Charmed Role Reversal



Oops, I Witched It Again

“ This Pear Belle-Hélène is really good," Stuart said. "Umm...it's delicious," Prue said. "I shouldn't have another one...but I will."

"See," Phoebe said, "your culinary talents have improved since you've become Piper."

"It's improved for only one recipe," Piper said.  "The one that I 'remembered' while I was testing that spell to recall Mordun's memories from your sub-conscious."

"You can always use the spell again to get more recipes," Stuart said.

"No, thank you!"  Piper said.  "It's difficult enough trying to remain Holly Combs without being overwhelmed by whatever else I'd remember from Piper's memory that The Elders put into my sub-conscious."

"Even though I'd rather be home," Prue said, "after a few weeks of being Prue I can see some good things about it. Even about having to work at a job at the magazine the way normal people."

"It's a good thing you have a job and Piper has the club," Phoebe said.  "That's the only money we have here and we need it.  Did you see the astronomical electric bill that came today?  How can we be running up such a bill when half the time we're out chasing demons and not even home."

"Maybe The Manor is really just a set after all," Prue said, with a twinkle in her eye, "and there are giant klieg lights above us burning all the time."

"You wish," Piper said.

"Be careful what you wish for," Stuart said, smiling.  "Remember what happened to you in the last episode of the season - Be Careful What You Witch For - with the genie who gave you your wishes."

"Well," Piper said, "if that's all it takes to change reality back to how it was then I wish, I wish, I wish!"

"Oh, look at the bright side," Prue said.  "No seven-thirty a.m. shooting call, for one thing."

"No, just a three a.m. close-up-the-club call," Piper said.

"And now I can walk in the street without worrying about being recognized by some fan who wants to bother me," Prue continued.

"Right," Piper said. "Now I can walk in the street and only have to worry about being recognized by some demon who wants to kill me."

"Piper," Stuart said, "we all don't want to be here. But still, why do you gripe so much about it?"

"Because," Piper said, "Charmed's scripts say that I do a lot of that.  And I'm being overwhelmed now by the memory of Piper's griping that The Elders put into my sub-conscious. I'm remembering all of it."

Stuart's expression quickly changed to one of empathy.  Piper maintained her serious expression - for three seconds.  And then burst out laughing.

"Well," Stuart said, chuckling, "don't let it be said that you're not a great actress."

"It doesn't much matter what anyone says about my acting while we're here - good or bad," Piper said.

"You're griping again," Phoebe pointed out.

"OK," Piper said, "you want to see some acting? I'll have Piper act like Holly. No griping."

"Now that will be interesting," Stuart said. "Will it be Piper playing Holly or Holly playing Piper playing Holly?"

"It will be Holly being Holly," she said. "You don't think I can do it, do you?

"I didn't say that," Stuart said. "But now that you mention it..."

"For the next twenty-four hours, you will not here me gripe about being Piper Halliwell," she said.

"Even if a screaming demon comes after us?" Prue asked, with a grin.

"Demons would be well advised to stay clear of us for the next twenty-four hours," Phoebe said, smiling, "or they'll have to contend with one very angry witch who will vent her un-expressed griping frustrations on them."

"You do that for even the next twelve hours," Stuart said, "and I'll, uh, find a special recipe for you. And I'll even prepare it."

"Considering what I know about your cooking skills," Prue said, with a smile, "I don't think Piper would gain much by that."

"Maybe not," Piper said, "but it would be fun to watch him do it."

Stuart was going to respond when he noticed the time.

"The Demon Dimension will be on soon," he said.  "I'd better go set up the tape in the VCR."

"I've got the blank tapes," Prue said and accompanied Stuart to the living room.

"Let's just stack the dishes for now and do them after the show," Phoebe said. She and Piper took the remaining plates off of the table and put them into the sink.

"Here," Prue said to Stuart, handing him a tape.  Taking it from her he inserted it into the VCR.

Two flashes of light suddenly came from the kitchen.

"What was that?" Stuart asked.

"What was that?" Piper asked. She and Phoebe turned around, their backs now to the sink.

"What...?"  Piper started to say.  Phoebe said nothing but just stood there with her mouth wide open.

"Cut!" a familiar voice rang out.

Phoebe and Piper stared motionless at the cameras and the crew as Prue approached them.

"Cut!" the assistant director echoed to the crew.

"What was that all about?" Prue asked. "Did you both suddenly forget your lines?"

"Our...lines?" Phoebe said slowly, in shock.

"We're...on the set," Piper said, looking around. "The Manor isn't real...it's a set."

"Holly," Shannen asked, "is this one of your practical jokes that you cooked up because I'm directing this episode?  And you got Alyssa to play along with you?"  She waited for a response but got none.

"OK," Shannen said, smiling, "I'll play along, too.

"Yes, we're on the set. And no, it isn't real."

"It's...supposed to be," Piper said slowly, in disbelief.



Click speaker for Opening Credits Theme Song

Two makeup women came over to Holly and Alyssa and started to touch up their faces.

"Holly, are you ready to try the scene again?" Shannen asked.

"Uh..." Holly said. "Could we, uh...break for a while?" she asked.

Shannen looked at her watch. "Sure," she said. "We'll break for lunch." She motioned to the assistant director and he announced it to the crew.

"Are you feeling OK?" she asked Holly with concern.

"Uh...yes...I mean, not really," Holly said. "I...just need a break."

"Prue," Alyssa began, "don't you remember what happened to us?

"Why are you talking in character?"  Shannen asked.  "We're not shooting a scene."

"Don't you remember everything that's happened to us the past few weeks?"  Alyssa asked.

"What happened to us that I should remember?" Shannen asked.

"About what The Elders did to us?" Holly said. "About our powers? About the Halliwell Manor? And the demons?"

Shannen was about to say something when she was interrupted by the assistant director.

"I need to talk to you about the equipment you wanted for the park scene location shoot," he said to Shannen. "Maybe its more than we really need. And Brad just came by with a dialogue change for Holly when the dragon warlock stabs you there with the knife."

"Uh...OK," Shannen answered.  "I'll come see you as soon as I'm done with this," she said to Holly.

"What happened?" Alyssa asked, after Shannen walked away. "How did the real Manor change into a set?"

Holly picked up a call sheet lying on a chair.

"Be Careful What You Witch For," she read.  "This is day four of the shoot.  We're...on the set of the last episode of the season...in April.  The Manor didn't change.  We've...gone back in time again."

"Not again," Alyssa said. 

"But how?” Holly asked. “We didn’t use the time travel spell.”

“Tallor has the power to send people back in time,” Alyssa said. “But why would he suddenly do this to us?"

"Maybe there are other demons who have that power, too," Holly said.

"But there wasn't any demon in the kitchen with us," Alyssa said.

"There was something there," Holly said.  "I...saw it for an instant during the flash.  But I don't know what, or who, it was."

"Shannen doesn't remember what happened to us," Alyssa said.

"Or she didn't get sent back in time with us," Holly said.  "Maybe whatever it was that sent us here happened only in the kitchen and not in the rest of The Manor.  So Shannen was left in the future."

"Uh, maybe this isn't the best time to fool around," Brian said as he walked by them. "I think Shannen's a little nervous about her first shot at directing."

Holly stared at Brian for a moment.

"Uh...maybe...you're right, Leo," Holly said slowly, still staring at him. "Uh...I mean, Brian."

"So how do we get back?" Alyssa asked after Brian was out of earshot.

"Maybe we don't," Holly said, and thought silently for a few seconds.  "What if we just stay here.  This is the unchanged real world.  Shannen is still herself.  And we're Holly Combs and Alyssa Milano, again.Back at Ray-Art Studios filming Charmed.  Back to our...real lives."

"That won't stop us from being turned into witches," Alyssa said.  "Once we reach the first week of May, The Elders will still change the world's reality again. And then we'll have to relive everything we've gone through.

"And besides," Alyssa continued, "remember what happened when we went back in time after Jôlét.  The slight change we made from what had already happened in the past made big changes in what had been our present."

"And we've already made changes to the past here," Holly said.  "We flubbed the take on the kitchen scene.  That didn't happen when we shot it the first time."  She thought silently for a few seconds and then exhaled.

"We'd better get back to the real present before we change anything else here," Holly said.  "Do you remember the time spell?"

"Uh...no," Alyssa said.  "On Charmed I always remember every spell I've ever used.  But in real life I don't.  And we don't know if we even have powers any more to use with a spell.  We'd better find out before we try to do anything."

Holly looked around the sound stage. Most of the crew had gone to lunch but a few had lingered behind.

"Not here," Holly said. "Let's go to my trailer."

They made their way out the sound stage door into the sound lock that connects five of the Ray-Art Studios’ sound stages with each other.

"Phoebe," the man said, cupping his hands and bowing his head as he came through one of the sound lock's connecting doors, "your wish is my command."

Seeing the confused look on their faces, French Stewart, the episode’s guest star, smiled.

"That, Alyssa, is the classic line genies always say," French Stewart said.  "And here I am cast in the role of a genie opposite you and the writers don't give it to me in any of our scenes together.  And not in my scenes with you, either, Holly."

"Brad, uh...is doing a re-write of the last scene," Alyssa stammered, vaguely remembering the scene's dialogue. "I'll...uh...tell him to give you that line."

"And, uh, besides," Holly said, thinking back to the episode's storyline, "the genie you're playing doesn't want to help us. He's working for the....Infernal Council demons and trying to hurt us."

"I know," French Stewart said. "But I just had to say that line once. See you after lunch."

 

After testing Holly's power and seeing that she could no longer freeze anything, the two actresses sat in the trailer trying, without success, to come up with an idea of what to do.

"Everything we've thought of depends upon our using our powers," Alyssa said. "And we don't have them anymore."

"It's ironic, isn't it."  Holly said, "Here we are back to being our real selves and we find that we're helpless without our witches' powers."

"Maybe we should ask one of the writers to come up with a scenario for getting us out of this jam," Alyssa said and they both chuckled.

"Let's take another approach to this," Holly said.  "Let's try to re-construct what we did just before this happened."

"OK," Alyssa said. "Uh, we were talking about...this episode. And you...you wished that the world was changed back." Holly thought for a moment.

"I wish we were back in...in the changed present," she said. "As Piper and Phoebe."

They were both silent but Alyssa stared at Holly.

"That didn't help," Holly said. "Why are you staring at me?"

"You...wished you were Piper," Alyssa said. "That's not like you." She paused for a moment.

"You really meant what you said tonight about not griping about being Piper.  I'm impressed."

Holly took a deep breath. Alyssa could see that she was restraining herself from saying something.

Alyssa turned to the table and picked up Holly's cell phone.

"What are you doing?" Holly asked.

"I...I want to call my mother. As long as we're back in the past. I miss her."

"No," Holly said, "you'll change the past if you do that."

"I don't think so," Alyssa said.  "You know I often call her during the breaks.  So I must have called her while we were shooting this episode.  It won't change anything."

She dialed the number and put the phone to her ear.

"That's strange," she said, "it isn't ringing.  Hmmm...and there's no dial tone.  There must be something wrong with your cell phone.  I'll go get mine from my trailer."  She put the cell phone down and opened the trailer door.

"Holly," she said, staring outside. Holly walked over next to her and looked out the door.

"Where...is the studio?" Alyssa asked. "Where's...everything?"

"There's...there's nothing there," Holly said, in disbelief.

In an instant, something was there. The kitchen sink.

Holly gingerly extended her hand and touched it.  Alyssa slowly turned around and looked at the rest of the kitchen, the walls and the ceiling.

"The Manor," Alyssa said. "It's...real again."

"We're back in The Manor," Holly said. "But when is this?" They turned and walked to the kitchen door and into the living room.

"You're back!" Stuart shouted. He ran over to hug Phoebe as Prue ran over to do the same to Piper.

"We're Piper and Phoebe, again," Piper said, without any trace of complaint.

"What do you mean?" Prue asked.

"You disappeared from the kitchen.  We didn't know what happened to you," Stuart said.  "We tried to figure out how to find you but we couldn't come up with anything."

"Then we thought there might be something on The Demon Dimension that would help us so we watched the rest of it," Prue said.

"Was the episode about time travel?" Piper asked.

"No, not time travel," Stuart said.

"Then it didn't have anything to do with what happened to us," Piper said. "We were sent back in time. To the Charmed set."

"The set?" Prue said, in surprise.

"We went back to April," Piper said. "When we were shooting the last episode of the season."

"What happened then?" Prue asked.

"We were in the middle of a kitchen scene and we were our real selves," Phoebe said. "We blew the scene and then got, uh you, to break for lunch. We went to Piper's trailer but we had no powers and couldn't figure out how to get back."

"You were talking about that episode just before you disappeared," Prue said, and paused for a moment.  "This Demon Dimension episode may indeed have a lot to do with what happened."  She picked up the VCR remote control and pressed rewind.

"How did you get back?" Stuart asked, as the tape rewound.

"We don't know," Phoebe answered.  "But something strange happened.  I tried using Piper's cell phone but it was dead.  And when we opened the trailer door there was nothing out there."

"What do you mean there was nothing out there?" Stuart asked.

"Just that," Piper said. "There was nothing outside the trailer. No studio, no parking lot, no anything. Just...nothing."

Prue stopped the tape, played a few seconds, then pressed rewind again.

"And then we were back here, in The Manor," Piper said.

Prue stopped the tape, then pressed play. She pressed fast forward and after a few seconds pressed play, again.

"Watch this," she said.

"This is Captain Janeway," Samantha said as the tape played, "identify yourselves."

"Lloyd, it's a good thing you're here," Laura said. "Sam's been carrying on like this since I came back twenty minutes ago."

"And she keeps calling me Lieutenant Torres," Laura said.

"Samantha, where are we?" Lloyd asked her.

"About five hundred kilometers from their ship, Tuvok," Sam answered.  "What's Voyager's condition?"

"I don't know what's happened to her," Laura said.

"I do," Lloyd said.

"This is connected to Álvaro's plan, isn't it," Laura said. "What did you find out?"

"The Olakar Pyramid," Lloyd said.  "It's only about two feet tall.  But it has the power to make people hallucinate.  To believe that they are whatever fictitious character that's in their mind, someone they were thinking about, even sub-consciously.  And start acting as if they were that character.

"It was banished to another plane by a good force centuries ago. Álvaro located it and is trying to bring it back to our plane."

"Trying...he hasn't brought it back yet?" Laura asked.

"He's brought it back, all right," Lloyd answered.  "He's practicing, testing his power, but it keeps returning to the other plane. He isn't strong enough to keep the Pyramid here.  Not yet.

"But come the solstice, all bets are off. There's no telling how much power he'll have then. Maybe enough to control the Pyramid and keep it here."

"So the Pyramid was here and it affected Sam?" Laura asked.

"Sam's a fan of Star Trek Voyager," Lloyd said.  "She must have watched it earlier tonight.  That was still in her mind when the Pyramid came here.  She's acting out the part of one of the show's characters."

"But why did it come here?" Laura asked.

"I don't know," Lloyd answered. "Maybe it has something to do with evil being attracted to its equivalent power on the good side and trying to overpower it."

"If Álvaro can control the Pyramid, there will be mass schizophrenia," Laura said. "Nobody will be able to function, everything will break down. People will go crazy. There'll be worldwide chaos."

"We may have to bend Federation rules, Tuvok," Sam said to Lloyd, then turned to Laura. "Lieutenant Torres, get back to Engineering fast."

"How do we break Sam's hallucination?" Laura asked.

"The Pyramid isn't here now so its affects will wear off in a little while," Lloyd answered. "But if Álvaro becomes strong enough to keep it in our world it will keep everyone's hallucination from wearing off."

"We've got to devise a plan to stop him before the solstice," Laura said. "We need Bart. Where is he?"

"He's trying to find the Stone of Xenon," Lloyd said. "Since we don't have powers to banish the Pyramid back to its plane again we have to destroy it. To do that you have to grab onto it and hold it without hallucinating. The Stone is the only thing that can protect the person holding the Pyramid against the Pyramid's power and let him destroy it.

"The Stone's been lost and found over the centuries," Lloyd continued, "sometimes by people who never even knew what it's power was.  That may be how it was somehow lost in the winding room.  Bart is there now trying to recover it."

Prue stopped the tape and turned to Piper and Phoebe.

"Are you saying...that we didn't really go back in time?" Piper asked. "That we hallucinated it all?"

"In a sense," Prue said.  "When this...this Olakar Pyramid affects someone, the person thinks that she really is this fictional character that's in her mind.  The character isn't real so it only seems to her, in her mind, to be real.

"But our lives as our real selves isn’t fiction.  They're part of the real world that existed before The Elders changed it.  And that real world still exists someplace - in our minds. So when you were affected, what you had been thinking about wasn’t fiction but reality - the reality that used to exist. So the affect of the Pyramid made it take the form of a full reality, not of fiction.”

"So...we didn't go back in time," Piper said. "We really didn't go anywhere. It was just...a projection of the reality that's in our minds."

"That's why you didn't have your powers," Prue said. "Because you didn't have any in that reality."

"So because it had been reality, and still exists as a reality, even if only in our minds," Phoebe said, trying to understand, "the hallucination triggered it to take the form of reality - with us in it. But none of it - not the Charmed scene, not our being on the set - actually happened."

"And as the hallucination started to wear off," Stuart said, "that reality began to disappear. First the cell phone, then the studio. And then you were back here."

"That hallucination was some 'trip'," Phoebe added.

"The whole world will be on a 'trip' if we don't destroy the Pyramid," Prue said. "To do that we need the Stone of Xenon, or whatever it is in real life."

"Lloyd said it was in the winding room," Stuart said, and thought silently.

"The powerhouse in the cable barn," he said, after a moment.  "All of the machinery that winds the cable car cables is in there.  The cable comes in to the powerhouse, is wound on giant pulleys and sent back out under the street.  There's a museum on the top level that overlooks the machinery. That must be where it is."

"It's worth a try," Prue said. "I'll go there and see if I can find it."

"I'll go with you," Stuart said.  "It will be pretty dark in the museum at night and you won't be able to see your way around.  But I know the layout."

"I'll come, too," Piper said.

"No, stay here with Phoebe," Prue said.  "If that Pyramid tries to find us again I don't want people around us that it could affect.  And if it does come here you'll be together and be able to help each other if you're affected by it again."

"It's not going to be easy for you to find it," Piper said, "especially as we don't know what it looks like."

"You can use the Find a Needle in a Haystack Spell," Phoebe said.

"The what?" Stuart asked.

"Find a Needle in a Haystack," Phoebe said.  "There's a spell to do that in The Book of Shadows.  I saw it there last week."

"You've got to be kidding," Stuart said.

"In our past that was created when the real world was changed," Phoebe said, "the Book of Shadows dates back to Melinda Warren in Salem. There was no shortage of haystacks in her time."

"But there must have been a shortage of needles," Piper said, "for someone to bother creating a spell to find a lost one."

"I can change the spell to look for the Stone in the cable barn," Phoebe said.

"Go ahead and change it, Phoebe," Prue said. "We'll go as soon as its ready."

 

At eleven-thirty at night, there was hardly a soul walking by the closed shops on Mason Street.  And no one at all was out on the purely residential block of Washington Street.

Prue and Stuart stood on the corner where the two streets crossed, and where the museum and powerhouse side of the block-long cable car building had its entrance.

"The barn itself is on the Jackson Street side of the building," Stuart said.  "That's around the corner at the end of this block.  A lot of the cable cars have already been brought in there for the night.  But if someone lost the Stone on one of these cars, its not likely that it would still be on it.  The cable cars are too small for something like that not to be noticed by the crew or a passenger."

"Let's start with the museum," Prue said.

They slowly walked over to the museum's front door. Stuart turned around to watch for anyone approaching them as Prue waved her hand a few times.

"Got it," Prue said. She slowly opened the door and they both slipped inside into the darkness.

"A few feet to our right, there are six or seven steps going up," Stuart said.  He took Prue's hand and led her up them.  It was mostly dark up there too, but a subdued light from a lower level cast enough illumination to let them see the area in front of them.

"That light's coming from the powerhouse underneath us," Stuart said. "There's an overview about ten yards that way," he said, pointing in front of them. They walked towards the light and stopped at a railing overlooking machinery.

"The winding room," Stuart said. "Or at least, part of it."

Prue saw what looked like giant pulleys in pairs, each pulley of a pair turning in the opposite direction of the other pulley of the pair.  Cables were passing over and around them, then back out again in the direction they had come from.

"Those are sheaves," Stuart said, trying to speak softly and still be heard over the loud sound of the machinery from below.  "There are other sheaves that you can't see from here, along with gears and a motor. Those cables come in from the street and run back out again. This machinery, along with pulleys under the street, is what keeps them going and the cable cars moving."

"This is more complex than I had imagined," Prue said, the light from the powerhouse below giving her face an eerie illumination in the darkness.

"Which is why it all needs a lot of nightly maintenance," Stuart said.  "There may be someone in the powerhouse now.  But most of the workers will be in the barn, working on the cars as they're brought in for the night and preparing them for the morning.  They won't be working in the powerhouse until the three lines shut down in about an hour."

"I hope the Stone's not down there," Prue said, turning around. "Let's start up here."

The light let them see no more than a few feet in front of them.  Beyond that, it was pitch black.

"There are shelves with books and shirts that the museum sells that go from here to the back wall," Stuart said, "and there's a display case with small items along the left side of the room.  There's a wide place to walk in between them.

"Hold my hand.  I know my way around."  He took Prue's hand and led her to their left, then turned abruptly right.

"It's a good thing I memorized the spell," Prue said in the darkness. "I couldn't read it here in the dark."

    "Cable car barn with a lost magical stone inside,  

     Show me the place where the magical stone does hide."

"I've heard better spells," Stuart said, making a face.  "Those lines seem forced and not at all lyrical."

"There wasn't much Phoebe could do with it," Prue said, "except make direct substitutions. It must have sounded better in the original haystack version."

"What's supposed to happen now?" he asked.

"I don't know," Prue said. "Something should happen if the Stone is here."

"Maybe the spell was written for a small haystack," Stuart said, "and the museum is too big. We could try it again on the other end by the display of the old cable car."

They turned around and held hands. Stuart, familiar with the museum's layout, led Prue back to the old cable car near the steps they had first come up. She held onto the end of the cable car and repeated the spell.

"I don't see anything," Stuart said. "Maybe the spell works only for haystacks."

"I'm not giving up, yet," Prue said.  "We'll try it by the powerhouse."  They made their way back to the railing overlooking the machinery and Prue said the spell once more.

"There," she said, "That flashing light coming from behind that second sheave. That wasn't there before."

"No, it wasn't," Stuart said. "That light must be what shows where the needle is."

"I'll astral project down there," Prue said.  "Just hold me."  Stuart put his arms around her and she slumped against him.

The din from the machinery was much greater on the powerhouse's floor. As was Prue's appreciation of the size of the sheaves, which were considerably taller than her. Now she could see the other, smaller pulleys that lay beneath the museum's floor, all turning in different directions.

And everywhere were the cables.  To her left, to her right, wherever she turned, winding around the sheaves and pulleys that surrounded her in what seemed to her like some Rube Goldberg design. But which, she knew, was really a masterful feat of mechanical engineering.

The light was flashing from a side of the sheave that Prue couldn't see.  The only way she could get to it was to step under the cables and get between the sheaves.  Carefully, she did just that and she could now see something lodged within the flashing light.

"Hey! What are you doing?!" a voice shouted at her.

Prue turned her head and saw a man about twenty feet from her on the far side of the sheaves. Turning back to the flashing light, she stretched out her hand and moved her fingers back towards herself. The object came sailing across into her hand.

"Get out of there!" the man shouted and Prue turned around.

"OK. Whatever you say," she said to him and in an instant she was back with Stuart.

"What's the matter, Charlie?" a second man approaching the sheaves asked.

"I saw a...a woman standing over there," Charlie answered.

"A woman?" the other man asked.

"Maybe...a ghost," Charlie answered.

"A ghost," the other man repeated, skeptically.

"Yeah, Denny," Charlie said, shaken. "One minute she was there and the next minute she was gone. She just disappeared."

Denny gave Charlie a long look.

"Did this, uh, ghost have any tools with her?" he asked.

"Tools...no, uh...no I didn't see any tools," Charlie answered.

"Well, if she didn't come with tools to work then I don't care if she's gone," Denny said. He gave Charlie another long look, turned around  and walked back into the car barn.

Charlie looked around the powerhouse and then up at the railing on the museum level. But Prue and Stuart were already outside on Mason Street on their way back to the car.

 

The stone was the shape of a hexagon, light gray in color and about five inches wide.  A leather necklace was attached to it through two eyelets, allowing the Stone to be worn around the neck. Prue, back in the living room, held the Stone in her hand and looked at the inscription on it.

                                             DEFENSOR AB POLLENTIAE MAGUSUM

"I don't know what that means," Prue said, after reading it aloud.  "Nor the meaning of these symbols on the other side."

"Let me see," Stuart said, taking the Stone from Prue. "Hmm...this might be Latin." He turned the Stone over to the reverse and saw nine symbols in rows of three.

"Could that middle one in the second row be some kind of an eye?"  Phoebe asked, looking at it with him.  "Hmmph...but the others... I'll see if I can find any of them in The Book of Shadows tomorrow."

"I think I'll have more luck looking in the research section of the library," Stuart said.  He picked up a pad from the end table and began copying down the words and the symbols.

"Well, now that we have the Stone, what do we do with it?" Piper asked.

"We have to wait for the demons to test their powers with the Pyramid again," Phoebe said.

"We don't know how long that wait will be," Piper said.

"On The Demon Dimension," Prue said, "Lloyd said that Álvaro was trying it every five hours.  So if in real life it's the same, that would give us...about another two hours."

"How do we use the Stone?" Piper asked.

"In the episode," Prue said, "Lloyd touched the Stone to the Pyramid.  That burned the Pyramid and destroyed it. I'm going to have to catch the Pyramid when it comes back here and do the same thing."

"Like grabbing the brass ring on the merry-go-round," Stuart said.  Having finished his copying, he put the pad down on the end table and gave the Stone back to Prue.  "Only it'll be reversed.  You'll be standing still and the Pyramid will be moving."

"You'll all get away from here," Prue said, putting the Stone over her head and around her neck. "The Stone will protect me from hallucinating but can't protect you."

"No," Piper said. "I'll do it. I can freeze the Pyramid. You go with Phoebe and Stuart."

"None of us can go away," Phoebe said, "except for Stuart. We don't know which one of us the Pyramid will be attracted to so the three of us have to stay together."

"It's likely it will be attracted to-" A flash of light cut Stuart off. It's here too soon, Phoebe thought. Piper reacted immediately and raised her hand.

The Pyramid was cream-colored with grey concentric circles all over, about as wide at its base as it was tall.  Prue went over to it, as it hung frozen in mid-air, took a deep breath and touched the Stone along one of its sides.

BOOM!!!

The explosion was followed by a blinding light that filled The Manor. Tiny particles began to drift around in the air. As they began to settle in the living room, the light slowly began to dissipate.

Piper lay sprawled face up on the floor. Phoebe lay next to her with her head sideways, her face obscured by her left arm that covered it. Prue lay face down at their feet.

Stuart lay a little distance in front of them. The figure stepped over him but without concern for being careful, not bothering to avoid stepping on Stuart's chest and shoulder. The figure knelt down and looked at Piper's blackened face for a few seconds. Then the figure turned its attention to Phoebe. It pushed her arm aside and, opening a button on her blouse to spread her collar, ran a hand along her neck.

The figure stood up and walked over to Prue.  It placed a foot underneath her chest and kicked her over on to her back.  Looking down at her, the figure smiled with satisfaction.

 

The light surrounded Leo's hands as they lay on Piper's chest. After a few seconds he moved to Phoebe and placed his hands on her.

"Leo..." Piper said as she slowly sat up. "What...happened?"

"I don't know," he answered as he went to Prue and put his hands on her. "They just told me to get over here fast, that something went wrong."

Piper stood up as Leo removed his hands from Prue.  She helped Prue and Phoebe get up and Leo went over to Stuart.

"What happened?" Phoebe asked.

"I touched the stone to the Pyramid and...it blew up," Prue said.

She knelt down and picked up a small charred object,

"But it worked," Prue said, turning it over in her hands. "The Pyramid was burned and destroyed."

"And with it a demon's plan of major destruction," Piper said, looking at the Pyramid's charred remains that Prue was holding.

"What is that?" Leo asked.

"It was something that would have caused chaos and catastrophe everywhere," Phoebe said. "And we destroyed it.

"But it came here earlier than it should have.  And it wasn't supposed to explode like that, either."

"No, it wasn't," Prue said. "That's not how we were shown...uh, told, it would work."

"Maybe that's why whoever banished the Pyramid didn't try to use the Stone to destroy it," Piper said.

Aha, Stuart thought, here comes the gripe.

"But it doesn't matter...we have saved the world from a demon's plan for disaster," Piper continued.  "And that's why we were given our powers." She took the charred remains of the Pyramid from Prue.  "To save the world from this."

She didn't gripe, Stuart thought.

"You're right," Phoebe said.  "Despite what happened we did defeat a demon's plan.  And thanks to you, Leo, we survived the explosion."

"Yes," Piper said, "thank you for saving us." Leo gave a half-smile and a small nod of his head.

"But I didn't save Prue," he said. "She wasn't really hurt, just knocked out. I don't understand why."

"That is curious," Prue said.  "But the important thing is that we were successful tonight.  Even though we didn't vanquish the demon behind this, it's still one less of their plans to worry about come the solstice.  Now we just have to find out what other plans for destruction they have."

"Maybe we can do that tomorrow," Phoebe said. "It's been a long night."

"It's not the first long night we've had," Piper said.  Stuart waited for the gripe that would follow.

"But we can't expect vanquishing demons or defeating their plans to be a nine-to-five job," she continued.

Stuart, surprised at Piper's reaction, just stared at her.

"You're right," Prue said. "Still, we could use some sleep."

"Yes, we certainly could," Stuart said. "So I'll be the first to say good night, Leo." He turned and took a couple of steps towards the staircase.

"We'll clean everything up in the morning," Piper said, looking at the mess the explosion left.

"Just like on Charmed," Phoebe said quietly to Stuart. "The Manor is always a mess after we've finished with a demon."

Prue felt around her chest and neck with her hand and then looked down at the floor.

"Uh, where's the Stone?" she asked.

"You don't have it?" Stuart asked.

"No," Prue answered, "and I don't see it anywhere."

"Maybe it was destroyed together with the Pyramid," Phoebe said.

"It's power was supposed to be strong enough to remain in tact," Prue said.  "And even if it was destroyed, there should be something left of it, just like something was left of the Pyramid.  And the leather neck strap wasn't part of the Stone.  It should still be here somewhere, too."

"I don't see it," Piper said.

"Why do I feel a draft?" Stuart asked. He was closer to the staircase than the others and now started to turn around.

"Look," he said. "The front door is wide open."

"Someone may have been here while we were all unconscious," Phoebe said.

Stuart picked up the pad from the end-table.

"The page that I copied down the words and symbols from the Stone on is gone," he said.  "There's just part of the top of the page left.  This wasn't destroyed in the explosion.  It was ripped out.

"Someone was here."

"And took the Stone from my neck," Prue added.

"DEFENSOR AB POLLENTIAE MA," Leo said, reading what was left of the page.

"That was inscribed on the Stone," Prue said to him. "That last word was...magusum."

"That's Latin," Leo said, and thought for a second.  "It means...'Protector From Magical Powers'.  What stone was this?"

"We think its called the Stone of Xenon," Piper answered. Leo turned his head slightly as he looked upwards.

"They're calling me," he said. "The Stone of Xenon. I've heard of it." The white light began to form around him.

"It's a talisman," he said and disappeared.

"A talisman," Piper repeated and they were silent for a few seconds.

"We know a demon who's after a talisman," Phoebe said. "Marco."

"Could this have been the same talisman that, uh, uh...Sydney Montanelli found in that other timeline that we were in with Marco?"  Stuart asked.

“The timeline we made when we changed the past going after Jôlét,” Phoebe said.

"If it is, then we've run into Marco in the real timeline, too," Piper said.

"But how could Marco have known that the Stone would be here?" Stuart asked.

"We don't know who the demon trying to bring the Pyramid here was," Prue began.  "What if...what if it was Marco.  And what if he was controlling the Pyramid.  It was only a theory on Demon Dimension about evil being attracted to good.  Lloyd didn't really know how the Pyramid found Sam."

"But if Marco could control the Pyramid, why would he send it here to be destroyed?" Phoebe asked.

"Maybe..."  Prue began, "maybe...Marco had just enough power to control the Pyramid and bring it here.  But he knew that he wouldn't have enough power to keep it here, even on the solstice.  Lloyd only said that the demon may have enough power then to do that.  He wasn't sure.  Maybe Marco wasn’t sure either that he really would have been able to keep the Pyramid in this plane.

"What he really wanted was the Stone of Xenon, but he couldn't find it.  So he sent the Pyramid to us because he knew what we would do."

"He knew we'd use our powers to look for the Stone and that we probably would find it," Piper said. "He didn't need the Pyramid and didn't care about our destroying it. All he really wanted was the talisman.

"So when we did find it, he was ready and waiting to take the Stone while we were unconscious."

Everyone was silent.

"We were set up," Prue said, anger in her voice.

"This was never part of the demons' plans for major destruction," Phoebe said.  "We didn't save the world from a disaster. We didn't save the world from anything."

"That inscription said the Stone protects against magic," Piper said.  "It may protect against more than just the Pyramid.  Maybe it can even shield a demon from a witch's powers.  And that's why Marco wanted it so much. So he could do whatever he wanted to do without worrying about us or about any other witches.

"Without the Stone's symbols that Stuart wrote down, we have no way of knowing," Piper continued. "And no way of  finding out anything else about the Stone that would help us find it.  And find Marco."

"Maybe that's why you weren't hurt in the explosion," Phoebe said to Prue. "You were wearing the Stone. It’s a protection against any magic so it protected you from the explosion the Stone's magic caused."

"Demons don't outsmart you on Charmed," Stuart said.  "And this isn't how it happened on The Demon Dimension, either."

"No, it isn't," Piper said.  "But they're just acting from a script on a sound stage.  We have to face this in real life..."  She stopped, not finishing what she had started to say.  After a pause she took a deep breath.

"In real life, things turn out differently," she continued, speaking slowly and deliberately. "These are real, not fictional, demons. And these are real risks that we take.

"But we also have real accomplishments." 

"What did we accomplish tonight?" Phoebe asked. "We let a demon completely manipulate us."

"We accomplished one thing," Piper said.  "We learned that we can't blindly rely on a TV script to tell us what to do in the real world, whether that script is from The Demon Dimension or even from Charmed.  We have to be thinking in character and then add in our own intelligence, and our own experience and intuition as real witches."

Stuart looked at Piper in amazement, not believing that she would say that without complaining.

"I'll tell you one thing," Prue said, conviction in her voice. "I won't ever let a demon do this to us again."

"Well," Stuart said, "if its any consolation, Marco fooled The Elders, too.  They arranged The Demon Dimension's storylines when they changed the world's reality.  So they also thought that this was about causing worldwide chaos with the Pyramid."

"We don't know for sure that it really was Marco," Phoebe said.

"And we don't know that it wasn't," Prue said.  "But if it was, he may be working with that warlock Neville."

"We're in the real timeline, now," Phoebe said.  "If they are working together, we're not going to be able to undo whatever Neville does here the way we undid it in that other timeline."

"Then we're just going to have make sure that nothing happens here that has to be undone," Piper said. She paused for a second.  "And we will. We are, after all, The Charmed Ones."

"That's it," Stuart said, surrendering, "you win. I lose. You haven't griped once since dinner about being Piper Halliwell, about being a real witch, about being here, even though you've had plenty of occasion and reason to."

Piper said nothing but just smiled at him.

"Maybe that's another thing we've accomplished tonight," Prue said.  "Fighting back to remain who we really are - as you did acting like Holly. Not letting the characters we've become take over and control our personalties."

"Well," Phoebe said and sighed, "there's nothing more that we can do about the Stone, or Marco.  We may as well get some sleep." She walked over to the front door and closed it.

Prue thought for a moment, the angry look returning to her face, then reluctantly nodded her head in agreement.  "Good night," she said, still smarting from being used, and started upstairs.

"Good night," Piper said and started walking to the staircase.

"Oh," she said, turning her head slightly to Stuart as she passed him, "for that dish you owe me, a recipe for a French Soufflé au Fromage would do nicely.  And prepare it for five - I'm inviting Leo to dinner."  She continued to the staircase and followed Prue upstairs.

Stuart took a deep breath and exhaled, then shook his head in amazement at his defeat.

"French Soufflé," Stuart repeated to himself as he watched her go up the steps.

"Oui, oui, mademoiselle," he said, slowly.