A Matter of Relativity
Part 1: Home is where the Heart is
"They do not love that do
not show their love"
You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss
A sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by
And when two lovers woo
They still say, "I love you"
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by
Well, it's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by
As time goes by . Composer Herman Hupfeld
"I am not," Cole said leaning back kitchen bench edge, arms firmly crossed. He was in one of his I am not going to be told by anyone moods. He had not bothered to shave since Friday morning and it was mid Sunday morning, so he was looking somewhat scruffy particularly as he was still in the track pants and sweater and bare feet. "I am not," he repeated "and you should have more brains than to ask me."
Phoebe, who never felt the need to flatter or sooth his moods these days, demanded," Are you saying I’m stupid?"
"No" he said in annoyance "I’m saying you’re crazy to ask."
"I’m not asking" she said smugly looking over the reading glasses and putting the morning paper down. She was wearing rather large dark blue cotton pyjamas with all the buttons done up, which was one of the reasons Cole was in such a bad temper. Phoebe did not like having sex while she had a period. The pyjamas announced she was off limits for three days. "I’m telling you."
"Anyway" Piper interrupted "You owe Paige."
"Not that much I don’t" he snapped.
"Yes you do Cole" Paige said. She too was in pyjamas, but the blue silk hipster variety with a matching tight sleeveless top. She had been sitting silently as the rest of the family fought but finally needed to interrupt "but don’t start blaming me for having a domestic with Phoebe, because I get a say in this and the answer is not bloody likely. In fact I’d rather be dead, or go on my own, or even go with Timmie Taylor."
"Don’t be ridiculous" Piper said determinedly. She was actually dressed, because she knew if she did not dress before breakfast she probably would not get a chance all day. "You can’t go to a family wedding with some-one called Timmie Taylor, and especially some-one who looks like Timmie Taylor."
"Well its better than going with my brother in law" Paige shot back.
"He’s not your brother in law" Piper said.
"I’m not deaf" Cole interrupted" and I used to be and I’m not doing it, hell its only Paige’s family. She can go on her own."
Piper and Phoebe just stared at him "What" they shrieked.
‘She is not" Piper stated firmly.
"Then get Leo to take her," Cole said in exasperation.
"He can’t, he’s married," said Phoebe.
‘Well she can go with one of those pickup’s she keeps meeting at nightclubs" Cole suggested rolling his eyes.
"What?" shrieked all three girls.
"To a family wedding, take a casual guy," said Piper in disbelief. " Staying overnight."
‘I’ll go alone" Paige said determined. "I don’t care."
"You will not " Phoebe ordered "you’re mother’s family are suspicious enough of your "new:" sisters without you turning up dateless as well as explain why you are only working part time in a community centre. They’ll blame us" Phoebe said "Say living with us has ruined your life."
"Well what will they think if they find out I am there with my sister’s ex husband now live in" Paige asked.
"They won’t know" said Phoebe" They’ll just know you turned up with a lawyer, who isn’t bad looking when he bothers to shave" she said glaring at Cole "and he drives a Mercedes".
"I am not doing it," said Paige.
"Don’t be bloody ridiculous" said Cole.
"This is bloody ridiculous" Cole said to Leo as he prowled around the parlour the next Saturday waiting for Paige to come down.
"I don't want to go to this damned wedding. I don’t even understand why I am going. I don’t understand why she can’t go alone," Cole complained.
"A girl can’t go to a family wedding alone," Leo explained from the hall where he was once again fixing the front door. "You want me to do that," Cole asked.
"No" Leo said quickly. "If you’d let me fix it last time, the glass may have stayed in when Piper blew up that demon in front of it."
Cole curled his lips. " Hurry up" he yelled up the stairs" What is it about weddings?"
"You got married, you must know" Piper said coming down stairs "God I hate the smell of varnish."
"Don’t make it go away Cole" Leo interrupted as Cole started to lift his hand "you’ll wreck it."
"I asked Phoebe to marry me," Cole said "that’s not the same thing as this wedding thing. Even the ones I was at, yours, that well what happened...with the source. They were just monumental family bitchfests. I don’t get why all the ceremony and fuss. Why you can’t just put a notice in the paper saying we’re going to screw exclusively and share bank accounts. What is it about all the ritual?"
"Don’t demons have mating rituals?" Piper asked.
"You made it a bitch fest" Paige said nastily coming down the stairs.
"It wasn’t me" Cole said. "It was the Source."
"He was using what you knew" Paige answered "and you knew exactly how to pull Phoebe’s strings and mine, you arsehole. "
"Keep that up and I won’t go with you" Cole snapped.
"I don’t want to go with you" Paige snaked. "Arsehole."
Phoebe came running downstairs with Paige’s makeup bag "You forgot this sweetie" she said.
She put her arms around Cole neck and kissed him long and deep "You be good and look after my little sister, Baby or…"
"Yeah I know" he said grumpily "you’ll make my life hell."
"Nah" Phoebe answered. "Just no sex for a week."
"Hell" he said.
"Go" she said pushing him away.
"I’m driving" Paige said reaching for his car keys. She hated driving with Cole. She said he drove to fast and took to many risks. He hated driving with Paige, because he said she was to careful and stayed within the speed limits and only passed other cars when nothing was in sight.
"You are not," Cole answered holding the keys above his head "We’ll never get there."
"Keys" Paige called.
Cole kept a firm grasp on them "Doesn’t work with me" he smirked.
Paige glanced at her watch. "Hurray up" she said "Its one now. It’s a couple of hours drive to Calistoga, and it’s still a bit on from there."
"Only the way you drive," muttered Cole stalking out to the car and only just missing Leo's varnish can, while Phoebe and Piper hugged Paige goodbye.
Cole and Paige arrived at a small inn that Paige’s family had fairly well booked out for wedding guests in a small town near Calistoga in the Napa Valley. Her mother’s family came from this area and her grandparents and two of her mother’s four brother’s and sisters still lived there. The wedding was for one of Paige’s cousin’s who had pulled off a family coup by marrying one of the wealthier vineyard owner’s in the area.
Cole signed the register. When Paige muttered about paying for the room he snarled, "Don’t even start."
"Don't be an arsehole Cole" Paige snarled back.
She then spun around woman with dyed honey coloured hair standing with two men and another woman said almost slyly "Paige, dear how are you. Who's your friend?"
Paige reluctantly introduced him to the blond woman who said was her mother’s sister Beryl and her husband and another couple Paige called Aunt and Uncle but were really cousins. They all eyed him speculatively which Cole took as a portent of things to come.
He managed to excuse himself on the grounds of taking bags up to the room and stopped at the door looking at the room with a sardonic smile. Paige arrived a few minutes later. " Oh" she said eyeing the only double bed in the room."
"Want me to go and change it?" Cole asked. " I’m not sleeping on the floor."
"What" Paige whispered in horror "and let every one know that the guy I brought won’t sleep with me."
Cole shook his head.
As far as Cole was concerned the whole thing was an ordeal from start to finish. He quickly understood why Paige’s sisters where so concerned about her date. Before they even entered the Church he had been asked 5 times about what he did, what he earned, and how well he knew Paige, the last always with a smirk. And the Mercedes was commented on enough for him to make him wish they had brought Paige’s mini.
As an unwilling spectator and not a participant in the wedding to Cole the whole ritual did not seem much of an improvement on demon mating with ritualistic blood drinking and dark vows and sacrifices .
The groom and several supporters nervously waited shuffling around and anxiously looking up the aisle . Finally amid murmurings from the guests about how beautiful it all was, 8 females of assorted shapes and sizes in puce coloured dresses that would have looked good on maybe a 6 foot three anorexic but on any one else very bad, came down the aisle. Then more sighs and tears as the bride, a girl of average height followed them, leaning on a very nervous father's arm and wearing a meringue dress with so much lace and tulle you could not see her. As an outsider uninvolved Cole found a certain fascination in the ritual and a certain sardonic amusement as three cousins in the pew beside him and Paige sighed about the music sung by a local group that to Cole was as flat as a pancake. As Cole glanced around the church he was bemused to see Paige's happy tearful expression was reflected on at least half the faces of the women and the bridegroom, a thin faced prematurely balding man at least two inches shorter than the bride. He had the damp eyed smile of a totally besotted man. Cole who was only to happy to tell any-one how much he loved Phoebe suddenly nervously wondered if appeared so gormless to other people.
Paige getting teary at being with her family could feel Cole getting restless beside her and punched him. The cousins missed the punch but Aunt Beryl behind her didn’t. The ceremony staggered on, with assorted smirks and tears as the groom nervously got the bride's name wrong, and the best man dropped the ring.
Outside the Church there were tears and sighs, and Cole's demonic hearing picked up on some very sly and downright bitchy comments about the bride's dress, the bridesmaids demeanour and the groom's level of besottedness, which was apparently thick enough to satisfy the relatives. Then before they could get away he and Paige had to run another gauntlet of relatives asking questions on the subject of what Paige was doing, a few sly cracks about her" new" sisters and a dig or two about her father to Cole’s surprise.
Driving over to the reception, he told Paige that the whole ritual left him somewhat perplexed.
"You went through it" Paige said," What were you thinking at your wedding?"
"I was thinking how much I hated you all for letting it happen" he said honestly.
"Oh" said Paige.
"I was thinking that Phoebe was beautiful and I loved her and I was destroying her," he said quietly.
‘Oh" said Paige.
"I still don’t get the whole ritual" he said. "I mean all I could see at the one, Phoebe and had, I was.. it was this big thing that allowed the Source to steal my life but I wanted to get married . The wedding was not something I wanted. Phoebe went off about the big wedding. Although I don’t suppose that was really anything to do with me." he added.
‘Never is anything to do with the groom, well other than making sure the world knows he’s hooked." Paige grinned," he just turns up." She laughed, "Poor Nancy all she wanted was to get married a nice small wedding."
"Yeah he gets to be of use when the divorce come around" said Cole the lawyer "You should have seen the messes I have dealt with as a result of this particular ritual."
‘Don’t you dare mention the d word at the reception" Paige gapped.
"What "divorce"?" Cole asked.
"You can’t talk about divorces at weddings" Paige said astounded.
Cole just shook his head.
At the reception, Cole managed to field more questions about his job, his income and his relationship with Paige. He had never seen Paige with her other family before and he was a little astounded that she had a life away from her sisters as the person who wasn’t a witch. He was also surprised how many not to subtle cracks were made about her father who Cole always understood was a very respectable, very good man and he thought that her adopted parents had a very happy marriage.
He was regularly asked about his marital status and despite Paige’s warnings about the D word he was also surprised when he said he was divorced, the face opposite him almost lit up. Dancing with Paige after he interpreted her desperate glances in his direction as a plea to rescue her from another group of relatives he said. "Sorry I told them I was divorced".
"That’s good" Paige told him.
"I" he started to say.
"You don’t get it" Paige grinned" It’s divorce that is the bad word. Being divorced is okay, that meant you’re eligible to be married and that is good at a wedding."
‘I" he stared to say.
"You don’t get it" Paige asked sympathetically.
Phoebe called half way through the night and Cole managed to sneak out.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Babysitting" Phoebe said. "Leo and Piper are at the club. "It’s weird being alone in this house. I can’t remember the last time I was here alone at night."
"Want me to shimmer back?" Cole asked hopefully.
"Don’t you dare" Phoebe said. "How bad is it"
"You remember I told you I would do almost anything for you?" he asked.
"Yes" she sighed happily.
"This is getting close to the other side of anything," he said.
Phoebe laughed, "How’s Paige going?"
"She’s coping but they are giving her a hard time" Cole answered. " Don’t you ever complain to me about demon rituals because if and I mean if I survive this, demon rituals ain’t got nothing on it. Why you have to go through this to publicly declare you’re screwing is beyond me," he said.
"It isn’t about declaring you’re screwing its about declaring you are together, you’re part of each other" Phoebe said "its about, it’s a declaration of family and society and community. It’s about declaring you love someone not screwing."
"Yeah" Cole said sceptically.
"All right" Phoebe said. "It's about giving the relatives a chance to get together and have a good bitch."
"I’ll use that argument the next divorce case I do" Cole answered. "Oh by the way just so you know, the room they booked for Paige has one bed in it. I plan on sleeping in it. Unless you want me to come home," he said hopefully.
"Cole" Phoebe said horrified;" you didn’t try and change it to singles. Not with the whole family there did you?"
"No" he said, "Paige wouldn’t let me"
"Thank god" said Phoebe "Love you baby" she added.
"Baby" he wailed into the phone "I want to come home."
"You just stay there and look after my little sister" Phoebe ordered him" And don’t even think of coming back tonight. Someone will just turn up at the door and they’ll be looking for you. I know weddings."
"Phoebe, baby" he pleaded.
"Cole" she said firmly.
"Phoebe" he said, "Okay love you baby" and he finished the call.
He rescued Paige from another cousin just in time to save her some saccharine sympathy about the state of Paige’s family and danced with her.
"Don’t even say it," she said. "Weddings and funerals bring it all out" she smiled tiredly starting to feel the strain. Halfway though the dance they bumped into Paige’s Aunt Beryl dancing with her husband Joe. Joe immediately asked to dance with one of his favourite nieces and Cole found himself with Beryl and getting another third degree and was very certain the bumping into each other was orchestrated.
Beryl grinning said it must be disconcerting to him to be stuck with an old broad like her but he was safe, she could just about be his mother. Cole gulped but managed to say not to be sure, he was older than he looked.
" Are you?" Beryl said suddenly sharp. "Known Paige long" she asked.
"A while" he said.
"How long?" Beryl demanded.
"About three years" he said feeling he was safer with the truth.
"What is she to you?" Beryl demanded
"We’re just good friends" Cole countered.
" Are you?" Beryl asked shrewdly.
"I’m very fond of her," Cole answered honestly.
‘Hmm" said Beryl "Do you know her sisters, new family?"
‘Yes" Cole answered, wondering where this was going.
"They okay?" Beryl said.
"They think the world of her," he answered truthfully "her family love he dearly. "
"Hmm" said Beryl "I’m good at picking things about people. You’re a tough guy aren’t you" she said.
"Yes" he agreed.
Cole got Paige away from her uncle as soon as he could and just prayed for the end of the night. He watched in barely concealed dismay at all the rituals. The garter, the crude jokes, boozed up relatives, three family discussions that came close to being arguments, the near slapping match two bridesmaids when the bouquet was thrown. He heard more sotte voce less than kind comments as the couple left, mostly to do with the bride's outfit and the groom's ability to perform, and realised even as the third wheel in is own marriage ceremony what he was lucky to have missed them.
He and Paige finally got away to the Inn they were staying but even he finally understood why Phoebe was insisting he did not come home. It took them an hour to get away from drinks in the lobby with various family members, a promise to join them for brunch before they left and at least 4 knocks on the doors and quite a few called comments about his sexual prowess before, it was quiet and they were alone.
"This is the first and last time," he told Paige as she came out of the bathroom wearing pink pyjamas and a loose silk top and suddenly looking awkward as she glanced at the double bed.
"I’m not sleeping on the floor; he said "I could shimmer home" he offered.
"Don’t you dare" Paige said horrified "I don’t suppose you packed pyjamas?"
"No" Cole smirked. Paige started to puff up and he pulled a pair of track pants out of his bag. "Phoebe packed these" he smiled sardonically watching her.
They lay on the double bed both feeling a little uncomfortable. Cole after an argument with Paige, had the side nearest he door even though she complained she could not sleep on the left side.
Finally in the dark Cole lying on his back awake and Paige on her side her back to him laughed, "You know your aunt gave me the third degree, almost down to my intentions," he told Paige.
"Ha" Paige said, "I thought she might have been when she danced with you. Now you know how it feels."
"What was all the stuff about your father?" he asked "I thought your parents marriage was really happy. But all I heard tonight was poor Paige and if her father… and then they all nodded and stopped. "
She sighed and laughed a little "Its just, Daddy is the in-law here and you know mom is dead.
"’I don’t.. " he said.
" Get it" she said "Mom married an out of towner. This is a small community and you know they, she died, so it had to be Dad’s fault a bit. Just the in-law thing." In the dark her voice was not quite confident "This is Mom’s family and they always reserve the right to bitch about the in-laws and it makes some sense about losing her. They don’t blame Dad exactly, they just feel if she hadn’t married him, well she wouldn’t be dead."
"Don’t get it," he said.
"Its in law stuff" she said.
"I get in-law stuff," he laughed " What about you? Why poor Paige? Why do they blame him?"
She sighed "Just after Mom and Dad died, they, the way things worked out they, well Dad could have managed better, they think."
"What" he said.
"Money and stuff" she whispered into her pillow
"Give" he said not sleepy.
"Just you know Dad left enough money to pay the house off but I had some problems," Paige said.
"Give" he said, too much of a lawyer to let it ride
Paige turned on her back "My grandma, Dad’s mom had some problems. She had about three strokes and Dad was supporting her, and Mom was studying. There were lots of student fees and the cars and well I talked it over with Dad’s sister and we decided to sell the house and well Mom’s family weren’t happy."
"Hmm" said Cole "Couldn’t your Aunt Julie help with your grandma."
"Divorce’s" Paige said" Aunt Julie wasn’t grandma’s daughter. Look Cole I wanted to. My Dad wanted to look after Grandma. I did okay. Aunt Beryl was great when I was unsure. She asked me to think when I was her age what I wished I had done and I knew when I was her age looking back after I’d done okay I would wish I had the guts to do what Dad wanted. So I did." She swallowed and Cole wondered if she was about to cry "I wish I hadn’t written off Mom’s car though. Had to spend the last of the money on a new car. I did okay," she said.
"I think so," he said quietly.
"Did you have a miserable time" Paige asked.
"Yes" Cole said. "I hated it. But I learnt something."
"Weddings are supposed to be horrible," Paige explained "That’s why every one comes. What did you learn?"
"To elope for my next one" Cole said, "I don’t want to put anyone through that."
"People expect you to put them through that. They get really pissed if you run away and get married," Paige explained.
"I don’t.. " Cole started to say.
"Get it, I know" said Paige "Is there going to be a next one?" She asked interested.
"No" he replied staring into the dark "There’s no point is there. Phoebe and I we made our promised to each other and its not like k.. kids would be a good idea, or family other than you guys have any interest. There’s no point."
"And Phoebe won’t go through it again" Paige said.
"That too" Cole admitted "But at least I know why they made me come. You wouldn’t put a casual friend through that."
" No" Paige said "Not that I have many casual friends, thanks to you."
"I..." Cole said, "you’re worth more than you’re finding," he told her.
"‘Well not everyone finds the love of their life, their soul mate" Paige said, "some of us just have to take what we can find." She sighed, "You got what you wanted. It all worked out for you but maybe I don’t have this destiny thing."
"’I..." he said "I would have counted it worth it if I hadn't got the girl. I'm not saying this from hindsight" he explained " Got the girl I love but to have lost. It would have been worth it. "
"That’s what you say now" Paige said turning over "Nite."
Cole was not unamused to get another third degree from Beryl over brunch and on the two occasions Paige got up to move away, a third degree about her sisters as well, which he fielded as best he could. Just praying for it to end.
They finally got to wish Paige's family goodbye, Cole never so happy in his life to leave some were, to be going home to Phoebe. Just to know he had a home, and a place and a love to go to. He took the bags out to the car and Paige stopped to wish Beryl goodbye.
Beryl hugged her and said "He’s not for you, you know love. I know something about men and that one is dangerous. He’s charming and he may even have a good soul but he’s a wild one and reckless and he’s dangerous."
Paige looked at her aunt smiling and gulped and then shrugged. "He;" then she giggled "I know he's not for me Aunt Beryl, he’s my sister Phoebe’s partner, ex husband, they’re back together. She only, she didn’t want me coming alone and threatened, ...made him come. "
"Oh" said Beryl "he stood up to it well."
Paige smiled, "I know, Phoebe couldn’t make him do it if he didn’t want to whatever he says. Cole can be, he is an arsehole but he can be very... kind. Not that I’d ever admit it to him but well, he's been good .. to me, but all he wants is Phoebe. They, he and Phoebe have this big eternity destiny thing. Nothing seems to keep them apart. He’s not for me Aunt Beryl but he’s good to me, mostly, when he’s not being an arsehole."
"Your sister must be special if she can keep that one" Beryl commented.
"She is" Paige said.
"I think I’ll be in San Francisco late this year" Beryl said. "I’ll call."
"Love it," Paige replied, honestly.