A Matter of Relativity

Part 4: All truth is relative

Chapter 31


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

Part 4 of 4 Parts

That night Phoebe came out of the bathroom and slide in beside Cole. She leant against him and sighed as she kissed him and crawled across him. Then she had to wriggle around a little more because much as they promised each other Whosit would never come between, there was no denying Whosit was there, between them.


"This is getting bloody awkward" Phoebe giggled trying to find an interesting position which was not quite impossible.. if you could levitate. Then she and Cole started to laugh so much for a while they were in danger of not quite making it even with the levitation.


"You look like an ancient fertility symbol" Cole said laughing as he caught Phoebe and pulled her down on him, and she forgot about innocents and demon mothers and Mark for a little while before they both slipped into a comfortable sated sleep but a few hours later Phoebe awoke and lay there thinking, turning everything over.


Lost in thought it took her a little while to realise that Cole was awake resting his chin on one hand and watching her contemplatively. "Are you ever going to tell me what's wrong?" he asked when she finally noticed him.


"Nothing's wrong" she started to say.


"Phoebe" he said and his voice was not happy.


"Witchy stuff " she said. "And some sister stuff. Why are you worried?"


"Phoebe" Cole said.


"I told Mark about the premonition, the one I had about him" Phoebe said.


"How did he take it?" Cole asked in a quiet almost fatalistic voice.


"Pretty good.  Bloody damned good" said Phoebe. Then she bit her lip "He can see the angel of Death Cole" she said.


"Then I guess that settles it." Cole said almost distantly "I'm sorry, I really am. I like Mark" he said. Phoebe was silent "Phoebe you're not going to do something really stupid like try and stop it are you?" he took a deep breath "remember Miles" he said.


"Yes" she said "I remember Miles. And what trying to change some-one's destiny nearly caused. Its' just" she said moving close enough to him to feel his body against hers. "I feel I've I betrayed Paige. Mark does not want me to tell her he knows or about the angel.  Wants the time with her to be special."


"Well when you get caught up in other people's secrets, you always end up betraying some-one" said the guardian who was once known as  the demon Belthezor, the great betrayer. "I guess at this point its his choice" Cole said. "He is lucky in a way, he knows, he gets a choice."


"Bloody guardian": Phoebe swore at him because she was worried.


"Stop swearing at me when you already knew the answer" Cole muttered


"Bloody guardian" Phoebe said louder.


"What's the witchy stuff you're not telling me" Cole sighed but as Phoebe glanced at him she could she see he was smiling.


She took a deep breath "I think Lara Haslett is doing something pretty bad" Phoebe told him as she lay back on the pillow. She stole a glance at him "Do you know it? "


Cole was quiet for a while "I know something "he said "I feel something."


"Aren't you going to do anything about it?" Phoebe asked hoping.


"Not yet," Cole said then sucked on his lip, "Its not my ..business yet."


"I think innocents, like that bitch Arlene and even the bastard Roger may be hurt by her." Phoebe said. "even Marly. Why won't you stop her?" she demanded.


"Because" he said "its not my call…yet. I don't fight the battle Phoebe. I… arbitrate the actions."


"Not even to protect the innocents" Phoebe asked almost feeling he had let her down.


"Its not my calling to protect the innocents,…yet. "Cole answered quietly.


"Are you telling me it's mine?" Phoebe asked.


"I'm not telling you anything," Cole said.


"I don't think it can be done without pissing off some…ogre or guardian" she said with a shake in her voice. "You think I should piss off an ogre?" she asked primly.


"Its not my business, do what you think necessary" Cole told her. When she gasped he said almost sadly "I mean it. I heard Paige say once that you and Piper and she know more things about 'higher magic' than you should. I shouldn't know what you're doing Phoebe." he said pleading she would understand "Guardians don't interest themselves in witches business until it becomes their business."  


"When does it become your business?" Phoebe demanded.


Cole reached over to take her hand " If Lara keeps going the way she is it may be but, Phoebe. If I interfere now I'm not arbitrating.. I'm fighting. Each time you go to battle there's a time when it looks like it won't work but you know that's why you have magic to make it work. I think you have what you need to protect the innocents," he said,. "My role is to keep the balance Phoebe, not make sure good wins. I hear these damn things in my head. I hate it " he said " And I know this is not my business. Yet."


"What about when evil wins?" Phoebe demanded passionately but she did not pull her hand away. "When good people like Mark are lost and innocents who struggle to find there way are lost? Innocents like Marly or even shits like Roger. You just let them get lost?"


Col sucked his lip and said "You remember last year when I decided to follow this calling, when we talked about what it meant, about why no-one would be to thrilled about us being together because ..things might clash. Phoebe it has to play out," he said.  "Even when it looks likes evil wins. Ever wonder why Arturo did not come after you when you and your sisters were not doing….so well after I came back from the wasteland or even when I … the Source dragged you down to the Underworld."


She caught her breath.


"It had to play out, Phoebe" Cole said, his voice far away, in a world she did not share. "In the end I guess it played out the way it was supposed. Destiny and all that."


"And if it hadn't gone that way? And what about the ones who were lost on the way " Phoebe said. "The innocent, you, the Source killed, the one from AA, or even remember Jenna," Phoebe said getting angry and then as she heard him take a sharp deep breath  she softened. "I know the answer to that" she said.


"Do you?" he said tightly keeping hold of her hand.


"Francesca told me " she said.


"Francesca ought to learn to mind her own damn business" said Cole without heat.


"Evil has to win sometimes" she said" to keep the balance. Individual destiny and all that."


"Yeah" he said.


I'Il have to try one more time with Lara " Phoebe said.


"That's good" Cole said not letting go her hand.


"You won't come with me to tell her? "Phoebe said.


"Yeah I can come with you if you want. But if she won't listen to you why will she listen to… me? " Cole asked.


"Maybe she'll listen to a guardian" Phoebe said hoping "Maybe if she knew what could happen."


"Phoebe " he said "I'm not the boogy man to frighten naughty witches into behaving themselves. She knows about guardians. She sent her father to murder some lost souls to avoid their .. our wrath. If she listens to good advice, its the advice she should be listening to, not who the advice is coming from."


"If she was frightened enough she might listen" Phoebe said knowing already she wasn't going to move him.


Cole sighed "Once with Francesca, before I knew what she really was, I ah demanded she get one of the Powers that be to repeat what she told me. She got all huffy but materialised herself into the power and light being and then looked down her nose at me and said 'do I need to repeat myself.' "


Phoebe smiled.


"I learnt " he smiled " the advice was good whether it came from a whitelighter ,from a great power or just a friend. Lara Haslett knows what happened to her mother, she used her father to try and avoid" and he smiled "ogres. If she won’t listen to good advice from a witch or even a mere mortal, she isn’t going to listen because when she's frightened of an ....ogre. If she won't listen, she won't listen." said the guardian.


"God Cole I hate you when you’re a smart arse guardian ," Phoebe said as she snuggled as close to him as Whosit would let her.


'I'm not god," he said.


"Shut up Cole " Phoebe muttered.


The next day, outside Lara Haslet's house Phoebe eased herself back into her car and pondered on the practicality of sports cars. Cole was thinking something similar as he inwardly muttered that the seat of Phoebe's small car never went back quit far enough for his long legs. Phoebe was not able to actually drive it these days given that she could barely reach around Whosit to find the steering wheel and all she could do was touch the brake with her toe.


"That was a waste of time" Phoebe sighed.


"Only that it didn't convince Lara " Cole sighed "In some way it may have been..useful."


"Stop sounding like an arse…" Phoebe said.


"arsehole guardian " he asked.


"Shut up Cole" she said "aren't you going to ask me what's next."


"No" he said "Its not.."


"Your business?" Phoebe asked


Cole smiled and they were both quiet for a while, knowing the long distance between their callings.


"Its a bitch isn't it" Phoebe asked finally.


"Yeah" said Cole.


"Its just another game "she said "I ain't gonna let you go, even if we can’t share everything, its only some  things". she touched Whosit "we got a lot going for us."


"Yeah" he said " the sex isn't bad either. Just so you know" he added, "I made up my mind waiting for mamma and you to come from the underworld. No matter what you say or do I'm not going anywhere and I'm not going to let you run. Any more. You can damn well stay and fight it out."


"You really are brave aren't you" she said reaching over to kiss him when she saw the smile she loved, the one that was specially for her form on his lips.. "Want to go to Ozzie's ice cream parlour and buy me a double chocolate spider with three scoops of ice-cream."


"No" he said.


"Cole" she hissed.


"Phoebe" he moaned.


'I'm not going to let Lara screw those innocents" Phoebe said.


"Don't tell me," he said " But I think that is good."


"I won't "she said.


"Good" he said putting the car in gear and hoping there would be no parking spaces near Ozzie's and Phoebe would believe he had forgotten how to shimmer.



"Piper" Phoebe said trying to catch hers sister in between a panic about  Melinda deciding to orb off during a visit to a mall and Piper's regular afternoon session at P3. Piper not only had to endure the panic of losing Melinda but had to try and explain how her not quite 2 year old daughter was found by a security guard wandering alone at the other end of the Mall.


Piper had finally worked out a potion to bind Melinda's power giving into the panic and embarrassment and Leo's insistence that they could not go on like this after nights of not sleeping and fear. Unfortunately one very powerful and determined little not two year old witch, may not have understood her power but she understood No, and No included not letting her powers be bound.


The night after binding Melinda's powers Piper had happily slept knowing her daughter was safely in her cot until she had been woken four hours later by Melinda appearing and disappearing at the end of the bed.


So Piper and Leo were not overly interested when Phoebe said quite determinedly that she did not think that Marly should be looking after Melinda any more.


"Of course she can't " said Piper half a step off losing it "do you think I can leave Melinda with any-one who has such a small amount of magic, who could not possibly control Melinda make her stay."


Phoebe pursed her lips because Piper's idea of making Melinda stay was bribing her with any thing she wanted. So much for all books on good parenting practices, she thought "Aren't you glad I don't read them Whosit" she said out loud.


"Don't you think you ought to just teach her to control the power?" Paige asked.


"She's two" said Piper "she has no idea what she wants or how to control anything. She's barely potty trained."


"Well I always could orb " Paige started to say.


"You needed a fear reaction " Leo said testily because he was tired and worried "and the only real evidence we have that you could orb is that you could do it after puberty."


"Don't you dare bring up my parents," Paige snapped.


"This isn't about you Paige" snapped Piper back. "Or Mark either" she said before that argument got going.


"We shouldn't have Marly as a babysitter because I think she's gone evil " yelled Phoebe.


"'Just because you are half whitelighter doesn't mean" Piper started to say. "What" she said.


"I think Marly might be evil." Phoebe said.


"Why is everybody  evil but you?" asked Paige snippily.


"I saw her with Elisabeth, Elisheeva" Phoebe said.


"She 's a friend of Lara Haslett " said Paige "Lara is going after Elisheeva, the stupid bitch will get herself killed if she's not careful."


"I don't suppose we could go after Elisheeva" Phoebe said "when this is sorted out with Melinda."


"I can’t handle any more evil, Phoebe. Who's evil Lara, Marly? I can't handle anything more." rattled Piper the mother of an out of control not quite two year old.


"We're not going anywhere near Elisheeva" Paige said, "not if its going to risk Mark. Unless of course you are evil and want him to die."


"But we're not going to let Marly baby sit are we?" Phoebe insisted.


"Are you crazy?" screamed Piper "At the moment. Of course we're not going to let Marly baby sit."


"Good" said Phoebe, leaving before she said anything more. Like 'shut the fuck up and listen to me. There are innocents at stake.'


Paige followed her. "You really aren't interested in any-one's problems when they're not about you.  Are you?" she demanded and stalked off.


Phoebe put her hand on Whosit " I told you it was just you and me " she said. "Talk to your sisters. Huh. What in the hell does Daddy know any-way. Bloody man" she told Whosit " Bloody know it all Guardian." She sighed. "I told you it's just you and me precious" she said. "At least I tried" she added.


Melinda had a an appointment at the health centre for some vaccinations and checkup and it caused considerable debate in the household because Piper was torn between being the good mother of a little daughter and the good mother of a little witch. Finally she and Leo decide to risk it and armed with bribes of favourite toys and candies they somewhat nervously took her off.


Paige was at work and Cole after saying he was looking forward to an afternoon alone suddenly looked up and muttered "Damn."


"What" said Phoebe.


"I have to go" he said.


"Where? " she asked.


"Africa" he said.


"Why?" she asked.


"Um" he said.


She sighed "Enjoy it," she said.


"I won't" he muttered and shimmered off.


He had barely left when the door bell rang. Phoebe waddled herself over to the door and opened it " Oh hi Mark " she said.


" I " he said a little awkwardly " I .. I wanted to talk to you. I felt .I.." he said.


"Sure" Phoebe said with a reassuring smile and stepped back to let him in, and then she froze.


"What" he said.


"You're wearing a daffy duck tie," Phoebe said.


"I often wear daffy duck ties" Mark said.


"You were wearing that tie in my premonition" Phoebe told him.


"I often wear this tie," Mark said with a whimsical smile.


"I " Phoebe started to say and stopped as Marly walked up the stairs a blank soulless look on her face, no nerves nothing. Just evil. Mark turned and started to say "Hi Marly " and stopped as he saw the expression.


"Marly" said Phoebe.


"Bitch " said Marly flat voiced "evil bitch."


"Marly " Phoebe tried again.


"You and your whole family" Marly said in a passionless flat voice that was more frightening than if she was angry. "I hate you. The brat your…. the son of a bitch you fornicate with, all of you."


"Go Marly " Phoebe said.


"Bitch " said Marly.


Phoebe put her hand on Marly to push her away. The vision was almost the same has the one she had seen of Arlene, she saw the little witch in the Underworld on her knees, crawling toward the laughing, charming demon Elisabeth.


"What do you want my little witch" called Elisabeth stepping back. "Magic and power, confidence and strength. I can give you the power I can give you evil that understands your gifts and greatness. Did you know little witch, that evil holds dear the lore masters. Its not the flamethrowers that live at our highest level but the dark priests and seers and lore masters. Come to me" smiled Elisabeth waiting expectant because a witch throwing herself on the sword was the final accumulation of the power.


And Phoebe watched as the witch threw herself on the sword and Elisabeth laughed in expectation of the great power of the sword coming to her and then suddenly froze, a look of blankness and fear and helplessness crossing her beautiful evil face. She stared at Marly in disgust as she realised what had happened. The demon waved her hand and sent a fireball at Marly and the blue ball harmlessly whizzed into the witch who barely blinked at it, helpless and already soul dead, then Marly  and the vision disappeared as she was dragged back to the earth realm.


Marly looked at Phoebe her eyes dull and soulless, nothing of the nervous and fearful little witch. "You'll be sorry," she said. "You think you will be safe, you think any spawn of the Accursed witch trio will be safe. You think that baby witch daughter of Piper is strong enough to protect you now, you think I didn't know what she is."


"Get out Marly" Phoebe said in a voice as cold as ice "get out before I do something I'll regret. Go" she roared.


Marly's dead eyes beyond fear, beyond caring, remained unblinking and she slowly turned away. Then Marly looked back and mouthed the words "Help me" before saying, "Bitch. Fornicator "and she walked almost in a zombie state down the stairs.


"What's wrong with Marly?" Mark asked fear and concern all over his face


Phoebe started to shake her head.


" Is it about me and my imminent demise" he asked quietly as Phoebe leaned against the door and watched Marly look both ways at bottom of the steps and then wander off in a zombie state in the opposite direction to where she lived.


"No" said Phoebe "I don't think.. No " she said.


"No" he said slowly in disbelief "as it's my demise do I get a say?"


"Mark its not " she said and stared at the daffy duck tie " You're wearing that tie when you , in the premonition." she repeated.


"Will changing ties make any difference " he asked with a grin that Phoebe could barely understand.


"You look like a girl who needs to talk, and its not like me and my tie have got anywhere else to be." Mark said smiling and Phoebe sincerely wished he wasn't so damned nice because this would be easier.


"Don't joke," Phoebe ordered.


"Why" answered Mark "its my imminent demise. If I want to joke, I will."


"Paige will kill me for telling you because she'll think I talked you into making some rash decisions " Phoebe said.


"She knows me better than that" Mark replied calmly.


Phoebe walked into the parlour and sat on the edge of one of the big chairs while Mark sat almost calmly on the edge of the sofa, a man who had accepted his fate.


She swallowed "There's a witch who has the power of mind meld .She has used it to get these innocents, flawed innocents to believe they can control evil. She used a spell that infects them, that makes them believe themselves all powerful but really makes them impotent." Phoebe explained " this witch is thinking of power and vendettas and vengeance to get a demon, when she should be protecting innocents."


"And this is  a minion of good" Mark commented "So this witch is trying to make sure that good wins at the cost of innocent souls ".


"Yes" said Phoebe


"Including little Marly?" Mark asked.


Phoebe nodded "Evil uses its lost and fragile and frail beings as vanquish fodder. Good is supposed to protect them."


"Elisheeva " said Mark " Cole's demon mother."


"Yeah" said Phoebe looking down.


Mark said curious almost unconcerned. "How does all this get the demon?"


"The demon is collecting evil souls using a legendary magic sword/blade. It has collected the souls lost because of the witch's magic. But you see there is a symbiotic relationship with the souls and the witch. These impotent powerless souls make the demon impotent and then the witch can vanquish her…it."


"Why little Marly?" asked Mark quietly.


"She's a witch " said Phoebe " and the demon gets the full magic of the sword if she.. it can induce an evil magic being, a witch to fall on the sword."


"And these people really are innocents?" he asked. "There's no rule about innocents being nice people" Mark said.


"Rules are like policeman" Phoebe said as Mark looked at her "Never one around when you really need them."


Mark pursed his lips "Why don't you just go get rid of the bad guys?"


"Its not as simple as you think" Phoebe said.


"Its never simple" Mark said "but sometimes its pretty clear."


"Its not as easy as just wiping out the people who are the bad guys" Phoebe  answered. "I'm not even sure who are the bad guys and I think, I guess there are a few complications there too."


"What" said Mark.


"Most people would probably say it was murder" said Phoebe sighed "and I think just wiping out the demon and the witch may mean the lost souls will be lost beyond recovery. I mean if in wiping out evil you harm or hurt innocents then wiping out evil is more dangerous, more evil than evil if you understand what I mean."


"More or less" said Mark grinning.


"I know what I mean " said Phoebe with an uncomfortable smile. "And there are arbitrators. It's not like you won't be held to account. There are rules" she said.


"What happens if you break the rules?" Mark asked.


"Evil happens..when its unrepentant and involves destroying, corrupting innocents. And good turning evil destroys the balance, so it's ..stopped " Phoebe said "If its just breaking the rules, usually nasty threats from pissed off elders and whitelighters."


"Them" said Mark.


Phoebe smiled "Acting like the school principal. Bitching, moaning, threatening total powers or curbing your magic." 


'"I see" said Mark thoughtfully "You know, I never really planned to make a career out of finding people jobs. Jjust I had a psychology degree and thought I could do some filler work until I got an important job helping people." he laughed "I hated it. All bureaucratic rules and forms to fill out, and statutes and policies."


"Did you?" said Phoebe not understanding.


"There was his old guy who ran the centre," Mark said "and he had been working there for forty years, done nothing else but working the centre all his life." Mark  shook his head "I hated that place because of him. I had to learn every policy off by heart, all the laws and all the rules, and every time I asked anything what to do he said look at the rules."


"Sounds like some whitelighters I know" Phoebe commented.


"Yeah well " Mark said "This guy had a great record of getting jobs for people who were supposed to be unemployable. One day I got to look at some of the ways he was doing it. He was breaking rules left right and centre and of course I knew exactly which rules he was breaking. I challenged him" Mark said " and he just grinned and told me you have to know the rules before you know which ones you can safely break"


Phoebe stared at him.


Mark grinned, "Yeah he told me breaking rules was just a matter of selectivity. You know. There are some you can break and some that mustn't be touched and until you know which is which you should never mess with them."


"Doesn't that get you fired " Phoebe asked " breaking rules?"


"What for getting results" Mark answered "no, as long as you know which rules and what consequences. Look they will bitch, threaten, remove a few privileges but they aren't going to get rid of you for getting the results that they want, that are needed. So you hang your head and say you are sorry" he shrugged "So you have to be real contrite to some bastards. As long as you avoid promising never to do it again and make sure you know the things that can't be touched and mustn't be touched, let 'em bitch and do it again, break the rules selectively."


"Cole does that" Phoebe said "and lord they bitch at him, "


Mark eyed her.


"You know what Cole is" she asked awkwardly.


"Sort of "said Mark "A higher power than I really need to know about. I'm mortal not stupid " he told her when she started to shake her head. "Will that be a problem?" Mark asked. "With Cole."


"He'll just pretend to be pissed at me, even be pissed at me. We just have great sex when he's pissed at me" Phoebe said.


"You do realise that you two don't have a normal relationship" Mark said.


"God I hope not " said Phoebe genuinely concerned.


"I like Cole " said Mark. "How do you free the souls?" Mark asked " tell me " he said as she hesitated. "If this tie and me are going today, don't you think its better I make the choice."


She nodded "The oldest solution of all" she said " a good person makes the ultimate sacrifices for the innocents by throwing themselves on the Apollyen Blade, at least that's what the Book of Shadows  says."


"How do the innocents get their souls back?" Mark asked


"I'll think they'll find their way back" Phoebe said. "I saw something in Marly and Arlene that makes me think so."


"So" said Mark " what's the catch."


"One is the soul catcher only works in the underworld. "Phoebe answered "and good beings mustn't go there."


"Mustn't or can't?" said Mark.


"Mustn't in my case" said Phoebe smiling.


"What's the consequences?" Mark asked.


"Big time bitching "Phoebe answered ""All sorts of Powers that be really pissed."


"I've seen a lot of people pissed at you," Mark said "It doesn't seem to worry you to much.'"


"True" Phoebe answered with a slight giggle, then she sobered. "The blade doesn't normally kill. It just takes souls. The Book of Shadows said they have to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice."


"I see" said Mark. He took a deep breath "that's a dandy little power of premonition you got there honey. What do we have to do to make it come true?"


"Convince the demon the good person isn't " Phoebe said trying to be matter of fact and not succeeding "so it ..she will take him ..to hell and get him.. the.good person to fall on the sword and free the souls who were there under duress." Phoebe said. "Mark are you sure " she asked because right now you have a choice. "Paige?"


"The choice is not really anything to do with Paige" Mark said." Except if I see her I may not be brave enough to make it. The choice is all about me and whether I have the guts to be as good as I owe myself. I always said it was about helping people who can’t help themselves. Pity to have claimed to do that all my life and fail now." He shook his head. "I see the shadow large and strong "Mark said quietly "and Phoebe its calling me. Look I knew without you telling me I was going. My choices. Run out of here and get hit by a bus or go doing some…good. I know I have a calling for the here after thanks to you. I'm okay Phoebe " he said, "I really am."


"Can we" asked Mark. "find the demon?"


"If its in this realm, scry for it" Phoebe answered "If not we might be able to summon it."


"Eh" said Mark.