Fan Fiction - Written by Paul Austin - Sam Series

03.25 * Just Like Family
Written by: Paul Austin

Samantha feels Tanners are just like family, as she wishes a boy would like her like Steph had in 2nd grade. Also, Book Universe (and more likely) horse accident, strike and a minor concussion. Sam Series ficlet set just after #3, Sam's Great Escape.

A/N: The Sam Series is much revised from when it was first posted, as the timeline was fleshed out, and the Chronology worked on. But, one part remained - does Michelle's accident happen the same in books? It's been decided it couldn't. This shows what does. Don't know if there will be other Sam Series stories, but I hope you enjoy the series.

With D.J. the mother figure, Michelle would go to her when concerned; if she hadn't D.J. would have noticed and talked with her. So it's that, not just Jesse saying, "You'll do great." Consensus was something happened; her horse was antsy and a couple books indicate something minor. But, just a normal bump, as the TVU version (In the author "Me''s "The Way We Were") is the worst possible and very unusual. ("My Life Is A Three-Ring Circus," for instance, a subconscious fear of heights after a stunt fall from a horse.). And, of course, the argument would be different, with the girls closer already; an earlier book had Stephanie working hard not to react to Michelle before seventh grade. It's also figured Jesse didn't form the Monkey Puppets to play, but could have helped put them together, thakns to advice from Papouli, who comes earlier here because of Samantha, and gets a pacemaker put in, in the Chronology.

So, this is the likely canon for the Book Universe horse jumping, with the book "Dear Michelle: Will You Be My Valentine" referenced most. "Dear Michelle" books have her in a different third grade classroom, with mostly different friends (and Mandy there from the start, not coming in mid-year as in Michelle Book #3 and Sam Series #3, "Sam's Great Escape"), but there's no reason some events can't have happened in the class of the original, first four Michelle books. They could have had a class paper. Or, kids could go independently to Michelle for advice. Books "Once Upon a Mix-up" and "Dear Michelle: I've Got Bunny Business" (placed later so it doesn't conflict with a Stephanie book that's over spring break) are also referenced.

Michelle Tanner, eight and a half, and her friend Samantha Burke, eight, were lounging in the younger Tanner girls' bedroom, where a rollaway bed was also positioned right next to Michelle's bed, almost against the wall. It was for Samantha, to whom Michelle was like a sister. Indeed, the middle Tanner sister, Stephanie, thirteen, was like a mom, since Samantha's parents paid no attention to her. Samantha didn't spend every night at the Tanners' - she had plenty of other friends, too - but was there a lot.

"Michelle," Samantha asked with a little giggle, "did you ever like a boy?"

"Boys are nuts. But...well, I can kind of see what my sisters see in them a little. Why? Do you like one?" She wasn't worried about Samantha liking boys, though Michelle was rather protective, given Samantha's past, especially with the meltdown Samantha had had recently, talking about how lonely she'd been. Michelle knew that even if Samantha did like one, it wouldn't be a huge crush.

"Well, a little. You know Lenny, that boy in my class who plays soccer with me?" Samantha was in second grade, while Michelle was in third, but Michelle had seen him on the playground and at a game or two, she was sure. "I was kind of thinking of asking him out for ice cream. Like Stephanie goes out with boys."

That sent up a red flag. "Wait. We both know boys are usually nuts, right?" Samantha nodded. "They think the same thing about us. I've heard Jeff and his friends." Jeff Farrington was a classmate who was a huge class clown. He loved to crack jokes and do other silly things. "Lenny probably won't say 'yes.'" She didn't want Samantha to feel bad, so she said, "At your age, he probably wouldn't say 'yes' to any girl asking him out for ice cream." Michelle rubbed her back and said, "But, he'll still like you as a friend. Just like Jeff and I are friends. I even had a secret admirer on Valentine's Day this year."

Samantha remembered. That had been so cool to hear about! It may have spurred Samantha's interest. It had only happened a few weeks after her meltdown. Hearing Michelle tell her about trying to figure out that mystery had been lots of fun.

"I know," Samantha said with a sigh. "But, you think I could still ask him? Stephanie had two boys she liked in second grade. So, I can have one." Samantha referred to Harry and Walter, two boys in Stephanie's class who had since moved away.

Michelle smiled at the slight insistence in Samantha's voice; she understood the desire to be like Stephanie, that was for sure. She loved the fact she could help someone like this. She'd been helping with her cousins, Nicky and Alex, for quite a while. But, they were only three, and everyone helped them. With Samantha, it was so much more. There was real devotion there; just like there was in Michelle's heart for Stephanie and their oldest sister, D.J..

"Sure. I just want to make sure you know if he won't go for ice cream with you, it's not because he doesn't like you. Steph played with Harry and Walter a lot, and I don't think they ever went for ice cream. Did she ever tell you about their tree climbing contest?"

Samantha nodded and grinned. As they talked, Michelle knew Samantha understood this was just "puppy love," so it was all right. She wasn't sure if Stephanie ever liked Harry or Walter the same way. They were probably just friends. But, maybe she had with Harry a little at first. Either way, Samantha understood it wasn't like having a real boyfriend. Samantha felt so special having someone like Michelle to look up to.

Suddenly, Michelle thought, "now what?" as Kimmy Gibbler burst into the room. She was the best friend of Michelle and Stephanie's older sister D.J., and a high school senior like D.J.. However, D.J. was proactive, and like a mom to Michelle since their mom, Pam Tanner, had died when Michelle was a baby. D.J. was incredibly bright and resourceful. Kimmy was really nice, and tried to help, but she was also really dumb at times. Kimmy disliked studying - and, sometimes, thinking.

"Hey, how about some nursery rhymes?" Kimmy suggested. Michelle couldn't help but giggle. She hid it better than Samantha, though, as Kimmy pulled up a chair and sat. " 'Hey, diddle, diddle, the cat in the fiddle; the horse jumped over the moon."

Samantha laughed harder as Michelle said, "Kimmy, that was a cow."

"Are you sure? I thought only horses could jump that high."

Samantha shook her head. "I hope you're joking," she said with a smile, the same way she'd seen D.J. do it. Kimmy and the Tanners might have really enjoyed teasing each other, but with D.J. more proactive, she'd made sure early that her friend not tease her younger sisters, and that they respect each other. It was just like Samantha felt protected by Michelle and Stephanie.

"Horse, cow, what's the difference?" Kimmy thought for a second. "Okay, you can't milk a horse, but, I know how Michelle likes to baby you. So, I thought I'd help," she told Samantha, explaining why she'd burst in and starting saying nursery rhymes. "How about this - 'Fe, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman.'"

Samantha hated to be reminded of how incredibly neglected she'd been till Stephanie met her, her first day of Kindergarten. About three months ago, she'd had a real breakdown, and since then, the Tanners and her other friends had kept a very close watch over her. However, Kimmy's comment about babying Samantha wasn't a real problem - it didn't bring up why, and Kimmy knew not to go any further in mentioning Samantha's past.

Besides, whenever Kimmy did try too hard to help Samantha, it often led to very comical situations like this, the laughter helping her feel better. Samantha explained through giggles, "Kimmy, that's from 'Jack and the Beanstalk.'"

"It is? Cool, a nursery rhyme within a fairy tale. I wonder why they didn't try to make it a rhyme on its own," Kimmy said.

"Probably because it made less sense than some of the other ones," Michelle spouted.

"True. Anyway, D.J.'s not back from shopping yet, and I had some news for her on the prom date I'm trying to scrounge up for her. Apparently, one of the boys had a conflict of interest. There's s Star Trek convention that same weekend. I didn't think D.J. would want to date a guy who was dressed as a Klingon."

"Smart move," Michelle said. She knew Kimmy was a really good friend underneath; she was just less competent at a number of things than Michelle. She was even generally good with kids, though she left little ones alone too much when babysitting at times. She did know most nursery rhymes, though she tended to try to throw in things she only thought she remembered, like the horse jumping over the moon.

Samantha offered that, "D.J. said there's one blind kid who goes there, but he even found a date."

"That's right. I checked the ones with handicaps early; there were only a couple boys. But, tell her not to worry, I'll keep looking. I'll be next door calling Duane, asking if he has any ideas," she said as she left. Duane was Kimmy's boyfriend.

"It'd be nice if we could help D.J.," Samantha said.

"I know," Michelle muttered. She was glad to have that distraction, because she could make Samantha think that was what she was worried about. There was something bigger on her mind, though; the horse jumping contest Michelle would be in next weekend.

Samantha guessed it was D.J., too. She put a hand on Michelle's shoulder, and tried to sound just like Michelle would - something she often tried to do, as it had been said she had become an uberMichelle. "Don't worry. I'm sure she'll find someone. You've got the best family in the world. Boys would be nuts to turn her down."

"Thanks, Sammie," Michelle said warmly.

"Let's talk about your horse jumping contest. I'm so excited to see you jump!"

Michelle raised her eyebrows. "I thought you wanted to go with your friend Courtney and her family camping."

"I thought about that. But, this is your first ever horse jumping contest. We can do that the following weekend, when D.J. has her prom."

Michelle wished she hadn't been reminded. She'd been riding for over two years, and decided to try jumping one day when she saw there was a contest at the local stables. One of her opponents, a girl named Elizabeth, who was a year older, had won three straight years. That wouldn't have been bad, but Michelle's dad, Danny, was acting really pushy, and Elizabeth's mom, Morgan, did the same with Elizabeth. They were acting like it was some sort of titanic battle, like they'd been learning about in World War Two in school.

She didn't want Samantha to worry about that; she wanted to protect her from worrying about any kind of conflict. Therefore, when Samantha asked if anything was wrong, she said, "Oh, just thinking about D.J., I guess. I've heard how special a prom is supposed to be. It'd be so sad if she didn't have a date."

"Maybe Kimmy's boyfriend will help."

"Yeah, if he happens to know someone named 'Whatever.'" Kimmy's boyfriend said that over and over.

Samantha interjected, "I just want to come see you jump. We've ridden together before. But, it seems like it'd be scary to jump on one of those."

Michelle didn't tell her about her friend Cassie's fears; falling wasn't that big of a concern to her. Instead, she reassured Samantha that she'd be okay. "I want you to enjoy other friends, too." Samantha insisted that she did; Michelle knew it was true. "Wellll, okay. I guess you do have a lot of friends in the Honeybees, and in your class by now."

Michelle wasn't sure how to handle the arguing, though; especially because she knew Samantha would want to be back in the stables to wish her luck, and might hear Danny and Morgan, bickering like a couple little kids. Even Michelle's cousins, Nicky and Alex, didn't argue like that. The three and a half year old twins lived in the attic apartment with Michelle's Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky. Jesse had moved into the attic - and her dad's best friend Joey into the basement - to help raise Michelle and her sisters, after Pam died.

With an office in the fourth bedroom on the second floor, that means the oldest one besides Danny on that floor was D.J.. D.J. wound up often being the one to get her up in the morning, change her diaper then, and so on. When Michelle was up as a toddler, it was D.J. she went to in the morning; especially since Jesse would lock his door from time to time. Jesse - a former professional musician - and Joey - a professional comedian - were like dads, but they had had no experience back then, and it was D.J. with whom Michelle had developed a mother-daughter type of bond. D.J. had always been proactive with Michelle, not just reacting as she might have with Jesse - who had been Pam's younger brother - there.

So, Michelle sought D.J. out in her room later that evening, after supper. "D.J., can we talk?" she asked.

D.J. invited her to sit next to her on her couch. "Sure, what is it?"

"Well..." She wasn't sure where to begin, so she said, "I'm just worried about this horse jumping contest."

"What are you worried about?"

"I don't know; I guess I almost feel like I have to win."

D.J. could tell her little sister was bothered, and tried to lighten the mood a little first. "Dad hasn't been pushing too much, has he?" After a slight nod of Michelle's head, D.J. quickly quipped, "Is he calling you Kemosabe and expecting you to do tricks like the Lone Ranger, or does he expect you to jump over the moon."

Michelle grinned broadly. "You've heard Kimmy tell nursery rhyme that way too, huh?"

"Yeah, to our cousins." Michelle told her what Kimmy had done earlier that day. "She's got a good heart. She really wants to help Samantha. But, with all the help Samantha can need at times, with how rough she's had it, Kimmy's not competent enough in some areas to do more than make Samantha laugh. But, it still helps. And, she still a great friend; she does all she can." She knew Michelle wouldn't repeat what she said about Kimmy not being competent enough at times. But, she'd also wanted to emphasize the positives - her heart, and the fact Kimmy could provide something good for Samantha. It was a real challenge to have a best friend like Kimmy.

"I wish she could help with Dad."

"I know; Dad gets that way sometimes. It's to keep him from getting depressed over Mom's death yet; he tries to be overly excited. He was the same way with Steph when she thought for a few weeks about being a professional dancer."

Michelle vaguely remembered Stephanie wanting that, but it was more than three years earlier, and Michelle didn't recall the outcome. "What did she do?""

"Well, that's what I was going to tell you. If worse comes to worse, Steph did something that finally got Dad's attention. She started dancing in a totally different style than all the other dancers on stage." D.J. thought a minute, and added, "What took quite a bit of skill, keeping track of what she was doing with all the others doing the opposite."

"Soooo, I should just ride around?"

D.J. nodded. "Mm-hmmm. Pick it up into a trot from time to time, maybe a canter for a short time, that sort of thing. Just remember, once Dad and you have that talk, be ready to go out there and do it for fun if you want, like Steph did. You're not saying you don't want to jump. You just don't want the enormous pressure, right?" she inquired. D.J. wanted to leave Michelle room, if she wanted, to say she didn't want to do the contest at all, which she knew was possible. Still, she knew Danny well enough to know that the pressure was almost certainly the sole problem.

"Right," Michelle said with certainty. "I can't wait to tell Elizabeth, too; that should solve both our problems."

"Is that another of the contestants?" Michelle told D.J. about Danny and Morgan feuding. "Oh boy." The high school senior sighed, and put an arm around Michelle. "It should still be pretty easy, like it was for Steph. But, kids your age shouldn't have to be the ones to referee disputes like that. I'm sure there's a lot of pressure on you and on that other girl. So, just go on strike like I said, and the rest of us can handle the other part."

Michelle looked up gratefully at her; D.J. could tell that a big burden seemed to be lifted with her last promise. "Thanks, Deej." They hugged, and D.J. caught sight of the Mother's Day card Michelle had made for her one year in preschool, right next to the picture of Pam on her wall. She knew she might need help from Stephanie at a minimum, and perhaps their Aunt Becky - who would probably provide good advice - and Uncle Jesse and Joey - who might go too far in one direction or the other but who would even out into a good duo - when the time came.

However, as they embraced right then, she thought of this, the card, and many other little things, and weeks of worries about her prom faded away. After all, she realized, this was the kind of thing Pam was perfect at. And, she was doing great work in that role so far.

Michelle stood in front of her and said, "Should I just tell Samantha I'm not jumping? 'Cause she'll want to come wish me good luck, and I don't want her hearing them fight."

"I know, Samantha's really special to you," D.J. acknowledged. The fact Michelle and Courtney had been the ones Samantha bared her soul to that winter had left a huge impression on Michelle, but she was a really caring girl in general, helped by the fact she had so many wonderful, loving people helping her grow. "But, I wouldn't worry about that. First, I hope we can get Dad and Elizabeth's mom to stop arguing and pushing the two of you. Second, remember when Joey helped you learn to ride a bike?" She did. "As much as all of us would have liked to keep you from ever falling, it wouldn't have been fair to you if we never let you learn."

"But, falling off a bike is easy. You just get a scrape, have someone put stuff on it, and it heals."

"Samantha seemed pretty upset, I know, from what she's been through. But, we can't protect her from every little argument."

"I'd like to anyway," Michelle stated bluntly.

D.J. understood. "You're not the only one looking out for her. If she insists on coming back there, you know Steph's going to insist on being right with her. And, she can be really protective," D.J. quipped. "You know if there's any trouble, Steph will step in. I don't think them arguing is going to scare her that much, though. Maybe you can tell her what could happen, and make a joke about them throwing pies at each other."

"That would be Joey's advice," Michelle noted.

It was around supper, the day before the contest. The Tanners usually ate late, because Jesse and Joey's radio show lasted till 6 PM. However, at times some ate first, especially today, since Jesse had plans to take Becky somewhere special tonight, and Joey would take Michelle, Samantha, and that boy for ice cream if he wanted to go; they tried to all eat supper together at least five times a week if not more, though; at least when someone wasn't playing a sport that interfered

"So, do you think Samantha asked that boy yet?" Danny asked as he cleared the table, with the help of his girls and - at least with silverware - Nicky and Alex.

D.J. asserted that, "She's getting a little more confident. But, it's tougher for girls. Which is probably why she wanted Courtney there."

"I agree," Becky said, having overheard while coming downstairs in a lovely dress.

"Mommy, you look beautiful," the twins chimed.

"Thanks. I'm just glad my Prince Charming didn't try to start up a new band; he has enough on his hands with the Smash Club."

"He went out on his own terms last spring, instead of being let go by the Rippers a few months later, like he probably would have been," Danny said wisely. The former sportscaster knew a lot of athletes were the same way, insisting on their own terms, and if let go, finding it hard to know when to quit.

"That's important for anyone; especially Jesse," Becky concurred as Jesse and Joey entered from the back door, and Jesse greeted his family.

Once Jesse went upstairs to change, Joey said he'd eaten bigger before their show, and waited for Samantha to call. Instead of calling from Courtney's, though, as the rest were in the living room, Samantha and Courtney came in from riding their bikes. "What's wrong?' Stephanie asked right away. She could tell Samantha had been crying.

"Lenny said he didn't want to go for ice cream with me." For a moment, Michelle wondered if she hadn't made her point emphatic enough, till Samantha added, "He said he'd rather go out with Sarah!" Sarah was another girl on their team.

Stephanie cuddled her in her lap. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Samantha."

"Yeah, I can't believe that," Michelle said. "I figured if he wanted to go with anyone, of course he'd want to go with you."

"I know! I told him if he wanted to turn me down, he was supposed to do it because he thought girls were weird, not because he liked another girl!" She turned toward Stephanie, feeling warm and comfortable in the cuddle with the one who was like a mother, and trusting her to know just what to do. "Can we find some embarrassing pictures of him, like you did with Michelle when she bugged you?"

Stephanie forced herself to laugh, though inside she worried about what the future would hold with Samantha and boys. Would Samantha's heart be broken every time there was a rejection? She knew boys would like her,, she chided herself, recalling that Samantha was just now near the end of second grade. She had certainly taken on the feel of a mother at times. But, she didn't have to plan that far ahead.

Still, it was kind of surprising. Even if Harry and Walter hadn't moved away, by the end of second grade Stephanie was losing interest in boys, and boys her age in girls, if they hadn't already. She would start playing baseball because of a boy she kind of liked, but other than that, she wasn't interested in them again till fifth grade, maybe sixth, like most kids she knew. She hoped Samantha didn't put her trust in boys to help her confidence.

Becky sat on the other side of them from Michelle and said, "Well, honey, I know it's hard. But, you know, all this talk about who's going with who just starts too young. I didn't even care to be with a boy till sixth or seventh grade. You should just be happy with being friends now. Boys just aren't totally mature till they're..." Jesse poked his head down to complain about his hair, and say it was going to be an extra five minutes. Becky couldn't help but laugh. "...Till they're at least my husband's age."

It drew laughs from the others, but not as much of a smile as she'd hoped from Samantha. Michelle tried next. She reminded Samantha of the story of D.J.'s first broken heart. "That was in sixth grade. And, she's found lots of boys since then."

"Yeah, but now she doesn't even have a date for the prom!" Samantha complained.

"Well, Nelson and I were on again, off again a couple times. I mean, I could go with him as a friend." D.J. decided to stop; she wasn't making things sound any better. She didn't want to go with someone just as a friend. "I'll find someone. And, you will, too."

"Sure; I remember when I broke up with the leader of the Monkey Puppets," Kimmy said. "It was so neat when we met at the Smash Club. Just think, Deej, if your uncle hadn't gone out on when he wanted with the Rippers, he might have tried to be a Monkey Puppet himself instead of just helping Viper when he tried to set up a band." She smiled fondly at the memory. "He showed up at the Smash Club, and it was so perfect. I got to say I was a groupie."

D.J. agreed. "Viper wasn't my type; maybe a less proactive me, he is a nice guy, but, a little wild for my tastes now. Still, you and he seemed to be a nice match."

"Yeah; it was cool to have a boyfriend who could make me sound intelligent. I could tell people he was named after a spaceship," Kimmy said, referring to the craft on the original Battlestar Galactica.

"Kimmy, he used the name 'Viper' because of the snake," D.J. said matter-of-factly.

"Really? No wonder I never found any guys who went by 'Millennium Falcon.'" That was a ship in Star Wars.

Samantha didn't like to hurt Kimmy's feelings. But, she really cared about Kimmy; it was like a "crazy uncle" in a story. Still feeling a little down, instead of talking to Kimmy herself, Samantha turned to Stephanie and said, "I hope she never wants to go with a guy named 'Death Star.' That would be a scary name."

"Don't worry, D.J. and I have talked with her about that," Becky assured her.

Kimmy agreed. "I only want guys who are nice. Viper just said he needed space, and my feet smelled. But, take heart, Samantha, your feet never smell," Kimmy said warmly. "You'll find a better boy someday; even better than...whoever I find for D.J.."

"You're not making it sound promising," Michelle told Kimmy.

Danny agreed. "I think you should put it off a few years. Why don't you just let Joey take you and Michelle for ice cream, and talk about all the friends you do have. Because, you've got a lot of them. And, they do a lot more than go for ice cream with you." Samantha agreed reluctantly.

Michelle hadn't seen Elizabeth for a few days, but she made sure to see her before the horse jumping competition the next day. "Don't worry," she whispered, along with saying "good luck." "I've got a plan if our parents won't stop fighting."

Elizabeth looked oddly at Michelle, but said nothing, as her mom and Danny each started to brag once more about their child was going to so handily trounce the other. Michelle was glad she'd told Samantha they might be planning a strike. It might not have happened, but on the other hand, now there was no need for Samantha to wish her luck. Indeed, Samantha seemed to be a little relieved Michelle wasn't jumping, though that was only because it was hard for her to fathom actually jumping the animals. Also, she figured Michelle would be jumping a lot higher than she was. Though, not quite over the moon, Michelle considered, chuckling inside a little.

Once the adults had left, and the girls had finished complaining about how riding wasn't fun like it used to be, Michelle told Elizabeth her plan. "I'm up before you, so to make sure both our parents know what we're doing, you come out at the same time."

"And, make like we think it's a riding and dressage competition?" Michelle nodded. "I like the way you think, Tanner. You're a genius."

Michelle blushed slightly. "It's my sisters who give me these ideas. But, I'm more than happy to use them. They'll make sure our parents understand what's going on."

"Yeah, I guess that's a good idea," Elizabeth said as an afterthought. She wouldn't have thought of that part if Michelle had suggested just riding on the trail, but now that she brought it up, it would be best. Her mother did put on quite a bit of pressure, especially lately as Elizabeth got better. She hadn't been sure how to handle it.

"All right, Michelle's up," Danny said in their part of the gallery. "She is so going to blow away the competition. Especially yours," he said to Morgan.

"Why, I'll have you know my daughter is the best trained rider around. She's going to be an Olympian; she's won three in a row already!"

"Where is she?" Nicky asked.

Alex pointed. "There she is. Who's that with her?"

Michelle and Elizabeth had waited a second as they prepared. Because they were in a set schedule, they'd had to inform a few other participants what they were doing; something even D.J. hadn't thought about right away, but something that made Michelle glad she'd told Samantha what was going on. A couple others actually asked if they wanted help.

Michelle said "thanks," but that they didn't think that would be needed. "If my family wasn't helping out, I'd probably use you. But, I think we can do it ourselves."

"Maybe one of us could go make an announcement," one girl suggested. "People might wonder what you're doing."

"Good idea. Tell the PA announcer," Michelle said.

With that, Michelle and Elizabeth waited for Michelle's name to be called, and got their lines and actions straight. Then, Michelle walked her horse out, sitting tall in the saddle.

Elizabeth trotted up beside her, and then they tried their best to synchronize their moves for a few moments before just generally moving their horses around, speeding up, slowing down, and so on.

"What in the world?" Becky asked aloud.

"Why aren't they jumping, Mommy?" Nicky asked, tugging at her.

Danny sighed. "I know why. It's what she was trying to tell me earlier, only I wouldn't listen. Just like with Steph's dancing."

"Well, why is my daughter doing it, too?" Morgan insisted.

"Because the two of you are acting like spoiled children," Stephanie blurted. They'd been unable to find time to talk to Danny about the problem in the days leading up to it; he'd insisted it was Morgan's problem. Confronting them together was the best choice here.

Before the adults could say anything, an announcement came over the public address system. "We apologize for the momentary delay. A short demonstration over lack of sportsmanship is underway." The girl who "reported it" had thought it wouldn't be proper to say whose it was - she'd said it wouldn't be right to embarrass their parents like that. Besides, she'd pointed out, the important parties would know, anyway. Michelle and Elizabeth both realized that made a lot of sense.

Morgan knew what was meant, though - and who she felt had to have had the idea. "Your daughter is teaching mine to go on strike," she complained to Danny.

"Hey, pro athletes do it all the time," Danny said defensively.

"I think you both have a lot to learn about sportsmanship," D.J. noted, her arms folded.

The others complained about how Danny and Morgan only thought of themselves, and not of the fair play this competition was supposed to foster; the other adults in the Tanner group had quickly joined in. After a few minutes, they at least had Danny and Morgan talking civilly to each other.

"Why can't they be friends?" Samantha complained.

"I know it's rough. Even if Dad wasn't the kind to get like this, Elizabeth's mom doesn't sound like that great a sport, either," Stephanie murmured, suggesting, "just try to think of something fun."

Samantha thought a second. "Is it okay if I wonder what Kimmy would say if she was here? I don't like to hurt her feelings, but..." She knew whatever it was, it would be odd.

"I do that sometimes, too. She'd probably confuse dressage with dressing, and wonder if part of the competition was making salads," Stephanie quipped. She'd never teased Kimmy near like she might have had D.J. not been so proactive, but she did notice how weird Kimmy was. She'd always told Samantha it was okay to laugh if it was something Kimmy didn't mind and if it was just a little. And, that sounded like something Kimmy might even joke about to hide the times when she really didn't understand something. Like the time she jokingly asked what time the 6:00 news was.

Meanwhile, Michelle noticed her horse was a little fidgety after pushing into a canter, so she slowed him down to a trot. However, her horse was still a bit antsy, and saw something on the ground that frightened him - possibly a stick that looked like a snake, though she wasn't sure. The next thing she knew, she was going backward off the horse, which had stood for a moment before going forward.

Elizabeth gasped. "Michelle," she called, moving close to Michelle before getting off. She knew an emergency shed was at every such competition, but wasn't sure where. So, she instinctively motioned toward the stands for help as she got off.

That almost wasn't necessary, as Samantha had bolted from the stands upon seeing Michelle fall. Stephanie was right behind her, not wanting Samantha to get too scared if Michelle was hurt, but also very worried about whether Michelle was hurt. Danny also left almost immediately, his long strides causing him to overtake the other girls.

Morgan saw Elizabeth motion, and since it was her daughter motioning, she instinctively left, too, though not quite as fast; she, too, was worried something might have happened to Michelle. D.J. decided to follow behind her, partly out of concern for Michelle, partly to comfort Stephanie, Samantha, or both, and to keep them out of the way in case Danny needed to help with Michelle.

Nicky started to leave, too, with Alex close behind, but Becky grabbed their arms "Mommy, everyone else is going," Alex told her.

"You know what we said the rules were, only 72 people out on the field at once," she quipped, wondering how long it would take now before they realized the rule about not going onto the field usually was true.

Before everyone else got to Michelle, though, Elizabeth did. "Michelle," she said, jostling her slightly. Michelle moaned. "Michelle, are you okay?"

"Don't move her," Danny commanded as he came up to her. She continued to emit moans, as Danny explained that it was best not to roll her on her back, in case she had hurt her neck.

"Oh, no, did she hurt her neck?" Samantha asked.

"I hope not. Michelle?" Danny could tell she responded to his voice, but was unsure how much. "Honey, don't move your head. Keep it still. How many fingers do I have up?" He held up two fingers; she seemed dazed, but guessed two. However, she was unable to totally follow his finger as he moved it. "Was she out at all?" he asked.

"I'm not sure," Elizabeth said as the paramedics started toward her. "She didn't answer right away, but I couldn't tell for sure. She moaned once I touched her."

"Honey, do you know me? Who am I?" Michelle mumbled, "Dad." Danny had taken safety courses every year, part of his extreme protectiveness.

"Michelle, do you know who I am?" Samantha asked.

Michelle began to mutter "Sam" or "Samantha," but didn't get a chance to finish, as Stephanie finished it for her. "Good, she's coming around, right?" Stephanie asked hopefully. She was so anxious to ensure Samantha that Michelle was okay, she hadn't even realized that Michelle could say Sam - what she'd gone by before the drastic change she'd undergone to escape her past - instead of Samantha. She wasn't sure which Michelle would have said.

The paramedics arrived in an emergency cart, and Danny repeated what Elizabeth had said, as a third paramedic waited behind in the shed, ready to bring the ambulance out if need be.

"That was a big knock. Michelle, do you know where you are?" Danny asked. She seemed a bit confused. "Just the general area is fine."

Michelle thought for a second, the world continuing to spin for her. "Cal...California..."

"Doesn't she know where she is?" Samantha asked fearfully.

One paramedic asked about tingling in the fingers or toes - she had none, and Michelle could feel everything. The other got information on what Danny had tested so far. The first paramedic asked other questions as the second explained for Samantha.

"Sort of. She knows enough to know she's in California," the second paramedic explained. "But, only general information is available to her right now; along with information she's known for a long time. But, when we ask these questions, things might still be foggy. Just like if a football player gets hurt."

D.J. agreed, feeling better now, too. "See, it's just like with the 49ers, Steph," she assured her, asking Samantha if she remembered seeing games where players had concussions. She had seen parts of some on TV.

"Right, it's just like that, she'll have to go to the hospital to get checked, but otherwise she'll be fine," Danny assured them.

Michelle wasn't sure of the date - she thought 1995, but wasn't set on specifics, except she was pretty sure it was in the spring. She also didn't know who the President was. However, they could tell the "fog" in her mind was clearing a little. Once she'd been checked and found to have no numbness, tingling, or other symptoms of a neck injury, she sat up very slowly.

"She should go to the ER just in case," the first paramedic told Danny. "She can probably go in a car; it would be safer in the ambulance, though. We don't know for sure if she was out for a few seconds. We have to run tests, anyway, to make sure there's no internal damage. And, that would be easier to treat if it started to show up en route."

"Sure; we've got enough drivers, I'll go in the ambulance with her," Danny said.

When told she could get up, Michelle seemed to struggle, still a bit dizzy. Danny, Stephanie, D.J., Samantha, Elizabeth, and Morgan all helped her. As she stood, the crowd began to cheer the fact she could stand on her own power, or at least with minimal help.

Still confused a little, Michelle connected the cheers with what she remembered of the day...there was something about a sporting event, though she wasn't sure what, and certainly didn't suspect she was in it, despite being on the ground. Instead, she thought of where she'd heard such loud cheering before, and muttered dazedly, "The Giants won, Dad." The others chuckled as Danny assured her they probably had.

As Michelle was getting in, Morgan said, "I'm sorry I got so upset. I probably put a lot more pressure on Elizabeth than I should, too."

"Oh, it's no problem; I'm just glad Michelle's going to be okay."

"Me, too. It really made me think." She looked at Elizabeth. "And, now I'm worried if I don't stop pushing her in an unsportsmanlike way, she'll go on strike again."

Elizabeth looked ready to agree, but D.J. said, "I'm sure she won't have to again, right?" Morgan agreed.

Once a slew of tests were done, and Michelle was deemed okay otherwise, they admitted her to the hospital for observation, since there had been a mild concussion. Danny had been with her, holding her hand through the procedures. The others had just nervously sat around, then went home when a bus crash sent lots of people into the ER, and eventually quite a few family members, too.

Finally, Danny called to say they were in the room and everything was calm. Joey brought D.J., Stephanie, and Samantha down; he and Samantha went in, then D.J. and Stephanie went, to ease the strain, though more would be able to visit by that evening. Jesse and Becky, having dropped the twins off at Michelle's friend Cassie's hours ago, joined them all for supper after visiting Michelle in her room.

Once they all arrived back at the Tanner house early that evening, Jeff rode up on his bike. "Hi," he said as Joey, Stephanie, and Samantha got out of Joey's car, "I would honk, but I haven't found the right horn for my bike yet."

"What are you looking for now," Stephanie asked, "a loud belching sound, or the theme from 'Laurel and Hardy'?"

"I don't know; maybe I could tape you and rig it to play it back," he suggested to Joey. "How's Michelle, is she home yet? I heard she hurt her head."

"Everything tested fine, but she's being kept overnight for observation," Joey explained. "She had a small concussion; she was perfectly oriented by supper, though, except for not remembering the accident." Danny was with Michelle. Jesse and Becky were upstairs bathing the twins, and D.J. and Kimmy were talking in the living room.

Jeff was relieved as they all went inside. "She's really nice."

"Yeah, she really is a good friend, huh?" Joey agreed.

"Yeah. She really doesn't mind that much when I pull all kinds of crazy stuff. Which is good 'cause, well..."

Joey sat in front of him. "Hey, I used to be the same way. Well, okay, I still am. But, we can tell you like her a little."

"Well, maybe a wee little bit. But, you can't let anyone know!" he said in a hush. D.J. and Stephanie grinned knowingly, as Jeff had said it loud enough for the older sisters to hear. "Some of the other kids in our grade already think I do."

"That's the way Lenny was supposed to act," Samantha muttered.

"Well, of course!" Jeff spouted. "Boys never admit to liking girls at our age! I mean, girls are just weird sometimes. More like all the time," he said. Thinking a moment, trying to figure out Samantha's sigh, he asked, "What did he do instead?"

"He said he'd rather go out with some other girl," Samantha declared.

Stephanie said she'd been trying to console Samantha, then as she got more excited, she embarked on a trademark ramble. "I've been telling her, she's going to have so many friends, boys and girls; and maybe Aunt Becky's right. Okay, I know she's right, it's way too early to be worried about that. Of course, I'll still be watching you like a hawk when you're 13, if not more then, Samantha. But still...I mean, it's just going out for ice cream together, there's no reason he should have said 'no,' you're supposed to be making friends at this stage. That's why I was friends with Harry and Walter. I wasn't calling either of them my boyfriend; at least not a boyfriend type of boyfriend. Anytime I said that word was just to bug you; remember that, Deej?" She nodded.

"Was there a talking contest I didn't hear about?" Jeff quipped.

Stephanie couldn't help but laugh. "That was definitely a big league ramble, huh? But, I mean, a boy can just go out and have ice cream as a friend with a girl, and it doesn't mean anything."

"Of course. I'd even do that with you, Samantha, except...well, some of the guys already accuse me of liking Michelle..." Jeff hedged.

"Well, then this is the best way to prove otherwise," Joey said. Jeff looked oddly as him. "See, if they think you like Michelle, but then you go out for ice cream with Samantha, they won't think you like Michelle anymore."

Jeff tried to follow the reasoning. "Won't they accuse me of liking Samantha then?"

Joey had been winging it a little, as he sometimes did, but it was something he could get out of easily, which he did, telling Jeff everyone in the school knew that Samantha had had problems and needed lots of encouragement.

Stephanie agreed. "They don't know all the problems Samantha had. But, they know she's been really sad. If they hear Joey took you and Samantha for ice cream, Jeff, all they'll say is that you're a really good friend who likes to help cheer people up. And, I've heard enough from Michelle to know that's just the kind of boy you are," Stephanie finished, secretly hoping to get Jeff to go with Samantha, if only so she'd feel confident someone would. She knew to pick her battles - she didn't think it was a good idea for Samantha to be thinking of it like a date, like Lenny might. But, Jeff would never think of it like that. "Once they hear about Michelle's accident, they'll figure you went to cheer Samantha up," she concluded, her head spinning over how complex this could get.

"Right. I just want to go there with a boy for a change. I don't need a prom date," Samantha said.

The others thought that might have made D.J. worry about her problem, but she laughed it off. "Trust me," D.J. said, "no girl would want a prom date who might put a spider down her back."

"Hey, speak for yourself," Kimmy admonished D.J., "some dates are such a drag it's the only fun you get that evening!"

Jesse and Becky had overheard the last few lines, as they came down with the twins in their pajamas. "Do I want to know what's been going on here?" Becky inquired.

"Not only that, I don't know if I want to know about some of those dates Kimmy's been on," Jesse added.

"Well, will you go with me for ice cream?" Samantha asked.

"Sure; as long as I can hear about those dates sometime," Jeff said. "It's sure a lot better than that mushy stuff."

"Just wait, Jeff; by the time you get to be my age, that so-called 'mushy stuff' will be the coolest thing!" D.J. pledged.

Jeff looked strangely at her, and then as he went to call his parents to see if he could go, he said, "You girls really are weird."

"Not as weird as boys. Oh, well, it takes one weird one to know another one," Samantha teased lightly.

Samantha really did think Jeff was a great friend; so did Michelle. They kidded each other as boys and girls do - when Michelle had found out that Jeff wasn't her secret admirer on Valentine's Day, she'd been relieved, as neither one could imagine really liking the other as more than a friend. Still, Michelle and Jeff would eventually grow closer, and marry, years down the road. And, both would enjoy being there to help Samantha, too.

Samantha had needed encouragement, just with Michelle's accident, she confessed. They were near the end of a horseback ride with Elizabeth, Stephanie, D.J., and Danny over a month later. It was one of Michelle's first times riding since her fall; she'd been kept in from recess and sports for a month, just in case.

"I'll bet that was scary for you," Elizabeth told Samantha compassionately. She'd heard about Samantha's emotional fragility, though not a lot. She'd visited Michelle a couple times since, and now that school was finally out, looked forward to being able to play with them more when she could. Though, as she admitted, "It hasn't kept me from wanting to enter a bunch of contests, but seeing an accident and being in it are two different things."

Michelle agreed. "I'm glad I don't remember falling."

"She wound up losing maybe 2-3 hours, from around when the two of you started to walk your horses around to sometime soon before she got up to her hospital room," Danny explained for Elizabeth. "It's weird, because she was awake the whole time, and pretty coherent for the last part of time she forgets now, but there are some things we'll never understand about memory."

"Yeah, like how D.J. forgot about Steve. At least Kimmy remembered him," Samantha remarked. Steve - D.J.'s steady boyfriend for around a year and a half starting the summer before tenth grade - had been found by Kimmy and taken D.J. to the prom.

"I think D.J. was worried he'd found someone else," Stephanie told her. "Kimmy had thought of him by the time of the contest, but it took her a while to find him. She might have felt he was more of a last resort, too, not wanting to tell D.J. in case he had."

D.J. had figured that, and was glad she'd been wrong, though for now they'd just be really close friends, till they married a number of years later. However, D.J. added that, "Kimmy also said it was because he could have moved into some weird monastery where all you do is eat."

Elizabeth wondered why Kimmy would think such a bizarre thing. "You'd have to know Kimmy for a while; and even then, it's hard to understand how she thinks sometimes," Stephanie explained.

Once they got off their horses, Elizabeth told Michelle, "My mom doesn't push me like she did. I really appreciate your help."

"We're here whenever you need," Stephanie promised.

"Yeah; they sure are great," Samantha said. When she and Michelle were alone, she admitted, "I think I was a bit scared the whole time; I don't know why, though. I guess just the idea of you jumping like that was rough."

"Well, it wasn't going to be over really high things like some of the Olympic ones. But, I guess it would be hard to think about. I'm glad you had Jeff ask you out; he didn't pull any weird tricks when you had ice cream together, did he?" Michelle asked. "he said he didn't, but you never know with him."

Samantha thought a second. "Nothing more than Joey would. It's fun having him help," Samantha said Stephanie came up to them.

"Well, it wasn't too bad, then." They laughed. "Jeff is a nice friend. Who know, maybe Steph's right; maybe in a few years..."

Michelle laughed. It was too silly for her to imagine right then. Even next spring, Jeff would drive her crazy trying to hang around her all the time to rehearse for a play - though he would later tell her he'd talked with someone who told him girls wouldn't like him much if he tried to hang around them all the time. It would be a tacit admission he liked her then; and once Michelle realized that, it would seem really cool.

"You'll find someone special, too. You know we'll all help you with whatever you need," Michelle promised her. "I love helping people."

"Yeah, I know; like that boy who wanted your help getting his parents to let him adopt a bunny one weekend last weekend. With all the nice people in your family; well, I guess I shouldn't ever have to worry, huh? I'm starting to understand what a real family is like." She thought for a minute. "Sometimes I even think about your mom. I bet you do, too." Michelle got a wistful look in her eye.

Stephanie finally spoke. "We try our best to be like her. Funny thing is, I ramble like our dad, but I hear my excitability comes from her."

"I guess I should have faith you'll be okay. Maybe I'm returning the favor since you're so protective with me," Samantha said.

Michelle agreed. That might be true. "Or, maybe you just get a little more scared. Steph was like that when she was younger."

Stephanie agreed. It was good to see Samantha encouraged that some traits like that weren't because of how neglected she'd been when little, but were instead just things that might have been part of her no matter what. That helped Samantha not to think about that part of her all the time, from what she'd learned.

"Something like this just helps build your faith that everything will be okay," she told Samantha. "Michelle and I have always been close, but now we're a lot closer because of the accident. A lot of good came out of it. God's always making good come out of stuff; it's just we can't always see it right away."

"I guess you're right. I do feel better now than I did," she said. "And, He's sure given me a great family in you guys," Samantha said. The Tanner girls said "thanks" as they shared a group hug.