A Matter of Relativity
Part 2: Shame and Scandal in the Family
"They do not love that do
not show their love"
In Trinidad there was a family
With much confusion as you will see
It was a mama and a papa, and a boy who was grown
Who wanted to marry and have a wife of his own
He found a young girl, that suited him nice
And went to his papa to ask his advice
His papa said son, I have to say no
This girl is your sister but your mama don't know
Who, is me, shame and scandal in the family
Who, is me, shame and scandal in the family
A week went by and the summer came 'round
And soon the best cook in the island he found
He went to his papa to name the date
But papa shook his head and to him he said
You can't marry this girl, I have to say no
This girl is your sister but your mama don't know
He went to his mama and covered his head
And told his mama what his papa had said
His mama laughed she said go, man, go
Your Daddy ain't your Daddy, but your Daddy don't know
"Shame and scandal in the family." Shawn Elliot Lyrics
Cole sat in his office, chair swivelled toward the window that looked over a view of San Francisco which was one of the better ones to be had in the offices of Jackman, Carter and Kline. Over the last year or so there had been quite an amount of grizzling that given his status or lack of it in the firm why he kept the office and the Mercedes car. Sometimes when Jackman was being a prissy little bastard and questioning Cole's privileges against his value to the firm Cole was tempted to answer he got the privileges because he was one of the most powerful creatures in the realm. He got the privileges because he was an arbitrator of justice between good and bad, he got the privileges because he could smite everyone in the firm with a flick of his finger and more importantly he got them because he wanted them.
He told Francesca that he wanted to do it and she told him to resist the temptation. Knowing Jackman, Kline and Carter as she did, Francesca thought if he told them he was a Guardian, they would just want to put it on the letterhead and still complain about his erratic behaviour.
Cole sighed because neither the possession of power nor the role of Guardian was as far as he could see anything more than a complication in his life. Over the last months he had slowly and cautiously taken up the role of Guardian, something totally contrary to his nature, which was to act with reckless abandon. And it was hard, harder than anything he had been prepared for. When he had been warned that the road he chose was hard, unyielding difficult, he had somehow felt it would be a continuation of his own battle of the good and evil in his upbringing, his inheritance, but what he was finding was that he was caught in a terrible awful and awesome understanding of Good and Evil and consequences, and it left him in a plateau that without family and his work as a mortal would have been unbearable.
He had all the power he needed and more, he could smite, it had long since gone past kill or vanquish and it almost meant nothing. He and Piper argued loudly and often about personal gain because it was something of a sore point with Piper that he could if he wanted flick a finger and have anything he wanted and still could not make the glass in the front door demon proof. He tried to explain that when you had that much power and had no ambition for personal power or need of it; the concept of personal gain was almost non-existent. "Its like " he tried to explain "going to a flea market when you're the richest person in the world."
"But flea markets aren't about whether you can afford to pay for it" said Phoebe who had spent considerable time in flea markets dragging Cole along behind her, before and after she had a well paying job. "They're about the thrill of finding a bargain or a treasure. It's not about the money."
Cole remembered he had smiled at her, because for all her contradictory and contrary nature, something in their souls always connected and Phoebe understood and shared his deepest and sometime darkest moments and thoughts.
And right now he needed her understanding and sharing very badly. Three weeks ago, only three weeks she had told him without warning, without any explicable reason to get out of her life. And he was still aching and perplexed and confused about why she did it. He had not spoken to her because her sisters and Leo had reported almost daily that at the very mention of his name, at the prospect of seeing him, Phoebe worked herself into a state of hysteria that they could not deal with. And even if they had not, even from a distance he could feel the connection to her and the fear. And that is what left him in such a state. Phoebe loved him undeniably and apparently as passionately as ever and she was terrified of him.
And right now he needed Phoebe badly. He needed her support and he needed her understanding. Finding some-one to share the good things Cole was learning, was often harder than finding some-one to share the bad things. To find someone who would celebrate and congratulate without reservation was sometimes the hardest of all. He stared out the window and then before he could change his mind he dialled Phoebe's number at the Bay Mirror. He took a deep breath as she answered with her name and he said "Phoebe."
"Cole " she said "I .."
"Its not about us " he said "I need..I want to talk. "
"How did it go?" she asked.
"You know" he said hope in his voice.
"Of course" she said, "Paige told me."
"Oh" he said "I "
"How did it go?" she asked again.
"I just got the call" he said "Haven't told the partners yet, but I got it for them."
"Oh baby" she said and he had no doubt of the sincerity in her voice "I'm so proud you."
"No magic Phoebe" he said " well not much. Arlene stuffed up putting the final submission in order and I fixed it but other than that I did it just being a damned good lawyer."
"They can't appeal again" Phoebe asked concerned.
"No" Cole answered very pleased with himself. "That's the last appeal they get. Those disabled people get all the access they need. I won Phoebe" he said "I won by just being good at what I do."
"Baby " she answered, "I knew you could."
"I" he started to say.
"Cole don't," she said.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because I need time " she said and giving him something "It doesn't mean the end. I just need time, and I need you to keep away from me. I cant see you."
"I see," he answered almost giving up.
"You don't" she answered " but you will. I do love you " she said trying to give him what he needed.
"I know," he said "Why? Why aren't we together?"
"Because I need the time" Phoebe answered "Cole I love you" she said " and Baby I am so proud of you. But I knew you would" and before he could answer she hung up and left him staring at the phone, caught between anger and relief, until he finally put it down and walked over to Kline's office to give him the good news.
As she hung up the telephone Phoebe smiled to herself. She put her hand on her stomach. "You know" she told Whosit "demon, mortal or Guardian, you have got one very smart Daddy."
A week later, Cole found himself staring around the apartment where he had once lived as the Source and then miserably alone trying to find a life away from Phoebe. Once again Jackman, Carter and Kline were using it to entertain. The firm was celebrating and celebrating big time that they had won a decision in the last court of appeal in the pro bono case for mildly disabled people against a government department that had restricted their access to basic rights.
Strangely enough after fighting the case single handed, at the official announcement, all three senior partners had been with Cole at the defence table and in the press interviews after Cole had, to his amusement, been relegated to standing behind and to the left of the partners as they discussed the strategy that had won the case. He decided being a mortal lawyer was the best learning experience he could have for being a Guardian and dealing with the minions of Good.
At least he had not been there alone. Paige standing a little behind him and out of view of the cameras, firmly holding her non-boyfriend's Mark's hand had been outraged at the firm's behaviour.
Cole was both a little flattered and mightily surprised that regardless whether he was living at the Manor or not, at each of his appearances in front of the court one of Phoebe's, his family, had been there, just watching, being there for him. Except when Paige had been there, Mark had been with her. Mark said as an excuse, that it was an interest in justice and that made him watch the process and Cole had drawled " We all have our interests" to which Mark had smiled. But Cole was very grateful that in the test of what he always said he was, a damned good lawyer he was not alone.
As Cole shuffled uncomfortably at the reception, Piper beside him dug her hand into his ribs and told him to stop behaving like a bratty schoolboy. "I hate this," he said bending down to whisper in her ear. He had to bend down to whisper in Piper's ear because it was only when he was stuck with her so close that he realised just how short she was.
Paige with Mark in tow and Piper were at the reception. Leo was supposed to come but he had been called to a charge at the last minute, at least he said he was. Cole had been told, not asked, that the firm was having a big reception to celebrate and promote its win with most of its more important clients.
His not very efficient assistant, Arlene was involved in making arrangements for the reception, also without Cole being asked. She slyly said "I don't suppose you have anyone you want to include" happily informing him that she had been listening in on the telephone calls between him and his family about his recent and sudden separation from Phoebe. He had said no but Piper had insisted he was not going to sit through the whole process alone and he had reluctantly but not a little pleased told Arlene he would have four guests which had whittled down to three when Leo was called away.
Paige and Piper had apparently made a pact not to leave him alone through the whole process because even when partners had as a last resort been forced to introduce him to clients who wanted to meet the lawyer who actually tried the case, Piper determinedly hung on to his arm the whole time. When she decided that the partners were pushing at him to hard, on three occasions she insisted they were playing her favourite song and she had to dance or else.
"I hate this" Cole muttered leaning down to whisper into Piper's ear, during a soft slow romantic number.
"I thought you were the demon, ex-demon who was brought up to understand and respect ritual," Piper whispered pulling his head so close she could say it into his ear.
"You're a nasty little bitch Pip," he said pleasantly.
Piper laughed She pointed her finger at Paige and Mark swaying romantically and totally lost to their surrounding" Do you think that's for real?" she said into Cole's ear as he bent low.
"I know its for real, " he answered. "At least it is for Mark."
"I'm getting out of here for a while Piper" he said.
"I think you should" Piper whispered "Don't worry Ill keep an eye on Phoebe." she said "and thump some sense into her. Beaches?" she asked.
"I know of a few in Greece" Cole sighed "I need to, just think things out on my own." he sighed.
"We're a call or a shout away," Piper said, pulling his head down close so she could whisper. "Why are all these people watching so close?" she asked in a different voice.
"Hmm" he said into her ear "they wonder what goes on between us all. Arlene had passed the news on Phoebe and I are having problems, but five adults in the same house, you never know what happens."
"That's ridiculous" Piper whispered into his ear "and disgusting."
"I think so" Cole said smiling, the first time he had felt like smiling in weeks. And very glad he was not facing this nightmare of living without Phoebe alone.
The music finished and Piper still had her hand on Cole's shoulder as he ushered her off the small dance floor. " Want another drink?" he asked and Piper nodded. She turned around to look for Paige but Paige was lost in a corner with Mark. Piper hated just hated these functions where you knew no-one and you had to hang around pretending it was fine. When Cole came back with two glasses champagne, she took the glass and took a firm grasp on his other arm determined he was not going to leave her stranded when a voice behind her said "Piper honey" and she turned to see her father and his wife Margaret firmly clasping Victor's arm.
"Cole" Victor said tightly, using the excuse that Margaret had hold of his arm not to shake hands "Congratulations" he said in a voice that sounded like he meant anything but.
"I didn't know you were here," Piper said.
"Compton's does a lot of business with this firm" Margaret said with a smile and her eye fixed firmly on Piper's hand still hanging onto Cole. "We saw you two dancing" she said "Phoebe not here."
"Its not likely in the circumstances" Cole said tight, and catching a glare from Jackman who was near enough to see a tense discussion with representatives of one the firm's most important clients.
"Yes that's why I'm surprised to see Piper" Margaret said sweetly "Where's Leo?"
"Working" said Piper catching on. "Daddy why don't you and Margaret come for Sunday dinner,..with Leo" she said reaching to kiss him on the cheek and was almost grateful when Jackman came over to break up the group.
As they move away, Piper pulled Cole down to whisper "I so want to blow Margaret up."
"You can't " Cole whispered back "its personal gain"
"Damn" Piper hissed. "You don't have a problem with personal gain. Fireball her."
"Don't be a bitch. It would be wrong," he said wishing he did not have to bend in two to avoid being over heard "anyway I can resist temptation. Dammit."
Piper laughed "I love you too Cole" she said sarcastically not bothering to whisper as Margaret and Victor passed.
"Nite honey" said Victor a concerned look on his face.
"Nite PiperCole" Margaret said deliberately running their names together.
"Shut up Piper" Cole said hurriedly as she opened her mouth.
They finally got out of the party, to Cole and Piper's relief. Paige and Mark seemed to lost in their non-date to care.
Cole left Mark to drive Piper and Paige home.
"You know how to get hold of me," Cole said, "if you need me."
"Where are you going?" Paige asked.
"I need to get away for a while," Cole said.
"Good idea" Paige answered, giving him a quick hug as Mark watched. Piper looked at the expression on his face and knew that he was feeling very bitter about Phoebe's absence. She put he arms around him and pulled him into a hug "It'll be okay " she said whispering. "I'll thump her for if you like."
"Go ahead, no don't" he said softly returning the hug " thanks I... I mean it thanks" and looked up to notice Arlene passing him half wrapped around Henry Kline, both of them watching with interested smirks.
On the way home Piper sat in the hastily and not efficiently cleaned back seat of Mark's car. Piper was left wondering why one of her sisters could not attract a man who was tidy.
"You know Piper," said Paige turning around "You ought to be careful when you dance with Cole. Those people in the at firm have enough dirty minds about our living arrangements, and every time he bent down to talk to you, I could almost hear the snarky and bitchy comments about what was going on between you."
"Cole" Piper laughed, "That is so ridiculous..No-one could Oops" she said "Did you see Dad and Margaret?"
"Yeah " Paige sighed.
"You know I'm half convinced Margaret thinks when Dad told her about us being wi " and Piper stopped realising Mark was there, "Margaret thinks our sharing the house is something other than that."
"God Piper you're naοve" Paige said "haven't you noticed that Aunt Eleanor," Paige had been ordered to use family names for both Victor's sisters, "keeps making well funny little asides about us being there together. I swear when she dropped all those toddler clothes on your bed the other day, she checked the closets to see whether Leo really did share your room."
Piper groaned. "What Mark?" she said as he moved a little awkwardly.
"It is unusual " he said gulping a little, "not my business" he said.
"Don't stop now" Piper said grim.
"Ahh " Mark said, "Just looking at the way you all share. I mean doing it when there's no money, when you're kids or students is not.. exceptional but well Cole is a lawyer and Phoebe has a good job and your club well looks like its doing okay, so people just wonder."
"There's a good reason," Paige said as Piper thumped her in the shoulder.
"Haven't any of you ever considered moving out, setting up your own home?" Mark asked.
"Oh we've ah considered it" Paige said, "We decided it was not a very good idea."
"Oh " said Mark.
Phoebe had had another long and miserable night alone at the manor except for Melinda and Whosit. She decided that after being used to the noise and arguments and company of her family, the only thing worse than being alone in The Manor was being alone in her, hers and Cole's, bed.
She was babysitting Melinda while the family went to the reception at Cole's law firm. She knew what was happening with him, the family made certain she did because telling her what was happening in Cole's life was about the only reason they had spoken to her in the last three weeks. That and when they needed her to fight demons and protect innocents and the Charmed Ones and the other witches had been doing a great deal of that in the last few weeks. Phoebe smiled to herself. Cole had been right about that. "Save the innocents and stop the plot." They had all been interfering with the satanic rituals that Elisheeva had been encouraging and assisting some of the near innocents, understanding the consequences and the soul harvesting by the demon was showing signs of desperation. And there was some evidence that rival factions, led by several upper-level demons, the hammer-headed Taskeel, Munda, a prodigy of the Brotherhood and the mysterious catlike Aya, were also looking to assert spiritual leadership in the demonic world to distract Elisheeva from chasing souls. Cole was right. Demons come and demons go. Save the innocents.
Phoebe had put Melinda to bed, as per orders from Piper. "Make sure you don't decide you are with bored her and throw her out of the house " Piper had ordered as she left. Phoebe spent the night writing her column, being miserable, wanting to be with Cole, wanting to tell them all how proud she was of him, how proud she was to be with him.
It crossed her mind suddenly just to tell him she was pregnant and trust he would feel like her about Whosit and protect their baby no matter what. Only what good would it do. It was not just Cole. Even if he did protect Whosit, there were other Guardians. Cole was not the most powerful of Guardians; Arturo had been prepared to destroy him if he did not choose the path of his destiny. There were her sisters who had been to hell and back because she was pregnant the last time and they were not going to believe this was much of a difference. There was Good which even Francesca said had acted rashly in the past when confronted by the powers they did not understand, and there was Evil which may not welcome the imminent birth of a being who could, perhaps challenge the hierarchy. All to be weighed against Phoebe Halliwell alone, and pregnant and wanting so badly to share this already dearly loved baby with its father. And yet right at that moment she was so tempted.
Phoebe had already written her column to about two months ahead, giving lots of advice about taking responsibility for your actions, not expecting other people to solve your problems and if you really love someone their wellbeing is far more important than your own desires.
About ten o'clock, Phoebe was suddenly overwhelmed by a rush of nausea. She wondered why they called it morning sickness because it was any time of the night or day sickness lately for her. Until a week ago Whosit had been content for Mommy to feel a little peaky, but this week the nausea had attacked her with a vengeance and the only answer seemed to be to go to bed. Fortunately, as her sisters were not speaking to her except to tell her how furious they were at the way she was treating Cole, they thought she was just sulking.
When she went to check Melinda before going to bed, the little girl, looking cute in a pink jump suit was in her cot but niggly and grizzly and as Piper wasn't home, Phoebe picked her up and took her to bed with her. She cuddled up to the baby and with a protective hand across he belly, her last thought was that at last she was snuggling up with two of her three favourite people in the world.
She was awoken a few hours later by the light snapping on and a very annoyed Piper stalking over to the bed
"She's got her own bed " Piper said bending over to pull her daughter out of Phoebe's arms. Phoebe's eyes opened wide and she sat up and fell back again, fighting down a wave of nausea. As Piper held Melinda, the baby still asleep cuddled closer. Having, usually, five adults in the house to rule, plus a grandfather and assorted Aunts and in laws, Melinda was quite happy to cuddle up to any-one who took her fancy, but nevertheless Mom was best, and Phoebe watching Piper with her daughter, felt her heart jump.
"If you can't stand sleeping alone " Piper said snakily as she held her daughter to her "I know a perfectly good ex-demon who in my opinion quite stupidly, would jump in with you at the drop of a hat."
Phoebe lay back keeping the comforter up to her chin, partly because if she moved she would throw up and partly because even at nine weeks Whosit was making its presence known in the form of a decided bump which Phoebe felt was grossly unfair because Melinda's presence had been totally hidden until Piper was more than 4 months pregnant. As she looked up into Piper's angry eyes, she suddenly could not help herself. She burst into tears. Piper sighed at her little sister, alone miserable.
"Phoebe what's wrong" she said sitting on the bed, and managing to hold Melinda against her, while pulling her sister's hand out from under the comforter and hold it. "Phoebe" Piper said "if you can't talk to me after all we've been through together. I know there's no-one else. You do nothing but work, save innocents and sleep."
"There is some-one" Phoebe insisted, "I talk to them everyday."
"Phoebe'" Piper said annoyed as she looked at her baby sister's drawn pale face and she softened "Phoebe" Piper said "Phoebe, why can't you be some-one other than Phoebe?"
"Because I'm Phoebe" Phoebe said through watery smile " Cole gave me that you know. Piper. He.. he made me like being Phoebe." And before Piper could say anything, Phoebe asked " how did tonight go?"
Piper sighed tempted not to answer. "As you'd expect," she said. "Firm giving him a hard time. He should leave. Its not like he has to work. He's this damned powerful Guardian after all."
"Yeah he does have to work" Phoebe said "A guardian is what he is but the work, it's you know what Mark says " and she giggled as Piper sucked in her breath "Its what Mark says, working is not about money, its about self respect and dignity. But Cole does need to get away from that firm."
"Phoebe" Piper started to say. She sighed "Half the firm there seemed to think Cole and I are having it on because my husband wasn't there and I danced with him."
"I thought they thought he was having it on with Paige" Phoebe said surprised.
"So does Margaret" Piper said grimly. "Thinks there's something going on between Cole and me."
"No Margaret thinks we're all having an um interesting relationship together" Phoebe said.
"You now about that?" said Piper.
"God you're naive Piper'" Phoebe answered, "That's what she thinks witches covens are about."
"Stupid bitch" said Piper." Cole. Ickk," she said.
"I need to go to sleep" Phoebe said quickly before she got into to deep conversation with her sister.
Piper sighing stood up "Good night" she said lifting Melinda.
"Can I have her?" Phoebe asked from under the comforter.
"My daughter is not a comfort toy," Piper said severely and then seeing her sister's pale, teary face sighed and gave Melinda to her aunt. Melinda was not remotely concerned. She blew a bubble and sighed in her sleep. In her experience, everybody who came into her world naturally wanted to hold her and cuddle her.
Cole spent three weeks supposedly alone, but not very in Greece. When he told the firm, he was taking time off, the word erratic was repeated on several occasions. He offered hopefully to resign, let his contract go but they were not quite willing to let him resign when he had just orchestrated one of their most successful wins the firm had had in the decade, so he took leave of absence leaving Arlene to field the clients and wondering how far the course of justice would be set back.
He spent hours sitting on Greek Island beaches watching the Aegean Sea and not coming to any conclusions and very much against his inclinations, also spent time in Arturo's house. He learnt quite a number of things there, including shimmering people out of sight without touching them, the difference between good port and bad, Metaxa brandy made your upper lip numb, even when you are a demon, ex-demon and that it was possible to live an eternity on the memory of love, without regret.
Francesca found him on several occasions, catching him sitting on beaches alone. She complained about the sand and said she was only keeping contact. She flatly refused to offer any sympathy or advice about Phoebe except to tell Cole if he did not want to put up with her fits and starts he should have fallen in love with some-one else other than Phoebe. She also made him laugh about her latest tribulations with Durand. There was certain beach in Naxos, overlooking the island of Paros that in an eternity Cole would never be able to visit without a vision of a porn star and elf and a demon/guardian explanation of the best use of honey. Only he bitterly regretted not having Phoebe with him to share the story.
And the spirit winds caught him twice with deep and impossible to ignore messages to interfere in the cause of justice, once when demons wanted to exact a penalty on Faustian deal with an ignorant genie. Once when some good witches gave into the temptation to exact vengeance on a coven of warlocks, and for the first time he had to take the step of preventing the vengeance at a cost and consequence, as Cole saw the Angel of Death answer his calling. Francesca had a very long hard night with him.
Francesca refused to compromise on what he had done. "It was necessary and had to be done." She said "and realistically that is not the first witch you have killed."
"You don't use gentle words do you" Cole said to her.
"No" Francesca said, "The witch is gone at your hand. You killed her. And it was necessary. She was given..other choices but she chose corruption and worse she chose to try and corrupt those around her."
"I hate this" Cole said.
Francesca answered seriously "That will be your salvation."