Chapter 8 Sam spent the balance of the day at the house. A half hour soak in a warm bath helped ease some of his stiffness. To avoid the temptation to curl up on the bed for even five minutes, he dressed in jeans and a short-lived flowered pullover, then began slowly tidying the house. Deliberately taking his time, Sam was rewarded as the gentle exercise gradually helped to lessen the dull ache in his head. It also gave him the opportunity to get to know his host a little better. Pausing while dusting in the living room, he picked up the only framed picture in the room, Tommie and Derek's wedding picture. He smiled at the genuine joy he saw in Tommie's radiant face delicately framed by her lace veil. Derek's smile never quite reached his eyes. Recalling something he'd learned as a kid, Sam placed his hand over the faces in the picture so that only the couple's eyes were showing. "The eyes are the mirrors of the soul" was one of his mother's favorite sayings. "If you're looking at a someone, extend your arm and turn your hand so that only the eyes of the person you're looking at are exposed. Or if it's a picture, cover it so only the eyes are showing. By blocking out all of a person's face except for the eyes," she'd explained, "the eyes become the focal point. A smile can be deceiving, but the eyes never lie. When only a person's eyes are revealed you can see in them if the smile on the their lips reaches their eyes. If the smile is in their eyes, the smile on their lips is genuine. But if their eyes are emotionless, even if they're laughing, be watchful." Now he saw how Tommie's blue eyes sparkled, reflecting her joyful smile, as the eyes of a bride should. Shifting his gaze to Derek, Sam shivered as he looked at the dark eyes that glittered like those of a snake focused on it's prey. The phone rang, startling Sam and he narrowly avoiding dropping the crystal framed picture. Setting it down carefully, he picked up the phone. "Hello?" Derek's voice lunged at him through the receiver. "Where the hell have you been? Mr. Groves just called me asking where you were. If you lose this job, Tommie, so help me....." "I couldn't go to work looking....like this," Sam said defensively. "Hell, I was so dizzy the driver had to help me into the cab." "What did you need a cab for?" The simple question made Sam's skin crawl. "I...I went to the doctor," he said, sinking down on the couch, his knees suddenly weak. "What for? What did you tell him?" Another simple question, but it, too was asked too quietly. Sam felt another shiver run through his body. The shiver became trembling when Derek shouted into the phone, his tone even uglier. "Goddamit, Tommie, what did you tell him?!" When Al's voice spoke directly behind him at nearly the same instant, Sam jumped up and spun around, his heart thudding against his ribs. Then, in the next instant the dizziness and the pounding in his head increased and he wobbled then collapsed on the couch again. Al had seen Sam scared, hurt, confused in previous leaps, but never gripped by the fearful uncertainty he saw now. He glanced at the handlink, then ignored it, and spoke as a survivor of the ugliness of humanity's inhumanity upon it's own. "If you cave in now, this will be your last leap," The Observer said bluntly. "That's right," he continued as Sam's eyes widened. "If you let him intimidate you now, you won't survive this leap, because that bastard will have won the battle of wills. I saw too much of it in Vietnam, Sam. I know from first hand experience that when you give up, when you stop trying, you lose." Even holding the receiver a few inches from his ear, Sam could hear Derek's angry shouting but continued to focus on the hologram. "But he's..." Al cut him off. "But nothing! You've never been a quitter, Sam. I've seen you in some awful situations before this, and not once did quitting ever cross your mind. Don't cross that line, now." The pressure in Sam's head was thundering, aggravating the pain of the concussion as he felt himself torn between his fear of Derek and knowing the Observer was right. Still..."He frightens me," he admitted. It was the first encouraging sign Al had seen since the doctor's office. "Okay," he said, coming around the couch, "you're afraid. Half the battle of overcoming fear is admitting it. But you can't stop there. "You've gotta get your mind off your fear and onto something else." "Like what?" "Put those Nobel-prize winning brains to work! Start theorizing about how to get the goods on that bastard so that he get's locked away for so long that the world forgets he ever existed." A long minute passed, the only sound being Derek's screaming coming through the telephone. Finally Sam swallowed, and put the receiver to his ear again. When Derek paused for a breath, Sam snapped, "When you can speak in a civil tone, call me back," and hung up the phone. In spite of feeling like he'd just hit an angry cobra with a stick, his standing up to Derek was a much needed booster shot of confidence. He smiled at Al. "You look like a washed out ghost," Al said, grinning. "But it's good to hear some bite in your voice again." Sam glanced at the feather duster in his hand, then tossed it aside. "Come on," he said, turning toward the kitchen. "I want a cup of tea." He settled for warm milk. Al watched his friend moving around the kitchen preparing the milk. He wished he didn't have to put his best friend's just renewed confidence to such a heavy test so fast. But Sam had to know that he had already changed history...Allison Kent hadn't died in the original history.