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)
Cole woke up wishing he did not have to wake up and face whatever it is he was going to have to face today. Hands were on his shoulder shaking him and Phoebe’s voice was in ear “Wake up “ she said.
He groaned, dragging it out.
“Wake up" she said "Cole wake up. “
“This could be good “ he thought “she knows who I am .”
She pulled the bed clothes back enough to pull herself on top of him. Naked he thought a she wriggled onto him The screwing, the love making he remembered from last night must have happened. He felt Phoebe’s breath on his face and her hair touch his face. He opened his eyes to look into her big brown ones inches away, hair uncombed and to his great relief, blond streaked. She lowered her mouth to his lips and took what she wanted.
“Morning “ she whispered into his mouth.
He opened his eyes again and took in the room. It was their room in the Manor and he even recognised the sheet set as one of his that Phoebe had claimed ownership of when he moved into the Manor.
“You going to work?” she asked “Its 8 o'clock .”
“I work? “ he said wrapping his arms around her “What am I? “ he asked.
“What do you mean what are you?” she whispered.
“What I am? “ he said tightening his arms. “Who am I? “
“Cole “ she giggled, “Ex demon, mostly good guy, fair to okay lover, about to be unemployed lawyer.”
“Fair to okay “ he said rolling her under him as she clutched at his shoulders and happily whimpered against him.
Just before nine o’clock they lay contently together, Phoebe lying half across him, sucking away on his neck “Going to work?” she whispered.
“Work from here “ he said “if I can be bothered .”
He reached over to the bed table and felt for his phone; a little relieved it was there. He dialled his work number and Francesca answered.
“I’m working from the Manor today “ he told her in a somewhat groggy voice.
“What about the meeting this morning to discuss client priorities?” she said.
“Don’t think they’ll get around to talking about pro bono stuff this morning “ he said a little less groggily.
“Well if that’s what you think “ Francesca answered tightly.
“Okay “ he said “See you tomorrow.”
“Cole “ Francesca interrupted “Is Phoebe close? I wanted to ask her something. “
“Not far away “ he said as Phoebe sunk her teeth into his neck “What do you want her for?”
“None of your business “ Francesca answered smarmily “Put her on. “
Cole handed the phone to Phoebe mouthing, “Get rid of her.”
Phoebe took the phone “Francesca, Mrs Rinaldi “ she said in deference to Cole’s real fear of Francesca.
“Phoebe dear “ Francesca said “Can you do something for me? “
“Sure “ Phoebe answered uncertainly.
“Kick him out of bed and get him into work will you dear “ Francesca said, “He really needs to be at that meeting. “
“Sure “ she answered because she could not think of anything else to say. Phoebe ended the call and passed the message to Cole.
He sat up fell back on the pillow and then sat up on the edge of the bed. “I hate that.. “he said to Phoebe.. “Manipulative ..thinks she’s so smart.. She’s a bigger bitch than Piper “ he said petulantly but he stood up.
He went to the closet and was more than a little relieved to see his clothes in it and his razor and toiletries in the ensuite. He showered got dressed and kissed Phoebe good bye, picked up his brief case and went downstairs to the kitchen. His car keys were on the hook. Leo was sitting at the island bench drinking coffee, while Piper fed Melinda.
Leo looked up shook his head at Piper and mouthed the word “Problem.”
Cole mouthed “Office eleven.”
Piper looked up and pointedly said “Good morning Cole. What’s going on between you two?” she asked glaring at Leo.
“Good morning Mrs Wyatt “ Cole answered “There is nothing between us two” he said straight faced and left.
“He is such an arsehole “ Piper said to Leo, reaching over to kiss his check because she felt the need. “I hate arseholes “ she added. "I’m glad you’re not one. I’d have to divorce you “
“I know “ Leo said sadly.
Cole went into the office. Francesca was working at whatever it was she filled in her day. He hesitated a little because he was not to sure what time line she had been in yesterday. “How was your day yesterday ?” he asked carefully.
“Its none of your business how I spend my personal time “ Francesca answered.
And Cole remembered suddenly just how prickly she was about her personal life. He knew she was widowed, but had no children and lived in one of the older apartment blocks near China town and that her hobby was sketching and painting, usually crowd scenes in busy places. He only knew that because once not long after she came to work for him, he had come across her down near the ferry terminals, sitting on a bench sketching. When he asked her about it, in a very rare moment of confidentiality she had told him that she learnt a great deal about what went on in people’s head by drawing their faces.
“You were able to find your razor this morning “ Francesca asked “Family problem solved, everything okay with Phoebe?”
How Cole spent his personal time was Francesca’s business.
“As far as I’m aware, everything between Phoebe and me is quite normal thank you “ he snapped, heading for his office.
“If you think what is between you and Phoebe is normal “ Francesca answered, “you have a very peculiar understanding of what the word means. “
Cole made it to the meeting 10 minutes late and was duly told off by the senior partner, Jackman. The partners did their best to try and cut down the pro bono work and Cole was annoyed enough to use magic to make Jackman himself agree to take on a complex case involving state ownership of some land a community centre was built on and business interests wanting to acquire it. Jackman was a fussy, pedantic pain in the butt but as he was fond of saying and practicing "If something is worth doing it was worth doing well."
Leo was in Cole’s office sitting on the sofa when Cole returned from the meeting.
“We are in the right timeline. The usual one ?” Cole asked.
“Yeah “ Leo said “but the Elders think the way it changed is Tempus. They think it is something in one of the girl’s lives he wanted to change, to make them do some one thing differently. They don’t think he is powerful enough to change destiny. “
“Do you know how much I didn’t give a stuff what the Elders think?” Cole sighed sitting on the edge of his desk and crossing his arms.
Leo muttered “Stop bitching Cole. Last time Tempus was doing this around the girls Andy Trudeau got killed.”
“Probably was destined to go “ Cole said disinterested.
Leo asked “Did you have anything to do with that?”
“I never worked with Tempus “ Cole said “he’s not overly fond of working with half breed demons. Thinks they are unreliable. “
“Are you sure ?” Leo pressed.
“Yeah I’m sure “ Cole said irritated “When was it? “
“About 15 months before you met Phoebe give or take a month “ Leo said.
Cole shook his head “Then, I was sent to Africa to..You don’t want to know what I was sent to Africa to do. “
“Are you sure ?” Leo pushed again.
“I’m very certain about Africa, about when it happened “ Cole answered cryptically. “Why are you concerned about me ?” Cole asked.
“I just want to make sure this is not about you “ Leo said, “Just the way Tempus changed it and then changed it back. You and Phoebe were together on the change both times. I can’t talk to the Elders about you but I wondered. The Grimoire is still safe, and the Elders say no coronations since the Seer so maybe its you. “
“Maybe Phoebe and I are just destined to be together “ Cole answered smiling “Its not about me Leo. Evil does not know about me. Very few demons can see or even recognise another demon’s human form, they see demons, regardless of what you see. They trace each other through auras and scent. I’m not a demon any more; they can’t trace me. They wouldn’t recognise me if they walked in here right now. Like your side, they might just pick up that there is a very powerful um force around and try and track it but they won’t know who or what I am at least not through magic. Some one I know could rat on me. “
Leo chose to ignore the last bit “Phoebe has a time power. Phoebe felt there was something wrong before “ Leo said “You haven’t told her about the time change?”
“No “ Cole said “I’m not to sure how I could, tell her about what she was. She’ll find a way to make it my fault. “
“Same problem telling Piper" Leo said.
“That makes us a pair of gutless wonders “ Cole said.
“That makes us smart said Leo. “Cole it may be better if you don’t tell Phoebe. Gutless or not “ Leo added.
“And why not ?” said Cole never very happy when Leo thought he knew best.
“Last time Tempus played games, Phoebe worked it out by her feelings of déjà vu. “ Leo said “We may need those feelings if we’re going to work out what is happening. If she knows we may not be able to work out what is déjà vu and what is what she has been told. “
“I can’t lie to her “ Cole said.
“If you don’t talk about you don’t have to lie about it “ Leo said.
Cole hated Leo being right but at least this time it gave him a good reason not to tell the Phoebe he loved, about the Phoebe he picked up in a sleazy bar and slept with. And an excuse.
Leo left, promising to find more about what was going on. “What are you going to do ?”
Cole said he was going to stay in the office and earn a living while he had a chance.
“Sometimes I wonder why you bother “ Leo commented.
“Because as far as I am aware paying credit card bills with stolen or manufactured money is not …good.” Cole muttered.
He did try to work. Phoebe called and said it was lucky they had not taken the day off because she had a late function for the radio station where she did regular guest advice spot. Two other lawyers came in to tell Cole how much they enjoyed watching Jackman nearly explode at the meeting and then Jackman came to explain how he was only doing the community case because he felt the firm’s reputation was on the line and the publicity might help as well and he was after all a compassionate man.
As the door to Cole’s office was open when this was said Francesca heard it. Jackman left and Cole stood at the door watching him go and caught Francesca’s eye and winked.
“What games are you playing at with Mr Jackman ?” Francesca asked in her primest voice.
“What makes you think I’m playing games? “ Cole asked innocently.
“Because you’re “ Francesca said “what did I hear your sister in law“ she saw Cole’s expression “Paige call you last week?”
“You heard that “ Cole said “And I’m not a smart arse lawyer “
“If you say so" Francesca answered.
“Anyway “ he said defensively “Even if I was playing games, getting a lawyer as clever with contracts as Jackman to work for the community centre is a good thing. “
“Hmmm Aren’t you the smart.. “ Francesca hesitated “.. lawyer who likes to argue that its not the act that defines guilt or innocence, it’s the intent. “
Fortunately for Cole the phone rang and it was the other partner Kline complaining about the pro bono work and the time it was taking it. Cole found himself wondering what Kline would look like with a magical zip in his mouth. Cole had 4 days in court next week and really did need to prepare. He told Francesca he was going back to the Manor to work. Piper was always at the P3 in the afternoon and Paige would be doing whatever it was she did with mixing magic potions and studying witchcraft, so he had a fair chance of quiet.
“Phoebe’s working “ he muttered at Francesca “not that it’s any your business. “
So you’ll be working at….home “ Francesca said dryly.
“I just told you I would be at Prescott Street “ he said testily because he was only an ex demon who did not understand as much about humans as he pretended and had no idea what Francesca was saying.