Oh, by the way, I neglected to mention...this entire "saga", but especially this part, is dedicated to Amber, a friend of mine who overcame it all. I am constantly inspired by her courage and innocence. amkt "In Circles" pt. II February, 1989 - Original History San Diego, CA "Jacob, please!" Sam found himself face to face with a pair of blue eyes. He pulled back abruptly, tripping over the chair behind him and barely catching his balance before falling to the floor. "Wha-what?" he stammered uncharacteristically, reaching out a hand to steady himself. "You don't think she knows? You don't think it eats her up all the time? Jake, I may be a goner, but you're not." The woman, no _girl_, he found himself face-to-face with was about 16 or 17, dark brown shoulder-length hair, and blue-grey eyes. She was pretty, he decided. Her expression held an innocence as well as a wise knowledge that Sam would have thought impossible to express at the same time. "You're not a goner," he said hesitantly. "Moma thought I was. And I....proved her wrong. Or I...." Her eyes became distant. Sam took advantage of her distraction to make note of his surroundings. The room he was in was small and cramped. And dark. Dark brown carpet and black walls gave the entire room a dank feel. A single bed was in the corner next to a desk table made of the same deep color wood that held only a lamp and a telephone. The room was not capable of holding much more, but a small chest of drawers sat in the corner opposite of the doorway. The door was firmly closed and a chair had even been pushed up against it. With all this in the room, there was nowhere he could go to escape this person. Abruptly, he noticed she hadn't resumed her speech. She sank down onto the bed, a look of dismay on her light features. He knelt down in front of her. "You're _not_ a goner," he repeated, grasping her arms to emphasize his point. She shook her head. "It doesn't matter. What matters is that you have the opportunity to pull yourself out of this place, like I did. You have it within yourself to do that. I know you do." She seemed to be trying to convince herself as well as him. "If you've left all this behind you, why do you say you're a goner?" he asked, half of her and half because he was still trying to figure out the situation unassisted. "Because...if you're not careful, you'll just jump right back in again without even fully realizing you're doing it. And by the time you do, it's too late." She looked up to face him again. "But you still have a chance. Please don't do this, Jacob. Please." Sam had reached a dead-end. He wasn't sure if he was there for Jacob or her or both, and he couldn't forsee any way of finding out unless Al decided to show up, which he sometimes had a tendency not to do for a while. Not always on purpose, Sam's thoughts ammended hastily, but still..... "I'll give it some thought." Apparantly he had said the right thing because she smiled. "Good. I have to get to work, but you had better spend the day thinking because you have the day off." Thankful for the information, he watched her slide off the bed, give him a quick hug, and leave the room. He wasn't sure if it was her room or his or....both. Well, that was a rather disturbing thought. Hesitant to leave the room without further direction, he began to look around for a mirror. *Come on, Al,* he prompted mentally. ^----^----^----^----^ September, 2000 - Original History Stallion's Gate, NM Tina found Al collapsed just outside of his office and, in a blind panic, called Verbena to get help. A couple of hours later found him in the project hospital. Al had suffered a mild heart attack, brought on by the stress of the implications of the funding being cut, a threat that was still unknown to anyone else on the project. The first thing he felt as his awarness slowly returned was the soft touch of someone holding his hand. He forced his eyes open and was surprised to note that he didn't feel all that bad. He ached all over and there was a sharp but easily tolerable pain in his head. He looked to his side to see not Tina, as he had expected, but Beth, leaning forward onto the bed, possibly asleep, but still holding his hand. One arm was folded over as a pillow for herself and her sleep seemed light and uneasy. He tried to sit up, but dizziness in his head caused him to re-think the option. His movements woke the woman at his side and she lifted her head and smiled at him. "You came back," he stated. "Now I have to think up a better good-bye scene. Gotta top the last one, right?" She laughed lightly, wiping the sleep from her eyes. "I was in Nevada visiting family and Verbena contacted me. I just wanted to make sure you were all right." "You could have done that via phone. You just wanted an excuse to come back," he said, squeezing her hand to show he was teasing although both of them realized how much of the truth his words carried with them. And, in all honestly, neither of them minded. "It's just a mild attack. They're still trying to figure out what brought it on. Dr. Beeks says you can go see Sam provided you use a wheelchair." His face became grim as he remembered what had happened just before his collapse. "Yeah, okay. He's probably wondering where the heck I am, anyhow." She released his hand and helped him out of the hospital bed into a chair already at the end of his bed. Verbena had probably put it there, knowing he would choose Sam above his own personal pride. And getting Beth to talk him into it had been a sneaky touch. To make matters worse, there was a round of applause when he walked into the room. "Well, the admiral's back on his...wheels, I see," Verbena commented, crossing the Control Room to meet him. His smile was strained, but goodnatured. "Well, let's hurry this up. Sam is probably wondering what the heck he's there to do and I have a Senate Subcommittee Meeting to prepare for." She put out a hand to stop him. "Hold it. I don't want you doing anything particularly stressful and battling the dragons at Washington comes awfully high up on the list." He narrowed one eye at her. "We'll talk about this after I see Sam, okay?" She watched him, realizing suddenly that she knew nothing of what he was talking about. "Al?" "Later," he promised her. "And before you say another word, I'm ditching this chair before I go to see Sam. It's just a very mild attack, right?" he said quickly before she could interrupt. "It's not _just_ anything. And it may not be next time." "Well, it is now. I don't need Sam to worry. I promise to use it around here." He stood unsteadily, looking around angrily as the room fell silent. "This isn't a side show," he said sharply. He glanced at Tina, but she was engrossed in conversation with Gooshie. There were two kinds of normal at Project Quantum Leap. There was the "normal" Al always hoped for, with Sam home where he belonged, and there was the "normal" of him being gone and everyone being comfortable in their separate roles, fufilling all the needs of the project. Right at the moment, Al longed for either. Internally, he sighed. He didn't yet know what Tina thought about all this business with Beth. Heck, he didn't know what _he_ thought about it. "Here, let me come in with you in case you need help," Beth offered gently. "No," Al said quickly. "Beth, there's no need for you to hang around here. I'm fine." He offered what he hoped was a reassuring smile, now knowing what could happen if Sam saw her and not caring to contemplate it. She looked at him doubtfully. Grabbing the handlink, he walked up into Sam's world. Sam was looking into a small hand mirror, studying "his" reflection. He sat on a bed in a small, cramped room, one small light shining from the corner where a desk lamp had been turned on. It was dark outside. "Sam." "Al!" Sam whipped around to face his partner, opening his mouth to say something and then stopping as if he knew something wasn't right, but couldn't place quite what. Al braced himself for a tongue lashing. "Thank goodness you're here. I was beginning to worry. You've never taken so long to find me before." A pause. "Have you?" Al ignored the last question. "Yeah, well, maybe that'll teach you not to build such a disagreeable hunk of junk next time. Sorry, kid." The leaper nodded and Al was thankful for the poor lighting; he was shakier than he would have liked to admit. "Well, I hope with all this time, you know why I'm here." Al hoped so, too. Lifting the handlink, he began to read. "Your name is Jacob Marks. You're twenty and you live in San Diego, well, outside San Diego. In a trailer, to be precise. You live here with your mother, sister, and her boyfriend. Your sister's name is Amber and she seems to be someone pretty incredible, Sam. A couple of years ago, when you guys lived in Seattle, she was the local drug dealer and an addict herself. Since that time, she's been through a rape, she was shot once in the leg, and she ran away several times. Recently, she broke her nasty habit and they moved from Washington to here to help her out with that." "What about me? Er, Jacob? I was talking to Amber earlier and she was almost begging me not to do something." Sam put down the mirror he had been holding and leaned back, resting his weight on his palms. "Well, it seems that while Amber is working as a waitress, she is saving money to go to community college. The whole family works there, including you and her boyfriend, Rick. Just recently, Jacob enters the drug scene himself. It really tears Amber apart and in two days, she commits suicide. Ziggy doesn't know if she knew it or not, but she was pregnant." There was a moment of silence and then Sam sighed and looked up at Al. "Two days? Okay, Al, details." Al rubbed his eyes with his free hand and studied the handlink again. "It's February 16, 1989 and at 11:30 PM on the 18th, that's Thursday, she takes every pill in the cabinent. The rest of the family is working that night and no-one's here to stop her." "Al?" The hologram tucked the 'link away and clapsed his hands behind his back. "Yeah, kid?" "I think she knew." Never one to stay still for very long, Al pulled out a cigar and began to dig around for his lighter. "What? That she was pregnant?" Sam picked up the mirror again, staring into Jacob's hazel eyes, studying his dark hair, cut smartly in short strands. "Yeah. Earlier she was telling me that she had messed things up somehow. She wouldn't tell me what it was, but I've got a bad feeling about all this." Al snorted. "You're not the only one." In two days, Al would have to go to Washington and back before Sam ran into any trouble. He never liked going away while Sam was in a leap, but if Senator McBride thought there was going to be trouble, there definitely would be. She was not one to overreact. And what with the medical complications and Sam's problems and the funding trouble, the next couple of days were going to be one heck of a roller coaster that Al would not be able to jump off of. He watched with a growing sense of unease as Sam turned back to his reflection with a frown and, for lack of anything else to push out negative thoughts, began to seriously worry that something was terribly wrong.