The Life and Times

Part 1: Magic in the air

Chapter 9


"To expostulate why day is day, night night, and time is time, 
were nothing but to waste night, day, and time"
Hamlet, Act ii, Sc.2

The next morning, Piper who was just thankful Reggie was back at the club and she did not have to go in that night decided it was "family breakfast" which was fine by Cole because it gave him an excuse to be late for work. Phoebe after her broken night's sleep was there more in body than brain, and let Cole fuss the children, while Piper cooked, Leo had his nose in a book and Paige read the paper.


They were just finishing a somewhat silent breakfast except for Melinda chattering away when, there was the sound of orbs and they all looked up without much enthusiasm. A whitelighter, a tall blond women appeared. She had a rather strained and tired expression.


"Who are you?" demanded Paige a little belligerently because she was still very unhappy with the race of whitelighters.


"Angela" answered the whitelighter somewhat mockingly matching her belligerent tone " Who are you?"


"What happened to Casper?" Phoebe asked.


"Wrong ghost" said Paige.


"What the hell, what excuse is he using to give up on us?" Phoebe asked.


"Probably feels we're too self-reliant" Piper said.


"Undisciplined" said Paige.


"Irresponsible" said Phoebe.


"What did you do to piss the Elders off.. Angela? " Phoebe asked.


"I sometimes wonder" said Angela dryly." As far as I am aware the Charmed Ones still have the same...whitelighter. "


"Damn" said Piper. "Why are you here?" she asked in a less than friendly tone.


"Hello Angela " said Leo offering her his hand and shaking his head at Piper. "I've seen you look better." He commented quite concerned.


"Well you know whose fault that is " Angela said in whitelightese without even a hint of a smile "I'm not here to replace my ah esteemed and somewhat beleaguered colleague. I'm not interested in looking after another of your charges, Leo" Angela told him ignoring the Charmed Ones. " I have enough trouble with the last one you left me."


"Sorry about that" said Leo 'some –one had to get stuck with him."


"Well I don't see why it had to be me " sighed Angela "But I am starting to think between the Charmed One's tantrums and travesties and Rodik you must have been a saint. Elders never appreciate you until you aren't around."


Phoebe, Paige and Piper all glanced at each other, unable to explain that more than a year ago Cole had in fit of annoyance that their inability to understand other languages had nearly got Phoebe killed, flicked his fingers so they had the gift of tongues and could understand whitelighterese.


"I can't say I was sorry to say goodbye to Rodik " Leo grinned and then stopped as he caught Piper's expression.


"Yes well " said Angela awkwardly. "That's what I have to talk to you about. With all the warlock attacks and activity over here, the Elders want Rodik to come to San Francisco and well I'm here to ask you to help explain the situation the Charmed Ones. They'll have to work with him".


"Noooooooooooo " wailed Leo in English. He jumped to his feet and let his book fall on the floor "I got away from Rodik. I'm not, I can't, I won't " he said.


Angela sighed, glanced at the Charmed One's and spoke English. "Sorry, he is necessary" She looked tired, about worn out.


"I know he's necessary" said Leo between his teeth "Some-one has to do it. It isn't the job. Its Rodik."


"Who's Rodik?" said Phoebe interested.


"Who's Rodik?" asked Paige firmly.


"I" said Leo.


"Leo" said Piper tapping her foot.


Angela swallowed "He needs to stay somewhere Leo " she said "safe from warlocks. I mean they hate his guts."


Leo was staring at her speechless, disbelief written over his face. Finally after a great struggle he said shaking his head, " Angela, it isn't only warlocks who hate his guts."


"He's necessary," said Angela wiping hair away from her face in the over tired weary way of some-one at the end of their tether. "Leo he's necessary and with all the warlock activity and problems, the Elders are right. San Francisco is where he needs to be" Angela all but begged "and if the he's here it make sense he stays with the Charmed Ones. I mean he'll have to work with them and he has to be protected. He needs witches to protect him."


Leo was silent. Then he said sympathetically "You look tired Angela." He smiled gently " whose going to protect Rodik from the witches."


"You?" Angela half smiled. Then she nodded tired beyond humour "You know what it is like working with charges who resist all the way" she glanced around at the Charmed Ones, and sucked her breath. "Leo I shouldn't ask you to help me but he is coming and you at least understand. Please" she pleaded. She glanced apprehensively at Leo's family who were staring at her with various degrees of interest and annoyance and the mortal husband who was frozen with an expression on his face that looked like he was about to burst a blood vessel. Angela wondered why but she was too tired to really bother pursuing it.


"I'll leave and let you discuss it" Angela said in that tired beyond caring voice and she orbed.


"Who's Rodik?" Piper asked Leo grimly.


"Why don't you ask me " burst out Cole just about purple in the face and finding his voice in fury.


"You know him?" Leo asked unnecessarily. "When?"


"You know him? " said Paige to Cole "what is he?"


"He's a god damned fucking little bastard retriever," said Cole.


"Cole not in front of Melinda and Patsy " said Piper horrified. "What is he Leo?" she demanded.


"He's god damned fucking little bastard retriever," sighed Leo. He glanced at Cole who was getting closer to popping the blood vessel. "Rodik used to be a charge of mine before, you know, before I quit as a whitelighter. Quitting had its compensations," Leo added "Like getting rid of Rodik."


"Retriever " said Phoebe" isn't that what Francesca and Proctor were talking about, creatures of good as low as sludges are on the demon hierarchy.


"Is that what they said?" Leo asked, "Seems a bit hard on the sludges," he mused and finally got a laugh out of Cole.


"He's an absolute bastard" Cole said "God, fifty years ago I saw a witch he was supposed to be working with try and blow him up. And another one try and fry him with a stolen fireball. I was working with Rastus then," he explained " we were cheering the witches.


"So what" said Paige "He retrieves powers from warlocks, that's what he does."


"Yeah " said Leo "when the warlocks are vanquished. He retrieves the good powers warlocks have stolen. There are only a few retrievers so the Elders usually send them in when the warlocks start something big, like is happening here at the moment. So you know the warlocks hate him."


"I don't understand why he has to stay here?" interrupted Piper.


"Because he has to be protected. The warlocks would do a lot to get him. And you know he is safe here, especially now we have the warlock block " Leo explained "He has no other power."


"Not just warlocks, every-one would really like to get him" Cole said quite nastily.


"But warlocks could still get demons to come here and get him" Paige asked.


Cole looked at Leo and shook his head regretfully. "I don't think demons are that fond of helping warlocks. If it's a choice between getting a retriever and letting good upset the warlocks. The demons won't help the warlocks".


"Cole's right " Leo started to say.


"But" Cole continued before Leo could say anything more. "Retrievers can smell out stolen powers. Rodiks's a power sniffer, Leo. Even if he wasn't a fucking little bastard it is not a good idea to have him here. Not with the way good is suspicious of Belthezor having 'arisen.' And Rodik is a fucking little shit." Cole added.


"Cole stop it " said Phoebe severely.


"Well that's what he is " said Cole defensively " even if he wasn't. Having a power sniffer here right now with me is a very bad idea. If the Elders start suspecting you have a secret they'll think it's the worst sort of secret."


"That's the problem isn't it" said Phoebe " we're in such a shitty place with the Elders. They're two steps off accusing us of co-operating with Willem. And its not like we have a whitelighter who'll explain we just don't want to live with a shit. All the powers up there are bound to believe…the worst and.." she looked at Cole. "start thinking we're in league with evil, and we can't explain why."


"That we're in league with the 'ogres' you mean" said Paige " Not much difference between a guardian and evil you know." She smirked at Cole.


"Phoebe's right" said Piper earning a smug smile from her sister. "If it wasn't for having Cole here.. his powers here, we wouldn't refuse to protect something that was pretty important to the battle. We'd just bitch a lot and so any excuses we made not to have him…".


"Look like we've got some sinister motive" Paige said. "Damn god damn bloody magic bastard ".


"Paige " Leo murmured. "You don't even know him.


"I'm with you Paige " Cole said.


Leo shook his head "They have to say yes Cole. You just have to be careful. Rodik's very suspicious about evil so you really have to play at being a mortal. Live mortal, no matter what."


"This house is a nexus, magnifies the power., The warlocks that came here smelt the power. He could too." Cole said " even if I live mortal. I should maybe disappear for the duration" and Phoebe pursed her lips and started to open her mouth.


"Suspicious bastard would probably, start wondering why the mortal husband was not around and come to some nasty conclusions we don't want" Leo replied "With any luck "Leo added not with complete confidence "Rodik will just think any extra magic is coming out of the nexus. That's all he can do, smell and retrieve power. He has no sense of what it is or where it comes from, or anything.  Just a sniffer really."


"He's a god damned vulture," muttered Cole.


Leo gave him a filthy glare. "I don't want any demons or warlocks realising he's here" Leo said. "and if the scavenger can use the powers, does it make it any less of a scavenger?" he challenged.


"I guess you better go and tell Angela, Rodik can stay Leo " Piper sighed ending the sniping before Cole could make a comeback.


"You do realise if I live mortal " Cole snarked, trying to find safer ground, "Anything that gets broken has to stay broken."


"Thank god, " said Leo and Piper, and then looked at each other laughing.


"And" persisted Cole "Phoebe and I can't shimmer over to Europe or beaches and you'll have to clean the house."


"Cole " said Phoebe horrified as she glanced at Piper smirking.


"I told you she knew about cleaning the house" Cole said raising his eyes.


"I guess Cole we'll all just have to get by without the magic and personal gain" said Piper taking the high ground.


"I guess I better go to work," said Paige standing up "As have no magical means of making money. Personal gain being off limits to me" she said over her shoulder s she left.


"I'm getting dressed," said Phoebe " I think I'll work from home. Enjoy the magic in the air from our nexus. What's my mortal, non-magical husband doing?" she asked smiling at Cole's expression.


"Driving to my non magical mortal office." He said unhappily "Sitting on my second hand non magical office chair at my old non magical desk".


"Antique Halliwell family desk" said Phoebe.


"Old desk " insisted Cole "And writing a fool proof contract for a client tendering for a burger joint."


"Wow " said Phoebe kissing him. "I'm so proud of you baby:" she told him and laughed as he whacked her backside as she left.


"How bad is this retriever Leo?" Piper asked ignoring Cole and Phoebe.


"About as bad as he can get " Leo said " its not just he seems to think retrieving the powers make him more important than witches or other magic beings. He's an arrogant little bastard who has an opinion on everything and it's usually an opinion that makes everyone else want to kill him" Leo explained " Honey I'm sorry."


"It sounds like we all will be " Piper sighed. "Go Leo " she ordered "You better give Angela the good news the Charmed Ones are thrilled to do their duty and look after Rodik."


"I'll tell Angela you've agreed to let him stay, and look after him" Leo answered wryly, pecking Piper on the lips.


As Leo orbed Piper looked at Cole "I have a really bad feeling about this Rodik" she said.


"That makes two of us" Cole answered "When I was sent to get him a fifty years ago, I couldn't get near him because he kept pushing witches in front of him. Had some idea that he was more important than them. That was when a couple of them tried to kill him. I was cheering them on" Cole smiled grimly "You be careful of that little bastard Piper. You all be careful of him. Promise?"


"Promise" Piper agreed. "Will he recognise you?" she asked concerned.


"No he only saw Belthezor" Cole answered. "I guess I better go off to my nice normal mortal office."


"I know" grinned Piper "Driving your nice mortal car."


"I wouldn't call it nice" Cole answered "see ya."


After breakfast Phoebe and Piper looked up retrievers in the Book of Shadows. Rodik had a special entry.


"He's a semi mortal a witch of sorts. He can be killed but only through magic." Piper read." Retrievers collect "good" powers stolen by warlocks. They have to be present when the powers are freed from warlock's evil core as they are vanquished and return them to the Powers That Be for recycling. They have no powers of their own and cannot use the ones they retrieve."


"I don't know why we should be worried" Piper said in a voice that clearly was worried. "He's only another of the hundreds of magic creatures we've seen and no-where near as dangerous. When you think, we've handled genis, and Cupid, and fairies and wizards and dwarves and firestarters. Just another magic creature, no big deal really, just ordinary magic, nothing momentous, pretty normal really."


" Yeah, just our ordinary everyday lives." agreed Phoebe "Let's see we're supposed to be in an eclipse where we all can be change with any magic creature in any connecting realm. Whosit is teething, Melinda wants a pet, Cole is about to be exposed as a guardian. The Elders think we are consorting with evil."


"True " said Piper " Nothing out of the ordinary. Leo's trying to learn ancient Greek. Some damn warlock has been spying in the house, and apparently has some power that effects memory and wants to pinch Cole's power to make himself source, and we have to put up with this little bastard shit staying with us. Just ordinary. Anything else."


Phoebe grinned" The whitelighters can't stand us and we're not getting a cat " she added seriously.


"You betycha, we ain't getting a cat" Piper answered grimly.


That afternoon Phoebe sat on the treated pine edge of the sandpit that Leo had built for the children in the Manor's backyard. She had barely bothered to work that day, deciding she was taking back the control of her life she had felt a few days ago. She had spent her time researching magic and playing with the children, feeling the magic of being with them.


Wyatt rugged up was asleep in his pram. Whosit Patrick and Melinda had been playing sand castles in the pit and Phoebe had watched as her son mimicked Melinda's hand movements, when she telekineticked toys around the pit. Phoebe watched, seeing what was worrying Cole. Whosit Patrick had a studiousness to him that sometimes made him seem like he was a 40 year old gnome in a baby body but he also a temper and he became very angry when he could not find the power he obviously wanted. He threw sand and thumped his spade and knocked sand castles over. Melinda finally became annoyed as he knocked her castles over. Phoebe only stopped her emptying a bucket of sand over Whosit's head and trying to hit him with the bucket. Melinda, fed up with playing with him, in a passionate temper that matched Patsy's, climbed out of the pit to get on her tricycle, her three year old birthday present.


The tricycle and Melinda were something of a danger. She loved it but she was not above using a little witch power to make it go faster and her ability to steer it and stop it were not quite in balance with her desire for speed. Piper had wanted to remove it but Melinda kept it on promises from aunts and uncle that they would watch her carefully. Melinda was not grateful for the promise and there were battles. She started to sulk as Phoebe insisted she put on a helmet and it was only when Phoebe threatening to remove the tricycle that she complied.


Phoebe sat watching Melinda push the bike up the slight slope in the yard and speed down it, with the other eye on Whosit, relieved to see he had forgotten about the telekineticking and was involved in some game of his on making that involved creating bucket castles and whacking them down to size in some pattern of his own. As he became totally absorbed in the patterns he was creating, Phoebe almost convinced herself Cole was wrong. Whosit's mimicking of Melinda was just a little jealousy and it was just a question of the family managing and supporting children of different levels of magic and powers. Phoebe almost convinced herself until Whosit started flicking his hand the way the way his father did. Only nothing happened and his face crumpled.


Paige came from the backdoor dressed in her work clothes, dark green fairly tight hipster pants with a flare, and a tight cream sweater that just about met them. Clothes that satisfied some of the more conservative Powers That Be of the community centre but fashionable enough to make a statement that they were not controlling her.


She carried two cups of coffee and handed one to Phoebe before pulling up a garden stool, making sure it wasn't wet and sitting down to watch the children.


"Piper still asleep?" Phoebe asked.


"Out like a light on the sofa "Paige answered. "Do you think he understands all the patterns he creates?" she asked watching Whosit play his games.


"Happens to much for it to be an accident:" Phoebe sighed. Phoebe hesitated then said " Cole thinks he's getting frustrated about watching Melinda telekinetic. He thinks we should take him out and find a power of telekinesis for him. Find some warlock that has stolen a good power and rescue it when it's vanquished. Thinks Whosit's magic core is craving it and because he has demon inheritance, he won't be satisfied until he gets it."


"Cole wants to take Patsy out and steal some vanquished warlock's powers for him, right when we have the bastard retriever, staying with us." Paige shook her head incredulously.


"Well we didn't know about the retriever when he talked about it. You know Cole and me " Phoebe said to her sister "Timing is everything."


"Not just you and Cole " Paige replied.


"Bad day?" Phoebe asked. "You're home early."


"No pretty good" Paige said." We had the local council people visit on fact finding. They started on the lazy, arrogant unemployed people argument. You know the one about how there are plenty of jobs out there, and unemployed people are just to proud or to lazy to take them. Its their fault they are unemployed."


"Funny how its only employed people who use that argument" said Phoebe who remembered when she was looking for a job both before going back to college and after.


"We fixed that argument "Paige told her "Mark would have been proud. Pulled out today's paper and told them to select 10 jobs that an unqualified person could do, or even a qualified. Five councillors and they select 50 jobs. Only thing was just 2 of them were real. Alex and I had great fun pointing out how many were pyramid sale cons, prostitution and employment agencies advertising false jobs to get people on their books, or government ones advertising jobs that were already filled for legal purposes. We sent them away vanquished. Alex said there was only one way to celebrate a victory like that. Get out. ".


"Mark would be proud of you," Phoebe said.


"Mark would have enjoyed screwing them," Paige said. "Do you think he's figure out how to screw the Elders yet?" Paige asked wistfully.


"I'm sure at the very least, he's working on it "Phoebe answered thrusting her coffee at Paige and rescuing a bug from Whosit mouth and tightening up the strap on Melinda's helmet before sitting own again.


"You'd think I wouldn't miss him so much after a year," Paige shook her head.


"No" Phoebe answered firmly "I wouldn't."


"I'm trying not to hate them, the Elders" Paige confided in a whisper. "For taking him. But I just can't stop being angry with them" she confessed. "I know it was Mark's destiny. But I just can't help feeling they, the Elders..stole him from me. They could have left him alone if they wanted too."


"I know sweetie," Phoebe said reaching for her hand.


"I hate the magic" Paige cried suddenly "Really hate it Phoebe. I know.. I know Mark would have gone, whether I was magical; or not does not seem it brings any happiness or solve any problems, it just makes … it just hurts. I look at Patsy and Melinda" Paige sniffed the tears back "and I wonder what the magic will do for them, how it will make them happy, whether it will bring them… peace ".


"We can't know what their destiny is," Phoebe whispered because she had her own fears for them.


"I wish you had not let me talk you into choosing witchcraft when we.. when the angel of destiny offered us a choice." Paige told Phoebe bitterly "I hate being magical. I hate the magic " Paige said. "I hate knowing about good and evil and the battle and the futility of the battle. Magic isn't beautiful Phoebe " she said " its work and duty and justice and guilt and pain and just now….I hate it. I hate magic, I hate being magical and I hate those, the whitelighters, the Elders, those who preach about magic and good and really don't understand as much as they think. I mean they are supposed to be so good and wise and we have to hide Cole because they won't be good or wise if they find him."


Phoebe nodded sympathetically.


The tears were running down Paige's face. "Look at the pain it caused Leo and the sense of failure it left him with. Do you think even Francesca is happy, or she just makes the best of the loneliness and the long life of eternity? And what's it for. Duty. I know our magic is about saving innocents, protecting innocents. But it's only duty and it hurts and it leaves me empty. And I see no beauty in it. She cried. "Don't you feel a little bitter about magic.? What it cost you " Paige demanded of Phoebe.


"Magic is the reason Cole and I are together," Phoebe said quietly.


"You and Cole would be together no matter what. It isn't magic between you." Paige declared.


"It is, in any sense of the word" Phoebe smiled " I love the magic. I want to be magical," she said. "I guess I see the magic as something different to the powers who rule magic. I believe in the magic Paige, not those who run it. I believe in the righteousness of it, in the purpose of good, not in those who call themselves good. I believe in the righteousness of what we do and the truth of it and the beauty of it." Phoebe swallowed "I believe in the magic, I believe magic happens for a reason Paige, and one of those reasons is beauty."


Paige pulled a face, that openly that showed her scepticism.


"I know," said Phoebe "when you think where I was after Cole and the Source I can't believe I feel this way now."  she shrugged a little embarrassed.


"I doubt I ever will feel that way about magic again," Paige told Phoebe as the tears dried "I could not believe I will ever feel the passion and the excitement and the …wonder I used to feel when I first knew I was a witch. When I left work to learn more about magic" Paige said. "Because it seemed such a…beautiful calling."


"Give yourself time sweetie" Phoebe said pulling Paige against her. "Be kind to yourself, little sister." Phoebe held Paige until Melinda broke it up by falling off the tricycle and bursting into screeching tears as she held up a grazed elbow.


"I'll heal it "Paige said going to her niece. "I don't think Casper is fond enough of us to break the rules. In fact I think he wants to get rid of us as charges."


"Wrong ghost " said Phoebe "Anyway" she told Paige "If we keep going through whitelighters like this, sooner or later they are going to have to run out of whitelighters and send Mark.


"You think " said Paige but a glimmer of hope touched her face.


Piper lay on the sofa in the family room, snuggled under a blanket. She had fallen  asleep for a couple of hours but now she was awake, keeping her eyes shut, trying to take the time of quiet to just be with Piper and catch up with Piper's feelings.


She heard a noise and opened her eyes to see Paige trying to sneak up and check on her.


"Sorry " said Paige " I was " she was a little embarrassed "I didn't want to wake you. You need the rest."


"I'm not an invalid " Piper almost snapped, " I am just tired. I run a club, I work as witch. I'm a mother and aunt."


"I know," said Paige "At least Reggie is back at the club tonight. "


"Yes," said Piper conceding a little.


"So rest" said Paige determined.


"I'm all right." Piper insisted. "You look like you've been crying. What's wrong?"


"Nothing" Paige denied. She saw Piper's disbelief. "I just had a weepy session about Mark, all over Phoebe" she explained coming over to sit on the sofa edge. "Guess I've been building up to it " she winced "I've been a bit cranky lately " she confided.


"I noticed" Piper smiled " Miss Mark?" she said.


Paige sighed " Yeah I miss him." then smiled "Phoebe figures if we go through enough whitelighters soon or later they'll have to send Mark."


"How many whitelighters are there?" Piper asked with a small laugh.


Paige shook her head. "Not many more surely."


"Not thinking of finding any-one else?" Piper asked.


"Don't want anyway one else " Paige said. "I mean I meet all these guys but you know I had the best, this wonderful smart, brave funny decent man who loved me. Settling for less isn't an option. Not worth it," she said.


Piper nodded understanding.


"Phoebe just told me how much she loves magic." Paige told Piper "Do you ever have regrets about the choices you know with the Angel of destiny? About choosing magic."


Piper took a deep breath " Its not exactly choosing the magic with me" she said "I see magic everywhere I look. Do you know to me magic is just a way of life. I have all this power and its just life." She looked at Paige. "You know I'm a mother and club owner and what is it a Cole calls me. A bossy madam in the family. And it's all magic and not very magical. Do you know what I miss, what I would love to find?" Piper confided. "Just in my dreams you understand."


"No what?" asked Paige.


"I want to find the fantasy." Piper told her sister "All the stories of magic and myth and you know magic is just life, like any the part of life, busy and ordinary and sometimes boring."


"At last you want the magic" Paige sighed as she and Piper clutched hands.


Paige looked at Piper and started to laugh. "You know when Francesca came in and told us about the eclipse. I nearly, well I just started to feel a it... maybe this was a way of finding magic again." She inclined her head "I've been waiting all week and not a goddamned thing has happened."


"Yeah I know," said Piper "So have I, just hoping maybe I would see, understand something beyond what I know now, but if anything happened I sure missed it."


"God I hate reality " said Paige. She looked at her sisters somewhat worn and pale. "You sweetie need to rest," she said "You just sleep through" Paige told Piper "Phoebe and I will look after the kids."


Piper started to protest.


"Shut your eyes. Be a good girl " said Paige making Piper smile "go back to sleep."


"Yes Mommy" said Piper


Piper sighed and closed her eyes and snuggled under the blanket, just for a second thanking all the Powers above for her family. And as Paige's footsteps faded she gave into the overwhelming tiredness and the comfort of safe warm sleep.


It seemed only a few seconds later that she awoke, feeling surprisingly light and fey. Eyes still closes she pushed the blanket off, only instead of the blanket feeling rough wool it had a damp almost dewy texture. Piper eyes flew open and she found herself lying on a small mossy bed, overshadowed by towering leafy structures, that could have been, if she did not know better, gigantic purple flowers.


Before she could clearly focus on the gigantic flowers, something blue bobbed in front of her eyes. She put her hand up and pulled a hat off her head, a long pointed droopy blue green hat with a large bright blue tassel on the end and then she gasped at the hand holding the pointed cap. It was pale blue and it was hers.


"Oh, oh " said Piper as she moved her gaze from the blue hand to the blue hat to the enormous purple flowers over her head.


"Heaven hath a hand in these events"
Richard II, Act v, Sc.2.