Episode 923

Leaping Over A Barrel

by: Mike Bloxam

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PRELUDE

 

As the feeling of his body being reassembled began to subside, Leaper Doctor Samuel Beckett opened his eyes to find himself in a dark, enclosed space. After the shock of being in such a strange place began to pass, he noticed that he wasn’t alone and was rather restrained in his space. Sam sensed that his surroundings were bobbing up and down, almost as if he were on a boat. “Where am I this time?” he asked himself mentally, listening to the occasional giggles coming from his companion, and noticing the slight stench of alcohol on the other man’s breath. 

After about a minute of wracking his brain, trying to figure out where he was, Sam felt heard a muffled rumbling, which sounded like water falling, that was getting louder and louder. Just when he thought the noise couldn’t be more deafening or his heart pound any harder, whatever this thing that Sam was in began to jostle violently and suddenly a strong pull of gravity caused him and his cohort to involuntarily shout, “Ohhhhhh boyyy!” 

 

September 27, 1989

Niagara Falls, Ontario 

 

PART ONE

The sensation of an eternal falling ended with an abrupt impact, worsening Sam’s already-throbbing headache. The other man was whooping and yelling, occasionally saying, “We lived! We lived, Peter! Ha ha! We’re famous!” over the thunderous roar of the waterfall. The leaper couldn’t believe that he was trapped with this maniac; still unable to conceive where he could possibly be, except maybe in the empty ballast of a boat. At least he knew his first name now. 

The sound of the water crashing down from above soon subsided, and the strong current began to carry Sam and his partner downstream, with the time-traveler uninformed as to what was going on in this place, wishing that his observer would show up soon to shed some light, so to speak, on the situation. With the other man still laughing quietly and occasionally slapping Sam’s shoulder, he waited the many long minutes in the dark before he could sense them slowing down. 

“We did it, Peter! We beat Niagara Falls!” the ecstatic daredevil said excitedly when they unexpectedly stopped.  

The circumstances suddenly dawned on Sam. “I’m in a barrel that just went over Niagara Falls!” he whispered to himself, shocked.  

“Damn straight!” came a reply from the other passenger. 

After hearing some voices outside of whatever they were in, Sam now thinking they must be in a really large barrel, some light finally appeared as, to Sam’s astonishment, the ceiling above him, the lid of the barrel, was removed. He could now see that he was face to face with the other man, who was dressed only in a cowboy hat and a tie. 

“Way to go, guys!” came a chorus of voices, accompanied by some hooting and hollering, as they were both suddenly hoisted from the over-sized steel barrel and set down on the riverbank. Sam looked in awe at the Horseshoe Falls, the only portion of Niagara Falls that can support the infamous yet dangerous daredevil barreling. He just couldn’t believe that he just went over them in a barrel, not to mention with a mostly-nude man, who was now approaching him. 

“Woooooo!” he yelled, and then gave Sam a bear hug. “We’re going down in history!” he continued, running around with his arms in the air as if celebrating his favorite sports team winning the championship, receiving high fives from the onlookers. After some more congratulations from the other people who rescued him from the barrel, Sam could hear sirens. 

“The police!” everyone said at once as if they were expecting this, and began to panic as they were retrieving the barrel from the river, which looked to Sam to be steel and about ten feet across. They could hear the cruisers coming to a stop not too far away, and in a few moments, somebody began to speak through a megaphone.  

“This is the Niagara Parks Police. Stop where you are and prepare to be arrested!” the officer ordered. “Do not make an attempt to escape!” 

Sam realized that the officer didn’t have to say the traditional, “We have you surrounded,” as he could hear motorboats coming toward them, complete with spotlights that encompassed their location beside the river. The other men had just gotten the whopping barrel out of the water as the police officers disembarked from their boats, handcuffs ready. 

Quantum leaping through time has landed me in some hot water before, but never has it been water that’s tumbling over a cliff onto a bunch of sharp and deadly rocks below. I could have lived my life without going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but I suppose God or Time or Fate or Whatever decided that I needed a little jolt of excitement; as if I didn’t have enough already in my “career” as a time-traveler. 

At the police station, Sam waited with Geoff, his fellow daredevil from the barrel who was now wrapped in a blanket, as well as a couple of their accomplices. “It’s bad enough that they’re charging me for going over the Falls, they just had to tack on the ‘indecent exposure’ charge too, didn’t they?” Geoff said to Sam sarcastically, receiving a humoring, “Yeah,” in response from the leaper. 

“Geoffrey Petkovich and Peter DeBernardi?” a young female officer questioned innocently as she approached them. 

“Yep, that’s us,” Geoff answered. 

“Come with me,” she ordered, taking on a no-nonsense attitude. The two got up immediately and followed her until they got to the staff sergeant’s office. She extended her arm to indicate them to go inside, whereupon a rugged-looking man in his fifties met them. “Sit down, gentlemen,” he said, not looking up from his desk. The policewoman shut the door and left, leaving Sam and Geoff looking at each other as the staff sergeant continued his paperwork. Sam remarked the nameplate on the desk reading “Staff Sgt. M. Eaton”. “Now, what do you think you were doing going over Niagara Falls in the middle of the night?” he asked quietly. 

“Well, Sir, you see…” Geoff began, looking to Sam for help. Shrugging his shoulders, Sam shook his head. “Do you really need to make a big deal about this? I mean, shouldn’t the Falls be open to whoever wants to enjoy them?” 

“Oh boy,” Sam mumbled, realizing that the situation might be worse than he first thought. 

“You aren’t answering my question,” the sergeant said, still serene as he placed his pen down on the sheets of paper in front of him. “Why did you think you could get away with going over that waterfall?” When no response came, he finally looked up, his eyes cold and hard. “Do you know how many people have died doing that? Are you just trying to make trouble for us, or do you have a death wish?!” He demanded, his voice much less calm now. 

“Uh, well…” Geoff began, trying to make up an excuse on the spot. 

The sergeant glared at Geoff and growled, “Either you’re trying to make our job more difficult than it has to be, or you were on a suicidal run! Tell me which!” 

Sam decided to attempt putting in his opinion. Perhaps this was the whole reason he was here, to keep these people from being thrown in jail, and he would leap out after this interrogation. “Well, Sir, I think we were just trying to see the dangers of barreling over Niagara Falls for ourselves. Now that we’ve seen it, I guess we’ll be going…” Sam began to get up from his chair, anxious to get out of this police station and out of this leap. 

“Hold it right there, boy!” Eaton barked. Sam quickly sat down again. “What about you?” he demanded, turning his attention to Geoff. 

“I don’t think your question is fair, Staff Sergeant. I mean, that’s a false dilemma, isn’t it? Either we were this or we were that?” Geoff said, his university degree in philosophy shining through. The look Geoff received from Eaton could have turned a gorgon to stone. 

“Don’t try to smart-ass me, son! If what your partner in crime here says is true, then you were causing trouble for me. When you cause trouble for me, you cause trouble for the park. When you cause trouble for the park, you cause trouble for the province. See where I’m going here?” Eaton bellowed, standing from his seat behind the desk and, with his hands fisted, leaned toward them over his desk, supporting himself on the desktop. 

“Yeah, now you’re on a slippery slope,” Geoff quipped, giving Sam a look of exasperation and shaking his head as if it were some kind of game. It was then that the leaper realized that this man had no idea about the kind of trouble he was in, and even thought that Geoff may still be drunk. 

“I’m saying this will get to the prime minister’s desk, you little shit-disturber,” the staff sergeant grumbled. “I’m gonna throw you both in jail this instant! Myself!” Walking around from his desk, he opened the door of the office and grabbed both of the offenders by their arms. “Constable Hall, go tell those other morons that they can join these two in our common holding cell,” Eaton told the young woman who had waited outside his door.  

She nodded respectively with a quiet, “Yes sir,” in response and headed off to the area from where she had escorted Sam and Geoff. 

Experiencing no resistance, Eaton delivered his two prisoners to a large jail cell, already with other offenders inside, one of which was passed out on a bench. The sergeant shoved Geoff and Sam in and locked the cell. “Another officer will be by soon to give you your phone call. Oh, and bail is one thousand dollars. Each.” With that, Staff Sergeant Eaton charged back to his office just as Constable Hall and two fellow officers brought in the others that had been arrested at the docking site of the daredevil barrel. 

“This is just great,” Sam muttered to himself just as the familiar sound of the Imaging Chamber’s door opened before him, watching as Observer Rear-Admiral Al Calavicci stepped through.  

“Yeah, no kidding,” Geoff responded, perhaps finally becoming conscious of the situation. 

“Wow, Sam, you’ve really gotten into it deep this time!” Al exclaimed cheerfully, poking at the handlink. “Ziggy says that Peter’s family makes bail for both of you tonight, but still! Think of the criminal record these guys’ll get… not that it’s a serious offence, in my opinion. What’s wrong with a little dare devilling? Not that I’d do it myself, but…” 

“Unless there was a pretty woman involved, right? Thanks, Al,” Sam murmured sarcastically, getting an expression of confusion and hurt from Geoff.  

“Hey, we did this together, man! First off, you’re the one chasing women, and if Sergeant Jerk-a-lot wasn’t so damn serious, we coulda gotten out of here easily.” 

“He’s wrong there, Sam. So far, history hasn’t changed, but once you’re out of here, you have some work to do since there are some things that seriously need fixing.”  

Al’s somber words caused Sam to let out a sigh. “Well, I guess all that’s left to do now is call my parents…” Sam commented, looking to Al as he gave the leaper a confirming nod.  

As if on cue a young male officer approached the cell and questioned, “Peter DeBernardi?” Sam lifted his head and went over to the door, whereupon the officer opened the cell and led Sam to a phone at the nearby desk. 

Picking up the receiver, Sam began to point his finger to the dial, suddenly realizing that he didn’t know the telephone number. “Oh, right, Peter’s parents’ phone number…” Al mumbled when seeing the look on the leaper’s face. “Here it is,” said the Observer, reading off the seven digits. When a female voice answered on the other end, Sam said, “Hi, Mom? Um, I’m in jail.” 

PART TWO 

Geoff had argued with Sam about handling the situation in Eaton’s office, giving Al no chance to speak with Sam, until Peter’s parents arrived, both of them looking very upset, with due cause.  

“Hi Mr. and Mrs. DeBernardi,” Geoff greeted them, getting a silent and vicious-looking response in stereo. The couple, looking in their mid-fifties, were quite the pair: The husband was tall, muscular and had a shock of short blond hair, while the wife was much shorter and portly, with dark, mid-back-length hair with streaks of gray beginning to show. Sam wondered if Peter, and thus his aura, looked more like Father or more like Mother. 

“Peter, what have you done?” Mrs. DeBernardi demanded, somewhat flustered. 

“Well, Geoff and I, you see, we kinda went over Niagara Falls.” Sam couldn’t believe the mixed reaction. Peter’s mother nearly burst into upset tears, while her husband’s face lit up and he let out a proud laugh. 

Giving her husband a glare at his response, Mrs. DeBernardi asked with distress, “Is this your solution to the divorce? Trying to kill yourself?” She pulled a white handkerchief from her pocket to dab at her moist eyes. 

“Divorce?” Sam involuntarily repeated as he looked at Al, who nodded.  

“If you and Geoff had stopped arguing for two seconds, I coulda told you about Peter’s recent grief.” 

“Don’t worry, Son,” Mr. DeBernardi said. “We’ll go pay the bail for the two of you, the rest can take care of themselves, and Petkovich can pay us back. In cash.” Giving Geoff an untrusting glare, he put his arm around his wife’s shoulders and walked down the hallway. 

“Jeeze, your parents seem pretty sore at me,” Geoff stated when the couple had left. “Just ’cause it was my sister that you cheated on Jenny with doesn’t mean it’s my fault!” 

Sam just looked at the man, surprised that his host had done such a thing. “W-well, just as long as we’re out of here, I suppose,” Sam told him trying to change the topic, giving Al a perplexed look. With a grimace, the Observer poked at his handlink. 

“According to the court records,” the Observer began, “Peter cheated on Jennifer DeBernardi, his wife of seven years, with Amelia Petkovich, and Jennifer arranged a divorce based on grounds of adultery. Peter ended up losing everything, including visitation rights with his two kids, and had to pay child support, which broke him even after every pay check.” Al dropped the handlink into his pocket as he shook his head. “If you’re going to cheat on your wife, you should make sure she doesn’t know the other woman,” he said, sounding unimpressed with Peter’s antics. “What an amateur.” 

“I can’t believe you’d say that!” Sam blurted out, giving Al an appalled look. 

“Say what?!” Geoff retorted, squaring his shoulders. “Look, we were partners in this thing, Pete, and you’re really putting a damper on my good mood of surviving! It’s bad enough that your parents hate me because of you and my sister.” 

Sam, feeling pretty low even though he wasn’t the adulterer but merely inhabiting his aura for a while, turned to Geoff. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I’ll try to talk to them, make them understand that the only ones to blame are Peter DeBernardi and Amelia Petkovich.” Getting an affirmative yet doubting nod from Geoff, Sam sat down, right in the middle of Al. 

“Hey, watch it!” the Observer yelped and jumped sideways. “Sometimes I think you don’t appreciate me as much as you should, Sam.”  

The leaper stared at Al, annoyance clear in his expression. “Go away,” he mouthed silently. 

“Fine, fine,” Al griped, opening the Imaging Chamber door. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow then.” With a tightening of his lips, the admiral stepped back through the white, glowing rectangle, and slowly disappeared as the Door closed. 

 

The car-ride home was devoid of any conversation, giving Sam the relief of not having to make any mistakes while talking, but he also felt uneasy with the tension between everybody. Once they arrived at Peter’s parents’ house, Geoff looked sheepishly at the DeBernardi's and asked to stay the night. 

“What’s wrong with your place, Petkovich?” Peter’s father demanded roughly. 

“Oh, nothing, I just wouldn’t want to put you through the bother of driving me home this late at night, that’s all,” he answered, sincerity in his voice. 

“That’s not a trouble. You’re lucky we bailed you out,” Mrs. DeBernardi growled as she looked at her husband and son. “Dave, why don’t you two go on inside? I’ll take Geoff home.” Without hesitation, Sam and Mr. DeBernardi complied, and the black sedan sped off. 

Once the car was out of site, David turned to who he thought was his son. “Well, boy, I guess we’d better get to bed,” he said as he slapped Sam’s back a couple of times. “I still can’t believe you did it.” 

“Uh, yeah, thanks,” Sam answered, and headed into the house.  

Turning on the entranceway lights, Dave threw his coat on the hook by the door and turned to the stairs. “Good night, Pete,” he said, and proceeded up the steps to his bedroom. Sam nodded in response and looked into the living room to see a fluffy, off-white blanket draped on the couch, along with clothing strewn about on the floor, evidently overflowing from a beat-up suitcase located at the foot of the sofa. 

Looking around the room, Sam caught a glimpse of a gold-framed mirror and went straight for it, eager to discover his host’s aura. Peter had an average build with short, dark-brown hair and bright, green eyes. Surrounding the mirror were multiple picture frames, and one in particular caught Sam’s attention. A wooden frame contained a photograph of Peter, a blonde woman, and two young children, a boy and a girl. “This must be Peter’s family,” Sam thought as he glanced at some other pictures of what looked like a younger Peter with his parents and two other boys. 

Exhaustion suddenly overcoming him, Sam replaced the frames on the mantelpiece and flopped down on the red, cushy chesterfield, wrapping himself in the heavy woolen blanket. 

At seven o’clock, Sam awoke to the unrelenting rays of the sun piercing his eyelids and rousing him from the surprisingly comfortable sleep. Glancing at the east-facing window and the golden beams of light, he groused, “Musta forgot to close the curtains last night.” He stumbled off of the couch and headed to the window to draw the elegant, royal purple drapes closed. 

Now happy with the room being much darker, Sam sighed contently and began to return to the sofa, only to be blinded by Al arriving through the Imaging Chamber door. “Close the door!” Sam hissed, covering his eyes with the back of his hands as he continued his walk to the couch, banging his big toe on the suitcase. Stifling some obscenities, the time-traveler sat down, looking at Al ominously. 

“My, my,” Al teased, “aren’t we grumpy this morning? Get up on the wrong side of the couch?” However, his pleasant demeanor didn’t last as his face turned to a frown. “Sam, did you notice if Peter’s mother came home last night?” 

“No, I fell asleep pretty fast… why? What is it?” Sam’s expression turned to one of great concern as he stood up, still fully clothed from the previous night. 

“Well, Ziggy says that she’s in the hospital, as a Jane Doe,” Al reported grimly, punching a couple of keys on the handlink to continue the stream of information. “Her 1988 black Mercedes ran into the median barrier on the Queen Elizabeth Way, that’s the main highway around here.” When the Observer saw the look of shock and horror on the leaper’s face, he quickly continued. “Now don’t worry, she’s in stable condition, but still unconscious. It seems she didn’t bring any I.D. with her, so they have no idea who she is. The license plates seem to have been missing as well.” Al furrowed his brow, trying to understand why the plates were missing. “Oh, it turns out that in a couple of months, the police find the plates on a car stolen from a dealership in St. Catharine's. Some nozzles musta seen the accident and used that as their chance to get some free plates.” 

“What about Mrs. DeBernardi?” Sam said, after changing his shirt while Al talked. The dirty one had wrinkled and adopted Sam’s body odor over night. 

Putting on a blank face, the Observer continued. “I told you, Sam, she’s stable at the Greater Niagara General Hospital. The only thing is, really, that this didn’t happen in the original history. You must have changed history somehow last night,” Al answered, giving Sam that “you-should-have-let-me-stick-around” look. 

“Oh no,” Sam mused. “Geoff asked to stay the night, but my, I mean, Pete’s parents refused, so she drove him home. So this is my fault? Was he in the car at the time?” Al shook his head no, and suddenly looked over Sam’s shoulder. 

“Who are you talking to, Pete?” Dave DeBernardi questioned as he reached the bottom of the flight of stairs, looking in at Sam. 

Sam, thankful for the ancient-looking device that stood on the end-table, glanced at the antique phone and said, “I, uh, I was just on the phone, Dad.”  

“Did your mother sleep downstairs again last night?” Dave replied, not waiting for a response. “If you don’t hurry up, you’re going to be late for work,” he continued, turning around and heading to the kitchen while thinking nothing of his son being on the phone so early. “If you’re late again, you know they’ll fire you.” He stopped at the basement door and called, “Monica?” 

Giving Al an uneasy glance, he took a few steps before saying, “Mom’s in the hospital, Dad. She was in a car accident.” That stopped Dave from moving, who just stood there for a moment, whispering a monosyllabic word that sounded quite desperate. “Dad? She’s stable, but she hasn’t woken up yet.” Slowly, he placed his hand on the doorway and sighed, and turned around. “You’d better get to work, Son. I’ll go in and check on your mother.” 

“No, I can’t let you go alone, Dad. Don’t worry, I’ll drive us there.” 

“Sam, if you go, Peter will lose his job. He’s already requested time off for the court hearings for his divorce,” Al intervened, placing the handlink into his pants pocket.  

“Go on to work, Pete. I’ll be all right,” Dave answered, breathing heavily to repress his tears as he passed Sam to grab the set of keys to another car that Sam supposed was in the garage. Dave DeBernardi grabbed his jacket from the coat hook and left through the front door.

 

PART THREE

After a day of working on a dock, something that felt customary to him for some reason, in St. Catharine's and feeling guilty the whole time for inadvertently causing Monica DeBernardi’s accident, Sam drove home in Peter’s 1978 Volvo that he had found in the two-car garage. He took the Queen Elizabeth Way in both directions to his chagrin, and he passed the accident site on the way home. Every minute of driving made him think of Peter’s mother in the hospital, and how it was his fault for not reinforcing the self-invitation that Geoff offered. 

Al had checked in from time to time, making sure that he knew how to get to and from work and what his job duties were in between. Luckily, Peter’s main function involved the forklift, and Sam felt at ease there, the strange familiarity somehow comforting to him. A flash of faces, probably from a past leap, went through Sam’s mind. 

Once back in Niagara Falls, Sam followed the road signs to the hospital. After having parked and entering the large building at the main entrance, the time-traveler waited about a quarter of an hour before being able to talk to the receptionist. 

“I’m looking for, uh, Mrs. DeBernardi,” Sam said, a little disconcerted from not remembering her first name. 

“What’s she in for, hon?” asked the receptionist, making Sam think of this being a prison rather than a hospital. “Oh, yeah, her. I remember her being brought in,” she said sadly after Sam told her she was in a car accident last night. “The former Jane Doe.” The distasteful chuckle that followed made the leaper scowl at her slightly. 

The receptionist grabbed a binder and began flipping pages, and told Sam the room number. He muttered thanks and headed for the elevator. Upon entering the room, shared with three other patients, Sam saw Peter’s father sitting by the first bed on the left, one hand of his wife between his two. 

“Dad?” Sam questioned, glancing first at the nameplate above the bed, relearning that her first name was Monica. “How’s she doing?” Silence followed for what seemed like an eternity. 

“She was awake an hour ago, but only for a few minutes,” Dave answered, rubbing his wife’s hand gently. “The doctors say she’ll be fine, but I’m still worried. Oh, Pete, I’ve never been this worried in my life!” Sam began to approach him, seeing the unshed tears in the man’s eyes. 

“Your brother Jake drove down here all the way from Cambridge when I called him,” he continued. “I couldn’t reach anybody in London, though. Jake went to our place and said he’d keep trying to call Marc and Uncle Stan.” Remembering the photo of Monica, Dave, and three boys, Sam figured it must have been the three sons with their parents, and Jake and Marc were Pete’s older brothers. 

Sam nodded in understanding, placing his hand briefly on Dave’s shoulder. “She’ll be fine, Dad,” he reassured, and then asked him if he wanted to be alone. The leaper barely detected the slight nod, and left the room.  

Noticing the beehive of activity that was the nurses’ station, Sam approached the desk, hoping to find out the specifics about Monica’s condition. “Excuse me, could I see the charts for Monica DeBernardi?” he enquired the corpulent, older-looking nurse who seemed to be Queen Bee. 

“And who would you beeee?” she demanded, rather gruffly after barking orders at two younger nurses who had been gossiping. Sam managed to stifle his laugh when she accentuated the word “be”. 

“I’m Dr. Beck-, er, I’m her son,” the leaper responded, becoming meek at his mistake. “Could I please see her charts?” Sam crossed his arms over his chest, trying to be at least somewhat intimidating. 

Grunting as she stood up, Queen Bee went over to the rack of current patient records and pulled out a flimsy orange binder. “All her information is in here, Dr. Becker,” she grumbled as she handed the folder to Sam. “Her husband somehow already knew she was here, unaware that she was still a Jane Doe. Said his son told him that. How did you know?” 

Sam just looked at her blankly, holding the binder. “I, oh, it must have been one of my brothers,” he lied, hoping that she would believe him. She just made a snorting noise in response and sat down amidst the other busy nurses as the leaper walked to a waiting area to read Monica’s information. 

Upon returning to the nurses’ station, Sam found it occupied by only one “worker bee”. Glancing at the clock on the wall, he noticed it was six o’clock. “They must be having their dinner break,” Sam thought. He set the binder back on the counter, having discovered that, though Monica wasn’t seriously injured. She had suffered a mild concussion and a sprained ankle. He was thankful that it wasn’t too severe, and agreed with the diagnosis that she would recover easily with a prescription of bed rest. 

Re-entering the room that housed Monica and three fellow patients, Sam saw Dave dozing lightly in his chair, their hands intertwined. Figuring it would be best to head home, he took one last glance at the couple and headed back to the hospital parking lot. 

The drive back had been more frustrating that Sam originally figured. Traffic was worse than when he had left the dock and he couldn’t believe that the majority of the drivers actually had their license. He managed to reach Peter’s parents’ house shortly before dusk and found a red, early-model miniature-van in the laneway. Pressing the left button on the garage-door opener, Sam returned the little Volvo to where he had found it this morning and entered the house through the door in the garage. 

“Hello?” Sam called out when he had closed it. He suddenly heard the laughter of children and then what sounded like a stampede racing toward him. Two identical girls and an older boy came running at him, trying to yell over each other, “Uncle Petey! Uncle Petey!” All three clutched to his legs and Sam temporarily lost his balance, supporting himself with the wall, waiting for the children to release him. 

“Hi there, Brother,” a man, about Peter’s age, smiled as he approached the bundled mass of affectionate children around Sam’s legs. “C’mon, kids, give him some breathing room, huh?” Once they let go, the three ran off down the hall and back into the living room. 

“I hope you don’t mind, but I cleaned up the living room. Looks like you’ve taken it over,” the man said, and then added with a bit of hesitation, “I had to bring the kids with me since Vicky’s working overtime tonight.” 

Taking an educated guess that this was the brother that Dave had mentioned, Sam responded, “Oh, that’s fine, Jake.” Suddenly, Sam’s stomach, not having been fed since he leaped in, grumbled loud enough for Jake to hear, causing them both to laugh; the leaper’s was more nervous. He always found it a little unfair that the people who surrounded him on leaps knew the leapee so well, and he knew nothing about any of them. 

“There’s some leftovers in the fridge,” Jake said as he pulled Sam into a quick, brotherly embrace. “Thank God that Mom’s gonna be all right. When Dad called this morning he had no idea what condition she was going to be in.” Sam nodded in agreement and headed to the kitchen while the other man returned to his children. 

The leaper found some chicken and vegetables on a plate covered with aluminum foil in the refrigerator, and promptly put it in the microwave oven, setting it to cook for three minutes. After about four seconds, Sam heard loud crackling and popping noises and saw blue sparks inside of the microwave, and his mouth gaped open as he pulled the door open as quickly as possible. Ripping off the foil, and chastising himself for forgetting something so obvious, he replaced the plate and started the microwave again, turning around to see Al grinning like the Cheshire cat. 

“You know, Sam,” the Observer began, his eyes dancing with mischief at catching his friend committing such an embarrassing culinary mishap.  

“Don’t start with me, Al,” Sam warned, fixing his gaze on Al. 

“They say it works better by leaving the foil on, but that’s in a toaster oven, not a microwave oven.” Waiting a beat as Sam glared at him, he threw in one last menacing quip. “Then again, that’s for TV dinners, not leftovers.” 

Sam let out a breath through his teeth and sat down at the kitchen table, watching the appliance warm up his chicken. “So what am I here to do, Al? If it was to get Monica in an accident, shouldn’t I have leaped before I hit the couch last night?”  

“Sam, don’t worry about her. She’ll be fine. Ziggy says she’s out of the hospital in a few days, but it’s just a minor blip in their lives. So far you haven’t changed any of their history all in all, except maybe their auto insurance premiums,” the holographic projection of the admiral reported. “There’s still the matter of Peter’s ex-wife. Ziggy insists that you’re here to make sure that Peter gets visitation rights with his kids, or to lessen the amount of monthly child support, or both, or maybe even more than that.” Sam sniffed at the number of options, common to Ziggy, that were presented. “That’ll help Peter get out of his parents’ house, too. 

“Jennifer, that’s the ex-Mrs. DeBernardi, has a job that pays at least double Peter’s salary, but she works long hours. That’s why he claimed in court that he was feeling alienated by his wife, so when the opportunity for an affair showed itself, he decided to take it.” Shaking his head sadly, Al released the handlink from his hand as it landed in his pocket, simultaneously with the beeping of the microwave oven. 

“How am I supposed to do that, Al? If Peter, who must really care about his kids, couldn’t get the courts to change their decision, what makes Ziggy think that I can?” the time-traveler demanded as he removed the plate and set it on the table, looking through different drawers for a knife and fork. 

Al shrugged at Sam’s comment and paced back and fourth a couple of times. “Maybe, if you can prove that Jennifer was cheating on Pete, you can counter-sue, or something like that? You know, make it an equal divorce instead of her simply cutting Peter off and then sucking his bank account dry.” 

“Was she having an affair?” Sam questioned with some chicken still in his mouth, somewhat astonished by the Observer’s statement. “I mean, if she was, that would certainly be something to counter her claims.” 

Once again, Al shrugged. “I have no idea. It was just a thought, Sam. Maybe her ‘long hours’ were to spend some time with the boss, if ya know what I mean.” 

Sam met Al’s eyes again, at first rolling them at the Observer’s insinuations, but then his expression became thoughtful. “I’m just thinking, continuing your ‘thought’, Al, if Peter was sneaking around with Amelia, then he wouldn’t necessarily be, uh, ‘paying attention’ to his wife as well, right? Then she might have to search out someone else to satisfy her.” 

“Not necessarily,” Al said, smiling mischievously. “I can imagine if I was cheating on Beth, which I never have and never would do, just to clarify,” Al said, wagging a finger at Sam. “But, I think I’d be able to handle both of them.” The Observer stood there, looking like a peacock with his plumes presented perfectly. 

Sam smiled wanly, and then heard a sudden outburst of children's' squealing from the living room. “Not all men have your libido, Al.” The hologram let out a small chuckle and began pacing again and pulled the handlink from his pants pocket after it squawked at him a few times. “Well, in any event, Ziggy seems to think now that talking to Jennifer outside of court would be best. The hearing is on Monday, so you have three days to do so.” 

“Not a bad idea,” Sam answered. “But, there’s one other thing on my mind. What about Amelia? Are she and Pete still seeing each other?” Sam shoved another fork-full of chicken into his mouth, and chewed as his observer checked with the handlink.  

Al shook his head. “No data on that, Sam. Ziggy says that you’re best bet is to call her up and find out. There’s nothing that says that they ever get married, but considering how Pete’s life turns out after the divorce, Ziggy is now saying that there’s a seventy-four point three percent chance that you should be trying to mend things with Jennifer which might lead to them to prevent this divorce.” 

Choking on his food, Sam coughed a couple of times while Al watched him worriedly. After catching his breath, he impaled a baby carrot and carefully put the vegetable in his mouth. “That sounds a little impossible, doesn’t it? By the sounds of it, Jennifer is really angry at Peter if she’s going to the extent of barring him from even seeing the children.” 

“Sam, it’s what Ziggy’s predicting. It’s the children that will really suffer here, right? But you know Ziggy… you know that she’s not always right, and I think from time to time you have achieved the impossible,” Al retorted encouragingly. “So if she is right this time, you have to fix things with Jennifer somehow. Keeping that in mind, maybe it would be best to lay low and, you know, stay at home this weekend, if you catch my drift?” 

Completely understanding Al’s metaphor to stay away from Amelia, he nodded as he saw the Imaging Chamber door open. “Go play with the kids or something,” the Observer suggested, getting a small smirk from Sam. “Just hang in there, Sam.” 

His connection to the future ceased once again as the white rectangle of white disappeared from Sam’s sight, and he half wanted to plant his face in the food remaining on the plate in front of him. 

As soon as Sam finished his meal, he got up from the table and headed into the living room where it looked like Jake had set up camp for himself and his three children. “Oh, Dad said it would probably be better for you to stay downstairs, you know how cold it gets down there. Wouldn’t want the kids to freeze, right?” Jake commented when he saw the look on Sam’s face. 

“Oh yeah, that’s fine. No big deal,” the leaper answered with a wave of his hand, used to switching beds nearly every night, although that usually meant he was in some other place, some other time. Then, remembering what Dave said at the hospital, he asked, “So did you get a hold of Marc and Uncle Stan?” 

“I got Aunt Clara at home about ten minutes before you came home. She said she’d pass on the message since Stan was apparently over at Marc’s, but I couldn’t get an answer there,” he responded. “I gave them the number for Mom’s room, anyway.” 

Looking at his children playing a board game on the floor, Jake got up from the couch and approached them. “How about when you’re done this game, you go and watch your ‘Raccoons’ tape, huh?” The _expression of glee on the children’s faces nearly melted Sam’s heart. Jake seemed to be a great father.  

“Can we watch it now, Daddy?” the boy asked. The two girls looked at their father with pleading eyes, one of them saying, “I really, really wanna watch Bert an’ Cedric!” 

“Sure,” Jake answered, and the children jumped up and ran off down the hallway to where Sam assumed was the den. “Be right back, Pete.” Sam nodded silently and sat on the couch, glad to have some more quiet time to think. 

PART FOUR 

 

Sam’s time alone lasted about the five minutes it took Jake to set up the VCR. Peter’s brother and the leaper had about twenty minutes to talk to each other, mostly Jake asking about the divorce and how Peter’s two children were. Sam, unsure of how to answer most of Jake’s questions, simply responded with “fine”s and “all right's. He was also surprised to find out that both Peter and Jake had children that were twins, and was curious as to why Al never mentioned it. 

Suddenly, Jake’s three children returned to the living room in another flurry, trying to shout over each other that their video was done. Glancing at his watch, Jake got up and announced, “Well, your Uncle Pete and I need some more time to talk…” 

“Oh, no, that’s all right, Jake,” Sam quickly interrupted, wanting to be alone for a while. “I think I’ll turn in early tonight.” 

“All right,” Jake answered, getting the hint. “You kids get back to your game then. Say good night to Uncle Pete!” The look on the man’s face told Sam that he knew what was coming. 

“G’night, Uncle Petey!” the three chimed as the hugged his legs again. Sam laughed as Peter’s nephew and twin nieces released him, and he and walked toward the door to the basement.  

“Good night,” Sam answered back, and proceeded down the stairs. 

To his pleasure, the time-traveling scientist found a bed already made up for him on a long, light brown couch. He also noticed a telephone hanging on the wall, and began to weigh in his head the options that Al had brought up. “Should I call Amelia or Jennifer?” Sam pondered aloud, partly wishing that the Observer were here to help him decide. “Or both?” he added to his voiced thoughts. Recalling that Al suggested Sam meet with Jennifer either way, the leaper went to Peter’s luggage and searched for an address book. 

Thankfully, Peter’s previous address and phone number were listed in the front, and uncertainly, Sam picked up the telephone and dialed the number. A young voice answered. “Hello?” 

“Hi, it’s, uh, Daddy,” Sam said, hoping it was one of Pete’s twin children, and unsure of exactly how to introduce himself. 

“Daddy!” the voice squealed happily. “Where are you? Mommy says you won’t be home for a while. When are you coming home? Me and Freddy miss you lots!” 

The questions surprised the leaper. “Uh, I’m not sure when I’ll be home yet.” Quickly, he changed the subject. “Can I talk to your mother?” 

“Mommmmy! Daddy’s on the phone!” the little girl yelled, forgetting to cover the telephone receiver.  

Sam heard the transfer between hands and another voice came on the line, sounding flat. “Hello, Peter.” 

“Hi, Jennifer.” 

“What do you want?” Jennifer DeBernardi demanded a little harshly. 

“I, well, I just want to talk to you. You know, about the divorce,” Sam started, hoping that it would provoke Jennifer to speak. 

“What about it?” 

The time-traveler sighed. “Do we really need to go through with this? What about the kids, Jennifer? I still love you, and the kids,” he said, certain that Peter felt that way. After all, Ziggy gave a pretty good chance that Peter and Jennifer still belong together. 

“Well, maybe you should’ve thought about that before you went running around with that skank sister of Geoff’s!” she jeered back. “I think the only thing you’re loving is mooching my money and then sneaking around behind my back with it!” 

“Jenn-” Sam began, but he heard the loud “clunk” of the telephone. “Great, just great…” He hung up his phone as well and turned back to Peter’s address book, wondering if the number for Amelia would actually be in there. He thought it would, considering that she is Geoff’s sister and that wouldn’t necessarily raise suspicion. Thankfully, he found it right under Geoff’s listing. 

“Hello?” came a light, feminine voice on the receiving end. 

“Hi, Amelia,” Sam said without emotion. 

“Oh, Pete! Where have you been? Geoff told me you’re living at your parents’ house now… I’ve missed you! It’s been over a week. When are we gonna get together again, hon’?” she asked, giving the answer that Ziggy didn’t have about the relationship between Amelia and Peter. 

“Uh, I’m not sure yet. My mom, she’s in the hospital, and I need to work overtime to make up for when I’m in court,” Sam stated, optimistic that his lie about overtime would seem reasonable. However, that was the least of Amelia’s concerns. Sam told her all about going over the Falls and about Monica’s car accident. She gushed at him about barreling over Niagara Falls, and then she cursed her brother for asking for a ride. “That boy is always looking for hand-outs. He coulda taken a cab home. Oh, Pete, your parents are too sweet to have even bailed him out, and I’m sorry about your mom! Too bad I don’t think they’d ever accept me into your family.” 

Bells went of in Sam’s head. Had they discussed marriage? Was Peter really that interested in Amelia and disinterested in his already established family? “This really complicates things,” Sam muttered to himself. 

“What’s that, honey?” Amelia questioned innocently. 

“Oh, nothing, just getting tired. Can I call you later? It’s been a rough day.”  

Amelia cooed at him for a moment or two before saying a goodbye and an “I love you”. Sam hung up the phone, his mind a blur. 

 

When Sam woke up, he had breakfast with Jake and the three children. David DeBernardi had returned home sometime during the night, but was not awake yet. Jake mentioned that they would stick around until they got to have more of a visit with Dave. After a heart-filled farewell from his temporary nieces and nephew, Sam left in Peter’s Volvo for the dock once again. Al didn’t show up until the noon hour, just as Sam was going on his lunch break. 

“Where have you been all this time, Al?” Sam insisted, slightly miffed about being left alone for so long. “I really don’t know which woman Peter belongs with.” The Observer looked at him apologetically as the leaper perched on his forklift. 

“I still think this family needs to be mended, Sam, and so does Ziggy. Did you make any phone calls last night?” Al answered, not offering a reason for being away for over fourteen hours. 

“I called Jennifer, who hung up on me, and Amelia, who couldn’t get enough of the sound of my voice,” replied Sam, letting out an exasperated sigh. “Amelia was talking about marriage, Al. She said that Peter’s family would never accept her, though. Does that mean that there’s real love between the two, or has Pete just been using her?” 

“Well, you asked where I was, I guess I should tell ya. I spent a lot of time with Peter since Dr. Beeks couldn’t get a whole lot out of him.” Al paused for a moment, looking thoughtfully at Sam as he pulled a Chivello from his pocket. “Like I explained last night, he was feeling isolated from his wife and needed some ‘companionship’. According to him, he knew Amelia had the hots for him, so he basically took advantage of her, but he says that he still loves her as a friend, since he and Geoff are so close.” 

“So, I should call it off with Amelia? That certainly narrows down the selection, but it looks like fixing things with Jennifer isn’t going to be as easy as it may seem, Al,” the leaper stated, vaguely remembering the Observer in a different time where he had five ex-wives. 

“That’s what Ziggy’s been saying all along, Sam. I have a feeling that bucket of bolts might be right this time,” the admiral replied, getting an annoyed squawk from the handlink. “It’s the weekend, right? After work, why not head over to your house, I mean Peter’s house, I mean, you know, where his stuff is; where his family lives.” 

Seeing Sam simply nod in response, and knowing that his friend was exhausted, Al asked, “So how were things with Jake’s wife and kids last night?” 

“Not bad… his wife wasn’t there, she had to work late or something,” Sam answered, running a hand through his hair. “I think they were heading home this morning, after Peter’s dad gets up.” 

Al poked a few keys on the handlink. “Oh, this is interesting. Jake’s wife doesn’t have a job, Sam. Ziggy also says that her maiden name is the same as Jennifer’s.” That got Sam’s attention. “No coincidence, Sam. I guess Victoria must have heard everything from Jennifer, huh? Couldn’t face her sister’s tormenter?” 

“Well, that explains the twins,” Sam started, receiving a perplexed look from Al. “Jennifer and Victoria both have twins, Al. Do you pay attention to any of that information Ziggy gives you?” he asked sarcastically. Al just returned a sticking-out of his tongue as Sam continued on. 

“I guess that must be why Vicky didn’t come… isn’t that weird, though, Al? Jake could have left the kids at home with Vicky, unless they wanted to see their grandparents that badly.” The leaper glanced down at his lunchbox and picked it up. “Find a phone for me, would you, Al? I think I’ll give her a call after my lunch.” 

The Observer, a bit surprised at Sam’s contradictory plan of calling the woman that couldn’t face him, simply nodded and did as he was asked. “Well, there’s a phone in the office over there,” Al said, pointing with the unlit cigar between his fingers. “Ziggy’s just started searching the Cambridge phonebook for their number. Oh, here it is.” Reading off the number, Sam memorized it and put the rest of his lunch back into the lunchbox. 

“There’s no time like the present, right, Al?” 

As what usually happens during a leap, I have to put off another meal in order to try to achieve my main objective. I didn’t ever think that traveling through time would demand such a sparse diet. 

“DeBernardi residence,” the mature, female voice answered after Sam convinced the secretary to let him call long distance and to be left alone. “Vicky?” Sam questioned. “It’s Peter.” He wished Al had stayed, but the Observer had told Sam that there were more variables to run by Ziggy now. 

“Oh, uh, hi, Peter,” replied Vicky, her tone sounding anxious. “Jake isn’t home yet. I’ll tell him you called.” 

“No, wait, Vicky. I called to talk to you,” Sam interjected, realizing that she truly did not want to speak to Peter. “Why’d Jake tell me that you worked late last night? Don’t tell me you were at the office: I know you don’t have a job.” 

“W-what do you mean? Jake told you that I was working? I never told him to lie for me. I just, it’s just that, I really can’t face you, let along talk to you, Pete,” she answered, sounding somewhat upset. 

Sam could not understand why Vicky was acting as she was. Even if Peter had broken her sister’s heart, it sounded like Jennifer was getting her revenge anyway. Taking a small breath in, Sam asked simply, “Why not?” 

“B-because, well, you cheated on my sister, first of all. I really like you, Peter, you’re a great brother-in-law and you’ve always been a great uncle to my kids, but the way you two treat each other, she is my sister after all, I have to take her side,” came the long and stammering response that perked Sam’s attention. 

“What do you mean ‘how we treat each other’?” 

“You cheated on her, Pete. I was at your wedding, and you did agree to the vows of the Church. I don’t understand how you did that to each other!” Vicky said, sounding more upset now. 

“All right, fine, I cheated on her, but what has she been doing to me? Why do you keep on saying what we’re doing to each other?” Sam was putting the pressure on now; his sixth sense was telling him that he had better not give up this line of conversation. 

“Well, you know as well as I do what she was doing at work so late… plus, I mean, she’s being pretty unfair with the divorce settlement. But like I said, blood comes first with me, especially when it’s my twin sister, even if she’s equally to blame.” Sam could hear a few sniffles on the other end between some of Vicky’s words, but right now he didn’t care. It was what was between the sniffles that gave the situation a completely different perspective. 

“She was cheating on me, too, at the same time?” Sam exclaimed, not meaning to alert to Vicky that this was news to him. 

Vicky became hysterical. “Oh God, Pete, you didn’t know? Oh no, oh no… I thought you knew. The way Jenny talked about how staying late for work started out as extra money and grew to something better with Hank, I thought you knew! I thought you knew,” she babbled out as she began to sob. “I, I should go. Take care, Pete.” The phone was hung up on the other end, and the dial tone began to sound in Sam’s ear as he stared into space, astonished at the new information. 

The phone had rested in its cradle for five minutes before Sam stood up. “Al was right,” he finally whispered to himself after thinking for so long. The receptionist returned as he was pushing the chair back in under the desk. “Thanks a lot,” he told her, looking as though he was in a trance. 

“Hey, it comes outta your pay check,” she said back with a twinge of humor in her tone, but then asked seriously, “You all right, Petey?” 

“Yeah, I’m just fine. Actually, I’m better than fine,” the leaper answered back, forcing a smile. This was what he was looking for: A way to either prevent the divorce or at least make it equal. He left the office and returned to finish his meal.  

Sam had just hopped up on the forklift and opened the lunchbox as Al returned. “Well, that was quick. How’d it go?” the admiral asked. 

“You were right, Al. I can’t believe it, but you were right,” the time-traveler answered. When Al’s eyes bugged out before getting to ask what Sam was talking about, he continued. “Jenny was sleeping with another man at her office. Some guy named Hank.” 

“See? What did I tell ya? I told you before, Sam, you don’t appreciate me as much as you should.” The Observer stood proudly for a moment and then turned to the handlink. “Well, Ziggy says there’s now a ninety point seven-three percent chance that you’re to prevent the divorce, but an eighty-nine point nine-eight percent probability that you’re supposed to get an equal divorce.” 

“I don’t think I need Ziggy’s predictions anymore, Al,” Sam said, hearing the handlink make an insulted squawk sound. “If Peter and Jenny can forgive each other for their affairs, I’m sure they could make their marriage work again. I feel it in my gut.” 

Al nodded solemnly. “Whenever you say that, Sam, you’re almost always right. The only problem is, you always take the hard-way out.” 

Sam chuckled at the Observer’s remark, and began to dig into his lunch.

 

PART FIVE
 

Another day of work came and went, and to Sam’s delight, his Observer returned just as he was getting into Peter’s car. “Good timing, Al,” he quipped, the leaper’s demeanor lightened since this leap now seemed to have an end in sight. “You need to help me get to Peter’s house.” 

“First thing’s first, Sam. Pete didn’t know about Jennifer’s affair, either. Dr. Beeks said that could be the Swiss cheese effect, too,” reported the Observer, and then started looking up the address. “Uh, all right, just a second here,” Al continued, and as he played with the handlink, Sam started the car and pulled out of his parking spot. “Well, they live in Niagara Falls, so I guess you know how to get there from here.” 

Sam grimaced at the prospect of returning to the expressway, but at least it would give them some time to plan what to say to Jennifer, and as a bonus Al mentioned they could reminisce by listening to the tunes of the decade. Once they reached the city, Al gave him directions to the DeBernardis’ home. “The kids’ll probably be home from school, or at the babysitter’s. Even if Jenny isn’t home yet, I’m sure there’s no harm in you waiting.” 

“There is harm, Al, if the children are at home: I don’t know these kids. Hopefully they have a babysitter since they’re not old enough to be left alone yet,” Sam said with a pang of worry, not taking his eyes off the road. 

Al was counting off the house numbers, looking for the right house. “There it is, second one on the right, number 403. Better park in the laneway, that way Jennifer will block you in,” Al advised, grinning at his own clever thought. 

“I don’t know where you come up with your ideas, Al,” Sam stated as he put on his turn signal and drove up to the garage door. “Well, no car here, so I guess she’s still at work,” deduced Sam as he shut off the ignition. “Should I wait here or inside?” 

“If we’re lucky and Jenny doesn’t use the garage, you can get this car into there, right?” the Observer asked, pointing with his cigar at the large, gray door and getting the same sly look on his face. “You know, even more of a barrier to keep you home, and she wouldn’t know you’re here until you surprise her inside.” 

Sam grinned at him, shaking his head slightly. “You just amaze me sometimes, Calavicci,” the leaper told him light-heartedly, and he stepped out of the vehicle. Al walked through the hood of the car as he followed Sam. “Just pull up on that handle, Sam, and we can see if there’s room in the garage.” 

“Why don’t you just go in first and see?” Sam retorted, annoyed that Al assumed he had no clue how to operate a garage door.  

The admiral let out a sigh and stuck his head through the door, a small amount of light coming from a partially covered window, and saw the cleanest garage that he could remember. “Go for it, Sam.” The leaper reached down and pulled a couple of times before it gave way and swung upwards rather quickly, passing through the observer’s body. “We’re in luck!” Al cheered and commented to Sam about the cleanliness. 

 

The leaper quickly returned to Peter’s car to start it up again, drove it slowly into the garage, and cut the engine again. “Now we wait?” Sam asked, closing the large door behind him on the outside. 

“I guess so. May as well go inside and make yourself comfortable. Or, if you really wanna push the right buttons, maybe cook up a romantic dinner with candles and good china, and then wait for her by the door wearing nothing but your…” Al commented, getting that lecherous look in his eyes. 

“I think I’ll just go inside and wait, if you don’t mind,” Sam shot back. “Not to mention, the kids could come home before her, or even with her! I’m not going to traumatize Peter’s kids, Al.” 

“Aw, rats,” replied the Observer as he snapped his fingers. “Kids: They always get in the way of romance,” Al remarked jokingly. Sam threw his arms up in the air, really only putting up with Al’s libido because of his ideas about forcing Jennifer to talk to him. As they reached the front door, the time-traveler began looping through Peter’s key chain, trying to find the right house key. 

“C’mon, Sam, hurry it up!” pestered Al after a couple of minutes of trial and error with Peter’s keys.  

“Just a second, Al! I think this is the last key.” Sure enough, the final key worked and the deadbolt unlocked.  

Inside the house, Sam walked from the front hallway into the living room, whose floor was covered with building blocks, dolls, toy cars, and other playthings. “Definitely the house of children,” the Observer piped up. 

The kitchen was attached, where the leaper thought over Al’s idea. “What if I did make dinner? Maybe it could be the olive branch in this situation,” Sam wondered aloud as he began searching through the refrigerator, which was mostly empty. “Of course, I’d have to go grocery shopping first.” 

“Be creative, Sam. There must be something else in the cupboards that you can find. And I thought you called yourself a chef,” Al jeered playfully. Sam returned the comment with a snide glance and continued his search. 

After searching the root cellar and the chest freezer in the basement for food, Sam managed to make a meal fit for Thanksgiving Day with some help from Al. Roast beef with a dark gravy, steamed carrots, sweet potatoes, pickled beets, and for dessert - ice-cream sundaes.  
“Oh, I wish I wasn’t just a hologram! This all looks so good,” the Observer gushed as he looked at the plates set on the table. They had even managed to find some candles in a linen closet and set them up on the table. “When we get you home, you should consider becoming a caterer, Sam.” 
“Yeah right, Al. If I ever get home, I think I’ll retire,” the leaper said wearily. “I guess I’d better shut off all the lights in the house, huh? Don’t want Jenny thinking there’s someone in here when she gets home.” With that being said, Sam switched off all of the lights that he turned on and decided to wait in the darkened living room. 
“It’s almost seven o’clock, Sam. I wonder where they could be.” 
Sam shrugged his shoulders, noticing that dusk was beginning to settle outside. “I don’t know, Al. That’s what you and Ziggy are supposed to find out.” 
The Observer feigned a hurt expression and replied, “Well, it’s hard to center in on the brainwaves of people you haven’t been in personal contact with. Just be patient, Sam. It’s a virtue, you know.” 
Sam huffed, knowing that he can’t help but keep himself busy all the time. “I guess I could clean up the living room until they get back,” he decided. Getting down on his hands and knees, he began clearing the floor, making sure that every toy was in container. The grandfather clock in the corner chimed the quarter-past mark and Al decided to take a little walk. 
The hologram walked through the front window and glanced around, seeing a gray car slowing as it approached the house. “Sam! They’re home!” He yelled, rushing back into the house. “They’re here. You’d better go wherever you wanna be when they come inside!” 
Jumping up from the floor, the leaper straightened his clean clothes that he had brought along in the morning in a duffel bag, telling Jake that he was going to the gym after work. He sat on the couch and waited for about a minute until he heard car doors closing and the jostling of a key in the front door. The door opened and Sam heard Peter’s twin boy and girl bickering with each other as Jennifer tried to quiet them down. She slammed the door behind her, causing Al to jump and the children stopped for a minute before starting up again. 
“Sam, turn on that lamp or something, get their attention,” suggested Al as he saw Jennifer taking off their coats. Looking to the end table, Sam pulled the string on the lamp and the illumination stopped all noises coming from the trio who had just came home. 
“Daddy!” the twins chorused and rushed toward Sam, jumping up on the couch and giving him tight hugs and sloppy kisses on the cheek. “Daddy, you’re home! You’re home!” they squealed. “Don’t ever leave us again, please!” 
Slowly, Sam got the children to release their grip on him and he set them on the floor as he turned to face Jennifer, whose expression was unreadable. “I, uh, I made dinner for us. It’s all ready to eat in the kitchen,” he told her nervously. 
“We already ate, Peter. What the hell are you doing here?” she demanded, raising her hand to her lips when she realized that her and Peter’s children heard what she said. 
However, the twins didn’t concern themselves with her language. “I’m still hungry, Mommy,” Freddy, the son, complained.  
“Me too!” added Eva. “Can we have some?” 
“Go ahead,” said Jennifer with a cooing tone to her voice, as if trying to make up for cursing in front of her children. “Just don’t eat too much!” She called after them as they raced each other to the kitchen. A moment of silence came over her and Sam. “Why are you here? I told you the only place I want to see you is in court.” 
“This one sounds like an ice princess, Sam,” Al offered, punching keys on the handlink only to see the odds for breaking off the divorce go up a small percentage. 
When Sam waited before speaking, she turned around to put her coat on a hook in the hallway. “Jenny, I’m here to fix our marriage,” Sam said softly. “I don’t think it’s fair that you divorce me on the grounds of adultery when you’re equally guilty.” 
Jennifer froze, and questioned quietly, “What – what are you talking about?” 
“I know about Hank, Jenny. It’s because of him that you worked overtime, and because of him that Pete, I, stupidly decided to find companionship elsewhere,” Sam told her levelly. “I’m willing to forgive and forget if you are.” 
“Who told you? I don’t care what you say, Peter, this divorce is going to happen, and I’m going to strip you down to your underwear,” she shot back, not sounding extremely convincing. 
“Well, I don’t see anything wrong with sleeping with the ex,” Al threw in cheerily. “I think she’s bluffing, Sam. Ask her about Hank again.” 
“I don’t want a divorce, Jenny. See how happy the kids were to see me? We can work this out, right?” the leaper asked sincerely, attempting to make eye contact with the woman. “What happened to Hank?” 
She stumbled a moment before finally raising her gaze to meet Sam’s. “I ended it. He’s my boss, Pete, and I ended it because it didn’t feel right anymore. Come to think of it, it never felt right. To top it off, he’s dropping my salary,” Jennifer answered, a few tears beginning to show. 
“C’mon, let’s go outside for a minute. The kids can take care of themselves,” Sam suggested, seeing her nod slightly as she grabbed her coat. Al followed the two outside to the porch where they were silent for a couple of minutes. “Why did you cheat on me, Jenny?” 
“We were running out of money, Pete! It was the only thing I could do… with the negligible amount of shifts they port was giving you, it was either that or get a second mortgage on the house. Not to mention, you were less than desirable to be around, always depressed. If only I could go back in time and stop myself,” she replied, sniffling from either the chilly weather or from her emotions. 
Sam stifled a chuckle at her remark about time-travel and took in a breath before turning Jennifer so that they were face to face. “And when they gave me more shifts, you didn’t want to break if off with Hank, so then I started going out with Amelia,” the time-traveler summed up, frowning at Peter’s wife. “Amelia and I broke it off, Jenny. I think it would be best for you, for me, the kids; our entire family if we could just cancel the divorce.” 
Al looked between them, trying to read the emotions. Sam was obviously adamant about fixing this marriage, but Jennifer was tough to examine. “Ziggy says the odds are holding steady at ninety-two percent now that you’re here to stop the divorce all together.” 
“I just don’t know, Pete. What if there’s someone better out there for me? Vicky’s the one that told me to stop fooling around with Hank, but when I found out that you were sleeping with Amelia… do you really think we can live with this on our consciences?” The tears finally began to slide down Jennifer’s cheeks, and Sam used his index finger to dry each cheek. 
“I have no problem with forgiving you, Jenny.”  
She turned her glance to the porch and she rested her head on Sam’s shoulder. “I was wrong, Peter. I’m so sorry. There can’t be anyone out there better for me than you.” 
“Way to go, Sam! You did it! But, there’s one more thing: You haven’t told Amelia that Peter won’t be seeing her anymore.” The leaper gave Al an alarmed expression, before he said reassuringly, “Just kiss Jenny and go home to get your stuff.” 
Doing as Al suggested, he kissed Jennifer on the neck before she looked up and pulled him into a full embrace, kissing him deeply. “Great. Will this leap never end?” Sam thought after she broke their seal. 
“I love you, Peter DeBernardi,” whispered Jennifer into Sam’s ear. 
“And Peter DeBernardi loves Jennifer DeBernardi right back,” Sam whispered back, straightening up and stepping back from Jennifer at arm’s length. “How about we go back inside and eat?” 
Jennifer smiled and nodded, and once inside Sam took the stairs two at a time to find a telephone on the second story of the house. “Thank God for my photographic memory,” he stated as he dialed Amelia’s phone number. Sam received a bouncy greeting on the other end. “Amelia? It’s Pete. I’m afraid that, uh, I’m not getting divorced anymore. I’m sorry, but it’s over between us.” 
“Oh, honey, that’s perfect! I’ve been trying to call you at your parents’ house for hours! I guess you’re dad’s visiting with your mom, huh? Well, anyway, I found a great guy named Hank. Does Jenny know him? They work at the same place,” Amelia responded, all full of giggles and a big sigh after saying Hank’s name. “We’re goin’ out tonight, so I should be getting’ ready!” 
Sam rolled his eyes, amazed at how some things work out. “Oh yeah, she knows him. Well I guess everything worked out for the best, huh? See ya around,” Sam said, and hung up the phone after a quick good-bye from her. 
Al stood there, impatient. “What did she say? How’d she take it?”  
Saying nothing, Sam wandered out of the room and into the hallway. “She’s dating Hank!” he whispered loudly, getting a big guffaw from Al. The leaper returned to the kitchen with his Observer centering in on him from upstairs. “Well, kids, how do you like the chow?” he asked. 
“It’s the best! You’re staying now, right, Daddy?” Freddy questioned, both children with the eyes of a basset hound. Jennifer grinned and gave him an affirmative nod. 
“Oh, yeah. Daddy’s here to stay,” he smiled, and felt the familiar tingle as blue, electrical light enveloped his body.

EPILOGUE

With some leaps Dr. Sam Beckett is dropped suddenly into situations where all his senses don't come online at the same time. This leap was lead in by a hypnotic drone that was almost comforting, and followed by the sense of a comfortable, padded seat surrounding him like a womb. He settled deeply into the seat with a sigh before his vision came into being, and opened his eyes to the distinctly familiar sight of medical records. He blinked in confusion as he momentarily tried to place the drone, and a sideways tilt of his head put it all together: He was on an airplane - a small one that sat about a half dozen individuals - and there was bearded man sitting next to him frowning at his own pile of medical files.

Sam slowly turned his head and looked out the window of the plane. Below him, all he saw was trees and hills, as far as the eye could see. In the distance he saw a tendril of smoke drifting skyward from the treetops and a collection of puffy clouds on the horizon.

He turned his attention back to the pile of folders in his lap. The top one was open to the medical history of Símon Delgado, a boy of 10. Sam quickly scanned the dry description of the boy's health, attitude and physical health. When he flipped the papers aside and saw the photograph of the boy, his heart immediately went out to him, and he whispered shakily, "Oh, boy."

The utterance caused his seatmate to turn and look at him. The humor that glittered in his eyes only accented the sly grin. "Don't worry, Curt," he said warmly. "There is civilization down there, trust me. Everything you can do will be not only appreciated, but improve a lifestyle that is difficult at best on a day-to-day basis." The man grasped Sam's wrist firmly for a moment, and Sam immediately liked him.

Just as Sam began to feel good about this leap, his newfound friend stood and dropped his files on the empty seat. "I'll get you a coffee. Really, you'll do great. We've only lost one doctor. Just take the 'Beware of Crocodiles' signs seriously."

Sam jerked his head back to the man's face in fright. He wasn't sure if the grin he saw was accenting a joke or not, and still wasn't sure as the man chuckled and walked to the back of the plane.

 

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