Part III New York, NY February, 2000 Sam's credit cards didn't work and so, now, with limited cash (and a bank card he couldn't remember the PIN for), he not only had to worry about where his life was, but how to find it on...$20 and a couple pictures... Sam sat up in bed in the cheapest room he'd been able to find and fumbled for the wallet. Sure enough, the picture of Al and him was still there; at least that supported his plea of sanity. He desperately wanted to show it to Al, but he was afraid to do so - wouldn't that just have the same effect as telling him? If Al knew the truth...it could destroy everything. Sam had lain awake most of the night thinking and sorting things out. If his never meeting Al meant that Project Quantum Leap never came into existence, then it stood to reason that he had a life somewhere out there that was his. Which meant he still had to be leaping. Plus the changes he'd made hadn't been changed back, obviously, so Donna still had to be out there. If all that was true, however, the cards in his wallet would still be working, and he, Sam Beckett, had to have come to New York for a reason. No, PQL must have been created, but with someone else, which meant he was still leaping, just as himself, and there was still something he had to put right. By the same token, it hadn't presented itself and he couldn't go wandering around for weeks hoping the project found him or that the problem found him. Was this how it was going to be from now on? Was this what the bartender meant when he said the leaps were going to get harder? He didn't know if he could live with that possibility. He strained to remember names and numbers, but most of them eluded him. Those that didn't ended up being dead ends and strings of hopelessness that he clutched blindly at, then gave up on. If he was going to find his life, he knew, he'd need help. He had to operate on that assumption until he had evidence to the contrary, and there was only one man he knew of who could help him. It was the one person who, should he have to start over, he'd still want there. Sam bit his lip and pulled out the phone book, looking up Al's number. He lifted the phone and dialed: it was 10 AM Saturday morning - Al was sure to be up by now. "Hello?" It had to be Beth. Sam smiled faintly, remembering as she'd wept when he told her Al was alive. He wished he'd been able to see her when he came home. "Is Al Calavicci available?" he asked, trying to hold back the irrational fear that Al wouldn't want to talk to him. "May I ask who's calling?" she countered pleasantly. "Uh, tell him this is Sam." There was a startled pause and Sam wondered how much Al had told her. "One minute." Sam ran a hand across his face anxiously. How was he going to ask a total stranger to help him? But, stranger or not, this man was still the same at heart - Sam could see it when he'd looked at him the day before. "This is unexpected," Al said evenly. He was trying to be nonchalant, and failing. Sam swallowed, realizing he hadn't really thought through how he was going to do this. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I need to talk to you." Al hesitated, suspicious against his better judgment. "You left yesterday before I had a chance to talk to you," he stated, even though he'd been the initial one to try and end the conversation. Obviously, his sense of curiosity was still in tact as well. Sam had left the meeting in tears, though: that was bound to raise a few questions. "I know, I'm... I'm sorry, I just-" He paused, trying to find the right words. The truth was, he just hadn't been able to take it - looking for a bond that wasn't there. "I'm having some difficulties right now and I need your help, if you're willing." Al wasn't quite sold yet and, still hedging his bets, he cleared his throat. "How about we meet somewhere and you can tell me your story?" It was still more than Sam could've hoped for. "Where do we meet?" ~~~~~~ February, 2000 New York City, NY Al glanced up as Sam slid into the booth across from him and found himself smiling sympathetically. This kid just had one of those faces you could trust right off the bat and he still had that sharp sorrow behind his eyes, that hurt puppy look. Al found himself more troubled by it than he'd expected to be. "Hi," Sam said softly, rubbing his eyes. He looked as if he'd had a sleepless night and Al wondered where he'd had it. Al gestured to the small diner around them. "Nice, huh?" he asked the younger man, trying to put him at ease. "My wife and I got in the habit of meeting here for lunch when my youngest waitressed here one summer." Sam looked up sharply and Al thought for a precarious moment he was going to pass out. "I'm sorry, what?" he asked tensely in tones that confirmed that he'd heard Al just fine. Al frowned at him. "Are you okay?" "You have children?" Sam asked as if Al had just told him he'd had breakfast with the Queen of England. It wasn't such an unusual thing, having children - what was up with this kid, anyhow? "Yes," Al confirmed slowly, watching Sam pale. "Are you sure you're okay? Maybe we should get you some water, or..." Sam waved him away, finally seeming to recover himself. "How many?" Now he hesitated: why would this guy need to know that? "I have four daughters." To Al's utter amazement, Sam began to laugh. "You don't... Are you serious?" Al was beginning to feel affronted and somewhat lost in the significance of that statement. "You know me, don't you?" That sobered him up considerably, but there was still a joyous smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth periodically. "You could say that." He grinned. "I'll bet you make a great father," he stated with absolute certainty, touching Al's arm lightly. Al brushed aside the compliment and studied his face intently, still not finding anything familiar about his features. With a heavy breath, he pulled the conversation back where he wanted it to go. "I'm sorry, I still don't remember you. Where did we meet?" That effectively wiped away any sign of glee. "We met...some time ago," Sam said quietly, picking at his napkin. The waitress brought him a glass of water and he picked it up, downing half the glass in seconds. "I don't even know your name. Well, not your last name, anyhow." Sam locked his gaze on the crescent-shaped ice cubes clinking against the glass in his hand. "It's Beckett. Sam Beckett." Al again felt a slight pressure on his skin and this time looked pointedly at Sam, who jerked his hand back abruptly, as if he'd been caught doing something he hadn't meant to do. "Beckett," Al repeated curiously. Interestingly enough, the name did sound familiar, but he couldn't quite grasp why... Not through personal communications, he was sure, but he did know the name. There had been some kid, born in farm country, who was supposed to be a genius. Was in all the magazines, then he vanished for a long while until making the papers one last time about five years back. Sam ran a hand through his hair and the white lock fell over his forehead, catching Al's eye. He narrowed his gaze. "You share the name with someone else, but you can't be him." The words were certain, but the tone was not. "What do you mean?" Sam asked halfheartedly. "There was some farm boy prodigy with that name. I remember reading about him." Something like relief crossed Sam's face. "That's me. Elk Ridge, Indiana," he added as a confirmation key. Al's expression became, if possible, more focused. "No, you can't be him," he insisted stubbornly. "He died five years back." "What?!" The water glass tipped as he jumped, spilling ice and chilled liquid all over the table and onto himself. He stood up to avoid the water still cascading over the edge and Al reached for the napkins. "Take it easy, willya? You're making me jumpy," Al said with forced calm as he wiped up the mess. "It's just water." But Sam wasn't even listening. "What do you mean he died? I'm not dead!" "Well, he disappeared and no-one ever heard from him again," Al corrected. "His business partner is now in Congress and... He'd been missing so long that they had him declared dead and..." "Declared dead?" Sam demanded. "Now there's irony for you!" Al shook his head. Things were getting out of control and he wasn't making any sense. "Calm down and have a seat," he said firmly. He half expected Sam to continue arguing or storm out; he'd seen that look before - kid couldn't take what he was being told. Instead, Sam reclaimed his seat and cradled his head in his hands. "Are you telling me you're this guy?" "Yes. I can't find my family - I don`t know how to get in touch with them, or my wife. Al...I need your help." "Where have you been for the past five years?" Al demanded. "And how do you know me?" "Where have I been?" The words were bitter. "I've been...I don't remember." Something about the statement didn't feel right and Al wondered why he was being lied to. "Well, maybe _you've_ got amnesia, but I certainly don't. Are you going to tell me how you know me?" The hopelessness was back. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you." "Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" he pressed. Sam didn't answer, squeezing his eyes shut, then, without thinking, Al blurted the words, "You're lost," softly, sadly. "Yes." His voice cracked and Al wondered if he was crying again. "What are you trying to find?" Sam looked up and his face was dry, but his expression was torn. "Something I gave up. But I don't want to hurt anyone getting it back." Al shook his head as if trying to clear it. "You're talking in riddles." Sam sighed. "I know." "You do know where you've been the last five years, don't you?" Al questioned, trying to pull something concrete from the conversation. "Yes and no. I've been...away, and I don't know what's happened while I was gone. I'm..." He shrugged. "I'm lost." "So you need to find someone who knows you," Al stated for confirmation. If he was going to help, he needed to know what he was helping with. Sam's eyes held a glimmer of hope. "If I could find out...if this project was ever created..." Now he was lost again. Patiently, he asked, "What project?" "My project," Sam stated clearly. "Can you help me with something?" Al took a long sip of his water, buying time to think. "Depends on what it is." "My family...they've all moved or something; I can't find them. It's been five years and I can't remember where they all lived or who to call who could find them for me." Sam bit his lip and Al could see it was important...whatever it was. "My brother...he was in the Navy. At least, he was back in `70. I don't know about now. His name is Thomas Eugene Beckett; can you see if you can find him for me?" Now, Al was sure, he had him. Caught in a lie, a slip-up. "If you've only been gone five years, how is it you don't remember him past 30 years ago?" Sam's brow furrowed in thought. "I can't remember what happened after we - I...saw him then," he fumbled. Al made a mental note of the verbal correction and leaned back. "That's all you want me to do?" Sam leaned forward, his hands spread on the table top. "Please - I just need help getting my life back. I have noplace else to turn." Al stared into his eyes, the innocent trust, and realized that Sam _knew_, somehow, that he wouldn't turn him away. He rolled his shoulders to erase the chill that was creeping up his spine. "I'll see what I can do. And where did you say you knew me from again?" Sam broke the connection, dropping his gaze. "Another life."