Quantum Leap "A Time to Hurt, A Time to Heal" Chapter 5 "Feel better?" Verbina asked after Byron had finished his lunch. Byron was shaking from head to toe and was trying hard not to. He took a shaky breath. "A little," he admitted to Verbina. "Still wish I had those pills, though." Verbina gave him a patient smile, full of concern. "Do you feel nauseous?" Byron closed his eyes and shook his head. "But that awful headache is back." "Back?" Verbina questioned. "Byron, did you start taking morphine to ease a headache?" "Not exactly," he told her quietly. "Then what was it?" He didn't answer. Verbina looked at him with concern. "Byron, I'm only trying to help you. You know that." Byron sighed. "I'm afraid to say." "Why?" "Because if the Board of Directors finds out, I'll lose my medical license." "Better that you lose your medical license than for a little girl lose her life. Wouldn't you agree?" Verbina asked. Byron looked at her. "I'm really going to do that? Accidentally kill a girl I operate on?" Verbina nodded somberly. Byron closed his eyes, trying to maintain his composure. "I'd broken my leg in a skiing accident. The painkiller they'd given me wasn't strong enough so I wrote myself a prescription for a small dosage of morphine, using a colleague's name. After the leg had healed, I had some pills left so I started taking them for these migraines I used to get. Next thing I know, I'm sneaking into the hospital's pharmacy and forging order forms for morphine that I have delivered to the university so that I can pick them up without suspicion." He took a breath. "Do they catch on to me?" Verbina nodded. "They do." "Was it bad for me?" Verbina nodded again. "Very bad." "Then, I'll turn myself in," Byron resolved. "Will it help?" Verbina shrugged. "I don't know." Silence remained between them for a few minutes as Verbina took Byron's lunch tray and placed it outside of the Waiting Room. She returned to notice that Byron was shaking more forcefully. She went to him and wrapped a blanket around his shoulders. "That's okay, Dr. Beeks... Verbina," he corrected himself. "I'm not cold. I think it's just my body adjusting itself." "Keep it on anyway," Verbina told him. "It'll help. And don't fight the shaking. Save your strength." Byron nodded. He paused a moment. "You said this Dr. Beckett has taken my place in the past." Verbina nodded. "Yes." "Is he going through this too?" Verbina hesitated. "Why do you ask?" "Because I don't have any close friends who'd do what you're doing for me. Does he?" Verbina nodded. "Yes, he does." Byron sighed with relief. "Good. I don't think I could have made it this far if you hadn't been here to support me. I mean, hold me. You know what I mean? I just don't want him to go through it alone." He hesitated. "I want to thank you for everything, even if I did treat you horribly earlier." Verbina smiled at him. "My pleasure, Byron." ********************** Sam laid in bed, shaking. The minute he had returned to Byron's house, he'd gone straight up to the bed and laid down. He remained there for three hours, not even closing his eyes. Al had sat beside him the entire time, trying to coax Sam to talk. No luck. Not even a glare. Al glanced at the clock on the nightstand and checked his watch. Sam had to hold out another twelve hours to prove his control. He looked at Sam carefully and with concern. He sighed. He could see the signs of growing desperation in Sam's eyes. "Sam," Al said gently. Sam closed his eyes in an attempt to block Al out. "Go away," he told him. "I can't," Al told him. "You need help, Sam." "I'm in complete control," Sam said without conviction. Al sighed, closing his eyes. "I wish I could believe you, Sam. But you're shaking harder than a leaf on a tree." Sam glared at him. "I wouldn't be if you trusted me." Al hesitated. He closed his eyes. "Normally, I trust you implicitly. You know that." He looked at Sam firmly. "But this isn't a normal situation and there are times when caring for someone means not trusting them." Sam quickly stood up and went into the bathroom. Al pressed some buttons on the handlink to re-center himself on him. Sam was retching into the toilet, trying to force out the small amount of food in his stomach, making his belly burn with pain. He collapsed to the floor with a near sob. He looked at Al with hatred. "You DO like watching me suffer," he announced with conviction. Al was obviously greatly hurt by Sam's words. "Oh, gawd, Sam. No. You have no idea how wrong you are. I can't stand seeing you like this." Sam glared at him with a pant. It was obvious he didn't believe the hologram. He stood up and staggered back to the bathroom. He opened the briefcase. Al followed him. "Sam, don't do this," he warned. Sam took the bottle of pills and opened it. "Sam, you don't know what you're doing to yourself!" Sam dumped a couple of pills into his hand. "Sam! At least listen to what I have to say before you throw everything you've accomplished out the window!" Sam stopped. He looked at Al in confusion. "Everything I've accomplished?" Al nodded emphatically. "That's right." He paused." "If you take those pills, you'll be throwing out a lifetime's worth of accomplishments. Your six doctorates, your Master's, the lives you've changed - including my own - and my friendship." Sam huffed and started putting the pills in his mouth. "Sam! No!" Sam stopped and glared at Al. Not a single pill had touched his lips. "Why not?" he demanded. Al hesitated. "Because of March 25, 1984." Sam frowned. "What?" "You don't remember that day?" Sam shook his head. "Well, I do. It was the day that changed my life forever. It was the day we met. I was drunk. One too many bad things had happened to me at that time. My wife Sharon wanted a divorce, the Navy was trying to convince me to retire, and I was just fired from Star Bright. So, I drowned my anger and my sorrows with alcohol. I was so drunk and so angry that I beat a vending machine with a hammer because the machine failed to me my ten cents change. Remember?" Sam nodded slightly, unsure where Al was going with this walk through memory lane. "You stopped me from turning that machine into a pile of junk," Al continued. "Of course, you had to knock me out with a flying noodle kick to do it but..." He shrugged. "And then you got me rehired. The point is that you saw what I couldn't see. You saw that I had a drinking problem and you showed me." He exhaled. "You saved my life. I'm just trying to return the favor." He smiled. "Only I can't knock you out with a flying noodle kick." Sam looked at the pills in his hand with uncertainty. "I know it's hard, Sam. It was very hard for me to realize I had a problem and to go without a drink," Al told him sympathetically. "But you have to realize what you're doing to yourself. You have to for your sake -- and the sake of that little girl who's going to die on the operating table." Sam's eyes never left the pills. A vacant look covered his face as he dropped the bottle and the two pills in his hand, causing pills to scatter everywhere on the carpeted floor. Sam walked zombie-like to the bed and sat down. Al walked over to him. He lowered himself and watched Sam with concern. "Sam," he said gently. "Are you okay?" Sam closed his eyes. He was fighting to maintain control - control of his mind, his body, his very being. "Al?" he said quietly, hardly audible. "I'm right here, Sam," Al assured him, leaning forward a bit to make his presence better felt. Sam took a couple of deep breaths before raising his head and looking at Al in the eyes. Al's heart fell. Sam looked suddenly and completely frightened. But he was also more than frightened. There was pleading in his eyes and there was a little resignation. "Al, I...." He stopped, unable to continue. "What is it, Sam?" Al coaxed gently. Sam exhaled, his eyes closed. He looked at Al once again. "Al," he said more calmly than before. "I... have a problem." He paused to gain strength for his next statement. "I'm... I'm... addicted... to morphine." Al looked at Sam with sympathy. He started reaching out his hand to touch him but withdrew it when he realized it wasn't possible. He wanted to hold him. He could see how much effort it took for Sam to admit to a drug addiction. He took a breath and nodded gently. "I'll be here for you, Sam." Sam swallowed nervously. "You will?" "Of course, I will. I'm not going to leave you. I promise." Sam nodded. "But you have to do everything I tell you. Okay?" Al told him. Sam nodded again, trying to hold back tears of frustration. Al looked at him firmly. "This is going to very hard on both of us, Sam, but especially on you. Even though I desperately want to, I can't give you physical support, only moral. And I can't prevent you from going back to those pills," he warned. Sam nodded. "I understand. Just be with me. I don't want to go through this without you." Al looked at him lovingly. "Nothing - absolutely nothing - is going to pull me away from your side. I give you my word."