Al found himself in John and Thelma Beckett's farm house. He had been there with Sam on occassion and easily recognized it.
He took in his surroundings. He was in a bedroom, obviously belonging to a little boy. It was simply decorated with an oak dresser and matching headboard. A white
wooden desk was in one corner and an oak book case that did not quite match the other oak furniture was against the wall next to the closet. It was filled with
books ranging from children's Golden Readers to college level textbooks. At the foot of the twin size bed was a toy chest. There was a basketball and a few toys
on the floor.
Al grinned. Toys and textbooks. What else would you find in an eight year old genius's room?
But what Al saw in the bed brought back that uneasy feeling he had about this Leap. There was the figure of a little boy,
asleep with the covers pulled over his head in the middle of a schoolday. A huge cat slept in a curl at the foot of the bed.
It's an epidemic, Al thought realizing the similarities of how he had found Tommy, then Sam, and now Sam as a child.
There was a soft tapping on the door behind him. Al turned and saw Thelma Beckett open the door just a bit. "Sammy," she
called. She walked through Al's image and leaned over her son, pulling the covers down. "Please don't sleep with the covers over your head like that," she chastised
him as she placed her hand over his forehead. "If that fever's not gone tomorrow, I'll have to have your father take you into town to see the doctor."
Sam was sick! The older Sam had told Tommy's father he did not feel well too. Maybe somehow Sam was picking up on his
illness as a child and that was why he was acting differently than he usually would. Perhaps it was that he did not have the energy to be himself.
Al thought a moment and realized that in all the Leaps, he could not recall Sam once having a cold or virus or sinus trouble or
any other common ailment. Apparantly, Whomever had been seeing to his health all these years.
"Are you cold? Do you need another blanket?" Thelma asked. "I can bring you one to wrap around your shoulders, but don't
put it over your head, baby. That scares your poor mother."
"I'm sorry," Sam told her. "I'll be okay without another blanket. Thank you." His face was flushed from the fever.
"You just rest, Honey." Thelma smoothed the blankets. "I'm making you some nice, hot chicken soup. I'll bring it in when it's ready."
"Thank you, but I'm not hungry," Sam mumbled.
"You might be hungry later," Thelma kissed his forehead and left the room.
Sam rolled onto his back and sighed. His movement caused the cat to stir. She stood, arched her back and then sat and
began to lick one paw.
Sam sat up and reached out to pet the brindle tabby. "What am I going to do?" he asked softly in not quite a whisper. The cat,
of course, said nothing, but began to rub her paw over her head looking as if she were trying to clean away his human touch.
"Stupid cat. You really know how to make a guy feel better." He sighed and crossed his arms over his chest.
From a corner out of Sam's direct view, Al watched the exchange between the boy and the cat. Sam seemed upset to him.
Then he noticed his lower lip quivering and a tear slipped down his cheek.
"Sam, what's wrong?" Al asked instinctively, before he could remind himself to stay quiet and out of Sam's sight.
Startled, Sam looked to Al. His breath caught with the surprise, "Uh, who, who are you?" The man before him wore an ivory
jacket with matching pants and a red shirt. He had an ivory straw hat with a black band that complemented his tie. "Where did you come from?"
Al shook his head and thought a word he would not say in the presence of children. "I'm Al. I came to help you."
"Normally, I'd have about a million questions for you," Sam started, "but, I'm not feeling very well. So, if you're here to help me,
I'll chalk this up to hallucination brought on by the fever, maintain my sense of sanity, and hopefully, make sense of what happened."
Sam's words and manner were beyond an eight year old level. Al was glad he had decided to forego the questions because
Sam himself was probably the only one who could answer them--thirty some odd years later.
"You want to tell me about what's bothering you and then maybe we can make sense of it together," Al encouraged, stepping
closer to the child, but careful not to pass through any objects.
"If you're an angel, you ought to already know. I prayed about it."
Al smiled. It would not take long for the Sam to figure out he was far from an angel when they would meet years from now,
probably less than a second. "Well, did you pray to God or did you pray to an angel?"
"Well, then, how would I know?" Al did not say he was an angel; he just did not say that he was not.
"Doesn't God tell you where to be and who to be with and why?" Sam asked skeptically.
Al thought a moment. Perhaps God was the one dictating who and where, but Ziggy usually filled them in on why. "Just who
and where." He noticed that Sam had stopped crying. "So, it's up to you to tell me why you're so upset."
Sam closed his eyes and turned away from the hologram. "Did you ever wish you could go back and change things so that
you could make something not happen that happened? Like you did something you wish you hadn't done?"
"Of course I have," Al answered. Kid, you might get your wish. "Did you do something you wish you hadn't done?"
"What did you do?" Al asked, trying to remember he was talking to a child, not the Sam he knew. He had little experience
with children. The ones he dealt with on the Leaps were usually under the age of five.
"I can't tell you. If I talk about it it will get worse."
"Why can't you talk about it? Why will it get worse?"
"Because," his voice was soft.
Al sighed, retaining as much patience as he could. "Sam, I really do want to help you, but I can't unless you tell me what's
Sam looked up, but said nothing. His eyes implored Al to find out the truth, to help him. He was clearly afraid to talk, not
merely unwilling to do so.
"Twenty questions," Al suggested. When Sam did not respond, he began with his first question: "Did you do something
wrong?" He supposed Sam had already answered that, but it seemed a good place to start.
"Did you act alone?'
He shook his head and looked away.
"Was it your idea?" Al could not imagine Sam doing anything he thought was wrong. He was such a goodie-two-shoes as an
adult, he must have been the same way as a child.
"No," he said emphatically. "I didn't want to."
"Okay... did you hurt someone else?
"Did you hurt something?"
"How many people know?"
"Two as in you and someone else?"
"Is that person upset too?"
"I don't think so," he shrugged.
Al stopped a moment to summarize what he knew. "So, you and one other person did something that wasn't your idea and
no one or nothing got hurt and no one else knows about it?"
"Sort of..." Sam agreed hesitantly.
"So, you did something bad, but it doesn't sound like it could have been all that bad. I don't think you should be so upset over it.
You're a good kid."
"It will be bad if someone finds out. I don't know what to do."
"Are you going to tell anyone? If you don't tell anyone, no one will find out and you won't get in trouble. Will the other person tell?"
"He won't," Sam answered.
"If you didn't hurt anybody, don't worry about it," Al suggested. He imagined that Sam and one of his friends had pulled a
harmless prank and the very moral and noble side of Sam was giving him a guilty conscience.
"Keep a secret?" Sam asked as if it were a foreign concept.
"Yeah, why not? We all have secrets, Kiddo, all of us."
Sam nodded. "Okay, Al. I'll keep a secret if that's what you think I should do. I guess that's my only real choice anyway."
"Sam, who are you talking to?" Thelma asked, bringing in a tray with soup, crackers, and a glass of milk.
"She can't see or hear me," Al explained.
"The cat," Sam answered, puzzled.
Thelma pushed the cat away and set the tray down on the foot of the bed. She felt his forehead again. "You do have a high fever," she joked.
Sam laughed and did not notice Al disappear through the wall and into the yard.
"Gushie, center me on Sam now," Al ordered. He did not want to go back to the Project headquaters until he saw Sam as
he was in Tommy's environment.