Charmed Role Reversal



The Past Just Ain't What It Used To Be

The crystals in the four corners of the square glowed brightly. The demon stood as close as he dared to the boundary they marked. He knew what would happen to him if he tried crossing it. Locked in the trap on one side of the room, he stared at the young woman facing him. She stood with her back to the open door behind her, a piece of paper held in her hand.

The young woman seemed startled. She looked around the room, then at the paper she was holding. She seemed confused as she looked up at the demon. She could see his eyes seething with hatred and desperation.

She looked once more at the paper, reading silently to herself the words written on it. When she finished, she looked up at the demon again. Then slowly, hesitatingly, she began to read the spell aloud.

"Take from us this demon of death

Who kills young innocents- ARRGHH!!!"

Two hands from behind her were grasping the base of her head, their fingers digging into it, excruciating pain shooting up to her brain.

"ARRGGHH!! ARRGGHH!!"

She twisted and turned, trying to move her hands. But the two hands on her head would not let go and turned with her, staying tightly behind her.

There was literally a fire burning inside of her head. She could no longer think about what to do to stop those hands. In fact, she could no longer think at all.

"ARRGGHH!! ARRGGHH!!"

Smoke was coming out of her head and her eyes bulged.

"ARRGGHH!!!"

He felt her body go limp in his hands and threw her against the wall. She slid down to the floor, her legs stretched out in front of her, and her head dropped down onto her chest.

He kneeled down next to her, grabbed her black hair and pulled her head up. Seeing her eyes frozen open, he placed his hand at the side of her neck.

"One interfering, powerful - and very dead - witch," he declared.

"Well done, Neville," the demon said. "Your timing is excellent, warlock. Now move one of the crystals and open the trap."

"Not so fast, Marco," Neville said, letting go of her head and standing up.

"I didn't follow you around for two days just for the pleasure of killing this witch - as much as I truly enjoyed feeling her die in my hands.

"I knew she would trap you and try to vanquish you. She was a smart witch, from a family of smart witches. She vanquished a lot of demons and warlocks. Something she'll never do again.

"I didn't take her powers before killing her," the warlock continued, looking down at her. "But there are others' powers that will make up for it. I should get an award for doing what no one else, including you, was able to do.

"But I'll settle instead for the powder."

"Powder?" Marco asked.

"Don't try to play with me, demon," Neville said, "or I might be tempted to leave you where you are. The powder. It's a small price to pay for my having saved your life."

Marco put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a small pouch. Laying it down near one of the crystals, he looked at the warlock.

"There it is, warlock," he said to him. Neville went over to the crystal and moved it away, breaking the square. Eyeing Marco warily, he picked up the pouch and stepped back away from him.

"I don't remember who each one is," Marco said as he stepped over the crystal. "Which one is this?"

"Was," Neville corrected him. He turned back to the dead woman, bent down and yanked her head up by her hair again.

"This one was Prue," he said.

"This dead witch...was Prue Halliwell."



Click speaker for Opening Credits Theme Song

Piper lost her balance and fell to the sidewalk. Phoebe kept running, caught herself and stopped short.

"What?" Piper began.

"Are you...hhh...all right?" Stuart asked, slightly out of breath, as he came running from behind them and helped Piper up.

Confused, Piper and Phoebe looked at each other.

"Hurry! Around the corner," Stuart said.

"Well?" he said, impatiently as they just stood there. "What are you waiting for??"

Piper looked at Stuart and then at Phoebe. She hesitated for a second but then decided.

"Let's go, Phoebe," she said.

They ran around the corner and came to the entrance of a small house. An alley ran to the right side of it and around behind it.

"Hurry upstairs, I'll check the alley," Stuart said.

Phoebe shook her head.

"Let's go up," Piper said, still confused, "carefully."

They went into the house and slowly ascended the stairs. The door to the apartment was open and they gingerly walked inside.

"Oh my God..." Piper exclaimed. She slowly approached Prue and knelt down beside her.

"No. NO!!" Piper shouted, lifting Prue's head.

"Prue?...Prue?" Phoebe repeated in disbelief as she slowly walked over to her.

"What is going on here?" Piper said, dazed. "This is not what we left from."

Phoebe stared at Prue's body, at the burn marks around her head, and her eyes filled with tears. She slowly turned and looked around the room.

"What is this? Where are we?" she asked.

Piper held Prue's head in her hands. Overwhelmed, she closed her eyes as tears began running down her cheeks.

"Oh no!!"

Piper opened her eyes at the sound of Stuart's voice.

He stood staring at Prue and shaking his head.

"We're too late? We're too late?" he said and started to sob.

"What is going on here?" Piper said to him, the pain she was feeling heard in her voice. Stuart didn't answer but just kept shaking his head.

Piper eased Prue's body down to the floor. She put her hands over Prue's open eyes, hesitated and then closed them. Standing up, she grabbed Stuart by the shoulders and shook him.

"Stuart! We have to know what is going on here!" she shouted at him.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"We just came back from the past," Piper said to him. "We went back in time to save you from Jlt."

"What are you talking about?" Stuart said.

"What happened here?" Phoebe asked. "What is this place? Why did Prue come here??"

"What?..." Stuart said. "Marco must have done something to you. Somehow confused you...made you forget.

"But even if he had such a power...how could he affect you? You weren't even here with him."

"Stuart! We have to know what happened while we went after Jlt," Phoebe said.

"You both keep talking about Jlt," Stuart said. "Jlts forcing you to get him Tallors power happened almost a week ago."

"Stuart...Jlt almost killed you and me tonight," Phoebe said through her tears. "We did go back in time to stop him and we should have returned to exactly where and when we left from. In the living room in The Manor. The three of us together.

"Not here. And not...like this."

"Stuart," Piper said, "you remember the Charmed episode where we went to the future...and Phoebe was almost burned as a witch."

"Remember it? Of course I remember it," he said. "Watching it I couldn't stop crying. And when it was over, even though Phoebe was safe, I couldn't stop shaking for ten minutes."

"Remember how we didn't know what was happening?" Piper continued. "And Leo didn't believe us?"

Stuart nodded.

"This is what's happening now," Piper said, taking his hands in hers. "We don't know what has happened. Except that Prue...that Shannen...is..."

Stuart shook his head. "Are you saying that...that we're in the future?"

"No," Piper said. "This is the present. But it's the wrong present. It's not the one we left. It's not the one we should have come back to."

"Everything has been...continuing normally since we were brought to San Francisco almost three weeks ago," Stuart said. "Nothing has changed. Time hasn't changed."

He paused then tried to continue despite the tears.

"We were running here to...to save Prue," he said. "Then, all of a sudden, you stop and tell me that this isn't what really happened.

"Maybe...maybe it's the other way around," he said. "This is what really happened. And what you think happened really didn't happen."

"No!" Piper said with resolve in her voice - and in her eyes. "This is not the present that existed before. And you have to help us figure out why it changed."

Phoebe saw a piece of paper on the floor near Prue's body. She knelt down and picked it up.

"Spell to Vanquish Marco," she read. "You said something about Marco. Who is he? Is this why Prue came here? To vanquish him?"

Stuart looked at them feeling even more confused. Phoebe grabbed Stuart's wrist and looked at his watch.

"This is the time and day that we left from," she said to him, and took his hands in hers.

Stuart's eyes closed as he felt Phoebe's hands, then squeezed them.

"I haven't...you haven't...held my hand since Jason showed up," he said.

"Jason?" Phoebe said in astonishment. "I haven't seen Jason again since that day I went out with him."

"Phoebe...what are you talking about," Stuart said. "You've spent the last two nights in Jason's hotel room. You decided...you decided you were going to see him...and not me...while you were here. That it was...best for everyone. Why are you denying it?"

"Because in the present we left that didn't happen," Piper said, looking at him sternly.

"Show him," Piper said firmly and turned to Phoebe. "Show Stuart who you really decided you were going to see while you're here in San Francisco."

A few tears were still trickling from Phoebe's eyes as she looked down at Prue.

"The same way I did in the scene on Charmed with Leo," Piper said.

"I can't...like this... Phoebe said, ...with Prue-"

"Just do it!" Piper commanded her.

Phoebe took a deep breath and turned to Stuart. Slowly, she put her arms around him, then drew him closer and kissed him.

Stuart, stunned, didn't react. Then slowly, he put his arms around Phoebe, too.

After holding each other, Phoebe pulled away and he stared at her for a few seconds. He started to say something but stopped. After a moment, he swallowed hard and took a deep breath.

"Tuesday," he began slowly, still staring at her, "when you were out with Jason...you met Janet Montanelli and her teenage daughter Sydney at a curio shop in Mill Valley. They had bought this peculiar object somewhere - Sydney thought it was 'cool' - but they didn't know what it really was. They wanted the shop's owner to tell them and also whether it had any value.

"It was a talisman. A talisman that Marco - a demon -...that Marco was looking for. Somehow, he found out that they had it and followed them to take it from them. You were all in the shop's basement when he came in and demanded they give it to him. When Janet Montanelli refused, he used his power to shoot bolts of energy from his hand at them. The bolts hit the basement's wall and ceiling instead, bringing down parts of it.

"A beam fell on Sydney and killed her. Jason barely escaped being killed also. You tried to stop Marco but he managed to grab the talisman and flee before more of the basement ceiling collapsed."

Stuart stopped and closed his eyes. His mind was still having difficulty accepting what, after Phoebe's kiss, his heart already had. He took another deep breath and forced himself to continue.

"After Jason was released from the emergency room, you took him back to his hotel room. And since then...you've been with him.

"And you've all been hunting Marco."

There...wasnt anyone else in the shop when Jason and I were there, Phoebe said.

"Did the store owner or the girl's mother know what Marco did?" Piper asked.

"No," Stuart said. "Phoebe used the earthquake as a cover. It happened at almost the same time. She convinced everyone that it was the earthquake that damaged the house and killed Sydney."

"And Prue came here to vanquish Marco," Piper said. "How did she know he'd be here?"

"Prue managed to bait Marco to come here and then set the trap for him," Stuart said.

"Trap?" Piper asked.

"The demon trap," he said and pointed to the crystals. "Somehow, when they're set up as a square, once a demon goes inside it the trap springs. If he tries to get out of the square he'll be burned by bolts of energy."

Piper picked up one of the crystals.

"How did Prue know about this trap? And where did she get these crystals?" she asked.

"I...I assumed she found it described in the Book of Shadows," Stuart said, "and that it told her what kind of crystals to use. I didn't ask her. Haven't you seen it in The Book?"

"No. We haven't," Phoebe said. "Had we known about it, Prue would have used it to trap Tallor in the warehouse instead of having to astral project around it while saying a spell."

"Prue had an extra crystal that she kept with her. After it began to glow - that meant that the trap had sprung - Prue went to the house to vanquish Marco," Stuart continued. "Then you got the premonition.

"Prue had forgotten her cell phone in The Manor. You had just come back from Jason's hotel room and saw it on the stand. When you picked it up, you got the premonition of Prue being killed while trying to vanquish Marco."

"And that's why we were running here," Phoebe said, as tears began to fill her eyes again. "To save her from..." Phoebe stopped, unable to finish the sentence.

She took another deep breath.

"Did I see in the premonition who...did this?"

"No. Just the back of someone burning Prue's head...and her dying. But you heard...you thought it was Marco...say his name."

"What's the name?" she asked.

"I...I can't remember," he said. "You said it quickly and then...then we rushed here."

Piper closed her eyes for a few seconds.

"We're going to take Prue...take Shannen...back to The Manor," Piper said, holding back her tears. "We're going to get Leo. And then we're going to figure out how - and why - this all happened."

Silence.

Complete silence.

Numbed by what had happened, Piper, Phoebe and Stuart had been sitting in the living room in silence for over fifteen minutes, staring into the space in front of them, not a word said by anyone.

A silence relieved only by the ticking of a grandfather's clock, the sounds echoing louder than they should have, underscoring the silence.

Tick......tick......tick......

At least, that's the dramatic touch that would have been added to the scene had this been a TV show, Stuart thought. Had this been an episode on Charmed.

But this wasn't Charmed. So there wasn't any grandfather's clock. And there wasn't any ticking.

There was only silence.

Total, absolute silence.

But inside their heads there was no silence. Their heads were filled with thoughts. Trying to overcome the shock of what had happened. Trying to understand what had happened. Trying to deal with their anguish of the un-thinkable happening - that Prue was dead.

"This isn't supposed to happen," Stuart said in a low voice, unable to contain his anguish in silence any more. "Charmed is about three sisters who are witches. Three sisters who protect and save innocents. It's not about one of the sisters being killed.

"And Charmed is real now. So..."

Stuart shook his head.

"So this isn't supposed to happen."

Silence.

Kit came into the room but stopped abruptly. She looked back and forth between Piper and Phoebe. Stuart could tell that she sensed something was wrong.

Kit gave a short cat's cry, the one cats make that sounds like a baby's cry, then sat down silently at Phoebe's feet.

Silence again.

"It's my fault," Stuart said, a painful guilt evident in his low voice. "If I wouldn't have made that wrong turn on Filbert...we would have been there in time."

Piper said nothing. Lost in her thoughts, she continued staring blankly ahead.

Phoebe looked at Stuart trying to understand.

"You mean...going to the house? You were driving the car?" she asked. Stuart nodded.

"You don't know that we would have made it in time," she said, not knowing if what she said was true. She was so confused that she didn't know what was true anymore.

"And you know San Francisco much better than we do," she added. "You got...us there...faster than if Piper or I had been the one driving."

More silence.

A light shone in the room and Leo appeared. Piper looked up at him as he shook his head.

"They wouldn't give me any answers," he said.

"What?...How can they just leave us like this?" Phoebe asked, angrily.

"All The Elders said was that you must understand time," Leo said. "That all of time is affected by anything anyone does."

Piper lowered her eyes again and went back to her thoughts.

"Look..I want to believe you, that things have changed," Leo said. "And I want to believe that Prue shouldn't be dead. But it's...very hard. I haven't seen anything change."

"Nor have I," Stuart said. "I couldn't accept it either. But Phoebe convinced me and now I do."

"Leo, you have to help us...whether or not you believe us," Phoebe said.

Leo pursed his lips, thought for a minute and looked at Piper. Seeing that he couldn't get her attention, he turned back to Phoebe and nodded his head slightly.

"I'll see what else I can find out about Marco," he said and orbed out.

"Maybe," Phoebe said after a moment, "it was the spell we used to come back from the past. Maybe there's something wrong with it, or something wrong about how we said it."

Stuart shook his head. "It's the same spell you used on Charmed. The spell from that episode to go back in time worked right, so the spell to return here had to work right, too."

Silence.

"Tallor," Stuart said after a while, without looking up. "He must have done something. This had to be a demon's doing. A demon who has time powers and can change what happened."

Piper still didn't look up, didn't react to what Stuart said.

"Not Tallor," Phoebe said after a moment. "He saved my life tonight. And we just gave him back his power." She shook her head.

"He had no reason to do this," she added.

Stuart didn't respond. He just looked at Phoebe and took a deep breath.

"Maybe Jlt got out of the pathway," Phoebe said, "and he did this to get back at us."

"But you said you took the power back from him," Stuart said. "How would he be able to change time?"

"I...don't know," Phoebe said, shaking her head. "But it has to be a demon who did this."

"A demon didn't kill Prue," Piper said grimly, still staring ahead.

"We killed her."

"What!?" Phoebe exclaimed.

Piper looked up at them.

"Time. It's all connected," Piper said. "In ways we don't even realize. A trivial change to one thing can affect many other things that...that to us seem unrelated.

"But they aren't un-related. Tallor told us that. He said that time is intertwined in countless ways. And The Elders just told us that, too."

Piper took a deep breath.

"We stopped those people from coming into the arcade," she continued. "The two women and the girl. They ran out...maybe even stopped others who would have come in, too.

"Leo said that all of time is affected by anything anyone does. The present that we left..." Piper paused and took another deep breath. "It had to be predicated on those people going into the arcade, spending time in the shops, maybe buying things. And on a chain of events that followed that were somehow connected. A chain too intricate for us to comprehend.

"We changed all of that. We changed the past," Piper continued. "When we stopped that past from happening, that chain of events was cut off. And a new chain began.

"A chain of different events that lead to a different present. A chain that led to the talisman, to Marco, to Sydney Montanelli.

"And that led to Prue being killed."

Stuart and Phoebe were silent, trying to digest what Piper had said.

"That has to be what happened," Piper said, with absolute certainty.

"No," Phoebe said, "that can't be the explanation. Jlt did something to Stuart, and then I almost died, because there was a direct connection to Stuart's saving me from the demon car.

"But not here. Those people have nothing to do with Marco. The girl I chased away from the arcade was about nine or ten years old, not a teenager. She couldn't have been Sydney Montanelli. Those were different people.

"Your idea doesn't make sense."

"Connections through time do make sense," Piper said, "They're just too intricate and subtle for us to see and understand. But this has to be the explanation."

Piper stopped and thought for a moment. "We have to go back and undo it," she said.

"If we went back again and let those people in to the arcade they'd get hurt by Jlt," Phoebe said, resisting the idea. "Or, more likely, killed by him. We can't do that."

"Then we'll have to get Jlt out of there and away from them," Piper said. "We'll have to lure him out of the arcade."

Piper took a deep breath.

"That will be my responsibility," she said. "I'll do whatever I have to do to get him away from those people and focused on me. Then you and...and Prue...you'll take away his power and transfer it to Tallor."

Stuart was astonished as he listened to Piper. Numb from Prue's death, he only now realized that in the changed real world, there was no Shannen Doherty, only Prue Halliwell. And it was only Prue Halliwell, who was dead. And Piper...Piper was suddenly acting the part of the older sister. No, not acting as in a role. She was taking charge, just the way Prue would have.

Somehow, in real life, Piper was able to change, to evolve, to act in a way that her character was never intended to act.

But was she? he thought. Or was this Holly, in the shock of Shannen's death, discarding her role?

He looked at her closely. No, he was sure she hadn't stopped being Piper. The role must have become so natural, so real, that she hadn't even thought of dropping out of character.

Or couldn't.

Maybe the role had become so intertwined with who she was, so integrated into her whole being, that she couldn't separate her real...

Stuart stopped. He wasn't going to pursue that puzzle. Certainly not here. Not now.

But whatever the reason, he thought, this was Piper taking charge, analyzing what had happened, laying out a plan, making the decisions. And assuming responsibility for everything - and for everyone.

"There was a vacant store on the other side of the arcade," Piper said. "We'll deal with Jlt there."

"I'm...not going to remember any of this, will I?" Stuart asked.

Phoebe looked at him and shook her head.

"It's somehow part of our being The Charmed Ones that lets us remember what happens to us, in time travel, and in spells, when others don't."

Stuart exhaled.

"Be careful," he said. "Both of you...just be careful."

"Let's get The Book of Shadows and find the time spell again," Piper said.

"We don't have to. I have it," Phoebe said, pulling it out of her pocket. "It was still in my hand when we came back to the present. Even though the present I took it from had changed."

"We have a bond with Prue, just as we have with Stuart, " Piper said. "The spell will get us back to the moment when we were the cause of its being undone."

She held the paper for both of them to see.

"The Bond which was not to be done

Give us the power to see it undone,

And turn back time

To when it was begun"

Piper and Phoebe looked at Prue. For a split second Piper was going to hug her but she stopped herself as the people approached the far side of the arcade.

Prue looked at Phoebe, as if expecting her to do something.

"We have to stop those people from coming into the arcade," Prue said. "They'll get hurt."

"No!" Piper said firmly. "Don't say anything to them. I don't have time to explain."

"What?" Prue said.

"We've lived through this once, already," Phoebe said to her. "Just trust Piper. And do exactly what she says."

Prue gave Phoebe a strange look and then turned to Piper. But Piper was already peering around the corner of the arcade. Jlt was there and she raised her hand to freeze him.

"Hurry!" Piper said, motioning to them. She ran across the arcade to the vacant store. Phoebe grabbed a confused Prue's arm and ran to the store too, with Tallor right behind them.

"Use your power to move the bolt and open the lock," Piper said to Prue.

"This wasn't part of the plan," Prue protested.

"It is now," Piper said.

"Prue, there isn't time. Just open it," Phoebe said.

"What's going on..." Prue started to say. But the looks on their faces told her this wasn't the time to ask. She raised her hand and slid the bolt.

"Inside. Quickly!" Piper said, pushing the door open. "Stay behind the door where Jlt can't see you. When he comes in, Prue, throw him against the wall."

They hurried inside the empty store. Piper stood in the doorway and raised her hand.

"Jlt," she called. "I know what you're going to do to Stuart. I've come back through time to stop you. I'm using a spell to take Tallor's power away from you."

Piper waited until she was sure she had Jlt's attention.

"Take the power," she began slowly, making sure that Jlt heard her, "of time travel-"

A bolt of light shot out from Jlt's sphere at her. She wasn't fast enough in pulling back inside the store and the bolt hit her in the chest just below her left shoulder.

"Arrggh!"

"Piper!" Phoebe shouted.

Piper shook her head at her. Clenching her fist from the pain, she stuck her head out again.

"That this demon may hide," she continued slowly, louder than before.

Another bolt shot out at Piper as Jlt came running towards her but this time she was faster in pulling back and it missed her. She stepped back further away from the doorway just as Jlt came inside the store.

Jlt's back was to the opened door - and to Prue. She waved her hand and he went flying across the empty store. As he hit the wall his grip loosened and the sphere fell to the floor. Phoebe ran over to him, kicked him three times and picked up the sphere.

"Piper - you're hurt," Prue said starting towards her.

"Transfer the power," Piper said, gritting her teeth.

Jlt was on the floor and Phoebe held the sphere near him.

"Take the power of time travel

That this demon may hide,

Link it to this sphere

And the power that's inside."

The sphere glowed and as it started rotating the light extended towards Jlt. He was hurt from Phoebe's kicks but he started to get to his knees. After a few seconds the sphere stopped and Prue waved her hand, sending him back into the wall again. Phoebe turned to Tallor and held the sphere up to him.

"Link time's power

Contained in this sphere,

And return it whence it came

To the one who stands here."

The sphere glowed and revolved once again. The light crackled as the low rumbling began. After a few seconds the sphere stopped.

"I have it!" Tallor proclaimed. "I have my power back!"

"Get out that vanquishing spell," Prue said.

"Don't bother," Tallor said.

He walked over and grabbed Jlt as he was trying to get up. They disappeared for a second, then Tallor re-appeared alone.

"Where's Jlt?" Prue asked Tallor.

"He's trapped in a time pathway he can't escape from," Phoebe answered.

"How do you know?" Prue asked her.

Tallor looked at Phoebe in surprise.

"That's right," he said, in amazement. "You understood what I did."

"Tallor," Phoebe said, "you have to return Stuart through his pathway to our real present."

"Very well," he said. "He couldn't have gone too far. I'll find him and take him back." Tallor walked out of the arcade and headed down the pathway.

"Piper!" Prue said as she rushed over to her and supported her with her arm. "We have to get you back to Leo to heal you."

Phoebe pulled out the paper with the spell from her pocket.

"Together Prue," she said.

"A Time for Everything

And to everything it's place,

Return what has been moved

Through Time and Space."

Phoebe looked around her at a familiar living room.

"We're back...in the right present," Phoebe said, in amazement and relief.

"Piper!" Leo cried and rushed to her.

"Jlt tried to kill her," Prue said. "Hurry!"

Leo put his hands on Piper's chest and an aura of light covered it. He kept his hands there for about fifteen seconds until the light was gone.

"Is she all right?" Prue asked.

"It...was bad," Leo answered, a little stunned. "But she's OK now." He threw his arms around her and hugged her.

"Well, we both got what we went after," Tallor said. "I'll be going." He headed to the door and turned around.

"This was a unique experience," he said, "a demon working together with good witches. Perhaps we'll even do this again, someday."

"Don't count on it," Prue said, giving him a look. Tallor shrugged and walked out.

Phoebe threw her arms around Prue and hugged her, catching her by surprise. And then Piper did the same.

"Why the hugs?" Prue asked. "And why did you suddenly change our plan in the middle?"

"Because you were killed by a warlock while trying to vanquish a demon," a voice from behind them said. "And the new plan was Piper's."

"Stuart!" Phoebe said, astonished, as she saw him standing on the staircase. "You...you remember?"

Stuart came down the rest of the stairs and joined them.

"I remembered the name of who killed Prue," he said. "I knew I would forget everything once you put time back the way it should be. So after you said the spell to go back in time again, I quickly wrote down the name and a few notes about what happened." He lifted a small piece of crumpled paper that was in his hand.

"Enough to know that you went back once to save me. And a second time to save Prue after she was killed."

"Who killed her?" Piper asked.

"His name is Neville," he answered. "He's a warlock."

"You wrote that paper in a present that doesn't exist anymore," Phoebe said. "That paper shouldn't exist, either."

"You're right," Stuart said. "But remember what you said about how you're not affected by time changing, that you remember what happened. Kit is a witch's cat - your cat - and has some abilities of her own. So I thought that just as you're not affected, she wouldn't be either.

"When you came back from the past the first time, even though the present had changed, you were still holding the paper with the spells in your hand. A paper that came from a present that no longer existed. Whatever you hold isn't affected, just as you aren't affected. I figured the same was true for whatever Kit held. So I took the paper and put it under her collar against her body.

"When you came back now the second time and the present was restored, Kit came over to me and jumped in my lap. She kept rubbing her neck against me until I saw the paper under her collar."

"Will someone tell me what's going on?" Prue asked.

"Me, too," Leo said.

"Time was changed and you were killed by a warlock named Neville," Piper said. "Phoebe and I went back in time again to save you."

"I was...killed?" Prue asked, stunned.

"Piper took on the older sister role and came up with the plan and the responsibility to save you," Phoebe said.

"I'm so happy that you're alive," Piper said, and hugged her again. "And you can have your 'older sister' role back."

"Before everything that's happened, we were supposed to have a date tonight," Phoebe said to Stuart. "Would you mind if, instead, we all went out together? We could talk about everything that happened tonight."

"Sounds good to me," Leo said.

"And to me, too," Stuart said. "After all of this, I think we all need to unwind together."

"Yes," Prue said. "I...need to understand what happened."

"So do I," Stuart said. "What I told you is all that I know. That's all that...I wrote down."

Piper curved her arm and looked at Leo. "Then let's go," she said, as he extended his arm and she hooked hers around his.

It was a typically lovely late May evening. Though a light jacket was in order, it was, thanks to the city's unique weather, actually the middle of San Francisco's summer.

Prue, Phoebe and Stuart were walking three abreast, with Leo and Piper right behind them.

Columbus Avenue was alive with couples and small groups going into or coming out of the restaurants, cafs and bistros that lined both sides of the wide street. And whose illuminated signs and occasional music left no doubt that Columbus Avenue was a center of San Francisco nightlife.

"It's good going out together," Prue said.

Yes, Stuart thought, it was very good going out together. A relaxing break from what they had been through. And it was just the way he had seen them do it on Charmed. Only this time, he wasn't watching them. He was with them.

A trolley coach drove past them in the opposite direction, its dual poles making their distinctive 'swish' sound as they rode across the joints of their power wires strung above the length of the avenue. Its driver slowed down to maneuver the electric bus around a double parked car and as he did something caught Phoebe's eye.

"Look at that!" Phoebe said, stopping and pointing to the large, rectangular advertisement for
The Demon Dimension along the bus' side. Pictures of Lori Rom and the show's other stars were prominently displayed surrounding the show's logo. "You never see anything like that done for Charmed."

"That's because you don't have, uh, you-know-who in charge of promotion, the way they are here," Stuart answered. "They have a vested interest in Demon Dimension. When they changed, uh, the way things are, they arranged the show's promotion.

"They've had a vested interest in Charmed, too," Phoebe said. "As The WB hasn't cared much about doing anything for it, maybe we can get them to, uh, arrange promotions for Charmed, as well."

"What's Charmed?" Leo asked.

"It's a...TV show," Phoebe said.

"I don't get to watch TV much," Leo said. "Is it any good?"

"It's quite realistic," Prue said, with a slight smile. "The actresses literally bring their characters to life."

"Indeed we do," Piper said. " Uh...I mean, they do,"

"You really take quite an interest in this Charmed." Leo said, as they continued walking up Columbus Avenue.

"I, uh, know some of the people on it," Stuart answered.

"What are they like?" Leo asked. "Aren't Hollywood people, well, sort of different from ordinary people?"

"Oh, they're really quite ordinary," Stuart said. "Just as ordinary as, say, your average witch."

Phoebe covered her mouth in an unsuccessful attempt to stifle her laugh.

"Well," Piper said, changing the subject, "there's a demon named Marco and a warlock named Neville out there. Maybe they're even working together. One of these days we're probably going to run into them for real."

"At least we can be prepared for them," Phoebe said. "We know what their powers are."

As they came to the corner of Vallejo, they stopped to wait for the light to change to green before crossing the street.

"It's so strange," Stuart said, "to live through something that never happened. Something that only would have happened had you not gone back in time and reset time to the way it had really been."

Prue turned around to face Piper and Phoebe.

"I just...I have to say thank you," she said, "for everything you did tonight. For risking your lives to save me."

"And I have to thank you, too," Stuart added.

"That's just the responsibility that comes with being a charmed witch," Piper replied.

There was something different in Piper's tone, Stuart thought. Something different in how she said that.

Acceptance. There was acceptance of her - of their - responsibility. An acceptance of who they were, without the reluctance and resistance. An acceptance that hadn't been there before. Maybe it was because Piper had evolved into being the older sister. Maybe that process changed something inside of her. And maybe now that Prue was alive again that something would go away. And she'll go back to being how she had been.

But for now, it was there. An acceptance, without complaints, of what she had to do and of who she was. Her job was to protect innocents and thwart demons.

Because she was Piper Halliwell.

The charmed witch.