Part IX

January, 2003
Santa Fe, NM

Elane seemed a little groggy and she had a bruise on her cheek, but,
otherwise, looked none the worse for the wear. She opened her eyes and
smiled at him when he came in.

"Finally," she said lightly, "company. They don't want me to go to
sleep, but it's been a heck of a hard fight with all the droning of this
equipment. Especially for someone would could probably sleep through a
nuclear war."

Sam grinned slightly and sat down. "How do you feel?"

"Hungry." She patted his hand. "Don't look so somber, Sam. It's not like
I'm dying."

He broke into a reluctant laugh. "So...you lied to me to keep me from
coming with you, didn't you?"

"Yes." Her expression was challenging.

"Weitzman said you hit yourself on the head trying to resist the

"Weitzman is full of crap," she stated bluntly. "Yeah, sure, I hit my
head - because those jerks shoved me against the wall." She scowled.

Sam fumed silently. "I _knew_ he was lying to me. If it's the last thing
I do I'll-"

"Sam!" she interrupted. "You haven't got a case. I was trespassing on
government property, sabotaging a top secret project."

"Unsuccessfully, unfortunately," he lamented.

She sighed. "So now what? I'm out of ideas."

"So am I," Sam admitted, "but we'll figure something out."

"What makes you so sure?"

He smiled. "Because I've got an ace in the hole."

"Oh, yeah? You gonna share the secret?"

"In a minute. First I...I need to talk to you about something." He
twisted his fingers into knots and stood up. She just watched him from
the bed. "This isn't easy..."

"Sam what is it? Just spit it out, huh?"

He turned to face her slowly. "It's just - it's been brought to my
attention that I may possibly be...in love with you and I-" He stopped,
hesitated, then muttered, "This is insane." Elane said something at the
same time and he paused again. "What?"

"I said, `I know'."

"You know?" he asked, incredulous. "Does everyone know how I feel but

"You're a very transparent person, Sam. And you've been under a lot of
stress lately."

"Oh." There suddenly seemed to be no place left to take the

She sighed dramatically. "`Oh,' he says. Come sit back down." He eased
back into the seat nervously. She didn't say she felt the same, she
didn't say he was out of his mind - what on earth was he supposed to
think? "I don't bite," she said in exasperation. He leaned forward and
she took his hand gently in hers. Then she sat up and kissed him.

Well, _that_ certainly cleared things up.

He realized then what had probably been blindingly obvious before: the
only reason nothing had happened was because he hadn't let it. Because
of Donna. In a flash, he acknowledged that Al had beat him to the punch.

"Sam Beckett," she declared after pulling away, "I have been waiting for
that for a good year now."

He shrugged slightly. "Sorry." Then he kissed her.

"Twenty minutes," admonished a voice from behind him. "Twenty minutes I
leave the kid alone and when I come back, he's practically engaged."

"Al!" The cry came from Elane, who suddenly burst into smiles.

"Hi, baby." He advanced into the room with nonchalance that had Al
Calavicci written all over it. Just for a moment, it was as if the last
two and a half years had never taken place. Sam smiled. Al bent over and
gave Elane a firm hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Miss me?"

"Oh, you bet," she said, "he's been impossible since you left."

"I have no doubt."

"I am still in the room, you do realize this, right?" Sam said in fond
exasperation. The conversation was smooth, comfortable, and he relaxed,
grateful that Al had come back.

"He your ace in the hole?" Elane asked Sam. Al raised an eyebrow.

"I'm hoping so."

"Good. What's our plan?"

Al raised his hands. "Whoa, search me - I don't have any plan. He's our
resident genius, _he_ can think of a plan."

"Al," Sam chided, "I know you. You didn't come this far to stay out of
the action."

"`Course not," he replied indignantly, "but that doesn't mean I know
what that course of action is going to be."

"Well, we'd better think of something because we're running out of
time," Elane pointed out.

"They'll be watching me like a hawk," Sam admitted, "and I doubt they'll
even let Al back on the grounds, let alone the project."

"No-one knows I'm here," Al said. "I didn't exactly come in guns blazing
- I wanted to see what was going on first."

"And? What should we do?" Sam wanted to know, but he was asking the
question of everyone. It looked as if things were already in motion.

Elane rubbed at her temples. "If we can't stop them and we can't change
their minds, what if we beat them to the punch?"

"How so?" Sam asked.


Al shook his head. "Already, I don't like this idea. What good would it
do? You leap, they just leave you out their on your own, or they send
someone after you. I just can't figure out which would be worse."

"Okay, Al, these guys aren't honest or straightforward," Sam said, "but
neither are they a gang of murderers. And, as easy as it would be to
think that way, I doubt they're collectively using this for personal
gain. Mass destruction, sure," he commented with only a hint of humor,
"but I can't believe they'd kill for personal greed."

"Weitzman, no," Al conceded, "but I wouldn't trust them as far as I
could throw them. Just look at your roster: you've still got Bartlett,
Weitzman, Jacobs, Bailey... What happened to McBride? Or Chi - now there
was a good man. Or..." He snapped his fingers. "What was her name? S -

"Okay, Al, we get the idea," Sam interjected.

"My point is the people who supported Quantum Leap for what it
represented and what it did rather than because of my routine pestering
are gone. And what you've got left is the very bottom of the barrel.
Plus a few things that slither underneath it."

"Okay, well, we can't change that now," Elane interjected, still
massaging her forehead.

"Are you okay?" Sam asked her.

She exhaled wearily. "I just - I'm getting a killer headache."

Al took a step forward. "Maybe we should discuss this later. Probably
somewhere more private would be a good idea, too." He studied Elane
closely. "I had better get to a hotel. I...didn't get much sleep last

Sam studied him; there was something in his voice that said he didn't
want to be alone. "Why don't you crash on my sofa?" he asked.

"You're going to think I'm being paranoid, but...I don't think that's
such a good idea. I really shouldn't even have come here. But I'll be in
touch. You two be careful." He winked at Elane and left the room.

Sam watched him go, hesitating.

"Sam," Elane said quietly, "I'll be fine. You go. I've been doing this
cloak and dagger stuff, oh, years before I met you."

He kissed her. "I'll come by tomorrow."

"You'd better. See if they'll let you bust me out then."

Sam smiled and followed Al out, jogging to catch up. "Al, wait!"

Al turned in his tracks.

"I'll drive you."

January, 2003
Stallion Springs, NM

"Sam, I gotta make a quick stop here."

"At the liquor store?" Sam demanded.

"Now, don't start lecturing, okay? It's been a long week and I-"

"I was just going to say," Sam interrupted, pulling into the parking
lot, "that you'd better get enough for two."

An hour later, Al and Sam were both tucked away in some not-quite classy
hotel. Sam was stretched out on one of the two twin beds, staring at the
ceiling. Al was draped halfheartedly in an armchair.

"I mean, the thing is," Sam was saying, "I shoulda seen it, right? It
was so obvious."

"Everything is, in retrospect," Al replied in mellow tones. "But you
can't spend the rest of your life worrying about it. You can't see into
the future, kid. They took apart your crystal ball."

"Well, I would have been seeing into _our_ future."

Al grimaced. "Can we not talk about it? It's making my brain ache."

"You're right," Sam agreed. "And I'm sure the alcohol has nothing to do
with it." There was a short silence. "Al?"

"Yeah, Sam." He had lapsed into a relaxed state and was in danger of
completely falling asleep.

"They didn't really tell me too much - I mean, about Donna dying." Al
opened his eyes. "And I was hoping...I mean, I want to know."

"Well, Sam, there's not really much to tell."

"Please, Al. If it was Beth, wouldn't you want me to tell you?"

Fragmented memories of a panicked discussion with a police officer
filtered across Al's senses.

 ^"Oh, no, she can't be dead - please, God, not her-"^

He shivered.

 ^"Don't give me that bull - what the hell happened to her?!"^

"Al?" He awakened back into reality to see Sam staring at him. "Are you

"She had cancer," Al said quietly, "but she didn't want anyone to know,
except me. I knew. And she'd...she'd stop coming around the project,
especially as it got worse, and then one day she just decided to leap. I
thought I'd talked her out of it, but the idea kept resurfacing, and
then on one really bad day, I...I finally couldn't change her mind about
it. We tracked her for a while, but she never landed. Then Ziggy just
lost the signal and she was gone." Sam stared at the floor. "I'm sorry,

Sam nodded and crossed his legs on the bed. "It's hard."

"I know."

"Do you think you'll ever see Beth again?" he asked quietly. He'd never
really subscribed to the idea of an afterlife before and some part of
him just assumed Al felt the same way.

Al drained his glass and sat gazing at it. "That hope is the only thing
that gets me up every morning," he said quietly. "There are some parts
of...what I was taught that still..." He shrugged helplessly. "You know,
she left behind a stack of letters-" he held his thumb and forefinger
two inches apart "-this thick. I was only reading one every few months
for a while. They were letters to her mother. Then, last night, I just
started in a kind of frenzy readin' them all as fast as I could get ‘em
open." He refilled the glass and leaned back again. "It felt good - felt
like I was reliving all those good years with her again. And I realized,
even those terrible times before you showed up, those were good years,
too, because they were with her. Even those unbearably long days locked
up in a cage - those were good years, too, because she was still mine."
Sam was silent, but he studied his friend in the pale light.

"Funny thing is," Al resumed after a long moment, "the one letter I've
yet to open is the only one addressed to me."

"What letter is that?"

"I was out of reach in a meeting when she was shot. And she was only
just coming out of surgery about the time I was getting on the plane to
come back. By the time she came to, I was up in the air. They finally
reached me when I touched down in Minneapolis, but I was 30 minutes too
late and she was dead." Al took a sip of his drink and let out a long
breath. "So she had the nurse write a note for me, had it waiting when I
got to the hospital, and... I've had it for over a year now. Just
haven't found the courage to read it, yet."

"What are you scared of?" Sam asked gently.

"I don't know. I guess it's partly...the blame I've laid on myself for
everything I put her through. And it's partly because if I don't open
this letter, then she's not really gone." He closed his eyes tightly for
a minute, then pulled out the envelope. It was creased and worn and Sam
wondered if he'd carried it with him since her death. His hand trembled
as he extended it to Sam. "Would you...?" he said hesitantly, almost
timidly, as if afraid of being turned away.

Sam took it from him. Al flinched as he tore it open, but then he
relaxed in his chair and focused on the light glinting through the odd
angles of the glass. Sam cleared his throat, then shook his head and
held out the paper. "Al, I can't."

"Please, Sam. It's just this one last hurdle I can't make on my own." He
stared intently through Sam. "Please."

Sam cleared his throat and started to read.

"Dearest Albert,          December 11, 2001

"I wish I could say good-bye to your face, but time doesn't always allow
for such luxuries. So I'm doing this instead, because there are things
you have to hear.

"You can't do it all, Al. I love you so dearly for trying, but, by the
same token, my heart broke each time you failed. That's why we're forced
to make choices, sacrifices. You made a choice to go away this weekend,
but we're only human and we can't possibly know what string of
consequences one small action can cause. Surely you've learned that
dealing with Sam all those years. So I don't want any blame, I don't
want any `what ifs'. I know you love me - no matter where you were or
what you were doing or how bad things got, I always knew, and so don't
lament over anything.

"You are a dear man, Albert Calavicci. You're special. You have the
ability to light the passion within other people unlike anyone else I've
ever met. You have such a strong will and a sense for what's good and
right, and yet you are so forgiving of others. You've seen and
experienced some of the most awful terrors this world can conjure up,
and yet you're so warm and gentle. You are the perfect soul mate and the
most loyal friend, spouse, and father. And I love you.

"You are the answer to a prayer. Never forget that.

   "-Your Wife,

    "Elizabeth Calavicci"

The room was shrouded in a hushed sorrow and Sam sat perfectly still,
waiting to see what would happen next. Slowly, Al stood up, reclaimed
the last words of the woman he loved, and looked directly at Sam. "Thank
you," was all he said, quietly in tones that did little to affect the
frozen stillness. Then he clicked off the light and curled up on the
other bed, facing away from Sam.

Sam could never be certain later, but he could have sworn he heard the
subtle sounds of Al crying. Sam leaned over the gap between the beds and
touched Al's back briefly, as if to remind him that he wasn't alone and
Sam understood that kind of pain.

Then Sam laid down on his own bed and started to drift to sleep.

+Trying to get these out faster, folks. Thanks for your patience!