How Quaint the Ways of Paradox

Part 2: Promises,promises,promises

Chapter 21


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

(Gilbert and Sullivan. Pirates of Penzance)

Phoebe sat in her office at the Bay News, trying very hard to concentrate on letters dealing with relationship problems to family catastrophes.  She read one 3 pages long complaining about the behaviour of a 15 year old boy and was so tempted to write, he's a boy, he’s 15, he is doing what 15 year old boy’s do, give him room to grow and just be there for him when he makes his mistakes and be grateful that you don’t have to deal with the family brawls I have to deal with, like this morning.


Phoebe promised herself that one day she would remember to ask Cole why he felt the need to start family brawls at breakfast. He was always good about supper but breakfast was regularly a battleground.


Piper had got into one of her this family will have breakfast together at all costs moods. Paige was irritated at being dragged out of bed after a late date and Cole was irritated at having to sit down to breakfast, and maybe just irritated because Piper won that battle and in a very edgy state since Francesca had revealed herself as a whitelighter.


He first chose to comment on Paige’s new boyfriend disparagingly and then chose to turn his hurt and anger at Francesca into a general comment about what he thought of whitelighters and Paige took offence. She choose to tell Cole what she thought of him interfering in her life, she choose to tell him that he was not a family member, just living in the Manor on sufferance. He chose to list his grievances about the way he had been treated by the Halliwell family. Piper chose to take offence at his comments and inform him of every grievance she ever had about him.


Cole in danger of losing, knew Piper’s vulnerable spots. He told her she was a bigger bitch than Prue. Leo seeing Piper’s bottom lip quiver as she fought back the tears, jumped in to protect his wife which reminded Cole of his grievances with whitelighters and both males managed to get themselves into a face off over their roles in the cause of Good and Evil. Phoebe jumped into to separate them and somehow she was not sure how, the whole thing turned into Paige and Piper and Leo yelling at her for getting involved with Cole and Cole yelling at her for dragging him back to the manor.


They all stalked off leaving Phoebe to explain to Melinda who was still in her high chair that she would be wise if she made sure she remained the only child of her generation and never fell in love.


Phoebe stopped typing a reply to the mother who complained about her 15 year old son. One which explained he was just 15, he was overwhelmed by huge hormonal changes, coping with growing up and the answer to all his problems was to realise he had a family who loved him.


She smiled to herself, thinking of the almighty snit Cole had been in that morning because even if his presence caused chaos and confusion and eruptions to her family the truth for her was Phoebe was just happy to have Cole. It was all her dreams come true.


She had Cole, he was prepared to live the life she wanted, and he was not evil. She woke up and he was there smiling at her, she turned over at night, and he was there. She could call him and hear the pleasure in his voice just to speak to her. They bickered and sometimes the bickering erupted into highly volatile arguments that made the manor shake and it was safe.


For a few minutes Phoebe gave way to the dream of being safely and truly loved, not the fairy tale but the looking up and seeing a smile of pure love for her and knowing he was happy because he was with her. The dream of living with him, She smiled to herself when she thought how she bitched about his clothes on the floor and never failed to hold them to her as she picked them up.


A huge part of her happiness was knowing that he was happy .And she believed him when he told her  that happiness as a way of life was not something he had ever experienced before. She looked up and caught him watching her, the expression in his eyes so gentle, so in love with her, Phoebe Halliwell.


It frightened her to be as happy as she was because being that happy was somehow a gift that she felt may have to many conditions. She worried for him, for what it would cost him. She found it hard to believe that that this powerful magical creature could be content with a life totally revolved around her or that destiny could leave him to such an existence.


And she worried about what he had been and whether there would be an accounting and she resented it for because he was the sum of his parts and his heritage and unlike so many who had tried he had risen above his birthright and when all she could see was how good he was, she feared for him, she feared for their happiness.


And she suddenly thought of that lunch last Friday and Francesca’s calm control of Cole and why she was there and Phoebe was struck by a terrible and overwhelming vision of a life without Cole, of a life where her sisters and Leo were terribly polite during breakfast and she slept every night in a room that was warm because the window was shut and she was alone, and she jumped up suddenly. She had to know.


Phoebe told them at work that she needed personal time and slipped down to Cole’s office hoping that he was still in court. In the elevator, she called him and was relieved to find the phone turned off which usually meant he was.


Francesca was in the office for all the world the perfect legal assistant, working away on a computer as if it was what she really did. Phoebe supposed Leo did the same thing, working as a handyman, and he did it well, so she should not be to surprised.


Francesca smiled pleasantly when she saw Phoebe but said “Cole’s in court.”


“I know“ Phoebe said “I wanted to talk to you.”


“I see“ said Francesca quietly stopping what she was doing and looking up into Phoebe’s anxious big, pleading, brown eyes.


“I wanted to ask you“ Phoebe said trying to sound indifferent and failing “Why are you here?”


“Did Cole ask you do this?” Francesca asked.


“He doesn’t know I’m here“ Phoebe said. Then she asked carefully “How nasty is being to you.”


“Very“ said Francesca said smiling.


“Its only because he feels betrayed“ Phoebe explained “and well when he’s upset he doesn’t keep it to himself very well. Well he still had a demonic nature and.. “ she trailed off.


“He’s not the first demon I’ve guided dear“ Francesca said.


“He isn’t ?”said Phoebe surprised.


“No“ Francesca said “But this is not a good place to talk about it. Would you like to go somewhere you feel comfortable and we can talk about it? Not San Francisco.”


“Can you leave now?” Phoebe asked.


“I’m fairly certain my boss won’t complain“ Francesca smiled “He isn’t that brave“ and Phoebe tried to laugh but failed.


Francesca rang the reception area and said she was taking personal time closing the office and she and Phoebe walked out. In the elevator Francesca said "Any where you want to go?"

 Phoebe shook her head. Francesca reached out took her hand and orbed and Phoebe who easily accepted orbing with Paige and Leo realised immediately that this was a very powerful whitelighter.


To Phoebe’s surprise they came out of the orb in a beautiful piazza which Phoebe recognised as Rome .


“I’m Italian“ Francesca explained and as it was late night in Rome, even in winter the Piazza was bustling. They went to a small cafe and Francesca ordered in Italian.


“Even after all this time with Cole I still have trouble getting used to flying around the world “said Phoebe the little girl who thought she was running away to the end of the world when she went to New York.


“What do you want to know dear?” Francesca asked over a cappuccino.


“Who are you and what do you want from Cole?” Phoebe asked working her way up to protecting her lover.


“My name is Francesca Rinaldi“ Francesca answered quietly “I personally want nothing from Cole.”


"He says he’s served his last master and he isn’t going to fight for Good“ Phoebe said.


“I’m glad to hear it“ Francesca said.


"Francesca please" Phoebe begged "Why are you here for him, with him? What do you think he is?"


“I know what he is dear“ Francesca answered slowly , “he is a demon/human who walked through the fire of his own making, facing the blackest and most evil depths of his nature. He is a half-breed demon who walked away from evil and recognised his own humanity to find the path to the light and is about to be summoned to his destiny as a Guardian of the realm, to be asked to chose a long hard path of service to a great calling, to arbitrate the Great Plan.”


“That’s crazy“ Phoebe said.


“Crazier than a particularly clever lawyer in a San Francisco law firm being an ex demon and the one time Source of Evil and sharing a bed with a witch, and a house with her sisters, her family“ Francesca smiled “and those sisters are the most powerful avengers of innocents in the realm.”


“When you put it liked that“ Phoebe sighed “If he is this, this Guardian what does it mean.”


“He’s the umpire dear and its a hard, hard calling,  a lonely one and a long one“ Francesca answered.


“But he’s an ex demon“ Phoebe protested.


“Its always the demons dear” Francesca explained “in this realm the half breeds, the ones who find great power through their humanity and a desperate need to atone for the calling of their birth. Those demons who walk through the fire, who have been evil, and viewed evil are the only ones who are beyond temptation, beyond the seduction of the power.”


“I’ve never heard of these Guardians“ Phoebe protested as if that confirmed they did not exist.


“Haven’t you dear?” said Francesca. 


“Why is it the half demons, the ones like Cole?” Phoebe asked losing her battle.


“Because dear“ Francesca answered “They are bred by evil to be incredibly powerful beings.  But they are also bred to die because there is a secret. The secret of their power is not their demon heritage but their human one.  The myth they are told is that their human half is weak and must be held in check but in fact when they access their humanity, they reach into a level of power that is beyond the comprehension of most beings.  Evil breeds them for their cleverness but destroys them long before they reach into their souls and find their humanity.”


“That’s.. evil“ Phoebe said “wicked.”


“I know dear“ said Francesca “Sometimes just occasionally, one of these half-breed demons, develops a sense of righteousness.”


“I have never heard any other demons beside Cole …being righteous“ said Phoebe said  “What happens to them?”


Francesca sighed  “Mostly they die" she said "They are killed by evil because if we know they are turning so does evil, or they try to turn and fail and we destroy them. And if they do they what Cole has done and somehow survive it, they are called to a destiny as Guardians. In this realm there are always five, or there should be. We have waited on Belthezor for a very long time" Francesca said "You’ve met a Guardian.”


“I have not“ Phoebe denied.


“The demon Arturo“ Francesca smiled “Ex demon Arturo.”


Phoebe gasped “Arturo“ she said and then shook her head “Cole just wants to be with me“ Phoebe whispered.


“I know“ Francesca said “but what he wants is not what he is being asked. Make no doubt dear I have guided and advised these demon, ex demon Guardians for a thousand years“ she smiled at Phoebe’s shock “Quite a few are called. Very few can accept.”


“And if he doesn’t accept what then?” Phoebe demanded. “Will you leave him alone, let him go. Let us have a life?”


“No dear“ Francesca said quietly “If he does not chose to serve the Great Plan and make no mistake its his choice and it’s a choice that requires great courage because it’s a very, very hard road, he is lost to you, to all of us.”


“What do you mean?” Phoebe said very quietly, frightened.


I mean Francesca answered that Arturo will destroy him.”


“Because” Phoebe gasped, “because he doesn’t want to be the umpire, the arbitrator.”


“No dear. Because there must be five and these powerful demons cannot exist outside the Great Plan.” Francesca said.


“That’s crazy“ Phoebe “He’s to powerful , nothing can destroy him.”


“Not quite to powerful“ Francesca said “Arturo can and make no mistake, will destroy him if he choses not to answer his destiny.”


“He isn’t harming any one“ Phoebe said angry, hurting.


“Not at the moment“ Francesca said.


“To lose him because he does not want to be the damned umpire“ Phoebe said.. “It’s crazy“ Phoebe repeated. All but knocking the remains of her latte over. “He wants to be with me“, she said “he wants a life with me. What is so dangerous about that?”


“Phoebe I have seen what Arturo must do. Do you thinks Cole wants to go back to where he was“. Francesca gently reached out to touch Phoebe’s hand “I saw the demon Asion make his choice. He walked through the fire and when told of his destiny he said no he could not and would not. I saw him sitting there on a bench in a small park in Vienna and he looked up and said finish it Arturo. Finish it and give me peace. He was gone a second later. And glad of it.”


“This damned Arturo will kill Cole because he can’t face eternity as the umpire, the arbitrator of Good an Evil. Because he just wants to be free of it all“ Phoebe cried.


“As a last resort“ Francesca said. “He won’t do it until Cole has made his choice and Cole knows what he is choosing. Be very clear it will be Cole’s choice, and much as I care about him and would love, would be…want to tell him to stay because I care, that would not be his choice, it be mine or she added gently "yours and not his and it would be not be true.”


“That’s not fair“ Pheobe said through her tears. “He won’t do it. Its not fair. We’ve been so happy“ Phoebe said “What’s wrong with living the life we’re having.”


“As I told you what he wants is not all that relevant“ Francesca said “he has a calling. Phoebe I care about him. He is dear to me. I don’t like demons, never have, nasty creatures no humour all dark soul and grim“ She smiled “This boy is different but I care enough about him to respect his own choice.”


“Its not fair“ Phoebe whimpered.


“No its not“ said Francesca “he has his choices but they are very hard ones and so do you. You may have to make some very hard ones about what is right and what is best. You’re going to lose him dear" Francesca said "whether its today or next week or much later. At some time you have to part, you’re not going to lose him to evil but you are going to lose him to your humanity or to his.


"I do know that" Phoebe smiled sadly, sniffing back tears. I"mmortal creatures and magic ones.” She gulped Its hard. “Not just me, my sister too. Francesca“ she said “Cole told me some fairy story about, about Arturo and another witch.. Is it true ?”


“Well Cole was not the first demon to be inspired to cross because he fell love with a witch“ said Francesca “but then again neither was Arturo. I’ve heard so many versions of that story" she said. "There is some truth in all of them. But I don’t remember it being a fairy tale“ Francesca smiled at the memory “Marie-Jeanne was a beautiful woman. She was also my friend. Mostly I remember Arturo and Marie-Jeanne as a highly volatile couple who fought their way through ten years of a not very peaceful existence together."


“Not a fairy tale“ Phoebe said. “Cole’s no fairy tale to live with“ she said little girl, pleading and thinking how angry she had been with him over breakfast.


Francesca nodded understanding . “I remember once“ she explained Arturo and Marie-Jeanne had a son , two children actually and Marie-Jeanne also had a grand son only a little older.  Girls married young those days and she had four children with her first husband“


“So this fairy tale heroine was not a virgin?” Phoebe asked.


Francesca shook her head, not misunderstanding the purpose of the question. She continued, “The boys were about 8 or 9 at the time and I suppose as all little boys from time immemorial, they wanted to learn how to fight with swords. Arturo taught them with the great demonic ones. Marie-Jeanne was furious, as all mothers and grandmothers from time immemorial, she felt that if her boys knew how to use weapons they would want to go off to war. Arturo said that if they could not use weapons they could not defend themselves or others. Marie-Jeanne and Arturo fought that one out loud and long up and down the village and every corner of the cottage. Neither giving an inch. It was so bad during the night that the headman pounded on their door and told them to keep quiet because other people needed to sleep. He told me it was worse when they quietened down because everyone else in the village lay awake waiting for the next eruption.”


Francesca smiled and Phoebe was left wondering what it would be like to understand history as your living memory, of people and small lives and communities.


“Do you know“ said Francesca “I think that was there last great battle. Shortly after Marie-Jeanne was lost when she was trying to protect Arturo against some forces of Good who doubted his turning and he walked through a fire of his own making and found the path to the light. The path he now walks.”


“Who was right ?”Phoebe asked.


“Both“ said Francesca “The boys died much later, in battle defending those who needed to be defended. It broke Arturo’s heart. He lost his family and he lost those dear to Marie-Jeanne. The calling doesn’t break the need for family, the truth of family.”


“Cole told me some story about Arturo doomed to eternal damnation“ Phoebe said.


“That obviously didn’t happen“ said Francesca “but then again what did happen does not reflect all that well as an argument for the righteousness of good so they never seem to tell that tale well either.”


“Is there a difference between being good and being righteous?” asked Phoebe quietly.


“There shouldn’t be dear but.. “ Francesca said. “Then again it is surprising how nearly all those demons who accepted their calling to Guardians take the step into the future as good falters. I sometime think their understanding of how fragile it is give them strength for the role they take.”


“How does Arturo stand it, apart from her?” Phoebe asked. “Did he just stop loving her, let it fade, put it behind him?”


“I think he just loves her more“ Francesca said in matter of fact voice.


Phoebe swallowed “Do you know what it is to be tied to some one like I am to Cole. To feel what they feel, to love like I do, to be loved like he loves me?”


Francesca said gently “Its Mrs Rinaldi dear“ Francesca said “I loved once and was loved for what seems two minutes of my  life, about 700 years ago.”


“Then you should know what it’s like to lose a love, to have them taken away from you to go away from you.” Phoebe bit out passionately.


“It feels like an eternity alone, living on memories“ Francesca said “It feels as if their smile is as close to you as if you saw it the last time you looked up. It feels like you walk a path alone deserted, and it feels as if they walk every step with you, by you side holding you safe. Yes Phoebe I may not have had a demon fight what his way from the wastelands of hell for me but I know what it is like to love.”


“We were fated together, my fate was his and now you say we must part“ Phoebe said.


“You will part sometime Phoebe“ Francesca said. “You are his fate. He turned from evil because of you, he found the power from his humanity in the wasteland because of you, and he found a way through the fire of his own making because of you. Arturo found him and will give him his call to destiny because of you.”


“That’s not a comfort “said Phoebe wistfully.


“Cole doesn’t want to be caught between the battle with Good and Evil“ Phoebe said sadly. “He just wants to be good himself, not be the reason evil exists.”


Francesca smiled “What Cole wants may not be why he choses what he will chose. And just so you are very certain, Guardians are demons who have found the light. They are not there to ensure evil exists, they are there to ensure that good endures no matter the cost, mostly to them.”




Tempus sat on his throne, on the throne of the Source that he was not, idly staring at the list of chaos caused by out of control demon sects and hives and rogues in front of him. A part of the demon in him considered that chaos was as good goal for Evil as any other. Tempus recognised that Good was faltering, the randomness of the strikes, the unpredictability and purposelessness of them having its devastating effect


But the part of him that had sought power and control, knew that Evil in its purest form was the ability to use power at a whim, to strike fear, to destroy, to deny, to reward, to give and to take away, to have minions fall on the floor. That part of him, the strongest part was offended.


Tempus did not care, if Evil won the battle, if it meant he was lost. Tempus only cared that Tempus should rule, that Tempus should have power, that for a small time at least the great demon craving in him for power should be sated.


All Tempus cared about, was that unless he could find a way to change the time line and stop the accursed witches from destroying the Grimoire, Tempus himself would be lost. Which was all that mattered.


But Tempus did not know how to retrieve the Grimoire. He had tried sending demons back to hide it before the witches stole it, he tried making the sister bond of the Accursed Trio fail and still, the Grimoire was lost, as would be Tempus if the chaos around him continued.