February, 1989 - Original History San Diego, CA Amber sat in front of her mirror. She stared into the pale, drawn face, the light hazel eyes, noted the tangles in her curly brown hair. She was so tired. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. She had fought so, so hard, and lost. The worst part was that it was her own stupidity that had cost her the war and now she had no-one to blame but herself. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the desk and burying her face in her hands. *Failure,* her mind mocked. *Time to face facts.* She didn't move. *Are you afraid?* A mental pause. *Damn straight.* She lifted her head slightly, so she could see her reflection again. "You are..." Her voice trembled and a tear ran down her face. "A failure." "Maybe I can help?" Sam nodded to the man standing next to him. "I've got to go on break now." The man shook his head. "Sorry. I forgot you wanted to go now. You can't go yet; we don't have enough people on the grill. When Rick comes back, you can go." Sam stopped and turned slowly to look at him. "What?" he asked carefully. "Yeah, he had something to do at home or something. A likely excuse, but we weren't too busy at the moment, so I let him go. He'll be back in a half an hour. You can wait that long." "Not a chance," Sam muttered and bolted for the door. ^----^----^----^----^ September, 2000 - Original History Stallion's Gate, NM Gooshie pulled Verbena aside and she had to pull his tense fingers off her arm to get him to let her go. "They're taking out Jacob." "What?!" The programmer's incoherant babbling wasn't making any sense to her. "Listen to me, just listen!" "I'm listening, I'm listening." He pulled her further into the corner and lowered his voice. "They're shutting down her systems one by one. Ziggy's dying. Not only that, but they're taking Jacob Marks out of the waiting room, which means Dr. Beckett will never leap out. We've got to _do_ something!" "I intend to." Both Verbena and Gooshie turned to find the source of the voice, but Beth reacted first. "Al!" She hurred to his side to support him. "Al, you look like hell." He offered them a wry grin. "Nice to see you, too." Verbena's reaction was quite different. "Are you an crazy?! There's nothing you can do here, Al. You're going to kill yourself and I'm not kidding! How on earth did you even get here?" He allowed Beth to wrap his arm around her shoulders since there weren't any chairs readily available, but that was the most he was going to let Verbena see. "I can contact Sam," he responded, ignoring the outburst. Gooshie looked up from the handlink he was holding. "No you can't. They just cut the power to the Imaging Chamber." Al leaned back against the console behind him, seeking extra support. "Where's Donna?" "She didn't bother to come home. I don't think she could have taken the plane ride home. She's got a hotel room up in Washington now." Al closed his eyes in pity. "Someone should be with her. She's...waited too long for this to happen." Beth sighed softly beside him and then the main power went out. The four of them stood in silence as all the the systems, each a slow twist of the knife, were shut down and the man with Sam's aura was removed from the complex. Al was unable to supress a groan of anguish at that and Beth hugged him tightly, mistaking the cry for something physical. Eventually, Gooshie and Verbena left, heavy-hearted and sorrowful. Beth kissed Al gently on the cheek. "I'm sorry," she whispered and, releasing him, followed the somber procession out, feeling even more the outsider for having only been there a few days. There was nothing left to see. Al stood alone in the middle of the control room, listening to the sound of his own breathing, forgetting his own physical pain as if it wasn't even there. Just the barest amount of lighting remained and the constant hum of the super computer that Al normally thought of as the lifeblood of the building was no longer there to comfort him. It was the shell of a dream. All the work and passion he and Sam had poured into it had leaked out a hole in the bottom. He rested a hand on the console, feeling the cool surface against his palm. He should leave, he thought. In spite of how incredibly sick he felt, he couldn't bring himself to go. He stood there for a very long time - a couple of hours at least, without moving a muscle. Finally, he walked slowly to the door, jammed open now that Ziggy wasn't there to control them. He stood in the doorway on his way out, realizing he had just turned his back on everything. But he had no choice. He simply had nothing left. "Can you understand that, Sam?" he asked the empty room, almost a plea. "There's nothing left here. I don't want to leave you alone, but I have no choice." He leaned against the door jam, slid slowly to the floor, and wept in the darkness. ^----^----^----^----^ Februrary, 1989 - Original History San Diego, CA She screamed. It made no difference. The first pills she was given were sedatives and from there on out, she was helpless. Brakes screeched as Sam pulled up to the trailer and he never even stopped to remove his keys as he pulled himself out of the car and into Amber's room as fast as he could. "Rick!" he yelled, throwing the door open. Picking up the cosmetics Amber had scattered when she had been struggling was Amber's mother. "What the-" She looked up at him and then dropped the objects in her hand, trying to push past him and out the door. He started to grab for her, but then he caught sight of Amber slumped unnaturally over the chair and he let her go for the moment and rushed to Amber's side. "Please be alive, please...." he prayed as he felt at her neck for a pulse. It was thready and erratic but it was there. Picking up the phone, he struggled to lift her as he dialed 911. He gave the address as quickly as he could and then hung up before they could give him instructions. He was a doctor; he knew what he was doing. He managed to prod her into enough of a conscious state to induce vomiting without her choking, but then she slipped off again right after. "Amber? Amber, come on. Wake up!" He slapped her face lightly and then a little harder. No response. He felt for a pulse again and found none this time. Dropping her to the floor, he started CPR, desperation filling his tone as he pleaded with her. "Don't you dare die! Don't! Amber, you don't realize what a gift you have. Don't give up." He paused to breathe into her mouth and then continued. "Please..." After five minutes, Sam finally had to face facts: he had failed. Panting from exertion, he looked at her face and then collapsed beside her, crying for her and for the friend he thought must be dead. Distant sirens echoed the sentiment and he pulled himself from the floor, breathing heavily. "Al?" he called suddenly, not quite knowing why. But he knew it was futile. Amber was dead and Sam was dead and he was never going to get home. He simply couldn't make it without Al, and now, he had nothing left to live for. ^----^----^----^----^ March, 1989 - Original History San Diego, CA The day of the funeral came and the entire service went by in kind of a muffled blur. Amber had become someone who, with her innocence and her love, had touched his heart in a very short time. The image of her mother slowly killing her child appeared unbidden in his mind and he shuddered involuntarily. What kind of family had he leaped into? And, more importantly, why hadn't he leaped out? He knew as well as anyone else at Project Quantum Leap that success had nothing to do with leaping. Maybe there was something else he had to do but Al couldn't tell him because he was in Washington. Even as he thought it, a voice told him he was exercising wishful thinking. Al was no more in Washington than Sam himself was. Washington... *The project,* he thought, trying to control the rise of panic within him. "Oh, God," he murmured, half a prayer. He could speculate until the sun went down, but the horrible truth was that he was in the dark. Possibly forever. He opened his eyes slowly and noticed that he was the only one left at the grave. He looked down at the flowers he still clutched in his hand. Bending forward, he laid them on the grave. In his mind, as much as he tried to prevent it, the flowers wre as much for Al as they were for Amber. *You don't know that,* he told himself. The internal debate had been going on for the past two days, ever since Amber died, and he still hadn't resolved it. And when he looked inside himself for the answer, all he found was an empty hole into which he had lost more than his best friend; he had lost himself. Pushing back the dark thoughts, he smiled slightly as he placed the calla lillies beside the stone, brushing a petal with a finger before straightening again. "I'm sorry I failed, Amber," he said, fighting the intense sorrow that threatened to overwhelm him. "I couldn't help Al, but I was supposed to help you. And I'm sorry it had to end this way." He placed his palm on the cool surface of the store, feeling something that represented death, much as Al had at the project, a decade in the future. "I love you, you know? Not Jacob - Sam Beckett. I only knew you a few days, but I love you very much. Wherever you are, I hope you know that." He blinked once and abandoned the grave.