The Life and Times

Part 1: Magic in the air

Chapter 6


"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

Leo orbed Piper home and she was all for checking on the kids and it took quite an argument from Leo to convince her that the children were okay and she had to look after herself.


She barely finished before she was upstairs returning to complain that Patsy was lying on his tummy and Melinda had on yesterdays pyjamas but other than that could find nothing wrong.


"What happened?" Leo asked when Piper finally came down. He and Cole were both having a beer, which annoyed the hell out of Piper because she was stuck with herbal tea.


"Oh bloody warlocks came after Clarissa and Marly." Piper said. "Happened so fast its all a bit vague. So help me if I ever hear Marly mutter about not having any power, the way the warlocks were after her. I guess it does take magic power to understand all that herbal stuff. And then they went for Phoebe. She's all right Cole" Piper said automatically. "They seem to have some sort of immunity to the all purpose warlock vanquish and anti freeze powers and had some warning device to blink as I blew them up. Didn't even slow them down. Phoebe got a bit ambitious and tried levitating up to the mezzanine from the counter after one of the warlock's.. I didn't..not sure how it happened. She came down pretty hard on her backside. I guess you can kiss it better." Piper smirked at Cole.


"There are certain arses I don't mind kissing " Cole grinned while Leo rolled his eyes. "Did you get them?"


"We got them but between their.. firepower, bit hard to tell what power they had really, bloody destructive though. And me blowing things up and Paige orbing firepower back at them, and Phoebe levitating off bookshelves they, we all pretty well trashed the shop. Damn " said Piper. " Clarissa needs that shop. Will the insurance cover it?" she asked Cole.


He winced " Depends how the assessor looks at it."


"Can't you use magic?" Piper asked, almost belligerently " We did a pretty convincing job of wrecking the place."


"No for so many reasons" Cole snapped because he hated not being able to help "Because I don't want her whitelighter asking how it got fixed, or yours. Because magic doesn't always fix those things. You bitch about what I do in the house often enough" Cole said seriously, ready to use the enemies argument.


"Sometimes you get it right " Piper said primly thinking of the cleaning.


"What's that supposed to mean?" Cole asked suspiciously, and then he stopped. "I'll do my best for her," he said.


"I guess that's good enough then," said Piper with a resigned air.


"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Cole suspiciously.


"What happened to Clarissa?" said Leo wondering if the right children had been sent to bed.


"Marly nearly got zapped." Piper said ignoring Cole " Clarissa threw herself in front of Marly to protect her and fell over a wooden stake. She was bleeding pretty badly and we though we better take her to hospital."


"Why didn't you call her whitelighter? " Cole asked.


"Didn't you feel Clarissa's aura. Find out a what her power is?" Piper asked head on the side, looking much like her daughter when she was pushing her luck.


"I try not to feel people's auras and that includes witches, unless it's really necessary. Feels a bit like reading personal letters and diaries." Cole snarked taking the high ground.


"You feel family auras" Piper snarked back.


"That's survival. Family aren't people" Cole snarked.


"Cole" said Leo.


Piper glared at him. "No some family are reincarnated wraiths who.."


"Piper" said Leo.


"What's her power? " Cole asked conceding while Leo rolled his eyes.


"Apparently non magic" said Piper disappointed at having to be a responsible grown up again.


"Non magic?" said Cole and Leo.


"She's immune to all magic including whitelighters fixing her." Piper said "maybe it just proves magic does not exist."


Leo and Cole looked at Piper.


"Maybe not ": said Piper tongue in cheek. "Those were not run of the mill, gimme vanquish warlocks" Piper explained.


"Guess not" said Leo choosing to keep Durand's and evil's business out of the family.


Several hours later Phoebe and Paige arrived home with Clarissa in tow. Clarissa, a dark haired woman in her thirties, hiding behind rather large glasses had her arm in a sling and looked decidedly pale.


"You should have gone straight home," said Piper.


"I wanted to talk to Cole " Clarissa said seating herself on the edge of the sofa that Cole stood up from, somewhat gingerly " I know you haven't seen the shop but I won't sleep worrying. Is there anything in that contract you got out of the insurance company to cover the trashing it got?"


"How bad do you think it is? " Cole asked. "Piper said it took a pounding but you know sometimes these things don't look as bad once the heat of battle is over."


"Sometimes they look worse," said Phoebe coming in from parking the car, and kissing Cole. He noticed she was walking in a very uncomfortable way, and she chose to stand rather than sit. He smiled somewhat smugly at her and she wondered why.


Clarissa smiled wan and pale. "Do you think there is a hope?" she asked.


"Hopefully we can make a claim without committing fraud" Cole told her. "If there's a way I'll find it. Trust me " he said smiling.


She nodded her head " I am not looking forward to explaining to my husband that the place got trashed again" She sighed " Hell it's not even a witchy book shop, just crafts and gardens and herb things. If the insurance won't help I may have to make some decisions about the shop. It's supposed to run at a profit."


"Well don't ask Cole for advice about running at a profit " said Piper.


Cole glared at her.


"Mike's a teacher" Clarissa explained" The shop is supposed to pay for the boy's college funds and school fees. Mike pays for the mortgage, just. Teacher's salaries don't exactly include gratuities for the cost of fighting evil."


"Not to many 'authorities' who think you need any recompense for fighting evil" Piper agreed.


"Well see what you can do to not let me be in debt, anyway " said Clarissa pleaded "Sometimes I think you know, all the fireballs and goo are just a front. The real way evil wins is to send us all broke."


"Tell me about it" said Piper.


"Boys. No girls " Phoebe asked.


"No girls " said Clarissa "thank goodness my sister has the girls. Witch inheritance is her problem, and expense, not mine."


Clarissa nodded especially as she caught Phoebe's smile. "You know it would have been all right if that fifth bastard warlock had not kept knocking your magic out. I was really sorry you didn't get  it. I know we should not be looking for vengeance but there has to be a way that we can save innocents and trash that bastard, I couldn't stand that evil smirk it had " she smiled wryly. "just the way it encouraged the others to do as much damage as they could. And the laughing when Phoebe.."


Phoebe interrupted " Clarissa " she said, "there were only four warlocks."


"There were five" said Clarissa firmly. "it had a name. They called it Willem."


"Four" said Piper .


"Four" said Paige.


"There were five" said Clarissa.


"Clarissa "Phoebe started to say.


"We saw four, Clarissa saw five" said Paige glancing at her sisters." Any magic it had to mask itself must not have worked on her."


"Oh great an invisible warlock" said Phoebe.


"We've handled invisible demons," said Piper "a warlock shouldn't e a problem. Its only a warlock."


"It must be nice to be so powerful you can feel like that about warlocks" Clarissa said standing up "I mean they're the mortal enemy of witches, they scare the hell out of me. I envy you, not feeling frightened."


The Charmed sisters glanced at each other, each one knowing their own fears, not all of them confessed.


Cole said he would drive Clarissa home "I won't be long," he told Phoebe "Apparently I have to kiss some arse when I get back."


"Piper" Phoebe said outraged after he left "you told Cole. He freaks so much about me getting hurt I was just going to get Paige to fix it and not tell him."


"Paige fix it?" said Paige.


"I'm not having Casper" said Phoebe.


"Wrong ghost " said Piper.


"Casper " insisted Phoebe "laying hands on my bum."


"Having the power to fix my sister's bruised bum" said Paige "that make everything I've been through because of magic worth it."


Cole drove Clarissa home.


"I shouldn't be so upset " she told him "But this is the worst  trashing by far and at the worst possible time. My oldest boy  has to have some corrective surgery on a deformed hip, and it was something they did not want to do until he hit puberty and then we had to put it off last year when we weren't to sure Mike's contract was going to be renewed. Damn " she said angrily  and fought back tears as Cole could so do nothing but make sympathetic noises. "Damn, " Clarissa swallowed and shrugged away her tears. "Sorry to dump " she said "but if you knew how much this damn magic has cost me, my family. And the only power I have is not having a power."


"I know what we spend " said Cole thinking how much the Charmed Ones did slip magic in to make life easier, orbing, shimmering, and what he used.


"Mike is pretty good about it," Clarissa said "not like my first husband, but when I see the kids going without things. Especially big things like operations that can make their lives normal."


"Maybe it won't look as bad in the morning" Cole told Clarissa as he saw her to her front door.


"In my experience it always looks worse," said Clarissa with a shake of her head."Goodnight " she said wearily.


Cole walked back to the car, sighed and then drove down to the small backstreet near China town where Clarissa's shop was. He shimmered in and looked around. It was a small old fashioned and atmospheric book shop with a mezzanine.


It was also a mess. "Trashed, more trashed and beyond help" he said looking around at half burnt books, walls and blown up furniture, or rather remaining splinters of blown up furniture.


He felt the spirit winds and the slight movement "Its not interfering with witch's business " he said out loud as if beings in the greater Universe could hear him. "Its straight personal gain. I don't want to spend months fighting insurance companies when I could spend the time with my wife and kids." He flicked his fingers so that not even the most suspicious assessor would pick up on anything other than a low grade robbery. And carefully ignored the little shudder in the spirit winds.


When he got back to the manor, the lights were out except in his and Phoebe's bedroom. She was sitting up waiting for him, looking about 15 with her hair in plaits and a long sleeve nightdress with Bugs Bunny on the front. Cole knelt on the bed to kiss her and then she watched him with interest as he undressed.


"The laundry basket" she ordered as his shirt was heading for the floor. He groaned, but threw it in the basket, went into the bathroom, cleaned his teeth came out. She watched him ".


"What " he said as he got into bed.


"When are going to tell me you fixed Clarissa's shop?" Phoebe asked.


"I wasn't going to" Cole said " Honest it was personal gain not witch's business. Don't tell Piper" he winced.


" 'kay" said Phoebe leaning toward him "When you going to kiss my arse."


"Now" he said grinning and reached over to pull the comforter off her.


On Sunday night after a warlock free day, made interesting by a brunch visit from Piper and Phoebe's father and his 'new'  wife Margaret that caused a ruckus when both Leo and Cole tried to disappear and Piper refused to let them, Phoebe and Paige returned to the dining room, after clearing supper as Leo came downstairs.


"Every-one up there asleep? " Phoebe asked.


Leo nodded and planted himself on the end chair at the dining table and helped himself to the last piece of chocolate cake Piper had cooked for desert. Phoebe and Paige had been insisting she rest rather than go to the effort of making Sunday night dinners but she got so agitated about not having them they made the dinner, only Piper then got agitated that she was not doing anything to help so somewhat sensational desserts had come the new tradition on Sunday nights.


Phoebe planted herself down beside Cole. "I don't know what we would do if that dish washer packed up" Phoebe said.


"Shut up Phoebe " said Piper.


"I only.." said Phoebe started to say.


"I know what you said," Piper answered.


Cole pushed Phoebe a glass of wine and put his hand over hers. Paige helped herself to more coffee while Piper sipped tea. "Well" she said, getting up and retrieving a folder she had left on the seat at the bottom of the stairs.


"Well what" said Phoebe.


"We need to talk about finances," Piper said opening the folder.


"I'm sick to death of talking about money," said Cole grinding his teeth.


"It has its uses," Piper said sourly, "for those of us who are beyond personal gain." she added taking the high ground.


Cole flicked his fingers and the vase turned into a pile of money.


"Is that real?" Piper asked almost hopeful.


"Got you" Cole said happy. "Of course it isn't real." and cringed a little at the glare he got from Piper.


"What are your powers?" Paige asked eying him curiously.


"Not your business" Cole answered with a smirk as Paige pursed her lips.


"Its hereditary, he can't help being a son of a bitch," Piper explained to Paige.


"As opposed to being one," Cole said sweetly.


"Stop it the pair of you" Leo groaned "what is it with you two lately?"


Cole met Piper's glance. " No-one else will play " he said "Your nose is always in a book, Paige is never here and Phoebe loves me."


"How old are you?" demanded Leo.


"Shut up Cole" said Phoebe who knew his views that treating Piper as if she was fragile was not helping her.


Piper met his eyes and smirked. "Clarissa got me thinking, about the kids and their future," she said. She glanced at the printed papers she was holding "I think" she said looking at long lists of figures and reminding Phoebe her sister had once had a job as a bank clerk when Grams was alive. " I figure" said Piper "that the way we're going, if nothing else bad happens at P3 and Phoebe can keep her job…."


"Of course" said Phoebe brightly because she hadn't told her sisters Elise had threatening to break her contract.


"Shut up Phoebe" said Leo.


"I figure" said Piper pushing it  before Phoebe could answer, "I mean if sometime in the next five years Cole can actually make enough from the law practice to support himself, and put a bit toward food."


"I am making money," said Cole defensively.


"You're not making any profit," said Piper.


"I would" muttered Cole "if you didn't insist that I worked out of an office instead of here and if Paige hadn't insisted I hire a clerk and if Phoebe hadn't insisted I took on those pro bono cases."


"I figure " said Piper ignoring him "that if Leo and I can keep P3 running the way we are and we can stop anything evil completely trashing the house, just keep it down to the average repairs for the last couple of years, we should be able to extend the over draft enough to invest some money for a college fund for the kids."


"Can't we save?" Leo asked.


"Haven't you noticed Leo " remarked Paige "that as soon as any-one in this family saves any money, some demon attacks and trashes the house and we have to spend it. Almost like they knew." she added.


"It works out better if we put everything into reducing the overdraft and investing rather than trying to save " Piper explained ignoring them.


"Sometimes," Phoebe said "I swear I think it is the rat demon financiers who are going to do to us what all other demons could not. Vanquish us with financial ruin."


"Shut up Phoebe" said Leo and Paige.


"You dirty rat " said Cole because Phoebe had decided that he needed an education in old films to understand mortal life.


"Not even remotely funny," snapped Piper.


"Grow up Cole" Leo ordered him.


"I should be able to put something into it, for the kids I mean" Paige said " I know I don't earn much, even with the full time work. No wonder Mark never had any decent clothes …and drove such a trashy car " Mark was never far away from her thoughts. "But I want to contribute. I'm part of tis family."


"Considering we're only eating at the moment because you have a real cash salary coming in" Piper told Paige who shrugged a little awkward "I think we can safely say you're contributing."


"Does this mean we can get away enough away if all of them want to go to college?" Phoebe asked. "Even if one wanted to do something like a lawyer and or doctor that takes years, unless you're on demon fast track," she said sticking her tongue out at Cole who grinned.


"Well if one wants to be a doctor we could manage. If two do " Piper said grimly "we better hope the third one wants to be a bum."


"With our luck that one will want to be an educated bum," said Phoebe grinning.


"Then we better hope Cole really is immortal and can finally make some money as a lawyer" said Piper "or the kids will be selling the house to pay out the overdraft."


"I am not being a lawyer for eternity " Cole snarled.


"You're part of this family, you take on the responsibilities of this family" Piper told him firmly.


"Yes Mommy " said Cole.


"Shut up Cole" said Leo before Piper could come back at him.


"Great so its all okay for the three we have " Phoebe said "What if Cole and I have another kid, or more than another kid."


"Are you counting her pill packets?" Paige demanded of Cole.


"Yes " he said.


"I want more kids" Phoebe said getting her most stubborn expression on her face.


"We'll discuss it later," Cole said in a tone that clearly indicated he had no intention of discussing it.


"You want more kids" Phoebe said getting her temper up.


"We'll discuss it later" Cole said.


"We will" Phoebe told him grimly and he pursed his lips.


"So" said Piper " if we go without a pension fund."


"I think we can manage without a pension fund" said Leo "in the circumstances."


"And try and keep damages to the house to a minimum and the kids go to a public school ".


"A good one " said Leo.


"A good public school" said Piper " and Cole makes some money and we only run about 3 pro bon cases."


"Cole only runs three pro bono cases a year" said Leo catching Cole's expression.


 "And" continued Piper " we keep the lease for the upstairs restaurant at P3 running, we can get a college fund going for the three kids."


"Maybe more" said Phoebe "and Paige ain't beyond possibility yet."


"I think I'll just be an aunt," said Paige.


"And " said Piper ignoring them "Two of the kids maybe able to make it through post graduate."


"Well that's okay then, all decided" said Phoebe anxious to get away from the subject "as long as none of them want to become economists" she added.


"Shut up Phoebe " said Leo.


"I'm sick to death of people telling me to shut up when my opinion is as valid as any-one else's" snapped Phoebe.


"Your opinions have a habit of turning into premonitions and coming true," Leo told her " especially the bad ones."


"Oh " said Phoebe and could say no more because they were interrupted by a wail from the stairs and Melinda appeared very cute in blue pyjamas, clutching her toy rabbit.


"Don' wanna sleep Mommy " she said .


"Bed Miss now " said Piper in a 'don't argue' voice.


"Can't sleep" said Melinda.


"Melinda" said Piper.


Cole picked the little girl up and seating himself on the bench under the stairs, "Bed time in ten minutes " he said.


"Yes Unca Cole " said Melinda sending her mother a smirk.


"Cole" muttered Piper.


"Behind you " said Leo matter of fact as a blinking noise sounded.


The three girls turned around to see a shrieking fuzzy haired warlock blink into the hallway.


The warlock seemed a little confused to be confronted by the power of the Charmed Ones and what it was doing there.


"I'd go if I were you " Phoebe told it calmly "Now."


It looked at her confused and smirked and then shuddered and started to look around. It fixed on Cole sitting on the bench with Melinda on his knee.


It turned as another two warlocks appeared "The power " said the first one to the others looking toward Melinda and Cole.


It moved toward Cole who half raised his hand and then lowered it. Piper seeing him decide it was obviously a witches' fight advanced, raised her hand and blew the warlock up in a cloud of black warlock goo, the force of which threw her backwards.


Phoebe levitated and kicked the second one against the wall and into the grandfather clock which once again fell apart. Paige finished it off with the warlock spell. The third one seemed immune, it went to toward Cole and as Piper tried to get back to her feet, it focused a little confused on Melinda. The little girl sensing her danger started to lift a hand and Cole made a decision and blew the warlock to smithereens .


Leo who had moved to put himself between the warlock and Melinda was caught between relief and what he was feeling on the spirit winds." "That isn't your fight," he said to Cole but his voice was shaking.


"The hell it isn't. I think Melinda deserves to keep her innocence a little longer," Cole answered, sounding annoyed but looking concerned.


"Warlocks are getting damned brave lately," said Paige mournfully examining goo stains on her favourite jeans "what are they on. Brave pills attacking individually like that."


"Very odd " said Piper taking Melinda from Cole. Melinda burst into tears snuggling up against mom. Piper glanced around the hall and dining room "Oh shit" she said as she looked at the broken clock and black goo over the wooden furniture, fabric and floor " That stuff is like acid on wood." She looked hopefully at Cole.


Cole waved his hand irritably and the goo disappeared but not before it had started to eat some very nasty marks in the woodwork.


 "Contribution to the college fund, Your turn" he said to Leo who was glaring at the burn marks."


"Well at this rate the kids won't have to worry about a mortgage on the house " said Phoebe looking around. "There won't be a house left."


Her sisters, brother in law and husband turned to stare at her. "I'll shut up" she said before they could say it.


"Don't even try with the clock," said Leo ordered Cole who was glancing at it "I wonder if the college fund can wait till we get it fixed." He swallowed "Thanks for Melinda" he said.


"Thanks for saving Melinda, from the warlock and keeping her childhood" Piper said stroking her still sobbing daughter's hair.


"It was nothing" Cole replied somewhat grim.


Piper inclined her head.


"I'm not being modest  Leo, Piper " he said, "I'm not entirely sure it wasn't me it was feeling the power from."


"How could that warlock know what you are " demanded Leo. "Demons" can't really sense you. Aren't you supposed to be beyond their power? Why would a warlock target you?"


"Warlock's are power thieves" Cole said " Warlocks sense power, they are attracted to it, don't necessarily have to understand what it is though."


"In a magic nexus" Leo asked incredulously.


"Maybe once they are in the nexus, it magnifies their senses" Paige said. "So they only smell Belthezor here when they get inside."


"Shit" said Cole "And don't call me Belthezor" he said through his teeth, as Paige smirked.


"Not in front of Melinda " said Piper firmly.


"Yes mommy " muttered Cole.


"Do you think that applies to only warlock's or any magic collector?" Phoebe asked.


"What did you say :" said Paige, shaking her head as if she was dizzy


"I said the nexus does it only magnify warlock power sniffing or other magic beings " Phoebe repeated "I wish you'd start listening to me " she told Paige primly.


"I think I better talk to Francesca," said Cole.


Phoebe pursed her lips "That's a good idea " she said brightly after a second.


Melinda finally stopped sobbing " Bed miss:" said Piper. Melinda did not argue "At least that settles one thing " Piper said as she went upstairs" None us have warlock powers, warlock zapper goes on the house."


Paige turned to Cole. "I take t you don't have any warlock powers."


"None I couldn't live without " Cole said. "They're barely worth it " he added.


"You really need to do something about your xenophobic attitude to warlocks " Leo told him severely.