A Matter of Relativity

Part 4: All truth is relative

Chapter 38


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

Part 4 of 4 Parts

Phoebe and Cole came in from a shopping in England and found Piper making coffee and putting cookies on a tray, using the best cups and saucers and silver ware.


"Wow royalty visiting?" said Phoebe.


"Worse" said Piper seriously "Paige's Aunt Beryl called in. She's been staying with Paige's grandparents since Christmas and called in before flying back to New York."


"Shit, " said Cole turning to run while Phoebe grabbed his sleeve.


"Can't wait to meet her, " said Phoebe.


"Ha" said Cole.



Paige was not all certain how she felt when Beryl called her at work to say she would be visiting, especially as the request was specifically to finally meet her new sisters. Paige had spent a great deal of energy keeping her 'new' family and her 'old' family apart. 


However in her weekly call to her grandparents Paige had not been able to hide her misery and finally told them about the death of the 'new' boyfriend in a car fire. It had been greeted by horrified silence and her grandparents insisting they would come to San Francisco to visit her. Paige was eternally grateful to Aunt Beryl for talking them out of it. But they had rung everyday until Paige had whispered to Aunt Beryl that it was not the same thing as her parents and she really did not want to talk about it. Beryl blunt as always told her parents to give Paige some space. And had done the same herself until she arrived in San Francisco.


Beryl knocked on the door a little before Paige came home making it necessary for a somewhat panicking Piper to entertain her. Leo had stayed long enough to introduce himself and then taken on the afternoon P3 visit for Piper.


Paige came home to find Melinda on her best behaviour cuddled up against mommy and Piper sitting on the edge of the sofa, not enjoying the inquisition she was getting one little bit.


Piper all but scuttled out to the kitchen when Paige arrived home, picking up Melinda.


Beryl grinned to Paige "Your sister is okay," she told Paige "a bit tight arsed for my taste, but you know what they say about relatives."


"Yeah" said Paige "Piper likes things under control. Doesn't happen often but she likes them that way. Phoebe makes up for her being a bit tight arsed. Sort of balances out. My sisters" she said "they're okay Aunt Beryl they really are."


Beryl stood up and caught Paige in a big huge. "And you honey?" she asked  "You sure you're doing okay." she asked pulling Paige down on the sofa and keeping an arm around her.


"Yeah, Aunt Beryl, I think I am, in a way, yeah" Paige said uncertainly. "My sisters are looking after me," she added.


"Taking good care of you?" said Beryl.


"Yeah" said Paige.


"Fussing you and asking if you're okay 10 times a day?" Beryl asked.


"Yeah" said Paige.


"Trying to make you smile?" Beryl asked.


"Yeah" said Paige.


"Trying to encourage you to move on?" Berry asked.


"Yeah" said Paige.


"Driving you insane?" said Beryl.


"Yeah " said Paige with a big sigh of relief that some-one understood.


"Want to come back and stay with me in New York for a couple of weeks?" Beryl asked.


"Can I please?" said Paige in a voice of utter relief which was not missed by either Cole or Phoebe as they came in the living room.


Paige introduced Phoebe who received a kiss and a speculative eye from Beryl as she eyed the huge bump of Whosit. "You know Cole" Paige said.


"Tough guy, how are you?" Beryl said sparking up.


"Just fine," said Cole turning up his lips.


Beryl then managed to get Paige to smile without trying by putting Phoebe and Cole through another form of inquisition, all questions and big smiles. Somehow she manage to drag out of them Cole's finances, Phoebe's contract details, her somewhat secret plans to write a book, and her feelings on life, commitment, pregnancy and motherhood. And as Phoebe avowed her opposition to rigid social expectations, Beryl did not miss Cole narrow his eyes and suck on his lip.


Piper came in carrying a tray with milk and sugar and cups, and the extra special petit fours Cole and Phoebe had brought back from London as a family treat for after supper. Melinda, very proud of herself followed mommy, carrying a plate of cookies.


"Coffee's in the kitchen," Piper said, resisting the temptation to snatch the cookies from Melinda. Piper had recently lost an argument with Phoebe and Leo about not jumping in to fast to protect Melinda from her mistakes.


"I'll get it," Cole said jumping up, happy to get away.


"Maybe not as tough as I thought" Beryl said to Paige.


"If you saw him in court" Piper said, determined to defend her family and her territory "you would know just how tough he is."


"He's a really tough litigator " Paige said matter of fact.


"He's brilliant," said Phoebe loyally as Cole somewhat reluctantly came back with the coffee.


"So you really are a tough guy lawyer " Beryl asked Cole "You really do get up there and ask the villains all the nasty questions. Often thought maybe I should have been a lawyer but standing up in court, not something I'd have the balls for," she said straight-faced.


"Want to bet," muttered Cole as Phoebe kicked him. Which Beryl did not miss.


Piper exchanged glances with Paige who shrugged.  "I'm going to New York for a week or two with Aunt Beryl" Paige told Phoebe and Piper. Trying to change the conversation.


"Coffee," said Piper hastily pouring.


"When's the kidlet coming?" Beryl asked Phoebe not to be deterred.


"Two months," said Phoebe.


"Looks like it ought to be two weeks," Beryl said. "My two popped out like greased piglets. Ain't going to happen to you."


Phoebe pursed her lips. She hated it when women started telling birthing experiences. She wondered why for thirty years no-one had felt the need to describe child birth to her in gory detail. In the last month every woman she met had a terrible story she did not want to hear.


"No ring" Beryl observed, staring at Phoebe's finger "Why aren't you two married?" she asked smiling smugly at Cole and Phoebe.


"What" said Phoebe. "You shouldn't ask."


"None of your business" said Cole as Beryl ignored him.


"What is it? One of those we love each other so much we don't need to be married to prove it things?" Beryl asked complacently.


"Cole and I do love each other, more than you could possibly understand." Phoebe said defensively "It isn't whether we're married or not which proves that. We don't feel the need to be married…..to prove it."


"Didn't you feel the need to prove it once before?" Beryl asked sweetly while Paige swallowed as she recognised the danger signs in both Cole and Phoebe.


"Yes" said Phoebe "and we realised that being married, just going through some ritual for other people didn't prove anything about how much we loved each other."


"I suppose you have a point," mused Beryl as Paige let her breath out, knowing that was usually what Beryl said before she said something terrible. "Ritual has no point. Little things like public declarations and titles, husband, wife, mom, dad, don't have any real meaning. Or point."


Phoebe gasped.


Beryl knowing she had her, pushed "Good luck explaining that to the kidlet," she added. "Explaining that there was absolutely no point for its parents to get married. Again. Explain that you didn't have the guts to stand up and say you love each other in front of other people, didn't want to be responsible for each other, next of kin and all that." Beryl smiled while Phoebe and Cole had expressions like thunder. "You are saying tough guy is the father, on the certificate aren't you.  Just in case, he does a runner, like my first did." Beryl asked Phoebe.


"Your first did a runner on you," said Piper while Paige glare at her.


"I don't think that's any of your business," said Cole with an expression on his face that in the past had frozen the minions of good in terror.


"Of course it's none of my business," said Beryl unperturbed "but if everybody minded their own business no-one would get anything done."


"I think I have a migraine coming on," Phoebe snapped " it was an experience meeting you Beryl" she said and standing up she waddled away with as much dignity as she could muster.


"I better pack," said Paige hurriedly.


"I'll help you," said Piper jumping up behind her. "Keep an eye on Melinda," she ordered Cole which did not give him a chance to escape Beryl.


Both Cole and Beryl heard Paige tell Piper as they went upstairs "Don't look at me like that, Piper. You've got Aunt Eleanor and Margaret in your family."


Melinda sitting on the floor made an effort to take another chocolate chip cookie. When she could not reach, she started to incline her head. Cole caught the 'I'm about to orb something' expression. He grabbed the cookie, and Melinda.


When she finished the cookie, he let Melinda play horse ride on his knee to distract her and avoid having to say anything to Beryl.


As Melinda yelled 'more, more' and Cole encouraged her, Beryl looked him up and down "You can thank me some other time tough guy" she said.


Leo came back from P3 and he and Piper offered to drive Beryl and Paige to the airport. While they went though the ritual of strapping Melinda into the car seat, Cole stood by the car and watched. Paige understood that Phoebe needed to stay in her room because she had a migraine. So did Beryl.


Paige went to get in the backseat.


Cole leant over and kissed her on the forehead. "Be good," he said. Then he grinned "or at least be careful."


"I just …" she said.


"I would too," he said.


"Thanks, " Paige sighed.


Cole shook Beryl's hand "I won't say it hasn't been a pleasure." he said.


"You are a pistol aren't you tough guy" said Beryl. "Pretty, smart and a gentleman to boot. See you at your wedding." and she got into the backseat beside Paige while Cole's expression turned grim.


"We better go. So you've got time to get through airport security," said Leo hastily as he got in the passenger seat and Piper turned the engine on.


When Cole went upstairs, Phoebe was lying on the bed flipping through a book entitled 'Childbirth the natural way' which made Cole narrow his eyes with dark foreboding.


"God that women is a bitch." Phoebe said.


"I’m not god" Cole said while Phoebe glared at him. Cole sat on the edge of the bed. "She didn't say anything Margaret didn't say at Christmas," he said.


"Cole," said Phoebe horrified "You're not seriously taking any notice of that woman are you?"


"She may have a point," he said somewhat apprehensively.


"You didn't take any notice of Margaret at Christmas," Phoebe attacked.


"Margaret is not only a bitch, she's malicious," Cole replied stroking Phoebe's hair.


"Gee tough guy," Phoebe said with a smirk, but touched is face " Aren't you the one who told me that what is important is whether the advice is good, not who gives it to you?"


Cole stopped stroking her hair "Damn you Phoebe," he said.


"What do you mean?" Phoebe asked nervously.


"You're right," he said.


"Cole," she said even more nervously "Don't even think.."


"Yeah I need to " he said, "I'll be back " he said leaning over to kiss her and then shimmered.


When Cole came into the bedroom nearly three hours later Phoebe lay on the bed watching a very old romantic movie.


"Hi" he said from the door. "God that's a sloppy movie " he said.


"I like romance." Phoebe said defensively. "Where you been?"


"Thinking," he said, "out on the bridge."


"You've been a long time" Phoebe said. carefully.


"Had a lot to think about " he said just as carefully.


"Thinking about proposing," Phoebe asked deciding to rush in.


"Yeah," he said.


"And," she asked apprehensively.


"Decided not to" he said.


"Oh" she said. "Probably for the best."


"Yeah " he said "I figured that I already asked three years ago and you said yes… eventually." he pressed" so the way I see it you owe me a marriage."


"I what" shrieked Phoebe.


"You shouldn't make promises you don't intend to keep," Cole said primly, but wisely keeping his distance.


"What" shrieked Phoebe "I owe you a marriage you arsehole. I goddamn divorced you."


"Doesn't count," he said. "You didn't marry me."


"Its only on a technicality," she snarled "I didn't marry you, and whose damn fault is that."


"Your's " he said still keeping his distance "if you loved me then as much as you said you did, you should have known I was taken over by the Source. I always know when you're possessed," he added ..unwisely.


Phoebe was silent for second, and then she slowly stood up, on his side of the bed. She glanced at the blue cut glass dish on Cole's bedside table, the one he used to put his watch and any spare change in at night. She picked it up and aimed it as his head as hard as she could.


It missed him because he shimmered but flew onto the landing. Piper had just returned from the airport. "I'll just turn the bed down" she called to Leo and jumped as the blue cut glass dish shattering into pieces at her feet.


"What the hell," she roared.


Cole came back out of the shimmer "My fiancé" he said "doesn't seem to like being reminded that it isn't nice to break her promises."


"Oh fuck" breathed Piper "here we go again."


After two days of Cole referring to Phoebe as his fiancé and refusing to have sex on the grounds that nice girls waited until after the wedding, Phoebe was pushed to her limits. She was throwing the nearest object at his head as soon as he said the word "fiancé" while Leo and Piper total conversation with him seemed to be "Shut up Cole."


Finally Piper just told him to go ahead and fix it with Phoebe or else. "I get sick of this house revolving around you and Phoebe" Piper told Cole while she hand mixed a cake somewhat violently.


"I" he said.


"Shut up Cole" 'Piper told him '"Just fix it."


Cole looked to Leo for support.


"Shut up Cole," Leo said, "Just fix it."


Cole shrugged and inclined his head and went upstairs. Phoebe was sitting at her dresser staring at her image in the mirror. He sat on the edge of the bed and asked "You want to talk?"


"No" she said.


"Want to fuck?" he asked.


"Nice girls only do that after they're married," Phoebe snarled.


"Marry me?" Cole said.


"Are you proposing?" Phoebe turned around to face him.


"No" he said, "I already did that."


"You bastard," she said. "I am not marrying you because I'm pregnant."


"Well seeing you weren't pregnant when you agreed to marry me, it isn't an issue is it?" he said" unless you had some vision about Whosit and didn't tell me."


"Why now?" Phoebe demanded " Why bother to get married now?"


"Because" Cole said "Beryl was right."


"Whosit needs us to be married," Phoebe said sarcastically.


"No" Cole said "there is no point in us not being married, unless the point is we're not married."


"Ha" Phoebe snorted.


"Ha" Cole answered " Phoebe. I'm sick to death of calling you my  um..partner. What the hell does partner mean. Partner, like those arseholes at that prick law firm I worked at.  Phoebe" he said coming over to kneel beside and catching her upper arms. "I want a marriage. I'm sick of being Piper and Paige's not brother in law, I'm sick of being Melinda's not uncle. I want to say wife. The time I come from, the time I was born that's what you did. You got married. Living together what does that mean. What we have used to be called a marriage. I want a marriage with you."


"What we have is a marriage," she whispered. " you have that with me."


"Then for god's sake " he said standing up and pulling her to her feet. "Let's call it one."


She swallowed as she looked up at him "Cole I am not walking down any aisle, I'm not going through another damned and I mean damned wedding with you. I am not pretending to smile while a whole mob of so called friends and family who I never see except at weddings and funerals mutter snide comments about Whosit's parentage and the last time we tried to get married. And make stupid jokes abut the second time around. Not after everything we went through to get this far."


Cole sighed "I'm not asking for a wedding" he said " I'm asking for a marriage" he shrugged "You think I want to look like that gormless idiot I saw when I went to that wedding with Paige. You think I want to watch all those people waiting, hoping one of us will run, or stand there knowing they are hoping like hell you aren't going to show. You think after all the gossip and scandal, you think I want to stand there knowing they will all be hoping Leo will jump up can yell 'hey the kid's mine. Call it off'. You think I'm an idiot. I want you Phoebe. I want a marriage, not a wedding."


"I don't think you're an idiot," she sighed" but you need a wedding to call it a legal marriage."


"That's what Vegas is for." he said.


"Cole" she sighed. "What the hell is going to change if I stand up in front of some fat little guy in Vegas and say 'Hey Cole Turner is the only person I'm gonna fuck for the rest of my life'."


Cole just looked at her with the hurt sad expression on his face that went straight to Phoebe's heart and her conscience. The expression reminded her what he done to be with her and what he had forgiven her and how much he had fought to be with her. "Oh damn you " she snapped but put her hand on his face to try and wipe the hurt away " have it your own way, if you must. Call up the fat little guy and book a Vegas quickie wedding. I don't care."


"Thank you" he said smugly bending to kiss her on her tightly closed lips.


"Why don't you make it in two days time" she said snippily. "Then it will be the anniversary of the day the Source took you over. May as well have another miserable anniversary on that day."


He hesitated and she put her hand around the back of his neck and pulled his head down to her mouth. "Maybe it will make that day better from now on." she said.


Cole picked her up "God you're getting heavy " he muttered.


"Bastard" said Phoebe unhappily.


He shimmered downstairs with her.


He came out of the shimmer in the kitchen in front of Piper and Leo.


"Phoebe and I are getting married," he told Piper.


"Again" said Phoebe unhappily.


"You are," said Piper brightly.


"Going over to Vegas as soon as I can book it ," said Cole.


"You are," said Leo with a disapproving expression.


"Where the hell is she?" Cole muttered two days later prowling around the hall of the manor dressed in his best navy suit and blue tie " we have to be there in ten minutes."


Leo in a flannel shirt and jeans was not as amused as he usually was by Cole's hyperactivity when he was nervous. Leo did not approve of sneaking off to Vegas to get married. "Hardly seems any point in getting married when you do it that way," he said earning a big smile and a hug from Phoebe and a filthy glare from Cole.


"Damn her," Cole muttered and stalked up the stairs to their room.  To find Phoebe still in bra and knickers and most of the clothes she owned thrown on the bed.


Piper with an expression between sympathy and exasperation kept holding various clothes up, with Melinda doing her best to help by pulling the rest of Phoebe's clothes onto the floor.


"Nothing fits," Phoebe wailed, "I can't get married in Cole's shirt and leggings."


"The red dress from Christmas fits," Piper said trying to be supportive and not quite succeeding.


"Barely " wailed Phoebe "and I don't want to get married in a red dress. It's worse luck than a black one. I don't want to go through this damned stupid ritual," she moaned and looked up to see Cole at the door with an expression on his face as dark as his mood. "Well I don't ," she glared at him.


He shuffled awkwardly. "You don't have to if you want to," he said almost belligerently.


"Yeah like I want to spend the next fifty years listening to you bitch," Phoebe snapped back because she was feeling guilty she had hurt his feelings. "Don't say anything, just shut up." she added before he could really start to bitch.


"You can't get married in your bra and knickers," Piper said.


"I'm not getting married without them," Phoebe snarled.


"Ha" said Cole.


"The red dress it'll have to be" Piper decided realising the only place this was going was a huge battle. Phoebe turned her nose up but took the dress and wriggled it down over Whosit, pulling very hard to make it fit.


She went to the dresser and fiddled with the attractive loose knot her hair was in and then started to struggle with the zip of the red dress as Cole irritably told her to hurry up.


"Shut the hell up," Phoebe snapped at him struggling with zip.


"Here let me do that," said Piper taking the zip and trying to pull it up. "Breath in " she ordered Phoebe.


"I am breathing in," said Phoebe.


"Oh for god's sake," said Cole and flicked his finger so the zip went straight up accompanied by the ripping sound of silk as the dress gave way at the seams that covered Whosit.


Cole just froze, his face contorting into an expression of something like terror while Phoebe was beyond speech. She just looked at the expanse of her and Whosit falling out of the dress and then glowered at Cole.


"Fuck," said Piper.


"I'll wait for you downstairs" Cole said running.


"Bad mommy " said Melinda but no–one paid her any attention.


Forty minutes later Cole finally shimmered to the porch outside a small wedding chapel in the main street of a Las Vegas. It was freezing cold and Phoebe only had a light jacket because the last thing Cole said to her before they left was put on a warm jacket.


They went inside without speaking or looking at each other and Cole did his best to explain to the receptionist why they were late and try and talk them into squeezing the wedding in. The receptionist finally said they could be fitted in a quick five minute wedding in about 20 minutes.


"Great," said Cole smiling but not as far as his eyes.


"Bugger," said Phoebe. She was wearing cream stretch pants and a long pink lace top that had once fallen loosely from underneath her breasts and now strained and looking in danger of following the way of the red dress. The receptionist eyed the outfit and the bump and made a point of not showing any expression, which Phoebe did not miss. "We have to wait twenty minutes," snarled Phoebe.


"Its only twenty minutes," Cole said irritably.


"Shut up Cole," snapped Phoebe while the receptionist shook her head sadly.


Phoebe turned her back on Cole and he noticed the label of her top sticking out. He put his hand out to push it back.


Phoebe wriggled away "Don't you touch me," she snarled.


"Your label was sticking out," he snapped back.


"Who gives a stuff," said Phoebe.


"If you don't want to get married you shouldn't have said yes when I asked you to marry me," Cole bit back accusingly.


Phoebe's eyes opened wide and her lip trembled "You arsehole" she said and stalked off as far away as she could get from Cole who glared at her and turned his back. Then he turned around "You really are a sulky little brat aren't you" he told her angrily, "Any excuse to throw a temper tantrum. It's okay if you want something, all sweetness and light. I want something and you just bitch, bitch, bitch. Couldn't even make an effort to pretend to be happy. I gave up everything for you and you  won't do one damn little thing for me." he snarled.


Phoebe seethed "What did you ever do for me except screw me over."


The receptionist stared straight at Whosit.


"Put your goddamned label in," Cole snapped and turned his back while the receptionist looked like she thought she was being set up for candid camera.


Twenty five minutes later, with Cole and Phoebe sitting at opposite ends of the reception area refusing to look at each other, the receptionist told them they could go into the chapel.


"I have to pee." Phoebe announced.


"Can't you wait for five minutes?" Cole snarked.


"Some things are more important than others" snarled Phoebe "and right now peeing is more important than marrying you." She threw the small bouquet that was part of the wedding deal at him and stalked off to the bathroom.


"Want some help doing up your zips " Cole called after her.


The canned wedding music filled the chapel. Cole and Phoebe stood in front of the celebrant as far apart as they could get. The celebrant was a little fat guy.  Phoebe wondered if Cole had deliberately searched through marriage celebrants in Las Vegas until he found a little fat guy. She glanced around at the imitation flowers, and false electric candles and the stranger who was the witness.  She glanced at the reflection in the mirror behind the celebrant.


She suddenly smiled to herself. They looked such a mismatched pair. Cole dressed up in his best and towering over her. Her in clothes that would maybe suit a shopping trip, her hair falling out the knot and that ridiculous little bouquet. Cole was angry, and he was nervous and worse he was upset and she loved him, and the celebrant and witness did not care.


There was no-one here who cared just how much she loved him. "If only you knew just what he's done to be with me, just how special he is " she thought because it was obvious that they considered he was crazy getting married to the pregnant shrew.


She swallowed convulsively. The wedding should be something where she told the world just how much she loved this man, just how special he was.  The wedding was not about what she and Cole wanted. They had each other and no wedding was going to make any difference, they were together married, unmarried.  The wedding was about their family and friends and celebrating and declaring what they had in front of them.  The wedding was about the ritual and affirmation and sharing. Not the legal permission to be together.


As the canned music stopped Phoebe froze, Cole standing almost disinterested at her side looked down at her.


“I” she said.


He just looked at her.


“I”.. Cole “ she said.


He smiled almost wryly “ You're not going to do it, are you?“ he asked.


She shook her head, while the celebrant held his breath. This was not the first time a bride had said no at the alter but it was always touch and go how the groom reacted, and considering the way these to had fighting in the reception area.


Phoebe gulped “I.. I can't Cole. Getting married in a hole just to get married. It .. there's just no point” she said “Just no point. It doesn't make any difference and it doesn't mean anything. Getting married like this, without even my sisters. I can't. I really can't. And not today. Today is not the day for us to get married on. I just can't.” She glanced nervously up at him, waiting to see whether he exploded, but he was watching her smiling gently, the smile that was hers, the one that made his eyes flash blue so she could see eternity in them.


“You're not mad," she said “ not even a bit.”


"Would it make you say you could go through with it?" he asked quietly, almost fatalistically.


"No" she said almost in tears "I can't do it. It feels wrong." She pleaded. "It should be happy," she said. "We should be happy."


The celebrant stared at them both as if they were crazy.


"Looks like we aren't getting married, " Cole sighed.


"All in all," said the celebrant severely " its probably a good thing. Some people have to accept that they should not be together."


Cole and Phoebe looked at each other and started to laugh.