"The Final Chapter"  pt. V

July, 2000
Santa Fe, NM

  Sam kicked at an invisible piece of trash on the floor and
swallowed back another sigh. "What two people?" he asked, then
held up his hand. "Wait. First, can you tell me where I'm going?"
  "Uh..." Al hit a few buttons on the handlink, then smacked it
viciously. Sam's face formed into a wry grin at the familiar
sight. "Well, we really don't have a lot of information on this
project, Sam, beyond what you and I both know, but my guess is
you're either beginning or ending your shift."
  "Terrific. Al, how much trouble is Karen - am _I_ going to get
into if I'm not working?"
  Al shrugged. "Well, let's see if Ziggy can find one of your
roommates and you can ask her. You risk looking foolish, but-"
  "-But it's better than wandering the halls all afternoon," Sam
resumed. "Okay, where do I go?"
  "Hang on a second...Ziggy's doing a spatial evaluation of - ah,
here it is. Turn right at this next corridor and then go straight
down to the end of the hall," he explained, making pointing
motions with his hand.
  Sam moved to follow the directions, resuming his pace as well
as the earlier line of conversation. "So who dies?"
  "We're not exactly sure they die, as such..." Al replied,
moving to walk next to Sam.
  "Oh, wonderful. Just tell me what we do know, please."
  "All right, just keep cool, Sam. It's around this time that two
women, who were working here, disappear. Their families stop
hearing from them, Franklin denies their existence, and nobody
ever finds their bodies."
  "Names, Al. Names would be nice."
  "Oh, uh, Mason Ricca and...Sandy Hiller."
  "And I find these people where?"
  Al dropped his hand to his side in frustration. "We just don't
have this information. How do you propose we find it?"
  "I don't know. Go talk to Franklin," he suggested bitterly.
  "Oh, sure, I'm certain he'll be happy to help out."
  Sam stopped walking. "Don't look at me like I'm nuts. I haven't
lost my memory this time. You could just threaten to kill him
again." As soon as the words left his mouth, he regretted them.
  Al dropped his gaze.
  "We never talked about that, did we?" Sam questioned carefully,
  "We never talked about anything unless you were leaping," Al
mumbled half-heartedly.
  "That's simply not true," he protested. "Don't shut me out of
this one." He stopped talking and pretended to study the files in
his hand as someone walked by. When he looked back up, Al was
staring past him at the wall. "What were you thinking, Al?"
  "I was thinking of taking care of our problems."
  "By going to prison?" he demanded. The memory of how calm and
rational Al had been when he held a senator at gunpoint ran
chills through his body. He was certain if he hadn't been there,
Al would have shot him. "I'm sure Beth would have been delighted
with you for that one."
  Al looked back at his partner. "She was scared of him, Sam.
Besides, it doesn't really matter now, does it?"
  Sam shrugged slightly, his shoulders dropping back down
heavily. "Do you really think it's worse this way for her?"
  "I don't know. I mean, I want to say yes. But..."
  "You don't know if you really mean for her or you?" Sam
questioned gently.
  "Yeah," he admitted reluctantly.
  Sam nodded slowly. "There's only one way to find out."
  "Ooooh, no, I couldn't." Al took a step backwards. "And even if
I did and she said that no, things had been terrible for her the
past two years, I don't think I could hear that knowing I
couldn't change it."
  The scientist folded his arms. Al had a point, he had to admit,
and he was beginning to regret bringing it up. "What were you
going to do after you shot him, Al?" he asked, surprised at his
own words.
  Al shrugged, the sudden question not seeming to phase him at
all. "Turn myself in, I guess." He shifted uncomfortably. "You
had better find out where you're supposed to be, right?" he said,
indicating the end of the conversation. "I'm gonna go check on a
few things, namely what you and I have been up to the past couple
of years."
  Sam sighed. "Back to the old grind, I suppose."
  "I'll be back soon," Al promised, sensing Sam needed the
  "Tell Donna I said hello."
  The admiral smiled slightly in encouragement and let the door

July, 2002
Stallions Gate, NM

  Memories were sifting around and a few were beginning to fall
into place. It had never taken this long before, except maybe
with Donna. That had taken quite a lot of getting used to. He was
certain she had thought him insane when he first saw her standing
outside of the Imaging Chamber. He could no longer remember his
exact reaction to her presence, but he knew it had been drastic.
He vaguely recalled Verbena Beeks using the word "shock".
  Al Calavicci sat at his desk, studying leap after leap that he
didn't remember yet. Two years' worth. He didn't remember yet all
of what went on in his own life, but he guessed with all these
consecutive leaps that he had been very busy. He felt a flash of
pride that he had apparently been able to keep the funding coming
all that time.
  And then there was the other project. He wasn't sure of the
exact circumstances of how it had eventually gone under, but he
had a vague impression of having been there when it did. He was
working on paperwork when they had called. McBride had called him
from Santa Fe, telling him that Senator Franklin had gone under
and was being taken into custody as they spoke and would he have
a few hours to come help her clean up this mess. Not only that,
but she had a few names for him that she felt certain would
improve the staffing conditions at Project Quantum Leap. Sam's
leap hadn't been particularly dire and he'd jumped at the

     ^Al wandered the halls until he found a small aggregation of
people gathered around a table where a fresh pot of coffee was
brewing. Absently, he wondered how long everyone had been here
before he was able to pull himself away and drive over. 
     Senator McBride looked up when her aide pointed and beckoned
him over. "Admiral, it's good to see you when I'm not looking
down from the Committee Board Meetings."
     Al grinned slightly and shook her hand firmly. "Senator," he
returned. "So what exactly is going on here?"
     He listened carefully as she outlined the situation for him,
nodding periodically, all the while processing the information
and trying to figure out what that meant for Quantum Leap. They
had conversed for several minutes until movement just on the edge
of his vision caught his eye and he glanced at a tall woman,
pushing a wheelchair. He started to turn his attention back to
the senator when he caught sight of who was _in_ the wheelchair.
     He put out his hand to touch McBride's arm, cutting her off
in mid-sentence. "Who is that?" he asked, never removing his gaze
from the face of the woman in the chair. She didn't see him.
     The senator looked at him curiously and then started rifling
through papers, attracting Al's attention. 
     "Forget the name, who _is_ she? I mean, why is she here?"
     "Oh," realization dawned and she laid the papers down on the
table. "She's been held here against her will for the past year.
Apparently, Franklin was going to use her as a leaper."
     Al felt as if he had been punched in the stomach. "Who's
that with her?"
     "Dr. Williams. She's a psychologist. We called her up here
this afternoon."
     Al let go of her arm, which he had failed to realize he
still held, and walked away from her without another word,
earning a stunned gaze at his retreating back.
     "I just need to get some papers and I'll be back out to take
you up, okay?" Williams was saying to her and Al saw her nod
slightly and close her eyes.
     Al maneuvered to corner the doctor. "Excuse me," he said,
amazed at the automatic formality that had come out of his own
mouth. "Is she okay?"
     Williams spared a fleeting glance at the back of the
wheelchair and sighed. "Well if you're referring to her physical
condition, she'll be fine in a week or so. As for her mental
health, well," she sighed again, "I'm afraid that's going to take
a little more time...Admiral," she added belatedly, noting the
     "Why the chair?"
     "She's exhausted and we just decided it would be easier on
her. Plus Dr. Cone said she was slightly malnourished and
dehydrated. There are a few other problems here and there, but I
haven't reviewed the entire file yet. I just got here about 40
minutes ago myself."
     Al took a deep breath. "Where's she going?"
     "I was just going to wheel her up and we're going to put her
up in a hotel in Santa Fe. Someone's waiting outside to take her
there. And, I think, her husband's flying in tomorrow to get
her." Al flinched. "I think they'll find her again later for
questioning, but we all decided, with emphasis from myself, that
it would be better if we got her back into familiar surroundings
around people she knows before we press." Al was still staring at
the chair when she asked him curiously, "are you Admiral
     He snapped his gaze back to her. "Why?"
     Williams shrugged. "She asked for him. We found her and she
gave us her husband's address and phone, asked us to call him.
Then she asked if Admiral Calavicci was going to be here. I don't
know what she was told. Are you?"
     Al opened his mouth, closed it again, and nodded. "Listen,
do you mind if I take her topside? I need to talk to her anyhow."
     She looked him up and down slowly and then shrugged and
handed him her clipboard while she fished around for a pen.
"Sure. Let me give you my number to give to her driver. So we
know where she's going to be tonight." Al waited while she
scribbled down a number and handed it to him. "And have her drink
something," she added, gesturing with the pen at the table that
held a pitcher of ice water.
     Al nodded and returned the clipboard, moving to fill a paper
cup with some water. Then he took a deep breath, let it out
slowly, and walked over.
     By this point, she was leaning forward, resting her elbows
on the arms of the chair, her face buried in her hands. He
touched her shoulder gently, moving the cup into her line of
vision. She jumped and moved her arms down by her side. "Here,"
he prodded, moving the water closer to her right hand, "the
doctor said you should drink something." Williams had been right;
she looked like she hadn't had a good night's sleep in a long
     Beth accepted the cup from him after a moment. "You _are_
here," she said without even looking up at him. He wasn't sure if
she was saying it to herself or him, and he pushed the wheelchair
down the hall and around a corner to avoid the prying eyes of the
conglomeration of people still making reports, as well as a fair
amount receiving them, in the hallway. 
     When she still persisted on gazing at the floor, he walked
around to the front of the chair and knelt down. "Yeah," he said
finally. "I'm here. How did you know?"
     She shrugged slightly, as if it didn't matter. But she'd
asked for him - _about_ him - that had to mean something, right?
She had obviously been through a lot and it tore him up inside to
see her so quiet and self-contained. White-knuckled hands
clenched the edges of a thin sweater tightly, pulling it more
securely around herself. "I've known you were part of this line
of work for about a year, according to Dr. Williams. Franklin
mentioned you."
     "Franklin," he repeated dryly. He considered this for a
moment. "Well I've known you were here for about ten minutes, so
go easy on me, okay?" he prodded gently.
     She smiled faintly and met his eyes for the first time. Al
felt a wave of...something pass through him.
     He drew in a shaky breath and wiped a hand across his brow.
"How about you let me take you to the hotel?"
     "I don't think so, Al." 
     At the sound of his name from her lips, the feeling
blanketed him again and he shuddered. However he could describe
the sensation, "pleasant" would not top the list. He swallowed
tightly and rose, resuming the walk towards the elevator at the
end of the hall. They rode upwards in the oppressive silence and
it became obvious to him that she was internalizing all the
painful emotions she was feeling and they were threatening to
destroy her.
     There was a small flight of three stairs before the front
entrance and she rose, not without effort, and climbed them
slowly while he pulled up the wheelchair. She leaned against the
wall, watching him as he fumbled with the locks on the wheels.
When he finally turned to face her, she was holding her stomach
as if she was in pain.
     He held out a hand to her. "Beth," he said quietly,
imploringly. "Please."
     She let his offer hang there between them, not moving one
way or the other.
     Finally she reached out a shaky hand which he clasped
readily, pulling her into a loose embrace just as the trembling
spread, consuming her entire body. "It's okay," he soothed,
rubbing her back. 
     Beth simply held on for dear life.^

  He had asked her again, then, if he could take her to the
hotel, and she'd accepted. He wasn't certain what he was looking
for, and he certainly didn't know what she wanted of him, but a
familiar source of comfort seemed to be her main requirement and
he was happy to oblige. Not but a few minutes into the trip
there, she had fallen asleep and she didn't wake up when they
reached the hotel, while he checked into a room for her. Nor did
she wake up when he brought her up to the room and put her into
the bed, pulling up the covers, and turning off the light. She
didn't even shift in the bed as he studied her face from the
afternoon light the shades couldn't quite block out, and he could
only assume she had remained just as still as he locked the door
behind him when he left.
  Now, in light of all these new memories that were in actuality
over a year old, Al Calavicci stared at the phone on his desk. He
had been staring at it for a good ten minutes, by his count.
  ^"There's only one way to find out"
  "Ooooh no, I couldn't."^
  Al bit his lip, squared his shoulders, and lifted the receiver.