Quantum Leap "A Time to Hurt, A Time to Heal" A QUICK NOTE: The beliefs shown in this part are not meant to reflect the beliefs of anyone except the character of Alex Hathorn. Any similarities are purely coincidental. In other words, if I messed up anywhere, don't bite me head off. :) Chapter 9 Al sat in his chair in his chair in the Imaging Chamber, watching Sam closely. It pained him greatly to watch the physicist shake and perspire as he was and to watch him be in such physical and mental pain. Soon, Sam would be much to weak to care for himself like he did that morning and Al had no idea what he would do then. Al leaned forward and stroked holographic hair and tried to wipe holographic sweat from Sam's brow. He knew it was a futile action. But he also knew that he and Sam were more than neurologically linked. Their friendship was so close that their souls were interlocked with each other. Sam would notice any action Al did upon Sam's hologram, even with Sam in his current condition. As Al did the motions of stroking Sam's hair, he noticed that Sam seemed more relaxed. It warmed Al's heart a bit that Sam knew Al was there, although Al would have preferred to be able to do more. "I'm right here, Sam," Al assured gently. Sam didn't seem to hear him. His eyes remained closed. His panting was erratic but calmer than it had been before Al "touched" him. "Admiral," Ziggy's voice said over the Imaging Chamber speakers, causing Al to stop his actions and straighten himself. It was a bit of an embarrassment for him to be caught acting upon someone who wasn't really there. "What is it, Ziggy?" he asked gently. "There is a problem concerning Dr. Hathorn," Ziggy told him. "Dr. Beeks believes that he will attempt suicide." Al closed his eyes. He swallowed hard. He was torn suddenly between two friends who needed him. "I do not believe that Dr. Beeks wishes for you to leave Dr. Beckett," Ziggy added in response to Al's change of mood. "She is apparently on route to try to prevent Dr. Hathorn for succeeding in his attempt. I believe she only wished to inform you of the situation." Al took a deep breath. "Thank you, Ziggy." He looked at Sam carefully. His condition was getting worse. He took out the handlink and punched some buttons. History had changed for the better - and for the worse. Al decided not to tell Sam the bad news unless he felt he had to do so. "Sam," he said gently. "Listen carefully. You've changed history. The little girl doesn't die. Do you hear me? The operation was a complete success. She grows up and becomes an accountant and a mother of three. She does very well, Sam. She's fine." Al closed his eyes at the other statistic that Ziggy was giving him. *But you're not*, he thought somberly. *You're going to die unless I do something before tomorrow.* He looked at the handlink. The news of the little girl's survival helped some but not enough to bring the chances of Sam's survival up from forty-three percent. He punched a few more buttons on the handlink. Sam had a high fever. He needed a cold compress. Al exhaled. He hated being a hologram. "Sam, listen to me," he said firmly. "You have to fight this thing with all of your strength. Your life depends on it. You hear me? Fight it, Sam! Fight it!" He looked at Sam and then at the handlink. No change. The younger man was breathing heavier than before. Al "touched" Sam's hand while looking at the handlink. The odds of Sam's survival went up a couple of points. "You don't have to worry, Sam. I'm not leaving you. I'm staying right here. Right here. Just fight it, Sam." Sam didn't react to Al's words but Al knew he could hear him. **************************** "Alex!" Verbina yelled as she pounded on Alex's apartment door. "Open the door, Alex!" The door opened upon the request. "Hello, Verbina," Alex greeted. "Come in." Verbina looked absolutely shocked by Alex's action. It wasn't the act of a man that had just left a suicide note on Al's desk. She stepped into the apartment anyway, allowing Alex to close the door behind her. "Have a seat," Alex told her. Verbina looked around. The furniture was covered with plastic as was the floor. Boxes were piled in one corner and the walls were barren of all decoration. "Alex," Verbina said with caution. "I read your letter to Al." "So I gather from the way you were knocking on my door," Alex told her as he started to unbutton his shirt, his back to Verbina. "You really have nothing to worry about." He carefully took off his shirt and folded it. He placed it in a box near him. "I've thought this out very thoroughly, right down to the police in the apartment. There's nothing to worry about at all." "But there is," Verbina told him. "I know this is a hard time in your life but suicide isn't the answer!" Alex looked at her and smiled gently. "Verbina, I'm not going to die. I'm starting a new life. I'm starting over. The next life will be better." Verbina shook her head. "No, you're wrong. I know you believe in reincarnation. But how can you be sure that the next life will be better? Or that you'll even come back to this world as a human being rather than a cat or an insect?" Alex gave her a gentle smile, as if smiling to a child who wouldn't be able to understand. He sat on the floor and took off his shoes and socks, placing them in the same box as he had his shirt. "Verbina, life is a circle. Whatever you do will determine what happens to you in your next life." He looked at her. "I've had a good life and good friends. I know I have done my best to make the lives I've met better. But now that my life has been corrupted by this disease, I no longer have a reason to continue. I do now want my friends to have to endure watching me waste away before them." "Alex," Verbina told him. "You still have plenty of years ahead of you and there are medications that can help you." Alex looked at her with a slight frown. "You know I don't take medications even for a headache." Verbina sighed. "Alex, did you ever think that we - your friends - might want you to be with us for the years that you would just throw away? If you're really doing this for our sake, please, don't do this. The pain of knowing you committed suicide would be much worse that the pain of knowing you died of AIDS." Alex looked at her in the eyes. "It's time for you to leave now, Verbina," he told her. Verbina shook her head, standing her ground. "No. I'm not leaving." Alex stood up and approached her slowly. He stopped before her. "Then you can assist me with my journey." She shook her head. "I'm not going to help you die, Alex." Alex shrugged. "Very well." He walked away from her and went into the kitchen. Verbina followed but before she could reach the kitchen door, Alex returned, carrying a very sharp knife. "Alex! No!" Verbina exclaimed, approaching him as he passed her. "Give me the knife, Alex," she said gently. "I don't think so," he told her. "You don't understand." He sat down by the box in which he had placed his clothes. Verbina lowered herself to look at him, being careful not to provoke him into slitting his wrist before she could talk him out of it. "I do understand," she told him. "You're trying to ease your suffering and ours. But isn't it true that reincarnation depends on the life that you've led?" She paused. "Alex, what if I decided to commit suicide? I too have lived a good life. Wouldn't you try to stop me?" "Of course," Al told her. "But that would be different." "Why?" Verbina pressed. "Because there is still purpose in your life," he told her. "What if I were so stricken with self-doubt that I didn't see it? Would you try to stop me?" "Of course I would," Alex told her. "You still have a purpose." "As do you, Alex," Verbina told him. "You just can't seem to see it." She held out her hand. "Give me the knife, Alex. Let me remind you what your purpose is." Alex was uncertain. He looked at the knife at his wrist. It was so simple. Just one swipe and he would feel his soul leaving his body and preparing to enter another one. "I have no purpose," he said softly. "I saw to that and there is no turning back." "Yes, there is," she told him firmly. "Al hasn't seen your resignation yet and you can easily pick up your experiments again." She paused. "Most importantly, you have friends who care deeply about you and who need you." "No one needs me," Alex replied, not looking at her. "I do," Verbina said gently. "So does Al." She took a breath. "You once told me that life was merely a series of challenges. Isn't having AIDS just another challenge in your life and won't your next life be based on how well you handle this challenge?" He didn't answer as he continued to regard the knife. "Alex," Verbina coaxed. "Let your friends help you handle this challenge. You need us as much as we need you." "You really need me?" Alex asked quietly. Verbina smiled at him. "Who else is going to make that killer eggnog for the Christmas party?" Alex smiled slightly. He looked at Verbina. She extended her hand. "Give me the knife, Alex. Then, maybe we can talk about this." Alex removed the knife from his wrist. He turned it around and gave it to Verbina handle first. She accepted it and offered him her other hand. Taking the hand, Alex stood up with her. "Tell you what," Verbina said. "I'll put this away and then I can help you unpack. What do you say?" Alex nodded. "I'd like that."