How Quaint the Ways of Paradox
Part 3: The more things change
"How quaint the ways of paradox; At common sense she gaily mocks"
(Gilbert and Sullivan. Pirates of Penzance)
Leo awoke in the dank darkness of the cavern wondering for a few seconds where he was and then as he remembered, he groaned. He staggered to his feet and lit the cavern with orbs. He stared up at the ledge, even lifting himself to the edge of it but there was nothing there. He came down and crawled around the floor of the cavern hoping, but had to come to the inevitable conclusion that Cole had done what he could not. The Grimoire was gone and Leo cursed. He cursed Cole, his own failure and the evil of that accursed book that stole the best away from people he loved.
Leo remembered his own determination to send the accursed thing back to the Underworld and the irony of him cursing Cole for doing what he could not was not lost on him. He sat in the dark wondering what this day had cost when he became aware of Phoebe calling him, and with extreme reluctance he orbed back to the Manor.
Phoebe was kneeling on the floor lifting Piper up to give her something to drink and Paige was pulling herself in kneeling position, shaking her head as if she was trying to get a ringing noise from her ears.
“That bastard, that evil bastard“ she said in a high pitched voice of some-one who cannot hear that own voice. She shook her head again.
“What happened?“ Leo asked.
“Cole“ said Piper “Cole that lousy stinking.. God Melinda “Piper said “Phoebe did you….“
“He wouldn’t hurt Melinda. “ Phoebe said irritated with Piper. Piper snorted and struggled to get up. Leo watched Phoebe holding Piper down, sighed and orbed into the nursery where Melinda was sound asleep making little gurgling noises and blowing bubbles. He touched his daughter gently and orbed to the attic.
“She’s fine“ he said as Piper sagged “Cole wouldn’t hurt Melinda“ Leo added.
“Yeah well he said he wouldn’t hurt me“ snarled Paige on her feet but banging her other ear. “I will get him. I swear I will get him. I trusted that bastard.”
“The Grimoire“ Phoebe asked almost afraid of the answer.
Leo shrugged “Gone“ he said.
“Cole?“ Phoebe asked.
“How?“ she said grim.
“I don’t know“ Leo said “I guess I was unconscious.”
“That bastard“ Piper breathed.
“He was doing what I thought should happen“ Leo said quietly “Taking it back to the underworld.”
“Oh“ said Paige “we’re back there again are we, doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons. All this Guardian stuff, was it nonsense. Has he gone evil again? That bastard.” She said banging her ear.
“He was telling the truth“ Phoebe said beyond tears, “The Guardian thing is true.”
“I trusted him with my daughter“ Piper said “The traitor, that betrayer that son of a bitch.”
Leo swallowed “If Cole decided to go down the Guardian path, then he may have reasons, nothing to do with us.”
“What difference doe it make, demon , demon Guardian betrayer“ Piper snarled “To give that thing back to evil, even if he wasn’t going to use it himself, and I bet he is now.”
“Piper if he made the Guardian choice he isn’t evil“ Phoebe said tightly.
“To give it back to evil, to let evil grow strong when we had it falling apart." Piper said dragging herself to her feet. "It’s a betrayal of everything we are. We welcomed him into our home, into our family again. He betrays“ She snarled “And he does it so well. I trusted him. I trusted him with my daughter.”
“Piper“ Leo said “Calm down. “You sound like the Elders, and that’s not..good. “ As a sudden rush of relief hit him that whatever the future the Accursed thing was out of the realm.
“To be fair we didn’t exactly welcome him“ Paige said “That bastard.” She shook her head.
“Of course we did“ Piper snapped “And he knows it, what does he think he’s been here, a paying boarder.”
“He doesn’t know it Piper“ Phoebe said “he never understands that stuff.”
“What does it matter“ said Piper. “He’s evil.”
Phoebe still kneeling in the floor put her head in her hands. Paige went over knelt down and put her arms around Phoebe. After a few minutes, dry eyed and swallowing Phoebe looked up. “It’s the Guardian thing Piper“ Phoebe said. “He said, the last thing he said was he had decided to do what was right- for him and he wasn’t lying.”
“That doesn’t make it right“ Piper said “Phoebe he betrayed us.”
“I know“ Phoebe whispered “but I am not sure he has betrayed himself . Maybe that’s what Francesca meant when she told me I would have to make some hard decisions.”
“Phoebe you could not even consider thinking this is okay“ Piper said in disbelief.
“I don’t know Piper“ she said “I guess it depends why he did it. What I don’t get is why you’re so hell bent on the betraying us thing. The whole thing with the Grimoire is way beyond us now.”
“He betrayed Good“. Piper said “He betrayed our side.”
“He’s not on our side” Paige said looking at Piper oddly “Never was.”
“Only evil can touch that thing” Piper said.
“Or something beyond evil“ Phoebe said quietly.
“You’re not mad at him Phoebe” said Paige said curiously. ”you don’t feel betrayed”
“Mad at him” Phoebe said “ I’m furious with him. I know what he’s done. He’s decided its not witches business, tried to protect every-one again. Like with the Hollow. He never learns.” She sniffed “I promise you. This time he’s going to learn, the difference between witches business and Guardians business and family business. And by god he’s going to suffer while he learns“ she said furiously.”
“And that makes it all right, when the new Source starts killing witches, is more evil than the last one’ Piper said snorted.
“Its Cole“ Phoebe said “He isn’t that stupid. He knows how to fix it. Or he knows some-one who can. He wouldn't have done it otherwise. I do trust him” she said. "I just want to kill him."
“Hmm” Piper snorted again.
They finally went to bed. Phoebe shut the window and was restless all night in a hot uncomfortable room, hoping Cole would come back and they could talk and then deciding if he did she was going to kill him because he could have trusted her; or at least make him miserable. Paige her ears still ringing called Cole every type of bastard she could lay her tongue to and went to sleep. Piper fumed herself to sleep while Leo lay beside her worrying how the evil from the Grimoire which he suspected was perverting the Elders was starting to effect Piper. And praying whatever Cole had done with Grimoire, its effects would start to diminish.
The next morning they mechanically went through the motions of breakfast. Phoebe dry eyed and worried, frightened that Cole may have done something stupid, such as retrieve the Grimoire and then tell Arturo he didn’t want to be a Guardian. And his continued absence was feeding her anger. She called the Bay Mirror and told them she was working from home, without any intention of working.
Piper was just angry, not certain she was feeling betrayed because Cole had taken the Grimoire, or used what he knew of the family to take it or because she was frightened of where the Charmed Ones removing the Grimoire from the Underworld had lead and because Cole’s absence which meant she could not scream it out at him just fuelled her annoyance.
“I hope you can fix the roof” Paige said to Leo who had decided trying to discuss anything with Piper was useless in her present mood.
“Why?“ asked Leo.
“Some-one’s going to go through it when Cole comes back“ Paige sighed.
“Aren’t you mad at him?“ Leo asked.
“Furious“ said Paige quietly. “He could have asked, instead of knocking me out.”
“He probably got heavy warnings about involving you from these Guardians” Leo said.
“Stuff ‘em “ said Paige. “Phoebe’s right. Its about time he learnt the difference between family business and not family business”
Later that morning they meandered up to the attic, with the vague intention of searching the Book of Shadows to check the damage done by demons in the last few weeks.
Phoebe was sitting on her favourite stool slumped forward. Paige was sitting by the window with the Book of Shadows in her lap staring out and Piper sat in the sofa, holding Melinda and distractedly bouncing her. Leo was wandering around the back of the room, caught not sure what to say or do.
“We did the right thing getting that damn book from the underworld.” Piper said a little defensively.
“Sure we did“ said Paige.
“Probably“ said Phoebe.
Leo said nothing and Piper glared at him.
Cole shimmered into the attic beside the sofa.
They all looked up and stared at him. No one said anything until Melinda realising he was there let out her usual roar and he automatically move his hand to stroke cheek.
Melinda gurgled happily as he touched her and Piper furiously pulled her away, to Melinda’s undisguised disgust.
Paige from behind Cole calmly said “You’ve got guts Cole I have to give you that“ He turned and half smiled and she flung her head back defiantly smirking at him. Phoebe just stared intently at him fury all over her face.
“Where’s the Grimoire Cole?“ Piper asked bitterly.
“I gave it.. I made sure.. Tempus has it back“ he answered “More or less.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?" Piper said.
“Its supposed to mean what I said“ he answered.
“Think that’s funny“ Piper jumped in angry.
“Its supposed to mean, its none of your business Piper“ Cole said ice cold.
“Why did you do it Cole?“ Paige demanded.
“Because it was necessary" he answered "because without it balance.. “ he stopped "I pissed around to long worrying how you would react. To many good people were getting hurt.” He shrugged.
Leo started to speak and Cole interrupted quickly, shaking his head. “You did what was right for you taking it. I did what was right for me getting it back. It had to go back“ he repeated “the cursed thing doesn’t belongs in this realm and it was better much better, it was right I make sure it went back where it belonged.”
“Is he telling the truth“ Piper demanded of Phoebe. Phoebe snorted. She looked back at Piper “He believes he is yes.”
Cole spun to her surprised and suddenly hopeful that he could still connect with her aura, that she had not broken the connection that she still loved him.
“So Tempus has all that power all those spells all that lore“ Piper said even more bitterly.
“Tempus has what he needs to rule“ Cole said “and as for all the rest, I don’t suppose you would care to trust me“ he said “No didn’t think so“ he said looking at the Piper’s grim bitter face and Phoebe’s angry one.
“Cole“ Phoebe said, angry cold and hard“ Why am I, why are we supposed to trust you when you won’t even trust me to talk about it.”
“To say nothing of walking in her pretending to… belong“ said Paige banging her ringing ear “and knocking, me us out.”
“I’m sorry about the way I did it“ Cole said. “I couldn’t risk you following me, I could not risk…compromising you, letting you feel you were responsible for it going back. You understand?" he said not hopefully. "Didn’t think so“ he said and started to shimmer, then stopped and came back.
“Why in the hell should I apologise“ he said angry. “You brought the damned thing out and I fixed it.”
“So it’s the Guardian thing is it“ Phoebe said letting all the worry she had for him rise into temper. “You’re beyond Good and Evil.”
“More or less“ he said. “If I chose to be a Guardian. I haven’t.”
“Are you beyond being a selfish bastard who never thinks of any-one but himself?“ Phoebe demanded sweetly.
Cole gulped “Phoebe“ he said, and moved to her to touch her.
She pulled away “Don’t touch me“ she said. “I’m pissed at you.”
“I see“ he answered.
“I’m pissed at you Cole“ she said. “You won’t even trust me to trust you.”
“What“ he said stunned “I thought you’d be angry because I betrayed you.”
“Well I am“ Piper said “You’re a traitorous shit. I trusted you with my daughter.”
“What’s that got to do with it“ he asked confused.
“Its everything. You can’t change being a traitorous shit can you Cole“ Piper said. “You can’t change what you are, and you do it so damned well.”
“Well you’re a bossy little bitch sister, and you do it so damned well“ he said losing it at her. “You can’t change what you are. Why should I?“
“Just get the hell out Cole“ Piper said, “Just get the hell out of my life, get the hell out of my sister’s life you traitorous shit.”
Paige and Leo both looked at each other groaning.
“Phoebe“ he said appealing.
“I’m pissed at you Cole“ she said.
He shook his head and started to shimmer.
“Cole“ Paige asked stopping him “Is it over. Did you fix it?“
“Yes“ he said simply. Then shrugged. “Arturo did.” And he shimmered to soon. He missed Phoebe jump to her feet and call his name.
“You’re better off without him“ Piper snarled her anger and betrayal still fuelled.
“No I’m not“ Phoebe said “and he’s not evil. “ She sighed. “Damn him I’m still; stuck with him. I told him , unless he was evil. he’s not evil the bastard.”
“Why did you do that Piper?“ Leo asked quietly.
“Do you think“ she said in anger “that I could bear to share a house, to live with some one who could betray everything I believed in, I worked for, like he did, the traitorous shit.”
“Piper“ said Paige.
“That's the way the Elders are talking. That’s the effect of the Grimoire on you“ Leo said “Cole did what was necessary, what he was called for.”
“It doesn’t matter why he did it. He betrayed us“ Piper said ice cold. “Traitorous shit. And I’m good it can’t affect me.”
“Then I guess we have a problem“ Leo said sadly “Because honey because the only reason he did it and not me was because he stopped me. And it has and I am damned glad he did what he did if its having this effect.”
Piper spun on Leo face white angry, total disbelief. He met her anger and nodded.
“You traitorous shit“ she said “get out.”
“Well that explains how we got to where we got in those other time lines“ Leo said and seeing Piper’s unrelenting anger he orbed.
“What Leo said“ Paige told them. "Goes for me" She put her hands on her hips. “I hope you two are happy she said "That was clever“ she added.
“What do you mean?“ Piper said to her.
“Hurt Cole’s feeling so he’s probably gone off to cry in his beer, sent Leo off when what he really needs is some support?“ Paige answered “What is it with you“ then she softened “Its that bloody book.”
“You can’t really support, believe what …they did“ Piper couldn’t even find the words. “They .. everything we did just destroyed. Don’t you even realise what a betrayal. .”
“To what you believe is right, and even to what we did yeah“ said Paige “But in case you didn’t notice Piper This isn’t about the Charmed Ones. Its about higher ..things“ Paige said.
“How do you think I could consider living with some-one who.. “ Piper said.
“You shouldn’t know Piper“ Paige said “Those witches in France. All they know is they call for help and Leo comes. They don’t know what happens with Elders and whitelighters and realms above, but you married Leo and you do, we do. And maybe you should just listen to him and try and pretend you don’t know.” She winced but met Piper's angry stare "Keep family business in the family."
“Just because you’re some whitelighter apprentice“ Piper bit out “Doesn’t give you the right to preach.”
“Oh shut up Piper“ Paige snapped “You’re worried and frightened and taking it out on your family and some of the family don’t understand that as much as I do.”
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh “said Piper and grabbed Melinda and stalked off.
Paige sighed and turned to Phoebe.
Phoebe shook her head “Paige how can you?“
“You’re just as bad Phoebe“ Paige said. “Cole hurts your feelings so you just fly into him as hard as you can knowing just how to get back at him.”
“Whose side are you on?“ Phoebe snarled hurt.
“Mine“ Paige said clearly.
“You’re only supporting Cole because you’ve got this almighty crush on him“ Phoebe accused "Don’t deny it. You always did? What are you planning on doing running over and offering him.. comfort?“
“You’re lucky I understand you“ Paige said sighing.
“Do you know how much Cole hurt me“ Phoebe said.
“Well little Miss know it all advice columnist that’s what happens when you love some-one, you make yourself vulnerable, let ‘em know where they can hurt you“ Paige said. “Anyway I’d say you’re about even. I’d say the honeymoon really is over between you two isn’t it. Warts and all coming out. About time.”
“Your can really be nasty can’t you Paige“ Phoebe said.
“Yeah well I’m your sister“ Paige answered.
“Bitch“ said Phoebe and stalked out of the attic .
“I don’t see what you’re complaining about being hurt“ Paige said banging her head I’m the one whose ears are ringing. “Wouldn’t be a family if we didn’t say exactly what we thought to each, when we think it. “ She sighed “You know Grams I can forgive you a lot, but I could forgive you a lot more if you’d taught ‘em when to keep their damned mouths shut.”
Tempus waited in his coronation chamber with an anticipation that was both fearful and eager waited for the return of the sniffers, waited for his destiny.
Waited and waited and in vain, again nothing, as always nothing, no returning sniffers, no Grimoire, no Great Destiny. Nothing to do but wait for it to finish. He stood up and left the coronation chamber. As he left he saw the mocking glances of the court, he saw the smirks. He saw demons look up as he passed and he knew the end would be very soon. He knew until now no demon had challenged him because there was still no way for a demon to rule, no Grimoire. The irony was not lost.
But Tempus was a weak leader, and demons worshipped strength. Very soon they would turn on him and destroy him because it was the way of Evil, for the strong to destroy the weak and because no other demon could rule, no Grimoire, demondom would turn on itself.
He once again turned to his mirror but it was cloudy, and he could not even find the time fold which hid the Grimoire and he knew for certain that any evil that had been present in that fold, including the Grimoire itself was gone.
With nothing better to do he bitterly once again he looked back at the events of the Great Immolation and watched the witches take the Grimoire.
“Wow“ said Paige
“Look at the Grimoire still there.”
“It looks like the
balance between good and evil just swung in our favour.” said Piper.
Phoebe looked at it. “ Its time to get rid of that book once and for all.
As he watched Belthezor’s witch say the words for the last time, Tempus Lord of Time picked up a crystal orb that he kept near him and hurled it at the image of the hated witch, shattering the mirror.