Charmed Role Reversal



Lifestyles of the Witch and Famous

The bolt of energy was unlike any other Phoebe had ever seen. Rather than continuing in a straight line aimed at her and Daniel as it left the demon's hand, it curved around the chair Phoebe had pushed between them and the demon, then straightened out again and continued on its deadly path to them.

Phoebe pushed Daniel back and they fell down together against the half-empty bookcase.

"Ugh!" the teenage boy cried as his head hit the bookcase's corner. As he lay stunned on the floor, Phoebe pulled the book case down to block them from the demon's view, then threw herself over Daniel to protect him.

"Ugh," she grunted as falling books from the shelves fell on her head.

But the demon's energy bolt curved around both the bookcase and the lamp that had fallen over with it. The bolt made its way underneath the furniture and headed straight for Daniel.

"Oh!" Phoebe cried, seeing it coming at him. She rolled the teenager on top of  her just as the bolt reached him. That got him out of the bolt's direct path and it hit him on his upper arm instead of in his chest, where it had been heading.

"ARGH!" Daniel screamed.

"Your powers will not save him, witch," the demon taunted her. "And after he is dead I will kill you too, Charmed One."

Phoebe rolled Daniel off of her and on to the floor. She put her hand inside her light blue shirt and took out the small vial she had secreted in her bosom. She lifted herself off of the floor and crouched behind the fallen bookcase. She could see the demon clearly on the other side of the room.

"You want to take me on, Garon?" Phoebe asked the demon. She took a deep breath and stood up suddenly, quickly stepping over the fallen lamp and getting closer to the demon.

Her sudden movement caught Garon by surprise for a split second. But that was all the time Phoebe needed and she quickly threw the vial at him, its contents spilling over the demon as it hit him in his chest.

   "With the powers of this potion I hereby endeavor,

     To vanquish this evil demon forever."

As Phoebe finished the words of the spell smoke quickly arose from Garon. And before he could even let out a cry he was gone.

"Phew!" Phoebe said, exhaling. She took a deep breath to steady herself, then turned around and went back to Daniel.

Kneeling beside him, she looked at his wound which was bleeding. She got up, went to the bathroom and hurried back with some gauze and Band-aids. Kneeling down again, she ripped off the right sleeve of his shirt and dressed the wound on his arm. Then she sat down on the floor and with her legs and knees together, lifted his head onto her thighs and took hold of his hand.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

"I...uh...think so," Daniel said.

"He's gone," Phoebe said. "You're safe, now."

"He said...you're a witch," the teenage boy said.

"Uh...you were hit on the head when you fell," Phoebe said. "You weren't hearing clearly."

"But I heard him call you a witch," Daniel insisted.

"Bitch," Phoebe said, thinking quickly. "He called me a bitch. For helping you."

"That wasn't nice," Daniel said.

"He wasn't a nice de...uh, person," she said.

"What did he mean when he called you Charmed?" he asked.

"Uh...he said harmed," Phoebe said. "He said I'd be harmed if I tried to stop him."

"How did you stop him?" he asked.

"I threw something at him," she said. "It's just a vial of some kind of chemical I carry for self-protection. It really burned him."

"Enough that he won't come back?" Daniel asked.

"Oh, yes," Phoebe assured him. "You can trust me, Daniel. You don't have to worry about him ever again." She let go of his hand and ran her fingers around the edges of the gauze.

"How's your arm feeling?" she asked.

"It stings," he said. "How did he do that?"

"Oh...it was a type of laser gun," Phoebe said. "Very new technology."

"You only met me yesterday," Daniel said, "and yet you took such a risk to save me." He paused and gently squeezed Phoebe's hand.

"Your hand feels so soft," he said. "And you're so caring."

Phoebe saw the dreamy look in the teenager's eyes.

"That's what Stuart says, too," she said.

"Stuart...he's someone you're dating?" he asked.

"It's more than just dating," she said.

"Oh," Daniel said.

Phoebe saw the dejected look on his face.

"I'm too old for you, anyway," Phoebe said.

"Someone who is as kind and selfless as you are is never too old," Daniel said, looking into her eyes.

"Ohhh...that is so sweet," Phoebe said. She lifted his head up into her arm.

"Daniel, you're sixteen years old," she said. "Find a nice, caring girl your age and tell her things like that. And...trust me...you'll be very happy together."

 

"That energy bolt just turned around anything in its path," Phoebe said. "It was as if it had Daniel's name written on it and it was going to find him regardless of what was in its way."

Phoebe, wearing an emerald green turtle-neck sweater, was sitting on the sofa in the Manor's living room. Piper was curled up next to her on her right while Prue, holding her coffee mug, was sitting on a chair next to Piper. Stuart sat on a chair on Phoebe's left, munching on a mixture of dried kiwi slices and banana chips from a plate he was holding.

"It's a good thing The Book of Shadows says that Garon was a unique demon," Prue said. "I wouldn't want to run into another demon with that kind of power."

"So Daniel is OK?" Piper asked. Seeing that the bottom of her tan, tailored shirt was sticking out of her dark brown trousers, she stood up to tuck it back in.

"Yes," Phoebe said, "the burn will heal and his head is feeling better."

"And you're sure he believed what you told him about you're not being a witch?" Piper asked, sitting down again.

"He did," Phoebe said.

"Just like on Charmed we had to be careful to keep our secret of being witches," Prue said, "we have to be sure to keep our secret here, too. But it's a lot more important here. This is real life. You have to be sure about everyone. Including Daniel."

"I am sure," Phoebe said. She placed her elbows on her thighs, put her hands together in a "V", placed her chin between her hands and looked at Prue.

"No one knows that we're witches," Phoebe said, "and no one knows anything about our being The Charmed Ones. You can relax, Prue. Our secret is safe."

Ding-dong.

"I'll get it," Stuart said. He put down the plate of dried fruit, went to the front door and opened it.

A young woman stood across the threshold. She appeared to Stuart be about twenty-four or twenty-five years old, about five-foot-seven and with a trim build. Her strawberry blond hair was tied up in a short bun in the back of her head. She had a fair, almost ruddy, complexion and green eyes that smiled at Stuart.

"Hello. I'm looking for The Halliwells," she said, in a pleasant British accent.

"And you are?" Stuart asked.

"Helena Blair," she said.

"Come in," Stuart said and led her into the living room.

"Prue, Piper and Phoebe Halliwell," Stuart said in introduction. "This is Helena Blair. She's looking for you."

"Hello," they said, together.

"Please sit down," Prue said, motioning to the empty chair where Stuart had been sitting.

"Thank you," Helena said.

"How can we help you?" Prue asked.

"I've come here to hire you," Helena said.

"Hire us?" Prue asked. "For what?"

"There are demons in my flat who are frightening us," Helena said.

"Did you say...demons?" Phoebe asked.

"Yes...but I may be mistaken," she said. "Perhaps they're ghosts. Of course, you would know better than me. You're the experts."

Prue looked un-comfortably at Piper and Phoebe.

"Experts at what?" Prue asked.

"At vanquishing demons," Helena said. "That's what I've come to hire you to do. Vanquish these demons."

"Vanquish..." Piper started to say. She shot a nervous glance at Prue. "Uh...why do you think we have anything to do with demons?"

Helena gave her a quizzical look.

"Because you're witches with the Power of Three," Helena said. "You're The Charmed Ones."



Click speaker for Opening Credits Theme Song

"Witches...Charmed Ones?" Phoebe asked. "What...are you talking about?"

"Here," Helena said, taking something from her pocket and handing it to Piper. "It's on your flyer."

Piper unfolded the paper. Her mouth opened but no words came out as she stared speechless at the flyer. Phoebe anxiously grabbed the paper from Piper's hand.

"Call-a-Witch," Phoebe read aloud. "Problems with demons, warlocks, ghosts etc? Call The Charmed Ones. The only witches with the Power of Three." Phoebe paused and glanced at Prue and Piper for a second, then looked back at the flyer.

"All of our spells and potions are guaranteed," she continued reading.

"Have a demon you want to ditch? No need to fret - just Call-a-Witch."

Piper made a pained expression. Stuart couldn't tell whether it was because of what the flyer said or because of the corny poem that said it.

"Stop by for a free consultation," Phoebe continued. "The Halliwells." Phoebe looked up at Prue and Piper.

"Our address is printed at the bottom," Phoebe said.

"Uh...we're not witches," Prue said. "Where did you get this?"

"From one of the passengers," Helena said.

"Passengers?" Phoebe asked.

"I'm a stewardess for British Airways," Helena said. "I often get the London-Heathrow to San Francisco run. I rent a flat here that I use for layovers or for whenever I can take a few days off whilst I'm here. I share it with my friend Laura - she's also a stewardess. We're rarely here at the same time so whichever one of us is here uses the flat.

"I was telling Claudia - she's a stewardess in the crew with me coming over yesterday - about the problems with the demon and that I needed help. This passenger must have overheard me and came right up to me. He tells me there are three girls who can help me and gives me that flyer."

"Who was he?" Stuart asked. "What's his name?"

"I don't know," Helena said. "That part's a bit odd. I didn't pay attention when he went back to his seat. And I didn't see him again, though I looked for him as I went down the aisles. Of course, I was serving meals and checking seatbelts so I wasn't giving my full attention."

"Uh...this is somebody's idea of a joke," Prue said.

"A joke?" Helena repeated. "Why would someone do that?"

"Because...we dabble in psychic phenomena," Stuart said, thinking quickly. "Just, uh, as amateurs, of course. There are people who think its all nonsense. And that we're being foolish when we bother with it. I guess they're having a little fun at our expense."

"So you're saying that this man was just codding me and winding-up on you?" Helena asked.

"Huh?" Prue said.

"Oh, sorry," the stewardess said, "that's English slang. It means playing a hoax on me and making a joke at your expense."

"Uh, yes," Piper said. "This is most definitely a hoax."

"And a bad joke," Phoebe added.

"Then you're not really witches," Helena said, disappointed. "And you can't help me."

"Why don't you tell us about this...uh, demon, anyway," Prue said. "Since we, uh, dabble in unexplained phenomena, we're interested in hearing about it."

Helena sighed.

"All right," she said, "I may as well."

"Uh...please have some," Stuart said, offering the plate of dried fruit to Helena.

"Oh, thank you," she said, and took a banana chip. "It started about three weeks ago. I had flown in from London that afternoon. I woke up in the middle of the night a bit hungry and I wanted to get some biscuits. I turned on the light and there they were.

"They were standing by my closet where I hung my uniform. One was playing with the wing on my uniform jacket. The other one had taken my cap and put it on its head.

"Well, I'm not given to screaming but I did then. Not out of fear, mind you, but from being startled by them. I must have startled them just as much. The demon wearing my cap stared at me, threw the cap down to the floor, and ran into the closet behind my other clothes. The other demon did the same."

"What happened then?" Prue asked.

"I followed them, of course," Helena replied. "I saw my clothes swaying from their having pushed them aside. But those demons weren't there. There was nothing in my closet but my clothes."

"What did these...uh...demons look like?" Phoebe asked.

"They were a bit shorter than me," she answered. "One was a little greenish but the other looked like us. Except for his ears, which were rather large and square."

"Uh...that's very interesting," Prue said. "And they've come back again?"

"Yes," Helena said, "Laura saw them two days later when she came in to San Francisco. They were playing with her uniform just as they had with mine. And with her cap, too.

"We've each seen them at least once on every trip since then. And they're always playing with our caps and uniforms - especially the wings we wear."

"Have they threatened you?" Stuart asked.

"No, not directly," Helena replied. "But one time after I saw them and they disappeared - they always disappear the same way, through the closet -I  was kneeling to get something from the bottom of the closet. And the shelf above the hanging rod suddenly fell on me. It just collapsed."

"And you think these demons...uh, these things, had something to do with it?" Phoebe asked.

"The shelf was fairly new," Helena said. "Laura had just put it up a week or so before. When I picked it up to examine it, it looked like there were teeth marks on the edges where it had broken in two. As if something had chewed through the wood."

Phoebe and Prue looked at each other.

"That certainly is an interesting story," Prue said.

"A story that will continue," the British girl said, "now that you can't help me. We've thought about getting another flat but we don't really have the time to look for one. And finding one as nice as what we have now, that we can afford, would be difficult."

"Well...maybe we can try to help you," Prue told her. "As we said, we dabble in strange phenomena. And this sounds rather interesting. We'd like to see your apartment. Maybe we'll, uh, be able to find out what's happening."

"Oh, I'd appreciate that," Helena said. "And if you do, I'm still ready to pay you."

"That's kind of you," Phoebe said, "but we're amateurs. We don't do this for the money."

"I'd pay The Elders not to do this," Piper groused quietly.

"We need to do some research before we come," Prue said. "We'll stop by in the evening."

"Great. Here's my telephone number," she said, handing Prue a slip of paper. "Just call me before you come so I'll make sure to be home."

 

It was a half-hour after Helena left The Manor when Leo, standing in living room, stared at the flyer in his hand. He swallowed hard as he read it a second time. Then he turned to Piper.

"This isn't just bad," Leo said. "This is a disaster! If you're found out...."

"We know what that would mean," Piper said. "What do we do about it?"

"What do you know about the man who's been handing these out?" he asked.

"Nothing, other than he seems to just appear out of nowhere whenever someone talks about being threatened by demons," she said. "And that he's short, bald and overweight."

"Did you say short...and bald?" Leo asked.

"Yes," Piper said. "And overweight."

"Ohh," Leo said, and a pained expression filled his face.

"You know who this is?" Piper asked. Leo stared unfocused into the air.

"Leo!" Piper said firmly, trying to get his attention. "Who is he?"

Leo exhaled. Then the light began to form around him.

"I'll...be back," he said, and orbed out.

 

"His name is Horatio," Leo said. It was some twenty minutes later and Leo had returned. He was standing once again in The Manor's living room, facing the three girls, who were sitting on the sofa and the end chair.

"And he's a demon," Piper said.

"No," Leo said.

"He's a warlock," Phoebe said.

"No," Leo said, again.

"A troll?" Prue asked, shrugging her shoulders.

"Not that either," Leo said.

"OK, Leo," Piper said, "then what is he?"

Leo exhaled.

"A whitelighter," he said.

"A whitelighter?" they asked in unison.

"That is, he was a whitelighter," Leo said. "Until The Elders clipped him."

"Why did The Elders do that?" Prue asked.

"Horatio used to mix in to things that were beyond what a whitelighter is supposed to do," Leo said.

"You mean, more than just telling us the impossible things that The Elders decided that we have to do," Piper said, with pointed sarcasm.

"I mean...he wouldn't just guide the witches," Leo said. "He would tell them to do things beyond what they were supposed to be doing. Because he decided on his own that what they were doing wasn't good enough or wasn't right. He convinced himself that he knew better."

"And what happened?" Phoebe asked.

"He would tell The Elders that he knew better than them, then ignore what they told him to do or not to do," Leo said, "because he insisted that they were wrong."

"I can believe that part," Piper said.

Leo shook his head.

"He jeopardized what the witches were trying to do," Leo said. "And by doing that he jeopardized the lives of the witches themselves. He's conceited and self-righteous. The Elders couldn't reason with him so they finally gave up and clipped him."

"How is he able to just appear when someone talks about demon problems?" Phoebe asked.

"That's what I just went to find out from The Elders," Leo said. "Just before he was clipped, Horatio managed to save a genie from being sent back into his bottle."

"That was convenient," Phoebe said.

"The Elders think he contrived the situation to put the genie in trouble so he could save him and have a wish granted," Leo said. "And that wish was to hear whenever someone talks about having a problem with a demon or warlock. Any situation where a witch is needed to protect an innocent. And then to be instantly brought to wherever that conversation is. And return to where he had been when he was done."

"That's how he got on the plane," Prue said. "He wasn't a passenger."

"And now he's using you to show The Elders that he's smarter than them after all," Leo said.

"Well, he's not going to get away with using us," Phoebe said. "We'll make up a spell to take this wish away from him."

"You don't have the power to take away a wish granted by a genie," Leo said. "Plus he had this genie grant his wish in a way that only Horatio can rescind it."

"Then we'll have to talk to him," Piper said. "We'll explain to him the damage that he is doing to us. And to innocents."

"The Elders couldn't," Leo said. "Why do you think that you can?"

"Because he was a whitelighter and he wanted to help people," Piper said, "even though his way was wrong. He'll care about our wanting to help people and that no one must know about us."

"You're fooling yourself, Piper," Leo said. "I worked with him. You don't know Horatio."

"Then we need to get to know him," Prue said. "We can't let him hand out his flyer to anyone else."

 

"I didn't realize it was you," Horatio said. "This place threw me off."

"We wanted to make sure you would come," Prue said, "so we didn't talk about demon problems in the Manor.

They were standing under the cypress trees in the partially developed Crissy Field park.

"Horatio, this flyer that you gave to the stewardess is very dangerous for us," Prue said.

"Not at all," Horatio said. "The more who know of you the more good you can do."

"It's the opposite," Piper said. "If we're found out we won't be able to help anyone."

"Of course you'll be able to help them," Horatio said. "You'll just have to work harder at it."

"Horatio, you're missing the point," Phoebe said. "If we're found out the whole world will be on top of us. The newspapers, television, the government - especially the government. We won't be free to live normal lives and help innocents."

"You're not supposed to live normal lives," Horatio said. "You need to be devoting your entire lives to helping people - no matter what the cost is to you."

"Horatio...please," Prue said, "you have to stop telling people about us."

"No, I won't," Horatio said. "You think you know what you should be doing. Well, you don't! You're not doing enough! And telling people about you will make you do more."

And with that he was gone.

"That did not go well," Piper said in an obvious understatement..

"He's stubborn and pig-headed," Phoebe said.

"And won't accept reason," Stuart said.

"What do we do now?" Piper asked.

"You have to try to think like Brad Kern," Stuart said, "and come up with something that he would write into a Charmed script to save you."

"I'd rather use a spell to just bring Brad here," Piper said, wishfully, "and have him write it for us."

"Well, we don't have Brad or JP or Connie here," Phoebe said, "so we have to find another way ourselves."

"But we also have to help innocents," Prue said, "and we can't let Horatio distract us from that. We promised Helena we'd come over and help her with her 'demon' problem. Let's have a look at the Book of Shadows."

"There's something about what Helena described that sounds familiar," Stuart said, as they headed up the stairs to the attic. "I just can't put my finger on it."

 

"Ohhh," Piper said, "I think this is it. Gremlins."

"Gremlins?" Phoebe asked. "They're real?"

Prue gave Phoebe a look.

"Right," Phoebe said. "After everything we've run into, why shouldn't gremlins be real, too."

"Gremlins are mischievous and mechanically oriented creatures with a specific interest in aircraft," Piper read aloud from The Book.

"That's it," Stuart said. "That's what I was trying to remember. World War II airmen told stories of seeing gremlins on their planes while they were flying before something went wrong with the planes."

"That would explain their playing around with Helena's wings and uniform cap," Prue said. "They somehow sensed that she had a connection to airplanes and went to her apartment. The cap and wings were the closest things to an airplane they could find there."

"If these gremlins are attracted to airplanes," Phoebe said, "then this entry in the Book of Shadows can't go back very far."

"You're right, Phoebs," Piper said. "It's in Grams' handwriting. So it's a relatively recent entry, probably written during the war. This drawing of a gremlin clearly shows the square ears Helena mentioned. Grams also wrote that they chew through things to cause their damage."

"That would explain the teeth marks on Helena's closet shelf that broke," Phoebe said.

"How did Grams say to vanquish them?" Stuart asked.

"Hmmm...apparently we don't vanquish them," Piper said. "Grams wrote a spell that we cast on them that will keep them away from a particular airplane...uh, I guess we can change that to keep them away from a particular apartment. Grams wrote that the spell is more powerful and effective when its said when you see them."

"Then we'll have to wait in Helena's apartment until they show up tonight," Prue said. "And we'll need an excuse to keep Helena out of there until we've cast the spell. Stuart, how would you like to take a lovely stewardess to dinner?"

"Uh..." he said, as he looked at Phoebe. "Uh...sure. I'll keep Helena occupied."

"Not too occupied," Phoebe said, with an expressionless, straight face. Stuart couldn't tell if she was joking...or jealous.

"We'll call you when we're done," Prue said. "And then we can get back to dealing with Horatio."

 

"That's fascinating," Helena said, facing Stuart across the table. The cozy, little Italian restaurant was tucked away on Laguna Street near Filbert, just a few blocks from P3. A three-quarters empty bottle of Australian Shiraz stood on the table between their wine glasses. "I thought I knew my English history but there's a lot I've learned from you tonight."

"I love history and so I've studied it a bit," Stuart said.

"You're far too modest," she said. "You've studied it more than just a bit. You could be a history teacher in school."

Helena lifted her wine glass and took a sip.

"So," she continued, "Lady Jane Grey reigned as Queen of England when she was a girl of only sixteen."

"Yes," Stuart said, "and she ruled-"

Stuart's cell phone interrupted him.

"Hello."

"We're done," Prue said, on the other end of the call. "Grams' spell worked. The gremlins are gone. You can take Helena home, now."

"We haven't had dessert yet," Stuart said. "We'll come in an hour or so."

"You sound like you're enjoying yourself," Prue said.

"Yes, indeed I am," Stuart said. "See you later."

"That was Prue," he said, closing the cell phone. "Their efforts were successful. You're apartment is now free of...uh, whatever they were."

"That's wonderful," Helena said. "And they did that with scientific methods?"

"Uh..yes," Stuart said, "special equipment that chases demons...uh, that is, chases strange phenomena, away."

The waitress arrived with the spumoni and placed the dishes of three-colored ice cream in front of Helena and Stuart.

"Now we can celebrate being rid of them with this dessert," Helena said. "What were you saying about Lady Jane Grey's rule?" she asked, scooping the spumoni with her spoon.

"She ruled England for only nine days," Stuart said, taking a bit of the ice cream as well. "And so she was known as the Nine Days Queen."

 

Stuart followed Helena into her apartment and closed the door behind them. She went straight to her closet and cautiously opened the door.

"Nothing here but my clothes," Helena said with a feeling of relief. "And you're sure they won't be back?"

"Prue said so," Stuart said, "and you can rely on Prue." He looked at Helena for a moment.

"But you don't really know her and I want you to be comfortable," he said. He took out a pen and a P3 business card, wrote something on the back of it and gave it to Helena.

"Here's my cell phone number. Call me anytime if you need me - day or night."

"Day...or night," Helena repeated, and gave Stuart a warm look.

"I'm still ready to pay you for what you've done," she said.

"That's very kind but, as we said, we don't take money for what we do," Stuart said.

"Well," Helena said, "I'll just have to find another way to thank you." She put her arms around Stuart, drew his close to her, and started to kiss him.

At first Stuart tried to hold back, but after a few seconds, feeling overwhelmed by her, he couldn't resist and let himself go.

"It was really Prue...uh, Piper and Phoebe who...uh, did this for you," Stuart said, after Helena ended the kiss.

"Well, they're not here," Helena said. "So you'll just have to accept my thanks for them, too." She pulled Stuart closer to her.

"I trust you're not in a rush to go home," she said, her lips making a mischievous smile as she kissed him once again.

 

"Well, if we can't take away his power from him," Phoebe asked, "then how do we stop him?

Piper and Phoebe were sitting in the Manor's living room the next morning. Prue was standing by the window and staring out at the morning fog, which had not yet burned off.

"We can show him," Prue said, turning around to face them.

"Show him?" Piper asked.

"Show him what would happen if we are found out," Prue said, walking closer to them. "Show him what the future would be like if we had to be in hiding and we couldn't help innocents."

"And just how do we do that?" Piper asked.

"By taking Horatio to that future," Prue said. "The future that will be if he doesn't stop telling people about us."

"Uh, oh," Phoebe said, "not time travel again. I really don't like doing that."

"You're not talking about traveling to the past that's already happened," Piper said, giving Prue a look. "You're talking about going to the future that hasn't happened yet. We haven't done that."

"Yes we have," Prue said. "We went ten years into the future."

"What..." Piper started to say. "Wait a minute...you're not talking about that episode when Phoebe was supposed to be burned at the stake because they found out that she was a witch?"

"Yes," Prue said, "that's exactly what I'm talking about."

"But that didn't happen...." Piper said, slightly shaking her head. "That.. that was just an episode on Charmed. We didn't really go to the future. Not us...not here. Not the way we've really gone to the past from here."

"Everything that happened in Charmed episodes has really happened here," Prue said. "We know that - we've seen that. So even though we didn't experience going to the future, nevertheless, within this Charmed modified real world, we really did go."

"Having been almost killed, even if only in a Charmed episode, when we went to a Charmed future," Phoebe said, "I don't want to chance that in real life in a real future. A future in which we will have also been revealed as witches."

"There is no other way," Prue said. "The only chance we have to save our secret is that if we show Horatio how bad things would be, he'll understand and come to his senses."

"Assuming he has any senses," Piper said. "Which from how Leo described him I greatly doubt."

"Wait a minute," Phoebe said. "Wasn't there something in that episode about the spell not working twice?"

"Yes," Piper said, "we couldn't get back from the future because the spell to return to the present had somehow already been used. And that erased the spell from the Book of Shadows so we didn't have it."

"So that will be true in real life, as well," Phoebe said. "We won't be able to get back to the present from the future in the real world just as we couldn't get back to the present on Charmed."

"When The Elders felt we had learned our lesson in that episode, they just sent us back to the present themselves, without our needing a spell," Prue said. "We'll have to get them to do the same thing again here in the real future."

The front door opened and Stuart came in.

"Arlen Kepp lives on the next block," Stuart said, "and he had the Call-a-Witch flyer. I convinced him it was a hoax. But it wasn't easy."

"Stuart," Piper said, "I know you remember that episode where Phoebe was almost burned at the stake for being a witch. You told us how it affected you."

"Oh, yes," he said. "I remember it very well."

"We didn't have the spell to come back to the present because it had already been used once," Piper said. "Wasn't there also some problem with the spell that took us to the future, too?"

Stuart thought for a moment.

"The spell that took you to the future...could only be used once, too," he said. "It was burnt as you said it going to the future."

"Which means we don't have the spell to get us to the future, either," Piper said.

"Then we'll have to get The Elders to send us to the future as well as bring us back from it," Prue said.

"What's going on?" Stuart asked.

"Fill Stuart in," Prue said, "while I have a talk with Leo."

 

"The Elders are not in favor of you doing this," Leo said. "You don't know what you'll find in this future. It could be very dangerous."

"It will be very dangerous in the present if we don't stop Horatio," Prue said. "This is the only way."

"Are you sure?" Leo asked.

"Do you have a better idea?" Prue asked.

"Not at the moment," Leo said. "But that doesn't mean that there isn't one."

"But The Elders did agree to send us to the future and bring us back?" Phoebe asked.

"Yes," Leo said, "if you still want to do this."

"How far into the future?" Piper asked.

"Eight months," Leo answered.

"They must know something," Phoebe said, "to pick that time."

"They didn't explain why eight months," Leo said. "Even when I asked them."

"It doesn't matter," Prue said. "We have to stop Horatio. And since we can't take away his power to hear conversations, this is the only way."

"You'll have to get him to come to you," Leo said. "You have to be all together when The Elders send you to the future."

"That shouldn't be hard," Piper said. "We just need someone to talk about demon problems."

"He won't come if its one of us," Phoebe said.

"Stuart can do it," Prue said. "He can have a talk with Gina in my office at The Club."

"And speaking of Stuart," Phoebe asked, "did The Elders agree to send him too?"

"If he wants to go," Leo said. "If he understands the danger."

"When can we go?" Prue asked.

"You decide when," Leo said. "Tell me the time and I'll tell The Elders."

"In one hour," Prue said. "That will give us enough time to get to The Club and set this up with Gina."

"I'll tell them," Leo said. "Look...be careful. The Elders know what they're talking about."

"You mean that they're always right?" Piper asked. "I can think of a few times that they haven't been."

"Not now, Piper," Prue said. "Leo, whether we're chasing demons or they're chasing us, every day in the present is dangerous for us, anyway."

"I know," Leo said, "but..."

"Leo," Piper said, "did they tell you about any specific thing that would happen to us?"

"No, they didn't," Leo said. "In a way I'd feel better if they had."

"Enough," Prue said. "we have work to do."

 

"Is it clear, Gina?" Piper asked.

"I tell Stuart something about demons bothering me," Gina said. "And when Horatio shows up, you walk into your office and I walk out."

"And stay away from the office until we come out," Phoebe added.

"Thanks for helping us, Gina," Piper said.

"I'd do anything to help you, Piper," Gina said. "Even though I don't really understand what you're doing."

"Maybe after it's over," Piper said, "I'll be able to explain it to you."

"OK Gina," Stuart said, "let's do it." Gina nodded and he followed her into Piper's office, leaving the door open.

"I don't know what to do," Gina said, acting out their little script. "I heard the story from Brooke Sidell about her being chased by a demon. I don't know whether I really believed her. And I certainly never believed it would happen to me. But it did."

"What happened?" Stuart asked.

"I drove home from The Club last night," Gina said, "and I was getting out of my car. When someone...or something...suddenly appeared. And he...it...started chasing me. It was big and terrible looking. I just managed to get inside my house and slam the door in its face. All I could think of was that it was a demon...like Brooke's."

Gina paused. "And I'm frightened," she added dramatically.

"Wow!" Stuart exclaimed. "That's terrible. There must be someone who can help you."

"There is," a voice said. They turned around and saw a short, bald and heavy man standing behind them. "And its all here on this paper."

Gina gave Horatio a quizzical look. She glanced at Stuart, made her way around Horatio and walked out of the office. As soon as she did, the three sisters walked inside.

"What...are you doing here?" Horatio asked in surprise at seeing them.

"You haven't listened to what we've told you," Prue said, as Piper shut and locked the office door. "You haven't listened to what we warned you would be the terrible consequences of the world knowing who we are. So the only thing left for us to do is to show you those consequences. For you to see exactly what will happen if you don't stop telling everyone about us."

The office started to become wobbly. Everything around them started to bend and get out of focus. And then it all disappeared.

Piper was in pain. Her arms were stretched up and outwards, metallic rope suspending them, and her, from the ceiling. Her hands were in clamps that immobilized them. Her legs were partially spread, metallic ropes holding them in place as well.

This is not where Piper had expected to arrive in the future. Nor the condition she expected to be in when she did arrive.

All over her almost naked body, and all around her head, were different colored wires, connected to machines hidden behind a quadruple-plated glass wall.

In fact, the whole room was enclosed in that same plated glass wall, each of the four inner walls being some sixty feet away from Piper. She could see two cameras behind the wall facing her. Actually, there were two cameras behind each of the room's walls. But a device around Piper's head prevented her head from moving to look in any direction but straight ahead.

"Freeze the balloon!" a voice commanded. The order came from behind her. Piper could only assume that there was a speaker mounted in the wall and that no one was actually in the room with her.

Piper saw a balloon shoot out from a corner of the room. She felt a strong current of air blowing out from behind her and start blowing the balloon around the room. Then she felt the clamp on her right hand relax just enough so that she could move her hand.

"Freeze the balloon!" the voice commanded again. This time it was accompanied by a jolt coming from one of the wires connected to her body.

"ARRGGH!" Piper screamed and shut her eyes. A second jolt went through her body and she screamed again.

"Freeze the balloon, now! Or they'll be a third electric charge," the voice bellowed.

Piper opened her eyes and lifted her head slightly. She looked at the balloon bouncing around the room and waved her right hand at it.

 

"So General Mc Knight," the woman said, "you expect, then, to have something to announce very soon." The woman asking the questions was wearing a dark purple suit, her blond hair coiffed ever so perfectly, her cheeks a TV makeup-perfect color, a microphone in her right hand.

"Yes, Vera," Mc Knight said as the camera switched to him, the medals on his green Army uniform jacket in clear sight. "Piper Halliwell is safely locked away at the Presidio of Monterey, undergoing examination by the Army's best people. And very shortly we will have her two sisters in custody, as well."

"If we can assume they're as powerful witches as their sister Piper," Vera asked, "isn't it likely that they will use their powers to resist being taken by your soldiers?"

"Our objective is to capture them," the General said, "learn about their powers and put that knowledge to use for safeguarding the United States. But I can promise you, Vera, that we will not allow two powerful witches to fall into the hands of our enemies and potentially be used against us. We will do whatever it takes to prevent that. I hope they won't resist and will surrender peacefully. But we are prepared to do whatever is necessary for the security of the United States."

"Here are the pictures of the other two Halliwell sisters," Vera said as a picture of Prue filled the screen.

"Prue Halliwell and Phoebe Halliwell," Vera continued as Phoebe's picture replaced Prue's.

"And their accomplice," Vera continued, "known only as Wyatt." A three-quarter image of Leo, taken from about a ten foot distance, flashed on the screen.

Phoebe stared at the picture of Leo on the TV screen. She finally turned to look around where she was. It was a small room with a chair, upon which she was sitting, in front of the television. A gas range, refrigerator and small table were against a wall off to the right of the TV, while two beds were to the TV set's left. A second folding chair, with Prue on it, was next to her.

The woman in the purple suit was back on the screen.

"If you see any of these people, do not approach them as they are considered to be dangerous," she said. "Just quickly call 9-1-1. Reporting live from the Presidio of Monterey Army Base, this is Vera De Felice, Fox News Channel."

"Did you..." Phoebe started to say. "They have Piper...."

Prue stared at the TV a little bit longer, then exhaled.

"The Elders said we could be in danger," Prue said. "It seems...we're already in more danger than we expected."

"I guess...things are worse than we thought they would be," Phoebe said. "When we went to the future on that Charmed episode I was being held in jail. Now Piper is being held...by the Army. We should have thought of that possibility."

"It doesn't really matter," Prue said. "If the future is worse than we expected it's all the more reason to come here and show it to Horatio so we can stop him."

"Where is Horatio?" Phoebe asked. "And where is Stuart?"

A banging started coming from the far end of the room behind the TV set. They looked towards it and saw a door.

"Open up, Prue," a girl shouted from behind the door. "Hurry!"

Prue and Phoebe rushed to the door. Multiple deadbolt locks and a large metal bar held the door securely locked.

"Prue, Phoebe," the girl shouted, banging on the door as she did.

"OK, OK," Prue said. She and Phoebe began opening the locks. Then Prue waved her hand at the metal bar and it slid to the side. And the door burst open.

"Kelly Anderson!" Prue said in surprise at seeing the young witch. "What are you-"

"There wasn't time to warn you the regular way," Kelly said rushing into the room. A confused Stuart followed her in. "We had to break our cover. They found out about this place. There's a group of assault soldiers on their way. They'll be here any second. You have to leave now!"

"Uh...uh...OK," Prue said. She started towards the door.

"What are you doing?" Kelly asked.

"We're...uh...leaving," Prue said.

"Not that way!" Kelly said, giving Prue a quizzical look. "The emergency exit."

"Emergency exit," Prue repeated. "Of course. Uh...where is it?"

"Where is it?!" Kelly repeated. "Prue...what's going on? We don't have time-"

"Kelly, you know us," Phoebe said. "So trust us. We don't know where the emergency exit is. Just show it to us."

Kelly looked back and forth between Prue and Phoebe. She hesitated for a second, then brushed past them and went over to the refrigerator. She pulled it out to reveal a panel in the wall behind it. Ripping off the panel's cover, she pushed a button and a ladder dropped down from the ceiling.

"Up...and out!" Kelly ordered.

Prue and Phoebe ran over to it.

"Go Phoebe," Prue said. "we'll be behind you."

"You'll be behind her," Kelly said, as Phoebe started up the ladder. "We'll come up after -"

Shouting and footsteps interrupted her.

"They're here - go!" Kelly ordered again. Prue jumped up onto the ladder and Kelly started to follow her.

"There they are," a soldier shouted from the doorway.

"I'll slow them down," Stuart said.

"No!" Kelly shouted, halfway up the ladder. "You can't -"

A burst from a rifle rang out. Kelly pulled up her feet and the shot missed her and hit the wall.

There were now a half-dozen soldiers in the room, two of them girls. Stuart picked up one of the folding chairs and threw it at one of them. He backed up and picked up the second chair. He was about to throw it at two of the soldiers when another shot rang out.

Stuart turned towards the girl soldier who had fired the shot at him. His eyes and his mouth opened and froze as he stared at her, the chair falling from his grip. Blood from his chest began to stain his shirt. As the girl soldier approached him Stuart dropped to his knees, the expression on his face still frozen, then fell helplessly forward against her chest. The girl soldier smashed the butt of her rifle into his face and pushed him aside, knocking him to the floor, then rushed towards the ladder.

Another soldier fired a shot upwards.

"Agghh!" Kelly shouted. The bullet went through the corner of her pants leg.

Kelly pulled herself up through the opening in the ceiling. Once outside, she grabbed a metal lid that had been flipped up and pushed it back down over the opening.

   "Cover and opening seal as one,

    And let this bond never be undone."

"Wait," Phoebe said, as Kelly finished her spell. "Stuart didn't come out."

"He's not coming," Kelly said. "They shot him."

"What?!" Phoebe screamed. "We have to go back for him."

"He's probably dead," Kelly said. "And if he isn't dead then they've got him. Either way there's nothing we can do."

"We're not leaving him there!" Phoebe said to her.

"You know I've come to care about Stuart as much as you do," Kelly said. "But the only thing that matters now is that you and Prue be safe and not captured by the government the way Piper was. Now get going to the emergency safe house."

"No!" Phoebe said, grabbing the metal lid.

Prue looked at Kelly for a moment, then turned to Phoebe and took both of her hands in hers. She looked into Phoebe's eyes, shook her head "no", then turned to Kelly.

"We don't know where it is," Prue said.

"What do you mean you don't know," Kelly said. "You picked it out!"

"I'll explain it later," Prue said. "But right now you have to take us there."

Kelly exhaled.

"My cover is blown now, anyway," she said. "Let's go."

 

The rain had started to fall just before they had reached the safe house. It had picked up in its intensity and was now falling steadily against the living room windows. With the Venetian blinds closed and the curtains drawn, the three witches could not see the rain. But they could hear it, it's pelting adding to their somber mood.

Kelly, her blonde hair, blue blouse and black pants wet from the rain, stared at an equally damp Phoebe.

"There's blood on your pants, Kelly," Phoebe said, alarmed.

"That last shot grazed my leg," Kelly said, pulling up her wet black pants and looking at it. "I'll be all right.

"I'll call Leo to heal you," Prue said.

"Leo?" Kelly asked. "Prue, you know Leo won't come near us now."

"Kelly...we're not who you think we are," Phoebe said. "I mean, we are who you think we are but...we're not."

"What Phoebe means," Prue said, "is that we're not from now. We've come from the past but we're inside of ourselves from the future - that is, our future, but your present. I know that's hard for you to understand."

"No...it isn't," Kelly said. She looked at Prue and Piper for a moment.

"This has happened to you before," Kelly said. "You once went ten years into the future - and into your future selves' bodies."

"You...know about that?" Prue asked in surprise.

Prue was right, Phoebe thought. That...really did happen here.

"Leo told me about it," Kelly said. "He said there were witches sent into their own future selves by The Elders to teach them something. He didn't tell me who they were. Now I know it was you."

"And now you understand why we didn't know about the emergency exit," Phoebe said, "nor about the safe house."

"When did you come from?" Kelly asked.

"Eight months ago," Phoebe said. "At least, we think it's eight months."

"This is February 2001," Kelly said.

"So it is eight months. We came from June of 2000," Prue said. "Tell us what's happened since then."

Kelly ran her hand through her wet hair.

"Your secret was discovered," Kelly said.

"Because of Horatio," Prue said.

"Yes," Kelly said. "You know about him?"

"That's why we're here," Phoebe said. "To stop him."

"Stop him?" Kelly asked. "How? He's already done his damage."

"The Elders sent him with us so that we can show him the future affect of what he's doing...in our time. And convince him to stop telling people about us when we go back to our time."

"Hah!" Kelly said. "He is so self-righteous. He doesn't listen to anyone."

"We know," Prue said. "He didn't listen to us in the past. Our only hope was to show him first-hand the damage he would cause in the future. That's why we got The Elders to agree to send him with us."

"Really!" Kelly said. "Is that what the The Elders did. What they should have done..." she started to say but then decided not to say any more.

Phoebe saw that Kelly had changed. She wasn't the vibrant, youthful witch Phoebe knew in the past. She seemed to have aged a lot more than her now, eight months later, twenty-two years. And become a little critical - or was that cynical? - of The Elders. And also become more of a hardened, take-charge girl. Things must have really been tough for everyone these past eight months, Phoebe thought.

"What did you mean," Phoebe asked, "when you said you've come to care about Stuart the way I...care about him?"

"When you moved out of The Halliwell Manor last year and went into hiding," Kelly said, "you decided it was best if Stuart didn't come with you. By not being with you, he could monitor what was happening and look for ways to try to stop it.

"So Stuart came to stay with me," Kelly continued. "He would clandestinely meet with one of you, just briefly enough to update you on what was happening and bring you whatever you needed. But then Piper was caught after meeting Gina - they had met because of some things about P3. We didn't know that Gina was being watched. After that, Stuart stopped meeting you and Prue. It was too much of a risk that they might know about him and follow him to you.

"So he's been with me. And...I've come to know him. And to see what you...what all three of you...have seen in him."

Phoebe sensed there was more to what Kelly was feeling about Stuart than she was saying. Kelly saw that and exhaled.

"Phoebe," Kelly said, "you know...the present Phoebe knows...that I wasn't interfering in your relationship with Stuart." She hesitated for a second. "But since last summer, since you went into hiding...you haven't had a relationship with Stuart. And Stuart and I...we've been through a lot together since then. We both...needed someone."

Phoebe stared into Kelly's eyes for a long moment. Then she exhaled.

"And now, he's...dead," Phoebe said.

"Maybe not," Kelly said. "If he...if he was only shot, the Army will take him to be cared for. They need him. He's their connection to you."

"And if not," Prue started to say. "...when you were burned at the stake in that episode...uh that future we went to, The Elders brought us all back to our present. And you were fine. So...that could be the same thing with Stuart."

"But I was still alive to be brought back from the future," Phoebe said. "If they've killed Stuart then he's not here to be brought..."

Tears formed in Phoebe's eyes.

"There's nothing we can do about that now," Kelly said, in a tough, realistic tone. "No matter how much you...and I...care about him and want to do something."

Phoebe was silent for a moment. Then she took a deep breath.

"How do we find Horatio?" she asked, softly.

"We need someone to talk about demon problems," Prue said.

"That won't work anymore," Kelly said. "Now that you've been exposed he has no reason to tell people about you. But it doesn't matter. I know where Horatio will be tomorrow morning."

"Where?" Prue asked.

"At P3," Kelly said. "But going there will be dangerous."

"They're probably not expecting us to be so foolish as to show up at the club," Prue said. "But even if they are, we don't have a choice. We have to get to Horatio quickly and...and stop all of this from ever happening."

"Why is he going to the Club?" Phoebe asked.

"Because...he's the new owner of P3," Kelly replied.

 

"Thank you for calling me this morning, Mr. Raines," Horatio said, as he extended his hand. "I was...uh, distracted, feeling under the weather a bit and forgot about our meeting."

"Think nothing of it," Raines said. He was in his late forties, with stringy brown hair that wouldn't stay in place, a pale complexion and a light brown suit which, given his pale look, was the wrong color for him. "I trust you're feeling better now," he added.

"Much," Horatio said. "I appreciate what the Department of Defense is doing for me."

"Oh, it's really the other way around," Raines said. "The DoD is grateful to you for what you've done for America. Your part in revealing the presence of these witches, and the powers they possess, is to be congratulated. We need more people like you who help America's security and defenses."

"That is very kind of you to say that," Horatio said, feigning modesty.

"And as the DoD's way of saying 'thank you', I now officially give you the keys to this club that we confiscated from that witch Piper Halliwell. You are now the owner of P3."

 

The San Francisco winter rain had resumed in the early morning hours. Light but steady, and with some wind blowing it around, it served the three girls' needs. Appearing to anyone seeing them that they were merely using their raincoats' hoods to protect themselves from the wet weather, it let them, in fact, inconspicuously cover their heads and hide their faces.

Now, as they watched Raines leave P3, they quickly headed for the Club's back door. Opening it, Kelly motioned for them to wait, then went inside and quietly looked around. Seeing there were no soldiers there, she motioned to Prue and Phoebe to come in.

They removed the hoods from their faces and heads, their wet raincoats leaving a watery trail behind them as they made their way down the back hallway. Hearing footsteps approaching, they pulled back against the wall and watched Horatio go into Piper's office. He did not close the door behind him and the three witches hurried into the office.

"You!" Horatio exclaimed in surprise.

"Not expecting us?" Piper asked. "You should be...we brought you here."

"Here?" Horatio asked.

"Not to P3," Phoebe said. "To the future."

"Yes...to 2001," he said. "It confused me at first. Why did you do that?"

"To show you how what you're doing in 2000," Prue said, "will have a disastrous affect on the future."

"I think its affected the future very nicely," Horatio said. "I now own this club."

"Is that all you can think about?" Phoebe asked.

"What else is there?" Horatio asked.

"Our sister Piper is being held by the Army," Phoebe said.

"Her fault," Horatio said. "She should have been open about her powers from the beginning."

"And we have to be in hiding," Prue said.

"You're fault, too," Horatio said.

"It's our fault that we can't save innocents from demons and warlocks because we have to be in hiding?" Prue asked.

"There were two volunteers from San Francisco Cares who were killed two days ago by demons," Kelly said. "And there have been dozens of other innocents hurt or killed the past few months because evil has a free reign. Because The Charmed Ones can't be seen in public to protect people. And I can't even risk using my powers."

"Blame yourselves," Horatio said. "You should have told everyone about it from the beginning. You could have saved all of these people, and a lot more, if you had just been open about it and not tried to hide it. The government would have helped you."

"The government has Piper locked up being examined, poked and who knows what else," Phoebe said. "They're not interested in helping us, just dissecting us like some kind of alien moon rock sample."

"We have to save innocents ourselves, and by ourselves," Prue said. "And we can - and we have! That is, until you made problems for us."

"Ah, you sound just like The Elders," Horatio said. "You, and they, always know what's best," he added sarcastically.

"That's what this is all about, isn't it," Prue said. "You're just trying to get back at The Elders for what they did to you."

"And you don't care who gets hurt along the way," Kelly said.

"No one needed to be hurt had you just followed what I was doing for you," Horatio said.

"For us?" Phoebe asked. "You mean to us."

"And had The Elders listened to what I was telling them," Horatio continued, "all of those other witches would have done things the right way. And everything would have been better. But no, they wouldn't listen to me. Just as you wouldn't listen to me.

"So all of this is all of your own - and The Elders - doing," he added.

"We're getting nowhere with him," Kelly said.

"What did you -" Horatio started to ask when the sound of people running interrupted him.

"The Army's here!" Kelly exclaimed. "They were watching P3, after all."

Half a dozen soldiers burst into Piper's office, they're rifles pointed at the three witches.

"Your plan's failed," Kelly said, "And now the government has both of you, too."

"Stand where you are and don't move, witches!" the lead soldier commanded. "Don't do a thing."

The office started to become wobbly. Everything around them started to bend and get out of focus.

"What's happening?" one of the girl soldiers asked.

"I warned you not to do anything!" the lead soldier said and aimed his rifle at Prue.

"No!" Kelly shouted and jumped in front of Prue to shield her as the soldier fired his weapon.

"AGGH!" Kelly screamed as two bullets struck her and she fell into Prue's open arms.

"Stop...Ho...Horatio." Kelly words were barely audible to Prue. The young witch's eyes closed and her head fell sideways against Prue's chest.

And then it all disappeared.

Piper was spread out on her stomach on the attic floor. Prue and Phoebe were standing near the door.

"Piper!" Phoebe shouted and ran to her.

"Aghh," Piper moaned.

"Are you -" Phoebe started to ask her.

"Stuart!" Prue exclaimed, cutting Phoebe off.

He was lying on the floor, in hospital clothes.

"Leo, get here fast!" Prue shouted as she rushed to Stuart."LEO!!"

Phoebe lifted Piper in her arms, then looked over at Stuart.

Prue knelt down beside him and ran her hand along his neck.

"Is he...alive?" Phoebe asked, afraid of what the answer would be.

"I don't know...I can't tell," Prue answered.

The light began to form. As Leo orbed in he looked at Piper in Phoebe's arms and started towards her.

"Leo!" Prue shouted, "Stuart first!"

Leo hesitated.

"Go to him!" Phoebe commanded.

Leo gave Piper another look, then turned and went over to Stuart.

Prue looked on silently at the aura of light that surrounded Leo's hands as he placed them on Stuart's chest. After fifteen seconds Leo lifted his hands and looked over to Prue.

"No!" Prue said firmly, seeing the expression on Leo's face. "Keep trying!" she ordered.

Leo looked at Prue for a few seconds more. Then he took a deep breath and turned back to Stuart. With his hands back on Stuart's chest, the aura returned to them. Phoebe watched as Leo concentrated intently on what he was doing.

After another fifteen seconds, Leo glanced at Prue without lifting his hands, then turned back to Stuart. When he did, Phoebe thought she saw a change in Leo's expression. After another ten seconds Leo looked at Phoebe and nodded his head slightly. After a few seconds more, Stuart began to stir. Leo exhaled and removed his hands and Prue quickly lifted Stuart into her arms.

Leo hurried over to Piper and placed his hands on her chest.

"Prue..." Stuart said slowly, looking up at her. "What...what happened?"

Prue looked over at Piper, whom Leo had now healed. She sat up by herself and Leo put his arms around her.

"We're home - our plan didn't work," Prue said to Stuart. "But you and Piper are both safe. And that's what's important right now."

 

The warmth of just holding the hot cup of tea in his hand felt good to Stuart. As did, to Piper, the hot coffee she was slowly sipping, curled up on the sofa next to Leo. In fact, anything would have felt good to Piper after hanging from an Army ceiling for almost a day.

"It was worse than we imagined it could be," Phoebe said.

"Kelly...died in my arms," Prue said, still feeling the pain of it.

"The Elders did warn you," Leo said.

"We had no choice, Leo," Phoebe said. "We had to try it."

"Did you?" Leo asked. "And what did you accomplish...other than all of you almost being killed, along with Kelly?"

"It accomplished one thing," Piper said. "We know we have to stop Horatio here...whatever it takes."

"What are you saying?" Leo asked. "What do you think you're going to do?"

"Whatever it takes to stop him," Phoebe said, repeating Piper's words.

"There are too many lives at stake, Leo," Piper said. "And not just our own. There are hundreds of innocents who will die or at least be hurt because we can't protect them. We can't let that happen."

"Piper...I don't disagree with you about what Horatio is doing and the need to stop him," Leo said. "But you can't...you can't vanquish him. He's not a demon."

"He's a danger to the world," Phoebe said. "A lot of people will die because of what he's doing."

"You still can't vanquish him," Leo admonished her. "You know you can't use your powers to punish him for that. That's what your previous trip to the future - the one you took ten years into the future - was all about. To teach you that you can't cross the line from protecting the innocent to punishing the guilty. And that's what you'd be doing here - again."

"This is different," Phoebe said.

"Isn't that what you said last time?" Leo asked. "And look what it lead to in that other future. Your being burnt at the stake...and your sisters in hiding." Leo shook his head. "You can't decide to punish someone...no matter how guilty he may be."

Prue looked at the others, then exhaled.

"Leo's right," Prue said. "We can't punish the guilty. Even someone like Horatio." She paused for a few seconds. "But we don't have to punish him."

"We don't?" Piper asked. "But we have no way of stopping him."

"We don't have a way," Prue said. "But Horatio does. Come up to the attic with me, Phoebe. I'm going to need your help with this."

 

"Gina is leaving a flyer on every table when she serves a drink," Piper said.

"I really liked the part you added, Phoebe, about P3 caring about its customers," Stuart said, "and wanting them to feel they can better handle their problems."

"Well, it should be working by now," Phoebe said. "And you should be the one who gets to try it, Prue, since it was your idea."

"OK, here goes," Prue said. "Horatio, I need you. I have a problem."

Suddenly the short, balding, heavy man was standing beside them.

"What have you done?!" he demanded.

"We've just helped you," Phoebe said. "Just like you 'helped' us."

"You took away my power," he said.

"Oh no, we didn't," Phoebe said. "That genie gave you your power as a wish. Our spells can't take that kind of power away from you."

"As much as we'd like to," Piper added.

"But what we can do is use a spell to expand your power," Prue said. "So now it's not only a call for help about demons that will bring you to people. It's any call for help about any problem that will transport you."

"Don't you just love our flyer?" Phoebe asked, handing one to him. "Studies show the importance of talking about your problems," she read aloud from it. "And P3 wants to help. Have a drink, find a friend and don't keep your problems bottled up inside of you."

"I think it's a great flyer," Piper said. "Don't you?"

"This is driving me crazy," Horatio said. "Every minute I'm being taken somewhere-"

"Oops...he's disappeared," Stuart said.

"Someone must have a problem," Phoebe said, smiling.

"Let's get him back," Piper said. "Oh Horatio...I have a problem."

"No...I can't take this," Horatio said as he re-appeared. "This hasn't stopped for a minute all-" And he was gone again.

Prue and Phoebe burst out in laughter.

"You think he's had all he can take?" Stuart asked, with a large smile.

"Let's give him another minute or two," Phoebe said, still laughing.

"That was a brilliant plan, Prue," Stuart said, "to make a spell to expand what he hears and has to go to, to include whoever talks about any kind of problem."

"Phoebe helped pulled together the right pieces to make the spell work," Prue said.

"OK...we've given him enough time," Phoebe said, her laughter almost subdued. "Oh Horatio...I still have a problem."

"No...this is too much," the short, balding man said as he re-appeared.

"Too many people have problems?" Prue asked. "Then help them. That's what you wanted us to do."

"I can't help these people," he said. "And they're driving me crazy with their problems. I want them to leave me alone before I lose my sanity."

"But we don't want them to leave us alone," Prue said. "We want to help them when we can. And we can help, at least some of them. If we're not forced into hiding."

"That's the difference between us," Phoebe said. "We don't have a personal agenda that's influencing what we do. We have a responsibility to save innocents. And despite whatever else we'd rather be doing, or where we'd rather be, right now that is our priority."

Horatio disappeared again.

"Let's get him back," Prue said.

"My turn," Stuart said. "I have a problem Horatio - and you're it!"

"No, no, stop this," Horatio begged.

"Only you can stop it," Prue said. "Renounce your wish the genie granted you. We know you made him give you the ability to do that."

"No...I want that power," he said.

"So that you can get back at The Elders," Piper said. "Is losing your sanity...."

Horatio disappeared again.

"Horatio, we need you to fix our problem," Prue said.

"As I was saying," Piper said as he re-appeared, "is losing your sanity worth it?"

Horatio put his hands to the side of his head, his fingers on his temples.

"All right, all right," he said. "I'll renounce it."

"OK," Piper said, "but just one thing first." She took out a small bottle from her pocket and threw its contents on Horatio. "That potion keeps our spell attached to you. So should you ever try to get this power back again, our spell will still be expanding it."

"Now renounce your wish!" Prue commanded him.

Horatio was breathing heavily as he looked at each of the girls, his hands still at the sides of his temples.

"I hereby renounce my wish that the genie granted me," he said.

The girls looked at him and then at each other.

"Let's be sure," Stuart said and he left the room and went into the kitchen.

Horatio's breathing slowed, removed his hands from his head and put them down.

Stuart peaked his head in from the kitchen.

"He's still with you," he said. "He didn't come to me when I said I had a problem."

"You think you're so clever," Horatio said. "But you're just pawns for The Elders. Don't rely on them to protect you. They're just using you. They don't really care about what happens to you. You had better watch out for yourselves."

Horatio turned around, went to the front door and left.

"Phew!" Phoebe said. "He's gone and that's over with. We're safe."

Prue exhaled.

"What's wrong?" Phoebe asked.

"Horatio was right about one thing," Prue said. "The Elders are using us. From the day they made our Charmed characters real. And we do have to watch out for ourselves."

 

"So this Horatio really messed up our future," Kelly said. She was sitting next to Stuart on his right, while the three sisters sat on his left, in their regular booth at P3.

"Very much so," Stuart said. "Especially for you and me."

"What do you mean?" the young witch asked.

"Let's just say that you and I, uh...we didn't have a future," Stuart said.

"Oh!" Kelly gasped. Seeing Kelly's reaction, Stuart offered her his hand in re-assurance and she took it quickly and firmly.

"But that future won't happen," Piper said. "You'll be OK, Kelly."

"And you will be too, Stuart. Right?" Kelly asked.

"Yes, me too," he said.

Was there something extra in Kelly's concern for Stuart? Phoebe thought. Was there something personal in that worry about him? No, I'm being silly and paranoid. Their relationship in that future is making me see things that aren't there. With the future fixed, that relationship will never happen. I'm just imagining things, now.

And then Phoebe noticed that Kelly had not let go of Stuart's hand. And she was also looking at him intensely.

"People talking about their problems stopped Horatio and that future," Stuart assured Kelly.

"Maybe we should try doing what we told others to do," Piper said. "And talk about our problems."

"Like finding these demons who want to bring great destruction by the solstice," Prue said.

"Uh, yes...among other problems," Piper said.

Uh, not with Kelly sitting here, Prue thought, just as Leo walked over to join them.

"Leo," Piper said, "you didn't just orb into the middle of the club, did you?" she asked.

"No," he said, "I orbed into your office. I'm glad to see things are back to normal."

"Yes, we're no longer famous witches," Phoebe replied.

"Sic transit gloria," Leo said. 'That's Latin. It means ‘fame is fast fleeting’."

"Well, I wish our fame had fleeted even faster," Piper complained.

"Uh...I don't believe ‘fleeted’ is a word," Phoebe corrected her.

"Actually, it is. It's the past tense of the present participle ‘fleet’," Stuart said. "Though admittedly it sounds rather awkward and is rarely used."

"OK - enough of the Latin and English lessons for tonight," Prue said. "Leo, would you mind getting me another one of these," handing him her empty glass. "And maybe find some more munchies."

"And take Kelly with you," Phoebe added, wanting to get her away from Stuart. "Show her where things are in the Club."

"Uh, sure," Leo said. Kelly stood up and let go of Stuart's hand. Reluctantly, it seemed to Phoebe.

"Let me get all of yours refreshed," Leo said. "Kelly, would you mind helping me?"

"Not at all," Kelly replied to Leo. She took the glass from Piper and then from Phoebe, who gave Kelly a long look as she did.

"OK, Piper," Prue said, after Leo and Kelly left. "You want to talk about the problem of our being the Halliwells. And what could happen to us. Go ahead...maybe it will help you feel better."

"I really want to be Holly Combs again and not one of The Charmed Ones," Piper said. "But I've learned something from what's happened the past two days. Keeping our powers secret is very important. And using those powers to help innocents...is very important as well. We have to protect both our secret...and the innocents."

Prue put her arms around Piper and hugged her.

"And yes...I guess I do feel better having said that," Piper added.

"We will be ourselves again," Prue said. "But in the meantime...we have to use our powers...and be very careful how and when we use them."

"And pray that we make it through to the solstice and stop those demons in time, whoever they are," Phoebe said. "But...at least we know that Kelly won't be dying in your arms, Prue."

Phoebe's words triggered Prue's memory and her mind went there. It was the last episode from Charmed's first season; the episode in which both Piper and Phoebe did die in Prue's arms.

That was a script - it wasn't real, Prue thought. And that script then undid their deaths. But we're real world Halliwells, now. With real world present dangers that can't be undone by a script - or be undone by changing some future from happening.

"No...Kelly won't be dying in my arms," Prue said. Please, she thought, don't let Piper or Phoebe - or Stuart - die in my arms, either.

 

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