Time Lost

by Neetz

She was smiling at him, but her eyes betrayed her sadness, brimming with the tears of despair. "I love you, Jonathan," she said as he looked at her from the door. He had felt the intensity behind her words and started to turn back, but she smiled once more and shooed him away on his errand. He could see it all now, so clearly. Why hadn't he seen it then? Why hadn't he recognized that look in her eyes? He had seen it, he realized. He just hadn't understood it. Now it was too late. Now she was gone forever. No, not forever, just for thirty years!

Jonathan MacKensie opened his eyes and took a shaky breath. He sat alone in the darkness, illuminated only faintly by the last embers of the dying fire. The room was beginning to grow cold, but he couldn't summon up enough willpower to stoke the fire back to life. He watched silently as the tiny wisps of flame danced their last upon the spent log.

Was it all real, or had it just been a dream? He looked down at the pile of clothing at his feet, the clothing he had retrieved from the bathroom floor. She had left him just as she had arrived. It hadn't been a dream. She had been real.

He reached out and clutched the red sweater and pulled it to his face. The soft knitted material absorbed the wetness that fell slowly down his cheeks. He squeezed his eyes shut against their flow.

"I love you, Jonathan," she whispered again in his mind. He pressed the sweater against his mouth to stifle the first sob. He couldn't hold the rest back. His shoulders shook as he let his emotions take over.

"Oh, Lori," he cried softly, "I love you too, and I never said it." He cried until the exhaustion, both physical and emotional, finally caught up with him and he slumped against the arm of the overstuffed chair.

That was the way Edgar Benedek found him an hour later. He had silently let himself in, hoping not to disturb Jonathan if he had managed to get to sleep. Maybe he should have done as his friend had asked and just left him alone for the night, but Benny couldn't shake off his concern. Jonathan had tried to keep his emotions in check, but Benny had known the anthropology professor long enough to know it wouldn't last. He wanted to help his friend, but he just didn't know how.

Outside, the Georgetown Institute's clock tower struck four times. Four hours since midnight. Four hours since Lori had disappeared. Had she made it back to the future safely? They couldn't know for sure for thirty years. Benny hadn't shared that concern with Jonathan. It was hard enough on the man to learn that the woman he loved no longer existed in the present, that she had returned three decades into the future from where, or rather when, she had come.

Benny thought back to their walk to Wok Ho's Chinese. He had been waiting for Jonathan on the street outside his flat. He knew what Jonathan didn't know, what the logical-explanation-seeking mind of the academician had not been able to accept. How he was going to explain, Benny hadn't known. He only knew that Jonathan was going to need him.

They never made it to Wok Ho's. Benny didn't even remember how he'd told him. All he could remember was Jonathan looking at him like he was crazy, then coming to a stop on the sidewalk and grabbing the tabloid journalist by the arms. "What do you mean she's gone?" he demanded.

"I'm sorry, Jonny," Benny had replied. "I wish there was some easier way to tell you. I thought maybe it would be better if I told you now before you went back and found the place empty. Maybe I was wrong."

Jonathan had stared into Benedek's eyes for a moment, assessing the truthfulness of what this man known for his unbelievable stories was telling him. "This time your joke isn't funny, Benedek," Jonathan told him menacingly.

"I'm sorry, Buds," Benny repeated, his voice full of sincerity and a touch of sadness. "But I'm not joking. I wouldn't joke about something like this. I know how much it's gonna hurt you, and, God, I wish there was some other way." His hands moved up to clutch Jonathan's arms.

Jonathan raised his chin, looked down on his friend and began to shake his head. "No," he said. "She's not gone. She wouldn't leave now."

"Jonathan," Benny's voice entreated.

"No!" MacKensie exploded. He shoved Benedek away from him as he turned to ran back toward his apartment, the force sending the reporter sprawling shoulder first into a old faded Volkswagen parked on the street.

When Benny reached Jonathan's apartment, he could hear his friend called Lori's name as he frantically searched each room. Benny was coming into the living room when the cries stopped and he knew where Jonathan was. A few minutes later, he'd come out of the bathroom clutching the clothes tightly in his arms. He didn't look at Benedek, but moved directly to the fire and gazed into it as if transfixed.

"Jonny?" Benedek stepped closer. MacKensie gave no sign he'd heard him, so Benny laid his hand gently on his friend's arm.

Jonathan shrugged it off roughly, turned and glared at his partner. "Don't! Just get out of here, Benedek."

"Jonathan, I think we should..."

"GET OUT!!" Jonathan screamed. Benny almost jumped, but seeing the look in his friends eyes, he nodded and began to slowly back away.

"Okay, Jack, but if you want to talk!"

MacKensie seemed to be fighting to hold himself in control as he spoke through gritted teeth. "Please, Benny, just leave me alone."

"All right," he had agreed and slowly made his way to the door. He looked back just before walking out to see Jonathan sink down in the chair by the fire. He'd spent the last few hours just sitting in his car in front of his friend's home, nursing his sore shoulder, until finally his worry got the better of him and he'd returned.

Now he stood looking down at the sleeping man in the chair, the red sweater pressed against his face. Suddenly shivering with the cold, Benny realized the fire was almost out, so he added a log and stoked it as quietly as he could. The sound, however, was enough to rouse, Jonathan. When his eyes fell on Benny, the journalist decided to make the first move.

"I know, I know, you told me to get out. And I did. But you can't blame a guy for worrying, can you? Besides, I promised Lori I'd..." He stopped when Jonathan's gaze narrowed at him.

"Why didn't you tell me before she left?"

Benny sighed. "We tried, Jack, but you wouldn't believe us."

"She really did come from the future?" he asked, sounding almost like he was ready to begin to consider the story as real.

"It's the truth, Jonny, honest."

"And she had to go back."

"She didn't have a choice," Benny replied. "The time gizmo was on some kind of automatic recall. If she wasn't in the right place, the same place she arrived, at just the right time, midnight, she didn't know if she'd just not go back or just evaporate or something. Even if she could have been sure she could stay, it would have been dangerous for her to. She knew too much about the future. She didn't belong in our time."

"She belonged with me," Jonathan insisted.

"I know how hard it was for her to leave you, Jonny. She already had a crush on you thirty years from now. When she came back and got a glimpse at the young you, well, Buds, you rocked her socks!"

The corners of Jonathan's mouth almost turned up in response to Benny's remark. Almost, but not quite.

"I don't know what to do, Benny," he sighed.

"It'll be okay, Jack. You'll just... ow!" He had reached out his hand to lay it on MacKensie's arm, when a sharp pain flashed down his arm from his shoulder.

"Benedek! What's wrong?" Jonathan asked, suddenly concerned.

"Oh, it's nothing," Benny replied.

Jonathan shook his head and placed his hand on the other man's shoulder, his fingers probing the joint.

"Ouch!" Benny cried again.

"Benedek, I think your shoulder's dislocated. How did that happen?"

"Well, I'm not sure, but I think it was when I collided with a VW a few hours ago."

"You were in an accident after you left here?"

"Ah, no."

Suddenly Jonathan's eyes went wide. "It was when I pushed you away on the street, wasn't it? I remember you crying out, but I blocked it out." His face filled with remorse. "God, Benny, you should have gone to a doctor.

"Had something else to do," Benny replied. "Besides, it doesn't really hurt... much."

"Sure it doesn't," MacKensie replied with a tone of skepticism. He reached for his jacket. "Come on. I'm driving you to the emergency room."

"You don't have to do that!" Benny objected.

"If I don't, who will?"

"Hey, I'm not helpless."

"No, you're just brainless!" Jonathan shook his head. "How did you survive before we met?"

"On pure gut instinct!" Benny smiled.

"I'm even more astonished!"

Benny allowed himself to be directed toward the front door, but just before walking through it, he turned back to Jonathan. "I'm really sorry, Jonathan. You know that."

This time a sad smile did blossom on MacKensie's face. "Yes, Benny, I know, and I appreciate your concern more than you probably know." He patted his friend's back, too close to the injured shoulder.

"Ow!" Benny cried again. "Yeah, you're so grateful you're trying to kill me!"

"Shut up and come on," Jonathan returned. Benny let him precede him out the door, a smile lighting his own features. There would still be some rough times ahead, but Jonathan was going to be all right.

Benedek planned to see to it.

Inspired by the theatrical success of Ghostbusters, Shadow Chasers didn't last long on network television. After a huge promotional campaign, it's fate was ultimately sealed by the scheduling of it opposite a somewhat successful sitcom--The Cosby Show! But our friends wouldn't die! They came back strong in fandom. There were four episodes of the show that were never shown, at least not during the original run in this country. They were part of the package that aired on armed forces television, and some of us enterprising souls found friends of friends who got us copies. The episode on which this epilogue is based is one of those shows. Entitled "Ahead of Time" it's basically a love story between our skeptical professor of anthropology and a young woman who comes back 30 years to prevent a tragedy that will eventually bring the world to the brink of destruction. Of course, as in the Cartwright tradition, there can't be a happy ending. But there was no doubt Benny would be there for his "Buds!"