CHAPTER THIRTEEN Sam fell to his knees. "She's gone! Oh, God, she's gone!" "I'll - I'll see if Ziggy can locate her." Al's hands shook as much as his voice as he punched sequences on the handlink. "What am I going to do?" whispered Sam. "What am I going to do without her?" "We'll find her, Sam. We'll find her," rasped Al. "We've GOT to." He smacked the handlink, heedless of his wet face. "Come ON, you useless piece of junk!" The handlink gave a sudden squawk. "Don't waste your TIME?" Sudden rage made Al's voice hit a new high. "You've got more IMPORTANT things to do?" He shook the plastic rectangle so hard, it nearly flew out of his hands. It squawked again and he stopped his shaking so he could read its display. "Z-ziggy says she's here." He lifted widening eyes to the doorway into the living- room. "Right here." "If you're going to stay up half the night again with your pal, Sam," said Helen as she strode through the doorway, "then at least you could answer the phone so I don't have to stay up half the night, too!" Both men suddenly became aware that the phone was still ringing, that it had been ringing all the time since that split second before William had attacked ZoŽ. "H-helen?" stammered Sam. She stood, hands jammed on hips, glaring at him, dressed in the blue top and faded jeans. "What are you doing down there, Sam? Have you lost something?" Sam was off his knees and had her crushed against him before she had a chance to draw another breath. "Yes," he answered thickly into her hair. "I thought I'd lost YOU!" "Sa-am!" Helen wriggled away from him, half laughing, half exasperated. "Al's still here! If you wanted a cuddle you should have taken me to bed. Then you'd know exactly where I'd be - lost in space with you!" Sam locked his arms tightly around her again. "Oh, Helen, don't joke. I thought I'd lost you forever." "If I don't joke, I shall get mad instead! I was on the sofa, asleep - or I was until that darn thing woke me up!" She struggled to reach around him to the phone shrilling on the wall. Sam held her fast, banding one arm around her back, threading the other into her hair. She felt warm, vibrant, her hair silky. Her heart beat against him. "Let me go, Sam. It might be one of my overseas relatives." Sam ignored her. "Have we all died and gone to heaven, Al?" he asked softly over Helen's shoulder. Al absently punched a sequence on the handlink, while staring at Helen as though a magician had pulled her out of a hat. "No, we haven't," retorted Helen. "They don't have phones in heaven." The handlink made an annoyed noise and Al dragged his eyes from Helen's wriggling form to glance at it. "Ziggy says he won't even dignify that with a reply." Helen's eyes were flashing green with annoyance, which faded rapidly as she saw Sam's look. "I'm no ghost, Sam." She pinched his arm, suddenly concerned. "See? Is everything all right?" A huge smile lit his face. "Yes, Helen. Everything's fine." Reassured by the smile, she said, "Then can I PLEASE answer the phone? It's driving me crazy!" Sam loosened his grip enough so she could pick up the instrument. Realising his legs were shaking, he sank onto the nearest dining chair, settling Helen firmly on his knee. As he sat, he bumped against the table. The armies of chess pieces, which stood as he and David had left them, shivered but remained sturdily upright. All save the black king, who wobbled precariously, then toppled over, defeated. "Hello?... Mamo?" Helen put her hand over the mouthpiece. "It's my grandmother in Australia." Sam nodded absently, running his hands over her, checking she was undamaged and all there in the proper order. Helen squirmed and tried to fend him off with her free hand, pulling faces. "Your timing's way off this time, Mamo. You woke me up." She glanced up at the clock. "It's almost half past midnight. I'm glad you did, though, I was having a bad dream." Covering the mouthpiece again, she hissed, "Will you leave me alone? Just wait! I want to talk to Mamo." Sam subsided and contented himself with burying his face in her hair. The smell of her, muskiness and faint, lemony shampoo, reassured him more than anything else that she was real. "Is everything okay?" continued Helen into the phone. "You sound tired... Working too hard? Hmm, yes, I bet. So take life a little easier, Mamo, you're entitled. Let other people do things for you... Yes, everything's GREAT here." She gave Sam a quick peck on the cheek. "I'm feeling much better than when you last phoned. The lilies you sent for Mom were beautiful. She would have loved them..." Helen continued to chat away. Sam looked at Al. "Is ZoŽ dead?" he asked quietly. "Ziggy's not sure. She was still alive when she Leaped - but only just. Depends on the med facilities they have, I guess. Oh, Ziggy has a theory. If that computer - Lothos - has sufficient control of the Leaps to Retrieve ZoŽ and she's back where she came from, then she's no longer a Leaper. That means that, even if she is dead, she's no longer your counterpart, so you won't die." "Tell Ziggy that's the best theory he's had in a long time!" The handlink gave a little chirp. "He says you're welcome." Helen dug a very sharp elbow into Sam's ribs. "Sam! I'm talking to you. Listen to ME! Have you seen William? Mamo wants to know." Sam glanced involuntarily at the place where he'd last seen the inanimate body of Helen's pet. There was nothing. Not even a single cat hair remained as testament to William's courageous attack. Sam cleared his throat. "I - er, I -" The cat-flap in the back door swung. William stalked in, tail high, looking extremely pleased with himself. He sat in the middle of the kitchen and unsheathed the claws of one elegant forepaw while staring at Sam. Sam thought the lid closed momentarily over one emerald eye, but the cat dropped his gaze and began to fastidiously clean his claws, licking them with his little pink tongue, so Sam couldn't be certain. Helen laughed at the cat's smug expression. "William's fine, Mamo. He's just come in. He looks like he's made the biggest dog in the neighborhood turn tail and run." "I think that's exactly what he did," remarked Al. William gave a meow and trotted over to the hologram. He rubbed himself once around Al's ankles, then ran lightly into the living-room and settled onto his favorite chair. Helen dug Sam in the ribs again. She held out the phone. "Mamo wants to speak to Brian Palmer, and before you ask, no, I've never mentioned him OR you to her. I told you the other night, you don't need to tell her things, she already knows." Grinning, she shook the phone at him. "Go on - take it." Hesitantly, Sam took the instrument. "Hello? M-mamo?" he said, not knowing what else to call Helen's grandmother. There was a pause, due, Sam knew, to the delay from the satellite relay, before a faint voice came down the line. "Hello, Dr Beckett. I hope you're enjoying your holiday - what is it you Americans call it, now? - your vacation, with my grand-daughter. Such a silly word - vacation. Always makes me think of vacant and empty - and I'm sure Angharad's not let it be that." The voice sounded weary beyond belief for all its inconsequential talk, and Sam couldn't tell if it was old or young. He could tell, however, that it was Welsh - all Welsh - with no trace of an Australian twang. Helen's faint lilt was there, but so strongly marked it was almost like hearing someone sing, not speak. "Angharad?" he queried, picking on the one thing the woman had said that he didn't know, ignoring all the things she knew. "That's me," whispered Helen. "She always calls me that." "Her father insisted on Helen," said the faint, musical voice, "and my Myfanwy, bless her, never could say 'no' to her husband - not when it was something that really mattered to him. But she's a true Angharad for all that - she sees past what's on the outside - the lies and the deceit - sees what's in your heart. And that's what counts, isn't it? Especially in your case, hey?" Sam gave a weak laugh. "Yeah, I guess it is." "'You guess'? Now there's another American phrase I shall never understand. You Yanks never KNOW anything - you always have to guess!" In the background as she spoke, Sam distinctly heard a clock chime the four quarters and the hour. He laughed again. "Yes, I KNOW that's what counts. And I also know your clock doesn't count very well. The time I mean. It's only just gone half past whatever. It shouldn't be striking the hour." At Sam's words, Al frowned up at the kitchen clock before tapping a query into the handlink. "Oh no," Mamo disagreed. "MY clock's never out of time. It's always right, come what may. My timing's never out, either, for all my granddaughter seems to think it was tonight. In fact, I'd say it was just about perfect, wouldn't you? Though I must admit, I almost didn't get through at all. I had to expend much more energy on the block than I'd thought - thanks to your computer. Considering how clever you made it, surely it should be able to tell when someone is trying to help?" Sam gulped, unable to think of any suitable reply. "Well, now, enough of this silly blabbering. I'm feeling very tired and that's a fact. Hardest work I've had to do since... Do you know, I really can't remember. I must be getting old at last. I need to go and rest my weary bones. Oh, but there was something I had to do first. Now what was it? Ah, yes, of course. Now, Sam - you don't mind if I call you Sam, do you?" "No, I don't mind, I gue-" Sam bit back the rest of his remark. "Good. Now, Sam, I need you to promise me something, if you please." "What's that?" he asked cautiously. "I need you to promise you won't talk to Angharad about what happened tonight. She doesn't remember any of it - and a good thing, too. You'll only frighten her if you do, and she'll have enough to do without looking over her shoulder for that ZoŽ, or someone like her, all the time. Will you promise me, Sam?" Helen was watching him, her eyes gleaming with laughter at his various expressions of astonishment. Sam thought of the terror and horror he had seen in the same eyes a short time before. "I promise." "Good. Now, in return I'll make YOU a promise. You needn't worry about Angharad's safety after you've gone. I promise nothing will happen to her, you can rest easy on that score. We won't let anything happen. Trust me, Sam, I KNOW all will be well with her. Do you understand?" "Yes," he replied, though he didn't really understand anything, except that the tired thread of a voice on the other end of the line was completely trustworthy. "So now, you can enjoy what remains of your vacation with my grand- daughter. I wish, for both your sakes, you could have more time together-" "Do you know how much more?" There was a long pause, far longer than merely the satellite delay. When Mamo eventually spoke, her voice was very gentle. "No-one knows how much time they have together, Sam. You're exactly the same as everyone else in that respect. I can promise you, you'll have every second possible. Try not to spoil it with wondering and wishing." "I won't, I promise that, too." "Hmm. I know you'll try. Well, I must be off for a nap before I doze off right here. I'm going to see that new film after I've had a bit of supper. You know the one - 'Star Wars'. I gather it's a bit like a cross between 'Star Trek' and King Arthur - so it should be exactly my cup of tea. It's been nice talking to you. Good-bye, Sam." "No - wait, WAIT... Hello? Are you still there?" After what seemed an age, the lilting voice came again. "Yes, I'm still here." Sam heard a yawn being stifled. "What do you want?" "What ARE you? I mean, WHO are you? Are you really a - a witch?" "A witch?" exclaimed Al. "Oh, come on, Sam. You'll be saying you believe in ogres and elves and fairies next. There's no such thing as witches." A low chuckle sounded down the phone. "A witch? But I can't be, there's no such thing as witches. And I'm certainly not an angel, if that's what you're thinking." Sam almost dropped the phone, because that's precisely what he was thinking. "MY name's not Angelita Carmen Guadalupe Cecilia Jimenez. No, Sam, I'm just a grandmother - a Mamo. But I must admit I approve of the nickname you've given Angharad, much more fitting than 'honey' or 'doll- face'!" Another yawn was stifled. "Oh dear, there I go again. I'm looking forward to meeting you, Sam Beckett - you and that cigar- smoking, peacock-dressing friend of yours. We will meet, you know,some time. Give the Admiral my regards, won't you? Good-bye, Sam. God bless." There was a faint click and the line went dead. "She's gone," said Sam to Helen, staring at the phone as if it was the fibula of a new species of dinosaur. "Sam," said Al, "Ziggy says we've lost twenty-eight minutes. Boy, is that all it took?" he added to himself. "It seemed like hours." Sam blinked. "Er, yeah, I realised we must have." He handed the phone back to Helen, who was grinning like a monkey stranded in a banana plantation. He gazed thoughtfully at her while saying, "Mamo sends you her regards, Al." "Oh, thanks," acknowledged Al absently, intent on the handlink's display. "Helen, do you know anyone called Angela - no, AngeLITA Carmen Guadalupe Cecilia Jimenez?" "No. Am I supposed to?" "I don't know. It was just something Mamo said. I don't know anyone, either." "I do - did." Something in Al's tone made Sam look up sharply. "I mean - sort of..." Al wished he could sit down. He gulped. "Oh, boy!" "Al does," Sam told Helen, wondering why his friend should choose this point of the evening's events to turn so white. "Old girlfriend?" "Ooh, I bet she was tall and svelte with flashing dark eyes," said Helen. "And I bet he PERRRVED!" "You got the bit about the dark eyes right, but not much else, kid," answered Al dryly, feeling somewhat dazed. Seeing the color had come back to Al's face, Sam turned his attention back to the girl on his knee. Remembering his promise to her grandmother, he asked gently and very carefully, "Helen, you told Mamo you'd been dreaming. Can you tell me what happened in your dream?" "What? Oh. Not really. I remember it being hot, so hot I couldn't breathe, and there was a smell. A horrible, vile smell - sort of sharp, acrid..." "Rotten eggs?" supplied Sam as she struggled to find the right word. She shook her head. "No, not quite. It was more sort of chemical..." She snapped her fingers. "I've got it. Sulphur. That's what it was - sulphur. Maybe I was dreaming of chemistry lessons at high school. You know, Bunsen-burners and sulphuric acid. Whatever it was, it wasn't very nice, but then Mamo's call woke me and everything was all right." Eagerly she caught hold of his arms. "Isn't Mamo something else?" "Ohhh, yes," breathed Sam. "She's - extraordinary." "So you do believe in her now you've spoken to her, don't you?" Al frowned. "She doesn't remember a thing, does she? I'm glad, Sam, real glad." Giving a sudden shudder, he added, "I wish I didn't." "Me, too," agreed Sam, automatically tightening his arm around Helen. Her brows tugged together in confusion at his apparent reply. "I mean, yes, I do." Mamo had asked him to trust her in the same way her granddaughter had asked, and he knew he could trust her in exactly the same way he did Helen - without reservations. Helen would be safe. He smoothed back the red hair. "Yes, Helen, I'm a believer." "So am I." Muttering, Al continued, "If she knows about Angela she's ABSOLUTELY extraordinary!" Helen's mouth twitched. "Not a trace of doubt in your mind, Sam?" "Absolutely none." "Told you so," crowed Helen. "Now - are you ready for bed?" "Almost. I need to check something first. Al, where's David?" "Good point, Sam," acknowledged Al. "By the way, she's quoting the Monkees at you. Gushie! Center me on David." "Why do you want to check on David?" queried Helen. "Knowing the way he drives, he's probably already in his study, enjoying a glass of Napoleon brandy." "I only want to make sure he gets home safe." Sam's thumb stroked the side of her mouth. Smiling, he sang softly, "'I thought love was only found in fairy tales...'" Helen's eyes lit. "Ah. I thought that was lost in one of the holes in the Swiss-cheese." Sam grinned a little sheepishly. "Almost. I had a reminder from my hologrammatic friend. Speaking of whom..." "David's okay, Sam," said Al. "He's in the bar at the hotel, getting cozy with a Farrah Fawcett lookalike. 'Charlie's Angels'. One of my all-time favorite shows." He raised a knowing eyebrow. "I, ah, think David might be changing his flight plan. His engines are all fired up and his jet's going to be taking off REAL soon!" "Your prediction about David was way off, Witch." "I don't care. Anyway, I don't predict, I simply see. And I see you, Sam Beckett." Her hands smoothed their way up to his shoulders. "And I have one prediction for you. You ARE going to stay up half the night, Sam - but it won't be with your pal." "Uh-oh. I'm outta here," said Al, "before your rocket sends you sky high, Sam!" He made to open The Door, then stopped. "Hey, Sam, what made you so sure Helen wasn't a Leaper?" Sam surfaced from a kiss that was lighting his blue touch paper. "Come with me," he said, sliding Helen off his knee, leading her towards the bedroom. He hummed 'I'm A Believer' and snapped off lights as he went. "You want me in there? Now?" Sam nodded over his shoulder and crooked a finger at the hologram, still humming. Somewhat bemused, Al shifted location to the bedroom. Sam stopped Helen in front of the dresser mirror. "'And then I saw her face'," he sang to her reflection. "'Now I'm a believer!'" Al shrugged. "So?" Sam shook his head in amused disgust at his friend's lack of perspicacity. "You don't get it, do you?" Helen's reflection frowned. "Are you STILL talking to Al? The bedroom and bathroom are off limits to holograms. It's carrying observing a little too far. Go away, Al." "Let him stay just for a minute, Helen. I want to explain something to him." He kissed her gently, and despite Al's presence, her eyes drifted shut. "Then I'll stay awake ALL night if you want." Eyes still closed, Helen heaved a deep sigh. "You've got one minute - and not a second longer." "Who do you see, Al?' asked Sam, indicating himself and Helen, whose eyes remained closed while she silently mouthed numbers. "You and her, of course," said Al, still baffled. "No, no. WHO do you see?" "Oh. Brian Palmer and Helen Carter." "And in the mirror?" "Brian Palmer and Helen Carter," repeated Al a touch impatiently. "So what are you trying to get at, Sam?" "I see Helen and Brian in the mirror, too. And I see Helen here." He gently shook the girl's shoulders. "Hey, open those eyes of yours, Witch, and tell me who YOU see in the mirror." "You've got thirty seconds left," Helen told him as she glanced in the mirror. "I see me and Brian, but I'd much rather look at the real thing and see Sam Beckett, preferably knowing Al can't see either of us." "I told the truth earlier, Al," said Sam, looking lovingly down into impatient grey-green eyes. "She never changes. She always looks the same, even in a mirror." "Well, of course I look the same. I'm not a Quantum Leaper!" "Exactly!" Sam's hands slid around to the small of her back. "You're not a Leaper." Al's forehead finally unknotted. "Oh, I get it! You mean, if she was a Leaper, you'd see whoever she'd Leaped into in the mirror." Sam nodded, his fingers sifting through strands of red, curling hair. "I did once - a long time ago, in a bad dream." "Five seconds," counted Helen softly. "There'll be no bad dreams for either of us tonight, Sam." "No, Helen." Sam's hands cupped her face. "So let's get lost in space, Witch." "Time's up," she whispered. "'Not a trace of doubt in my mind'," he sang. "'I'm in love - oooh, I'm a believer, I couldn't...'" His voice faltered, and Helen quickly closed his mouth with hers so that, even if he wanted to, he couldn't sing the last line. *Try not to spoil it.* He let himself ignite at Helen's touch, let it sear away the ache in his heart. Al observed his best friend in the arms of the red-haired girl, imagining a mature, red-haired woman there instead. He heaved a huge, sentimental sigh. Yep, those two belonged together all right - body and soul. "You're perving, Al." Sam's voice was muffled by Helen's mouth. "Huh? Oh. Yeah. Sorry, Sam. I'm outta here. I'm gone."