CHAPTER 9 The plain milk had become hot cocoa. Sam had drunk almost half of it when Al decided that he'd better go ahead and tell him about Allison. He didn't relish the thought, but Sam had to know. Watching his friend take another swallow, Al said, "You've changed history." He paused, glancing unneccesarily at the handlink then back to Sam. The time traveler swallowed the last of the cocoa slowly. In the years of his leaping, Sam had learned to recognize the many nuances of the Observer's voice. He knew this one far too well. "How?" he asked, getting up from the table to take his cup to the sink. Rinsing it, he left it in the sink and turned back to Al. He couldn't help the shiver than ran down his back as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the counter. The sound of a car roaring into the driveway and screeching to a halt, followed by a car door slamming, put an end to their conversation. Before either of them could react, the front door was kicked open so hard Sam felt the vibration in his feet. "TOMMIE!" Derek bellowed. Sam knew he had only seconds before Tommie's husband would be in the kitchen. Quickly he scanned the kitchen, looking for something to use to defend himself. "Sam!" Al said urgently, pointing. "Check the drawers." Sam's gaze followed where Al was pointing, and he yanked open the top drawer. Seeing only dishtowels and such, he slammed it shut and yanked open the second drawer. Frantically, he fumbled through the serving spoons and spatulas. *God please...!* A particular shape caught his eye and as he dug for it, the kitchen door was kicked open. Al watched as the furious man grabbed the chair Sam had been sitting in and flung it aside, then threw the kitchen table aside. "Sam! Behind you!!" As his fingers closed around the broad dark handle of the carving knife, Sam snatched it out and whirled around, just as Derek flung the table aside. He felt his body assume a defensive posture... *probably from one of those martial arts Al's always telling me I'm a master at*...and he held the knife defensively before him. "Back off," Sam shouted. "Or..." "Or you'll what?" Derek demanded, more surprised than intimidated by the sight of the knife in his wife's hand. He lunged forward, grabbing for Tommie. It was the wrong thing to do. Instinctively, Sam parried the knife upward, carving a neat slice across Derek's palm. He ignored his medical training, ignored Derek's scream of pain and the blood spurting from his hand. Sam also noticed that the attack had done its work--the intense pain had deflated Derek's temper, at least somewhat. "Gawd, Tommie," Derek whined as he grabbed a dishtowel from the counter and wrapped it around his hand. "How could you do this? You're my wife, remember?" "As far as I'm concerned," Sam replied with the first real sharpness in his voice since this leap began. "Your rights as my husband ended the first time you hit me. And this morning..." Sam hesitated for a second as the terror of those first leap-in minutes flashed through his mind. "...this morning just carved it in marble." "Rights?" Derek questioned, still holding his injured hand wrapped in the blood-soaked dishtowel against his chest. He didn't like the tone that Tommie was using. It smacked very much of the rich bitches he had to cater to on his job. Once more his temper began to rise. "What about my rights to some respect and civility?" he demanded, the anger coloring his words almost a tangible thing. "What about my right to be treated as an equal and not looked down on like I was a ditch digger?" He glanced down at his injured hand then back to Sam. "What about my right to be able to come into my own home and not worry about being attacked by my wife with a kitchen knife?" "Don't take your eyes off him, Sam," Al warned. "If he gets his hands you..." he didn't have to finish the thought. Sam's brief nod told him he agreed. "You," Sam emphasized the word, "attacked me! I've got a right..." "Your....rights," Derek spat the word as if it were something vile, "are to do what your vows say. Remember: Love...honor.... and....obey?" Sam moved further away from Derek, circling around him. "Not in this lifetime," Sam replied bluntly. "The only thing obedience is going to get me, is killed." "Don't give him any ideas, Sam," Al said sharply. "The only thing that's keeping him from coming after you right now is that cut on his palm." Checking the handlink quickly, he added, "You're gonna have to get him to the hospital. It's gonna take nineteen stitches to close that cut." "He can drive himself," Sam snapped. "The only way I'll get in a car with him is if I'm driving and he's in the trunk!" Seeing Tommie having a conversation with an open space of air beside her diffused her husband's anger momentarily. "Who the hell are you talking to?" Derek demanded. "My invisible friend from the future," Sam snapped the first thing that came to mind. "And he says that you need stitches." Derek's eyes narrowed. "Did you take your medication today, Tommie?" Sam glanced at the Observer, already punching keys on the handlink. "Uh..." "Answer me, Tommie," the authority in Derek's tone again asserting itself. "Did you take your medicine?"