Reunited in Time
by Noel Goddard
Original Pub. Date: March 1998
Summary: Sam and Al deal with the repercussions of the episode Mirror Image.

 

SAM:

This leap was different than the rest. Usually when I leap, I feel a tug towards home, but then, like a rubber band that's been stretched too far, I snap back into the time stream towards some unknown destination. This time there was no tug towards home. It seemed to have less of a hold on me now. All the regrets of my past life were gone - Tom was alive, I made peace with my dad for not coming home for his last Thanksgiving, and best of all, Al and Beth were together. There was nothing holding me to that life. Or so I thought.

The relentless stream of time pulled me along and then dumped me at my next spot. I hit the body of my new host hard. As I looked around, the world seemed to spin out of control. It was too much; between the leap effect and the spinning, I calmly slipped into unconsciousness.

*****

When I awoke, I saw a crowd of people standing over me. Their voices came at me from all directions.

"Are you all right?"

"What happened?"

"Should we call a doctor?"

One voice was particularly close though and very comforting. "No, no. I'm sure she'll be all right. I promise I'll take her to the doctor directly." The soothing voice belonged to a young man, mid-30's I would guess, who was quite handsome. He also looked quite concerned. The well-tanned face was covered with worry lines, and the broad shoulders were tensed in fear.

The pronouns in his speech had not escaped me. I was a woman again. I sighed inwardly hoping that Al would keep his lecherous comments about my host to himself.

That is, if Al were going to show up at all. I knew from conversations with Al that the changes I caused in time often effected the project personnel. However, the only ones that noticed the changes were Al and Ziggy, presumably because they somehow existed outside the time stream. That apparently was my theory anyway, according to Al. Now that I had effectively caused Al to stay with Beth, I wasn't at all sure that Al was going to come through the Imaging Chamber door to help me with this leap. For all I know, I could have caused him to suddenly wake up in Beth's arms and have a nervous breakdown from the shock. Great work Beckett. Nail yourself and your best friend all in one fell swoop.

Suddenly I was distracted from my thoughts by the floor sinking away from my feet. The handsome man, apparently noticing that I was off in another world, had picked me up and was carrying me through some sort of theater lobby. Once outside a blast of cold air hit me, and I shivered. The man held me close to him, and I huddled close because it was just so cold. Outside it was dark and strangely quiet for the surrounding city. The stars were beautiful, and the moon was full. A valet had brought what must be our car around. My partner gently lowered me into the passenger seat, and he moved swiftly around the car and into the driver's seat. With just a concerned look and no words, we headed off into the night.

As we drove silently, I considered what I knew. I apparently was a young, but frail woman who was close in some way to this man. We had gone to the theater on a winter's night, and I had taken ill. I looked and saw no purse that I could raid for information, and my partner was obviously not in a talkative mood. Judging from the car and the clothes, I would put us sometime in the mid to late 1980's. I stared out of the car at the passing night sky, and said a silent prayer. "If you're still out there in New Mexico Al, I hope that you find me soon. If not, I hope that you have all the happiness that you always wanted and deserved. Amen."

*****

AL:

Sam had leaped away from Al's bar. That was one very strange place, and it seemed to have an even stranger effect on Sam. The last time that I saw him, he was babbling something about Al (the bartender, not me) being God and being the force behind our leaps. I came back to talk to Gooshie about how to get Sam out of there. While I was out in the control center, Ziggy reported that Sam was gone. Not Sam has leaped, but Sam was gone. There was no one in the waiting room, and Ziggy couldn't find him. That was 30 hours ago. I haven't left the control room since then. I wasn't going anywhere until I knew where my best friend had settled in the good-ol' time-space continuum. Call me paranoid, but something was just not right about that last leap.

Anyway, I had apparently fallen asleep on Ziggy's control board. Gooshie woke me gently and told me that I'd better go get some shut-eye, or he was personally going to have Beeks declare me non compis mentis. So, I went. After all, I can't find Sam if they lock me up. I slipped back into my quarters silently so as not to wake Tina. She was bed-ridden with raging case of the flu and need as much sleep as possible. Suddenly and without warning, I was falling. As I fell, I saw that I had tripped over...a toy? How in the world did a toy of some sort get into my quarters? I hit the ground hard, but most of the impact was absorbed by my ass and my sweats. As I sat on the floor contemplating getting back up, I heard a voice call out from the bedroom, "Al, honey, are you all right?"

I froze. That voice did not belong to Tina- not now, not ever. That voice was something much more precious- a voice that I had not heard in 30 years. It was...Beth's voice.

I was frozen to the floor. I was afraid to get up and go into the bedroom for fear I would see only Tina sleeping feverishly. Maybe I should go see Beeks. Maybe I'm finally cracking up after five years of time-line shifts and continuity changes.

A light flickered on in bedroom, and I heard soft footfalls heading this way. Please God, I prayed silently, no more tricks. I couldn't bear it. I opened my eyes and standing over me was the woman that I had left behind so many years ago, Beth.

*****

BETH:

I knew the moment I looked down into his eyes. This was the moment I had known would come for the last ten years. Al did not expect me to be standing over him right now. Judging by the fear, shock, and distrust all reflected in his eyes, he was shaken to the core of his being just by my presence at all. I must have really done a number on him in the "original" time line. Thank God for Sam.

*****

BETH:

When I first met Dr. Sam Beckett, my husband's boss at Project Starbright, I was a bit taken aback. He was a dead ringer for someone I had met some twenty years before. Someone who mysteriously appeared and reassured me that Al would come home someday. My angel, as I would call him over the years, would only identify himself as a friend of Al's. He told me emphatically that Al was alive and would come home. He somehow knew that I was starting to see a man named Dirk, and he begged me to postpone moving that relationship forward for one year. He said that in one year, in April of 1970, a photographer named Maggie Dawson would shoot a picture of Al as a POW in Vietnam. He said that the picture would go on to win her a Pulitzer Prize. Needless to say, I was skeptical. But I had already waited so long, what would another year matter?

One can imagine the shock I felt a year later when I picked up a copy of Time at the grocery store and saw my Al's face staring back at me from the cover. He was dirty and much thinner, but it was my Al. My angel was telling the truth about the photo, so he must also be telling the truth about Al coming home. That was when I called it quits with Dirk entirely and resolved to wait for my husband to come home.

As Al and Sam worked together on Project Starbright, Sam really did become a friend of Al's. In fact, Sam became the best friend Al had ever had, even better than Chip. As Sam became a part of our family, I was always a little nervous around him. That eerie feeling that he was somehow my angel never passed.

When Sam and Al left Project Starbright together, they moved on to found their own project- Project Quantum Leap. When Al told me it was a time travel project, I began to realize how it might be possible for Sam to be my angel. Over the years at the project, I quietly listened to the conversations of those around me to learn that as Sam leaped through time, he made small changes to effect the lives of individuals, rather than history-making events. Al also confided in me about all the leaps as they were going on, and that he and Ziggy were the only ones who could notice all the changes in our current time line. I knew that always bothered him somewhat. Every day when he left the Imaging Chamber, he never knew what would be waiting on the other side of the door. I have always thought that he was secretly afraid that I would disappear while he was with Sam.

Shortly after Sam leaped for the first time, I confronted Ziggy with the possibility that I might have encountered Sam while he was leaping. She clammed up tight as could be and claimed that I did not have the security clearance to access that data. Well, after a lot of more subtle discussions with Donna, Sam's wife, and Tina, I reached the conclusion that there were many time-lines going forward. Sometimes those time lines crossed and joined to make new time lines into the future. Well, it stood to reason then that once my time line reached whenever Sam had interceded in our lives, our time line would cross with the "original" time line. My Al, my loving husband, would merge with the Al who remembered the "original" time line, whatever that was. Sometimes thinking about this stuff was enough to give me headache. I may have gone on to get my medical degree after Al came back from 'Nam, but hard-core physics was never my strong suit. I just knew in my heart that there would come a day when Al would realize just how much he owed to his friend. Al hated owing anyone anything. I just hoped that he would take it well and not do something rash in an effort to pay Sam back.

*****

SAM:

Two days had passed since I had leaped into this woman. There was still no sign of Al. I had never gone this long without contact before, at least not that I could remember.

I had now determined that my name was Peg Johnson. The kind gentleman who had helped me from the theater when I leapt in was my husband, Stan. I also now knew that I lived in Denver, and the year was 1984. I also knew that Peg was dying from breast cancer. The latest estimates of her doctors were that I, Peg that is, had at best a month to live. That's why I was so weak when I leapt in. It's a miracle that the stress of the leap didn't kill us both. I wonder where she is now, if she's in the waiting room in New Mexico or if she's just lost in the rush of the time stream like I am between leaps. If she were in New Mexico, surely somebody would've contacted me by now- Al, Gooshie, someone I didn't know. I had the strangest sense of déjà vu that once the Observer became someone other than Al because of something that I did. No point in trying to dredge up the memory. It was gone.

I wondered what exactly I was supposed to do on this current leap. There was no way with the level of cancer therapy available in 1984 that I could prolong this woman's life. She had no children, and her relationship with her husband seemed healthy enough. In fact, Stan seemed to have accepted the fact the Peg was going to die and was determined to make what time they had left together as special as possible. It seemed almost cruel to deprive her of this time with her husband. What was I here to do? I began to wish that God, Time, Fate or Whatever would just get on with things so that Peg could get back to enjoying her last days with her husband.

I sighed and lay back on the pillows. Peg's body was very frail, and I tired easily. Maybe a nap would help to make things more clear.

*****

AL:

I sat back on the couch, still silent from the shock of the night's events. I had come back to my quarters after hours upon hours of searching for Sam. Instead of finding Tina, I found Beth. Shock was actually an understatement. Numb might be a better word. Utter and complete numbness.

Apparently, after Sam left Al's Bar, he leapt back to Beth as himself. He convinced her that I would come home and that she should wait for me. According to her, we had been together the whole 25 years since I was repatriated from 'Nam, and we had 4 daughters and 2 grandchildren, so far. As Beth told me about these things, the memories of that timeline began to merge with my memories of the "original" timeline.

Over the years, I had become accustomed to dealing with the changes that Sam's leaps sometimes caused in my present. The hardest one until now had been accepting the appearance of Sam's wife, Donna. In one of his earliest leaps, Sam altered Donna's life in such a way that she no longer stood him up at the altar. Instead they were married, and she was employed here at the Project as the Head of the Experimental Physics Division. That particular change in my "present" had been nearly unbearable. I had still held to Sam's rules though and didn't tell him anything about our past or present that he couldn't remember himself.

This particular development was too much though. I thought back over my "new" memories of the past 25 years. They were times filled with happiness, joy, and contentment. There was one major element missing however - Sam.

I looked up into my wife's patient and loving eyes. "Beth, honey, I do remember us. I remember all the joy and love that we've shared over the years."

A few tears rolled down her cheeks as she spoke softly, "But..."

I felt guilt, heartbreak, and love all rolled up into one as I looked at her and spoke, "But I need to find Sam. After everything that has happened both in this timeline and the "original" timeline, I need to find Sam. I need to see him again and talk to him again."

She nodded wordlessly. After a few minutes of silence between us, she looked at me, "Al, look me in the eye. I need to know what's in your heart."

I looked up and stared at her lovely eyes- eyes that I had fallen in love with so many years ago.

She stared back at me, and she knew. She had always been able to look into my soul. She spoke the words that I couldn't say. "You love Sam don't you? In your "original" timeline, you and Sam were in love. Neither Donna nor I were around, I take it."

I whispered my answer. I had to tell her the truth, yet somehow it seemed too cruel to say. "No. Donna originally left Sam at the alter, and you..." I stopped and took a deep breath before continuing. "You had me declared dead while I was a POW and married Dirk."

The tears came streaming down her face. The only response that she could muster was "Oh."

I reached out to her and held her tight in my arms as she sobbed. We sat like that for hours. Just Beth and I comforting each other as it had always been in this timeline.

As morning arrived, Beth stirred and sat up with some resolve. "Al, I know what you have to do. You have to go to Sam and be with him."

Startled, I asked "What?"

Beth seemed suddenly strong and filled with conviction, "Al, I have only had you in my life for the last 25 years because of Sam's love for you. He must have loved you an awful lot in order to come and try to save our marriage." She stopped and swallowed, " And as much as I know that you care for me, you also share a very special love with Sam that has allowed you to stay by his side for the last 5 years while he has been leaping. I think it's time that you two were together."

Almost speechless as a result of this latest development, I asked "But how?"

Beth gave a half-hearted smile and answered, "I think I know how."

Still unsure, I asked, "But, Beth, what about us? What about the kids?"

She smiled, "We have had so many wonderful years Al. I will always love you and so will the kids, and I hope that you will always hold us in a special place in your heart. But could you honestly go on from here without Sam?"

I answered honestly, "No."

She nodded. "Then let's get to work on reuniting you and Sam."

*****

The next few hours flew by in a blur. During the night while I thought she was sleeping, Beth had figured out that the best place to start looking for Sam was probably at Al's bar, the site of Sam's last leap. I protested, "But, Beth, I can't get there without Sam being there anymore. Remember, I'm linked only to those places that he exists during a leap."

Beth smiled as asked, "C'mon Al. Where's that old daredevil side I fell in love with?"

I winced a little at the reference to our love and felt the renewed sharp stab of guilt over leaving her for Sam. Then, the proverbial light bulb went on, and my jaw dropped to the floor. I spoke slowly, "You think I can leap into Al's bar? That's insane! We've only tried targeted leaping twice!"

She smiled patiently, already knowing that I'd give in eventually, "Al, it worked both times. You got Sam to leap into you and 'Bingo' to leap into you. Obviously, that part of the project works now. Al, if you truly love Sam, aren't you willing to take that risk?"

I smiled at her. "Beth, you've always known me so well. Of course, I'm willing to take any risk for Sam. I guess I'm still not sure that you're going to be okay."

Beth sighed, "Al, the only reason that I am okay is that I know that I'm doing the right thing. The love that Sam has for you gave you to me for an extra 25 years that I wouldn't have had otherwise. The love that you had for Sam gave him to Donna for the past 10 years. I think it's time that you two gave some of that love to each other."

I hadn't thought about Donna. Beth, as usual, seemed to read my thoughts. "No, Al. I haven't said anything to Donna yet. She comes back from visiting the Becketts tonight. I will explain everything to her then. I think she'll understand. She confided some of her ...concerns to me after Sam leaped home that one time. She was afraid then that she might be losing Sam to you. I don't think this development will come as much of a surprise."

With that, we headed for the control room arm in arm.

*****

Once we reached the control room, I ordered everyone out except for Gooshie. If this plan were to work, we would need Gooshie's expertise with both Ziggy and the Accelerator. I slowly explained to Gooshie that I had decided to leap into Al's bar in an effort to locate Sam. I didn't tell him the whole story because Beth I decided that there was no need to create such a scandal. It would be easier on everyone involved if this were just a heroic attempt on my part to locate the heart of the project.

Gooshie asked all the questions that we had anticipated. What if I missed the target of Al's bar? What if I got stuck out there too? Who would take over as Project Observer if I couldn't be retrieved? Who would run the project in my absence?

I explained that I had already considered those possibilities. If I couldn't be retrieved, then Tom, Sam's brother and Project Security Chief, would take over as Project Director. As for an Observer, I had chosen Verbena Beeks. Her neural patterns were close enough to both mine and Sam's that it seemed possible that Ziggy could make the necessary adaptations. Also, she had agreed to take the job after I explained to her the whole story about why I was leaping. In fact, she very happy about Sam and me and equally excited about the prospect of getting out of the Waiting Room and into the action.

Gooshie sighed, knowing that he wasn't going to win this argument, and began to program the Accelerator for the leap. He spoke without turning, "Admiral, the accelerator will be powered and ready to go in about 20 minutes. Have you left some sort of information somewhere so they won't lock me up for this?"

Exasperated with all his questions, I bellowed, "Of course I have. Do you take me for a bumbling idiot?"

Gooshie muttered under his breath, "Yes," and went back to his work. Beth put a comforting hand on my arm to keep me from totally blowing my top.

After a few minutes, Gooshie spoke again sounding a bit exasperated himself, "Admiral, shouldn't you be putting on a Fermi suit?"

I shuddered. I was not going to wear that thing unless absolutely necessary. It was more humiliating than anything I ever had to wear in the space program. Sam had tried to explain to me the scientific purpose of the suit to me when he designed it six years ago. I hadn't understood it then, and I don't understand it any better now. It did look great on the kid though. I don't think anyone really wanted to see me in one. I looked at Gooshie and asked hesitantly, "Are you sure I have to wear that thing?"

With an exaggerated sigh of frustration, Gooshie launched in a long-winded explanation of the purpose of the suit.

I held up my hand to stop him and commanded "In English, please?"

Gooshie answered in one word, "Yes."

With that I disappeared into the next room and began struggling to fit my more stocky frame into a suit designed for someone of Sam's more lanky build. I finally got into the damn thing and went back into the control room.

After just one look, Beth dissolved into a fit of laughter.

Deeply hurt, I demanded, "What's the matter? I thought you found my body sexy?"

As she fought to control her laughter, she replied, "Oh honey, I do think that you're incredibly sexy, but take a look at yourself."

I looked down and began chuckling myself. I had focused so much on getting my torso into the suit and getting the damn thing zipped, that I had totally ignored the suits sleeves and legs. The legs were bunched up around my ankles, and the sleeves were hanging down over my hands. I looked like a kid who had raided his dad's closet. I grinned, "Okay, so I'm a little bit shorter than the kid. Just promise me that you'll get this thing off of my body once I've leapt."

Beth smiled and replied, "Of course I will Al. You can trust me."

I returned her smile because I knew in this timeline that was the truth. This Beth loved me completely and would never betray me. There was no doubt in my mind that a large part of me would always love her.

Gooshie's voice broke into my thoughts, " Admiral, the accelerator's ready."

I looked at Beth one last time, and we kissed for the last time. No more words were spoken. Just one tear rolled down her cheek as I began to walk towards the accelerator.

Once I was in the accelerator, I spoke knowing that Gooshie could hear me, "Alright, let's do it!"

I felt the platform begin to spin underneath me and then the leap began. A powerful current of electricity coursed through my body. I remembered this feeling from the one time that I leaped. It was a powerful shock, but yet it wasn't painful. As I left the project and headed into the time stream, I felt only my love for Sam pulling me forwards. Hang in there, kid. I'm coming.

*****

BETH:

After the accelerator stopped, Gooshie turned towards me and spoke simply, "He's gone. As near as Ziggy can tell, he probably landed in Al's bar. I'd better go start prepping Dr. Beeks for the Imaging Chamber."

Gooshie left the control room. I stood there in the empty control room and spoke quietly out to Al wherever he was, "Goodbye Al. I'll always love you."

I turned and left the control room.

*****

Gradually, the feeling of time rushing by me stopped, and the world came into focus around me. I found myself in a rustic looking bar. Based on the light streaming through the windows and the lack of patrons, I guessed it was mid-morning or so. I looked at the sign over the bar that read "Al's Place". It had worked. I gave a sigh of relief. Now all I had to do was convince that nozzle of a bartender to send me wherever Sam was.

As if in answer to my thought, a man walked out of what must have been the back storeroom. He was a young man with dark hair and a mustache. He was thinner and younger than I remembered, but it was the bartender from Sam's leap. He spoke quietly, "Well, I'll be damned. I never thought I'd see you."

I was startled to say the least. I stammered, "How do you know who I am?"

The bartender chuckled, "You're all Sam could talk about while he was here. He talked about you and about going home. Once he decided to keep leaping, I figured you were out of the picture."

I began to launch my attack on him, " Sam decided to keep leaping?!? All the kid has wanted for the last five years was to come home! How could you send him out leaping again?"

The bartender shook his head slowly, "Sam made his decision to keep leaping. He made one leap for himself before he headed out again. He actually made that leap for both of you. He thought that reuniting you with Beth would make it easier for you to lose him."

I shook my head as the tears welled up in my eyes. I whispered, "Aw, Sam."

The bartender continued, "To be quite honest, I thought Sam was right. I certainly never expected you to leap after him."

With that I remembered the business at hand, "What is this place? How come no one has appeared in the Waiting Room since Sam arrived here? While we're at it, how come you look younger than you did when I was here before?"

The bartender returned my questions with one question of his own, "Is it your intention to join Sam as a leaper?"

I paused and decided that being up front with this guy might be the best way to get what I wanted, "Yes, I want to be with Sam, no matter what it takes. Now will you answer my questions?"

The bartender studied me for a few minutes, as if he was trying to decide if I was worth his time. He finally started speaking, "Well, this place is sort of a cosmic wait station. Leapers stop here at crucial points when they must decide whether or not to keep leaping."

I interrupted, "Leapers? You mean there's more than just Sam?"

The bartender continued patiently, "Yes, there are leapers from all points in time. Some come from the distant past and some from the future. Each one became a leaper at the time of their death as a way to make amends for the sins of their lives. It was their choice to do so. No one was ever coerced into becoming a leaper. When they decide that they have atoned for the lives on earth, then they stop leaping."

I asked timidly, "Then what?"

The bartender smiled, "You'll just have to wait and see. The good Dr. Beckett and now you are the first ones to enter the world of leaping while you were both still alive, in an earthly sense. That has thrown more than a bit of a cosmic 'monkey wrench' in things. However, so far, Sam has done more than enough good to outweigh the damage that his leaping has done."

I asked defensively, "What damage? Sam would never hurt anyone."

The bartender arched an eyebrow, "Oh no? What about you? What about Donna? What about the good doctor's family? The other leapers had already left their earthly lives behind. They could do good deeds without inflicting pain on anyone else. But not Sam; he caused the loved ones in his life an immense amount of pain in the last five years. Isn't that true?"

I nodded slowly, knowing that the bartender was correct.

The bartender continued, "The reason I look younger to you than before is that you like Sam have arrived here on the date of your birth, some years before Sam was even a gleam in his parents eyes. The reason that no one has arrived in your waiting room since Sam was here is that now Sam is leaping of his own free will. He has finally left his earthly life behind."

I finally got down to the point, "Where is Sam now? When he leaped here, we were still able to find him, even without anyone in the waiting room. We can't find him at all now."

The bartender replied, " I already told you. Sam still wanted to be found then. Now he's made peace with his future as a leaper. He has cut the ties with your project, not me."

With that, I blew my top, "That's a load of horse shit and you know it! It took Beth to make me realize it, but Sam still loves me. He may not remember what we used to be to one another, but he still loves me. Otherwise, why would he have tried to give me what he thought I wanted before he left?"

The bartender stared at me incredulously, "You say he doesn't remember what you to used to be to one another? You two were a couple?"

I nodded and answered sarcastically, "You mean, the great all-knowing bartender missed that timeline?"

The bartender swore quietly under his breath, "I was so sure that we had finally gotten Sam to tie up all the loose ends in his earthly life. Damn it! How did we miss this one?"

I pounced, "So you were directing his leaps after all!"

The bartender sighed, "Yes, up until now, we were controlling Sam's leaps. As I explained, Sam threw a monkey wrench into things when he leaped. We decided that we should direct him in 'fixing' all the regrets in his own life. Then and only then, we would let him make the same choice that we allow everyone about continuing to leap."

I asked the obvious question, "Who's we?"

The bartender responded quickly, "That's not important. We must have missed your relationship with Sam because Sam had no regrets about that relationship. Since he had no regrets, we must have just overlooked it."

My heart felt like it was going to overflow with warmth and love for the kid. No regrets. I smiled.

The bartender continued, "Well, now you've leaped too. That could have irreparable effects on the time stream. You have a very important decision to make Admiral.:

I replied shakily, afraid of what was coming, "Okay, what is it?"

The bartender seemed resolute in his course, "You can just go home and get on with your life, the one that Sam wanted you to have."

I barked a quick answer, "No way."

The bartender responded just as quickly, "Don't answer too quickly. Your other choice is to join Sam as a leaper. You would be with him as a leaper, not a hologram."

I broke, "That's fine. I sorta figured it would work out that way."

The bartender continued, "I'm not finished yet. Your timeline would revert to its original history. Beth will leave you while you are a POW. Donna will leave Sam at the altar. That way they have a chance at happy lives. Can you live with that?"

I thought for awhile. It seemed to be the best solution. Otherwise, they would be left alone. I spoke, "Yes."

The bartender continued, "Furthermore, you and Sam will die. As far as anyone in the year 2000 will know, there will be a catastrophic failure in the accelerator during a retrieval attempt, leaving both you and Sam dead. This will render the project a failure, thereby preventing anymore-unexpected leapers. This will also put the both of you on equal footing with all of the other leapers. Can you accept that?"

This was a hard condition to accept. I hated the thought of Sam dying as a 'failure', but I hated more the thought of living without Sam. After just a moment's hesitation, I agreed.

The bartender then addressed his last condition, "Sam must never know of these changes in his timeline. He made the choice to continue leaping believing that his world existed a certain way. If he were to know of these changes, he might regret his decision and use that genius of his to throw yet another monkey wrench into the time stream. I cannot and will not allow that to happen again."

I replied to this condition more quickly than the others, "Agreed. Knowing Sam the way that I do, I know that you're right. He won't find out about the conditions our deal from me. However, I will not lie to him about being here and using you to find him."

The bartender nodded. "Alright Admiral. Sam is on a rest and relaxation leap right now, preparing physically and emotionally for the harder leaps to come. He has leaped into a woman with breast cancer in 1984."

I asked, more than a little confused, "I thought Sam was leaping as himself now?"

"In general, yes, you both will be leaping as yourselves. In this case, Sam gets some much-needed rest, and the woman he has leaped into is here. She is deciding whether or not to become a leaper when she dies, which will be soon after Sam leaps out and she returns."

I nodded in understanding, as the bartender continued, "Actually, I can leap you into her husband. That will give you and Sam some time to talk before you leap again. It will also allow me to bring her husband here. That should allow Peg to resolve things with her husband before she makes her decision about leaping."

I nodded again and then spoke my deepest wish, "Send me to Sam."

With that the world spun away as I was sucked back into the time stream. Again, I felt Sam's love pulling me towards him. I'm coming, kid; I'm coming.

*****

SAM:

Consciousness slowly returned. I wondered how long of a nap I had taken. As I opened my eyes, I became aware of someone else sitting on the bed with me. It was dark in the room. I must have slept through the afternoon and into the night. I rolled over to see Peg's husband, Stan, sitting on the edge of the bed. Something was different about him, but I wasn't sure what.

Stan reached over and gently stroked a stray lock of hair from my forehead. Finally, he spoke, "Sam, it's me - Al."

A wave of relief washed over me, and I reached out and grabbed him in the biggest bear hug possible. "Al!! God, I'm glad to see to you. But how?"

He hugged me back with equal intensity and then pulled back. His eyes twinkled as he answered, "To put it bluntly, I made a deal with the devil, or in this case, with a bartender named Al."

I was confused. How could my Al have contacted the bartender without me, unless.. he leaped. "You leaped back to Al's bar?"

Al smiled wide, "You always were quick. Yes, I leaped to the bar and had it out with that lousy bartender. He is one annoying SOB- as bad as all the Navy head-shrinkers I had to see when I came back from 'Nam." Al sneered as he did his imitation of Al the bartender, " What do you think? ...Sam controls his own fate. ...Yada, yada, yada."

I laughed at Al's description. The description was somewhat accurate, but the fact that Al responded that way was...well, it was perfectly Al.

Al continued, " Anyway, this character told me that you were basically on a RR leap. Guess you leaped here as sort of a last rest stop before moving on to those harder leaps. He also said that your leap was giving this Peg some RR before she had to face her last days. She's dying, you know."

I responded, "Yes, I know. Her body's very weak." So, that was what I was doing here - giving her some much needed respite. Part of me couldn't help but think that maybe I was also giving Al the chance to catch up with me.

Al gave me a sympathetic glance, probably just to let me know that he could tell how tired and wracked with pain this body was. After I returned his glance with a weak smile, he concluded his tale, "To make a long story short, I convinced the nozzle that my place was with you. He finally saw it my way, and here I am."

Slowly, the ramifications of what Al had done were dawning on me. "So, what you're saying is that you're now a Leaper too?"

Al responded with an overdone drawl, "Yep."

I proceeded carefully, "What about Beth?"

Al noticeably squirmed on the bed, "Kid, I can't even begin to tell you what it means to me that you fixed things with Beth. Thanks to you we have many, many years of wonderful memories together as well as 4 daughters and 2 grandchildren..."

I interrupted with glee, "You?! A grandfather?! I love it!"

Al stuck his tongue out at me, and we both laughed together for a few minutes. Then he got serious again. "Anyway, the point is that Beth and I have had our time together. Now it's time for us, for you and me, Sam."

I stared at Al trying to figure out what was going on inside of his mind, "What do you mean Al?"

Al swallowed...hard. "This isn't easy for me to say Sam, but it's the truth. Beth could see it without me saying a word. She wants us to be together because she's sure that, well, we love each other."

As soon as Al said the words, all the memories came rushing back to me, the memories of us together. We had met on Project Starbright and had become best friends almost immediately. When Donna had left me at the altar, Al was the one who had gotten me through the pain and humiliation. About a year after Donna left me, Al and I became more than friends. It was a gradual development in our friendship that just seemed natural to both of us. By the time we started Project Quantum Leap, we had moved in together. During the last stages of the Accelerator development, we had gotten married at the local Metropolitan Community Church with my family and most of the project personnel in attendance. We had received the news about our funding being cut the day before our first anniversary. It was the night after our anniversary party that I decided to prove that the project really worked. I now remembered leaving Al a letter on his office computer terminal explaining what I was doing and why there was no other option. I ended that letter with one simple promise, "I will always love you. Sam."

I looked up at Al, and both of us were crying. I choked out what I wanted and needed to know after 5 years, "Why Al? Why didn't you tell me about us?'

"Aw, Sam, I wanted to. God, I wanted to tell you more than you will ever know. But after you fixed things with Donna, I figured that maybe you finally had what you really wanted."

I slowly shook my head, "Al, I fixed things with Donna because that was the best thing for her. Granted, at the time, I did think I was helping myself, but after I went home that one time..." my voice trailed off. I breathed deeply and continued, "I knew, and she knew, that you were more important to me than she ever could be. Al, I'm sorry for everything."

Al cleared his throat, "It's okay kid. I forgave you a long time ago for leaping and for Donna. What I need to know, is, if you really do control the leaps now, why didn't you come home?"

"Al, I knew that I couldn't face what was waiting there for me. I knew that after leaping I could never go back to sitting at a desk dreaming about making a difference. I need to DO things now, not just THINK about things. Also, I knew that I could never make things work with Donna, not the way that she wants or needs."

A look of horror crossed Al's face, "That's the second time you mentioned your leap home. I thought you didn't remember coming home? I thought you didn't remember Donna."

I sighed, "I remember it- not all the details, but I do remember Donna, and I do remember leaping again for you. I just thought that it would be easier on everyone if I just feigned a full Swiss-cheese effect. I thought that would make things easier for Donna and would make you feel a little less guilty about making me leap again."

Al nodded in understanding. "One last question Sam. Why did you reunite me with Beth? She said that you must really love me in order to do that."

I blushed, proving to Al that Beth had the proverbial nail on the head. "I did that because I didn't want you to be alone. Once I decided to continue leaping, I reasoned that you probably wouldn't be able to be with me anymore. Guess I should have given more credit to that Calavicci stubborn streak." I smiled broadly at Al.

He returned the smile and nodded, encouraging me to continue.

"Anyway, I just wanted to make sure that you were taken care of, so that maybe you wouldn't feel like you had been abandoned by yet another person who loved you."

When I finished, I saw that Al was crying, a very rare event in our lives together. He sniffled and said, "God help me, I love you Sam Beckett."

I leaned forward and kissed away the tears from his cheeks. I responded slowly and deliberately, remembering our wedding vows from six years ago, "I love you too, Al Calavicci." I pulled Al into a deep kiss, and just then I felt the pull of the Leap pulling both of us into the time stream- together.

 

End

 

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