by Pat Woodhouse

     Outside, as the cool desert night swiftly fell,  Dr. Verbena Beeks 
began what she called her "rounds", her periodic walk around the complex of 
buildings that made up Project Quantum Leap. During it she would talk with 
whoever she happened to meet, though sometimes she would look up a person 
who she knew was having problems, but was reluctant to make an appointment 
with her. Although she did keep regular office hours (at least, as regular 
as she could manage), she'd found that this helped her to better gauge the 
psychic health of the Project's personnel.
     As usual, she stopped by the Waiting Room first. Actually a small suite 
of rooms, it was where the current occupant of Sam Beckett's body lived the 
duration of his leap. Sam was in transit now, that period of time between 
his last leap and the next. Though to Sam the leaps were instantaneous, on 
the Project end it could be a few hours to several days before he showed up 
somewhere in the past. This particular transit had already lasted nearly 12 
     Verbena inserted her keycard into the slot beside the door, listened 
for the click of its lock releasing, the pushed it open and went in, 
crossing the simply furnished living area to the bedroom beyond. She spoke 
briefly to the duty medtech, her eyebrows lifting in surprise as she 
received an interesting piece of news. Verbena thanked the woman, then moved 
to the bed where Sam's comatose body lay, connected to and surrounded by 
state-of-the-art monitoring equipment. Equally state-of-the-art life support 
equipment stood ready nearby; Verbena fervently hoped they would never have 
to be used.
     Aside from the muted beeping of the machines the room was utterly 
still. A single glance at the monitors would have apprised Verbena of Sam's 
condition, but she examined him anyway, being a firm believer in the 
therapeutic value of touch. She then checked the padded restraints (a 
necessary evil) about his wrists, making certain they weren't too tight. 
Having done all she could for now, she merely stood there, one of his limp 
hands in hers, looking down at him.
     No matter how often she'd seen him like this, it always hurt, 
especially when contrasted with the alive, vital person of her memories. One 
day, she knew, they would get him back, but sometimes doubts would come to 
gnaw at her mind....
     Resolutely she pushed them back, reaching down to gently touch Sam's 
face, the slack features almost as pale as the blaze in his dark hair. Then, 
with a parting nod to the technician, she left the room.
     After some deep breaths to restore her equilibrium, Verbena next went 
to look in on Al. This last leap had been very harrowing, with the Observer 
just about dead on his feet by the end of it. Since it had been out of the 
question for him to try driving back to town, and with her office closer to 
the Imaging Chamber than his quarters here on-site, Verbena had settled Al 
in there.
     The lights came on automatically as the door opened, and she slapped 
hastily at the dimmer switch, though she needn't have worried; Al, his small 
frame sprawled on the couch, one arm and leg dangling over the edge, only 
stirred a little, his sleep unbroken. But it was far from restful, as 
Verbena saw when she drew closer; his features were pulled into a frown, and 
he muttered unintelligibly, limbs twitching.
     Her dark eyes clouded with concern, Verbena set about making him more 
comfortable, rearranging the trailing limbs on the couch, and spreading the 
afghan he'd thrown off back over him. Al's body gradually relaxed, as if, 
even in the grip of nightmare, he could sense the psychiatrist's calming 
     Verbena straightened up with a sigh, watching Al's face smooth out as 
he slid deeper into sleep. His and Sam's friendship went back years; in many 
ways this was as hard on him as it was on Sam. But she was well acquainted 
with Admiral Albert Calavicci's career history and psych profile, and was 
convinced that if Sam had been less adamant on having him as Project 
Observer, Al would've been well on the road to alcoholism by now.
     Making a mental note to see that Al got some food in him after he 
awoke, Verbena left the office and continued her walk. While passing a 
certain door in the complex's residential wing, she noticed a thin ribbon of 
light beneath it, and paused. Considering what the Waiting Room tech had 
told her, she wasn't really surprised to find Donna still here, although 
until recently she'd rarely used her quarters; after finishing work she'd 
usually returned to the ranch house she and Sam had off-site. Verbena 
hesitated to disturb her, but pressed the door buzzer anyway; if Donna 
didn't want company she would say so.
     "Just a minute," came the muffled reply from inside. A few seconds 
later the door opened and Dr. Donna Elesee stood there. She and Verbena were 
of a height, though Donna seemed taller because she carried herself so 
erectly. Her dark blonde hair, usually worn up, tumbled loosely about her 
shoulders, framing a handsome, slightly narrow face lively with 
intelligence, lit up now with pleased surprise.
     "Hi, Verbena," she said, opening the door wider. "Come in."
     "You're sure I'm not disturbing you?" Verbena asked, hesitating, for 
the welcoming smile on her friend's face didn't quite hide the tiredness she 
saw there.
     "No, no. I was just finishing up something. Please." She closed the 
door and seated herself at her desk, shuffling together some papers on it, 
while Verbena took a nearby armchair. "How's Al?"
     "Still sleeping," Verbena told her. "I just looked in on him."
     "Good." Donna nodded. "He needs the rest."
     "And so could someone else I might name," said Verbena, her tone 
slightly scolding.
     Donna flushed, but accepted the mild reprimand, knowing it was 
deserved; she had been keeping far too many late hours than was good for 
her, especially now. She touched the gentle swell of her belly, feeling 
again that utter sense of wonder, tinged, as always, with sadness.
     "I know, Verbena," she said, " and I'll get some after I'm done here." 
She gave the psychiatrist a small smile. "Promise."
     "All right." Verbena paused. "Claire told me you were in to visit Sam 
     "Yes," said Donna softly, sobering.
     Carefully, Verbena said, "I... didn't know you ever did."
     But the other woman didn't take offense. "I try to be unobtrusive about 
it," she said, "though I've heard the rumor, that I don't go see him at 
     Verbena nodded; she'd heard it, too, and was ashamed that she'd put 
even the least amount of credence in it. Anyone who had seen the two 
together before Sam had begun leaping, as well as during that all-too-brief 
time when he'd come home, could not have doubted the depth of their love. 
Now, though, because of the magnafluxing effect of the leaps, what Al called 
the 'swiss-cheese' effect, Sam didn't remember her, and the Observer wasn't 
allowed to tell him.
     "I'll try to stop it," she said, angry with herself now for letting it 
go on as long as it'd had.
     Donna shook her head, though her face tightened with pain. "It'll just 
start another, possibly worse, one. Besides, it's partly true. During the 
leaps I stay away; I couldn't bear to see someone else looking out of his 
eyes, speaking with his voice..." Her own voice shook slightly and she took 
a breath to steady it. "So I go to see him during the transits. That way I 
can look at him and see only my Sam, and hope that the next time his eyes 
open *he'll* be looking out at me, not some stranger." Tears trembled along 
the edges of her eyelids; she blinked them away impatiently.
     "It's okay to cry, Donna," said Verbena gently. leaning forward to 
touch her hand. "Have you cried at all since this began?"
     "Almost every day, for the first few months. But," she sighed, "you can 
do that for just so long, before you feel your hopes start to fade." A 
sudden fierceness suffused her voice. "And I won't let that happen!"
     "None of us will," Verbena promised.
     "I know," said Donna. "That helps, too." She smiled then, somewhat 
self-deprecatingly. "I write him letters, you know." She waved a hand over 
the neatened papers on her desk.
     "And why shouldn't you?" Verbena countered. "After all, it's not as if 
Sam were dead." She said it briskly, trying to exorcise the vision of that 
too-pale face against the pillows in the Waiting Room.
     "No, it's not," Donna echoed. But she saw that face in her mind, too, 
and her fingers twisted the broad gold band on her left hand.
     Verbena nodded toward the closely-written sheets. "Will you let him 
read them?"
     Donna let her hands fall apart. "I don't know," she admitted. "Some of 
them are... very bitter." She looked away, but not before Verbena saw a 
spark of that bitterness in her eyes. She yanked open a drawer and grabbed a 
bulging manila envelope, flinging the papers from inside it across the desk. 
"Should I let him read" --and her voice grew brittle-- "how angry I am with 
him for stepping into that damn Accelerator before perfecting the retrieval 
program? Or how jealous I am of Al for being able to at least *talk* to him? 
Or that I even hate him sometimes for leaving me again? Or--" Her voice 
broke and she sat there, taut, her eyes tightly shut. Tears squeezed out 
from beneath the lids and slipped down her face.
     Alarmed, Verbena quickly crouched beside Donna and put her arms about 
her, calling her name, using her voice and touch to anchor the other woman 
against the fierce tide of emotions swamping her. At last, the tension 
draining from her body, Donna slumped back into Verbena's supportive 
embrace. When she opened her eyes, they held only dismay and shame. "I'm 
sorry," she murmured, pushing herself upright and caressing the bulge of her 
child, as if to soothe it.
     "For what?" Verbena chided. "Being human?" She gave Donna a reassuring 
squeeze. "No. If that were the case we'd be apologizing to each other 
     Donna swiped a hand, childlike, across her damp cheeks, lips thinned in 
self-disgust. "Is it *human* to have such ugly feelings toward someone you 
     "Yes," Verbena answered firmly. "As long as, after the anger and 
jealousy and hatred are gone, the love is still there."
     Rubbing her wedding band as if it were a talisman, Donna said softly, 
"It is." Then doubt crept into her voice. "But will his still be there for 
me, if I let him see these?" She fingered the pages strewn over her desk.
     Verbena sighed, but Donna raised a hand, forestalling her. "I know you 
can't decide this for me," she said, her gaze level. "Just tell me, as a 
friend, what you think."
     Touching Donna's ring, Verbena said with conviction, "Sam married 
*you*, Donna. All of you, the ugliness as well as the beauty. And if you 
believe he can't face that and still look at you with love, then you're not 
being fair to him. Or yourself."
     Verbena stood as Donna, a reflective look on her face, carefully 
gathered the scattered pages back together, slipping the thick bundle back 
into the envelope and replacing it in the drawer. "Thank you," she said 
     Verbena grasped her shoulders. "Just keep loving Sam," she said 
earnestly. "One day we *will* bring him home, for good." Donna walked her to 
the door and they hugged warmly.
     "Finish your letter, then get that rest," Verbena advised. "I'll see 
you in the morning."
     "Good night." Donna closed the door, and sat back down at her desk, 
scanning the last few lines she'd written before Verbena's visit. With a nod 
of satisfaction, she picked up her pen again.
     'Verbena just came by, Sam, and...'