A Matter of Relativity
Part 2: Shame and Scandal in the Family
"They do not love that do
not show their love"
Cole asked Lara and Benedict to come to the Manor to talk about the new charges. He felt dealing with them at their home gave them, a little to much security, and while he was tempted to see them at the office and let Lara and Arlene lock horns, he regretfully resisted it. Besides anything that kept him away from Arlene was a good thing. Arlene when she heard the rumour going around the firm, and started by Victor's wife, Margaret, Cole presumed, that Phoebe had run away with her brother-in-law, decided to have another try at her luck.
This time she handled rejection worse than the last time "You'll be sorry" she stormed. "I'll make sure you regret missing out on me."
"I doubt it, " Cole murmured because he had once been a demon and occasionally found temptation impossible to resist "in fact I know I won't. You know, spring lamb and pretty damned tough. I'm picky about those things."
Paige and Piper were home by the time Benedict and Lara arrived at the Manor. Piper answered the door and found herself treated with a cold courtesy that made her feel as if she was the maid. She showed them into the parlour and Benedict commented "You're Penelope's Granddaughter."
Piper was tempted to say "who the hell else would I be" but with an effort resisted the temptation "Damn Cole and his Guardian morality" she thought "yes " she said to Benedict tight lipped.
"You're shorter than she was" Benedict said "but then I recall John, your grandfather was short". Given he would not have been average height Piper did not consider the connection but she had a strange feeling she was being insulted.
"The place hasn't changed much," he said looking around "The sofa and chairs are new."
"I think Grams bought them about fifteen years ago" Piper said because she could think of nothing else to say.
"I thought so," said Benedict sitting on the most comfortable chair.
Piper shook her head and walked to the stairs "Cole " she roared at the top of her voice "Visitors."
He came downstairs, caught Piper's raised eyebrows and went into the parlour. Cole explained that he asked the Hasletts to the Manor as he thought this conversation was not a good idea at his office. He could have told them he that he brought them to the Manor to discuss Einstein's theory of relativity for all the reaction he got.
"Did you find out what these other cases they are trying to connect to me are" Benedict asked ignoring the explanation.
Cole listed them carefully, watching and feeling Benedict's reaction and as he suspected, several of the magic ones produced one in both Lara and Benedict, that was more a deepening of their self righteous martyrdom than anything else.
Finally Benedict asked "If they charge me with anything else will that mean they will stop investigating the case."
"No" Cole answered, "Even when people plead guilty the DA likes to have a case that will eliminate reasonable doubt. You plead, they will investigate even more. And the papers will have field day with a 70-year-old serial killer. They will most certainly revoke the bail and anyone who is close to you will come under.... scrutiny."
"If I pleaded guilty," Benedict said. "Shouldn't that be enough?"
Cole breathed deeply "People have been known to revoke confessions and come up with plausible reasons why they do it. Sometimes it’s a very good way to create reasonable doubt" he said and got no response from Benedict. "Benedict " he pushed "what point is there, pleading guilty to something you didn't do, to protect some-one who is guilty. And if its magic and I strongly suspect it is, then leave it. They can't get the person no matter what they suspect. Its hardly responsible to protect a guilty person."
"My father knows what is responsible and what is right" said Lara so cold Cole began to wonder if he was experiencing hell freezing over "so all we can do is fight the case my father is charged with and wait on the police."
"Don't talk to any-one" Cole said, "not police, neighbours, friends, coven members. No matter how much you think you can trust them. Don't discuss it between yourselves. You're not protected Miss Haslett from testifying against your father, and anything he says to you is admissible in court, unless of course" he said almost slyly "you want to plead the fifth."
"I know what is right too Mr.. Cole" Lara said even more icily if that was possible.
Cole just about gave up remembering suddenly why evil could look so attractive. He stood, indicating he was going to see them out, making no effort to offer coffee because he did not think he could bear to spend much more time with these people. As they got to the door, Cole started to explain that trying to protect magic through the courts was not the way to go, "Better to keep magic in its own realm" he said.
"You would have to be magic to make those decisions" Lara said, "witches " and she stopped. Marly coming down the stairs with her purse was obviously leaving, although she was having trouble getting away from Piper who with Melinda in her arms, seemed intent on explaining some changes. Marly kept nodding, and finally escaped to squeeze past the Hasletts at the front door, although Cole stepped away and held the door for her.
Paige must have heard Marly because she came out of the kitchen and called "Marly don’t forget the appointment at the centre tomorrow" she said firmly. Marly shook but nodded.
Cole seeing the scathing look on Lara's face said, "Marly's a witch. You can mention magic in front of her."
"Oh" said Lara "What are your powers?" as if that was the most important thing.
"I" Marly whimpered, "I just a little.. I read lore ": she whispered.
"I see" said Lara turning her back dismissing Marly as Marly flushing and embarrassed whispered "Oh" and hastily ran down the stairs. The Haslett's wished Cole a formal goodbye and followed her.
Paige and Piper standing in the hall exchanged horrified and angry glances.
"Are you sure that bitch is not guilty as hell?" Piper demanded of Cole.
"Not of murder" he said
"You know" Piper stated, angry "Witch or not, I really don’t like that woman."
"Want to know a secret?" Cole asked.
"What?" said Paige.
"Neither do I" he sighed.
Paige laughed. "Wouldn’t you think there would be something in the Great Plan that says innocents can’t be shits?"
"Or shits can’t be innocents " said Piper.
Roger Walford sat back in his leather deskchair and spun to survey the view from the window of the office. When he had become museum director he had made sure he rearranged the offices so he not only got the biggest one but also the best view. The office had a satisfactory arrangement of antique furniture and some of the museum’s more tasteful and valuable objects.
Altogether Roger was not all that unhappy with his life. Since he had taken over management of one of the museum’s major exhibitions after that dark haired, green-eyed girl, who he used to be engaged to, Prue, had had a tizzy fit nearly 7 years ago and left it in his hands, his career had gone from strength to strength. It was helped by his marriage to the daughter of one of San Francisco's most influential backer’s of the arts. His marriage had brought him acceptance in some of the most influential old families in San Francisco, more or less unconditional tenure in his job and a growing national reputation as an expert, particularly in artefacts of the occult, satanic worship and demonology.
He occasionally remembered the beautiful green eyed girl he had once been engaged to, but for the most part it he had no regrets or conscience about his action. He had been quite shocked at reading in the papers that she had been murdered in her own home 4 years ago and the veiled hints that her family knew something about the death. Roger would not have been surprised that middle sister of the family had something to do with it, sharp tongued shrew that she was but he doubted the youngest little tart had the brains to cover up a murder of a sister. He recalled he had been surprised when he recognised that little tart as the famous Ask Phoebe of the Bay Mirror. He wondered who she slept with to get that job and who she got to ghost write her column.
Come, to think of it when he remembered Prue’s aggressive manner, and viper green eyes, and passionate intense anger it wasn't surprising some-one in her family murdered her, allegedly murdered her. Roger altogether wasn’t unhappy that he had not married Prue Halliwell, and if the marriage he did make left some things to be desired, such as affection, romance, sex, there were alternatives.
Almost on queue his intercom rang and his secretary, no they were called personal assistants these day, although to him secretary had a better ring, told him that his 11.00 am appointment had arrived. The door to his office opened and Roger looked up with an expectant smile. He came around his desk holding his hand out, suave, in control, and satisfied with the warm feeling he had in his groin. Yes there were indeed alternatives. "Mrs Turner" he said smiling expectantly and held out his hand as his personal assistant shut the door.
"Mr Walford" she breathed in that soft breathy Boston accent of hers, which sent him wild.
"Elisabeth" he all but whimpered as he pulled her into his arms, and a little resistant, making him all but beg, she kissed him, he asked for more, and she gave a little and pulled back and he asked for more and she teased until, little by little he had backed into his desk.
Elisabeth with a proven experience disengaged herself while he leaned on the edge of his desk red faced and gasping for more. He stared into her beautiful face. Tall honey, almost golden blond, brilliant blue eyes smiling behind a peekaboo hairstyle, she smiled seductively in control, "All the better for waiting Roger " she smiled, wetting her lips.
"Only a little while" he pleaded.
"Business first" she said "Lunch" and she caressed the word "later. Were you able to locate those private collectors we spoke about, darling" she asked innocent little girl. Only the bemused raised eyebrow behind the peekaboo hairstyle giving her intent and sophistication away.
Roger gulped and caught his breath. "Yes" he said.
He turned away to go to his safe and retrieved the list of items that had taken him a huge number of favours to retrieve from some very secret collectors around the world. Roger took a deep breath.
He was not of course surprised that the beautiful Mrs Turner was so attracted to him. He had met her quite by accident at a reception in New York and the attraction had been mutual. She was an agent who acted on behalf of very exclusive clients for the purchase of very rare collector's items, and they had a great deal in common. She frequently visited San Francisco in her work and Roger had to admit that he looked forward to her coming. She had a number of connections in the arts community. In fact, Roger had asked her if she was related to the old political family, and she admitted she was distantly through marriage.
"You’re divorced?" he panted, excited.
"Alas no’" she had replied in that breathy beautiful Boston accent "Widowed."
Elisabeth glanced quietly at the list. "You're very good at what you do" she said blue eyes bright smiling. '"Some useful contacts here" she glanced at the list and then looked up, flicking the blond peekaboo hair out of her eyes as Roger gasped and groaned, as the warmth in lower body became almost painful. "No luck on finding the medusa head" she asked with a smile that went straight to Roger's groin.
"I think I've got a lead," Roger all but whimpered. "I'll know in a couple of days.'
"It's really just a trinket" Elisabeth said, "a small crystal medusa head, with jade eyes, a pendant, but my client has a couple of them and wants to match the set. Annoying little bastard, gets an idea and won't let go. I'd be eternally grateful." She said breathily "There may even be something in it for you. Just as an expression of gratitude " she said with a quick lick of her lips, and a very small forward thrust of her hips.
"Anything for a friend" Roger murmured, not realising he was panting. He understood she was genuinely grateful for his help and not above showing that appreciation. Which of course Roger understood to be his due.
"Perhaps shut the safe" Elisabeth murmured "then we can go to..lunch."
As Roger turned away he did not see the beautiful, humorous and cynical blue eyes, turn icy and demonic.
Paige put down the telephone after spending nearly three quarters of an hour convincing an employer that a client's inability to string three words together was no inhibitor to working in data entry. It was more than two weeks since the fairy dust episode and during that time, Mark had been both concerned about her well-being and exasperated with her because she refused to discuss her 'problem'. She kept insisting it was a reaction to herbs. Even though he was seriously annoyed because she would not trust him every now and again Paige would look up and catch Mark who was supposed to be in the other office head down battling budgets, look up and watch her with gentle, smiling eyes, and she would feel a flush warm well being flood over her.
And it occurred to Paige that this what Phoebe meant when she talked about the safety of loving and being loved by Cole. Not being in love exactly past being in love, which Paige had been on any number of occasions. It was being loved and loving but then she put those thoughts away. Because she and Mark were only friends and any way he wasn’t that good looking. She stopped working and started to dream. Phoebe was lucky, Phoebe was loved so was Piper, and a frightening thought came into Paige's head that maybe she was loved.
Paige lost in thought heard a cough and looked up to see Sam approach her. An annoyed expression crossed her face. "Just leave Mark alone." She snapped, "He doesn't need you."
Sam smiled benignly "Its not about your boyfriend " he said slowly "They, the Elders have a problem and they are very reluctant to approach, to worry your sister and I said, they suggested, I could ask, I could approach you."
"What?" Paige asked suspiciously. Very nervous about what was coming.
Sam sighed, "It seems your brother in law, Leo your whitelighter, had disappeared off there radar. They know he's not de..gone, lost, but can't locate him."
Paige looked nervously as he father.
"Where is he Paige?" asked Sam.
She gulped and Sam smiled, gentle "You can tell me Paige" he said "Look they know lately Leo is, Leo has been a little disillusioned, had some doubts about his calling but that does not mean. They're concerned about him Paige" Sam finished.
"Leo's fine' Paige said shortly.
"Where is he Paige?" Sam asked, not so gentle.
Paige gulped "He's" she said. Thinking hard thinking of all the complications, the problems. Damn Phoebe.
"Where is he Paige?" Sam asked again, tersely.
And because she could think of nothing else to say Paige blurted out truthfully "He ran off with Phoebe."
Sam just stared at her "Why?" he gasped.
"She's pregnant" Paige started to say and then realised all the things she could not tell Sam about Phoebe's pregnancy. The nature, the father, why Phoebe ran and the consequences to Phoebe's baby if and she became aware of the horror of Sam's expression.
"He got her pregnant and they ran off" Sam said in horror disgust and shock.
"I um" said Paige "No I mean…"
"We always knew it wasn't healthy what was going on, all the five of you" Sam said "All four of them. It's not you involved is it?" said Sam the father.
"We who?" said Paige getting angry.
"People who care about you" Sam said "I" he shook his head. "We knew it wasn't healthy. How's Piper taking it?"
'"Um she" said Paige trying to think how she could get out of it and frantically remembering half the people where Cole worked believed there was something odd about how they lived.
"Well " Sam said sighing, "It explains a great deal. I could have asked better for my family," he said sadly. "I suppose times change, and being witches doesn't mean. I remember Penny what she was like. Hormones," he said.
"Will the Elders understand that?" Paige asked curiously.
"I guess they'll have to" Sam answered. "Damn. This will just make them really get angry about the relationship between whitelighters and their charges. I thought Leo could be trusted. But at least it's better than him I guess losing his calling, turning evil, doubting himself."
Paige looked surprised "You don't think getting your sister in law pregnant and running off with her, deserting a child is evil" she said.
"Whitelighters are fallible" Sam said, "as I knew when Pattie…" then he grinned male-like "Leo knocked two witches up did he and they said it was impossible once. Now three times between whitelighter and witches" and Sam smiled almost please, leaving Paige stamping her foot on ground.
She mad a quick excuse at work, and orbed home to find Piper feeding Melinda.
"I hate men and I hate whitelighters and I hate Elders and they are all a pack of shits," Paige told Piper.
"Yeah I know" Piper said "well except Leo."
Paige ignored her. She stalked over to get phone and dialled Cole's number. He answered distracted "Come home" Paige told him.
"Why?" he asked "Phoebe" he said worried.
"No" Paige answered " I need to talk to you now."
"Paige" he said.
"Now" Paige answered and hung up.
"What" screamed Cole and Piper "You told him what?"
"He believed it" Paige said. "Funny how people ways believe scandal like that. No matter what, no matter how impossible."
"Funny" said Piper "you mean I'm supposed to let it around that my husband has gotten my sister pregnant and run off with her. Damn Phoebe" she roared.
"Would you like to tell them the truth?" Paige said "It give us time," she said.
"This is your fault Cole" Piper snarled.
Cole swallowed and stared at her.
Phoebe was sitting on something she supposed was something you used for sitting on 'up there'. You never actually saw anything, it was just there if you needed it, in a fashion. As in you sat and something was there. It was a very odd place, nothing but mist and light and Phoebe was bored out of her mind when she was not overwhelmed by fear for her baby.
She knew full well that while Cole could not 'get' her, she was not safe from being 'got'. And daily, or as much as she could recognise as daily, she searched any sign of evil or darkness in her. She decided a number of things in the long boring wait. One was that was that no matter what it cost her she was not going to give Cole the chance to make any choices about Whosit's destiny. Another decision was, as she daily bonded with her baby, she knew she was prepared to consort with any form of evil if it meant protecting her, and Cole's child. And if that made the world judge her to be evil so be it. Because she knew it was not evil but love. There were some things beyond good and evil and a mother's bond with a child, a mother's love for her child was one of them.
Phoebe sat on whatever it was she sitting on. She had nothing to do and if the purpose of 'up there' was to contemplate the morality of her life she was not quite ready to concede she had lived enough to spend a good part of eternity in reflection about it. There was not even meals to look forward to. There was food of sorts when you wanted it, but no ritual of meals and family. Phoebe was bored, bored, bored, bored, bored.
She would have liked to have had her notebook because even if she no longer had a job, she assumed she did not, because although the column was still a month ahead in writing, she had missed two radio interviews, she could at least start the book on Phoebe's all purpose advice that she had often thought about.
She had said she had wished she had it to Francesca who suppressing a smile "Well I can ask Cole for it, if you want him to know where you are."
"At least I could write" Phoebe said "Pity I can't get e-mail."
"You can get that to work here," Francesca told her straight faced, but her eyes danced. She understood what Cole saw in Phoebe.
"How?" Phoebe said stunned.
"You just have to know how it works." Francesca answered her eyes twinkling.
Phoebe had tried to get Leo to orb down and retrieve her notebook it but he flatly refused. Leo had refused to leave her because he as much as Phoebe knew that she was not safe. Any more than she was with Cole. All being 'up there' meant was that it was not Cole who had to make the choice. Leo supposed it said something for how much Phoebe loved him that it was what she worried about most after Whosit's safety.
He tried talking to Phoebe about her choices "If Whosit has a problem, Phoebe you must realise that there is nowhere in the realms you can hide from guardians."
"I've been thinking," Phoebe said.
"That's dangerous" Leo snapped because he had been living almost nose to nose with Phoebe for three weeks and was about ready to forget he was an angel and wring her neck. He had had to deal with her sudden mood changes, extremes of kindness and thoughtfulness, her total self centredness, breathtaking wisdom and extreme nativity and most annoying of all her ability to hit on the truth without any seeming rational reason or thought. Leo remembered when he had first come to the Manor pretending to be a handyman, he had once been quite attracted to Phoebe. Now he wondered why. He loved her as her sister. As a lover and soulmate Cole was welcome to her.
"How the hell does Cole put up with you?" he demanded on several occasions.
"He loves me "Phoebe answered blithely.
Which to Leo was no explanation until after one of her more head-spinning comments he decided that since she had been with Cole, what Cole called her capriciousness was far worse, as if Cole encouraged it. It occurred to Leo that Phoebe was not saying "Cole loves me " but she was saying, " Cole loves me"
"You do know, don't you Phoebe" Leo told her one day "The things you do and say just to be capricious, could get you into trouble one day. Some-one might think you were being something a lot worse than capricious."
"Not if they loved me" Phoebe said sweetly.
"I wouldn't count on it " said Leo testily.
"Its not fair" Phoebe sulked "Cole's was missing Whosit developing. Why does all this magic and destiny thing have to get in the way of just being happy?"
Leo annoyed muttered "Maybe next time you'll think about consequence before you impulsively rush into just deciding what you want has to be what happens."
"God you're an old woman" Phoebe snapped, "How does Piper put up with you? I'm just saying about Cole missing everything with Whosit."
"I'm sick to death of hearing how Cole is missing Whosit," Leo snapped. "Just in case you haven't noticed, he may be missing out on Whosit but he's at the Manor, playing Daddy to Melinda while I'm stuck here with you." Leo stopped wondering if he had said too much.
"Oh Leo" said Phoebe. "I'm a selfish self-centred bitch."
Leo looked at her.
"You could argue," she said.
"You're not a bitch" he said.
"Leo" Phoebe said. "Go and see Melinda and Piper. Look even if Whosit's aura finally becoming clear is close, it isn't going to happen in the next hour or two."
"How close?" said Leo not sure whether to be relieved or concerned.
"Whosit's starting to be a person" she said calmly.
Leo sighed and then as she smiled gently he said "Okay " giving into temptation.
"I won't be long" Leo said thinking she could be very sweet.
"Oh Leo can you get my notebook while you're there?" Phoebe asked.
Cole and Piper were in the attic. Melinda was sitting on Cole's lap, he was letting her punch his hands, hard, because it distracted her from telekineticing everything around the attic, while Piper scryed the realm map "Not a sign of Phoebe" Piper said.
"You ever going to tell me what that thing is" Leo said orbing in.
"Leo" said Piper taking a deep breath and going to him.
"Dada" screamed Melinda struggling to get free from Cole.
"All yours" Cole said putting her down so she could run to Leo. "Where's Phoebe?" he asked calmly.
"Don't you know?" Leo asked apprehensively picking his daughter up.
"Where is she Leo?" Piper asked, "I love you." she added.
"She's 'up there'," Leo said.
"Then why are the Elders looking for you" Piper demanded "Do you know that they think you knocked her up and ran off with her?"
"I heard that" Leo said. "She isn't near the Elder's domain."
"Leo" Cole said in a calm voice, to calm "I may not be able to get her there. Other Guardians can."
"Demon's can't" Leo said. He took time to play with his daughter, while Cole and Piper watched him. "After you found us on the island plain." Leo said "Elisheeva came after us, after Phoebe. I guess it thinks it can beat the Charmed Ones by getting Phoebe." When Leo got no response from Cole whose expression was becoming more demonic, he said "There's no where else safe. We tried" he looked at Cole "Elisheeva knows the realms. She isn't safe anywhere else."
"Does Francesca know where she is?" Piper asked.
"Yes" said Leo eying Cole.
"I see" said Cole grimly. "Leo" he said" if there is a problem, she's in the most dangerous place she can be. They, the other guardians, won't care about Phoebe, they'll just care about the problem."
"She isn't safe anywhere else" Leo argued.
"How about with me" Cole said. "Doesn't she think I can protect her, doesn’t she think I will protect her."
"That worries her more than anything else," Leo explained "What about Whosit?" Leo asked quietly. "Is Whosit safe with you?"
Cole took a deep breath "Probably" he said.
Piper, who had been quietly listening, just stared from Cole to Leo "If its damn well evil it isn't safe with me," she said " You tell Phoebe dead straight Leo. We've been there once before, No damned spawn of evil" and she ignored the look on Cole's face "is coming into this house. Make sure she understands that." Hands on hips she spun at them "You understand Cole."
"Phoebe doesn't believe its evil Piper " Leo said.
"Phoebe doesn't want to believe it," Piper said.
"I'll tell her," Leo said. He grinned, "She wants her notebook, she's bored" he added.
Cole suddenly laughed "Good " he said and then relented "its in our bedroom."
"I'll get it" Piper said " coming Leo," she said. "Look after Melinda, Cole" she ordered as Leo followed her.
"I don't suppose there is the slightest chance you're a changeling, not really related to this family?" Cole said to Melinda.
Melinda waved a small hand so the cushions flew off the sofa.
"Didn't think so," Cole said.