Book II, Part XIV

				February, 2001
				Stallions Gate, NM

Al took a deep breath as he made his way down the hallway. Beth was in her
lab, trying to work herself back into her normal routine, as much for him as
for herself, he suspected. It was a futile exercise as their reason for
existing was no longer there and therefore there was no reason for them to
still be operational. Still, her efforts were comforting.

Besides, Al had ideas, plans. Finally.

He glanced up as the elevator door opened and Dr. Spenard looked curiously at
him. He inclined his head as Al entered the enclosed space. "Admiral."

Al narrowed his eyes slightly, but his voice was conversational. "Doctor. How
much longer are you staying at Project Quantum Leap?"

Spenard took off his glasses and scrubbed at them with the corner of his
shirt. "Perhaps just another few days, depending. For observational purposes."
Al sighed. "What about you?"

The admiral glanced up in surprise. "I'm not leaving."

Spenard cocked his head to one side and replaced the glasses. "You're not
being shut down."

Al snorted. "Not if I have anything to do about it."

The doctor held out his hands as if to calm his companion, though Al seemed
more determined than distressed. "Please understand me, Admiral, you have only
just begun the long process of recovery from this. I would hate to have to
extend my stay longer because-"

"Don't worry about it," Al stated tightly. "You'll be able to get back to your
country club soon enough."

The replying stare was slightly affronted. "You must also understand
the...things I did, the things I suggested... I was simply doing my duty as a

"I understand." Al's words were unconvincing. "But now you understand: Sam
Beckett is my partner and my friend and I will do whatever it takes to get him

The expected retaliation never came. Instead, Spenard actually smiled. "I
think I just got it."

"Got what?"

There was respect in the man's eyes as the elevator doors slid open. "You,
Admiral. I think I finally got you." He nodded slightly. "It's been a
pleasure," he stated, then left Al in the stunned aftermath.


"No. Out of the question."

Al paced two more full lengths before the pain forced him to retake his seat.

"Does Beth know you're here?" the psychiatrist asked. 
"Don't change the subject."

"I didn't. I closed it," she replied simply. She tossed her pencil onto the
desk. "Now you answer my question."

Al was about to push his point, but he decided he'd get his issue addressed
faster if he relented to her stubbornness. "No, she doesn't know I'm here. I
haven't spoken with her, either," he added before she could press that button,

"Don't you think you should?"

"You can't stop me," he stated, ignoring her question.

"The hell I can't," she said forcefully. "Al, take a look at yourself! You
just had two surgical operations a week and a half ago! Goodness, how long did
it take you to get down to my office unassisted?" Al's expression was hard.
"And then I hear from Donna that you want to leap? Oh, no...no way."

"I have to. Verbena, the Committee's gonna cut us off at the knees."

"And what good will leaping do? If you knew where he was we could find him,
couldn't we?" He dropped his head, staring at the base of her desk. "What?"

"Nothing, Beeks. It's nothing."

She could tell he wanted to be pressed, but she didn't think she had the
energy. "Al..." He looked back up. "Don't you trust me yet?"

He slid forward a few inches. "Do you remember Beth telling you that
she...felt..." He stumbled, embarrassed.


His gaze steadied. "Yeah." He exhaled heavily. "Everything about this
situation is weird."

"So we agree on something," she remarked, drawing a reluctant smile from the
admiral. "So you have the same connection with Sam?"

"Normally, I'd say no. I mean, I don't feel anything unique or inexplicable."

"But," she supplied. Even when Al came to her office of his own volition, it
was like pulling teeth to get anything constructive from him.

"But...when I was about ready to give in, there was a sensation of...someone
there. I don't know, Verbena, I can't explain it." He said the last as a
halfhearted mumble. She'd been told as much as she was going to get in that

"So what makes you think leaping is going to do anyone any good?"

She saw the relief in his eyes as she drew the conversation away from the
metaphysical and back into the logical and tangible. "I figure if...whatever
this is that's going on is so strong that physical objects have been pulled
from Sam's world into mine, maybe I can hit the mark."

"By leaping."

He winced. "By...leaping."

"Why not standing in the Imaging Chamber?"

"I tried that already. I was in there for five hours this morning."

A look of disbelief crossed her features. Since when did Al Calavicci give up
on anything after just five hours? She studied his face, noting the lack of
color in his cheeks and the discomfort in his black eyes. She toyed briefly
with the idea of forcing him to go back on medication for the pain, but then
changed her mind. She'd lose that one for sure. "Why don't you give it some
more time, Al?"

"We don't have time, remember?" he exploded, slumping back in defeat.

"How are we going to get you back?"

"Sammy Jo's coming back from her vacation tonight. I was gonna talk to her

She sat back, considering him. "I want to be there when you talk to her and I
want Donna there, too." He nodded reluctantly. "For now, you should discuss
this with Beth, don't you think?"

"I was going to," he stated, his tone indignant. "I wouldn't commit to leaving
without talking to her, first. I made that mistake once and once was enough."

While she tried to figure out just what he meant by that, he rose slowly to
his feet and left her office.

				March, 1998
				Fairbanks, AK

"I've got to go out tonight, Dad," Jessie called as she snagged her coat from
the back of the armchair.

"Hold it." Sam dropped the paper he was reading. He'd spent the last twenty
minutes in the Burtons' small den. The wood paneling and the soft, tan colored
furniture, and pale red carpeting created an atmosphere that was relaxing and
helped him think. "Where are you going?"

"Out. Sharon and Carrie are waiting for me."

Sam glanced at the header on the paper again. Fairbanks, AK. Wednesday, March
9, 1998. "Don't you have homework?"


She met his gaze steadily, but he could see a coldness there. He'd seen the
expression from time to time, especially in Al's eyes. It was a wall he'd
construct to hide emotions he wasn't equipped to deal with, so, instead, he'd
determine not to feel anything at all. All those years Sam had fought with him
to overcome that made dread crawl in his stomach when he sensed the same thing
in Jessie. "Why don't you stay in tonight? It's getting late and it's been a
long evening."

"I promised I'd meet them there."


"The library."

That was definitely a lie. Sam bit back an irritated response. "Thought you
didn't have any homework."

"We're just meeting there."

Sam folded his hands in his lap. "And then where are you going?"

She pulled on the coat. "I don't have to tell you everything."

There was more going on here than just teenage defiance. Her attitude towards
him in the hospital, Sherri's concern for her, all the signs pointed to a
troubled person. "I'm your father. That means you do."

"What do you care?"

He felt the feeling intensify. "I care. Why wouldn't I care?"

"Because..." She took a step away from the door. "Because you don't even care
that Mom is dying. You sit with her all the time, but you don't care."

He blinked against the unfairness of it all. Sam certainly cared, and he
couldn't fathom Sherri marrying anyone who would turn an apathetic shoulder
towards her. "Jessie, you're wrong."

"Well...you just don't understand," she retorted, signaling that her earlier
comments had indeed been out of line.

"So tell me."

He expected her to explode, to rail out at him that he was unfair, that the
world was unfair. Instead, she tightened her facial muscles into a grimace as
she fought back tears. "I have to go," she said quickly, unsteadily. Then she
fled out the front door, letting it slam sharply behind her.

He wanted to go after her - his first instinct was to get up and call to her
from the front steps, but he sensed that she needed her space. Her mother was
dying and that couldn't be an easy thing for someone her age to face.
Especially at that fragile time when everything else in her world was already
in a state of constant flux.

Sam sank back into the armchair and took a heavy breath. *Oh, Jessie...you
think you can avoid pain forever? I tried it...when my father died. And you
can only go so far before it all catches up with you.*

Problem was, once it did catch up, it could wreak disaster. Again, Sam thought
of Al. And he worried. He closed his eyes and forced himself to relax in the
chair, forced himself to clear his mind and focus. He was out there on his
own, leaping from life to life without direction, without guidance, without
his observer.

Sam Beckett reached out to his friend, trying simply to determine that he
existed. For a full half hour, he sat there, beginning to feel vaguely
idiotic. He was just about to give up and shake off his frustrations, when his
mental probings reached what he had been searching for. In a world of mist and
nothingness, he was aware of a channel of life as distinct as the clothing Al
always wore. It was a small vein crisscrossing with thousands - millions - of
others, but it was there.

In that instant, Sam felt his courage and determination and he knew Al was
worried, knew he was scared for his friend. But he was alive.


Sam jolted awake to see Jeff standing anxiously at his side. He quickly
overcame his momentary disorientation and was just left with the mystery of
what he'd experienced. He prayed it wasn't a dream.

"What is it, Jeff?"

"I'm going to bed."

Sam hugged him. "Okay." Then he patted the boy's shoulder. "It's going to be

"Is she gonna get better?"

Sam's expression was strained. "I don't think so, Jeff, but I was telling you
the truth - it is going to be okay. Just because someone dies doesn't mean
it's not."

*Please, God, don't let it have been a dream.*

				February, 2001
				Stallions Gate, NM

"Are you insane?!"

So far, the conversation wasn't going well. Al felt he should be defending his
decision, but thus far she was still too upset. "Beth..." he said in what he
desperately hoped was a reassuring voice.

She stood facing him from the opposite side of their small living area. He
wasn't sure if it was subconscious or not, but she'd moved so the couch was
between them. "Don't," she stressed in a tone tinged with anxiety. She held
out her hands, palms towards him. "Just...stop for a moment, okay?"

He nodded, keeping his distance. "Sorry."

She hugged herself tightly, her distress charging the room and making the
nerves on the back of his neck tingle. She was taking this even worse than
he'd imagined. "So let me understand this." Her voice wasn't sarcastic - in
fact, it was dangerously close to tears. "You want to leap. You don't know
where or when, but you want to do it anyhow. You know Sam's leaped in, but the
visitor is unresponsive. You haven't felt a thing since, but you want to make
a blind shot in the dark anyhow. And you have no idea how to get back. Is that
it, Al?" She backed up against the wall. "You almost died. And now it feels
the same as giving up."

"It's not giving up," Al countered, "it's anything but! Giving up would be to
stand by and let Congress close us down."

She leaned against the wall as if wishing it would open up and swallow her.
"Al, I just... This is just too much too soon. You still have trouble sleeping
through the night without nightmares or, more often, pain." His expression
made it clear he didn't appreciate being reminded of that. "How are you going
to make it through a leap?"

"I was hoping not to have to."

"How are you going to prevent it?"

He looked hopefully at her. "I'm talking to Sammy Jo the instant she gets back
to discuss that."

"Sammy Jo," she echoed in hollow tones. "No offense to her genius, which
rivals even Sam's, but she hasn't been able to bring him home yet."

He advanced a few steps. "We won't know anything until I talk to her."

She inhaled deeply, willing herself to relax. It didn't work. "I, um, I have
to get some air. I need to go for a drive or something."

Al bridge the gap then and put his hands on her shoulders, relieved when she
didn't pull back. "Beth, you shouldn't go out when you're this upset."

"I'm a big girl, Al, I can handle it."

"You shouldn't drive," he emphasized, ducking down to meet her gaze. 

She raised her head. "Do you have any idea how hard it is when the qualities I
respect and love about you are the ones that cut me so deep?"

The sorrow in his eyes was a sharp contrast to the strong front of before.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, touching her cheek.

"So am I. Thing is, it doesn't help." She pulled his hand from her face and
left the room and their quarters.

A suffocating grip of panic clutched at Al's senses and he broke free from his
trance and ran out into the hallway. "Beth! Wait!"

She turned in her tracks and he could see the tears she hadn't wanted him to
see. "I'm just going for a walk. I'll be back." The expression on his face
must have been frantic because she forced out a weak smile. "I'll be back."

He desperately wanted to go after her, but he restrained himself, let her
leave from sight. His world had been turned upside down and inside out ever
since Cokeberg. He'd never had such strong feelings regarding Sam until then,
and he'd never needed such constant reassurance from Beth that she was going
to come back to him every time she walked out the door until the moment he had
a family to care about. It was still just too close to the time when he'd
still lost her for him to feel at all comfortable about the way she'd just
left his - _their_ - quarters.

*Why am I doing this? I had to wait so long to get her back - why do I have to
turn around and leave her again?* She'd argued, but never asked him not to go
because she knew he couldn't just sit back and let this go. She'd even tried
to keep from breaking down in front of him, tried to make an already difficult
decision a little easier. Instead, it made it that much harder.

What if he didn't come back? He didn't even have the faintest idea of the
stats, but they couldn't be good. Why was he banking everything on the pitiful
odds (odds he certainly wouldn't bet on) that he'd just happen to arrive in
the same place as Sam? Since when did Al Calavicci rely on blind faith?

*Since God gave me Beth back. Since He gave me four beautiful daughters. Since
He gave me a friend like Sam to keep me from screwing it all up.*

Since it was the only chance he had.


Several stories above him, Beth Calavicci sat underneath an outcropping of
rock, staring at the clear sky, and wondering how she was going to handle it
if Al never came back.