Notes: Thanks to Mare, Younger, SA and Mosca for beta magic. Charmed is someone's else baby and not my characters. Not for profit ever. Title quotes Tanya Donnelly. Written for the Yuletide challenge for ladybug218.



WHEN WE WERE DIVING GOLD AND PEARLING WAVES



Piper opened her eyes and her room was all wrong. Damn it. This wasn't where she fell asleep and this wasn't her room. Everything was wrong.

She sighed. It should have been Christmas morning. She went to bed and it was Christmas Eve, so therefore she should have woken up in her own room. One more stupid spell, one more stupid demon had done something and now her room was wrong.

She blinked and thought the room looked very familiar. It was her own room the way it had been when she was a kid. Very much a kid, before Dad left, even. She still had the stuffed animals stacked on her bookshelves, baby blankets pooled around their feet to keep them warm. All her books were in bright colors with large letters.

Some kind of stupid time thing then. She bit back the panic as images of Chris and Wyatt flashed in her head, eyes looking up at her. She couldn't screw around. This had to be solved.

She sat up and threw out her hands to see if this was another one of those times when she had no powers. Her bright yellow lamp with dancing muffins painted on it exploded. She swore out loud and froze it, then jumped up and batted each piece to the ground. No noise, she thought. Or less, at least. She never thought very well in the morning. Hands on hips, she said, "That made sense, Piper. Damn it." Her voice sounded higher, with a slight lisp. Now she was getting a headache, which intensified when she looked over her shoulder and saw herself in the mirror.

She looked like the child she'd been in this room. She sighed. Then turned and ran when she heard Phoebe shrieking "Christmas! Christmas!" and tromping down the stairs. So it was Christmas here, too, Piper thought.

Downstairs, Prue was sorting the gifts and Mom had a big clunky video camera. Phoebe yelled again and jumped to Prue's side. Prue was here and her mother was here and she missed them so much. Piper burst into tears. She felt arms around her and smelled cigar smoke and then her dad was murmuring in her ear. He said, "Baby, it's Christmas. Don't cry." Piper sniffled. She knew how this video went; she'd watched it last night with Phoebe and Paige. So she hugged her father and went to tiny Prue and even tinier Phoebe.

She wasn't interested in the gifts, though she knew she should be laughing and opening them with precise tears, then folding the wrapping paper after she was done. That's what she'd done last night on the video. She sat close to Prue instead, just touching her. She begged her mother to put down the camera. She wanted to see her mother's eyes and her smile.

Mom put down the camera, finally, and Piper climbed into her lap. Mom petted her hair and said, "Don't you want to play, Piper? You got that -- that doll with the very odd hair." She laughed.

"I like just being with you." Mom, she thought, breathing in that Mom-smell. Wyatt and Chris's images appeared in her head again. She was someone's mom and she remembered she couldn't play at all. She said, "I think I'm not supposed to be here. I know this isn't right, Mom, it's magic."

Her mother turned her head and stared at Piper. She didn't even look surprised, just calm. She said, "Piper, I'm not the one doing magic."

Piper closed her eyes and got ready to argue. She needed to explain that this wasn't real, or it was real, but it was all done and had already happened. Piper had so much to do in the now. She couldn't stay even though she wanted to so much.

She opened her eyes to explain but everything was different again. The kitchen, looking just like it had last night. Their microwave, her olive colored mixer in exactly the right place. She looked down at the counter and there were cookies there. Straight from the oven, it smelled like. Maybe she had just put them down.

This was a spell. Someone was doing this to her. And she needed to figure it out because it was never good. You thought it was cool, something like a world without magic, but it always turned out to be horrible. And dangerous, Piper knew that for sure. It always turned out to be dangerous.

She wasn't going to make another mess testing if her powers worked. She needed to get straight to the Book of Shadows if it even existed in this jump place or wherever she was. She turned to go upstairs and ran right into Chris, standing in the doorway.

He looked down at her and said, "You made cookies. Your *cookies* --"

"I made them for you, didn't I?" She backed up and smiled. Her big grown-up son. She crossed her arms and thought, and then he died. Chris would die soon, like Prue had died. She had no happy memories where someone who hadn't died was in them. She shook her head and tried to clear her thoughts.

Chris backed up. "Um. What do you mean?"

"Is this -- do I not know yet that you're my son?" Chris blinked at her.

 Piper said, "Chris, something's happening. To me. Oh, you'll think this is funny, but I'm from the future. If this is even real."

He blinked again and shook his head. "Piper." His voice sounded hurt and confused. He said, "I'm not the one doing magic." And then he sighed, his voice quiet and said, "Mom, it's okay."

Chris had died, would die, and she couldn't change that now. She closed her eyes against that pain, she couldn't think about this.

She wanted to look at him again but when she opened her eyes things had changed again. She was still in the kitchen but all the appliances were smaller and shinier. Her olive colored mixer was now a large bowl with a simple silver crane attached to it. "Okay," she said. "Okay, so twice someone says to me they're not doing magic and I close my eyes and things change. Houston, we have a pattern." She walked out of the kitchen into the living room.

Leo looked up from an elaborately carved rocking chair. "Talking to yourself, honey?"

"Yes. I'm having a day here, Leo. I need your help." She couldn't help smiling, though, because Leo would help, no matter what crazy time she was. Leo's hair was completely gray and he had wrinkles where he smiled. He still looked at her like she was beautiful and amazing. Piper decided not to look in a mirror; she wasn't willing to deal with how she might look all these years ahead.

She took a deep breath and said, "Leo. Last night it was 2004 and I went to sleep on Christmas Eve. Then I woke up and I was five years old and I closed my eyes and it was, it was last year. And Chris, from the future, he was there and now I'm here, whenever this is. Something's going on."

"Piper," Leo said, smiling. "It's okay. I'm not the one --"

"Oh, no no no. Don't finish that sentence. So far every time someone says that to me, I jump again. Or whatever is happening."

"Every time someone says 'I'm not the one who you should be talking to about magic things?'" Leo kept smiling. "You're from the past, I believe you. Cause otherwise you would remember I can't do magic anymore. I'm not even a Whitelighter now. Just your husband. Just a guy."

"How is that even possible?" She stepped forward before she could even think about it and she was hugging him. "You're just a guy? What does that mean? And Wyatt and Chris, they're okay?"

"Of course they are. I remember Chris coming back, too, Piper, but he changed it. Whatever future he came from, it's not what happened to us. And as to me being human, completely human? You know how magic is." He shrugged and then leaned in closer, kissing the top of her head. "So we'll call Pennilynn, that's Phoebe's daughter, and get this all straightened out. Don't worry."

She looked around the room and saw picture after picture, all happy, smiling faces. One that could be Chris when he was twelve. She saw another of Wyatt and Leo and Paige and Phoebe and other people she didn't recognize in formal clothes. She smiled and said, "We should do that. That's a good plan."

Leo kissed her forehead again and murmured, "She'll know. Cause I'm certainly not the one doing magic here."

She felt sad and on the verge of tears, and she tried not to blink but she felt a now-familiar tug. Then she was opening her eyes and Leo was gone. So were all the happy pictures and bright future. She sagged over the kitchen counter and pressed her fist against her mouth. She had to fix this. She had to get home.

She wanted her mother back and Prue and she wanted to know Chris would be okay and Wyatt, too. She was so close to crying.

The oven buzzed and she turned automatically to take out whatever was done. Cookies. The cookies she made every Christmas again. Maybe that was the problem. They were too hot to eat just then, but she decided to try one anyway. Even if it didn't get her home to where she belonged, she'd be happier.

Then Prue came in, seventeen and beautiful, with Andy right behind her and his fingers hooked in the belt loop of her jeans. Piper gasped, they looked so in love and their clothes were very corduroy. Then Piper remembered how she'd looked in high school and swore to herself she wouldn't look in any mirrors until this jump or whatever was over.

Prue said, "Cookies!" and grabbed one. Piper waved her hands and started to say something about how they were too hot when Prue ate the first one. Prue made a face and said, "Okay, really fresh cookies." She laughed and leaned back against Andy. "Okay, now you have one."

Andy laughed and pulled Prue closer. "Nope." He looked over at Piper and said, "I'm sure they're great, but I think I can wait."

Prue took a cookie and shoved it in Andy's face. "You're a poet." She giggled as Andy batted her hand away.

"You two are so cute," Piper said. She'd had a crush on Andy back then when he had longer hair and no tired lines around his eyes. Another one dead, she thought and looked down at the cookies. They were probably okay to eat now. She took one and nibbled at the edges. It was delicious though she was still using too much ginger back then.

She'd eaten three and decided that was courage enough to say, "Prue, something's going on here."

"Great cookies," Prue said. "Because you're great." She leaned over and tapped Piper's cheek.

"I mean, with me. Prue, I need your help." She couldn't bring herself to say it all. Prue was so alive and happy. And she still didn't know. Maybe Piper could find Grams.

Andy said, "You worry too much, Piper."

"You should worry more," she said, looking at him for the first time. He was so young. She'd forgotten how chubby his cheeks were and the way he looked at Prue, even then, like she was the only pearl in the world.

"Piper," Prue said. "This isn't real, you know." Piper looked up and Andy was gone. Prue wasn't seventeen anymore -- she was the age she'd been when she'd died. "This is some sort of spell. Right?"

"Prue, I have to get out of this. It's me. I need to get back to my boys."

"You have boys?" Prue smiled her crooked smile. She took another cookie.

"I have two babies. Wyatt and Chris." Piper turned towards the door. "If we went up to the nursery, would they be there? I want you to meet them so much."

Prue shrugged. "We can try. It would be really cool."

Piper grinned, because as weird as things were, this felt real. She so wanted Prue to hold her nephews, to see her family. They ran up the stairs with Prue protesting behind her about running in heels and what was the rush? It made Piper's throat collapse and she wanted to say that there's never enough time, but couldn't say anything, just kept dragging Prue forward.

The nursery was there and she tugged on Prue's wrist to bring her in. She kept thinking it would all go away again. But Prue came in and walked over to where Wyatt was sleeping in his crib. He was a baby again, even though Chris was over in the other crib, the same age. It wasn't real, Piper knew, but it was still a kind of perfect. Prue leaned over and ran her fingers through Wyatt's hair. "He's so cute." She looked up grinning.

Piper leaned over the crib and lifted Wyatt up. In her arms, he was two years old and smiling at her, his bangs in his eyes. She handed him over to Prue and Prue held him close. Wyatt said, "Auntie," and tugged at her hair.

Prue turned her head to loose her hair. "He's got a good grip."

"Wait until he gets older," somebody said. Piper turned and it was Chris. Grown-up Chris with his floppy hair and tired smile. "Hey, Mom. And you must be Aunt Prue." He managed to say it casually, but Piper thought she was going to explode.

"What is going on? Can someone tell me that?" She walked over to him and slapped his knee, just to make sure he was actually there.

He said, "Ow, Mom. I'm right here. This is magic, remember?"

"I don't remember, I don't know what's going on here." She paced between Chris and Prue. "Why am I jumping around like this? Why are you both here? Why has Wyatt gone a baby to two years old to a baby in the last three minutes?"

Chris said, "Because you want us to be here. And I think Wyatt is hard to magic into things." Wyatt was back in his crib, a baby sleeping.

"And that makes perfect sense," Prue said. She sounded exasperated and like she was about to make sure that someone spoke very clearly. Piper almost laughed. She missed Prue a lot.

"Hey, I'm not the one --"

"No no no no, nobody say that. I want explanations." Piper held up her hands in her most threatening manner. Prue and Chris shared the same crooked grin. Neither of them remotely scared her. She missed them so much.

"Chris, you're dead," she said and her voice trembled. "Leo saw you die." She looked up and tried to think. "I don't understand. I don't understand how it all works. You're going to live and then you're going to die and it's all already happened, hasn't it?"

Chris shook his head. "No, it didn't work like that. Chris, that Chris, disappeared, Leo told you, right?" He smiled, calm and patient. Piper thought for a moment he looked like her. Her son shouldn't be the one to make her feel better, it was her job. She'd failed at it so many times; it broke her heart to think about it.

He said, "When that Chris died, it changed everything. Little changes, you can go back to that, when you're traveling in time. Shifts. But the changes from Chris dying, that changed the future too much." He stood up and rubbed her shoulder. He wanted to hug her, she could tell. "For the better."

Prue snorted. "That's how it works? What happened to that Chris? Which one are you?"

"I'm the one that will be." He smiled. "I know, it's confusing. But, seriously, it was pretty cool growing up with Aunt Paige and Aunt Phoebe telling me how cool I would be when I got older. I could never have an inferiority complex after that."

"You did have one," Piper said.

"Things change when you change the past." Chris stood up and held out his hand. "And we've never met, have we? You're Aunt Prue. Man, the stories I've heard about you."

Prue frowned and said, "Good stories? Because Phoebe lies. She exaggerates, too."

Chris laughed. "Everything I heard was good." He pulled her into a hug and Prue patted his back.

Prue said, "Dying makes people forget the bad stories. Good to know." She rolled her eyes and sat down on a trunk. "Though, really, that doesn't do me much good."

Piper sunk into the chair. So maybe it would all be okay. For Chris, at least. If she could trust demonic visions. She said, "Wait, why should I trust you? This is a spell. This isn't real and it's not true. You're just something sent to, to --"

"Not a demon thing." Chris shook his head. "It's not."

Prue said, "It doesn't feel like demons. I mean, from this side. Then again, I don't feel dead and I know I am."

"Stop saying that," Piper said. "I don't want to think about that."

"But it happened," Prue said. "It's, it's life, Piper. And death. Death happens." She sighed. "I sound like an ad."

"No, Prue. You sound like Grams," Piper said and looked up at her. Prue smiled.

Chris shrugged. "But it's true. And, Mom? Not your fault. Hers or that other me or my grandmother or Andy."

"I know that," Piper said.

"No, you don't," Prue said. "I know you."

"You two are giving me a headache." She sat back in the chair and rubbed her forehead.

"We're not the ones doing magic, Piper." Chris smiled. Piper groaned but she didn't feel the tug again. She waited, but no one disappeared.

"Why didn't that work?" She looked around. "It worked before."

"Did you want it to work?" Prue smirked. "You wanted both of us gone."

"I don't, at all. I love this, even though it's totally weird and not real." Piper sighed. "No, wait, if everyone's telling me they're not the ones doing magic, then -- Does this? Does it mean I am?"

Prue said, "Sounds like it."

"I think this kind of spell, to bring you back and forward in time in spirit and bring us both in here, in spirit, at least - sounds like the Power of Three." Chris leaned against the crib, a small smile on his face.

"Why would Paige and Phoebe and I cast a spell on me that I don't remember?"

"Well, you got me and Chris, it sounds like Phoebe's demented idea of a great Christmas gift." Prue laughed.

"I have to agree with that one," Chris said.

Prue said, "I like you. You're my favorite nephew."

Piper smiled. "Even if this was Phoebe's idea, I think I like it."

Chris rolled his eyes. "Softie."

"Always was," Prue said.

"Maybe I'm not so thrilled to see the two of you together," Piper said, laughing. If all this had been a Power of Three spell, that meant Chris had been telling the truth. About himself, and the other Chris. It had to. It wasn't logical, but logical hadn't been a word she'd used a lot in the past few years. She was going with her gut feeling. And she'd seen happy times. "You know, if this spell is good for me, if this is one of those guidance things, I wish someone had told me. I would have spent more time and not worried so much. I mean, I was a little girl again and Mom was there. I saw you and you and Leo and it was all happy. Everywhere I went."

"So it was good then?" Chris cocked his head and stared at her.

"It was." She smiled. "Okay, then. But how do I stop it? It's Christmas morning."

"You have *cookies* to bake," Prue said.

"You better. I love those things," Chris said, nodding his head in agreement.

Piper stood up and said, "Okay, I'll try." She concentrated and nothing happened. "Okay, another option." She clicked her heels together and said, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home." She laughed at Prue's and Chris's faces. "It was worth a try."

She closed her eyes and tried to think of something else. Then she suddenly felt warm. She opened her eyes and she was on the couch. The TV was on but it was a blank screen saying the tape was done. Paige was asleep and drooling on her shoulder. Phoebe was leaning against the other one, thankfully not drooling. Piper shifted slightly and they both muttered and woke up.

"Hey," Piper said. "We fell asleep on the couch."

Phoebe yawned. "But it was comfortable, somehow. That's totally weird."

"You were using my shoulder as a pillow." Piper stood up and turned off the TV. "Did either of you have weird dreams?"

Paige shook her head. Phoebe said, "Nope. No dreams at all."

"I think I did," Piper said.

Paige stretched and said, "I don't think you had a dream."

"What?"

"Cause I have that weird tingling thing happening, like I always do after we've done a big spell." She looked at the other two. "Am I the only one who gets that?"

Piper said, "Yeah." She turned around and walked into the kitchen. She started getting out the ingredients for her *cookies,* though she was thinking this year of adding more ginger. Phoebe came in right behind her and Paige was there a moment later with both of the boys.

Phoebe said, "I bet we did a spell. So spill, Piper, what was your weird dream?"

"I guess it was real," Piper said. "And it was really good. It was, you know it gave me this sense of --"

"Peace," Phoebe said. She smiled and poured herself a glass of milk.

"Did you sense that?"

"Nope," Phoebe said. "I just, I remembered that last night you seemed so worried, and as we were watching that tape, from when we were kids? I was thinking, I wished you felt some sense of peace, some break from all your worrywart ways. And clearly since we were all sitting next to each other and touching, that did something. Like a Christmas miracle spell."

Piper smiled and said, "Prue was sure it was your idea."

Paige grinned. "Prue? Okay, definitely spill."

Phoebe nodded. "Definitely, but first. Something we forgot to say?"

"Thank you? It was a great gift." Piper cracked the eggs against the side of the bowl.

"No, silly, merry Christmas! It's Christmas!" Phoebe hugged them both close.

Piper pulled away and said, "Exactly. Merry Christmas to you both. And Christmas means *cookies.*"

THE END.



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