A Matter of Relativity
Part 2: Shame and Scandal in the Family
"They do not love that do
not show their love"
Leo with nowhere else to go, angry and resentful orbed to the rim. It was a miserable place and it suited his mood. As he stared into the nothing and saw nothing he started to understand why Cole spent so much time staring at beaches, there was something about constancy that focused thought. He did not know how long he had been there; time in the rim was as dead a concept as everything else.
He was so lost in thought that it took him a little while to realise that he was not alone. He started when he looked up to see Francesca observing him wryly. "I was looking for you to give you this," she said handing him Phoebe's notebook. I thought she may be giving you a hard time about it."
"I take it you know everything is okay with Phoebe" Leo said.
"Well I know the baby is not the spawn of evil" Francesca said, "Cole told me."
"Why didn't you give it back to Cole?" Leo asked.
"Because Cole is still so p-annoyed at Phoebe, I'm not entirely sure he could resist the temptation to smash it" Francesca answered "once a demon... " Leo smiled but the smile did not reach his eyes. "Feeling sorry for yourself," she asked not unkindly, her twisted face showing an understanding Leo had not expected in any of the order of Good.
He smiled almost shyly, uncomfortable "You know?" he said.
Francesca sat on rocky outcrop opposite him "I think it's fair to say a little bit of gossip goes along way" she said. "Furious with the Elders?" she asked.
Leo nodded "I had to listen to the whole disgrace to my calling, couldn't be trusted with my charges speeches. It was bad enough I fell in love with one of my charges but to run away with another. It's a violation of every whitelighter ethic. They said," he told Francesca.
"Well they would think that wouldn't they" Francesca answered quietly.
"I told them I was just looking after Phoebe, that she needed my support, that she was also my sister and I wanted to help her but .." he shook his head. "Wouldn't you think Good, the leaders of Good, would be inclined to believe the best of people and their motives."
Francesca smiled her "Well I wouldn't but I can understand why you would think they ought to. You could have told them why Phoebe needed to run."
"I couldn’t Francesca " Leo declared, "I shouldn't even know about Guardians and what Cole is but since I do, it would have been... I couldn't justify myself because it wasn't just me involved, if I told them. What would have happened? They might have decided I was justified but at what cost. They would panic, freak out about Belthezor being the arbitrator. I mean those who have some hint, of higher beings just freak out and panic about them and well Cole being who he is…"
"Knowing that is a good start" Francesca replied. "You feel they should have trusted you. Your word that you had a good reason should be enough."
Leo nodded, eyes almost unfocused. "I believed in them you know " he said, "what they stood for, that they know what was best and right. I know I can't blame them for me knowing better now but I do. Prue, Phoebe's sister who died used to be a real bitch about them and I was always trying to shut her up, but maybe she'd be getting the last laugh now."
Francesca sucked her lips together.
"Yeah I know " Leo said noticing, "they haven't changed because I see them differently. That's what really sucks." he added.
"What did they say to you?" Francesca asked gently.
"That I need to consider whether being a whitelighter is my calling," Leo said, "That I need to consider whether I am a good whitelighter, that I need to consider whether I really have a gift for it."
"I see" Francesca said.
"The good I could do as a whitelighter. It was the justification of it all for me" Leo said "it was a purpose behind all the bad stuff, all the petty rules."
"Leo perhaps you should consider from a certain point of view, that of the Elders" Francesca smiled softly "you are not, no longer a very good whitelighter."
He froze "I do my best" he said almost defensively.
"Then perhaps " Francesca said gently" You may have to face the fact that your best is not good enough. In the Elder's view and maybe that of a few others. Maybe you should think about whether they are in fact being… wise by asking, insisting you consider your options" As Leo starred at her, she said " It's just their wisdom may not be very ...palatable to you."
"I don't think I did anything wrong. I think I did what was necessary," Leo insisted.
Francesca at spent a very long time dealing with beings facing difficult and frightening revelations. "That is not what we are talking about " she said carefully" we're talking about whether from their point of view, what you did made you a good whitelighter." She smiled, her voice sympathetic "Leo, if you were one of the whitelighters who Elders considered able, if Phoebe had come to you and said she was pregnant again and there was a risk, quite a grave one that given the father's demonic.. makeup, she could be carrying the devil's spawn again, what would you have done, what should a good whitelighter have done?"
Leo laughed bitterly " Gone to the Elders who would have been duly horrified, questioned Phoebe's role as a witch and certainly found away to make sure her pregnancy was um. terminated. That's why I couldn't do it Francesca."
"I know Leo" she said " so you chose to be a good brother and protector to Phoebe, but you did not chose to be a good whitelighter."
Leo swallowed. "They would be wrong in doing that."
Francesca said "They would be wrong in this case but truth be told if you had known last time Phoebe was pregnant and told them, they would have been right at least as far as choices in the battle between good and evil. What it would do to Phoebe, well I suppose she would just be a casualty of war."
"I chose not to let her be a casualty of war," Leo said. "You think I should have let them do that to Phoebe. "
"No I don't Leo" Francesca replied "But I think you chose family above your calling."
"The Elder's think I chose to have an affair with Phoebe" Leo said.
"They think you chose your interests above theirs Leo" Francesca said "and they are right."
Leo sighed, "So where does that leave me"
Francesca asked, "Perhaps it leaves you to consider that regardless of all their reasons, you are disillusioned with the Elders ..ah…rigidity. Maybe you will never really trust them again. Perhaps they are showing… wisdom in asking you to consider your calling as a whitelighter. "
"The Charmed Ones need a whitelighter, one who understands their calling, who can help them," Leo argued.
"Yes," said Francesca "which is maybe why you should question whether you can be a good whitelighter to them."
"I don't get it " Leo started to say.
"This time, this pregnancy " Francesca said, "Phoebe needed a brother more than a whitelighter but the last time, Phoebe perhaps needed a good whitelighter before a brother. And she did not have one."
"And Piper " Francesca continued. "Leo, are you being a good whitelighter to her?"
"I don't," he said.
"I know" said Francesca " You don't get it. Piper has no time for the Elders or any advice they might offer. And it is not that she rejects your advice as a whitelighter, she never listens to it. Whatever she feels about her husband's view, Piper does not respect you as her whitelighter because you don't respect yourself as her whitelighter. You're to busy being her husband."
"Piper doesn't manage me." Leo insisted but he did not sound sure.
"Piper manages everyone in your family" Francesca answered firmly "What happens between you and Piper is what happens between husband and wife but she shouldn't, its not wise she should manage her whitelighter" Francesca told him. "Because Piper isn't always right and Piper has to work with Elders, and her whitelighter should guide her. If she has issues with the advice she should be able to reject the advice or argue or be totally disgusted with her whitelighter but she does not have that choice with you. Perhaps she would have those choices with whitelighter who was more interested in the cause of Good than Piper being happy."
"What are you saying " Leo said
"That maybe Piper needs to grow and learn and she isn't going to do that while you're her whitelighter." Francesca never took her eyes off Leo's face "Piper, all the Charmed Ones should listen to the advice and ideas of the Elders and assess it and agree with it or dismiss it but they don't need that advice rejected by the messenger. In fact it would be much better if the messenger thoroughly believed in the advice when it was offered."
"All whitelighters love their charges" Leo argued still fighting her.
"Yes " said Francesca "but what was it Cole was laughing about during that meeting of witches. Witches may be devoted to protecting innocents and mortals, but it is much more an emotion in the abstract, than in the form of actually being friendly, considerate or even polite to mortals in the flesh. Leo," she said "maybe that caring, loving in the abstract is a safeguard for the detachment you don't have with the Charmed Ones."
"Its not easy to look at what you've done and know you haven't helped" Leo sighed.
"Its not you haven't helped Leo" Francesca answered, "You helped them become the most powerful witches in the realm. You've given them the chance, the ability to ask accept, reject and maybe the time has come for you to recognise your role is finished as their whitelighter and move on."
"Well the way I feel about the Elders" Leos said bitterly "Unless there are other charges who need to understand the Elders aren't always wise or perfect…. unless they need a messenger who cannot always believe in the message, then I have nothing to offer. I believe in Good, Francesca." he insisted "I just think I know longer believe it is good to accept things with a blind obedience."
Francesca smile "Neither do I Leo" she said with a wry smile "perhaps you need just to recognise you have, painfully, outgrown the Elders battle but it doesn't mean you have to quit the war."
Leo swallowed "I'll consider it"
"That's all any-one giving advice, particularly unpalatable advice can ask" Francesca conceded "but when you consider it, also consider even if you perhaps have not succeeded in your calling as well as the Elders would want, you have learnt things on your path that give you some choices, more detached whitelighters would never understand, or Elders."
Leo smiled and stood up. "I suppose I better orb out of here while I can" he said.
"Leo" Francesca asked, "Do you have any regrets about being a good husband and father and brother."
Leo shook his head.
"When you are considering and pondering your course." Francesca said: "don't forget that." She suddenly smiled "By the way when you worry about Elders gossiping about you and Phoebe, it may help to remember that your father–in-law and most of his family and the people in Cole's law firm think he and Piper are having an affair."
Leo looked at Francesca and considered what she told him. "If they were" he said finally "I'd like to eavesdrop on the argument they had about which one was on top."
Francesca burst out laughing, golden laughter "So would I " she said and she orbed away, leaving Leo to consider as others had done before him that Francesca was very beautiful.
Cole was sitting in his corner of the conservatory, trying to finish an analysis of the coroner's evidence in the Haslett case when he looked up to see Leo orbing in. Leo did not look happy.
"Have a rough time," he asked a guardedly because he and Leo were still a little awkward with each other. "Piper's at the club" Cole said.
"I know" Leo said answered" I talked to her. You want a beer.''
"Yeah " Cole answered. Leo came back with a bottle and tossed it to him. "Piper isn't here, " Leo answered as Cole raised his eyebrows at the bottle without glasses.
"You may as well know " Leo said, "I'm out a job. Piper's pleased."
"They sack you" Cole asked.
"Touch and go whether I quit or they sacked me " Leo said.
"Why didn't you tell 'em about me?" Cole said.
"Said I wouldn't" Leo answered, "Wouldn't have made a difference and just caused trouble."
"Maybe you should have?" Cole observed. "Maybe I don't think it's so good to let you take the fall for me."
"No I shouldn't Cole "Leo answered testily "not because its anything to do with what you want, more to do with how it will effect the Elders and the side of Good."
"God you sound like Mrs Rinaldi" Cole said turning up his nose.
"Worse beings I could sound like" Leo said, "I could sound like an Elder " he added making Cole laugh.
"Still got any powers?" Cole asked.
"Can orb, can't heal, can't sense the girls like I could" Leo answered " still got some telekinesis. Took back everything that risks me being a whitelighter. What happens now, whether I just live out mortal eventually, who knows. Worry about it when it happens."
"Whose the new whitelighter?" Cole asked.
"Don't know yet" Leo answered "Some poor sucker doing penance."
Cole laughed. "Hope I'm around when whoever it is starts giving Piper good advice."
"So do I " said Leo laughing.
They turned as Phoebe came into the conservatory, hearing Leo's voice. "Melinda's finally asleep" she told Cole "How did it go with Elders Leo? " she asked as he pulled a face. "Oh God:" she said contritely " I am so sorry"
"I'm not god" Leo said "Only an angel. Almost ex.'"
"Leo" she said "I'll go and explain."
"You can't" he said "without explaining about Cole and Guardians and that's something as a witch you're not even supposed to know about.
Phoebe flushed guiltily "Leo."
'It isn't really about you " Leo said. 'Its about me and what I am."
She swallowed and glanced awkwardly, at Cole.
"Come here" Cole said and she did as she was told, a very contrite little girl. Cole thought he might as well enjoy it as long as it lasted. He pulled her on to his knee making sure he wrapped his hand under the shirt of his she was wearing to feel her stomach.
"What are you going to do?" Cole asked. Leo leant forward, elbows resting on his knees clasping the beer bottle and would have answered except for a noise behind and he looked around to see Paige followed by Mark.
Mark stopped at the conservatory door and lent against the jamb. His eyes moved from Phoebe sitting on Cole's knee to Leo and Cole obviously in a fairly familiar and friendly conversation and he said dryly. "Nice to see you… all again."
Phoebe gulped at seeing him there and Leo looked a little surprised.
"Mark" Leo said warily
"Mark" said Phoebe awkwardly.
"Mark, hi"" said Cole friendly.
Paige tried to walk past them but had to come back. She swallowed nervously as Mark refused to move " Are you ever going to explain what the last few weeks have been about?" he demanded.
"Um" Paige whimpered looking at her sister.
"Tell him" Phoebe said.
"Um" said Paige.
"Tell him" Leo said.
"Um" said Paige.
"Tell him" Cole said and then with a slight warning that Mark did not miss "what he needs to know."
"Um"' said Paige.
"Tell me what," said Mark his voice showing his annoyance.
'Um" said Paige "maybe I'll show you " she said and reached for his hand and orbed.
Cole and Phoebe and Leo watched the orbs disappear.
"Damn" said Leo " that was the one time I wanted to hear what Mark says."
"You want to go to Paris" Phoebe asked Cole a few mornings later. She was going stir crazy because her sisters and Cole would not let her leave the house without him or the Power of Three and Cole was in court most days and Paige was working.
"I have a meeting with the ADA about the Haslett case" Cole answered in a strained patient voice he would not have used with Melinda.
"Haven't you fixed that" Phoebe demanded snippily "Grams will give me hell. What were you doing while I was away?"
"Looking for you" Cole said dry, to dry.
"Shut up Phoebe," said Piper and Paige automatically.
"Did you find out why Grams wanted to help him?" Phoebe said ignoring them.
"His wife was part of her coven" Cole said, at least that is what he says, "I think there's more to it."
"Did you look in Grams papers to find out?" Phoebe asked.
"Shut up Phoebe" said Paige and Piper then stopped and looked at each other.
"Damn you Phoebe" said Piper.
"Why?" said Phoebe offended.
"You're right" Paige answered. "I'll look after breakfast. Its better than going to work." Since telling Mark she was a witch, Paige was happy to find a reason not to go to work. When they asked Paige what Mark said she told him she was a witch she had answered "a lot ". She smiled wistfully. "I just told him about us being witches and said Leo was a witch's guide not about him being dead or anything."
"What did you tell him about me?" Cole asked.
"That you used to be a demon but weren't any longer," Paige answered wistfully. "He said that was the one part he had no trouble believing."
When Phoebe the truth speaker had asked how Mark felt about her being a witch, Paige answered dryly "Jury's out on that one " and refused too say any more, only she was finding reasons not to go to work.
Paige sat on the floor of the attic beside her the wooden chest where for three hundred years the witches of the Warren line had stored various papers, wills, diaries. She pulled out a large fairly modern document folder and found the papers of one Penelope Warren Halliwell, Grams. Paige flicked though the documents.
"Shit" she said looking at the old certificate. She walked over to the attic door and yelled "Piper, get up here."
"What" said Piper running upstairs holding Melinda. No-one ever left Melinda unsupervised downstairs. Telekinesis and antique furniture and toddlers were a bad combination "Demon" she said glancing around "Elisheeva? Where's Phoebe?"
"‘Nope" said Paige handing her the piece of paper she had just found.
Piper glanced at it" Shit " she grinned" why didn’t I know? Leo" Piper called loudly. Leo having nothing better to do was in the basement trying to work out what the hell was wrong with the plumbing after several nights of not sleeping because of the gurgle, thump, bang, thump gurgle thwack gurgle, gurgle noise.
"Nothing’s wrong" Piper said, "you should see this."
"Shit" breathed Leo who was no longer a certified angel. "You mean…"
"Phoebe" he roared.
"What" yelled Phoebe from her bedroom.
"Get up here" Piper yelled.
Phoebe waddled up to the attic
"What" she said breathlessly.
Piper handed her the paper "Shit" she said.
"Yeah" said Piper.
"I love Grams," said Paige.
Phoebe giggled "Do you think I should .. I mean…tell Cole."
"Only if I can watch," said Piper.
Phoebe with big grin on her face walked over to the phone extension and with great deliberation dialled Cole’s number.
‘"Can you come home baby?" she said.
"What’s wrong?" he said "Elisheeva?"
"No" she said," mom isn't visiting"
"Phoebe" he said.
"Cole" she said "Now."
"What" said Cole from behind her as he shimmered into the attic.
All three girls and Leo jumped "Don’t do that" said Phoebe.
"What" said Cole annoyed.
"I wanted to show you this" Phoebe said handing him the certificate.
Cole read it "Shit" he said.
"Yeah" said Piper laughing "Grams Hubby number 3. Ben dear perfect Ben on trial for murder."
"All we ever heard " Phoebe explained that Number three was the great passion of her life but it was to hot to last, how nothing that hot could last but god to enjoy it while you could. How every girl needs one moment of sheer passion."
"Benedict, passion with Penny" Cole spluttered. "Benedict passion. I would have bet the daughters were conceived as a matter of moral responsibility, on a very tight schedule." Then he started to laugh. "Benedict was the love of Penny's life."
"No" said Piper " he was the fuck of her life" and the whole family burst into hysterical laughter.
"I wonder if Penny understood you don't have to marry the fuck of your life" Cole asked.
"I sometimes wonder if Grams understood you could fuck some-one without marrying them" Paige said.
"Was it murder or magic or vanquish you think" Leo asked.
"Murder according to Darryl " Cole said. "He bought a crossbow and used it on a mortal. Through the brain" He turned to Paige "While I think of it though. Do you know any demons or warlocks who get vanquished with sharp objects through the brain? There may be some connection."
"Don’t you know?" Paige asked sweetly.
"I know how demons kill each other" Cole snarked "I need someone to look in the Book of Shadows for how witches do it. Please" he added not really meaning it.
"Why do you always ask Paige for witch stuff when you could ask me?" Phoebe demanded snappily.
"What" said Cole.
"I know the answer to that," Phoebe said smugly " And so should you. In fact I think I'm very hurt you forgot."
"Phoe…be" said Cole and Piper together.
"Guardians" said Phoebe.
"What" said Paige "you can kill Cole with an arrow from a cross bow."
"Not that sort of guardian:" Phoebe said. "In the Book of Shadows" She crossed the attic and opened the Book of Shadows at the entry for Guardians. Lower level demons that were given by an upper level masters to inhabit evil mortals and infiltrate their domains.
"You should have remembered Guardians" Phoebe told Cole with an air of superiority.
"Not guardians like Cole. Different Guardians. Why in the hell is everything called guardians?" Paige muttered, " Like the guardians of the Hollow; why can’t they call them something else?"
"They do" Leo said "There just isn’t any similar word in English except guardian for them all."
"What?" said Piper.
"That language thing Cole did still working" Leo asked and Piper nodded reluctantly.
In whitelighterese Leo said" Guardian, which isn’t the same as guardian which means something different to guardian, particularly when you say guardian. Its the same in demon isn’t it Cole"
"More" Cole said"
"I really needed to know that" Phoebe said.
"No big deal" said Leo" do you know how many words there are for snow in Eskimo"
Two weeks later Phoebe sat in the front parlour watching TV soaps. Her hair was in pigtails and she had not had blond streaks put in it since running off with Leo. She was wearing pink stretch leggings, sensible knickers that covered her expanding rear but rolled down under her belly, a sensible support bra and one of Cole's shirts with the bottom button undone because to her dismay it no longer reached. Piper and Leo were off having a day with Melinda, Paige was in the attic, Cole was in his corner in the conservatory, working. Phoebe was bored, bored, bored, bored, bored. She only half joking decided that if anything turned her evil, it would be boredom. She got up and stalked over to Cole.
"You want to go upstairs and fuck?" she said insisting.
"Can't baby," he said, "I have to finish here. I wouldn't mind going upstairs and making love after though" he said smiling.
"Since when do you get to decide when we fuck and when we make love" Phoebe demanded trying to put her hands on where her hips used to be.
"Since you got to decide when we have a baby," he answered smug, only softening it to put his hand on her belly.
"You're just trying to get out of going to bed with me because I'm fat" she sulked, despite the clear evidence she had had for the last two weeks that wasn't true.
He looked her up and down, the pink leggings, with a panty line clearly showing, his shirt undone with Whosit protruding, her hair in pigtails "you've never been more beautiful" he said with a smile, the one she loved, the one he saved for her, on his face.
"You're just saying that" she said and stomping back to the parlour "Love you baby " she said over her shoulder.
"I know," he said.
The doorbell rang and Phoebe waddled as fast as she could. She didn't care if it was Elisheeva, it was another person, a distraction in a boring day "Mark " she said brightly as she opened the door.
"You're still here?" he said. "Is Cole?"
Phoebe smiled at Mark " Oh we never separate " she explained, "We just frighten other people by, you know, pulling away and coming back. Long since realised we can't be without each other. And I wouldn't want to. You have to get used to us, in this family" she said deliberately.
"Is Paige in?" he asked, not quite picking up what she was saying.
"She's upstairs making potions" she said "I'm not joking she is. Come on in." When he seemed a little reluctant to step in, Phoebe reached out and put her hand on Mark's arm and suddenly felt the whirlwind infinity as she was flung into a premonition.
She was somewhere, in one of the green ochre coloured netherword realms and she was standing beside the demon Elisheeva. She was pregnant, obviously some months ahead. "Nice catch Chickadee " hissed Elisheeva "That's my girl." And Phoebe looked up to see Mark opposite, legs apart determined. He murmured something like do it or finish it or try it and Elisheeva threw a fireball that struck him in the middle of the daffy duck tie, as Paige orbed in with Piper screaming "You evil bitch" and running to the spot where Mark had been while Phoebe laughed.
Phoebe came out of the trance almost fainting as Mark caught her. Mark worried, lifted her as she gasped for breath and put her on the sofa in the parlour. Cole saw him through the glass door and just dropped everything and ran to her.
"She fainted" Mark said '"You better call a doctor"
"I don't need a doctor" Phoebe whispered as Cole bent over "Just a bit dizzy, just. I'm okay."
"She fainted" Mark said grimly. "She needs a doctor."
"I don't" Phoebe started to say "Cole I don't, its.. You know what it is with me" she looked at him pleading.
"I get it," he said smiling grimly. He yelled as loudly as he could "Paige, get down here."
"I just want to lie down" Phoebe said as Paige came into the parlour shrivelling a little when she saw Mark.
Cole nodded and despite Mark's grim expression and Paige 's concern swept Phoebe into his arms and carried her upstairs.
He heard Mark very clearly and angrily demands "Are you sure her well being is of any interest to him."
"He'll look after her" Paige said concerned.
"You should have shimmered," Phoebe told Cole said as he put her on the bed.
"With Mark in the house" he said sitting beside her. "What did you see?"
"Elisheeva fireball Mark" she said "and I let it happen, I wanted it to happen," she said. " Not for a while " she said, "I was pretty pregnant. We were in the underworld," she said."
"I see " Cole said very, very quietly as Phoebe never took her eyes off his face. "Are you going to tell Paige?"
Paige said from the door. "Tell Paige what?"
"Between you two" Cole said and left but his concern showed in his eyes.
Paige winced as Phoebe told her. "When" she said calmly, to calmly. Phoebe told her.
"So that thing in you really is evil" Paige said bitterly " and makes you evil."
"Whosit's not evil" Phoebe said. "And neither am I."
"It's not going to happen " Paige answered very cold as she left. "I won't let it."
Phoebe shook her head sadly "Oh Whosit" she said "I'm very scared for her, for Mark, for you, for all of us."
Cole was downstairs talking to Mark. Paige heard Mark clearly telling Cole that he had a responsibility for Phoebe. She held her breath waiting for Cole to react in demonic rage but she could almost hear the smile in his voice as he said '"You're a good man Mark. Phoebe's safe with me. She and I know how to deal with that particular problem."
Paige came in "Its okay Cole, " she said. Clearly indicating she wanted him to go "Phoebe's all right Mark " she said and flung her arms around his neck. " Cole 's part of this family. This family.. we take care of people we care about and sometimes a few we don't."