How Quaint the Ways of Paradox

Part 2: Promises,promises,promises

Chapter 14


"How quaint the ways of paradox;  At common sense she gaily mocks"

(Gilbert and Sullivan. Pirates of Penzance)

Cole woke up jumping, as the sheet was ripped off him, his eardrums all but shattered by Phoebe’s hysterical screaming. The scream, the shrill screeching in his ear was leaving it ringing even from the distance Phoebe was now across their bedroom, long straight dark hair falling over her face. The large flannel pyjamas had not withstood the pressure of her flight. The bottoms were on the floor half way across the room and the undone top was falling over her back. Jumping around, trying very unsuccessfully to pull the sheet over her, she was still managing to make his ear drums ache.


“Shit” he thought still on the bed more or less exposed. The bedroom door flew open and Paige came in. Her hair was brassy blond longer than it had been yesterday and it did not suit her complexion. She was wearing a T shirt night dress with a crude message on the front and falling over one shoulder.


Piper stood a little behind her wearing grubby old flannel pyjamas, her hair a mess her eyes almost unfocused, her face worn, so tired. Cole tried to find the quilt to pull it over him. Piper gestured to freeze or blow up, he wasn’t sure which one and for a second he was afraid in this timeline he was finished, but nothing happened to him.


“Demon” screamed Phoebe reaching new levels of sound, ”demon in my bed.”


”Yeah well demons were never known for their brains“ Piper said in a tired flat voice.


”Hey demon guy“ Paige said eyeing Cole with a gleam. She reached over and pulled the quilt off ”Give my fucking sister a thrill. She hasn’t seen anything that fucking good since she got fucking divorced.”


“Since before I was married” Piper said looking. “Shut up Phoebe” she said as Phoebe began screaming again, bouncing backwards so the sheet did even less of a job of covering her than it had.


“Yeah shut up Phoebe” said Paige “Fucking stand still and let the demon guy see what he came to fucking well see.” She leered suggestively at Cole “Never seen an unused cunt that old before eh demon guy.”


Cole shut his eyes, lay back and pulled the quilt over his head groaning. It was a punishment he knew. Some spite punishing him for the fight he had with Phoebe’s sisters over breakfast the other morning, when he had thought what a pair of bitches they were and anything, anything would be better than what he was living with.




For Tempus the need to fulfil his destiny and retrieve the Grimoire was becoming desperate. With each failure more and more demons deserted and ignored him and he knew that the only reason he was still the ruler of demondom was that as yet no other demon had found a way to rule without the Grimoire or found a way to retrieve or resurrect it. But he knew that was only matter of time.


Amid the more and more insolent responses of the demons who served him, Tempus watched for pretenders, for those who consorted with dark priests and lore master who may find a way to resurrect the Grimoire. And he too consulted the dark priests and lore masters but they could only confirm what Tempus already knew. The answer to the return of the Grimoire lay somewhere in the life of Belthezor’s witch. A choice she made could be changed, a moment of evil and the Grimoire could be saved.


Once again Tempus looked back through the time of Belthezor’s witch. He watched the life as far as he could, mostly where it was touched by evil, and it occurred to him that if the witch was not always wise she was a risk taker, one who acted first and thought sometimes never. Perhaps, as he had found to his regret, if the bond of the sisters was not weakened enough to save the Grimoire by the perfidy of the witch then it could be weakened by her frailty and fear.


If you search long enough sometimes you find what you seek.


Tempus found the time of 15 year old Phoebe Halliwell, a little girl plump and insecure, a little girl who had had been deserted by mother and father so young, a little girl at a school party, never part of the group only there on sufferance because the bitchy May Anne had made big deal about inviting every classmate to her 16th birthday and so for once the weird, orphan Halliwell creep was at the party too.


Sitting awkwardly in a corner, hating herself for being ignored, hating herself for having huge breasts, hating herself for being plump, all alone in a corner while prettier and more popular girls danced and flirted Phoebe Halliwell huddled to herself wishing she was safely at home with Grams or popular like the other girls who all seemed to be making out just fine, dancing or macking with class mates.


Phoebe watched Mary Beth making out in a corner, tongue down Bobbie West’s throat, sucking saliva and wondered why anyone could ever enjoy anything as disgusting. She doubted she could ever find a time when she would like that.


She watched the other girls gradually pair off and glanced at her watch. Prue had promised to pick her up at 1.00 and it was only 10.00 She did not think she could last another 3 hours.


Phoebe shrunk in a corner wishing she was somewhere else, and also wishing she wasn’t the only girl huddled in a corner, suddenly looked up. Elmer Crane, class creep, skinny and covered in acne was standing over her, legs apart groin thrust almost into her face, eyeballing her very large breasts, not really contained in a to tight top. Phoebe unconsciously crossed her arms in protection.


“Wanna dance” Elmer asked his eyes popping as the crossed arms made her breasts larger and seemed to expand in front him. Phoebe glanced behind him. Several of the class creeps, including May Anne falling all over another creep Danny Fallon, were watching Elmer, skinny acne covered Elmer leering over her and laughing.


Somehow she could not stand it ”Yeah” she said ”Why not?“


She got up and danced. Phoebe was good dancer, she moved with a natural rhythm and grace, with a sexy insolence that promised much. As she danced she forgot the creeps and tried to forget Elmer. Which was not easy as Elmer’s idea of dancing was to rub his groin against her and make regular grabs for her breasts.


The music finally stopped as the tape ran out and she was glad, sweat pouring down her face, hot as much from disgust at Elmer as the dancing.  Phoebe just wanted to get away.


”Wanna a drink“ Elmer asked getting his acne face down low so he could get closer to her breasts.


She nodded, anything to get away from him without the rest of the room knowing how sick he made her. He came back with a coke. She gulped it down and it tasted tart and bitter not really like coke and it made her more thirsty not less.


”Wanna another one?” Elmer asked.


The room was going cloudy. She saw the creeps laughing at her and said yes and Elmer brought her another one. She gulped it down, this one was just  as bitter and Phoebe suddenly found the room going around. "I’m going to faint" she told Elmer and was aware of a smile on his face.


Phoebe found herself lying on May Anne’s parents bed. Her jeans and panties had been pulled off and her shirt was open and her breasts were pulled out of her bra. Elmer was pushing his tongue in her mouth, horrible, ugly, nasty sickening.


He moved down on her, his hands grabbed her breasts and she whimpered as he caught her nipples and squeezed so hard it hurt. He then collapsed on her and his full weight knocked the breath out of her. He started to move against her and it felt horrible, he was clumsy ugly and he was hurting.


”Spread your legs“ he wheezed at her.


And Phoebe understood, she could lie there and let him do it. She was not a fool she knew what was coming, it was sex and after all the others all did it, she must have been the only virgin in her class, so what it was horrible, so what if it wasn’t a fantasy lover, tender and sweet and taking her to the heights of ecstasy, loving her, caring for her, wanting her beyond life itself, it was sex and all the girls did it and at least she would not be a freak.


And Tempus watching Belthezor’s witch in his dark mirror of time waved his hand and the blue light mixed in the dark of the mirror 


Or who cared what the class creeps Phoebe thought. She could scream, yell at Elmer to get his stinking horrible acne face away from her, take his miserable, clumsy hands away from her breasts, get his sweaty smelly groin away from her, and scream she did, hysteria and panic and fear overwhelming her.


When Prue arrived to pick her little sister up from the party at 12.45 she found Phoebe huddled in a corner crying, miserably, the buttons on her shirt done up wrongly and the shirt not tucked in, all her makeup blurred and mascara streaks down her face.


Phoebe saw her big sister and ran to her, throwing her arms around Prue who with her jaundiced 19 year old eyes summed up the situation and led her sister away.


In Grams car, Phoebe sobbed out what had happened and Prue as gently as she could explained it wasn’t the end of the world, it happened to everyone and good or bad, the first time easy or hard, every one survived it and moved on.


”Its not going to happen to me“ Phoebe declared thinking of the stale sweaty body, the brandy breath, the painful clumsy hands and the rough discomfort.


“It will happen when you’re ready” Prue said caught between amusement and irritation ”Its only sex Phoebe, something you do with a man, its fun and its okay and then its over. It isn’t fairy tale romance, it isn’t ever after passion, it isn’t ecstasy and it isn’t mind boggling over the top ever, after soul mates eternal love. Its great when you really like the guy,” she said from the wisdom of her 19 year old experience “but if you do or you don’t.. Its just sex and its fun. It is“ she said in the face of Phoebe’s disbelief.


“Phoebe“ Prue said as her 15 year old sister lifted herself into a rigid stubborn stance. “Its just sex Phoebe, fun, nice, exciting but its only sex with a man. You need to stop reading those stupid romance books. It doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes it happens great and sometimes it happens not so great but its just sex not the end of the world either way. “


”Well it isn’t going to happen to me. Even if he did not… finish, it made me sick. If that’s what its like I don’t want it.“


“It isn’t like that all the time“ 19 year old Prue muttered exasperated.




Cole woke up jumping, as the sheet was ripped off him, his ear drums all but shattered by Phoebe’s hysterical screaming. The scream, the shrill screeching in his ear was leaving it ringing even from the distance Phoebe was now across their bedroom, long straight dark hair falling over her face. The large flannel pyjamas had not withstood the pressure of her flight. The bottoms were on the floor half way across the room and the undone top was falling over her back. Jumping around , trying very unsuccessfully to pull the sheet over her, she was still managing to make his ear drums ache.……..




Cole nervously looked out from under the quilt. Piper, almost dead eyes watching him carefully. Paige licking her lips ”Fucking bloody hell demon“ she said“ if you had to land in a witch's bed why not mine. At least you would have been some fucking use in mine.“


Piper tiredly raised her hand and this time Cole decided not  to risk it and shimmered. The problem was in this time line he shimmered without wallet, car keys or clothing. Despite Paige’s best efforts to sell him on the benefits of pyjamas he always slept naked.


He shimmered out in his outer office, Francesca’s office and went into his. He magically manufactured clothing but he was very nervous because he felt naked and magic as he well knew had a habit of failing at inconvenient times.


He started to ransack his office cursing himself after the other day, he had not left a credit card there.


He heard the door to the outer office and turned to stand at his own office door as Francesca came in. she looked much the same as she always did, plain face, beautifully groomed, not one of her salt and pepper coloured hairs out of place. She stood at the door and met his gaze complacently. There was silence between them.


“Feeling .. good" she finally asked.


”Fran.. Mrs Rinaldi. Thank God“ he said meeting Francesca’s incredulous expression. He asked nervously “Who am I?”


”What is the matter with you Cole? she asked severely, not taking her eyes off his face.


“What happened on Friday?“ he asked trying again.


”Your behaviour was abysmal“ she said to Cole’s relief.


”I think I’m in a different time line“ he said “again.”


“Why? she asked shutting the door.


”Because I went to bed last night with Phoebe piss .. annoyed at me and I woke up with her screaming in my ear. She did not know who I was“ he said.


”Who’s Phoebe.“ Francesca asked ”All right don’t bother“ she said. “I can go somewhere I can find out about the timelines.”


“Mrs Rinaldi.” he asked ”Where do I live in this timeline?” he asked.


”!342 Mercer St Apartment 7“ Francesca answered immediately “Why?”


”Because I was in bed when I shimmered off “Cole said “and .. magic can fail..”


”I wonder which one of us would be more embarrassed“ Francesca mused.


”I don’t“ Cole said not missing the laughter light in Francesca’s eyes.


”I’ll be at your apartment soon“ Francesca said and orbed off in front of him. Cole shook his head and shimmered to the apartment Francesca told him about. He had to pull a magic block off to get in . It was a very small apartment, not far from Prescott Street; Cole could hear himself telling Phoebe “I’ll find a place near Prescott Street.“


It was full of overstuffed very ugly furniture that Cole hoped was rented and it was a mess of unwashed crockery, papers, books, empty Chinese food cartons and clothes over the floor from the living room to the bedroom.


”God” he thought ”Phoebe’s right. I do live like a pig without her.“


He found one pressed suit, his least favourite one and a clean shirt and tie and showered, sadly accepting that his toiletries and razor were in the messy, and badly in need of a scrub, bathroom. Francesca orbed in as he left the bedroom tucking his shirt in. ”You live like a pig“ she commented dryly “and there is a problem with the time line.”


”I’m not sure why I’m out of it“ he said.


”Did you take any time powers out of the wasteland?” Francesca asked.


Cole nodded.


”I better go check on Phoebe” he said.


”I’ll do that” Francesca said ”You’re due in court.“


”All my papers were at the manor“ Cole said panicking. “I don’t even have a witness list.”


”I’ll call the court clerk and tell him my idiot boss lost the list“ Francesca said “After that you’ll have to wing it. You think you’re so smart. Prove it.“


”Last time Leo was not in the changed time line“ Cole said.


”If Leo was in this realm he is in this time line“ Francesca said “Yes I can recognise another whitelighter“ she added “I’ll be in my car, watching the manor she said.”


Cole gulped and shimmered off to court. He was ten minutes late for a pre trial discussion with his client, an elderly African American who had been arrested after losing his temper with two pugnacious young cops who got rough when they pulled him over for speeding. The man had indignantly resisted arrest and the ensuing brawl had received a great deal of publicity. The court clerk with great formality and a smirk handed Cole a witness list.


Cole was grateful for once that he was left to try the shit cases without any support from the law firm so that no one had to know that he was reading off blank paper when he asked questions.


As the defendant was guilty of speeding, insulting the police and resisting arrest Cole contented himself with flicking his fingers every time the prosecutor stood up. By the time Albert Kratz, a small arrogant man in his 40’s who was as pompous as he was bigoted, and who Cole when he worked for the DA had hated, and now he just loathed intensely, had spilled water, mixed up evidence, insulted every witness, insulted female Americans, Spanish Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans, Anglo Saxon descent Americans, the constitution, the flag and every policeman whoever put his life on the line to protect innocent people, the jury would have been prepared to find Madonna was a virgin just to get even with the prosecutor.


Cole was out of court by 3.30. He shimmered to Prescott Street and found Francesca sitting in her car outside the manor calmly drinking coffee.


”Phoebe’s at work, Paige just got back from running Piper just came back from her club. She looks terrible.” Francesca commented “I have to go“ she added.


”Can I have your car?” Cole asked.


”Your’s is over there“ she said indicating the green Mercedes and put her hand in her purse handed Cole a set of keys. “I know how they work“ she added as she caught his quizzical look.


”Cole” she said ”Just to be safe with any timeline changes.  Make sure you are where you’re supposed to be at any given time“ Francesca said.


”I’m supposed to be living in the manor with Phoebe” he said exasperated. “Phoebe doesn’t sleep with strange men in this timeline.” He sighed and touched his still ringing ear. ”I don’t think she sleeps with familiar men in this time line“


”You’ll find a way” Francesca smiled complacently ”I have faith in you.”


Glowering at Francesca Cole shimmered to his own car and watched the manor.  Nothing exiting happened until after 5 when Marly’s small and very old grey car pulled up outside the manor.


”Great“ thought Cole ”They’re off on a demon hunt“ and if Paige orbed he was going to have difficulty tracking them. He finally settled on a half shimmer in the house, risking one of the witches might pick up on his presence, to keep track of them.


The atmosphere in the manor was somewhat chaotic.


Piper was in the kitchen throwing flashlights and athames the girls had collected over the years into bag, while giving Marly a long list of instructions. Paige was standing at the bottom of the stairs, wearing jeans and joggers and a white parka with what Cole could only just make out in the shimmer as a somewhat suggestive picture on the back. She had her hands on her hips and yelled at Phoebe ”Hurry up. What the fuck are you doing up there? The fucking demons don’t care how your hair looks.”


Cole grinned to himself.  Somethings did not change. Phoebe in any time line kept everyone waiting while she did her hair.


Paige walked into the kitchen ”I don’t know why that fucking virgin princess spends so much time worry about how she looks" Paige said to Piper "its not as if she’s ever going to let any thing get near her c…..”


"Paige!!! Not in front Marly“ Piper said in a dull flat voice.


”Oops sorry Marly“ Paige “I forgot I shouldn’t say virgin in front of you.”


"Paige!!!!!” said Piper in a dull flat voice.


”Shit” said Paige ”I only said.”


”Paige!!!!!!!! ” said Piper again her voice flat.


There was the sound of orbs and Leo appeared. He looked worse than Piper. He had put on weight and his face looked pale and drawn. His hair was to long and uncared for and his eyes had an almost permanent watery glaze about them.


As he orbed in he stole a long haunted glance at Piper then averted his eyes. Cole recognised the expression. It was one he had seen, all to often, in his own mirror, in the long months he and Phoebe had been apart.


Piper turned her back on him.


”Are the fucking Elders sure about this?” Paige asked.


”Paige!!!! “ said Leo flat voiced ”Yeah, they think its better to get them. You can’t do anything to help the witches but the Elders don’t like the idea of the scavengers  feeding. Its .. its not respectful to what they died for“ he added glancing at Piper.


”Well you’re fucking right there you arsehole traitor” Paige said ”I still don’t see why we have to still have you farting around us. Where’s that shit Caleb?”


“Paige!!! “ said Leo. ”He’s busy The Elders sent me.“


”Yeah if they knew what a fucking traitor you were the only place they would send you is hell“ Paige said. She turned her back on Leo and went to down the passage to the hall ”Phoebe, Get the fuck down here“ Paige roared.


Leo walked over and took his daughter from Marly who all but cowered in a corner. Piper glowered at him.


”She’s my daughter to Piper” he said quietly.


”Well I’ll make damned sure she doesn’t suffer for the sins of her father“ Piper spat at him.


Leo gave his daughter a cuddle and with a sigh handed her back to Marly. Phoebe finally appeared in the kitchen, hair in pigtails and wearing sensible shoes jeans and a dark jacket. Even Cole was left wondering why it took her so long to put on three articles of clothing and a pair of shoes.


”Are you ready?” she said to her sisters pointedly ignoring Leo.


”Do you want me to come?” Leo asked quietly.


”I don’t want any traitorous shits behind me while I’m killing demons” Paige said orbing her sisters off.


Cole followed the witches to a small clearing in the Redwood forests in the north of the state and watched. It was one of those messes that made him very glad he had put Evil behind him. The upper levels of demondom, with demons who could appear in near human form and play their power games with cunning and duplicity was one thing but the lower levels of blood sucking, flesh mangling ogres and monsters was another.


The fallen timber at the edge of the clearing was apparently a cache for some Arachnid demons who had killed several witches in a fight a little while back and they had as arachnids did, covered the bodies with their own version of spider slime and stashed them for a later feast. The old Source had been very careful how he let Arachnids feed, and certainly not very often on witches because of the battles that happened when a repulsed Good came after Evil, but with Tempus unable to control the demons the Arachnids were feeding as they pleased, and stashing their spoils when they did not need to feed.


A nest of scavenger demons had found the Arachnids cache and were feeding on their store. The Arachnids had arrived to protect it and the scavengers had defeated them and called more of their brethren to finish the feast of witch and demon.


When the Charmed One arrived, the scavengers were in a feeding frenzy. All Cole shimmering could do was watch. Every feeling of balance and every warning about not inferring was running through his head and on several occasions as soon as he even thought of interfering, he was almost struck down by the nauseating feeling of he balance spinning. This was a fight between Good and Evil.


The area was pitch black and the girls had to use the flashlights to locate the very dark scavengers by the very creepy green flash of their eyes. The fight was messy and ugly but the witches were in no real danger as long as they stayed out of the way of the scavengers long rope like slimy lure.


It was apparent the Phoebe in this time line was only there to say the Power of Three spell. This Phoebe was not a risk taker. She said the spell with her sisters which pulled the scavengers away from their feast and dehabilitated them then she huddled behind the other two witches and neither seemed to find it unusual. Paige and Piper went in, boots and all. Piper blowing up the cowering demons on all sides, Paige orbing athames and as each demon went up huge bilious steams of green goo of scavenger demons and whatever they had feasted on landed on the girls. Even Phoebe who was hanging back was heavily slimmed.


Cole watching her cringing away from the battle in the deep dark of the Redwood forest in a California winter wondered what had been lost to Phoebe. It was not about whether she had ever had sex. It was nothing to do with sex. But somewhere in the story of a little girl in the other time line he knew, the Phoebe who had gone looking for love in all the wrong places, was the story of a woman who had found the courage to fail and try again, to take the risks to reach for what she wanted. It was nothing to do with whether that girl had sex, it was everything to do with her listening to her own passionate and capricious nature and accepting the consequences and the pain and the joy to which it lead.


Cole watching Phoebe shrink back from obnoxious but not particularly dangerous scavenger demons, thought of all the times when one of Phoebe’s sisters had choked back a comment on Phoebe’s chequered past with men and each time he had said he did not argue with the process that got him the girl he loved. Watching the witches battle the scavengers, he had never felt that was truer.


It took the witches about an hour to finish off the scavengers. When it was over, Cole his eyesight well able to deal with the dark, watched Phoebe put her hand to her face and pull off a big green glob of scavenger demon and god know what else and promptly bend over and throw up.


Paige standing listening to the noise of Phoebe gasping brushed another glob out of her once white parka. “Shit“ she said, “I hate fucking bastard demons.“


“Paige!!! “ Said Piper automatically. She pulled a glob out of her hair “Shit “she said ”I hate fucking bastard demons.“ She gagged and then called angrily ”Leo.“


Leo arrived in seconds. He struggled with the dark, and then used orbs to light the scene. It was pretty bad.


Concerned he said ”You all okay“ but he looked at Piper.


”Yeah said Paige ”Shit those bastards dickless.. “


”Paige!!!!“ interrupted Leo automatically.


”Can you fix up here?” Piper demanded but her eyes as she looked at Leo for the first time showing emotion and it was all agony.


”Yeah” said Leo his eyes a reflection of Piper’s.


Cole watching, wondered why it was that the tensions of the world of magic meant two people simply loving each other was not enough.


Phoebe finally straightened up and said ”Can’t we go please?” and Paige without another word orbed them away.


Cole followed them back to the manor and all he could do was wait, wondering how the hell he was going  to finish up where he should be, in bed with Phoebe that night. Then to his relief about an hour and a half later Phoebe came out the front door alone as a taxi arrived at the manor. Apparently Phoebe in this time line, not a risk taker, did not drive at night in San Francisco.


He clearly heard her snap to someone behind her  “I just need to be alone, get away from this, this , “ she struggled for a word” family "she finally added.  Cole did consider that being outside the manor meant he missed out on his timeline‘s version of the sister brawls. They were bad enough in his timeline and in that one, the sisters not only cared about each other, they respected each other.


Dressed in a pale blue but modest sweater, jeans and very high heels, presumably to give her some height and some confidence out in the real world, Phoebe ran into the taxi. Cole followed and the taxi let Phoebe out in front of one of the older  cinemas in San Francisco.