AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to AMKT for pointing out that Beth was taking thing too calmly, and to Monica, who pointed out a some awkward spots that I had missed. Chapter 5 SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2000, PROJECT-LEVEL CONFERENCE ROOM, PQL "Admiral," Ziggy addressed the Medical Director, "your husband wishes to speak to you." "Yes, Al? You wanted to speak to me?" "No, honey. I was just talking to Sam. Tell Ziggy to mind her own beeswax." Verbena and Donna chuckled. Beth smiled. "Ziggy, pay more attention to sentence syntax." The computer didn't respond. Verbena hadn't expected her to. The three women sat alone. Al had left, with Gushie, Tina, and Sammie Jo in tow, to wake Sam. Beth had just finished the report Verbena had given her earlier. She made no comment on the contents. Beth picked up a copy of the transcript of the initial meeting between Leaper and Observer. Though the older woman had been present in the Control Room at that time, she was not aware of the full content of the conversation. Donna and Verbena exchanged worried looks. Neither woman was entirely convinced of Beth's emotional state. Verbena had read about cases involving nurses. Several of the individuals had, over the course of their careers, learned to shove their personal problems aside to deal with the crisis at hand. They could only do it for so long, before the problems started to catch up and cause nervous breakdowns. It had been a number of years since the former admiral had been in a situation as stressful to her as this: the missing Dr. Beckett, a husband with a bizarre form of amnesia, the presence of her brother, and the news of another life. On an average leap, Beth never had to get too involved. When she did, it wasn't likely to cause her severe distress. Mostly, she stood by Donna when things were rough, and helped out in the Waiting Room. Verbena watched as her boss turned visibly pale. *The part where Sam reminded Al that he didn't even try to save the marriage the first time,* Verbena guessed. A quick look at Donna had confirmed that she had the same thought. The psychiatrist waited patiently, fully expecting her to open her heart to her friends. Beth had already expressed a wish to speak to her in reference to George. Beth closed the folder containing the transcript. Without any preamble, she turned to Verbena. "I think you should check on the Visitor, Dr. Beeks." She handed the file on Al back to Verbena. Verbena, momentarily startled, looked her in the eyes. Calm, still a little pale, and no hint of faltering in her voice. Beth never resembled her father more than in that single moment. Adam would have been proud. "Are you all right, ma'am?" she asked, continuing in the same formal tone. "I'm fine, Dr. Beeks," she replied. "I'll be in the Control Room. Donna?" "I'll be there in a few minutes," Donna replied. Beth didn't even waver. She knew what would happen when the door closed behind her. She nodded, turned, and left. "She's been married to him too long," Verbena commented drily, "She's beginning to sound and act just like him." 1055 HRS. SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2000. CONTROL ROOM, PROJECT QUANTUM LEAP Al stepped into the Control Room and saw that, with the exception of Tina, the staff was assembled. His eyes immediately sought out his wife's face. The small smile she gave him told Al that she was worried about something. Donna stepped forward and handed him something gold. "Here, you left this in Sam's office. I didn't want you to lose the second one." Al felt a bizarre mixture of familiarity and strangeness as he slid the wedding band on his finger. "Thanks." "How is Sam?" Donna asked. Even with the transcripts, Al's personal observations were more meaningful to the staff. "Oh, he's fine, I guess. He was a little troubled by his dreams though." "Alberta?" "Yeah." "Speaking of which," Beeks said, from behind Beth, "I learned just recently," here she gave Sammie Jo a reproving look. The younger woman winced. "That there is a chance that your daughters will be here, sometime this week." "Ninety percent probability," the computer supplied. Al became uneasy. The holes were filling and he was now able to remember things like the first time he held Alberta, and Faith's wedding day. But it wasn't going to be enough. "I suppose avoiding them would be out of the question." Verbena nodded. "It would make them suspicious, and they would feel hurt." "It isn't Trudi, Hope, Faith, or the Whitmores we need to worry about," Sammie Jo interjected. "Bertie is the one with access to the project." Al had been watching Beth as Sammie Jo spoke. Her brows were furrowed, and she looked even more worried than before. Verbena caught his eye and she flashed a concerned look at Beth. "Is there any guarantee she'll be one of the party?" Beth was saying, anxiously, to Sammie Jo. "No," chorused Ziggy and Sammie Jo. Al became all business. "This can wait. I'm sure we'll get some kind of advanced warning before it happens." "But--" Sammie Jo started to protest. Al cut her off. "We don't have time for this, folks. Sam needs information. Sammie Jo, I want you, Donna, Gushie, and Ziggy to work on Sam's situation." "What do you and Beth remember from 1960?" Donna asked. "Only what I put in the statement I made," Beth replied. "Same here," Al added. "Will this have any effect on your relationship in 1960?" Verbena asked. Al looked at this wife. As with Lenora's death, Kelly's hit her hard. More so, because she was closer to the read-head. Al had been close to her, too. She was one of the few women he hadn't had to have a sexual relationship with to be close to, or love. As far as what the impact would be, if Sam saved her life, Al wasn't entirely sure. "Well, we were already in love by then." He continued to watch her. Beth gave him another small smile. "I don't think she could change that." Beth nodded in agreement. "She liked us, but she never had any designs on Al." "Mrs. Calavicci?" "Yes, Ziggy?" "Dr. Hood is waiting for you in the infirmary. I believe you have an appointment to finish reviewing the hand receipts, Admiral." "Tell him I'm on my way. Donna, if you need me for anything, I'll be in my office the rest of the day." She gave Al another smile and left the Control Room. Before Donna or Verbena spoke, Al turned to Gushie. "Where's Tina?" "Uh. . . .Running maintenance checks on Ziggy, sir," the little man replied nervously. "Would you like me to send for her?" "No, she's doing exactly what I wanted her to do." One of the very first changes that came over him was, he now saw Tina as nothing more than a co-worker, a part of Sam's team. It was eerie at first, but as more and more memories started to change, he began to think of her in the same way he thought of Sammie Jo. After all, Tina was only a few years older than his own daughters. "Al?" Verbena said, calling for his attention. "What's up?" "Donna and I are worried about Beth. She seems to be handling things too calmly." "I think, for my sake," Donna added, "She's been keeping herself together, just in case." "And I think she's starting to lose grip, now that we have a lock on Sam and things are returning to . . . normal here," Verbena put in. Al nodded. "She seemed fine earlier this morning, but she did look anxious to me, too, just now." He paused. "Well, Beeks?" He obviously startled her. "Don't hover over her. You hover over people too much, Al. It's more annoying than anything." "Admiral?" "Now what?" "Your administrative assistant, Ms. McNeill, requests your presence in your office." "What's she doing working on a Sunday?" Al asked. "Well, you haven't been in the office for the last few days, so I told her not to work," Donna explained. "Oh." "Well, now you have a perfect excuse to hang around the offices." Verbena pointed out. "Yes, do some paperwork before Ann Marie starts a mutiny," Donna added, smiling. "Right. Let me know when Sam wakes up." Once in the corridor, he asked, "Did anything change regarding Ann Marie?" "No, Admiral. She still knows what Project Quantum Leap is all about; however, she is unaware of the events that transpired in the last few days." *Good.* Things were already confusing enough in his life. It was nice to know some things hadn't changed. The first thing he noticed as he entered the main office are, was the stack of videos sitting on the corner of Ann Marie's desk. On top of the stack, were those party hats with the annoying rubber band straps. Ann Marie was nowhere in sight. Before Al could get nosey, the young woman emerged from the back conference room. "Good morning, Admiral," Ann Marie said cheerfully. "Good morning, Ann Marie," Al replied. "Is it someone's birthday today? I've been out of touch the last few days." Al made it a point of personally wishing a happy birthday to every member of the project. Unlike other organizations, Al encouraged birthday parties, holiday parties, and luncheons. It was good for morale, and the morale at Project Quantum Leap was very important. Besides, Al loved parties. Ann Marie looked slightly confused as she led the way into his office. "No, sir. Not that I'm aware of. Dr. Fuller's is on the 15th. March is a slow month for birthdays. Why do you ask?" "Oh, I saw the party hats on your desk." "Oh!" she said coloring slightly. "That. We're having a mini movie marathon, in honor of our favorite actor. It's his birthday today, sir." Al couldn't keep up with who was the hunk du jour, so he didn't bother asking. "Ah. Who's we?" "Oh, mostly just a bunch of us ladies from Records, Research, Program and Budget, Personnel, and maybe Dr. Fuller, if she's available later." "Well, I'll try not to keep you here long, especially on a Sunday." "Oh, I don't mind, sir," Ann Marie replied turning her attention to the stack of paperwork for his signature. She proceeded to go over, briefly, every item requiring his signature. Al signed the leave request forms, the only items not requiring a closer examination, first. She took them from him. "Last month's status report will be ready shortly, sir. I'll come back for the rest of this when I bring the report." As she turned to leave, Al said, "Inform me when my wife returns to her office, please?" "Yes, sir." Once the door closed behind her, Al looked around. The walls were covered with pictures of his daughters, Faith's children, his nieces and their families, and art work from his two-year-old grandson, Jackson Beckett, Jr. On his desk, was a recent black and white photo of his wife. *Probably Edward's handiwork.* He studied the woman in the photograph, and began to wonder what he could do about the present circumstances. The first few years of their marriage hadn't changed. Yet, anyway. They had spent them constantly apart. The rest still had too many holes, but it was safe to bet that things had been rough. Four daughters, one a certified genius, came with a whole catalog of possible opportunities for marital woes. In 1985, according to Ziggy (since his memories were still fuzzy), Adam responding to the pressure of certain politicians who wanted Bertie in a think tank, finally told them the truth. Al realized that wouldn't have made all things easier: on the one hand, the girls were well-provided for, should anything ever happen to their parents; on the other hand, such an announcement opened a whole new can of worms. It was also at this point, still according to Ziggy (and Sam), that Al first met Sam; however, the two families had known each other for years, through Tom and his family. Sam's deep involvement in his work and school had kept him from meeting Al and his family until that fateful day at Project Star Bright. Regardless of how rough it might have been, somehow they managed to stay together. Al was honest enough to admit that he was an expert on ‘how to ruin a marriage in three easy steps'. But he loved Beth, always had and always would. Miraculously, he must have done something right. He knew the little things made her happy: helping around the house without being asked, surprising her with flowers or cards, or a romantic stroll along the beach. Even before he was shot down, Al would surprise her, if she had to work late, by cooking dinner and doing the dishes. Those were the types of things that sometimes made all the difference in a marriage. Somewhere along the way, they must have reach a point where the biggest issues were whose turn it was to go for the dry cleaning in town, or who gets to use the shower first. *Though, that doesn't seem to be an issue at all.* He looked at the picture again. The best thing to do, would be to get away from the project for a few days. Al could kick himself for not coming to terms with things days ago, so they could have had time together without worrying about Sam. *Beth wouldn't have left Donna while Sam's fate was unknown,* Al thought. *Neither would I, come to think of it.* There was always their home, just a few miles up the road, outside Stallion Springs. With the possibility of house guests, that was ruled out as well. *Back to square one.* "Admiral?" Ziggy said, softly. Al still jumped. "Yeah?" "I would suggest that you finish the paperwork Ms. McNeill has left you, before she returns with the report." Al sighed, and turned his attention back to the paperwork. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Beth returned to the main office area, noting Ann Marie busy at her computer terminal, and the door to Al's office closed. "Is there anything you need, ma'am?" the younger woman asked her. Beth shook her head before entering her office. She left her door open, as was her habit. She sank gratefully into her chair and propped her head up with one hand. Her head hurt. From the first moment Sam had ‘disappeared' a few days ago, Beth had put her own emotions and concerns to one side for Donna's, and Al's, sake. Her years as a critical care nurse had taught her that; it was second nature. Now, it was business as usual: Sam had ‘reappeared', a Visitor was in the Waiting Room, and Donna could once again receive up-to-the-minute reports on her husband. Al, it appeared, had come to grips with the situation, now that Sam had reassured him. Ziggy's words echoed in her aching head. ^* "In 1969, after the death of Marine Corporal Andrew Lewis, you met a lawyer, Dirk Simon at the Marina. Shortly after, convinced that your husband was dead, you had the Navy officially Killed in Action, and married Mr. Simon. In the Spring of 1996, Dr. Beckett leaped into the narcotics detective, Jake Rawlins. The admiral attempted to alter that history, and was unsuccessful."*^ There was more, but that alone was more than enough. She could not believe what she was told. *Declared Al dead?* *Married that lawyer?* Al had always been afraid of being abandoned, and she had done just that, however unintentionally. Instead of loathing her, he went on loving her and even tried to get her back. Sam wouldn't do it. ^* "Beth, I don't think I'm supposed to be here."*^ But something made him change his mind, and here she was. But the man she had spent the last twenty-seven years with had disappeared in a blink of an eye. *Yet he's still here, too.* The man who had made love to her earlier had made her feel young and desirable. The passion brought back memories of their honeymoon and the days after he was repatriated. Not that she *ever* had any reason to complain. Years of listening to her divorced (and still-married) friends, she realized she was one of the lucky ones. Of all the reasons that she could come up with for divorcing Al, lack of interest was never one of them. But this man had four broken marriages and a string of infidelities with his girlfriend. As long as Al still remembered the old past, there were plenty of opportunities to hurt her, even if it was unintentional, and the possibility existed that he could grow tired of her and seek out entertainment elsewhere. Then there were the girls. Al and their daughters shared a close bond. Al had always been a good father. Having help raised his sister, had made him a natural. After Nam, Al served less time on sea duty, and by the time Bertie was born in 1976, both of them had jobs with more- or-less stable hours. This allowed them both to be there for the children more than they would have had they not changed their career paths slightly. It would break her heart if Al suddenly became a stranger to his own daughters. To top all this off, Sam had leaped into her own brother. Even if George didn't recognized her, she could not tell her about his daughters. She couldn't tell him about Theresa's death, or about Theresa's son, Michael. He couldn't know about Georgia or her daughter, Aurora. He wasn't allowed to know that Alessandra had suffered through two miscarriages and was now nearly full-term with his second grandson. He would never believe that his father had loved him to the day he died, no matter what George did in the years to come. And she couldn't tell him she was his sister. And if her nieces did come to New Mexico, she would never be able to tell them their father was close by. Beth was tired. She was tired of this project. She would never voice her thoughts to anyone about this. She wanted to retire. She wanted Al to teach her golf. Spend time with her grandchildren, Jack and little Theresa. Take the *Sea Princess* (the yacht her father left her and Al) and cruise the Med with her husband. But as long as Sam continued to leap, Al would not leave the project. And leaving Al because of this, was unfair and somewhat selfish: Sam was a friend in need of Al's help; if it wasn't for that, Al would have left the project long ago. Beth's head was pounding harder with every thought. Without preamble, Beth burst into tears. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Al signed the last evaluation as Ann Marie came in with the report. "Here you go, sir. I've marked the places where you might be interested in reviewing first." "Thanks. Is she back yet?" "No, sir. Anything else I can do for you?" "Uh, no thanks, Ann Marie. You can leave for the day, if you want." "I still have a few things I need to catch up with, sir, so I'll still be out there if you need anything," she replied heading for the door. "I'll let you know if Admiral Calavicci returns." "Thanks." His assistant was the post-it queen. She not only marked the spots, but the post-it notes also had summaries of what he was looking at written on them. In a relatively short time, he read the report and signed it. He tossed it in his Out box. He got up from his desk and looked at the pictures on the walls. With his hands in his pockets, and peering at each picture, he resembled a tourist in a museum. Al had hoped the pictures would jog his memory. Some did, some didn't. The door opened behind him. "Your wife's back in her office, sir." "Thanks, Ann Marie." Al didn't want to run right over. He would wait a few minutes and casually drop in on her. Make lunch arrangements. Discuss the possibility of getting away next weekend. He was about to call up Ziggy, but decided against it. He really didn't want to spy on his wife. He went back to his desk and noticed something furry on the computer stand behind his chair. At first he thought it was a cat, but it was the wrong color to be Ferdinand. Al peered at it and realized what it was. Unless he was mistaken, there were four Tribbles on his stand. They immediately brought the classic episode to mind: Kirk's expression, as he stood buried in a mound of the furry creatures, was priceless. Someone had taken the time to put miniature bows on a tuft of hair of each Tribble. Al knew what the four Tribbles, each with a different bow, was meant to represent: the red was Alberta (it was her favorite color), the pea-green with neon orange polka dots was Trudi (she looked the most like Beth), the white lace was Hope (who looked enough like Lady Catherine Whitmore to pass as her sister), and the black with shot through with gold was Faith. Al chuckled, and picked up ‘Trudi', who began to purr. "Ain't that a kick in the butt," he murmured, amazed. The door banged open, and Ann Marie stood in the doorway with a concerned look on her face and a box of tissues in her hands. "Sorry, sir, but your wife's in tears!" Al strode out of his office, with Ann Marie on his heels. He startled two young ladies standing at his assistant's desk as he marched across the main reception area and into his wife's office. He didn't even pause to yell at Ziggy for not warning him. Beth's head was buried in her folded arms, her body shook with her sobs. Al tried to moved toward her, but Ann Marie was trying to pry something from his grip. He released the forgotten Tribble, and his assistant handed him a wad of tissues. "Close down for the day," he ordered her, without turning. "Yes, sir," she replied softly. Al gathered up his sobbing wife into his arms. She immediately clung to him. If it wasn't for the fact Donna sometimes needed a shoulder to cry on, Al would have been severely out of practice with this. He didn't try to speak to her. He just held on and let her cry. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Al studied the makeup stain on his jacket and wondered if the dry cleaners would be able to get it out. Not that it worried him. He had more than one set of dress whites. Al had changed out of his uniform in the closet, so he would disturb his sleeping wife. "Admiral?" The computer was taking pains not to speak too loud. Even so, Al closed the door before answering the machine. "Why didn't you warn me that she was crying?" he snapped. "You had requested that Ms. McNeill keep you informed of Admiral Calavicci. I felt my services were not required." Ziggy sounded slighted. "You're upset that I asked Ann Marie and not you?" The computer did not answer. "All right. What's so important that it couldn't wait?" "First, Dr. Beckett has awakened." "Great. Tell them I'm on my way." "Second, Dr. Beeks is in the corridor. She is concerned about Admiral Calavicci." "So am I, Ziggy, so am I," he replied as he pulled on the dove grey jacket over his white shirt. When he had picked it out earlier, he ‘remembered' it was Beth's favorite. "Third, I have confirmed that your four daughters, two nieces, and all their spouses and children will be arriving in New Mexico. I have received a flight plan from Dr. Calavicci's pilot. The Lear will be landing at this compound sometime within the next four to six hours." *Great.* "Anything on the leap?" "Only what was in the investigation reports and the newspapers. However, I determined that Dr. Beckett must manipulate Lt. Hardy's social engagement for this evening." "Gee, thanks Ziggy. I could have told Sam that right from the beginning," he told the computer drily, opening the door. Al approached the sleeping figure and placed a kiss on her forehead. As informed, Beeks was waiting. He saw her push the elevator's call button (a pointless gesture as Ziggy could send the elevator herself) when he stepped into the hall. He thought about taking the stairs, in an attempt to avoid her, but he was concerned for his wife and she was the best person to talk to about that. "How is she?" "She's sleeping now. I gave her something for her headache." "Did you give her sleeping pills?" "No. She's was tired already, Verbena. Emotionally, physically, and mentally. She talked herself to sleep." Beth had voices her fears, and the other things that had been on her mind for the last few days. Al had held on to her and listened. Many of the things she said were on his mind as well. She wanted to get away from the project, too. He told Beeks some of what she told him. Beeks listened and then asked the inevitable, "And how are you handling things, Al?" He didn't answer. "Al?" "Look, Verbena, I'm fine. Really. I'm just worried about Sam and Beth. Right now, I have to go see Sam and tell him his brain-child wants him to ‘manipulate Lt. Hardy's social engagement'. As a favor to me, would you look in on Beth, please? If she wakes, will you tell her the girls are definitely coming?" Verbena sighed. "Yes, Al." As they entered the Control Room, Al asked, "How's George?" "Still ranting. He wants to speak to someone in charge, so Donna went in. He insists on seeing the admiral." "David Robinson doesn't work here," Al replied, drily. It earned him a dirty look from Verbena. Robinson, an Annapolis graduate, played for the San Antonio Spurs, and was nicknamed, ‘the Admiral'. "So, what does he want?" "The same thing they all want: to leave the Waiting Room and go back home," replied Donna. "I explained things to him and he's still not satisfied." "Too bad," Al remarked. With everything else that was happening, pampering the Visitor was on the bottom of his list. Even if it was his own brother-in-law and former best friend. "So, any ideas on ‘manipulating the social engagement'?" Tina, of all people, spoke up. "Like, why not a double date?" "Safety in numbers?" Donna asked. Tina nodded and handed Al the link. "All checked out." "But, according to the reports it wasn't even the boyfriend," Sammie Jo pointed out. "Well, we'll find out for sure, won't we," "If this doesn't work, we can always go back to the kidnaping scenario," Sammie Jo remarked as Al head for the Imaging Chamber door. "Very funny, Sammie Jo. I'll tell him you said that."