A Matter of Relativity
Part 1: Home is where the Heart is
"They do not love that do
not show their love"
Piper was standing in front of the microwave which had smoke coming from the back. "Microwave's stuffed" she told Phoebe.
"It was playing up the other day" Phoebe replied.
"Cole didn't try and fix it did he?" Piper asked suspiciously. "Does he know anything about anything"
"He says he knows what he needs to know" Phoebe sighed.
The plumbing suddenly went gurgle bang bang bang gurgle "And I still think that is happening because he tried to fix it" Piper muttered.
Phoebe laughed and went over to pick Melinda up to kiss her good morning. Melinda was already well on her way to needing a change of clothes if her mother wanted her to stay clean and angelic.
Melinda to Piper and Leo’s delight was walking before she 14 months old and had lately discovered the joys of throwing everything and anything she could get her hands on, the messier it was the better.
So watching Melinda became almost second nature to all the family and she needed watching. Piper had crawled around the house on her knees trying to see things from Melinda level view and she had not realise how many things were just interestingly out of reach for Melinda. It had become Melinda’s daily task to find as many things as possible that was supposed to be out of reach and throw them.
Melinda had also to Cole’s delight lately learnt the joys of the word No, not just no but a very loud and determined No. Cole would come home and ask her if she had been good. No she could yell. Piper said bed time to her.
"Do you want bed Melinda?" Cole would ask.
"No" she would scream.
Leo told Piper it was a stage . Piper snarled it would be if that arsehole would stop encouraging her.
"Been good" Phoebe automatically said to Melinda.
"No" said Melinda.
Phoebe picked her up and even though she protested hugged her close. Piper watched her sister, concerned because she recognised the signs of Phoebe looking back at the dark days when Cole was taken over by the Source.
"Its okay" Phoebe said, then she smiled a little tremulously. " You know just this time last week was the anniversary of the Great Immolation. The day I lost the.. the day. ...the day the seer took .. the day I stopped being pregnant. Its over for another year" she added.
Piper nodded as Phoebe helped herself to coffee. " You know Piper. I really am happy. So happy with Cole I can’t…. " she stopped "I thought when you were happy you weren’t supposed to feel.. But these last few months. All the anniversaries of when the Source took Cole over. Last year was almost beyond bearing. "
‘I know" Piper said sympathetically.
Phoebe looked a little teary "This year I thought with Cole here and everything with him great, it would be okay but it isn’t. All the dates as they pass. All the horrible times. I still remember. Even though I look up and every morning Cole’s there and I thank god for the miracle I have him, I still remember and some of it is as clear as when it happened and it hurts Piper" Phoebe said" It hurts, and it tears me in two. I can’t believe it, even knowing what a gift I have been given it hurts, the wedding farce, the pregnancy, the vanquish. Everything."
"I know love" Piper said. "It'll get easier though. I promise
"It won’t get better though will it Piper?" Phoebe said. She looked at Melinda. " I thank god for her" she said sighing. "All those dates. It started on 28 January you know that was he day the Source, the old Source went, and the, the wedding, that travesty, and the .. when I got pregnant. I am so glad when May is over, then it's all over for another year. "
"I know," said Piper.
"Wouldn’t you think remembering the wedding would not hurt" Phoebe said "Or being pregnant but it does" She sighed "Any way we’re going away straight after solstice, driving up north to celebrate a whole year together. That’s where we went last year, our first trip after we got back together. I can’t wait" Phoebe, "Not just to be away with Cole but to pass an anniversary that is worth celebrating."
"You can’t change the past. " Piper put down the cloth she was using to wipe benches and went over to put her arms around her sister. " Maybe you need to thing about some other dates, creating some happy dates in that time
"I can’t even think of anything that would be big enough" Phoebe said. "I am happy Piper, so happy" and stopped as she and Piper both jumped up at the same time to reach for Melinda who was heading for the pan cupboard. Melinda was showing signs of telekinetic powers. Her first successful experiment had been with child proof locks. Piper reached her first picked her up and gave her the skittles to knock over with a soft ball.
"Ever think about maybe getting married again," Piper asked quietly.
"What’s the point?" Phoebe said "Nothing will separate us so what is the sense in doing the big wedding thing just to give all the family something to gossip about. Especially after the last farce. I couldn’t face walking down that aisle, I know what they would all be thinking. They would all be smiling and pretend to be crying and holding their breath waiting for me to run from the altar, or Cole to say no. And all the snide cracks about getting pregnant, and children."
Phoebe’s voice caught a little. "For me it really would be out first wedding" she said "Cole too, I guess. But can you imagine al the sniggering if I did the bride thing and if I didn’t well its like a saying that travesty really was a wedding."
"What does Cole feel about it Phoebe?" Piper asked.
Phoebe shrugged, "He knows how I feel about he big wedding thing."
"You don’t have to have the big wedding thing" Piper said "just go over to Las Vegas and get married."
"Then what’s the point?" Phoebe said "Getting married is about declaring it all in front of friends and family. If you aren’t prepared to declare it and share it, what’s the point?"
"Are you sure you’re not just being marriage shy" said Piper running to pull Melinda away from the island where she was making a good reach for a basketful of fruit Paige had left a little to close to the edge and no-one had noticed.
"Probably but there’s no point in getting married even if I wasn't," Phoebe said.
"Maybe there’s a point for Cole" Piper said slowly "you know he has his own… demon’s from that time and maybe..getting married. He was keen on getting married before .. all the other stuff" Piper reminded her.
"Its not the same" Phoebe said. "If we could have kids or something but that isn’t going to happen, so what’s the point?"
"And kids are out of the question" said Piper. She tried to make it sound sympathetic but she could barely keep the demand from her voice.
Phoebe understood. " Its not likely. I mean likely we could even if I wanted to." she said. "I mean Cole is. You know he’s well he’s a spirit being. Just uses a demon power to l.. look mortal. Its not .. well I he can’t go to a doctor. Hey doc ,am I fertile? Can I take the test? So even if we wanted to I don’t think it will happen" said Phoebe sighing "and it wouldn’t be a good idea anyway. I mean we haven’t talked much but you know he is , apart from he is very good. I means he exists through demon power. Better not to risk it. And the Guardian thing. Better for me if I don’t risk him perhaps thinking any child we had might be outside the Great Plan, affect the balance or anything" Phoebe mumbled.
" I know love" said Piper. "Its best I think, or maybe you can find another way."
"Who knows," Phoebe said a little brighter "But that has its own problems. It affects you Paige, Leo. A non magical, mortal child."
"If you were the mother, it may be magical, and Cole does not seem to hung up on it being his" Piper pointed out and then turned to late to stop Melinda crinkling her eyes and levering the sugar basin and a canister of cereal with a loose top onto the floor " But then again a non-magical baby has its appeal."
"Maybe" Phoebe said uncertain, still to raw to even consider it. "Honest we're just planning on spoiling you daughter rotten and any kids Paige has. They'll just get spoiled rotten and if you even think of arguing, just you remember what an arsehole Cole can be."
Piper smiled "I know love. So." She took a deep breath "You are being careful. I mean just in case. "
Phoebe nodded. "Yeah I take the damn things. You know at least I try to remember. Its okay I think. I didn’t use anything for about a month when we got back together because I had gone off, decided if I had a new relationship I was going to have time to think about it. Then I jumped straight in with Cole anyhow. " she laughed. " Nothing happened though, so I’m pretty sure nothing can. And well I forgot a few time a couple of months ago. Cole wasn’t t happy about it. He did but he well… just being…he bitched" she said. "Why do they bitch? I do try and remember. He just likes to bitch I think" she said. "If it could happen it would have" Phoebe said confidently.
Piper just stared at her sister. "Phoebe are you stupid or something. How long did it take me to get pregnant?" she said. "You, Miss, damn well take care. Don’t risk it and don’t be stupid, And don't even think it could be safe. And make him do his part. "
"He bitches" Phoebe muttered" mostly about me being careless."
"Well he's right" Piper said determined. " But this is not just you. It's him too."
"He doesn’t refuse" Phoebe said" he just bitches. Makes me feel an idiot because I forget."
"You are an idiot when you forget" Piper said.
"I am not" Phoebe said" I just forget."
Piper took her hand "Are you sure you forget? Or you are just trying to get around making a decision. If it's an accident, its not like you deliberately did it, its just fate."
"No" Phoebe said but not quite sure "I do forget. I know it is something I shouldn’t risk it but I just forget. I wonder if vasectomies work on demons, ex demons. Do you think I should ask Cole?"
"Well if you do" Piper said grinning " Make sure you do it while I’m around. I bet that's something he’ll never have been asked before."
On the Tuesday before Solstice, Cole was in court all day. As he left the court he checked his cell and there was a message from Phoebe saying she was caught up in charmed business, guarding a museum. A witch in Italy had vanquished a demon that left behind a list of artefacts that demons apparently were chasing and for some reason wanted before Solstice and one was in San Francisco. He called her but got no response and all he could do was quash down the fear for her safety and go on with his day.
He left the office as early as he could and went back to the manor, home, to find only Marly, babysitting Melinda.
Marly all but panicked when he walked into the kitchen.
"No-one’s home" she whimpered going bright red.
"I am" he smiled at his most genial. She cringed and he shook his head and sighed. He went to the freezer took out a bottle of beer, pulled the top and regretted that Leo was not there to enjoy the sheer fear on Marlee’s face at the prospect of being alone with a man under the influence of alcohol. Cole offered to put Melinda to bed and let Marly go home. Marly refused, determined to do her duty by Melinda, at least she did until he said he was going to have a shower and the prospect of being alone in a house with a naked man under the influence of alcohol was to much. Marly agreed to let him look after Melinda.
Piper was strict about Melinda’s bedtime but Piper was not there so he spent a pleasant hour teaching the baby telekinesis was more fun than throwing things. Melinda started getting grizzly but feeling very alone in the Manor rather than put her in her cot Cole finally lay on Phoebe and his bed and let her go to sleep beside him. Piper hated Melinda sharing bed’s with adults, thought it spoiled her but as Phoebe and Cole often kept her with them when Mommy and Daddy were away and so did Paige, Piper was losing that battle. The little girl curled against him and Cole, in between reading watched her sleep and thanked god, the maker and all higher beings for her presence because of all the things that had gone on between him and Phoebe there was the one loss that did not go away and the pain sometimes hurt so bad that both of them just hid. Melinda helped fill a little of the gap in their life and Cole treasured every moment with her.
He was awoken about 3 in the morning by Piper screaming for Melinda and he called "With me."
Piper came into the bedroom and started laying into him about not putting her to bed and he dutifully hung his head and promised her would never commit that sin again. Piper picked up her daughter and took her to bed. Phoebe at the door looked at him and said, "You are such a liar Cole Turner" and he laughed. She came over to the bed and sat down put her hand to his face and kissed him.
A few minutes later he asked he asked, "How did it go?"
"Hard" Phoebe said. "But just some damned demon running a covert plot."
"There’s always some damned demon running a covert plot" Cole said facetiously.
Phoebe stuck her tongue out at him. "Just going to check some stuff in the Book of Shadows and I’ll come to bed," she said yawning. "Are sure you don’t want to know about these demons?"
"No" Cole said, "I know what I need to know already."
"Bet you didn’t know demons use freeze magic to stop beam security alarms" Phoebe said.
"I did actually," Cole told her smugly. "Use it myself."
"How come you can do that" Phoebe asked sweetly "when you stuff everything up around the house."
"I know what I need to know" Cole answered grinning. "What are you going to tell me about this plot. The demon spiritual world was decimated when you got rid of the Seer and some smart demon is finding a way of recovering lost demon spiritual icons to gain some influence in that area, and its going to use the artefacts to get hold of mortal souls to sacrifice them to reinforce its position."
"Its so ordinary and simple when you talk like that" Phoebe sighed "but the Elders and witch’s, they act like it’s the ultimate battle of good, not just another battle in the long war" she smiled tiredly.
"It makes them feel important" Leo answered behind her. "Are you coming upstairs?" he said to Phoebe.
"Yeah" she said" still the same answer to the battle" she said to Cole who raised his eyebrows and grinned.
But before he could answer Leo replied. "Same answer as always. Demons come demons go. Protect the innocent; demons can’t touch innocent souls so they have to tempt them. If they can’t get innocents, then the plot fails. Forget about the demon, stop them getting the innocents."
Phoebe smiled "You’re starting to sound like him" she said pointing at Cole. "You’ll be in the bad books with the Elders if you keep that up."
"Tough" said Leo retorted as Cole watched him. "Elders know what they know. I know what I know."
Phoebe grinned. " O-oh mutiny in the ranks, Piper will be pleased" and went upstairs.
"‘You’re seem ..okay with a few things" Cole said. "Francesca, Mrs Rinaldi, caught up with you."
"Yeah" Leo replied. He shrugged "She’s right" he acknowledged reluctantly. "Elders haven’t changed just because I see them differently" he said: "Francesca is a very smart lady."
"I know" Cole said," I just wish…"
"Wish what?" asked Leo.
"That Francesca did not know how smart she is" Cole said ruefully as Leo laughed as he turned away to go upstairs where the girls were crowded around the Book of Shadows.
"That’s it" Piper said thumping the Book. "Shiva, that’s the one that got away. At least there is a vanquish."
"Upper level demon" Paige read over Piper’s shoulder "Damn why didn’t we know that vanquish spell tonight. Mercenary, occult connections, long history of seducing innocents into black magic and trading their souls. Turned rogue about 120 years ago."
"Just your average demon conspiracy" Phoebe yawned." That demonic form reminds me of some-one," she said.
"Me too" Paige nodded.
"To tired to care" Phoebe yawned again "I'm going to bed." Phoebe cleaned her teeth and fell onto the bed beside Cole. She felt she had forgotten something but was to tired to worry about it.
She was just falling asleep when Paige yelled across the landing, "Hey Phoebe, I just remembered who that demon reminds me of."
"Who?" Phoebe called back sleepily.
"Herman Munster" Paige said" Night."
"Who’s Herman Munster" Cole asked.
"Shut up Cole" Piper called.
Leo was wakened a couple of hours later by a call from the Elders. He orbed up and came back less than an hour later, just as the dawn light came through the windows in the Manor. Rather reluctantly because they only had a few hours sleep, he woke the witches and told them they were urgently called to deal with a group of dark magic practitioners who the Elders had reports of calling demons with a strange iconic magic stone.
The witches dressed in about three minutes flat, Piper yelled instructions at Cole to look after Melinda and call Marly if he went to work. Paige orbed them to a shadowy valley in Utah where the early morning sun was just reaching, in time to see a particularly disgusting and peculiar ritual performed by five naked humans, 3 female and 2 male around a very odd shape stone.
Suddenly two demons appeared in spectral form, both wearing long dark robes and hoods. The witches could just make out one had red and black markings almost like Belthezor and the other was the Herman Munster demon. Five black and green minions that the girls had started to refer to as vanquish fodder surrounded them.
The Belthezor demon approached holding out a peculiar odd shaped coloured glass funnel that it pointed at the naked mortals. The nearest one screamed as a twist of black light was sucked out and then the body disintegrated into dust. Before the witches could stop it, the Belthezor demon did the same to three other naked mortals. The last girl having time to see the souls of the mortals sucked into the demon grasp panicked as the demons approached her, screaming for help. Phoebe, before Paige and Piper could stop her threw herself in front of the girl. Apparently the soul harvester did not work on innocents or good witches because it deflected off Phoebe and the girl was protected. Piper and Paige began to recite the vanquish spell but the Herman Munster demon Shiva shimmered behind Phoebe and touched her, pulling her into a half shimmer that made it impossible for the witches to continue with the spell without risking Phoebe.
Shiva leered at Paige and Piper and finished the shimmer, taking Phoebe with it, while the Belthezor demon laughed demonically but it also shimmered, along with the minions as Piper gestured to freeze. Piper caught 3 of the minions in the freeze, then she gestured again and blew them up leaving Paige and her alone with an hysterical naked girl. Paige screamed for Leo who orbed almost immediately and confirmed he could sense Phoebe alive but had no idea where she was.
It was nearly 36hours after Phoebe had been taken. There were some bad moments as witches and Elders contemplated her fate.
"She’s still in the realm but in some fold I can’t get a fix on." Paige said as the scry failed for the hundredth time. "I wonder why?"
"Because taking innocents to the underworld brings down retribution." Leo said "Guardians" he added looking at Cole pacing up and down. The girls described the demons to him. He said he knew Shiva. Shiva was a dangerous rogue who had had a price on his head from the old Source for consorting with vampires and had been on the run for a very long time.
"What about the Belthezor one?" Piper asked.
Quietly Cole asked "How much like Belthezor?"
Paige described the demon as best she could.
Cole shook his head "I need more. The red and black just means tribal descendant of the demon Kashner. Like me .. like Belthezor and Sikes and the Old Source. A lot of upper level demons are descended from Kashner."
Francesca was sitting quietly in the corner of the attic, called by Cole as soon as Piper and Paige told him Phoebe was missing "Not now dear" she said quietly as Paige started to ask about Kashner.
The witches were grateful to her because she dealt with a frantic Cole in a way they could not, and Leo could only watch in admiration as she kept him from giving into the temptation to pull the underground apart. With a tight smile she told Leo this was her work, Guardians caught between their own need and the calling of their destiny was her responsibility.
She very calmly and severely told Cole he wasn't going to the Underworld "I know its Phoebe, but whether its Phoebe or any other innocent " she said " the underworld is off limits to you as well you know. Its not your business. It’s the business of Arturo or Therold " she said and some how or other kept Cole calm while Arturo searched the Underworld to report Phoebe was not there.
Cole had already tried some demon tricks and magic he knew but was not prepared to talk about to find Phoebe but rushing around the globe had produced no results. The demon that had Phoebe knew some clever tricks to block magic.
"Is finding Phoebe Guardian business" Leo asked.
"A demon taking an innocent" Francesca said "Of course. Innocents are beyond the province of demons. Upsets the balance. If they are truly innocent" she added. "I’m assuming Phoebe is, or she would be gone by now."
"She’s a witch" Piper said fearfully "That makes her a soldier of the enemy. Not an innocent."
"Not necessarily " Francesca said as Cole glowered. "Killing soldiers in battle is battle, killing prisoners of war brings retribution."
"Arturo will find her, he has ways you don't" Francesca said as almost on cue Arturo shimmered into the attic.
"Where?" Cole asked.
Arturo answered and Cole shimmered without a word.
"So that finishes that plot" Piper commented.
‘No dear" Francesca answered’ "Merely that demon."
Arturo started to answer.
"We know." Paige said, "Demons come and demons go. The only way to stop the plots is to protect the innocents. Cole told us"
"I knew that boy was a force for good the moment I set eyes on him " Arturo said amused, and he shimmered away.
"Arturo has wisdom" Francesca told them, then she slipped into her school marm voice " and Cole despite himself is learning. Call me any time." She said and orbed.
Piper sighed and Paige gulped.
"They give me… faith." Leo said in answer to the question the witches did not ask.
In a cave in New Mexico it was short and sweet. Cole shimmered into the cave where Phoebe naked and bound but unhurt lay on the ground. The five minions guarding her disappeared in a flick of Cole’s hand and the great demon legend Shiva, rogue, bane of the Old Source, plotter extraordinaire, hero of the minions disappeared the same way when it appeared a second later.
"God you scare me when you swat demons like flies" Phoebe told Cole as he untied her.
"Why do I frighten you?" Cole asked.
"Its to cold, to easy, to deadly" she said. "Its not in the rules."
"That's why I keep out of your business," he said shaking his head "What do you think I've been trying to tell you about me not getting involved." He started to rub some circulation back into her bruised and torn arms and ankles.
"Fuck you Cole, what took you so damned long." Phoebe who had been more frightened than she wanted to admit found some relief in swearing at him before throwing her arms around his neck.
" Wait until we get home " he smiled, the one he saved for her, as he pulled her against him and kissed her passionately. "Had a little trouble locating you" he added.
"I knew you’d find me" she said.
"Pretty hard to celebrate our first anniversary back together without you. He answered taking a deep breath, but keeping her close against him in a huge hug. "What did they do to you?" he asked in a voice that sounded far calmer than he was feeling.
"Nothing" she said "nothing really bad. Pulled my clothed off. What is it with the naked thing" Phoebe asked innocently.
"Humiliation" Cole answered.
"Humiliated, with boobs like mine." Phoebe said with bravado. "Anyone or anything ought to be honoured to see ‘em. They’re bloody fantastic."
"I am and they are." Cole answered failing to keep his face straight. "God I love you Phoebe" he said lifting he up and swinging her around. "Nothing else " he asked seriously.
"No" Phoebe said enjoying looking down on him "They didn’t realise I understood demonese but they were more interested in ransoming me. I think they were concerned about the Guardian legend at killing innocents because the one with tribal markings, a bit like Belthezor kept muttering about risking wrath of ogres. I don’t think it realised I was a Charmed One." Phoebe added. "It must have got some warning about your power because it disappeared just before you came."
"Where are your clothes?" Cole asked.
"Damn missing" said Phoebe looking around the cave "Hell my wallet was in my pocket and my best lipstick."
"Any addresses?" Cole asked concerned
"No. Just credit cards and a few family photos, you." she said.
"Phoebe, " he said concerned because she was handling it so well "Are you sure you're okay?"
"I knew you'd come" she said. "I trust you, I trust how much you love me. You wouldn't let anything happen to me. I'm just pissed you took so long."
"Want to go home" he asked into her ear.
"I am home" she whispered back. "With you.
Cole shimmered Phoebe home. Piper and Paige caught her up in a huge hug and Leo was about to, before he realised Phoebe was stark naked. He gulped.
"You ought to be honoured to see her boobs." Cole told Leo "They’re bloody fantastic."