Chapter Four Neither Sam nor the newly-appeared Leaper seemed to know what to say. They both stared at each other in disbelief, each sizing the other up without a word. Sam discovered a young blonde with piercing green eyes that seemed to burn straight through to the depths of his soul. Whatever might have remained of Paddy in Sam's appearance was surely being casually brushed aside by those eyes. Finally, the other Leaper voiced the very thought that had occurred to Sam. "Thank God, I was afraid you were Alia." "So, you've met her before," Sam ventured cautiously. "And I wish I never had," replied the other Leaper, with an honesty that came across to Sam as genuine. "I think we'd better start over," 'Heather' continued. "It looks like a new round of introductions is in order." [You could say that!] Sam thought. There was no sense in trying to hide who he was now that the magnetic convergence field had been set up when they had touched each other, the phenomenon that would allow them to see each other until one of them Leaped out. Offering his hand once again, he said, "I'm Sam Beckett. Good to meet you." "Sam Beckett, that name sounds really familiar to me," remarked the other Leaper, staring off to the side as she searched her memory. "You'll have to pardon me, Sam," she finally said, giving up, "but I lose a lot of my memory whenever I Leap." [Don't I know that feeling!] He suspected that it was twice as disturbing to him, having once been unable to forget a thing, and then every Leap waking up to find random holes in his once-perfect memory. "The Swiss-cheese phenomenon," he replied. "I'm a physicist." The other Leaper laughed, having never heard the term. "'Swiss-cheese'? Is that what you call it? Well, I just call it inconvenient. Oh, well, that's one of the facts of the job." That remark intrigued Sam, and he filed it away to inquire about later. "And before I forget to tell you, my name is Juniel Waters, June for short." Behind him Sam could hear Edward hammering away at the handlink in a manner that for once reminded him of his former Observer, and to his dismay, the name had slipped away again. Edward appeared severely rattled, looking back and forth from June's face to the handlink. "Samuel, Sam, I don't know what to make of this, but Ziggy seems to think your odds of success rise significantly now that you've located this other Leaper. Before you met her, I chose not to tell you that your odds of success were a mere three percent. And she also says that now that you have a chance, your old Observer will return after I leave the Imaging Chamber." That gave Sam a rush of relief even if he couldn't remember the other hologram. The memories would return as soon as he came through the Door. "Is that your Observer?" June asked, noticing Sam's sidelong glance. Sam nodded. "His name is Edward St. John the Fifth. Can you see him?" June squinted at the spot where Sam had been looking, searching for a sign of the hologram. "No," replied the other Leaper. "Looks like he must be under the same restrictions as my Observer." "Is he here right now?" Sam asked, referring to June's hologram. She glanced at some unidentified point just as she had during the interview, and answered, "He's here, but he isn't permitted to reveal himself to anyone but me. Believe me, he really wants to, but there's nothing the two of us can do to change that." "Our Project has the same rules governing the holograms," Sam said, "but I seem to recall that we bent the rules a few times." This caused June to raise an eyebrow. "Holograms? Is that what you call them? I've got the feeling things work at least _slightly_ differently on your side of things. I've got to go now or I'm going to be late to some staff meeting. I think maybe we ought to meet for dinner tonight so we can discuss this a little more at length, that is if Paddy doesn't have any obligations tonight. How about I come over to your house around seven, and then we roam around and see what kind of restaurants there are around here?" Sam closed his eyes for a second and pictured the calendar he had seen hanging on Paddy's kitchen wall. "As far as I know, Paddy's free tonight," he replied finally. "And by the way, June, are you going to publish that interview? I mean, we both kind of faked our way through it." He had almost forgotten that ordeal in light of the new Leaper's sudden appearance. "Well, if I don't have it ready to print by Monday, my boss, I mean, _Heather's_ boss is going to have a hissy fit." She rolled her eyes in a manner that suggested she'd already had a run-in or two with the man. "I don't know how she works with the guy. No tolerance whatsoever for mistakes. And it was my wonderful luck to Leap in while Heather was talking to him, or to be more accurate, while he was chewing her out. Oh, well, can't complain," she said almost to herself. "There are worse things." "You've got that right," Sam replied, remembering certain hair-raising Leaps he had endured, and remembering that warning he'd received during the Transit, he got the distinct feeling this was going to be one of them. "Well, goodbye, June. I've got to say, this was a really, unique experience." A musical laugh greeted that remark as June left Paddy's house. Sam turned around to find Edward with a single tear coursing down his cheek. It was the most emotion he had shown for the entire Leap. It was almost disconcerting to see him this way. "Sam, I've never told you why I signed on with Project Quantum Leap." "What's wrong, Edward?" Sam asked. The hologram's remark made no sense to him. Gathering his thoughts, Edward began for the first time ever to explain what had driven him to join the Project. "I was approached by Senator Weitzman to accept a high-level opening at a classified government project, one that I was told involved time travel. He wouldn't say any more. To be quite honest with you, I thought it sounded like a waste of my time and of government money. I told him I'd think about it, and he said I had a full year to consider. About ten months after that, I had decided that I was going to turn down the offer. But then, my only daughter, she died in a fire back home while I was away running errands. I wasn't there to save her. So when the deadline arrived, I told Senator Weitzman I would sign on with Project Quantum Leap. It was my hope that perhaps I might see her once more, just once more, before I died, whenever that may be. This new Leaper looks so much like Elizabeth, " At these words, Sam came to a new understanding about his Observer, and whatever animosity towards him remained melted away. Edward was a man who carried a deep, unhealed wound with him day and night, but he never allowed anyone to know of his pain. Perhaps he felt responsible for his daughter's death, but most likely there had been nothing he could have possibly done about it. So he hid his pain under a cold, detached personality that would allow no one to come close enough to discover his secret. It was almost the opposite approach of that his old Observer had taken, he recalled, although vaguely. "Edward," Sam ventured, "it's not your fault." "I should have been there." "There was no way you could have known," Sam reasoned. "It was a day like any other. It could have been any other day in any other year. But God or Time or Fate or Whoever chose that day to reclaim your daughter. Perhaps in some history, you could have perished in the fire as well, Edward. If you had, then where would I have been when my other Observer vanished from the timeline? I realize I need you. I'm not trying to be disrespectful about your loss. I'm just trying to help you to come to grips with this. It looks like it's been a long time." Edward's breathing was deep and ragged. "Yes, six years, and every night I dream of what it must have been like for her." A fragment of a Swiss-cheesed memory appeared in Sam's mind, something that might help to deal with St. John. "I was only a split-second away from experiencing the same thing myself as Clayton Fuller. A split second, that's all it would have taken. Elizabeth probably didn't even have the time to feel what hit her." "I do remember that Leap, of course, you wouldn't remember it with me present. It was almost impossible for me to endure, seeing Abigail trapped in that house. But you saved her, Sam. It helped me some, but it appears that it wasn't nearly enough, until now." Somehow it appeared a measure of calm was coming to Edward. Now that he was thinking rationally, Sam continued to guide him in the right direction. Once again, Sam assured him, "It wasn't your fault, Edward. You need to know that. You did _not_ cause Elizabeth's death. In fact, I believe she's probably very happy where she is. She wouldn't want you bury yourself in guilt when there was nothing you could have done about it." "I know, and June is not my daughter, either, although she bears quite a resemblance to her." He looked out the window, pausing for a second to figure out how to phrase what he had to say. "In all likelihood, I will never see her again. But I will not forsake the Project now that I understand that, because I am there for you, Sam. Should I ever cross paths with your timeline again, I believe you will find me very much changed. Goodbye, Sam. And, thank you for what you've done for me." With those words, Edward punched a few buttons on the glowing handlink and disappeared through the Door, a contented smile on his face amidst the tears. Sam realized that this was likely to be a very complicated Leap, one of many purposes both great and small. He felt that he had already accomplished his first objective already, that of sending Edward back to his timeline, so to speak, a more content man than he had been for six years. Sam had a feeling that for the first time, Edward St. John the Fifth would sleep restfully, having at last found peace.