A Matter of Relativity
Part 4: All truth is relative
"They do not love that do
not show their love"
Part 4 of 4 Parts
Melinda woke up from her nap just a little while after Paige and Piper went to the Underworld and Leo had left to check on Lara. She yelled and then happily orbed herself out of her cot until she appeared in front of Cole who was half way up the stairs. He picked her up and said severely "That is not good."
And Melinda laughed at him. He carried her down stairs putting her beside him with her favourite skittles, doll and farm animals, kept an eye on her while the toys whizzed around the conservatory, at the same time working on Benedict Haslet's court case that would start in four days.
Melinda kept herself occupied for about twenty minutes and then decided she had other places to be. Cole glanced up to see the orbs start and put out his hand and flicked his fingers to pull her out of the orb.
"Bwaaaaaaaaaa" roared Melinda.
Leo came home ten minutes later to find the conservatory in a mess, Cole's clothes somewhat awry and Melinda playing with her skittles.
"What happened?" Leo asked curiously.
"Melinda and I had a discussion about whether little witches should orb when they are told not to," Cole explained.
"And " said Leo
"For the moment she understands no means don't do it " Cole said tucking his shirt back in his pants.
"For the moment" said Leo, picking his daughter up and not missing that Melinda stuck her tongue out in Cole's direction. "Looks like the love affair's over " he told Cole. "Girl's not back" Leo said.
"Not yet" Cole said. " How was Lara?"
"There's problem there" Leo said "what are you doing about it?" he asked Cole.
"I'm letting fate take its course." Cole said slowly.
"Aren't you worried?" Leo asked.
"What " said Cole "worried that Phoebe is trying to act one her own, that Mark is probably going to die in the underworld and that what seems to be happening is exactly Phoebe's premonition. Yeah I'm worried." Cole said "But I feel it on the spirit winds Leo this is not my business. Yet."
A little while later Leo and Cole were in the kitchen drinking beer and not taking their eyes off Melinda who was resentfully eating stewed fruit. Leo had tried bribing her with ice-cream not to orb. Cole said she was not going to orb because she was told not to and she could have stewed fruit for dessert. Melinda did not orb but there was more stewed fruit on Melinda, on her high chair and on Cole than in her.
Melinda and Leo and Cole looked up as Arturo shimmered into the kitchen along side Paige and Piper who was holding a prostrate Phoebe in her arms.
Cole jumped and ran to Phoebe. He put his hand on her and pulled it back covered in blood." Phoebe" he breathed.
"Your bitch of a mother " she hissed in pain." tried to send me to hell with that damned golden athame." Phoebe gasped "Shit that hurts " she said as he took his hand away.
"Manuel" Piper called very loudly "Manuel." She yelled looking nervously at Arturo who watched her with a cold expression.
"I must go if a whitelighter is coming " said Arturo coldly. "I have some sympathy Belthezor." He said. He turned to Phoebe "You and I, young lady will have a discussion."
Phoebe hunched up against Cole, apprehensively " Yes" she said with false brightness.
"Be well Belthezor" said Arturo and shimmered.
"Shit that hurts" Phoebe muttered as Cole moved her slowly.
"Mark?" asked Leo knowing the answer.
Piper shook her head and glanced toward Paige who was standing frozen, clutching on the kitchen bench for support.
Leo nodded "Innocents?" he asked.
"Okay, I think " said Phoebe "Leo, can you check on Marly, Arlene, Roger if you a find him? They are the ones that Lara used, the ones I know of."
Leo nodded and disappeared just as Manuel orbed into the kitchen. He tut tutted when he saw Phoebe's wound "My baby " she demanded "My baby first."
"The baby appears uninjured " Manuel said putting his hand on Phoebe's wound, and managing, only just, to be gentle while he healed her "What happened?" he asked.
"Elisheeva attacked Phoebe with an athame" Piper said not taking her eyes off Paige who was still quiet.
"What were you doing?" Manuel asked oh so sadly, disappointed."
"Rescuing innocents from one of her soul catching swords" Phoebe explained.
"Did you?" asked Manuel in the sad voice of some-one who knew he was about to be disappointed " Did you destroy the soul catcher sword?"
'No" said Piper reaching out to put hand out to Paige who shook it off. "We saved some innocents though."
"Did you destroy the athame that did this?" Manual asked even more sadly.
"No " said Phoebe. "We saved some innocents though."
"That is good, " said Manuel in the voice of some-one trying to understand failure. " you didn't by any chance get the demon did you?"
"No" said Piper. "We saved some innocents though. Phoebe did" she said, while Manuel just looked disappointed.
"We lost a good man," said Paige in high pitched bitter voice "you got a new whitelighter"
"Is that true?" said Manuel somewhat less mournfully. "Then all was not lost" he told them "All healed " he said to Phoebe. "I had better go discuss this with the Elders.'
"You do that" said Paige as Piper reached out to touch her again and Melinda started to orb. Cole caught her in a magic hold and when she could not break free she telekineticed her half full milk glass at him.
Piper half smiled, but looked back at Paige in concern and then at Phoebe.
Paige walked out the kitchen and then stopped at the conservatory door staring almost into space. Phoebe stood up and followed her. She caught Paige's arm and turned her around.
"He was being followed by the angel of Death Paige" Phoebe said "he knew his time had come. You know what happened when I tried to change that once before. Piper will tell you what happened when Prue tries to change that."
Paige looked at her numbly.
Phoebe hesitantly continued "He said if he had to go he wanted it to mean something. He did " she said as Paige just stared at her.
They both jumped as the phone rang in the kitchen. Paige looked at Phoebe numbly and Phoebe sat her down on the seat near the stairs pulled Paige down and held her, while dry eyed she started to shake.
Piper came out of the kitchen firmly holding on to Melinda "Madam here needs a bath" she said, remembering she had to be a mother no matter what.
"Who was on the phone?" Phoebe asked as Piper met her eyes.
"Maggie " answered Piper "Lara Haslett ahs been passing on the news the you let Elisheeva go. Maggie called to say she was not happy with what Lara was saying, just asking if we were all right."
"Stuff Lara" said Paige and Phoebe together.
Piper and Phoebe exchanged glances.
Piper said "Paige?"
"I don't want to talk " Paige said. Cole came out of the kitchen and went to put his arm around Phoebe, she glanced at him and he looked down at Paige's pale grim tearless face.
"I'm sorry Paige," he said. "I liked Mark."
"What's lost?" she said bitterly "Just another whitelighter joining the throng."
"Paige" said Cole and Phoebe.
"You're going to do something for me Cole" Paige ordered looking into his face with a dark cold intensity.
"If I can" he said quietly.
"Mark's got family and friends, people who care about him. I don't want them left wondering for years what happened to him. They need a funeral, they need to be able to mourn him. They need the ritual of farewell and you're going to do it for me and them." Paige told Cole " Mark loved them and you're going to fix it for him."
"That's impossible Paige," Phoebe started to say.
"Sure Paige," said Cole.
Leo orbed into the hall
"Well" said Phoebe nervously terrified that it had all been for nothing.
"I saw Arlene on her sofa crying bitterly" Leo said " I went to Marly. She was sitting frozen and then she picked up the phone and called one of the witches from her coven. I waited and one of the witches came over. They started to talk. I didn't think Marly had that many words. I guess they both know what happened. But I think they have their souls back." he said.
Paige nodded and in a zombie state walked up the stairs. "I'll fix it " Cole told her.
She nodded but said nothing and then went upstairs.
"That's not good" said Phoebe. She turned to Cole. "Mark's car is still out front" Phoebe told him a little nervously.
. "I'll fix it" Cole said.
He left the house and at the door when Phoebe could not see him, he used the power to transform so that looking very much like Mark he walked to Mark's car.
''I think I'll do to bed," Phoebe said to Leo and Piper.
"Oh no you don't " said Piper. "Not until I've told you how damned stupid all the risks you took today were."
"Mark knew he was going" Phoebe said "he wanted it to mean something."
"We understand that," said Leo.
"Lara Haslett is an evil bitch who destroys innocents," said Phoebe.
"We understand that," said Leo.
"Why in the name of all that is good did you think you had to act on your own?" demanded Piper.
"I tried to talk to you." Phoebe said defensively "You wouldn't listen to me. You were to busy worrying about Melinda."
"Gee" said Leo " You never have any trouble getting listened to when you really want to be listened to."
"I'm going to bed," said Phoebe trying to stand up.
"Sit down " ordered Piper through her teeth.
As Cole got into Mark's car he noticed the curtains on nosy Mrs Taylor's house twitch.
He had to use magic to get into Mark's car, fortunately an old one that did not have fancy locks and alarms. He drove off knowing that several neighbours clearly saw Mark leave the house alone. He went to Mark's apartment and once again made sure he was seen entering the building. Cole, looking like Mark went into his somewhat messy apartment and found a hair brush that had enough of Mark's ever decreasing hair to be useful.
Cole left making sure he was seen and with a quick stop at a cemetery drove south for nearly three hours and then onto a track beside the highway.
Cole got out the car and fireballed it, leaving just enough mortal remains that he fixed to appear to be Mark's to remove any doubts Mark had gone.
He shimmered home. Paige and Phoebe were already in bed and Piper and Leo were talking in the parlour.
"At least you tired Melinda out so much she's sleeping" Piper said.
"Paige?" he asked
"She won't cry " Piper said. "Doesn't want to be touched. Just went bed and listens to music. She tells me to get lost when I talk to her.'
Cole went upstairs and knocked on Paige's door. "Go away " she said in a numb voice
He opened the door "Sweetie" he said
"Did you fix it? " she demanded.
"They should find his car burnt out soon," Cole said.
"Thank you " she said tightly
"Need a shoulder to cry on" he said. Big brother.
"Haven't got any tears "she said" I can't even cry for him. Am I evil?"
"What you sweetie" he smiled "trust me I know evil. I'm.. we're across the hall if you need anything."
"I need to be alone," she said "I have to be strong tomorrow."
"Baby" Phoebe muttered sleepily as Cole slipped into bed beside her, meaning to stay awake but worn out from the emotions and the strain of the day. "Fix it " she asked concerned.
"Fixed" he said grimly "Go back to sleep."
"Stop telling me what to do" she muttered.
"Phoebe" he said gently.
"Cole" she said. The she said "it was his choice. You end up having to respect people's choices. He said if he was going it was going to mean something."
"I know baby " he sighed "that's the bitch isn't it, you learnt the hard way about trying to cheat death and I learnt the hard way about interfering where I shouldn't be interfering. And when it plays out its damned easy to say 'why didn't you' because the ones who say that aren't really the ones who have to answer for the consequences."
"Lucky we've got each other to understand" Phoebe said snuggling close and yawning when she didn't mean to."
"I have to confess something," Phoebe said.
"What " he said.
"For a second or two there when your mother killed Mark, I didn't want to protect the innocents. I just wanted to kill her."
"Wanting to doesn't count if you didn't do it," Cole said.
Phoebe moved so she could touch his face: "What happens now? " she asked.
Cole was quiet and Phoebe nervously repeated the question.
"Go to sleep" Cole said.
It did not take as long as Paige expected for Mark's car to be found. The next day she sat through a tortuous time at work pretending to be as concerned as every-one else when Mark missed a morning meeting, and struggling not to burst into grieving tears.
In the middle of the afternoon, a police detective she did not know came into the agency asking for Mark. When one of the staff said he was not at work, the detective with a little pushing, told them Mark's burnt out car was found in the desert about 200 miles away and confirmed reluctantly that some human remains, a very small amount, had been found. Paige watched as the shock and horror hit her colleagues and strangely could not find tears. It took two days for the police to confirm that the remains were almost certain to be Mark.
When Paige asked Cole how it did he simply smiled and shrugged.
"Thanks " she said off hand but he knew what it meant and nodded.
And she was really grateful to him when Mark's parents at his funeral service told her that bad as it as not knowing why or how at least they knew he was gone. They could not imagine how terrible it would be not knowing.
It was still early in the morning in the west coast of America and Cole had found a windy craggy beach where he could sit and watch the dawn over the Pacific Ocean and contemplate the grim understanding of the message that had come to him, that had called him on the spirit winds.
The greater calling he answered sometimes left him bewildered and vulnerable. He dreaded the messages that came on the winds, he hated knowing things he knew, the understanding of things he felt, the ringing in his head, the feeling of connection with the wider universe.
The call to be a guardian was harder and more terrible than anything he had ever felt before, as demon, mortal or Source, because this time he cared. The strange thing was he never doubted his belief that his calling was from a greater arbitrator than himself, that his existence was part of a greater plan in the universe. Not so much a great secret from those around him as a gift.
At times like this when Cole had to acknowledge the most painful thing of all was to know that the life he lived now, the life where he shared a house, a small existence, and laughter and temper and joy with a pretty complex girl/woman/witch who loved him, no matter how real it seemed was not his true reality.
His reality was the Great Plan and the struggle between Good and Evil and the unfolding of the greater Universe.
Phoebe had spoken the truth a few nights after Christmas. Phoebe always spoke the truth even when she did not understand it. She and Cole had gone to one of his beaches in Mexico and sat in the dark, listening to waves and watching a clear bright sky where the stars shone like jewels,
Phoebe always the truth speaker sat laughing, leaning back against Cole as the salt breeze blew her hair.
"It looks so like a fantasy, a fairy tale, a dream" Phoebe said "And the funny thing is, this is what is real when it looks so ...unreal. The day seems so safe and the light, so normal and its only a reflection of one small star. Not real at all. And the reality is its just us looking inwards and pretending its our universe, when the real universe, looking out of the circle, is the darkness and stars and the shadows. Does that seem crazy to you?" she asked Cole sliding down so he could rest his chin on her hair.
"No" he answered quietly "it doesn't"
Cole was staring at the very wild grey Pacific Ocean when he became aware of orbs beside him.
'"Your radar is good" Cole said to Francesca as she stood over him'
"My ability to sense my charges is excellent " she replied and sat down beside him.
"There's a sense of purpose in tides and the sea," Cole said. "It helps to make sense of things" he said.
"Yes" Francesca agreed in a voice that in anyone else may have been slightly frustrated. "It helps."
"Durand?" he asked smiling.
"How did you know?" she said
"There's a tone you get " he said "with me its school marm, with Durand its exasperation."
"I may have to review a few things if I'm getting predictable" She laughed and Cole as others had done before, heard the golden tone.
"Nymphs or fairies?" he asked.
"Very mundane" she replied "elders and demons. Did you feel the calling for intervention about what has been happening in Africa?"
"Yes " he said, "I'm getting tired of interfering there."
"You may not have to soon" Francesca answered, "Durand has the gift for mediation sometimes."
"He does?" Cole asked smiling.
"Yes" Francesca said primly "he lays down the law and leaves no room for misinterpretation. You understand how well the greater powers like having a demonic presence lay down the law."
"They were annoyed," Cole asked.
"If I was a woman who swore I'd say they were pissed " Francesca said "But as I am not, annoyed is as good a word as any."
"You understand because of the ..ah ..discussions why Arturo is particularly irritated at your .. at Phoebe for crossing the line" Francesca asked calmly.
''Yes" said Cole "Thank all the Powers above, that is between Arturo and Phoebe. It is fortunately not my business."
"And Phoebe will understand that?" Francesca asked with mock severity.
"I've learnt many things lately" Cole answered" Piper has taught me very well. To say all the right things and not mean one damn word of them."
Francesca laughed then she and Cole stared at the sea for a while.
"Procrastinating again Cole?" Francesca asked quietly after a while.
"No" he said "waiting for the right time."
"Which will be?" Francesca asked calmly.
"In a little while" he said. He was silent for a while "When I was demon I used to do this without a second thought."
"For a demon, ex-demon" Francesca told him "you're a terrible liar."
Cole just stared at Francesca "I need to be sure." He said. "This vendetta thing is open to interpretation."
"I always see it as very clear" Francesca answered primly.
"Oh" said Cole "Just out of curiosity why didn't 'ogres' go after Penny Halliwell when she chased me for fifty years for something I didn't do?"
"She didn't catch you," Francesca said in the voice that suggested she did not understand the question.
"It didn't matter that she chased me, made my life miserable." Cole asked bemused.
"The only thing that mattered was whether she chose vengeance over her calling as witch, whether she ignored her destiny and hurt innocents in her quest for vengeance. She didn't do that and as you were to smart for her to catch., there was no reason to interfere." Francesca told him.
"She caused me hell," Cole said.
"Causing a demon hell. What a terrible crime " Francesca said, superior, amused. "If you'd didn't like it you shouldn't have screwed around with her . sister."
"It was my destiny " Cole said trying to sound like a guardian and feeling like vanquish fodder.
"That was nothing to do with Penny's conscience" said Francesca "she did not catch so you ,no-one was hurt. Not Penny, nor her daughter, nor granddaughters and as destiny would have it, not you."
"Phoebe asked me why I didn't stop Lara," Cole said "I told her it had to play out. I couldn't destroy Lara for being tempted."
"That shows some wisdom" Francesca said "you asked me about Penny Halliwell. Why do you ask me questions when you already know the answer?" but her voice was gentle as she spoke.
"Because I keep hoping I don't," Cole answered staring across at the sea.
"Do you have any doubts about what you are going to do?" Francesca asked.
"No" Cole said "just regrets."
"That" Francesca started to say.
"I know its both my penance and my salvation " Cole said in a far away voice that did not really belong to the man sitting on a northern Californian beach. That voice belonged to a guardian of another time and place.
"I am gone:" Cole told Francesca in the demonese address, as he stood up.
"Be well "she said, remaining seated but looking up at him.
Cole shimmered into the altar room in the Haslett house, and stood quietly watching Lara flipping through her Book of Shadows using the flickering light of candles. The shadowy light they provided seemed to add to the air of maniac intensity that surrounded her.
She became aware of his presence and jumped to her feet "What are doing here?" she said in a high hysterical voice." My father is at a doctor's appointment."
"I know " Cole said " But you knew I would come."
"Knew you would come" she sneered "Why would I want to see you?"
"The ogres Lara, came for your mother" Cole said quietly " and now they, I have come for you."
And Lara started to laugh "You don't look like an ogre to me" she sneered.
"Thank you" said Cole deadly.
"You look like Phoebe Halliwell's somewhat pathetic.. appendage" Lara smirked at her own cleverness.
Cole felt her thrust her mind against his and he resisted easily. Lara's power was not great and it occurred to him that she had greatly over estimated her abilities to undertake her chosen role of avenger for good. "Your powers have no effect on me," he said almost gently.
Lara tried again and he smiled sadly as she realised her power was useless but she still had not comprehended her situation. "Demon" she hissed. "I have no fear of you."
He stopped for a second "I'm not a demon Lara " he said "I'm the guardian, I'm the ogre. I'm the one who must hold the balance and ensure good wins...just " he said. "I am the one who holds you to account for your .sins."
"I fight evil, I defeat evil " Lara said.
"I say this to give you something to consider in the time you may have, wherever you have it" Cole told her firmly, guardianlike. "You're not the avenging angel of good. You were called to protect innocents, not to seduce little witches like Marly into fighting the battle, not to decide which innocents could be sacrificed as bait because they are not .important enough, high enough in the hierarchy to care about. That's what demons do, sacrifice vanquish fodder and its..evil.. Your role is ..was to protect the innocents, the ones weaker than you and help them resist temptation, not decide their fate, not use your powers to condemn them."
"I fight evil, " Lara screamed at him.
"You seduce innocents to evil" Cole said "That's what demons do. Your mother started this vendetta against evil, chasing demons, using innocents to tempt them into the open, seeking vengeance for the loss of some-one she loved. She seduced you into evil and she was taken."
"You know nothing about my mother," Lara screamed at him.
"Is that why you got Benedict to kill the mortal keepers of guardian demons?" Cole asked "because you thought that if a mortal, if a non-magical being, did the deeds, the ogres, the guardians of the realm, I, would not come after you. Did Benedict agree to it because he is feeling so damned guilty that he couldn't love your mother with the passion he found with another witch? Even though your mother took a lover you convinced him if he finished her work, he some how or other made it up to her. All it did was get him arrested for murder and your sister killed, Lara " Cole said.
Lara flung her head back "There will be others to follow me," she snarled "you think by taking me out evil wins but they will follow me and they will seek vengeance and they will smite you, " she said passionately.
"It ends with you. I'll fix it for your father" Cole told her "Its the best I can do" he said and he finally saw in her eyes a flash of understanding and he hesitated hoping.
"I fight evil, destroy it," Lara told him with a maniac passion that made her almost unrecognisable. "Evil must be defeated whatever the cost. I'd do it again," she flung at him "without hesitation."
"I believe you," Cole said and he flicked his hand and the flames caught around her. The only expression he could see was anger and martyrdom and finally as Proctor told him they all did, understanding. He doubted, he hoped Lara had felt nothing of the flames.
Cole left the body, what was left of it where it was. Bad enough that Benedict would find her but he supposed Benedict did not need the pain of not knowing what happened to a daughter as wells as a wife. He looked at the body, wondering if he left any clues to what happened. Powers that be did not need to know what he was..yet. He smiled wryly as he remembered his conversation with Francesca, then flicked his finger so the scorch marks and burn angles took on the often used patterns of a demon he knew very well.
That afternoon Leo was at P3, making sure the manager's enthusiasm did not mean that some minor rearrangements did not turn into full scale renovations. Cole, Phoebe, Piper and Paige were all having an afternoon coffee break when the phone rang. Almost the same time as Cole's cell rang. He went into the dining room to answer it while Piper answered the manor phone saying "really, yes really" then she put the phone down and said "hmm" because she could not think of anything else to say.
"What" said Phoebe.
"That was Maggie," Piper said pulling a face and shaking her head. "She just called to let me, let us, know. " she glanced apprehensively at Paige.
Phoebe looked at her "What?" she asked nervously.
"It seems, " Piper said" addressing Paige "Phoebe's not mother in law didn't quite go on her way."
Phoebe's face showed her concern and Paige looked grim.
Cole came back and started "I have to go " he said.
"We know," answered Piper while Phoebe looked at him with concern.
"It seems it was your mother" Phoebe said quietly. ".It looks like she got Lara Haslett. Must have decided to get her for being in her way."
"Mamma is nothing if not vindictive." Cole answered meeting Phoebe's eyes.
"Oh " said Phoebe not knowing what to say as Cole left.
Paige was quiet for a second and then slammed her cup down. She stood up and walked away then she turned dry eyed. "I'm glad " she said vehemently; " If that she devil went after Lara Haslett, then I'm glad. I'm glad we didn't vanquish her. I'm glad Cole stopped us. .It was worth leaving her just to know she would do what I can't. " Paige looked up " All right I shouldn't want revenge. I don't really. I just don't want to share a realm with that bitch. I 'm glad I don't have to. What she did to Marly, using Arlene and Roger as vanquish fodder. I'm glad" Paige said. "Really glad."
"Paige" said Phoebe getting up to waddle after her.
"I want to be alone for a while " Paige said firmly leaving her sisters to exchange glances.
"When and where?" Phoebe asked Piper trying to keep her voice disinterested.
"Apparently this morning "Piper answered. "After Benedict had left to go to a doctor's appointment."
"How did they know it was Elisheeva?" Phoebe asked.
"Her MO according to the whitelighter for the coven." Piper replied "One of the witches found the body. Scorch marks all around. The whitelighter claims the scorch pattern was Elisheeva's trade mark."
"Lara was fireballed?" Phoebe asked.
"Yeah " Piper said.
Piper looked at Phoebe "Don't expect me to say I'm sorry, because I m not that hypocritical." she said.
Phoebe sighed "I think we have a little sister who needs us," she said.
"She wants to be alone," Piper said.
"That's not what she needs," Phoebe the psychology major answered.
She pulled a big wad of tissues out of the box on top of the freezer and followed by Piper waddled over to the conservatory where Paige was sitting very still on one of the cane sofas and staring into nothing. Piper seeing Paige's pale drawn and dry eyed face rushed to the sofa an sat beside her "Hey" she said gently.
"Its okay," Paige started to say.
"It's not okay" Phoebe said, " its never okay Mark went."
"I didn't even tell him I loved him," Paige said.
"He knew honey," Piper said.
"Its not the same as saying it" Paige said and she suddenly burst into hard gasping sobs. She flung her head down on Piper lap. Piper took the tissue from Phoebe who knelt on the floor to put an arm across her sister's back and they stayed that way for a very long time while Paige sobbed her pain.