An hour later, Christine was asleep and Sam was rummaging through the amount of paperwork that Scott had to complete. It was only 9:30 p.m., but Sam found himself yawning while he was reading. Al had left to check on Scott again, bringing no new information, due to the fact that Scott was still out cold.
Sam shot up as soon as he heard the cry coming from upstairs.
"Daddy?" she whispered first, then saw Sam. "Sam?" Her brown curls fell into her little face making her look a lot smaller than she was. Sam immediately flipped on the light and walked to the bed, sitting down on it, and realized the girl was shaking. He reached out for her, not sure what else to do. He didnt have kids, at least he didnt remember having kids (he could for all he knew), and had no idea how to handle the nightmares of a four-year-old. He just picked her up and held her in his lap until her shaking began to cease. He didnt want to ask her what the dream, or perhaps nightmare was a better word, was about, for fear of stirring up another scream from the girl.
Finally she seemed to settle in his lap, falling asleep. He laid her carefully back down in the bed, staring at her sleeping form for a second, a lump rising in his throat. Sighing, he shut the light and exited the room, still wondering what kind of nightmare could plague a girl so small.
It happened three more times that night, and each time it took longer for Christine to settle down. Sam didnt finish his paperwork and didnt get any sleep either. He suddenly understood why Scott had collapsed. The poor guy worked twelve hour shifts, then came home to a sleepless night spent comforting his daughter. To make matters even worse, Scotts beeper went off at about 4 a.m., and Sam had to get one of the neighbors (Scott was lucky he had an insomniac neighbor) to watch Christine as he ran back to the hospital. Returning to the house at 6:30 only to have to get Christine dressed, dropped off at preschool and back to work at 8, he was completely drained as he dragged his tired feet in the ER doors.
To make matters more worse, a tracker-trailer had caused a major accident on the near-by highway. Traumas came in and took up most of the day. Things quieted for a while after that and Sam did manage an hour of sleep somewhere, but when he looked at his watch and found it only three oclock he was ready to throw something at a wall hard. He was staring at the clock in the lounge, almost daring it to move, when Al showed up. Sams glance didnt turn from the wall.
"I never underestimated sleep so much," Sam said in a monotone, as he heard the chamber door.
"You should talk, Sam. For close to three years you lived on less than an hour of sleep a night. I practically had to drag you out of your office."
Sam ignored his comment. "Did Scott wake up yet?"
Al nodded, though Sam wasnt turned around to see it. "Yeah, about an hour ago." He walked into Sams view, blocking the clock Sam had been staring at. "Up and complaining. Doctors make the worst patients," he said with a smile.
Sams glance broke from the wall up to Al, smiling a bit. "Patient? What happened?"
"Well, Ziggy finally dug up part of the reason that youre here. Believe it or not, it _is_ actually to give the guy a break. According to Ziggy, in the original history, he collapsed at work today, right in the middle of a trauma room." Sam raised his eyebrow. "Yeah, not the best place to pass out, huh? Anyway, he spent about two and a half weeks in the hospital with a bad case of pneumonia and actually signed himself out way to early. He relapsed two weeks later."
"Well, I changed that, right?"
Al nodded. "Right. Now, Scotts in the _future_ with a bad case of pneumonia. If you want to believe Ziggys preliminary prediction, she thinks youre here to just give Scott some downtime."
"Well, the guys ., well, a wreck. Can barely keep his eyes open, delirious, stuff like that."
Sam looked down at his hands. "Did he say anything about Christine? She had some nightmares last night." He paused. "They werent just nightmares, Al. The little girl was terrified and shaking after them. Four times last night I had to go into her room and just pick her and rock her back and forth. She settled down eventually, but, Al, no little girl should go through nightmares like shes having. And I cant even guess what they are about."
"Neither can Scott. What I found out, or Beeks could get out of him, was that Christine has been having these nightmares since her mother left."
"Left? You mean the divorce?"
"Yeah. Scott couldnt tell us that much, but it turns out that his wife, Cara, just left one day, without packing. She left Christine sitting on the counter and thats where Scott found her when he got home from work." Sam saw Als eyes glance off at that sentence. He just looked up. Als past was a bit of a mystery to him, but he did remember something about his mother leaving. However, it wasnt enough to question Al.
"Poor kid. Is that what the nightmares are about?"
Al shrugged. "He doesnt know. During the day shes a normal kid, but at night she gets those terrors. His co-worker, Linda, has been telling him he should take her to a shrink."
Sam sighed. "Please dont tell me Im here to take a little girl to a psychiatrist."
"Nah, Ziggy gives that only 23% odds. Beeks says at that young, she may just remember the dreams being scary, but not what they are about. Taking her to seek professional help may only scare her more. She could never open up."
"So what am I supposed to do?"
"Well, maybe you should start with your job. I think youre being sought," Al answered pointing to the nurse in the door with a chart in her hand. Sam got up and took it walking out, surprised at the lack of a comment at the fact the nurse was attractive.
"Hes losing it. First its talking to thin air, then it just gets worse," she muttered to herself as she, too, walked into the hallway.
Eight oclock rolled around and Sam was glad to finally get to go home. Another night of nightmares from Christine was not something he was looking forward to, however. Al had nothing more to offer on the problem, and their visitor was having a hard enough time being lucid enough to remember his own name at this point. So, Sam brought home another load of paperwork (though he didnt think he would get a chance to do it), and found Christine standing in the door, a story book in her hand. She looked disappointed to see that Al wasnt there, so Sam took the book from her hands, and paid the babysitter.
"We finger-painted in art, today," she announced proudly as she held up a painting. Sam took one look at the paint in her hair and herded her upstairs and went through a ten minute argument on why she needed a bath.
"But I dont want a bath!!!" Her high pitched voice was adding to the headache that Sam already had from work.
"You _need_ a bath," he said, lifting her towel wrapped self and placing it in the tub, ignoring the squeals. She did settle after a few minutes and succeeded in splashing and completely soaking Sam. He immediately felt for every parent and the many clothes they must get wet during baths.
A half-hour later, after a story and two trips to the bathroom, Christine was asleep, but if tonight was to be anything like last night, he knew it wasnt going to last long. He searched the medicine cabinet and came up with two Tylenol for his headache just as he heard the chamber door opening behind him.
"If it means anything to you, Christine missed your story-telling tonight. Im just not the same," he said as he swallowed the Tylenol.
"Nobody ever is," was Als reply. Sam wished for the life of him that he could remember Als four daughters, but he could still only remember the four ex-wives. It took time, he supposed, and his swiss-cheesed brain may never remember it. As long as he was leaping anyway.
"Please tell me that youre not just here to say hi," he said, with a tired sigh. "And that you know why Im here. _Completely_."
"As a matter of fact, Ziggy just dug something up."
"What would that be?" He shut the cabinet.
"Well, two days for now, Scott - you - drops Christine off at preschool and goes to work. Sometime between the time you drop her off and noon, Christine disappears."
"Disappears?" He lowered his voice as he walked past Christines bedroom and down the stairs where he found Al waiting for him at the bottom.
"Without a trace. The teacher had her back turned for a second, but when she turned back, Christine was gone. In the original history, Scott had been out of it at the hospital, but when he found out what had happened he signed himself out early. You changed history on Scotts end, but Christine still disappears. The article Ziggy found on the disappearance says that the police suspected foul play."
That got Sams attention. "Foul play?"
"Yeah, it seems that Scott never bought that. He thought she was taken by one person."
"Her mother," Sam replied before Al could continue.
He nodded. "And Ziggy says that the odds that shes going to take her are 89%. Either way, whoever takes her, she never comes back. Even in our time, shes still on milk cartons. Guess Scott never gave up on looking for her."
"So I just wont let her go to preschool that day. That seems easy enough."
Al shook his head. "Ziggy says even if you can keep at home, the chances of you keeping her completely within your sight are low." He lowered the handlink and sighed. "Shes four. She wont just stay put. Even if her father were here, which hes not, _he_ couldnt even make her sit still."
Sam threw his hands up. "So now what do I do?"
Al shrugged. "Buy one of those kiddie hand-cuff like things? Beth used to have one of those with Trudy. As soon as she learned to walk, she learned to wander."
Sam just looked at him. "Somehow I dont think thats going-" His sentence was interrupted by a scream.
"What did you say?" he asked Al as he walked out of the now sleeping girls room.
"Oh, nothing really. Just the usual stuff."
"Whats the usual stuff?"
He grinned. "How dreams cant hurt you and sometimes they are like pieces of a puzzle thats not quite put together in your head. And when some pieces get mixed up, well you get bad dreams."
Sam had to smile at that. "Who told you that?"
"Well, one night Trudy had such a bad nightmare that Beth and I couldnt say anything to calm her down. I dont know how I came up with that, maybe it was a lack of sleep, but I did, and she went to sleep."
He shook his head. "Four daughters," he repeated to himself.
"You dont remember them, Sam?"
He looked up at Al. "No, not really." He wasnt going to tell Al that he remembered another lifetime. Not yet, at least. Hed changed things for the better for Al; he didnt need to know the details. He just hoped hed never figure there _were_ details.
"You look beat, Sam. Get some rest," Al took him before disappearing and Sam found himself staring into the thin air where he had been for a few minutes afterward. Hed had a couple of leaps after he changed Als life before this one, but he didnt find himself dwelling so much on it before now. He was glad to see his friend happy; glad to hear about four women that neither existed before. He sighed and walked over to the paperwork he had left on the coffee table, pushing it out of his mind.