CHAPTER FOUR The man's sleep was troubled. Voices were whispering, murmuring names... Terry Sommerson... Samantha Storner...Jake Rawlins... Many different names... Jimmy La Motta...Andrew Ross...Jesus Ortega... The soft susurrations just reached his ears, he had to strain to hear them. They came from many different directions, and he swung this way and that, trying to catch the words, trying to find out who the voices wanted him to be... Victor Panzini...Kit Cody...Billy-Jean Crocker... The sounds were louder now and he realised none of the names the voices were calling belonged to him. He didn't want to be any of these people. He wanted the voices to stop so he could remember his real name, then he could tell them who he was. But they were shouting furiously now... GEORGE WASHAKIE... REGINALD PEARSON... DARLENE MONTI... Beating like a thousand hammers inside his head, buffeting his ears with waves of sound. He cried out in anguish, clutching his head with his hands, trying to shut out the clamorous voices. "Stop! Stop! I'm not who you think I am. My name is - my name is..." He tried to recall his name, but couldn't. He tried again, "I'm not who you want. I'm... I'm..." But the noise hammered in his head, driving away all coherent thought, and the words he needed slipped from his mind. "Al! Al!" he called desperately. "Help me! Please Al!" He thought he caught sight of his familiar figure in the distance, the man only dimly visible through swirling mist, and cried out in relief. "Who am I, Al? Who Am I?" Al's mouth was moving and he strained to hear what he was saying, but the shrieking voices overwhelmed the sound of his friend. Then Al whirled away into the mist, his image dissolving, leaving him alone, desolate. He couldn't remember his name! He was lost. He didn't know who he was. He would never remember who he was. He screamed in utter despair. And all fell silent. * * * * * Another voice came, soothing, hushing him. He opened his eyes and, in the soft light cast by the living room lamp, saw the girl wiping sweat from his face with a corner of the sheet, her eyes dark with concern. "It's all right. It was just a bad dream. I'm here. It's all right now." He stared at her, wild-eyed, head pounding, breath harsh, the horror still with him. Pulling himself up, he grabbed her arms, crying, "Who am I? What's my name? You must tell me my name!" He was almost shaking her. She bit her lip to prevent a cry as his fingers dug into her arms. "Your name is Sam. Sam Beckett." Relief washed over him and he fell back onto the pillows, no longer in the thrall of the dream. "I - I'm sorry. I couldn't remember who I was." He still felt shaken. "There were voices - shouting, calling out names, but none of them were MY name and I couldn't remember who I was." He needed to explain to her. "No-one knows who I really am - what I'm like. I don't know anymore. No-one even knows what I look like. No- one sees ME, Sam Beckett, not even Al. I'm always somebody else." His voice cracked. "I can't even remember what I look like." Helen nearly laughed aloud with relief. So THAT was part of the problem. Well, that was easily remedied, SHE knew. "But I know who you are. I see YOU, Sam, the real you - not the body you inhabit." Her eyes shone with truth. She knew who he was, could SEE who he was! Sam caught hold of her once more. "Tell me. Tell me what you see," he pleaded. "Help me remember." Helen understood what he needed. She took a deep breath, forcing away her emotions, and began to describe the face she saw as accurately as she knew how. She allowed herself the luxury of touching him, excusing it on the grounds that touch would reassure him he was no longer dreaming, and leaned forward to brush his skin lightly as she spoke, tracing the outline of his features. Fire streaked up her arm as her fingers made contact with him. She kept the sensations deep down inside, glorying silently, so nothing showed on her face. She touched his hair. "Your hair is brown, not VERY dark, like the color of strong white coffee, except for here, where there's a white streak," and she smoothed back the white lock that had tumbled down onto his forehead. Sam sat very still, hardly daring to breathe, intent on her words. "Your eyebrows are much darker, black coffee this time, and your eyes are deeply set beneath. They're light brown, flecked with green - maybe you'd call them hazel." *And they're so old. Ancient. So many experiences, fragments of so many lives in them.* "They're nice eyes, kind, but they look strained and tired just now." She touched around his eyes very delicately. "There are deep creases here, laughter lines." One finger glided down the bridge of his nose. "Your nose. Hmm. Well, it's quite long and curves downward, a bit like a Roman Caesar," laughter rippled through her voice, "but it suits the rest of your face which is also long, giving it character. You have two ears, one either side of your head, the same as the rest of us," again laughter colored her tone. Her hand slid down his cheek and traced the line of his jaw, feeling the bone beneath. "Your jaw is strong," she deepened her voice, "'manly' - and you have a square chin with a cleft just...here." Her fingers moved to his lips, barely touching them and she caught her breath. "And your mouth... Ohh, dear God!... What an incredible, glorious, KISSABLE mouth!" Surely just one tiny, weeny kiss wouldn't matter. She leaned in. The eyes drawing nearer to him were deep and dark, no longer laughing. Then the fingertips brushing his mouth were replaced with lips that barely touched his. He was overwhelmed by the feelings that touch - so, so soft - evoked. Fire leaped from the girl to him and he was filled with a great, wonderful burning. Then her mouth left his and the flames receded, leaving a sense of loss and need so great it was almost a physical ache. "I - I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that," said the girl, dropping her gaze to the sheet she had twisted around her fingers. She disentangled herself hurriedly. "I better go. You need to sleep." "No." He grabbed her wrist before she could slip off the bed. He was no longer tired. He'd never felt more awake, more aware of another human being, in his life. "Don't go." The skin of her wrist was a cool and delicate casing for the strong tendon and bone beneath. Her artery pulsed fast and vigorous against his fingers as the great muscle in her chest pushed the life-giving blood around her body. It was suddenly, vitally important this girl did not leave. "Don't go, Helen." For the first time he spoke her name. "Please, stay with me." For the first time he asked a woman to stay. For the first time in all his Leaps he held back a woman who was trying to leave. It was against the rules, asking someone to stay because HE wanted it. Sometimes they asked him, not knowing who they were asking, loving the man whose life he was living. If it was right, he stayed and, once or twice, truly loved in return. But this was not the same. This woman had known who he was even before he'd acknowledged his name. She knew exactly who was asking. Her face was white, her dark eyes huge. His mouth went dry as sudden shyness shook him. "Helen, I... Please stay - that is, if you want to." *If she wanted to! Oh Glory Alleluia!* A slow, glad smile lit her face. Flames surged through Sam's hand where he still held her wrist, evaporating the aching loss with spreading heat. Startled, he pulled away and stared at his fingers, not quite believing the sensations that had run through him. This time the fire did not die but smoldered within him, turning into need and want. "What are you doing to me?" He looked at Helen in wonder. "How - how do you do that?" The grey eyes that looked so lovingly at him held a decidedly green sparkle. "So, you feel it at last." Sleeping Beauty was finally awake. Helen's eyes were suddenly all green as the smile turned into a mischievous grin. "I'm a witch and I've cast a spell on you. You are completely in my power. You are mine, all mine!" That much was true. She lifted a shoulder. "Just joking, Sam. It isn't just me. You make me feel the same. You have every time you've touched me since you first shook my hand in the library." She touched Sam's hand, then clasped it tight as a lightning bolt shot up her arm, making her gasp, sending her spirit soaring. This time the fire leaping from Helen joined with the need and the want into a sensation so strong Sam pulled her close, his mouth connecting with hers in a way that set his heart pounding and the blood singing in his ears. They released each other and sat, chests heaving. Helen raised one hand to Sam's face, her mouth curving when she saw how much her fingers shook. She stroked his cheek. He needed to shave, stubble abraded her fingertips like fine sandpaper. She drew her fingers down onto his neck, shoulder and arm, stroking him, feeling the hard muscle beneath her hand, feeling the fire. Her fingers left a path of heat on his skin. Sam wanted to touch her, feel her, in the same way, and pulled at the long T-shirt she was wearing. Helen tried to help and their hands tangled in their eagerness, obstructing each other's progress. "Let ME do it," said Sam. Helen's hands quietened and she let him pull off her shirt, which he tossed away. She sat very still, hands resting lightly on her thighs, and Sam looked into clear eyes that held incredible depths as, no longer afraid to show her emotions, Helen allowed him to see everything she felt for him. His heart caught. "Oh, God," he whispered. "Helen." He reached out and touched her cheek with fingers that shook as much as hers, before sliding them down around her ear, into the heavy mass of her hair, such a dark red in the dim light. At the feel of her silky skin and hair, hot quicksilver ran through his fingers, up his arm and down, deep into his body. He moved his hand lower, down her throat and ribcage, until it rested at her waist. Helen had closed her eyes, throwing back her head at his touch. Unable to bear the burning, the need, any longer, Sam twisted around, pulling her down beneath him. Loving his weight on her, Helen pulled him closer with arms and legs, wanting to feel all of him. When she surrounded him, Sam lay shaking, blown away by the flaming shockwaves that coursed through his body, reaching his mind, touching his soul. He looked down into the dark, deep eyes of the girl who held him. "My God, Helen!" he whispered, his voice rough with fire and emotion. "You really are a witch. You've laid a spell on me and I'm lost. Lost forever." "No, Sam." She gently held his face between her hands. "Not lost. Found. We've found each other and we'll never be lost again." She slid her arms around his neck and tightened her hold on him. Physical need overran all other thought and considerations then, and Sam moved above her while she encouraged him with soft sounds. Her hands and mouth caressed him until he could bear it no longer. The shattered pieces of his mind converged, re-focussed, and he felt Helen there, too. As their bodies spiraled, so did their souls, winging far out into dark space, before merging together in a great, blinding, searing light. Sam cried out with joy and wonder, his voice mingling with Helen's as their souls also mingled, becoming one. * * * * * He woke the next morning to find strands of Helen's hair drifting across his face as a lively breeze danced through the curtains. He breathed in deeply, enjoying the faint, musky aroma that clung to her skin. She was lying on her side, turned away from him. His body was molded against hers, his arm wrapped tightly around her, holding her close. Even in sleep she was unwilling to let him go and held his hand in a light clasp. Very carefully, he disengaged his hand and propped himself on one arm, moving the other to rest on her hip. He gazed at the planes of her face, the contours of her body. She did not have the milky-white skin of a true green-eyed red-head, but was tanned a pale gold, although there were plenty of freckles across her nose and cheeks. He chuckled quietly as he remembered her description of him the night before - he wasn't the only one with a big nose, though Helen's was nice and straight. How could he ever have thought of her features as being just 'pleasant'? She was the most incredible person he had ever seen. Not beautiful, no, her mouth was too generous and her chin too determined, but uniquely Helen. There were faint marks on her upper arm. He realised with shock that they were the imprints of his fingers where he had grabbed her when he'd been terrified. He was appalled he had hurt her so much. He would never, ever hurt her again. She hadn't even cried out, but had soothed away his fears, all her concern for him. Never before had loving a woman felt so perfect, so RIGHT, so unlike that terrible, horrible Leap where he'd met Alia. He had loved her, the attraction of opposites he supposed, had empathised with her situation, but loving her had felt all wrong. Thank God she was free. He hoped with all his heart that she had found someone to love her as he now loved Helen. He'd had to love many other women, too - to varying degrees. It came with the job. So often he Leaped into a husband, boyfriend or lover, so many of life's potential tragedies and complications revolved around those closest to the person whose life he had taken over. Sometimes it was easy for him to love, sometimes it wasn't, but none of his many experiences had prepared him for how he felt about this woman. Not even Donna, he realised with a shock. Even his relationship with the woman he had loved in his own life paled into insignificance beside how he now felt about Helen. He would never have thought he'd be grateful Donna couldn't commit to a relationship. It had cut so deep when she'd left him waiting at the church door. But he was grateful now. He couldn't imagine ever wanting anyone but Helen. It wasn't just the physical side of their love-making that delighted and enchanted him but the way his mind and heart were so utterly involved, as well. She was HIS woman. Helen Carter. She made him complete, and he rejoiced in the knowledge they belonged together. Her hair lay tangled over her shoulder and neck, half hiding the complicated curves of her ear. A pulse beat steadily in her throat. Her lashes made soft shadows on her cheek. He thought of her extra- ordinary eyes and how they changed, seeming dark grey with passion one minute, then green with laughter the next. Her lips were very red and looked full, maybe even slightly bruised, and Sam became aware his own mouth felt somewhat sore. When they had recovered from that first wonderful, all-consuming joining of bodies and minds, they had made love again - slower, more gently - exploring with hands and mouths, each eager to discover every inch of the other. Finally they had fallen asleep, fully satiated, limbs entangled. His body began to respond to the memories of the night, now wanting Helen awake. He moved his hand over her hip, down one long thigh and back. A tingle that was becoming familiar shot up through his arm at the feel of her warm, smooth skin under his hand. She stirred at his touch, then stretched and turned towards him, eyes still closed, a smile on her lips, hands reaching for him - then she sat bolt upright, nearly cracking her skull with his as he leaned over her, her eyes open and wide with alarm. "Oh, hell!" she swore, catching hold of his arms, "I nearly forgot. Any minute now, Al's going to arrive and he's going to be mad as fire about something. He - he might say some things. About me. Not very nice things. I know he's going to be upset about something, something to do with me, but I'm not sure why or exactly what he'll say. I really need to talk to him, Sam, to explain things. It's very important that he listens to me - but YOU mustn't listen." The words tumbled out while her eyes pleaded that he understand. "There are things I can't tell you, not yet. I promise I will, but the time's not right yet. Please trust me. I - you have to trust me." Sam looked into the eyes that fascinated him so much and saw she was telling the truth. "I do trust you." And he did, utterly, with no reservations. "What do you want me to do when Al comes?" Helen had expected him to argue, ask questions. His immediate acceptance of her request both startled and gratified her. She slid her arms around his neck, hugging him, grateful tears in her eyes. "Oh, thank you, Sam." Pulling away, she cleared her throat, and went on, "I need to talk to him. Alone. When he comes could you make sure he stays here, while you go and make some coffee or something?" He kissed her in reply, pulling her down, and was still kissing her when The Door opened and Al hurtled through, swearing. "That misbegotten tin man - that heap of scrap metal and unrecyclable plastic wouldn't open the damn Door!" Al's momentum carried him so far into the room he ended up in the middle of the bed, his legs appearing to be cut off above the knees where it dissected his image. "When I get back out there I'm going to rip off the cover plate to his central system with my bare hands, strip out each of his circuits ve-ry slowly until there's nothing left but a pile of wires and chips - and then I'm going to jump on them until they're ground to powder!" He gesticulated with the cigar, savagely miming actions. Sam ignored him and continued kissing Helen. Al suddenly realised exactly where he stood and what Sam and Helen were doing. He moved closer, seeming to wade through the bed like water. "Stop that, Sam! You shouldn't be doing that." He tried to push them apart but, of course, his hands passed straight through their bodies. "You don't know who she is or what she'll do to you. She's a - a temptress! She'll claw your heart out and shred it into little pieces before she throws it away. Leave him alone, you - you WITCH, you!" Al was sputtering with anger and frustration. "Oh, for God's sake! Will you stop DOING that!" It was Helen who finally broke the kiss. She pushed Sam away a little. "Al's here." "Yes, I know." Sam pulled her close and kissed her again. "Stop kissing her! I'm telling you, she's nothing but a temptress! She tempted me and tried to wreck my marriage and then that red-headed, stone-hearted, green-eyed little cat said she didn't want me!" Al was stabbing his cigar in Helen's direction, totally outraged. Then he saw the bruises on her arms and his expression changed. "Who did that to you? Someone's hit you. Who was it? I'll kill him - the low-down, dirty little punk!" Reluctantly, Sam moved away a little from Helen, his hands very gently stroking the marks on her arms. "I did," he said, looking apologetically into her eyes. "YOU did!" Al nearly exploded. "What the hell did you think you were you doing? How could you even hurt a hair of her head? Jeez Louise! If I weren't just a hologram, I'd beat the living daylights out of you-" "Oh, for crying out loud, make up your mind who you're mad at, Al. Do you think I did it on purpose?" Sam was still gazing down at Helen. "I am SO sorry. I didn't realise-" Helen put her fingers on his lips, hushing him, her expression very tender and loving. "It's all right, Sam. It doesn't matter, really it doesn't." She stroked his cheek. "Please, I really need to talk to Al." "Oh God, I'm going to barf," announced Al, revolted. "Stop looking at him like that - you know you don't love him. Don't you fall for her, Sam. She's a seductress, a siren, a Lorelei! She's worse than Eve. She's a-" He broke off suddenly, his tirade forgotten. "Hey, she knows I'm here! That's impossible! How does SHE know I'm here? She shouldn't be able to do that. Can she SEE me?" Sam finally turned and looked at Al. His eyebrows traveled up his forehead. He'd never seen the Observer look so dishevelled - apart from that time he'd caught him and Tina behind the serving counter of the Project cafeteria at the Christmas party. Al was unshaven and still wearing the same clothes, minus the hat, he'd worn in the library two days ago. The red pants were creased, the once crisp, white shirt stained and dirty and the tie was half undone and pulled wildly askew. His hair was sticking up as though he'd been pulling at it and the fat cigar he clutched was merely a stub, the end nearly chewed to pieces. Sam almost crowed aloud. It was a woman, after all. He'd known it would be. After giving Helen one last caress, he rolled over and leaned over the side of the bed, looking for his jeans. "You look a real mess, Al. Have you slept in those things - or have you been looking for olives with Ti-" Sam corrected himself, "with Beth again?" "No, I haven't," snapped Al. "I haven't slept at all. I've been trying to get Ziggy to let me into the Imaging Chamber so I could tell you about HER and what she did to me!" Again the cigar-stub stabbed at Helen, then it wavered. "How in the name of Hades does she know I'm here?" "I don't know how she knows and, no, she can't see or hear you - lucky for her! But she CAN see ME. I mean REALLY see me - Sam Beckett." He smiled down at Helen. Al made an exclamation of disgust at the adoring, puppy-dog look Sam gave the girl. "I am definitely gonna blow chunks." His eyes narrowed. "You've told her who you are. Jeez Louise! You KNOW you shouldn't do that. When will you ever learn? Every damn time you get the hots for a woman in a Leap you can't resist telling them who you are!" "Aw, c'mon Al. That's not true - and you know it." "Yeah, well maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But how would you know, anyway? You never tell any of the men - do you know that? Only the women. And you say I'M the one who goes ballistic when there's a woman around! This time you've even told one about me, too." "I didn't tell her anything - she already knew. She knew who I was and she can see me - properly. I don't know how she does it - and I don't care." He gave Helen another smile. "I'm just glad she can. She knew about you, too, but she can't see you. She just senses you're there." "But she can't. It's imp-" "Oh, give it up, Al. Stop trying to analyze it. Just accept she can - I have. Or you could try asking Ziggy for an explanation - before you trash him. Have you seen my jeans, Helen?" "Try under the bed," answered Al absently while Helen shook her head. "They always end up under the bed." Sam snaked a long arm over the side of the mattress and felt around. "Helen has something to say that you need to hear. It's important, so shut up and listen to her." "ME! Listen to HER! Why should I listen to her?" "Because if you don't you won't find out what it is she has to say, will you?" Sam triumphantly yanked out his jeans. He sat on the edge of the bed to pull them on. "I'm going to make coffee so she can talk to you." "MAKE COFFEE! No. No, Sam, you have to listen to me. She's no good. She's a marriage wrecker. She - she SEDUCED me!" To Al's utter disbelief, Sam didn't even glance up at this momentous revelation but calmly stuck his other leg into the jeans and stood. "Like that would be a really difficult thing for any woman to do to you," said Sam, doing up the snap. "Whaddya mean? I've never cheated on my wife in my life!" Al was outraged. "E-except with her." Sam threw him a highly amused look and pulled up the zipper. "You really don't remember, do you?" He headed for the door. "I'm not listening anymore, Al." "Godammit, Sam, you have to listen!" Al waded quickly through the bed after him. "Look, things weren't always good between me and Beth, Sam. When I got home from 'Nam it was wonderful but it - it didn't stay that way. Beth wanted a family - and I did, too - and she wasn't getting any younger so we started pretty much straight away." "I'll bet you did!" "It wasn't like that, Sam. She was pregnant two months after I got back and we had three kids in six years - all girls." Despite his promise to Helen, something in Al's voice slowed Sam's pace. "God, it was like living in an all-girl kindergarten - all bobby pins, ballet shoes and Barbies!" Al rubbed his head, mussing his hair even more. Sam stopped with his hand on the door knob. From where she still sat in the bed, Helen watched him, feeling sick. "Please don't listen to him, Sam. It could ruin everything." "It's okay, Helen," he reassured her. "Beth still wanted to work," said Al, "and went back to nursing after Sharon was weaned and all she ever seemed to do was divide her time between the hospital and the girls. She was either a nurse or a mother - never a wife. But I felt I had no right to interfere - she'd given me so much time already, waiting for me to come back from Vietnam. And I needed her, Sam, I needed her so much - especially at night. Oh, I don't mean sex - though that was pretty much non-existent. Beth was always too tired, or if we did get started Ruthie would cry 'cos she'd lost her blankie or Sharon would need the potty. "I - I was still having nightmares about 'Nam and I needed Beth to hold me. I needed her to just HOLD me - but she'd either be so exhausted from work she didn't wake up or she wasn't there at all - she'd be on night duty or sleeping with one of the girls 'cos they were sick. "I tried to understand, I really did, but I felt so excluded, so alone. You ever been the only male living in an all-female household, Sam? No? Believe me it ain't all it's cracked up to be - not when three of 'em are under five anyway." "What did you do, Al?" He shrugged. "I stopped going home, there didn't seem to be any point. I hung around in the bar with the guys like I used to when I was single, making passes at all the women, and I drank. I drank until I was totally out of my head. It was the only way I knew of blocking out the memories of 'Nam. And then I'd go home and pass out." Sam stared at Al, appalled. Al had been a drunk when he'd met him at Starbright the first time around but he'd assumed he'd saved his friend from that when he'd made that special Leap to see Beth. He was horrified Al had still had to go through that experience. "Some brass hats at the Pentagon," continued Al, "decided there wasn't enough co-operation between the Services and started this 'We're All Buddies Together' Campaign. What a waste of time that was! We might fight each other during peacetime but when it's war we know who our pals are. I'd love to know which nozzle of an admiral chose me - I wasn't exactly a walking advertisement for the Navy - and I got sent off to Truro Air Base so I could find out the Air Force was full of guys just itching to be my buddy. And that's where I met HER and she made me cheat on Beth." "Where was Beth?" "Oh, it was only going to be a short posting so she stayed home. We'd - we'd half decided we needed a break from each other anyway." The cigar-stub stabbed in Helen's direction again. "And then she came along and took advantage of me. God, she was so young and vibrant and FUN - and she always had time for me. She made me feel wanted again... I'm telling you, she MADE me fall in love with her and - and I made up my mind to leave Beth. Beth didn't need me anyway, she'd got nursing and the kids. Then when I told HER I was going to get a divorce she said she wouldn't marry me, said I didn't really love her and - and... She told me to go awa-" Al broke off and gulped. "Oh God, Sam. She told me to go back to Beth." The silence that filled the next few seconds was so deep, Al heard the birds tweetering outside the window. "Sounds to me like she saved your marriage, Al - not wrecked it." Sam spoke quietly but the words dropped like a string of A-bombs into Al's brain. His eyes widened as long held convictions crumbled. "Beth was waiting when I got back home," he said slowly. "She'd packed the girls off to her mother's and we had a real long talk. She said she would cut down her hours at the hospital and I said I'd help more around the house with the girls and we agreed we'd get someone in to help, too. And she made me promise to go to therapy and AA - but I'd already started cutting down on the booze, SHE'D made me. Everything got better from there and I realised I'd loved Beth all along. Oh God!" He turned to the girl sitting in the bed, who was clutching the sheet and staring at Sam with big, frightened eyes. "It took her to make me see what I really wanted. And all these years I've blamed her for making me cheat on Beth." He smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand. "How could I have been such a total KNUCKLEHEAD?" "Quite easily, knowing you," said Sam dryly. *And your self- delusionary tendencies,* he added silently, remembering other instances when trying to make Al admit the truth had been like trying to make a politician admit to an affair with his secretary. "Sam?" Helen's voice quavered. She had watched the expressions on his face while he had obviously been listening to the hologram and was utterly confused. He gave her a big, reassuring smile. "Everything's fine, Helen. Everything's just fine." Seeing the love was still in his eyes, she smiled back and relaxed once more into the pillows. Sam turned to Al who was staring at Helen, looking as deflated as a balloon a week after New Year. "That's her name, you know." Al blinked. "What?" "Helen. Her name is Helen." Al's brows tugged together. "I know that!" "So it would be nice if you used it sometimes." Sam opened the door. "I'm going. Will you please now shut up and listen? It's very important. He's all yours." He winked at Helen as he closed the door. Suddenly, he popped his head back around it. "By the way, Al says he asked you to marry him." "WHAT!" Helen jerked up in the bed, clutching the sheet around herself. Sam closed the door behind him and leaned on it, laughing at the ludicrous look of astonishment on Helen's face. It felt immensely satisfying dealing her a shock, after all the surprises and shocks she'd dealt him since that moment in the library when she had first called him 'Dr Beckett'. "Gotcha!" he smirked, moving off to the kitchen. * * * * * Helen sat, clutching the sheet, trying to absorb what Sam had said. "But you said last night that he was married already," she muttered, "that he's still married, so he can't... 'Wrecked his marriage'! Oh, for Pete's sake! I'm gonna make him want to leave his wife? That's not fair! It's is going to be hard enough as it is." She shook her finger heavenwards. "Couldn't You keep it simple? Sometimes I don't like You very much." Speaking louder, she said, "Look, Al, I'm really sorry about what I did - will do - oh, whatever - you know what I mean. I - " She realised she was only wearing a sheet. "Oh, Hell's Bell's! I can't -" "No, no," denied Al, speaking over her. "It's me who should be sorry. All those terrible things I said-" " - possibly talk to you like this. Turn your back." She threw back the bedclothes and scrambled out, looking for her T-shirt. His apology immediately forgotten, Al turned away obediently as commanded - and craned his neck so he could eye her reflection up and down in the long mirror which stood in a corner of the room. He cast a quick look upward, murmuring, "Thank you, thank you." When she couldn't find her T-shirt, Helen snagged Sam's shirt from the floor and sat on the edge of the bed to put it on, doing up the buttons slowly to give herself time to think. Al whistled appreciatively through his teeth. "Wow! Look at you! You're even more gorgeous than I remember. If I didn't have Beth, Sam wouldn't even get a look in. D'you remember the day we met?" he asked the reflection. "No, of course you don't - it hasn't happened for you yet. What a helluva day that was! It was raining - absolute cat and dog weather. I'd just arrived and was checking out the town to see if it had any decent bars - it didn't seem to have anything else decent. I ran smack into you." He gave small laugh. "You were soaked and you were swearing at the weather and swearing at me and trying to pick up your oranges and cans with the rain streaming down your face - and I thought you looked more incredible than Esther Williams. I'll never forget that day." He sighed, conveniently overlooking the fact that he'd made himself forget it for almost two decades. Helen, not being able to hear him, calmly carried on buttoning up the shirt. When she had finished, she looked around, almost as if she expected to see the Observer somewhere. "Okay, you can turn around now. Though from what Sam told me about you, I bet you didn't turn your back, you dirty dog!" "Yes I did." Al looked the picture of innocence. "Can I help it if there's a mirror in just the right place?" "How come you wanted to marry me, Al?" continued Helen. "You must be - I mean, must have been - at least twice my age - old enough to be my father!" Her eyes continuously roved around the room as she wondered where he was. "Sam's old enough to be your father, too, so don't try that one with me, my girl," countered Al, waggling his cigar at her. "I bet you're saying Sam's old enough to be my father, too." Al did a double take as Helen seemed to answer him. "Are you sure you can't hear me?" he muttered suspiciously. "It's not the same thing at all, Al." She was very serious now, her eyes dark, full of sadness. "For one thing, he's not going to ask me to marry him and for another we - we belong to each other." She fell silent, struggling to find the words she needed to describe how she felt. Everything was so trite and inadequate. Eventually she said, "I don't know how to make you understand in my own words, so I'll have to use someone else's. There's a great poem I know by the English poet, John Donne, that fits Sam and I perfectly. He wrote: 'This is joys bonfire, then, where love's strong arts Make of so noble individual parts One fire of four inflaming eyes, and of two loving hearts.' "That's what it's like, Al, Sam and I - a great engulfing, everlasting fire that makes us one. I'm his and he's mine - body and soul." She paused, twisting the edge of Sam's shirt in her fingers. Then she looked around the room once more and said quietly, "I know I won't be able to settle for anything less or anyone else. After Sam, everyone will be second-best and I think I'd rather stick with no-one." Her mouth twisted into a rueful smile. "Even if they're really nice guys who are admirals. Sorry, Al." She was going to spend most of her life alone with only the memories of a few short days with Sam to keep her going. Somehow, Al knew beyond all doubt, understood precisely with a certainty that startled him, how lonely she would be. He wished he could comfort her. Then realised that he HAD, even if it had only been for a little while. "I'm sorry I made it so difficult for you, kid. I mean, the day I left," he apologised, even though he knew she couldn't hear. "I understand now. I'm sorry about all the things I said then. None of them were true." Helen had jumped up and was pacing around the room, saying in a business-like tone, "That's not what I wanted to talk to you about. It's time you knew why Sam is here." She paused, wondering how to go on. "You see Sam's body in the - the Waiting Room I think it's called - don't you? You see his body being inhabited by the person he's Leaped into. Have you bothered looking at it lately? Haven't you realised how exhausted he is? How long has he been Leaping? Five years? Ten? More? He can't do it forever, he's not immortal, you know. Haven't you noticed the toll this 'job' is taking on his body and mind? Or has it been such a slow deterioration you haven't seen the changes?" "Of course I have." They all had - Dr Beeks, Gushie, Tina, Beth and all the other medical personnel who stood watches in the Waiting Room. They'd all seen Sam's body alter, shrink, seen lines of strain appear around his mouth - and they'd all tried to ignore it, avoiding the subject of how his body looked, dealing only with the poor, lost souls who inhabited it. "Imagine how stressful it is. He never gets a break, a chance to relax, be himself. Oh, it's fine for you." Helen made a dismissive gesture while she paced. "You go back through that Door and re-enter a normal life. You get to go home to familiar things. You can go out and have a good time doing what you want to do - perv at women and - and smoke those damned cigars! Sam never gets the chance to do what he wants. I don't think he even knows what that is anymore. He never gets the chance to recuperate and replenish his energy. He never gets to go home to everything dear to him. "When I first saw him in the library he looked so ill and confused I could have wept. He's on the edge of a breakdown. He meekly did every- thing I told him to, he was incapable of making a decision of his own." She gave a short, mirthless laugh. "Yesterday he couldn't even decide which flavor ice-cream to have! He was exhausted, mentally and physically. How much longer do you think he can keep this up? One day, he's not going to manage to do the task that's been set him, make the change needed to send him on his way again. Then what will happen to him, and to the person he's Leaped into? Will he be stuck living their life forever? Will they be condemned to live out their life in a future they don't know or understand, far away from everything and everyone they've grown up with, away from the people they love?" Al sucked on his cigar stub impatiently. He knew all this. Jeez, he'd wondered the same thing for months, ever since he'd realised how much Sam had come to hate what he did. He'd seen Sam slog through one Leap after another on automatic pilot, diving so close to the mire of the original history his heart was in his mouth until, at the very last second, somehow Sam was able to pull up and make the changes necessary. But what could he do? What could any of them do? He lay awake at night, worrying himself sick, while Beth held him and soothed him, reminding him he was doing all he could. So he encouraged, cajoled and distracted his friend the same as he'd always done, hoping Sam wouldn't hear the fear and desperation behind his flippant talk, while he wondered if the force which controlled his friend would ever release him. Helen stopped pacing and sat on the bed. She spoke more calmly now, but just as intensely as before. "I'm here to give Sam the chance to stop, let him get back to his own time and live his own life. Whatever - whoever - controls the Leaping is basically good. It - They - HE - uses Sam to change people's lives for the better. He has compassion for we poor mortals, that's why Sam does what he does, and He knows how desperately Sam wants to go home. He wants Sam to have his own life again - BUT - He also wants the Leaping to continue, so that more people can be helped." Helen took a deep breath. "Please don't tell Sam what I'm about to say - I'll do it, when the time is right - and I'm sorry I can't explain straight out but I know I didn't, so I can't. I don't think we'll meet for at least a year, maybe two or three." She smiled briefly. "Get Ziggy to check the date for you if you can't remember. When you do meet me, I'm not alone, am I? Think, Al. Remember. There's someone else you meet, too." "Yeah, of course I remember. Who could forget!" "Surely you can work it out now, what Sam is here to do. Go away and think about it. Use your brain for once, rather than your - how shall I put it delicately? - your hormones!" She grinned suddenly, eyes glinting, the green shade very prominent. Just for once, Al could not find a single smart remark and, with one last, puzzled look at Helen, opened The Door and stepped out of the Imaging Chamber. The Door shut down behind him, extinguishing the image of the girl sitting on the bed in the morning sunlight. Feet echoing on the metallic floor, he walked down the short ramp, out into the soft, artificial light of the Project's Control Room. The technician standing behind Ziggy's complicated main console, which looked so like a gigantic, vaguely rectangular mass of boiled candies melted together, greeted him cheerfully. "Welcome back, Admiral. That didn't take long." Deep in thought, Al merely nodded to the tall, young man as he walked past, too busy examining the ideas Helen had given him to do more than register with vague annoyance that it was the new guy Tina 'admired' so much. Then he realised a very familiar pair of humorous grey-green eyes were smiling at him from under dark eyebrows and thick mid-brown hair. He stopped and stared at the technician, his eyes widening as everything fell into place - what Sam was supposed to do in this Leap and how he was going to get home. He strode over. "I want a word with you," said Al, stabbing at the technician's broad chest with his forefinger. He noticed for the first time the security tag pinned to the white lab coat. It read 'Dr Sam B. Carter'.