A Matter of Relativity

Part 3: The impossible takes a little longer

Chapter 25


"They do not love that do not show their love"
 William Shakespeare

Part 3 of 4 Parts


Up in the attic Piper and Paige set the candles out to again summon Prue who arrived in a furious temper with them and Cole.


"Why did you let Cole snuff me out like that?" demanded Prue.


"Prue things have changed " Piper told her. "You shouldn't piss him off. Phoebe's had him through hell lately and he's doing his best to hold it together but.." she tailed off as Prue widened her eyes incredulously.


"Things don't change that much" Prue said "you know once a demon."


"He's not a demon Prue" Piper said.


"What is he?" Prue demanded.


"Not a demon " Piper shook her head. "Look Prue" she said "We learned some things in the last years" she glanced at Paige "...and Cole.   Look trust me when I tell you he found his destiny, and Phoebe, well she loves him and its okay Prue " Piper almost pleaded with Prue to accept her judgment.


Prue snorted and may have said more but Piper hastily changed the subject.


"Cole's working on a way to make Elisheeva bring Phoebe " she said " we'll all see you at the mausoleum . Um Paige will you write out the spell."


"To separate the Medusa from Elisheeva's magic." said Prue.


"Doing it now "said Paige the good little sister.


"Okay" 'said Prue "Now you make sure when you get there you're careful how Elisheeva is approached to get Phoebe away. She'll have some tricks ready. Got a vanquish spell for her?"


"She's Cole's mother " Piper said a little gingerly.


"She's a demon" said Prue.


"Its seems a little odd that we sort of kill Cole's mother " Piper said uncomfortably.


Paige looked at her "She's a demon " said Paige. "and she'd kill us. And she's going to kill Mark if she gets a chance."


Piper turned as she heard Melinda crying.


"I have to go" Piper said. "Melinda's feeling a bit, wants to keep making sure she's number one. She wants mommy. I'll be back."


"I hope get to see her sometime" said Prue a little wistfully as Piper left after nervously glancing at Paige who swallowed and moved her weight from foot to foot.


Prue eyed her off " So" she said " tell me about Mark."


"Um" said Paige "he's um just a friend."


"Know you're a witch" Prue asked.


Paige nodded.


"Coping" asked Prue.


Paige nodded "I think" she said "maybe."


"We'll don't take it for granted, think you have time " Prue said "I did with Andy and you know. Thought I had time. "


"Phoebe had a premonition about Elisheeva killing him. I'm terrified that premonition will come true" Paige said.


"We'll get the bitch" Prue said not nastily. " But " she added "enjoy every second. Enjoy your life Paige " she said " and if things don't go the way you expect, at least make sure the regrets aren't 'if only I had' ones. "


Paige swallowed "Yes Prue" she said, little sister.


"Good" said Prue looking at her kindly " Everything okay " she said to Piper as she came back.


"Yes" said Piper "we have to fix up a things and then we'll get to the mausoleum to summon you " she said trying to keep her voice matter of fact.


"Yeah " said Prue.


"Prue I .. " said Piper.


"Yeah " said Prue as Paige snuffed out the candles.


As dark fell the next night Piper walked into Phoebe and Cole's room. She looked at Cole sitting by the window nervously drumming his fingers on the sill. "You better go to the mausoleum" she told him. "We'll be just outside."


Cole nodded.


Leo came to the door and said just as nervously "Do think Elisheeva.. your mother got your message?"


"I hope" Cole answered standing up.


"Even if she got it do you think she'll come" Piper asked. 


"I hope" answered Cole as Piper and Leo glared at him. "She's a demon" he said " they always want more" he said,  "I've got some things she wants. I've got the golden athame to tempt her."


"You think she'll exchange that for Phoebe and her grand child" Piper snorted.


"I've got something else she wants just as much, and she might even believe if she keeps talking to me she'll get it" Cole said.


Leo and Piper just looked at him.


"Me" he answered, "She's a demon. She'll want it all. I hope."


"Where did she get the idea, she could get it all?" Leo asked.


"Must have been something I said " Cole grinned suddenly.


"You'll really think she she'll want it all " Piper asked.


"She's a demon " Cole said and Leo and Piper did not miss this voice cracked slightly. "I'm going now " he said.


Just before Leo left the room he smiled and said "You know if we get Phoebe back tonight you're dead."


"What do you mean?" Cole asked not understanding.


"She'll kill you when she sees the mess in this room," Leo grinned.


Cole shrugged and then laughed. He went to the top drawer of Phoebe's dresser and removed the golden athame and then before he shimmered, he flicked his hand and cleaned the room. Because he hoped.


He waited alone in the mausoleum thinking of all the time he had spent in that dark miserable place and the memories he had of it. He looked at the metal railing that separated the sections and could almost see himself huddled in a corner while Phoebe fought a zoltar for him. He could still hear the words of goodbye as he shimmered out to follow the long path to his destiny. And not for the first time thanked the higher beings that then as now he had no gift of vision.


Cole remembered the long, long wait he had had when he returned from the realms running from the source, to be with Phoebe. He touched the sarcophagus where he had huddled behind, waiting an eternity for her to come to him. He touched his jaw. He could still feel the punch she let fly into his chin.


He could see so many things, her coming to him believing him, when he was hanging on by a thread from evil before he… but he did not want to think of the witch he killed. Somewhere he hoped that Jenna had a destiny, a calling, beyond what he had done to her… He hoped. Her death had been one more step on the way to his own destiny …  Killing witches. More and more he understood, the nature of the Great Plan, why the arbitrator had to be demon, he doubted a creature whose heritage was good could have lived, existed with  what it required. A hard road that promised to become harder.


In the long hours he had spent in the mausoleum waiting for Phoebe he had done a great deal of thinking and back there again, waiting for Phoebe that is what he did again. As he waited he could see her face in its manifestations, distrusting, wanting, frightened when the banshee had gone, declaring she would do anything to be with him, when the seekers came for him, trusting promises that he broke, promises to leave the Brotherhood. This place represented his dreams and his worst nightmares, his learning to love, and the places on his path to his calling when he had staggered and fallen, mostly with Phoebe beside him to give him strength, this was a place where he had come to pick himself up or let Phoebe pick him up and stagger on again.


He could feel a mounting excitement with the realisation that if all went well she would be with him soon. Maybe this time he would keep her. He smiled the one he saved for her. Keep her until the next time she got caught up in one of her whims or fantasies or missions. Then and there in the mausoleum where he had made so many of his choices he made a promise to himself. There wouldn't be a next time, he could learn, no more requests to walk away would be lconsidered. No more fits to run would be tolerated. Phoebe liked to tease she could make his life hell if he didn't do what she wanted but the only time she had the power to do that was when she wasn't in it.  "So tough luck Miss Phoebe" he said out loud "You've done your last runner."


How long was it since she did her runner over Whosit, four months without her, give or take a couple of weeks in the middle, four months without the constancy of her being there nagging him , pushing him, loving him. "No more Miss Phoebe" he said. She could stay and fight and sulk and nag, but she no longer was getting the choice of going. He almost looked forward to the first time she tried it.


He had long since stopped questioning the fact of loving her.  It was as natural to him as existing, as much a part of him as the corporal form he had created for himself. He had touched her aura and touched her soul, and when she was not in the realm, not being aware of her was a pain that he could not bear. He loved her. He understood her, as much as anyone could and more than most. And the parts he did not understand kept him..alive.


She drove him and every one around her crazy with her moods and her whims but he genuinely admired her choice to be true to her sense of self, and more often than not he was amused by it. She rarely bothered to hide herself or her soul from him these days, she said and did what she felt. That she trusted and believed him when he said he loved her was probably the greatest gift she could give him. He loved her and wanted her and the thought of having her back that night was leaving him shaking with excitement and fear of failure. He tried to imagine an existence without her and his soul froze at the thought.


She had power over him because she had the power to take away that love. And he supposed all he could do in the end, was to trust that for all her fits and whims and capriciousness, she loved him enough, cared about him enough not to do it.  He smiled. He loved her and to love someone that much was to break your heart and find your soul.


She would be back tonight. He hoped. Tonight she would be there to be difficult, demanding and curl up against him while she slept. He was almost curious to know how this was all going to be his fault. He smiled. Sometimes he really enjoyed watching Phoebe go through her repertoire of games, tricks, demands and most irritating behaviour just to watch the crumbled and nervous little heap she fell; into when it occurred to her she may have gone to far. Cole used to be a demon, sometimes he could not help himself.


It was a long cold wait for all of them. Piper and Paige huddled under a rug  in the cemetery, just far enough away from the mausoleum to be out of Elisheeva's senses while Leo was babysitting, were miserable.  He called them every 10 minutes or so and mostly Paige whispered into the phone. "If Phoebe isn't evil and this really is a rescue she better be damned grateful."


"She's not evil Paige " Cole said. Three hours later, Paige and Piper were ready to give up. He barely finished a whispered argument about not doing it when sitting behind the sarcophagus he felt the disturbance of a shimmer and he finally jumped to his feet as the red and black features of the demon Elisheeva appeared.


"I can't talk to you like that" Cole said and the revulsion he felt was real.


"You fear the face of evil." she said.


"I detest it " he said and summoning the blinking power, he started to leave and deliberately let it fail.


Elisheeva observed her son trying to use the warlock powers unsuccessfully and choked back a small sob.


"You are so weak " she said in a demonic hiss that expressed her disgust. Sighing she turned into Elisabeth. "I wonder how I failed you " she said moving forward to catch hold of his upper arms and  kiss his cheek. "I've asked myself so many times." She said eyeing him behind the peek a boo hair. "I got your message.What do you want?" she asked dryly stepping away from him.


"I wondered how you failed me too" Cole shrugged " I want Phoebe" he said "and you have her." And the nervous cough he made was not entirely feigned.


"Don't you think your obsession with that witch has cost you enough?" Elisabeth asked both severely and sadly.


"Obsession seems to be a family trait," he said.


"Come down and see her any time" Elisabeth said sweetly.


"I have a few problems with that " Cole said. "I have to borrow powers to get down there, like the warlock's blinking" he said. "And I don't trust you."


"You seem to have enough power the two times I saw you previously" Elisabeth commented on. "In fact I seem to recall that you threatened to fireball me."


"Borrowed powers and stolen" he said "not that I guess anyone will be to quick to ask for them back but what I borrow isn't always something.. long term" he smiled awkwardly "I'm not a demon any more Mamma, that's gone and demonic powers …don't last. Nothing lasts " he said intently.


"Except your damned obsession with that witch" said Elisabeth with a sigh.


He swallowed "I need to see her Mamma " he said "I can't get to her and I have to see her."


"I could always take you down" Elisabeth offered holding out her hand.


"Would you bring me back Mamma?" he asked sadly.


Elisabeth tossed the peekaboo hair acknowledging he was right "The witch just uses you " she said still his mother and concerned.


"I don't care " he said " I love her Mamma and ..if I can talk to her, somewhere she feels safe I think we can work it out " he looked into Elisabeth's blue eyes "I think if I can see her where she feel she can make a choice, we can find away."


"You know you're pathetic" Elisabeth said with the disappointment in her voice that could always cut him to the quick.


"I love her Mamma" he said "Its, she's the only thing I want, don't care what it costs.


"You really are no longer a demon," sighed Elisabeth.


"No" he said shaking his head with a good impression of regret.


"I don't see why I should help you make a bigger fool of yourself than you already are" Elisabeth said. And then her eyes narrowed. "How did you get out of the wasteland" she asked quietly.


"Stolen powers" he said "it cost me, it cost me dear but I would do anything to have Phoebe." and he shrugged weakly.


"You really are pathetic," Elisabeth said ""you could have been, you were the Source, and to throw it away over a witch, even a corrupt, little twit like that one," she sneered "especially a corrupt little twit like that one."


"I don't see her that way " he swallowed. "I never wanted anything but her. I'll have her " he said stronger.


Elisabeth's blue eyes suddenly "What are you?" she asked quietly.


"Not much of a demon left" he said woefully as Elisabeth looked disgusted. "Just enough of the powers to hid. I manage to keep just enough to remain corporeal."


"Are you good?" she asked suspiciously.


He shook his head slowly.


"Swear it " she said "swear it on your father's soul"


He smiled a little weakly "I swear it on my father's soul. I am not a minion of good. I don't work for them. I don't do their bidding. I don't serve their cause."


And even a demon knew he was telling the truth. "You are telling the truth " she said as he nodded helplessly "How much of the rest of it is true."


"Most of it " he said with regret" I was never a very good liar."


"Amongst the many things you were never good at. Tell me when was the last time you killed a witch" his mother asked casually."


Cole was very glad that Piper and Paige were outside.


"A few months ago" he said " I didn't want to. Had no choice."


"You're pathetic " Elisabeth said without heat.


"I have to talk to Phoebe Mamma" he said and he did not have to feign the desperation "I'll make it worth your while."


"What do you mean?" she asked.


He produced the gold athame that Phoebe had picked up and used on him. "I told you I keep things up my sleeve" he said as she laughed a little; "just go get her so I can talk to her and you can have it."


Elisabeth eyed the athame with an avaricious gleam in her eye. "What makes you think I won't take it?" she asked.


"Because I would kill myself with it before you got it " he said turning it on himself. "Want to lose me that way ..Mamma."


"You're not evil " she sneered. "And you haven't got the guts."


"Want to find out..Mamma" he said. "It doesn't take guts, it takes.. no hope left" he sighed.


 "You're pathetic " she said and shimmered.


Cole stared at the space where she had been for a second, shook his head and then turned and shimmered himself, to where Piper and Paige huddled in behind a grave stone.


"Only got a few seconds " he said and grabbed both and shimmered them behind the sarcophagus 


"I could have orbed " Paige snapped.


"Don't want her smelling orbs," he said as Piper glared at him.


Phoebe sitting in the cavern in the Underworld trying to put a finger between the collar and her neck and feeling the weight of the evil choking her, was fighting the depths of despair that was eating into her soul.


"See I told you he would come and he'll find a way get us out of here" she told Whosit. "so all we have to concentrate on is finding a way to stop him nagging me for the next three months about how he knows best to look after a pregnant woman, because he's had so much experience, and everything will be okay."


Phoebe with the weight of evil on her neck she was having trouble keeping the confidence in her voice even for Whosit "Only I don't see what's taking him so long" she said barely holding back a little sob.


Elisabeth shimmered into the cave and stood staring down at Phoebe The witch's hair was pulled back into an unflattering ponytail, a demon robe now strained tight over Whosit and her face, pale from lack of light had a transparent fragile look.


Elisabeth smiled nastily " What does my son see in you " she said asked. "He pants over you worse than that impotent fool Roger did over me. Come with me" she ordered reaching for Phoebe.


"Where?" Phoebe asked pulling back suspiciously.


"To see my son" Elisabeth said " and you promise him anything he wants, as long as he comes down here. It'll be worth it to you" the demon said knowing.


Phoebe started pull free. "Promise to let him fuck the hell out me" she asked.


"As long as its down here" Elisabeth said. "Stop bitching. You said he was good at it. It will be worth it to you." she added.


"Will you take the damned collar off." Phoebe asked praying to god Cole knew what he was doing.


"If that's what it will take" Elisabeth agreed and Phoebe knew she was in trouble if Cole could not pull this off. She steeled herself as reached out to touch her and then shimmered.


When she came out of the shimmer with Elisabeth holding firmly to her shoulder Cole was pacing the floor near the exit to the mausoleum. Phoebe could only just make him out in the single light that was on in the mausoleum.


Cole heaved a sigh of relief when he saw Phoebe and almost ran across to catch her under her arms, and lift her into the air.


"Baby" he said spinning with her above his head, not an easy feat considering how pregnant she was. He just had time with his back to Elisabeth to mouth "Its okay."


Cole put Phoebe down, turned toward Elisabeth, reaching for her arms as if to hug her. As he caught the demon's arms, he spun her around hooked an arm around Elisabeth's neck, and he flicking the golden athame from his sleeve, he held it to her throat, threatening to let her rot for eternity if he used it.


Piper and Paige came from behind the sarcophagus.


"I can't use my magic" Phoebe said "there's no Power of Three."


"Its okay " said Piper as they quickly placed the candles and she and Paige summoned Prue while Elisabeth struggled with Cole


"Stand still" he ordered her.


"You haven't got the courage to do it" she spat.


"Maybe it isn't courage I need"  he hissed back "its possession. I will do anything to have her." And Elisabeth to his satisfaction suddenly froze.


Phoebe gulped "Prue" as she appeared in the candle circle.


"I told you I'd come if I was needed " Prue said "you have caused a lot of trouble Madam Phoebe" she added severely and held out her hands to her sisters, Paige an Piper stepped into the circle and very carefully repeated the spell to break Elisheeva's magic while all the while the demon cursed Cole in demonese.


With a bang that sounded like a an explosion in a confined space of the mausoleum the collar and pendant flew off Phoebe's neck and she caught her throat gasping in great gulps of air as if she had been struggling for breathe for the whole time she was in the Underworld.


Elisheeva turned demonic as the collar came off. The demonic invective reached another level and Piper and Paige who understood gasped and Prue looked perplexed. Phoebe just stood shocked in relief at being free.


"Now" said Prue "the vanquish spell" and she and Paige and Piper, after a hesitation began to recite the Power of Three spell to vanquish the demon Elisheeva.


The demon stopped the invectives as she realised what was happening. Cole pushed her away from him and unable to shimmer, held captive by the start of the vanquish she never took her eyes from the face of the son she loved. He saw what he had seen so many times as demons were vanquished, he saw his mother feel what he had felt when the Power of Three. He saw his mother  start to contort with pain. He glanced at Phoebe standing there in a demon robe her eyes darting from Elisheeva to Cole. She met his eyes and he shook his head sadly.


The witches reached the last line of the vanquish and Cole suddenly waved his arm and the candles surrounding the witches went out and the form of Prue disappeared before the spell was finished.


Piper and Paige looked at Cole in fury and Paige turned to Phoebe "Say the spell" she ordered her sister.


Phoebe's big brown eyes moved from the now still form of Elisheeva to her sisters and then to Cole.


"Phoebe don't" he said pleading.


She swallowed watching the demon Elisheeva standing there, ready to die and remembered when they vanquished Cole and the pain in those blue eyes that were so similar to Elisabeth's and she couldn't do it.


"No." Phoebe said slowly shaking her head. "Get rid of her Cole" she said added.


"Guess you're right Mamma" he said "Go. I haven't got the guts to do kill you."


 Elisheeva screamed, "You're a weak minded besotted fool."


"Besotted at any rate " he said reaching to pull Phoebe into his arms., while Piper stood legs played and an angry expression on her face and Paige was half way between fear and fury.


"You think you have the guts to keep me from finding my Quillon" Elisabeth sneered.


"Who?" said Cole.


"Whosit " Phoebe explained.


"Did she keep that little secret from you" said Cole. "Check around the rumours Mamma, check around why the whitelighter got fired, you must have demons, running around the Bay Mirror newspaper office. Check the stories. I told you there wasn't much of me left."


"You weak, impotent, pathetic" Elisheeva hissed


"Mamma you're right" Cole said  "I'm a screwup always was, always will be. Can't even hold a job down as a mortal. Stuffed up as the source, seems I can't keep a lover faithful either."


"You're did all this to get the evil bitch back "Elisheeva screamed.


 "I'd forgive her anything" Cole said "I love her."


"You're lying" she snarled.


"Am I Mamma?" he said "How good a liar am I."


"Was any of that true "Elisheeva asked turning into Elisabeth her face taking on the sardonic expression of someone who had a plan.


"Well you'll have to risk a guess Mamma" Cole said  he suddenly flicked et  golden athame at her. "Find yourself a place in the hierarchy " he said.


Elisheeva caught the knife and stared at him.


"Mamma go" said Cole "before Phoebe decides she doesn't love me enough and says the spell."


Elisheeva suddenly grabbed the knife. "You're a pathetic fool if you believe that self centred two faced little bitch loves you. She'd do anything to get the collar off. Trust me." Elisabeth said before she shimmered.


"I guess I'm a pathetic fool " he muttered as Phoebe reached up for a long drawn out kiss.


Piper interrupted angrily. "You haven't solved anything you know and you gave that damned demon  the athame."


Cole, shrugged " It can't kill a good being and it doesn't belong in this realm, and Phoebe's back "  he said his breath all most shuddering in relief as he held tightly onto her and she arched against him.


Paige looked at Phoebe almost in revulsion "You let that damned demon go. Phoebe are you trying to tell me you're not evil."


"Paige" Phoebe said glancing from Piper to Cole to Paige and stepping close with the intention of hugging her sister.


"Don't touch me" said Paige "that bitch would kill Mark. I guess you lied to me to Cole " she said eyeing the bulge that was Whosit.


Cole pressed his lips together "Neither of them are evil Paige" he said.


"I'm going to see Mark" she snarled and then orbed.


Phoebe looked at the place Paige had been and tears welled.


"I hug " said Piper forcefully and Phoebe with a sigh grabbed Piper and hugged her.


"I love you, I love both my sisters, all my sisters" Phoebe told Piper.


"All very fine for you" said Piper brusquely "but when we get home I have to summon Prue and explain to her why Cole snuffed her out..again"


"Again?" asked Phoebe.


"Prue pisses me off" Cole said as Piper raised her eyes "I'm going to disintegrate those Medusa heads" Cole told them "Which means in about 3 seconds this place is going to be full of evil souls and demons trying to capture them. So be ready to shimmer."


"I have to shimmer with you an Phoebe. Ick " said Piper.


"I had to shimmer with you and Leo .Ick" said Cole.


"Why" said Phoebe.


"Shut up Phoebe" said Cole and Piper both embarrassed.


Cole fired his laser power at The Medusa an it blew up in a brilliant white and purple light. The last thing all three felt as Cole shimmered was the agony of evil let loose in the mausoleum.


Leo was in the parlour when they got back. "I know " he said. "Paige was here. She's gone over to Mark's" and he walked over to give Phoebe a big hug.


"I'm not evil" she said without being asked "although I can understand why you would think I was" she added nervously looking under her lashes." Paige…"


"I know" Leo said glancing at Cole "Not convinced Whosit isn't evil."


"Yes " said Phoebe looking at Cole who was doing nothing but staring at her, a soft smile of relief on his face.


"I just want to shower and go to bed" Phoebe said yawning as the tension of the last few weeks hit her "Just so glad to be home" she said.


"We have something to do first Madame Phoebe" Piper said catching her hand.


"What" said Phoebe.


"Prue" said Piper.


"Tomorrow" said Phoebe hopefully.


"Now" said Piper firmly.


Phoebe stopped to kiss Cole as Piper pulled her past him. “I have one thing to say to you" Phoebe said "and you better understand I mean this.  If you ever dare complain about having in law problems again, say I have it easy..."


“I know" he said, ”you'll make my life hell."


“To easy” she said, "that's what you get for being an arsehole. Making your life hell doesn't even cover it. Got it” she said.


"Got it," he said, smiling the one he saved for her.


She put her free hand against his chest breathing deeply taking in the scent of him "Thank you" she said quietly.


"What for?" he said the smile in his eyes.


"For trusting me," she said "for trusting me when there wasn't any reason, except to believe me."


"Nothing that hasn't been done for me," Cole said a slight tremor in his voice.


Upstairs Piper set the circle of candles then she and Phoebe said the summon a witch spell.


Prue appeared immediately.


"This is getting to easy," Piper said.


"The less you need it the easier it gets" Prue answered. "Don't need it to much " she added softening for a second.


"Thank you Prue" said Phoebe "For coming when I needed you."


"Don't need it to much" Prue said severely green eyes flashing.


"Yes Prue " Phoebe said contritely. "I mean no Prue. I mean."


"I know what you mean " said Prue, the green eye flashed even more and her arms crossed " What happened to the demon?" she asked " Elisheeva" she added in case there was any doubt.


Phoebe looked at Piper. "She got away," Phoebe said.


"I see" said Prue, sucking her lips together. She turned away from Phoebe to Piper "Can I see Melinda?" she asked.


"She's asleep" said Piper.


"Please " said Prue almost pleading and Piper nodded and turned to get her.


"I " said Phoebe shrugging as Prue focused on her." Cole ."


"It really hasn't changed has it?" said Prue " its always about Cole."


"Its not always about Cole" Phoebe said defensively "Its .. this once it was  though."


"Hmm " said Prue  and Phoebe was saved by her turning away as Piper carried her sleeping daughter into the attic. Prue looked at the little girl, snuggled asleep in her mother's arms as Piper proudly showered off he daughter.


Prue nodded and Piper smiled "Thank you Prue. It was ….good to be together again" Piper said almost awkwardly.


"Thank you" said Prue in a voice more gracious than grateful, then she shrugged and shook her head."Thank you." she said "It was .. it was a chance to fix some loose ends from my life " and with a supreme effort she suddenly was able to materialise to touch for a second the cheek of her sleeping niece and hug Piper and then she was gone.


Phoebe and Piper met each others eyes and Piper nodded.