How Quaint the Ways of Paradox
Part 1: Time and Time Again
"How quaint the ways of paradox; At common sense she gaily mocks"
(Gilbert and Sullivan. Pirates of Penzance)
With nothing else to do and no where else to go Cole drove back to the Manor and parked in Prescott street where the car was outside the view of the Manor, but he could see it. He sat in the car for nearly an hour with very little happening that he could see in the Manor. As all the changes, that had happened that morning sank in, he found being suddenly severed from the family in the Manor left him feeling disorientated and very insecure. Common sense told him he had a credit card to use for a hotel and clothes if he needed them and magic to manufacture them but being homeless and without connection or belongings, except for the leased green Mercedes left him feeling very isolated.
Paige finally came out dressed for jogging. Cole carefully followed her, shimmering just a little behind. She ran for 15 minutes, went to the drug store in the shopping centre, ordered a huge chocolate milk shake, 3 scoops of ice cream and settled down and read the very expensive fashion magazines that were there for customers, for 40 minutes then ran back up to the Manor. Cole wondered if that was what she always did when she said she was running for an hour and a half.
He went back to the car and waited because there was nothing else he could think of to do.
Shortly after he had checked the Grimoire, the Elders called Leo with an assignment for the Charmed Ones to deal with some foul smelling Amomitines, gaseous demons who invaded places of good and made them uninhabitable by humans and all creatures of good for months at a time. They had been invading places of worship in a number of locations and were now in San Francisco.
And Leo had a problem because it became very clear that the Elders had no idea about the changed timeline. Leo’s difficulty was that he could not tell them about the changed timeline without talking about Cole and Cole was a taboo subject. When Cole had first returned from the wasteland, Leo had tried to get help from the Elders and they had flatly refused to believe that Cole had come back. The Old Source was gone and they did not believe that the return of any of his incarnations was possible.
Leo had finally been forced to conclude that whatever Cole was he was totally beyond of the sphere of the Elders. Which was one of the reasons he had encouraged the Charmed Ones to try and destroy Cole, because an evil creature beyond the understanding of the Elders, was terrifying. Only when both Cole and the Charmed Ones managed to draw themselves back from the edge of the evil pit where the Charmed Ones fear of Cole had lead them, Leo had been forced to assume that in the magical realm, in the magical universe there were some things both Good and Evil, that were beyond the understanding and knowledge of the Elders and Cole was one of them.
Leo orbed into the Manor kitchen, not certain of his reception and not certain how he was going to deal with this. Piper was sitting at the kitchen table working on accounts. Melinda was in the playpen gurgling to herself and having great game thwacking building blocks over with her favourite rabbit toy.
Piper turned around. She looked awful, her hair did not appear to have been washed for a week, her eyes were sunken and her face was colourless. She looked like she was wearing most of Melinda’s breakfast on her t shirt.
“You shit I told you not to come here “ Piper said.
“Its important Piper “ Leo answered, “There are some demons the Elders want you to deal with. “
“You’ve got a cheek coming here spouting on about the Elders and doing good “ Piper asked “Where’s Caleb?”
“Who?” said Leo.
“Caleb our whitelighter “ Piper answered.”
“He’s with another charge“ said Leo not quite lying.
Paige appeared at the door wearing jogging clothes. She immediately planted herself between Leo and Piper.
“What are you doing here, you shit?” she said to Leo.
Melinda started to grizzle as she became aware of the tension between her parents and aunt. Leo bent over to pick her up. Piper almost snatched her from Leo “You get her when Paige orbs her up every second Monday “ she said hugging her daughter.
“I .,“ Leo started to say.
“Quit bitching Leo“ Paige said, “So I forgot the last few weeks. I’m busy. I’m the only one around here who does anything about the Charmed Ones. If it wasn’t for me the Charmed Ones would not exist. That whore upstairs only ever boozes and runs around with sleazebags and since you left Piper to raise a kid on her own, you can’t expect us to jump to your beck and call. “
“Quit whining Paige” Piper said spitefully “All you ever do is whine, whine, whine.”
“God you can be a cow “ Paige told Piper “You know you’d be a better person to live with if you just got yourself laid occasionally. God two sisters and one can’t get herself laid and the other can’t stop. “
“Shut up whining Paige “ Leo said at his limit.
“Don’t you talk to my sister like that Leo “ Piper interrupted “you bastard.“
“Where’s Phoebe?” Leo asked trying hard not to get dragged into the fight.
“Where do you think she’d be at this time of day?” Piper snarled.
Leo looked perplexed.
“Jeez Leo “ Paige said “Where you been, off with the fairies. Where do you think Phoebe would be at this time of day? Upstairs sleeping off a hangover, of course.“
“Get her up” Leo said praying with everything he had that this would not be a permanent timeline. “You need to look at the Book of Shadows.”
Piper with Melinda in her arms stalked up the stairs, followed by Paige. Piper went on up to the attic. Paige banged Phoebe’s bedroom door open and going into the bedroom leant over and shook Phoebe awake.
“What’s wrong?” Phoebe said struggling awake.
“Get up “ Paige said “Demon alert.”
“No demon here “ Phoebe said sitting up in bed “Honest Paige, he isn’t here. “
“Jeez Phoebe we have to go fight them not screw them “ Paige said.
“Okay “ Phoebe said standing up carefully. “We aren’t after that one who was here this morning “ she said hopefully.
“Nah “ said Paige.
“Did you get a look at him? “ Phoebe asked Paige, digging around in her underwear drawer.
“Yeah “ said Paige.
“Hot damn he was pretty “ Phoebe said.
“Yeah “ said Paige “he was. “
Paige went up to the attic to find Piper flicking pages of the Book of Shadows with one hand, holding Melinda on her hip with the other.
“I’ll do that “ Paige said, “What am I looking for?”
“Amomitines “ Leo said.
Paige began flicking the pages of the Book Of Shadows while Pipe stood to one side “What are Amomitines?” she asked.
“Another type of hived demons “ Leo said.
“Another hive “ Piper said “Jeez what is it ever since we finished off the old Source we’ve done nothing but fight out of control demon cults and hives.”
Phoebe came into the attic. “Leo “ she said in delight and threw her arms around his neck, planting a big wet kiss on his lips
“Phoebe “ Leo said carefully disengaging himself.
She sauntered into the attic and draped herself over her favourite stool. She was wearing a sheer black blouse with a red bra underneath from which her nipples protruded, black leather pants, so tight that Leo wondered how she got into them and so low he finally got to see all the tattoo that had caused such a commotion in the household when it first appeared. Leo was also fairly certain he was also seeing pubic hair but he tried not look again.
He looked into Phoebe’s face, dark hair cut in a sharp unflattering style and Phoebe was far to thin but as Leo examined her face, for all the words such as tart and whore her sisters were using what he saw in it mostly was an older version of the vulnerable, lost little girl looking for love in all the wrong places that he had first known.
“Stop looking at my sister like that you arsehole “ Piper said.
“Which stinking demons are we after?” Phoebe asked enjoying the fact that she had upset Piper.
“Stinking is right “ Paige said “Amomitines, gaseous demons that stink out places where good congregate. There’s a potion. Rosemary, chives, lavender, lots of lavender, lilac, cherry blossom, cinnamon, Jeeesh “
Piper took command “Phoebe go down and ring Marly. “
Marly was the baby sitter, a low level witch, a painfully shy woman in her late forties, who drove them crazy with her hero worship of the Charmed Ones, she made up for it by her devotion to Melinda, her reliability and her availability at all hours of the day and night.
“Paige “ Piper ordered, “Go make the potion. “
The two witches left the attic, leaving Leo alone with Piper.
“Is that why you divorced me?” Leo asked because “I’m an arsehole.”
“You know why I divorced you “ Piper said “but if I’d know what an arsehole you were I would have divorced you before that.”
“I see “ was all Leo could say. He went down stairs and became aware of a pungent odour of herbs invading the house. He went to the kitchen in time to see Phoebe put the phone down and turn to Paige.
“That stuff makes the Manor smell like a whorehouse “ she said to Paige.
“Well you’d know what a whorehouse smelt like “ Paige answered.
Leo sighed and orbed out. He orbed into the front seat of Cole’s car. Cole lost in thought jumped as Leo appeared.
“I was just with the girls “ Leo said in a strangled voice. He leant forward and banged his head three times on the dashboard “Oh my God “ he said “Oh my God, Oh my God. “
“Yeah “ said Cole.
“Oh my God “ said Leo.
“Yeah “ said Cole.
They were both silent for a few seconds.
Finally Leo said “The girls are going after some demons. Amomitines. Can you keep an eye on them? Now I’ve experienced the timeline change I can go tell the Elders without mentioning you. “
Cole was never very appreciative of Leo’s efforts to keep the Elders from being concerned about him. He narrowed his eyes. “Leo even in this timeline I can’t interfere with the Charmed Ones work. “ Cole said. Then he gasped “Amomitines“ he said “Jeesh Leo, Amomitines “
“I’m not asking you to interfere “ Leo said “ I’m asking you to keep an eye on them. Hell Cole “ he said “They don’t need you to defeat demons, they don’t need potions or spells. All they have to do is open their mouths and every demon in San Francisco will be running for cover. “
Cole started to laugh. “ What about the bab, your daughter, Melinda?” he asked.
“Marly is coming to look after her “ Leo said.
“Marly “ Cole said.
“Yeah “ said Leo.
When Cole had first returned to the Manor he had been very disconcerted by Marly’s reaction to him. She was terrified of him. She ran out of rooms when he came in, looked down and went bright red if he said anything to her.
“What’s wrong with her? Does she know I was a demon? “ Cole had demanded of Phoebe in annoyance and confusion “Does she think I’m going to fireball her or something? “
“I think its because you’re a man Baby “ Phoebe explained carefully.
Cole had snorted in disbelief and it was only when he realised that Marly was not much better with Leo that he really believed Phoebe. Watching Marly run from them became a sport that Leo and Cole shared.
“Maybe that’s why Piper divorced you in this time line.” Cole said.
“What do you mean?” Leo asked.
“Maybe you seduced Marly “ Cole said.
“What “ Leo choked and then almost in unison both males leant forward and dissolved into hysterical laughter before Leo orbed out.
“Amomitines “ Cole said out loud. “I hate whitelighters “
Cole spent the afternoon watching the Charmed Ones chase Amomitines around churches and synagogues and mosques in San Francisco. Cole was not sure he was watching a farce or a vanquish. It was a contest between the witches and demons to see which side could drive the other off with the most offensive smell. The Amomitines smelt like a combination of dead animal, brimstone, rotten egg gas and a sewerage treatment plant. The potion the girls were using smelt like some one had gotten into the perfume counter at a $2 store and smashed every bottle, and then emptied the toilet deodorizers on top of the mess.
The girls after several false attempts decided that drenching themselves in the potion and diving into the gas was the only way to defeat the demons. The Charmed Ones in this time line were not exactly a functional unit. They argued and fought with each other as much as they fought the demons. None of them seemed to be able to say a sentence without using the words, bitch whore or whine but when Piper went down under the weight of five of the gaseous demons, Phoebe and Paige doused themselves in the potion and jumped into the demon gas cloud to protect her.
The girls finally finished the demons off, leaving places of worship in San Francisco safe but containing a highly pungent lavender, lilac and cinnamon odour. And Cole who had been hiding in the corners of the churches watching the events was not unamused to see the three sisters literally gag at the scent of each other, and the level of insults rise accordingly. Paige orbed them off and Cole bet himself they all arrived back at the Manor ready to throw up after being confined in the space of an orb.
“Might clean their mouths out “ he thought unsympathetically.
He was less amused when Leo arrived to check what had happened and backed off at the rate of knots, gagging.
“You stink like ten day old dead cow that’s been doused with bad perfume “ Leo said moving off “I’ll talk to you later and orbed away. “
Cole right at that point decided he really hated whitelighters.
It was made worse by the fact that no demonic powers, including manufacturing a change of clothing would get rid of the smell and Cole was once again left pondering the usefulness of magic in a mortal world.
He finally bought some clothes, being careful not to touch them and tried to pretend he did not notice the shop assistant gag. He found a cheap motel in the north of the city where the guy at reception was smoking such a foul smelling cigar he did not register the demonic odour and Cole spent two hours under a shower which gave him plenty of time to worry about the events of the day and panic that they might not be able to turn the time line back. And panic that if it did get it turned back, because he was outside the changes, if he was somewhere he was not supposed to be he would be left out of those changes. And where he was supposed to be was at the Manor with Phoebe and her sisters who wanted to vanquish him on sight.