Ha" said Piper and made a hand gesture and sure enough the trifle set or at least looked set " Piper tasted it. It was sort of okay, not even crunchy, just sort of melted in your mouth.

Piper half smiled and then she glared at the non- thawing chickens. Kit was no where in sight, he must have finally realised he wasn't welcome in the kitchen.

"What does magic ever do for me," Piper snipped "I hate magic and this is not personal gain."

Then with a glance at Prue and another at the chickens Piper made a grand gesture at them and sent what she hoped was mild version of her exploding power in their direction to unthaw them.

Only it wasn't a mild version. Both chickens exploded spraying the kitchen with a flesh, fluid and blood stretching across the cream the trifle and the kitchen and the witches.

Piper just stared, close to tears , and ready to give up.

Phoebe came flying into the kitchen "What happened?" she screamed."

"Piper blew up dinner," smirked Prue.

"Shut up, just shut up" cried Piper. " I'm not cooking dinner tonight. I'm never cooking dinner again. I hate cooking. I hate Magic and I hate Cole " she added glaring at Phoebe.

"Shut up Piper," said Phoebe sniffing.

Prue ran her hand down the mess in her face and hair. " Why is there fresh blood." she asked looking at the red streak on her hand. "Why is their so many bits? Legs and things," she asked eying at the mess.

"What?" said Phoebe nervously. She gingerly touched a piece of flesh that was hanging on the edge of the cream dish, " Piper " she said. "This has got a hair on it, cream hair on it," she swallowed "Piper where's Kit?"

"What?" said Piper "He was on the bench licking chicken and I kicked him away."

Prue lip trembling went to the spot where the chickens had been. She uncomfortably touched a small piece of what looked like black stump. "Its his tail Piper" she said her voice shaking. "Shit Piper," she said "You blew up Kit."

Phoebe stared at Piper who fell in a huddled heap in the kitchen sobbing tears of anger, pain, remorse and hatred. "I hate my power," she sobbed. "I hate magic and I hate Cole," she wept.

Clarissa found herself dragged a way from the sobbing Piper, feeling again the winds suck her away and when she came out of them she was sitting in the corner of her shop, huddled against the window, and for second she was disorientated and confused as she gasped for breath because for the first time in her magic life she had came into contact with the spirit winds.

She sucked in deep breaths her eyes closed, thinking about why Piper said Magic had its downside and deciding she wasn't kidding. Then Clarissa shuddered thinking of her vision of her first real demon as Cole morphed into Belthezor, and wondering how she could ever look at him in the same way again, if she could bear to look at him.  She opened her eyes and sat on the floor shaking and then whimpered as a very tall shadow fell over her and she shrieked, backing away as fast as she could as she realised the shadow was Cole.

Cole in a charcoal lightly stripped business suit,  blue tie pulled loose because he was visiting a friend but a brief case still in hand just stood there looking down at Clarissa, who gasped in terror.

He started to ask if she was all right and then stopped as she hissed 'demon' at him and cringed back.

He just stood there and then a slow easy smile crossed his face and Clarissa shuddered as she looked all the way up at the long length of him.

"I'm not frightened of you" She hissed pulling back and crouching.

"Despite all evidence to the contrary" he mused still looking down.

"I'm immune to magic" She bluffed. "You can't hurt me."

"And I'm beyond witch's magic "He said the smile still there though his eyes were concerned. " So I can."

She shook then met his eyes.

 "Which I'm only telling you " he said quietly dropping the bag and sitting beside her "so you know that the reason you are safe is because I'm not going to hurt you. Not because I can't."

She stared at him trying to see something in him that she had not seen before, something that made him evil demonic but he still looked Phoebe's husband in his lawyer suit.

Cole leant back against the glass being careful not to corner her and gave her room. He rested his hands on his knees. " Who did you change with?" he asked quietly.

"What do you mean?" she whispered, her eyes wide and confused.

"You know what I mean" he said gently " You changed places with some-one in my family didn't you and not in the present either." he said quietly. "You saw me as Belthezor. Your expression is about the same as Paige's the first time she saw me as a demon."

"How do you know?" she whispered.

"I know " he said quietly, gently and in a tone that both frightened her and reassured her. It flashed through Clarissa's mind that this was not the reaction of anything demonic she had imagined. Phoebe or one of her sisters could have told Clarissa she was talking to the guardian.

"That it wasn't the present " he said choosing to be obtuse "Because you wouldn't be frightened of me if it was. Not Phoebe," he added and when Clarissa inclined her head enquiringly he added "For the same reason", Phoebe was never frightened of me. Pissed at me yes. Frightened no." he said.

"Piper " Clarissa whispered still huddled away.

"Piper" he said easily "I can't remember when I went demonic on her." His face went tight. "It wasn't the witch Jenna was it."

"I heard of witch called Jenna who was killed by a demon some years ago" Clarissa tried to crawl away.

"You heard right," Cole told her not running away from it.

Clarissa almost on her knees moved a distance from him and then she closely saw his face, and something in the pain he would carry for an eternity showed and she stopped.

"It was a dog." she whisper "The older sister Prue was a dog" she told him.

"Oh shit " Cole said, flushing red, embarrassed. "Okay I didn't hurt her. I didn't hurt any-one then you know and Piper wasn't that frightened anyway. She was just a bitch."

"You were an arsehole " Clarissa answered sitting up a little as she realised she was still talking to Cole Phoebe's arsehole lawyer husband.

"That was a farce" he said wincing and still embarrassed.

"What happened?" she asked "I mean with Phoebe. I heard something after but I didn't understand."

"If you saw the aftermath, you know more than me "Cole told Clarissa. "No-one seems to want to tell me what happened. Whole family gets a bad attack of memory loss when I ask."

"The family was upset for days," Clarissa told Cole.

"Oh, you stayed for days," Cole said interested. "You got to sleep with Leo" he said "Who was on top?"

"That's an awful thing to say " Clarissa said getting mad at him.

"I sleep in the next room " Cole said half a grin falling over his face." "Phoebe and I sorted a few things out " he said giving her something. " What have you got in common with that moment in Piper's life enough to come into contact with me."

"I think it was Piper felling her most useless and helpless as a witch" Clarissa answered carefully. She carefully eyed Cole as he sat leaning against the glass window, hands still on his knees. Almost fearful she explained. "My contact with greater magic hasn't made me feel any more connected to magic. More isolated." she added.

"Prue died not long after that, so bad time for Piper," Cole told Clarissa " and I made some other choices."

"What happened with you?" Clarissa asked curious enough to overlook she was terrified of him.

"I discovered how much I love Phoebe and how much I wanted to be with her," he said "And what it was worth to me."

"You're not evil?" she asked getting braver.

Cole laughed amused "Hardly " he said "You'd be dead if I was."

"You're good?." She asked 'very nervous. "Why are you hiding? Not from evil?"

"I'm hiding from good and evil. I'm neither." he said slowly "There are other options, and other ways of existing than taking a side and staying with it. There is Good. There is Evil and there is the means of keeping Evil from perverting Good. I'm with them" he said.

"I don't understand." said Clarissa.

"Good." said Cole.

"You're lucky I owe you" Clarissa told Cole looking at him sideways "And I care enough about Phoebe not to break her heart."

Cole shrugged "As I'm finding out, you know the effect small things have on other things. You owe me so the Elders are protected from knowing secrets of Greater Magic."

"But its okay for me to know." Clarissa said.

"I didn't say that "Cole grinned. He hesitated "What else did you find out," he said "About magic. You seem to stay long enough to find something else happen."

Clarissa bit her lip "Just domestic stuff "She said.

"Its always 'just domestic' stuff' with Piper," Cole smirked "What else did she lose?" he asked "What did she know that you can connect too?"

"You are an arsehole lawyer," Clarissa told Cole.

"Yes," he said "What else? What's Piper's dirty dark secret. Hell it wasn't a man or anything was it," he asked not joking and concerned.

"Nothing like that Clarissa explained knowing he would not let it go." "She killed the cat. Blew it up accidentally"

"She what?" said Cole and started to laugh uncontrollably while Clarissa forgot to be frightened and just got mad at him.

"She was trying to defrost a chicken and she blew up the cat" said Clarissa. "It was your fault " she added barely.

"I can hardly wait to find out why " Cole managed to get out in between laughing so hard he was gasping for breath.

Clarissa wondered if she had gone to far "Piper was mad because she hated you."

"So she blew up the cat," said Cole, making not very successful effort to stop laughing. "Bloody thing used to yowl to get me out of Phoebe's bed. It was a damned familiar or something. Piper blew it up" he repeated laughing until he was hurting.

"If I didn't owe you I'd be royally pissed at you. Piper was traumatised." Clarissa told Cole angrily " You saved my life," she accused "Why?".

"Don't take it as personal," he said. "I was saving a witch, not specifically you."

"To make up for witches you did kill " Clarissa asked. "Like Jenna?"

"No" Cole answered "I can't make up. I can only hope somewhere along the line there was some sense to it. Is that why you aren't threatening to rat me out to the Elders," Cole asked "Because you owe me. You don't," Cole told Clarissa.

"No" Clarissa answered "I think the world of Phoebe."

"Thank god for Phoebe," Cole answered and for all his tone Clarissa realised he meant it.

Cole stood up then bent down and held out his hand too pull her to her feet and she hesitated then carefully accepted, almost surprised that it felt flesh and blood, human, alive.

"I've never even see a demon before," she said.

"I'd bet a lot that wasn't true " Cole told her. "You just haven't recognised one.

"If you really are a demon, or were one why haven't you killed that shit retriever Rodik " Clarissa asked peeved.

"Because unfortunately I'm technically an ex-demon and the little shit hasn't done anything quite bad enough for me to ….justify it " Cole told her, regret in his voice.

"What can you do to him that would be justified? " Clarissa demanded, her lips pouting.

"Don't know," Cole mused. "But I'll think about it."

Clarissa looked at him suddenly feeling powerful "Well it would certainly convince me not to… rat about… Belthezor if I knew the shit retriever got some justice." She said slyly.

"That is blackmail" said the guardian with a t bemused voice. "And my reaction would be go ahead and tell them. And we'll all see if the consequences are worth it."

"Oh" said Clarissa lightly less powerful.

"But" said Cole raising his eyes "On the grounds you are just hurting badly because of the little shit retriever and you did tell me about Piper blowing up the cat, if I can ever think of a way to get him justice, consider it my pleasure."

"I'll hold you to those grounds," Clarissa smiled suddenly feeling in the last few minutes with Cole she had faced the whole spectrum of good and evil.

"Still feel resentful about your powers being non-magical" Cole asked Clarissa.

"Not as much" she admitted "But I still just wish you know I could feel the orbing or that sort of stuff but it is beyond any magic to touch me."

"I would say the eclipse just proved that wrong" Cole answered "Its only beyond the magic of the Elders."

Clarissa froze. "Could you have healed me?" she demanded.

"No" said Cole "I don't have the power to heal mortals, which is just as well because I would abuse it, but if you want to know…"

"Yeah I do "Clarissa told him her tone defiant.

Cole flicked his finger and Clarissa mightily surprised found herself shimmered behind him.

Cole an expression of pure naughty boy glee that was very similar to his son's grinned, "I just learned to do that last night "He told Clarissa "Move non materialising beings without going demonic."

"I feel sick" she said.

"Sorry" Cole told her not looking very sorry. Phoebe nearly threw up all over me the first time I shimmered her. You get used to it."

"You could have warned me," Clarissa bit out. "Are you sure you're not evil?" she said as he grinned.

"Pretty damned sure," he said. He winced as he felt the spirit winds move. "I have to go. Business call." he explained. And for a second as the guardian listened to the call Cole had an expression that almost frightened Clarissa and left her feeling she was very much in awe of him.

"I'll be in touch about the insurance" Cole told Clarissa "And as you just joined the ranks of the cast of thousands who know my secret " he said. "and Paige pinched my car"  he shimmered in front of her.

"So that is what magic feels like " she said out loud. "Maybe it's not so bad, being non magical." She added swallowing down the nausea left by the shimmering.