A Matter of Relativity
Part 2: Shame and Scandal in the Family
"They do not love that do
not show their love"
Cole was barely back at the hotel after leaving the Manor when Paige orbed after him "What?" he said spinning to find her there.
"Take me to lunch" she said turning her nose up at the room. "I want to ask you something. About Mark."
"Over a three course lunch in a local restaurant that's ambience in no way matched its food, Paige devoured more than Cole. "Orbing consumes calories." She said when he raised his eyebrows "At least this place is away from family and friends" she said looking at the shabby walls and cheap tables and chairs. "Good food, not fussy clientele." She talked about everything except Mark until Cole finally asked her what she wanted to know about him.
She took a nervous breath "Did you check Mark out like you sort of did to other dates. I mean touch aura ..I mean.. Is he mortal?" She asked in a rush.
"Yes" Cole said.
"Oh" said Paige "He's not a demon or anything creepy magic."
"No" said Cole.
"How interested is he?" Paige asked, hanging on the answer.
"Very" Cole answered.
"Cole" Paige said annoyed.
"What" he said.
"Why is he interested?" she asked. "If he's mortal and nothing else."
Cole shrugged "Thinks he's found his soulmate. Smart pretty girl wandering into his office, thinks Daffy Duck ties are cute and shares his a passion for helping people."
"You can tell that from his aura" Paige said stunned.
"No" said Cole "I can tell that because I'm male."
"What's the backfire?" she asked seriously. "If I thought, if I was interested back."
"Seriously" Cole answered " From, personal experience, I think you could be stuck with the prospect of there never being any-one else, no matter what happens and where it goes what you have with that person is all you get, so make the best of every moment, every word, every fight, every kiss, every time you laugh or cry."
"It could be a big problem for the Charmed ones if I was interested back couldn't it? " Paige asked
"Not my business." Cole said
"Family business" she said.
"Yes" Cole said, "it could be a problem."
"Lucky I'm not that interested" Paige answered.
"Aren't you" Cole said.
"Did you get anything else?" Paige asked.
"He's good" Cole told her, "Really good, not bad, not evil. Boring if you ask me. Joking," he said hastily as he saw Paige's face.
''Get any idea of how he might react to magic" Paige asked.
"By feeling his aura," Cole asked "No."
"Any idea? " Paige asked.
"Good luck " Cole said. He felt a sudden swirling in the spirit winds and sighed " I have to go" he said.
"Why? " Paige asked.
"My business." he said.
"That's the first time I've ever caught you being called " Paige commented "I was beginning to think it a joke."
"No" he said seriously thinking of the witch to whom he had to arbitrate justice. "Its not a joke."
"You got any blocks on your room" she asked.
"No" he said suspiciously "why?"
"I want to clean up that pig sty you’re living in," Paige said. "Payment for lunch" Paige said.
Cole stood up, tossed his credit card at her and then leant over to kiss her gently. "You know at the wedding when we talked about, whether it was worth it, to love some-one no matter the price." He said, "I meant it. It's worth it, no matter the price."
Cole handed her the room keys and said, "Don’t snoop" Then he hesitated "You’re going to snoop anyway. What do I care? Go ahead." Paige put her head on the side and wrinkled her nose at him.
He left the restaurant. Paige finished her coffee and stood up to leave. As she paid, she was surprised to hear her name called and spun to see Phoebe and Piper's cousin's wife behind her.
"Hi Paige " the woman said "Surprise to see you in this area."
"You too Joan" Paige said with absolutely no pleasure in her voice.
"I've been working up the road, at a firm, consulting on improving the place" Joan said" "Isn't that Phoebe's ex husband you were with?" she said not hiding her curiosity.
"Yes" said Paige.
"I thought Margaret told Mom that they separated again," Joan said curiously.
"I don't think it’s permanent," Paige said jiggling Cole's hotel keys in annoyance.
Joan looked at the keys "I thought" she said "I saw Piper leave a hotel with him a couple of days ago."
"I wouldn't know " Paige answered shirtily "I have to go," she added.
She went back to Cole's hotel and took full advantage of his permission to snoop as she cleaned up his possessions.
She wondered how one man, demon, guardian or mortal, could have created such a mess in few days but despite the half empty bottle of Greek brandy, candy and crisp wrappers and clothes on the floor, it seemed to Paige that not like other times when he had totally fallen apart. Cole this time was coping. But she thought if Phoebe loved him she better have a damned good reason for doing this, especially when she saw a copy of Phoebe’s favourite movie, 'Kill it before it Dies' sitting on top of the video and the thought that Cole was lying alone trying to connect with his love, watching her favourite very bad movie made Paige shake her head with something very close to anger.
Paige worked her way through the room. There was a notebook computer on the table near the bed and she switched it on. The desktop was a picture of Phoebe. Paige checked the documents stored on it. They were mostly legal ones from Cole’s p job. She looked at the most recently used documents and they were all pictures of Phoebe and one document that Cole had been writing the night before. To Paige’s surprise it was a rough plan for Cole to open his own law practice. A small one, an estimate of costs and clients. Paige choked. Phoebe’s demon lover, ex-demon, lying there alone, not understanding why he was alone, trying to plan a future, living on hope.
She also found a leather folder of papers and as Cole had told her to snoop, she did. The folder contained a number of items. His and Phoebe’s wedding certificate and the divorce papers, his birth certificate and his father’s death one. A will leaving everything he owned to Phoebe. It was dated at the time when Cole was trying to find a way to get himself vanquished. Paige wanted to wring Phoebe's neck to put him through what she did when he loved her so much.
Paige looked at the will, wondering what it was like to love some-one so much that you would do anything to care for them regardless of how they hurt you, and to be so loved that they would forgive you no matter what you did to them.
Paige packed up Cole’s clothes into parcels and arranged with the hotel to have them laundered and pressed. Cole arrived back that night to find an immaculate room and neatly laundered clothes laid out on his bed. It took about 10 seconds for him to know that Paige had been through the computer and his papers. Cole smiled to himself wryly.
Cole took the clothes off his bed and threw them on a chair. He lay on the bed and shut his eyes and his phone rang. He reached out hoping it was Phoebe. It was Paige. She asked if he had got his clothes back from the laundry. Cole tiredly said yes and Paige asked him if he had hung them up. He glanced at the pile of clothes he had thrown over the chair and said yes. He was less than amused when Paige orbed in three minutes later and demanded he put them clothes away properly. She refused to leave until her had hung everything up properly no matter how much he groaned.
The next morning Piper cooked breakfast and Phoebe fighting down nausea and Whosit's latest trick, which was something very close to migraine, refused it. Phoebe, never a morning person at the best of times and this was not the best of times told Piper precisely what she thought of her for letting Cole come into the Manor, before pale and drawn she staggered off to work.
"This is ridiculous" Piper said to Leo. "She looks terrible. She's hiding from Cole and I'm willing to bet that its because the only way we can find out what's wrong is if he sees her and he won't do it because he's scared might hurt her feelings."
"Perhaps" Leo said putting down a newspaper, which had a headline saying 'Award winning actor found dead in house. Mysterious circumstances' and also had a lurid half naked picture of the actor. "We ought to respect Phoebe's feelings and accept she doesn't want to see Cole. Perhaps we should listen to what she is saying" and hated himself because he was worried sick about Phoebe and the consequences of her pregnancy and had reduced her to almost hysteria by insisting she saw a doctor. He had dragged her to one who confirmed she was pregnant, there was only one baby and the pregnancy was perfectly normal.
"Perhaps you've lost all the brains you had" Piper snapped back as Paige rolled her eyes. Piper was strongly suspecting Leo knew more about what was wrong with Phoebe than he was telling. She had not forgotten that Phoebe had once confessed to Leo, long before she told her sisters she had not vanquished Cole when they first found out he was a demon. And she did not miss that Leo was fussing Phoebe, looking after her and jumping between her and her sisters anytime they tried to question her.
"Perhaps Piper " Leo said tightly, " If you can't respect what I say as your husband, you can respect what I say as a whitelighter."
"Then say something worth listening to and what has Phoebe throwing Cole out got to do with you being a whitelighter. " Piper snarled back, hands on hips strain showing in every line of her body. "What is it with you and Phoebe? Sometimes I think you don't even see her for what she is. You treat her like some fragile little flower who has to be nursed through every crisis and forgiven every temper tantrum, every thoughtless word, just because you think she's so vulnerable. You and Cole are the same, Phoebe has to be protected from everyone including herself and it isn't you who suffers."
"I wouldn't say that " Leo answered pushed' "and as husband if not a whitelighter, if that is what you think of me maybe a little vulnerability would go along way to making you more appealing " he snorted and orbed.
"That was clever" Paige said resting her hands on her chin.
"I just get really pissed at the way Leo lets Phoebe do the poor baby sister act and jumps to look after her" said Piper who had been a little to much the older sister lately and was feeling a resentful.
The phone rang and Paige answered '"Yes Victor" she said "Victor" she said unnecessarily, handing the phone over.
"Yes Daddy" Piper said. "Phoebe's fine Daddy. I wouldn't go off at Cole if I were you Daddy. Leave them alone." Then Piper's mouth dropped and she started to splutter. "Daddy I'm married. Aunt Eleanor and that family of hers have got filthy rotten…. No Daddy " she said her voice rigid "I was merely seeing if Cole was all right. So was Paige, I know all right I'll calm down. " But she slammed the phone down. "Aunt Eleanor told Daddy that what's her name the daughter in law saw me leave the hotel with Cole and presumed well… "
"Yeah" said Paige " that's what she presumed when she saw me having lunch with him. That family of yours has got filthy little minds. Like those morons Cole works with."
"I just don't get why every man Phoebe ever comes into contact with, including Daddy feels this need to protect Phoebe. Damn what’s she got." Piper snarled, wishing. "Well we better find out what in the hell has got into Phoebe and fast " Piper added.
"It seems Cole is the only one who can do that and he won't. Wants to protect her" Paige sighed.
"Cole wants to protect everyone, he thinks that what is what being good is about" Piper stopped "He did come when you asked him to protect Maggie"
"Yeah" said Paige. "So what."
"Maybe we can get him to come again, " Piper said. "Only this time make sure Phoebe doesn't know he's coming and he doesn't know she's there either. You know, if he'll understand the problem as soon as he's near her. That should solve that.
"Hell what lie to him, lie to her " Paige asked.
"Exactly " answered Piper.
"What about Leo. He won't let you" Paige said.
"Don't tell him," Piper said. "This protect Phoebe at all costs doesn't help her one little bit."
"Cole won't believe me" Paige said.
"He will if you do the helpless little sister bit " Piper said "Funny how that works on both Leo and Cole so well " she added contemplatively.
A couple of days later, Leo was at one of the eternal meetings he seemed to attend lately. He and Piper were on speaking terms but barely. They had another stand-up row about Phoebe but this time when Victor was present. It was a big argument and Victor who had called in to bring Melinda a present did not hesitate to express his concern.
"You sound almost jealous of Phoebe" Victor told Piper.
"I'm annoyed at Phoebe because she needs a damned good shake and she won't trust me" said Piper who would never forget the terrible feeling of failure as a sister she had when Phoebe was taken over by the Source's spawn. "And I'm annoyed at Cole and Leo because they won't see it."
Leo was worried Piper would push him into telling her what was wrong with Phoebe. And the situation was not made any better by the fact that at several of the interminable meeting he had attended with whitelighters and Elders were all about stressing the dangers of charges being seduced, literally, by evil. The sad cautionary tale of Phoebe's first pregnancy was often raised and there was the implied criticism that Leo should have been aware what was happening, which he was willing to agree that he should have, but he did not need reminding by Elders.
Piper insisted that what she and Paige were doing was entirely justified by the fact that Phoebe and Cole were being stupid, irrational and unreasonable and it was not just them that were suffering but everybody in range. "You, me, Melinda, she thinks Cole's deserted her, Leo " Piper said. "Dad's worried sick."
"Margaret's enjoying the gossip, with Aunt Eleanor" Paige said.
"Exactly" said Piper.
" But what if whatever is frightening Phoebe about Cole is real." Paige asked.
"Cole won't hurt Phoebe " Piper said. "Never could, never would."
Piper took a chance and called Phoebe just before she finished work, telling her that Leo had word from another charge that one of the mall museums was next on the list. She told Phoebe to meet her there. Cole was still at the Belview, calling Phoebe every night and dreading going back to work in a couple of days to deal with Benedict Haslett's next round of court appearances. Piper sent a somewhat reluctant Paige to tell Cole she just wanted to check out the museum and the small polished stones that were supposed to have some demonic incantation value and she did not want go alone in case some demons turned up or worse innocents.
Paige was ordered to tell Cole that Phoebe was doing an emergency fill on the radio station and Piper did not want to leave Melinda who had a temperature.
"I don't want you to do anything," Paige feeling terrible stressed to Cole. He raised his eyebrows and made some sarcastic comment but he was no more immune to little sister appeal than Leo was and Paige to her surprise was able to manipulate him into agreeing to what she wanted just as easily as Melinda was. She decided this was something to note for future reference, if of course he did not kill her when he found out he had been set up.
Piper met Phoebe in the front of the building. Piper froze the building, effectively stopping security systems, nothing like learning from demons, she thought while Phoebe picked the locks to get in. By torch light Phoebe, irritable because she had a massive headache was looking at the stones saying "They're stones Piper, nothing demonic" when Cole shimmered into the museum behind Paige.
Phoebe instantly aware of him did not have to be connected with him to know that he was furious at being set up. As he realised she was there he apparently decided keeping his word was the best thing he could do. He started to shimmer and Paige frantically caught at him to pull him back. "Stop it " he ordered Paige and then said "Phoebe, I didn't know."
Phoebe tried to keep the longing out of her eyes as she ordered him to leave "Get out" she said sharply at him shaking with fear and he nodded as he recognised the extent of that fear then his whole body went rigid. He was hit by the fear and the love and then caught by the presence of another being, one that had an undeniable demonic presence. For a second he thought she was possessed, that there was a demon taking over her and he started to consider how he could get it out before the realisation just what that small demonic presence he felt in her aura was.
There were many things he could think to of but the words that first came out of his mouth were "God Phoebe are you all right ?"
Terrified, she never took her eyes of his face but nodded slowly, while a deep breath was almost dragged from him and as it hit him what the problem was, why she had got him away from her, he burst out "You stupid, contrary manipulative little….. Phoebe" he roared at her.
"Keep away from me" she said backing off as Paige in shock and Piper in fearful guilt watched him walk toward her with wrath written over his face. Phoebe backing away found a wall behind her. Unable to move hands splayed against the wall, "Keep away from me" she ordered Cole "I'll never forgive you. Just keep away. It's yours. Don't Cole. Please" she begged.
He stopped, worrying about her. "You stupid, crazy, thoughtless…Phoebe" he said in frustrated rage.
"Stop calling me stupid for wanting what you want." She said letting anger get the better of her. She looked at blue eyes blazing in anger, pain fear, concern and was not sure which emotion was going to win. She screamed "Leo."
'Leo can't protect you" Cole said quietly which scared Phoebe more than his temper.
"Leo" she screamed again.
"Phoebe" Piper stated to say, really frightened at what she caused.
"Cole " Paige said catching his arm and trying to pull him away.
"Couldn't even trust me to talk about it " Cole said pale and very quiet but still not willing to take the final step to her. He shook Paige off and Leo orbed in.
Leo saw Cole still half undecided what he would do and said, "Cole don’t" as Phoebe whimpered and half turned to him. Leo caught Phoebe's hand and glancing at Piper 's confused face and Paige's dismay, orbed Phoebe away. Cole seemed to come out of his trance as they orbed, and shimmered after them.
He caught Leo's path and tracked them through three of Leo's favourite time folds and magic nexus that he used to dodge sniffers and other demons. On the last one he came out of the shimmer so close he had time to hear, Phoebe order Leo to move "Cole's here" she said and Leo murmured "Damn". Cole vaguely thought even then Leo could not say shit like anyone else. He started to say "Leo Phoebe just stop and talk. I won't .." but Leo orbed again.
Cole followed and half way into the shimmer he was caught in the violent and nauseating reaction he had when he contradicted the Great Plan and the Balance began to shift. Leo could not go up there, orbing a mortal, without every whitelighter and Elder knowing so he was heading for the Underworld, one of the few places that was off limits to Cole and off the radar of the Elders for both him and Phoebe. Cole fought the spirit winds for a second and it seemed an eternity but the Underworld was truly off limits to the ex-Source of all Evil and to his disgust he could not move against them and he had to turn back.
Leo came out of the orb in a dark dismal corner in the nether regions of the Underworld, a part that was so miserable it was uninhabited except by the most lowly and despicable demons. Phoebe fell to the ground nauseated. Leo watched uncomfortably as she threw up.
"Something I once wanted to do here" Phoebe said when she was finally able to talk "More fun thinking about it than doing it," she coughed. She felt around in her pants pocket and pulled out some tissues and wiped her mouth. Leo pulled out an old fashioned man's handkerchief, the type Piper always complained about washing and gave it to her.'
"Cole was.. angry " Leo said.
"He was just pissed" Phoebe said. "He'll get over it."
"Are you sure just once he's not going to be to pissed with you to get over it?" Leo asked shaking his head.
"No" Phoebe answered "He loves me, me Phoebe, he loves me for being Phoebe. He knows I piss people off. If he doesn’t want to be pissed off he should have fallen in love with some-one else. He'll forgive me anything," she said smiling, in love, seeing him, as she loved him.
"How do you know he'll forgive you anything " Leo asked partly bemused, partly getting pissed at her himself.
"He said he would" Phoebe answered. "Wouldn't Piper forgive you anything?"
"Piper and I respect each other to much to make presumptions about our reactions" Leo answered. "We discuss problems with each other."
"Maybe that's why Cole and I have more fun than you and Piper" said Phoebe the truth speaker. "I'd almost like to be around when you try and discuss with her why you helped me when I'm carrying Cole's baby, when I'm fairly certain she'll believe Whosit will be demon spawn. You aren't Precious I know " she reassured Whosit.
Leo frowned "No you wouldn't " he said.
"Cole was much happier last time I told him I was pregnant" Phoebe said a little sadly "You don't think he isn't following us because he has gone to buy me flowers and a teddy bear.
"Probably not " Leo said, kneeling down to put his arms around Phoebe.
"I thought Tempus stoped anyone orbing down here, " Phoebe said struggling for breath as she always did in the Underworld.
"This part is so far away from Tempus" Leo said "He probably never thinks about it."
"What about Guardians" Phoebe asked "Not wanting Beings of Good here. Oh god Leo. You don’t think because Whosit has a little demon nature the Spirit Winds don't recognise good is down here." Phoebe said feeling one of those moments of panic for her baby.
Before Leo could answer a luminous red light started to form the spectral form of a small scribe began to materialise. Leo recognising a creature beyond Good and Evil grabbed Phoebe's hand "No " he said "Whosit's little demon nature doesn't stop them recognising Good " and he orbed before the spectral form materialised.
When Leo orbed Phoebe away and Cole shimmered after them, Piper and Paige were left staring at the empty spaces.
"Hell " gulped Piper.
"Yeah " said Paige.
They waited apprehensively for a few minutes and when neither Leo nor Phoebe nor Cole returned, Paige nervously suggested that they maybe better off going back to the manor and scrying for them. "I'll have to drive" Piper said, then added a little crossly "I wish you could orb cars'
Paige sighed but decided saying something was not a good idea. "I'll orb and scry while you drive home," she said. Then a little hesitatingly she said, "Tricking Cole and Phoebe into confronting each other was not the best idea we ever had."
"No" said Piper as Paige orbed.
She arrived home, and called Paige who answered from the attic mid scry that she could not trace them. Paige had sent Marly home and Melinda was asleep, happily secure that all was right with her world. Piper went up to the attic and Paige sitting at the small table scrying shook her head. Piper yelled for Leo and got no response and Paige tried a few seconds later with still no response. Both witches trying to suppress a feeling of panic and guilt called again and stopped mid call as Cole shimmered in.
"Where's Phoebe? Piper demanded.
"With Leo " Cole snapped.
"What's wrong with Phoebe?" Paige asked.
"What did you do to her?" Piper demanded fearfully. "If you hurt her I'll.."
"What's wrong with Phoebe?" Cole said laughing viciously. 'What did I do to her?"
Cole stood in the middle of the attic and called out "Francesca, Mrs Rinaldi." He had no answer.
He called again and nothing. Almost roaring her name. "Damn her" he said "And damn Leo and damn Phoebe."
"Where are they Cole'?" demanded Paige.
"What did you.." Piper said, getting very angry because she was very frightened.
"You really want to know" Cole answered kicking out at the nearest object he could find, fortunately only an old foot stool that Phoebe sometimes sat on.
"I knocked her up" he said angry. "She's bloody pregnant." When he got no response "As in, in the family way, having a kid, mine."
'I know what you mean" Piper said in a numb, stunned voice. "I thought you were being careful" she said quiet, frightened, worried, sick with it.
"Francesca, Mrs Rinaldi " Cole yelled again "I thought we were being careful too " he said bitterly.
"I take it Leo knew" Piper said tight grim voiced.
"I'm assuming" Cole said.
"This is not all that good news," Piper said with a mock calm that in no way hid the fear and illness she was feeling.
"No" Cole said.
"How the hell could you let this happen?" Paige demanded.
"I'm dying to know why this was my fault" Cole said deathly quiet. "I thought Phoebe was taking precautions."
"It's Phoebe we're talking about " Paige said heated "Why didn't you stuff the pills down her throat every night or at least keep count."
"I'll remember next time" he said with a grim humour that totally failed " damn her" but as all the possibilities of what Phoebe and he had created occurred to him he was very close to tears.
"Oh Cole" said Paige going to him to put her arms around him.
"Damn her" he said grimly, beyond feeling and anger.
"You could be lucky. It may be okay" Paige said, trying to convince herself.
"I'm not lucky' Cole said bitterly.
"Phoebe is" Paige said, a little hopefully.
There was the sound of orbs as Francesca materialised "Very touching family scene" she commented.
"Where were you when I called?" Cole said.
"I was busy," she said." It seems a powerful witch, a Charmed One and a whitelighter orbed into the Underworld against all warning by the Elders not to, followed shortly thereafter by a Power beyond Good and Evil who has no business there, who fortunately couldn't quite get there. Therold whose business is the Underworld was not.. impressed."
"Phoebe and Leo are hiding together," Cole said. " She's pregnant," he added.
"Oh" said Francesca " that is going to give the Elder's something to gossip about, given how they feel about whitelighters and witches. To say nothing about lawyers and Arlene gossiping." Francesca said "I suppose it could be worse."
"What?" shrieked Piper and Cole.
"Its.." Cole started to say.
"You have no idea how much I don't want to hear what you're about to say" Francesca told Cole.
"What" screamed Piper "are you trying to say there's no problem if my husband knocked my sister up and ran off with her."
"He'll forgive Phoebe anything," Francesca said answering Piper but indicating Cole "I assume if you love that whitelighter as much as you say, you will too."
"What?" shrieked Piper and Paige and Cole.
"Well morally it has its problems" Francesca conceded "But any other alternatives, could have unfortunate repercussions." She added looking at Cole. "Much better for everybody if that's what the problem is. I'm not a relationship councillor by the way " she added.
"Perhaps you ought to consider the possibilities of such repercussions," Cole said quietly.
"I think, " Francesca said very determinedly "that those sort of repercussions really don't need to be considered until it becomes apparent they've happened."
"I see" Cole answered.
"I'm glad" Francesca answered "But while we're talking about repercussions, it may have been a good idea if certain ex –demon guardians had considered repercussions before they acted."
"I just can't wait to see how this is my fault" Cole muttered bitterly "I thought she was taking precautions."
"You said no to her didn't you" Francesca told him, school marm working overtime. "You told her the two of you reproducing was not something you should do. You're the one who claims you know and understand Phoebe so well. You know as soon as you say no to her it’s the thing she wants most in life. Didn't you" she demanded of Cole.
He could do nothing but hang his head and nod. The whole mess was his fault.
"What now?" he said slowly.
"I suggest" Francesca said not giving him any comfort "those of us whose immediate future is not going to be occupied with fixing up the mess other beings have created by screwing around get some sleep." And she orbed.
"God I love Francesca" said Paige.
"I'm sorry" Cole said to Piper.
"Leo could have said no when she asked" Piper said worn out.
"I'm staying here," Cole said waiting for an argument "If Leo comes back I want to be here."
"Last time I looked you lived here," Paige said.
He nodded and started to shimmer
"Where are you going?" Paige asked.
"I have things back at the Belview " he said.
"Try not to wake me up when you get back "Paige said worn out. "And on the way back, there's a drug store at the mall. The rubbers are on aisle g. If you don't know how to use them, buy some hard straight vegetables and practice."
Cole almost laughed.
"It'll be okay," Piper said reaching out for his arm.
"I could wring her damned neck Piper " Cole said spent, emotionally exhausted.
"Line up " Piper said.