"Pieces" pt. X Hartford, CN April, 1979 Melana left Julie and Greg alone for a while as she did little odd jobs around the house to keep herself occupied. After a while, the silence from the den turned into that of troubled voices, and then yelling. Startled and angry, she threw open the door to the room and stopped short. Greg sat on the couch, his head in his hands, and Julie stood over him, waving her arms about in distressed movements. "Julie, what's going on?" Melana asked once she had found her voice again. Julie's frantic motions ceased abruptly at the sight of her mother's presence and she dropped her arms to her sides. "Tell her," Julie commanded, still staring at Greg. Melana's heart quickened in anticipation, but he only shook his head. She moved to sit beside him on the couch. "Greg? Is there something going on that I ought to know about?" "No, ma'am," he mumbled. It was obvious he was lying. His breath came in short bursts that shook his entire body and she could see his hands shaking. When she put her hand on his back she could feel the cold sweat that soaked his shirt. "Melana," Al said suddenly from behind her. "Ziggy's earlier odds are going down faster than I can count. If you press now you may be able to get out of here. She now says it's something to do with Greg. Either way you've changed history and Julie doesn't die now. But since you still haven't leaped we figure you're here for him." "Can I have a glass of water?" Greg asked, talking over the end of Al's narrative. Melana shot Al a glance. "Sure, just hang on a minute. I'll be right back, okay?" She got up and left quickly, trailed at a close distance by Al. When they were out of earshot, she spun around on him. "Al, I don't know what is going on here, but that boy is obviously in some serious trouble and all you care about is getting me to leap." A guilty expression crossed the hologram's face before he could prevent it. "Melana, I just want what's best. You're just going to have to trust me." That was it. He had laid the ultimatum on the table without entirely realizing he had done it. Melana blinked in surprise. "What happened on my last leap?" "Nothing much," he replied without missing a beat. "Bull," she responded with equal determination. "I trust you, Al, you know that. Do you trust me enough to tell me?" "Melana..." "Oh, I understand." Her words were sharp. "I think I gave you too much credit, Al." Al started to back up at the statement, but then caught himself and fought to regain equilibrium. "I'm sorry, hon." She looked carefully at him and saw he wasn't going to back down. "I'm not supposed to ask, am I?" To Al, she suddenly looked incredibly young and he sighed and pocketed the handlink. Sometimes it was too easy to use it as a distraction for himself and she deserved his complete attention. "No. Melana, I'm begging you, don't ask again." She held his gaze for a moment longer and then nodded slowly. "I'm going to go see if I can't figure out what's wrong with that kid." "Do the best you can." "You gonna stick around?" she asked, trying not to make her tone cold and angry, but not succeeding. He shifted his weight. "Naw...I've got stuff I need to take care of. Unless you need me to hang around." She wasn't sure whether he wanted her to agree or disagree. "No," she said finally. "I can handle this." He remained impassive. "Okay, hon, I'll see you soon." The door opened and he disappeared within the silvery lining. The instant he vanished, she let out the breath she'd been holding. "Me and my stupid big mouth," she muttered, continuing on to the kitchen for the water. "Why couldn't I just have listened to him and left well enough alone?" "What did you do, bottle it yourself?" Julie demanded as she re-entered the room. "What?" Melana asked in confusion, stopping in her tracks. Julie's expression took on a condesending look and she stood to take the glass from "her mother". "Oh," the leaper said, realizing she was referring to both the water and the length of time she had been absent. "Sorry." The tension in the room rose a notch as Melana plotted her strategy. After the pause had become almost unbearable, she eased herself with exaggerated care to buy some time onto the couch next to Greg. He flinched anyway and she slid an inch or two away from him. He was staring at the fireplace on the far side of the room, at the wood panneling around the doorway next to it, anything to avoid making eye contact with anyone else in the room. "Greg," she said quietly, trying to catch his attention. She saw him trembling and the image of a wild animal came to mind; it was beginning to seem that the faster she moved through this, the more vast the chance he would be spooked into remaining silent altogether. "Greg, I know something's very wrong. I've known for a while and I only want to help you." Julie moved to sit on the coffee table in front of them. "Coward," she muttered, shaking her head. Melana almost gaped at the girl's insensitivity, then she saw the glances being stolen at his still figure and she realized that Julie obviously had a much better handle on the situation than she herself. "What are you going to do, Greg?" his girlfriend demanded. "Are you going to run forever, hiding from whatever scares you like a child? This is your chance, don't you get it?" His head snapped up and Melana shrank from what was in them, but Julie didn't so much as flinch and the leaper was even more certain that first impressions about Amy's daughter had been decieving. "My mother is offering to help you. Do you think you're going to get that chance a lot of times before you end up in a body bag?" He exploded up outward from his seat suddenly and Julie shot up almost simulaneously. "You don't know anything about it," he intoned, angry and hurt. "You couldn't." "Tell her," the girl challenged, motioning to Melana. "Tell. Her." He stood motionless, locked in some kind of bizarre final combat with the girl - no, Melana decided, woman - in front of him. Then his eyes closed into half-lucid slits and he fell back onto the couch just as Melana had risen. "It's...my family," he said, his voice ragged, the confession finally forced from him. Again, with perfect timing, Julie switched gears and her face became more gentle then Melana had yet to see it. "It's his father," she clarified, taking his hands as if to tell him he had done his part and she could carry him the rest of the way. "He beats up on him." She was about to respond when the sound of the Imaging Chamber Door made her jump. "You stopped Julie from trying to take action on her own," said Al's calm voice from somewhere behind her. "That's probably why she died. If she tried to stop Greg's father herself without help from her family or the authorities, it would have been an easy matter for his father to just shut her up and dispose of her. You did a wonderful job." She felt the unspoken forgiveness in his tone, at the same time offering an apology of his own. "What about Greg?" she asked in low tones. "If you help me, we can take care of him," Julie said softly, looking at Melana. "Sure." She smiled. "Greg, oh! Greg ends up living with Amy and her family until he's old enough to go out on his own. Julie goes to college and gets a degree in child psychology. Greg eventually marries, but not Julie. She never marries. He has two kids and is working as an assistant at a plant in Virginia." Tears had begun to flood Greg's eyes and she pulled him into a tight embrace, startling both Julie and herself. Only Greg seemed to find it natural and he sobbed like a baby in her arms as she tried her best to comfort him. As she listened to Julie's constant calming words, a sensation began to overwhelm her and for an instant reality dimmed and then returned. A piercing pain shot through her side and she held Greg a little tighter, trying to shield the both of them from it. ^"Melana!" Al said suddenly.^ She started to cry. ^"Melana, stop! Please, for God's sake, stop!"^ Whether it was a memory or reality, she couldn't say, but she felt the pain grip her again. It didn't release her again until, in a blaze of blue, she leaped. "Melana's leaped out." Al nodded, sucking on his cigar with careful attention, wondering if his relations with other people would ever be the same again. "Will she leap back in?" Gooshie bit absently on his lower lip as he searched for the answer. "I really can't say. It was real close there at the end. I think if she does, we're gonna have to get her out fast before she does remember." "The moment she leaps in, we'll get her, Al." Sam encouraged. "The moment," Al emphasized, staring pointedly at Gooshie.