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
Arturo shimmered into the kitchen of the manor. Paige had come home early from work and Piper was doing her best to push cookies and non caffeine drinks into her, which Paige accepted a little ruefully. Leo was in the basement determined to finally resolve the manor's plumbing problems and Phoebe was in the conservatory back to writing her column. Cole wasn't doing much of anything, he just seemed to want to be wherever Phoebe was and watch her.
Arturo usually got a warm welcome from the girls because they regarded him as something of a romantic hero but this time although Paige gave him a somewhat damp eyes tremulous smile, Piper was far to concerned about Phoebe's recent history to welcome the presence of the guardian. She said a little apprehensively "Cole's in the conservatory."
"I have no business with Belthezor," said Arturo and Piper swallowed.
Arturo watched Melinda amusing herself twirling a number of soft toys around her head. "They justify it all don't they " he said as Piper smiled with motherly pride.
He walked closer to Paige. "How do you fare?"
"I'm fine" she said.
"Its considered very ..not good to lie to a guardian." Arturo said and got another watery smile for his trouble.
"I lost some-one I love, " Paige said with a gulp. "I'll get over it."
"I wouldn't wish that, to get over it, to get over losing their love on some-one I dislike let alone some-one for whom I had a fondness" said Arturo who had known love.
"People think I should get over it " Paige told him as Piper held her breath and wondered how she could stop Arturo.
"People are uncomfortable with ..great emotion.. true love" Arturo said "I believe the phrase in the current vernacular is screw 'em. Screw people who tell you get over your love , my dear."
"Are you over your love Arturo?" Paige asked.
"No my dear," said Arturo "None of my penance for my sins has included the loss of my love."
"You live ..well," said Paige looking up to read his eyes.
"Yes I do my dear," Arturo said "But then I have never got over my love. I have never lost my love."
"Oh" said Paige.
"Yes" said Arturo "and now I must go about my business" he said as Piper visibly paled. He turned and walked from the kitchen to the conservatory.
"Fuck" said Piper following after him.
"Bad mommy" said Melinda.
Phoebe was sitting with her notebook on the table in a keyboard fever as she put to use all the experiences she had had in the last few months and Cole sat in a chair with his feet on a table, as close to her as he could get without actually invading her space. Not even bothering to pretend to read the book he held, just watching her work with a soft and gentle smile on his face.
Arturo with Piper scuttling after him came into the conservatory. Cole was so lost in watching Phoebe that he had not even registered the movement of the spirit winds that announced the presence of a guardian. Phoebe looked up to see Arturo staring at her with a severe and very guardian expression on his face. She stopped mid typing and mouthed a soft oh.
"Miss Phoebe" Arturo said sternly. "Belthezor, well met" he added.
"Well met Arturo," Cole said. Phoebe came to her feet to back over to Cole who stood up and caught her upper arms and held her.
"To what do I owe the honour?" Cole asked.
"You don't." Arturo answered bluntly "I came to …see your .. the little madam there." he said .
"How dare you call me that." Phoebe said sparking up . "Don't you call me that. I've nothing to say to you," she eyed apprehensively the sternness in Arturo 's expression.
Cole also caught the sternness of Arturo's expression. Arturo clearly challenge him. After he held the gaze of the old guardian for a second Cole swallowed and muttered. "The business of the guardian Arturo is not the business of Belthezor." Phoebe caught her breath then aimed her foot clearly at Cole's shins in temper. He muttered "Ugh " and was very glad that the pressure of Whosit on her back was keeping her out of stiletto heels.
"Well said Belthezor " replied Arturo and flicked his finger just before he shimmered so Phoebe went with him and Cole was left with his arms around nothing."
He sighed and caught Piper's expression. "He won't hurt her Piper " Cole said certain. "Might put the fear of god into her, or make her a little more concerned about consequences and I'm not sure that is a bad thing."
"You're dead "Piper said a little relieved and not certain what she felt.
"No just celibate and yelled at for .. some time I guess" Cole said ruefully.
"You could go rescue her" Piper suggested..
"I am not entirely sure rescuing her is completely in Phoebe's best interests" said Cole who loved her.
"You're dead" said Piper and Cole swallowed nervously.
Arturo shimmered Phoebe into the living room of his house in Delphi. It was late at night and in winter the air was quite cool but the shutters were open and Phoebe could smell the tang of citrus and pine in the air.
Phoebe planted her feet firmly and faced Arturo, her hands on where her hips used to be and making Whosit protrude way in front of her. If she had not been so nervous and angry she would have noticed there was a slight smile playing around Arturo's lips. "I've got nothing to say to you" she said defiantly.
"That augurs well for our conversation" Arturo said " Sit down my dear" and he indicated a chair with solid arms Phoebe could use to lever herself in and out.
"I don't care to discuss anything with you " she said her nose in the air but she sat down.
Arturo poured himself a brandy but do not offer Phoebe refreshment. He turned back to her.
"This my dear," he said "is not going to be the type of conversation where we discuss. This is going to be the type of conversation where one of us talks and the other listens very carefully. Care to guess which one of us does what " he said with a certain charm.
Phoebe opened her mouth to say something and nothing came out.
"Good, " said Arturo.
"You Madam" the guardian told Phoebe "in the last seven months have caused as much trouble as most witches cause in their life times. You have flirted with disaster, danced around the rules, contorted the meaning of the great plan, taken it upon yourself to decide which rules should be obeyed and which should be broken.
You have caused concern to the powers that be, you have consorted with demons, and tempted guardians to betray their calling. No don't say anything, " Arturo said " as Phoebe started to answer.
"In the last months you have had three, count them three guardians of the realm running after you to clean the mess you have created, to say nothing of the guardian's whitelighter who has enough things to concern her without the problems you have caused.
You have ignored the way things ought to be done, you have taken it upon yourself to discard all the correct procedures. You have been doing things witches have no business doing, been places, witches have no place being and called beings to the realm who have no place in the realm.
"I " said Phoebe.
"Don't say anything " said Arturo, "You my young madam will ensure that your business no longer becomes the business of guardians. You will not go where witches not supposed to go. "
Phoebe's chin went up. She pursed her lips, she narrowed her eyes " I was " she started to say, then she remembered one of the last conversations with Mark, the one where he talked about rules. remembered what Mark had said.. She swallowed and looked down "I was.. I know your right " she said " I was only trying to save the innocents." She said contritely glancing at him through big brown eyes "I'm sorry" she said.
Arturo eyed her not remotely fooled " You play a very dangerous game my dear" he said "You know very well that I am not going to .. arbitrate the Great Plan because Belthezor's witch has been ..naughty but you must clearly remember that Belthezor must remain out of sight from certain powers for the sake of the Great Plan. When Belthezor's witch plays games and takes..calculated risks because she knows things she should not know, there is more at risk than whether you make Belthezor's life hell. " Arturo shook his head. "Yes you can place your trust in my .. in any guardians' conscience not to act where there is room for ..contrition. Not to act where there is any doubt."
Phoebe met Arturo's somewhat concerned eyes.
"It isn't the Guardians who are in danger" he continued "it is the Powers of Good, the ones who lead the Battle. It is those who may not understand or appreciate the difference between winning the war and maintaining the balance. It is the innocents Phoebe.'
Arturo walked over and stood looking down at Phoebe. "I tell you this from experience there are many who interpret actions which support the Great Plan as actions which promote the cause of evil. And they can be tempted."
Phoebe stared at the old Guardian with big brown eyes.
"Phoebe my dear " he said "when they sing songs in times to come of the most powerful demon of the Underworld who walked away from hell for the love of an enchanting " Phoebe smiled "very pretty , contrary and irritating little witch" Arturo continued "they are not going to sing of the mortal who lives your small life and bickers over tidying your bedroom , yes I know about that , " Arturo said "They are going to sing of the most powerful demon who ever live, of an awesome presence who loved you and will do anything to protect you. You have been his salvation my dear, don't tempt him to protect you from those who do not understand the higher callings and become his damnation."
"I know what he is," Phoebe whispered meeting Arturo's eyes. "You think I'm a naive child don't you, you think I don't understand what I do. Arturo when I first met Cole I was, I loved him and I wanted him and I thought that was enough. But I lived through hell Arturo, I've seen things, I've done things no witch should be called to do for destiny and that naïve little girl had to grow up to survive.
Arturo I've seen what I could become, I've seen in an older version of me, in the me of other time lines, the bitter self interested self centred bitch I could become. Arturo, I really hate those bitches because I'm better than that. Some of the best of me was in that naïve little girl and I chose to make sure the best of me survives to protect me from the bitterness of the things I've seen and the things I know. I love Cole Arturo, love him in every incarnation, as the mortal who goes out of his way to irritate everyone in range and the immortal and mystic being I really know he is. " She swallowed staring big eyed and innocent at the Guardian. "You say he'll do anything to protect me. You think I wouldn't do the same for him, including being very, very careful to keep him from temptation. When I found I was pregnant I ran to protect him Arturo, not because I was frightened of him but because I was frightened for him. I love him Arturo And I will protect him from any-one who could hurt him, including himself. " she swallowed looked down and then up "You have my word, my promise, whatever my games, I know where I shouldn't go and I know the cost if I do. I won't go there."
"Then we understand each other my dear" Arturo answered smiling. "You be kind to Belthezor" Arturo ordered her.
"I love Cole," Phoebe said a little more defiantly than she meant.
"I don't believe I was discussing that " Arturo told her smiling.
"I ..I need to pee " Phoebe said "right now."
"Upstairs on the right" he said with a smile playing on his lips.
Phoebe waddled upstairs glancing over her shoulder with a look that could have been coy but it may also have been victory… which Arturo noted. She was barely gone when the crystals in Arturo's cabinet flashed blood red and he looked up as Cole shimmered into his living room.
"Where's Phoebe?" Cole asked almost nervously.'
"Peeing" said Arturo dryly.
Cole nodded smiling "Who won? " he asked as Arturo poured him a glass of port.
"That witch of your's is a conniving little minx." Arturo told Cole "You need to keep her under control." said the thousand year old demon.
"I don't believe its my role to keep her under control " Cole replied carefully.
"Make it your role, " Arturo told him in a voice that brooked no argument.
"All she did was save the innocents at no cost to destiny" Cole said loyally.
"I'm aware of that " said Arturo. "And the next time?" he asked.
"I think she knows the limits" Cole said.
"Make sure she does" said the thousand year old demon.
"I don't think its my r.." Cole started to say then he caught Arturo's expression "Sure " he said.
Phoebe came down stairs carefully composing her features to be contrite ten she saw Cole there. "I'm not talking to you Cole Turner" she said.
"What did we just discuss?" Arturo asked.
Phoebe glared at him and then bit her lip "Thank you for coming for me, Cole" she said sweetly.
"Only to happy to baby" Cole said a little apprehensively.
"I'm glad" Phoebe said even more sweetly.
"We better go" Cole said catching Arturo's glance over the top of her head. He put his hand out to take Phoebe's hand. She only let him touch her fingertips. As they shimmered Arturo whose hearing was one of his great powers, through the shimmer heard Phoebe tell Cole " Arturo's as big an arsehole as you. I'm glad Marie Jeanne yelled at him."
"He's only trying to protect you," Cole said.
"You let him take me," she accused.
"Phoebe, he was giving you good advice" Cole tried to explain.
"Shut up arsehole" said Phoebe.
Arturo raised his glass to the view on his terrace. "Belthezor " he said out loud. "you have a long hard road to walk."
Cole shimmered Phoebe into their bedroom. She snatched her hand away as she heard voices in the attic. She stalked upstairs, making sure Cole did not see the smile that came to her lips as she observed his rueful expression. In the attic she was confronted by Leo blocked from leaving by a tall woman of middle east origin in a whitelighter robe. Piper and Paige were standing by the Book of Shadows, both looking severely pissed.
"Phoebe," said Piper in a bright unnatural voice, but not without relief that Phoebe had returned unharmed "This is Leeda, our new whitelighter."
"Pleased to meet you, Phoebe " Leeda said in a stiff formal voice. "I've been waiting to meet you."
"Leeda was just telling us how the Elders really believed the Charmed Ones would function more efficiently if we stopped to consult with whitelighters before we acted impulsively." Piper explained.
Phoebe half turned as Cole came into the attic. She immediately moved away to the opposite of the room.
"This is Phoebe's partner Cole " Leo told Leeda.
"Mortal " said Leeda disinterested " Nice to meet you :" she said turning away.
"Where's Manuel?" asked Phoebe.
"Manuel, and the Elders feel that the Charmed Ones may be better guided by some-one who has a less personal interest, who understands the wider implications of magic," said Leeda in a tight formal voice.
Leo looked at Cole and both raised their eyes. Piper moved to her husband's side and caught his hand.
"Phoebe, I was telling your sisters" said Leeda calmly and with a distinguished no-nonsense air, "that witches have no understanding, are not meant to understand the dangers of the greater realm. There are things beyond the knowledge of witches, things that whitelighters alone understand and you must accept our advice on these dangers."
Paige and Piper both glanced at Cole who suddenly found the view from the window very interesting. Leo started to cough.
Leeda continued, "Even when you mean well, you cannot always appreciate the full perspective. I have been told by the Elders to explain that you must act within the rules, understand the consequences, think carefully, act on the advice of those who know better."
Melinda was sitting on her toy horse quite interested in the exchanges going on. Over the last few days Melinda had not had much success disappearing. Leo and Piper had realised she could still not orb other people, so holding onto her effectively stopped her and Cole was winning the magic battles to keep her from materialising and a firm no from him was having an effect.
Realising she was being ignored she took the opportunity to orb. Cole saw her and said firmly "No Melinda" but Melinda had also made the discovery that Uncle Cole would not use his magic when some-one other than family was there. She ignored him. He was close enough to grab her and hold tight onto the little wriggly girl, to mommy and daddy's relief.
Leeda apparently considered the little drama beneath her consideration. "Phoebe" she said with a severe smile. "You understand it is my role to advise you, to guide you on the course of good:"
But Phoebe had been guided once to often that day: She looked Leeda up and down "Shut the fuck up" she said and turned on her heel to stalk out the attic.
Leeda turned to Piper and Paige "Your sister must understand about consequences" she said severely. "She was fortunate this time that nothing of consequence happened as a result of her carelessness."
Paige put her hands on her hips and faced Leeda "Shut the fuck up " she said and stalked out the attic door.
Piper sighed "Perhaps we could discuss this at another time " she said to Leeda
Leeda nodded, her expression severe, and glanced at Leo for some support.
"Perhaps it is a good idea to understand the Charmed Ones often use.. unorthodox methods" he explained quietly as Piper snorted.
Leeda was clearly unimpressed with the advice, took a deep breath "Until next time " she said and orbed.
"Fuck" sighed Piper.
"Don't say fuck in front of Melinda " said Leo severely.
"Fuck" snarled Cole as Melinda struggling to orb deliberately kicked him as hard as she could in the most vulnerable spot she could find.
A few days later Cole and Phoebe were sitting in the living room, Phoebe finally having consented to forgive him his lapse of judgement in letting Arturo take her. Paige was at work, refusing to take time off, saying Mark had left things not finished and she owed it to him to clear them off. She went off to work, pale grim faced and dry eyed and leaving behind a very worried family. Piper was doing her afternoon round of meetings with the manager of P3 and Leo was upstairs lying on his and Piper's bed, reading and making sure Melinda who was taking a nap never left his sight, literally.
"How about if it's a girl Alaezi" said Cole "I looked it up " he said "It means exonerated."
"Go to hell" Phoebe said sweetly.
The door bell rang. Phoebe half curled on the sofa between Cole and the arm, as much as she was capable of curling, pretended to make an effort to get up.
"I'll get it " Cole said, not being able to hide the smile as he stood up.
"You bet you will" she said because she hated being so damned helpless.
" Darrin if it's a boy " he said as he went to the door
"That was the name of the husband in Bewitched and he was.. a wimp" Phoebe said.
"I forgot" Cole said as Phoebe pulled a face "That means no? " he asked as he pulled the door open and could not keep the surprise off his face as he saw Arlene standing there.
"Oh" said Arlene when she saw him.
"Oh" said Cole when her saw her.
"I didn't come to see you," said Arlene.
"Oh" said Cole. "Good" Arlene bit her lip " I mean oh really" he said hastily.
"I came to see.. Is your ..is Phoebe home?" Arlene asked.
"Yes " said Cole standing back to let her in. Also so he was not in eye sight of Arlene's boobs. Arlene had her blond hair pulled back into a ponytail. She had no makeup and was wearing rather baggy jeans and a largish sweater that somehow accentuated the size and shapelessness of her boobs and made them a vision magnet.
"Visitor," Cole called to Phoebe as he ushered Arlene into the living room, making sure he stayed behind her so he did not have to look.
Phoebe struggled to get up.
"Its okay," said Arlene contritely, humbly. "Don't get up."
"I" said Phoebe flashing glares at Cole that very clearly indicated if he left her alone with Arlene his life would be hell for the next 10 to 15 years. "What can I do for you?" Phoebe asked in not her most friendly voice.
"I" said Arlene steeling herself for the moment "I came to say thank you. What you did to save me." And she sniffed a little and then she sniffed loudly. Phoebe flashed a glare at Cole who was hovering near the hall, eyes peculiarly brilliant blue and unnaturally wide. He obediently came and sat opposite.
"What do you think I did for you?" Phoebe asked curiously.
"That demon" Arlene said sniffing and pulling a wade of tissues from her purse. Cole stared at the pattern of the rug at his feet. "I …do you know what an out of body experience is?" she asked.
"Yes" said Phoebe tightly.
"I saw it all" Arlene said. "Like I was watching away from me." She sniffed again and blew her nose. Cole did not look up. "I begged you for help when you came to visit me and .."
"I heard it " Phoebe said not as tightly.
Arlene sniffed again. "That you would take such risks for me. " and she sniffed again almost a snort. Cole seemed to be caught in a coughing attack. "No-one has ever taken such risks for me" she said. "I just wanted to be, you know liked, for being me" she said.
Phoebe sucked on her lip as she said "Arlene, its what I do, its what my sisters and I do. We protect, we save innocents."
"You think I'm an innocent " Arlene said her voice faltering " I failed, I took part in.. You don't want to know. How can you think I'm innocent?" she blew her nose, loudly.
Phoebe said gently as she could "Arlene being innocent doesn't mean you don't.. falter along the way" and she glanced toward Cole.
"Arlene" he said as helpful as he could "Every one no matter how ....good they are, sooner or later makes a goat.." Arlene's eyes flew open and Phoebe's narrowed and Cole swallowed "makes a fool of themselves. That doesn't mean you aren't an innocent" he finished lamely.
She took a great breath and sniffed again "I didn't know you were a witch when I used, when I said all those things to you, while I worked for..him" she said "I feel terrible," she said working her way up to confession. "When I told people at the office you were a ugly whore I didn't mean you were ugly really, I was just a bit ..frustrated and said things you should keep to yourself." She took a deep breath and the boobs wobbled like jello. " I am so ashamed " she said " I , I know I made a few suggestions to..Cole" and she looked down. "I know it as wrong" she said. 'I know its wrong to try and get between two people. I am so ashamed. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should."
Phoebe glanced to Cole but the pattern on the rug required minute examination.
"And" said Arlene summoning the last of her courage to confess fully. "The things I said about..him, Cole and your sister. I mean the rumours. It was only because I saw them dancing and kissing, I didn't mean any harm. I mean you're so good. You saved me. After being with some-one so good, no-one could. I'm sure it was just a harmless kiss. I am so ashamed " she said and another big wade of tissues came out of the purse and she blew her nose another three times.
"I" said Phoebe unsure whether she was working her way to anger or laughter. Cole was still finding the rug fascinating.
Arlene took a big sniff I came to tell you " she said "I' m truly grateful for the risks you took and " she said " to tell you that your efforts weren't in vain."
Cole finally found the strength to look up and he and Phoebe exchanged glances.
"I have seen evil" Arlene said sitting upright so that even Phoebe's attention was drawn to the shapeless and large breasts under the rather large sweater "I have seen evil and I have seen good , thanks to you."
"I have decided " Arlene announced standing up preparing to leave " I have decided" she said "that from now on I will devout myself to the cause of good."
Neither Phoebe nor Cole quite knew what to say.
"From now on, thanks to you Phoebe there is nothing I will not do, to protect innocents, to help those who are lost and faltering, and all because of you Phoebe. Because you showed me the path, Phoebe. I needed to tell you that " Arlene said sniffing between each word then stopping for a second to find another tissue and blow her nose. "Because of you Phoebe the cause of good has a new disciple, a devoted disciple, one who will never falter." And Arlene caught by the emotion of the moment went to Phoebe and hugged her pulling her head down to the very large breasts.
"I'm glad I could help you, " Phoebe said faintly.
"Words can't express what you have done for me " Arlene told her. "I have to go" she said stoically.
Cole managed to make it to his feet to go and open the door, Arlene turned to the door and then stopped "Thank you Phoebe " she said " You have shown me the light " and then on impulse she caught Cole and hugged him.
"Thank you, " she said" you helped me too. "
"I'm glad I could help you " he said flat voiced swallowing. He watched Arlene walk down the steps and turned back to the living room where Phoebe sat in a frozen trance on the sofa.
She looked at him as he approached her "Shit " she said " oh shit Cole shit " she said and started to laugh.
"Oh god " said Cole, throwing himself down beside her "Oh shit" he said hugging her.
"What have I done?" she gulped in between hysterical laughter.
"You've set the cause of good back five hundred years" he said laughter coming in aching gasps "that's what you've done."
"Oh shit " said Phoebe "Arlene and her boobs are taking on the cause of good." and the laughter came in gasps.
The two found themselves sliding off the sofa to the floor "It s all right for you" said Cole "I saw her naked, the boobs hanging there big and ugly and now they're…"
"Good," screamed Phoebe rolling around the floor and taking Cole with her
"You didn't see the goat" Cole whimpered.
"You didn't see her thrusting those boobs in your mamma's face " Phoebe gasped " Like I did in that vision."
"Oh shit " they both said as they rolled around the floor.
Several minute later they were both trying to drag themselves back to sanity, lying on the floor, Phoebe half under Cole while they were trying to catch their breath when they snapped out of it as Piper who had returned from her P3 snarled "What the hell do you two think you're doing? "
"Laughing," said Phoebe from under Cole
"I've got a daughter," Piper snapped "use a bed upstairs for that" she added and stalked off.
"Oh shit" said Phoebe squashing Whosit hard against daddy as she started to laugh "for god's sake shimmer Cole, upstairs now I mean it. Now " she ordered as he hesitated.
Cole did as he was told.