The Life and Times

Part 1: Magic in the air

Chapter 8


"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

Even by the standards of the bottom end of the market clients Cole had helped in the months that he worked for him, Eduardo thought the one was spooky. Very tall, very thin, almost satanic air, he walked into the office and told Eduardo "I seek Cole Turner" in a raspy voice.


Before Eduardo could answer, Cole came to the door smiling somewhat wryly said, "Its okay Eduardo" and ushered Proctor into the next office.


"Friend Belthezor well met," said Proctor with the satanic sneer that passed for a smile. Francesca" he said "what a co-incidence and pleasure of course."


Cole caught the expression on Francesca's face and almost laughed and then could not help himself. "Mrs Rinaldi does not believe in co-incidence" he told Proctor.


The satanic sneer almost became a smile "Dear me what other explanation could there be for so many... chance meetings " said Proctor almost maliciously.


Francesca stood up "Proctor you need my advice" she asked primly.


"No " said Proctor quite seriously "My business is.. in hand at this time."


"That is good " Francesca answered almost softening. "Should you need me" she told both Cole and Proctor "Call me. Cole I will do what I can" She looked at both " Be well " she said as she left the office .


"Friend Proctor. To what do I owe the pleasure " Cole asked " Coffee " he asked and fortunately had his back turned when Proctor asked for five sugars.


"I see things" Proctor answered accepting the coffee and seating himself on the leather sofa, bought from fashionable seconds furniture but a very sore point with Cole when he worked out how many wills he would have to write to pay for it.


"I know," said Cole sitting in the chair opposite, rescued from the Manor attic.


"In Africa" said Proctor.


"So do I " replied Cole grimly "Do you understand anything you see?"


"I do not have that wisdom" replied Proctor seriously " But then I am uncertain who or what would."


"Yes," said Cole " what do you see?"


"I see minions close to the new Source, in Africa, watching those who are vulnerable, offering … inducements to those who can be corrupted" Proctor said "the evil is at the moment a little…less random than perhaps you might assume, so I would advise.. caution."


"Nearly impossible to tell when it is random or not " Cole answered "But I take your advice and will act.. accordingly."


"That is good " said Proctor " I will also give some other advice. Do not expect to succeed in Africa. Better to ensure you do not fail."


"I understand " Cole said.


"That is also good." replied Proctor. "Then I best be gone." he said. "as we have no more business."


Cole nodded and started to stand then he sat again "Are you concerned what could be revealed and who it could be revealed to, during this, this realm...eclipse."


"If I had have no secrets, then I suppose I would have nothing to fear" Proctor answered.


Cole nodded. He was quiet for several seconds "I have secrets " he said.


"As do we all " answered Proctor. "I have little wisdom " Proctor added "but my friend Therold tells me his wisdom and his wisdom is that we all have secrets, only some of us do not know we have them."


"Even Francesca" said Cole.


"Especially Francesca " replied Proctor and his smile was something a little less than satanic.


"May I ask you something? " Cole said a little awkwardly.


"If you are prepared to accept how I chose to answer it" Proctor replied.


"Why did you cross" Cole asked. "From evil?"


Proctor hesitated and then he smiled fully satanic" That is my secret" he replied. "I am gone."


Cole followed him into the office and watched as Proctor left. "Be well friend " he said.


"It is my intention " Proctor replied over his shoulder.


Eduardo watched Proctor go " You know " he told Cole "if I was going to describe what evil incarnate looked liked, that would nearly be it."


"You would be wrong " Cole said still thinking like a demon. "Very few people reveal their souls in the way they look" he smiled pensively. "Sometimes you would get quite a surprise to know what they really were."



Francesca orbed into Arturo's house where it was late at night. Arturo was sitting in his lounge lost in thought his expression haunted and Francesca had to swallow down a great deal of compassion that she knew would not be welcome.


"Still not off in the eclipse seeking the secrets of worthy beings." Arturo said with the ghost of a smile as he looked up at the sound of orbs.


"Sarcasm is unworthy " said Francesca sitting down " also you are not good at it Arturo."


Arturo's smile this time was genuine and reached his eyes. "This visit is not to check my well being ".


"Only partially" Francesca answered " it appears that there is a danger, a fairly immediate one, that the secret of Belthezor has been discovered by a warlock king called Willem and they are not far off being discovered by the Powers that Be of good."


Arturo sat back and considered for a second "That is unfortunate" Arturo remarked "Does Belthezor know?"


"Yes" said Francesca severely " he knows."


"And " asked Arturo "How does he respond?"


"He is.. concerned. " she started to say. Arturo looked at her "He is frightened Arturo "replied Francesca. " But he feels it would be wrong to destroy creatures of good or evil to protect the secret."


"His calling is strong " Arturo said slowly." He learns some wisdom."


"Which does not mitigate the need to protect his secret. "Francesca pressed and looked at Arturo her eyes pleading.


"What my dear? " Arturo asked grimly.


"Cole is happy Arturo " she said quietly "And it is such a short time he has. I remember family and happiness."


"And you love him so you'll plead his case" Arturo sighed. "So if he cannot… will not ".


"You must, and not just because I ask you, although that should be reason enough"  Francesca said gently "Eclipse or not Arturo. Guardians are called to protect those weaker than themselves from those who could hurt them. Even guardians." She quoted Arturo with a ghost of a smile.


"So I am damned by my own wisdom" he nodded "I do not wish to leave the safety of this time fold at this time" Arturo told her hurting.


"I know" Francesca answered gently "But that.. you were a demon Arturo and you know always there was a debt to pay, and it is not paid without pain."


"I know my dear " said ex-demon Arturo who had answered a call to guard the realms and administer the Great Plan a thousand years ago "It is well we do not understand the price we must pay to ease our debt when we are called."


"Thank you " Francesca said as Arturo crossed to pour her a brandy, clearly closing the discussion.


"There is something I keep meaning to ask" Francesca said accepting his wish "Why is Proctor such good 'friends' with Cole?"


"He likes Belthezor?" said Arturo and then saw Francesca's expression "I know. Sarcasm is unworthy. Belthezor when he is not being an.. arsehole " and Arturo smiled " can be…endearing you know."


"I find it improbable that Proctor has the wisdom to understand what endearing means" said Francesca snippily.


"Improbable does not necessarily mean impossible" said Arturo as he poured her a brandy.



Paige brought the map downstairs and began scryed. There was nothing very evident from the scrying just indiscriminate evil all over San Francisco but she was somewhat surprised how much of it was happening. Phoebe and Cole were on the sofa watching television with Melinda. Lady and the Tramp. The whole family knew the film dialogue without watching it. Melinda loved anything with animals but Lady and the Tramp was her favourite. Whosit was once again lost in organising blocks and toys in patterns of his own devising. He was not interested in TV. Leo and Piper were washing up and Wyatt was on the floor on his back gurgling. Wyatt seemed to be content lying around doing nothing.


Cole was sitting in the corner of the sofa and Phoebe was on the sofa half across his lap. Even after the time they had been together, Cole and Phoebe never could be in a room without being in touching distance. They shared chairs and sofas and sat beside each other at meals, even standing Cole always managed to find a way to close enough to have a hand around or on her. The family were used to it and actually regarded it with concern if they were not close. It usually meant fireworks or problems.


"Nothing really happening" Paige said "Just a lot of small stuff." She looked at her sister and swallowed a small choke of envy " I'm really pissed at that damned whitelighter " she told them "In fact I'm pretty pissed at the whole Powers That Be and Elders. Checking up on what we told them, coming here and questioning what we did, acting like they don't really believe us."


"We weren't telling the truth" said Phoebe with a little gulp.


"But we're the Charmed Ones." Paige said working herself up into a temper "After all we've done for them, they ought to believe anything we say. Its well, its almost like they don't trust us".


"There are some people who equate not telling the truth with being untrustworthy," Cole pointed out.


"That's ridiculous" said Paige " every-one has secrets." And was stopped from saying more by the sound of orbs. She turned to glare at the orbs and only slightly changed her expression when she realised it was Francesca. "I wasn't expecting you" said Paige snippily.


" I don't always announce my intentions dear" Francesca commented, in a tone so dry that Paige if she had not been so pissed with whitelighters and the general population of magic Elders she would have recognised as a warning.


"Hello Francesca " said Phoebe warmly making sure she put a very possessive hand across Cole, which Francesca noticed.


"Mrs Rinaldi, such a pleasure" Cole who did recognise the warning, mimicked Proctor. "What did you come for?" he asked as Francesca pursed her lips


Francesca seated herself opposite him "I came to say that after some consideration, the course of ah.. inaction you talked about today, is something at this point I would strongly advise " she said. "I advise choices should only be made when it is apparent what they are." she said. "And " she said severely "I would not lose all hope of happiness if I were you." 


Cole nodded , and half smiled and a small shudder of relief hit him. Paige hearing the vagueness of the advice he was getting raised her eyes.


"You visited Cole today " said Phoebe brightly, very brightly. "You didn't tell me Cole."


"Just about your whitelighter and consequences" Cole explained to her.


"That's great" said Phoebe even more brightly.


Piper and Leo heard the voices and came into the living room.


"Francesca" smiled Leo.


"Sorry I missed you the other night " said Piper and meant it.


There was a silence for a few seconds, and then bursting out of the television came the song "We are Siamese if you please."


"Look Mrs Winaldi " Melinda said tugging at Francesca's sleeve. "Pussy."


"Siamese cats dear" said Francesca with only the twinkle in her eye giving her away as Phoebe giggled.


"We ought to get her a cat," said Paige" Siamese cats are nice."


"We.are.not.getting.a " Piper enunciated very clearly.


"We most certainly are not" said Phoebe almost as clearly.


Paige and Cole and even Francesca stared at them.


"Okay" muttered Paige, feeling the world hated her.


To cover the somewhat awkward silence, Piper asked Francesca if Cole had told her about the warlock Willem.


"Yes dear. That's what I came to talk to him about " said Francesca.


Piper nodded and asked somewhat awkwardly "I know your business is not warlocks but guardians only Cole swears he does not know Willem yet our whitelighter swears he does and.."


Coe pursed his lips "I'm not lying Piper " he said.


"I know but I don't believe Casper is either" Piper said almost uncomfortable.


"Wrong ghost " said Leo.


"Then I suppose dear " Francesca added " you need to assume that both Cole and your whitelighter are telling the truth and work from there."


"What is it with whitelighters " snarked Paige "You ask for information and all they give is vague useless pie in the sky stuff that is just no help" and she raised her hands and slapped her thighs.


Francesca put her tongue in her cheek. Cole recognised the expression and he caught Phoebes glance and raised his eyes. Phoebe swallowed hard and started to say "Paige" but Francesca beat her to it.


"Paige " Francesca said in a voice that was clearly discouraged argument , "I am well aware that the Charmed Ones have insulted their way through most of the whitelighters 'up there' in the last year. I am also aware that some of those whitelighters have been so overawed by the power and status of the Charmed Ones they have accepted an attitude from all of you," and she extended her look to Piper and Phoebe who both hunched backward " those whitelighters have accepted an attitude " continued Francesca " that seriously lacks respect."


Paige swallowed.


"However, I am not of that ilk " Francesca said in firm severe voice "You are of course free to accept or reject my advice and even doubt my wisdom if you so choose but you will offer me respect and courtesy when you do so. Do I make myself clear?"


Piper and Paige glanced at each other.


"Yes  Francesca " said Paige contritely.


Francesca narrowed her eyes. "I do understand that over the last year or so you a have had reason to be less than trusting of advice given to you by whitelighters." She said. "Perhaps you should consider that trust is impossible without mutual respect. You may of course reject that opinion," she added.


Paige and Piper and Phoebe stared at her.


Opposite her Cole smiled with wry amusement and caught Phoebe's glance.


"And you Cole can stop smirking " Francesca told him without looking at him.


"Yes Mrs Rinaldi " he said a gentle smile of amusement on his face. Francesca half turned to him and Phoebe "So we all understand each other" she said half catching Cole's smile and raising her eyes a little.


Cole nodded and Phoebe glanced from Cole to Francesca and swallowed hard ,to choke down a moment of jealousy. Phoebe knew there was part of Cole's life she must not and could not share but watching him share it with some-one else, even some-one she loved and respected...hurt. The moment of jealousy was not missed by Francesca, who nodded almost with sympathy.


"Yes Francesca," said Phoebe sucking on her lip.



Cole was still talking to Francesca. Phoebe took Whosit upstairs to bath him and get him ready for bed but he must have sensed her tension and did not settle. Phoebe was seriously starting to believe he had inherited the small empathic ability that was the legacy of Cole's mortal family. "Its only small magic" she told herself.


She busied herself in Cole's absence doing useful jobs like waxing her legs while Whosit toddled around the room looking for things to entertain himself. With his fascination for feeling and sucking on things Phoebe was very grateful that he could not telekinetic objects into his range. Before she could stop him he pulled her hairbrush off the dresser and examined it, tried to put it in his mouth, made a face at the taste and threw it on the floor. He then even without magic managed to lever her underwear drawer out and while she watched a little proud of how clever he was, panties and bras joined the hairbrush on the floor.


Phoebe finished waxing her legs and picked him up "You really are you father's son" she giggled " You're a big messer you are " she said pulling him into her face to kiss him.


Sometimes Phoebe had to pinch herself to believe she was the mother of their precious boy. Whosit 's skin was very fair but his hair showed signs of getting darker and his eyes were turning brown. She often just looked at him to see what was her and what was Cole. Mostly to her surprise, Patrick Victor Benjamin or Patrick Benjamin Victor if you looked at his birth certificate was himself and himself alone.


 Phoebe looked around the room and the life it represented, the life she shared with Cole. It was really the only place they could claim as their own world, they shared the manor with her family, they shared finances out of necessity and they shared cars out of convenience and caring for children. But this room, their room, was where they talked alone, where they talked of fears and private dreams and planned the future.


They were still discussing making up the small back room for Whosit. But Phoebe and Cole were reluctant take the step even though Leo continually offered to fix it. It was somehow letting go Whosit's baby hood and their small little kingdom.


Phoebe sat on the stool by her dresser and hugged her son, protesting a little, to her and murmured "Precious" into his hair. She looked up at a slight noise and saw Cole at the doorway, leaning on the jamb, watching her, the smile on his face she loved so. The one he saved for her.


"Storing memories" she asked him her eyes a little damp as he watched her. She knew him well.


He did not bother to deny it. "Yeah " he said coming over to touch Whosit gently and kiss her.


He sat down on the end of the bed.


"Look at the mess your son made" she said with Whosit up against her. He looked at the dresser, saw an interesting jar and waved his hand, then pouted when nothing happened. "Lucky he hasn't collected any telekinetic powers " Phoebe said " or this room would be a permanent mess."


Cole didn't answer.


"It is lucky " Phoebe persisted.


Cole took a deep breath. "No its not " he said. "I don't think we should protect Whosit from powers" he said. "He's got a magic soul and a demonic core that can absorb powers, good ones. Luckily" Cole said " we know that.


"What " she demanded "you think we should just let him absorb any powers going, anytime a witch is lost, or a warlock vanquished , you can shimmer him there so Whosit can pick up their powers. I don't see he needs stolen powers".


Cole sucked on his lip "He absorbed powers in the womb and before long he'll learn to use those ones. And he'll get more. It will happen when he's older enough and goes looking or by accident. But it will happen."


"I'll protect him" Phoebe insisted pulling Whosit to her.


"Patsy doesn't need protecting" Cole said gently, " he needs help. He's crying out for telekinesis Phoebe. He keeps watching Melinda and trying. It 's hurting him. Badly."


"He's just mimicking Melinda" Phoebe pleaded. " He doesn't need to deal with magic powers… yet or ever.


"He's going to have to" Cole said "He's already got some. Phoebe with me its not a problem dealing with the powers, its being without them. Its when the core of me is so empty, everything in me craves to be complete, craves so badly I almost.. resisting it is.. torture." He winced "if I'm without the powers its..I don't want Patsy to feel that.


"So we get Whosit some powers to play with, " Phoebe said scornfully.


"Selectively yes" Cole said "Look we can pick them, take what can be found, borrow ones no-one else is using" he said "Patsy needs it. No matter how bad it seems letting him have those sort of powers, he has to have them to, be content. Trust me Phoebe it isn't the powers that will send him, make him do not good things, it's the craving to fill the void, the core in his soul."


Phoebe cuddled her son, their son protectively against her.


"Think about it " Cole said.


"I'll think about it " Phoebe answered with a sniff.


Phoebe woke up a little after midnight to find the bed empty and turned on the bed lamp then saw Cole shuffling about the room. "What are you doing?" she asked.


"Didn't want to wake you," he said coming over to the bed to kiss her and lean over and pick up his wallet from the other side of the bed and stuff it in his back pocket. "Got a call " he said.


" 'kay" she said snuggling under the comforter and then she peeped out again.


"Africa" she asked.


"No " he said "Nice change."


"You really need a scary ogre outfit, like Proctor" she said looking at the rather old jeans and red sweater that had somehow survived incarnations as hunted demon, mortal, source, lost soul, guardian and lover.


"Don't need the theatricals to scare 'em " he smiled going over to the baby bed in the corner of their room and gently touching Patsy's face before meeting Phoebe's expression with  an almost shy and totally trusting shrug.


Phoebe lay awake for a little while, pulling Cole's pillow toward her and cuddling against it and thinking, sighing over the long route that had taken her to where she was, mother, witch and wife. Before switching the light out she looked around, the room of her youth and her girlhood and her love and her marriage and thanked all the powers for the happiness and safety she felt in that room, for Cole's presence in it and her life even when he physically wasn't there. She thanked them for the little boy baby scent coming for the corner where Whosit Patrick slept, for the soft whimpering little breaths, for baby clothes and toys piled around the room, for having a life she had dreamed but never felt would come her way.


Her last thought before falling asleep was that she would protect her baby, her life, her lover, her family.


She woke up at almost five in the morning, sensing the shimmer more than seeing it. She switched the light on and saw Cole standing by Whosit's cot. She felt more than saw the smile as he reached out to his son, to touch his sleeping face. As the light came on he raised his eyebrows with that awkward smile that made Phoebe's heart leap.


"Hello " he breathed.


"Hello" she answered breathily not feeling like an old married woman at all. "Okay " she said.


"Yeah " he said. "Go back to sleep ".


Cole went into bathroom and came out undressing as he went. He pulled back the comforter and slipped in beside her.


She reached over to touch him feel him. He reached out to catch her hand .


"Whosit's real you know " she said" so is this".


"I know "Cole said" I just have trouble believing it some times. You know I wasn't really asking your approval about finding powers for Whosit " Cole said. "Just so you understand."


"You're going to do it, even if I don't like it?" she said.


"Its my area of expertise" Cole murmured into her hair. "But it would be …better, so much if you at least accepted it."


"Yeah " she said knowing him. And taking a deep breath " Can I be somewhere else when my sisters and Leo find out?"


Cole laughed, "That ought to be a big drama."


"I'm not happy about it " Phoebe said half sitting " but I'm not the little girl who has to have everything her way all the time any more, no matter the cost. Only you don't expect this will be the last discussion do you?"


"No, I don't expect that" he said knowing her.


"Believe it," she said, then taking a deep breath "You know talking about things that we do that don't believe will thrill the other one. Whosit isn't going to be our only child."


"I know " Cole sighed.


"Does that worry you?" Phoebe asked.


"Worry me " Cole said sarcastically "Worry me that we were lucky with Whosit, that I don't know whether my demon inheritance will effect them, that I don't know how I will react if I get caught between my destiny and my heritage and your determination Whosit won't be our only child."


He could almost see the smile on Phoebe's face. She swallowed. "I can't believe anything evil could come from how much I love you" she said.


"Flattery will" he said.


"What? she asked.


"Make me love you " he sighed.


"Are you okay with another one?" she asked.


"Are you okay with me finding some telekinesis power for Whosit? he asked.


They were both silent "I know how its going to go " he said finally.


"How?" she asked.


"You want another one, so no matter how many times I count pill packets and pull on rubbers, you'll get yourself pregnant and I'll freak. And everything will be okay because you have this stupid innocent, childish unbreakable belief in the power of good magic over evil."


"Is that how it will be?" Phoebe asked primly "but you don't have any power of premonition.


"I can learn by experience," Cole said.


"So its okay " Phoebe persisted.


"No its not" said Cole "I'm going to freak" he said " but I'm going to lose." After a minute he said "so its okay about Whosit's powers?"


"No " she said "I'm going to freak" she giggled "and I'm going to lose. "I love you " Phoebe sighed."


"Its the least you could do " he said smugly.


"He reached to touch her and she put her hand on his face. And it was quiet for a few minutes before Phoebe asked "Are you going to tell me what happened tonight. When you were called."


Cole half laughed, "Yeah when I work it out myself."


"That bad" she said.


"That good " he answered.


"I'm glad," she said.


"Phoebe " he said reaching for her hand." I .


"What " she said.


"It was " he said.


"What" she said.


"It wasn't this realm. It was one of the magic ones" he said.


"Magic ones" she said.


"Yeah " he said "unicorns".


"Unicorns" she said.


"Its just " he said.


"What " she said.


"There was one falling, from the path,  " he said.


"A unicorn " she said.


"Yeah " he said " a unicorn. They're beautiful Phoebe. Like horses only, even more, beautiful," he said "big eyes and it.... "


"What " she said.


"This one was looking… it was looking for revenge Phoebe. It was hurting and it was…it was turning away from its beauty, going to..listening to evil, risking its …brethren."


"Oh" Phoebe said.


"I thought I would have to…like some witches, arbitrate justice" he said. "it was beautiful Phoebe " he said.


"I'm sorry" she said.


"No it okay., it makes it all right. It was beautiful. Before I've told them, I've explained, but in the end, they didn't listen and I had to... This one listened to me, when before I have seen the pain, the evil call and they made the choice. This one listened to me Phoebe, it looked at me and it understood Phoebe it bowed to my wisdom. It listened Phoebe it was beautiful and it listened." he said.


"I'm proud you and what you are and what you did" Phoebe told Cole "I love you baby " she said.


"I know baby" he said. "I love you" he whispered softly.