An Indirect Rescue
Disclaimer: I do not own Quantum Leap.
It was late but Katie Beckett knew that she would have no more luck sleeping right then than she'd been having for the past three hours. She turned the light on in her room and put one of her records in, making sure that the volume was low enough that she didn't think it would wake anyone.
John Lennon's dream of a better world filled the air and Katie closed her eyes and swayed in time to the music, trying to get lost in the sound.
It was just getting to the end when she heard the door open briefly and then shut again.
"Imagine, huh? You always listen to this one," Tom noted.
Katie opened her eyes and tried to smile but didn't quite manage it.
Tom looked like he was about to ask her what was wrong but clearly thought better of it. "Can't sleep?"
Katie shrugged. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"No, it's fine," Tom assured her. "I was having a little bit of difficulty myself. And you know that nothing wakes Mom up."
"Not like Dad," Katie said softly. "He could wake up if you even thought about sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night."
Tom looked troubled. "Katie…" He didn't look like he knew what else to say. It wasn't like she expected him to.
"I wish Sam were here," Katie said, not looking at him.
There was a long silence.
"So do Mom and I. And I'm sure that Sam wishes that he could be here, too, it's just that he has all these tests coming up and-" Tom finally told her in a calm, measured tone.
"Tests," Katie scoffed. "He always has tests. He'll have more tests, too, by the time the year is out and then he'll have more tests next year. And if he really does become a doctor like he's always talking about...Why, he may never be finished with tests."
"That's not fair," Tom said quietly. "I'm sure that Sam would be here if he could but his teachers must not be willing to let him make the tests up. And you know how it is, there's weeks of not really doing nothing and then all at once you've got papers or tests – or both – in every class."
"This isn't any stupid little trip home that he's missing, Tom," Katie said icily. It wasn't his fault that Sam had let her down when she needed him most and she knew that, she did. Tom was just trying to make her understand but the thing was that she didn't want to understand. She wanted to be angry because it didn't leave much room for anything else and Tom was a more convenient target standing there in her bedroom than Sam was hundreds of miles away. "This is our father's funeral. He couldn't be here when he was dying and now he doesn't even have the decency to show up when we bury him!"
"Sam explained all of that, Katie," Tom said patiently. "We didn't even know how sick Dad was until the end and, honestly, I think he was a bit in denial even at the end. He didn't mean to miss out on the chance to say goodbye to Dad."
"Well goodie for him," Katie said angrily. "He's not the one who died waiting for someone who was never going to show up. You know that was the last thing Dad said to me? 'When is Sam going to get here?' I had to lie and tell him that he was on his way because I knew that he…that he wouldn't…"
"I'm sorry, Katie," Tom said, sighing deeply.
"What are you sorry about?" Katie asked petulantly. "You didn't kill him. And how can he be in denial anyway? He was the one who was all concerned about Dad eating right and getting exercise a few years ago. He even threw away his cigarettes."
"Well," Tom said meaningfully, "that was five years ago and he said a lot of things back then. It doesn't mean he can't change his mind."
Yes, he had said quite a few things, hadn't he? They hadn't all come true but…There was a reason she couldn't sleep tonight.
"I am never going to forgive him," Katie declared boldly.
Tom gave her a look that clearly said 'give me a break.' "You don't mean that."
Katie valiantly resisted the suddenly overpowering urge to stomp her foot seeing as how she was not, in fact, actually two. "I do, too! And even if I didn't, you're not a mind reader, Tom!"
"He's our brother," Tom said simply.
The foot-stomping impulse hadn't gone away and so Katie compromised by crossing her arms huffily. "Well he's not acting like it. He never comes home, you know, even before all of this started."
"Sam's very busy-" Tom tried to explain.
"So are you and you can still get back sometimes," Katie said stubbornly.
Tom sighed again. "That's different, Katie."
"How?" Katie challenged.
"I'm pretty well-established at my job. I can take time off when I need it to come and visit you. You know what colleges are like…Or at least you will, next year," Tom told her. Personally, she wasn't so sure of that. "They expect you to attend class every day you're not forcibly dragged to the hospital. And you know that we can't afford to pay for M.I.T. so he has to keep his grades up to keep his scholarships. The last thing that Dad ever wanted was to stand between Sam and his future."
"He's ashamed of us," Katie disagreed. "He's off with his new cool M.I.T. genius buddies and he can't bear to admit that he came from boring old Elk Ridge."
Tom looked at her seriously. "Now, Katie, you know that's not true."
And maybe she did know it, deep down, but why else wasn't Sam here? She didn't know how to deal with their mother by herself. Thelma was making a good showing but every time she saw or did something that reminded her of John – which, on their farm, was a frequent occurrence – she burst into tears. She never cried for long but it killed her to see it but she didn't know what to do.
It helped that Tom was here but Sam had always been the great comforter in the family, the one to always know just what to say. And she wanted both of her brothers with her now to remind her that everything wasn't lost.
Katie went back over to the record player and put the song on again.
"Sam hates this song," she said abruptly.
Tom blinked at the unexpected change of topic. "Oh?"
She nodded. "Yeah, he really does. He thinks it's unpatriotic with all that talk about how awesome the world would be without countries."
"You know you're the only one who uses that word, right?" Tom asked rhetorically. " 'Awesome.'"
"Well, I like it," Katie insisted. "And one day, it might just catch on. Sam said it would."
It took Tom a moment but he got it. "You mean when he…?"
"Yes," Katie confirmed. "He also told me that the Beatles would split up and sang this song to me. He called it his favorite. Well…he sang most of it anyway. I think I was crying too hard for him to finish."
Tom looked a bit uncomfortable, as he always was when presented with a crying female, even if it was just the mention of tears from years ago. "It is a very moving song."
Katie shook her head. "It wasn't that. I just didn't want you to die."
Tom came closer. "Hey, I didn't die. And I'll have you know that I was very careful on April the 8th. I stayed in the deepest, darkest hole in the ground that I could find and counted down the time all day until midnight, just like I promised."
"Sam wasn't right about that, no," Katie agreed. "But he said that Dad would die in a few years from his lifestyle and…well. And he knew about the Beatles and about Imagine! This was 1969, Tom, and Imagine only came out two years later."
Tom shrugged. "So Sam doesn't have the best track record when it comes to these things but made a few guesses. In hindsight, it seems so obvious that Dad's health would fail him. He just worked too hard and Grandpa died when he was around that age, too. And as for the Beatles…well, they'd have to split up eventually. They couldn't all play together until they were 100 and then die of old age in the middle of a rock concert!"
Katie actually giggled at that. "But what about Imagine?"
"You've got me there," Tom admitted. "Are you sure that those are the exact lyrics and you're not just remembering wrong?"
"I'm positive," Katie said firmly. "I had pretty much forgotten about the whole thing until I heard that song again and then I knew."
"Well, it looks like we're forced to face the fact that Sam wrong a brilliant song and John Lennon somehow got his hands on it and stole it," Tom said melodramatically. "It's chilling thinking of his spies scouring the world looking to rip off innocent song-writers."
"Stop it!" Katie ordered, giggling again.
"We've never really talked much about that time that Sam pretended he knew the future," Tom said carefully. "Though I won't deny that I was a little shaky that April the 8th. Having someone predicting your death, even if you know it's not true, is a bit worrying."
"I tried to talk about it to Sam once, a few weeks later," Katie confided. "He had no idea what I was talking about."
Tom looked surprised but quickly tried to hide it. "He probably just didn't want to talk about it. It must be pretty embarrassing to have worried everyone so with that cockamamie story about knowing the future."
"Maybe," Katie said doubtfully. "But it all comes back to Imagine. That's the one thing I can't explain away and, believe me, I spent every day from that Thanksgiving until you contacted us on the 9th assuring us that you were still alive trying."
"I don't know what to tell you," Tom admitted. "It is pretty weird."
"That's putting it mildly," Katie said, scooping her hair into a make-shift bun before letting it fall back down again.
Tom looked at her carefully. "Where's all this coming from? It was five years ago; why bring it up now?"
"Dad's death and yours and awesome and Imagine weren't the only things that Sam told me about," Katie admitted.
"What else did he say?" Tom asked gently.
"And it's just…I can't help but thinking…" Katie trailed off and tried again. "What if Sam wasn't making things up after all? And what if he wasn't hallucinating or whatever that doctor said? What if he really had come back from the future? You know that if anyone's smart enough to figure that out then it's Sam."
"If he really came back from the future then why would he tell us that it wasn't true?" Tom challenged but he didn't look as skeptical as Katie had expected. He looked like he was remembering something puzzling.
"I was crying," Katie explained. "Mom and Dad were getting upset because of that. We were all just humoring him and he probably realized that it wasn't working and so he wanted to make us stop worrying."
"Well, if he was from the future then I think I'm living proof that the future can be changed," Tom told her. "What did he tell you?"
Katie stayed silent, debating whether or not she should tell him.
"Katie," Tom said impatiently.
"There's this boy," she said slowly. "His name is Chuck."
Tom made a face. "What kind of a name is 'Chuck'?"
Katie smiled wistfully. "That's what I said what Sam told me about him. He said that I'm going to marry him one day."
"And you don't like having your future dictated to you?" Tom guessed.
Katie shook her head. "No, it's not that. Well, I mean maybe that should be it but I never really thought of that."
"Then what is it?" Tom wondered. "You're not sure if you should date other guys until you meet him? Because you know that Dad's position was that you shouldn't date until after marriage."
Katie smiled a little at that. "I remember. The thing is, Tom, that I already know a Chuck. In fact, I think that he's the one that Sam was talking about. And we have been dating."
Tom frowned, looking intently at her. "Are you nervous because of how important this relationship might be? Because, again, that future isn't set in stone and you're a long way off from your wedding day be it to Chuck or whoever else."
Maybe she wasn't as far off as Tom thought. Chuck got a job a few states over and he asked her to come with him a few days ago. It would have to be proper, of course, so they'd need to be married and she was legally old enough for that. She didn't quite feel old enough but then she didn't know that she ever would. She certainly didn't feel much older at seventeen than she had at twelve.
And she really did like Chuck but she knew that she wouldn't even be considering this if it weren't for her desperate need to get away. Almost losing the farm had killed their father even faster but luckily Tom had managed to come through for them and given probably more money than he could afford to let them stay in their home. John was glad to keep his home, of course, but Katie thought he was ashamed of having to rely on his son to ensure that.
Losing her father…It was still difficult to even believe she was dead. She'd catch herself thinking about something she wanted to tell him and then the news would hit her like the first time all over again. And she was just as reminded of him in this place as Thelma was. She didn't know if she could stand to stay here.
And Sam! He had it so easy, didn't he? He could just walk away from the family and not have to deal with any of the pain or the problems. Maybe he was hurting too but if that was the case then why wasn't he there? Why wasn't he ever there? Maybe he gave her the idea.
She really did like Chuck. He was sweet and handsome and hard-working and made her feel like she was at least five years older. He said that he loved her and no man had ever told her that before. He was a few years older than she was but that just meant that he'd know what he was doing when she didn't (and she never did, really).
She didn't know what to do but she didn't have time to think about it, either, as her best ticket out of this town was leaving tomorrow night.
"Sam said that Chuck has a drinking problem and that I shouldn't go out with him," Katie revealed.
"You clearly chose not to take that advice," Tom noted neutrally.
Katie rolled her eyes. "I didn't remember that bit, then. This was five years ago!"
"Katie," Tom said seriously, "does Chuck have a drinking problem?"
Katie shrugged. "I don't know. I really don't. I mean, he always has a lot of beer at his house and he always gets that to drink if we're at a restaurant or anywhere else. How am I supposed to know?"
"It would be a pretty terrible surprise if you did marry him one day and discovered that about him," Tom remarked.
"And the worst part is that I was twelve and Sam never actually did tell me that he thought you were going to die, I had to hear it when you guys were talking about it," Katie informed him.
"I don't follow," Tom admitted. "What does the one have to do with the other?"
"Well, if he was censoring himself about that then what if he's censoring himself about this?" Katie asked urgently. "What does 'a drinking problem' really mean, anyway? Does he yell a lot? Does he hit me? If we have kids, what would that be like?"
Tom looked faintly horrified. "You are way too young to be thinking about babies."
"I'm not that young," Katie muttered rebelliously, a stark contrast to how she had been feeling earlier.
Tom shook his head helplessly. "I don't know what to tell you, Katie. I've never been to the future and I've never so much as met this 'Chuck.' And if Sam did know anything about the future then he's gone back there now so we can't ask him for more information. I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life but if you're really going to start listening to the rantings of an extremely stressed sixteen-year-old then maybe you're just looking for an excuse to break up with him. You're hardly married and you don't have to stay with him if you don't want to."
Tom was right. He usually was. It was ridiculous, objectively, to start doubting your boyfriend because of something your brother can't even remember he said half a decade ago. But what if it was true? What if the whole reason that she was wondering about this was because she knew this wasn't the right path? But what was there if she stayed?
Katie looked away and scratched her arm. "I know that, I do."
"But?" Tom prompted.
"I just…I can't be here, Tom. I don't know how Mom can stand it," Katie confessed.
"It probably helps that she has you," Tom offered.
"I wish it worked that way for me," Katie replied.
"I know that it's hard," Tom said slowly. "And you're not going to want to hear this because nobody wants to hear this and it's really cliché but I still think it's true. It will get better. Every day will get easier and one day being here won't kill you anymore."
"I don't want to have to wait that long," Katie protested. "I don't think that I can."
"It's only a couple of months until you turn eighteen and a little after that that you graduate," Tom pointed out. "Graduating is very important. Even if you don't go to college, a good high school degree can make all the difference."
Katie rolled her eyes. "Yes, Sam."
"Just because Sam says it doesn't mean it's not good advice," Tom said unrepentantly. "It's just a little longer, Katie. You can hold on. And after that…well, after that you can do anything! You can go anywhere and be anything. You don't ever have to come back here if you don't want to."
"Just a little bit longer," Katie repeated quietly. She'd never be able to stay away forever; she could never do that to her mother. But maybe if she only had to come back every so often and it was for a visit then she could stand it. Or maybe she could stay in town and Thelma could come to her.
"You can hang on, can't you?" Tom asked her. "Can you be as strong as Dad always knew that you were?"
Oh, that wasn't fair. How could she possibly refuse when he brought their father into it?
But maybe it was okay to say yes. It was only a few more months, after all. And really, who couldn't handle a few more months?
"Yes," Katie said, steeling herself and resolving to tell Chuck that she couldn't go. "Yes, I can. And I will."
Tom patted the top of her head. "Good girl!" he said teasingly.
Katie stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed and, just for that moment, she believed that she really could make it through this.