The Life and Times

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

Chapter 52

"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

Cole came out of the shimmer in front of the manor and Phoebe a kitten in each hand sat on the stone edge to the steps.

"Don't you even dare try and tell me this is my fault," Cole said sitting beside her.

Phoebe giggled "I think I sort of contributed to this mess." she said contritely.

"Thank you " Cole said smiling, the one he saved for her.

"I love you too" Phoebe muttered. "What the hell am I going to do with these?"

"Give 'em to Melinda" said Cole playing dumb.

"Piper will kill me " she said to Cole.

"They're cats" said Cole "What's the big deal?"

"You don't understand. "Phoebe said tragically.

"You'd be surprise," said Cole smiling smugly. "Piper doesn't blow things up as much these days. Unless she means it."

Phoebe turned to stare at him, " You know ?" she whispered.

"Piper was traumatised." said Phoebe. "We all were. We loved Kit."

"You claimed you loved me," said Cole primly. "Maybe that was justice for trying to blow me up."

"Cole " wailed Phoebe. "I loved Kit. Kit didn't deserve to die."

"Neither did I " Cole snipped.

"I'm not going there," Phoebe told him firmly "Not everything is about you."

"Want me to drown 'em " he asked conceding with a satisfied smile.

"Cole " wailed Phoebe.

"Or dump 'em, back in Turkey " he suggested.

"Cole," wailed Phoebe.

"Or give them away" Cole added.

"Cole " wailed Phoebe. "If Therold found out he'd hate me."

"So what?" said Cole " he hates me."

"I wonder what he heard about us " Phoebe asked distracted. "Why he thinks I'm a heroine and he doesn't like you. It couldn't be just because he doesn't like you."

"I am afraid to ask" Cole said "Nothing probably. Demons lore masters always get snotty about their place. Do you think Piper will try and drown these two if we take them into the house?"

"Piper would never hurt a cat," Phoebe said.

Cole raised his eyes.

"Intentionally" said Phoebe hastily. She stopped "Piper's going to be pissed."."

"Piper's often pissed" said Cole.

"There are levels of pissed" said Phoebe nervously.

Cole raised his eyes.

"Damn it," said Phoebe. "Melinda ought to have a pet. Maybe we can slip them into our room before Piper finds them. If we're lucky. And keep them a secret for. oh eternity."

"And if we're not the kittens will have a better chance of survival at the Turkish mosque." Cole smirked.

"Cole," wailed Phoebe.

But Phoebe wasn't lucky despite sending Cole to see if the coast was clear, and then making him shimmer them to their bedroom. It was making him shimmer out to get cat food that did it, because he snuck into the kitchen to pinch a couple of saucers to put the food on. Piper came in from the yard where she had been supervising the children playing. Patsy sat himself down to crash toys from the toy box and Melinda ran to Unca Cole and then sulked when he was a little distracted from her greeting.

"What are you doing?" Piper asked curiously as she caught him red handed. "And what's in the bag?"

"Stuff" said Cole trying to hide the kitty litter behind him.

" What are you hiding?" she demanded as Cole shoved the saucers and a big plastic box for the kitty litter into the bag.

 "Nothing" said Cole defensively as Piper put her hands on her hips. The only time Cole for all his demonic background had ever been a good liar was when the Source took him over.

Cole grabbed the bags and took off upstairs. Piper stood for a minute crossed her arms and then spun around and followed him. She stood at the door to Cole and Phoebe's room as Phoebe was played with a small fluffy ginger kitten on their bed.

"That's a cat," stormed Piper from the door, her arms tightly crossed.

 "Its not a cat," Phoebe said. Defensively. Then deciding there was nothing for it she pulled the other kitten from where it had buried itself under the comforter "Its two kittens."

"Take. them. back" ordered Piper "We. are.," she spat. "Are you crazy? Do you realise the risks?"

"Its not a cat" said Phoebe "Its two cats. And I'd have to piss off a guardian to take them back."

"You don't mind pissing off Cole," snarled Piper.

"Cole loves me," said Phoebe cuddling the kitten while Cole sucked his lip and smiled.

"You take them back "Piper ordered Cole.

"I really don't want to piss off a guardian" said Cole firmly.

"Take them back" Piper insisted her voice with a slight crack before Melinda sees it."

To late from behind her Melinda screeched "Auntie Phoebe. You've got a pussy."

"Kittens, Lindie" said Cole straight faced as she flew past him to get to Auntie Phoebe and gently took one of the kittens from her, shaking with excitement.

"What's she going to feel like when it dies," Piper demanded then turned on her heel and stormed off to the kitchen.

Cole and Phoebe exchanged glances.

"I have to go to work. Have a nice day baby" said Cole bending down to kiss her and then Melinda who was so intent cuddling the kitten she did not even notice she was second on Unca Cole's list.

He went downstairs to say goodbye to Patsy and found Piper in the kitchen slamming dishes around, washing up because the dishwasher was still broken.

"How in the hell could you do that Cole?" Piper ground out. "You don't even understand how wrong it is that we takes risk with animals. They can get hurt," she insisted her eyes damp.

"With that argument, you better send the kids back to where they came," Cole told her. "Pip you're being bloody unreasonable. It's a cat."

"You have no idea what it is to be responsible for .hurting something you love." Piper sneered.

"Who am I Pip "Cole said. "I seem to recall you….killed me because I hurt some-one I loved."

"You don't understand" said Piper and then stopped as Patsy sitting on the floor focused on the pots hanging on the wall.

"I have to go to work. Cheer up Piper " Cole told he as he left "The way Patsy is going." he said as Patsy crashed every saucepan in the shelf against the far wall, "he'll probably kill both cats and you won't have to."

"How did you know." yelled Piper. "Patsy…nooooooooooooooo."

Later that morning a furious Piper said exactly the same thing to Phoebe, as Melinda hung close by, never letting the kittens out of her sight.

"Patsy kill pussy. I kill Patsy, "said Melinda tenderly holding one kitten.

"Shit" said Piper," See what you started" she snarled at Phoebe. "Patsy isn't going to hurt the kittens," she told Melinda.

"Kill him" said Melinda cuddling the kitten.

"No-one is going to hurt the kittens" said Phoebe.

"How do you know? " snarled Piper.

The fight lasted the better part of the day.

"You could have said no " Piper snapped mid afternoon.

"He was just about crying when he gave them to me." Phoebe said. "I couldn't say no. He'd have hated me."

"He'll be crying when they get killed, and really hate you" snapped Piper.

Towards five Piper hissed "What if they get hurt in the crossfire. Are you going to tell Melinda that magic exists for a purpose? To kill things she loves."

"Are you going to tell her not to love anything because they might get hurt?" snarled back Phoebe.

"Are you going to whine and cry and blame me when it happens?" demanded Piper.

Leo came home and caught between both his wife and Phoebe appealing for him to take their side and his daughter besotted with the kittens and threatening to kill any-one who hurt them decided it was about time he did some work on the boys' room so he took Patsy upstairs safely out of reach of Melinda's kittens.

Paige arrived home from work and admired the kittens as Melinda showed them to her with an excited quiver.  She stated her opinion she always thought Melinda should have a cat. Piper turned on her saying she did not understand, and it was her decision about what pets her daughter could have and then glared at Phoebe who turned her nose up.

"I'm part of this family and I get a vote " Paige said crossing her arms. "And I understand I don't understand."

"If you'd been around when we lost Kit you'd understand." said Phoebe. "Understand that Piper is putting her own inadequacies and self doubt over her daughter's happiness."

"And Madam sob sister has delusions of believing all the garbage she writes," snipped Piper. "If you'd been around while she was studying Paige you'd know she only got her degree because she lied about magic."

"That's it isn't it?" said Paige," I wasn't around when you two had all your great 'moments' so I don't get a say. I'm having one anyway. Like it or not we have two cats. Melinda has seen them. They get killed or we send them away. Its no different for her. She loses them, so we keep the cats. End of discussion." She glared at her sisters.

"Phoebe's a sly bitch for not discussing it first," said Piper crossing her arms.

"You're so locked into your own fears its impossible to discuss anything with you" interrupted Phoebe.

"Well she didn't discuss it with me either." Paige told them, "So move on for god's sake. I think you are both being silly" she added.

Piper and Phoebe turned on her.

"You're hardly qualified to comment," Phoebe sneered.

"You don't have kids," said Piper.

Ï wish I didn't have sisters,"said Paige. "You're a pair of bitches,"

She was furious and stalked upstairs to stand at the door of the boys room and tell Leo precisely hat she thought of both her sisters.

"You didn't expect them to listen to you " Leo asked exasperated "You're a whitelighter Paige. Get used to the fact that no witch wants to listen to good advice."

"They're my sisters," said Paige furiously. "They should listen to me. I'm part of the family."

"If they were as nasty as you say, that pretty well proves it"'Leo told her returning to his hammering while Paige put her hands on her hips. "That sounds like the sort of rows they had with Prue."

"Eeeeeeeeh" snarled Paige stalking off to her room.

Cole came home and for once was ignored by Melinda and Phoebe in favour of the kittens and felt aggrieved. Piper just turned her back on him. Cole raised his eyes, got fours beers from the refrigerator, went upstairs and found Leo working very hard in the boys' room  hitting things and amusing himself teaching Patsy fetch things telekineticing them..

"You better be careful he doesn't telekinetic the whole lot at you " Cole told Leo handing him an open beer.

"He need to start being constructive with his magic." Leo said.

"He isn't 1 year old yet" said Cole.

"Aren't you the one who said Demon kids develop differently to mortal" said Lei taking the beer."

Cole winced, "This isn't quite what I had in mind when I wanted him to get some magic. He sat on the edge of a box and Leo stopped working to sip the beer.

"We'll get him through it" said Leo."

"Yeah" said Cole.

Cole look at the work Leo had done. "You want any help"

"Nah" said Leo.

Cole and Leo sat drinking beer. Piper came stalking upstairs.

Phoebe flew after her yelling. "Listen to me. Don't pull that big sister shit on me. I've been a witch as long as you have. And let me fucking well tell you Piper, you know less about magic."

"Don't pull that shit," Piper called back "Becoming a witch didn't stop you being the same self centred thoughtless bitch you always were."

"That's my wife" said Cole " she's delightful. Therold told me."

Leo started to laugh. "That's my wife. Being delightful is not one of her virtues."

Leo stood up and went out to the sisters.

Cole listened to him talking to both sisters. "Uncle Leo is a brave man" he told Patsy.

Leo went into his and Piper's bedroom, where Piper was standing in front of her mirror staring at her face. "Don't you dare give me advice," she told Leo.

"I haven't got the right " he said turning her around to face him.

"I wanted to use magic to kill some-one, some-one who frightened me. and then I killed Kit." Piper said, tears in her eyes.

"I wanted you to kill him" said Leo "Cole I mean not Kit."

"Then Prue died." said Piper. "I don't want Melinda to feel that way."

"I keep wondering the way she loves Unca Cole what she would think of us if she knew." Leo said pulling Piper into his arms.

"I hope she never knows," said Leo "Cole won't tell her."

"That isn't much comfort." said Piper "If anything happens to those cats… she'll be heartbroken."

"It's the natural order Leo said "Stroking her hair, his voice breaking slightly "You lose things you love."

"Except if you're Phoebe" said Piper bitterly.

"Well Phoebe is…." said Leo shaking his head. "A law unto herself."

Piper put her head on Leo's shoulder. "Phoebe could have asked about the damned cats," she said.

"Any-one else could have said no" Leo sighed "Not Phoebe."

"Bet she was shaking in her boots about how I'd react," Piper muttered maliciously.

They sat for a while and then jumped as an almighty scream came from downstairs. Both Leo and Piper ran downstairs. Rodik was at the bottom of the stairs staring into the conservatory where Melinda was sitting on the floor cross-legged with two kittens asleep in her lap.

 "That's a cat, that child has cat," Rodik hissed.

"Two you little prick ": said Piper pushing past him.

"I'm allergic to cats," whined Rodik "I can't live in a house where there is a cat."

"Then go" called Phoebe nastily from the conservatory, working because she had a deadline and holding Wyatt in her lap at the same time. The conservatory was a good place to make it clear she was ignoring Paige. Paige was playing with Patsy. She was also ignoring Phoebe except to ask sarcastically if she was permitted to touch the children.

Cole not able to be to far from Phoebe, was in his corner reading briefs for court cases and carefully keeping out of the battle and wishing fervently he could just kill Rodik before the sisters killed each other.

"Get rid of those cats " demanded Rodik standing in the hallway hands on hips.

"Shut the fuck up" said Paige and Phoebe outdoing each other in viciousness just as orbs sounded beside them.

"Why do you use that word to describe every emotion?" asked Francesca as she appeared, a severe school marm expression on her face. "Do you know how many other words there are in English language?"

"Quarter of a million distinct English words, excluding inflections," piped in Leo pushing past Rodik.

"Thank you Leo" said Francesca calmly.

Leo raised his eyes and glanced at Cole who shrugged.

"Good evening Mrs Rinaldi" Cole said tongue in cheek on his best manners.

"Not from what I just heard." said Francesca amused "Sounds to me as if it is a decidedly unpleasant evening."

All three sisters exchanged glances.

Rodik, eyes popping, recognised the power burst of one of the Great Powers that Be. He sidled from the foyer into the conservatory to get as close as he could. "You've come to rescue me," he wheezed at his most insinuating.

"No I haven't" said Francesca bluntly. And Rodik all but whimpered "In fact I've been avoiding coming anywhere near you until now."

"You have to do something to help me " Rodik pleaded clutching at Francesca's whitelighter robe. "I'm a prisoner in a house with brawling harlots. All day long you should have heard them screeching at each other like banshees."

"We did not " snorted Piper Indignantly " I know what banshees sound like and …" then she stopped as Melinda, clutching both kittens, ran to Francesca.

"Pussies Mrs Winaldi" Melinda gently showing her the kittens.

"Enjoy meeting Therold did you?" Francesca asked Cole dryly " Lovely kittens dear " she said patting Melinda's head.

"I'm a good girl" Melinda told her.

"Yes dear you are." Francesca said as Rodik started to sneeze.

"I'm allergic to cats," he pleaded. "You have to save me."

"Melinda, why don't you show Rodik the kittens?" suggested Piper in a smarmy voice as Paige and Phoebe both snorted.

Francesca shot them all her best school marm glare.

Piper swallowed "Come and show mommy the kittens Melinda" she said contritely.

"This one been playing divide and conquer with you all, getting you all jumping at each other's throats over nothing" Francesca guessed as she indicated Rodik. She sounded irritated, as the witches looked mutinously at each other. "Weren't you warned about him? You do realise causing division and making the victim feel isolated and excluded is the way these creatures gain power."

"I've just been protecting myself" Rodik wheezed "No-one else will" he said gathering the side of Francesca's whitelighter robe.

"Stop that," she ordered him severely and to the amazement of all those in the room he did with barely a whimper and even steeped away from her.

"He tried to get Phoebe thrown out of good." said Paige "Lying little bas..," she stopped when she remembered it was Francesca looking at her with a prim school marm expression.

"I told the truth " screeched Rodik and then resorted to a sniff. "Its her fault," Rodik tattled pointing at Phoebe "She baits me,  she swears at me. They all swear at me " he sniffed slyly "She says hurtful things and they all just follow her lead. They say horrible things to me."

He sidled even closer to Francesca than before. "I want to leave and I can't. That's a demon she's screwing. Him sitting there pretending he's so innocent. You have to take me away. You have to convince the Elders, the Charmed Ones are evil." He whimpered.

"I have to do no such thing. Sit down " Francesca told Rodik "Leo" she started to say.

"They're crazy " Rodik hissed, but he sat down in the nearest chair.

The witches exchanged glances.

"They're completely unstable," Rodik wheezed. "I tell you I'm terrified to stay here with them. Every whitelighter up there knows they're crazy. None of them will work with them"

"I didn't come here for you" Francesca said in a voice that dared Rodik to argue," I came top speak to Leo" she said and turned her back.

"I just pointed out some things they could do better " Rodik sniffed to himself "And they just got all sensitive."

"We did not get all sensitive " hissed Piper, "He's abused my daughter, called my sisters whores."

"He's obsessed with sex, everybody else's sex because s se he isn't getting any" said Phoebe.

"And the little. Bas. man" said Paige "thinks because Elders need him to collect powers he can get away with murder. Thinks he is immune to retaliation. He did murder Jade. In fact," she added. "I don't get why the ogres don't come after him the way they come after witches, who do a less evil in my opinion." And she sent Cole a glare her eyes like daggers.

"I suppose because he isn't evil," said Francesca. "And keep the opinion going and you may find yourself arguing with a very irritated ogre," she added as Cole's eyes narrowed.

"What do you want to discuss? " Leo asked Francesca who raised her eyes at him.

"Of course I'm not evil " hissed Rodik "You're evil " he told her. "Retrievers we suffer for our calling. Our calling causes pain." Rodik shuddered "We are creatures who suffer for our service to good. It comes at a cost, at pain. But we are glad to do it because we know that though our efforts the greater cause will be served." And he eyed Francesca a touch smugly.

"Huh" said Phoebe," He isn't good at all. He doesn't do it to be good. He just does it because every time he collects powers he gets massive jerkoff. Its the only way he gets a jerk off because no-one else would let him close enough, And he's so addicted he'll do a anything. Get witches killed, put them in danger,  put himself in danger so good witches need to take incredible risks to protect him. He sees a warlock and has to just rush in there just hoping to get a chance to jerk off.  You don't suffer at all, you enjoy every damned second of it. " she told Rodik "Okay I'll shut up " she said as her sisters raised their eyes.

"Why?" said Piper "You're right."

"Yeah" said Paige "I just hope you little shi …man your fairy story comes true. You never know. Keep threatening witches doing their best, and some damned ogre may get off their backside and do something about you , you little shit."

Francesca pursed her lips it. "Paige " she said.

"Did you hear the way that witch spoke to me" said Rodik outraged." I am begging you take me away from here. I cannot exist here. They will DESTROY me," he added dramatically.

"I told you once that you should be careful who you piss off " Cole said in what every-one but Rodik recognised as his guardian voice. He had moved so he was sitting beside Phoebe quietly watching and not quite part of the group.

"He's demon " sniffed Rodik " help me. I know you're a great one. I know you have the power. Take me away. These witches are evil. I'm frightened what they can do to me. They'll kill me, that demon will kill you."

"Unfortunately killing you would be evil" said Cole quietly, guardian and "I'm not… evil. More's the pity."

Paige and Piper watched him expectantly.

Rodik ignored him.

Phoebe, Wyatt still on her lap, leaning against Cole felt his body move, and the warmth in him as he connected to his magic. He flicked his finger and then pulled his hand toward him. Francesca frowned a little but said nothing.

Paige and Piper exchanged glances, waiting ,and then both sent Cole an angry glare as it was apparent nothing was going to happen to Rodik.

"You know how important I am" said Rodik "How important my work is. Please," he implored Francesca standing up and trying to crowd her.

Francesca showed a decidedly peevish expression. "I didn't come her to save you " she sighed "I came here to discuss business with Leo but since you insist I intervene I suppose I must " she told him.

"He got Jade killed." said Paige.

"He frightens my daughter" said Piper.

"He calls me a whore," said Phoebe "And I'm married."

"A witch in battle knows the risks," said Francesca firmly "and your daughter Piper is so powerful she could smite several retrievers over. And not notice what she had done. And Phoebe blurts out everything she thinks without considering the consequences," she added.

Paige and Piper exchanged glances and put their arms around each other. Phoebe clutched Cole's arm.

Francesca turned to Rodik "However as I see it none of that mitigates the total rudeness you have shown your hosts who have fed you,  housed you, protected you and asked nothing but courtesy in return. I assume you are now prepared to be courteous and apologise for any unfortunate words you may have said."

"And you'll take me away " Rodik smirked.

"No" said Francesca.

Rodik confronted by a power of total good whimpered "They're mean. And you're just as evil if you think you can make me apologise to those bitches."

All three Charmed sisters winced.

Francesca eyed Rodik school marm. "I sometimes regret how good I am" she commented.

"You're just as much bitch as they are " Rodik hissed.

.Francesca smiled seemed to grow into a figure of light until the orb seemed illuminated out of her body and then slowly diminished and although the light became soft, it seemed to glow from her. Severe school marm well in place, she managed to give the impression of looking down at Rodik, even though he was taller. "You will, I take it ,apologise to Mrs Turner for any implication about her. chastity," she said calmly, school marm to Rodik.

He half turned to go and Francesca never took her eyes off him."

Rodik stoped sniffed and shuffled. Francesca watched him calmly, eyes straight at him. He whimpered. Francesca put her head on the side.

Rodik shook, then he gulped and as the Charmed Ones watched him in delight, he sniffed. "I didn't mean it thought you were a prostitute, Ph..Mrs Turner " he wheezed.  "I mean you're married. I didn't want to hurt you. I was angry. I was frustrated."

Francesca never took her eyes off him. He sniffed, he shuffled and he whimpered and  finally he said. "I'm sorry."

"And to Miss Halliwell for any distress "You may have caused her," Francesca said.

Rodik eyed Paige clearly remembering her trying to kill him. "I'm sorry if I caused you any pain" he whimpered "Only ..." he started to say and caught Francesca's eye and stopped.

"And" said Francesca"

Rodik swallowed. He looked around helplessly, glared at Francesca "And I appreciate her protecting me." he mumbled.

"And Piper and Leo" Francesca said.

"I'm sorry I. I upset your daughter," he whispered.

"And." said Francesca"

"I wouldn't ever want to cause any pain or risk her , or traumatise her with bad dreams" said Rodik "Its just that ."

He saw Francesca's expression and swallowed "And I  thank them for their hospitality "He garbled.

 "And Mr Turner for any distress your inopportune comments may have caused. "Francesca said still very school marm. Rodik looked at his feet. He looked at Cole's smirk and he swallowed and he shuffle.

"Your wife isn't a whore " he told Cole.

"And" said Francesca"

"I'm sorry I called her one" said Rodik as Cole inclined his head.

"And." said Francesca.

Rodik whimpered.

Francesca tapped her foot.

"I'm sorry I called you a bitch " Rodik said. "Really sorry " he added and obviously meant it.

"Thank you" said Francesca straight faced.

"He's been reducing angels to tears, making his whitelighter cry, saying terrible things to her " Paige told Francesca very much like a school good girl telling tales on the yard bully.

"You do of course regret these actions " Francesca suggested to Rodik "and mean to fully apologise and make amends to her, as would any-one who reduces whitelighters to tears " and she glanced at the Charmed Ones who did not meet her eyes.

"Yes" said Rodik hanging his head and looking around for an escape.

"How do you intend to make amends?" Francesca asked Rodik as he hung his head and shuffled.

"The whitelighter bi…She made me " he sniffed. "She wouldn't help me."

Francesca put her head on the side.

"I will tell her I didn't mean to upset her" said Rodik" I will tell her I'm sorry."

Francesca's foot tapped.

" I will never do anything or say anything that will make my whitelighter cry , ever." Rodik rushed.

"I will hold you to that. Thank you" said Francesca " you may go" she said.

 Rodik suddenly started to sneeze "They got a cat just to hurt me," he sniffed and then sneezed "I'm sorry " he said as he caught Francesca's expression. He shuffled upstairs, looking for all the world like a cowered dog, tail between his legs, sneezing non stop.

Phoebe stood up still clutching Wyatt and went to her sisters, putting her arms around them. Piper rescued her son. The witches stood at the conservatory door watching Rodik go.

"Okay, okay" said Piper "We're keeping the cats, but if anything happens to them, it's Cole's fault for not saying no to that damned guardian." She hugged Paige , who rescued Wyatt "You were right if we got a cat two weeks ago we might have vanquished the little.. "She met Francesca's eyes "Rodik earlier."

"Okay" said Paige cuddling Wyatt.

"Sound's fair to me." said Phoebe glanced over her shoulder at Cole who shook his head. "We haven't had dessert. Will you stay?" she asked Francesca.

"Wouldn't that be friendly " Cole said snakily"

"Shut up "Cole" said Phoebe "Please," she said to Francesca. "I got an email from work. We were wrong about the senator. It was three not two. I can show it to you."

"Really" said Francesca interested "I would love to see it."

Cole and Leo both shook their heads.

"Good." said Phoebe " Chocolate mouse for dessert."

"Real cream" said Piper.

"Choc drops, extra chocolate" said Paige.

They headed for the kitchen, Piper not succeeding in resting her son back from his aunt.

"I guess no matter what happens to the Charmed Ones. sisters stay" Leo said to Cole.

Cole nodded "What did you really come for?" he asked Francesca.

"I came to see Leo about Durand." She said "I'm not Phoebe," she said "My world does not revolve around you."

"Huh" said Cole.

"The cheese making dragons are under control" Leo told Francesca.

"The madam at the Vladivostok whorehouse isn't" said Francesca. "And she's a succubus which Durand did not know. Good seems to feel Durand had some conflict of interest."

"Oh Lord." said Leo. "God what was he thinking with."

"His dick" grinned Cole.

"Exactly" said Francesca "And it is with great pleasure I pass it on to you Leo to explain to him how to lift the centre of his neurological processes…higher."

"Sure" said Leo swallowing.

"Want a beer?" Cole asked straight faced. "Mrs Rinaldi" he asked.

"You know I drink wine," Francesca told him.

"I'll leave you two to discuss Durand's dick " Cole told them and started to leave.

"Cole " Francesca said stopping him "What did you do to Rodik? I felt the balance slip into place " she explained.

"I listened to Phoebe and let the situation inspire me " Cole said.

Leo and Francesca looked at him.

"Rodik got justice," Cole told them with touch of guardian in his voice. "He just doesn't know it yet."

"And you're not going to tell me what you did." said Francesca pursing her lips.

"No you'd tell me it wasn't good." said Cole.

"Alright then" said Francesca conceding.

"You gave in easily " Cole grinned.

"I know when to accept defeat gracefully " Francesca said her eyes smiling." I need to talk to Leo" she said.

"I'll get you a beer Leo" said Cole. "And wine for you ….Mrs Rinaldi.

"Red, the good stuff " Francesca told him as Leo smiled.

Piper and Leo lay in bed that night. Leo was reading Piper lying on her side her back to him.

"I'm going to be terrified watching the kids with those kittens " Piper said over her shoulder.

"Melinda won't hurt them" Leo told her "She loves animals."

"Patsy might hurt them and then she'll hurt Patsy." Piper said.

"Kids grow up with animals all the time" said Leo " and learn"

"Most kid can't fly things around the room or blow them up" said Piper.

"We'll manage" said Leo " we always do."

"Hmmmmm" said Piper.

Leo continued to read.

"That was fun watching Rodik grovel" said Piper "Watching Francesca make him grovel. But it doesn't solve anything, doesn't stop him getting witches killed. Damn just for once can't Cole stop thinking about the balance and do something to him. He'd go after witches if they were evil."

"Rodik isn't evil" said Leo " just a shit and I think Cole did something to him but he won't say what."

"Are you sure?" said Pipe sitting up.

"I think so but he wouldn't tell Francesca even" said Leo. "I'D like to know."

"Bet Phoebe gets it out of him. She'll tell me," Piper said.

"I don't understand sisters," said Leo. "I wonder if Francesca does.?"

"You like working with her," said Piper " You think you will ever do what she does with guardians."

"I wouldn't even know how to begin" Leo said." I don't have that wisdom. I don't…. I'm not good enough. Hell only a few years ago I was telling you to throw potions at Cole and kill him because… I couldn't."

"Do you think she ever made big mistakes?" said Piper.

"Like try to get a charge to kill some-one she hated because she was frightened of them?" asked Leo.

"Or worse," said Piper moving closer to Leo.

"I guess she learnt her wisdom the hard way. " Leo mused "I don't think she wants to stop being with guardians, no matte how much she says she doesn't like them."

"It an odd life she has," said Piper "she seems so in control and yet so alone some times. You wonder what she has here beside duty."

"Something must connect her" said Leo "Duty is never enough for any-one. I guess she is not going to tell though," he added.

"No" said Piper yawning. "Nite honey" said Piper kissing him. She turned over on her side. "I think you'd be a good  guardian advisor," she said. "I think you don't get shocked. You don't have this rigid good is the only one way, not now and you understand evil." Piper said sleepy after the emotions of the day.

"Not yet " answered Leo. He lay awake wondering and thinking that it could be a very, very long time before he could find the belief in his soul to do what Francesca had done with Rodik. And then he laughed to himself that he could even consider it.

He was not, could never, would never, be Francesca.

The spirit winds swirled in whispy gusts as the eclipse came to an end and Leo felt himself stretched , struggling to make the connection. But he came out of the winds finally.

"I'm not you and never could be you Francesca " he told her. Leo looked around him. He was in the timelessness of the grey nothingness of the rim, in the future , he knew, how far he had no idea, except it felt along time. He felt this future self was wiser than him, this self seemed to be more at ease with himself and his own limitations, and confident in his own abilities. Leo wondered what he would have to face to be this future self.

"My time has passed Leo " Francesca answered him. "There is no need for me here and I am called ...away."

"I don't want you to pass," Leo said "I am not ready I made mistakes, I make mistakes. I don't have the wisdom."

"Oh I make mistakes all the time," Francesca answered with a smile on her crooked face " I just keep it to myself."

The light began to rise around her. "This is not my time Leo" she said. "I am out of my time. I need to. Connect back to those who were my time."

"You have been looking into the distance " Leo said with some wisdom "Since Proctor crossed."

She appeared golden, angelic beautiful in the light, "He was the last of my calling Francesca told Leo." Arturo has gone , Durand. They were of my time and I am out of my time. Oh damnit I miss Proctor annoying me. He was an irritation to the end and I find I miss the aggravation…him"

Leo of the future nodded knowing something to which the Leo of the past could not connect.

"Cole told me when he crossed." Francesca said and her expression took on a softness "Even to the end he couldn't or wouldn't tell me. I feel the need to insist he does " she said wistful smile on her face, as the light and wind swirled around her. "Proctor made it easier. I was never quiet alone in my time , he justified my existence. He served long and well perhaps he should have what he craves." she shook her head, not convinced or maybe bemused at her lack of wisdom.

Leo nodded. "I am not ready" he said trying to keep her.

"You never will be so you just must make do with what you have," Francesca told Leo gently "You have learnt much and learned to use what you have learned which is not common."

"Cole is of your time," Leo insisted. "he wants you."

"Cole is of your time Leo " she said firmly "I loved him but he is not of my time. He does not need me. He has what he needs. It is no small thing to be the beloved of a demon guardian" she said." To have a great power cross…. to be with you. Cole knows this."

"So you go" said Leo.

Francesca nodded. Slowly.

"And you will not say goodbye to Cole," Leo asked.

"Tell him, my goodbye is that he mourn me," Francesca said "It is no small thing a demon should mourn my passing."

As the light whirled around her. Leo heard her last laugh. The golden laughter those who knew her thought beautiful.

Leo seemed suddenly caught back in the fading winds of the eclipse. "No small thing indeed Francesca " he thought, pondering the strange glimpse of his future. " I wonder what Proctor craves and when Cole learned of it." he thought.