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
    "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"  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
    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
    "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
    "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
    "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
    "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
    "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
    "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
    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
    "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
    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'.