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Disclaimer: Quantum Leap and the characters from the television series are the creation of Donald P Bellisaro and the property of 'Universal' No copyright infringement is intended.

Author Notes: As Sam and Al exist in different time lines and for the purpose of this story I have written Sam's 'leap in' and Al's 'call to duty' concurrently.


By Kerri B.


San Paulo, New Mexico. 18th of December. 1994.

Leaping into a new host was always a little unnerving, even though it was a quick, painless transformation with all senses focusing and coming together to make him whole almost instantaneously. He never quite knew, who, where, or what he'd leaped into. No matter how many leaps he'd endured, or how many years had passed since the beginning. For those initial few seconds, fear and confusion ruled supreme.

Had Doctor Sam Beckett suffered from paranoia before he stepped for the first time into the Accelerator Chamber, or was this repetitive phenomenon the result of five years of leaping backwards and forwards in time?

Slowly, fine tuning complete he relaxed, absorbing and now fully comprehending his new surroundings, a wide grin replaces his previous expression of genuine puzzlement. The kaleidoscope of sights and sounds that met Sam's now fully focused senses were unmistakably of a festive nature. Surrounded by all the glitz and glamour associated with the Christmas season and flanked on both sides by elaborately decorated shop fronts, he had found himself in the middle of what could only be described as a pre Christmas rush. Which judging from the commotion, and the size of the crowds was not that far away. Christmas, that narrowed the time of year down considerably. But what year, and where?

Attempting not to appear too obvious, Sam stole a glance downward. This brief action told him he was male. Well that was always going to be a relief! Dressed in a uniform of sorts, polished black shoes, dark trousers, a vertical stripe running the length of each leg. A door man perhaps? Then again maybe not, door men didn't usually carry side arms, he decided. Safely holstered on his right hip was standard size revolver, and with further investigation he discovered a baton and two way radio were strapped to his left. Broad arms folded across his chest filled the crisp white shirt he wore. A plastic identification card clipped to his hosts black tie poked out just above his right arm.

Briefly, Sam assessed those of the many people closest to him. Satisfied that all seemed thoroughly immersed in their own business and he'd made little, or no impression during his arrival he unclipped the card and read it. According to the minimal information printed under the translucent barrier, he was Louis Hernandez, a security guard for San Paulo Plaza. The year 1994. As for the accompanying photo, it showed only the head and shoulders of a round faced man of perhaps fifty, sporting an ample black moustache, and a large nose. Beneath the photo a series of numbers underlined a bar code. Assuming these would hold more personal and work related information on his new host and that Ziggy would be able to access anything required for the leap through the national data bank, Sam glanced back at the man in the photo and carefully reattached the plastic card to his tie.

With the who, where, and when questions, that were part of every leap taken care of and confident Al would supply him with the why when he showed up, Sam refolded his arms and extended his gaze. To his left a jeweler. And 'I'm the guard' that makes sense. A quick scan of the various thriving business's in the immediate vicinity included a bank, a floweriest, a cafe, and a number of fashion boutique. The large amount of people gathered in front of his position made viewing of anything further on near on impossible. Casting his eyes skyward Sam paused, losing himself for a moment in the beauty of what he saw. High above the open gallery level of the next floor hung a glorious arrangement of shimmering red, green and gold garland. A massive gold sphere, larger in size than he remembered Ziggy's primary orb being hung at the arrangement centre. Was Ziggy that beautiful? Yes, of all he'd forgotten Ziggy's unique ability that enabled him to travel in time was not amongst them, she could be made from tin foil for all her creator cared. She was indeed beautiful.

An announcement came from nowhere, but everywhere, heard only by those who cared to listen. At the same time, as if by magic the crowd directly in front of Sam slowly dispersed. The scene that greeted him was truly a sight for sore eyes, to weary time traveler or anyone else Sam believed still young enough at heart to appreciate it. Seated high on his gold covered throne was San Paulo Plaza's own version of Santa. Gaily dressed elves stood either side smiling, welcoming each of Santa subjects as they approached. More elves mingled with the crowd of children and parents, handing out candy to those patiently waiting their turn for an audience with the great man, anxious to personally pass on to him their Christmas lists. Children of all ages, dressed just for the occasion. Mothers....and fathers, straightening clothes, neatening hair, whispering instructions. Their small beaming faces made him smile and more than a little home sick.

Christmas as a child held happy memories for Sam, snow, a tree cut from their own farm, the same decorations that were brought out each year and hung with pride. The smells of pine cones and his mother's cooking wafting through the house. The trill and excitement, the faces of his family as they gathered together to celebrate. Adult memories weren't as happy or as clear.

Where was Al? Checking Louis' watch. Three fifteen. From the empty feeling in the pit of his stomach, Sam guessed homesickness could only account for part of the feeling. Louis must of skipped lunch.

A crackling sound came from the two way perched on his hip interrupting the mixed thoughts running through Sam Becketts mind, bringing him back to the present, well this present anyway. Unsteady fingers reached down extracting the radio from it's position, and lifting it awkwardly to his mouth, he depressed the send button and spoke. "Yeah"

The crackling was instantly replaced by an ear piecing whistle. Realizing his mistake, he released the the button. A gruff male voice came through the speaker to him. "Hernandez, I found him," a short silence and then. "I'm sending Baker to relieve you. Grab some coffee if you want, it's only gunna take him ten minutes or so to get to you!"

Sam considered for a second what to say in return, he didn't have a clue who he was talking to, or about what. Depressing the send button again he settled for "Yep, sounds good to me." There was a short crackle from the open line and then silence.

With the radio safely replaced in it's original position on his hip, he looked left then right, checking to see if anything, or one needed Louis' immediate attention. Everything appeared just as before. No suspicious looking characters hanging around the jewelers, or anywhere else that he could see. It had occurred to Sam, on more than one occasion over the past five years, that he himself must of seemed more than just a little suspicious to anyone who had seen him just after he leaped into a new host.

Heading towards the coffee shop he'd seen earlier Sam caught a glimpse of Louis' reflection in the store's window. Removing his cap for better look, he studied the features of the man in front of him. Louis' small dark eyes stared back seriously. Something about them caught and held his attention, something he couldn't quite put his finger on made him instantly uneasy. Unfriendly, he decided, unsure of the reason why. Before now he had never met, or to the best of his recollection, which even on a good day was a little unreliable, had he ever seen Louis Hernandez.

During the years he'd come face to face with countless hosts, crossing the boundaries of race, religion, and sex. Some, not many, had been individuals he would not choose association with given a choice. Usually that decision came after a certain amount of deliberation. And not simply because he didn't like the look of someone. With Al's help he managed to piece together what he believed was pretty clear picture of the man he was before he'd started leaping. Okay, so there were still gaps in his memory. But anything of real importance Al had either told him, or he'd figured out on his own. Sam Beckett was not and never had been in the habit of judging a person simply on their appearance. Which from what could be seen in the window of Louis was well kept. The moustache was neatly trimmed, his hair perhaps a little long, had been parted on the right side and combed straight back. He was a large man, maybe two hundred pounds and standing at least a few inches taller than Sam's own six foot.

Residual, he mused. That could be it. Maybe a little of Louis' personality, exchanged during the leap had remained. It had happened before. Yeah sure, Louis was probably an okay kind of guy having an off day. Then to make things worse some guy with an over developed hero fixations leaps in and tops it all off. Offering his most apologetic smile to the man in the window Sam shrugged off the nagging feeling his own reasoning couldn't quite belay and continued on his way.

Cap now wedged securely under his arm he enter the cafe. It was a spotless establishment crammed with people. The sounds of cutlery meeting with crockery, voices engaged in dozens of different conversations all at once, also made it an extremely noisy one. Finally, after excusing himself several times, he made it to the display case which also appeared to serve as a counter.

An auburn haired waitress greeted him by name, and took his order of 'coffee to go'. In turn Sam politely refused her offer of a seat and something to eat. Noting Louis' appearance of being unfriendly had certainly not affected the way the young women was treating him. She obviously knew him. Smiling briefly before she turned to fill his order.

The entire wall behind the counter was one large mirror, and Sam watched as she performed the task of preparing his coffee until another waitress obstructed his line of sight. Distracted by movement all around, Sam glanced up at the mirror above the women's heads, and then back down again at the counter. The constant press of people in the confines of the relatively small space was almost overwhelming. More residual he decided. Perhaps Louis was claustrophobic? That would explain a few things, his growing anxiety for one. If Louis was claustrophobic working indoors during what would have to be the busiest time of year for many businesses would make any sufferer uncomfortable. Wear down any reserved tolerance. Waking up in the waiting room at P Q L would be murder. "Sorry buddy" he whispered.

"Did you say something, Louis?" It was the waitress, smiling as she leaned across the counter at Sam."I couldn't hear you" she said

"Ah no, I was just thinking aloud." Sam answered sheepishly, looking up again. She was pretty little thing, he thought. Flaming red hair and a smile that made her whole face light up.

"Okay, are you sure that's all you'll have, Louis?" The young women questioned. Deep in thought he hadn't noticed her place a Styrofoam cup on the counter in front of him. Blushing slightly Sam shook his head in response. Had he been staring? He wasn't sure. Placing Louis's cap beside the cup, freed his hands, enabling him to use both to search Louis's pockets.

It wasn't easy to just slip into a strangers life. To take what was their's and use it as his own. The wallet proved fruitless, though the right hand trouser pocket offered a heavily laden key ring and a hand full of coins, which Sam pushed across the top of the showcase toward the waiting waitress. After extracting her charge, she dutifully returned the rest. Re-pocketing it, Sam glanced around to see if anyone had observed his awkward behavior.

Standing beside him now were the couple he'd seen a few moments before. He'd seen the woman first, just a glimpse out of the corner of his eye. She was lovely, graceful as she moved, he had only watched her for a moment, discovering almost at once she wasn't alone. The woman's profile showed her to be indeed as attractive as he had first thought, fortyish, small lines around her eyes and mouth deepened as she smiled, and hinted at the first signs of aging. Her loosely curled dark hair had been twisted up and gathered high in a familiar style on the back of her head. Held securely in place by what at first glance appeared to be a horizontal eight. A gift. Not given by him.

Curiosity piqued he learned forward a little giving himself a better view of her companion. A man of similar age, tall with a sharp pronounced jaw, his hair was lighter. He must of sensed the attention given to him by the man standing beside his wife, because he turned his head slightly, looking back over his shoulder at Sam. A single lock of white hair fell over his brow just above his left eye as he moved, instinctively it was immediately brushed back. 'His' own green eyes examined him as the man afforded Sam a wary grin before turning away and continued speaking to the same young waitress who had served Sam only moments before, chatting politely with her as he linked a protective arm around his wife's waist.

Anxiety mixed with the instant rush of disbelief suddenly consumed him as he fought to fathom their presence. 'Leave.' Came a voice from deep within. 'You can't stay here!' He wanted to, he knew he needed to, but he couldn't. Riveted to the spot, his eyes transfixed on the reflective image of the woman in the mirror. Her smile had faded, replaced with concern. 'Now!'demanded the inner voice. Confused he pulled back, his head spinning, heart pounding, mouth too dry to form the single word that echoed in his brain. Donna.

A last minute thought to retrieve Louis' cap from the counter top shattered the Styrofoam cup beside it. His trembling hand coming down too hard, it's contents spilling forth a shower of coffee droplets on to his shirt and completely saturating the front of his pants. If it had been hot, it did not register in his mind. Cap now in hand, Sam turned to retreat just in time to see the imaging chamber door appear through the cafe's only exit.


Project Quantum Leap. Stallion's Gate, New Mexico. February 25th 2000.

Al's day had started early. The time variations Sam's leaps caused meant he was in the unenviable position of being on call twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. A fact of life he had come to accept, even if there were many times he wished it different.

A junior technician had knocked on his door at 04:00 hours, waking him from a sound and sorely needed sleep. Begrudgingly he had gotten up to answer it, knowing full well what a messenger at this ungodly hour would bring.

The kid looked like he'd ran all the way from main control to Al's living quarters, some six levels up. Still panting, using the door jam to lean against, he'd informed Al. "Doctor Beckett had leaped, they had located him, and he Admiral Calavicci was requested in main control a s a p." The technician had then gone on to remark. "The admirals phone and computer terminal for reasons yet to be ascertained were presently in operational?" An assurances was made to alert maintenance to both problems and a offer to come by later in the day to check the terminal personally and to make any necessary repairs was also given. Al had put on his most concerned face and listened to him talk, then when he'd heard about as much as he could stomach from the over eager young man he simply toed the door shut in his face. Either the project grape vine hadn't quite reached him yet or he was as about as dense as he looked. Either way Al didn't feel inclined to point out to the kid what long time project employee's would see as an obvious explanation. Which was, the acting director of Project Quantum Leap's P C was very rarely operational and he'd taken the phone off the hook. His reasons for such drastic messages. Tina had elected to spend the night alone, in her own quarters. Considering both their work loads of late he had agreed and settled himself in for a good nights sleep. As for his computer, since it's installation some years ago now, he'd not activated the damn thing more than half a dozen times, that was just the way he liked it and if he had his way that's just how it would stay.

In the days when Ziggy's eyes and ears had been everywhere through out the project. Before Sam's first leap, he would of been awakened by the sound of the parallel hybrid computers sultry voice. Not that he objected to wake at any time to the tones of a sexy female. By Al's way of thinking that was the only way to wake up. But that had all changed one night when from just pure frustration over the constant surveillance of her's and her husbands leisure time. To be never completely alone, away from Ziggy's incessant interruptions, Doctor Donna Elesee had put a stop to them.

Al had not been there, he was on one of his many trips to Washington, fighting for continued funding for the project. Returning mid morning the following day to discover Ziggy's voice activated visual and audio links to senior project staff living quarters being disconnected and rerouted. Replaced with a less intrusive method of communication between computer and staff.

It had taken him three days of gathering snippets of gossip. Eventually piecing together what had gone on in his absence. No one had wanted to actually come right out and tell him that even through the cavern that housed Project Quantum Leap were made out of solid rock. What ever material had been used to partition those caverns into it's many offices, lab's, corridors, etc.., was a lot less sound proof. And anyone who had living quarters on the same level as the project director's, believed what Al Calavicci had long suspected, not only did Ziggy regularly eaves drop, but she was also a peeping Tom.

Showered, shaved and dressed immaculately from head to toe in varying shades of black and red Al removed his gold lighter and a fresh cigar from his supply in the dresser drawer, unwrapped the Chivello and placed both items carefully in his inside jacket pocket. Pausing a moment longer to run a brush through his still damp hair, he donned his favorite scarlet fedora and headed for the elevator that would take him ten levels below the New Mexico desert.

At that hour of the morning there were very few people about, the passage way from the elevator to where Ziggy's main controls were, was empty. Entering the room Al was immediately joined by the medical officer on duty along with a security guard. The young medic looked worn and pale, a reddish mark on her check accentuating her lack of color, one of Verbena's new recruits no doubt. Al had seen it all before, they were fine while the body they were assigned to monitor stayed dormant. But as soon as time, God or whatever decided to add a bit of spice to their lives. And the man on the bed sat up and spoke, they freaked. She'd be all right in a day or so, and when Verbena had time to explain to her that Doctor Beckett wasn't a raving lunatic, his body or what appeared to his body was just being borrowed by some one else for awhile.

The guard handed over his status report of the event that had taken place earlier. When, as he reminded Al they could not reach him. The visitor in the waiting room, had become hysterical after the initial effect of leaping had worn off. This Al noted was not an uncommon occurrence, at least half the souls that had found themselves in the confines of the waiting room reacted this way. Usually project staff were able to establish a name before this happened. Fortunately this time was no different than the others, they had and the visitor had been identified as one Louis Hernandez. A fifty one year old resident of San Paulo, New Mexico. The situation had been brought under control quickly once Ziggy had alerted security. Hernandez had been restrained and sedated. Al scribbled his signature on the guards report and gave it back to him.

"If the visitor has been sedated, then I see no need for restraints." He informed the man. "They are to be removed immediately. Understood?" The other man nodded, returning to his assigned duties without question. Fear that one day Sam would leap home, and discover his best friend had stood by and allowed him to be kept bound to a table like some kind of nut case, was one of the few things Al could control. The sight of Sam being tortured in Havenwell hospital when he had leaped into Sam Beederman was permanently burned into the memory of man who had witnessed it.

Taking the hand link from the technician operating the imaging chamber console, Al strode up the ramp to the chamber.


San Paulo, New Mexico. 18th of December 1994.

Within seconds of entering the imaging chamber a lock on Sam was established and the scene around Al changed from one of stark white solitude into utter chaos, the shopping mall was a confusion of lights, sounds and people. To add to the confusion and as fate would have it, he had stepped out of the chamber door at the exact moment Sam passed through it's and his holographic image, fleeing into the crowds of people in the malls centre circle. He'd seen what Sam was running from, and for a split second his eyes had made contact with those of the younger version of Doctor Samuel Beckett. Lots of words came readily to mind at that moment, none of which he could repeat aloud however. "Oh boy" was an understatement.

It was not that he hadn't encountered similar situation before, but Sam's panicked exit from the cafe had received a considerable amount of unwelcome attention. Amongst the several pairs of questioning eyes that had tracked his departure and settled on the man now pressed against the jewelers window, were those of Sam Becketts younger self and his wife. Doctor Donna Elesee Beckett, a woman, he had for reasons Al would never quite comprehend, forgotten.

Ignoring all but two of the onlookers until they too started to move away. Al waited, silently fighting to regain his composure. Only after they had completely disappeared into the sea of shoppers did he breathe slightly easier.

Quickly closing the distance between Sam and himself he considered his approach. One look at Sams face told him he needed to think, and think fast. He had known all along this day would come, dreading for years that something or someone would restore Sam's memories of his wife. He'd have questions of her, and he'd expect Al to give him the answers. But now was not the time, and standing in the middle of a over crowded shopping mall was definitely not the place to get involved in a conversation that at the very least deserved a little privacy, and a great deal of preparation.

Coming to a stop a couple of feet away Al watched as Sam seemed to back further away from him. He was breathing heavily, almost panting, his jaw set. Past experience had taught the observer a gentle, but direct approach was his best option.

"You okay, Sam?" He wasn't and Al knew it. Sam's emotional distress was clearly evident. He neither needed to be a mind reader or a genius to guess what the other man was thinking right now. "I tried to tell them Sam." He added, praying Sam would somehow understand. There was no response, only a side way glare that Al wouldn't of wished on anyone. He took a half step back, wiping his empty hand across his face. Think Calavicci think.

Initial anger had been anticipated, discussed at length between the relevant members of the Projects staff. Donna, Doctor Verbena Beeks and himself. From the beginning, when it was discovered Sam remembered very little of his life before he leaped and nothing at all of his marriage to Donna, they had decided. No that wasn't right, she had decided Sam shouldn't be told. Sam was a rational man he would come to understand it was best he wasn't burdened with the knowledge of his other responsibilities. It was for his own good, they had said. Sam could act quickly, not concerned with how his actions may affect others if he believed himself to be single. Eventually Donna had even convinced Al, it somehow protected Sam, made it easier for him to do what ever needed to be done. Allow him to move on, and perhaps one day he would simply come home. He had once, he would again she'd said that night to Al through her tears. Pleading with him not to tell Sam, it didn't matter if he didn't remember her. One day he'd come home for good, she just needed to know he was safe until he did.

He should say something more, offer an explanation, but where would he start. For the first time in more years than Al cared to admit to he was at a complete lose to what that should be. "Sam, talk to me." The words came out broken, his voice cracking. It was no use, Sam simply shook his head and stared out into the crowd.

Get on with the leap, get it over and him out of here. Removing the Chivello from his pocket, Al clamped it firmly between his teeth and turned his attention to doing just that.

All information relating to Louis Hernandez concerning this time period had been down loaded into the hand link. There wasn't a great deal to go on. Big surprise there, at this stage of most leaps they generally dealt with limited information. Without looking up or waiting for any verbal sign to acknowledge a wish to get down to business, Al relayed the data they had and waited as the tiny instrument in his hand squealed and blinked. Absorbing himself in the rhythmic exchange of colors and sounds as he'd done in the past on the few other occasions Sams and his relationship had been strained for varying reasons.

Minutes passed before Ziggy finally came up with a probable reason for Sams being there. Even with the accompanying noise from the mall the long uncomfortable silence between them was deafening.

Slapping the side of the hand link with the heal of his hand Al carefully scrutinized the information on it's tiny screen. "This can't be right. The best Ziggy can come up with is a shift change Louis made with another guard at the last moment." Shaking his head the observer looked up and continued. "There seems to be some confusion around why it was made at all. Louis was due to commence two weeks annual leave tonight. For some reason he canceled tonight's flight........Hang on a minute Sam I'm going to check if he took another." Punching the required instructions into the hand link Al coaxed the tiny computer into compliance as only he could."Come on you useless piece of junk I'm gunna take you apart piece by piece if you don't give me more than that. ......."

Completely immersed in taking out his mounting frustration over the present situation with Sam and Ziggy's inability to provide him with something more, Al had not noticed the man dressed in a uniform identical to his friends join them

"You couldn't wait I see?" The new man said pointing towards the wet stain on the front of Sam's pants. "You should see yourself Hernandez, your a mess." He was younger than Louis by at least ten years, and despite his wide grin and remarks of Louis's soiled uniform, Al got the distinct impression, like Sam he wasn't very happy. He seemed decidedly irritated.

"Coffee!" Sam assured him, his tone mildly sarcastic. "That's all. I got tired of hanging around waiting for you to show up, so I got some coffee. Okay."

He was being rude, Al thought. Unnecessarily rude to a complete stranger. Sam was never rude. Pushing and annoying sometimes, but never rude to someone he'd just met, for no good reason. Taken back, Al checked the new guards I D card for a name. Quickly feeding it into the hand link. "Baker, this is Robert Baker, he's your replacement Sam." Not waiting for, or expecting any response from Sam Al relayed the incoming data on the new man. Glancing up from time to time as the two guards spoke, cringing as Sams tone of voice became less and less civil. "He's been working for San Paulo Plaza Security for the last seven months, been late for work a couple of times but that's all. Wait a minute, here's something......." Swearing softly as the gravity of the leap became apparent Al continued, "I remember this, it was all over the news papers for weeks. There going to be a robbery Sam" Using his free hand to indicate, Al thumbed back towards the jewelers. "That's why your here Sam, Ziggy gives it a 98.6% probability. Your not here for Louis, your here for him......"Al nodded at the younger man now standing between Sam and himself. "And the others. Something goes wrong, they still don't know what. According to what Ziggy has come up with Baker is one of the seven people who will die as a result of gun shot wounds tomorrow afternoon." Finally as the data ceased Al fell silent hoping for some reaction from Sam. There was none. Either he wasn't listening or he was giving one hell'va impression of someone who didn't care about what they's just been told. Al couldn't decide which.


With Ziggy's help Al directed Sam to a door on the opposite side of the ground floor. A short dimly lit passage constructed from cold gray concrete then led to a stair well which both men descended in strained silence ending at the beginning of yet another corridor. Doors on either side, housed the security company's office, surveillance, and locker rooms. Not waiting for further direction from Al, Sam pushed against a heavy door adorned with a small male stick figure.

Pausing outside Al hesitated. The two guards recent exchange had not been friendly, though Al supposed it may have been different if Sam had been more inclined to let it be. Well it was short anyway, and that was something to be grateful for. Nothing of consequence had occurred in the time since he'd leaped into Louis Hernandez so there was nothing to report and pass onto Baker. They had made grunted replies to each other's remarks and Sam had left while the other man was still in mid sentence and stalked off.

Bringing the hand link closer to his face the observer reread the information on the machines luminescent screen. It hadn't changed, not that he really expected it to. All was as it was before, only Sam would make any of it different. The question was, would Sam? His refusal to speak to Al and lack of interest in anything he'd been told had the older man worried. Lifting himself up to his full height, Al passed through the same door Sam had used, not requiring to open it to do so.

Somewhere during every leap they managed to end up in the men's room, on a comparison basis this one was about as bad as they got. Standing just inside Al watched as Sam paced along a row of rundown metal cabinet's that lined the walls of the drab room. Turning he glanced once at Al, opened his mouth as if he was about to say something and then closed it again. Apparently changing his mind he continued his march. Each of the dilapidated lockers were numbered, but bore no other means of identification. It didn't take long before the observer realised what the other man was doing. Using the hand link he was able to quickly verify where Hernandez's personnel belongings were held. The machine squealed loudly in annoyance of being taken from it's present task to make such an insignificant search. Endeavoring to move steadily onward Al had requested the hybrid computer pull as much information surrounding tomorrows bloodbath as possible, cross referencing news paper and police reports along with the usual back ground checks on all casualty's, Plaza employees and suspects.

"It's this one, Sam." He said, standing to one side of locker number eight. Stopping mid stride the scientist looked back over his shoulder at the other man. Using his cigar to point to the locker in question Al repeated his statement. "Here Sam."

Very slowly Sam nodded in return, wordlessly acknowledging the observers assistance. It was enough for Al, finally after almost half an hour of insufferable silence there came a small ray of hope. The fact that Sam had not actually spoken a single word to Al since his arrival did not deter the older man in the least. Just as he had always believed, Sam Beckett was a very sensitive man, time would heal what ever hurt he was feeling right now. Beeks and Donna had an awful lot to answer to for their part in this. But they to were right, Sam was after all a rational man, a man of science, a man who thought with the mind God had given him. He would do what he had always done, put aside his own feeling for the sake of others.

Relieved beyond words Al relaxed slightly as Sam unharnessed the revolver, baton and two way radio from around his waist and unceremoniously dropped Louis' hefty frame on to the bench. It creaked and moved slightly under his weight. Returning the cigar to his mouth Al regarded his friend now sitting hunched over only a few feet away. Studying him for a moment or two before he resumed what he'd set out to do. Get the leap over, and Sam out of here as soon as was humanly possible. He would keep his promise to discuss Donna, just not right now.

"Why Al?" Thoroughly absorbed in a magazine article that Ziggy had found on the San Paulo Plaza incident Al barely heard the muffled question. And completely missed seeing his friend discard the tangled heap on his lap, rise and take the few steps that brought him directly in front of Al. Distracted from the lengthy description of tomorrows events, just in time to see the look of betrayal on Sam's face as his fist plunged through Al holographic image and slam into the metal locker behind him. There was no pain or sensation of being struck, but to Al who was standing alone in the imaging chamber six years in the future. The shock of Sam's sudden violent attack toward him was more painful than if he had actually punched him in the nose.

Recoiling backward Al's image disappeared partially within the locker, his cigar slipped from the corner of his gapping mouth and instantly vanished as he stared at Sam with utter amazement.

"I said, why did you lie to me? Why have you never in.....what is it now Al....five years.... Told me I was married.... You never even mentioned her name!" Sam Beckett's voice had returned to it's earlier bitter tone.

Al's image shook and parts of him faded in and out of existence. Relocating himself at a safer distance the observer brought the hand link up closer to his face, keeping one eye on Sam he quickly keyed something into the small device. Shaking his head in return Al did his best to remain as calm as possible, his olive complexion paling rapidly as he spoke. "No Sam, I haven't lied."

Nursing his injured wrist to his chest Sam then heard the familiar sequence that summoned the imaging chamber door. Before he could move the door appeared behind Al.

"Where are you going?" The doctor demanded.

"I leaving." Al stated flatly. "Before one of us says something, both of us will regret." He was hurt and angry, but he would not just stand there and allow Sam to accuse him of lying. No matter what he'd promised Donna. Taking a single step backward into the glowing rectangle that would take him away from the scene of his best friend in a fit of rage Al raised the hand link. A split second later he was gone, leaving Sam alone nursing his own hurt and throbbing right hand.

----PART TWO----

It wasn't going to happen she realised, she just wasn't going to fall asleep. Donna Elesee lay on her back, one arm draped across her eyes to block out the little remaining light left in the room. Clad only in her underwear she shifted closer to the warm body beside her.

After the strange episode in the coffee lounge that afternoon the Beckett's had strolled through the shopping mall toward the reception desk of the San Paulo Plaza Hotel. Sam had become noticeably preoccupied. When asked about his sudden change of mood, he had shrugged his shoulders boyishly. Explaining he knew he was being silly, but just for a moment when they were leaving the cafe, he thought he'd seen Al! Dismissing the idea almost as soon as he had said it, Sam had then gone on to remark, of course it couldn't of been Al. He was back at the Project, what he had actually seen was one of Santa's helpers. The brightly costumed character's were everywhere they'd turned spreading their Christmas cheer to all they encountered, you couldn't miss them. Sam did have a point, Al's attire in the weeks prior to Christmas had become increasingly more festive as the days drew on. Not completely convinced by his explanation she'd smiled anyway agreeing it could of been an easy mistake.

Dinner reservations at the Hotels restaurant were made and after Sam's suggestion of a nap before they ate, a reminder call was requested for six pm. Hopes that Sam had, had more romantic intentions dissolved completely when Donna discovered after they'd returned to their hotel suite, a nap was exactly what he had in mind. He lay stretched out along side, snoring gently. They were both tired, though it was Sam she was most concerned with. Believing time away from the Project and all the pressure it represented was just what the Doctor would order for himself if he was perhaps a little more objective, she had insisted that he join her on her shopping venture to San Paulo in the hopes that he would relax. But all she'd managed to do was drag him from one end of the mall to the other, he was literally exhausted.

The rising nasal sounds beside her finally got the better of her usually patient nature. Cautiously Donna rose from her position beside her sleeping husband and tiptoed across their hotel room to the en suite. Her drying skirt hung in the shower recess. It wouldn't stain she decided. Only a small amount of the spilled liquid had actually made contact with her. Unfortunately the poor man standing beside her wasn't as lucky, taking what seemed to be the entire contents of the cup of coffee all over the front of his uniform.

She had seen him, a security guard, on different occasions in the course of her days shopping standing vigilantly outside the jewelers. She'd finally finished the purchases she needed to make alone with only a few minutes to spare before her planned meeting with Sam, when the display in the window had caught her attention. Beautiful antique silver and gold fob watches, their exquisite filigree cases hung from the branches of a miniature Christmas tree as ornaments. Some in gift boxes lay scattered around it's base. H. G. Wells had carried a fob in the movie The Time Machine, she remembered, Sam would love that. They were breathtaking, and after entering the store and inquiring on their cost, Donna discovered so were their price.

Perhaps a more contemporary time piece may suit her purposes, suggested the attendant as she showed Donna a tray of very nice men's wrist watches. And my budget, she had thought quietly as the eager to please sales assistant lifted several of them from their resting places, demonstrating each of their various features. They were all very ordinary in comparison, none coming any where close to offering the same appeal as the fobs. Maybe a watch wasn't really such a great idea after all. H.G. Wells' time machine had worked in it's own limited way. Where as Sam was still having considerable problems with his. The retrieval program proving the most difficult to prefect.

Time for Sam had always been an issue, now more so. His desire to prove his string theory and actually witness the events in time himself had driven them both into a life where for the past three years they, or at least Sam had discussed little else. Forsaking everything, friends, along with family and children of their own to see Sams dream through to fruition. Washington were making their threats of funding cuts more frequently. Their original spasmodic rumblings were becoming monthly demands. They wanted proof and Sam was well aware Al's connections at the Capital could buy them only so much more time. Of late it seemed, time for Sam had become just another four letter word.

Politely thanking the sales woman before excusing herself Donna found Sam already waiting for her outside the cafe. Full of secrets and smiles he had teased her constantly while they enjoyed a light afternoon tea before....she'd seen him again. She could almost feel his panic as they'd stood side by side at the counter. His reaction to Sam was nothing short of bizarre, and when he looked at him it was almost as if he'd seen a ghost! Sam, she was convinced had felt something too.


Project Quantum Leap, Stallion's Gate, New Mexico.

The time he'd spent with Sam had left him shaken. From the imaging chamber Admiral Calavicci made a quick stop at the waiting room. The observation cubical above was occupied by the young woman he'd seen earlier. She stood up as he entered, making a gesture to join him below. Preferring his own company for the time being Al waved her away, she sat back down drawing the shades as she did.

Standing beside the hospital bed in the middle of the sparsely furnished room, Al studied the body on the bed.  As if looking through separate window panes he could see two distinctly different images of the man laid out before him. The one of Doctor Sam Beckett that everyone else saw and another, the prone body of Louis Hernandez. Al had long since discovered it was easier to concentrate on the latter for him to detach himself sufficiently from his feelings as he made decisions on behalf of his lost friend.

His previous orders had been carried out, the leather restraints that has been used on only a couple of other occasions before were no where to been seen. Only once had he insisted on their use. A time almost a year ago now when they'd finally returned Leon Styles to the waiting room after his escape from the project. A drip had been set up, it beeped each time it emitted the sedative that kept the visitor asleep. Closing his eyes for a moment Al reflected again on the events that had brought here to begin with. Damn it.

"Ziggy" He whispered. Instantly from nowhere came the gentle voice of Sam's computer.

"Yes, Admiral."

"Is Sam alright?"

"Doctor Beckett is still in the locker room, undoubtably he is very upset. My senses indicate his heart rate has increased substantially and the Doctor's blood pressure is elevated beyond a satisfactory level. I suggest you reenter the imaging chamber Admiral and endeavor to calm him."

Al was not surprised by what he had been told, if they'd been dealing with any thing other than Sam's relationship with Donna he would have stayed with him. They'd become to close, much closer than he had intended, too many alteration to the truth had changed them all. Sighing heavily Al left the waiting room and hurried to his office.

Everything in the small office appeared as it had the night before when Al had left it. Nothing seemed to have changed, the desk top, filing cabinet and it's contents were undisturbed. His NASA photo's and the picture of Sam and himself hung in their original places on the back wall. Not yet, he hadn't changed anything yet, but he would. Al knew, this time Sam would do something that would change it all.

Seated behind his government issue desk Admiral Calavicci's hands trembled slightly as he lit the cigar he'd rescued from imaging chamber floor after contact with Sam had ended. Drawing deeply on the Chivello's rich flavor, he waited.

Having used the hand link while still in the imaging chamber Al had alerted Beeks to the situation. Sending a coded message via Ziggy to the Projects resident psychiatrist would allow him time to close ranks, and maybe after five years he'd be able to tell Sam the truth about much of his own life he'd altered.

Verbena Beeks appeared in the opened door way wearing her most convincing shrink on duty look. Dressed seriously in a shirt, blouse and matching jacket opposed to her usual more casual attire. Not waiting to be invited she closed the office door behind her and took the chair opposite him, immediately noting his worn appearance. Al looked tired, not just physically as he did so often from the hours he endured for day's at a time spent trying to help Doctor Beckett. He was emotionally drained, pale and drawn. Sadly she knew why. It had been five years since Sam first leaped, yet she like the others remembered that night vividly, and almost six months since he had changed places with Al, coming home for those twelve hours. In that time they, Al, Donna and herself had discussed Sam discovering Donna's existence at the Project at regular intervals. Carefully formulating a plan of action for when that time finally came, even going so far as to give it a operation name.

"Have you had an chance to talk to Donna?" She inquired.

"Not yet"

"She'll want to know, Al."

"Yeah I know, I'll tell her, I just wanted to talk to you first Verbena.." The woman nodded, gently encouraging Al to tell her what was on his mind. "It's different than we thought it would be when Sam found out....... He's different." He was speaking too slowly she thought, deliberately planing each word before he said it.

"How so?"

"He's really mad, madder than I've ever seen him. I tried to talk to him, explain, but he gave me the silent treatment. Figured best thing to do was take care of why he'd leaped where he had. You know get on with it, deal with Donna when he had a little time to settle. Then when he does decide to talk to me he accuses me of lying to him." Al's voice trailed off as he turned in his chair from her to look at the picture on the wall behind. He knew not telling Sam about Donna all these years was wrong. The fact that he never told him he wasn't married, his failure to disclose he was, amounted to lying by omission. Al closed his eyes momentarily and turned away from the smiling face of the man in the picture back to the woman who sat across the desk waiting for him to continue. "I'm afraid Verbena." He started. It wasn't a smart move and he knew it. Telling anyone, especially a shrink you were afraid of anything was your first step towards the funny farm. "Do you know where Sam is?" He inquired, not quite sure how much information Ziggy would of passed on to her already. She shook her head, leaning forward listening, waiting. "He's in 1994 in San Paulo, New Mexico." Verbena's eyes lit up as if she already knew what he was about to tell her. "He's at the San Paulo Plaza Hotel and he.....he's just seen Donna and himself."

"Shit" Verbena's controlled facade collapsed as she slumped back in her chair. Al couldn't help but smile, very rarely did he hear her say anything more than 'oh dear' or 'oh my' when surprised, and that just didn't happen all that often. Though this certainly called for a lot more if you asked him. "It's Christmas there isn't it Al?" Al nodded, his small grin fading. "Donna made him take a break and they went to San Paulo to do their Christmas shopping." Slowly she straighten in her seat. "I wasn't here, it was before I took up my position, but Donna tells me the same story every year of how she and Sam spent their last Christmas. Usually it's around the time she heads to Ohio to spend the holiday with her mother, last year she told me if she'd known then what was going to happen she would of insisted they'd taken extra time to visit Sam's Mother in Hawaii. She's not well Al!"

"Thelma Beckett will out live us all Verbena, she'll see Sam again, we all will." Pushing back in his chair Al fished out a set keys from his trouser pocket. Verbena watched as he bent and half disappeared underneath the desk that divided them. Sitting up right again, she could see what he'd been rummaging around for. The contents on Al's locked drawer were now carefully arranged on the blotter in front of her. A half empty bottle of bourbon and two rather dusty looking tumblers. Standing quickly he gathered them up and disappeared into his private bathroom, returning several seconds later.

"Join me." He offered as he carefully measured a shot into each freshly rinsed glass.

Verbena could only stare for a moment, not quite believing what her eyes saw. "Your kidding aren't you? Al it's five o'clock in the morning."

"Not where I just came from it's not Verbena. There, where Sam is it's mid afternoon." Swallowing the entire contents of the glass in one mouth full he set the glass down, eyed the other, decided against any further indulgence and began again. "I'm afraid Sam's going to try and change his own past again. This time he has the means to stop himself from stepping into accelerator chamber on the 20th of May 1995 and leaping before we have the opportunity to get all the bugs out of the retrieval program. Believe me Verbena I want Sam home more than anyone. But we can't let him to do anything that will alter that day. We have to stop him before it's to late."

"We?" Doctor Beeks asked quizzically.

"Donna and I, she's the reason he's so pissed off with me!"

"How do you think Donna is going to be able to help you stop Sam?" She knew where Al was going with this. As the project psychiatrist Doctor Verbena Beeks was well aware of Al's reluctance to keep the promise he made to Sam's wife. And of her refusal to release him from it. They both loved Sam Beckett, and both believed they knew what was best for him.

"I want her to see him, Sam's not going to believe what ever I try to tell him. He's not interested in the leap, you wouldn't recognize him if you saw him right now. He didn't even bat an eye lid when I mentioned all those people getting killed." Walking around his desk Al settled on it's corner. Considering before he spoke again whether or not to tell the women about Sam trying to punch him out in the locker room. Perhaps if she knew just how strange his behavior was, how totally irrational Sam really was right now she's be more likely to see his side. "If he tries to see Donna where he is now, he's going to change history for all of us." Using his hands to demonstrate those at PQL and others. "But if she goes to him, we might have a chance she can convince him to do what he has to do to leap."

The thought that Sam could change their lives so easily had always bothered her. From the first time Al had told her about the things that were different before Sams first leap, not just for the people he was suppose to help. But for their friends and colleagues. Everything that been accomplished, all the lives saved and made better in the last five years could be easily erased. Al was right, Sam had remembered his wife on his own, he would want to come home now more than ever and he would do anything in his power to make that happen.

"Do you want me there when you tell her, Al?"

"No thanks, I need you to start setting up a profile on what sort of mind open fire's on a bunch of Christmas shoppers. Maybe we can figure this out before it's too late." Standing up again he carefully stowed the evidence of his early morning indiscretion, relocking the drawer he returned his keys to his pocket. And then looking up, Al spoke directly to the ceiling of his office. "Ziggy."

"Yes Admiral?" The pensive voice of the hybrid computer emanated from above.

"Time to wake up the troops. I'll want to see every one in the conference room in thirty minutes."

"Admiral, do I understand you correctly. You intend to have Doctor Elesee accompany you into the imaging chamber the next time you make contact with Doctor Beckett?"

Not willing to waste any time or his breath chastising the machine for eaves dropping Al answered as he rounded the desk intending to leave. Not that he relished the thought of facing Donna, he had little choice in the matter. "That's exactly what I intend to do Ziggy."

"I see, then I will require Doctor Elesee's complete cooperation to tune her brain waves precisely with yours and Doctor Beckett's if we are to maintain a viable link."

"Don't worry I'll see to it personally that she doesn't give you any trouble." He promised.


San Paulo, New Mexico 1994.

Standing alone in the shadows she dropped her cigarette on to the concrete ground in front of her, the young woman then used the toe of her black patent stilettos to extinguish it. Five more minutes, she couldn't wait any longer, then she'd have to go back. It was too close now to be doing anything that might draw attention to herself. She shivered, it was cold down here, obviously San Paulo Plaza had deemed heating the lower levels of the underground car park unnecessary. Pulling her light cardigan around herself made no difference, it was freezing and she was out of patience. 'Where on earth could he be.' Anxiously she started to pace, checking her watch for what must have been the umpteenth time. 'He was supposed to be here by now.'

 Tomorrow, she thought. One more day and she's be well away from here, reliant on no one for anything. At first she didn't want any help, but after a while she'd realised his value. He had connection with people, people who could make her risks worth while and who could make her rich.

The service entrance adjacent to her resounded loudly as the heavy door swung open and someone emerged from it. She was about to chastise his tardiness when she realised, almost to late that the man dressed in a Plaza security uniform was not the particular one she had been expecting. Quickly she stepped back into the shadows, he seemed unaware of her presences as she watched him wonder aimlessly amongst the rows of parked cars. What was he doing? She'd seen him leave earlier, what was he doing still hanging around for? Well that was it, she couldn't stay any longer, if he showed up now and they were seen together it wouldn't take long before someone put two and two together when they both didn't return on Monday. As quietly as possible she slipped back through the service door.


For a long time after the imaging chamber door had disappeared taking Al with it, Sam had stared at the place where it had been, eventually collapsing on to the bench beside him. Al's refusal to explain his deception and subsequent retreat back to the Project, infuriating him beyond words.

Donna was his wife, he had a right to know about her, why for all this time had Al kept her from him. On none of the leaps when he'd become romantically involved with a woman had Al informed him he was a married man, unable to be with anyone else. Al's betrayal aside, what kind of man was he that he could of completely forgotten the woman he loved, dear sweet Donna? Burying his face in his hands, Sams whole body shuddered violently as indescribable sorrow swept over him in waves. Weeping uncontrollably for all the years lost.

After a time, he wasn't sure how long the tears subsided and stopped as if all the pain endured and tears shed for others over the years now when they could of provided minimal relief there were no more left for himself.

Straightening he wiped his eyes and face with the back of his uninjured hand. He could recall some of the people he'd met over the years he'd been leaping who had reminded him of his own family and friends he'd made during his life. They had helped him mesh together the fragmented memories of his parents, sister Katie and brother Tom. He'd played husband, boyfriend and lover many times, why had none of them reminded him he was all of those things to a woman he'd left behind. Al often spoke of the people working at the project, his friends and colleagues, Gooshie, Tina and Verbena.......But Donna worked there too he remembered. Oh God, was she still there waiting for his return or had she left him? The sudden realization that she had grown weary of waiting struck him hard going straight to his heart. His eyes burned again but no tears came. Did she know about the woman he'd........? Of course she knew! Nothing at the project stayed a secret for very long. All she had to do was access the reports Al would have to make on each leap. If Donna had stayed, did she understand? To be completely honest Sam really couldn't imagine how any one could understand even one account of infidelity, ashamedly he knew it hadn't been just once. He remembered a woman who had seen his own face, she had loved him and he her. Another with a slow southern drawl had belonged to him for only a short time, but for always. She had given him.........something? He couldn't think what it was but it had been wonderful.

His swelling wrist laid cradled limply in his other hand, carefully turning his right hand over and back Sam examined it closely. There were slight abrasions across the knuckles and bruising was already appearing. It was an incredible stupid thing to do.

Knowing the wrist would need to be strapped, and likely the office of a facility the size of San Paulo Plaza would possess a first aid kit containing disinfectant and a elastic bandage he dragged himself up from the bench. After depositing Louis' belongings in the locker Al had identified as the guards he found the office easily. Enlisting the help of the teenage girl manning the telephone. Sam cleaned and strapped his injured wrist and hand, swallowing two of the available pain killer he set about locating Louis' car.


The parking garage of the building was like most other Sam had encountered, multi leveled numbered rows of vehicles surrounded him. On most leaps a residual amount of the host remained after Sam leaped in, he relied on this tiny part of the hosts personality to guide him through the every day things that weren't recorded in any data bank, like where Louis had parked his car for incidence. He had felt it earlier quite clearing, perhaps it was the anger he still felt towards Al that would not permit him relax enough to allow his host to lead him, or maybe Louis had taken the bus today. But the key ring in his pants pocket included car keys, he was certain he'd seen them earlier.

Nothing seemed familiar at all, until the sight of a rental sticker on the rear window of the late model sedan he'd stopped beside jolted Sam back to another time where he, Sam Beckett had hired and driven the vehicle to where it was now.

She was laughing at him, leaning across the cars gear stick slapping his knee sharply giving that 'gotcha' expression, delighting in his foolishness. "The man who had received the Nobel price in physic's couldn't find his way from the airport to their hotel with out getting lost." She taunted.

Instead of looking at the road map supplied with the rental as she suggested his male ego assured her it wasn't necessary. The San Paulo Plaza though not the only multi level shopping centre incorporating a hotel in the city. It was however the largest, so of course he wouldn't experience any trouble finding. The rental agents brief direction would be more than sufficient.

A single vivid memory of himself being thoroughly scolded by her jolted more memories until in a matter of seconds their entire life together flashed to the fore front of his mind. Their first meeting, his clumsy attempt at dating, a proposal, a wedding. All of it, every day, every year of the life they'd shared. Staring at the rental sticker Sam raised his hand and touched it tentatively. She was here, they were here, together. Concentrating until finally he remembered this day, five and half years ago. Drawing his hand away he paused, he could speak to her, ask her........ask her what? She wouldn't know him. She'd only see the aura of Louis Hernandez that surrounded him now. Most likely if he tried to say anything about what going to happen it would only frighten her.....But it wouldn't frighten him. He could tell him to wait, warn himself before he made the mistake of a life time.

Using the same exit he'd entered through Sam made his way back to the ground floor of the mall. Striding through the slightly dwindling crowds he did not see the raven haired woman who watched him with suspicious interest, his mind set on one objective, reach the only man who could send him home.

----------PART THREE---------

What was he up to? First the business down stairs and now he was back again! Peering through the display window behind her counter she watched as he marched passed the store. She'd never liked the man, he was odd, never had much to say and always looked like he'd take your head off if you got too close.

"Teresa you know we don't permit personal phone calls during business hours." Angelic Marino scolded. "I'll allow it this time but you have to tell your gentleman caller that this is a business number. You do have a telephone where you live, don't you?" The boarding house where Teresa Santos had lived for the past two years did have a telephone. It was on the wall just outside the communal bathroom. Not the best place to carry on conversations one might prefer to remain confidential. Teresa gave the older woman an apologetic half smile, feigning embarrassment. She was however not the least bit embarrassed, completely cheesed off would be a truer description of her mood.

"Thank you Angie, I'll tell who ever it is to phone me at home tonight."

"And........." Angie waited.

"And not to call here again." She answered in her practiced voice.

"Hello." Teresa whispered into the phone.

"It's me Tess, I did it. I managed to get Hernandez to switch with me."

"Where are you?" She hissed through the line. "I waited and you didn't show, if your planing something I want to know what it is?"

The male voice lowered, becoming plaintive. "Come on Tess, we agreed it would be safer to have Louis take my place tomorrow." Ron Marino, Angelic's brother and the proprietor the of the jeweler rounded the office door, poking his head in a spilt second before she answered. He smiled at her in his usual condescending manner.

Returning the sickly smile, Teresa kept one eye on Ron as she brought the short telephone conversation to an abrupt end. "You have my home number, call me there after six." She said firmly, not bothering to wait for a response she hung up the phone.


"I don't understand Sam, why do you have to go down there now?" The insurance company will assess the damage to the car when we return it tomorrow. Why don't you leave it to them to worry about." He wasn't paying attention Donna thought as she studied him from her position perched on the edge of the bed. Sam Beckett finished dressing as he moved around their suite. His own thoughts, concentrated on the brief conversation exchanged minutes earlier with the man who had called the room. Picking up the room key he jammed it along with the keys to the rental into his trouser pocket and headed for the door. "Sam, our dinner reservation is in half an hour."

"It won't take that long." He explained turning back toward her."I just want to take a look for myself Donna." He added closing the distance between them quickly. Leaning over her he brushed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes, running a gentle hand across her cheek to her chin, raising it until her eyes met his. Bending lower he kissed her lightly on the tip of her nose. "Security is meeting me. I have to go."

"Why don't I go with you then. We can have a look together, ring the police if you think it was intentional and still make our reservation on time." He was smiling, shaking his head.

"I don't mind, but I think dressed the way you are, you might draw a crowd." Sam teased dropping his eyes. There was a moment of confusion until Donna understood. She hadn't changed, she was still only wearing her slip and camisole.

"Just give me a couple of minutes." Donna persisted, not wanting him to go. Why, she didn't want him to go she couldn't quite explain. It was just a feeling, it had started earlier this afternoon and grown somehow, coiling inside her until she barely recognized her own reaction to the stranger who had twice this day taken Sam, if only in sprite from her. "I only have to slip my dress on and fix my hair." She said getting up, moving passed him en route to the bathroom.

"Donna, don't worry about it. You take your time getting ready and if I'm not back in twenty minutes I'll meet you in the lounge." He was at the door by the time she'd turned around and gone before she had a chance to open her mouth and debate the subject any further.


Project Quantum Leap, Stallion's Gate, New Mexico.

Being patient was definitely not one of Al Calavicci's strong suits. For the past fifteen minutes he'd paced the control room from stem to stern, anxiously waiting for Gooshie and Ziggy to finish recalibrating the necessary software to match Donna's neurons and masons to his and Sam's, occasionally looking back over his shoulder to check on their progress.

Donna's passive stance during the proceedings and since they'd left her quarters had surprised him. Now as he watched her silent cooperation he found it also irritated him. It shouldn't, but it did. Really, he supposed as he watched her stand docily below Ziggy's giant sphere she was simply keeping up her end of their agreement, to cooperate. After all that was what he had wanted, demanded of her and nothing else. He would regret it he knew somewhere down the track, but he had made that part very clear.

The conference between the senior staff, Verbena, Tina, Gooshie, Donna and himself had lasted no more than five minutes. It didn't go well. Verbena had finished the requested profile and delivered it with the aid of Ziggy as the other's sat silent, remembering the events that had been very close to home for those who already taken up their positions back then. The fact that now there was a chance Sam could set history right again hardly seemed to matter. In the final analysis Verbena had deduced the individual in question would have a history of violence and abuse, suffer from a obvious personality disorder, be completely self absorbed and probably have experienced an extended period of depression prior to the Plaza incident. Unfortunately such a person was unknown to the investigating agencies or mental health facilities in the surrounding area. Ziggy was equally helpful, God what a joke. 'A mistake' seemed to be the best the old girl could come up with. A mistake, yeah right.

Due to the unique circumstances of the leap Verbena agreed the visitor could be questioned as soon as the sedative wore off. She would forego her usual assessment, using the brief report supplied by the waiting room medic who had originally welcomed Hernandez to predict possible difficulties. Questioning would be conducted by herself. Focusing on the shift change that Ziggy had initially proposed as Sam's reason for leaping into the man in the first place, she would seek to discover what, if anything he knew that could assist them. Preliminary searches made by the hybrid computer had failed to locate Louis Hernandez in the present. And since he had survived tomorrows bloodbath and subsequently disappeared soon after, it was surmised he just may hold the key to the six years old mystery or at least be able to shine a little light on the days leading up to the incident. Maybe they were grasping at straws, but right now even with Verbena's profile, they didn't have much else to go on.

"How much longer, Gooshie? Al called from across expansive room. Gooshie didn't answer. Instead the head programmer frowned, an expression unseen by his tormentor. He had always admired the Admiral for his tireless efforts as administrator and observer, his skills in electronic's were also very impressive considering he had no formal training in the field. But as a man he regarded Al as over bearing and highly volatile and on occasions such this where precise calculation were absolutely imperative, he was more hindrance than help. He simply couldn't abide the Admirals approach of gum it together with what ever is available. Or what he believed was the other mans personal favorite, pick a number between one and ten. "How's it going?" Al asked again as he neared the control panel.

"Not long now Admiral, we should be able to run a check very soon."

"No time Gooshie, just set it up and lets get this show on the road." Al informed him now leaning over the front of the console. He was becoming increasingly agitated as time pasted. It was taking to long, every minute he was out of contact with Sam gave him the opportunity to do what Al feared most.

"You okay Doctor?" He inquired turning towards Sam's wife.

"Fine Al." She answered in a voice just above a whisper.

She didn't sound fine, in fact taking a closer look, Al discovered she looked decidedly unwell. "What is it Donna?" He asked, immediately moving to her side, his mind going instantly into over drive. She was shaking, he realized, her face contorting slightly as her eyes brimmed with tears."Donna tell me, what's happening?" Not only did she appear on the brink of tears, she looked pained and frighten also, it was only her sudden intake of breathe that made him realize what he'd done. Unintentionally Al had taken hold of the small hand she'd raised to her temple without thinking. Sorry, he offered with his eyes releasing her. "Talk to me."

She opened her mouth slowly, unsurely trying to describe what Al had experienced many times. He could almost see her willing herself not to cry. Fighting to understand what most would say was impossible. "Something happened when Sam and I were at the hotel, but I must of forgotten it. Because....." Her voice trailed off as he moved away, shaking his head.

"What was it?" Al asked, dubious whether he really wanted to know.

"There was a man, Sam said not to worry about it, but he acted so strangely and then he called our room and wanted to talk to Sam. He went to meet him..........I think..........I don't know.......I don't remember what happened after that." Al watched her struggle, praying there was something, anything at all he could do that would make this any easier for her. I know, it's okay. Let it go. And then as if she had actually heard his silently given permission a lone tear slid down her cheek as she spoke. "It was Sam, wasn't it Al?"

"I don't know." Al lied.

"Admiral." Ziggy interjected. "I must advise you my senses indicate a deviation in the present time line. This would suggested Doctor Beckett has........." Al cut the computer off, not allowing the machine to verbalize what everyone in the room already knew. Obviously his suspicions were spot on, Sam had made contact with himself in 1994."

"Has the line reset, or is it unstable?" He demanded to know. Striding back to the console Al extracted the hand link from it's housing.

"The line remains unstable, Admiral." Came the almost pensive voice. "I suggest recontact with Doctor Beckett should take place as soon as possible."

"What about the leap, Ziggy. Has anything surrounding the robbery changed?' He asked.

"Negative, Admiral."

Extending his free hand toward Donna as he passed by her, Al beckoned her to come with him. "Gooshie what ever you've done, it had better work." He shot back over his shoulder at the other man as he marched them both up the ramp to the imaging chamber. Gooshie cringed, it would serve no purpose at this point to argue with Admiral Calavicci, he simply tucked his slightly arthritic hands into his lab coat and crossed his fingers.

Inside the chamber Al held Donna's hand firmly, lacing their fingers securely together. Maybe if he didn't let her go, if they were actually touching she wouldn't simply slip from his life as he feared she might. She still looked frighten, well why wouldn't she be. They both knew something he doubted Sam had realized yet. Any attempt he made to return using his younger self as a messenger would ultimately erase Donna from the Project. Al offered his most reassuring smile, raising their intertwined hands to his chest. "Close your eyes, it makes it easier to adjust." He whispered.


San Paulo , New Mexico , December 18th 1994

Donna Elesee stood on unsteady legs, her left hand still clinging to Al's right as if her life depended on it. She had done as he had suggested, closing her eyes and keeping them closed until he'd given the word to open them. The imaging chamber had taken on a complete new look, rich burgundy wallpaper and dark plush carpet now replaced the stark white walls and cold concrete floor that had surrounded them seconds earlier. Dozens of people moved toward her and around her and Al, their unseeing passing straight through them as they headed toward their destinations. Fighting the urge not to buckle at the knees she gripped his hand tighter.

"Your okay!" He stated in a clear commanding tone. It wasn't a question she realized.

The hand link Al had stowed in his jacket squealed loudly making her jump slightly. "Donna, I gunna have to let go of your hand." Al said more gently. "I need to take a look at what Ziggy's found." She nodded understanding, reluctantly disengaging their tangled fingers and managing the tiniest of smiles as he shook his freed hand and flexed his fingers several times before retrieving the link.

"You've got a hell'va grip on you Elesee, you know that?" Al joked as he studied the blinking machine.

She didn't answer him, it wasn't easy for Al to be around her. His moods since the semi leap with Sam had become steadily more unpredictable. He seem to waver some where between mere tolerance of her and out right dislike, and that was on a good day. Today was not a good day for any of them.

Looking around the area they had found themselves slowly, Donna's eyes came to rest on the massive Christmas tree and the marble reception desk dwarfed by the over sized tree a few feet away. She had stood in this very spot before, years ago with Sam. The handsomely dressed older gentleman behind the desk had been the same one she remembered signing them in when they arrived.

"Where's Sam, Al?" She asked taking her first tentative steps from his side.

"Over there." Al remarked thumbing toward the arched entrance. Moving slowly, growing more confident she ventured further away. Standing near the separating wall stood a tall dark haired man, his right hand bandaged to the wrist was held close to his chest as if holding it so protected him from further harm. He looked lost and profoundly sad she thought. Could it be, that this sad man was really her Sam?

"Sam." Donna called experimentally. The mans head came up when she spoke, he had clearly heard her. Over Donna's shoulder Al watched, the feeling of righteousness taking the place of apprehension.

Sam hesitated a moment before turning, disbelief mixed with fear delaying his response. Speech seemed beyond him, unfathomable was the sight that met his blurring eyes. Of course it was possible, he had made it so and it wasn't as if he hadn't had visitors from the future other than Al over the years.

She was beautiful, several years older than her counterpart, but as truly beautiful as she had been on the day they had met. A dear soul who had captured his heart at a point in his life where he had given up on love believing no one in their right mind would settle for what he had to offer. His dream to travel in time quite often made him the laughing stock of the scientific circles they both moved in. His peers, of who she was one generally considered his theories comic relief in comparison to the real work being done at the time. "Donna." He finally managed.

Stepping forward Al took Sam's wife gently by her arm and escorted the woman what appeared to be the visible distance separating her from her husband. Studying his friend as he approached Al couldn't help feeling a little of his uneasiness return. It shouldn't be under these desperate circumstances that they be reunited. If he'd had his way it would of been years earlier that this moment take place. Not now when there was so little time to explain that if they didn't move quickly there would be no time for them at all. The man who would step prematurely into a nuclear accelerator months from now, who would by doing so save numerous lives was making his way to their location. It hadn't been confirmed, but Al was now certain Sam Beckett, the younger one, had already seen more of his own future than he was comfortable with.

----PART FOUR----

"Sam." Al waited, his patience all but exhausted. "Sam. Sammm....." He repeated a little louder. Finally after the third attempt to gain his friends attentions did the man turn to glare briefly at him, his displeasure of their earlier confrontation still evident in the manner in which he regarded Al. The distinct feeling that he was as invisible to Sam as he was to all around with the exception of the women who held his gaze did little to alleviate the situation between the two men. It was purposeful avoidance. None of Sam's anger, it appeared had diminished in the time they had spent apart.

Al had acted as sentry, politely ignoring the intimacy shared by Sam and his wife as they had exchanged a strained greeting with one another, ever watchful for the arrival of Sam Beckett's younger self. Alternating his attention equally between the hand link and the Plaza entrance. He couldn't wait any longer even if he had wanted to prolong the meeting. Ziggy now estimated time of interception to be thirty seconds and steadily decreasing.

That look, brief as it was reminded Al very much of the old adage he had used in the past of 'don't shoot the messenger.' Through unprecedented circumstances Al had willingly become messenger and go between for Sam and the Project. And for years now he had relayed information back and forth for both parties, losing track of the amount of times that role had seen him to be the barer of news he'd rather not have to deliver.

This was harder than he thought, but harder still would be to honestly believe Sam would allow innocent ones to suffer for their mistakes.

With reawakened resolve Al began again. "Sam, we need to get moving." His plea coming out more abrupt than intended drew nothing by way of acknowledgement from Sam. There was however a noticeable shift in the women beside side him. Donna tensed, a small frown marring her brow. Thankfully she understood the necessity of heeding his direction, this was why Al reminded himself he'd insisted on her accompanying him. If Sam was going to listen to anyone right now it would be Donna.

"Al's right Sam, we should find somewhere else to talk." She said quietly, her eyes never leaving her husbands face.

Turning to Donna for further assistance Al implored her to lead Sam away from their present location. "It has to be now, Donna." He insisted. Nodding, she paused only a moment before taking a few steps away. And as Al had suspected Sam followed.

Unconvinced of the groups safety Al brought up the rear, carefully checking left, then right. The hand link held firmly in his grasp continued it's warning as they moved. Only the unmistakable urgency of the sounds intimating from the small device forced his attention back to it. 'Shit' Another sweep of the surrounding area and Al immediately understood why Ziggy was going into overload. The man who despite all his efforts to avoid had arrived without Al's detection.

A split second later the women proceeding the small group vanished.

Intense and immediate anger over what Al viewed as his failure to protect those entrusted to his care counteracted the yet unexplained feelings of grief experienced as he continued on their path without further hesitation. Frantically attempting to read the hand links tiny screen and keep a eye on the approaching danger he had noted Sam turn to look back in his direction and by no more then his own holographic presences had Al pressed the other man onward. From the beginning of this leap he'd known this was a possibility. What if, anything he could do to once again to change it, he hadn't quite figured out.


Only after they had found their way to the locker room once more did Al's grief and Sam's confusion give way to words. Al had stood momentarily defeated in the bleak surroundings attempting to decipher the events that had just taken place while Sam had immediately begun to prowl the confines of the room. Unveiled glares and silent accusations the only communication exchanged between the pair for that time.

It was Sam that spoke first. His voice tight, clearing not wishing interaction with Al any more than he had earlier. "Where is she Al?"

"I honestly don't know." He answered flatly. Donna might be anywhere at this point. Another time shift had occurred there was no doubting it, precisely where it had chosen to place Donna Elesee in the scheme of things was any ones guess. He shudder slightly at the implication Donna disappearance would have on not only Sam, but himself.

The hand link silent for the duration of Al and Sam's strained exchange suddenly began another stream of beeps and squeals. Behavior Al had liken more than once to that of a petulant child demanding to be heard. Behavior much like her creator at the moment Al thought. He let her wait. The relentless noise as irritating as it was, was only slightly more annoying than having Sam pace backward and forward in front of him without uttering a word.

Physical responses came slower and harder than their actual words it seemed. He was tied beyond explanation and the unshakeable feeling that he wasn't going to like what Ziggy had to tell him didn't make his decision any easier. Choosing to address the machine first rather than the man was the best of a bad bunch. With some effort Al raised the hand link and checked the data displayed on it's screen. Reading and then rereading the unthinkable twist their lies had caused until focusing on the information became impossible.Tears filled his eyes before his mind registered their approach,refusing to allow any to escape Al quickly turned his back on Sam and wiped his eyes using the sleeve of his jacket. Forcibly holding back the flood of new emotions he held his arm up covering his face in an attempt to somehow ward off the unseen assault he endured in silence. Only sheer exhaustion made him lower his arm, the hand link still supplying more and more new information slipped from his hand and clattered to the imaging chamber floor.

Where is she?" Sam demanded again from across the room. He had seen the brief emotional change in the man. Seen him stand very still, his face covered, his shoulders slumped forward. Watched as the link vanished and reappear as Al bent slowly and retrieved the small machine, absently noting the mans obvious difficulty in the simply movement. Perplexed more than concerned by the observers stance he closed the distances, coming to stand by the other man side.

She's gone Sam." Al replied without turning around. Oh God, how could he tell him what they'd done. He, Sam both of them, Donna even, she had played her part in this tragedy.

Fear took a firm hold on Sam Beckett's already confused state of mind as he moved gingerly around Al waiting for him to explain his last statement. His mind furiously calculating all it's possible meanings. When Al's head lifted finally exposing the drawn features of a man he called friend for many years his eyes were glazed, tormented to the point of hysteria.

Drowning in the dark pools realization was never so complete as in that one instant. Backing away Sam clutched at the pain in his chest, his heart. Stumbling as the newly forming time line shifted and settled. Without mercy it seemed, time, God, or was it truly fate supplied Sam with the memories that accompanied the new line. Paramount were the events which had lead to his wife's death in 1994.


I'm sorry Sam." It was all Al could think to say sometime later as he stood over the place where his distraught friend had fallen, his legs finally given way under the strain of standing. The initial shuddering had ceased and Sam's now limp form sprawled across the locker room floor, his upper body supported by the bench where he had sat earlier. Barely audible sobs continued to come in random waves from the still body at Al's feet tearing at him in a way he couldn't ignore, reaching inside of him threatening to break down his own fragile resistance. If he could afford the luxury of time or tears he would of happily joined Sam on the floor. Reaching a comforting hand toward the other man was pointless but he offered all the same. Bending low Al held his hand over Sam's.

"Come on Sam, get up." Al urged.

Sam raised his head, slowly noting his own pain mirrored in Al's dark eyes. His gaze immediately shifted downward, trying to escape the sorrow he saw there and the growing shame he felt for treating the older man so badly this afternoon. But there was no escape, one of Al's aged hands hovered over his own which now rested on his bent knee. The attempt no matter how futile to comfort him even after he'd accused him of lying was so like Al it hurt just to think about how deep that shame went.

"I can't Al."

"Yes you can Sam." The observer informed him. "Hernandez has a place not far from here. I'll get you there and we'll see about getting you cleaned up and something to eat. Maybe then we can get started on solving this thing." Al nodded briefly at the link in his hand indicating the leap. Everything that had happened today had become one and the same. Somehow fate had forced his hand once again. They had to talk about it, he had to explain to Sam that he, Sam Beckett had been chosen for this crazy job of righting wrongs. This time though he had wronged one of his greatest rightings of history, the inclusion of Donna his own life. Still it had to wait, at least until he had a chance to get Sam safely to Hernandez place. How they had managed not to be interrupted while in the locker room Al didn't know. At that moment he didn't really care, but surely their luck wouldn't hold out for too much longer.

"I remember her Al. I remember Donna." Sam voice trembled slightly as another wave of despair swept over him. Allowing a moment for the feeling to pass he lifted his eyes reluctantly to Al's. "I saw her with you." Out of pure reflex Al shook his head. It had to be his imagination, but Al could of sworn Sam's Swiss cheese brain had retained the most recent encounter shared with his wife. More than likely, he decided after further thought it was his own desire to share the memories of a women dead and buried these past six years with someone who had loved her also.

"I know Sam, I remember her too." He answered trying not to give too much away.

"She was here, wasn't she Al?" This time it was more a question than a certainty or statement of fact. It was fading Al thought, Sam memories of Donna were fading and would continue to do so until he would only remember her gone. Standing and then stretching a little Al looked down on Sam. If only, he mused, could I be that lucky.

"Come on kid, up you get. We've got a lot of work to do and I can't do too much more until I check a few things with Ziggy." Truthfully Al could check anything through the hand link. Holding up a brave front for Sam was taking it's toll, the whole day had been one shock after another and emotionally he was running very close to empty himself.

Sam nodded, as much as wanted Al to stay he needed time alone. They'd argued more today than any time he could remember. Al deceptions regarding Donna was unfair, cruel now retrospect. The rule of not divulging more information than was necessary about himself had been broken time and again with no ill effect, so why would Al hold on to something he didn't condone in the first place?

But try as he might to hold on to some of his anger and rise above his own grief was impossible Sam realized. From Al's point of view not telling him about Donna was perfectly understandable. Why would he mention her? Al wasn't one for holding on to old hurts. He of all people should know his friend hardly ever spoke of anything that would cause him pain. Al's problem with alcohol, well and truly in the past had been a direct result of him trying to forget the worst life had dished out to him.

Untangling his legs Sam stood awkwardly, carefully refastening the elastic bandage wrapped around his hand he kept his eyes diverted from the observer until he was ready to leave. Al watched silently as Sam finished the task and then together they passed through the warren of corridors and passage ways and out into the night.

Thankfully Hernandez's car was located near by in a side street not far from the Plaza. Driving the short distance to the address supplied by Al Sam paid close attention to the road while Al conferred with the hand link.

Once inside Louis' humble residence Al set about acquainting Sam with the mans routine and the latest update on theleap. To Sam little had changed in that department, for Al it was a very different story. One very significant change had occurred in the time between when he had brought Donna to Sam via the imagining chamber and now. Why or how it had happened he could only guess. The same amount of names appeared on tomorrows causality list only the names themselves had changed. Without Ziggy Al couldn't tell exactly which one of them Donna Elesee Beckett had replaced. There was another police statement, this one given by Sam. He needed to read it and see if Ziggy could use it to assist them. But what Al really needed to do was to talk to Sam.

It seemed almost as the man in question had read his mind, before Al had gathered the right words Sam beat him to it."It's okay Al. I know what your going to say. I'm sorry about this afternoon. I was angry at you because......." His voice trawled off as Al faced him. It was the first time since they arrived at Hernandez's small house he realized. Talking and listening are easy if you don't have to look at the person Sam thought as Al regarded him sympathetically. He dropped his eyes once more, staring blankly at the sandwich he'd been preparing as Al had given him the run down on Louis Hernandez and the part he would play tomorrow.

Looking back up again Al interjected before the apology could continue. "Don't worry about it Sam it's not important now." He said waving a dismissive hand. "I should of told you about Donna, I was wrong not to." Al went on fiddling with the hand link absently. His own eyes finding something less difficult to occupy himself with than Sam's own intense gaze.

Both men ran out of words then and Sam unsure how much more he wished to subject his friend or himself too proceeded to eat the sandwich.

"I should go Sam." Al said a few minutes later when both had become more than a little uncomfortable with dragging silence that had followed their last attempt at conversation.

"Yes, okay." Sam replied hastily. It was too fast, he realized to late. He was too ready to let Al go with out at least a token effort to make him stay. Inwardly cursing himself for his own thoughtlessness. "I'm sorry, Al. It's hard right now I don't know what to say other than I'm sorry."

Al's reaction was understanding as it had been in the past when their differences made being apart easier for both concerned. He offered Sam a tiny nod. "Before I go, I have to tell you something" It was now or never Al realized, do or die. "I never meant for you to find out about Donna like this."

Sam expression grew more intent at Al's admission. "I don't understand Al, what are you trying to tell me. That you never considered I had a right to know I'd lost the women I love,loved." He corrected himself.

"No Sam, you always had that right. But when you left, you left others to make those decisions for you."

"You, your talking about yourself Al." He snapped back, a tiny amount of the tightly held anger returning.

"No, Sam. Not me." The observer protested.

Sam shook his head. At any moment Al thought Sam would loose what little control he'd been holding on too. The last thing he wanted was another argument. Swallowing hard Al simply allowed the words he'd been holding back to spill out of him. "Donna didn't want you to know Sam. She made me promise not to tell you about her. I don't know why exactly, she had some idea it helped you."

"That doesn't make sense Al, nothing your telling me does. How could you know what she thought?"

"Because she told me, Sam. I don't really understand why she thought what she did only that she loved you and would do anything she thought would protect you." Al paused, weighing his words before he spoke again. "Even if that meant waiting five years for a man who didn't remember her being his wife."

Confusion showed plainly on Sam's face for a minute or so after Al had finished speaking and then vanished,replaced with something Al couldn't fathom straight away. Stepping out of the other mans way as moved past him he regarded Sam closely as he walked out of the small kitchenet and into the living room. Sitting down slowly on the worn sofa adjacent the silent television set he stared for a time at the darkened screen, speechless at what Al understood to be the man's realization that he had altered more of his own life than anyone had allowed him to know.

"Are you okay, Sam?"

'No'.There hadn't been the slightest movement to indicate Sam had heard the question. Only the look of deep sadness in his eyes that gave a glimpse to Al that he had and nothing he said right now would make any difference.

"Would you rather I left." Al offered.

Lashes fluttered briefly, heavy and moist. "No, Al it's okay. I'll be alright." Sam raised his head slightly to look up Al. "How Al?" He asked.

"Ah, Sam."

Understandably Sam was having a hard time absorbing all he'd been told, his question an unnecessary formality was a clear indication to Al he was struggling with the details of this new time line.

"I don't remember, Al."

"Okay listen up. You don't remember because it didn't happen. When you leaped in, Donna was at the Project. You did that early on, after the leap into Lawrence College, I'm not going to go into that right now just take my word for it she was there. You with me so far, Sam?" Al queried. Sam nodded recognition. "Good. When you saw her here your Swiss cheese memory filled in what you'd forgotten." Sam was staring at him, intent as Al tried to tie both time lines together. Slowly the older man paced the faded carpet in front of where his friend sat, hesitant to continue. Unsure of how to explain that he believed Sam had done what he had on his third recorded leap. Acting on his heart once again he had used the time they were apart to make contact with her or his younger self somehow altering the past, erasing the last five years Donna had spent at the Project waiting for his return. "Later." He began again "Because she was also here in the past she became a part of the leap itself. Exactly how that happened, well I'm only guessing now Sam. But I figure he could see me and put that together with whatever you did." Al stopped, feelings mixed at his last disclosure. On one hand he was relieved at telling Sam the truth, on the other the truth was more painful than anything he could of dreamt.

Sam adverted his gaze. Yes, he understood that part all to clearly. The part where he had drawn Donna into this with out considering the consequences first. Knowing full well by contacting himself in the past he was attempting to change the future.

He had spoken to her briefly on the telephone before speaking to himself. Her voice pleasant but curious, protective. He remember smiling at her attempts to shield Sam from any unnecessary interruption, yet he'd stayed steadfast in his conviction evading her questions and finally she'd handed him over to her husband. He had offered damage to their rental car originally as explanation for his intrusion and then very plainly he had made it inescapable for the other man to avoid meeting with him as he requested. Telling him he knew about his intention to test the accelerator, adding few well placed secret about the man himself to assure him of his validity.

"You go." Sam said to Al after further contemplation. Meeting the observers eyes once more he offered a explanation. "I just want to sit for a bit and take it all in."

"Okay, if that's what you want." Sam had grown quite, thoughtful. Al had a pretty fair idea what was going on behind his friends troubled eyes. He'd been through the anguish of self condemnation himself over the years for many reasons. Understanding nothing or no one could take away that what was necessary now, he let him be.

With the chamber door already open Al took one last look at the man sitting on the sofa, torn between going and staying. He knew staying with Sam wasn't going to get the job done but leaving him alone felt an awful lot like abandoning him. "Your not completely to blame Sam."

A flicker, the tiniest of nods was the response Al received, and after a minute or two it was the only one he decided he was going to get under the circumstances. "I won't be long. Get some rest Sam I'll be back soon." He offered.


----PART FIVE----


Project Quantum Leap. Stallion's Gate. New Mexico

As soon as the door had shut the scene surrounding the observer disappeared, gone were the furnishings and apparatus that had made up Hernandez's small abode. Now standing in the vast expanse of the imagining chamber unseen by anyone did Al expel a long held sigh.

'To go, or to stay?' He questioned to no one in particular after a minute or two of well deserved solitude. His own conscience, being his best adviser these past years offered little in the way of a choice. Staying in the empty room wouldn't accomplish anything, and avoiding the results of Sam's intervention would not make them any less real.

But still as the seconds ticked by Al stood, grounded uncertain of what awaited him on the other side of the chamber door. Oh, he had a fair idea what he'd find, but the thought of actually setting foot outside the safety of the room was not something he relished. At least here he could hold on a little longer to the memories before they became to difficult to differentiate from this new reality. Eventually both would find a place in his memory, but right now he considered sadly, it was just too hard to let go of the light and except the dark.

'What are you doing Calavicci, hiding out?' His conscience goaded after more time had passed and Al had remained in the same position, mind and body still refusing to cooperate.

'No, of course not.' He lied.

'Really. You could of fooled me.'

'Okay, this is good.' Al laughed bitterly to himself. Not only had he knowingly lied to his best friend for years pretending he'd been forced to because he was a man of his word and having given his word to Donna he was compelled to keep it, now he was actually deluding himself. Jesus, where would it all end. Would it ever?

Sam had left. Decided, leaving Al with not only the Project but a wife who may or may not have been part of the original equation along with near on two hundred souls for which he was to make life altering decisions for on a daily basis was a sure bet. Probably figured he could handle anything that came his way, and rightly so. Responsibility was not something Al was new to, or afraid of. But no way in the world could Sam have known about all the visitors they'd have in the waiting room over the years or even that it would literally take years to retrieve him. No, not even Sam could of foreseen that. And if he did, Al thought a little contemptuously, the very first thing he needed to do when they did get Sam Beckett back here was to ask the man to explain to him exactly which part of his anatomy he was thinking with back then. Somehow though he'd managed. Between his conscience, gut instinct and once or twice the toss of a coin he had made the decisions that he hoped cost the smallest amount of grief to all concerned. Covering up when necessary for any short comings and generally doing what ever it took to help Sam and keep the Project running until they could bring him home. All in all, considering everything he hadn't done a bad job of it everything. All except this time, this time his decisions had cost far too much. Trying to involve Donna had been a mistake on his part, no other could be blamed, not of all people could he hold Sam responsible for what he had done.

"Admiral." Gooshie's sudden and slightly nervous address drew Al out of his internal review.

"What is it Gooshie?" He snapped.

"I was just wondering Admiral, are you coming out soon or did you want me to re-centre you on Doctor Beckett."

Al fought the urge to turn his frustration on the head programmer, but scolding Gooshie for interrupting him wouldn't help matters. Just how long had he been standing here questioning both his and Sam's motives for why things had turned out the way they had. Long enough to draw attention he decided and that was definitely too long. He was out the door and down the ramp before he had more time think about what would greet him at the bottom.

"No, Gooshie stand down the chamber....." Al glanced at his watch as he stopped in front of the multicolored control panel where the other man stood, it was past two already. ".......until 1600 hours, I'll go back in then."

"Yes Admiral." Gooshie took the hand link and replaced the small machine in the larger housing of Ziggy's main operating panel. "Will there be anything else."

"No, just make sure we're ready to go when I come back." At that Al turned to leave. "I'm going to my quarters for a while and then I'll be in my office if anyone is looking for me." He added as an after thought before disappearing through the secondary exit of the control room. Weather he liked the situation was beside the point, he was in charge and right now he needed to start acting as if he knew what he was doing.

Taking the stairs allowed thought without interruption, he had no intentions of being bombarded by questions from anyone just now. Without exception each time he left the control room there was always someone waiting for him, waiting for him to explain Sam and what ever leap they were involved with at the time. Usually it was Donna or Verbena, but Donna wouldn't be there this time and Verbena didn't understand enough to help him at the moment. Being the women she was she would see through his fraying exterior and have questions that would cost him to answer, truthfully. Unfortunately the truth was all he'd been able to manage these past years with Verbena. Some how she'd accomplished the unimaginable with him, complete and absolute truth. No matter how he tried she always knew when he was either exaggerating or leaving something essential out of the conversations they shared. It was a scary thought really, one he was still pondering as he neared the required exit. Coming to a complete stop as the door to level four of the complex loomed in front of him. Al hesitated, still waging a single battle against the unknown. He could find Tina he supposed, request a shoulder to lean on or perhaps something a little softer if she was in a good mood. The thought took shape for a moment and then dissipated just as quickly. Honestly he didn't have the energy or the heart. Tina didn't deserve that kind of treatment, no one did.


Reaching his quarters Al stripped off the clothing he'd donned this morning. Showering for the second time for the day he emerged half an hour later redressed in his uniform, complete with several rows of medals pinned to his chest and his cap firmly positioned on the top of his head.

After a brief inter face with Ziggy to check Sam's initial leap date, reassured that much had not changed and there had been no significant deviation from the order of recorded leaps Al closed the door of his quarters behind him once more.

A thorough search of the cupboards and small freezer in the ridiculously tiny kitchen of his quarters had exposed a new and not overly comforting revelation. There was no other explanation Al decided, obviously in this time he par took of his meals in the Projects canteen. He grimaced slightly and his stomached growled loudly at the mere thought of the cuisine available there. Frozen, reconstituted and utterly tasteless. All the same the canteen was the only place within an hours drive of the Project were food could be procured and food of any variety was what his body demanded at this moment. It had been over twenty hours since he had consumed anything that had not come in liquid form and his body was now paying the price of the over sight. Soon if he didn't fill his stomach with something the shock that was presently keeping him going would take hold and he'd find himself in a heap somewhere, useless and unable to function. As long as Sam needed him he had to keep going.

The door of the elevator slid open and Al stepped immediately across the threshold to for fill his own need. Near deserted the canteen's only occupants, a couple of maintenance workers sat hunched over their late lunch. Both, Al observed were bathed in warm afternoon sun light radiating from the open door which lead directly to the outside. Returning the greetings offered he made his selection without any real thought, stepping outside to light a cigar and avoiding any further conversation with the two men while he waited for his food to heat in the microwave.

It had been a mistake he realized almost as soon the rich taste of the Chivello made its way to all of his over stressed senses. Coupled with the bright sun shine the effect was almost overwhelming. Closing his eyes briefly to allow the sensation of revulsion to pass he let the cigar to die slowly. Sufficiently recovered Al spent a few more minutes surveying the surrounding compound. A part from a half a dozen make shift walking paths that led to and fro from the cinder block buildings extending to his right there were few other signs of human habitation in the middle of the desert. Nothing struck him as overly interesting about the structures, he'd looked at them many times over the years since their erection standing in this very same spot. Coming outside when ever possible to commune with nature and clear the cobwebs away as he was doing now. They were an eye sore on the landscape, still studying them was preferable to what he knew he would see if he dared to look back over his shoulder at the drawn shades of what was Sam and Donna's quarters.

Being inside a few hours earlier only made his mind reel at what he knew he would find there now, which was emptiness of a kind only found in estates where the former residents were deceased. But they weren't dead, Al reminded himself. Or at least Sam wasn't, Donna unfortunately had paid the ultimate price for being part of a dream which hadn't even seen it's true potential when she died as a direct result of it. It was crazy, maddening to think about he thought shaking off the images of himself and Sam at the San Paulo Police Station and then standing over Donna's grave site together.

But as the sun beat down on him and Al pushed the last of the images aside he knew without quite understanding why as he finally did turn to look at the faded drapes that covered the deserted rooms there in that at least some of the answers they were searching for would be found there.


 San Paulo, New Mexico. 1am 19th of December 1994.

An untold time had elapsed since Al's departure when Sam finally shifted and stretched his long frame out on the sofa he'd settled on during their last discussion. Cramped and uncomfortable, closing his weary eyes against the harsh glare of the living room light above his position he had drifted almost immediately into the welcome oblivion of sleep. Slivers of the past, both the best and the worst of all the years echoed in the dreams of Sam Beckett as he slept.

...Twin perfect ringlets framed porcelain featured under the fine white veil she wore, relieved as his sure figures lifted the thin fabric...

..."It's just so desolate there, Sam. So far away from everything." She was angry and becoming angrier by the second, pacing around the small garden they'd established during their short time at the University. Married quarters weren't much , most people opted to live off campus but they'd made this home. "I looked it up Sam, or should I say I tried to look it up, Stallion's Gate isn't on any map I can find. And you want me to leave my work here and go and live in the middle of nowhere" ...

..."It's finally working Donna, why can't they wait a little longer, give me a chance. Isn't Ziggy proof enough." Another deadline, more orders from the capital. "It will be okay, Sam. Once you have the retrieval program online and working as well they'll back off. Give it time Sam...

..."Of course I don't mind, Sam. One more day in the city sounds just fine." She whispered, gently brushing her cheek across his."Why don't you call Al and let him know we are staying until Sunday while I get ready for bed." Slipping past him she lingered seductively at the door to the en suite. "Go on, he won't be asleep at this hour, and you'll feel better after you talk to him."...

...She had died before he had made his way to her. Feeling the life seep away as he neared the crowd. Warding off police and other on lookers as he knelt beside Donna still form. It was a bad dream, it couldn't be real Sam remembered thinking as he brushed her hair away from her face. His own hand coming away damp and sticky with her blood and that's when he knew, knew it wasn't a nightmare but part of something he could touch and feel..

...They were pulling him up and back then, leading him away with the others. For hours after he'd sat numb from the horror, huddled under a blanket waiting his turn to talk to the police. No one came anywhere near him until Al arrived, exactly how he came to be there hundreds of miles from the Project standing beside him Sam never thought to ask. He simply excepted Al's presence as the only sane part of the insanity surrounding him and was grateful for it...

...For months they had worked, picked up the pieces after Donna's death and continued where he had left off before the trip to San Paulo. Verbena had arrived on schedule, taking up the position he'd offered her before Donna had died. Asking her questions, encouraging him to grieve. But never understanding he had no time for grief, no amount of time spent talking to her would change what had happened that day...

 Sam was fully awake when Al did return, busily making tea in Hernandez' gallery kitchen. He moved quickly within the confines of the small space, opening and closing upper and lower cupboards as he searched and eventually located what was required. It was a futile attempt to keep his mind active and focused on anything other than the nightmarish images that had haunted the little sleep he had managed in Al's absence.

To Al's surprise Sam had completely omitted all pleasantries and immediately begun questioning him, literally bombarding the observer with his own theories and demanding a detailed update of what had been discovered during the time they'd been separated. Never quite allowing the other man to finish answering before interrupting him again. Eventually unable to keep up with the speed in which the inquires came Al raised both hands quickly forming T.

"Time out, Sam." He protested. "If you give me a chance I'll tell you."

Sam fell silent, slightly taken back by Al's reaction until he took stock of his surroundings and the expression on his friends face. Still held aloft was the teaspoon Sam had been using to emphasize his last point. The knuckles on his right hand white from the intensity in which he grasped the small utensil. Dropping his eyes along with his arm the picture worsened. Strewn over the bench in front of him were the contents of a now empty tea canister. Spilt milk mingled with the scattered tea leafs, forming a migrating gray pool that had almost reached the edge of the bench. His treatment of the observer was unjust and very close to menacing. "Sorry, Al." Sam offered apologetically, grabbing quickly for the dish cloth to stop the mess he'd made spilling on to the kitchen floor.

What was he doing? Shouting, throwing a tantrum so others would be forced to give into his wishes. Rid himself of his own consuming guilt. It was guilt, and fear. If what Al had told him was true, and he had no reason to believe it wasn't, then in reality he was responsible for his own wife's death.

Years ago, or now depending on how you viewed the situation it was him who had insisted they extend their trip by an extra day...because....No, the reason why wasn't there, Sam struggled with the Swiss cheese remnants of his memory but why he'd changed their trips itinerary at the last moment simply wasn't amongst them. Ultimately it was that change that saw her there when the shooting had started.

Al took Sam's apology silently, nodding acknowledgement and then simply watching as his friend cleaned the work area and returned the items he'd removed from his host's cupboards and refrigerator. Holding back the urge to inject on the few occasions when Sam paused, steadying himself on the nearest available surface to draw a cleansing breath and then release it slowly.

Finished, Sam glanced again in Al direction and then retrieved the tea cup set aside during the short cleaning detail and carried it back into the living room. Sighing he settled himself down on the sofa. "I'm sorry Al, I don't know what's wrong with me." He said. "No that's true, I feel so helpless, so tired I can't think straight." Sam eyes pleaded to the other man for absolution.

"You didn't get much sleep I take it?" Not waiting for the obvious answer Al continued. "I'd kinda hoped I'd come back here and find you still curled up on the couch."

"I tried, but well......." Sam's words died suddenly, as a sure sign to Al that what ever Sam was going to say was difficult or painful, or both.

"You dreamt about Donna." It wasn't a question and to Sam it sounded very much as if Al had returned some time earlier unbeknown to him and decided not to disturb him. It was comforting to think Al was still looking out for him, that the trust they'd always had for one another seemed to have weathered the storm that been the preceding few hours. Studying the older man as he pulled the hand link from his uniform pocket Sam couldn't help note that Al had changed into his dress whites. It meant 'down to business' for Al, his uniform bringing the very best out in the man. As if wearing it he alone could make a difference.

Al was deeply engrossed in what ever was being downloaded on to the blinking device in his hand now, seemingly oblivious to all else. Staring down into the light brown liquid in the cup held between his hands the scientist repeated the simply breathing excises that continued to calm him. It wasn't until Sam looked up again that he realized that Al had moved to stand directly in front of him and the hand link wasn't the only thing he was holding in his hands.

"Where did you find it?" Sam questioned.

"The same place you left it." The observer informed him.

Very slowly Sam rose, his eyes never leaving the object Al was holding out to him. Allowing sufficient time for Sam to study the small item before carefully turning it over so that he could read the inscription on the underside Al silently weighted the outcome of this experiment. He was right, he knew he was. Ziggy had tried to tell him, but the information the hybrid computer had supplied just hadn't made any sense before. Finally Sam stepped back his face thoughtful, brows knitted together as Al had seen them many times before when his friend filled in a missing piece to the puzzle that was his memory. Bingo

"I have a theory or two of my own, Sam. This..." Al said offering the beautifully crafted time piece up to Sam one more time before returning it to his trouser pocket. " why she was there Sam."


Project Quantum Leap. Stallion's Gate. New Mexico 20th of May 1995

He'd found the gift wrapped box amongst the things returned to him after the crime scene had been cleared. Unable to open it until one night months after Donna's death and desperately alone Sam had unwrapped the last gift she had given him. 'Time waits for no man, Sam. We have to make our own.' In retrospect no truer words had ever been written, but it was highly unlikely Donna had intended the sentiment to trigger the events that followed the night her gift had finally been received

It was late only a couple more hours before the sun rose on another day. Al hadn't returned from town yet, there was time, he decided. Deception had never been one of Sam's talents, he was far to honest to consider it an option until then. He knew Gooshie would never argue with him if he requested assistance to run the program one more time, the man simply didn't seem to know how to say no. Rousting him was surprisingly easy, and one had to wonder if he actually ever slept.

Poor Gooshie, right up until Sam had appeared dressed in the Fermi suit did he believe this was just one more test on a program which had already been proven sound. He had thought it was a peculiar time to be preforming such a test, but it was Doctor Beckett's Project and Gooshie's was used to the peculiarities of genius'. Contacting Admiral Calavicci wasn't something he'd done without due consideration. In all the time he'd worked with Doctor Beckett Gooshie had never seen the man quite so determined as he was during the preliminary checks. Perhaps it was more possessed than determined he had realized as the checks came to an end and the Doctor had entered the accelerator and sealed the chamber door behind him. The Admirals voice had sounded far off, but oddly serene when Gooshie had begun to inform him of Sam's present location and the events which had transpired in his absence. Though the usually gruff and commanding tone had returned quickly enough and become panicked within mere seconds as the scientist's true intentions dawned on both men. But by then it was too late and both knew, though they had never discussed the incident that Doctor Beckett had planed it that way.


-----PART SIX-----

 San Paulo, New Mexico. 19th of December 1994.

"Did you have something particular in mind for today, Sam?" Donna Elesee inquired as came up behind her husband, startling him. Deep in thought he had not heard her approach him at the window. With the drapes drawn back the window of their suite had quite an impressive view of the City, though it was not the view that held his attention. They had not discussed the events of the previous evening and he was hesitant to do so now. The fact that he'd thought he had seen Al again, this time following Hernandez. Or that after checking the rental he had found no evidence of either a attempted brake in or damage to the vehicle. These aspects among a couple other things still weighted heavily on him. Disturbing him to the point that he simply could shake the feeling that what ever Hernandez was trying to tell him last night, his future depended on it. Donna had met him in the restaurant as arranged and he'd managed to distract her sufficiently from the topic of man or machine with a generous amount of unexpected attention. She was delighted with his idea to stay an extra day, his motives were unimportant to her so long as they were together.

Donna smiled as Sam jumped ever so slightly, he looked very guilty. Of what, she could only guess. Knowing Sam as she did all these years it was difficult, if not impossible to think him guilty of any more than working longer then anyone else or keeping too much to himself.

"What is it, Sam? Do you want to talk about it?" She asked slipping both arms around his waist and resting her head between his shoulder blades. He shook his head. "Would you like to go out for awhile?"

"Would you?"

"Well if you don't mind. There are a couple more things I'd like to pick up."

"Didn't we finish shopping yesterday." He queried turning in her embrace. Grinning at the sheepishness of her expression, he kissed her tenderly on the forehead.

She couldn't answering without blushing. "Well yes, but there was something I saw that I couldn't decide on before and I get very few chances to just browse." She had been caught out, Sam knew Donna couldn't resist the opportunity now that he given it to her to add a few more items to the already growing pile in their suites entrance way to take back to their family and friends.

"Okay, then. You go and browse and I'll find something to do." Extracting himself carefully Sam gathered up the keys to the room and opened the door enticing Donna to follow him. Catching her briefly at the threshold he added quickly. "But. I have conditions."

"Certainly, what are they?" Donna agreed without thought of what Sam's conditions might be, only now as she waited to hear what Sam had to say did she have time to regret her eagerness. Surely he understood he was not invited to join her, he'd said he would find something to do while she went her own way. Sam's smile broadened knowingly.

"No, it's not that. No need to worrying, I know when I'm not wanted." He assured her, adding a small pout that didn't last very long before explaining what he had in mind. "We eat first and when your finished browsing we meet at the cafe where we had afternoon tea yesterday, say at around three o'clock."


"Teresa I want you to take the trays to the bank this afternoon." Ron Marino informed her as she stood beside her employer who was at that moment bent intently over his work bench. Eye glass fixed firmly in place as he studied the newly polished piece in his smooth unblemished hands. Hands that had always made her squirm a little, men's hands were supposed to be hard and calloused from work. Paul's hands came to mind as she stood listening to the familiar monologue.

Why this was necessary Teresa couldn't imagine. She had taken the gem trays to the bank along with the late weekly takings every weekend for over six months now. He was leading up to something, most probably the reprimand she had been expecting for most the morning. It was fast approaching lunch time and nothing had been said regarding her late arrival today. Paul had kept her up late discussing todays plans, barely leaving her enough time to return home in the early hours to change and dress for work. Still, she pondered, only half listening to the man beside her, spending the occasional night at his apartment was one of the few fringe benefits of their arrangement. She wondered absently if after today that would improve or as their goal had been reached they to would come to an end also. More often lately she had found herself wanting to be rid of him, now as she watched Ron Marino's hands, reminding her of what she would be missing she wasn't so sure.

"Yes Teresa you have been with us a long time now, long enough for you to take on such a responsibility. You are a responsible young women are you not?" The last was said as he removed the eye glass and looked directly at Teresa.

Finally, the lecture she had known would come. "Of course, Ron. I understand the trust you and Anglica have placed in me was not given lightly. I appreciate that trust." She paused then, planing her next words carefully. The last thing she needed today was to sound patronizing. "I can only apologize for being late this morning and offer to make the time up to both of you. Perhaps by working through my lunch break, if that is acceptable to you."

"That really won't be necessary, my dear." Ron assured her, as he rose from his stool. Standing a little too close to be considered neither proper nor comfortable.

Holding her ground, as difficult as it was Teresa allowed the close proximity to continue. "But I think it is only right, Ron. At least let me subtract the time from my usual hour."

Movement behind her stopped the hand that he was raising toward her. Angelic, bless her nosy little heart had perhaps rescued her from a fate worse than death. Ron instantly stepped back, withdrawing the offending hand just as quickly as Angelic entered the small work room in search of assistance. The counter needed attending she informed the younger women. Teresa could hear the innuendoes follow her as she lost no time leaving sister and brother alone. Last day she reminded herself. Only hours to go.

The counter was crowded when she arrived, several rather annoyed customers immediately sought her attention. Serving the most insistent first Teresa managed to half clear the area before Angelic joined her. The older women showed no outward signs that anything had occurred in the work room. Angelic, her congenial self once again didn't so much as glance in Teresa direction before she took the last of the waiting customers under her wing and gentle guided them from one showcases to another.


Al had left again after Sam had finished disclosing the details of the night he had abandoned everything, his friends and life's work to test out his theory on time travel. Or was it to join Donna? Al had to wonder listening to his friend talk, if that was Sam's real intention that night and that's when God, fate or what ever had decided it was time to intervene. Returning again intermittently through the night to check on Sam and lay the ground work for the plan Al prayed would change the past enough to stop the ensuring blood bath. With each visit more of the plan took shape.

Ziggy had run every conceivable scenario and come up with something that quite obviously none of the authorities had considered during the investigation that followed the incident at San Paulo. According to what was discovered two robbery's had taken place in the original history. Which one had triggered the gun play wasn't clear, Al believed the two occurring simultaneously had resulted in what Ziggy had being trying to tell them from the beginning, it was a mistake. A huge miscalculation on the part of the party's involved. One element that was clear however was that at least one of the robbery's had to have been internally orchestrated.

For his part, Sam was to recontact his younger self and lure him down to the shopping level of the plaza. More precisely to the jewellery store at the same time Donna would be there purchasing the Christmas gift she had never had the chance to give to him in person. Hopefully this would be enough to create the necessary diversion. Sam had begun to question Al on this aspect of the plan when he was reminded of how secretive Donna had always been this time of year. Interrupting her was certain to cause a reaction and it was very unlikely what ever form that took, it wouldn't go unnoticed by those around them. Having made contact, he was, if possible to avoid any further conversations with the young Sam Beckett. Al had warned him sternly on this account, too much had already been risked, unfortunately bringing the unaware scientist to the crime scene making him a potential target was one risk that couldn't be avoided.

Left to his own devices Sam set about readying himself for the shift Hernandez had switched with a man named Paul Andrews, Andrews it turned out to be the same individual who had not arrived yesterday to relieve Sam. Baker who they had both met the day before would today become one of the seven casualties had been called in after Andrews had not arrived as expected. Al had pulled some interesting background information on the man and was, Sam assumed, following up on it at that very moment.

Standing in front of the bathroom mirror Sam fastened the black tie he'd discarded on his and Al arrival to the host's home. Studying the features of Louis Hernandez he couldn't help wondering what it was about that face and dark intense eyes that left him feeling strangely alone each time he looked into them. The initial uneasiness surrounding his current host had been set aside. Al had spent time with him on each of his return visits in the waiting room and even though the observer gave very few details Sam felt that he had miss judged Hernandez badly. Of the information relayed a suspicious nature had been a life saving characteristics Al had informed him. He was a vet, of which war or conflict the observer didn't elaborate. Waving Sam off the subject the moment after he had mentioned it. - He had not found an opportunity to ask Al about his claustrophobic theory in regards to Hernandez, now he could only hope that if he had been correct in his diagnosis Louis could hold out a few hours more.

With the last piece of his guards uniform securely in place Sam glanced again at the man in the mirror, this was the face Donna would see later today. But if he failed it would be one of the last she saw. He couldn't think about that, couldn't allow himself to fail.

The imagining chamber door opened behind Sam and he turned to meet his observer, willing himself to relax sufficiently to mask his growing fear that there wouldn't be enough time to save not only Donna and the others, but to warn the younger Sam also. Explaining to Al that he felt this maybe his only chance to return home to his own time sounded worse than selfish when you considered all the lives that would not be altered if he was not caught in his own experiment. Surely there was a way to do both, help others and have his own life back. There was almost six month between now and the date Al had mentioned as the beginning to the leaps so far recorded. A moment or two alone to plant the seed of doubt on to the dependability of the retrieval program should be more than enough time for the man to know he should concentrate his efforts in that direction. That was all Sam was asking for, no more, no less.

"Almost time to go, Sam." Al announced.

"I know Al." Sam returned, walking half through the holographic image of his friend en rout to the living room. "I though I'd make the call from here before going to the plaza."

"It's a little early don't you think? The robbery doesn't occur for another four hours."

"No, we need to make sure he's contactable. What time do they check out of the room...?" Sam paused, remembering the day as it had happened before. Now they weren't due to book out until tomorrow and as it turned out he hadn't made that arrangement then either. "Never mind, Al." He said reaching for the phone anyway.

"You don't need to do that Sam, I can tell you where he is when the time comes."

Nursing the telephone receiver in his hands Sam pivoted slightly turning his back on the observer. "I know what you said Al, about not talking to him any more than I had too, but..."

"But what, Sam? You want to warn him?"

"Yes, Al. I do. I want to tell him to take a good look at what he's got before he goes off thinking it's not enough." Sam had turned from his position on the arm of the sofa to meet Al's eyes, holding the returning gaze stubbornly.

Al could almost hear the argument Sam would give him even though he hadn't said much on the subject, now or before. Running a familiar hand over his face Al approached him patiently and knelt down, not considering the state of the imaging chamber floor or the effect it would have on the knee of his pristine uniform. "It won't work, Sam."

It had happened again, all too quickly as it had several times during this leap the older man reflected. Sam was very close to either tears or rage once more. Having been on the receiving end of both recently and still feeling the unresolved effect he'd had on each occasion Al couldn't decide which emotion he felt best equipped to deal with. Given the choice he would go to the younger vision of his friend and tell him to get Donna and himself as far away from San Paulo as quickly as possible. But it was far to late for that and try as they had no other way seemed feasible.

"It has to work." Sam whispered.

"I'm sorry, buddy but it won't. No matter what you say to him or try to convince him of, it won't make any difference. And deep down you know you can't tell him anything, there too much at stake, Sam." Standing up again Al continued the best he could, repeating what he'd told the other man when he'd first tried to explain Donna's appearance at the Project. "You're going to have to trust me on this, Sam. Some things you can't change and some things are best left alone."

That was all Al was prepared to say on that particular topic. Trust, on all levels or any relationship was a two way street. He had information on the man, who just like Hernandez had disappeared not long after today's disaster. Paul Andrews had been questioned and cleared by the authorities. Not because he had been a witness to the incident, though he had been at the plaza on the day, but because he was known to a number of the victims. After some very thorough probing Al had managed to have Ziggy bring up the man's complete history, which had been very in lighting. Andrews had resigned from the police force three years earlier after several allegation of bribe taking had been made. Hernandez had not been overly friendly with him, but would not discredit him either. Andrews it appeared had lead a relatively quite existence between the time of his resignation and the robbery.

After supplying Sam with the new information along with a description of Paul Andrews getting Sam to work was the next item on Al's agenda. He wanted to make a visit to the others. Donna and Sam should be easier enough to find, he just needed to remember that this Sam could see him also.

"Come on, you really need to get moving." Al informed him. "Keep an eye out for this Andrews character, my gut is telling me he's shady, Sam."

The door opened suddenly behind Al and Sam rose as the observer stepped back into the glowing blue rectangle. Taken back at Al's obvious hurry to leave now that the information had been delivered. Was he still angry, or did he honestly believe Sam might compromise the leap for his own selfish reasons? Sadly he couldn't bring himself to ask his old friend the questions. "Okay." He replied "I'll do that. Do you think he's the one, Al." Sam added.

"Don't know, just think it's kinda odd that he spends all that time with temptation and vice and then nothing. Known associates are all respectable members of the community, not that there are many of them. No mention of a girl friend. It's strange, very strange, Sam." Al was shaking his head as he raised the hand link.

"Before you go Al. I just wanted to say something." Sam admitted, delaying him a little longer.

"What is it Sam." The observer lower the hand link as Sam came closer, a serious expression adorning his already troubled face.

"I do trust you." He said simply.

Lost for what to say in response Al nodded. 'The feeling is mutual kid' would of been enough he supposed. Would of been what he usually would say. But he chose silence. If it were him in Sam's place he'd had fought to his last breath in the same situation to go home. He couldn't blame Sam for wanting to try. With the necessary code entered, he vanished a moment later as the door to the imaging chamber closed.


Project Quantum Leap. Stallion's Gate. New Mexico. 25th of February 2000

"Do you think that's a good idea, Admiral?"

The question had come almost immediately after his request to be centered on Donna Elesee. Any other time he would of been extremely annoyed and reacted accordingly at having his decisions challenged and repeat the order. But it was very difficult to ignore Doctor Verbena Beeks, especially when she tended to not just go away. Speaking to the psychiatrist was something he had been dreading most of the day.

Understanding Gooshie would be hard pressed to follow through while she was there Al decided his best option would be to confront the women and get it over with.

"Belay that order, Gooshie." He snapped. Waiting a few more seconds to see which way she wanted to play this. Was she coming in or did she expect him to go to her? He didn't have to wait long to find out. The door opened to his left and the tall African American women stepped inside, supremely confident, eying him candidly and then closing the door behind her, sealing it. "What is it Verbena?"

"I could ask you the same thing, Al. Why haven't you come to see me or returned any of my calls? " She demanded, get straight to the core of her concerns.

"I'm very busy, in case you hadn't noticed." Al returned smugly.

"Too busy to bother with what anyone else might have to add to the leap?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Doctor." He spat. Verbena for all her knowledge for not only her chosen profession and the Project's less then public experiments never seemed to know when to back off. "I have picked up and read all of your reports. I have spent more time with Sam and our visitor since this leap started than any other leap I can remember. Ziggy and I have come up with a plan to stop this...this..." Al was waving his arms around now, searching for just the right word to describe the events on which this leap revolved. "Balls up." He finally exploded, striding away from her."What did you think I've been doing. Honestly Verbena I would I've thought you'd know there hasn't been much chance to chat." Al was pacing now, his usual three step and then turn pattern that he practiced in her smaller office was extended to five and turn to take full advantage of the greater space of the chamber. She watched him work off his frustration for a few moments before interrupting.

"I've been talking to Ziggy." She stated bluntly. Nothing. Odd. She had expected a reaction, a snide comment at least. Something along the lines of 'what has the old bucket of bolts been saying now.' That had always been one of Al's favorite endearments in regards to the computer. "Ziggy has informed me that you haven't taken a break in over eight hours. You know the rules, Al." Verbena added with a little more authority in her tone.

"So the old girl can tell time, I'm impressed." He remarked sarcastically over his shoulder.

Verbena smiled, it was very difficult not to, even under the circumstance which had brought here. "Yes, as am I Admiral. There is no wonder that you don't consider the necessity of others when you have Ziggy. We had a very interesting discussion on that very topic earlier this evening."

"Oh, really and what did Ziggy tell you ?" He inquired more matter of factly, though the carefully phrased questioned didn't quite cover the slight panic the psychiatrist detected in his voice.

"A few things, but we don't have to talk about them if you don't want to." Verbena spoke softly as she moved closer to the man who had stop mid stride, and was now looking intently at the toe of his shoes she judged. "Answer me one thing, Al. Why are you going to see Doctor Elesee?"

The still man shook his head. Okay then, the women considered. "Ziggy said she was here this morning."

Al head came up abruptly, his expressive eyes saying what he refused to admit. "I don't remember her being here." Verbena said. "You do though, don't you ?" She didn't anticipate an answer even though she would of appreciated some answers. Al obviously wasn't prepared to take her into his confidence just yet. He looked frighten and very sad at that moment. But of all the things she'd learnt about Al Calavicci his drive to survive would sustain him until he was ready to talk. What ever this was about, he would tell her in his own good time. She could only hope that would be soon.

Reaching a comforting hand toward him Verbena gently drew him into a careful embrace. Friendship between the two had been a long and rocky road but as she held him close Verbena couldn't believe the worst of it hadn't been worth it.


San Paulo, New Mexico. 19th of December 1994.

Soon after Al's departure Sam had taken Louis' car and traveled to San Paulo Plaza. Resigned to spending next few hours in the role of security guard Sam arrived with time to spare. Years of adjusting to countless situations with the minimum of fuss he had made his way to the locker room, retrieving the necessary items from the designated locker and then proceeded to become better acquainted with the position. The same young women who had assisted him yesterday with bandaging his sprained wrist ignored him when he entered the control room today. Deeply engrossed in her magazine she didn't question Sam's lack knowledge regarding procedures. After a little searching he located the days shift assignments and a map of the plaza. It didn't take him long to realize that the whole complex had been broken up into marked areas and that he and the other guard were to rotate with one another over the period of the shift. This Sam decided was an excellent idea and was obviously designed to alleviate the possibility of becoming jaded by familiarity.

Having spent the last two hours on the gallery level Sam made a last sweep of the area before descending to the ground floor. While he had for filled the necessary part of his host duties by staying alert Sam had spent the majority of the time watching for Donna. He hadn't seen her yet, nor had he seen anyone that remotely fitted the description Al had given him of Andrews. The store owners he had encounted greeted him good willingly, one inquiring on his health and the bandage on his right hand. It wasn't until after the casual exchange did Sam consider that a security guard with a injured hand might not be seen as overly useful in case of a emergency. Removing the now slightly soiled cloth he stuffed it into his trouser pocket. His knuckles were quite badly bruised and there was still a dull ache but it was nothing that Sam decided would hinder him if the need arose for him to draw the gun holstered at his side

Taking up position outside the Jewellers Sam settled himself in for the duration. The surrounding scene wasn't much different from what he remembered of it. Though there seemed to be more people today. Yesterday he had been far to preoccupied with the realization of Donna in his life to think beyond Al deception of the fact. Casting his eyes around Sam carefully avoided looking at the children gathered close to the gold thrown where Santa Clause sat. Were children amongst the casualties or wounded? He hadn't thought of that before now, but as long as they were close by there was a possibility they could be hurt.

He felt more than heard Al's return, the usual noise of the imagining chamber door opening and closing was completely muffled over the other sounds around him. Watching Al walk through the crowd toward him Sam noted the dark shadows under the older mans eyes. Had he had any rest this leap?

"Almost show time." Al announced once he'd moved closer enough to be heard. "Have you seen anyone yet?" He inquired.

Names weren't necessary at this point Sam knew perfectly well to whom Al was referring. He shook his in response, mindful of anyone observing his host talking to himself.

"Okay, I'm going to check the store. Be right back, Sam." Sam watched Al disappear through the Jewellers window beside him. Craning his neck a little he could see Al moving around the inside. Not bothering to avoid any of the customers he appeared to be looking for something behind the internal fixtures. A duress alarm Sam guessed, most places would have them in easy reach of staff. When he didn't seem to be able to locate it after a minute or two Al keyed something into the hand link. Receiving what ever information he'd requested the observer bent low behind the counter, vanishing and then reappearing just as quickly. Obviously satisfied Sam half expected Al would return to him then but instead the other man lingered, peering into show cases and then the display in the front window. Sam's eyes followed him but from his position was not able to see exactly what Al was looking at. After a short time of seemingly being transfixed by the objects on show Al appeared to snap himself out of the moments of deep thought and took his place beside Sam. Occasionally checking the hand link in his hands but mostly Al was abnormally quite.

"What did you find, Al?" Sam whispered after the lack of conversation between him became uncomfortable.

"The security alarm, Sam." Al answered flatly his attention focused elsewhere.

"Yeah, I saw that. I meant in the window, Al. What's so interesting in the window?" He pressed, hoping for an explanation for Al's curious behavior.


Okay, that was pretty plain Sam decided obviously he wasn't going to get any more of an answer than that. Stepping to the right Sam quickly surveyed the items in the window display which his friend had been admiring. Watches, fobs to be more precise, his fob, the one he suspected was still in Al's pocket hung from a tiny branch in the for ground. Of course he should of thought that. No wonder Al is acting strange, it was eerie to have both items together when in fact they were one and same. If he were to reach out he could almost touch...

"Here she come's, Sam."

Turning to look back in Al's direction Sam caught sight of the women as she approached. Donna moved easily through the crowds, pausing momentarily near a group of children who were receiving candy from a gayly dressed elf. Both men watched her, both seeing the look of longing she gave the children before moving on to her destination. Breezing past Sam she hardly noticed him, entering the store she presented to be a women with a mission. The stray thought from the past brought a brief smile to Sam's lips as she immediately enlisted the help of the raven haired women behind the counter.

Making themselves scarce Al and Sam stepped aside, watching from a short distance of no more than a couple of feet away as the window was unlocked and the fob was extracted from it's resting place.

"Time for that call, Sam" Al said. "I'll have Ziggy find the other one." He added more calmly than Sam would of expected given the circumstances. With that Al entered a series of commands into the hand link. The calmness didn't last very long though as the moments ticked by and the only response from the link was a noise very much like what was heard when one encounted a busy tone on the telephone line.

"Gooshie, hurry up." Al ordered above the din of the plaza.

Sam standing ready waited nervously. Alternating his attention between the man beside him and the women who's life had changed his dramatically. "It okay, kid." Al assured him sensing the other man's anxiety. They had been over the plan at least a dozen times through the night, all he had to do was to contact Sam and bring him here. It was simply really, except now Al couldn't locate him. "Looks like he's on the move, Sam." Al explained as the link finally started to cooperate and he absorbed the incoming data. "Here we are...oh boy." The observers face took on a disbelieving expression that instantly sent Sam into a maelstrom of emotions.

"What, Al.? Tell me what's going on." He demanded to know. His voice rising to a degree that several people passing by at the time turned to look at the man dressed in a plaza security uniform who was apparently talking to thin air. Donna was safe inside, oblivious to the confusion, thank goodness. But if he didn't find Sam quickly that would all change very soon. He huddled closer to the hologram, attempting to remain in the character of his host and hear what Al was telling him.

"Cancel the phone call, looks like it won't be necessary after all." Al stated, pointing toward the descending escalator.

The younger Sam Beckett stepped from the moving stairs the moment they reached the ground floor and without an ounce of hesitation he headed directly toward them, Donna, the jewellery store and impending disaster if he wasn't delayed for another few minutes to allow the plan to play out.

By unspoken agreement Al strode toward the approaching scientist, cutting him off before he could get any closer. Sam taking Al's lead he didn't wait to see what happened, entered the Jewellers under the pretense of showing the security firms presence to any potential thieves. The store's only occupants, Donna, two stop attendants, a couple smiling dreamerly at one another over a tray of engagements rings and a young man who immediately became noticeably uncomfortable at the sight of Sam's uniform. He loitered around a unattended show case a few more minutes before exiting, casting a suspicious glare in Sam's general direction as he left. Was he the guilty one? Sam couldn't be sure, following him outside he tracked him as far as he could from his position near the entrance never quite leaving the Jewellers to far behind. Checking every so often that no one entered behind him.

Using the two way Sam made contact with the control room, alerting them to the suspicious nature of the young man. After giving a detailed description and strongly recommending that they not only keep a look out for him but for an a accomplice as well Sam listened to the dialogue between the radio operator and the other guards contacted for several minutes before he was satisfied that the situation was under control. Relaxing a little he searched the crowds for his younger self and Al. They were nowhere to be seen. Al, he hoped would lead the other man away and then come back when he could.

On his return Sam was greeted by the older women who had been assisting the smitten couple a few minutes earlier. She appeared to be very relieved by the youths departure and thanked him profusely before returning to her customers who were now having a private discussion at the far end of the store. They seemed blissfully unaware of any commotion at all. As did the other remaining customer. Donna was seated now, obviously waiting for something.

One step closer became two quicker than he had time to rethink what he was about to do. She looked up as his rather large balk cast a shadow over the area where she sat. Politely nodding she bid Sam a good afternoon and was, Sam was certain about to say something else when the younger assistant and a man he hadn't seen before emerged through a door way behind the main counter. Allowing space for her to stand Sam stepped back, watching as she was handed the small item she had just purchased.

"I hope the engraving is satisfactory, Doctor." Ron Marino inquired.

"Yes it's perfect, thank you."

"Do you like it, Sam?" The women now standing behind him asked.

Donna Beckett Elesee six years older than the her counterpart wiped the small tear sliding down her cheek away as Sam turned not quite believing eyes to take in the sight of her. Smiling apologetically she glanced once at the younger women and then back at her husband. "Sorry, I promised Verbena I wouldn't cry. It's harder than I though it would be, seeing you again." She explained.

Words failed Sam Beckett at this point.

The conversation between the jeweller, his staff and their customer continued. No one took any notice of the security guard as he left them alone to complete the transaction.

Al was waiting for them when Sam and Donna appeared outside the store, looking a little flushed but all the same very happy with himself.

"You didn't answer me Sam, do you like the watch?" Tears were falling unchecked now down her face as she spoke. The danger had passed and the reason why Sam had leaped here in the first place no longer existed. It was almost time to go and all three knew that at any moment he would leap.

"I love it, I have from the moment you gave it to me." Sam managed to say through his own deteriorating composure.

Al took his cue and stepped away from the couple so that at least he couldn't hear what they were whispering to one another. He had taken the younger version of his friend on an extensive chase through the plaza and managed to loose the man. He was pretty well out of breath, but it was worth it and according to what Ziggy was telling him via the hank link, it was also enough. As it turned out Sam had taken care of the would be thief. The other robbery would go ahead as it had in the original history but the culprits wouldn't get very far before being caught. He glanced back at Donna and her husband, they looked both elated and very somber. Which of course was understandable, together at last, but not. Time still separated them and would do so until they either found a way to bring Sam home or God, fate or what ever decided it was time to let him to return to his own life and those waiting for him.

The feeling that announced the impending leap began slowly, all three sensed it, none able to stop what was about to happen. "Come home soon." Donna whispered as she lent forward, placing a kiss where Sam's lips would be if she could actually touch him.

"As soon as I can." She heard him promise. The face before her became that of her Sam's for a moment as Donna pulled back. It was the last image she saw before the ghostly blue light engulfed him and the surrounding scene vanished, replaced by the cold bare walls of the imaging chamber.


Merry Christmas



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