How Quaint the Ways of Paradox

Part 2: Promises,promises,promises

Chapter 17


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

(Gilbert and Sullivan. Pirates of Penzance)

Cole woke up slowly aware of Phoebe’s even breathing beside him. He opened his eyes slowly and glanced around the room. Everything seemed normal. He hoped. God he hoped. He got out of bed and went to the closet where his clothes were normally kept and nervously opened the door, and found to his undying relief a row of his suits, shirts and his favourite sheepskin jacket.


Phoebe woke up and glanced at the clock. It was only 6 in the morning “Baby what are you up for“ she moaned.


Cole grabbed a pair of his track pants and walked around the bed. He switched on the lamp and looked down into Phoebe’s sleepy brown eyes and the long blond streaked hair falling across her face. In relief he bent down and kissed her hard on the mouth. Then he turned around and strode out the room. In the hall he yelled Piper, Leo at the top of his voice and threw the door to their room open, switching on the light.


Piper was asleep on her side with Leo curled against her back, his arm across her. They both struggled awake. Piper leaned back on one arm and Leo sat upright.


“What?” they both said drowsily.


“There’s been another time line change“ Cole said.


“What?” said Leo jumping out of bed.


“There’s been a timeline change and its turned back again“ Cole said walking into their room. Paige appeared at the door behind him and Phoebe wrapping herself in a kimono looked over her shoulder.


“Time line change“ Piper murmured as Leo frantically found pants and shirt and pulled them on.


“Are you sure?” Piper said slowly coming wide awake.


“Paige what’s the weather like?” Cole asked.


“What?” Paige said.


“What’s the weather like Paige?” Cole repeated.


“Its f..reaking winter in San Francisco. Its cold“ she answered.


“I’m sure“ Cole said. “ Leo?”


“I’ll check“ Leo said. “Yeah I’ll go somewhere you can’t follow me“ he added.


Phoebe pushed past Paige “So we were together in the changed line“ she said her eyes narrowing, her expression grim.


“Not really“ Cole said backing off until he felt Piper and Leo’s bed behind him.


“I see “said Phoebe approaching him, while he watched her nervously.


Phoebe stood right in front of him. “You bastard“ she said and lifted her hand and bitch slapped him as hard as she could across his face.


 Cole whimpered ahhh and spun, then fell backward half way across Piper still in bed. Piper let her breath out in a deep and pained eekk. she put her hands on Cole’s back and shoulder and as hard as she could pushed. “Get off me“ she snarled.


Cole hit the floor beside the bed with a thump looking up into Phoebe’s angry eyes as she towered over him “You bastard“ she said again and turning stalked out the room.


Cole moaned and Melinda in the nursery woke up at the commotion and made her presence felt with an ear shattering wail. Piper jumped out of bed and ran to her daughter, picking her up and returning to the bedroom, she loomed over Cole still lying on the floor trying to work out which part of his back was broken.


“You bastard you woke Melinda“ she said angrily and followed Phoebe.


Cole sat up trying to pull the sliding track pants up.


“You bastard“ Paige said from the doorway.


“What did I do to you?” he said disbelieving.


“I just think you’re a bastard period“ Paige said and turned but Cole did not miss the grin.


They sat around the kitchen drinking coffee. Cole tried to sit next to Phoebe but she just moved, turning her back on him. Paige grinned and he sighed.


“What happened yesterday?” Piper said.


“To you or me?” Cole asked.


“Don’t try and be funny Cole“ Phoebe snapped “You aren’t.”


“Phoebe“ Cole groaned.


“What happened Cole?” Piper said.


“I woke up“ Cole said “and Phoebe had long brown hair and wasn’t to keen on having a man in her bed.”


“What“ said Paige “Phoebe was a lesbian.”


“God“ said Cole going pale, as he thought how their chances of being together seemed to depend on him being with Phoebe when the time line changed “I didn’t think there could be anything worse than.. No she was a virgin.”


Piper and Paige broke into hysterical giggling.


“Phoebe was a 29 year old virgin“ Paige started to choke.


“And you,… and you, you stinking lousy bastard“ Phoebe breathed jumping to her feet.


“You hit me again, so help me god I’ll hit you back“ Cole said but he was backing away. “Besides you enjoyed it.”


“You arsehole“ Phoebe breathed “You lousy, arrogant, god damned…man“ she yelled not being able to think of a worse insult.


“Shut up Phoebe“ Piper intervened.


“Yeah shut up Phoebe“ Cole said from the safety of the other side of the room.


“Shut up Cole“ said Piper. “ What else?”


“You and Leo were still divorced, Paige was a little verbally challenged“ Cole told them.


“What do you mean verbally challenged” Paige demanded.


“Fifty word vocabulary, 25 of ‘em not usable in public“ Cole said as Paige choked.


“And the day“ Piper pushed.


“Not much“ Cole answered, “I went to work. Had a court hearing. Mrs Rinaldi made me go. She watched you.”


“Francesca helped you“ said Phoebe surprised “after what you said to her on Friday. She must be an angel.”


Cole ignored her. “Piper went to the club, Paige went jogging, I finished court watched you, Marly came, you all went after some scavenger demons who were cleaning up finding some, well some Arachnid's cache. You all got slimed pretty badly. Phoebe threw up. Paige was not impressed. You came back here. Phoebe went off to a movie. I followed.”


“Which one?” Paige asked.


“Bloody Beaches“ Cole answered.


Piper and Paige laughed.


“Phoebe went to a café“ Cole struggled as Phoebe glared at him “I um I picked you up and well you .. we came back here.”


“Bastard“ said Phoebe.


“Shut up Phoebe“ Cole said “You enjoyed it.”


“How do I know that?” she snarled.


“You think I’m lying?” he demanded going on the attack.


Phoebe shut up.


“Was it Phoebe’s time line that changed it all“ Piper asked.


“I think so“ Cole said, "she told she tried to um have sex once 14 years ago but it was um .. horrible ane she never tried again.”


“That creep Elmer“ sighed Phoebe getting teary. She sniffed.


“Baby“ Cole said moving to her side and putting his arm around her. She leant against his shoulder.


Piper made a gagging noise and Paige said eek.


“Why was I different?” Paige asked.


“Phoebe said you tried to come here after Gram's death and Prue threw you out“ Cole answered.


“I did that“ Paige said to Piper and Phoebe’s surprise. “I got myself drunk enough to get the guts to knock on the door and Prue was a real bitch. It was one of the reasons I gave up on the booze. Its all right“ she said “I always thought Prue helped me as best she could" as Piper and Phoebe gasped in shock.


“What happened in your timeline?” Cole said.


“Much the same“ Piper said. “That was a bitch of a fight we had with those scavengers. Cole“ she mused “I wonder if you sat and watched us in this timeline.”


“I don’t know Piper“ Cole jumped in prickly "But if you mean I should have helped. I can’t whatever the timeline.”


“Upsets the bloody balance“ Piper snapped “Do you know how bad yesterday was, watching those demons, after what those witches went through.”


“Its not my battle Piper“ Cole said. “Anyway from what I saw you didn’t need me.”


“Tell me when is it your battle?” she said “When I’m hurt , when Phoebe is hurt, when Paige gets killed. Are you that frightened of fighting demons?”


“I didn’t say I wouldn’t protect you“ Cole said “I can’t and won’t fight for you.”


“What are you frightened of Cole?” Piper pressed.


“There’s nothing for me to be frightened about“ he said “There isn’t a demon around who can get me.”


“Are you frightened to kill Cole?” she bit out. “Haven’t got the guts to kill any more.”


“Battles between Good and Evil aren’t my concern any more““ he said and wondered to himself where that came from.


“But you’d kill to protect “Piper demanded.


“Without thinking about it“ Cole bit out. “ If it was necessary.”


“What in the hell is the difference?” Piper said “between killing demons to protect and killing them to fight Evil.”


“Its all in the intent“ Cole answered quietly.


Leo orbing in distracted Piper from saying more to Cole.


“What?” she said seeing his strained and worried face “Its not there.”


“Its there“ he said slowly “but .. “


“But what Leo?” Phoebe asked.


“Its moved“ said Leo “I left it in the sack we put the spell on so it could be carried by someone good, down on a ledge. The sack is missing and the thing is hanging off the ledge, like it was thrown.. or orbed“ he added.


“Demons have been there“ Paige said “When?”


“Its in a time fold“ Leo said “It could have been in any time line.”


“Shut up Leo“ Cole roared “just shut up around me will you?” He glared at the witches and Leo. “You keep talking about it in front of me and then you start accusing me of wanting it. So just shut the hell up about the bloody thing when I’m around.  I’m going to work“ he announced and stalked out leaving the family to talk without him.


Francesca was in the office working on her computer when Cole arrived at work. Which struck him as totally inappropriate for a whitelighter. Cole glowered at her but was still a little uncertain.


“Wake up where you were supposed to be?” Francesca asked disinterested.


“Not that its any of you business but yes“ he muttered.


“I thought you would“ Francesca said “If you couldn’t seduce Phoebe no one could.”


Cole glowered at her. “Anyway“ he suddenly remembered “What are you doing here?”


“I work here“ Francesca answered “What about you?”


"Your fired“ he snarled.


“You can’t fire me. I work for the company not you and if you start complaining all you’ll hear is the word erratic again“ Francesca answered “Cole the sooner you work out for better or worse we’re stuck with each other the better.”


“You can go and tell whoever it is you serve. I work for me now I don’t use my powers for any one else“ he bit out.


“I’m glad“ she said.


“I don’t want you here“ he said.


“I told you Cole“ Francesca said “What you want is of no interest to me.”


“Get out“ he stormed.


Francesca looked up at him calmly. “That’s a very dangerous thing to say“ she said.


He just glowered at her.


“You know there are people who are less confident and certain of being wanted than they show. People who don’t understand get out is only said to someone who you feel is very confident of their welcome. Someone who understands get out really means you’re annoying the hell out me, not leave.” Francesca explained quite seriously.


Cole just gapped at her.


“But not to worry“ Francesca said “I understand what it means" then she almost smiled "and anything that gets the hell out of you strikes me as a good thing.”


Cole just walked into his office. He stopped turned around “Thank you for yesterday“ he said.


“Your welcome“ Francesca answered sincerely.


“Get out“ Cole snapped embarrassed and strode into his office shutting the door a good deal harder than was necessary.


Francesca watched him go and her expression because concerned and a little apprehensive because in the millennium she had served as advisor and guide to the demon Guardians of the Great Plan, this was always the hardest time, as a demon, a half breed demon who had fought so hard to walk away from the Evil of their birthright, was confronted with their destiny and had to make choices between a long and lonely life of service or extinction. Extinction because their great power, founded in their demonic inheritance and expanded beyond demonic dreams by their humanity, could not, must not exist outside the Great Plan that governed the war between Good and Evil.