A Matter of Relativity
Part 3: The impossible takes a little longer
"They do not love that do
not show their love"
Part 3 of 4 Parts
Cole blinked and it took him some seconds to become used to the impotency of the blinking and his empty core. Used to the power and the force of shimmering, the withering weak powers of the warlock left him feeling frustrated and incomplete. He knew that resisting temptation to satisfy the craving of his empty core in this place of evil, was probably going to be his deepest and darkest test since he became a guardian. He discovered that being a guardian was not just the sum of his powers and he only just managed to slip into the underworld through the blinking of the warlock power, and he felt the shudder of the spirit winds as he went.
He blinked his way though the underworld, sensing the pain and the level of evil, all the time trying to feel Phoebe. When the source had taken Cole over, one of the things the soul of the good man that was left of him had hated, had feared had cringed from, much to the Source's amusement, was the Source's ability to feel the aura of all demons and project his aura on them. It had been a constant and heightened and unrelieved assault of evil and now he felt it again. He was totally aware of the black pain and deep darkness of the demon spirit, the utter soullessness of all the beings that surrounded him. This was not a place the Guardian Belthezor needed to be.
He also rapidly gained some understanding why the underworld was off limits to the guardian Belthezor. He felt the temptation and the desire to eliminate evil power in the place. And he wondered how difficult it would have been to resist if he had his powers which would let him do that. The temptation was there and it was just as well on this visit that the need to find Phoebe was the one overwhelming desire of his soul. Without that things may not have been good. Live and learn he thought and damn Francesca for being right. And damn Arturo while he was at it.
"Think of Phoebe" he told himself. "Think of Phoebe" And as he thought of big brown eyes, and a contrary, loving, demanding, petulant girl/woman soul, as he thought of the laughter and games and the bickering and the intense pleasure of looking up and knowing she was there, the craving in him eased and he smiled and the wisdom of the Guardian recognised something of the power of loving some-one. "Not totally powerless" he thought.
And for a while he could not locate Phoebe because she was lost in the overwhelming evilness. He tried not to look for good or innocence just Phoebe and whilst he started to get a strong sense of her with all the other emotions pulling at him, actually locating her was not easy. He was frustrated by the slowness of the blinking and the demon reaction when they sensed a warlock. They shoved him aside, demanded he bow when they felt his presence. To his amusement.
He tried a number of demon hideaways and then searched his memory for some of Elisheeva's favourite haunts. Elisheeva was a demon who appreciated her comfort so he dismissed the bad domains, the parts of the underworld inhabited by low life and sludges and creatures incomprehensible to upper level demons, so low on the list in the hierarchy that they were dismissed as vermin.
He strained to remember every trick Elisheeva had ever told him about hiding in the underworld, about keeping out of the Source's way. There were dark realms, as there were upper realms within the underworld, plains where rogues could hide and plot and meet and it was in those hidden nooks and folds guarded by time folds, protected by the magic of artefacts and the lore of black magic that demons had collected over hundreds of years, that Elisheeva always created her lairs.
He finally located the lair in one of the legendary black holes of the Underworld, places that absorbed all magic, without reflecting anything back. One that had for a time been his home as a boy.
"Memo to self " Cole thought "explain to Guardians who do come to the underworld the concept of black holes." And the discovery that Guardians could be fallible rather than distressing him, somehow reassured his faith in the balance.
When he blinked into the black hole it only took him seconds to locate Phoebe in a small hidden cavern. Phoebe was lying on a dark bed, curled up in foetal position, hair long dull and unwashed falling over her face. Cole sat on the edge of the bed, and stroked her hair and face, she whimpered and cried and opened her eyes.
"Hi baby" he said gently and received a wistful smile as Phoebe opened her eyes and then suddenly realised it was him sitting there and not a mirage.
"Oh god Cole" she said throwing her arms around his neck "What the hell took you so long?" she snapped.
"I'm not god" he whispered against her face as she kissed his mouth his eyes, any place she could get her lips to, pressing herself as close as Whosit would let her.
He finally pushed her away a little, and his breath still tight with relief at finding her said "God I love you." Then he sighed "Okay why am I feeling the evil of thousands of lost souls radiating out of you."
"You better love me" Phoebe said and then she smiled watery "Bet you don't love me as much as I love you."
"Do too " he said.
"Do not " she said
"Do too" he said.
"Do not " she said and dragged his mouth back to hers.
"Do too " he said into her lips. Then he lifted his mouth and asked "Okay, why am I feeling the weight of all evil coming from you?"
"This think on my neck" Phoebe answered touching the Medusa pendant and trying to sound in control and not quite succeeding. "It feels like the weight of thousands of lost soul " she said " it masks ..innocent souls, good souls with the evil ones she…your damned mother collected." Phoebe told him.
Cole nodded "Mamma is nothing if not effective," he said.
"Aren't you going to ask if I'm evil? " Phoebe said fearfully, "or Whosit?"
"No" he said dryly " I'm not asking that. I already know you're not."
Phoebe swallowed and then whispered "My sisters?"
He winced "I told them you weren't" he said.
"Don't they believe you?" she asked sadly
"They think I'm indulging in wishcraft. I want it so badly that you not to be evil" he said as gently as he could and she swallowed giving him a damp eyed wistful little smile while clutching at his jacket and holding tight to the back of his neck.
"We got your message" he told her "about not trying to summon you."
Her voice shook "I was scared you, they wouldn't understand." she told him "I was scared my sisters would try and summon me again. Elisheeva broke it the first time" Phoebe said " but if they tried when she wasn't round."
"I know" Cole said. "scary, baby when you have to depend on the demon for protection. I get what you were doing, I'm here.''
"My sisters understood about not trying to summon me?" Phoebe asked.
"Yes" Cole said, "they understood what trying to summon you would do."
Phoebe looked at him sideways "Stop trying to avoid lying to me" she ordered him.
"Paige is a little agitated baby," he told her lightly. "Mark, you know."
"I thought she would be" Phoebe said trying to match his tone and not quite making it. "Whosit...I won't let anything happen to Whosit."
"Hey its the whole package coming home" Cole said. "You and Whosit."
"You better believe its the only way I, we are coming home " Phoebe told him with determination.
Cole smiled. "Oh I do " he said.
"And that isn't going to happen until I get rid of this thing on my neck" Phoebe told him. "Its controlled by Elish.. your damned mother's magic and it needs Power of Three to break her magic." Phoebe told him "And while I'm wearing it the evil won't let me be part of the Power of Three. Unless you can break it."
"Got no powers down here" he said "I had to ditch the powers to get past the spirit winds. All I've got is some small non-lethal warlock powers. I can't take you back."
"I can't go with back with you" Phoebe hastily interfered "It would destroy, kill Whosit if I was materialised without Elisheeva's magic.
"Where are your powers?" Phoebe asked suddenly distracted.
"With Leo in the wasteland " he said.
""God I owe Leo " she said.
"You do" Cole agreed."
"What about if she takes me up there?" Phoebe asked
"I can get rid of her 'up there' " he said " can't guarantee it will break the magic, and if she goes she may take her magic with her and everything connected to it. Same problem if I get Arturo to come get you here." Cole touched Phoebe's face "Want to risk it baby?"
"I'm not risking Whosit for anything" she said vehemently. "and you let any guardian near me or Whosit at the moment and I'll .. I'll come after you" she declared. "Could you get rid of her?" Phoebe asked.
He shrugged "Don't know baby" he said honestly.
"I know that " she sighed. She took a deep breath. "This thing is evil Cole" she said. 'I'm scared I'll give into it."
"I know "he said, " I've never seen one that like this one. Never one quite as evil. Didn't know they could totally mask innocence. Must have cost her a couple of centuries worth of contraband souls."
"How can you talk about souls like that? " Phoebe said getting angry.
"Evil souls Phoebe" Cole said "Baby, just trust me."
"There's evil around her and I'm caught up in evil Cole " she said. "I'm fighting it but Whosit feels it. Cole I'm barely hanging on here " she said "you've got to do something."
"Baby I'll… we'll fix " he said "I promise you, but you're going to have to hang on just a little longer."
"I told you to do that once, hold on…and you didn't make it " she said her lower lip trembling.
"You're tougher than me" he said smiling.
"You think" she asked a smile coming between the shaking."She flung herself into his arms again "Cole I'm frightened, really frightened."
"I know baby," he said.
"All I wanted was to have your baby" she said.
"Seems still on that's on the cards" he said. "We'll fix it baby" he reassured her quietly pulling her against him.
"I knew you'd come" she said pulling back.
"Don't I alway " he answered. He put her down and stood up wandering back across the cavern then turned to look at her. Her hair needed washing and the demon robe that Elisheeva had provided her seemed to be to small. "Whosit's growing " he said "Not the most attractive clothing I've seen you in."
And then because he was male and could not help himself and thinking he was being very patient anyway "Baby " he said "we'll fix this I promise you but, just next time I ask you not do something, like don't leave the house alone, don't leave the house alone.
Phoebe came to her feet, ready for war, "You didn't ask me" she snarled.
"I'm damned certain I did," he said trying to keep calm and not really succeeding.
"You told me, in fact you ordered me" she said "as if I was five years old, actually, younger. You treat Melinda like she's more of an adult than me."
"At least Melinda understands the meaning of no" Cole replied getting angry conveniently forgetting Melinda only understood it when she said no." Sometimes Melinda seems more adult than you," he said letting worry get to him "At least she understands when you tell her not to do something for her own good" which was not quite the truth "as in don't leave the house there's a demon after you, and our baby."
"You never even tried to discuss how we could deal with the problem," Phoebe yelled at him "you just treated me like a no brain three year old, like being pregnant make me just a belly not a person."
"Act like a three year old get treated like one" Cole said coming toward her and grabbing her by the shoulders and only just resisting the urge to shake her.
"You son of a bitch," Phoebe bit out.
"Very funny" he snapped letting her go "You know you asked if I think you're evil, I don't think you're evil, you're stupid."
"I am not stupid" she screamed "I took a calculated risk."
"A risk calculated to get you dragged down to the depths of the underworld where I can't reach you" he roared "Which just in case you haven't noticed that's where you are."
"You don't want this baby " she accused "you're jealous of it because you have to share me with it, so you act like patronising bastard "
He didn't answer.
"Why are you being such a bastard? " she whispered.
He shrugged "New power. Always have a bit of a struggle with my demonic nature, when I take one on" he said "Why are you being so bitchy?"
"Weight of evil " she said " gets me cranky."
"I think its easier not being evil " he smiled.
"Phoebe" he said touching her face "About the ba... Whosit, how bad do you want it?"
"Life death, love, very badly" she said swallowing.
"I want it more," he said simply.
"I know," she said reaching to touch his face.
"Very touching" said Elisabeth shimmering in behind her.
Phoebe jumped in fear and pulled out of Cole's arms, a little fearful whimper escaping from her.
Cole did not miss a beat, "Hello Mamma." he said calmly "long time no see."
Phoebe turned to see the human form of Elisheeva, smiling almost seductively under the peek a boo hairstyle. Elisabeth eyed her son with what could only have been longing. "She said she was over you " Elisabeth commented. Sardonically.
"She lied Mamma. What did you expect, she would share all her secrets with you." Cole answered calmly "we don't do getting over each other very well." And to Phoebe's horror he walked over to his mother, kissed her on the cheek and then allowed himself to be caught in a hug.
"I've missed you, " Elisabeth told him.
Cole nodded. "Yeah well shit happens" he said.
"Why didn't you call me back when you became the Source?" she asked. "If you'd have called me you'd have still been on the throne," Elisabeth told him in a sad and disappointed tone.
"Or you would have" Cole smiled. "Sorry Mamma. Chose a different path," he said.
"I knew you'd screw it up," Elisabeth said with just the hint of a sniff.
"That's what happens when you fall in love Mamma" he answered.
"You're beloved hasn't chosen to walk that path," Elisabeth smiled in wry amusement. "She says she wants to rule."
"Phoebe" he said and separated himself from Elisabeth to move over to stand by Phoebe "she'll go the way of the strongest wind" and Phoebe gasped. "She'll go the way I go, or I'll go the way she goes" he added. "we stay together."
"You're still bewitched," Elisabeth said eyeing Phoebe with an amused expression "Belthezor I some times find it had to believe you're my son. You're a weak-minded fool."
"Ah well I'm Papa's son too" he said evenly.
Phoebe got the feeling this was not a new conversation.
'Let's hope it skips a generation" Elisabeth said her eyes on Phoebe's belly. "Why don't you tell him what you really want Chickadee."
"I want " Phoebe said no certain where to go or what to say "I want to…"
"She wants everything " Cole smiled "She wants me, she wants the brat and she wants the power."
"You want me to make him stay?" Elisabeth asked Phoebe.
Phoebe glanced at Cole.
"Tell her the truth" he shrugged.
"I want to be with him" and then she caught herself "Oh shit Mamma don't look at me like that. He's a good fuck."
"Such star crossed lovers" said Elisabeth smiling "why won't you stay Belthezor. What would you lose?"
"Honestly Mamma" he said "I would lose the sun on my face. " Elisabeth eyed him suspiciously. "All right how would I keep her down here. I want her Mamma" he said "Keep the kid. I want her. Let me take her back."
"You don't trust me to help you keep her." Elisabeth asked, almost laughing as Cole shook his head..
"You think I'm going back without Whosit" Phoebe fired at him.
"Mamma, I want her back and the only place I have a hope of keeping her is up there." Cole said "And don't think I won't do anything to have her."
"She's an evil manipulative, self centred little madam " Elisabeth told him "You know I am becoming very fond of her but there are plenty of other witches in the sea."
"She's all I want " Cole said with just a slight waver in his voice "If I stayed what could you do to protect us? What would you do to protect us?" he asked almost helplessly.
"You're a weak-minded fool Belthezor" Elisabeth snapped "Go just go before I can no longer resist the temptation to destroy.. the evidence of my failure."
"I'll have her Mamma" he repeated before he kissed Elisabeth on the cheek.
"Love you" he said to Phoebe.
"Sometimes I think you are a fool "Phoebe said unsympathetically "Just go will you, before Mamma and I both change our minds.," she said nose in the air.
Cole walked over to Phoebe and dragged her against him, roughly forcing a kiss out of her as Elisabeth watched ,amusement and disgust on her face.
"Power of Three " Phoebe said against his ear. "You need Power of Three."
He pushed her away. "I hope I didn't hear you right. That's nearly impossible."
"You did" she pulled herself free of him, defiant.
"Bitch " he said. "You just want me to suffer. She really does love me Mamma" he told Elisabeth.
"Among other things "Phoebe said smiling cynically.
"Some unions are just made in hell Chickadee" Elisabeth smiled behind the peek a boo hair as Cole blinked away. "He's a fool and he's weak" she told Phoebe " Disappointed me on every turn."
Phoebe nodded because she could not think of anything to say.
"That's the thing being a mother. You'll find out." Elizabeth said sadly ”You do love them no matter what. It's unconditional because they come from your body. No matter what the failures, no matter how much they let you down. No matter that the rest of the realm scorns them, they're yours and you have to…love them." She sighed ”Even as a baby he always stayed in human form, I knew it was wrong. I knew it was good but he was mine. I loved him even when he failed at every turn."
Phoebe just stared at Elisabeth Turner, the demon Elisheeva and thought of the strange path Cole had followed to his destiny.
"Can you believe it, he was my son and he was good." Elisabeth shook he head. "He helped other demons and wanted nothing for it. Couldn't even splat a sludge without asking why it had to die. I kept telling him you splat sludges because you can, that's how you learn to kill. Why he would say, why, they're not hurting me, why kill them when they're not hurting me. It breaks a mother's heart but he was my son “ she said with a little sigh.
"How would you even understand what love is?" Phoebe asked because she could not help herself.
"I do love my boy,” Elisabeth said her blue eyes flashing wild passionate said, “no matter what he's become what he's done. I will always love him because he is my son."
Phoebe let her breath out in a little gasp and unconsciously put her hand across Whosit.
"I lost my boy to you” Elisabeth hissed turning demon. “My beautiful boy fell under the influence of a good witch, fell under the words and the bedding." she snorted "My beautiful boy threw everything away for what he thought was a good witch. Stupid fool he is" she told Phoebe. "And all he got was a conniving, evil little ….witch"
Phoebe found herself backing away, both arms across Whosit.
"Can you understand the shame the pain that caused me? Can you understand the sorrow the agony of a mother watching her son fall?" Elisabeth said flicking the hair back "Watching him fall for a witch. Can you imagine the humiliation I feel?"
"No" Phoebe whispered. "I'm not sure I can."
Elisabeth stared at her ”It was his father Chickadee“ she said” My penance for falling for a weak man, one who could not appreciate the beauty of evil. Belthezor and I, we are the same, fall in love, want forbidden fruit, always looking away for something different, I did not want that for my boy” she said "I know what it cost me and I did not want it for him” Elisabeth almost spat out "And I see him now, see what he became and I weep, I weep tears of blood. I believed he could have been so special, when I look at Tempus, Tempus" she spat "On the throne and think of what my boy could have been. I thought,” she growled ” when that thing took him over he might have called me back but he was weak “ she said viciously “He was weak and under that the control of that sow the Seer."
Elisabeth reached out and out her hand on Phoebe's belly “I can learn by mistakes “ she said, "I want him back Chickadee and as you say he's weak and he's bewitched." She smiled. "You my precious little madam are going to bring my beautiful boy back to me. Aren't you? Promise him anything, do anything. Let him fuck the hell out of you as long as you convince him you want it down here."
"Yes Mamma, if that's what you want "Phoebe said submissively.
"I want that. Good little Chickadee. Clever little Chickadee." Elisabeth nodded and shimmered away. Phoebe heaved a sigh and tried to fight down the overwhelming fear and misery.