Charmed Role Reversal



This Slide, Was Made, For You And Me

The late afternoon sun, hidden behind the hills of the Marin Headlands, was no longer visible from the Golden Gate Bridge’s walkway, its continuing descent to the horizon now left solely to one's imagination. The waning rays of sunlight backlighting the silhouetted Headlands made for a pretty sight. But they offered no more than a trace of illumination on the bridge itself sitting on the eastern, bay side of the Headlands. And even less light on the city of San Francisco, looking peaceful and quiet, across the bay.

"In all the times that I've been in San Francisco," Stuart said to Phoebe as he looked down at the bay beneath them, "I’ve never walked across the bridge at sunset."

On the bay side of the bridge, the side further away from the Headlands, the walkway ran beside the orange, spun strands of wire that held the bridge high above the Golden Gate waters below it. On the roadway to the left of the walkway, cars and buses, a few trucks speeding to end their day, an occasional motorcycle and a Bridge Authority van with a flashing speed limit sign pacing them all, made for an eclectic mix of traffic.  They whizzed past Stuart and Phoebe and past the dozen or so other remaining bridge walkers.

To the walkway's right was a protective railing running the length of the bridge. Only chest high, it did not obstruct the view and Stuart, looking off to his right, could see the lights of San Francisco across the bay.

"This was a really good idea," he said. "I'm glad you wanted to walk across the bridge now. You get a different perspective in the evening than the one you get here during the day."

"We need a different perspective," Phoebe said, "in more than just the view from the bridge. We haven't been making any headway in finding those demons. And the solstice is getting closer."

The lights of Ghirardelli Square, just above Aquatic Park at the end of Fisherman's Wharf, were becoming brighter as the twilight surrounding the huge, twenty-five foot high Ghirardelli sign and the smaller, path lights in the park below it, grew darker.  Stuart motioned to Phoebe to stop as he turned to admire the view of the Square overlooking the water.

"I love this view of San Francisco," Stuart said.

"You love every view of San Francisco," Phoebe said.  She zipped up her leather jacket as the night air on the open bridge was becoming cooler.

"Honestly," she said, "if Connie Burge had set Charmed some place else instead of San Francisco, I don’t think you’d be so sanguine about our being stuck here chasing demons."

Stuart turned and gave Phoebe a look.

"No-o!" he said.

"Some place else...like, say, in Hollywood," she said.

"No-o...that wouldn’t have made a difference," Stuart said.  "There’s nothing wrong with Hollywood."  He paused for a few seconds.  "Well, almost nothing wrong. More or less." He half squinted his left eye and shrugged his left shoulder. "Uh...maybe more."

Phoebe smiled as Stuart looked across the water at the city he loved. He stood there for another moment, then took a deep breath and turned back to Phoebe.

"Maybe we're just trying too hard to find these demons," he said, as they resumed their walk towards the northern, Marin end of the bridge. "Maybe if we let it go for a day or two, we'll be able to look at it fresher and come up with something."

They reached the northern tower of the bridge, the three-quarter mark of its span. The walkway veered right in a semi-circle around the tower, widening enough to accommodate a small three-wheeled, patrol cab parked flush against the tower's side. The vehicle's diminutive size - only three feet wide - allowed it to be driven along the walkway without interfering with walkers and bicyclists. As they came upon the cab a policeman was getting in to it.

"The bridge closes to pedestrians in half-an-hour at nine o'clock," he said. "Be sure to be off by then."

"Thanks, we will be," Phoebe said. "We'll be starting back across to the San Francisco side in a minute."

"You have a good night," the policeman said. He started the motor and the cab's small headlights went on. He pulled the cab out slowly, maneuvering around the corner of the tower to drive down the walkway and alert the remaining strollers. As he did, Stuart noticed something on the ground reflecting in the headlight. The cab gone, he pulled out his mini Maglite and shined it at what he had seen. Phoebe knelt down to look at it.

"It's a keychain," she said as she picked it up. "Someone dropped...Oh!" She suddenly froze.

"Phoebe..." Stuart said. She remained like that for a few seconds then slowly stood up.

"You had a premonition," he said, and Phoebe slowly nodded her head.

"She...she was lying on the ground," Phoebe began. "Piper was kneeling beside her and...and Morris was standing over her body. And...there were pentagrams all around her. And...and one was on her chest."

She held the keys to Stuart's light. A plastic California license plate, with a name engraved in blue below the trademark California golden sun, was on the keychain's ring.

"Crystal," Phoebe read and then looked up at Stuart.

"Finding a keychain's owner is next to impossible," Stuart said.

"We have to find her," Phoebe said. "Whoever Crystal is...she's the pentagram demon's next victim."



Click for Opening Credits

"What did she look like?" Prue asked, as they all sat together in The Manor’s living room.

"I couldn't see much of her face," Phoebe answered. "Her head was turned away from me. But I'd say she was somewhere in her late twenties to early thirties."

"And I knew her?" Piper asked.

"You did," Phoebe replied. "I heard you say to Morris “that's her”.  And then Morris said “what a horrible Thursday this turned out to be”."

"So who do you know named Crystal?" Prue asked.

"Phew," Piper exhaled. She thought silently for a moment.

"Crystal Gayle," she said. "And uh...Crystal Duggan. You know her, too. She worked for a while on Charmed in makeup last year."

"I remember her," Phoebe said. "She was maybe...twenty. The girl I saw was older. And even from the side I'm sure I would have recognized her if it was her."

"I don't think Morris would need you to ID Crystal Gayle," Prue said. "But I'll check on where she is at the magazine tomorrow, anyway."

"That's it," Piper said. "I don't know any other Crystals."

"There's got to be someone you're forgetting," Phoebe said.

"Or...someone you haven't met yet," Stuart said. "Maybe between now and when she's killed...uh, when she's supposed to be killed you're going to meet her."

"So nothing can happen to her until I do meet her," Piper said.

"If Stuart's right," Prue said. "But if it's someone you just don't remember, it could happen anytime."

"The premonition I saw was at night," Phoebe said, "and Morris said it was Thursday. Now it’s Sunday night. So we have four days to find her."

"Less," Prue said. "You saw Piper at the murder scene but we don't how much earlier the police found Crystal's body. Nor how long before that she was actually killed."

"I think this is as much as we can do tonight," Stuart said. "Let's all get some sleep. We'll get a fresh look at it in the morning. Maybe by then you'll remember someone, Piper."

"Maybe," Piper said, hopefully.

 

Piper took a deep breath of the clear, mid-morning air as she stood on The Manor’s porch. It had come to be very special to her as it reminded her of the fresh morning air on her ranch. It was the only thing she had that reminded her of home. And she missed her home so very much. She took another deep breath, gave a sigh and took the mail inside, closing the door behind her.

She looked at the first two envelopes, which were bills, and then looked at the third one. She stared at it for a moment, then tapped it back and forth against her other hand as she walked back to the living room.

"This was with the mail," she said to Phoebe. "It's addressed to A.J.M. There's no return address." Phoebe's expression changed as she and Piper looked at each other.

"What's up?" Stuart asked as he came in to the room.

"This letter addressed to A.J.M. just came in the mail," Piper said.

"So what's wrong?" Stuart asked. "Who's A.J.M.?"  He looked back and forth between Phoebe and Piper before he made the connection.

"Oh," he said. "But there must be hundreds of people in San Francisco with the initials A.J.M. There's no reason to think that its your initials for Alyssa Jane Milano."

"It has our address," Piper said.

"They could have made a mistake in one of the numbers," Stuart said.  "And anyway, no one can know about you here."

"There's Dalios," Phoebe said.

"You think that demon mailed you a letter?"  Stuart asked.  "I doubt the Post Office has a mailbox outside The Infernal Council. And besides, Leo said The Council was restraining him."

"Leo also said that Dalios wouldn't stay restrained forever," Phoebe said.

"Look," Stuart said, "we're building demon mountains out of...uh..."

"Demon molehills," Phoebe said. "But anything with the word demon in front of it is dangerous. Especially if it’s a demon named Dalios. Leo said we aren't strong enough to go up against him."

"OK," Stuart said, "let's just open the envelope and see what it is."

"We should x-ray it first," Phoebe said.

"X-ray?" Piper asked. "How would we do that?"

"I could work on a spell to make Superman real," Phoebe said, "at least for just a few minutes. Then he could use his x-ray vision to see what's inside it."

Piper and Stuart glanced at each other, both hoping they hadn't really heard Phoebe say what she said.

"Why don't you just use your premonition power, instead," Piper said, trying to inject some sanity as she handed the envelope to Phoebe.

"Premonition," Phoebe said. "Right. OK, I'll try." She took the envelope in both of her hands and closed her eyes. Stuart saw her expression change.

"You got a premonition?" he asked.

Phoebe nodded her head and opened her eyes.

"What did you see," Piper asked.

"Our mailman delivering the envelope to us," Phoebe answered.

"Well, at least we know it wasn't a demon mailman who brought it," Stuart said and shrugged. "Just give it to me and I'll open it. If it was sent by a demon, whatever is in it won't have any affect on me."

"We don't know that," Phoebe said. "We don't know what's in there."

"And we'll never know," Stuart said, taking the envelope from her, "unless we open it." He turned the envelope over.

"Uh, maybe you should stand back," he said, with a hint of a smile. "Just in case."

Piper took Phoebe's arm and they backed away.  Stuart slipped his finger under the corner of the flap and carefully tore it open.  He looked inside, pulled out a piece of paper folded in three and slowly unfolded it.

"What does it say?" Phoebe asked. Stuart exhaled.

"You will soon be undone," he read.

"That's all?" Piper asked.

"Let me see it," Phoebe said, grabbing it from Stuart.

"There's nothing to see," he said. "That's all it says."

"Undone?" Piper said. "As in-"

"As in undone as Phoebe Halliwell," Phoebe said. "As in Dalios killing me."

"Whoa," Stuart said. "We don't know that Dalios has anything to do with this. And it doesn't say anything about killing you."

"What else can 'undone' mean?" Phoebe asked. "With Charmed in the real world, if I'm not Phoebe...then I don't exist. I'm dead. And using my real initials...it could only have come from Dalios."

"Plain block letters," Piper said looking at the paper. "It could have been written by anyone."

"If it is from Dalios, why would he warn you instead of surprising you?" Stuart asked.

"To taunt me," Phoebe said.

"He said he would kill all of us," Piper said, "not just you."

"But I challenged him," Phoebe said. "I defied him and trapped him. It would be his revenge against me."

"Look, this could just be someone's twisted idea of a prank," Stuart said. "The idea of Dalios mailing you a threat-"

"Is exactly what he would do to make it all the more terrifying," Phoebe said.

"Normal, benign things - like a letter - conveying sudden danger," Stuart said. "Psychological games. It's Hitchcockian. It's Hollywood." He shrugged his shoulders.

"But we're not in a movie," he said. "We're not even in a Charmed episode."

"If Dalios knows who we really are," Phoebe said, "then he might do exactly that  - like in a movie - just to toy with me."

"Stop," Piper said. "We don't have anything more than a single anonymous, cryptic sentence. You're working yourself up without-"

The light forming interrupted Piper.

"What's happening?" Leo asked as he saw the look on Phoebe's face.

"Uh...nothing," Piper said.

"Actually..." Phoebe began.

"Did The Elders come up with anything?" Stuart asked, quickly changing the subject. There wasn't any way Phoebe's concerns about the initials on the envelope could be explained to Leo.

"No, they didn't," Leo said. "The name Crystal didn't mean anything special to them. There's a witch named Crystal but she's in Australia. They had no suggestions. Other than that you have to come up with something."

"Oh thanks," Piper said. "They're being their usual helpful selves."

"It's not Crystal Gayle," Prue said as she came into The Manor and walked into the living room. "She's on a tour. Kansas City tonight, Denver the day after tomorrow, then Seattle. San Francisco is not even on her schedule.

"Did you think of anyone?"

"No," Piper said. "But I realized this morning that the name Crystal is familiar. But I don't know why."

"I ran a check in Four One Five's computer files," Prue said. "There were only three other Crystals in there. One is a fashion designer based in London. It took a while but I managed to verify that she's still there with no plans of coming here.

"The second Crystal was a Duckmaster in Orlando."

"What's a Duckmaster?" Piper asked.

"Hmm...if you don't know that then you definitely don't know her," Prue said. "That rules her out."

"A duck trainer," Stuart said to Piper, "at The Peabody Hotel in Orlando. They have ducks that march to music twice a day. I've seen them do it and they're pretty good. But I've seen only male Duckmasters."

"She's the first woman Duckmaster," Prue said. "That's why she was written up in Four One Five. She was part of an article titled Unusual Women's Firsts."

"Who was the third one?" Leo asked.

"The writer of a Letter to the Editor last year," Prue said. "She lives in San Ramon."

"That's not a lot to go on," Piper said.

"No, it's not," Prue agreed. "And we don't have any feasible options. There isn't any easy reliable way of finding girls with that name."

"We have to try something," Phoebe said.

"The letter writer's name is Crystal D'Angelo," Prue said.

"No...I don’t know her, either," Piper said.

"We said you may not have met her yet," Stuart said. "Maybe in looking for the 'right' Crystal you will meet."

"I called someone I know at The Chronicle," Prue said. "He’s going to let me look through their files. Of course, I made up a story that we were doing an article on name usage. Come help me look, Stuart. Maybe together we'll come up with someone.

"Piper, go with Phoebe out to San Ramon," Prue continued. "Phoebe should be able to recognize if that Crystal is her, even from that side view. I called her and left a message on her answering machine. I said that we were doing a follow-up on letter writers to see if they were still reading Four One Five and that someone was coming to interview her."

"I want to help, too,” Leo said, “but I don't know if there's anything that I can do."

"Actually, there is," Phoebe said. "Go ask The Elders if anything has changed with Dalios. Whether the Infernal Council is still keeping him under wraps."

"Why?" Leo asked. "What's Dalios' connection to this?"

"Leo...just ask them," Phoebe said. "Never mind why. I...I just need to know."

Leo glanced at Piper.

"Sure," he said and disappeared into the white light.

 

"Now that I've seen her I'd recognize her,” Piper said, after they interviewed D’Angelo, “but she's still not the right Crystal.”

"Short, cropped hair, over forty," Phoebe said. "That definitely not who I saw in the premonition."

They were standing on the checkout line at a San Ramon take-out store. Two sandwiches, two Snapples and a couple of french fries were being rung up for them on the register.

"Here," Phoebe said, giving the clerk her credit card.

Piper leaned forward and looked at the girl's name tag. It said 'Marie'. She's not a Crystal, Piper thought. The girl gave Piper a funny look back.

"Uh...I just like to survey which names are popular," Piper said, awkwardly. "Marie is a nice name. Your middle name isn't Crystal, is it?"

"Huh?" Marie said, giving Piper a look like she was very weird. Then something displayed on the credit card reader and Marie turned to read it.

"Uh...this credit card," she said, turning to Phoebe. "There, uh, seems to be a problem. It's invalid."

"What?" Phoebe said. "It can't be." The girl swiped it through the reader again.

"It still says it's invalid," Marie said.

"That can't be," Phoebe said. "I just used it yesterday." She took the card back, turned it over and pulled out her cellphone. "I'm going to call them and get this corrected right now."

Two people were waiting behind Piper to pay for their food and they were getting impatient.

"Uh...here," Piper said, opening her wallet and pulling out her credit card. "Use mine."

Phoebe was having trouble with the cell phone's reception and she walked outside to make the call.

"This card's OK," Marie said after the machine printed out the charge receipt. Piper signed the slip, took the bags and went out to Phoebe.

"That can't be!" Phoebe shouted into the cell phone. She was silent for a few seconds, then closed the cell phone and put it away.

"She said the card number is invalid," Phoebe said. "They've never issued a credit card with that number. And they have no record of Phoebe Halliwell ever having a credit card."

"There must be some mistake," Piper said. Phoebe was about to say something but stopped, thought for a moment, and exhaled.

"Unless..." she said.

"Unless what?" Piper asked.

Phoebe didn't respond. She just stared ahead blankly and slowly shook her head, a fearful look on her face.

 

"Maybe we can use a spell to help you remember who Crystal is," Phoebe said as they came into The Manor. "Maybe that spell you made up to remember Mordun's memories."

"This is different," Piper said. "I don't know if there is anything to remember. We'd need a different spell. Let's look in the Book of Shadows and see if there's anything in it that can help us."

Phoebe nodded and they made their way up to the attic. A minute later the white light formed and Leo orbed into the living room.

"Anyone home?" he called out.

"Leo?" Piper called down. "We're in the attic."

Leo turned towards the staircase when the doorbell rang. He glanced up the stairs, then turned around, walked to the front door and opened it.

"I've come for A.J.M." the man said.  He was shorter than Leo, with a gaunt, chiseled face and a shock of black hair falling over his forehead. He reminded Leo of an evil crow, poised to gobble up the crops in a field.

"There's no A.J.M. here," Leo said.

"But of course there is," the man replied, confidently. There was something in the way he said it that made Leo un-comfortable.

"No, you're mistaken," Leo said. "I told you. There's nobody here named A.J.M."

The man stared at Leo for a few seconds, turned around and took a few steps away from the door. Then he turned back, a smirk on his face.

"When you see A.J.M.," he said, "tell her she will be undone." He turned around again and went down the steps.

Leo watched him reach the street and walk away. Shaking his head slightly, he shut the door and went up to the attic.

"Was that the doorbell?" Piper asked.

"Yeah," Leo said. "A weird guy. He insisted someone named A.J.M. lived here."

"What?!" Phoebe said, looking frightened. "What did he say?"

"He said to tell her she would be undone," Leo said.

"Was he tall, with grayish black hair and a long, sort of triangular face?" Phoebe asked.

"No," Leo said. "He was short with a guant face and his hair was all black."

"That's not Dalios," Piper said.

"What is going on with Dalios?" Leo asked, becoming concerned.

"What did you find out?" Phoebe asked him.

Leo exhaled.

"The Elders said that they think Dalios is still restrained by the Infernal Council, though they can't be sure to what extent. But he may be up to something with a demon named Braiden. This demon may be doing things for Dalios that Dalios can't do himself because the Council is watching him."

"Like mailing letters," Phoebe said. "And paying house calls."

"Wait," Leo said. "You don't think that was Braiden who was at the door. Why? And who is A.J.M.?"

"I can't explain it to you," Phoebe said.

"Phoebe, what do you mean you can't explain it to me," Leo said. "It's my job to protect you but if you don't tell me what you think is going on I can't protect you."

"We know, Leo," Piper said. "You try to protect us. And we need protection. But...let's just say that we think there's a possibility Dalios may be coming after us, and that he's starting with Phoebe."

"You have to tell me more," he insisted.

"We can't," Piper said. "You...just have to trust me. Trust us."

"It's not a matter of trust," Leo said, looking into Piper's eyes. Piper came closer to him and gently kissed him.

"It's only a maybe," she said. "But see what else you can come up."

Leo put his hands on Piper's arms and gently kissed her. Then he let go, nodded his head and orbed out.

"Look, this may still be just a prank," Piper said, not very convincingly.

"But if it isn't..." Phoebe said, and exhaled. "You're right. Maybe its nothing. Let's get back to finding Crystal. We know that she really is in danger."

 

Ding-dong.

Phoebe opened the door.

"Hello," Lorna Palmer said. "Is Piper home?"

"Hi, Lorna," Phoebe said, a little surprised at the non-greeting.

"Oh, you know me," Lorna said. "Have we met? I'm so sorry. I don't remember you."

"Lorna...it's me, Phoebe." She saw no recognition in Lorna's expression. "Phoebe Halliwell...Piper's sister."

"Oh...uh...I know Prue," Lorna said. "I didn't know Piper had another sister. It's, uh, very nice to meet you."

Phoebe stared at Lorna is disbelief, not knowing what to say to her.

"Well, uh, just tell Piper that I picked up the tickets for the matinee show," Lorna said. "I'll give her a call tomorrow. Thanks." She turned around and went down the steps.

Phoebe stared after her, then closed the door and, dazed, slowly walked back to the living room.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Piper asked.

"Lorna Palmer was just here," Phoebe said. "She didn't recognize me. She didn't even know who I was."

"What!?" Piper exclaimed. "She's your friend. We...we were just in her house the other week saving her daughters from that ghost. How is that possible?"

"It's possible," Phoebe said, slowly, "if I'm being undone. If...I don't exist anymore."

"You do exist," Piper said. "I can see you. I can touch you."

Phoebe shook her head.

"First it was my credit card," she said. "The bank said both it and I don't exist. And now I don't exist for Lorna. I'm slowly being erased. Being...undone. Just the way the letter said."

"If this is Dalios," Piper said, "how can he just make people forget you?"

"We saw he can change perceptions of reality," Phoebe said. "And those altered perceptions can change reality itself. My reality as Phoebe."

"Leo," Piper called. "Leo!"

Leo began to orb in as Stuart and Prue came into The Manor.

"What's going on?" Leo asked.

"What's going on?" Prue asked, like an echo.

"Phoebe..." Piper began. "Somehow, Phoebe doesn't exist anymore, at least for some people. The bank and Lorna Palmer."

"And The Chronicle, too," Prue said. "Remember the article that was in the paper the day after Norwell kidnapped me? I came across it in their files while we were looking for Crystals. It talks about Mom, Piper and me. Phoebe isn't mentioned anymore."

"This has to be Dalios," Piper said.

"I'm afraid I agree," Stuart said.

"What else did you find out, Leo?" Piper asked.

"Nothing," he said.

"Go back to The Elders," Prue said, "and tell them what's happening to Phoebe. Maybe that will prod them into being more helpful."

"OK," Leo said. "What about Crystal. Did you come up with anything?"

"No," Prue said. "There was nothing there that could help us."

"I still don't know why you think Dalios is behind what's happening to Phoebe," Leo said. "He's still being restrained. But if he is involved, I'm going to stay here to help."

"Thank you, Leo," Phoebe said. "But you can be of more help by going to The Elders."

Leo looked to Piper, then reluctantly nodded his head. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he said.

 

Phoebe walked into the kitchen the next morning and silently went over to the refrigerator.

"How are you doing?" Prue asked, putting down her coffee.

"When I got up this morning my cell phone wasn't working," Phoebe said, "so I called Pac Bell. They said there's no record of my ever having a cell phone."

"We're going to stop Dalios," Prue said, walking over to Phoebe and taking her hand, "whatever it takes."

"I told you the name Crystal is familiar but I didn't know why," Piper said as she came into the kitchen. "Walking past the TV just now something occurred to me. Crystal Rodgers. Maybe she's the reason the name is familiar."

"Who's that?" Prue asked.

"She's been a guest co-host on Bay Area Breakfast the last two weeks," Piper said.  "It's on from, uh, I think seven to nine o'clock every morning on one of the local channels...KBWB."

"I haven't seen it," Prue said.

"I've watched parts of it a couple of times," Piper said. "They do features, interviews...the usual morning show stuff."

"It's almost ten to nine," Prue said. "We'd better turn it on before we miss her. See if you recognize her, Phoebe."

They hurried into the living room, turned on the TV and began flipping channels to find the show.

"Piper thought of a Crystal," Phoebe said, as Stuart came into the room.

"That's it," Piper said.

A handsome, jovial and garrulous man in his late forties was sitting on an armchair on a set. A picture of the Golden Gate Bridge showed through a fake picture window behind him. He was speaking to someone unseen off camera to his right.

"That's Mack Mc Devitt, the regular host," Piper said.

The camera switched to a close-up of the woman sitting to his right. In her late twenties and with a freshness on her face, her brown hair, clipped shorter on the sides than in the back, reached halfway down the back of her neck while a couple of locks fell across her forehead and over her right eye. She wore a maroon knit shirt and dark brown pants.

"That's Crystal?" Prue asked.

"No," Stuart said. "That's Sabrina Lloyd."

"Who?" Phoebe asked.

"Sabrina Lloyd," Stuart repeated. "She starred in Sliders on FOX for three seasons."

"I don't know her," Phoebe said.

"I do," Piper said. "We both had small parts together in a film about eight years ago. Chain of Desire. It was an awful, supposedly erotic B-movie I'd just as soon forget that I ever did. But we became friendly and we've kept up off-and-on since then. She started on her Sports Night series the same time we started on Charmed."

"...and you starred as Natalie Hurley on Sports Night on ABC for two seasons," Mc Devitt said, with a soft Texas accent. "You were terrific. I never missed an episode. And I have to say I was so sad when it was cancelled."

"I was too," Sabrina said. "It was a lot of fun doing that show."

"The program's almost over," Prue said, "and Crystal's not there. She may not be back on camera until the closing."

"If we wait any longer and she is the right Crystal we'll miss her when she leaves the studio," Piper said.

"KBHB...I've driven past their studio a couple of times," Stuart said. "It's over in the Bayview district. I don't remember which street it's on but I know I could find it."

"Let's get-" Prue said but stopped in mid-sentence.

"Oh my goodness," Piper said. She was staring at Phoebe. Or at least at most of Phoebe. Phoebe's right arm and the right side of her chest faded until they were no longer visible. Then after about five seconds, they re-appeared.

"I'm disappearing," Phoebe said. "I am being undone."

"Stuart, take Piper and Phoebe to the studio," Prue said. "Look for a side entrance. They'll leave that way instead of using the main entrance. Phoebe, you have to go along to see if this is the Crystal you saw in your premonition."

"Can you make it?" Piper asked. Phoebe nodded her head.

"I'm going upstairs and look through the Book of Shadows," Prue said. "I'm going to find something to stop whatever it is that's being done to Phoebe."

 

Stuart, Piper and Phoebe stood a few feet diagonally to the right of the studio's side entrance. More of Phoebe had momentarily become invisible in the car on their way there and again as they stood waiting.

"Hold on," Piper said, grabbing Phoebe's hand. "Prue will find-"

She stopped as the studio door opened and Sabrina Lloyd came out. She was shorter than she had appeared to be on the show, maybe only an inch taller than Piper. As she adjusted her brown, suede zippered jacket a chauffeur approached her from the left side.

"I'll bring the car immediately," he said to her and went off. Piper took a few steps towards Sabrina.

"You don't remember me, do you," Piper said, knowing what the answer would be.

"No," Sabrina said, "should I?"

Piper felt Phoebe's hand disappear from her grip. She turned to Phoebe and saw her disappear completely.

As she did, there was a clap of thunder. The images of everything started to bend and go out of focus. Piper started to lose her balance. Suddenly, a whirlwind appeared a few feet above their heads.. Stuart felt himself being pulled up into its opening. Piper and Sabrina were sucked up into it just behind him. They all felt themselves turning around and around inside a bright blue, purple and white tunnel.

After fifteen seconds the rolling stopped. The tunnel's opening was about seven feet above ground and they were ejected from it. Sabrina fell out, landing head first on the sidewalk. Stuart followed, landing partially on top of her. Piper came last, landing next to them, but in an instant she vanished. And then the tunnel's opening closed and the whirlwind was gone.

"Ow! ow!," Sabrina said.

"Agghh!" Stuart said, as he started to get up.

"What was that?" Sabrina asked, standing up slowly. "What happened?"

"I...I'm not sure," Stuart said.

They were still outside the side door of the studio, just where they had been before the whirlwind appeared.

"Where are the two women who were with you?" Sabrina asked.

"Phoebe? Piper?" Stuart shouted but they weren't there.

"Miss Welles," a voice called. They turned and saw a young man wearing a green apron and with a brown bag in his hand hurrying towards them. "Miss Welles," he repeated as he approached them.

"You left your bag at the register," he said. "I'm glad I caught up with you."

"What...what did you call me?" Sabrina asked.

"Miss Welles," he said. "That's what I overheard the man who was with you call you."

"What store?" she asked, confused. "What man?"

"The grocery...around the corner," he answered, giving her a quizzical look. "You were just there. You bought the milk, doughnuts and a few other things. You paid for them at my register. The man who was with you...heavy set with a small beard and uh...I think an English accent."

Sabrina was staring at the clerk as if he had two heads and that everything he was saying from both mouths was completely incomprehensible.

"Uh...I have to get back to my register," he said, and extended the bag to Sabrina. She continued staring at him with her mouth wide open. The clerk placed the bag on the ground at her feet, slowly backed up then turned and hurried away.

A car slowed down as it drove past them, the driver giving both Stuart and Sabrina a long look. Stuart saw that it was a black and white San Francisco police car. But on the bottom of the front door was written 'Subversive Surveillance Unit'. What was that? Stuart thought. I've never seen that before.

"What was he talking about?" Sabrina asked. "And what...what is going on here?"

"Oh no," Stuart said. "Oh, no. I think I..." He stopped and slowly shook his head slightly. "Oh, no...don't tell me..."

"Where...where is the chauffeur with the car?" she asked.

The studio's side door opened and Mack Mc Devitt walked out.

"Mack!" Sabrina called.

"Oh, hello," he said, jovially. "You recognize me because you watch my show, don't you. That's great! You must want my autograph."

"Mack!" she practically screamed, her confusion growing. "What just happened? The thunder, the whirlwind..."

"What thunder?" he asked. "Whirlwind?"

"Uh...of course," Sabrina said, "the studio is soundproofed. And without windows. Uh, look...the chauffeur seems to have disappeared."

"Oh, uh, did something happen to your car?" he asked.

"Mack," Sabrina said, staring at him. "It's me...Sabrina Lloyd."

"OK," he said. "You're Sabrina...uh, what did you say your last name was?"

"Mack..." Sabrina said, not believing  what was happening. "Sabrina Lloyd. We just did the last segment of your show together!"

The expression on Mc Devitt's face changed.

"Young lady," he said, "I don't know what your problem is. But you have a problem." He eyed her for a moment. "The segment I just did was with Kari Wuhrer."

"Kari..." Sabrina said, in disbelief.

"You know who she is, don't you?" Mc Devitt said. "The star who plays Natalie Hurley on   
Sports Night. The top rated show that just got an un-precedented two-year renewal."

Sabrina stood in complete shock as a studio guard approached them.

"Is there a problem here, Mr. Mc Devitt?" he asked.

"Uh...no," Stuart said, quickly grabbing Sabrina by the arm and pulling her away. "Just a slight mixup. My friend watches Bay Area Breakfast all the time. She knows Mack so well from watching him that she sometimes imagines he knows her, too."

"He does know me," Sabrina said, pulling herself loose from Stuart, "and let go of me."

"You should leave now, ma'am," the guard said to her firmly, coming closer to her.

Sabrina looked at the guard, then at Mack, then back at the guard. Stuart gently tugged her arm again and in a stunned daze she let him pull her away from them.

The side door opened again and Kari Wuhrer came out.

"Kari...Wuhrer?" Sabrina said slowly, in shock.

"Your least favorite person in Hollywood," Stuart said.

"Ready for brunch?" Mc Devitt asked.

"Lead on," Wuhrer said. A uniformed chauffeur approached and led them to a waiting car.

"Kari Wuhrer?" Sabrina repeated slowly to herself, staring at her.

"I know about the bad feelings and run-ins between you and her on the Sliders set after she joined the cast during the show's third season," Stuart said. "And I know that when it became intolerable at the end of that season the producer chose to keep her and fire you. Even though she was new and you were one of Sliders' original stars. And even though her attitude was the cause of the problems on the set."

"On Sports Night?..." Sabrina said, shaking her head in disbelief.

"The clerk called you Miss Welles," Stuart said. "Your character on Sliders - Wade Welles. The heavy set man with a beard and an English accent - that's John Rhys-Davies. Or, to be more precise, Professor Maximilian Arturo of Sliders. In all of the show's episodes he was the only one who consistently referred to you formally as 'Miss Welles'."

"I'm going to call the driver and get away from here," Sabrina said. She opened her small pocketbook and began fishing around for her cellphone.

"Where is it?" she asked.

"It's not there anymore," Stuart said. "Wade Welles travels to parallel worlds and isn't in any one of them long enough to get a cellphone."

"What are you talking about?!" Sabrina said, upset and confused. "I'm not Wade Welles. She's a make-believe character...who are you? Uh...get away from me!"

"My name is Stuart Weston and I'm the only one who can explain to you what's happened."

"What kind of game is this...is all of this?" she screamed, angrily.

"This is not a game," Stuart said. "This is far more serious than any game."

Sabrina fished around in her pocketbook again and pulled out her wallet. As she opened it her expression froze in shock. Stuart turned the wallet around to him and looked at what was in the inside plastic window.

"California driver's license, with your picture," he said slowly. "Issued to Wade Welles."

Sabrina looked at him, confused and helpless.

"Come on," Stuart said gently, taking her hand. "Let's get some coffee. There's a lot I have to tell you."

 

"...so they and everything about their characters became real," Sabrina said. "Talk about method acting.”

She was sitting with Stuart at a booth in a luncheonette. A cup of coffee and a cheese danish lay in front of each of them on the table.

"Yes," Stuart said. "I know it takes getting used to. It took Holly and Shannen three days before they accepted it."

"And now, you're saying the same thing has happened to me," she said. "Why?"

Stuart exhaled.

"I'm not sure," he said. "Something happened when Dalios 'undid' Phoebe and tried changing reality back to how it had been. A reality without Charmed witches. Or at least without a Phoebe. And...maybe without an Alyssa, too.

"He could change perceptions that would change reality. We saw that when he changed it for the four of us and I almost killed them. My guess is that when he tried to change reality directly for the whole world, it was more than he could control. He didn't have The Elders' powers. And when he forced reality to change...the change wasn't stable.

"And The Elders took advantage of that instability and made Wade Welles real. That whirlwind that we were in looked just like the trans-dimensional portal that you traveled through on Sliders."

"I don't remember how it looked," Sabrina said. "It was added in post-production.  When we did the scenes we just stood looking up at nothing as if something was there."

"I do remember," Stuart said, "I watched Sliders. And that fall we had out of the whirlwind. It was just like the falls you had from the end of the portal down to the ground whenever you arrived on another Earth. You remember that."

"I sure do," Sabrina said. "We had to jump from about six feet high out of camera range down to the ground. I still remember the bruise I got on my leg when John and I collided on one of the takes. My real pain looked so good that they used it in the episode." A small smile briefly crossed Sabrina's face. She's starting to overcome her shock, Stuart thought.

"So, half an hour ago I didn't recognize Holly...I didn't even know who she was," Sabrina said. "But now in this...parallel reality I remember her."

"Not parallel," Stuart said, "serial. I'll explain it in Sliders' terminology. Remember how Tracy Tormé named the Sliders' worlds when he was writing and producing the show? Earth Prime was the regular, normal Earth you started from. Then each of the parallel Earth's you went to had its own name. There was Dinosaur Earth where the dinosaurs were still around, and British Earth, where the American revolution had failed. And so on for each of the Earths.

"Prime Reality is where we all began," he continued. "Holly on Charmed, you on Sports Night. Everything normal. Charmed Reality is what The Elders made when Charmed became real. But it wasn't a parallel world. It was the same, though changed, world but continuing serially where Prime Reality had stopped. There wasn't any overlap because everything continues serially from where the other reality had left off.

"Now we have Sliders Reality. A continuation of the same, but changed, world that had been Charmed Reality.

"In Sliders, the people in each Earth were different people from their 'doubles' in the other Earths because they were in parallel worlds.  The show’s premise was that all of the parallel worlds existed at the same time so the people existed at the same time. But everyone here in this new reality is the same person who was in the other, the Charmed, reality. Because realities are serial, not parallel. Only one reality exists at a time."

"OK...I think I understand," Sabrina said. "But when, uh, Dalios tried to change reality why did The Elders make Sliders real?"

"We learned that once the Charmed reality was made, everything in it had to follow the rules of that reality," Stuart said. "The Elders couldn't just undo something bad that someone did in it, any more than they could undo it in the original reality. Dalios has the ability to change reality and that couldn't be stopped. Maybe in this new changed reality that we’re in whatever was needed by The Elders to just re-create Charmed Reality is no longer here.

"So...the way to re-create it had to be within this new reality.  And so Sliders and Wade Welles becoming real have to be somehow connected to re-creating the Charmed reality we came from."

Sabrina was silent for a moment.

"And...because Wade is real here Sliders can't be a show," Stuart said. "But Sports Night can."

"With Kari Wuhrer taking my role," Sabrina said, sounding upset.

"She supplanted you as the star of a show, of Sliders, in one reality," he said. "It's not illogical that she would do the same thing on another show in this reality, too."

"But Sports Night wasn't cancelled here," she said.

"Different reality, different ratings," Stuart replied and shrugged.

"You mean she can get better ratings for my show than I can?" Sabrina asked, sounding upset and jealous.

"Uh...uh," Stuart stammered. "Uh, no...they must have different Nielsen families here," he said, trying to placate her.

Sabrina looked across the luncheonette out the large window, exhaled, then played with the un-touched danish on her plate.

"It all sounds so fantastic," she said, after a moment. "Despite what the clerk said, despite what happened with Mack, despite Kari Wuhrer...I'm...I'm still having trouble...believing that Wade Welles is...that I'm..." She closed her eyes for a moment and exhaled again, then opened her eyes and slowly lifted the coffee cup to her lips.

"Tell me," Stuart said, "what was the name of the hotel you always stayed in on Sliders?"

"Uh...it was...The Dominion," Sabrina answered. "It actually was a real hotel. We shot some exterior scenes outside of it."

"A real hotel in Vancouver where Sliders was shot," Stuart said. "But not a real hotel in San Francisco, where Sliders was supposed to take place. There was no such hotel here. At least, not in the reality we came from. Uh, do you have some change?"

Sabrina opened her wallet and pulled out some coins.

"No cellphones," Stuart said, "so we have to use a payphone."

He stood up, grabbed a napkin and led Sabrina around the corner to a small hallway where a payphone hung on the wall. He dropped the money in, dialed Information and motioned to Sabrina for a pen.

"Dominion Hotel," he said.

He moved closer to her and held the receiver between their ears so that they could both hear.

Taking the pen from Sabrina, Stuart wrote down the number on the napkin. He dropped more change into the telephone and dialed the number.

"Dominion Hotel," the voice on the other end said.

"Wade Welles, please," Stuart said. "She's a guest." There was a pause for a few seconds.

"Just a moment," the operator said. Stuart and Sabrina heard a phone begin to ring. After six rings, the operator came back on.

"There's no answer in her room," she said. "Would you care to leave a message?"

"Uh...no," Stuart said. "I'll come by and see her, instead. Where is the hotel?"

"On Union between Van Ness and Polk," she replied.

"Thank you," Stuart said, hung up and turned to Sabrina.

"You see," he said, "the Dominion Hotel now exists in San Francisco. And...you have a room there." Sabrina stared ahead blankly and exhaled. Stuart put his arm around her and gently led her back to their table.

"Union and Polk is in Russian Hill," he said. "It's not walking distance from here. We have no car so we'll have to take a taxi. Let me see how much money I have."

"Why-" Sabrina began as Stuart opened his wallet but stopped as she saw the look on his face change.

"What is it?" she asked.

"My driver's license," he said, slowly taking it out. "It's Quinn Mallory's." He paused. "I've become Quinn Mallory...another Slider character from the show."

Stuart stopped and tried to make sense of it in his mind.

"Sliders must be the way back to Charmed reality," he said, after a moment. "That's why Wade and Quinn have to be real. Just like the real Charmed witches have powers to use against demons, the real Sliders have the ability to travel between parallel worlds.  Only this time, to travel not to another parallel world, but to another reality.  Back to our Charmed reality."

"And we have to go to the hotel," Sabrina said, understanding showing in her voice.

"Yes," Stuart said. "There's something we need. We're Sliders Wade Welles and Quinn Mallory and we don't have it with us. So it must be in the hotel room."

Sabrina stared ahead silently for a few seconds, then exhaled and turned to Stuart.

"The Sliders' timer," she said, slowly.

 

 The Dominion Hotel was a modest, four-story brick building filling most of the small block it was on. Sabrina stood outside, staring at its entrance, denial of what had happened to her now all but impossible.

"This is just so...eerie," she said. "All the times that I stood here when it was just a set. And now...". She looked up at the hotel sign over the entrance. "Now...it's real."

"That's how Holly felt, too," Stuart said. "You'll get used to it."

Sabrina looked at Stuart and gave him a half-smile.

"See if you have the key to our room," he said to her.

Sabrina looked inside her pocketbook and pulled out a key.

"It's stamped Dominion Hotel," she said, looking at it.

"But there's no room number on it," Stuart said. "That's a problem. We're supposed to know where we're staying. We can't just go over to the front desk and ask them where we belong."

"Of course we can," Sabrina said. "I'm an actress, remember? Wait here."

Sabrina walked through the doors and approached the small front desk. A tall man in his late twenties, wearing a dark green vest but no tie with his ecru shirt, stood behind it.

"Hi," she said to the clerk, a warm, innocent smile on her face. "I don't know if you remember me."

"Of course I do, Miss Welles," he replied. "I checked you in."

"I know," Sabrina said, without missing a beat. "But with all of the guests in the hotel, it would be understandable if you didn't remember me."

"It's my job to remember faces," he said. "I trust you're enjoying your stay with us."

"Yes, very much," she said, flashing her smile again. "I've been traveling a lot lately and staying in a lot of hotels. And - this is a little embarrassing - the room numbers have become a jumble in my head. And now, I can't remember which room I'm in here."

"Room 204, second floor to the right," he said, without needing to look it up.

"204...of course," she said.

"I have something for you," the clerk said. He looked beneath the desk and pulled out a long, narrow white box. "This was dropped off for you."

Surprised, Sabrina took the box from him and looked it over. Her name, the hotel name and her room number were hand written, with a bit of a flourish, on the box' cover. But there was no indication of who had sent it.

"Who left this?" she asked.

"A messenger delivered it," he answered.

"Thank you," she said. She walked towards the front door and discreetly signaled Stuart to come in. She turned around and headed towards the stairs and Stuart followed her.

"Good day, Mr. Mallory," the clerk said as Stuart passed him. Stuart gave him a long, hard look, then nodded his head slightly and went up the stairs.

Entering the room, Sabrina sat down sideways on the edge of the bed and looked cautiously at the box in her hands. She placed it on the bed beside her, moved herself further up on to the bed and removed the box' cover. Inside lay a single red rose. She lifted it from the box, held it to her nose and inhaled.

There was something familiar about the rose, she thought. As if she had received this once before. But when? And from whom? She had been sent roses on more than one occasion but those had all been bouquets. Not a single, red rose...like this one.

A folded note lay inside the box. Sabrina took it out and slowly opened it.

"I've been expecting you," she read aloud. "Come tonight to Aquatic Park at eight o'clock. Derek Bond." She looked down and stared at the rose again.

"Derek," she said, softly.

"From a Sliders episode," Stuart said. "In the second season, if I'm not mistaken. Uh...what was the name of it?"

Sabrina thought for a moment.

"Obsession," she said. "Derek is a seer. He saw that we were lovers in a past life in eighteenth century England. I was shot and killed by his father to prevent our marriage."

"Of course," Stuart said. "Since the Sliders are real they have to be on one of their parallel Earth's. This is Psychic Earth. In that episode, ten percent of the population here has psychic power. They're recruited to hone their skills at...what was it called? Oh yeah, the National Academy For Seers here in San Francisco. These oracles are trained in different fields. Like the medical oracles, who obviate x-rays because they can see what is inside people's bodies.

"In Obsession, Derek Bond was expecting you when you slid into his Psychic Earth," Stuart said, continuing the storyline. "He wanted to have you in the marriage he had been denied in his past life. Then he was chosen by the Prime Oracle, right before he died, to replace him, the most important position in the country second only to the President. And that you were to be the most crucial thing to his success as Prime Oracle."

"He lacked compassion," Sabrina said. "And he was to get that from me."

"Yes, when he forcibly kept you in his compound," Stuart said. "It was only after the ruse the writers came up with to free you that he learned that what he thinks is best for someone is not necessarily what that someone feels is best nor even wants."

"And now, he was expecting my slide here again," Sabrina said, almost wistfully. "Just like in Obsession."

"I told you that when Charmed became real, everything that had happened on the show's episodes became real," Stuart said. "Well, now the same thing is true with Sliders. In this reality, all of your episodes have really happened, too. You really have been on this Psychic Earth before.

"Wade felt something for Derek in that episode," he continued. "And now...you're feeling something for him in real life. Aren't you?"

Sabrina looked at the rose, closed her eyes and exhaled.

"The same thing happened to Holly when she became Piper," Stuart said.  "She had the same feelings for Leo in real life that she had for him in the Charmed episodes."

Sabrina stood up and put the rose down on the room's small table. She took a deep breath as she shook her head slightly, then went over to the chest of drawers.

"This is all...so un-believable," she said, opening a drawer.

"You're doing a good job of believing it," Stuart said, with a small smile.

Sabrina took something out of the drawer. Stuart saw that she was holding something small and rectangular.

"What choice do I have?" she asked, rhetorically.

"The Sliders' timer," Stuart said, staring at the device. "That's what you used on the show to open the trans-dimensional portal to slide between parallel worlds. The same portal we came through this morning. And the timer also told you how much time you had left until the next slide. The portal could only be opened when the timer went to zero."

"A prop on Sliders," Sabrina said, staring at it. "And now...its real."

"How much time does it say we have?" he asked.

"A little over thirty-two hours," she said.

"That means about nine-thirty tomorrow night," he said, looking at his watch. "This is The Elders' plan in making Sliders real. Use the portal the timer opens to get back to the Charmed reality we came from."

"The timer's portal on Sliders was a connection between parallel worlds, not between realities," Sabrina said. "We don't know that Sliding will get us back to our reality. If Sliders is real...since Sliders is real," she corrected herself, "this reality is going to be like the show was. Just like we couldn't slide back home to our Earth on Sliders, we can't slide back to our reality here, either. Sliding may just take us to another parallel Earth, even further removed from our reality."

"This Sliders reality didn't just happen," Stuart said. "Going back through the portal, reversing how we got here, has to be the way to force the Charmed reality back into existence."

"Has to?" Sabrina asked. "It could be that this...this Sliders reality just began with us sliding into a parallel Earth. The same way a lot of the episodes began. Not because the portal is a connection between realities.

"In this case it just happens to be that we slid back into Psychic Earth," she continued. "That doesn't mean that sliding has to be the way back."

Stuart exhaled.

"It should be the way back," he admitted. "We have to take that chance. Look, Sliders' scripts said that if you missed a slide you'd be stuck on whatever parallel Earth you were on for twenty-nine years before you'd get another chance to slide out. Everything in those scripts is real now, just like everything in Charmed's scripts became real. We can't risk being stuck here for twenty-nine years. We have to take the chance that sliding will get us back to our reality."

Sabrina closed her eyes in thought. After a moment she opened them and nodded her head in agreement.

"Piper came through the portal with us," Stuart said. "She has to go back through it with us, too. I don't know what will happen to her if she doesn't. She may wind up nowhere when this reality stops existing." He paused and exhaled. "And I don't know what happened to Prue."

"We have a day and a half to find them," Sabrina said.

"Let's try calling them," Stuart said. "It may not be their telephone number in this reality but its all we have to start with." He picked up the telephone and dialed The Manor's number. It rang four times. And then a voice began speaking.

"Hi. You've reached Piper's answering machine. I'm not available right now but please leave me a message. Thanks."

Stuart hung up at the sound of the beep.

"I got Piper on an answering machine," he said. "Piper said it was her machine...so that means she's alone. Prue doesn't live with her."

"She said she was Piper, not Holly?" Sabrina asked. "That means the Charmed reality still exists."

"You're right...it does mean that," Stuart said. "Or at least part of it exists. Piper and the telephone number. But no Prue. I'm so used to her being Piper that I didn't catch that. We have to see what else is here. Let's check on The Manor. It doesn't exist in San Francisco in real reality. I mean...in normal reality. That is...the reality we-"

"It's OK," Sabrina said, "I know what you mean. I guess...I really do understand all of this." She put the timer into her jacket pocket and they left the room.

 

"There it is," Stuart said, sitting in a taxi across the street from The Manor, not sure whether or not to be surprised.

"So this demon Dalios couldn't control this part, either," Sabrina said.

"And that left this reality a mixed up mess," he said, “with parts of Charmed in it.”.

"Holly isn't here," Sabrina asked. "Where do we find her?"

"She's Piper," Stuart said. "When Charmed became real, they became The Halliwells.  She became - and she is - Piper.

"OK," Sabrina said. "So where do we look for...Piper?"

"P3," Stuart said. "Maybe everything about Piper exists here, too. She might be there preparing the club for tonight.

"Take us to Fillmore and Greenwich," he said to the driver.

 

"The club seems to be here," Stuart said.

"Halliwell's Haven," Sabrina said, reading the sign above the entrance.

"I guess P3 wouldn't have made any sense in this reality," he said.

Sabrina approached the door and tried to open it.

"It's locked," she said.

"It's still early," Stuart said. "I have a key...uh, I guess in this reality I don't have a key anymore. Let's go around to the back door.  It should be open.”

As they came around to the back Stuart saw a familiar car parked behind the club. The driver's door was open and someone started to get out.

"Piper!" Stuart called excitedly, then caught himself. She won't know me, he thought. "Uh...Piper Halliwell?" he asked, changing his tone.

"Yes," she said, "I'm Piper. Should I know you? If you've been in the club, I'm sorry. I just don't remember seeing you."

"No," Sabrina said, "we're in San Francisco for just a few days. I'm...Wade Welles. This is Quinn Mallory."

"And your club was recommended to us," Stuart said. "We were told if we did nothing else while we were here to be sure to come to Halliwell's Haven."

"Really!" Piper said, pleasantly surprised. "How nice. Who recommended you?"

Stuart hesitated, not knowing what to answer.

"Shannen Doherty," Sabrina said, jumping in.

Piper stared motionless at Sabrina for what seemed to Stuart to be an eternity.

"Shannen Doherty?" Piper asked. "The Shannen Doherty? The star of Charmed Like an Angel, the best show on television?"

"Yes," Stuart said, with relief. "We're friends."

"Shannen Doherty is my favorite actress in the whole world," Piper said, excitedly. "Tell me about her...when was she here? Uh, wait, let's go inside the club."

The table was familiar to Stuart. It was the same one he had sat at many times in P3. The decor, the layout and even the lights were the same. The only difference was that Phoebe wasn't there. And neither was Prue.

"How could I have not known that she was here?" Piper asked, disappointed.

"Hollywood stars like to travel incognito," Stuart said. "Isn't that right, Wade?"

"Yes," Sabrina said. "We try to avoid...uh, that is, they try to avoid being spotted so they can enjoy some privacy. It can become quite difficult being constantly recognized everywhere you go."

"Hmm," Piper said, "I suppose it can be. Not that I would know what that's like. There's not a lot of people who know me outside of the club."

"You'd be surprised," Stuart said. "Uh, that is...the club is more well known than you realize."

"Wow!" Piper said, smiling. "Shannen's told other people about it?"

"Have you ever heard of Alyssa Milano?" Stuart asked. Just in case, he thought. Let's be sure.

"No, I haven't," Piper said. "Is she some up and coming actress in Hollywood who's going to become a star? Someone I'm going to know about?

"Uh...yes," Stuart said. "We hope...that's exactly what's going to happen."

"So what is Shannen like in real life?" Piper asked. "I always felt she was just as nice as the angel she plays."

"Angel," Stuart repeated, then hesitated. He found the thought of Shannen as an angel difficult to picture. "Uh...Shannen...is pretty much in-distinguishable from her character."

"She's really her part come to life," Sabrina added.

"I knew it. I knew it!" Piper exclaimed. "There's something about her that I could tell that wasn't her acting."

Familiar words, Stuart thought. Words he'd used about Phoebe...and Alyssa.

"I take it you've been a fan of Shannen for some time," Stuart said.

"From the very beginning," Piper said, "when she started on 90210. I never missed an episode in all the seven years she was on the show until it was canceled."

Seven years, Stuart thought. Hmm...she lasted three years longer on it here than she did in the real reality. Maybe Aaron Spelling doesn't exist here.

"What does she like to do when she's not acting?" Piper asked. "Does she like to cook like me?"

"Actually, she's been doing quite a bit of cooking lately," Stuart answered, thinking of their past few weeks in The Manor. "We had dinner together just the other night. She made an extraordinary grilled lamb."

"Do you think there's a chance she'll come here again?" Piper asked.

"I very much hope so," Stuart said, thinking about Prue coming to the club again in the Charmed reality.

"What Quinn means," Sabrina quickly said, "is that if she did come he'd like to come with her."

"Oh, uh, if you do," Piper said, "uh...can I ask you a big favor? Would you let me know when she was coming? Not that I would tell anyone. I wouldn't tell anyone, not even the people working here. Just for myself so that I'd be sure to be here when she came."

"Quinn would be happy to," Sabrina said.

"Of course," Stuart said.

"Wow - thank you," Piper said. "Uh...I really have to check on things to get ready for tonight. Why don't you come back tonight. As my guests...everything will be on the house."

"Uh...thank you," Stuart said, "that's very kind of you."

"It's the least I can do for you for making my day by telling me about Shannen," Piper said.

"We'll be here around nine o'clock," Stuart said.

"Just ask for me," Piper said.

"We'll see you then," Sabrina said, standing up.

 

"We've established a relationship with Piper," Stuart said, outside the club, "now we have stay close to her. We have to get her to slide with us."

"That may take some doing," Sabrina said. "I...I understand what's happened and it's still hard for me to believe. Piper has no idea about any of this. She won’t believe us and she's not going to want to do it."

"We'll have to slide from wherever Piper is tomorrow night," Stuart said. "If we can't convince her to come with us we'll have to force her."

"That won't be easy, Quinn," she said. Stuart was about to say something but he stopped and looked at Sabrina.

"What?" she asked.

"You called me Quinn," he said.

"I did? I'm sorry, Quinn, I don't know - uh...I just did it again," Sabrina said, confused.

"You're thinking and speaking like Wade Welles," Stuart said. "Don't fight it. It won't help, anyway. It's part of you becoming Wade in real life.

"When Charmed became real, playing the part wasn't good enough. They had to instinctively be The Halliwells to survive.  They couldn't be thinking about their roles and how to play them. They had to live them. And so, as part of making their roles become real, The Elders made them think and act more and more like their characters.

"The same is true with you, Sabrina. You have to instinctively think and speak as Wade. You can't act like her. You have to become her. You have to be Wade Welles.

“And...” he exhaled, “I suppose I’m going to become more like Quinn.”

Sabrina closed here eyes and gave a shudder.

"I'm...I'm not sure...just who I am right now," she said.

"It's OK," Stuart said re-assuringly, putting his arms around her and holding her to him. "You'll know soon enough."

 

At first, Sabrina saw and felt the differences.

The man who met her at Aquatic Park was not a uniformed chauffeur driving a limousine, as the Sliders Obsession episode script would have dictated. Instead, he was a man in a tan windbreaker and running shoes driving a nondescript compact car.

The house was small. Smaller than the Sliders episode's location structure that had given the impression of a large, protected compound.

The room was small. Smaller than the episode's set that had given the impression of many large rooms in a spacious home.

The food on the table wasn't the elaborate fare on expensive china, as had been in the episode, but simple food in pedestrian dishes.

There were no servants scurrying about, no enclosed swimming pool and patio outside the dining room's glass doors, as there had been in the episode.

There were no cameras at the ready, no crew looking on, no director calling for action.

But there was Derek Bond.

Tall, suave, his brown hair combed straight back. The same handsome and captivating Derek Bond who had been in Obsession.

And...she was the same Wade Welles.

"There has not been one day these past four years that I gave up hope of your return," Derek said. "Not one day that I did not think of how much I love you. The night that you slid out of this world I realized that I had to let you go. And I realized you had taught me what I had lacked...compassion. And having learned to have it, I so wanted you to see me as I had become.

"Then, yesterday, I saw that you would slide back to this world. And my heart experienced a joy that it had not once felt in those four years."

The words were affecting Wade, just as they had affected her on Sliders, in an episode shot four years earlier. Derek was affecting Wade, just as he had then. Four years earlier it had been James Patrick Stuart and Sabrina Lloyd acting from a script. Now, it was Derek Bond and Wade Welles. And what she was feeling wasn't acting. It was real. Because Derek Bond had become real.

And so had Wade Welles.

"Derek..." she began, then hesitated. She was being overwhelmed by the feelings and the memory. She had to clear her mind.

"Derek, what happened here?" she asked, re-directing the conversation. "You were chosen to be the new Chief Oracle. The President of The United States was here for your inauguration. You were the second most powerful man in the country. And now...?"

"Indeed, I was," Derek said. "I did become Chief Oracle. And thanks to you, and to what you taught me, I was able to use my psychic power in the way the late Chief Oracle saw in his vision that I would use it. And I was able to avert tragedies and save people's lives.

"Then, about a year ago, I foresaw an avalanche along a road in Montana. I had the road closed and traffic diverted to the other side of the mountain. And there was an avalanche...but on that other side. The side where I sent the cars...not on the side where I had foreseen it happening. Thirty people were killed because of that."

"How could that happen?" Wade asked. "Your psychic power is very strong, stronger than any other oracle in this world."                    

"I don't have to tell you how this shook me up," Derek said, "but I was at a loss to explain it. And then someone made a public attack on me, saying that my power was weak. And he began a movement to remove me from my position.

"About a month later, I had a vision of a home in Bel Air, near LA, being broken in to. The people were unexpectedly at home and the wife was killed. I alerted the police. They quietly warned the people, making sure that they would not be home, and set a trap for the burglars.

"Right after I told the police about it, this same other person went to them and said he saw the same thing happening, only in Laurel Canyon, some ten miles away. The police ignored him but he managed to call both the Governor and the White House and tell them. Of course, they ignored his as well."

Derek stopped and exhaled.

"The house where the police were waiting wasn't broken in to. But the house he told them about in Laurel Canyon was. The family's two teenage girls were shot.

"Besides the press' coverage, this had gotten the President's attention. This person stepped up his campaign to have me replaced - with himself.

"Two weeks later, the President was going to San Diego to make a speech. I foresaw no danger for him and approved the trip. That other person contacted the White House and warned of an attempt on the President's life just before the speech. Based on my advice the President went as planned."

Derek exhaled again.

"There was an attempt to kill the President," he said. "It was un-successful and he wasn't hurt. But that was the final straw. I was removed from office and replaced by this other person.

"It was only later that I was able to see into this person's mind and learn that he wasn't a person at all. This may be difficult for you to accept but...he is a demon. There are such beings."

"I know," Wade said.

"You do?" Derek asked, astonished.

"I've come to learn about them recently," she said. "That's how we wound up sliding back here."

"What??...A demon sent you back to me?" he asked.

"Not exactly," Wade said. "It's too difficult to explain.  Tell me, what is this demon's name?

"Braiden," Derek said.

"Braiden?" Wade repeated, recognizing the demon Stuart had told her about. "And he's a psychic demon?"

"Not exactly," Derek said. "You know that stronger oracles such as me can send thoughts to others. You remember that both before and during your first slide here I sent you the dreams about our prior life together. As it turns out, because my psychic strength is so strong it's always projecting what it sees.  Though it's a rather weak projection because I'm not consciously doing it so no one can receive it.

"No one, that is, but Braiden. He has a demonic power that allows him to pick up my projections anyway and at the same time confuse me in my mind about what I'm seeing. That's how he knew about what would really happen those three times."

"And that's why you're psychic visions were wrong," Wade said. "I mean, what you thought were your psychic visions.  You psychic power really did see those things as they would happen. But what would a demon gain by becoming Chief Oracle?"

"Power and opportunity with which to do evil," Derek replied. "He can be selective about his predictions, preventing enough tragedies to keep his position while letting those that he wasn't asked about not be prevented. Especially those involving good people who help others and who themselves would now be killed."

"Now that you know what Braiden is and what he did, why haven't you made that known and tried to get your position back?" Wade asked.

"At first I did try," Derek said. "I had rallied some people to my side. But Braiden had me declared a danger to the country and the people who were with me as subversives. He set up special police units to monitor our activity and had many of the people arrested. That's one of the reasons I didn't meet you in public but had you brought to me here."

"And the other reason?" she asked.

Derek looked silently into Wade's eyes.

"Because I still love you so much," he said, "and I wanted to show you that in private." He put his arms around Wade's shoulders and drew her close to him.

"And because I know that you still love me," he said. He brought her closer, their lips touched and they kissed.

Wade felt everything she was supposed to have felt for Derek in the episode, which now had become her real feelings. She felt herself being overwhelmed, again and now she submitted to those feelings. She put her arms around him, closed her eyes and kissed him.

They held the kiss for a long time until Wade opened her eyes and their lips parted.

"Now that you've come back," Derek said, "we have a second chance. No...a third chance. Three hundred years ago, four years ago and now again today. You know what they say - the third time is charmed."

Charmed. That word meant something to Wade. It started to break through into her consciousness, break through her reality with Derek.

Charmed. Charmed reality.

"And with you at my side," Derek continued, "I will be able to unmask Braiden. And be restored as Chief Oracle to help everyone."

Charmed reality, Wade thought.

"Uh...Derek..." Wade began. "I...I'm not staying. I'm...I'm sliding out tomorrow night."

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

"Derek," Wade said, "don't make the same mistake you made last time. Don't try to keep me here against my will."

"No...no, of course not," Derek said. "What I meant was...that this was why your slide brought you back here. Look, in all of the slides that you've made, have you ever come back to the same world twice?"

"Uh...no, we haven't," Wade said.

"Then there's a reason that you did slide back here," he said. "To help me. Just like you helped me to become Chief Oracle the first time you were here. You've been sent back here to help me become Chief Oracle, again. By helping me defeat Braiden."

Wade closed her eyes and exhaled. Charmed, she thought.

"Derek..." she said. She raised her right hand and stroked it across his left cheek.

She took a deep breath. I have to concentrate on the Charmed reality, she thought.

"Derek...I...uh, we...were brought back here for a reason," Wade said. "But I can't explain it to you. It's...you just have to trust me. There's another reality...uh...parallel world that will be destroyed if we don't slide out of here tomorrow night."

"What?? What do you mean?" Derek asked. "How? Why?"

"Derek...I know I should give you an explanation," Wade said. "You...deserve one. But I can't. You wouldn't understand it. I even have trouble understanding it."

"You know that the last time you were here that despite my being an oracle there were things about you that I couldn't see," Derek said. "And that's true this time, too. There are still things about you I can't see. That scared the hell out of me then and its scaring me, now, again."

"It's better that way," Wade said. "Some things are best left not being seen."

"Look, even if this was all true, even if there was another world that you could save," Derek said, "you know you can't control which world you're going to slide into. You don't know where you're going to wind up next."

"I know we can't control the slides," Wade said. "But this time I think it's different. Uh, Quinn is sure that it's different. It has to do with demons and how we got here. And undoing what the demons have done."

"Wade, I...I can't see what this is all about," he said. "But...you've been to so many worlds where you've almost died. Stay here with me. You're safe here. And...I love you so much."

Wade looked at him silently and then shook her head.

"I...trust Quinn," she said. "And when you trust someone...you believe in him."

Wade exhaled.

"Tomorrow night we're sliding out of here," she said.

 

Halliwell's Haven was pretty full. But as soon as Piper spotted Quinn and Wade she made her way to them, whisked them to a quiet booth on the side and sat down with them. A booth that Stuart knew very well.

"Your club is really nice," Stuart said.

"Thanks," Piper said. "I've put a lot into it."

"I know," Stuart said, before he could stop himself.

"You do?" Piper asked,

"Uh...you're really busy tonight," Wade quickly interjected. "We don't want to keep you from your work."

"You're not," Piper said. "Sometimes I need to take a break for a few minutes and I can't get it unless I sit down and talk to someone. And you are my special guests. Oh, Gina."

Stuart saw a familiar face come over to their table.

"Gina," Piper said, "this is Wade Welles and Quinn Mallory. They're from LA. They were sent here by - are you ready - Shannen Doherty!"

"No!" Gina said. "Really?? Wow! Halliwell's Haven is now on the map!"

"It certainly is," Stuart said.

"Oh, Piper," Gina said, "it's been so busy tonight I forgot all about this." She took something out of her pocket and put it down on the table in front of Piper.

Stuart stared at it in disbelief. It was a key ring. Attached to it was a plastic keychain California license plate. A name was engraved on it just below the California golden sun.

Crystal.

"Mendell dropped it off early this afternoon," Gina said. "She said she had an extra promo keychain and brought it over for you."

"What happened to her?" Piper asked. "She was supposed to be here yesterday."

"She said she lost her keys a few days ago while bicycling over the bridge," Gina said, "and that threw her schedule off."

"Whose is that?" Stuart asked, his tone turning serious.

"Shira Mendell," Piper said.

"Who's Crystal?" he asked.

"That's her company," Piper said. "Crystal Club. She supplies clubs with glasses, stemware, dishes, caddies, shakers - even some of the ingredients for the food we serve."

Stuart glanced at Wade for a second.

"I have to speak to her," Stuart said, urgency in his voice. "How do I reach her?"

"I have her telephone numbers," Piper said, a little confused at Quinn's sudden need.

"It won't do any good," Gina said. "She was going to get completely away for a day. Said she had a lot of tension and aggravation this week because of her lost keys. She was even turning off her cellphone. No business, just relaxation. There's no way to reach her."

"Until she comes back tomorrow evening," Stuart said, slowly.

"That's right," Gina said, "how'd you know? She said she'd be back in time for dinner."

"What's so urgent about speaking to her?" Piper asked. "Maybe I can help you in the meantime."

Stuart exhaled.

"It's...a complicated story," Stuart said. "I'll...uh, just take her phone numbers, anyway."

"Here," Gina said, pulling out a business card from her pocket. "Shira left it with the keychain but we already have a few of her cards."

"Thanks," Stuart said, looking over the card. Crystal Club, it read.  It’s crystal clear - we help your club look its best.

This is awkward, Wade thought. I'd better change the subject quickly. "How about if we try some of those great drinks that Shannen told us about?"

"Uh...yes," Stuart said, "I've been looking forward to them all evening."

"Good," Piper said, "order away. Gina, everything for my guests is on the house."

 

"Crystal isn't the name of a person," Stuart said, as they walked down Fillmore looking for a taxi back to The Dominion. "It's the name of a company. A company that does business with the club. That's why the name Crystal was familiar to Piper. That is, to the Piper from our reality."

"The keys were lost in the Charmed reality," Wade said, "and they were still lost in this reality."

"Yes," Stuart said. "I told you that the realities are serial. What happens in one reality continues in the next reality."

"So Shira Mendell is, uh...will be the demon's victim in this reality," Wade said.

"Yes," Stuart said, "unless we save her. And to do that we have to know where she's going to be attacked tomorrow night. There's only one person who can tell us that."

"Derek," Wade said.

"First thing in the morning-" The screeching tires of the police car pulling up beside them cut Stuart off.  He saw Subversive Surveillance Unit on the side of the door as two policemen jumped out of the car and grabbed Wade, pulling her hands behind her back.

"Hey!" Stuart shouted but one of the cops pushed him down.

"Stay away or you'll be arrested, too," the cop said to him.

"Arrested?!" Wade screamed. "For what?"

"For being a subversive," the first cop said. "You were seen leaving the home of Derek Bond. We have records that show you were close to him four years ago. You've come back to be part of a group associated with him that's trying to undermine the Chief Oracle and endanger the country."

"I haven't done anything!" Wade screamed as the second cop clamped handcuffs on her wrists.

"Not yet," the first cop said. "But the police oracle had a vision that you're going to do something with Bond to endanger the Chief Oracle. If this was just an ordinary crime we'd release you after you were warned not to commit the crime and you signed the acknowledgment of the warning.

"But this is subversion. And the new law says that for subversion we can keep you in jail indefinitely before you commit the crime. "

Having gotten up from the ground, Stuart charged the second cop from behind. He rammed his elbow into the small of the cop's back and kicked him behind his knee. The cop's leg buckled and he fell to the ground.

The first cop let go of Wade, took his nightstick from his belt and slammed it into Stuart's stomach. Stuart doubled over and fell to one knee. As the cop raised his nightstick again, Wade rammed the cop with all her might. Losing his balance, the cop fell down. Now above him, Wade turned around and brought her handcuffed hands down hard on the back of his head.

The force of the handcuff's metal was enough to stun him momentarily and he dropped his nightstick. Struggling to recover his breath, Stuart managed to pick it up and slugged the cop with it twice over his head. The cop grabbed his head and fell to his knees.

Stuart grabbed Wade and they started running away. But the first cop, reaching the open patrol car door, pulled out a rifle. Bracing himself against the car, he aimed the gun at the fleeing figures and fired.

"Arrgh!" Stuart cried as he felt something hit him in the back.

"Quinn!" Wade cried. "You're shot?"

"I...arrgh...don't know," he said. "I...let's just keep moving."

BANG! The rifle's sound reverberated through the streets

"OHH!!" Wade screamed as she felt something lodge in the shoulder of her jacket.

"Wade!" Stuart said.

"I'm OK, I think," she said.

"Come on!" Stuart said. They ran up and down the streets and through alley ways, staying in the shadows where they could find them.

"The hotel is not the safest place for us to be," Wade said. "That clerk made a point of remembering my name."

"Being visible on the streets isn't any better," Stuart said, "and we have no place else to go. Besides, they have no reason to think we're staying there. It...ugh...will take them a while to find us there.

"I hope," he added.

"This is going to be awkward," Wade said, outside the hotel, "walking through the lobby in handcuffs."

"I'll...ugh...block you," Stuart said. He started to open the hotel’s front door but then Wade stopped him.

"Act like you're a little high," she told him.

Stuart put his arm around Wade's shoulders and they walked inside. Leaning on Wade’s left side from behind her, Stuart's body blocked the front desk clerk's view of Wade's handcuffed hands behind her back. Staggering slightly and rocking her head sideways, Wade gave an accurate portrayal of a tipsy young woman needing to be helped.

From the corner of his eye, Stuart saw the clerk staring at them intently.

"Come on Wade, Honey," Stuart said loudly, carefully exaggerating his walk, "it's just a few steps upstairs. You can make it."

"Miss Welles," the clerk called out. Stuart turned his head to him and half-closed his eyes.

"This box was just dropped off for you," the clerk said.

"Uh..." Stuart said. If I leave Wade and walk over to get it he'll see the handcuffs, he thought.

"Quinn," Wade said, turning her head around and smiling at him, "just...uh...help me upstairs first. And then you can come down and get the...uh...uh...the box. That's it...you can come down and get my box."

Stuart turned back to the clerk and gave him a half-drunken smile.

"I'll, uh...be right back for...uh, the box," Stuart said. Keeping himself between the clerk and Wade, he helped her towards the stairs and then up the steps. Out of the clerk's view, they hurried to their room.

"Phew!" Wade exhaled, once they were inside.

"Good thinking," Stuart said, "and good acting."

"Acting," Wade said, sounding a little unsure. "It...seemed so natural."

"It should be," Stuart said. "You are-"

The knock on the door cut him off. Stuart motioned to Wade and she hurried into the other room. He looked around the room but there was nothing he saw that he could use as a weapon.

A second knock on the door.

"Who's there?" Stuart asked.

"Front Desk," the voice said. Stuart went to the door and cautiously opened it.

"Miss Welles' box," the Front Desk clerk said. "I thought that under the circumstances...it was best that you not make another trip to the lobby."

"Right," Stuart said. "Uh, right. That was...uh...nice of you. Uh...very  nice of you..."

"Good night," the clerk said, a disdainful expression on his face. He turned around and quickly headed back to the lobby and Stuart closed the door.

"It's OK, Wade," he said, putting the box down on the table. "Arrgh...you can come out."

"You're hurt," she said. Stuart shook his head.

"Let me see you," he said, running his hand across her jacket shoulder.

"Here," he said, pulling something out.

It was a short, narrow dart, about three inches long, with an ampule taking up half the length.

"The shoulder pad in the jacket must have stopped it from getting to you," Stuart said.

"What is it?" Wade asked.

"The shoulder of your jacket is wet," Stuart said. "It looks like...some kind of hyperdermic needle. Maybe...whatever is in the ampule is meant to discharge through the needle on impact...arrgh."

"You're hurt," Wade said. "Get these cuffs off of me so I can help you."

"I doubt there's anything in the room that can saw through them," Stuart said. As he started looking around he saw the box the clerk had brought on the table.

"Wait...let's first see what this is," he said. He turned the box over and saw the handwriting on it. The same handwriting and flourish as was on the previous box."

"It's from Derek," Wade said.

Stuart slit open the tape that sealed it with the room key and opened the box.

"A file saw," he said. "Just what we need to get these cuffs off of you. Turn around."

"Derek must have seen what was happening and sent it," Wade said.

"Why didn't he see it before it happened and warn us?" Stuart asked, as he began filing away.

"He said there are things about me he can't see," Wade said.

"Almost...arrgh...done," Stuart said. "This reminds of the time I was in handcuffs when we escaped from a court room and we made the slide with me still in them. I had to walk around in the new world hiding my..."

Wait a minute, Stuart thought. I was in handcuffs? That was Quinn Mallory on Sliders. I'm...I'm...

"Quinn, don't stop," Wade said.

"Right," Stuart said. He went back to sawing and in a minute Wade's hands were free.

"That's better," she said. "Now let me see you." She went behind him, looked at his back and pulled something out.

"Arrgh," he said.

"It went right through the jacket," Wade said, holding it up to the light. "The ampule is empty." She quickly pulled off Stuart's jacket, shirt and undershirt.

"Oh...your back...all around where you were shot," Wade said. "It's green." She turned Stuart around to her. "Your chest, too. It's green opposite where that dart hit you in the back."

"It must be...arrgh...from whatever was in the ampule," he said.

"A poison?" she asked.

"Maybe," Stuart said. "Whatever it is...where my skin is green, it hurts."

 

In her room an hour later, Wade had removed her shoes and pants, getting ready to go to sleep. She was about to take off her maroon knit shirt when she stopped. She stood silently in thought for a moment, then slowly walked over to the door of her room. She opened the door and looked at Quinn lying in bed. On Sliders, the scripts said that Wade had deep feelings for Quinn but that he was oblivious to them. But this wasn't a script, now. She was Wade in real life. Standing in the doorway, these were her real, natural feelings.

Derek did evoke something in her, she thought, and she did feel something for him. But given the opportunity, she always knew she would take Quinn before anyone else. At that moment, Sliders wasn't a show. Everything that had been on Sliders felt real - was real - to Wade.

And now Quinn, having saved her, was hurt. And he needed to be held. He needed her.

She had her opportunity.

Wade walked over to Stuart's bed and drew the covers half-way back. She sat down on the left side of the bed next to him and slid her left hand under his head. Stuart opened his eyes as she leaned over him and placed her lips on his.

Stuart and Quinn were one.  Yet he wasn’t just a combination of the two of them.  He had somehow become someone more than them, someone who had other feelings, someone who had his own feelings. Someone...who didn't want to resist Wade. Slowly, he took her right hand in his. Wade took a deep breath, slipped her legs up onto the bed under the covers and lay down next to him.

 

Wade sat astride the brown mare, the long, black tresses of her coiffed hair reaching almost to her elbows. She adjusted her burgundy cloak as she waited anxiously, looking each way down the trail in the thickly wooded forest.

The sky was overcast but not dark. It was quiet all around her. She was where she had been told to be by the woman sent by Derek. Where she should wait for Derek to join her.

BANG!

The shot rang out, shattering the silence. Wade fell from her horse to the ground. Blood from her chest quickly formed a large red circle on her white blouse.

It was but another moment until Derek arrived. He jumped off of his horse, ran to Wade and held her in his arms.

"No, my darling!” Derek said.  “Oh no!” He lifted her head closer to him.

“I did not send the woman to you,” he said.  “My father sent her so he could lay in wait for you to do this.”

Wade looked up at him.

"Though I die," she said softly, "my love for you will not."

Wade's eyes opened wide for an instant and then glazed over. Then they closed and her head fell lifeless against Derek's chest.

"No!" he shouted.  “No!!”

"ARRGH!" Screaming, Wade sat up like a bolt. She jumped out of bed and turned every which way. She was all confused about where she was. And who she was.

She put her hands to her head then turned to the mirror. Her hair was still brown, not black.  Still mid-length in the back, still shorter on the sides. And there was no blood on her blouse. She wasn't even wearing a blouse. Nor a cloak. Nor...anything else.

For a moment she stood there, frozen in fear. Then, it starting coming back to her.

The portal, Sliders, Derek, Piper, demons...and Quinn.

She had been dreaming. Of her being killed by Derek's father in their past life three hundred years ago. The images of that life that Derek 'sent' her as she slept in the Sliders episode.

Did she dream of her murder because of her having seen Derek? she thought. Or because she had been shot at last night by the police?

Or...did Derek send the images to her - this time in real life - as she slept?

Shot...Quinn! she suddenly remembered.

She hurried back to the bed and pulled back the blanket. Whatever had been in that dart had spread. His whole chest and back, his right arm and the left side of his face were now green.

He was still asleep. Or was he? Frightened, she put her ear by his nose and mouth.

He was breathing.

She had to save Quinn.

And there was also the slide that couldn't be missed. And she had to somehow get Piper to slide with them. And at the same time, save Shira Mendell from the pentagram demon who was going to kill her.

And she was going to have to do it all by herself.

She grabbed her clothes and starting getting dressed.

She needed help. And there was only person who could help her.

 

The car stopped along the side of a warehouse where Wade was told to be. The driver, the same man in the tan windbreaker and running shoes from the night before, got out of the car. He looked around then opened the back door and hurried Wade into the car. He got back into the driver's seat and the car sped away

 

"You didn't warn me," Wade said as she walked into Derek's living room.

"I didn't see it until it was happening," Derek said.

"No, not that," Wade said. "You didn't warn me that it was dangerous to be with you even in your home."

"They haven't bothered us for a while," Derek said.  “I didn’t expect them to be watching outside.”

“They might be waiting outside, again,” she said.

“This time I checked to make sure,” he said.

"They said I was going to do something to endanger the Chief Oracle," Wade said.

Derek smiled.

"You see, I was right," he said. "Your sliding back here was to help me against the demon Chief Oracle."

"Did you send me that...that dream last night?" she asked.

"Yes," Derek said. "I had hoped reliving our past life together would rekindle your feelings for me."

"I...I do have...some feelings for you, Derek," she said. She paused and exhaled.

"But I have responsibilities," she said. "To Quinn...to...the other...world. That other world that's dependent on my...on our...sliding into it tonight."

Derek took her chin in his right hand and her right hand in his left.

"I know...that together we could save this world," he said, staring into her eyes.

Wade hesitated.

"Maybe," she finally said. "But I can't. Not at the expense of my...of the other world. I know that I can save it.

"Do you...really know?" he asked.

Derek leaned closer and lightly kissed her. At first Wade wanted to kiss back. But that would only make it more difficult, she thought. She wasn't going to change what she was going to do. Quinn was sure that they would slide back to the other reality. She had to put her trust in him.

And, also...there was Quinn.

"Quinn!" she exclaimed, remembering why she had come. "He was shot with some kind of dart. What's happening to him?"

Derek looked into her eyes for a few seconds more, then drew back and sighed.

"It's an anti-subversive dart," he said. "It was given to the police by Braiden and is only approved for use against subversives. It's some kind of demonic poison that spreads through the body. The green pigmentation of the skin shows the extent that it's traveled."

"Half of Quinn's body is green," Wade said.

"Yes, it would be by now," Derek said. "It's been about twelve hours since he was shot. In another twelve hours it will have reached every part of his body."

"And then?" Wade asked.

"And then...he will die," Derek said.

"There must be an antidote," Wade said.

"There is, but only Braiden has it," Derek said. "It's a perfectly devilish weapon. The police don't have to fire bullets that may kill the 'subversive' before he can be interrogated. To get the antidote, the 'subversive' has to turn himself in for interrogation about his and other people's activities. If he doesn't, then in twenty-fours he'll be dead, anyway.

"That's why the police aren't making a big effort to find you. They know they shot both of you, though they don't know that your jacket saved you. They know you, or at least Quinn, can't be seen in public because the green discoloration makes him a marked man.

"So they than can sit back and wait. Either you and Quinn come to them. Or you...uh, Quinn, dies."

Wade stared at him silently. Derek saw tears forming in her eyes.

"There has to be something we can do," she said.

"I only wish there were," he said.

Wade looked silently at Derek for a moment. There had to be something she could do to save Quinn, she thought. But what?

Wade re-focused her mind on the second reason she was there.

"There's someone else who's going to die," she said, "unless you help me prevent it."

"What?" he asked. "Who?"

"Her name is Shira Mendell," Wade said. "She's going to be killed by a demon tonight, probably in the early evening."

"A demon?!" Derek said. "How do you know that? Which demon?"

"Quinn learned about it in...another world," Wade said. "I told you that I've recently come to know about demons.

"Look, how we learned about it isn't important. What is important is for you to tell me where she'll be tonight. Where she's going to be killed. So Quinn and I can save her."

Derek stared straight ahead. He was silent for a while, seemingly elsewhere.

"Twenty-three minutes after nine," he said. "On Eighth Street, she'll have just turned the corner from Folsom. I...I can't see who her killer is."

"Thank you," Wade said. "Quinn and I will be there."

"Quinn will be barely alive by tonight," Derek said. "He'll be of no help to her...or you."

Wade closed her eyes for a second and exhaled.

"But you could be," she said. "You come. You might even see the killer by then, or at least see which way he's coming."

"And get to watch you leave me a second time when you slide out," he said. "I don't know if I could bare it."

"You said you want to save people," Wade said. "This is your chance to do that."

Derek looked into Wade's eyes, then took a deep breath.

"You're right," he said and paused for a second. "I'll be there."

"Thank you," she said. "I...have to get going."

"To Piper Halliwell," he said.

"You're reading my mind," Wade said, with a little annoyance.

"Please allow me this one small intimacy with you," he said. "Tell me, why is it so important that Piper Halliwell go into her attic."

"She has to slide with us," Wade said. "She belongs in the other world. Her being there... is crucial to saving it. And maybe to saving her, too. Quinn believes that the only thing that may convince her to slide with us is up in the attic."

"I can see that she's never been able to open the attic door," Derek said.

"Quinn was afraid of that," Wade replied.

Derek was silent for a moment, then took a pen and a small pad from his pocket. He wrote something, tore the paper out and handed it to Wade.

"The door will open when she says this," he said.

Wade looked at the paper. None of the flourish of the handwriting that had been on the notes to her. Just plain, block letters that could not be misread.

"Thank you, Derek," she said.

"You're welcome...my love," he replied.

 

Wade slowly walked up the steps to The Manor's front door. There were a lot of "should be's", she thought. If anything Quinn had told her last night that should be true - if even one thing she was going to say - wasn't true in this reality...

No time for that, she thought. True or not, somehow I'm going to have to convince her.

Ding-dong.

Wade took a deep breath. The door opened.

"Oh, uh...hello," Piper said.

"Hi," Wade said.

"I'm...uh just surprised to see you here," Piper said.

"I need to talk to you," Wade said. "Can I come in?"

"Uh...sure," Piper said. She pulled back the door and motioned for Wade to come in. Piper led her to the living room. "Where's Quinn?" she asked as they sat down.

"He's not feeling well," Wade said.

"It's not from anything he had at the club," Piper said, defensively.

"No, no," Wade said. "It's something else." She took another deep breath.

"Piper," she began, "we came to the club not just because it was recommended to us. We came because we were looking for you."

"For me?" Piper asked. "Why?"

"Because there's a whole part of you that you don't know about," Wade said. "A part that's hidden here. A part that has to become you again."

"What are you talking about?" Piper asked.

"Piper...the world that you see, the world that you...think you've always known...it's not the only reality. There is another reality. A reality that you and I and everyone here is in. Or, was in. Until reality was changed

"Quinn and I are not from here. We know you from that other reality. A reality in which you have powers. Powers that save people's lives...and their souls."

"Another reality...powers..." Piper repeated.  She began to look at Wade as if she was a lunatic.

"Powers...of a good witch," Wade said.

"What?...a witch?," Piper said. "You're trying to tell me...I'm a witch in some...make-believe world?"

"Not make-believe," Wade said. "Look...I know it's hard to believe. It was hard for you to accept it in the other reality also. It was hard for me-"

"Stop!" Piper said. "You're crazy!

"That's how I knew you lived here in The Manor," Wade said. Here goes a ‘should be’, she thought. "Grams' Halliwell Manor. With Grams' picture on the wall near the staircase "

"How...how did you know that?" Piper asked.

"Because in the other reality this is where you live," Wade said. "In that reality Quinn lives here, too. He told me all about The Manor. You have a parlor on the side of this living room and a conservatory past the parlor. There's a back door to the kitchen and four bedrooms-"

"That doesn't mean anything!" Piper said, angrily.

"You're working on a new drink for the club," Wade said. "You're going to call it the Cable Car Turntable. Gin, cherry-flavored brandy, lime juice and one or two other ingredients you’re playing with, like mint leaves. And then not stirred, not shaken, but spun around, just the right way.  Like a cable car spun on its turntable.

"How...could you..." Piper started  to say, about to partially admit there was no other way for Wade to have known that.  But then she stopped herself.

"None of this means anything," she said, changing her mind. "You're a psychic, that's all. You're part of the ten percent of people who are psychics. That's how you know all of this."

"I told you we're not from here," Wade said.

"No, you're not," Piper said. "You said you're from LA. Well, there are plenty of oracles in Hollywood. It's common knowledge that Tori Spelling won Best Actress Oscars three years in a row because her father Aaron Spelling is a psychic. And he saw which pictures would be big hits and had her star in them."

Now it was Wade's turn to be shocked.  Tori Spelling winning three Oscars?   Tori Spelling winning even one Oscar?  For a moment she just stared at Piper in disbelief.  But then she quickly recovered.

"Piper, tonight Quinn and I are sliding...we're leaving here to go back to the reality that we - and you - came from. A reality that will be destroyed if we don't go back to it. And you have to come back with us. Your powers as a good witch are needed there to vanquish demons and save the world. You can't do it in this reality."

"Demons?" Piper said, not believing the nonsense she felt she was hearing.

"There are demons here, too," Wade said. "In high places."

"You're insane," Piper said.

"No, I'm not," Wade said. "And the attic will prove that I'm not."

"The attic?" Piper said.

"I know you've never been able to get in to it," Wade said. "This will get you in." She took Derek's paper from her pocket and tried to give it to Piper. "The Book of Shadows is on a stand. Open it and-"

"Get out!" Piper said.

"Take this!" Wade shouted. "Say it by the attic door! And then be at Eighth and Folsom at 9:15 tonight."

Piper grabbed the paper from Wade's hand, crumpled it and threw it on the floor.

"Get out now!" Piper said, standing up.

"You have nothing to lose if you try it," Wade said. "Don't be afraid of the truth."

Wade stood up.

"Shira Mendell is supposed to be killed tonight by a demon," Wade said. "At 8th and Folsom. Quinn learned about it in the other reality. Her life is dependent on Quinn and I being there to save her. The lives of the whole...world are dependent on your being there and sliding back to the other reality with us."

Piper stared angrily at Wade.

"Leave now!" she said.

Wade walked to the front door and opened it, then turned around.

"Go up to the attic," Wade implored her. "Please! For everyone's sake...including your own."

 

"I tried," Wade said, "I don't think I convinced her. But I really tried."

"I...arggh...know you did," Stuart said.

"Derek said that only Braiden has the antidote for this demon poison," she said.

"If Leo was here," Stuart said, "he could undo...ugh...the damage. Leo can heal."

He was very weak. Wade sat down on the bed next to him and lifted his head in her arms.

"The slide is in six hours," Stuart said. "If Piper doesn't come, there...ugh...isn't...ugh...enough time to get back to her at the club. It's...arrgh..."

"It's either save Shira and hope Piper will come," Wade said, "or let Shira die, go to Piper and hope I can somehow push her into the portal."

"No," Stuart said. "If you fight with her you might...arrgh...not make it in yourself. You...ugh...can't risk that. You have to slide...and restore the reality to whatever it will be."

Wade leaned closer to him and kissed him. With the little strength he had he kissed her back.

"We have to slide," Wade corrected him.

Stuart shook  his head.

"I'm not going to make it," he said.

"Yes, you are," Wade said. "I'm not leaving you here."

"I'm not needed for...arrgh..the Charmed reality to exist," Stuart said. "I was there by accident...Alyssa was holding me when reality was changed."

"You are going to slide with me, Quinn," Wade said, "or I'm staying here with you."

"Wade, in all of the slides we did together...arrgh," he started to say, then stopped. What slides? he thought. I'm Stuart. Or...am I Quinn?

"I couldn't even make it...ugh...down the steps," he said. "And the clerk would see my green face."

"I've taken care of that," Wade said. She looked at him for moment. "We're sliding together."

 

Piper came off the last step and slowly approached the attic door. She did not really want to come up there. She didn't believe anything Wade had told her. She thought her story was utterly preposterous.

Yet something about it was gnawing at her. Something about the intensity, the conviction Wade had when she spoke. Something in Wade's eyes that...she didn't know what. Don't be afraid of the truth, Wade had told her. Some part of Piper had to come up to the attic, if only to re-assure herself that it wasn't the truth.

Reluctantly, she stretched out her arm and touched the door knob. She tried turning the knob but it would not turn. She tried pushing the door, as she had from time to time in the past. But the door would not budge.

Slowly, Piper unfolded the crumpled paper and held it in both hands. She stared at it for a long moment. Then slowly she began to say the words written on it.

      "The Power of Three,

             must come to be;

       With the Power of One,

             it will have begun."

Piper felt a wind suddenly blow around her but she saw nowhere it could be coming from. And she was sure she heard a rumble of thunder. With a sense of fear, she extended her hand to the door again. Her fingers had barely touched the knob when the door slowly swung open.

Piper stood at the threshold and looked around the room before her. A chest of drawers, a standing mirror, a few old chairs. Old things, she thought. Lots of old things.

And in the center of the attic was a stand. And on the stand lay a book. A big book.

Piper took a deep breath. Cautiously, she made her way to the stand. The book was covered with dust. She blew some of it away, enough to let her see the words on the book's cover. And the unfamiliar symbol just above the words.

Slowly, she opened the book and read through the first two pages. The pages that told her what she was.

She started to turn to the next page when suddenly the pages began turning themselves quickly, as if a wind was blowing them.

Frightened, Piper jumped back. But there was no wind, she saw. Not even an open window.

Faster and faster the pages turned. And then they stopped turning. Piper approached the book again. She stared at the page that now lay open. And she began to read.

 

"So," Wade said. She hopped onto the front desk and turned half-way around to the clerk. "Just what do you do back here."

"Miss Welles," the front desk clerk said.

"You know," Wade said, "I've always wondered just what Front Desk clerks do back here when you're not checking people in." She giggled and swung her feet up onto the front desk and sat on it with her knees drawn up. "Or checking them out."

"Miss Welles, you can't sit here," the clerk protested.

Wade had his attention where she wanted it. On her, in the opposite direction of the stairs. And on the stairs the man in the tan windbreaker and running shoes, his arm around Stuart's back and under Stuart's right shoulder, held him up and moved him down the stairs. He could neither see the man helping him nor anything else. The light bothered his eyes and Wade had wrapped a handkerchief around them before the man had come to the room.

"Ooh," Wade giggled, "what do you keep back here under the desk?"

It was after sunset as they came outside, too dark for anyone to notice Stuart's green face. The man eased him into the back seat of the car and got in behind the wheel.

"Miss Welles, please get off of here right now!" the clerk shouted.

Wade glanced over her shoulder and saw that Stuart was outside.

"Of course," she said. She swung her legs around, slid off the front desk and gave the clerk a coy smile. "All you had to do was ask."

 

Stuart was lying in the back seat of the car. The man in the tan windbreaker sat behind the wheel, ready in an instant to start the car and get the others to safety.

Wade stood in the doorway of a closed warehouse while Derek stood across Eighth Street, watching the corner. He didn't know which way the killer would come.

A car turned the corner and drove past them. And then it was quiet. Completely quiet.

It was twenty-two minutes past nine.

Footsteps. A woman's footsteps. Coming from around the corner on Folsom.

Wade was ready. She would wait until Shira had turned the corner. When either she or Derek saw the demon she would grab Shira and pull her to safety. And one of them would see who the demon was.  She could not vanquish the demon but at least she would be able to tell someone who the demon was.

A second set of footsteps. Wade clearly heard a second set of footsteps. Faster than the first ones. Gaining on the first ones.

Shira turned the corner and walked a little down the block. Suddenly she stopped opposite Wade. She took a few steps towards a lamppost and leaned against it.

Wade could see her in the lamp’s light.  She was tall, about five-eight, with dark brown hair that almost reached the shoulders of her gray jacket, her cream blouse open at the collar.

Shira lifted up her right foot, took off her shoe and began shaking out a pebble.

The footsteps stopped. Wade didn't see anyone. She couldn't tell which side they had come from. She looked at her watch.

Wade took a deep breath. She didn't know how the demon would try to kill Shira nor from what distance. Derek said this was the exact time that Shira would be killed. And he did have the strongest oracle power. But that was on Sliders. What if in real life he wasn't right?

It was nine twenty-three. Exactly.

Wade couldn't take the chance.

"Shira!" Wade shouted as she ran towards her from the doorway's shadow. At the sound of her call the other footsteps started again. Quickly but in the direction away from them.

"Who are-" Shira started to say but Wade grabbed her before she could say anymore and pulled her back towards the building's shadows.

"Around your corner," Derek shouted. He dashed across the street and turned the corner.

But the street was deserted.

Derek saw the door of a small bar halfway down the block swing closed. Whoever the demon was he had escaped into the bar, and its crowd, unseen.

"What are you doing!" Shira screamed. "Who are you?"

"He got away," Derek said, as he ran back to them. "I didn't see him."

Frightened, Shira pulled away from Wade and turned around to face them.

"Shira, I'm Wade Welles."

"How do you know who I am?" she asked.

"Through...Piper Halliwell," Wade said. "We knew someone was going to try to kill you."

"Kill me?" Shira practically shrieked, hyper-ventilating.

"Right here," Wade said, "right now. We came here to save you."

"Kill me...why?" she said, shaking.

"We don't know," Wade said. "Just that it would be here."

"How did you know?" Shira asked, then stared at Wade. "You're an oracle."

"No, I'm not an oracle," Wade said. "But he is."

Derek turned his head slightly and Shira saw his face in the lamplight.

"You're...you're Derek Bond," Shira said. "You were the Chief Oracle. They said you weren't good. That you're power wasn't good enough to save people."

"He saved you tonight," Wade said.

"Uh...I only-" Derek started to say.

"You don't have to be modest," Wade said, cutting him off. She made eye contact with him and shook her head slightly in a silent 'no'. "You saw that Shira would be killed and you set this up for us to save her."

"I...I don't know how to thank you," Shira said. "But...you don't know who he was. Or why he wanted to kill me. Maybe he's going to try to kill me again."

"No," Derek said. "Not you. I don't see anything bad happening to you."

Shira had stopped shaking and her breathing had come back to normal.

"Are you going to be OK?" Wade asked.

"Yes...I'm OK," Shira said. "This has been one hell of a week. I lost my keys on Sunday. And now this tonight. I wonder...if somehow they're connected."

"Yes," Wade said, "you can safely say that they are."

Shira gave Wade a curious look but was too drained to ask her what she meant.

"Wade and I have something to attend to," Derek said. "Can you make it home yourself?"

"Yes," Shira said, "my car's just down the block. Thank you - both - again." She gave Wade a hug, then leaned over and gave Derek a kiss on his cheek. "Good-bye. Maybe I'll see you in Halliwell's Haven."

"Maybe," Wade said.

"Good-bye," Derek said.

"You said the demon wouldn't kill her," Wade said.

"Not her," Derek said. "But this pentagram demon, as you call him, will strike again."

Derek nodded towards his car. The man in the tan windbreaker got out, opened the back door and practically lifted Stuart out. He could hardly stand as the man brought him over to Wade and Derek and then eased him down to the ground.

Wade took the timer out of her jacket pocket and looked at the time remaining. Less than six minutes to go until they had to slide.

Suddenly the sound of sirens filled the air. Three police cars turned the corner from Folsom and another three cars came racing the wrong way up Eighth Street from Harrison towards them. Their red and blue roof lights flashing, two cars pulled up on the sidewalk on both sides of the four people while the other cars surrounded them from the street. Their headlights and spotlights were aimed at the four and Wade and Derek had to raise their hands to shield their eyes.

"What's going on?" Shira cried. Seeing the police cars converging on them she had run back down the block to them.

The police quickly got out of their cars, pulled their guns and aimed them at the five people. Slowly, another car, a Bentley, pulled up. Derek and Wade saw the car's license plate in the light.

ORACLE 1

"Braiden," Derek said. "That demon picked up on my vision of what would happen here tonight and knew that you'd be here. I should have realized that would happen."

The driver got out of the Bentley and came around to the right side. He opened the rear door and a man slowly got out. He was shorter than Derek with a gaunt, chiseled face and a shock of black hair falling over his forehead. He reminded Wade of an evil crow.

"Look who I have here," Braiden said. "The two subversives the police have been looking for." He slowly walked closer to them.

"I can see that one of you will be dead shortly," he said. "But you, Welles, are not ill, at all. Hmph...seems that policeman isn't as good a shot as he thinks he is."

Wade glanced down at the timer. Less than five minutes. It would be up to her to somehow open the portal.

"Don't even think of trying to use that timer," Braiden said. "The policemen's guns are loaded with bullets, not darts. You're not going anywhere."

"Yes she is!" a voice called out.

"Piper!" Wade exclaimed. She turned around and looked at her.

"You went up to the attic," Wade said. Piper nodded her head slowly.

"Who are you?" Braiden asked, annoyed.

"I am Piper Halliwell," she said. "And you...are a demon."

"I'm what?" Braiden asked, his eyes turning icy cold as he stared at her.

"A demon," Piper repeated. "There are such beings," she said, turning around and looking at the policemen. "Sometimes they look like strange creatures. And sometimes...they look just like us."

There was hesitance in Piper's voice as she was saying the words. She was still stunned by what she had read in The Book of Shadows. And she felt a numbness in the realization of what it meant. But she was saying the words.

"Calling me a demon," Braiden said, with a smirk, "makes you a subversive."

"Piper Halliwell is not a subversive," Shira shouted. "She is the nicest, most law abiding person I know."

"You're not an oracle," Piper said. "Demonic powers were used to manipulate and mislead. To remove Derek Bond and get you to a position of power. A position..." Piper hesitated, then took a deep breath. "A position from which you could do demonic evil."

"I am an oracle," Braiden said, "and you are a fool. You have said enough to incriminate yourself for subversion. The only demons here...are in your head."

"My saying aloud what's written here will tell us if there is a demon among us," Piper said slowly, as she unfolded a piece of paper. "And if so, who the demon is."

"That's enough," Braiden said, and turned to one of the policeman. "Stop her, Captain. She's a subversive."

"These words were taken from an old book in my house," Piper said, "a book that told me what you are.  But your name is not written on this paper, Chief Oracle. My saying these words will just uncover the demon. We will see who here is the demon. Maybe...it's even me."

"Now, Captain," Braiden said. "Don't hesitate to shoot the subversives."

"Is that what we've come to, Captain?" Derek asked. "We're to be shot as subversives not for anything that we've done. But for words. For reading words written on a piece of paper."

"You were given an order, Captain!" Braiden barked.

"This is still America, Captain," Wade said. "We still have a Constitution, we still have laws. Laws you've sworn to uphold."

The captain was breathing heavily. He could feel the Chief Oracle staring at him. But Derek and Wade had touched a nerve. He looked at the policemen around him. He sensed it had touched a nerve in them, too. And some doubt had been placed in their minds. He took a deep breath.

"You have one minute," the Captain said. "One minute to read whatever you have on that paper."

"Captain!" Braiden shouted.

"Chief Oracle, technically I report to the Commissioner, not to you," the Captain said. "And I have a certain amount of discretion in situations like this. She can't incite subversion from reading. Not with all these guns pointed at her.

"Go ahead, Halliwell," the Captain said. "Read it."

Piper looked at Wade and took a deep breath. Then she looked down at the paper she was holding.

      "A demon who takes a mortal appearance,

             And is among us as these words I say;

       Reveal this demon's presence for all to see,

             Then take this evil demon away."

A bright light shown down on Braiden. It was not from the police car headlights, nor from their spotlights. Nor even from the lamppost.

The policemen, startled, looked around them and above them. But they could find no source for the light.

Something was happening to Braiden. They could see a change taking place.

"Arrgh....arrgh," came from Braiden. It seemed to the Captain to be more of a growl than a cry.

Shira stared at Braiden as his face began to change. His nose, his ears, his eyes. They were getting larger, longer, bigger. The human features were changing into something hideous. They were changing into something clearly evil.

They were changing into the features of a demon.

The policemen, their mouths open, stared at the creature that now stood in the light.

"He is a demon!" Shira cried.

The light became stronger. And hotter. Smoke started coming out of Braiden. He tried to run but the light followed him. And then the light locked him in place and he could not move."

"ARRGH!...ARRGH!" he screamed. Everyone could feel the heat emanating from the light. The more the heat intensified the faster Braiden was burning. Hotter and hotter. Faster and faster.

And then in a final burst of heat what remained of Braiden seemed to melt into the light. There was a final flash. And then both the light and Braiden were gone.

The policemen stared at the spot where Braiden had been, then turned, confused, to each other. The Captain stared at Piper.

"Who are you?" he asked. "What are you?"

"A force for good," Wade said, "to counteract a force for evil."

The Captain stared at Derek and Wade, then exhaled.

"Put your weapons away," he said to the policemen.  "And shut off those damn spotlights."

"You saw it for yourselves," Wade said. "You saw who really was a demon."

"I did," Shira said. "How...did you do that, Piper?"

"I'm...not sure I understand how," Piper said, shaking a little.

Wade looked at the timer.

"But you will understand, in one minute," Wade said, "after you slide with us. Just like what I told you about the attic was true, this is true, too. You're needed in the other reality." She took Piper's hand. "Trust me!"

"You still want to do this," Derek said. "I...I can't see what awaits you. And you aren't sure this slide will take you to this other world that you want to go to."

"I have to try it," Wade said. She exhaled. "I have to. It's the only hope the world has. And...it's the only hope Quinn has. If we make it there, I know who can save his life."

Derek put his hands on Wade's arms, drew her to him and gently kissed her. Wade gently kissed him back.

"I trust Wade," Derek said to Piper. "And when you trust someone, you believe in that person." Having repeated the words that Wade had said to him that morning, he glanced at her for a second then turned back to Piper. "I would trust Wade with my life. If Wade says you have to slide into that other world, I believe her. And you must believe her, too."

Piper looked at Derek, then looked all around her. The policemen, the police cars, the spot where Braiden burned up. She took a deep breath and swallowed hard.

"Your club will be waiting for you in the other reality," Wade said. If this slide really does take us to that reality, she added to herself.

Piper nodded her head.

"With Braiden exposed, you would be able to help me restore things as they should be," Derek said.

"You have people here who can help you," Wade said. "Like this man." She pointed to the man in the tan windbreaker and running shoes.

"He's not you, Wade," Derek said. "But yes, he will help. He is as dedicated to helping and protecting people as I am."

Wade looked at the timer. Four seconds...three...two...one.

Wade aimed the timer at the wall of the building. She pushed the timer's button, just as she had for three years on Sliders. That had been a prop. This time, it was real.

The blue and white portal whirlwind opened about two feet above them. Blue and white light illuminated Wade and everyone around her as the portal's wind blew their hair. The man in the tan windbreaker lifted Stuart up. Derek went over to help him and together they threw Stuart into the portal.

"I don't even know your name," Wade said to the man in the tan windbreaker.

"Leo," the man said.

"Leo?" Wade repeated, her eyes opening in surprise.

"Leo Wyatt," he said. "Helping and protecting you and your friend was important to me."

"Thank you," she said, with a small smile. "For everything."

Piper stood below the portal and stared up at it.

"It'll be OK," Wade said. "Just jump up into it."

"Piper," Shira called above the noise of the portal's wind. "Will I ever see you again?"

"I hope so," Wade said. "I so very much hope so."

Piper waved to Shira, looked up at the portal, took a deep breath and jumped up into it.

This is it, Wade thought. Either this slide will restore reality and take us back. Or...we'll be sliding into some other, unknown parallel world.  And we may never get back home.

"Good luck, my love," Derek said.

"Thank you," Wade said. "Everything will be OK. For both of us."

"Let me help you into the portal," he said.

"No need to," Wade said. "I've done this...many times." Yes, she thought to herself. In this reality, there were no empty spaces the actors looked up at, no jumping onto a mattress out of camera range. In this reality, I really have done this many times. I really have been a slider.

Wade turned around and took a running start for a few steps, just the way she had done on Sliders. Using her momentum she jumped up and dived head first into the portal. As soon as she was inside the portal closed. And then there was nothing but the wall of a building on a quiet, dark, nighttime street.

They felt themselves turning, around and around, inside the blue, purple and white tunnel. And then the opening at the tunnel's end appeared.

Stuart fell out of the portal and landed face down on the ground. Piper tumbled out after him and landed beside him. Wade came out last, landing face down across Stuart. And then the portal closed and was gone.

"Ugh," Piper said, as she picked herself up.

"I know how you feel," Wade said, "but you get used to it."

A light from a lamppost a few feet away illuminated their immediate proximity. Wade could see the side entrance to the TV station studio.

"We made it," she said.

She moved to Stuart's side, turned him over and held him in her arms. He was barely alive.

"Get Leo!" she commanded Piper. "Stuart said Leo could save him."

Piper looked at them confused. She was trying to orient herself, trying to understand what was happening. She knelt down next to Wade and Stuart.

"Piper!" Wade said. She took her left hand away from Stuart, placed it on Piper's right shoulder and shook her. "We need Leo!"

Piper shook her head, trying to clear it.

"Leo," she said to herself as things started to come back to her.  "Leo, we need you," she said as she stood up. She shook her slightly again.

"Now, Leo!" she called.

The light began to form and Leo orbed in.

"Where have you been?" Leo asked.

"Later," Piper said. "First help Stuart."

Leo turned to Stuart, stared at him but didn't approach him.

"What are you waiting for?" Wade asked. "He'll be dead any second."

Leo slowly shook his head.

"He is dead," Leo said. "He was killed yesterday. Killed...together with Phoebe."

 

"That's some story," Prue said.

Wade and Piper had convinced Leo to save Stuart. Now, they were sitting in The Manor's living room.

"The problem with your story,” Prue continued, “is that you were here, Stuart. And you were killed here."

"By whom?" Stuart asked.

"All we know is that it was a demon who killed you and Phoebe," Prue said. "We don't know which demon it was."

"How...did it happen?" asked Piper, still in shock.

"I was up in the attic looking through the Book of Shadows," Prue said, "trying to find something that would help, when Leo orbed in..."

"Prue, you have to come right away," Leo said. "They're all in danger."

"Danger?" Prue asked. "From who?"

"There's no time to explain," Leo said. "Just come with me." He put his arms around Prue.

"Hold on," he said. Prue put her arms around him and they orbed out.

As they orbed into an alley behind the TV studio, they saw someone standing some fifteen feet from Phoebe and Stuart. Bolts of energy coming from both of his hands hit Phoebe and Stuart and the jolts sent them flying backwards a few feet. Phoebe landed on her back and Stuart landed face down just beyond her.

Prue took her hand away from Leo and waved it at the demon. But a semi-transparent barrier instantly formed around him and shielded him. He raised his hand palm up towards Prue. Leo still had his arms around her and he quickly began to orb them out as the demon's bolt hit her.

They re-appeared around the corner and out of the demon's view, Leo holding up the unconscious and dying Prue.  He quickly laid her down on the ground and propped her up against a nearby wall. He put his hands on her chest and after ten seconds she was saved, her wounds all healed.  As she revived, Leo helped her up and they ran to the corner and looked into the alley. The demon was gone.

Phoebe lay sprawled face up on the ground. Prue raced to her and lifted her head in her arms. Blood was running out of Phoebe's mouth. Leo knelt down, leaned over her and put his hands on her chest.

Nothing happened. He held his hands on her chest for a long time. Then, reluctantly, he took his hands off and moved back. He looked at Prue and slowly shook his head.

"No!" Prue cried.                                                                                                                   

In shock, Leo slowly stood up. Then he remembered Stuart. He went to him and turned him over. Blood was coming out of one nostril and the corner of his mouth. Leo put his hands on him but after ten seconds he realized it was too late to do anything for him.

"There was no trace of you," Prue said to Piper. "We didn't know whether you were taken or killed and your body somehow disintegrated."

Prue closed her eyes for a moment and exhaled.

"I don't know how I managed these past two days," she said. "If not for Leo being here with me, I wouldn't have made it through."

"How could there be two of you in this reality?" Wade asked Stuart.

"There can't be," Stuart said. "That's why this doesn't make sense."

"And you know I'm Holly even though we're not in the Sliders reality any more," Piper said to Wade. "How can you still know me now? You didn't know me before the reality was changed. No one knew me."

From the corner of his eye, Stuart saw Kit come into the room, look around and then walk back out. After a few seconds, Stuart suddenly realized what he had seen, turned around and stared at where Kit had stood.  Instead of being light beige with a tinge of caramel color, Kit's whole body had been completely black. His mouth was open in surprise and confusion when Prue interrupted his thoughts.

"Look," Prue said, "this has been a very difficult day. I buried Phoebe...and I buried you. I don't know what to make of what you've said about this Sliders reality. But I do know that I've had more than I can handle emotionally for one day." She got up and went up the stairs.

"We've all had more than we can handle," Piper said, and stood up. "Get some sleep...if you can." She turned and went up to her room.

Stuart exhaled.

"Come on," he said to Wade. "You can sleep in...in Phoebe's room." He stood up and put his hands to his head. Wade stood up and took both of his hands in hers.

"We'll figure it out, together," she said. Stuart nodded then exhaled again.

"But not tonight," he said, "Tonight, I...I just need some time alone."

Stuart took Wade up the stairs and opened the door to Phoebe's room. But it wasn't Phoebe's room.

It was his room.

Stuart squinted at the room, then put his hand to his forehead in confusion.

"What's wrong?" Wade asked.

"The room...ugh..." Stuart said. But he was too exhausted, too drained to try to figure out why his room was where Phoebe's room should have been. At least, where he remembered Phoebe's room should had been.

"A...here," he said. He went across the hallway and opened the door to what he thought had been his room.

It was Phoebe's room.

"Good night," Stuart said.

"Good night, Quinn," Wade said. She took Stuart's hand and squeezed it. Stuart gave her a funny look as she went into the room and closed the door.

Why did she call me Quinn? he thought. We're not Sliders anymore.

 

The morning light was diffused, the fog not having burned off yet. It was all very still. There were no birds chirping, no cars rumbling, no daytime noises. Just very quiet.

Quiet enough to allow one's thoughts to become very loud. Quiet enough to make one feel that there was nothing else in the world...except the thoughts.

Stuart and Piper stood next to each other in the cemetery, looking down silently at Phoebe’s grave.

Wade stood a few feet behind them. Leo, after showing them the place, had orbed out.

Stuart's and Piper's eyes were filled with tears. After a few minutes, they turned around and walked over to Wade.

"This just isn't right," Stuart said, "it just doesn't add up." He was silent for a moment.

"Demons are always trying to kill us," Piper said. "This time..." Her voice trailed off without finishing the sentence.

"But that's just it," Stuart said. "They try to kill us within a reality. But when Dalios undid Phoebe, this reality ceased to exist. When we came back through the portal, this reality was restored as it had been. Phoebe should have existed again. There was no time within this reality in the past two days for Phoebe to have been here and been killed. Because this reality hasn't existed for the past two days."

"Realities have histories," Wade said. "You taught me that."

"I know," Stuart said. "But...still, why would the history have Phoebe...and me, killed. Certainly the Elders wouldn't do that."

Wade put her hands in her jacket pockets and felt something. Remembering, she stuck her hand inside her jacket and pulled something out from an inside pocket. The Sliders timer.

"I put the timer in my pocket before we made the slide last night," she said, "and I forgot it was there until just now." She stared at it. "It's counting down."

"What?!" Stuart said. "That's impossible." He grabbed the timer from Wade.

"This should be just a prop, now," Wade said.

Stuart turned the timer over, manipulated the back cover and pulled it off. The inside of the timer was filled with wires, transistors and printed circuits.

"I don't know much about electronics," he said. "But even I can tell this isn't just a prop."

Wade stared at Stuart with a look of realization.

"There's only way the timer could still be real," Wade said.

Stuart exhaled.

"We're still in the Sliders' reality," he said.

"In a parallel world to Derek's Psychic Earth," Wade said. "A Charmed Earth."

"Would that explain how there could be two of you?" Piper asked.

"It would," Stuart said. "I'm still Quinn Mallory. And this also explains," he said turning to Wade, "why you called me Quinn last night."

"On Sliders," Wade said, "many of the parallel worlds were quite different from our world, Earth Prime. But some were similar and a few were almost identical, with just a few subtle differences. I remember one episode where it was such a duplicate world that we were supposed to think we were home, again. But then I saw that the Golden Gate Bridge was painted azure instead of orange."

"So we’re in a Charmed parallel world that’s almost a duplicate of our Charmed reality," Piper said.

"That would explain why my room was where Phoebe's should have been and vice versa," Stuart said. "And why Kit had the wrong color fur. A small difference between almost identical parallel worlds. Our reality and this one."

"Then sliding isn't the way back to our reality," Piper said.

"It is," Stuart said, "I still believe that's why The Elders did that." He stopped and thought for a minute. "We were coming back through the portal and our reality was coming together again. Dalios couldn't stop that."

"But he did," Wade said.

"No, he didn't," Stuart said. "We're here with Prue and Leo. Charmed is real here. But maybe Dalios had enough power to stop us from leaving the Sliders reality. So our reality is coming back but we can't get out of the Sliders reality to reach it. And so the two realities collided."

"The realities got merged and mixed together again," Wade said. "We got our reality inside the Sliders reality. Our reality became just another one of Sliders’ parallel worlds."

"There wasn't any time when Phoebe and I could have been killed in our Charmed reality," Stuart said. "But we could have been killed in a reality that has Sliders parallel worlds. And where one of those parallel worlds became a Charmed parallel world. A world  in which Phoebe wasn't undone. And therefore this Charmed reality - the one inside this Sliders parallel world - didn't unravel, either."

"Something that couldn't happen in our Charmed reality that we came from - you and Phoebe being killed - could happen in a Sliders parallel world that looks like our Charmed reality," Wade said. "Because Sliders scripts said that each parallel world had something that couldn't - that didn't - happen anywhere else."

"That's it," Stuart said. "Realities have histories, right?  So, because the Sliders reality is made up of parallel worlds, the reality's history is in those parallel worlds. And those worlds all differ from one another, either a lot or just a tiny bit.  So once Charmed was a parallel world, it could  have something that was different not only from other parallel worlds but from Charmed reality, too.

"So being part of this Sliders reality, this Charmed parallel world has its own history for the past two days," Wade said.

"A history that you and Phoebe were in," Piper said. "And where both of you were killed."

"So Phoebe isn't really dead," Wade said.

"Not in the sense of a demon killing her," Stuart said. "That's not our Phoebe buried here. But because she was undone in our reality she still doesn't exist. Unless we get back to our reality she is dead."

"So how de we get past Dalios to slide back?" Wade asked.

"With a spell," Stuart said.

"A spell?" Piper asked. "We're not powerful enough to use spells against Dalios. That one that Phoebe made up and worked was a fluke."

"I know," Stuart said. "Not a spell against Dalios. A spell for us. Just to give us a push through the trans-dimensional portal into our reality."

"That's not any different," Piper said.

"We're not attacking Dalios with this spell," Stuart said. "We're just going to use it to keep our momentum going so we're not blocked by anyone or anything."

"I don't have a lot of confidence in this working," Piper said. "It would take a long time to look through the Book of Shadows and I doubt we'd find a spell for this."

"You're probably right," Stuart said, "so we'll have to make one up."

"Make up the spell?" Piper asked. "Phoebe isn't here to do it. And I don't think Prue really believes our story."

"No, she doesn't," Stuart said. "So you'll make up the spell."

"No," Piper said, with a small grimace. "Remember the writers didn't give me the ability to do this."

"You made up the spell to get into Phoebe's memory that Mordun put there," Stuart said.

"That was not easy," Piper said. "It took me almost two hours to get it. And I had to try it out on myself, first."

"We get only one shot at this so you can't try this one out," Stuart said, and looked at the timer. "And you have only nineteen minutes to come up with it."

"I...can't-" Piper started to say.

"You can - and you will," Stuart said, emphatically. He took out a piece of paper from his pocket. "Your pen please, Wade."

Wade took a pen out of her pocketbook and handed it to a reluctant Piper. Stuart gave her the paper and she sat down on the ground.

 

 "I...this should be tested before we use it," Piper said.

"We can't even if we wanted to," Stuart said. "There's forty seconds left on the timer."

"I have confidence in you," Wade said.

"I don't," Piper said. "Not when it comes to Dalios."

"We have to try," Stuart said.  "And we're going to try, the three of us, together."

Stuart handed Wade the timer.

"You're the Slider," he said. "You get to do it."

"Ready?" Wade asked. Piper took a deep breath, then nodded her head.

Wade looked at the zero on the timer, aimed it in front of them and pressed the button. The same way she had pressed it in scenes on Sliders. And the same way she had pressed it for real the night before on their slide that brought them there. The blue and white portal opened a foot above them, bathing them in blue and white light.

Piper gave Wade back her pen and looked at the paper she was holding. Then she began to read what she had written.

          “As we slide through this portal,

                  Return home is our aim;

           Push us hard so we won't be stopped from,

                  Reaching the reality from which we came."

Wade and Stuart looked at each other.

"Here goes," Wade said. She made her running start for a few feet, then made an experienced jump up into the portal.

"Go ahead, Piper," Stuart said. Piper emulated Wade, making a running start and jumped into the portal.

"Why couldn't Tracy Tormé have written the Sliders portal to be at ground level?" Stuart asked, rhetorically. He took a deep breath, ran a few steps and jumped head first in after them.

The Sliders trans-dimensional portal spun them around, over and over again. After ten seconds they could see an opening.

"ARRGH!!" Piper yelled. She felt something pushing her, shoving her out of the portal. She managed to twist as she fell the six feet to the ground, landing on her side.

"OW!" Piper said.

Wade came sliding out after her and landed face up on her back, her arms spread open. Then Stuart came flying out and landed face down on top of Wade, her open arms going around him from the impact of his falling on her stomach.

"Ugh!" Wade grunted.

"Are you OK?" Stuart asked.

"I...think so," Wade said. "I certainly gave you a soft landing." They looked into each other's eyes.

"In all of the Sliders episodes," Wade said, "Quinn never fell out of the portal into my arms like this."

"That's not the only thing Quinn never did with you," Stuart said, with a wry smile.

"Ow!" Piper said, as she slowly swung around into a sitting position. "I know, I know. I'll get used to it." That got Stuart's and Wade's attention and Stuart got up. Extending his hand, he helped Wade get up, too. Then they both helped Piper up.

"Your spell said to be pushed," Stuart said, "and it certainly felt that way."

"I didn't mean for the spell to be taken that literally," Piper said and grimaced.

"We're not at the TV studio," Wade said. "Where are we?"

"About two blocks from The Manor," Piper said, looking around. "And it's the middle of the morning in broad daylight. What are the chances of no one seeing us slide through the portal?"

"No one saw us," Wade said, "because in Sliders episodes I don't believe anyone did."

"You're, uh, sure?" Piper asked.

"Uh...they probably didn't," she admitted. "I don't really remember all of the slides in all of the episodes."

"If we got out of the Sliders reality then what happened on the episodes won't have any bearing here, anyway," Stuart said.

"Do you think we made it?" Wade asked.

"I don't know," Stuart said. "Uh, tell me, who is Piper?"

"Who is Piper?" Wade asked, not understanding.

"Who is Piper besides being Piper," he asked her.

"Oh," Wade said, turning to her. "You're Holly."

"You still know me," Piper said. "If we had made it back to our reality, you wouldn't remember who I am. We have to still be in Sliders reality."

"The timer," Wade said, and looked at it in her hand. "It's not counting down anymore. If we didn't make it back then it would be counting down to the next slide. We can't still be in Sliders reality."

"Phew," Stuart exhaled. "Then I don't know where we are."

"There's only one thing we can do," Piper said. "The Manor."

 They walked the two blocks, came inside The Manor and walked towards the living room.

"Anyone here?" Piper called out.

As she did Prue came down the staircase. At the last step she stopped and stared at Stuart.

"This doesn't look good," Piper said.

"Hi Prue," Stuart said. "Are you surprised to see me?"

"Surprised?" Prue asked.

"Yeah," Stuart said, "as in surprised that I'm alive?"

"How...how did you know?" Prue asked.

"Oh, no," Wade said. "She still thinks your dead."

"No," Prue said. "I meant how did you know about my dream?"

"Your dream?" Piper asked.

"I...must have been dreaming just now," Prue said, sounding confused. "You were dead. I knew you were dead...but...you weren't dead."

"Anything else in your dream?" Piper asked.

Prue nodded her head slightly

"Before that, I was back in Hollywood, looking at a script about...an angel. But...it seemed too real to have been a dream. I was there for a couple of days. I did some publicity for a show I never heard of. It must have been a dream." Prue stopped and exhaled. "Just...I don't remember lying down."

"You didn't," Wade said.

"Phoebe's room," Stuart said. "Where is Phoebe's room?" He raced up the stairs and ran to where he knew Phoebe's room should be in their reality. He took a deep breath and opened the door.

Phoebe's room was there.

And so was Phoebe.

Stuart ran to her, through his arms around her, hugged and kissed her.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

"I...I think so," she said. "What day is today?

"Uh...Friday," Stuart said.

"Friday," Phoebe repeated. "I..don't remember anything that's happened the past few days. It's as if...I haven't existed since Wednesday morning."

"You haven't," Stuart said, "but it's all OK now."

Stuart heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He turned and saw everyone come in to the room. And then he saw Kit snake her way in. A light beige, caramel tinged Kit.

"Phoebe is here," Stuart said, "and her room is where it should be. Our Kit is here, too. And that means you're Sabrina again." He stopped and a smile began to fill his face.

"Reality has been restored," he said. "We're home!"

"YAY!" Piper and Sabrina shouted, jumped up and down and hugged each other. Then they ran over to Stuart and hugged him.

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

"What are you celebrating?" Phoebe asked.

"Piper's power as a spell writer," Stuart said. "You did it, Piper. You got us home."

Piper's smiled broadened. She felt a sense of accomplishment with her Charmed powers. She had grown to be more of a witch than the writers had let her be.

"We did it together," Piper said. "The three of us, together."

“Undoing Phoebe destabilized and changed the reality,” Stuart said “Restoring the reality also restored Phoebe.”

A worried look crossed Sabrina's face and she turned to Piper.

"But I still know you're Holly," Sabrina said.

"Maybe," Stuart said, "The Elders are letting you remember because of everything you did and the dangers you went through to restore reality. Maybe that's their way of saying thank you."

"They've never said thank you to us," Piper said, "despite what we've been through."

"And they probably never will," Stuart said. "Maybe they just like Sabrina because she never complains."

"Would someone please start from the beginning?" Phoebe asked.

"Let's go downstairs and get something to eat," Stuart said. "I, for one, have gotten back my appetite."

They all walked out of Phoebe's room and started down the stairs. When Stuart reached the last step, he stopped and looked across The Manor’s living room.

"It's good to be home," he said.

 

P3 was humming with a good crowd.  Sabrina was sitting with Prue, Phoebe and Stuart in their ususal quiet booth off to the side. They were feeling relaxed and happy after the week's dangers. And their drinks were helping expand those feelings.

"OK," Piper said as she came back to the booth and sat down with them. "That's taken care of. So where were we?"

"Braiden," Sabrina said and took a sip of her drink. "When Dalios saw what The Elders were doing he inserted him as Chief Oracle to try to control the reality. But do you think Braiden tried to stop us from sliding because Dalios told him what would happen if we made the slide? Or was he just behaving naturally as part of the reality?"

"I don't know." Stuart said, "The only one who knows for sure is Dalios and I don't think I want to ask him."

"Nooo, we don't," Phoebe said with a smile.

"But we do know that what happens in one reality carries over to another," Stuart said. "So Braiden's being vanquished in the Sliders reality means he's vanquished here, too."

"Do you think Dalios will try this again?" Sabrina asked.

"Not likely," Prue said. "He saw that The Elders inserted the Sliders reality to counter what he had done. And that we...uh, that you, overcame him and used Sliders to get this reality and Phoebe back."

"If he tried it again, The Elders would do the same thing again," Phoebe said.

"I'm leaving the timer with you," Sabrina said, "so you'd be able to use it again, too."

"We need you for that," Stuart said. "We need a real Slider."

"You are a real Slider, Quinn," Sabrina said and they laughed.

"Not having Braiden around to front for him," Phoebe said, pausing to take a sip from her glass, "will also put a crimp in his plans."

"And I wouldn't be surprised," Stuart said, "if The Infernal Council puts a tighter rein on Dalios. I doubt they could have been too pleased with the mixed up and un-stable realities he brought about."

"They need a clear and stable reality as much as we do," Prue said, and finished her drink.

"I think this explains The Frubos," Prue said, putting her glass down.  "I couldn’t understand why they tried to kill Phoebe before our roles became real.  We weren’t witches so we weren’t a threat to them.

"I’ll bet Dalios put them up to it, without telling them why," she continued.  "If Phoebe would have been killed just as the new reality was about to be made she couldn’t have existed in it.  And the new reality was Charmed, exactly as on the show.  So if she couldn’t exist, Charmed reality couldn’t exist and the reality would have unraveled, just as it did here when Dalios ‘undid’ Phoebe."

"Who are The Frubos?" Sabrina asked.

"The first demons who tried to kill us," Phoebe said. "And, as you saw, not the last."

"We came so close," Piper said, "to finding out who this demon who's been killing girls and leaving the pentagrams is."

"You found who the demon was after and saved her life," Sabrina said, "despite realities changing. Never mind what could have been. And from what I've seen of your power, you're pretty good at working your spells. You'll get him, Holly. I know you will."

"Sabrina," Prue said, "you're the only one in this reality, besides Dalios, who knows who we really are."

"Well, now if you get desperate for someone to confide in about what's going on," Sabrina said, "you can give me a call."

"Call you in Hollywood," Phoebe said, with a sigh.

"Oh, do I miss Hollywood," Piper said.

"I'm going to be starting on a new comedy series, Madigan Men, in a few weeks," Sabrina said. "If you're still in this reality maybe I can get you some walk-ons."

"Oh...that sounds so good," Piper said, smiling.

"Piper," a voice called.

They turned and saw a young woman trying to squeeze through the crowd towards them.

"Shira," Piper said, greeting her with a warm smile. Shira made here way to the booth and Piper made place for her to sit.

"This is a pleasant surprise," Piper said. "Sit down."

"Thanks," Shira said. "I can stay only a few minutes. And this is not a business call."

"Let me introduce you," Piper said. "This is Shira Mendell."

"Of Crystal Club," Stuart said.

"Uh...yes," Shira said. "How did you know?"

"Your fame precedes you," he answered, with a smile.

"This is my friend Stuart," Piper said. "My sisters Prue and Phoebe. And my friend Sabrina Lloyd."

"Sabrina Lloyd?" Shira repeated. "Not the Sabrina Lloyd. From Sports Night?"

"The very same," Piper said.

"Oh, I am...uh...uh...thrilled to meet you," Shira said.

"The pleasure is all mine," Sabrina said.

"I watched your show every week," Shira said. "And I even watched you when you were on that Sliders show a few years ago."

"I hope you liked it," Sabrina said, barely containing a smile.

"You were great," Shira said, "even if the show wasn't all that believable."

"No?" Piper asked.

"I mean," Shira said, "I couldn't imagine an ordinary person like myself being caught up in a parallel world."

"I could," Stuart blurted out, then coughed a few times to try to cover up.

"But I guess Sliders must have been fun," Shira said.

"It had its moments," Sabrina said. "Some less fun than others," she added, glancing at Stuart.

"Well, I'm glad you came here tonight," Piper said.

"It's been a strange week," Shira said. "I lost my keys and that caused me a lot of aggravation. I took off for a day to rest up and came back last night and...I can't remember what happened last night. And then tonight, I just had a feeling that I needed to see you, to see if you were OK. I...don't know why."

Piper gave Sabrina a small smile.

"You don't need an excuse to come to P3," Piper said. "What would you like to drink?"

"Uh...I don't know," Shira said. "What specials has Gina got behind the bar?"

"Let's have a look," Piper said and stood up. "Excuse us for a few minutes." Shira got up and went off with Piper.

"I think I'm going to go freshen up," Phoebe said, standing up.

"Me too," Prue said.

"I'll join you in a minute," Sabrina said. Prue stood up and walked away with Phoebe.

Sabrina lifted her glass and finished her drink.

"Stuart," Sabrina began, "about the other night-"

"I know," Stuart said. "The circumstances weren't normal...we weren't ourselves. You were Wade...not Sabrina." He stopped and thought about what had happened between them, about how warm and special it had felt. How good it had felt to be in her arms...and to be with her. Then he pushed the thoughts aside.

"You needn't be concerned," he said. "I'll..." he paused and exhaled. "I'll make believe it never happened."

"Why?" Sabrina asked. "I won't."

There was a warm glow in Sabrina's eyes as she looked at Stuart. A small smile crossed her lips as she stood up and went to join Prue and Phoebe.

Stuart stared at Sabrina as she walked away, then exhaled. His mind was lost in thought for a moment. Then he lifted his glass, took a big sip of his drink, leaned back in the booth and smiled.



Click for Sliders Opening Credits


top