Pt. I

THE crush of hot youth enveloped him immediately, a pulsating beat
boxing his ears w/its wild thumping. *Please tell me I'm not at a
rock concert* Blurs of arms and colorful sweaters whipped about him
from towering bodies. A voice crackled and boomed from tinny
speakers. Sam clutched the swaying navy and gold jacket in front of
him and a tall, strapping young man turned and flashed him an easy
smile. Pulling himself to the side, the guy nodded towards Sam
obligingly and afforded him a better view. A girl, microphone
clutched in hand and sporting a yellow pleated skirt, took center
stage, her face angrily slashed w/war paint.
	"Are we going to let AKRON desecrate OUR FIELD?? NO!! Are we going to 
send OSU home crying like a bunch of PUNKS?? YES!! Because who the HELL are 
	A roar erupted from the crowd and spirit oozed contagiously. Sharp blasts 
from air horns pierced all common sense and a mad swirl of
screaming and laughter exploded, wrapping Sam, too, in its delirious
        A tiny smile of realization was creeping onto his face. "Oh,
Boy," he murmured. *I'm back in school...*

	"So...this is Toledo."
        A warm baritone rumbled at his left and Sam glanced over. The
young man was turned away, his face lifted towards the stage. The sun
caught a handsomely bronzed profile. His chin jutted forward obstinately and 
there was something defiant in the way his jaw was set, the swell of his 
        *Oh no...*
        An intense pair of almond-shaped eyes were suddenly burning into 
Sam's. He let his gaze waver to the ground, catching a white
sneakered toe peeking from beneath boot-cut jeans.
        *Thank god it's not heels*
        "Ohio," he murmurred.
        "You speak Japanese." The lilting accent fluctuated the question
into more of a statement.
        Sam laughed nervously. "No...I-I don't ~think~ so. I mean, Ohio, the 
        A slow, crooked grin broke across the guy's face. "You must be
freshman. I'm freshman, too. I'm from Cleveland."
        Sam felt the cool electric tingle of recognition ride down his
back. "Me...too.."
        A tiny leak of memory spilled forward begrudgingly. It was like
teasing the desert with a drop of rain.
        *I have a dog...named Sparky and my sister is almost --thirteen*
        The vast plains of darkness in his mind stretched endlessly before 
him and he sighed bitterly.
        "You really from Cleveland? Or you just say that to get to know
me?" The liquid caramel eyes danced with laughter.
        Something neon pink snapped a few inches above their heads and
they ducked. A group of guys wearing "Omega Psi Yo Mama" shirts hooted with 
laughter. The Frisbee flopped a yard away from Sam into the crisp green 
lawn. "Go fetch, Fido!" barked one of the guys into a megaphone and a flimsy 
boy trotted the distance half-heartedly, studded collar winking in the sun 
and leash flapping behind him.
        *Fraternities,* Sam thought mournfully, remembering of some vague 
past the image of a  shallow dive into a wading pool gone wrong.
        The young man scowled briefly towards the display of stupid human 
tricks, turning a warm smile on Sam. "You live on campus?"
        "Uh...yeah, I think."  Reaching into the pocket of his pullover
jacket, he heard a nice jingle of keys and shook them out. "I actually
have to get going now..."
        "You don't know my name. It's Tomomichi. Everybody calls me JP." And 
he raised an eyebrow,  managing to look disarming and mischevous at the same 
        Despite himself, Sam laughed. "Yeah, well, it was nice meeting 
you…Tomomichi. I guess I'll see you around."
        "Not if I see you first."  With that, Tomomichi abruptly turned
and strolled away leisurely, the sun riding easily on his back.
        Sam watched him for a moment, a strange warm pang of... ~something~ 
falling over him.  *That was, let's figure out where you 
live.* He studied the ring of keys, turning them over delicately in his 
hands. There were no engravings or tags to clue him in.
        "Well, I could always go door to door," he chuckled mirthlessly, 
shrieks of happy abandonment ringing in the air. "Alright, Beckett, pick a 
direction and Go."
        Just Southwest, a burst of light winked from the trees. As if in a 
slow, heavy trance, his feet moved, and he felt the satisfying crunch of 
gravel underneath his shoes. Kids drifted aimlessly about him, some in small 
groups of freshly formed cliques, and a few, like him, wandering solo. 
~Student Union~ read the title of a building that was fading fast on his 
right. A wall of windows showed students inside milling about anxiously like 
ants, some emerging triumphantly from a bookstore with bags of overpriced, 
yet always recommended and little used, reading materials.  A line that was 
obscenely long snaked outside of a black-and-white tiled cafeteria that was 
trying earnestly for a 50's look.
        An odd dark tower of glass rose suddenly before him as he rounded 
the corner. He was all at once allured. And repelled. *That's creepy.* He 
advanced more slowly around the structure as people pushed and pulled on the 
heavily tinted doors and seemed to be swallowed inside. The flow of traffic 
swept him towards a stone bridge, which he gladly crossed away from the 
building. A low murmur of water tumbled over smooth rocks below, twisting 
around downed limbs, and rumbling onward to…
        *The Ottawa River.* A beautiful canopy of leaves arched over the 
stream, both seeming to stretch miles and miles into nowhere. It was then 
Sam realized that he, too was standing beneath its cool cover. He grinned up 
at the branches of the trees on opposite banks interlaced like fingers. A 
guy on rollerblades wove around him sharply, shooting Sam a hostile glare 
over his shoulder. He tried giving guy a tiny smile of contrition, but his 
mouth wouldn't cooperate.
        The other side opened up to a huge field about three football
stadiums in length with trees dotting the lot here and there. An impromptu 
game of Freeze-Tag broke out. Passersby became unwitting participants, 
having been slapped by someone and designated as "IT!!" as everyone 
scattered like marbles dropped on the floor. Sam moved away from the 
direction of the maddening frolic. He drifted closer towards a rolling hill, 
a tall oblong building shooting straight from the top like a giant milk 
carton. PARKS TOWER WELCOMES THE CLASS OF 2000, proclaimed a white sagging 
banner in an ominous shade of blue and yellow.
        He hit a minute stretch of paved surface before he was on grass
again, picking up his pace to a trot. A small courtyard completely shaded 
from the sun was being grazed upon by kids looking for a quiet place to 
read.  He skipped over the blacktop of a miniature parking lot, almost 
running by the time he'd reached where he thought he was supposed to be.
        A door swooshed open promptly and his shoes sank into plush carpet. 
A girl sitting at a circular desk glanced up at him briefly and flashed a 
perfunctory smile. Then she went promptly back to ignoring him.
        Two elevators off to the right of the desk dinged pleasantly, both 
opening to spill their load of anxious mothers with huge handbags and 
balding middle-aged fathers making rounds to the car to haul in cardboard 
boxes and suitcases.
        *I must be in this dorm.* He sighed inwardly, not considering his 
discovery a total victory.  *I've got a key and no name --*
        Sam's heart cracked thunderously in this chest. He spun around,
eye-level with a chin. He adjusted his vision slightly upward and found
the person belonging to the chin grinning and slightly out of breath.
"Man! I saw you in the woods, what were you running for?"
        *I'm Rachel!*
        "I...didn't want to be late."
        The face screwed up its nose and the light sprinkling of freckles 
threatened to merge. "Late for what?"
        "Late...for my mother's call," he attempted weakly, adding a tiny 
smile. "But I think I lost my key, so..." He let his words to trail off 
expertly, allowing a small look of embarrassment to creep onto his face.
        The girl smiled brilliantly, snapping a wad of bruise colored gum. 
"That's cool. I got a key."
        The muscles in his jaw nearly went slack. *Of all the dumb
luck...* His free ride was already  walking away, shuffling coolly towards 
the elevators. He stepped in after her, watching closely as she depressed 
the button marked 3 and the car rode smoothly up the cable. A soft ~bing~ 
announced their arrival as the doors opened into a naturally lit hallway 
wrapping to the left and right. He waited as the girl steered left, counting 
the number of rooms they passed until she abruptly stopped and he almost 
slammed into her. The lock tumbled heavily in the chamber and the door swung 
inward, the girl popping on a light to her right.
        Two comfortably cushioned chairs and a matching coffee table sat 
unused in an area Sam guessed was being designated as the living room. He 
closed the door, the girl digging into an ample sized fridge, pulling out 
water balloons and a pck of Twizzlers. "These are for later," she grinned 
elfishly, and he was suddenly very sure he did not want to know.
        Quickly his eyes took in the cozy little layout of room 3207. A
short hallway just beyond the refrigerator forked into three small unlit 
areas. At the moment, shoes were being heaped onto a doormat across from 
them. He studied the pile for a moment, decided none of them were really his 
style. Two doors, labeled "A" and "B" were a sure bet to be the bedrooms.
        Sam felt eyes guarding him closely. "Keys?" he suggested, half-
        The girl's face lightened considerably. "Oh, I don't keep doors
locked. That's ~you~." She tossed him a teasing see-this-is-what-you-get 
look and resumed the careful arrangement of supplies in her pack. "For a 
minute, I thought you had amnesia."
        A strangled cough flew out of Sam's mouth, and he feebly covered
it with a laugh. "Yeah, amnesia."
        "Uh, you need to lay down, too." The girl shooed him off in the
direction of door A, relief flooding over him. The long slender handle
gave easily in his hands and he slipped in, exhaling deeply. His fingers
automatically went for a tiny silver button that would grant him some
privacy. The satisfying click of the lock felt like kind hands unloading
the burdens of uncertainty from his shoulders. Not too much could go wrong
in a bedroom.
	*God, at least I hope not today.* The thought wearily crossed his
mind as he sunk gratefully onto a freshly dressed bed.
        An interesting feat of a bed elevated by the tops of a dresser and
a set of shelves was displayed across from him. A desk threatened to erupt
a leaning tower of books, clothes and CDs. Five pairs of the same shoes in
the different colors littered the floor. Sam turned his eyes away from the
mess, surveying his immediate surroundings. Nice, tight, clean. It was
like night and day in this room.
        A small stack of mail beckoned him from the other well organized
desk. He shifted through campus flyers, food coupons >>ROCKET PIZZA,
FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF LIGHT!!<<, until he came to a plain envelope with
his -uh, ~her~-- name in plain, block letters. RACHEL HORTON. Postmarked
September 22nd, UT Registration Office. Sam was filled with a stupid
giddiness, debating whether or not he could rightfully open someone else's
        "Hey, Sam, sorry it took so long."
        Sam smiled pleasantly up at his long time companion, who was as
always, predictably late. "Hi, Al," he said distantly. He considered the
sunburst yellow tie screaming from the pea green shirt, and decided
against commenting.
        "Alright..." Al inhaled deeply and jabbed at the handlink. "The
year is, uh-"
        "Nineteen Ninety-Six."
        A crooked eye was cocked at him. "Yeah, and you are Ra-Rack...
What?" Al's hand shot up and gave the link a solid whack. The tiny machine
bleeted plaintively.
        "Rachel Horton. I'm in Toledo, Ohio." Sam folded himself neatly on
the bed, tapping the envelope against his shoe. "Al, I think I'm a Fresh-
        Al quickly fastened his gaping mouth to the rest of his face.
"Gee, that's a neat trick," he sneered, feigning hurt. "What ~don't~ you
        "I don't know ~why~ I'm here," Sam replied sweetly, leveling Al
with a quick flutter of lashes.
        "That's-that's real cute," he grumbled, smacking the whiny box in
his hand. "Okay, well you know that you're Rachel. Uh, you ~are~ a fresh-
man and --Sam."
        Standing before a full-length mirror behind the door, Sam was
tilting his head slowly and auburn hair tumbled gently over his shoulder.
Calm dark brown eyes stared back at him, squinting a bit at the corners
when he tried smiling. "Hey, Al."
        "Yeah, Sam?" A light edge of wariness crept into Al's voice.
        "You know, this is the first time this Leap I've tried to see
myself. I mean, I passed windows and there's glass all over the place."
Sam's fingers traced the curve of Rachel's cheeks, a dimple pressing
faintly into sable brown skin. "But I wasn't even looking.  And-and then I
was remembering these things..."
        "Whoa, what "things?" Al narrowed his eyes at Sam.
        "I don't know...Rachel's memories, I guess. And I walked here with-
out any help."
        "You mean you ~Leaped~ here."
        "No," Sam whirled away from his reflection to face Al. "I ~walked~
here. On my own two feet. I Leaped in somewhere else."
        "I-I don't know. There was this pep rally and this guy, 
        "Tom," Al muttered softy, punching in the data. "Nope. Nobody by
that name in here."
        Sam settled dejectedly into a chair at the desk. "Maybe I only met
him by accident. By my Leaping in when I did."
        "That's...possible. And maybe you better stay away him on purpose."
Flashes of red and green lit the handlink as it gave a high-pitched squeal.
"Ziggy says there's a 97.6% chance that you're... here to keep Rachel from
getting pregnant."
        "~Pregnant?~" Something hot and slithery coiled up inside his
stomach. "Al, I just got here. I'm-I'm the one of the first kids in the
family to go to college. I can't have a ~baby~. I have to graduate!"
         "Sam, calm down." Al pressed his warm hands firmly to the younger
man's shoulders.
         Sam murmured softly. "Who's the father?"
         Al squinted at the read out. "Ziggy doesn't know," he admitted,
falling quiet.
         The thoughtful silence between them stretched for some time. Al
"leaned" -as much as holography would permit-- against the sill of the
room's only window, glancing occasionally at the handlink for change. The
same numbers throbbed, nice and red, like a nasty welt. He watched Sam in
his new form, always struck with awe by the strange melding of two minds
and hearts in one body. Oh, this one was cute. A pink slip of tongue poked
through her lips absently while she -Sam-- stared on, maybe looking for an
answer on the wall.
         "Well," Al started, slow and reluctant. "I'll go see what I can
dig up. In the meantime, you just relax, kid. I mean, this should be a
snap compared to--" *Shit!*
         Sam arched a delicately shaped eyebrow at the comment that went
unsaid, but which was rently plainly on the Admiral's face. "Compared to
what? Have I been pregnant before?"
         Al sighed. "No use hiding it from you now."
         "Wow, the messes I get myself into." Sam whistled low and Al
         The link uttered its usual pops and squeaks as the hologram
plugged in the codes to activate The Door. A brilliant blue portal
enveloped Al as he began to step through. "I mean it, Sam. No funny
business. No smiling--"
         "I can't smile?" Sam laughed incredulously.
         "No ~flirty~ smiling. If a guy is coming on to you, you run the
other way." Al swirled his arms in counter cirlces.
         "Yes, Uncle Al."
         "And no kissing...Aww, what am I saying? You would think I had
daughters or something. Look, Sam, I don't want to hear that anything...
~hinky~ went down while I was gone."
        "Hinky?!" That was definitely a new one.
	"I'll see you soon."  Al gave him a brief nod before The Door shut
them out of each other's world.
        A sharp knock at the door -Sam's door- was followed by the lock
popping open and the girl shuffled in, smiling somewhat apologetically.
Sam snapped up the telephone receiver and casually dropped it back on its
        "So, how's your mom?"
        "Oh, she's, uh fine."
        The girl dumped her empty pack near the raging desk. "You seem
cool with your uncle."
        *How much did she hear?*
        "Don't worry." She chuckled conspiratorially. "My uncle acts like
my dad, too. He told me I wasn't even allowed to hold hands!"
	They both burst into laughter at this, Sam relieved to have a new
friend replace the void of Al's departure.