Charmed Role Reversal



A Paige From The Future

Phoebe and Cebrián each held onto the Ring tightly, using all of their physical and mental strengths. Each trying to concentrate and control what the Ring would do. Each knowing what would happen if the other gained control of it. The Ring, almost three feet in diameter, was spinning, first counter-clockwise twice, then reversing, and turning clockwise two times more. Holding on to it, Phoebe and the demon were being spun around and around with it.

From the corner of her eye Phoebe could see images appearing in The Manor’s living room. But she knew they weren't just images...they were real people. A girl in a metallic jump suit, flying around overhead, propelled by a feint stream of mist coming from a small cylinder strapped to her back.

A man in a blue waistcoat, britches, and black, triangular hat, a walking stick in his left hand. A knight in full armor, his sword drawn above his head, a shield held in his other hand. A blonde teenage girl, with an iPod hooked onto the belt of her tan shorts, aiming a small, flip-style cell phone to take a picture. Each would appear and then, after a few seconds, disappear, to be replaced by someone else.

A World War I doughboy, aiming his rifle and shooting, came next. Phoebe felt the bullet pass by her face and just miss her. He was replaced in a few seconds by three people wearing powder blue one-piece jump suits with the words Mars Colony IV on their backs.

The Ring was spinning faster and faster, now only one way in a clockwise direction. And Phoebe and the demon were being spun around with it, their feet now raised off the floor and sticking outwards. Phoebe knew she had to hold on and not let Cebrián take control of the ring. But the faster the Ring spun the harder it was for her to concentrate on trying to command it. Dizziness was combining with the centrifugal force, making it harder for Phoebe to maintain her grip.

But if she didn't hold on, if she let Cebrián take control of the Ring, the power that demon would summon could be un-stoppable. The past, the future, popping in and out around her in a mixture that was breaking down time, was but an inconsequential prelude to who Cebrián would bring through time if the demon gained control of the Ring.

Sparks began coming from the Ring. First just a few, then more and more sparks as they spun faster and faster. The sparks were burning Phoebe's hands. She felt she couldn't hold on much longer just as Stuart opened the door and walked in to The Manor.

Seeing Cebrián and Phoebe spinning, Stuart realized what has happening. He tried to get to the Ring to grab it and help Phoebe control it. But Phoebe and Cebrián were spinning so quickly, around and around, that he couldn't get through them to reach it.

Desperate, Stuart took a few steps backward, took a running start and jumped over them, trying to get to the Ring and grab on to it. Which he did.

At the same instant that Phoebe lost her grip on it.

And then there was an explosion.



Click speaker for Opening Credits Theme Song

Stuart was lying un-conscious face down on the living room floor. He began to stir and slowly, started to turn over.

"Ugh...ugh..." he grimaced, putting both his hands to his head.

After a moment he put his hands down, shook his head and looked around.

He was lying on the living room floor near the wall. There was no ring, no Cebrián - and no Phoebe.

Slowly, he picked himself up and took another look around the room. Hadn’t there been an explosion? Yes...he remembered it happening. But there was no damage to The Manor. Everything was neatly in its place, the early afternoon sun calmly brightening the room. Nothing to indicate anything had happened at all. It was clean...and quiet.

"Hey! Who are you?!" a voice demanded.

Stuart turned and saw a young woman standing at the foot of the stairs.

"Who...who are you?" Stuart countered.

"I asked you first," the young woman said, a tough look in her eyes. "You tell me who you are and how you got here."

"No," Stuart said. "You tell me what you're doing here in The Manor. And...where's Phoebe? I have to get to Phoebe!"

"Phoebe?!" the young woman repeated. "Phoebe's...oh...I know what you are. And how to deal with you."

The young woman held out her hand and concentrated. In a second, an energy ball materialized in her palm.

"This is for you, demon," she said and threw it at Stuart.

"AGH!" he screamed and dived, barely getting out of the ball's way.

"Paige, what's going on here?" Phoebe asked as she came into the room.

"He's a demon," Paige said.

"Phoebe - what's happening?" Stuart asked, crouching on the floor.

"Who?" Phoebe asked.

Paige held out her hand and another energy ball appeared in it.

"Phoebe - what is this...who is she?" Stuart asked.

"I'm Julie!" Phoebe said firmly, giving Stuart a stern look.

"What...what are you talking about, Phoebe," Stuart said.

Paige raised her hand to throw the energy ball at him.

"Wait!" Phoebe said.

Hearing the commotion, Piper came running into the living room.

"What..." she started to say, then saw the energy ball in Paige's hand and Stuart in the corner. "Whoa...what's going on here?"

"Piper!" Stuart said. "Will you tell her to stop throwing those things?"

"Piper?!" Piper repeated slowly.

"He called me Phoebe," Phoebe said.

"He found out who we are," Paige said, "so he's a demon."

"Piper...Phoebe...it's me. Stuart," he said.

"Stuart?" Piper asked.

Stuart looked back and forth between Piper and Phoebe.

"Oh my goodness," he said, "you don't recognize me. What happened?" He stopped. "The explosion," he said. "The explosion must have...done something. But Piper, you weren't even in The Manor when the Ring exploded."

"OK," Piper said, "let's just stop for a minute." She motioned to him to stand up. "Your name is Stuart?"

"Yes," he answered slowly, getting up.

"I'm Jenny Bennett and this is Julie Bennett," Piper continued. "And you think you know us?"

Stuart shook his head.

"Don't you remember who you are?" Stuart asked. "You're Piper and you're Phoebe. Halliwell.

He stared at Phoebe for a few seconds.

"But your hair, Phoebe...it's different...the style," he said. "Why...how did it change from just a few minutes ago?"

The three girls looked at each other.

"Wait right here," Piper said. She started towards the parlor then stopped and turned around. "Don't move!" she ordered Stuart.

In a minute Piper returned, holding a mirror.

"Stand next to us," she said to Stuart, motioning for him to join them. Stuart walked over and Piper held up the mirror to the three of them. Paige got tired of holding the energy ball, shrugged her shoulders and orbed it out.

"What..." Stuart started to say as he stared into the mirror. "How...you're not in...whose reflections are those?" he asked.

"He can see us," Piper said.

"How is that possible?" Phoebe asked. "The spell we cast let's only those close to us see us as we really are."

"I am close to you," Stuart said. "Don't you remember?"

"No, we've never seen you before," Piper said.

Stuart shook his head.

"I don't understand this," he said.

"Neither do we," Paige said. "Do you know me?"

"No, I don't," Stuart said.

"I'm Jo," Paige said, then gave an upward roll of her eyes with a slight rocking of her head. "OK, I'm really Paige Mathews."

"Paige?" Stuart repeated. "And you're a witch?" Paige nodded her head.

"I'm their sister," she said.

"Sister?!" Stuart exclaimed. "Piper, what is she talking about?"

"We have to figure out who you are and how you know who we are," Piper said.

"Maybe this will help," Phoebe said, taking Stuart's hands and clasping hers around them.

"Oh!" Phoebe exclaimed, her eyes closing. She stood that way for half a minute, then opened her eyes, let go of Stuart's hands and tried to catch her breath.

"What did you see?" Piper asked.

"I...I saw Stuart and me in The Manor...kissing," Phoebe said. "Passionately." She took a deep breath. "And..." She stopped.

"And..." Piper said. "Go on."

"We turned around and saw two people in the parlor, smiling at us," Phoebe said. "You, Piper. And...Prue."

"Prue?" Paige asked.

Phoebe closed her eyes for a second, then opened them, took another deep breath and nodded her head in confirmation.

"Prue..." Piper said. "Then what you saw was in the past."

"But it never happened," Paige said.

"Of course it happened," Stuart said.

"I don't understand how..." Phoebe said.

"And I don't understand why you don't remember," Stuart said, taking Phoebe's hands in his. She started to pull her hands away then stopped, changed her mind and let him hold them. "I've been living in The Manor with-"

"You think you've been living here?" Paige asked. "What are you talking about!"

"I'm talking about saving innocents," Stuart said. "About The Book of Shadows, about the four of us fighting demons. The four of us, that is, with Prue. And where is Prue?"

Piper glanced at Phoebe then looked back to Stuart.

"Prue..." Piper started to say, then hesitated. "Prue...is dead."

"What?!" Stuart exclaimed. "That's impossible. I...I was just with Prue a little while ago."

Piper exhaled.

"OK," she said, "let's all sit down and try to make some sense out of this." They walked over to the sofa and Piper motioned to Stuart to take the chair on the side.

"You said you were with Prue today," Piper said..

"Yes," Stuart said, "we were trying to get the Ring before Cebrián got full control of it."

"Who's Cebrián?" Paige asked.

"A powerful demon," Stuart said. "He wanted to use the Ring - the Ring of Daldode - to break down the walls of time and bring together demons from the past, demons who had been vanquished by witches in their time. By grabbing them out of their time before they were vanquished, he could use them and their powers in the present. Bring them to the present and put them together with his own coterie of demons. The combined power would be devastating."

"And you...with Prue...stopped him?" Paige asked.

"Together with Phoebe, too," Stuart said. "Temporarily.

"Phoebe made up a spell to keep the Ring moving so Cebrián couldn't hold onto it for long," Stuart continued. "But before she could say the spell he was able to hold on to it just long enough to bring back two demons - along with a few people from the past and the future. The Ring just breaks down the walls of time. The one holding the Ring concentrates on who he wants to bring through time but once the wall is breached others can just fall through the opening. From the past and from the future. In this case, ordinary people. Prue made up a spell to send the people back. I was helping her find them and do that while Phoebe was trying to come up with a way to vanquish Cebrián."

"And that was...today?" Phoebe asked.

"Yes," Stuart said. "But one of the vanquished demons Cebrián brought back from the past had the knowledge of how to keep control of the Ring despite Phoebe's spell. Somehow, both Cebrián and the Ring wound up here in The Manor. When I came home I saw you, Phoebe, and Cebrián, both holding onto the Ring. You were trying to keep Cebrián from getting control of it. Maybe even being a counterbalance to him. The Ring was spinning around and around and you were both spinning with it. I jumped at the Ring to try to help you. I...I think you lost your grip just as I grabbed it.

"Then there was an explosion," he continued. "The next thing I knew I woke up on the floor. And Paige was trying to vanquish me."

"Sorry," Paige said, giving an upward roll of her eyes and a slight rocking of her head along with a shrug of her shoulders. "I thought you were a demon."

"Prue..." Piper said, "...was killed by a demon four-and-a-half years ago."

"Four and..." Stuart said. "That's impossible. You weren't even witches back then. It's only been a month since The Elders made you into the Charmed Ones."

"We've been the Charmed Ones for over seven years," Phoebe said. "And The Elders had nothing to do with it. We've been witches from the day we were born. We just didn't know about it until seven years ago."

A look of disbelief crossed Stuart's face.

"What do you think today's date is?" Piper asked him.

"It's...June," he said. "June...uh-"

"And the year?" Piper asked, before he could finish.

"2000, of course," Stuart said.

The girls looked at each other.

"It's October," Piper said. "2005."

"That's...uh..." Stuart started to say. Then he stopped and shook his head. He knew better than to say traveling five years in the future was impossible.

"You said there was an explosion when you grabbed onto the Ring," Phoebe said, "and that the walls of time were breaking down. Something must have happened that propelled you into the future."

"A future," Stuart said, slowly, "in which you don't know me. In which you're mixed up about how you became..." He suddenly stopped as a disturbing thought came to him.

"Alyssa," he said to Phoebe.

"Who?" Phoebe asked.

Stuart stared at her for a second then turned to Piper.

"Holly?" he said.

"Who's Holly?" Piper asked.

"Oh, my goodness," Stuart said. "Oh...my goodness."

"What?" Phoebe asked.

"You don't remember Charmed?" he asked.

"Charmed?" Phoebe repeated.

"The show," Stuart said. "Hollywood. Being brought by The Elders to San Francisco."

The girls shook their heads slightly and gave him blank stares.

"Oh, my goodness," he said. "This is a future without its past."

"We have a past," Paige said.

"Yes," Stuart said, "only it's not the past that really happened. It's a Charmed only past.   With...a Charmed only future."

 

The sun had set some ten minutes earlier and the sky was partially pink. Standing on The Manor's top step, Stuart watched a plane fly by, silhouetted against the day's last light. Though it was getting a little chilly, he felt he needed to be outside where he could think.

"Hi," a familiar voice said. He turned around and saw Phoebe coming outside and closing the front door behind her. She was wearing a blue pullover sweater and was holding a brown sweater in her hand.

"It can get chilly at night this time of year," she said. "I thought you could use this. It's Leo's."

"Leo's," Stuart said. "Uh...I don't think he'd-"

"It's OK," she said, smiling as she handed it to him. Stuart hesitated, then took it and slipped it over his head.

"Thanks," he said. "So...you’ve faked your deaths and are hiding out under aliases."

"We're not exactly hiding," Phoebe said. "We’re living here in The Manor. The spell just makes us look different to everyone else. Piper is still running P3, albeit as her distant cousin Jenny. And I've picked up where I left off - uh, where Phoebe left off - as her cousin, Julie."

"My Phoebe - and Prue and Piper too - longed for being normal people," Stuart said. "And now, you've accomplished that here."

"I remember how we felt back then," Phoebe said. "That's in my past, too."

Stuart looked at her for a moment.

"But in my past you...uh, they recognized that they were given a responsibility," he said. "A responsibility that no one else could carry out. And they accepted, at least for a time, that they had to save innocents. And save the world."

"We did, too," Phoebe said. "But that time has passed. We've paid our dues."

"Don't you ever worry about what the demons are doing?" he asked. "About what evil is happening that you're not stopping?"

Phoebe hesitated.

"It can't be helped," she said. "There was no other way. It was either being fake dead or really dead." She hesitated again. "Like Prue," she added.

Stuart didn't understand that. The thought of Prue dying was too much for him to accept.  Yes, Prue had died in his time but that was because the timeline had been altered. Once they corrected the timeline she was alive again, as she was supposed to be.

And yes, Piper told him Prue had died a year later. That is, a year later in his time, in the time he came from. In May of 2001. But once those demons planning major destruction, the ones Shannen, Holly and Alyssa had been turned into witches to stop, were vanquished, they hoped The Elders would make them back into actresses, again. And that would be much sooner than a  year later.

But there had been no way to explain all of that to them. He saw it was beyond their comprehension - and he couldn't blame them. Whatever the Ring did to time somehow altered both parts of the future and memories of the past. Or had the past truly been changed, changed now for the sisters the same way it was changed for everyone else when The Elders made The Halliwells real?

Stuart didn't know - he just had to accept things the way they were. And if he didn't understand it he couldn't expect them to understand it, either. So he let it go and hadn't mention Charmed again.

He turned and looked up at the sky. The pink was starting to turn a dark purple.

"You know you're welcome to stay here," Phoebe said.

"In the extra bedroom," he said, turning back to her, "just like last time."

"Uh...the extra bedroom is being used by Wyatt," Phoebe said. "And occasionally also by Billie."

"Who's Billie?" Stuart asked.

"An inexperienced witch we're sort of training," she said. "But, it's OK. I'll move in with Paige and give you my room."

"Paige will not be happy sharing her room because of me," Stuart said.

"She's lived in worse conditions," Phoebe said.

"Are...you sure?" he asked.

"It's the least I can do for someone who's saved my life," she said.

"Except...that you don't really believe that what I told you about it ever happened," he said.

"I believe that...some place...in some timeline...you did save my life," Phoebe said. "Twice," she added, with a small smile.

"You know...this is deja vu," Stuart said. "Last time it was Prue who didn't trust me. Now, it's Paige and Piper who don't trust me."

"Piper does trust you," Phoebe said. "She's just...being careful. As for Paige...she'll learn to accept you."

"Piper is different here," Stuart said. "She’s much more in charge. She’s..."

"The older sister," Phoebe said and Stuart nodded his head in agreement. "Piper’s changed since Prue died. She’s had to."

Stuart exhaled.

"I used to come out here with you...uh, with...my Phoebe," he said. "Just to take a break for a few minutes from our demon hunting, demon evading world. We'd take a deep breath of the night air and you...uh, Phoebe, would put her arm around mine and hold my hand."

Phoebe edged closer to Stuart, looked up at the sky and took a deep breath.

"You mean...like this?" she asked, as she slid her arm around his and took his hand.

Stuart turned to her and looked into her eyes. Then he closed his eyes, held them shut for a few seconds, opened them and exhaled.

"This...this is so hard," he said. "You're Phoebe...but you're not Phoebe. At least, not the Phoebe I could..."

"Kiss?" she asked. She drew herself closer to him and brought her lips next to his. For a few seconds they didn't move.

And then they both moved - and their lips touched. Then their arms came around and they embraced each other as they held their kiss.

As their kiss ended they drew back slightly and looked at each other.

"You are Phoebe," he said.

Phoebe sighed.

"But not your Phoebe," she said. "I...I'm involved with someone."

"Oh," he said.

"That is, I'm sort of involved," she said. "Uh...trying to get more involved."

Phoebe saw the look on Stuart's face.

"I...had this premonition," she said, "about Dex - that's his name - about him marrying me. And I felt it was time to be married so...I set about trying to make my premonition come true."

"Obviously it hasn't," he said.

"Not yet," Phoebe said. "But...it's getting closer. Or, at least he and I are getting closer."

Stuart exhaled. Phoebe saw small tears form in Stuart's eyes as he tried to hold them back.

"I know this is hard for you," Phoebe said. "It's confusing for me. After what I saw in my premonition of the past. And...what I just felt when we kissed. I felt something that...transcended timelines. Something that confirms the image in my premonition. That other Phoebe from the past is one lucky girl."

Stuart closed his eyes for a second and sighed.

"Given all of that...are you sure you want me staying in The Manor?" he asked.

Phoebe took Stuart's hand and squeezed it.

"Yes," she said. "This is where you belong."

 

"I just can't accept what he says happened," Leo said. The moonlight illuminated his face as he lay in bed, his right side propped up by his right arm. "Everything is as it should be. Time has continued all along without any change."

"He told us you would say that," Piper said, lying on her back next to him on his right. "He said time got changed once before and you said the same thing about it then."

"Then maybe he's making it all up," Leo said.

"For what reason?" Piper asked.

"I don't know," Leo said. "I don't trust him."

"He told us you felt that way about him five years ago, too," Piper said. "At least until you realized how committed he was to fighting evil with us."

"He's making good guesses about what I'm saying and feeling about him," Leo said.

"Either that," Piper said, "or he really does know you."

"How can you believe that?" Leo asked.

"Hmmm...he has an intimate knowledge of everything about The Manor," Piper said, "the Book of Shadows and our lives. Including the specific innocents we saved and the specific demons and warlocks we vanquished during the first two years we were the Charmed Ones. Everything up until June of 2000, which is when he says the Ring of Daldode sent him here. I don't think he could guess all of that."

"Maybe," Leo said, "but -"

"And," Piper continued, "he can see us as we really are. Who we really are. The spell doesn't let anyone we aren't close to see us that way."

"Exactly," Leo said. "He can't really see us. So he's somehow figured out-"

"And then there's Phoebe's premonition from the past," Piper said. "We know her premonitions of the future can be changed. But the past is the past. What she saw really happened." She exhaled.

"Somewhere...in some past," she said.

 

 "We've traveled through time more than once," Phoebe said the next afternoon as they sat around in the living room. "So we know how confusing and changeable time travel and timelines can be."

"You change one small thing in the past," Piper said, "and that can cause very big changes in the future."

"That's the same thing you said when my timeline got changed before," Stuart said.

"Well," Piper said, "it's good to know I'm consistent across both timelines."

"Or...it can change a small thing in the past," Paige said. "Maybe what you think you remember as your past was actually what got changed."

Stuart shook his head 'no'.

"The Ring of Daldode was breaking down the walls of time in the past and in the future," Piper said. "A small change to the future, a small change to the past, put it together and wham! It all gets mixed together."

"Into something that maybe is not exactly what was supposed to be," Phoebe said.

"Wait a minute," Paige said, "do you know what you're saying? You're saying that we're...not really who we are."

"And Stuart is the link," Piper said. "When you grabbed the Ring, you were the catalyst for what happened."

"Are you saying it's all my fault?" Stuart asked, sounding a little upset.

"No," Phoebe said, "you didn't do anything wrong. You were trying to stop Cebrián. And trying to save...me."

"Maybe Phoebe was still holding on to it with one hand when you grabbed it," Piper said, "and the combination of the two of you against Cebrián made the explosion."

"Or maybe you grabbed it," Phoebe said, "just as Cebrián got control of it and caused some kind of..."

"Short in time," Leo said, coming into the room.

"I thought you were playing a game with Wyatt, Honey," Piper said.

"We were," Leo said, "but he got a little tired so he's taking a nap."

"So you believe me now?" Stuart asked.

"I believe...that it's theoretically possible to short out time," Leo said. "If something was causing a temporal change and the time circuits got overloaded just at that instant."

"The Ring was sparking when I grabbed it," Stuart said. "Shorts cause sparks."

"I didn't say I believed that is what happened," Leo continued. "That would mean that us...that Wyatt...shouldn't exist. I won't accept that our son-"

"It doesn't mean Wyatt wouldn't exist," Stuart said. "The surroundings, or how you got to this point in the timeline...just might be a little different. Look, Wyatt is already different from the future child you once saw, Piper. From the timeline you were in."

"Let's not go there," Piper said. "Let's just say that your past, Stuart, was somehow also real. And that Cebrián and his plan to bring back pre-vanquished demons was real, too."

"Then everyone is in great danger," Phoebe said.

"If Cebrián succeeded," Paige said, "if he really brought all of those demons together, and controlled all of that power, then we shouldn’t be here like this. If he caused that much devastation we would know about it. Right?"

"Maybe he didn't do anything," Phoebe said. "That explosion could have destroyed the Ring."

"Or the explosion could have been part of Cebrián's success in controlling it," Piper said. "With a demon with potentially that much power, we can't leave any loose ends."

"Oh, I'm so glad to hear you say that," Billie said as she came into the room. "We have demon loose ends and we can't leave them around."

"What are you talking about?" Leo asked.

"Anastos," Billie said.

"We vanquished him," Leo said.

"And only because you were about to get yourself killed," Piper said. "We could have blown our cover doing that."

"But there was another demon," Billie said.

"You don't know that," Phoebe said.

"Yes, I do!" Billie insisted. "I followed Anastos around. He wasn't smart enough to do that stuff on his own. He had to be working for a smarter, and a more powerful, demon."

"We can't worry about that," Phoebe said. "We're retired."

"But all you have to do is go over to Mission and see if another demon is lurking around," Billie said.

"We can't risk being exposed," Piper said. "We can't go there."

"Uh...but I can," Stuart said.

"You?" Paige asked.

"I have enough experience around demons that I could spot one," Stuart said. "If he's there."

"That's dangerous," Phoebe said.

"Fighting demons always is," Stuart said. "What was Anastos doing?"

"Taking the good out of people," Piper said, "and replacing it with demonic evil. He did that to four or five people in the Mission District."

"Had he continued," Billie said, "he could have destroyed countless innocents. But we stopped him."

"At the risk of our being unmasked and all the demons who want to kill us knowing that we're still alive," Piper said, pointedly.

"But I won't pose any risk to your cover," Stuart said. "No one knows I have a connection to you. Hmph...I don't have a connection to anyone in this time."

"You," Billie said, "you'll go and find him. And then we'll vanquish him."

"No!" Piper said, "Stuart's not going to go looking for him and we're not going to vanquish anyone. We don't do that anymore."

"Well someone has to!" Billie said. "Isn't that right, Stuart?"

Stuart looked at Billie, then at Piper and Phoebe.

"Look," he said, "I'll just go over to the Mission District and look around. That's all."

Piper looked at Phoebe and Paige. Then she turned back to Stuart and reluctantly nodded her head.

"Good," Billie said. "And I'll come with you."

"No, you won't," Leo said. "You'll stay right here. If you want to do something useful there are three books on spells and potions in the attic waiting for you to start studying them."

 

A few people passed Stuart as he stood on the corner of Mission and 20th Street. This was near the buildings where, Billie told him, Anastos had taken his victims. A few schoolgirls that appeared to Stuart to be about twelve or thirteen years old, walking singly or in pairs, were strolling across the street and turning the far corner. They were enjoying the sunny afternoon, early October being part of the mild and pleasant summer in San Francisco's peculiar seasonal calendar.

Stuart crossed Mission Street, walked a few yards down 20th Street and then stopped. He hadn't seen any demons, nor anything that seemed even in the slightest way suspicious. Stuart looked down the street but saw nothing out of the ordinary. He was slowly stepping backwards, the better to see all of the building and alleys on both sides of the street when he bumped into someone behind him.

Startled, and immediately suspecting a demon, he quickly turned around.

"Billie!" he said. "What are you doing here? You're supposed to be back at The Manor studying."

"I forgot to tell you about the Pentarod," she said.

"Pentarod?" he asked. "What's that?"

"It's a silver rod about eighteen inches tall," she said, "with a pentagram on top. That's what Anastos used to replace the good with evil in the innocents. You have to be looking for someone holding it."

Stuart exhaled.

"OK, you've told me," he said. "Now go back to The Manor."

"No," Billie said. "Now that I'm here I'm not going to just leave."

"Billie," Stuart said, "you're a witch in training. You're not ready to take on this demon."

"I'm more of a witch than you are," Billie said. "You're not a witch at all. You don't even have any powers to use against this demon."

"What I have," Stuart said, "is the experience to know how much I can do. And when not to try to do anything but to call for help, instead."

"You mean...like now?" Billie asked, motioning with her head towards the alley behind him.

Stuart turned around and saw a man about thirty yards away near the alley approaching a schoolgirl. He stood about five foot-nine, had curly grey hair and was wearing an olive-grey jacket over a drab mock turtleneck. In his right hand he held a silver rod with a pentagram at its top.

"See," Billie said, "I was right. Let's go."

"No!" Stuart said.

"No?" she asked. "We can't let him make that girl into someone evil."

"And we can't stop him," Stuart said. "I just told you about knowing when not to try anything but instead to get help."

"It will be too late," Billie said.

"We don't have the powers to stop him," Stuart said.

"Some of us don't," Billie said. "It's a good thing I'm here." She moved in front of Stuart, put her fingers in her mouth and gave a loud whistle.

"Hey you, demon," she called out as she started moving quickly towards him. "Over here."

The demon looked up at Billie. Stuart thought he saw a look of recognition on the demon's face. Stuart gritted his teeth, shook his head slightly and exhaled. Then he hurried after Billie.

Closer to the demon now, Billie took two things from her pocket, put one in each of her hands and threw them on the ground in front of him. Two small explosions erupted.

Seeing that the demon was distracted, Stuart made a dash for the schoolgirl. He grabbed her and fell down with her, rolling with her towards the corner of the alley away from the demon. Frightened, the girl pushed Stuart away, jumped up and started running away from him in the direction of Billie.

The demon had recovered and now stood between Stuart and Billie, his eyes following the schoolgirl.

"Grab the girl and get her out of here," Stuart shouted at Billie. The girl had just reached Billie and she grabbed the girl with both hands.

"Let me go!" the girl cried.

"Now, Billie!" Stuart commanded. "Run!"

Billie hesitated for a second. Then she took the girl's arm securely in her hand and began running, pulling the terrified girl behind her.

Stuart was cornered, the demon standing between him and his only way out of the alley. The demon turned to him, his face full of fury, and pointed the Pentarod at him.

 

"Stuart hasn't called," Phoebe said, as they were sitting at the table in the kitchen having a snack. "So it must be OK."

"Uh, no, it isn't OK," Billie said, rushing in.

"What do you mean?" Phoebe asked slowly, giving Billie a stern look.

"The demon was there," Billie said.

"How do you know that?" Phoebe demanded.

"Because...I was there, too," Billie said.

"I told you to stay in the attic and study," Leo said.

"I know," Billie said, "but I forgot to tell Stuart about the Pentarod."

"What happened?" Piper asked firmly.

"The demon had an innocent, a young schoolgirl that he was going to use the Pentarod on," Billie said.

"Don't tell me," Paige said, "you tried to stop the demon."

"I know, I shouldn't have tried going up against the demon," Billie said. "Stuart told me not to, that we should call for you."

"But you didn't listen," Phoebe said.

"She was an innocent," Billie said, in defense.

"What happened?" Piper asked.

"I distracted the demon," Billie said, "and Stuart ran right past him, grabbed the girl and pushed her away. The demon started to recover and Stuart told me to get the girl out of there. Which I did."

"And Stuart?" Phoebe asked.

"He was on the other side of the demon," Billie said. "He couldn't get away."

"You left Stuart there-" Phoebe started to yell.

"Look...I feel bad, very bad," Billie said. "I know I messed up."

"You did more than that!" Phoebe said, angrily.

"Stop," Piper said. "There'll be plenty of time to yell at Billie later. Right now our concern is Stuart."

"That demon must have been really mad that Stuart got that schoolgirl away from him," Paige said. "I don't think there's any doubt he used the Pentarod on Stuart in revenge."

"We'll have to make up the potion to reverse it," Phoebe said.

"Wait," Paige said, "I didn't know we had a potion."

"We didn't make it up for Anastos' victims," Phoebe said, "because we could not walk in to their homes and tell their families to give them a potion to drink that would suddenly make them all better without revealing who we are."

"And because the potion can't reverse the process without aiming the Pentarod," Piper said, "which we didn't have."

"And still don't," Paige said.

"But we can get it," Leo said. "This is the second time Billie has interfered with this demon, whoever he is. He's going to want to find Billie and kill her. He's used the Pentarod on Stuart so he has a simple way of finding Billie."

"Follow Stuart to The Manor," Paige said.

There was the noise of the front door being flung open.

"That...should be Stuart," Piper said.

They hurried out of the kitchen and saw Stuart walking down the hallway towards them. He looked very different to Paige. Gone was the goodness she had seen in him. In its place was a look of hate.

"Stuart," Phoebe said, tentatively approaching him. "What happened?"

"What happened," he said, "is that I can sense that you reek from kindness."

"Stuart," Phoebe said, "you've been- AGH!"

With the back of his hand, Stuart hit Phoebe across her face and knocked her down. Piper quickly raised her hand and froze him.

"OK," Piper said, "we know what's happened to Stuart. Let's get him into the kitchen."

Paige went to close the front door as Phoebe got up. Piper and Leo pulled Stuart with them and put him down on the kitchen floor.

"Do we have all of the potion's ingredients?" Paige asked as she rejoined them.

"Fortunately, yes," Phoebe said.

"How fast can you make the potion?" Billie asked, with a sense of guilt.

"Not fast enough," Piper said.

"Uh...you can just keep re-freezing Stuart until Phoebe's ready," Billie said.

"He's not the one I'm worried about," Piper said.

There was the noise of the front door being flung open again.

"He's the one I'm worried about," Piper said, pointing towards the front of The Manor.

"The demon!" Paige and Phoebe said together.

"We need the spell you used on Anastos," Paige said.

"I still have it here," Phoebe said, grabbing her purse from the counter.

"I told you this demon is more powerful than Anastos," Billie said. "That won't work on him. You need a stronger spell."

"We don't have time to make up a new spell," Paige said firmly. "That demon is in our living room!"

"Then we'll change the words from singular to plural and say the spell together," Piper said, "using the Power of Three. And hope that will make up the difference."

"Got it," Phoebe said, pulling a folded paper from her purse.

"Ready?" Piper asked.

"And with our new selves we were supposed to be safe from demons trying to kill us," Paige said, wistfully.

"Let's do it," Billie said.

"Not you," Leo said to Billie. "That demon is after you."

"I can-" Billie started to say

"Stay here and watch Stuart," Leo said, cutting her off. "We can't have him in there together with that demon."

"Well...what do I do if he unfreezes?" Billie asked.

"You've been practicing your fighting skills," Leo said. "Stuart's human. Knock him out."

"Oh," Billie said, an un-comfortable look on her face.

Leo and the three sisters hurried out of the kitchen and saw the demon standing at the end of the hallway. He looked them over and, not seeing Billie whom he was after, raised the Pentarod.

"Watch out!" Leo said.

Paige pushed her open palms at the demon and hurled two fireballs at him. But the demon only hissed at them as the fireballs bounced off of him. Piper then raised her hand to freeze him but nothing happened.

"Ohhh," Phoebe said, "he's a lot stronger than Anastos." The girls and Leo quickly ran to the sofa and, using it as cover, crouched behind it.

"This had better work," Paige said, as the three sisters held hands.

"And make sure that Pentarod doesn't get vanquished with him," Phoebe said, as she held the spell with her free hand.

    "Hear us now, this spell we say,    

      To make this demon go away;    

      Through times of old to times of modernity    

      We vanquish this demon for all of eternity."

A fire suddenly surrounded the demon. A look of fear came over the demon's face as he realized what was happening. Leo quickly orbed in between the demon and the fire. He grabbed the Pentarod out of the distracted demon's hand and orbed out just as the fire reached the demon.

Three loud screams came from the demon and then he was gone.

"Got it," Leo said as the sisters stood up.

"Phew!" Phoebe exhaled. "It worked."

"You know, we don't even know the demon's name," Paige said.

"An anonymous demon is just as good," Phoebe said, "as long as he's a vanquished demon."

"Stuart...and Billie," Piper said, concern in her voice. They hurried back into the kitchen to see Billie land her right fist across Stuart's jaw. Having been sitting up, Stuart now fell backwards, his head hitting the floor with a loud thump, his arms spread out on either side of him.

"Oh!" Phoebe said, rushing to his side.

"I told you to knock him out, not to kill him," Leo said.

"Well...how was I supposed to know he couldn't take my punch," Billie said.

"Leo," Phoebe said.

Leo knelt down next to Stuart and put his hands on Stuart's head.

"He's OK," Leo said. "There's no damage to his head. He's just knocked out."

"Let's make the potion," Piper said, picking up the Pentarod, "and get Stuart back to being himself."

 

"I want you to know how much I appreciate everything you've done for me the past three days," Stuart said. "You've made me feel at home here. You've let me be part of the family, again. But...I...don't belong here...I have to get back to my time."

"Because of Dex?" Phoebe asked cautiously.

Stuart exhaled.

"That's part of it," he said. "But it's also the feeling that I've...abandoned the people who need me. The people I can help. The time I can help. Whenever, or wherever, that time is."

"You still feel that Cebrián is a danger?" Piper asked.

"I don't know," Stuart said. "But...I just have this feeling...that I have to stop Cebrián before he does something."

"But even if Cebrián did something," Leo said, "or will do something, there's nothing that we can do about it. Besides the risk of blowing our cover, we're here. In the now...the future...in this timeline. We're not then, whenever this happened."

"But...we can be," Piper said.

"What do you mean?" Phoebe asked.

"Paige made some changes to a spell she found in the Book of Shadows," Piper said. "She changed it so that it would take Stuart back to his past."

"Paige...did that for me?" Stuart asked, surprised.

"After you risked your life to save that schoolgirl from the demon, Paige realized that you really were on our side," Piper said. "And that you deserved the chance to go back to your timeline."

"I told you she'd accept you," Phoebe said.

"You're sure you want to do this?" Piper asked.

"Yes," Stuart said, nodding his head. "I have to."

 

"When Stuart goes back he'll have knowledge of the future," Leo said, watching Piper prepare Wyatt's lunch in the kitchen.

"Of a future," Phoebe said.

"Even if only part of this is their future," Leo said, "it's still dangerous for him to have that knowledge."

"Leo's right," Piper said. "It needs to be erased."

"I can erase it," Leo said.

"Without Stuart knowing?" Phoebe asked.

"No," Piper said, "that wouldn't be fair. He has to agree to it."

"I'll talk to him," Phoebe said.

 

"Time can be so unbending and yet be so delicate," Phoebe said to Stuart. They were walking in Crissy Field, near the waters of San Francisco Bay, along a path partially shaded from the afternoon sun by a grove of Monterey cypress trees.

"Past and future can be changed so easily," Stuart said, "if you do something in the right circumstances."

"Or have the right knowledge," Phoebe said.

She stopped walking and turned to him.

"You have knowledge of the future," she said, "a knowledge involving us. Of what happens to all of us."

"Including, of what...may happen to Prue," Stuart said. He still couldn't bring himself to accept her future death.

"That knowledge...can be dangerous," Phoebe said. "It can change things...that mustn't be changed. Things that have to happen. That knowledge can't be used."

"Like when you went back in time and had the chance to warn your Mom about the demon at the lake," Stuart said. "You wrote her a note but then didn't leave it for her."

Phoebe was silent for a few seconds thinking about her mother. Then nodded her head in agreement.

"I know that was hard for you," he said.

"And I know it would be hard for you, too, with Prue," Phoebe said. "Look, I want so much for my sister to be alive..." Phoebe stopped, closed her eyes for a second and exhaled.

"But...she can't be," Phoebe said. "Not if it means the timeline will be disturbed. That's why...it's best if your memories of being here, in this time, are erased before you go back."

"So Leo's going to 'heal' my mind for memories that would make me 'ill'," he said.

"You know he can do that?" she asked, a little surprised.

"I've seen him do it before," he answered. "There were innocents who were taken into a story by a demon named Donato. It was a harrowing experience that was best for them not to remember so he made them forget."

"Leo's not going to do it to you without your knowledge," Phoebe said. "And your agreement."

Stuart turned away and looked out at the water and at the Golden Gate Bridge spanning the Bay. Some things, he thought, hadn't changed in the future. The bridge's orange coating, the Bay's blue water.

But Crissy Field had changed. The former Army airfield was a completed park now, with the trees, grass, walking and bicycling paths and the Warming Hut, with its gifts and snacks, all in place. Not in its initial stage of development, as he had last seen it.

It was different from the Crissy Field he had known.

And so was Phoebe...different from the Phoebe he had known.

He thought of the walks he'd taken with her over the bridge. Of the view of the Bay they had shared. And of the feelings they had shared as well as they looked down upon the water and the city.

He sighed and turned back to Phoebe.

"My memory of you...of us not being together," Stuart said, "is not one I want to keep. Tell Leo he can erase everything."

As Phoebe looked into Stuart's eyes, he could see a hint of a smile on her face. And in her eyes.

"My memory of my premonition of...us is one I want to keep," Phoebe said. She placed her hands on his arms, brought him closer to her and gently kissed him on his lips.

"And one that I will," she said.

 

 "This potion will vanquish Cebrián," Paige said, "and he won't be able to use the Ring."

"How will Stuart use it?" Phoebe asked. "If we send him back to when he left it will be too late."

"That's why we're sending him back to just before he left," Piper said. "When he comes into The Manor but before he goes for the Ring."

"Wait a minute," Leo said. "Since Stuart's memory of being here will be erased, how will he know to use the potion?"

"He won't," Paige said. "That's why I'm going back with him."

"What?!" Leo exclaimed. "You can't!"

"Someone has to be there to use the potion and stop Stuart from grabbing the Ring again," Paige said. "Piper and Phoebe can't go because they're already in that time. We don't what problems their being there together with themselves could cause. And we have enough timeline problems as it is."

"How will you get back here?" Phoebe asked.

"The same way Stuart got here," Paige said. "Using the breach in the walls of time that the Ring will make."

"But," Leo said, "there's no way to be certain that the affect of the Ring will be the same the second time. Your vanquishing Cebrián could change how time's walls are broken down. He won't be trying to control what the Ring does. The temporal breaches could be random."

"I won't be relying on that," Paige said. "I"ll orb myself back here through time. I'll just be using the Ring to open the time walls so I can orb through them."

"Paige, you can't do this," Leo said. "This is too dangerous. You don't know that your orbing will get you back here."

Paige shrugged her shoulders.

"If we've given up saving innocents here," Paige said, "maybe we should try to save some innocents in another time."

"Changing what happened in that past," Stuart said, "could...you may not get back here."

"If it doesn't change our existence here," Paige said, "then I'll get back to all of this. And if it does change it...then it won't matter. None of this will exist to come back to."

"I...don't know what to say," Stuart said. "Thank you...but if this doesn't work and I'm the cause of something happening to you..."

"Over the past four years, since I found out I was a half-witch half-whitelighter," Paige said, "I've seen that things have a way of working out. And anyway, there's your world of innocents that has to be saved."

 

Sparks began coming from the Ring. First just a few, then more and more sparks as they spun faster and faster. The sparks were burning Phoebe's hands. She felt she couldn't hold on much longer just as Stuart opened the door and walked in to The Manor. For a split second Stuart had the odd sensation that there were two of him there coming together. But the sensation quickly passed.

Seeing Cebrián and Phoebe spinning, Stuart realized what has happening and tried to get to the Ring to grab it and help Phoebe control it. But Phoebe and Cebrián were spinning so quickly, around and around, that he couldn't get through them to the Ring.

Desperate, Stuart took a few steps backward, getting ready to take a running start to jump over them and grab the Ring.

Suddenly someone grabbed Stuart and flipped him over and away from Phoebe and Cebrián. Landing on his stomach on the floor, Stuart turned over and got a fleeting look at a young woman.

Paige grabbed onto Cebrián and spun around with him for a few seconds as Phoebe lost her grip on the Ring. From the momentum of her spinning, Phoebe went flying across the room, hit the wall and fell face down on the floor, stunned.

Paige had the vial with the potion in one hand, using her finger as a cover to keep its contents from spilling out. Now she lifted her finger and threw the potion on the demon.

"Arghh!" Cebrián screamed as he began to burn up.

The Ring hovered in mid-air, and Paige put her hand through it. A white light formed around her, mostly but not completely hidden from Stuart's view by the growing fire consuming the demon. Sparks were still coming from the Ring as Paige grabbed it and orbed out with it.

"ARGHH!" Cebrián gave a final scream and then he was gone.

Stuart slowly got up. He looked around the room, saw Phoebe and hurried to her.

"Phoebe," he said, turning her over and lifting her head. "Phoebe, talk to me."

"Agh..." she said.

"Tell me you're all right," he said.

"I'm...all right," she said. She wanted to get up and Stuart helped her.

"What...happened?" she asked. "Where's Cebrián?"

"Gone," Stuart said. "Vanquished."

"Vanquished?" Phoebe asked. "How? Who?""

"I don't know," Stuart said. "I tried to grab the ring to help you. But just as I was about to, someone flipped me over and threw me down."

"Someone?" Phoebe asked. "Who?"

"I don't know," Stuart said. "I thought...I think I saw someone...a woman. But it was just a glimpse."

"Someone brought through time by the Ring?" she asked.

"I don't know," Stuart answered. "And then I saw Cebrián suddenly start to burn up."

"She vanquished him?" Phoebe asked.

"Maybe," Stuart said. "I was on the floor. I got just a glimpse of her with Cebrián."

Phoebe looked around The Manor.

"No one from the past is still here," she said.

"Nor from the future, either," Stuart said. "I saw some people when I came in who couldn't have been from the past. Or even from the present. Like this girl with a strange combination of a cell phone with a built-in camera."

"Where's the Ring?" Phoebe asked, with concern.

"It's...I don't see it," Stuart said. "Do you think it burned up with Cebrián?"

"If he was vanquished," Phoebe said, "the Ring should have remained." They slowly walked around the room, looking for it.

"It's not here," Stuart said.

"Maybe without Cebrián trying to control it," Phoebe said, "it flew away."

"Let's hope so," Stuart said.

The telephone started to ring. Phoebe made her way to the coffee table and picked it up.

"Hello," Phoebe said.

"Phoebe?" Piper said on the other end of the connection. "Are you all right?"

"Uh...yeah, I think so," she said.

"Those two demons that Leo and I were following," Piper said, "they suddenly burned up. As if someone vanquished them. But I didn't do it. And there wasn't anyone else near them to do it, either."

"Huh," Phoebe said. "Uh, yeah. Someone just vanquished Cebrián. He used the ring to bring those two demons here across time. They were probably tied to him so when he was vanquished they were vanquished with him."

"Who vanquished him?" Piper asked.

"We don't know," Phoebe said. "And the Ring is gone."

"Gone," Piper repeated. "I guess that's good."

"Uh...call Prue and let her know," Phoebe said.

"OK," Piper said. "We'll be home soon."

 

Phoebe, Piper and Prue were sitting on the sofa. Stuart was sitting in one armchair holding Kit. Leo, having just put down his now empty glass on the coffee table next to the open newspaper, sat in the other chair.

"So, we don't know how Cebrián was vanquished," Prue said, "nor who that woman you saw was."

"You're not even sure you did see anyone," Leo said.

"I think I saw her," Stuart said. "And someone definitely flipped me over to keep me away from the Ring."

"Maybe you just got knocked over by Phoebe's or Cebrián's legs as they spun around with the Ring," Piper said.

"I...don't think so," Stuart said, shaking his head. "I think it was done deliberately to stop me from getting to the Ring. And...I don't know, but I thought I saw the edge of a white light behind Cebrián as he was being vanquished."

"A white light, as in a whitelighter?" Piper asked.

"Your imagination," Leo said. "You were knocked down and surprised by the fire consuming Cebrián. That's what you saw. If a whitelighter had been here I would know about it.

"And besides," Leo added, "whitelighters can't vanquish demons."

"Well, it's not something we should be worrying about," Phoebe said. "The demons are vanquished, however it happened. And all of the people who fell through time are back where they belong."

"You're right," Stuart said. "But...I don't know why but something about this is...gnawing at me. I just...I really want to know who I saw."

"OK," Piper said, "I think we've all had enough for one day. Let's call it a night."

"I agree," Leo said. He stood up and everyone followed suit.

"Huh," Stuart said, as something in the opened newspaper on the coffee table caught his eye.

"Uh...you're probably going to think I'm silly," Stuart said, "but this girl in the paper...she reminds me of that girl...the one I saw."

"Think you saw," Leo said.

Piper turned the newspaper around to her, looked at the picture and recognized the girl.

"You're right," Piper said, "I do think you're silly. I know who that is and I guarantee you this girl is most certainly not a witch who can suddenly appear out of nowhere, vanquish demons and then...orb out."

Stuart shrugged his shoulders, put Kit down on the coffee table and together with the others went upstairs.

Kit edged over to the newspaper. The headline above the picture read "Good Reviews For Young Actress' Role In Movie The Last Stop." Kit meowed as she looked at the girl, then put her left front paw near the picture.

Below the picture was a name.

Rose Mc Gowan.


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