September, 2000 Santa Fe, NM The phone rang, disrupting the growing tension in the car. Sam stopped his narration abruptly, struggling for breath and Al dug into his coat pocket with one hand to pull out his cellular phone. "What?" Worry and impatience gave his tone a hard edge. "Al?" Tina. "Al, Sam's leaped in. 'Bena said you were out. So...we need you back here." Al looked at the form slumped back in a breathless expression of pain beside him with vague confusion. "Sam?" "Yeah. Are you coming back or not?" Then Al realized what should have been obvious had he not had other things to worry about that were slightly more pressing. "Into San Diego. 1989," he concluded miserably. He could feel the surprise through the phone. "Al, how did you know that?" "I...." He looked down at Sam and the hand he had clapsed firmly in his own. He pulled the reciever away from his mouth. "Sam?" he prodded gently. He opened his eyes slowly and shook his head; a slight side-to-side motion that the admiral barely picked up on. "You were late the first time, too, Al. Nothing happened because of that." Al nodded and pulled the phone back up. If he was going to suffer a heart attack as a result of the phone call from McBride, it was a wonder he was still coherant in this timeline. But, he suppossed, it was because Sam needed him. That had to count for something. Perhaps Sam was able to prevent it, but he wasn't inclined to devote any great degree of attention to figuring it out at the moment. "Don't expect me any time soon, honey. Sam'll be okay for a little while. Trust me," he added before she could protest. He turned heavily back towards his friend and his struggle for life. He wanted to tell him to stop talking, that he didn't want to hear how things had been the first time around. They had been pulled over for almost twenty minutes and Al still didn't know what exactly he had to fix. Slight pressure on his hand brought his attention back to Sam. He seemed to be getting worse. Al had torn his own shirt to try and stop the flow of blood from Sam's chest. It seemed to be slowing, finally, but Al knew he was not of this world for long. And it made him mad. He was so filled with rage towards whoever had done this that he could barely see straight. "Al, you have to understand - I didn't leap into this man from your future. I never leaped _out_ of Jacob. I've been him for over eleven years." "Oh, Sam," Al breathed, and he watched Sam's resolve strengthen. He should have figured that out himself. "Tell me. Tell me how to stop it." ^----^----^----^----^ February, 1989 - Original History San Diego, CA Wednesday morning came far too early for Sam. Normally an early riser, he became extremely frusturated that he was having trouble getting out of bed. But he had to go to Jacob's job. Part of the reason for his exhaustion lay in his total inability to fall asleep the night before. He had laid in the dark trying to figure out what to say to someone with such a problem as Amber. Or Jacob, for that matter. Sam Beckett had never been exposed to drugs, rape, or anything else even remotely as vile when he was young. And he certainly hadn't been sleeping with his girlfriend at age seventeen. Which, he found out rather quickly the night before, was what Amber and Rick were still doing, even now. Perhaps Amber didn't know after all. But Sam doubted that, not after what she said yesterday; maybe she just thought the damage was already done. Sam, finally surrendering to the inevitable, swung his legs over the edge of the bed and stood up slowly. Pulling on a robe, he padded into the hallway and turned to go to the bathroom. A slight noise from the kitchen attracted his attention and he changed course to investigate. Amber was sitting at the kitchen table. She looked as if she hadn't had much sleep - certainly less than him. Her back was to him and he wasn't certain if she knew he was there or not. "Come to check up on me?" she asked suddenly and Sam felt an embarassed flush rise to his cheeks for watching her. "I'm your big brother. Can you think of anything else I should be doing?" he asked lightly, trying to push out the disturbing image of Katie, purple welts evident on pale skin, sobbing at the kitchen table after she had finally pushed aside her shame and returned home to her family. Home. Sam smothered a sigh. "Yeah. You should be getting ready for work." Her voice was flat and unfeeling and Sam put a comforting hand on her shoulder from behind. That's when he saw it. Lying on the table, within easy reach for Amber, but not him, was a steak knife. He looked around in vain for a reason to have a clean knife out on the table. "Amber?" Sam moved to sit beside her. "What's that?" She looked dully at him. "A knife." She picked it up, fingering the blade lightly, examining the creases the teeth left in her skin with exaggerated care. Sam quelled the urge to snatch it out of her hand. "I can see that. Why is it out?" She shrugged noncommitedly and allowed Sam to take it gently from her, watching his relieved sigh with a mixture of indifference and annoyance. "You _are_ checking up on me," she murmured, as if she couldn't believe it. "Do you want to talk about it?" "Nothin' to talk about." She flicked at an invisible speck on the table top. "Almost had to call 911 on mom again last night. Came home drunk as a dog." He tried not to let his reaction show. "Is that why you're upset?" She shrugged again and gave a little sigh. "Why should that bother me? Last time it got her six months and if she can't dry out in six months, what's the use? I lied last night; she doesn't care." Recalling how serious Amber had been the night before, Sam doubted that was true. Not entirely, anyhow. "You know that's not true." She pushed her hair back behind her ear. It hadn't been brushed yet and it fell back over her face. "She doesn't want me to go to college." If anything, Sam had an even harder time hiding his reaction to this. Wasn't a parent supposed to want more for their children then they had for themselves? He could never figure out why people would voluntarily stay in this viscious cycle. "Why not?" "She wants me to work and earn money, not waste it on classes." "I see." He didn't, but he said it anyhow. "So, is _that_ what you're upset about?" "Who, me?" She still wouldn't look up at him, even for an instant. Prodding hadn't worked, so he waited. The moments passed without comment and finally, she looked him in the eye. "Jake, I'm pregnant." He nodded slowly, but didn't comment. "Well?" What could he say? "Is this a good thing, or a bad thing?" he asked tentatively. "Depends on who you talk to. Rick is estatic. He hopes it's a boy. I don't think he realizes how much work a kid could be." "Maybe you should talk to someone," Sam suggested, squeezing her hand gently. "Right. I'll pull from my secret savings account and hire a shrink." Sam grimaced. "What does it matter?" she demanded. Of who, Sam couldn't say. She shoved the chair violently back and walked quickly down the hall into her room. Sam heard the lock click. This one was going to have to be more than a quick fix, for certain. He rubbed his face with a hand and went off in search of a hot shower. ^----^----^----^----^ September, 2000 - Original History Stallion's Gate, NM The phone reciever went down so hard that the entire phone slid off the corner of the desk and fell into the wastebasket. "Good!" Al yelled, as if he was still conversing with the person he had hung up on, if it could have been called conversing. "That's where you belong anyway you stupid excuse for....." He fumbled for a moment. "For a human being." For lack of vocabulary, Al cut loose a long stream of profanity that was supposed to make him feel better but didn't. He sat still for a full moment and then shot out of his chair as if a spring had been released. Technicians and scientists parted before him like the Red Sea as he stalked all the way to the Control Room. "Will somebody tell me WHY the voting members of this country cannot find anyone more suitable to run the place??" he demanded, rounding on Verbena as she looked up at him. "Glad to see you're keeping calm and relaxed," she commented, raising an eyebrow. "No luck?" "Luck? _Luck_?" He was about to launch into another tirade, but she cut him off with a wave of her hand. "Forget I asked. So how much trouble are we in?" Al shook his head and slumped uncharasterically into the chair she provided. "Big trouble. I was hoping something Sam was doing might help us out here, like last time, you know?" He paused. "Of course you don't. Never mind. Regardless of what you do or don't remember, Ziggy's come up with nada." Verbena fingered the edge of one of the contols. She had long since given up trying to understand how Project Quantum Leap worked. And sometimes, she found Admiral Calavicci just as complicated and uncomprehensible, but other times, he was as clear as glass. Now all she saw was a drive to find some way to get the funding he needed to contact Sam. He was going to kill himself for certain this time. "Al, if you end up in the hospital over this or worse, Sam's not going to have anyone to observe for him anyway." "We can get someone else to observe," Al said absently. The psychiatrist almost gaped at how easily he dismissed his heath. He had never been really concerned about how little sleep he got or those cigars he smoked, but this was his _life_. And no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't seem to get that across to him. "Al, can't you get someone else to gather this information for you?" "I've got some friends who owe me a few favors ferreting out stuff at Washington, but let me tell you, this project goes on much longer and I'm gonna run out of favors." He looked up at her, finally, noting immediately what he had deemed the "mother hen" look. "I know what you're thinking, Beeks, and I understand that. But it's not my life I'm thinking about here." He turned to Gooshie before she could reply. "How's Sam?" The scientist, who had been doing his best to keep a low profile, seemed upset that the admiral had even noticed he was in the room. "He's probably at work by now. We hope." Al nodded and stood up. He stopped, closed his eyes, and sat slowly back down again, face pale and breath shaking. Verbena put a hand on his shoulder and knelt down in front of him. "Al? Are you all right?" He was still a moment longer and then he opened his eyes and forced out a wry grin. "Yeah, great." She groaned in frusturation and removed her hand. "Now will you listen to me?" "Sure. Later." He stood up again and walked towards the Imaging Chamber. "Gooshie, get Weitzman on the phone and let me know when you get a hold of him." Before Verbena could say another word, he disappeared into the Chamber.