Sam blinked. He looked around the room. A girl's room.
Oh no...not again.
He sighed in frustration and walked to the mirror. A pretty, honey-blonde somewhere around twenty-five looked back at him through nut-brown eyes fringed by long lashes.
At least he wasn't a child...
Her sandy hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail and she was wearing--
A check shirt, overalls, and rubber boots?
He ran to the window.
A farm. He was on a farm!
He looked up. "Thank you," he said happily, the girl in the mirror forgotten for the moment.
The sun was shining brilliantly outside. He raised the window and breathed deeply. Spring. He could smell it in the air. There was blossom blooming somewhere near, and jonquils. His mother grew jonquils. There were chickens in the vegetable patch. He laughed as a motherly woman chased them out with a broom and shut the little gate. Across the yard a tractor stood rumbling, waiting for someone to take it out. It was carrying chains and hooks, and a digger on the front. Stump drawing, Sam decided.
At that moment another girl emerged from the barn wearing much the same clothes as he was. She looked a great deal like the girl in the mirror, only a little younger, a little less developed.
He turned back to the dressing table. A ticking clock told him it was six-thirty a.m. He opened the drawer looking for a purse, or some papers that might tell him who he was. It was filled with underwear, brassieres, and in one corner, a diary. Reluctantly, carefully, he used one finger to lift the cover, and exhaled with relief.
His name was Jamie Louise Kirkland. He closed the book and shut the drawer. One of the most unpleasant parts of leaping was the invasion of other people's privacy. Now all he needed was the date. Farm kitchens almost always had a calendar. That way he would not have to invade Jamie Kirkland's privacy.
He was at the bottom of the stairs following the aroma of griddle cakes, eggs and bacon toward the kitchen when the older woman came in. Judging by the facial resemblance to the girl in the mirror, Sam decided this was his--her mother.
"Morning, mom," he said, and smiled.
"Jamie, did you leave the gate open again last night? All the chickens have been in and demolished my silverbeet seedlings again."
"I...I don't know," he replied, but couldn't help smiling.
"What's got you so happy this morning, honey? You got another date with that Larry McAllister?"
"I don't think so," Sam muttered. He hoped not. "It's spring. And it's a beautiful day. Sometimes things just come out right," he said contentedly. "I'm hungry."
"Well, you're running late. Your sister's already taken the tractor up to the north pasture to finish burying that dead steer. Get into the kitchen and eat, so you can get out and finish the separating for me. By the time you bring in those cows from the spelling field for the vet to examine, he'll be here. Now, c'mon. Ben Hodgson hasn't got all day to be sitting here drinking my coffee and waiting for you to bring those beasts in."
Sam dove into breakfast, relishing everything from the sound of the bacon sizzling in the heavy cast iron pan, to the smell of the hotcakes and the coffee as he ate. The morning breeze brought spring into the kitchen and a smile to his green eyes as he reached for the orange juice. He was almost finished when he let his gaze wander lazily around the kitchen, drinking in the familiarity of it.
He stopped chewing and frowned. It was almost too familiar. And he hadn't looked for a calendar yet. There was none on the walls.
Where did mom used to..? Of course. The back of the pantry door.
He walked into the pantry and closed the door. Which made it too dark to see. He turned on the light. There was a calendar. A large one. It had a picture of a prize-winning display of preserves on it. Sam's eyes, however, were riveted on the words across the top.
Jasper County Fair. Jasper...it had to be. His eyes darted over the cardboard looking for the name of the printer and the address.
Indianapolis. It was printed in Indianapolis. He laughed. He was home again. Sort of. If home was still there...
The smile vanished. He swallowed and looked down at the year of the calendar. 1972.
The color drained from his face and he leaned against the back wall of the pantry, his eyes closed. And just as quickly opened them again. How was he supposed to tell the date? The calendar had circles and reminder marks through the whole twelve months.
He burst out of the pantry looking for his--Jamie's mother.
"Mom!" He yelled.
"In here," came a responding yell.
He found her surrounded by dirty washing, a twin-tub washing machine rumbling away behind her. She'd been rubbing collars over the laundry sink.
"What's the date today?" Sam demanded.
"Today?" Mrs Kirkland mused. "Well, I'm not sure, Jamie. Why don't you go look on the calendar in the kitchen?"
Sam bit his tongue. "Please, just tell me the month," he begged, his tone intense.
"The month? You know as well as I do its almost the end of April, honey. I swear you girls don't know whether you're coming or going. You do have a date with that boy tomorrow, don't you? Nothing ever gets done around here on a Friday."
"God, I hope not," Sam muttered, then looked up. "Then this is the last Friday in April?"
Mrs. Kirkland nodded bemusedly.
Ah, thanks mom," he added hastily and ran back to the kitchen and the calendar.
Friday the 28th of April. He had Seven days. Seven days before John Beckett would die alone on his tractor of a massive coronary occlusion. Sam's fists clenched until his knuckles turned white. Whatever he had to do here, would have to wait until after the fifth. There was no way he was going to risk leaping before then.
Sam wiped the sweat from his brow and put his hat back on. The earth was still soft from winter and ploughing across a field full of cowpats in rubber boots trying to convince six cantankerous old cows to go in the same direction wasn't any more fun now than when he was a boy in Elk Ridge.
Still, old habits, and memories, died hard and it wasn't long before he had them trudging down to the open gate, sauntering along in their leisurely, swinging gate, still chewing and generally continuing to be disinterested in anything Sam happened to be doing.
When they were closed in the holding yard he stood back to look at them. Two had early signs of mastitis. One didn't appear to have anything wrong with it. One was obviously carrying twins and two had wounds with violent purple anti-septic stains on, indicating that they'd been treated before.
Ben Hodgson arrived just a few minutes later, a portly, grey-haired, no-nonsense country vet.
"How's your father?" he asked as approached the yard.
Sam blinked. Not his father. Jamie's. He'd assumed that there wasn't one.
"Ah.." He stammered.
"He's in the hospital in South Bend. He has advanced malignant melanoma," said a familiar, and very welcome voice.
Sam closed his eyes. "Then it's metastasized?"
"Ah, yes," Al said quietly. "He has just over a month."
Hodgson was looking at him sharply. "Jamie, are you all right?"
"Yes, sir," Sam said, opening his eyes. "He's...he's not too good, Doc."
"Well, I'm sorry to hear that. I'll pay my respects to your momma when I've finished with these ladies here. Why don't you go get yourself a cold drink. You look like you could use one."
Sam turned and walked alongside Al. The crisp understatement of Calavicci's work-day uniform was still un-nerving. As un-nerving as the lack of a cigar in his right hand.
"Thanks," he said quietly.
"Sorry I couldn't get here any earlier. This Jamie Kirkland you leaped into is one angry little girl. She wants out."
"I don't blame her," Sam muttered. "What am I here for, Al?"
"Ziggy thinks you're here to see that Theresa Ann Kirkland doesn't ruin her life by not marrying the one true love of her life. If she doesn't she'll go to New York in a couple of years looking for a career and end up hooking for a particularly nasty pimp somewhere in the South Bronx."
"She dies, doesn't she?" Sam asked moodily.
"Well, no. At least, she's stuck in that cesspit for a lot of years. She has three abortions, but she has enough sense to stay away from the needle, at least until 1986, when she's found Od'd on some cocktail of crap. Police report says it was a one-off thing. Foul play was suspected, but nothing could be proved."
Sam hung his head. It was always the same. One mistake, one important enough mistake, and life turned straight down the toilet, even for the best of people.
"How am I supposed to get her to marry this guy? Is Ziggy sure marriage is the only way to solve the problem?" He asked. "I mean if they didn't love each other enough the first time to make the connection...doesn't she have to make that decision by herself?"
"Well, all Ziggy could come up with is that Brad Shorter left town on the third of May this year, for agricultural college. By the time he gets back here he's got a ditzy new wife. Two years later all he has left is a divorce and a doozy of an alimony pay-out."
"That's funny?" Al asked.
Sam frowned. "No...no it's not. I still can't believe this guy is the answer to Theresa's problems, though. I don't know what I was laughing at, Al. For some reason hearing you talk about alimony was funny."
Suddenly Sam felt hollow. Again he didn't know why, only that he felt like a part of him was mourning something, but he didn't know what.
"Al, if Shorter leaves town, doesn't that mean he doesn't love her?"
"No. Ziggy says that's probably what caused the break-up. See, he grew up with Theresa, but he probably didn't know he was in love with her either, since she's been a tomboy her whole life. What you have to do is teach her how to be a woman. Teach her how to respect herself, so she can show this guy how she feels without being afraid of rejection. Right now her self-esteem is right down there with the clams."
"How do I know? Ziggy pulled her medical records. She was prescribed stuff to help her sleep by the local doctor, because she was taking her father's illness so badly. The doctor the one who noted on her medical records that her self-esteem is lousy right now."
Sam sighed. "Okay, so I have to get to know my sister and help her learn to like herself. That shouldn't be too hard. He stepped up onto the porch of the house and stopped dead. "Wait a minute. I have until the third to do this, right?"
"Yeah, why?" Al asked, knowing what was coming.
"I can't, Al. I have to find a way to keep Shorter here until after the fifth."
"The fifth?" Al fixed the green eyes with an intense gaze. "Sam, you can't. It's one of your most important rules. You can't interfere in your own history," he said quietly.
Sam's expression grew bleak. "Al, if I don't at least try, then all of this, the project, everything, has been for nothing."
Al searched the green eyes for an understanding of what his friend was saying.
"What are you saying, Sam? That everything you've done--it's all been for just one purpose? I can't believe that. Not after all the people you've helped, all the good you've done."
"Trust me, Al," Sam whispered, his eyes glittering with unshed tears. "This is what it was about. Don't you understand? They were all Dad. I have to save him. I have to."
Beckett turned and went into the house.
Al tapped the handlink and popped out, to reappear at Sam's side in his--Jamie's room.
"What if you can't save him, Sam?"
"I will. I'm a doctor. He died alone. He didn't have a chance. I can change that now. I can make sure--"
"How?" Al demanded. "You go bustin' in there as Jamie, telling your father he's going to have a heart attack and he's going to think you're nuts. If you call them, they'll think it's a crank."
"What about me?" Sam insisted. "There's me. I never knew. Nobody thought to mention that he wasn't well. I had no warning. I could call...me, the me at MIT."
"And what do you think a nineteen year-old Sam Beckett would make of some girl calling him out of nowhere to tell him...what? That his father is going to die, and if he doesn't go home he's going to regret it for the rest of his life?" Al said angrily. "It won't work, Sam. It can't."
"Why?" Sam shouted, tears in his eyes. "Why can't it?"
Al looked at him, his dark eyes filled with compassion. "Sam, you're here for Jamie and her sister Theresa. Your father died two days after Brad Shorter left town."
Sam subsided. He sat down on Jamie's bed. "I'm sorry, Al. I just..." He shook his head. "Where's Theresa now?"
Al sighed and consulted the handlink. "She's on her way in. She buried the steer and now she's coming in to get cleaned up to go to town."
"Okay. I'll go with her. The Vet must be almost finished by now."
Sam was right. Hodgson was on his way to the house. A short time later Al watched Beckett turn five of the cows back into the spelling field and the healthiest one back into the east pasture with the rest of the herd.
"I wish my girls could have had a taste of this," he said as Sam made his way back to the gate where he had perched himself. "Money can't buy this kind of connection with the land."
"How are they all?" Sam asked, curious because he seemed to have so few memories of Al's life.
"Oh, fine. Trudy is due in September. Lisa gave birth to a beautiful girl a while back. I think I told you about her. Victoria, they called her. Georgia hates school and Elizabeth can't decide if she wants a career in medicine, or a lifelong commitment to the Greenpeace movement. Personally, Beth and I are opting for college first, decisions later. Elizabeth can't see it. Yet," he chuckled.
"You..you had a sister named Trudy," Sam remembered suddenly.
Al nodded silently.
"And...Lisa. There was a Lisa. I remember...she died, I think."
"No...no, Sam. Lisa saved me. Then we saved Lisa. You remember, don't you? You figured out that if we sent Bingo back before Marcy died, we could save Lisa, Marcy, and Chip Ferguson..."
"Sort of," Sam frowned. "I remember a trial. And a cigar butt. Someone kept calling me Samuel," he growled. "But I can't remember it all. It's all mixed up."
"Well, stop worrying about Lisa. She divorced that nozzle she was married to back then and made herself a great career in civvy street. She's a doctor now, you know. Lives in Colorado with her current husband and a bunch of kids."
"No," Sam shook his head ruefully. "I didn't know. He smiled suddenly. "But I do remember Georgia. That's your favorite song, isn't it?"
Al smiled. "Hell, yes," he said. "There's a lot of good memories in that song."
Sam nodded, and smiled. "Calla lilies," he said softly. "She loved Calla lilies."
Calavicci's eyes widened in surprise. "You remember next to nothing about your life, or my girls, but you know about the Calla lilies?"
"Yeah," Sam said absently. "There was a whole bed of them under the living room wind...ow." He looked up. "And inside there was a mantelpiece, with your picture on it. She cried and cried."
Al remained silent, letting Sam's mind work through his jumbled memories, but all the hairs on his neck were standing on end.
Sam looked away. "It doesn't make sense," he whispered. "You're together, but I remember..."
"What, Sam? What do you remember?"
Sam frowned, then went very gray. "Nothing," he said roughly. "It must've been a dream. It was nothing."
But Al remembered. He remembered everything Sam Beckett had once told him as they sat at a campfire in the Australian outback.
"You'd better go get ready if you're going to town with your sister," he pointed out, deliberately letting Sam off the hook. "I'll see you later."
Theresa was already upstairs when Sam came to a panting halt at the bedroom door.
"Jamie, what are you doing running through the house in those? Mom is going to explode," she giggled.
Sam looked down. He was still wearing the earth-caked boots. Theresa was still giggling when Sam gingerly removed them and turned to take them downstairs. He was back in moments with a mop which only made Theresa giggle more.
"Ssh," he hissed, trying not to laugh himself as he mopped the polished timber furiously, working his way back to the stairs.
"There," he said softly, and leaned the mop against the hall wall. "I think I'm home free--"
"Jamie! Terri! Which one of you wore your boots in the house this time?!" Their mother bellowed from the bottom of the stairs.
This time both of them collapsed in fits of giggles.
"I cleaned it up," Sam protested as he laughed. "Honest."
"You know mom," giggled Theresa. "If you left so much as a smear she'd know."
"Hey," Sam gathered his wits. "Mom says you're going in to town. Mind if I tag along?"
"Sure." Theresa threw back her hair and turned to the mirror.
"You going like that?" Sam asked.
"Like what? What's different?" She asked, puzzled.
"Nothing. That...that's the trouble. You're growing up fast, Terri. You're nineteen, but in those jeans and that shirt you look about fourteen."
"So? I'm not spending hours in front of the mirror so every wolf in town can ogle me. They take me as I am, or they don't take me at all."
"That's not the point. I'm not saying you should set out to be alluring. I'm saying that you shouldn't devalue yourself just because you're afraid some idiot might wolf-whistle you or something. You can't tell me that you really want to spend the rest of your life in rubber boots and overalls, smelling like the back end of a cow? Or more importantly, what if someone important--to you--doesn't even notice you because you don't care about you?"
"Jamie, what's gotten into you? Just because you have a hot date tomorrow night doesn't mean you have to feel guilty about me being home here with mom. It's where I want to be."
"No, no, it's not that," he protested, but his mind was on the uninviting prospect of another date as a woman. "I just think that life is kinda passing you by. You can be a woman without losing anything, Terri. You control your own destiny. And you also seem to have forgotten that not only bozos notice pretty girls. Even nice guys have eyes," he pointed out.
And part of him waited for a gravelly-voiced wise-crack rejoinder. He was, however, met only with lonely silence.
He turned away from Jamie's little sister and drew a jagged breath, before gathering himself again.
"Why don't I have a look at what's in the closet and choose something for both of us?" he suggested.
Theresa wasn't sold on the idea, but she waited to see what Sam would suggest. After much thought, he decided to make the her transition a slow one. He chose slacks, albeit tailored women's slacks, and blouses for both of them, jewellery, shoes and even make up to compliment the outfits, sending a small prayer of thanks to Samantha and especially to Gloria, without whom he'd never have gotten through that particular leap.
When they were dressed he looked at both of them in the mirror. Theresa's hair was lighter than his--Jamie's--and substantially longer. They worked together to style it, Sam taking Terri's good natured teasing about Jamie's sudden ham-fistedness in good spirit. When they were done Theresa did his, in about half the time, seeming to genuinely enjoy herself.
"We should do this more often," she told him when they were ready to leave. "It's been a long time since we spent any time together just having fun."
"Ah, yeah. I guess it has. Do you miss those days?"
"Like crazy," Theresa told her. "I don't want to grow up, sis. I wanted to stay fourteen forever."
"Why?" He asked and surprised tears in the younger girl's eyes.
"We have to get to town," Terri replied and Sam had to hurry to keep up with her as she flew down the stairs.
Once he was in the car, Beckett kicked his black court shoes off. High heels again...
They collected the mail and filled their mother's shopping list before Theresa pointed out that new feed orders had to be made out and several parts for various farm machinery had to be picked up.
Sam found the attention the two sisters received from even the older male contingent in town to be disconcerting to say the least. He had assumed that they would be fairly inconspicuous in pants. He looked in a shop window as they walked down to the feed store and conceded for the first time that they were a striking pair.
And immediately scowled. He wasn't a striking anything. He was a man, with sore feet and the beginnings of a headache from concentrating so hard on his gait. He'd been a woman enough times now not to fall off his high heels--well, not too often anyway--but moving like one constantly took concentration, even if he did know how.
The feed store clerk was an elderly, balding man who grinned at the pair as they came to the counter.
"My, but you two look a picture today," he observed. "Theresa, I never realized how much you'd grown up. How's your momma today?"
"Never better, George," Theresa told him. "She says to tell Cynthia not to forget about afternoon tea on Sunday."
"Don't worry. In forty years of marriage, I don't ever remember Cynthia missing an appointment. What can I do for you girls today?"
Theresa made out the feed list while Sam absorbed the familiar, nostalgic smells of the grain, the hay and the fertilizers stacked up to the rafters in the warehouse-like store.
They were turning to leave when Theresa stood stock still. Sam followed her gaze to the two men coming in the door. One was about the age Sam's father would have been, the other was young, tall and square-jawed, but arrogant looking. They appeared to be father and son.
"Well if it isn't Theresa. And all grown up, too," he said in way that made Sam's fists itch.
"Hello, Larry," Theresa said warily. "Hello Mister McAllister."
"Hello, Theresa," the older man said as though to a small child. Jamie," he added, acknowledging Sam.
Sam was confused. Mrs Kirkland had asked if Jamie had a date with this clown, not Theresa.
Mister McAllister went off to speak to the clerk about feed, but Larry remained in front of Theresa.
"Ah, we were just leaving," Sam said, trying to extricate Theresa from whatever it was that had taken the color from her face.
"I'll be around at six tomorrow night, Jamie. Don't take too long to put on your do-dads," McCallister admonished, implying that they wouldn't be on for long.
"Ahhh," Sam thought quickly. "About that date, Larry. I'm not feeling too well this week. You know, PMS and all that--"
He stopped. Theresa was looking at him as though he was nuts, and as though she might burst if she couldn't laugh soon. Larry looked confused.
"I'm sorry," Beckett went on. "I don't think I can make it."
Larry looked from one to the other, completely confused. "Whatever," he said roughly. "Are all Kirkland women as weird as you two?"
"That's uncalled for," Sam snapped, wondering why Larry thought Theresa was 'weird'. "I think you should apologize."
Young McCallister ran a hand through his dark, wavy locks, a look of amusement in his too-pale blue eyes.
"Apologize? I'm the one being stood up. And it's your sister who thinks she's a boy."
Theresa suddenly leaped forward and slapped his face before running out of the store.
Though angry, Sam restrained himself from physical violence and tore after Theresa, forgetting to run any way but the way he'd always done.
Theresa was trying to get into their wagon when Sam caught up to her. He'd broken a heel and twisted his ankle along the way.
He limped up behind her.
"Terri, what's wrong?"
"I want to go home. I told you this was a dumb idea," she wailed, still trying to make the wrong key fit in the door.
Sam put his hands on her shoulders.
She turned into his arms.
"Jamie, don't make me do this again. Please don't make me do this again," she begged, weeping into his blouse.
Beckett held her silently. This wasn't simply a case of embarrassment or awkwardness. Something was very wrong.
"C'mon," he said finally. "Give me the keys. I'll drive back. We'll go home, get changed and--"
Theresa pulled back and looked up at him. "And take the horses up to Pine ridge. C'mon, Jamie, you haven't been up to Pine ridge since you started dating Reeve Smith. I know you think you're a mature woman now, but...just this once, please?"
Sam smiled. He couldn't think of anything he'd like to do more, except perhaps to get to Elk Ridge.
"Pine ridge it is," he agreed, and grinned when she smiled and handed him the keys.
Sam was in heaven. The smell of saddle-leather and horse sweat was like balm to the soul, as was the swinging gait of the animal beneath him.
So too were the blue jeans, riding boots and check shirt, he thought, sliding a hand inside his left shoulder to pull a wayward bra-strap up. Well, almost, he amended, and put the big buckskin into a glorious canter to follow his sister, who'd pointed her roan at the broad expanse of open pasture and given it it's head.
Pine ridge was as glorious as it sounded. They lay in the spring grass and flowers, the horses grazing around them, and soaked up the sun. The combination of the warm sun, the breeze carrying the scent of the row of pines behind them, the faint perfume of the wildflowers and the aroma of the bruised grass was almost unbearably poignant for Beckett.
He wanted to go home. He wanted to go now, to hear his mother's voice, to force his father to go to hospital, now, before it was too late.
Why? Why did he have to leap here, into Jamie Kirkland, instead of into himself, or anyone in Elk Ridge? But no, he had to be half-way across Indiana.
"You look awful serious, Jamie," Theresa pointed out, breaking the long silence.
"Oh, I was just thinkin'," Sam murmured. "You don't like Larry McAllister much, do you?"
Theresa withdrew. "He's your boyfriend," she offered.
"No, he's not," Sam said with conviction. "Besides, I don't like guys who make my sister look like a ghost. So, give," he demanded, just as he would have if he were talking to Katie.
"You remember that time, when daddy cut his leg with the butchering knife, and momma took the car to take him to the doctor's?"
Sam nodded, mentally crossing his fingers.
"You were out with Doc Hodgson delivering Aggie's first set of twins and I took the pick-up to town to get the mail. Well, you know the bearings went in the front wheel and I had to leave it at the garage--"
"And Larry offered you a lift home?" Sam guessed.
"He thought my turning sixteen the month before was kind of a coming of age."
Sam's hands automatically curled into fists as Theresa drew her legs up to her chest and made herself as small as she could.
"Jamie, could we not talk about this? I don't want to remember it all again."
Sam closed his eyes. "Trust me, Theresa, this is the best thing you could do. I know. You've got to talk about it to rationalize your fear. There's nothing you can say that will change how I feel about you. Try, for me. Please."
"There's not that much to tell. He started off being real nice and telling me he was glad I was growing up. Then he tried to kiss me. I got scared and I slapped him. He lost his temper and grabbed me when I tried to get out of the truck. I'll never forget how helpless I felt when he pinned me against the seat and kissed me. I never want to be kissed like that again, or to feel anyone's hands doing what his hands did. Then he got even angrier and I thought he was really going to hurt me. The weird thing was he actually seemed to be mad at himself. He threw me out of the car and drove off. I had to walk to the main road and hitch a lift back to town. In the end Mister Fiedler dropped me off on his way home."
Sam frowned. He'd learned long ago that being female came with its own set of sometimes heartbreaking variables, and Theresa was no exception. The emotional scars of the incident remained, severe enough to have half-convinced Sam even before this talk that she may have been raped. She was still sitting curled up, her arms locked tightly around her legs.
"Theresa, I want you to do something for me. I want you to think back to what happened, but I want you to do it as though you were an observer, instead of a participant. Look on, and tell me what happened.
Theresa looked at her sister for a long moment, as if assessing something, possibly Sam's sanity.
"Okay," she said finally.
"Okay," Sam agreed, relieved. "Go back to when he parked and watch what happens from then until he pins you against the seat."
Theresa closed her eyes. After a few moments Sam spoke again.
"Now tell me if the girl is doing anything to deserve any part of what Larry is going to do to her."
Theresa shook her head slowly. "N..no. She doesn't want to be there. She didn't even know he'd noticed her that way."
"And what about now, when he's kissing her, touching her?"
Theresa's eyes opened and filled with tears. "No. Nothing. He just wants..."
Sam took her hand in his. "Exactly. He just wants. That was what the whole thing was about. It had nothing to do with you, or how you looked. You have nothing to feel ashamed of. You were the victim of an assault. A nineteen year old guy with no control over his hormones who does what McAllister did, without consent, is still committing a crime. Even kissing you without your consent was wrong."
"When did you get so wise?" Theresa asked, wiping her eyes. "You sound different, Jamie. Is it dad? Is that why you're suddenly worrying about me so much?"
"I worry about you because you're my sister, and I love you," Sam told her.
Theresa laughed. "That's what I mean. Listen to you. A couple of days ago Larry McAllister was the most important thing in the world and I was your pain-in-the-butt little sister. One minute I'm a monster because I can't stand him, next minute here you are holding my hand."
Sam let go of the hand like a hot potato. He'd forgotten he was holding it, and his instinctively protective feelings for Theresa were anything but sisterly ones.
"Maybe I'm growing up too," he said. "Maybe I'm seeing Larry for what he really is, for the first time."
"Maybe," Theresa teased. She'd let go over her legs and stretched them out again, and the tension had eased from her back.
"So, tell me about Brad Shorter," Sam said as casually as he could.
"What about Brad Shorter?" Theresa demanded, seemingly in better spirits.
"Well," he said slowly. "It seems to me that there's been something between you for quite some time, only neither of you seems to want to do anything about it."
"You're romancin' yourself now, big sister," Theresa laughed. "Brad Shorter is about as attractive to me as Rhemus is."
"Rhemus?" Sam asked, then remembered the thousand pounds of holstein in the yard behind the barn. "The bull?"
"What other Rhemus do you know?" laughed Theresa. It sounded good, but Sam could still see the strain in the corners of her eyes.
"Okay," he said carefully. "Funny, I was sure there was some kind of spark there," he added ruefully, wondering suddenly where Al had got to.
"With Brad? All he cares about is his truck and his guns," Theresa muttered.
Sam brightened. She wasn't quite as indifferent as she wanted him to believe. He decided to leave it there for the time being.
The ride back to the farmhouse was a hell-for-leather dash across the open pasture that was enjoyed both by the Humans and the horses.
Sam was sitting by the telephone in the living room when Al returned. Theresa was taking a shower and Mrs Kirkland was cooking dinner.
"Sam, you didn't?"
Sam looked up. "Not yet," he said. "But that doesn't mean I'm not going to."
"I just want to hear their voices, Al. Just once more." He picked up the phone and dialled the operator, despite Calavicci's troubled expression.
Someone picked up the phone at the other end. Sam held his breath.
"Hello?" A voice said. "Who is this?"
Sam's face drained of color and he slammed the phone down.
"Sam, what's wrong? What's the matter?" Al demanded. "What happened?"
"Al," Sam said in a trembling voice. "Al...he...he's alive."
"Who..?" Comprehension dawned in Calavicci's eyes. "Oh," he said softly. "I never thought of that. Of course he'd be home. Why did you think he was dead? I thought you'd always remember that leap, of all leaps."
Sam started to laugh. "Don't you understand, Al? I've made so many changes I don't know what's real any more. I don't know who I am any more. He's supposed to be dead."
"Why?" Al asked. "What are you remembering?"
Sam shook his head. "I don't know." The green eyes went to the cigar-less hand, the link to Ziggy and the khaki uniform.
"Because you aren't him," Sam said, the stressful laughter replaced again by the tremble in his voice. "He was...unique. Life threw everything there was to throw at him, and he still kept giving. He was my best friend. I...I loved him..."
Al looked away. Nothing had been the same since Sam had leaped out of Elvis Presley. He shook himself and turned back to his friend.
"I don't like this," he muttered. "Sam, your split perception of time--when you remembering anything at all--is beginning to bother me big time. Nobody else remembers a different Al Calavicci."
"Not even a little bit?" Sam asked despondently. "He was linked to Ziggy--you're linked to Ziggy. You've remembered more than one history before. I have some...some of his mesons and neurons from the time we simo-leaped. Maybe I can't forget."
"I'm sorry, Sam. I remember simo-leaping, but its our mesons and neurons that are shared, not..." He paused. "Now I'm confused," he said, frustrated.
Sam looked up then and knew he'd pushed his friend too far. "Don't be," he said softly and made a decision. "I'm sorry, Al. I have to let it go. That's what He was trying to tell me. Sometimes...sometimes 'that's the way it is,' is the best answer of all," he quoted, suddenly remembering how he felt when no-one remembered Stawpah. When there was no one to care that it was Stawpah who saved Tonchi and Pete.
No one to remember...
Sam swallowed. He wouldn't mention it again. It was time to let go...
"Al, I talked to Theresa about Shorter. There might be something there, but whatever it is it doesn't seem like any kind of love to build a life on. Is Ziggy certain that marrying him is what she needs to do?"
Al consulted the handlink from habit. "Fif--" Al made a puzzled face. "Fifty-two percent? What happened to 'near certainty?'" He demanded, annoyed. "Oh, and I didn't need to know that you'd changed your mind?" He snapped at the hybrid computer.
"Changed her mind?" Sam asked.
"Ziggy says that nothing is certain because there's not too much in the way of records for her to access--I mean this kid didn't exactly make the papers every five minutes with bulletins on her early life--but there's a seventy-seven percent probability that there's something else you have to fix in Theresa's life before you can leap. See, you've already changed history somehow. She doesn't run off to New York any more, but she doesn't marry Shorter either. She doesn't marry anyone. She goes to agricultural college and graduates with honors, then comes back here and runs the farm, which is what she always wanted to do anyway. So if you were only here to save her life, you should have leaped by now."
"I just helped her to begin to deal with an old trauma," Sam explained quietly. "Maybe I'm here to save my father after all?" He added eagerly.
Al shook his head. "Ziggy says there's only a 22 percent probability of that, considering where you are and who you leaped into. She says you have to find out what's still wrong with Theresa's life. She still may still be supposed to marry Brad Shorter."
Sam hung his head. "Al, if Theresa's going to be fine, why can't I go see my dad?"
"I don't care what Ziggy says!" Sam exclaimed. "Ziggy's been wrong plenty of times."
"Look, Sam, give it another couple of days, and then we'll ask Ziggy again about the odds." Al suggested, but Sam was only half listening. "If you don't do what you came here to do, you may not leap again. I'm going back to run some scenarios."
The Admiral stepped through the chamber door with little more than a half-wave of acknowledgment from a despondent Beckett, staring, unfocused, at the telephone.
Sam woke early the next morning and did all his chores before breakfast. He came into the kitchen ready to eat just about anything and was about to say so when he realized that there was nobody there. He went to the table to sit down but hesitated as he grabbed the chair.
It was a faint noise, but a distinct one. He looked around. The pantry door was closed. He went and tapped gently on it before opening it.
"Mom?" He said gently.
Marjorie Kirkland wiped her eyes with an obviously well used hanky. "C'mon, Jamie, I'll get your breakfast," she said with false cheer, ignoring Sam's outstretched hand.
"Mom, it's all right. Letting it all out is a good thing," Sam said softly. It broke his mother's brittle control. He put his arms around her as she wept. "Be angry if you want to be angry. Don't hold it in. It's all part of the process."
"The process of what?" She asked, drawing away from him again, her damp, reddened eyes searching his.
"Of..." Sam decided he had to finish it. "Of grieving."
"Jamie, your father isn't going to die," she retorted indignantly.
Sam closed his eyes for a moment, then followed her across the kitchen.
"Mom, I talked to the doctor," he improvised. "Once the melanoma has metastasized...well, we all have to deal with what that means--" He said softly. "But you shouldn't wait until Dad dies to face his death. We have to be able to deal with it now, so that when he dies we'll be able to move on with our lives."
"But I don't want to move on with my life. I don't want a life without your father!" Marjorie Kirkland protested and rushed from the room.
Sam hit the table hard. He looked up at the sound of the door clicking.
"Have you been there long?" He asked flatly.
"Long enough," Theresa told him, tears on her face. "That was cruel, Jamie."
"No," Sam told her. "It wasn't. Don't you see, if mom keeps bottling things up, keeps denying the inevitable, she'll fall to pieces when he goes. She has to learn to live with Dad's dying, or part of her will die with him."
Theresa's face crumbled. "I'm scared, Jamie. I don't want daddy to die."
Sam took her in his arms. "I know," he said hollowly. "God, I know. I don't either. I just want to help mom through this the best way I can."
Theresa spoke into his shoulder. "Jamie, if what you're saying is true, then momma staying here isn't right, is it?"
"I don't understand?"
"She wont go and stay in South Bend to be near daddy. She says its because she can't leave us on our own, and that dad would want her to stay with the farm..."
Sam closed his eyes, his lips pressed into a flat line.
"You're right, Terri. She should be with him. She should have every moment she can with him," he said with difficulty. "I'll talk to her. Is there someone she can stay with?"
Theresa looked at him as though Jamie had lost it. "Of course there is. You know very well Aunt Loretta has been offering for weeks. If it wasn't for her visiting the hospital and calling mom to tell her how he is, I think she would've gone crazy by now."
"Then that's it," Sam said. "I'll take her up to Aunt Loretta's as soon as it can be arranged. "We'll all go visit dad together and you and I can come back the next day."
Theresa shook her head violently. "I can't go. There's too much to be done here. I have that feed order coming, and the farrier is coming to do Tosca's new shoes. The catch is busted on the number three feed bin again and I have to dress those chickens mom wanted done three days ago...the doctor told her last phone call that he has at least three months yet. I have plenty of time--"
"Terri!" Sam said firmly, stopping the breathless tirade. "What is it? Why don't you want to go to South Bend?"
"I didn't say I don't want to...I just...I can't right now," she said and fled out into the yard.
"Bingo," said a voice behind Sam.
"Bingo?" Sam asked, annoyed. He turned.
"She never does go and see him, and she regrets it for the rest of her life," Al told him.
"Why? We're all afraid of death, even other people's. Only some of us can control our fears better than others."
"You think that's why I'm still here?"
"Ziggy does. And I think you do, too, Sam."
Sam lowered his head and exhaled jaggedly. "South Bend is even further away from Elk Ridge, Al. I should be there, now, getting him into hospital any way I can. I only have six days..."
"Then maybe Ziggy's right this time. Maybe you can't change what isn't meant to be changed."
Sam made a distressed noise and turned away again. "All right," he said finally, swinging back around. "I'll find a way to get them both to South Bend. Only you have to promise me something. If I don't leap when I get them there you have to let me go to Elk Ridge."
Al stared into Beckett's troubled green eyes. "Deal," he said, believing in his heart that the leap was a forgone conclusion.
Theresa was in the stable leaning over Tosca's stall. The big roan was her favorite mount.
"You okay?" Sam asked gently.
Theresa nodded silently. "I'm sorry about before."
"You don't have to be. Everyone gets scared. I get scared. I need you to help me, Theresa. I need you to show mom how to be strong. If you don't go how do you think I'm going to get mom out of here?"
Tosca stuck his head out and nibbled her shirt. She half-smiled and playfully pushed him away. "I don't know if I can, Jamie," she said. "What if dad sees--"
Sam's eyes grew very bright. "He'll understand," he whispered. "Don't you think he's more scared than anyone right now? Don't you think he needs everyone who loves..." He faltered, choked by the lump of memories in his throat. "Don't you think he needs everyone who loves him, to be with him now?" Tears slid down Sam's cheeks.
It was Theresa's turn to come to her older sister and put her arms around the trembling shoulders. They held each other, each grieving for their own reasons, yet united in the same pain.
It took until the following Tuesday to finally convince, and then organize Marjorie Kirkland to go to her husband. They left at daybreak on Wednesday morning, Sam more frustrated and frightened than ever that he would not make it to Elk Ridge in time.
The trip to South Bend was uneventful. Mister Fiedler, the Kirkland's nearest neighbour, had willingly taken over the farm chores for forty-eight hours and Sam had serviced the car himself.
That he hadn't leaped yet filled Beckett with hope as they turned into the hospital car-park. A glance in the rear-view mirror told him that Theresa was still scared, but her mother wore an aura of new found peace that convinced Sam that he'd done the right thing.
Please, don't let me leap now," he prayed as they headed for the reception area.
He watched the two women as they approached the private ward. Marjorie Kirkland appeared to be growing stronger with each stride and Theresa more fragile. He opted to fall in alongside his 'sister.'
"You're doing great," he said softly and nodded toward their mother. "We did it, didn't we?"
Theresa nodded silently as Mrs Kirkland went into the room.
"We'll give them a little while, then we'll go in together," Sam told her. "Hang in there. It's going to mean so much to him to see you--us."
The chamber door opened. Beckett turned.
"Sam, we're not alone," Al reminded him.
"Just listen. I know we made a deal, but I've been running some scenarios with Ziggy. It's almost a hundred percent certainty that if you walk in there with Theresa you'll be out of here."
The color drained from Sam's face. He looked back at Theresa and tried to smile.
"Did you see a m..ah..ladies room when we came in?" He asked unsteadily.
"Yeah, back down the hall and go right instead of left. There's a big sign--you know, one of those new ones with the little people on them."
"Yeah. Yeah, I know. I'll be back in a minute."
The moment he'd closed the bathroom door Sam swung around to face Al.
"What am I gonna do, Al?" He asked. "I..." But all the rage had been spent too many times before. He went and leaned against the wall, his eyes closed, his shoulders shaking with the overwhelming tide of his frustration and grief.
"Tell me what to do, Al," he said brokenly.
Al looked at the handlink, then up in the air as though he would see Ziggy there. Once, Sam had said to him: I always do the right thing, Al, and where does it get me?
His wrist link began to flash.
"Damn it to hell, Ziggy," he exclaimed suddenly. "Sometimes logic has to take second place. "What if it's the Human thing to do?" He shook his head. "I knew you were going to say that."
Sam had straightened, but did not interrupt the conversation. It was difficult getting used to the idea that Al could now converse verbally not just with Gooshie but with Ziggy too.
He watched, his spirit weighed down by the past, by the memory of the cost of his beating against the wind--the terrible cost of saving Tom's life--and by the conspiracy of fate, yet again.
"...Just tell me the odds!" Al yelled. His handlink came to life. He studied it for a long moment.
"Sam, listen to me. This is what you do. You leave Mrs Kirkland here with her husband. You tell Theresa that its okay to be scared and that you're going to take her to her Aunt's place so she can have a little more time before she has to go into that room and see her dad."
Sam's expression turned to one of wonder, then of love. He stepped towards the hologram.
"You tell her that you have something you have to do, lie if you have to. Say you have to go home. Anything so that they won't worry when you don't come back. Then you get in that car and head straight for Elk Ridge."
"You have to promise me something, though, Sam."
"Anything," Sam told him, and meant it.
"Your father died at 7.30 am on Friday morning. I want you to promise me that whether he dies or not, you will be on your way back here by lunchtime on Friday to make sure Theresa sees her father. Promise me."
"I promise," Sam vowed. He half raised his hands, then stretched one out futilely.
Al smiled, his brown eyes darkened by strong feeling.
Beckett's voice was blurred by emotion. "Damn, I wish you were here," he said. "Thank you, my friend."
No one was more relieved than Theresa to have the reprieve. Beckett left Aunt Loretta's house with almost indecent haste, restraining himself with difficulty from speeding in the family wagon until he was out on the highway. The almost two hundred miles down to the Central Till plains and Elk Ridge took him four hours non-stop, except for gas, speeding a great deal of the time and focused almost exclusively on what lay ahead.
He turned out of the town of Elkridge with his heart beating in his throat. It was almost dark when he reached the cross-road he'd once stood at with Al, the choice his: help Willie Walters or go home: just ten miles down the road, and he'd have been home...
He turned the car, kicking one of his shoes out from under the accelerator for the third time. He'd worn pants again, but he couldn't help the make-up, the hair or the attractive blouse. He hoped, in fact, that it would work in his favor. He'd only allowed enough gas to get him to Elk Ridge. The old car should have been running on fumes for about the last 35 minutes. Almost on cue it began to cough. It came to a complete halt about two miles from home.
"Perfect," he told himself. A strange man might have had a problem walking in on the Beckett household at that time of night, but a girl in trouble would be irresistible to his big-hearted mother and soft hearted father.
He walked about a hundred yards in the court shoes before removing them and walking in his stocking feet. By the time he turned into the drive way to the farm house, his pantyhose were destroyed and his feet were cut and bleeding. He didn't care. He couldn't feel anything except the overwhelming rush of joy and warmth the sight of the old house had given him.
He ran the last part of the way only to come to a full stop when he saw two figures emerge arguing and laughing from the milking shed.
Tom saw him first and motioned to John Beckett to look over to where Sam stood, a picture, did he but know it, with Jamie's fair hair out it's pins, her lithe figure perfect in the tailored black slacks and white blouse open at the throat, holding her shoes, flushed and looking perfectly vulnerable
They approached her as Sam knew they would.
"Are you all right, young lady?" John asked immediately they reached her.
"Ah, yeah--yes. I just...my car ran out of gas and I'm not from around here," Sam told them, just as he'd rehearsed. "I didn't know what to do. I was walking...and then I saw your lights."
"Well, you come inside--"
"Jamie," Sam filled in.
"You come inside, Jamie. My wife, Thelma will give you a hot drink and we'll work out what to do about your car."
"Thanks," Sam smiled, then frowned as his father rubbed his left shoulder. "Something wrong?" He couldn't help asking.
"Not really. Just a little rheumatism. I'm not getting any younger," the senior Beckett grinned. "C'mon Tom, lets get this young lady in out of the night."
Sam looked at Tom properly for the first time. He was smiling, but the youthful sparkle was missing from his eyes. He seemed older, more worn. And remembering Vietnam, Sam knew why.
But, alive! The realization took his breath.
The house was almost exactly as Sam remembered it. Dinner was cooking and his mother was in the kitchen. His sixteen year old sister was doing her homework on the table. Sam remembered ruefully how he used to get into trouble for doing the same thing when his mother wanted to set it for dinner.
"Thelma, this is Jamie. Her car broke down out on the road. I reckon its too late to go into town for gas now. How about we give her some supper? Tom can take her in first thing in the morning."
Sam's momentary hopes faded again. He thought he'd changed history, that he'd prevented his father from being out in the fallow pasture, alone, when he died.
Thelma turned, drew a startled breath, blinked and then smiled as though nothing had happened.
"Hello," she said.
"What is it mo--Mrs..B..ahh--?" Sam panicked. He wasn't supposed to know their name. "Something wrong?" He finished limply.
Thelma frowned a little. "I'm sorry dear. It's just--for a moment when I turned, I thought I saw someone else standing there. I'm sorry."
Sam's heart raced. "That's okay. Happens to everyone at some time or other," he said as casually as he could.
"Well, you're welcome to stay, Jamie. And our name is Beckett, by the way. This is John, Tom, Katie, and my name is Thelma. You can stay in Katie's room. Sam's old bed is in there for the time being, so you should be comfortable."
"I'm sure I will," Sam agreed, but a part of him was having trouble dealing with the extent to which he had already ceased to be a part of this family. Tom had obviously taken his room. His bed had been moved. And most of all he wasn't there. He was in a lab, or at a desk at MIT, doing what he loved most, and oblivious to what he was about to lose forever.
Thelma Beckett frowned again. There was a despondency about the girl's eyes that troubled her.
Dinner was gloriously normal. Katie argued with Tom about politics, the peace movement and rock groups all through dinner while his mother and father held a perfectly civilized discussion about the price of corn, the practicality of only growing the latest litter of hogs to baconer size because of the market, and whether or not to change brands of coffee.
Sam enjoyed every moment, and every morsel until desert. Twice he watched his father stop eating, grasp his shoulder and concentrate hard, as though fighting pain. His color was a terrible, bluish-white and Sam could see a sheen of sweat on his brow.
"Mister Beckett," he said carefully. "Are you ill?"
"No, no. My rheumatism is just acting up."
"I don't think so," Sam persisted.
John Beckett looked directly at him then.
Sam didn't flinch. "My father looked like you do once. Sweating, no color in your face. Grey, almost. That terrible pain across your left breast to your shoulder. The kind of sick feeling in your stomach..."
John's eyes widened.
"...He--I don't want to scare anyone, but he had a heart attack. Those are all symptoms of a coming heart-attack, and I don't want anything to happen to you, sir, like it did to my dad."
Thelma put down her fork. "She sounds like--"
"She's right," Tom said sharply. "Look at dad's face, mom. He looks awful."
"John, you do look sick." She put a hand on his forehead. "You're not hot, so it isn't a virus."
"No it's not," Sam said a little more forcefully. "It's a cold sweat. I really think you should get Mister Beckett to a hospital now, so that if it gets worse they can help him. If...if he does have a heart attack out here, there's no way help will get here...in....in time."
They were all staring at him now.
"Mom," Katie said almost in a whisper. "She--she sounds like Sam."
"Sam?" Sam said, because he didn't know what else to say.
"Her brother," Thelma Beckett replied, without taking her eyes off her husband. "He's away at college. He used to have premonitions about things. He tried to get his father to change his diet and give up cigarettes."
Sam looked down at his plate. It hadn't worked. He looked across at his brother. But he had saved Tom. And if he could save Tom...
"Please," he said again. "Mrs Beckett, he really doesn't have a choice. Trust me."
Thelma Beckett turned then, and looked directly into Sam's eyes.
"Your eyes," she said, startled. "They're green."
"No they're not, mom," Kathryn Beckett objected. "They're reddish-brown."
Thelma blinked. "So they are. Tom, get the car out. We're taking your father in to the hospital."
"Now, Thelma," John objected. "I appreciate everyone's concern and especially yours, Jamie, but this is probably just rheumatism, like I said, or indigestion. I'm as fit as a fiddle."
Anger drove Sam to his feet. It was happening again. He knew that the others would take their cue from his father.
"No, it's not," he said loudly. "I know what I'm talking about. "And if you don't go to the hospital before morning you are not, I repeat not going to be here for dinner tomorrow night!" He stopped, his breast heaving, tears in his eyes, outrage in the set of his mouth.
John looked up at him then and Sam thought he saw something, a moment of recognition perhaps, but definitely something, in his father's eyes.
"All right," he agreed. "But if you're all wrong don't you forget I told you so."
Sam's legs went from under him and he landed on the chair hard.
Tom was at his side in a moment.
"Jamie? Are you all right?" He asked, but Sam was too overwhelmed with relief and subsiding adrenalin to answer. His throat was jammed with tears.
Instinctively, Tom lifted him out of the chair and put his arms around him. Sam leaned against the comforting shoulder and hugged the brother he'd never expected to see again.
When his heart slowed to normal he drew away and smiled at Tom. "Sorry," he said, trying desperately to be Jamie instead of Sam. "I was just so scared that your father wouldn't go. My father almost didn't make it to the hospital, either."
Tom smiled back at her, a gentleness in his eyes that Sam remembered from his childhood, when a beloved big brother would pick him up out of the dirt, wipe away the tears and make him laugh.
"We'd better go," he said. "You might as well stay here with Katie until we get back. "I'll get some gas and bring your car down to the house, but I think you should stay the night anyway."
Sam wanted more than anything to go with them, but he nodded silently.
"Thank you," he said and watched them gather coats, hats and bags and file out the front door.
When he turned back to the table, Katie was watching him. Sam could tell that something was playing on her mind.
"Why did you come here?" She asked.
"I...I don't understand," Sam stammered.
"You came this way when your car broke down, but Elk Ridge is back the other way."
"I...I saw the lights."
"I have a strange feeling about this," she said distractedly.
Sam almost chuckled. "You sound like your mother," he observed, before he could stop himself.
Katie stared at him. "You can't know that," she told him. "You can't. Who are you?"
"My name is Jamie Kirkland and I'm from Jasper County," he told her as calmly as he could. "I was headed for Columbus, in Bartholemew county, to visit relatives. I had a little trouble reading the map and somehow I ended up out here."
"Where you could recognize that my dad is going to have a heart attack and that my mother sometimes has strange feelings about things," she said cynically, then stopped to consider something. "And my mother was seeing people who weren't there, and green eyes where there were brown ones."
She got up from her chair and walked around the table to his side.
"Sam?" She said experimentally.
Sam's heart turned over. Only Katie would have the imagination or the effrontery make that leap, to even consider voicing the idea. He was torn. Was it fair to tell her? Was it right?
He looked up at his sister, who in less than a year would make the worst mistake of her life, and looked into her eyes for a time.
"Katie," he said at last. "Don't..." But he couldn't do it.
"Don't go with Chuck?" She finished and watched Jamie Kirkland's eyes widen in surprise.
"Sam sent you here, didn't he?" She demanded.
Sam was taken aback. "N...no," he stammered again.
The chamber door opened.
"Sam, I don't believe you're still here," Al exclaimed.
"Why?" Sam demanded.
"Because you know too much," Katie told him.
"Because you should have leaped, Sam. Theresa's a good kid. She decided that she needed to see her dad. You did it, Sam. She went back to the hospital with her Aunt and she saw him."
"Then why haven't I--"
"That's just it. I don't know."
Sam looked back at Katie who was watching him curiously.
"I have to go to the bathroom," he announced.
"Down the hall and to the right," Katie told her.
But Sam went to his old bedroom and closed the door. "Al, check my father's history. I did it. I got them to take him to the hospital."
"That's wonderful, Sam," Al said, and meant it. He tapped the handlink into action.
Beckett watched his friend's face grow dark. "What is it?" He asked, afraid.
"They admit him, Sam. For angina. He still dies. Only now it happens in about an hour and a half."
"No!" Beckett exclaimed. "He can't! I'm still here, Al, so there must be something I have to do! I must be here to save him."
"Sam!" Al yelled, but Beckett was already out of the room, sprinting down the corridor.
Katie watched him race across the kitchen, go straight to where her mother always hid all the spare keys, grab the bunch with pick-up keys on it and race out of the house.
"Where are you going?" she shouted from the porch, too surprised to question him further.
"To the hospital," Sam yelled back.
"I'm coming with you!" Katie pulled the door closed and raced down to the passenger side of the old truck. "Something's wrong, isn't it?" she asked.
Beckett threw the truck into reverse, did a three point turn and hurtled out of the driveway. "I can't tell you how I know, but yes. I have to be there."
The hospital car park was pretty much deserted. Sam and Katie tore into the casualty area, Al appearing at Beckett's side as they came to a halt.
"Ziggy says the stress of finding out how sick he might be accelerates your father's attack and this being a country hospital in 1972 and all, they weren't really on the ball. I don't think you can change anything, Sam. It was a massive coronary."
"No!" Sam cried. "I'm here to save him, Al. I can save him. He raced across to reception.
"Where's Mister John Beckett? Where did they take him? I'm his s-so...his daughter's friend and she wants to be with her family," he said, grabbing Katie drawing her to his side.
"He's been warded. He's upstairs in room 204," she told them.
Sam didn't wait for the elevator. "Stairs," he panted at Katie, and they raced up by twos.
They found room 204 without any trouble. Sam tapped on it, but there was no answer. He pushed open the door. Al had said an hour and a half. They should still have three quarters...
John Beckett was dozing between crisp white sheets. Nobody else was in the room.
"They went home?" Sam said in disbelief.
"The doctor told them your father was being held for observation and tests. They gave him nitroglycerine. He convinced your mother to go home and look after the pair of you. Tom took her."
"We need a crash cart in here. And oxygen. This room isn't equipped for a heart patient." Sam ran a hand through Jamie's hair. "Katie, run and ask the duty nurse where the coronary care unit is. Hurry."
Katie was back in a few long minutes. "On this floor," she panted, "down the hall, turn right, then right again and look for the sign."
The wheelchair the hospital had provided to bring John Beckett up to his room still stood in the corner.
Sam leaned over his father. "Dad," he said softly. "Dad, it's me, Sam. You have to get up. I have to move you to another ward."
John Beckett opened his eyes and blinked. "Sam," he said. "I didn't expect to see you here, son."
Al closed his eyes and turned away.
Sam didn't wait for his father to help. He lifted him from the bed and carried him to the chair.
Katie, whose mouth was open to object, closed it again when she saw the seemingly demure Jamie lift her not-so-light father and carry him easily to the wheelchair.
They were untroubled on their journey. It was late and the reduced night staff worked in their favor.
Once through the doors of the small, primitive by Sam's standards, coronary care unit, however, they were confronted by not only a supervizing nurse but a cardiologist attending to another patient.
"What are you doing bringing a patient into the ward at this time of night?" The nurse demanded.
"My father is having a heart attack," Sam told her, drawing a startled look from Katie. "I have to get him into bed. There isn't any time to argue."
Beckett heard Al arrive. "Details?" he hissed.
Al brought them up and began reading them out. Sam reformed the jumbled facts into a precise medical diagnosis.
The nurse looked sceptical. As she prepared to order them out of the ward, the cardiologist intervened.
He looked at the bemused, obviously ill and in-pain John Beckett for a long moment. "Get him into number three. I want a full work-up as quickly as possible. Where did you bring him from?"
"From the men's medical ward," Sam said angrily. "He was brought in with a suspected heart attack and they warded him for observation!"
"You can wait outside if you like," the cardiologist told him gently.
"No," Sam said swiftly, then, "no. My sister will wait outside, but I'm staying. I'm a doctor," he explained.
"I heard your diagnosis. You sounded like a doctor, but you'd have to be a prodigy to have that kind of experience at your age."
"Something like that," Sam replied, watching the nurse and some orderlies transferring his father to an intensive care bed. "Don't make me go now," he pleaded.
Something about the girl's eyes stopped the doctor from denying her request.
Sam went to John Beckett's side. "How is it, dad?" He asked.
"Feels like someone's standing on my chest, son," he replied weakly. "How did you get here so fast?"
"I came--" Sam faltered, "I came for you, dad. I had to come." He brushed away tears. "...I love you dad," he said.
"I know, boy. I know. I always knew. Even when your momma got so upset about you not coming home last Thanksgiving I knew. Your life is learning, Sam. You always needed it all so fast," he whispered, barely able to get the words out as the pain intensified.
Sam took his hand. "I'm here, dad," he said softly. "Oxygen," he told the nurse. "And get the doctor back here, quick."
"I thought I said I wanted that work up, stat?" The doctor demanded as he came to the bedside.
"I'm almost done," the nurse objected.
The cardiologist looked at what she'd already done.
"Damn," he grunted and began a set procedure for coronary occlusion.
"Get a crash cart, now," Beckett told one of the orderlies, who looked to the surgeon, who was far too busy to take any notice.
"NOW!" Sam ordered. The young man went.
"Sam," Al said quietly.
Beckett turned. Tom was standing inside the hospital doors.
Sam looked back at his father then walked across to his brother.
"What's going on?" Tom demanded.
"I'm sorry, Tom. I can't explain, but I had to be here."
"Then he is having a heart attack?"
Sam nodded as the crash cart went past them.
"I told mom not to worry," Tom whispered.
Beckett heard the cardiologist bark a stream of orders, his voice rising in pitch. He raced back to his father's bedside. Tom followed, everyone too busy to notice.
John Beckett was still conscious, but in a very great deal of pain. He looked up when Sam took his hand again.
"Sam," he panted through the oxygen mask. "I'm s...sorry. I should have listened..."
"Dad..." Sam choked. "It doesn't matter. You just have to hang on now. Tom's here. We're both here, Dad. You're not alone this time."
Tom shot a glance at Jamie Kirkland, trying to understand what the hell was going on. Suddenly his face cleared, and he looked wonderingly at the young woman.
John Beckett was hooked up to an ECG now, and the doctor had ceased his frantic ministrations.
Sam looked around. The cardiologist shook his head.
Beckett gave his father's hand to Tom and stepped toward the doctor.
"I've done everything I can, but the embolism is too large. The artery is almost completely blocked. The anti-coagulants are taking far too long to have any real effect. I've done everything humanly possible."
Sam ran desperately through a list of things the doctor could try, forgetting that it was 1972, not 1995. The cardiologist stared at him.
"Who are you?" he asked. "I've never heard of most of that stuff. I think I heard that one of those drugs is in the experimental stage, but..."
Tears ran down Sam's cheeks. "I know what to do," he whispered. "I could have saved him."
"Sam," Tom called.
Beckett went back to his father's side. Tom's unexpected use of his own name had not even registered in his troubled thoughts.
"Dad?" he said softly, taking the older man's hand again.
"I just wanted to look at you, son. You're...no boy," John Beckett said slowly, muffled by the oxygen mask. "How...old?"
"Forty-five," Sam told him. "I'm no kid any more," he added, and smiled, despite his grief. He reached out and took Tom's hand too. "I wasn't right about everything, dad. Tom came home," he said through tears. "Tom came home."
"Tom..." John Beckett whispered, his face contorted with pain.
"I here dad, right here, with Sam. Sam brought me home, too."
Startled, Sam turned his head to meet his brother's gaze briefly.
Tom smiled just a little, and then both returned their gaze to their father.
"Good..." John Beckett croaked and closed his eyes against the pain.
A moment later they flew open again.
"Don't let Katie go with Chuck," he said in a very weak voice.
"We wont, dad, don't worry. We won't," Sam said softly. "Try to rest." He looked back at the doctor. "Isn't there anything..?"
The doctor shook his head again. "He'll either live or die in the next hour or so," he said very softly.
"Katie should be here," Tom said suddenly.
"Only if she wants to," Sam told him. Katie did.
John Beckett did not open his eyes. Sam tried to ignore the aural evidence being emitted by the ECG of his father's losing battle.
"Sam was right," Katie whispered, little of the child left in her voice. Tom put his arm around her.
"Sam was right about a lot of things," he said softly. "The important thing is that dad's not alone now."
John Beckett opened his eyes slowly. He was now almost beyond speech, yet he found the strength to wink at Katie.
Sam wanted to scream.
What the hell was he doing here, if he couldn't save him..?
He looked across at Calavicci, met the familiar gaze.
"Sam, you're here to say goodbye," Al said with conviction.
Beckett had been given 'dispensations' before. Calavicci was certain now that Sam was never meant to save his father, only to put right the wrong that had plagued him for all his adult life.
Sam turned for a moment to Tom. "You know, don't you?" He said simply.
The senior Beckett sibling blinked away tears. He nodded silently.
"When dad goes, I'll be gone, Tom. Look after Jamie for me. She's going to need someone."
"He does, Sam," Al said quietly. "You're going to like this. Jamie is your sister-in-law."
Tom nodded again, looking searchingly at Sam. "Who was the guy in the photograph?" He asked unexpectedly.
Beckett swallowed. "A friend," he said, looking straight at Al. "A very dear friend, who saved your life."
The rough fingers still gripping Sam's hand as hard as he was gripping them, tightened suddenly.
Sam looked down. His father was looking straight past him, to Al, tears in his eyes.
"Tell him," he said, one painful, muffled word at a time, "I said thank you...for my sons."
Beckett smiled. "He can hear you, dad."
John Beckett's lip moved upward just a fraction. Then he closed his eyes one more time.
Sam went to the bed-head. He could hear his father's stentorious breathing, the suddenly erratic sound of the ECG. And he knew.
He looked up, first at Tom, then Katie.
"Goodbye," he said.
Then he kissed the greying head.
"Goodbye, dad..." He whispered.
The ECG flat-lined.
The white-suited figure straightened and looked up.
"Al," he said. "It's about time."
Al looked at him sharply. Beckett sounded listless, flat.
"Anything wrong, Sam?"
"...Al, I want to go home."