Charmed Role Reversal



Demons 'Я Us

Stuart crouched in the dark corner, his back against the door.  Breathing heavily, he slowly peeked out into the street. He swallowed hard and dashed towards a house around the corner, the street lamps spotlighting him in the night's darkness.

"Arrhh" he screamed.  The red light, long and narrow like a sword, struck to the right of his arm, just missing him.  His fear mounting, he dashed towards the right side of the house. But then, in the darkness of its trees, he turned the other way, went around the left side and stopped just past a bow window.

The people inside this house may have just finished enjoying a late meal, he thought.  Yes, yes - it was most certainly after dinner.

Stuart closed his eyes and placed his hand against the house's wall.  In his mind's eye he could see the people inside. One relaxing in an easy chair reading a magazine, perhaps another having an after dinner tea.

And Stuart desperately wanted to relax, desperately wanted the protection that those inside, oblivious to his peril, were unconsciously enjoying.  He could feel the safety the house offered to those within its walls against whatever lay outside.

Stuart took a deep breath and opened his eyes.

But not for him.  The house would not afford him any protection.  There would be no safety for him inside it. 

It was only within another house, an older, Victorian house one block away, that he could find protection.

Stuart ran to the end of the house and through the back yard. Using a wooden chair he found there, he climbed over the fence into the adjoining back yard.  He ran around this house too, keeping in the shadows of its wall, and came out in its front garden.

 

"Hmm...maybe we should paint The Manor," Phoebe said.

"The Manor doesn't need any painting," Prue said.

"Maybe just a little touch up by the window frame Balin crashed through yesterday," she replied.

"Why the sudden interesting in painting?"  Piper asked.

"Cindy's staying over tonight," Phoebe answered.  "They're painting her apartment and she has nowhere else to stay until the paint dries and the odor dissipates.  So I told her she could stay with us. Which got me thinking that maybe The Manor could use a touch-up."

"Painting is messy," Piper said.

"It can bring out the artistic side of you," Phoebe said. "Have you ever tried it?"

"The last time I tried it was in the third grade," Piper answered. "There wasn't much paint on the canvas but a lot on my face and my dress.  I'll restrict my artistic side to my acting, thank you."

 

The Manor - safety and refuge - stood across the street.  Its familiar front steps tantalizingly close.  But the only way for Stuart to get there was to run to it out in the open, completely exposed.

Stuart's heart was racing.  This wasn't the first time he'd felt fear since being brought to San Francisco with Phoebe.  But each time he'd overcome it.

Not this time.  There was no danger to Phoebe to distract him from it, no innocents in danger to concentrate on.  He was the only one in danger.  And there was no one there to help him.  No one with powers to wave a hand and save him.

He was all alone.  This time, he was on his own.

There's no point in waiting, he thought.  I can't hide here forever.  It's only a matter of time until I'm found.  He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.  Opening his eyes, he checked that there were no cars coming down the street that would slow him down.

He started running, zigzagging as he crossed the street.  He reached the low wall and dashed up the steps.  His hand reached the door but as he pushed it open the red light struck him.

"ARRGGHH!!!"

"What was that?"  Piper asked.

They ran to the open front door and saw Stuart, covered by the red light, on his knees, his hand reaching out to them.  Phoebe started towards him but before she could reach him he began dissolving into the light.  And then both he, and the red light, were gone.



Click speaker for Opening Credits Theme Song

"Well??"  Phoebe demanded impatiently as Leo materialized.

"It wasn't them," he answered.  "The Elders didn't take him."

"If they didn't take him, then who did?"

"They don't know," Leo answered.

"There's always...the other side," Piper said, unhappily.

 

Two men in robes stood a few feet from Stuart.  A subdued red light, whose source Stuart could not discern, shone on them.

"I sense fear," the one closest to Stuart said.  "But not panic.  You have admirable self-control."

"Am I...dead?"  Stuart asked.

"No, you're quite alive," he said. "And we want you to stay that way."

"You're demons," Stuart said.

"We're Controllers," he replied.  "We're much more powerful than just demons."

"I'm not a witch," Stuart said, hoping they had taken him by mistake.

"We know," the first Controller said.  "But you're very close to three of them.  And that's why you're here."

"Where am I?"

"With us.  That's all that matters," the other Controller answered. "Where isn't important."

"Why did you bring me here?" Stuart asked.  "Are you trying to impress me with what you can do?" 

"Perhaps," the first Controller answered, half-smiling at the hint of defiance in Stuart's voice.

He motioned with his hands and two demons, about Stuart's height and with malevolent expressions on their faces, came out from the shadows.

"Anton and Valentin," the second Controller said. "Twin demons.  And so very close to each other.  So close that they are truly almost one.  One can sense the other's presence, sense his coming, sometimes even know what he is thinking.

"But most important, each can feel what the other is feeling.  So if something happens to one - it happens to the other, too."

The second Controller pointed his hand at Anton and a fire surrounded his chest.

"Arrghh!!  Eyyee!!!  Arrgghh!!!" both demons shouted, clutching their chests, though no fire touched Valentin.

The Controller pointed his hand again and the fire surrounding Anton disappeared.

"See?" the Controller said. "Had I not stopped it, Valentin would have died just as Anton would have.  They literally feel each other's pain."

“What does this have to with me?” Stuart asked.

The Controller said nothing but instead waved his hand at Valentin, moving him as he did towards Stuart - and then into Stuart.

"Arrgghh!!"  Stuart screamed as he felt Valentin join him.  He started breathing heavily, confused about what was happening to him.

"You...put him inside of me," Stuart said.

"Much more than inside of you," the second Controller said. "He's become you.  More precisely - you've become him. You've been elevated.  From a mortal - to a demon."

Stuart felt confused. He felt something inside of him that he’d never felt before - something terrible, something evil.

"Why?" Stuart asked.  "Why?"

"We've had enough of The Charmed Ones' interference," the second Controller said. "We're going to eliminate them and you're going to help us do it."

"No...no...I'll never hurt them," Stuart said.

"When the time comes, you will," the first Controller assured him.

"No!" Stuart said. "No matter what demon you put inside of me...I won't help you."

"You already have," the first Controller said, laughing.

 

"Going through the Book of Shadows won't help if we don't know what we're looking for," Prue said.

"We have to do something," Phoebe said.  "We can't just sit here doing nothing.  We can't just wait-"

Suddenly the red light shone in one end of the room.  In a few seconds, Stuart appeared in it and then the light was gone.

"Stuart!"  Phoebe cried and started towards him.

"Stay back...stay away from me," he said, holding up his hands.  "I'm dangerous."

"Dangerous?" Phoebe asked. "What happened?  Who took you?"

"The Controllers," he said.

"Controllers...they're a much higher species of demons," Leo said.  "They're beyond your powers. They control a source of immense power. Some ordinary demons can connect to it and then use it."

"Anton and Valentin," Stuart said, "they're twin demons.  They can sense each other...the thoughts...they can feel each other's pain. One of the Controllers...he took Valentin...and...and put him together with me."

"You mean Valentin is inside of you?"  Phoebe asked.

"Not inside of me," Stuart said. "He is me...I'm him," pain showing on his face as he spoke.

"I've become a demon."

"That’s impossible?"  Prue said.

"It can't be," Phoebe said.

"Everything you've seen for the past two years should convince you that nothing is impossible," Leo answered.

"What we've seen over just the past month will do that," Piper said.

"This feeling inside me," Stuart said, "...of wanting to kill...to destroy.  It's...I've never felt this.  I...don't know if I can control it."

Phoebe started to go to him again but he moved back, further away from her.  Prue gently put her hand on Phoebe's arm to stop her.

"Ohh!" Phoebe exclaimed.

"What happened?"  Piper asked.  "You had a premonition?"

Phoebe nodded.  "I saw Prue...with something surrounding her.  She couldn't breathe.  She was...being suffocated to death."

"How?"  Leo asked.  "Who was doing it?"

"I don't know.  I just saw a hand, holding something, off to the side.  I couldn't see whose hand it was."

"Mine," Stuart said.  "That must be my hand...that must be me.  That’s why the Controllers did this. So that I would kill Prue.  I have to get away...I have to get away from here before I hurt you."

"No, Stuart!" Phoebe said. "You have to stay so we can help you."

"You can't help me...but I can hurt you," he said and ran out of the room.  He was almost at the front door when Piper raised her hand.

"Now what?" she asked as she raised her hand again to un-freeze Leo.

"Anton and Valentin," Prue said.  "That gives us what to start looking for in the Book of Shadows. Piper, you and Leo keep Stuart here."  Prue and Phoebe ran up the stairs to the attic and Piper walked over to Stuart.

"Give me a hand, Leo," Piper said. "Let's move him back inside."  They each put their hands under one of Stuart's arms.

"I hate this part," she said as they lifted him.  "It feels so weird.  Like holding a live mannequin."

They brought Stuart back into the parlor and placed him against a wall, then stood in front of him as Piper raised her hand.  Stuart started to move but then realized that he wasn't by the door anymore. Seeing that they blocked his path, he stopped.

"Are you going to behave or am I going to have to freeze you again?"  Piper asked.

Stuart looked at them and, realizing that he would not get by them, pulled himself back as far as he could against the wall.

"Leo..." he said turning to him, "I know...that all along you didn't want me around.  I know that you felt that I was a danger to the girls...that I put them at risk.  Because demons could get to them through me...because I had no power to use for protection against the demons."

Leo swallowed uncomfortably as he saw Piper staring at him.

"And you were right, Leo...you were right.  I am a danger to them."  Stuart stuck out his hand to grab Leo's arm but caught himself.

"Leo...promise me," he said. "If you see me start to do anything to hurt them...if you even think that I might be about to hurt them...promise me that you'll kill me...kill me without hesitation.  You can't let the demon I've become hurt them.

“Promise me Leo!" Stuart shouted.

"Le-o!"  Piper said to him sternly.

Leo hesitated.

"I'll...do whatever I have to do to protect them," he answered ambiguously, feeling Piper's stare.

Ding-dong.

"Watch him," Piper said to Leo as she went to the door.

"Hi Piper."

"Cindy."  A house guest was the last thing they needed right now.  But Cindy was there, holding a dufflebag and Piper couldn't think of any reasonable excuse for sending her away.

"Hi.  Uh...come in," Piper said.

"Thanks so much for letting me stay tonight," Cindy said. "I really can't take that paint smell.  Uh, Phoebe did tell you I was coming, right?  Is she around?"

"She told us but she's just a little busy at the moment."  She led Cindy to the stairs but saw her look into the parlor as they walked by it.

"Oh...this is...a friend," Piper said. "Leo.  And you know Stuart."

"Hi," Cindy said.  Leo nodded but Stuart didn't even look up.

"Stuart isn't feeling well and Leo was about to help him upstairs.  All the way upstairs," Piper added turning to Leo.

"I hope it's nothing serious," Cindy said.

"So do I," Piper replied.  "I'll show you your room."  She led Cindy up the stairs to Stuart's room as Leo helped Stuart up to the attic.

"Towels and blankets are on the bed," Piper said. "Bathroom's down the hall.  Let me know if there's anything else you need."

"Thanks," Cindy said. "This is fine."

Piper closed the door behind her as she left the room and went up to the attic.  Prue and Phoebe were looking through the Book of Shadows.  Leo stood near Stuart, who was sitting on the floor against the wall, his knees pulled up to his chest.  He held his hands, slightly shaking, one inside the close to himself.

"I feel him...Anton...he's getting ready...to come here," Stuart said. "And I can fee...the connection...to the Controllers’ powers.  The power...it's flowing."

"Here it is," Prue said.  "Anton and Valentin.  Twin demons that are as one.  Their powers flow to them from a high demonic source."

"The Controllers," Phoebe said.

"These powers make them more dangerous than ordinary demons," Prue continued.

"As if the ordinary demons we've been running into haven't been dangerous enough," Piper groused.

"Can they be vanquished?"  Leo asked.

"There's a potion here to do that," Prue answered.

"His thoughts...they're mine...I'm thinking them," Stuart said, holding his cupped hands by his mouth.

Stuart was frightened. Frightened by the evil he felt inside of him and by its thoughts that he couldn’t stop. Frightened of what it was doing to him...and of what it would do to others. Frightened of what he had become.

"He's coming," he suddenly said, as he started to tremble.  "Anton's coming...for the Book of Shadows."

"The Book of Shadows?"  Piper asked, puzzled.  "Why?  We know from Charmed-" She caught herself as she remembered that Leo was there.  "Uh...from experience, that demons can't take the Book from the Manor."

"He's not coming to take it," Stuart said.  "He's coming to burn it...to destroy it."

"You can't let that happen," Leo said.  "You have to stop him."

"This doesn't make sense," Prue said.  "If the Controllers turned Stuart into a demon to kill us, why would they let Stuart tell us about it?  They wouldn't want us to suspect anything.

"And why would they let Stuart know that Anton was coming to burn the Book of Shadows so that he could warn us?"  Phoebe asked.

"We're missing something," Prue said.  She went over to Stuart and knelt down next to him.

"Stuart...tell us everything that happened when you were with The Controllers."

Still trembling with his eyes closed, he didn't respond.

"It's important," Prue said, gently but firmly.  "We have to know."

"He pointed to Anton..." Stuart said slowly, "and he was on fire...and Valentin...he wasn't on fire...but he started screaming from the pain.  As if he was on fire, too."  He stopped and closed his eyes.

"And then...he made me...I became Valentin...and he did it again...and then I felt that I was burning inside of me." He opened his eyes and started to shake his head.

"He said he made me into a demon...to eliminate your interfering.  I told him...I told him I wouldn't help..."

He stopped and shook his head again.

"No...no," Stuart said. "I said...I would never hurt you.  And he said...when the time came I would.  And then...then I told him...I would never help him.  And he said...I already had."

"I don't understand," Phoebe said.  "Did he mean that Valentin would overpower Stuart and try to kill us?  He hasn't tried to. And how did Stuart already help him?  I don't get it."

"I do," Leo said.  "Whatever happens to Anton happens to Valentin.  When Anton was on fire Valentin burned too.  So if you vanquish Anton you'll vanquish Valentin as well...and you'll vanquish Stuart, with him.

"That's why they wanted you to know," Leo continued. "So that when Anton came you wouldn't vanquish him because that would vanquish Stuart.  They're counting on your not vanquishing Anton to save Stuart. And if you don’t vanquish Anton, he’ll burn The Book of Shadows.”

Silence.

"Well, we're not going to vanquish Stuart," Phoebe said.

More silence.

"Pru-ue!" Phoebe said, tilting her head as she turned to her.

Prue hesitated.

"No," Prue finally said, "we don't want to vanquish Stuart."

"Don't want to-" Phoebe began.

"You don't have a choice," Leo said, cutting her off.  "You can't lose the Book of Shadows.  Without it, you won't know how to use your powers to protect yourselves."

"I'll take my chances," Phoebe said defiantly.

"And you won't know how to use your powers to protect innocents," Leo added.  "The Book of Shadows is your legacy, from generations of your ancestors.  It's irreplaceable.  Its hundreds of years of knowledge written down for each future generation to use to combat evil and save innocents.  It's not something new that magically appeared one day."

"You'd be surprised," Piper said.

"You can't let the Book of Shadows be destroyed," Leo said.  "You have to accept that you're going to  have to vanquish Anton."

"If The Controllers had turned me into a demon instead of Stuart," Piper said to Leo, "would you still say there was no choice but to vanquish me?  Would you accept it if someone told you that?"

Leo was silent for a long moment then swallowed hard.  "No...I...I couldn't.”

"Then don't ask Phoebe to," Piper said, and took a deep breath.  "Or me, for that matter.  Stuart is part of our family.  He's part of us."

"Leo," Prue said as she stood up, "take the Book of Shadows and copy down the potion."

Leo looked at her confused but then realized that what Prue really wanted was some privacy to talk to her sisters.

"Sure," he said, taking the Book and walking over to the other side of the attic.

"We’ll keep looking through the Book of Shadows,” Phoebe said. “There has to be something in there to reverse what they did."

"We haven't found anything yet,” Prue said. “And we don't have the time to go through all of it before Anton gets here."

"And we won't find anything, even if we did have the time," Piper said, with resignation.  "Turning Stuart into a demon is just like our being turned into witches.  And just as with us, only the ones who did it can undo it."

"The Controllers," Phoebe said.  "You're saying we have to get them to reverse it?"

"I'm afraid Piper's right," Prue said.

"Then let's hide the Book of Shadows," Phoebe said.

"It won't help," Stuart said.  "I can sense where it is... so Anton can, too.  He'll find it...no matter where you hide it"

"Prue, you can't do this," Phoebe said, angrily.  "You can't kill Stuart!

“Remember who you really are. You’re just Shannen Doherty. You’re just an actress. Nothing more!

“You’re not reading lines from a script where the character dies, the camera stops and then the actor gets up,” Phoebe continued. “This isn’t a Charmed scene!  How do you take upon yourself the right to choose between life and death?  The right to decide that Stuart...has to die? Playing Prue Halliwell in real life has gone to your head!”

"That's unfair," Piper said.  "Prue didn't ask to be in the position of having to make this decision.  We didn't ask for any of this, we didn't want it. Not our being here, not our being turned into witches.  Not..."  Piper stopped, paused for a few seconds, then exhaled.  "But we are here."

"I don't want to decide anything like this," Prue said.  “And I haven’t forgotten who Shannen Doherty really is.” She stopped, thought silently for a moment and then took a deep breath.

"But right now, I’m also Prue Halliwell, whether or not you or I like it.  And right now, our lives revolve around saving innocents.  And every time we do that, every time we take on a demon or a warlock, we're making life and death decisions for the innocents - and for ourselves."

"Stuart is an innocent, too!" Phoebe said, emphatically.

"I know," Prue said, pausing.  "And I care about him very much, too.  You know that.

"But countless innocents will die if we don't stop the demons' plans of major destruction by the solstice.  And without the Book of Shadows, we won't know how to stop them."

"Let Anton burn it," Phoebe said. "The Elders can always make another one to give us just like they made this one when they made us witches."

"When we became the Halliwell sisters in real life," Prue said, "our reality was changed in ways that we still don't fully understand.  But it's still reality.  If the Book of Shadows, however it came to be, is destroyed, it will really be gone forever.  And if the demons' plans of destruction succeed, millions of people will really be dead."

"Then find another way to save them.  I'm not going to let you make the potion!"  Phoebe said, angrily.

"Stop!"  Piper said, firmly.  "We saw on Charmed that our powers, the Power of Three, the Triquetra, is based on our being one.  If we fight each other, we could lose our powers.  It will be the same as if The Controllers succeeded in burning The Book of Shadows.  We'll be helpless...and as much as I don't want these powers, with a demon on his way here, we need them."

"I'm not trading Stuart's life for mine!"  Phoebe said.

"It's not trading lives," Prue said.  "It's responsibility to lives.

"All we wanted was to be actresses on a successful show," Prue continued, "following scripts and fighting make-believe demons on a set.  We didn't want to be risking our lives fighting real ones and making real life and death decisions.  But when we were brought here we weren't given a choice and as much as we didn't want that responsibility, we accepted it.

"I don't want Stuart to die.  He's become as close to me as you and Piper.  But if we don't vanquish Anton and stop the demons,  perhaps millions of people will die.  I can't...we can't...be the ones who let that happen."

"They've gone too far this time," Piper said, anger in her voice.  "The Elders are asking - they're demanding - too much.  Don't they understand that they made a mistake in using us?"  

"Did they? "Prue asked.  "They took us because we're the only ones who can do this, the only who would know how to be charmed witches and use powers against these demons.  And after being here a month, I feel more than just having been forced into this.  I feel responsibility, feel that it's right for us to try to save these innocents. I feel that we have to try to save the world.

"I feel what Prue Halliwell is supposed to feel."

Prue hesitated for a few seconds, then turned to Phoebe.

"And it's what you, as Phoebe, are feeling too," she said to her. "It's what you told Piper when we were trying to vanquish Ethan.  It's what you felt from the very beginning - before I could even accept that I was Prue.”

Phoebe stared at Prue silently for a few seconds.

"We accepted risking our lives when we were brought here to stop the demons," Phoebe said, slowly, "but not risking Stuart's life.  He wasn't brought here for that.  He didn't accept that responsibility."

"I did," he said, in a low voice.  "The first night we were here.  Remember...you said that the four of us were in this together.  And then the next night...when you accepted what you had to do...I did too.  To help you...to stop the evil with you...to take the risks with you.

"You get premonitions...of evil...but you don't understand evil...because you're not evil." He paused.

"But I am," he said.

"No you're not!"  Phoebe said.  "You're good-"

"Because I'm evil, I know what evil is capable of," he continued, ignoring what she was trying to say.  "What evil will do...if it can."

Leo finished copying down the potion and quietly came back, standing just behind Piper.

"You have to show evil that you won't be intimidated," Stuart continued.  "That good is willing to make sacrifices to stop evil from winning.  This is the sacrifice that good - that we - have to make.  The Book of Shadows is good.  You need every bit of good to combat the evil...you can't let good be destroyed."

"You're good-" Phoebe started to say again.

"Leo is right," he said, cutting Phoebe off.. "I don't have powers to help you fight demons.  But the Book of Shadows does."

"You've fought demons with us since we came...uh, since you came here-" Phoebe said.

"I'm a demon, now," he said, interrupting her again. "It's all I can do to control the demon inside of me that wants to kill you."

Phoebe knelt down next to him but he pulled away from her.

"I'm not afraid to touch you," she said, gently.

"But I am afraid of touching you," he said and closed his eyes.

"He's coming," Stuart suddenly said, opening his eyes and looking up at Prue.  "Vanquish him...vanquish us.  Hurry!"

Prue looked down at Stuart and then at Phoebe.  She glanced at Piper, whose pained expression obviated her saying anything.

It's up to me, Prue thought.  I have to make the decision.

But I don't want to.  I don't want to decide between Stuart's life...and the lives of countless innocents.  I'm really Shannen Doherty.  I just want to follow the decisions the writers put into the script.  I don't want to make them.

Prue exhaled.  But I'm also Prue Halliwell, she thought....And I'm responsible for protecting millions of lives. She closed her eyes for a few seconds and when she opened them they were wet with tears.

Leo was holding the paper onto which he had copied the potion.  Prue took a deep breath, then slowly took the paper from his hand.

"Stay here," she said to Piper.  "You'll have to freeze Anton if he comes before I have the potion ready."  She turned, averting her eyes from Stuart - and from Phoebe - and left the attic.

Tears were filling Phoebe's eyes and began trickling down her cheeks.  Piper came over to her and squeezed her shoulder.

"Leo."  Piper motioned with her head for him to walk away to give them privacy.

"I can't do this," Phoebe said.

"You have to," Stuart said.  "I'm not me...I'm Valentin."

"No - you're still Stuart," she said. "You still know who you really are...what you really are.  Just like I still know that I'm Alyssa Milano.  They can't take that away from me, or from you, no matter what they do."

He closed his eyes for a moment and then looked at her.

"Despite this evil that’s inside me...despite what I’ve become...it can’t affect my love for you,” he said.

He closed his eyes briefly again, then opened them and looked at Phoebe.

"I have fears...fears of dying...fears of living - as a demon," he said and shook his head slightly.

"But I can't think about them," he said. "This evil...it's so overwhelming...I can't think about myself.  All I can think about...is destroying it. And the only way to do that is through destroying me."

"Piper," Phoebe said as she turned to her, "we have to stop this.  You have to freeze Anton when he comes until we figure something out."

"He'll only stay frozen for a short while," Piper reminded her gently.

"Then you'll freeze him again," Phoebe said, "and again, and-"

Piper grabbed Phoebe's hands in hers, one pair of wet eyes staring into another.

Suddenly Stuart sat up straight.

"He's here," he said. "Anton is here."

"Where?"  Piper asked.  Phoebe grabbed the Book of Shadows and held it to her chest.

Stuart said nothing.  He was breathing heavily and shaking his head.  He could feel the evil inside him - Valentin - trying to reach out to Anton.

"Behind you!" he shouted.

Piper turned and raised her hand.  A bolt of light, frozen in mid-air, stretched from Anton' hand to within a foot of Phoebe's chest.  Phoebe slowly stood up, turned around and moved to the side of the bolt, her eyes fixed on it, a little fear showing on her face.

Piper raised her hand, unfreezing Stuart and Leo.

"Do you think you could un-freeze just this?"  Phoebe asked when she saw that no one was in the bolt's way.

"I suppose so," Piper replied and raised her hand.  The bolt landed on a mirror stand, burning a hole through it, the mirror shattering as it fell.

"That must have been an antique," Piper said.  On Charmed, she thought to herself, whatever demons destroyed in the attic were always antiques.

"It's OK now," Leo said.  "Just keep him frozen until Prue finishes the potion."

Stuart closed his eyes for a few seconds.

"It's not OK," he said, opening his eyes.  "There's another demon."

"What!?"  Piper said.

"There's another demon in The Manor...diverting Anton's power."

"Prue," Phoebe said.  "Prue!"

Piper and Phoebe, still holding the Book of Shadows, ran out of the attic and down the stairs.  They saw Prue, enclosed in a semi-transparent cocoon near the kitchen, suffocating.  Gasping for air, she had fallen to her knees and was leaning against the rigid side of the cocoon.

"What's happening?"  Piper shouted at Cindy, who was standing opposite them in the living room.

Cindy, holding something in her hand, looked at Piper but didn't answer.  Suddenly, Piper was encased in a second cocoon - and gasping for air, too.

Phoebe stared at Cindy.  "What are you doing?"

Phoebe looked at Piper, helplessly pushing against the cocoon's solid walls.

"You...you're a demon!" Phoebe said to Cindy, in shock. "Who are you?"

"My real name is Ludio," she replied. "And I'm doing what no one else has been able to do.  Kill The Charmed Ones.

"I needed to get close to you to do this.  I needed to have something that belonged to each of you to make the cocoons around you.” She took out a small clear plastic bag from her pocket and held it up to show Phoebe. “Like your sisters’ bobby pin and nail clipper.”

Phoebe saw her missing toothbrush with her name on it was in the bag, too.

“And it was so easy,” Ludio continued, putting the bag safely back into her pocket.  “Your pathetic desire to help people makes you so vulnerable. Each time you invited me here I took one of your things.

“These cocoons don't let air in.  After you've used up whatever was in there, there is no more.  And they're impervious to any mortal's attempts to break them. But I was afraid you'd be able to use your powers, perhaps make up a spell, to break them open.”

Leo had come down the stairs with Stuart behind him.  Seeing Piper, who had fallen to her knees, he rushed to her, futilely banging on the side of the cocoon trying to open it.

"But with The Controllers' power, I'm stronger than you," Ludio said. "Your powers can't help you now."

Ludio focused on Phoebe and before she could react she found herself inside a third cocoon.

Stuart saw the three girls locked in the cocoons. His eyes began glowing like a demon’s eyes as he turned and glared at Ludio.  Then he charged at her as bolts of energy shot out from his hands.

"Arrgghh!!" she screamed as Stuart grabbed her.  She quickly ripped the pocket off his shirt to have something of his so she could make a cocoon around him.  Then she tried pushing him away from her so she would not be trapped in the cocoon with him but he held on to her tightly. Seeing she couldn’t make it, she instead began to concentrate and started sending bolts of energy into his body.

"Arrgghh!!" he cried as he felt them go through him.  She thought it would weaken him enough so that she could push him off but he wouldn't let go.

They were sending bolts through each other's body - each one screaming in pain.  They both fell to their knees and then to their sides, Stuart refusing to let go.

As they did, Leo saw something in Cindy's hand.  He ran over to her and punched her on her wrist.

"Arrgghh!!" he cried.  He felt the bolt of energy as he hit her but he had loosened her grip and it fell out of her hand to the floor.

"Arrgghh!!" she screamed.  The bolts of energy stopped coming from her but Stuart's continued as he rolled over on top of her.  Desperate, she formed a cocoon around both of them but she was too weak to keep it and in a few seconds it evaporated.

"Arrgghh!! Arrgghh!!" she screamed as Stuart kept sending the bolts into her body.  And then, in a puff of smoke, she was gone.

The three cocoons disappeared.  Piper, who had been leaning against the cocoon’s side, fell to the floor as Leo rushed to her.

"Piper!  Piper!" he called to her as he lifted her.  "Are you all right?"  She was breathing quickly and heavily but after a few seconds managed to nod her head.  He threw his arms around her and held her tightly to him.  Her breathing began slowing and she put her arms around him too, letting her head fall onto his shoulder.

Though also gasping, Phoebe had been in the cocoon less than the others and quickly recovered.  She put down the Book of Shadows and ran to Prue who was lying huddled on the floor.

"Prue!  Prue!" she cried as she lifted her.  "Prue - are you OK?  Talk to me!"

Prue, limp in her arms, was breathing quickly, but after a while she opened her eyes.  Still breathing heavily she nodded.  Then Phoebe saw Stuart lying face down on the floor.  Seeing that Prue was recovering, she propped her up against the wall and ran to Stuart.

She turned him over, placing her arm under his head.  Burn marks and blood covered his face.  His eyes, half-closed, stared ahead un-focused.  She turned and looked at Leo, who had just helped Piper stand up.

Leo shook his head.

"I can't heal demons," he said.  Phoebe stared at him coldly for a moment, then turned back to Stuart.

"What happened?"  Prue asked, with difficulty.

"Cindy was a demon," Phoebe said, still looking down at Stuart. 

Cindy?” Piper asked in disbelief.

"She diverted Anton's power to herself so that the cocoons she wrapped around us could withstand our powers," Phoebe explained.

"How did she do that?"  Prue asked.

"With this," Leo said, picking up what had fallen from Cindy's hand.  "It's a Demon's Turmon.  It gives a demon mental powers, to be able to do things, manipulate things, using just the mind. That's how she got Anton's powers.  She focused on the stream of power coming to him from The Controllers and mentally diverted it to her.  That’s how she was able to send those deadly energy bolts.”

"And that's how she wrapped us in those things,” Phoebe said.  “She used her mind to project her powers to where she wanted them to be without having to even touch us.  That was her hand holding the Turmon that I saw in my premonition.”

"We still have Anton to deal with," Piper reluctantly reminded them.

"If he's hurt as badly as Stuart is," Phoebe said, stoically, "we won't have to worry about him anymore."

"No," Stuart said, weakly.  "As long...as he has some power...he's still dangerous."

"Then we'll just have to take the power away from him," Prue said, having recovered enough to stand up.

"What do you mean?"  Piper asked.

"The Controllers bet that we wouldn't vanquish Anton, in order to save Stuart," Prue answered. She looked over at Phoebe and Stuart.

"We're going to up the ante.”  She turned back to Piper and Leo. “Let's raise the bet.  We have to get Stuart back to the attic."

Phoebe turned back to look at him.

"It'll be easier for me," Leo said.

Phoebe nodded and gently put Stuart's head down.  She got up, picked up the Book of Shadows, and followed Piper and Prue up the stairs.

Anton was on his knees as they reached the attic.  Piper froze him as Leo orbed in holding Stuart.  Phoebe went over to Stuart and propped him up against the wall.

"Give me the Turmon," Prue said.  Leo handed it to her and she knelt down and put it into Stuart's hand.

"Concentrate on Anton," she said to him.  "Concentrate on The Controllers' power as it flows to him."

Stuart closed his eyes.

"Now change the flow.  With your mind, move it to you," she said after a few seconds.  She saw him concentrating, first with difficulty, then more easily.

"Do you feel it coming to you?" Prue asked and he slowly nodded.  "Anton's power will give you strength.

"Now feel your own power from The Controllers.  Feel its path as it flows to you."  Prue waited a moment before continuing.

"Now take your power, the power you used against Cindy, and send it back up that path.  With your mind, find that path and send your power up it."

Stuart's eyes were half open and he shook his head.

"Try it again," Phoebe said. 

"You have the Turmon, you have the power," Prue said, encouraging him.

Stuart looked up at Phoebe and closed his eyes again, trying to concentrate.

 

"Argghh!"  The Controllers screamed as a bolt of energy hit them.

"What's happening?" one Controller asked.

"That mortal...is using the Power on us," the second Controller said.

"Cut it off from him," the first Controller commanded.

"Argghh!!" the second Controller cried.  "He's controlling Anton's power.  I can't break it away from him."

"He must have the Turmon," the first Controller said.

"Argghh!!" the second Controller cried.

"We have to stop him," the first Controller said. "Now!"

 

A red light suddenly shone down on Stuart.  They watched in amazement as another body began separating from his.

"Argghh!"  Stuart screamed.

"Valentin," Piper said, her eyes fixed in amazement on the demon.

"Piper!"  Leo shouted to get her attention.

She snapped out of it and raised her hand to freeze Valentin, then un-froze Stuart and Leo.

Phoebe ran to Stuart, hugged him and then kissed him.  She placed her hand behind his head and put it on her shoulder.  She closed her eyes and hugged him tightly as he started to cry from relief.

"It's over...it's over," she kept re-assuring him.  "It's over."

She opened her eyes and saw Leo standing beside them.  He knelt down, placed his hands on Stuart's back and an aura of light surrounded them.  After a few seconds it stopped and he stood up.

"I was wrong," Leo said.  "You saved their lives."  He paused for a few seconds. "Maybe the willingness of self-sacrifice is needed to defeat demons as much as powers are."

Piper went over to Leo and looked into his eyes.  "Thank you," she said and kissed him.  He took her around and she let her head fall onto his shoulder.

As Stuart’s strength came back, he started to shake. The horror and the fears, pent up inside of him the whole night, were coming out.

"Don't let go of me," he said to Phoebe. "Just don't let go." 

“It’s OK...I won’t let go...It’s OK.”  Phoebe ran her other hand through his hair as she comforted him. “You’re free from Valentin...and you’re not going to die...It’s all OK.  I have you...and I’m not letting go of you...it’s all OK.”

"I think I better go down and get the potion ready," Prue said.  "Cindy stopped me before I could finish it."

"Her real name was Ludio," Phoebe said, tears from her own relief in her eyes.

"Ludio - that means 'The Actor' in Latin," Leo said.

"And a very good one she was too," Piper said, caustically. 

Leo, seeing that Piper was still shook up from what had happened, sat her down in a chair, then pulled another over and sat down next to her. Feeling his arms around her, Piper let herself go.  She leaned back into his arms and closed her eyes as Prue left the attic and went down to the kitchen to make the potion.

 

"Are you still angry?"  Prue asked the next morning.

Phoebe didn't answer.  She walked over to the refrigerator, took out the pitcher of orange juice and, after pouring a glass, sat down at the table.

"While I was holding Stuart last night," she said, "trying to calm him down after the hell he’d been through, he kept insisting that you did the right thing, that you made the decision that you had to...and that I should accept it."

Phoebe's eyes were fixed on the glass of juice as she slowly turned it around.

"He made me promise that I wouldn't let it come between us...and that I wouldn't be angry with you."

Phoebe lifted the glass, drank the juice and then slowly put the glass down.  "So...no."  She took a deep breath.  "I'm not angry."

The package of bread lay on the table near Phoebe and she started to play with the end flap.  But she didn't open it, her mind being elsewhere.

"I don't know if I'll be able to trust anyone here again," she said.

"You mean...because of Ludio?"  Prue asked, afraid that Phoebe, despite what she promised Stuart, might be referring to her and not to the demon.

Phoebe nodded and Prue exhaled in relief.

"Had this been a Charmed episode instead of real life," Piper said, “Cindy's performance would have gotten Charmed its first Emmy nomination."

"I should have seen through her," Phoebe said.

"We all should have seen through her," Piper said.  "We, of all people, should have recognized that she was acting. I don't know how we missed it."

"Maybe because we're not thinking like actresses anymore," Prue said.  "We've evolved so much in our being the Halliwell sisters.  We're living the part fully, we've become them so completely - in our feelings...in our thoughts."

"The longer we're here the more we're feeling that we're really the Halliwells.  And forgetting who we really are," Piper said, unhappily.

"I didn't forget who I really am," Phoebe said.

"I did...last night," Piper said, slowly.  "When I was with Leo."

"With Leo?  You mean...as in...with Leo?  Here...in The Manor?"  Phoebe asked.

Piper nodded.

"I didn't see him this morning," Phoebe said.

"He orbed out before I came down," Piper answered.

Phoebe looked at Prue then turned back to Piper.

"How was it?" she asked her.

"Phoebe!" Prue said, admonishingly.

"What!?   What!?  We always ask each other how it was," Phoebe said defensively.

"That's only on Charmed," Prue said.

"See?  It's blurring," Piper said.  "What happened on Charmed was made into our past here.  And now, we can't even tell anymore what's real and what's..."

She stopped and briefly closed her eyes.

"Last night, when I was in the cocoon," Piper said, "I kept thinking...I play scenes like this...this can’t be really happening to me...I was so desperate, so frightened.  It was worse than what Jôlét did to me. I felt myself suffocating...I felt I was dying.

"And afterwards...I was so shook up from what happened.  And...Leo was there.  And he was so comforting.  There was no conflict, no confusion...no questions.  Just me...just Piper...and Leo...and..."

She stopped and looked away.

"And?" Phoebe said, urging her to finish what she was about to say.

Piper turned back to her and took a deep breath.

"I felt...relaxed," she said. "For the first night since we came here...I wasn't lying in bed worrying about demons and wishing I wasn't here.  I felt...normal. I felt...I wasn't alone."

Piper paused and took another deep breath.

"And I felt love...just love.  I felt...such...love."  She closed her eyes for a second.

"Such overwhelming love that there was no Holly, no Brian, no Charmed...no other existence...except Piper's...with Leo.  And that's what's wrong."


"Wrong?  After almost dying,” Prue said, "I wish I would have had someone to hold me last night.  It sounds very good to me."

"It's not.  I forgot who I was.  I'm not Piper,  I'm really Holly.  And Leo is...Leo is...I don't know who Leo really is."

"Love isn't easy to find," Phoebe said.  "Not the honest, sincere love...like Leo's.  It doesn't matter who Leo really is.  Love doesn't have to be logical to be right.  It just has to be honest.  I've learned that here - with Stuart.

"It's OK, honey.  You're still Holly.  You'll see that when we get back home."

"If we get back," Piper said.  "Even if we find the demons and vanquish them before the solstice, what's to stop them from keeping us here to fight other demons?  On Charmed, there's always a new demon to vanquish.  And everything that happens on Charmed becomes real here."

"Piper, calm down," Prue said.  "We have enough problems here without making up our own. You're all worked up because you can't accept the love that you felt last night - and that you're still feeling."

Piper raised her eyes and half-turned her head.

"I can't tell you what's going to happen when we get back," Prue said. "But right now, you and Leo are both here.  Just...accept that for what it is."

"But what is it?" Piper asked.  "It doesn't make any sense."

"Don't expect love to make sense,” Prue said.  “Nothing that's happened to us the past month makes sense. But it all happened.  And so has your love.

"Yes - it started when you became Piper and began to get her feelings.  But it doesn't matter how it started.  What matters is whether it's right.  Alyssa and I have Phoebe's and Prue's feelings.  But we can still tell if they're right.  And so can you.

"Sometimes, you just have to let love take charge - and see what happens," Prue continued. "As long as there isn't anything obviously wrong or bad, and as long as you're not hurting anyone."

"What about hurting myself?" Piper asked.

"Would you be hurting yourself any less if you suppressed your feelings, if you made believe the feelings weren't there?"  Prue asked.

Piper was silent for a few seconds and then took a deep breath.

"No," she answered.

"Then don't fight what you're feeling," Phoebe said. "Don't fight happiness.  For as long as you're here, you have Leo."

Piper took a deep breath.

"For as long as I'm here," she said, with an ambiguous sadness.