Fan Fiction - Written by Paul Austin - Sam Series

01 * Demons and Angels
Written by: Paul Austin

Author's note: In "Full House," Stephanie's character could easily have become a Principal's Assistant like those down in Australia; her presence as such may well explain some things, as noted in other stories. However, what if she had a really wild child to handle? Could she? This first in a series of (Book Universe) stories will examine just how she might have handled having a very unruly kid, with parents who just won't fulfill their duties, leaving the schools and others to raise their kid. This story also looks at the unseen battles that can occur at times like this.

Fifteen-year-old D.J. Tanner walked into the bedroom of her sisters, Stephanie and Michelle. The girls were about to start fifth and first grade, respectively. And, D.J. had been thinking.

Since she'd met Steve, the "most awesome boy ever" in her words, during a class trip to Spain, she hadn't spent as much time with her sisters as she might otherwise. That had bugged her a little. Then, she'd gotten an idea. She walked into their room to see Stephanie, ten, just getting her shoes off. Michelle had already donned her pajamas for bed.

"He, guys. You know what I was thinking? When was the last time we prayed?"

"Last Easter. I ate all that chocolate and prayed I wouldn't get sick," Michelle said.

"It was after that," Stephanie said with a grin. She removed her scrunchie and fluffed her long blonde hair so it flopped down over her shoulders. "Not long after, though," she had to admit.

"I know. We don't do it like Mom would have with us. And, even she didn't pray with us all the time." Their mother had died in an accident over five years ago. "Still, this will be your first full year as Principal's Assistant, Steph. You've got a lot of responsibility, comforting and disciplining kids and all that. The principal's more than glad to let you handle that job that you've established while he handles administrative duties. But, you can't do it all yourself."

Stephanie nodded slowly. Not only was their dad still there to help, but their Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky - in the third floor attic apartment - and their dad's best friend Joey - who lived in the basement apartment - could also give her advice. However, they couldn't be with her all the time. And, sometimes she had to make snap decisions.

Stephanie reflected on the time she prayed that her "best friend" be found; a favorite stuffed animal named Mr. Bear, which her mother had given her when Michelle was born. She nodded in agreement. That prayer had worked, even though she'd known God was always very busy with more important matters. So, why not pray here, too?

Michelle walked over, and the sisters held hands as Michelle said, "But, I don't need any help."

"Michelle, the idea is we pray together. Just believe, and pray what comes into your heart." D.J. sensed Michelle was likely too young to understand salvation by grace through faith, or other things. But, she would be helping to get her youngest sister off on the right path this way, as she had done with other things. Though Jesse and Joey had moved in as the primary care givers, D.J. had still been quite Mom-like at times.

The older sisters were mystified, though. After D.J. asked for "wisdom and guidance for Stephanie," and Stephanie prayed to have a good, safe, fun year, Michelle prayed, "And please give Stephanie patience when she handles the really bad kids." Michelle scrunched up her face as if she'd bitten into something very yucky as she said this.

Stephanie looked oddly at Michelle. "We don't have any kids that bad at our school," she said with great confidence.

With childlike innocence, Michelle shrugged. Something had made her think of that, and she didn't know why. "I know. I just felt like praying it."

Danny Tanner, their dad, walked in after watching for a moment. "Well, I'm sure it worked," he said as he picked Michelle up, carried her over to her bed, and began tucking her in. He turned back to D.J. and said, "You know, honey, Uncle Jesse and Joey moved in to help. But, I've really been proud of you. You've always been there when needed. I didn't get as involved in stuff like prayer, not like your mom, but..." He caught himself rambling in his typical way. "Well, anyway, I'm glad you thought of that. I'm sure it helped."

Jesse nodded. He'd walked across the hall after retrieving something in Danny's office. He wore a cross necklace that had been Pam's. "Yeah, your Mom would be really proud."

Up in Heaven, Angel Stephanie - A-Stephanie - smiled. A new battlefield was forming in the spiritual realm, one which would really test Stephanie. A battle which formed as the Lord put something in Stephanie's life that He knew she could handle, if she chose and did things right, something that required a person like Stephanie to handle.

The guardian angel watched and waited, as all Heavenly angels did, for commands from God Being angels of light, and not the ones that had rebelled, these angels would obey. The prayer, prompted by God the Holy Spirit in D.J., and aided by Stephanie and the blissful innocence of the young Michelle, had done something very important, though, before the battle even began.

A-Stephanie's counterpart, Devil-Stephanie, might have had a part in the battle. That part had been uncertain. But now, D-Stephanie was banished from the battle itself, and could only influence things from the outside. This would greatly increase Stephanie's chances of success in the conflict.

D-Stephanie scowled and fumed as she paced up and down. This D-Stephanie was much different from the one in the mortal realm and from A-Stephanie. D-Stephanie had close cropped blonde hair and wore a leather jacket and black pants. Completing the ensemble was three piercings - two in D-Stephanie's ears and one in her nose. She had an ever-present scowl and a voice that sounded something like her mortal counterpart but oozed malice in every utterance.

The seal on the part of the spiritual realm where she had been banished was tight. Not as tight as the impregnable seal around Stephanie's soul. D-Stephanie still couldn't believe how she'd blown that one! She'd induced Stephanie to fall for temptation by crashing Joey's car through the kitchen. And then what happened? Stephanie had not only come home and confessed, later that evening the then-eight-year-old girl had asked, "Why are you so nice to me?" That had led to a discussion on God's grace and mercy. Stephanie soon was bowing beside her bed and trusting Christ to forgive her for her sins and get her to Heaven. The family didn't go to church much. But, they still knew that was crucial.

Stephanie's soul was forever safe from the devil now. But, D-Stephanie was about to try to mess with other things. Stephanie's nature made her very warm, compassionate, and so on. So, D-Stephanie wasn't very powerful. However, D-Stephanie still had ways to scheme and make Stephanie the most horrible witness she could. With lots of work, maybe she could even make sure Stephanie turned totally from God and entered Heaven embarrassed by having no rewards.

No, that would be very hard. But, D-Stephanie could certainly try, from the outside, to wreck things, she thought to herself as she smiled cruelly and looked around the "room with no doors" that was her home. The room matched D-Stephanie's personality and outlook and was a shrine to bad kids everywhere.

A van carrying children from Fraser St. daycare to the elementary school of the same name pulled up tot he school. Unlike the other students entering Kindergarten Samantha Lynne Burke - known to all as Sam - had nobody walking to class with her. Even the other daycare kids had at least one parent who anxiously entered Kindergarten with them their first day. Not Sam, though.

"Hey, outta my way," Sam declared, pushing past some kids, almost pushing a couple over. At least she was out of daycare - they had too many rules. Of course, they weren't as strictly enforced as they could be, with so many kids they could miss something easily enough. But, Sam still thought this scene seemed so much better. Especially because she would be in the day-long Kindergarten program, which two of the three classes were in.

Sam wore a t-shirt and thick blue jeans, and wore her black hair cut so short, most would think she was a boy. A newly four-year-old boy, at that, for this five-and-a-half year old girl was small for her age, the result of just of sweets and a very unhealthy diet.

Sam noticed some cookies and cartons of milk on a tray, and ran over to grab one of each. The teacher tiredly escorted her back to her seat for story time, and Sam decided to sit there and listen for a few minutes. She didn't have much of an attention span, but at least something would be going on. But, at the first chance, she would be up doing her own thing.

The teacher let out a sigh as the day wore on, and she found herself correcting Sam more and more for her disturbances. This could be a loooong year, she said to herself.

Indeed, merely two days later, the teacher had seen one gleefully thrown eraser too many. She escorted Sam to the principal's office, where she saw two other children waiting in the outer office while Stephanie counseled a homesick boy inside. She instructed Sam to sit in a seat and wait for Stephanie. Maybe this will do some good, she thought to herself.

Stephanie was in the office talking to a boy named Peter. She was glad to see his tears were all gone now. " I walked my little sister back to her class last year, and introduced her, and said how cool she was. And by the end of the day, she loved it."

"But you said that was her first day last year. I've been here three days and I can't even read yet."

"But, you will. Sometimes these things take time." Stephanie knew this boy was only in the half-day program from what she'd been told. She understood; it would be hard for him in full-day Kindergarten. "My sister D.J. didn't even know the girl who's her best friend now till six months went past." Kimmy Gibbler was quite odd at times, so D.J. might have wondered how to approach her, but it was still a good illustration to use. "You'll find something fun to do, and great people to play with; at least it's not really scary, huh?"

At that moment, she heard a yelp outside. Sam was laughing and pinching another child. She'd also thrown papers around the outer office, which the secretary was frantically trying to clean up. It appeared there were two more homesick or lonesome children there, along with one who made Dennis the Menace look like the model of good behavior.

"How rude," Stephanie scolded as Sam pinched again. Stephanie decided she'd better take care of this situation first. The three others - counting the one in her office - were obviously rather scared of Sam. "Peter, will you please wait outside. I know all three of you just need hugs, but this kid must need a long timeout," Stephanie said, pulling the girl into her office and closing the door.

Before Stephanie could get a word in, though, Sam kicked her. "I'm not listening to any more rules! I had enough of them in daycare and now this place has more!"

Stephanie ordered Sam to sit in the corner chair reserved for timeouts. Sam merely stood defiantly as Stephanie glanced at the note the teacher had written, then handed it back to the secretary.

"All right, Sam," Stephanie scolded

"All right, Sam!" Sam repeated.

"That's not funny!"

"That's not funny!"

Stephanie grinned mightily. The coup de grace for echoers, she said to herself. "I need a long timeout!"

"I need..." Sam scowled. She would not be fooled. Instead, she pushed Stephanie hard and tried to bolt out the door.

Stephanie glowered, thinking of the pain Sam was causing the other kids and the incredible disobedience she was exhibiting. She grabbed Sam with her left hand, and heard those words that sounded like a mixture of her mother's and D.J.'s and...some...her dad's voice: "Remember, use your words." Instead of hitting, she marched Sam over to the chair, which had not yet been turned around for timeout enforcement. She sat down in it, and put Sam on her lap. She cuddled Sam while talking firmly yet gently to her about why rules were meant to be followed, along with why what she was doing was so bad.

She issued a final warning to this roughhouser, all the time wondering what, if anything, Sam's parents did to teach her manners. "You will find me tough, but fair. I will be forgiving. But, I can also be very tough. Especially if you hurt my little sister, Michelle. Let this be a warning to you. I hear that you already were behaving very badly with others kids, and even hurting them. If you would ever hurt Michelle, the consequences will be quite severe!"

Sam shuddered and nodded slowly. Coupled with Stephanie's other scolding remarks about how mean it was to hurt anyone - and what harm pinching, etc., can do - it really made Sam sit up and take notice. She hated rules; but, she knew that this was one she had to listen to for her own good.

D-Sam snickered and rubbed her hands. "All right. I almost got Stephanie to spank her right away. That really would have wrecked Stephanie's chances to start getting Sam to be good and respond positively to her quickly."

"Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades," A-Stephanie remarked.

D-Stephanie said, "And atom bombs, don't forget atom bombs."

"Speaking of which, if I can get Michelle to get into some kind of tussle with Sam tomorrow..." D-Michelle began

"That would never work. Michelle's too nice," A-Michelle remarked.

"Man, this is maddening; I agree with her," D-Sam told D-Michelle. The demons all appeared to look like biker chick versions of the physical world counterparts. "But, the key is to get Sam scared of Michelle; she will be anyway, even without the dream I'm going to give her. Then this goody-goody Angel Michelle can't do anything to help Sam become friends with her."

That night, Sam had a nightmare. She was running through the halls of the school. And, everywhere she looked, there were Michelles. They started chasing her, and finally, she awoke crying.

Nobody would come to her, her parents were too exhausted from work. But, she was used to that. Having so little of comfort and care at any time, it seemed, over the years that made Sam so hardened, at only five-and-a-half.

There had been a small number of more consistent workers at the daycare; it wasn't 100 turnover all the time, of course. Miss Jean was nice. She had gray hair, and was a retired Kindergarten teacher herself. She'd been there since almost day one for Sam, but even she realized Sam was getting to be a handful. She'd sit in the back of the daycare van with the children, and try to encourage them as they went to school. That next morning, she sensed Sam looked scared - but thought little of it. "I know that big school might seem scary, but you'll make some friends," she said warmly to Sam.

Once the children were let off the van, the driver said, "I wonder how the school's handling things with her."

"I don't know; I hope someone can get through to her. Is that the school with the PA position; maybe a girl like that..." Jean sighed.

The diver sensed her frustration as they drove off. "You do a great job Jean. Sam is a tough case." She chuckled a bit. "Yeah, I know; tell you something you don't know. But, you've given her enough help to get to this level, anyway."

When Sam got off the daycare van, she glanced very nervously at Michelle, who had just gotten done talking to Stephanie; she heard Stephanie call her Michelle. From the looks, she could tell that was the one Stephanie mentioned.

Michelle looked at her friends Cassie Wilkins and Denise Fraser. "Who's that, and why does she look scared when she looks over here?"

"Maybe there's a mouse," Cassie said nervously as she glanced around her on the playground.

"There's no mice here," Denise said confidently. "Ill go ask her." Several moments later, Denise walked back and said, "That girl says she's afraid of you. Talk about weird."

"I'll say; I don't even know her. I've never seen her, in fact."

She felt her hair. Maybe Jeff Farrington, a boy in her class, had put a spider in her hair. He was a real practical joker. However, she felt no insects.

Michelle felt sad. She didn't want anyone to be scared of her. So, she decided to go up to Sam and say "hi." "Come on," she said, motioning her friends to follow her.

Sam backed up a few steps as Michelle approached her. "It's okay, I'm not a mouse." Michelle grinned and added a joke to lighten the mood. "Besides, Joey says you have to run to a chair and stand on it if you see a mouse. That's what they do in the cartoons."


"See, Joey's my dad's best friend. And, he loves cartoons. Anyway, my name's Michelle."

"I'm Sam," Sam said, very reluctantly shaking the hand Michelle had extended.

"Sam I am. Would you like green eggs and ham," Jeff joked as he walked by. Sam scowled at him.

"That's Jeff. He's nuts sometimes." Jeff had read "Green Eggs and Ham" recently, and loved to make jokes from it. "You don't have to look mean at him. If you don't like it, just say, 'Jeff, please don't make fun of my name.'"

Sam sighed. She was hearing more rules. And yet, this Michelle sounded really nice about it.

"Or, you could say something silly. Joey taught me this one. 'I would not like them in the dirt. I would not like them down my shirt.'" Michelle could hear Jeff chuckling.

"Does Joey teach you lots of dumb stuff?" Sam asked. She thought it was a little funny. But, she didn't want to expose her feelings, lest they be hurt.

"It's not dumb. Joey's a great guy. He moved in to raise Stephanie, D.J., and I when our mom died."

"Oh." Suddenly, Sam realized why Stephanie had said that about Michelle. Stephanie was protecting her. It was like some parents she'd heard about, how they looked out for their youngsters. She wished she had parents like that.

Michelle told Stephanie once they got home that she'd met Sam. "She's not afraid of me anymore. In fact, she seemed kind of nice. But, she was rude, too."

"Sam's like that," Stephanie related. "She..." How would Stephanie put this? She didn't want to make it seem too sad to her little sister. "Well, she has quite a few problems. I think I'll be seeing a lot of her in my office, I'm afraid."

"Maybe you should move your office into her classroom," Michelle suggested.

"That might not be a bad idea," Stephanie deadpanned before going to their dad and relating what she'd learned about Sam. As they sat on the couch, Stephanie explained. "Her parents both work a lot. They drop her off at daycare at about 7:30 and pick her up at 6:30. The daycare has reported lots of bad behavior to them, but they haven't done anything about it. They usually don't even return the calls, or answer any notes. It's like they don't even know she exists."

"It's going to be a rough one, huh? You know, you can let the principal handle this one, I'm sure."

"When I have to; like trying to contact the parents." Stephanie sighed. "I really should try to see if Sam's daycare needs any help. I mean, we can work together on stuff."

Danny asked if Sam seemed well cared for physically.

"Well, yeah, pretty much. I mean, I think what she gets at daycare or at school is the best stuff she eats. At least, that's when she probably eats most often. And, she has clean clothes. She takes showers in the locker room of that building the daycare's in, some of the older kids do that. So, physically, she's fine. It's just that attitude," Stephanie said with a little disgust, making her hands form half fists. "Dad, I know I don't have to do everything. But, that girl needs help. And, I'm going to try to do that."

"Okay." He kissed her on the forehead. "Just remember last year with dance, sweetheart. Don't let it take up all your time like that wound up doing."

"I won't, Dad."

"Great. Just remember, we're here to help, whenever you have any questions or need someone to talk to."

"I know, Dad."

"Tell you what, we'll call the daycare together. Maybe they have concerns you hadn't heard about or thought of. You don't have to try to be the mom. But, I guess if you're not putting too much pressure on yourself, you can try to be a big sister."

"Thanks." They embraced. Stephanie was really glad to have such a wonderful, supportive family.

Sam thought Michelle seemed really nice. However, she continued to have a great distaste for most rules. The frustrating part to her was, Stephanie was so consistent at enforcing them, as were the teachers.

She continued to try to fight them, especially when it came to timeout. If a teacher or PA removed recess privileges, which happened often, there didn't seem to be a way around that. But, she needed to be held down by Stephanie a time or too, until she decided to relent.

Her diet got better, though, with Stephanie and the school nurse - whom Stephanie also became quite acquainted with in helping Sam - talking to her about eating better, and trying to ensure she did at school, at least. She'd gotten somewhat portly because of the sweets she sometimes seemed to live off of. However, that went away rather quickly, with the stricter diet they tried to put her on. And, she grew bigger, too, which helped a lot. Which meant that soon, she was able to totally free herself from Stephanie's grip a time or two when she was being walked over to the timeout chair.

This meant problems for the daycare, though. Problems that had been looming for a long while.

A couple weeks into the school year, Miss Jean stepped out of the daycare van and went up to Stephanie after the school day was over, before the van picked up the children. "I just wanted to meet you, and thank you for helping with Sam so far."

"You're welcome," Stephanie said as they walked from Stephanie's classroom to her office. "I'm trying, anyway."

"She says she likes you. How has she been as far as physical stuff?" Jean wanted to know. "Because, at the daycare, I've taught her to use a gentle touch, tried to instill some kindness and such in her. I've been at that daycare since she was about five months old; I'm their most consistent worker. But, I can only do so much."

"She's been okay. She was playing around pinching kids one of her first days, but I had a long talk with her about that; a long, loud talk," Stephanie emphasized. "She's been pretty good since then. How is she there?"

"Well, that's what I wanted to talk to you about; just so you can have some warning. I try to cuddle and talk with her and encourage her just like you." Stephanie thanked her, and said she seemed to need a lot of that. "She does. Sometimes I think she'd just sit in my lap and let me tell her stories all day, every day if I could," Jean said, lamenting the fact there was such a crowd at that daycare. "But, she hasn't been behaving well at all there, and frankly, as much as I've tried to teach her, sometimes she still acts like a child a few years younger. She hasn't really hurt anyone yet; whatever the problems are, I feel like I'm just holding down the fort till some other help comes. But, I worry time might be running out; they're thinking of asking the parents to remove her."

"Is she violent at all, or what?"

"Not that so much as riling the others up and not listening. You know how little kids are so often 'monkey see, monkey do?' Stephanie grinned as Jean continued. "So, if she runs around throwing paints all over, other kids will, too. I can see you're helping some, but some days I think if she were on a van with the U.S. Supreme Court justices, you'd have all these dignified older men and ladies sticking their heads out the window, throwing crayons, and climbing over the seats."

"Thanks. It's good to have a sense of humor about it. Our mom always talked about giving away smiles. I'll try to talk with her some about it; but, there are a lot of things that need help with this situation." Already, Stephanie mused aloud, "Maybe I should just make my office portable."

The Tanners had gotten Sam in to see their pediatrician, to make sure nothing else was wrong. Dr. Landress had been busy, considering the short notice, and so his partner, Dr. Beth Fuller, had seen Sam. She didn't think it was a problem worth reporting to the authorities, but said it should be monitored carefully.

When Sam's behavior continued to be really bad at the daycare weeks later, the daycare threatened to kick her out if something wasn't done; and, they might report the problem to the authorities, in conjunction with Dr. Fuller.

The parents were grateful that Stephanie was there, and that Stephanie had grown so much in her relationship with Sam. Sam often came to her after nightmares the previous night, or with worries, or just for a hug. They were really glad Stephanie was willing to go to the daycare to help. And, everyone at the daycare hoped Stephanie could solve somehow.

A-Stephanie smiled sweetly as she and A-Michelle kept whispering words of encouragement to Stephanie - and to Sam. While D-Sam was very powerful, they were finding that they could whisper words of encouragement in Sam's ear a little. Maybe not much, but a little.

D-Sam laughed with scorn at them. "You better save that for your own earthly charges. Sam still won't listen, and she's becoming enough of a problem the daycare told Stephanie if she's having any luck at all with Sam, she should come there, too, or they might have to kick Sam out of there. Then the parents will be forced to find somewhere else for that kid they never planned, anyway." D-Sam cackled. "I've got Sam totally under my control."

"No, you don't," A-Michelle responded.

"Where there's life, there's hope," A-Stephanie added. "Besides, she'd be below the age of accountability anyway, so even if she were to die she'd still be saved, thanks to Calvary."

"You blabber as much as Stephanie on earth," D-Sam cried. "Well, while you're here failing miserably at making Sam think that she has to be nice, your counterparts are making Michelle jealous and making her fail miserably when she tries to help."

"God has that part well in hand," A-Stephanie retorted. "We're not the only angels around, and they're certainly not the only people down on earth."

It was early October. "Hey, Sam. How would you like to be my visitor tomorrow at our Honeybees

meeting?" Michelle said cheerfully one day as she saw Sam get out of the van at school.

Sam looked oddly at Michelle for a moment. "You mean that bunch of kids who run around in bee costumes?" The Honeybees held their meetings in the same community center that housed Sam's daycare and a preschool - one could see them entering in their outfits from the daycare's playground.

Michelle didn't know better, so she didn't treat the comment as a sarcastic put-down, which it had been. Instead, she laughed - just like Joey would when their Uncle Jesse teased about his childishness. "Yeah. We decided yellow and black look prettier than orange and purple."

Sam laughed. "That would look ugly!" she said scornfully. She'd grown to like Michelle, but she was still quite cynical.

"It sure would. So, would you like to come?"

"No. It's probably just another dumb place where you have to be good!"

Michelle looked sadly at her. "But, being good is fun." When Sam scowled, Michelle let the matter drop. She wished she could understand Sam. She felt bad for her.

She told Stephanie what she'd tried as they were going home from school that day.

"Thanks. I'm glad you're trying. The daycare's struggling, too. Any day now, I might get a call from them asking me to come correct Sam, since they know she responds to me. I hope she can see how much I care; like when we found my old dance teacher to babysit for her once when she was worried some mean kid would come and just lock her in the bathroom when she didn't want to listen. She's come to me for a lot. It's going to take a while."

Michelle was disappointed. She'd been told that Sam needed Stephanie, and this was her way of trying to spend more time with Sam herself. She wished she could figure out how to do that other than inviting Sam to do fun things with her. Because, Sam just didn't seem to want to.

At the same time that afternoon, Jesse and Becky were discussing the situation downstairs in the Tanner living room.

"Does this kid even have parents?"

Becky shook her head and folded her arms. "No, Jess. She has answering machines. They promise to get back to her as soon as possible; but that's generally for a few seconds a day or two later."

"Poor kid. At least Stephanie's helping her," Jesse murmured. He'd asked Joey to handle the radio program that they hosted himself that day. Becky needed to get the twins to their doctors' appointments, and Danny was working on something late for the show he and Becky hosted.

When the phone rang, Jesse gave it to Stephanie; she and Michelle had just dropped off their bookbags and come downstairs. From the look on Stephanie's face, he knew right away that this was the call she'd been dreading. Once Stephanie hung up, Jesse said, "They're askin' you to make your office portable, huh?"

Stephanie smiled as Jesse's attempt at humor. "Yeah. Sam was playing with something, and some two-year-old came over and grabbed it. They got in a tussle, and Sam scratched him a couple times." Stephanie shook her head; it had been a little over a month since they'd met her. "Don't her parents know she does these things?"

"Probably not." Jesse let her snuggle with him on the couch for a second before going to get the car. "I know, it's a horrible situation," he said as he placed an arm her. "But, these are the kind of people who just don't understand they have a responsibility. They figure anyone can do their jobs, and if Sam ever said she wished they were there more, they'd say she was bein' selfish. So, it's up to someone else to care. Thankfully, she has that someone. A wonderful, loving, and determined girl, who I am proud as heck to call my niece."

Stephanie was beaming now. Jesse knew just how to lift peoples' spirits, and tell them exactly what they needed to hear. Some of it was from experience, of course. "Thanks. I guess you know I'm going to have to be pretty tough," she said as they walked toward the door.

Michelle came back into the living room with a cookie. "Where are you going?"

"I'm just going over to the daycare to take care of a problem. You stay here with D.J. and Steve; they're upstairs studying."

"Why can't I come with you?"

Jesse knelt down to her level. "Listen, Steph has to deal with Sam. And, Sam scratched up a little two-year-old. She doesn't want you to get hurt."

"I don't want Stephanie to get hurt, either," Michelle insisted.

"Don't worry. Once I start yelling, she won't do it anymore. In fact, you're more than welcome to sit on the front stoop. It might be a little scary to hear me yelling so much in person, but you might be able to hear me lecturing from there," Stephanie quipped, trying to convince her.

It hadn't worked. "I wouldn't be scared."

"That's what you said before you talked Dad into letting you ride the Scream Machine at the amusement park last weekend. Which happened several hours before I woke up with my little sister holding on to me for dear life in my bed because she'd had a nightmare," Stephanie pointed out with a loving, yet firm, smile. The ten-year-old hastened to add, "Don't worry about me, Michelle. I won't be scared."

"Well, if you are you may still come in my bed. But, you have to close your eyes and be quiet," Michelle said, repeating her older sister's rule for her. Stephanie snickered and mussed her hair a little before she left.

Stephanie thought about what Jesse had said as she rode with him to the daycare. "I'll wait here in the parking lot for you to come out, unless you need me," he told her.

"It's okay, Uncle Jesse." Stephanie got out of the car. "I have a mouth and I know how to use it," she joked.

"Yeah, well, just remember, there's other kids there. Of course, I don't need to tell you that. That's one of the things you do best, comforting them when they're scared."

Stephanie agreed. She supposed she understood that really well, given how she felt sometimes. Indeed, while she had never been to this part of the community center - only the preschool and clubhouse part, the latter of which had housed Honeybee club meetings - memories came flooding back in bits and pieces. Running outside with several other preschoolers to see a nest a family of robins had built in a tree one spring, for instance.

Sam could have such fun memories, too. But, she never listened long enough to have them.

"Hi, I'm Stephanie Tanner," she informed the daycare worker at the front door. They'd talked on the phone and they'd gone there before with Danny, asking about Sam. When told that Sam wouldn't even stay in the timeout room they had set aside for the especially rowdy kids - as opposed to the simple chair in the corner - she became furious.

"All right, kids. You are about to hear some very loud yelling. I suggest you cover your ears," she informed the other ones, before glaring hard and walking right toward Sam.

Sam, for her part, was stunned. She had never expected Stephanie to show up at daycare. She was a principal's aide; principal's aides didn't leave the school, did they? Well, maybe they did, since they were also students, but still, shouldn't she be home?

Instead, as Stephanie started lecturing, Sam realized that this girl was going to make her behave, one way or another. And, the rules she laid down here were obviously going to be as firm as those in school.

Sam remained quiet. And cowed, as Stephanie got in her face. Her lower lip quivered nervously, but she wouldn't show how frightened she was. She felt like she had to maintain a tough attitude - it was hard enough dealing with parents who never cared, or workers who were way too busy and inconsistent.

Of course, this Stephanie seemed to care sometimes. But, Sam was more interested in being good because Stephanie was being so loud. Sam didn't like that yelling one bit, either.

Stephanie's concern for her at other times certainly helped her decide to behave, though. She'd spent much time talking with her and being nice to her. And, that was having some impact, though she still felt the need to have that thick wall around her.

Sam sat in the corner as told after the mammoth lecture, mostly because she'd been told Stephanie would huge and comfort her when it was over. But, Stephanie was getting frustrated, too. She'd had to hold her down a little as it was, and that was getting harder.

Stephanie and Sam cuddled and talked for a moment after it was over, and Stephanie made her go and apologize to the small child for hurt him. "Thanks, Stephanie," Jean said after Sam did what she was told.

"You're welcome."

Jean knelt down to Sam's level. "I've always said you have to be nice, haven't I?" Sam sighed, and leaned against Stephanie. "I guess I never really felt right really getting in her face," Jean told Stephanie. "She seemed like she just needed attention. So, that's what I'd give her. I'll try to give timeout, but if Sam won't listen, well, I guess I'm just a little more passive. Although, maybe how you've been here is more what she needs." She couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of saying this to a ten-year-old, but she asked, "Do I have your permission to threaten to call you if she won't behave, since we can never reach her parents?"

"Anytime, Miss Jean," Stephanie said, using the daycare name for her in front of the others. "But, she's not going to have to call, right?" Stephanie asked Sam, who shook her head.

Jean smiled gratefully. At times, it seemed like her, perhaps the maid some when Sam was really little, and maybe a few other workers were trying to patch a battleship with chewing gum and duct tape. But, she had at least helped Sam through some rough patches; Sam knew numbers and letters rather well, and more importantly, she'd listened when the elderly lady talked about being gentle and using an inside versus an outside voice, and things like that. Things that she figured the parents weren't working on much. Jean had no idea how little the parents really did.

D-Stephanie sneered. She'd always done a good job of trying to damage Stephanie's relationships - that was her strong suit. Not that it helped much with this loving family. But, she had gotten Stephanie really mad at D.J. once when D.J. had been hanging around pop singer Tommy Page, whom Stephanie had had a crush on. It was comical, Stephanie thinking that D.J. was stealing her

"boyfriend." And now, it was Michelle who was feeling a little down, because Stephanie had gone to see Sam and hadn't taken her. And, she'd tried to spend a fair amount of time talking with Sam at other times recently, too, trying to show her someone cared.

However, that was all D-Stephanie could do. The tightly knit Tanners were about to patch things up again.

Stephanie walked slowly into D.J.'s room in the physical realm that evening. "Hey, Deej."

"How did it go?" D.J. asked as she placed a tender arm around Stephanie's shoulders.

"Fine. As well as it can with Sam. Which, being translated, means I didn't have to spank her. I think my actually coming to her daycare, plus my volcanic eruption of a lecture, scared her straight." For now, Stephanie told herself.

"Well, that should make you feel good," D.J. said with a smile as they sat on her bed. "Did you really think about spanking her?" D.J. asked with surprise. They'd never considered it in their family, and certainly never gotten it - except possibly for Jesse a few times in school, given how wild he was.. Stephanie had only given light "reaction fwaps" as a PA; not meaning to hurt, but doing it so the shock from it was enough to teach. And, that was only a couple times, because the principal had said it was okay. Had they not had a PA, they wouldn't have hit at all there; and they wouldn't after the late 1990s.

"Well...not really, but, you know how some parents give reaction swats that don't hurt; just like that. I mean, if she can't start to think of how others feel...I know she's said nobody's ever hit her before. Still, I'd think she'd be at the age where she could think about how others feel, but it's like she doesn't want to." D.J. understood. "That's not the only problem. Michelle's been a little down lately. I'm worried she thinks I'm spending too much time with Sam. She wanted to go with me when Uncle Jesse took me today, after they called."

"I know. She told me you thought it was too dangerous. At least, that's what she guessed."

Stephanie smiled. At least Michelle was trying to understand.

Still, as she told D.J., "I wanted to take her, in a way - I would have if it was anyone but Sam. I mean, Michelle needs mom time. Or, at least the best we can give. But, all the adults have been busy the last few days, and you're doing so much lately with Steve."

"Well, don't worry; I know you had to walk Michelle home from the Honeybees that one week, but I've learned my lesson. I'm balancing my time better now. So, that won't be as much of a problem." D.J. admitted that, had she not started to put more on Stephanie the last couple years, she might not have figured she could spend all her time with Steve in the first place. But, she had. "I did use the last few years to ease you into my position, knowing Michelle wouldn't need me quite as much as a mother figure by this age, didn't I? But, I told her today, I'll always try to be available now. Sam doesn't even have a family like us, though. She certainly doesn't have parents who care very much, from what you've said."

"I know. But..." She searched for words to say.

"Look, Aunt Becky came up with a great idea, and I think maybe you should present it to Michelle. Since she seems to want to do stuff with you."

"Great! What is it?"

"Horseback riding. Becky still has Rocket. Remember, the horse I wanted to buy? Dad says he'll let her learn to ride if she really wants, and it'll be something she can look forward to doing with both of us there if she wants. It'll be a great Christmas gift. Dad says if Allie had moved like you worried about a year ago, when I went to Spain he'd have been taking her to learn to ride this past summer, anyway, while Joey took you to a bunch of ball games."

Stephanie beamed. She thanked D.J., and ran down to Joey's basement apartment, where Michelle and her friend Cassie were playing with some puppets. "Hey, Michelle. I have an idea," she began.

Michelle was excited when she heard. She was really enthusiastic about the thought of riding a horse - she loved animals. What a nice Christmas present that would be!

D-Stephanie sighed in the spirit realm. "Curses, foiled again," she muttered under her breath.

D-Michelle walked up to her and reminded her, "People can fall off horses, you know."

"Yeah, but what good is that going to do? Besides, especially for a beginner, even if the Tanners don't pray much, do you realize how many guardian angels are going to be around those animals?" D-Stephanie hollered.

"Yeah. I guess that won't be a good idea to distract her from Sam," D-Michelle confessed. "Oh, well, at least I'm invited to the party," she spouted, referring to the chess board of activity surrounding the situation with Sam. D-Stephanie glowered at the sneering devil.

D-Sam shouted at them to pipe down. "I keep trying to get Stephanie to spank Sam, and I think we may have found a way."

A couple weeks after the first lecture, Sam was once again refusing to listen. And, Stephanie had no choice but to go and try to get her to behave. And, to stay in timeout this time. It was the third time Stephanie had reported to the daycare to get Sam to behave.

"Aunt Becky," she asked as Becky drove her to the daycare. "I've heard some people say if we were in the worst parts of San Francisco, I might have a dozen Sams as PA. Is it really that bad?"

"Sometimes. Kids tend to copy the world around them, so often, kids who see a lot of bad stuff just copy that. You have to be a lot tougher to live there, just because most of the kids - though not all - will often have at least a little of Sam's type of wildness."

Stephanie nodded slowly. Deep in her heart, though she didn't attend church often, something stirred in her heart that said that these kids needed the Lord. They needed to know there was hope outside of what they saw every day. It was a spark that would only become a flame several years later. But, she still thought about the need to teach them.

Sam, however, wouldn't listen to anything, it seemed. Sometimes, kids like her - and others - needed one-on-one attention first.

"Thanks, Aunt Becky. Wish me luck," Stephanie said with a smile as she left the car.

Stephanie took Sam into the timeout room and tried to lecture. "You have been very naughty and disobedient. You could have hurt that kid very badly when you pushed him off the sliding board, and you know it. We've talked abut this plenty of times!"

Sam kept balking, though, refusing to stay in timeout, till Stephanie wound up trying to force her. However, not only was Sam now bigger and a bit stronger, she was also somewhat physical. She wouldn't scratch another little kid again, but as Stephanie struggled to get her to sit still, Sam scratched Stephanie so it hurt.

Stephanie didn't mean to hit; but, she didn't mean not to, either. It was sort of a reaction, once Sam did that, for her to stop listening to that little voice telling her to use her words. A reaction she'd only used a couple times otherwise as a PA. She gave Sam a swift, somewhat sharp smack on the rear, taking into account Sam's smaller size.

The next sound was a sharp yelp. Sam stared at Stephanie, looking ready to cry but also unsure of what had just happened. All she knew was, her bottom was sore.

"I'm sorry, that has to hurt, Sam," Stephanie said more calmly, but still with a hint of scolding in her voice. "But, it's very mean to hurt with your body and with your words like you were doing just now. That didn't feel too good, did it?" Sam shook her head. "Well, that's how it felt to me when you wouldn't listen and you hurt me."

Stephanie gave her a big hug. Sam was stunned - why was Stephanie hugging her when she'd just hurt her? She couldn't understand, but like before, she still felt some warmth in Stephanie that she knew she wanted - and needed. It was just so hard to know how to get that.

"You sit in the corner and you think about what you did," Stephanie said, reminding Sam what she'd done wrong. She was glad it didn't hurt anymore, but still hated to see Sam weeping like that.

Still, she had a sinking feeling it might not be the only time she did it, either. That really frustrated her, since they'd never considered doing it in her family.

Indeed, she wondered if she might be becoming more than just a PA to Sam. Stephanie had helped Michelle make friends her first day of Kindergarten the previous year, but Stephanie's harsh but effective lecture to another kid on respect and being nice was what had really sparked interest in teachers in sending kids to Stephanie for help. At first, she was little more than a counselor, but as her fourth grade year wore on, a few discipline problems came to her. More and more did throughout that year, as her position grew into a full-fledged office aide. When Stephanie entered fifth grade, it was just assumed she'd be there to help.

She let Sam out of timeout, and they talked a moment while she cuddled Sam. "Is that why they always say it's bad to hurt people?" Sam asked.

"That's right," Stephanie said with a sigh. "Miss Jean and I and everyone have tried to talk to you about that, huh?" Sam nodded slowly. "I'm glad you haven't done that to anyone else."

Sam knew Stephanie would really be mad if she did. But, there was something else starting to appear in her mind. Stephanie had been so consistent and loving. Sam had been stunned, but yet part of her felt like she knew Stephanie would still love her, even if she let herself go like that.

It had hurt; Sam understood that it was really bad and that she should never hurt someone else again. But, at the same time, she was growing to understand, more and more, that acting up with Stephanie was safe. That Stephanie would still care about her and help her. , Stephanie, too, considered that she was becoming so much more here. She hadn't spanked her as a PA, but almost...dare she say a mother figure.

Stephanie shook her head. It was too hard to imagine. In fact, she deemed it almost impossible.

In the spiritual realm, D-Sam was excited. She had finally gotten Stephanie to spank her. Stephanie had built a good enough rapport with Sam it hadn't really damaged things. But, now, if she just worked a little on Stephanie, making her feel Sam couldn't be dealt with, and made her start to get even tougher on her...

She received a summons to leave the chessboard; D-Stephanie was calling her. "What does that miserable D-Stephanie want, anyway? I've been doing all the work, and she hasn't been able to do diddly squat," D-Sam mumbled.

She stepped out of the chessboard-like arena and wandered into D-Stephanie's lair. "This had better be good," D-Sam hollered at her. "I don't want to miss it if this doesn't work and they force Sam's parents to find some other way to take care of a kid they never planned in the first place!" She fumed at D-Stephanie.

"Well, just look at the brew I've concocted," D-Stephanie said with a glint in her eye. "A multi-pronged attack..."

"...Doomed to failure," D-Sam completed.

"You don't even know what it is yet! You know how some of those kids, like the Jennifers, don't want Stephanie to sit at their 'power table' because she's a PA?"

"Yeah, sure. Stephanie would be there through sheer force of will otherwise. Or is it through your sheer ineptness," D-Sam cracked.

D-Stephanie ignored her. "You know how Stephanie's at the age when she wants to be popular? I've got a plan."

It's about time, D-Sam thought. Just because she can't take part in this part of the battle doesn't mean she can't do something. "Yeah, so what did you do? Give her a crush on a troublemaker?"

"Even better. Kimmy Gibbler will put holes in her head! Am I a genius, or am I a genius?"

"I don't know where you're going with this, but if you can tempt Stephanie to let Kimmy put holes in her head, all I can say is, more power to you."

Stephanie had called Kimmy's house a couple weeks after giving Sam the smack. The weird, rather irresponsible best friend of D.J. had brought over an instrument that looked like it was meant for drilling holes in something far different than earlobes. "Go ahead, let her do it," D-Stephanie whispered in Stephanie's ear.

"You can still back out. You know how poor Kimmy is at most other things," A-Stephanie reminded Stephanie.

"Don't listen to that do-gooder. Get a life, you don't have to obey every rule. Just tell the kids at school your dad let you. They'll never know the difference," D-Stephanie countered.

Stephanie was debating as Kimmy turned on the drill. She decided she would let it happen - she was desperate to get into the in crowd with the Jennifers of her class. Not only that, but the kids might actually see her as more of a woman - like D.J. - with pierced ears.

After a while, of course, it started to smart. It hurt a lot worse than she imagined it would. And, she kept hearing a voice along with that pain. "Hypocrite," it resounded. Stephanie's conscience continued to bother her after a couple days. She didn't even feel comfortable telling Allie what she'd done.

Here she was trying to make other kids obey rules, while she'd done who knew what to her ears, and deliberately disobeyed her dad. She felt like the biggest hypocrite in the world.

"You may fire when ready," D-Stephanie told D-Sam.

"Cool, thanks. I pretty much rule Sam, even with her feeling okay about Stephanie and Michelle. And, I must say, she's settled a little at school - she'll stay in timeout when Stephanie sends her now. But, they're on their last legs with her at daycare. And, the one girl who could help has such a crisis of confidence..." She sighed. She hated to admit that D-Stephanie was that good; she'd messed up enough other times. Still, she had to admit it. "You have outdone yourself this time."

"Hey, let's face it; I might not be allowed on that chessboard because of sporadic prayers over the last few months. But, I can sure tempt Stephanie really good!" she boasted.

Stephanie had begun taking medicine for her infected earlobes. But, that couldn't shake the nightmare. As she was walking along the halls of Fraser St. Elementary, she kept hearing the voices calling her a hypocrite. They got louder the faster she ran through the seemingly endless maze of corridors.

She eventually woke herself up proclaiming loudly, "I am not a hypocrite!'

Danny tiptoed into the girls' bedroom a moment later. "Is everything okay?" Noticing Stephanie sad face, he sat on her bed and put an arm around her. Stephanie leaned her head against his shoulder. "It's okay, Steph."

"Dad, I just feel so bad about what I did. I mean, the kids at school look up to me. Now, instead of them saying, 'There goes Stephanie, the girl who always does good,' they'll say, 'There goes Stephanie, the girl who not only broke the rules, she let a complete dummy put holes in her head.' The doctor says it could have been really dangerous!"

"Steph, I know it's frustrating. But, don't be too hard on yourself. You've accepted your punishment, you don't need any more tacked on to the time I grounded you, or anything else taken away. I know you've learned your lesson."

She supposed so. Still, "What about Sam?"

"What about her? Steph, she goes around hurting other people. She wouldn't listen to anything. Personally, I don't think she'll pay any attention to what you've done."

"Maybe not." Stephanie sighed. "And yet, here I am with two ears that still look like if Rudolph's nose ever gave out he could guide Santa's sleight with them." They weren't really red anymore. But, Stephanie harsh wisecrack helped her let off a little steam.

"Steph, Sam won't pay attention, I'm sure. The only thing she cares about is doing what she wants. Nobody ever taught her right from wrong, or even that there is such a concept. All she cares about is that you will make her behave."

"You really think so?"

Danny looked over at Michelle, who was still sleeping soundly. He whispered, "Steph, you girls all respond very well to the punishments I give. So, they don't have to be very harsh." He was even more lenient with Michelle than with the others. "Sam wouldn't respond to more lenient discipline, though. She needs to be sat in a corner, rather than just put in a room, right now. She needs very harsh lectures. Steph, Sam needs you to be tougher. You don't need that kind of discipline, so I don't have to be as firm. That's the difference."

"So, will she understand that?"

"It's hard to say. But, the important thing is, anyone could try to discipline Sam right now, and she'll fight just because she doesn't want to listen. Not because you didn't listen."

"Thanks, Dad." Stephanie thought for a second, and admitted he was probably right.

"Thanks. Now, if you're ready, let's get some sleep. I know it's going to be a long day tomorrow, if you have to deal with Sam."

She sighed. She supposed she could do it, though, sore ears and all. After all, she had overcome many other obstacles in her life. Overall, she was a good girl. One mistake was not the end of her career. It was just another obstacle to be overcome. Stephanie would easily rebound and handle this situation.

"Off your duff," D-Stephanie shouted.

D-Sam scrambled to her feet and scowled. "Who are you to give orders to me! You and your hare-brained schemes! 'Get Kimmy to poke holes in Stephanie's ears!' Phooey. You not only didn't help me drive Sam further into the dark side, you couldn't even give Stephanie a serious infection."

"Pipe down, I was blocked by A-Michelle, okay. If Michelle doesn't tell D.J. that Stephanie's ears hurt, it might last until it's really bad. But, listen, I've got a plan."

A-Stephanie came over from the chessboard, the one D-Stephanie was banished from. "How rude!"

"You don't even know what it is!" D-Stephanie shouted at her counterpart.

Because of all Stephanie had done, Sam started to settle more at school - at least she didn't fight toth and nail - or even argue much at first - if she had to go to timeout. This despite attempts in the spiritual realm to rile her up, and cause her to lose more faith in Stephanie.

Still, Stephanie was feeling frustrated with herself. This got worse a month later, Thanksgiving, as Sam started to test her a bit more, as she told Becky upstairs in the attic apartment. "It was just so easy for me; one time I had to sit with my head down for more than the five minutes I did a few times for talking. And, that was right around the start of second grade, when I called Walter 'Duckface' and threw bread at him and stuff. But, even then, I learned my lesson right away, and accepted my punishment."

"Right. Your Uncle Jesse tells me it took you a few days to get things right in your mind about Walter, or ˜Duckface' as your class knew him at first. But, even then, it was easy for you. You got laughed at when you stood up for Walter later, but then you started talking firmly yet lovingly to your friends about how it felt when they got laughed at at different times. But, you know what? I think that showed more maturity than maybe most second graders would have."

"Really?" Stephanie had a hard time thinking - she often compared others to herself. But, she supposed Becky was right. "I guess not a lot of second graders would learn that fast, huh?"

"Right. And, maybe that shows that you were really cut out to make your mark there as a PA."

Stephanie leaned back and thought about it. A smile slowly crept across her face. "You know, Aunt Becky, I think you're right. I guess it's just part of how I expect so much of others, which is because I'm so hard on myself, like Dad says."

"Well, keep expecting. Because Sam shouldn't be doing what she does. This might sound strange to hear, but I think she's testing you a bit more now because she trusts you."

"Really?" There was that strange idea that she was becoming almost like a mother figure; it seemed almost impossible. And yet, she knew that's what her dad had said once, that children who are broughtup right will generally be good when out, but test the most at home, because they know they're loved. And, the Tanner girls didn't test a while lot, even then.

"Steph, if she's never had rules, and suddenly someone enforces them, there's going to be a period where she tries to see if you'll be consistent and what that means. Every child is different, and what works with one might not work with anyone else or might even scare some. We're all made in a special way. You'll find an answer," Becky said.

They embraced as Stephanie thanked her and went into the kitchen for a bite to eat.

Things got worse over Thanksgiving and soon after; Stephanie had called Friday, and learned that all Sam's parents did was take her to a restaurant, and let her run wild there because they couldn't control her; and, she suspected, they might have been trying to conduct business even there.

Around the start of December, Sam had been sent to Stephanie once more. She got louder and louder in her defiance, until finally, Sam hollered, "Bite me!" at Stephanie, a slang term for "make me" that most kids her age didn't know, Stephanie thought.

Stephanie felt badly at seeing this tearful reaction. They walked to the outer office, where Stephanie reported what she'd had to do.

"We'll let that be her punishment, rather than the timeout, with no recess today," Stephanie said stoicly. Inside, she hurt for the girl who was weeping and rubbing her bottom. She turned to her. "I'm sorry this had to happen, Sam. But, you know that if you had been nice and good to others and listened you would not have gotten spanked."

Sam sensed from the warmth in Stephanie's voice that she still cared about her. But, what she thought of most as she walked out the door weeping was that it hurt. She hated to let others see her cry. So, she walked very slowly back to her classroom.

Stephanie could tell she'd cracked that hard shell some, just like before. But, as always, she felt quite badly about having to do it. She closed her eyes, feeling incredibly bad as one class of first graders walked to the bathroom for a break. She could hear a few of them who noticed Sam going back - the loudest kids were cracking jokes.

Stephanie didn't even feel like saying, "How rude," though Michelle and several others did. This quickly quieted the teasers; Stephanie's favorite saying was at least somewhat common in the halls of Fraser St. Elementary.

Michelle was glad the class pitied Sam. She felt really sorry for her. But, she also saw Stephanie's pained face, and knew she had to do something.

Stephanie didn't notice Michelle till she felt her sister's warm embrace. She tenderly hugged her back, glad to be able to use her hands for loving, like she was used to. "It's okay, Steph," Michelle said. She could tell Stephanie needed a big hug.

"Thanks, Michelle." Inside, Stephanie hoped Aunt Becky was right. She'd feel better if she knew Sam saw her as being like a mother, more than a PA, after that; someone who had the type of compassion a parent would have.

Michelle ran up to Sam and gave her a big hug. Sam was shocked by the display of affection. She was even more stunned a moment later, as she waited to go in until her tears were dry. Stephanie actually came up to her and gave her a hug.

Why had she done that when she'd just hurt her? Sam wasn't sure. But, she knew one thing - Stephanie cared about her. She could sense that. And, furthermore, Stephanie was going to do whatever she could to make Sam behave.

She didn't like that part, of course. But, as least Stephanie cared.

Michelle called Cassie after school. "Hey, Cassie, my Aunt Becky will take us to the ice cream place," she reported. She'd invited Sam after school before she knew who could take them - but, between the people in her large family, she knew somebody would. Cassie's mom would have probably done so, once she understood the situation. But, now they didn't have to worry about asking her.

Stephanie walked into the living room as Michelle hung up the phone. "Hey, you guys are going for ice cream, huh?" she asked.

"Yep. We invited Sam, too." Michelle ignored the stunned look on Stephanie's face. "We'll pick her up after we get Cassie."

"Uh...Michelle...I don't know if..."

"She'll be good, I'm sure. I mean, she can't be that bad, right? I'll be there," Becky concluded, trying to reassure Stephanie. "Michelle keeps trying to help her, anyway."

"You should come too, Steph," Michelle told her sister.

"Me?! Uh, Michelle, I'm not sure..."

"Come on, Steph, she needs a friend."

"She needs a mother." Stephanie got a sour look on her face, still remembering how much trouble Sam was. "And, sometimes she needs an armed guard," she quipped.

Becky tenderly placed a hand on Stephanie's shoulder. "Look, I know Sam gives you problems. I mean, I've even referred to her as a 'Kindergarten biker chick' in talking with Jesse about it. But, she needs to see that someone cares. You spend a lot of time talking to her in school, compared to the time you spend with other kids. But, that's because she doesn't have anyone else. If she sees you caring now, when she's being good, she'll want to be good more often."

Stephanie closed her eyes. She didn't want Sam clinging to her too much; it might make Michelle jealous. But, Michelle had invited her. Michelle could grow closer to Sam, instead of Sam clinging to Stephanie. She'd be able to assist in keeping Sam on the right path. Maybe this was the start.

"You're right, Aunt Becky. I'll call the daycare and tell them we'll be there." She beamed with pride at Michelle, glad to think of her wonderful younger sister, instead of the very mischievous Sam. "Michelle, you're such a great friend. We must be doing something right with you."

Stephanie continued to beam as they picked up Cassie and drove to the daycare. She wanted to keep thinking of how gentle, warm, and caring Michelle was - perhaps to a fault in this case. That would take her mind off Sam.

But, perhaps Aunt Becky was right, too. Michelle was as good as she was because of constant work by the whole family from the time she was little, and more importantly, constant love. She was a little ornery at times, but in the last year the worst she'd ever done was flush soap down the toilet so as not to have to wash her hands, which only a mere timeout in her room was needed for. And, that would be the worst she'd do at all, as she wasn't the kind to get in trouble. Michelle always loved to listen and obey the rules, unlike if she'd been influenced by their wild, once very rebellious Uncle Jesse.

Sam was far wilder than even Jesse had been. Still, Stephanie kept reminding herself that hard work could still make Sam into a really delightful girl.

In the spirit realm, A-Stephanie continued to whisper in Stephanie's ear - or, rather, into her heart.

"It helps that she's usually so positive," A-Michelle remarked of Stephanie.

"Yeah. This is the type of situation that would tax the most patient of mothers, though," A-Stephanie returned.

D-Sam appeared behind them and sneered. While D-Stephanie was very weak, almost as weak at times as A-Sam, D-Sam could do the work of both at times. Especially when it came to the chessboard of activity connected with Stephanie's dealings with Sam as Principal Stephanie. "Why don't you give it up; there's no hope."

"Are you saying that to Stephanie, or to us?" A-Michelle asked.

"Both. I've created a monster - and I love it. Her parents don't care, and now the one person who shows herself as a bit of a friend, that being Michelle, is going to give Sam the shock of her life by bringing Sam's nemesis along."

A-Stephanie shook her head. "You've got your nemeses crossed." She and A-Michelle chuckled. "Is that a word?"

"Hey, if the Lord can say 'Let there be light,' and there is light, He can make words come into existence in no time."

A-Stephanie told A-Michelle that was true. She then turned to D-Sam. "I promise you, this will work for good."

D-Michelle gave A-Stephanie the raspberries.

"Hey, Sam," Michelle said as she noticed Sam coming out hesitantly. "Stephanie wanted to come, too. She'd like to be a friend, too."

Stephanie knelt down to Sam's level, and gave her broadest smile. She spoke firmly, yet lovingly. "Sam, this is a very special treat Michelle is giving you by inviting you out like this. I expect you will behave like a good girl. I don't want to have to think about what can happen if you don't, and I don't think you do, either." Sam shook her head slowly.

"She'll be good," Michelle declared enthusiastically. "Come on!" With a wide, sweeping motion, Michelle excitedly raced toward Becky's car, urging Sam to follow.

Stephanie lagged behind the girls, reminding herself that it was important to have Michelle's childlike faith. Of course she will, she kept telling herself. And, Sam did behave very well then.

Cassie was uncertain, but she knew that Michelle had been working with Sam for quite a while; or, at least, trying to. Whereas other kids were frightened, Michelle kept going out of her way to try to help Sam. That figures, Cassie told herself; she knows she has Stephanie to protect her.

"I like any kind of ice cream, as long as it's chocolate," Michelle joked as they ordered.

"Does anyone like sprinkles?" Becky asked.

"Sure; unless they're the kind that come from clouds," Cassie joked. She was shier than Michelle, but not quite as timid as Stephanie's friend Allie had been at that age.

"That's the one good thing about baseball in a dome like Houston. Otherwise, if I was playing it inside I'd feel like I was grounded," Stephanie quipped.

"Yeah, and then there's those uniforms you showed me a picture of last month, Steph." Michelle went from looking at Stephanie and Becky across the table to looking to her left and right as Cassie and Sam. "Steph showed me a picture of Houston's baseball uniforms from the late '70s. They had wide stripes from up here" - she pointed to her upper chest - "all the way down. They were yellow, different shades of orange, and red. And, they had their numbers on their pants!" The girls giggled; even Sam. "If I wore one of those, I could just hear my dad. He'd say, 'Isn't that the cutest thing you've ever seen.'"

"You've got that right. Even if Dad saw a big leaguer in that, he'd be tempted to pinch the player's cheeks and say that. Then he'd try to take the whole team out for ice cream after the game," Stephanie said glibly. Danny's overexcitement about his girls' cuteness got on her nerves at times.

"Those do remind me of tee ball uniforms more than anything," Becky remarked.

"That's crazier than those Honeybee outfits," Sam said with a smirk. She only now realized she'd been laughing and having fun, and didn't even mind that she was behaving.

"Are you in the Honeybees?" Cassie asked. Sam shook her head. "Well, why don't you join; I'm sure you'd have fun," Cassie encouraged her.

Michelle agreed. "You'd have a great time. You don't make too many friends here at school. Maybe you would there."

Michelle's blunt, harsh comment jolted Sam. It was true. She hadn't made many friends other than Michelle. But, that was because she just wanted her way all the time. Nobody would reach out to Sam, as they were too scared of her. Of course, part that Sam didn't recognize quite yet was that she'd hurt quite a few of her classmates, too.

"You...think I could?" Sam asked. She hoped maybe she could find more friends like Michelle.

"Sure. We do lots of fun activities. We play games and sing camp songs sometimes. We do all kinds of fun crafts. And I'll be right with you. That way, you won't get in trouble and need us to call Steph."

Sam sighed. Another stinging comment. And yet, she knew it was true. She really found herself liking Michelle, somehow knowing that Michelle was looking out for her. And, Michelle was saying things to her that really made her think - something that was quite important since Sam's conscience was only now really forming.

Michelle could tell Sam looked sad. In fact, she'd looked a little down since they'd come, thinking about how lonely things were for her at home, and her lack of friends. So, Michelle put an arm around her and said, "I can tell it makes you sad to not have as many friends. But, I have a special friend named Jesus who I talk to a lot when I'm sad. He really helps."

As Sam was thinking about what Michelle had said, Cassie could tell Michelle's previous comment, about Sam getting in trouble, had hurt Sam a little. She wasn't sure whether Sam needed it or not; given the stories she'd heard, it was possible.

However, she decided instead to focus on the positive. "Come on, you're having fun here, aren't you?" she asked Sam.

"Yeah, I guess..." Sam found it amazing - she was actually enjoying herself. Maybe it was possible after all for her to enjoy herself with others. It seemed like Michelle and the others were really going to try to be friends no matter what she did. She didn't think much about this Jesus, whom she'd only vaguely heard of, not knowing who He was or anything. With how she'd grown up so far, it was harder for the Spirit to penetrate than it would be for most that age. But, she wondered if maybe He was as nice as Michelle and her friends.

When they got to the Honeybees meeting, most of the other kids were quite surprised to see Sam there. They seemed a little fearful, causing Sam to inch closer to Michelle instinctively. In addition, there were numerous murmurings, kids wondering how she could have changed, or saying that the only way they knew they'd be safe is that Michelle would report anything to Stephanie.

Sam was a little shocked; she couldn't imagine how scared these kids were of her. What really hurt was hearing some say that her niceness was fake. That she was only nice because Stephanie was lurking somewhere.

The truth was, though Sam had great difficulty, for the first time she was actually thinking about wanting to be nice sometimes. She really did like the thought of having friends. These, unlike her parents, wouldn't refuse to pay attention to her.

"Come on, you guys, let's give her a chance," Michelle encouraged them. "She knows how to act nice. It's not like she a ghost or a mouse or something." The girls started giggling. At least that was helping Sam feel a little more comfortable.

Michelle was really proud that Sam even said "Yes Ma'am" like Stephanie had taught her; though not as proud as she was when some of the girls were playing around trying gymnastics moves, and when Michelle encouraged her to copy, Sam turned a cartwheel better than any of these six and seven year olds. She was showing some very good ballet moves.

More important than that, though, was her behavior. Of course, Michelle knew she could be good. And, that helped boost Sam's confidence even more that these kids could be friends. Having to face Stephanie if she wasn't was the biggest aid. But, at least this was a start. And, after a few weeks, the other kids would warm up to her. At least, while she was there.

D-Stephanie stood up in the dock as the Judge began to speak.

"Hear Ye, Hear Ye. The Court of Infernal Affairs is now in session. The charge before us is that the defendant has been accused of becoming a powerless demon."

As the Underworld audience gasped, D-Stephanie noticed D-Sam in the audience. She knew that it was she who was behind this. She scowled at D-Sam, who returned her dark look with a innocent smile and blew her a kiss, which sent D-Stephanie into paroxysm of rage.

"You are a hopeless bungler," D-Sam shouted. "I have managed to get a new Principal's Assistant brought in who will be great with good kids, but won't know how to love the bad ones; she won't be near approachable as Stephanie was for kids with problems. While you...I would recommend that you be sent to possess a mosquito. But, you couldn't make a rabid cat bite a bird that was sitting in its litterbox."

"Hey, Deej," Stephanie said as she walked into D.J.'s room one evening a few days after Christmas. "Got a minute?" She did. "I've just been thinking this evening - we've done a lot of good for Sam; even visited her with Uncle Jesse after we got back from the soup kitchen."

"Nice to see she'll finally get some pictures up of her, even if you take them. And, it sounds like Dad's putting together a baby book for her. You get annoyed, but there are times when even his over-doting on us has its advantages. You can bet that's part of why he's doing all that."

"True. It just bothers me that I had to spank her a couple times. I mean, she is a lot better now, especially at school, since we're starting to help her make friends and interact with others. But, she's still got an attitude problem. What if that's the limit to her now; what if she pushes to see if that limit's still there again?"

D.J. put an arm around Stephanie, knowing how she often got too anxious. "You know, I've really been proud of you. You have taken charge and kept that school from having a lot of problems. You've worked with Sam to where she'll respect you. Mom would be so proud."

Stephanie loved D.J.'s huge grin. She imagined their mom would be quite proud. However, D.J.'s comment had been totally off topic. "You don't know, either, do you, Deej?" She walked away while saying, "I just don't like the idea of hitting on purpose. I can't stand it, in fact." She whirled around. "I mean, what if she is one of those kids? What would Mom have done?"

"Well, Steph, we're lucky. Dad always says our hearts are tender enough he'd never have to go through the bottom to get to one. But, some kids are really stubborn. And, Mom might just say that to get to some kids' hearts, you have to go through the bottom once or twice. But, remember it's very emotional. It doesn't have to hurt much, just be pressure, or a little tingle, really. Thinking about what's being done is what will cause her heart to melt, the fact she's across your knee getting slapped gently three or four times; not enough to really hurt."

Stephanie thought a minute. D.J., a veteran babysitter, had sounded just like she imagined their mom would, from the little she recalled of Pam Tanner. "That sounds like Mom. She knew how to get through to kids. But, it also sounds like what she would have done as a last resort to someone in our family, like Uncle Jesse if she were a lot older than he was," Stephanie remarked.

"True, you're handling a problem that none of us has ever faced; even Uncle Jesse wasn't this bad at his worst. But, try anyway. Because, if you really want to know...I think you're right. That's just what Mom said she'd have done with a kid like Uncle Jesse." Indeed, Stephanie would only have to give such light fwaps again, not hurting anything but Sam's feelings; and that only a few more times. Those would be outside of school, though.

At the end of the first week of the New Year, Michelle saw Sam on the playground after school. "Michelle, guess what?" Sam said energetically. "I went a whole week and didn't have to miss recess once!"

"All right!" Michelle gave her a high five.

"You know..." Sam didn't know what to say. She choked back tears for a second, thinking of how this girl - and her sister - cared about her. Even though Stephanie was so tough sometimes, Sam could tell she cared. The deep recesses of Sam's mind had still known how to love, but she'd rarely used those recesses. And now, that love was coming out, bit by bit.

Sam didn't finish her sentence. Instead, she ran over to the principal and Stephanie, who were talking near the entrance. While many little kids also like to hug the principal's leg, Sam put her arms firmly around Stephanie, who hugged back. Sam wished the hug didn't have to end.

In the spiritual realm, the chess pieces moved again, with a new chess piece emerging. A-Michelle and A-Stephanie had given D-Sam a look that would melt lead, then broken through the wall and freed A-Sam from her prison. Now, the good part of Sam was free, though still very, very weak. It would take quite a bit of work on the Lord's part, using the team of Stephanie, Michelle, and many

other Tanner friends and family, but it was clear that the tide was turning, slowly, in God's favor.

D-Sam folded her arms and gave an evil laugh. "Well, you may have won this battle. But you have not won the war!"

Stephanie and Michelle waved goodbye to Sam as she left in the daycare van. Stephanie smiled at her younger sister. "Thanks for all your help," she said, placing an arm around her.

"Thank you. You guys taught me how to be friends." She thought for a second. "She must drive her parents crazy."

Stephanie didn't want to discourage Michelle. She had never done more than gotten one or two short written messages from them. But, she didn't want to expose Michelle to such uncaring attitudes this early. She was getting as protective as Danny in some ways. "Let's just say that...they'd rather let me handle things. I guess they like the way I do things."

"I guess so." Michelle inhaled deeply. "It's just sad that she's that bad."

"Well, we learned early on, with Mom's death, how to make the best of a bad situation. And, we'll keep doing here, too. It's going to take a lot of work. Like I said at the ice cream place, you're going to have to be a bit like a big sister to her. It's one time when your brutally honest remarks will really help. But, you, and all the rest of us, are going to be able to help her become a wonderful young lady. It'll be hard. But we've got the Lord on our side as a mighty force for good. I know we don't get to church a lot. But, that's one thing I remember - with God, all things are possible."

Michelle and Stephanie walked proudly, arm in arm, to Danny's waiting car, confident that - though there may be many struggles ahead - somehow, Sam would one day be as nice as they were.