The Life and Times
Part 5: Of a good beginning cometh a good end.
"To expostulate why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Phoebe sat down at the hotel Excelsior dining room alone and took a long sip on the glass of champagne. It was one thing to nobly tell Cole that the family was more important, take Rodik to the airport and another to live the consequences. She had spent the last two hours, keeping a bright smile on her face, moving from group to group, meeting people who kept saying how much they enjoyed the radio show and not saying. "Where's you husband?"
Her answer that he got caught up on family business and would turn up soon was greeted with increasing disbelief. She had managed to avoid Elise and all the management types from the Bay Mirror but Elise at the other side of the room was sending daggered looks in her direction, and several other colleagues including the woman Lori, the minion of evil, were openly staring with smirks and smug smiles. A few colleagues were offering sympathetic nods and that was worse than the smugness.
Her cell rang and Cole said awkwardly "Hi baby "
Phoebe tried unsuccessfully to keep the snarl down as she asked said "I hope to God you're going to tell me you're parking the car."
"Technically " he said. "I'm more or less parked. On the highway back from the airport."
"God can anything else go wrong. Its like a conspiracy to lose me my job. Can't you do something to move the traffic jam " she sighed. She lowered her voice " Shimmer you and the car."
"Hmm " he said. "That bad is it. I'll come as soon as I get the car to Piper."
"Almost not worth it " she said.
"I'm coming." he said. "I have a date tonight."
"What a co-incidence I have a date too" she giggled, aware she was being watched and listened too. "Did the shit bastard retriever get on the plane?"
"Eventually " Cole said the relief in his voice. "Had a scare getting through customs. Don't think Elders understand about security checks but I sort of fixed it so they ignored the irregularities. Then they had a hold up because some passenger did not turn up and they had to find the luggage. If I didn't know better I would have been very suspicious of something not good, trying to hold the plane up. Fortunately the luggage was just inside the door.
"That was lucky" Phoebe sighed.
"Luck had nothing to do with it," Cole muttered. "It felt like something was happening to stop that plane going."
"The plane was safe,": asked Phoebe concerned.
"Oh yeah " he said. "I made sure. But it took some magic to get the bastard on his way. Lucky it was me who took him" Cole added said.
A couple of people near Phoebe listened "to the giggle and sheer pleasure in her voice and stared disapprovingly. She ignored them and sipped her champagne.
"How's your car?" she asked because she had left the manor before Paige got away from the police station.
"Written off " he sighed. "I tallied up the cost of the last few weeks since Rodik visited. Two cars , half the glass in the house, what Rodik has cost in expensive food because he doesn't eat normal stuff, revarnishing the hall floor, toys Melinda has broken tripping him up."
"Don't," said Phoebe then she asked. "how much?"
"A hell of a lot of drinks at P3 he said. "Traffics moving" Gotta to go. I'll drop the car off at P3 for Piper then come."
"Don't bother. Its hardly worth it " Phoebe sighed as the call ended. One of he journalists came over and asked if she was okay. Phoebe nodded. "Just a bad day. My sister totalled my husband's car today." Which is why he couldn't come
"That's bad." he said not believing her. She turned around and looked at all the eyes who were clearly enjoying the evening entertainment and had already gossiped all night about writers who told fibs to enhance their supposedly professional advice.
"Damn it " Phoebe thought "I'm sick of justifying I love Cole. All I've ever done since I met him is justify why. The Elders couldn't intimidate me. I wasn't afraid of losing magic for him, and I'm damned if I'm going to be afraid of losing my job. The only thing that would make me afraid now is to lose him." Phoebe stood up aware of the smirks and stares around her. She found a waiter and downed another glass of champagne.
"Damn it " she thought "Im not apologising because Cole is doing his best for me and our family" she said out loud while three people close by obviously wondered if she had lost it.
Phoebe bounced up to a group of people, took the arm of one of the girls she worked with, and then proceeded to flirt with every man who came within her sight and started to enjoy herself teasing them, behaving very badly, returning every smirk with flirtatious smile, moistening her lips and generally being as outrageous as she knew how, returning Elise's glares with smug smiles.
Half an hour and another glass of champagne later she had flirted her way around the room to where Elise had got caught by the director Mr Thurgood and his wife and where the evil minion Lori was insinuating herself with Thurgood, to his wife's distress.
Phoebe smiled happily, she batted big brown eyes at Mr Thurgood. She licked her lips. She put her head on the side and touched her hair as she flicked it. Lori was simply outclassed and relegated to the side. If Elise was half way observant she would have noticed Phoebe was doing all her flirting with her face and not with her body, her hips stayed well and true in their own space, but Elise was not that observant.
"And where is your husband ?" demanded Elise.
"Obviously not here " Phoebe smiled happily "Cole's caught up " she said "has to finish some business for the family and it may not make it after all."
"Pity" said Lori "One of these days I would love to meet this mystery husband of your's Phoebe, but then he is always so….busy isn't he" and she glanced slyly at Thurgood.
"You have," smiled Phoebe taking the challenge. "Or seen him at least."
Lori got a carefully manufactured expression of disbelief on her face.
"I've heard you on the radio talking about him" said Mrs Thurgood not liking but clearly used to women lining her husband up "I'd like to meet a husband who is that devoted to his wife, especially if he's as gorgeous as you say."
"Wouldn't we all" said Elise into her drink.
"That's the thing isn't it" said Phoebe "When some-one special cares then you know you're special, when they see you and love you for who you are , warts and all, regardless of temptation. I know I'm lucky. I only have to look around to realise it"
Thurgood started to look distinctly embarrassed.
"Elise doesn’t think I'm lucky. Elise doesn't believe in happy marriages," Phoebe told the group. "She thinks any-one who is happy has to be lying because happily ever after is a fairy tale." She caught her arm around Mrs Thurgood's "But I believe in fairy tales, don't you?" and she smiled almost smugly at Elise.
Cole had quietly shimmered into the Excelsior and found his way to the main reception room in time to see his wife flirting shamelessly. He could see the results in Phoebe's victims who were showing signs of extreme discomfort or anticipation. Phoebe had the self-satisfied look of a women who knew what she was attractive, sexy and in control. He started to walk toward her as she chose to join up with Thurgood.
"Do you know how tired we are of hearing about this never show Prince Charming?" said Elise.
"You were at my wedding a year ago" Phoebe pointed out.
"Yes" said Elise "and the few times I have ever seen him he struck me as being closer to the devil than Prince Charming. And this newspaper does not like being the victim of your fantasies."
"You did divorce him " inserted Lori who had sold her soul.
"We all make mistake " admitted Phoebe "But fortunately those of us who are basically good get to redeem ourselves. Think about it " she told Lori pointedly. "You know "
The expression on Lori's face was not pretty.
Phoebe continued contemplatively and loud enough for a good part of the room to hear her "We were talking about it the other night Cole and me and we thought it would maybe a really great idea if you decided to invoke the moral clause in my contract clause honest to god we could use the money. You know when my arsehole lawyer husband who really believes in the sanctity of his marriage sues you for everything going because what could be more moral than a happily married lady who loves her husband and does not screw around with any body. Because even if I didn't have 'issues' about breaking promises and vows, hell there isn't any–one else as good. I got lucky and I'm not stupid enough to throw it away, when there is never going to be any-one else better for em because there isn't any-one else better. So Elise " Phoebe said with her most superior smile " Quit taking out whatever disappointments you have and whatever ghosts are haunting you on me, just because your fantasies all end bitterly. My fairytale is alive and well thank you and planning on a very private anniversary celebration. " and her big brown eyes lit up at the prospect.
There was a mesmerised silence. Thurgood had an embarrassed expression and other people slide forward hoping for more excitement.
The silence was broken by slow clapping.
Even Phoebe jumped as she saw her husband clapping her, the smile he saved just for her, changing to a slight a cynical amused stare at Elise who physically shuddered at it. Cole moved forward and took the glass from Phoebe's hand and gave it to Elise.
"Thanks he said and reaching down put his arms under her bottom and lifted Phoebe while she flung her arms around his neck and reached down and caught his bottom lip in a long drawn out and very exciting kiss.
"Hi baby" Cole breathed.
"Hi baby" sighed Phoebe, big brown eyes damp, in love and not afraid to show it.
He eventually and slowly put her down noting the various expressions of amusement, cynicism and envy on he faces of people around.
Elise glared at him "I don't like you " she told Cole.
"Its mutual " he smiled.
"So this is Prince Charming" snarked Lori.
"No just my husband." said Phoebe happily not having to look up to know Cole was grinning. "I feel like dancing" she told Cole arching against him and draping her arms around his neck.
"This isn't a dance party " he told her amused. She began to sway against him, moving to imaginary music.
"Are you sober?" Cole asked amused.
"No" said Phoebe " but getting tipsy at work parties isn't immoral like. making up fibs your husband loves you or trying to fire some-one because you are jealous they are happy."
"I think we can safely say you're a moral woman" Cole stage before he swung her in a half circle.
"This isn't a dance party " Phoebe told him dreamily.
"Think we can find one " Cole asked softly. "A private one." His blue eyes narrowed in a way that way not missed by all the watching women. Several sighed.
"Sure," Phoebe breathed happily.
"I guess we have somewhere else to be then" he said huskily. " Cole stopped swirling her around. "My wife " and Phoebe grinned happily at the caress he put on the word. "My wide and I we have to go." He reached over, took Phoebe's half full champagne glass from Elise and finished it.
"Are you sure you're sober? " Phoebe asked Cole.
"Not for long." he said "You've had a head start."
"Its okay" Phoebe assured him "If getting drunk at Mirror parties could get you fired, Elise would have been out on her fat backside years ago."
Phoebe and Cole left politely wishing every-one goodnight, his arm around her as she arched against him.
"That man's a bastard." said Elise downing a glass of champagne while Thurgood embarrassed, uncomfortable tried to move away. " I sometimes think he looks exactly what the devil looks like."
"Exactly" agreed Lori slyly"
"I think he's ……divine " sighed Mrs Thurgood. "We have to have Phoebe and her husband over for dinner soon" she told her embarrassed husband firmly.
With Phoebe clutching music, Cole's forties music, and a blanket and Cole holding chocolate and champagne he shimmered them to a certain isolated beach he knew in southern Mexico, and under the dark starlight sky they listened to the ocean and the night birds and took in the scent of the sea and each other.
Phoebe kicked off her shoes twirling around at the edge of the water, dancing to the music coming off the CD player. Cole sitting on a blanket. watched her for a few minutes. She stopped dancing and held out her arms and he stood up kicked off his shoes, picked up a glass of champagne and joined her. They shared the drink and then he caught her and with wave lapping round their feet danced to the music blasting as loud as they liked off Phoebe's CD player. The danced savouring the time feeling each others bodies, Phoebe hand up under his shirt, swaying with each other locked together enjoying each other.
"I am so drunk" Phoebe said flinging her arms up, still clutching the champagne glass and leaning back so he had to hold her upright, hands around her waist.
"So am I" Cole said "On you."
Phoebe shrieked laughing, but he was the only one to hear her " That is so corny " she told him.
"So Mrs Turner what's wrong with corny" he said picking her up.
"Bet Mrs Thurgood would not have been so drooling if you'd been corny back at the party" Phoebe told him as he swung her around.
They made love on the blanket and some time later reluctant to leave sat huddled together, watching the sea, Phoebe wrapping herself in Cole's jacket, without asking him.
"We made it a year," he said. "Who'd have thought."
"Made it longer than that " she said. "Just a start."
"Yeah " he said.
"We're just at the beginning" she said leaning back to take in the scent of him along with the sea air.
"It could get …. sticky in the future," he said.
"Been sticky in the past." she sighed.
"Whosit " he said.
"Oh" she said.
"Yeah " he sighed.
"It'll be," she said"
"I know " he said.
"Piper won't let us stuff it up" Phoebe said.
"I know." said Cole "She'll bitch"
"I know" said Phoebe," Things are going to change. Paige" she said. "Mark, 'cause you know I think the only way she will make it work is if she follows her whitelighter heritage."
"I want Paige to be happy" Cole said. "Maybe she won't change for a while."
"Eventually " Phoebe said "She won't change being my sister."
"She might change being mine," Cole nestling his face in Phoebe's hair. "If she finds out how I got Mark to heal that kid."
"Probably be more mad at Mark if he hadn't saved the kid." said Paige's sister reaching up to touch Cole's face. "But that won't stop her making your life hell if she finds out."
"You going to tell her," Cole asked.
"If she doesn't ask I won't explain" Phoebe smiled. "I don't think she'll ask."
"Good" sighed Cole as he nibbled at her ear and Phoebe.
"That damn women Lori is really getting at Elise " Phoebe told him after a while.
"Elise is welcome to her," said Cole.
"Hell" said Phoebe sitting up "Cole you don't think Elise is going to be our next innocent do you?"
Cole stopped nibbling.
"I think I'll shut up now" said Phoebe giggling. "At least you got Rodik on the plane" she said a while later.
"It was that or take him up to a cloud." Cole told her.
"Why " asked Phoebe surprised "What were you going to do with him on a cloud?"
"Let him go" said Cole.
She laughed. " Damn you shouldn't have got him on the plane. " she was quiet for while her head against Cole just enjoying the scent of him, the feel of him, the fact of him. "You love me?" she asked.
"Mmm baby" he sighed.
"You trust me," she asked as he stroked her hair.
"MMMMM " he sighed.
"What did you do to Rodik " Phoebe whispered huskily. "To stop him getting witches?"
"God I love you Phoebe," he said appreciating her.
"I know. What did you do to Rodik?" she said appreciating Cole knew her and he loved her.
"Listened to you. Gave him what he wanted." Cole answered with a grin.
Phoebe turned around to see Cole's face in the starlight, it was almost demonic. She put her head on the side enquiringly.
"Gave him a level or protection and ….suffering for his calling" Cole explained.
"Give" demanded Phoebe.
"I put a warlock zapper on him" Cole said. "He comes within fifty yards of a warlock power the warlock will get zapped, hard. So will Rodik" he said with satisfaction."
"What about collecting powers?" asked Phoebe concerned.
"He can collect them" said Cole " it's just going to hurt like hell. Warlock powers will zap him every time, whole time he has them. He said he suffered to answer his calling." Cole said. "Now he will."
She shrieked laughed "So now he gets a jolt off not a jerk off when he collects powers. A big one?" she asked hopefully.
"About in proportion to what he got when he jerked off" said Cole.
"Owwww " giggled Phoebe "The super size. That is justice."
"I thought so " Cole murmured.
They sat quietly watching stars and waves and the slight breeze and the smell of sea surrounded them.
"I love you" he murmured because there was nothing else to say"
"You keep saying that," she sighed snuggling. She shuddered slightly and whispered "I love you. You're all I ever need to be .happy " she said crawling into his arms.
"Mm baby " he sighed into her hair.
"All I ever want," she repeated." all I ever need. you won't lose me baby no matter what " she murmured against his face.
"I don't want you to do anything…. rash" he said pulling back.
" Liar" she said. "you do. It isn't your choice " she said. "I fell in love 'Ladies my name is Cole turner' " she mimicked softy. "You wanted me to fall in love with you." she sad. "it worked. So suffer. You got me for eternity. I'll find a way." she said as a promise not a threat.
"I'm not asking you do it " he said kissing her in a long, long kiss that took in the breath of her the feel of her the taste , the love he had for her, the love he felt for her.
"You don't believe me do you " she said." You don't believe me when I tell you that you will never walk alone, that I will be there , that I will never leave you. I don't break my promises " she said.
"You know I can't lie to you" Cole said.
"Yes," she replied smugly.
"I believe you" he said smiling at her in the starlight the one he saved for her.
Cole finally stood up reluctantly and held out his hand. Phoebe reached up and took it, caressing it with her thumb. Cole pulled her to her feet. She started to brush sand of her clothes and then felt around the beach with her bare feet.
"What did you do with my shoes?" she demanded.
Cole shook his head "Don't ever change Phoebe," he said.
"I won't," she promised falling into his arms.
Francesca orbed into the long dark room of the old monastery high in the mountains in Nepal that was Proctor's hiding place. The guardian was watching the magic affairs of the realm on his crystal screens but she wondered if he was concentrating because he seemed to be lost in his thoughts as he stared in his roaring log fire.
He turned at the sound of orbs a satanic sneer on his face, an expression that intensely irritated Francesca.
"I heard your call " she told him, irritation showing.
"Francesca. Such a pleasure, as always," he said standing and the demonic sneer turning to a knowing demonic smile. "I am honoured you answered my call. Eventually."
"I do my duty" she insisted a trifle defensively. "There was no urgency."
"I know " he said the smile turning back to a sneer "May I offer you refreshment."
"It's not necessary " Francesca replied politely.
"I know." Proctor replied the expression demonic. It turned almost evil. "Why of all of us do you refuse only my hospitality " he asked suddenly. "Even when you do not like demons, you drink tea with Therold."
"I have not yet discovered the secret of dealing with Therold without drinking tea." she confided.
"Neither have I "Proctor conceded with a small smile that had some regret but no evil.
Francesca acknowledged the smile with an incline of her head. She hesitated then said quietly "Thank you I will accept your hospitality."
"Italian wine?" Proctor asked, the satanic sneer returning and making Francesca regret she had accepted.
"Thank you" she said. Politely.
Francesca stood in front of the roaring fire, feeling its warmth and as she did so realising she was being peevish towards Proctor and wondered if Phoebe's influence was a good thing.
Proctor returned carrying a tray with a bottle of red wine and 2 glasses. As he poured the wine Francesca made herself smile.
"Its not just you." she told Proctor "I mostly managed to avoid drinking vodka in Vladivostok brothels with Durand too."
Proctor's expression was dry " How?" he asked.
"I do not understand you." Francesca said schoolmarm, regretting her impulse to be friendly.
"I wish to know the secret of how you refuse Durand." Proctor said satanic "I do not know it."
"You were caught?" she asked. "I thought when I felt the both of you there you were 'visiting'."
"I was . One I needed to cut short when Durand wanted to demonstrate his prowess" Proctor said. "And during which you preferred not to answer my call "he guessed as Francesca said nothing. "Durand is a penance," he added his tone between amusement and pain.
"He is that " she sighed raising her glass half heartedly.
"Francesca what is wrong?" Proctor asked quietly.
"Nothing is wrong" she said.
"It is a sad day for good when the greatest of their great powers lies," Proctor said the satanic sneer only slightly softened by concern. "What is wrong Francesca?"
"I" she stood up and turned away then back "I spoke to Arturo before coming here. "He seemed.. At peace. Far more than he has been for a long time."
"This is good." Proctor answered twirling his glass in his hand and not taking his eyes from her face.
"I asked him if he saw his future in the eclipse despite trying to avoid it. He said he saw nothing to fear in his future. It was having a future at all he feared. Francesca confided. "He will go" she added. "Perhaps not long."
"Not long for a guardian can be a lifetime for others," Proctor answered "That Arturo's time "here would end was inevitable when Belthezor crossed."
She nodded took a deep breath " I shall be alone," she said letting the deep hidden well of loneliness rise for a second.
"I do not believe that," Proctor said calmly, the half smile on his face purely demonic and a little sly.
"What do you mean?" Francesca asked catching her breath for a reason she did not understand.
"Friend Belthezor's pretty wife will undoubtedly be willing to meet you for tea and gossip any time you need company, for an eternity if the visions my brother Therold collects are true." Proctor said satanic. "I see things," he added unnecessarily as Francesca gave him her best school marm stare.
He smiled, the dark satanic smile of the demon watcher and filled her glass again.
" Why did you call me?" Francesca asked calmly sitting down and sipping the wine and very noticeably refusing to comment.
"I am seeing things," he accepted her refusal to play with a knowing sneer that made Francesca remember why she disliked demons. He glanced at the flashing crystal screens. "I am seeing change. The growth of Evil. As I watch from my mountain, when I visit the realms. I see Evil in Africa and other places. Evil is doing well. I observe the destruction of the warlock king has consolidated much of the power of evil with Tempus."
"It is as well the Charmed Ones do not understand that by defeating Willem they created a greater evil" said Francesca. "It may dishearten them, make them doubt their choices."
"From some things that my Friend Therold says that would not be …good. They will need their belief in their cause." Proctor answered "Friend Therold talks to me of these things because he knows I am only a humble watcher," he said satanic smile in place as Francesca raised her eyes "And I do not have the wisdom to act on this knowledge. For which I am truly grateful "Proctor added sincerely.
"It is normal after the eclipse for the powers to realign." Francesca replied deciding that to argue with Proctor about the strength of his wisdom was ….unwise.
"Tempus has a gift of leadership" Proctor answered the satanic smile deepening at her refusal to contradict him. "He will lead demondom and earn their loyalty such as it is because he is succeeding far more than the former source after he became obsessed with destroying the Charmed Ones. Some things Therold has found in the records of the accounting o Evil make me believe this is strong source who will write his legend."
"It is the way of new source " Francesca said. "You will remember the path of the last one, the evil that rose. Tempting mortals to wage war on witches."
"And Hilma found a way to balance the evil of the superstition and fanaticism " Proctor said "I remember," he said softly as Francesca's crooked face took on an expression of sadness. "This one has found such as fertile ground in the use of financial control to create his legend, to influence and buy the souls of the leaders and those who should know better."
"It is a clever evil " Francesca agreed. "And he will succeed as they all do at some level until as they all do he chases his nemesis to his own destruction."
"Future nemesis or not, there should be a power in good somewhere," Proctor said quietly. "If evil is doing so .well , there should be some indication that a power of good will arise, sometime, to counteract it." he said. "I watch but it is hidden and I ask you for some direction where to look. I ask you as a power of good, do you see anything that is denied me."
"I think Proctor you are less than honest "Francesca told him severely, finally giving him the satisfaction of contradiction " in your assessment of your wisdom."
"Tis a small thing." he said dryly but choosing not to force the game. He did however raise his glass satanic smile in place.
"It has arisen " Francesca told him slowly.
"That it good. "he said calmly "Where? Who? Or What?"
"The mortal child of .friend Belthezor and his witch Phoebe," she said. "and the witch daughter of the Charmed One Piper."
"So it will be as written " Proctor mused. "The children of the Charmed Ones will rise to great power."
"In one form or another " Francesca answered quietly. "The Great Plan unfolds. Not the way we may expect from our limited vision, perhaps, but it exists."
Proctor finished his wine. He stood and bowed. "You have wisdom Madame Whitelighter."
"Yes," she agreed "But I believe I still have much to learn. For which I am grateful."
"I to am grateful for...the need to learn" he replied cryptically. Francesca eyed him suspiciously. "Another " He asked indicating the wine bottle with enough of a leer to justify her suspicions.
"I shouldn't " she said.
"Stay and I will tell you something I have observed that will amuse you" he said and his voice had a slight plea.
Francesca started to shake her head and then not knowing why nodded.
"Belthezor fixed the bastard retriever " Proctor told her.
"I know" said Francesca "He would did not tell me how. And I would dearly like to know."
"I just told you how." said Proctor demonically and started to laugh.
"I do not understand." she said half standing up annoyed.
"Belthezor fixed him. Magically " Proctor said. "He castrated the retriever my dear, as I understand it both magically and physically" Proctor explained enjoying the moment.
Francesca suddenly laughed her golden laugh and did not notice the expression on Proctor's face, the soft smile,. because he chose that moment to turn toward the screen.
The satanic sneer on Proctor's face was highly pronounced when he turned back. "I have observed next to Belthezor's ability to betray, the thing I admired so much in him as a demon was his sense of the balance of the situation.
"Justice" said Francesca laughing.
"Vengeance" said Proctor "There is something worse than death," he said with a little shudder because he was male then laughed demonically. "Perhaps Friend Belthezor could be asked to assist in keeping Durand from the Vladivostok Brothels." he suggested.
Francesca smiled, her eyes glowing and slowly raised her glass to him.