Chapter Nine

     Al Calavicci returned home.  He hated Christmas,
especially a white one.  Christmas was too close to New
Year's, and he hated New Year's even more.  It would be three
years since Sam's death, and each year made it more difficult
to carry on.
     After Sam's death, he'd returned to Washington and
tried to lapse back into the life he'd had before Sam.  But, he'd
realized, he really didn't have a life before he'd met Sam. 
Sure, he'd been married five times, been in and out of more
military battles than he cared to remember, slept with more
women than he could remember, but he hadn't actually been
alive since he'd lost Beth.  That was until Sam came along and
pulled him kicking and screaming back into a life, rather than
the existence he had made for himself.  And now his heart
ached for not one, but two losses.  He'd left military service,
even tried to resign his commission, but they wouldn't let him. 
Figures, they want me on a string, just in case I'm needed in
some other hairbrained scheme some half-assed scientist might
come up with.  But he'd refused every assignment they'd
presented to him.  Let them keep me on the payroll, then.  I'll
do what's necessary, and nothing more.
     For all intents and purposes, Al Calavicci was retired. 
He'd even made sure that there was no trace of him after he'd
left the Project.  He didn't want anyone contacting him after
that, not even those involved, that he'd become close to.  He
just couldn't handle seeing them, knowing that they'd all failed
in not bringing Sam back alive.  Sure, he kept tabs on them,
where they were, what they were doing, but no one knew
where he was, and that was fine with him.
     Someone had found him, though, through a simple call
placed to the Pentagon, and some idiot ensign confirming that
he had, indeed, returned to the area.  Once he'd finished raking
that ensign over the coals, he was sure that mistake would
never be made again.  Although no one ever contacted him as
a result of it, he had started to get mail which someone,
probably that lamebrain ensign, had arranged to be picked up
from his old address on Boston Road, the one he had lived in
before being transferred out west to Project Star Bright.
     Occasionally, when the navy courier picked up any mail
that may have been sent to his old address, there would be a
card or letter from someone, most often Verbeena or Donna. 
Somehow they had managed to track down his old address, and
since their letters weren't being returned, kept writing to him
there.  He hadn't seen any of them since the Project was
discontinued.  He'd gotten an invitation to Donna's wedding,
but didn't go.  She had a right to get on with her life, he knew,
but he couldn't do the same.
     The older woman who had taken over his apartment
didn't mind collecting anything that arrived for him, and for
that he was grateful.  The only ones he didn't hear from
anymore were Tina and Gushie.  Tina had written only twice,
once to tell him about her marriage to Gushie, then again to
announce the birth of their daughter.  But he had never written
back.  He couldn't.  Oh sure, he and Tina had been an item at
the Project, but when he told her he couldn't give her what she
deserved in life, she fell into Gushie's waiting arms, and they
wasted no time in getting married and starting their family. 
Gushie's way of ensuring that Tina wouldn't run back to him,
Al surmised.
     And now it was Christmas, again.  Stepping into the
foyer of his condo unit, Al nearly tripped over a stack of
envelopes that had been left on the floor.  The building
concierge must have left them in his unit.  More deliveries from
Mrs. Bartholemew's, he'd guessed by the seasonal ribbon tying
the package neatly together.  She had even included a small box
of Christmas cookies, even though he'd never even met the
woman.  I'll have to send her a bunch of flowers or something. 
He picked up the parcel and stack and placed the box on the
kitchen counter.  Turning towards the livingroom, he took the
few strides necessary to reach the coffee table, tossing the
letters onto its glass top.  Returning briefly to the foyer, he
hung his coat in the closet, kicked off his shoes and then headed
for the bar in the corner.
     The clock on the fireplace mantel chimed the hour of
1:00 a.m.  So, it's officially Christmas Eve.  Whoopie.  He
picked up the liberal glass of scotch he'd poured for himself
and, sitting on the sofa, picked up the pile of envelopes.  He
pulled off the ribbon, and shuffled through the few envelopes,
tearing open the ones whose outside showed handwriting he
recognized.  Christmas cards from Verbeena and Donna.  One
from Sam's mother, Donna must have given her the old
address.  The rest he tossed aside as junk mail.  He sat back,
placing his feet on the coffee table, raising his glass in a mock
toast.  "Merry fucking Christmas, Al Calavicci.  You've made
it through another year, God only knows why though," the
scornful tone of his voice added to the negativity of the salute.
     Having finished his drink in one swig, he decided that
he needed another.  Sliding his feet off the coffee table, he
knocked the pile of junk mail onto the carpet.  Another
envelope fell out.  Bending, he picked it up off the floor.  A
simple 'Al Calavicci' graced the outside; no address, no stamp. 
There was something familiar about the handwriting, though. 
No, it can't be.  It can't be Sam's.  He torn open the envelope
and read the note inside.
     He couldn't believe his eyes.  Sam's alive?!  Dropping
to the sofa, as if his legs had given out on him, he re-read the
short letter.  His emotions ran the gambit; shock, elation, then
anger.  Who would play such an evil trick on him!  Using
Sam's name like this.  His anger grew.  How dare someone
treat his already fragile emotions like this!  Slamming his glass
down on the table, nearly shattering both it and the glass top,
Al bolted for the door, stopping only long enough to slip on his
shoes and grab his coat.  Not bothering to wait for the elevator,
he was ran down the stairs to his car even before the door to
his residence clicked shut, not waiting to lock it.


     A loud banging made Sam bolt straight up.  What the? 
Where am I?  Then he remembered checking into the
Candelight Motel after having dinner with the older lady, Mrs.
Bartholemew she had said her name was, and her
granddaughter.  He had been watching the late news and must
have fallen asleep.  Sleepfilled eyes adjusted to the light in the
room before he could move from the bed.  More pounding at
the door made him jump up, and, wrapping the housecoat he
had found among Kara's things around himself, he opened the
door.
     Al Calavicci stomped into the room, fully enraged.  Al! 
Before Sam could say a word, Al started to bellow.  "Just who
the hell do you think you are ..."  It was as he turned that Al
realized just whose room he had stormed into.  His gaze trailed
up the long, slender legs of Kara's body, stopping at the point
where the short housecoat started.  It was loosely tied, letting
Al see more than he really should have.  Sam followed his
gaze, then realizing just what Al was seeing, quickly turned his
back, retying the robe tighter.
     Al regained his anger, although not quite as strongly as
before.  "Alright young lady, I don't know who you are or who
put you up to this, but this is some kind of sick, pathetic joke."
     "Al," Sam, turned back around, tried to cut in, but there
was no stopping Al when he was at the height of a fullblown
tirade.
     "Shut up.  I'll do the talking.  Now, just how the hell do
you know about Sam Beckett?"  He was nose to nose with Sam,
staring directly into his eyes, but couldn't see through his anger
that it really was Sam behind those eyes.
     Being that close, Sam could see just how much Al had
aged.  You've been through hell, haven't you old friend.
     "Well, I'm waiting."
     "You just told me to shut up."
     "Well now I'm expecting an answer.  And you'd better
be quick about it."
     Sam stepped back.  He could smell the scotch on Al's
breath.  I hope he hasn't started drinking again.  "Just relax
and let me explain."  Al didn't move a muscle.  "Why don't
you sit down, have a cigar or something."
     Al's mouth moved, as if he was going to say something,
then changed his mind.  "How do you know I smoke cigars?"
     "Aside from the fact that you smell like one, because
you've smoked cigars since before the day we first met.  Only
back then it was the really cheap ones that smelled like what the
cows used to drop back on the farm.  I assume you're still
smoking the 'illegally imported' kind."
     Al dropped down into the sole chair in the room.  Now
he was really confused.  How could this extremely young
woman know about things like this?  "Okay," he said, calming
down as each minute passed, "let's start at the beginning. 
What's your name?"
     "Al, it's me.  It's Sam."
     His anger began to rise again.  "Don't try pulling that
crap on me, young lady.  There's no possible way that you
could be Sam Beckett."  His voice dropped to a barely audible
level.  "Sam Beckett died three years ago."  He had turned
away so the pain wouldn't show on his face, but Sam heard it
in his voice, and his heart ached for his friend.
     "Al, really, it's me.  Like I said in my letter, at the end
of my last leap, I crossed paths with another leaper.  We
switched places, she came back as me and I ended up here,
where she should have been."
     "Anyone who can read can find information on Sam
Beckett's theories and concoct a story like the one you're trying
on me," he sneered.  The look of disbelief on Al's face made
Sam try another route.
     "Okay, what if I tell you about some of our leaps.  Will
that convince you?"
     "If you really were Sam, you'd know that he can't
remember most of the leaps," he sneered.  "Hell, most of the
time I had to remind him about his own life, let alone where
he'd just come from!"
     "I know that, Al, but at least let me try."
     "Go ahead.  Convince me," Al said, leaning back in the
chair, and lighting a cigar.  He puffed away while Sam paced,
trying to think of something, anything.
     "I remember leaping into a woman, a mother with three
kids.  The youngest one, Teresa I think her name was, she
could see us as us.  The other two couldn't but she could.  You
used to sing her to sleep."  Al eyed him warily, not revealing
his shock at this woman's knowledge of top secret information.
     "Then there was the time when I leapt into a cop in
1969.  That's when I met Beth."  Al's jaw dropped, causing
him to lose the cigar.  He quickly jumped up, grabbing the
cigar from his lap.  He brushed off the ashes, then turned to
Sam.
     "Sam," he whispered, his voice cracking.  "It's really
you.  Dear God, it's really you."
     "Yes, Al.  It's really me."  He opened his arms, looking
down at the body he currently occupied.  "At least it's me on
the inside."  Al couldn't resist.  He stepped into Sam's open
arms, giving him the bear hug he'd wanted to give him three
years prior.
     "Al.  Al!  Don't damage the body I've borrowed." 
Realizing what he was doing, Al released his hold on Sam,
stepping back.
     "Well, I must say, you've certainly picked a great body
to come back in," Al remarked, walking around Sam, checking
out Kara's body.
     "Cut it out, Al.  It's still me inside, remember?"
     "Let me guess.  Starlet, topless dancer," his eyebrows
moved up and down, a twinkle in his eyes communicating that
he was teasing.
     Sam turned his head away, hoping that Al wouldn't hear
him.  "Fashion model," he mumbled.
     Al bent towards the Leaper, a hand to his ear.  "Sorry,
Sam, I didn't quite hear you.  Could you repeat that."
     The Leaper knew full well that he had been heard. 
"Fashion model, okay.  I'm a fashion model.  Or rather, Kara's
a fashion model."
     The glee showed on the Admiral's face.  Despite the fact
that he was in a woman's body, Sam enjoyed the fact that he
had made his friend smile again.
     "Al, forgetting what I am right now, we need to talk
about my last leap.  What happened?"
     Al became sombre again, his eyes showing that he was
thinking of a place far away and a time long ago.  "Your last
leap was nothing extraordinary.  You were a teenager named
Chris Barton.  You had to prevent the kid's girlfriend from
being dragged into life in a streetgang, which you did."  It was
the same leap that Sam had remembered earlier.  "When it
ended and you leaped out, I went back to the Imaging
Chamber, and waited for you to land somewhere else.  About
six hours later, Ziggy told me that you were on your way
home."  Al's voice dropped to just above a whisper.  "But
when you came back to the Project, you were dead.  Beeks
tried to revive you, but nothing worked."  Sam could hear the
anguish in Al's voice, but said nothing.
     Collecting himself, Al turned to question the Leaper. 
"What do you mean about another leaper?  As far as we knew,
ours was the only government-sponsored project at the time." 
His voice changed to a whisper of concern.  "Sam, what if it's
Zoey?"
     "No, I don't think it's the evil project.  Monica, she's
your counterpart, didn't seem like she had an evil bone in her
body.  She was very helpful, very concerned for me.  She told
me that their project began after ours ended.  And Al, they've
made some pretty interesting additions.  We've got to look into
including them in our Project."  Al's face told him what he
already knew.  "That is, if we can get it running again."
     "What do you mean running again?  The entire thing's
been dismantled, everyone's moved on, the files are most likely
stored away in the back of some dusty fileroom, that is if they
aren't landfill by now."
     "We've got to try and get them back, retrieve whatever
files you can, find Ziggy's parts.  Anything and everything we
can to get me back to where I should be."
     "But, Sam, we buried you!  Your body's six feet
underground!  And why, if other leaper died in your body,
didn't you die in hers?"
     "Roger, that's Monica's computer, feels that she died
just as she was leaping.  That is, the person she was occupying
died, and as a result, so did she.  Because she returned to my
body, it died, too."
     Al stood silent for a moment, then his words came in
short, staccato syllables.  "We're not going to have to, you
know, dig you up or anything, are we?"  Despite all that Al had
seen in his life, the sight of a dead body still made his skin
crawl.
     "No, Al.  I'll leap back to the time where I should have
gone after the last leap."
     "That's the point, Sam.  If she died going in, what's to
prevent you from doing the same?"
     "I don't know, Al, but if living someone else's life
forever is my choice, I think I'd rather be dead."  Silence fell
between them, neither wishing to further consider that
possibility.
     Sam finally broke the stillness.  "Monica was able to
locate everyone else from the Project.  They should be easy for
you to find."
     "I'm sure I could rattle a few cages, find out exactly
where they are."
     "By the way, why couldn't Monica find you?  She said
that after the Project folded, you just disappeared."
     "I don't know, Sam.  What I do know is, the night came
back to your body only to die, I died.  I tried to carry on in the
service, but couldn't.  Nothing was exciting anymore, nothing
interested me anymore.  I wanted to disappear, hide myself
away on some abandoned tropical island, but the military
wouldn't let me.  So, I simply stopped being involved ... in
everything.  I moved back to Washington, with it's cold
winters.  At least the weather matched my heart.  Cold and
dark."  A heavy silence hung between them, until Al pulled
himself out of his melancholy.  "But things are starting to feel
warmer already!"
     "Al, there's one more thing.  I've only got until New
Year's Eve.  That's when Monica's computer predicted that her
leaper's original job was to happen.  She and I made a deal,
that she'd leave me to do what I had to do with you, but that
I'd have to complete the other task as well."
     "New Year's Eve!  Sam, that's only a week away! 
There's no way we can get Ziggy back together in a week! 
Everybody's all over the country.  Aw, Sam, you're asking for
the impossible."
     "Remember our earlier motto?  Impossible we can do. 
Miracles take a little longer."  
     "A miracle.  That's exactly what we'll need to pull this
off," Al grumbled.
     "Well, this is the season of miracles, isn't it?"
     Al's smile broadened across his face, his eyes twinkling
with excitement, and life.  "Damn straight, it is.  Okay, here's
what we'll do."
     Two heads  one an older man one a young woman 
fell together as they planned their strategy for getting Sam back
to where he belonged.