A Matter of Relativity

Part 4: All truth is relative

Chapter 37


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

Part 4 of 4 Parts

That afternoon Phoebe was in the conservatory typing away trying to get her columns ahead so she could take a couple of months time off when Whosit was born . Elise had been making a few noises about the 'Ask Phoebe" column and the freedom Phoebe had to write it. She had taken some pleasure in pointing out Phoebe's private life was impacting on her work, particularly the radio interviews and with some venom noted such problems could effect her contract. 


And worse, Phoebe had had to concede the point. Despite saying he wanted to start working on his own , the Haslett case re-enforced Cole's dislike of being a lawyer and to Phoebe's increasing annoyance he  was finding any number of not very good reasons to put  off starting up on his own and spend time with her and Whosit. She had gone to the studio that morning to do the weekly radio show. The usual interviewer who kept the show going with some flirting that was very popular with the viewers was not thrilled when Cole turned up with her again. 


"Hasn't he got anything better to do? " the interviewer asked eyeing Cole with irritation. The interviewer felt Cole's presence interfered with the chemistry between Phoebe and him that made the show popular and Phoebe was always a little tense on some questions when Cole was there. Like the previous week when a listener had asked about the rumours that a difficult pregnancy had been  the reason for Phoebe's absences over the last few months.


"That's true " she had said. The listener had rather rudely questioned her about the father and Phoebe somewhat snippily had answered she was in a permanent loving relationship, glancing at Cole.


"You're not married," the listener instead" not getting married."


"I think it is more important the baby has parents who provide a secure environment," Phoebe answered firmly.


"Isn't that what marriage is " said the listener.


"Not necessarily " said Phoebe not taking her eyes off Cole who pursed his lips.


Phoebe's answer had caused something of a minor uproar for a few days in the talkback world. The interviewer firmly felt that such catastrophes could be avoided if the deadbeat now unemployed 'partner' found somewhere else to be and Phoebe had a few nasty minutes with Elise when she pointed out the same thing.


"Screw Elise" said Piper that night when Phoebe complained.


"I'd rather be dead," said Cole.


"You've need something else to do " Piper told Cole, "when's the great plan to work on your own coming into action?"


"It doesn't look financially viable." Cole muttered " And don't you dare quote Mark on the dignity of work" he snapped.

Paige started to tear up  and Cole flushed guiltily.  "Anyway" he said, snakey because he felt guilty. "I don't like being a lawyer."


"Then do something you do like," said Leo.


"Take your own advice," said Cole spoiling for a fight.


"Shut up Cole " said Piper seeing where this was taking Paige.


While Phoebe was still typing away, Paige came home from work looking tired and pale. She had had a long hard day taking up Mark's fights with the Powers that be of the community services who refused to understand that is sometimes spending money to help people gets jobs was an investment in the future.


Phoebe looked up from typing as Paige came in. "You look terrible" she told Paige.


"Good I feel terrible," Paige said flopping down on the chair opposite Cole "I need you to do a couple of things for me" she told him.


"If I can," he said waiting for some crack about him being able to help her because he had nothing else to do.


"I want you to flick the fingers or whatever it is you do and I make sure I get Mark's job," she said.


"Can't you get it on merit?" Cole asked.


"No" Paige answered "not after today. I won the battle about funding expenses for disabled people to get special assistance."


"Oh sweetie I'm so proud of you" said Phoebe.


"Mark taught me a thing or two about digging in," said Paige. "Cole" she demanded.


"I'll fix it," he said " what else."


"One of my clients" Paige said " Really highly qualified guy, in education but when he was 17 and stupid he went joyriding, wrecked the car and got charged with grand theft as an adult and its effecting his employment. He's been a model citizen for 20 years but he needs some help.'"Needs an arsehole lawyer." Paige said pressing, "one who won't take no for an answer."


"Paige " muttered Cole "we've been through this."


"He needs help Cole, " said Paige " Its not a charity case. He'll pay."

"I don't like being an arsehole lawyer" Cole sulked.


"But you're so good at it" Paige said proving how much Mark had taught her about digging in


"You know.." Cole said.


"You should help the guy," said Phoebe.


"I don't want to," Cole muttered then got in before  Paige said anymore  because he had heard it all before. "Yeah I know. Mark said, dignity of work and all that stuff. Sometimes I think Mark should have learned to keep his damned mouth shut."


Paige just stared at Cole her eyes welling up with tears. He glanced at Phoebe who cocked her head  on the side. He glowered at both of them because little sister tears got him every time "I liked Mark " he said defensively. ' he just never knew when to shut up."


Paige all little sister, sniffed.


Cole swallowed.


Paige sniffed louder.


"Okay, okay " he finally muttered 'I'll go out and spend the last of my savings on a car I don't need to make an impression on clients I don't want and pay all the professional and public liability insurance and upgrade my legal association status, and get  filing cabinet, and stationery and a really expensive printer and  a fax.


"We've got a fax," said Phoebe.


"And a filing cabinet" Cole continued.


"You already said that," Paige told him but added another sniff.


"Just so I can earn a few hundred bucks." Cole snarked. He stopped as the door bell rang " I'll get it " he said glad to get away.


Phoebe smiled at Paige "Thank you," she said.


"Your welcome. Mark taught me a few things about digging in." Paige said. "I never realised how damned hard Mark worked."


"You want to take some time off," Phoebe said. "Just to give you time to feel again, honey.'


"I will soon," Paige said standing not yet up to dealing with sympathy.


Cole was not so pleased when he opened the door and found Darryl standing there. "Darryl " he said "I.."


"Yeah " said Darryl "I need to talk to you."


Cole stood back to let him in.


Darryl came in. He saw Paige and smiled awkwardly "How are you?" he asked.


"Fine," she said not ready to deal with sympathy.


"I need to talk to you" Darryl told Cole as he walked into the living room. Phoebe could see them through the adjoining door and Cole shook his head at her and shrugged as he sat opposite.


"If its about that day in court, " Cole said.


"Not really " said Darryl sitting awkwardly on the sofa " you aren't gonna try to tell me that Haslett was an innocent. You got him off and he was as guilty as sin Cole."


"That's why I got him off," Cole said, "There are worse fates than being punished for your sins. And do you know how many rules I just broke telling you that."


"And do you know how many rules of friendship you broke in court that day" Darryl snapped. "You owe me you son of a bitch."


"I fixed it," Cole said "I fixed it so there wouldn't be any repercussions o your career, your life."


"You and I got a different idea of repercussions," Darryl grunted.


Cole leant forward resting his arms on his knees "You're right Darryl" he said "I owe you and I'm a son of a bitch." The two sat there not looking at each other. Phoebe could not take the suspense and came in.


"That kid is huge" Darryl said looking at the expanse of Whosit "Are you sure there isn't a tail and horns in there as well?" he said glaring at Cole.


"Very sure" snapped Phoebe testily "What do you want?" she demanded getting ready to protect Cole.


"I know a guy who needs an arsehole lawyer," Darryl said looking at Cole.


"Great " said Phoebe smiling hugely at Darryl "See Cole, not 15 minutes after finally deciding to set up your own firm, and you have another client."


"I don't have the resources to do pro bono," Cole said. He caught Darryl's expression. "Or all right there are a few legal ways around it. Why does this guy need an arsehole lawyer?'


"Guy was accused of murdering his in laws. The Cranston case, you read about it? " Darryl told them


Cole groaned.


"All the circumstantial evidence and motive makes it a ..slam dunk for the DA." Darryl explained.


Cole smiled.


Darryl continued "Krantz needs a winner after Haslett and he won't listen to me but I don't think the guy did it. All my gut instinct tells me this is one right up your alley."


"Why because I'm an arsehole lawyer or because its demonic?" Cole asked sarcastically.


"Both," said Darryl.


"Shit " said Cole and Phoebe.


Darryl stood up "You sure there's a way around pro bono" he said.


"Yeah" said Cole "In murder cases if some-one can't afford to pay retained counsel any longer, the state will usually pay. I just have to get to him ahead of the judge appointing a lawyer."


"This conversation didn't happen," said Darryl as he got up to leave.


"You bet it didn't," said Cole.


"Thanks" said Darryl. "I know it isn't a popular view but I don't do this job to win cases. I do it to stop bad guys."


"Unlike Krantz," said Cole.


Darryl grinned, "Phoebe, Sheila and I we got a few gifts for you. I still think you're a son of a bitch " Darryl told Cole as left.


"Oh that is so true" said Phoebe sincerely.


Cole stood with his arm around Phoebe. "I'm so proud of you baby" she said "You're in business."


Cole groaned.



Leo was in the basement, banging on pipes and listening every few minute for variations of gurgle, thump, bang, thump gurgle thwack gurgle, gurgle noise. He had been through the house several times and all he had learned for his trouble was that the thwack gurgle, gurgle noise happened more in the lower levels of the house than the upper levels.


The banging was starting to get on everybody's nerves but mostly it got on Leo's nerves because every time it got on anyone else's nerves they blamed him. He and Piper had had several rows over it and the night before it had erupted into a full scale brawl between him and Phoebe which had ended up the pair of them giving an in-depth character analysis that caused Cole and Piper to raise their eyes and walk into the kitchen to enjoy a class of red wine, and Paige to wordlessly orb to her room.


Leo hit the pipe with a wrench, rather viciously. The pipes suddenly made a much louder gurgle, thump, bang, thump gurgle thwack gurgle, gurgle noise with a double gurgle at the end. Leo in disgust threw the wrench as hard as he could across the basement, narrowly missing Francesca who orbed just at that moment.


"Missed me" she said dryly "but only just."


"Oops, sorry," Leo said "I didn't.."


"No" Francesca said.


"Cole's off with Phoebe in London, buying baby clothes." Leo said. "At Harrods," he added.


"Don't they sell baby clothes in San Francisco? " Francesca asked pursing her lips.


"Harrods ones are better:" Leo said straight faced. He looked at Francesca's expression. "All Piper and I ever worried about with Melinda's baby clothes was whether the vomit stains would wash out." He smiled "after all the fuss about Phoebe having this baby, I really don't think Phoebe, or Cole, understand just what having a baby means, as far as just looking after it, the changes in your lives. I know Phoebe watched Piper and me going through it buts its not the same. She and Cole think they're just going to do what they do now, only take the baby along with them."


"The frightening part" smiled Francesca" is that is exactly what the pair of them will do. " She seated herself comfortably on the basement stairs.


"Can I do something for you?" Le asked her.


"Perhaps" she said, "I came amongst other things, to find somewhere Durand won't follow me." 


"Durand" Leo smiled "Wood nymphs or monks this time."


"Rat demons" she said.


"How do you offend evil?" Leo asked curiously.


"Imply their place in the hierarchy is undeserved" she said "and create a factional um fracas that has implications for the realm."


Leo looked uncertain.


"You'll hear about the share crash in the finance sector in the news tonight" Francesca said tiredly. "Its been nearly a couple of months since you and the elders went your separate ways. How you are doing?" she asked.


Leo shrugged "Okay" he said "I guess. Can't fix the plumbing or Paige's broken heart," he said "But other than that, okay. Enjoying watching the girls work their way through every whitelighter up there. Seems the elders can't find any-one who ..meshes. " Leo grinned "I know its..unworthy but I guess I'm not an angel any more," he said.


"Fallibility is good" said Francesca "Thought about your choices" she asked almost casually.


Leo walked over and retrieved the wrench. "Yeah" he said " quite a bit."


"And?" "Francesca asked.


"I figure that I no longer have what it takes to be a whitelighter for witches," Leo said " But that does not mean that I am not part of the battle, I want to be part of it  but I think it will be on my terms, a little more."


"That 's good," said Francesca non-committal.


"Paige's boyfriend, Mark " Leo sighed "said.. used to say, that work was a matter of dignity not just occupation. I need to do something, I have something I want to do."


"Oh" said Francesca only vaguely interested.


Leo smiled fully understanding what she was doing "Something I learned from the demons, from Elisheeva, something the witch Marly made me understand."


Francesca said nothing but look she gave him was inscrutable.


"Its my calling to be a healer and I thought about finishing my qualifications as a doctor, seriously did " Leo said "and just living mortal but" he sighed. "But the witch Marly I when we a were talking about what happened said something just off hand and it got me thinking."


"The wisdom is often there," Francesca said "The hard part is hearing it when it is spoken.


"That's it exactly " Leo said enthusiastically "Demons set great store by the knowledge of myth and legend. They believe it to be a great power but the side of good does not even regard knowledge of lore as power" Leo nodded "We could not have got Phoebe from Elisheeva if Marly had not known how to fix potions for switching powers and as for what she did to stop Melinda orbing off every five minutes. For that alone" he shook his head.


"Yes" said Francesca eyes twinkling "It’s a little ..awkward when super child does not come with super maturity to deal with super powers."


"Oh yeah" sighed Leo. He swallowed "Speaking of superpowers. I ..did Cole tell you what we did so we could get him into the underworld."


"No" said Francesca interested "What did you do?"


Leo winced then decided he needed to talk. "I took his powers and hid in the wasteland, without a way of getting out for safety. Francesca I .. I had these incredible powers. I could have killed or taken over the realm, almost any realm. I could have smite minions and great powers with a flick of my hand and I have never felt so helpless and frightened in my life. Did you ever experience what those powers are like?"


"Not that way " Francesca answered " But I have experienced something similar. It made me very, very glad to be what I am."


"I don't think I could stand the responsibility" Leo said "The fear. How do they do it? How do they not go crazy?"


Francesca smiled. "Well Cole behaves like an annoying brat or sits on beaches, Arturo drinks fine wine and watches the ships in the Corinthian Gulf and Durand, Durand is impossible."


"Well there are some shoes I could have done without walking in" Leo said. "But I learnt something from Cole's powers and Melinda. All the stuff about, power, more power, great power.  Its both dangerous and futile without the wisdom. In the end what separates the great ones is the wisdom not the power."


"Oh well don't talk to Cole about wisdom" Francesca said very school marm "I want to spend the next fifty years reminding him of the sheer lack of it in going to the underworld to find Phoebe."


Leo laughed. "I want to find the wisdom " he said, "I think that's what I can do. I think maybe evil is right. It is the lore that is the greatest power. When Marly came and talked about what happened to her, and I tried to find the words to talk help her. She just answered 'If I lose mine honour, I lose myself' and I said 'Condemn the fault, and not the actor of it'."


"I like Shakespeare too" said Francesca but she kept the smile to herself.


"I didn't have to find the answer Francesca" Leo said " I already knew it. I just had to remember it. We have all the answers, they're written in our legend and our history.  We just need to know how to find them."


"You want to be a philosopher Leo?" Francesca asked wryly.


"I want to make sure the truths we already know are not lost in the battle because I think "Leo said still uncertain of when he was going "those who get lost, do it because they lose those truths or are looking for something easier when the answer is already there."


"Really," Francesca said but her eyes were gentle.


Leo grinned a little embarrassed "Its there " he said. "The witch Lara Haslett. If she had listened. The truth was already there. 'They that have the power to hurt, and will do none; they rightly do inherit heaven's graces.' " Leo quoted.


"And how does your wife, feel about this calling?" Francesca asked with just a hint of amusement.


"Piper she said as long as I don't quote Plato over breakfast, she'll support me" Leo smiled.


"So you don't want to be a whitelighter any more?" Francesca asked again.


"I thought about asking to finish off my life a mortal, " Leo said "but I was called to be a guide and a healer and do you know It think I still have that calling. Only not the one I first thought, but it's a calling."


Francesca smiled,


Leo looked at her intently " Whitelighters, witches get the power to do the job, to follow their calling. They took from me the power to heal bodies, but my calling is to heal. Maybe a little like the core in Cole's soul " Leo stuttered a little awkwardly his half formed thoughts "Its only when the powers are gone that you start to understand how much they are part of you, not for the power but for the need to be true to yourself. I have no power to heal bodies and suddenly I find that there are many ways other ways open to me. So no I am not asking for mortality. Because I know very little and I understand less and it may take a very long time to know a little of what I could know."


"It could be a long journey" said Francesca who had walked a very long journey herself.


"Anyway" Leo said "some of the things I seek are in very hidden places, I'm not to sure P3 s doing well enough to spring to for regular airfares to Tibet or the Vatican Library. It may be more practical if I can still orb."


"Practical is good," Francesca murmured.


"Do you think I'm being ..quixotic, taking a course that is almost .. that is defying the control of the elders, taking me outside their wisdom?" Leo asked apprehensively.


"Yes." Francesca said seriously "I think you are being quixotic."


Leo sucked his lips "Oh" he said.


"But" she said "I've always considered quixotic a very good place to start a very long journey. Besides" she said " There's considerable um downtime when you are eternal. Using it to discover 'truth' is as good an occupation as any."


Leo laughed, "Is that why you know so much about so much?" he asked.


Francesca smiled "Oh I know a little about many thing because, some fifty years after I chose my calling,  after spending all that time trying to discover myself, who I was, I discovered mostly I wasn't very interesting. Much better things to focus on  than me."


"You do everything so well, so easily," Leo told her.


"I don't really," Francesca replied with some sadness "I have to work very hard at most things. Some things I never can learn. It's beyond me to play a piano no matter how hard I try," she said with great regret "and I was around when they were invented."


Leo swallowed, hearing the message she told him. "Thank you " Leo said and Francesca understood him.


"I come for another reason besides, hiding from Durand " Francesca confessed "I came," she said " because I was considering asking you to undertake a task for me. Something in the whitelighter line. Tell me, does that make you want to reconsider your path to heal souls."


Leo thought for a full five seconds before with almost no regret he shook his head. "I've chosen my path," he said.


"Oh well in that case," Francesca said seriously "I think I can safely ask you to do this task."


"I have a path," Leo said firmly.


"You can do this at the same time" she said "You may need some very strong philosophy to do it." she added eyes twinkling.


Leo took a deep breath "What is it?" he asked nervously.

"I've had Durand " Francesca said "I have been Durand's guide for 696 years which makes it about 675 years to long. I can't even list how much of my time and energy I have used just pacifying all the creatures he has offended. And lately all I find I am doing is agreeing with them and crying on their shoulders for sympathy, which is probably a sign I need to move on from him, particularly when it is rat demons," She smiled. "Want to try some philosophy on them."


"You want me to be a part time whitelighter advising just a guardian," he said. "I screwed up with the Charmed Ones."


"You learnt a great deal from the Charmed Ones and my experience," Francesca told him with the twinkle in her eyes still well and truly there " is that Durand is a 7 day a week job. I day with him, 3 days recovering, 3 days meditating to prepare for the next encounter. "


Leo smiled.


"I've had Durand " she said seriously "I've never had to deal with a guardian as passionate and…volatile as Cole. I am not going to lose him through lack of attention" Francesca told Leo with steel in her voice." And if Phoebe gets her way I can anticipate more problems not less. When my concerns come out as irritation with Durand, my wisdom tells me it is time to make alternative arrangements."


"Knowing when to move on and away is wisdom" said Leo who wanted to be a philosopher.


"Well its Durand "Francesca said school marmish " It isn't such a hard choice."


"Durand is a guardian," said Leo "I don't know enough to advise a guardian. Why me?"


"Do you really need to ask me that?" Francesco said quietly.


"No "l Leo said" I know about guardians . I know about..failure."


"Yes" said Francesca. She smiled "You can trust Durand's wisdom. I often do," she told Leo " he knows right from wrong." She raised her eyes "Unfortunately that is all he knows."


"Can I think about it?" Leo asked.


"No" answered Francesca firmly " thinking about it will only make you think about it to much." She held out her hand "Deal" she said


Leo hesitated. Then he took a very deep breath "Deal " he said taking her hand.


The pipe suddenly went  gurgle, thump, bang, thump gurgle thwack gurgle, gurgle. Leo cursed under his breath. "That noise has been bugging this house for nearly a year" he told Francesca "and it gets worse. I strongly suspect Cole tried to fix it and stuffed the pipes up."


"You do know that's a very angry vision wraith caught in the pipes?" Francesca asked.


"What" said Leo.


"Nasty little spites who come to tap out warnings of Great Danger. I think they enjoy the panic they cause. " Francesca said seeing Leo's stare "Part of the higher realms. Must have come just before Phoebe got pregnant.''


Leo stared at her.


"It might have helped if Cole had listened to it" Francesca said told Leo primly "You have to stop Cole trying to use magic to fix things he doesn't understand."


"I keep telling him not to, " Leo said. "I do really."


"Think of him as Melinda" Francesca advised standing up.


"What do you mean?" asked Leo.


"Cole like Melinda has to understand when you say no you really mean don't do it" Francesca said orbing.


Leo sighed. He walked up the basement steps. Piper was in the kitchen enjoying herself making things she hadn't had a chance to make since Melinda started to orb. Melinda was being a very good girl playing a very nice mortal game of stacking building blocks.


"I'm going to kill Cole," said Leo.


"That's good" Piper said  'Why now?"


"That damn noise in the pipes is his fault." Leo told her.


"That part I figured" said Piper " how do we fix it?"


"Cole has to fix it" Leo replied.


"Fuck" said Piper.


"Bad mommy " said Melinda fiddling with her herb bracelet.


"No Melinda," Leo said firmly.


Melinda turned her nose up and went back to playing with her building clocks.